Monday, February 27, 2006

This may be just a pet peeve but....

I feel really annoyed when sports columnists make projections without spending any time on getting a .500 baseline. An example today was Phil Rogers handicapping the WBC according to him the U.S., Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Japan were expected to combine for around 1.1 WBC wins. This out of 1 winner. Another example was ESPN's NFL projections. They finished 92 games off or around 3 games off per team a large reason for this is that they predicted the average team for a slightly better than 9-7 record. If I was making a 5 minute list then I wouldn't worry so much about it but these people have integrity and have editors to ensure integrity and accuracy. Shouldn't they spend that extra 10 minutes to get it close.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Dvar Torah Again

This weeks Parshah and Haftorah place an emphasis on the limits of slavery. From only a 6 year duration for Jewish slaves to the penalties for mistreating a non-Jewish slave one of the major emphasises is the limits of your rights to people as property. This surfaced in the 19th century when it was people who were devoutly religious who led the abolition movement. In fact science before the public opinion changed had no real problem with it. This is because science has the major limitation of being worthless in regard to moral questions. Darwin's evolution was used to support eugenics and in fact it did support it but that didn't make it right. Science concerns itself with what is and therefore when used to make moral judgements assume that that is what should be. Religion can make the moral judgements because they have the overriding philosophy that allows them to make judgements about what should be.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More Ports

Listening to Mike Gallagher (the host who you feel really bad when you agree with him see also Savage, Michael.) you get the feeling that the real debate seems to be whether any Arabs can be trusted, What would his position be on a group of American-Arabs who bought the port. Logically it should be the same as his position here but of course he wouldn't say that.

Arabs and Ports

The port deal should make everyone uneasy. The question is, is that uneasiness worth the cost of relations to UAE and the damage to our support of free trade. First of all the Arab country will not have control of security and almost certainly will not be hiring Arab employees to run the ports. This company is large, multinational, and has had no ties to terrorism. Therefore the debate boils down to can we switch to a global economy but leave one ethnic group completely out of it. Taking away this contract would alienate an important ally and lead to more terrorism. In fact this idea taken to the limits of what is supported would make the Arab countries completely isolated except for oil. This leads to huge income gaps and large unemployment rates. This isolation would lead to greater hate of the U.S. as we were (somewhat correctly) considered the cause for this misery. Of course the opponents are a combination of terrorism hardliners who object to the Arab part of the deal and the group which knocked ou the Conoco sale which objected to the foriegn ownership of the resources based on their debunked economic theories.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Crazy Names

During Driver's Ed I passed a Doctor's office operated by Gengha Khan. Maybe he should learn some Asian history.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Guilt by Association.

As I listen to talk radio I hear the ads. Surprisingly all of them seem to be for debt removal or for getting money for home. This is true even for the shows whicha re during the commutes. You wonder are they misadvertising for their audience or is the giant talk radio audience just one giant group of deadbeats. Also if it is the second one how does this make sense conservatives are richer and in general during the commute their audience is weaker. Is it just all the housewives for whom the ads are tunes. You can learn a lot about the peole you agree with by just listening to the ads.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My Favorite and the Weirdest Rock

Check out the link and listen to the song and here the clever but twisted sounding song. Remember that this was sent as a Christmas thank-you to an actual person. It contains such gems as "The robot council had us banished to an asteroid that hasn't undermined our holiday cheer." and, "Where we're working in a mine for our robot overlords did I say overlords I mean protectors."

To all Prius Owners

Sunday's Dilbert is for you

The Winter Olympics

The interview after a black man won a skating medal was very amusing. This had nothing to do with his race but due to the fact that the man clearly had no desire to be interviewed and showed no emotion about winning the medal. Throughout the entire interview he looked straight ahead and kept a poker face. After the interview the interviewer lifted her eyebrows kind of saying Huh. Of course it doesn't help that another American skating champion when asked if he was happy for the winner said he was happy for the silver-medalist.

Bad Fantasy

Reading a fantasy book due to boredom I came across the bad writing cliche that annoys me maybe most. The scene the hero has been attacked it is close quarters and he throws his attacker up against the wall. How would he fall? You can think of many good descriptions such as with several bones breaking or he fell and was still for a long time. However invariably the bad writer will describe it as falling in a boneless heap and think he/she is being clever doing so. It gets annoying after the fifth book you read describing a villian falling that way. Speaking of he/she annoyances you have the matter of their militaries. Invariably some high position will be held by a female who will be second in competence to only the hero/heroine. Fact women will always be worse sword fighters than men because they lack the muscle. The gun is the only reason women can function as effective fighters. Besides those two things the book was so-so.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Dvar Torah

Hopefully this will be something I keep up but I hope to post a dvar Torah based on the weeks parshah which has deeper implications. All these thoughts are my own. This is my own interpretation which is based on my own logic.
The next day, Moses sat to judge the people. They stood around Moses from morning to evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that [Moses] was doing for the people, he said, 'What are you doing to the people? Why are you sitting by yourself and letting all the people stand around you from morning until evening?' 'The people come to me to seek God,' replied Moses to his father-in-law. Whenever they have a problem, they come to me. I judge between man and his neighbor, and I teach God's decrees and laws. Moses' father-in-law said to him, 'What you are doing is not good. You are going to wear yourself out, along with this nation that is with you. Your responsibility is too great. You cannot do it all alone. 'Now listen to me. I will give you advice, and God will be with you. You must be God's representative for the people, and bring [their] concerns to God. Clarify the decrees and laws for [the people]. Show them the path they must take, and the things they must do. 'But you must [also] seek out from among all the people capable, God-fearing men - men of truth, who hate injustice. You must then appoint them over [the people] as leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens. 'Let them administer justice for the people on a regular basis. Of course, they will have to bring every major case to you, but they can judge the minor cases by themselves. They will then share the burden, making things easier for you. If you agree to this, and God concurs, you will be able to survive. This entire nation will then also be able to attain its goal of peace.' Moses took his father-in-law's advice, and did all that he said He chose capable men from all Israel, and he appointed them as administrators over the people, leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens. They administered justice on a regular basis, bringing the difficult cases to Moses, and judging the simple cases by themselves.
What we have here is the start of judicial delegation. However this doesn't seem to be either a clever idea or one which had not been used. It seems impossible that Moshe could judge all the cases of a population which was at least 1 million people. So what was Yitro's great idea and why is it so important that is mentioned in the Torah. My explanation will answer all these questions and more. First of all Moses's judging was happening very soon after the giving of the Torah (according to the Ramban). He was teaching them the Torah by judging the cases which required some interpretation of the written Torah and wasn't something already decided or mentioned explicitly. Yitro's major innovative idea was that it wasn't just Moshe who could interpret the Torah but it was for the people who didn't have constant revelation from God also.
This is the why it is so key for this to be mentioned before the Divine Revelation at Sinai. That the Torah is "an inheritance for the Congregation of Jacob." Also the judging was happening recently after the incident of the Golden Calf. Moshe was trying to bring the people to God through him. Yitro was telling him that the Torah was given to the masses and that Judaism must be able to survive Moshe. This was the reason for the Temple and its high priest being somebody besides Moshe. The Temple was created mainly as a place for the average man to become closer to God and not mainly as a shrine to Moshe or the Torah. In a similar way we see that the sin for which Moshe didn't enter Israel was the hitting of the rock. All the explanations about why it was so wrong seem to assume that what isn't wrong for us was wrong for Moshe. However I think the major problem was that the well ran out immediately after Miriam's death. Moshe speaking to the rock would be an opportunity to show that it wasn't Moshe's power which led the Jew's but God. Instead he hit the rock which indicated that Moshe used his power to get water from the rock and they couldn't suceed without him. Therefore it was necessary for him to die before they entered the land so that they could see that they could conquer the land through God's grace alone without any of the people who took them out of Egypt. This was necessary for the people to survive in absence of Moshe or later the Temple.

Mormons v. Religion

Intelligent design isn't the biggest clash between science and religion just the biggest clash among the popular ones. However the Mormans face a problem which strikes at the core of their religion and it will be interesting to see how the matter settles. Mormon teaching is that basically the Jew's blessing came to the Indians and then to the Mormans (this is based on just my scanty knowledge and all the stuff you pick up from reading Orson Scott Card). However mDNA analysis which is unique in that there is no change from generation to generation but is only passed down from the mother. This shows no Jewish mDNA in Indian blood. To non-Mormans this is hardly surprising but this is close to finding Jesus and Joseph's DNA and finding that they matched. However there are three ways they can try to deal with issue. You can say scientific and religious truth are separate and unrelated. This has been tried against evolution but you still have the issue of why G-d switched the facts just to trick us. There is the method tried by the evangelists and by some of the more right-wing (ultra-religious is the term used but really they don't see themselves as ultra-religious just as religious as required) religious Jews this says that all of this is a pack of lies and that the scientists are atheists who don't know the truth. Also there is a third way which is a reinterpretation of the text based on present knowledge. Not knowing Mormon scripture I do not know how they can do this but this is the option which gives the best religious way of dealing with problems and allows the members to function in face of evidence used against their religion.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A NYT Song (Click on the title then go to MIDI File to get music with it)

I am the chief editor of the New York Times print edition
I routinely write things bordering libel, treason, and sedition
I know what Bush is doing and I fight him on everyday
Just recently I wrote a story on the secret NSA
So I know everything behind the Senate and House closed doors
What I could tell you about all their secrets you it would surely floor
And I can write on secret documents and they will let me be
Because my speech is free under Constitutional guarantee
Because his speech is free under Constitutional guarantee
Because his speech is free under Constitutional guarantee
Because his speech is free under Constitutional guaranguarantee
Then I can publish columns which are libelous and spurious
My Shield Law defense always will leave my suers so furious
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM
I know all the legal history United States versus NYT
It means that I can publish even things I should not ever see
I love the movie about those two gay cowboys on Brokeback Mount
I mention it in fawning articles to much for you to count
About the bloggers we attack with horrendous ferocity
But for those Christians we reserve all of our venomosity
But about crazy Moslems we must show great sensitivity
Therefore we only show pictures of a dung-filled Nativity
Therefore they only show pictures of a dung-filled Nativity
Therefore they only show pictures of a dung-filled Nativity
Therefore they only show pictures of a dung-filled Nativitivity
Then our circulation is now falling quickly every day
It seems that people do not care anymore what we have to say
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM
When I know what is meant by the terms blogging and podcasting
When I start off by talking some sense and stop my bombasting
Then when I realize that my speech can be a dangerous thing
And that all of my great power does responsibility bring
When I can write an article without a gratuitous Bush slam
When I can stop comparing every war we fight to Vietnam
In short when my readers believe what I say more or less
You will say that a better paper has never come off the press
You will say that a better paper has never come off the press
You will say that a better paper has never come off the press
You will say that a better paper has never come off the off the press
My journalistic writing which is lacking in integrity
Has only been brought up to the beginning of the century
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM
But still in fighting those evil neo-cons and supporting causes Dem
I am the very model of a member of the MSM

Friday, February 10, 2006

Old Peoples' Homes

One of the most bogus issues out there is the problem of property taxes driving old people out of their homes. Old people who own houses are one of the most affluent group and there is no reason to give them special tax breaks. The assumption is that you have a right to live in your house for the rest of your life. In fact there is a simple non-governmental solution to this if people are really bothered by this. Allow people to sell their houses to others with the sale effective after their deaths. The seller would get pretty close to full value for his house because of the rise in real estate value. The problem is that these people demanding government action deny that there should be any tradeoffs to the goal of letting people stay in their houses without paying taxes. Heinlein's solution of people setting the value which is the same for both buying and taxes would work although it would never happen. He adds the important clause that you can block a takeover by raising the value and paying 3 years back taxes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Caretta Scott King

Many people are outraged at the Democrats turning Mrs. Martin Luther King's funeral into a political rall ala Paul Wellstone. This doesn't bother me so much. The sentiments expressed however wrong are ones that she approved are and given how political her life was it seems only appropriate that her politicla views are expressed.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Wonderful World of Farming

In my English class we are learning about the Romantic poets. Of course this involves discussing the history and people moving off the land. My teacher was bemoaning this and how it was so much better working on the farm as a farmhand. This is because there was less crime (not true murder rates have gone down tremendously since the 1700's) and you didn't have to worry about losing your job (also strange since a bad farming year wiped you out). Of course they had to leave to work in the terrible factories. Here my teacher makes a mistake fundamental to people who don't understand economics. He credits minimum wage laws and unions with helping the workers overall. The fact is that unions are pointless in the unskilled labor which went on in the factories. People were desparate to work there and the law didn't protect them from ununionized workers (the law was twisted against unions but without favoritism towards them they would have failed.) Also the bad conditions were not just a way of saving money by the owners there was no real way they could have had factory safety with the technology then. The most disturbing part though is how negative the Yeshiva education is about present society. The teacher asked the class whether today's society was better than the 1700's and only 2 people in the class said it was better. The people were me and a kid who just came from public school.