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My ruminations on the Halloween costume at The 'Verse.  As usual, Kyle Eliason has been carrying the load.

Constant takes on anti-supply-siders on the aggregator.

Apparently, it was Al-Qaeda or Global Warming, but rather a budding pyromaniac.

David Brooks in the NY Times:

Researchers from Pew found that 65 percent of Americans are satisfied over all with their own lives — one of the highest rates of personal satisfaction in the world today.

On the other hand, Americans are overwhelmingly pessimistic about their public institutions. That same Pew survey found that only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the state of their nation. That 40-point gap between private and public happiness is the fourth-largest gap in the world — behind only Israel, Mexico and Brazil.

Americans are disillusioned with the president and Congress. Eighty percent of Americans think this Congress has accomplished nothing.

Sixty-eight percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. Sixty-two percent think that when government runs something, it is usually inefficient and wasteful. Sixty percent think the next generation will be worse off than the current one. Americans today are more pessimistic about government’s ability to solve problems than they were in 1974 at the height of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.

He says that like it's a bad thing. 

Also, if anyone has been trying to contact me via email, I didn't receive it.  Our email is currently down because the old site is down.  Use jonathanfwilde on gmail instead.

The Halloween Costume

Halloween is possibly my favorite holiday of the year, right up there with NYE. It's not just for kids anymore. The Halloween Party has become a fixture in adult social circles. Having thought long and hard on the subject of costumes, I have some expert advice to impart.

The worst costumes are pun costumes

Example #1: Guy wearing pants, no shirt. "I just came in my pants!"

Example #2: Brown clothes with fake (if needed) gut, bong in hand. "Baked potato"

These aren't funny. They aren't costumes, just excuses. Puns are fine and dandy for the written word, but they have nothing to do with Halloween. Put in some effort!

The more offensive the better

Examples: pregnant nun, Steve Irwin with tentacle embedded, dumpster baby, a bloody OJ Simpson, Amish shooter, battered wife, burka-wearking Al-Qaeda Cheerleader

Halloween is the time you can with impunity make fun of your best friends' religion, race, marital problems, political views, and life ambitions.  It's a once-a-year Get Out of Jail Free card for social crudeness.  Take full advantage.

Uniforms detract points

Many of my friends use their hospital scrubs, gowns, etc to dress up as... hospital employees! Weak. Same with dressing up as police officers, pilots, army rangers, David Beckham, etc. A uniform is not a costume. Learn the difference.

Current events earns you points

Examples: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Michael Vick, Mama Britney, Bret Michaels (my costume this year).

In previous years: Steve Irwin, Flavor Flav, Borat, Kim Jong-Il, Nevernude Tobias Funke (pictured above, modeled by a co-blogger)

Sure, dressing up like a witch or cowboy can be fun when you're 8, but as an adult, you have an obligation to come up with something more original.  A costume that is specifically meaningful for the prevailing zeitgeist can earn you a place in history. Ghosts and pirates will always show; the Runaway Bride is a one-time deal.

Why Halloween matters

For young adult females, the Halloween costume falls into the same category as stripper names (Raven, Candy, Bambi), exotic locales ("What happens in _____ stays in _____ "), and intoxication.  It lowers inhibitions and provides a convenient pretext for the expression of sexuality.

In Theo We Trust

In 2002, the Boston Red Sox were bought out by a new ownership group. Soon after, the group hired then 28-year old Theo Epstein as the General Manager of the club, much to the pride of my Jewish friends. He was the youngest ever to hold that position, a bright spotlight to endure, made harsher by the fact that the team had not won a World Series in over eighty years.

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino to win the World Series. Last night, they won their second World Series. A once struggling franchise is suddenly the shining jewel of Major League Baseball.

Which brings me around to my point: the biggest determinant of success for a professional sports team over the long run is not its players, its coaches, nor its fans. Rather, it's the front office.  The Sacramento Kings were perennial bottom dwellers before the Maloof family bought them.  Similarly, Mark Cuban made the Dallas Mavericks championship contenders.  Under Jack Kent Cooke's ownership, the Washington Redskins won three Super Bowls.  They're barely playoff worthy in the Daniel Snyder era.

Back in early 2004, before the Sox won their first, I predicted,

This isn't the same franchise as it was five years ago. Young Theo Epstein is ambitious and driven. He's going to bring the city a World Series win it has longed for so many years. Entire generations have come and gone since the Sox won it all. I hear co-workers lament this fact all the time - "Yeah, my uncle Todd lived and died and never saw the Sox win". Sometime in the next five years, if not this season, the Sox will win the whole thing. I guarantee it. In Theo we trust.

With the youth on the team and the record of personnel decisions Epstein has shown so far, the Red Sox will be in the title hunt for many, many years to come.

An Unexpected Examined Life

There's an interesting article in the NY Times entitled "After Succeeding, Young Tycoons Try, Try Again". 

What happens when you become very rich very young?

"All of a sudden, you have the luxury — or the curse — of being able to ponder the meaning of life," Mr. Hong said. "You ask yourself, ‘Why am I not happier given how lucky I’ve been?’"

A quote from one of the young guys profiled, who after making a killing on starting Paypal, went on to start another company:

Yet what Mr. Levchin calls "my particular brand of obsession" comes with a cost. He wishes he gave more to charity, but he can never seem to find the time. "It’s pathetic how much I give compared to other people I know worth considerably less," he said. And his desire to earn even more means he pays little attention to the wealth he already has in the bank.

Levchin might have a guilty conscience, but were I in his shoes, would not.  The reason he is rich is that he has created value for other people, value in their lives.  That's a lot more than you can say about most charity.  My advice to Levchin:  keep making new companies.  You'll benefit humanity a whole lot more than writing checks to charity.

Micklethwait On Everything

Brian Micklethwait has been writing some good stuff recently. On societal feedback loops:

Central to the whole idea of the West is that you get better decisions, and better (because so much better informed) implementation of those decisions by the lower ranks, if lots of people argue like hell about these decisions first, during, and then again afterwards. In fact if you argue about them all the time.

On lefty-Islamist alliances:

I am actually quite optimistic that at least some (more) lefties will wake up, as time goes by, to the absurdity of them being in alliance with radical Islamists. The only rationale for this otherwise ridiculous arrangement is (see above) that the enemy of your enemy (the USA) is your friend, no matter what. If you really do think that the USA is the biggest baddest thing in the world and that curbing its power is the only thing that matters (think Hitler Churchill Stalin), then this alliance makes a kind of primitive sense. Although even if you do think that, encouraging the development of rampant capitalism everywhere except in the USA would make a lot more sense. That really would reduce the USA to the margins of history. But, if you think that lefty-ism is anything at all to do with positive support for civilisation, decency, freedom, female (in particular) emancipation, life being nice even if you do not submit to Islam etc., then you should surely turn your back on all such alliances.

On economically stagnant societies:

Partly this is a story about French economic decline. Economic decline often happens without you realising it. And then, suddenly, you do realise it. That factory you thought you had a safe job in for life gets abruptly closed, because the government has decided that the subsidies to keep it going are becoming too huge. You suddenly realise that private education for your kids is going to be forever beyond you, that where you live state education is actually getting worse, and that also you can not afford to move to where it is any good. Multiply little dramas like that by a million, and you have an entire country in economic decline. Thus, economic decline often impinges upon an electorate not in the form of rather meaningless statistics moaned about by journalists even as life goes on happily, but rather in the form of dramatic vignettes like this one, of vulgar English people invading the formerly idyllic French countryside.

Fake FEMA News Conference


The Federal Emergency Management Agency's No. 2 official apologized yesterday for leading a staged news conference Tuesday in which FEMA employees posed as reporters while real reporters listened on a telephone conference line and were barred from asking questions.


FEMA announced the news conference at its Southwest Washington headquarters about 15 minutes before it was to begin Tuesday afternoon, making it unlikely that reporters could attend. Instead, FEMA set up a telephone conference line so reporters could listen.

In the briefing, parts of which were televised live by cable news channels, Johnson stood behind a lectern, called on questioners who did not disclose that they were FEMA employees, and gave replies emphasizing that his agency's response to this week's California wildfires was far better than its response to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

I gotta give them props for the sheer guts it took to do this.

Nice Headline

In case you missed it...

...James Watson stirred things up recently.

The newly formed Equality and Human Rights Commission, successor to the Commission for Racial Equality, said it was studying Dr Watson's remarks " in full". Dr Watson told The Sunday Times that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours – whereas all the testing says not really". He said there was a natural desire that all human beings should be equal but "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true".

His views are also reflected in a book published next week, in which he writes: "There is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."

Here are his own words.

We do not yet adequately understand the way in which the different environments in the world have selected over time the genes which determine our capacity to do different things. The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity. It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science.

To question this is not to give in to racism. This is not a discussion about superiority or inferiority, it is about seeking to understand differences, about why some of us are great musicians and others great engineers. It is very likely that at least some 10 to 15 years will pass before we get an adequate understanding for the relative importance of nature versus nurture in the achievement of important human objectives. Until then, we as scientists, wherever we wish to place ourselves in this great debate, should take care in claiming what are unarguable truths without the support of evidence.


Last week's NY Times:

In some of their playback experiments, Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth have tested baboons’ knowledge of where everyone stands in the hierarchy. In a typical interaction, a dominant baboon gives a threat grunt, and its inferior screams. From their library of recorded baboon sounds, the researchers can fabricate a sequence in which an inferior baboon’s threat grunt is followed by a superior’s scream.

Baboons pay little attention when a normal interaction is played to them but show surprise when they hear the fabricated sequence implying their social world has been turned upside down.

This simple reaction says a lot about what is going in the baboon’s mind. That the animal can construe “A dominates B,” and distinguish it from “B dominates A,” means it must be able to break a stream of sounds down into separate elements, recognize the meaning of each, and combine the meanings into a sentence-like thought.

“That’s what we do when we parse a sentence,” Dr. Seyfarth said. Human language seems unique because no other species is capable of anything like speech. But when it comes to perceiving and deconstructing sounds, as opposed to making them, baboons’ ability seems much more language-like.

Be sure to check out the video too. You can tell who the class clowns are.

Questions with Answer

From a third party study aid for an examination that all American medical graduates have to pass comes the following question.

A 39-year-old disheveled homeless woman walks into the emergency department complaining of abdominal pain. The woman smells strongly of alcohol and seems disoriented. She describes the abdominal pain as "real bad" but cannot specify when the pain first started, where it started, where it is localized, or what factors exacerbate or relieve the pain. She then adds that she does not have health insurance and has no money to pay for her care. What is the next best step in handling this situation?

A) Inform patient that she cannot receive care unless she pays in advance
B) Ask patient's family members to either assume liability for her bill or take her home
C) Provide appropriate medical screening exam and stablize her condition
D) Transfer patient to the county hospital by ambulance immediately
E) Refer patient to a local free clinic for follow up next week

Two questions for readers:

1) What do you think the answer should be in an ideal world?
2) What do you think the correct answer is (i.e., what answer are the people who wrote the question looking for)?


The correct answer is C and the explanation given is as follows.

Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) in 1996. This law was designed to prevent hospitals from inappropriately transferring, discharging, or refusing to treat indigent patients, and allows for strict fines to be levied on any hospital found in violation of the Act. EMTALA imposes three primary requirements on hospitals that provide emergency services. First, the hospital must provide an appropriate screen medical exam to anyone who comes to the ED seeking medical care. Second, if such an individual has an emergency medical condiditon, the hospital must treat and stabilize the emergency condition. Third, the hospital must not transfer an individual with an emergency medical condition that has not been stabilized unless several complex conditions are met.

I posted this because there is a common perception that people in the US are being turned away when requiring emergent medical care. The people holding this perception are often non-Americans I meet on the internet, though just as often, they are Americans. I find this odd because in all my years working in hospitals, I've never seen a patient turned away for emergent care. Insurance is simply not an issue.

One incident I remember from a few years ago is of a young male involved in a motorcycle accident who was taken to the emergency department, admitted to the surgical ICU, and remained there for a long time. Yet, nobody knew his identity till long into his hospital stay. He received expensive, top line intensive care without anyone demanding his insurance card.

I don't know the history of the EMTALA, but hospitals have been treating emergent situations without regard for ability to pay long before 1996.


As far as the "ideal" world question, yeah, a bit vague, so I'll withhold without comment for now.

Depreciating Assets

Another gem from Craigslist.

Uh... no

Note to Tyler Cowen:  Radiohead is not an "indie cult band".  Indie cult bands don't have this kind of commercial success.

Wisdom from Weeds


"Celia, everything that happens in government is motivated by self-interest. Someone's always trying to put one over on someone else so they can get something they want. We're all just nothing but a bunch of selfish assholes. Remember that. And you won't go wrong."

- Doug Wilson, former councilman to Celia Hodes, new councilwoman, in "Bash" from Weeds season 2.

Lunchtime Links

Woman sues Apple
over Iphone price cut:

In the suit, filed Sept. 24 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Queens resident Dongmei Li accuses the parties of price discrimination, underselling, discrimination in rebates, deceptive actions, and other wrongdoings for their role in the Sept. 5th price drop on iPhone, which saw the handset's price tag slashed an unprecedented $200 less than two months after its debut.


She, like thousands of others, the suit claims, is now the victim of price discrimination in that she cannot resell her iPhone for the same profit as customers who purchased the device after price drop. Similarly, she cannot trade up to 8GB model she had initially hoped to obtain and is now left with a product that has been discontinued.


"Market conditions did not require Apple to change its price," Li's attorney, C. Jean Wang of Wang Law Offices, PLLC wrote in the filing. "iPhone was selling very well because Apple's stocks were increasing since August 16, 2007 and rose as high as $144.16 on September 4, 2007, the day before Apple announced that it was cutting the price of iPhone."


Radiohead tells fans to name their own price for its new album. About time something like this happened. I predict they make a ton of money from this.

One big circle

Hillary Clinton cannot be this stupid:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Clinton, her party's front-runner in the 2008 race, made the suggestion during a forum hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home," she said.

Where does she think this money will come from?  That's right - the baby's parents!

There's a difference between welfare programs and socialist programs.  Welfare programs (ideally) transfer money to the poor from everyone else.  Socialist programs transfer money from everyone to themselves.  I don't support the former though I admit they might work in an ideal world of selfless government agents.  Socialist programs, on the other hand, are complete nonsense.

 "I think it's a wonderful idea," said Rep. Stephanie Stubbs Jones, an Ohio Democrat who attended the event and has already endorsed Clinton. "Every child born in the United States today owes $27,000 on the national debt, why not let them come get $5,000 to grow until their 18?"

Hahaha!  Free money.  Weeeeeee!