Saturday, August 30, 2008

Strategic Brilliance

You gotta give it to McCain, his VP choice is a stroke of brilliance. Sarah Palin energizes the base, provides appeal to women, pro-Lifers, union people, conservatives, and provides a stark contrast to Obama. Palin shows gumption, initiative, resistance to the forces of politics as usual and the good'ole boy network. Obama by contrast is a do-nothing Senator who is beholden to a chain of special interests a mile long and never saw a baby he wasn't ready to sacrifice. It's just no contest. Every time the Democrats attack Palin for her lack of experience for the number two spot the obvious rejoinder is to point out that she has more relevant experience than their number one spot candidate has. Strategic brilliance and an energizing pick for the Republicans.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Apparently Madonna dissed McCain the other day in a presentation that put pictures of John McCain, an authentic American hero, up with pictures of Hitler and Mugabe while featuring Barack Obama with pictures of Mahatma Ghandi, Al Gore, and John Lennon shown while she sang "Get Stupid."
McCain for his part got the endorsement of another entertainer, Latin American singer Daddy Yankee (aka Ramon Ayala).
I suppose the big question is "Who cares?"
"Get Stupid" is probably exactly what you are doing if you are taking your political advice from popular singers, especially ones whose creativity is as shallow and frankly offensive as Madonna who specializes in offending people. She's getting pretty long in the tooth too. She'll have to come out with a cane pretty soon to climb up on her cross.
I suppose the best that can be said for this is that McCain has a sense of humor and reacts to this kind of thing in the manner it deserves — Good Cheer in replying in kind. Let the other fellows "Get Stupid."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Media Approach to Science

Of course sometimes you have to make up more than one fact. Wow! That's creative. The fun part is you interview these smart people and you have no idea what they told you so you can make up anything you like.

How Do You Tell? Where's the Beef?

I suppose "Put up or shut up" is the challenge when you make an assertion. If bad-science is bad, and who would deny it? How do you tell good from bad science? This is especially a question for those who are not scientists. Let's list a few things:
  • Science is data driven
  • Science is primarily about experiments to test hypotheses
  • Science is a collaborative activity which requires replication of experiments
Bad science contrasts with real science in all three elements:
  • Bad Science tends to be agenda driven using unproven theories and simulations instead of experiment
  • Bad Science sets out to prove things and tends to cherry pick their data and dismiss conflicting data as unworthy because it doesn't agree with what is to be proved.
  • Bad Science is often narrowly held and secretive and instead of being collaborative it demonizes those that disagree.
OK there are three things you can look for. Where's the data? Are you trying to find out the truth or push an agenda? Are you open to disagreement and having your results checked?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Ubiquity of Bad Science

We live in an age of science, but often it is rather bad science. Science is bad when it ceases to be a search for the truth and becomes instead agenda driven. You don't have to look too far. When government gets involved the quality of science generally starts to go down the drain because the science becomes politicized.

All kinds of fiascoes have been perpetrated in the name of science by government. The latest seems to be Global Warming which comes off an equally bizarre claim of Global Cooling in the 1970s. Back in the 1970s when tight oil and government regulation led to long gas lines there was a government energy program. We heard all the same stuff we're starting to hear now and not very much came of it.

The bottom line is that when it comes to such a central factor of production as energy, the market will make it work or it will fail. Government typically will posture, puff up its chest and pretend it is doing something. The reality is that energy is at the bottom of the pyramid. Everything turns on energy and government really can't do very much at all except, frankly, get out of the way and let the people who do the real work, do it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ohio Shroud Conference

COLUMBUS, Ohio, August 15 -- In his presentation today at The Ohio State University's Blackwell Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) chemist, Robert Villarreal, disclosed startling new findings proving that the sample of material used in 1988 to Carbon-14 (C-14) date the Shroud of Turin, which categorized the cloth as a medieval fake, could not have been from the original linen cloth because it was cotton. According to Villarreal, who lead the LANL team working on the project, thread samples they examined from directly adjacent to the C-14 sampling area were "definitely not linen" and, instead, matched cotton. Click for More

Since I was in attendance I can say from first hand experience that this was one of the best shroud conferences ever.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russians should get out of Georgia

Who's kidding who. The Russians are playing a very dangerous game in Georgia and it puts me in mind of some of their previous adventures as the Soviet Union. I went to high school with Hungarian refugees from the Russian invasion of Hungary. Meanwhile I think our response has been pretty anemic, almost but not quite as bad as Carter's decision not to go to the 1980 Moscow Olympics because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. (Ooo naughty Russians, we won't play with you ... give me a break!)

Google News Reports that:

The United States, Georgia's main Western ally, cancelled joint military exercises with Russia due to start Friday in the Sea of Japan and is considering other protest measures, US officials said. France and Britain were also to take part.

"In the wake of this conflict, there is no way that we can proceed with this joint exercise at this time," the official said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "I can assure you that Russia's international reputation and what role Russia can play in the international community is very much at stake here." [emphasis added]

I guess that'll show'em!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Media Bias ... Of Course Not

One is always hearing how the media isn't biased. They're just reporting the news. Even McCain's Paris Hilton ad didn't beat Obama's coverage. So much for demonstrating media bias I think. McCain has to do something over the top to even get close. Click on the graph to see the story in context.

Cuteness Test?

File under Form Over SubstanceGet this the kid shown singing at the Olympics wasn't the kid singing. The Chinese are going all out for the perfect Olympics even to the point of getting the cuter little girl (who decides I wonder?) to lip-sync for the less-cuter little girl. I think that is kind of sad. Here's the real little singer!

Monday, August 11, 2008

McCain's Death Wish

Yesterday it was reported by all the talking heads and news wires that Joe Lieberman is on John McCain's short list for VP. The grassroots Republicans are already uncomfortable with McCain and the Conservative wing is rumbling about sitting out the election.
It would take an awful lot of Democrats switching sides to elect John McCain without the conservative wing. Despite announcing as an Independent, Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats — "Hello, am I missing something?"
Maybe McCain just has a death wish! He has few enough strong points among conservatives so let's balance the ticket by moving left left.
Of course maybe Obama will balance his ticket by picking someone further left than he is — "Opps, I forgot, that's a null set. There is no-one left of Obama, at least not who's an American. Aren't election years fun?!"

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Education Something Parents Should Take Care Of

What a hoot! Sometimes the most common sense is conveyed in a funny way. This is one of those times. Check it Out Of course you can just click below.


The spectacle of it all was enough to make you forget that China is a Communist dictatorship. The comparison figures are interesting. China according to the CIA World Factbook has a GDP of $7 Trillion dollars but only a per-capita GDP of $5300. That contrasts with the United States which has a GDP of $13.8 Trillion dollars and a per-capita GDP of $45,800.

Money isn't everything of course, nor are the creature comforts we all enjoy. Pat Buchanan pointed out recently citing the Times that "Eighty-six percent of Chinese people surveyed said they were content with the country's direction, up from 48 percent in 2002. ... And 82 percent of Chinese were satisfied with their national economy, up from 52 percent."

In the United States where the people have much more, 864% more as measured by per-capita GDP, only 23% approve of the direction the nation is taking. There seems to be a reality disconnect here. Wealth certainly isn't everything, but the poor in the United States as someone once pointed out are the richest poor in the world. Years ago the film The Grapes of Wrath was pulled from Soviet movie screens because of it's impact on the Soviet people. When they saw it, instead of reacting to the plight of the poor, their reaction was to notice that in America, even the poor have trucks.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Homeschooling at the Movies

Sometimes you have to question the effectiveness of the conventional views of education. As the miracle of the instant transfer of information accelerates, it seems likely that more options will open up for education. We already have a very active homeschooling movement in the country due to the perceived failings of the public and for that matter the private educational systems. Click on the picture above to read about David Gilmour's approach to dealing with his son, Jesse's aversion to school. Here's another blogger's take on the book Gilmour wrote about his experience with Jesse and the movies:Click Here A video of Gilmour and his son talking about the experience can be seen by Clicking Here

Friday, August 8, 2008

Entrepreneurs At Work

Well if Democrats don't have a sense of humor at least entrepreneurs do. If you're an Obama fan you can get your Obama T-shirt at This Site

Humor versus Mockery

Well CNN needs to get a sense of humor. Apparently they think McCain's ad campaign is mockery while another view might be that it is just a humorous way of pointing out a few salient facts about his opponent. For example he really doesn't have any experience to be president and he really is running a campaign based on celebrity. While he's at it McCain trotted out an ad yesterday that showed Democrats endorsing him. That was a riot, of course the videos are taken out of context. Still it shows how opportunistic politics often is, and it's a hoot. See it HERE

Shouldn't a presidential candidate have a sense of humor? I think it has been done with good humor. But then I've never noticed that Democrats have much of a sense of humor. The problem with the left is often that they take things too seriously, especially themselves. For the CNN piece Click Here

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Centrality of Energy

There are two tendencies I've noticed in the popular press when it comes to energy. The first is to always focus on driving automobiles and gasoline prices (at least when they are not compulsing over something like pollution caused by crude oil spills or radioactive waste storage), and the second is to frame the issue as if there is some all encompassing one great solution.
One size fits all solutions abound whether it is alternative energy, conservation, the hydrogen economy, nuclear power ... everyone has their favorite. But at the core of the issue is the fact that modern societies require vast amounts of energy. Is that sustainable?
The short answer to that is only if it depends on something that is available in large quantities and will last forever. So the answer is no.
What's the next best thing? Probably an appeal to common sense and the use of many different energy sources where they work. Solar, wind, tidal, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal liquefaction, shale oil, ... but probably not using things like corn (better used to feed people and animals). What's missing in the dialogue is a little breadth. One solution is not going to work, but there are many smaller solutions that certainly can.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I'm so relieved!

It's nice to see young people stepping up to the plate. Now that Paris Hilton has solved the energy crisis I can worry about real issues like Iranian nuclear weapons.
To see what I'm talking about just Click Here

Who is spying on who?

Today's newspaper reported on a story from the Associated Press wire out of Philadelphia that an anti-gun group is concerned that a long time member of their board may be a National Rifle Association "paid spy." The whole story which ran to probably 40 column inches failed to have much of substance in it. The paranoia was delicious however.
One wonders what such a group would be hiding that a spy would be required. The article itself was full of cloak and dagger imagery. The alleged spy, Mary Lou McFate (what a name!) was a "former flight attendant and sex counselor" (can't you just smell James Bond) who "infiltrated an animal-rights group" (what does this have to do with gun control?). She "resurfaced" in Pennsylvania. Then there was much speculation about whether any of the alleged activities of McFate were illegal (of course this is without ever specifying any activities) She has served for over a decade (can you really imagine the NRA paying someone to spy on some anti-gun group for ten years? they clearly have a high opinion of themselves).
Well I got a hoot out of it!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Some wag said that "The one thing I'm thankful for is that we don't get as much government as we pay for." That probably says it all, but the folks that run the government are constantly trying to do better.
I think it was Jefferson who said,"That government governs best that governs least." We seem to have lost that vision of government as something that strives not to get in your knickers to one that is always trying to save you from yourself. "I'm from the government. I'm here to help you." is one of the great lies from a list of one-liners I read once.
It would be good to turn it around, but all we ever get is promises of less government. The promises never, so far at least, turn out to be true. I suppose that that means that only liars run for public office.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Neverending Election

Am I the only one that thinks that the never ending election is rediculous. At the rate we're going we're going to start the election cycle for the next 4 years the day after we actually hold the election. It might not be so bad if anything substantive actually happened, but we just get 30 second sound-bited to death for years.

In the current cycle we have a freshman senator with almost exactly no experience in anything that would qualify him for president, and a warhorse who is generally out-of-touch with the grass roots of his own party. Where's the choice in that? or the sense for that matter?


"Grok" is a coined word that Robert Heinlein used in Stranger in a Strange Land. It means to understand something at a truly fundamentally deep level. You say you grok it.

Well I don't know if any of us really grok all that much. I know that I'm always adjusting my understanding of things as I learn more and sometimes I have to adjust things I thought I knew pretty drastically when I discover that what I thought I knew is just not true.

In a sense grok is arguably a synonym for truth. If something is really true then you grok it. But I also believe in existential doubt, sort of a final reservation of doubt so that you don't lock down on something so hard that you no longer can listen.

I believe lots of things so completely that the content of my existential doubt is pretty small. I believe that right and wrong are at base objective concepts and that they are not generally situational. I believe that toleration is not a fundamental value if it means we are to tolerate the intolerable. But where to draw the line is a pretty fundamental question.

The libertarian concept that one's right to throw one's fist ends where my nose begins is something I agree with. Also I always liked Heinlein's stress on TANSTAAFL! — There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

First Post

"Spitzenpopper" — is a term my dad used to use when he was popping popcorn over a fire in a wire caged basket. I thought it would be a good title for a blog about popping off on things, sort of the hot topic of the day.