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Monthly Archives: July 2014


The Cockamamie Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889

While reading The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier, I came across one of the earliest forms of stupidheadedness in the American government, concerning property:

On March 3, 1889, [President] Harrison announced the government would open the 1.9 million-acre tract of Indian Territory for settlement precisely at noon on April 22. Anyone could join the race for the land, but no one was supposed to jump the gun. With only seven weeks to prepare, land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of the irregular rectangle of territory. Referred to as “Boomers,” by the appointed day more than 50,000 hopefuls were living in tent cities on all four sides of the territory.

The events that day at Fort Reno on the western border were typical. At 11:50 a.m., soldiers called for everyone to form a line. When the hands of the clock reached noon, the cannon of the fort boomed, and the soldiers signaled the settlers to start. With the crack of hundreds of whips, thousands of Boomers streamed into the territory in wagons, on horseback, and on foot. All told, from 50,000 to 60,000 settlers entered the territory that day. By nightfall, they had staked thousands of claims either on town lots or quarter section farm plots. Towns like Norman, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, and Guthrie sprang into being almost overnight.

Besides the injustice of stealing property from one group (natives) and offering it for sale to another (whites), the entire process is an rich embarrassment of bureaucracy…though the history.com site whitewashes some of the incidents that took place.

Compare this with the complex process of property rent evaluation, ownership, and sale between parties that were mostly peaceful and non-zero-sum.

Unfortunately there isn’t a free electronic version of the book online so I can’t copy-paste any relevant text concerning that. Google Books has some free chapters but the text isn’t HTML. It’s worth a look at if you’re interested in how property rights can develop “naturally,” without state forces having its hand.

Photos: Listen to Metal Stickers

I made good use of the “Listen To Metal” stickers I helped Seth with.

This was placed next to a map of the Pittsburgh subway system. When I checked last it was taken down. I have no idea what the pink smudge on it is:
listen_to_metal_sticker1

On a Pittsburgh Steelers promotional poster:
listen_to_metal_sticker2

On a pillar on a pedestrian walkway that was under Macy’s, on Cherry Way:
listen_to_metal_sticker3

Outside a building at PNC Plaza where everyone smokes. The placard on the right is a “no smoking” sign:
listen_to_metal_sticker4

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 7

I made a silly video of a polar bear “dancing” to a Meshuggah song.

Ed links to an interesting article about the HTML5 canvas tag and a possible use/misuse to track client-side activity. We something of an ongoing discussion on how to resolve it (somewhat) with user-defined javascripting.

Germany government might revert to typewriters for security purposes, just like Russia did last year.

The 35 Writers Who Run the Literary Internet – AKA: A bunch of people who live in NYC that you’ve never heard of (except maybe Gaiman).

Why Don’t People Smile in Old Photographs? – An old post, but still informative, including the comments.

Another dilemma for Facebook slacktivists, especially the ones who slacktivate constantly about global poverty.

A Japanese (I think) band plays Converge’s “Concubine” at a wedding.

This is why the government should never control the internet: “In short, the Internet is the greatest deregulatory success story of all time — a simple fact that vexes those seeking new and unnecessary rules.”

Does Jesus use hyperbole to make a point? – Short answer is, “yes.”

8 Out of the 10 Highest IQ People on Earth are Theists

From the Examiner:

Have you ever heard the claim “all smart people are atheists”, or maybe its inverse: “people who believe in God are dumb”? It’s quite a pervasive urban legend, and one which I’ve known is false for a long time, but I didn’t realize just how false until the other day. I recently decided to do a quick cataloging of the ten highest IQ’s on earth, and discovered that it’s nearly the exact opposite of the truth!

There’s lots of things one can tentatively infer from this tidbit, with varying degrees of certainty. One of the hastier conclusions might conclude that most smart people are theists, like the juvenile wording of the Examiner article suggests. It’s a tempting proposition; inverting commonly held beliefs has salacious appeal. But I would maintain some version of the opposite: that most dumb people are theists.

Here’s why, doing some armchair stats analysis. Most people throughout history have had some theistic belief. Whether the material reason stems from social forces like tradition/parentage, or for some innate psychological mechanism for coping with harsh environments, I can’t say if that’s known to researchers or not. Concurrently with this is the fact that theism seems to need to be “trained” out of people—as though it were unnatural*, not in the negative or anti-social sense, but more in the impartation of complex ideas to fill the “vacuum” left by non-theism.

Because, along with this “retraining” to impart atheism, comes with learning other things, as in the collegiate level of education. Naturally, this would attract people of higher IQ, since, holding everything else constant, smarter people tend to want to learn more, and currently higher learning is the modus operandi. So the ostensible eggheads get even more ostensible with their eggheadedness.

This tends to leave a lot of stupid people, for lack of a better phrase, in the “uneducated” category, which tends towards theism. This isn’t that terrible unless you come from a diehard Western intellectual tradition that equates intelligence with virtue. The “most stupid people are theists” could mean that theism is easy to understand or comes naturally, as I said before. That sluggards believe in it has no bearing on its truthiness.

* I hope I don’t need to point out that I don’t mean, because atheism comes via intentional re-socialization or that theism is natural, that the former is a false belief and the latter a true one. It’s a bit tiring to think one needs to make this disclaimer, but this is the Internet, the place where people come to get offended by inferring things that simply are not there.

Photo: Parking Lot Sign

In the parking lot of the Peoples Library in New Kensington, PA.

In the parking lot of the Peoples Library in New Kensington, PA.

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 6

“Nice” people might be immoral. Also, any casual observer of human nature already knew this. No need for a study. [HT: Jill]

The cupcake bust. Easy credit = bubbles. As if this never happened over and over again in the past.

How families lose a lot of money in a few generations.

Your band does this.

“Quit using styrofoam at potlucks and quit assuming that if someone dares to pose these ideas they’re a Democrat pagan Gaia worshipping Commie pinko liberal.”

Ten neglected examples of ancient science fiction.

Homestar Runner to come back. Everything else doesn’t matter.

I think I’m okay with this.

Utterly Shocking: Recent Article on Hypatia Gets It Wrong

Internet friend Tim O’Neill commented on a HuffPo article on Hypatia. You can guess the tone of the story if you look at the title (“The First Female Astronomer“) and if you know how buzzy the leftoid beehive HuffPo is.

Sayeth O’Neill:

“Synesius of Cyrene …. asks for her advice on the design of scientific instruments, such as a hydroscope (used to determine density of fluids) and an astrolabe”

Ummm, no he just asks her if she could have these instruments made for him, presumably because it is more likely there would be craftsmen capable of making such specialised items in a learning centre like Alexandria where they would be unlikely to be found in far off Cyrenacia, where he was bishop. He has to explain to her what a hydroscope is, so he’s clearly not asking her for advice about it. Of course, that doesn’t fit the narrative people like to believe about Hypatia.

“there is little doubt that people who felt threatened by the level of knowledge and encouragement for learning that Hypatia had inspired committed the murder.”

There is actually absolutely nothing in the contemporary sources to suggest any such thing. On the contrary, Socrates Scholasticus moves from praising her learning and highlighting the wide *respect* she gained for it to saying “yet even she fell a victim to the political jealousy which at that time prevailed”. The sources put her murder in the context of the notoriously violent civic politics of Alexandria and, more specifically, of a series of tit-for-tat killings in a political struggle between Orestes and Cyril.

Of course, sticking to the actual evidence kind of spoils things and mean that her story can’t be turned into a neat little fable about wicked philistines hating ancient learning.

Tim, an atheist, has great blog here about the misconceptions of church history.

Photo: Silver-Cheeked Hornbill

Silver Cheeked Hornbill - Pittsburgh Zoo

Silver Cheeked Hornbill – Pittsburgh Zoo

Links of Possible Relevance, Part 5

It occurred to me recently that I still haven’t gotten sick since will before the past winter. See here for my “hacks,” though recently my vitamin intake has been sporadic. This isn’t really a Link of Possible Relevance proper, but more just unmitigated bragging.

Hobby Lobby blah blah. It was an okay decision but arguments from religious liberty are lacking, sometimes even more so than stupidheaded gender-based ones. I like Ron Paul’s response, since private property and contract law are just nicknames for things we do dozens of times everyday without a bureaucrat sniffing at our shoulder. Like when I high five a friend of mine. The point is: you cannot force people to high five you.

I helped Seth design these interactive stickers. Any and all subgenres are welcome!

“Epic” is overused but given the context I think 17 minutes of metal versions of video game music qualifies.

Death metal band to perform in airtight, soundproof container until they run out of oxygen. Okay.

William Lane Craig on the problem with apologetics. He uses the term “theological rationalism” to describe the idea that people can be argued into belief, and he doesn’t claim it. I agree with him. Apologetics is good for removing bad facts and replacing them with correct ones, but having a correct set of facts has nothing to do with religious belief. Though people can be a type of conduit, “activating” true beliefs are very much out of our hands.

The pope said the mafia are excommunicated. Is he including governments with that term, too? I don’t see a difference between them save for scale.

Some good thoughts over at Wintery Knight about explaining Old Testament wars. Material reasoning aside, I still prefer to simply argue that God can do whatever He damn well pleases. Feel free to reason with Him on this point. I do not recommend it but I’ll definitely be watching from the sidelines.

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