Distributed Intelligence

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Leaving London

I don't have any particular comments to offer about the attempted car bombings in the UK over the past couple of days, other than to report the general feeling in those around me. There is certainly no hint of panic in most people. Everyone seems able to deal with the situation and move on with their day (although there may be grumbling about Tube delays).

Is this just the famed British stiff upper lip? I generally find the English reluctance to complain counterproductive, since it means that broken things tend not to get fixed, but cheerful indifference in the face of danger might be the safest attitude to take against terrorism. For a political theorist, it's often amazing that the UK has remained free with no written constitution to check government power; they do it with culture instead. The massive cultural momentum of thousands of years of painfully evolved tradition keep this country from drifting too far in any direction, a status quo that could never exist in America. (When the Framers convened in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution, they kicked things off by noting that Britain's constitutional monarchy was probably an ideal form of government, but that it would be impossible to replicate on fresh American soil--the Constitution was their idea of a second-best solution.)

As for me, I leave London tomorrow morning and am headed home.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Worst anti-drug ad of all time

Because it makes me want to get high and then watch it over and over and over. And I don't even smoke.

Monday, June 18, 2007

In case you missed it

From The Onion:

WASHINGTON, DC—In a total buzzkill, the Senate on Friday passed some seriously lame legislation by a vote of 89-7, one week after the House was a complete tool and approved the same stupid bill.
"When we first heard about it, we were like, 'Come on, how weak is that,'" Cato Institute fellow David Berger wrote in a Monday New York Times op-ed, which encouraged Americans bummed by the vote to contact their representatives and call them on their bullshit. "Why doesn't Congress get off our backs, man? Those guys used to be pretty chill."
In response to numerous calls that President Bush veto the shit out of the bill, the White House released a statement urging bros to relax, they totally got this one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Life imitates theory

If the last few years have taught us anything, we have learned that the foundations of our national ideals (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) are less firm than many of us suspected.

Now life--and Roosevelt-era construction--has given us a lovely metaphor lest we forget.

Kareem's Birthday

Today is Kareem's 23rd birthday.

As you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, Kareem Amer is the Egyptian blogger who was sentenced to four years in prison for his writings promoting secularism and women's equality. No doubt it will be a bittersweet day for him, but we have received word that he is holding up as well as can be expected. Even under unhappy circumstances, we wish Kareem a happy birthday and our hopes for a safe and speedy release.

See more at freekareem.org (and check out the redesigned site).


Thursday, June 14, 2007

You've driven me to this, PC!

You know the "Hi, I'm a Mac"-"And I'm a PC" commercials? Well I regret to say that I'm PC; specifically, I'm recently-bought-top-of-the-line-Dell PC. And it seems that the shlubby avatar Steve Jobs' ad men have chosen to represent me is appropriate, becase my Dell has just had a heart attack and appears unlikely to recover.

This is my circuitous way of saying that I've had a hard disk failure and will be without a computer until it can be fixed. My blogging will continue but it'll be sporadic.
PS. In England, the commercials feature these guys, the stars of a comedy called Peepshow. If you like cringey British humour, run to Netflix and add Peepshow.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Best Idea Ever

This is already posted just about everywhere, but it's just too wonderful not add here.

The military recently spent more than $7 million developing... a Gay Bomb.

Let me say that again: More than $7 million. Gay Bomb. A bomb that supposedly turns people gay. I'm not sure the senior Pentagon brass has really thought this through, because, hey, at least one of the Village People is already in the Navy, and the rest have experience with battlecruisers. Other than that, it's a fine idea.

So many questions leap to mind that it's hard to know where to start here. While I understand that the military doesn't think the 'mos fight too good, have they considered the potential blowback of lesbians created by such a device? What if one of these weapons falls into the hands of terrorists, who then smuggle it into our nation's capitol and set it off in, say, the Dupont Circle area? Might this lead to the dissolution of American marriages, via the Sanchez Queer Tachyon Hypothesis? For economists, would the net foreign increase in production of fabulousness necessitate a tariff to protect local businesses?


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Richard Rorty Dies

Philosopher Richard Rorty died today. Although he started his career as a promising analytic philosopher, Rorty turned his back on the discipline and embraced anti-foundationalism and a form of relativism. In later works, he maintained that the entire history of philosophy had been a turn down a mistaken path and even transferred into the English department at Stanford.

Tyler Cowen reacts on his importance to economics here. Randall McElroy says he cannot "find a single good thing to say about Rorty's life work."

Rorty's contribution has been very much debated in recent years and will no doubt receive additional treatment this week, but love or hate the man, his writing always had a fearless quality and he addressed (or, depending on your perspective, didn't address) some of the most profound issues in philosophy. Some of his central contentions included our fundamentally contingent natures and our inability to access direct, metaphysical truth. As an anti-foundationalist, he believed that the attempt to justify "rights" was a fruitless endeavor destined for failure. Nevertheless, he suggested that liberal institutions were superior to other forms of government because they reduce cruelty in the world. He dubbed the attempt to maintain those institutions, while simultaneously understanding that they were unjustifiable, "liberal irony."

Rorty's legacy from a libertarian perspective is difficult to assess. He was a bane to natural rights philosophers and, to many, represented the worst of continental thought. Few of the people who thus pillory him are able to convincingly argue that he was wrong. I suspect there is a libertarian reading of some of his ideas that has yet to be properly formulated. After all, if all of our conceptions of the good life are completely contingent (none are "True"), then no justification exists for imposing one group's idea of a virtuous life in others. It's not that simple, of course, but that's another blog post for another time. Richard Rorty, RIP.