Thursday, April 29

Against the Lib-Dems

Via Andrew, The Economist backs the Tories. Here's their case against Clegg:
[L]ook at the policies, rather than the man, and the Lib Dems seem less appealing. In the event of another European treaty, they would hold a referendum not on that treaty but on whether to stay in or leave the EU; odd, given that they also (wrongly) want to take Britain into the euro. They are flirting with giving up Britain’s nuclear deterrent. They would abolish tuition fees for universities, which would mean either letting the quality of British higher education slide still further or raising the subsidy to mostly well-off students by increasing state funding. They are worried about climate change but oppose the expansion of nuclear power, which is the most plausible way of cutting emissions. Their policies towards business are arguably to the left of Labour’s. A 50% capital-gains tax, getting rid of higher-rate relief on pensions and a toff-bashing mansion tax are not going to induce the entrepreneurial vim Britain needs.
I must admit I was a bit caught up in the Clegg-mania, finding his anti-establishment-ness refreshing (Britain has a dreadfully awful establishment). And watching the implosion of Labour's statist scourge has been blissful; one cannot help cheer both dogs against the Brown-Blair axis.

But other than their comment against giving up the UK's nuclear weapons--I'm with the Lib-Dems on this, the Cold War is over for $DEITY's sake--the Economist's policy case seems fairly devastating. Go Tories.

A reminder

I've been guest blogging at Library Grape since August or so.

Sometimes I cross-post, but most of the time if something fits that wider audience well enough I'll just put it there.

Wednesday, April 28

Godless atheists watch

Young Chinese internet users prefer "Oh My Lady Gaga!".

Don't fear the invisible tax?

Derek Thompson on The Value Added Tax: What You Need To Know
Conservatives also worry that "invisible" taxes like a VAT would enable the government to grow bigger. The evidence does not agree. "Tax visibility is empirically unrelated to the amount of taxation and government spending," economist Casey Mulligan concluded.
Well, there goes one of my worries.

Tuesday, April 27

Quote of the day

Mr Yglesias might not be too pessimistic about the crisis of overproduction in journalism because, to put it bluntly, he is the crisis of overproduction in journalism.

—DiA, Does the left need bigger ideas?

Monday, April 26

Blesed is she who comes in the name of the Lord!

I think Jesus touched her happyspot. (blame reddit)

By the way, this is at a public university in Texas. (As if you couldn't have guessed.)

Immigration vs. Energy

You wouldn't like Senator Lindsey Graham when he's angry, explains Ezra Klein, with a follow up.

Iranian cleric blames quake on promiscuous women

Women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, an Iranian cleric says.

Hojjat ol-eslam Kazem Sediqi, the acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran, said women should stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he explained.

Tens of thousands of people have died in Iran earthquakes in the last decade.

Mr Sediqi was delivering a televised sermon at the Tehran University campus mosque last Friday on the need for a "general repentance" by Iranians when he warned of a "prevalence of degeneracy".

"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," he said.

Correspondents say many young Iranians sometimes push the boundaries of how they can dress, showing hair under their headscarves or wearing tight-fitting clothes.
Remind me again how religion is a force for good in the world.

The art of taxation

Alex at Marginal Revolution:
In Mexico, visual artists can pay their taxes with art works.
That's the deal Mexico has offered to artists since 1957, quietly amassing a modern art collection that would make most museum curators swoon. As the 2009 tax deadline approaches, tax collectors are getting ready to receive a whole new crop of masterworks...

There's a sliding scale: If you sell five artworks in a year, you must give the government one. Sell 21 pieces, the government gets six. A 10-member jury of artists ensures that no one tries to unload junk.

Under the program, the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit now owns 4,248 paintings, sculptures, engravings and photographs by Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Leonora Carrington and other masters.
Click on "Colecciones Pago en Especie" at to see the art works which have been used to pay taxes since the program began.

The Mexican government accepts all styles of painting for the program so, unlike in America, in Mexico you can have taxation without representation.

Sunday, April 25

Wonks in conservative politics

Matt Yglesias:
Whenever liberals point out that the entire conservative case against climate change legislation consists of the ravings of cranks, liars, and know-nothings someone eventually trots out Jim Manzi. Indeed, National Review tapped Manzi to write its big feature-length denunciation of the American Clean Energy and Security Act. Manzi, you see, isn’t a crank, a liar, or a know-nothing—he’s cooked up some wonky reason for agreeing with the cranks, liars, and know-nothings on the question of climate legislation.

Then Jim Manzi read Mark Levin’s book, focused his attention on its climate section, and discovered that Levin is a crank, liar, and/or know-nothing. The result? Manzi is savagely and hypocritically attacked by the staff of National Review. Because, after all, the crankery and the know-nothingness is the essence of conservative politics. The wonks are useful just insofar as they can be used to support the crank agenda—when they take the cranks on, they get trashed, even by publications that were happy to cite them as experts on the very issue at hand just a few months ago.

Well, the rest of the right can throw him under the bus, but I say one of Manzi's posts or articles is worth a hundred of regular National Review fare.

Wednesday, April 21

Jim Manzi on epistemic closure

I've always liked Manzi, and calling out Mark Levin's book for wingnuttery at NRO's corner is a pretty good example of why.

Seeing Andy McCarthy and K-lo squirm futily in response just ices the cake.

Tuesday, April 20

Wisconsin designates state microbe

NYT reports that state legislators in Wisconsin raced against the clock to pass a bill designating Lactococcus lactis as Wisconsin's official state microbe. 'The first time I heard the idea, I thought, I've got more important things to do than spending my time honoring a microbe,' says Gary Hebl, a Democratic state representative who proposed the bill which, he says, would make Wisconsin the first state in the nation to grant such a designation, 'but this microbe is really a very hard worker,' added Hebl, referring to the bacterium supported by the Department of Bacteriology at UW — Madison used to make cheddar, Colby, and Monterey Jack cheese. The proposal faced only one detractor in committee ('the opponent was clearly lactose-intolerant,' says Hebl), and there was no sign of a last-minute campaign from other bacteria, so by evening, the Assembly had approved the measure, 56 to 41. In case there were any doubts about Wisconsin's priorities, a separate bill also awaits consideration in Madison, declaring cheese Wisconsin's state snack.
On, Wisconsin!

Monday, April 19

Next steps in social democracy

From the Times of London:
Brussels decrees holidays are a human right

An overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year’s hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer.

Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.

The idea for the subsidised tours is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.

The scheme, which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year, is intended to promote a sense of pride in European culture, bridge the north-south divide in the continent and prop up resorts in their off-season.

Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said.

Tajani, who used to be transport commissioner, said he had been able to “affirm the rights of passengers” in his previous office and the next step was to ensure people’s “right to be tourists”.
I figure it's only a matter of time before mainstream U.S. progressives start bemoaning our status as one of the few developed nations without a universal tourism right.

Four Chord Song

All you need to succeed in pop.

Like other redditors I was reminded of the Pachelbel Rant.

Nate Silver creates and index for KFC's Double Down and other fast food

It's rather geektastic.

Sunday, April 18

Sentence to ponder

"I wondered why every self-respecting couple who identified as pro-life didn’t at the very least strongly consider adopting."

From a moving essay by a gay Catholic.

George Will on the VAT

Column: "When liberals advocate a value-added tax, conservatives should respond: Taxing consumption has merits, so we will consider it—after the 16th Amendment is repealed."

In a perfect world...

Update: Well, shows what I know.

Are libertarians anti-government?

Cato has a good answer.

Saturday, April 17

Thursday, April 15

Disturbing nature videos

Wasps in a caterpillar
Parasitic fungi
Zombie snails
Wild dog eating a live kudu

Life imitating art imitating life imitating...

Check out this new commercial for the Mercedes-Benz GLK 350:

The voice is Jon Hamm from Man Men. He plays Don Draper, the 1960s Madison Avenue advertising executive.

(via Capital Gains and Games)

Wednesday, April 14

Realism 101

Stephen Walt explains China's motives on the issue of a nuclear Iran.

Monday, April 12

Dow 11,000

Nice round number, up 66% since March 2009.

Please do not change your password

(meme) Finally some economic sanity on the computer security front.

Wednesday, April 7

The costs of paternalism

Glen Whitman in Cato Unbound:
[Cass] Sunstein and [Richard] Thaler define their “libertarian paternalist” spectrum in terms of the cost of choice: “The libertarian paternalist insists on preserving choice, whereas the non-libertarian paternalist is willing to foreclose choice. But in all cases, a real question is the cost of exercising choice, and here there is a continuum rather than a sharp dichotomy.” Even outright bans, such as motorcycle helmet laws, lie on the spectrum because “[t]hose who are required to wear motorcycle helmets can decide to risk the relevant penalty, and to pay it if need be.” This framing ignores the question of who imposes the cost and how. To see why this is bizarre, notice that a 10-cent tax on Twinkies is relatively low-cost, while having to drive 20 miles to the nearest 7-11 is relatively high-cost. In Sunstein and Thaler’s rubric, the state-imposed tax is more “libertarian” than the self-imposed cost of living far from civilization.
Jason Kuzniki at the League:
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how libertarians see the world differently from other people. The above is a good example. We worry about who or what imposes a cost, rather than tending to treat them all alike.

Is the cost we’re considering based on a dumb fact of nature? The result of a market process? (A functional or a dysfunctional one?) Or — and here’s where we raise our eyebrows — does the cost spring from the decision of another human being, or of a group thereof?

Among non-libertarians, there’s a strong tendency to collapse all the different types of costs together. You’re unfree if you have a family you feel obliged to support. You’re unfree if you live far from civilization. You’re unfree if you get cancer. You’re unfree if your personal tastes are expensive. You’re unfree — I infer — if you’re thrown in a prison camp. Just another type of cost to pay. Something seems way off here to me.

That’s because political unfreedom is different. Political unfreedom isn’t the result of bad luck, or your moral code, or your freely made but unwise choices. Other humans did it to you, and those other humans could stop doing it if they wanted. Whitman’s argument above is that we should think carefully about which people get to impose costs, and how, and to what end — even though other costs exist, even though the world remains full of dysfunctional markets, bad personal choices, and brute facts of nature.

Now, these cost-imposers may act with a smile on their face, or they may be brutal about it. They may have a representative government to validate their acts, or not. But political and non-political costs should never be confused. Political freedom is the freedom from arbitrary interference on the part of other people. We find it striking, and worrisome, when we see political theorists who aren’t so careful about the distinction. (For more on this idea, see Tom Palmer, writing in last month’s Cato Unbound.)

Now, the obvious rejoinder is that our decisions are continually subject to the arbitrary interference from other people. And this is quite true, even apart from the trivial example that we are all constrained equally from killing each other, in a clever little constraint-on-constraint. Other constraints abound.

And yet if we could find a means to eliminate first one and then another kind of arbitrary interference, again and again, the libertarian would view this as a steady improvement in the state of our politics. Living in society with others shouldn’t mean submission to them. And it certainly shouldn’t mean that — given the existence of some inescapable costs — whatever other costs some favored people want to throw on are just fine too.

Dept. of unplanned pranks

From somewhere on 4chan:
Last Friday, I was getting out of work. I was in a meeting so I was wearing a suit, which ended up being perfect.

I was waiting at a crosswalk, and this lady wasn't paying attention and walked into the street. She's about 45-50 I guess? The street was pretty empty in both directions except for a bus in the close lane that the lady didn't see. The bus was coming in pretty fast, and I don't know how she missed it, but to her credit there were some bus stops and parked cars and stuff that may have obstructed the view.

Anyways, just as the bus started honking and slamming breaks, I grabbed her and pulled her back. She would have probably made it anyway, but it made a pretty nice dramatic effect.

So this lady was really freaked out by the whole thing. She was sorta stuck in between thanking me, and catching her breath. So (and wtf did this come from I have no idea), I pulled out my PDA and said "This is Commander Navarrette, I saved the subject. The time is 4:39 pm." She had no idea what was happening and kept looking at me all dumb. So I said something to the effect of, "Ma'am I need your signature to affirm that you were here and I stopped you from getting run over by the 4:39 bus."

I didn't know what she thought about the situation, but I decided to press it a bit further. I opened my pda's drawing thing (ooo high tech) and asked her to sign it, which she did.

I thanked her then followed up with "Your grandson is very important," which immediately I realized was really dumb because she didn't look like she was old enough to have grandchildren.

"I don't have a grandson," is all she said. I freaked out for a second, thinking I just made a total ass of myself. But then I said "You will," and gave her sorta a wink/smile.

The crosswalk light was green and I walked off. She stood there A few seconds later she yelled "wait!" but I was already across the street and pretended I didn't hear and kept walking.

I have no idea what she thought of the whole thing, but even the idea of her thinking I was from the future totally made my day.

Thousands killed by inspirational female leader

Obama administration to assassinate American citizens far from any battlefield, without any due process

What the fuck?!

Fallback position


Triple Play

There's a chance, albeit an outside one, that the entire West Coast could legalize marijuana in November.

I might have to begin rethinking my love of the East...

Six ridiculous history myths (you probably think are true)

We've been had.

Math lecture April fools

Tuesday, April 6

Edicts Benedict

Fiscally conservative adult entertainment?

Porn star Stormy Daniels finally announces her party affiliation for her run for Senate in Louisiana:
While this decision has not been an easy one, recent events regarding Republican National Committee fundraising at Voyeur, an L.A.-based lesbian bondage-themed nightclub, finally tipped the scales.

As I have said for well over a year, it is time that our government and our tax policy begin rewarding entrepreneurship and creativity again. It is time again to inspire positive risks and out-of-the-box thinking in the interest of growing a strong economy and a strong America.

For me, this spirit can be summed up in the RNC's investment of donor funds at Voyeur.

As someone who has worked extensively in both the club and film side of the adult entertainment industry, I know from experience that a mere $1,900 outlay at a club with the reputation of Voyeur is a clear indication of a frugal investment with a keen eye toward maximum return.

What if Republicans proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax?

Yglesias considers.

Grading the Obama administration's foreign policy process

Read Dan Drezner.

Sunday, April 4

Can CNN be saved?

Douthat proposes.

Deep thought

We love diversity! But not when it comes to pocketbooks.

Medical innovation during war

Marines often go on foot patrols with tourniquets loosely strapped high on their thighs, so they can begin cranking right away if a foot is blown off.
The article is interesting throughout. (via MR)

Friday, April 2

Thought of the day

A psychologist wonders:
[D]oes porn distort men’s attitudes as much as romance novels and Lifetime TV distort women’s? Maybe we should discuss the many social institutions that are giving women unrealistic expectations of men and a sense that they have the right to control men, and men’s sexuality, in their own interest.
A redditor agrees:
This. A thousand times, THIS. I'm always appalled by people who suggest that strictly sexual pornography is somehow worse than what is essentially emotional pornography in stuff like Twilight or the Nicholas Sparks films. How is emotional interest in fictional characters somehow less harmful than natural physical attraction?

Boys being girls

And vice-versa.

Thursday, April 1

The signularity is near

Forget the iPad, I too want one of these:

(via MR)

Janelle Monáe - Tightrope

This was released yesterday; Ezra Klein calls it his favorite aesthetic in music right now.

For if you haven't caught on yet, her character is an android. Here's the first video in which various models are auctioned.

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