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

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Sometimes We Pro-lifers Exaggerate

According to Francis W. Porretto:

Abortion was absolutely illegal for nearly all of recorded history;
Abortion certainly was not illegal back in the days of human sacrifice. It was just done after birth. (Given medical techniques at the time, it was safer to do it then.) Even after infanticide became technically illegal, there was little enforcement. Before societies became wealthy enough to afford police forces, the usual enforcement mechanism consisted of relatives out for revenge. This would not apply to kids done in by their own families.

Karl Marx on Vietnam-War Protests and War-on-Terrorists Protests

From The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Bonaparte:

Hegel says somewhere that that great historic facts and personages recur twice. He forgot to add: “Once as tragedy, and again as farce."

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The Tribe Who Can't Count

Anthropologists claim to have discovered a tribe of native Brazilians who can't count above two or three.:

The tribe’s counting system consists of three words — one that means “roughly one,” one that means “a small quantity” and one that means “many.”

The really interesting reaction is in a comment to that post by vernaculo:
As Ray Davis points out, it’s contact and taking the “test” that are problematic for the Pirahã. These natives will make soft meat for the merchants they encounter but it needs emphasizing, they were living successfully, without numbers, for countless thousands of years.
The assumption is that “our” way of living is more adaptable - even through incipient, and catastrophic, ecological disruption - and likely to be still more successful in future.
That assumption is baseless and void of proof. A teenager driving his father’s car at 100mph knows he’s immortal just as certainly, and just as validly.
They haven't been living successfully, without numbers, for countless thousands of years, they have been living successfully, without numbers, for countless manies of years. (I suspect that if thay don't “make soft meat for the merchants they encounter,” that will be counted as part of the evils of capitalism.)

In any case, even if you ignore Julian Simon's work (similar to pointing out that a supposedly-dangerous driver is going at four mph), the poster has no grounds for thinking our society is unstable. After all, by multicultural standards, there are many years of oil left, etc.

Instapundit Watch Watch

For the past few weeks, Finnegans Wake has had a daily feature called “Instapundit Watch:”

[Ed note: The Instapundit Watch will continue through my blogging break/week of debauchery. For the sake of the children.]

Day 18. On August 2, 2004, Glenn Reynolds plugged Michelle Malkin's "book" defending the internment of the Japanese during WWII. It has since been shown to be a pseudo-historical fraud. But from Instapundit, still no criticism of Malkin.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Instapundit provided a link to Eric Muller's dissection of Malkin's claims.

I'd Like to Give the World a Vote …

There's a web site (seen via Random Nuclear Strikes (seen via Eternity Road)) that's trying to let the world vote for U.S. President:

In today's world, all nations are inextricably interconnected. The United States is the most powerful and influential nation in the world. Everyone everywhere will be affected by the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

What if the whole world could vote in this election?

Please choose a candidate and select your country, then click the VOTE button.

This isn't as absurd as it looks. Under similar circumstances during the Roman Republic, Rome's “allies” tried revolting against Roman unilateralism. The revolt was stopped by giving them the right to vote in Roman elections … which soon became more useless than ever.

On the other hand, the fact that it isn't absurd implies that it's more dangerous than it looks.

According to Random Nuclear Strikes:

If you live in Maine and keep choosing one boneheaded lefty after another, then can I vote in your elections here in Ohio? I mean all fifty states are so interconnected and we all are so tied to each other economicaly, maybe the rest of us should get the chance to decide for you, since you suck at making your own choices and all.
We can be more specific. Since New York is the most influential city in the U.S., clearly it should let the rest of the U.S. vote for mayor. … Wait a minute, it's starting to make sense now …

A Paleoconservative Cliche

Paleoconservatives will often criticize Jews for supporting leftist policies in the U.S. (e.g., mass immigration) and right-wing policies in Israel. I don't see a contradiction (at least on immigration). In the U.S. we Red-Sea pedestrians defend the rights of immigrants and in Israel we defend the rights of immigrants. In particular, we sometimes defend the rights of immigrants (known as “settlers”) to the West Bank.

Protest vs. Protest?

What if this protest were blocked by a counter protest? What if Republican delegates linked arms against the cyclists?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Misinformation on Emergency Birth Control

Dawn Eden is critical of Jane Brody's column on “Plan B”. It is an illustration of how misinformation is spread. The information on emergency birth control went through three stages:

  1. First, it was described correctly but with an excuse (that pregnancy has been redefined) embedded:

    The morning-after pill acts to change the lining of the womb so that if the woman's egg does become fertilized by the man's sperm, it is unable to implant or attach to the womb to start a pregnancy. Unable to "stick", the fertilized egg is then expelled from the womb.

    Because it acts once the egg has been fertilized, many pro-life groups see this type of contraception as a form of abortion (although others argue that the pregnancy does not begin with fertilisation, but with implantation). These arguments often reflect very strongly held and personal views.

    Read some of them at:

    The Morning After Pill
    The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

    (By the way, the original web page this came from has disappeared and I got the quote from The Internet Archive. Make of that what you will.)

  2. Second, it was described incorrectly (in Jane Brody's column) but with the excuse retained so it might still be possible to find one's way to the truth.

  3. Third, the misinformation is treated as an Unqualified Fact and anybody who disagrees is regarded as ignorant. For example, Fafblog:

    So the FDA has decided that the mornin after pill is not gonna be sold over the counter. This is yknow a huge step backwards for women's health and for contraception and the prevention of abortions. But it is a huge step forward for what we at Fafblog like to call the "rights of the unconceived," which is just a few short steps from what we are really lookin forward to which is the rights of the inanimate.
    The condescension here is breath-taking.

Update: It looks like I just got a Dawnlanche.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I Should Lose Some Weight

Today somebody asked me if I was the producer of Fahrenheit 911.

Actually, I look a little like this guy but bald.

Update: I do not wear red baseball caps.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Which Is Cause and Which Is Effect?

There appears to be a correlation between the percentage of foreign-born population and the abortion rate in U.S. states (seen via Steve Sailer). I doubt if this is due to immigrants pushing out families. If anything, they make nannies cheaper. It might be due to low-birth rates pulling in immigrants … or immigrants coming over here to have abortions.

There's an even closer correlation between the HIV positive rate and abortion. Clearly, if we can cure AIDS we can eliminate abortion. That might not finish the job but, since there's a negative correlation between UFO sightings and abortion, we could also ask the space-people for help.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Substituting “Jew” for “Muslim”

In a comment on Winds of Change, Gary Farber devised a test for the legitimacy of a comment:

I've long, as a Jew, found a highly useful test for distinguishing legitimate commentary from hate; I take the noun of the statement in question, switch it to "Jew," or the adjective to "Jewish," and see how I think it stands up.

There is a strong resemblance between conspiracy theories about Muslims and conspiracy theories about Jews. That may be a deliberate strategy on the part of the Muslims. Since Muslims have had their butts kicked by Jews lately, they have beeen rethinking their strategies. The only problem with that is that they get their ideas about Jewish strategy from psychotics. It's not surprising that they have been trying to use the strategies that conspiracy theorists claim that Jews use.

On the other hand, those methods don't work. They made up imaginary atrocities—except they had to convince historians outside their religion and they couldn't do that without evidence. They tried to use hate-speech laws to silence opposition—except such laws are unconstitutional in the world's only superpower. They tried to use the money power—only to find that they couldn't hold on to it without actually earning it. The next step will be to try to take over the media—and they will find that the mass media become mass because they follow public opinion instead of leading it. When the networks try leading public opinion they lose viewers to Fox. (This is one of the best ways to refute the standard antisemitic conspiracy theories: The attempts to conspire fail.)

I recently came up with a similar conspiracy theory. Going by analogy, we can expect the conspiracy to fail.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Fetal Research, African Style

In parts of the world where medical techniques are not yet up to extracting bits of the unborn, they can do it after birth:

They first hit 10-year-old Sello Chokoe with a blunt instrument, causing a gash on his head. They then chopped off his penis, his hand and his ear. They were harvesting his body parts for "muti" - the murderous practice of traditional African medicine


How the body parts are used varies with what customers want to achieve. They are eaten, drunk or smeared over the ambitious person. Various parts are used for different purposes. A man who had difficulty in producing children killed a father of several children and used his victim's genitals for muti. In another case, a butcher used a severed human hand to slap each of his products every morning before opening as a way of invoking the spirits to beckon customers.

On the other hand, maybe it was simply a belief in a finite pie which has to be redistributed:

Mathews Mojela is the head teacher at Sello's primary school. He has worked in rural areas for nearly a quarter of a century and says muti is founded in the archaic belief that there is only a limited amount of good luck around. If one wants to increase his wealth or luck, then it should come at another's expense.

What If President Kerry Tries Reinstating the Draft?

First, every moron who currently blames Bush for budget cuts will blame it on Republicans. (After all, everybody knows Republicans are hawkish authoritarians.) Second, if the Republicans succeed in stopping the draft, they will be accused of being hypocrites for violating the principles that leftists attribute to them.

I was inspired by Instapundit's father's speculations.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

“Unique Truth,” Abortion, and Terrorism

The idea that each of us has a “unique truth” instead of going by objective standards has more serious consequences than a corrupt governor giving a preposterous speech:

"My truth is that I am a gay American,'' announced Gov. James McGreevey to the people of New Jersey last Thursday.

That's such an exquisitely contemporary formulation: ''my'' truth. Once upon a time, there was only ''the'' truth. Now everyone gets his own — or, as the governor put it, ''One has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world.''

Subjectivist philosophies have given us a world where the right to life of somebody who hasn't been born yet depends on somebody else's emotional reaction. They have given us a world where perceived humiliation is an excuse to explode.

A Brief Note on Other-Correction

One big problem with trying to have a society where you are likely to be corrected by others is the widespread belief that only somebody who is perfect is allowed to correct others. (Just look at the reactions to Bill Bennett's gambling, Rush Limbaugh's drug use, or even Dick Cheney's vocabulary.) Since nobody's perfect, we have to rely on self-criticism too much.

A Brief Note on Self-Correction

While reviewing this blog, I noticed numerous errors I had overlooked—which is rather embarrassing for a former proofreader. I suppose it's easier to find mistakes at a distance.

Update: I changed “enbarrassing” to “embarrassing.” The original mistake was not deliberate.

A Common Eurabian Prediction and Islamofascist Accusations

There is a common prediction for the future of Muslim-dominated Europe—that it will not preserve post-modern freedoms. A typical example can be found in an article by Mark Steyn in the latest issue of The Human Life Review (the article is not online):

A little girl born today will be unlikely, at the age of 40, to be free to prance around demonstrations in France or Rome chanting “Hands off my bush!”

I'm not so sure about that. According to Steven Den Beste, accusations made by Islamofascist sympathizers about Israel or the U.S. reflect the actual behavior of the Islamofascists themselves:

It's been standard Arab propaganda to take any accusation made against the Palestinians or any other Arab and reflect it against Israel. As soon as the Palestinian bombing campaign against Israel began to be referred to as "terrorist", the Arabs started calling Israel a terrorist nation and referred to its military operations against the Palestinians as "terrorist", in speeches and in empty-gesture acts of the UN General Assembly and in virtually every international forum whether it actually makes any sense there or not.
I have seen claims by neo-Nazis (who might be puppets of the Islamofascists) that Jews support abortion for gentiles but not for Jews. For example:
I guess to the Jews we Gentiles are down right nasty lil' varmints multiplying like rabbits. I guess this is why all of them in our American Congress are pro-abortion down to the last one!
and also:
Judaism is the one major American religious denomination which gives unqualified support to abortion, except for Orthodox Jewish rabbis who are adamantly opposed to abortion for Jews.
This is complete nonsense when applied to Jews. Jewish law prohibits gentiles from aborting. Secular Jews usually support legalized abortion for everybody. Religious pro-“choice” Jews are not much different from “personally-opposed” Christians. On the other hand, it may be that the accusations against Jews reflects real Islamofascist policy. In that case, we can expect Eurabia to maintain abortion rights for Christians and atheists. They might even cite that as evidence of how tolerant they are.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Has Israel Hired Woody Allen as a Consultant?

Israel has started using an innovative anti-hunger-strike technique:

JERUSALEM -- Israel declared psychological war on hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners today, saying it would barbecue meat outside their cells to try to break their spirit.


"Among the various methods we plan to employ is holding barbecues outside the walls of the affected prisons," a Prisons Service spokesman said.

The same technique was suggested by Woody Allen in “A Brief, Yet Helpful Guide to Civil Disobedience” in Without Feathers:

Hunger Strike: Here the oppressed goes without food until his demands are met. Insidious politicians will often leave biscuits within easy reach, or perhaps some cheddar cheese, but they must be resisted ……

…… sound trucks are paid to go through the street saying “Um… what nice chicken — umm…some peas…umm…

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Why Moderates Are Hated, Part II

I recently posted on why moderates are hated. My theory (that moderates are regarded as puppets) has additional support from Reason's Hit and Run:

Far from being the Richelieu of latter-day America, Cheney is the ultimate organization man, an insecure yes man whose balls are so tightly in the vise that he's always struggling not break down and cry. If anything, he's the Larry Tate of contemporary politics, a shameless ass-kisser who changes his opinions to flatter those in power, just like Darren Stephen's "bombastic boss" on Bewitched did. There's something about his demeanor that, to me anyway, suggests his entire adult life has been one never-ending Maalox moment—that he's always choking down a sour stomach.

You can see this from his shifting stance on gay rights. Famously the father of a lesbian, during the 2000 campaign Cheney was a refreshing voice of tolerance within the GOP, saying he had no problems with same-sex relationships. What's more, he pooh-poohed federal actions like the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed by President Clinton and sought to limit states' flexibility in sanctioning gay marriage. These days, after his boss emphatically endorsed a constitutional amendment precluding same-sex marriage, he's singing a very different tune. That he won't talk about his switch tells you something, too: That he knows he's acting out of cowardice, not principle.

Where Was John Kerry during Christmas of 1968?

It's obvious. He was lost.

Update: The August 17th Day By Day agrees.

Vomitorium or Vomitorium?

Snarky comment vs. facts.

Maybe I'm making too much of this. There's an actual case of a left-leaning blog mentioning an inconvenient fact. (In a related story, Hell froze over.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Does Islam Need a Reformation or a Counter-Reformation?

I suspect Islam needs a counter-counter-counter-counter-reformation. Judaism and Christianity needed several cycles of individual fanaticism and authoritarianism to get something reasonable. I don't see how Islam can take a short cut.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

A Kosher Blogfest

Dr. Manhattan is organizing a blogfest in Manhattan that's not on a Friday night:

In honor of my return to blogging, I'm organizing a blogger get-together.
Since I can't make the usual Friday night affairs, this one will be on Thursday, August 12th at 7:30 P.M. at "Cafe K" in Manhattan (48th St. between 5th and Madison). This will be the second (or third, depending on who's counting) kosher blogfest I've organized, and I hope it will be the best yet - I'm hoping to draw people from the politics, baseball & Jewish-blogging worlds, and get them together to see if they have anything to say to each other. I anticipate we all will.
Come one, come all. Tell your friends.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Why Keep Old Laws on the Books?

A few months ago, I posted a defense of “cafeteria religion” on the grounds that the accumulated experience of a community does not always agree with the early versions of that experience that got into the sacred texts. In that case, why keep the laws on the books but reinterpret them instead of just dumping them? It's quite simple. Keeping the laws on the books enables rapid backtracking.

Sometimes the above-mentioned accumulated experience goes awry. For example, the story of the Exodus is obviously about the rescue of a people from the horribly unjust system of slavery. For centuries, it was reinterpreted in Judaism and Christianity to be about a special case with no lessons for any other situation. (After all, everybody knew that slavery was a necessary part of the economy.) A few centuries ago, a handful of evangelical Protestants (which is embarrassing to those of us in other religions) went for a more literal approach and declared that slavery could not be tolerated. This actually worked.

In a system with cafeteria religion, there will be occasional attempts to “turn back the clock.” When backtracking is needed, those attempts can be used to fix the system. If we simply dump apparently-obsolete laws, it will be harder to fix.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Department of Vague Threats

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said:

I say this to the Republican Party: With all respect and all deference, do not dare use 9/11 for political purposes.
That sounds different coming from the chief law-enforcement officer of the state government than if it came from a radio talk-show host. What did he mean by the following?
Neither party should use this for politics, so I say to the Republicans, do not go there, … It would not be fair or right, and we will not let you do it.
Are mass arrests of Republican delegates planned?

Effect of Polygamy?

There is a species of lizard in which the presence of harems can increase “female impersonation” genes:

In the rock-paper-scissors game, paper always covers rock, scissors always cut paper, and rock always breaks scissors, only to be covered by paper again, and so on. In the lizard version, mating is the objective: orange-throated males beat out blue-throats, blue-throats overpower yellow-striped throats throats and yellow-striped throats checkmate orange-throats. These relations have generated a six-year cycle in which the three distinct morphs take turns being predominant.

When the temperate blue-throats, which keep harems of three females and defend small territories, are the most common males, even small numbers of aggressive oranges can take over. These lizards are "ultradominant," brimming with testosterone, keeping harems of up to seven females and defending large territories. Just one generation later, oranges dominate.

But then a few yellow-stripes can easily infiltrate the orange camps, passing themselves off as females and secretly copulating. (A related strategy was featured in the movie _Shampoo_, in which Warren Beatty cuckolded husbands by pretending to be a gay hairdresser and thereby gaining easy access to their wives.)

If this applies to humans, we can expect an increase in transsexuality in Muslim cultures. In some place, it's already starting:

One early campaigner for transsexual rights is Maryam Hatoon Molkara, who was formerly a man known as Fereydoon. Before the revolution, under the shah, he had longed to become a woman but could not afford surgery. Furthermore, he wanted religious guidance. In 1978, he wrote to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was to become the leader of the revolution but was still in exile, explaining his situation.

The ayatollah replied that his case was different from that of a homosexual and therefore he had his blessing.

Prediction: The Halloween Parade in Mecca will look very strange a century from now.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Embryonic Stem Cells without Conception?

According to a Reuters report, scientists have taken a nucleus from a mouse cancer cell and injected it into mouse egg cell. The resulting embryo was used as a source of stem cells. (Since this was a Reuters story, they couldn't resist adding a preposterous editorial comment at the end.)

I suspect that injecting the nucleus into an adult stem cell will produce an embryonic stem cell.

The story also mentioned that the reversal of the cancer process demonstrates a possible cure for cancer. The idiotarian left will take that as “The Religious Right is preventing a cure fof cancer!” It isn't that unless you intend to inject each tumor nucleus into an unfertilized egg … and there aren't enough of those to go around.

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