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April 2009
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June 2009

Good Trips on Travel Safety

Great tips here (via Cowen).  I would add: When in a cab, I always sit directly behind the driver.  If anything goes down, I am going to strangle him or gouge his eyes out.  (This is easy to do when behind a person.  Simply grab either side of his head, ensuring that each middle finger goes into his eye sockets.)

If you can't get behind the cab driver, I never let anyone sit behind me.  They can put a gun or knife to your back.  You're helpless. 

The other tips are worth reading, and include some I haven't even thought of.  

In terms of big city safety, I created a new one: When walking by shady looking guys, take out your cell phone.  Hold it out like you're going to take a picture.  If it looks like shit is about to go down: "I just took your picture and e-mailed it to my friends.  So if anything happens to me, they'll have your photograph."

Ultimately, though, the best advice is to be alert.  Amicus and I prevented some nit-wit from getting raped once because she was jabbering on her cell phone late at night, oblivious that two men were following her into a dark alley.  Fortunately criminals are afraid of dogs.  So we merely picked up the pace to get in between him.  This idiot chick didn't even know that now I was directly behind her, walking at a fast and aggressive pace.  I should have let her get victimized as a life lesson.

Which is another tip: Walk your dog.  Amicus is only 40 pounds and strikingly beautiful.  I say he looks as threatening as Brad Pitt.  Nonetheless, hooligans get out of the way.  Some have even said, "Daaaaym.  That dog bite, don't he."  I alway answer, "Yep.  He sure does."  I then pull him tightly on the leash, to emphasize his dangerous nature.

Evidentiary Foundations and "Opinions"

This pisses people off, but it's illustrative:

The next time someone says that global warming is occurring, ask them:

1.  Who are the leading experts on global warming?

2.  What are their backgrounds?

3.  Have their climate models made accurate predictions about future events?

4.  What were those predictions?

5.  If so, have these predictions been statistically more accurate than a lucky guess?

Yes, you will offend people at cocktail parties!  Yet if people can't answer any of those questions: What business do they have having an opinion on global warming?!

Ask me who I think will win the World's Series.  I don't know.  I don't care enough to know.  Other than mixed martial arts, I don't watch sports.   I wouldn't even know it was baseball season if I didn't leave two blocks from a stadium. 

Yet imagine I said that, "The Cubs will win the World Series" this year but didn't even know who the players on the Cubs were.  How ridiculous would that be?

That is how ridiculous most people are when it comes to most things they have opinions on.  They don't even know who the players are, let alone the statistics on the players. 


Surrendering Your Mind to Experts: Why Have an Opinion at All?

Much of my life is performance art.  Try it sometime.  Pretend to be a global warming denialist.  It's great fun, and very revealing.

Some very well-educated people started talking about global warming.  I said that I was skeptical.  Everyone at the table turned against me.  They know we're facing global warming.  So I posed a few questions:

1.  Didn't the same experts believe that we were going to face global cooling?

2.  What experts have made concrete and verifiable predictions about global tempeature? 

3.  Why are they now calling it "climate change" instead of global warming? 

These are basic, background facts.  No one had any answer.  They were nonetheless unrelenting.  Global warming exists, and that's the end of it.  After all, the experts say so!

I concluded with: I honestly don't know enough to have an opinion.  I do know that the experts who claim we are having global warming are now calling it climate change because some parts of the world are cooling.  I also know that they have not made any accurate predictions.  I also know that whenever the climate does something that none of the experts predicted, these same experts use the change as proof of their hypotheses.  They say, "Wow!  Things are much worse than we had imagined!"  If your models are right, then you can't play that game.  Thus, I concluded, the experts have not met their burden of proof.

I made something very clear: When experts start making predictions that come true, then they will have demonstrated that their models are sound.  Until then, I need not believe anything they say.  True knowledge comes only through verification of one's hypothesis. 

Everyone was outraged.  How could I not have an opinion on global warming.  They kept pushing me to: "Just come out and say what you really believe."

What I really believe is that I do not know what the believe.  What is wrong with that?

My domestic partner often gets extremely annoyed with me.  My answer to, "What do you think about x," is often: "I don't.  Why would you think I'd have an opinion on the matter?"  I don't have opinions about too many subjects. 

Yet everyone else just has to have an opinion the matter of the day.  People form their [sic] opinions based on nothing but the assertions of so-called experts.

I see that attitude in many comments at this blog and others.  When I post about something, I generally have great knowledge about it : E.g., the market meltdown.  It's a fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were a causal agent of the market collapse.  It's also a fact that political correctness led to reckless lending.  These facts are simply not debatable.  Yet people will debate them!

People without any knowledge of the subject (as evidenced by their responses) nonetheless want to argue.  I quiz them on a few facts, and they know nothing.  All they know is that Paul Krugman, a notorious liar and partisan hack, has said otherwise. 

Fine.  If you want to play a game of Appeal to Authority, at least have some balls.  Say, "Paul Krugman said the government was not to blame - unless Republicans somehow were responsible.  He is better than you are.  While I have not researched the issue other than having read a Krugman column, I know that he is right.  He is my god.  I have surrounded my mind, body, and soul to him."

No one will say that!  Yet when you accept an expert's assertions without independently verifying the facts, you have indeed surrendered yourself to the expert. 

Either be honest about the basis for your opinions (i.e., you do not think for yourself but suckle from the teats of "experts"); or don't have an opinion at all.

If I don't know about something, I don't know about it.  I do not feel compelled to have an opinion.  I have strong opinions on only a few subjects.  I do not live in Infinite Land where I get to learn everything about everything.

So my question is: Why must everyone have an opinion on everything?  And why do people get so damned offended when I explain to them that I do not have an opinion about whatever everyone else has an opinion on?

Poverty in America

How bad is the U.S.  economic situation?  It's so bleak that people are having to decide whether or not to continue paying for satellite television.  It's cliche to say, but true: This article reads like something out of The OnionHere we go:

For families like the Ferrells, however, who were already just a car repair or an appliance breakdown away from falling behind, even a modest step down can bring hard choices.

The furloughs meant a roughly 9 percent reduction to Mr. Ferrell’s $72,000-a-year salary as an industrial hygienist, in which he evaluates health hazards in the workplace. The couple and their two sets of twins — the older twins are 7 and the younger are 20 months — have had to make do with about $450 less per month.

Should they cut the $315 a month they were spending on ballet lessons for the older twins? What about the $55 a month for the satellite television service they had because they could not get regular cable in their semi-rural home here about 40 miles outside of Sacramento?

Yes, that's how bad things are in America.  Americans spend more in a month on ballet lessons and satellite television than many people in third world countries make in an entire year!

It gets worse.  The family is in danger of starving:

Many of their remaining expenses seemed impossible to reduce by much, like the roughly $360 a month for gas. It quickly became apparent how little the family had left over for necessities like food.

Or not:

Mrs. Ferrell began mapping out family dinners a month in advance on a refrigerator whiteboard. Instead of grocery shopping at regular supermarkets, she began loading up her minivan once a month at WinCo, a giant, no-frills discount grocery chain.

“That way I can control exactly what I buy,” she said. “I make menus so that I don’t over-shop, or don’t impulse-purchase at the store.”

In other words, they have plenty of money for food.  They just have to actually think before they buy stuff.  They buy in bulk rather than run to the 7-11 every time they want a Diet Coke.  Oh, the horror!  The horror!

Even though they have "little ... left over for necessities like food," the kids stayed in ballet:

When the Ferrells told the children’s dance teacher they might have to take a break, she let them attend free for a month. Eventually, the couple decided to continue to pay for lessons, on a reduced schedule, which saved $65 a month.

So they are still paying $250 a month cash for ballet lessons + gas to drive kids + wear-and-tear on car + opportunity cost of driving kids to class. 

Wait, there's more!

The couple decided to keep the satellite television because of the children’s programming.

Riiiiight.  So I can go there on a Saturday and won't see the state worker watching a ball game?  I'll wager anyone here $1,000 that there are lots of adults spending lots of time in front of that satellite television.  Wanna take that bet?  If I lose, I'll even send that check to the impoverished state worker!

If they are so broke, they need to be smarter:

When the family ran short on sliced bread, Mrs. Ferrell hauled out the breadmaker. She takes few pictures of their toddlers now, because of the cost of film and developing. The Dollar Store has become a regular stop.

You can buy a cheap digitial camera for $50.  You never need to develop photos.  Just upload them to your computer.  I'm sure they have one, though the article doesn't mention it.

That the Times considers this article some sort of tragedy illustrates how out of touch East Coast Liberals are.  And how uncosmopolitian they are.  Do you people realize how people in other countries live? 

This family has cars, satellite television, and ballet lessons.  Yet somehow it's a tragedy?!

If the Ferrell's story is the best the Times can do, I won't need to load the bunker up with shot gun shells and canned food.  We have a loooooong way to go before things actually get bad.

Abu Ghraib Pics Show Rapes of Women and Children

Now we learn why Obama will not release other pictures from Abu Ghraib:

The latest photographs relate to 400 cases of alleged abuse between 2001 and 2005 in Abu Ghraib and six other prisons. Mr Obama said the individuals involved had been “identified, and appropriate actions” taken.

Maj Gen Taguba’s internal inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, included sworn statements by 13 detainees, which, he said in the report, he found “credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence provided by other witnesses.”

Among the graphic statements, which were later released under US freedom of information laws, is that of Kasim Mehaddi Hilas in which he says: “I saw [name of a translator] ******* a kid, his age would be about 15 to 18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [name] who was wearing the military uniform, putting his **** in the little kid’s ***…. and the female soldier was taking pictures.”

The translator was an American Egyptian who is now the subject of a civil court case in the US.

Three detainees, including the alleged victim, refer to the use of a phosphorescent tube in the sexual abuse and another to the use of wire, while the victim also refers to part of a policeman’s “stick” all of which were apparently photographed.


Things to Do Before People Die

My grandma is going to be dead soon.  It will have an emotional impact on me, but what can you do.  Man is mortal, and she has lived plenty of decades.  This weekend I am going to compile a scrap book of pictures documenting things that have occurred in my life over the past few years since I moved from her town.  It will be kind of lame and a pain in the ass.  I am going to mail this scrap book to her. 

When my grandma dies, I will have sadness.  I will not have regrets.  If only I had...

When your loved ones die, will you be able to say the same thing?

Today might be your last chance to tell people you love them.  Why take that chance?

Criminalizing Comic Book Porn

Interesting case for those of you who follow free speech issues.  (UPDATE: Read the comments.)   Some dude in Iowa is going to prison for collecting comic book images of cartoon children being molested.  At first I thought Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition would apply.  The law got a head of me.  Child pornography now includes:

(a) In General.— Any person who, in a circumstance described in subsection (d), knowingly produces, distributes, receives, or possesses with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that—

      (A) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and
      (B) is obscene; or
      (A) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; and

     (B) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value;

18 U.S.C. 1466A (here).  I think that provision would be unconstitutional.  I wrote a brief a long time ago explaining why.  I'll see if I can find it.  UPDATE: Or not.  It's an interesting issue.  New York v. Ferber's child porn exception would not apply, since no children were actually injured due to the comic books being produced.   See also, Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition.  So the law would have to be upheld under California v. Miller's general obscenity review. 

This would be a great Con Law final.  What better way to see if a student can parse the legal issues?

Beta Males Find Financial Ruin

What happens when you let your wife pressure you into buying a house?  ForeclosureUnless you wife can afford to pay the mortgage, she has no right to demand that you purchase anything.  That is the essence of equality.  That so many males get in over their heads because of women is proof that we do not live in a patriarchy. 

We live in a society where the majority of women control beta males.  They work their betas into early deaths.  They make them buy houses, but not truly live their own homes.  I know men who pay 100% of a mortgage who "can't" smoke a cigar in their own home.  Can you believe that?!  What a way to "live"!

When there is a divorce, the matriarchy makes the betas pay alimony and child support - which it spent on their new (younger) boyfriends.  Men have no right to demand an accounting for child support.  Men who lose their jobs are often sent to debtor's prison for "willful" failure to pay child support.  As if being out of work and dead broke is a deliberate act!

We will not live in a truly equal society until beta males realize that they are nothing but slaves to the matriarchy.  Wake up, chumps.  You have nothing to lose but a shitty life and an early death.

This commercial captures the female-beta male dynamic perfectly.  The male is browbeaten into a bad decision. The feminine will to power is all encompassing. Go work overtime, get high blood pressure, and hate life. It's what your wife wants - no demands.