Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Chinese concepts

I've just returned from my first trip to Asia: 10 days in Hong Kong. A fascinating place indeed, and a valuable window into the incredible things going on in China. I hope to blog some of my impressions later, but, for now, just an interesting bit of trivia on the Chinese language.

Apparently many concepts in Chinese are made up by combining antonyms. For example, the concept "business", is represented by combining the two characters for "buy" and "sell" ('How is your buy/sell going?'). The concept "whole" is represented by combining the two characters for "over" and "under" ('You don't know the over and under of the situation'). (For more, see the following website and scroll down to the section "Opposing Words in Chinese")

Apparently the concept of "truth" (and possibly the concept "morality") is represented by combining the two characters for "black" and "white". I don't know enough about the language to comment on the significance of this, but it's certainly amusing to speculate on how a subjectivist epistemology or morality would be expressed in Chinese:

"The black and white of anything is never black and white".

Monday, November 28, 2005


In a follow-up sports story, Taranto has this sad testament to the casual disregard many of our leaders show for the truth:
Gov. Bill Richardson is coming clean on his draft record _ the baseball draft, that is, admitting that his claim to have been a pick of the Kansas City A's in 1966 was untrue.

For nearly four decades, Richardson, often mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate, has maintained he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.

The claim was included in a brief biography released when Richardson successfully ran for Congress in 1982. A White House news release in 1997 mentioned it when he was about to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. And several news organizations, including The Associated Press, have reported it as fact over the years.

But an investigation by the Albuquerque Journal found no record of Richardson being drafted by the A's, who have since moved to Oakland, or any other team.

Informed by the newspaper of its findings, the governor acknowledged the error in a story in Thursday's editions.

"After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter . . . I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's," he said.


I'm an avid fan of football and consider it a far superior spectator sport to any other (despite the frequent stoppages in play). But when I read about the health of former players (i.e. "retirees") I sometimes feel guilty for encouraging people to engage in something so damaging to their future quality of life. A news blurb today, discussing the potential retirement of a Cowboys player, reminded me of it again, when the 30-year old player was described as "worn out". I've often tried to think of changes to the game which would keep the essence of the sport yet make it less physically damaging to players, but have always drawn a blank...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Medical Research and Regulation

This article makes an excellent case that if aspirin were discovered today, there is no way that it would be approved by the FDA. I wonder how many other similarly beneficial compounds we have been deprived of thanks to the FDA "protecting" our interests?

Hat Tip: Marginal Revolution

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fallacy of Self-Exclusion

For several years now, Research In Motion (makers of the blackberry) and NTP have been embroiled in an intellectual property dispute wherein NTP claims that RIM is infringing some of its patents. As part of the dispute NTP was granted an injunction against RIM which would prevent RIM from operating in the US unless it first licensed the technology in question from NTP. However, the injunction was immediately stayed while the court considered certain other matters in the case -- so as of yet no interruption to service has occurred.

Recent developments suggest that the injunction may soon be enforced, which might shutdown the RIM network. I have no opinion on the facts or merits of the claims – I leave that to the justice system, but I do want to comment on a recent filing in the case which I find quite disconcerting.

Turns out that the Justice Department has filed a “statement of interest” which recommends that the injunction shouldn’t be enforced because doing so will harm the federal government, including the Justice Department itself. In other words, the needs of the government should trump the property rights of those who made fulfilling those needs possible in the first place.

[As an aside, it has often been reported that the blackberry is a fixture of the DC night-life, but let’s dismiss the notion that what the Justice Department is here defending is the “need” for horny young lawyers to get laid; and instead assume that there is some legitimate need that can’t be replaced by cell phones, email, video conferencing, paging, etc. (What that could be is beyond me, but let’s grant it for argument’s sake)].

If the Justice Department, i.e. the very department charged with protecting US property rights around the world, sets the standard that such rights are valid only until someone needs the goods, then how do they ever hope to defend any property rights? Any IP of value is needed, that’s what makes it valuable! If it were unneeded, there would be no reason to defend it, since no one would have any reason to steal it. But by this precedent, no defense of intellectual property is possible, and we can kiss goodbye developments in all those fields which are principally intellectual (medicine, technology, etc.).

Now perhaps these government officials were counting on self-exclusion, i.e. they believe that rights and rules apply, unless the government is involved , in which case all bets are off. But such logic applies only in dictatorships (whether fascist or communist), not in a country founded on the very principle of individual rights.

It is terrifying indeed to think that we have now reached the stage where the very officials charged with defending the laws -- not only think that they are above them -- but are even prepared to come out in writing to say so!

DOJ files “statement of interest” 1 , 2 , 3
DOJ and IP

Friday, November 11, 2005

French Snippets

The blog over at Cap Mag has a few good snippets on the muslim subculture in France: Tournantes and Multiculturalism. Provided you have a strong stomach, I encourage you to read both.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Gus Van Horn always has many notable observations and links on his site, but I found his last few posts particularly worthwhile. This post makes the case that the situation in France could perhaps better be termed an "insurgency" rather than just simple "rioting". (I also note that in the past I've seen quite a few articles and blog postings at Frontpage Magazine making the case that many European countries have allowed "nations within the nation", i.e. areas where the national legal system no longer holds sway, rather sharia law is the de facto law.)

This post shows that Chavez, though he gets the most media attention, emphatically does not represent the mentality of central and south America, and that in general leaders from the rest of that area reject his claims and are eager to improve ties to the US, particularly through free trade pacts.

Finally, Gus drew my attention to a Dalrymple article which I hadn't yet seen (I'm a fan of his writing, but haven't yet made the time to read more than a few of his essays).

So many thanks Gus.

Farm Subsidies

Here's another result of our interventionist government at work: farmers expect to produce the second largest corn harvest in history, which will drive corn prices down, and thereby cause this season to cost taxpayers a record dollar amount ($22.9 billion) in farm subsidies! So we pay when the harvest is poor, and we pay when it is great. When will we finally realize that subsidies never work? (Full story here.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Taranto on France and Krugman

As much as I disagree with most of Taranto's politics, I had to admire his ability to ridicule both Krugman and the French in today's BOWT:
The French have come in for a lot of criticism over the past two weeks or so, even a little bit in this column. So we thought in the interest of fairness we'd give some space to a defender of the French. We refer to former Enron adviser Paul Krugman, whose July 29 column pays tribute to the superior French economic system (an illustrated version is here):

Americans are doing a lot of strutting these days, but a head-to-head comparison between the economies of the United States and Europe--France, in particular--shows that the big difference is in priorities, not performance. We're talking about two highly productive societies that have made a different tradeoff between work and family time. And there's a lot to be said for the French choice. . . .

Let's ask how the situation of a typical middle-class family in France compares with that of its American counterpart. The French family, without question, has lower disposable income. This translates into lower personal consumption: a smaller car, a smaller house, less eating out.

But there are compensations for this lower level of consumption. Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district. Nor does the French family, with guaranteed access to excellent health care, have to worry about losing health insurance or being driven into bankruptcy by medical bills.
On the other hand, car insurance must be getting pretty expensive over there.

French Riots

The WSJ has some worthwhile info showing how French statism is a contributing cause of the riots and general discontent in France. They go on to note that the best chance a young frenchman has is to leave France and settle elsewhere, and in fact the US is a beneficiary of this exodus:
Some 400,000 European Union science graduates currently reside in the U.S. Barely one in seven, according to a recent poll, intends to return. Driven by the ambitious young, European immigration to the U.S. jumped by 16% during the '90s. Visa applications dropped after 9/11, but then increased last year by 10%.