Archive for December, 2010

Why the science doesn’t seem to matter much

Anthony Watts says Cancun COP16 attendees fall for the old “dihydrogen monoxide” petition as well as signing up to cripple the U.S. Economy

This year, CFACT students created two mock-petitions to test U.N. Delegates. The first asked participants to help destabilize the United States economy, the second to ban water. … Perhaps together, the footage associated with these two projects will illustrate to mainstream America the radical lengths many current U.N. delegates are willing to go to carry out an agenda no more ethical, plausible or practical than the banning water.

The entry includes a classic Penn and Teller video from 2006 illustrating the gullibility about nasty chemicals. The DHMO, a.k.a. water, satire goes back a ways as a geek prank.

What the CFACT experiment shows is that the anti-America bias, or even hate, is well correlated to a group think towards banning evil sounding chemicals and that reason and integrity do not place in decision making. That should be a worry.

Leave a Comment

Political scientists?

Daniel Sarewitz notes that “A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest “don’t know” their affiliation.” The implications of this that he explores is that “the issue here is legitimacy, not literacy.”

One factor that doesn’t seem to get much notice is that the poll is probably talking about the academic community. That is a self selecting community whose bias in political ideology has been gaining some attention lately. That bias reaches into the dependence of the academic community on government funding whether it be tuition support or research grants. The feedback is almost entirely towards the leftist ideologue.

Science does have one value that can set it apart from politics. Ideas in science can be held accountability whereas opinions in politics are simply personal values. The process of accountability in science has its flaws but there is still some adherence to those values. This can be seen in the climate debate that has erupted in the last year or so. The issue for a scientist is not his or her political party. It is a matter of intellectual integrity. The assumption is generally that others are honest and providing good science. That assumption, at least in the area of climate research, is undergoing some examination. What is learned may influence just how careful scientists will be in making similar assumptions in other technical areas.

Leave a Comment

wikileaks and candor

There are some that are conflicted (e.g. Shirky or Suehle) about an individual releasing confidential state documents on the I’net. They seem to think it is some sort of free speech thing and assume that the various vendors who have withdrawn services to the leaker did so due to government pressure – without evidence of such. Then there are those who see the leaking as a cause and are retaliating with attacks on the websites of the service vendors.

Another group is studying the methods used to keep the website available despite service withdrawals.

There seems to be a lot of skin and very little depth in many of these views. Austin Bay asserts:

Here’s WikiLeaks’ bottom-line revelation: Assange and ideologues like him promote an ignorant and destructive solipsism that has nothing to do with peace and justice but a lot to do with sociopathic narcissism.

There are examples for comparison and contrast. One is the release of the climate research material that had been withheld from FOIA requests. Some see that as equivalent. Another is the police problem with recording their public behavior (e.g. Cop Promises Cameraman He’ll Be Raped in Jail and Reason‘s analysis: The war on cameras)

There is a set of phenomena here and it is difficult to determine which is most significant. One is the self delusion based on a lack of intellectual integrity. Another is in the ‘hate America’ meme and its family. There is no doubt that there are things to fix and things that need improvement but there seems to be very little consideration about whether one has properly identified the problems or that one’s approach is truly working towards solutions.

Leave a Comment

Transparency: ideology vs practicality

There are some who are dismayed at the likes of Amazon and others to deny Wikileaks I’net services. These folks seem stuck into an ideological fix that blinds them to such things as courtesy, propriety, and copyright not to mention more abstract ideas like national security and established legal doctrine.

The leaked documents were meant (according to the Wikileaks leader) to embarrass the United States and expose American hypocrisy and underhanded operations, but the result was quite the opposite. The U.S. was shown trying to do what it said, publically, that it was trying to do. But many other nations were shown to be quite different in their private conversations, than in their public ones. [Why Wikileaks Backfired]

The whole thing is really about trying to put one on the ‘man’ – an envy and greed thing rationalized by proclaiming the ‘man’ was evil, corrupt and didn’t deserve nominal social courtesies. In this case, the ‘man’ is represented by the U.S. and the effort is just a part of the ‘hate America’ ethos that shows in so many forms. The creates a dissonance that often results in unexpected outcomes.

Those conversations take place mainly because everyone wants something from the United States, and unless you establish a relationship with American diplomats or officials, nothing will happen. Moreover, many foreign officials found the revelations useful, as the leaks got out into the open things (like Arab relationships with Iran and Israel) that could not be discussed openly at home. For the most part, Wikileaks confirmed what was already known, something the Wikileaks crew assumed could not be true.

In other words, while those with ‘pure thoughts’ are using immoral or unethical means to express their feelings about the ‘man,’ others are trying to get their share of what he has. Since the ‘man’ is not what the ideologue wants him to be, they end up making fools of themselves. Instead of showing “hypocrisy and underhanded operations” on the part of the U.S., the leaks show a global community trying to get what they can of the wealth and prestige of the U.S. The revelations do more to show why the U.S. is in its position of world power than anything else and the reasons revealed are a significant contrast to what the transparency ideologues envision.

What remains to be seen is what this sort of behavior does. The leaks were made possible by a transparency within government that was created to help fight terrorism. That effort was abused. That often means that there will be less transparency rather than more. The implications of that could be tragic in many ways.

Leave a Comment

The players in the net neutrality playground

The FCC, despite being told to back off, is still trying to figure out how it can regulate the I’net. That is appealing to those in with the socialist leanings that government is needed to hold the evil big corporations at bay. For a more realistic description of what is going on with I’net businesses, see Steve Schultze’s effort Trying to Make Sense of the Comcast / Level 3 Dispute.

Steve defines three I’net business entities, the retailers, the movers, and the sellers. In addition to these business entities, there is the end consumer who drives the whole mess.

The retailers are the people you deal with who set you up with an I’net connection via cable, DSL, or some sort of wireless. The movers provide the backbone to connect regions, countries, and continents together so you can get web pages from anywhere. The sellers have content that they are trying to get to end consumers. In addition to these basic commercial functions, there are the brokers and others who arrange deals and make special arrangements to help sellers like Netflix gain access to consumers at lower cost.

Now look at the commercial transactions. Movers sell I’net access to retailers and to content sellers. Content sellers sell to consumers and may buy access to those consumers from retailers or via movers. Retailers sell network access to the consumer, buy access to the I’net, and sell access to their consumers to those who want to deliver content.

A current sticking point is that sellers are trying to bypass the expense of the movers by getting content close enough to retailers to be able to bypass (most of) the backbone. That way, they can charge the retailers part of what they would be paying the movers. But the movers don’t like this because it cuts into their revenue. Retailers object to paying twice for the same service.

Since video traffic, as from Netflix, is taking up a large volume of I’net traffic, it has become the stimulus for much backbiting and business creativity in I’net business management. That is the conflict that the FCC and net neutrality proponents are using to feed their views. Meanwhile, the businesses involved are trying to figure out how they can get things done and still make a profit. All the political shenanigans are doing is to add uncertainty about the environment for any potential solutions. That ups risk and that increases costs.

One thing that can be seen from Steve’s description is that much of the net neutrality proponents’ argument is falsely based. That is a clue as to the validity of their argument that should be carefully considered.

Leave a Comment

Unintended (and puzzling to some) consequences

Morrissey describes The new humane: killing terrorists instead of capturing them. Because of the brouhaha raised about the detention and interrogation of foreign nationals caught in action against US personnel, the incentives have changed for what to do with them. Rather than capture, confine, and interrogate and face a squabble about criminal rights, jurisdiction, and political point making, it becomes more expedient to destroy them. Hence, the popularity of assassination via UAV.

treating terrorists captured abroad (as opposed to arrested in the US) the same as criminals arrested in the US, the government and the courts turn military and intelligence personnel into cops, and in doing so put at risk both the personnel and the tactics used to find, capture, and interrogate terrorists. It sets all of the incentives towards killing terrorists rather than capturing them, which not only results in higher collateral casualties but also denies the US critical intelligence on other terrorists.

There is a tactic here. It involves the ‘reduce to the absurd’ logical fallacy to obscure a line that was established through the trials of history.

This isn’t a deformation of war; it’s a deformation of politics. And it really isn’t directly related to the enhanced interrogation techniques at all, but to the insistence of political leadership and the federal courts to insist on a jurisdiction that flies in the face of two centuries of American military and legal tradition.

The line is that between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The distinctions involved in citizenship and residency in a country have been marginalized as politically convenient by some. These distinctions are critical in segregating war from crime and prisoners of war from criminals. Both the nature of the terrorist activities as well as the global communications structures facilitate this tactic of blurring the line.

There are two points raised by Morrissey that are worth examining. One is the implication of a higher than national authority, the diminishment of nationality coupled with some poorly defined global replacement (think League of Nations or UN). The other is that many who succumbed to the propaganda used to implement the tactic are clueless about how the result occurred. Both indicate ideological fantasy taking precedence over reality and intellectual integrity. That path has lead to much misery before and there is little to suggest otherwise.

Leave a Comment

Criminalizing the opposition

The DeLay case provides a study in both the criminalization of political opponents as well as prosecutorial abuse of power. David Bossie describes The lynching of Tom DeLay as an example.

Despite the fact that the election laws didn’t cover DeLay’s activity, Mr. Earle indicted him. The charges were thrown out by the presiding judge. Undeterred, Mr. Earle went to a different grand jury to indict DeLay, but this time the grand jury didn’t go along with it and refused to return an indictment.

But, try, try again! Persistence is a hallmark of delusion. The third attempt was more successful. That needed new charges, new juries, and fresh ‘interpretations’ of campaign finance law.

The outcome might be satisfactory if you think DeLay and all he represents are evil. The question is about whether deciding someone is guilty and then doing whatever is necessary to prove it is a proper approach when the stated values are ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Effective politicians are not the only ones being subject to the presumed guilt ethos. Whether it is cops arresting street photographers or people yelling “racist” at the drop of a hat, or even the ‘they all lie’ crowd, the tactic should be troublesome and worthy of introspection about values.

Leave a Comment

Pushing the envelope – on purpose.

It’s another federally subsidized art case deconstructed by Robert Knight in The radical art of deliberate offense.

The latest Alinsky-like assault involves a perennial tactic: putting sacrilegious or indecent imagery on display at taxpayer expense and then screaming “censorship” when people predictably object.

It seems to be a pattern of folks who parade their sexuality and then denigrate Christ. Perhaps this is a means to taint the source of the idea that their sexuality is morally wrong?

The irony is that the left constantly censors anyone who disagrees with them on their version of what’s sacred. They imbue with holiness the causes of sexual immorality, abortion, blasphemy, racial preferences, illegal immigration, extreme environmentalism and anything else that advances social disintegration. But they would howl if a museum featured an exhibit exposing the lies of the “global warming” crowd or ran a film showing how people can overcome sexual temptation.

They get away with it because the mainstream media are largely blind to moral distinctions.

Psalm 12:8 nails it: “The wicked prowl on every side, when vileness is exalted among the sons of men.”

As an alternative, art lovers might want to consider advice from the apostle Paul:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

The problem with pushing the line is that tolerance only goes so far and the reaction will often show a frustrated and broken patience. All social behavior standards depend upon voluntary compliance and the tactics being used break that social compact. That is a repressed violent revolution that is dangerous.

Leave a Comment

When the agenda is obvious, skepticism needs priority

Allen Sloan provides an example in Privatizing Social Security: Still a dumb idea. He knows it’s a dumb idea and is writing a column to confirm his view.

The holiday season is upon us, making this a perfect time to go searching for turkeys — the financial variety, of course. But this year, rather than looking backward at inept deals or government programs, let’s try to find future turkeys.

And the biggest one is … privatizing Social Security.

Where’s the skepticism needed? The first item is about the security of a retirement investment.

Why is privatizing Social Security such a turkey? Because retirees shouldn’t have to depend on the market’s vagaries for survival money.

Which assertion is supported by taking a short term look at a stock fund value based on a very short timeframe selected for maximum effect supporting the idea of “vagaries” that would destroy retirement planning. The skeptic would note that the whole idea about retirement is a twenty year or longer (and out to forty or more in modern reality) investment program and on that time scale, the ‘vagaries’ tend to diminish in impact.

Then there is the dumb people argument.

Most people have no idea how to invest well — study after study shows that mutual fund buyers tend to buy high and sell low. But even if you manage to invest well, you run into the second risk, largely unrecognized, that interest rates will be low when you retire.

Then there’s the canard, especially in light of his own idea that “For 20% of 65-and-up couples and 41% of singles, Social Security is 90% or more of their income.”

But Social Security isn’t supposed to be a gambling program, or a wealth-building program. It’s an intergenerational social insurance program, in which we make sure our parents don’t have to depend on food banks and homeless shelters when they get old, and we hope our kids do the same for us.

In order for a proper debate about privatizing social security, there has to be a bit better intellectual integrity than this illustration illustrates. A core issue is about who knows more about what to do with your money: you or the government? How much should the government get involved in trying to get you to secure your future? What sort of insurance should government provide for poverty and unexpected health contingencies, especially for the aged? Is the government actually the most secure financial resource or is the vagaries of legislative opinion perhaps more significant than those of the private sector? What should the government do to promote and protect property ownership so that it can be depended upon as a valuable asset for individuals?

But it is so much easier to set aside the difficult questions and just impugn those things that seem strange or weird or, well, just different. The debate really needs better than that.

Leave a Comment

A matter of convenience when it comes to ethics and morals

Scott notes a comparison and contrast on ‘leaked’ information using the New York Times and its stand on the climate data dump and the current diplomatic messages dump:

let us note simply that the two statements are logically irreconcilable. Perhaps something other than principle and logic were at work then, or are at work now. Given the Times’s outrageous behavior during the Bush administration, the same observation applies to the Times’s protestations of good faith. (The Times then and now)

This is a measure of a reasonable quality. It is one that can easily be made that illustrates a lack of integrity. It can be contrasted to the allegations of hypocrisy as, for instance, those leveraged against politicians who voted against a health care program but then took advantage of it after it passed. Hypocrisy is a different animal than distortion and bending of ethics and morality for an ideological purpose. There appears to be more notice that major media outlets are indeed providing propagandistic distortions and then trying to use allegations of hypocrisy to pretend ‘everybody does it.’ Dr. Santy discusses that tactic and its meaning in terms of psychological health in her blog.

Leave a Comment