Sunday, December 28, 2008

International "Law"

There is a reason why some of us refer to "international law" with scare quotes. It's because whenever such a thing has been asserted, it has proven the absurdity of the idea. "International law" is usually code for a lack of law altogether.

For example, what should be done once a bunch of pirates who have already shot and wounded a merchant crew member and those pirates have been captured? Certainly not this:
The pirates were then set free. This is because German law only allows the prosecution of pirates who are attacking Germans (or German property.) The Egyptian ship was carrying a cargo of wheat from Ukraine to South Korea.
And why is this? Because international law states that Germany has no right to prosecute wrongs done to third parties. In other words, international law protects those who recognize no law. Reading on:
Since World War II, national and international laws for dealing with pirates (which used to mean trying and executing the pirates on the spot) have been discarded. But nothing took the place of those procedures, because it was believed that piracy was no longer a problem.
And, as a result, piracy is a rapidly growing problem.

Read the whole thing. A start has been found, and Russia and China may have their own solution. But we'll see...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Falling for Frogs

I guess the NYT isn't qualified to be Vice President either.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dueling Across the Pond

Gary Younge, meet Theodore Dalrymple.

I think it's absurd to paint greed as an American value, or to claim that greed is what led to the current economic issue. Frankly, I think "greed" has no real meaning anymore. While it invokes images of Gordon Gekko, it wasn't greed that brought his end, but amorality. There is nothing wrong with the desire for wealth beyond all bounds—so long as it is sought honestly. The issue is not even a willingness to take excessive risks (often associated with greed) in order to prosper.

Is it greedy to attempt to create wealth, as the financial markets do? Is it greedy to funnel capital to the places that can benefit from it? Is it greedy to take a cut as payment for being skilled at these activities? None of this is greed. And greed was not what caused the crisis.

Two things did: pity and miscalculation. The banks were overleveraged. In a pinch, they did not have enough cash to cover their debts. That's what caused their collapse: they miscalculated how much they could safely leverage. Not greedily. Greed would be doing the calculation and saying "screw it, let's overleverage anyway." No one knew they were overleveraged, no one thought they could get away with it. No one saw that coming. I invite you to find evidence otherwise.

The second was pity. Why pity? Okay, maybe pity isn't the right word. Empathy? A collectively bleeding heart?

Why did the pinch come? Because of a massive number of loans issued to people who couldn't afford to pay them and never should have been approved. Why were they approved? Because the government decided that more people needed to own homes, because it was unfair that they couldn't. This is what put the strain on the overleveraged banks, and eventually that strain combined with their miscalculations led to the current crisis.

If anything about American morality caused this crisis, it is the desire of some Americans to be more like Europe in our form of government: more handouts for those who haven't earned them, even if it means the collapse of entire financial systems. See here.

We're seeing it again right now with the bailout of the auto industry: undeserving recipients that the rest of us are going to have to carry.

Meanwhile, Brits, quit your whining. Bring back that stiff upper lip.

Women of America Unite

And agree to drink more. Especially women who are dating me.

Makes Sense

Well, it does. Santa's not real, and neither is Global Warming.

A Touching Story

I'm all for it. But the key is to remember that charity is and should be an individual choice.

B. Virdot had the ability to sort through the letters and determine who was in need and most deserving and who was not. He had the choice of where his money would go, and where it wouldn't. It wasn't someone taking his money from him and making those determinations on his behalf.

If you want to help someone in need, please do. But if you want the collective to help someone in need...

Bite me.

Maybe we wouldn't need so much government bailing out, in fact, if the very people who think that people in need deserve a handout would pony up a little more often themselves.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bad Pun?

You be the judge:
The mother in the article says this has happened before and girls get off scott-free while boys are punished.
Follow the link before deciding...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

As a Bicyclist...

...this is one of the coolest advances in technology I've seen in a long time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Deterred?

So apparently, Somali pirates are not deterred. From the NYT's own summary:
More than a dozen warships have joined the hunt for Somali pirates, but the pirates do not seem especially deterred.
Wouldn't the deter you? Not if you were guaranteed under "international law" that those warships could not fire on you unless fired upon, and had to do everything they could in order to keep from killing you.

Oh, and once they capture you, they'll take you to shore and... set you free.

Whenever the governments of the world want to get serious about these pirates, they should come talk to me. The advice I'll give them?

Start killing the bastards.

Not Many

Yes, I know that's the point. But read it and laugh anyway.

Take the heat off?

Apparently Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General is hoping the governor will step down this week.

Maybe it's so that we stop noticing that a first year law student understands the law better than she does?

(Referral.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What a Weird Picture

Odd. And read the caption.

I Love Old People

It's really funny when they try to explain youth culture. Let's take it apart:
The paradigm has shifted. Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay.
Revelation number 1! Come on, this has been true for a decade.
(For those over 30 years old: hooking up is a casual sexual encounter with no expectation of future emotional commitment. Think of it as a one-night stand with someone you know.)
Almost a good defintion. But "one-night stand" implies sex, while a hook-up generally implies something short of sex. And a hook-up is not necessarily with someone you know. It's more common that way, but not a requirement.
According to a report released this spring by Child Trends, a Washington research group, there are now more high school seniors saying that they never date than seniors who say that they date frequently. Apparently, it’s all about the hookup.
Maybe this necessitates an article, but all it says to me is that the rest of the country has caught up with my high school 10 years ago. I tried dating a little back then, but didn't have much success. Why? Because the people who DID date mostly started with a hook-up. And I definitely didn't have any luck with that.
When I first heard about hooking up years ago, I figured that it was a fad that would soon fizzle. I was wrong. It seems to be becoming the norm.
Well, if you'd gone to college with me you would have known better, my friend.
I should point out that just because more young people seem to be hooking up instead of dating doesn’t mean that they’re having more sex
See above.
they’ve been having less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) or having sex with strangers (they’re more likely to hook up with a friend, according to a 2006 paper in the Journal of Adolescent Research).
See above again. Like I said, it doesn't necessarily include sex and isn't always with a friend.
To help me understand this phenomenon, I called Kathleen Bogle, a professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia who has studied hooking up among college students and is the author of the 2008 book, “Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus.”
Probably would have been more effective to call a bunch of students at La Salle University in Philadelphia, but different strokes, I suppose.
It turns out that everything is the opposite of what I remember. Under the old model, you dated a few times and, if you really liked the person, you might consider having sex. Under the new model, you hook up a few times and, if you really like the person, you might consider going on a date.
This is overly simplistic. If you hook up more than 2 or 3 times, it generally becomes unlikely that anything will come out of it. And again, the reason sex is still down on the list is because it DOES still come after you get to know someone for a lot of people. Hooking up is an addition to the process, not a reversal, per se.

And that's the mistake that a lot of older people make, I think. But I'll discuss that more once we're through with the column. Moving on...
I asked her to explain the pros and cons of this strange culture. According to her, the pros are that hooking up emphasizes group friendships over the one-pair model of dating, and, therefore, removes the negative stigma from those who can’t get a date. As she put it, “It used to be that if you couldn’t get a date, you were a loser.” Now, she said, you just hang out with your friends and hope that something happens.
Yeah, there's no stigma for those who can't get a date. But trust me, at least among guys, there's still a stigma for those who can't get some play. And among girls there's a stigma for the girl who hooks up all the time, but never with the same guy.

Group activity or no group activity, the guy who isn't getting any action gets picked on and the girl who's getting too much looked down on. The more things change...
The cons center on the issues of gender inequity. Girls get tired of hooking up because they want it to lead to a relationship (the guys don’t), and, as they get older, they start to realize that it’s not a good way to find a spouse. Also, there’s an increased likelihood of sexual assaults because hooking up is often fueled by alcohol.
Why is it not a good way to meet a spouse? People always say this, but I think it denies a basic factor of human nature. The best husbands in the world would have gone in for the hook-up scene in their late teens and early twenties if they'd had the opportunity. And yes, it's unlikely that you'll catch a guy on his last hook-up and he'll suddenly want to settled down.

But if it is one of those hook-ups that develops into a dating relationship, then it's just as good a marriage prospect than if it had started the other way.

As for sexual assaults? It happens. But dates typically involve alcohol, too. I would say the hook-up party scene leads to more sexual assaults than the dating scene, but that's not a result of hooking up, per se.
That’s not good. So why is there an increase in hooking up? According to Professor Bogle, it’s: the collapse of advanced planning, lopsided gender ratios on campus, delaying marriage, relaxing values and sheer momentum.
Professor Bogle is an idiot. This is a case of someone studying people too scientifically instead of just looking around. One more paragraph and then I'll explain why I think hooking-up is more prevalent.
It used to be that “you were trained your whole life to date,” said Ms. Bogle. “Now we’ve lost that ability — the ability to just ask someone out and get to know them.”

Now that’s sad.
So 200 years ago, do you think the elders looked down at young people and said "It used to be that you were trained your whole life to be happy in an arranged marriage. Now we've lost the ability to marry our children to whomever we want. Now that's sad."

Just because it's different doesn't mean it's worse.

So where do I think hooking-up came from? I think there are several factors, but the prime one is the advanced role that sex has taken in our culture. The combination of sexual education at school and constant sexual innuendo on TV has led to sex playing a much greater role in dating than it ever had before.

Under the old regime, dating involved getting to know someone. It was talking, laughing, learning about one another. Now, dating is getting to know someone, followed by getting it on. The latter is just as important to a successful dating relationship: if the other person is a bad kisser, or all thumbs in bed, it isn't going to last. So while you can't get to know someone in one night, and that remains a long-term progression, you can find out if someone's a good hook-up in one night. If it's a deal-breaker anyway, why not get it out of the way? And if it's going to become a significant proponent of your relationship eventually anyway, why put off the fun?

What else? Well, I think it's a natural extension of the fact that society is shifting older. People live longer, they stay in school longer, and they get married later. Fewer kids have jobs in middle and high school than ever before. They're going to die later, and they're going to enter the real world later, so they get to be kids longer. They're not planning for their future but enjoying the present. This isn't inherently a bad thing, but it does result in less maturity overall. And with less maturity comes less readiness to be in a relationship. So, we get hook-ups.

But talk to girls and guys around the age of 25. (Girls a year or two before or at 25, guys at 25 or a year or two after). You'll hear most lamenting that dating doesn't work the way it used to in our parents' day. The article believes it's because meeting a husband doesn't work in the hook-up world (why he said "husband" and not "spouse" I don't entirely follow, either). But that's not true. In fact, this transition at 25 is the opposite. Women don't stop hooking-up and start waiting for guys to ask them out—they become more discriminating in who they hook-up with. So do guys.

It's no worse for meeting a spouse than dating, you just can't go on every date that's offered.

And I think I've run out of things to say about this topic at the moment. Hope you've enjoyed it!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Bias Here!

From TIME magazine, the opening paragraph:
What if the 2000 presidential election had hinged not on a diverse, messy, weird and slightly creepy hick state like Florida but on the most organized, practical and cordial one in the Union: Minnesota?
Electing Jesse "The Body" Ventura is "organized, practical and cordial" but electing Jeb Bush is "diverse, messy, weird and slightly creepy"?

I reject the premise entirely.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Future Career Prospect?

I guess I'll be looking at Holman Fenwick in a few years...

Holiday Cheer

And the Lord God said let there be laughter, and there was laughter, and the Lord God saw that there was laughter.

And it was good.

The World Needs Ditch-Diggers, Too

I don't agree with everything Camille Paglia says, but here she's dead right:
But then I gulped when Obama also pledged educational reform by putting state-of-the-art computers in every classroom. Groan. Computers alone will never solve the educational crisis in this country: They are tools and facilitators, not primary conveyors of knowledge. Packing his team with shiny Harvard retreads, Obama missed a golden opportunity to link his public works project with a national revalorization of the trades. Practical training in hands-on vocational skills is desperately needed in this country, where liberal arts education has become a soggy boondoggle, obscenely expensive and diluted by propaganda and groupthink.
This country needs to get over the idea that the ultimate achievement is to go to college. College is fundamentally wrong for some people, and not the best idea for others. The world needs mechanics, electricians, air conditioning technicians, plumbers. Just ask anyone who has recently gone through a renovation or construction project how hard it was to get qualified, talented help—and then how much harder it was to get them to schedule time to do the job around all of their other projects.

Meanwhile, spending on education has gone up and up, while student performance has declined or at best stagnated. Technology isn't the solution. Teaching kids the basic building blocks of education, then helping them apply them to an appropriate career goal is.

Spitzer's Solution

He's baaa-aaaaaack. It seems Elliot Spitzer has his own plan to fix the economy. Why anyone cares what this guy says anymore... no, scratch that. I don't know why anyone ever cared what he said. He's always been a slimeball. Now we know he's a stupid, unethical slimeball.

Unless he's giving advice on how to score high-end hookers, get a reputation with them for being a troublemaker, and ultimately getting caught, I don't want to hear it.

Sounds To Me...

...like there's no there there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't Pull a Nixon

Look, I don't think it's fair to say that in his response thus far Obama is lying. But I do think it's very important in the face of any level of scandal for a politician to be the first one to fully disclose everything.

I call not doing so "pulling a Nixon," because if Nixon had said "yes, people working for me did this, and it was wrong for them to do so, and they've been fired," Nixon would never have faced impeachment or resignation.

And politicians constantly pull Nixons. Let's hope Obama is smarter than that, and is a little more forthcoming (and requires his staff to be forthcoming) in the next few days.

Monday, December 8, 2008

No....

This is a joke, right?

RIGHT??

Parsing! Yay!


Okay, let's parse the President-elect's words:
I believe in common-sense gun safety laws,
"Common-sense" is not an objective term. I think it's common sense that "the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" means, you know, that the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. At all. So common-sense is up for debate if you believe in gun control at all.

Interesting, however, that Mr. Obama chose the words "gun safety" rather than gun control. I'm curious to see what that means.
and I believe in the second amendment.
Well, it's real, so I hope you believe in it. I mean, it's a document, not the Easter Bunny. (Also, someone should tell the author of the article that "Second Amendment" should be capitalized.)
Lawful gun owners have nothing to fear.
"Lawful" is not a static term. Gun owners have learned in the past that gun regulation is subject to change.

Perhaps more importantly, this is precisely the reason that people are stocking up now. No federal gun legislation has ever sought to confiscate guns that had been legally bought under the legal scheme. So it's safe to assume that the next one wouldn't either. And all those people legally buying guns now will get to keep them. They'll have nothing to fear.

Of course, I see in his words no guarantee for those who might wish to become gun owners in the future. Do they have nothing to fear as well? Or did Obama choose his words just a little too carefully?
I said that throughout the campaign. I haven't indicated anything different during the transition. I think people can take me at my word.
I'm happy to take you at your word, Mr. President-elect. However, those words are a bit ambiguous.

Would you care to clarify them for me?

Oh, and while you're at it, please let me know what you think of this. Thanks!

Agreed.

This is just something that should not be done:
Pepsi changed its logo. Good googley-moogley, that’s a disaster. Apparently the logo changes depending on the variety of Pepsi, with thinness or fatness of the white stripe based on the amount of happiness or carbs or sugar or extremeness contained within. It looks angry and misshapen; the “e with its wiggly part looks bizarre as well, like an old crazy Pac-Man who doesn't care what anyone thinks anymore.

And, from the same source:



Did they really target hippies??

Powerful

[Curtis] LeMay said, "If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals." And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognized that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?
Robert McNamara

I'm watching The Fog of War in brief segments as a study break, and that quote struck me.

It's an incredible piece of cinema. Take a look, if you haven't already.

CTFO

I'm sorry. I think the guy's a d-bag, too. But who cares? He's one of Obama's speechwriters, and that means he can't make a drunken fool out of himself occasionally?

I mean, look, I agree, in part:
If this is supposed to be excused as a “youthful indiscretion” because Favreau is “so young” then I think Obama’s judgment in continuing to rely professionally on someone so “young” and irresponsible and offensively sexist can reasonably be questioned.
If you rely on young people, you're going to get youthful indiscretions from them occasionally. And it's right to question whether someone who is so young as to be that oblivious to the likely reaction to his behavior belongs at the highest levels of government. Maybe he ought to get a few years to grow up before he has such serious responsibility.

But sexist? And so offensively sexist, no less?

Have we really revised that term to the point where any offensive behavior targeted at a woman constitutes sexism? What in that picture makes the guy's behavior sexist? I've seen exactly the same kind of behavior from 20-something guys with male cardboard cut-outs or posters in the past.

Why does it matter that she's a woman?

It matters because modern feminists are desperately clinging to the idea that they are a victimized class. And that's just one more barrier to true equality.

The sooner (some) women accept that when they receive the same treatment as a man would it's not sexism just because of the target's gender, the better off we'll all be.

Oh, and PS: how long until the feminists start attacking the chick in the background who seems to be stifling a laugh?

What can we conclude?

If you're fat, then you're stupid? No, that can't be it.

Maybe it's that women tend to perceive more trouble with their weight because of difficulty with spatial relationships?

I don't know, I'm just spitballing here.

Chicken!

Yep, I'm calling you a chicken.

Utterly Predictable

Here it comes.

Easy One

Pirates cannot be terrorists.

If they were, that would generate a serious existential crisis for both.

Something Stinks

And it's not the cows. Mankiw is right: you really can't make this stuff up.

And to the Congresswoman in the video: I'd love to know on what you're basing that assessment of the farmer's business acuity. You might want to get out of the fields and head downstate sometime.

If you're comparing farmers to congressmen, well, then sure... the former will win every time.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Most Boring War Ever

This could get ugly while simultaneously boring people to tears.

Background.

One Thing I Don't Get

Very cool. But I was under the impression that getting the space shuttle to return to a specific place was an incredibly complex procedure requiring intensive mathematical calculations.

So how did a bunch of grade schoolers pull it off with a couple of teddy bears?

Justification for Environmentalism

This could potentially be enough...

Define "Poor"

If you're doing so accurately, there simply aren't many who fit that definition in this country.

Don't Prop Them Up

I've been grasping for a good metaphor to explain why bailing out the auto industry won't save the auto industry. Well, Stossel to the rescue in the first sentence.

Science, Bitches

I should have saved the xckd link in this post for use in relation to this story.

"I'm Batman"

Interesting treatment of The Dark Night. The terrorism angle isn't exactly original, and I wish they'd talk more about how quintessentially American Batman is—the tortured, principled man, rather than the golden boy (also quintessentially American) embodied in Superman.

Still, a good read.

Ho Ho Ho

I'll take one of each.

Daaaaaang.

Summer Glau will play her in the movie:
Don't get me wrong. Creativity is good and whatever. But if the children don't know how to read, I don't care how creative you are. You're not doing your job.
Can they make Summer Glau look Korean?
Just because you're a nice person and you mean well does not mean you have a right to a job in this district.

Color Me... Cold?

It works, bitches.

Maybe we should stop the orthodoxy and just do a little science?

Color Me Surprised

I find this very interesting. It makes sense, but I've never really thought about things in this way before.

My general assumption has always been that atheists and pro-lifers wouldn't get along. And maybe as a question of law that will still hold true. But to know that there's a portion of the Atheist community (is there such a thing?) that is pro-life is something I'll have to think about.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Theft is Art?

Um. I don't get it.

Where's the Danish Navy when you need them?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Milleniums"???

So I was very curious to read an opinion piece claiming that last week's events in Mumbai are evidence that the War on Terror is "an exercise in folly."

I say I was interested because then I read the tag-line.
Mumbai serves as a reminder that fanatics committed to violence have been with us for millenniums.
Sorry, folks. Can't read something written by someone who (or published in a paper that) doesn't know that the plural of "millennium" is properly "millennia."

Yes, yes, I know either is acceptable. But only one is acceptable.

[End curmudgeonly rant.]

I'm Sorry... The Danish Navy?

So, I don't mean to express surprise that there is a Danish Navy—most countries with any shoreline have a Navy, and the Danes have an enormous shoreline for a country so small. And I'm not surprised that they have a good Navy. The location is perfect for it. And let's not forget, for example, that the only major naval battle of the First World War, Jutland took place immediately off the Danish Coast.

But what the hell are the doing in the Gulf of Aden?

Oh, okay. They're doing what every other nation seems helpless to do.

Go Denmark!
(Never thought I'd be saying that.)

Nanny State Fails Again

So it turns out that the focus on getting rid of trans fats may actually be creating more fat people.

This is why I advocate for laws that require manufacturers to fully disclose what's in their products health-wise, and allow people to make their own choices. Don't ban trans fats, and make everyone think they can eat more—that doesn't do anyone any good.

Rude Awakening Coming

This kid is gonna suffer when he finds out that girls don't actually like nice guys.

Apparently one of the quotes is:
Girls don't like it if you wear sweatpants and don't comb your hair, because your mom doesn't like that and she's a girl.
I mean, that's just objectively untrue. Girls love the unkept, douchey guys who wear lounge clothes.

Poor kid.

Supreme Idiot

Michael Moore has the solution!

Nationalize the auto industry.

Well then. Anyone else a little worried that Ayn Rand may have been more prophetic than even she believed?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Screw Reid

Ridiculous. Idiot.

Seriously, dude, if your staff tells you not to say something, shut your mouth.

Really?

So Ford says they can get by if GM and Chrysler survive. Apparently because of overlapping in supplier and dealer networks.

So the argument now is "you have to keep them alive to keep me alive."

Problem is, this doesn't make any more compelling the argument that we should keep them alive.

Too General

I mean, sure, sometimes it's true. But all I can really conclude is that the chairman of the British Lap Dancing Association has never been to the Mons Venus.

Well Done

You've got to feel bad for the J. Crew customer service people. Their website has been down all day. It'll come back for a matter of minutes, and then crash again. Cyber Monday indeed.

And every time the site crashes, the image below pops up:

Their call centers must have been inundated.

Well, I placed an order today and never got a confirmation email. So I called the number on the ticket to make sure that it had processed. Did I get a disgruntled customer "service" rep? Nope. I got a cheerful young woman who was happy to help and very quickly confirmed that my order had gone through. The whole thing, including the obligatory "press 1 to stick a needle in your eye" menus took no more than 3 minutes. I could not ask for more.

I've had great customer service experiences with J. Crew in the past, but I feel like this one took the cake—and deserves an attaboy.

Yes We Can!

Get ripped off, that is.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Aptly Named Street

Interesting story:
The victim wasn't sure whether he hit anyone but heard a loud moan. He then saw the two would-be robbers run in the direction of Bizarre Drive.
Read that again. The victim wasn't sure if he hit someone? I'm pretty sure this guy didn't consider himself a victim—at the very least, when he fired his gun he stopped being one.

Screw CNN

The terrorists were watching CNN and they came down from where they were in a lift after hearing about us on television.
Someone ought to get fired, at the very least.