Today’s Catering-To-The-Irrational Story

 Posted by on 31 October 2005 at 10:48 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 312005

“British banks are banning piggy banks because they may offend some Muslims.” Really.

Halifax and NatWest banks have led the move to scrap the time-honoured symbol of saving from being given to children or used in their advertising, the Daily Express/Daily Star group reports here. Muslims do not eat pork, as Islamic culture deems the pig to be an impure animal. Salim Mulla, secretary of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, backed the bank move. “This is a sensitive issue and I think the banks are simply being courteous to their customers,” he said.

(Via Linkfilter.)

Happy Halloween!

 Posted by on 31 October 2005 at 8:04 am  Uncategorized
Oct 312005

In the spirit of Halloween, from the folks carving Extreme Pumpkins, I give you the most wonderful and fantastic Cannibal Pumpkin!

TiVo Upgrade

 Posted by on 30 October 2005 at 9:22 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 302005

Back in June, Fred Weiss recommended the TiVo upgrade from WeaKnees. Although I ordered the additional drive right away, I didn’t get around to installing it until just tonight. (Finally!) It was quite an upgrade for my beloved TiVo, from just 35 hours to 163 hours of recording time!

I’m happy to report that the upgrade was astonishingly easy. The instructions were excellent, perhaps the most clear and accurate that I’ve ever enjoyed in all my years of computer upgrades. However, I wouldn’t recommend the do-it-yourself install unless you are reasonably comfortable swapping out the guts of your computer. WeaKnees has a speedy professional upgrade service for the hesitant.

Social Metaphysics in Action

 Posted by on 29 October 2005 at 11:45 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 292005

This Dear Abby is such a lovely example of social metaphysics that I couldn’t pass it over:


I have been married to “Grant” for eight years. Soon after our marriage I learned he was a compulsive liar.

Grant told me while we were dating that he had a sister. I later learned the woman was a friend. He said he was divorced from his second wife when we met. They weren’t divorced until one month before our wedding, something I discovered only when I found his divorce papers.

Grant’s first wife swears they are still married. He says they’re divorced, but he lost the divorce papers.

A year ago, I found out my husband was never in the Marines like he said, and after eight years of believing he had a BA in business, I just learned he dropped out of college after his freshman year.

I have just about had it with his constant lying. He has also cheated on me. I want a divorce, but I don’t want to look like a failure to my family and friends. Grant is begging me to stay. He promises he’ll change, but I have heard that all before. What should I do?


This woman has every reason in the world to leave her husband. She knows that he’s a compulsive liar. She knows that he’s unfaithful. She knows that his promises to change are meaningless. She even rightly suspects that he might still be married to his first wife. Still, she’s not sure what to do. Why not? Because she doesn’t “want to look like a failure to her family and friends.” Her knowledge that her supposed marriage actually is a failure incapable of improvement isn’t all that important to her, not when weighed against the possibility that others might think ill of her. (Of course, they’d likely think even worse of her for staying for such reasons, but that’s just more awful social metaphysics.) In other words: “Facts schmacts! Who cares about my own life and happiness when the opinions of others are at stake!”

Abby’s advice is good on the proper plan of action, despite yielding too much to her social metaphysics in speaking of “solv[ing] your problem”:

DEAR WIFE: Consult a lawyer. Tell him or her exactly what you have told me. Because your husband misrepresented himself before your marriage, you may have grounds for an annulment. Your attorney should also check to see if there is any record of his first divorce, because if there isn’t one, you and Grant are not married, which solves your problem. Cross your fingers.

This woman needs some small committment to the facts of reality, not luck!

Beyond Creepy

 Posted by on 28 October 2005 at 10:16 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 282005

This web site is perhaps the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen on the web. I’m really quite disturbed that I was able to make a man dressed up as a chicken do a cartwheel. Granted, it’s just a program of footage tied to keywords, but still… (Via Oakes.)

A Constitution… If You Can Keep It

 Posted by on 28 October 2005 at 6:51 am  Uncategorized
Oct 282005

As I mentioned in the comments, I will be flying out to Colorado this March for the Weekend Conference on Law. While I’m not particularly interested in law, I am interested in the question of how a Constitution functions in a free society, and specifically, what should be the role of a jurist in interpreting it.

I must confess that for a long time, I could not see past the activist/original intent dichotomy that has defined mainstream debate on this issue. I thought that the only alternative to letting judges rule however they wished was to restrict them to ruling based on the meaning of a given Amendment, law, or statute based on an historical analysis of what such meant when it was enacted.

Then Tara Smith went and blasted that dichotomy out of existence. In that article, she explains that “judicial activism” is a package deal. The question is not whether a jurist is “activist” but what their activism consists of. Proper judicial activity, she says, should involve the interpretation and application of abstract legal principles — fundamentally, the basic principle of “rights.”

It seems so obvious, and perhaps it is if we are talking about an ideal society based on Objectivist principles, but advocating it in the United States today is not. After all, Smith is not saying a jurist should be a strict constructionist. It would seem, therefore, that she is advocating a jurist should rule based on his or her personal convictions.

Now, let me make it clear that from this point forward, I’m speaking only of my own views. While Smith developed hers more fully at this year’s OCON, I was not present for her lectures and have no idea of their content. She may agree with what I’m going to say or she may not (I look forward to raising some of these issues with her in March). That said…

Since the role of a jurist necessarily involves the interpretation and application of principles, strict constructionism is a nonstarter. You cannot look at an abstract statement, no matter how clearly written, and determine what it means or how it applies to a specific case. Knowledge is contextual, so to grasp the meaning of any given principle, you have to understand its full context. This means, to interpret a constitution, you have to identify the basic principle of which its various clauses are expressions.

Lucky for us, there is no need to guess what principle the constitution was designed to express — the Founding Fathers told us explicitly. This country was founded on the principle of individual rights. It was founded on the principle that a government exists only to protect man’s rights, and that the government, therefore, must be strictly limited in its proper functions. To understand and apply the Constitution, we have to keep this fact in mind.

I came to this realization during a recent conversation with my brother where he said in exasperation, “The Constitution says, ‘Congress shall make no law.’ You can’t get any clearer than that!” He’s right, of course — unless you drop the context of the principle the Constitution was intended to express. Suppose, for example, that the purpose of the Constitution wasn’t to restrain the government in order to protect individual rights. Suppose its purpose was to guide the government in the attempt to achieve the common good. In such a case, someone might very persuasively argue, “Since this particular form of speech doesn’t lead to the common good, it is not part of your freedom of speech. The government therefore not only can abridge it, but must.”

In fact, this is precisely what we’ve seen happen in this country. To justify an act of government, an advocate must appeal to some higher principle, and so nothing matters more than what principle he appeals to. And whether people recognize that principle as legitimate.

This is how altruism undercut this nation. So long as those who wished to expand government power could appeal to sacrifice, “the common good,” or any other similar principle, the Constitution could only act to retard capitalism’s destruction. It was only a matter of time before our freedoms were stripped away, precedent by precedent.

To establish a proper government, a constitution is vital — but to establish and maintain a constitution, a society committed to the principle of individual rights (and its egoistic moral foundation) is indispensable.

Yaron on CNBC

 Posted by on 27 October 2005 at 10:58 am  Uncategorized
Oct 272005

An announcement from ARI:

ARI executive director Dr. Yaron Brook is scheduled to appear on the CNBC program “Closing Bell” today, October 27, 2005.

The program airs at 3:00 PM Eastern time, 12:00 noon Pacific.

The topic will be: Do the oil companies have a moral right to their massive profits?

The Pull Peddlers

 Posted by on 27 October 2005 at 7:06 am  Uncategorized
Oct 272005

The big ballot issue in Colorado in November is Referenda C and D. It would be a major expansion of the welfare state, coupled with a substantial tax hike. It deserves to be defeated by an overwhelming margin, although I think the polls show that it’s about evenly split right now.

My friend Ari Armstrong has been tirelessly working to defeat it. (His web page on it is here.) So when I received this pro-C&D message in my rarely-used CU Boulder account, I forwarded it to him. His reply is below it.

From: [email protected]
Sent: Monday, October 17, 2005 8:37 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Voting is critical to future of the University of Colorado

If you won’t be able to vote on Nov 1, then vote early or get an absentee ballot. Early Voting opens Monday Oct 17. Last day to request an absentee ballot is Friday Oct 21 (must arrive by 25) and in person is the 28th. Information/downloads at

The following is a message from Katie Collins, Student Body Co-Executive, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Dear Students and Staff of the University of Colorado, Higher education in the state of Colorado is in crisis. In the past few years we have all experienced that crisis through staggering tuition increases, closing programs and the downsizing of faculty and staff. If something is not done to save higher education, many students will be unable to afford to attend college in Colorado. We will continue losing our best and brightest to other states that do support higher education.

Luckily there is a solution to help higher education: Referenda C&D.

It is critical that voters pass these referenda on November 1st. We must all do our part by voting either in person or via absentee ballot. Please contact your local county to ensure that you are eligible to vote.

Coloradans have affirmed their support for K-12 education through the passage of Amendment 23, now we must affirm our support for higher education through the passage of Referenda C&D. As college students/staff, and the future leaders of our state, we must lead the charge to support higher education in Colorado.

Katie Collins

Let us know where you stand, and take our survey:

If you care about the issues but are not eligible to vote, talk to your friends and neighbors that can vote.


It is not permitted to use State (hence university) email to send messages supporting particular views on ballot issues. All email addresses were obtained through public information sources. This non-partisan political message was send using outside resources from

Nonpartisan message, my foot! In any case, here’s what Ari said in reply:

The pro-C camp is making an extraordinary get-out-the-vote effort. Another letter I saw argued that, if you oppose eminent domain, you need to vote for C and D, because that will provide money for roads, thus eliminating the need for private toll roads (which would, it is argued, use eminent domain). The fact that both eminent domain and Ref. C violate property is conveniently ignored. Similarly, the pro-C camp has made specialized appeals to veterans, the elderly, parents with children in schools, environmentalists, and I’m sure I’m missing several. The effort to raise taxes is extraordinary. I even heard that, in the Springs, pro-Cers are trying to link the (state) tax hike to support for the (nation’s) troops!

I’m confident that, if every voter first read the material available on my web page, Ref. C would go down in flames. I’m also confident that far less than a percent of all voters will read anything on my web page.

Ref. C a juggernaut. The fact that, statistically, we’re still tied, says a lot about the resilience of American liberty. But people’s vague feelings in favor of liberty are easily overcome.

With this kind of measure, it’s not surprising that the pull-peddlers are out in full force.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to help out in the anti-C&D effort much. I want to get more involved in Colorado politics, but I need to finish my coursework first. I did at least manage to procure a sign for the end of our driveway — my first ever. It just says “If C wins, you lose!” That’s not terribly informative, but it might spur someone to investigate the issue.

So please encourage your Colorado voter friends to vote no on C&D.

The Ha-Ha-Ha-Harriet Show

 Posted by on 27 October 2005 at 6:35 am  Uncategorized
Oct 272005

I’m increasingly amused by the ongoing train wreck that is the Harriet Miers nomination. I’m amused rather than dismayed because it now seems extraordinarily unlikely that she’ll be confirmed.

This John Fund article was filled with revealing bits of insider information. This section was particularly insane:

Ms. Miers has never published anything of note other than vanilla op-ed pieces, and her memos to President Bush are protected by executive privilege. In trying to find clues as to her judicial philosophy, I have called all over Texas and Washington in search of people she might have talked with about that topic. No luck. In fact, it became clear Ms. Miers is a complete mystery. “We spent about 1,200 hours together and had in excess of 6,000 agenda items, and I never knew where Harriet was going to be on any of those items until she cast her vote,” Jim Buerger, a former Miers colleague on the Dallas City Council, told the Washington Post. “I wouldn’t consider her a liberal, a moderate or a conservative, and I can’t honestly think of any cause she championed.”

In other words, Harriet Miers is not even principled enough to be a pragmatist!

I found that article on the Volokh Conspiracy, along with the comment: “A friend of mine made the interesting observation that perhaps the best evidence of the continuing problems with the Miers nomination has been the willingness of so many inside and close to the White House to leak so much negative information to John Fund, from a White House that has been able to control such matters in the past.”

Just for the record, John Fund does obviously have far more general respect for George W. Bush than I could ever muster. This whole nomination reeks of a serious impairment of common sense judgment.

Update: Wow, the nomination is dead already.

Oh, It’s Just So Sweet!

 Posted by on 26 October 2005 at 10:18 pm  Uncategorized
Oct 262005

I love it: Cows milk themselves with the help of robots! Here’s the whole dang article, as found via GeekPress:

They are the cows that milk themselves. Farmers have teamed up with scientists to create a farm where the cows choose when they want to be milked using automated booths. The new parlour, developed in Holland, is already in use on several British farms. Manned by robots, the system is said to be so efficient that the farmer can even go on holiday and allow the animals to look after themselves. Supporters of the system say it not only saves time and money but shows “respect” to the cows by allowing them to manage their own lives. Opponents claim it is the ultimate in “factory farming”.

“The cows set their own agenda,” said Neil Rowe, manager of Manor Farm at Marcham in Oxfordshire which has switched to the system. “It’s about autonomy, it’s about enrichment, it’s about stepping back and allowing the cows and the system to develop a relationship.” On the farm Rowe manages, cattle wander from field to parlour when they want to be milked. They find their own way into automated milking stalls, where a computer scans a microchip implanted in the animal’s collar which holds information on its milking history and health.

Robotic milking machines, based on car assembly lines, then locate the cow’s udder guided by lasers and ultrasound. The equipment prepares the cow by washing, sterilising and massaging its teats before collecting the milk — which is instantly cooled and stored. The animals are lured into the parlour with inducements including a hair-brushing and scratching device which they can turn on themselves using a “nudge trigger” and a fan to blow away flies.

They also get a choice of hot and cold water. “It is amazing how the cows take to it,” said Rowe. “They’re very organised. Three or four cows will wait patiently to be milked, while the rest are chewing the cud or grazing. Given the choice, I think nine out of 10 cows would want to be here. They’re now a lot less stressed and more content.” Other perks include an hourly mechanised “mucking out” system and even piped music. If a cow develops a problem while being milked, the system alerts the farmer on his mobile phone.

There are now more than 30 farms in Britain using the automated system, which has been investigated by the Institute for Animal Health and the Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust. Rowe, 46, who manages 100 organic cows, has been awarded a two-year scholarship by the trust and will publish a thesis next year. Earlier this year Rowe used his laptop to manage his herd from a hotel room in Pennsylvania, America. “I could change the fields the cows were grazing in by opening electronic compressed-air gates,” he said.

John Stones, director of the Nuffield farming trust, said: “It’s an exciting thought that cows can choose to be milked and that there is no coercion.” John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University, said the system indicated a basic intelligence in cows. “Most cows adapt to it very quickly,” he said. “Although you will find a few cows who can’t be bothered, and they have to be culled.”

Joyce D’Silva, director of Compassion in World Farming, said: “This system can bring relief to the cow’s bulging udder, but she is under such pressure because we have bred her to produce so much milk. We are worried that this development will lead to an increase in factory farming.”

Augh! Only an animal rights activist could manage to oppose such a fantastic innovation! It’s great for the farmers, since they save countless hours of daily hands-on work. And its great for the cows, who get to be milked and massaged whenever they please. (But sheesh, what’s up with “the cows who can’t be bothered” to be milked?!? Are they retarded, lazy, insensitive to pain, or what?)

Although the article doesn’t indicate one way or another, I do wonder whether this system also increases milk production. If a cow can be milked when it pleases, such that its udder is never super-full, it might just make more milk.

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha