Sunday, December 31, 2006

You Know What I Hate?

(I knew you've been wondering.)

It's when some marketing department (like Vonage's this morning) writes "Save up to 50% or more on your phone bill!"

Aargh! You can write "Save up to 50 %" or "Save 50% or more," but combining the two makes no sense!

The Iraqi Name Game

is sorted out here.

(Via Jim Henley.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Patriot Act.

On an email discussion group of Austro-libertarians some were lamenting the inability of our efforts to do anything to check State power. Others were saying that we had to keep plugging away with articles and PhDs etc. I for one said that there had been modest gains on tax and inflation rates, at least since the 1970s.

In response to my naivete, someone said I was ignoring the curtailment of civil liberties under the "Bush gang." Someone else chimed in--and I can't remember the exact quote--to say that we were now living in an Orwellian state.

This struck me as a bit much. If we're trying to be "realists," as the cynics who questioned the efficacy of our writing efforts professed to be, then we're not in an Orwellian state. Winston in 1984 wasn't on a fairly accessible email discussion group talking about the best ways to eliminate government.

Friday, December 22, 2006

And Justice for All

While following up on a link from an LRC article, I saw this nice statement from Ann Coulter. (She has a JD, ya know.)

The odds of an innocent man being found guilty by a unanimous jury are basically nil.

Now I'm no JD holder, but don't many courts in the US require a unanimous jury opinion for conviction? Isn't that the whole deal with a hung jury?

Sooo, is Ann Coulter really saying the odds of an innocent being convicted in our great nation are basically nil??? Not only is that naive, it also contradicts our alleged rule to let 10 guilty go free rather than falsely imprison 1 innocent.

Seriously, if someone wants to clarify her claim, please chime in. Even though she likes to say shocking things, this statement is so palpably stupid that I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.

A Fast Year

A friend, whom I just had dinner with in London, mentioned that his friend was a faculty member at CalTech with an unlimited travel budget. One year he took such advantage of that fact that he was moved to calculate his average speed for the year as a whole, which turned out to be something like 70 miles per hour.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Down with Male Body Image!

This ad makes me irrationally happy. I gotta say, I love seeing a product blatantly marketed at men telling them that they're ugly and unsexy and everybody thinks so, thus they need X.

Trump thinks he's special

So I don't know if you heard, but Miss USA had been drinking underage, hanging out in bars in NYC, and Trump, who owns the pageant, was considering firing her and it was a big media deal. So on The View, Rosie O'Donnell had a few things to say:

O'Donnell, co-host of the ABC television morning talk show "The View," said on Wednesday's show that Trump's news conference with Tara Conner had annoyed her "on a multitude of levels."

"Left the first wife, had an affair, left the second wife, had an affair. Had kids both times, but he's the moral compass for
20-year-olds in America," the comedian and actress said to roars of audience laughter. "Donald, sit and spin, my friend."

Trump lashed back at O'Donnell on the TV entertainment show, "The Insider," criticizing everything from her looks to her former television talk show and magazine.

"Rosie attacks me personally? I know her fairly well because her show failed. She didn't retire. She didn't get the ratings! Her magazine called `Rosie' was a total disaster," he said.

"She's out of her mind. I will probably sue Rosie for a number of reasons. I'm worth a lot of money. She doesn't tell the facts," added.

SO...let me get this straight. He's worth a lot of money, and therefore cannot be made fun of, ever?

Nitwits on NPR

As readers of this blog know, I've been frustrated at The Economist's pro-war idiocy (and I don't mean that as a pleonasm--I'm saying their pro-war writings happen to be idiotic). Just to show how fair and balanced I am, I'll mention two liberal D-U-M dumb things I heard on NPR this morning.

(1) On a story about how the wage gap has increased between men and women, the reporter concluded, "At this rate, it will take over 50 years for pay parity between the sexes." Umm, if the disparity increased last year, "at this rate" we will never have pay parity. Of course you can say, "Oh, they're using a longer time frame." OK, but I bet if you go back 50 years and see what the "wage gap" was then, that we've more than halved it since. You folla?

(2) The anchor was interviewing some visiting scholar to an organization (not sure if university or think tank) in CA I believe, who apparently is an expert on Iraq. She was gushing over the State run oil industry and how the greedy US oil companies are trying to screw the Iraqi people. OK fair enough. Then the anchor asked her how the Iraqi gov't has been doing, running the oil lately. She said something like:

It's done quite well, actually. Daily production before the invasion was about 2.5 million barrels, while now it averages around 2.2 to 2.3 million barrels.

OK, so compared to oil production during a regime of a brutal thug who was being punished by punitive worldwide sanctions (but yes there were "oil for food" programs), oil production is now down 8 to 12%. What would have to happen for this lady to say the State-run enterprise were being poorly run?

Colbert's Bold Performance

Stephen Colbert was far braver than I would have been at the White House Correspondents dinner, as described here. I encourage you to take the time to actually watch the clips. The ending film clip is a bit slow, but be sure to see Helen Thomas' great question. Thanks to Rachael for the tip...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Another Dumb Excerpt from The Economist

From the December 2, 2006 issue (p. 31):

The speculation grew to fever pitch this week as the [Iraq Study Group] decamped to the Reagan Building to complete its interviews and debate its final draft...The NYT reported that the group will recommend a gradual withdrawal of American troops, though it will stop short of laying out a timetable, and it is not clear whether the withdrawal will be to bases inside Iraq or out of the country altogether.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Michael Chertoff Lies

Here: "The main cause of terrorism is weakness."

Sure. That's why the terrorists keep attacking, you know, Luxemborg, and Andorra, and San Marino.

The Da Vinci Hoax

Caution, there are mild spoilers in this blog post. If you plan on watching/reading the Da Vinci Code and don't know what the "code" is about, you should skip this. (It's not that interesting anyway.)


OK. So the big secret is that Jesus had a child before leaving the earth. Now forget the machinations of the misogynist Church and so forth. Does Jesus of Nazareth strike you as a guy who would get someone pregnant and then split? Even if you don't think He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, certainly you can concede that He was fairly clever and would have known His ministry could lead to His death. I.e. don't get a girl pregnant if you think your mission is to challenge the Pharisees.

Now you might say, "Didn't Jesus abandon the disciples, even according to your sacred book?" Yes that's true, but I think it's a far cry from training grown men for three years and then sending them out to spread the gospel, versus getting a woman pregnant and then taking off.

Even Latin Texts Are Doing It!

Distorting the history of science, that is. The Cambridge Latin Course, Book II, in describing ancient astronomy, claims:

"The idea was also put forward that the Earth was round, rotated on its axis and circled the Sun with the other planets. After the end of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, this idea was forgotten until Copernicus rediscovered it in the sixteenth century."

Whew! What a tangle. First of all, who thought to call it one idea that "the Earth was round, rotated on its axis, and circled the Sun with the other planets." That sure looks like three ideas. And it's important to separate them, because:
1) "the Earth was round" -- Essentially every educated person in the Greek and Roman world believed this idea. But so did essentially every educated person in the Middle Ages. (Here you can see a medieval model of the Earth -- a sphere!) And if we might find a case or two of an educated person in the 8th or 9th century who doubted it, it certainly was not because he had forgotten it ever existed.
2) & 3) "the Earth rotated on its axis and circled the Sun with the other planets." As far as I can tell, exactly one person in the ancient world believed this. Everyone else thought he was nuts. Nor were these two ideas forgotten until Copernicus -- Nicolas Oresme, for one, examined them in the 14th century.

So, in other words, far from having fallen into a "Dark Age," medieval astronomy pretty much simply was Greek astronomy. (It's true that, until the 13th and 14th centuries, science largely had stagnated.) So who wrote the above passage? And where did they get this nonsense from?

Monday, December 18, 2006

Get Your Info about Prostitution Here!

This post sort of fits its title, but I figure that although there may be more suitable titles, they are less likely to get Crash Landing as many hits from Google as the above is.

In any case, I'm just back from the UK, where the top news story is that a serial killer has been targeting prostitutes in the town of Ipswich. Two things on the British news coverage of the case struck me as odd:
1) Announcers kept asserting that the case was changing the public's attitude about prostitution, creating a groundswell of support for legalization. Now, I:
a) Am in favor of legalizing prostitution;
b) Consider it, in the realm of human vices, a fairly mild indulgence; and
c) Certainly do not wish to see prostitutes murdered.
Nevertheless, I found the "reasoning" here weird. If a person, before these murders, thought prostitution was a genuinely criminal activity, properly illegal, then why should these killings make any difference to his opinion? Would it make any sense, if a serial killer was targeting muggers, to decide that mugging should be made legal?
The one thing I can see that supports the change in opinion is that, perhaps, people are acknowledging that prostitution never ought to have been illegal, but only now do they have sufficient motivation to place much importance on changing the law.

2) The news broadcasts also frequently mentioned the belief that, once the first two killings had come to light, the local police should have been doing far more to protect the area's streetwalkers, thus, perhaps, saving one or more of the later victims. I had some sympathy for the conundrum facing the police in this regard: given that the average prostitute strenously is trying to avoid having her professional activities come to the notice of the law, what, exactly, were the police supposed to have been doing? Asking these ladies if a bobby could come along in the car whenever a john picked one of them up? Let them use a spare room in the police station for their engagements?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Don't Want to Start an Argument, But...

Can someone please explain this response to Gene and my critique of Hoppe? Is Heinrich (I know him, btw, so it's all good) saying that our position relies on someone demonstrating a preference for being coerced? Gene, did you think that's what we were doing?

Yes, they really are pro-war.

When arguing with some "conservatives," I hear something like, "C'mon, we're all for peace. It's just we are more realistic than you are, and know that peace comes with strength."

That's hard to square with this news story (which my wife brought to my attention). After the media interest, the homeowners association backed off and let the lady keep her peace wreath up.

What's really funny about this story is that the head of the HA basically made himself dictator by dissolving the parliament.

The Social Function of Call and Put Options

Is at your fingertips...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Four Easy Pieces

How America's Iraq policy is made.

We Don't Want to Pigeonhole the Chap

Three prostitutes have been murdered in the same, small area of the UK over the past few weeks. The announcer on BBC said something like, "The signs indicate that the same person committed all three murders, a serial killer, perhaps."

You know, just because he murdered three people in quick succession is no reason to jump to conclusions about the fellow.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pet Peeve

I'm not a big fan of when someone comes into my office to show me something or ask a question, and actually puts his finger on my computer monitor.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Today's featured coupon on the Nashvile Scene's website. And I was really hoping for a lunch special!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Whoa! Talk about an Imposition!

Jim Henley alerted me to the presence of a new nutjob organization called the 910 group. At their web site, I found:

"Thwart attempts to impose Sharia Law. The ultimate goal of Islamofascists is to impose Islamic “Sharia” religious law upon us all. Groups could monitor and block every Fabian effort (imposing Sharia in small bites) like demands for prayer rooms and allowing headscarves in schools."

So allowing people to wear what they like on their heads is a way of imposing Sharia law! Who knew? Today I plan to "impose" the wearing of black overcoats on others by putting on mine before I go out.

"The US Airways story removing Moslem imams from a flight resulted in a barrage of denunciations from Moslem advocacy groups like CAIR with no one to give a “fair and balanced” rebuttal. What is needed is an “Anti-CAIR” media team that can praise the justifiable concern of airline passengers for their safety and demand that Moslems understand that concern. There must be no tolerance for Islamic bullying."

First of all, isn't it odd that a "story" was able to remove people from an airplane. Secondly, these folks were forcibly removed from a plane and held in police custody for praying in the terminal and speaking in Arabic. Islamic bullying, indeed.

"All people have the right to speak freely, to choose their religious beliefs, and to be free of the threat of violence."

Well, of course, that is, unless they want to wear headscarves in schools, or are Moslem and want to ride an airplane. Then, fuck 'em.

A Black Confusion

My post below about Barack Obama and the ensuing comments led me to contemplate the swirling confusions surrounding the use of the term "black" and "African-American" in our language. Just the other day, my son, who has had the preferability of the term "African-American" drilled into him in school, asked me, about Ghana, "Aren't most people there African-American?"

"No," I said, "most of them are African-African."

On the other hand, Americans who actually have recently moved here from Africa, such as my Egyptian friends at the deli down the street or my economic mentor, Israel Kirzner, are never called "African-American."

So, is African-American really a racial classification? Well, it's not that either, because someone whose ancestory is mostly of non-African origin can still be "African-American."

A lot of the same problems surround the word "black" as well. One of the commenters in the thread above said "Obama is half-white and half-black." But, given that his father is from East Africa, his patrilineal heritage is probably a complicated mix of East Indian, Austronesian, Khoisan (see below) and "black" genes, where black is meant to indicate the fairly distinct genetic group that originated in the forests of Western Africa and spread south and east from there. "Blacks" in that sense are actually one of several genetically distinctive groups in Sub-Saharan Africa, others of which include the Khoisans mentioned above (think Nelson Mandela, who isn't genetically "black" at all!) and the Pygmys.

Mo Media

For those who resisted the urge to listen to the mp3 of my talk on free trade, now you can watch it in wmv format. Such discipline!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Celebrity Couples

Do you think the gossip journalist or editor who coined the term "TomKat" is particularly proud of him or herself? Certainly that person should feel superior to whoever came up with the repugnant "Brangelina." (When googling to make sure I wasn't botching these terms, I came across "Bennifer" which is pretty clever too, though I hadn't heard it before.)

I suspect that the only reason my wife Rachael and I haven't been inundated with paparazzi is the difficulty in coining a catchy name for us. Rabob? BoRa BoRa?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An Actual Empiricist Seconds My Views

Thanks to Dave Lull for sending me this Times article where Bryan Appleyard complains about Stephen Hawking. (Gene, I think you'd like this stuff.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I Love the Terrorists More Than You!

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 96%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Take that, Radley Balko.

Accident Avoidance

Accidents occur when two motor vehicles meet at the same place at the same time. (Yes, yes, I know, it could be a vehicle and a rock, a vehicle and a tree, etc. In fact, Wabulon's worst vehicular accident was a one vehicle crash occurring at 0 miles per hour! [Tell 'em, Wabulon.])

So, it seems to me that the obvious way to avoid having an accident is: Stay away from other vehicles! That's why I like to find big, empty "pockets" in the flow of traffic and settle into them for as long as they last. And why it always baffles me to see one car following another down a mostly empty away at a distance of about ten feet. Not, you know, coming up that close to pass the car in front and then going around it. No, the guy in the back just settles in, at 60 miles per hour, a car length or so behind the leader. What in the world is that about? Maintaining a proper following distance -- maybe 60 feet-- would result in the rear driver arriving less than one second later than his following at ten feet.

I think people just get mesmerized into filling the space between themselves and the car in front of them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I Get Hawkish on Stephen

Now I liked A Brief History of Time and of course the whole wheelchair / voice enhancement stuff is touching, but I'm getting sick of Stephen Hawking. If he wants to shoot his mouth off to the press about event horizons, fair enough; he's got me there. But a few months ago he was talking about science vs. religion and his remarks were just D-U-M dumb, and he does it again in this story concerning colonization (which my wife brought to my attention).

OK, first some geek quibbles: In Star Trek the warp drive doesn't take you somewhere "instantly." And although it relies on matter/antimatter annihilations, it also allows faster-than-light travel. So what Hawking is talking about in this article would be a far cry from "Star Trek propulsion."

Another quibble: A nuclear war couldn't "wipe us all out." It would destroy modern civilization, perhaps, but it wouldn't exterminate the human race. I suspect his remarks here are less based on scientific inquiry and more on the views of "sophisticated" crowds in which he travels.

Major objection (1): Why would we need to go to other star systems to be safe? Wouldn't it be enough to establish space stations or colonies on asteroids / the moon / Mars?

Major objection (2): You'd have to go a lot farther than the next star system if the goal is to find an inhabitable planet. In fact, I've read some compelling investigations that conclude Earth may possibly be the only planet in the universe hospitable for human life. (You scoff and say, "C'mon there are trillions of planets," but there are all sorts of things that could make life impossible.)

Major objection (3): Who cares how long the trip is? I think when pioneers venture out to colonize other star systems, they are probably going to be in ships that are self-sufficient, as opposed to having (say) 7 years of supplies and then hoping to replenish once they reach Alpha Centauri. So if that's true, then whether it takes 7 or 700 years to reach the destination is irrelevant.

OK in closing, in fairness to Hawking I'm just relying on this news story. Maybe his actual remarks were a lot more nuanced.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Barack Obama

Many people are touting Obama as possibly the first black president.

He doesn't have a chance. Not because he's "black" -- that's in quotes because he looks to be about 60% or 70% white in ancestry to me -- but because of his name. Far too many Americans are so stupid and uninformed that they will confuse "Obama" with "Osama," and be sure that the al Qaeda leader is running for US office.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Phenomenology of the Social World

I've just been back into the book with the above title, by Alfred Schutz, who was an attendee at the renowned Mises seminar in Vienna. It struck me that he could have boosted sales quite a bit by instead entitling his work, "The Social World -- It's Phenomenal!"

An opportunity lost.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Question for Closed Borders Libertarians

What if someone proposed a policy of sending out armed federal agents to arrest people who applied for welfare? Or who cashed their Social Security checks? Or who used their WIC vouchers? Would you get behind that program?

The Brightest Minds of Our Era

Gene and me! (See it's not as arrogant if I include another.) Gene takes our old friend, Victor Davis Hanson, out to the woodshed in this piece, and I live up to my role as fat cat apologist in this one.

Get Out the Vote!

People are always worrying about enough voters showing up at the polls on election day. Well, after this last election, I came up with the perfect fix: lottery elections. What the government could do would be to award large cash prizes for various categories of voter: the ballot with the most winning candidates, the ballot with the most losing candidates, the ballot closest to the mean ballot, and so on. And this move would target precisely the people whom its hardest to get to vote now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Heh, heh, you shoulda heard what you just said..."

True story: A few days after initially posting an econometrics query on an email List, I received the following (sincere) question:

"Did you find out more about your Wiener filter?"

Friday, November 17, 2006

BTW T-Mobile Sux

I offer the above lemma without proof. It is left as an exercise for the reader.

Sympathetic Customer Service Agents

Lately I've dealt with more than my fair share of 1-800 customer service people. There must be some new philosophy sweeping the profession, because they all "sympathize" with my situation. For example (and I'm not making this up), "Oh yes Mr. Murphy, I can totally understand how that would be frustrating if you moved into a new house and your cell phone didn't get any reception. I can see why you'd be calling us."

The Economist Sets a Low Bar

I was reading last month's Economist and came across this passage that struck me as hilarious. Like Bill Kristol, the writers for this magazine can say the most ludicrous things and yet somehow sound perfectly reasonable while doing so. Case in point:

In this maelstrom, what can the Americans do? Since this summer they have defined their military "main effort" as the build-up of the Iraqi army and police. Although the police have proved a disappointment...the army is a qualified success. Though plauged by poor discipline, inefficiency, corruption and desertion, it has so far remained politically reliable. And although not nimble or numerous enough to prevent low-level, day-to-day killings, it is probably now strong enough in most cities to prevent the militias and insurgents from simply taking over.

P.S. As ridiculous as that is at first reading, read it a second time. Note the two qualifiers ("probably" and "most") in the last sentence.

Monday, November 13, 2006

At the Airport

So a man is at the airport check-in line with a large creature under his arm.

Security comes up to him and says, "What's that under your arm?"

"A vulture."

"Mister, you can't bring that bird on a plane."

"Oh, no, you're wrong -- my ticket says I'm entitled to board with one carrion item."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

happy non-voter here

Just cause I'm a non-voter doesn't mean I have a complete and total disinterest in election returns this evening: I honestly hope enough Democrats win to make the Republicans stop spending money like Democrats

Bats in My Belfry...

and flying squirrels in my attic.

That's right, the attic of my house in Pennslyvania is apparently infested with flying squirrels. We found our third inside the house last Saturday night. It was perched on a curtain rod. It launched itself at the ceiling, wacked its head, and fell to the floor. Then it climbed up the curtain to try again. I finally got past it to open the indow it was near, and it leapt out into the night.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


1) In the Wikipedia entry on "mirror," I found:

"A mirror is used for inspecting parts of one's body which are difficult or impossible to see directly, such as the face, neck or the whole body. This may be to checkphysical appearance (including clothing, make-up, hair, etc.) or to control applying make-up, shaving, cutting hair, fixing one's tie, etc."

Did the author of this article think there would be someone who had just bought a new house, and found a strange, reflective object in his bathroom, who said to himself, "What in the world is this thing? Let me log onto the Internet and go to Wikipedia to discover what I could possibly do with this thing?"

2) I bought a bag of pistachios at a gas station today. On the back of the package, I found: "Allergy warning: This product contains pistachio nuts."

Is there some allergy sufferer out who might buy a bag of pistachios unaware that the bag would contain pistachio nuts?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mo Media

What a treat! (Or is it a trick?) Another exciting Murphy talk, filled with all sorts of compelling analogies and jokes, available at the Mises archives. ("The Five Most Common Myths on International Trade," at the bottom.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Andy Rooney on Iraq

I hope this link works here, but anyway here's a nice little clip from Andy Rooney. I've been monitoring this whole situation as closely as anything in the "public realm," and I think there was a definite shift in public opinion on the war around 2,000 US deaths. The first big blow to Bush's popularity was Katrina, but even then I don't think it was acceptable in any circle to say we should bring the troops home. But now, more and more, I'm seeing signs that it's fashionable for this to be one's position.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

{No) Pasaran II

Answer the problem came with—cogent reason:

Flip the coin twice.

HH repeat two flips
HT grade is A
TH grade is B
TT repeat two flips

Comment by a friend to whom I gave P. I—insufficient reason:

This solution is unnecessary. On Day One, the students had no reason to expect that the coin—if unfair—would have either particular bias. Independently, they had equally no reason to expect either particular assignment of heads and tails. Therefore, on the day the students were required to decide whether or not to take the course for credit, the prospect of a simple single flip sufficed to guarantee the promised outcome.

(“Cogent reason” and “insufficient reason” refer to the two extreme philosophies for the assignment of probability. (But you knew that?))

(No) Pasaran I

The problem as I received it:

A professor announces on the first day of class that he doesn’t believe in grades, but the deanery insists; therefore he guarantees every student equal chances of receiving A or B, the grades to be assigned at random. Anyone who is unhappy with this should not take the course for credit.

Doomsday—and the professor gets out his little black grade book. He is about to flip a coin for each student, giving A for heads and B for tails, when he thinks: I didn’t merely promise that each student had the same expectation as every other; I promised an equal chance of A or B. What if this coin—or any coin—is not absolutely fair? What to do?

See P. II for answers.

Lancet Study Fine

Says this fellow, who has spent two years studying their technique.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Fatwa (in words!!) on Kristol

Incidentally, fatwa is a pretty interesting concept for private law thinkers. But anyway, here I just mean it in the I'm-a-typical-American-and-can't-find-Kuwait-on-a-map sense. Recently Bill Kristol wrote an article containing the following concession:

Democrats hyped last Sunday's news stories breathlessly reporting on one judgment from April's National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)--that the war in Iraq has created more terrorists. More than would otherwise have been created if Saddam were still in power? Who knows? The NIE seems not even to have contemplated how many terrorists might have been created by our backing down, by Saddam's remaining in power to sponsor and inspire terror, and the like.

Did y'all catch that? Kristol is here admitting that there might be more terrorists now than before we invaded Iraq!! And he's acting like the war hawks never claimed otherwise!!

I don't have the time, but somebody ought to comb through his archives and find Kristol's discussions (pre-invasion) of why we needed to go in and take out Saddam vis-a-vis terrorism. I would be very surprised if he even hinted at the possibility that the absolute number of terrorists might go up (though relative to inaction, the number would still be lower).

Oh one other thing: I think you'd have to pay $30 to subscribe to the Weekly Standard to get the back issues. But just view it as Kristol selling you the noose.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Fun with English

Bird Gods
From ESPN writer Jayson Stark, commenting on Yadlier Molina's game-winning home run last night:
"But not even Endy Chavez could leap high enough or far enough to keep this ball from landing in the Cardinals' Game 7 pantheon."
So the Cardinals have a temple honoring all of their gods -- or is it just all of their "Game 7" gods? -- just over the left field fence in Shea Stadium? Why would the Mets allow that? No wonder they lost!
Of course that is to take Stark literally. But what would he mean figuratively? The home-run ball has now become one of the Cardinals' gods? Or perhaps it just landed among the Game 7 gods, maybe hitting one of them right in the pantheon? Ouch!

Dick Blumenthal Before He Dicks You
On the radio today, I head Connecticut Attorney General Dick "Is There a Camera Around I Can Jump in Front of?" Blumenthal declare: "The electrical industry in Connecticut is now a regulatory black hole."
Does the Dickster have any idea what a black hole is? Does he mean to say that the mass of regulation concerning the CT electrical industry is so dense that it will suck all nearby regulation into it?

Sign on the George Washington Bridge:
"Occupants must remain in disabled vehicles."
Is that supposed to be a definition or a law? If definition, it's true enough -- an occupant is someone who is in the vehicle. If a law, it's remarkably hard to find a violator -- someone who exits the vehicle is no loner an occupant, and so can go wherever they want!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Another Note from a Muslim Correspondent

Go figure, but the same day Gene posts his note (below), I open my inbox to find this:


With due respect,






Dangerous Dave Barry

This "FIRE" site explains that a PhD candidate was told to remove a "patently offensive" Dave Barry quotation about the federal government. The guy should post some Thomas Jefferson quotes and see what happens.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


My friend Ed Stringham talks on TV about his study of drinking.

A Note from a Reader

Sometimes, you get a note that makes the effort seem worthwhile, after all:


Dear Mr. Gene Callahan,

I just read your subject article online and when i saw a link to email you, i felt compelled to write a few lines. I hope you will have the time to read.

I am an Indian national, working in Saudi Arabia. And I am a muslim.

Recently, I have changed my plans about savings and started spending more. Because i think i won't live long enough to enjoy the benefits of my savings. I feel I will be killed soon by American violence - if it is not by American soldier or bomb, then it will be another bomb/bullet which was triggered in direct reaction to American actions.

I am not a jihadi. I am not even religious. But the fact that i was born a muslim qualifies me for such a death.

Day in and day out i hear debates about why killing Americans is justified. About how this world can only be saved by destroying America. About how we are doomed unless we act against America.

But that is just one of the opinions i hear. For the vast majority of us, there is no opinion, no hope... just despair. We feel we are doomed, no matter what!

And every time i hear such an argument, i always debate the logic and the remotest possibility that violence can save the rest of the world from being consumed by the American empire.

In my personal view, there is only one hope. And that is the PEOPLE of America.

During my 14 years' stay in Saudi Arabia, I have worked/interacted with many western nationals. And it is my view that Americans are one of the nicest people in the world. and the day they find out what their government is really up to, they will put an end to it.

And when i read articles like the one i read from you today, i feel there is hope.

Thank you for giving us that hope!

God bless you,

Monday, October 16, 2006

Maybe we should vote for them?

LRC ran a great James Bovard article on how the liberators of Iraq actually didn't bend over backwards to bring democracy (forget electricity). Here's a good quote from Paul Bremer, former American overlord of Iraq (I know I know, that wasn't his actual title):

In a postwar situation like this, if you start holding elections, the people who are rejectionists tend to win.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

give me my parking decal dammit!

A few weeks ago, the city reminded me--in a letter mailed to my home--that my neighborhood parking decal expires at the end of October. They asked me to mail-in my renewal form instead of huffing it over to their office. Yesterday, I got my reply! In the mail! They want me to FAX them proof that I live at the address where they have sent me all these letters.

A Watershed in History

My six-year-old son today asked me, "What's a blog?"

I gave the response I suually do: "It's a web log."

He came back, "What's a log?"

He is the first person I've met who had heard of a blog without having heard of a log.

Soon, we will hear, "Oh, a log -- that's a kind of paper-based blog."

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Futility of Violence

You shortsighted libertarians agree with me that initiating violence is wrong, but you still believe it's a good thing to forcibly punish true "bad guys." Well what about this story? Oh wait, don't tell me: This just proves the sentence wasn't harsh enough. If we executed bank robbers, you wouldn't see this type of thing.

Taliban Devise Ingenius Defense

My wife tipped me off to this hilarious article... I was trying to think of a clever blog title, but I couldn't beat "Can't smoke 'em out?" that one of the news agencies used.

It Will Get Worse...

"Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, briefing in Baghdad on Thursday, attributed the rising casualties to insurgent violence that coincides with the current Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as well as more aggressive operations in Baghdad."

“'We assume it will still get worse before it gets better. We expect violence to continue to increase over the next two weeks, until the end of Ramadan,' Caldwell said."

Well, given the whole war has been 3 1/2 years of "getting worse," I'd say we're seeing an example here of military intelligence at its finest.

Nice Meadow!

My friend Roderick Long has launched the Center for a Stateless Society, which, even if nothing else comes of it, has a really nice photo on the top of their home page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Moral Clarity

After Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle crashed his plane into a Manhattan apartment building today, nothing could be clearer than this: Manhattan should now bomb the Bronx until it is reduced to a pile of burning rubble. Anything less would show a lack of "resolve" on the part of Manhattan.

Predictions: 2 out of 3 in 3 days

Well I recently made 3 predictions. Three days have gone by, and already two of them have been addressed by news stories (#1 and #3).

Yeah yeah, I know the casualty numbers have been disputed, but does anybody doubt my target will be reached by 2016? And if the Army right now is saying they're there until 2010, in plain English that means at least 2020.

More on the Rule of Law (under the Sea)

It's ironice that Gene just posted about this, because I am about to make a similar post. We have been in a hotel until 2 days ago (we just closed on a house). We haven't rented a movie in ages, and my wife bought our son The Little Mermaid (the DVD, not an actual organism).

So I'm man enough to admit that I watched it (quite eagerly) last night. There was a great part where Ariel (the dimunitive mermaid) signs a contract with the witch, and Ariel's father comes in and tries to blast the witch with his trident. But the witch holds up the contract and the bolt bounces off, and the witch says triumphantly, "This is a perfectly legal contract."

You can fill in the blanks. I thought it was great.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Democratic Governance

A correspondent wrote in suggesting that elections offer some redress to the tendency towards fascism exhibited recently by the US and UK governments. I agree with him in that democratic elections do impose some constraint on the behaviour of rulers. But that constraint is very much vitiated by the control of an opinion-making elite over what options are available to the electorate.

For example, in 2004, roughly 50% of the US electorate was opposed to the Iraq war. But the two major parties each offered candidates who supported the war, only differing in how they proposed to conduct it. The most viable candiate to express the anti-war view, Howard Dean, was sabotage by the widespread media "exposure" of his "instability."

Now, I don't suggest that there was some coherent conspiracy to defeat Dean. There is no need to postulate such a conspiracy if one recognizes that the elite in question travel in the same social circles, attend the same parties, find their offspring marrying each other, and so on. All that is needed to blow up the Dean campaign is not an organized conspiracy, but merely a predominant opinion among that elite that Dean is "too radical, too far "out there." Once that exists, any incident taken to exhibit that consensus view wll be advanced throughout the outlets that elite controls.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Military Style Planning"

As we wait to move into our new home we've been in a Residence Inn, and I've watched more than my fair share of shows on the Food Network. Anyway this host was doing a documentary on the banquet they have after the Grammys, and she was trying to express the enormity of the task. "300 lbs. of tuna, 6,000 tomatoes, etc. etc." She talked about how many chefs would be involved and so forth, and then said, "...getting ready for a task that will require military-style planning."

Can someone please explain to me why the military has a reputation for being excellent planners? Don't, say, experimental scientists have to really think things through before starting a project? Don't oil companies engage in long-range planning?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Rumsfeld quote

This is from Newsweek's excerpts from Woodward's book:

"They [the enemy in Iraq] don't have parliaments and bureaucracies and real estate to defend and interact with or deal with or cope with. They can do what they want. They aren't held accountable for lying or for killing innocent men, women, and children.

"There's something about the body politic in the United States that they can accept the enemy killing innocent men, women, and children and cutting off people's heads, but have zero tolerance for some soldier who does something he shouldn't do."

I think the "something he shouldn't do" is Rumsfeld's term for things like raping a young girl and shooting her whole family (except for the brothers that happened to be out at the time). And how many of you American readers pay taxes to the Iraqi insurgents?

Murphy Double Play

An article against the war, and, for something different, an article against the war.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Letters from the Brownshirts

I've received about 100 letters in response to my "Welcome to Fascist America" article, about 90% positive, including notes from an ex-Marine and an ex-official from high up in the Reagan administration. But what's almost amusing is the general tone of the other 10%, which runs, "Fuck you, you Communist traitor, go to hell!" As if they were trying to illustrate my point by showing the fascist spirit in its full glory!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Letters from the Insane

In response to my recent column at, I received:
As it turns out Mussalini and Tito regarded as the co=operators of 'facisim" in the 1920's were quite sure they would get the support of Hitler when discussions regarding the masses were in doubt.

Look what happened to the super-star Micheal Jackson, a prodigy of the facist movement, created right here in America in the early 60's.

The civil right leaders at that time were unaware of the plot to create a story which later would be carried through by the Japanese , another society that keep its masses homogeneous throughout recent history, and still does today.

What about another great american hero of the 40's and 50's , i foget his name, but recently praised by the Japanese outgoing PM, ""love me tender"" , totally setup up by the Russians, in a deliberate move to carry out idealogy that was being kept secret, that started in the 1920s and 1930s.

So what is my point hear,

segregation is a word that we learnt in the 60s that became apparent in 2000, interms of psycho-analytical geographic-representations, or a way the masses were represented in terms of census reporting.

This is true when the ROMANS did the same to control the genetic-flow, as we learn today of the Nobel winning loreates, that have control over the genetic dispersions that have grown through the ages.

Reports are known to find that stem cells are made avaialble for price ranges between $60000 and more.

Yeah, what he said! But what did he say?

We Now Take You to...

intermission, over at Patrick Hughes'.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Give me your tired, your poor...

...your muddled asses...

Ali Gene in a Welsh Garden

Yo, yo, yo, shoutin out to the Crash Landing massive that me's back. I had to do a little time inside, you know, I'se went down for a bit, but I'm out again.

What I wants to talk to you about today is when I went to see me main man, that diamond geezer Professor Callahan, out in Wales. Well, I'm waitin' for 'im and lookin' at the nice bit o' greenery you sees above. And there's these two Welsh blokes next to me, and I says to 'em, "What sort a garden is that?"

And one of the wankers tells me, "Not garden."

So, I says to 'im, "Look, I can bloody well see it's a garden, I just want to know what sort a garden it is."

And the other Jobby says, "Not garden."

These Welsh is really lost the plot.

The Good War?

Many opponnents of the War on Iraq think that the War on Afghanistan stands in sharp contrast to the former. I've always been skeptical of that position. I recall that, just before the invasion, the Taliban offered to turn over bin Laden to the US if the Bush administration would give it (them? Is Taliban singular or plural?) evidence tying bin Laden to 9/11. That seemed a perfectly reasonable position to me, and I worried that it was more the possibility of oil pipelines than any danger posed by the Taliban that led Bush to ignore the offer.

Now Eric Margolis, who has extensive experience reporting in the region, confirms my suspicions. An excerpt:
"Pakistan’s efforts to make the Bush Administration understand it was supporting Taliban to maintain order in Afghanistan, keep the Russian-backed Afghan Communist Party in check, and to block Indian and Iranian influence there, fell on deaf ears.

"So was ISI’s insistence that Taliban had no knowledge or part in the 9/11 attacks, and bore no ill will towards the United States. Quite the contrary, many Taliban commanders were originally armed, financed, and trained by CIA in the 1980’s. But enraged Americans were demanding revenge for 9/11. They wanted targets, not explanations."

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Curious Amazon Result

Following up on a blog link, I came across this book:
The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe

The weird thing is that the top book to pair with this in the "Better Together" selections is Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing).

Say what? Are people who are especially interested about what Christians believe also extremely concerned about citation styles?

Defeat Is Not an Option in Iraq...

it's an inevitability.

You have to be very brainwashed by some cult (e.g., US as the nation of divine destiny) to think that merely "being determined" that you can lift a ten-ton rock by hand will impress the boulder at all.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"Why don't you teach at Hillsdale anymore?"

A lot of people have been asking me just that. Well, I'm not legally allowed to talk about it, but maybe those who are curious should, hmm, I dunno, read this article.

That Train Thing

Traveling from Cardiff to London yesterday I heard someone talking on his mobile phone say, "Yeah, that so-called train thing."

I immediately became quite nervous. I had been fairly certain I was on just a plain-old, straightforward train. Was I really on a so-called train thing? In what sense was in not really a train? What effect would the difference have on my journey?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


When Michael Oakeshott was in Cambridge at the same time Wittgenstein (and Popper) were. When asked what he thought of Wittgenstein, he answered, "There were a number of Austrian comedians in Cambridge in those days."

When Can We Criticize the War Effort?

This piece was almost a blog post, until I decided to foist it on a larger audience...

"The Rule of Law"

This morning at aout 2:30 AM I was awakened by a sound like someone running a lawnmower right outside my window. I looked out and saw a police helicopter hovering about half a mile away, right over the centre of Cardiff, its searchlight casting -- for faults in the clouds of delusion? It stayed there until about 3.

I would guess the copter may have kept, oh, say 100,000 people awake for that time. Can you imagine if you or I, and not The State, had tried this stunt? We would have been shot out of the sky -- even if we had some urgent reason for being there, say, we were searching for a missing child. Of course, if our child was missing, we could beg The State to send up its helicopter -- and it might or not. But notice how far this is from "the rule of law." You or I are never permitted this acivity, no matter the circumstances, while The State can do it whenever it declares it to be "necessary." Different rules apply to our masters than to you or me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Seen on a Menu

(I'm not making this up.)

Welsh Faggots
Two tasty Welsh faggots served on a bed of cracked pepper mash topped with carmelized onions and dark gravy.

If our friend Sal finds out about this, he's over to Wales in a flash: not only are there two of them, but they're tasty, and they're already in bed!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Thieves and Killers

In an effort to convince voters that they can kill just as well as the Republicans, Democrats hosted a we're-against-the-Bush-war-but-don't -get-us-wrong-we-aren't-going-to-pull-the-troops-out party. As usual, critics said that it's inappropriate to criticize the Pentagon in the midst of a war. (I think I'll write a whole article ranting about this...)

But here's a good line:

"Today's stunt may rile up the liberal base, but it won't kill a single terrorist or prevent a single attack," Sen. Mitch McConnell said.

I just love how the goal has been transformed--note Kerry's campaign promises--from defending America to killing terrorists. In the economic realm, it would be as silly as Teddy Kennedy saying, "These supply-side antics won't get a welfare check to a single unwed mother, or get a single household head a job."

(P.S. The more I think about it, the more analogous I think that example is.)

Overheard on the Street

One chav to another: "You remember that bloody girl from last night -- what was she, Portugese, or Dutch, or Bulgarian, or Finnish or somefin?"

Reminded me of the London newspaper headline: "Fog halts all transportation across Channel; Continent isolated."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Welsh Rare Bits

* Many phone booths in the UK have a chicken bone in them. Reason unknown.

* I learned of this from a poster hanging over a urinal trough in a Cardiff pub today, and folks, this is real, and you can see I'm not making it up here. There is a cellphone service in the UK that, for a fee, will, if you send them your postal code, text you "honey alerts." As far as I could tell from the pictures in the loo, this means that, if in your postal code, there are some really drunk women rubbing their breasts together, you will get a text telling you where you can go to gape at them.

* In a football match today (listen, you bloody Yanks, that means soccer) I swear I saw a referee push a player down. Can you call a foul on the ref?

* The person checking me in to my hotel told me I was not allowed "to smoke, eat, or drink alcoholic beverages" in my room. I responded that on 2 out of 3 she was absolutely safe: I had never smoked or eaten alcoholic beverages in any room.

* Now I've seen it all: As I understand it, the significance of the "urban fashion" trend of wearing pants with the waistline well below one's buttocks is to make the statement, "I'm so cool, I don't care how uncool I look to others." Well, today I saw that there are now pants available with fake underwear sewn into the back! For those who want to make the statement: "I'm so uncool that I want to appear as if I don't care how I look to others while making it obvious that I'm actualy obsessed with how I look to others."
Get 'em while they last!

* The loo at my hotel features "easy-on" condoms. Isn't that the opposite of what you need if you're going to use a condom?

* And lastly, always remember: Atailwich lleidr rhug llugddo! Rhwystrwch trosedd!


Traveling from England to Wales by train, I immediately knew I had crossed the border when all of the towns had English and Welsh names posted, which inspired:

I've got the runs
From that dodgy pie
And I understand
Not one word passing by
They say it's English
But it taxes my brain
Where the towns have two names
Where the towns have two names

I want to feel
Sunlight on my face
But the clouds don't let in
Even a trace
I want to take shelter
From that Welshman with a cane
Where the towns have two names
Where the towns have two names

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Onion on Taxes

"With e-filing, the government's seizure of nearly half my assets was quicker and easier than ever this year."

Read more.

A Suggestion for Brevity

From now on, Bush should just discuss countries that he wouldn't invade...

Good Work, Boys!

According to Brendan O'Neill, the US is now justifying its continuing presence in Afghanistan as part of the "war on drugs"! Of course, it was the US invasion that kicked drug production into overdrive. And that invasion was justified by how bad the Taliban were, and, of course, the Taliban were there due to the previous US intervention!

It would be nice to live in the land of Cockaigne, where roasted squabs fly into the workers' mouths, and government interventions are not subject to the law of unintended consequences. But since we don't, you'd think people might eventually learn that.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Tool of the Devil

When I read news accounts of the Crusade-launching Pope, I was suspicious. It occurred to me that in context, perhaps he was clearly not endorsing the remarks he had quoted concerning Islam's founder (as opposed to just saying that after the fact). Naturally I didn't bother looking up the full transcripts myself; that would have required some effort. Instead, I waited for LRC to link to an article (by Justin Raimondo) on it. And don't worry, after defending the Pope Justin comes round to why Bush is a Krazy Eyes Killa. If you're curious, you can read the first 10 paragraphs or so and then relax about the Pope.

(BTW the subject line of this blog post was how one of my first born-again friends classified the Pope when I first went to college.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Exceedingly Significant and Beautiful

A renowned devotee of Terpsichore
Had a fourteen-inch dildo of hickory,
Which she rubbed with bay rum,
Belladonna, old cum,
Oil of myrrh, and hot coffee with chickory.

Exceedingly Beautiful and Significant

There was an old man of Popocatepetl
Who reeked both of muscone and nepetal.
When they asked, Won't you wash?
He replied, Holy gosh,
I worked hard for this odor, and keep it I'll.

Pail Challenge

Remember those old chestnuts like, "You are given a 7-quart and a 9-quart pail; return from the well with exactly one quart"?

For a>b, give the set S in terms of a and b of all possible returns from the well. Design a parametrized production system (alphabet plus rewrite rules) or, equivalently, a Turing machine to derive and return any member of S. For extra credit, generalize to any (finite) number of pails a[i].

Does an infite number of pails add anything interesting??

The Geneva What?

A few weeks ago I read an LRC column (by Chris Floyd I think) talking about how Bush people are worried they'll be prosecuted for war crimes. At the time I thought that was ridiculous, but after reading this news story I'm not so sure. Ah, isn't it nice to live in a land of freedom and justice, where a major news article has lines like this?

As part of the administration's efforts to protect intelligence officers from liability, Bush last week called for Congress to approve legislation drafted by the White House that would exempt CIA officers and other federal civilian officials from prosecution for humiliating and degrading terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. Its wording would keep prosecutors or courts from considering a wider definition of actions that constitute torture.

Polar Bear Question

Why are polar bears white? Cuddlesome white arctic animals are striving to evade the notice of predators, but polar bears? Then why?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Random Processes Create Order

Random Processes Create Order wb 060916

Random processes, equipped with suitable constraints or interspersed with appropriate refiltration shape towards order. No news there. The best example: natural selection.

Here’s a simple case: I travel a drab, industrial stretch of a local road from time to time, where no one ever tidies up. Recently something left a mess of wood trash scattered all over the westbound lane. Next visit, it was all still there, but the lie was improving; now it’s all neatly over in or near the ditch, and the lane is clear.

Every time a vehicle passed over, it would bat the trash hither and yon. Some pieces landed outside the thoroughfare; the crowning of the road gave a sufficient bias so that little or none crossed over into the eastbound lane. The exiled trash remained in exile; the rest awaited further instructions.

Thank you, Mr. Darwin.

Moslems Object

to the Pope calling Islam a violent religion, and they promise to slaughter Christians as well as each other until the Pope takes it back. (Moslem leaders also took umbrage at the Pope's suggestion that some of them have a full human head growing from their crotch.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Guess the Secret Solution!

I was buying food at the Hoboken train station yesterday. I asked for a swiss cheese omelette, which comes with toast and home fries.

The sullen man at the counter said, "We're out of home fries."

"Can I get it with french fries instead?"

A solemn nod was his only reply.

"Well, what if you just serve me the eggs and toast, and take a little off the price?"

Angered by my stupidity, he shouted, "That's what I was going to do even without you asking!"

Have a Drink!

My friend Ed Stringham proves that drinking is good for your income. (Having been on Bourbon Street with Ed, I'm certain he's hoping he's right.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

America's Finest

Horrible as these allegations are, the thing that really kills me about this is that the kid is getting threatened from his "buddies"--you know, the ones who are being all they can be. I also didn't much care for the dad's advice to his son. But then again, I didn't even like college fraternities, so I certainly wouldn't "get" the military culture.

Your First Day at a British University

2.00 pm Meet in Auditorium Room 2.18
• Welcome by Head of School
• Introduction to Postgraduate Department
• Free shots
• Introduction to Research by Postgraduate Research Studies Co-ordinator
• Dissertation/thesis loans
• One more to soothe the first day jitters?
• Postgraduate Representatives

2.45 - Sherry in the faculty lounge

3.00 - Inductions for research students and taught schemes

3.15 - Thirsty, mate?

3.30 - Research Unit Inductions

3.45 - Let me stand you a pint, yeah?

4.00 - Lecture on the state of modern Europe and brandy tasting

4.30 - Slip off for a quick nip

4.45 - Library Induction and introduction to the ales of Britain

5.00 pm Wine and Cheese Reception for all new Postgraduates

6.30 pm Get together at the Mackintosh pub -- at last it's time to drink!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Is PUCK About?

"What is PUCK about?
"Imagine you are asleep by a window, with a light breeze blowing the curtains in across your brow. A parade slowly approaches up the street, a parade with music and exotic animals and bizzare stunts being performed. But the parade does not wake you; you merely stir, half-aware of the passing commotion, uncertain what parts of it you are dreaming and what parts are really happening just beyond the window frame. A few minutes later, you awaken, and look out into the road to see if you can catch a glimpse of the rear of the procession. But no, they are gone almost without a trace, only a piece of confetti here and a dung dropping there to keep you from dismissing the whole episode as a dream caused by too much perpperoni pizza.
"That experience is what PUCK is about."
-- McGanahan Skjellyfetti

Sickos at School

It was disgusting. All over the sidewalks outside my kids school this morning, molesting passers-by, actually trying to grope us as we neared them, were... politicians! Isn't there a law about this somewhere?

The Muddled Medved

Get it here!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Brad Pitt: Let It Begin With Me

I try to resist the oh-so-easy lampooning of celebrity causes, but give me a break, Brad... Apparently Pitt said in an interview that he wouldn't marry Angelina Jolie until restrictions on gay marriage were lifted:

Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able.

In a related story, actor George Wendt, best known for his portrayal of Norm on Cheers, announced that he would not join a gym until the War on Terror had ended and all Guantanamo Bay prisoners had access to Bally Total Fitness clubs.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Read Hawking and Gould So I'm a Philosopher

This is a letter to the editor in Thursday's USA Today, entitled "Fact over tradition." (Gene, you'll like this I think.)

Gene Kolnowski argues that Pluto should remain a planet because of "tradition." This misses the point entirely, regarding not only this controversy but also for science in general...

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, our knowledge of the composition of solar bodies was far less complete. As new information comes to light, it is necessary to modify our theories. If we were to continue to accept other disproven beliefs due to tradition, then other scientific discoveries--such as the heliocentric nature of star systems--would have to be discarded. For centuries, people believed the Earth was the center not only of the solar system, but also of the entire universe.

Science is that which is true. The scientific method is the means of discovering the truth. No matter how cherished or longstanding an incorrect belief, it must eventually give way to fact.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nothing New Here

From the AP:

"WASHINGTON - There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush's justification for invading Iraq...

"Republicans countered that there was little new in the report and Democrats were trying to score election-year points with it."

Well, they have a point there -- anyone with any brains knew five years ago that you can tell Bush is lying when you see his mouth move, so there really isn't much new in another verification of that fact.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Buckwheats for Bucky?

I am of course very suspicious of the government. So when I read a story like this, about the manhunt for Ralph "Bucky" Phillips, I get upset. First, although it makes perfect sense from their POV, it irks me that police hunt for murderers far more thoroughly when it's another cop that's been shot, as opposed to a true civilian. Second, am I being too cynical to infer that the cops took Bucky's grandchildren because they couldn't catch him? (I'm not being sarcastic, I'm really asking if someone wants to argue that this is standard procedure and there was no malice involved.)

For those with a real job (i.e. not you Gene), here's the relevant paragraph:

Most [acquaintances] believe that when the police, four months into the hunt, arrested his daughter, her boyfriend and Mr. Phillips’s former girlfriend, and the authorities temporarily took custody of his daughter’s three young children, Mr. Phillips went from a man bent on escape, and who they say had already shot one trooper, to a man filled with rage.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Subtle Danger in Legislation vs. Laws

One of the hidden dangers in the legislative State--where the rules are set by politicians rather than evolving in a market process--is that phony rules can be enforced. (Related to this, people can pose as police officers and get away with all sorts of scary stuff.) My wife brought my attention to this article, and pointed out that the cops didn't even know what the rules were, but just blindly obeyed these signs.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Wasn't THAT Mission Accomplished a Long Time Ago??

Two things struck me about this USA Today article. First, the "biased liberal anti-American" media led me to believe that everything was fine in Afghanistan; this insurgency sort of came out of nowhere, as far as major media coverage. Second, notice that the general isn't saying, "We're going to pull out in six months." No, he's just saying that if they don't defeat the Taliban in 6 months, the locals won't support them. But our troops will still stick around, shooting and liberating.

Monday, September 04, 2006

After Further Review...The Article Stands.

I've finally had time to read Carlton Hobbs' counterattack on me. We are in the midst of a move so I can't offer a full reply. Suffice it to say, I think Hobbs is crazy if he considers Amanda Taylor to be "pro-market." She wasn't complaining about State intervention making international trade appear profitable, she was rather complaining about things being decided on the basis of profit (rather than energy consumed or some other criterion).

Yes, Taylor didn't openly call for government action. (I daresay that she favors anti-pollution laws, though. I would be quite surprised if her solution for the environment was to persuade consumers to boycott smokestacks, though perhaps she's a consistent pacifist or something and this really is her position.) But I never said her article was evil, I said it was dumb.

If someone wrote a piece saying, "Consumers should boycott Burger King because monarchy is exploitative," I would consider that a dumb article too. I wouldn't think, "Ah sweet! This person hates oppressive government just like me! Our ranks swell!"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Queen Was Not Alone!

"Queen Elizabeth was unable to comprehend British public grief at Princess Diana's death in 1997, but was finally convinced to cast aside stiff royal protocol by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a new film suggests." -- More.

Friday, September 01, 2006

How's That for Not Targeting Civilians?

'The viciousness of the Israeli assault on Lebanon is underscored by the IDF's use of cluster bombs against civilian targets. As Jan Egeland, who heads up humanitarian operations for the United Nations, put it:

'"What's shocking – and I would say to me completely immoral – is that 90% of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict, when we knew there would be a resolution. Every day people are maimed, wounded, and are killed by these ordnance."

'As close to a million refugees return to their homes, 100,000 unexploded cluster bombs – most of them dropped by the Israelis in the closing hours of the war – lie in wait for them and their children. Kids often pick up such ordnance because of its resemblance to toys. Such is the sickening legacy of the Israeli aggression, which will continue to deal death long after "peace" is declared.'

Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hurricane Ernesto

Gene, I think you'll be amused by this article on the failure of Ernesto forecasting.

I had been calling landfall in the middle Keys since before it hit Haiti, but I will admit that you can never tell where these things will go or how tough they will be if they have to go through Cuba. One of the problems I see a lot is that they don't seem to look at their own satellite or radar pictures. They say "the forecast track takes it into Tampa" and you'll see on the satellite loop that the storm is on a direct line to Miami. On one of Ernesto's satellite loops (visible) the center seemed to have crossed over the Haitian peninsula but the official track has it has having gone around.

In unrelated Ernesto news, during the storm-that-wasn't, a water main broke and ate my van. No damage but it was a bitch to get the city to call the tow truck company and tell them to send the bill to the city instead of trying to swindle me out of $230 (for the use of two tow trucks). The tow truck company is a nightmare here. They were successfully sued for beating up an angry victim. They had taken his truck from a legal spot and when he showed up to complain about it, they sent him to the hospital. Awful company.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hatchet Job on Me

This guy at Strike the Root defends Amanda Taylor's column. But he misquotes me! I didn't say hers was "the dumbest article ever." Rather, I said it was quite possibly the dumbest article I had ever read. Big difference.

(P.S. I haven't even read this yet. It's entirely possible that I will agree with him.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Eyewhat News?

I just saw that our local news team is called the "Eyewatch News." I guess this is kind of the regional version of Eyewitness News, except that, well, Eyewitness News is a pretty good name for a news team -- you know, they're out there actually witnessing the events that make the news, or interviewing those who did witness them -- while, on the other hand, Eyewatch News makes no sense whatsoever. Are they trying to say they watch the news with their eyes? Well, what else would they watch it with? Or is it that what they watch to get the news is eyes?

Well, at least it sounds a bit like the name of a real news programme.

Super Powers

The other day my kids were discussing which super powers they'd like to have, things like "Seeing through walls," or "Healing wounds with the mind." Then they asked me which one I'd choose. "That's easy," I said, "I'd like the power to get clothes clean and smelling fresh, while still leaving colors as bright as new."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

And Here's the Answer...

to the question I posted some months ago, as to the meaning of "10% chance of rain":

Precipitation Probability Forecasts

In 1965, the National Weather Service instituted the use of probabilities into precipitation forecasts. This was done since the use of words such as "chance" and "likely" are much too ambiguous for the public to utilize effectively. Today, probability forecasts ranging from 0% to 100% (issued to the nearest 10%) are used to provide the public with more concise information.

There are, however, common misinterpretations of the current precipitation probability forecasts. Consider the following statement "There is a 40 percent chance of precipitation at any location in the forecast area". Unfortunately many people interpret this statement to mean there is a 40 percent chance that measurable precipitation (>0.01") will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and a 60 percent chance that it will not occur anywhere in that area. This interpretation is wrong. In actuality, this forecast means that at any point in the forecast area (such as in the vacinity of your home or farm) there is a 40 percent chance that there will be measurable precipitation and a 60 percent chance that there will be no measurable precipitation during the forecast period.

To break this down even further, one can think of the chance of precipitation occurring at a specific location in a forecast area as the product of two quantities: 1) the probability that a precipitation-producing storm will move into the forecast area, and 2) the percent of this area which the storm is expected to cover. For instance, a forecaster can have a high degree of confidence that a storm will move through an area (say 80 percent), yet determine that only 50 percent of the area will be affected by precipitation. Taking the product yields

0.80 x 0.50 = 0.40.
The forecast in this situation will call for a 40 percent chance of precipitation. This shows that although precipitation is nearly certain (80 percent), the chance it will affect you (40 percent) is much less.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Targeting Civilians

Our nemesis JIMB kept trying to hint that we must, you know, be the "anti-s" word for implying that the Israeli government attacks civilians in war. But, as Sheldon Richman reports, the Israeli government itself does not agree with him:

"In 1978, after a major Israeli incursion into Lebanon, Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur bluntly told the press, "For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities. " Gur cited as examples of Israel's previous campaigns against civilians the bombing of villages on the east side of the Jordan valley and the shelling of towns in the Suez Canal area in the years after the Six-Day War. These acts of terror drove more than a million and a half Jordanians and Egyptians from their homes.

"At the time of the Israeli general's statement, Israel's most respected military journalist, Ze'ev Schiff, wrote, "The importance of Gur's remarks is the admission that the Israeli army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously. The army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets ... [but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck."

"This is the policy that Moshe Sharett, Israel's first foreign minister, critically dubbed "sacred terrorism." [Read excerpts from Sharett's diary here.] The doctrine is found in the thinking of Israel's founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and in the military actions approved by both major governing blocs. In 1981, when the Labor Party criticized then Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his bombing of Beirut, which killed civilians indiscriminately, he responded by listing some of the civilian attacks perpetrated by previous Labor governments. "There were regular retaliatory actions against civilian Arab populations," Begin said."

Kirkus Review of PUCK

"Metafiction and metaphysics collide in this hugely ambitious debut novel.

"After his discovery of a cure for psychosis leads to international acclaim and the Nobel Prize, Dr. Morris Fitzmaurice is unable to handle the pressure of his newfound fame, and he tumbles into a vortex of drugs and alcohol that eventually leaves him comatose. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, nervous citizens await the return of a messiah-like figure, the Render, who will save them from an evil sweeping through the land. Back on Earth, Morris’s invention of Copenhagen II, a drug sold by a company called PUCK—one of the many overt references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which acts as a controlling metaphor throughout the narrative—has gained popularity as a means to access the alternate realities postulated by modern physics. In the fantasy world, warring factions battle over control of The Book of Night, a vaguely biblical text—written in a Joycean mélange of allusions and puns—that tells the past, present and future of the world. These two worlds collide in Morris’s comatose state, with references to the Bible, quantum physics and string theory, various creation myths, Shakespeare, Joyce, Beckett, Plato and more. Occasionally, the intertextual references become excessive—such as when Morris traipses around his hometown in the fashion of Leopold Bloom (on June 16, no less)—and may cause readers to wonder about the author’s purpose, especially considering that this is well-worn postmodern territory. Still, the interplay of narrative and idea is evidence of Callahan’s impressive intelligence and research, and readers will enjoy the ride.

"Notable for its ambition and erudition."

So buy it already!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Way to Go, Deb!

On today, I found:
"Tropical Storm Debby has become better organized over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean early this morning."

That's good. The way things had been, her checkbook was in one drawer, her ledger in another, she was missing appointments all the time, she could never find her keys -- it was time for a change.

And, it strikes me that we're not very far through the alphabet in naming storms, for late August, are we? The low level of hurricane activity must be due to global warming. Oh, and so is my recent flautulence.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

hypocritical comment of the day

Palm Tree Pete sends us this bit of cackle enducement:

"...Pyongyang has refused to return to arms talks in anger over the U.S.'s blacklisting of a bank because of its complicity in North Korea's alleged illegal activities, including the counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

Washington insists the financial issue is unrelated to the nuclear standoff -- a position Bush stuck to in his call with the Chinese leader.

"Counterfeiting U.S. dollars is an issue that every president ought to be concerned about. When you catch people counterfeiting your money, you need to do something about it," Bush said."

Apocalypse Then

Yesterday was the day that National Review predicted that Iran would launch an apocalyptic attack on the US. My friend Jim Henley has described how he dealt with the horrific events of that day of infamy. Pop over and share the terrors you braved.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Disaster

So Bush today said that if the US pulls out of Iraq now, the situation will be "a disaster." In other words, he feels our presence there makes no difference.

Filipino Folk Healing

My eighty-something in-laws were telling me about Filipino folk healing from the old days (meaning up into the 1970s, at least). The most curious story I heard was about this fellow they knew who would feel his patient's pulse, and then declare whom he had to go to to be cured. Now, this third-party was generally not a healer, and had never done this kind of thing before. But you brought the healer-designee seven grains of rice, he chewed them, placed them on your neck, and, bing-botta-bing, you're healed! I guess the bloke who told you whom to go see was kind of like the gateway provider in an HMO.

Less impressive was the story of the woman who could make someone sick just by looking at them. I said that's nothing -- I've made a whole room-full of people sick just by talking to them, and a whole discussion-list of people sick with my posts.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

I can't stand it when signs say this! Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's definitely causing me an inconvenience! (If it weren't, I probably wouldn't be reading the sign.) Why can't they just be men about it and say, "We're sorry for the inconvenience"??

If I weren't a pacifist, I'd find the guy who wrote the sign (latest example: the printing station by my favorite bank of computers is down), kick him in the crotch, and apologize for any discomfort that may have caused.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Floyd Puts Neocons in Their Place

No, it's not a Murphyesque critique of some neocon. Rather, Floyd brilliantly argues that the whole preoccupation with the neocons is dangerous for it overlooks the real danger. (Not only is the writing great, but the accompanying pictures are good too.)

Mixing Metaphors

During the Nixon years there was a "freeze" on wages, meaning they couldn't (legally) go up. Okay, so that means it must be bad (other things equal) for your wages to be frozen.

So would it be good for your wages to melt? Would you be ecstatic if your boss said, "Next month, Jim, your wages will evaporate"?

(It's true, to say your wages would boil doesn't sound bad, but it doesn't sound good either. In fact, it just sounds weird.)

Novel Sentences

One of the great things about kids is that you see life from a new perspective. For example, before Clark, I had never uttered anything like the following: "Hey! What are you yelling for? I just turned the water on. Give me a break! You don't hear me yelling, even though you just took a dump in the tub."

Young from Lebanon

Michael Young, usually a strong supporter of the "war on terror" in general and Israel in particular, and a resident of Lebanon, writes of the recent conflict:
"All of Beirut is a target; all access roads, airports, and ports have been blocked or are in constant danger of being attacked, and a much larger swath of civilians are in danger. According to eyewitnesses in southern Lebanon, including journalist friends of mine, the destruction of villages is the worst they've ever seen – both intense and systematic – and it's not Hezbollah that is usually on the receiving end of the ordnance, it is civilians."

Our tormentor JIMB kept claiming that Israel was not using disproportianate force. What does the government of Israel have to say about the matter?
'Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, told an American audience that to those "who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You're damn right we are."'

Hat tip to Doug Bandow.

Friday, August 18, 2006

if you can't do real booze, drink bacardi

Apparently, someone at the Bacardi ad agency stumbled upon old video of a Cacophony Society event and turned it into an ad campaign. Hey! Just cause we aren't typical couch potatoes doesn't mean we weren't going to notice, Bacardi.

Traffic Help

I was driving down Tillary St. in Brooklyn yesterday and reached a major intersection (I believe to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge.) There were three of four traffic cops in the road, waving on and stopping traffic. In a way that, as far as I could tell, exactly matched what the traffic lights said to do.

What could the point of this be? All I could see was that it created confusion by dividing drivers' attention between two sources of control over the intersection. Maybe its some punishment the NYPD assigns to cops on the verge of being fired.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Meryl Streep: "She's so hot right now..."

My wife and I went to see Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in "Mother Courage" in Central Park yesterday. In a nod to mother Russia, I had to wait in line for 5 hours for the tickets. (I'll be describing that process in a more official venue, so I'll postpone discussion of it here.)

Streep (I won't call her "Meryl" as many of the theatergoers did) was great; I don't think I've ever seen someone command such attention on the stage. (Kevin who?) She flubbed a few lines, but she recovered gracefully (and my wife pointed out that this show would only run for a month, and it had only been open about a week).

One thing really bothered me though: The security people kept emphasizing that there were no pictures allowed. Okay fine. Now before the "curtain" went up, a girl sitting next to us (whom I knew because we had spent 5 hours earlier that day in line) took a picture of her friend in the seat next to her. She wasn't even pointing the camera in the direction of the stage. A security woman came up (we were all in the middle of the row) and yelled at her, and told her to delete the photo.

The girl was protesting and saying it was just a photo of her friend. (The girl was from Germany I think, so I believe the different cultures--the security women I'm pretty sure were American blacks--added to the tension.) The first security woman told her to delete the photo. The girl (after the first protest) said OK.

Then, the second security woman came up, on the other side of the aisle. She repeated that the girl needed to delete the photo, and the girl said she did, then asked somewhat sarcastically, "Do you want to check it?" while holding up the camera. The security woman called her bluff and held out her hand. So we all passed down the camera to the security woman. But then, instead of checking the photos, she started to walk off saying the girl could pick it up after the show.

The girl yelled, "Wait a minute! Take my name so I can get my camera back!" The security woman walked back (she'd only taken a few steps) and handed the camera back down the aisle. So at this point, it seemed that she had just been trying to scare the girl.

Now at this point my memory is a little hazy, but somehow the security woman wanted the camera back (after we'd handed it back to the girl). She said something like, "You knew the rules. You were told twice to not take photos but you did it anyway." (As my wife pointed out, this is a bit misleading. She was only told twice because the 2nd security woman came up and butted in after the situation had been resolved.) The girl just said, "No, I'm not giving you my camera, I deleted the photo just like you asked." The security woman walked away.

After a few minutes everyone had forgotten about it, but then the security woman came back with a guy and they motioned for the girl to come out. I seriously thought she was getting booted, and that her 5 hours in line were wasted. (I know, sunk costs, I should've said her anticipation of enjoying Meryl was now lost--whatever.) But they just yelled at her (the show had already started by this point) and let her sit down.

NOW, the thing about this whole episode that really bothered me, was that the idiots behind us took the side of security. These people didn't know what had happened--e.g. that this girl was a normal, nice person, and that she had taken a flash photograph of her friend and not of the stage, and that the security woman was apparently making up justifications for her pseudocontradictory actions on the fly (I omited some of the dialogue)--and yet one guy was quite confident in saying, "I can't believe that girl. She should've just handed in her ID with the camera."

Yeah, I'm sure that's a smart move. Maybe she should've given her house keys too and asked the kind security woman to drop off the camera on her kitchen table.

I'm trying to put my finger on just what it is that bothered me so much about the guy's idiotic analysis. I think it's because you can't possibly expect a society to have zero power hungry busybodies. But so long as public opinion doesn't automatically condemn the "lawbreakers" (as designated by the busybodies), then there's no real danger. A bully can only beat up a few people, and even that wouldn't happen if the popular kids truly ostracized him for doing so.

But if most people cheer on the busybodies, then they can wreak havoc.

(Mea culpa, I didn't do anything (a) because I wasn't at the time sure she had taken a picture of her friend [my wife later confirmed this], but mostly because (b) I had waited 5 hours for those tickets and I didn't want She-Ra kicking me out too.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

More Anti-Semitism

The last resort of warmongers, these days, is to charge anyone speaking out against the slaughter they endorse with "anti-Semitism." Moseying around the Internet today, I came up with a typically idiotic example of this tactic here.

First point: The author charges everyone on the left with anti-Semitism, and all Arabs as well: "As if anyone Arab or from the Left needed a reason to hate Israel or Jews in general." Has the author ever seen a survey of the voting pattern of American Jews? Doesn't he know that, in aggregate, Jews are well to the left of the American mean?

He blathers on:
"Like the KKK against the Black Americans. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of blatent bias and anti-Semitism."

Yes, sure, objecting to the Israeli air force dropping bombs in downtown Beirut is just like lynching black people. And then I really chuckled when I got to his anti-bias pitch. Wouldn't his blanket condemnation of all Arabs fall into this "no excuse" zone? I bet if you get a few beers in this fellow you'll start hearing a lot of gripes about the "towel heads."

But the really insidious idea is that anyone who objects to the Israeli government killing 1000 Lebanese civilians is against Jews. My friend Peteyboy, let me tell you, the orthodox Rabbi, Israel Kirzner, to whom I dedicated my first book, did not drop a single one of those bombs. My best friend, Jamie Mandell, did not kill even one Lebanese civilian this summer. My long-time co-author, Stu Morgenstern, never blew up an apartment building in Beirut in his whole life. It is not Jews, but the criminals running the state of Israel, who have done these things, just like it is not Americans, but George Bush and puppetmasters, who have killed so many Iraqis.

In fact, it is the people who identify every action of the Israeli state with all Jews who are guilty of anti-Semitism, smearing a whole people with the crimes of a few.

Monday, August 14, 2006

I Guess He's an Anti-Semite, Too

Jewish peace activist Michael Lerner:
'Few, if any, of those misgivings have entered the US media. "There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings," Lerner said. "The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state."'

Read the rest here.

Final Civilian Death Totals

Lebanese: 1000
Israeli: 30

SUUUUURE, it's Hezbollah who deliberately targets civilians, while Israel is very careful not to kill them.

Just how much does the Israeli Army care about causing civilian casualties? '[Lead Israeli General Dan] Halutz gained fame (or notoriety) when he was asked what he feels when he drops a one-ton bomb on a residential quarter and answered: "a slight bang on the wing."'

More here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Why? (Big numbers)

060119 Thu 2330 Prime factors of factorials

I. Originally, I sent this challenge: How many 2s are among the prime factors of 10 factorial; i.e., how many times can 10 factorial be evenly divided by 2?
10! = 3628800
/2 = 1814400 (1)
/2 = 907200 (2)
/2 = 453600 (3)
/2 = 226800 (4)
/2 = 113400 (5)
/2 = 56700 (6)
/2 = 28350 (7)
/2 = 14175 (8)

Now compare this shortcut (when dividing, ignore fractional part):
10/ 2 = 5
10/ 4 = 2+
10/ 8 = 1+
10/16 = 0+
10/32 = 0+ etc.
total 8

This works for counting any prime factor p of any factorial N! Why?

II. Thank you for your replies. The reason I'm fond of this trick is a simple proof embodying one of the archetypes found throughout the deductive network of mathematics: in counting the dots of a matrix of dots and spaces, or in summing a matrix of numbers, it does not matter whether you first take columns and finally the subtotals row, or first take rows and finally the subtotals column; the result is of course the same. Do you see the proof in this matrix (p=2, N=10)?

0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 5
0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 1 0 2 0 1 0 3 0 1 8

III. Further investigations: Let's try prime factors p of a really big factorial.

1000! ˜ 4.02*10^2567 is big--much, much bigger, for example, than any number needed to count any collection of physical entities.

Writing "N#p" for the number of times p occurs as a prime factor of N, plot p:1000!#p -

p 1000!#p d
--- -------------- ---
2 994 ? 1000 6 (Here we use "?" for "approximately equal to")
3 498 ? 1000/2 2
5 249 ? 1000/4 1
7 164 ? 1000/6 2
11 98 ? 1000/10 2
13 81 ? 1000/12 2
17 61 ? 1000/16 1
19 54 ? 1000/18 1
97 10 ? 1000/96 0
101 9 ? 1000/100 1
991 1 ? 1000/990 0
997 1 ? 1000/996 0

Where the deficit d = 1000/(p-1) - 1000!#p (using integer division).

IV. Let's plot N!#p:d for some representative N,p -

N!#p d
-------------------------- ---
(7^1!= 7!)# 2 = 4 3
(7^2!= 49!)# 2 = 46 3
(7^3!= 343!)# 2 = 337 6
(7^4!= 2401!)# 2 = 2396 5
(7^5!= 16807!)# 2 = 16800 7
(7^6!=117649!)# 2 = 117640 9
(7^7!=823543!)# 2 = 823532 11

N!#p d
-------------------- ---
1!# 2 = 0 0
10!# 2 = 8 2
100!# 2 = 97 3
1000!# 2 = 994 6
10000!# 2 = 9995 5
100000!# 2 = 99994 6
1000000!# 2 = 999993 7
1!# 3 = 0 0
10!# 3 = 4 1
100!# 3 = 48 2
1000!# 3 = 498 2
10000!# 3 = 4996 4
100000!# 3 = 49995 5
1000000!# 3 = 499993 7
1!# 5 = 0 0
10!# 5 = 2 0
100!# 5 = 24 1
1000!# 5 = 249 1
10000!# 5 = 2499 1
100000!# 5 = 24999 1
1000000!# 5 = 249998 2
1!# 7 = 0 0
10!# 7 = 1 0
100!# 7 = 16 0
1000!# 7 = 164 2
10000!# 7 = 1665 1
100000!# 7 = 16662 4
1000000!# 7 = 166664 2
1!#11 = 0 0
10!#11 = 0 1
100!#11 = 9 1
1000!#11 = 98 2
10000!#11 = 998 2
100000!#11 = 9997 3
1000000!#11 = 99998 2
1!#13 = 0 0
10!#13 = 0 0
100!#13 = 7 1
1000!#13 = 81 2
10000!#13 = 832 1
100000!#13 = 8331 2
1000000!#13 = 83332 1
1!#17 = 0 0
10!#17 = 0 0
100!#17 = 5 1
1000!#17 = 61 1
10000!#17 = 624 1
100000!#17 = 6249 1
1000000!#17 = 62497 3
1!#19 = 0 0
10!#19 = 0 0
100!#19 = 5 0
1000!#19 = 54 1
10000!#19 = 554 1
100000!#19 = 5554 1
1000000!#19 = 55553 2

Why does N!#p approximate N/(p-1)?

Sorry about the formatting.

Old-fashioned excuse: "The dog ate my homework."

Modern excuse: "Dual-factor authentication ate my ability to do my homework."