Friday, January 13, 2006

Lost comment
Made this comment somewhere, plunked it into my blogger account, saved the post in draft, now I can't remember which blog I was commenting on. Probably Protein Wisdom, but could have been several. Don't feel like rummaging around in people's archives, which one might call blogattics. So here it is ex vacuo:
So, if we go into Iran, is there really any way to make absolutely sure that the libs, after the conquest, cannot sanely say, “They never really had WMDs! Again! They were only ... joking! That’s it! You idiot rednecks don’t know enough about Persian culture to know that when a Persian says “Nuclear Death to Israel” he really means, “Don’t invade us! We don’t really have nukes. And we HATE AlQaeda!”

Nah. They’ll say it anyway. But after all this they will really look silly
(For some reason I'm getting weird question-mark-type thingies instead of quote marks in the blog itself. Changing the encoding doesn't appear to help. Maybe this is a Safari idiosyncrasy. Or am I doing something wrong?)

And in this vein, I noticed that Congressman "Scratchy" Murtha and Walter "If I'm not there You Are Not There" Cronkite are trying to take credit for the progress being made in Iraq by proclaiming that we'll have to withdraw all our troops in the next year. Their implication is that Bush never intended to withdraw, he wanted to stay forever, for the oil, don't you know, and the brave standing-up by stand-up guys like Soros and Dean is making him withdraw his terroristic Imperial stormtroopers. Boy does Rove have an easy target now. Cackle!
Slashdot has an interesting thread: Mathematics Skills More in Demand Than Ever about the future of careers that stress math skills. They link to a Business Week article about the future of math. I especially liked this Slashdot comment:
I've always liked math. And, in the past decade, there has been much evidence pointing toward math being a primary component in a better lifestyle. It didn't fully hit me until I was a freshman in college and my computer science courses started crossing paths with my linear algebra courses.

But even in grade school, there was evidence that those in control of mathematics sat a bit higher on the food chain. For instance, I got into an argument with my dad (an independent concrete pourer) when I was in eighth grade. He wanted to build a base for a grain silo and needed to know how many cubic yards of cement was needed. So he was having a hard time computing this. I told him it was (as we all know) pi*radius^2. After much debate, I gave him a piece of graph paper and a compass and told him to draw it and estimate the number of squares. I don't look down on my dad, he just never had an education like I was privileged to have.

And so I slowly started to realize that mathematics were the underlying principle to everything. Maybe you've seen the motion picture Pi and remember the part where the main character has a revelation that everything can be described by math. In my opinion, he was dead right.

Of course,with my IQ obsession, it struck me that the stress on math skills in hiring was pretty close to using IQ for hiring, a tactic that's become absolutely verboten in recent years. So instead of saying, "I need a guy with at least a 140 IQ", why not say, "Quantitative skills at a high level are essential to job performance." Might work out to the same thing. And it would also show the asininity of this quote from the Business Week article, saying that part of the solution is:
...engaging more girls and ethnic minorities in math...
Right. Anyone who thinks girls and minorities who have the needed quantitative skills have been shut out of the job market because of discrimination just hasn't been listening or thinking for the last fifty years.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mulling over the Mullahs
this thread on The Adventures of Chester is mind-boggling (hey, "boggling" is an acronym of "blogging"! Mind-blogging. Now there's a scary thought!)
The speculation on whether Iran has or soon will have a nuke and what to do about it is as addictive as guessing who will win the Superbowl. And since the ordinary guy knows far less about the offense and defense in Tehran than in Indianapolis or Seattle, anything goes. It's at least a three-sided game, with Israel having slightly different interests and goals. And the presence of our troops in Iraq can be seen as a plus or a minus, a strategic counter or a vulnerability. One thing seems clear. It's a good thing we've gained a lot of knowledge about the Middle East recently, and cleared ourselves some tactical room. It would not be a good thing to go into Iran cold, with Saddam on one side and the Taliban on the other. As I've frequently commented, it's at least possible that if Iran does get the bomb, their thinking will concentrate on their own demise. And they'd better be sure that if they don't have a nuke or an advanced nuke program, they make sure everyone knows they don't and they can prove it. Bluffing didn't work out too well for Saddam. Nor did relying on the French or the UN or the EU. Reality is setting in for the Islamic nutcake side, in the person of George W. Bush. I hate some aspects of the Republican administration. But I am awful glad in this conjunction of terror and stupidity that I don't have John Kerry or Al Gore in the White House. Submandave says it well:

"From a political perspective, *everything* argues against US military action of any but the briefest, most limited variety."

Everything except the foreign policy track record of the man currently in the White House, and a good thing at that. Like him or not, I fail to see how anyone can discount that he does not make empty rhetorical threats against others when it comes to national security and the GWOT. This is one reason I'm sure he's not said a lot directly opposed to Iran's regime. Over the past five years he has established more credibility that the US will follow through on its stated policy than any other president since probably Truman. I think this is especially important in these times. Like many on this thread, I believe that if Bush views the Iranian nuclear potential as a large enough threat he will first clearly declare it as such, give Iran notice that we cannot allow them to attain that capability and then, if nothing changes, follow through to do his best to prevent it from happening.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bouncy violin

Now there's two words you won't see together too often. But I do have that problem. I'm just starting out playing my violin again after thirty years of procrastination. And I am having a terrible time getting the bow to stay on the strings. It bounces all over the place, making spurious notes and not playing when I want it to. I'm sure it's all a matter of technique and finger strength, which will come in time. But it would be nice to run across a shortcut. I suspect my rosin, the bow, the strings, everything. But I will press on. Already after ten days of playing I feel I'm better and I get real satisfaction from the music. Only the neighbors are less than pleased.
Thinking yourself poor
Noodlefood has a thought or two about poverty and relative deprivation:
So over the next few years, any reasonably well-off American will be expected to feel guilty about the great new gap between "the haves" and "the have-nots" -- where "the haves" are magically blessed with high speed wireless, while "the have-nots" must suffer with the all the slow pains of dial-up. Please, let me get out my world's smallest violin: I'll play a tune or two.

I just got dial-up after having no internet for months. However before that I had broadband for a while. That memory makes me empathetic. And how again is it that the poor will raise themselves out of poverty once they get daily immediate access to Drudge and porn and gambling sites? So I had to gently remind everyone of the ground-breaking Speirs theory of poverty:
Seems to me that once survival level has been achieved, advance toward a better life depends heavily on cognitive ability, that is, IQ. Those left in "poverty" feel accurately that they haven't got much chance to get rich, which they feel would make them happier, because they see that those who achieve more are smarter and more disciplined than they are. And what government program can confer intelligence and discipline? There are ways and means to overachieve, but most people never figure them out.

And that makes sense, right? Poor in IQ terms means, as we have seen, less ability to figure things out.

OT: Just figured out what was wrong with my state bureaucracy office building: no beer machine. How long, oh, Lord, how long??
Dangerous charms

Boy, Nigeria has problems:
A king-elect in a community in Delta State has been arrested and detained by the police for being in possession of two pump action guns, while the regent of the community was also nabbed with an AK 47 rifle, a pump action and dangerous charms.(emphasis added)

Not only do they elect their kings (how exactly does that work?) but their regents have come-hither smiles and winning ways that could be fatal. Or maybe they're talking about voodoo charms - but hey, why do you need anything more after you've got the AK-47 and the shotgun? That's the mojo with the most.
There should be a band with that name: "The Dangerous Charms" appearing tonight with the Bangles.
What, me fret?

Those silly Samizdatistas are all upset about Iran getting a nuclear weapon or two:
Iran made another step forwards towards its long held goal of obtaining nuclear weapons yesterday by restarting its uranium enrichment program.

While Iran's long term strategic goal is quite possibly insane, it must be conceded from a Realpolitik perspective that Iran is playing a very strong hand, and their tactical moves are precise and well executed.
... I personally am very pessimistic about these developments.

But the way I see it, using one's one and only available nuke to waken the sleeping Israeli nuclear tiger is not just insane but impractical. Israel's small. They might miss and hit Damascus or Cairo. Oops. They know this, so I don't fret:
It's not easy, but I'm relatively unworried about the Iranians having a bomb. Pakistan has a bomb. Musharaff could qualify as a "Jew hating fruitloop." India has a bomb. China has a bomb. Is Ahmadinejihadi really THAT into big-time suicide bombing? And for the foreseeable future Israel will have many more bombs than Iran. Which means not just bye-bye Tehran but adieu to the Islamic and especially Arab world in general if the mullahs push the big red button. Assad and Mubarak and the Saudis haven't given any signs of being particularly avid for Paradise quite yet. Maybe they've absorbed the lesson of Star Trek:

Q - Why are there no Muslims on Star Trek?
A - Because it's set in the future.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

England continues to carry on
I found this post on Samizdata with reference to the further misadventures of Bliar:
He wants to introduce new laws to regulate anti-social, yobbish behaviour and introduce training (this is not a joke) for particularly wayward parents.
...It may amaze some readers to think that Blair was once thought of as a highly intelligent politician back in the mid-1990s, and there is no doubt that to this day, he remains - on tactics at least - one of the most astute political figures of modern times. In terms of his grasp of human nature, however, he presents a pitiable sight as he grasps for that "eye-catching" gesture.

So I had to kick in this:
Since none of these program proposals have ever worked to actually reduce crime, is it nuts to suspect their real object is to tighten the screws on the innocent law-abider? Just like cameras and gun bans and smoking bans and "congestion charges" and drug laws, they don't attack the actual problem, that's too hard. They just keep making things worse for the average man trying to enjoy life. And the screams of protest are cited to support the delusion that "something's being done". And, just coincidentally of course, they set in place the machinery of a truly repressive state.
This Chronicle article (From Arts and Letters Daily) I found interesting because it's about the detractor of Margaret Mead's, a woman whose reputation needed serious detracting from:
Freeman was convinced that Mead had been duped into believing that Samoa was a sexual Shangri-La. He laid out his argument in two books: Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an Anthropological Myth (Harvard University Press, 1983) and The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead: A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research (Westview Press, 1999).
But then I found this:
People with a narcissistic-personality disorder are generally arrogant, exploitative, and unempathetic, while exhibiting a grandiose sense of self-importance, observes Mr. Caton. They are preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success or brilliance, and they believe that they are "special" and can be understood only by other special people.
Now who does that remind me of? And I note that the article finds no logical basis on which to attack Freeman's analysis of Mead, only the imputation of nuttiness. Well, for liberals, that's usually as much as they can manage and they think that's plenty. Unfortunately, they're sometimes right. But not always.
From Econlog:
2. The idea that economic growth is determined by ethics.

Well, OK, so if being a more ethical man makes you rich, and if IQ, as Lynn and Vanhanen posited, makes you rich, maybe the two concepts are related:
I liked the article about ethics and prosperity. IQ and The Wealth of Nations posits a link between average IQ and prosperity. Doesn't this suggest that higher-IQ men are better, more ethical men? Smart is good. The counterexample of China (high-IQ, not so prosperous until lately) is being eliminated as we speak. Perhaps the link only comes into play after a certain level, when survival is no longer absolutely dog-eat-dog and ethics can be afforded.