24 June 2006

Crutches for weak thinkers… …or else manipulative tools exploited by those who want to be our masters

A lengthy but worthy screed by David Brin concerning “Allocation vs Markets” &mdash an ancient struggle with strange modern implications. Another of his invectives that rails against the so-called "left-right political axis".
As most of you know, I have long inveighed against the hoary and almost-meaningless so-called "left-right political axis," a metaphor to which (absurdly) countless millions of people still cling, 250 years after the French (of all people) thought it up -- a "spectrum" that mindlessly narrows and channels all political debate. A tidy model that halves every political IQ, forcing sophisticated, 21st Century minds into enmity with folk who may share many values, and compels you into alliance with others who want a world very different than you do.

Brin details the fallacies of Guided Allocation of Resources (GAR) versus the modern "fetishism" of Faith in Blind Markets. First exactly, what is GAR?

This notion contends that society’s best, brightest and wisest should decide how capital will be invested, which goods will be produced, and who will work at what tasks.

To those who were raised in the 20th Century, this description surely sounds like socialism. But that is a narrow and parochial view of GAR. A glaring logical and historical fallacy. An absurdity, in fact. (As a test of your own flexibility and sagacity, stop here and ponder for a moment why I call this reflex association preposterous. Why do I say that socialism is NOT the foremost or exclusive exemplar of guided allocation? Think "history" and stretch your assumptions a bit, before reading on.)

In fact, GAR has been the fundamental principle of governance and economics in nearly all human societies -- not just socialistic ones -- ever since the discovery of agriculture! Take the cabals of kings, nobles, and clerics that ruled over most of them. Those oligarchs felt just as sure of their superior ability to manage and allocate resources -- including human labor -- as the Soviet nomenklatura commissars were. Perhaps more so!

But what about the logical trap at the other end, the postulation that the wise opposite of GAR is Faith in Blind Markets (FIBM):

In other words, because we have learned that GAR (all capital letters) stinks as a general system, that means we must flee as far as we can, to extremes in the diametric direction! We should reject any use of "gar" (lower case) tools to help markets work better. In extremum, this teaching calls upon us to reject the entire suite of problem-solving methodologies that involve political deliberation, prioritizing and allocating a certain fraction of social resources toward the accomplishment of thoroughly considered and democratically-chosen consensus goals.

Um, has anyone else pondered the unbelievable reductio meaning of this cult incantation? That an ideal human society should make little or no use of our great facility for planing and foresight?

Individuals may peer ahead. Corporations are allowed to do so. Aristocrats may do so in small collusive groups and in secret. But en-masse we must spurn our hard-won propensity for gedankenexperiment and precautionary action!

Astonishingly, those who seek a fetishistic opposite to GAR seem to be declaring faith and fealty to a new godhead. A non-promethean deity who demands quiet from humanity's collective prefrontal lobes. In blithe and devout expectation of externally-delivered salvation, they pray to an idol of mass-social unsapience.

The crux of the matter?

…history shows that we have absolutely no basis for blindly trusting that creative cornucopia explosion to happen all by itself! The engendering of those creative millions is too serious and important a task to leave to such a simple dogma! Especially to a blithe nostrum, that has no support in the long history of nations.

True, hierarchical guided allocation proved dangerous and stupid countless times in the past. But not when it has been applied toward well-focused tasks that enhance the capability of millions of human beings to become sagacious individual citizens and market participants! Our universities and internets and democracies and civil rights and commercial codes and free education and subsidized roads and nutrition programs and countless other measures that mitigated the tendency of society to slump into a pyramidal hierarchy of inherited privilege. By helping each generation of kids to believe - in some confidence - that they are able to innovate and cooperate and joyfully compete, we created the world's first diamond-shaped society.

And we did it using judicious dollops of carefully considered gar... (lower case)... not GAR.

If the left is never satisfied in pushing for such things, sometimes forgetting what they are for, the right has no claim to be smug. They take all of these things (like civil rights) for granted, glad to accept the benefits, forgetting that conservatives fought against every last one of them, and now resist every new fine-tuning that might help the great cornucopian machine to work better.

While I don't agree with Brin on other issues, this polemic here is on the mark and it is my hope that many will grok it and get it. That they will see through the subterfuge advanced by partisans of the two party power base, to grasp the root political principles from which legislation should be based on.

Capitalist Soccer and Socialist Football

The 2006 FIFA World Cup begins the round of 16 today. I am not much of a soccer fan, but I definitely tune in and watch as many matches as possible every four years when this epic sporting event occurs. And I have enjoyed immensely the 2006 edition, hosted by Germany, with match start times of early morning or noon time, I've been able to catch a number of matches. All of the contests are being broadcast in HD and look fabulous on the big screen.

In the United States, professional football rules the sports roost, but all over the world, soccer is the premier game. Much ballyhooed is the spectacle of the televised Super Bowl every year, but it pales in comparison to the World Cup. While the Super Bowl enjoys a television audience of close to 100 million people (98% of which reside in the United States), the 2002 World Cup final was watched by 1.1 billion individuals (a sixth of the entire planet population).

Soccer is often derided as a boring pasttime for socialist, drunken hooligan, action deficient European nations, but truth is professional soccer is definitively more capitalistic than the decidedly socialistic nature of the American professional sports.

23 June 2006

How hard is it to cancel AOL?

The nightmare of cancelling AOL

Scalia turned my research completely on its head

So says a a leading criminologist, in response to SCOTUS Justice Scalia's justification in the Hudson ruling for the judiciary not enforcing the "knock and announce rule".
In an interview with Radley Blako, published in The Agitatior, Criminology Prof. Sam Walker (UN-Omaha), who serves on the Panel on Policing of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, states "Scalia turned my research completely on its head. My point was that these reforms came about because the courts, specifically the Warren Court, forced the police to institute better procedures with judicial oversight. Scalia now wants to take that oversight away."

Picking up on Professor Walker's concern, Ed Brayton, Dispatches From the Culture Wars, observes the following:

The irony of this is that Scalia, by his own declaration a textualist and an originalist, would be the first one to criticize reliance on social science research to justify a court ruling. Yet not only does he use such research to justify his ruling here, he does so sloppily and inaccurately. If he did not agree with the outcome of the decision, if it was written by someone other than him using the same reasoning for a goal he didn't agree with, Scalia would be the first one out front blistering this decision as exactly the kind of unprincipled, undisciplined judicial reasoning that one would expect from those horrible liberals who ignore sound judicial interpretation in favor of injecting their own social science driven biases into the law.

Americans being setup for the full blown police state.

20 June 2006

Construction Time Again

Server migration has just occurred and now the CAPTCHA mechanism that prevents the continous barrage of unsightly spam is not working so it was necessary for me to disable commenting, except for those visitors logged into the site.

Hopefully, I will have this dilemma solved soon.

Update: working now…

9 June 2006

A turning point in the history of the Internet

The U.S. House of Representatives rejects the concept of Net Neutrality, as the Republican leadership aligns itself with the telco desire to divvy up internet access into a tiered framework, where they can grant bigger bandwidth to preferred entities and even block or stall other net traffic.

In the words of the man who created the World Wide Web:

Twenty-seven years ago, the inventors of the Internet designed an architecture which was simple and general. Any computer could send a packet to any other computer. The network did not look inside packets. It is the cleanness of that design, and the strict independence of the layers, which allowed the Internet to grow and be useful. It allowed the hardware and transmission technology supporting the Internet to evolve through a thousandfold increase in speed, yet still run the same applications. It allowed new Internet applications to be introduced and to evolve independently.

When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone's permission. The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried then, and many people still work very hard still, to make the Web technology, in turn, a universal, neutral, platform. It must not discriminate against particular hardware, software, underlying network, language, culture, disability, or against particular types of data.

Anyone can build a new application on the Web, without asking me, or Vint Cerf, or their ISP, or their cable company, or their operating system provider, or their government, or their hardware vendor.

It is of the utmost importance that, if I connect to the Internet, and you connect to the Internet, that we can then run any Internet application we want, without discrimination as to who we are or what we are doing. We pay for connection to the Net as though it were a cloud which magically delivers our packets. We may pay for a higher or a lower quality of service. We may pay for a service which has the characteristics of being good for video, or quality audio. But we each pay to connect to the Net, but no one can pay for exclusive access to me.

When I was a child, I was impressed by the fact that the installation fee for a telephone was everywhere the same in the UK, whether you lived in a city or on a mountain, just as the same stamp would get a letter to either place.

To actually design legislation which allows creative interconnections between different service providers, but ensures neutrality of the Net as a whole may be a difficult task. It is a very important one. The US should do it now, and, if it turns out to be the only way, be as draconian as to require financial isolation between IP providers and businesses in other layers.

The Internet is increasingly becoming the dominant medium binding us. The neutral communications medium is essential to our society. It is the basis of a fair competitive market economy. It is the basis of democracy, by which a community should decide what to do. It is the basis of science, by which humankind should decide what is true.

Let us protect the neutrality of the net.

Indeed, the free and open architecture of the internet has a great enabler of progress and advancing technology, and it's no surprise that the successful online companies are speaking out too. Google and Ebay embarked upon email campaigns in support of Net Neutrality.

Republican politicos are going full tilt to paint this debate as an argument about unnecessary federal regulation. But that obscures the fact that it's just a valid on ensuring monopolies play fairly if there are going to be monopolies in the first place. Telcos get money, equipment, immunity from legislation and a government enforced monopoly in exchange for the duty of impartially carrying bits. Or at least until now, where the Republican majority seems to be more concerned with helping the telcos stack their profit coffers, than ensuring a free and open internet.

Lawrence Lessig and Robert McChesney, in brilliant fashion, lay out the facts here:

Most of the great innovators in the history of the Internet started out in their garages with great ideas and little capital. This is no accident. Network neutrality protections minimized control by the network owners, maximized competition and invited outsiders in to innovate. Net neutrality guaranteed a free and competitive market for Internet content. The benefits are extraordinary and undeniable.

Congress is deciding on the fate of the Internet. The question before it is simple: Should the Internet be handed over to the handful of cable and telephone companies that control online access for 98 percent of the broadband market? Only a Congress besieged by high-priced telecom lobbyists and stuffed with campaign contributions could possibly even consider such an absurd act.

7 June 2006

Just in time for election season ...

... he's ba-a-a-a-ack!

Starting Monday, 19 June, from 6 to 9 a.m., on 1100 AM KFNX.

(Yes, "And Ernie, too!")

3 June 2006

About humanity and the future

A nice essay by Dr. Brin on Our tribal natures, the 'fear effect' and the end of ideologies.

Even more interesting was a comment by the author added to the post…

Fearful people draw values in terms of very culture-specific rituals and identifications. Calm/confident/relaxed/tolerant people are NOT intrinsically less worried about their kids. But they are less likely to use that worry as an excuse to LIMIT those kids.

I don't know if any other writer has declared that WORRY is a human constant while FEAR is a variable. The two can be defined in such a way that they seem almost orthogonal!

Almost every (bad) trait that we see displayed by red state america appears to be a manifestation of fearfulness.

Almost every (bad) trait of blue america (lefty) appears to be a manifestation of mypopic arrogance. The assumption that Otherness is a religion, rather than an EMERGENT PROPERTY, arising naturally when a decent society continues lowering its levels of fear.

Dig it. Has anyone ELSE offered a theory to explain why the victims of 9/11 are the ones LEAST afraid of terrorism? Why border militia folk are those with far less contact with immigrants than city liberals?

2 June 2006

Extremist demagogues, peddling hate, bigotry and intolerance to the ignorant

Bill O'Reilly, for example. Rewriting history to paint American WWII soldiers as war criminals, when it was the Nazis who executed American prisoners at Malmedy.

But far worse than the smear by a jackass of gigantic proportion, is the deliberate falsification of the O'Reilly Factor transcript by Fox News Channel.

When you are that wrong, when you are defending Nazi war criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans and you get caught doing so twice, you‘re supposed to say I‘m sorry, I was wrong, and then you‘re supposed to shut up for a long time. Instead, FOX washed its transcript of O‘Reilly‘s remarks Tuesday. Its Web site claims O‘Reilly said in Normandy, when, as you heard, in fact, he said in Malmedy.

The rewriting of past reporting worthy of George Orwell has now carried over into such online transcription services as Burell‘s and Factiva. Whatever did or did not happen later in supposed or actual retribution, the victims at Malmedy were Americans, gunned down while surrendering by Nazis in 1944 and again Tuesday night and Wednesday night by a false patriot who would rather be loud than right.

In Malmedy, as you know, Bill O‘Reilly said on the air Tuesday night in some indecipherable attempt to defend the events of Haditha, “U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed and they shot them dead. You know that, that‘s on the record and documented.” The victims in Malmedy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed. That‘s on the record and documented, and their memory deserves better than Bill O‘Reilly. We all do.

It's one matter to update online web pages with corrections or more up to date information. It's an entirely different deal when a “news organization” wipes the factual record to shield a host from his own idiocy. How anybody can view Fox News as a credible source of journalism is beyond me. I reckon it's yet another sordid testament to the state of education in America, of how much partisan propaganda uncritical viewers will blindly swallow. Or how badly brainwashed loyal believers will accept fiction as fact, overlaying reality with their own desired illusory perception.

The limited liability corporation is a government subsidy to risky investments and drives the reckless attitude of corporations towards the environment

Some Thoughts on Limited Liability:
  1. The difference between a partnership and a corporation is that shareholders in a corporation are protected from liability for the debts of the corporation in bankruptcy (“limited liability.”)

  2. The same protection from liability could be obtained in partnership by the purchase of “liability insurance” which would, if the company you co-owned went down, cover your debts. Because of the open-ended nature of the liability being insured against, this insurance would probably be fairly expensive.

  3. The fiat (government-created) limited liability provided by the state is actually a subsidy at the expense of those whom bankrupted corporations owe money to, in favor of the investors, and its financial value can be calculated as the total value of the insurance services provided to investors or perhaps as the total cost to the creditors.

Corporations are entities that enjoy protections not available to individuals. Provisions that enable them to easily close up shop to escape and elude consequences for destructive behavior. Take declaring bankruptcy for example — laws are being toughened up for the individual American, making it extremely difficult for those unfortunate to be afflicted and entangled with the onset of costly health care burden. Meanwhile, it's no sweat for an LLC to fold up and immediately start anew with a fresh charter. Ironically, all workers endure now in an age where we're all "free agents" of a sort, individual business entities forging our own success (or lack of success), where past traditions like company loyalty and long term employment are no more.