Saturday, June 30, 2012

Ideas

If one's ideas are flawed, then it is time to develop something new.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Propaganda Links

Why Don’t Americans Take More Vacations? Blame It on Independence Day.  Interesting take on the long term impact of propaganda over the last century.

Selling destructive ideology.  Conservatives sell their wildly destructive ideology better than Democrats because the latter have nothing to sell.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Don't Take The Money

As I've stated before, I do not believe economics is a real science.  It appears at least one Political Scientists believes the same of his discipline.  From Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters:
It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money. The most obvious example may be political scientists’ insistence, during the cold war, that the Soviet Union would persist as a nuclear threat to the United States. In 1993, in the journal International Security, for example, the cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “of such importance that no approach to the study of international relations claiming both foresight and competence should have failed to see it coming.” And yet, he noted, “None actually did so.” Careers were made, prizes awarded and millions of research dollars distributed to international relations experts, even though Nancy Reagan’s astrologer may have had superior forecasting skills.
When first reading the above paragraph, my initial reaction was such lousy forecasting is the result of a combination of telling politicians etc. what they want to hear, because they are paying the bills, and intellectual inbreeding.  The author appears to agree (although not in those words):
Alas, little has changed. Did any prominent N.S.F.-financed researchers predict that an organization like Al Qaeda would change global and domestic politics for at least a generation? Nope. Or that the Arab Spring would overthrow leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia? No, again. What about proposals for research into questions that might favor Democratic politics and that political scientists seeking N.S.F. financing do not ask — perhaps, one colleague suggests, because N.S.F. program officers discourage them? Why are my colleagues kowtowing to Congress for research money that comes with ideological strings attached?
This sounds much like what has occurred in the field of economics (although I would be shocked to hear a economist admit it).   The N.S.F. may stop giving grants to political scientists, and this is a good thing.  If a practitioner desires to develop a real science, then there is a price: to be intellectually free, do not take the money.  As pointed out later in the op-ed piece:
These results wouldn’t surprise the guru of the scientific method, Karl Popper, whose 1934 book “The Logic of Scientific Discovery” remains the cornerstone of the scientific method. Yet Mr. Popper himself scoffed at the pretensions of the social sciences: “Long-term prophecies can be derived from scientific conditional predictions only if they apply to systems which can be described as well-isolated, stationary, and recurrent. These systems are very rare in nature; and modern society is not one of them.”
Stop trying to be something you are not; maybe then political science (or economics) can become a real science.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

False Mastery

Technology facilitates the lowest common denominator mentality by dulling the intellect. It collectively isolates the human animal from the base physical world. As a consequence, by its allure of security and comfort, the anti-natural supersedes the natural. A technological society enables a false sense of mastery over reality. Hence, contempt is taken for shock and awe. The idiot never understands anything beyond machines.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Blowing Off Steam

From How to criticize the government on Chinese social media:
The blog Tea Leaf Nation has written about a fascinating Harvard study that shows what posts get censored in Chinese cyberspace and why. The blog post (and the study itself) are worth reading in full, but, briefly, the study postulates that while censorship attempts to obfuscate it also "exposes an extraordinarily rich source of information about the Chinese governmen's interests, intentions, and goals" (italics in the original), and that the government doesn't necessarily censor posts with "negative, even vitriolic criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies," but rather focuses on "comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization, regardless of content."
The second point especially seems to be a more nuanced understanding of Chinese censorship: someone blowing off steam is fine, even if it's "unambiguously against the state and its leaders," as long as it doesn't encourage destabilizing action.
The only difference is that in the US you are not censored; the police just plant evidence.  You can talk all the smack you want as long as it doesn't mean anything.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Ideological Brain

The Republican Brain is a recent book about the apparently scientifically researched backed assertion that conservatives are less likely to accept science.  I've found it to be true, but rather than a defect of conservatism in and of itself, I believe it is more likely to be a case of a defect of the (authoritarian) ideological mindset.  Currently, in the United States, the ideological mindset has adopted conservatism over all other (authoritarian) ideologies, because it is simply the only mass alternative available.  As a control, rather than using liberals (who are too wishy-washy to every really be considered adherents of a hard ideology), I would propose Marxists (who historically rejected science that was counter to their theories) or maybe Islamic fundamentalists.  Of course, this would be rather difficult in the U.S. since the former do not exist in any significant numbers and the latter would never identify themselves as typical Americans to provide a valid control.  One argument for my thesis is based on recent surge in the relative popularity of Ayn Rand.  Her books purposely used the same formula as Marxist literature.  Regardless of the actual rhetoric, it therefore shows that such a formula really appeals to an ideologue.  (That Atlas Shrugged is more about individualism is irrelevant.  It is still authoritarian in that the successful individual becomes a dictator--as opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat.)

It's all about telling others what to do...