Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Jewish holiday for congress II

An anonymous commenter notes that Rosh Hashana is actually one of the Big Jewish holidays. I'm not sure that he/she is factually correct in saying it is one of the big two, but I will correct myself and say that it is significant - probably 4th by observance rates and 2nd in terms of 'philosophical importance' (although I sugest the former is the one that matters in this case).

I know that congress is something like 8% Jewish - does anyone know how many of them are practicing? In the country I think it is about 51% so can I assume 4%? Anyway, even if it was christmas and the vast majority of members celebrated it - I'd still say they should work through on this bill.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Congress takes a Jewish Holiday

Anyone else a little confused as to why Congress has taken a Jewish new year holiday (from what I hear not all that important a holiday) in the midst of the financial crisis and an attempt to pass a 700 billion dollar bill?

First - I think government should be secular - i.e. it should not hold special holidays for religion - if those people with those religions choose not to turn up - so be it, but don't make everyone else take the same holiday.
Second - Financial crisis anyone? How many billions of dollars does it cost the economy for the congress to delay their decision?
I suppose I am making the assumption that congress actually makes good decisions which could be flawed...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


No right turn has a post on the upcoming elections

Seven weeks out, and the New Zealand election campaign has yet to really get under way. While the date has been announced, Parliament is still sitting, and the campaign proper won't begin until it rises (which is likely to happen late tomorrow night, or maybe Friday afternoon.

the blog highlights what National would do in government

First, National would offer tax cuts. Great stonking ones, if you believe their finance spokesperson. Whether they'll actually be able to deliver in an economic environment which has their own leader warning against "lolly scrambles" is an interesting question, but they've previously expressed some willingness to run deficits if necessary - "balancing the books" apparently now being some sort of socialist plot.

Now I am usually against tax cuts - Im a fiscal conservative and have been for the last 6 odd years I have been blogging. But there is a time that tax cuts are a good idea - and that is when the economic environment is BAD.

But he politicians always talk about being able to afford tax cuts and we cant afford them now!
well that is because they think you are economically illiterate. In the long run the state needs to gather enough tax to pay for it's services - but that is averaged out over a very long time frame. In the short term the Government has an opportunity to pump money into an economy when it is short of money and take some out when it overheats.

Soooo... that means IF this is a significant economic problem for NZ we better get to cutting taxes and running deficits not chastising parties for suggesting we do the right thing.

The exact shape of their tax cut programme will be announced some time after Treasury
opens the books on October 6, but traditionally National has favoured the rich (sorry; "average" New Zealanders, which it defines as the 15% of the population who earn over $60,000 / year) over actual ordinary New Zealanders.

tax cuts to the richer groups probably feed into the economy faster, so might do the job I mentioned before better - however I'm asupporter of having higher tax rates for higher incomes and would not want to make regressive steps that can't be undone. Actually I expect National's tax cuts to not be excessively regressive because of the style of policy htey have been going for.

Secondly, National would shift employment law back towards favouring the interests of employers. They have ruled out a return to the hated Employment Contracts Act, instead saying that they would "reform" the existing Employment Relations Act, but their announced policies indicate a clear desire to roll back Labour's reforms around union access to workplaces, collective bargaining, public holidays and annual leave, while introducing a 90-day "probationary" period in which workers could be fired at will. They are also likely to reduce employee and possibly government contributions to the KiwiSaver workplace savings scheme, and are highly unlikely to continue Labour's policy of regular increases to the minimum wage.

In bad economic times increasing hte minimum wage jsut makes some peopel poorer via unemployment so the last point is an issue, and some regulations are a little paperwork intensive - however otherwise I'm with labour on these issues.

Thirdly, reforming the Resource Management Act - our core planning and environmental legislation - is a high priority for National, featuring in most of their policy announcements.

the RMA is a disaster - it gives power to 'activists' regardless of the validity of their positions. Weakening it COULD improve environmental protections.

Fourthly, National have promised both to abolish the Maori seats, and to hold a referendum on MMP.

I find it hard to argue against referendums. that seems anti democratic in itself.

They have other policies - privatising ACC (our no-fault universal accident insurance scheme which keeps lawyers out of business), capping the number of public servants, using public-private partnerships for roads (which worked so well in Australia), and tweaking the Emissions Trading Scheme to favour polluters - but the above are the main ones.

that is all stupid policy from national.

ACC is more efficient than normal insurance, capping public servants might be god but it is far to arbitrary, public private partnerships for roads are generaly inefficient because the state is the party most able to carry that risk and tweaking hte ETS seems to be saying we will save money on theETS and pay it back with interest via Kyoo protocol - not smart.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


NoRightTurn notes that the European Union is loosing influence, he then also notes that the US is loosing influence .

Both very true, and he has a fraction of the explanation when he highlights the US's exceptionist attitude to international law and the EU's attitude towards diplomacy. He thus suggests that it is their own fault. But he seems to be missing hte big picture here. China and the world outside the US and hte EU are on the rise - the EU and the US have been,relitively speaking, on the decline since the 60's. That trend doesnt look like stopping.

It is natural then that the EU and the US can expect to see their influence over othercountries diminish. the US wont be able to push China around on tibet if China can defeat it in a war just like the EU wont be able to push around places like fiji if india and china give them more aid than the EU does.

If either of those two countries have a long term goal of continuing to dominate the world's political structure they better get to fixing their fundimental economic issues, because otherwise they are just dreaming.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Priviledges Comittee

What really maters in the Winston Peters saga.

One of the highest courts in the land - a court with no chance of appeal is going to give a verdict next week on whether Winston peters is most likely guilty of lying to parliament hundreds if not thousands of times blatantly about matters pertaining to electoral fraud.

the bad news is that it will most likely be split along party lines with all the labour ministers protecting him and the national members saying he is guilty. It seems obvious that any fair court would indeed find him guilty based on the evidence that Owen glen has provided - most significant of which the phone records of Ownen glen calling him him calling his lawyer and his lawyer emailing the billionaire asking for the donation (which turned out to be illegal) all within minutes of each other.

If labour instructs its members to vote based on party lines and not on the evidence we have corruption of the highest order in the very system supposed to stop this sort of denigration of our political system. this is something worth taking to the streets about.

Survey of economists care of Scott Adams

here is a survey of economists opinions
of note McCain is better on international trade and waste (except wasteful wars I guess), Obama is better on almost everything else.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Winston peters

Watching Winston peters online
(winston the leader of NZ first a NZ political party - up on charges of lying to parliment and possibly cheating our electoral law)

- his intro was not too bad. His strategy seems to be to ignore the hard facts and nitpick about issues where he might be able to win. the impression given is that he might be winning. He seems to be insisting that glenn provide evidence for everything and infers conspiracy from the fact that we don't have them yet. He looks at his notes a lot.

Bill Ralston thinks he isn't and says he has nothing.

Now questions are starting - when facing hard questions like "why did his bank details get sent to Glenn straight after the phone call - he provides no solid defence at all besides "i can't remember" and something to the effect of maybe he asked for it for some unknown reason.

so far - Winnie is toast

Winnie is still covering for Helen Clark (ie going out of his way to defend her) - good boy. I guess he has to now.

8:24 - Winston is warming up he is starting to sound more confident and aggressive.
Winston agian talks abut Glenn not remembering someone, more attacks on Glenn as a reliable witness - not very convincing though.

8:42 - Winston seemed to struggle to handle a pasty question about maybe he was thanking glenn for his help in the racing community rather than for the donation.
Echo makes it a little hard to listen to.
Apparently lots of people don't remember incriminating evidence against Winston Peters


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Harm theory

Lets say (as has been proposed) there are two broad classes of harms:
(1) qualities of experience - e.g. pain; and
(2) qualities of a life - e.g. global preference satisfaction for beings with a personal identity.

Death is a harm of the second type (if we subtract out any pain that comes with it) and so death does not harm beings without personal identity* or global preferences.

Makes sense? maybe - lets see what sort of hypothetical's we can make from it.

Lets say that we have one person who has intense and complex global preferences. Lets say he is a person who compulsively wants every object to be in a certain place and has derived a very complex strategy to put it there. Nothing this person does is 'in the moment'. Now the average person is nowhere near this intense with their global preferences - so maybe he is 50 times more that way inclined. Is it reasonable to say his life is worth that of 50 normal people?

What if you had a planet of people who live in the moment and have no particular global preferences - is it OK to kill them all?

what if a group of people don't follow their global preferences - and so have low value to their 'death' by this scale, lets say there is some 'prima face' reason for them to be killed (eg someone elses preference) Should we threaten people with death in order to drive them to obey their global preferences?

I think it sounds much less plausible a theory when we are not the beings with the maximum amount of global preferences.

* not sure personal identity is very well defined (in the relevant sense here) but we can overlook that.

National "re-releases" environment and conservation policies

Seems to me all this debate about leaks in national should by all rights reflect worse upon Labour than upon national. Sure national has some staffer who is a "mole". But it would not be that hard to put a mole in a party and do we really want parties that are so secretive that it would be impossible to do that? that surely would result in an ideologically in bread policy formation.

But what is of concern is that Labour is probably seeking out people in order to play this sort of trick and is then running around smugly as if we should think that playing this sort of game puts them in a good light.

anyway like the PAD Mallard is an asshat.

and that is from a person who voted labour last time - and might still do it - although I really haven't made up my mind this time - just it wont be NZ first, everyone else is in play.

Tony Veitch hospitalised

Veitch hospitalised after fears for his safety.
Apparently he attempted suicide.

the PAD are asshats

For those that don't understand Thai or Chinese - here is a comedy sketch regarding the leaders of the PAD who are the group protesting against the government in Thailand.
They basically say "we don't care who the government is we hate them anyway" and generally "screw you".

Which is funny because it's true.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Biased media

here is a great clip from the daily show showing how certain people in the media had - differing opinions on Hilary Clinton and Sarah Pailin apparently due to her party membership.


One of my favorite thoughts, and I think it came from a movie, is that the reason to get married is to have a witness to your life. It's the sort of idea that might not strike you immediately as brilliant, but over time it unfolds.
The key to life is picking the right witnesses. Thanks for being mine.

Nicely writen - I'm now expecting a movie to steal it :-)

Hikaru Utada

Geezzz Hikaru Utada is the Queen of Japanese pop and is fabulous in "Automatic" and "First Love"
but in English she is absolutely terrible come on
she sings
"i'm eazy breazy, Im Japaneezy...."
oh my .... stick to Japanese please...
the album was lucky to make 160 on the US billboard charts...

Republican convention

This seems quite perceptive

It kept popping up in all the speeches tonight -- Romney's, Guiliani's and of course Alaska Barbie's:

I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities.

On the face of it, it's a pretty weird repetitive theme.

The words themselves have generally positive connotations, particularly that first one: everybody is in favor of "community" (as long as its their community).

Which is exactly the point, I think. Used the way the GOP speakers used the words tonight (i.e. with a sneer), community = ghetto and organizer = activist.

If there isn't a bit of that why is community organizer warrant such a sneer? I know it might not have the punch of being a Governor in terms of running a country - but since when was it a useful attack?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

thinking about commenting

I note this comment thread wherein RC arrives in the thread and asserts

But isn’t (1r) clearly false?

then thinking a little more

Looking back to the original post, I guess there’s meant to be an implicit “
about red” appended to the premises...So even with the restriction, (1r) still seems clearly false.

after a little clarification from Richard Brown

Ah, thanks, that clarifies the argument... I must say I no longer have the faintest intuition that Mary learns any such thing (and I doubt anyone but a confirmed physicalist would have any such intuition

Ironically if he had looked a little further up the thread he would have seen that Brandon someone he knows is not a physicalist understood the argument as did another commenter who, I expect to his confusion, RC would term a dualist (because RC considers dualism to be about non-reductionism).

And that combines with the fact that the whole point of the argument is a proof that the argument form doesn't work, that a hard core dualist might not find it intuitive is symetrical with a hard core physicalist not finding the knowledge argument intuitive. Except he was trying to argue against it...

Hmm... one wishes some peopel would think a little before they comment.

Is it the media's job to ask questions, no matter how stupid?

Is it really the media's job to "ask questions," no matter how batty?

Michael C. Moynihan busts Andew Sullivan for his frenzied attack on Palin, where

despite the chronological impossibility—to which he was previously so attentive—of the child actually belonging to the governor's daughter, Sullivan proclaimed:

"Now all we need is confirmation from the obstetrician who delivered Sarah's baby, Trig."

Oh please... how on earth did the baby become a story at all, let alone some crazy idea of it being hers.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Underage gymnasts

Fr those that don't know here is stryde hax's latest on the gymnasts

What if [Marion Jones] went on to become a television reporter, and the mayor of her town gave a speech about her Olympic performance in which he bragged about her steroid use? And what if nobody cared? That would be a very interesting, very different world, wouldn't it?

Consider for a moment the strange case of Chinese Olympic gymnast Yang Yun. Competing in the same games as Jones in Sydney, Yun won the bronze medal on the uneven bars. Soon thereafter, she was featured in a state sponsored documentary film, "Yang Yun: My Olympics". In this film she states that she competed as a 14-year-old at Sydney, two years underage. A confidential source forwarded me a copy of this film recently, and I have posted it at the Internet Archive. If Yang Yun's videotaped admission isn't enough, consider this jubilant speech still hosted (for now!) on the government web server sports.gov.cn. How old is this document? Annual copies have been saved by the Internet Archive dating back to 2002. The Google Translated version from 2002 is in agreement with the currently hosted version. This document is a transcript of a speech given 17 October 2000 by Fu Guoliang, the head of the Hunan Provincial Sports Bureau, to his colleagues. In addition to the automated translation, I've had this document inspected by multiple contacts who speak Chinese because of the translation subtlety I'm about to share with you.


Gymnast Yang Yun's real age was only 14. She tried her hands in Sydney for the first time and attracted
the attention of the gymnastic community by winning one bronze medal. Her future is limitless.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Richard Chappell is upset about people using his blog as a soapbox and questioning the fundamentals of his posts.

and then he does this
The pompous linking back to his web page in order to help out his page rank and to pretend that he actually won the previous argument (that requires quite a bit of self delusion) is particularly irritating - although Richard B manages to overlook it.

I suppose it is the academic coming out in me but it irritates me when people use references that don't exactly prove what they say they prove. I suggest people should be held to quite a high standard here because almost no one will follow the link but they will assume it contains supporting evidence and that a piece of work with many references is well supported by many documents.

I remember one particularly bad breach of this in the form of a professor's thesis that I read because it sounded relevant - I began to wonder a bit about some of the references and on checking some/many did not support his positions at all. A similar issue arises on blogs where some people prolifically reference sources and sound informed until one realizes they haven't read the sources properly.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Palin's daughter

Maybe its just that I am from NZ but the situation with Palin's (the Republican VP candidate) daughter seems like a vote winner (not that she would intentionally subject her children to that sort of thing). And quite a significant one.

First, Palin has a few skeletons in her closet and it provides good cover - I note that NZ news at least only mentioned her daughter - while I know there are other things worth talking about that are much mroe relevant (trouper gate and her previous membersip of a secesionist organization not to mention actual POLICY).

But he main reason is that it says nothing bad at all about her personally (even if you think it does about her daughter - you aren't voting for her daughter) and causes a lot of people on the left to wonder if they are going too far and to start to look at others on the left sideways.

One of the lefts problems has always been the difficulty in keeping the far left under control - for example I think Mike Moore despite his best efforts was probably a component in Bush wining the election against Kerry.

Proving Philosophy

If you could really prove something substantial in philosophy it wouldn't be philosophy.
For example - lets say I prove (imagine a physical experiment) or that mind exists independent of the body, or god comes down to earth and says hello and asks us to do some tests on him to confirm it.

It seems that in each of these cases it ceases to be philosophy and becomes another science. Agree? In general philosophy seems to be is about constructing consistent world views - like utilitarianism or nihilism (ethics makes a good example for that but it carries over to other feilds).