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Friday, February 15, 2008

Reader Mail #35

I liked this post on Colliding Softly. Money is not intrinsically evil. Federal Reserve Points and unsound money are evil.

Sound money is a legitimate tool that stimulates trade. Without sound money, barter is cumbersome. Gold and silver were selected by the free market as money, before government was strong enough to force people to use unbacked paper as money.

Several blogs have been writing about the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network. Is this going to be a useful resource for agorism? Is it going to be another site that is all talk and no action? I'm aware that I'm all talk and no action right now. I'm looking for opportunities.

I liked this article on Techdirt. A Chinese professor was critical of the government. He was censured and censored. Google's Chinese version of its search engine is censored. This professor's name was purged from Google's Chinese search engine. The professor is now suing Google.

Google has a very interesting technique for determining how to censor its Chinese search engine. It has servers in China. From China, it tries accessing websites outside of China. If it gets a 404 error, Google knows that page is censored. That page is then removed from its Chinese search results. (This trick wasn't in that Techdirt article. I read it elsewhere and thought it was cool.)

Google still has a non-censored Chinese version of its search engine. It is unavailable in China (or really slow).

Is it immoral for Google to offer a censored version of its search engine in China? Google's choices were (a) no Chinese search or (b) censored Chinese search. Google chose (b). Otherwise, Google would be ignoring a huge market.

I liked this post on ProBlogger. Around 40% of Bloggers admit to swearing on their blog. I try to avoid swearing here. If you don't like that, you can go **** yourself. Swearing is unnecessary. Even with the "****", you know what I meant!

I liked this article on Cafe Hayek. What is a bigger environmental drain, owning a SUV or owning a dog? When you consider all the costs of owning a dog, it's unclear. What is the cost of dog food for a year, compared with the cost of SUV food for a year?

I consider owning a pet dog or cat to be cruel. I think that the "spaying/neutering" process is inhumane.

I liked this post on The Simple Dollar, in reference to the Supercook website. It appears to be an intelligently designed online recipe site. You enter the ingredients you have, and then it lists some recipes.

I liked this post on Scholars and Rogues. It complains that social networking software doesn't operate the same way real-world networks operate. On social networking websites, "friending" someone is a boolean variable. Either they are your friend or they aren't.

There's a very simple fix for this. The "friend" operation should be Bayesian instead of boolean. In other words, "friending" someone should be a value between 0 and 1 (actually, -1 and 1). Zero would be "complete stranger". One would be "best friend". A value of -1 would mean "I don't trust this scumbag for anything." Naturally, the "trust value" need not be symmetric. For example, you could say "I trust FSK 0.5 because I like his blog", even though I've never met you.

People probably would be reluctant to give negative values, because that would lead to lawsuits. That would work if negative ratings were only shared among your friends, who won't rat you out to the person you say you don't trust.

I liked this article on Techdirt. The MSM is saying heavily "There's a bandwidth crisis on the Internet". If you talk to ISPs, everything is going fine.

The reason the MSM is talking up the "bandwidth crunch" is marketing by big telecom corporations. The telecom corporations say "We need to gut network neutrality, or it won't pay for us to invest in expanding the Internet's capacity". This is nonsense. The ISPs are doing fine selling bandwidth at a per byte rate. If they gut network neutrality, the telecom corporations become the gatekeepers of what content is allowed on the Internet.

Telecom corporations *ALREADY* receive massive government subsidies. It is dishonest for them to be lobbying for an EVEN BIGGER SUBSIDY.

I liked this article on academic journals. Basically, professors do 99.9% of the work writing a journal for free. The intellectual property is then owned by the corporation that publishes the journal. The professors lose the copyright to their own work. High subscription fees mean that only academic libraries buy them. Articles are only available in print format; electronic copies are heavily DRMed and expensive.

It is silly that professors do all this work for free and give up ownership of their articles.

Of course, the solution is that professors should switch to a 100% online journal format. It's hard, because there's inertia against that sort of thing. Someone could write an online journal software engine, which would look like a wiki engine with moderation feature. It would be difficult to switch, because professors still would want publications in the "prestige" journals.

For the fields of my interest, Mathematics and Computer Science, an online format would be a boon. Many Math articles are extremely complicated. With an online format, students reading the article could share their notes, filling in the details for the complicated portions of the papers.

On the other hand, university professors are red market employees. They benefit from being a closed community, unobserved by outsiders. University professors want their work to seem really complicated and obscure, because otherwise people would realize they're wasting time and money.

One good "blog discipline" rule is "Finish one draft per blogging session". I'm having a hard time following it.

I liked this site on "fight spam". All you have to do is go to the page, link to a new randomly generated URL, and the new page will have a randomly generated list of E-Mail addresses to poison the spam harvesters.

Does it work? How could I know?

It seems like a "spam harvester" would only need to slightly tweak their engine to workaround that "fight spam" site.

I like this post on Bill Rempel. Is a college degree overrated? How much is it really worth?

Employers use a college degree to screen for criterion that would otherwise be illegal. Requiring people to throw away $100k-$200k+ for a middle class job is a huge barrier to upward social mobility.

Unless you have your own business, you're probably forced to send your children to college. However, if you home-school your children, maybe they would have their own business by the time they're 18. Remember: the cost of college isn't just the cash outlay. It's the loss of productive work years.

I liked this post on Distributed Republic, referred by gyakusetsu's shared items. (I couldn't find a convenient way to link to his shared items feed.)

Now that Ron Paul's campaign is over, his supporters are a movement without a cause. The nice thing about Ron Paul's grassroots support is that it's a decentralized network, just like an agorist movement should be. The article talks about converting Ron Paul supporters to agorism.

The problem is that the "Libertarian Party" is a bunch of Libertarian red market agents. People need to stop thinking in terms of "reform by voting for this guy". Instead, people need to start thinking in terms of "reform by counter-economics and agorism.

The article asks: Why did agorism fail in 1980? Why might it succeed now when it failed 30 years ago when Konkin first invented it?

My answer is: "The Internet". Assume that would-be agorists, members of the Remnant, have a population density of 1% or 0.1% or less. With the Internet, it is very easy for them to share and aggregate information. Without the Internet, it becomes very difficult for a geographically sparse group of people to achieve the necessary density.

In the days of Konkin, it took a huge amount of resources to publish a book. This meant that only a few people could effectively write about agorism. This made it easy for Libertarian red market agents to hijack the movement. With the Internet, the cost of writing in a blog is practically zero. This allows for a decentralized movement that could not be hijacked.

For example, if I decided to "sell out" and started writing exclusively about pro-State troll ideas, then my readers would just go to other blogs. Without the Internet, if I controlled the only newspaper that wrote about agorism, my readers would be SOL.

Compared to a year ago, I have noticed that the level and quality of discussion for agorism is increasing. At this point, "raising awareness" is still more important than "perform counter-economic activity". I'm on the lookout for agorist trading opportunities, but I haven't found anything that pays better than a corporate slave job yet.

There's been a lot of articles on P2P foundation about Facebook imploding. The issue is that Facebook has built a network of reasonable size. However, Facebook's management has the attitude "How do we extract money from these users" instead of "How do we create a product that our users like".

According to the article, there hasn't been a mass exodus from Facebook yet, or it's in progress. It's just a matter of time. On the Internet, it's very easy for someone else to set up a better social networking site and steal users.

I'm not into "social networking websites". My blog has been a good enough venue so far. I don't want to dilute my efforts by participating in many different sites. One criticism of "social networking" compared to "blogging" is that with "social networking", you're someone else's user-generated content; with blogging, you own your blog. A blog is sort of like your own unique brand.

I liked this post on Marginal Revolution about Intrade.

Mr. Ravitch has made a nice profit betting against Ron Paul, the libertarian who late last year was, amazingly, given almost a 10 percent chance of becoming the Republican nominee. “If you asked anyone in politics whether there was ever, at any point, a 10 percent chance of Ron Paul being the nominee,” Mr. Ravitch said, without finishing the sentence. “That sort of makes my case for me.”

There's a problem with Intrade's margin rules. Suppose you sold $1000 that Ron Paul would not win the nomination at 10% odds. In other words, you collected $1000 when you sold the "Ron Paul not nominated" contract. If Ron Paul would have won the nomination, you would owe another $9000. If Ron Paul is not nominated, you can keep the $1000 as profit.

The problem is that you are required to post the $9000 as margin collateral. In other words, to sell $1000 of "Ron Paul not nominated" futures, you need $9000 in your account. In other words, your profit (if you're right) is 11%. The "Ron Paul not nominated" contract does not settle until the nomination is officially announced. At the time, it was still a year until the convention. This means your profit rate would be 11%, which isn't even comparable to a stock market investment.

The real problem is that you don't earn interest on the $9000 collateral you were required to post as margin. If Intrade credited everyone with interest, then their market would be far more accurate.

If you wanted to create a fair online betting market, you should credit all accounts with interest. Long-term contracts should be adjusted accordingly. Currently, Intrade pockets the interest on all accounts.

Notice that short-term contracts aren't as distorted by the lack of interest credit. If you're betting on the Super Bowl outcome in late January, the effect of interest is negligible. If you're betting now on "Who will be elected President", then the lack of interest credits distorts the market.

I liked this post on Distributed Republic. One flaw with voting is that everyone's vote counts equally. Suppose that person A is well-informed and does careful research, while person B just votes for the candidate most favorably touted by the MSM. Why should their votes count equally? Effectively, there is no benefit to A for becoming well-informed.

In fact, most MSM politicking is designed to give people the illusion of being informed and active even though they aren't. There's more to politics than your position on abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research.

I liked this article on Techdirt, regarding the settlement of the writers' strike. The complicated royalty formulae stifle innovation. It is hard to do anything original, because so many people get a slice of the royalty pie.

As a programmer, "work for hire" arrangements are commonplace. I don't claim copyright to my code after writing it.

I would like to see some people form small production companies, and completely bypass the current Hollywood cartel. With Internet distribution and cheap availability of cameras, this is a possibility.

Kevin Carson has left a new comment on your post "Reader Mail #33":

Charles beat me to it on the Aquinas thing.

The standard American diet has a ratio of Omega-3s to -6s far higher than the ideal for our brains' requirements, partly because polyunsaturated oils are so high in -6s and partly because our food is deficient in -3s. So avoid like the plague any "omega complex" supplement that includes -6s. Stick to fish oil instead. Fish is good, but with the mercury problems (and with the high Omega-6s in farmed fish), it's probably a lot less complicated and cheaper just to buy the gelcaps.

I'm taking an Omega-3 supplement now. Already, I feel better than I did before my hospitalization.

I'm currently taking:

- SAM-e supplement
- Omega-3 supplement

I'm also considering taking a lithium supplement.

Kevin Carson has left a new comment on your post "Reader Mail #33":

P.S. Clearly I don't know "a lot" about religion, because I was guessing at the Islamic connection to Thomas' argument from contingency, whereas Charles actually had some definite information about it.

Any knowledge at all is more than mine. I'm not interested in reading much about organized slave religions, other than to say "They're a bunch of lies and pro-State propaganda."

The connection between religion and government is very complicated and deep. Most "gods" demand you worship/believe them without evidence. The State demands you obey its arbitrary laws without evidence they are beneficial. There are too many analogies to list here. This sounds like a future post: a list of analogies between God and the State.

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Reader Mail #33":

Issue a fatwa against you? No, not really, you have not said anything i do not agree with.

The State is godlike to Christians and Muslims is true. However there is another subversive Islam and Chritianity which does not justify the State and subverts it. And the State always tries to destroy this group. Human societies are in a state of flux...they do not remain static and pure. Human individuals become corrupt. Islam is not Utopian dreaming. You make do with what you have in your time and place and asses it accordingly.

That is an interesting point. Religions like Christianity and Islam haven't really evolved naturally on their own. They've been subject to huge pressure from the State.

Islam teaches that you exclusively submit to God the Reality...this gives power to the individual because he will not submit to anyone else. If a ruler is applying or asking you to submit to unIslamic laws then depending on the circumstances the individuals can advise the ruler or put up with it until the time is right. Revolution and civil disturbances are definetly not liked or prefered because they cause harm and destruction (e.g. French, and Russian Revolutions and Iraq).

As for your view that human beings can do good without any desire for recommpence in a future have too high an opinion of man. Man is neither evil nor good, but he is weak and dependent on many things. It is unlikely that man will act altruistically when there is a moral dilemma where he can gain something for nothing.

I think that "man is intrinsically weak" isn't necessarily true. Besides, if you assume that people will always yield to temptation, that is an argument AGAINST having a government. The most evil people will exploit government to line their pockets, rather than do their job.

Islam teaches that when man is good simply to please the is a gift form the Divine. A Sign that the Divine has selected you. Your job is to submit and to be grateful.

I'm not interested in "submit and be grateful". "Please God" and "Please the State" are synonyms.

For example my neighbour has a cute wife, I want her? As an atheist (and I see this all the time in Clubs and pubs populated by secular humanists), they will make a move on her and try to take her from the other man if they can. We can say it is bad, irrational, harmful to self and the community, and man ought not to do that, but why should he stop himself from some short term 'pleasure' even if it causes harm to others? Secular humanism gives rise to such attitudes in my opinion. A Muslim polices himself and struggles against the ego/self which attempts to overpower man because it is short sighted and only thinks of pleasure and gain...not the harm or consequences.

I disagree that being an atheist means that it's acceptable to convince a woman to divorce her husband to be with you. If a woman is so easily convinced to abandon her husband, is she really worth marrying yourself? If a woman already made a long-term or lifetime contract with her husband, if she breaks it, that reflects negatively on her.

Really, marriage should be a term contract instead of a lifetime contract. Making marriage a lifetime contract is subject to abuse. If your partner starts being abusive, you should have a right to stop interacting with them. You can only negotiate with someone as equals when both parties are free to walk away.

Francois Tremblay has left a new comment on your post "Reader Mail #34":

I'm not "angry" with you, I just think that you should look at the next editions and see what you think. So far you seem to be right: our submission level is lower than ever.

I'm willing to host another edition. The December 2007 edition is #24 on my "Best of FSK" list, so it wasn't a total waste of time.

David Z says that the submissions this month have been pretty low quality.

I'm agree with Zhwazi. Feed aggregators make blog carnivals obsolete. IMHO, Francois Tremblay and David Z would be better off creating a "Google Reader Shared Items" list and blog widget, instead of the Market Anarchist Blog Carnival.

I'm probably better off sticking with my "Reader Mail" format and my "FSK's Shared Items" from Google Reader.

There is one flaw in Google Reader. You can wind up reading the exact same post in several feeds. This limits the usefulness of "feed aggregators". I heard that the programmers who work on Google Reader are aware of this problem and are in the process of fixing it.

redpillguy has left a new comment on your post "Reader Mail #33":

Comment on Ismail's comment:
"I fail to see how if there is no life after death, no God or anything else how it cannot lead to nihilism and genocide."

In the book "The Science of Good and Evil", author Michael Shermer argues that altruism is hardwired into the brains of our species (as well as in primates). Altruism helps propagate the species. The book goes on to explain why people do evil things, despite that.

I read something like that also. People's brains are wired to behave both ways - selfishly and cooperatively. In times of plenty, cooperation is optimal. In times of scarcity, dishonesty and selfishness is optimal.

However, the State is the ultimate form of artificial scarcity. In a free market, there are no shortages; there only are people unwilling to pay the market price. The State creates conditions of scarcity, and rewards people for behaving dishonestly.

In a free market, people who cheat their trading partners will soon find themselves unable to trade.

David_Z has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - How do you do an HTML Table in Blogger?...":

Weird. I haven't tried to do tables in WordPress, but I noticed that in blogger, previously. No answer, unfortunately. I've noticed that WP mangles some of my otherwise valid HTML, especially relating to IMG ALIGN tags, BR tags, and DIV tags, and EMBED or OBJECT tags.

Most of the time, as long as I publish (without saving & previewing) they turn out OK. But if I later return to edit the post, I have to re-insert the tags correctly...

The alternative is unfortunately, to "Paste Special" an .xls table as an Enhanced Metafile, which is basically an image file. Not good for the user who wants to copy and paste it, however...

I've had lots of troubles trying to include basic HTML in Blogger. For example, I still haven't figured out how to do a solid horizontal line. It displays properly on my RSS feed, but not my blog homepage. (This post has horizontal lines. Can you see them? They show up on the RSS feed, but not on my blog homepage!)

It appears that self-hosting is the way to go if you desire 100% control. With WordPress, I could always hack up an addin so I could make a post that's 100% plain HTML. Anyway, I'm not interested in the time and expense of self-hosting right now. I'm sticking with Blogger.

Besides, Blogger should improve in quality at the same rate my needs increase. Google is pretty good at adding "obviously needed fixes" to their software.

Zhwazi figured it out.

Zhwazi has left a new comment on your post "FSK Asks - How do you do an HTML Table in Blogger?...":

Number of times you used a hard return to format your table in monospace: about 35 (counting the br tags in page source)

Number of spaces between your first paragraph and your table: about 35.

Connection? Just a thought.

Try deleting all your hard returns so the table code looks like an occasionally-spaced long block paragraph. That should fix it.

The browser probably doesn't know where to put all these BR tags so it puts them before the table which you haven't finished defining yet.

That worked. Apparently, if you want to do plain HTML in Blogger, you have to do it single-line without any extra carriage returns. If you add extra carriage returns, Blogger adds an extra "BR" tag.

Zhwazi has left a new comment on your post "FSK Follows Zhwazi's HTML Table Suggestion":


Is that a typo, or is there some sort of significance to spelling "victory" as "victoly"?

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "FSK Follows Zhwazi's HTML Table Suggestion":

unrelated to your post, but what is your view on Monarchy? A monarch who uses personal rule, is never as bad as Assembly Politics and 'Democracy' which simply create a small shrinking financial oligarchy and a mass of slaves globally. Even democratic wars are just technological and financial outlays, not real wars. Conscription was brought in by democracy and the French Revolution.

A Monarch has no need to impress factions or to gain absolute power and he has limits placed on him, he does not kill his subjects by the thousands.

Monarchy is inferior to democracy. Democracy is inferior to agorism. I prefer the "no monopolistic government" government. You can't say "it's been discredited", because it's never been tried.

On a small scale (maybe 1000-10,000 people), monarchy can work. However, the citizens would need to be free to leave for other kingdoms, if the monarch started being unreasonable.

On a large scale, monarchy is inferior to democracy for several reasons. With democracy, the actual leaders can control things from behind the scenes. The actual leaders of the USA are not the elected politicians, or even their public advisers. There is a Supreme Leader of Humanity, so the current system is the functional equivalent of a monarchy.

With monarchy, you have a succession problem. When the current ruler dies, if there isn't a clear heir, you have a crisis of government. With democracy, you have a smooth succession from one "ruler" to another. Even with the controversial US Presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, that didn't stop the smooth operation of the government. Why should Al Gore go around saying "President Bush is illegitimate!"? Al Gore is as much a beneficiary of the current corrupt system as anyone else; he isn't going to do anything to undermine his gravy train.

With democracy, you can give people the illusion they control the government even though they don't. Voting is pointless. The current system is the functional equivalent of a monarchy. The handful of people who control the MSM wield more power than any monarch ever did.

Summarizing, democracy is superior to monarchy for several reasons. First, it solves the succession problem from one ruler to another. Second, it provides people with the illusion that they control the government, even though they don't. Third, a handful of people can control a democracy from behind the scenes.

I don't understand why that link was interesting. What's the point of the story cited on that website?

BTW, it's perfectly acceptable to post random comments somewhere if you have a question for me. You also can E-Mail me. Commenting may be preferable, because random E-Mails can be marked as spam, and Blogger supports Anonymous comments.


Zhwazi said...

In Japanese they don't have R or L sounds, but they have one that is halfway between the two. When Japanese try to translate Japanese to any European language, they often use Rs where Ls belong and vice versa.

This happened in the game "Samurai Showdown" and the "VICTOLY" meme was born.

Anonymous said...

I think you are wrong about monarchy. First succession is not a problem because we have dynasties ruling for centuries as an example. The fact that the King has minimal power to intervene in the lives of people, is also a good thing, from an anarchist point of view. The King more or less lives people to live their lives and keeps the nobility in check from gaining too much power. The nobility have responsibility and obligations towards their people.

Democracy and its politicians have no responsibility towards anyone except the financial 'money power' oligarchy. The State under democracy has total power over the individuals, even controlling their thoughts and movement. The two party system is a sham, in-back the civil servants stay in place and politicians rarely do anything for anyone but themselves or their paymasters.

The link was significant I feel because it shows how the emergence of modern democracy during the French Revolution also brought mass State terror to French people. A sub-section was defined by the democratic assembly as being 'sub-human' and therefore 'legitimate' to exterminate. The Vendeens were slaughtered en mass

in contrast a monarch would never have done such a thing.

Human beings need authority to live, the authority under democracy is totalitarian, and difficult to pin point....'where does the buck stop'? Under monarchy authority is limited and the buck stops at the King, he cannot be bribed or bought. If you can find any books try reading books by:Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc

he was talking about bankers and their 'theft' along time ago, and he has also been 'misrepresented' as a crank by court intellectuals.

JEK said...

I've been working on an articles about kings and the bible. Just published it:

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