Sunday, April 20, 2014
Too Young For the Communism Debates...
And thus still a communist. The New York Times gushes
Thomas Piketty turned 18 in 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, so he was spared the tortured, decades-long French intellectual debate about the virtues and vices of communism.
Yes, I'm sure he was. Unless his parents were commies themselves. DOH!:
Mr. Piketty — pronounced pee-ket-ee — grew up in a political home, with
left-wing parents who were part of the 1968 demonstrations that turned
traditional France upside down. Later, they went off to the Aude, deep
in southern France, to raise goats. His parents are not a topic he wants
Fair enough; does he want to talk about the goats? Actually he wants to talk about the usual Marxism that he was too young to debate:
As for the Gulf War, it showed him that “governments can do a lot in
terms of redistribution of wealth when they want.” The rapid
intervention to force Saddam Hussein to unhand Kuwait and its oil was a
remarkable show of concerted political will, Mr. Piketty said. “If we
are able to send one million troops to Kuwait in a few months to return
the oil, presumably we can do something about tax havens.”
Wasn't he 20 or 21 during the first Gulf War? Suddenly he's old enough to learn lessons, whereas the fall of the Soviet Union taught him nothing? And what does he suggest we do about tax havens; invade them?
The rest of the article goes on to decry income inequality. Paul ($225,000 a year to not lecture at NYU) Krugman:
Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel in economic science and a columnist
for The New York Times, wrote that it “will be the most important
economics book of the year — and maybe of the decade.” Remarkably for a
book on such a weighty topic, it has already entered The New York
Times’s best-seller list.
I'm going to make a guess that the author is not going to donate his royalties to pay the bills of the less fortunate, and thus strike a blow against income inequality.
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
This twenty-somethings-should-embrace-communism piece over at Rotting Stump
has already been mocked relentlessly in the conservo-sphere, but I did want to focus on this bit:
Make everything owned by everybody.
Hoarders blow. Take, for instance, the infamous one percent, whose ownership of the capital stock of this country leads to such horrific inequality. "Capital stock" refers to two things here: the buildings and equipment that workers use to produce goods and services, and the stocks and bonds that represent ownership over the former. The top 10 percent's ownership of the means of production is represented by the fact that they control 80 percent of all financial assets.
This detachment means that there's a way easier way to collectivize wealth ownership than having to stage uprisings that seize the actual airplanes and warehouses and whatnot: Just buy up their stocks and bonds. When the government does that, it's called a sovereign wealth fund. Think of it like a big investment fund that buys up assets from the private sector and pays dividends to all permanent U.S. residents in the form of a universal basic income. Alaska actually already has a fund like this in place. If it's good enough for Levi Johnston, it's good enough for you.
No, Alaska didn't buy up all the stocks and bonds of its citizens. It just has excess funds left over from the oil pipeline that it refunds to its citizens.
More important, the idea that the government could buy up everything in the country--buildings, equipment, stocks and bonds, etc., is ridiculous. The market value
of all publicly traded stock in the USA is $18 trillion. And the key word in there is "publicly"; lots and lots of buildings and equipment are privately owned. To give just one example, the Duck Dynasty empire is all owned by the Robertson family.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
I Am Not a Country Fan
Not a country hater either, but holy crap:
Her voice goes past 11. Way past.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
I played a couple games of Yahtzee with family members during a recent vacation, and realized that many (perhaps most) people play the game without realizing the correct odds on certain rolls.
For example, one of the objects in the game is to roll the long straight--either 2 to 6 or 1 to 5. Suppose that you roll four of the required numbers on your first throw, say 1,2,3,4. You have one die left, but two rolls. What are the odds that you will roll the five? Obviously on the next roll it's 1 in 6 and the same applies for the final roll, so your odds are 2 in 6 or 1 in 3, right?
Nope. Sometimes it helps to look at the odds against something happening. In this case, the odds that you don't roll the 5 are 5/6 on each roll. If we multiply those two together, we can see that the odds that you won't roll the 5 are 25/36. Which means that the odds that you will roll the five are only 11/36, or slightly less than 1/3.
This is obviously counter-intuitive, so let's list all the possible rolls:
If you count them up, there are 11 out of rolls with at least a 5, although there are 12 5s overall. The key is that 5,5 roll; that second five is as useful as nipples on men.
There are similar mistakes in statistics on other possible rolls. For example, both my sister and I were exasperated at the number of times we'd roll three of a number, then fail to get the fourth (or fifth) of that number on the two succeeding chances. Again, it seems like the odds are 2/6 twice, or 4/6 (about 67%).
But in fact, they aren't that good. We've already seen that the odds of rolling against rolling any specific number with two dice are 25/36, so all we have to do to find out the odds against it with two rolls are to square that number. It comes out to 625/1296, so the odds of getting that fourth one are 671/1296, which is about 52%.
Suppose you are at the very end and you need to roll three or more of some particular number in order to get your bonus. What are the odds that you will do just that? Unlike in the above cases I am not able to calculate the odds directly, so I set up a spreadsheet where I generated five random numbers. If any of the numbers was a 6, I told the spreadsheet to leave it alone, but otherwise to reroll. Once again I checked for 6s and rerolled any that weren't. Overall I was a little surprised. The percentage of three 6s or better bounced around a bit, but generally was around 35.5%. The percentage of four 6s or better was around 10.4%. And the percentage of Yahtzees (five 6s) was only about 1.3%.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Tip your hat to an unnamed CBS reporter, who wins the prize for the most objective news report. Notice the extreme use of passive voice, even in the headline
Violence continues in France over Islamic veil ban
It's just violence and it's continuing. No hint as to who's being violent. To further confuse things, they include a picture of an Islamic woman, with this caption:
Rabia, 17, a veiled woman victim of agression (sic) in the street on May 20,
speaks during a press conference on June 22, 2013 in Argenteuil, Paris
A veiled woman was attacked? Sounds like the jack-booted anti-veil forces are out in great numbers! But again, we get the very noticeable passive voice:
Some 20 cars have been torched and four people detained in a second
night of violence in suburbs west of Paris, a result of tensions linked
to authorities' handling of France's ban on Muslim face veils.
This continues throughout the piece; if you are not paying close attention you might even think that it's the narrow-minded anti-Islamic crowd responsible:
The interior minister urged calm and dialogue, insisting on both the
need for public order and respect for France's Muslims. The incident in
the town of Trappes on Friday night reflected sporadic tensions between
police upholding France's strict policies of secularism and those who
accuse authorities of discriminating against France's No. 2 religion.
The first part is an obvious false dilemma. How about if the folks in favor of the veil ban are also in favor of public order and respect? But the "people" who are not are, say, Muslims, opposing the veil ban?
Time for some more passive voice:
A few garbage dumpsters in the area were torched and a bus shelter
shattered in the Trappes unrest. Spent tear gas capsules lay on the road
Saturday near the police station at the center of the violence.
No hint as to who might have torched those dumpsters or shattered the bus shelter. It just happened, mkay? And the tear gas capsules are easily the blame of the local constabulary.
A 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury in the violence, from a
projectile of unknown provenance, Prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told
reporters. Four police officers were injured and six people were
detained in the violence, said an official with the regional police
It goes on and on.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
A 45-Year-Old Error Lives On
Heheh. A friend of mine is a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, and I gave him my copy of a recent Baseball Digest with a nice article on the late Stan Musial, one of the greatest baseball players of all time and an even better person. I noted how sick it was that the Cardinals seemed able to spit out 2.50 ERA pitchers at will. He mentioned that there was a recent article in Sports Illustrated about "The Cardinal Way" and dropped it off later in the afternoon.
It's a very good article, and I highly recommend it. But what I found amusing is that the cover (showing current Cards' stars like Adam Wainwright) was based on a pose for a 1968 cover featuring then-Redbirds like Roger Maris, Tim McCarver and Bob Gibson. Unfortunately for SI and St. Louis, the cover bore the banner "World Champion St. Louis Cardinals" and was dated October 7, 1968. While technically true (the Cardinals had won the 1967 World Series), the cover turned out to be the Dewey Defeats Truman of SI covers, as the Detroit Tigers rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to win the WS on October 10, 1968.
It was a very improbable comeback; the Cards had already beaten Detroit's ace, Denny McClain, twice in the series, and would have the seemingly unbeatable Bob Gibson (with his amazing 1.12 ERA that year) on the mound for the finale.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Not With A Bang or a Whimper, But A Misplaced Semi-Colon...
Like many, I have recently replaced books with electronic reading; my current preference is for a Nook. I love the convenience, the ability to take several books with me in one package, the way I can puff up the font in the evening to adjust for my declining eyesight.
What do I hate? The appalling number of errors in the transcriptions. Granted, having grown up in the era of most of these books, I can quickly correct the mistakes; dear is actually clear (or vice-versa); tle is probably the, and le is probably he.
Consider, for example, Norman Mailer's well-known article for Dissent, The White Negro
. I'm certainly no fan of Mailer, but his writing deserves better than this hash
at the Dissent website.
Our search for the rebels of the generation led us to the hipster. The hipster is an enfant terrible turned inside out. In character with his time, he is trying to get back at the conformists by lying tow …
? Yep, in the second sentence of a major work by a major writer, there's an obvious error, one that I have no doubt did not appear in the original. But as we shall see, this is only tle tip of the iceberg:
it is tempting to describe the hipster in psychiatric terms as infantile, but the style of his infantilism is a sign of the times, lie does not try to enforce his will on others, Napoleon-fashion, but contents himself with a magical omnipotence never disproved because never tested
These first two bits are from the opening paragraph, and they are not by Mailer himself, but his quote from a Harper's article by Caroline Bird. But the errors are all modern, as is evident from further quotes in the article:
For if tens of millions were killed in concentration camps out of the inexorable agonies and contractions of super-states founded upon the always insoluble contradictions of injustice, one was then obliged also to see that no matter how crippled and perverted an image of man was the society he had created, it wits nonetheless his creation, his collective creation (at least his collective creation from the past) and if society was so murderous, then who could ignore the most hideous of questions about his own nature?
Bolding added for emphasis.
The cameos of security for the average white: mother and the home, lob and the family, are not even a mockery to millions of Negroes; they are impossible.
Bolding added for emphasis.
It just goes on and on. It's tempting to think that the obvious mistakes will be fixed, but the language changes. Maybe someone will point out that Arthur Ashe couldn't lob like white tennis players.
And I am not confident that the rest of the Western canon is being faithfully reproduced electronically. Let's face it, if the editors at Dissent can't fix some obvious bloopers, why should we think that the editors at Random House, who are probably seeing their future disappear anyway, are going to be more careful?