April 2008


It’s the end of the month, and that means it time to release something that’s been sitting around rotting since February. Some of the links might no longer work, that’s the downside of the every-changing nature of the internet.

Last time it started with Henley and led to Hayden. So naturally, the next round began with Tom Hayden. (more…)

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Robin Hanson points out some self-replicating-machine news here. Greg Cochran envisioned a post-replicator world in his response to the 2007 Edge Question.

Will Wilkinson and I got into an argument stemming from the FLDS raid that came to center around competent agency, brainwashing and “false consciousness”. Now Will has made a post dedicated to those issues. Join the fun.

Hopefully Anonymous and I were also arguing a little while back (not counting all the arguing we did before then) on the subject of “consciousness” (another term I do not find very meaningful/well-defined!). I assure you I had more respect for HA even before he said I had a good comment, so it is not mere confirmation bias. It’s an old thread that I’ve been delinquent in linking to, so I should also add that he responded to my first comment with this post on “zombies” and this catch-up post. His latest on the subject is a thought experiment aimed at people who claim: something passing turing test is conscious, but corporations are not conscious.

The man is, of all things, a Hillary Clinton supporter. Yet even when he’s matched up at Bloggingheads against a righty (including an according-to-Frum anti-Iraq one like Heather Mac Donald) I find him far more sensible. I thought it might be because he’s an economist, but so is Robert Reich, and he came off looking similarly fuzzy-headed. I recall hearing that Krugman (another Barack-detractor) used to complain about Reich’s economics back in the 90s, so maybe he’s not a good example, but I may have to reconcile the fact that despite his choice of candidate Loury is just smarter than the av-er-age bear.
One point of dissent: Loury says “realism is not cynicism”. I say it is.

I mentioned earlier that I had been banned from A Stitch in Haste for unknown reasons. I also said my last comment had not been deleted. That is no longer the case. All my comments there appear to be gone. I’d reproduce what I can here, for the benefit of posterity, but Google does not appear to have cached any of those posts (though they do still show up in search results). For evidence that I didn’t just imagine posting there, here’s a comment that mentions me and responds to something I said. Here’s another.

A good cruel joke at the audience’s expense.

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I found this link via Fark. Some violent criminals have attempted a defense based on their genes predisposing them to violent anti-social behavior. Some variants mentioned are MAO-A and AVPR1a, which you may be familiar with if you read Gene Expression. At least on one occasion the defendant got off on the basis of his act not being a result of “free will” due to his genetic condition. I of course find the entire concept of “free will” to be incoherent and a blemish on our justice system. A sensible take on the issue is in Greene & Cohen’s “For the law, neuroscience changes nothing and everything“. If you really are hard-wired to kill, all the more reason to get rid of you as we might a rabid dog.

Shortly after I got re-instated at EconLog, I tried to make a post at A Stitch in Haste and found my IP address had been banned. Judging by his responses, Kip did find me annoying, but I’m not really sure what did it. My last comment was here and received no response, nor was it removed.

mupetblast (EDIT: aka Dain) in the Attack the System group points to this review by Philip Hammond in Spiked of Paul Berman’s “Power and the Idealists” and Paul Hockenos’ “Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic”. Aside from Fischer (foreign minister of Germany), the former book focuses on Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister. Both men were radicals back in 1968 but they became divided over the Iraq war (which Kouchner supported and Fischer opposed). I have been peeved by Spiked in the past for their attempt to make the modern right seem “hip” by aping the history of the left (see their critique of environmentalists as a middle class oppressing those below them). This review seemed to take the opposite tack. It seems to reject modern “humanitarian interventionism” as being just as foolish as the 60s radicalism that preceded it. One good part is the arrogance of those behind “the ’68ers’ war” in Kosovo, where Kouchner was made governor once it was a protectorate. Though many liberals still point to it as an example of good intervention, Hammond points out how they were fooled into seeing genocide when it wasn’t there and ignored violence perpetrated against the Serbs once the dust settled. Another good part is how lofty ideology served to mask the age-old rivalry of French and English imperialism (more specifically in the Biafran war) which seems quite different from the monolithic “international community” that Mencius Moldbug paints. A final interesting point is the publication in Stern magazine of photos with Fischer and his radical buddies beating up a cop. Speaking of which, there is some hubbub (oddly enough among right-wingers who won’t be there to suffer) about a group of barely-disguised Obama supporters calling themselves “Recreate ’68” and the awful violence they will unleash like in the Democratic convention in Chicago. Now can anyone point me out to photos or video of the hippies at that convention committing any violent acts, rather than the Chicago police dishing out violence to them?

On a related story, the American Prospect has a long article on Christopher Hitchens and his ideological migration, which also places a heavy focus on 1968. Although as a paleo I must hate Hitchens and his neo-conservatism, I feel a certain kindred spirit as a thoroughly English “Protestant atheist”. I was disappointed when Mencius Moldbug, who once denied being a cavalier and spoke of “the one revolution which ever was glorious” now declaring himself a Jacobite.

In the same Marginal Revolution post which linked to that Hitchen article, we also find this discussion on the World Bank, governance and growth from Daron Acemoglu, Douglas North, Dani Rodrik and Francis Fukuyama. Quite a find, especially North’s bit. I haven’t read his book, so it might be old stuff to those who have.

I was reading up on Smedley Butler when I came across this. The most interesting part was the note at the end that discusses his dealings with the FBI. It seems odd that a man who had no problem associating with communist radicals could be on good terms with J. Edgar “Red Scare” Hoover, but he was. In a speech denouncing the rest of the government he said the FBI was one of the few departments “which did not smell to high heaven”. Butler had also been an ardent enforcer of Prohibition (he worked as Director of Public Safety for Philadelphia and turned over half his revenue to groups attacking politicians that hampered his efforts to enforce Probition) and declared “put the law books in cold storage and bring out the high-powered rifles and machine guns”. It also notes that he was the target of a hoax about Charles Coughlin invading Mexico. I suspect the “coup” he was asked to take part in had no more substance to it. It would seem odd that anyone would believe Butler would be willing to take part in it. It’s too his credit that he opposed pro-Republican intervention in the Spanish Civil War when many of his radical associates is, as I suppose it is that despite his dislike for FDR he would refuse to unseat him. At the same time I can’t help but think when I read Kevin Grier say “I’d rather see the craziest policies coming out of a democracy than excellent ones coming after a coup from a military junta”: why?

Texas A&M Electrical Engineering students design robot that plays Guitar Hero.

Listen to the whole thing (if you dare) here. Via OrgTheory.

On second thought though, I expect many would find OV by Orthrelm even more unpleasant. I’ve sat through the whole thing. TWICE. Why? I guess I’m an idiot or a masochist. On that note, length is probably important, because although I do like a lot of long songs (Thick as a Brick anyone?) I find Yowie much preferable to Orthrelm.

Don’t believe me? See for yourself. Or just going sane in a crazy world? No. Most definitely not. He wasn’t exactly normal to begin with, but you could dig where he was coming from. There were also a lot fewer Capital Letters. Now even Robert Lindsay’s continued support for Mugabe seems sane in comparison. His more personal posts are still pretty goofballs, but Prozium has him outgunned in the crazy department.

I was involved in a pretty good thread at The Art of the Possible during which I brought up the ideas of Jeffrey Friedman, who unfortunately does not have a blog for me to link to. Dain, who appears to be considerably more familiar with Friedman’s ideas, then pointed out this lengthy intro to his basic ideas, which might be referred to as “post-libertarian”. Friedman is the editor of Critical Review, whose recent issue featuring Bryan Caplan reviewing Tetlock I covered here.

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