29 December 2007

The holidays explode with excitement

The power supply on my main computer exploded the other day, and I’m still working on getting it replaced. I’d use that as an excuse for light posting, but long time readers will remember from my office picture that I have a backup computer, a tertiary computer, and a laptop. Maybe I’ll blame the family for expecting me to interact with them during the break.

23 December 2007

Snow today, melt tomorrow

We got some snow here earlier in the week, but it’s all melted in time for Christmas.

22 December 2007

You can't keep a good fact down

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of going out and interviewing people mentioned in questionable media accounts. And the less I think some “journalists” will be pleased with the results.

Instapundit

I think that’s a wonderful trend as well. It’s just another way in which Old Media can’t bury the body of evidence of their bias. It interacts synergystically with Internet memory, where from now on, anybody in a dispute with the misquoting author can easily find and refer back the original misquoting. I suspect, though, that it will still take years or even decades before it’s generally assumed that deliberate misquoting is a bad career move.

P.S. This ties in with this post at Deep Black because the author at the center of Instapundit’s post could have defused this teacup tempest by confessing and correcting earlier. Everyone makes mistakes, so building a reputation for contrition and correction would serve to encourage people to take it up with you directly and not so publically, rather than brew up a counter-strike storm.

19 December 2007

Free science

Normally Instapundit has his head on straight, but calling funding cuts for government science a war against science is just silly. It’s no more a war against science than welfare reform was a war against poor people. I am not at all convinced that government funded science is, in the long term, of net benefit. I don’t see any good reasons to think it works better than other government functions, i.e. not very well.

It’s particularly depressing to see some one who understands the corruptive effects of government pork not see that the same dynamic is at work in government funded science. It may start out well, but over time it crowds out non-government science and leads to the corruption of the academy and science itself we are seeing. Science is far too important and necessary to our society to allow it to be de facto controlled by the government.

18 December 2007

Law of Convenience

THE PLATES MOVE WHETHER OR NOT YOU BELIEVE IN TECTONICS
Theories that deny reality generally do poorly in the lab.

Orrin Judd

That’s hilarious coming from someone who doesn’t believe in the constancy of the speed of light.

17 December 2007

To the last, we will grapple with thee

Here’s a key quote that explains a lot of our current political situation (via)

Democratic leaders are loath to acknowledge they’ve backed off, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, as well as congressional aides, say Democrats are trying to find a way to provide continued troop funding while searching for some compromises that show they’re still intent on challenging the president on the war.

Let me condense that for clarity —

Democratic leaders … are trying … to show they’re still intent on challenging the president on the war

Not trying to, say, win the war, or govern well, or implement policies that would improve our nation. No. None of that. The goal, instead, is to “challenge the President”. It’s such an amazing blend of irresponsibility, bitterness, and spite to condense in to such a short sentence. But that’s the kind of people who run the Democratic Party these days.

Absence of Quality

It’s time to reach back for this story (via BotW). The essence is that the BBC spent £500,000 on direct costs and another £500,000 on staff time in order to train their staff to not lie to viewers.

Well, that’s not strictly true. The BBC actually tried to train them to “where the line should be drawn between artifice and deception”. So, really to not lie overly much. Just keep it to artifice and not outright deception. There are so many levels here I could probably spend a week on this one story. To start with, did the BBC think this training useful, or was it just ploy to make it look like they’d like their staff to lie a bit less? Was there any introspection about how the management created an organization needing to be told “don’t piss in the product”? Did they wonder about how they’d treat any other business that provided products of such dodgy quality? Did management think of this as essentially the same as one of those diversity seminars, in which the staff learns that those apparently ignorant, uneducated proles should not be thought of as barbaric louts, but instead to have a culture that values objective reality? Did the staff take it earnestly, or was it just an opportunity to smirk knowingly at such quaint customs? Perhaps some indignance at being “oppressed” by standards created by dead white males was encountered.

But of all of those, the product issue resonates the most with me. The BBC’s product is information. Deception is shoddiness in that regard, an adulteration. And it’s worse than just shoddiness — it’s as if a manufacturer’s staff deliberately put sawdust in the spaghetti sauce. Imagine what the BBC would say about that. But when the BBC does it, that’s just business as usual, nothing to report.

15 December 2007

Let's make a deal

Via Instapundit, an interview with Senator John McCain. Not until the final paragraph is there any mention of immigration, although McCain does admit that “If I lose this election, it will be on the immigration issue”. McCain does a good job on pointing out how the GOP’s free spending ways was a key factor in the 2006 elections, and in creating “despondency” in the GOP base. And McCain pledges to fight against that if he’s elected President. But McCain doesn’t seem to be willing to make any changes in his stance on immigration, despite its effect on the base and election results (for instance, he cites support from Lindsay Graham for the South Caroline primary). I would suggesta compromise, where the rest of the GOP cuts back on spending and McCain cuts back on amnesty.

13 December 2007

Supporting firemen doesn't make you an arsonist

Another low moment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stated that “[Republicans] like this war. They want this war to continue”. I’m not surprised, it’s a sentiment I have seen expressed by many MALists around the Internet. My standard response is that it’s no different than firemen in a burning building. They don’t like being there, and we don’t like seeing them there. But adults understand that sometimes it’s worth it and you just have to accept the risk. I think this attitude comes not only from our (and particularly the MAL’s) increasing inability to tolerate any sort of perceived risk, but also from the denial of moral agency that’s so prevelant. In my analogy, the perception would be that if a building is on fire, it must have been arson by one of us, as there no other reason for it. Direclty, the only possible reason for a state of war is because America started it. So if we’re at war, it must be because we (or some degenerate blood thirsty hicks in fly over country) like it. The whole thing makes a lot of sense if you just start from the view that all things have as their cause America. That’s the sort of jingoism even the most blood thirsty hicks can’t manage.

Paddling imaginary creeks

When I read stories about the Democratic Party surrendering to a lame duck President or Senator Clinton hoisting her petards I don’t think “gosh, these people are inept” but “it’s not surprising when blind people walk in to walls”. Most of the people and big chunks of their supporters suffer from severe reality dysfunction as far as I can tell. Interestingly, it’s the fact that it’s not a clean sweep that’s part of their political problem. If the entire party, its leadership and members, were suffering, they could at least achieve enough unity to achieve their destructive ends. But there’s still enough of a connection that the party, en masse, can’t quite bring itself to follow through on these paths to failure. It’s not much, but it’s enough against a party (the GOP) that’s almost as bad.

My second thought is that there’s another aspect. In my view, the Democratic Party is far more principled than the GOP. Those principles have been shown to be unrealistic by history, and require increasing severe delusional states to maintain, but I would say that by and large most of the MAL really think they’re doing good. In fact, that’s likely a key part of their internal theater. The GOP, on the other hand, seems to have a lot more openly cynical people, Senator Stevens being a prime example. The interesting part is that the Democratic Party succeeds electorally to the extent it abandons its principles, while the GOP succeeds when it adheres to its principles. That’s just one more strong indication that despite all of the decline, the American Street still has more clue than our ruling class.

By their fruits

Right Wing News highlights this Huffington post which discusses a symposium on whether the Democratic Party should continue trying to appeal to white males. Hawkins assails this as self evidently dumb, but I think it is worse than that.

The underlying concept required for this view to make any sense at all is that the political goals of while males and other (presumably race / gender based) factions of the Democratic Party are fundamentally incompatible. That is, there is no set of public policies broad enough to appeal to both white males and non white non males. That, it seems to me, is a radical rejection of the American Republic and the ideals on which it rests.

If such a view is correct, then the entire liberal democratic project is doomed, because there is no option except racial / gender oppression of one group or another, it’s simply a matter of picking the oppressors and oppressed. I am certainly not surprised that a leading center of MAList thought would so openly abandon the basic principles of our country for tribalism. It’s the end that’s been implicit in Democratic Party politics for decades now.

12 December 2007

Political friendly fire

In catching up on my reading at Best of the Web I saw a comment about the “destruction of CIA interrogations”. The CIA claim is that this was done to protect agents at risk. Has it ever been stated that the CIA thought the agents were at risk from foreign enemies, or at risk from Congress, despite its leadership’s approval of the interrogation methods? The fact the approval and ultimate approval comes from the same set of rogue CIA elements that have been attacking the Bush Administration in tandem with the domestic political opposition in Congress makes the whole thing schadenfruedeful.

09 December 2007

I tried to believe, really

Some wonder if the recent release of a NIE is a ploy against various actors in the Middle East. Possible, I guess, but rather risky. It doesn’t seem to me that an Adminstration willing to let Arab negotiators at the recent Annapolis debacle avoid using Jew contaminated doorways is going to be plotting cleverly in the Great Game. That smacks of surrender and desperation, not living large on grand plans.

However, one is left wondering if it wasn’t a ploy against the CIA and/or State. Could someone in the White House have realized what a bogus load of politically correct spin it was, and decided to release it so that the authors would get properly savaged by others, thereby preparing a future political battlespace by setting up a “see? they are ignorant idiots” event.

Nah. It’s just a punt, a little welcome gift to the incoming President Clinton.

08 December 2007

Robots in arms

Winds of Change has a post about the state of fighter development in the Anglosphere which laments the demise of less than top of the line fighters. The problem here is that as the fighter quality goes up, the number purchased goes down, along with reliability, so that the effective amount of fighter hours available goes down very quickly.

I can certainly see why this is would be a problem, but I wonder if the Anglosphere, and in particular the USA, is capable of dealing with it in the straight forward way. Because there is so much possible, it’s probably institutionally impossible to avoid mission creep enough to avoid the tipping point where you might as well go top of the line. It might be an argument for splitting air superiority and air support in to seperate parts of the military, giving the latter to the Army and Marines. Given that those branches are experiencing actual combat (unlike, to a large extent, the Air Froce) one suspects that weapon development would focus much more on what’s useful on current battle fields rather than purely theoretical ones.

What I think will happen is that the place formerly occupied by low end fighters (support, combat against low capability opponents, etc.) will be taken over by unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV). Seriously, if you were grunt, would you rather have some Air Force fly boy running your air support, or a fellow grunt with a joystick? That’s not to mention that one could get by with either cheaper aircraft1 or riskier flight profiles because of the lack of a pilot. There will certainly be a lot of resistance, but live combat has a way of overcoming careerism. Given possible budget issues, the Air Force might be tempted to offload that expense on another branch while it concentrates on air supremacy against … well, some other nation that can build and afford top of the line fighters. But my lack of ability to name such an opponent hasn’t stopped such development yet, so I don’t see why it would in the future.

In the mid to long term, I expect our military forces to accrete robotic combat companions, who can be sent to the really dangerous stuff, including pilots. In the end, rather than trying to compete at the same level as our not so high tech opponents, we’ll let robots handle it while our manned systems continue to be the best we can build.


fn1.Although there’s some reason to doubt that as well, for the same reason we can’t build cheap manned fighters.

07 December 2007

But that doesn't fit my theoretical framework

This article in Reason seemed very appropriate for my little slice of the world here. The town I live next to (not in! yay!) is a University town and is filled with MALists, despite being in the heart of fly-over country. I see lots of “IMPEACH!” signs and other such reality dysfunctional fluff. Naturally, of course, the city government suffers from exactly the effect outlined in the article, that MALists simultaneously bemoan chain stores while creating a regulatory environment that only chains, with their high powered legal staff, can successfully navigate. The city government is naturally mystified as to why they lag so far behind other nearby towns in business tax revenue, despite how much more they tax the businesses. Or why the local, semi-historic mall and downtown are dead and dieing while the next town over can’t build new stores fast enough. Of course, much of this persists because the ruling class (the professoriate and other their ilk) don’t suffer much, if at all, from their policies. It’s the poor people who would like to have actual jobs and a smaller tax bit who pay.

06 December 2007

Patent leather

An excellent article on the defensibility of software patents.

Harvesting the Internet

Hot Air notes a Fred Thompson campaign video that was produced by a supporter which is much better than anything Thompson’s paid staff has done. I don’t find that a bit surprising, but I think Hot Air comes to the wrong conclusion, which is “why didn’t Thompson hire that guy?”. Because there was no way to know, beforehand, that he in particular was capable of producing that kind of quality. This is an example of what economists call “transaction costs”, which is the not the price paid for obtaining something, but the price paid in order to create the situation in which one can purchase the desired object. In this case, finding that guy and verifying the quality of his work.

As I noted much earlier, the one thing that the Internet / blogosphere is very good at, far better than any previous technology, is reducing this kind of transaction cost by filtering the flood of content being produced. Before, that guy could have made the video but it would never have been noticed. Now, the political junkies perform (for free) the screening process and bring to light the best examples of non-professional work. Therefore, in my view, the “solution” isn’t to hire that guy, but to develop a better interface to the self-organizing production and screening system already in existence. This makes the whole thing a lot more like farming than manufacturing, which is a profound shift.

It also reminds me of the subject of this post about the American entertainment industry, particularly the visual segment (television, movies, etc.). The gist is that the large corporations should execute the same shift, from manufacturing to harvesting, although he doesn’t express it exactly that way. The key paragraph is

Maybe the next big thing in media conglomerates is to de-conglomerate. To stop doing the costly stuff that eats up cash (and that smaller, more entrepreneurial entities can do better and cheaper) and instead, to amass eyeballs. Think about it: if News Corp. decided tomorrow to get out of the expensive, 2% success rate making TV business, and instead to concentrate on the higher-margin showing TV business, do you think they’d really suffer all that much?

That is, stop building and start harvesting content someone else produced independently.

05 December 2007

Aging pregnancies

There’s a bit of buzz about advances in combating aging. This leads, as usual, to two thoughts on the relationship between anti-agathic technologies and reproduction.

The first is one I have considered for a while, which is what effect significantly extended lifespans would have on birth rates. Might not more people choose to have children if it wasn’t difficult to chose between a career and children? If the average lifespan were, say, 200 years, one could have a full, childless career, then retire to reproduce. Although I ended up reproducing anyway, it would have been even more desirable to have done my earning / career work without dependents and then spent a couple of decades being just a Dad with some side hobbies. Or would people simply redefine “career” to require the full, newly lengthened lifespan?

The other is how much of an impact life extension would have on increasing gender effects. It’s easy to maintain male reproductive capabilities but female reproduction is far more challenging. A sexually mature human female is not capable of producting any more eggs, where as to a large extent any male capable of having sex is capable of creating children. What would the social effects of having multi-hundred life spans but women still having to reproduce before 50 years? Would the tendency of men to prefer young women become even more pronounced?

The combination of these two issues will be interesting as well, a society where men can have children after achieving worldly success and independent wealth, but women have to commit long before they can achieve that state. Would surrogate pregnancy become the norm instead of the exception? I think this might well have as much impact on gender relations as the invention of effective birth control.

Gods of the Copybook Headings

Steve Chapman over at Reason magazine wonders how Democratic Party leaders can invoke former President Bill Clinton while opposing one of his key legacies, NAFTA. There are many possible explanations, but I think the most likely one is that the MAL only deals in rhetoric, not argument. Bill Clinton is presumed popular, therefore his name is invoked. His actual policies aren’t relevant (after all, this isn’t much different than calling out “Clinton!” while harping for de facto repeal of welfare reform, or calling for surrender in the name of Truman, or racial tolerance while invoking FDR, or higher taxes and Kennedy). The common theme here is “reality dysfunction”, the inability to grasp the concept of cause and effect in objective reality, something I have touched on in another aspect recently. It may be an inevitable side effect of society wealth, which enables people to be insulated from the Clue By Four of Reality in most things and so not learn this on the small scale before it’s too late to learn in the large.

04 December 2007

Driving off the cliff of legal risks

Via Instapundit is an article on automated cars. The money quote is

Smart cars will never be infallible, but they don’t have to be. They just have to be better than the drivers who now cause more than 90 percent of traffic accidents and kill a million of their fellow humans per year.

I almost laughed out loud at that. While on the surface it seems perfectly reasonable, it’s obviously complete divorced from reality. In a rational world, yes, as soon as the car automation systems were statistically superior to drivers, we would adopt them. But that fails to take in to account the lawyers. When old boomer A has an accident, our legal system is still not to the point where the victims or their estate can sue A’s mom, or everyone in his family tree for negligence in creating him. But the first time an automated car has an accident, the manufacturer will be sued out of existence. Our legal system says that any change doesn’t have to just be better, it has to be perfect. All existing risky systems are basically grand-fathered in so that the legal risk is near zero, and that’s the real standard against which automated cars will have to compete. One is left wondering how we’ve gotten to the state where lawyers, and not actual risks, determine our technological advancements.

02 December 2007

Freedom of interpretation

Via Best of the Web is this splending example of someone completely missing the gist of their own argument. The author, Steve Clemons, quotes Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal

Unless you bring Hamas in tune with what is happening on the peace side, you are really not fulfilling a basic requirement

Both the Clemons and I agree with this, and Clemons cites a number of supposedly luminaries who also agree. But Clemons takes it to mean that Hamas representatives should have been invited to Annapolis. Apparently for Clemon, “in tune with” means “physically co-located”. I interpret it as more of a mental thing, that Hamas should start thinking that peace with Israel is desirable, and I can’t see how Clemons can read it as he does, but perhaps he’s been taking lessons from Condoleeza Rice.

P.S. I strongly suspect that Faisal didn’t mean either of things, but more “Hamas should buckle under and obey the Saudi funded gang instead of obeying their Iranian paymasters”.

Not making lemonade

There’s a lot of angst floating around about CNN’s acquiesence / complicity in rigging questions in the last GOP Presidential debate. This obviously says a lot about CNN’s institutional bias1 and lack of ethics, but who that would care didn’t already know that? One can hope that in contributed to the general inchoate sense of “Old Media is biased” on the American Street, but it’s hard to say for any specific event. It certainly won’t provide a valid excuse for any future GOP avoidance of such an event given the similar bias on the part of the people who would report on that in the future.

Personally, I would relish the opportunity to take such questions and lash back at either the bias, inanity, or underlying false presumptions in the questions. But that’s because I have a core set of well defined, long considered principles to use to create such a reply. I doubt that’s the case for any of our current set of GOP Presidential debaters, except perhaps Ron Paul. Or it could be that the debaters lack the courage of their convictions and like much of the MAL feel that they can’t openly state what they really believe. I think that’s a big mistake, as the standard conservative beliefs are far more popular when openly embraced than anything else in the current political market.


1 I don’t think this was a deliberate action by CNN, but much more that because of the political bias of its staff and the inability of said staff to overcome or even recognize that bias, they would naturally pick questions that were plants by Democratic Party activists. The conservative world view is far beyond the edge of their mental world so they can only think of it via stereotypes, which one can see also permeate their normal coverage.

01 December 2007

There's no point in hiding my forbidden love anymore

Wow. Via Tammy Bruce is this amazingly hagiographic report about Senator Hillary Clinton’s activities during the recent hostage crisis. It’s entertaining ready for those who have a sufficient layer of cynical insulation from reality. In one of the few marks of good writing, the lead really does set the tone for the rest of the article:

When the hostages had been released and their alleged captor arrested, a regal-looking Hillary Rodham Clinton strolled out of her Washington home, the picture of calm in the face of crisis.

The accompanying picture makes this double funny, with HRC speaking “regally” and “calmly” with 4 or 5 police officers directly behind her, 500 miles away from the now successfully resolved incident. Not to brag too much, but I think I might manage some “calm” in that situation as well.

The article goes on to detail her interference and nagging of the people with actual responsiblity. Clearly some leadership there, as everyone knows nothing perks up a person under intense pressure in a crisis like a phone call from some one irrelevant to the situation but so puffed up on self importance that she must BE INVOLVED. Because nothing can come to a good end if she’s not. The money quote there is

Along with taking charge while giving the professionals free rein […]

Next she’ll be increasing government benefits while lowering government spending. It’s just the kind of thing you do when you’re that regal looking.

Too good to be real

I was out shopping today and saw the displays for HDTV DVD players and large screen LCD displays. Interesting, a good fraction of the display to demonstrate the clarity and capability were CGI. Now, it’s been speculated elsewhere that HDTV will be the first communication / computer technology that won’t be driven by pornongraphy since frankly, high definition and exquisite clarity is not exactly what such consumers are looking for. It’s hard to sustain any sort of fantasy, even that sort, when every little fantasy destroying detail is there.

But that would seem to apply even in non-pornographic situations involving humans, if not to quite the same degree. It is already common to photographically adjust images of already well constructed humans to make them even better looking. What I wonder is when computer graphics will be good enough that real humans can’t compete with the demands of visual perfection driven by better technology and social factors. One might see completely synthetic actors, or perhaps body motion suit driven acting with graphic engines replacing the make up department. And perhaps (and this is the true fantasy), acting talent will become more important than aesthetically pleasing body forms.