Sunday, December 30, 2007
Update: Fixed article link
Monday, December 24, 2007
(click image to see entire strip)
Having just purchased the handsomely-discounted complete three-volume set of Calvin and Hobbes (on Amazon.com for $67!), I've been setting aside some time every day to read a couple of pages. At the rate I'm going I suppose I'll be finished some time next year. (BTW, you can view the entire collection here in chronological order.)
The cartoon above was part of the few I skimmed this morning a short while after having breakfast. The cartoon was still on the mind later in the day when I came to a shocking realization that gravity, the force that keeps us mere mortals firmly planted on terra firma is also responsible for that Calvin losing his balloon, for that blimp soaring overhead, and keeping watergoing vessels afloat. Gravity is not arbitrary in that sense that it only applies to certain bodies, but not all.
The revelation of course is intuitive-- the relative density of interacting bodies is the key to deciding via gravitational force which objects will force their way towards other bodies of mass, upsetting and forcing aside less dense materials in the process.
The balloon thus floats away from Calvin because denser molecules of air are pushing to occupy the space that less dense gases dare occupy hidden within their rubber spheroids.
The next step from there is quite unclear to me; yet if you have a rigid, yet lightweight balloon 'filled' with vacuum, I'm supposing that it will float away from earth so long that the density of the air that displaces the entire volume of the balloon exceeds the density of the material comprising the skin of the balloon.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
"Wrong had been done and it had to be balanced out and accounted for personally. But humans were full of rights, and very short of responsibilities." -- Karen Traviss, City of Pearl
City of Pearl is the first book in Traviss's six-part series called the Wess'har Wars. To be candid, I found this book on the formulaic side, one which failed to capture my imagination or blow it to smithereens in the process.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Actually it's not quite the same thing--
"The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a 'protector,' and that he takes men's money against their will, merely to enable him to 'protect' those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful 'sovereign,' on account of the 'protection' he affords you. He does not keep 'protecting' you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villanies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave."
-- Lysander Spooner, No Treason
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I was somewhat amused, although not quite shocked to see this postcard stuck in my regular mail delivery.
It's not that often that you see the naked hostility of the state presented in so clear a manner; after all, apologists can be found aplenty to offer explanations as to how the master-slave relationship we live under is nothing more than on a benign voluntary basis.
What I also found sweet is the legerdemain involved in the implication that the leaves which fall off of trees 'owned' by the city, which you can be fined and/or jailed for pruning without a permit and a licensed arborist, would then have the balls to call it 'your' leaves, as if that now makes it your responsibility to contain. Sneaky bastards-- it almost makes me want to suffer violence upon the inexplicably uppity cartoon duo, and the mindless civil servants who brainstormed this mushy propaganda to sugarcoat this KP duty.
But this by far is not as ridiculous as other so-called 'laws' that I've encountered. For instance, while you may not own the sidewalk pavement in front of your property line, you must act as though you do. That includes maintaining and replacing cement flags as the city inspectors determine necessary, keeping a neat and clean condition on the sidewalks at all times including a minimum of 18" further onto to road surface. When it snows, the homeowner or landlord is obligated to clear a path and lay down salt to prevent ice buildup and is held personally responsible for injuries or damages that occur there. And so on and so forth.
And just a few days ago, I inadvertently opened a letter containing a tax notice for a defunct corporation and shivered over a display of audacious verbiage, including a 'Warrant' notice stating that so-and-so has been appointed by "the people of the state of New York" (funny, I don't remember authorizing anything of the sort) to seize properties of the said corporation for failure to pay taxes. I was quite horrified and repulsed by the brute and stentorian tone found in some sentences which read "you are commanded to do such and such".
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
While I can agree with that sentiment on an emotional level, I realize and accept the fact that my preferences are just that, and that it would be immoral to escalate any resistance above a completely bilateral voluntary nature.
It also helps me to understand that the monolithization of our neighborhoods is a direct result of codified violence (zoning laws, licensing, permits) which disrupts the realization of consumers' preferences into a bizarre spectacle of what seemingly is perceived as the 'free market'.
Radley Balko does a wonderful job explaining the process and the unintended consequences that follow.
"...zoning officials and regulators tend to overdo the regulating, then lapse into bureaucratic coma when local businesses try to navigate their way through City Hall. For example, if you want to do something as simple as change the lettering on or repaint the sign outside your business in Old Town, you both have to apply for and pay $50 to obtain a "ladder permit," and apply for and pay $55 for a "building permit." It can take more than two weeks to get the proper permits, even if all you want to do is replace the "e" on your "Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe" sign.
While all of this is intended to promote architectural continuity and preserve Old Town's historical charm, like most regulations it tends to promote the opposite of what city planners intended...
I guess the question is, whether one ought to need to have a lawyer on retainer in order to open a business in Old Town. And if Old Town is going to make that a requirement--intentionally or not--what effect is that going to have on the boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores that make up the very atmosphere the regulations are trying to promote?
My hunch is that Old Town's expensive, meticulous zoning laws have made it too difficult for the mom-and-pop places to do business. ...Franchise operators can often tap the resources of the parent company, particularly when it comes to accessing on-staff lawyers with experience navigating through and working with local zoning laws and business regulations.
The same people who gripe about how Wal-Mart is pushing smaller, independent places out of business tend to be the people who support onerous regulatory structures. What they tend not to understand is that regulatory burdens hit the smaller, independent places hardest, because they're the places that have the smallest amount of discretionary cash to hire lawyers or a tighter budget and, therefore, a smaller margin of error when it comes to hassles like delaying an opening because some bureaucrat determined their signage is a couple of inches out of compliance."
Saturday, November 10, 2007
For those of you who bothered to wikipedia* Gustav Holst, you would have learned that the discovery of Pluto, the (former) 9th planet was discovered during his lifetime, four years prior to his death. He was asked by many to write an eighth movement to include the newly discovered planet [Earth was skipped in his famous seven movement piece], but refused primarily because he was acrimonious to the fact that the popularity of The Planets eclipsed his other work.
Well it seems that Holst was vindicated after all with the discovery of Eris, a dwarf planet which is the ninth largest body known to orbit the sun, which resulted in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to officially define the term 'planet' for the first time, and remove dear old Pluto from her esteemed status, and in fact, place it second in line after the troublemaker Eris.
The dwarf planet Eris was such named after her mythological namesake, because "[t]he name in part reflects the discord in the astronomical community caused by the debate over the object's (and Pluto's) nature.¹" What I also found lovely is that she is accompanied here by her daughter moon, Dysnomia.
And so to bring this farce full circle, we can discuss a book Harmonices Mundi, or "Harmonies of the Worlds" by Johannes Kepler which attempted to explain the musical harmony of the spheres, an ancient concept known as musica universalis, which regarded proportions in the movements of celestial bodies as a form of music.
Next, and with many pardons to Isaac Newton who suffered an erisian mishap with a falling orb, a [golden??!] apple which prompts a foray into describing the maths of celestial mechanics, only to be taken down a notch when Albert Einstein throws a wrench into Newton's game with his general theory which explains the erratic perturbations to local spacetime conditions. Isaac Asimov writes a short story about this and calls it "The Planet that Wasn't", [referring to planet Vulcan] although he never lived long enough to see Pluto demoted, which certainly would have delighted Gustav Holst had he been alive.
* 'Wikipedia' is a verb, and you can google it if you'd like ;)
¹I think they mean to say 'nomenclature', not 'nature'.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Determined to find out more, I check the stations homepage when I got home, to learn that the name of the arrangement is called The Planets by Gustav Holst. The very title alone sent shivers down my spine, as no other outer-worldly piece could inspire a composer who has made world-famous film scores to science fiction monuments such as Star Wars, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Since I surely can't be the sole person on the globe who has made the connection, I google "The Planets" and John Williams, and sure enough, the first link I'm offered is to an original recording of The Planets, with two bonus tracks- get this, the Star Wars main title and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
After some more mucking around, I turn up the webpage of other people who think likewise;
"Gustav Holst's "Mars: Bringer of War" will sound familiar to science fiction buffs, as much of the score of Star Wars consists of John William’s variations. In particular, compare the climax of this movement to the music accompanying the destruction of the Death Star."It's these cues which reassure me from time to time that I haven't yet lost my sanity.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"That's not "highway robbery"; it's a sound price point. If the price was egregiously high, people would not buy it because it would be too much of a sacrifice. If the price was too low, it would lose its cachet as an aspirational good and people would not buy it. [Veblen's status goods?]
Compare it to the Freakonomics example of Magnolia Bakery in the West Village. Magnolia sells cupcakes for a couple bucks a pop. They're decent cupcakes, but each one only costs a quarter to make. They were featured in an episode of "Sex & The City", were written up in the New York times, and mentioned in a popular SNL short. As a result, at any given time, there is a line out the door for Magnolia cupcakes.
Logic says that Magnolia can raise the price even higher because there are people willing to wait 1/2 an hour for a cupcake at that price. Theoretically, there is excess demand. However, by raising the price, fewer people will be willing to wait in line. The line adds to the cachet of the product. If they lowered the price, the cupcake would become a bargain and lose its cachet. It would not be a distinctive product.
It's about finding a balance. The buyer should feel a bit of sting in the wallet to convince him/her that s/he is getting value for the money. Too much and it becomes too painful. People shouldn't worry about their rent payment to buy the iPhone; let them charge the cost and pay it off over 10 years time. By the same token, you don't want every schmo to be able to get one because then the iPhone loses its distinction.
Consumerism isn't driven by a desire to conform; it's driven by a desire to be different."
It kind of reminds me of the pointless argument of whether human action is spurred because of the actors' desire to improve his situation, or his desire to remove uneasiness as much as possible. Either way, we know action is purposely driven, and the science of economics, cannot render a valid scientific opinion as to what constitutes the psychological factors behind any action.
As such, the unscientific topic of 'Consumerism' can only be said to represent the fulmination of the collectivist creed of hubris, ostensibly lending an opponent of freedom a scientific soapbox from which he launches a diatribe against other people doing what they believe serves their best interests.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
"I should mention: it was not until I became a Christian that I realized how scary Christians seem to their foes. Here am I, newly vowed to a faith that says I may not lift a hand to defend myself, may not hate my deadly enemies even in my secret heart, but must to pray for them and love them even when they come to kill me; and yet perfect strangers write in to my livejournal to tell me that they quail in a perfect cold sweat of terror, stockpiling arms, because we Xtians are about to oversweep the world and install a Theocracy so tyrannical it will make the Pharaoh seem like an anarcho-capitalist. It happened more than once: people writing me to tell me they were afraid of me. Now, I assume they are not actually afraid of me, because otherwise I would merely pass their names and IP address along to the Holy Office, so that the Jesuit albino-assassins or Benedictine-built killer-robots could come beat them to death with radio-active crucifixes. I hope I am wrong, but I secretly suspect it is puffery, a pose of moral superiority. I have to be painted the aggressor, so that they can paint themselves the victim."There is a chock-load of interesting material in that post, the author detailing his beliefs and prejudices at the time he began the series, along with the various creative techniques he employed to pen the Chronicles of Chaos trilogy. Although it's quite prolix, I heartily recommend it to those who are familiar with the novels, and were perhaps looking for more critical understanding (verstehen) of the characters' paradigms.
Friday, October 12, 2007
With my Jewish Orthodox upbringing, I could relate to Dante's overall theological theme, although he obviously based it upon the Christian version of events. One technique, or device have you, stands out quite clearly in my mind; that of contropasso, a very key element to interpreting his allegory. In Hebraic terms the principle is known as midah keneged midah, which is to say measure for measure.
Many people like to think that God is a mean old cosmic tyrant who likes to inflict cruelty upon his creation for sport. Far from it, the concept of midah keneged midah is not a petty game of divine retribution, but rather expresses a concept akin to Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative; the maxim that "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law."
In other words, God is so fair with us, that not only will he not judge us by what he expected from us, but rather according to the very same standards of justice that we ourselves judged to be correct. This is not to say that if one chooses to disobey God that there are no damaging consequences, only that God won't hold one guilty for acting according to the maxims that he or she believed to be universally true.
On Judgement Day™ God will scroll and scrub through this persons' life and check to see if the persons' actions were motivated according to these principles that he claimed to adhere to and flag those inconsistencies, where the man claims to adhere to moral code x, but acts contrarily to his own belief system. In that case the person is found to be intellectually dishonest, and the purpose of his contropasso is remedy his dysfunction.
One of the more enlightening chapters spoke of Dante's encounter with the level of hell reserved for hypocrites, in which the tormented are marched around bedecked in a friars vestment seemingly made of fine-woven gold. These robes however are lined with lead on the inside, making each step a back-breaking experience for the sinner.
Musa humbly explains that Dante's subtle contropasso here is as follows: The word 'hypocrite' stems from the Greek word ypo'krita, that in Latin would translate to superauratus, both meaning, "that which is covered with gold", implying an inferior non-gold substance constituting the interior portion, a striking simile to the hypocrite who pretends to be of noble stature and hides the ugly nature behind his golden veneer. A double-entendre, if I may call it that is inherent in Dante's ingenious choice of punishment.
Incidentally, I happen to think that the word krita meaning 'gold' is related to both carat and Crete, but I can't find any backup to that. And the root ypo is the opposite of Latin's super, the former like the prefix "hypo" indicating that which lies underneath, and the latter what is above, so I'm not exactly sure of how the word relates to the way Dante wants it to. Super is definitely related to Hebrew's TZa'PEh, which means to coat, or cover with an above layer, although it would have been nice if the Hebrew word for hypocrite would be a gold-coated TZaPUY-ZaHaV, the actual term is a more benign TZVoo'Ee, "the one who is painted", a reference to the same concept expressing that which haves a deceiving outer appearance.
Judgement Day™ is a registered trademark of the Libra Corporation, a Delaware registered limited liability corporation.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Everyone knows what Q-Tips™ are for, right?
Go immediately to your makeup drawer or bathroom vanity and actually read the suggested usage on the back of the blister package. Ah-hah. You won't find anything about cleaning out your earwax, which in my circles is its raison d'être.
Oh wait a second-- scribed in bold text towards the bottom of is a warning not to use the product to clean your ears, and that if you insist on it, only to use it gently on the outer surface of your ears, so as to not risk damaging your eardrums.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
“It’s a little ironic that five years ago the administration was saying we should end recycling because there was no market for it,” said City Councilman Michael E. McMahon, a Staten Island Democrat and chairman of the Council’s Sanitation Committee.'" - NY Times article
Mr. McMahon makes these remarks in regards to a new bill which the city council passed which raises fines for companies caught "stealing" recyclable materials from items put out for collection.
So let me get this straight; it's considered theft for a private individual to take materials left out for recycling collection. But when city employees comb through your trash to collect evidence for whatever nefarious purpose, we're supposed to look the other way?
Anyway, that wasn't my main point.
Man, I just love how pundits and politicians can overlook the costs side of the equation and declare any program a success because there is the appearance of profits. This happens when you ignore the elephant in the room so-to-speak; coercion, and by that logic, robbery too can be considered a profitable business.
Yes it may be appear profitable for third-parties to raid recyclable materials left curbside, but that is only possible once the individuals have already complied with the bureaucratic edicts which threaten their home and hearth for non-compliance. There is no shred of evidence however that individuals would find it profitable to separate recyclables if they weren't already threatened to do so. This being the case, one cannot legitamately speculate whether recycle programs are 'profitable' when the costs have been shifted over on to the individual by mean of coercion.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The rabbis who were the students of Hillel the Elder argue that one is obligated to tell the groom that his wife is Na'ah ve'hasuda, pleasant and kind (in other words, heap the praises upon her), regardless what your actual opinion of her may be.
The Shamaiian rabbis ask-- but if the bride is lame or blind wouldn't that tantamount to lying, which the bible forbids against?
The Hillelians retort that if you would see someone in the market place who just concluded a transaction, do you praise his deal even if you think it was a lousy deal or can you criticize it?
Here the Shamaiians were in agreement- indeed you do praise the dealmaker, and the Talmud concludes from here that a person should always strive to be pleasant with others, no matter what your personal feelings as to how you perceive the bride, a market transaction, etc, and this would of course hold even where you might consider such words to be untruthful.
Some commentators use this passage to define what it means to be truthful. Truth, they hold, is a relative proposition, not an absolute and objective fact that stands apart from the situation. The example given is where a soldier is looking to kidnap or to murder a person, and he asks a third-party as to the whereabouts of the would-be victim. In such a case they hold that it is not considered untruthful to deceive the soldier, since the concept of truth is only meaningful within a moral framework, which in such a case of murder or kidnapping is not a required ethic.
Monday, September 17, 2007
"Bruner and Carr provide a thorough, masterly, and highly readable account of the 1907 crisis and its management by the great private banker J. P. Morgan. Congress heeded the lessons of 1907, launching the Federal Reserve System in 1913 to prevent banking panics and foster financial stability. We still have financial problems. But because of 1907 and Morgan, a century later we have a respected central bank as well as greater confidence in our money and our banks than our great-grandparents had in theirs." -Richard Sylla, Henry Kaufman Professor of the History of Financial Institutions and Markets, and Professor of Economics, Stern School of Business, New York University
This paragraph sums up the mythological tale propagated by the establishment to set the scene for the dashingly bold technocrats to step in and to implement their planned chaos. Next follows the admission that the criminal tampering with the level of voluntary credit allocation (read: capital market) has still not perfected a method to siphon off wealth without creating great disruptions in those markets. The closing sentence is telling too; it's an assertion that the establishment has accomplished to con our generation into quiet complacency, more akin to an insult as disestablishmentarians would take it.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Until "whose business is it?" is debated, and won (nobody's), there will be no shortage of superfluous make-work. What kind of milk you drink is just one of an infinite number of inane distractions. Someone else posted Thoreau's observation already, "There are thousands hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Until people learn to mind their own business, and insist others do the same, the plague of symptoms will continue.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Via John Mackey, free-market libertarian and CEO of Whole Foods Market corporate blog:
"Let me begin this section by registering an objection to the way the FTC conducted their investigation into this deal. From the first day the FTC began their investigation they were very hostile and adversarial towards Whole Foods. Instead of conducting a dispassionate, impartial, and fair investigation into this merger the FTC consistently behaved in a biased, adversarial, and arrogant manner, while engaging in "bullying tactics" again and again and again. Whole Foods was always presumed to be "guilty" and had to try to prove our "innocence" to the satisfaction of the FTC. However, the FTC seemed to us to be completely uninterested in Whole Foods explanations for why we were doing the deal. From the very beginning the FTC staff began to build their case against the deal. It is Whole Foods' opinion that the FTC had already decided to try to prevent this merger before they even began their investigation!It seems that this world can use a few more people like John Mackey.
To give one example of FTC bullying tactics, let's look at how they behaved toward us in order to gain multiple time extensions beyond the original deadline. Whole Foods has spent thousands and thousands of hours trying to comply with the enormously burdensome requests that the FTC placed upon us and which have cost us millions of dollars in staff time, lawyers' fees, consultants' fees, supplies, and other expenses. We have produced over 20 million documents for them to "study" (which is of course impossible for them to effectively do since this amount of information is simply too large to be digested, no matter how many tax-payer funded lawyers are working on it), but the FTC could still always claim that we left something valuable out of the documentation and could then force us to start the entire process over again. On more than one occasion we came up against the time deadlines and the FTC "asked" for Whole Foods to agree to extensions. If we expressed any reluctance then the FTC brought up the threat of starting over. Needless to say, we didn't want to start over again so we agreed to the extensions. The entire process was inherently coercive....
While the FTC can look at absolutely anything and everything it wants to about our company does Whole Foods have the same reciprocal rights with the FTC? Of course not! We can't go look at all the FTC e-mails concerning Whole Foods and Wild Oats (which no doubt say some pretty interesting things about how the FTC really operates!). We can't download all the various minutes of their meetings or get a look at the FTC "strategy" concerning Whole Foods. It is totally one-sided. It is unfair. It should not be legal for the FTC to do this in my opinion."
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Oddly enough, Austria is the latinized name for Österreich, deriving from the Old German term meaning "eastern realm". Similarly, the term "Orient" refers to lands located eastwards towards the direction of the rising sun, while "Occident" refers to the western world, the direction in which the sun sets.
In this light one can view Aleister Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientis as allies against the Bavarian conspiracy, to help counter the influence of the German Historical School, the legacy of which today lives on in the mainstream endorsement of empiricist foundations for economic studies, the emblem of which brazenly displayed on every federal [fractional] reserve note of one monetary unit, originally named for a Bohemian valley, once the standard for money of good reputation.
Monday, July 30, 2007
That said, the acclaimed sci-fi author John C. Wright has been hosting a debate on his personal blog on the nature of of conciousness, in support of the position that concepts and abstractions exist qua existence, although not in a material sense, stating that:
"The assertion that all awareness, value judgments, ideas, concepts, and abstractions can be ultimately reduced to some description of mass, length, and dimension is pure metaphysical mysticism. It is mysticism in that it is knowledge that does not come from empirical observation..."
I find this line of argument quite convincing, and in contrast to the causeless explanation of consciousness as found in Douglas Hofstadter's I am a Strange Loop, a book which I thought could be appropriately subtitled "The Incoherent Ramblings of an Aged Consciousness Which Was Once Thought Relevant". No hard feelings intended, [to those senseless neuron firings in that lump of grey matter entitled to a sense of consciousness self-referentially calling itself] Douglas.
What I enjoyed from this very same debate and in connection to the original topic of etymology was the author's response to one of the comments, in which he writes:
"The explanation of the correlation between the mathematics of the physical universe and the rationality of mathematics is this: both come out of one cause. For religious men, call it The Word of God, or Logos. For nonreligious men, call it Logic. Logic means that a statement about numbers cannot involve a self-contradiction. Logic in physics means that the universe cannot embrace or contain a self-contradiction.
The universe cannot be illogical because the word 'illogical' is something that only happens in speech or in unspoken thought: it is the condition where the symbols used to represent the universe no longer follow the rules that allow them to represent the universe. Illogical, in other words, means what the universe is not."
"I do not accept individual freedom because the market is efficient. Even if the free market were less “efficient” than central planning, I would still prefer my personal freedom to coercion. Fortunately, I don’t need to make a choice. Austrian economics upholds the market’s efficiency, and that reinforces my overwhelming desire and right to be free."
- Ron Paul's Mises and Austrian Economics pamphlet (link to PDF)
The quotes around "efficient" are as found in the original text, and I'm not at all suprised to see that coming from an Austrian scholar, being that any and all measures of efficiency are ultimately and objectively meaningless.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Friday, July 06, 2007
I reckon I know why illegal pyrotechnics are so important to them-- the brazen audacity that the plebes must have to think they can administer the sacrament to the Holy Church of Statehood. The secular priests will have none of this.
I suppose that in some aspects its better this way; perhaps more folks will be disillusioned about the false gods they serve if they are turned away from taking part in their own fashion.
I still find a silver lining in this cloud-- its opportune to stir up well-deserved cognitive dissonance in the unsuspecting statist by questioning their "progressive" ideology, as to how in world does a city or township put up a quarter-million dollars worth of "ooohs" and "aahhhs" when there are still homeless and hungry people in the area-- have they eliminated those problems yet that there is ample taxpayer funds to go to waste?
I think that by taking this first step, you are getting the statist to agree with you, that there are priorities to be attended to before they dare incinerate your property taxes in splendid glory. This back door approach helps to uncondition the first rule of politics, which is to ignore the first rule of economics; the law of scarcity, that in general wants surpass means.
"Come along, Mr. mac FirBolg. We have all had just about enough," I heard Boggin saying.
"Stand back! I'm about to start speaking in tounges! Rafel mahee amek zambi almit! Papa Satan! Papa Satan allepe!"...
...Colin writhed and screamed and frothed, calling them all sinners and condemning them to damnation and hellfire."
Sometimes I wonder how you could possibly enjoy a novel without knowing what the author is alluding to with their cryptic references. I felt equally suprised when I read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose and discovered a passage smuggling Buridan's Ass ("And so I'm trapped between two opposing forces, like an ass who does not know which of two stacks of hay to eat" Pg. 348.) Heinlein pulled the same one in his Time Enough for Love which I already noted elsewhere. (I've also once noted that Robert Anton Wilson, in his seminal Illuminatus! Trilogy aped Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged with a nested G.E.B.-worthy story-within-a-story titled Telemachus Sneezed.)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Here was one thought I've posted on the Mises blog a while back in regards to IP:
"Information is an abstraction which describes some arrangement of matter into forms recognizable by the human mind, and apart from the mind of the person discerning it, it is ultimately and universally meaningless.
Those arrangements could be the magnetic polar orientation of an iron atom, dark-colored ink molecules weaved into paper fibers, electrically-charged phosphor molecules in a bed of silicon, etc.
To say you have ownership over such things can only be in a physical term- in that specific arrangement pattern.
To say you can control others from making similar arrangements is making a metaphysical leap from objects of nature, to things our minds think about nature."
Monday, June 18, 2007
But master plumber Robert Mengler mentioned another disturbing wrinkle.
"Master plumbers are also allowed to self-certify their work," he wrote. "There are certain licensed plumbers that have made lots of money by renting out their licenses. . . . The chances of this work being inspected is very, very, very low." -Article Link
Obviously the solution to this problem is to remove the need for licensing altogether, that system which erects trade barriers for the sake of protecting the profits of plumbers, electricians and other contractors from excessive competition in a medieval guild-like fashion.
Unfortunately, the NY Daily News takes the irrational populist view that developers are out to destroy neighborhoods, kill little old ladies, and ruin our lives. How pathetic.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Obviously, there is the well known rule that housing in districts known to have "good" public education is in higher demand relative to housing located in districts known to have inferior schools.
While that is certainly an important component of what "adds" value to housing, I was actually focusing more on the counterfactual speculation if public education in general leads to increases in the price of housing solely due to the effect that subsidized education leaving over increased funds available to bid up housing prices.
I find this train of thought interesting to one such as myself, living in a micro-neighborhood where a relatively higher number of students attend yeshiva, a form of private schooling. Looking forward at the prospect of shelling out 10K to send my son to kindergarten is a bit daunting in light that I would like to have a few more kids and not live in debt slavery.
What I realized that day while doing my market homework, when I saw lousy apartments in run-down neighborhoods were paying rents in the ballpark of what I'm paying in this more affluent manicured-front-lawn neighborhood made me think of the factors keeping prices lower around me and higher in those "good" public school neighborhoods are greatly affected in that the average joe around me share higher education expenditures and can't afford to spend as much for housing.
If effect this means that to some extent, the existence of free tuition is benefitting a class of building owners who reap the largess of the taxpayers who subsidize public education to their indirect benefit of increased housing prices.
The people who stand to lose from this proposition are the young professionals just out of school who have yet any substantial cash savings to speak of, nor any [grand-]children which could possibly benefit from this arrangement.
In a way, this also serves to keep the religious, private-school attending crowd living separate from those districts in which it is more common to utilize the public school system making adherence to the religious ghetto more rigid than it would be otherwise.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
"Well, I don't like all that Trust and rebate business, so I tell my representative to regulate the hell out of those railroad guys. And I started supporting my local Wheelmen's Association. We are trying to get my representative to support public road building. In fact, this is great: let's build roads everywhere so it makes it cheap and easy to drive my new car. You have to have government build roads - a private road would have to charge fees, and everyone knows there's no way to feasibly operate a road that way!"Actually, in the internet age its not difficult to imagine what private roads could possibly resemble. Popular websites such as Salon.com and the NY Times have long offered both subscriber and ad-sponsored models to price-ration their articles. Many national broadcasters routinely offer costly bandwidth-saturating TV programs free of charge to end-users, sponsored with only regular commercial breaks.
With that model, its not far-fetched to envision the provision of private roads sponsored by roadside billboard advertisers. Private road builders would then compete to capture the eyeball and vehicle traffic and would be incentivized to be focused on providing the most satisfying experience to the commuter to ensure his repeat visit to this particular soap-freeway.
The mind boggles at what might evolve from this--
- vehicle transponders which communicate with road identification systems to announce your presence, perhaps relate some personal preferences and vehicle info
- "Google" roads with minimal, relevant text-only advertisements based on your prefs
- Greasemonkey extensions which free-loading Firefox junkies would use to screen out obnoxious, "" -type advertisements by overlaying the windshield with blank spaces along the drivers line of sight
- freeways operators offering discount coupons enticing you to choose their road over a competitors
- express lanes exclusively offered to purchasers of advertisers products
- advertisement rates fluctuating based on traffic volume and speed conditions
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
- "have your cake and eat it too"
- TANSTAAFL ("there ain't no such thing as a free lunch")
- "putting the cart before the horse" (the ability to consume without having to first produce)
At the bottom of the interventionist argument there is always the idea that the government or the state is an entity outside and above the social process of production, that it owns something which is not derived from taxing its subjects, and that it can spend this mythical something for definite purposes. This is the Santa Claus fable raised by Lord Keynes to the dignity of an economic doctrine and enthusiastically endorsed by all those who expect personal advantage from government spending. As against these popular fallacies there is need to emphasize the truism that a government can spend or invest only what it takes away from its citizens and that its additional spending and investment curtails the citizens' spending and investment to the full extent of its quantity.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Unlike modern Hebrew, in the biblical Lashon Hakodesh, "the holy tongue", KaFaTZ, which is the root for the words k'fitza/k'fitzat does not actually mean "to jump" as I first thought it did-- it very precisely translates to "to shut quickly" or "to collapse". Both KaFaZ and KiFaTZ mean to leap, but that meaning stems from the etymological root literally describing the compression of ones' legs prior to springing forward.
Furthermore, the phonetic cognates of KaFaTZ express related concepts:
KaVeTZ - to gather
KaMaTZ - to close one's hand
GaVaSH - to condense
Let's move on to the second word: HaDerech, the root for this is DeReCH, both a verb meaning "to lead the way", and a noun meaning "path."
Now, going back to the main subject, try to imagine for a moment, a sheet of paper with two dots spaced far apart. According to the rules of Euclidean geometry, the shortest distance between those two points is a straight line.
But if we now look at the expression k'fitzat haderech, we can begin to understand the mechanism of the teleportation feat-- it involved the kefitza, or collapse of the space-time fabric of the derech, or path delineated between Points A and B. This would be analogous to taking the sheet of paper and folding it along the symmetrical axis, so that the two dots are now touching and adjoined in the space-time continuum.
There are a few other instances in which the Lord admits to messing around with the non-euclidean geometric model. The very first implication is in Noah's ark, 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high, if I remember correctly. The biblical commentators (and detractors too) point out that if two of each animal from every single specie (excluding sea life) were to be loaded in the ark, they could never physically fit into something of that size, and they conclude that the rules of space-time were bent in this instance to accommodate the entire terrestrial zoo.
The next instance occurs when Jacob goes to sleep one evening during his travel from home to Charan. Unknowingly, he sleeps on the location of the future temple mount, Har Habayit. When he lays down to sleep, the commentators mention that the Lord took the entire land of Israel, and compressed it into the space underneath him, whatever that means.
Much later on, during the time of temples, all Jews who could physically make the pilgrimage, would do so three times a year to the temple to celebrate the holidays of Pesach, Shevu'ot, and Succot. It was said that all the Jews gathered into the temple courtyard, and somehow they all fit. Furthermore, when they bowed down during prayers, each person was somehow accorded a clearance of a four-pace radius.
And for my final example, according to the lore, when the Messiah arrives, the Lord will unfold the land of Israel so that it becomes much larger than it is today.
So why did I get excited?
Its because of a well-known rule that the Lord does not operate outright miracles of the supernatural sort once he finished the creation, although this doesn't preclude cases where his direct influence can be plausibly explained away as a coincidence of natural contrivances.
Yet there is a Mishna in Pirke Avot (Chapter 5, Mishna 8) which reads:
"Ten things were created on the eve of Shabbat, at twilight. They are: The mouth of the earth; the mouth of the well; the mouth of the donkey; the rainbow; the Manna; the staff; the Shamir; the alphabet; the inscription; and the Tablets."
Those are the ten exceptions to the rule, and they were set aside from the time of creation until the later time they would be needed for supernatural divine intervention, the biblical deus ex machina.
Now since k'fizat haderech is not listed above as one of the supernatural miracles, we can thus assume that it is not a supernatural device, but one subject to a common natural mechanism, one that hopefully be realized with the help of the etymological insight into its workings.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
"A Brooklyn councilman has proposed legislation that would make it illegal to distribute menus, fliers and other circulars to homes and apartment buildings that display a sign indicating promotional material is unwanted. The councilman, Simcha Felder, a Democrat, has proposed a fine of at least $50 for distributors who leave the materials anyway. Mr. Felder said his constituents had complained about the number of fliers left at their doors. His mother, he said, received a $100 fine from the Sanitation Department for circulars left on her stoop. “You shouldn’t be responsible for cleaning up someone else’s garbage,” he said."
I've long despised those advertisement companies which make it their business to defecate on your front lawn/stoop, and their hapless bottom-of-the-economic ladder stooges who in an effort to finish their route sooner, often throw multiple copies of the unwanted newspaper circulars or other assorted crap.
The best part is when precipitation melts it into a runny pulp that comes apart in your hands as you reach for them to toss them in the trash.
But I heartily disagree with Felder.
Its not my responsibility to post a sign instructing others not to litter, or to otherwise disturb my quiet enjoyment of my home. Those who want to invoke an appeal to "implied consent" in this case must show both:
a) a reasonable expectation that the advertisers truly believe that I, Joe Individual, am really interested and delighted to be a recipient of your crap
b) a viable framework which allows me to withdraw from and opt-out of your indiscriminate neighborhood blanketing
But this is certainly not the case. I cannot recall ever sharing a drink or even a dirty joke with an advertisement publisher insider, who then might have some reasonable expectation that I would like my home to be inundated with his marketing assault. There goes the case for "A".
The worse part is the lack of feedback mechanism to legitimately opt-out. You see, I tried the nice way. I followed some of the litterers back to their distribution van, and spoke to the drivers. I got the names and phone numbers of their bosses who handle distribution in our neighborhood. I begged them time and time again to skip my house, my street. But there is no master list for opt-outees. The driver who covers a neighborhood brings along no such list to instruct his poor, oft-time illiterate underlings where not to litter. And so on it goes. Irresponsible, criminal erosion of private property enjoyment with no way to withdraw your "implied consent".
And as BK Marcus once taught me about appeals to implied consent --
"But notice that in all of these cases [of genuine implied consent], there's a way to withdraw consent. In fact, the very existence of consent depends on the possibility of its absence!"
Monday, April 30, 2007
I then realized that my initial comment was harshly imprecise; while R.A.W. could have been knowledgeable in economic theory (although I'm convinced he wasn't), he certainly was sloppy in confusing normative ethics prescriptions with economic systems.
Please witness this one egregious abuse:
"When Playboy fired him, Shea endured terrible anxiety about keeping his house, and dashed off a few novel outlines while looking for another job. He sold his first novel before finding a job and never stopped writing again. I still treasure his comment on why the Bunny Warren cast him out. "I worked hard and was loyal to the company for ten years," he wrote. "I guess that deserves some punishment." I treasure that as the best comment I have ever heard about capitalist ethics."
Erggh!!! I'm certainly not sympathetic to the "bosses are evil" definition of capitalism, and to say what social behaviors are prescribed by capitalism is bunkum.
As far as I know, capitalism is a description of economic system in which individual rights and ergo, property rights are respected, and while some may seem to have better bargaining power, at the end of the day, its the little guy, the consumer who is unforgiving, disloyal, tough to please and is always punishing those soon-to-be non-producers who aren't serving their desires adequately. So no hard feelings dude, its not personal.
Inigo Montoya's timeless words are thus suitable for this misdefintion of capitalism -- "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Thursday, April 19, 2007
While the headline of a recent New York Times article employs a subjectivist notion of value, "Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree, but Only People Can Put a Price on It", the article makes it clear that the concept of price formation is something less well understood in the so-called paper of record.
Witness how the tree prices were derived:
"Step 1 was a tree census, a two-year process that sent more than 1,000 volunteers to count every tree on every street in the city. The census results were then fed into a computer program that spit out a dollar value for each of the 592,130 trees counted, a figure that does not include the roughly 4.5 million trees in parks and on private land...
It takes into account several factors, including a tree’s impact on local property values, its contribution to cleaning the air by absorbing carbon dioxide, and how much its shade helps reduce energy consumption.
Factoring in the costs associated with planting and upkeep, New York City’s street trees provide an annual benefit of about $122 million, according to the Parks Department. The study concludes that New York receives $5.60 in benefits for every dollar spent on trees."
But wait just a second-- how does a computer program determine the price for the trees? I'm reminded of Gary Galles's article "And Then a Miracle Occurs." Much like the cartoon professor who uses that phrase as a stage in a mathematical proof, the "price-calculating" black-box could only invoke some arbitrary determination based on of what the historical market demand has been for street-side trees.
Now although the city government presumingly pays market prices to private contractors for the planting and maintenance of these trees, the notion of these trees now having a determinable market value or price is quite meaningless without a market to set them. To further ascribe the role these trees play in property valuations is an empty consideration without the knowledge of what opportunities were forgone with their planting. Thus is the nature of the socialist beast.
The root of this problem :) was brought up by Mises over 80 years ago in a series of articles beginning in 1920, shortly thereafter culminated into his Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis in 1922, and later in his treatise Human Action.
Lacking both omniscience and a market to determine the value individuals place on trees, planners cannot determine the opportunity cost that the trees represent, making any monetary calculation of the benefits provided a worthless spectacle of ignorance on stilts.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Everyone knows what to call the lack of sight, hearing or speech. But I've long wondered what to call the lack of ability to either smell, taste, or to feel objects.
Thanks to OneLook, I now know that:
hyposmia is a "lessened sensitivity to odors."
anosmia is the "absence or loss of the sense of smell."
hypogeusia is a "decreased sensitivity to taste."
ageusia is the "loss or impairment of the sense of taste."
anaphia is the "total or partial absence of the sense of touch."
Now just to commit those words to my vernacular, so that they roll off my tongue with the same smoothness that I have for expressing blindness, deafness and muteness.
Friday, April 06, 2007
From Ludwig von Mises (and Murray Newton Rothbard) I've learned that appeals to efficiency are false because costs are subjective and hence unmeasurable. Furthermore, they demonstrate in so many ways how interventions is always a decrease in utility, and would probably cause more instability, not less.
From Robert Anton Wilson I've learned that all appeals to efficiency are essentially an appeal to an illusion, a fiction with no bearing on reality.
A simple example which demonstrates the difference between all three positions would be that of your typical environmental concerns.
Ayn Rand would insist that human life is the ultimate end, and that appeals that value biological and ecological diversity above human life is irrational and anti-life.
Mises or Rothbard would argue that environmental concerns are those problems which stem from the lack of rigid property rights, the classic tragedy of the, [because there are] commons. Once polluters have to internalize all aspects of their costs, the environmental problem stops being a societal concern and one for individuals to work out in a tort system to minimize specific, individual harms. Furthermore, they would point out that government, and not private concerns have been the greatest polluters simply because they have no incentive to be efficient, as all pollutions are essentially a form of inefficiency on part of the producer who have not captured the fullest usage of all their output.
I haven't seen Robert Anton Wilson's position on environmentalism, but if he were to be a consistent discordian, he would insist that the environmental bugaboo is to be biased towards certain chemical compounds, as if the earth or "mother nature" cares for a particular composition or molecular arrangement (which it obviously doesn't). It cares not if the entire surface is desert, water, ice, forested, denuded, or atomic wasteland. The homuncular inhabitants may have their neurological circuits prefer a specific scenario, but it wouldn't exceed a normative whim in importance.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
(Heh, that's almost as funny as asking for animals to be treated "humanely".)
"Mr. Washburn, 44, is charged with making sure the parks get the right amount of sun, buildings aren't too bulky, and the skyline stays coherent. He will act as Ms. Burden's eyes for the incredible number of projects now under way in the city"...Now where exactly do these folks get off dictating the "values" that the city-people want? And in any case, to what relevancy does it matter what some third-party pretends to want for everyone's values?
"Senator Moynihan believed that good design is not just about aesthetics, but that the look of a city expresses the values of the people who live in it," he said.
"It's really the citizen that will be the measure of our success," Mr. Washburn said. "How do you make sure New York doesn't become dull, but has the greatest streetscape with the greatest variety and the greatest texture? To keep everything vibrant and authentic with new projects is really tough. You have to calibrate everything very finely. Every time you change something in the city, you affect another constituency."
Which is exactly why central planners should be kept as far as possible from urban development. I mean just look at Brasilia, or ask yourself why Robert Moses is one of the most despised man in NYC urban development history.
But the sheer amount of haughtiness and conceit is astounding considering all the misplaced faith put into the past anointed guardian saints for urban aesthetics. This should be a fine example to those planners of how aesthetic expectations are valued both ex ante and ex post, thus making the goal of aesthetic perfection for posterity at best a Sisyphean task.
On a positive note, most people who are concerned with urban aesthetics usually prostrate to the altar of the Jane Jacobs goddess and her seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Since Jacobs ideas were inspired in part by F.A. Hayek and his aversion to central planned economies, one has hope that they can transcend from the position of merely recognizing the beauty of unplanned, and 'chaotic' order, and to come to the realization that utilizing the violence of the state is the furthest thing from affecting the spontaneous communal life that they so very much desire.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Although Andrew Berman is one most pompous busybodys around town as the organizer behind the GVSHP, I can still find the courage to commend him for acting in a civilized manner in regards to his latest bellyaching over aesthetic concerns to a billboard erected in what is known as the Meatpacking District.
Civilized, in the sense that he organized a boycott of local merchants to protest the erection of this unwanted advertising sign by having the participant shun and ostracize the party they feel offended by. This is largely in contrast to his usual tactics of complaining to the local goons and fabricating all sorts of wishy-washy nonsense on stilts which would supposedly justify their aggression against the despised party.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
"comparing tax burdens is precisely the same act as a bunch of shop-keepers getting together to discuss the protection money they pay to the local Mafia family, and getting into an argument as to whether the more affluent shop-keeper is paying his "fair" share."Of course, this is all said to the extent that the business we are talking about is a business qua business; a viable one that does not ultimately depend on a violent, criminal-class customer base (read: no-bid government contracts) for most their income, for in that case I would acquiesce to the left-lib side and call a spade a spade-- a net tax recipient which didn't take in much loot as it would have otherwise.
Monday, March 12, 2007
This brouhaha occured after a KFC-Taco Bell joint was found to be infested with rodents a day after they were green-lighted by the NYCzar's Health Inspectors, leading the Department of Health to react by shuttering a record 89 food establishments around the city.
As I've argued before, it's not always that anarcho-libertarians have a beef with the goals of government; it's that in the [racketeering] job that they purportedly serve to justify their monopolizing or market-crowding existence is one marked by corruption, inefficiencies, and incompetency; a sure recipe for failure under free market conditions.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
"Barbary Lane Communities at Lake Merritt, one of the country’s first urban independent-living communities for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors is being developed in Oakland, Calif...
According to BLC, the needs of LGBT seniors are currently unaddressed in the senior housing industry largely due to lack of awareness, discrimination and homophobia. There are presently over 3 million LGBT seniors over the age of 65, and that number is expected to double by 2030." - Article Link
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
If you listen carefully to the accompanying soundtrack, you can hear composer Alan Silvestri's tribute to John Williams, as he uses the theme from Jurassic Park's "Dennis Steals the Embryo" to highlight Daley's confusion as to whom might have pinched the exhibit.