Friday, January 26, 2007

Out of Touch

I'm in Montana for two weeks from last Monday and may not be able to post.

Friday, January 19, 2007

PhDs for Everyone!

Sunni links to and discusses an article by Charles Murray in which the author advocates more vocational training and less college prep:

I pretty much accept the premise that we are more or less born with a certain degree of smarts and that we are never going to get any smarter. There are things that can make us stupider, such as poor nutrition, disease, head trauma, watching Fox News; however, we can’t add to our intelligence. Each of us is equipped for just so much schooling, and going beyond our capabilities is a waste of time and money and energy. Accordingly, schooling might be more efficiently and cheaply provided if efforts were made to identify the potential of pupils as early in the process as possible so they could be placed in appropriate tracks. A pupil of low normal intelligence is not college material, and it would be better to equip that pupil for adult life by teaching her the skills she will need to succeed.

I was lucky to have been born relatively smart and with a good memory. School was a breeze for me, and I backed into a full ride scholarship from a local manufacturer. I ended up with a college degree and almost no prospects. I sold calculators, a job for which college was superfluous but which was required as a qualification by the company. I managed a movie theater, and I drifted up and down the coast doing this and that (but not the other). I decided that I had to go to law school or that I would never do very well financially with my liberal arts credential. Many of my classmates had their sheepskins from the same expensive private university and ended up working at jobs that required no college at all. One went to a short tech school and got into computers. Another became a TV cameraman. Yet another became a stand up comedian. Others went into various sales jobs or police work or bureaucracies. Others went to grad school like me to delay their dates with destiny.

Frankly, I don’t reckon that a college degree was really necessary for me to have gone on to law school (which I loathed every minute of). You don’t need any of that undergraduate book learning to study lawyering, and you could easily crank out lawyers in an undergraduate course. College was just a sorting mechanism and was not preparatory at all. Frankly, I went to college because I felt like I had to. By the time I went to college, it had become the equivalent of a high school diploma from my father’s day. You had to have the credential to do much of anything white collar, and you had to have graduate level training to match what college used to mean.

In fifty years, I predict that all but the most profoundly retarded will have college degrees, that 75% will have masters or professional degrees and that the other 25% of the population will have doctorates. You will need a bachelors degree to take tickets for the tilt’ a’ whirl and a masters to sell encyclopedias. Kindergarten teachers and cashiers at Barnes & Noble will have PhDs. Every third person will be a lawyer or MBA. By today’s standards this will seem like a success, but at that time the goal of the Department of Education will be doctorates for everyone!

Because of the premium placed on Ivy League degrees, it will be necessary for the Ivy League schools to expand and open franchises all across the country. By 2057, 90% of all college degrees will be granted by Ivy League franchise institutions. State colleges will specialize more and more in graduate schooling.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Polygyny Is Good for Women

I made “The Red Queen” my “bathroom book”, so I’m still reading it and probably will be for some time. I found out that we have only two sexes because of compromises necessitated by conflicts between cytoplasmic genes. Species engaged in fusion sex that did not settle on the male with small manifold gametes and the female with a few large gametes tended to be wiped out by competition between genes from the organelles. I don’t really understand it all that well, but I’ll take the author’s word for it.

I have finally reached the part where all the background about sexual selection is applied to humans, and I am learning quite a bit that surprises me. I did not know that ruling elites over the millennia had so damn many wives and concubines and that so many lower class men were forced into celibacy as a result. Having a royal ancestor would be the norm rather than anything special given the breeding prowess of kings and emperors. Even ostensibly monogamous medieval lords kept harems of “serving girls” and sired large broods of bastards.

If you were a lower class schmendrick in such a highly polygynous society, investing in daughters would be the best way to make sure that you had many descendants. Your son might not breed at all, but your daughter had a shot at being concubine to a powerful man. Peasants would, therefore, tend to leave their wealth to daughters and to exhibit more of a matrilineal family structure in the lower classes while the upper classes, where males could expect to have many mates, would do the opposite and invest in sons. Elite families would be patrilineal.

Foragers tend to be monogamous since there is not much chance to accumulate the wealth needed to support multiple wives. Farmers can get richer and support several wives at the expense of their less fortunate or capable fellows. Warlords, with their hoards of treasure, can accommodate hundreds or thousands of wives and concubines.

Enforced monogamy benefits those men who would be left without a partner in a polygynous society. It restricts the strategic options of women who, to paraphrase one of the quotes in the book, might rather be the second or third wife of John Kennedy rather than the first wife of Bozo the Clown.

Enforced monogamy also makes hypergamy more difficult for women since it means that the highest social class will be more apt to intermarry within itself rather than to look for wives in the lower orders. In a polygynous system, middle class women might become supernumerary wives to rich and powerful men rather than settling for some mook from their own class.

It looks to me as if enforced monogamy is bad for women and good for less attractive men. I probably benefit from it whereas Mrs Vache Folle could have done way better in a polygynous society.

Musing on Libertarian Totalitarianism

David Friedman has an interesting take on the libertarian-liberal alliance: The conclusion (in the sense that it concludes the post):

“Politically speaking, if Republicans supported less government instead of more,
they would be natural allies for libertarians, whether those libertarians
reached their conclusions via Catholic philosophy, natural rights,
utilitarianism, skepticism, or hedonism. Since Republicans at the moment support
more government—more even than Democrats as of the last time they were in
power—it is worth looking for other allies.”

David refers to a Cato poll that showed that 15% of the American public is “libertarian”. They are libertarian in the sense that they are relatively socially liberal AND economically conservative, as those characterizations are popularly understood. Anti-state hard core libertarians are much rarer. Even the 15% identified by Cato is not even enough to counter the wingnut authoritarian right with its 25% let alone counter the remaining 60% who otherwise embrace the state wholeheartedly. Unless the libertarians win over a lot more people and become even more libertarian in their leanings, there is no way that the democratic process is going to do anything for libertarianism. On the contrary, the democratic process will mean more and more government until every aspect of our lives is completely managed by the state right down to our bowel movements.

With the democratic process, the best libertarians can hope for is to put a slight drag on the inevitable slide into totalitarianism.

Perhaps a free society will come only with the seizure of power by revolutionaries. History has shown that a small ideological minority can take the reins of power in a state and impose its will on the masses if it has an army. It would not be enough for libertarians simply to destroy the state, because the masses will simply sell their freedom to any master who will reconstitute it at the first opportunity. Rather, libertarians must take over the state and monopolize the initiation of force in order to prevent the development of any other nascent state-like institutions. Powerful institutions of voluntary civil society would not be problematic, but no person must be able to impose any involuntary obligations on another except under the authority of the revolutionary party.

Could such a state devoted to entirely to inactivity on its own part other than the defense of its subjects from internal and external enemies be maintained without succumbing to the corruption of power? It could be maintained only so long as its apparatchiks were selected based on ideological purity. Party membership must be restricted to those who profess only the profoundest commitment to liberty. Selection to the people’s congress would be from party members by lot rather than by election; therefore, the congress would not necessarily be comprised of the most ambitious and power hungry people. Sponsors of legislation and those who vote in favor of any legislation, other than to repeal something already on the books, will be considered to have resigned from the congress and will be ineligible for the central committee or the chairmanship or other high office. This will ensure that activist legislators do not gain advancement. The chairman will have a veto which cannot be overridden.

The state will have only such personnel and perform only such functions as are absolutely necessary to perform its "essential" obligations:

Defense of the realm;
Criminal justice and dispute resolution;
Self Preservation;
Maintenance of party power.

Insofar as possible, the defense of the realm should be in the hands of voluntary militia. Criminal justice should be handled by a voluntary constabulary and trials presided over by party members with paty member juries. Dispute resolution should be done by courts convened and paid for by the litigants, subject to review by local party apparatchiks. Self preservation and maintenance of party power may require the maintenance of a substantial security and surveillance apparatus. Despite this, rule by the party will be far less costly than the current system of government, and the tax burden on the people will be miniscule. It may be difficult for the opposition to develop much interest in the masses to revolt, since about the only limitation the party will place on the people is to restrict their ability to meddle with their neighbors.

The only way to defeat the state may be to capture it and tame it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cully Stimson Should Pick Up HIs Medal of Freedom and Go Home

Here’s a puff piece on the reptilian Cully Stimson for his alma mater’s paper . If you look at his experience and education, the man is no more qualified for his job as master of detainees than I would be. He was a Navy JAG, and that’s about the only thing in his background that remotely prepared him for the job. Except for some brief work at some prep schools, he has never had a real job. He is a career parasite.

Anyway, why hasn’t he been fired yet? This is the guy that wants corporations to pressure law firms financially so that their lawyers won’t represent detainees. Is this the kind of lawyer that George Mason turns out? Is he speaking for the regime even while the Pentagon distances itself from him? He’s not distant enough if he still works there.

I want to know which companies pressure the firms so I can boycott their products.

Meritorious or Just Obedient?

Kevin Carson posts about folks who blame the masses for their own degradation:

It seems clear to me that the myth of the meritocracy is a means for the ruling elite to persuade the smarter proles to identify their interests with the elites rather than their working class comrades. Middle managers, such as myself, are taught to think of ourselves as successes by virtue of our worthiness and merit. Those poor slobs who aren’t as successful have only themselves to blame, since the system that advances us is nothing more than an unbiased mechanism for sorting folks into categories of the worthy and the unworthy. That being the case, the elites above us must be the worthiest of all.

This myth inspires us to work to maintain the system. We are convinced of the necessity of the state to keep the unworthy in line and to manage their affairs down to the most niggling detail. That this impairs our own freedom does not occur to us because we have already surrendered it voluntarily like well trained domesticated animals. We love the leash and take delight in the praise of our masters. We enjoy our relatively better appointed homes and the other rewards of our relative prosperity and think we are the right kind of people.

We don’t pass much time with the elites themselves. We may get glimpses of the fringes of the power elite from time to time, so we don’t realize just how far above us in wealth and power they are. This allows us to think that we are more like them than those folks lower down on the socioeconomic scale with whom we actually have much more in common.

If the meritocratic system does not sort for merit, what does it sort for? Domestication.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Better than American Idol

American Idol sucks. Death Wore a Feathered Mullet sums up how I feel about it:

I have an idea for a better reality show. Let’s call it “American Genius”. The idea is to locate the brightest potential engineers and mathematicians and scientists from the lower classes. The winners will get a full ride to good schools and all the help they need to fulfill their potential right through postdoctoral research. This would inspire American youth to study maths and sciences (I love using the plural of maths although Word tells me it’s wrong). This would make it cool to be smart. I am having some trouble figuring out how to make the show entertaining, though.

I have to figure out how to work sex and backbiting into the show. I suppose if The Apprentice or The Biggest Loser can make it on TV, a bunch of smart kids can be made watchable. Sponsorships shouldn’t be too hard to get.

The panel of judges could be superstar scientists and mathematicians. Stephen Hawking would be the Simon of the show and would insult losers with his mechanical voice. Bill Nye the Science Guy could be tapped as host. Or we could just use Ryan Seacrest.

The core of the competition would be manifold, involving experimental design, written and oral exams, and presentations. It would be like academia to some degree, only with sexy models hanging around as lab assistants and proctors.


Translating dentist-speak:

What the dentist says: What it really means:

“This may pinch a little.” The pain will be exquisite.

“This may be uncomfortable” You are going to weep.

“Let me know if you feel this.” Is it safe?

I had my top braces removed on Friday. I had been looking forward to it. That’s because I did not know how brutal the removal process is and that I would have to wear a retainer 24-7 for several months. I spent the weekend talking like Mush Mouth and drooling uncontrollably. I can finally talk again, but I have to speak with my natural southern accent instead of using Standard English. The drool problem went away. I know not what horrors will befall me when the lower braces come off.

The Bathroom Remodel continues, albeit slowly. The infrastructure of that part of the house wanted rebuilding from scratch, and this has set us back days and dollars. By the end of today, there should be a sub-floor and roughed in plumbing at least together with insulation. The contractor inadvertently unplugged the sump pump on Friday, so the basement flooded and submerged some of the supplies left there.

I met my revised goal of 235 pounds this weekend but blew it by going out for Indian food at Tanjore in Fishkill. We didn’t realize how big the portions were and ordered enough food for a platoon. It was among the Best Indian food I have ever had, and we will be a regular there from here on out. Hat tip to the preacher’s wife for suggesting the place.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Cunning Plan

Via Daily Kos comes this exchange between Captain Blackadder and his commanding General:

General: Now, Field Marshal Hague has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.

Captain Blackadder: Ah, would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, sir?

Captain Darling: How could you possibly know that Blackadder? It's classified information!

Captain Blackadder: It's the same plan that we used last time, and the seventeen times before that.

General: Exactly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off guard. Doing precisely what we've done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they'll expect us to do this time! There is, however, one small problem...

Captain Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds?

General: That's right. And Field Marshal Hague is worried that this may be depressing the men a tad. So, he's looking to find a way to cheer them up.

Captain Blackadder: Well, his resignation and suicide would seem the obvious.

I could almost hear GW Bush start his speech last night with “I have a cunning plan….” Baldrick would make a better preznit than GW Bush.

Progress Report

Here’s a piece of free advice. If you are having the bathroom remodeled and the floor is torn out, don’t try to use that bathroom in the middle of the night. That’s what I found out. If it weren’t for my catlike reflexes, I would have fallen through to the basement. As it was, I barely managed to get on the one piece of plywood on the joists without impaling myself on a wrecking bar. I have a few scrapes and bruises but am otherwise none the worse for wear and doubtless a wiser man for the experience. The demolition and infrastructure aspects of this phase are taking longer than expected because the floor joists and beams have to be replaced. It turns out that they were rotten and sagging, and I prefer that my new bathroom not collapse into the cellar.

I finally broke through my weight loss plateau and am down to 236 pounds buck naked at home in the morning and 245 clothed and shod on the scale at the gym. I can’t account for the difference since I know my gym clothes and shoes probably don’t weigh nine pounds. I choose to regard my home scale as accurate. I am gradually increasing the weight on all the exercises in my circuit training routine, and I am gradually getting faster on the treadmill. I’m still pitifully out of shape even after 12 weeks of working out, but I can really feel the difference. I reckon that I have been able to fight off the nasty bug everyone’s been getting thanks to my improved condition.

I am getting the braces on my upper teeth off tomorrow morning, and I’m really looking forward to getting all this hardware out of my mouth. The lower braces may come off next month. The procedure has been a success, and I now have a normal bite and don’t bang my front teeth together. I can masticate a lot better, too. This should help me keep my incisors longer. I should have done this long ago instead of just living with the malocclusion.

I increased my Zoloft dosage by 50%. This has taken care of my anxiety and compulsive behaviors, and I have the added benefit of having my sex drive disappear altogether! Having just celebrated a 23rd wedding anniversary, I don’t really need a libido at this point in my life. Seriously, are middle-aged women really all that happy about Viagra? Just when the fat slob stops bugging her so much for his semiannual intercourse, along comes a pill that makes him as randy as a rooster. Come to think of it, if someone opposes homosexuality, what better way to reduce the amount of homosexual sex going on than to encourage homosexuals to marry?

I am still on my mainstream media news fast except for Keith Olbermann’s show. That is one quality news program. Olbermann and Jon Stewart are the best journalists on TV right now. The best pundit is Stephen Colbert. I missed the season opener of Battlestar Galactica, but it looked as if it was turning into an interstellar version of Melrose Place.

I have decided to give up on Lost. I think the writers are just making it up as they go along. There is more recap than show, and the flashbacks don’t add anything to the story. I watch too much TV as it is.

On the literary front, I'm still reading the "Red Queen" by Matt Ridley. I finally finished "Rough Crossings", the book about American slaves who defected to the British during the War for Independence and were emancipated. A lot of them ended up in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and then migrated to Sierra Leone. They were hosed every inch of the way, but at least they were free. I have started a biography of Mao, and it turns out that he was not even cute when he was little. So far, I'm only up to his early 20s when he was a minor Communist functionary. I just found out that there is a new novel in the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell, and I may have to drop everything and get it right away.

The Speech I Would Have Written for Bush

Against my better judgment, I caught Bush’s speech last night. The guy is demented. I reckon he aims to provoke Iran and Syria into war and make an even bigger mess. Then we’ll be nostalgic for the days when the armed forces were just mired in a civil war in Iraq.

Here’s the speech I thought he ought to have given:

“My fellow Americans. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me. And let me tell you, it has been one foul up after another from the get go. Worse than that, I lied to get us in this mess, and I have used the war I sold the country as an excuse to crap all over the Constitution. My conduct has been inexcusable, and I am not fit to serve as your President. If there was ever a case for impeachment, my administration is it. To save time and resources and to allow the country to make a smooth transition, I am resigning effective noon tomorrow. I urge Vice President Cheney, who is an even bigger wanker than me and is just plain evil, to do the same so that Speaker Pelosi can get to work as the new Commander-in-Chief without delay.

God bless America.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bathroom Remodel Begins; Contractor Shows Up Even After Advance Payment

It is Day Two of our Bathroom Remodel. It was supposed to be Day Three but the contractor didn’t make it on Monday, not a promising start. So far, everything in the downstairs bathroom has been ripped out except part of the floor. That should come out today. The washer and dryer are on the deck under a tarp along with the commode (which we are moving upstairs in the second phase of the Bathroom Remodel). We’ll be visiting the Laundromat for a couple of weeks, and we’ll have to trudge upstairs every time we have to relieve ourselves until the new toilet is installed.

I was amazed at what a hodgepodge that part of the house was under the drywall and tile. It looks as if the builder just made do with whatever materials he had lying around. Some of the wall is block and some is brick. There was no insulation! No wonder the bathroom was so cold.

The dogs are not too happy about all the hullabaloo and noise and being locked in the downstairs bedroom instead of having the run of the house. They don’t derive any benefit from the Bathroom Remodel. In fact, since we might actually spend more time in the bathrooms once they are done, they are going to be spending more time whining outside the bathroom doors and wondering what we are up to in there.

I hope the contractor knows what he is doing and that this turns out well. He has done good work on other things in the past and usually shows up. He is also cost conscious and strikes me as honest. But he is a contractor, and they are apt to disappear for days at a time while you have a big gaping hole in your house.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Dos and Don'ts at Hangings and Autos da fe

The execution of Saddam Hussein was spoiled by the rudeness of the executioners and witnesses. To keep future hangings civil and decorous, I thought I would remind everyone of the etiquette of hangings.

Executioners should be silent and professional. Witnesses should be quiet and respectful, like at a golf match when the players are putting. Imagine that it is your mother that is being hanged. How would you like it if witnesses were noisy and heckling your mom's execution? You wouldn't, unless you really hated your mom, in which case you have other problems beyond the scope of this post.

Wear a tie, if you are a man, and a nice suit if you are a woman. A hood is de rigeur for the hangman.

Small children are out of place at hangings and are apt to disturb the other witnesses and the condemned with their mewling. Leave your pets at home as well.

Take off your hat if you are a man when the deed is being done. You are at a judicially sanctioned murder, for crying out loud, and you had best show some respect.

Do not chew gum, smoke, eat or drink at the hanging. There will be plenty of opportunities at the reception afterwards. No whistling or humming, please.

It is not customary to applaud the executioner's handiwork, although a discreetly offered gratuity would not be out of place.

If the condemned is being burned alive, it is absolutely improper to toast marshmallows or roast wieners or otherwise use the fire for any purpose other than burning the condemned. At drawings and quarterings, do not gamble on which piece will be the biggest (place any such bets before the event, and never collect winnings at the site of the execution). At stonings, let the family members of the victims of the condemned have the first tosses. Don't go for a quick kill by showing off your rock throwing skills; rather, cooperate with others to extend the agony of the condemned so that more stone throwers will get a chance to be part of the execution. At decapitations, stand back far enough that you won't get blood on you. This is not a Gallagher performance, so you can't bring a tarp.

If these rules seem too complex, just think about how you would want to be murdered by the state and act accordingly.

Which is Scarier?

Identify the bigger threat to world peace:

(a) a country that is enriching uranium for nuclear energy and is years away from enriching enough for weapons.
(b) a country that has nuclear weapons and is making noises about using them preemptively on the country described in (a) above.

Friday, January 05, 2007

If Sex is so Great, Why Don't We Have More Sexes?

I’m reading Matt Ridley’s “The Red Queen” about the evolution of sex and its utility in reshuffling genes so as to thwart parasites. The “Red Queen” is an allusion to a character in a Lewis Carroll story. The Red Queen was always moving just to stay in the same place. Sexual species are always reshuffling just to stay abreast of corresponding evolutionary changes in parasites.

I was astonished to learn that some fungi have hundreds of sexes, and I am looking forward to finding out why we humans have only the two and are not all hermaphrodites. I can see why asexual reproduction would not be advantageous in an environment of predation and parasitism, but I don’t yet know why sexes don’t proliferate so that we can reproduce with more people. As it stands now, I can only reproduce with the just over half the population that is female. If there were three sexes, that would mean that two thirds of the population could reproduce with me, and I would be fitter, or so I think now not having read far enough in the book to find out why I’m wrong.

A three sex society could be interesting. Suppose that you had sexes A, B and C where A could impregnate B, B could impregnate C, and C could impregnate A. What would religious fundamentalists reckon would be the divinely sanctioned household organization? If everyone is potentially both a pitcher and a catcher, what would that do to notions of power in sexuality?

Everyone would have a slot and a tab, of course. If a B inserted his/her slot in an A’s tab, which would not contribute to reproduction, would that be wrong or deviant? Would folks go about complaining that it was “unnatural”? Presumably, the three sex species would be driven both to pitch and catch, so it is likely that threesomes would be common and that reverse slot to tab sex would be a substitute for a proper third party. There would still be same sex partners and threesomes, I reckon. Auto-erotica would doubtless still be practiced.

Porn would be way different. I imagine that orgies with chains of slots in tabs would be a common theme, and folks would fantasize about “making the beast with twelve backs”, “doing the horizontal conga”, or “making a benzene ring”. Strap-ons would not be in much demand.

Families would be different. An adult in a family might be mother to one and father to another child and genetically unrelated to a third child. Children could be full siblings or half siblings. Come to think of it, that’s not so different from the families that emerge from serial monogamy. I have a full sibling, a half sibling and several unrelated step-siblings, and I am a member of a two sex species. Extended kin would get weird and complicated.

In developed societies, ideal family size would be one child of each sex.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

More Mooching Parents

One of my conspecifics at work lives in Maplewood, NJ where middle schoolers have been so troublesome that the local library is closing for part of the day to keep them out:

It turns out that the parents of these kids see the library as a free babysitting service, and they tell the kids to go to the library and hang out there until they can be picked up when the parents get off work. These are middle schoolers, so I reckon that they are beyond the age where they want constant surveillance. Are there no sandlots or parks for these kids to play in? Why can’t they just go home and hang out there?

These parents already foisted their kids on the public for most of the day since they attend a public middle school, and now they expect others to provide after school programs for them. Having kids is a great hobby, so I’m told, and it’s great if you can get other people to subsidize your entertainment (if you can live with yourself, that is).

My conspecific, who is understandably pissed at the prospect of more taxes, suggested that the situation was comparable to my saving money on a dog walker by taking my dogs to the town library every day and releasing them there.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Free Advice for Parents: Maximize the Elves

Parents have a pretty good weapon in the notion that Santa Claus has children under constant surveillance and that the quantity and quality of Christmas presents are functions of how good the children have been. I know some parents who claim to have Santa on speed dial and threaten to call him and rat out their kids when they’re bad. The best part is that this tool is available when kids cannot be reasoned with when they are small and stupid.

The down side is that parents can’t keep the charade up forever. Moreover, it only works at most in the three months leading up to Christmas. I reckon parents could keep the elf surveillance system on their kids’ minds and working for them for the better part of the year if they worked at it a little. I would tie it in with birthdays and other events. Let your kids know that Santa and the Easter Bunny share intelligence, that you are in regular contact with Santa and that you receive reports on their goodness level, especially when a birthday is coming up.

Parents also make the mistake of assuming that kids won’t figure out that they get presents even when they are bad and that even their worst behaved siblings and friends get pretty good presents every Christmas notwithstanding their evildoing. They begin to have doubts about the elf surveillance system’s efficacy, and the whole thing begins to unravel. Every now and then, let one or more of your kids wake up on Christmas morning to no presents or, at most, socks or a sweater. Their siblings will revel in their fantastic gifts while the target child is reinforced with the idea that Santa knows what he or she has been up to. The lesson won’t be lost on the others, either.

How do you choose which of your children to target in any given year? One way is to pick the one that you are pretty sure has been the worst behaved in the previous year. If you aren’t sure, just pick randomly. Your kids have done a lot of stuff that you don’t know about, and they’ll just figure that they are getting their comeuppance.

This program will strengthen the elf surveillance program child control strategy and may actually help to extend the time that it works on your kids.

The Universe Could Be Only Six Days Old

If Kirk Cameron wants to believe that the universe is a tad over 6,000 years old and that evolution and cosmology and most of science are elaborate demonic hoaxes, then who am I to stand in his way? Belief is involuntary, so he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter, and I reckon that the marketplace of ideas can handle this one just fine. Besides, it’s not as if the world has lost a great scientific mind to creationism. Kirk Cameron was never going to be a scientist, and folks who believe as Kirk believes wouldn’t make good scientists, either. In a way, Kirk and his ilk are doing the world a favor by helping us identify folks who should be discouraged from scientific endeavors.

I suppose that an agnostic creationist could be a passable scientist. By this I mean a person who believes in the whole 6,000 year old universe thing but who acknowledges that it is not susceptible to scientific proof. That person could apply the canons of science and do scientific work without necessarily believing in the metaphysical truth of falsity of the results, and he wouldn’t be looking to make his observations fit into his young earth paradigm. This could conceivably happen, provided that the agnostic creationist could get past the gatekeepers of the profession, which he couldn’t. He would likely be relegated to some fringe institution where any effort to do science independent of the preferred creation myth would not be well received.

Let’s suppose that I believe that the entire universe, with its appearance of great antiquity and everything in it pointing to a history, spontaneously came into being last Thursday. This is highly improbable, but it is not entirely impossible that this is so and that all my personal memories from before the creation of the universe are just so many false patterns in my newly minted brain. Kirk Cameron never really acted in “Growing Pains” even though I think that I remember his artistic oeuvre as actually happening. No. He came into being last Thursday just like everyone else complete with a fabricated past that will fool him into thinking that the universe is at least several millennia old. Poor deluded sap.

What harm does my Last Thursday Creation idea do? I’m not a professional scientist. I’m pretty sure that I can’t prove that the universe came into being last Thursday, so I’m not going to advocate any kind of Last Thursday Creation Science or demand that it receive full attention in government schools. Others may insist on the teaching of LTCS (it already has an acronym!) and be publicly and vocally skeptical of the 6,000 year old universe theory and those other theories that rely on the appearance that the universe is billions of year old. Even then, what harm could come of the adoption of the belief in LTC by a substantial number of people? None, as long as they don’t become so numerous that they endeavor to impose this belief on others by force.

I reckon that LTC will never become such a potent force as to overwhelm the marketplace of ideas. It has to compete with Last Wednesday Creationism, 3/15/1992 Creationism, Biblical Creationism, and science. Even the adherents of LTC will break into schisms, based on which hour of the day creation took place. The Last Thursday Morning Creationists won’t even be on speaking terms with the Last Thursday Late Afternoon About Sixish Creationists.

Wherein I Reluctantly Accede to the Necessity to Hang Politicians

I’m not an advocate for capital punishment, but James Bovard makes a pretty good case for applying it to presidents:

If Nixon had been tried and punished for his many crimes, would that not have deterred later politicians and high ranking officials from engaging in similar wrongdoing? What if aiding and abetting death squads in El Salvador had been punished as accessory to murder? If everyone responsible for the mass murder at Waco, right up to Janet Reno, had swung for their crimes, wouldn’t that have had a chilling effect on the excesses of abusive cops thereafter? If Clinton thought that he might be held accountable for bombing folks in the Balkans, would he have undertaken that campaign?

If Presidents and their minions had been held to account over the last few decades, GW Bush would never have even run for office, what with its being so much less fun for sadistic bastards like him and his henchmen. The hangman would be busy indeed if the logic applied to the condemnation of Saddam Hussein were applied to the Bush administration.

I hate granting the state the authority to kill people, but I might just twist myself into an intellectual pretzel to rationalize making exceptions for politicians. No, I'm going to stand my moral ground and oppose hanging even folks in the current regime. It's not that I would go on a hunger strike or launch a protest or anything. I'd just refrain from going to the hanging and cheering the executioners on.

And for lesser offenders, such as those in the senior executive service who have not been complicit in murder, let’s consider bringing back tar and feathers and the riding out of town on rails. There is really no need to hang every official.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Progress Report

Despite working out religiously and eating sensibly, I did not lose any weight in December. Not an ounce. This is pretty frustrating, and I reckon that I need to eat even more sensibly and work out even harder if I am to leave the ranks of the morbidly obese other than in a box. Here’s my plan for victory: cut out most carbs and add some more cardio workouts to my routine. I aim to lose 10 pounds by the end of January even if I have to go on Scarsdale to do it (shudder).

On the positive side of things, I am getting progressively stronger and fitter, albeit slowly. The gym has become a good habit, and there is little risk now that I will skip workouts because I enjoy them so much. I have made a huge change in eating habits by having balanced meals that include vegetables. I have cut out snacking and most sweets (other than fresh fruit). I no longer overeat at meals and stop when I have finished my allotted portions.