Saturday, May 20, 2017
Althouse points to a Peggy Noonan article suggesting that our President needs to, among other things, grow up. While reasonable people might see merits in Noonan's argument, reasonable people may also revel in the comments Althouse included:
"Many of the slithering reptiles in Washington are incendiary journalists who revel in this circus. A circus of its own making. This latest piece of yours is part of the act. But do you realize it?"
"This quest for certainty leads many to search to confirm their own beliefs, rather than seeking out the truth through exploring the possibility that they might be wrong."
-as cut and pasted from this Tony Isola blog post
Amos Tversky, the late collaborator of Nobel-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, once said “the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
-Morgan Housel, as culled from this blog post on the importance of thinking time
The underlying difficulty of today’s polemics about post-truth is that many well-meaning residents of the reality-based community are talking as though it is always obvious and uncontroversial what is a “fact” and what isn’t. And yet the very idea of a fact is a social construct with an origin. (As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has written: “Facts, like telescopes and wigs for gentlemen, were a 17th-century invention.”) Facts are fuzzy and changeable; in scientific practice, matters of truth and evidence are always at issue. The best scientific theories are social constructs. Whether they should be taken as accurately describing reality is still an unresolved debate in quantum physics; and, as the biologist Stuart Firestein has written: “All scientists know that it is facts that are unreliable. No datum is safe from the next generation of scientists with the next generation of tools.”
-Steven Poole, as excerpted from this essay
Friday, May 19, 2017
Thursday, May 18, 2017
In the mid 1960s, Norway was a regular Scandinavian country, subsisting on an economy centered around agriculture, timber, and fishing. Life was good, but by no means out of the ordinary (apart from all you can-eat-cod buffets). Then in the summer of 1969, while the rest of the world was focusing on hippy love, a Norwegian off-shore oil driller named the Ocean Viking struck oil in the North Sea.
Read the rest of the tale (about a fine example of second-order thinking) right here.
........................how much I love my BP credit card. For every hundred dollars charged on the card a reduction in gas prices is offered. It has become my go-to credit card. Gas hasn't been this cheap since I was in college. Think I'll take My Sweetie out for dinner.
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UNAM/Ioffe/D.Page, P. Shternin et al; Optical: NASA/STScI;
Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss
via the remarkable APOD blog. Do visit it.
"But it is hard to resist the idea that there is a news-fatigue element to what is going on. Stocks, traditionally, have overreacted to news. A thing happened, and traders thought they were smart and over-interpreted it, and the next day something else happened and people over-interpreted it the other way. But there is just too much news now. If you over-interpreted all of it, you'd get whiplash. So a retreat into under-interpreting -- from panicking at minor news to shrugging off huge news -- seems like a natural reaction. The new way to tell yourself that you're smart is by not reacting to news"
-Matt Levine, as extracted from here
.....................................................my favorite optimist doesn't have much good to say about wind power:
"As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips."
-full post is here
...............................................strange when you have to rely on Scott Adams for news analysis.
Trump is not the sole cause of all that goodness, but he hasn’t broken anything important. That counts too. We’ve had plenty of presidents who broke stuff. Think of Nixon’s price caps, Carter’s hostage rescue mission failure, and Bush-the-younger’s Iraq war. When presidents don’t break anything, that’s a big deal."
To ponder interminably over the reason for one’s own existence or the meaning of life in general seems to me, from an objective point of view, to be sheer folly. And yet everyone holds certain ideals by which he guides his aspiration and his judgment. The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.
-Albert Einstein, as culled from this remarkable bit of writing
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
........................or, it must be fun having an evil twin. If you are interested in Three Theories of Social Justice Activism, do read this. As a bit of flavor:
Regular person: “Mmm, chicken tikka masala is delicious.”
Activist: “I can’t eat that, as doing so makes me complicit in the British colonialist legacy.”
... Mr Baumol's primary intellectual focus was the entrepreneur, whose role was badly neglected by prevailing economic theories. This he reckoned was an intolerable omission. The differences between rich countries and poor ones rests on differences in their uses of technology, he argued, and that it is through enterprising individuals and firms that innovations go from the drawing board to active use across an economy. Business theories, he lamented, inevitably treated people as automatons, rather than potential revolutionaries.
Mr Baumol did better, casting entrepreneurs as crafty strivers dedicated to raising their personal status, who plot their course in life based on the incentives they face. Policy determines whether that means climbing the bureaucracy of founding Microsoft.
-as taken from this Free Exchange essay in The Economist
In particular, it is unimaginable, at least to me, that the poverty reductions in India, China, and elsewhere could have happened without globalization. Some argue that globalization is a neoliberal conspiracy designed to enrich a very few at the expense of the many. If so, that conspiracy was a disastrous failure - or at least, it helped more than a billion people as an unintended consequence. If only unintended consequences always worked so favorably.
-Angus Deaton, culled from his essay in the recent Cato's Letter, "Thinking about Inequality"
If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing
again, the earth's great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you will love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden's dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Populism is a political and social phenomenon that arises from the common man being fed up with 1) wealth and opportunity gaps, 2) perceived cultural threats from those with different values in the country and from outsiders, 3) the “establishment elites” in positions of power, and 4) government not working effectively for them. These sentiments lead that constituency to put strong leaders in power. Populist leaders are typically confrontational rather than collaborative and exclusive rather than inclusive. As a result, conflicts typically occur between opposing factions (usually the economic and socially left versus the right), both within the country and between countries. These conflicts typically become progressively more forceful in self- reinforcing ways.
Within countries, conflicts often lead to disorder (e.g., strikes and protests) that prompt stronger reactions and the growing pressure to more forcefully regain order by suppressing the other side. Influencing and, in some cases, controlling the media typically becomes an important aspect of engaging in the conflicts. In some cases, these conflicts have led to civil wars. Such conflicts have led a number of democracies to become dictatorships to bring order to the disorder that results from these conflicts. Between countries, conflicts typically occur because populist leaders’ natures are more confrontational than cooperative and because conflicts with other countries help to unify support for the leadership within their countries.
In other words, populism is a rebellion of the common man against the elites and, to some extent, against the system. The rebellion and the conflict that comes with it occur in varying degrees. Sometimes the system bends with it and sometimes the system breaks. Whether it bends or breaks in response to this rebellion and conflict depends on how flexible and well established the system is. It also seems to depend on how reasonable and respectful of the system the populists who gain power are.
-Ray Dalio, as excerpted from this essay
When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts - something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it's important also to see what's created and to see the process of a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.
-Robert M. Pirsig, from chapter seven of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
"... the biggest lever for change is not a change in self-belief but a fundamental change in the way one sees and regards one's connections with and obligations to others."
-The Arbinger Institute, The Outward Mindset: seeing beyond ourselves: How To Change Lives & Transform Organizations