Thursday, February 22, 2007

F'ed Up Fridays - XII

I don't like coins period, so I don't particularly care what it looks like. Do you?

I gotta say, without him, DVR would be significantly less convenient.

Another banner day for NASA.

Yes, well, being an idiot and having people constantly point it out in public is bound to have an affect.

I have a close friend who deals with stress through hair-apy, and recently considered shaving her head. Unlike some people, however, she listened to her stylist and allowed herself to be talked out of the Sinead look. Of course, she also probably couldn't have turned a profit by going further.

Extra limbs sound like they could be a result of inbreeding; Nicky Janaway sounds like he almost certainly is.

Wait a minute. If they'd pulled over, it would have been legal? Of course, that may still have stopped traffic.

Get this: "Ratlam's superintendent of police, Satish Saxena said it was not immediately clear whether the hospital was disposing of bones properly." Um, it seems immediately clear to me. Am I crazy?

Yet another new reason why I prefer to stay the hell away from cats.

Talk about f'ed up cells.

Never forget the fastest way to become a millionaire.

Well sure, it's got to be bettter than playing Operation.

A smack upside the head should do it.

Twisted, but come on—is 122 attacks and 20 murders really THAT significant a statistic? And if you click through to the actual report, you'll see that the number was higher in 2004 and almost 2.5 times higher in 1999. There is no evidence of a trend of any kind, particularly not a rising one. This is stupid alarmism because it makes for a scary headline. And that's even more F'ed Up.

Thankfully, in space, no one can hear Richard Branson scream.

The tighter you squeeze your fist, the more they will slip through your fingers. Seriously, though, is anyone besides me surprised the RIAA hasn't been slammed by hackers in the past couple of years?

Why do I get the feeling she made this up?

Note to self: if you think you hear a rape, don't reach for your sword.

And that's probably about the most we should expect them to find.

This one speaks for itself: "One of the tourists -- a retired U.S. serviceman whom officials estimated was in his 70s -- allegedly put Warner Segura in a headlock and broke his clavicle..."

Read the first paragraph and tell me if it doesn't freak you out a little bit.

You know all of those pictures of 14 year-olds in Hamas colors carrying AK-47s around? Guess who can get into the U.S. with no problem. Better yet, if they're 16-18 and traveling with "religious groups," all they need is a birth certificate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I must have a fever

While it doesn't do much to mitigate his other radical stands, there is apparently at least one reason to find Al Gore tolerable.

UPDATE [2/20/2007 - 19:07]: Link was broken, now fixed.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Oh Crap.

I hadn't even thought of this (via Instapundit):

If Hillary Rodham Clinton wins the presidency, some top Democrats would like to see her husband, former President Bill Clinton, appointed to serve out Hillary’s unexpired Senate term.
Isn't that one of the seven signs of the apocalpyse? From what I understand about the issue, it's a little hazy—but I think it's a definite possibility.

In all seriousness, I think Instapundit's question, "does a "twofer" argument help or hurt Hillary?" is the right one. For me, it definitely hurts her (as if that were possible). I am quite concerned about having spouses serve as President and Senator at the same time. Setting aside the potential divided loyalties that could arise (would a President Hillary be able to make the right decision for the country if it also means embarassing a certain junior Senator from New York?), the question raises serious issues for the separation of powers.

Our Constitution at its heart rests on divisions between the three branches of government (and subordinately between the two houses of Congress). While it is not rational to say that having a married couple serve in two branches at once eliminates the division between the two, I certainly have issues with the idea.

Anyone else have thoughts?

Friday, February 16, 2007

F'ed Up Fridays - XI

How could they grant her bail? Isn't she something of a flight risk? (Submitted by Tanstaafl)

Only half??

Floating university costs with market forces? Makes sense to me—but the university may come to regret it.

I know fantasy football can be fun, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Loose websites sink... um, what's a modern equivalent that rhymes with "ships"? And what did Google negotiate for in return?

As Glenn Reynolds might say, I blame Ashkroft and Amerika.

So, apparently these people have not seen Minority Report. And they haven't talked to these people, either.

Well, they found a way to dodge taxes by paying rent to themselves—now if they can only find a way to sue themselves, maybe the 9th Circuit will be forced to decide something in their favor. (Submitted by Tanstaafl)

Well then, I went to college with a couple of stoners who can see like a hawk. (Submitted by Tanstaafl)

Um. And you get down, how? You know, if the theoretical building becomes unsafe?

It's about time the sealife started pulling its own weight. (Submitted by "Me")

This is news?

Wouldn't you expect that they'd have just lied about it?

Personally, I'm okay with blacklisting Canada just on principle—but this will work just as well.

And then they will rise up and turn us into their batteries.

I agree with the first sentence in the third paragraph. Amazing.

Unfortunately, I don't think the people who fail to change the default password on their routers are likely to visit CNET, either.

In other words, people are stupid approximately 2/3 of the time. With the exception of the Superbowl, I haven't seen a television ad in months.

Um, duh. That's how capitalism works. Now if only the billing operated on the same principles...

And planes will fall out of the sky. What do you want to bet no one even notices the error? Just in case, maybe I'll head to Natick.

Special thanks to those who submitted this week. As always, feel free to email me your F'ed Up news items.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Down with DRM

As the movement against DRM on digital music continues to gain momentum, there is a decent discussion from a couple of days ago in the comments on Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution. One interesting concept in his post: "DRM is a tax on digital consumers, compared to the low de facto restrictions put on CD buyers."
Also, I find it interesting to note that none of the commenters argue that DRM is GOOD for the record companies. The debate centers around just how BAD it really is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lies, Damn Lies, and (climate) Statistics

Arnold Kling has this piece on TCS today. My favorite line is, "Climate data looks to me suspiciously like macroeconomic data. The true information content probably is not sufficient to produce a reliable model for forecasting." Having worked, both in school and professionally, with large data sets and economic models, I have always felt that climatologists either exaggerate or misunderstand the predictive value of their models. One of the concepts that was drilled into me in school is that even the best statistical models are only explanative, not predictive. In plain English, that means, they help describe how different variables were related in the past, but they have very limited ability to tell us how complex systems will interact in the future.

However, like Mayor Giuliani, I think that some of the ideas being kicked around to prevent the spectre of global warming are good for other reasons.

That's why I was glad yesterday when I noticed this story on Instapundit. Somehow it seemed like a strangely familiar idea.

Finally, as always, it is nice to see new additions to Professor Mankiw's Pigou Club.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Behavioral Modification

This article helps reaffirm the truth behind a rule one of my old bosses used to repeat on a regular basis: "Tell me how I'm measured and I'll tell you how I'll behave."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Crimson Pansies

Among the Ivy League schools, Yalies (like myself) take a lot of crap about going to school in New Haven. This is largely predicated on the New Haven of the past (late 80s, early 90s), which was a significantly more dangerous place.

But it really is a school in the middle of a city. The immediately surrounding areas have been cleaned up significantly (largely through the efforts of the University), but serious poverty is still only a few blocks away—and homelessness and crime often trickle their way onto campus.

It's a joke to other Ivy Leaguers that I lived off-campus my junior year and was about a block away from a shoot-out between cops and robbers. Tanstaafl, who went to high school in New Haven, was once notoriously asked "Did you spend the whole time ducking bullets?" when he arrived on the West Coast campus of his alma mater. But maybe that does Yalies some good?

From the Harvard Crimson comes a harrowing tale of fear and woe:

A few weeks ago, I witnessed a bizarre scene. As I crossed the Yard on my way to Lamont Library, I saw a dog stalking a squirrel while its owner stood close by. The dog crept forward stealthily, guided by an instinct that years of leashes and dog food could never completely suppress. Meanwhile, a crowd of bystanders gathered, titillated, perhaps, by the prospect of bloodshed, but at the same time confident that the dog would not succeed. Minutes passed. And then, with a rapidity and ferocity that shocked the onlookers, the dog pounced, caught the squirrel by its bushy tail, and proceeded to tear the helpless rodent to pieces. We gasped, not as much from horror as from disbelief. This was not supposed to happen.

Neither were the two armed robberies that recently took place on Harvard’s premises.

Much like dead squirrels, the idea of Harvard students being threatened with knives and umbrellas in the shadow of Widener Library is quite unsettling.
Heck, I'm pretty sure some Yalies hunt squirrels, not just their dogs—but that's besides the point.

Crime is not a constant on the Yale campus, but it is a reality. Yalies do not live in fear of it, but they act appropriately. For example, girls do not walk home alone late at night; they know better.

I don't have any evidence to suggest that Yale alumns approach the world more realistically than, say, Harvard students—but I do think that it's important to remember that not all education comes from classroom experience. Living with crime is part of the real world, and all too many college students are insulated from this reality.

How sad is it that Mr. Herz-Roiphe is so shocked that dogs eat squirrels and that thieves will target seemingly rich college students?

(We'll ignore the hilarity that an umbrella is considered by Harvard students to be a weapon used in armed robbery.)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What is wrong with the world?

New York State, which includes the city in which I work every day, is apparently considering legislation to ban listening to an iPod while crossing the street. Do it, and you may face a $100 fine:

New York State Sen. Carl Kruger says three pedestrians in his Brooklyn district have been killed since September upon stepping into traffic while distracted by an electronic device. In one case bystanders screamed "watch out" to no avail.

Kruger says he will introduce legislation on Wednesday to ban the use of gadgets such as Blackberry devices and video games while crossing the street.
He also says "Government has an obligation to protect its citizenry." That's true, but not from themselves.

Somebody is listening to an iPod and doesn't hear a car coming? He deserves to get hit. I feel worse for the poor sucker he stepped out in front of. In fact, I'll propose my own law: if you're listening to an iPod and get killed by a car, your estate has to pay to have the dents buffed out of said car.

This is a simple issue in my mind: people need to be held responsible for their own actions, especially the stupid ones.

And while I'm on the subject, McDonald's Chicken McNuggets suck now that they took out the trans-fats. What is wrong with New York? Talk about a nanny state.

Other Coverage
Suitably Flip
The Man (special thanks for the image)

A Positive Step on DRM?

Yesterday Steve Jobs urged the major record labels to remove the DRM "protections" from music sold online:

Jobs said there appeared to be no benefit to the record companies to continue to sell more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs while selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system.
I suggested something similar back in December, so I'm glad to see Mr. Jobs get on board. I just hope the RIAA doesn't misinterpret what he said and put DRM on the 90% of music they sell on CD.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hedge Fund Approach to Climate Change

I meant to link to this article last week when I saw it. I think this is one of the best approaches I've seen to the climate change debate. Mr. DeLong does not argue that he knows the science or the ultimate answers to the issue or questions of the existance, causes or remedies of climate change. Instead, his point is that no one REALLY knows what the answers are, and that the drum-beat of 100% certainty that we get from the MSM opens the door to make some money. What I like about his approach is that it calls for the humility of recognizing what we don't know instead of the arrogant posturing that usually characterizes this particular debate. I especially like this paragraph:

In this world, the worst sin is assuming something has a 100% probability when it may well have considerably less, or assuming it has zero probability when it actually has a real shot. "They forgot the tail of the risk," is a term of contempt, bringing to mind bygone firms gone bust, such as Long Term Capital Management.
Read the whole article. And, if anyone has any suggestions of some mispriced assets from this debate or any other, put them in a comment here, and let's see if we can make some smart investments.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nope, no bias here

I just heard George Stephanopolous on This Week say, "You have to feel bad for the guy [Biden]. He's definitely not a racist, but this fed into the perception that a lot of Democrats have, he shoots from the lip."

Setting aside the really bad pun on "shoot from the hip," what the hell?

When Trent Lott (note, I am no fan of his, either) said that the world would be better off if Strom Thurmond had become president, he clearly meant that Thurmond was a good man and would have made a good leader. But the press chose to make it "clear" that he meant it would have been better if the Segregationalist Party had won the presidency, and he was drummed out of his leadership role.

But Biden, who makes an equally offensive (and equally innocuous) slip of the tongue deserves our pathos?

Sounds fair.

[Note (2/5/2007 - 12:39): As I apparently had a stroke and initially wrote "Tom Delay" instead of "Trent Lott" I have corrected the above appropriately.]

Friday, February 02, 2007

IATF RFC Response

On Tech Central Station yesterday, Arnold Kling began the process of laying out principals that guide "contemporary libertarian conservatives." Since I consider myself a "small l" libertarian, I am taking this opportunity to respond to his RFC and hopefully help refine the IATF principal list:

Economic Principals
I'm surprised not to see some mention of the invisible hand of the market and a more explicit acknowledgement that people acting in their own self-interests can simultaneously be working toward the common good. I would also advocate a principal of limiting government's economic involvement to solving externalities and one of using market-driven policies or a respect for market forces to achieve public interest goals.

Ethical Principals
I am struggling with item #5. I am not sure I am comfortable with the government providing incentives for a particular form of life-style or family structure. I understand Professor Kling is only saying that the government should not incentivise people against family, but I worry that's a slippery slope. Government should be enacting policies that allow people to live as they see fit. [Update: Or, even better, the government should be repealing existing policies that limit or constrain how people live.] I would rather see this principal advocate protection for children who are not yet mature enough or capable of caring for themselves. I might mention them importance of strong education but I would limit any attempts to governmentally influence how parents' raise their children.

In item #6, I would broaden "Ten Commandments and Biblical scripture" to include something along the lines of "the moral teachings of the world's great religions."

I would add this principal: "We believe that morality and ethics should primarily be built upon the simple foundational premise that 'my right to swing my fist stops at the tip of your nose.'"

I like item #7.

International Principals
I think the international principals are fairly strong as they are. I would consider adding "We view diplomacy not as a goal, but as a tool to further other goals, including national security and the free exchange of goods, services, and ideas." I might also add (but I'm less concerned with this one), "We are unwilling to relinquish our individual liberties and freedoms to the will of foreign leaders who we have not elected to represent us. We do not feel embarassed or ashamed when citizens and leaders of other nations criticize our beliefs, ideas, or way of life. Instead we recognize their desire to live differently and request that they respect ours."

All in all, I think this is an interesting set of principals, and I am looking forward to seeing it develop and strengthen as Professor Kling leverages the internet's marketplace of ideas to refine the list.

Sure, but now what?

Charles Krauthammer has a fairly insightful column in the Washington Post assessing the current situation in Iraq:

America comes and liberates them from the tyrant who kept everyone living in fear, and the ancient animosities and more recent resentments begin to play themselves out to deadly effect. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, the overwhelming majority of them killed by Sunni insurgents, Baathist dead-enders and their al-Qaeda allies who carry on the Saddamist pogroms.
He's right that it's not our fault that they want to kill each other, but he doesn't comment on whether he felt this was predictable, and unfortunately he doesn't make any suggestions for what to do next.

F'ed Up Fridays - X

"IPCC report: By 2100 the sea level will rise anywhere between 5 and 23 inches," says this article. "If you were a roofer and you built a roof and it was two feet off, you'd still be doing time," says Lewis Black. Okay, okay, that's a rough paraphrasing of what he said—but really, it seems to me like five inches isn't going to do that much damage, but 23 would. So which is it? Oh, that's right, you have no freaking clue. So why are we freaking out about it?

"Oh my God, they killed Barbaro."
"You bastards!"
Seriously, though, doesn't all that effort to fix his leg seem like a bit of a waste now?

Maybe I shouldn't be so afraid of killer robots. After all, if this is any indication, they'll go blind regularly.

So can we blame Purell for the Kevin Federlines of the world?

Want to be a spaceman? Better overthrow the government, first.

I haven't yet seen An Inconvenient Truth, so that last fact was news to me. Still, it provides yet another reason for me to avoid Macs.

Sounds appropriate.

I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no way that a marijuana derivative will suppress hunger. Haven't these scientists ever heard of the munchies?

Ray guns make sense, but now we're going to take people out by causing them to slip and fall?

This is just disgusting. Talk about conspicuous consumption.

Can you really fault the guy for mistaking Charles for Frankenstein?

If they're going to stop selling them when current stock runs out, then it won't happen for a while. I mean, seriously, is anyone still buying them?

Robert is creative, Michelle is an idiot.

Or, you know, you could hire an extra gym teacher. Maybe there's a reason West Virginia ranks 37th out of 50?


Lesson learned: don't try to host a Superbowl party if you have a really big TV—particularly if you a non-profit organization.

I don't even like reading text messages that people send to me, why would I want to read this?

And when the internet wakes up, it can play you like a fiddle.

This is strangely beautiful and yet utterly, utterly twisted at the same time.

Special thanks to those who submitted this week. As always, feel free to email me your F'ed Up news items.