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Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Kittie Yin-Yang

The Myth of Barter

This article reminded me of a conversation I had with a buddy of mine a couple years ago. I was musing about why the Anasazi kings* built Pueblo Bonito, the large D-shaped building in Chaco Canyon. He looked at me askance and said, "What do you mean? They didn't have kings."

And yeah, I get it. It's hard for someone from the US to understand that native peoples were not the stone age primitives we like to think they are. They may not have been as technologically advanced as the Europeans of the time, but that doesn't meant they weren't socially advanced, with all the stratification, specialization, and inequality we have today.

In other words, just because they didn't have the wheel doesn't mean they didn't have the bureaucrat.

The article is not about the Anasazi or the quality of their kings, but it is about how our assumptions (the assumptions of economists, in this case) may not be backed up by the data.

Read it:

Logically, this makes about as much sense as saying that the game of chess was invented to allow people to fulfill a pre-existing desire to checkmate their opponent’s king.


* I'll admit that "Anasazi kings" is a bit imprecise. "Elite ruling class" is probably the best way to refer to the "Anasazi kings," but then again...I was talking to a buddy, not writing a scholarly paper.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Random NFL Thoughts

Oh joy. The NFL is going TSA. Hey, I get it. They're pissing their pants over the liability. It's still pretty lame.

It's not the contraband that causes all these incidents. It's the booze. It's the intense rivalries. It's the basic asshole nature of the adult male. You can stop selling the booze. You can go corny with sportsmanship crap. But you can't do anything about the basic asshole nature of the adult male.

As for the intense rivalries, my thinking on pro sports has been evolving over the years. I love them...but I also hate them.

They are, at least the ones I follow, corrupt enterprises built on illusions and deceptions. It's not YOUR Denver Broncos. It's Pat Bowlen's Denver Broncos.

Did you know that the NFL is officially listed as a non-profit? That major league baseball, which I don't follow, has an anti-trust exemption? Every time Congress has baseball hearings, that should be remembered. Their business wouldn't exist without the king's special favor.

And you don't get a say. Sorry, you just pay. You buy the tickets, watch the games, get the gear. So you wanna bench Kyle Orton and start Tim Tebow.

Well, we took a fan poll and your view doesn't count. But tune in next week...

And of course, none of this takes away from the fact that I think that sports, doesn't have to be pro-sports, are crucial to civilization. If a scholar has a model of civilization that doesn't include sports, I propose that model is missing a huge component of how a society actually works.

But does it have to be so damn corrupt?

Do Not Pass This Along

Matt Yglesias hypes this dumb activist group's idea to...well, let me just quote them:
By going the speed limit on highways, thereby safely and legally slowing down traffic, we will increase our fuel efficiency, reduce highways accidents and deaths, and bring media attention to the critical need to preserve a livable climate.
If I could, I'd shoot all slow drivers on the spot. This is why I'm not really one to be asked about traffic policy.

The thing is, you're not really increasing fuel efficiency when you slow people down on the highway. Cruising along at speed is actually a very efficient way of using your fuel, perhaps the most efficient aside from not using any fuel at all. It's the stopping and starting and slowing down and speeding up that's the problem.

A bunch of assholes slowing down traffic will only exacerbate that problem. Don't do it.

And if you're tempted to be one of those slow-drivers on the side streets, don't do that either. Yes, it's nice you can save a nickel a gallon by slowing easing onto the accelerator, but hello, dumb ass...there's a line of cars behind you and doh, some of them just got stuck at the light again. Idling for another cycle because you want to save the planet.

Real fuel efficiency there. You save a nickel, and cost other people a dime. Brilliant idea, folks. Keep it up.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Humus Reviews

I've developed a taste for humus. I blame Garbanzos, a local humus chain, but I guess I really should blame the ancient people who came up with this wonderful idea. Chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice? Brilliant!

But not all humus is created equally.

Marketside - Traditional Flavor
This is the Wal-Mart store brand and it's not bad. It's got a nice thick, creamy texture and one glaring flaw: too much cumin. I'd be willing to try different flavors of this brand --I saw several at the store-- but I'm worried they'll all suffer from the too-much-cumin problem.

Athenos - Greek Style
Athenos was the first brand of store-bought humus I tried and it repelled me so much I went exclusively Garbanzos for months. (They really do make great humus...) But I thought I'd give them a second chance, and woah, what a mistake. This has the texture of curdled milk and an overpowering taste of stale olives. Disgusting. Don't buy this crap. It'll put you off humus forever.

Sabra - Roasted Garlic Humus
So far this is the winner. Look at it. The texture is just right, smooth but thick, and they put a heap of garlic in the middle to spice it up. If there's cumin, there's not too much of it. A little strong garlic-wise, but there are other flavors.

I must try them...

The Fall of Spartacus

It took me a couple episodes, but I started to enjoy that Spartacus series. It wasn't terribly original but at least it was consistently bloody with lots of sex. That counts for something, right?

So I was sad to hear that the star, Andy Whitfield, died of cancer at the ripe old age of 39. He was, from all appearances, in excellent shape. But it got him anyway.

Follow the Herd

Dear Everyone On the Internet:

The word "obligatory" should not be in your vocabulary. Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of 9-11. An occasion of note, no doubt, but if you wanted to post about something else, you can.

Or you could be like Dave Weigel and revolt against the obligatory 9-11 post by...writing an obligatory 9-11 post.

I'll do Weigel one better. He writes:
Printed on and stacked, the where-I-was stories of 9/11 would reach past the moon. Some are interesting. Mine isn't.
He then proceeds to tell you his not-interesting 9-11 story.

Mine isn't either...so I'll blog about something else instead!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Libertarianism: Anti-Democratic

Ya know, I think the reason I'm so critical about libertarianism is that I would genuinely like to be one of them. But then I get a glimpse of their blindspots, and think to myself, "Oh, man, thank god I'm not that fucking dumb."

So it's in that spirit that I highlight this piece musing about how democracy is incompatible with doctrinaire libertarianism:
Every modern, advanced democracy, including the United States, devotes between a third and half of its GDP to government, in both direct spending on public services like defense and transfer payments. Given the power to vote, most populations will not only vote for some system of government-backed social insurance, but also for all sorts of interventions in individual behavior that libertarians object to, from laws banning nudity in public to laws mandating that people support their children, do not torture or neglect their pets and water their lawns during droughts according to scheduled rationing.
The stuff about Pinochet's Chile is great too.

Tea Party Poster Boy

It's a familiar story. Federal agents armed to the teeth barge into a factory, detain the workers, start going through files. They're looking for evidence of illegal activity, usually having to do with the foreign origins of certain things.

If these raids are looking for foreign workers, they will presumably get a lot of support from right-wingers unable to think without the assistance of AM radio signals.

If these raids are looking for wood that may (or may not) have been illegally imported, you become a Tea Party hero.

I wonder what the Gibson shareholders think. Are they comfortable with CEO Henry Juszkiewicz's attempt at becoming the poster boy for a fringe political movement? Or would they rather that the company is run in a way that they're not getting raided by federal law enforcement?

The Undocumented

I'm generally supportive of immigrants, legal or otherwise, and I have many reasons. I mean, I think it's pretty clear that for a bunch of African primates, we're a pretty migratory species.

Now of course, I recognize the modern need for states to provide some kind of border security and implement some kind of immigration policy, but I never lose sight of the fact that artificial lines on a map won't overcome the human urge to move.

But I also have practical reasons, among them the idea that yes, Joe Wetback may be a toothless, alcoholic, pre-literate taco-eater who doesn't speak English and works under the table for ten dollars a day...but his children, his grandchildren, they may end up as the Governor.

Like Republican Governor of New Mexico Susana Martinez.