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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Democrats looking better all the time.

Over at,
David Franke asks, regarding Howard Dean's infamous Iowa concession speech:

Am I the only person in America who can't comprehend what was wrong with it?

No, you are not.

It was silly, but no moreso than any other campaign pep rally with a big crowd of cheering idiots. Looking at all of the Democrats' speeches that night, I wondered what kind of moron would you have to be to get involved with that scene. It may be frustrating to be relegated to the margins of politics, but do we really want libertarians to play that game? (If you're not sure, maybe you need to reread "Isaiah's Job.")

Mr. Franke makes an interesting case for Dean as the least-bad alternative from a libertarian perspective. He also suggests that Dean is maybe kind of an okay guy otherwise, who just happens to have some bad ideas, which is more than you can say for most politicians. For example, Dean and his wife don't let their kids watch TV, so they definitely can't be all bad. (Contrast Laura Bush's atrocious parenting methods.)

Meanwhile, longtime prominent libertarian Jerome Tuccille is not at all impressed with the "whack job" Dean, but nonetheless points out that the Republicans no longer have any claim whatsoever to the "lesser of evils" title. I'm sadly inclined to agree. I didn't think it was possible, but George Bush makes me long for Bill Clinton more each day. Clinton raised spending much less than most Republican presidents, and also gave us entertaining scandals. What more do you want?

True, Clinton presided over the massacres at Waco and Ruby Ridge. But I'd rather the federal government performed its evil through a few very visible incidents that almost no one thinks are justifiable, than through the Ashcroft era's creeping totalitarianism in the guise of liberty.

Still, there is the matter of judicial appointments, and there the Republicans maintain a significant edge. The Democrats would never, ever appoint a Scalia, Thomas, or Janice Brown. We're stuck with judges for life, but we'll be rid of George Bush in four years no matter what. Given that fact, and given that there will almost certainly be multiple Supreme Court vacancies between now and 2008, I'd rather a Republican were there to fill them. Of course, there's no guarantee that a Republican will make good choices (Exhibit A: John Paul Stevens), but we do know for sure that a Democrat would make bad ones.

So it's a tough call. Good thing I don't vote, or I might have a difficult decision to make.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 1:55 AM

Your piercings and tattoos are ugly.

Call me crazy, call me out of touch with the times, but I find any piercings beyond the earlobes, and any tattoos at all, just ugly. It's so disappointing to go to the gym and see so many otherwise lovely-looking young women so terribly disfiguring and defacing themselves.

Part of me wants this trend to end ASAP, because I'm tired of looking at it. At the very least, I want places that serve food to stop hiring people with facial piercings to deal with the public.

On the other hand, there are very real benefits to people like me if our society is accepting of these practices.

Now don't worry, I'm not about to get all Reason on you and celebrate these people's "free minds." I'm just saying that it's helpful to be able to identify dysfunctional individuals on sight. That way, you can know that, however appealing they may be in other respects, they have serious issues that make them want to do bad things to themselves.

That's valuable information, because it saves me precious time that I don't have to spend dealing with them, finding out whether they are worthy of my attention.

Of course, if the offending body modification is always beneath clothing, you may not find out about it until it is far too late.

In researching body modifications earlier this week, I was traumatized to learn that some extreme tattoo and piercing enthusiasts are now doing "penis splitting," which is exactly what it sounds like. The pictures are out there if you want proof, but I'm sure not going to give you a link to them. There are similarly gruesome "body mods" for women.

Well, that's more than enough about mutilated genitals (here come the strange Google hits).

The point is, the difference between the girl with a tattoo on her back and the guy with the split penis is one of degree, not kind.

So to all you body-modified dysfunctional people out there: thanks for the warning.

- posted by
J. H. Huebert at 12:12 AM

Monday, January 19, 2004

Step One: Spend billions of tax dollars on a trip to the moon.

Step Two: ???

Step Three: Profit!

Here's Paul Hein on why none of the alleged economic justifications for Bush's moon scheme make any sense.

Of course, government space spectacles are just a bread-and-circuses trick to dazzle the masses and distract their attention from ever-increasing federal tyrrany.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 11:52 AM

Sunday, January 18, 2004

What kind of moron gives money to political campaigns?

The kind that works for the New York Times,

But seriously, even if you have a strange belief that some politician is worthy of your money, why would you ever give one money, unless you believe you have a realistic chance of getting personal favors in return?

It's like voting, only a much bigger waste. If the guy loses, you get nothing. If he wins, you also get nothing. You may like to think you helped, but did your extra hundred or thousand make the difference? The chances of your dollar making the difference are probably the same as your vote making a difference: zero.

It's not even like voting, where some people nonsensically believe there's some sort of "duty" to do it. Giving money to campaigns is strictly elective even in the minds of such "civic-minded" types, isn't it?

Even if you think you have some duty to "give back" to the community in some way, couldn't you at least give your money to a charity where you know that your money will feed X number of starving children, or something like that?

No politician will ever get my money for a campaign. Except by force, that is. Apparently, the Supreme Court thinks that forced speech (i.e. contributions) on behalf of politicians is A-OK, especially since they denied cert. in this case challenging a law that publicly funded elections through, among other things, parking ticket surcharges.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:34 AM

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Maybe Kerry isn't so *&%#@ bad after all.

From Drudge:

In 1996 Senator John Kerry proposed to "get rid of the Agriculture Department," the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal. A move -- that if successful -- would have likely resulted in subsidies cuts and programs for Iowa growers. "I think we can reduce the size of Washington," Kerry said on January 6, 1996. "Get rid of the Energy Department. Get rid of the Agriculture Department, or at least render it three-quarters the size it is today; there are more agriculture bureaucrats than there are farmers in this country"...

I'd vote for that! Well, I would if I voted.

Of course Drudge reports this like it's a bad thing, presumably because his Republican political pals are now perfectly willing to openly play the "Who will spend more on your favorite program?" game.

- posted by
J. H. Huebert at 1:11 AM

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


1990 - 2004

- posted by
J. H. Huebert at 11:12 PM

Does handgun possession reduce crime?

Here's an excerpt from an Important New Paper from economist Alex Tabarrok on that very question:

Accounting for serial correlation, grouped data, and potential non normalities can often be difficult especially when the exact form of the problem is not known. An alternative approach is to estimate standard errors from an empirical PDF generated via placebo laws. Using this approach, we reexamined Lott and Mustard’s important and controversial study on shall issue gun laws. We find that that corrected standard errors are dramatically larger than the reported standard errors. Using a dummy model to estimate the effects, we can rarely reject the null hypothesis of no effect once the correct standard errors are used. In this sense, the true uncertainty about the effect of shall issue laws is larger than has previously been estimated. Standard errors are also larger when using a trend model, but in this specification the data continue to reject a null hypothesis of no effect on the murder rate trend. The Lott–Mustard theory, moreover, contains a little remarked upon cross equation restriction. Shall issue laws should reduce crimes against persons, but increase crimes against property. Using the placebo approach, we estimate the probability that these findings could occur by chance. Although individual coefficients are difficult to pin down, the negative/positive pattern of results is very rare in the placebo data. Surprisingly, therefore, we conclude that there is considerable support for the hypothesis that shall issue laws cause criminals to substitute away from crimes against persons and towards crimes against property.

You can read more of this sort of thing

Or, you could just use your own common sense to answer that question, then read this Chicago Tribune article about people who are being sued by their suburban government for using a handgun to defend themselves from an intruder, because, the authorities say, they should have dialled 911 and waited for the cops to arrive.

Whichever you find more useful.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 10:00 PM

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Some things are too good to be true...

Apparently that story
Walter Williams told about the guy who set his RV on cruise control, went to the back to make coffee, crashed, and then successfully sued the RV manufacturer, was an untrue urban legend that he and readers like me fell for. However, he now points out, the fact that we fell for it is telling enough.

I was also disappointed to read that the video of a Japanese guy beating Super Mario Bros. 3 in 11 minutes was a fake of sorts, created by using an emulator's pause and save functions. I'm told the creator admits as much here, for you Japanese-readers. Anyway, I think I'll go right on believing it's real, because that's more fun, and a lot less dangerous than some of the patently false things many people believe.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 7:13 PM

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Lego my Bible!

There have been many versions of the Bible through the years, and many illustrated Bibles.

And I have a new favorite. In addition to its other innovations, I am particularly impressed by the outstanding macro photography.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:28 AM

Friday, January 09, 2004

Is there any place George Bush doesn't want to conquer?

Or anything he doesn't want to spend money on?

Talk about desperate, with this
Mars and Moon stuff.

Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, a member of the House Science Committee, said he welcomed the move because he has tried to get the president more interested in space exploration.

"I had the feeling the last 2 1/2 years people would rather make a trip to the grocery store than a trip to the moon because of the economy," Hall said.

Actually, I would rather make a trip to the grocery store. A trip to the grocery store costs nothing and they have food there. A trip to the moon costs billions and they have nothing there. I understand that government actors can't do a proper cost/benefit analysis on these things, but you'd think a member of the "party of limited government" could at least figure this one out.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 12:35 AM

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

How dare he print up a bunch of ugly, worthless money? That's our job!

Making bad photocopies of $10 bills for your high school economics class presentation is a federal crime.

Wasting much more in taxpayer money to send secret service agents to investigate a student who did such a thing is still, of course, A-OK.

One Alabama student learned this the hard way.

In early December, the Secret Service, whose job is not only to protect the U.S. president but the money supply, interviewed the boy who made the bills, his mother, the school headmaster and the teacher...

I wonder if this unfortunate student made the copies to demonstrate that fiat money is just worthless paper? Probably not, but it would help explain why he had to answer to the Secret Service for something so trivial.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 9:35 PM

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Should insurance companies discriminate against homosexuals? Of course.

Walter Williams explains why.

And if that isn't enough to motivate you to click on the link, he also tells you the true story of a man who set his RV on cruise control at 70 mph, then went to the back to make a cup of coffee. (Both hilarity and a successful lawsuit ensued, and it wasn't against the RV driver.)

Dr. Williams, despite having been the chairman of the prestigious free-market economics department at George Mason University for many years, doesn't seem to get as much attention as other less-deserving columnists by the mainstream, so-called libertarian webloggers out there.

I suppose that's partly because he does have a tendency to recycle the same material a lot. But it probably has more to do with the fact that Williams consistently goes back to first principles, i.e. to Econ 101 and to the libertarian axiom that says you shouldn't use agressive force against or defraud your neighbor. True, he writes for the layperson, and not for the snooty academic, but most of these problems do, in fact, have relatively simple solutions that any reasonably intelligent person should be able to understand.

But the "blogosphere" at large, and even most ostensible free-market economists, aren't interested in simple solutions. They'd rather twiddle knobs and pontificate on complex solutions, mathematical models, etc. If we followed Williams' policy prescriptions, they'd be out of a job.

Oh, and there's the fact that he says it's okay, even good, to discriminate against homosexuals. I'm sure that bugs them to death, too.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 8:40 PM

Friday, January 02, 2004

I love Australia.

- posted by J. H. Huebert at 7:56 PM

Copyright 2004 J. H. Huebert.