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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I've Said This Before

The following news:

A Christian group has been effectively banned from Tufts University in Massachusetts. Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) has lost its recognition as an official campus group because it discriminates by requiring the group leaders to be Christians and adhere to a set of values.
reminded me of a similar reaction by the noted netkook Doc Tavish/Scott Bradbury/Gunther Schiller/John Winslow Brown (his name is legion) upon finding out that only Jews are permitted to lead prayers in synagogues:
[Sounds like religious bigotry to me! Where is the diversity? Where is the multi-culturalism- all the crap that these certain Jews want for the rest of us?]
I nominated that for the “stupidest post ever” but now there's lots of competition.

I've said this before.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stepping from Sense to Nonsense

One of the most annoying types of essay/blogpost is the one that starts out as something completely reasonable but then veers off into bulshytt. To take only one example among many, a recent article on why we can't solve big problems starts off okay but then makes a left turn:

Sometimes we fail to solve big problems because our institutions have failed. In 2010, less than 2 percent of the world's energy consumption was derived from advanced renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biofuels.
If the object is to avoid emitting possibly-excess CO2, we don't need a Manhattan Project to solve the problem because we already had a Manhattan Project that produced a an energy source that didn't emit CO2. It was called the Manhattan Project.

Maybe people are unwilling to join something resembling the Manhattan Project because they're worried that idiots will oppose any results that work.

Debate Wanted

The recent controversy over Richard Mourdock's comments on rape reminded that there are three opinions on the pro-choice side (motto: “If it's not pregnant, regulate it.”) about why pro-lifers are slime:

  • Pro-lifers are cruel because they don't make exceptions.
  • They are hypocrites because they make exceptions before birth but not after birth.
  • They are hypocrites because they make exceptions after birth but not before birth.
I think there should be a debate between the three sides.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updating Santa Claus for the 22nd Century

The well-known poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” has recently been bowdlerized by an anti-smoking activist (seen via NRO's Corner). That will look very silly a century from now, after there's a cure for lung cancer. Shouldn't we try to be progressive?

By the way, if cigarettes are currently being airbrushed out of old movies, will movies made in the early 22nd century have cigarettes airbrushed in in the future?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does Obama Need “Factual Accuracy” Training?

In Australia, a radio commentator was ordered (using laws approved of by the Enlightened Ones) to get “factual accuracy” training after a minor error in one of his rants. Considering that President Obama's statement about bayonets in the recent debate that:

Governor Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.
also turned out to be wrong

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Brief Note on Insurance

An insurance policy is an agreement to turn the possibility of an improbable unaffordable expense into a certain affordable expense. It is not a magic means of making a certain expense affordable.

For example, paying for birth control is highly probable. Needing vaccines or some medical tests is highly probable. Living long enough to retire is highly probable nowadays (although it wasn't back when old-age pensions were invented). An “insurance” policy that pays for such things is, at best, a matter of taking your money for a wild night out on the town and giving some of it back to you.

In other words, an alleged study that shows that lack of health insurance caused some people to forgo colonoscopies, etc. should be regarded with great skepticism. A lack of something might have stopped the colonoscopies/vaccines/birth-control/whatever but that something is not health insurance. It might be correlated with lack of health insurance. It might be lack of good advice or lack of a job.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

President Smith?

I'm almost tempted to write in Professor Smith for President.

I'm dissuaded by the fact that he's a fictional character, also known as “ontologically challenged.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

If Words Are So Powerful

There's a common argument on the pro-censorship side that we opponents of censorship trivialize words—frequently combined with the claim that words are a type of weapon. If words are indeed weapons then wouldn't it make sense to use words to enforce your opinions instead of government?

On the other hand, a censorship proponent might claim that the ideal is to eliminate nasty words entirely. Is it any better to replace them with nasty jail terms or nasty fines? Or do they believe that force has a magical property of getting things done that words don't have? Doesn't that detract from the claim that words are weapons?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Class Warfare Is NOT the New Bigotry

I disagree with the claim that class warfare is the new bigotry; there is nothing new about it. It's been an occasionally-successful part of American politics for the past four score years.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Natural Diets and Weight Loss

In view of the fact that starvation was a much bigger danger than obesity for most of human existence, you would expect the diets humans had evolved for to be those that put weight on and kept it on. If the nuts and berries that apes eat is the natural diet, that will cause weight gain. If the meat and vegetables that paleolithic man ate (according to some theories) is the natural diet, that will cause weight gain. If the grains and beans diet common in the agricultural era is the natural diet, that will cause weight gain.

The questions of what diet is natural and what diet will keep you thin are interesting and important but they are NOT the same question.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Future Left-Wing Slogan

According to Richard Dawkins, we can hold the fact that Romney is religious against him (but need not do so for Obama) because Romney is actually sincere about it. I was slightly dubious about whether we can be that sure (there have been lots of nominally religious hypocrites, some of whom were active in their religions) but then read that Romney takes his faith seriously enough to actually give to charity. Put those together and we get the next left-wing slogan: We need government so we don't have to depend on religions. Cut down on government and we might actually get more faith.

(saved from the once and future blog of TJIC).

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Out of What Bodily Orifice Did He Pull That Figure? Part II

I've been looking for a source for Luis Suarez-Villa's claim that free trade in opium “caused far more deaths over time than Mao's revolution and his regime ever did.” I can't find any. Since Professor Suarez-Villa is a published author I tried googling his books. I found only one mention of opium, a reference to Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automotive Design by David Gartman, which does not sound very relevant to the present discussion.

In other words, [CITATION NEEDED].

Traffic Lights for Food?

Mark Bittman wants “traffic light” labeling on food. Maybe XKCD's traffic lights are most appropriate.

In view of the fact that there is no objective definition of “Foodness” or “Welfare” (even “Nutrition” changes every decade), when Mark Bittman says:

These are not simple calculations, but neither can one honestly say that they’re impossible to perform.
he's just plain wrong.

We can imagine a manufacturer of freeze-dried potatoes being taken away in handcuffs for giving his product a high “Foodness” rating, followed by the revelation that freeze-dried potatoes were an Incan recipe.


The paper mentioned in PhD comics is FINAL.doc instead of FINAL.tex?

Isn't that a violation of intellectual-snob standards?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

They Found a Third One!

I have earlier reported that there were only two identifiable examples of a well-known family-values conservative being involved in an abortion. There appears to be third one.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Out of What Bodily Orifice Did He Pull That Figure?

According to Prof. Luis Suarez-Villa:

One such instance, the British-induced Opium Wars in China and the scourge of the drug, a tragedy created in the name of "free trade," caused far more deaths over time than Mao's revolution and his regime ever did.
Is there anything resembling a source for that assertion?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Occupy Wall Street …

is run by monkeys.

I suspect the resentful monkey thought the prosperous monkey was deliberately ripping him off.

Six-Year-Old Presidemts

According to Doug Ross, Barak Obama is “forever six.”

According to Cecil Spring-Rice, Theodore Roosevelt was “about six.”

On the other hand, that's probably true of most politicians.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


The propensity of a handful of conservatives to fall for the propaganda that Science is on the side of the “progressives” (earlier discussed here) has produced opposition to embryology (of all things):

All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell... You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I've found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don't believe that the Earth's but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That's what the Bible says.
I thought the development of embryology in the 19th century was what produced anti-abortion laws with teeth. Before then the fact that an embryo is a human being (since an embryo is both human and a being) was a guess.

If this clown decides that nukes are Satanic manifestations of Hellfire next, I won't be a bit surprised.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Time Tyranny

The healthcare travesty passed a few years ago has a little-known malfeature:

The Independent Payment Advisory Board perfectly illustrates liberalism’s itch to remove choices from individuals, and from their elected representatives, and to repose the power to choose in supposed experts liberated from democratic accountability. Beginning in 2014, IPAB would consist of 15 unelected technocrats whose recommendations for reducing Medicare costs must be enacted by Congress by Aug. 15 of each year. If Congress does not enact them, or other measures achieving the same level of cost containment, IPAB’s proposals automatically are transformed from recommendations into law. Without being approved by Congress. Without being signed by the president.


By Obamacare’s terms, Congress can repeal IPAB only during a seven-month window in 2017, and then only by three-fifths majorities in both chambers. After that, the law precludes Congress from ever altering IPAB proposals.

This is a clear instance of Americans of the year 2009 attempting to establish a tyranny over future generations, even if those future generations know more than we do and decide that the law was stupid.

I'm once again reminded that The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis (earlier discussed here) was not a straw-man argument:

Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors. … And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the age most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its predecessors almost as drastically as that of its successors.
The real picture is that of one dominant age—let us suppose the hundredth century A.D.—which resists all previous ages most successfully and dominates all subsequent ages most irresistibly, and thus is the real master of the human species.
Along similar lines, see Robin Hanson's discussion of “time genocide” (although “time tyranny” seems more accurate).

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Deja Moo

According to Stephanie Li and Lee Siegel, Romney is the whitest Presidential candidate ever. It sounded vaguely familiar and then I realized I had come across the same bulshytt before in the form of Lenny Bruce's division of everything into “Jewish” and “Goyish.” (I regard it as nonsense because I suspect that Lenny Bruce may have inspired Yasser Arafat. After all, by the Lenny-Bruce standard, Arafat was Jewish and Netanyahu is Goyish.)

This bulshytt is rendered easier by existence of ambiguous groups. If a group can be classified as white or non-white at will, it's possible to have things both ways. If someone who is Jewish/Chinese/Irish/whoever disagrees with the Enlightened Ones, that can be attributed to being white. When similar people agree with the Enlightened Ones, they have the absolute moral authority that comes from being underprivileged or, at least, having at least one underprivileged great great grandparent.

Meanwhile, to the extent the claim that Romney is particularly white makes any sense whatsoever, it comes from the fact that he came from a background of hereditary privilege. By that standard, of course, the whitest President was FDR.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What's Taking So Long?

A few months ago, I received the following warning in an e-mail (based on this):

Dear Reader:

On September 30, 2012, I believe a market-crushing event will take place…

I see it blindsiding investors…crushing the markets…sending our elected officials into utter panic, as they try to find a way to spend the economy back to life.

And I can only imagine things will spiral down from there.

We're still waiting.

2.7 Trillion Dollars

A recent Obama campaign theme has been to calculate the supposed cost of a lifetime supply of birth control at $18,000 and pretend that's unaffordable. (Don't most cars cost more than that?) There's more than one way to make something look unaffordable. You can also multiply a cost by the population as well as by time. (By the way, $18,000 in a lifetime is 60¢ per day.) If we multiply $18,000 by 150 million women we get … 2.7 TRILLION DOLLARS.

Say that in a Dr. Evil voice.

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