The President’s Reading List

I would have expected Das Kapital, myself, but I wish that he’d read Hayek, this time for comprehension. Actually, I think that he should have brought along a copy of HR3200, if he’s got that much free time for reading. But as commenters there note, this list is likely more for public consumption than what he’s actually going to be reading.

On a related note, Will Wilkinson asks an interesting question:

Here is a good debate proposition: It ought to be less embarrassing to have been influenced by Ayn Rand than by Karl Marx.

Yes, it ought to be. It’s really quite appalling that being a Marxist remains a sign of prestige in academia, instead of being met with opprobrium.

You Couldn’t Make This Up

Reportedly, in the telecon last week where the president informed the rabbis that he was a partner with God in matters of life and death (I think I know who he thinks the senior partner in that relationship is), the music on hold was Deutschland Uber Alles.


[Update a while later]

Didn’t he say back during the campaign that determining when life begins was above his pay grade? I guess now that he’s gotten a promotion to be a co-God, he’s perfectly comfortable with deciding when it ends.

Through The Looking Glass

Samoans are in revolt over switching from right to left driving:

The main reason for Samoa’s switch is that two of its biggest neighbors, Australia and New Zealand, drive on the left-hand side, whereas Samoa currently drives on the right, as in the U.S. By aligning with Australia and New Zealand, the prime minister says, it will be easier for poor Samoans to get cheap hand-me-down cars from the 170,000 or so Samoans who live in those two countries. It could also help more people escape tsunamis, says Mr. Tuilaepa.

It all “makes common sense,” says Mr. Tuilaepa in an interview in his office overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the capital city of Apia. Mr. Tuilaepa, who sports a wave of fluffy whitening hair and wears flip-flops, has run the country for more than a decade.

Opponents and some outside experts fear the switch will turn many of Samoa’s already-dangerous roads into disaster zones. Roads wind through mountainous jungle terrain with sharp turns, few traffic lights and pedestrians and dogs sharing the lanes. Critics say the switch will add further confusion with drivers likely to forget which side they’re supposed to be on.

I’m assuming that this means that the cars are traditionally mostly left-hand drive (i.e., American or continental European), and that they’re concerned that if they start to import a lot more from ANZ that it will result in accidents because people won’t be able to see to make left-hand turns, not to mention the confusion by long-time drivers on the other side and the fact that most existing cars are set up for right-side driving.

This is one of those cases (like chirality) that it doesn’t matter which way you do it, but you have to be consistent. I don’t have that much trouble going to the UK or Ireland or Australia and driving, because I’m sitting on the wrong side of the car, which gives me a constant clue that things are different (and it’s interesting how the Anglosphere has split on this issue). While I don’t have that much trouble driving, I could easily get myself killed as a pedestrian, because I forget which way to look for traffic when stepping into a road. The most dangerous situation I’ve ever encountered driving is in the Virgin Islands (including the American ones, not just Tortola) in which the cars are left-hand drive, but you drive on the left, which makes it very dangerous to make right turns if you don’t have a passenger spotting for you (and it also makes it very confusing and hard to remember which side of the road to drive on).

If they go through with this, given how many legacy cars will remain on the island, I predict a huge increase in traffic accidents and casualties. It’s another misplaced leftist (in this case literally) program to help “the poor” that will end up killing a lot of them. And some rich people as well.

[Update a few minutes later]

It’s also interesting to note that Canada remains an oddball — using British spellings and measurement systems (first Imperial and now metric) but follow their southern cousins in their driving habits. But when you share a continent and an open border (though not so much as it used to be) it makes sense that this much more important standard is consistent across borders.

Why Should We Care?

Are you sitting down? Prepare for a real shocker. A bunch of astronauts, many of whom have the program as their current meal ticket, support continuation of the fiasco. And the joint statement was put out by ATK. Yeah, they don’t have a dog in this fight…

I found this particularly annoying:

In the joint statement, provided by Alliant, the former astronauts say: “Our top concern…is to ensure the safest possible system is utilised. This requires a proven track record, building on important lessons learned…NASA’s Constellation programme is exactly that type of effort – infused with generational lessons learned.”

Well, of course that’s your top concern. But as a taxpayer, and space enthusiast, my top concern is having a system that’s affordable, and actually contributes to opening up space, things at which Constellation will be an epic fail even if it meets its stated program objectives. If the system isn’t safe enough for them, I know where we can find a lot of other people to fly it.

The Need For Actual Human Rights Advocates

at Human Rights Watch:

From now on, every HRW report on Israel is going to be greeted with “you mean the Saudi-funded HRW,” or “you mean the report written by the woman [HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson] who is a great admirer of Norman Finkelstein and lobbied Kofi Annan against Israel in the middle of the Second Intifada” or “you mean the report written by the guy [Stork] who supports the anti-Israel boycott movement and has been venting his hostility to Israel for almost forty years” or “you mean HRW, the organization that fails to take down from its website anti-Israel reports even when it has admitted they are inaccurate,” and so on.

A housecleaning is needed. Transfer Stork, Whitson, and the rest of the current crew to an area in which they don’t have strong ideological priors, and bring in some real human rights advocates to replace the anti-Israel propagandists. Or just preach to the leftist, anti-Israel choir, but don’t expect anyone else to pay attention.

Unfortunately, too many will continue to do so.

Matthew Yglesias

meets Public Choice 101. I think that, more than anything, this demonstrates the potential for utter worthlessness of a Harvard degree. As Joe Katzman notes:

That’s what happens when you take classes in theoretics where critical thinking is actively expunged, and pay $100k+ for the privilege. It’s an extremely common way to be uneducated these days.

[Update a couple minutes later]

I went over and read Joe’s link on theoretics (by Orson Scott Card), and it turned out to be a lot more than that. It’s a piece about groupthink, and how it has poisoned the theoretical physics community with string theory. It actually reminded me a lot of the conventional wisdom of space policy and launch costs.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!