Archive for June, 2014

Something has changed. Government as a cancer?

Dr. Hanson calls it the Federal Octopus.

“Government always grows, sometimes even more rapidly under Republican than under Democratic presidents. But under President Obama we are seeing something a little different — the creation of a partisan, semi-autonomous government that seems to exist for the benefit of its employees and the larger ideological agenda of the present administration.

“we are witnessing a new federal government that is a sort of rogue organism that exists for its own enhancement and is willing to do anything necessary to help those who help it.

This is not America. It is like most failed states abroad, which also are not America.”

Perhaps what is most frightening is the collusion of one party in the legislature whose members stand as a solid block opposed to any investigation or inquiry into even the most blatant criminality. It is mindful of the tale of the frog and the scorpion. Denial doesn’t change nature (or reality).

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Hiding reality under a pile of words: ideology, faux philosophy, and crackpots

Modern physics, the ideas inherent in quantum mechanics and fundamental particles, bothers some folks. Sometimes so much they attempt to create an alternate reality. That gets Luboš Motl going. He describes how Philosophy became a euphemism for crackpot physics. What he describes is a phenomena seen in many issues where ideology trumps reality such as in economics, climate, or medicine.

“philosophy has turned into a social movement where one can hide if his ideas have been falsified – killed by a procedure that is the most important building block of the scientific method. Because philosophy as an institution is a hideaway for people who are wrong, it is a factor that isn’t just neutral. Instead, it reduces the efficiency of the scientific method.”

“The point is that the partial evidence and even the rock-solid evidence just doesn’t have the ultimate power to decide and beat other arguments. The ultimate power comes from people who describe themselves as the philosophers. To a large extent, they treat themselves as infallible and their authority as permanent. This intrinsic dependence on the highly imperfect humans – humans that are not subject to any mechanism that would guarantee that they improve themselves or converge closer to the truth – is the real #1 reason why science works and philosophy doesn’t.”

“The principle is about the priority of tools and it’s the calculations that are treated as more powerful in physics than verbal arguments. It is an extremely important principle necessary for physics to work. “

The idea that mathematical calculation is a priority – often asserted in physics as “shut up and calculate” – is also true elsewhere. A standard dictum in management, for instance, is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. The issues surrounding the measurement of temperature are a major problem in climate change. It is when you define the measures, how they are obtained, and the ‘analysis’ or calculations based on those measures to reach your conclusion that you actually have something for productive discussion or debate.

“This ability of the humans to unify all of their knowledge in this crisp way is stunningly inspiring. People like Carroll who are “sad” if they see concise foundations of physics that leave no room for babbling just hate science – and they don’t belong to science. Philosophers may prefer a world where the foundations of physics require 500 pages of rhetorical babbling. But our world isn’t like that. The “verbal”, conceptual foundations may be summarized in one sentence or two and all the other “details” are a matter of calculations. This conciseness of the foundations is pretty and people who actually like theoretical physics have been attracted by this conciseness (and the expectation that they would unify the foundations even more than that – make them even more concise) – exactly the aspect that repels physics-haters like Carroll.

An ordinary layman could be simply said to be deluded, intellectually insufficient to grasp the true foundations of modern physics. However, people like Carroll are pompous fools, aggressive self-confident idiots who try to paint their intellectual defects in rosy colors and decorations such as the word “philosophy”. They won’t hesitate to claim – and look into people’s eyes while doing so – that their misunderstandings of modern physics makes them intellectually superior while those who dare to understand the basics of modern physics are intellectually impoverished.

The correct term for these people is “arrogant cranks” and the more other philosophers fail to protect their trademark “philosophy” against parasites like Carroll, the more accurately the words “philosophy” and “crackpottery” will be turning into synonyma.”

This brings to mind the recent Congressional hearing about IRS malfeasance. The commissioner also provided this rather arrogant superiority in proclaiming his ignorance of statute and dependence upon what he claimed was “common sense.” It seems that if you can’t calculate, then hubris and a lot of uncommon words make for a good blanket over what is piling up under the carpet.

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Hockey sticks in economics as well as climate: matters of faith rather than science

It is yet another tome with the aura of science and logic and deep water that can’t suffer any significant examination. Jonah Goldberg takes a look at Mr. Piketty’s Big Book of Marxiness to raise a few questions to examine.

“The radical philosopher Georges Sorel (1847–1922) recognized that Marx’s Das Kapital was next to useless as a work of scientific analysis. That’s why he preferred to look at it as an “apocalyptic text… as a product of the spirit, as an image created for the purpose of molding consciousness.” And for generations of revolutionaries, intellectuals, artists, and activists, it served that purpose well. Marxism lent to its acolytes a certainty they could call “scientific”—an indispensable label amidst a scientific revolution—but, as Sorel understood, that was a kind of psychological marketing, a Platonic “vital lie” or what Sorel called a useful “myth.” Indeed, Lenin’s most significant contribution to Marxism lay in using Sorel’s concept of the myth to galvanize a successful revolutionary political movement.

“Marx tapped into the language and concepts of Darwinian evolution and the Industrial Revolution to give his idea of dialectical materialism a plausibility it didn’t deserve. Similarly, Croly drew from the turn-of-the-century vogue for (heavily German-influenced) social science and the cult of the expert (in Croly’s day “social engineer” wasn’t a pejorative term, but an exciting career). In much the same way, Piketty’s argument taps into the current cultural and intellectual fad for “big data.” The idea that all the answers to all our problems can be solved with enough data is deeply seductive and wildly popular among journalists and intellectuals. (Just consider the popularity of the Freakonomics franchise or the cult-like popularity of the self-taught statistician Nate Silver.) Indeed, Piketty himself insists that what sets his work apart from that of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, and others is that he has the data to settle questions previous generations of economists could only guess at. Data is the Way and the Light to the eternal verities long entombed in cant ideology and darkness. (This reminds me of the philosopher Eric Voegelin’s quip that, under Marxism, “Christ the Redeemer is replaced by the steam engine as the promise of the realm to come.”)”

Like the global temperature hockey stick predictions, Piketty’s economic doomsaying is also the outcome of statistical manipulation and tortured definitions. Perhaps if he substituted political power for capital he might have something?

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Gotta’ be equal no matter nature or anything else

On the ‘war on boys’ front, it is the 42nd anniversary of a famous piece of federal legislation. Christina Hoff Sommers describes Title lX: How a Good Law Went Terribly Wrong

“But the Women’s Sports Foundation disagrees. Girls are every bit as interested in sports as boys. According to its Title IX Myths and Facts, “Given equal athletic opportunities, women will rush to fill them; the remaining discrepancies in sports participation rates are the result of continuing discrimination in access to those opportunities.” And many well-meaning judges and government officials have agreed with them.

“But there’s overwhelming evidence that women, taken as a group, are less interested than men in competitive sports. In 2012, a group of psychologists analyzed men’s and women’s propensities by looking at how many of them pursue team sports in their leisure time. Intramural sports are recreational games that college students can play just for the love of the sport. The researchers found that only 26% of intramural participants are women. They also studied recreational activity in 41 public parks in four different states. Lots of women were exercising, but only 10% of those playing competitive team sports were women. A 2013 ESPN report on youth sports found that 34% of girls in grades 3-12 say sports is a big part of who they are; for boys the figure is 61%.”

“Title-niners treat women’s underrepresentation in sports as an injustice that must be aggressively targeted. But areas where men fall behind raise little concern.”

Gotta’ be equal no matter what it takes … not only equal opportunity but also equal outcome. Nature doesn’t seem to agree so it must be bent to fit no matter the cost.

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Subscribing to the meme on Iraq and WMD

Alicia Colon calls it the Right wing dementia on Iraq in full swing.

“What is unusual is that this revision of history is being committed by conservatives who should know better. Recent commentary by Glenn Beck, George Will and Charles Krauthammer indicate that they have significant memory lapses about why we went to war in Iraq. They now suggest that it was a wrong decision whereas my complaint is that we took too long to invade and oust Saddam Hussein.”

“I would differ from these assessments because I remember all too well what happened on September 11, 2001 and the days following. “

WMD? She covers that one, too. The old adage is that if you tell a lie often enough, it will become truth and lies about Iraq certainly seem to be a case supporting this idea.

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PCUSA, still Christian?

The church left me. It has re-defined concepts as basic as marriage and otherwise seems to have lost its Bible. Herschel Smith describes another exaple: The PCUSA On Guns.

“they leave men and women undefended because of their turn to politics to address the theological problems of mankind. We’ve discussed God’s views of the requirement to defend your loved ones. The simplest case for killing those who would bring harm to your family lies in the decalogue.”

“The PCUSA is directing its people to run their lives contrary to God’s law, while trying to implement warmed over, washed up hippie ideology as a solution to what ails mankind. Thus goes perishing denominations.”

The Church, it seems, is rotting from within.

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Prosecutors and other government agents building confidence in the system?

“We are not safe. We are not happy. The only question now is: How long are we going to take it?”

What will finally be the last straw? FrankMiele asks.

“There is a name for what the government did to the Washington Redskins last week. It is called extortion.”

Johnathan Turley describes how The patent office goes out of bounds in Redskins trademark case.

“The problem is that the Redskins case is just the latest example of a federal agency going beyond its brief to inappropriately insert itself in social or political debates.

Few people would have expected the future of the Redskins to be determined by an obscure panel in a relatively small government agency. Yet the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board showed little restraint in launching itself into this heated argument — issuing an opinion that supports calls for change from powerful politicians, including President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The board had at its disposal a ridiculously ambiguous standard that allows the denial of a trademark if it “may disparage” a “substantial composite” of a group at the time the trademark is registered.”

“As federal agencies have grown in size and scope, they have increasingly viewed their regulatory functions as powers to reward or punish citizens and groups. The Internal Revenue Service offers another good example.”

“There is an obvious problem when the sanctioning of free exercise of religion or speech becomes a matter of discretionary agency action.”

Then there are matters of prosecutorial indiscretion and the political propaganda campaign. David Harsanyi takes up the latest outrage on this front as Hillary vs. Walker: Due Process Only Applies If You’re A Liberal” – “Child rapists deserve due process. Conservatives governors, not so much.” Hillary defended a rapist early in her career by sliming the victim. Walker was the subject of secret ‘investigations’ that both state and federal courts threw out as unsubstantiated. Hillary gets defended and excused. Walker gets excoriated by innuendo.

And then there’s the IRS commissioner with a smirk and no apologies about destruction of evidence despite the laws for records retention.

worried, yet?

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Power or wealth: Corruption and ideology: The sad state of the Doj

There’s a book out. Feulner describes it as detailing The disastrous tenure of ‘Obama’s Enforcer’ – Holder’s stint as attorney general has been driven by politics and incompetence.

“To some observers, the idea of a truly ethical Justice Department is something of a pipe dream. As far as they’re concerned, the attorney general is nominated by a president who’s either Democrat or Republican, so we shouldn’t be surprised when he conducts business is a partisan manner.

“Such a cynical view, though, is unfounded. Many fine attorneys general have served ethically defensible terms under both Republicans and Democrats. The tenures of Edwin Meese under Ronald Reagan and Griffin Bell under Jimmy Carter, for example, prove that the Justice Department can be run in an entirely independent, professional way.

“Mr. Holder’s term as attorney general represents the other end of the spectrum: driven by politics, tainted by scandal and mired in corruption. The need for an attorney general that will, in fact, uphold the Constitution in a fair, impartial and ethical fashion has never been greater.”

But there’s another story this morning, too. It seems that the Pope thinks that anyone who has a lot of money is unethical so maybe corruption in government and politics wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for rich people. or something. Perhaps this sort of a priori assumption – perhaps based on greed and envy itself –  illustrates the confusion that allows the behavior that is described in the book Feulner describes.

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Reality has legs and will stand on its own. Fantasy requires help. Why so much effort to keep fantasy from falling?


“If movie liberals defend the accused out of the goodness of their hearts, real ones defend the accused to embarrass the system and shame America. In her memoir, The Never-Ending Wrong, Pulitzer Prize winning author Katherine Ann Porter tells how she first came to understand this. The occasion was the impending 1927 execution of Italian anarchists and convicted murderers, Sacco and Vanzetti.As the final hours ticked down, Porter stood vigil with others artists and writers in Boston.

“Ever the innocent liberal, Porter approached her group leader, a “fanatical little woman” and a dogmatic Communist, and expressed her hope that Sacco and Vanzetti could still be saved. The response of this female comrade is noteworthy largely for its candor: “Saved?” she snarled. “Who wants them saved? What earthly good would they do us alive?”

“With the Italians dead, their innocence and the xenophobic injustice of the American legal system could be preserved in amber, and God help the man or woman who challenged this narrative.”

Jack Cashill takes a look at Why O.J.’s Saga Lives and Trayvon’s Died and notes that reality plays a part. The question is “why” – why do people distort reality in cases like these? Why the fixation on a false fantasy about “the xenophobic injustice of the American legal system” that drives one to ‘Dan Rather’ the facts?

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War on energy; symbols and acceptable collateral damage

First up is DRIESSEN: What’s really behind anti-Keystone fanaticism? who describes how “The pipeline is the symbol of Big Green opposition to modern living standards”

“The Keystone and other anti-fossil-fuel campaigns are backed up by other wealthy liberal foundations that collectively have more than $100 billion in assets.”

“This is a force to be reckoned with — a force that vigorously supports what the Competitive Enterprise Institute calculates has now reached $1.9 trillion in regulatory compliance costs on United States businesses and families. That’s one-eighth of the entire U.S. economy.

It’s no wonder employment and economic growth rates are so miserably low.
Opposition to Keystone epitomizes how callous, arrogant, hypocritical and destructive Big Green has become. Legislators and regulators need to start recognizing the rights and needs of poor, working-class and minority families.”

Then the story about Fallout from fracking bans: Family farms, elderly devastated in Mountain West.

“Overlooked in Colorado’s fierce political battle over the booming practice of hydraulic fracturing are the state’s 600,000 mineral owners, many of whom depend on the royalties from oil and gas leases for their livelihoods. Those owners are growing increasingly alarmed as anti-fracking groups demand moratoriums or outright bans on oil and gas production in jurisdictions across the state.”

Voters in four Colorado cities along the Front Range — Boulder, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Lafayette — approved anti-fracking measures last year. Local and national environmental groups hope to parlay those victories into a statewide win in November.
Mineral owners such as the Koenekes have remained on the sidelines, but that is about to change. Neil Ray, past president of NARO-Rockies, said owners are considering a lawsuit aimed at recovering their losses in cities that ban fracking.
The damages from such a lawsuit could be astronomical. Mr. Ray pointed to an engineering report that places the value of a 640-acre section of eastern Boulder County at $64 million for a mineral owner who is paid 20 percent on the lease over the lifetime of the production.”

“Of course, most voters who cast ballots against fracking aren’t considering the prospect of enormous compensation awards, nor the harm to mineral owners, said Michelle Smith, NARO-Rockies president.”

““Lafayette has an outright ban, so [the widow] is denied that income,” said Ms. Smith. “You can’t put the rights of some of the citizens above the rights of some of the others. And that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Consequences and implications are often overlooked, especially in propaganda campaigns where sound bytes and symbols are more likely to stick in the mind. The fanatical ideologues have the funding to put their utopia front and center. It is up to the voter to detect the lack of intellectual integrity and consider the consequences and implications because they will not be denied and the price will be paid if they are set aside.

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Club Gitmo: Propaganda and delusion realized

Bruce Thorton takes on the Progressive Gitmo Myth. The Bergdahl case has brought the issue of shutting down the prison back to the fore. That, in turn, is a reminder of just how the Left politicized the war on terrorism and that, as usual, gets into the myths of the Left and its delusions about war and about the United States.

“For Obama’s liberal base, Gitmo has been part of a larger narrative of American tyranny, particularly George Bush’s alleged lawlessness in waging an “illegal” and “unnecessary” war in Iraq. … Democrats began endorsing the far-left “Bush lied” analysis of the war that John Edwards, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton had voted for based on the same intelligence that led to the Bush administration’s decision. With the anti-war movement providing the visuals for television news, the left’s distorted history of Vietnam was resurrected to provide the template for the war in Iraq, particularly the charge that the Bush administration had lied … Soon the whole litany of American militarist evils was applied to Iraq and the war against terrorists and their enablers. Torture, illegal detention, and abuse of prisoners were staples of that catalogue, and for leftists Gitmo fit the bill.”

“Yet despite these facts, the myth has arisen that the existence of Gitmo, as the Wall Street Journal summarized liberal thinking, “symbolizes prisoner abuse, serving as a propaganda tool for extremists and complicating counterterrorism efforts with allies.” The incoherence of this argument points to the larger problems of American foreign policy in dealing with jihadism.

First, our tendency to take seriously the malignant propaganda of our enemies bespeaks our civilizational failure of nerve. Since there has not been any “prisoner abuse” at Gitmo, why should we legitimize blatant lies the purpose of which is to erode our morale and serve the interests of disaffected Westerners?”

The question boils down to asking just how many (more) will die as a result of these delusions? Those kinds of stakes are why denial and delusion are so heightened.

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Trying to find a rational understanding of irrationality

Energy, climate, medicine, and even such things as liberty and the military create political brouhahas that can be difficult to understand. An example is a look at the question Why Is Clean, Cheap, Conventional Energy a Hard Sell? (Part 1) by Wayne Lusvardi and Charles Warren on June 5, 2014.

“The result of opposing conventional energy is therefore a win-win-win for socialism. For techno-socialists, there is the mythic grandeur of holding out for the impossible dream of energy utopia. For eco-socialists, there is the mythic holiness of lowering living standards and going back to an ascetic, simple lifestyle in a bucolic green landscape guided by a conservation ethic. And for crony capitalists, it just so happens, a first step in the right direction (in either the techno- or eco- direction, they will assure you) is the use of highly subsidized “renewables” that foist higher electricity prices on everyone else.

Given the inherent mythological handicap of market electricity in offering an appealing vision, despite its undeniable contributions to human welfare, what can those in the conventional energy industry do? Part 2 of this series will discuss what can be done to overcome the powerful mythic pull of postmodern, central planning in the electricity industry and in society.”

On one side is the paradigm of dealing with reality and actually serving the needs of individuals with what can be done. On the other is a vision and an ideal about what should be. One is in the present, the other in a future fantasy. If you have your feet on the ground, it can be difficult to communicate with someone who has his head in the cloud.

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