Ron Paul and the Newsletters

Newsletters published under Ron Paul’s name have started to be talked about again now that he’s a front runner in Iowa. These came up last election too. He disavowed them then and now. They are still a problem for him though. The newsletters are pretty bad, they talk about race wars, gay bashing, and anti-semitism. Paul has claimed that he wasn’t involved in writing them and wasn’t aware of what was being published. That’s tough to believe…

On the other hand, the newsletters really don’t sound like him. Paul has been very consistent over the years in preaching about liberty and freedom. That includes gay rights and the ignoring of color. How many other politicians point out the racist motivations for drug laws? Surely a racist wouldn’t explain how drug laws unfairly target minorities, let alone point out that it was the minority use of those drugs that led to the formation of those laws?

Paul has been consistent enough with his proclamations and votes that I don’t think that anyone really thinks he is a racist. I don’t understand the tactic some of the really far left commentors have used, essentially claiming that because there are racists and homophobes supporting Ron Paul that he shouldn’t be supported. Part of libertarianism is the tolerance of ideas, including ones you don’t like. I certainly don’t see why Paul shouldn’t take money from anyone that wants to give to him. After all, if you can take money from racists and use it to promote liberty for all, that’s got to be a good thing.

I think the best critique of this situation is that it shows a real problem with Paul’s decision making process and attention to detail. Certainly it calls into question just how politically un-savvy he is. Sure, there is an impetus to allow anyone to help you out, and in libertarian political circles I’m sure it’s impolitic to critique belief systems. Still, making a stand against racists shouldn’t be too hard to do and him not doing it might cost him in the long term. Shame, really, as his nomination would really show the political process actually representing people’s frustration over the status quo. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be disappointed, again…

Say it ain’t so

US doubt intelligence that led to Yemen strike. That’s the name of an article in the Wall Street Journal that describes what sounds like a Yemeni official fingering a political rival as Al Queda so the US could kill him. I’ve been beating this drum for a long time. The Yemeni government has long used the bogeyman of Queda to eliminate rivals. It was commonly understood over there that when the Yemeni government claimed to have killed Queda operatives, it was probably killing political rivals. When there was tribal violence, it was usually ascribed to Queda.

All forms of intelligence in Yemen are untrustworthy. There are too many local power struggles and not enough transparency to accurately understand what motivates most of the violence over there. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that US military force is used as a convenient way of solving local disagreements. If we give them the power to direct force, it will be used in ways that best suit them.

I’m still not convinced that Queda in Yemen poses any threat to the US. They were the picture of incompetence in Yemen, and their attempts outside of the US have been laughable. Even if they are a threat, Yemeni sources are about the least trustworthy you can find. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we get clear intelligence before we kill someone. Is that really too weird a suggestion?

Physical Therepy

I’ve been going to physical therapy for a couple of weeks now. I already feel stronger. I don’t have the worrying weakness going down the stairs, and I can balance much better with my eyes open. Eyes closed is still a bit of an adventure. I’ve been doing an exercise where I walk heel to toe in a straight line. I feel like I’m on a tightrope even though I’m just walking across the floor. Lots of balance checks and arm waving to keep on the line. I tried doing it with my eyes closed for the first time the other day. Woosh. I used a couple of poles like I was cross country skiing to keep my balance. Usually my legs are really tired at the end of these sessions, the use of the poles made my arms and shoulders tired. Still, it was good to do, I’m sure I’ll get better as I do it more often.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far is that I can’t exercise like a normal person. If I were training for sprints or something, I would need to push myself and wear myself out during the workout. I’ve been told by my therapist that that kind of workout is detrimental for someone with MS. If I exhaust myself, it will take much longer to recover, and I will feel worse than when I started. That certainly jibes with my experience. We are taking it much more slowly than I would have anticipated, but I think it’s paying dividends. I’m doing horizontal squats at a much lower weight than I had been doing them before. We keep building up the number of reps and the number of sets, but it is done in such a way that I’m not getting exhausted.

The bad thing is that I am now super paranoid about how much effort I’m expending. I now realize that when I leave work exhausted, I am really doing myself no favors and setting myself up to feel rotten for longer periods of time. I’ve missed a fair about of work these past couple of weeks because I’m afraid of going to work tired and then wearing myself out walking around for the rest of the day. I’m going to have to make a concerted effort to sit down at work, that’s all, no more giving up every ounce of energy. Like I said, I do feel stronger already and I think if I keep up a good mix of proper exercise and good rest, things will be much better long term. Wish me luck!

Forgive me if I don’t cry

I would rather live anywhere than North Korea. Somalia, Cuba, even Haiti are more appealing. The DPRK is the last holdout of old school “socialist” autocracies. Yes, both Cuba and Venezuela are still claiming to be socialist, but neither reach the depths of North Korea, the Soviet Union, Pol Pot’s regime, or even East Germany. I put socialism in quotes because of course socialism is just a ruse used by the leaders to grasp power and stay there. Those sorts of places have the worst inequality of anyplace. I think Hugo Chavez had the same idea, but he isn’t able to muster the same kind of oppression. Among all of socialism’s flaws, the attraction of power hungry men and their ability to wield it ruthlessly is probably at the top of the list.

Well, the world has one fewer thank God. We can only hope that this destabilizes the existing power structure. It’s amazing to think that the Dear Leader managed to put North Korea in place where a civil war would be about the best case scenario and the status quo the worst. My heart goes out to all of the people of North Korea, you’ve suffered for too long.

 

Kim Jong-Un Privately Doubting He’s Crazy Enough to Run North Korea from the Onion

Comparing North and South Korea at night

Remembering Kim Jong-Il’s Victims by Reason magazine

American Blogger’s Vacation in North Korea

The diet

I’ve been on the diet almost two weeks now. Gotta say, I’m impressed. I think I’ve lost 6 or 7 pounds, it’s hard to tell since I don’t have a scale but my pants are now noticeably loose. My jeans had been uncomfortably tight, now I’m cinching the belt a bit more. Plus, I actually have to tie my pajama bottoms now. Plus, I still haven’t had any dizzy/lightheaded spells since I started the diet. All I’ve done is cut out most of my carbs. All I’m eating is meat and vegetables. Gary Taubes ideas made a lot of sense to me and so far I’d say he was on the right track.

He actually advocates a high fat diet, and I’ve been following that. One aspect of his theory certainly seems true, the number of calories really doesn’t matter. I have been eating eggs and sausage for breakfast and learning to love bratwursts, kielbasas, and other sausages. I’ve had more than a few burgers in the last couple of weeks. In short, I’m sure that my calorie consumption is far higher than it had been before, but my weight has come down. Eating at work has proven to be a little more challenging, I can only eat but so many salads. There is a mall Thai place, I can eat there (with no rice) since they don’t bread their meat and they have lots of veggies. I’m going to have to find some variety there so I don’t go crazy.

As much as I love my white rice, bread, crackers, not to mention sweets, it hasn’t been all that hard to do this. Partly I think it’s because what I do eat is so filling I don’t have the cravings to munch nearly as much as before. I’ve also found some things that allow me to snack, like Trader Joes power berry trek mix (almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, and yes, some chocolate) and their Soy and flaxseed chips. I do have to watch them, but they have a lot of fiber so they aren’t as carb heavy as regular chips are.

I’m also eating more veggies. Trying to eat more salads, green beans, and mixed vegetables. Yeah, they have carbs, but not a whole lot. Think I’ll be OK with a few creeping in here and there:)

Weight is only one part of course, I’m going to try to keep tabs on my blood pressure, cholesterol, etc. Taubes is adamant that there is very little science to back up the conventional wisdom that fats clog up your arteries. Still, when you go against the grain, you need to make sure that there’s a reason the conventional wisdom is what it is.

Anyway, I plan on keeping on as long as I keep losing weight and feel good. I’ll keep you updated!

The problem with democrats and republicans

Ludwig von Mises summed up the entirety of political “solutions when he penned:

 

Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world. They long for the “leap of humanity out of the realm of necessity and into the realm of freedom.” They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve.

 

I got that from the Mises Institute blog talking about how the OWS crowd is attempting to shut down west coast ports. So many people have definite ideas of what should be accomplished and how to accomplish it, they don’t take any time to try to understand what might happen if they actually do what they intend. Their daydreams of sticking it to the 1% are going to cost a lot of regular folks paychecks. If they had their way, they would punish the 1% by making it much more difficult for everyone else to get stuff from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and yes, China. Even a basic understanding of economics would allow them to understand that it is impossible to “hurt” one group in isolation without affecting everyone else.

Mises.org also quotes Rothbard in that same post:

 

It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a “dismal science.” But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.

 

You can do what you want with yourself. Because it is impossible to know but the largest first order effects of any overall economic activity, acting on everyone else’s behalf should be the first warning sign that you’re out of your depth.

wow

Had my first physical therapy session yesterday. It was mostly an initial screening, seeing where I was and what I wanted to do etc. The physical therapist was happy with my general strength and flexibility. I kept trying to tell her that most of my problems don’t show up until I’ve been on my feet for a while, but she reassured me that most of her patients come in much worse. I had gone in worried about my strength and balance, in that order. My function strength seemed OK, but my balance was actually worse than I thought.

I did a simple test, stand on one foot for 30 seconds. It was tough on my right foot, and my left was noticeably worse. Doing with my eyes closed was hopeless, I was going over in under 5 seconds. She assigned a list of 5 exercises to do. We would concentrate on balance first and then work our way into the strength part. She thought I’d be able to do the first three with little problem, but that the last two would be challenging. I went home and then started my exercises a few hours later. Wow. Standing on one foot was still challenging to me, but rowing 2 sets of 30 seconds on each foot was really difficult, it really took it out of me. And that was the first exercise! The second one involved standing on one foot while moving the other leg. I couldn’t even do two sets of that.

I called it quits for the night. I figured that between the exercises at the office and the food shopping I had done, my legs were too tired. This morning was a classic example of struggling to wake from a coma. I was in bed for what seemed like forever, still dreaming but knowing that I had to get up. It took an unbelievable amount of willpower to actually get up. There was no way I was going to get to work on time, so I called them up, ate, and then did my exercises. I think my initial suspicion was true about being tired the day before because this time I was able to do both sets of both exercises. It was still difficult, but I could do them. I was tired though. Had to rest afterwards. I tried going to work, but that didn’t work out so well. I knew I was in trouble when the walk from the car to the store totally wiped me out. My legs were rubber, and my glutes, calves, and hamstrings were all aching. I turned right around and went back home. As bad as I felt, standing on my legs for another 7 hours was not going to do me any favors.

So I’m guessing my currently prescribes exercises are both strength and balance ones. I have so little strength in my legs that even standing on one foot for 30 seconds at a time is a good workout. No wonder I felt so awful when I did 20 minutes on the exercise bike! I have my first real session tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be really tired at the end of it. I’ve already warned work that if I feel like I do today on thursday, I won’t come in. Still, this is a different type of exhaustion, this is a physical exertion one, so I’m hopeful that even a few sessions like this and I’ll be noticeably better. Wish me luck!

mind/no mind

Have you ever heard a song that encapsulates basic tenets of Buddhist beliefs? No, neither have I, but I might have created one and I quite like it.

It all started when I stumbled across Ty Segall’s Imaginary Person.

 

 

It’s a lovely little bit of psychedelic/garage pop, you’d be forgiven if you thought it came out in 1968. I think it was actually made in 2002. I think it is about someone trying to convince themselves that they aren’t crazy. The chorus could either be “You are an imaginary person, you’re in my head but I am certain you aren’t real,” or “You are real…” Because of the charming low-fi quality, it’s impossible to tell.

Well, I was humming it to myself the other day and I mistakenly sang the lyric, “I am an imaginary person…” I thought that was pretty funny, but the more I thought about it, the more it reminded me of zen. Zen practitioners have the unenviable task of looking past themselves, of realizing that what they think of as self is an illusion. The self can’t be your thoughts and memories, otherwise where do you go when you sleep? Naturally, this leads to some real cognitive dissonance and confusion. Apparently that’s par for the course and is the basis of serious zen. So with apologies to Ty Segall, here is the first zen psychedelic/garage pop song. I’ve modified the lyrics a bit, but imagine them in the regular music and see what you think…

 

 

say say, i can’t say what I’m tryin’ to do to me oh no oh no oh yea

cuz I’m in my head so i never go to bed oh no oh nooh no

talk talk, it’s all I do so i never talk to you oh no oh nooh yea

cuz I’m in my head so i never go to bed oh no oh no

cuz I, I am an imaginary person

I’m in my head, but i am certain I’m not real

I am an imaginary person

I’m in my head, but i am certain I’m not real

yea, I’m not real

I’m not real I am real I’m not real

 

Nutrition

Nothing will make you focus on your health like feeling lousy. November was a pretty bad month for me, missed a bunch of time at work. I’m feeling better now and I think, maybe, that a change in diet might have helped.

Here’s the thing about nutrition, nobody has any idea what’s going on. You can read all you want, you’ll only find two constants. Sweets, candy, pastries, etc. are bad. If you eat them at all, you should only do it once in a while. The other thing that is constant is that vegetables are good, you should eat them. Everything else is up in the air, even with vegetables. How much should you eat? Should you eat anything else? Should they be cooked? Any given recommended diet can be argued against. An all meat diet is better than vegetarian, meat is a kind of poison, low fat is the way to go, no high fat is, avoid eggs, eggs are good for you, low salt diets are good for people with high blood pressure, low salt diets might kill you, it goes on and on.

Russ Roberts made the connection between nutrition and macroeconomics in this episode of econtalk, a podcast about economics. There are a lot of ideas out there in the nutrition world, many of them are contradictory. When there is any science involved at all, it isn’t overly convincing and doesn’t do much to counteract anyone’s previous beliefs. In both fields, there is a lot of wisdom being given by experts, but there isn’t a whole lot of results to go with their ideas.

Gary Taubes has done a lot of research on nutrition and diet and has found that there is precious little evidence for the conventional wisdom of a low fat diet being good for losing weight and being heart healthy. What he did find seemed to point towards the opposite. He espouses a low carb diet and promotes the idea that sugars are the real killer. In the podcast, he and Russ talk about the Atkins diet and how well it works. It really does allow you to drop pounds quickly, it is repeatable and is documented in many places. The only catch is that it isn’t clear if you’re killing yourself doing it. That is, we have conventional wisdom telling us that eating all that fat will clog up your arteries, but there isn’t much evidence either way. He has spent a lot of time finding out how that theory has gotten popular, turns out actual science wasn’t as involved as good old fashioned advocacy was.

I had been feeling really lightheaded, dizzy, and out of it for a while when I heard this podcast. I started to think about what I usually ate and things like white bread (bagels, French bread, white bread on my sandwiches), rice, and potatoes. All of these things were on Taubes’ list of do not eat list. The carbohydrates cause an insulin spike and then cause general mayhem in the body according to his theory. I figured, what the heck, and tried to follow his advice.

Well, no more dizziness, my head was clear, and I wasn’t so effing tired all the time. What bread I ate was multigrain, pretty hardy stuff. I ate veggies, meats, and a little bit of brown rice. It wasn’t a subtle difference. Of course, it was hardly a rigorous trial either. Think I’ll do two weeks on his diet and then go back to my regular fare and see if I notice a difference. His ideas make sense to me, but there are other sensible diets out there too. Because it is impossible to sort out the signal from the noise in the nutrition world, I am going to go with what makes me feel healthier and follow that up with checkups. What else can you do?

I remember writing in grad school about how certain macroeconomic theories seem to work for a while and then they fall apart. It seems completely reasonable to me that economies can change and need different solutions at different times. I am open to the possibility that different people have different genes, different hormone levels, and different metabolisms and so need different diets. Is it possible that lots of those diets are good ones, for the right people? I dunno, but if I can keep feeling like this last week, I’ll be happy changing my diet a bit.

Investment grade debt

Most actual investment (as opposed to places to park your money) involves buying debt. Or to put it another way, you loan money with the hope of making more later on. Bonds are the most common way to do direct investment, you have a time frame and a specific rate of interest. Stock IPO’s are another way of investing in a company. 

When you buy a bond from a company, you look at how likely it is that you’ll be repaid based on the business involved. If its a good company with good products, they will create profits and be able to pay you your interest. But what about municipal and sovereign debt? There are no profits to be had, just ongoing tax collection. On the face of it, that seems pretty safe, that’s what governments do after all. But all isn’t well in tax land. Europe continues to crumble, their very currency may go away. When that happens, there is an excellent chance that the folks that loaned them those Euros will be left holding the bag. We’re also hearing about more and more municipalities declaring bankruptcy. A casual glance at states like California make you wonder how safe those bonds are as well. 
My (perhaps not so humble) suggestion is to invest in productive, profitable businesses instead relying on tax collection for your investment. It’s common sense really, invest in things that have upside! Or think of it this way, how much do you trust politicians? How much do you trust that they’ll do the smart thing with your money? More and more we’re seeing what that trust will get you, a lot less money.