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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Gap in Science Fiction

There have been lots of Mad Scientists in SF but there have been very few Mad Artists. There was The Illusionists by James H. Schmitz (earlier discussed here) but that's about it. On the other hand, in the real world, there have been lots of dangerous Mad Artists (cited as a result of the Polanski arrest fallout).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Health-Insurance Reform and Pseudoephedrine Regulations

The news of the arrest of a grandmother in Indiana for buying two boxes of cold medication inside a week has been going around the blogosphere:

“I don’t want to go there again,” [Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina] Alexander told the Tribune-Star, recalling how the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamine ravaged the tiny county and its families.

While the law was written with the intent of stopping people from purchasing large quantities of drugs to make methamphetamine, the law does not say the purchase must be made with the intent to make meth.

“The law does not make this distinction,” Alexander said…

Just as with any law, the public has the responsibility to know what is legal and what is not, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, the prosecutor said.

“I’m simply enforcing the law as it was written,” Alexander said…

It is up to customers to pay attention to their purchase amounts, and to check medication labels, Alexander said.

“If you take these products, you ought to know what’s in them,” she said.

If health insurance is federalized, people just like Nina Alexander will be enforcing treatment guidelines.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Explaining Steven Chu's Comment

Energy Secretary Chu's comparison of the American public with teenage kids actually makes sense … provided he thinks that it's the American public who have been holding up nuclear power. If so, that might be due to being from Berkeley. I'm sure the Berkeley public is anti-nuke.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Krupke, We've Got Troubles of Our Own

According to Classical Values, there's a renewed movement to base legal decisions on neurolaw:

Criminal law scholarship has recently become absorbed with the ideas of neuroscience in the emerging field of neurolaw. This mixture of cognitive neuroscience and law suggests that long established conceptions of human agency and responsibility are fundamentally at odds with the findings of science. Using sophisticated technology, cognitive neuroscience claims to be upon the threshold of unraveling the mysteries of the mind by elucidating the mechanical nature of the brain. Despite the limitations of that technology, neurolaw supporters eagerly suggest that those revelations entail that an inevitable and radical overhaul of our criminal justice system is soon at hand.
I think somebody should write a song about how, assuming human behavior is based on brain states instead of alleged reasons, appeals to experts can be gamed. After all, the expert advice is a type of human behavior and differing brains might produce differing advice.

Wait a moment… It's been done:

The trouble is he's crazy, the trouble is he drinks
The trouble is he's lazy, the trouble is he stinks
The trouble is he's growing, the trouble is he's grown
Krupke, we've got troubles of our own

Also see my earlier comments on neuroeconomics as well as Bryan Caplan's defense of free will.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy New Year

I would like to wish my fellow Red-Sea pedestrians a happy and healthy New Year.

Speaking of healthy …

There are transhumanists trying to recruit Catholics. I think it might make at least as much sense to recruit Orthodox Jews or religious people in general.

Essential Disclaimer: I'm not very Orthodox but I've noticed Orthodox Jews are more likely to make sense on medicine than non-Orthodox Jews. For example, non-Orthodox Jews are likely to assume that Jewish tradition is obsolete:

In classical Jewish thought, every effort must be made to continue to sustain life, regardless of cost. However, this view was constructed when medical technology was very different. Two-thousand years ago we didn't have the option to add a few painful months of life to someone at the cost of millions of dollars. We do now. This different situation may require serious reexamining of this sort of belief.
In view of the possible Methuselarity, the “modern” view might be more obsolete than the traditional view.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tell Us Something We Didn't Know

Little Green Footballs provides additional evidence that Patrick Buchanan has lost his mind.

There's also the following request there:

Will the people who screamed for Van Jones’ resignation based on unsubstantiated accusations that he was a Truther now scream just as loud about Pat Buchanan?
Of course. I insist that Buchanan must resign as czar immediately!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watching Your Field vs. Watching a Neighboring Field

Consider this analogy: Quackwatch is to Insurance Reform Watch as teaching schoolchildren to read is to inventing the Airborne nutrition supplement.

If Insurance Reform Watch were about health-care reform, a doctor's opinion might be authoritative but it disclaims being about health-care reform. As far as insurance reform is concerned, Dr. Barrett is an interested layman with lots of anecdotes and some out-of-context research … much like an elementary schoolteacher discussing minor diseases.

Query: What if real quacks take Insurance Reform Watch to be an excuse to ignore criticism?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Epitaph for the Late Norman Borlaug

Whoever makes two ears of corn, or two blades of grass to grow where only one grew before, deserves better of mankind, and does more essential service to his country than the whole race of politicians put together.—Jonathan Swift

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Don't Have a Cow Man!

The latest dastardly Israeli activity has been invasion by cow:

Israeli cows guided by Israeli shepherds have been crossing the border in an act southerners are condemning as a violation of the country's sovereignty, especially since the cattle is being protected by the Israeli Army. The bovine "incursions" have even provoked Lebanese dogs that have now made it their mission to make the cows return where they came from.
The Other Side is going to milk this for all its worth. On the other hand, our honor is at steak!

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Frequently-Asked Question Finally Answered

What has Andrew Sullivan been smoking?

Also see this.

Oxycontin, by contrast, seems almost harmless.

Don't Call Them Death Panels

Call them death fence-posts. According to a commenter on Samizdata:

The problem is, they will outlaw almost everything while enforcing very little. Imprisonment by stealth. People will not know they are encircled until it is too late - like putting in all these very deep, robust fence-posts with no fence panels. All seems open. One day you will wake up and the panels are in, you are trapped and they can decide what law they wish to impose to nail whomsoever they desire.
The proposed advisory panels might not be death panels but they have the structure to support death panels. They will make it possible to institute death panels later that will be fully staffed from the start and ready to obey orders.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Simplest Road to Success

The simplest road to success is to censor any news of failure. (That isn't what Thomas Friedman said, but it's the obvious conclusion.) Judging by the way China is trying to crack down on dissent, some disaster must be brewing there that they want to keep under cover.

I've covered this phenomenon before.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Another Moldbug

Mencius Moldbug isn't the only conservative who's fallen for rhe idea that history has always moved left. It looks like Rep. Michele Bachmann (seen via Dispatches from the Culture Wars) is another one:

Moving to taxes, Bachmann said that for some Americans, the ratio of tax payments to earned income can reach 50 percent -- compared to 5 percent in 1950.

“Progressive” income tax rates were far higher in the 1950s than today.

On the other hand, that does not fit the standard left-wing dogma that history always moves left. Since Rep. Bachmann (R-idiculous) has apparently accepted that dogma, she believes that tax rates must have increased. (In case you're wondering, they haven't.)

ObSF: The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester, published in the 1950s, in which one of the characters was highly resentful of the confiscatory taxes levied on upper-income telepaths. It was another example of an attempted look at the future that soon became recognizable as a period piece.

Dynastic Politics and Dynastic Punditry

According to Glenn Greenwald, “It's time to embrace American royalty.” After looking at his examples, I realized that dynastic politics can be found across the political spectrum whereas dynastic punditry (for example, Bill Kristol, Tucker Carlson, John Podhoretz, Christopher Buckley, and Jonah Goldberg) tends to be found on the right. This might mean it's harder for someone to break into MSM punditry on the right side of the political spectrum but it's equally difficult for both sides to break into politics.

Meanwhile, Nate Silver posted a statistical analysis showing a decline in nepotism. This might mean it's easier to break into politics nowadays.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Shorter Ronald Dworkin

Fully informed people will agree with me.

The next step, of course, is to assume that anybody who disagrees isn't fully informed. The step after that is to decide for them based on what they would have chosen only if they were Rational Like Us.

Example of Dynastic Politics

A few days ago, in a bus traveling along Saul Weprin Street in Queens, I noticed a poster advertising Mark Weprin for City Council.

Didn't we have a revolution to get away from rule by dynasties?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Possible Constitutional Amendment

Congress shall make no law … that they haven't read.

We might even go for a stronger version

Congress shall make no law … that a majority of the Congress cannot write out from memory.

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