Charter Member of the Sub-Media

March 30, 2007

Comments « Blogging »

I closed comments. I got sick of deleting all the spam.

If you have something to say, send me an email. I'll publish 'em with responses, if it seems worthwhile.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The Negative Railroad « Politics As Usual »

The following is from the Wikipedia entry on Frederic Bastiat. It is a good explanation of why I don't like the protectionist policies/urges of the Democratic Party:

Bastiat's Negative Railroad A famous section of Economic Sophisms concerns the way that tariffs are inherently counterproductive. Bastiat posits a theoretical railway between Spain and France that is built in order to reduce the costs of trade between the two countries. This is achieved, of course, by making goods move to and from the two nations faster and more easily. Bastiat demonstrates that this situation benefits both countries' consumers because it reduces the cost of shipping goods, and therefore reduces the price at market for those goods.

However, each country's producers begin to rail at their governments because the other country's producers can now provide certain goods to the domestic market at reduced price. Domestic producers of these goods are afraid of being out-competed by the newly viable industry from the other country. So, these domestic producers demand that tariffs be enacted to artificially raise the cost of the foreign goods back to their pre-railroad levels, so that they can continue to compete.

Bastiat raises two significant points here:

Even if the producers in a society are benefitted by these tariffs (which, Bastiat claims, they are not), the consumers in that society are clearly hurt by the tariffs, as they are now unable to secure the goods they want at the low price they should be able to secure them at.
The tariffs completely negate any gains made by the railroad and therefore make it essentially pointless.
To further demonstrate his points, Bastiat suggests that, rather than enacting tariffs, the government should simply destroy the railroad anywhere that foreign goods can outcompete local goods. Since this would be just about everywhere, he goes on to suggest that that government should simply build a broken or "negative" railroad right from the start, and not waste time with tariffs and rail building. This is an example of Bastiat's consummate skill with the reductio ad absurdum rhetorical technique. Indeed, we can take Bastiat's argument even farther and see that, by examining everything from the perspective of the producer, society would be "best" if we were regressed to a cave-man state where supply of goods was at maximum scarcity. Then people would have to work as hard as possible for as little as possible and never have to fear outside competition.

In short, the thrust of Bastiat's negative railroad hinges on two major points:

All economic decisions should be made with the consumer in mind. (This is central to Bastiat's ideas)
Tariffs serve no purpose but to negate the gains provided to society by technology, labor, ingenuity, determination and progress.
An important corollary to these conclusions is that the power that consumers wield with any governing body, while theoretically tremendous, is extremely diffuse. Producers, on the other hand, while not as powerful on the whole as the sum total of consumers, have the ability to consolidate their power in ways that make it much more attractive for governing bodies to service their needs. Thus, while consumers could theoretically shut down an entire industry (or government) by refusing to buy/sell/do something, the likelihood of the great mass of people organizing in this way for any reason whatever is so infinitesimal as to be practically impossible. Producers, on the other hand, are able to threaten or cajole the government with shutting down a single industry, with reductions in political and financial contributions to the government agents who make certain decisions, &c. It is for this reason that governments are much more likely to pander to the desires of producers than to consumers, and it is for this reason, Bastiat concludes, that governments are inherently adversarial to the interests of the people as a whole. Indeed, they are even adversarial, in some way, to the interests of the producers themselves, as the producers of one good or service are still consumers of all the other goods and services.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:37 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 28, 2007

List of Best Science Fiction Novels/Series « Stuff Important to Me »

This is the list of books that most affected me, stuck in my head the most. Not necessarily the ones I liked the best.

Tunnel in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein Day After Tomorrow, Robert A. Heinlein The Puppet Masters, Robert A. Heinlein (the Grandmaster; what else can you say? Avoid Stranger in a Strange Land and everything written after that, which was the point Heinlein went senile and started getting obsessed with writing soft-core porn) {You know that's blasphemy --ed. I know, I don't care; it's what I think}

Brain Wave, Poul Anderson (decent)

Jumper, Steven Gould
Wildside, Steven Gould (Excellent What If? novels)

Foreigner Series, C.J. Cherryh
Pride of Chanur, C.J. Cherryh
Finitys End, C.J. Cherryh
Rimrunners, C.J. Cherryh
Cyteen, C.J. Cherryh (she's awesome; my favorite author right now, bar none. I couldn't understand many of her novels until I was an adult, when I did, I was bowled over. She has depth, intrigue, understands alien thought and language better than anyone I've ever seen)

The Vor Game, Lois McMaster Bujold (Read everything she's written; this is just a good introduction)

Legacy of Heorot Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, & Steven Barnes
Fallen Angels, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, & Larry Flynn

Dreamworld, Larry Niven & Steven Barnes

The Burning City, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Lucifers Hammer, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Inferno, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Neutron Star, Larry Niven
The Integral Trees, Larry Niven (Read everything Larry Niven has written; if they aren't perfect, they're still all very good; sometimes his dialogue/characterization can get a little monotonous, but not often)

Wolf and Iron, Gordon R. Dickson
Dorsai, Gordon R. Dickson

Postman, David Brin
Startide Rising, David Brin (His Uplift saga get cartoonish, other novels are not professional enough for me, but these are good)

Replay, Ken Grimwood (excellent What If? novel)

The Last Coin, James P. Blaylock (only barely SF; I wanted to include it because I like it so much)

Chronicles of Amber, Roger Zelazny

Bone Dance, Emma Bull

Once a Hero, Elizabeth Moon (pretty much everything else she has written annoys me, though)

Empire of the East, Fred Saberhagen
Love Conquers All, Fred Saberhagen
Beserker, Fred Saberhagen

Mother of Storms, John Barnes (got other good novels, too; this is the best of the bunch)

War Against the Chtorr series, David Gerrold (not yet completed)

Neuromancer, William Gibson (for some reason, I think of Gibson as the Grisham of SF; keeps going back to the same well over and over, but keeps getting decent novels out of that I only want to read once, but immensely enjoy that one time)

Cobra, Timothy Zahn (never liked much else by him)

Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams (several good novels, this is just the best of the bunch)

Manifest Destiny, Barry B. Longyear
Infinity Hold, Barry B. Longyear

The Cool War, Frederick Pohl (other stuff can get a little depressing, but okay)

Enders Game, Orson Scott Card (must-read, but I didnt like it much; can't stand his other novels)

Decision at Doona, Anne McCaffery (good novel, but I dislike Ms McCaffery for some of the crap she's responsible, including foisting off some pretty crappy female writers on us)

Tuf Voyaging, George R. R. Martin

Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Terry Pratchett (very loose parody of Enders Game)

Two Faces of Tomorrow, James P. Hogan (really good novel, but I couldn't get too excited about other novels of his)

Four-Day Planet, H. Beam Piper

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthurs Court, Mark Twain

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Blade Runner), Philip K. Dick (the guy was seriously f'd up...but it's a good story, and a good novel)

Star Wars/Splinter of Minds Eye, Alan Dean Foster

The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
There is no Darkness, Joe Haldeman and Jack C. Haldeman

First Channel, Jacqueline Lichtenberg & Jean Lorrah (the series is fascinating, but gets old after too many minor variations on the same theme for each novel)

Midshipman's Hope, by David Feintuch (gets old after about halfway through the 2nd novel)

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Posted by Nathan at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2007

Some Hope for Cross-Strait Peace « China/Taiwan »

If we can get through the next 12 months without major incident, that is.

China will continue to speak softly in managing its tricky relations with Taiwan, after brandishing the big stick seemed to backfire on Beijing, analysts said. China's communist government may offer to let the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch pass through Taiwan, and dangle economic goodies, in an attempt to undermine any moves towards independence on the prosperous island.

Previous hardline tactics, including missile launches and threats of force, only boosted anti-China politicians and sentiment in Taipei, experts say.

China angered Taiwanese two years ago by passing a law pledging potential use of force if Taiwan declared independence.

"Behind the scenes, there has been this kind of adjustment," said Niu Jun, an international studies professor at Peking University in Beijing.

Elections in Taiwan this year and next will be key tests of whether the carrot is working better than the stick did.

If voters uphold the opposition Nationalist (KMT) Party camp's parliamentary majority in elections later this year and give it the presidency next spring, cross-strait relations could improve, as the KMT has said it would reach out to Beijing.

The KMT, backed in part by Taiwan businesses active in China, takes a conciliatory but guarded view of the Communist government, while current President Chen Shui-bian's party distrusts Beijing and advocates moves toward independence.

Experts believe Beijing would prefer to deal with the KMT, its former rival.

In pursuit of reunification with the island that split from China in 1949 after a civil war, Beijing will keep to its soft line toward democratic, self-ruled Taiwan as long as the Chinese economy stays strong and Taiwan avoids all-out independence, experts say.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 21, 2007

Obama's "Gaffe" « Politics As Usual »
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: And if George Bush doesnt listen, then were going to make him listen because its time for us to bring our young people home.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating.
KING: Senator Obama, you disagree with that. He says it would be devastating to leave now. You say no. Why not?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I dont know anybody whos been talking about packing up and going home.

Hot Air gives him some top cover (support).

So who says conservatives shills aren't fair to Democrats, huh?!?!

But I think even Hot Air isn't exactly right. I think the salient difference is in the "pack up" part. Obama says, "Bring 'em home", but he doesn't say "pack up and go home", which has more of an air of immediacy, haste, conceding defeat, complete withdrawal. "Bring 'em home" just says they shouldn't be there, it doesn't say when or how.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Irony and the Human Condition « Social Issues »

Peace activists try to insist we can have a world without war. They rightfully point out the damage that war causes on people, the economy, the environment. They rightfully point out that war is Hell, that no one wants war, that the politicians who make the decisions to go to war are protected from most of the negative effects (barring a complete surrender/loss, of course, in which the politicians are often executed).

But although war often results in killed, maimed, dislocated, and discomfited citizens, war is the last resort to protect citizens from even greater depredations of dictators, despots, tyrants, megalomaniacs, etc.

Sure, it is fun to imagine "No More War" scenarios. But humans are violent. Humans often encounter situations in which they cannot fully control their emotional responses, and such emotional responses create tension and crisis that lead directly to violence.

The best examples of violence that seemingly can't be fully avoided is (you guessed it):

The Peace Movement.

Self-awareness and self-understanding are important, yanno?

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Posted by Nathan at 09:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
After Years of Observation « Social Issues » is clear to me that women should know going in:
Any elastic hair ornament will, at some point, be a wrist ornament.

Make sure it looks good as both.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)