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Basic Game Theory

27 Oct

There are people who look like Muslims wearing Muslim clothing.
They are therefore affiliating themselves more strongly with Islam than America.
Therefore, I fear them if I see them get on a plane.

It seems that Mr. Williams has a difficult time putting himself in the perspective of another person. If I were a Muslim terrorist, I would want to consider a few things:

1. The number of eyes watching any particular plane is greater now than in the pre-9/11 period.
2. The number of people that fear or hate Muslims (or people who look like them) is greater.
3. People profile; and with a higher frequency after terrorist attacks.

If I were a terrorist that was hell-bent on destroying America and freedom by taking a plane hostage, why would I want to draw unnecessary suspicion upon myself until I’m ready to declare my allegiance to the one true god, Allah, blessed be his name? If anything, Mr. Williams should want to be on a plane full of people who are dressed “like Muslims.”

Also, as a side note, observe that by Mr. Williams’ thinking, outward affiliations 1) suggest you put that affiliation before America and 2) that this is a bad thing. I don’t think I need to go through a list of things that would show why this thinking is nonsensical.


Protectionism is Always Bitter

2 Sep

CNN further demonstrates how far they’ve fallen with a slew of B-movie puns (no pun intended).

The issue is honey laundering. Chinese honey producers ship their honey to producers in another country who then ship it to the United States, tariff and duty-free. That sentence should be a quick lesson in the law of unintended consequences. Here is more on the nature of honey laundering:

Earlier today, eleven executives and four foreign companies have been indicted by several US federal agencies. It is frequently claimed that the antibiotics in the Chinese honey are deadly to a small percentage of the population. But we are never told how many people might suffer from this allergic reaction. (Should we ban everything that people might die from because of allergies?) It’s also claimed the Chinese are dumping their honey on us. The evidence? There is lots of Chinese honey coming into US markets and at a lower price than domestic honey producers. Lower prices, of course, do not constitute “dumping.” Otherwise, we would need to ban all of competition (indeed, if you follow the logic, it would only be by increasing prices that we make ourselves richer).

The honey producers asking for protection don’t care about public safety. If they did, they would advocate the removal of the tariffs and anti-dumping legislation. It would eliminate the necessity of relabeling by foreign producers; Chinese honey manufacturers would then seek to build a better brand name. It’s difficult to make profits if you produce honey that kills people. Moreover, it is the competitive forces of markets and the entrepreneurship of individuals that we can rely on for better, cleaner, and safer products – not the protection and institutionalization of industries.

Perhaps the worst feature of this is that it illustrates the difference between the market and governments so well. Under the market, I vote with my dollars to say “I don’t support your protectionist, lobbying activities.” They lose profits. Under the political system, the exact people I don’t want to have my money go to the government (because they are losing my customership) to strangle competition. We can tell that political decisions are bad because they have to be forced onto people.

Euphoric Thinking

31 Aug

I’m a little surprised that TED allowed this to be a talk (you should watch it so the post makes sense).

It concerns me that he considers himself a statistician.

Marks rightly challenges the use of GDP per capita as a matter of national well-being. It isn’t a perfect measure. Everyone who has had even the most rudimentary lesson in what the GDP is can say exactly why it’s flawed. Our country’s output is not an accurate measure of it’s happiness. Measuring happiness is tricky and misleading and we should be skeptical of attempts to do so and the policies that result.

His graph of happiness versus ecological footprint rests on shaky assumptions.  Even if we put the Austrian critiques of interutility comparisons aside, I’m not sure Marks’ graph makes rational sense. Can you compare my happiness to the happiness of someone in Costa Rica if I have adifferent type of happiness from him/her? If we want to compare things, we can’t have apples and oranges. As well, he claims that moving further to the right of the graph (which increases our ecological footprint) is bad. How bad is it compared to the alternatives? And if he really thought it was all bad, then why wouldn’t he have shown the final “clumped” distribution even further to the left and higher up? The graph also doesn’t show where these countries are (in terms of happiness) relative to where they used to be.

Comparisons of happiness are difficult precisely because language is imprecise. To the economist, “wealth” is often synonymous with “things that make you happy.” It doesn’t have to be money. Why is it reasonable to assume the sample subjects in happiness measures aren’t using alternative definitions of “happiness” or “love” or “wealth” than is intended by the researchers? People are told their entire lives that money doesn’t matter in the end – are they expressing their own sentiments or sentiments they feel they should express when selecting happiness as being more important?

Collecting and aggregating data is difficult and time-consuming. Marks’ suggests that there aren’t trade-offs in our society for having a “better” environment. The notion is misguided. But worse than that (in this case) is the ignorance of trade-offs in statistics when he himself is a statistician.

I suppose the adage is correct: “there are liars, damned liars, and statisticians.”

It’s a long road to publication

22 Aug

Turns out that one of my letters to the editor was published a little while ago in the Commercial Appeal (last one on the page). Add one more to the list, Isaac.

Sounds of Mankind: A Music Review

3 Aug

Music is one of the most important stimuli in my life and without those catchy melodies wafting over my cubicle walls, I would never make it through my 9 to 5. Summer has allowed me to explore and search out new music. Flipping from myspaces to proper publications of the industry, I have found quite a few exceptions tracks and artists. A special thanks to Travis for giving me the best selection of music to aimlessly observe and to Colin for pushing me to listen to more hip hop and

Skybombers – They are an Australian rock band that evokes memories of when I first heard Jet in middle school. A blend of driving guitar, drums and a catcthy classic style of music that all gets your head moving. One of their better songs, enjoy –

Lame Impala is another set of Aussie musicians, but this one has a more melodic sound, slightly more poppy sound/ indie sound and they lyrics are a little easier to sing along with. Officially they are a psychedelic rock band that blends tradition and electronic sound to make an album that has become one of the most popular Australian realeases of the year and for me, Innerspeaker is one of the most solid rock albums of the summer.

Fuck Buttons – One of my favorite electronic duos, the combined work of  Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power help to make some awesome experimental/drone music. Their albums tend to have very minimalist electronic sound, that build into an enjoyable mix of instruments we know and future sounds. One of my favorite of their more ambient song, but don’t miss out listening to all of Tarot Sport, their most acclaimed album.

Afrojack – This Dutch Dj, real name Nick van de Wall is finally getting some recognition in the United States, going between major festivals throughout the land. He has built a reputation of creating innovative songs that really got your heart racing. What this guy to be a rising electronic artist and producer for years to come, until then enjoy this great club music.

Originally a French Canadian indie band, Islands has one of the most fun and uplifting bands I have got addicted to all summer. Overall they sound similar to a few other indie bands and have gone through several new members, I really like their first album Return to Sea with the single – rough gem.

Twin Sister – there are a 5 member electronic group mixes some chilled out keyboard, a guitar that acts as the bass, the steady but decidedly diminished drums all mixed together with Andrea Estella’s hypnotic vocals. So go ahead and listen to “I want a house” which is definitely their best song, hopefully with more to come.

Twin Sister – Free online EP

Elefant, a great NYC rock band that just broke up on June 30th of this year. Don’t be too hardbroken, they still have 2 albums chaulk full of nearly flawless rock songs. While it does not seem like their will reform, I will keep my fingers crossed.

But if cannot get enough about Elefant, former lead singer, Diego Garcia has put out a new single, a much more mellow and latin flow to this song than his previous music

Pete Rock is not only one of the most influential, but actually one of the best producer of a lot of 90’s hip hop and has since produced some of the most enjoyable, mellow, carefree and still composed beats. His album that is entirely beats and instrumentals is called PeteStrumentals. It contains some of the best songs to freestyle over or just let play when you need to focus. Also, Pete Rock combines many of the instruments of jazz music with the style and rhythm of hip hop creating beautiful ballads. Here is a good example of his work combining jazz into a tight instrumental set.

I left my favorite song of the summer for the end. Bombay Bicycle Club had a wicked good debut album, I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose. This indie rock group from Crouch End, London might look like a bunch of punk high schoolers, but this skinny dudes can rock it out, with simple melodies that are easy to remember, but hard to get out of your head. They have also just recorded an entire acoustic record called Flaws, so if you don’t like how they sound with electronic guitars you could check out its single, Irovy and Gold.

Evening/Morning = Awesome

The Government is Too Big to be Managed

31 Jul

I am not a libertarian, let me state this first. I am not making a claim that we need NO government, just that fact that after more and more information flows out of think tanks and researchers about the government, waste, unaccounted for funding, excessive and uncontrollable expansion of the ISA, the Inefficient States of America.

Where is the oversight or accountability. More and more politicians are still been caught in scandals of corruption or abuses of power?

If you have not read Top Secret America IT IS A MUST READ! This is a Washington Post report which is focused on that fact that, “The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe.” This scares me, to imagine the hundreds of billions if not trillions that has been spent to expand national security, counter-terrorism, intelligence and defense; then it has be to research and uncovered by the fourth pillar of this democracy. Two other issues with this massive expansion was that it was not actually a solution to a problem, but the perception that terrorism was a major issues. We all remember 9-11, but how many terrorist has even attempted to attack us at home? Maybe a handful, the Detroit plane guy, the shoe bomber, that silly guy in NYC and non of them were really prevented by measures installed after 9-11, if anything they all got through and were tripped up by their own missteps (Some more literal than others). All were failures at terrorism and likely only became terrorists as a response to our aggressive middle eastern policy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lastly, by creating a secret network of intelligence agency that are outside of the normal chains of command as well being hidden from the eyes of the taxpayers, who actually are funding all these programs.

That only scrathes the surface - this is just rebuilding money.

Can we wait for the government to fix itself or do we need to take action now? We not only pay for it all, but they serve us, this is a republic of the American people. I am not an advocate of a revolution, but I just want an honest assessment of how we are doing as a governmetn and a country. We cannot sustain over $3 Trillion dollar budgets.

US FEDERAL BUDGET: This excludes state government

If you include the money spent by state and local governments it is an additional $3.209 Trillion, which brings the total to about $6,700,000,000,000 DOLLARS or close to 46 percent of our national GDP, based on the GDP being $14.56 Trillion. That is about 24% of the entire world’s economy if it is about $60 Trillion. So if the $6.7 trillion budget of our entire government is about 10 percent of the world’s entire economic output we should be building a Utopia. Instead we are not even close to the top of of the OECD countries. Alas we are plagued by fewer jobs, a healthcare industry teetering on the edge, infrastructural failure and a low level of governmentally funded research/development. It is only through this kind of investment that the United States will be able to compete in this new multi-polar globe. I just wished we could cut the budget and reduce spending, which I will address in the near future.


Ther Tekin’ Er Punisherment!

30 Jul

Here’s a letter I sent to the Commercial Appeal,

On July 26, you described the plight of students who are illegal immigrants and will not be able to find work once they graduate. You quote Tom Clifton, a member of the Mid South Tea Party Steering Committee, as saying “I believe these people should come legally. … I’m not for a short cut.” Does he know how long the current immigration process takes?

Some of my peers at Rhodes College are international students and want to be in the United States legally but the process of gaining citizenship for them is discouraging and arduous. If they didn’t want to be here legally and respect the laws, they wouldn’t try to jump through all of the hoops we force them through to be citizens. The lengthy immigration legislation ends up hurting those that we want most.

To gain citizenship, they must have a green card for five years. Before they can get their green cards, they must have an up-to-date visa. They can renew their student visas by going to graduate school, but eventually they will need to get either a temporary employment visa, a marriage visa, an investment visa (they must invest $1 million in the country – or $500,000 if it’s in an economically depressed area – and create 10 jobs) or they would need to prove to INS that they are exceptionally talented (e.g., a world renowned artist, performer, athlete, or scholar). Without the green card, my friends are subject to numerous restrictions (depending on which visa they have). Their visas will all expire, and some visas have a limit on the number of times they can be renewed. All-in-all, to gain citizenship under the best case scenario, it will take them at least six or seven years.

These are people who are trying to work hard and earn a decent living. They don’t want any government handouts. They just want to be treated like adults and human beings. I agree with Mr. Clifton that rule of law matters and that there are benefits to screening entrants, but these onerous restrictions are only hurting the productive people who want to enter the country legally – those who do want to enter illegally aren’t going to be stopped by these restrictions.

Brent Butgereit