A Quick Remark

With the Dodd-Frank financial bill and Obamacare (or whatever it’s called) much more discretionary (ad hoc) power has been placed into the hands of the executive branch. It seems to me those supporters of these moves on the left should consider them in the light of, say, a Palin Presidency instead of a continuing succession of really “smart” liberals like Mr Obama (whatever “smart” means in this context, the meaning of which remains quite opaque to me).

To put it more bluntly, these bills place more political cheese to hand out to supporters and shore up your power as well as make your particularly political notions stick better. You should consider that to the good or ill not in the light of a President you favor but one which you do not.

And no, I don’t think Ms Palin will be President. That’s not the point. The point is to consider the next President getting much more discretionary power is one with whom you strongly disagree with his/her goals. It is my assumption that Ms Palin fits that description. 

 

Categories and a Virtue

I noticed a remark yesterday to the effect of “taxing the rich more still polls well” as an argument for the Democrats being for higher taxes “on the rich.”

Long ago I noted that “conservative/liberal” for many people tend to mean “more conservative/liberal” than I because most people view themselves as somewhat average. I’d offer that the tax the rich notion follows that same suit. That is to say, “the rich” means “people who make substantially more than I ever expect to earn.” In that sense, “tax the rich” is just another “tax somebody else” please and is to my view very suspect in that it really is just a way of trying to get free stuff/money by putting the hurt on some other fellow. 

The American virtue of self-reliance (as celebrated by Emerson) is fading fast. Why does the left hate it so? 

Macro and Micro (Economic) and an Analogy

According to one spot recently noted on Wiki there is no theory which connects micro-economics and macro-economic relationships and quantities. In thermodynamics by contrast there are methods (statistical physics) which connect the microscopic dynamical relationships and movements of atoms and molecules with the thermodynamic (macroscopic) quantities. In thermodynamics, the features which are measured like pressure and temperature arose from directly measurable quantities like pressure. 

In macro-economics however, the features which are measured (which are not directly measured but estimated by proxy) are not different from the micro-economic measurables. Micro-economics is about money. So is macro. This seems … by analogy to be wrong. Statistical averaged variables which are significant are very different in nature and in dimension from the microscopic variables. 

One might suggest that these two features drawn by analogy hold for the two economic scales. Firstly that, macro-economic measures of merit should be directly measurable simple features. And secondly that these features should be expected to be very different in kind and character from those that are important on microscopic scales. 

Offbeat Monday: Of Race and Hitler … and Ethics

In recent essays on race I’ve caught some flack. My definition of racism apparently suffers mainly from its symmetry. One man committing a crime against another on account of race is racism irrespective of whether the man committing the crime is of a oppressing or an oppressed race. To put it bluntly, Hitler and the Nazis were guilty of racism. This fact does not depend on the point that they were wrong about the Jews being in cahoots and in control of the capital and intellectual currents in Europe. If they were correct and Jews in the halls of power and the banks did in fact have plans and power would not justify Auschwitz and Dachau and so on. The hatred and racism of the white gang burning crosses and throwing stones through windows of a black family because they are black is no different than a black gang raping a white girl because she is white. Both are pure examples of racism. 

So, if you think that racism depends on positions of power and authority and class lines drawn on racial grounds ask yourself this, Do you really think that Hitler is regarded a racist only because he was wrong? 

Consequential-ism is a meta-ethical theory that judges the rightness of decisions based on an evaluation of their consequences. This in turn it seems to me reduces ethics to economics. Consequence after all is at the end of the day is about costs. Ethics however is is also called the study of beauty and the good. Ethics is about choice. And we choose that which we perceive as good and which is beautiful. So, when you turn to ethics … which system do you prefer, your wallet or Beethoven? 

 

Two Short Remarks

This weekend the WSJ had an odd headline which read something like (yah, I’m too lazy to look it up verbatim), “CIA to expand secret war in Pakistan.” What do they think “secret” means in this context?

The problem with the progressive/left using “right racism and bigotry” to fix perceived racism and bigotry in society is that it enforces bad behavior (HT: here). Bigotry as a method, once accepted becomes a pattern. Is that explanation correct? Or is there another?

 

 

The Tenth C and a Possible Left/Right Separation

One of the ongoing themes that I endeavor, with little success, is to identify critical ideas on which the progressive/left and conservatives (and for that matter libertarians) differ in their views of political and social matters. If have the good fortune to have two liberal/progressive dialog partners here. In recent conversations over the last few months this difference has arisen and I wonder if this point of difference is applicable to a wider groups, i.e., right/left, and significant.

The key point in to consider is that the progressive/left in question has abandoned  the 10th Commandment while the right has not. The 10th commandment speaks against coveting one’s neighbors possessions. A simple ethical generalization of this is that this is an injunction against considering one’s economic condition by comparison with ones neighbor. Continue reading →

Freedom and Right vs Left

It is apparently a self-conceit of progressives/liberals that they are friendlier to notions of liberty than are conservatives. While Libertarians (who are concerned with matters of liberty) disagree with that, today in a comment this was offered:

Name a liberty or freedom other than “the freedom to not be taxed” or “the freedom to screw over others” and progressives support it. (Guns is the only possible exception, but I’d argue that progressives who oppose gun rights generally throw it into the “freedom to screw over others” category.)

Just this week, I was inquiring at my daughter’s middle school whether I could get her excused (for the year) from gym class. She spends 20+ hours a week outside of school training at gymnastics and doesn’t lack one bit for physical exercise. What she does lack is time for homework. I had a nice chat with the school principle who informed me that he would love to do that, but state laws prevent that. It seems that somebody decided that there is a problem with childhood obesity and to help with that they’ve put a stop-gap to anyway of getting dismissed from gym class. He told me that another parent of a gymnast has been trying for 2 years to find a loophole unsuccessfully. Just another example of progressive nanny-state legislation snip snip snipping your freedom away. 

From the wiki article on “nanny state”:

For example, politically conservative or libertarian groups in the United States (especially those that support the free market and capitalism) object to excessive state action to protect people from the consequences of their actions by restricting citizen options.

Liberals on the other hand have used the term to describe the state as being excessive in its protections of businesses and the business class —protections ostensibly made against the public good, and the good of consumers. This usage applies to the international context as well, where the “public good” is used to refer to people in general, and where the state is viewed as being excessive in its protection of native business over foreign (rival) businesses

[Emphasis mine]

I’d point out I have not ever seen the liberal usage noted above, however the point in question in the above is that liberals in fact (as viewed by non-liberals) continually push state actions which prevent people from the consequences of their own (voluntary) actions. This is a restriction of freedom which does not fit into the “not to be taxed” or “screw others” category. The sorts of actions which this includes are countless and continually pushed and have been pushed more and more over the years. Apparently progressives (like JA who offered the above comment orginally) are not even aware that these sorts of regulations and laws are a restriction on our freedom. 

If you ask a Libertarian about the differences between the right and left regarding liberty they (and bloggers Shannon Love at Chicago Boyz and Timothy Sandefur at Freespace) who are both self-professed libertarians assert that while conservatives fall short of liberals regarding freedom in two categories of liberty (sexual and procreative) in all the other matters the left either falls short  or is the same (e.g., religion) and in both of their estimation when these were weighed together all in all the right was either more favorable for liberty than the left. 

Taxes and Wealth Inequalities

I ran across an interesting observation in Fault Lines by Raghuram Rajan (a U of Chicago economist who has the distinction of being on of the economists who clearly and unequivocally warned of and predicted the recession well in advance of its occurance). Anyhow, I thought this quote fragment was insightful when viewing the distinct difference between left and right regarding income inequality, from the beginning of Chapter Nine:

Not all forms of income inequality are economically harmful. Higher wages serve to reward the very talented and the hardworking, identify the jobs in the economy that need the most skills, and signal to the young the benefits of investing in their own human capital. A forced equalization of wages that disregards the marginal contributions of different workers will deaden incentives and lead to a misallocation of resources and effort. 

However, when the only pathways to high wages are seen to be birth, influence, luck, or cheating, wage differentials may not act as a spur to effort. Why bother when effort is not the route to rewards? Ineed, as the political economists Alberto Alesina and George-Marios Angeletos argue, perception in a democracy as to how high wages or wealth are obtained can create self-reinforcing patterns. If society believes people earn high wages as a result of their training and hard work, it is less willing to tax high earners, thereby ensuring they have strong incentives to acquire skills and exert effort. If society believes people earn high wages because of connectedness, chance, or crookedness, then it will tax incomes more heavily, and since few of the honest will then bother to work hard, only those with influence, the lucky, or the cheats will flourish. 

The left and right in the US are distinguished in part by their willingness (or lack thereof) to tax high earners. The left like to pretend that the middle class right is “duped” into wanting to lower taxes on the wealthy because they are just stupid when in reality what is going on is that the middle class believes that the wealthy got that way in the main part due to their training and hard work. One might also observe that the left’s willingness to punish the wealthy will have its own negative social repercussions as noted above as well. 

Mr Rajan also points out that the willingness to tax high earners is higher than it was in the past and the above observation might be a clue to why that might be, that is our perception of who the wealthy consist as well as how they got that way is moving. This is unfortunate. 

 

Two Perceptions of Matters from the Other Side

The first ‘perception’ is an observation of the Democrat elites allergic response to the Tea Party populism. The Tea Party gatherings, according to cricket racers accounts (polls), are as much as 40% . Even If you believe that the cricket racer might be shifting the numbers due to partisan bias in method or reporting … consider that even if the numbers of 2/5ths for you are not credible, to report as such, they are likely greater than a quarter. So, what reason is it that the elite on the left both deny the presence of Democrats in this movement and at the same time show considerable hostility towards it and their primary message? It seems likely that a primary reason is about intellectual turf. The Democrat elite self identify as being the party representing the interests of the common man against the big corporate and wealthy business interests in government. Thus when the common man, which is ontologically that which a populous rising contains, arrays itself against the Democrat elite that is a betrayal. In their naive view, populism should be primarily within their ranks, it should be an internal driving constituent driving force within their party. Them commoners are getting uppity. And inasmuch as they align themselves with the “other” party (which they identify as representing those big corporate and the wealthy) then that’s just plain wrong. This is then a likely cause of the Democrat elite’s allergy to the Tea Party, for populism should be within and supportive of them and, of course, should never primarily seek common ground with the other side.

Which brings me to the other consideration, Mr Obama in a recent speech noted that regarding tax increases for the wealthy that this “wasn’t in his (personal) best interest.” This is only half-true and the part that is true is uncharitable in its implicit assumptions. And the only reason for pointing that out, is that in my view, it is a notion shared by many if not most Democrats. First, let’s get the accuracy of this assertion out of the way. It is indeed against Mr Obama’s interest with respect to taxes to raise the taxes on the wealthy as he is one of those. But as a professional politician, inasmuch as he believes raising taxes on the wealthy raises tax income, more money for the government kitty is in Mr Obama’s direct interest. His “business” is government and more tax income directly aids his professional interest.

As for the uncharitable aspect of this observation this is more important. Because it is shared by those who share that opinion. Mr Obama is willing to support a measure which is against his personal best interest because he feels that measure is in the countries best interest, but … (and here’s the sting in the tail) he is unwilling to grant that motivation to those who oppose him, e.g., the Tea Party. The Tea Party gatherings are a populous movement and as such have dozens (or more) motivations for bringing people aboard, but the overriding motivation is cutting government size and spending. There is a direct parallel between those Mr Obama’s  “I support tax increases for the wealthy which is against my personal (short term) interest because it is in the countries best interest” and the Tea Party person who says “I support cutting government spending which is against my personal (short term) interest because it is in the countries best interest.” Democrats ascribe the first magnanimous statement to themselves but are too uncharitable to consider the same magnanimity to the other side. Consider for yourself how often you’ve heard the argument used by Democrats that these folks are “voting against their own interests.” Yep, that’s right. For exactly the same reason y’all do it if you’d have the graciousness to ascribe the same good motives to the other side. 

Words and Mind: Tax Cuts as Costs for Government

Tax cuts are often discussed in terms of budget impact with phrases like “paying for a tax cut” or as “costing money.” 

In a book I read years ago by a Microsoft engineer about projects development the phrase “idiot bit” was used. The context for that is that when a persons “flips your idiot bit” and you realize they’ve done or said something idiotic the conclusion that that person is not too sharp is a “sticky” conclusion. They may do half-a-dozen things that are insightful and highly innovative … but once you’ve internally labeled that person as “stupid” it takes a lot to reverse that conclusion. Now, anthropologically speaking, this might be in part due to the peculiarities of how perceptions of intelligence is socially valued within the Microsoft (and software) sub-culture … and perhaps as well that this sort of “sticky conclusion” might be generalizable to other sub-cultures and “sticky” conclusions centering around the things they value. 

Usage of the terminology like “paying for tax cuts” and “tax cuts costing money” is a red-flag which, for myself at least, flips a similar “sticky bit.” From a somewhat abstract accounting point of view there is a sort of peculiar logic to that sort of terminology. But usage of that term betrays a level of abstraction and a point of view about taxation and government spending which forgets that taxation is inherently a violence against person or family. Taxation is a necessary evil of government. But to think of less taxes as a “cost” on government is a reversal of what should be the normative point of view, that government and its spending itself is a cost which is paid for by taxes. 

For small government proponents, statements about tax cut as cost “flips” a sticky bit. This means that it is hard to escape categorizing the speaker as a person willfully riding down the road to serfdom and at best a socialist or fascist. 

Burning Holy Books and the “Is Outrage” Response

When a small group led by a charismatic leader does something outrageous in this country to the average American this means little. This sort of thing happens all the time … bringing out examples is likely an exercise best left to the reader. A question that arises is why then does so much of the Islamic world rise up in anger when, say, a wacky pastor in South Florida burns a few books? The reason is in part a reflection of our different political cultures. 

In those countries which are rising up in anger, no such act would transpire without the express order and approval of a governmental (or organized anti-governmental organization, i.e., an insurgency). They are upset that this guy is going this because to them it means that Mr Obama and the US government has decided this is the right thing to do. Or at the very best, if he is doing it, then he has their explicit stamp of approval. It doesn’t matter that he says he thinks it is bad or that any number of us do the same. That is irrelevant because he is being allowed to do it means that their approval and sponsorship is a given. That they protest against his action but allow it is just a demonstration base deception. 

Those places in the world do not have freedom of speech and have never lived in such places or really (as is likely) considered the consequences of a society which defends such. Perhaps part of the problem is that our COIN apparatus (unlike as what pointed as “optimal” in the Petraeus manual) is almost exclusively military … which does in fact control its message and people in a way which our civilian life is not. This might be a big benefit of moving those COIN operations which are pointed as better done by non-military units to be done by actual non-military units. Perhaps the surge would have been best accompanied by 75k civilians in their unruly mess … so that part of the world might come to learn what freedom of speech looks like up close and personal. 

Jumping the Shark and the Marriage/State Discussion

From the rust belt, this statement was made (and apparently affirms at some level … of sophistry):

Justin and I both accepted a crucial premise that neither one of us bothered to support: that “marriage” should be a legal institution for any arrangement of people.

Well, there you go, jump that shark along with the Fonz. What might be some of the consequences of that notion:

  • Kiss the inheritance tax goodbye, after all just “marry” your beneficiaries for spouses don’t pay that tax. 
  • That will really help the power relationship between pimp and his flock now that he can “marry” them and really control their lives with legal machinery at his beck and call. 
  • I’d bet a clever lawyer might combine marriage and employment in ways that might be serve as a good union-buster. 
  • Or on the flip side, unions could “close shop” to only those in the family and get new ways to enhance their power.
  • For the controlling parent, “marry” your kids to enhance your hold on their life after age 18. 

When you try to make a blanket statement that marriage should be allowed for any random arrangement of people you need to step back and consider the sorts of things which marriage allows, merging of finances, relaxation of privacy between members, and a the option for a shared corporate presence for the state. There’s going to be lots of ramifications when you decide any group can don that cloak. 

In the early years after the framers finished the Constitution, they were quite taken aback and surprised that Mr Burr formed a electoral machine in New York and almost grabbed the Presidency. They hadn’t “figured” on the consequences of their laws. Likewise it pretty clear that a decision that the legal status of marriage assigned to “any arbitrary group” of people is going to be similarly used by people lacking the preconceptions-as-constraints under which your discussion labored. 

 

 

On Park51 or the Cordoba House

I have not offered any opinion of mine own on the proposed Mosque site. I think a lot of odd things have been said about it, not the least of which was the GOP reaction to his expressing the mainstream conservative opinion on the matter, that they do in fact posses a Constitutional right to build but that it is a very bad idea. One has to remember an idea you support, when spoken by one on the other side of the aisle, remains a good idea (and recall that even a broken clock is right twice a day). Another silly thing touted is that this building is “two whole blocks away” and nowhere near the ‘Ground Zero’ location. The reason that notion is silly is that the Park51/Cordoba people have chosen this location is its proximity to the former World Trade site. It seems to me that the those who protest that this is too far away miss a crucial point. Neither the sponsors nor the objectors see that is correct. Doubtless one can point at countless other ideas fronted on this topic which are incoherent or silly. Continue reading →

Science and Passion

The scientific method is taught and portrayed as a dispassionate rational dialectic between theory and experiment. Theories are propose, data is collected which forces refinement of theory and that continues. Occasionally, ala Mr Kuhn, a revolution occurs in which a major paradigm shift takes over and a radically new theory becomes ascendant. 

Alas, this has little to no relation to what actually occurs within science. Scientists are not dispassionate men judging between different competing theories analyzing experimental data to that end. They are instead emotional advocates of a particular theory which they espouse a theory which they find, well, beautiful (for a variety of reasons). Now, the reason we have success and progress in science is that the training and process of learning their particular specialty has programmed their emotional responses to align their aesthetic principles with the rigors of their discipline. 

to be continued … 

On Ramadan

While recently I pointed to a remark that we shouldn’t believe things we hear just because we didn’t know that thing before. But … 

I heard that in Egypt during Ramadan, the month-long fast, Egyptians eat three times more than when the fast isn’t present. The explanation had to do with how Ramadan is observed. The Ramadan fast is from dawn to dusk, nothing is eaten during that time. However, after nightfall the fast is broken. And typically during the month of Ramadan people either are or entertain guests and make a feast of it. So much so that the average consumption is far greater during the fast, than afterwards.

I thought that odd. 

Mr Obama and a Good Idea … Not Mixing

Mr Obama is in a pickle. He “says” he is thinking morning, noon, and night and obsessing about the what to do about the oil leak in the Gulf. And there’s a little problem here. A subterranean tactical (20-40 kiloton) nuclear device activated in the vicinity of the leak would stop the leakage with almost no danger of any excess nuclear material being released to the environment. I’m betting this won’t be done. Why?

  • Mr Obama is religiously anti-nuclear. He holds to an unstated (unexamined?) ivory tower plan toward a nuclear free world. Using a nuclear device to stop one of the larger modern ecological disasters has no part in that plan. The notion that a nuclear device might do anything but harm would be a fatal flaw for his dream.
  • If it works then it would have worked it two months ago. Which means the longer we wait to do that … the more obvious that doing it earlier would have been better is all the more compelling. Which is why, now two months down the road this won’t be done. Every day, every hour makes the chance of acting decisively less easy.

So remember, as you look at pictures of ecological impacts of the oil spill in the upcoming months. Mr Obama could have fixed this and even prevented it but didn’t because it would hurt his case for non-proliferation and because it would make him look a little stupid.

So when you gaze on the gulf disaster you’re looking at the results of Mr Obama’s pride and folly.

Logical Inconsistancy and the NSS

A question regarding promotion of Democracy. During the Iraq reconstruction, the Iraqi people came together and wrote their own Constitution. Critics in this country soundly criticised that document because it didn’t establish freedom of religion, that is Islamic religious principles and separation of Church and State was not firmly established. In the recent National Security Strategy document released by the Administration the same curious thing occurred. In adjacent sections Mr Obama states that two primary objectives with regard to promoting human rights abroad include supporting democracy and women’s rights. These two ideas are in conflict.

The document states the importance of:

Recognizing the Legitimacy of All Peaceful Democratic Movements: America respects the right of all peaceful, law-abiding, and nonviolent voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them.

and

Supporting the Rights of Women and Girls: Women should have access to the same opportunities and be able to make the same choices as men.

It seems to me quite clear that one of the notions held throughout much of the world is that women should not have the same access to the same opportunities as men. And this is an idea expressed by peaceful, law-abiding, and non-violent voices in places around the world, one with which however we disagree. This is just the same as the criticisms rendered after a democratic government forms a Constitution which does not separate Church and State.

Here’s the thing, you can support the idea that people should be free and able to set up their communities and the laws and customs by which they are run. You can want people to have certain ways of governing themselves and modes of setting up those communities. You can’t have both.

A Democratic Victory

It has been noted on the left that it is counted as a political victory in taking Mr Murtha’s vacated seat, e.g., here. The right has noted that this victory in a state with a hotly contested Democratic primary and no such race on the other side with the winning candidate being a Democrat who campaigned taking a hard line against Obamacare, against abortion, and for gun rights. Well, if you want to call that a victory on the left, more power to y’all. If more Democrats pushed for smaller government, against abortion, and for gun rights … there’d be less obstructionism by the GOP in Congress too.

But you all knew then already.

Changing Labels: Moving from Conservative to Progressive

I think I’m going to start calling myself a progressive. If one labels place on the axis regarding social or cultural change … progressives want to move away from the status quo toward something new, conservatives are cautious about movement along that axis, and reactionaries also want cultural change … but back toward a past relationship. Conservatives in that light are at the zero point, the origin of a generic “social movement” metric. This is (in the light of prior discussion) not a “retconning” of the definition of progressive, reactionary, and conservative but indeed the standard ones. However it might be noted that in popular parlance, progressive and conservative have come to mean ill-defined but definite political party affiliations … and this is not the usage of these words I am applying here. The other meaning however is also well known and common and I don’t think there are really any alternatives words to use in their place.

Sometime past the topic of Honor/Shame cultures came up in a more sympathetic setting than I had experienced before. I think the so-called ‘conventional wisdom’ regarding H/S cultures is a confused message from the liberal academic establishment. The conventional wisdom is that their treatment of woman (and gays) is appalling and that life in these societies is horrible. Our news services flood us with messages giving us a feeling of superiority regarding our culture, with stories of older men marrying or abusing pre-teen and young women. Yet as was pointed out what is missing in those stories are numbers and any sense of comparison of different flaws which appear in our own society. That is to say, that yes, while women suffer some problems in those societies that is not necessarily the norm but that these are outliers or abuses that appear at the edges. On the other hand, in our society rape, murder, suicide and mental illnesses like depression which are apparently far rarer in those societies and serve the similar role of outliers and breakdowns at the edges of our society. The upshot is that if one sets aside these two sets of outliers people in the Western individualistic society are wealthier people in H/S/non-individualistic cultures are happier. Continue reading →

Ms Kagan

So. Ms Kagan. Anybody find any links to online articles authored by her? It is said by her defenders that she’s a brilliant academic, whatever that means. Publish or perish means there should be scads of articles and books by her if she was as claimed a brilliant academic. No book at Amazon, except a $45 tribute essay contribution in honor of some Harvard dude. And I’m guessing this book isn’t hers. Finally there is this at Amazon as well … out of print and no reviews. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t publish in journals not available on-line. So … anything?

Do legal professors not publish? What is the point of being in the Academy if you don’t publish? I don’t get it.

Look to be a brilliant academic you have to make a mark. To make a mark you have to publish important works which make a visible impact on our profession. I see no evidence that is the case for Ms Kagan. Perchance this is more of this retconning thing in which brilliant academic is recast to mean something entirely different. Perhaps it now is to mean an academic liked by Mr Obama who just happens to be another ‘brilliant academic’ who lacks any actual substantive academic record.

On Deadly Conflict

An interesting note from last nights reading. I had started reading American Rifle: A Biography. At the start of the book it notes that before the advent of the flintlock the American natives weren’t interested in firearms. But the flintlock change that, and the musket (later rifle) became a highly sought very expensive commodity item. Prior to that introduction, wars and conflicts between American native groups were based on enmity and for one 7 year conflict between two tribes resulted in 7 deaths. After the flintlock, conflicts were based not on enmity but on (economic) interest and became deadly. After 25 years, the number of combatants from one tribe dropped from 800 effectives to 300.

The point that enmity vs (economic) interest driving lethality is probably can be generalised and considered in the context of the popular opinion about European religious conflicts of the 15th-17th centuries.

Healthcare/Welfare and the Great Mistakes of the 20th Century

From F.A Hayek The Road to Serfdom Chapter 2:

To allay these suspicions and to harness to its cart the strongest of all political motives — the craving for freedom — socialism began increasingly to make use of the promise of a “new freedom.” The coming of socialism was to be the leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom. It was to bring “economic freedom,” without which the political freedom already gained was “not worth having.” Only socialism was capable of effecting the consummation of the age-long struggle for freedom, in which the attainment of political freedom was but the first step.

The subtle change in meaning to which the word “freedom” was subjected in order that this argument should sound plausible is important. To the great apostles of political freedom the word had meant freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men, release from the ties which left the individual no choice but obedience to the orders of a superior to whom he was attached. The new freedom promised, however, was to be the freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of circumstances which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us, although for some very much more than for others. Before man could be truly free, the “despotism of physical want” had to be broken, the “restraints of the economic system” relaxed.

Hmm. There is not just a little similarity with these arguments and the arguments posed for healthcare. Democrats argue that healthcare is not socialism. Pedantically speaking that may be correct. But that is, in part, just a technicality. There are parallels here.

A Taxing Question

The health care mandate is defended as Constitutional because it’s just a tax.

It gives people a choice: they can buy health insurance or they can pay a tax roughly equal to the cost of health insurance, which is used to subsidize the government’s health care program and families who wish to purchase health insurance….

Two questions.

  1. Can the government mandate purchasing a GM automobile now that they have a controlling interest in GM with a similar tax, i.e., buy the car or pay a tax used to subsidize the program for those families to buy the same sort of car who cannot afford it? If the first is allowed, why not the second? And don’t pull the “not GM, but any automaker” argument. GM could install a proprietary widget in their car and the law would require that quite easily.
  2. How about taxing people who don’t have at least one child of their own and adopt one child? Single -> tax. The tax roughly equal to the cost of supporting two children, which is used to subsidize those families which struggle to support those two children.

So, are the above two measures Constitutional? If they are not, why is the healthcare measure Constitutional while these are not?

Enter the Seraglio

Saturday night my wife and I went to the symphony. One of the pieces we heard was Symphony no. 4 by Sergei Prokofiev. In the program notes, one of the things we were informed about this symphony was that it borrowed heavily from an earlier work a ballet entitled The Prodigal Son. Furthermore we were informed that the third movement borrowed from a section of the ballet which introduced (for sex appeal) a seductive dance by a female dancer/love interest, added to the story to increase popularity apparently. So when the the third movement came around, I was expecting seductive or melodic patterns that would fit a seductive dance. Yet I got a surprise. The third movement, to my ears, was quirky humorous and, well, goofy. To my minds eye, the exotic dance would feature a grinning minx with strident makeup, mismatched pigtails, a flouncy dress, and a puckish grin and attitude.

Here’s my point. While this is on occasion what I might find captivating and perhaps seductive … I think of myself unusual in this regard. I’ll freely admit, for example, in the Magic Flute, I’m more interested in the Popageno/Popagena love story than Tamino/Pamina story. What do you think of humor and puckish elements as part of seduction?

On Healthcare and Honesty

There is currently, as is well known, a debate on health policy. Within this debate it seems to me there is a fundamental misunderstanding between right and left on this matter. I’d like to make as pointed a expression of this misunderstanding in the hopes that those on the left might clarify for my their views on this matter.

The left makes the following claims:

  1. Restructuring healthcare is required because of the millions without any health insurance coverage.
  2. Controlling the rising costs of healthcare is a major concern as well. Therefore the healthcare bill contains measures to contain and regulate pharmaceutical and insurance firm profits as well as doctors compensations. 

These items are problematic especially in the light of the three proposals on the table from the left.

Regarding item 1, a plan which would provide a minimal adequate universal catastrophic health care coverage is neither complicated nor cost prohibitive. It does not require a 2.5k page plan, one more of the nature of 40 pages would suffice, i.e., not much larger than the heath care coverage legal statement/booklets which most of of have for our own plans. This is not by any stretch of imagination the healthcare plan on the table. Therefore it cannot be construed that this issue is in fact a real feature/concern of the plan(s) in question.

As to item number 2, the first and more natural explanation for rising costs is due to a relationship between supply and demand. That is rising costs are symptomatic of rising demand in comparison with a supply. The bill(s) in question instead of consisting of a mechanism for increasing supply and/or attempting to ameliorate expectations or demand is instead more of the nature of a price control and regulatory scheme. In the real world, price controls of commodity items lead to lowered supply and scarcity … not increased production. That is price controls are in reality very good ways to choke off and decrease the supply of a thing. Furthermore the profit margins of insurance companies and “big pharma” are not out of line when compared to comparable industries. Expectations of large cost savings by regulation are not warranted, and this is in addition to the above noted deleterious effects of cost controls.

Putting these two remarks and their objections together alongside the much touted (by the left) reminder that those on the left are so very much smarter than we knuckle-dragging dim-witted conservatives that the left is aware of this disconnect between their policy proposals and the expected effects of their proposal. Thus those clever fellows on the left realising that a universal reasonable catastrophic insurance coverage plan is 40 pages and that cost controls do lead to shortages. 

Now one might propose that the Democratic politicians and pundits are aware that their proposals and justifications for the same have little if anything to do with each other and that instead that they prefer these proposals for very different reasons than those stated. For example, these proposals may ease the passing of any number of other social measures which the increase in social control and power these bills might afford. That, while dishonest at best, is at least understandable after all they see this measure to be one which is to their personal advantage. The problem is the rank and file member of the left. Why do they support a bill which so badly fits the stated aims? This, for me, a mystery.

Satan’s Hermeneutic

Satan. A word which the LXX and translators of the Masoretic Old Testament chose different methods. A translator has two different choices when dealing with a proper name or title. Transliteration or translation … that is make the word sound the same, or literally translate the meaning of the title. The LXX more often than not used the latter method, thus translating for example Philistine (transliterated) as Allophyle (or “Other”) which is a translation. Similarly with Satan, the term “the slanderer” is used instead of the transliterated Satan. My thesis in the following is that there is a hermeneutic, all to common, which is best described as Satan’s (the slanderer’s) hermenuetic and that this in turn is to be set aside where and when ever one notices its use.

What then might be meant by Satan’s (or the slanderer’s) hermeneutic and what is the point of discussing such a thing? The term hermeneutic normally means how we extract meaning from text, but one might expand it to mean (as I do in this case) to mean how we extract meaning from any of a variety of forms of communication, i.e., including not just text but speech as well. Satan’s hermeneutic is then is when we (all too often) take the words of another, usually because of associations external to the topic at hand, and interpret them in the worst way we can find. We take the narrowest (or widest) or most literal (or most figurative) interpretation possible. Whatever way we can find to interpret their words in the most outrageous or most negative way possible is the meaning to which we attach their words.

This hermeneutic is often seen in discussions between parties arrive in a conversation with an implicit or explicit understanding that they have important or strong disagreements. Whether it is for lack of confidence in one’s one position,  a debaters desire to “win points” in an argument and not a seeking just to understand the other’s position, or just a customary discussion style seen in the blogging and debating environments. And I have to say, this is a failing (sin?) of which I participate fully in just as do my interlocutors in discussion threads.

The primary problem, not just that this is a Satanic hermeneutic and should therefore be avoided on principle, is that in my experience it has the opposite effect from the one intended. Time after time in discussions with parties on both sides resorting to this method my observation is that the ultimate effect of this discussion is that one comes away convinced more than before the conversation began of the correctness and mistakes of your and the other points in discussion.  The lesson here is obvious, … don’t do it. Instead of hunting for the most unreasonable interpretation of the others words, seek to find the core of their point and address that.

Same Sex Marriage: A Question

I’d like to pose a question to any out there who might support SSM. Allow me a moment to set the question up with some numbers.

The percentage of the population, based on a John Fund essay some years ago which I’m not going to dig up for y’all, offered that if finds that upwards 6% of the population are gay then in Canada, where SSM was legalized, then it was observed that about 6% of that gay population was availing itself of the opportunity to get married. This means that the SSM question affects just under .4% of the population. Conversely 94% of the population is not gay, and a considerably higher proportion of that population does get married. Within that larger set, a certain number of the marriages are “weak”, that is have significant difficulties in staying hitched. Today’s high divorce rate is a symptom of that fact.

Marriage itself is a institution and a practice which involves many things, including the relational aspect between the two individuals, the community, and immediate and extended family (that is kids). The arguments for SSM stress the first as being the primary aspect, i.e., that marriage is primarily a bond between two people in a loving and nurturing relationship. This argument consequentially reduces the emphasis on the other aspects of marriage. For the “weak” marriages above that in turn improves the chance of those marriages breaking up, because if marriage is “about” relationship and the relationship is sour or lost, then there is no point in continuing.

So here’s my question: If SSM were enacted, say federally, it seems quite plausible that the number of SSM marriage partners is roughly commensurate with increase in the number of children from broken families due to a new emphasis on the partner aspect of marriage. So, for argument, grant that these numbers are about the same, that is the number of people in new gay marriages is equal to the number of children abandoned to state care. If that were the case, would legalizing SSM still be the right thing to do?

That Trickle Down Economics

Democrats apparently are not happy about “trickle down” as an economic notion. There is a problem with that. It’s likely true. Economic growth is typically measured as an annual percentage. Which over the years makes this a geometric not arithmetic expansion.  Technological advancement likewise affects us directly but in a way so easily measurable.

So the question is not which policies will create greater wealth equalisation and equal opportunity between individuals within an economic region but which policies will create and sustain the greatest growth and technological innovations and advancements. Those who promote Democratic policy ideas which trend toward righting wealth imbalances ignore the fact that those same policies tend to counter natural growth oriented incentives. Ultimately these hinder growth … which in the long run really do impact the living standards of even the poorest in a society.

On Manliness

Today in a BSA related discussion the following statement was made,

…and that’s without even getting into the dubious idea of “manliness” — the idea that there is one right way to be a man.

and to this I have to agree with the BSA. There is in fact only one right way to “be a man”, this is not a multiple choice exam. Examine for a moment, the BSA Scout Law:

Scout Law

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly,
courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
brave, clean, and reverent.

which pretty much nails it. One has expressed manliness by (a) being a man and (b) living those 12 virtues.

There is no “alternate” or “other” way to be a man.

(non) Archimedean Dreams

In the past, I’ve ventured to consider the hypothesis (ansatze) that a noetic realm, a rough analogue of the Platonic realm of Ideals, has a real existence, in a parallel universe of sorts to our own. Part of this ansatze is that these two universes are not completely disconnected, and that the human intellectual machinery glimpses this realm and it is through this mechanism that our brain’s machinery accomplishes the semiotic scaffold and bridges gap between pattern and synapse to thought, meaning and intention.

What sorts of features might we imagine a noetic realm to have?

  • Would it have any notion of time evolution? I suggest while objects in the noetic realm were suggested by Plato to be “eternal” that this might be wrong. That in a noetic realm, in which objects or “points of space” are conceptual monadic points, there can be some sort of movement or time evolution. An analogy to how that might work might be the flip-flop. A flip-flop is a metastable two state simple electric circuit and without going into the technical details the analogy I’m bringing to this table is that noetic ideas can also demonstrate similar features. Consider some of the simple logic paradoxes, like the statement about the veracity of Cretans made by a Cretan with the postulate that Cretans always lie. The points is there exist logical complexes (ideas) that are metastable like the flip/flop, i.e., paradoxes. In a noetic realm, this might be seen as motion. With motion … time evolution.  Godel’s incompleteness theorem suggests that all logical axiomatic systems (noetic complexes) have un-proveable statements, not all as simple as the always dishonest Cretans. Might this be seen as the same as a statement that all noetic complexes exhibit “movement” when looked at carefully enough?
  • If we take points in a noetic space to be monadic concepts, more complicated ideas will be structures or linkages in this space … which themselves are also a point in that space. This suggests that if we were to give a metric to this space it might be non-Archimedean or ultrametric space. Tree structures are ultrametric if the distance between elements of a tree is counted by how many generations one traverses up the tree before a common element is found. It seems natural that concepts also have a distance relationship that is akin to a tree.
  • Consider for a moment, that this realm has a physics. A series of natural laws that given time evolution describe a dynamical relationship between objects and motion in this space. Imagine too then, that it contains life … and further intelligent life. It is hard to imagine what existence, perception and other notions which are clearly definable in our universe might be like in a realm such as the one I dimly describe above. Maths (a UK term for mathematics that I find attractive which is my excuse for using it) is a concept that is often argued is a purely noetic art. That it doesn’t depend on science or perception but is purely an intellectual (noetic) exercise. Concepts like integer, line and point from which we derive maths it is argued are universal. If we met technologically advanced aliens … we would be able to communicate because we would share a common mathematical technology. In a prior post, I argued that is not necessarily the case, that our mathematical concepts are aligned with our commonly held perceptions of the universe. A creature dwelling in the noetic universe might perceptions sufficiently distinct from our own to render this assumption false (and my argument in that prior post valid).
  • In maths, a common arithmetic simplification which yields a natural ultrametric space are based on p-adic numbers. One of the ideas lurking in the p-adic analytic realm is the Adele ring, which is a infinite vector of p-adic fields with a point at infinity added … which is naturally seen as the real numbers. Might an adelic ring analogy be seen linking noetic reality (realities) to ours in which is the archimedean point at infinity?

And if you think that time evolution or changes in connections is impossible. Consider what you know of the number 2 and other simple counter numbers and from them the integers. Then read this … (or for more fun … get this book: Surreal Numbers with combines the numbers noted in that prior wiki link with an entertaining story about those numbers has narrative parallels with Genesis 1).

Hasty Pudding Thoughts

Well, I had an long day (12 hours is long for me) and am fighting off a bug hanging in the wings. So, for tonight … a few hasty thoughts and we’ll see where that gets us:

Perhaps if we accept the ontological aspect of human dignity as a starting point in a discussion on abortion that might help make the argument more useful. For discussion based on human dignity can serve as on both sides. The dignity of the mother and father as well as the child. One side can point to the necessity of insuring that the parents dignity, specifically the recognition of their personal ethical choices need to be respected. The other to the fact that human life, any human life, needs to be treated exceptionally. Forming policies and arguments that respect both sides of this matter is the essential element. One which the radicals on both sides fail to accomplish.

A few Econ Nobel prizes ago (Stigler I think) taught me one lesson on investing by which I live … and which lead to my portfolio being dominated by index funds. Whether or not it really does beat playing the market or some other complicated (or simple) strategy (which Mr Stigler argues it indeed also does) … there is one thing it does really well, which might be more important. It take the time wasted on the whole investment aspect of life out of the equation. This years prize will be grist for plenty of later blog posts (after I get some reading on the matter behind me). But commenter JA, might need to re-orient his thinking some ultimately … as he has used the tragedy of the commons numerous times in discussions to amplify on why government intervention is necessary … but alas, when you study the matter … perhaps that assumption is wrong.

And getting wrong reminds me that a quote from Paul Collier’s book on Democracy keeps springing back. In which he notes that spreading democracy in the third world as a good thing to do … is an assumption both Mr Bush and Mr Soros agree. To bad it’s wrong.

Lev Tolstoy and Mr Obama

One of the themes in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (of many) concerns the ability of great leaders to control the vicissitudes of fortune. In this manner, Napoleon is seen as not, as so many regarded him at the time, as a master of his fate and controller of his and many other’s destinies. But instead he was just the highest chip in the froth. That it was not his will that drove France to Empire and thereby pushing he and they willy nilly to disaster in the Russian snows (giving us Mr Minard’s completely amazing graph as well). Now Lev Tolstoy may have offered that a Higher Power determined the course of history. Alternatively in this modern era, one might instead propose that aggregate behaviour of the crowds might be the driving force.

Mr Obama is the head of our state. But he is likely less in control of events than we pretend. Now it is true that like, Mr Kerry, Mr Obama has been striving for the Presidency much of his adult life. While I find this personally distasteful ambition, I cannot project my personal animosity for the seeking for power on others. There may actually be admirable aspects to ambition even if they are a far cry from my personal makeup. Continue reading →

On Creativity and Machine

About a week ago, I wrote a post continuing the development of a model of creativity and intelligence, although at this model might be seen as a tad overstated). In that post, I outlined an ansatze for the semiotic scaffold that the human noetic machinery manages, bridging the gap between mechanism (network and pathway) all the way to meaning and intent. First let me review where the model stands.

  • The human creative process is viewed as a AI like expert system and symbolic pattern recognition machine which is looking internally at a sea of noise.
  • My original posts on this allowed that a significant criteria for these systems to decide if a particular pattern or decision was good was based on aesthetic judgements.
  • The expert system/pattern matching machinery is in turn programmed and tuned by results of the same said machine.
  • The ansatze noted above is that the noise being viewed is not random electrical noise in the brain, but a window into a very different alternate reality, the noetic realm which is not a philosophical construct but is real.

Now, in maths and physics, an ansatze is a guessed solution to a problem, which is then shown to both solve the problem and secondly is (hopefully) proved to be unique. This is the only method for solving problems when there is no constructive method for working toward a solution. One must guess the answer then show that it works. In this case, the ansatze might be judged as interesting because in fact it provides us a possible answer to some long standing issues. What issues might these be?

  • Carl Jung in his research came to believe that there were evidence that the psyche had access to real data that transcended time and distance.
  • Modern research (noted in a class) finds that Buddhist masters have perceptions of others emotional states and thoughts which shows an advanced degree of perceptiveness. The current explanation is that the these people though their meditation have been attuned to recognize micro-changes in facial expressions of others. How meditation achieves fine degrees of visual acuity and recognition of others faces is not explained … in fact private meditation one would think would make one less, not more, attentive to others expressions. How internal reflection and meditation (and not observations of others) leads one to have hypersensitive and accurate perceptions of micro-expression changes is not explained.
  • In the contemporary Russian novelist Boris Akunin, in his book Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk (which though I have not finished seems to be an entertaining Scooby Doo sort of story set in late 19th century rural Russia), via Sister Pelagia corrects in conversation the number of senses that humans posses (the count is the number of senses besides sight): “No your Grace, five. Not everything that exists in the world can be detected by sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. There is another sense that has no name, which is given to us so that we might feel God’s world not only with our bodies but with our souls.” [… continuing after the Bishop offers this is a fairy mirage … ] “Then let it be a fairy mirage,” the nun said with a stubborn shake of her head. “Around and within our world there is another one, invisible, and perhaps even more than one. We women feel this more clearly than men, because we are not afraid to feel it. Surely, Your Grace, you would not deny that there are some places that cheer and illuminate the soul (God’s churches are usually built there) and there are some that set it shuddering? There is no reason for it; you simply start walking more quickly and cross yourself. I always used to run past the Black Ravine like that, with a chill shiver. And then what happened? That was the spot where there found … “ (and the story continues to recount a tragedy occurring at that spot). The point of this tale is that this notion is prevalent throughout peoples and history.
  • I think this list could easily be extended.

These sorts of things (and as well of course the semiotic scaffold itself) can be explained by the ansatze that the noetic realm is both real and what our inner eye views as it searches for answers and insights in the creative process.

I have some ideas of what might make of structure and interaction and so in this noetic realm itself and how in part it interacts with us … but I’ll leave that for another post.