Archive for April, 2012

“A Fact of Life”

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Bill Daley, who used to be the White House Chief of Staff, explains:

“Most of the public today believes the president has been too light on the financial service sector. Nobody’s gone to jail. He didn’t nationalize the banks. The president has a very difficult time with the business community. Most people in business and most people who are successful are Republican that’s just a fact of life.”

Perhaps it has something to do with, figuring out how things work before making all these imperialistic decrees about what should happen next, or what should’ve happened with some other situation somewhere. The “president has been too light” because “nobody’s gone to jail.” Sensible sentiment, if we’re talking about those Black Panther thugs who got busted intimidating voters at a polling place; not only is it definable what their actions were, that were illegal, but their case went to court and they lost. And then the incoming Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case.

Not so with the business executives. But it feels so good to say, someone shoulda gone to jail…the President shoulda made it happen. Off with their heads! Well, last I checked, that’s not the way it works. Also, that is a trait shared by nearly all of the more successful people I’ve met: They figure out how things work, and manage to restrain their impulses of “but it should work some other way.” They deal with reality as it is. If they want to open a business, and the city or county or state takes a tax, or a fee, that is “unjust” — read that as, unworkably expensive — they form a new plan, opting for some different location, and then they put all their energy into it.

You might say they “occupy” life.

The Government’s College Money Pit

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Jeff Jacoby writes at Townhall:

Year in, year out, Washington bestows tuition aid on students and their families. Year in, year out, the cost of tuition surges, galloping well ahead of inflation. And year in, year out, politicians vie to outdo each other in promising still more public subsidies that will keep higher education within reach of all. Does it never occur to them that there might be a cause-and-effect relationship between the skyrocketing aid and the skyrocketing price of a college education? That all those grants and loans and tax credits aren’t containing the fire, but fanning it?

Apparently not.

“We’ve got to make college more affordable for more young people,” President Obama declaimed during campaign appearances at the universities of Iowa, North Carolina, and Colorado last week. “We can’t price the middle class out of a college education.” Like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, Obama argued for keeping the aid spigot open. He hit all the usual notes (“extend the tuition tax credit … cap student loan payments … make sure the Pell grants are there”), and for good measure used the federal student-loan interest rate — which will double in July unless Congress acts — to paint Republicans as clueless Grinches. Yet Mitt Romney also wants to extend the current rate. The myth that government can control the price of higher education by driving up the demand for it commands broad and bipartisan belief.

“It’s not enough just to increase student aid. We’ve also got to stop subsidizing skyrocketing tuition,” Obama said to applause in Iowa City. He might as well have declared that it’s not enough to keep flooring the accelerator; we’ve also got to stop the car from going faster. Reality doesn’t work that way. Rising government aid underwrites rising demand for higher education, and when demand is forced up, prices follow suit.

There is something else happening here.

Our institutions of higher learning have captured for themselves a rather messy and unattractive, but well-deserved, reputation as little Che Guevara factories. They are not generally fond of the advantages offered by a free-market economy, and why should they be? Their revenue stream has been shifting, over the years, toward government largesse — which in turn is liberated from the taxpayer, against his will. No genuine “trade” involved. Which, in turn, feeds into the problem defined above. There’s little or no incentive to keep tuition costs under control.

Feeling Unclean

Monday, April 30th, 2012

John Hinderaker writes in PowerLine:

Events like last night’s always leave me feeling in need of a shower. Partly it is because there some truth to Kimmel’s joke, after noting that the room was full of politicians, members of the media and celebrities, that “Everything that is wrong with America is here in this room.” Partly is is due to the sense that everyone involved in the event is pretending. The politicians pretend to engage in self-deprecation that shows they don’t take themselves too seriously. The comics pretend that they are just trying to be funny, lampooning politicians impartially in search of laughs. But, even though some of the lines are indeed funny, the premise of the event is fundamentally false. In fact, politicians, comedians and even the celebrities present are pursuing an agenda that is both self-aggrandizing and political. That is why, I think, such events always leave me feeling unclean.

Me, I felt unclean, in part, because my President opened the festivities with toilet humor.

Also, for whatever it’s worth, I don’t recall hearing a hand-washing sound effect following the toilet-flushing sound effect.

But the whole thing is classless and idiotic. Were such a “correspondents’ dinner” possible during the Washington administration, the Father Of Our Country would’ve nixed it in about half a second.

I’m sure to the progressive types it looks like a cool idea, and for them maybe it is, because their side is always going to have a lock on humor. Humor is a way to persuade people who don’t pay much attention; and, unfortunately, as unhappy as people are with the direction things are headed, it is a highly prized political commodity to be able to reach people who aren’t paying attention. There are so many of them.

It’s a funny thing about political commodities: Whatever is exploited, is encouraged to grow. The country doesn’t need more people paying attention only casually. That, really, is the only thing broken. Previously in our history, if people were unhappy with the situation and the way it was shaping up, they’d pay more attention. Our problem today is an attitude of “this sucks, so i’m going to go look at something else.”

This springtime dinner is, I think, our stupidest tradition. I don’t want to see humor used to sell Americans a bunch of progressive toxic stew yet one more way, when they’ve already said not-buyin’-today fifty different times. I don’t want to see my President making jokes about Kim Kardashian.

And frankly, I worry about the concept of humor itself. I grow quite weary of watching it drifting away from its classic purpose, being used as a shield; liberals say these dumb, false, un-funny things, and there seems to be this rule in place that they have to have that “last word” they’re always trying to have…if anyone says anything against it at all, back they come with What’s the matter with you, don’t you have a sense of humor. Well gee, yeah, humor, there’s that too: What you said wasn’t funny. Wasn’t there some other rule in place, that if I have to get blasted or stoned before I find your joke funny, it’s not really funny and you shouldn’t tell it? Guess that got repealed, huh?

“Their Carefully Worded Protest Signs”

Monday, April 30th, 2012

I imagine more than a few of my friends will identify with this:

From Terrierman.

“Wild Bill’s Tax Plan”

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

You’re speaking my language, Wild Bill…

I predict, though, that those who are left-of-wing would find a problem in this. If noplace else, then toward the end, where he talks about votes being cast by the taxpayers. It seems to be a liberal position that taxpayers are the very last people who should have any say in anything…

Trust and Retractions

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Now here is a picture that’s worth a zillion words…

Look what’s going on there now. Green line is retraction incidents, measured in “notices” per 100,000 publications in scientific journals. Now, you could argue there may be problems with measuring it this way…but nevertheless, if the plotting is shaped like this, it’s gotta mean something. And the line more or less gels with public perception of the problems with science across time, if it doesn’t define an even greater issue with this thing we call “science” in actuality, compared to what is perceived.

Conservatives and moderates are losing faith in the institution, whereas liberals continue to pledge fealty.

The situation might very well be — it must be stated — much more complicated than this. Bu-u-u-u-t…I don’t think so. Liberals like feeling all scientifical & stuff, they mock conservatives for not sharing in the passion, it assuages their egos to wallow in the mental stew that they’re being all science-y and the conservatives aren’t cool or nuanced or sophisticated or hip enough to follow along…but what’s really going on is that conservatives, as is usually the case, do a better job of factoring in the history of the way things turned out, prior to figuring out what’s going on & what to do about it.

From Bad Data, Bad!, hat tip to Terri by way of Bird Dog at Maggie’s Farm.

I see Primer Caps and Heavy Pendulums is now up to 252 comments, which is sure to be a record for The Blog That Nobody Reads. I’m not quite so impressed by the number, as I am by the subject of this record-breaker…climate change. This genuinely surprises me, as I thought it would have something to do with legalizing pot, or Sarah Palin. What was I just saying about factoring in the history of the way things turned out…it would seem, now & then, that doesn’t work. Sarah Palin & pot have always been way out in front, as ways of stirrin’ the puddin’. What changed?

This thread got up there exactly the same way your car reaches a destination — by means of something going around very quickly in a circle. We have a gadfly, who is evidently not a single person, who is busy citing lots of scientific research and even demonstrating an understanding of some of the more involved parts of it, while showcasing a rather dazzling ignorance of the elementary aspects. His/her/its/their objection to my point looks like: Do you accept that the Earth is warming? and I say, no, I don’t…my objections have to do with the many problems involved in measuring things, and the total, or near-total, silence about the nature of these problems & what is done to overcome them. Whereupon, the mysterious entity chastises me for being skeptical to the wrong things, and commands me to go through the data, withholding any further commentary until such time as I find a problem. Uh, the data that were acquired through these means of measurement that I’m questioning. In varying levels of detail, depending on which cycle we’re on in the stupid-go-round, I define the nature of one of many points in the inference pipeline of “Um, you don’t really know that”…and my partner in discourse continues to chastise me without even showing an understanding of what I’m talking about. Like I said. Showcasing a dazzling ignorance of the elementary aspects. The climate-alarmist has data, he has a method for capturing the data…poopy head skeptic comes along and criticizes the way the data were captured, the alarmist’s way of shutting him up is to task him on a snipe hunt, endlessly combing through the data. This person knows what kind of footnotes to put up, and is familiar with the terminology, but cannot reliably locate where the point of dispute is in a disagreement. ++sniff++ ++snif++ Smells like…college kid.

From the New York Times column linked in a prior post at Bad Data

In the fall of 2010, Dr. Ferric C. Fang made an unsettling discovery. Dr. Fang, who is editor in chief of the journal Infection and Immunity, found that one of his authors had doctored several papers.

It was a new experience for him. “Prior to that time,” he said in an interview, “Infection and Immunity had only retracted nine articles over a 40-year period.”

The journal wound up retracting six of the papers from the author, Naoki Mori of the University of the Ryukyus in Japan. And it soon became clear that Infection and Immunity was hardly the only victim of Dr. Mori’s misconduct. Since then, other scientific journals have retracted two dozen of his papers, according to the watchdog blog Retraction Watch.

“Nobody had noticed the whole thing was rotten,” said Dr. Fang, who is a professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Dr. Fang became curious how far the rot extended. To find out, he teamed up with a fellow editor at the journal, Dr. Arturo Casadevall of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. And before long they reached a troubling conclusion: not only that retractions were rising at an alarming rate, but that retractions were just a manifestation of a much more profound problem — “a symptom of a dysfunctional scientific climate,” as Dr. Fang put it.

Dr. Casadevall, now editor in chief of the journal mBio, said he feared that science had turned into a winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.

“This is a tremendous threat,” he said.
:
Several factors are at play here, scientists say. One may be that because journals are now online, bad papers are simply reaching a wider audience, making it more likely that errors will be spotted. “You can sit at your laptop and pull a lot of different papers together,” Dr. Fang said.

But other forces are more pernicious. To survive professionally, scientists feel the need to publish as many papers as possible, and to get them into high-profile journals. And sometimes they cut corners or even commit misconduct to get there.

There is something of a vacuum-cleaner-sucking-itself-out-of-existence thing going on here, since we now have reason to distrust and doubt the things the scientists say, especially when they trot out these scary graphs, so to find out how bad the problem is, we’re going to listen to what the scientists have to say about it and look at some scary graphs.

But there is an important concept being illustrated here, which is well worthy of exploration because it has escaped the notice of many among us, particularly, those among us who have the most to say. The concept is one of simple uncertainty. Don’t Star Trek androids and Vulcans talk this way all the time? “Captain, there is a seventy-three percent probability that…” et cetera.

A funny thing happened in the big long monster-thread. The gadfly posted a chart from the NOAA that was very difficult to read. It turned out, neither the gadfly nor the geniuses at NOAA responsible for putting it together, had ever viewed it against anything but a white background. It was a .GIF file with a transparency layer that didn’t belong there, you see…so, I used an image processing tool to fix their own artifact for them, stripping out the transparency.

This is, coincidentally, a perfect metaphor for what is happening. SCIENCE SEZ…such-and-such a thing. The liberals and other laymen who like to feel all scientifical & junk before they really have a handle on the concepts involved, take note of the findings without also taking note, Vulcan-like, of what the potential is that this is a true & accurate reading of the thing being measured. Just like a different image file format that only supports the luminence and chroma of the pixel, but with no alpha/transparency channel present, presumes 1.0 for the transparency (meaning, all of the pixels are absolutely opaque). From the merry-go-round arguing with our resident gadfly, we’ve seen this is exactly what is happening. They understand “findings” and they want to debate it with people who say it might not necessarily be so, but they refuse to understand, let alone have a discourse about, the simple human-knowledge concept of uncertainty about things. They live in a 24-bit RGB world, you might say. There is reality, there are measurements…these are functionally synonymous. Question the measurements? How dare you!

Monica Novoa Wants to Get Rid of the “I” Word…

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

…but apart from that, she’s not completely sure what she wants done.

“Goodbye”

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Surber throws it in. Time/energy demands can’t be sustained, just-plain-tired.

Not a cheery event. This actually unhappys me much. But best wishes to him, may the road rise up to greet him and the wind always be at his back.

This Is Good C

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Hawkins comes up with another good one.

Mmmm, hmmmmm…Zimmerman shot someone, so he’s “white” — it is a fait accompli that if he was in the news because he came up with a cure for AIDS or Cancer, there’s no way under the sun that his description in electronic media would include the word “white.” Our media thinks in terms of narratives and not in terms of facts, because the commodity they sell is the narrative. Occasionally this creates problems, and this looks like one of those problems. Someone did not succeed in thinking things all the way through.

Seriously, Why?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Permit me an unhinged rant about the young family at the next table over. Last night was my sweetheart’s birthday, and I was delighted to see we had a seat with no waiting even though we didn’t have a reservation. Cool! And it was right up front. Just after ordering the appetizer, we were graced with the company of a young couple, about thirty, with the loudest entourage of of little tax deductions you ever did see. Right across the aisle. Why does this keep happening? If it is truly a random occurrence, the odds against it happening the way it’s been happening…must be staggering. But somehow they always know where to seat us, who to put next to us, and when.

To be clear, “loud” only applies to the 67% youngest amongst the junior lineup. The oldest, around five or six, mentally checked out with the able assistance of his tablet. And I do mean checked out…completely…no chiding at all from the parental units about speaking properly to the waiter when ordering, nothing like that at all. Could’ve replaced the oldest kid with a leather dummy, or a big pillow. The middle was a girl who was, like most girls that age, allowed to laugh and sing and yell and make whatever sounds she liked, as loud as she liked and as long as she liked, without so much as a hint that this is out of place, inappropriate, or even uncherished. Boys that age are admonished to use their “library voices,” I think, still, but she proceeded to cheerfully dominate the sound space the entire time. The two year old had discovered the joys of being self-mobile and proceeded to run up and down the aisle. Three times, the family patriarch excused himself to go collect. Momma did not so much as flinch. Yeah, that told the story…husband is in business clothes, wife is in the “You don’t expect me to keep this house together and look pretty too, do you?” uniform. Going out to a nice restaurant to give momma a break. Mercifully, they finished the meal lickety-split. But they spent more time picking up their stuff on the way out, than they did actually eating. Interestingly, all three whelps had to be hounded about where their iPads were. That’s worth a lifted eyebrow at the very least. All three have iPads? I see. How many will require medication before they can pay attention to their teachers?

Talk with your eyes closed, smell your own fartsThe service we got from the wait staff was off-the-charts excellent, which is why we keep going back. It seems to be getting just better and better all the time. And, with dessert, and the check, we get a survey card. Oh, no…

It’s not even a dilemma. I have to mention it. There seems to be a feeling in the air, from where it comes I do not know — families with kids can be put anywhere, it’s a universal fit. This cannot continue uncorrected. Yes, I’m serious. I feel awful about it.

But my real puzzlement is with the family. Lobster ravioli, parmesan-crusted steak, grilled cheese sandwich, kids don’t give a shit. They’ll prefer a box of animal crackers for $1.89 or whatever. After a hearty meal of fish sticks. We opted to keep things pleasant. That means, we showed no balls at all. No need, nothing was really ruined — this time. We got a chuckle out of it. And delighted in entertaining a fantasy: I pick up their check, and when they ask why, we say if you can’t afford a sitter you must need every nickel.

Tempting. But it’s wrong to spend real money to feel smug. There’s a reason we don’t have a Prius…

What has happened? Has babysitting become yet another job real Americans won’t do? We have so many retail establishments that exist solely for the purpose of giving kids a wonderful time, places completely unlike anything that existed in my youth — and yet I continue to see these whelps hauled off to other places, places that have nothing whatsoever to do with whelps. It is an enigma and, I think, perhaps a foretelling of something that is about to turn out in a way we won’t like.

Green Activists Trash Park on Earth Day

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

*sigh*. SFist, via Gateway Pundit, by way of Fox News.

Not to get all hippie-preachy or anything, but this is kind of an offensive amount of trash, right? Do normal and reasonable human beings not look at that mess and say, “…maybe we ought to like, I don’t know? Take some of this trash with us? To a trash can?” or “Maybe we should bring that coffee table back home?” We’ve seen our share of litter-y days in Dolores Park and some embarrassing trash pileups in Golden Gate Park, but leaving actual pieces of living room furniture is a whole new level of prickish park use.

“Those trash picker guys are going to be stoked about this!” was one justification we heard for the mess. We tried to get someone from the neighborhood recycling center on the phone to settle that bet, but they are unfortunately not open on Sundays, so we’ll have to follow up on that later.

Looks like the SF online resource is none to pleased with people blaming this on “activists.” Mmmm…yeah, after mulling it over, I think I’m going to go out on a limb and call that one. There is drawing reasonable conclusions about things and then there is “fabricating.” Those are two different things, ya know.

Feminism 6/1/97

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

It was a Sunday. The sun was not up yet, and I hoofed it around the block where we lived, at Folsom Ranch on Greenback Lane.

I had a lot on my mind, because I was about to become a father. To a healthy baby girl. Her mother informed me, nearly two months previous, that I wasn’t going to work that morning because the water would break that day…which didn’t happen, and didn’t happen the day after that, and the day after that. That’s where the previous two months went. What a long two months those were. If I live to be a hundred and fifty, I won’t forget it.

I remember it like it was an hour ago: The sun just started to peak up over the mountains and I approached American River Canyon Dr. The thought in my head rings clear as a bell even today: “Jesus fucking Christ, I don’t know how to raise a girl, because the world doesn’t know either!” Seriously, what are they supposed to do? Marry? Have kids? Clean house? Bake pies? Every little thing you have them do, someone somewhere is ready to criticize you for it — and her too. Which means something. What is an expectant father to do?

The map says my route was 3.86 miles. I don’t remember too much of it after that; nothing at all, really. Not a single footstep. Thankfully, “Savannah” or “Mikhaila” or whatever-ya-call-her, was born 11 pounds, fourteen ounces, with extra equipment, that Wednesday afternoon. I was spared those interminable trips to the barbie doll shops and the Twilight movies, instead I get to be preoccupied with camping, archery, knot-tying and gunfire. Good. To this day I see it as The Lord’s infinite wisdom, confining a man’s temporal challenges to fit the finite talents he can bring. The same is true of all Freeberg men. We don’t have daughters, because we’re not up to it.

But I don’t think anyone else is, either.

And that ends my experience with being a father of a daughter. Just a hypothetical; several weeks of dull and thoughtless apprehension, followed by a few terrifying minutes of real clarity on a Sunday morning, once liberated of the anesthetizing distractions. Followed by a permanent terminus. Now it’s someone else’s problem. That makes it easy; had it actually happened, I would have eventually found a way to deal with it, just like I deal with it when my liquor store doesn’t stock my favorite beer in the cold case. That makes it easy, too. But, it’s a challenge I’ve not had to face down, since my Sunday-morning sweaty-hiking deep-thinking…at which time, I came up empty with all my man-against-nature fine-mind-against-whatever-challenges-the-world-has-to-offer ruminations. That makes it hard. Very, very hard; I’m not used to coming up empty, as in, all-out-of-ideas. In fifteen years, since then, I don’t think it’s really happened to me quite like that. On that Sunday morning, as the sun peeked over the mountains, I was fresh out of ideas as I’ve never been before or since.

Would I have, once again, found a way to deal? I’m certain the answer is yes. But honestly, I have no idea what that way would’ve been. I haven’t even a glimmer.

Take this however you will. As a salute to parents of girls? That probably works, and it probably fits. They have a special challenge. Maybe, had I been forced to adapt to it, I could’ve and would’ve. It’s more than likely. But the same could be said of serving in Iraq, maybe getting a limb blown off. Odds are, I’d have adapted to that too. But that’s all just a useless hypothetical. Here I sit with all four limbs, all twenty-one digits, and a wonderful, wise, capable, conscientious and scrupulous son. Who’s four hundred miles away, but oh well.

The point is, I can’t criticize the feminists too much. They are coping with the problem that, fifteen years ago, I had declared — and found — to be unsolvable. Then again, you could argue that through the thirty years previous, they had made it that way. But meanwhile, the plain and simple fact of the matter is there are still pregnancies going on, and some 52% of those end in the birth of a female baby. Then what happens? As she grows up, she acquires skills? Sounds good! Then what? She meets someone? And her life turns into something that is not a complete vegan-radical-fem-henna-Earth-goddess mess?

My son is coming over to visit this summer. Before the school year begins and he has to go back, we’ll have probably, oh, twenty or more conversations about my future daughter-in-law. Is he going to be an ambitious and capable manly-man, and introduce me to a lean, strong, capable young girl with straight teeth who will fortify my family line with strong, robust grandchildren, and maybe make the old man more than a litle bit jealous; or is he going to wimp out and bring home some cleb-foot freckle-faced inbred hillbilly girl with fifteen kids by four previous marriages and who knows how many informal couplings…

I reckon that’s politically incorrect, putting the same pressure on boys that’s been put on girls since the days of Shakespeare. What’re ya good for? Who ya bringing home?

Well — whatever. If you’re going to do something, do it right. That’s an easy rule to follow, until you apply it to the raising of a girl. Then things get complicated fast. And boys are not too much easier. I’m now over twenty years divorced, with a fifteen-year-old son. Yes, the math doesn’t add up. It’s the first question St. Peter will have for me, and whatever questions come after that will be nothing more than an afterthought. Well, it is what it is; I can only apologize so many times.

But that’s my complication. Women, nowadays, have their own. I had to put some serious thought into this, before sunrise on a Sunday morning in the summer of ’97. I’ve not had to think about it too much since then, but I have have the feeling I’ll need to be thinking about this, again, before too much longer.

This Is Good XCIX

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Obama Eats Dogs

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Kate at Small Dead Animals links to Jim Treacher:

I haven’t had this much fun ridiculing a dog-eating president since the last dog-eating president, who was… Hmm. Let me get back to you on that one. I guess everything Obama does is historic!

As for our moral, ethical, and intellectual superiors in the Democratic Party who don’t appreciate this one bit, here’s a question:

If you don’t want to talk about dogs, why did you bring up dogs?

Now: Add up the number of days you’ve yammered about Romney’s dog. Take that sum and add 1. Find a calendar, count out that number of days from today, and mark the date. That’s the day I’ll consider not hurting your feelings anymore by bringing up the fact that Obama eats dogs.

Or November 7, 2012. Whichever comes first.

“A day will come when I stop enjoying this. Today is not that day.” That all by itself is nearly good enough for a BSIHORL. And the tweet scores a direct bulls-eye.

“Narrative is Everything”

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Cindy Simpson, channeling Breitbart:

There is one thing that President Obama refers to as a silly distraction. But in reality, it represents a key part of the bigger thing conservatives must overcome to win this election battle.

The biggest thing was described by the “Big” sites’ creator, Andrew Breitbart, in his book, Righteous Indignation:

The left does not win its battles in debate…The left wins because it controls the narrative. The narrative is controlled by the media. The left is the media. Narrative is everything. [i]

Breitbart highlighted the “turning point” in the history of media control — the mainstream coverage of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. The “guys who idolized Woodward and Bernstein” had been transformed into “open partisan hacks,” rewriting the narrative with Clinton cast as the hero and Republicans the villains. Breitbart also noted that the “institutionalized conservative movement” became “conspicuously silent” because they had allowed the left to control the spin and “didn’t want to put themselves in harm’s way” [ii].

Leave Barack Alone!The “Democrat-Media Complex” (Breitbart’s term) control of the Obama screenplay has been obvious from day one, even when there was no narrative to shape. Instead of offering evidence to refute criticism of their star, the Alinsky-schooled Complex lazily lob potent word-missiles like “racist” or “birther.” Most Republican elites defensively duck and run for cover lest any of the labels stick. Conservatives hope that intelligent discussion of economic and policy issues will win election battles, but they fight within an arena defined and controlled by the leftist media, leaving the home court advantage to the left.

Refusing to play by Democrat-Media Complex rules, conservative writer Diana West bravely observed the relationship between two of Obama’s scandals: his socialism and the probable fraud of his identity documents. The assertions are related in that even though both are supported by facts and evidence, neither fits the narrative, and so both are ignored by the mainstream. And most of the conservative establishment has reacted the same way it did in the Clinton-Lewinsky affair: conspicuously silent and self-censoring. Author Roger Kimball noted the disturbing consensus that has rendered Obama’s nativity a topic “literally undiscussable.”
:
“Will the GOP stop playing Charlie Brown to the media’s Lucy? If the Republican Party doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to fight back,” warned Breitbart [iv], it will be the people who have to step up and win back the big thing: control of the narrative. A narrative of truth.

A debate, a narrative. It’s a useful distinction to keep in mind. Brietbart, it seems, discovered the Architect/Medicator divide. Recycling and re-recycling a narrative is, after all, an excercise in self-medicating. The difference is one in trajectories; a real debate will make a somewhat linear motion. Things will be posited, and then there will be some event, after which the things will have been refuted or proven. A narrative, on the other hand, moves in a circular direction, taking great delight in “proving” the same things over and over again. One’s a thinking activity and the other one’s a feeling activity. Case in point, this conversation, thanks to the behavior one participant, is an exercise in recycling a narrative over & over again.

But how to tell the difference when you’re not actively participating in the debates/narratives? Perhaps the first red flag to be raised, is when you look around and see you’re living in mankind’s very first enlightened, egalitarian, “free” civilization toiling under a massive and growing list of “literally undiscussable” things.

Hat tip to Bird Dog at Maggies’ Farm.

What’s Wrong With Saying “Nice Guy In Over His Head”

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

Jan LaRue writes at American Thinker:

If Mitt Romney becomes the Republican presidential nominee, he needs to sound more like Thomas Jefferson than Mr. Rogers. Hope and change haven’t brought a beautiful day in this neighborhood.

The Founders were brilliant political strategists who didn’t need focus groups to tell them that their fellow patriots wouldn’t be inspired to pledge their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to “throw off” a “nice guy who was just in over his head,” as Romney repeatedly refers to President Obama.
:
Jefferson and the 55 co-signers of the Declaration railed against the “evils” committed by King George III….They laid out the substantive case against the King in 1,323 elegant, inspirational, compelling and radical words that birthed this nation. The King’s abuses of our God-given unalienable rights required more than moderate words:

“A Tyrant … unfit to be the ruler of a free people”
“A long train of abuses and Usurpations”
“Destructive”
“Evil”
“Absolute Despotism”
“A history of repeated injuries and usurpations”
“Absolute tyranny”
:
“Nice guys” get second chances. Obama must not. Making the case against a tyrannical king or the most radical president in U.S. history cannot be entrusted to faint-hearted moderates.

I have to say, this has flipped around my view of the whole situation. I had some trouble seeing what the whole beef was, now I don’t.

There is some value to be had in staying away from the theatrics. Picture, as an extreme example, Al Gore’s tirade about “George Bush betrayed the country.” This, if memory serves, is about the last time the climate change Goracle was relevant in some way, no? It all comes down to: An argument that should win the day, doesn’t have to be presented in such a manner — this is a rhetorical methodology for little kids. Very little kids, who are up past their naptime.

But part of presenting the argument that should win the day, is defining the necessity of action. That means itemizing the deficiencies of the status quo. Things the way they are right now, are heap big busted, and there’s a lot more wrong with them than a president who’s a “nice guy in over His head.”

If, this morning, President Obama woke up feeling an unusually high level of competence in His ability to do His job, and if this same day the challenges that rise to meet Him are unusually mild, and He can fulfill them with a sense of accomplishment and victory that eludes Him on most days…He will still do a lot of damage. It is His vision that is the problem here. His very electoral mandate, the agreement between Him, the people who fund Him, and His voting constituents on what He’s supposed to be doing. It comes down to: “Use Your rhetorical flourish and Your black skin to lock in a bunch of legislative left-wing goofiness that You normally would not be able to lock in.”

I don’t really know how it helps the country’s economy, to identify and target a bunch of “millionaires and billionaires” and come up with some radical new plans to deprive them of their money. Neither does anybody else. That particular policy cannot be defended in a logical way, because no matter how you cut it, it’s based on a dictum that there is something wrong with being rich. You aren’t making a nation’s economy stronger when you identify that nation’s rich people as some kind of a problem, and then come up with ways to solve that “problem.” That isn’t how you make a nation prosperous, that’s how you make a nation poorer.

So, no. Obama is not in over His head. I wish He were, we’d all be better off. This is much worse than that.

“If I Wanted America to Fail”

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

It’s making the rounds this morning. Rightly so.

Hat tip to, well, just about everyone on my reading list.

“Why Do Men Become Communists?”

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

It’s certainly a question worth asking. Because twenty-year-old guys aren’t that worried about evening out an economic playing field, and Das Kapital is boring.

Three fundamental ideas: “The enemy of being is having”; “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his need”; “philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it.”

Hat tip to David Thompson, by way of Gerard.

I have noticed there is a narrow band of authority altitude that is highly attractive to the Medicator mindset. You could think of it in military terms as Sergeant and Corporal ranks, but not as disciplined. Something high enough that the holder of the office is responsible for seeing what needs to be done, and also high enough that he can order a grunt to do it once he figures out what it is. But low enough that forming the vision to be carried out, is someone else’s job. So someone else higher up figures out, if the mission is to succeed then this thing over here is going to have to be done; then this middle-management layer comes in, takes the order, figures out something incredibly mundane has to happen, and then starts barking orders to the muscle-men who have no discretion and make no meaningful decisions at all.

The appeal seems to be: High enough on the org chart to get some atta-boys, low enough never to be blamed for anything. Apologies to retired Sergeants and Corporals for the comparison, I can’t think of any other way to illustrate it and I know your “real” jobs are much more complicated than this.

Point is, there is a role being sought out, and the role is to boss around others, with or without a real purpose involved. If all commodities achieve value through scarcity, then surely a ticked-off Marxist guy thundering away about how this-shall-not-stand, young or old, is about a dime a dozen. How tiresome the spectacle has become. Yeah yeah, you’re angry and you’re mobilizing, got it. Just order the damn burger and let’s get out of here.

So the appeal of Marxism, apart from getting hold of the fruits of others’ labors without helping to shed the blood sweat & tears, is bossiness. That’s my opinion, anyway. Like Severian (we think it was?) said, somewhere (Update: Nope not him): Modern liberalism amounts to a lifelong struggle to make high school come out right. They are the nerds who were shoved into trash cans by the bullies, who grew up and now want to become the bully.

Longer lecture here:

At 15:33: “Marx was also a master psychologist. He understood there is a class of people in every society who, like himself, are motivated in their day-to-day lives by envy, resentment and hatred. Such people always blame others for their condition and plight. And Marxism speaks directly to such people.”

Related: Because I don’t link to it often enough: Zizzo and Oswald’s money burning experiment.

“President Obama Helps You Do the Math”

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Yeah, about that…

I Made a New Word LVI

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Red Dot Science (n.)

Broadly, it is the brand of pseudo “science” that is being used any time the outcomes of the underlying experimentation & research are pre-determined. Where real science says whatever it says, without any regard at all for how well-understood or well-communicated it is, red-dot science is all about being communicated in a convincing way. It relies on emotion for this communication, therefore, discussions about it are emotional and not intellectual. Although the people trying to sell the red-dot science try their very best to make it look intellectual.

Real science knows what has been demonstrated after the research is done. Red-dot science knows what has been proven, after, during, and before this research; the research itself is little more than a tangent. Most people with normal working brains, very often have at least the unsettling suspicion they’re looking at such a false brand of science when they read about studies that say, for example, “women suffer more than men do” or “girls are much more advanced in [blank] than boys” or anything of the form “World To End, Women & Minorities Hardest Hit.” Any story about a study that begins “Researchers wondered what would happen if…” inspires thoughts, although it isn’t mentioned much, of wonder about the wondering by the researchers. Wait, what kind of “researchers” would wonder about that? Intellectually-capable, non-agenda-driven people read things like that and think — waitaminnit, was this open to question or was it not? If it was not open to question, why did the money get spent on the study? And if it is indeed questionable and therefore there must be difficulty in measuring it, then how come there never, ever seem to be any “outlier” studies, even ones that are subsequently discredited, that suggest something contrary? Even through error? Like, ever?

Red DotIf the studies themselves are data…the data suggest that the study findings are written first, or defined first anyway, crystallized more firmly than should be allowed when a useful scientific method is applied. The data do not prove it. But they do suggest it.

Other things suggest this too. There are two definitions for “science” in the House of Eratosthenes Glossary, the more modern of which says:

1) A credentialed collective of academic elites who use democratic, political and coercive techniques to decide amongst themselves what is so. 2) The Dogma embraced by individuals who remain in good standing within this collective. 3) An agenda of Absolutism, toward recruiting more individuals into said dogma. Either way, it is the acquisition of new “psuedo-knowledge” about nature, by means of engaging in a False Unanimity fallacy: X must be so because “all scientists” believe in X, and “all scientists” believe in X because any scientist who doesn’t believe in it does not count. We know he isn’t a real scientist, because he doesn’t believe in X.

So this modern definition of science involves voting on what is and is not so. It embraces a fallacy of circular reasoning, since the voting takes place among elites who are credentialed and therefore qualified; the qualification is linked to the voting, since anyone who dares to fasten his or her name to a dissenting viewpoint is attacked. Therefore, the pie charts and other graphics exploring numbers of scientists with this-or-that opinion, could be better read as pie charts & graphs about how many scientists have balls and will put their careers on the line when science is being abused. Yes, of course it’s a minority. This is always a minority in establishments of credentialed elites, that’s the way establishments of credentialed elites work. No balls.

Red Dot Science, more specifically, is science prepared and presented for the purpose of appealing to emotion. It acts in a squid-like way when challenged, squirting generous amounts of rhetorical ink in order to confuse and deflect. In the many candidates I considered for this name, I tried all sorts of different ways to work “squid” and “cuttlefish” and “sepia” into the final result, and eventually abandoned that.

Red dot science shows other behaviors, when challenged, that real science does not show in the same circumstance.

Since it is an appeal to emotion, it seeks to reinforce itself through simple repetition, just like the kitty saying “I will catch the dot, I will catch the dot.” In real science, of course, the verity of a claim has nothing at all to do with how many times it’s repeated. Real science, in fact, labors — in futility, but nevertheless gives it a good try — to fight the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which is the problem that results when the measurement of a thing is affected by the effort to measure it. Real science struggles against this, red dot science embraces it.

Often the repetition is made cosmetically more believable through the exploration of further detail. Consider the following dialogue:

A. The moon is made of cheese.
Q. Whoa…that would require a lot of milk…how do you think it got there?
A. Sixty percent Colby, thirty percent Swiss, five percent Gouda, three percent Cheddar, two percent cottage.
Q. Um, that doesn’t answer my question…
A. What’s your problem? It adds up to a hundred, I’m using science!

Another tell-tale sign of red dot science is that it pushes for things to be “settled.” You can detect this push when you consider elements of the theory that are mostly settled. Real science will push, if anywhere, in the opposite direction and try to call these items along the periphery into further question. Red dot science is like the kid in the back seat of the station wagon asking are-we-there-yet. “Can’t we agree on that so we can go on to the next thing?”

As a result, red dot science treats an opposing viewpoint as something of a contagion, much like the kitty would treat the statement “you can’t catch the red dot,” an undesirable element that thwarts and could reverse the build-up of desired emotional tartar.

As reader Severian was noticing in an offline, red dot science cannot even grant a concession toward the opposing viewpoint theoretically, purely for purposes of argumentation. No can do. That, in itself, is a tip-off that the discussion is an emotional one and not an intellectual one, since a participant in an intellectual disagreement can easily gain credulity by arguing “fine, let’s say things are your way, how then do you explain [etc.]…” Red dot science nurtures an everlasting hostility to any type, kind or form of uncertainty, in any context, just like the hopeful kitty. It even loses track of time itself that way; advocates of red dot science are very frequently heard to wax lyrically about future events, as if they have taken place in the past. “What’s going to have to happen, is reasonable steps will have to be taken to combat climate change, and people are going to have to accept a new form of…”

A strange thing happens when red dot science says if we do this, then that will happen. Example: If we fund a government stimulus program then the economy will turn around. Things do not go the way they were supposed to go, the red-dot-science advocate is made aware of it and asked for his reaction. What happens next is truly surreal. He will recite the way it’s supposed to work, all over again, seemingly oblivious in every possible way to the fact that the experiment has failed. In this context, it shares some traits with mental illnesses. “See, what happens is, the money ends up with the construction workers, and they use it to buy groceries and boots and tools and gas for their trucks, then that goes into the economy…” Yeah, yeah sport. Exactly what we just tried. Where’s your captured red dot?

Another tip-off that red dot science is being used, is that vast verbiage will be used reciting a catechism, with little or nothing said that makes its contents any more probable other than argumentum ad authoritarian static.

Citations offered with no specifics. It’s clear there is an expectation that the works cited are to be consumed, starting on page one, ending whenever the receiving party comes ’round to the red dot way of thinking…at which point, further reading is entirely optional. This is a key functional difference between indoctrinating and educating; the educator is on a mission to expand the student’s mind, the indoctrinator is on a mission to change the student’s mind, at which time any further effort is much better expended on the next “student.” With red dot science, if the other party manages to wade through the citation but hasn’t come around, he is directed to go-back-and-read-it-again. If the other party finds a problem with the reasoning in the citation and stops reading it, he’s accused of “ignoring the evidence” without any hearing given to what problem he found with it, and why it would be a problem.

Intransigence is often used as a substitute for evidence in red dot science. Many of the arguments presented boil down to “you’ll never convince me no matter what, so you might as well come over to my side.” Also, the lecturer’s lack of ability to understand what the other person is saying, is sometimes used as an argument that the lecturer, with his substandard reading comprehension abilities, must have the right idea.

As reader Nightfly noted back at his place,

The whole dizzying affair at Morgan’s barely qualified as a conversation, because it never went anywhere. This fellow (s) Zachriel has, in fact, put himself into my mental dictionary as the picture illustrating GK Chesterton’s chapter on madmen in his tremedous book Orthodoxy. Chesterton observed that a closed circle, such as the mind of a madman, can be said to be infinitely small… a tiny ring constricting tighter and tighter until nothing is left.

Why would he or they or whomever do that? What would be the point of such a long pointless exchange?

I’ve puzzled ’til my puzzler was sore, and only one thing really makes sense: the very pointlessness of it all must be the point to Zachriel. There’s a dull commonality to how he approaches the topic and how he demands that all others approach it. For all the talk about saving the world, it involves no actual volition on the part of those who will actually do the nuts-and-bolts saving on a daily basis – they won’t choose, they’ll be herded.

Summing it up: Red dot science is simply a demand, dressed up in a “science” costume. Its weakness is that a demand to believe in something, no matter how artfully it is demanded, does not make that article of belief any better established. It is precisely as scientific as arriving at the “right” answer by flipping a coin, spinning a roulette wheel, or shaking a Magic-8 ball.

Contradictions

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I hear people are contradicting themselves when they say they value life, and want to stop abortions, but then turn around and want murderers executed. Hmmm, it’s an entirely valid critique…until you think about it. The babies being aborted haven’t murdered anyone. If anyone is contradicting themselves, it’s the people who want the executions stopped and the abortions to go ahead. In many cases, the contradictions are quite glaring; some within the anti-capital-punishment crowd say they are speaking up for the voiceless, because our civil liberties and constitutional rights must be applied to the least among us. Eh, voiceless, least among us? Hello?

Come to think of it, these are the people who want a sumtuous gourmet of ever-more-lavish social programs and retirement programs. Isn’t it a real problem when there’s no next generation coming up, to get socked with the bill?

Another thing I’ve been hearing is that Americans have a reputation around the world for being boorish, poorly-mannered, arrogant, intellectually stilted, incurious, et cetera. I’m seeing Americans criticized for reaching middle age without ever having held a passport, meaning they haven’t traveled outside their country’s borders. And it occurs to me: If these are the ones who have not traveled outside the country’s borders, shouldn’t we be looking to the enlightened, sophisticated, well-traveled nuanced-thinking blue-bloods as we try to figure out how we got our reputation? Some of them can act pretty boorish. Why blame the people who haven’t traveled anywhere?

How come democrats want more things in our lives to be run by a government that is run by their enemies six years out of every ten? Are they really so myopic that they think their friends will be calling all the shots, forever and ever? Just wow. Let’s not even discuss the values they have that are different from mine…I don’t want anyone that dense to be in charge of anything, anywhere. For their own good.

I think if I liked Barack Obama’s positions on the issues, and I was excited about His presidency because He has all this gravitas and weight and cred and…well, whatever else you call it when you’re accustomed to getting your way, nobody wants to argue with you about anything, and nobody can explain why…right about now, I’d be wishing for someone else to take charge who had a lot less of this. Think about how it goes with most presidents: The election is coming up in a year or two, so it’s time for the administration to get worried about gas prices, food prices, et al. This one, thanks to all the cred, managed to snooze all the way through about February of this year. Even now it’s a debatable question whether or not He’s on our side on this thing.

That’s another thing: Everything’s open to question. Birth certificate, bin Laden death photo, college transcripts, every little question is answered with “I/We shouldn’t have to produce that and you shouldn’t be asking.” So, again, even if I saw things more President Obama’s way, about now I’d still be wishing for a Republican to be in charge just because that’s the only time it seems we can have a transparent government.

Do Americans want the wealth to be spread around? We certainly do have a stewing, steaming resentment of rich people and there certainly is a feeling that they’re getting away with things…many Americans openly opine that this is how the rich people got rich in the first place. Hmmm, one wonders what it is about the rich that makes them different, if the being rich is not what set them apart, it must have been something else. What was that, then? But when the agenda advances to spreading the wealth around — I do not perceive that there is much passion for this in America. Seems to be an attitude getting forced on us, by the people who are running things.

Does it even work?

“Something Offensive”

Friday, April 20th, 2012

As they say in text mesage speak — no other intro will do — “Dude, WTF”:

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech but it cannot insulate folks against the social and cultural repercussions that come from saying something offensive.

I’m pulling that one gem out…some would say, unfairly…from a treatise whose subject and title are “Ted Nugent Should Be In Jail.” I don’t agree with the conclusion, or how he got there, but the author had me accepting his argument as at least a reasonable one right up until I got to that sentence. In fact, if anything, my picking the one sentence out of its context makes it look less glaring, since a casual reader might be forgiven for taking the phrase “social and cultural repercussions” at face value. Which would make it a much more reasonable thing to say. But the idea is JAIL. The whole column is all about how Ted Nugent should be in JAIL.

“The First Amendment protects freedom of speech but you should still be jailed for saying something offensive.” That illustrates the problem; the word “but” is being abused. You don’t get to say “up but down.” But to make the transgression more evident, I had to change it. Did I change it unfairly? Eh…I don’t think so. RTWT, as they say.

If I’ve misunderstood something, then clearly apologies would have to be in order. But if that is the case, it poses a problem: It would illustrate the ease with which things can be misunderstood. In fact, it’s not too much of an exaggeration to suppose that pretty much everything, with a little bit of intellectual torture, can be reinterpreted convincingly as pretty much everything else.

Are you threatening to do something illegal against someone, perhaps plan their murder, when you say “I’ll either be dead or in jail by this time next year”? I can certainly see the thought pattern. If I have a daughter, and I tell you “Marry her and I’ll be dead or in jail by this time next year,” my meaning is pretty clear. It’s not as clear when we’re talking about a sitting President, rumored by His opposition to be aspiring toward becoming the next American Caesar. Among the many legitimate complaints made against His Eminence is the one that, for a professor of constitutional law, He doesn’t seem to know or care much about the Constitution. So, yes, I do think it is appropriate for the Secret Service to check this out, but no, I cannot say a threat against the President’s life is the only reasonable interpretation to be made of Mr. Nugent’s remarks.

Hey, come to think of it, what ever happened to the people who made the move about George W. Bush getting assassinated? You remember, back when Bush was still President. Where’d that go?

Science and Politics

Friday, April 20th, 2012

You know, it occurs to me: We live in an age where it is becoming increasingly important to tell these two things apart. Which should be easy. But we also live in an age wherein that is becoming increasingly difficult. Partly by accident and partly by design, we’re being offered an awful lot of political propaganda that passes for science.

We need a litmus test. It shouldn’t be hard to arrive at one, since politics is goal-oriented and real science is supposed to be process-oriented.

Perhaps that is the key. With both science, and politics, there is always a sponsor. Every offering has an offerer. Now how would that offerer react to a a second offerer, with a second offering, which drives toward the same conclusion but relies on an analytical process that is clearly flawed. Like: Yes, Earth has gravity that can be measured according to the acceleration of a falling object at sea level, roughly 32 feet per second squared…because there’s a witch who lives in the middle of the planet sucking everything in with her magic potions.

The scientist would recoil from this kooky stuff, but the political propagandist would welcome it into an alliance. Only the propagandists can say: That’s bullshit, but it’s helpful bullshit so we should arrange a partnership to get it spread around. The notion that a bad process happens to arrive at a good conclusion, would be meaningless to a real scientist, since real science is not concerned about arriving at a pre-determined conclusion. That’s not supposed to be the goal.

A lot of what we call “science” is research under government grants, which by their very existence provide pressure to arrive at a particular conclusion. So my litmus test excludes an awful lot. Well, so be it.

The Dog Week

Friday, April 20th, 2012

I’m looking back over the past week, and it strikes me as a week from which much is to be learned if one studies it the right way, but also as one I would not like to see repeated. About the only good thing I’m seeing happen is that our Ridiculer In Chief had to absorb some ridicule back, and His craven spineless apologists were exposed as craven spineless apologists. What’s that, the “Romney put a dog on the roof of his car” narrative was unfortunately upstaged by the more spectacular “Obama ate dog as a child” narrative, now all of a sudden it’s so important to move on and discuss real issues? You weren’t afraid of this side trail when you thought you were gonna win it, Obama Fans. Either we’re going to talk about mistreating dogs or we’re not. A little consistency.

But the canine controversies mask something else that happened this week. Peggy Noonan, who seems to share my concerns on this one, has a good run-down of examples, although I part company with her on her last one.

People in politics talk about the right track/wrong track numbers as an indicator of public mood. This week Gallup had a poll showing only 24% of Americans feel we’re on the right track as a nation. That’s a historic low. Political professionals tend, understandably, to think it’s all about the economy—unemployment, foreclosures, we’re going in the wrong direction. I’ve long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it’s also about our culture, or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture.

Now I’d go a step beyond that. I think more and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.

I see it as a failure of an experiment, and a spectacular one as failures go. See, we’re supposed to elect Barack Obama, who’s got all this undefinable and unexplainable “cred.” His words carry great weight, although nobody can supply a decent explanation as to why they do. From putting Him in charge, and thinking happy thoughts, and never saying or doing anything that offends anyone (unless they’re the right people to offend) we’re supposed to approach some state of Nirvana and become better people. It’s been given a fair try, and the result of the experiment is indeed a new type of American…a new breed? Let’s call it what it is: A contagion. We’ve become something of a pestilence. Read her examples. A man is beaten in Baltimore and the enlightened denizens of this new Xanadu whip out their cell phones and start filming it.

Low and bad character, is the picture that gels into recognizable form from the examples she has to offer. If we have become an enlightened people from our recent experiment, we’ve got a funny way of showing it.

My own examples mirror this, I’m afraid. There is the extended-family matter into which I’m not inclined to go probing too much, it would betray confidence. Suffice it to say someone is bitterly resentful of our upbringing, and this person has little real cause to be. And although the writer may not recognize it, his wish is for a wallowing; an unproductive, circular conversation about, essentially, nothing. I’ve had one such cyclonic examination this week already and I have no patience for another. But I do take note of a consistency between these two experiences: I have been shown some bit of evidence, or prose, or a political manifesto cloaked as a scientific study — I have read it and it has not produced in me the emotional reaction that was expected/anticipated by someone, who then responds by giving me instructions to go read it again.

Ah, this is fast becoming a pet peeve: The sloganeering didn’t work, so I am to be given a second dose. No, I say. Call it The Godfather rule: Never read something a second time that didn’t make its point the first time around. Why would I do that. Reminds me of the Citizen Kane conversation, in which I made the mistake of asking for specifics about why this would be called The Greatest Film Ever Made. The answer, of course, was that I should go watch it and it would become obvious. Rather useless answer, since I’d already watched it. Years before, a Wesley Clark fan, in response to my questions about Gen. Clark’s position on the issues, very casually directed me to go to his website and all would be made clear. It wasn’t. I’ve seen many Ron Paul fans do the same thing, with the same results.

In hindsight, I realize I should not have been surprised by any of this; lately we, as a society, have developed a fondness for clubbing each other over the head with details, without presenting any details. Part of the Architect/Medicator divide is that medicators want to make everyone else a medicator, and a defining behavior of Medicators is that they react emotionally to things. The logical consequence to all that is, people who react emotionally to things want everyone else to react emotionally to things…which, we see, is true. They forget the “O.J. Simpson Trial” rule: Two people from different walks of life, can see exactly the same thing, and come away with wildly different conclusions about what it means, with neither one of them sustaining the slightest question or doubt about what they’ve concluded.

That’s just the way people are. It’s called “learning”; not a bug, it’s a feature.

The “read it again” and “go to his website” things though — make no mistake about it, those are bugs.

We’ve got an awful lot of people walking around among us who seem to be genuinely incapable of processing & understanding the message: Yes I read the thing you showed me, top to bottom, and no I still don’t agree. They just don’t know what to make of it. “Go read it again!” seems like something into which they’ve at least put some thought. But I don’t think so. I think that’s a reflexive nerve-center reaction, like a dead body twitching.

Peggy Noonan’s complaint, or at least, the worrisome thing to be noticed from all her observations, is that there are things that we have to take somewhat seriously if we’re going to live together in some kind of peace. And these things are not being taken seriously. From my own experiences this week that bother me the most, it seems to come down to: People do appreciate the need for this peace, but they’re making the mistake of defining it as absence of conflict. The mistake is a deadly one, since life itself entails conflict, and a dogmatic regimen of rejecting all conflict will eventually come to the point where it begins to reject life. All those sermons given by Jesus Himself, the parable of the talents, the parable of the magic eyes, the prodigal son, all of that was an attack on this. You can’t be a disciple if you’re only a disciple until such time as there is conflict. The same holds true of being a Christian. No, I do not mean to say a good Christian seeks out conflict and tries to make it happen. But I do mean to say that anti-conflict must be anti-Christian. What point is there to life, if we’re only supposed to live it until there is conflict? There is none.

And this is reflected, I would argue, in the results. When people are bludgeoned into this living-of-life-to-avoid-conflict, sooner or later, you always see someone, somewhere, laboring under a commandment that they need to stop living life, or to live less life. So that someone else isn’t offended. Very often, when the “someone else” doesn’t actually exist, and is thought about only as a hypothetical: “Take that American flag down, someone might find it offensive.”

Sooner or later, intolerance itself is tolerated, and ironically that is the exit point of tolerance from this avoid-all-conflict doctrine.

Peggy Noonan finishes strong:

The leveling or deterioration of public behavior has got to be worrying people who have enough years on them to judge with some perspective.

Something seems to be going terribly wrong.

Maybe we have to stop and think about this.

Unfortunately, I cannot do the same. I suppose I shouldn’t try; she’s paid to write and I’m not. I will say, though, that all I have learned about people over this past week, makes me more appreciative of dogs. They have the qualities, naturally, that humans are trying to develop; and the more the humans try to approach that goal, it seems, the further away they get from it.

“Growing Middle Class”

Monday, April 16th, 2012

That particular phrase just creeps me out the more I hear it.

Saw someone say over the weekend that this is the only way we can have a good economy, or a comfy economy, or a rosy economy, or something…nothing at all to back it up, no evidence or reasoned thinking whatsoever. Just pure prose.

In a lifetime of listening to this phrase, I’ve not yet been able to wrest a definition straight from the horse’s mouth. I have said before, however, that I’ve been able to glean one: “The class of people who are in approximately the same financial circumstances as the person or people being addressed by that politician in that particular moment.”

Looks like a crab-in-a-bucket mentality, to me. Doesn’t this thing we call an “economy” consistent of, or rely on, advances made by the crabs who occasionally crawl out, and in so doing, cease to be middle class? We can debate about how commonplace that is, but it does happen; isn’t that something we should like to see happen more often?

How come the beltway types never see fit to discuss that? No glowing vaporous rhetoric about the “growing rags-to-riches class” or “growing better-mousetrap class”?

How refreshing that would be.

Primer Caps and Heavy Pendulums

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

As I pointed out over on Professor Mondo’s place, I’m having a problem with my observation of the scientific method being applied to the question of an approaching climate-change cataclysm. I characterized my problem as a “Clark Kent and Superman” problem, by which I mean, I’m seeing these two components but never in the same room at the same time. I see people applying the scientific method to figuring out what’s going on with the climate, and I’m seeing prognostications of doom. But the scientific method and the doomsaying are never in the same room at the same time.

Thought I would explore my thinking more exhaustively over here. There exist, within the universe, simple environments which are “primer cap” in nature and other environments which are more like “heavy pendulum.” The former, should it be warmed to some certain level, could be expected to kick off some kind of chain reaction. Things get a little exciting, then they get really exciting. Such an environment has, to coin a phrase, a “tipping point.” A heavy pendulum, on the other hand, tends toward mediocrity. A force may be applied to it so that it shows an abnormally high or low metric, but this will kick off a different cause-and-effect loop…the conclusion of which will be, that the metric is pressured toward the nominal. And if the force is applied in a strategic effort to create as great an abundance or deficiency in that metric as can possibly be managed, as is the case with the heavy pendulum, greater energy (effort) will be required to register only a little bit of ancillary change.

Example of a heavy-pendulum environment: All massive moving objects. Like your car on a freeway entrance ramp. You’ll need to burn up, approximately, four times as much gasoline to reach ninety miles an hour as you need to burn to reach forty-five. If you run out of gas, the car will eventually reach zero miles an hour.

So a question arises. And it’s not a complicated one, nor is it an open one in this “settled” science. Rather, it is an unaddressed one, for if it were to be addressed, some sacred cows would be slaughtered. What kind of environment is the Earth? If it is a “primer cap” environment, then consider that C much carbon in the atmosphere produces M mean temperature, and C+1 carbon yields a mean of M+1. What happens if the carbon content is C+2, what do we get? M+4, M+5, M+6? Oh noes, we’ve crossed the tipping point! We could cut C all the way to absolute zero, and it’ll be too late. We’re ants under the magnifying glass! Tell your kids you love them, and fry eggs on the sidewalk! Aiiieee!

Balderdash, I say. Not because I claim to second-guess the scientists, but because unlike those who crave drama, I remember physics from the tenth grade. Assuming carbon is the most potent of all greenhouse gases and it is a red herring to consider any of the others, or any external forces acting upon this mean temperature — which is not the case — C+2 would yield something like M+1.414. I say “something like” because my comment is limited to what shape of curve we’re talking about here, not where any of the actual points are upon it. Our ecosystem has many natural devices in it which act to regulate the temperature, and other parts of the climate, toward a norm. It’s not much discussed, but you know what, that’s part of the “settled science” as well.

The big factor involved is water. It is an amazing substance. It weighs a lot, absorbs a fair amount of heat, cleanly boils away at a tepid 212 and freezes solid at a balmy 32. Remember what your beleaguered high school physics teacher was trying to show you…evaporation is a cooling process and condensation is a warming process. Self-regulating. In fact, much of this “greenhouse gas effect,” to which we owe our ability to survive for any length of time in relative comfort, is due to water vapor.

Water is so remarkable, that “devices” incorporating it can be astonishingly simple, almost atomically simple, and still successfully implement this property of self-regulation. A saucepan sitting on your stove has it, if it has water. Actually, if the climate-change doomsaying were to be more universally accepted and we were to reach greater consensus that something must be done — and we were to reach such an agreement on a waterless planet — that would be, by far, the most scientifically credible and effective way to put off the apocalypse: Find a way to saturate it with water. About 68 percent of the surface, or so.

Many among those who continue to cling to the climate-cataclysm religion, base it on selected bits and pieces of this “settled science.” They claim — accurately — that carbon is a greenhouse gas and greenhouse gases affect the climate. They fail to take note of the fact, though, that this by itself does not portend doom…and, to a man, they all stop discussing scientific things and scientific processes at this exact point, wandering into a tall grass of unsubstantiated “ifs,” so they can talk about our upcoming last-days and feel smug & superior.

Their scientific sin is to keep in mind directions of cause-and-effect, while they entirely jettison contemplations of proportion. Using their Tinker Toy brand of “science,” you could “prove” that a mouse fart will make a hurricane smell like stale cheese. Yes, the forces are at work and the directions are all correct, but the situation is all askew when one starts to consider proportions, along with the nature of the environment that is being subjected to the influence.

Jackass Lawmakers Against Dimbulb Activist Judges

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Or vice-versa, maybe…well whatever. Sometimes, when a maelstrom develops at the intersection of two dysfunctional elements, when it all settles down the result is a correct decision.

The California Supreme Court says employers are under no obligation to ensure that workers take legally mandated lunch and rest breaks.

The ruling Thursday comes after worker’s attorneys argued that abuses are routine and widespread when companies aren’t required to issue direct orders to take breaks.

But the high court sided with business when it ruled that requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable and that those decisions should be left to workers.

“Unmanageable” is an understatement. This is a classic case of one of my most bitter complaints about government, the non-producers telling the producers how to produce. There’s still a widespread lack of understanding about how bad the problem can get, when the non-producers do so after having spent lifetimes not doing anything productive…as is the case here. They start to lose track of where rule-making can & cannot be effective, and drift toward futile things like repealing the law of gravity.

The court, on the other hand, just going by this brief summary has engaged in classic judicial activism. Maybe when time permits I’ll find something in the complete decision that changes my view of that. For now, my sense is they have reached the correct decision by the wrong means.

I’m seeing some things around p. 33 that pose problems for that view, though.

Hohnbaum contends that an employer has one additional obligation: to ensure that employees do no work during meal periods. He places principal reliance on a series of DLSE opinion letters. In 2001, in the course of discussing rest breaks, the DLSE distinguished an employer‟s meal break duties and observed that for meal breaks “an employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure that workers are actually relieved of all duty, not performing any work, and free to leave the worksite . . . .” In 2002, the DLSE reiterated the point:
with regard to meal periods, “an employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure that workers are actually relieved of all duty, not performing any work, and free to leave the worksite…” In 2002, the DLSE reiterated the point: with regard to meal periods, “an employer has an affirmative obligation to ensure that workers are actually relieved of all duty, not performing any work, and…free to leave the employer‟s premises.” …

We are not persuaded. The difficulty with the view that an employer must ensure no work is done—i.e., prohibit work—is that it lacks any textual basis in the wage order or statute. While at one time the IWC‟s wage orders contained language clearly imposing on employers a duty to prevent their employees from working during meal periods, we have found no order in the last half-century continuing that obligation. Indeed, the obligation to ensure employees do no work may in some instances be inconsistent with the fundamental employer obligations associated with a meal break: to relieve the employee of all duty and relinquish any employer control over the employee and how he or she spends the time.

This implies that the phrase “requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable” may have been in error; the above excerpt is quibbling about what the law does & does not say, which would be a much more proper function. I’ll have to go over it at beer o’clock tonight to see if I approve.

There’s no way I can be unhappy with the result of the decision, though. This is the very worst part of California lawmaking methodology — yes, the rest of the nation is watching us because we’re California, but I cannot help but think the rest of the nation has been laughing at this. How idiotic. How heavy-handed, how Gestapo-ish. And how utterly, utterly, unrealistic; at no point could it ever have been said there were fewer so-called “workers” doing their working six hours without a break, after the rules were put in place (or re-interpreted) than there were before.

A precarious situation has resulted for us — the business climate situation, apart from being generally hostile which is plenty bad enough, has resulted in an over-saturation in our commercial districts of the multi-state operations. By this, I mean brand names that are based in California as well as in other states. (And by “over-saturation” what I really mean is, an under-saturation of all the other kind; they’ve pulled up stakes and moved out because they simply can’t afford the nonsense.) The problem with the tax base relying overly much on these part-in, part-out leviathans is that they don’t need to move out to move out. They simply decide to expand this office & not that one.

One can close one’s eyes and hear the incredulity in their board rooms. “Now, waitaminnit…in our California offices, we have to supervise the employees and make sure…what???

Maybe the justices of the California State Supreme Court deserve more credit than I gave ‘em. We’ll find out when time permits.

Autism Linked to Obesity in Mothers

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Well, this is interesting:

The obesity epidemic may be contributing to the rising number of children diagnosed with autism, according to a study published Monday.

Researchers said mothers who are obese are significantly more likely to have a child with autism or another developmental abnormality. The finding adds to the increasingly complex picture of possible factors that contribute to the disorders.

The obesity epidemic may be contributing to the rising number of children diagnosed with autism.

About half the risk of autism, a condition characterized by poor social skills and repetitive behaviors, is genetic, researchers believe, while the rest stems from factors including older parental age, premature birth or failure to take prenatal vitamins.

The new findings come in the wake of the announcement last month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that autism-spectrum disorders, as the range of abnormalities is now called, affect one in 88 U.S. children, up from one in 110 in a 2009 report.

It’s always been interesting to me that the learning disabilities are on the upswing — against even trace amounts of reasonable skepticism, you have these “cheerleaders” who push hard for a positive diagnosis in whichever test subject is under discussion, usually their own children, and they completely foam up at the mouth against the inquiring skepticism. They act like it’s a religion. And they’re so concerned about it…but…the statistics increase dramatically over a relatively narrow period of time, and you’d think they’d be concerned about that, too. I mean, what if it’s tainted drinking water causing it? What if it’s power lines over the house causing it? If you’re so sure Sugarplum has the LD and all these other kids have similar LDs, and just ten years ago there wouldn’t have been that many…shouldn’t there be this surge of adrenaline to try to find the cause, so the yet-to-be-born kids can have a normal life? And yet they don’t even sweat it. Nor will they tolerate any challenges at all to the idea that Precious has a LD.

Well. Mom’s obesity is Factor A, Autism is Factor B. The article doesn’t explore this, but much of Factor B is in the diagnosis process, and the decision to incorporate that reprehensible “spectrum.” But that has nothing to do with Mom being fat. Why the statistically-detectable tie-in?

I vote for a spurious relationship, meaning, there’s a Factor C that causes A and B, creating the correlation.

Some people are extraordinarily cautious about accepting demands on their time, I’ve noticed, even when they’re not doing a lot with said time. You suggest they do something to make something happen — they’ll spin this elaborate yarn about what’s going to go wrong with it when they do it, and finish off with, “and then I will have wasted all that time!” So what’s the point of even trying. So…they don’t. And, if you follow them around, you’ll see they don’t do much of anything. If they find they need to get somewhere five hundred feet away, on a perfectly nice day they’ll reach for the car keys.

And mothers need to work at it in order to relate to their sons. It doesn’t come naturally. I think every man who ever had a mother, will be able to confirm this for you. The mom needs to work at it. Sadly, in far too many cases, this is exactly what a spectrum disorder is; it’s a shortcut for moms that don’t want to work at relating to their sons. We like to think of science as crisp, hard and firm; we like to think of it as an objective, measurable thing, especially when it endeavors to tell us what’s wrong with our brains, and our kids’ brains. Well, the sad fact of it is, people who see empowerment in weaknesses tend to be pushy and loud people. And the science is not that hard. It’s been giving in.

The researchers are very careful to couch this in terms of a more direct, A-causes-B thing, so it can be an unavoidable body-chemistry tragedy in which all players are blameless. Of course they are. It can’t be sold any other way.

The results suggest that obesity and other metabolic conditions are a general risk factor for autism and other developmental disorders, said the researchers from the University of California, Davis and Vanderbilt University.

“The brain is quintessentially susceptible to everything’s that happening in the mother’s body,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, senior author of the study and chief of the division of environmental and occupational health in public health sciences at UC Davis.

But she added that “no one factor is going to be responsible for any one child’s case. This is not a ‘blame the mom’ thing.”

Well, maybe it needs to be. Not in all cases. But definitely in some.

I’ve often observed that we’re looking at a “no lifeguards worth a damn under forty years old” generation. What I mean by this is, today’s kids are sadly lacking in the skill of watching something for an indeterminate period of time, waiting for a state change, at which point they are to complete some task that is time-sensitive. This generation just can’t bring it. Lately, this particular skill hasn’t been getting developed. That’s because it’s not a birth skill. It’s developed, through life-experience and through necessity, and by no other means.

This rule seems to have been put in place, lately, I’m not sure exactly when, that Snowflake can’t ever be bored. It’s become the parents’ job to anticipate that he won’t have anything to do, and so some toy is going to have to be made available so Junior can fiddle with it…and this sacrosanct goal of constant, minute-to-minute entertainment, will be met. Thank goodness! Well okay, we can make a priority out of that, but I hope that in so doing, we can admit that a skyrocketing learning-disability diagnosis statistic will come as no surprise, as something we’ve been asking to have happen, when the time comes. That much is just common sense, isn’t it?

Now, if the parent wants to be the diversion, that would keep it from happening. But that takes physical energy. So there’s your correlation. Kid wants to ride his bike somewhere, if momma is immediately protesting “Oh no, mommy doesn’t do that, bad knees blah blah blah”…that will, over time, shape the kid’s brain. And it will shape the momma’s midsection as well.

But go ahead and look at amino acids and metabolism. I understand you have to, and my theory comes off as harsh, I get it. Science is more than a little bit political lately, and sometimes it has to look for the lost watch where the light is, far away from where it was dropped. Science is pretty expensive lately; wherever the money goes, there are politics. Call it the death of science, call it the terminal illness of science, call it whatever you like. It is what it is.

Best Sentence CXXVI

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

The one hundred twenty-sixth award for BSIHORL (Best Sentence I’ve Heard Or Read Lately) goes, once again, to Thomas Sowell (hat tip to Neal Boortz).

It’s actually three sentences. Well, we’ll make it fit. This is pretty good.

In politics, few talents are as richly rewarded as the ability to convince parasites that they are victims. Welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic have discovered that largesse to losers does not reduce their hostility to society, but only increases it. Far from producing gratitude, generosity is seen as an admission of guilt, and the reparations as inadequate compensation for injustices – leading to worsening behavior by the recipients.

This has a tie-in to the Flukers, Mmes. Fluke and Frank who, it should be noted, are not asking for anything. They and the others in their class are demanding things. That is what is so objectionable about what is taking place; if they were simply charity cases, those who are sympathetic to their plight would pony up (three grand for Fluke’s birth control, 20 to 200 dollars to clear up Ruthelle Frank’s birth certificate problem) and those who are not-so-sympathetic would be left out of it.

That scenario has absolutely nothing to do with what they’re doing.

What they are doing, is introducing a new form of legal tender into the economy. It’s an old story; due to this problem or that problem, or a birth defect or some handicap, so-and-so can’t do such-and-such. And the deficiency hardens into a claim on the time and resources of others, exactly as if it was money. In a way, it does become money. It becomes a new coin of the realm. Helplessness. I’m more important than you are, because I have a need.

In this case, though, the “can’t” has metastasized into a “won’t.” This is a significant change that we are seeing unfold before our eyes. The behavior is easing off on the pathetic, and bearing down on the thuggish.

They feel like they’re victims, I’m sure, since they’re chewing the fat with politicians and lawyers gifted with what Prof. Sowell is talking about up there, the talent of making a parasite feel like it’s been victimized. In reality, it’s the people they’re trying to affect who are victims. Here they are just minding their own business, and here comes a weakling with a story to tell of personal failure, and a big bank of microphones into which the weakling can do her whining…now the rules are going to change. And it’s all according to someone’s preconceived and premeditated plan.

Haven’t put a lot of thought into the cataloguing and ranking of victimology…I wasn’t raised to…but I’m struggling to come up with a way anyone could be “victimized” better than that.

What Exactly Does Meridith Valiando Do?

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

I keep seeing this young lady turning up in ad banners, and I think it’s for this Blackberry device.

The messages ambushing me from all directions about this cute-as-a-button young girl, want to make sure I know that she relies in all kinds of ways on her device. But I still don’t have a good understanding of what exactly it is that she does.

This is not an isolated case, either. I saw something like this on the company portal. Pulchritudinous, energetic, female and young…started her own business…does something vague and undefined with “social networking for societal change” and there are no details about that, but zowee, would her business ever be dead if she didn’t have her laptop.

I’ve met people who are savvy enough to catch a brief overview of what a wonder-gadget can do, and then put in place an effective vision for starting a business. Some of them think I’m in that camp…well…if these ads are aimed at people who possess that unique gift, you know, I think such a competent mind could handle details about what’s being done with the device. I mean, get specific. So I can see what’s superior about this brand versus that brand…why a business, such as this, could never ever rely on Brand X. Shouldn’t the advertisers be in a big hurry to tell us? Isn’t that an essential part of the message?