Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do You Like Plunder?

Do you like plunder?  If so, maybe living in an empire would have some appeal.  In the US, based solely on the level of military expenditures (greater than the rest of the world combined), we live in an empire.  The politicians just do not call it that.  The result is a mediocre empire.  Therein lies the problem: where's my share?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Project Management

"Plan the work then work the plan."

-Project Management (PMI) truism.

This approach works fine if something has never been done before (or long term where the project team may change over time), but for something short term and having been done before it is a complete waste of time and money.  If you know what you're doing, there is generally less need for formalism.  For instance, I recently completed the design of a $1.6M paving project, in a location I had done two others, for 2% of the cost of construction: on time and way under budget.The tax payers were saved about $125K.    (Of course, I already had the surfacing recommendations in hand, which would have added about $20k to the cost due to the high expense of sending out a drill crew for coring.)  A Project Management Plan (PMP), which would typically have been required had we not been able to talk management into waiving it, would have cost more about 1.5 times more money than we spent (albeit still under budget) and delayed the project (which may have over-ran the construction budget as it would have been too late in the season thus requiring the contractor to mobilize twice the crews to complete the work in the time stipulated by the contract).

The construction phase should be even more fun: now I get to verbally abuse the contractor.  Fun times.  Fun times. ..

(And all this time you just thought I was a cranky philosopher with a physics degree...)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Propaganda Studies: "Terrorism"

Terrorism can mean just about anything as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald in Manipulative use of the term "Terrorism":
There's a great paradox in the American political landscape:  the word that is used most frequently to justify everything from invasions and bombings to torture, indefinite detention, and the sprawling Surveillance State -- Terrorism -- is also the most ill-defined and manipulated word.  It has no fixed meaning, and thus applies to virtually anything the user wishes to demonize, while excluding the user's own behavior and other acts one seeks to justify.  All of this would be an interesting though largely academic, semantic matter if not for the central political significance with which this term is vested:  both formally (in our law) and informally (in our political debates and rhetoric). 
Remi Brulin, who teaches graduate and undergraduate courses at NYU, has spent many years -- as part of his PhD dissertation at the Sorbonne in Paris -- examining the use of the word Terrorism in international relations, the law, and the media (particularly as used by The New York Times).  The history of this term -- how and why it came to be such a politically prominent and consequential label, the radically inconsistent meaning it has based on who is wielding it, the failure to create a universally or even widely recognized definition -- reveals how long it has been manipulated as a propagandistic tool. 
The word "terrorism" and "terrorist" is probably one of the longest applications of exploiting a word for Maximum Advantage in All Things.  indeed, it is far older than the Technical Morality, and as such will outlast it.  As a consequence, the label is very difficult to negate, but can become meaningless.  As it is presently overused, "terrorism" and "terrorist" are largely losing impact as overexposure tends to blunt impact.  Hence, as it becomes widely ignored, propagandists will need to start looking around for another phrase in the next few years.  What will it be?  I would bet that another fall back, namely "anarchist" or something more specific like "Islamo-anarchist" or right/left wing-anarchist labels will make a comeback.  The peasants need to be kept in line somehow and old bogeymen are an easy means to that end.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Twenty Feet Tall

A man ten feet tall is dwarfed by the S.W.A.T.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ten Feet Tall

A man three foot tall walks ten feet tall with a gun.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Atrocities Committed by Intellectuals

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard agrees with my pronouncements that economics is not a real science:
The 20th Century was a horrible litany of absurd experiments and atrocities committed by intellectuals, or by elite groupings that claimed a higher knowledge. Simple folk usually have enough common sense to avoid the worst errors. Sometimes they need to take very stern action to stop intellectuals leading us to ruin.

The root error of the modern academy is to pretend (and perhaps believe, which is even less forgiveable), that economics is a science and answers to Newtonian laws.

In any case, Newton was wrong. He neglected the fourth dimension of time, as Einstein called it, and that is exactly what the new classical school of economics has done by failing to take into account the intertemporal effects of debt – now 360pc of GDP across the OECD bloc, if properly counted.

There has been a cosy self-delusion that rising debt is largely benign because it is merely money that society owes to itself. This is a bad error of judgement, one that the intuitive man in the street can see through immediately.

Debt draws forward prosperity, which leads to powerful overhang effects that are not properly incorporated into Fed models. That is the key reason why Ben Bernanke’s Fed was caught flat-footed when the crisis hit, and kept misjudging it until the events started to spin out of control.

Economics should never be treated as a science. Its claims are not falsifiable, which is why economists can disagree so violently among themselves: a rarer spectacle in science, where disputes are usually resolved one way or another by hard data.

It is a branch of anthropology and psychology, a moral discipline if you like. Anybody who loses sight of this is a public nuisance, starting with [Fed member] Dr Athreya.
I frankly think he is being kind.  However, economics is an ideology, and lumping it with the so-called soft sciences is also insulting.  Lying with statistics is just another form of propaganda.  Otherwise, I agree with the author.  (Whereas the soft sciences are just tools of propaganda.)  Idiot intellectuals are a menace.  Their feedback loops, employed when attempting to prove their idiotic scientific pretensions, are among the most destructive.  Remember the dialectic?  It was inevitable, only it wasn't.  Western capitalist economic is the same.  Their commonality is manifest. The "people" and the "free market" are the same means to their ends.   Twentieth century ideologies need to die.

Happy 4th.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Competency never goes unpunished.