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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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Yet another weird SF fan

Friday, September 30, 2005

Organic Fertilizer by Design … Is This a Series?

The latest example of this phenomenon comes from Gregory S. Paul who manages to find correlations between several measures of social dysfunction and several measures of religiosity and did it with just 18 data points. (This is wa-ay too few to draw conclusions … even if we ignore the likelihood that the data have been deliberately selected to prove the intended conclusion.)

This study also ignored changes in both religiosity and dysfunctional behavior. For example, Europe used to be more religious. In the other direction, crime rates in the United States have been declining. The current correlations might be temporary. There is some evidence that religion produces improved societies after a delay.

The real problem is that Creationists will cite the uncritical acceptance of this bullbleep by some evolutionists as a reason to disbelieve evolution in general.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

If Information Really Wants to Be Free …

… why wouldn't it include your credit-card number (seen via Boing Boing)?

Memletics is one of those dime-a-dozen companies selling a product it promises will teach "accelerated learning" and how to "remember more." What makes Memletics remarkable is the digital rights management (DRM) scheme it uses on its books. The company's main product is a training manual that explains the "Memletics advanced learning system" -- and if you loan it to a friend, you do so at considerable personal risk. You see, Mimletic prints out your "name, address, telephone number, credit card number, and other information" on every tenth page of the e-book. The truly amazing part is that the company does this with its printed manuals too.
I think they're trying to call a bluff. Are the copyleftists always in favor of freedom of information?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Don't Underestimate Human Beings

I'm sure most of the blogosphere has heard by now that the supposed social breakdown at the Superdome was was mostly nonexistent. Maybe we shouldn't be so eager to assume the worst.

On the other hand, there might have been a deliberate effort to create apparent social chaos. I have already blogged about the possibility that the more senseless looting was intended to make the United States look bad. Maybe we should check to see if it was the same few looters carrying the same TV sets past reporter's cameras. Did the accounts of bodies come from the same few people?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Whatever Happened to …

… James Lileks's Backfence?

In Defense of “Ceremonial Deism”

The Raving Atheist recently posted here and here:

Another problem with your blanket attack on atheism is the fact that you are all yourselves atheists with respect to every god but your own. Unless you’re pandering, multiculturalism relativists, you certainly don’t believe that Jesus, Allah, Ganesh, Zeus or the Wizard of Oz co-exist—you reject most of them as fairy-tale deities. And you certainly don’t believe in the “ceremonial deism” of the United States Supreme Court, i.e., that “we all worship the same God.” Quite plainly, if two Gods hold opposing views on abortion, capital punishment, and social welfare, they can’t possibly be the same God.
If I think George Orwell would have approved of the current Iraq War and somebody else thinks George Orwell would not have approves of the current Iraq War, that doesn't mean we're talking about different persons.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Bronx Cheer?

A recent headline:

Chávez gets a cheer in the Bronx
has more than one meaning.

Yes, I know it's a cheap shot …

Sunday, September 18, 2005

More Organic Fertilizer by Design

According to the alleged scientist Gideon Polya:

I have been researching and writing a book on post-1950 avoidable global mortality. This has involved using United Nations data to calculate the avoidable mortality, (or technically, excess mortality) for every country in the world since 1950. Avoidable mortality is the difference between the actual deaths in a country and the deaths expected for a peaceful, decently-run country with the same demographics.

The post-1950 avoidable mortality has been 1.3 billion for the world, 1 billion for the Third World and 0.5 billion for the Muslim World, a Muslim Holocaust 100 times greater than the Jewish Holocaust or the contemporaneous but ‘forgotten’ Bengal Famine in British-ruled India.

Anyone rational would conclude we must depose the kleptocrats but Dr. Polya has other aims:

When considered country by country, the horrendous post-1950 ‘avoidable mortality’ and ‘under-5 infant mortality’ correlate with impositions of First World countries (principally the UK, US, France, Portugal and Russia) that have variously included colonial occupation, neo-colonial hegemony, economic exclusion, economic constraint, malignant interference, corrupt client regimes, militarisation, debt, civil war and international war.

Translation: the excess mortality is correlated with ignoring a Third-World country, trying to run it, trading with it, not trading with it, deposing kleptocrats, maintaining kleptocrats, lending money, not lending money, … (Can you say “non-falsifiable”? I knew you could.)

The data amount to pointing out that some countries have higher death rates than others and assuming it is all Our Fault.

How to Make Men Live Longer

According to HealthDay News (seen via Ace of Spades (seen via Eternity Road)):

British researchers analyzed rates of female murders and male death rates from all causes in 51 countries in Europe, Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. The prevalence of violence against women was used to indicate the extent of patriarchal control in each of the countries. Socioeconomic factors were also taken into consideration.

The study found that women lived longer than men in all 51 countries. The study also found that those countries with higher rates of female murders (indicating higher levels of patriarchy) also had higher rates for male death and shorter male life expectancies, compared to countries with lower female murder rates, the researchers said.

The implications are clear. In order to make men live longer, a society must cut down on anti-female violence. The actual evidence shows we must put more cops on the beat, lock up crooks and “throw away the key,” and make sure women are armed. (Since women find it harder to use fists or even knives than men, that means they must be armed with guns.)

That's probably not what the supposed researchers meant …

Friday, September 16, 2005

Were the Delays in the Hurricane Rescue Effort Unprecedented?

There were similar complaints after Hurricane Andrew.

By the way, how effective were the rescue efforts (seen via Radagast)? Those claims look like they came from the sort of press releases that were present this time and appropriately ridiculed this time.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Truly Astounding News

President Bush is a human being.

Until now, I thought he was a robot!

Help Elect More Republicans!

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania (seen via Boing Boing) is trying for a repeat of last year's brainstorm of organizing a pledge drive in which the pledges are proportional to the number of picketers.

I suspect the probable effect is that the self-congratulatory community will have less money to throw down other drains. This could mean less donations to Democratic candidates or even a shortage of giant puppets for the next protest.

They Should Finish It

The Flight 93 memorial obviously started out to be a circle.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Magic Power of Government

I suspect many of the complaints about the slow rescue effort after the recent hurricane came from people who think that governments operate using the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses:

LaMere held the glowing amulet aloft and transmuted a neighborhood of low-income apartments into a semi-wooded, single-family, residential district with an adjoining riverside park.

Though the amulet had long been dismissed as urban legend, a mythical ideal of zoning perfection handed down from city planner to city planner, LaMere became convinced that not only was it real, but that it had been used to lay out the cities of Ur, Atlantis, and Inver Grove Heights, MN.


"It's wonderful that someone's finally doing something to revitalize this town, even if it is someone who can commune with church gargoyles," said local baker Wendy Kittner, whose business was mystically placed on the National Register Of Historic Places last week despite being housed in a building erected in 1981. "He frightens me, and my concern is that if I defy him, I may be turned to stone."


Added Criclow: "I don't think what he's doing is mere magic. I think it's darkest bureaucromancy."

Of course, if Dubya didn't use the amulet of Fed-Er-Al, that clearly means he had sinister designs.

Meanwhile, the low body count means most people managed to rescue themselves without any bureaucromancy.

Addendum: The link to The Onion is now fixed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Obvious Political Consequence of Hurricane Katrina

President Giuliani.

Uh oh.

Maybe It's Too Much to Hope for Sense

When faced with:

An internal 1996 memorandum from Mobil demonstrates the oil company's successful strategies to keep smaller refiner Powerine from reopening its California refinery. The document makes it clear that much of the hardships created by California's regulations governing refineries came at the urging of the major oil companies and not the environmental organizations blamed by the industry.
the reaction on the left is to increase regulations. Never mind that those regulations are responsible for the mess in question.

Apparently, leftists are reading from scripts. When they're reading from the “Corporate Perfidy” script, they call for regulations whether or not said regulations make sense.

Addendum: Deinonychus antirrhopus has a more detailed analysis.

Speaking of reading from scripts …

Some of the reactions to hurricane Katrina might be due to going according to scripts. In the script “Disaster,” the role of human toxic waste calls for looting (even if the goods can be neither used nor sold) and the role of disaster help can only be played by the Federal government.

A Leftist Meme That Might Make Sense …

… but only if they let it.

I'm referring to the meme of: “We have our press corps back.” For most of the past few decades, there was a common assumption that if the government spent the money, the problem was solved. In the course of the past week, the press has been checking to see if the money spent was actually effective and they've even noticed when the government obstructs private solutions.

I don't know if they'll continue checking after somebody they like has been elected.

By the way, last week's leftist meme was: “The state is not your friend … until a disaster happens and you need it.” It looks like the state is not your friend even when a disaster happens and they keep the Red Cross out, stop you from crossing a bridge out of a flooded city, or confiscate your gun but don't protect you anyway.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Argument from Personal Incredulity

Dylan, a commenter/troll on Wizbang wrote:

This thread of conversation about survival kits is so off-the-wall bonkers that I can hardly believe it is being discussed. There hasn't been a single person who's said "10,000 people wouldn't have died if we'd all gotten some Dinty Moore stew ahead of time."

The call for survival kits in 2002 also called for duct tape, which would have done a lot of good for the victims of Katrina, I'm sure. The arguments about survival kits 3 years ago weren't against preparedness but against the idiotic distraction tactic that they were used for. They seriously were trying to tell us that duct tape and canned food should be procured in case of a suitcase bomb? Give me a break.

And I know this survival kit business seems like a fun thread to keep going, because it allows you to take little jabs at some lefty bloggers. That's fine if you want to concentrate your ire on Kos and Atrios... I'm certainly not in the business of defending other bloggers.... but you are inadvertantly blaming the vicitms of Katrina by saying they wouldn't have died if they'd just heeded the administrations plea to get together a couple of flashlights and some canned goods... give me a break.

In the creationism vs. evolution debate we call this “the argument from personal incredulity.”

Plumbism in New Orleans?

You don't have to be a racist to wonder if there's something wrong with the mental hardware in New Orleans. (For one thing, the political corruption and lack of investment in levees has been going since the days when New Orleans was run by whites.) Plumbism (lead poisoning) might be an explanation. New Orleans was one of the main centers of oil refining back when gasoline was still leaded. As a result:

Over 50 percent (and perhaps even 70 percent) of children living in the inner city of New Orleans and Philadelphia have blood lead levels above the current guideline of 10 micrograms per deciliter [*Note #2]. In contrast, in the concrete "jungle" of Manhattan, where very little of the soil is exposed and almost all apartments and housing contain lead-based paints, only between 5 and 7 percent of children under the age of 6 have been reported to have blood-lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher.
This might also explain the differences between reactions to 911 and Katrina.

But wait, there's more:

Meanwhile, ecologists and social theorists are adding fuel to the fire. In a recent examination of data from the 1900s, researchers found a correlation between the amount of lead released into the environment from auto exhaust and paint, and violent crime, including rape, robbery, assault, and murder. The study was published in the May 2000 issue of Environmental Research, and was conducted by Rick Nevin, vice president of ICF Consulting (a housing and environmental health issues firm in Fairfax, Virginia) under contract to HUD.

According to the study, variations in leaded gasoline sales from 1941 to 1986 correlate with roughly 90% of the fluctuations in violent crime rates from 1960 to 1998. Variations in predicted childhood lead exposure from the use of lead paint between 1879 and 1940 strongly correlate with murder rate variations between 1900 and 1960, possibly explaining about 70% of the change, the study found. A lag effect of 18-23 years--basically the time it takes an exposed child to grow up--was documented, depending on the specific crime.

I'm a bit nervous about continuing. I might start sounding like the anti-mercury activists.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Berlin Airlift?

The following meme has been underused by the left (only 33 posts on it according to technorati and only 32 threads on usenet):

It took ONE day for there to be a Berlin Airlift. Five days laters peple are still starving to death in New Orelans
Apparently, most leftists are unwilling to use a real historical analogy even when it's superficially plausible.

Of course, back in the real world, the Berlin Airlift started out as the Berlin Trickle:

General LeMay put his logistics staff to work to figure out what it would take to build an air bridge to the city with the aircraft available in the theater. Logistics experts quickly calculated that it would require 2,000 tons of coal and 1,439 tons of food per day to meet the minimum basic needs of the 2 million inhabitants. The normal total tonnage requirement for the city was 13,500 tons daily. But even 3,439 tons flown in each day with the few available C-47s appeared an impossible task.


Within four days, a C-47 was landing at Tempelhof every eight minutes to discharge 2 1/2 tons of cargo--well over 150 planeloads a day. The supplies were immediately trucked to warehouses strategically located throughout the western sectors of the city. However, this was only about one-thirtieth of the food, fuel and medicines that would be required.

Come to think of it, the occupation forces were the government of Germany, so this was carried out by the local government.

Gun Control, Zoning Laws, Single-Payer Health Plans, … and Now FEMA

One of the commonest of government activities is keeping private citizens from solving a problem that government is supposedly handling. We see it in gun control (which keeps private citizens from stopping criminals on their own). We see it in zoning laws (which keeps private landlords from providing low-cost housing on their own). We see it in single-payer health plans (which keeps doctors and patients from making their own arrangements). I suppose we shouldn't be astonished that we see the same phenomenon in the rescue effort in Louisiana.

Radagast has a round up of related news items, but it this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

If the Aftermath of Katrina Causes a Malaria Epidemic …

…when are we going to relegalize DDT?

It might be interesting to watch the left accuse the Bush administration of “genocide” (if they tried accusing the Nixon administration they'd have a case) and then try to stop people from saving lives.

Do We Have to Unlearn Some the Lessons of 911?

911 lessonNew Orleans lesson
Avoid big citiesAvoid small cities
Stay close to the groundStay high off the ground
Don't store fuelStore fuel
Local governments are reliableLocal governments are unreliable

Addendum: This is embarrassing. I wrote “St. Louis” at first instead of “New Orleans.” (I might have been wondering if St. Louis might be vulnerable to some of the same problems as New Orleans … or maybe Louisiana somehow morphed into St. Louis.)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Separated at Birth?

Ray Nagin and Ali G?

If the Terrorists Are Taking Notes …

Mark Steyn recently pointed out:

Oh, well, maybe the 9/11 commission can rename themselves the Katrina Kommission. Back in the real world, America's enemies will draw many useful lessons from the events of this last week. Will America?
Lessons they might learn:
  • Levees and dams are vulnerable.

  • If you attack a city with a high murder rate, many of the residents will do your work for you. (On the other hand, I still suspect somebody was behind the more senseless looting.)

  • If you attack a city with a moderately high percentage of households with no automobiles, many of the people can be trapped. (At a very high percentage of households with no automobiles, there will be enough alternate ways out and, what's more important, everybody will know of the alternate ways out.)

  • Small cities are more vulnerable. It's possible to devastate the entire metropolitan area. In a large city, most of it is likely to be undamaged.

Is your town vulnerable?

Me? Chic?

Who knew?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why They Didn't Send in Troops Immediately

The BBC reports:

"They killed a man here last night," Steve Banka, 28, told the Reuters news agency before he left on Sunday.

A body lies face down in water next to the Superdome Death was everywhere, both inside and outside the Superdome "A young lady was being raped and stabbed.

"And the sounds of her screaming got to this man and so he ran out into the street to get help from troops, to try to flag down a passing truck of them.

"He jumped up on the truck's windscreen and they shot him dead," Mr Banka said.

Cf. here for more whining.

By the way, has the Federal government ever had a successful rapid reponse to catastrophe? Local governments have sometimes responded rapidly. The Federal government is usually on hand a week later writing checks. That makes sense when the local government is competent.

I recall the clueless response to the 911 attacks. Some of the people killed at the Pentagon were apparently watching the television reports of the World Trade Center instead of organizing a rapid response. For that matter, it took days for aid to arrive after the recent tsunami.

I Confess!

The New Orleans catastrophe was partly my fault. As a New Yorker, I acted in a civilized manner during the 2003 blackout. That clearly contributed to the common belief that we can rely on spontaneous order and wouldn't have to send the National Guard to New Orleans (instead of continuing to patrol New York train stations). If only I had thrown a brick through a window …

Set seriousness bit to ON: Could someone please explain how a disaster that occurred in a Democratic city in a state with a Democratic governor is supposed to be the fault of Republicans or conservatives?

On the other hand, one of the basic principles of conservatism is that people in a region can usually deal with a problem better than strangers. In particular, conservatives usually assume that state and local governments are actually competent (or at least more competent about local issues than the Federal government). The current mess makes that a bit dubious.

On the gripping hand, according to The Federalist Papers, it's easier for a faction to seize control of a state or local government. That may have happened here.

I'd be interested to hear if any of the conservatives who got bent out of shape over the alleged violations of “Federalism” in the Schiavo case have anything to say.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who Is Really behind the Looting in New Orleans?

I suspect one of the planned effects of the World Trade Center attack was to create a social breakdown similar to what's now happening in New Orleans. After all, according to American movies (where many of them got their ideas about America), American cities were about to explode any moment. The expected riot didn't happen. In 2003, they even tried claiming the nonexistent blackout riot happened. This year, they may have gone for a more active approach.

An Islamofascist terror planner, after noting the near disaster last year of Hurrican Ivan and also noting the persistent lack of preparation for a large hurricane in New Orleans, may have decided to send “wandering shreds of human debris” over to New Orleans in the days before the hurricane struck. Once they got there, they proceeded to disrupt public order in general and the rescue effort in particular. Looting TV sets does not make sense for either desperate people (who will be taking bottled water, etc.) or ordinary crooks (who will steal items that can be hidden or smuggled easily). You can't show up the Superdome or Astrodome with a 50-inch TV set and get away with it. Shooting at rescue workers makes even less sense in the absence of a deliberate plan.

I don't know if anybody actually planned this, but the Other Side has started gloating.

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