I’m Back

I just returned from spending a week (that included my birthday and Christmas Day) in Las Vegas with my family.

It was a lot of fun, and I’m thinking of doing it again next year. As I thought, the town wasn’t very busy during Christmas Week. It did seem to be filling up quickly for New Year’s Week. So, it wasn’t hard to find spots at tables for frugal gamblers like me who like low minimums and favorable rules. I hope we’re as successful next year at missing the worst weather in both Seattle and Las Vegas.

We saw, and actually enjoyed, Donny & Marie perform the first night we arrived. As I wrote to a friend, they actually sound good, and still do the playful insults that they did during their show long ago. Also, I’ll always admire Donny for the dancing he did on Weird Al’s “White & Nerdy” video. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. And, I think I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Marie.

I also saw Penn & Teller (I guess it was a shows-with-ampersands-in-their-titles themed week) again with my son. It’s still a very fun show. They’ve made a few changes to the act since the last time I saw it. Also, Penn seemed even more strident than I remember in his criticism of fake psychics (redundant, I know) who pretend to be real and violate the memories of their victims when they are most vulnerable.

Also, we ate a lot of (too much!) good food.

But, perhaps best of all, I overcame the odds and ended a week of gambling with a profit!

So, life is good.

I haven’t been following the news closely, but I don’t think I missed much. Thanks for keeping things together while I was away.

Happy Holidays

I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season.

I’m leaving tomorrow for a week in Vegas. This is an unusual time for us to vacation there (over my birthday and Christmas) and it’ll be interesting to see how busy it is. I don’t like crowds so I’m hoping it’s a slow time. But, I wouldn’t like it be completely dead.

Try to muddle through without me.

And, no more bailouts while I’m gone!!!

Not Dying

One of my favorite Woody Allen quotes is:

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

This is just my way of introducing a fascinating bloggingheads.tv diavlog in which Eliezer Yudkowsky interviews Aubrey de Grey. De Grey has done amazing work furthering anti-aging research and I always enjoy hearing him speak and reading his work.

I think it’s a very interesting area. To me, it’s almost self-evident that combating aging is a good thing. But, it’s so tightly bound up with many irrationalities about death that lots of people don’t see it that way. People who agree that we should make every effort to fight diseases that would kill us quickly, somehow reject efforts to fight those that kill us eventually. They’re inclined to appeal to some form of naturalistic fallacy, or Malthusian mistake, or some nonsense about impending death being necessary to make life meaningful. I won’t even pretend to understand how it interacts with religious ideas about an afterlife

I do understand the pressure to rationalize a scary fate we consider inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we should actively thwart people who have overcome this pressure and are trying to address a real problem.

So, I wholeheartedly support anti-aging research and would love to achieve immortality through not dying.

Filibuster, Baby, Filibuster!

So, it looks like Saxby Chambliss has won the runoff Senate race in Georgia, preventing the Democrats from having a filibuster-proof 60-member majority. And the Minnesota recount seems to be leaning away from Al Franken, so they will probably “only” have 58 seats.

Of course, I consider this a good thing.

I think it’s dangerous to have either party controlling both the Executive and Legislative branches, so I’m happy to have a hope that the worst of the possible new policies could be obstructed by the opposition.

Even if all of the Republicans can’t stick together, I doubt the Democrats will be able to coordinate all of their factions to block most serious filibuster attempts.

So, maybe the power of arithmetic will force enough moderation (from Obama and the senate majority) to save us from severe damage that might be difficult to undo.

Party Like It’s 1992

The leading members of the Republican Party have a lot of thinking to do.

What they’ve been doing lately hasn’t been working out very well for them. They can’t just be the “We’ll spend almost as much as the Democrats!” party. They have to decide what kind of a genuine alternative they can present. One way to go is the Mike Huckabee route, and be more socially conservative, and economically populist. I think that would be a disaster for everyone. The other day, Jeff Flake (probably the best member of congress) wrote a great op-ed that they should consider seriously.

I suggest that we return to first principles. At the top of that list has to be a recommitment to limited government. After eight years of profligate spending and soaring deficits, voters can be forgiven for not knowing that limited government has long been the first article of faith for Republicans.

Second, we need to recommit to our belief in economic freedom. Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” may be on the discount rack this year, but the free market is still the most efficient means to allocate capital and human resources in an economy, and Americans know it. Now that we’ve inserted government deeply into the private sector by bailing out banks and businesses, the temptation will be for government to overstay its welcome and force the distribution of resources to serve political ends. Substituting political for economic incentives is not the recipe for economic recovery.

As they say, read the whole thing.

I think the Republicans would be wise to appoint Flake House Minority Leader (or at least, Whip), and to follow his advice.

President Obama

I’m glad that Obama’s victory has made so many people happy tonight. Of course, I think they don’t understand that a united Democrat government will do a great deal of damage. I can’t help but think of this clip.

I understand the historic significance of electing our first black president, and I’m happy that the issue of whether the country was ready to elect one has been settled. I would have preferred someone with a better grasp of economics like Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams.

I’m afraid that all of the celebrants will get the government that they deserve.

Unfortunately, the rest of us will get the government that they deserve too.

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Bob Barr

Thomas Sowell characterized (at around 1:30) the choice between McCain and Obama as one of disaster vs. catastrophe.

They both have very bad philosophies and I really don’t like either one of them.

And, since I live in Washington State, which will certainly elect electors for Obama, there’s no chance of my vote being decisive, so I’m extremely free to vote (or not) for purely expressive reasons.

So, I’ve cast my absentee ballot for the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr.

But, although I voted for Barr, I do have a preference between the two major-party candidates and (like Sowell) I prefer disaster to catastrophe and hope that McCain manages to pull out an upset.

The main reason is that I’m afraid of one-party executive-legislative rule, and worry about how much damage would be done. The second reason is that there is a very good chance that the next president will nominate two Supreme Court justices, and I expect much better nominees from McCain than from Obama.

McCain is bad, but he might actually veto the most outrageous of congressional mischief and slow down the damage. And, a Democrat congress might deny him his most outrageous policy goals.

But, I realize it’s a longshot. Intrade has McCain’s chances at about 11% at the moment.

So, I expect that people will tend to vote for change they can fantasize about, and will elect Obama. Hopefully, he won’t be as bad as I fear, and any damage can be reversed within a few years.

Unfortunately, I’m not very optimistic about it at this point.

By the way, there have been some interesting posts about how libertarians should vote at the Volokh Conspiracy recently.

Penn Jillette Is Cool

People who know me will find it funny that I’m announcing that Penn Jillette is cool.

Not only because I’m not personally cool, but because I’m often disdainful of “cool” celebrities and their fans.

These things are true.

But, I think Penn has qualities that rise above all of that and lead me to admire him and want others to share the pleasure he brings me.

Today I spent a while watching his video blog entries in the Penn Says series. Check them out!

It’s hard to describe why I find them so compelling. I think it’s because I share the values that Penn expresses: his intellectual curiosity, his skepticism of religious impulses in all their forms, his passion for science, liberty, and human flourishing…

And, beyond all of that, I admire his easy eloquence at expressing himself.

Also, magic is cool.