Results or Justice?

Would you sacrifice justice for positive results?

Let’s say someone introduces a program — say a combination of education and neighborhood watch, or something — that has been shown to reduce the level of crime in a neighborhood. In towns and neighborhoods that have instituted this program, there are only 10% of the muggings, 10% of the burglaries, 10% of the murders, etc. as there were before the program was instituted.

Unfortunately, this comes at a cost: none of the crimes that do occur are punished. Perhaps the cops are too busy managing the new program to show up in court, or maybe it’s an integral part of the program.

Would you be in favor of this program being instituted in your own neighborhood?

Continue reading “Results or Justice?”

Terrorist Shoes

Would someone please explain to me why the TSA requires passengers to
take off their shoes at the airport? Seriously.

I understand that it’s a reaction to
the shoe bomber,
but what I’m asking is what security benefit this procedure provides.

Presumably what they’re looking for when they x-ray your shoes is something that

  1. Shows up in x-rays.
  2. Doesn’t show up in a metal detector.
  3. Is small and flat enough to fit inside a shoe.
  4. Can’t be shoved into one’s sock or duct-taped to one’s shin.

I submit that the last two items are mutually-exclusive, and that
therefore, the practice of requiring airline passengers to take their
shoes off is just security theater: something that makes it
look as though the government is doing something about
terrorism, without actually doing anything.

I don’t mind a certain amount of security theater: a lot of security
measures, like wiretapping and closed-circuit surveillance, are
invisible, and it’s good to put on a show to make up for that. But the
shoe thing is both annoying and pointless.

Free Market Economics and Natural Selection

I’ve long thought that there are parallels between evolution by
natural selection and free market economics. In the first case,
mutations and recombination provide a variety of traits in a
population, and natural selection ruthlessly culls those less able to
survive and reproduce. In the second case, individuals come up with
lots and lots of ideas, are free to implement them, and the market
rewards those with successful ideas, and ruthlessly punishes the
unsuccessful ones.

Continue reading “Free Market Economics and Natural Selection”

Reverse Spam? Poisoning the Well?

George Clooney
suggests a way
to neutralize celebrity stalker websites:

“There is a simple way to render these guys useless,” Clooney advised […]

“Flood their Web site with bogus sightings. Get your clients to get 10 friends to text in fake sightings of any number of stars. A couple hundred conflicting sightings and this Web site is worthless. No need to try to create new laws to restrict free speech. Just make them useless.

(Hat tip to kkos for the link.)

While I appreciate the sentiment, and wouldn’t want to be hounded by paparazzi, this reminds me a bit too much of spam.

Continue reading “Reverse Spam? Poisoning the Well?”

Happy Holidays

Please forgive the rather generic title of this post. It might have been better to spell it out: Merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and happy Hannukah, happy Kwanzaa, joyous winter solstice, joyful Dong zhi, blessed Advent, St. Stephen’s, and St. John’s days, holy Holy Innocents’ Day and happy Watch Night, yummy feasts of the Circumcision and of Fools, festive Festivus, happy Hogswatchnight, merry Mondranect and Yule, yippee Yalda, smokin’ Saturnalia, enlightened Agnostica, happy HumanLight, celestial Newtonmas, bravo Boxing Day, happy Hogmanay, and wonderful Karachun, but that seemed too much to write out.

So whatever it is you celebrate, I wish you fun and good cheer. And if you don’t celebrate anything, geeze! Stop being such a Grinch. It’s not as if there isn’t enough choice.

Stirrers: A Polemic

Who the hell decided that it was a good idea to stir coffee with a midget straw? And why do people put up with it?

When you prepare a can of tomato soup at home, do you stir it with a straw? When you make coffee at home and add sugar, do you reach for a chopstick? When you go canoeing, do you bring a mop handle for propulsion?

The purpose of stirring is to get everything in the coffee all mixed up, so that sugar molecules have a good chance of running into water molecules and bind to them in an orgy of hot brownian motion. And the best way to do that is to use a broad instrument that a) can shove a lot of molecules at once, and b) can set up secondary whorls and whatnot. About the worst thing you could choose would be a small, hydrodynamic object that won’t disturb the molecules much. And that’s exactly what the coffee “stirrers” provided at many coffee shops and convenience stores do.

So I’m going to issue a call to revolution. A minor one, but hopefully an effective one, fully in line with both Martin Luther King, Jr.’s nonviolent civil disobedience, and free market capitalist forces. The next time you get coffee at a coffee shop, bookstore, a 7-Eleven, or even, God forbid, Starbucks, use a spoon. If they don’t have any, ask for one. If they won’t give you one, ask them to rectify this lapse in customer service. I call upon our tea-, cocoa-, and other hot beverage-drinking brethren and sistren to join us in this glorious fight against the forces of corporate repression.

And once the running dogs of stirrerism have been sent packing, we can undertake the next item on our manifesto: real ceramic mugs for “eat in” orders.