Proof of work isn’t, but could be

(I posted this on the Bitcoin Forum, cross-posting it here for archival purposes)

We accept “proof of work” based on the assumption that there is no faster way to find a nonce which will give a new block a good enough hash value than brute-force search (currently requiring sextillions of guesses on average). But what if there were a hole in the crypto, a shortcut to finding likelier nonces? It would obviously be in the interests of the Bitcoin community to know whether someone had developed such a thing.

As things stand now, this isn’t detectable, but only because of the presumption that a successful hash represents work. Everyone who really has done the work, though, not only knows about the successful guess, but also about quintillions or sextillions of unsuccessful guesses which can be compactly represented by specifying the method by which they were generated; in the usual case, it will be possible to say not only that your nonce gives a good hash, but that a large number of others don’t–most likely, that yours is the first example in a very long arithmetic progression which succeeds after 10^20 or however many failures.

The success is quickly verifiable, but the failures aren’t; however, if I note the first term and common difference of the arithmetic progression I used, and assert that there are no earlier solutions than the one I found, I establish for the record that I am an honest miner who has done the work, because a shortcut to finding solutions while testing a lot fewer of them wouldn’t allow me to confidently specify a long enough solution-free progression to avoid suspicion. If the community randomly checked 1% of the new blocks that made such an assertion, someone who was using such a shortcut would eventually be found out or would have to maintain a suspicious silence about his search space or claim a statistically infeasible amount of good luck.

This can be started right away. No change in the protocol is needed for miners to document search space parameters as an “extended proof of work”, but it would be socially beneficial to do so, because we would all want to know if someone possessed and was using a secret shortcut to finding good hashes. If this behavioral norm spread, eventually those who refused to go along would invite suspicion. The whole system would thereby acquire protection limiting the damage someone with a secret shortcut could do–the shortcutter could still fake it by verifying enough of a progression including his nonce to avoid suspicion for non-compliance, but it would quickly be noticed that he was consistently much more lucky than he ought to be unless he ended up doing a significant fraction of the brute-force work anyway.

If this practice spread enough, there might be support to change the protocol to include it, though I have no proposal for how to apply sanctions to violators whose purported unsuccessful search space was found to include a valid solution. Even if you think SHA is the pinnacle of secure hash functions, you shouldn’t object to such a protocol change, because even though you don’t need reassurance there is no hole in the crypto, it’s good for Bitcoin overall if more people believe this.

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Acknowledge the Elephant (entry for AI Alignment Prize)

You know what I’m talking about. Whose values?

Humans want different things, individually and collectively, and I claim that bracketing this by imagining that the main part of the problem is not turning everything into paper clips is a major mistake.

I have seen way too much hand-waving about this and it doesn’t do this community any credit to eschew politics as mind-killing. I get why we do that, because the naivete and ideological Turing test incompetence around here is often staggering, but that means this is an area where we have failed to improve and we swim in a sea full of sharks.

Of course, “politics” is just a label for something that is really even more fundamental, which includes religion and psychology and sociology and basic human attitudes that vary in a much vaster space than most of us are used to acknowledging.

You have to get serious about whose values. Coherent Extrapolated Volition is a crock unless you preface it with a specification of who you will leave out, and how you will weight their anguish and frustration against the satisfaction of the Coherent Ones. Here are some concrete questions you need to start talking about:

(1) Is the ultimate source of an AI’s values to be an individual, a community of specified individuals, a text or code of some kind which relevant humans have hammered out somehow, a method by which the AI observes human society as a whole and forms its own synthesis of values according so some previously specified recipe, or something else?

“Which one of these sources turns out to be the surest and safest way to install the values the installers actually want?” is not at all the same question as “Which way of doing it is likeliest to give the AI the best values to install?”

Technical research won’t be enough, it will just allow the winners of the race to accomplish their goals whatever they are. This leads to the next concrete question that shouldn’t be dodged:

(2) As activists, should we push for international cooperation with suppression of unauthorized AI research, open-source research, working with a particular government, or something else?

Avoiding an AI arms race is a good top-level goal, but accomplishing that is inevitably political. This question also has potentially different answers depending on whether you care about succeeding in giving the AI the intended values or whether you care what the values actually are.

I am being kind here, because my questions (1) and (2) are still phrased in a process-oriented way which allows you all to stay comfortable, without identifying specific values and actors, but now I’m going to drill down and make you squirm. If you’re good at Noticing Confusion, the squriming should trigger that.

(3) What about God?

Most of the people on this planet ground their values in a religion. Are we to take seriously the idea that “everyone’s values should be accomodated” or its approximation “do the equivalent of taking a vote” or its meta-approximation “do the equivalent of what a vote would give us if everyone was able to get smarter and more educated to the extent that they wanted to” might maximize coherence by excluding atheists? I’m not an atheist so it’s not a problem for me as much as it is for some of you, but both theists and atheists should recognize that the dynamical system of coherent valuations might have multiple attractors and not assume that the one the system is headed for won’t be evil in any of the senses people use that word. (I’m not even going to get into specifically theistic concerns like whether spiritual entities are going to contribute to the process in some way, I just want us to admit that we must have something to say to people who ask what God wants.) The biggest religion by some measures is Islam, which is expansionist and problematic in various ways from the point of view of most of us here, but Christians will have their own priorities if a Singularity is being contemplated, ranging from Teilhard’s Omega Point theology to the identification of a powerful AI with entities they have been taught to anticipate will be apocalyptically relevant.

(4) What about freedom?

Read Maureen Dowd’s interview with Jaron Lanier in the 11/08/17 NY Times. I’ll wait. …. OK. Obviously we can use terms like “maximize human flourishing” to dance around the issue, but there are fundamental polarities between individualism and collectivism, between democracy and autocracy, between virtual reality and traditional lifestyles, which are going to factor in to specifying values and need to be discussed much harder. Yeah, we probably want to avoid a Wirehead Matrix endgame, just like we want to avoid being Clippy, but it gets more uncomfortable when you need to start getting your hands dirty. Do you want to maximize the weighted summation from N=1 to 7.6 billion of the integral of Q(L,N)dL? You’re going to need to define Q in terms of present-subjective-mood or reflective-life-satisfaction or comformance-to-current-value-system or something and build a time-discounting function into dL and figure out what happens when N increases and decide if the weights ought to all be equal, but before you can tackle that you have to figure out what is even possible. Maybe it’s important that people all have some actual input or voice or vote in the final value set, but maybe that’s impossible, and maybe we can maximize their ongoing experience by some measure but it will lead ultimately to anomie and alienation, or maybe we can give the people who want a say a say and give the ones who want money money and give the ones who want work meaningful work but we’d better know what we’re talking about when we talk about those things. This isn’t something to be bracketed away.

(5) What about China?

That’s another elephant we shouldn’t ignore, and it’s necessary to integrate the perspectives of the blind men who each perceive a part of it. It’s probably going to be the most important country economically, possibly militarily, possibly in AI research, and y’all don’t have much of a clue about the conversations they are having over there about the things you want to talk about over here. The biggest Unavoidable is who is in charge there and how much they control what happens and what they want. You may not care much who is in charge, but both their values and the values of the people in China collectively (which have a positive correlation) might come as a shock to you if you haven’t studied them. It’s easy to ignore what’s going on there, there are all kinds of incentives to, so here are a couple of things to chew on: most of the Bitcoin mining that occurs happens in China (which means anyone who controls it ultimately controls the blockchain), and China already has more billionaires than the USA does. In some ways they can get things done a lot faster than Western societies; their inadequacies are not our inadequacies.

I could go on, but I want to spark a discussion so I’m posting this now, trusting that Christiano will allocate his judgy-points fairly if the rest of you build productively on what I am saying.

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A logical gap

I am seeing dozens of stories that are full of evidence that chemical weapons were used in Syria.

Almost all these stories claim that the evidence proves not only that chemical weapons were used, but that the Assad regime used them, but the only hard facts are that people died from chemicals, and it is always only an inference from the fact that the rebels controlled the area and there is nothing to contradict the alternative theory that this was a false flag operation where the rebels used the weapons themselves in order to give Western powers an excuse to intervene.

Just because you can’t imagine ever using such an evil tactic yourself doesn’t give you the right to ignore the long history of false flag attacks in wars in the Mideast and pretend they don’t happen.

So I ask, has anyone seen ANY EVIDENCE that distinguishes between the two possibilities “Assad did it” and “the rebels did it”?

Earlier this year there was another alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, and a preliminary UN report blamed the rebels, and THEN THAT STORY VANISHED.

They don’t expect people to remember but I remember.

UPDATE: To the person whose comment I spammed: if you provide me with a real email address, OR you simply rewrite the comment to omit the places where you called me obscene names, I will post it and reply to it. If you aren’t capable of basic civility, then good-bye.

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The persecution of Shellie Zimmerman

Mrs. Zimmerman is being prosecuted on much flimsier grounds than her husband was

If you have any knowledge whatsoever of how the legal process for prosecuting felonies works, read the article linked here CAREFULLY. It shows pure vindictiveness by the state with no basis whatsoever for the charges. If you understand the article, you will see that we no longer live in a country where the state has any accountability to follow the law. I expect an acquittal if this isn’t thrown out before trial, but what we will never see, that we ought to see, is all the prosecutors involved in this travesty having their careers terminated.

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Race and Crime in America

Ron Unz on race and crime in America

This is a long article, but it’s worth reading the whole thing. I learned some things I didn’t expect to.

Of course I already knew that the relationship between race and crime rates was very strong. The two most surprising things to me were

(1) New York City is a huge outlier which strongly affects the nationwide results. The relationship between race and crime would be much stronger if New York City is excluded. What New York City shows is that changes in policing can tremendously reduce urban crime, and that therefore the racial statistics are much less depressing.

(2) Many right-wingers, baffled by the enthusiasm of American elites in both political parties for unrestricted immigration, see this as a sinister plot to replace white people with a politically and economically more controllable population. The author makes an interesting argument that an even bigger motivator is the desire to displace black people.

UPDATE: America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead | Mother Jones

I knew about this problem, but I had no idea how much of the crime statistics it explained. One of the most disturbing things about the article is how hard it has been to get people whose job it is to understand the causes of crime to pay attention to this research. Almost everyone has their own pet theory, which accepting this environmental explanation would reduce the relevance of.

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Bayesianity: How Scientists Think About Evidence

Most people don’t understand conditional probability and Bayes’s Theorem, which are the scientifically correct tools for reasoning using probabilities. I am going to give a simple example that I guarantee most people will understand AFTER they see the answer, and that I guarantee most people will NOT understand BEFORE they see the answer.

If you get this wrong, and then understand the answer, you might feel stupid because the answer is not difficult. You shouldn’t feel stupid. Instead you should feel SMARTER! This kind of reasoning should be taught in high school but it usually isn’t. There’s no shame in not having learned it — although to some people it is truly common sense, most people’s brains do not use this logic naturally and need to be taught.

Here’s the situation (the numbers are realistic but rounded off to make the math simpler). Women are recommended to get their first mammogram when they reach 40, to test for breast cancer. The following facts are known about breast cancer and mammograms for 40-year-old women who haven’t yet been tested or diagnosed:

1) 1% of these women have breast cancer
2) If they have breast cancer, the mammogram has an 80% chance of detecting it and returning a “positive” result, and a 20% chance of missing it and returning an incorrect “negative” result.
3) If they don’t have breast cancer, the mammogram has a 90% chance of correctly saying “negative” and a 10% chance of falsely saying “positive”.

In other words, the test is accurate but not perfect, and if you get a positive result you have to get further more expensive testing to confirm it or contradict it.

Here is the key question which very few people know how to answer: if you go in and get tested and the results are positive, what is the chance you actually have breast cancer, based on this information?

Obviously it’s now more than 1%, because it was 1% before you took the test and you now have new evidence that increases the chance you have it, but it’s less than 100% because the test sometimes gives a wrong answer.

Please answer in the comments so I can get a good-sized statistical sample and we can learn how good at scientific thinking people here are. Each time a comment arrives I will hide it temporarily so as not to give the answer away too soon.

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Double Drone Strikes

U.S. Drone Warfare: Secondary Strikes Target First Responders

This is way worse than I thought. A drone strike is an act of war, but can sometimes be justified just as war can sometimes be justified. I don’t see how this practice of following a drone strike with another one in quick succession isn’t a war crime.

The article says they used 2 bombs because 1 would be too inaccurate but that logic would fail in a war crimes trial since drone strikes are normally aimed at mobile rather than fixed targets! After the first explosion, if it was inaccurate the target is likely to leave the area PDQ and if it was accurate no second strike is needed.

I am appalled, it has been quite a while since my last downward re-estimation of the morals of our ruling class but it’s time for a new one. On my recently developed Evil/Crazy/Stupid metric for evaluating government actions, this scores 70/10/20.

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NY Times: trials should be about racial history rather than the facts of the case

The article from the NY Times that Ann Althouse savagely deconstructs here is a perfect example of the utter corruption of journalism (not that it was ever a paragon of objectivity and fairness, but this article is from the most prestigious journalistic medium of all and is so completely wrong that it’s actually evil, as Althouse demonstrates (some of the comments are also very good)).

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Snowden isn’t important, what he leaked is.

What they are telling us: Snowden broke the secrecy rules to leak information. Therefore he is a bad person. Therefore the information he leaked can’t possibly be true. Therefore you should ignore it. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Another way to put it: Other countries already knew we looked at all their phone calls and Internet activity. The only people who were clued in by Snowden were the American people, that their own communications were being looked at. Therefore if they say Snowden is a traitor for giving U.S. Government information to its enemies, that means they think we are the enemies of our own government. I already knew they think like that, but it’s nice of them to admit it.

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Complexity creeps

Here is an article which shows how the busybodies have been taking over. Read the whole thing.

This is what Jonah Goldberg called “Liberal Fascism”, but I’m not sure this isn’t unfair to Fascism. I’ve been talking to some people who are sympathetic to Fascism, and they also praise the notion of technocracy, but they would be horrified by the examples here, NOT because the state is bossing people around, but because it is doing it so STUPIDLY.

The main question as far as I am concerned is whether this kind of stupidity is inevitable when you give the state more power over people’s ordinary lives. I see two factors which aggravate the situation in the USA today:
(1) anti-meritocracy, and
(2) oikophobia.

This puts people in charge, or in the dangerous middle levels of the bureaucracy, who are both
(1) incompetent at understanding the consequences of their interventions, and
(2) contemptuous of the ordinary people who bear the burdens.

Those two factors are not essential to Fascism (because real Fascism is
(1) hierarchical and
(2) nationalistic),
although they pervade modern liberalism.

So it looks like Goldberg is guilty of calling his liberal opponents “Fascists” inappropriately, just as he accuses liberals of calling their conservative opponents “Fascists” inappropriately; the difference is that the liberals’ comparison is unfair to conservatives, while Goldberg’s comparison is unfair to Fascists!

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Today’s assigned reading:

I don’t always agree with Richard Fernandez but he is a brilliant essayist and this piece stimulated my thinking very effectively. Among the points he makes which articulate what I had been thinking and feeling:

1) Snowden’s whistleblowing is not reprehensible in the same way that many other leaks are, because he didn’t reveal anything about the US government’s capabilities that wasn’t already known; all that he revealed that wasn’t publicly known was their intentions (in the broadest sense, not in any detailed sense), which is something that (in the broadest sense) ought to be public since they are accountable to us. I also support the revealing of more detailed information precisely when it contradicts previous public statements or previous (not necessarily public) testimony to Congress. The government has the right to keep secrets only about details and not about their overall policy in the broadest sense; and the executive branch does NOT have the right to lie to Congress (especially in official testimony to duly cleared committee members).

2) The biggest reason our system is failing now is that it presumed that the individual human beings who held offices in it would have a level of internal moral restraint that, in general, they no longer have. This is partly because fewer people with the capability for office are virtuous in the right way, and partly because the people in general have lost the ability to select from among themselves those with either virtue or capability for office, as well as the interest and commitment to hold corrupt and disloyal officials accountable.

3) What he said about technology. I had not realized the Nobel prizes came about because of a random error by a newspaper editor; on the whole I think the prizes originally established by Nobel have been a good thing for the world, although the ones in Peace have done little good and occasional harm and have little credibility, and the ones in Literature have had no significant impact or influence. (Many of the ones in Economics have done harm, but Nobel didn’t create those.)

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The Zero Tolerance War on Kindergarteners

The Zero Tolerance War on Kindergarteners

Reblogged from Legal Insurrection. 5 and 6 year olds are being suspended for talking about their toy guns that shoot bubbles and their toy Nerf guns. This at first looks simply very very stupid and it is fun to make fun of how stupid the idiots are, but that’s not really what’s going on. One of the commenters got the correct point when he said:

This is a deliberate attempt to brainwash children with the “gun=evil” meme. If we don’t stand up to it and politically clean out some of these school boards, in 20 years it will become conventional wisdom that guns should be banned, period. Instead of being seen as tools and treated with respect, they are being turned into the fears of night terrors for an entire generation.

I hope organizations like the NRA, GOA, and NAGR will map out a long term campaign to rationalize school policy and replace school board members who refuse to do so. We must demand better school leadership or our children will grow up to hate firearms and beg to be disarmed.

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Good blogs I recently found

These sister sites are going to keep me occupied for a while catching up. I wish I’d discovered them years ago. 5 stars. I’ll write more posts about them soon.

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Legal Tender laws

I’m trying to understand what it means for states to pass a law making gold and silver coins legal tender, as is allowed by the Constitution. Most of the articles I have found on this make no sense. It seems to me that the way it ought to work is that merchants may voluntarily offer goods and services priced in ounces of gold or silver, and people may pay for such goods and services with approved gold and silver coins (such as those coins minted by the U.S. government which have both defined weights of gold or silver and face values denominated in dollars), WITHOUT any requirement to figure out how many “dollars” were involved in the transaction for tax purposes. No one would be forced to use gold or silver because no one would be forced to do business with such a merchant, but the state government would need to accept gold or silver as payment of sales taxes on such transactions, or of state income taxes from the person who received the coins but never converted them to dollars. Furthermore, a fluctuating exchange rate between the bullion and the dollar could not be used to require payment of capital gains taxes.

If a state wants to do this for transactions between people in the state, and is willing to accept taxes in bullion for transactions or income denominated in gold or silver ounces, but anyone who wants to do everything in dollars can still do so, this appears to be permitted by the constitution, because otherwise I cannot imagine what could be meant by the constitutional implication that states may “make … gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts”. (The Constitution actually states this negatively, that “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;” but the clear implication is that gold and silver Coin are OK as long as the state didn’t coin the Money itself but used Federally issued or approved coinage.)

But what I don’t understand is how this works for Federal income tax. The Federal government can’t do a sales tax, but the 16th Amendment says “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” and that is not limited to dollar-denominated income.

Before we went off the gold standard this was a non-issue because your receipts in gold and silver coins were always exchangeable into dollars at a fixed rate; afterwards, it was a non-issue because although states could have made gold and silver coins legal tender, they didn’t until Utah passed such a law in 2011.

Now, however, there is a problem because your federal tax rate is progressive, and this nonlinearity means that you can’t simply be taxed at a given rate for both your gold and silver income and your dollar income. There would need to be a formula that figured out the rate based on how much gold, how much silver, and how many dollars you earned, and then told you how many dollars you owed Uncle Sam, or how many Silver Eagles you owed, or whatever.

How the heck is this supposed to work? If I move to Utah and provide a service for someone in return for 20 one-ounce U.S. Silver Eagle bullion coins, which are denominated at one dollar each, and may be used as legal tender anywhere for a dollar (if I was insane enough to pay a tax bill of $1000 with 1000 of those coins I could), and I report that I earned 20 of those coins, does the IRS get to pick whatever exchange rate it wants to for me to convert my income to taxable dollars?

I predict that the U.S. Government will sue the state of Utah and say that the 16th amendment implicitly repealed the gold and silver tender provision of the Constitution, and that people must convert all transactions to dollars for tax purposes in the same way they are already supposed to do for “barter” transactions, using some defensible exchange rate (more easily defensible for gold and silver, which trade publicly, than for true barter).

Any legal experts out there who can clarify this?

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Best quote on the Richwine case

From the great Derb:

I assumed that Harvard professors eminent enough to be sitting on a  dissertation committee would be tenured. To be on the safe side I checked this  point…all three are tenured.

That means they have nothing to lose by taking a clear stand for  disinterested scholarship, for the reputation of their college, and for  their own names. Why didn’t they stand up for Richwine against the mob?

The entire justification for academic tenure is that it allows the best  intellects among us to roam freely in their research without any need to fear  political consequences.

Eminent professors at distinguished universities are the guardians of our  civilization, front-line troops in the never-ending war against barbarism. For  the Richwine Three to desert their posts like this is civilizational high  treason.

The  Chinese scholar Sima Qian spoke up for a friend who had earned the wrath of  the Emperor. Thus further infuriated, the Emperor ordered Sima Qian to suffer  the penalty of castration, and this penalty was carried out.

We live in gentler times, thank goodness. Profs. Borjas, Zeckhauser, and  Jencks are in no peril of castration for their offenses against State Ideology.  But really, in their cases, what difference would it make?

Full article here.

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Professional Liars Working Overtime

Recently, for personal reasons, I have developed an extreme sensitivity for, and intolerance of, being lied to.

This has resulted in my feeling depressed and angry because there are so many things about which we are lied to or misled (by “we” I mean Americans, though I am sure Canadians and Europeans have similar issues and it may be even worse elsewhere).

I could go on forever about this, but I’ll just list a few here for later discussion:

1) Benghazi, and other current government scandals like the IRS snooping on political opponents or the “Fast and Furious” program

2) Congressmen and Senators and reporters and editors lying about what is actually in the legislation they are trying to slip past us

3) Fake official statistics on inflation, unemployment, crime, budgeting, etc.

4) Almost everything we are told about the Middle East (all sides lie)

5) Almost everything we are told about immigration (here it’s not that all sides lie, it’s that only one side gets heard and it lies)

6) Numerous hoaxes and manufactured stories


Almost as bad as the lies, and in some ways scarier, are the non-lies, whereby Americans end up with very inaccurate opinions about verifiable factual matters due to agenda-pushing and suppression, and people who try to get the real facts out are shouted down or have their characters assassinated, but that’s a topic for another post.


Is it just me, or has the official lying gotten worse recently?

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An exchange on immigration.

Here is an exchange I had the other day with the blogger JayMan. The post I was responding to was a discussion of how there were some people who call themselves Progressive but were also against unrestricted immigration.

Polymath / Apr 27 2013 5:16 PM

I take issue with the concept of “justice for all involved” here. Lawmakers deciding upon an immigration policy, AS LAWMAKERS, for the USA have an obligation to Americans who elected them, and not to the citizens of any other country. A policy that is better for the current citizenry is to be preferred to a policy that, while worse for the people whose current citizenship is American, is better for the larger group of people consisting of the union of the set of current Americans and the set of people who are currently citizens of other countries but would under the given policy become Americans instead.

This is an extremely fundamental point, the obscuring of which is the major act of intellectual dishonesty perpetrated by the supporters of immigration. They are TRADING ON the confusion between the universalist MORAL instincts that most people in the USA have, and the nationalist POLITICAL instincts that they have. It may be, in some abstract utilitarian sense, better for the world as a whole if more people got to come here, but the current Americans are not required to be the ones getting the short end of the stick by any conceivable set of goals for AMERICAN POLITICIANS.

To argue otherwise is to say that politicians have no specific duty to the people they govern, but only to humanity as a whole. If the CEO of a company decided to pay dividends not to the shareholders, but to the shareholders of his competitors as well, just because it would be “fairer”, he would not only be fired but prosecuted for a breach of fiduciary duty; he is free to give his personal bonus away to whomever he wants, but he was hired BY the owners of the company to manage the assets of the company FOR the owners of the company.

It should be obvious that politicians are in a similar situation; actually they are even more at fault, because a more correct analogy is to a CEO who not only pays cash dividends to non-shareholders, but issues stock to them too so they can vote for a board of directors that will keep him in his job.

JayMan / Apr 27 2013 5:24 PM

Indeed. Duty to one’s country’s citizens should always come first for a politician, and then one can consider the good of the rest of humanity. There are more complexities, such as not furthering the good of your citizens if it comes at the expense of others’ (hence why not invade other countries and take their resources at will?), and generality not being blithe about the welfare of non-citizens, but yes, you get to the basic point.

Polymath / Apr 27 2013 5:55 PM

Your point about invading other countries is technically right, but even there, democratically accountable politicians don’t invade when they could get away with it militarily because of international law and treaties and so on which their own people desire them to adhere to. Usually it’s non-accountable political leaders who commit aggression against other countries.

Although it does happen occasionally that aggression you and I would consider morally objectionable is desired by the people, in that case the politician has a conflict between his moral duty (as seen by you and me) and his political duty, and he should either resign or publicly declare that what the people want is immoral. Our politicians instead lie and obfuscate.

(For this reason, I actually give kudos to politicians who defend immigration on the grounds that denying foreigners the right to come here is “racist” and hence immoral, they are at least honest, although confused and wrong; of course if they refuse to allow discussion of why it is “racist” and wrong, as they usually do, they are still dishonest but in a different way.)

A final point of clarification: one may argue that the USA’s propensity to attack other countries refutes my line of argument, because our leaders are supposedly accountable; but I do not view that as a case of immorally putting one’s own people’s interests ahead of those of foreigners; the aggressions aren’t actually in the interests of Americans but rather in the interests of a political class that is, unfortunately, much less accountable than it ought to be. That’s the explanation for the lying on immigration too.

JayMan / Apr 27 2013 5:56 PM

Yup. Good comment.

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A lesson about forgiveness

I had an interesting experience today. I won’t go into details, but I learned that someone who had wronged me was unrepentant and was never going to apologize. This led to something paradoxical.

It had been very important to me that this person admit what they had done and apologize for it, and I could not make myself forgive them without this. Although I understood how sometimes you have to forgive someone even if they aren’t sorry, in order to be able to move on and avoid being consumed by hatred and anger, I couldn’t do it in this case; I had successfully prevented myself from feeling anger and hatred, but I still wanted the closure of an apology.

What changed is that the person made such extreme efforts to avoid facing facts or talking to me that it became ridiculous and pathetic. Once my primary feeling about the person had become pity, and I knew that they were just emotionally incapable of taking responsibility, I no longer needed an apology, and I found that I was experiencing forgiving them even though it had not been asked for.

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Why politics is broken (3)

This article by Walter Russell Mead

The Once and Future Liberalism

from “The American Interest” magazine, is very well-done, but it depresses me, as does the discussion of the article there by a panel of thinkers who have nothing useful to add. However, it provoked the editor of the magazine, Adam Garfinkle, to write the following short book in response, which is about the same theme I’ve been thinking about:

Broken: American Political Dysfunction And What To Do About It

I recommend both of these to people who can stand reading people they disagree with in order to improve their own understanding, but not to people who react dismissively to someone making mistakes they find obvious. (The first part of the Garfinkle book can be downloaded for free.)

If you don’t want to bother: Mead traces the successive political incarnations of liberalism, starting with the Enlightenment and the 1688 revolution in England, through to the present day, thoroughly and accurately, identifies many of the current problems very clearly, and shows that liberalism must change again. Garfinkle explains how globalization and automation have made the old social models fail, how politicians have fallen for attractive abstract theories and ignored their practical consequences, how corruption and plutocracy prevent the system from being fixed. and the causes and effects of declining social capital.


They STILL can’t get out from under their liberal assumptions. They still assume without question that “liberalism” needs to be “fixed”, and they can’t see some very basic things that render their whole project unlikely:

(1) people are not only different from each other individually, but collectively, and how well a political and social system will work depends on who the population is, both culturally and biologically
(2) the degradation of our society and culture that they recognize is happening is not simply an accident of impersonal social forces; there have been and are powerful and influential people and groups driving these changes
(3) they cannot think in terms of traditional moral categories like virtue, sinfulness, duty, loyalty, authority, etc. which liberalism refused to take seriously. (They lament the loss of these things but treat this loss as the inevitable consequence of modernity, because they cannot appreciate them directly but only for their practical usefulness in ordering societies, so they wonder what new principles will serve this function in the future while taking for granted that the old ones are obsolete.)

I am probably speaking too vaguely and abstractly here, in later posts I will try to get more specific.

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Why politics is broken (2)

It’s the people, stupid.

What I mean is, the reason politics is broken is not a matter of political philosophy, nor even an issue of contending groups. It’s that the politicians themselves, taken as a group of human beings, are horrible. (The ultimate responsibility lies with the voters for electing horrible people, of course, but I’ll deal with THEM later.)

I am pretty right-wing, but I wouldn’t mind living in a state with socialist policies if the society was cohesive and high in trust. Regarding the current ruling class, I am far more unhappy that they are corrupt fools who wish me and my kin ill, than that they are implementing a stupid and damaging national health care system, for example.

We have an Evil Party which thinks the Stupid Party is evil, and a Stupid Party which thinks the Evil Party is stupid. As in the great Monty Python skit (with the Sensible, Silly, and Very Silly parties involved in British elections), the official positions on issues aren’t the main problem.

(Even though I think the policies of the current administration are ruinous, they are ruinous because the administration doesn’t mind if people like me get hurt, and the other party isn’t doing anything effective to oppose them.)

Politics works only when the voters have enough in common, socially and philosophically, that they can regard those who disagree with them as opponents rather than enemies, and count on their opponents to be pursuing the good of a group that includes rather than excludes them.

What makes it worse in America is that so many people are blind to the true situation, having grown up believing the propaganda about how great the American political system was, and they assume their opponents are acting in good faith and can be persuaded about issues.  In recent decades who-whoming has come to dominate what actually happens politically, even though it is dressed up in terms of “issues”. Politicians who try to appeal to and to persuade people who hate them are bringing a knife to a gunfight, but if they try to focus their appeal on people who are actually likely to support them they get accused of being racist and so on (why does that word STILL have power to deter people from standing up for themselves?).

This is one good thing that came out of Obama’s being re-elected: the gloves have come off and  people like me (productively employed middle-class married straight Christian white males and their families) can finally see how they are now the designated targets who will pay for everything and get economically squeezed out and socially denigrated as well. The encroachments are coming thick and fast now.

So Claire Wolfe was right, I think, that it is too late to work within the system and too early to shoot the bastards. But political action can still accomplish some very good things, even if it is not going to be possible to take over completely and kick out all those clowns.

In the next post I’ll talk about how to deal with the game being rigged, and what can still be accomplished politically. But ultimately the nature of the struggle will be more religious than political.


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Why politics is broken (1)

Was Claire Wolfe correct when she wrote

America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.

and if not, is it because it’s not too late, or because it’s not too early?

This is the question I am trying to resolve.





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Down with the moneychangers!

(I am reposting this because it disappeared from WordPress an hour or two after I posted it and I don’t understand why, it is possible someone misinterpreted the title, but if so that is disturbing because I thought that blogs here, unlike those at, can be politically incorrect…)

I am writing a post about “Political Religions” but I got sidetracked today with various family-related errands involving driving 400 miles across 4 different states, and I’m out of patience, so it will have to wait until tomorrow. I did want to post, though, about my horrible experience at JFK airport today. I wanted to change $100 into Japanese yen and Travelex Currency Services, Inc., informed me that I could get 78 yen per dollar, and if I wanted dollars I could get them for 103 yen each, and by the way there is a $10 fee for each transaction.

I’m good at math but I was so angry I couldn’t calculate in my head how huge their cut was. Obviously they can only do this because of their monopoly, if there were another firm changing money at the airport I estimate that the competition would cut their profits by 90% or so.

What I really want to know: which New York politicians granted this monopoly concession, and how much of a kickback did they get, and where can you buy tar and feathers?

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Math is the enemy!

I’ll have weightier stuff to write later, but wanted to share something that has been floating around, I saw it on Patterico (and fixed a math error):

US Tax Revenue. $2,170,000,000,000
Federal Budget. $3,820,000,000,000
Deficit. $1,650,000,000,000
National Debt. $14,271,000,000,000
Recent budget cuts. $38,500,000,000
Now, let’s remove 8 zeroes from the above, and use it as a household budget
Annual income. $21,700
Bills. $38,200
New credit card debt. $16,500
Family debt. $142,710
Family belt tightening. $385

Solution? Call VISA and ask for increase in credit limit

It’s already clear that this household will get its credit cut off, and that what the creditors will recover won’t be worth much, because it’s fiat debt. That’s not so worrisome; what’s going to hurt is cutting the expenditures by 40%. I can’t imagine that the USG will lay off millions of people, they’ll just keep writing checks, and it will be fun when the vertical asymptote arrives.

Math is unforgiving.

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No prizes for following the rules

This post

is about a minor issue, but I was struck by its conclusion:

…let go of the notion that the bourgeoisie follow the rules (hint, you’re the petit bourgeoisie). The elite are above them, cue David Gregory and Turbotax Tim, and anarcho-tyranny is the rule for the rest. Time for you to start who…whom. There’s no prize for being the last group to follow the rules as intended, or even the rules as written.

It is stupid to follow rules that your opponents violate with impunity. This is why evil beats stupid. Not only the pathetic Republicans, but much more broadly, conservatives, traditionalists, and good people in general, are constrained not simply by laws, but by ethical instincts that society in general has been losing for two or three generations, and they can’t get past the childish attitude that life is fair and there is some Parent in control who will chastise those who don’t play fair. Instead, all they have is a crooked referee who is really working for their enemies.

These people should recognize that they ARE the grownups and if they don’t play to win they will lose. Just being fair and following your ethical instincts may get you a reward in some afterlife, but it’s not guaranteed any good result on Earth, if you want something you must fight for it. Instead, lacking a positive vision of the good for which to fight, all they do is slow down the leftward movement long enough to allow the population to catch up and adjust to it, so further leftward movement becomes possible.

It’s time to flip the script. Unfortunately we on the right have no common positive vision to oppose the Left’s progressive and egalitarian agenda. We can all unite in denouncing the current ruling elite’s idiocies, but what to replace it with that can appeal to both believers and atheists?

Our current political class is the worst ever because they are unconstrained by conscience. Arguing against them from the Christian point of view, though, is not enough; they won’t feel guilt. Making them feel shame is the best we can hope for if we want to constrain their actions, but even though just shame is enough in countries like Japan, they aren’t loyal enough to the people in general that it can work very much here, they must be ousted rather than pressured.

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Blogging the decline and fall

I’m back. I’m not happy to be back, but the signs and portents are bad and I find I now need a place to collect my thoughts (even better would be a place to discuss them but I don’t have the energy or time to go around soliciting attention, until then I’ll let it build by word-of-blog).

Some of the recent signs and portents: the Gates of Vienna counterjihad blog just got taken down under suspicious circumstances, the coverage of the Algerian hostage crisis has been very systematically slanted, the Democratic and Republican politicians have been, respectively, even more evil and stupid than usual, the economic circumstances I see with my own eyes go unreported or are contradicted in the media, the movies released in the last year and advertised to be released this year all point in a certain direction, and certain people are no longer attempting to hide their agendas. I’ll go into all of this over the next few weeks. In the meantime, I have taken personal steps to make myself “antifragile” (look it up, I won’t say “Google it” because I have a grudge against Google): securing a 2.75% fixed rate refinancing for as much money as I could take out of my house, buying a few hundred ounces of silver (in the form recommended by Peter Schiff), and obtaining two different forms of home security (both are 3-letter words and involve licenses).

Fasten your seatbelts.

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Autism and Older Fathers — Garbage on page 1

The story of the day is this study which is touted as showing that being an older father causes autism and schizophrenia; the news stories suggest men ought to store their sperm for later artificial insemination rather than having kids the usual way when older.

The details reveal that the researchers found
(1) a correlation between paternal age and extra mutations in the child
(2) a correlation between paternal age and autism or schizophrenia in the child

but no evidence is given that the excess mutations are causing the autism, although certain slippery sentences insinuate that; no factor analysis shows that excess mutations have independent explanatory power for the autism frequency after the older-father effect is accounted for.

Yet another case of correlation being claimed to be causation.

There is an obvious alternative explanation: men with social deficits, who are known to be more likely to have autistic children, also marry later than average.

Am I the only one who noticed this?

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Disparate Discipline Insanity

On July 26th, Obama issued an executive order which received much less media attention than I expected it would.

After the Daily Caller website reported it, no one dared to touch it, but it’s insane. Here’s the beginning of the article:

President Barack Obama is backing a controversial campaign by progressives to regulate schools’ disciplinary actions so that members of major racial and ethnic groups are penalized at equal rates, regardless of individuals’ behavior.

His July 26 executive order established a government panel to promote “a positive school climate that does not rely on methods that result in disparate use of disciplinary tools.”

“African Americans lack equal access to highly effective teachers and principals, safe schools, and challenging college-preparatory classes, and they disproportionately experience school discipline,” said the order, titled “White House Initiative On Educational Excellence.”

I won’t even bother detailing how crazy it is, except to mention that the predictable consequence is even more misbehavior by black students and greatly accelerated “white flight” from the public schools.

It was bad enough when tests which blacks couldn’t pass at the same rate whites could were deemed unfair and racist and biased on that basis alone. But this policy assumes not that all races are equal in every intellectual area, but that they behave equally too. The obvious next step is a program to free black men from prison so the prison population will have the correct proportion of each race. Of course they may be able to adjust the black-white proportion to match the general population, but they’re going to have to start arresting Asians and jailing them on trumped up charges to achieve true racial equality. Maybe male prisoners should start suing because the laws defining felonies disparately impact them compared to women.

I wondered whether Obama really believes this shit, or whether he was just seeking to give advantages to blacks by any means necessary. The problem is a purely mathematical one: anything you do to equalize the proportion of students being suspended or expelled from school who are black to the proportion of the overall student population who are black can only achieve equality of outcome by inequality of treatment — white students will start suing because if you look at the collection of students who commit a given offense, one race will be punished much less than another. In other words, you must have one kind of disparate impact or another.

In my opinion, Obama is not quite THAT stupid. Therefore, he knows that this will result in more black misbehavior due to reduced punishments, and harsher treatment of white students, and he is fine with that.

But since this is about race, he is confident no one will challenge him because they are all terrified of being accused of being “racist”. I can’t see why this wouldn’t be a great issue to run on, but Romney is focusing on the economy. SOMEBODY needs to challenge it.

I have been planning to talk to my local school board about this and try to get a statement from them declaring that they would not adopt a policy that attempted to achieve racial equality in discipline outcomes by imposing racial inequality in the punishment of infractions. But since no one had picked this story up, I figured I had better wait until it looked like steps were actually being taken to implement the policy.

I didn’t have to wait long.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a bunch of scam artists whose main activity is exaggerating the threat of white racism in order to offer a feeling of moral superiority to those liberals who donate to them, apparently got a heads-up and filed a lawsuit last month against the school district of Okaloosa County, Florida.

The SPLC filing is here:

Click to access m8ez3b-8complaint.7.18.12reduce.pdf

and it is full of gaps in logic, arguments that school principals in the district are biased against black students based on nothing other than the statistical result that a greater proportion of suspended or expelled students are black (24%) than the proportion of students in the district as a whole are black (12%).

It seemed like this would get thrown out of court unless there was some statistical science to back up the hypothesis that the disparity was due to bias rather than actual differences in misbehavior. On the last page of the filing, the SPLC finally makes a scientific citation: a study published in 2000, called “The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment”, lead author Russell Skiba of Indiana University.

Since I am a professional statistician, I read the paper carefully, and I can affirm that it is one of the most deceptive and tendentious academic papers I have ever reviewed. It is conclusory but never proves its contentions, and when you hack away all the obfuscatory verbiage, and draw inferences from the data they published about the numbers they egregiously left out, the central technical result of the paper is simply that black and white students tend to be punished for different kinds of offenses, and the offenses blacks are punished for tend to be more “subjective” (meaning that IF a principal were biased against black students then he would have the OPPORTUNITY to impose disparate punishments by using subjective standards).

But that merely provides a possible mechanism for how a bias could result in disparate punishments, this is NOT evidence that a bias exists. It merely shows that the bias explanation of the racially disparate outcomes is not inconceivable, but the simpler explanation is that the punishments reflect the actual offenses. To claim that bias is proven by this is to beg the question.

The data that is egregiously missing from the paper is the actual frequency of the offenses for each race. Reading between the lines, and interpreting the various complex (and intimidating to non-mathematicians) statistical coefficients that they do give, I surmise that black students commit most infractions at a higher rate than white students do, but that the ratio of the rates is higher for certain infractions labeled as “subjective” by the authors. In any case the absence of data is suspicious.

Another confusion made in the paper and repeated by the SPLC filing is the following two-step dance

1) In your literature review, carefully overlook research that leads to the opposite conclusion than yours

2) In your argument, use slippery language that equivocates between “absence of evidence” and “evidence of absence” and gives the impression that there were studies which found that actual misbehavior was equally distributed by race, rather than that you failed to discover studies showing the opposite.

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A question about a question

Obama’s Social Security number begins with 042 which is only used for Connecticut residents. Obama never lived in Connecticut.

1) Why?
2) How is it that the previous question has never been asked of him?

Question 2 is, to my mind, FAR more disturbing than question 1. I can think of more or less innocent explanations for question 1, but none for question 2.

My current theory is that Obama avoided getting a social security number and avoided registering for the draft, by representing himself as an Indonesian national at the time he was applying to college, in order to obtain various advantages, and later, when he wanted a political career, had to manufacture a more conventional past for himself.

But I’m open to other explanations.

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A Short Analysis of Equality

The fundamental political chasm in America is over the interpretation of the word “equality”, which is a word with nice connotations that everyone wants to claim. Unfortunately there are some terrible fallacies about it which are making political discussion fruitless.

(1) A reasonable syllogism is “equal capacity plus equal inclination plus equal opportunity leads to equal results”.

(2) Nobody questions equal capacity because they get Derbyshired, but equal inclination isn’t questioned (except by Thomas Sowell) even though it’s an even more dubious assumption

(3) Because of this, Democrats and liberals can pretend there is no conflict between equality of opportunity and equality of result

(4) Which they must do, and must back this pretense up with lies if necessary, because they know that

(5) most Americans, if forced to choose, consider equality of opportunity a more fundamental value than equality of result, while most liberals and democrats have the opposite order of priorities

(6) And this pretense has the bad consequence that people of certain groups (straight white males etc.) are unfairly blamed and punished for the inequality of result between their groups and other groups, because they might have an influence over opportunity which they don’t over capacity and inclination.

(7) Republicans need to make points 1-6 [though they should attack the equal inclination assumption in preference to the equal capacity assumption] in order to frame the issue as a “tragic choice” between sacred values, instead of a “taboo choice” between a sacred value (“equality” unclarified) and a secular value. Here I am using the language of the cognitive scientist Philip Tetlock, who explains stuff like this


and here.

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The Trayvon Martin case, summarized

There’s a lot to say on this case, but I’ll wait to see what the prosecutor alleges. However, the following two links I saw today should give you an idea of my current attitude:

Why I Called George Zimmerman a Murderer, and Why I Was Wrong

Torch Mobs for Tolerance

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The Crooked Referee

I’m starting to blog again, in the hope that I can write something that goes viral enough to have some influence.

Those of us on the political right concluded long ago that the mainstream media (MSM is the abbreviation I will use) are working hand in glove with Obama and the Democratic party to ensure the election of Democrats. I also figured out many years ago that Fox News is not going to challenge this, because they enjoy their very large market niche as the officially designated opposition network, and they won’t rock the boat. National Review confirmed this weekend that they covet the same status in the print and Internet media markets that Fox has for TV news: they let liberals set the boundaries of acceptable opinion for them. And while talk radio isn’t neutered yet, the recent attacks on Rush Limbaugh have put them on the defensive.

What’s harder to understand is the attitude of Republican candidates. They are practically all media-whipped. The GOP disgracefully allowed the MSM to manipulate and control its nomination process this election cycle, rarely challenging their unfair coverage, the assumptions insinuated by their “gotcha” questions, or their complete dominance in setting the agenda. The spectacle of each candidate for the Presidential nomination being raised up in turn, in order to be batted down, made them all look like puppets.

Furthermore, they have completely failed to criticize Obama and the Democrats in the appropriate way, because they don’t want to scare the voters, and are afraid they will be punished as bearers of bad news often are. I think this is a mistake for 3 reasons:

1) There are tens of millions of voters who have tuned out because they recognize that we are heading off a cliff economically and fiscally, and the Republicans act like reducing the car’s speed from 80 mph to 60 mph without changing its direction will save the country.

2) Obama’s extraordinarily suspicious and incomplete background are being blatantly covered up by the MSM, and by failing to challenge this the Republicans show themselves to be either complicit, stupid, or cowardly. They’re afraid of being called racists, but the premeditated hysteria over the Trayvon Martin case, courtesy of the racial arsonists in the MSM and the Democratic Party who have made it clear that they don’t care about the facts of any case but only about the narrative they can make it support, indicate that they are going to be damned as racists no matter what. Once they accept this they will be free not only to criticize Obama personally, but to talk sense about immigration and race in a way they have been afraid to.

3) Even if the Republicans win, they need a mandate to make radical course corrections which can only come from the total discrediting of Obama, the Democratic Party, and the MSM.

Therefore Mitt Romney should conclude his acceptance speech at the Republican convention with the following paragraphs:


My fellow Americans, in the course of this campaign, there are several important but unpleasant truths that I will need to persuade you of. I ask that you consider them fairly. Two I have already mentioned are that we are in much worse shape financially and economically than we have been told or that we would like to admit, and that our current President and his administration are endangering our freedoms with their corruption and their radical leftism.

The third unpleasant truth is that almost all the information you will receive about news and public affairs, for the rest of this campaign, is going to be massively slanted, distorted, fabricated, and filtered by the media in order to make the Democrats win on election day, and that this process has already been going on for many years. It is an unpleasant truth because you have let yourselves be fooled, and I know I will be ridiculed for saying this; therefore I address my final words directly to the media.

To the reporters, editors, and producers of all the newspapers and television news programs in America: I accuse you of being a crooked referee. A boxer who is in a fight where the referee calls everything against him no matter who is actually violating the rules can still win, if he knocks his opponent out, and I intend to. But even if his opponent knows that the referee is on his side and fights dirty knowing that he will get away with it, he is much less reprehensible than the corrupt official, who has a responsibility to be, and pretends to be, neutral.

You want to prove me wrong? I’ll give you a chance. I’m going to make it very simple for you to prove me wrong, because I am going to ask you a simple question. It’s a yes or no question, and I insist that you answer it in your editorials tomorrow. Any attempt to evade it with an answer other than “Yes” or “No” will be interpreted as a “Yes”, because the question doesn’t depend on any facts which are still uncertain, it is a question purely about your attitude. In asking the question I am making no specific accusations against my opponent; rather I am picking the most egregious example of your failure to behave as reporters, editors, and producers properly should.

The question is: “Should it matter whether or not the documents released by Barack Obama concerning his birth, his draft registration, and his social security numbers, are faked?”

I am not in a position to evaluate the findings by Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County Arizona that they are faked; but I am certainly not so idiotic as to fail to notice that Arpaio’s findings have been neither pursued by you nor rebutted by the Obama campaign. You are acting as if whether they are fakes doesn’t matter; therefore I challenge you to answer tomorrow, in your editorials, YES or NO. Should it matter whether the documents are fakes? YES or NO? If you want to persuade Americans that you are not crooked referees, and that I am wrong to accuse you of this, here is your chance.

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Sunspot shutdown and the AGW religion

The Sun is entering a period of inactivity comparable to what caused the “Little Ice Age” in the 17th-18th centuries:

Scientists predict rare ‘hibernation’ of sunspots

I’ve known this was happening for a long time, but it’s “unexpected” to the quoted experts, because reporters’ Rolodexes (boy, that reference dates me!) only contain conventional-wisdom-spouting experts, for structural reasons I leave as an exercise for the reader.

What is hilarious about the article though is the perceived threat to the Anthropogenic-Global-Warming insanity that has taken over the minds of the academic-politico-journalistic elites. The pathetic attempts to minimize the impact of this solar shift with bogus numbers, ignoring the existence of the “Little Ice Age” mentioned at the top of the article, and to exaggerate the impact of Global Warming by a huge factor with discredited numbers like “3.7 to 4.5 degree Celsius rise by 2100”, have nothing to do with science or logic. The AGW religion exists in order to provide an excuse for the elites to seize more power, and the idea that some extra warmth might be welcome is a deadly threat to their carbon-regulating power-seizure mechanism.

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Fake Obama birth certificate changes everything

The White House’s release of a document purporting to be a scanned photocopy of President Obama’s original long form birth certificate (still available online here) is provably fake. I do NOT want to get into a technical discussion of whether it is or is not faked, although commenters may argue about that if they like, since the evidence is, to me, conclusive, and can be found all over the Internet (the YouTube channels of kdenninger and orangegold1 are good places to start). The blunder the White House made was making the PDF file available, instead of an image file which would have not contained all the internal structural information documenting manipulations that the PDF file format does. (An expert can still tell that it was probably faked just from the image file, but not in a way which could be conclusively demonstrated to a non-expert.)

Remember the fake National Guard letter which was intended to destroy Bush’s candidacy in 2004, and instead ended Dan Rather’s career after it was exposed to be a crude fake? For several weeks, the MSM tried to pretend there was still a controversy about its authenticity, but eventually they shut up because everyone who knew how Microsoft Word works, OR who knew and trusted someone who knew how Microsoft Word works, was laughing at them. This new document’s falsity is equally blatant and only slightly harder to demonstrate; there are so many millions of people who understand image manipulation software like Adobe Illustrator, and so many tens of millions of people who know and trust one of those millions of people, that the same process will occur. Although the proof is technically more difficult, since this came out 18 months before the election, instead of 2 months like the fake 2004 National Guard letter, here is plenty of time for understanding of the fakery to become widespread. It will happen without the mainstream media noticing, because they are committed to covering for Obama and all Democrats, and even conservative outlets like National Review and Fox News have not caught on yet, but they will, because too many people have an interest in pursuing this for it to die.

I think this radically alters the 2012 political situation. Since this document was on the White House’s website, they can’t claim they don’t know its provenance — they don’t have the deniability that CBS had in 2004 by pretending the document came from some mystery woman named “Lucy Ramirez” whose identity was never investigated (because the failure to do their jobs and investigate it had less bad consequences for CBS than, in their estimation, Kerry not winning would have). They have to stonewall, but unlike the earlier stonewalling where they simply wouldn’t release the birth certificate, now they have done something much worse, which would be regarded as an impeachable offense if a Republican president had done it (as, indeed, similar evidence-tampering was regarded when Nixon did it in the Watergate years).

Hillary Clinton could doom Obama’s re-election chances today. All she has to do is resign and say that this is new information which has changed her mind, and trot out an eminent document expert to back her up. This would force a real debate in the MSM, and the phoniness of the document is so clear that Obama would have to lose such a debate. If she doesn’t do it, Sarah Palin or some other Republican will; I claim that any Republican candidate who is intelligent enough and technically adept enough to personally grasp the technical issues confidently (as Romney, for example, is) will refuse all advice from wimpy media-whipped handlers to stay away from such a divisive issue and campaign on it, because they will understand the facts well enough to be able to defend their position against all opponents.

Rupert Murdoch could doom Obama’s re-election chances too, but he won’t, because he doesn’t care about politics really. It is a joke to regard him as being “on the right” in any meaningful sense. That doesn’t matter, though, because 18 months is long enough for the fakery to be widely discredited.

The funny thing is, I don’t think even a proof that Obama was not born in the U.S. would make him Constitutionally ineligible to be President, because his father’s marriage to his mother was invalid due to bigamy, so there is no legal presumption that Obama Sr. is his father (a name on a birth certificate is not enough, absent a valid marriage or formal acknowledgment of paternity or court-certified finding of it). But since he started with this story, he has felt it necessary to stick to it, it is probably too late to switch now.

If this does NOT get traction in the media, I will personally do as much as I can to debunk the fraud. If the media/Democrat complex is able to get Obama re-elected by successfully fooling most people until November 2012, I would rather be living in a Communist country like the old Soviet Union, since people there only pretended to believe the official lies.

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Open Thread

I am going to quit blogging for a while to deal with increasing responsibilities elsewhere, but I encourage my faithful readers to continue the conversations on existing posts and on this one, on whatever topics interest them. I will probably comment occasionally on old posts or this one. Thanks for all your contributions, I’ve learned a lot from you.

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Lying about inflation

Today I noticed that several things I bought regularly have recently increased significantly in price (movie tickets, gas, sandwiches at a local luncheonette, chocolate, ice cream (increase masked in last case by reducing package size instead of increasing price)).

We all know that the government says inflation is low and has been for a long time, but this is because of a lot of cooking-the-books accounting tricks. I understand the political motivation behind making inflation appear low, and the political and administrative mechanisms by which it is accomplished.

What I DON’T understand is how the Fed can act like they believe the lies and the real danger is deflation. Is Bernanke an idiot or a tool? A lot of economists and financiers are theory-worshiping nerds who place too much faith in mathematical models with garbage data — but even a nerd should be aware that the data is being calculated on a different basis now and doesn’t mean the same thing.

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San Francisco pictures

Here are some pictures I took on a recent vacation. My photographic posts rarely get comments, but I hope this time will be different….

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Poker math

I have had to analyze some multi-deck poker games recently. Suppose I am dealt 7 cards from an 8-deck “shoe”, and I have to make the best 5-card hand out of 7.

What is the probability my best hand is a flush (meaning no 5 of a kind, 4 of a kind, full house, straight flush, or royal flush are also obtainable)?

What is the probability my best hand is a straight (meaning no flush is attainable either)?

I solved this in a spreadsheet, but it was at the borderline, if it had been any more complicated I would have written a program.

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Depressingly predictable

I have not written about the Arizona shooting because it has been so depressingly predictable; I knew immediately that the shooter was a crazy person and that there would be a large number of liberal pundits and news organizations jumping to blame conservatives and Tea Partiers with no basis in fact for doing so, followed by a counterattack from the conservatives showing how the left was projecting onto them their own offenses, because their rhetoric is more intemperate and evocative of violence.

So I really have nothing to say, except some good links:

George F. Will on charlatans peddling “explanations”

Karl Denninger on leftist revisionism

Violent rhetoric at Daily Kos

Paul Krugman jumps to conclusions, then hides

And finally, a great quote from Glenn Reynolds:

As I think about it, the mental process seems to be something like this:
Lefty: Sarah Palin and the Tea Party movement encourage hatred and violence!
Questioner: How do you know?
Lefty: Because whenever I think about them, I’m filled with hate and a desire to do harm!

Reynolds’s description also explains why leftists want to ban guns and think guns are inherently evil: in the presence of a gun, they don’t think about all the people who are comfortable with guns and handle them sanely, they think about carrying out their own violent impulses and this scares them so they blame the guns instead of asking whether they themselves have an anger problem.

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Chess puzzle

Black’s Queen has two squares, a2 and a3. One of them draws, one of them loses. What should she play?

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Warning, explicit content

This document was sent to me by a pro-life organization I belong to. It shows what Planned Parenthood

PP memo

is successfully getting into 9th grade public school sex education programs (obsoletely named “Family Life Education”). The conference described here was taxpayer-funded. This memo is a report by a teacher who attended the conference and was appalled, followed by actual conference materials so you can see for yourself that the report is not exaggerated.

I am not in a mood to write about this in my usual thoughtful and mature style, and I’ve already done several regular posts today which are pretty good — for this one, I am encouraging (in keeping with the tone of the material itself) commenters to be uncensored and speak as freely and frankly as they want to.

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Waking Up about Islam

Following the success of Thilo Sarrazin’s book, Germany is waking up. This article from the German magazine Der Spiegel exhibits a bias against its subject all the way through, but the bias is so transparent that he still comes off well.

Riding the Wave of Islamophobia: The German Geert Wilders

In NR, Jonah Goldberg finally makes a point that has previously eluded mainstream commentators, that maybe the “peaceful Muslims” are insignificant:

Who Are the Real Hijackers of Islam?

He discusses the horrible story from Pakistan about how a relatively enlightened state governor was assassinated for suggesting that a Christian woman condemned to death for blasphemy on dubious evidence should be spared .

Here is more evidence, from The Guardian which cannot reasonably be accused of anti-Muslim bias, that the problem with Pakistan is Pakistanis, and the only reasonable policy for us is to back India to the hilt against Pakistan:

Mainstream Pakistan religious organisations applaud killing of Salmaan Taseer

A divided Pakistan buries Salmaan Taseer and a liberal dream

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Are Republicans becoming the party of white people?

It says so here

The Triumph of Sailerism

and here

White Flight

but the GOP refuses to facilitate this trend because they are afraid of being called “racists”. If 95-98% of blacks consistently vote Democrat, why would Republicans trying to get the fraction of whites voting for them to go from 60% to 70% be the racist ones? Oh, right, because black people can’t be racist.

A liberal friend asked me once why I was voting for a Republican; I said I’m a white male like you, most of us vote Republican, you’re the one who has some explaining to do not me. This was said facetiously because I was not at all shy about explaining the political reasons for preferring Republicans to Democrats, but the tone of his question had been “how can a nice guy like you support such meanies?” so I didn’t feel like answering seriously. But it’s become clearer to me since then that trying to make white people (and only white people) be ashamed to vote in the interests of the demographic group they belong to is a key strategy of my political enemies (and I don’t even call them opponents anymore, they treat me as an enemy rather than an opponent which forces me to do the same).

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Sowell on “Dismantling America”

Thomas Sowell is a great thinker and writer who has gotten even better, sharper and more focused, as he sees American society being destroyed. Here is an interview with him related to his book Dismantling America, which is a collection of his columns and articles from the Obama era. I know I’m supposed to excerpt, and maybe I’ll put some good quotes in the comments later, but this is so good that everyone should Read The Whole Thing: Sowell transcript on “Dismantling America” (and then post favorite quotes in the comments yourselves!).

WordPress is going to tell me how many of you clicked on the links, don’t disappoint me. 😛

Here is a 4-part series of Sowell’s columns on the same theme.

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Math puzzle

Answer without paper or computers: which is bigger, pi^e or e^pi?

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Which majors are smartest?

One of Steve Sailer’s readers sent him a link to this very interesting table:

GRE results by college field of study

This is really good data but I can’t figure out how to select the data in a form I can paste into a spreadsheet so I can analyze it properly, because of the settings used to create the PDF file. Anyone know how to do this?

The point Sailer’s reader was making is that Education majors do very badly, which I already knew, but I’m sure there is a lot more to be learned from this.  I’ll just note here that high Quantitative scores are concentrated in the fields you would expect, while both the Verbal scores and the Analytical Writing scores are highest for “Classics”, “Classical Languages”, Philosophy, History of Science, and Comparative Languages and Literature.

Also, there are way fewer 800’s in the Verbal exam than in the Quantitative exam, so I guess I should be prouder of my Verbal score.

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When can the government ban a product?

Constitutionally, I mean. Obviously in practice the answer is whenever the manufacturers of rival products can bribe enough politicians.

The EU has banned incandescent light bulbs, and the US is heading in the same direction. In the EU it worse because the alternative technology of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL) is subsidized which prevents the superior (to CFL, because of a more natural spectrum of emitted light) technology of LED bulbs from getting a proper market share. But the rationale for banning incandescent bulbs is idiotic. If you try to reduce it to syllogisms you run into several logical gaps.

You also have trouble purchasing a shower head or a toilet with as much of a flow of water as you used to be able to. And there are lots of other examples where the government bans products because busybodies want to exercise petty power by restricting people (that’s not the stated reason of course but the stated reasons can never stand up to scrutiny).

I am asking a legal question here. Due to the externalities associated with pollution, it is economically justifiable to ban, tax, or restrict the use of products which pollute the environment. But this is not that. These product bans are not to prevent pollution.

There is no legal restriction on my flushing my low-flow toilet 2 or 3 times in order to get it sufficiently clean, and no restriction on how many watts worth of CFL bulbs I am allowed to purchase for my house. There is no environmental pollution or impact associated with me turning on a 30-watt CFC bulb in place of a 75-watt incandescent bulb, except in the context of a reduction of OVERALL energy consumption. This is rationing.

Now the government is allowed to ration certain things under certain circumstances, but it is normally going to require an extreme situation like a war or a natural disaster. Americans would not stand for rationing on the basis of crackpot greenie theories about the evils of energy usage or water usage per se, independent of how the electricity or water was obtained (we are not talking about carbon emissions here, even if the insane theory that carbon dioxide is a pollutant were accepted).  But we accept the stealth rationing because we are told it is “green”.

Can anyone enlighten me of the legal basis for the Federal Government to ban particular technologies, not because they pollute the environment, but because of a policy decision that overall consumption of something should be lower?

Here is a good response from Germany:

Skirting EU law: The rebranding of incandescent bulbs as “Heat Balls”

Original version

We could definitely get away with this kind of trick in the USA too, if necessary. I don’t mind leaving incandescent bulbs on in the winter because the supposedly “wasted” energy gets transformed into heat which reduces the amount of work my furnace has to do, so I am not losing anything (well, I have a gas furnace so it is more expensive per kilowatt but if I had an electric heating system it would be equivalent). People who get CFCs wil have larger heating bills and will feel colder too (a nice thing about heat from incandescent bulbs is it is localized initially, so if I am reading late at night I don’t mind that the house thermostat is down at 62 degrees F. because the lit room I’m reading in is warmer).

There is a general problem with democracies that no one is sufficiently in charge to put a stop to obvious stupidity like this. I just came back from a few days in California, which has been ruined by exactly this kind of political busybodying, see my comment here. My parents told me that their city now requires recycling of food waste, which means people keep it around in garbage cans for days instead of flushing it, and they started to see roaches in their apartment building within 3 months of the requirement taking effect, after 16 years never seeing one.

I’m not even going to get into, in this post, the economic consequences to the country of banning incandescent bulbs. I just want to know where the legal authority comes from, and what kind of a finding of environmental impact is technically necessary to justify such interventions.

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Is Islam the enemy of Christianity?

Pope to hold peace summit with religious heads

From the article:

VATICAN CITY, Jan 1 (Reuters) – Pope Benedict, worried over increasing inter-religious violence, will host a summit of world religious leaders in Assisi in October to discuss how they can better promote peace, he announced on Saturday.

Benedict told pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square the aim of the meeting would be to “solemnly renew the commitment of believers of every religion to live their own religious faith in the service of the cause for peace”.

He made the announcement hours after a bomb killed at least 17 people in a church in Egypt in the latest attack on Christians in the Middle East and Africa….

“Humanity … cannot be allowed to become accustomed to discrimination, injustices and religious intolerance, which today strike Christians in a particular way,” Pope Benedict said in his New Year’s Day homily to 10,000 people in St Peter’s Basilica on the day the Church marks its World Day of Peace.

“Once again, I make a pressing appeal (to Christians in troubled areas) not to give in to discouragement and resignation,” he said….

The attack in Muslim-majority Egypt was the latest against Christians that has worried Church officials.

On Christmas Day, six people died in attacks on two Christian churches in the northeast of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, and six people were injured by a bomb in a Roman Catholic Church on the island of Jolo in the Philippines.

In a message issued last month for the Jan. 1 peace day, the pope said Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the world today and that it was unacceptable that in some places they had to risk their lives to practise their faith.

In November, 52 hostages and police officers were killed when security forces raided a Baghdad church to free more than 100 Iraqi Catholics captured by al Qaeda-linked gunmen.

The Vatican fears that continuing attacks, combined with severe restrictions on Christians in countries such as Saudi Arabia, are fuelling a Christian exodus from the region.

I haven’t seen the full speech, but I’m afraid Benedict didn’t single out Islam as responsible for the overwhelming majority of the violence. In this context that MIGHT be OK, as a strategic move — if he had singled Islam out then Islamic leaders could have boycotted without suffering bad publicity, while now if they don’t attend this “summit” they can be criticized there with more effectiveness. On the other hand, if they DO attend, consideration of the actual statistics is very likely to be raised at some point and they will have to squirm and publicly either justify or denounce the Islamic violence, both of which would be good things.

Still, I’d rather have seen Benedict call for a crusade. If I were to interview Benedict after this summit he is calling (for diplomatic reasons I would not ask him the question before the summit) I would say “Is Islam the enemy of Christianity?”

Benedict may not want to come out and say so if his goal is to save the lives of Christians in Muslim countries. But, technically, that is not his goal. He is supposed to save souls by bringing them to accept Christ. The destruction of Islam would result in a lot more conversions to Christianity than any other conceivable historical event (short of Christ returning). Islam is on the whole a very bad thing for the world, and from the Christian point of of view it is a bad thing for the souls of all of the Muslims too. I wouldn’t mind Benedict saying that not all Muslims are necessarily damned to hell; but a hell of a lot more of them would be than if they were Christians, if Christianity is true. It’s too bad the church doesn’t declare anti-saints, but if I were Benedict I would say that if anyone is in hell then Mohammed is.

I believe that Benedict may personally agree with this and that his diplomatic tact has its limits, and that he may be giving Muslim leaders this cordial invitation in preparation for denouncing them when they don’t reject violence. He might even draw a careful distinction between the right to violently defend one’s faith and the right to violently impose it — even though Christian doctrine says that one should not renounce one’s faith under torture, it doesn’t say it’s not OK to kill the people who want to torture you, if you can.

But unless I see progress from him in this direction, I am going to be very disappointed. And if he says anything like Muslims shouldn’t convert or that there is anything holy about the Koran, I’ll switch to Orthodoxy.

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Why public employees should never be allowed to unionize

Exhibit A:

NY Gov. David Paterson: Public Pension Funds Are About to Implode…And On That Note, I Am Outta Here!

Exhibit B:

NYC Investigating Reports of Work Slowdown During Snow Removal

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Crashing the system

People don’t appreciate how since the 1960’s leftists in America have explicitly and unashamedly desired to sabotage the American economy and fiscal system and make it unsustainable, in order to foment revolutionary change. The very same old lefties are at it again.

This article by Ron Radosh,

Frances Fox Piven Calls for a new Cloward-Piven Strategy for Today

shows how Piven and the editors at The Nation magazine are calling for “disruptive” protests, strikes, and riots, using recent unrest in Greece and Britain as a model.

Some have speculated that Obama actually wants to make things worse in order to facilitate a socialist takeover, but I don’t believe this. He will disappoint the Left just like he disappointed everyone else. But it’s instructive to see again how much the American Left hates America. Somehow, though, radicals like Piven and Obama’s mentor Bill Ayers remain prominent in American society. A country with a proper sociopolitical immune system would have tarred and feathered such traitors decades ago.

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Peter Schiff: Home Prices Are Still Too High

Schiff has an op-ed in the WSJ today here:

Home Prices Are Still Too High

in which he says

Even those economists worried about renewed price dips would be unlikely to believe that the vicious contractions of 2007 and 2008 (where prices fell about 30% nationally in just two years) could return. But they underestimate how distorted the market had become and how little it has since normalized.

By all accounts, the home price boom that began in January 1998, when the previous 1989 peak was finally surpassed, and topped out in June 2006 was extraordinary. The 173% gain in the Case-Shiller 10-City Index (the only monthly data metric that predates the year 2000) in those nine years averaged an eye-popping 19.2% per year. As we know now, those gains had very little to do with market fundamentals, and everything to do with distortionary government policies that mandated loans to marginal borrowers, and set off a national mania for real-estate wealth and a torrent of temporarily easy credit.

Schiff foresees a 20%-30% further decline in home prices.

From my perspective, homes are still overvalued not just because of these long-term price trends, but from a sober analysis of the current economy. The country is overly indebted, savings-depleted and underemployed. Without government guarantees no private lenders would be active in the mortgage market, and without ridiculously low interest rates from the Federal Reserve any available credit would cost home buyers much more. These are not conditions that inspire confidence for a recovery in prices.

In trying to maintain artificial prices, government policies are keeping new buyers from entering the market, exposing taxpayers to untold trillions in liabilities and delaying a real recovery. We should recognize this reality and not pin our hopes on a return to price normalcy that never was that normal to begin with.

What I’d like to understand, given how obvious all Schiff’s points are, is how is it even possible for the government to “prop up” housing prices any more? I think it is because many home buyers don’t care much about reselling, they plan to stay in the house and pay off the mortgage and they can afford the payments because of the low rates. But anyone who gets anything other than a fixed-rate level pay mortgage is an idiot in this market, because a floating-rate mortgage or a balloon mortgage will become unpayable in a few years.

This explanation doesn’t work for the commercial real estate market, so I predict it will collapse first.

I still get bombarded with mail solicitiations to refinance or to borrow money against my house, though I only get a couple of these a week while at the height of the bubble a few years ago there would be 1 or 2 every day. I’ve already got a HELOC for as much as I could conceivably want to borrow, which is a lot less than the value of my house (even after applying Schiff’s 30% correction). But the machine that inflated the bubble is still operating.

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