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Bill Simmons' Bizarre Statistics

I don't much care for Bill Simmons' columns, and this week's (HT: Newmark's Door) column reminds me why:

Q: Why won't you understand shooting percentages? 33 percent from beyond the arc is the equivalent of 50 percent from within. If a guy shot 50 percent from the field, would you be killing him for shooting? Of course not. You obviously realize how stupid that would be. Yet that's what you've been doing -- FOR YEARS -- with your mind-boggling argument against 3-point shooting unless the guy can hit 75 percent of his 3s. Just think about it for a couple of seconds. Please ... we are begging you.
-- Nick, New York

SG: Dozens of readers e-mailed me Nick's same stupid argument in a similarly condescending way, which is what makes the following so much fun: I'm not stupid, YOU'RE STUPID. That 33/50 logic only makes sense in a professional basketball league in which they aren't calling fouls and you aren't allowed to pass to a teammate ... which, as far as I can tell, doesn't currently exist.

Let's say that one player attempts 12 3-pointers and makes four (for 12 points). His teammate attempts 12 2-pointers and makes six, but during that time -- because he's not standing 25 feet away jacking up 3s like an idiot -- he also draws three fouls on his defender, creates two assists for teammates, makes three of four free throws, turns the ball over once, and misses one layup that gets tapped in by a teammate (we'll call it 19 points). You're telling me those two scenarios are equal?

I don't disagree with his point that you can't just compare shooting percentages in a naive way like the emailer suggested. But his numbers are senseless, for a number of reasons.

Simmons conflates two different actions: "Going inside" and "shooting a two point shot" are not the same thing. If you're looking at shooting the ball, then you've already gone through a great deal of action, and either you have to do that on the inside and outside, or for neither. For some reason, he's willing to allow his hypothetical interior player taking twelve shots to also get fouls and passes, but the hypothetical perimeter player isn't allowed to find someone cutting to the basket, since his only "action" seems to be jacking up twelve 3-pointers.

He also double-counts points in an irrational way. Consider his "two assists for teammates". If one of those is a kick out to the perimeter, then surely this isn't a knock against using a three-point shot as a weapon. And if it is to another interior player, then you can't count the same "shot" twice, both as an assist and the shot itself, which seems to be what he's doing.

Like I said, I'm completely willing to believe that interior shots are underrated, for a variety of reasons (rebounding, fouls, etc.). I bet it's already been done (Kyle surely knows more about this than me.) But Simmons' argument is fairly nonsensical, and he manages to be amazingly condescending about it as well. Not an appealing combination.

Another reason politicians cannot be believed

Via Instapundit:

A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that Rep. John Murtha cannot be sued for accusing U.S. Marines of murdering Iraqi civilians "in cold blood," remarks that sparked outrage among conservative commentators.

Not that I paid much attention to politicians in the first place, but this immunity is yet another reason to disregard anything they say.

so they ‘got all violent’ to ‘make a scene’ and ‘make sure that their voices were heard’. It was kinda like they were simulating

But where would we be without the Rating Agencies?

Obama Doesn't Speak Austrian, Only Keynesian.

I don't see why Michelle Malkin is making such a big deal about Obama saying he doesn't speak Austrian. I thought everyone knew he only speaks Keynesian, and not because his father is from Kenya either.

Vending machines

Why stuff from a vending machine is usually more expensive than from a shop? It does not make sense, does it? One doesn't need to hire any assistant selling the goods one doesn't need to pay so much for rent. What is the point of putting a potential customer off by raising the price? And people go to queue in a shop instead of buying a drink or cigarettes from the machine round the corner!


Every gay person comes from a man-and-woman relationship - a heterosexual couple. By promoting homosexual relations they immanently act against themselves.

In Love with the Welfare -corrected

In Denmark where I'm staying at the moment people are really excited about Obama's victory. And these are not random people but rather highly educated Danes I find pleasant to meet and talk to, some of them are my good friends! Strikingly, it is hard to picture anyone in this country thinking or knowing clearly what's going on in real politics, they are completely unaware. It seems like they are living some dream, led solely by television (here media are extensively controlled by the state), mentally switched off, like hypnotised and not perceiving the reality.

Otherwise, the whole society is really well programmed, including those living purely on allowance, they know very well how to do nothing and get the stolen, pardon, redistributed wealth. The society have a great deal of order and harmony and everything seems to be functioning pretty well, although nearly every aspect of life is somehow regulated by the government. And when you think about it it is really awful, a golden cage model, but when you don't think about it you can be really happy! And that's the whole point!

The state-based media, surely knowing what to broadcast to ensure the happy substituted reality, help to maintain the common certainty of a brilliant social system taking care of them and keeping them secure. When they speak about it, they all believe, naturally, that they're articulating their own thoughts and are deeply confident about that.

Their life standard is relatively good (that is why the Master's of the society are praised by people who do not even care about the massive robbery exercised on them day by day) AND THAT'S THEIR CURSE! from the freedom expansion viewpoint. There would not be really anything spectacular about it, most democratic countries are simillar, now even the United States become communist, but what is striking here is that the common social acceptance for this system is very high. This could be a good exaple of a power of media and control. This is a new version of socialism, socialism with a human face, upgraded form which will not rely on terror anymore, but on the common acceptance! That's the point. You will have your CHANGE in the States soon too. Mr. Change started very well, happy cash printing is not a huge but some change indeed. Venezuelization is on its way. The Founding Fathers are turning in their graves.

The common relative well-being, lack of pressures (although now the crisis is intensifying, it is probably not this one yet to have an outbreak of people's anger, they are too well trained for that, democratic republic invested so much over so many decades) keeps them and other similar societies away from capitalistic mentality. The key is adaptation to risk which has to be taken to get anywhere, to set the Future as the major aim, having descendants in view. But having children is not very popular in democratic Europe nowadays (excluding immigrants of which Muslims dominate, and this may bring about a civilizational switch, which steadfast Oriana Fallaci emphasized). European nations are shrinking! dying! This is the plan of the greatest enemies of our civilisation being brought to life. It is easiest to guide our world (Western World) to self-destruction, invert its strongest values and humiliate its foundation - Christianity. This is why this consumption-driven, human action-deficient system is so harmful! So demoralising! Such humans seem to be addicted to their peace of mind, substituted reality, not human-like from psychological perspective but more cattle-like, thought-voluntarily-less. So down-hearted and brainwashed by media that they prefer paying so lot for their safety and security (which is just an illusion) to taking their lives in their hands. This is a plague of nearly all modern societies manipulated to the very core of human consciousness. Still trusting the banks and government, even after Iceland experience or credit crunch in the US or UK, which strikingly showed that people who are in control of our money are not responsible at all! Democratic societies are rusting very fast. It is not even a hundred years of democracy in Europe!

All in all Danes are well, maybe very well if measured by their frame of mind and there's absolutely no stimulation to start questioning things. There's only this kind of mental laziness and fear of what could the liberal changes do with this well organised society, supposedly based on the notion that better is the enemy of good, as stated by Francois-Marie Arouet known under the nickname Voltaire. This socialism is still strongly supported by the society because the symptoms of bankruptcy are not yet noticeable, and may still remain unseen for a long time. Therefore it is hard to explain to a person being a part of this machine that it is doomed to failure even though it miraculously still holds up. Or maybe does so rather due to the decent capital accumulated by many generations of strict protestants saving every penny (and the fact that it is so small population of about 5 million, largely honest and corruption free). The losses and squandering this system creates is smashing, however, they can't feel it because there's still this desensitizing (and in a way demoralising!) excess of wealth. Such societies need a serious crisis to wake up from the dream. Such a deep hypnosis requires a proportional shock to open the eyes again and turn the attitude from glorification of social security to appreciation of freedom and voluntary society. This is probably true for all Scandinavian and other countries where taxes are astronomical but the leftovers still sufficient to keep people's mouths shut. It takes time to consume a lot of wealth, but it cannot take forever.

Obama nixes Yucca Mountain, nuclear power.

Another crosspost from the Science in Society blog:

From the AP:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday the proposed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada no longer is an option for storing highly radioactive nuclear waste, brushing aside criticism from several Republican lawmakers.

To date about $13.5 billion has been spent on the project and last year the Bush administration submitted an application for a construction and operating license to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission....

Instead, Chu said the Obama administration believes the nearly 60,000 tons of waste in the form of used reactor fuel can remain at nuclear power plants while a new, comprehensive plan for waste disposal is developed.

But President Barack Obama's first budget a week ago proposes scrapping all spending on Yucca Mountain except for what is needed to answer questions from the NRC on the license application "while the administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal."

The lack of a permanent storage site for nuclear waste has been a significant impediment to the expansion of nuclear power in the US. Despite the vague talk of other options for waste disposal, this plan means that plants will have to continue to store their waste on-site, and above ground, making the construction of new power plants very difficult. And given the amount of time and money required to prepare the Nevada site so far, it is unlikely that another solution will be forthcoming anytime soon.

While environmental advocates are usually the first to promote clean-energy subsidies, many have been lukewarm towards nuclear power. Some of this aversion is due to safety - while there are 104 nuclear power plants operating in the US currently, the specter of Three Mile Island still haunts the industry. Some of it is cultural, feeding off an aversion towards the "unnatural" in the environmental movement.

Yet of the various zero-emissions energy sources, nuclear power has been the most significant success, generating 80% of the electricity used by France. (The only alternative energy that comes close is hydrothermal, which generates a similar proportion of Iceland's energy. But Iceland has both a smaller population and extraordinarily favorable geography for power generation.) Because of this success, some within the environmental movement have been pushing for increased nuclear power as the best option to combat CO2 emissions.

But, like the majority of the environmental movement, Obama has a record of being less than wholehearted in supporting nuclear power, even as he pushes for subsidizing less quantitatively promising - but politically safer - sources of alternative energy. The safety problem with nuclear power is a real and significant challenge, but by piling up waste at over a hundred discrete sites, this move will likely only exacerbate the problem in the short to medium run. In the long run the risk may decrease, if only because nuclear power generation will stop altogether as old plants are shut down.

The cynic in me must note that the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is guessed it, Nevada.

Just the Science?

Cross-posting from the Science in Society blog:

Last week, the Obama administration rolled back restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on newly created embryos. When he was in the Senate, Obama said the following:

...the promise that stem cells hold does not come from any particular ideology; it is the judgment of science, and we deserve a president who will put that judgment first.

A recurrent theme of this blog is that science policy is more than just science. Like all policy decisions, it is informed by facts but fundamentally comes down to a question of priorities. What is the value of a human embryo, and is it worth trading off X of these to develop Y therapies? What is the cost of climate change, and how much are we willing to pay economically to mitigate the effects? The "judgment of science" can tell us the characteristics of a blastocyst and vaguely sketch out possible benefits from stem cell research. But the decision whether to have the government fund it is a political and ideological one, and to point to one side of the argument as "science trumping ideology" is disingenuous.

The Economist article goes on to point out that Obama opposes human cloning. In his remarks on embryonic stem cell research he called human cloning "dangerous, profoundly wrong, and has no place in our society, or any society," and promised that "we will ensure that our government never opens the door to the use of cloning for human reproduction." Now there are good reasons for this opposition: even on animals there is a very low success rate, and even for successful clones there are often lingering medical issues. But notice how the reasoning has suddenly changed - he is morally opposed to human cloning based on these known risks, thus justifying at least defunding of the research and possibly (the wording is unclear) banning it altogether. From science trumping ideology we now have ideology directing science.

Not that this makes these decisions necesarily wrong. There are strong arguments for embryonic stem cell research, which become stronger or weaker depending on the value you place on a human blastocyst. Likewise many (but not all) believe that the suffering attendant upon human cloning efforts is too great to justify scientific advance in that field. But we need to be clear that these decisions are informed by science but ultimately based on personal beliefs and priorities, not solely on "the judgment of science."

Politicians ought to appoint scientific advisors on a nonideological basis and listen to what they have to say, but it is ultimately their job to issue a judgment based on their value system. However rhetorically convenient it may be, it is disingenuous for them to claim to follow science's lead when approving of research, only to voice moral disapproval when they wish to hit the ideological brakes.

AnCap Entrepreneur Network

I just returned from my first event at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. I generally pick up the recorded events a few days later on the podcast feed. But, after seeing that Gil Guillory was presenting a paper (scheduled to join the others on his site) "Marketing Subscription-Based Patrol and Restitution", I decided to take the drive down to Alabama to meet him.

Gil's research is on a business model similar to the product I speculated about back in September. Finding Gil's research was a watershed moment for me: this anarcho-capitalism stuff is becoming real. We've studied the ideology, we've discussed scenarios, we see the old economic model crumbling--now it's time to combine land, labor, and capital in the real world. It's time to look at generating revenue streams not decades away, but this year.

I am proposing that we create a network of business people interested in starting profitable organizations based on anarcho-capitalist ideology in the short to medium term. My draft of the manifesto is here. Here's a rough plan for us to develop.

Who's ready to build a free society?

AnCap Entrepreneur Network - Rough Plan

This is the start of my brainstorming, so I'll leave this as bulleted items with minimal explanation.

  • Social networking site - Members' contact info and business skills, member blogs, wiki, private conversations, shared documents. Partner with similar site to leverage hosting and development?
  • Research program for business models and background info - submit to Libertarian Papers?
  • Conferences - Piggy-back on existing conference. Session track at Austrian Scholar's Conference? Other conferences to get geographic/ideological/seasonal spread? Additional smaller, more frequent, less formal meetups?
  • Funding - What model to use: donations in kind (open source)/financial donation/subscription/advertising/pay-per services/paper topic "bounties" (perhaps awarded as prizes at conference and chosen by donors: $300 for best presentation on 'When to Change your Accounting Currency to Gold; a Breakeven Analysis', $100 2nd prize)
  • Expenses - Site hosting
  • Marketing - Associated projects: LvMI, Free State Project, Freedomain Radio, Seasteading Institute, Global Guerrillas (resilient communities and failed states), Factor e Farm (distributed manufacturing, response to unsustainable social institutions)
  • Progression as sector develops - e.g. "Rothbardian Contract Law"
    1. Theory presentation at conference
    2. Course on how to create compatible contracts
    3. Course for mediators/arbitrators (M/A)
    4. M/A network
    5. Advertising for M/A organizations
    6. Feedback from M/A on difficult issues develops theory further
    7. Contract boilerplate for purchase
    8. M/A Certification service
    9. Contract history rating service to certify parties' reputations in honoring contracts

Another NY Tea Party

There is going to be another NYC Tea Party held on Mar. 13 at 11:00 am near the Wall Street Bull. I work on Fridays and will not be there.

Friedman vs. Realism

Cato's Benjamin Friedman, that is. Friedman takes Jon Chait to task for what Friedman calls "a common mistake." Specifically, Friedman says that "Chait writes that Freeman is a realist and therefore doesn’t care about morality in U.S. foreign policy." Friedman then goes on to complain about Chait's use of the word "morality."

Modifying a noun with “moral” does not make it so. Realists argue that idealism – ignoring realities that encourage tradeoffs among competing goods – is foolish, and there is nothing moral about doing foolish things in the name of morality. Realists believe that our foreign policy should be governed by an ethic of responsibility, where you do things that actually lead to good consequences, starting at home. They see the promiscuous use of power as destructive of it and therefore of all the goods it serves, including the ideological sort.

This is all true enough. But Friedman then goes on to conclude that:

Those with even passing familiarity with leading realists like E.H. Carr, Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr know that their goal was to create a moral foreign policy in an anarchic world.

As someone who is passingly familiar with Carr, Morgenthau and Niebuhr, I'm here to tell you that Friedman's description is just flatly false.*

The "common mistake" in this case is Friedman's. For his argument to go through, he has to assume something like:

  1. Action A is consistent with moral code C.
  2. Person P endorses A.
  3. Therefore P's actions are motivated by C.

Obviously there is no reason to think that the conclusion follows from either of those premises. Indeed, all that the argument shows is that P is acting consistently with C, not that P is in any way motivated by C. The distinction is crucial; indeed, it's the very heart of the question.

See, realism just is the view that prudential considerations are the only thing that is relevant to national security concerns; moral considerations are strictly irrelevant. Now certainly Friedman is correct in his description insofar as prudence is actually part of morality. So to that extent, a commitment to acting prudently is a commitment to acting morally. But, and here's the rub, morality and prudence don't always perfectly overlap.

Charity, for instance, is an imperfect duty (meaning, I've a moral obligation to be charitable at least some times, if not in any specific instance). And charity is required even if no one ever knows that I'm charitable and even if there is no probability that I'll ever need to receive charity from others.

Similarly, morality may well require that I place myself in some danger to assist others. If I see a mugging taking place, I have some duty to assist, even if it's nothing more than phoning the police. And that duty doesn't go away even if it does raise the chances (slightly) that the mugger will come after me.

The point here is that morality at least sometimes requires that we put the interests of others ahead of our own interests. Realists deny that nations should ever do this. Indeed, it's the central thesis of realism. I see a few alternatives to explain Friedman's post:

  1. Friedman thinks that morality and prudence always perfectly overlap.
  2. Friedman misunderstands the differences between morality and prudence.
  3. Friedman thinks that being committed to some things that are morally required is equivalent to being committed to morality generally.
  4. Friedman misunderstands what realists are arguing.
  5. Friedman is being disingenuous to take a swipe at neocons.

Of these, (3) is the fallacy of composition, and (2) and (4) assume that Friedman isn't capable of reading and understanding fairly basic texts in his field of expertise. And the principle of charity suggests that (5) should be a last option. That leaves (1), which is by far the most interesting position of the available options, though it's not one that he has defended in this post. Perhaps he will elaborate in a future post.

*UPDATE, March 4: I was too hasty in describing Friedman's position as "flatly false." Check out my updated (and, I hope, somewhat more thoughtful) post, "Friedman and Realism Reconsidered."

New York Tea Party

Today, Saturday the 28th, there will be a "Tea Party" protest being held in City Hall Park. That's 249 Broadway, New York, from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm.

There will be socializing afterwards.

If you want to spot me then I'll be the guy with the faux pitchfork.

I'm fed up with these stimulus bills.