Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Music, passion and shining eyes

This post started off with the video below, and then I went off a bit on a stream-of-consciousness tangent about copyright. Feel free to peruse any part of the post.

I think there are many thoughts here that the Rebbe would agree with. "A true leader is the one who has absolute faith in those following him." Or: "What measures one’s success is not his power or money, but the number of shining eyes surrounding him."

And, after you’ve watched the above video, watch this:

And some copyright idiocy:

(It seems that just like klipah is always attracted to kedusha, stupidity and bureaucracy are always attracted to something intelligent and creative.)

Update. This is the original pi video:

* * *

Just to remind everyone, the reason why one cannot own information is that "ownership" implies violence towards someone — the person you’re preventing from using the object you own. Such violence can be justified only if you’re doing it in self-defense: i.e., to defend yourself against an act of violence from another person. For example: if I own a pencil, it means I can prevent you from using my pencil. So, that’s violence. But it is justified, because if you use my pencil, it means I cannot use it. So, you’re doing violence to me. Since one of us is going to have to do violence to the other, let it be the one who found (bought, made, created ex-nihilo) the pencil first.

In other words, the concept of ownership only applies to scarce resources. If there is a competition for a resource (such that only one person can use it), let the person who "owns" it have rights to it — i.e., justification to use force to restrict someone else’s use of it.

But in the case when a resource is non-scarce (like information is), there is no justification. Just because I am using the concept you developed, I am not preventing your use of it.

* * *

The other problem is that we don’t have a clear idea what ontology of information is. I.e., what the information is. From materialist point of view, information is nothing but the matter that contains it. So, if you write a poem, and I memorize it, you cannot own my knowledge of your poem, since that would imply your owning my brain.

From a version of idealist point of view, information is not matter; it’s properties of matter. It is something which is associated and created by the matter. So, brain and mind are not the same thing, but the mind is created by the brain. The same argument goes here. If the song that you wrote is created by my brain while I am thinking about it, you cannot own it. You cannot own my mind, since it’s a product of my brain, which you don’t own.

From platonic point of view, ideas actually exist in a separate reality — an ideal "world". All material objects are instantiations of these ideas. So, a physical chair is a material instance of an ideal chair. Therefore, one might say, by creating an idea, I am actually creating an ideal object existing in a separate ideal reality. Or, perhaps, it always existed there, and I am merely discovering it. Either way, you might say, I have rights to the idea.

There are two problems with the latter argument. First, in order to claim ownership to this platonic version of idea and then use force to restrict my use of it, you have to bring evidence that the platonic world of ideas actually exists. It's a nice philosophical model, and it's something nice to talk about over a cup of tea, but you can't claim ownership on a piece of my brain or a physiological process happening in it (which, a priori, is what information seems to be), unless you bring clear empirical proof. You can't use force to take someone's money, shut down a video he posted somewhere, or put him in jail, unless you have a clear evidence that the phenomenon which is claimed to have been stolen actually exists in reality, outside of the philosophers' imagination.

Second problem is that even if the platonic world and its ideas actually existed independent of human mind, we are back to the non-scarcity argument. Yes, you have discovered (or invented) a resource. But you can't claim to have rights to it if it is non-scarce. You have no justification to use force to prevent my use of your song, if my use is in no way limiting your use of it.

And saying "I own it, because it's the law" is a meaningless statement. All you're saying is: "I own it, because Joe will shoot you if you try to use it". Imagine if I said that about your car. Remember, saying: "I will use the government to make X illegal" is no different from saying "I will take a gun to prevent someone from doing X". If you do not think it's moral for you to do that yourself, there is no way it can be moral for the government to do it. For instance, I can shoot someone attacking me. Therefore, it's moral for a government employee to shoot him (since the government is just an organization which I hired to protect my rights — or, rather, that hired itself... or made me hire itself... but that's a separate topic). But if it is immoral for me to go to Bill Gates's house with a gun to take his money and give to some poor guy on a street, it's immoral for the government to do so as well.

So, saying "it's a law" does not imply morality. I always find it curious that the defense that TSA officials use for searching the diapers of 90-year-old ladies ("I followed the procedure") is the exactly same defense that Nazis used at Nuremberg trials.

* * *

© None of the ideas written above may be reproduced in any form without my explicit approval. In other words: get off my platonic farm before I get my shotgun.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What the history of Soviet agriculture teaches us

It’s interesting how the brutal implementation of socialism started: by declaring land "common property", the fallacy that the state nowadays uses to convince us that roads, waterways, parks, etc., should not be privately owned and to justify our paying taxes (even though most of the taxes do not go towards maintenance of roads or revenue of the government).

Any intelligent person should realize that the concept of "common property" is just a legal and philosophical fiction.

(a post on whether it’s muttar to learn science coming up... stay tuned)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The place of Troubles

I think in places like Northern Ireland one can most readily see the damage done by the concepts of statism and nationalism, as well as by the specific governments or government-like groups. On can also clearly see the the advantage of the alternative: more than one "governing" company, not linked to a particular territory, akin to today's cell phone companies.

Having watched bits and pieces of a documentary on the conflict in Northern Ireland, I have little doubt that had the organizations representing the British, as well as the Catholic and the Protestant Irish been free-market anarchist "protection agencies", voted for by the people with their money and interested in maximizing their profit, they would very quickly come to a peaceful resolution of the conflict — since the alternative is so bloody expensive and wasteful.

This is the answer to the question: "Won't the protection agencies go to war with each other under anarchy?" Well, first of all, it can't be too much worse than what we've had, throughout human history, with the governments involved (the governments have been the single greatest source of death, injury and general misery in the history). Only the organizations whose basis is political support could drag out the ridiculous bickering conflict over three decades with thousands of people dead on all sides. Second, why would they? If their goal is not some idiotic nationalist agenda, but maximizing the profit, they would realize that carrying out a wasteful war is not wise from economic point of view and would quickly reach a solution.

A comment from an article about Ireland:
I’d long dreamed that the “six slave counties” of Northern Ireland would become independent and the first truly libertarian “state.” (In [quotation marks] because a state without taxes wouldn’t be a state as states are known to be.) The North’s mostly-Protestant “Unionists,” so called, favor union with Great Britain as a buttress against being ruled by Catholic Irishmen, which would happen if the North became part of the Irish Republic. Loyalty to Britain extends no farther than staving off Catholic rule, for Unionists have been ready to take up arms against British forces whenever the North was threatened with being dumped by the Brits into the Republic.

Mostly-Catholic “Republicans,” on the other hand, favor becoming part of the Irish Republic to the south primarily as a means of escaping rule by historically tyrannical Britain or its surrogate unionist government. Republicans haven’t forgotten the fact that their Irish brethren to the south, with whom they joined in battle against British rule in the years leading up to the establishment of an Irish Free State, negotiated a treaty establishing a semi-Irish independence that left them behind and under surrogate-British (Unionist) rule, which proved to be even more oppressive of Irish Catholics than the Brits had been.

With the population of the northern slave counties divided roughly equally between adamant Unionists and adamant Republicans, each unequivocally opposed to being ruled by the other, what better place could there be for establishing a country where nobody rules anybody? Unfortunately, at least for the time being, the so-called “leaders” of Unionists and Republicans have chosen “power-sharing” as a solution to the Irish “Troubles,” rather than renouncing the power to rule over others as the only sure means to lasting peace.
More on the subject (despite the problems with punctuation, it is a very interesting article).

The situation described above actually reminded me of the one in Somalia. There, the warlords go to war with each other only when the "peace-keeping" UN troops get involved, with their repeated attempts of establishing a "democratic government". Each warlord starts feeling threatened that the other warlords will gain political power, backed up by the West, and thinks that he has to make his move first. When the UN troops are not involved, the warlords live in an equilibrium with each other, with traditional tribal laws being the legal framework for the society.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why bother having ambition? You already got paid thanks to a politician...

An interesting bit from the interview with famous popular-classical musician Gozales:

The bit from Reason.TV about three reasons for the US government not to support art:

Gonzales playing Paristocrats:

Doing a sing-along:

Tradition, tradition!

(a re-post... sorry it’s late)

Notes from a Torah class by Rabbi Posner of Boston on Parshas Shlach. So, please forgive the choppiness.

It all starts with Jews sending the spies, who come back with the unfortunate report. When Hashem tells them they would travel in the desert for forty years as a punish… I mean, consequence of their actions, some people suddenly come to their senses. And decide that are ready to do it. Yep, ready to do it. Come on, let’s do it, let’s do it.

And then Moshe Rabbeinu says: “Don’t go, for Hashem is not with you.” And, as one might expect, they still go (into a battle) and get killed. So, what’s going on? OK, here come the notes:

Hinenu: we are ready (like Hineini). We are ready to go and to fight. What changed?
  • Every Jew is inherently a believer in G-d
  • When Moshe Rabbeinu screamed at them, they realized they were being foolish, and restored the connection
  • But, MR said: don’t go, because G-d is not amongst you.
  • Amalek came down and killed them.
    • What did these people do wrong? It seems they did what Hashem wanted them to do…
      • Moshe Rabbeinu told them not to go…
      • You can do all teshuva in the world you want, but you still need MR and Aaron go with you
      • You cannot divorce the soul of Torah from Torah itself
      • You can talk about the beauty of customs and traditions – but if you change it, it is not going to last
      • Needs to be steadfast connection to bris Hashem
    • Who asked you to make decisions? You can’t make decisions either when you’re a spy or later, when you decide to attack on your own…
    • If MR tells you: don’t go on, then it will not be successful.
      • The power of tradition…
      • What does it say, how do we know?
Within structure of Halacha itself – things that are permissible!!! Why not? It’s not the way it’s ever been done. It’s not the way that Jews have been doing it.

But, Chabad is the biggest rebellion ever. It’s not the way it’s been done; it’s not the way to do it.
Rabbi P. in Young Israel. In weekday shull. An old man giving a class. Rabbi P. saying Tehillim. The man was talking about the Blessing for the Sun. He was saying it’s really not such a big deal. People do it, but they don’t celebrate it. Don’t make a whole event out of it. Some people take regular things and blow things out of proportion about them. Like Chabad putting tefillin on in the street. Tefillin has always been a regular quiet thing – and suddenly you make a big deal out of it?!

In the year of 2009 of common era, someone should say this! Are you joking? Do you realize what happens here in the shull: groups of kids from Reform, Conservative families come learn about Shmura Matza in your shull (because Chabad brings them). Bridges between secular and religious worlds.

The world today is completely different world – majority of Jews have never and will never put on tefillin, until someone does it with them.

The mindset that existed in 1950s – this has never been done. Sending shluchim to places that have nothing to support them religiously: this has never happened in the history of Jews. Jews are very community-oriented. If you are a frum Jew, you need a minyan, and you need all that the community provides. How did Jews do it?

They never have.

The answer: If you walk by a lake, you don’t jump in it in your suit. But if your brother is drowning, of course you would jump in – so, you will wet your suit a little, nu…

So, yeah, there is a concept of doing things traditionally: daven in a shull, not in the middle of a street. But sometimes you need to make a change. The question is: why do you need to make a change? Why make a change?

When Jews tried to conquer EY for the heck of it, without Hashem’s and MR’s protection, it was not successful. They died. Just like families of Reform and Conservative Jews. They implemented changes for themselves, not for Hashem. You can’t have personal motivation – I think it’s a good idea, I think I want to do it.

So, when the Rebbe became a leader of the generation, he explained that when a Lubavitcher puts on tefillin with someone else, he doesn’t do it as his own thing but under guidance of the Moshe Rabbeinu of the generation.

Ad kan.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Living in a beehive

From Lebedev's Mandership, §163, "Russian postal address format":
Some cities and towns [in Russia] use rather uncommon addresses.

Zelenograd, Moscow, Russia, for example, has just building numbers, like bldg. 1001A, instead of full street addresses. The first two digits represent the district (number 10). People who live in the house may not even be aware that their street is called Kolkhoznaya, because no one uses the name.

In Naberezhnye Chelny, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, everyone knows cluster and construction numbers of the houses. So, if you ask which way 60 Prospekt Mira is, no one will be able to tell. But if you ask for 3/19, you’ll instantly get directions.

In Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, a building may have several numbers, because the city has kept the German entrance numbering scheme. Apartments sharing a common staircase at each building entrance are numbered from one.
I suppose it's not necessarily very different from living in a grid-like city, with streets having numbers and letters as opposed to names.

Cheers to all readers,
Blogger 04129716759837282565

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Herring vs. hamburger

Fascinating interview with Swedish economist Andreas Bergh who discusses whether it is true that Sweden’s socialism was the cause for its growth, whether the “socialist-democratic heaven” has perfect health care system, and, most importantly (for Americans), whether Swedish socialism (whether or not it was beneficial) can even be attempted to be implemented in America.

What do I mean? Well, some people say that just because socialism failed in Russia doesn’t mean socialism is a bad idea. Everything fails in Russia (except things run by Jews, like chess). Russian society was not fit for socialism to be successful. Well, the last bit might be true about American society. In the video above, Mr. Bergh explains that Swedish public sector is more efficient than its counterparts in other countries. Its decisions and involvement still lead to economic problems, but at least it didn’t produce so much waste of heat due to friction. Americans do not have such a public sector and will probably never have it. American society cannot support it. It does not have the cohesiveness, organization and good spirit of the northern Europeans necessary for it.

So, his last point at the end of the interview is: by increasing taxes in Sweden, you get more of Swedish public service. It may not be as good as private service, and its decisions may affect the economy in a bad way, but at least it's efficient, polite and benevolent. If you increase taxes in the US, you get more of American public service: more irritated ladies at the DMV yelling at you to fill out the blue version of form RAX69415.B68 and then go back to the end of the line. Or, rather, more of these ladies in more areas of your life.

Interesting excerpt from a paper called Libido for Ugliness by H.L. Mencken. It deplores general American lack of taste in the architecture. I wonder if there is some correlation with inability to produce civil, friendly and efficient bureacracy and nice architecture. The Soviets also suffered from it. I think it’s correlated with the love of CAPS.
I award this championship only after laborious research and incessant prayer. I have seen, I believe, all of the most unlovely towns of the world; they are all to be found in the United States. I have seen the mill towns of decomposing New England and the desert towns of Utah, Arizona and Texas. I am familiar with the back streets of Newark, Brooklyn and Chicago, and have made scientific explorations to Camden, N.J. and Newport News, Va. Safe in a Pullman, I have whirled through the gloomy, God-forsaken villages of Iowa and Kansas, and the malarious tide-water hamlets of Georgia. I have been to Bridgeport, Conn., and to Los Angeles. But nowhere on this earth, at home or abroad, have I seen anything to compare to the villages that huddle along the line of the Pennsylvania from the Pittsburgh yards to Greensburg. They are incomparable in color, and they are incomparable in design. It is as if some titanic and aberrant genius, uncompromisingly inimical to man, had devoted all the ingenuity of Hell to the making of them. They show grotesqueries of ugliness that, in retrospect, become almost diabolical. One cannot imagine mere human beings concocting such dreadful things, and one can scarcely imagine human beings bearing life in them. 
Are they so frightful because the valley is full of foreigners — dull, insensate brutes, with no love of beauty in them? Then why didn’t these foreigners set up similar abominations in the countries that they came from? You will, in fact, find nothing of the sort in Europe save perhaps in the more putrid parts of England. There is scarcely an ugly village on the whole Continent. The peasants, however poor, somehow manage to make themselves graceful and charming habitations, even in Spain. But in the American village and small town the pull is always toward ugliness, and in that Westmoreland valley it has been yielded to with an eagerness bordering upon passion. It is incredible that mere ignorance should have achieved such masterpieces of horror. 
On certain levels of the American race, indeed, there seems to be a positive libido for the ugly, as on other and less Christian levels there is a libido for the beautiful. It is impossible to put down the wallpaper that defaces the average American home of the lower middle class to mere inadvertence, or to the obscene humor of the manufacturers. Such ghastly designs, it must be obvious, give a genuine delight to a certain type of mind. They meet, in some unfathomable way, its obscure and unintelligible demands. They caress it as "The Palms" caresses it, or the art of the movie, or jazz. The taste for them is as enigmatical and yet as common as the taste for dogmatic theology and the poetry of Edgar A. Guest. 
Thus I suspect (though confessedly without knowing) that the vast majority of the honest folk of Westmoreland county, and especially the 100% Americans among them, actually admire the houses they live in, and are proud of them. For the same money they could get vastly better ones, but they prefer what they have got. Certainly there was no pressure upon the Veterans of Foreign Wars to choose the dreadful edifice that bears their banner, for there are plenty of vacant buildings along the track-side, and some of them are appreciably better. They might, indeed, have built a better one their own. But they chose that clapboarded horror with their eyes open, and having chosen it, they let it mellow into its present shocking depravity. They like it as it is: beside it, the Parthenon would no doubt offend them. In precisely the same way the authors of the rattrap stadium that I have mentioned made a deliberate choice. After painfully designing and erecting it, they made it perfect in their own sight by putting a completely impossible pent-house, painted a staring yellow, on top of it. The effect is that of a fat woman with a black eye. It is that of a Presbyterian grinning. But they like it.
Now, considering that language is one of the most important things to make a society cohesive, I wonder how socialism is working out in Denmark:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicken soup

Interesting figure (source):

(one question I have is: why are the labels capitalized? are they proper nouns?)

Since this is the time of exams (my wife is giving one tomorrow to local Beis Yakov girls), I will ask this in a form of an exam question.

What is the interpretation of the figure? Pick the best answer:
a) Obama's economists have proven themselves to be incompetent
b) Recovery plan at best did nothing to unemployment and at worst hurt it
c) American tax-payers were swindled out of hundreds of billions of dollars
d) American economy has been hurt by Obama, and America is on its way to becoming the Sweden of 1970s
e) This is a perfect example of a situation when doing nothing is better than doing something (which is almost always the case with the government)
f) All of the above

Now, from the above web-site:
Romer and Bernstein defend their estimates with the argument that the economic situation turned out worse than they had anticipated; and so the economy would have done even worse without a stimulus.
I love this! Compare this to:
The spirit healer defended her treatment using burnt incense that even though the patient had flu for the same (if not longer time) as would be predicted without the incense, the illness, in fact, was much stronger than anticipated in this case, and the patient would be even sicker without the incense.
Speaking of chickens:
[E]ven if you buy the White House’s argument that the $800 billion package created 3 million jobs, that works out to $266,000 per job. Taxing or borrowing $266,000 from the private sector to create a single job is simply not a cost effective way of putting America back to work. The long-term debt burden of that $266,000 swamps any benefit that the single job created might provide. 
My only question is: Obama is on his way to joining the ranks of the worst US Presidents. Right now I would rank him between FDR and JFK. When he is gone from the office, what abbreviation will they give his name and what piece of public property will they name after him? BHO sounds too similar to HBO. (On the other hand, Woody the Wilson didn't have his name abbreviated.)

Lastly: "Ziggy" stands for Sigmund Freud.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Alternating current

I have heard someone in the shull today, at the farbrengen, say: "You know how goyim say 'BC' — 'before Yoshka'. And Jews say 'BCE' and 'CE' — 'before common era' and 'of common era'. Well, for a while I thought that they said 'before common error'. As in 'before the period when everyone en masse bought into the same shtuss'."

The thing is: the year 1 CE was computed retroactively by some monk a bunch of centuries later as the year when Yoshka must have been born. It had later been shown that the monk used flawed assumptions about the presumed life of Yoshka and events surrounding it in his calculations (plus, his abacus would freeze up and produce the Blue Screen of Death from time to time), and even if Yoshka had ever lived, and one were to use the same calculations as the monk did, but entering the correct data, the mamzer's birthday would end up being some fourteen years BCE. So, besides the fact that Christianity is, as Rabmam calls, one of the biggest stumbling blocks ever invented by civilization, the current year is literally the year 2011 of common error.

I wonder if it's possible to calculate when the masses bought into the concepts of modern liberalism (or pseudo-liberalism as I have started calling it) and start calculating years "of common error" from that time point. I would reckon it would have to be at some point in the 19th century, when Herbert Spencer was writing:
The laws made by Liberals are so greatly increasing the compulsions and restraints exercised over citizens, that among Conservatives who suffer from this aggressiveness there is growing up a tendency to resist it. Proof is furnished by the fact that the “Liberty and Property Defense League”, largely consisting of Conservatives, has taken for its motto “Individualism versus Socialism”. So that if the present drift of things continues, it may by-and-by really happen that the Tories will be defenders of liberties which the Liberals, in pursuit of what they think popular welfare, trample under foot.
Or, if you want to see when it was made official in the United States, we could say 1913, the year when the income tax has been written into the Constitution, making the document an oxymoron.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Solid argument

From Wikipedia article about bloody Russian Tzar Nicholas II and his Prime Minister, Stolypin:
By the time of Stolypin's assassination by Dmitry Bogrov, a student (and police informant) in a theatre in Kiev on 18 September 1911, Stolypin had grown weary of the burdens of office. For a man who preferred clear decisive action, working with a sovereign who believed in fatalism and mysticism was frustrating. 
For example, Nicholas once returned a document unsigned with the note: “Despite most convincing arguments in favour of adopting a positive decision in this matter, an inner voice keeps on insisting more and more that I do not accept responsibility for it. So far my conscience has not deceived me. Therefore I intend in this case to follow its dictates. I know that you, too, believe that ‘a Tsar's heart is in God's hands’. Let it be so. For all laws established by me I bear a great responsibility before God, and I am ready to answer for my decision at any time.”
The beautiful thing about emunah pshutah is that you can’t argue with it.

Funny thing is that in the end, Nicholas II was right. He did bear a responsibility before G-d — responsibility for all his actions, including instigating multiple mass murders of innocent Jews of his so-called empire (not to mention bleeding his empire dry by not allowing it to move beyond 12th century and imagining that starting wars with useless army is an honorable thing to do). And when he and his whole family faced the guns of the Bolsheviks who shot them in cold blood and tossed their bodies into a coal mine, he answered for his decisions before G-d.

I think Russia and Russian people are the clearest examples of what a terrible “service” a government provides. Looking at the two opposite poles of Europe, one sees two countries. The country that prospered the most, England, had the greatest freedom — meaning, the least involvement of the government in the people’s lives. And the country that suffered the most had an autocratic pimple as its ruler. At the best of times.

But then again: people always get what they deserve (not the minorities, but the majorities, the masses that support the regime).

Watery grave

How the decision by Obama Hussein to bury Osama in the water came about.