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Monday, April 23, 2012

Google Truth

Sometime I just want to type something like the following into Google: "Really, can't you just tell me if the world is warming? Like what's the probability that the global average temperature is more than 2C higher in the year 2100 than it is now?"

I'd even be willing to type "mirror, mirror on the wall" first. And oh-by-the-way, Google, just who is the fairest of them all these days anyway.  And show me her picture (fully clothed of course - what were you thinking?).

Then Google would respond (about the temperature question): "Given the current state of knowledge, 11.3%".  Or something like that.

All Google has to do to make that happen is to have their search engines actually understand all that information that they have in their servers and to figure out which sources are more reliable than others via the accuracy of previous prediction and reliance on the sites by other sites.

Piece of cake.  I imagine they'll have something like that going within a decade or so.

They'll call it Google Truth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Might Makes Right: Undisguised Lust for Power

"Justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger." Thrasymachus.

I'm a "Might Makes Right" kinda guy (which is what my man Thrasy is trying to say in the quote above).  Not that I'm personally mighty (definitely not). Rather it's that when I observe behaviors and actions by living entities (and even some non-living entities), I can virtually always trace those behaviors and actions to some fundamental source of Might.  My observations align very closely with Nietzsche's "will-to-power" musings.

To accrue power, the potential accruer usually needs to disguise the fact that power is what they're after.  The accruer can't usually say, "I want more power - give it to me" and hope for a positive outcome.  Therefore, the basis of most political interactions is for the potential accruer of political power to lie through his teeth and say, "I want to do all these wonderful things and make life better for you. All you have to do is give me power.  Really, you can't do it without me. Trust me."

However, there have been a number of recent events where the power grab was surprisingly undisguised.

Calling for Zimmerman to be locked up, whether guilty or innocent, Daily Beast columnist Mansfield Frazier writes:
"America can only dodge so many racial bullets, and a not-guilty verdict in this case could very easily turn the racial cold war into a very hot one."
That's not very well disguised Mr. Frazier.  You want the power to put whitey (or rather someone not-black) behind bars just because you say so. Or else!  Between Mr. Frazier, the New Black Panthers who put a bounty on Zimmerman's head, and a number of others in the black community, this is a blatant threat-of-violence based attempted grab for power.

However, a much larger power grab was allegedly successful during the last presidential election:
The black Dems were caught stuffing the ballot boxes in Philly and Ohio as reported the night of the election and Sen. McCain chose not to fight. [...]

After discussions with his inner circle, which explains the delay in his speech, McCain decided not to pursue the voter fraud in PA and Ohio, despite his staff's desire to make it an issue. He said no. Staff felt they could get a federal injunction to stop the process. McCain felt the crowds assembled in support of Obama and such would be detrimental to our country and it would do our nation no good for this to drag out like last go around, coupled with the possibility of domestic violence.
If true (and skepticism is certainly called for), that's quite a power grab (though keep in mind that Obama still would've won without Ohio and Pennsylvania).  I've been wondering why polls show Obama and Romney neck-and-neck (which should be a bad omen for Obama at this point in the campaign cycle), yet shows a steady 60% chance of Obama being re-elected.  The explanation might be that Romney may well win the election by legitimate votes cast, but lose it when all the votes (legitimate and otherwise) are counted.

Might makes right and he who controls the ballot box, controls the election.  Then he gets to decide what's right.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


My favorite so far:

"Seamus might’ve shat himself in the crate.

But Obama surely shat the dog he ate."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Young Drivers

There're a bunch of these signs all over my neighborhood, but with my 15 1/2 year old daughter getting her learner's permit, I'm thinking they might have it wrong. Perhaps it should be "Live like my kids drive here" or at least "Drive like my kids drive here".

All I can say about teaching a new driver in a crowded urban environment with steep hills and aggressive, fast, uncourteous drivers (like, um well, me) is, "Holy _____!!!!", where you fill in the blank with your favorite expletive. The two questions that immediately came to mind when sitting in the car with my daughter were, "Was I really that bad when I started learning how to drive?" and "Is it really possible that my parents had the patience and fortitude to deal with me when I was learning how to drive?" Again, all I can say is, "Holy _____!!!!"

The good news is that the law requires that the new driver have 2 hours behind the wheel with a professional instructor before the parents get the "opportunity" to be involved in the learning process. It sets you back some serious money and I wonder how poor folk manage to pay for it, but I've never been more grateful for the "Nanny State" than for that specific piece of legislation (yes, I'm well aware I could've paid for lessons anyway, but honestly, it wouldn't've occurred to me to do so). I'm wondering what the life expectancy of the professional instructors is? Yeah, they got that extra brake pedal on the passenger side (I now wish my car had one of those), but still, the stress alone must take years off of their lives.

Speaking of that extra brake pedal, several people have asked me if I find myself stepping on an imaginary brake pedal as my daughter drives. Not so much, as my hand is on or near the emergency brake that's conveniently directly between the driver and the passenger seat (I haven't actually used it yet). Instead, I find myself stepping on the imaginary gas pedal. If she drove any slower, we could just walk and get there faster. If she doesn't start driving a little faster, it'll be a miracle if we don't get rear-ended. There's already been numerous honks and a few close misses on the rear end of the car.

She's now been driving about 20 hours and she's gotten better enough that I find myself glad to be chauffeured around most of the time. Except when, out of nowhere, one of those unexpected and unusual situations occurs that completely flummox the inexperienced driver whose ensuing lack of judgment causes a near catastrophic situation.

Then all I can say is, "Holy _____!!!!!"

Monday, April 09, 2012

Looters Among Us

The best lies we tell are to ourselves and I believe that nowhere is this more true than the lies we tell ourselves regarding our noble and moral natures. Who doesn't want to look in the mirror and say, "I'm a good person, full of virtue, and deserving of respect and trust?"

Yet we're probably as flawed as the next guy. It's oh-so-easy to see and tally the flaws in those around us, yet much harder to have the faculties of introspection, the will to introspect, and an ego that can withstand a true and total accounting of our own flaws. Seems like a lot of effort and pain for not much gain, so why bother? Much easier just to maintain the delusion that our flaws are few and inconsequential, if they exist at all.

But from this delusion about our own nobility and altruistic nature springs the good intentions which pave the road to hell: "If only I, or people like me, were given the reins of power and could therefore access the right resources, we could solve many of the problems that are currently causing misery and despair. Sure, we'll need a big and powerful government to solve the problems, but if people like me are in charge, we'll be much better off than leaving the nasty free-market to provide for all."

The above quote, while not a real quote, could have easily been uttered by one of my left-leaning friends. They project their nobility, their altruism, and their incorruptibility onto an image of themselves working for the government. They project these attributes onto others in government as well. This provides a significant portion of the basis for their high level of confidence in government to solve problems and for government to out-perform the free-market in most instances.

On the other hand, if I imagine a bunch of people like me running a large and powerful government, I cringe because I'm sure it would be an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.

It's not that I'm so wildly evil (or maybe I am but just tell myself good lies). All else being equal, I'd want to do the best job possible for the country as a whole if I were in government.

The problem is that all else is not equal. I admit that I care more about my family, friends, and communities (real and virtual) than I do about those I don't know. If I can benefit these groups, I do. If I were a government worker (elected or semi-permanent bureaucrat) and imposing minor cost on taxpayers (say maybe a few cents or few dollars each) would benefit those I care about, I wouldn't hesitate. After all, what's a couple of bucks?

The problem is that those few bucks for each of hundreds of millions of tax-paying entities multiplied by millions of government workers like me all doing the same thing would ultimately lead to the collapse of the government. There might be "watchdogs" to reduce this behavior somewhat, but who will watch the watchers?

When I observe current governments (federal, state, and local), I like to estimate whether or not the behavior I see and the associated results seem to be more like what I'd expect if they were run by my noble liberal friends or if they were run by people like me.

Unfortunately, it looks to me like they're mostly run by flawed people like me, and as a result, I think we're in trouble.

What do you think?

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Institutions of Science

The war on conservatives by (many) scientists continues. Both Instapundit and Roger Pielke Jr. pointed to a study by the American Sociological Review (study behind a paywall so I shan't even link to it) that concludes "that conservatives in the United States have become increasingly distrustful of science" and that "[c]onservatives distrust is attributable to [their] political philosophy and intellectual culture."

Since the paper itself is behind a paywall, I haven't read it. But from Pielke's characterization, it seems to me that the paper is using three things interchangeably that are, in my mind, radically different with minimal overlap: "Institutions of Science"; scientists; and science.

"Institutions of Science" which act as institutions at all seem to be mostly congregations of leftish democrats pursuing policy objectives who, oh-by-the-way, just happen to be scientists. Obviously, a conservative would have no reason to "trust" such an entity, while of course a democrat would.

Scientists are just humans. Some of them trustworthy, some not so much, but as far as I can tell they're no more (or less) trustworthy than anybody else. Per Sowell's "Conflict of Visions", conservatives are less trusting than average (rightfully so!) so of course they will less trust the average human, including the average scientist.

Lastly, there's "science", and that term means a lot of different things to a lot of people. As far as the body of theories, hypothesis, conjectures, methods, models, etc. and the associated evidence supporting them (or not), trust isn't the right concept. Interpretation as to relevance in the real world is required and two people, with different subjective viewpoints can rationally come up with radically different conclusions about what that knowledge means when applied to real-life circumstances.

On the other hand, using science as a basis for an already large government to continue expanding without discernible bounds in order to pursue policies that are supposedly good for us, especially when the basis is one of the "almost" sciences like sociology or economics, is obviously not going to be "trusted" by those whose subjective preference is for limited government.

So without having a precise definition of what the paper means by "science", I can't really know whether the conclusions contain any useful information.

I suspect not.