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WN 21

Via Archinect, the news that Walter Netsch is dead. Though arguably his most famous work involves collaboration with two institutions I oppose, religion and the state, it is really stunning.

Frankly, I choose beer over country

Some stupider-than-usual grandstanding today, this time from Missouri. Belgian booze outfit InBev wants to buy Anheuser-Busch (goodness knows why), but Republican governor Matt Blunt thinks the government of the state of Missouri ought to have a say in it:

Republican Gov. Matt Blunt said Wednesday he opposes the deal, and directed the Missouri Department of Economic Development to see if there was a way to stop it.

"I am strongly opposed to the sale of Anheuser-Busch, and today's offer to purchase the company is deeply troubling to me," Blunt said in a statement.

Web sites have sprung up opposing the deal on patriotic grounds, arguing that such an iconic U.S. firm shouldn't be handed over to foreign ownership. One of the sites, called, was launched by Blunt's former chief of staff, Ed Martin.

"Shareholders should resist choosing dollars over American jobs," Martin said in a statement Wednesday night. "Selling out to the Belgians is not worth it - because this is about more than beer: it's about our jobs and our nation."

That last line is what got me going. "[T]his is about more than beer: it's about our jobs and our nation."

Someone has his priorities mixed up, and I don't mean that facetiously. On the one hand we have beer, a magnificent ingredient of a satisfied life. On the other hand we have an arbitrary, morally unjustifiable division between Americans and Belgians. Who gives a damn where the suit is signing the papers?

The idea that "we" have a "nation" is a joke. I assume that Ed Martin and I share the same first language, but I can head south of the border and find people I have more common interests with, have more fun with, and sure as hell would lift a finger to save from imminent death faster than.* If you have to draw lines, draw me with them and not with Ed Martin, Matt Blunt, or any of their cronies. Lest I be accused of favoritism, the same goes for most places in the world, some linguistic barriers notwithstanding.

And besides, it's not like Anheuser-Busch can start marking worse beer. Maybe the Belgians can help them clean up their act.

* All right, I'd save Ed Martin too, but I'd grumble about it later.

Hat tip to Matt Welch at Hit and Run

Geek Out Saturday

Chris's Invincible Super-Blog has a couple of gems lately. First, a bite-sized morsel of The Contra Hearings:

SENATOR JONATHAN PERKINS (R, TX): Please state your name for the record.

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM RIZER: Lieutenant Bill Rizer, United States Marine Corps. Codename “Mad Dog.”

SEN. PERKINS: Thank you, Lieutenant. And before we get started, I’d like to commend you for your actions during the conflict. Purple Heart, Medal of Honor… Says here you received the citation for valor almost thirty times, is that correct?

LT. RIZER: Yes sir.

SEN. PERKINS: Well I thank you, and your country thanks you for your service, Lieutenant.

LT. RIZER: It was an honor to serve, sir. I just wish things could’ve gone a little differently.

SENATOR ELIZABETH VAN HOUSEN (D, MA): Yes, about that. Would you care to outline your opinions for us?

LT. RIZER: To put it bluntly, Senator, we were simply not prepared for what we encountered over the course of the Red Falcon conflict.

SEN. VAN HOUSEN: And by “we,” you mean…?

LT. RIZER: Me and Lance–that is, Sgt. Bean.

SENATOR ARTHUR WEATHERTON (R, NM): With all due respect, Lieutenant, I fail to see how the failure to equip two Marines necessitates a Congressional investigation. Why haven’t we heard from the rest of the soldiers involved in the operation?

LT. RIZER: Because Lance and I were the total forces committed to the Red Falcon conflict, Senator.

SEN. WEATHERTON: … Oh. Carry on.


There's also an attack ad against Cobra Commander, but you need to see the pictures.

Ladrones estatales

Mexico's federal consumer protection agency recently determined that 10% of the country's gas stations cheat their customers, either through watering down gasoline or through modifying the software that runs the machines to make the number appear higher than the amount that leaves the pump.

It may be relevant to point out that PEMEX, Mexico's state-run petroleum company, is the only supplier for all of the country's commercial stations.

Via Vivir México

Creationism and Intelligent Design in the Economy

Brandon's post about Patri's post about socioeconomic creationism made me want to kick myself for not writing up an idea I had been sitting on: an analogy between creationism and intelligent design in the economy.

It used to be that a lot of people believed in flat-out economic creationism: these were the communists and other totalitarians that thought they could create an economic order out of whole cloth. Literally every detail would be mapped out beforehand. Like creationism as belief about the natural world, this idea has been thoroughly trashed and we don't really have to take people intellectually seriously when they believe it.

But now, in both areas, we have softer versions of the same old nonsense. Intelligent design aims to take the overwhelming natural evidence for evolution by natural selection of billions of years and say that it was directed from on high. All this news about the Federal Reserve lately reminds me of the "intelligent design" of the economy. Sure, markets do things sometimes, but they are guided by this power on high that really controls the essentials. It's the economic Almighty that's making the pivotal decisions that everyone else acts out in the countless transactions that happen everywhere, all the time.

I know that this is not exactly the same as what my colleagues were talking about, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Stay tuned, Micha is next.

When fighting back is a crime

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government has charged an international arms dealer with conspiring to sell a rebel group millions of dollars in weapons "to be used to kill Americans in Colombia," federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Viktor Bout, who was recently captured in Thailand, had agreed to sell the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) surface-to-air missiles, armor-piercing rocket launchers, "ultralight" airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other weapons, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.

There was no immediate public response from Bout, who remains in custody in Thailand.

Federal authorities unsealed an indictment charging Bout with four terrorism offenses: conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees, conspiracy to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, and conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization.

The rest here.

Why do Viktor Bout's customers need surface-to-air missiles, armor-piercing rocket launchers, "ultralight" airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other weapons to kill Americans in Colombia? They can't just do it the old-fashioned way and mug them in the alley?

The establishment media wouldn't dare to print anything about it, but the reason is that the US government has been fighting an undeclared war in Colombia for years with "private" soldiers. They are heavily armed and armored. They have planes, guns, bullets, bombs, and chemicals, and they aren't afraid to use them to commit what would be called "terrorism" or "acts of war" if they were happening the other way around. The US government can arm anybody, torture anybody, or kill anybody, because it's all in the name of...ahem, security or freedom or something. But they hate competition.

Monkeys and their toys, and what it means (and doesn't mean) for us

Somewhat surprisingly, Francois Tremblay is surprised by the results of a new study on primates that finds male monkeys prefer some kinds of toys over others. This suggests that "gender" differences may have some basis in sex after all.

I say "surprisingly" because scientifically speaking this conclusion is not at all a surprise or even really news. The research points overwhelmingly to innate differences between males and females, and anyone who follows this topic will already be familiar with it. The bulk of the resistance to the idea that there are innate sex differences seems to me to be motivated by non-scientific factors.

He muses: "What does this means for Anarchist views on gender relations, I wonder." This doesn't seem like a huge problem for me, since it already forms a part of my understanding of the world that there are real, innate differences between men and women other than the shapes/functions of their genitals. Everyone still has the right to live freely—science doesn't (and can't) challenge the moral basis for our system.

Of course, not every difference between men and women is innate. Our body of scientific knowledge leaves room for "gender" being distinct from "sex," we just need to remember that there are some biological bases for behavior. If our systems of thought don't acknowledge these kinds of facts about the world, we're in trouble. We can still fight the systematic oppression of women when we find it, because the shape of the bell curve for female intelligence has zero bearing on their rights.

More important things to consider here.

Note: I can already see some of the objections that people will have to this, so let me have it and don't pull any punches.

Michael Moore in the public service

Mark this date on your calendars: it is the date that I approvingly link to a Michael Moore video. It's Moore doing an "African-American Wallet Exchange" so that fewer NYC cops will be shooting unarmed black people.

Hat tip to Marie from The Art of the Possible for sharing it

First the Academy, then the world

Earlier we talked about it, but now it's done: Dan D'Amico defended his dissertation yesterday.  Congratulations!

Rape cults and the state

The news coming from the FLDS compound is Texas is pretty awful, but this in particular made my stomach turn:

The caller told authorities that her 50-year-old husband would force himself on her sexually, beat her, punch her in the chest and choke her. He once broke several of her ribs, she complained. And while he beat her, one of his six other wives would hold her baby.

That did not come as a shock to Flora Jessop, a former child bride who was returned to the sect when she ran away.

"I spent three years in solitary confinement with them trying to beat Satan out of me because I stood up against God's commandments," Jessop told "Good Morning America."

" I know first-hand that what this little girl is saying is the absolute truth, that she is in imminent danger. They do lock you up. They beat you. They whip you. They brutalize you and they psychologically destroy you. Most of the children would not be able to withstand the psychological torture that they put you through."

[emphasis mine]

This is a cult dedicated to rape, abuse, and systematic dehumanization even after that.  At long last the legal authorities broke up the rape cult, but not before they became accomplices in the rape and abuse.

How not to change any single thing in the world

Are you against the war and against Bush's labor policies but want to make sure that nobody cares?

I don't know what this group stands for, though from what I can tell I am if not a potential member than at least sympathetic. But people, let's get a new protest coordinator.

Via Matt Welch's post about another Million X March

From Vienna to Virginia

Danny D'Amico sent me some information about an upcoming FEE conference called "From Vienna to Virginia," highlighting two of the bastions of clear economic thinking.  It sounds pretty good.  If you're a grad student or an untenured faculty member you can submit papers, or if you're anyone else, just start getting jazzed about what kinds of things will be discussed.  More info at FEE website, on Mises blog.

Chilean workers vs. Allende

On the Mises blog, Peter Klein links to a quirky historical piece in the New York Times about the early-70s experiment with a computer-run economy in Chile. It turns out that they never really got the thing up and running entirely before the coup in 1973, but regardless they were still fighting a futile effort against Mises, Hayek, and Robbins. Against such a line-up, victory is hardly possible. The NYT piece doesn't really discuss the state of the Chilean economy as a whole very much, but it was pretty dismal.

The piece is worth reading in its own right, but one thing struck me:

Cybersyn’s turning point came in October 1972, when a strike by truckers and retailers nearly paralyzed the economy. The interconnected telex machines, exchanging 2,000 messages a day, were a potent instrument, enabling the government to identify and organize alternative transportation resources that kept the economy moving.

The strike dragged on for nearly a month. While it weakened Mr. Allende’s Popular Unity party, the government survived, and Cybersyn was praised for playing a major role.

Salvador Allende is most remember today for being on the wrong end of the coup d'etat of 1973, which cost him his life. The extent of foreign involvement is still debated, so I won't get into that, though I suspect Richard Nixon and his gang had more to do with it than they'd want the world to know. Even if it were just home grown Chilean right-wingers that did the deeds, Allende has still become a symbol to many on the far end of the Left. Allende the Marxist strike-breaker.

Anti-tax Europe

Wembley Stadium has lost out to Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium in its bid to host the 2010 Champions League final because of tax reasons, says Uefa.

Wembley was discounted after failing to provide assurances that players competing in the final would not be taxed by the British government.

"Yes, the reason was the taxes," said Uefa president Michel Platini.


Give yourself up for the already-better

Ronald Bailey quotes Bill Becker:

Intergenerational ethics argue against us leaving massive, intractable
problems for future generations, forcing them to deal in perpetuity
with nuclear wastes, carbon sequestration sites and geo-engineering
systems — all subject to human error and to failures that would be

And then lets him have it:

Really? Perhaps intergenerational ethics tells us that poor people (us)
should not sacrfice their livelihoods, health and welfare for rich
people (future generations).

That kind of response probably doesn't make sense to a lot of the doom-and-gloom environmental types because they don't imagine that technology and experience will make the future better.