Friday, July 13, 2007

Not Even Wrong

Disingenuous doesn't even been to describe this.
That doesn't even remotely resemble a best fit curve. They've drawn the line straight-through an outlier. And look how steep it is at the right hand side. They're asking us to believe that the marginal impact of increasing corporate income tax rates above the Norwegian level is not only negative, but massively negative in a way that none of the non-Norway data bears out. It's an insult to everyone's intelligence. At this point, one needs to think that letting Rupert Murdoch destroy the WSJ news pages might be better for the world than letting the WSJ news pages' credibility continue to provide a "halo effect" to the editorial page.

The Death of Homo Economicus

The final nail in the coffin of the myth of the rational economic decision maker:

In “The Neural Basis of Loss Aversion in Decision-Making under Risk,” in the January 26 Science, Poldrack, Fox and their colleagues Sabrina M. Tom and Christopher Trepel presented the results of their fMRI study, in which they offered subjects a prospect of accepting or rejecting a gamble that offered a 50–50 chance of gaining or losing money. As the potential for gains rose, they found increased activity in the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine systems (dopamine is a neurotransmitter substance associated with motivation and reward). As the potential for losses increased, they found decreasing activity in these same reward-sensitive areas. Interestingly, it appears that losses and gains are coded by the same brain structures—the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, associated with decision making and learning in the context of reward and punishment, and the ventral striatum, associated with learning, motivation and reward. Individual differences in loss aversion were predicted by how much more the brain was turned off by losses than it was turned on by gains.


Capitalism Meets Communism

Google is offering a rare public glimpse of China's new ballistic-missile submarine, according to a researcher at the Federation of American Scientists.
The new submarine was photographed by the commercial Quickbird satellite in late 2006, and the image is freely available on the Google Earth Web site," wrote Hans Kristensen on the
Strategic Security Blog.

Kristensen identified the submarine, pictured alongside a naval pier, as a Jin-class vessel, one of five that China is expected to build.

Comparing the Google Earth image with a picture of China's existing Xia-class submarine, Kristensen was able to discern some of the features of the new submarine.

"The Jin-class appears to be approximately 35 feet longer than the Xia-class [submarine], primarily due to an extended mid-section of approximately 115 feet that houses the missile launch tubes and part of the reactor compartment," Kristensen wrote.
But the picture was not clear enough to resolve a debate over whether the Jin-class submarine has tubes for 12 or 16 nuclear-tipped missiles.

Discovery of the submarine image is likely to cause consternation within China's military, which generally keeps as low a profile as possible. If so, it wouldn't be the first time that Google Earth has caused worry inside China's government. In 2006, government officials reportedly expressed concerns over Google Earth imagery of the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing, an area normally off-limits to prying public eyes.

On the Road Again

Getting ready this week for next week's annual company meeting. Unlike most years before this we are not in full blown panic mode getting ready, with most of the presentations done, reviewed and even rehearsed. We've been working on this for 8 weeks now (yes, 8 weeks of wasted time). For my part, I've got a 75 minute presentation I'm responsible for and I believe at this point we'll be okay. I have one gimmick I am going to use which should ensure that people talk about the session for a few days afterward*.

All that said, I heard yesterday that my grand-boss (by boss' boss), has no keynote presentation. None. for the last 2 months teams of folks have been working away, meeting, talking, rehearsing and checking little boxes so that we are all in lockstep and all follow the exact same format**. Now we find our uberleader hasn't been marching with us at all, but is instead going to have people throw something together for him Sunday night***.

I can't decide if I think he's an irresponsible jerk or a hilarious non-conformist. :)

*I'll blog about this later, it's something of a "secret" at work because my boss is notorious for stealing other peoples ideas and claiming them as his own. I have been heard to say within his earshot, "I need to see the room floor plans so I know how to position the lasers without blinding anyone" and "The Orlando Fire Chief is a fascist jerk for making me get a permit to turn off the smoke detectors"

** after a lecture from my boss about how we are supposed to "win" by coming up with clever, creative, memorable gimmicks, he then launched into an hour long lecture about all the formatting rules for presentations and how we all had to look *exactly* alike prompting me to remark, "Wait. You mean we're supposed to beat the competition by doing *exactly the same thing they are doing*? Can we out-mediocre them?"

*** this looks like a brown-nose festival to me, so I have politely declined participation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I found this over at Andrew Sullivan's blog, it's a NYT photo piece on people and their on-line avatars.

I was a little surprised how many were from the game I play, City of Heroes.
For those of you who are curious, my avatars can be found on my SG site, in the the changing card window on the right. I run BluShield and Captain Physics (the later named for a comic book I wrote in college) and have lead the Vangaurds for about a year. It's fun and I have set a surprising number of sane adults there, although there have been the usual problems with the less-than-well-socially-adjusted.

FTR, between 15-20 hours a week, mostly weekends and late evenings.

Well Said

This is primarily for my son, who wont be able to get to it for another 28 days, but I have to say it seems reasonable.

(all of it here)

Ultimately, all of these scandals and revelations force us to confront the basic issues of why the Iraq War was launched in the first place. What do we know now or suspect to be largely true?
1. The WMD intelligence was flimsy, and there is a good deal of circumstantial evidence suggesting the inner core surrounding Bush all knew this and went to war anyway. This has as much been admitted both in the infamous Downing Street Memo and by Paul Wolfowitz.
2. Democratization and humanitarian relief only became an issue once WMDs fizzled. The president's lack of movement on Darfur also suggests 'human rights' and democracy aren't a motivating force with this administration.
3. 'Terror' - as with WMDs, there is a strong possibility this reason was knowingly overplayed by the inner core. They refused to move on Zarqawi and Iraqi Islamists, who were irregardless a minor force in Saddam's Iraq and lurking in areas of the country that Saddam could not reach them. We also know the president pulled away reinforcements from Afghanistan in order to put them in the deployment pipeline for Iraq as the now infamous as Tora Bora took place.
So, what was the reason? Consider this possibility...
The Bush/Cheney axis came to power in 2000 with an idée fixe that the primary threat to US security were traditional 'hard power' issues of national security. Thus, the pulling out of the anti-ballistic treaty and the early scuffle with China over a US reconnaissance flight in the South China Sea. (remember way back then?) There was also, importantly, a preexisting belief, especially among the neocons but really, as seen by your willingness to buy it, throughout the conservative establishment, that Iraq, but especially Iran and its offshoots were dire threats to US interests in the region.
Ultimately, those interests are two - Israel and oil. While this is not the place to discuss the influence of what some call the 'Israel lobby' in the United States, the fact remains, however, that the dominance of the religious right in the Republican party made pleasing them an important factor in any political calculation...and Israel plays an important part in the elaborate 'End Times' mythology popular among the christianist religious right.
As for oil, it is too crass to say oil profits is what motivated the invasion, but it is disingenuous to argue against the role that security of oil supplies and access to them played in the Bush/Cheney decision-making process. Indeed, access to oil and oil security has been a large part of the reason we are involved in the Middle East and stretches back to World War II when Roosevelt met with and forged a relationship with the reigning king of Saudi Arabia on an American warship off the coast of Egypt in 1945. It was the reason why we overthrew Mossadeq and backed the Shah of Iran in 1953. It’s why we intervened against Iraq in 1991. Oil and oil security have ALWAYS been at the forefront of US Middle-East policy.
This being the case, consider the geopolitics of oil supply after 9/11. We had been, first of all, been literally run out of Iran in 1979 and, after 9/11, the fact stands that the majority of the hijackers were Saudis and the man ultimately behind the operation, Bin Laden, was a rich Saudi. Saudi Arabia represents the pinnacle of Islamist autocracy and stands 100% opposed to American values – and yet we were dependent upon them for military bases to protect the Gulf’s oil assets. Couple this also with these facts:
1. World, but especially Chinese, demand for oil had been growing and continues to grow exponentially. 2. Western and western-friendly oil assets are either all in sustained decline or approaching the point of decline from peak oil production. 3. The last time world oil discovery outpaced world oil consumption was twenty years ago. 4. The remaining massive, potentially politically accessible deposits of oil left remaining available to the industrialized West were all contained in the Middle East.
Under these conditions the Iraq War makes sense geo-strategically, politically, in fact in almost every way. Regime change creates a secure client state in the middle of the world’s last remaining great oil patch at time of dwindling supplies. It protects Israel, and so satisfies the pro-Israel part of the party. Insofar as it uses the rhetoric of ‘freedom versus terrorism’ it can be spun ideologically in a way that garners support and splits the opposition – thus creating the political el dorado of Rove’s ‘permanent majority’. It provided lucrative contracts to the military-industrial complex. It gave the pro-Republican officer corps a prestige boost and something to put on their resumes. It appealed to liberal interventionists like Thomas Friedman, nauseating moralists like you, and salivating imperialists like Bill Kristol. Throw in an arrogant, ignorant president with a messianic complex and a chip on his shoulder, a subservient, politicized mass media, an incompetent opposition, and a supremely ignorant, panicked, and fearful citizenry and the question inverts itself. Under these conditions, how could we NOT go to war against Iraq in 2003?
The rest, as they say, is history.

Way too Charming...

On the possible evolutionary underpinnings of the persistence of gays in the general population.

Homosexuality survives, not because gay men, per se, are adaptive, but because the gay gene makes straight men more successfully heterosexual. McKnight hypothesises that this homosexual genetic loading endows some straight men with two crucial characteristics - enhanced sexual drive and charm


We have the occasional gay man (3% of the population according to McKnight) merely as an effect of too much of this libidinal and charming genetic loading in one individual. In McKnight’s terms, exclusively homosexual outcomes are a by-product of an enhanced heterosexuality.

As they say in the Orbit gum commercial, "Fabulous!"

Personally, I think #5 is the most like explaination.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Male Restroom Etiquette

true dat


No, it's not an ad for gum.

The Holy Roman Catholic Church throws another sign it's losing it's battle with the 21st century by... wait for it... regressing to an earlier state (when presumably it was more powerful and popular).

I'm guessing we'll soon see the Church pull out it's old yearbook photos, reminise about about it's time as quaterback and suck in it's gut in the mirror while promising to "lose that extra 20 lbs".

Best Headline this Week

The Harry Potter review from Slate. The subtitle is, Harry Potter hits Puberty.

The Great God Lardicus

How to create your own god in 10 easy steps!

My favorite:
9) You need to confuse everybody. This will make sure that nobody can be really certain WHAT they believe, because it is all so non-sensical to begin with. And when you don't spell it out exactly (or even if you do) you know how those funny humans will all magically just get along, right!

I wonder if it follows the L. Ron model or the Smith variations.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Eyeball Tattoo

The procedures themselves were effectively painless because there aren’t nerve endings in the surface of the eye, and we did additional control with lidocaine drops which numbed the lids. After pain is fairly minor, although we all have bruising and some discomfort. I have what appears to almost be blistering between the sclera and conjunctiva which is worrying me a little but so far I don’t have reason to believe this is abnormal. Aftercare, at least in my case, is antibiotic drops and a patch.


My comment: "yyyyaaarrrrrrgggggggg!!!!!!!" followed by a reflexive crotch protection move.

If it's physically possible, humans will find a way to do it.

Sunspot 963

The sunspot's two dark cores are each larger than Earth, and they are connected by an unstable magnetic field that crackles with C-class solar flares. The eruptions have been entertaining onlookers. "I watched in amazement for hours as the magnetic loops swayed back and forth," says Larry Alvarez of Flower Mound, Texas. He made a movie of the action using his SolarMax90 solar telescope.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

You're in the Army Now

My son Geoff begins 32 days of basic training at Fort Lewis today. He's a little apprehensive about it, but I am certain he will do just fine.

Good Luck Son!