Sunday, September 29, 2013

My love is stronger than my fear of death

The Breaking Bad series finale was slightly better for Marty Robbins fan like me.

Warning: The spoilers below were provided by Marty:

Series creator Vince Gilligan had Walter Hartwell White steal a car with a Marty Robbins tape inside and played a few recognizable seconds of El Paso. Walt later hummed the song in a preparation scene for the episode's climax.

In El Paso, the protagonist runs from a crime on a stolen horse, but later returns to town because he needs to see his love Felina and ends up taking a bullet in the side but rides on to his death. I'm not going to spell out how Breaking Bad ended, but the final episode was called Felina and anyone who could figure out that the song was foreshadowing while they were watching it was treated to a richer experience.

Friday, September 27, 2013

No blurred lines in censorship

You can't call yourself a defender of free speech until you've defended speech you feverishly disagree with.

Or in this case can't stand. Oh boy, can I not stand this song.

Students - not faculty members but students - at five universities in the United Kingdom have banned Robin Thicke's unbearable song Blurred Lines from public venues because they find it degrading to women.

Personally, I think the song degrades music but that doesn't mean fussy monocle-poppers are justified in their idiot crusade.

They aren't alone, sadly. There are plenty of interchangeable autopilot feminist pieces criticizing the song's lyrics and music videos where everything is twisted into a pro-rape nether world.

The best take-down of these pearl-clutching reaction came from, of course, a self-described lowercase-f feminist:

Everyone seems to think it’s about a guy slinging a helpless girl over his shoulder or dragging her home by her hair. Not so. It is, in essence, about a guy trying to steal a girl away from her boyfriend/current love interest for some hanky-panky... 
If you picture the scene, it seems that the male is making his initial offer to open a sexual relationship with a woman. I don’t know why we assume that the woman is a damsel in distress, incapable of making a decision about whether or not she wants to partake. Of course our mind can run through a hundred scenarios in which a woman says no and a man pursues anyway, and this is wrong. But given that neither the song nor the music video indicates any rejection, there is no reason to believe that the woman in question has ever said no. There is no reason to believe that she doesn’t “want it”. In fact, people who are offended by this song clearly think it is SO UNBELIEVABLE that a woman might actually enjoy being treated like this, that they are in essence limiting the scope of what is considered acceptable sexual behavior for a woman.

We've come to the point where any expression of male sexuality is assumed to be about rape. Is there any line people won't cross to find excuses to be upset?

The answer to speech one doesn't like should always, always, be more speech. Treating a pop song like its nuclear waste doesn't do these college students any favors. In fact, it does something very destructive. It tells them that they should empower other people to decide what messages they should be allowed to hear. That's a vile line as bold and clear as day and it should never be crossed.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Scracrow is a Scaremonger

It appears I am the last person to have watched Chipotle's beautifully-rendered fearmongering cartoon about the coldness of modern agriculture.

Good grief, talk about romanticizing the past. As one farmer said in response to it, they want our food to be produced using methods from several generations ago, but they don't want the lower standard of living associated with life several generations ago and the two are very much a packaged deal.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, which took in $2.7 billion in revenue and has more than 1,500 locations is a strange bird to wrap itself in anti-corporate feathers, but what other lesson could someone take away from its ad campaign?

I don't normally like to cite Mother Jones, but it appears the real hippies don't care for Chipotle's earthy-crunchy posturing either. The company touts its locally-sourced ingredients, but fails to admit that they make up a small fraction of the menu. It also postures itself as being anti-GMO, anti-factory farm and pro-organic when only portions of its food supply fit that label.

Then there's this billboard ad:

The company has even taken the simply monstrous stance against treating its meat animals with antibiotics. That's not actually true, as the Mother Jones article reminds us, but it is coarse for them insist that sick animals should be denied medical care so they can die a "natural" death.

The only thing customers should be afraid of here is the barbaric way Chiptole believes food should be raised.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A myth trumpeted by atheists

It's sad to see Richard Dawkins website is the source of a recurring myth.

In June 2012 a Salvation Army PR director Major Andrew Craibe was put on the hot seat by gay activists in a radio interview. The Salvation Army is a Christian charity and their handbook lists multiple sections of the Bible that make up parts of their beliefs. Contained one of those sections in the Bible, but not spelled out in the handbook, is a verse that say gays should be put to death.

During the interview, which can be heard here, Craibe was told about this and he responded "Well, that's a part of our belief system." The interviewer spelled it out for him several times and he agreed to it each time.

The headlines screamed that the Salvation Army believes gays should be put to death, because after all, a spokesperson from the group agreed to the statement, even if  was a far-flung one from Australia. That lead to the Australian branch to issue a statement several days later. It read in part:

Salvation Army members do not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment. The Salvationist Handbook of Doctrine does not state that practising homosexuals should be put to death and, in fact, urges all Salvationists to act with acceptance, love and respect to all people. The Salvation Army teaches that every person is of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved.

So that should be the end of it, right? Of course not.

When Christmastime came around and the Salvation Army bell ringers started collecting money for charity, atheists in America started sharing the story again, saying not that the Salvation Army wants gays put to death and leave it at that. Myth-busting pages like Snopes and other myth-busting pages tell the whole story, but not everyone got the message.

Now we're getting close to Christmas 2013 and what do I see being shared from Richard Dawkins website? A 2013 piece entitled Salvation Army says “Gays Need to Be Put to Death” that leaves out some important details.

When I was an intern at a newspaper one of my editors told me we can we can never be unbiased, but we can always be fair. Presenting Craibe's interview with no mention of Australia or the response from the Salvation Army demolishing the statement is not fair. Putting quotation remarks around "gays need to be put to death" is lying.

Shame on Richard Dawkin's website staff for perpetuating misinformation.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

TEDx is all wet

In the latest example of TED Spread, we see that a TEDx event in Maksimir gave a slot to scam artist Ivan Jakobović who claims to have converted a car to use water as a fuel.

The supposed mechanism is that the hydrogen and the oxygen atoms in the water are separated so the hydrogen can be burned, but that separation process uses more energy than the burnt hydrogen generates.

A skeptical blogger posted on the TEDx events organizing page that Jakobović is a scam artist and got into an email exchange with the organizers as well and ended up banned from the event.

I can't say I'm surprised, of course. TED and TEDx events are ripe pickings for faux-intellectuals, scam artists and fools who are able to give a presentation. This events location in an obscure nation shows there are too many events for the central organizers to manage beforehand. There are plenty of good TED talks, but viewers can't see it as a place to let their skeptical guard down.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Word games

Taking a page from race profiteers, fringe feminists like Diana E. H. Russell are saying this Samsung ad portraying a stupid, grunting, sloth-like husband are not sexist because that word only applies to situations that are diminishing to women.

Well professor, what do you propose we call it when the most hostile stereotypes for a gender are used to portray a fictional man? Even if the rest of us took your arbitrary language hijacking seriously and agreed not to use the term sexism - something I will fight to the grave - what is the name for this phenomena?

This is what I hate about the dismissal about men's rights issues the most. It would be one thing if it came from apathy, but the people doing it are not neutral about gender issues; they are heavily invested in them as long as women are the victims. The moment the same forces are turned on men they shut their eyes as a reflex and defend the worst cases of gender stereotypes, hostility and discrimination.

It's because they assume sexism against men and sexism against women can't exist in the same same society, and that even admitting sexism against men exists or causes problems threatens their world view.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Unregulated" isn't scary

If you haven't seen it yet, the CBS affiliate in New York City created the most entertainingly alarmist piece on for-pay dinner parties. Here's an excerpt:

Clandestine dinner parties like the one Leitner attended have become more common in New York City. And insiders told Leitner they are completely unregulated. 
When asked at the dinner, “do you ever worry about getting caught?” Michael Patlazhan responded, “I definitely do.” 
Patlazhan is a professional chef who also hosts underground supper clubs. He cooks with blow torches, nitrogen and even a vacuum machine to create unusual meals.

In the broadcast version, I swear every time the reporter says "unregulated" I think we're supposed to shiver in fear.

Art Carden made the obvious point already so I've link to him:

I don't think the people concerned about unregulated dinner parties are going far enough. You know what else is unregulated? The kitchen at my house. Think about what the means for a second. It means that my children--children, mind you--are being fed food that's prepared in unregulated, uninsepected, and possibly less-than-sanitary conditions. The burgeoning field of Helen Lovejoy Political Economy demands that something must be done. For the children, of course.

Of course, there's a much easier solution to how to spin these illegal meals our friends on the left have given us. Simply call them undocumented kitchens.


Sunday, September 15, 2013


I think Econlolcats just won the Internet

For more, click here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The flaw in science is humans

I wish it weren't true, but it is. It's the truth. From Wonkblog:

Click for a much more readable version.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Racecars, lasers, aeroplanes

In 1989 I got the original Ducktales Nintendo game on a Wednesday night and beat it on Friday.

This morning The HD remake, Ducktales Remastered was released for the Xbox 360. I got it at 7:30 a.m. and had it beaten by 12:30 p.m. On hard mode.

The reviews have been mixed, from people like me who love it to whiners who said it's too difficult. The biggest complaint from the Negative Nancies is that if you use up your extra lives you have to restart the last level.

Well folks, if that's a problem then choose the "easy" difficulty level which includes infinite lives and no level restarts. I can't say I understand their complaint, as no one forced them to choose the "hard" option.

With the addition of two new levels, expanded boss battles, the reunion of the original voice cast, skipable cutscenes, an improved control system and Jake Kaufman's faithful revamp of the best video game song ever made this remake is better than the original.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Full-time depressing

Greg Mankiw shared some troubling news from John Lott about the jobs added in America so far this year: A soul-destroying 96 percent of those jobs were part-time.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Successful econ humor

...and it has nothing to do with Yoram Baugman.

Jeff Smith from the University of Michigan and co-author Kermit Daniel have channeled their eye-rolling at sociologists into an openly-hostile satirical piece where sociological phrases are "translated" into economic ones.

To see how to use the phrase book, consider the sentence 
Those poor people need more money. 
 Look up the word "need" in the Sociology column and replace it with the corresponding economics term, to form the translated sentence 
Those poor people want more money. 
Wasn't that easy? Next time you want to talk to a Sociologist, or - perish the thought - read an article in a Sociology journal, just keep the phrase book handy and you'll have no trouble at all. 

As long time readers, friends and stalkers know, I'm a former sociology minor who defected to economics after finding too many uncompelling arguments from sociologists while economists were quick to provide superior explanations.

The whining, the excuse-making and self-described Marxism that is essential to mainstream sociology needs a good smack here and there, and this piece does it with a wink.

Friday, September 6, 2013

September is smarter than the smarties

This month has a lot to offer.

Next week Ducktales: Remastered comes out for the Xbox 360.

In the week after that, Grand Theft Auto V hits the shelves.

And now to cap it off Marginal Revolution University is releasing a free six-hour course on international trade.

I'm taking the day off work for the first two. I might have to consider taking a third one off for Mr. University.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Of course we can predict things

In a recent New York Times opinion piece philosophers Alex Rosenberg and Tyler Curtain argue that economics is not a science because it is not able to predict the state of the economy.

When we put a satellite in orbit around Mars, we have the scientific knowledge that guarantees accuracy and precision in the prediction of its orbit. Achieving a comparable level of certainty about the outcomes of an economy is far dicier. 
The fact that the discipline of economics hasn’t helped us improve our predictive abilities suggests it is still far from being a science, and may never be. Still, the misperceptions persist. A student who graduates with a degree in economics leaves college with a bachelor of science, but possesses nothing so firm as the student of the real world processes of chemistry or even agriculture.

I liked Eric Maskin's reply but the Nobel laureate economist didn't go far enough.

Prediction is certainly a valuable goal in science, but not the only one. Explanation is also important, and there are plenty of sciences that do a lot of explaining and not much predicting. Seismology, for example, has taught us why earthquakes occur, but doesn’t tell Californians when they’ll be hit by “the big one.” 
 And through meteorology we know essentially how hurricanes form, even though we can’t say where the next storm will arise.

Maskin is accepting their flimsy premise that economics can not make predictions. That notion is completely absurd. I'm reminded of something Milton Friedman said as a guest on Icelandic State Television in 1984:

There are certain aspect of economics, as I explained before, which are scientific in character. The quantity theory of money is a scientific law. The statement that inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon is a scientific law and not a political law. It is like Newton's law. If any country, whether it be a dictatorship or a democracy, whatever it may be, prints too much money you're going to have inflation. If any country, whether it be a dictatorship or a democracy, wants to reduce inflation it must reduce the amount of money it prints. Now those are scientific laws...

The quantity theory of money didn't just happen, it was the result of generations of careful work by economists, and it's extremely good at predicting what happens to the value of money when the ratio changes of currency to goods and services. Economics has countless examples of concepts where we can predict the effect of actions, such as the the impact of price ceilings on production or the effect of  Pigovian taxes on consumption.

The assumption that Rosenberg and Curtain are making is that economics is simply the study of the economy, and since it can't predict complex future events with countless variables it must not be a science after all.

Riddle me this: If we put a stack of 100 unique coins in a closed shoe box and asked a physicist to rattle it around for two minutes, would we expert her to be able to predict which ones will turn out heads-up when the box is opened? Do we expect biologists to be able to predict how evolution will shape a wild species over the next 100,000 years with real-world environmental pressures?

Of course we don't, but too many people want to reject economic science by holding it to an unrealistic standard. Rosenberg and Curtain are missing the entire point, as economics is not the study of the economy. It is the science of the distribution of resources and it does that predictably well.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Completely monsterous

An angry mob of anti-GMO Luddites in the Philippines pillaged an experimental crop of Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice, but as Mark Lynas reports, their supporters spun it into propaganda and said it was a spontaneous action by farmers.

The nature of the attack was widely misreported, from the New York Times to New Scientist to BBC News, based on false claims by the activists. But then anti-GMO activists often lie. In support of the vandals, Greenpeace has claimed that there are health concerns about the genetically modified rice. In fact there is no evidence of risk, and the destruction of this field trial could lead to needless deaths.

What's more, the stakes are incredibly high:

Although some anti-GMO activists dismiss the public health problem of vitamin A deficiency to bolster their case, the medical community agrees that it is a major killer, comparable in scale to malaria, HIV/AIDS, or tuberculosis. The World Health Organization estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind each year because of a lack of vitamin A in their diets, and half of them die within 12 months.

The need to resort to lies to win support should be a red flag that one is on the wrong side of an issue. I'm reminded of the masked anti-globalization protesters who pretend the bandannas over their faces have nothing to do with concealing their identity when they start a riot.

Once again, the combination of utilitarianism and ignorance is leading self-righteous people to do something they know is wrong - lying to the public - because they mistakenly believe their actions will make the world a better place. In reality they are breaking their own moral codes in a manner that harms the poor of the world. No one gains from this, but plenty of people lose.