Consider the Following Archives

Two Strange (post workout) Thoughts

First off, this weekend, we get a high “holy” pi day, after all, 3/14/15 is 5 digits of pi, not just 3. Except it isn’t. See, 3.1415 are the actual first 5 digits of pi. Except if you were to give pi to the five significant figures, that wouldn’t be 3.1415 but 3.1416 as the next digit after 5 is a 9 and you’d round to 6. So if you want to be a pedant (and we all do, right), then on Saturday you may correct people and tell them that next year we’ll have pi to 5 significant figures and this year is the wrong year for that. Also, you could point out your envy for that long lost March day in the 16th century, 3/14/1593 (or 1592 depending on your point of view). Also, April 31 doesn’t exist, so the Europeans are just plain out of luck when it comes to pi days. On the other hand, computer programmers put dates YYYY/MM/DD … so that things sort numerically naturally. In that case we’ve got quite while before pi days become interesting for (us) real people, i.e., programmers. I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader (or Wolfram Alpha) how many days remain until May 9, 3141, i..e, 3141/5/9.

And secondly, this GOP letter to Iran is just plain dumb. Look. Nothing Kerry or Obama say means squat. Practically every statement either of them ever utters is a bald-faced lie that has little to no relationship to reality. What they say is about what effect they figure their statement will have on the listener not whether the statement itself bears any relationship to intent or truth. On the other hand, that is probably true of the Iranian delegation as well, so birds of a feather and … they can craft a document wich history will likely regard in on a par with the Stalin/Hitler Poland pact … and anyone believing that they have any more sincerity than that pair has been smoking in Colorado too much.


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    Confusing Tactics

    So, the Grey Lady has decided enough water has passed under the bridge to have an article pointing out that … indeed there were WMD in Iraq. I guess they figure the “lied/died” meme is entrenched.

    I remain confused on two points. Why release this now? And, why did (apparently) the Bush admin hide information about the WMD during the last years of his Presidency?

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      Just Asking

      So. As the Roman Empire got too large and complex they went to a Eastern/Western Empire situation. If you take as given that the job in front of today’s US executive is too complex to be handled by one man, would instead of a geographical a similar separation of responsibilities might help allow someone with who could be more expert in the area and a smaller contingent of responsibilities make sense? For the following take it as a given (as in we won’t argue that point) the job needs to be broken up and concentrate instead on how to do so.

      This question it seems has two parts. The first is, wow to best break the job up. Foreign/domestic seems an obvious choice, but there may be other ways. Bertrand de Jouvenel suggested in his political philosophy that there were two types of leadership, one that drives forward toward a goal and one that can reconcile differences between people. Perhaps that would be another way to divide the two. Any other suggestions?

      The second part is, how to implement this? Could this be done by dogmatic precedent (like the two term limit which followed Washington’s example for so long)? Could a President announce at his inauguration that he was doing this, and his vice President was going to, say, handle 100% of foreign affair issues and he would 100% concentrate on the domestic affairs.  The titular President would promise to rubber stamp any decisions made by his VP as if he were signing them as long as there were in the foreign affairs sphere and vice versa. Would this fly? If not, why no? Or would a full Constitutional amendment process be required to effect this?

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        So. Vaccinations?

        Some ground rules should be established in these conversations. Everyone should agree:

        • Vaccines greatly decrease the chance of contracting the disease which they target.
        • If a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, then epidemics are unlikely.
        • This “significant” number does not have to 100% to be effective. Flu shot vaccination rates hover around 50% for the last few years according to the CDC, and no epidemics have occurred.
        • Vaccines are not 100% risk free, although globally speaking the benefit outweighs the risk. This, of course, does not help either the person getting sick or having an allergic or auto-immune reaction.
        • All currently required childhood vaccines are for horrible illnesses. Measles for example “Most patients with uncomplicated measles will recover with rest and supportive treatment.” (from the wiki). Like chicken pox, in childhood in the 50’s and earlier .. almost all kids got the Measles. Oddly enough people survived.

        My question is, if you think measles vaccinations should be mandatory, why don’t you think flu shots should be mandatory?

        If you think free riders are a problem and deserve active censure, should childless middle age adults (or older) be similarly censured?

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          Is Islam the “Problem” or Not?

          Many of our intellectual elite keep (White House, others) keep repeating that Islam is “not the problem” behind the terrorism, violence and so on in the Middle East and elsewhere (France for example). What is not said in those pronouncements is, if Islam isn’t the problem, exactly then where does the problem lie? It seems likely that the statement Islam is not the problem is only half right. People who claim “Islam is the problem” (or not the problem) can be compared with people who claim “germs cause disease” (or that they don’t). Stating that Islam is or isn’t “the problem” isn’t useful. What are some more useful remarks or questions that might be raised instead? Such as, what does a more complete story/picture look like? What are useful ways of approaching this matter, not that the President and the left elite don’t have a useful way, they just are very very coy about what that way is, as “it’s not X” does not explain “it is Y”. Read the rest of this entry

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            Random Ferguson Thoughts

            Mr Schraub has some silly things to say on the topic, some remarks on that include (below the fold ’cause it’s long): Read the rest of this entry

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              Of Sochi and Terror

              So, everybody thinks … and perhaps rightly that Chechin terrorists are a looming threat for the safety of the Sochi Olympics. I don’t understand the following in that respect. So, you’re a dissident or rebel in Chechnia or elsewhere. Why would you set a bomb or attack in Sochi? If you do, you and your cause will be universally reviled the world over. How to you benefit from that? I fail to understand the motives behind an act like that. Why do you want your cause hated and reviled?

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                So. It Got Cold in Chicago

                Well, we made it home Saturday. Then it snowed. Then it got cold. The diesel didn’t start when we got home (not because of any diesel fuel issue but because of a dead battery). Since it was snowing … and today it was -20 F we didn’t trickle charge it yet. We’re going to charge it tomorrow and then try starting it Wednesday when the temps are supposed to get north of 10.  We’ve discovered some things about packed snow, ice, and salt.  When temps are below -15 salt doesn’t do squat. Snow melted/softened by salt which then is cooled below 10 or 15 below is hard as a rock. Squeeky snow (which is snow below 0) is very slippery on the roads. The only solution is to go slow … and finally, I live on a road which is on about a 15% grade. You can’t drive up it for the last few days. You can only go down. If your speed gets above about 5mph … you’re out of control and won’t be able to stop without pinwheeling a it. Creeping is only way.

                A reminder, the difference between 60 and 20 is the same as the difference between 20 and -20. Think of what you wear at 60 compared to 20. Stay warm out there if you’re out and about in this arctic blast.

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                  Some Thoughts on Gun Control

                  Lots of silliness has ensued in the weeks following the shooting in Newton, CT. Gun advocates suggest putting TSA-like agents in every school (as if schools aren’t expensive enough), gun control advocates suggest restricting “assault weapons” (a fictional category for semi-automatic rifles) and “high capacity magazines” (as if the 1-2 seconds to swap magazines would really make a difference) and basically making it far harder to obtain guns (against for example, peer reviewed academic studies showing that the elasticity to gun availability is .1 to .3 out of the 50-60 gun related deaths per 10k people per year.  As much posturing as we have on this matter, if the time the President and his Renfieldian co-conspirator Biden have wasted giving speeches on gun control more children have died in auto accidents than did in the incident they pretend is motivating their interest in gun control. But do they go after drivers and car safety? Nope. Read the rest of this entry

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                    So … You Believe Man Causes Global Warming and …

                    Your neighbor across the aisle does not. Here is some unsolicited advice for the left wing on this topic. If you really think this is a problem, and you want everyone, not just your side of the aisle to push for it futilely … Here’s a newsflash for y’all. You’re selling it wrong.

                    Look at us over here on the right. We think the space program was cool. We love going to flight museums and wistfully wishing we (as a nation) were still flying SR-71s (RS-71 dammit, stupid Presidents). We gawk at daisy cutters and talk about yields and payloads. While we might take up on those government goodies that are “free” it sticks in our craw and we wish that ‘ol time Yankee rugged individualism wasn’t dying out, killed by bureaucratic mind-numbing cookie cutter schools among other things. Read these two books, here and here. That’s good reading. So, do you like Bob? We do.

                    In a past era, a Democratic President challenged his nation to go to the moon, not because it was easy but because it was hard. You want a nation to get behind you with a climate crises. Challenge them that way. Tell ‘em to go out and fix it, not by sucking back our economy and going all green-ified on us, scrimping out toilet paper curbing consumption of interesting toys and things to do.

                    No. Fix it the old fashioned way, with a hammer, tongs, and big bad-ass technology. Challenge us that way, and you might get a rise out of us.

                    Of course it might alienate you’re side of the aisle, but you can’t break an omelette without making eggs, or something like that.

                    (with tongue firmly in cheek … and attempting to ignore the silly season somewhat)

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                      Mr Obama Goes to Chick-Fil-A

                      So, did Mr Obama use the Colorado shooting to set the stage for policy changes:

                      Every day, in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater. For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora, there’s daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.

                      Hmm. Which policy? Restrict guns or reinforce traditional marriage? Which is more likely a root cause, restrictions on guns or broken families and single/absent parents? The latter is more likely the cause, the former the more likely policy in mind.

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                        Olson’s First Rule — Applied

                        Murphy’s law and others give not exactly hard and fast guidelines for prediction of events and interpretations. My (just coined as such) first Rule is the following

                        Conventional Historical Wisdom is always wrong.

                        In what follows this will be applied to the third rail of historical discourse … vis a vis to suggest that the Jewish narrative concerning the Holocaust is wrong. This may or may not be a historical third high voltage line as suggested above, but there are blogging/pirate rules that state any you mentions Nazis loses the argument … and Nazis will be noted in this piece.

                        For a long time references to the Holocaust have bothered me, in that the focus on that particular feature of German/Nazi atrocities has overwhelmed our historical recall of other Nazi (and concomitant Soviet ones). When one recalls mass murders in the mid 20th century …. with rare exceptions only one thing will be recalled and the others minimized or forgotten. This is wrong. Do not misunderstand, the fault for this lies with historians, teachers and educators … not with the Jewish people. Their memory, their remembrance is apt and warranted. What is not is for the rest of us to forget that this was just a small part of a larger horrific picture.

                        If, in a recent non-mass killing like that at Columbine, if 10 persons had been killed of which 4 Muslims had been killed if conventional wisdom called this an attack on Islam that would be wrong. It would not be wrong for Islamic faith communities to remember this in their own way. It would however be wrong for everyone to do that. Similarly remembering the mass murders of the 20th century in Eastern Europe as being only about the Holocaust would also be wrong.  This is however, the conventional story.

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                          Recently some conversation of (university) clubs came up. University is in parens there because it seems that it isn’t required for the following discussion. a distinction can be made between types of social groups. Those that form on the basis of an activity and those which form on the basis of an identity. My intuition is that the former are far healthier (and a sign of a healthier culture) than the latter. There is a little overlap in this definition. A club of bike racers or cyclists may likely hold for themselves an identity as being a cyclist. However, they do not get together on account of that shared identity, but to share an activity, specifically riding. 

                          It was said that disallowing particular clubs is a sign of unhealth of a culture/society, e.g., a school that prohibits GALA clubs. 

                          So am I correct in this? Is my intuition that activity clubs are a healthy sign and the existence of identity clubs is not. This might just be me. I’ve never been drawn to or wanted to be part of any identity group, and hold such with some amount of distaste. 

                          But I don’t know why. Do you share that? Reject it? Do you have intutions why? 

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                            Subjunctive TV: Considering Modern Government

                            Recalling my last Subjunctive TV post, based on the notion borrowed from Douglass Hofstadter’s Achilles/Tortoise dialog wherein a TV was imagined where sports replays included “what if” features. These features began with standard, “What if they had run the ball instead of passed” and devolved eventually to more outlandish suggestions like, “How would that play have gone if 13 was not a prime number.” In that vein, for a short time anyhow, longer if it catches some interest, I’m going to try more “Subjunctive TV” speculative posts. 

                            James Madison and a few of his friends (and some likely not-friends) gathered in the late 18th century and penned a Constitution based on the modern theories of man and government at the time. A few years have passed since then and just a few things have changed in the world since that time. So the premise shift offered for today’s viewing and consideration is what sort of government might our founders suggested if:

                            1. There is a non-trivial body of work on the mathematics of voting. We have the means to tally votes in ways that are judged superior in better reflecting what people want than simple plurality.
                            2. Modern communications internet, phones, and so on exist. High speed efficient communication between large number of people assisted by automation exists and is adaptable to new purposes. 

                            We’ve had our current Constitution for just over 200 years. Some things went really well. Their back of the envelope estimations of power and principle and how to balance that was darn good. Yet people are increasingly of the feeling that government is too distant and too remote. It is very powerful but their input is irrelevant. The separation of the people in power from the problems they try to address and the complexity of those same problems is an increasingly obvious flaw. In the past, I’ve pointed out that the skill set required to be successful in the election process are almost completely disjoint from the job requirements and fail to test fitness to meet the demands of the jobs for which the elected official is to fill. 

                            I would suggest that if Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness was the end of government … then we might be able do design a government depending on and using different ways of getting peoples input and suggestions, finding solutions, and insuring freedoms in ways that, for example, don’t require taxation with so little representation. Could Facebook (of all things) and Open source software collaboration offer any models toward a completely new way of viewing government or …

                            How might the Constitutional Convention have played out if it was held today by technologically savvy politically astute men. How would a convention staffed by people like a Wozniak/Madison, Hamilton/Knuth offer for the nation?

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