Monday, September 30

I hate to say, I've asked myself, "Philosophy: Who Needs It?"
"The conservatives want freedom to act in the material realm; they tend to oppose government control of production, of industry, of trade, of business, of physical goods, of material wealth. But they advocate government control of man's spirit, i.e., man's consciousness; they advocate the State's right to impose censorship, to determine moral values, to create and enforce a governmental establishment of morality, to rule the intellect. The liberals want freedom to act in the spiritual realm; they oppose censorship, they oppose government control of ideas, of the arts, of the press, of education (note their concern with 'academic freedom'). But they advocate government control of material production, of business, of employment, of wages, of profits, of all physical property -- they advocate it all the way down to total expropriation.

"The conservatives see man as a body freely roaming the earth, building sand piles or factories -- with an electronic computer inside his skull, controlled from Washington. The liberals see man as a soul freewheeling to the farthest reaches of the universe -- but wearing chains from nose to toes when he crosses the street to buy a loaf of bread.

"Yet it is the conservatives who are predominantly religionists, who proclaim the superiority of the soul over the body, who represent what I call the 'mystics of spirit.' And it is the liberals who are predominantly materialists, who regard man as an aggregate of meat, and who represent what I call the 'mystics of muscle.'

"This is merely a paradox, not a contradiction: each camp wants to control the realm it regards as metaphysically important; each grants freedom only to the activities it despises. Observe that the conservatives insult and demean the rich or those who succeed in material production, regarding them as morally inferior -- and that the liberals treat ideas as a cynical con game. 'Control,' to both camps, means the power to rule by physical force. Neither camp holds freedom as a value. The conservatives want to rule man's consciousness; the liberals, his body."

Thursday, September 26

Gee, maybe I can realize my dream of speaking Black English. Rebecca Meyer, on an e-mail to Eugene Volokh, cites William Labov, Walt Wolfram and John McWhorter as authorities. Although I don't know if I reelly wanna take lessons from someone who's comfortable with "wadn't" for "wasn't" and "bidness" for "business."

Wednesday, September 25

Daniel Pipes complains about bureaucratic leftism, which "diminishes the role of the individual in many ways," including:

* The group over the individual: A person's unique capabilities and outlook have less importance than his membership in the ascriptive groups (racial, ethnic or gender) into which he is born.

* Oppressor vs. victim: The world divides into good and bad groups, with nonwhites, women, immigrants and homosexuals by their very nature in the former category.
But I disagree with him on immigration. (Link via Instapundit.)
According to the Economist,
The plunging price of coffee over the past decade has certainly caused regrettable misery for many farmers. But while Oxfam lays the blame on fat-cat western companies, other forces are more deserving of its ire. New production in Vietnam�partly encouraged by international poverty-relief programmes�combined with vast increases in Brazilian productivity have helped to create a global abundance of coffee. Rich countries' trade barriers make it hard for farmers to switch to other crops.

Solving these problems is not as thrilling as crusading against rich, profitable western firms. Marketers' ability to extract $4 a cup from middle-class consumers explains why coffee is being lashed by the likes of Oxfam. Its new campaign is cleverly aimed at the anxieties of yuppies�a large proportion of its donors. Oxfam says that coffee farmers are pulling their children out of school. At the same time, the American television programme �Friends� dares to depict young, attractive New Yorkers sipping cappuccinos at Central Perk without a care. The shame.

Instapundit links to this WSJ article:
The battle between independent coffeehouses and Starbucks may be one of the most hostile -- and most misunderstood -- rivalries in retailing.

Conventional wisdom, meanwhile, says Starbucks is clobbering the independent -- invading its turf, stealing its customers, bankrupting its owners. In fact, most independents are doing fine -- and not just in spite of Starbucks, but perhaps because of it.

Many people believe that Starbucks increases the overall market, attracting new customers to the product who then patronize the independent provider next door.
How can the independents make money?
The profit margins on gourmet coffee drinks are so high that independent operators can thrive even without volume purchasing discounts. That's especially so for coffeehouses that roast their own coffee beans because of the plunging prices of raw beans.

Tuesday, September 24

An interesting article on stereotypes in China.
In case I care: Prostate Cancer. I'm using my blog as a kind of scrapbook, so this is in case I get prostate cancer. Of course, with my luck, when I do, will have started charging or completely lost my archives. Now, now, think positive! I'll get prostate cancer tomorrow!
Amen, brutha!
We are often told that America is the most Christian society left in the world, but for how many people is it a trivial Christianity--a thinly disguised cult of whimpering zombie niceness? A lot, I suspect, or the Christian clergy wouldn't stand for televised Manichaean nonsense trafficking under its brand name.

Sunday, September 22

This stinks: public school teachers paying for increasing numbers of supplies that schools don't seem to have the money for.
According to Daniel Gross, Pennsylvania officials have probably cheated shareholders of billions of dollars in value and in the process screwed poor school kids. Gregory J. Millman at the not-exactly right-wing Pacific News Service agrees that unfortunately, American shareholders really have far less power than they should, even if American capitalism is a system where owners rule: a Marxist dream-come-true.
Thomas Friedman labels John Gray's declaration that 9/11 heralded the end of the era of globalization as the most wrongheaded prediction about the world after 9/11.

Saturday, September 21

How to achieve the miracle of poverty. It's the usual stuff:
Print money like there's no tomorrow, nationalize all major Industries, establish high tariffs to insulate any remaining private industries from competition, make it nearly impossible for anyone to license a new business or to buy, sell, or borrow against their property, and force your farmers to sell their crops to government commodity boards at below-market rates.

Tuesday, September 17

An Op-ed criticizing those lists of top universities says that one of the concerns in the academy is, "How should our liberal arts curriculum address the increasing preoccupation of both our students and their parents with vocational concerns?"

How about we get rid of all liberal arts requirements?
Seriously, folks,
The one consistent source of satisfaction in my job is watching some of our students make the most of the educational opportunity the university offers them. Conversely, the most frustrating aspect of my work is seeing students respond passively...intellectually curious and motivated students can achieve excellent educations at many different kinds of colleges and universities around the country, and those students will be much better educated than students who pass through "top 10" universities passively and without intellectual passion.
What do both dollar coins have in common? They're both, well, coins, and they both have politically correct wimmin on them. Seriously, I think in addition to the conservative status quo, the problem is they're too heavy. Let's just go to lightweight plastic bills.

Most of us "war hawks" don't have a problem with the Canadian government attempting to identify the "root causes," only with the particular root cause they settled on: Poverty. The late Osama bin Laden was a wealthy man. Wealthier even than Jean Chretien, who's spent his entire adult life in government service except for six months in the late Eighties but has happily wound up a multi-millionaire. If M. Chretien feels he's too rich (as we must assume he does), how much more excessively rich is the late Mr. Weirdbeard? Or Saddam Hussein, whose personal fortune is estimated at US$7-billion, a career in public service in Baghdad apparently being even more lucrative than one in Ottawa. And let's not forget the representative two or three hundred Saudi princes currently accompanying King Fahd on his convalescence in Spain. A lucky London escort agency has landed the contract for servicing the Saudi swingers: The gals all have to be blonde and they're replaced every week, having been thoroughly rogered out by then.

So we could increase foreign aid. It would enable Saddam to expand his anthrax factory and the House of Saud to rotate its hookers every 48 hours. But would it do anything else? Under the terms of the Camp David accords, Egypt has been the beneficiary of the largest amount of U.S. aid apart from Israel. What's happened to it? In the 1950s, Egypt and South Korea had more or less identical per capita incomes. Today, Egypt's is less than a fifth of South Korea's.
(via InstaPundit)

It mentions Xavier Sala-i-Martin's widely cited The World Distribution Of Income

While searching for Sala-i-Martin, I came across this, which led me to Gerontocracy, Retirement, and Social Security, which I can read when I'm in a good mood.

Sunday, September 15

Week-end bake-off! Friday nite I put sugar, rye flour, and lukewarm milk in a bowl, but it wasn't turning to sourdough right away, so the next evening I put yeast, rye flour, and water in another bowl. This morning, the non-yeast had soured along with the other, so I used it to make some sourdough rye. I used about half whole wheat and 2 T gluten, but there's a big crack inside. Too bad, as I wanted to use it for sanwiches. Meanwhile, Sat. night I made brownies with a little soy flour--I'm not sure I like that, and this morning, I made waffles with a little soy also. Not bad, but I prefer my whole wheat waffles. And, shortly, I'll make my apricot bread for this week's breakfasts. Yum.

update I used the USDA Nutrient Database to find out that each brownie had 123 calories. Oh, and the bread's a little crumbly, but I loveit!

Friday, September 13

The people of Shanghai love to wear their jammies because they're "more comfortable than regular clothes � especially in Shanghai's notoriously hot, sticky summers � and easier to wash. They're a luxury and a way to flaunt new wealth." It's an Asian thing, I guess: you change your clothes when you get off work to slip into something more comfortable. Maybe we Amercans don't have to do that because we're already wearing comfortable clothes.

Thursday, September 12

I'm getting to like the smart-ass quotes you can mine from Salon:
Alan Dershowitz says,
I asked the people how many of them favored a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. I think every person in the audience raised their hand. Then I asked how many people favor a Kurdish state. People looked at me like I was crazy. Then I asked how many people favored an Armenian state inside of Turkey. Same thing. Then I asked how many people favor an independent Tibet? A few hands went up. How many people favor an independent Basque state? How many people favor a Chechen state? People didn't know what I was talking about.
Yeah, right. It just ain't gonna happen, any more than independence for Taiwan, or the Montana Freemen.

Or how to drive wimmen mad--with loathing. One says:
the absolute worst is Tevas with socks. Or sandals of any kind with socks. Or white socks, in most cases. It's very hard to think of a time when white socks are appropriate..
Well, that lets me out.
China is putting itself at a competitive disadvantage by blocking Google. Then as Paul Hsieh reminds us, there's elgooG.

Whoops, Google is now available again.
A somewhat optimistic article about polluters claims that pressure against them, from China's increasingly aware public, is likely to continue growing. Supposedly, environmentalism is one of the few fields in which social activism is tolerated in China. For each successful judgement against polluters, however, a Chinese lawyer can point to a failed one that just as clearly illustrates the flaws of the Chinese system in which courts and administrative agencies still lack any independence.
Catrina mentions Collection Finder. That looks like a great time sink. Speaking of which, she also says weblogging is a good way to find partners. Sorry ladies (and gents); I already got one.
Forbidden thoughts about 9/11, via Paul Hsieh. Glenn Reynolds seems to echo Damian Penny. OK, the anniversary of 9/11 may not have been a good time, but people can be petty and selfish. Yesterday I discovered one of my students, a Japanese, whose birthday falls on 9/11. Imagine how she feels!

Wednesday, September 11

Tuesday, September 10

Robert Wright honestly admits that he was wrong when he blamed terrorism on "poverty in the Islamic world", and goes on to promote free trade. But his next article in the series hedges it around with all kinds of counterproductive safety nets, because many people in changing societies are afraid of being left behind.

Meanwhile, Michael Gove reminds us that
No Arab nation is a democracy, none enjoys a free press or speech. None can guarantee basic human rights, whether it be respect for property, life or conscience. Whether they are oil-rich or resource poor, they prefer to keep their people in ignorance and poverty.
And he points his finger particularly at Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The joint hostility of Baghdad and Tehran to the US is not a consequence of America�s military presence or diplomatic policies in the Middle East. It is a basic defining feature of tyranny. Totalitarian regimes which govern in the name of a political religion require an enemy; to maintain their supporters in a state of fervour, to provide a scapegoat for the failure of their rule to deliver improvements in living conditions, and, above all, to legitimise internal repression.
The hostility which these regimes, and the terrorists they sponsor, feel towards the West is existential. It cannot be assuaged by more international aid, a reordering of the world financial system, a new peace plan for the Palestinians, the signing of the Kyoto treaty or any other of the panaceas for soothing away world tension peddled by the new Left or old Arabists. As with Nazis and the Communists, they hate us for what we are, not what we do.
(via Glenn Reynolds)
Psychologists and sociologists are now calling attention to the negative health effects of bad friends. Friends are supposed to be good for your health and longevity. Unfortunately, "not all friends have such a salutary effect. Some lie, insult and betray. Some are overly needy. Some give too much advice. What about the ones who are intolerably stupid?
The Economist argues we've got to learn to live with terror, even as we fight it: to be dominated by a fear of terrorists, to credit them with greater power than they really have, and to tear up your freedoms in the face of their threats is to hand them a needless victory.

Absolutely, let's not tear up our freedoms. And don't be dominated by a fear of terrorists, either: even flying can be a Statement of Defiance to Terror.
Via Charles Murtaugh:
Michael Joseph Gross explains the pathos of the "Left Behind" phenomenon: the author and his readers are "bankrupt" of cultural status; they fear being left behind by a secular, global, technological culture bereft of Christian messages.

The harder they try to be culturally relevant, the more ridiculous they become, the further they fall from relevance, the more intensely they are exiled -- not only from cultural legitimacy but also from the spiritual power of their own beliefs.

Jenkins and LaHaye estimate that about 2,000 people have been born again as a result of reading the "Left Behind" books. Sadly, however, the books also tempt their audience to feel self-satisfied derision toward those who don't share their views. And in a society where the kinds of people who read the series have considerable political influence, such derision is dangerous.

Monday, September 9

Call me a warmonger, but when Jane Galt sent me to Rand Simberg and I found this--well, it's pretty compelling:
A strong and rich and self-confident America is good for a world that increasingly resents it. When America booms, Europe prospers and Japanese exporters start to lift their stagnant economy from its decade-long doldrums. When Americans splurge on imported goods, business flourishes in China and South Korea, in India and Latin America.

And with the growing trade, local entrepreneurs start to make money, and to save and invest it. In that very process, as they consider how best to ensure the education of their children and the security of their old age, they start demanding honest government, decent schools and sound currencies. They start acting, in short, just like the articulate and politically engaged middle class of the Western democracies. This phenomenon has already transformed the political life of Mexico and Taiwan, Chile and South Korea. It is America's greatest export and its most potent secret weapon, devastating in its impact on dictatorships and theocracies.

The paradox is that this sweeping effect of liberation and social transformation is not necessarily popular. Indeed, one of the first signs of a nascent public opinion in much of the world is a demonstration against some form or other of American policy, often discreetly encouraged by regimes hoping to deflect popular unrest against the familiar target of Uncle Sam. Turn the paradox upside down and it still holds true; a weakened, chastened America is bad for a world that nonetheless loves to see the American colossus restrained and cut down to size -- even if the price is a global recession.

Saturday, September 7

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the environmentalists' bible, is 40 years old this year. The trouble is, she lied.
Joe Kaplinsky writes, "The real meaning of the 'link' between poverty and the environment is that the poor are packaged in with the wildlife as part of the local 'biodiversity'."
Pesto update. I'm told one can also make it with walnuts instead of pinon nuts and fresh greated parmesan. I'll have to see. I also made some wider-type spaghetti that day & froze it. I had it recently, and it wasn't bad.
Chinese bicycling on the wane. It's too bad; it's such good exercise, but now, "Bicycles are for old people and children."
Why can't people be smarter?
Out of a combination of greed and ignorance, some people put their entire retirement accounts in their own company's stock, only to see their investment dwindle to practically nothing, and now they're clamoring for help. But proposals to cap retirement fund holdings in company stock might have the unintended consequence of raising costs enough to convince some employers to reduce company contributions or withdraw their 401(k) plans altogether. It's also a matter of personal choice. There are many companies whose employees have done very well over-investing in company stock. Even Ted Kennedy has conceded "There are some realities that we have to deal with in terms of people's personal desires to make independent decisions." So it looks like all the greedy dummies are going to get is advice to diversify their portfolios instead of caps on their investments, even though research suggests that most people just won't do it.
For the sake of those who refuse to be careful, must we have laws that restrict the liberties of the intelligent?
Or can we legalize marijuana?
Police are wasting too much time and money busting small-time, private pot users, they argue, when they could be focusing on violent crimes, even terrorism threats, and legalization, and allowing the state to distribute marijuana could wipe out the underground market for the drug -- because the state could sell it for a lower price. But others insist today's pot is too potent.
People can survive things they didn't think they could, but more than 500,000 people in the New York metropolitan area may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, as a direct result of the September attacks. According to the shrinks,
PTSD is a debilitating and lingering syndrome, and common among the survivors of rape or sexual abuse, violent attack and combat. Its symptoms include living in dual states of emotional numbing and hyper-arousal. Sufferers may experience intrusive memories and feel the sense of "dissociation," or being outside their bodies. They may be panicky, sweaty, quick to anger. They may be less than fully functional for years, and are more likely to succumb to a host of other ailments, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Friday, September 6

Get off yer butts, ladies! And gents, too, assuming the same thing works for men.

Update: this panel urges an hour of exercise a day.

Harvard's Prof. Walter Willett (via Jane Galt) argues that in addition to staying lean and active, minimizing butter, partially hydrogenated fats high in trans fatty acids, and fat from red meat, eating instead chicken, fish, nuts, and legumes for protein, and also grains in whole grain form, plenty of fruits and vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, as well as tomato sauce.
Most people are probably not even familiar with whole grains, have never had good whole grain pasta, and haven't tried brown rice or barley. Often people haven't had the opportunity to explore these options. One of the things we want to encourage is choice. When going to a restaurant, for example, people should be offered the option of brown rice or whole grain breads and pasta.
I have had whole grain pasta. A little gritty for me, even though I eat whole grain bread almost every day.
TCS recycles this quote:
"Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources."

Wednesday, September 4

Environmentalists See Losses at Summit
Update: those environmentalists are Westerners. According to Tech Central Station the poor countries wanted economic progress rather than insistence on renewables, and that's what got into the final plan:
A source involved in the negotiations said that the text - emphasizing economic growth rather than environmental regulation - resulted from pressure by poor countries, which resisted calls by Europeans for a requirement that renewables generate 15 percent of the world's energy by 2015.

"The overall feeling," said the source, "was that renewables might be fine for Europeans, but Africans and Asians need to boost their economies by using energy that is inexpensive and abundant." The source was clearly referring to oil and coal, which will provide the vast majority of energy for China and India over the next decade.

What is remarkable is that the final text, completed late Monday night by a panel headed by South Africa Minister of Environment and Tourism Valli Moosa, does not mention renewables targets at all. To the contrary, it directly links energy use, in general, to the alleviation of poverty. The text emphasized what has become - to the chagrin of the radicals - the theme of this conference, that economic progress is directly linked to environmental progress.

Meanwhile, the fact that Colin L. Powell was repeatedly interrupted by heckling and boos is big news in the Washington Post and New York Times, but neither reports that Zimbabwe's Mugabe by listeners, including the media. (Mugabe links thanks to Instapundit.)
According to a recent survery, public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic is more united than not: substantial majorities in both the United States and Europe say they believe the United States should invade Iraq only with U.N. approval and the support of U.S. allies.

But 56 percent of Americans see China's development as a superpower as a critically important issue, while only 19 percent of Europeans do.

Tuesday, September 3

My skin is turning crepey. Grow old with me! Uck.
Some blog in addition to Andrew Sullivan pointed me to this column by James Surowiecki, where he argues that bad Bush economic policies come from the fact that "Almost none of the C.E.O.s on the Bush team headed competitive, entrepreneurial businesses."
Sales algorithms are a system that helps merchants set prices across different stores, or stores in different regions. Sounds like prices are going up. And sure enough, athough the technology could lead to fewer racks of clearance items at the end of a season, executives claim their customers might see discounts earlier than usual and at bigger discounts. But it's upscale places like Saks that are only now starting to use this system. Pricing technologies have worked well for mainstream and discount retailers. So that means the stores I frequent already use these to set their prices. Hmph.