Showing posts from December, 2004

Libertarian Critique

The most pointed critique of social security and liberalism in general is the libertarian critique. The problem with libertarians, for a liberal, is that we have too much in common. We both believe in individual rights, tolerance of individual differences, and dislike government prescription of religion. The basic difference, it seems to me, is the different answers we give to Abel's famous question: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

That's not really my basic bitch against the libertarians though. My real complaint is the same as my complaint against most religion - its premise is a fraud. For those who can't stand to wait for the punchline, I believe that trying to implement libertarian principles leads to tyranny or social disintegration. Demonstrating that takes some historical (and pre-historical) context.

For all but the last 15,000 or so of the 100,000 years the human species has existed, all humans lived in a sort of libertarian paradise - no government, no …

Bush Leadership

Warren Christopher in the NYT tommorow has an Op-Ed call for Bush to lead on Middle East Peace. Various others want him to show some US leadership on aid to the tsunami victims.

Slow learners. When will they figure out the difference between a leader and a hood ornament?
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George Will's Hot Air

George Will's latest Washinton Post Column is a profound scientific argument against global warming. Science having failed, he finds confirmation of his theory in Science Fiction, to wit, in Michael Crichton's State of Fear. Crichton is a pretty good SF writer, and he knows more science than most, but his work is fiction. Never mind, he does include some tables and stuff, and really does seem to disbelieve in the reality, or at any rate the threat, of global warming. I have no idea whether that is a deeply held philosophical position, or just an author's recognition that he can't make global warming as sexy a threat as cloned dinosaurs. In any case, to take his argument seriously is absurd.

Come to think of it though, political theater of the absurd is George Will's specialty. That and lame meditations on baseball.

The Face of Stupidity

Tom Friedman has a typically stupid column in today's NYT arguing for the purity of evil embodied in some gunmen murdering two election workers in Bagdad. As usual, TF is blinded by his predjudice and complicity in the Iraq disaster. His point seems to be that the Iraqis committing this crime know they are fighting against their countrymen's freedom and interest.

No Tom, this does not compute. Suicide bombers and murderers of election workers are almost certainly both convinced that they are fighting to free their country (or city or tribe) from a foreign oppressor by killing those oppressors and their collaborators.

Friedman is smart enough to figure this out, but he doesn't, and won't because he played such a big role in drumming up this disaster. Very few Iraqis believe that the US has their interests at heart. Those who do have plenty of cause to doubt the competence of the US to accomplish any good on Iraqs behalf.

Dear Congressman

Dear Congressman,

The President has presented hints but no details of a plan to eliminate Social Security as we know it. He speaks often of a Social Security "crisis" even though the most autoritative studies show that the system is fully funded for at least the next forty years. I am very interested in your opinion on this matter, since it will no doubt be crucial to determining whether I can ever again support your candidacy for office.

As you know those currently in the workforce, like my wife and I, have for twenty years been overpaying social security taxes, building up the so-called social security trust fund to its present three trillion dollars or so. As you also know, your colleagues and you and a succession of Presidents have profligately spent that money on a variety of enterprises. One of my purposes in writing to you is to let you know that any attempt to disavow that debt will be correctly characterized as theft.

Perhaps you could explain to me why it is more u…

The Five Books Every Educated Person Must Have Read

This is one of those lame pretexts that magazines often use to foist some utter drivel on the gullible. They usually assemble a panel of pompous asses to select their candidates, predictably producing a product of the same value as the innumerable episodes of "The Twenty Hottest Teenage Hollywood Bimbos," or "The Ten Most Extreme Preying Mantisses" that populate the slums of cable television.

Maybe you are starting to suspect that I doubt the premise. It seems kind of unlikely to me that anybody could become educated by reading 5, 20, or even a hundred books. On the other hand, Ramamujan is said to have educated himself mathematically with just one book!

In any case, here are "Five Books I Really Like"

The Language Instinct by Steve Pinker. The first, and in my opinion the best, of his evolutionary psychology flavored books. Very clever, very funny, and really explains what's what in language. I particularly enjoyed his takedown of Bill Safire and eve…

Barren Landscape

Some masochistic impulse sent me over to Lubos Motl's blog where I started reading about the String Theory Landscape. This sent me to ArXiv and Susskind:


Talk about depressing.

I'm thinking about a T-shirt: "I invested ten years of my 180 IQ and all I got was this stupid String Theory Rulz, LQG Drulz T-shirt."