Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for August 29th, 2011

Piss on it

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Book offering guidance.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

“Congress isn’t broken—it’s fixed by special interests”

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Thanks to Jack in Amsterdam for pointing out this column by Daniel Weeks:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in calling for a political donor strike, wasn’t the first and won’t be the last in a line of sensible citizens to observe that Washington isn’t working for the American people.

With congressional approval ratings near their lowest point on record, and leaders in both parties stubbornly unable to solve the fiscal crisis and start creating jobs, it’s hard not to want to starve all politicians of campaign cash.

If only We the People could.

Barely 1 percent of our citizens fund campaigns today. In fact, less than a quarter of 1 percent (0.24 percent) provided 90 percent of campaign money in 2010, with lobbyists and special interests in Washington, D.C., alone accounting for more than 32 states combined.

In such a system, it is little surprise that members of Congress spend more time raising money from a wealthy few than working with bipartisan colleagues to solve the nation’s fiscal crisis and start creating jobs for the good of all Americans. Indeed, Washington isn’t broken – it’s fixed.

Americans perfectly understand the principle of private enterprise that you are accountable to your investors. Our children understand when mom and dad pay the bills, they get to call the shots. Yet we consistently fail to apply that same logic to government.

Our problem today is not a broken government but a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 2:57 pm

No more 4th Edition

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I just talked with CreateSpace to retire the 4th edition. The 5th edition will not be available probably until sometime next week, but I thought it was appropriate to end now the 4th edition sales.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 10:48 am

Posted in Books, Shaving

Structuring markets for the common weal

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Interesting new book from economist Dean Baker:

In his new book, The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive, Dean Baker argues that progressives hurt their cause whenever they accept the conventional wisdom that conservatives are for the “free” market while progressives are for government intervention in the market economy.  In a much-needed counter-narrative, Baker stresses that this is both bad policy and bad politics.  He takes apart this fundamental misframing of economics and details how conservatives actually use the government to twist markets to their advantage and points out that they are just smart enough not to own up to it.

Using real-world examples and plain language, Baker, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains that markets are an incredibly valuable tool and asserts that progressives should look to structure them in ways that lead to more equality, just as conservatives have structured them to help the wealthy get wealthier. He asserts that by accepting conservative-influenced market outcomes largely as a given, then restricting their battles to redistribution after the fact, liberals have condemned themselves to a losing position.

Baker also demonstrates how the government’s key economic policy levers — for example, the Federal Reserve’s control over inflation and unemployment rates as well as the value of the dollar — have enormous impact on how the economy affects regular people. He shines light on many other ways that the government has massive influence on markets, but which rarely appear on political radar screens — such as patents on prescription drugs that multiply their prices, trade barriers that maintain high incomes for highly paid professionals at the expense of those who pay for their services, and the implicit government subsidies enjoyed by “too-big-to-fail” banks.

Baker points out that amount of income and wealth shifted towards the rich by such government policies swamps the sums at stake in most other economic policy debates. He urges progressives to go to where the money is — by exposing how conservatives depend on the government to intervene in markets in their favor — and not condemn themselves to fighting what will mostly be losing battles over the crumbs.

By releasing The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive under a Creative Commons license and as a free electronic download, Baker walks the walk of one of his key arguments — that copyrights are a form of government intervention in markets that leads to enormous inefficiency, in addition to redistributing income upward. (Hard copies will be available for purchase, at cost, in the near future.)  Distributing the book for free not only enables it to reach a wider audience, but Baker hopes to drive home one of the book’s main points via his own example.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 10:07 am

Posted in Books, Business, Government

What’s the “theory” in “theory of evolution”?

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I got to thinking about the strange way ignorant people use “theory” in a scientific context, as discussed in this post where Ed Brayton writes about Glenn Beck’s view. Brayton quotes this exchange:

BECK: Darwin’s what is it called again –

GRAY: The theory –

BECK: Oh, the theory of evolution.

GRAY: It’s not called Darwin’s proof of evolution.

BECK: It’s Darwin’s theory of evolution. That’s weird Ron [Reagan] that there might be some dissent on a theory. You see the difference here Ron is as a theory we didn’t theoretically go to the moon, we went to the moon. Darwin only in theory can show you that monkeys come out of you or vice versa. But in your case, it may be reverse engineering but that’s a theory of mine that you could disagree with.

Brayton then discusses the exchange, and I encourage you to read his post. But I got to thinking about it from a slightly different direction.

Let’s start with gravitational theory. There is a theory of gravitation, as you know, but the fact that there’s a “theory” doesn’t mean that gravitation doesn’t exist. Indeed, gravitation—the tendency of bodies to fall—is a well-known fact. The “theory” part is to explain that observed fact. One early theory was that bodies on earth have a “nature” that causes them to fall, while bodies in the heavens (the moon and sun and planets, for example) have a “nature” that causes them to stay up and move around the earth.

That’s a theory, but when Newton provided a new theory: that all masses attract each other, with an attraction that varies as the inverse square of the distance between them, and came up with a gravitational constant G (sometimes called “Big G” to distinguish it from “g”, the local gravitational field on Earth), it seemed much better: one theory could account for behavior on earth and the motions of the moon, sun, and planets. So we have a new theory of gravitation: not that gravitation changed—it’s still the same factual phenomenon it always was—but the theoretical explanation changed.

Then Einstein came up with even more broader theories that explained even more phenomena: first the Special Theory of Relativity, which did away with simultaneity as an absolute, and then the General Theory of Relativity, which is currently our best “theory” (i.e., explanation) of the fact of gravity, though of course even better explanations are likely to be found/created.

Now let’s turn to evolution. Once more we have facts that must be explained: the great similarities of families of plants and animals, as if branching from common ancestors; the fossil and geological record; DNA relationships. What theoretical explanation can account for the facts of evolution?

The “theory” part involves: reproduction and inheritance with variation, limited resources, and natural selection: those variations best able to exploit available resources will reproduce more plentifully, displacing those less able. That’s the theory part: the logical explanation. Then one looks for evidence that will disconfirm the theory. So far, everything we find has strengthened the theory—and the DNA evidence is starting to show us how it works.

Evolution is a fact. The “theory” part is the explanation of how it happens.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 8:18 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

Horsehair brush and the lathering bowl

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I thought you might be interested in seeing the bowl I use as a lathering bowl, when I do use one. This is made of soapstone and holds heat well, though it obviously is too large to serve as a brush bowl to keep the brush warm.

This is horsehair-brush week, and I begin with the brush shown and Taylor of Old Bond Street Lavender shaving soap. Once again I get a very distinctive lather using a horsehair brush and Creamy-Lather technique: extremely fine-grained and dense and fully satisfying.

Three passes of the Slant holding a Swedish Gillette blade, a quick pass with the alum bar, a final rinse, dry, and splash of Alpa 378.

The final upload of the book file has been approved and I’ve ordered a final proof copy, which I’ll have Wednesday. So the 5th edition will be published on 31 August.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2011 at 7:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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