Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Two Looks at Fabricated International Norms

From the liberal side and from the conservative side.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

A Red-State–Blue-State Difference

Is it my imagination or are red-state conservatives more likely to be pro-immigration than blue-state conservatives?

I can think of two possible reasons:

  • Blue states are more crowded and people in them are more likely to think the U.S. is “full.”
  • In blue states, conservatives are surrounded by liberal propagandists claiming that immigration makes the left undefeatable.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Unorthodox Science

John J. Ray has a couple of letters on the problems of supporters of eccentric scientific opinions in getting a hearing. One problem is that the current institutional structure of science is designed to reward people with clear proof that the old theory is wrong. Falsifying a generally accepted theory will win you a Nobel Prize. Reminding people that a commonly-accepted theory has inadequate evidence either for or against will get you almost nowhere. It will alienate those members of the Scientific Establishment who really are bigots and—what's worse—it will bore the rest.

That also means critics of the current theory should not exaggerate the amount of evidence against it. If there really is a large amount of evidence against an Establishment theory, the Establishment will not only come out against it, but even find a way to blame conservatives for it.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Department of Irony

Population Connection (formerly known as Zero Population Growth) is rating counties by “kid-friendliness.”

Are they for or against?

The Ladies Doth Protest Too Much Methinks

I looked at the I'm Not Sorry website which is “celebrating the right to choose.” They have a page of personal testimonies from women who had “positive experiences with abortions.” I selected the testimonies from four women named Amy and checked them using The Gender Genie. In the Genie's opinion, those stories were written by men …

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

But Seriously Now …

In the unlikely event that we really do have to limit immigration or if it should turn out letting in the huddled masses will cost too much (we will ignore the possibility that immigration could stop the welfare state), there is a simple solution: Charge admission.

First, an entrance fee will stop most of the unskilled (unless they can get Walmart to sponsor them). Second, it will help defray the costs of entitlement programs even if they do arrive. Third, if we pay immigration officers on commission, they will have an incentive to do the job right.

Is It Time to Restrict Births?

After reading the rants of my fellow reactionary-crackpots about Bush's proposed guest worker program, I've wondered about applying the same style of reasoning elsewhere.

It's obviously time to institute mandatory birth restrictions. After all, children born today—even children born ten or twenty years ago—consume far more from the government than they pay in taxes. We are dealing with a population with no skills and no capital. What do they have to contribute to America? This country was built by people born in the Second Millennium and we should be wary of letting too many Third Millennials share it. Should we really allow more potential workers when born people are unemployed? I won't do more than mention the strain all those additional mouths put on the environment.

In addition to economic factors, there are also cultural and political ones. Letting people be born might have made sense a few decades ago. In today's society, they will be educated by the Politically Correct. After a few years, those PC zombies will start voting. We must prevent that!

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Jewish Calendar on Mars

A plausible set of recommendations:

  • The Martian day is the day used and the Martian year is the year used. The Sabbath is celebrated every seven days. The first spaceship carrying Jews to land on Mars sets the day. If the ship lands on a Wednesday (Earth time) that Martian day is declared to be a Wednesday.
  • The International Date Line is exactly opposite the landing site.
  • Rosh Chodesh is celebrated starting at the sunset after Deimos rises. Phobos has a period of about seven hours. Deimos has a period of about thirty hours. Celebrating Rosh Chodesh for Phobos would be exhausting. Deimos is a bit better since the apparent period of revolution is several days.
  • Passover is celebrated at the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Shavuot is celebrated seven weeks later. Rosh Hashanah is celebrated at the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, Yom Kippur ten days later, and Succoth five days after that.

A different recommendation:

  • Wait until the Pope decides on the Martian Easter and then plagiarize something.

More on Vegetable Rights

My earlier posts on vegetable rights reminded me of the following quote from “The 25th Voyage” of The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem:

If Man has mashed countless potatoes, could not potatoes be expected to mash a man?

Why Attack Fish Farms?

Ronald Bailey reported that environmentalists have been aiming at fish farms for years. There is a reason for that. One of their best issues is the depletion of wild fish. The routine use of fish farms will make that unimportant so they must discredit fish farms. It's similar to their treatment of nuclear power plants.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Planner vs. Planner

The “urban sprawl debate” is between two groups of people controllers. One group wants to fight congestion by reducing population density in crowded areas and the other wants to fight sprawl by reducing population density in uncrowded areas. Sometimes the two sides cooperate and pass BANANA (Build Almost Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) regulations. The resulting housing shortage is blamed on greedy landlords and used as a pretext for more regulations.

Maybe we should let people make their own decisions about where to live.

Leftist Copy Editors?

Virginia Postrel reports on liberal bias among copy editors:

Lileks draws on years of newsroom experience to explain how liberal media bias really works. It's not a plot. It's an attitude. And, though Lileks doesn't say this, I'm pretty sure it's most concentrated among copy editors.
Speaking as a former copy editor, I must say that attitude was not unanimous.

Also, speaking as a former copy editor, maybe I should have copy edited more of this blog instead of writing stuff off the top of my head …

People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables

In my earlier post on vegetable rights, I somehow neglected to mention a classic on the topic:

Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and PETV (People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables) clashed today. Protests started peacefully with members of PETA throwing fake animal blood made from maple syrup and carrot juice at the PETV protesters while the PETV protesters were throwing fake maple syrup and carrot juice made from blood at the PETA people.

Later the PETA and PETV members started throwing rocks at each other. At this point members of PETM (People for the Ethical Treatment of Minerals) entered the fight but they were quickly overwhelmed because they were throwing ham sandwiches with mustard and tomatoes.

Come to think of it, I had already blogged on how humans resemble plants.

UPDATE: We must not forget People for the Ethical Treatment of Pumpkins.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Zev Sero emailed a link to Carrot Juice Is Murder.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

A Civil War What-If Speculation

After speculating about the U.S. taking over the world. I suppose I should consider the effects of past American imperialism. So … if the South had won the Civil War, would either half of the nation recognize the right to keep and bear arms?

First, the North would almost certainly have passed a strict gun-control law. Without the South, the Rocky Mountain states and northern New England simply wouldn't have the votes to oppose a measure backed by the Democrat–liberal Republican alliance.

Second, the South would probably not have slavery but it would still have a resentful lower class with no political power. There would be a strict gun-control law to keep the blacks from getting uppity. There would be a significant minority of white liberals by now, so the gun-control law would have to regulate white guns to keep them out of black hands.

Does Zionism Require a Jewish State?

I'm sure most Jewish libertarians are a bit embarrassed at supporting (or being thought to support) a distinctly non-libertarian state. Maybe we should look into other possibilities.

A Jewish state was not necessary in Release 1.0 of Zionism, which was based on a Jewish homeland in a small corner of the Ottoman Empire. (Herzl was from Austria–Hungary and might have regarded multinational empires as the natural way of doing things.) That even explains such oddities as the Jewish National Fund or the Histadrut which make sense in a Jewish corner but not in a Jewish state. On the other hand, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and its successor the British Empire proved unreliable.

Maybe the best solution is for Israel to become a U.S. state after the U.S. finishes taking over the world. (The Jewish nature of the area could be guaranteed by the Jewish National Fund.) It will, of course, be necessary to have a religion-friendly Supreme Court.

Another possibility is for Israeli Jews to be reclassified as Native Americans and Israel to be reclassified as a reservation. On the other hand, the advisability of such a tactic requires “enlightened,” i.e., self-congratulatory, opinion among American political elites to lurch in the right direction.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Vegetable Rights

It was only a matter of time before the vegetable-rights movement started. Keith Burgess-Jackson quotes Paul W. Taylor on the beginnings of this avalanche:

Once we separate the objective value concept of a being's good from subjective value concepts, there is no problem about understanding what it means to benefit or harm a plant, to be concerned about its good, and to act benevolently toward it. We can intentionally act with the aim of helping a plant to grow and thrive, and we can do this because we have genuine concern for its well-being. As moral agents we might think of ourselves as under an obligation not to destroy or injure a plant. We can also take the standpoint of a plant and judge what happens to it as being good or bad from its standpoint. To do this would involve our using as the standard of evaluation the preservation or promotion of the plant's own good. Anyone who has ever taken care of flowers, shrubs, or trees will know what these things mean. (Paul W. Taylor, Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986], 67-8)
I'm reminded of Merlin in That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis whose order did not permit him to use an edged tool on anything living. Come to think of it, the same reasoning that can produce vegetable rights can also produce bacterial rights. To quote from the first “Interphase” of Blood Music by Greg Bear:

Each hour, a myriad of trillions of little live things—microbes, bacteria, the peasants of nature—not counting for much except in the bulk of their numbers and the accumulation of their tiny lives. They do not perceive deeply, nor do they suffer. A hundred trillion, dying, would not begin to have the same importance as a single human death.

Within the ranks of all creatures, small as microbes or great as humans, there is an equality of “elan,” just as the branches of a tall tree, gathered together, equal the bulk of the limbs below, and all the limbs equal the bulk of the trunk.

We believe in this as firmly as the kings of France believed in their hierarchy. Which of our generations will come to disagree?

But wait, there's more. There's a theory that life started as a type of clay (see Genetic Takeover by A. G. Cairns-Smith). We can expect dirt-rights activists someday. Of course, that will include the right to not be humiliated, so the phrase “dumb as dirt” will have to go…

Thursday, January 08, 2004

What Is the New Rome?

According to Osama bin Laden (the term “ghostwriter” sounds particularly appropriate right now), Muslims must oppose the “New Rome,” which he assumed means the US. So let's compare the US and Rome.

If we take Rome as the model, those parts of Roman history that look eerily familiar to present-day Americans occurred between the time of Tiberius Gracchus (an analog of JFK) and the time of Crassus (an analog of H. Ross Perot). I think the best analog for the Current Unpleasantness occurred about 100 BCE when Rome was attacked by a bunch of barbarians nobody had heard of before and was defended by Marius (who made his reputation by jailing a previously untouchable crook and was subsequently known for professionalizing the armed forces). In that case, we can expect it will be five hundred years before Washington is sacked.

The Muslim world, on the other hand, resembles the Roman Empire of Justinian. It had thoroughly collapsed a century earlier and had even lost control of the area that had made the universal state possible. (The Muslim equivalent is the fact that Turkey is now secular.) It was limited to the core cultural area of the Aegean Sea and Anatolia and the even more thoroughly decayed civilization of Egypt. It's as though the American Empire of six hundred years from now consisted of Europe and possibly the mid-east. Under Justinian, the Roman Empire made a last feeble attempt to regain its lost glory while simultaneously shutting down what was left of its intellectual life. It was unable to keep out previously harmless peoples for long … just as Muslims are unable to keep Jews out of Israel.

Roman comparisons work both ways.

Mohammed opposed the very late Roman Empire. By the standard of WWMD (What Would Mohammed Do?), it's time to take over Dar al Islam and have it run by capable hands.

Is Kucinich Actually a Republican?

According to Neal Starkman, Bush's popularity is apparently mysterious:

It's increasingly obvious, for example, that none of the so-called theories can explain President Bush's popularity, such as it is. Even at this date in his presidency, after all that has happened, the president's popularity hovers at around 50 percent -- an astonishingly high figure, I believe, given the state of people's lives now as opposed to four years ago.
On the other hand, he has an explanation:

The answer, I'm afraid, is the factor that dare not speak its name. It's the factor that no one talks about. The pollsters don't ask it, the media don't report it, the voters don't discuss it.

I, however, will blare out its name so that at last people can address the issue and perhaps adopt strategies to overcome it.

It's the "Stupid factor," the S factor: Some people -- sometimes through no fault of their own -- are just not very bright.

When we combine the above with Kucinich's demonstrated thinking ability, as indicated below:

DES MOINES, Iowa - Federal spending was the topic and Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (news - web sites) came prepared with a pie chart to argue his point about a bloated Pentagon (news - web sites) budget.

But although many listened to Tuesday's presidential debate, few could see the Ohio congressman's prop.

The debate was broadcast only on National Public Radio.

it should be clear that Kucinich has gone Republican on us.

It's obvious!

I won't do more than mention that Howard Dean's announcement of his favorite book of the New Testament showed he has been moving in the same direction.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Compulsory Feticide

One of the standard cliches of the pro-“choice” movement is that they're not forcing people to get abortions. A recent New Jersey law will do just that. According to Wesley J. Smith:

The key to understanding the radical depth and scope of A-2840 is in the bill's definition of the term "human being":

As used in this section, "cloning a human being," means the replication of a human individual by cultivating a cell with genetic material [the SCNT cloning process] through the egg, embryo, fetal and newborn stages into a new human individual. (my emphasis)

Read this sentence carefully. Its terms would make it legal in New Jersey to create a human cloned embryo, implant it in a willing woman's womb, gestate it through the ninth month, and only require that the cloned fetus be killed before it becomes a "new human individual," e.g., at the very point of birth. This means that law would expressly permit implantation and gestation for any amount of time before the cloned fetus becomes a "new human individual"!

In other words, if an embryo is cloned and the people responsible change their minds about the permissibility of abortion, they are commanded to abort it anyway.

I'm reminded of “A Delicate Adjustment” by Elizabeth Moon in which a childless couple tries to hijack an implantable embryo from a laboratory.

One last note, this is partly due to the pro-life tactic of trying to use prejudices against reproductive cloning to ban embryo research. It backfired.

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