Friday, July 29, 2005

Grad Update

I realized I haven't posted in a while so I thought I'd explain why.

I finally got a job. In addition to grad school, I now have a way to pay rent because I'll be working for the University's new postgraduate fellowships and grants department. Yay for me!

So now I need to find a place, and think I'm narrowing down on one (thanks to craigslist). But I've also noticed people can be pretty...oblivious. Consider this e-mail exchange.

Me: Well, Im not really in a position to come down and visit as its so

Potential place: You are in Luck! In my haste I actually put the correct date and wrong day. So the showing is SUNDAY July 31st at 1:30. If you have any questions feel free to call or email me. See you on Sunday!

I'm hoping it was a blanket e-mail or he just forgot I live in Iowa.

And things might get a little more interesting. As I checked my e-mail to get that exchange, I noticed my latest message to my number one spot bounced back. Maybe I won't be living there...

I have a feeling this is going to be one of those things where I don't know where I'll be living until the 11th hour.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Guns and Government

Penn & Teller’s Bullshit recently tackled the issue of gun control. As really hard-core libertarians (betting they’re virtual anarcho-capitalists), the episode’s staunchly against infringing on the right at all.

As a minarchist, I’m on the fence. Gun control is horrible in some cases but in the case of SMGs and other heavy firearms, I gotta side with the law. While small arms and light weapons are great for defending yourself, large ones are really only useful for offense.

P&T end the program by advocating the right to overthrow the government, a very important and valuable right. I’d venture that they’d want the public to own, say, a rocket launcher because what’s a pistol going to do against a tank or a helicopter? It would be like arming our citizens with sharp sticks just in case the guy with nukes gets too bossy.

There are two things wrong with this. First, we don’t want to make it likely that a relatively small number of people can overthrow our government lest we get something even worse. Limiting the arms to small ones ensure the army is large and thus the threat of freedom is well established.

Second, in the early stages of the rebellion, the army would probably be underground to start. Since large weapons are, well, large, they aren’t very portable, concealable, autonomous and any of the other things that make a good insurgency firearm. They’re necessary in the long run, of course, but by that time the revolution would gain control of some base or factory at which that law becomes a non-issue.

One last thing. Halfway through the show we take a close look at what the Second Amendment actually says.
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should not be infringed.
I read that about fifty times before I finally figured out what it was trying to say; it’s no wonder there’s been so much debate about this topic (which is probably why the awkward wording is as such; so we would talk about it).

Here’s what I think they mean: “A well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; thus the right of the people to keep and bear arms, should not be infringed.” In other words, we’re going to have guns, so you should have some, too. Of course, that was before SMGs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Remember that Super Size Me movie, where the guy ate McDonald's for a few months and never exercised? Then, surprise surprise, he nearly died? The message of the movie is basically McDonald's is bad for you and they are evil for selling you all this bad food.

The movie's a waste of film, of course. You can consume 5,000 calories at Subway and end up the same way. It's about what you eat, not where.

A North Calorina woman knew this and just to prove the movie wrong she start the McDonald's diet. After doing some basic research on the web site, she developed a diverse (and low cost) diet of salads, parfaits, apple dippers, McGridles, mayo-free chicken sandwiches and even the occasional hamburger. After two months she lost 30 pounds.

I wonder if we have the next Jared on our hands?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Look How Important I Am

I just got off IM with a friend of mine in China and he told me the government's decided LL&L shouldn't be allowed for public consumption. It's kind of funny; most libertarians see the Internet as a sort of Mecca. It's where government regulation is difficult or, for some things, impossible. It's where ideas and energy meld into a dynamic world culture. It's a virtual version of what we'd like to see in the real world. But in the place that needs the tough questions the most is the place where it's hardest to get them.

I told Tony I'm honored to be blocked by the Chinese government and I thought it was strange that was my first response. If this happened in the States I'd be angry and outraged, but we've come to expect this from China. Hell, I almost want to thank them; it's a sort of mark of pride to be blocked by an oppressive regime. I wonder if we're blocked in Cuba?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Damn Lies and Secrets

Enemies are everywhere, we’re told. Deep dark monsters loom in the shadows, some sanctioned by governments and others nothing more than angry men with bombs.

But it’s never as bad as we’re told it is. Experts exaggerate to keep us in line or to scare us so we buy their counsel. Sometimes they go over the top so no one can blame them for not crying wolf when the shit finally does hit the fan and sometimes scare tactics crop up because it’s expected. Paranoia is rarely justified.

Fear knows no boundaries, no matter how absurd. Today on Kudlow & Company, Jerry Taylor from the Cato Institute and Frank Caffney from the Center for Security Policy exchanged opinions about CNOOC’s buying of Unocal. CNOOC is a Chinese oil and gas company; American Unocal also focuses on those energy commodities.

Caffney accuses CNOOC of being a puppet of the Chinese government (they are heavily subsidized) and this acquisition is but a step in an economic attack of epic proportions. I wish I kept track the number of time he said “strategic,” but it was a great deal.

Taylor made the very good point that you can’t control a market as wide and deep and vague as energy, but he didn’t push it hard enough. If, in the unlikely event, that this is just part of the much larger puzzle and “they” are trying to take our energy, then we have nothing to worry about it. There are endless alternatives to oil and gas; even if I were to make the paranoid assumption that everyone was out to get us, they cannot plunge us into darkness.

It’s fitting that Rep. Richard Pombo suggested that this deal could be the Sputnik of our time. Sputnik I orbited the earth for less than six months. It did little more than gather information about electron density in the ionosphere. It wasn’t a spy satellite, nor could it fire lasers from space. It had absolutely no military application at all. Like this deal, all the danger is in the fear-monger’s heads.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Saving 51 Billion Dollars a Year: Priceless

Tell me if this sounds familiar:
Disposable gloves: $30
Teddy bear: $60
Toothbrush: $1,000

Remember when we heard about the military charging erroneous prices for the most mundane items? But these aren’t for the latest soldier’s personal kit. They’re items from a medical bill.

Yesterday morning on Dolan Unscripted, the Dolans talked about rip-offs, ending with these grievous errors on hospital bills. According to the National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Association, some $51 billion was lost to fraud and overcharging.

These are hardly honest mistakes and point to why some libertarians would like to see health care completely pulled out of the public sector. Not only would more competition lower prices and improve quality, these kinds of errors would be far less likely. I’m not going to worry about a $1,000 toothbrush if it’s not my money, but I’ll be damned if I spend that much at Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

I heard on the radio that the Illinois man who grabbed a girl’s arm was deemed a sex offender by the state court last week. It happened because the kid ran out in the street without checking for cars and the guy got out of his car to give her a lecture on traffic safety. He never committed actual sex acts against the girl.

So how is he an offender? The court claimed that this act of parenting often leads to rape. Thus he is guilty without even committing a crime.

If the incident happened in one of the several Florida cities with segregation laws, the man would be forced to move to one of the few neighborhoods without a school. This leaves very few choices. That’s a stiff punishment for someone who was just trying to save a kid’s life.

No one thinks sexual offenders are good things for the world to have. But we shouldn’t throw away our core values in a hapless pursuit of a child-proof society.

Check out this editorial for more information.

Monday, July 04, 2005

15 Minutes

I'm writing this 15 minutes before the 4th just to make sure I'll post it in time. However you celebrate tomorrow (if at all) we should all respect how others choose to, even if we disagree with it or find it insult (as long as others aren't being harmed and so forth). There is perhaps no holiday where that attitude is more appropriate.

But if you want something more than watching things explode, I suggest you do what I do every 4th: read the Declaration of Indepedence. I find that document to be more fulfilling and celebratory than all the fireworks in the world.