Archive for January, 2008

Quote of the day

January 29, 2008

Using these studies to argue for male circumcision is like arguing that people should get their heads cut off so they won’t get their hair wet when it rains. Okay. Or a person could carry an umbrella.

Amy Alkon

“My business model is screwed up, please help me look an idiot too”

January 28, 2008

… is the message going out loud and clear from Business Week. The company actually hires public relations people to get blogs to link to it, which is probably a bit daft, but it’s a coherent strategy. Then it hires lawyers to tell bloggers to stop linking.

Business Week’s content is often good , when I can be troubled to navigate the slow and ad heavy site, about once every three months. If you ask me, they need more linking. I love the following comment on Techdirt by Hellsvilla:

Right hand, please do come in and sit down. I have someone I want you to meet. His name is wrong hand. Watch him closely and slap the hell out of him when he gets out of line.

At stake is the ludicrous attempt by a company to put information on the Internet and then STOP people linking to it. It’s very simple: don’t provide permalinks, use flash pages. I promise I won’t link to you! I won’t read you either… come to think of it, how about saving some serious money and stop publishing online. No one will “steal your bandwith” then.

I hope Business Week is pleased that I haven’t linked to any of my favorite articles in their publication.

How to tap a Skype phone the German way

January 28, 2008

From Techdirt comes this curious tale.

“Vote for me because the racists will…”

January 27, 2008

…seems to be the latest bizarre message from the Clinton campaign.

[cross-posted from Antoine Clarke’s Election Watch]
The Associated Press is not exactly where I normally go looking for dirt on Democrats, but this sums up the situation nicely:

Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as “the black candidate,” a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Let’s just remember that we are talking about Democrats choosing their candidate for U.S. President.
How can being “the black candidate” hurt someone’s chances of winning Democratic party supporters votes?
Let’s leave aside the obvious point that one would expect racist bigots, who have “NO N*****s IN THE WHITE HOUSE” car bumper stickers, to come from Alabama (or South Carolina, come to think of it) rather than, say, Colorado, Hawaii or Maine.

Could it be that the party of affirmative action, of civil rights and political correctness likes to have its leaders photographed next to the hired help, but not;, you know, actually let the servants run the country? “The poor dears, they try so hard, but they can’t help it, you know?”
Until last year I would have found it barely conceivable. But the more “liberals” I have met who talk about their moral superiority because they demand that other people pay taxes to provide public transportation (for blacks), public schooling (for blacks), quotas for universities (for blacks) and corporations (for blacks), the more I see something ugly.
This is not “white guilt.” These are white people who have a visceral unease with ethnicity and who project this by blaming “society,” or “capitalism,” or “a right-wing conspiracy” for racism. They remind me of nothing more than those British Conservative Party members who shouted loudest about the evils of homosexuality, demanding that it be outlawed or “all the boys will turn into perverts,” only to turn out to be repressed gay men.
Is this really the Hillary Clinton base constituency? I hope not.
I like the bluff: “Me, a racist? No! no! I voted against having black candidate because I couldn’t let him be humiliated by REAL racists.”
Senator Barack Obama is not (in my personal view) the beautiful orator that Jesse Jackson was 20 years ago. On form, the Reverend is someone I would gladly buy a ticket to hear give a sermon. That’s certainly not true of any candidate this time round for me. Sen Obama is more like a bank manager with the common touch, I like his demeanour and his “winner” outlook, but that’s not the same. In fact, without Bill Clinton’s attempt to not make race an issue, by making it an issue, it would not have occurred to me to compare the two. Senator Obama has plenty of flaws: some of his policies and the dubious Chicago connections. But if it comes to a “which candidate has the worst criminal connections” I don’t see Bill Clinton as offering much constructive help. A list of the crooks he pardoned in his last day of office, and the one whose wife by an AMAZING COINCIDENCE gave a lot of money to Bill’s wife’s 2000 campaign, will make anything Senator Obama is likely to have done look minor.
I’m not impressed with the Republican line-up so far in this election campaign, but if Hillary Clinton wins her party’s nomination by pandering to racism, I don’t see how any decent human being could campaign for her in November, against what is likely to be a fairly moderate Republican candidate.

In pure election terms, we now know how black women voted in South Carolina: they’re misogynistic witch burners, apparently.

Supreme Court says: “Drop dead, sickos!”

January 16, 2008

In response to this news from the US Supreme Court, I wrote this:

There are two reasons I’ve heard given for opposing “compassionate use,” one bad, one unfortunate.
The unfortunate one is that even the most apparently iron-clad patient litigation waiver can be turned on its head by a trial lawyer or a politician. So drug firms have a lot more to fear than to gain. One might argue this is a case for litigation reform, which I imagine drug firms and patients would support (but patients’ relatives and lawyers would oppose, and they are more numerous, so don’t hold your breath).
Whatever the rights and wrongs of patient waivers, the fact is, a drug firm would be nuts in the USA, to risk an unproven product being given to a patient whose later-bereaved family could claim acted “in extreme duress.” Note that this argument need not apply in other countries, but US citizens would still be affected when abroad, due to the nasty habit of US courts to adopt global claims of jurisdiction. So the system favors foreign patients and foreign drug firms. The UK, for example, does not appear to need an Abigail’s Law, it’s the treatable patients that are excluded, thanks to the NICE.
The bad reason is that even a TERMINALLY ILL patient should be “protected.” From what? Certain death? Constipation or some other adverse effect?
Yes, there is a risk that patients will, in desperation, agree to try out any quackery. But this is a problem in terminal patients… because… they’re going to die anyway? Surely even a placebo effect is worth a try.
It reminds me of the bizarre regulation that bans prisoners on death row from smoking. Like they’re going to develop lung cancer and escape the lethal injection? Again, so what? It all looks like a puritanical hang-up.
It seems that undermining the authority of the FDA to play God is the real problem. I’ve no doubt that any ruling which allows terminally-ill patients is a thin end of the wedge that leads to the FDA’s pronouncements becoming entirely voluntary. If a terminally-ill patient can try a likely dangerous and unproven Chinese remedy containing lead, or the latest monoclodal antibody, why can’t a patient with a 10% chance of recovery? Or 10.01%? At that point why stop at any sick person? There’s no magic number between 0.01% and 99.99% that can be objectively backed against all other options.
My guess is that the Supreme Court’s justices knew that by taking this case, they were opening the proverbial can of worms, in this case, the potential ruling that the FDA serves no constitutionally-valid function, at least at the federal level, and ducked it.
Personally, I don’t accept the right of any authority to prohibit me from taking any medication that I, in a rational state, am prepared to risk taking. And I’d wager the Supreme Court Justices wouldn’t let such rules get in their way either.
Back street oncology clinics, anyone? It’s called the Internet.

I am a moderate, Gordon Brown is a cannibal

January 14, 2008

I wrote this.

But Gabb wrote this:

“Cannibalism: New Labour’s Next Step” Says Sean Gabb

The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties
pressure group, today denounces Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s proposal
that organs for donation be taken without consent from the dead.

Libertarian Alliance Director, Sean Gabb, says:

“Whenever British politicians or their clients want to do something
particularly gross to the rest of us, they announce it in a special
‘caring’ tone. Watching Gordon Brown at work today, his voice so slow and
husky it was barely audible, was rather like being lovebombed by Fred West.

“When the law allows organs to be harvested from the bodies of the dead
without the explicit prior consent of the dead, or the explicit consent
of the next of kin, the State becomes effectively a cannibal.

The proposal may save one or two lives. But it also puts lives in danger.
Many National Health Service hospitals are chaotic infection traps. Their
unwashed wards swarm with doctors who are high on drugs to stay awake,
who think an epidural goes into the arm, and who frequently speak barely
a word of English.

“Give these people the right to harvest organs, and no one without
private insurance will be safe. Doctors will take organs from patients who are not dead. They will ‘accelerate death’ for patients whose organs they want for friends or paying clients.

“We are told that we shall have the right to opt-out of this presumed consent scheme. I do not believe NHS bureaucrats are efficient enough to draw this to the attention of medical staff. But I do believe they will eventually be efficient enough to withhold treatment from those patients whose records on the database now being constructed show a lack of consent.

“And presumed consent really is only the beginning. Let this through, and it is only a matter of time before blood donation becomes compulsory. After cannibalism, after all, vampirism is very little.”

The Libertarian Alliance believes that no organ or bodily part should be taken from any person for any purpose without the explicit prior consent of that person, or, if dead, without the explicit consent of the next of kin.

Our bodies for the State

January 13, 2008

Remember the feminist call: Our bodies for ourselves?

The Socialists claimed that in a bourgeois male dominated society, women weren’t allowed to control their own reproduction.

I guess Gordon Brown thinks that, now he’s the UK Prime Minister, he has to demonstrate his male, bourgeois oppressiveness, by nationalizing our bodies.

This means that organs will be ripped out without consent, and usually thrown away because there is no way of storing them until a recipient is found.

It also creates an incentive for hospitals to “allow” patients to die. We don’t need this in the National Health Service.

As they used to sing at the end of Labour Party Conferences while holding hands:

“The working class can kiss my a***,
I’ve got the boss’s job at last!
You’re out of work,
You’re on the dole,
The working class can kiss my hole!”

And here’s the story of a business model that works…

January 13, 2008

I don’t like pointing the finger at losers all the time, although the RIAA’s legal strategies deserve constant denunciation and ridicule.

Here’s a good example of a good idea made good (despite rocky economic conditions), written by the inspiring Virginia Postrel.

The sea/land/rail container has transformed the global economy:

Just as the computer revolutionized the flow of information, the shipping container revolutionized the flow of goods. As generic as the 1’s and 0’s of computer code, a container can hold just about anything, from coffee beans to cellphone components. By sharply cutting costs and enhancing reliability, container-based shipping enormously increased the volume of international trade and made complex supply chains possible.

”Low transport costs help make it economically sensible for a factory in China to produce Barbie dolls with Japanese hair, Taiwanese plastics and American colorants, and ship them off to eager girls all over the world,” writes Marc Levinson in the new book The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (Princeton University Press).

The key moment was when a businessman stopped looking at shipping in terms of each component, but decided that customers care about the start and finish points, the time it takes and cost. From there, and the added reduction in pilfering, speedier loading/unloading and border control processing, there has been a tremendous improvement in global trade. The nearest equivalents in the past I can think of are the amphora and the barrel.

I found Virginia Postrel’s article via Reason Online. Only sad note, her column was the last of its kind in the New York Times:

This is Virginia Postrel’s last Economic Scene column. She has written columns under that heading for the past six years.

However, the same blog post on Reason’s ‘Hit and Run’ describes the use of containers for building homes, shops and even a Ukrainian shopping mall. I hope Brian Micklethwait tells us what he thinks about it all.

Save Our Salaries! The business model is jacked

January 12, 2008

Via Instapundit.

IN 2006 EMI, the world’s fourth-biggest recorded-music company, invited some teenagers into its headquarters in London to talk to its top managers about their listening habits. At the end of the session the EMI bosses thanked them for their comments and told them to help themselves to a big pile of CDs sitting on a table. But none of the teens took any of the CDs, even though they were free. “That was the moment we realised the game was completely up,” says a person who was there.

The Economist reports on the decline and fall of the music studios.

OK, now for the fun bit. The Instapundit was linking to this on Samizdata.

So the “thieves” who copy music didn’t want free goods?

Maybe the thieves aren’t.

Maybe the goods aren’t either.

The State should force those youngsters to go back to EMI, take some CDs and feel grateful. Otherwise no music will ever be written again.

Or EMI’s new owners could try to find a different business model, which would be little less silly than having people jailed for backing up their CDs to an iPod.

Just so we’re clear. I will never buy a CD, DVD or similar technology until the RIAA stops treating the entire enternment industry’s customer base as criminals. That means not listening to new material except non the radio. That’s a couple of hundred dollars a year “lost” right there.

Too bad.

I hope everyone either rips everything or boycotts. Recording executives will have to fuel their cocaine addictions and run up tabs for “flowers” [prostitutes] at someone else’s expense. The musicians will be fine: touring, merchandising, donations and people wanting the genuine article.

I’m talking at the Putney Debates tonight

January 11, 2008

The topic is ‘Change at the Top: How the US Election Process Works and What are the Opportunities for Ron Paul?’

My audience will mostly be British so it’s mostly about explaining just how decentralized the U.S. electoral system is. Because anyone turning up is likey to be a Libertarian, I shall be concentrating on Ron Paul’s campaign and what he can realistically hope to achieve. I shall try to post a summary of the talk somewhere. Details from the LA Blog.

[cross posted from Antoine Clarke’s Election Watch]