THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 636 August 16 - 22, 2010
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August 16, 2010
The Votes of the Legions: See Also Saturday's View
What interests me is the size of those error bars, which no one seems to have noticed or remarked on. We are concerned about a temperature rise that is smaller than the standard error of measurement of most of these data. Even the final measurements which are more accurate have error bars comparable in size to the temperature rises.
Mann famously would not share his model with critics. Nor his data.
An old friend, and one of the participants in the Council Meetings from 1980. I just learned that he was killed in an automobile accident Sunday. He had just got his ultra-lite certified as an experimental airplane.
Bill contributed to this site many times. I will miss him.
The President has interesting views on the Mosque at Ground Zero. I do not think they are contributing much to his popularity.
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|This week:||Tuesday, August
They shut down the city yesterday evening and again this morning, because the President decided to attend a fundraising party in Hancock Park. This morning even bicycle traffic was stopped because the President's helicopter took off from Brentwood County Club golf course, and bicyclers were getting too close to the green.
He probably raised a lot of money, but I suspect he lost a lot of votes,
because anyone who had to get anywhere yesterday or this morning was given
to understand his place in this world relative to the White House.
Even the Los Angeles Times was a bit upset:
In Harry Truman's time there were more than threats against the President: Puerto Rico nationalists shot up the White House (well, Blair House where the President was staying because the White House was being renovated) and killed a guard. The next day Truman took his customary walk on the streets of Washington. When told this was dangerous he is reported to have said to the Secret Service detail, "Come with the job."
The Imperial Presidency has advanced a great deal since the days of Harry Truman. Or even General Eisenhower.
One does wonder, why cannot the city prevent this sort of thing? Is there a Federal law that says that the traffic of a major city can be brought to a halt for a fund raiser? Or did the city invite this? Nurses could not get to Cedars/Sinai. The police were unable to respond to 911 calls in a large area of the city which was simply shut down -- and neither the police nor the traffic departments had any idea of which streets were shut down and which were not. Dozens of streets were simply blocked. Producer John Wells had the party at his house, and nurses and doctors could not get to work their shifts. Police officers were commandeered -- I don't know who is going to pay for this. There was outrage when the Lakers had a parade because of the costs of the police supervision.
And of course people could not get home. The stories are coming in. Thousands and thousands were delayed for hours last evening and again this morning. Streets were simply blocked off, and the blockages were not manned, nor were they removed for hours. And this morning people driveways were roped off. You were not even able to leave your driveway. People were unable to walk to work if their path took them anywhere near the Presidential Motorcade route.
One would think that if the President is so afraid of the people that he will not allow ordinary citizens to drive on the streets while he is traveling from his hotel to a commandeered golf course helipad, perhaps he ought to stay in the White House guarded by mercenaries?
The Fund Raising Party at the home of Producer John Wells was well attended by Democratic Party candidates and contributors. It is not known who delivered the panegyric. Perhaps a panegyric is not yet mandatory when the President makes an official appearance.
Is it time to rethink just what privileges our ruling aristocracy automatically have?
They have apparently acquitted Blagojevitch or was unable to reach a verdict on his crimes: but of course he was found guilty of lying to a federal agent (not perjury under oath, just of lying) and faces five years. This is monstrous. It is one thing to state something under penalty of perjury. This is quite another.
Note that they couldn't convict Blago of any real crime. It's fairly easy to get a conviction on this charge. Look at Martha Stewart who was convicted of lying when she said she had not done something that was in fact legal to do. They had no crime to charge her with so they jailed her for saying she hadn't committed an act that wasn't a crime. So much for justice.
It used to be a matter of civic pride to cooperate with the government. No More.
Anyone who cooperates with federal officials in any way including exchange of pleasantries is betting five years that they are not out to get him. The proper way to treat these agents is with silence. Saying anything to them including the time of day or comments on the weather is a needless danger. [but see mail]
I do not understand why one does not have a constitutional right to present any defensive argument one cares to present when one is on trial for his life.
Case in point: a man convicted twice before of crimes that might be thought violent, although there wasn't any violence and no one was harmed, was arrested for breaking into the church where he had been sleeping and eating. He had been regularly fed there. He was tried 8 years ago on a "third strike" meaning that he faced life imprisonment if convicted. His defense was that he thought he was permitted to get food from the church. He is pretty clearly simple. The pastor of the church testified in the man's favor once he found that he faced life for simple breaking and entering and stealing food. Les Miserables, anyone?
But he was not allowed to make that defense. The jury never heard it. He was duly convicted, and has been imprisoned for the past 8 years. Some Stanford Law students managed to get his case presented to a judge, who changed the sentence to 8 years (time served), a change that was not opposed by the LA District Attorney. http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/crime/third-strike-release/
Periodically sob cases based on trivial "third strikes" come to light, such as the third strike of stealing a pizza. In that latter case the theft was by intimidation, and it was pretty clear that this chap was almost a poster child for the siwash laws. California is fairly new to "third time losers", but when I was growing up that was pretty common, or at least the fear of being a third time loser was common enough in the comic books and radio crime shows. Some people ought to be locked away until they are 45 to 50 years old just in the name of a better civilization.
But it is monstrous that a man on trial for his life cannot present the defense that he thought he was entitled to do it. A jury may laugh at the defense; but surely it ought to be heard? Why should a judge have the power to deny you to argue in your own defense? It is all part and parcel of the notion that people are not fit to be citizens and must be subjects, obedient to their betters.
I remind you all that Escape from Hell by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle is available in both paperback and kindle editions. It's a good read. Perhaps not as philosophically sound as C. S. Lewis would have made it, but we hope at least as readable.
August 18, 2010
I have a medical (eye exam) appointment shortly, so you'll have to make do with mail until later. I got the column done and it should be posted this evening. And the economic news continues to be bad.
The President brought up the 9/11 Mosque at a White House dinner honoring the start of Ramadan. I don't know why I find that a bit disturbing. But then the whole religion matter is disturbing. The Constitution specifically allowed the States to have established religions -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" and for the first forty years of the Republic some states had religions "by law established" which meant mostly tax paid clergy and public prayer at public events. Virginia had disestablished the Church of England before the Constitution was adopted, but seven of the thirteen States had Established Churches, and Congress had no power whatever to disestablish them (nor or course could it establish a Federal religion). There is on the Harvard campus what Russell Seitz is pleased to call "the established Federalist Church" and I believe it still stands and functions.
One wonders if it might not be better to do as the Framers intended, and leave religion to the States. I doubt any would establish a church, but certainly they have a right to do that.
For years I have endured Thomas Frank's liberal/Marxist
column in the Wall Street Journal each Wednesday. I consoled myself with the
thought that if this was the best the left could do when offered the
opportunity to address those more conservative than they, we had little to
worry about in the world of intellectual debate. I never did learn anything
from reading his column. Today he was replaced by Ralph Nader, whether as a
regular or merely for today I don't know. Nader is at least provocative, and
His pitch is against corporate America, concentrations of wealth, and centralization of power. Not bad things to oppose, but you don't control power by adding to power, which is what he has often proposed. I recall his people being triumphant over their victory over Alka-Seltzer, although I can't remember what terrible crime that Alka-Seltzer was supposed to have committed. I do know that we haven't seen the clever Alka-Seltzer ads -- I can't believe I ate the whole thing! -- since the Naderite triumph.
I have often said that one reason America did not suffer the fate predicted by Marx, that all the wealth would be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, was our employment of anti-trust measures. This was the thesis of David McCord Wright, an economist I mush admire -- I used his introductory book as a text when I was suddenly required to teach an introductory economics course -- and I have often thought on this. I generally approve of the notion of fragmentation of power. I don't think large companies ought to be allowed to buy each other -- let them grow by destroying the competition and driving it to bankruptcy, not by mergers and takeovers. And yes, I understand that there has to be some measure of sanity and reason in the way you do that; but for me the general principle ought to be that when a company gets too big to fail it is already far too big; it ought not be permitted to get to half that size.
Whether that is a more efficient economy or not is irrelevant. Concentration of power is dangerous and once done very hard to undo. Power can never be destroyed, but it can be fragmented and set to compete with other power. That's one reason I am strongly for State's Rights, even to the point of insisting that the States have rights to actions I think unwise, yea stupid and immoral to boot. I would not advocate that my city ban books including mine, but I would insist that it has the right to do it. (And of course that's moot now, and unenforceable given the Internet; but let me remind you that "Banned in Boston" was a mark of pride for some authors well into the 1960's. The Republic endured and survived. And I well recall that Jane Mansfield in The Outlaw was banned in Memphis, and some of us piled into a car and went across the Harahan Bridge to Arkansas where we saw the movie (and were shaken down for five bucks by an Arkansas State Policemen for having Tennessee license plates and no offsetting political connection sticker).
The cost of fragmentation of power is that there will be places that do things you believe monstrous and you will not be able to impose your views on them. (Think abortion, which is certainly a matter for the states.) Allowing others to do things you wouldn't advise is fine, but the test is whether you will 'tolerate' practices you think horrid. Think establishing the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints as a state supported religion in one or another state; I contend that the states have, and always have had, the right to establish religions, and indeed until the 1840's several did. They were all disestablished by state action; I believe the first such establishment was in Virginia under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson.
I would, were I appointed Dictator (a legal office in Rome, for six months duration, intended to allow fundamental reforms or dealing with extraordinary circumstances like an invasion of Gauls) I would do a great deal of power fragmentation, and when I was finished there would be no institutions too big to fail, and the federal government would have far less power over the ordinary business of life. Abortion, the rules of evidence regarding illegally seized evidence, composition of state senates, establishments of religion, education, and a great number of other federalized issues would be returned to the states as simply not the business of the federal government. I do not expect that to happen...
The August Column is posted at Chaos Manor Reviews.
August 19, 2010
.The August Column is posted at Chaos Manor Reviews.
Niven and I went up the hill, then had lunch, and I have much to do on Lucifer's Anvil, so there will be no essay today.
August 20, 2010
There are a couple of items brought to my attention by mail that seem very much worth looking into:
It's worse than it appears on first look. All our modern "smart cars" are vulnerable to wireless attacks that could stick the accelerator at full on, or lock the brakes, or disable all the cars on the road at rush hour. I don't know how vulnerable our military vehicles are to this sort of thing. I wonder how long it will be before the first anti-auto electronic terrorist attacks?
The other was from Mike Zawitowski, which reminds me of something we have written about before.
And is quite frightening. It says among other things
The misuse -- indeed culpable misunderstanding -- of statistical analysis applies even more to the "social sciences" which are shot through with "significant" findings that can lead to far reaching consequences, but on analysis are not repeatable or reliable and are more likely to have arisen by chance than by any actual real world mechanisms. One of the big problems with analyzing the "HIV = AIDS" hypothesis came from the nature of the evidence.
When I was in graduate school in psychology we were required to take a statistics course given by the Psychology Department. It was the terror of many students, particularly the clinical psychology students. It used a textbook written by the professor who taught it, and was in fact a far better and more meaningful course than those taught in most university social science departments. It was also fairly trivial, largely consisting of learning cookbook techniques, including tricks that could be used on a Monroe Calculator so that you could get a number of required calculations done with one entry. (Ah, if we had only had small computers in those days!) There were lectures on "the null hypothesis" and such like, but there was almost no discussion as to how probability works (or indeed if it works at all). Those who wondered about all this were told they could go read L. Savage's Foundations of Statistics. Few got past the first chapter. (You can find substantial parts of the book at Google Books if you want a sample.)
In my case I wanted to study with Paul Horst, and he required his students to go to the Math department to take advanced math courses, which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me since I was required to learn all the mathematical tools of Operations Research (including of course probability theory and linear algebra), but that's another story. But even in the math department the probability courses were more concerned with proving theorems than in understanding the relationship between data and reality. Fortunately I was eventually able to get through Savage, and that led to Bayes, and eventually to a realization that it's very difficult to prove general rules when you don't have a full understanding of the mechanisms involved. That is: scientific method consists of formulating falsifiable hypotheses. The problem is, unless you know (or are testing) the exact mechanisms involved, how do you know that an hypothesis has been falsified? The data are often inexact and are sometimes based on inferences from other inexact data. Clearly an example here is Global Warming: what data do we need to falsify the hypothesis? But that is probably simple compared to some social science theories.
Now of course much "scientific" theory is never subjected to the test of falsification to begin with; now suppose that a good half of the "findings" of science probably are false.
Clearly the better we understand a phenomenon, the more narrow a hypothesis we can make, and thus the more refined our definition of data. Also clearly the better the quality of our data, the more closely we can test the falsity of our hypotheses.
I'll stop rambling now. The important point here is that a lot of "science" isn't very good, because the hypotheses being tested don't make sense, and attempting to resolve the problems in experimental design when the data are fuzzy will make you head ache. If you want to know more on that, start with the Wiki entry on liklihood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likelihood_principle and read it (just assume the math is correct; you don't really need to be able to follow the equations) and see what happens when you're trying to measure simple voltage fluctuations all of which are below 100 volts with a 100 volt meter...
We have become a nation of taboos. Dr. Laura is leaving her program because she pronounced the dread N-word on the air. Not as an epithet directed toward some human being, which would at least be rude and which has implications, but simply pronouncing it. Jennifer Anniston used the word "retard" on the air, and now she must be hounded into submission. You can't say "stupid" even in casual conversation. I suppose no one should ever read Charles Erskine Scott Woods Heavenly Discourse because one of the chapters concerns what happens when God becomes disgusted and decrees that the stupid shall not enter Heaven. So must that book be banned. Of course it was banned in its day for being blasphemous, and the very people who would ban it now stood up in its defense.
Saying those awful words is hurtful, and mean, and anyone who says 'retard' must be destroyed, and we know all this because we have the statistics on the number of people who are harmed by people saying things like that, and it's all science, and after all there are no stupid people, and no one is retarded. This is America where all the children are above average. And everyone is entitled to be protected from being offended. It's offensive for people even to know words like retard and stupid.
"Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!" How long will the Marshall be allowed to continue that insidious practice?
August 21. 2019
.IS there a DOSBOX expert in the house? I have a problem with mouse continually drifting. Anyone able to help? I'd prefer not to have a long discussion on this. What I need is a way to control mouse sensitivity
August 22, 2019
.I took the day off.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 5,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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