05 Nov 2009

Say No to the Music City Center!

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Daniel Lewis, chairman of the Davidson County Libertarian Party (which includes Nashville), is one hot tamale when it comes to the City’s plan to spend (they say) some $635 million on a major new convention center called “Music City Center.” (Nashville’s nickname is “Music City.”)

Since I already am surely on a federal list, I agreed to Daniel’s request to go on record opposing the project. Unfortunately the camera Daniel used was apparently in the Phantom Zone, but the music is catchy and if you get bored you can try to identify the books on my office shelves.

05 Nov 2009

"What Are the Odds of That?" Problems

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I’m surprised it took this long to make the WSJ op ed page–i.e. I thought the window was gone by this point–but the “Numbers Guy” takes up Ahnold’s recent potty mouth veto message. (See here if you don’t know what I’m talking about; the wussy WSJ doesn’t even reprint the letter.)

Anyway the Numbers Guy goes through and talks about the different ways mathematicians try to determine the probability that the “hidden message” was really just a coincidence. I realize there are a million different points you could raise, but I think they overlooked two of the most important issues:

(1) Ahnold’s word choice was unnatural. In particular the last paragraph:

“Yet another legislative year has come and gone without the major reforms Californians
overwhelmingly deserve. In light of this, and after careful consideration, I believe it is
unnecessary to sign this measure at this time.”

That “overwhelmingly” seems as if it’s quite clearly in there just to get the “o,” and “unnecessary” seems like the wrong word there.

Whether you agree with my opinion on the above wording, surely we can agree that if something just “reads funny” and then “happens” to spell out a naughty word, that that is a smoking gun. Yet the WSJ op ed just talks about general analysis of letter frequencies.

(2) We have to generalize the type of event that occurred. I.e. we are shocked by the “F— you” message, but we also would have been shocked had the first letters of each line spelled out “Eat me” or “Up yours” etc. So if we ask, “What are the odds that Schwarzenegger’s veto letter could have contained a hostile message due to dumb luck?” then our answer has got to be at least 20x whatever we come up with for the specific example of “F— you.”

This latter point occurred to me when I was younger and learned all the spooky July 4 coincidences. I don’t remember the exact details–someone please enlighten us in the comments–but it was things like one of the Founder’s birthday was on July 4 and then two of the Founders died on the same day, or something like that.

So at first that sounds amazing, but then you say: Well they didn’t sign the Declaration by throwing darts at a calendar. Maybe it was close so they decided to get smashed on whoever’s birthday at happy hour (drinking Sam Adams’ summer brew), then go back to the log cabin, dip the quill in blood and sign their John Hancock’s. (I am a product of private schools, by the way, so be afraid, be very afraid of the future of our country.)

And about two Founders dying on July 4, again you have to not just compute the probability of those two guys but of other events that would have seemed equally amazing to us.

05 Nov 2009

Po-Po Take Down Former LP Chair

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Brandon Robison alerts me to what happened to his personal friend (and former Libertarian Party Nevada state chairman) Jim Duensing. Here is the official media version of the shooting after a routine traffic stop. As you might expect, Duensing has a different take:

First, I’d like to thank everyone for their prayers and well wishes.

I have suffered a broken arm. It is currently pinned in 4 places. Additional surgery on it will probably take place on Wednesday.

The shots to my midsection missed all vital organs. Three shots were fired from behind me and to my right. The doctors believe that two of the shots made contact. It appears that one entered my right pec, bounced off my sternum, went through my left pec, then shattered my humerous just above my left elbow. The second shot went in my lower right abdomen and exited my left abdomen without hitting any vital organs.

I am well on the way to recovery. and expect to be released from the hospital shortly after my surgery on Wednesday.

Here is what happened.

I was pulled over for driving straight through an intersection in a right turn only lane. I did signal for my lane changes to the left.

After exiting the vehicle at the officer’s request, I was standing with my back to the vehicle. The car’s open door was to my right. My hands were raised above my head. I was calmly speaking to the cop attempting to talk my way out of being taken to jail over an unpaid High Occupancy Vehicle ticket.

With my hands raised above my head, the cop shot me with a taser in the chest. As I have had heart problems since my premature birth, I believe a Taser to be a lethal weapon. Several people without heart conditions have been killed by this weapon.

When the taser began electrocuting me, instinct took over. I have been shocked by standard 120 volt electricity, which is what is used in your home. That was bad enough. Metro’s tasers contain “50,000 volts of pain compliance” according to one of the cops at the family law court who was operating the checkpoint.

Let me tell you, it is quite painful.

I immediately turned to my left and began moving away from the source of the electrocution. By the time I got to the back of the vehicle, I had reached up with both hands, grabbed the electrodes, and pulled them away from my chest. The juice then flowed through my arms – not my heart. As I lay here in my hospital bed, I firmly believe this instinct saved my life.

I continued running away from the taser. I heard the cop fire it again, but did not feel an additional shock.

I was running down the sidewalk with empty hands. I heard three pops from behind me. At first, I thought it was another taser shot. Then, I saw my left arm dangling.

I was taken down by a second officer – who was nearby conducting a separate unrelated traffic stop. He had me lying facedown on my broken arm. It was at this point that he found my licensed and registered pistol in my right cargo pants pocket and my Emerson folding knife in my right front pocket.

Let me reiterate. I am a firearms instructor at the world’s largest firearms training facility. I always carry a gun and at least one knife. I NEVER pulled either of these items out of my pockets.

The shooter was on my right side and from his perspective had to have been able to see that my right hand was indeed empty. The officer that I was running toward never reached for any weapon.

BTW I don’t think I personally know Duensing. (I say “I don’t think” because his name is familiar and I may have gone to school with him, though I am not sure it’s the same guy.)

05 Nov 2009

The Policeman Is Not Your Friend, Firefighter Edition

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As usual, William Grigg alerted me to this outrageous tale:

Michael “Mikey” Bartlett Jr. said the reward he got for rescuing several people from an early morning fire Sunday on Crain Avenue in Kent was to get Tasered and arrested by Kent police, allegedly for hindering firefighters’ efforts at the scene.

Standing outside the Crain Avenue house Monday, Mikey Bartlett, 19, said he was not treated Sunday for burns he suffered to his ear, head, back and arm when he entered the house to warn family and friends of the fire.

One of those who made it out thanks to Mikey Bartlett was Matt Moschella, who woke up to his friend screaming “Fire! Fire!”

Mikey Bartlett had left the house around 4 a.m. Sunday to watch the unofficial Halloween celebration wind down, but went back inside for his cellphone, he said. That’s when he saw flames coming out of his sister Shannon’s room.

Shouting for everyone to get out, he put his T-shirt over a friend’s face to keep the smoke out of her lungs as he led her outside.

Fortunately, Shannon Bartlett was not in her room. She had left for her boyfriend’s house 30 minutes earlier. When she returned during the emergency, there were several Kent police officers outside. When she approached one, whom she identified as Sgt. Ed Wheeler, and asked “Can you guys help?” she said he “laughed in my face” and called her an obscene name.

“‘What the (expletive) you think we’re gonna do?’” Shannon Bartlett quoted Wheeler as saying. Soon after, Mikey Bartlett was Tasered, arrested and booked for misconduct at an emergency and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

He sat in the Kent jail from 4:38 a.m. Sunday until his 1:30 p.m. arraignment later that day, then for two-and-a-half more hours in Portage County Municipal Judge John Plough’s Kent courtroom before he could get to Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna for treatment.

Michael Bartlett Sr., Mikey’s father, said Monday he was taking his son to the burn unit at Akron Children’s Hospital to get checked out. He said he believes “the world would be a worse place without police officers,” but was bothered by what his children reported about Sunday’s incident.

“To stand there laughing, that’s not how a policeman should behave,” Michael Bartlett Sr. said.

Cole said four police officers’ written accounts of the incident disagree with the Bartletts’ account. He also said anyone needing medical care while in Kent police custody “gets it,” and that every time Kent police use force during an arrest, a separate report is filed for supervisors. Such a report was filed after Sunday’s incident, Cole said.

He said Mikey Bartlett “understood there was nobody left in the house” at the time of his arrest.

“Mr. Bartlett was not thinking clearly or of his own safety. His actions were hindering the firefighters and he was placing himself in danger … after being warned several times,” he said.

As for the alleged profanity: “I’ve tried to get (Sgt. Wheeler) to curse, and I have yet to succeed in 10 years,” Cole said.

Hmmm. What’s more likely here? Someone whose house is on fire, decides to make up a bunch of stories about cops swearing at her, OR, a bunch of cops lying to cover up what happened?

When I was in high school, I would not have believed the above. I would have thought the girl was nuts or was just covering up for her brother (who inexplicably decided to try to stop firefighters from putting out his house’s fire). But since then I have encountered so many stories of cops doing things much worse–and then their bodies lying for them because that’s what a good cop does–that I treat the police’s version of events as conveying zero information. When evaluating stories like these, I focus solely on the complainant’s credibility and the internal plausibility of the story.

05 Nov 2009

Standing Up to the Bully, Joe Romm

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For those who read the “indispensable” (Tom Friedman’s word) Joe Romm’s climate blog, I believe you will find this analysis from the Breakthrough Institute spot-on:

Think about it: If you’re an ambitious young Democratic Hill staffer, a liberal policy analyst, or a struggling young reporter, why would you ever stand up to a guy who is famous for first trashing people to their editors, employers and funders in private emails, and then, if that doesn’t work, in public blogs? Why would you challenge someone who seems to have so much of the liberal establishment on his side?

Romm’s McCarthyism is apparently contagious, as Krugman now seems to see it as his role acts as an enforcer of the orthodoxy, issuing this chilling warning in the wake of the Superfreakonomics controversy:

[I]f you’re going to get into issues that are both important and the subject of serious study, like the fate of the planet, you’d better be very careful not to stray over the line between being counterintuitive and being just plain, unforgivably wrong.

Get that? Not just wrong — “unforgivably wrong.” That’s a pretty amazing judgment against a book suggesting an alternative strategy for dealing with global warming. When we think of unforgivably wrong, we tend to think of things like, say, getting thousands of people to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. But suggesting we should consider shooting sulfur dioxide particles into the sky to cool the earth? That’s unforgivable?

There will always be bullies like Joe Romm — they are not the problem. It is the the establishment figures who goad them on, and the bystanders who could speak up but do not, fearing the consequences of doing so. If we are to move to real solutions to global warming, and protect some level of basic human decency, Joe Romm and his enablers must be challenged. For Climate McCarthyism isn’t just bad for climate policy, it’s anathema to liberal and democratic values.

This is why I’ve been so upset over the Superfreakonomics spat. I can’t believe that none of the global warming standard bearers are even lightly saying, “Of course our good friend Romm, in his zealousness to save the planet, may have acted indecorously” or something like that.

Before I thought it was because they were so classless, but duh, in retrospect it’s because they don’t want to get on Romm’s bad side.

(BTW if anyone knows of a pro-cap-and-trader who chastised Romm for quite clearly lying to his readers about what the Freako authors had done, please let me know. I want to highlight heroes here.)

04 Nov 2009

Potpourri

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* Scott Sumner writes a profound post in which he gives the illusion of blowing up macro and then promises to rebuild it from scratch. I will write a lengthy critique of this post in the coming days, but this is some of the best stuff the geeconosphere has to offer.

* The intrepid von Pepe sends this WSJ story detailing how $890 in stimulus money saved or created 9 jobs. And remember, even with bogus reports like this one in the mix, the total figures show that some states received more than $500k in awards per job “saved or created.”

* Jerry O’Discroll takes a shot at He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named-But-Works-for-Cato. I loved this part:

A common barb to launch against an opponent is that he espouses religion, not science. By what criteria? Is it his subject matter or method? As Machlup reminds us, neither is a legitimate criterion for separating science from non-science. The charge is an exercise in confusion. There certainly can be a science of religion, i.e., a systematic study of religion….Moreover, the barb assumes religion itself cannot be reason based.

As one who was recently christened a “priest-inquisitor”–where that term was used as the antithesis of a “scholar”–I really liked O’Driscoll’s points here.

04 Nov 2009

was e.e. cummings just in a hurry?

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has anyone else’s emailing degenerated to the point where you debate using punctuation, whereas it’s just a given that you don’t need no stinkin’ SHIFT key?

i used to write lovely, flowing emails in iambic pentameter. no more. i gots billz to pay.

04 Nov 2009

I’m Ready to Give Karl Marx a Shot

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OK, so all of a sudden the ink cartridge on my new HP 640 Fax machine died. What the heck?! I had used it for like 5 faxes?!

So I pulled out the cartridge and it is called “Introductory HP Black Printer Cartridge.” On the side it says, “Intended for single use only.”

So do you mean to tell me that they intentionally have you buy a brand new fax machine, get into your office and set it all up, and then you run out of ink after you send 5 faxes?

Does anyone know if there is some reason that it’s bad to package these things with a big cartridge?

Finally, why doesn’t the box make clear–”Hey if you actually want to use this thing, you might need to buy some ink while you’re here at the store!”?

Argh.