I was ego-surfing the web today, when I came accross a biography of my namesake — in Russian. It seems that Äàâèä Âåêñëåð was a a psychologist at Columbia University who invented the IQ test. Specifically, he came up with the following definition of intelligence: "The aggregate, or global capacity to act purposefully, think rationally, and deal effectively with the environment."
Unfortunately, when Äàâèä came to the United States, he spelled his name "Wechsler" rather than my "Veksler," which is why the very-appropropriate legacy of my namesake remained hidden from me for so long. (Actually, when I was 16, I had my first name legally changed from "Dennis" to "David" — but that’s besides the point.)
There are a number of interesting stories covering the witch hunt the government is pursuing against Martha Stewart. A number of papers are running stories such as "Official Poll: Is Martha Stewart guilty?" and Poll: Majority of New Yorkers think Martha Stewart is guilty. How the hell is Joe Shmoe supposed to know the details of the legal code or what Martha did or did not do? Fortunately, most of the editorials I’ve seen recognize the case for what is is: "U.S. government makes her the subject of a criminal test case designed to further expand the already unrecognizable boundaries of the U.S. federal securities laws." A number of sites in support of Martha have popped up, including Martha’s own MarthaTalks.com and the SaveMartha.com, which features several hilarious clips from her "enemies."
Martha’s own defense has been to say that she is only being prosecuted because she is a successful woman — but I think this take is misguided. Many successful men have gone to jail for insider trading, and Martha’s defense is doomed unless she acknowledges the real motivations of her prosecutors: to inspire fear, uncertainty and doubt into successful businessmen everywhere, and gain political prominence in the process. As the must-read article "Martha Stewart: Political Prisoner" points out,
It is politics, not the pursuit of justice, which is driving this case. Stewart is well-connected politically, but it is to Democrats, who control none of the branches of government at the present time. Her wealth and public persona make her a convenient target of a very political U.S. Department of Justice and of U.S. attorneys who see the example of the Guiliani path to fame and fortune.
I can’t say whether Martha broke the law or not: I’m not lawyer, I don’t know the facts of the case, and even if I were a lawyer, the SEC regulations are vague enough to mean whatever the government wants them to mean in any particular case. What I do know, is that the insider trading laws are a mockery of justice, and that the witchhunt against Martha Steward is only happening because she and Sam Waksal are successful individuals, and in today’s world, success can be a very dangerous thing.
The title says it all: Starving [African] Nations Reject U.S. Food Donation. If you want my take, read last years blog on it.
In other news, the Defense Dept is adopting the "new" IPv6 protocol. My guess is that when every bussiness has IPv6 implemented in 5 years, the Pentagon will still be conducting studies about how to best implement the protocol.
A few months ago, I placed a tiny, invisible image on my blog in exchange for "product samples." A few weeks later, I got a bucket with a shirt, chocolate drinks, other assorted merchandize, and a link to "Raging Cow," a blog "written by a cow" that just happens to have the name and image of a new chocolate drink product. The blog itself has various "humorous" rants that make no sense whatsoever and never explicitly mention the product the blog is advertizing. The only hint that this is a actually an experimental guerilla marketing technique is a tiny link in the corder that sats "©2003 Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc." Will it work? I have my doubts, but their crawler will probably notice this link and send me more merchandize, so I’ll be a good corporate tool and keep on blogging about it. You can sign up here, but your blog has to get 50+ hits a day to qualify.
A few weeks ago, I noticed a little bird nursing two eggs on a palm tree two feet outside my window, and I decided to try to take a few snapshots of the chicks. Although I’ve seen it clean and feed the baby chicks, whenever I approach the nest on the porch to take some pictures, the mamma bird immediately covers the chicks with her wing and gives me "the stare" until I feel like a tresspasser on my own porch. I took some photos anyway, which you may see here. Update: I liked up the bird, and it’s a white-winged dove.
My mom and sister are currently on vacation in Israel, visiting my grandmother and many other relatives. With that in mind, I found the following post from James Lileks to be an eloquent summary of my current thoughts on the "peace process":
The top-of-the-hour radio news played today’s news just as you’d expect – everything shoved through the tit-for-tat template. Israel attempts to take out a terror leader; Hamas “responds” with a bombing. As if they’re equal. As if targeting the car that ferries around some murderous SOB is the same as sending a blissed-out teenager to blow nails and screws through the flesh of afternoon commuters so he can bury himself in the heaving bosom of the heavenly whorehouse. Cycle of violence, don’t you know.
They don’t have helicopters, we’re told, so they use suicide bombers. If they had helicopters, they would have strafed the bus and everyone waiting at the corner. Give them a nation where Hamas runs unchecked, and they’ll have helicopters. They won’t be Apaches. The bill of sale will be calculated in Euros and the manual written in French. By then the excuse for the terror won’t be oppression; it’ll be "the legacy of oppression." Sometimes I swear the mainstream media won’t take a look at the Palestinian’s horrid death-cult subculture until we learn that a suicide bomber played "Doom" at an Internet cafe for five minutes. And then they’ll blame Intel.
Also, check out today’s Cox and Forkum
I had to cut short a letter to the editor I wrote about monopolies, but if you want to read some common misconceptions about monopolies, you can do so
June 12, 2003
(In response to a letter)
Robert presents a number of common misconceptions about monopolies. He correctly points that natural monopolies may arise in certain industries because of economies of scale. However, it is important to keep in mind that the returns from increasing size decrease rapidly as the complexity of any given bureaucracy increase. Like many government agencies, large bureaucracies in business can also grow non-responsive to consumer trends, resist efforts to change, foster corruption and waste, and perhaps most importantly, grow stagnant because they fail to innovate. The major difference between public and private bureaucracies is that the invisible hand of the market quickly punishes companies that grow too large for their own good, and rewards small and innovative startups that are able to move quickly, and take the big risks necessary to take advantage of innovations.
Companies like Microsoft and IBM must constantly try to maximize efficiency and spent massive amounts of funds on research to stay ahead in their markets. Microsoft may well have a “natural” monopoly on the Operating System market – but if it fails to constantly improve its products, foresee new trends, and keep its prices down, competitors will quickly eat up its market – and many will argue that competitors like Linux are in the process of doing just that. Furthermore, the fact that Apple and Unix-based operating systems have formed a small but solid niche immune to any “undercutting” efforts by Microsoft – no thanks to the Antitrust Dept. — clearly undermines your argument that abusive monopolists can simply wish competitors out of existence. In any market where there is a monopoly, small competitors are always waiting for the first slipup to jump into the market.
Unfortunately, the major barrier to competition and sustainer of monopolies is not private companies but the government. Cox Communication – your example of a “bad” monopoly, is only able to maintain it because the FCC makes it illegal for new competitors to enter the market without essentially bribing politicians into giving them a license (permission) to do business. On the local level, Cox has made deals with cities (like BCS) giving them a legal monopoly over the local market.
Rather than increasing competition, the Antitrust Department is actually used as a tool by jealous competitors to force better and more efficient companies to compete in the courts rather than in the market. The only constant of the arbitrary rules used by the DOJ is that any successful business can be punished at any time for just about anything. When companies charge prices lower than their competitors, they are accused of “predatory behavior,” when they charge prices that are higher, they are fined for “gouging,” and when they match their competitions, they are accused of “collusion.”
You suggest that the government should nationalize the communications market just like it nationalized the roads. You forget that like all other monopolies that only exist because of a politicians favor, this would form yet another gang that fines and imprisons inventors and entrepreneurs who try to introduce cheaper and better products. Imagine if the government got involved in the software market in the early 90’s — I’d probably be typing this letter on an old typewriter rather than a sleek, cheap, and fast new computer.
Has jihad now become binding on every Muslim?
…and provides the answer:
Until Islam as a Way of Life dominates the whole of the world and until Allah’s Law is enforced everywhere in the world, it is binding and incumbent upon the Muslims to fight on against the disbelievers
Every Muslim is bound to continue fighting against the disbelievers as long as they in any part of the world have power and strength enough to persecute the Muslims and as long as a person desiring to accept Islam is reluctant to do so jut because he fears to be persecuted and tortured by the disbelieves and it he somehow enters the fold of Islam, he becomes a target of their (i.e. the disbelievers’) oppression.
The object of Jihad in this case is the Indian army in Kashmir, but the essay provides a large number of quotes and commentary from the Qur’an which you may judge for yourself. The writer is a leader within the Hizbul Mujahideen, a quasi-military outfit sanctioned by the Pakistani government. (Thanks to BOL for the link.)