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This is the archive for August 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

There's three ways somebody can lie to you: They can make a statement that is factually untrue; they can make a statement that is factually true but place it in a context that makes its meaning untrue; and they can be a stopped clock.

The first is a child's lie. "No, I didn't take a cookie out of the cookie jar." This kind of lie is subject to objective refutation, and is mostly avoided by the most sophisticated liars.

The second is much more sophisticated. It is context that provides the meaning for any statement, and a factual statement placed in the wrong context becomes a non-factual statement.

"George Bush is just like Hitler". What is the context of that statement? There is none, so you are left to fill in your own context, and most people would assume the context in which those two figures are most often discussed, that of being the top leader of a country. Leaving the context undefined, implying the widest possible context, is often a form of lie, when it isn't just the result of sloppy speaking.

But it's a factually correct statement, given the right context. Bush is of the species Homo Sapiens. So was Hitler. Of course, that context is one nobody would bother working in. There are policies Bush has pursued that are similar enough to some policies Hitler pursued that the statement could be considered factually correct in the narrow context of those policies as well. But that still leaves the statement in full context of the leadership of a country untrue.

A stopped clock is right twice a day. But still, even on those two minutes each day when it, through sheer coincidence, is reporting the correct time, it is lying to you. Coincidental correspondence to fact is not the same thing as truth.

You have no way to know when the stopped clock is right. You know that for 1438 minutes of the day it is lying, and for two minutes it is correct, but the only way you can know which two minutes are the correct ones is to trust that the clock is always giving the correct time. If you always checked it against another clock, the first clock's statements about the time would be redundant and useless. Once a clock's veracity is determined, it becomes its own standard of truth.

Until it is caught in a lie, that is. From that point on, everything it says has to again be considered a lie. An intelligent and malicious clock, one determined to mislead you about the real time, would realize that it could occasionally give you the correct time, yet still be providing misleading information. The bonus is that if you called it out on one of those statements, it could claim "See, I was telling the truth.". And a really clever clock could claim that the time it gave was correct, in some context other than the one you assumed it was working in. The time was correct in Singapore, so technically, the clock wasn't lying. But now you know that it is always lying.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Well, she did it. Hillary's purpose today required somebody who could speak out of both sides of their mouth simultaneously, who could look you in the eye while stabbing you in the back, who could undermine while staying on the high road. She rose to the occasion as I knew she would.

The whole speech was damning by faint praise. The pundits pretty much covered that. I didn't count, but I think she mentioned McCain's name more often than she mentioned Obama's, and there was as little fire in her condemnation of McCain as there was in her praise of Obama.

But did you see what she did to Michelle? I've never seen anyone at a political event such as this throw more overt hatred toward the podium than the little Missus did tonight. If there was any purpose besides self aggrandizement and firing up her base to that introductory video, it could only have been to piss off Michelle. Then, right off the bat, the fourth line of the speech: "I'm a proud American." It wasn't the words, but the blatantly mocking tone. It was a shot fired across Michelle's bow.

Why piss off Michelle? Watch for it in the next few days, the next time they let her speak publicly after they think she's cooled off a bit. That look in her eyes tonight said she'll never forget, and never forgive. Hillary!'s hoping the vision of an angry black woman on everybody's TeeVees will put McCain in the White House and leave the 2012 nomination without an incumbent presumptive.

That mission accomplished, she turned her attention and simultaneous lack of attention on Barack. I'm sure that if this speech hadn't been so carefully crafted for other purposes, she could have found the bulk of it on the net complete with "Fill in candidate name here" blanks. A political Mad Lib.

When she wasn't making everybody's eyes glaze over in preparation for losing the next Barack mention in white noise, she was busy reminding us of Barack's "57 states" gaffe with her emphasis on having been to all 50 states plus Guam and the territories. Again, watch for the tone of that if you see a clip later.

Then, and this was a master stroke:
"John McCain is a friend, and he's served this country with honor and courage, but we don't need ...." beat .... "four more years..."
What do you think the people in that audience, and the millions on TV filled in that beat with? I know I did. Talk about damning with faint praise: "Vote for Obama because we don't need honor and courage." And she never had to say it out loud.

Oh the subtlety - sheer genius. She knew she only had to turn a few of her supporters over to McCain, and maybe convince a few more that they have better things to do on the first Tuesday in November, in order to have a clear shot four years from now. That she did it without once getting her hands dirty was quite an accomplishment.

UPDATE: Evidence that she nailed it. Of course, it's reported as evidence that she fell short of what she was trying to accomplish, but that's because everybody was reporting that her purpose was to "heal" the divisions, rather than deepen them. I'm sure the leaders of all those pro Hillary groups that suddenly sprung up out of nowhere (wink wink, nudge nudge) after she lost the primary were told to keep up the good work. The WaPo article is part and parcel of that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Matt, at the Null Planet that is Rashy, digs up a truly brilliant quote from MLK, and timely to some business I'm attending elsewhere. I think though, that the meaning of it goes deeper than his analysis. I've made it before, but the takeaway is that you have to look for freedom from within before you can productively address the impediments that lie without. He's right about voting - at best it is looking for freedom in the wrong place, at worst it is offering to trade freedom for privilege at someone else's expense. Thanks, Matt.

If you just can't help but watch the DNC this week, try to remember one thing while you do. It is the kickoff for the 2012 campaign. Oh, I know, the pundits will all tell you that it is about this November, and they'll be right to a certain extent. Barack may believe it as well, and of course, to him, it is about 2008. But to Hillary!, it's all about there not being an Obama to run against in 2012.

Just watch the whole shebang through that lens - Barack trying to beat McCain this year, and Hillary! starting the long 4-year march toward the White House.

Of course, there are those who think that it really is about this year, even for her. I think there's only a slim chance she's even trying, but I wouldn't put it entirely past her. If she does, the Recreate '68 people might get their wish in a way they hadn't bargained for, starting with the metaphorical slaying of Martin Luther King all over again .

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Attention Campers! Camp Hypoxia is now open. As you know, we've had some problems this year. After cracks were found in the foundations of several buildings at Camp Climate Change, our inspectors determined that the structural damage was irreparable and recommended we abandon the camp. It took us a while to find a new site, but we believe that the new Camp Hypoxia will provide all the amenities we are accustomed to, and even more.

As usual, Counselor Marx will be available to answer all your questions during the transition, and to make recommendations on activities and social functions. He will also be a huge help to us in the new advertising campaigns. While Camp Hypoxia is now open, many of the barracks as well as the main stage and beach facilities are still under construction. For this reason, your accommodations may be a little sparse for a while, and the activity calendar will be limited. But we expect to be in full swing by next year. Here's to a wonderful 2009 and beyond!

Those of you wishing to remain at Camp Climate Change during the transition may do so, but be aware that most of the facilities are being held together basically with duct tape and baling wire. While we believe that, with diligent repair and patching by our dedicated maintenance staff and outside contractors, they will remain functional until Camp Hypoxia is fully operational, there may be temporary outages. We will attempt to keep the activity calendar in full swing, weather permitting, but we cannot guarantee sufficient attendance at any event for it to remain viable.

A final note, those who procrastinated in renewing your ID cards after the recent name change, and still have your "Camp Warming" branded cards, these will be honored at Camp Hypoxia, but in the future you will be given only 30 days to have your card reissued. Good luck and happy camping!

EDIT: Forgot to hat tip Stevo, commenting over at Warren's other place

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I like Mark Levin. His heart is in the right place, for whatever that is worth. He aspires to, and sometimes reaches, genuine intellectual prowess. He's is both willing and able to think in the abstract, in terms of principles, unlike those who wouldn't know a principle, right or wrong, if one bit him on the ass, which often happens.

Because of this, I think that Mark may be able to appreciate the following in the spirit in which I write it: a humble and benevolent attempt to gently correct a long-held error in principle that is both profound and profoundly dangerous.

You see, if you are a conservative, Barack Hussein Obama is the culmination of all your political dreams.

I don't mean this in the crass and cynical way, so often the subject of accusation today, that people need an enemy, and so Obama is the lightening rod which will unify you in opposition, energize your base, and catalyze real change.

He won't do that; you're not capable of any of that. Your philosophical principles have rendered you impotent to take up an effort so serious, so utterly dependent on abstractions, on principles. It's not that you don't have any, you do, and you're to be commended for not just having them, but also being explicit about what they are, and doing all you can to actually live them, to put them in practice.

It's that you have the wrong principles. The harder you try, the deeper you dig the pit into which all of us in this country have fallen, from the depths of which the likes of Barack Obama rise up to grab at our ankles and pull us into the muck.

No, I mean that he is, not a means, but the end to which all your hopes and dreams have pointed. Because Barack Obama is a Marxist. That's not news to anybody who has been paying attention, it's certainly not news to Mark. It's also irrelevant, except for the fact that it is what makes Obama the most qualified to see your dreams through to their logical conclusions.

To you conservatives, Obama represents the worst disaster imaginable. And, indeed, he is. You wonder why, after reading so many things saying basically the same things the above linked editorial says, after radio hosts like Mark Levin reaching millions of people each day with the same message, with all your efforts to explain to your less politically astute friends, and even some of your enemies, what Obama represents... how can they not see it? How can they let a man like him get so close to taking the reins of such an awesome power as the United States government?

You should learn to be careful what you wish for, because you may be about to get it, good and hard. You forged those reins that may be about to be handed over to him. You don't realize that people do see it, and they want it. Your horror at the apparition doesn't mean you didn't want it, you just didn't want it in quite such a terrible form.

Despite your insistence on "small government", you've never really disagreed with even the most liberal Democrats, nor even with Marxists, about how much power the government should have. You're content to quibble over how those capabilities are used, whom they are to be directed against.

Did you really think your mere preferences would hold sway over those who also long for power - and want it over you? Over those who want money, property, and prestige that they never earned, but are more than willing and able to take from you by force?

Did you really think that you could make a "nation of laws" that would supercede the individual reason and judgement of men without rendering reason and judgement helpless against it? Did you really think that words on paper would not be subject to interpretation, modification, and just plain disregard by the men empowered and entrusted to interpret, modify, and implement them on your behalf?

Did you really think that you could create a government powerful enough to effect a "war on drugs" and not have it turned against your homes, your property, via eminent domain?

Did you really think you could create a government powerful enough to build bridges and roads and plumbing with your resources without that same power being used to build a welfare state with your resources?

Did you really think you could create a government powerful enough to compel your children to attend their schools from early childhood right through early adulthood and not have it turn your children against you, against your values?

Did you really think you could create a government powerful enough to tax and to regulate private economic activity without limit and still be able to stop it from creating economic incentives and disincentives powerful enough to sway the choices of millions of voters?

Did you really think that once that happened, you would fix the problem by voting?

You're collectivists, despite your claims to want individual rights and responsibilities. You want us all in this together as much as any leftist. You want us to be united as much as any Marxist does. You want us all subject to a common moral and political authority as much as any bleeding heart or neighborhood busybody.

You just prefer that we unite behind your goals instead of Obama's goals. I'm sorry to tell you this, but "we" are not in anything together. "We" are not united behind any goal. "We" are not subject to the same moral authority. I reject togetherness, unity, and external moral authority, whether it is yours or Obama's.

Obama may yet be kept out of the White House. But if so, don't think you've won anything. You'll have dodged a bullet, but that bullet will circle around again, and again, every time new ballots are printed. You'll never escape it until you change your core principles. Because those principles are what that bullet is made of. You can't run, you can't hide, and most of all, you can't stand up against it, because that bullet is you.

I know that individualism, rights, freedom, and personal responsibility are not your core principles, because you throw them under the bus whenever they conflict with what is really important to you: collectivism and moral authority vested in the state. Make them your core values, pursue them to the ends of the earth in their fullest meaning, and you can dodge that bullet for good. Until you do, I say, let Obama take the reins of power. You worry that he would destroy the Republic, and he would. Let it be destroyed. Let us have it gone all at once in an orgy of misery, depravation, moral collapse, and poverty. It would be better than the generations of slow deaths of a thousand cuts you'll have us suffer through with your lesser of two evils candidates and promises that they'll use the power for good. Power over others can never be used for good, and the lesser of two evils is still evil if he wants that power. Let anyone, anyone at all, have it and the best you can hope for is to spread the pain, deprivation, and moral collapse across the decades with the hope that you can die of old age without it hurting too much.

Until you conservatives start following what you claim to believe in, following it where you are most afraid it will lead, the Republic is dead anyway, a zombie staggering through history, slowly shedding its human trappings in a decrepit trail that shows only where it has been, not where it is going. Because where it is going is oblivion.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This is huge.

First, they have a functional neuro-electronic interface able to provide coherent signals. That alone, unless I've missed something, is a major breakthrough.

Second, they've been able to get individual neurons to self-organize to the point where they can cause observable behavior and respond to external stimuli.

Third, they've not only shown that a small collection of neurons, on the order of 100,000, can learn, but they have been able to influence it's learning and behavior by chemically altering individual or small groups of neurons.

Just the research avenues this allows are significant. The computational possibilities are astounding. The medical/enhancement possibilities this opens up are, no pun intended, mind-boggling.

I have a healthy skepticism of some of the more out there claims of the singularity-ists, but this is not just a move in that direction, it is an olympic-sized leap.

UPDATE: A better article with more detail

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"the entire host city has been turned into a kind of Potemkin Olympic village"

That's Andrew Gilligan, not The Skipper's L'il Buddy.

As I commented elsewhere, commies are great at staging, not so great on substance. At this rate, the impression of China the world takes away from it's big coming out party might be a whiff of desperation. Makes one wonder how much else about China is a carefully crafted illusion, eh?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pop quiz time. What's the least obeyed law in the United States? It probably is the least obeyed law in any country, but lets stick with the US for now. Any idea? I'll give you a minute...

la la la la la.. I wish I was ndixeee, hrahh, rahh... boomp boomp a dooomp doomp... la la la...

OK, you thought about it? I bet you didn't come up with my answer. The least obeyed law in the country is... wait for it... murder.

Really, when is the last time you obeyed the law prohibiting murder? I know I never have. Do you know of anyone who has ever obeyed that law? Have you ever heard of anyone who has obeyed it?

For contrast, consider another law. When is the last time you obeyed the speed limit law? Probably every time you thought there just might be a cop hiding in the bushes or around the next curve. You probably obey that law at least once or twice a week, if not every day. That one is a good candidate for the most obeyed law in the country. But I bet you've never once obeyed the law against murder.

OK, you probably fell into my little trap of thinking about "obey" as the opposite of "disobey". But it's not. Define it this way: you obey a law whenever you don't do something that you would have done otherwise, just because there is a law against it. If you fail to do something because not doing it is just right, you're not obeying the law, you're ignoring it. The law is irrelevant, or at least redundant. It has no effect on your behavior.

In the grand scheme of things, murder is the one law that probably has the least direct effect on behavior across the entire society. It makes big news when it is disobeyed, but then it didn't change any behavior in those cases, did it?

All across the political spectrum, in every corner of the body politic, from every coffeehouse where revolutionary plots are hatched, to the halls of congress on both sides of the aisle, murder is the one law everyone agrees is a "good law". Not even anarchists really want it eliminated, they just want to find a non-state based way to enforce it. Because everyone agrees murder is wrong - that's why it has the least effect on behavior.

So why not eliminate it? Of all the laws we could eliminate, the one nobody wants gone is the one that makes the least difference. Libertarians and other small-government types want a gradual approach, starting with the laws seen as most trivial, because they address the least serious kinds of offenses, offenses that aren't even considered all that offensive, let alone actually wrong, by most people.

But these are the laws most obeyed. They're the important laws, the ones everyone is concerned with, that everyone acts upon, every week of their lives, or every day of it. Who knows what kind of chaos would be unleashed if it was suddenly legal to water your lawn on odd numbered days, even when you live on the even side of the street? Could civilization itself survive the legalization of walking your dog without a leash and tags tied around its neck? Or throwing paper and plastic away in the same garbage bin? Oh the humanity!

The laws against murder could disappear tomorrow, and the only people who would notice, at least right away, would be homicide detectives and medical examiners. It wouldn't affect most people's behavior at all. Murderers would still murder, and most everyone else still wouldn't.

Except there would be a change in behavior, gradually perhaps, but inexorably. The law against murder doesn't have much direct effect, but it does have some significant indirect effects; the main one being that it makes most people think that they aren't likely to get murdered. If that changed, people would start taking their own self-protection more seriously, even though little in fact will have really changed. Hell, that alone might actually make the murder rate go down, though without all those homicide detectives filling out all those forms in triplicate every time one happens, it might be hard to track.

While the average guy on the street might not worry about too much of an actual increase in his odds of getting murdered, a certain small cross-section of the American body politic could come to believe that their political bodies might suddenly be in real mortal danger. Like, for instance, those people who make a habit of doing things that get other people thinking murderous thoughts about them.

People who ain't killing those kind of people now are probably not killers when it comes right down to it, and so the real danger probably wouldn't change much. But one has to wonder, doesn't one? One might think twice about whether one really needs to be going around pissing so many people off, if the next guy is that one guy in a million who actually used to obey the laws against murder. And that wonder might just do wonders. It might start having indirect effects on certain kinds of behavior.

Then we can worry about peaceably re-examining those other, more important laws through the established political process - if those laws remain the most widely obeyed laws in the country, that is. Would they? I wonder.