June 30, 2013

The Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

I can take homosexual marriage or leave it. Discarding millennia of tradition in a burst of enthusiasm is something I have reservations about. (Millennnia of tradition were discarded when slavery was abolished. Yeah, yeah.)

My fundamental concern is not about the decision's merits or lack thereof, but about what it says about American culture. Seventeen years ago, the Defense of Marriage Act was passed overwhelmingly (Senate totals are here and House, here). Now we are dropping a bedrock assumption of our culture because of the efforts of a small but highly influential pressure group (not because of the merits of legitimate pro & con arguments or the fundamental importance of the issue...spare me).

The DOMA decision suggests the same cultural frailty which the redefinition of 'gay' did.

It also suggests that the country as a whole does not buy the stupidity, corruption, hypocrisy, incompetence, and lunacy of the GOP's religious kooks social conservatives. (Maybe Ted Cruz has the savvy to whip those clowns back into a winning coalition. Though wishing him well, I'm not sure anyone can do it at this point.)

Somewhat OT: Back in '09 I described Meghan McArdle's discussions of gay marriage as classic. Those links no longer work, but the material is archived here and here. Maybe McArdle got tired of paying server costs for her defunct site, or maybe her views have evolved.

Also somewhat OT: I'm for civil unions. When the country is divided on an issue, except in very exceptional circumstances I favor keeping the feds out as much as possible and leaving the matter to the states, or to the people. However, this post is about the cultural implications of the SCOTUS decision, not about the issue itself.

June 25, 2013

Triskaidekaphobia Done Right

As dicussed here, it is superstitious twaddle to fear the appearance of the sequence (1,3). However, avoiding all numbers which are evenly divisible by...a certain integer...is just sturdy mathematical common sense.

June 23, 2013

Illegal Bulletproof Vest?!

For what possible reason would body armor be illegal? It's harder for the cops to shoot you?

If the government could, it would remove citizens' right to self-defense. It's doing its best.

When Crazies Make Sense...

...you know things have really gone to hell.

Maybe the greedy businessmen now running the Republican Party should talk with their Hispanic maids sometime. Ask Juanita if she'd like to have seven new immigrants competing with her for the opportunity to clean other people's houses, so that her wages can be dropped from $20 an hour to $10 an hour.

A wise Latina, A.J. Delgado, recently explained on Mediaite.com why amnesty won't win Republicans the Hispanic vote -- even if they get credit for it. Her very first argument was: "Latinos will resent the added competition for jobs."

But rich businessmen don't care. Big Republican donors -- and their campaign consultants -- just want to make money. They don't care about Hispanics, and they certainly don't care what happens to the country. If the country is hurt, I don't care, as long as I am doing better! This is the very definition of treason.
Boldface mine.

AVOID THE NEED FOR SPYING USING ONE NOT-SO-WEIRD TRICK, i.e. don't accept as immigrants the populations from which domestic terrorists are recruited.
We have created two huge problems where none existed before -- domestic terrorism and government spying -- all to help the Democrats win elections by changing the electorate.
IMO the ruling class is not not in the least squeamish about spying on its citizens. They've always wanted a pretext and now they've found one. They're not happy about domestic terrorists of course, but they may feel, even if they don't admit it to themselves, that the benefits---to them---outweigh the drawbacks. How do the police justify a police state without threats?

Rubio and the American Worker

Rubio aide:
“There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,” the Rubio aide told Lizza. “There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly."
The image at the link captures Rubio's inner sleazebag well.

Ah, don't worry, Marco. Make a speech bashing abortion and all will be forgiven.

What's next? Will the ruling class hire foreign mercenaries to protect them from their own citizens?

June 22, 2013

Does 'Peer Reviewed' Mean Only Peers Get Reviewed?

After being recently published in prestigious psychology journals, papers from prestigious institutions were resubmitted to those same journals under the names of fictitious authors with fictitious, non-prestigious bylines. 25% of the papers were caught at submission by a small minority of editors and reviewers. The great majority of the remainder, which passed through the regular refereeing process, were rejected for publication. (HT: Instapundit. See also yours truly at ATH.)

(Senior author Stephen A. Ceci studies, among other things, sex differences in cognitive performance.)

...continues surfing for info & links...

Oh, good grief! Speaking of shoddy review practices, Reynolds neglected to note, and possibly to notice, that the Ceci-Peters article was published over thirty years ago. Given contemporary beliefs like Global Warming, No Global Warming, Creationism, Diversity, Blastocysts Are People, etc etc etc, the overall situation might have deteriorated since then (notwithstanding cyber-resources which have become available to check for plagiarism).

Here is a (relatively) recent examination.

June 20, 2013

Kenneth G. Wilson 1936-2013

My reaction is here:
During roughly the same time frame in which Wilson was doing his scaling-based work, Mandelbrot was formulating (and popularizing) fractals.

In my amateur opinion each was uninfluenced by, and possibly unaware of, the other’s progress. but in a sense they approached the same monolith from very different directions.
Maybe, in part, I did not make a post about Mandelbrot's passing because I prefer a researcher who sticks to his last to one who trumpets in self-promotion.

Even though Mandelbrot's flogging of fractals was arguably necessary to get the concept on the map, his (distinctive and undeniably important) work always struck me as a bit tainted by flakiness and not as deep as he pretended. Wilson, otoh, worked on very hard problems and a cheering section was needed to bring his work to wider attention which remained mostly restricted to the scientific community. Mandelbrot was his own cheering section.

Like commenter King Ray wrote at Woit's blog: Lightspeed, Kenneth Wilson.

Morally Rudderless

1. When the Western democracies are lectured on foreigh-policy morality by a Russian despot, things are very awry.
...After his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, in opposition to arming the rebels, Putin declared: "You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support? Is it them who you want to supply with weapons? Then this probably has little relation to humanitarian values that have been preached in Europe for hundreds of years."
(HT: Instapundit.) Humanitarian values preached in Europe for hundreds of years? That choice of words would leave a mark if the Europeans had any shame left.

2. There was a kerfluffle recently about Putin supposedly stealing the Superbowl ring of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft; for example, see here, here, and here. Obviously there is room for doubt, but in this post I'll take the accusation at face value. Three comments:

a. The pressure put on Kraft to keep silent is yet another indicator of the Bush administration's fecklessness.

b. Discrediting election opponents by getting confidential records is how Obama won elections in Illinois. Speaking of fecklessness, is he trying to operate that way against Putin?

c. Some acrimony existed back when Patriots coach Bill Parcells---not widely viewed as a knight in shining armor---left the team. Iirc columnist Will McDonough wrote a pro-Parcells piece claiming that Kraft's behavior was less than exemplary during the affair. Kraft is an Obama donor. Just sayin'.

Addendum 20130729.
Re #1: But David Cameron is for gay marriage, so no biggie about the cannibalism thing. Priorities, you know.

June 16, 2013

Socons Identify Winning Issue...Abortion?!

The message at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference: Don’t stop talking about abortion and marriage. “The Republican social issues we believe in are more popular than our economic agenda,” said one speaker.
He may havea point, but not the one he thinks he has.

There are worrisome trends in American culture for which a serious social and political price may be exacted from the nation. However, just because something is a bad idea does not mean it should be made illegal. Just because something is immoral does not mean it should be made illegal.

Moral derpitude is not the answer to moral turpitude.

Computer-Generated Proofs

Despite the all to evident, and dangerous, flaws in our society and human civilization, there are areas where progress continues.

A few years ago, Microsoft researcher Georges Gonthier and INRIA (France) collaborator Benjamin Werner recast the computer-combinatorial proof of the Four-Color Theorem into a logically transparent format Last year, Gonthier and collaborators completed a computer-logical proof of something called the Feit-Thompson Theorm, which has an important role in modern mathematics.

Why might Microsoft be funding this kind of thing?
But the research could also have an impact beyond mathematics. Microsoft hopes to develop a similar system for checking the logic used in computer programs, which could pre-empt some unforeseen bugs that cause programs to crash.
(Also, Bill Gates took Harvard's hardest undergraduate math course before he dropped out.)

Abstruse Goose: All math is applied math...eventually.

June 15, 2013

Strangling the Space Industry?

The Economist reports (HT: Instapundit):
The first obstacles facing any astropreneur, in the West at least, are America’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations, known as ITAR. Like guns and tanks, almost all rocket systems and space components require a licence for export. This includes shipping them abroad, but a licence is also needed if components are worked on, or merely shown to, a non-American. Tight ITAR controls on commercial satellite technology are reckoned to have almost halved American satellite manufacturers’ global market share since 1999. Space-tourism firms may even need export licences to carry foreign passengers on sub-orbital spaceplanes. Virgin Galactic, one such firm which hopes to start operations in New Mexico later this year, received an exemption from ITAR by designing its procedures so that passengers do not see what happens behind the scenes. But ITAR seems likely to complicate the company’s long-term plan to launch from a spaceport in Abu Dhabi.
Having believed that low-cost foreign entrants had taken away business, I hadn't realized that ITAR had been that devastating.

The article also mentions insurance.

And regulation:
SpaceX, a company that has already made two successful cargo deliveries to the ISS, is modifying its Dragon spacecraft so that it can carry up to seven astronauts. This means working alongside and ultimately being certified by NASA officials, who are writing regulations literally on the job. SpaceX hopes to launch its first manned mission by 2015. If it does not get airborne before the FAA’s certification exemption expires, whether in 2015 or later, the company may face two sets of regulations. “When the FAA does step in, if they have safety requirements that are completely different from the ones NASA has put forward, then we have a big problem,” says Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut who works for SpaceX.
It's likely that FAA and NASA will start a turf war, so expect a big problem.

Finally, of course, the UN.

Commercialization of space is one of the few things that Obama supposedly was good on. But, to quote Instapundit, consistency is not his strong suit. But, to be fair, no one has ever really demanded it of him.

June 13, 2013

A Retro-Upgrade to the Spoils System?

Honestly, we might be better off abolishing the civil service and going back to the spoils system. At least then there’s no pretense of fairness, and you know who to blame.
Civil Service professionals overwhelmingly donate to the Democrats (HT Instapundit). When the system has been captured by a single party, the rationale for a nonpartisan, permanent Civil Service has disappeared. In fact, we might be better off with election-induced turnover.

Term limits for senior civil servants? If they're so competent, they will have ample opportunities in the private sector.

There's no good solution because high-level expertise truly is necessary. However, when the system gets partisan enough, the question arises of how much expertise there actually is.

June 12, 2013

I Knew About Obama and Chris Matthews' Leg...

...and David Brooks and Obama's pants crease. I just learned about Sarah Palin and Rich Lowry's starburst.


How many guilty men should walk free so an innocent man is not convicted?

How many fraudulent votes should be tolerated so a legitimate voter is not barred from voting?

How many illegal aliens should be allowed to stay/enter so a legitimate immigrant is not ejected/barred?

Nobody wants to talk about tradeoffs.

June 9, 2013

Should the USA Control the Internet?

Not only do the recent NSA revelations hurt American Internet companies, they give grist to the mill of the repressive regimes and UN bureaucrats who keep trying to seize control of the Internet. I look for this to emerge as a talking point.

Yessir, America's intelligence professionals sure are smart. As are Americans who are making exaggerated allegations for partisan or business reasons.

Addendum 20130612. It begins. According to Instapundit, the Europeans are not pleased. IMO there will be more. Bureaucratic attacks take time to set up.

Addendum 20131017. It continues. (HT: Instapundit.)

June 2, 2013

Porn and Copyright

This kind of trolling makes me think that Taiwan has it right: pornography should not receive the protection of the State via copyright.

Newsflash for control freaks: that it shouldn't be subsidized doesn't mean it should be outlawed.

And yet...

Is it out of the question that someday the sex industry will participate in pioneering technologies, e.g. immersive experiences with sex robots, that will be adaptable for socially beneficial purposes? The key word is someday. The burden of proof lies with those who want to turn the power of the corporatist State should not be unleashed against consumers, which should never be done lightly.

North Carolina, a Model Conservative State

Last November the GOP won both houses of the legislature and the governor's mansion. And here they go:
Tesla Motors is fighting a bill in North Carolina that would effectively ban the company from selling its electric cars in the state, pitting it against auto dealers who say the car maker has an unfair advantage selling directly to consumers online.
An LGF commenter:
...Now we get to see what a conservative, free-enterprise government can achieve.

It all depends on what the meaning of ‘free enterprise’ is. In NC, it means that enterprises like car dealerships are free to bribe Republican legislators to keep superior technology from being offered to their constituents.

Afaic this is exactly how the Republicans operated under Bush/DeLay/Lott. And this is exactly how they’d operate if they got the White House and Congress back.

They’re not the party of free markets, they’re corporate whores.
More Republican governance.

Not that the Democrats, given their way, would be better. That's not the point. The point is that both major parties have Big Government agendas among which the overall welfare of the nation is a minor concern. It's not a partisan problem, it's a ruling-class problem.

Ayn Rand, Marxist?

Ingenious take at LGF:
In my opinion, she is a Marxist, or more correctly the Marxist equivalent of a Satanist. She accepted the Marxist worldview, but inverted it. Good became evil and evil, good.

Her works read like Soviet propaganda, save that the villains in Soviet works, the individualistic capitalists are the heroes in Rand’s.
Perceptive. It may well apply to libertarians and conservatives other than Rand, especially in today's polarized environment.

June 1, 2013

Mexico > USA ?!

It's the tenth-happiest country in the world. America is not on the list.

I don't necessarily take this at face value, but it's a reminder that neither should the depiction of Mexico as a a corrupt backwater run by drug gangs be taken at face value.

The USA also is not one of the Economist's top ten countries to be born in today.