Showing posts from January, 2009


NotAGenius gets my reward for best economic comment : NotAGenius: I heard that Krugman was going to propose a new stimulus plan this week in which the government pays people to hold everyone's dick while they pee. He expects it to double GDP in Q2 via multiplier effects. Brad DeLong checked the math and has decided to leave Berkeley to help stimulate the economy. NotAGenius: Did that help raise the discourse in the debate? QA_2: No, I think it was just about where the average level already was. ;)


I have a hard time figuring out why serial killers get life in prison or death row, but a person like this isn't called a murderer . And then there's also the psychos who work in the meat industry, slaughtering hundreds of animals in a day. It's all nice and well, lions eat antelopes too, but when slaughterers' lives come to an end, it should be by sword, for good measure. If you're going to make your living by killing, at least you should be willing to accept that getting killed eventually is your destiny, too.

Teenage "child pornographers" charged for pictures of themselves

Here's how sensible American child pornography laws are: Half a dozen teenagers in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, face child pornography charges, three for taking nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and sending them to boys by cell phone, three for receiving them. The arrests follow similar cases involving a 16-year-old Florida girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend, whose child pornography convictions were upheld by a state appeals court in 2007, and a 15-year-old Ohio girl who was arrested last fall. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article about the Pennsylvania case mentions a 13-year-old boy in Texas who "was arrested on child pornography charges in October after he received a nude photo of a student on his cell phone." In my opinion, everyone would be much better off if the people who arrest and prosecute these kids would just do the world a favor and retire to Saudi Arabia. Look at the wacky logic these puritans use to justify their ruining of the kids' lives: Fur

Patents retard progress

Patents retard progress : In most histories, James Watt is a heroic inventor, responsible for the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The facts suggest an alternative interpretation. Watt is one of many clever inventors working to improve steam power in the second half of the eighteenth century. After getting one step ahead of the pack, he remained ahead not by superior innovation, but by superior exploitation of the legal system.... [T]he granting of the 1769 and especially of the 1775 patents likely delayed the mass adoption of the steam engine: innovation was stifled until his patents expired; and few steam engines were built during the period of Watt's legal monopoly. From the number of innovations that occurred immediately after the expiration of the patent, it appears that Watt's competitors simply waited until then before releasing their own innovations. This should not surprise us: new steam engines, no matter how much better than Watt's, had to use the idea of

They don't just kill rhinos

And we thought that it was outrageous enough that they kill elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns: ( link ) Alas, the killing of albinos has spread outside Tanzania’s borders to Kenya, Uganda and particularly Burundi. On January 2nd an eight-year-old albino boy living in Burundi was hacked to death in front of his mother. The killers took his arms and legs. That attack followed another on a six-year-old albino girl in the same country. The killers tied up the parents, shot the girl in the head, and made off with her head and limbs. Investigators say the body parts of a single murdered albino sell for over $1,000, with the skin and flesh dried out and set into amulets and the bones ground down into a powder. Artisanal miners in the gold and diamond fields directly south of Lake Victoria are the main buyers. Some sprinkle albino powder on the walls of their narrow pits, hoping for glitter. Uneducated and desperate to strike riches, they are taken in by witch doctors’ sto

EU idiocy about Microsoft continues

The European Commission is at it again : In its statement on Friday the Commission said: "Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to the Windows operating system harms competition between web browsers, undermines product innovation and ultimately reduces consumer choice." Microsoft that it was studying the commission's preliminary finding, and did not rule out requesting a formal hearing. It has been given eight weeks to reply. Imagine you enter a restaurant, and you order soup. They bring you the soup in a bowl, but they give you no plate and no spoon. When you ask about the plate and the spoon, they respond that the European Commission requires that they don't provide you with any. You have to bring your own plate and spoon, so that they will not be seen as stifling industry innovation and limiting your choice in the matter. Or, perhaps, the European Commission should require restaurants to carry a variety of plates and spoons produced by various manufacture

The doghouse: Whole Foods fires employee for stopping shoplifter

I wasn't previously ill disposed towards Whole Foods, but this sort of idiocy makes me want to avoid them. What a pretentious load of crap. What on Earth is this company trying to achieve with this policy? Avoid theoretical lawsuits by shoplifters, who might claim they were hurt when employees attempted to stop them? If this company had any moral fibre at all, it would stand behind the justified actions of its employee, instead of terminating his employment on Christmas Eve. Also, this guy (a habitual shoplifter who's become good at it) needs to get a clue about what the word 'job' means: You say [shoplifting is] a necessity, so you don’t feel any moral guilt about stealing? Absolutely not, it’s a job like any other job; it requires professionalism, requires effort, requires time. It’s not an easy thing. And there's a certain amount of risk, like any venture that you get into, any business you get into. If we've come to the point where people think that rip

Ukraine should prepare against a Russian invasion

It looks like Russia is setting things up to provide themselves with an excuse to go to war. Update: (2009-01-17) Putin is after regime change : “We will always proceed from the premise that we have a special historical relationship with Ukraine. Our actions are aimed not at worsening the situation in Ukraine, but on the contrary at improving it and ridding the Ukrainian people of all sorts of swindlers and bribe-takers,” [Putin said]. In other words: "We are your friends! Just change your government to suit Kremlin."

The doghouse: FedEx Office, internet obstructions in hotels

FedEx Office (formerly FedEx Kinko's) purports to provide a business traveler, among other things, with basic office services such as allowing you to print documents and ship them. Here's how it should work: Unpack your laptop. Connect the USB printer cable. Swipe your credit card. Print (using standard, trusted driver software that already came with the operating system on your laptop). Here's how it fails to work in practice. Unpack your laptop. Connect the USB cable. The USB device appears on your laptop as a number of drives. You must launch an executable that appears on one of the USB device drives. You must trust FedEx to execute arbitrary code on your laptop. Executable complains it has no ethernet connection (even though you only want to print). Connect ethernet cable, restart executable. Executable makes you read and click through lengthy agreement. Executable asks to install printer drivers. This requires elevation to administrative level. You must trust FedEx n

Middle ages, here we come!

I would have never expected this kind of middle-ageism in a supposedly enlightened country: The government has failed to live up to its manifesto promise to phase out mixed-sex wards in hospitals in England, the Conservatives say. Responses from 132 hospital trusts to a Freedom of Information request found that 15% still used at least one open-plan, mixed-sex ward. [...] Under the government's definition of mixed-sex accommodation, patients should be kept in bays divided at the very least by fixed full-height partitions. Patients should also not be expected to walk past others of the opposite sex to go to washing or toilet facilities either. I guess the people mostly populating hospitals these days still have mindsets dating back to the Victorian era.

Ski helmet idiocy in Austria

This is the sort of idiocy that makes me despair about the worthwhileness of the human race. Imagine the sheer number of people who go skiing every year on the numerous slopes of Germany, Italy, and Austria. Skiing is popular in these countries. A very large proportion of the population goes skiing every year. Now, skiing can be dangerous if you tempt destiny. However, even if you are an experienced and safe skier, every once in a long while, some incredible coincidence will happen, and a skier will die. This will happen so infrequently that your chances of dying as an individual (and safe) skier are negligible. But still, every once in a while, it will happen to someone, and they will die. As it happens, this sort of thing just happened recently in Austria. Big deal, right? So it happens once in a while. So what? Well, based on this single accident , loud voices in Austria and Germany are now calling to make helmets compulsory for all skiers . The problem is that it appears tha