January 2011 Archives

Want to lure your vegetarian friend to the Dark Side? Bacon is the gateway meat.

Recently, an old friend who's been a vegetarian for more than 15 years shocked us with a story: Last weekend, she ate bacon. Several strips. Straight out of the frying pan where her boyfriend was cooking it.

This wasn't the first time she'd encountered it sizzling there, in all its glistening glory. But for some reason, this time it overpowered her. She was guilty yet gleeful when she told us that she'd allowed bacon back into her life.

But she's not alone. We've heard this story before from many people. It seems that bacon has a way of awakening carnivorous desires within even some of the preachiest of vegetarians.

Mmmm... bacon.

President Obama says spousal abuse is a "private family matter" and the government should stay out of it.

Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women's health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.

Sorry, I meant baby-killing. Beating your wife is obviously wrong. Killing babies is obviously acceptable.

And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.

Once they're out of the womb, anyway. Our sons and daughters that are still in the womb are just things to be disposed of at our convenience.

Oh wait, I'm wrong again! It's ok to murder your kids as long as you meant to do it before they left the womb.

Why are men being hit harder than women by the ongoing unemployment crisis?

1. Consider the different intelligence distributions of men and women.

Men and women have very similar mean intelligence, but men tend to have greater variance. One consequence of this difference is that there are more very smart and very dumb men, whereas more women are clustered near the mean.

2. As technology continues to improve, more and more workers will be displaced by automated systems. Manufacturing won't be the only sector affected: how many tax preparation jobs have been eliminated by TurboTax? Sales jobs by Amazon?

Using intelligence as a proxy for a person's general capability to contribute to the economy, we would expect that as technology improves the people who will be affected first will be those who are working jobs that require the least capability. Let's call the red line the displacement line: it represents the minimum amount of capability a person must have in order to be able to do a job that cannot be done by an automated system.

Historically the red line has been far to the left: for most of human history even a very unintelligent person has been able to contribute meaningfully to the economy. That is no longer true.

3. Since the red displacement line has not yet reached the mean level of human intelligence, we would expect that more men than women will have been displaced from their jobs by advancing technology. This group of men is represented by the gray cloud I've drawn on the graphic below. The excess of men in this group can be seen as the vertical space between the blue line and the pink line.

As the red displacement line marches to the right with the advance of technology, more and more people will be displaced from the workforce and will be functionally unable to contribute meaningfully to the economy.


4. Men are disproportionally affected now, but when automated systems can displace people with average intelligence or greater it will be women who will face disproportionate pressure.

5. Even if technology advances at a linear rate, the number of people displaced from the workforce will increase faster than linearly until automated systems surpass the capabilities of the average human.

6. If Singularity proponents are right, we might be extremely fortunate to live in the small window of history that has both advanced technology and such poor automated systems that most humans can make a contribution to the world. For most of the past the red line has been far to the left, and for most of the future the red line will be far to the right.

Carlina White was kidnapped as a 9-day-old infant and solved the case herself 23 years later.

On Aug. 4, 1987, worried parents Joy White and Carl Tyson took their feverish baby daughter to Harlem Hospital's emergency room. The visit turned into horror when little Carlina, 9 days old, was kidnapped.

The family says a mystery woman who had been hanging around the hospital for weeks disguised as a nurse was responsible for the kidnapping.

A $10,000 reward was offered for the safe return of the baby girl, but years passed without her return. The parents never gave up hope. They took the money won in a lawsuit from the city and established a trust fund for their daughter in the event of her return.

Carlina was taken to Bridgeport, Conn., and, later, Atlanta where she was given a new name, Nejdra Nance, and was raised by a new family, unaware for 23 years that her biological family was actually in New York City.

"Nejdra Nance was very suspicious of who she was and what family raised her," Lt. Christopher Zimmerman of the New York Police Department said. "There was no paperwork to follow her such as a birth certificate or social security card. In her late teens she became suspicious of who she was."

I can't even imagine the emotional journey that must have been for Miss White. Nice work.

Just go read Gateway Pundit's summary of Obama's history of support for killing babies who survive "botched" abortions.

Here's a video from a few years ago created to pressure then-Senator Obama on the issue.

Here's audio from 2002 in which Obama explains that it would create too much hassle for doctors to legally require them to care for babies who survive abortions.

Obama voted four times against a legal requirement that doctors be required to care for newborns who survive abortions. That means he's just fine with with the actions of Dr. Kermit Gosnel who is charged with delivering seven babies alive and then murdering them with scissors.

In a typical late-term abortion, the fetus is dismembered in the uterus and then removed in pieces. That is more common than the procedure opponents call "partial-birth abortion," in which the fetus is partially extracted before being destroyed. Prosecutors said Gosnell instead delivered many of the babies alive.

He "induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord," District Attorney Seth Williams said. Gosnell referred to it as "snipping," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors estimated Gosnell ended hundreds of pregnancies by cutting the spinal cords, but they said they couldn't prosecute more cases because he destroyed files.

"These killings became so routine that no one could put an exact number on them," the grand jury report said. "They were considered 'standard procedure."'

All acceptable to Barack Obama.

Glenn Greenwald's frustration at Obama's vindication of Bush's approach to the War on Terror is delicious.

Conservatives would love to bash Obama for being weak on Terrorism so that, in the event of another attack, they can blame him (and Cheney, in last night's interview, left open that possibility by suggesting Obama may suffer from unknown failures). If it were at all possible, they'd be out accusing him of abandoning critical programs that Keep us Safe; that's what they do best. But they cannot with a straight face claim that Obama has abandoned their core approach, so they do the only thing they can do: acknowledge that he has continued and strengthened it and point out that it proves they were right -- and he was wrong -- all along. If Obama has indeed changed his mind over the last two years as a result of all the Secret Scary Things he's seen as President, then I genuinely believe that he and the Democratic Party owe a heartfelt, public apology to Bush, Cheney and the GOP for all the harsh insults they spewed about them for years based on policies that they are now themselves aggressively continuing.

Obama has won the War on Terror debate -- for the American Right. And as Dick Cheney's interview last night demonstrates, they're every bit as appreciative as they should be.

Except that we're going to vote Obama out.

So forget about the loss of freedom and the increased taxes and spending spearheaded by Obamacare: how many people will Obamacare supposedly help?

It’s been like giving a party to which no one comes. The Medicare program chief actuary predicted last spring that 375,000 would sign up for the new risk pool insurance in 2010. But by the end of November, only 8,000 had done so. As Amy Goldstein reports in The Washington Post, this includes 75 in Virginia, 80 in New Hampshire, 97 in Maryland and a whopping 700 in North Carolina.

While a lot of people are surprised by these numbers, I am not. Here is why. Don’t you think it is a bit odd for the White House to send out an appeal to victims so they can identify themselves? That’s not normally how the political system works.

The more usual scenario is: victims unite and form interest groups; they lobby Congress, write letters, testify, etc; and eventually the pressure become so great that Congress legislates.

When have you ever heard of that entire process in reverse? When has Congress ever before decided it wants to do something and then conducted a nationwide search to find people who will benefit?

The reasons for the reversal is that this whole problem has been completely hyped and exaggerated from the get go. In this country we have made it increasingly easy for people to get health insurance after they get sick.

But Obamacare must turn out to be really cheap since so few people are using it, right? Right?

Even though they have less than 1/40th of the expected enrollment, the plans are already running out of the money.


(HT: Megan McArdle.)

(HT: Grim Reviews.)

And here's a review.

I know what I'm doing next weekend!

(HT: NC.)

It's hard for me to think of something more disgusting than a TV show about the joys of abortion. I think this is slightly worse than if the Nazis had made "Survivor: Auschwitz".

In July of this year, leftist Feminists were openly, and proudly, rooting for an abortion to be portrayed on prime-time television. And in April of this year, leftist Feminists like Jessica Valenti of Feministing were grossly bemoaning the fact that Mtv’s show, 16 and Pregnant, did not portray any teenage girls having abortions. They wanted sixteen year old girls to have abortions. On television. Way to be pro-woman and For The Children ™, faux feminists! By For The Children, I of course mean totally not at all for the children – unless they can be used and exploited to further an agenda, natch. You see, it’s never actually about women nor children to them; it’s always about an agenda and an ideology that treats motherhood as a yoke around a woman’s neck. Motherhood is so old school and oppressive and stuff! What with those pesky children wanting to be nurtured and loved, while providing a joy that fills one’s heart so full that it cannot be adequately put into words. Well, and wanting to, you know, live. Who do they think they are?

On Tuesday night, they got their wish. Mtv ran a special called “No Easy Decision”, in which Markai, a girl who had previously appeared on 16 and Pregnant, learned that she was pregnant again.

And she terminated the pregnancy baby’s life.

These poor girls and their babies were sacrificed for use as political pawns. So-called "feminists" should be ashamed and disgusted by the results of their decades of activism.

Tyler Cowen asks if we should subsidize or tax research into time travel. Here's my favorite comment, by "dirk":

If time-travel were possible and humans discover how to do it, the odds are greater that it has already been discovered, so to speak, in the future than that we'd discover it in the near-term present, regardless of subsidies. Therefore, the time-travelers are already here if they are going to ever be here. So instead of subsidies we should offer a huge prize for a time-traveler to tell us how it works. Even if some *future* time-traveler isn't in the present now to hear about the prize directly, if we make the prize big enough it will be discovered in the historical record and someone will claim it.

The question then is: what do you get the time-traveler who has everything? Perhaps Obama should hold a press conference and say: "Time-travelers, tell me what you want." Imagine how stupid other countries will feel if that works!

So... what could we use to temp a time traveling?

I'm definitely no fan of Robert Gibbs, but I completely agree with President Obama's statement that Gibbs has been working for "relatively modest pay".

In bidding a sort-of farewell to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, he noted the "relatively modest pay" for which Gibbs has labored.

In fact, he earns $172,200 in a nation where the average family income hovers around $55,000, unemployment is high, record foreclosures persist and wages for most folks are at best stagnant.

I believe that we need to pay our top government officials -- the President, his Cabinet, the Supreme Court, Senators, and Congressmen -- vastly more than we do. At least ten times more. Why?

I've known elected officials, who had significant impact on laws and regulations touching the private sector, who bristled at the sums earned by the CEOs who lobbied them and whose firms they impacted, sometimes helped enormously. One congressional titan even pointed with blatant envy to the seven-figure salaries of network television anchors who cozzied up to him.

These officials have more power than any CEO, have jobs as difficult as those of any corporate executive, but aren't paid accordingly. So what do they do? They leverage the power of their office to make money. It's called corruption, and it is motivated by greed and envy. Sure, it would be nice to have politicians who are honest, trustworthy, and motivated by the public good... uh, right. In the meantime, maybe we should consider paying them salaries that are high enough that corruption isn't so tempting.

Edward Castronova has a great piece about how the growth of virtual experiences might be causing our real world recession. I think he's definitely on the right track. The only thing I'll add is that the main advantage of the virtual world is the almost-zero marginal cost of production for virtual goods.

Let’s construe the notion of “virtual economy” quite broadly: If you receive an experience by yourself through a machine that runs on digital technology, without doing or buying anything physical (other than press a few buttons), it’s virtual. To download a song and listen to it on your iPod is virtual; to go to a concert is real, to buy a CD and play it is real, to play your own instrument is real. The difference I want to highlight is in the physical nature of the economic transaction. The virtual transaction does not require the movement or alteration of anything physical. Not even physical money changes hands. The real transaction involves material being created, moved, consumed, all by human hands.

Using these concepts, there’s some evidence that an exodus from the real to the virtual is not only already underway (as I argued in my second book) but that’s it’s gotten big enough to affect our sense of a whether the real economy is healthy or not.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

I've long been in favor of the death penalty for murderers, and that isn't changing. If a person commits murder, justice may often be best served by executing that person.

What is changing is my confidence in the ability of our government to accurately determine guilt and innocence. I don't trust our government in general. Like a negative King Midas, everything the government touches turns into a self-interested bureaucratic nightmare. I don't want the government running our economy, our sex lives, our schools, our media, or our gun stores. I believe our government (federal and state) should do as little as possible while effectively protecting our God-given liberty.

However, the government is the best known institution for punishing violent criminals and it needs to be the central actor in the administration of justice. There is no real substitute for government action when it comes to punishing violent criminals, so we're stuck with its imperfect behavior which is often tainted by laziness, corruption, and politics. Prosecutors, police, and judges are often good people who try to do the best they can... but not sometimes they aren't, and it's often very hard to tell. Putting an innocent person in prison is bad enough, but at least you can release the person later if you discover that you've made a mistake. But dead is dead. I have no doubt that our justice system has executed innocent people.

Consider the case of Anthony Porter. He was 48 hours from being executed when he was granted a stay, and he was later exonerated. It is important to note in this case that his stay of execution was not granted because there was any doubt about his guilt.

In 1995 Porter was tested to have an IQ of 51, meaning that he may have been moderately retarded. A new appeal was filed on the grounds that Porter was incapable of understanding his punishment. Forty-eight hours before he was scheduled to be executed in 1998, another stay was granted.

While this appeal was pending, a man named Alstory Simon confessed to the crime of which Porter had been convicted. This man was not in prison, did not know Porter, and had no incentive to confess falsely.

On January 29, 1999, Inez Jackson, the estranged wife of Alstory Simon, came forward and said that she had been with Simon when he killed Hilliard in retaliation for "skimming money from drug deals." She also confirmed that she had never met or seen Porter. Her nephew, whose apartment Simon fled to after the shooting, came forward to corroborate her story. Four days later, on February 3, Simon himself confessed to the crime on videotape. Protess and the students came forward with the information. Two days later, Porter was released from prison, and the charges against him were dropped the next month. Simon was formally charged with the murders. In September of 1999, Alstory Simon pleaded guilty to two counts of second degree murder and was sentenced to 37½ years in prison.

Anthony Porter would have been executed if he hadn't been granted a stay because of his mental retardation. No one in the legal system doubted his guilt. The system failed. I doubt Porter's situation was unique. With apologies to the majority of police, prosecutors, and judges who do good work, I am no longer confident that our justice system as a whole should be entrusted with the power to put people to death.

"Light bulbs" are out; "heat balls" are in.

You gotta hand it to German businessman Siegfried Rotthaeuser, who came up with a brilliant run around the European Union ban on conventional incandescent light bulbs — he rebranded them as "Heat Balls" and is importing them for sale as a "small heating device."

Rotthaeuser's website is in German, but Google does a passable job of translation. First, he's clear that the Heat Ball isn't for lighting, stating (in German, the following is translated) "A HEAT BALL ® is not a lamp, but it fits in the same version!"

Further down: "The use of Heat Balls avoids the lack of heat. The intended use of heat Balls is the heating."

Someone will make a fortune selling "heat balls" in California, and by 2012 they'll take over America!

(HT: Rand Simberg and Paul Hsieh.)

Sounds like TurboTax is more competent than the IRS.

The IRS said that it needs until mid- to late-February to reprogram its processing systems because Congress acted so late this year cleaning up the tax code. The bill, which includes deductions for state and local sales taxes, college tuition and teacher expenses, wasn't signed into law until Dec. 17. ...

Though itemizers can work on their tax returns before the IRS is ready to accept them, the government said people should not send them in before it is ready to process the returns.

The IRS hasn't yet said exactly what day it will be able to begin processing the impacted tax returns, but it expects to announce that date "in the near future."

Meanwhile, TurboTax said its customers can e-file with the company as early as Jan. 6, and it will hold onto the filings until the IRS is ready to process them.

Er, is it "Happy New Year 2010" or "2011"? Well whatever.

I'm actually not a a big fan of new years. It's always very melancholy for me, and it marks the end of my favorite season: Halloween through New Years.

So I guess the take-away is: time to get back to work. Yay!

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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