November 9, 2009

QotD: Society must be protected

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 14:03

I think this does not go nearly far enough. Clearly the company behind Red Bull should be closely regulated as it is only a matter of time before someone drinks one and jumps off a building and falls to their death because contrary to their claims, Red Bull does not in fact ‘give you wings’.

In short, as people who are not ‘experts’ are moronic halfwits incapable of telling reality from advertising hype, we must simply turn over all aspects of our life to government approved self-important technocratic prigs qualified ‘experts’ who can determine what we are permitted to see.

We must ‘do it for the children’ of course.

Perry de Havilland, “All your images belong to us”, Samizdata, 2009-11-09

Coffee and the placebo effect

Filed under: Health, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:45

Neuroskeptic reports on some interesting results from a coffee study:

The authors took 60 coffee-loving volunteers and gave them either placebo decaffeinated coffee, or coffee containing 280 mg caffeine. That’s quite a lot, roughly equivalent to three normal cups. 30 minutes later, they attempted a difficult button-pressing task requiring concentration and sustained effort, plus a task involving mashing buttons as fast as possible for a minute.

The catch was that the experimenters lied to the volunteers. Everyone was told that they were getting real coffee. Half of them were told that the coffee would enhance their performance on the tasks, while the other half were told it would impair it. If the placebo effect was at work, these misleading instructions should have affected how the volunteers felt and acted.

Several interesting things happened. First, the caffeine enhanced performance on the cognitive tasks — it wasn’t just a placebo effect. Bear in mind, though, that these people were all regular coffee drinkers who hadn’t drunk any caffeine that day. The benefit could have been a reversal of caffeine withdrawl symptoms.

H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.

US unemployment rate, graphically

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 13:36

The New York Times has a useful interactive graphic for determining the unemployment rate for various groups. They show the 12-month rate, due to the unreliable nature of monthly estimates.

Beware of Ostalgia, both left and right

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Politics, Russia — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 13:16

Steve Chapman warns about the dangers of indulging in too much nostalgia one both sides of the divide:

Communism was the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, and one of the greatest in human history. Twenty years ago, suddenly and improbably, it fell into its death throes.

The end began the night of Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall was opened, allowing East Germans to leave the prison that constituted their country. Throughout Eastern Europe, one Communist regime after another disintegrated. Within two years, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was not only out of power but banned by law. A system soaked in the blood of millions was gone.

It was the most dramatic, life-affirming, and miraculous event of our time. And for those of us in the West, it is one from which we have yet to recover.

The Cold War was often grim and scary. For four decades, we had to maintain vast defenses against a numerically superior enemy that threatened the freedom of our allies and, by extension, ourselves. We lived with the daily reality that, with the push of a button in the Kremlin, we would all be dead in half an hour.

But the “long twilight struggle,” as John F. Kennedy called it, was also inspiring. It gave us a purpose greater than ourselves. In those days, most Americans understood it was our national duty to prevent the spread of the most malignant force on earth, lest it enslave us all.

That may sound absurd to anyone who has grown up since 1989. But there were serious people who feared the worst. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thought that in the 1970s, the West was “slowly but surely losing.”

Our unequivocal victory brought joy, but it also created something else: a void in our lives. If upholding freedom and democracy against a global enemy was not our purpose, what was?

Remembering the victims of communism

Filed under: Europe, Germany, History, Liberty, Russia — Tags: — Nicholas @ 13:06

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