After much resistance and soul-searching, I went ahead and checked Ludwig von Mises“Economic Freedom and Interventionism” from the PDX library. Even one’s ideological opponents must have at least some interesting thoughts and an occasional valid point, I thought.

Not so. Granted, this is my initial impression, after reading only 5 of the 47 essays contained therein; but really, judging upon the (lack of) ideas found therein, I wonder if I should continue.

Maybe I am too demanding: expecting actual logical arguments and impartial statements from the branch of human knowledge (economics) that has always been the domain of many hot winds and little clarity, depth, or predictive value. But, after all, Galbraith and Keynes (hah! I suppose my true colours are showing now!;)) did manage to produce statements of substance. Von Mises does nothing of the kind. Especially funny are his older essays, which confidently state facts that we (now) know to be complete bullshit. “The Agony of the Welfare State” devotes considerable rhetorical efforts to ridiculing progressive taxation and public ownership of general utilities: two of the economic measures that have withstood the test of time and may actually be among the very few benign aspects of economic interventionism.

Of course, I have always been suspicious of claims that the entirety of human interaction can be reduced to economics, especially since neither the processes of human consciousness nor the exact processes of the market have been worked out in a satisfactory manner . (In a way, these kinds of claims are similar to the (in)famous Penrose conflation: human consciousness is mysterious; quantum mechanics also mysterious; therefore, human consciousness must be quantum in nature. If you do not see the logical fallacy here, you should not be reading this. So with Mises).

Maybe I shall find something of substance later: after all, I have just started reading the damn thing, and I am certain, I shall finish it, like I do all books, whether disgusted, enthralled or something in between by them. But, so far, my progress report must be rather dismal (like the field of study itself :)): Von Mises was full of shit; and his defenders and followers are even more so, since he has been blatantly shown to be wrong about those–admittedly few–subjects I have had the misfortune to see his thought upon. Not unlike old-school Stalinists and Maoists they claim to see the perfection in the pile of manure that is the legacy of a given thinker. Blah. This is the kind of writing that claims to be rich in deep thoughts, philosophy even, while being nothing but a series of empty assertions. Not dissimilar to theology, and just as pretentious. (That said, I am sure he was a great dinner-n-drinking conversationalist and companion).

Forgive me for ranting; now I must go back and actually read some more. My punishment is certain: a day off reading this and, maybe some Evola!!!! At least, I have some tensor analysis to look forward to. Am I a masochist? One wonders.

As usual, Jon Swift has the best POV on the attorney firing scandal. As usual, conservative blogs have the most ridiculous twaddle (i.e. Clinton/Reno fired all attorneys in 1993, Bush fired 7 now, what’s the big deal? A: well, the big deal is, of course, that usually the incoming administration reappoints a whole bunch of civil servants, including, yes, federal prosecutors. That’s part of the job. However, midterm firings that are motivated solely by political pursuits, allowed by a little-known provision of the most egregious document ever to be pushed through legislature (y’know, the Patriot Act–do read it, it’ll make you better than almost any member of the Senate or the Congress, and, likely, more informed than Mr Bush himself, who obviously doesn’t read that much: he once said that he couldn’t remember what his favourite book was as a child, because, y’know, he just “wasn’t that much into books”), and, basically, contingent upon the said attorneys’ failure to pass the loyalty test to the administration, are a different beast entirely, neither donkey nor elephant, but more of an ebola virus. As (almost) everything this administration does, the whole things stinks of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Amazing, really).

An amazing volcanic plume on Io, taken by the New Horizons probe during its flyby of Jupiter. Tvashtar–the volcano responsile for this beaut–is your standard sulfuric volcano, and the plume is about 290 km long. Two other plumes are visible.

And here we have a nice shot of an Einstein Cross. A quasar (QSO2237+0305) is behind a spiral galaxy the gravity of which bends its light, making it appear in four different places! A gravitational funhouse mirror. Both objects are quite far, although the galaxy is much closer to us than the quasar: redshift 0.04 vs 1.7.

Some wonderful space art, including extraterrestrial planets (about which, more later), lives at Nova Celestia.

I am going to attempt to produce one little column on the current work in my astronomical pet interests–which as of now include the search for terrestrial extrasolar planets and astrobiology–once a week, probably on Monday or Tuesday. Hold me to it. Meanwhile, I should really sleep.

Happy birthday to PZ Myers, the scourge of creationism and invertebrologer extraordinaire! A semicentennial of poetry, and while many people, including Dawkins have contributed, I think that my favourite poem comes courtesy of Evolution Blog. Well…with a little help from EAP into the bargain…

Islam, for one…

09 March 2007

How My Eyes Were Opened to the Barbarity of Islam …a fascinating article. Tomorrow, so you may not think that I am biased, Christianity. I’ll deal with them one at a time, thank you very much.

This article was reposted from Richard Dawkins‘s blog, and if you are not subscribing to it yet, WTF???

A new report–sad and troubling, yet essential–has been issued by the International News Safety Institute. Over 1000 journalists/media workers have died “trying to cover the news around the world in the past 10 years”, with almost 70% being murdered, only one in four during war or other armed conflicts, and the majority in peacetime, in their own home countries. I have a particular interest in this, since the country with which I still associate myself rather closely, despite living elsewhere–Russia–holds the dubious distinction of being the second in the number of deaths, after Iraq (!)
Most of the murderers are never arrested, much less convicted, creating what INSI calls the “atmosphere of impunity”: if you don’t like what somebody is saying about you or your organization in the press, well…just kill them. This is an attack on free speech, democracy (in the true, non-Bushite sense of the word) and I, for one, am seriously troubled. The full report is available here; and the text of the UN Resolution 1738, on journalist safety, here.

Dates and places

07 March 2007

I am now a proud member of the Atheist Blogroll (see to the right and below). Shall we overcome? I should hope so…

And, just ion case you were not aware, this year marks the 50 anniversary of the International Geophysical Year as well as of Space Age. We get to party all year long, celebrating that damn tiny Sputnik 1, and then, on Oct 4th, we’re going to have fireworks!