Tuesday, December 16, 2003
This is the sort of thing I like to see bandied about. The clash of libertarian ideas and reality w/regards to manufacturing jobs being sent overseas.
Crichton talks about environmentalism. (courtesy instapundit)
The intro is poor, but keep reading. He compares environmentalism to religion, based on the observation that many efforts made in the name of environmentalism are, in fact, contrary to facts. This is a similarity, and does not mean that enviromentalism is a religion (he goes too far), but Chricton's not a philosopher so I guess we can let him off the hook. The meat of the article is when he presents some of the lies politicians, environmentalists, and the media carry around. Its refreshing to see this printed, but sad that it is not more widely seen.

I can tell you that DDT is not a carcinogen and did not cause birds to die and should never have been banned. I can tell you that the people who banned it knew that it wasn't carcinogenic and banned it anyway. ...

I can tell you that second hand smoke is not a health hazard to anyone and never was, and the EPA has always known it. I can tell you that the evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.

A fellow engineer saw me smoking the other day, and exclamed in shock, "That's as bad as a doctor or a nurse smoking, an educated engineer smoking!" I replied that latest studies show that less than 10% of heavy smokers show a greater risk of lung cancer. Everyone else (including my pack every 2 weeks), including second-hand smokers, are in no more danger than when they eat salad dressing (the kind you don't have to shake) or get their carpet cleaned. If its in the newspaper, it must be true. Personally, I think its shocking that an educated fellow engineer can be led around by the nose so easily.
Sunday, December 14, 2003
Saddam has been captured!!!
The best argument against attacking Iraq is, "Did they present an immenent threat?" The administration's answer was "no," but that we should not wait until they did. Some say that the only result of the war in Iraq has been mostly negative, including a devaluation of the dollar and a possible upcoming economic crisis due to excessive national debt. My initial response to this is that 1) the governments of many nations believed there was a connection between Iraq and terrorist organizations, and attacking Iraq was in the same vein as attacking Afghanistan. Governments connected with the murder of 3,000 American civilians need to be attacked and defeated. 2) Creating a stable republic or two the middle east/asia is virtually justification enough and will, in the end, help our economy by creating new customers and trade partners, especially if the domino effect happens and freedom (and thus more buying power) spreads beyond those two countries.
But now it appears as though I will be able to beyond speculative answers to such questions. We've capture Saddam, and he will, I'm sure, be very helpful in confirming our governments intelligence that stated that Iraq supported the murder of American people. The purpose of the war is not finish what Bush's father started, is not to save Iraq people from a murderous regime, nor to secure an oil source. It was because Iraq was responsible, as was Afghanistan, for the attack on US soil.
Friday, December 12, 2003
First the horseless carriage, now the horseless, um, horse for mounted police.
This is what makes America America. Sometimes it seems people forget that America was founded on a rebellion from Europe. In America, religious freedom means just that. There are no restrictions except those that interfere with the most basic of liberties (i.e. life; no satanic killings allowed). In France religious freedom is only allowed if the state decides it is allowed. France may be "western" but its no America! (Sometimes I think "western" just means "not insane dictatorship" rather than "defender of human rights/liberties".)
You work for MNDOT and have been told to clear snow off the shoulders of 169. It is nothing pressing, but you're asked to coordinate the effort. You decide to start by picking the time of day to perform this operation, which will require the closing of one lane. Do you pick
a) 10pm-5am
b) 5am-10am
c) 9am-4pm
d) 7pm-12am

If you picked 'b', you are correct! Now, you know you will be removing snow from the shoulders at least 2 days in advance. Do you
a) provide no notice; commuters are used to this sort of thing
b) notify radio stations of your intent so they can report it
c) put a truck on the shoulder with a sign: "Right lane closed 5am-10am Dec. 12"

If you picked 'a', you are correct! After two days of extra-bad commutes due to snow and ice, no one will mind yet another day of >1hr commute because you're removing snow DURING RUSH HOUR!!!!
Thursday, December 11, 2003
More on how NGOs + UN = poverty and decline. Aid organizations and UN administration have left many governments unable to govern. And worse, these same organizations then take the high and mighty stance that they know better than the governments themselves how to govern? Who are the ones "occupying" countries here? Our government wants to create a republic out of a dictatorship, and its occupation. The UN deems governments unable to govern themselves in some convention, and its "international support"?
Damn it, if the US could rise up from absolutely nothing (following a bloody and long rebellion) with no help from anyone (the French did not help us, they sent over some troops to help themselves), and in 10 years create a country capable of defending itself from terror (pirates of Tripoli, whom none in Europe could conquer) and protecting its own shipping and trade rights (war of 1812), why can't anyone else?
[answer: Its too easy to accept "free" money from NGOs and the UN. The only downside is you lose the ability to make choices for your own country.]
If you want a successfull African country, for instance, reject all outside aid. As the government, take control of un-owned land and parks. Sell them. Use your unruly army to quell the natives. Sell contracts to railroads, encourage trade with the interior. Chop down forests, plow over grasslands. Create the spirit of expansionism in your culture, and embrace the independence that results. Screw the UN, screw the WWF and environmentalists, screw those "defending" the rights of natives. Europe considered us barbarians during our expansionist phase. Now they depend on our economy to survive.
There are 1100 MN national guardsmen in Bosnia? Where's the stories on the families of those guardsmen, and how the prolonged "occupation" of Bosnia has hurt them? Would Gov. Pawlenty's visit be called a "publicity stunt" if it were a visit to Iraq? Why the free pass on a visit to Bosnia?
Speaking of Bosnia, where's the coverage of terrorist attacks in Kosovo? The UN is evidently building a concrete wall around its facilities there due to attacks. Didn't they decide to pull out of Iraq for less? The UN needs to go. [The only possible use of the piece of garbage known as the UN I could see is if our government is using the UN (and the media) to encourage terrorists to think they're succeeding, drawing them into an environment (Iraq) where we hold the upper hand and can easily mop up.]
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Awesome. Absolutely awesome that this opinion is prominent enough to be in print:
The Republicans have a moment here that they could seize. They can dig in with the conservatives and continue to muck about with the peripheral issues; or they can shed the conservative tag, embrace the reptilian “South Park Republicans” and get to work on the fundamental issues: freedom, prosperity, promise.

Freedom, prosperity, promise. All based on individual responsibility and individual choices, of course.
Ha ha ha. A comment to this post is funny:
"By the time the Sun's power output starts dropping noticeably,
the human race will probably have advanced technologically to
the point where practical fusion power is only 15-30 years off."
--Wim Lewis

He he.
Is cracking down on drunk-drivers necessary anymore? Evidently the numbers thrown around by many include accidents where any alcohol was involved (i.e. 1 beer), not "drunk driving". Why the push for lowering the legal limit to 0.08?? Read this. A money quote:
"In 1997 the New England Journal of Medicine published a study concluding that drivers using cellular phones experienced the same amount of impairment as those with a blood alcholol of 0.10"
Quick, join MACP!! (mothers against cellular phones).
Finally!! A comparison of alcohol prohibition to the "war on drugs". Making things illegal to buy generally means that they're dirty, expensive, and somehow involved with crime (and just as widely used as if legal). Someone should be tracking cost of the legal enforcement vs. anticpated cost of drug use/prostitution/etc. If 90% of the cost is "moral" it doesn't count. Morality is based on reason, not religion or "values". If reason dictates that drug-related deaths and accidents and cost to the government is significantly less than gang-wars and ODs (and even terror and socialist revolutions) based on limited supply (you'll get that ref after reading above article), it is a moral obligation for the government to legalize it (see The Elements of Moral Philosophy by J. Rachels).
Plus smoking weed is totally a trip, man. Now I gotta go get some Doritos.
Where was I for a week? Not that I haven't gone such lengths of time w/out posting before, but this time I was the MRS (TLA for Materials Research Society, not the pre-fix meaning married lady) Fall Meeting in Boston, MA. The main purpose of my visit was to learn more about "Smart Materials" and "Smart Systems" based on a sometimes reversible phase transformation in some metal alloys that can be induced by thermal or magnetic means. As it turns out, however, I'd already learned about all there is to know in that field by reading a few of the published articles earlier this year. That was a disapointment; I ran into no one that I thought would be excited about ambitious applications of these materials to something besides strain sensors. Not even a fellow from the same company as I, who presented a poster! Apparently many people do research merely to do research, and the idea of engineering applications is not exciting, or worse, repulsive.
On the other hand, I also had the opportunity to see some very good stuff in "my field" on mechanical properties of thin films. Mostly by people I already knew and respected; most of the other stuff was also disappointing.
What would I do different if I bothered to participate in the orginization of such a meeting (limited by my laziness, I guess)? 1) All speakers must speak English. I'd recommend all session leaders actually speak to the presenter prior to accepting their proposed talk. If their speach is more Chinese than English, no talk. I don't care if they're presenting cold fusion; if you can't understand them, you might as well be sitting around eating bon-bons as listening to the talk. 2) Cut the length from 5 days to 3. This can be accomplished by enforcing 1) and another criteria that limits speakers to those with a) something new to say or b) something of exceptional quality. Inviting 20 talks on the same subject by the same 5 groups as last year is not helpful to the rest of the audience. Its just encouraging those people to stay mired in their own language and interpretation (indeed, some topics get away with murder because no one else can figure out what the sam hell they're talking about). 3) Schedule the events during normal business hours. That is, not from 8:30AM to 11:00PM for 5 straight days. There is NOT that much good/interesting/new information out there to justify it. 4) Brutally enforce the time limits. You can't get from a talk in one symposium to a talk in another because all the session leaders allow the talks to go for different amounts of time. 5) Punish those who a) don't show up to give a scheduled talk or b) make no effort to participate beyond the actual giving of the talk by not inviting them for a couple years. Make them do their talks at TMS or ACerS for a couple years; they'll learn. 6) Provide coffee at all times and wherever possible. Do not limit coffee acquisition to 2 times/day and let it run out. The reason(s) should be obvious. 7) Put clocks EVERYWHERE. As opposed to no where. Everyone gets a 200-page schedule based on time. Then there are no clocks. 8) Reduce the number of posters or get a bigger room. The tables were spaced like 3 ft apart.
One very cool aspect: this year the name-tags were scannable. If you talked to a vendor and wanted more info, they just scanned the badge and said "You'll be getting the information soon." Technology at its best. They hardly needed business cards.
Finally, what's up with pre-paid calling cards charging an extra 3 minutes if used on a pay-phone? Where the hell else are they going to be used? I used up 20 minutes in like half a day to check voice mails. Sheesh. Cellphones obviously have their advantages (plus a friend of mine was able to, with his cell-phone, while sitting in a bar in Boston, let in the pizza guy for his wife 1000 miles away. crazy).

A good read on economics. I konw what you're thinking, but no, I don't think this is the same von Mises as the plasticity condition fellow. But you never know...

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