Blargh Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What is wrong with our society?

I'm usually not one to drown in my own outrage, but how can this be happening? A man murders his ex-wife and a friend of hers, but is found not guilty in trial. Then he writes a book about how he killed them, which is published by one of the premier publishing companies, and goes on television on a major network to talk about it.

O.J. Simpson is now a celebrity murderer in more ways than one. I can imagine him doing the celebrity talk show circuit, with Leno and Conan and all the rest asking him questions about the people he killed, just like they ask everyone else about their latest project, and that's interesting, what's the name of the book again? When's it coming out? Keep repeating that info, because you know this murderer is only here because he has a book to plug. (But be sure to talk in hypotheticals, because you know that makes all of this okay.)

It's times like this when all of those crazy-seeming claims about how our society is completely corrupt and falling apart start to take on an air of plausibility.
Parodies and cultural criticisms cannot keep up. I can only hope that a massive boycott is coming. These appear to be the two companies to start with: Regan Books/HarperCollins and FOX. Enough people can work up their outrage over fictionalized documentaries that strike them as unfair to politicians in their preferred political party. Can the public match that outrage when an unconvicted murderer gets invited to talk about his, uh, "work" on prime time television?

Update (11/20): Canceled. Hurrah.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Easy Answers to Easy Questions

Is foreign aid the solution to global poverty?

No, of course not. There isn't "a solution" to global poverty, unless you want to count the macabre (e.g. global death) or the deeply unhelpful (e.g. patience).

Alternative question #1: Can foreign aid contribute to a substantial reduction in global poverty over the short to medium term?


Alternative question #2: Can foreign aid help put the world on a relatively stable long-term trend in reducing global poverty?


Obviously, it matters how the foreign aid is spent. Simply throwing money at the problem won't fix anything, but many potentially productive plans for fixing things do require money.

The original question is the topic for a Garvey Fellowship essay that can win you money, if you fit the applicant qualification criteria. You probably also have to write something consistent with their description of the question:
A 2005 United Nations report called for a doubling of foreign aid to poor countries as the means to reduce poverty. Yet the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a for-profit microloan bank and its founder, an apparent vindication of the ideas of Peter T. Bauer, Henry Hazlitt, Deepak Lal, and others. As Bauer wrote, “Development aid, far from being necessary to rescue poor societies from a vicious circle of poverty, is far more likely to keep them in that state.…Emergence from poverty requires effort, firmly established property rights, and productive investment.”
In other words, because some forms of for-profit investments can be effective at reducing global poverty, foreign aid must be completely ineffective. Airtight logic. Unbreakable logic, we might even call it, in honor of the gentleman who reasoned that, since his body was easily injured, there must be someone out there who is incapable of being injured.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Close Elections

With 98% of precincts reporting in Wyoming's Congressional district, the incumbent, Barbara Cubin (R), currently has a 653 vote lead. The Lindgren method (which assumes that unreported precincts will vote the same as reported precincts in the same county) projects Cubin to finish 2 votes behind Gary Trauner (D).

Trauner fans shouldn't wait up, and neither should Cubin fans (identify yourselves and I'll link), since this one is not going to be decided tonight.

Update (2:58 AM): After corrections in the already reported precincts, Cubin has stretched her lead to 700 votes, and after correcting my projection to be based on the exact number of precincts (rather than the rounded percentage that CNN reports), she is now projected to hang on to a 26 vote lead. The nation is still waiting on those last 12 precincts from Carbon County.

Update II (11/8): Carbon County is obviously not homogenous, and with the rest of the precincts in Cubin has extended her lead to 970 votes. They aren't calling the election yet, and there might be a recount.