Saturday, September 03, 2005

A Voice on the Right Defines Freedom

The 3rd most powerful GOP voice in the Senate, Rick Santorum, defines freedom:

In Santorum's view, freedom is not the same as liberty. Or, to put it differently, there are two kinds of freedom. One is "no-fault freedom," individual autonomy uncoupled from any larger purpose: "freedom to choose, irrespective of the choice." This, he says, is "the liberal definition of freedom," and it is the one that has taken over in the culture and been imposed on the country by the courts. Quite different is "the conservative view of freedom," "the liberty our Founders understood." This is "freedom coupled with the responsibility to something bigger or higher than the self." True liberty is freedom in the service of virtue -- not "the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be," or "the freedom to be left alone," but "the freedom to attend to one's duties -- duties to God, to family, and to neighbors."

contrasted to Goldwater's view
...Goldwater wrote, "Every man, for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development." Note that first "and": Individual and social welfare go together -- they're not in conflict. All the government needs to do, Goldwater said, is get out of the way. "The conservative's first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?" Reagan spoke in the same tradition when he declared that government was the problem, not the solution to our problems.

It was Goldwater that got me to think about this and to realize that I ought to ve voting republican instead of democrat. Unfortunately, the GOP has cut the ropes to those anchors and charted a course back toward authoritarianism and big government.

It remains to be seen if the Democrats have the balls to pick up Goldwater's discarded mantle.

Hat tip to Sully

Trump Level Self-Absorption

Full text with comments here

Pentagon: Too much sympathy for the victims

We heard this on CNN (on satellite radio) last night while we were driving home and almost ran off the road. It was an exchange between anchor Aaron Brown and Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior Pentagon correspondent, about the military seeking to explain it's slow response to Katrina:

MCINTYRE: And as to your question about political, I talked to a lot of people at the Pentagon today who were very frustrated about the fact that the perception was being created that the military didn't move fast enough. And they did it somewhat as political. They thought that part of the motivation was the critics of the administration to make the president look bad.
And they seemed to question the motives of some of our reporters who were out there and hearing these stories from the victims about why they had so much sympathy for the victims, and not as much sympathy for the challenges that the government met in meeting this challenge.

And I have to say thinking about that, it doesn't really seem all that unusual that you would tend to understand the plight of the victims a little more than the bureaucrats in Washington.

BROWN: Yes, I mean, I'm glad you told us that. And they have every right to believe they believe and think the way they think. I mean, and I mean that. But you've got people who have been living as refugees. It is not hard to understand why our first heart beat goes in their direction. We'll worry about the bureaucrats later.

Off to Copenhagan

I'm heading to Denmark this afternoon so bloggin will be light for the next week or so. I've never been there before so if anyone has suggestions as to where to go, what to see, where to eat etc. fell free to post them here or send me an email. I'd be grateful.

Not 9/11, but not in the good way

I criticized both Kos and the POTUS last week about comparing New Orleans and 9/11 and, to a large degree I stand by that. 9/11 was something about which we had little credible warning, changed the way we perceived the world, was a tragic cost of thousands of lives and was a unique turning point in American history (and later histrionics). I don't think New Orleans is anything like that, although I think the body count will be higher and damage to the economy will be longer term and more serious.

Why mention this? Well, here's the link with 9/11 in my mind. It's now obvious we were wildly under prepared for this. This is bad for three reasons:

1) This shouldn't have been a surprise. I've been to NOLA and pretty much the first thing that occurs to you is "Jesus Christ, I below sea level. This doesn't seem wise". And yes, I know all about the Dutch and their country, in fact I'm a huge fan (and I'm heading there this afternoon). The Dutch are one thing we are not. Competent about water. When they build, they build for centuries. When we build we build for decades. Big difference. The problem here, after 9/11 we still can't handle disasters for which we should already be prepared.

2) The were no operant plans for emergency. Assume this was, in fact a surprise. Ignore the *should* statement above and assume for whatever reason, the levees broke. If you're a democrat, imagine a terrorist blew it up, if your a republican, blame protesting liberals trying to save the wetlands prevented the government from doing proper maintenance. And, if you're TJIC, well... imagine the incompetence of government stayed the just hand of the markets and it's the fault of collectivism. Whatever you chose. Before 9/11 this type of surprise was squarely in the charter of FEMA and I could lay the fault there, find the problem, correct it and do better next time. While I am for a very limited government, disasters natural and otherwise, are one of the few things I think are actually part of the government's duty to the electors. If it fails at that, there isn't much justification for it's existence in peacetime. But in this case we have not only FEMA but Homeland Security as well. We have 2 agencies with huge resources and DHS has been planning for responses to terrorist actions for 4 years! And they were clueless! Despite more resources, we are less prepared for a surprise or terrorist attack than we were 4 years ago. It's the only conclusion the data supports.

3)You read this far? Thanks! I am, btw, about to say something insensitive The third point is, if terrorists are planning another attack on US soil, they are watching the NOLA circus and cumming in their collective pants. They can't help but see a country full of soft targets. Easy, cheap ways of not only causing a panic, but extending the ensuing chaos. If I were a terrorist (or when they are on our side we call them CIA Field Agents), I'd be figuring how to take advantage of the chaos to really cause some damage. Make the post disaster a real horror. Set off bombs, shoot people etc. That way, next time there is a disaster, people will panic easier causing even more problems. It becomes a sort of terrorist, self-fulfilling prophecy. Natural disaster, assume terrorist response, panic, chaos! The response to NOLA has highlighted to people planning to do us harm that we haven't learned anything since 9/11 despite spending more money.

That's the harm I see here and that's why I am beginning to think that the NOLA Disaster is in fact in the 9/11 bin after all.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Progress on Looking Backwards

I've shown the outline to 4 or 5 folks now, all of who have had a lot of constructive criticism, much of which I've incorporated. I've got the major plot points through 2030 and some threads up through 2150. Lots of progress in a short period of time.

After I get back form Sibos next weekend, I'm going to shell out for the web help I need. I'm expecting the first pages to appear before the equinox.

BTW, I had actually destroyed New Orleans in 2009 by this same method. I was there in 2003, looked at the leveys, looked at the sea, shook my head and thought the obvious.
I've since excised the New Orleans bit. The details weren't critical to the story, and I think now it would come off badly.

The Deist Creed

TJIC, over in TJICistan seems to be on the threshold of becoming a functioning Deist. This is a good thing all in all and, in my opinion, the more deists, the better.

Pretty much the only thing that separates atheists and deists is the need to account for where the universe came from. Deists tend to believe god made the universe for some purpose, wound it up, then let it go to see what happens. I've played enough SimCity to understand the appeal to both the god and the deist. Atheists, OTOH, tend not to worry about the purpose of the universe and either don't care about it or are comfortable not knowing. I'm in that last category. I don't think the universe has a purpose, and I can live with that knowledge. I may be wrong but, frankly, the rules have been set up in such a way that I'll never know the purpose if there is one because it's not discoverable from the inside (there's a whole, very cool branch of set theory to deal with math like this). Instead of worrying or lamenting this, I just use the time I would have wasted on something constructive. Or I waste it blogging.

And, I always keep in mind the Deist's Creed (by the philosopher Homer),

“Alone! I’m alone! I’m a lonely insignificant speck on a has-been planet, orbited by a cold indifferent sun!”

Is It Legal to Shoot a Looter?

Which is a good question. The answer appears to be, "No". If you shoot a looter who is not threatening you, i.e. if you take the law into your own hands and go defend the nearby Piggly Wiggly and manage to kill someone, you could be prosecuted if caught. The following citation is from Louisiana Law. Other states may have different rules, but in LA at least they have thought this through and made a decision against vigilantism.

Note, it is perfectly legal to defend yourself and your property, just not legal to deputize yourself and go on a hunting party.

Thanks to volokh.

Perhaps you'd care to provide a cite?

yes, perhaps I spoke to loosely, just citing the common law rule. Obviously, different states have different rules with different nuances about when deadly force is justifiable. Louisiana's law is La. Rev. Stat. 14:20.

A homicide is justifiable:
(1) When committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm and that the killing is necessary to save himself from that danger.

(2) When committed for the purpose of preventing a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or of great bodily harm by one who reasonably believes that such an offense is about to be committed and that such action is necessary for its prevention. The circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fear of a reasonable person that there would be serious danger to his own life or person if he attempted to prevent the felony without the killing.

(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person does not retreat from the encounter.

(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the premises or motor vehicle. The homicide shall be justifiable even though the person committing the homicide does not retreat from the encounter.

my quick read of that suggest that defense of property, by itself, does not justify deadly force in Louisiana. A quick glance at the case annotations on Westlaw suggest that the touchstone is a "reasonable belief in danger."

A Good Start

I was reading some conflicting opinions on shooting looters over at Volokh and ran across this statement which, while perfectly valid, seemed a little self-absorbed given the scale of what is going on down there:

5,000 - 6,000 lawyers (1/3 of the lawyers in Louisiana) have lost their offices, their libraries, their computers with all information thereon, their client files - possibly their clients, as one attorney who e-mailed me noted. [T]hey are scattered from Florida to Arizona and have nothing to return to.

in related news, both astronomers in New Orlenas have lost their Sun Sparc workstations and several exobyte tapes of infrared data from NGC-2264. Updates as news trickles in...

This Generation's Hemmingway

Penny Arcade today. I am a softie for grammar humor

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Word Verification On

The War begins....

I received a bunch of ad-bot generated comments today, so I turned word verification on. It might slow the bo's down, and I appologize for the inconvienence.

Sigh. Fair is Fair (or A is A,take your pick)

In this case A is for Ass.

Yesterday I picked at Kos for his hyperbolic, over the top assessment of the Katrina damage. Today, the President made the same stupid hyperbole:

"this is a natural disaster the likes of which our country has never seen before ... New Orleans is more devastated than New York was" after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

It’s not that I enjoy poking at the President, I passed that phase a long time ago. It’s that I’m so … deeply disappointed in him.

Hey! Willie!

I enjoyed this, but that' s becuase I enjoy ALF

An Instance of the Fingerpost

"And after you have put Aristotle to your proof? And, no doubt, found him wanting. Then what? Will you submit the monarchy to your investigations? The church, perhaps? Will you presume to put Our Savior himself to your proofs? There lies the danger, sir? Your quest leads to atheism, as it must unless science is held firmly in the hands of those who wish to strengthen the word of God, rather than challenge it."

"Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?" Isaiah 45:9

Iain Pears, A Question of Precedence, pg. 75

Father of Supply Side Economics, Dead at 69

After coining the phrase "supply-side economics" in 1976 as an editor of The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, Wanniski wrote his seminal book The Way The World Works. Named one of the 100 most influential books of the 20th century by the editors of the National Review, the book revealed Wanniski's discovery of the cause of the Crash of 1929. His lucid reporting that the U.S. Senate's floor votes on the Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation coincided day-to-day with the October 1929 financial market collapse was the first persuasive explanation of that pivotal event, and began the rehabilitation of classical economics that Wanniski dubbed "supply-side" to distinguish from the "demand-side" Keynesian and monetarist theories.

I'm not endorsing him, but he did have a strong effect on the economic policy of the country.

Apache Rant

Sorry folks, I said something unkind about Apache the other day.

I meant to add this link.

People ask me if I worry about open source code displacing code made by professionals for hire.
I answer, "no".

The markets value the experiste of professional coders and, by proxy, qa testing, development, source code management in a way I don't see the open source folks every emulating in a robust, long-term sustainable way. We have to pay software engineers well because 95% of software engineering is boring, tedoius and not fun. It's also the reason it works well.

Also, this came out today. I'm not generally a fan of either "bug statistics" or "TCO studies". I liken them to Astrology, Tarot Reading and anything from Accenture becuase they can mean whatever you think they mean. Still, it's nice to see the other side get their head in the can for a long, cool swirly once in a while.

Jury Duty Today

I missed Jury Duty last January and now I'm compelled to show up today lest I have problems with my driver's license, fines etc.


I hope at least I get something interesting like the Trial of the Monarch.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Moving, Shaking

I'm having lunch on September 13th with Mary Matalin and James Carville. Not really interesting in their overall politics, I think they are probably both interesting people and I'm sure there is a lesson here in "learning to live with the other sides obviously flaws in logic and reason".

Should be fun!

President Surveys Damage

Cheap, but I did laugh out loud:

“It’s devastating,” POTUS said as he watched, according to Scott McClellan. “It’s got to be doubly devastating on the ground.”

Care of Wonkette

Kos Goes Hyperbolic

Kos goes more than a little overboard today:

This is the greatest disaster to hit our nation in most of our lifetimes. Worse than 9-11. New Orleans is underwater. Biloxi is 90 percent destroyed. Who knows how many dead. Who knows how many homeless. Who knows how many jobless. We have a bona fide refugee crisis on our hands.

Worse than 9/11?? Sorry Kos, you need to get a grip.

He also makes an excellent point about who does and does not have anything to gain here. I might be overly cynical but I don' t think the point he makes is the one he's intending to make.

Help with the book

Thanks everyone! I've had more than a couple of offers of help with the page and at least one volunteer to edit. I'm surprised and humbled by the response! Thanks again!

Experimental Evolution

Interesting article on the comparison of recently mapped chimp DNA vs. Human DNA.

Another experimental triumph of evolution.

Creationists continuously push god into the unexplained gaps of the evolutionary sequences, and it is getting to be increasingly tighter fit.

Maybe in a few years, we can the mythology out of the science class room.


From Bash:
#533472 +(481)- [X]
the speed of sound is defined by the distance from door to computer divided by the time interval needed to close the media player and pull up your pants when your mom shouts "OH MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING"

A Great Paper on the Science Behind Economic Choice

Thanks to Dr. Lori Allen. I've posted it here. Ignore the math.

Why it's called Apache

... becuase there are only a dozen or so of them left too!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No, but I wish I had

From Geoff:

Are you writing the Windows ads now?

in summation: its a guy talking about how he uses his computer to draw underground comics, and his character is a mild-mannered businessman by day, but at night he’s a crime solving mathematician called “The Actuary”, who doesn’t always get his man, but always gets the girl.

Here’s the video

No, I didn't write this, but I really wish I had. I love this ad. This might be the first MSFT ad I like since the "I saved a nickel" one we made for Capital Markets.


One thing at which I think I'm fairly decent is calling in a professional when I'm in over my head. I spent some time last night working on the first few pages of my "Looking Backwards" project and managed to bang out text for the first 4 or 5 pages (2006-2007). That's all fine.

However, as most of you know, I *stink* at website design. When I tried to get all the text into a web page that looked decent, I *sort of* succeeded. Example here. Not great. It's okay, but when I try to do the next issue, I basically have to do it again from scratch. What I need is a style-sheet or template or something and, frankly, I don't have the time or interst to sit down and dig through a 500 page manual on templates. Fortunately for me, the market has an answer.

Anyone know a good web designer I could rent to put together a template for me?

Setting New Standards in Corrupt Behavior

Wow. Even Clinton didn't go this far and he's been my model for the most corrupt use of the pardon, ever.

Ernie Fletcher (R) Governor of Kentucky, has pardoned everyone except himself in a wide spanning corruption scandal in Frankfort, KY. The state apparently has merit laws which require some level of measured competence for state jobs, which the governor and his staff ignored. Here is a good background/analysis piece.

What's interesting is how this backfires, unless it's the Governor’s intent to get impeached. By removing the threat of prosecution, the defendants can no longer claim the 5th Amendment if they were to be recalled by the AG (since the 5th only applies if the defendant might go to jail if he/she testifies). If the witnesses refuse to testify or lie, the AG can hit them with contempt or perjury charges. It seems likely they will talk in such a circumstance, which cannot be good for the Governor.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Finally working on writing a book

I've always wanted to write a book and I've made a couple of stabs at it over the years. My current, aborted effort is called "10 Rude Things I Learned to Do with my Mouth", which lies 1/3 completed on my hard drive.

Coming back from Columbia on Friday, I had an idea I liked so much, I flipped open the laptop and started writing an outline. I mentally worked out the major plot lines, then started writing a timeline to fill in a few of the missing events. This triggered a period of Focus for me, a time when the entire world vanishes and I'm fully concentrating on whatever I'm doing. When I came out of it, it was 6 hours later, I was at JFK and hadn't slept a wink on my red eye.

At dinner Saturday night with Jim I went over some of the basic story elements, detailed part of the timeline and asked for feedback. He was surprised at how it hung together and encouraged me to write more of it down. Yesterday morning I got up around 8, started writing, looked up a few minutes later and it was 2pm. Drove home from the cape and started writing again last night. I sent a copy of the draft to Geoff and reviewed it with him over the phone. The plot is such that it contains many elements I thought would upset his political sensibilities and figured he'd be a harsh critic. Instead he said he thought the offensive elements were handled in a sensitive way which were required for later events in the plot. This surprised me. I've since sent a copy to one or two trusted friends for review.

So what's the book about? Well, the Future. One of my favorite books in the 90s was a collection of NYT front pages for important dates in history. It was cool for several reasons. One the page where the headline reads "Lindbergh cross Atlantic!" it was a bunch of smaller stories where you can see the economic problems of the 20's and 30's shaping up. Hints if you will about what's coming. Obvious in retrospect, but not at the time. I always thought this would be a great way to study history.

So, that's the form of my book. It's a retrospective of the period from 2006-2156, as seen by the further future. Given my travel schedule and work, I figured I could commit to a page a week in this style and I'll be able to publish each page (or two or three) on my website each week. Each page will be the front page of the New York News, and will document America's history through 150 years of development. I have thought a lot about the future, the rate of change of technology, the course of science, politics, religion and entertainment, and I think this is a good way to express some of those ideas from a higher level than is usually involved in a narrative plot. There are some basic rules:

1) No magical technological breakthroughs. All the science is as real as I can make/understand it. Any scientific or medical advance must flow logically from what has come before.

2) No Deus Ex Machina plot devices. You may not always agree with how I resolve some crises, but it's done through the usual organs of power the state has (or will have as I think there will be some new organs which get developed).

3) Not every article on the front page is Important. In fact, most are not, just like a real paper.

Okay, so what will the plot involve?
Some hints (not in chronological order):

The political world though 2020 involves many of the usual suspects.
At some point, a major world power which is not the US, lands on the Moon.
Life extension technology is developed, but has some surprising consequences
Congress becomes a tri-cameral legislative body with the addition of the Corporate Senate.
Climate change becomes an important topic
America fights another Civil War.
The Fatima Prophecy happens.
A method of cheap access to orbit is developed
A major country manages to send and return a probe to several nearby stars.
Several major churches split off new, different churches
The US loses a major city to a nuclear terrorist
A kind of "digital telepathy" is invented and allows people to see what others are thinking.
A man wins the lottery and claims he sent the winning numbers to himself from the future
The Russians die off
A president is assassinated.
Clarence Thomas becomes the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
An asteroid is due to hit the Earth in October of 2028...

and a lot, lot more.