Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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E-mail address:
jhertzli AT ix DOT netcom DOT com

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My other blogs
Small Sample Watch
XBM Graphics

The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
Someone who used to be sane (formerly War)
Someone who used to be serious (formerly Plague)
Rally 'round the President (formerly Famine)
Dr. Yes (formerly Death)

Interesting weblogs:
Back Off Government!
Bad Science
Boing Boing
Debunkers Discussion Forum
Deep Space Bombardment
Depleted Cranium
Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine.
Foreign Dispatches
Good Math, Bad Math
Greenie Watch
The Hand Of Munger
Howard Lovy's NanoBot
Liberty's Torch
The Long View
My sister's blog
Neo Warmonger
Next Big Future
Out of Step Jew
Overcoming Bias
The Passing Parade
Peter Watts Newscrawl
Physics Geek
Pictures of Math
Poor Medical Student
Prolifeguy's take
The Raving Theist
Respectful Insolence
Seriously Science
Slate Star Codex
The Speculist
The Technoptimist
Tools of Renewal
XBM Graphics
Zoe Brain

Other interesting web sites:
Aspies For Freedom
Crank Dot Net
Day By Day
Dihydrogen Monoxide - DHMO Homepage
Jewish Pro-Life Foundation
Libertarians for Life
The Mad Revisionist
Piled Higher and Deeper
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism
Sustainability of Human Progress

Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Real Problem with Left-Wing Politics

According to a recent article advising liberals on how to win elections:

It's possible to push for the policies you think are important on climate change without making people feel guilty about their hamburgers.
Translation: Don't tell people not to buy hamburgers; just tell people not to sell them.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Brief Note on the Voight–Kampff Test

One of the Voight–Kampff test questions is:

You're in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it's crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't, not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that?
The capitalist living inside the heads of leftists will not help the tortoise. A British health-care bureaucrat will prevent anybody else from helping.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Was Wrong

A few years ago, I said:

It's a government regulation that hasn't been discredited yet. Advocate a government regulation in nearly any other field and you'll have libertarians saying “Look at how the State messed things up” In the case of net neutrality, our best argument is “Look at how the State messed things up everywhere else!” This, of course, can be spun as paranoid rantings. (It doesn't help that some of the people involved also engage in paranoid rantings.)
I was wrong. Net neutrality really was associated with bad effects.

Apparently, net-neutrality used to be the law, back when American broadband was rare. Net neutrality is not a matter of “You need to fill out this form for your Internet connection” or “You need permission from Occupy Wall Street to start an ISP” (despite what some people think). It's a matter of “ding ding ding ding khkhkhkhkh…”

I had overlooked this because the Other Side kept insisting that American slowness in adopting broadband was due to capitalism and—like an idiot—I believed them. (In the real world, the “cool nations” haven't been that strong on net neutrality.)

Meanwhile, in 2002–2015, we didn't have net-neutrality laws and had a rapid expansion of broadband. We also saw Comcast smack down Netflix for bandwidth hogging, but that was a feature, not a bug.

More recently, we also saw Verizon's arrogant treatment of ISPs it doesn't like, but it's doing so as a content provider. Strengthening ISPs might stop that.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

They Really Believe This

According a “toot” from the Mastodon Federation (earlier mentioned here):

Mentally, I'd like you to replace "capital" with "big piles of money" wherever you see it. That's a gross simplification but I think it also makes some things more clear.

An economic system is one that determines a) what goods/services should be produced and b) how to distribute them.

Capitalism supposes that a) and b) ought to be determined by (people with) Big Piles of Money

It's "big piles of money-ism".

The explains the persistent belief in folk economics.

On the other hand, the phrase “big piles of the results of the voluntary decisions by consumers-ism” sounds awkward.

In related news, it looks like the Mastodon Federation might be the platform I speculated about here.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

A Suggestion on the Health-Care Crisis

On the one hand, it looks like anything done to Obamacare will have effects on somebody that can be called catastrophic and might cause a Democratic takeover of Congress.

On the other hand, Obamacare continues to implode. For example, according to The New York Times:

Next year, about 35,000 people buying insurance in Affordable Care Act marketplaces in 45 counties could have no carriers to choose from.
It looks like the problem will then get worse.

On the gripping hand, there is an increasingly-plausible theory that Obamacare was designed to collapse and be replaced by a single-payer system riding to the rescue. The single-payer system might start as a public option for counties with no insurer and then get extended.

A possible alternative comes from New Jersey which was able to reverse a “death spiral” by relegalizing “Basic and Essential” health insurance. (I'm dubious about the details of the New Jersey plan because it saved money by having low caps instead of high deductibles but that's a quibble.) It might make sense to have a private deregulated option for people in counties with no insurers. The important part is for Obamacare to fail right instead of fail left.

It will be hard for the Left to complain about this because they will refuse to admit Obamacare is failing until it's painfully obvious. They will try to blame the failure on Trump, of course, but the failure has already started. I suspect Trump was elected by the votes of people whose premiums increased shortly before the election.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Brief Note on the Republican Health-Care Plan

Let's see … The current system (for the past few years) was based on:

  • Adding some popular regulations that varied from stupid to trivial.
  • Adding an unpopular regulation (the individual mandate) aimed at keeping the first set of regulations from being disastrous.
  • A large expansion of Medicaid.
In response to that the Republicans are currently planning to:
  • Repealing some (but not all) of the first set of regulations.
  • Repealing the individual mandate (the only part of this system that came close to making sense).
  • Cutting Medicaid.
The last might make sense except that they're not not doing much about Social Security … an even bigger program.

I won't more than mention that the regulatory part of the State (at least on the Federal level) is even more out of control than the spending part of the State.

Maybe, under Trump, the Republicans have misplaced priorities … but we knew that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Am Now on Mathstodon

Mathstodon is a social network that supports MathJax.

My Mathstodon address.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

What Will Happen if the U.S. Joins or Leaves the Paris Accord?

If the U.S. joins the Paris Accord…

  • Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
  • Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
  • Coal miners will lose their jobs.

If the U.S. leaves the Paris Accord…

  • Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
  • Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
  • Coal miners will lose their jobs.


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Posts from an Alternate Timeline

I've noticed lots of posts on blogs or twitter (typical example here) advising the adoption of left-wing tactics. Those posts come from an alternate timeline in which the Left is winning. In the real world …

In politics, they lost the Presidency, the Senate, the House, most governorships, and most state legislatures. If we had a real Republican in the White House, we'd be well on the way to repealing Obamacare.

They're even losing the Culture Wars. Chik Fil-A: They lost. Duck Dynasty: They lost. DropBox: They lost. Hobby Lobby: They lost. WeRateDogs: They're losing. They're vulnerable.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

How Some People Intend Net Neutrality to Work

Maybe the cartoonists had no idea of how net neutrality would work, but other people have some idea of how they want it to work.

Either some of the supporters of net neutrality are even more ignorant than the cartoonists or the cartoonists underestimated how much of a threat to freedom it would be.

By the way, smacking down a content provider hogging 30% of the bandwidth does not count as “broken.”

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Four Political Factions

The Right-Wing NutJobs with which I'm sometimes allied will find it hard to believe that leftists are opposed to the “Establishment”. It isn't as absurd as it might seem. There is reason to think the media are not owned by far leftists. I think we can clear up the confusion of whether the “mainstream” media are right or left if we note that there are at least four political viewpoints common in the U.S. today:
  1. the Establishment right;
  2. the Populist right;
  3. the Establishment left;
  4. the Populist left.
We see that the first three are well represented (section 3 is excessively well represented) but the last tends to be ignored except when another group (usually 3) decides to speak for it. (Section 2 cannot be ignored nowadays. Even before the current administration, it was condemned but it was not ignored.)

The Populist left includes but is not limited to the underclass. It also includes underpaid artists, underpaid writers, underpaid musicians, much of the west side of Manhattan, and wacko ex-professors in Montana. (The Usenet version of this was written some time ago and it was based on a CompuServe rant dated April 22, 1996.)

The Establishment left tends to define itself in opposition to the Populist right. It will go along with the Populist left when it disagrees with the Populist right (e.g., on gay rights) or when the Populist right is apathetic (e.g., on nuclear power) but will oppose both populisms when they agree (e.g., on free trade).

The Establishment left will frequently pretend the Populist left does not exist. The Establishment right thinks that is because they will only pay attention to right-wing embarrassments. They may be right.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Here We Go Again!

Evan Williams, one of the people behind Blogger, now regrets starting Twitter, on the grounds that it my have put Trump in the White House.

This is part of a common pattern:

  1. Leftists notice that not everybody agrees with the Enlightened Ones.
  2. They attribute that to Establishment brainwashing. (They really do believe that.)
  3. They then invent another platform that the Establishment cannot censor. (Seen on Usenet: “The Revolution will be Bloggerized” from a left-wing crackpot.)
  4. They then become astounded at how the new platform is being used by The Enemy.
This may be related to the fact that Leftists don't know what capitalism is. (That may also have caused the reaction discussed here.)

As for the next platform … “I have no idea what it will be, and am in no great hurry to find out.

Friday, May 05, 2017

I Have a Strange Superpower

I have a memory.

I can recall that the Rust Belt was called the Rust Belt long before either NAFTA or large-scale Chinese trade.

I can recall that we didn't have large numbers of people dying in the streets before Obamacare. (Those that were dying in the streets did so as a result of collectivism-inspired riots.)

I can recall when 7% interest was considered the minimum for a monetary crisis. (The interest rates at the peak of the alleged crisis of 2008 were much less.)

Addendum: I sometimes feel like this.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Lesson of That United Airlines Incident

The usual claim is that United Airlines incident proves Big Business can get away with anything. I thought the large drop in its stock price in the immediate aftermath proved that it could not actually get away with anything.

As for “What were they thinking?” … The people who set limits on payments to passengers to encourage them to leave voluntarily may have been influenced by the belief that such payments are somehow dishonorable and selecting people by lot is the fairest system. That, in turn, may have been based on the plausible theory that poor people would be more likely to let themselves be bumped as a result of payments.

In other words, this incident may have been due to the anti-market mentality.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fearless Girl or Impatient Girl?

The Fearless Girl looks like she's saying “You're late! What took you so long?” This is obviously a protest against the fact that capitalism was rather slow to arrive and set humanity free. It might even be a protest against the fact that capitalism has not yet penetrated to every nook and cranny on Earth.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

When Your Conscience Is in Thrall to Government Policy

According to bio“ethics” experts (seen via National Review):

Objection to providing patients interventions that are at the core of medical practice – interventions that the profession deems to be effective, ethical, and standard treatments – is unjustifiable (AMA Code of Medical Ethics [Opinion 11.2.2]10).28″31

Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.

In other words, it would be regarded as unethical for a doctor opposed to capital punishment to refuse to cooperate with the organ banks. If this becomes accepted, we might be an election away from compelling physicians to offer acupuncture. I won't more than mention this is a violation of the First, Ninth, Tenth, and Thirteenth Amendments.

By the way, if enough ethics experts disagree with this, would we be justified in censoring it?

I'm reminded of the anti-circumcision activists who appeal to “Society” while ignoring the fact that “Society” deems them crackpots.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

A Note on Science March Slogans

I've been looking at poster ideas for the “March for Science” (for example, here) and I noticed a lack of assertions about science facts. Most of them are either irrelevant to science, expressing loyalty to “science,” or presumably witty slogans using science vocabulary.

The only issue where there is even an attempt at actual content is global warming. I didn't even see the anti-Creationist slogans I was expecting. Maybe those go together. It's hard to get really upset about CO2 levels when such levels were higher millions of years ago.

Meanwhile, I've come up a few more factual slogans (earlier slogans are here):


Mike Pence and William Shakespeare

The Mike Pence tempest in a teapot reminded me of the following quote from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare:

I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Leftists, at least this week, regard that as “creepy.”

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A Suggestion for President Trump

It's time for voting rights for chickens.

  • Being a chicken is socially conditioned and is clearly the fault of either capitalism or neoliberalism (depending on what you're against this week).
  • Even if you disagree, feathered people cannot help being chickens and should not be kept from the voting booth.
  • On the other hand, if they can help being chickens, that means being a chicken is a voluntarily-chosen lifestyle that should not be penalized.
  • You can even make the case that chickens have superior political skills.
Besides, this will help the Republicans. According to the latest research, conservative politicians are more attractive and chickens prefer more attractive humans. If you put those together, it is easy to see that voting rights for chickens will make the Republicans win in a landslide.

It's something that should be done today.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Non-Sequitur of the Year

According to PoliticusUSA:

“The days of ‘trust-me’ science are over,” said anti-science Congressman Lamar Smith, who serves as chairman of the Science Committee, according to The Hill. “In our modern information age, federal regulations should be based only on data that is available for every American to see and that can be subjected to independent review.”

In other words, if Republicans don’t like that results of scientific studies and data, they should have the freedom to ignore it and implement policy accordingly.

I don't see how you can get that from an assertion that science should be more open.

I already know what “non-sequitur” means. I do not require a concrete example.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Paranoid Theory I Haven't Seen Anywhere Yet

What if the Left deliberately created a drug “epidemic” a half century ago to produce a health crisis when the druggies got old? That way, they could blame the bad health outcomes and runaway heath-care spending on capitalism.

On the other hand, it doesn't work on everyone. Mexican Americans have longer life expectancies than either Mexicans or white Americans. Asian Americans have longer life expectancies than either Asians in Singapore or white Americans.

On the gripping hand, there was a crime epidemic that started about the same time that we got over. Maybe we'll develop antibodies to opioids. A quarter century ago, the geographic arguments for gun control (“look at how much better Europe handles crime!”) seemed as irrefutable as the geographic arguments for government-run health care do today. That has changed … which has not yet percolated down to self-congratulatory people

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Can I Get a Refund on Dilbert Books?

According to Scott Adams:

Then science ignores the models that are too far off from observed temperatures as we proceed into the future and check the predictions against reality. Sometimes scientists also “tune” the models to hindcast better, meaning tweaking assumptions. As a non-scientists, I can’t judge whether or not the tuning and tweaking are valid from a scientific perspective. But I can judge that this pattern is identical to known scams. I described the known scams in this post.

And to my skeptical mind, it sounds fishy that there are dozens or more different climate models that are getting tuned to match observations. That doesn’t sound credible, even if it is logically and scientifically sound. I am not qualified to judge the logic or science. But I am left wondering why it has to sound exactly like a hoax if it isn’t one. Was there not a credible-sounding way to make the case?

Personally, I would find it compelling if science settled on one climate model (not dozens) and reported that it was accurate (enough), based on temperature observations, for the next five years. If they pull that off, they have my attention. But they will never convince me with multiple models. That just isn’t possible.

First, the known scams are a matter of separate isolated predictions mailed separately (which may have been what happened here and here and here) instead of aggregated predictions gathered together in an easily checked (and copied) place.

Second, the climate predictions resemble hurricane predictions, which also have the results of numerous models. We don't see people picking the best hurricane prediction and saying “WE WERE RIGHT!” (We do see a pattern of selecting accurate predictions and ignoring inaccurate ones in politics.)

Third, picking one best model would not alleviate the uncertainty; it would merely hide it. Real science has error estimates. We don't see that in scams. We do see that in the climate models (but not in people whining about “climate denial.”).

Friday, March 24, 2017

“Warrior” and Folk Economics

My fellow SF fans will be familiar with the story “Warrior” by Gordon Dickson. In it, the policemen thought that a professional military strategist would be helpless when dealing with organized crime. After all, soldiers wear uniforms, carry guns, and are found in a crowd of other soldiers. Without those elements, a soldier would be helpless. That turned out not to be the case.

We see a similar illusion in folk economics. In folk economics, a capitalist is someone in an expensive suit at a desk in a corner office instead of someone with a 401(k). In folk economics, decisions aren't made by consumers, they're made by capitalists. That's why we see people flying around the world warning of the dangers of fossil fuel use without recognizing the irony. That even explains why some people treat marketing expenses for pharmaceuticals as a type of profit. (The military equivalent of that would be someone who “saluted a Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.”)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

One Does Not Know How to Begin

According to Peter Frase:

Frase's Four Futures are:
  1. Communism ("equality and abundance")
  2. Rentism ("hierarchy and abundance")
  3. Socialism ("equality and scarcity")
  4. Exterminism ("hierarchy and scarcity")
How's that again?

There are two possible confusions here:

  • A possible confusion between effects and causes: If we have both equality and abundance, that it likely to produce the society on the label of communism.
  • A possible confusion between allowed hierarchy and permitted hierarchy. There is a difference between a “hierarchy” produced by people of differing abilities and a hierarchy produced by people of differing amounts of pull.
I specified “possible” above because I have not yet read the book in question. Maybe the author drew those distinctions.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Daylight Savings Time Might Be a Violation of the Ninth Amendment

Daylight Savings Time may be a violation of the Ninth Amendment. It was intended to ensure that people got up earlier in the Spring and Summer. On the other hand, in the debates on the Bill of Rights, Theodore Sedgwick said:

if the committee were governed by that general principle, they might have gone into a very lengthy enumeration of rights; they might have declared that a man should have the right to wear his hat if he pleased; that he might get up when he pleased, and go to bed when he thought proper.
The above reasoning, including the doctrine that personal schedules should not be a government matter, was part of the basis for the Ninth Amendment.

Government time? No thanks.

Friday, March 10, 2017


This cryonics stuff might possibly work!

On the other hand, according to Cities in Flight by James Blish, anti-agathics are supposed to be invented next year…

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Slogans for the March for Science

A few slogans that might be appropriate at the March for Science:


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Identifying Science-Curious but Science-Ignorant People

A few questions that will be answered one way by people who are science-curious but science-ignorant and the opposite way by science-knowledgeable people:

  1. If you're on a ship crossing the equator and you're watching water run down the drain, will you see the direction of swirl reversed when you cross the equator?
  2. Is plutonium the deadliest toxin on Earth?
  3. Did Christopher Columbus discover the world is round?
  4. Do human beings use only 10% of their brains?
  5. Does the Moon have a dark side?

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Sanctuary Suggestion

It might make sense for a right-leaning county in a left-leaning state with harsh gun laws to declare itself to be a sanctuary county for gun owners. This will have several beneficial effects:

  1. It will help defend one of the more untrendy civil liberties.
  2. It just might give the right-wing a strange, new respect for the sanctuary concept.
  3. It will provoke the wrong side of the left to claim that criminals will move there. That, in turn, might help discredit the similar predictions on the right for the immigrant sanctuaries.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Four-Dimensional Undecidable “Elementary” Geometry

A few years ago, I realized (with another update here) that the elementary geometry of points, lines, and circles becomes undecidable when it includes screws or spirals. You can think of lines and circles as the one-dimensional connected uniform curves in a two-dimensional Euclidean space and you can think of spirals, lines, and circles as the one-dimensional connected uniform curves in a three-dimensional Euclidean space. I'm still not sure of what a complete set of such curves in a four-dimensional space would be like, but it would include some very strange objects.

For example, consider the curve parameterized by \((w,x,y,z)=(\sin t,\cos t,\sin \sqrt{2}t,\cos \sqrt{2}t)\) where \(t\in[-\infty,\infty]\). It is easy to see that this is a dense subset of the Clifford torus that's the product of two unit circles centered at the origin (in the \((w,x)\) and \((y,z)\) planes). Unlike the similar curves in two- and three-dimensional space, this isn't closed.

Question: Would it make more sense to focus on closed, uniform, connected subsets of Euclidean spaces? In two dimensions that would include the empty set, points, lines, circles, and the entire plane. In three dimensions that would include the empty set, points, lines, circles, helices, planes, spheres, cylinders, and the entire space. In four dimensions …

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Stupid Petitions Are Not Limited to the Left

According to a recent petition:

We demand that J.K. Rowling grants no less than 18 refugees shelter in her mansions for at least 8 years. She rejects safe immigration, which is why we also demand, that there will be no additional vetting process for these refugees. Her virtue-signaling stems from ignorance, and the 100% effective cure of it will be this drastic change of perspective. To make this group of refugees representative of the situation Europe, we also demand that the group consists of 14 men and 4 women, since over 75% of the millions of refugees are male.
First, if you sound like this, you are doing conservatism wrong:
UPDATE: you can drop off an unwanted baby at a Hobby Lobby and they'll raise it
Second, why are they assuming that letting refugees in means that the State must build homes for them? When someone moves from city X to city Y in the same country, we don't normally assume that the the government of city Y must build the homes.

Third, if the government insists on building homes for newcomers, there might be problems with it irrespective of whether or not there are refugees. Keeping refugees out because the government is spendthrift is like getting a hangover from scotch-and-soda and, as a result, swearing off soda.

Finally, if you believe that Americans/British/whoever have the right to rent to refugees, does that imply that you have a moral obligation to do so yourself? If you believe that Americans/British/whoever have the right to smoke dope, does that imply that you have a moral obligation to do so yourself?

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