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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The President Is the Commander-in-Chief

As is well-known, the President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States. The reason is that the Constitutional Convention was very wary of the possibility that we might wind up with a Constitution in name only. For example, the Roman Emperors were, at first, not dictators. (Roman dictators were term limited anyway.) They were instead the Commander-in Chief of the armed forces. (ObSF: Francis X. MacHinery in They Shall Have Stars by James Blish.) The Constitutional Convention was trying to avoid that by ensuring that the President is the Commander-in-Chief instead of someone outside the Constitution. In other words, the armed forces must commanded by someone who can be defeated for re-election, can be impeached if necessary, is term-limited, and whose budget can be cut. It does not mean he has absolute power.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Debate Wanted

Trutherbot recently tweeted:

There is absolutely, never a reason to give up one ounce of freedom for the sake of security, it won't work!
Trutherbot also recently tweeted:
Genetic engineering is a threat to food security, especially in a changing climate.
I think a Trutherbot vs. Trutherbot debate is in order.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In Which Direction?

According to a psychological study, students (in a sample of 93) were classified as high working-memory or low working-memory. They were then given a math test and the HWM students did better. After that they were given a test in what was termed a “higher, real world pressure situation” and the HWM scores dropped to the LWM levels. The conclusion:

Since working memory is known to predict many higher-level brain functions, the research calls into question the ability of high-pressure tests such as the SAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT to accurately gauge who will succeed in future academic endeavors.
In which direction? Are they claiming that those tests measure things other than working memory and are thus unfair or are they claiming that they only test working memory and are thus unrealistic? Or is this an attempt by reporters to justify flunking algebra?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Let's Not Be Insulting Now

Many of my fellow wingnuts (for example the commenters here) are inclined to be insulting to the police. Please remember that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

In accordance with the above, I think we should be as polite as possible and wish the LA police a safe trip back to Keystone.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Anti-Drone Rhetoric Is Starting to Backfire

I recently warned:

Can the anti-drone rhetoric of many libertarians backfire? It's possible that the rhetoric may be copied by statists trying to confiscate drones from private citizens in another decade or two. Look for them to start accusing us of being hypocrites on the topic.
It's starting (seen via a comment at Peter Watts Newscrawl) far faster than I had thought.

You can find the official summary of the proposed law here.

If passed, this will be used to stop citizens from “spying” on corrupt officials.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

There Are Three Right Wings

It's well known (to those of us paying attention) that conservatism is not a monolithic movement: It has libertarian and social conservative wings. It's not so well known that social conservatism is also not monolithic: It has theocratic and hereditarian wings. Those two wings are coming apart.

I have some sympathy for the theocrats' ends but think they should try to pick other means. I have almost no sympathy for the hereditarians.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Don't Imitate Unsuccessful Movements

According to Red State:
To those staid, penny-loaf wearing striped ties who that think that the tactics of the Left are too “over-the-top” or somehow beneath the Right to use in the battle for America’s future, I ask you: How’s the status quo working out for you?
That might be a useful rhetorical question … except they're talking about the tactics of labor unions. In view of the gradual fade of once-mighty labor unions, the answer should be: “The status quo is working very well.” At least it's working better than union tactics.

It might make more sense to imitate tactics of environmentalists.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Odd Thought about the Obama Campaign's Data Collection

On the one hand, there have been many (discussed often on my blogs: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8) psychological or neurological studies that purported to find supposedly insulting things about us wingnuts. Those studies have generally been marked by small sample sizes and correlations of dubious relevance.

On the other hand, the Obama campaign (presumably run by leftists) was able to turn what would have been a loss in a rational world into a marginal victory by careful analysis of large samples of voters and sticking to data of actual political relevance.

In other words, if there were high-quality data backing up those studies, the statisticians of the Obama campaign have it. They know who high-IQ people vote for. They know who less neurotic people vote for. They know who more impressive people in general vote for. What are the implications of the fact that none of that has been leaked? (I mean, besides the fact that they also have top-notch security people.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Talking at Cross Purposes

When we reactionaries say “central planning,” the Other Side hears “a plan made by one person.” In other words, if you decide to buy “inorganic” food, that counts as central planning (it's even worse if a CEO of a multinational corporation decides to sell it), but a single-payer health plan doesn't.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Food Democracy?

I recently came across the term “food democracy.” At first, I thought that meant “one cauliflower, one vote.” It means something even sillier.

According to Food First (people last?):

It is important to understand food democracy as a framework for making our food system more responsive to the needs of its citizens and decentralizing control.


Food democracy emphasizes social justice in the food system, and food is viewed as the center of the democratic process.

This goes beyond the “vote with your fork” ideology which does NOT provide a democratic way to change the food system.

In other words, they want to decentralize, not merely the food industry, but your plate. What's on your plate will no longer be a matter of your top-down decisions but it will be made collectively, i.e., by people with too much free time.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Six Months … Seventeen Months …

Michael Lombardi has been that predicting economic disaster will strike within six months for at least seventeen months and probably longer.

Eventually, he's likely to be right. Of course, the same is true of a parrot trained to screech “THE STOCK MARKET IS ABOUT TO FALL!” every few minutes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mike Bloomberg Might Cause More Global Warming!

In accordance with his firmly-held opinion that the stuff Everybody Knows trumps human freedoms, logical analysis, expert opinion, and common sense (I'm not sure of that last point since I have no common sense and have to simulate it), Mike Bloomberg is trying to ban styrofoam. Apparently, New Yorkers thrown out 20,000 tons of styrofoam each year and it costs the Sanitation Department $20 per ton to handle it. Mayor Bloomberg regards it as a matter of utmost importance to save the city government the 5¢ per person per year that costs. One big problem is that the styrofoam, if not recycled, is likely to wind up floating on the oceans. As long as it's there it will reflect sunlight and help cool off the world. If global warming is such a problem…

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Would “Maxwell's Silver Hammer” Be Legal Today?

If “Maxwell's Silver Hammer” were released today, there would be calls for banning this song glorifying crime. The President would recommend mandatory registration of silver hammers in the State of the Union address and the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology would grill professors accused of teaching Maxwell's equations.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Theory on Why Leftist Dogmas Change Every Week

It's a matter of changing the password, of course. If you set up an “Inner Ring” (as C. S. Lewis called it), you cannot take the risk of having people learn the password and infiltrate. In order to stop that, the password is changed every week, preferably to something that can be rapidly changed in turn.

Example: Is the Left for or against IQ tests this week? It looks like they've settled on testing nebulous characteristics that can be exchanged for even more nebulous characteristics at will. Is the Left for or against the War on Some Drugs? It looks like they're settled on only opposing “hard” (i.e., currently unfashionable) drugs.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can Anti-Drone Rhetoric Backfire?

Can the anti-drone rhetoric of many libertarians backfire? It's possible that the rhetoric may be copied by statists trying to confiscate drones from private citizens in another decade or two. Look for them to start accusing us of being hypocrites on the topic.

You must recall that the anti-wiretapping laws used as a basis for the War on Photography once looked libertarian too. Even well-intentioned laws can backfire.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Way to Cut Down on Illegal Drug Consumption

If the drug in question comes from a supposedly-natural plant, just devise a Genetically Modified form of the plant and subsidize it (under the table, of course) enough for it to gain market share. The stoners won't go anywhere near it, then.

If you can figure out a way for it to concentrate depleted uranium, that will be even better.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Is a Crystal Computer Possible?

If crystal radios are possible using a type of rock as a diode, is it also possible to build a crystal computer? If a crystal computer is possible, what does that imply about the story “A Little Knowledge” by Poul Anderson? (“A Little Knowledge” is based on the claim that vacuum tubes can be hacked together by an early industrial society but transistors require a more advanced technology.)

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Problem with Using Outsourcing

The news that at least one staff cafeteria (in High Wycombe, UK) of at least one Monsanto facility does not serve genetically-modified food is being turned into a scandal in some quarters. On the other hand, the cafeteria in Monsanto's Cambridge facility does serve GM food. On the gripping hand, Monsanto no longer has laboratories at High Wycombe.

I suspect that Monsanto's Dilberts (the people who know something about the topic) are eating GM food and the pointy-haired bosses might be refusing to do so.

On the other hand, maybe Monsanto outsourced the cafeteria to a low bidder run by ideologues trying to start a scandal.

Draka Policies in Britain?

This article about the formerly 980-pound Paul Mason and how the government enabled his food addiction reminded me of the following line from Marching through Georgia by S. M. Stirling:

…and then they just put you in a comfortable institution, sterilize you and encourage life-shortening vices.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

We're Waiting

Three years ago, the anti-GMO people predicted an imminent consumer uprising against GMOs.

So what's taking so long? I'm looking forward to having a whole new bunch of crackpots to argue with.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

An Imaginary Scandal

The fact that Japan revised its radioactivity standards for material sent to landfills is being treated as a scandal:

The government insists that its radiation limits ensure that the program will pose no health risks to surrounding residents. Those limits, however, have been significantly relaxed since the disaster at Fukushima. Radioactivity is measured by becquerel per kilogram, or bq/kg. Previously, Japanese regulations required nuclear waste with 100 or more bq/kg of Cesium to be monitored and disposed of in specialized containers. But the new limit for debris in the "wide area incineration" program is 240 to 480 bq/kg. Because radioactive particles accumulate and concentrate in the ash of burned rubble, the material headed for local landfills could be significantly more radioactive. The new government limit for material headed for landfills is 8000 bq/kg, 80 times the pre-Fukushima

Some people are even more hysterical.

On the other hand, plain ordinary potassium chloride has an activity level of 16.4 Bq/g or 16,400 Bq/kg. Presumably it is illegal to throw out unused KCl pills in Japan.

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