Showing posts from March, 2009


I eat a lot of meat. I hate to do it, but I hate even more being scrawny. So I need the protein, and this is how to get it where I live. I'd use more soy, but I haven't yet quite decided to start a food importing business. Also, I'd feel stupid inconveniencing myself, when everyone else is jolly killing and eating. I have, however, long felt that humanity ought to outlaw meat eating altogether. If no one could eat or buy meat, entrepreneurs would find other sources to supply us with all the nutrients we need. Only the most savage would miss it. I once posted a poll on this topic some place, and was dispirited to find that 90% of respondents - hundreds of them - were against outlawing flesh eating. Even 50% of self-proclaimed vegetarians weren't in favor of outlawing it. In this clip , Pamela Anderson takes you to the world of Kentucky Fried Cruelty. After seeing that video, I am beginning to think that everyone who isn't ready to outlaw meat eating should them

Tito Street

So you want evidence that most people are relentlessly, remorselessly infantile; uninformed; unaware of their surroundings; gullible; stupid. You want evidence that the judgement of most people in matters of policy should not be trusted, and in fact that a majority should have no influence, for that is how clueless they are. Okay. Then here's a prediction for you. If Iraq or North Korea ever become free democratic states, a large proportion of their population (20-40% for Hussein and 40-80% for Kim Jong-il) will: Remain convinced that Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il were beneficent leaders. Will want their statues to be preserved. Will want public places to be named after them. For this is what is happening in Russia with Stalin, and in Slovenia with Tito. According to this Dnevnik article (in Slovenian), about 65% of residents in the capitol, Ljubljana, would like the town to get a street named after Josip Broz Tito, the erstwhile dictator of Jugoslavia. Of those, 71% (or 46% o

Pare down the law

I have been contemplating recently whether our usual gripes about government aren't missing the point. Rightists vs. Leftists, Libertarians vs. Democrats vs. Republicans, tend to argue over the principles on which government is based. But there is one simple constitutional change that would make a major difference to the quality of government, and which furthermore is so neutral that it ought to intuitively appeal to most people, regardless of their ideologies. The change is this: Pass a constitutional amendment that imposes a maximal total size on the amount of federal or state law that can exist at any time. This limit, of course, would have to be vastly lower than the amount of law that currently exists, and would have to be put into effect over the course of several decades. The constitutional change would require future Congresses to slave away until they have pared down the sheer quantity of law to a size that is comprehensible. The entirety of state and/or federal law

China proposes global reserve currency

This is major: China's central bank has called for a new global reserve currency run by the International Monetary Fund to replace the US dollar. And necessary.

CPU-based backdoors

Joanna Rutkowska drives home the point that, even with the latest and greatest technologies that might protect us from all sorts of intentional and unintentional software and hardware backdoors - we still have to trust the CPU, which makes it exceedingly simple for the CIA to spy on you. All they need is to make the CPU contain a backdoor such as this: if (rax == MAGIC_1 && rcx == MAGIC_2) jmp [rbx] This is: Trivial to hide among the 800 million gates of a modern processor. Exploitable in practically any program. Practically impossible to discover. It gets worse: it doesn't even have to be the CIA. It can be any of the governments in the various countries where your CPU might have been manufactured. It looks like, against the most well-connected attackers, you can only consider yourself secure if you build all your own hardware, and run all your own software on it.

Screening parents for genetic disorders

A call for routine screening of would-be parents for genetic disorders , allowing parents at risk to opt for in-vitro fertilization to ensure children don't inherit problems: MADELINE Kara Neumann, age 11, died of diabetes because her parents prayed rather than taking her to doctors. Caleb Moorhead, age 6 months, died after his deeply religious vegan parents refused a simple vitamin injection to cure his malnutrition. The list of children killed by their parents' superstition or wilful ignorance is a long one. Most people are rightly appalled by such cases. How can parents stand by and let their children die instead of doing all in their power to get the best medical care available? Yet this is precisely what society is doing. We now have the ability to ensure that children are born free of any one of hundreds of serious genetic disorders, from cystic fibrosis to early-onset cancers. But children continue to be born with these diseases.

The gospel according to Futurama

A Pharaoh to Remember: Priest: Great wall of prophecy, reveal to us God’s will that we may blindly obey. Crowd: Free us from thought and responsibility. Priest: We shall read things off you. Crowd: Then do them. Priest: Your words guide us. Crowd: We are dumb.

The Holy Grail: Native Client

It looks like researchers at Google have created the Holy Grail: Native Client , a framework that allows untrusted, native, possibly hostile x86 code to run securely in a browser. Here's the paper: Native Client: A Sandbox for Portable, Untrusted x86 Native Code They are also offering a contest to find any security vulnerabilities. The first prize is $8,192. It finishes May 5. If this makes it into the mainstream, it is going to revolutionize web applications. No more lame, slow-ass websites that fail to provide a quarter of the performance and capability of native applications. If Native Client becomes widespread, web applications are going to be full-fledged, and there is not going to be any reason any more to write installable native applications. Editors, spreadsheets, games, development tools, image manipulation software: they are all going to run in browsers. And I don't mean lame-ass browser versions, like we have today. I mean real, high-performance editors, spre

Things North America has that Slovenia doesn't

Even on our Caribbean island in the middle of the Atlantic, relative proximity to the U.S. market provides us access to a few products of the American Capitalist System ™ that, in the Socialist Republic of Slovenia ☭, are largely impossible to obtain. Here are a few that have been most valuable to me. It so happens that most of these revolve around a high protein intake. This has been frustrating for me to achieve in Slovenia, as products low in fat are hard to get, and/or are insufficiently labeled. U.S. food, meanwhile, is a boon for people with my kind of dietary preference. Contrary to what people think, obesity in the U.S. is not due to poor diet. A wider variety of choices and better labeling make it easy to maintain a fit figure through diet in the U.S., while doing the same is frustrating in Europe. Americans are obese because it's culturally acceptable, so many choose to be that way. Cooking spray You can avoid the mess, hassle and extra calories that come with oiling

The French

I don't suppose that I can say anything about the French that the readers of this blog would not already think themselves, or expect me to say. Still, with the continuing reports of economic protests in France , I feel like I need to say something, even if it's obvious. The French are the source of their own misery. Their tragedy is that they do not understand that strikes and protests and burning cars and blocking supermarkets, calling for the government to intervene, to "help people", and to apply yet more taxes on the rich, is precisely opposite to the steps that need to be taken to resolve the economic crisis, which France is only a part of. What the French are doing is, they are destroying their own state. They are harming their own livelihoods and the livelihoods of their descendants. I'm not sure what can be done about it, because the hooligan ethos in France is so strong. From what we've seen in recent years, France is, essentially, a nation of hoo

A game that cannot be played with integrity

Travian is a massively multiplayer game that joins thousands of players on one of many realms to form alliances and compete in battle, until finally an alliance wins, over the course of a year. The universe in which the game is played is a map of 400 x 400 squares. Most of the squares start out empty, but each one of them can contain a settlement. One of the ways players compete is in building settlements. A higher developed settlement produces more resources, which can be used to build an army, or to develop the settlement yet more or found a new one. A player can use an army either to defend against other players' attacks, or to attack settlements of other players. The aim of attacking is either to rob resources from other players, to take over another player's settlement outright, to destroy another player's settlement, or to kill their army to prevent them from doing these things. The authors of Travian make money by allowing players to bribe the game, using real mone

The 5 Moral Mechanisms of Jonathan Haidt

I ran across the interesting article titled What Makes People Vote Republican , dated September 2008, by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt argues (with intriguing anecdotes) that morality is not merely about our relationships with each other , but that morality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. He further argues that: there are five mechanisms humans have evolved for morality; Democrats recognize and use only two of those mechanisms; whereas Republicans recognize and use all five. The five mechanisms are: Harm/care (Republicans, Democrats) Fairness/reciprocity (Republicans, Democrats) Ingroup/loyalty (Republicans) Authority/respect (Republicans) Purity/sanctity (Republicans I highly recommend reading the article for a better understanding of the meaning behind these names. According to my understanding and experience, I would refine Jonathan's claim

Too big to exist #3

F.D.I.C. chairman Sheila Bair agrees - banks that are too big to fail are too big to exist. Her opinion about this appears towards the end of this 13-minute video which documents the F.D.I.C.'s secretive takeover of Chicago's Heritage Community Bank. My previous posts on this topic: Too big to exist #2 Too big to exist

The Madoff victims

From Vanity Fair (hat tip to Freakonomics), an article about Madoff , his family, his victims, his suckered friends: “I want justice!” screamed Joan Sinkin, who, along with her husband, Arnold, a retired contractor, had sunk every cent from 55 years of work and the proceeds from the sale of several houses into Madoff. After learning that they had lost everything, she was hospitalized with what seemed like a stroke, and her husband collapsed. “I want to be treated like G.M. and A.I.G. and Bank of America! I can’t wait years! I want S.I.P.C. [Securities Investor Protection Corporation, which insures investors up to $500,000] to put people like us back on our feet!” Out of her husband’s hearing, she whispered, “We had a good life, and it’s gone.” [...] “It’s boring now, the poor-victims story,” said Larry Leif, a Florida investment adviser who lost $8 million, and who has since become a lightning rod for victims’ rights. “I’m into legislation and action for those who were fooled. I’ve

A culture of entitlement

I just read a jaw-dropping article in The Economist - appropriately titled Allons, Enfants! - discussing the exceedingly dark and irrational situation in the French Caribbean. Not yet a year ago, my wife and I visited St. Martin for a day, and noticed a striking discrepancy between the Dutch-governed and the French-governed part. The Dutch-governed part, you see, is similar to the rest of the Caribbean. It appears better developed than other islands we've seen. However, the roads are old and rugged, and infrastructure in general appears to be comfortably closer to Caribbean standards than those of urban Europe. Once you enter the French part, however, you say - wow. New asphalt roads. Sidewalks. Street lights. Marked intersections. And the next thought you have, if you're like me, is who pays for this? Surely not the Caribbean residents. If most other islands can't afford this, how can the French part of St. Martin? It must be that the French are shoveling a whole lot o

Daniel Hamermesh for higher income taxation

So far, socialist thinkers like Mr. Hamermesh have failed to convince me that income inequality is a problem, or that taxation of income is the way to deal with it. I find it frustrating how articles in favor of income redistribution frequently start by saying "income inequality has grown", but do not waste any time dwelling on why, in fact, income inequality is supposedly a bad thing. Lacking any effort to even justify their opposition to income inequality, one gets the impression that proposals of income redistribution are driven by envy rather than prudence. Second, even if income inequality is a problem - a claim for which I have so far seen few credible arguments - then it is not by any means a foregone conclusion that the way to fix this inequality is to impose the most intrusive government measure in the developed world: a tax on people's income, requiring people to report on every nickel they receive. Do socialists ever consider how enormous an intrusion int