[T]he age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever. â€”- Edmund Burke
Dan Greenfield observes that no one should be very surprised that the Obamacare web-site failed to work. In this case, it was simply a matter of the Nomenklatura’s characteristic magical thinking attempting to take the place of software engineering in very much the same way the idea of Obamacare itself tries to replace the market with a theoretical determination of what is best by similar great minds.
Our technocracy is detached from competence. It’s not the technocracy of engineers, but of “thinkers” who read Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman and watch TED talks and savor the flavor of competence, without ever imbibing its substance.
These are the people who love Freakonomics, who enjoy all sorts of mental puzzles, who like to see an idea turned on its head, but who couldn’t fix a toaster.
The ObamaCare website is the natural spawn of that technocracy who love the idea of using modernity to make things faster and easier, but have no idea what anything costs or how it works.
It’s hard to have a functioning technocracy without engineers. A technocracy made in Silicon Valley with its complete disregard for anything outside its own ego zone would be bad enough. But this is a Bloombergian technocracy of billionaires and activists, of people who think that “progress” makes things work, rather than things working leading to progress.
Healthcare.gov showed us that behind all the smoother and shinier designs was the same old clunky government where everything gets done because the right companies hire the right lobbyists and everything costs ten times what it should.
If the government can’t build a health care website, how is it going to actually run health care for an entire country is the obvious question that so many are asking. And the obvious answer is that it will run it the way it ran the website. It will throw wads of money and people at the problem and then look for programs it doesn’t like to squeeze for extra cash.
Daniel Dennett is a distinguished philosopher, at least, with respect to Philosophy of Mind. As a kind of philosophical sideline, however, he follows the unfortunate example of certain other contemporary professors and operates as a polemicist on behalf of bien pensant liberalism.
Dennett recently offered this supposedly well-tempered response to the horrifying militarism of the barbarous administration of George W. Bush.
Suppose that we face some horrific, terrible enemy, another Hitler or something really, really bad, and here’s two different armies that we could use to defend ourselves. I’ll call them the Gold Army and the Silver Army; same numbers, same training, same weaponry. They’re all armored and armed as well as we can do. The difference is that the Gold Army has been convinced that God is on their side and this is the cause of righteousness, and it’s as simple as that. The Silver Army is entirely composed of economists. Theyâ€™re all making side insurance bets and calculating the odds of everything.
Which army do you want on the front lines? It’s very hard to say you want the economists, but think of what that means. What you’re saying is we’ll just have to hoodwink all these young people into some false beliefs for their own protection and for ours. It’s extremely hypocritical. It is a message that I recoil from, the idea that we should indoctrinate our soldiers. In the same way that we inoculate them against diseases, we should inoculate them against the economistsâ€™â€”or philosophersâ€™â€”sort of thinking, since it might lead to them to think: am I so sure this cause is just? Am I really prepared to risk my life to protect? Do I have enough faith in my commanders that they’re doing the right thing? What if I’m clever enough and thoughtful enough to figure out a better battle plan, and I realize that this is futile? Am I still going to throw myself into the trenches? It’s a dilemma that I don’t know what to do about, although I think we should confront it at least.
I could not avoid reflecting that, philosophically speaking, Mr. Dennett is a member of the school of Analytic Philosophy founded, twice essentially, in the course of the first half of the last century by Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Wittgenstein was, indubitably, a neurasthenic and neurotic, a homosexual, a crank and a wet liberal goo-goo, hostile to wealth, prone to romanticizing the poor, indifferent or actively hostile to formality and tradition (try to find a photograph of Wittgenstein wearing a tie). But all his personal demons, all the balderdash that Ludwig Wittgenstein embraced did not prevent him from volunteering to serve as an officer in Austrian Army when WWI broke out.
Wittgenstein served as an artillery officer, fought on both the Russian and Italian fronts, and was awarded three major Imperial Austrian medals for valor. One commendation spoke of “[h]is exceptionally courageous behaviour, calmness, sang-froid, and heroism”, which had “won the total admiration of the troops.” Wittgenstein actually wrote much of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus while serving in the trenches.
What has happened to separate Dennett from Wittgenstein? Much more indoctrination in bad Moral Philosophy and religious heresy from which not even professional training and expertise in Analytic Philosophy suffices to inoculate the potential victim and secure immunity.
C.S. Lewis wrote a famous essay, titled The Abolition of Man, in which he describes the mind-and-soul-numbing impact of a typical liberal elementary school textbook (which he calls “The Green Book,” which systematically denies the objectivity of values, which –in other words– trains the young to be (sophisters, calculators, and) “economists,” i.e. liberal materialist conformists like Dennett.
The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius [Lewis’s fictional names of the “Green Book”‘s authors] could debunk as easily as any other. It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.
And all the timeâ€”such is the tragi-comedy of our situationâ€”we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
One of my Yale classmates yesterday forwarded this New York Times editorial denouncing the National Rifle Association’s efforts to prevent sophistors, economists, calculators, and “leading experts” on violence from artfully collecting data and massaging statistics in order to produce a scientific, apparently empirical case favoring gun control.
Why would the naughty NRA oppose data collection and scientific research by well-credentialed experts?
The NRA sensibly opposes these so-called empirical studies because it knows that when you get to establish the principles used for collecting data and the methodologies employed in arranging the assembled information and evaluating the results, you possess the ability to prove any case you want to prove, empirically. The NRA knows that figures lie and liars figure, and that there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Where does such empiricism lead? Just look at Britain where conventional pocket knives are banned as “offensive weapons” and “leading experts” have been calling in recent years for a ban on pointed kitchen knives.
[Accident & Emergency] doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.
A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase – and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.
They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.
The research is published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.
They consulted 10 top chefs from around the UK, and found such knives have little practical value in the kitchen.
None of the chefs felt such knives were essential, since the point of a short blade was just as useful when a sharp end was needed.
The researchers said a short pointed knife may cause a substantial superficial wound if used in an assault – but is unlikely to penetrate to inner organs.
They won’t stop with taking away our guns. As the example of Britain shows, they will go to the most absurd lengths in criminalizing innocent and harmless possession of marginal examples of weapons in their fanatical pursuit of the elimination of every kind of risk and hazard by the calculative power of human reason operating through the coercive agency of the state.
A disabled caravanner who kept a penknife in his glove compartment to use on picnics has blasted the authorities after being dragged through court for possessing an offensive weapon.
Rodney Knowles, 61, walks with the aid of a stick and had used the Swiss Army knife to cut up fruit on picnics with his wife.
Knowles yesterday admitted possessing an offensive weapon at Torquay Magistrates Court. He was given a conditional discharge.
But speaking after the hearing, he said: ‘It’s a stupid law. Now I have a criminal record.’
A television documentary looks at modern society’s, and in particular the media’s, reliance on experts and pundits and points out exactly how frequently experts are wrong. Modern liberal statism, of course, is essentially a cult demanding universal submission to the rule of credentialed experts.
Larry Solomon explains how you get a 97% scientific consensus in favor of AGW.
How do we know thereâ€™s a scientific consensus on climate change? Pundits and the press tell us so. And how do the pundits and the press know? Until recently, they typically pointed to the number 2500 – thatâ€™s the number of scientists associated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Those 2500, the pundits and the press believed, had endorsed the IPCC position.
To their embarrassment, most of the pundits and press discovered that they were mistaken – those 2500 scientists hadnâ€™t endorsed the IPCCâ€™s conclusions, they had merely reviewed some part or other of the IPCCâ€™s mammoth studies. To add to their embarrassment, many of those reviewers from within the IPCC establishment actually disagreed with the IPCCâ€™s conclusions, sometimes vehemently.
The upshot? The punditry looked for and recently found an alternate number to tout – â€œ97% of the worldâ€™s climate scientistsâ€ accept the consensus, articles in the Washington Post and elsewhere have begun to claim.
This number will prove a new embarrassment to the pundits and press who use it. The number stems from a 2009 online survey of 10,257 earth scientists, conducted by two researchers at the University of Illinois. The survey results must have deeply disappointed the researchers – in the end, they chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produces the 97% figure that pundits now tout.
The two researchers started by altogether excluding from their survey the thousands of scientists most likely to think that the Sun, or planetary movements, might have something to do with climate on Earth – out were the solar scientists, space scientists, cosmologists, physicists, meteorologists and astronomers. That left the 10,257 scientists in disciplines like geology, oceanography, paleontology, and geochemistry that were somehow deemed more worthy of being included in the consensus. The two researchers also decided that scientific accomplishment should not be a factor in who could answer – those surveyed were determined by their place of employment (an academic or a governmental institution). Neither was academic qualification a factor – about 1,000 of those surveyed did not have a PhD, some didnâ€™t even have a masterâ€™s diploma.
To encourage a high participation among these remaining disciplines, the two researchers decided on a quickie survey that would take less than two minutes to complete, and would be done online, saving the respondents the hassle of mailing a reply. Nevertheless, most didnâ€™t consider the quickie survey worthy of response – just 3146, or 30.7%, answered the two questions on the survey:
1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?
2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?
The questions were actually non-questions. From my discussions with literally hundreds of skeptical scientists over the past few years, I know of none who claims that the planet hasnâ€™t warmed since the 1700s, and almost none who think that humans havenâ€™t contributed in some way to the recent warming – quite apart from carbon dioxide emissions, few would doubt that the creation of cities and the clearing of forests for agricultural lands have affected the climate. When pressed for a figure, global warming skeptics might say that human are responsible for 10% or 15% of the warming; some skeptics place the upper bound of manâ€™s contribution at 35%. The skeptics only deny that humans played a dominant role in Earthâ€™s warming.
Bob Webster discusses why climate science is an anything but disinterested activity.
Many people cannot imagine why some scientists (whom the media claim to be a “consensus”, as if that were meaningful when considering scientific theory) would act dishonorably to their profession by participating in a scam the magnitude of the human-caused-global-warming (AGW) hoax.
The answer is not complicated. In fact, the answer is rooted in the survival instinct all humans possess and is akin to the “publish or perish” maxim of scientific researchers. And I do not refer to the survival instinct in the sense that we need to survive “human-caused-global-warming.” No, it is all about funding and the survival of budget cuts.
Those who benefit from the flow of enormous government grants and funding (in universities and government agencies) to study a perceived problem (AGW) have been charged with providing guidance to politicians. In other words, the continued receipt of study funds is dependent upon an ever-increasing concern about the magnitude of the “problem” (in this case, AGW).
Is it any surprise that these researchers continue to find evidence of human-caused-global-warming when, in fact, the planet appears to be cooling over the past 10 or so years, perhaps significantly? As of the beginning of 2011, there has still not been one scientific study to ever identify a human component of climate change. None. Never.
To create the illusion of recent warming, ground station temperature data have been manipulated without explanation or sound scientific basis. This has been going on both at the US’s GISS (James Hansen’s handiwork) and at the UK’s CRU (Phil Jones of “Climategate” fame). Neither Hansen nor Jones can provide legitimate justification for their data manipulations that are a matter of partial record (original data has been “lost”, so the record is incomplete). Hansen arrogantly alters ground station records to create the appearance of warming where none has occurred (in fact, in some locations cooling has been altered to give the appearance of warming!).
Should it come as any surprise that these government-paid “scientists” would manufacture “evidence” to support their continued accumulation of funds and power?
Matthew Vadum, at American Spectator, notes that Barack Obama has selected as Director of the Census the most partisan possible figure, a leftwing sociologist previously involved in democrat efforts to supplement real enumeration with creative estimates of supposedly uncountable homeless and minority democrat voters.
A practitioner of the statistical voodoo known as “sampling” has been selected by President Obama to head the Census Bureau, which is poised to carry out the decennial census next year with ACORN’s help. Liberal pressure groups and Democrats have long favored using statistical modeling, a practice controversial because it’s flagrantly unconstitutional and because it opens up the counting process to political manipulation.
“A sampling process would open the census to the worst kind of political manipulation,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) recently said. “The Constitution clearly requires a count of every person, not a best guess that could be influenced by political rather than empirical considerations.”
The president’s nominee is Robert M. Groves, a professor of the alleged discipline known as sociology at the University of Michigan.
Republican lawmakers are justifiably alarmed, the New York Times reports.
We place a locked cage onto a given point in the desert. After that we introduce the following logical system:
Axiom 1: The set of lions in the Sahara is not empty.
Axiom 2: If there exists a lion in the Sahara, then there exists a lion in the cage.
Procedure: If P is a theorem, and if the following is holds: “P implies Q”, then Q is a theorem.
Theorem 1: There exists a lion in the cage.
The geometrical inversion method
We place a spherical cage in the desert, enter it and lock it from inside. We then perform an inversion with respect to the cage. Then the lion is inside the cage, and we are outside.
The projective geometry method
Without loss of generality, we can view the desert as a plane surface. We project the surface onto a line and afterwards the line onto an interiour point of the cage. Thereby the lion is mapped onto that same point.
The Bolzano-WeierstraÃŸ method
Divide the desert by a line running from north to south. The lion is then either in the eastern or in the western part. Let’s assume it is in the eastern part. Divide this part by a line running from east to west. The lion is either in the northern or in the southern part. Let’s assume it is in the northern part. We can continue this process arbitrarily and thereby constructing with each step an increasingly narrow fence around the selected area. The diameter of the chosen partitions converges to zero so that the lion is caged into a fence of arbitrarily small diameter.
This type of scientific approach to real world tasks has not completely gone out of style, it seems. The LA Times reports that Thomas W. Gillespie and John A. Agnew, two UCLA professors of geography, et alia, in an article in MIT’s International Review, have undertaken to pin down Osama bin Laden’s current hideout, using biogeographic theory. They may be wrong, but I think we should bomb the buildings they’ve identified just for luck.
While U.S. intelligence officials have spent more than seven years searching fruitlessly for Osama bin Laden, UCLA geographers say they have a good idea of where the terrorist leader was at the end of 2001 â€” and perhaps where he has been in the years since.
In a new study published online today by the MIT International Review, the geographers report that simple facts, publicly available satellite imagery and fundamental principles of geography place the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. in one of three buildings in the northwest Pakistan town of Parachinar, in the Kurram tribal region near the border with Afghanistan
The researchers advocate that the U.S. investigate â€” but not bomb â€” the three buildings. …
The UCLA findings rely on two principles used in geography to predict the distribution of wildlife, primarily for the purposes of designing approaches to conservation. The first, known as distance-decay theory, holds that as one travels farther away from a precise location with a specific composition of species â€” or, in this case, a specific composition of cultural and physical factors â€”the probability of finding spots with that same specific composition decreases exponentially. The second, island biogeographic theory, holds that large and close islands have larger immigration rates and will support more species than smaller, more isolated islands.
Inspired by distance-decay theory, the seven-member team started by drawing concentric circles around Tora Bora on a satellite map of the area at a distance of 10 kilometers â€” or 6.1 miles â€” apart.
“The farther bin Laden moves from his last reported location into the more secular parts of Pakistan or into India, the greater the probability that he will be in an area with a different cultural composition, thereby increasing the probability of his being captured or eliminated,” Gillespie said.
Then, informed by island biogeographic theory, the researchers scoured the rings for “city islands” â€” or distinctly separate settlements of considerable size.
“Island biology theory predicts that he would find his way to the largest but least isolated city of that area,” said Gillespie, an authority on measuring and modeling biodiversity on Earth from space. “If you get stuck on an island, you would want it to be Hawaii rather than one with a single palm tree. It’s a matter of resources.”
The approach netted 26 cities within a 12.4-mile radius of Tora Bora on imagery from Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+), a global archive of satellite photos managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. With a 2.7-square-mile footprint, Parachinar turned out to be the largest and fourth-least isolated city, the team determined.
“Based on bin Laden’s last known location in Tora Bora, we estimate that he must have traveled 1.9 miles over a 13,000-foot-high pass into Kurram and then headed for the largest city, which turns out to be Parachinar,” said Agnew, who is the current president of the Association of American Geographers, the field’s leading scholarly organization.
The researchers ruled out cities on the Afghanistan side of the border because the country was occupied at the time by U.S. and international forces and has been particularly unstable ever since.
“The Pakistan side of the border is much better for hiding because of its ambiguous political status within the country and the formal absence of U.S. or NATO troops,” Agnew said.
Faced with the prospect of picking from more than 1,000 structures clearly portrayed in the satellite imagery of Parachinar, the team decided to come up with a short list of the criteria that bin Laden would need for housing, based on well-known information about him, including his height (between 6’4″ and 6’6″, depending on the source), his medical condition (apparently in need of regular dialysis and, therefore, electricity to run the machine) and several basic assumptions, such as a need for security, protection, privacy and overhead cover to shield him from being spotted by planes, helicopters and satellites.
So they looked for buildings that could house someone taller than 6’4″ and were surrounded by walls more than 9 feet tall (both as judged by mid-afternoon shadows depicted on the satellite imagery), and that had more than three rooms, space separating them from nearby structures, electricity and a thick tree canopy.
Only three structures fit the criteria. The buildings also appeared to be the best fortified and among the largest in Parachinar. Two are clearly residences, the study states. The third may be a prison. But whatever the third structure is, it has “one of the best maintained gardens in all of Parachinar,” the study says.
While the three structures meet all six of the criteria that the researchers believe would be required for lodging bin Laden, an additional 16 structures in Parachinar appear to meet five of the six criteria. If bin Laden is not in the first three structures, the U.S. military should investigate these other buildings, the study urges.
D.J. Drummond, at Wizbang, explains Obama’s miraculous recovery in Gallup’s Polls.
Obama’s support goes up and down, but the Liberal and Moderate Democrat support for Obama has been steady all of September. Odd, isn’t it? And support for Obama among Conservative Democrats went down four points in the last week, even though his overall support is supposed to have gone up four points. How to figure that?
Perhaps it’s in the Independents. …
Hmmm, again. Obama gained support among Independents in the last month, but he actually lost two points among Independents in the last week. So that 4 point gain overall is still a mystery.
Nothing to do, then, but look at the Republicans. It would really be something if he’s improving support from GOP voters:
Ouch. Obama lost six points among Liberal and Moderate Republicans in the past week.
Conservative Republican support for Obama …
No change there in the past week.
Taken altogether, there is no group of political identification where Obama’s support has increased in the past week. Mathematically, therefore, there is only one way in which Gallup could show an increase in Obama’s overall support, when none of the party identification groups showed improvement for him.
Before I explain that possibility, I want to look at John McCain’s support by specific party identification groups. The man, according to Gallup, lost four points of overall support in the past week,
Conservative Republican support for McCain…
Interesting. McCain’s support among Conservative Republicans went up a point in the last week.
Wow, McCain’s support from Liberal and Moderate Republicans climbed by seven points in the past week, and yet we are told his overall support fell by four points? That is very odd, wouldn’t you say? It must have been the Independents, perhaps?
Independent support for McCain …
Stranger and stranger, McCain’s support among Independents went up by four points in the past week, just as his support from Republicans increased, yet we are told his overall support went down by four. Very hard to explain that using the math most of us learned in school, isn’t it? Well, there’s just one place left to look. Maybe somehow McCain used to have significant support among Democrats, but lost it? Let’s find out:
Conservative Democrat support for McCain …
Hmpf. Once again, a group where support for McCain went up (3%), but the overall says he went down.
Moderate Democrat support for McCain …
Steady there, so that one does not explain it.
Liberal Democrat support for McCain…
It’s only a point, but again we see McCain’s numbers in this group went up.
So, put it all together, and in the past week Obama has stayed steady or lost support in every party identification group, yet Gallup says his overall support went up four points. And McCain stayed steady or went up in every party identification group, yet we are supposed to accept the claim that his overall support went down by four points? Anyone have an answer for how that is even possible?
Well, actually I do. There is one, and only one, possible way that such a thing can happen mathematically. And that way, is that Gallup made major changes to the political affiliation weighting from the last week to now. Gallup has significantly increased the proportional weight of Democrat response and reduced the weight of Republican response.
A commission led by the prime minister (Gediminas Kirkilas, Social Democrat) approved a marketing concept which says the country of 3.4 million people should promote itself as daring. A name change is also being mulled.
“Lithuania’s transcription in English is difficult to pronounce and remember for non-native English speakers, but the name change is only an idea under consideration,” said government spokesman Laurynas Bucalis, who led the group behind the recommendations.
No ideas have been presented yet as to what the name should be in English. In Lithuanian, the country is called Lietuva. …
Bravery marks our history â€” from being the last pagan nation in Europe to a nation which sparked the Soviet Union’s downfall, and today’s resolute steps,” Bucalis said.
One tends to doubt that the Slavic Litva will be their choice.
I suppose they could go back to Chaucer’s Middle English:
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce.
—The Canterbury Tales, Prologue, 43-54.
(A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his lords’ wars,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farther,
Both in Christendom and in Heathen lands,
And was everywhere honored for his worthiness.
At Alexandria he had been, when it was won;
Often he had occupied the seat of honor at the dinner-table,
Above men from all nations, in Prussia;
In Lithuania he had raided, and in Russia.)
But would “Lettow” actually be better?
All this is, of course, precisely the sort of renaming-the-months, inventing-a-new-system-of weights-and-measures kind of thing modern linguistic nationalist governments like to focus on.