Thursday, March 29, 2007

Liberals will always find ways to steal from the poor

You don't have to be Milton Friedman to know how stupid these left-wing fiscal policies are. Take the case of Albert Podell. Today's New York Times has this article on people who keep their homes looking so ugly that even millionaires are repelling women.

This is a man who has donated millions to NYU law school. It is also a man who mostly eats out and has traveled to 163 countries. So this is not a man strapped for cash. But when asked about his ugly apartment here is what he has to say:
Why does he live here?

“Ever hear the words ‘rent stabilized’?” says Mr. Podell, who’s paying $702 for a one bedroom in SoHo. “What do I need a fancy place for? A lot of people want to show off their wealth. It ain’t me, baby.”
Why the hell is a policy designed to help poor people pay rent going to support a man who has enough spare cash to make a $2.4 Million contribution?!? Is this what rent stabilization supposed to do?

No wonder there is a shortage of affordable housing for the poor. The rich lawyers who can figure out how to work the system get the $702/mo sweet houses in SoHo. Then they donate money to other rich people who are part of the same old boys network to learn how to do the same. The the truly poor who could use this apartment have to spend more on a non-rent-stabilized apartment in a worse neighborhood because all the good affordable houses are taken by rich pricks like Albert Podell. It is no wonder that Albert Podell donates to every democrat cause there is. They keep his rent down, so he can afford to take lots of trips and fuel his ego with NYU law centers named after him. He probably sits around wonders why the Republican party is doing nothing to help the poor in New York. The reason should be obvious. Whatever the Republican party will do, some clever NYU lawyer will find a way to steal from the poor.

And he will boast about it.

Most New York students pay more than that for housing. Most families on welfare are paying that much or more. Certainly people who have millions to throw around could afford not to claim they need a rent stabilized apartment.

If we get rid of rent stabilization the rich will have to pay actual market value for their SoHo, Upper West Side, Brooklyn Heights, or Park Avenue apartments, and the owners of the building will have to pay higher taxes on the income. So why do democrats complain that every one of Bush's tax policies has been designed to help the rich? Probably because it is true. But it is true because all these stupid policies are designed to help the rich, including these dumb do-gooder rent-stabilization laws.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

When is an anti-abortionist's birthday?

You would think that if one took the philosophical position of being anti-abortion, then their birthday would be a fairly irrelevant date. The relevant date would be the date that they were conceived, for that is the date that life starts. The date one is born is not that special for them. Yet I have never heard of anyone celebrating one year of life when the child is three months old. The relevant milestones are still in years from birth. So I wonder how seriously anti-abortionists take the idea that it is the day of conception as the day life begins.

Monday, March 19, 2007


The Army sent me to Syracuse for a few days. It was cold. It was pretty boring. But I survived. The Army wanted to give me and 19 others a very long lecture on safety. To their credit, we got to stay in a pretty nice place, and it wasn't a bad experience overall. The 19 others were good people, and I learned a lot from them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gandhi he's not

Here is a paragraph from Monday's New York Times:
Issa Khalil, 25, broke in, agitated. “We never see anything good in our lives,” he said. He was arrested for throwing stones in the first intifada, the civil disobedience that began in the late 1980s and led to the 1993 Oslo accords with Israel. He was arrested again in the second uprising as the agreement faltered.

So let me ask you, since when was the intafada an act of civil disobedience? It is an armed uprising. And if someone gets arrested for throwing stones during some protest, by what rights is it an act of civil disobedience? I mean seriously, how do you throw stones during a civil disobedience? How does this propaganda get by the copyeditor?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Very Army Purim

It has been a crazy week and I had almost no time to do anything that I needed to do. The weekend started on Friday when I spent the morning taking care of school things. Then in the Afternoon I had to pack up and head to Fort Totten and then from there to Fort Dix. As always, this was a rather lengthy process and we ended up getting in really late.

We got in and then there was some setting up and getting rooms and stuff like that. But eventually we got to sleep. Saturday was spent doing physical stuff. First the Leadership Reaction Course and then the Confidence course. The first got me kicked in the face a bit, an injury that put me out of commission for the last 20 minutes of the course and kept me in pain for the next day or so. I still have some residual sensitivity and trouble with chewing gum. But it'll pass.

The Confidence Course was just hard, but I managed, despite the pain to do all the obstacles. I am still sore. It'll take a few days to get the soreness out of my shoulders.

After dinner chow we got back to the barracks, where thanks to some weird circumstance, I had my own room. So I read the Megillah myself. I borrowed my father's. (It is a really nice one.) I am pretty out of practice, but I managed to make it through the whole thing without breaking my teeth. (That's more than I can say for the confidence course.) I was going to offer to read it for anyone who wanted, but one never knows what schedules will be like at these battle assemblies. So I thought that it was better that people do not rely on me for their megillah, and have me not show up. Besides I saw some Lubavitchers on Fort Dix on Saturday afternoon, I am sure they did the reading for the permanent party.

On Saturday night there the whole unit went out to the post bar and we had a goodbye party for our First Sergeant who was being promoted out of the unit.

On Sunday morning after a few hours of sleep we woke up at 04:30 and worked out for about an hour and a half. It was cold and painful, but it felt good at the end. We got changed, ate morning chow and then had a few ceremonies, cleaned up and left in the afternoon.

On the way back I got a ride with one of my Staff Sergeants. We stopped off on the New Jersey Turnpike for lunch. Outside of the Starbucks at the rest stop I saw this very religious-looking man waiting around for his family or for his coffee, I'm not sure. I instinctively wished him a happy Purim. and went back to my Sergeant who was picking out a good pair of polarized sunglasses.

When we got to the parking lot to be on our way, the religious-looking man was there as well with what I assume was his wife and two kids. He asked us if he can give me mishloach manot. I said that if he can do it soon, then "sure". So he went in to his car and gave us hamantashen and some orange beverage. My hispanic Sergeant was a bit puzzled by why a total stranger was giving us food in a parking lot, but he accepted it politely. I sort of explained that this was a holiday where we did this and we went along.

In the subway people were particularly polite, thanking me for my service . . . It is actually something that we appreciate, even though we may not show it.

I got to Flatbush to have the traditional Purim meal with my grandparents. I was walking through the streets (with "D") and everyone was dressed up in their Purim costumes. For the first time I really did not feel out of place in uniform in the streets. I played with my nieces and nephews till I had to go home and collapse out of sheer tiredness.

Review of Dennett's Breaking the Spell

There is an important but often overlooked piece of philosophical methodology. Generally one can ask the following question: Does X exist or not? Then a fight breaks out. Some philosophers say yes, some say no. Let us say that a good number of philosophers then say "no, there is no X" but there are a very large number of people who still disagree. Perhaps common sense disagrees. It doesn't change the fact that X might still not exist, but they are then left with a very important question: Why do so many people believe that X exists?

Daniel Dennett's book, Breaking the Spell tries to answer this question for the philosophy of religion. The main question we start with is about the nature of God and religion. Philosophers have taken to answering "no" to the question of whether or not God exists or religion is true. But then it is left to anthropologists and philosophers to solve the mystery of why most of us believe that it is.

There is a new trend at least for the past 10 years or so to try to marshal the resources of evolutionary biology, cognitive science, economics, and sociology, to come up with an answer that is more sophisticated than the ones given like Critias in Ancient Greece, or Marx or Freud. Pascal Boyer made a good attempt a few years ago. So have others. Dennett wrote a book that is meant to be both popular and thorough.

Much of what Dennett writes is repeated from others, though Dennett's is a very good synthesis. Dennett's book is also strongly polemical. He believes that religion is too harmful to just leave alone.

The argument goes something like this: Humans have a developed system for detecting intentional agents. That is, we know when we are dealing with a another person who is doing something on purpose, and we know something about others who know that we do things on purpose. So we are a species that is capable of positing agency and things like that.

Secondly Dennett makes a case for memes. Memes are the features of culture that are capable of being passed around. A meme can be a tune, a phrase, a language, a fad or whatever. Memes get passed around and replicated pretty much the same way that genes do.

So put this all together with evolutionary biology and you get a theory that says that humans are quite satisfied positing more intentional agents than may exist. Those may be our supernatural agents (and there is good cognitive science evidence which describes how circumscribed our religious conceptions may be). There is the possibility that these religious memes do enhance either our own (or even possibly) our group fitness and ultimately led us to the religious stage where we are today.

Naturally, religious people will not want their religions deconstructed the way he does, but the fact is, there is no principled reason to look at humans and religious phenomena any differently than anything else.

I am overall sympathetic to his project. I thought Boyer, however dense and dull the read was essentially right, though perhaps not comprehensive. Dennett's book is for more general audiences. But I

found the book mildly annoying sometimes. For one, Dennett is bit full of himself. He thinks he's got it all figured out. Now, he might, but coming off like that is off-putting. Also, there is no reason he had to spend the first 75 pages telling us that this is an important question to ask. If we didn't think it was a good question, we wouldn't bother reading the book. I really do not need to waste as much time as I did on not even getting to the question of the book.

That being said, this book deserves a wide readership, undoubtedly it needs a wider readership then it is certain to get. Read it.

(BTW, Leon Wieseltier's review in The New York Times is among the worst reviews ever written of a philosophy book. Dennett is not a religious person obviously, and it not very well informed about what religion is. But he does suggest in his book that when we do get around to studying religion from a properly scientific perspective it would have to be done by a person who has a real deep understanding of the religion. Wieseltier does not have the same methodological compunctions. His review reminds me of some rabbis and fundamentalist Christians I've encountered who have no problem dismissing evolutionary theory by insisting that their grandmother was not an ape. "I have pictures of her" QED. Wieseltier has no need to be competent enough to judge the science, or even think about science. He can just botch Hume, ignore the fact that science produces real results, and believe he has thusly refuted Dennett. Man, even when the Times is being conservative they screw it up.)

All is OK with my CF-M34

Yesterday I managed to drop my CF-M34 and I am happy to report that there is not a dent, scratch or problem. I was actually checking my email on the top of a flight of stone stairs and it fell out of my hand, on to the floor, down all the steps and crashed in to the wall at the bottom of the landing and I was able to just continue checking my email when I got to the bottom of the stairs.