Here’s a good interview with a fellow from the Wall Street Journal talking about what the inflation rate would be today if we still measured it the way we did in the 70’s (10-11%), the economics of pre-buying food, and the general state of the economy, grain prices, and inflationary pressures.
Month: April 2008
What’s up at Beach Grove, Indiana?
I want to disbelieve the conclusion the narrator of this video comes to, but I can’t come up with any more plausible ideas myself.
NY: Patients May Not Refuse Medical Care
Brian Persaud went into the hospital to get eight stitches on his head. He got quite a bit more. A NY Supreme Court jury found he was not wronged:
Persaud, 38, was injured while working at a construction site in midtown Manhattan on May 20, 2003. Persaud received eight stitches for a cut over his eyebrow at the hospital, but denied emergency room staffers’ request to examine his rectum, the lawyer said. He said doctors told Persaud the exam could help determine whether the accident caused spinal damage.
When Persaud resisted, staffers held him down while he begged, “Please don’t do that,” Marrone said. Persaud hit a doctor while flailing around, so the staffers gave him a powerful sedative and performed the rectal exam, he said.
Hospital witnesses testified at trial that the exam was never completed, but Marrone said that when Persaud woke up he was handcuffed to a bed and had an oxygen tube down his throat and lubricant in his rectum.
There are at least three issues here:
First, the right to refuse medical care. If Persaud just wanted stitches and that’s it, it’s his call. If he makes a bad call, it’s his fault, but he has the right to decide his own destiny, otherwise he doesn’t have personal freedom.
Second, this is going to scare lots of people away from seeking medical care. If you need stitches and fear getting an anal probe for it, you’re probably just going to SuperGlue it and deal without antibiotics, even if that’s not the best course of action.
Third, what could the jury have been thinking? Even if there’s a statute on the books in NY that would side with the doctors – that’s what we have jury nullification for. I’d love to hear from a juror on this.
Whose side is Reiser’s Lawyer On Anyway?
In this update from the Hans Reiser trial, Reiser’s lawyer is quoted as saying:
“I just know this is one of the great screw jobs of what happened to Hans Reiser,” DuBois said. “It’s easy to screw a platypus.”
Not to DuBois: The Chewbacca Defense was supposed to be a joke.
For those not following this case, Hans Reiser, a filesystem architect, is accused of murdering his Russian wife, Nina. His wife’s blood was found in his car and Reiser took a mysterious trip to Reno shortly thereafter, to eat at a buffet, supposedly. Meanwhile, the wife’s boyfriend has confessed to being a serial killer and his children are now living in Russia with their grandmother. He’s been in jail for about 18 months.
Write In Ron!
I made this bumper sticker, sort of by request:
That should be self-explanatory if you’re interested. Denis Goddard came up with the slogan, a clever play on the old “Right On Ron!” slogan from the 80’s (or completely unintentional – whatever, it’s good).
In theory I can get up to 50 cents on each one sold. I once made 80 cents on another Zazzle sticker (sum total). They make a good product anyway. If it catches on I’ll have to cut Denis a royalty!
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (Act)
Representative John Campbell introduced in the House his ”Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Act”. It would amend the US tax code to allow individuals to make contributions to the Federal Government in addition to their normal tax liability. A new line would be placed on IRS tax forms to make this easy for those who think our taxes are too low.
John McCain is Confused
Reason Magazine did an article a year ago profiling John McCain’s ideas and perspectives. It’s a good read and illustrates that John McCain is confused.
John McCain seems to have a strong moral focus, and a strong sense of national duty. He can’t be criticized for that nor his service to his country. John McCain also seems to feel that all of a country’s citizens should have a strong moral focus and a strong sense of national duty. He can’t be criticized for that either. It’s his opinion, for one, and a good opinion at that (in my opinion, of course).
John McCain then concludes that it is right to use force to compel a nation’s citizenry to have a strong moral focus and strong sense of duty. He is to be roundly criticized for this.
Whether it’s McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform or mandated national service, John McCain would seek to employ fascist techniques to limit the freedom of the citizenry in an effort to make them better people. First, compelling a people to be moral neither makes them moral nor can be successful on a large scale (he’s basically talking about a non-military draft for every citizen, the Fourteenth Amendment be damned). It also creates misgivings about the Federal Government such that, if implemented, each successive generation would feel less and less the way John McCain wants them to feel, though his government force brigade would be there to force them to act as if they felt the way he wanted them to.
So, John McCain’s root problem is that he thinks he can force people to think and feel like him. Certainly, when one holds a personal philosophy, one is bound, if he believes in the good of his philosophy, to educate, convince, and encourage others to embrace one’s philosophy (and I just may try to convince you of the virtues of pluralistic deontology in a subsequent essay) as the holder of such beliefs ought to be convinced that such a manner of thinking will maximize societal value. However, when one steps out of the ring of argumentation into that of coercion, he has admitted to losing the argument, and becomes an embodiment of the forces against freedom, the definition of fascist thought, and, one could argue, evil.
So, on the merits, John McCain’s Mandatory Patriotism is bankrupt. But on a practical level it also fails. First, his idea of a national-service draft does not reflect the operating characteristics of society. Why the focus on national government, for one? Because that’s where he wields power? What of state governments, don’t they deserve service? How about community services? NGO’s, non-profits? How about the people who feed the nation? Build the things the nation needs to work? In reality, everybody not involved in criminal enterprise is already working in service of the Nation, otherwise they’d be out of a job. What John McCain does is to conflate government and society (I’ve written about this before) and reverses the priority – the government is supposed to work in service of the society, not the other way around. He’s 180° out of alignment on this issue, and this position belies his disbelief in free markets and capitalism.
His position is best summed up in this quote from the article:
Defending campaign finance reform, McCain said, “I would rather have a clean government than one…where ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice I’d rather have a clean government.”
It’s evident that for John McCain the individual exists for the benefit of the society, and the society holds primacy over the individual. There’s a term for that philosophy: Socialism.
The unfortunate situation for America today is that one of McCain, Clinton, or Obama are likely to be the forty-fourth President of the United States, and each feels compelled to use government force to impose their personal belief systems on the Nation. They each offer slightly different flavors of a Socialist agenda, each with some fleeting facets of merit, completely over-run by fascist implementations. That a free people are free to make mistakes, the wrong choices, is an essential part of being free. If one is not free to fail, one is not really free at all. Would it really be so terrible to have a President who reminds us (paraphrasing the Constitution), “you’re free to do what you wish so long as you’re not harming others” (what if the President spending most of his days on the golf course was a sign of progress, not sloth?) The members of the two dominant political parties in the United States seem to think so, and enough Americans support that system such that we may not have a choice but to be forced to act as if our morals are being changed every four to eight years. Of course, they aren’t, and everybody knows that – perhaps it’s instead time for people to vote what they know to be true rather than voting for the façade-du-jour being managed by the popular media (ironically enough, strongly empowered beyond all other citizens by McCain-Feingold).
Of course, perhaps John McCain’s confusion is one of an unexamined life, an emotional state of existence where logical reduction of philosophy is put aside with principles in favor of strong beliefs, however fleeting and amorphous they might be. If so, would he be the right person for the Presidency? However, if not, if his philosophy is grounded instead in an examined disbelief in the rights of the individual and ardent support of utilitarian collectivism, we’ve got something much worse on our hands than confusion.
Privacy Threats from Tire Pressure Monitor Sensors
Starting with Model Year 2008, all vehicles are mandated by the Federal Government to have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. These systems most commonly are implemented using an RFID chip in each tire valve stem, with a unique serial number on each. When cars are manufactured the ID’s of the tires are associated with VIN’s, and replacement tires could be re-associated during State inspections. Car onboard diagnostics could be programmed to not allow the car to operate in a situation with unaddressable tires.
Such systems are vulnerable to being read by just about anybody. A buried wire under the pavement, same as inductive traffic sensors used at red lights, could be utilized to read vehicle information anywhere on a road. A good use of this would be private parking lots, for automated billing purposes. It could also be used for State surveillance or terrorism.
Bruce Schneier has a writeup and a few years ago there was some creative brainstorming about what could be done. These are just a start- let your imagination run wild and there are all sorts of possibilities, both good and bad. The technology is neutral, but some uses may be sinister.
Legal System Bug
Here’s a news story about a man, Alton Logan, behind bars for 26 years in Chicago for a crime he didn’t commit. A pair of lawyers knew about his innocence but felt obligated to their client to not divulge Logan’s innocence.
Here’s the kernel of the problem: there’s no mechanism for lawyers in this situation to do the right thing and keep their jobs:
Knowing the affidavit had to be secret, Wilson’s lawyers looked for ways to help Logan without hurting their client. They consulted with legal scholars, ethics commissions, the bar association.
Kunz says he mentioned the case dozens of times over the years to lawyers, never divulging names but explaining that he knew a guy serving a life sentence for a crime committed by one of his clients.
There’s nothing you can do, he was told.
The accused feels rather differently:
“What I can’t understand is you know the truth, you held the truth and you know the consequences of that not coming forward?” he says of the lawyers. “Is (a) job more important than an individual’s life?”
Risky Science Reporting
I sent this correction in to Reuters today:
In a recent Reuters article by Maggie Fox, it states as a matter of fact:
Eggs are rich in cholesterol, which in high amounts can clog arteries and raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The implication is that eating cholesterol can clog arteries and raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. This idea has been largely discredited. For instance from the Harvard School of Public Health:
While it is well known that high blood cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease, scientific studies have shown that there is only a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person consumes and their blood cholesterol levels or risk for heart disease. For some people with high cholesterol, reducing the amount of cholesterol in the diet has a small but helpful impact on blood cholesterol levels. For others, the amount of cholesterol eaten has little impact on the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood.
The differences there are considered to be likely genetic. The subtleties are important here, so it’s probably best to either report the subtleties or don’t report oversimplifications, as they can easily lead to disinformation and non-constructive behaviors.