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Total number of comments: 8 (since 2013-11-28 16:33:15)


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  • Rebels Advance, Surround Tripoli, as Qaddafi Totters
    • What does Islam say about mercenaries (if anything)? If their job is to keep the regular army from defecting, it seems that they will want to exit Libya very quickly when the end comes, because both sides will want them dead.

  • Can Bookstores be Saved?
    • I fear that the high overheads of real live bricks-N-mortar might make not make you idea cheap enough, but someone should at least run the numbers.

      As far as giving the bookstore a cut of the profits, you could also track the customers in the store, see what they pick up, see what they walk near (I know, privacy, sigh). If they buy any of those books online in the next day/week (sliding scale with time), the "bookstore" gets a cut. Obviously, in-store buying gets the biggest cut.

  • TomTom, Apple and the Security-GPS Complex
    • I can't get too exercised over the Dutch government getting access to this information. They take road safety seriously in that country, and have a decently lower per-mile death rate than we do, and intend to bring it down even further. In this country, every year car and truck crashes kill 30,000 annually, 3000 of those pedestrians. It would be nuisance enforcement if it didn't do anything to bring down the death rate, but apparently, they do in fact work to make their roads safer.

      See, for example: link to

      Note that the #1 reason people give for not riding a bike is that they are "scared of the traffic". "Terrorized", perhaps. A response, proportional to 9/11's death toll, would of course be to invade our privacy in a dozen embarrassing, useless, and intrusive ways, and to "bring democracy" to ten nations of brown-skinned people that had nothing to do with the problem. I commend the Dutch on their restraint in not exporting democracy, and in finding relatively productive privacy invasions.

      In terms of minimizing deaths, simply shifting transit away from driving has a much larger public health effect that does not appear in crash statistics. One estimate (Mayer Hillman) suggests a 10 or 20 to 1 payoff in expected years of life lost, shifting from driving-only to use of a bicycle (i.e., lack of activity is 10x more dangerous than bicycle crashes, which in turn are more dangerous than car crashes). A Danish study observes a 39% higher mortality rate for non-bicycle commuters, even with the usual adjusting-for-other-risk-factors. Thus, even a perceived loss of driving privacy, if it results in people spending more time out of their cars, has public health benefits.

  • Palin: "We must support our North Korean Allies"
    • Uh, no. One of our kids is "dyslexic". He knows all this stuff. He knew Shiite from Sunni at age 12 or so, and could carry on a decent conversation with a pair of profs from MIT and Wellesley. My best friend from high school, he's dyslexic, he can keep this straight. And a friend, colleague from graduate school, and former business partner (and still friend!), he's dyslexic, and HE can keep all this stuff straight. (And I know these guys are dyslexic, because I helped them by proofreading their work.)

      My money is on (selectively) dumb and incurious, much like a recent former president. If she thought this stuff was important, she would either remember it, or care that she had forgotten (I have a terrible memory for names, but I think names are important, so I end up apologizing a lot).

  • Saudi Arabia Saves Chicago Synagogue from al-Qaeda Bomb Plot
    • I think there are other ways to get those tracking numbers; for example, if you have agents in UPS-Saudi Arabia, and/or collaboration with US intelligence. A package to a synagogue from Saudi Arabia, I will guess that this is something that does not happen every day. Couple that with a sender on a watch list, and you have your tracking numbers. No inside agent necessary, though the sender is now compromised (but this in turn confirms to intelligence that their suspicions were correct).

      Suicide bombers have not been that successful lately, and "failed crotch bomber" is not a headline you want to see repeated. Maybe they're trying to learn some new tricks.

  • Palin Fear-Mongers on Iran, Sharia
  • Ahmadinejad as Cyrus the Great?
    • If we cared much about Iran, we'd drive less and undermine the world price of oil. Even that leverage (never mind that we are too lazy to pull that lever) will be smaller in the future as the Chinese economy (and oil consumption) grows.

  • Maher: Tea Bag Repubs are Racist
    • Speaking as someone who grew up among "real racists" ("my daddy's voting for Wallace because he'll shoot all the n*****'s if he has to"), I suggest that there's racists, and there's racists. We've got a racist misdirection from rich cynical assholes, "pay no attention to how we got to this economic hole, Obama's not one of Us", directed at people who are not doing well, not happy, and not paying a lot of attention to history or logic. And they bite that hook. The whole Park 51 thing could have gone either way, depending upon how it was spun (first amendment, a tiny faction of murderous nuts in the world's second largest religion, vs, religion-O-death -- and the bigoted spin was loudest).

      So I think it is unproductive to call the Tea Partiers "racist" -- it should be more productive to point out the misdirection, and the nature of the misdirection. Unscrupulous greedheads are distracting you from the cause of your economic problems, which is unscrupulous greedheads. Remember who started all this, some commodities trader with a Youtube Video. Commodities traders, they're hurting now, aren't they? They'd much rather you think about the Black Guy in the White House, than about a failure to properly tax the rich (Reagan Rates would be nice, never mind Nixon or Eisenhower), and a failure to properly regulate financial markets (and it's not all Republicans, witness Schumer's protection of finanical services, and Nelson's protection of tax cuts for the very very rich).

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