Friday, July 30, 2010

Lest it should be possible that any unchildlike soul might, in arrogance and ignorance, think to stand upon his rights against God, and demand of Him this or that after the will of the flesh, I will lay before such a possible one some of the things to which he has a right... He has a claim to be compelled to repent; to be hedged in on every side; to have one after another of the strong, sharp-toothed sheep-dogs of the Great Shepherd sent after him, to thwart him in any desire, foil him in any plan, frustrate him of any hope, until he come to see at length that nothing will ease his pain, nothing make life a thing worth having but the presence of the living God within him.
--George Macdonald, "The Voice of Job"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the wager

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich was the author of a popular book, The Population Bomb, which argued that mankind was facing a demographic catastrophe with the rate of population growth quickly outstripping growth in the supply of food and resources. Julian Simon was highly skeptical of such claims. Simon offered a bet:

You could name your own terms: select any raw material you wanted — copper, tin, whatever — and select any date in the future, "any date more than a year away," and Simon would bet that the commodity's price on that date would be lower than what it was at the time of the wager...

Ehrlich and his colleagues picked five metals that they thought would undergo big price rises: chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Then, on paper, they bought $200 worth of each, for a total bet of $1,000, using the prices on September 29, 1980, as an index. They designated September 29, 1990, 10 years hence, as the payoff date. If the inflation-adjusted prices of the various metals rose in the interim, Simon would pay Ehrlich the combined difference; if the prices fell, Ehrlich et al. would pay Simon...

Between 1980 and 1990, the world's population grew by more than 800 million, the largest increase in one decade in all of history. But by September 1990, without a single exception, the price of each of Ehrlich's selected metals had fallen, and in some cases had dropped through the floor. Chrome, which had sold for $3.90 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.70 in 1990. Tin, which was $8.72 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.88 a decade later.

As a result, in October 1990, Paul Ehrlich mailed Julian Simon a check for $576.07 to settle the wager in Simon's favor.

All of [Ehrlich's] grim predictions had been decisively overturned by events. Ehrlich was wrong about higher natural resource prices, about "famines of unbelievable proportions" occurring by 1975, about "hundreds of millions of people starving to death" in the 1970s and '80s, about the world "entering a genuine age of scarcity." In 1990, for his having promoted "greater public understanding of environmental problems," Ehrlich received a MacArthur Foundation Genius Award."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Generations yet unborn will dwell with peculiar delight upon the scenes that we have passed through, the privations that we have endured; the untiring zeal that we have manifested; the insurmountable difficulties that we have overcome in laying the foundation of a work that brought about the glory and blessings which they will realize; a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight, for generations past; that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets—a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.
--Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, Vol 3, October 1841, 776.

Friday, July 2, 2010

tell me a story

We don't need lists of rights and wrongs, tables of do's and don'ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.
--Philip Pullman

Thursday, July 1, 2010

When you are on the board of a decent corporation, for example, if you have a direct financial interest in a matter under consideration you’re expected to “declare an interest” and absent yourself from the vote. But in a mature democracy, the most self-interested citizens are those most likely to vote. Currently, about 20 million people work for government. About 45 million receive Social Security benefits. About 34 million depend on food stamps.
As I think Ayn Rand said, in any compromise between food and poison, poison wins.

This morning I read an interesting story in Soundings magazine. It recounted the final voyage of the S.S. Morro Castle, purportedly one of the safest ships afloat back in 1934 when it regularly transported revelers on junkets between New York and Havana. Then, on the night of September 8, a series of unfortunate events occurred that ended with the ship washing up on the New Jersey shore the next day, close to half of its 300 or so passengers dead.
First, the ship was hit by a storm. Then, while fighting the towering waves, the veteran captain clutched his chest and fell dead from a heart attack, moving a less experienced man into command.
Next, a ship’s steward discovered a group of drunken passengers entertaining themselves by flicking lit cigarettes into a trash can in one of the salons. About an hour later in that same salon, a fire broke out.

With the ship still battling through the heavy waves, the crew now had to turn to putting out the fire – but were shocked to discover that there was no water pressure, rendering the fire hoses useless.
Making matters decidedly worse, shortly afterwards the fire ignited an explosion that blew out the salon window, sucking in the air necessary to turn the blaze into an inferno.
Quickly thereafter, the raging fire burned through critical ship’s wiring, causing the electricity to short out. That, in turn, resulted in a failure in the steering, leaving the ship helplessly afloat in the turbulent seas.
With the blaze rapidly spreading, the replacement captain gave the command to abandon ship, but as there had been no lifeboat drills, the scene quickly descended into chaos and death that ended several hours later with the burned-out hulk washing ashore… turning the floating party palace into the ruined remains seen in the photo here, in the proverbial blink of an eye.

the Prince reassessed

Laws are made by people who are, for the most part, the very scum of the earth; if something they impose on society is ethically beneficial, therefore, the coincidence involved is considerable. They are drawn from those with an urge to dominate, who have quite often never done a day's work in their lives for customers or employers who are free to accept or decline their offer. They take their powers by force and deceit (any who compete with the R&D Party, for example, are deliberately hindered by obstacles especially erected for them) and draw their salaries and large expenses 100% from funds which are not only stolen, but stolen without possibility of recourse by the victim--and stolen sometimes by absolute fraud since it's done without laws even having been written. They habitually and often make laws to enslave their subjects in a military force designed to kill their enemies, and habitually lie when questioned about the need for it; and they try to avoid being subject to their own rules whenever they can get away with it. Instead of being benevolent, disinterested and morally upright, therefore, lawmakers are normally psychologically freakish, kleptocratic, mendacious, murderous, irrational and hypocritical. Jim Davies

the doctor's tale

The doctor and patient talked and then began an involved workup, “yet no diagnosis was made.” Later, the doctor discussed the case with a colleague, who suggested getting blood cultures to test for an infected heart valve. For reasons beyond explaining, the doctor did not follow up and with his patient slowly deteriorating referred him to an oncologist whose blood cultures were positive. “Profoundly embarrassed and ashamed for missing something obvious, simply and inexpensively tested for and relatively easy to treat,” the referring doctor was nonetheless extremely relieved and told his patient he had “goofed.” Even though not feeling “ethically obligated” to do so, the doctor felt that he had “a close enough relationship with them so that there wasn’t even a question of not telling them.” He further added,
I also felt it important to be forgiven by them, not to be absolved of negligence, but so that I could continue to work with people and not feel I was being dishonest or covering up. At first, the patient was going to see another doctor in the [clinic] I worked at, but he changed his mind and continued to see me until I left a year and half later.
I also told colleagues about this mistake, something I have done in other instances because I feel the need for others to acknowledge my errors and tell me that it’s okay to be human and make mistakes. Often, they then share their mistakes and I can then go on, though almost humbled by the experience. Sharing mistakes, especially when they can have profound effects on people’s lives, is essential. If one cannot do it on any level, I think burnout, depression, substance abuse, and suicide are potential hazards.