Octavo Dia

Monday, August 28, 2006


That's my new favorite dinosaur. Actually, it's the end of question I asked one of my coworkers, "What's your view on the legalization of marijuana, Don?" He gave me the response that just about every marijuana advocate gives. "We should legalize it and tax it."

I don't think this is a valid argument. Anything that can be measured can be taxed. We could legalize murder and put a tax on it. ("Let's see, you gunned down three people, that's a $300,000 tax bill. Too bad one of them was accidental.") The ability to tax marijuana is entirely irrelevant to whether we should legalize it.

I personally am opposed to it, for I do not believe that society functions well when there are people who are not entirely in control of their minds.

Monday, August 21, 2006


When the Bible was taught only in Latin throughout Europe, the priests had an enormous level of control over the population. Since the people did not have direct access to that which they ostensibly believed, the priests, acting as gatekeepers, could change the interpretation to suit their own ends. During the Reformation, Luther's real contribution was that he lived long enough to translate the Bible into German, and had the newly invented moveable type printing press available to disperse it. By making the Bible widely available in the vernacular languages, the ability of the priests to control the beliefs of the people was greatly reduced.

It seems to me that Islam is in a similar situation today. The Koran is not translated, because those are the very Words of God, and how dare a feeble human presume to alter them! Thus the people for whom seventh century Arabic is not a first language learn the Koran in a language which is unfamiliar to them, and whose meaning is controlled by clerical decisions.

It will probably make them even angrier to have the infidel Americans do so, but we should translate the Koran into as many Muslim languages and dialects as we possibly can. If they won't let us print it, we should broadcast it. Perhaps we should even sponsor multiple translations. By getting versions of the Koran to the Muslim world that are outside the control of the clerics, we will cause people to question the meaning and intepretation thereof, and thereby reduce the political power of religious authority. The separation of church and state at its most vital.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cease fire

I have a couple of comments on the international peace keeping force proposed for Israel. First of all, if it didn't work the last time we tried it, in 1982-1984, with the peacekeeping force collapsing after the peacekeepers started being the object of attacks, why do we think it will work this time? Second, I think Israel raises a very valid point that they cannot rely on peacekeepers from countries who do not recognize their existence.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Okay, there is one argument I am entirely sick of hearing/reading. To put it in syllogism form:

Premise: No people with choice will choose to be despised.
Premise: All gays are despised.
Conclusion: No gays are people who choose.

As my logic professor stamped into my brain, when there is a valid syllogism, if the premises are true, the conclusion cannot possibly be false. The syllogism is valid, so it must be true, right? We can accept the second premise as generally true--through most of history and in most locations they have been despised. The first premise, however, is fallacious. People do routinely make choices that will cause them to be despised.

I put forward the following examples: there are Palestinian Christians, who suffer the same loses as the Palestinians from Israeli incursions, and meanwhile life as segregated, second-class citizens in a society that often persecutes them. All it would take is a simple conversion to Islam, and half their problems would disappear, yet the choose not to.

People choose to become all manner of criminals, drug dealers, pimps, hit men, etc. They are despised by society at large, yet the consciously choose to engage in those activities.

People also choose to enter secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan, whose goals, ideology, and tactics and condemned by almost every non-member, yet they continue to belong.

Thus I think we should forever consign that argument to the graveyard.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Most people know that I advocate a tax on pollution. The primary rationale for such a tax is that it would create a cost basis for the externalties of polluting the environment. In a similar vein, I also advocate a tax on water. Fresh water is not an illimitable resource, and the draining of aquifers does have undesirable externalities. By taxing water based on its relative scarcity, heavily in desert areas like Nevada, lightly in sodden areas like Wisconsin, the price of water would more accurately represent the true cost of water.

Hi ho, hi ho.

I have come to the conclusion that the labor market does not price labor well. Each individual is required to sell their labor in large batches, typically, one agrees to sell a set amount of labor at set times for a single price per hour, when the amount and desirability of labor varies tremendously hour by hour.

The first example is what the potential impact of a company having no attendance policy would be, i.e., there is no penalty other than not getting paid (and not acquiring the associated experience), for not coming to work. Thus, whenever the cost of working (in foregone other activities, such as sleep), actually exceeds the rewards of working, that employee would simply not work. My prediction is that, in such a situation, the rate of absenteeism would skyrocket, and then settle towards a mean number of hours which would be relatively constant, as people discovered how much labor they needed to sell.

The second example of pricing labor would be allowing people to bid for shift premiums. Say the company divided the week up into 4-hour time slots, and people were able to bid for how much of a premium they would need to work those hours. The bottom bidders for every slot would then receive those hours.

Where I work, the rewards for taking unusual shifts is very small. Whenever a position opens on the day shift, it is normally filled from another shift within a day. If a position opens on a regular 8-hour shift, it is normally filled within a week from another shift. We can be quite confident, therefore, that the premiums for working 12-hour, night shift are considerably less than they should be, and the workers on 8-hour day shifts are overpayed. Even within shifts, certain days and hours are more valulable than others. I, for example, am overpayed working Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, since I am willing to perform my work on those days for less than I'm being paid. On Sundays, however, I am definitely underpaid, and if left to myself, would never work a Sunday again without a tremendous increase in shift premium.

My prediciton for how this would work out, is that those people who work 8-hour day shifts would bid themselves negative in order to retain their current time slots. The premiums for night and weekend work would corresponding jump, until the premium for every period of time matched the personal cost to the individual for working those hours.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Okay, now Mexico is recounting an election. Here's the problem with recounts: in the initial election, we have no idea how close a race it's going to be. Sure we have polls that tell you it's this plus or minus so many percentage points, but in an election, one percent can be thousands, tens of thousands, or millions of votes. Creating enough false ballots to insure victory, therefore, would require enormous fraud, and the corresponding enormous risk of discovery. When there is a recount, however, it is already certain that the balloting is very, very, very tight. It is at this point that the risk/reward curve of ballot irregularities is dramatically altered. The reward remains the same, but the necessary amount of fraud is reduced dramatically--a few hundred votes out of several million cast. Recounts lead to ballot irregularities, especially since creating badly made fake ballots voting for one's opponent can have much the same effect, and point the criticism the other way.