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AnCap Products I'd Like to Buy #1--Medical Condition Insurance

I believe that the most lasting way to remove coercion from society is to replace government institutions with voluntary institutions. Because of this, I often speculate about what sort of institutions would emerge in a free society.

I test these institutions against several ideas:

  1. Do they involve coercion? If so, they simply don't count as a voluntary institution.
  2. Are they monopolistic? Do the institutions themselves have high barriers to entry?
  3. How viable is the business model? Would sellers be motivated to offer the product at a price I could afford?
  4. Most strategically, do current governments establish barriers to entry for my speculative institutions? In other words, could we begin institutions today that are ready to compete with government institutions today and operate without governments in the future?

The first product I would like to buy is insurance against developing a particular medical condition. I would like to pay a regular premium to be insured against the possibility of developing, say, melanoma. If the condition is diagnosed, I would like to receive a lump-sum benefit completely independent of the course of treatment I may (or may not) choose. I am willing to pay larger premiums for unquantified risk, or alternatively to undergo screening tests to quantify risk to secure a lower premium. I would also expect there to be optional riders that raised the premiums and benefits linked to medical inflation.

The main advantage to me as a customer is that I would be in charge of my treatment. I could use my benefit payout to buy treatment from any provider I choose, or to spend on living expenses if the condition interferes with my income.

How does this compare against the points above? In particular, is it possible to simply place a bet against the possibility that I develop melanoma, or is it outlawed through insurance regulation laws?

Left skewed financial bets

Most of the money invested can be traced back to people who want good return and little risk. Be it through hedge funds, pension funds, funds of funds, bank deposits, ultimately there's someone out there who wants his capital to grow, and there's a money manager with a different incentive.

Most money management involves asymmetric risk for the manager and symmetric risk for the client. This is a classical principal agent problem. The manager has an incentive to increase the risk taken to make the most money. Heads we both win, tails we both lose, but I don't really lose that much while you get the full hit. This can be mitigated by various tricks, risk management, watermarks, and countless other, but overall the asymmetry persists.

But "risk" is a crude measure of what really matters, the probabilistic distribution for the payoff of the bet. One can use for example historical standard deviation, but it vastly underestimates the risk of fat tail distribution.

The most beneficial distribution for a money manager is really a negatively skewed or left-skewed distribution. A left skewed bet will turn in a profit with high probability and a loss with low probability. However, the loss will be larger than the profit. Its historical mean is also very likely to overestimate its true mean, implying that analysis of past performance is likely to overestimate future performance. A typical left-skewed bet would be to bet that Hillary Clinton will not be elected in 2008. You can lay this on Intrade and I think you are pretty sure to make $3 dollar on this, but then you might lose $100 if it happens (most likely scenario, Obama is killed by a crazy white supremacist sniper)

Not only are left-skewed distribution good for a money manager, right-skewed distribution are really bad. You lose money most of the time, and the evaluation of your performance from your track record underestimate your true expected performance. Imagine a betting strategy that loses a dollar every month, and wins 36 every two year. It's actually a great strategy, but unless a money manager can prove it works, he's likely to lose his customer or get fired before he can even turn in a profit.

On financial markets, every product can be thought of as a bet, and every bet has its own implied distribution. Overall the price of the bets move so that supply and demand are matched. If most of the trading is done by money manager, then there should be good demand for left-skewed bets and good supply of right-skewed bits, as a result, the price of left-skewed bets fall, and the price of right-skewed bets (which are by the way just laying a left-skewed bet). This also mean that the price of financial assets does not reflect the market risk-adjusted expected return, but some other, skew-dependent value.

There are ways for a money manager to extract this value. One way to do it is to package as much negatively skewed bets as possible. The distributions should average out and produce a nice normal distribution with no skew... Well that's the central limit theorem, but in practice, if you're dealing with fat tails, it could take a lot of bets to average this out, if it's even possible. It could be infeasible for a money manager to extract this value.

However, a simple investor with symmetrical incentives can profit from this situation by making right-skewed bets. He will not "beat the market", he will be helping money managers get rid of unwanted risk profiles and get paid for that.

So what are the right-skewed bets?

Out of the money options are the obvious... a put struck very low bets that a stock will fall a lot, a call struck very high bets that a stock will rise a lot. Most of the time, the option will expire worthless, sometimes it will make money.
Generally you can bet that the distribution of return of assets will have fatter tails that assumed by the market. Nassim Taleb makes nice epistemological arguments for fat tails and how they are underestimated. This is not really the point I am making here. I am simply saying that money manager will bet that distributions have no fat tails because it's a left skewed bet. Therefore, taking the opposite side should bring profits. One of the most common skewed trade is the yen carry trade. From a trader's perspective it's a great trade: borrow yen at low low rates, invest it in New Zealand at high rates, pocket the differential as long as the yen doesn't appreciate to much. You get money every day, it's fantastic. Of course, if yen rates start to rise, the yen will appreciate, many traders will get squeezed, try to get out by buying yen, producing further appreciation and pushing more people out of the trade. If a money manager wants to bet on that scenario, he stands to make a lot of money, but how will he explain to his boss or his customers losing money every day on the trade? Even options involved regular money loss... every day that passes without the event that you're expecting happening is a day where the market value of the option diminished, out of the money option have negative carry. A call option on the yen/new Zealand dollar is a massively right-skewed trade that does not appeal to money managers.
Betting that debtors will default is also a typical right-skewed trade, which can be made by buying protection with a CDS... again it involves shedding money regularly. This works if things go wrong, if things go well a winning right-skewed trade is betting on the recovery of distressed companies.

So right-skewed trade are nice, and if economics are right they can make lot of money, what's not to like ? A good reason to hate right-skewed bets is the income tax, which really makes your incentive asymmetrical. Two month ago, I wanted to bet that oil would quickly go to $200 or $100. The way to make that bet are option on oil futures (keyword is quickly). The problem is, if by chance you actually win your bet, enjoy a 50% tax on your profit. If you lose, well you can sort of carry your losses over fiscal years, but it is very limited. You might get by if you make a lot of trades but it pretty much kills every edge you could possibly have. One (legal) way to do it is through an offshore company which does not pay corporate tax. You still get taxed when you get the money out, but it can be after a long time, after many trades, when hopefully your return isn't skewed.

Disclaimer : whatever you do don't ever blame me, this does not necessarily represent anyone's view, including my employer or even mine.

Secret Anti-Family Values Microsoft Agenda

The spellcheck in Outlook changes blonde to blond. After consulting a dictionary, I've learned that even in English the extra e can convey gender information. This means an e-mail I recently sent about a past night out on the town may read much differently than I had intended. I wonder if the version of Outlook I used has some sort of Google Chrome mindmeld technology. If Scott Scheule is, infact, fair haired, I would appreciate it if Microsoft would stay out of my subconscious.

Fundamental Economic Problems of Urbanized Society

The European leftists, the folks admired by the hard left in this country, oppose consumerism but offer no realistic alternative. Just do away with the economy, then life will be a perpetual vacation according to this group.
First a quote from Sixties radicals in France. See link for much more.

"Proposals to spread the work around by implementing a slightly shorter workweek seem at first sight to address the matter rationally. But such proposals do not face the fundamental irrationality of the whole social system based on market relations. While reacting to one manifestation of this irrationality (the fact that some people work long hours while others are jobless), they tend at the same time to reinforce the illusion that most present-day work is normal and necessary, as if the only problem were that for some strange reason it is divided up unequally. The absurdity of 90% of existing jobs is never mentioned.
It’s absurd to demand the “creation of jobs.” Enough riches already exist to take care of everyone’s basic needs; they only need to be shared around. As for all the production that serves no real purpose, a social revolution will close more factories and eliminate more stupid jobs in twelve hours than capitalism does in twelve years. We will no longer have any reason to produce such things as food colorings, aircraft carriers or insurance contracts. We don’t want “full employment,” we want full lives!
* * *
It is both morally and strategically justified to make particular demands, such as for higher unemployment benefits or free public services. But a social movement should not limit itself to such demands. To do so amounts to asking for justice from the very forces that are based on injustice---Whether we are workers, students or unemployed, what we all really need is the space and time to meet, to share dreams, to recreate our lives. We should demand full enjoyment, not full employment!"

Capitalism’s Headache
This economist gives the counter argument to the radical’s argument about the evils of consumerist capitalism by claiming that it is the only engine of long term prosperity, the other being massive investments in infrastructure, public works and exports which is ultimately unsustainable. Since economic development is the only known successful way out of poverty, what validity do anti-consumerists sentiments have?

Comparing Japan and China’s Economy

"The two countries have experienced similar cycles. A decade ago, a mainland investment boom led to a Chinese nonperforming loan crisis even bigger than Japan's 1990s bust. A massive, painful restructuring of China's debt-laden state-owned enterprises ensued. Now, China risks a repeat of that painful adjustment. The good news is that, in stark contrast to Tokyo's decade of denial, Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders have publicly recognized that today's imbalances must be addressed.

As in Japan, consumer spending is too low to keep the economy motoring ahead. In China, consumption was only 50% of GDP in the 1980s and today an astonishingly low 37%. Typically, poor countries devote about 60% of GDP to personal consumption. The problem is not lack of desire to spend, but lack of money: Household disposable income has been shrinking as a share of GDP. The annual flow of 10 million workers from countryside to city has suppressed wage growth while regulated rates give consumers negligible returns on their savings deposits.

Up to a point, less consumption meant China could devote more resources to investment, and thereby grow faster. Back in 1980, most Chinese citizens lived on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank. By 2015, only 13% of the population will do so. The issue is not that consumption is not rising fast enough on an absolute scale. Rather, as in Japan, a development strategy that brought enormous success has been taken to an unhealthy and unsustainable extreme. With consumption not growing as fast as GDP, China had to find other sources of demand.

Total investment -- residential, business and public works -- has been pushed to a sky-high 45% of GDP. Even that is still not enough to absorb all of China's output. To avoid recession, China lends money to foreigners to buy Chinese exports, giving China a trade surplus of 9% of GDP, way up from the 2-3% of GDP that prevailed during most of 1990-2004. As Japan's experience shows, this strategy is unsustainable. Excess investment is likely to be wasteful investment, which eventually ends up undermining growth while building up nonperforming loans.

Meanwhile, China can only keep increasing its trade surplus if other countries increase their deficits, but the main deficit country, the U.S., has been sharply decreasing its price-adjusted deficit."

See Link To Wall Street Journal

Take That, Bus Stop Bench!

The first day of the RNC has come and gone. The Macy's a block over from my pad has had it's display windows smashed. A near by bench at a bus stop was also destroyed by radical leftists (we all know how many puppet masters of hierarchy take public transit, so score one for the proletariat). Working third shift and needing to sleep during the day, I'm crashing at my folks' place in the burbs until the dust settles in St. Paul and any and all excitement returns to Minneapolis. I was also a little worried about my car, as the garage I've got contract parking in is open on two sides. I've got an unimpressive domestic, though. The guy in my building with the entry level beamer is probably my only neighbor with a real concern, lest anyone is rocking a Bush or McCain sticker.

In the run up to the convention, the community access stations in St. Paul had a steady stream of radical leftist programing. One show was a compilation of short clips put out by the Independent Media Center. In one of the clips, a totally radical anarchist bandito said that anarchists (at least the bandanna, Doc Martins, cuffed black jeans sect he rolled with) are peaceful and aren't out looking for violence, but that they will defend their own if police instigate violence.

It took me a moment to remember where I had heard that before. It's the same thing every member of an English soccer firm (hooligan gang) has said in all the interviews I've read. Obviously, if every soccer firm was just a group of fans with an interest in self defense, there wouldn't be any violence around soccer matches in Europe (ha). In Bill Buford's Among the Thugs, the American writer was fed the same line before traveling around Europe with a Manchester United firm and gaining their trust. He'd then see the same folks who had previously split open an innocent bystander's face with a piece of rebar as the bystander tried to rush his wife and children inside the relative safety of the family's car feed that same line about not looking for violence to other reporters that approached the hooligans for interview. You don't even have to go looking for this stuff in media about hooligans. The same, "we're not out looking for trouble," finds its way into print in collections of fans' voices like We Are Tottenham.

It's the same thing the cops say, too. To serve and protect is all well and good but you know there are several members of the force who got into the business in order to tune up trouble makers.

Watching the local news at my parent's house with reporters broadcasting in front of the building that houses my condo is weird. During one of last night's local news broadcasts, one of the peaceful protesters complained that the huge police presence downtown was intimidating. At that point, I realized I'd lost any and all sympathy for the protesters.

Partisan divides run deep, and no one really cares about civil rights unless they can be used as a cudgel against their political opponents. There were several attempts made to block the buses full of delegates from reaching the Excel Energy Center on the first day. I'm sure lots of folks would describe this as nonviolent resistance, and I'd agree, but doesn't restricting the movement of the delegates and trying to disrupt the convention sort of get in the way of that whole right to assembly nonsense the protesters were crying about when the government sanctioned protest route didn't run close enough to the Excel to allow them to stop Republicans from gaining access?

Then, when police step in to clear the road so the buses can pass, as long as protesters don't lash out, it's alright for them to continue to restrict the movement of the delegates? And the police are terrible people for dragging them to the sidewalk and using pepper spray?

There is no doubt a lot of abuse has been dished out by the police, and that more will still take place, and it is especially unfortunate that some of it will fall on the heads of the vast majority of protesters that aren't blocking traffic, aren't throwing urine and feces at cops and delegates (can any of you Democracy Now! viewers let me know if this qualifies as nonviolent, too?), aren't attempting to lay down spike strips to disrupt traffic, aren't busting shop and car windows, and aren't restricting anyone else's freedom of movement. But it doesn't seem avoidable to me.

The delegates have a right to attend the RNC, and the local business owners have a right to their property (and not to have it destroyed by folks who traveled here with that very thing in mind). The violent minority element involved with the protests, the anarchist banditos with their bullshit, "we're not looking for trouble" put ons look just like a lot of the peaceful protesters and use them for cover. The banditos and the cops are both looking for trouble, both saying they aren't, and both thrilled to find each other. The cops will get to crack a few skulls, the violent element will get to wear their "I've been arrested" badge of pride, and the only folks that'll suffer are the other 99% of the protesters who get in the way.

The big problem is that there are two sets of victims and the police can't protect them both. The violent minority element is going to make the police choose between the those who live, work and own property in St. Paul and the nonviolent protesters descending upon the downtown area. I wonder if the fact that the nonviolent protesters look just like the folks that are throwing piss and shit on the police will weigh into the cops' decision making process? (Or if Amy Goodman is really upset about being arrested?)

Two Data Points are Probably Better than One

College admissions is not an area about which I have a great deal of knowledge, and I think its importance is probably exaggerated by overanxious parents. One thing I do care about, though, is using statistics properly, and this article, concerning a recent College Board study on the efficacy of the SAT, is thus exasperating:

Barmak Nassirian is associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and a noted critic of the SAT. He said he views the report as unsubstantial and contends that the SAT did not change enough to make a difference in its predictive quality.

He cites the validity studies to show that high school GPA is about as predictive as the SAT itself. Using the College Board's scale of minus 1 to 1, he notes that high school GPA alone gets a 0.54 while the full SAT gets a 0.53.

This is very strange statistical practice. Mathematically, you cannot do worse using two data points (in this case, high school GPA and SAT scores) to make predictions than you can with one. It makes no sense to decide that because one correlation coefficient is lower than another, you should just toss out what is presumably useful information. How useful it is, of course, depends on correlations. Looking at the College Board report , it appears that using the SAT and GPA together give a correlation of 0.62. (Actually, this is the "adjusted R-squared". The raw results are similar.)

So even if you have the accumulated high school grades representing dozens (hundreds?) of hours of testing, the SAT still adds substantially to the ability to make accurate predictions about college grades. That doesn't mean the SAT has to be used though. Maybe there are better predictors. Maybe colleges should be looking at things other than first year grades. But saying "X predicts better than Y, so let's forget about Y" is silliness.

College "Speech Code" Lose Out in Court Case

I am behind the curve on this one and not sure if it got much coverage. I just learned that earlier in the month Temple University lost a case in which their speech code was ruled unconstitutional.

Hopefully this ruling will be applied on other campuses.

An Extremely Depressing Onion Article

6-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling

Local first-grader Connor Bolduc, 6, experienced the first inkling of a coming lifetime of existential dread Monday upon recognizing his cruel destiny to participate in compulsory education for the better part of the next two decades, sources reported.
Shortly after his mommy, homemaker Ellen Bolduc, 31, assured him that he would be able to resume playtime "when school lets out," Connor's innocent brain only then began to work out the implication of that sentence to its inevitable, soul-crushing conclusion.

Although I'm always surprised by the number of otherwise "plumb-line" libertarians that support public schools, libertarians are well aware of the evils of compulsory education. On the other hand, libertarians are often hypocritical of the problems with schools as we know them and the concept of schooling itself. Schooling provides a good example of the importance of "thick libertarianism", the claim that libertarianism must incorporate contextual social and cultural values in its analysis.
We should not assume that education in a free market would look like our present private and public schools minus the hobbling regulatory restrictions.
Rad Geek explains how statism has a deeply pernicious effect on the internal culture and institutional structure of schools:

One of the worst things about so-called "public education," i.e. government-controlled schooling, is that students are forced into an institution that they consistently find unpleasant and boring, whether or not the individual student thinks that it's worth the trouble. That fact, combined with the fact that the victims are all young and many of them are poor or black or otherwise marked as "at-risk youth" in need of special surveillance and control, naturally and systematically corrupts the way that the school relates to its students. It leads administrators and political decision-makers to focus on restraining the unruly behavior of the coerced students, by making authority, control, "security," and "discipline" top priorities. In practice this means monitoring, intimidation, and coercion. These facts in turn result in attitudes and institutional practices throughout State schools that are often hard to distinguish from those prevailing in a prison camp.

The causal relationship also goes the other way. The hierarchical, authoritarian, and ultimately unproductive, structure of schools and the education they provide shapes political outcomes. Mencken writes,

The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

A primary outcome of education as it is presently constituted is to turn naturally independent, self-sufficent, entrepreneurial, human beings into efficent wage slaves for the state monopoly capitalist system and obedient subjects for the total state. While private schools are usually less culpable than public schools in this regard, they still operate within the same environment and are conditioned to the demands and expectations of this system by the demands of employers, parents, and legislators.
In the absence of statism, we can only assume that schools would look completely different. In fact, I suspect that that schools would be unable to compete efficently with alternative forms of education in a liberated society. David Friedman appears to be at least one person who has been succesful "unschooling" some of his children. I highly recommend his posts on the subject:
The Case for Unschooling
Home Unschooling: Theory
Home Unschooling: Practice

Roger W. Garrison compares Keynes and Hayek on the Business Cycle

I really enjoyed Roger W. Garrison's lecture from the Mises University 2008 podcasts. He shows mathematically how Keynes' explanation of the business cycle is a simplification of the Austrian view, and thus Keynes' theory misunderstands the full relation between savings and consumption.

Unless you can perform phenomenal feats of mental visualization, it's also necessary to download the Microsoft PowerPointTM presentation "Sustainable and Unsustainable Growth; Keynes and Hayek: Head to Head" from here.

Who's Committing the War Crimes?

Colombia had a recent triumph in freeing hostages from the leftist rebels FARC. If there is any doubt about the debased ideology of FARC the fact that it kept the hostages chained together at the neck continuously for years on end should make one pause for thought. Not CNN. No, they are already trying to interpret these events as a crime committed by the Colombian government.

CNN has just run an article trying to paint the Colombian government as "the bad guys" titled “Colombian military used Red Cross emblem in rescue”. By the third paragraph they are already making claims against Colombia.

“Such a use of the Red Cross emblem could constitute a "war crime" under the Geneva Conventions and international humanitarian law and could endanger humanitarian workers in the future, according to international legal expert Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.”

Tough charges, lets see if they hold up. Will this endanger Red Cross aid workers in the future? How?

“It is clear that the conventions are very strict regarding use of the symbol because of what it represents: impartiality, neutrality. The fear is that any misuse of the symbol would weaken that neutrality and would weaken the [Red Cross],"

Yes, they are serious charges and that is a quite reasonable law, but the spirit of the law is that one not use the symbol to impersonate the Red Cross in doing humanitarian work. So the true question should be, “Was there an impersonation of the Red Cross here”.

If you look at the CNN article you will see that they have displayed the Red Cross in their article. No one would bother charging them with a “war crime” because they aren’t impersonating aid workers in doing so. There is no attempt to deception involved.

Well I shouldn’t say that. There is deception involved in their article, an attempt to deceive the public into believing that a “war crime” was committed by the Colombian government. What wasn’t attempted was to deceive any parties that CNN was the Red Cross. Nor was there any such attempt on the part of the Colombian government to do so as we will learn from information later in the article, despite CNNs attempts to magnify a different point of view.

It’s not until we get to the sixth paragraph that we learn.

"The unpublished video and photos of the mission, hailed internationally as a daring success, were shown to CNN by a military source looking to sell the material. CNN declined to buy the material at the price being asked; it was therefore unable to verify the authenticity of the images."

Why the rush to paint Colombia as war criminals if the photos are not know to be authentic?

Buried even deeper in the article.

“"After all these years of guerrilla war, we have become experts in identifying who is before us," she answered. "That's why I said it was very strange to me. I said, 'Well, what is this? A helicopter, a white helicopter. Red Cross? No. France? No.' There was no flag. There was nothing; there was no sign anywhere."

Here they have eye witness testimony from the event stating that there was no credible impersonation of the Red Cross. Was the Colombian government trying to impersonate the Red Cross here or were they trying to do something quite different?

“One of the members, dressed in a dark red T-shirt or polo shirt, khaki cargo pants and a black-and-white Arab-style scarf, also wears a bib of the type worn by Red Cross workers.”

An Arab-style scarf. Well that doesn’t sound like someone trying to impersonate the Red Cross. The Red Cross is not a Muslim organization.

At the beginning of the article we learned.

“The military source said the three photos were taken moments before the mission took off to persuade the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebels to release the hostages to a supposed international aid group for transport to another rebel area.”

Were they trying to imitate international aid workers? Do international aid groups transport prisoners for terrorist organizations? I don’t think so. We do know that it’s a common practice for terrorists to pretend they are running ambulances. The Al-Dura affair was an event at which such mock use of ambulances took place. Something we know with no thanks to CNN. In this case the Colombian forces are obviously pretending to be FARC sympathetic operatives pretending to be aid workers in order to transport prisoners.

“Both of Colombia's two main guerrilla armies, the FARC and the smaller National Liberation Army, have been known to misuse the Red Cross symbol, sometimes transporting fighters in ambulances.”

Well, then it’s obvious that there was no impersonation of the Red Cross. From prior reports we know the FARC rebels had been told that this was a prisoner transport operation ordered by FARC leadership. Since it is common practice for FARC to impersonate the Red Cross for transport then what better way to impersonate other terrorists than to use the same tactic. Therefore no “war crime”.

Have no doubt, there was no attempt here to trick anyone into believing the Colombian military personal were actual aid workers doing humanitarian work. The Colombian government was on a true humanitarian mission but that is the exact opposite of what FARC was lead to believe. FARC members were under the mistaken belief that this was just another prisoner transport operation by other members of FARC. There was no attempt to deceive anyone into believing that this was the Red Cross, the Colombian Military certainly wasn’t trying to deceive itself, so there was no violation of the spirit of the law even if a Red Cross symbol happened to be worn.

Now had the Colombian government convinced FARC they were the Red Cross and were planning on actually helping these people with treatment, or by releasing them then certainly there would have been a “war crime” in the sense perhaps that was not intended. That’s a problem with the letter of the law not the spirit. In fact, if anyone, even a bunch of doctors, impersonated the Red Cross to deliver medical attention they would be violating the letter of this law. That’s not the spirit however. The spirit is that the symbol of the Red Cross not be used for military operations like transporting prisoners. The true “war criminals” here are members of FARC.

This CNN story was written with a certain bias, a certain interpretation of events, and I don’t think it was unintentional. The article could have been headlined “Colombian Military Uses FARC’s Abuse of Humanitarian Aid Symbols to Rescue Hostages”, and it could have stressed the important point that no FARC member ever truly believed this was a humanitarian mission. Instead they painted this as war crimes being committed by a US ally. This is far from objective journalism.

How can CNN wonder why they are considered by some of being anti-American, and pro-Terrorist? People are rescued from being chained together at the neck day and night for years and CNN finds a way to paint their rescuers as demons, shame on you CNN. Shame, shame.

Student Who Took Condom Getting Death Threats

I'm linking to this story too trigger a discussion of contracts. Well, maybe not, I just find it ridiculous. I've changed the nouns to protect the innocent.

"A UCF student claims he’s getting death threats for messing with something sacred.

Webster Cook says he smuggled a condom, a small rubber ballon that to planned parenthood members is symbolic of responsible behavior after a volunteer hands it out, he didn’t use it as he was supposed to do, but instead walked with it."

Ok so he took something that he was given freely and left with it disobeying some rule about immediate usage. In this case the condom was suppose to be used in an act of oral sodomy. A kind of symbolic cannibalism.

"Planned Parenthood members worldwide became furious."

Not only were they furious but they wanted it back.

Why? They gave it to him for free and if he used it the way they wanted it would've been ruined by the act. In fact the volunteer had directly put the condom on Webster Cook. Who else would want to use it after that?

The quality of the condoms handed out do not even rise to the level of what is sold in stores. This is a five cent condom not a fifty cent one.

Surely not something to become outraged over even had Cook signed a contract stating that he would use the condom in a sex act. Suppose he had gotten home and thrown the condom away instead of using it in a sex act, thus violating the contract. Surely Planned Parenthood could be indemnified by this wastage of their condom by paying five cents or better yet buying a high quality condom on Amazon or at the supermarket and returning that instead.

"Webster’s friend, who didn’t want to show his face, said he took the Eucharist, to show him what it meant to Catholics."

He wanted to show his friend the condom and perhaps discuss safe sex practices. You'd think planned parenthood would be good with that.

Another article at gave even more details on his motivations.

The student senator, Webster Cook, originally claimed he merely wanted to show the condom to a friend who had questions about Planned Parenthood before using the condom for a oral sex act.

So apparently he was planning to use the condom all along, just from home.

"Webster gave the wafer back, but the Condom League, a national watchdog organization for Condom rights claims that is not enough.

“We don’t know 100% what Mr. Cooks motivation was,” said Susan Fellatio a spokesperson with the local Planned Parenthood. “However, if anything were to qualify as a hate crime, to us this seems like this might be it.”"

Wait a second. He gave the same condom back and they are still not satisfied? I find this puzzling to say the least. Not using a freely distributed five cent condom that you can buy online is a hate crime?

Get real.

If you want to control how your condoms are used then you are going to have to restrict your distribution to members only, put signs up, have them sign a contract first, and supervise the process more diligently. You can even make the pay for the condoms up front if you want.

Once you put the condom on a person though I don't see how you can force them to perform a sex act if they decide not to at the last minute. So even if Cook was a member and all these procedures were followed the most they can do is revoke his membership.

What is especially disturbing is that throughout the middle ages Planned Parenthood used the false accusation of "Stealing the Condom" and "Condom Desecration" to persecute Jews.

"Accusations of condom desecration leveled against Jews were a common pretext for massacres and expulsions throughout the Middle Ages in Europe.[1] At the time, the concept of Jewish condomcide — that the Jewish people were responsible for poking holes in condoms — was a generally accepted Condomist belief."

This seems to be a common practice of non-profits. They set up some taboo that no rational person would give a second thought about and use that to demonize, persecute and lynch anyone who disagrees with their dogma. What better excuse for killing someone and stealing their property than accusing them of stealing a five cent condom or mishandling a book that is full of lies. Hell they'll beat you to death even if they own the book or were the ones that originally handed you the condom.

Hell, in the middle ages they were forcing the Jews to put on the condoms in cannibalistic ceremonies, and at the same time accusing them of smuggling them out for illicit purposes. If you remember your history on the incondomquisition then you will recall that many Jews were forced to become Condomists by the Spanish.

Great white teeth

Spotted at the Boston Herald.

A dialog

A: The struggle for freedom is the struggle against aggression.

B: The struggle for freedom is the struggle to maximize our possibilities.

A: I'm all for maximizing possibilities, but just because you like two things (freedom and maximizing possibilities) doesn't mean that they're the same thing.

B: So what makes your characterization any better?

A: It fits the examples.

B: What examples do you have in mind?

A: A slave wants to be free.

B: A slave wants to increase his possibilities.

A: But he can increase his possibilities in other ways. He can ask his owner for more possibilities.

B: But he can increase his possibilities even more if he's free.

A: Not necessarily. A free man may struggle more than a slave.

B: If a certain slave truly enjoys more possibilities than a certain free man, then the free man will envy the slave.

A: How so? What if the free man values his freedom more than his possibilities?

B: But how are we to weigh different possibilities except by how they are valued? If a certain free man envies a certain slave, then however happy he may appear from the outside, by his own lights the possibilities he enjoys as a free man are outweighed the possibilities enjoyed by the slave. But if he does not envy the slave, then however miserable he may appear from the outside, by his own lights the possibilities that he enjoys as a free man outweigh the possibilities enjoyed by the pampered slave.

A: Okay, then I will grant that a free man may, in theory, envy a slave. What do you want to conclude from this?

B: If he envies the slave, then he considers the slave more free. I defined the struggle for freedom as the struggle to maximize our possibilities. If the free man thinks that a slave enjoys more possibilities than he does as a free man, then he considers the slave to be freer.

A: This is only if we adopt your notion of freedom as the struggle to maximize our possibilities.

B: Why not? If the free man envies the slave, then the free man prefers the life of the slave to his own life. Why not say that he considers the slave to be freer? Surely the man's preference trumps every other consideration, at least from his own perspective.

A: Slavery is freedom?

B: A particular slave might be freer than a particular free man.

A: But the distinction between a slave and a free man just is that the latter is free and the former is not. That's just what slavery means.

B: Well, then we might need to reexamine the concept of slavery, but if the free man envies the slave, isn't that more important than quibbles about concepts?

A: But we already have terminology for that. We have the word "preference." Why draft the word "freedom" to serve as a synonym for "preference"? It was already doing important work.

B: What can be more important than preference itself?

A: And therefore it's okay to draft the word? By that logic, every word in the language should be drafted to be a synonym for "preference". No more language.

B: You still haven't explained the important work being done by the word "freedom."

A: You agree that there is such a thing as aggression, correct?

B: I'll agree to that.

A: Then there's such a thing as freedom from aggression.

B: And this is what you mean by "freedom?"

A: Pretty much. "Freedom" is short for "freedom from aggression."

B: Aren't you drafting the word "freedom" to do special work for you?

A: I think all I've done is analyzed the received idea of freedom. I think if we look at examples of freedom, they all concern freedom from various acts of aggression.

B: But I've also analyzed the received idea of freedom. Maybe a different received idea.

A: I see you're not going to change your mind. Can we at least recognize that there are two concepts? Must we try to wipe each other's concept out?

B: Agreed. Freedom from aggression and freedom to act.

A: But these can come in conflict.

B: You are referring to the free man who envies the slave?

A: No, I mean that, in order to increase Paul's freedom to act, it is a common practice to aggress against Peter - to rob him and transfer the money to Paul.

B: But by the same token, freedom from aggression can come into conflict with itself.

A: That sounds like a contradiction.

B: Just replace money transfer with police protection. Here, I'll spell it out: in order to increase Paul's freedom from aggression, it is a common practice to aggress against Peter - to rob him and transfer the money to a police department which protects Paul's freedom.

A: I disagree with a tax-funded police force. Do you disagree with tax-funded welfare?

B: Maybe.

A: But on what basis? You advocate freedom to act, not freedom from aggression.

B: Robbing Peter to pay Paul reduces Peter's freedom to act.

A: But it increases Paul's freedom to act. On what basis do you make a choice? If you consistently make the same choice as I do, siding with the potential victim of aggression, then aren't you in fact an advocate of freedom from aggression?

B: Maybe I have a dilemma, maybe I have to choose between Peter and Paul. Are you saying you don't have a similar dilemma?

A: Well, in this case the principle of freedom from aggression dictates that I side with Peter. The principle of the maximization of possibilities does not decide between Peter and Paul.

B: How about this. What if Peter is so rich he can hardly feel the aggression but Paul's life is transformed by the transfer? Peter's possibilities are reduced less than Paul's are increased. In fact, in this case, don't you agree? Isn't the benefit worth the cost?

A: It's still aggression. You've reduced Peter's freedom from aggression in order to increase Paul's freedom to act.

B: But the world is on the whole better.

A: Debatable. What's not debatable is that it's still aggression.

B: Well - so what? So you get to label it 'aggression'. What is so important about that?

A: It's important to Peter.

B: The transfer is important to Paul.

A: You don't feel any guilt? You don't feel the robbery is wrong?

B: The total sum of human happiness goes up.

A: And that defines right and wrong for you?

B: What else defines right and wrong?

A: Apparently you are not a receptive audience. I will address myself to Peter.

Peter: Oh, hi. What's on your mind?

A: You are being robbed. Join me in the fight against the welfare state.

Peter: Yes, you are right, I am being robbed. But what can be done about it? It is more worthwhile for me to lobby the government to rob Paul and to transfer a bit of his wealth to me.

A: Madness.

Peter: No, rationality. I don't want to reshape the world. All I want to do is get along as well as I can. What I'm doing now is the best thing for my own future.

(Nothing really new here. Just an exercise, or a bit of fun for me, or something. And while I leave A defeated and frustrated, I am in fact A.)

Speaking of Tomatoes

Here I am in my natural habitat. I'm around 6'1" so you can see the tomatos are already up around 5 foot. Those poles are twelve feet long each. I may have to add a third rung near the top if they go past the 6 foot mark. I've gotten two ripe tomatos so far.

No it's not just tomato's either. Half that garden is other things. I keep four foot wide beds with paths that run east to west. The shorter stuff grows at the front of the beds and the tomatos shade the footpaths. It's 32x32 and I have another at 12x40.

Watermelon, zucchini, gourds, turks turbins, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, turnip greens, green beans, soy beans, peas, bitter melon, leaf lettuce, winter lettuce, miners lettuce, turnip greens, onions, strawberry spinach, strawberries, long island cheese pumpkins, giant pumpkins, pie pumpkins, american giant sunflowers, potatoes, eggplant, hot peppers, sweet peppers, verdolaga, and italian wall lizards.

There's around 14 kinds of tomatos, 3 hot peppers, etc. I grow many types of flowers too. Here's mullen banana custard next to my pool.

I'm growing the hottest pepper in the world this year, the bhut jolokia, which is three times hotter than the second hottest the habanero. It rates a around one million scoville units. The pepper spray they use in riot control is 2 to 5 million scoville units, while tabasco is a mild 2,500 units.

Here's a video of some kid eating a habanero. Notice the flames coming out his ears and the uncontrollable knitting of his eyebrows in anguish. He emits a pained squeal before going for the water. You need to watch this first to be impressed by the others.

Here's different guy but instead eating a bhut jolokia. Remember the individual peppers are between half and one fifth pepper spray by volume. I'm quite impressed but I think he was born with defective pain sensors so it's not quite fair. At least he was smart enough not to eat then entire thing like the other guy.

A couple of these Mexican's are obviously racist against East Indians as they don't seem to be enjoying this traditional Indian food. The one on the right not only handles the hot but she is hot. Perfect if you're planning a riot.

I thought I wasn't going to be able to find any videos of normal people eating the bhut jolokia. Seem's like everybodies doing it but they are all super human. This guy eats a whole one, you can sense he wants to cry when he talks, but then he gulps down another. Apparently it hurts on the way out too.

Yes, someone did "plant" italian wall lizards in my garden to keep the bugs in check. Besides they're cute. I think that same someone is responsible for putting them in my old garden back in New Hyde Park. They have been in the news recently as they are rapidly evolving new body parts.

I believe with the new habitat containing bhut jolokia this is the first step in evolving true fire breathing dragons.

The Course of Human Events

Ad appearing in NY Times 4 July.

H/T Daily Paul