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Saturday, November 14, 2009


the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
This is from Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. It was written 63 years ago & is not a matter of magical new insights but just the basics. Though those who use calling themselves Keynes' followers an excuse to print money or rig the game have come, gone & returned none of them have seriously addressed what he says here. Indeed they are simple enough to be self evident once somebody else has said them. Hat tip to Al Fin & in particular from his list of links which contains a whole range of classic & valuable references.

The above quote comes from the end of section 1 which starts with this:

"The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine-the special pleading of selfish interests. While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible."

This gives you the chapter by chapter index. Virtually every modern snake oil nostrum presented to us today is dealt with. Economics is sometimes called "The Dismal Science" but it is no moreso than any other - merely that it is more overrun by charlatans. Medicine is not a dismal science merely because it has proven that Lilly the Pink's elixir, bleeding, & praying to Apollo don't work - modern medicine does achieve things far greater than any of these. In the same way economics may show that printing more money, protectionism & subsidising the politically connected don't work but it does show that classic free marketism, in the current era of scientific & technological progress can achieve double digit annual growth. That is far from dismal.

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Friday, November 13, 2009


This isn't really a potential amendment to the US Constitution as the others have been but is designed purely for Britain & its monarchy. It works on the theory that intelligence is largely hereditary (which twin studies & other things make a virtual certainty) & that high intelligence would be a good thing for a monarch, even a constitutional monarch to have (which is questionable but I think on balance is the case). Constitutional monarchy is a strange thing - it holds that the monarch is the source of all legitimate authority & at the same time that they should not exercise it. However it has a lot going for it - indeed when the US became independent they deliberately based their government on a variant of the separation of powers that constitutional monarchy implies, except that with the President having a popular mandate he has more power.

The only power a constitutional monarch should have is as the backstop defence of the constitution having the power, in an absolute crisis, to dismiss the government & substitute a new one & having the innate obedience of the government officers & particularly soldiers, to make it stick. A well run state should be able to go for centuries without having to invoke that power but it is a vital ultimate power. They are likely also to have influence on some of the Prime Minister's lesser decisions & particularly appointments. The function is to maintain the constitution & look at the long term future of the country whereas few politicians do, or can, look much beyond the next election.

Examples of it being used are the Italian king's dismissal of Mussolini when Italy had clearly lost in WW2 & Hirohito's decision that Japan should surrender after Hiroshima & less unequivocally successful, the Australian Governor-General's 1975 dismissal of the Prime Minister. The Japanese history is the most interesting in that while all other constitutional monarchs have faced some form of democracy, for centuries they were run by a Shogun while power remained constitutionally in the Emperor's hands.
The said lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, do further pray that it may be enacted, that all and every person and persons that, on properly applied intelligence tests fails, on average, to match the IQ of their predecessor or shall marry somebody whose IQ is at least 2 standard deviations above that of the predecessor shall be excluded, and be for ever incapable to inherit, possess, or enjoy the crown and government of this realm, and the dominions belonging thereunto, or any part of the same
The effect of this would be that we would develop a very smart bunch of royals, probably improving by one standard deviation (about 12 points) per inheritance. Whether Prince Charles would be able to match the IQ of his mother is an open question but I have no doubt that Prince Andrew, who has flown helicopters & fighters for the RAF could.

The wording for this is taken from the British Bill of Rights - the unprepossessing bit where, for perfectly valid reasons of the time, Catholics were excluded from the succession.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009


1980: Fredkin Prize

Edward Fredkin, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, offered $100,000 for the first computer program to beat a reigning world chess champion. The prize is won by the inventors of IBM’s Deep Blue chess machine in 1997, after its victory over Garry Kasparov. IBM boosts the jackpot for both sides, paying $700,000 to the Deep Blue Team and $400,000 to Kasparov.
From an article on the history & success of a number of such prizes.

I have mentioned the Fredkin Prize in passing before but decided to give it more attention.

This is the 1997 press release announcing it being won. It confirms "The prize was established at Carnegie Mellon 17 years ago by Computer Science Professor Edward Fredkin to encourage research in computer chess. A prize of $5,000 was awarded to the first chess program to attain a Master's rating in 1983. A prize of $10,000 was awarded to the system that achieved Grandmaster status in 1988...Feng H. Hsu, Murray Campbell and A. Joseph Hoane, Jr. will split the final, $100,000 award at a special chess pioneer recognition event ... The Fredkin Prize is being awarded under the auspices of AAAI. The funds have been held in trust at Carnegie Mellon University."

Converting $115,000 to today's money comes out at $362,000 (£220,000) which is not out of the range of even moderately wealthy donors.

Note that by Moore's Law that computer capacity doubles every 18 months such capacity is nearly a million times what it was when this prize was offered. Time for another...

Edward Fredkin (born 1934) is an early pioneer of digital physics. In recent work, he uses the term digital philosophy (DP). His primary contributions include his work on reversible computing and cellular automata. While Konrad Zuse's book, Calculating Space (1969), mentioned the importance of reversible computation, the Fredkin gate represented the essential breakthrough.

Edward Fredkin dropped out of Caltech after one year and, at age 19, joined the USAF where he became a jet fighter pilot. Fredkin’s computer career started in 1956 when the Air Force assigned him to work at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He worked at BBN in the early 1960s where he wrote the first PDP-1 assembler.

In 1968, Fredkin returned to academia, starting at MIT as a full professor. From 1971 to 1974 he was the Director of Project MAC. He spent a year at Caltech as a Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, working with Richard Feynman, and was a Professor of Physics at Boston University for 6 years. More recently, he has been a Distinguished Career Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a Visiting Professor at MIT.

Fredkin founded Information International Inc. and has served as the CEO of a diverse set of companies ctd

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Yesterday checking people who had linked to me I tracked back to the Google search link for "Penny Marshall ITN". This is the woman who led the ITN team who, allegedly accidentally faked the Bosnian concentration camp film. As I reported (my link is currently #24) ITN have since rebroadcast it claiming it was not only truthful but proved Karadxic had been running concentration camps. Marshall's claim that she had accidentally faked the film relies on the contention that neither she nor ITN had actually said it was a "concentration camp" but merely not noticed when everybody else did. Clearly their recent claim that it was, which they refused to retract, represents the very highest standard of honesty to which anybody at ITN aspires. Of course it is also total lie.

I am happy to report that the overwhelming majority of popular links Google lists are to reporting of her fraud. Despite the judge telling the jury that it "doesn't matter" that the allegations against ITN were essentially true the court of public opinion has spoken.

Whatever she achieves in her career it seems that the only thing she will be remembered for is producing an, accidentally she assures, faked film used to promote genocide. That is as it should be.

This, the 2nd picture on Google Images, is from the Yugoslav TV crew that were also present at the time & shows her inside the barbed wire enclosure which she "accidentally" entered & through whose barbed wire she "accidentally" filmed the people on the outside.

It would be nice for her to be remembered for being convicted in a trial but there are very many before her on the list. It is clear that, however belatedly, the truth is becoming known.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009


It is generally being accepted that the Copenhagen Climate Summit isn't going to produce an agreement because while all the politicians are going to say how important it is that we destroy much of the world in furtherance of the War Against Fire none of them are willing to put their part of the world economy on the block.

We may be being blindsided. Viscount Monckton thinks so. While the politicos may not put up any money for the bonfire they may be willing to sacrifice national independence. Seeing how almost the entire political class in almost every European country have been keen to immerse their country in the EU, even when the people haven't (which diffuses power but does not reduce it, while making every layer of government less accountable & less able to be opposed by ordinary people).

“At Copenhagen, this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed — Your president will sign it. Most of the third-world countries will sign it because they think they’re going to get money out of it. Most of the left-wing regimes around the world, like the European Union, will rubber-stamp it. Virtually nobody won’t sign it.

“I have read that treaty and what it says is this: ‘That a world government is going to be created. The word, government, actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity.

“The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third-world countries in satisfaction of what is called, coyly, a ‘climate debt,’ because we’ve been burning CO2 and they haven’t - and we’ve been screwing up the climate. We haven’t been screwing up the climate, but that’s the line.

“And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement.
“How many of you think that the word election or democracy or vote or ballot occurs anywhere in the 200 pages of that treaty? Quite right. It doesn’t appear once.

“So, at last, the communists who piled out of the Berlin Wall and into the environmental movement and took over Greenpeace so that my friends who founded it left within a year because they’d captured it.

Now the apotheosis is at hand.....

Now it will actually be relatively difficult to apply this in America because they have a minor thing called the constitution but this will not stop it being passed, very quietly, here. Though it has naturally gone unreported by our media it will mean that as soon as it is passed we will be told we cannot decide that catastrophic global warming is a lie because it is in a treaty & once something is in a treaty you can't object to it.

I am with Professor John McCarthy on why a world government should be opposed.
You say the only alternative to nuclear war is world government. There is only one possibility worse than nuclear war for the survival of modern civilization, and that is world government. Civilization might recover from the damage of a nuclear war, but judging by past static empires in Egypt and China, it might never recover from world government, there being no chance of external intervention. As it is, present governments are only prevented from becoming dominated by crazy ideas that will suppress all opposition by the existence of other governments. The only way a people can be sure that their government is substandard is that it does worse than those of other countries.

Having other countries also gives sceptics somewhere to go & even write subversive things from beyond the government's reach. Global warming is clearly the current crazy idea & now officially, in Britain, a religion & one which would like to persecute heretics.

Even if the current warming lie collapses because of the obvious fact that we are undergoing cooling, once such government is in place it will be used, possibly to promote the next global cooling scare. The important thing is not any genuine concern for any real phenomenon but the way all such scares ("hobgoblins") are used to maintain & extend power.

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Monday, November 09, 2009


I have discussed before how the 'elfin spectorate cost us the equivalent of 4 million people's work & indeed that the extra deaths from lost economic growth exceed, by a couple of orders magnitude any possible lives saved by the bureaucrats.

This is from an article, with my comments,

several factors shape people's perception of risks:

Trust. The more we trust the people informing us about a risk, or the institution or company exposing us to the risk, or the government agencies that are supposed to protect us, the less afraid we'll be. The less we trust them, the greater our fear. Not sure about this - politicians & journalists are the 2 groups at the bottom of public trust lists & they are the ones pushing almost all scare stories whereas scientists come pretty high up & they are the ones who say nuclear is safe & make up the large majority of prominent warming sceptics. This suggests that advertising of scare stories is a much greater cause of worry than the intrinsic trustworthiness of the fearmonger. It should be acknowledged that politicians have gone to considerable lengths to find fakecharities or scientists, invariably ones they employ, as front men - hence the firing of Professor Nutt for not making scary claims about drugs.

Control. The more control we have over a risk, the less threatening it seems. This explains why it feels safer to drive than fly, though the risk of death from motor vehicle crashes is much higher. True

Dread. The more dreadful the nature of the harm from a risk, the more worried we'll be. Cancer is generally considered a more dreadful way to die than heart disease, yet heart disease kills roughly 25 percent more Americans. True & entirely reasonable

Risk vs. benefit. The more we get a benefit from a choice or behavior, like using a cell phone when we drive or that "nice, healthy-looking tan" from the sun, the less concerned we are about any associated risk. Though this applies only to personal benefits not those to society as a whole.

Human-made vs. natural. Natural risks seem less scary. Solar radiation causes an estimated 7,100 melanoma deaths in the U.S. per year. Yet many sunbathers worry more about nuclear radiation. Among more than 90,000 survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, only about 500 cancer deaths have been attributed to radiation exposure over the past 59 years. This is a biggie. I'm not sure that this is innate rather than that the Luddites controlling the media & politics give infinitely more coverage to new alleged risks. I don't think Victorian sailors showed an aversion to steam ships on the grounds that though they sank less often than sail ships they did so for new reasons like boiler explosions.

"Could it happen to me?" Statistical probabilities like one in a million are often used in risk communication, usually to no avail. One in a million is too high if you think you could be "the one." That is why the public sometimes demands additional regulations to cut already low risks to zero. This also suggests reporting error as a cause. By definition, if the risk is higher, the chances of it happening to you, except where it is very strongly limited to particular risk groups, is higher. This is probably why the AIDS virus scare was pushed since, if it had been seen to be overwhelmingly limited to gays & drug users there would have been less public interest & thus less money.

New or familiar. New threats--for example, West Nile virus when it first appears in a community--generate concern. After residents have lived with the risk for a while, familiarity lowers their fear. For diseases over the very long term, ie centuries, there is something to this since diseases mutate to take only the already weak. Also when a disease first appears it is difficult to assess the threat & it can quite easily spread 1,000 times more or 1,000 less than the median estimate - it is therefore wise to worry much more than the median estimate. This happened with mad cow disease & indeed SARS. Fortunately we have not yet found something where the error has been significantly on the low side.

Children. Any risk to a child seems more threatening in the eyes of adults than the same risk does to them. Which is entirely reasonable in itself since they have much longer life expectancy. However it does give the fearmongers a handle. Any time you are told we must have no smoking/ID cards/more prisons/more global warming regulations/censorship "for the children" you can be fairly sure that anybody using children as a moral hum,an shield is out of all the other arguments.

Uncertainty. The less we know, or understand, about a risk, the scarier it seems. And uncertainty is, by definition, the other side of the coin of the promotion of unproven or false fears since they are unproven but it is inherently impossible to disprove an unspecific scare. The entire anti-GM foods scare is based on claiming that some unknown effect might happen from some unknown cause, at some unknown period in the future.

Perceiving risk through these emotional and intuitive lenses, which have been identified by researchers Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischhoff, and others, is natural human behavior, but "It can lead us to make dangerous personal choices," Ropeik says. Driving may have felt safer than flying after September 11, 2001, but those who opted to drive rather than fly were actually raising their risk. Risk misperception can threaten health by making us too afraid, or not afraid enough.

Finally, as George Gray points out, failing to keep risk in perspective leads us to "pressure government for protection against relatively small risks, which diverts resources from bigger ones."

"By understanding and respecting the way people relate to risk," Gray says, "risk communicators can play a vital role in improving the public's health."

This list does not include air crashes, which may be above the 1 in a million listed but difficult to accurately assess, being killed by meteorite - my own favourite which can be assessed as about 1 in a million in a lifetime of being killed by a dinosaur killer meteor (which hit 65 million years ago), or another 3 mile island (well under the million to 1). Interestingly it does include Radon in homes which is a risk only if you accept the LNT radiation damage theory, while epdimemiological evidence shows Radon beneficial.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009


The LibDems have produced advice for their bloggers on how they handle comments. Though nobody in the party is able to answer accusations that they have been complicit in war crimes & genocide they have clearly been considering it.
You really can decide your own policy on abusive comments or swearing. It’s your blog. Again, it hardly ever happens. But if someone, for example, writes that a very genteel politician is an “organ thieving Nazi whore”, then you are within your rights to delete that comment.
Indeed. This is allegedly because of the threat he might sue. The fact that no such LibDem politician has even disputed, let alone felt able to sue over anything I have said would, as a matter of fact, largely preclude them suing their own supporters for not censoring now.

In the interests of good fellowship & because I thought the advice contained some danger if applied only to censoring criticism of LibDems in a way which would imply approval of criticisms of others I put up this.
Also if you subsequently allow a comment which says that Nick Griffin were a Nazi (which for the record he isn’t) or indeed anything questionable about him & it had been proven that you HAD censored similar remarks about a LibDem politician, allegedly on the grounds that it was libellous, you would not only have to prove that Griffin were a Nazi but that he was more clearly a Nazi than any aforementioned LibDem politician who had a proven record of supporting ideological Nazis publicly committed to & engaged in racial genocide (also organ thieving) in the Nazi cause. If it could be proven you were using a different standard against Griffin that would be proof your libel was malicious which makes it considerably worse.

The easier & commonly used LibDem tactic is simply to censor anything factual but unsupportive of the party & make no bones about it.

They seem to have misunderstood it presumably misreading writing that Griffin is not a Nazi as that he was. An easy mistake to make if you are not good at reading. Certainly it in no other conceivable way breaches the rules for what should be censored yet, to my astonishment, it has been


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