Thursday, October 20, 2005

Next topic - evolution and cellular automata!

This is why I love blogs and the Internet in general. TallDave on Dean Esmay's blog put up this post about politics and fractals but I just had to bring in evolution:
Perhaps the response to those who say that random mutation cannot be powerful enough to explain evolution lies in the effect those mutations have on the progress of the cellular automata patterns so thoroughly described by Wolfram. A mutation in just one gene at just the right time could cause a major change in the phenotype. The unexplained "leaps" and "gaps" cited by anti-evolutionists - and Stephen Jay Gould! - may be part and parcel of this mechanism. The only kicker may be that the whole process is so difficult to understand and predict that we may be at the mercy of supercomputers more complex than human brains to get a handle on what's really going on.
I sent the following email to Richard Cohen of the Washington Post in comment on this post.
Dear Mr. Cohen,

I've always thought it would be instructive to ask a firmly pro-choice woman whether she would favor a woman's right to abortion if the baby in question was being carried by another woman. That is, if a surrogate mother had been implanted with another woman's fertilized egg, does the egg's owner still retain any rights to the disposition of the fetus? Or is it entirely up to the birth-mother? What if the two mothers disagreed? Whose opinion should govern? The question would be even more pointed if a completely in vitro birth were possible. This question is triggered by the observation that abortions are so often triggered not by health concerns or unwillingness to go through the process of giving birth, but by the inconvenience of having to bring a child up. I suspect that the cry of "A woman has the right to control her body" is just a smokescreen for that "right to convenience" that has doomed so many potential children.
As a professedly "pro-choice" man, would you be willing to say that the state could intervene, or that simple morality would dictate the necessity to keep a fetus on the road to life if the genetic mother's body were not at risk?

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida
Followup to yesterday's "kabuki" comment to Jane Galt's post:
Voting is absurd. Let's just let everybody, including illegals and children and animals, vote as often as they want. Could we really wind up with a less reasonable system? The problem, though, is not that voting is absurd, but that voting determines far too much. A rational polity would restrict voting to the smallest sphere consistent with keeping people from rioting in the streets. All other issues would be decided by market forces.
I may have taken the agent provocateur theme a bit too far. Don't want to be banned. But really. I wish someone could explain to me exactly how voting makes any sense. It's a sacred mystery, I guess.
Riposte to further comments stemming from yesterday's Samizdata comment on this post:
Goodness. Maybe I was being sarcastic? But certainly I've heard that European birth rates are way down. Doesn't that apply to the UK as well? And also I realize the interdependency of economies. But ever since 1812 we've realized here in Jesusland the necessity for destroying the British economy in order to safeguard US prosperity from the ravages of the King's Navy. And you guys are doing the job for us!
Of course, if your birth rates are extremely low, the whole paternity leave issue is yet another pointless - and low-cost - exercise in saying the popular thing.
I seem to have run into some flak:
As an American worker, I hail the wisdom of the almighty British state. Anything that makes British industry less competitive can only help America's prosperity.

Robert I may not be an economist but even I realise that if we Englanders are worse off the whole world will end up being worse off, we can buy less of your goods.

Posted by steved at October 19, 2005 09:08 PM

I'm equally mystified as to why Robert Speirs thinks that "us folks" had given up on child rearing.

Could he explain?Posted by HJHJ at October 19, 2005 09:35 PM
Robert Speirs, your grasp of economics is rather tenuous as your remarks strongly suggest you have fallen prey to the notorious Fixed Quantity of Wealth fallacy.

Britain's economy being weaker does not therefore mean the US economy will become stronger and seeing as how Britain is one of the larger trading partners of the US, the opposite result is more likely: less British people buying things (an inevitable consequence of a weakening economy) means they buy less things from the USA and sell less to the USA of the things the UK previously had a comparative advantage in, increasing prices to US consumers.

Posted by Perry de Havilland at October 19, 2005 11:33 PM
From Samizdata, I found a dietblog called The Singleton Diet. So I had to put in my two cents about dieting:
Read this book: “Overcoming Overeating”. Diets don’t work. Exercise can be fatal. Graze, don’t eat meals. Throw away your scale and tape measure and get a full-length mirror. That’s just a start. You can be as thin as you want but if you still wish you were eating, it’s no good. Don’t ever let yourself get legitimately hungry. And this nonsense about “good food” and “junk” is delusion. Maybe the first step is to ask, “Why do I need to weigh less again?”
How's it going, you may ask. I don't know. I feel pretty good and am not worried about how much I eat, except for not letting myself get "stomach hungry". My clothes still fit and I can walk every day. And I love not having to think about dieting. For the last twenty years or more every day I have obsessed about whether I'm eating the right stuff and exercising enough. No more.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Samizdata post on new UK government rules allowing men to take off three months for paternity leave - and get paid for it! - stimulated this response:
As an American worker, I hail the wisdom of the almighty British state. Anything that makes British industry less competitive can only help America's prosperity. On the other hand, scratch that. The British economy is so small a threat it really doesn't matter. And at least the pub owners will profit. Nobody really thinks the men are going to stay home with the crumb-crunchers, do they? By the way, I thought you folks had given up on child-rearing.
Jane Galt's ruminations on the voting ID controversy in Georgia give me the opportunity to pontificate on the electoral system:
I vote for kabuki. When you realize that illiterates and the profoundly ignorant are just as entitled to vote as people who actually know something about the political system, how can such a travesty be anything but a group hug? Sure the purpose of the system may be to elect someone, but it's how it's run that matters to whether the best candidate wins.
A sarcastic mini-rant emerges from my frustrated mind at the prospect of Megan McArdle losing focus on the war in Iraq:
Yes, of course, we should re-install Saddam as President and it would only be fair that we give him the names of any Iraqi who collaborated with us. That's the only way to save Iraq now that Bushitler has messed it up so badly. Unless someone has a better idea?

Just in case anyone took me seriously, I followed up with:
My point is: we can't go back. We must support the best civil polity we can come up with in Iraq. None of the critics seem to have a better way of doing that than what Bush is doing right now.

As to domestic spending, does anyone really think that a Democratic president with a Republican congress would spend LESS than a Republican president with the same congress? How could that happen? The Democrat would move heaven and earth to raise taxes. And wouldn't the election of a Democratic president be accompanied by the election of more Congressional Democrats anyway?
An Ann Althouse post about hurricanes and global warming elicited this thought, on record-citing behavior which I've noticed before:
Interesting. "Warmest September ever" er- since record keeping began. Doesn't that mean that August was NOT the warmest August ever? You can be sure that if August had been a record, that fact would have been mentioned: WARMEST AUGUST-SEPTEMBER EVER!!!!
In fact, doesn't that mean that August was below average? If it had been above average, the two-month period would probably have been a record, no? Funny I didn't see that reported anywhere.
Green's post on Vodkapundit about the Iraqi constitution and slavery stimulated me to comment on something I'd been thinking about a lot lately.
Maybe a little OT:
How many people realize that slavery in the US wasn't based on race? If this were so, there would not have been any free blacks before Emancipation. You'll not find any laws that state "Africans are slaves because of their race". Article 1 of the US Constitution does not mention race, only distinguishes between "free" persons, "those bound to service for a term of years" and "all other" persons. Even the "Indians not taxed" provision makes clear that Indians' status was not based on their race, but on their exemption from paying taxes. Slavery was based on property rights. Indentured slavery, which involved many whites, was based on contractual promise.

How many Americans believe that black people were enslaved because they were black? How many blacks? Of course, the reasons behind the (temporary) acceptance of slavery are complex. But it boils down to the fact that black Africans could not protect and provide for their own surplus population and Europeans took advantage of that fact. And the nature of the property system as it was accepted all over the world at the time made slavery acceptable to parts of the US population until 1865. Another point: would slavery have lasted as long as it did if the Constitution had refused to define men as property under any circumstances? Since importation of African slaves ended just about as the Constitution was being written, would it have made any difference?
Freedom from government jobs
Freedom and Whisky, one of my favorite blogs, had this post about the descent of Scotland into the abyss of socialism:
So while 39% of Lothian's current economic activity is in the state sector, only 38% of the jobs being advertised are not with the government. The percentage of advertised private vacancies is probably even less when we consider all those so-called charity jobs.
Apparently Margaret Thatcher wasn't able to hold off the forces of chaos forever. Well, we didn't really expect all that North Sea oil money to go to the benefit of those who put capital at risk to find and develop it, did we? I guess all the ambitious Scots got out. If Freedom and Whisky is any guide, though, some Scots still think the world is for winning, not whining. Ironically, my father came from Scotland in the Twenties and ended up working for the US government! But he was an officer in the Air Force, providing the one service that a state should arguably be engaged in.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I had to get in a crack about Reagan's Republican Senate majority on Captain's Quarters, in response to some of the commenters here:

Sure, Reagan had 53 or 54 Republican Senators for six of his eight years, although the House, which spends the money, was pretty heavily Democratic. That just shows how useless Republican Senators can be. A Republican President has to have at least 60 Senators on his side to compensate for the RINOs on spending issues. And that's pretty rare. In fact, it's never happened.

Hey, I even did some research! And one can quibble, in that the divisions between the parties were somewhat one-sided at times. But it's too difficult to figure out the percentages in every case when there were fewer than 100 senators, so I just let my comment stand. Interesting that some of the very earliest Senates had "Republicans" in them, but of course these weren't the same as the Party of Lincoln. Whigs and Free Soilers had much more interesting names!
Apropos of this post on Samizdata about identity theft, I opined:
Checking your credit card accounts on the internet should be reducing the scope and frequency of ID theft. I used to go over my account every thirty days, when the paper came. Nowadays I look at all my accounts at least every other day. If anything suspicious were to happen, I'd know it right away. And at least in the US maximum liability is really low if you catch problems right away. That has changed for the better. Debit cards are still a problem, though. And I do wish Wachovia would stop sending those credit card checks in the mail. Not that there's enough headroom in my cc accounts so I should worry much!
In response to this post on Dailypundit, I observed:
Uh oh. I'm agreeing with Quick and LT on this one. If they come for your cigarettes and you don't do anything it won't be long before they come for your guns. And then it's your butter. Now there's a slippery slope!
Odd, though. One reason some do-gooders don't want to push the $280 billion penalty is that they don't think it will be enough, that the smokers will just pay up. But then of course the govt. will come up with some other excuse to impose another, more drastic penalty. Why do we have that darn "no tobacco" clause in the Constitution, anyway? How did that get in there? And why didn't those evil tobacconists do something like put warning notices on every pack of cigarettes long ago?

I seem to be in a totally sarcastic mood today. Maybe because it was 52 degrees this morning, I saw my breath on my walk into work and I'm feeling great!