Saturday, December 30, 2006


We are taught to be pessimists. Optimists are supposed to be fools who live in bubbles and are just not aware of other people’s suffering. After all, the news will show you tragedies daily. The movies will remind you that rich people are all crooks. Teachers will preach to you that it is all about who you know. Pundits will predict our doom.

Still, another year goes by and we persevere. There are fewer, less bloody wars. Less people die from all kinds of disease. We have a global economy that is more prosper, more stable and more accessible to more and more countries. A lot more people are getting fat rather than dying of hunger.

It is the constant predicament of our evolution. Regardless of all our faults, we continue to build a better world.


Being an optimist is believing things will get better, while understanding that nothing is perfect.

This year I had the chance of knowing and working with a lot of very, very smart people from various backgrounds. They’re still not perfect, and actually some of them are pretty difficult to deal with. But still, they showed me how much potential human beings have and how much can be accomplished with our minds and hard work. It is like peeking through a little window into a no-nonsense future where people are productive and help each other by doing their personal best.

It is one of the most uplifting experiences I’ve ever had.


Maybe this is all a delusion based on anecdotal evidence and all that has happened to me so far is pure luck.

However… I didn’t come from a rich or powerful family. I didn’t know highly influential people who gave me a helping hand. I did not get great grades and was not the stronger or more handsome kid in my class. Still, I’ve got a good life. I’ve got a great family.

Give it your best. Things do get better. Have a great 2007.

Saddam's execution

I am not opposed to the death penalty. I think that for some criminals, like serial child molesters, the risk (no matter how slim) of having them escaping and committing more crime is just unacceptable.

However, my first reaction to Saddam’s execution was that I would not have done it. The risk of Saddam escaping and getting back to power was just non-existent. Besides that, I think it could send a message that one brutal regime is being replaced by another brutal regime.

But yesterday I was listening to NPR and at some point they were interviewing an Iraqi translator. The reporter asked the translator what the people on the streets were thinking regarding Saddam’s execution. His answer was surprising to say the least. He said that nobody really believed that Saddam would be executed because “he was America’s man” and that he was actually commanding the insurgents from jail with US’s approval.

So maybe executing him was the right decision. Maybe we are still having all this violence in Iraq because the new group in power is not demonstrating enough authority. Maybe authority for the common Iraqi is directly related to strength and violence.

I guess time will tell.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Check this out: David Louis Edelman has listed my brief comment about Infoquake in his Critical praise and reviews page. Now that is really cool!

I really wish that Infoquake turns out to be a big success. Not only because I am curious about the two sequels but because I think this “business world of the future” theme is one of the least explored fields of SF and one that has great potential.

So if you have 10 bucks to spend on a book go ahead and get a copy of Infoquake. It’s well worth it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The middle-class

Here is another article that shows the odd disparity between what people think about the overall economy and their own financial situation:

- Although only 32 percent rate the overall economy as "excellent" or "good," 52 percent judge their personal situation as excellent or good (35 percent said "fair" and 13 percent "poor").

- Most Americans (60 to 37 percent) think their own living standards are rising; parents of children under 18 overwhelmingly (54 to 24 percent) think the same will be true for their children.

- Almost 70 percent of Americans say they've attained or will attain the "American Dream," as they define it. More than half say success comes from a good education and hard work, not from connections (18 percent) or being born wealthy (13 percent)."


One of my "hobbies" is to listen to liberal talk shows. Most of them are garbage but some are quite entertaining. My favorite one is Thom Hartman's.

One of Thom's favorite subjects is the "war on the middle-class" being waged supposedly by Republicans. It took me a while to understand exactly what he was talking about, but I finally got it: For him, the middle-class is not an idea of bringing people out of poverty and into a decent standard of living. No sir. Middle class for Thom is another way to say income equality. If the rich are getting richer, nothing else matters. Not even if the poor are less poor.

That's a smart (and dangerous) liberal right there.


In the other side of the Atlantic, my french buddies are still not getting it. They keep taxes so high that now one of their rock stars, a guy called Johnny Hallyday, is getting his money out of France.

Now, that is one way (probably the only non-violent one) to get income equality.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Government waste

Abuse could push Katrina costs to $2 billion

It’s amusing how the liberal media just can’t link government's waste with the ineptitude of government itself. It might be just Bush bashing mania acting up again but I doubt it.

I wonder how they would report such news if we had a democrat president.... Maybe they would just not report it at all?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Multiculturalism + Eugenics

‘Designer’ babies with made-to-order defects?

Well, it makes total sense doesn't it?

If nothing is right or wrong, nobody is better than anyone, and the bottom line is just that "we are all different", why not design your babies to be like you even if you are a dwarf?

God damn you, motherfuckers

Embrace the Trade Deficit (or why globalization works)

Since the 2001 recession, the U.S. economy has created 9.3 million new jobs, compared with 360,000 in Japan and 1.1 million in the euro zone excluding Spain. This despite our trade deficit and their trade surpluses. Like the U.S., Spain (3.6 million new jobs) and the U.K. (1.3 million new jobs) ran trade deficits and created jobs rapidly in this five-year period. Wages are rising solidly in these three. The economics is clear (for once) that a liberal trading environment allows more jobs with higher wages as people specialize.

More here.

Books 2006

Good books I've read this year:

The Wisdom of Crowds
Very good. I got it because I didn't quite believe the idea, but it makes a good case for collective wisdom.

America: The Last Best Hope (Volume I):
From the Age of Discovery to a World at War

Great history book. Easy to read and full of little unknowns facts.

Rendezvous with Rama
Classic. I've read it when I was younger but wanted to check the english version.

Not as good as Fountainhead but still entertaining.

On Classical Economics
Probably too technical for non-economists. But still interesting.

Childhood's End
Kind of bizarre… but still as good as any Clarke's.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Loved all of it, except the end.

Infoquake (The Jump 225 Trilogy)
Probably the coolest SF I've read in the last 5 years.

The Economics of Life
A little outdated but still worth it.

The Bear and the Dragon
I have not finished it yet, but so far I like it.

How about you all? Any good books to recommend?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A good lesson

So, we’ve been hit by a huge windstorm Thursday night. On Friday there were a total of 1.5 million homes and businesses without power. Wind gusted to 113 mph near Mount Rainier and to a record 69 mph at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. So far 14 deaths are blamed on the storm.

We were without power for 4 days. During the night it got really cold inside the house since outside temperatures were in the middle 20s (around -4 C). There were no gas stations open. My car’s tank was less than ¼ full, so I could not go very far. All traffic lights were not working, so it took a long time to drive anywhere. On Friday, my phone line stopped working. Cell phones did not work at all, and the batteries were all out on Saturday in any case.

There were no warnings on Thursday from the weather services. Just the usual stuff about a “storm”, the kind of warning you get twice every month. There were no extra police on the streets. No government vans looking for people that were freezing inside their houses or for old people who starved after the food in the fridge went bad.

I live in King County, one of the richest counties in the country. The State Government just reported an operational surplus of 1.4 Billion dollars.

Virtually all parts of government here are democrat. From the city counsel to the mayor to the governor and senators, everybody is a blue "for the people" Dem.

Still, if you analyze what has happened here you will conclude that this was a pretty much like Katrina. The only real difference was that the winds here were a little weaker and there were no levies to break. That’s it.

Now, you won’t see the newspapers talking about all of this. After all, only 14 people died. Also, and most important, King county is mostly white and rich. Government doesn’t need to help these people, right?

However, government guarantees that it is here to help. They surely eat some nice chunk of people’s income. They build big agencies and say that the reason the county is rich is exactly because the government is so strong.

The truth is that the government didn’t help because it couldn’t. First of all, it can’t even predict these things. Second, it doesn’t scale. The daily needs of a citizen are so much smaller than the needs of that same citizen during a crisis that is simply impossible to keep an infrastructure capable of helping everybody (or something close to the majority) during such times.

What happened in New Orleans should have been a warning. Not about the incompetency and slowness of government (which are inherent and should be expected) but about this crazy notion that people could actually bet their own lives on their government!

This may sound obvious to many but is not what the press and the government wants you to think. I believe, honest to god, that this is a very important point. It is CRUCIAL that people understand that they need to depend only on themselves. The biggest the disaster, the clearer this should be.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Evil draws (some) men together

List of distinguished representatives talking today at the iranian conference questioning the Holocaust:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
David Duke
Robert Faurisson
Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour
Wolfgang Froehlich
Michele Renouf
Fredrick Toben

And many more. A good reminder of what evil really means. The same evil that ‘peace seekers’ wants us to negotiate with.

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it."
Ayn Rand

Sunday, December 10, 2006

David Deutsch

David Deutsch talks about the universe, life and… global warming.

Deutsch's theory of “cosmic knowledge” makes all the sense to me. We should understand what makes us different and realize that our only hope to avoid extinction is not “sustainable development”. It is “knowledge for development”.

The example of global warming was a great one. I’ve always thought that this illusion (typical of “progressives”) that we can somehow solve things by limiting economic progress is lunatic. Especially because economic progress is one of the most important enablers of scientific progress.

Why aren’t we looking at solutions that really address the consequences of global warming? Why don’t we recognize that we can’t accurately predict our climate and stop wasting our time? Why don't we talk more about possible options instead of making movies only to scare people in the wrong direction?

Maybe the real problem is the mix up of politics and science. Lefties think this is a problem only with the religious right, but in my opinion the real threat is the crazy left. Things like the Kyoto treaty are more related to the idea of bringing countries to similar levels of development than decreasing pollution. The fact that only developed countries were included is a pretty good indicator of that.

Problems are soluble. Problems are inevitable.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Losing our minds... and our heads

It is obvious that one of Iraq’s problems is the media overexposure that every tragedy that happens there gets.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t care about markets being bombed. I am only saying that the world is pretty nasty in many places, and that the situation in Iraq could get worse. Much, much worse.

One good example (in so many ways) is Somalia. When was the last time you heard bad news about Somalia? Is that because they are a happy peaceful bunch? Not a chance.

Here is an interesting one:

"MOGADISHU, Somalia - Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an Islamic courts official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.

Public places such as shops and tea houses in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town’s Islamic court.

Those who do not follow this edict “will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law,” Rage told The Associated Press by phone. “As Muslims, we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do.

He said that the courts are announcing the edict over loudspeakers in the town."

So, bottom line is that even though Bagdad is a mess, most of Iraq is still better than a lot of other places.

That of course, can change in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Government Support for the Arts: A Cautionary Tale

After reading this loony interview with this Maurizio Lazzarato guy, I was left with the following question: What in the world is this "Política do Emprego Cultural"?

Well, I found the answer in this amazing article from 2004. It tells the tale of how the french created this special unemployment program for the "intermittents", the temporary arts workers, and how it quickly became a billion dollar liability and a political nightmare.

It's kind of a long history but it's worth it. It shows just how crazy the "pay for my bills or I'll kill you" French leftist ideology is, and is yet another example of how this pipe dream called social democracy just plain doesn't work.

How 'Integration' Became Discrimination

Great article by James Taranto: "How 'Integration' Became Discrimination"

"The New York Times reports on an important case the Supreme Court heard yesterday:

By the time the Supreme Court finished hearing arguments on Monday on the student-assignment plans that two urban school systems use to maintain racial integration, the only question was how far the court would go in ruling such plans unconstitutional.

There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court's new majority. In each system, students are offered a choice of schools but can be denied admission based on their race if enrolling at a particular school would upset the racial balance.

At its most profound, the debate among the justices was over whether measures designed to maintain or achieve integration should be subjected to the same harsh scrutiny to which Brown v. Board of Education subjected the regime of official segregation. In the view of the conservative majority, the answer was yes.

But liberal justices disagreed:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried unsuccessfully to turn the chief justice's colloquy with [Seattle lawyer Michael] Madden in a different direction. The question of whether "using racial integration is the same as segregation," she said, was "pretty far from the kind of headlines that attended the Brown decision."

Bringing "white and black children together on the same school bench," Justice Ginsburg continued, "seems to be worlds apart from saying we'll separate them."

The fundamental dispute is whether antidiscrimination laws--the 14th Amendment and, by implication, the Civil Rights Act of 1964--ban discrimination altogether, or only in the pursuit of invidious ends. Broadly stated, the "conservative" position is that these laws protect individuals from discrimination, whereas the "liberal" position is that discrimination is fine in the pursuit of "diversity" or integration but not of white supremacy.

Liberals, in other words, are much more apt to say that the ends justify the means. As Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in University of California v. Bakke, "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. . . . And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently."

That was in 1978. Twenty-five years later, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in Grutter v. Bollinger, upheld some racial discrimination in higher education, but wrote that she expects the need for them to have passed in another 25 years. Justice Ginsburg made a point of disagreeing, saying that one may only "hope" that it will be "safe to sunset affirmative action."

There is a curious disconnect here. "Affirmative action" is politically unpopular, having been banned by initiative in three liberal states (California, Michigan and Washington). With Justice Samuel Alito having replaced O'Connor, its legal status is shaky.

In any case, it has always been presented as only a temporary measure--a way, as Justice Blackmun put it, "to get beyond racism." Yet affirmative action's advocates act as if it is here to stay. For them, discrimination is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. The Seattle Public Schools Web site has a statement on its Web site that expressly disavows the goal of getting beyond racism:

The intended purpose of our work in the area of race and social justice is to bring communities together through open dialogue and honest reflection around what is meant by racism and the impact is has on our society, and more specifically, our students. Our intention is not to put up additional barriers or develop an "us against them" mindset; nor is it to continue to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality.

As George Will notes, this statement replaced one that was much worse:

Until June, the school district's Web site declared that "cultural racism'' includes "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,'' "having a future time orientation'' (planning ahead) and "defining one form of English as standard.'' The site also asserted that only whites can be racists, and disparaged assimilation as the "giving up'' of one's culture.

This is in fact baldly racist. In concept it is distinguishable from white supremacy only in its refusal to condone value judgments. But the real world imposes its own "value judgments," and in practice it seems obviously pernicious to inculcate black children with the idea that because of the color of their skin, they cannot learn to plan ahead or to speak standard English.

Advocates of affirmative action, thus, have abandoned the goal of "getting beyond racism," upon which it was originally imposed on the public. Affirmative action has become a way of perpetuating discrimination rather than overcoming it. It is, at best, an experiment that has failed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Politicians, clowns and the real world

The US State Department says:

"We look forward to having the opportunity to work with the Venezuelan government on issues of mutual interest."

Chavez, el bufón, says:

"It's another defeat for the devil, who tries to dominate the world. Down with imperialism. We need a new world."

Reality shows:

"US Exports to Venezuela were $4,888.4 millions between January and July, 2006, which is more than all the US exports to Venezuela in 2004 and a 140% more than the US exports in the first semester of 2005.

According to a statistical report of US Census, made public yesterday by US Commerce Department in Washington, Venezuela is the 10th US oil supplier in the world, mainly of petrol.

Venezuela also is in the group of the 10 more important commercial associates of US, only after China (the first in the list), Japan, Canada, Germany and Mexico and before France, Brazil and Russia.

These numbers will increase at the end of 2006, because during September, October and November the commercial activity is usually much more important than in the first 6 months of the year, explained Joe Tafchinski, US Commerce Department’s speaker in Washington, who made the statistical analysis.

The balance of trade with USA benefited Venezuela, who obtained a superavit of about $15,000 millions, which at the end of 2006 could increase more than $30,000 millions."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Journalists being journalists

I am not sure what the problem here is.

I mean, aren’t journalists supposed to get the information they need in any possible way? Even if the source is illegal (i.e. people leaking information that should be confidential)?

Isn’t it true that Journalists are praised even more when the information is really confidential? Some would say that success for any report is directly proportional to the damage it causes.

Therefore, I believe this is all backwards. By cheating in an open book ethics exam, these students are showing that they hold ethics in very high regard.

I'd say A+ for all of them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Some people never learn...

Brazucas se dando mal na terra do Fidel.

E como sempre, o mais engraçado são os comentários:
"Sempre me emociono ao ler o que vcs escrevem. Me orgulho de ser mãe de Milena e Thiago, amiga de Pedro e Lígia. Ver Cuba pelo olhar de vcs me fez sentir muito próxima deste povo; passei a amá-los pelo que ensinaram a mim e a vcs. Carta Maior está de parabéns por permitir a expressão destes jovens."