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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The Former Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse:
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Yet another weird SF fan

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Does History Always Move Left?

The following is one of the more preposterous leftist cliches:

Since the F.D.R. administration, conservatives have unsuccessfully opposed legislative and judicial reforms that today are considered so mainstream as to be "conservative." In effect, yesterday’s liberalism is today’s conservatism, and this has been the direction of social and political change since the age of the Flappers and the Model T.

Examining the writings of such conservative icons as Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr, Phyllis Schlafly, and nine others, Joshi uncovers statements that most people today would consider not just radical but outrageous: · In the 1950s, Russell Kirk opposed Social Security because he said it was "un-Christian."

Time has run back in some fields. There are former leftist ideas that used to be dominant but are now almost unheard of: wage and price controls, eugenics (which used to be a liberal plank until it became unfashionable), nationalizing the “commanding heights” of the economy, the Fairness Doctrine. There are others that are noticeably declining: gun control (a former mainstay of the Democrats that they dropped almost completely in the last election), Social Security (the former “third rail”), large parts of environmentalism (there are environmentalists nowadays defending DDT and nuclear power). In some ways, yesterday's conservatism is today's liberalism (i.e., Clinton putting putting through Reagan's platform).

It's not surprising that we get such rhetoric from leftists. After all, if you pride yourself on being the wave of the future, you have to believe there is an identifiable wave of the future. It helps if you believe that yesterday's wave of the future is the same as today's.

There's another reason for such rhetoric. It's part of the “let's scare conservatives” tactic.

  1. Pick a phenomenon which looks likely to increase in the future. (Examples include: immigration from places other than Europe, acceptance of evolution, use of higher biotechnology, etc.)

  2. Pretend it somehow makes traditional values obsolete somehow.

  3. Wait for a conservative to believe that propaganda.

  4. Accuse them of being anti-progress.

The only real puzzle is why conservatives fall for it so often.

By the way, do I have to read that book now? I've read enough wacko leftist books …

Sunday, November 26, 2006

This Might Sound Reasonable …

… but anti-Malthusians are next.

They will be followed by either race realists or by anti-racists, depending on who can get hold of the levers of power first.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Is Gulf War II Surpassing World War II?

According to Agence France-Presse, it is:

THEY were America's days of infamy, 60 years apart - Pearl Harbour and September 11. The first led the US into World War II, a conflict it endured for 1348 days; the second was followed by a war that from tomorrow will have lasted even longer.

On the other hand, if we count the occupation after regime change, World War II has lasted to the present.

Even if we only count occupations when there is a terrorist campaign going on in the background, we kept troops in occupied Dixie for over a decade … and went back in during the 1950s to finish the job.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Neuroeconomics Continued

Neuroeconomics (earlier discussed here) is one of the most promising sources of excuses for self-appointed experts to claim they know more about people's lives than the people living them. The most plausible of those excuses (that people use the more rational part of the brain when agreeing with experts) has just disappeared.

It looks like the demographic group most closely associated with really dumb decisions uses more of the brain while making them:

Surprisingly, behavioral scientists have actually done these interviews with hundreds of American adolescents. In order to explore really stupid behavior, they have asked what seem to be really stupid questions: Is it a good thing to set your hair on fire? Drink Drano? Go swimming where sharks swim?

The results are fascinating, and unsettling. While teenagers are just as likely as adults to get the answer right (the correct answer is “No”), teens actually have to mull the question over momentarily before they answer. As summarized by psychologists Valerie Reyna of Cornell and Frank Farley of Temple in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, teenagers take a split second longer than adults to reject such patently inane behaviors. And more of the teenage brain lights up, suggesting that they are actually going through some kind of deliberative calculation before concluding what the rest of us assume is obvious.

By the standards of neuroeconomics, clearly adolescents are superior at making decisions. The more radical neuroeconomists might even want to make self-destructive behavior compulsory.

Maybe that explains the two year dumb-off

Illegal Combatants and SWAT Teams

If the police in this raid were out of uniform, does that make them illegal combatants? After all, the same reasoning applies to them as to the Hezbollah or Al Qaeda fighters disguised as civilians.

Somehow, I don't think they're going to Gitmo …

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Is It Gone?

I haven't seen the Fox News spammer in the past two weeks.

Mission accomplished: He got the Democrats in control of Congress.

Addendum: It's ba-ack!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In the Background at Phdcomics

It looks like the paper in the background in the author biographies episode of Phdcomics was this paper (published by IEEE here). You can see part of three references which, in the original paper, were:

  • KOLTCHINSKII, V. (2004). Local Rademacher complexities and oracle inequalities in risk minimization. Manuscript.

  • LESKI, J. (2002). Robust weighted averaging. IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, 49, 796-804.

  • OMBAO, H., RAZ, J., STRAWDERMAN, R., and VON SACHS, R. (2001). A simple GCV method of span selection for periodogram smoothing. Biometrika, 88, 1186-1192.

I was reminded by the latest comic, but there wasn't enough detail to track down that one.

In related news, I remembered this event when it was about to start and it was too late to attend.

Monday, November 20, 2006

While Looking for Israel Robot Hornet on Technorati

… I found the following entry:

weev loves you.

It looks like this is an accusation that Israel is a fascist state or worse. (I'm not sure. I got the error message: “You don't have permission to access /227512.html on this server.” when I tried following it up.)

The really interesting part is that the publicly-accessible part of the blog includes a post apparently intended to satirize imaginary conservatives saying:

Bush is the 2nd greatest President of all time and if you don't agree you're a ZOG slave


Eventually agents of the liberal Jewish shadow government told us that "expressive behavior" is against the establishment's code of conduct. We promised to no longer approach people and they relented, but fifteen minutes later they came back to forcibly escort us from the premises. We broke out into "I'm proud to be an American" as we were forced off the grounds.

So … Israel is a fascist regime … but it's conservatives who are anti-semitic. How's that again?

I won't do more than mention the fact that the people they're trying to satirize can't stand that liberal Bush.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Iran's Game Plan?

The people in the Iraq Study Group appear to believe that “constructive engagement” with Iran is possible. (That means assuming that the current attempts on the part of Iran's leaders to look like maniacs is just a bargaining point. This is dubious but not preposterous.) Let's consider what constructive engagement is likely to consist of.

It should be obvious what constructive engagement means. It means we let Iran turn Iraq and Lebanon into puppet states and, in return, they hand over Ahmadinejad and a few token terrorists and stop the reactors. This will produce great rejoicing because Disaster Has Been Averted.

Of course, it also means they start up the reactors again and put a new loonie in a high-profile position when Saudi Arabia finally collapses and they want a slice.

This will be followed a few years later by agreeing to stop their biowarfare research in return for a halt in oil-shale research …

Meanwhile, other nations have been taking notes and are considering how to use pretended insanity as a bargaining chip.

A Theory about Today's Politics

Is the current dumb-off the result of the Stoned Generation finally taking over?

It's almost as though the people running both major parties have suffered some brain damage.

A Biblical Prophcy Coming True?

According to Deuteronomy 7:17–21:

7:17 If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations [are] more than I; how can I dispossess them?

7:18 Thou shalt not be afraid of them: [but] shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;

7:19 The great temptations which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the LORD thy God brought thee out: so shall the LORD thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid.

7:20 Moreover the LORD thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.

7:21 Thou shalt not be affrighted at them: for the LORD thy God [is] among you, a mighty God and terrible.

According to Reuters:

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is using nanotechnology to try to create a robot no bigger than a hornet that would be able to chase, photograph and kill its targets, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday.

The flying robot, nicknamed the "bionic hornet", would be able to navigate its way down narrow alleyways to target otherwise unreachable enemies such as rocket launchers, the daily Yedioth Ahronoth said.

Okay, Reuters isn't that reliable. (They probably mean “microtechnology” instead of “nanotechnology” and “terrorist” instead of “militant.”) On the other hand, it's not in the “just made it up” category.

It could probably turn a battle even if the hornet was limited to detecting enemies. For one thing, Reuters etc. would have to be more accurate in the future.

In possibly-related Israeli news …

We're also cutting off the Other Side's oil weapon (seen via Meryl Yourish):

HAIFA, Israel, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- The Israeli process for producing energy from oil shale will cut its oil imports by one-third, and will serve as a guide for other countries with oil shale deposits, according to one company.


It would cost about $17 to produce a barrel of synthetic oil at the Hom Tov facility, meaning giant profit margins in a world of $45 to $60 per barrel crude. Yearly earnings are forecasted to be between $159 million and $350 million, Shahal said.


The United States also has a giant reserve, mostly in Colorado, and Hom Tov sees potential for its patented process there.

In other word, we can say to OPEC: nyaaaahhhh, nyaaaahhhh, nyaaaahhhh, nyaaaahhhh, phphphphtttt!!!!

Addendum: It's been done. According to Joshua 24:12:

24:12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, [even] the two kings of the Amorites; [but] not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.


According to Deborah Orin-Eilbeck in The New York Post:

The strongest opposition to illegal immigration is coming from heartland America and even the Northeast. Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), one of the toughest foes of legalization, won his re-election handily.
Speaking as somebody who voted for Rep. King, I did so out of embarrassment about the possibility of being represented by a Democrat.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Camp of the Saints and Eurabia

A thought experiment: What if the scenario in The Camp of the Saints had taken place a few decades ago? If a few million anti-Muslim Hindus had come to Europe, the Muslims would have no hope of taking over and would have to stay on their best behavior. We wouldn't have a problem with Eurabia.

A Reason to Be Suspicious of Anti-Immigration Activists

I noticed the following on an anti-immigration blog:

The international corporate class and the social work Establishment that drools at the thought of a huge new clientele do not like Anglo-Saxon-Celts. I know that's not the sort of thing you're supposed to say out loud, but it's true.
“Anglo-Saxon-Celts”? Those of us with names like Hertzlinger (or Giuliani or even Rumsfeld) would find that alarming … if we didn't outnumber the Anglo-Saxon-Celts (how did Celts get into this?) by now.

An odd note: The same blog also covers psychic phenomena. It's almost like reading an extended John Campbell editorial.

Diagnosing the Decline of New York State Republicans

The New York Times reports on the decline on Republicans in New York state:

Republicans have slipped to less than 27 percent of the state’s 11 million registered voters and Democrats outnumber them by nearly 2.4 million. The suburbs shifted hugely — the county executives of Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk are Democrats — and even reliably Republican counties upstate, some of them crippled by declining population, can no longer be taken for granted.
Suburban Republicans in New York state brought this on themselves. Several decades ago, they passed zoning laws designed to keep out the riffraff. Those laws had the effect of raising housing costs to preposterous levels. (High taxes in the state as a whole may have been agreed to for similar reasons.) Time passes … and the political line-up changed from rich vs. poor to large families vs. small families. The large families most likely to vote Republican would rather look for cheaper housing and move somewhere else.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Question about Today's Day by Day

In today's Day by Day, why is the Iraqi waiter brown? Middle-easterners aren't South Asian.

Uh Oh

There's a real problem with the Democrats running imitation Republicans right now. They tried that in 1992, when they figured that they were in the Outer Darkness because they had been defeated by tight-fisted budget cutters. In accordance with that belief, they nominated a tight-fisted budget cutter for President. In the recent election, they figured they were opposing nearly-fascist nationalists. Guess who they ran:

Many of the Democrats who recaptured seats held by Republicans have been described as moderates or social conservatives, who will be out of synch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi. The better term, with props to Fareed Zakaria, is probably illiberal Democrats. Most of those who reclaimed Republican seats ran hard against free trade, globalization, and any sort of moderate immigration policy. That these Democrats won makes it likely that others will take up their reactionary call. Some of the newcomers may even be foolish enough to try to govern on the basis of their misguided theory.


For some reason, economic nationalists never seem to complain about job-killing Dutch or Irish competition. The targets of their anger are consistently China and Mexico, with occasionally whacks at Dubai, Oman, Peru, and Vietnam.

An even harder-edged nationalism defined many of the critical House races, where Democrats called for a moratorium on trade agreements, for canceling existing ones, or, in some cases, for slapping protective trade tariffs on China. These candidates also lumped illegal immigrants together with terrorists and demanded fencing and militarization of the Mexican border. In Pennsylvania, Democratic challengers Chris Carney and Patrick Murphy defeated Republican incumbents by accusing them of destroying good jobs by voting for the Central American Free Trade Agreement and being soft on illegal immigration.

The good news is that economic nationalism is easy to ridicule even on a sound-bite basis. Repeat after me: Every dollar we send overseas comes back. If somebody claims that the foreigners just hang onto the the money, it might be necessary to ask they're using the dollars as wallpaper or burning them in bonfires.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Yes, I Do Know Everything

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

Seen via Dispatches From Blogblivion.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Difference between Vietnam and Iraq

South Vietnam was unable to resist the invasion from North Vietnam largely because it was bankrupt. The official government of Iraq, in case you hadn't noticed, has some oil revenue.

Another Vietnam lesson to unlearn

I suspect many of the people anticipating “another Vietnam” figure that once the Americans leave, they're never coming back. They might have to unlearn that soon. We recently turned protecting Afghanistan over to NATO. If there's a Taliban resurgence and NATO wimps out, we're going back in. It looks like there's bipartisan support for that.

In view of the Islamist takeover of Somalia, we might be back in Somalia soon as well.

I'm sure the Iraqi insurgents will be taking notes.

The Lesson of the Election

It's easy for Democrats to win. All they have to do is nominate Republicans.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Contrast

There appears to be a difference between a Democratic reaction to the 2004 election and some Republican reactions to the 2006 election.

In Case Anybody Was Wondering

I voted Libertarian for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and Comptroller. I didn't hold some of the loony opinions of our gubernatorial candidate against him. That's expected from Libertarians. (Sometimes, I think this should be the Libertarian campaign song.)

I voted Republican for Senator and Congressman. At least I'm represented by the last remaining Republican Congressman here in The People's Republic of Long Island.

I voted no on an “open-space” resolution (the genteel version of immigration restrictions). It has the effect of keeping the riffraff out, but it's dressed up in high-sounding language.

I voted Conservative for the remaining offices. I wanted some way to let The Powers That Be know I didn't want RINOs. On the other hand, I didn't vote Conservative for Senate and Congress because that might be mistaken for support for the border fence.

The one difficult decision was the State Senate race. On one hand, my State Senator supports those “open-space” resolutions and laws against driving while phoning. On the other hand, his opponent was endorsed by Planned Parenthood so I had to vote for him.

Speaking of elections

Why, in all the coverage of the Virginia Senatorial election, is there no mention of the Yourish candidacy?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Helpful Capitalists?

Last year, I blogged about the theory that fewer choices are better. If that theory is correct, then a South Korean ISP is improving the lives of their customers (seen via Boing Boing). Isn't it amazing how helpful capitalists can be?

Set sarcasm bit to off.

Actually, I think that the most probable result is that the ISP in question will lose customers rapidly. (Maybe they thought they could get away with it as a result of reading too many net-neutrality polemics.) It seems a bit strange though, that parts of the left side of the political spectrum think that capitalism provides too much choice and other parts think that capitalism restricts choice.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The War on Terrorism and the War on Some Drugs

It's becoming increasingly clear that the War on Some Drugs is undermining the War on Terrorism by producing an alliance between the Taliban and Afghan opium farmers.

Most politicians are reluctant to touch the War on Some Drugs because any attempt to stop it would be attributed to drug “experimentation.” (I put “experimentation” in quotes because it's not a real experiment unless there's an identifiable control group.) The only people who can legalize hard drugs are people who would never be thought of as former drug users, e.g., evangelicals, Mormons or other “religious fanatics.”

I'm not planning to run. I was part of what little control group there was during the drug-experimentation era, but I'm not a member of any stereotypical anti-drug group.

The Democrats won't do it. At most, they'll legalize pot and continue the War on Some Drugs in which the Some Drugs will be cocaine and heroin. That will simply continue the anti-American takeovers of Bolivia and Afghanistan.

Would Romney be the best choice in 2008? After all, only Nixon could go to China and only Clinton could reform welfare.

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