29 January 2009

monty python and the quest for more money

go conquer youtube

I like this business model. And the linked sample video is quite good. I like the end particularly with the suggestion of a silly walk gap. "While the Israelis have a...ah here's the coffee".

circular defense of the revolving door

This guy is awesome

I love the fact that he didn't really bother rebutting the charges against him. And correct me if I'm wrong, but we usually have a system that virtually requires an impeachment of an elected executive even before they're convicted in a court of law (for a sitting President and VP they have to be impeached BEFORE they can even be indicted of wrong doing, and then the trial is conducted in the Senate before there's an actual legal trial...it's a messy business). I suspect it's less of a bother for a Governor, but that doesn't mean the same sort of defense must apply to all cases of political corruption ("Well I'm not a crook" :Nixon folding arms defensively:).

But seriously, should the guy have to be about to be locked up on corruption charges before he's ousted and marginalized by the legislature? I don't understand that line of defense. I haven't been proven of any wrong-doing in a court of law, so I must be innocent. That's not really true. And the types of charges are things people go to jail over, they don't just get a slap on the wrist and get to keep their jobs. I think that merits some serious consideration over whether he should keep his job while on trial. Merely being indicted on such charges is a serious problem as it implies some very serious mishandling of government just for that to have happened.

27 January 2009

so why is birth control bad to fund?

things still make no sense

I can realize that we're not about to pass some sort of law funding abortions for low-income families. But wouldn't it make sense to expand birth control to counter that demand? Secondly, sex is a pretty cheap form of entertainment for married couples especially (meaning having more of it might be encouraged in a low income environment brought on by temporary unemployment). It might not stimulate the economy to spend on child prevention, but it will SAVE money by lowering the societal costs of unplanned/unwanted pregnancies.

Yet somehow what is a voluntarily available provision: birth control subsidies for the unemployed/poor, is interpreted by the public media as something like an involuntary birth control policy limiting child births?

There's some logic to the social security argument to have more people paying in to support it against the number of people drawing down on it...but that assumes that young people are all that excited about essentially subsidizing the retirement of their grandfathers while still receiving no guarantees their own money will be there later when they will be owed it back. Which I'm not personally all that happy about this possibility. And I doubt a child much younger than I will be all that excited either when they don't even pay into it at all right now. And it still doesn't actually save us any money to look at this situation of the young supporting the old involuntarily as good and self-sustainable.

My only objection to such funding would center more on libertarian grounds at the federal level (ie, do we actually have any constitutional authority to do that?). I can easily recognize some fundamentally useful economic grounds to having children be more of an economically tied resource than they are at present and where the incentives for not having children are just as obvious as the economic incentives to do so (this is the present case for people who are perceived as totally fucked in the socioeconomic scale that having children is a positive gain versus doing anything like family planning). We as a society should probably figure out ways to correct for this error of logic as it increases our costs of education, criminal detention, and subsidized health care costs for the poor. It is obviously a lot cheaper to prevent a child from being conceived than it is to have one, just as it is cheaper to discourage people from continuing in tobacco addictions through treatments then as it is to treat cancers or other diseases brought on by long-term use. If we're going to pay for these things in a social way, through our taxes, then it would make sense to have some obvious cost controlling incentives built into the programs.

26 January 2009

nba all star evaluations

I wasn't surprised to see Iverson sneak in as a starter, given his immense popularity with fans. But ESPN did a wider poll with almost 30 players from each conference and I thought to look over some discrepancies with my own analysis of the top 15 or so (plus a few people who weren't included in the polls at all).

Since I'm a Boston guy right now, I'll start with the East

The top 5 players in the East for the first half by my reckoning have been LeBron, Wade, Howard, Bosh, and Garnett, in that order. The fans seem to have figured that out (though they had Howard ahead of Wade and Bosh 5th, because Toronto has sucked this year). Things weren't too shocking after that, except for Devin Harris coming in as 8th (I have him around 11). Then Iverson and Ray Allen show up in the top 12. Allen is a middle range, around the 15-20 point, outside looking in. Iverson has been routinely worse this year (22nd on my list). The biggest fan snubs were Antawn Jamieson, routinely good on a terrible team (I had him 9th, the fans at 19). And Emeka Okafor, a rebounding and blocks machine on another bad team (14/25).

Two other overrated players were the potential RoY, Derrick Rose (23/15), and Josh Smith (who suffered an injury and hasn't really been the fantasy league monster of his usual self, I have him at 28/17). Smith's a dunking machine, but the second player listed from Atlanta should have been Mike Bibby by a mile (having his best season). Unsurprisingly Andre Miller and Gerald Wallace didn't show up at all on the ESPN list (but Chris Duhon did, Dukie playing in NY putting up inflated numbers, you bet he made the cut). I was a bit surprised that Tayshaun Prince didn't make their cut either, as the actual best player of the Pistons this year, preferably over Richard Jefferson since Detroit is better than Milwaukee anyway.

The West offered some more unusual rankings. Again the top 5 was in some reasonable shape: Paul, Duncan, Bryant, Dirk and Yao (followed closely by Roy). Still all of the following players have submitted injury limited seasons (McGrady, Deron, Melo) or down years: Carmelo, Nash, McGrady, Baron Davis, and Deron Williams. All of them were in the top 18 for fans, not one of them was outside of the bottom 12 of my list (McGrady as the worst player on it). Marcus Camby, defensive extraordinaire and rebounding machine finished behind Baron Davis from his own terrible team. Only Camby should have been on the list, particularly since the Clippers suck as usual. Nene wasn't on the list from Denver. Again, an interior presence (like Okafor and Camby). Biedrins was at 28th on the fans list. 18 on mine. Again. Rebounder (trend of boring fundamentally productive players being overlooked for flashy and inefficient scorers, check). Andrew Bynum: not listed. Al Jefferson, on a crappy team (7/16). Other than the fact that nobody actually goes to Hornets games in Narleans, I'm not sure what West's problem is either (11/18).

I think we can make a case from this that NBA fans seem to have a good grasp of the top 5 players of each conference and should be allowed to vote for the starters (though this is sometimes constrained by the way the ballots are set up for F/G/C, and China very nearly got Yi in over Garnett in the actual All-Star balloting). But fans don't have the attention span to determine things after the actual superstars of the league, ie the All-Star caliber bench players. Perhaps their interest in seeing exciting players in an exhibition is important. But the carrot dangled out for the end bench players who get into All-Star play is also to reward good basketball players: ie people who can do other things besides score and help their teams win while the LeBrons of the world soak up all the glory. We're getting there with players like Paul or Nash getting votes as exciting point guards (ie passing). Shot blocking or rebounding beasts however are lagging way behind and this probably explains the relative lack of good interior play of late in both our international teams and the trend toward small-ball play of both pro and college teams because there is little developed interest in solid players who can bang around inside.

21 January 2009

wasting time

I'm not really sure what the expert setting on Left 4 Dead is for. Because it seems to just be rivers of bullets and zombies. But then, the brutal AI settings on some RTS games seem to be rather similar: streams of tanks and airplanes that harass you until you finally get overwhelmed by more tanks and airplanes in river form. At least this type of game realizes the only way to make it harder is to make more targets than you have guns. Because there's no way to make an AI zombie that's 'smarter', and anyway, programming most AIs consists of algorithmic decision making, or worse, a pre-programmed playbook.

Oh well. It's still funny to set off an alarm and then throw a pipebomb to watch them pile on it to be first to explode regardless of the difficulty setting.

19 January 2009

Let the good times roll


Sounds like that was a nice waste of 6 years of corporate policy and money.

Good job all. In the meantime, you could have spent 6 years working on digital distribution networks of your own and instead of trying to set the market price for music downloads, simply taken what was there (as itunes and later everyone else did). Well, we can't expect monopolistic cartels to think with new and refreshing ideas, they're more likely to try to club them back into the bottle. I'm waiting for OPEC to start trying to kill off low level environmentalists by this logic that the RIAA used (by trying to sue low level "pirates").

16 January 2009

something to say on Gaza.

Willy Pete rounds

I seem to recall the Germans wanted these things banned after WW2 as a war crime. Tank crews loved the things in clearing out hedgerow trenches. Put a couple of those in the likely vicinity of MG-42 nests and the Wehrmacht troopers manning the trenches are either burning alive or running away as fast as possible before they become so. You can't easily put out the chemical involved either (you basically have to smother it somehow, difficult because the human body has oxygen to feed the flame with, or take off the clothes it is burning through before it gets to your skin). Wiki had this on it: In the 1944 liberation of Cherbourg alone, a single U.S. mortar battalion, the 87th, fired 11,899 white phosphorus rounds into the city. Which seems like a lot until you consider they're also used as smoke rounds to obscure the battlefield.

Of course, using them on a soldier as a matter of course in warfare is a bit different than collateral targeting in a civilian area. (and even the use on soldiers can be a highly contentious subject). There's even international treaties that ban the use of them against civilians. I'm not sure that Israel has signed them. Or Russia (who used them in Chechnya). I know we didn't sign the things, but we supposedly employ some R.O.E which is intended to accomplish the same effect.

miracles don't happen

I am obligated to post something on what somehow is top news: a plane crash with no fatalities.

the actual

Since I'm one of those people who sees that certain people are better at handling particular situations than others (for example, I can either get angry if I have to deal with a stressful situation AND other people, or I can become resolved and figure it out if I'm left alone). I read a story like that on the pilot and the manner the situation was handled and don't see a miracle. I see a routine handling of a slightly odd situation (a serious plane mechanical problem caused by a collision with airborne fowl). And the evidence for that is right here "It was just the right pilot at the right time....". That's not really coincidence or other evidence of miracles either. The types of people who become pilots have particular mindsets honed by years of training and various experiences. So really, while this was certainly exciting for the passengers on the plane and an impressive job by the pilot. It's not really news in the manner of a surprising event.

Except that it ditched in the Hudson River in the New York City area.

There's also this:
am I mistaken or does that sound like crashing into the ocean?

Sale! Everything must go!

More good news..sort of

Translation: Sale! Everything must go!

I thought the juxtaposition made by Whalin was odd also. He started off saying that their closure was a sign of how bad things are for retailers (which, they are bad). But then cited poor management decisions by the company itself.. which they did. Recall a few years ago, Circuit City fired virtually all of its long-time staff (salespeople generally) and then offered to bring them back at reduced salaries and/or commissions. This is the opposite of intelligent management. The same sort of arguments advanced by GM with the "recession is killing us" excuse isn't going to fly here either. GM was a poorly run corporate giant. I don't have any idea why they deserve several billion tax dollars even as a loan. Ok, yes its difficult to create advance loans for short term needs during this particular recession. But I would think the logical thing to do is to only give those out to companies (and banks for that matter) that are well-positioned to not only survive, but recover and eventually thrive. A poorly managed company isn't one of those sort. At least Circuit City gets to fail and have its resources distributed amongst the survivors. I'm waiting to see if that's the eventual outcome of GM.

Citigroup is also splitting back out of its supermarket of finance model. Which is a good thing.

Pho takes over

Your stock is rising number two

PHO is an index fund of water companies. Which is amusing. I think I'd rather buy lots of phở (mmm...phở) but everybody has these wacky theories on investing in the market. Water seems like a perfectly logical bubble to emerge next on the scene, if one believes that there must be a logical premise to a bubble market.

I was also amused by the happiness index (they apparently track everything now days). It's not surprising that say, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Independence Day top the list. I'm more curious at how someone arrived at the 3rd Monday in January being the typical bottom dweller by mathematical analysis (last year it was Dec 11th, but whatever). Here's to Martin Luther King day!

tv is not entertaining

This was openly amusing. (obviously, this top bit was from Simmons' column for the playoffs)

"To CBS for the incessant stream of "Grissom leaves 'CSI'" commercials that had me initially saying, "Wait, Marquis Grissom is leaving 'CSI'?" I love that we're supposed to feel emotional because the subdued star of a forensic science show has thoroughly examined every crevice of his last dead hooker. Guys, I think I'm hanging it up. You know my super-expensive microscope that allows me to examine the fibers of hotel room carpets for semen and blood? (Trying not to cry.) Tony, I want you to have it. I can't tell if I missed out by never getting hooked by this show, or if I saved 200 hours of my time that was spent on more important things, like trying to figure out No. 45's stats in the final "Teen Wolf" game. It's a coin flip, really."

Having seen a couple of the various CSI settings and spin-offs, I'm quite sure they're basically like 45 minutes renditions of music videos. There's no apparent importance on plot or reality. The dialogue is just crap. They may as well be soap operas with super-expensive microscopes and some blood spatters. There might be some decent actors on these shows, but they aren't the important part of the show. It seemed as though the montage scene of the guy staring into a microscope intently and picking up little fibers in black lights while re-enacting the death blow of a random and meaningless victim and listening to some recent band's latest 'hit' was the entire premise of the show. Really? That's entertaining to people? It's like TV execs don't even bother anymore.

I think it might well have been more enthralling and suspenseful had they put Marquis Grissom on it to play center field. Wait. That's a baseball game, never mind. This is why I only watch a couple of comedic shows and sports broadcasts. Television is dead. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead.

further reflections

I realized after finishing my previous post that there were two further extensions

1) Is that policy to be equally enforceable. Men, myself included, do have a sort of 99% consent implication. But there are exceptions, such as an undesired partner, or a particular timing issue. I'd have to wonder whether this would be the case to deal with an explicit consent issue considering it's pretty easy to assume a male would consent to a sex act (or could be seduced/induced into one if not).

2) Based on what I had read, the way the policy was enforced often used a mixed sentiment of explicit consent by achieving it DURING or even AFTER an overt sexual activity level. Which seems to realize that it wasn't a meaningful policy for enforcement purposes.

15 January 2009

antioch infamous?

I read a line which labeled (the now closing) Antioch College in my area as infamous. This got me to thinking on several fronts; first why would it be considered infamous? and second, if so, has infamy had its meaning diluted by popular use?

I was somewhat aware of the strange sexual misconduct and verbal consent policies that Antioch adopted in the early 90s. I wasn't aware how bizarre (and ridiculous) they were. I fully realize some good intentions. But in seeking out a series of clarifying rules, they sort of distorted the actual problem they were seeking to absolve from occurring (namely, aggressive sexual misconduct, usually resulting in forcible sexual acts and in part resulting from sexual objectification).

This is (well, was) the actual policy

Consent is defined as the act of willingly and verbally agreeing to engage in specific sexual conduct. The following are clarifying points:

* Consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity.
* All parties must have a clear and accurate understanding of the sexual activity.
* The person(s) who initiate(s) the sexual activity is responsible for asking for consent.
* The person(s) who are asked are responsible for verbally responding.
* Each new level of sexual activity requires consent.
* Use of agreed upon forms of communication such as gestures or safe words is acceptable, but must be discussed and verbally agreed to by all parties before sexual activity occurs.
* Consent is required regardless of the parties’ relationship, prior sexual history, or current activity (e.g. grinding on the dance floor is not consent for further sexual activity).
* At any and all times when consent is withdrawn or not verbally agreed to, the sexual activity must stop immediately.
* Silence is not consent.
* Body movements and non-verbal responses such as moans are not consent.
* A person can not give consent while sleeping.
* All parties must have unimpaired judgment (examples that may cause impairment include but are not limited to alcohol, drugs, mental health conditions, physical health conditions).
* All parties must use safer sex practices.
* All parties must disclose personal risk factors and any known STIs. Individuals are responsible for maintaining awareness of their sexual health.

These requirements for consent do not restrict with whom the sexual activity may occur, the type of sexual activity that occurs, the props/toys/tools that are used, the number of persons involved, the gender(s) or gender expressions of persons involved.

There are several problems. First: a requirement of verbal consent for each encounter. People will tend to communicate a considerable amount of information in a non-verbal fashion. That sort of intimate camaraderie that develops in any relationship between people will further hone this communication method such as to avoid many misinterpretations that would require a verbal consent for many activities (including physical intimacy). Even such mis-communications do result, a simple verbal non-consent should suffice to stop or halt further undesirable activity. If it does not, then there is a clear boundary line that was evidently crossed and an act of punishable misconduct results. From my own experiences, I would say that having to attain a verbal consent would not only present certain difficulties, but in fact, presents problems in developing that non-verbal intimacy that should be enjoyed. Simply put, not telling someone your every thought is probably a good idea for the long run. But certainly where our actions require some levels of mutual consent, we should be able to ascertain that consent through non-verbal means. That is a well-intended use of such a policy. But in practice it makes for nonsensical policy.

That I am sort of weird and not generally good at reading some such signals (meaning I can more or less follow this sort of verbal consent policy at times), often causes more problems than following it does. People of any sex who are not accustomed to verbalizing their assent, their desires, or their demands will tend to be difficult to assign a posted policy of verbal assent toward (and will often resent that they must overtly communicate their desires toward another person rather than that person simply becoming able to determine those desires non-verbally).

-- Consent is required for each act. The noble intention here is that simply getting married or even romantically involved doesn't mean sexual activity is a freebie. That's a fine notion to understand because it certainly intends to protect the less sexually aggressive partner from (even temporarily) undesired acts. The problem here is not the intention again, it's the implied requirement for explicit verbal consent at each act. There is not really an allowance for spontaneous activities implied by this, and again, a non-verbal consent should suffice in a long-term intimate relationship such as is (or should be implied as) common in a married couple.

-- Understanding of the sexual activity. I think this goes without saying. I guess there are boundaries between non-overtly sexual sex acts and sexual intercourse, but generally these become fuzzy to one or both parties during..and it's generally pretty easy to either imply them or to stop someone from crossing them (and consequentially penalize them if they do). The problem I suppose is what constitutes a "new level" of sexual conduct. That's undoubtedly a subjectively defined boundary..and in many instances, again, there's implicit boundaries that should not be crossed without explicit consent. That's a noble understanding of sexuality. But it's difficult to determine objectively what those implicit boundaries are, or even in some cases, that they are permanent and unwavering (ie, where is a line between an unwanted grope and petting, this line differs from person to person).

-- gestures or safe words I guess sort of addresses the problem of non-verbal consent. But not really. I still am having trouble understanding a need for distinguishing legally between explicit and implicit consents. I realize there's a whole lot of legal trouble in not doing so, but seriously. How often would two parties of intimate relationships not be able to determine these implicit demands without resorting to explicit and pre-defined terms (and in essence, these implicit demands will often take the format of pre-defined terms or events through the natural course).

--- Several of these are pretty obvious -- stopping where consent is denied, sleeping, silence or considerable impairment. The tricky part with "impairment" is the difference between lowered inhibition and what someone might do under normal conditions. Someone who is drunk or stoned may have implicit demands that are based on their demands during quite reasonable and unimpaired states. And will often communicate explicitly what these demands are. What's the difference between this level of inhibition and actual inhibition? A reasonable person can of course, make such discourse as to understand the actual and normal demands of another person so as to act accordingly during times of impaired judgment. And we can presume that where a genuine affection is involved, we would not see an unwanted advantage pressed upon that impairment. Again, I see this as a rather sticky legal quandary with a noble intention and a difficult implementation.

-- safer sex practices and STIs. That's noble. I'd be curious what that implies as far as mandatory practice. But I have no problem inferring that people in a college environment should practice safer sex and should openly request these practices in a consistent nature (such as with birth control or condoms) and openly define whatever risks they may pose to others (because of possible public health problems)

Here's the problem with all of this. It's not really infamous. It's merely a rather impractical attempt to make basic human sexuality a consensual act between involved parties (and adults at that). I could agree this was maybe infamous if say it tried to ban sex entirely or used some imposed college standard as to who could have sex with whom (as some schools use to try to prevent or restrict homosexual relationships on campus). But it doesn't really. It's just a heavy-handed attempt to avoid mis-communication leading to unwanted sexual activity inflicted on one or more parties. I might regard infamy as perhaps the actual commission of those unwanted sexual acts. Not the attempt to prevent it. Infamy to me means things like Charles Manson, December 7th, or the Trail of Tears. It's a pretty big deal.

This is merely an annoying deal and therefore, not really infamous.

10 January 2009

to coal or not to coal

a requiem in pictures

I'm guessing if this was more publicized we'd be seeing the impending demise of the coal industry. "Clean coal" my ass. My impression on coal has been that we should only use it if we can clean it and if we don't have other options available. I don't hold that because of China and it's wondrous air quality (because we already regulate air quality through various cap-trade systems on industrial pollutants and other means). I don't even hold that because of fears on global warming. I just don't see the point in pollution for pollution's sake. If we have means to reduce energy production's byproducts through other means, we should be using them. I've even proposed using Pigovian taxes on coal to either externalize the cost of cleaning it up (or conversely, the cost it imposes on people living nearby), or force the cleaning before hand and largely to bring the cost of producing energy through coal burning in line with its actual social cost. I think people would bitch more if it cost more.

On the flip side, I think people would be more willing to reduce energy consumption if reduced energy consumption rates were what we subsidized instead of energy production and development. ANY energy subsidy, even if explicitly spent for wind or natural gas, is effectively subsidizing coal and oil still. It does nothing to break our dependency because our dependency is based on the massive quantity of energy (and implied energy waste) involved with our industrial society, not on the actual production of oil, gasoline, or coal. We should be subsidizing energy efficiency (which sometimes imposes excessively high initial costs) on the part of end users before we give anything for energy production. The assumption has seemed to be that the American public wants innovation (someone else doing something) instead of conservation (us making changes ourselves). I am quite sure we need both. And I'm tired of policies that presume Americans are either too stupid or lazy to do something for themselves. Continuing to subsidize stupidity obviously doesn't help us in the long run.

weird thoughts

Seeing Obama's youtube-type premise for distributing his addresses to the public made me think he should cartoonize one of them just to see what happens. Do something like his head disproportionately large or turn himself into a Gary Larson cartoon. Or even just use the Scanner Darkly thing. These are the types of things I think of when people try to have a serious discussion now days. I'll have something more on his economic proposals when I read the thing (14 pages! That's it?).

Incidentally, there was some news story that came up about a women who killed her (possibly unfaithful) husband by dousing his penis in alcohol and setting it on fire. Her logic was that only she could have him/it that way. My first reaction was "why would she want a burnt penis for her sole possession?". I think too much Carlin growing up?

My next reaction was that I'm relatively glad I don't care that much about people anymore. That saying "that you don't love someone until you want to kill them" seems to be mostly the reverse. I only seem to want to kill people (well..really find ways to remove them from my little sphere). My intentions and actions are then much more sane, because I can't just kill them to be done with it and so I find ways to adapt (and connive) instead of try for arson or physical injury. I suppose it could be viewed as a problem that I'm not fond of most people either. But then, the select few I am fond of, I am quite contented with (and are largely absent at this point anyway). It's a decidedly odd contrast.

07 January 2009

crime fighter

crime fighter

I particularly liked suggestion #6's result: Frito sales may go up, but crime won't.
I wasn't totally in agreement with #9, but I do heartily agree that no overall educational standard is the same as no meaningful standards. That's basically why the whole thing is a joke.

Also I'm already annoyed at the level of media attention for the Obama girls.

crime continues among friends

more funny business

There's always fun in the nature of people and their fears. Tossing a Muslim family off the plane is certainly more apt to happen than finding a church going family man as a homicidal maniac.

What does help is if the media did a better job of reporting the cold hard facts of these things. Even the quasi-media involved in criminal reporting (cop shows) often does a poor job of linking the risks to people we know over the random people who we don't. The good nuggets:

....In the U.S., the proportion of murder victims who knew their assailants to victims killed by strangers is about 3-to-1.

....Sixty-four percent of women who are raped know their attackers; and 61 percent of female victims of aggravated assault know their attackers. (Men, on the other hand, are more likely to be assaulted by a stranger.)...(I guess I this explains why people get out of my way so much with my generally "pissed off" expression and my size).

....of the missing children in one recent year, “203,900 were family abductions, 58,200 were nonfamily abductions, and only 115 were ‘stereotypical kidnappings,’ defined in one study as ‘a nonfamily abduction perpetrated by a slight acquaintance or stranger in which a child is detained overnight, transported at least 50 miles, held for ransom, or abducted with the intent to keep the child permanently, or killed....

...Don’t forget that the greatest financial fraud in history was committed primarily among friends. (Madoff was operating a confidence scam).

03 January 2009

various blog gleenings

warning! economic discussion in progress

This was rather unsurprising. There were several economic theories that the present situation can be viewed as a dust buster for. For instance, a totally hands off laissez-faire economics/government relationship, the approach seemingly taken by Alan Greenspan, doesn't work. We already knew that from the experience of the 19th century. This approach virtually guarantees both speculative bubbles and market failures through monopolies or other significant problems (such as the allocation of public goods).

The type of approach detailed in the efficient markets theory is similar. Essentially the result of such a theory is that government allocation is inefficient and that the markets for "futures" or derivatives, etc is best left to the actual market. The assumption inherent is that the market left to its own devices will create corrections on its own. That in fact, is mostly true, as we might see through the long-term trends of regression to mean values on various issues. For some reason this is viewed as a basis for finding the theory invalid, but to my mind it indicates its validity, ie there probably is a mean value that indicates market efficiency over time for a given issue.

In any case, what is seriously lacking in such an approach is the understanding of what the actual role of government in even a libertarian economy is. Referee. Arbiter. The enforcer of established rules. And what we find over the past several years is that government regulators, far from having nothing to do, simply failed to do what they were supposed to be doing. And, not surprisingly given the profitable incentives of a speculative bubble, the in-game referees, rating agencies for example, failed to do their jobs. I can conceive that a logical reason for this market failure then is not that the market inefficiently distributed the future allocation of resources (through the pricing mechanisms), but that through the cracks of regulation and self-enforcement, it failed to actually be a market on what it thought it was a market for. In many markets today it is possible to describe a significant transparency problem between producers and consumers of that given product, such as insurance or mortgages. But what is amusing (in a tragic sense) is that this same transparency problem afflicted the people who presumed themselves to be on the producer end of the equation. They no longer knew what they were buying in the speculative fiction of mortgage derivatives. Because "they" were engineering products with the semi-deliberate intention of evading regulatory standards, these products became both overly complex and easily hyped. An unregulated (perhaps even unregulatable) product distributed in a black market sense is pretty obviously going to function irregularly in a market sense. And of course, it did.

I'm not at all sure that means there was a failure in the EMH system, but rather the market swung wildly off into a market for something that nobody knew what it was for. When we buy a car, we have a certain expectation of value. The same for buying even some intangible assets, such as mortgage hedge bets or derivatives. But in this case, I don't see that people were entirely sure what they were buying. I agree in this sense with the analogy for the dot-com bubble. Most people didn't have a clue what the companies were doing back then, only that they could get rich buying XYZ.com (or pets.com as the case may be), even though they had no idea what that company was doing to get rich. I generally make the rule that people should have at least a basic understanding of the product they're investing in. For some reason there wasn't time to tell a computer to tell us why XYZ derivative was making "obscene" returns (in the particular case, because real estate was still going up and up and up for no apparent reason, the moment it stopped it was too late to sell! sell! sell!). There was only time to listen to that computer program's instruction to buy! buy! buy!. That's generally a recipe for disaster if one is accustomed to the annoying questions of why or how. And a market in effect depends on enough people asking those questions to flood through the transparency problems. It won't operate efficiently without those from either an internal faction or an outside regulatory body. So my retort to that would probably be what I usually say at times like these: "that wasn't a/the free market system". There were conditions of a functional market that went unmet.


There are legitimate problems with the nature of a Taliban government. There are also legitimate problems with our installed government. I'm not sure either is preferable, but if those are the only two options given to the populace of Afghanistan, I'm guessing they'll pick what they think is the lesser of two evils. And as a hint, it won't be a foreign installed government. We haven't quite figured out from over 100 years of tinkering with installing democracy rather than fostering it that imposing "self-rule" tends to depend on certain conditions already existing in the country itself (namely things like respect for rule of law for example). An unresponsive dictatorship isn't like to spawn many democratic traditions among its people. Consequently, those same people aren't likely to behave themselves in the semi-anarchic state of democratic self-rule. Such a state depends on the quality of the populace obeying rules because they are, in effect, agreeable and create an equitable society. Order from chaos in other words.

There are of course many ways to establish order from chaos and democracy is merely the means of Western traditions and practices. It can be the practice of others, but quite simply it won't work unless there are underlying traditions that value individual freedom. What value is individual freedom to a people who are being murdered and killed by each other or by outside forces? Even in our own moments of crisis, we have often suspended certain liberties because it is "in the greater good". Subsequently, I am not surprised that these countries with histories of violent politics turn to the strongman who wins those violent contests and struggles for power.

One unmentioned element in the flourishing opium trade is our reluctance to open the world markets for wheat and other food stuff crops. We (and to some extent the Taliban) told farmers to grow such things instead of poppies. Then, rather than let our government buy it for the purpose of shipping it for foreign aid to nearby African nations, our own farmers basically forced us to buy American. The crops rotted or sold at low prices. Farmers faced with losing their farms turned back to what they knew: opium production. And of course, again, our drug policies make such a crop more valuable (by making the production illegal). Turning our troops, or those of our allies, against opium drug lords is nice, in that it fights corruption, but we would do better to ask why this sort of corruption attains so much power and influence in the first place (because we make the actual products more valuable on the international market). That other forms of corruption run rampant in a country which more or less has to base its economy on illicit goods should never be surprising. We've seen this in Columbia for decades.