Iran would like to have nuclear weapons. This is obvious. Heck, if I were Iran, I would like to have nuclear weapons. But Iran has to pretend to only be seeking nuclear energy, to avoid serious (not phony/half-hearted, which she can deal with, and which is fine) international rebuke.
Of course, the international community, and in particular President Obama, and most of the left, doesn’t care whether Iran gets nuclear weapons. In some cases lefties would prefer Iran to have nuclear weapons than not (that would deter the evil United States from attacking her, you see). But they have to pretend to care whether Iran gets nuclear weapons, and pretend to be trying to stop it, so as not to appear weak and lose at the polls.
In some ways this is a fascinating little kabuki dance. Both sides believe and know and in a way even desire to arm the nation-state of Iran with nuclear weapons. Yet both sides put on a show designed to misdirect. Iran: “We’re not trying to get nukes!” UN/internationalists: “We’re trying really hard to stop Iran from getting nukes, and besides, she’s not even working on nukes in the first place.” Both sides winking at each other.
Who are they trying to misdirect? Regular American citizens.
Why does it so often seem like the focus of so much international relations is to pull the wool over the eyes of regular American citizens?
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: artificial intelligence, blade runner, blogging, matthew yglesias, turing test
In some ways reading someone’s blog is like creating an artificial intelligence. I have never met “Matthew Yglesias” for example. I do not know this person (assuming he exists) and presumably never will. What I have done is sampled perhaps hundreds of examples of his thought processes and beliefs, by reading his blog posts. Over time, this has allowed me to build a fairly accurate picture of what “Matthew Yglesias” thinks. In a sense, I have been, through trial and error, building an AI version of “Matthew Yglesias” in my head.
For a time, I was a fairly avid reader of his blog. This has trickled away to the point where I basically don’t read him any more. Why? Because there’s no point. Through practice and observation, the “Matthew Yglesias AI” in my head has gotten so accurate that I can basically predict what he will think and say about virtually anything with 99.9% accuracy. So, there’s no longer any reason to read his actual posts: they no longer give me new information. For a while I did try to go back from time to time but it became so rare to encounter a “Matthew Yglesias” post that contradicted what my head-version of “Matthew Yglesias” already thought that it just wasn’t worth my time, and I started wondering why I was doing it. So I stopped.
According to this model of blog-reading, one will read a blog more if the blogger says interesting and fresh things, and less if the blogger continues to say the same thing over and over again. After all, the latter type of blogging is easy to model as an AI in your own head. Once that AI gets sufficiently good, you’d naturally lose interest in the actual blog.
So to keep readers it would seem above all else that a blogger needs to stay fresh and unpredictable. Note this is different from the usual interpretation of blogging which is that blogs are just ‘echo chambers’ people visit to have their opinions affirmed back at them. That may be the case for some blogs, but not for the sorts of blogs I tend to like. Even if I agree with a blogger about stuff, I’ll still lose interest if he becomes too predictable – too easy to model in my head as an AI.
In a sense the blogger’s challenge is to pass something like the “Turing test”, or Voight-Kampff machine, to prove to readers that he is not an AI. When a blogger becomes too AI-like, readers will just learn to build their own AI-versions of the blogger. Then why read? Just consult the AI. I can no longer tell the difference between Matthew Yglesias and the AI “Matthew Yglesias” I’ve built in my own head, so I no longer use the former.
On the flip side, one might take a more optimistic view and just say that Matthew Yglesias has succeeded in implanting his thought-programming in others, including myself. Before, I had no “Matthew Yglesias” AI in my head, then I started reading him, and now I do. If I ever want to know what Matthew Yglesias might think about something, my head-“Yglesias” will tell me (and will probably be right). I’ve been infected with “Yglesias”, it seems. And maybe that’s the goal of blogging, to infect others with your thoughts. Maybe being easy-to-model-as-an-AI is a feature not a bug, because people learn faster what you’re about.
I’ve read Tyler Cowen for years and years, after all, and I still can’t quite figure out what the heck he’s about. Which is probably why I keep reading.
Filed under: Uncategorized
I’ll say it again:
HEALTH INSURANCE AND HEALTH CARE ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
I’m getting sick and tired of people who can’t tell the difference and use them interchangeably. They are being stupid, ignorant, or fricking liars. The only question is which.
The one saving grace about this moronic action by Kanye West (HT mkfreeberg) is that I presume we’ll stop having to see the sorry spectacle of all American politicians regularly pretending to really like the music of Kanye West.
I really can’t even begin to understand when or why or how but sometime earlier this decade it seemed to have been decided in some smoky Masonic backroom that Kanye West, of all people, was ‘the cool musician for politicians to pretend to like’. Some focus group or other must have really registered spikes when politicians said ‘Kanye West’, that’s all I can figure. He’s hip hop, but it was a safe kind of hip hop, he’s black, but he’s not black black like Ice Cube or somebody. (I gather. I have actually never knowingly or voluntarily heard a single piece of music, or whatever it is, made by Kanye West.)
So anyway, now instead of doing all that Kanye West name-dropping, it seems that politicians will try to get mileage out of doing some good old fashioned craven, calculated Sister Souljah’ing of the guy. Not much of an improvement, I guess, but I’ll take it.
Something you often hear in the health care debate is people declaring that no one should have to go bankrupt just to pay a large unexpected health-care cost.
Not to sound flippant, but when should people go bankrupt then? Never?
Bankruptcy is a cushion society provides for precisely those times when you find yourself disastrously underwater. Bankruptcy isn’t the worst thing in the world that can happen to a person. Donald Trump has gone bankrupt, maybe even more than once (not sure). Bankruptcy is not death, it was actually the humanitarian solution to an age-old problem. Other solutions society has tried: slavery, indentured servitude, debtors’ prisons….
To focus on bankruptcy as if it’s a fate worse than death is an error. It is to mistake the bandage for the wound. The bandage may look ugly and nobody wants a bandage but in the final analysis it is a method of fixing some other, underlying damage. And when there is damage, bandage is better than no bandage!
When someone is faced with the sort of disastrously-expensive health-care cost that compels them to declare bankruptcy, it’s because they got real sick or got real hurt, and yet modern hardworking doctors have fixed them up well enough that they’re still alive to complain about things like bankruptcy. Well I say in such cases thank God for bankruptcy. The alternatives are not better.
Filed under: Uncategorized
When I go home people’ll ask me, “Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?” You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.
Oddly enough, this is often how I feel about my job….
The headline is Bin Laden prods US to end ‘hopeless’ Afghan war. This headline alone is possibly enough to turn me right back into an Afghanistan hawk and fully repudiate my earlier remarks on the subject. That’s just the kind of wacky guy I am. It’s an about-face about “face”.
Of course, that all presumes I truly believe that the voice on this “tape” is that of Osama bin Laden. Everyone else seems to. The News seems to. The Government is silent so we presume they don’t dispute it. As a result, every time “Osama bin Laden” “releases an audiotape” everyone takes it for granted that the person talking on the tape is indeed Osama bin Laden.
I wonder why we’re all so sure?
Filed under: Uncategorized
It’s dawned on me in discussing health care that the larger issue I have with left wing approaches is that they’re all about funneling their social programs through private companies. Maybe this is what all that “Third Way” stuff people were bandying about in the Clinton years was all about.
You see, nowadays, the left
- takes the existence of insurance companies for granted
- takes for granted the notion that health care is paid for by insurance companies
- sees the need for a safety net, and therefore
- their big, radical, progressive suggestion basically amounts to funneling the safety-net through insurance companies.
Leaving aside that I still can’t figure out why the left has forgotten about the existence of our already-existing, actual safety-net program (Medicaid), the remarkable thing here is that all of the above is quite a departure from and would almost be viewed as a betrayal of traditional left-wing socialists. The left isn’t supposed to be getting in bed with evil corporations at all. That just increases their profits! The left is supposed to be creating beautiful utopian social programs from scratch, that don’t have the taint of corporatism. You know, like Medicaid.
The ramifications of this sea change are interesting. For one thing, I guess the charge from righty critics that this all amounts to “socialism” is indeed incorrect and unfair. No, the orthodox left-wing approach to health care nowadays isn’t really socialism. It’s more accurately described as economically (little-f) fascist, after all.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: dreams, health care, reality, tea parties
I’m as underwhelmed by the fact that there was a big tea party march against the health care reform proposal as I was by the fact that Obama gave some sort of prepared televised speech in favor of the health care reform proposal.
Let’s leave aside the fact that there is no health care reform proposal per se (as far as I can tell) and just pretend there is, like everyone else seems to be doing. In my view of a sane universe, neither action would influence the debate either way. There wouldn’t be people out there who were opposed to reform prior to Obama’s speech but then saw Obama’s speech and thought “wow, I really like the way he said those words on TV that were written by someone else. Okay, now I guess I’m on board.” Nor would there be people previously in favor of reform who said “some people hung out in Washington yesterday, and held signs? And the number of people who were there was greater than some unstated threshold? Well that changes everything, I guess let’s not pass this law.”
Laws would be passed, or not, on their merits, using arguments. Arguments among our representatives. Who would be much smarter than the ones we actually have, but I digress.
Of course, in my ideal sane universe the idea of the federal government ‘reforming health care’ would be DOA because there is no basis in the United States Constitution for them doing such a thing any more than the federal government can set up an established religion or put people in jail for making fun of the President. Anyone in government who suggested such a thing would be shamed by all the others, ideally tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. So there would be nothing to discuss, protest, or give TV speeches about here. In my ideal universe.
Oh, and also: the Star Wars prequels would have been much different, I wouldn’t have been called out with the bases loaded on three high-and-away called strikes starting from a 3-0 count against that girl pitcher in sixth grade, and the San Francisco Giants would not have choked in Game 6 in 2002. Let’s not forget about that.
Not sure how much a plug from my unread blog is worth, but for a good left-wing blog check out The Hippie Professor. It seems fairly new, I’m not sure how I found it (probably random tag-surfing), but he is good-natured, spirited, well-spoken, intelligent, and willing to defend his views and substantively engage those who disagree. I find this incredibly rare. 99% of left-wing blogs would have banned me from their comments long ago :-)
I agree with virtually none of his views, of course. He’s on my sidebar.
To my discredit, I had never heard the name Norman Borlaug before.
HT: Mike Beversluis
“Downtown” by Redd Kross.
Supposedly this is a new song that will be on the new album they’ve supposedly been making for the last like 10 years.
Can you tell that I’m frustrated? Make more records guys.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: before night falls, cuba, javier bardem, movies
Must be on a Javier Bardem binge, because I finally got around to seeing Before Night Falls, the celebrated indie film about a Cuban writer from some years ago. As best as I could understand it, the points of this movie:
- virtually everyone in Cuba was/is? gay
- the Cuban revolution was mostly about gays and quite joyfully liberating for gays
- the Cuban regime and military was full of gays
- and yet, paradoxically, the Cuban regime persecuted gays something awful, for no apparent reason that the movie cared to explain, delve into, or linger on (except to show the suffering of gays). Some of them were even killed (though tastefully offscreen).
The subject is a Reinaldo something who we are meant to understand was a great writer. We kinda have to take the filmmakers’ word, or perhaps Javier Bardem’s charming (fake) accent/good looks/the poor upbringing of his character, for this. It is also implied that he is a fascinating subject for a character study although the movie eschews much of any characterization or, indeed, plot. There is some music that I supppose would be enjoyed by the same sorts of people who pretend to enjoy that ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ stuff.
Near the end he starts to get AIDS in obligatory movie fashion (the coughing scene, the scene where he feels that his thyroid is swelling up, the scene where he looks at himself in the mirror, the scene where a roommate has to buy him stuff and take care of him, the scene where he can’t keep down food/liquids…). You know, the scenes that make you think: “Ok, I get it. He’s getting AIDS. Now the movie’s going to come to a standstill for the next 20 minutes while we’re sentenced to a whole bunch of scenes about him having AIDS. I think I’ll go get a snack and come back when they’re done.” All very cliche and boilerplate in movies with AIDS in them by now. (Way down but somewhere on the list of the horrors it has wreaked, is the fact that AIDS has not been good to cinema.)
Overall the movie performs the neat doublethink trick of showing Cuban persecution of gays while simultaneously not harshing on the Cuban revolution or regime all that much. This was a tough line to straddle and I was wondering how they were going to do it but they basically did it. So, you’ve got a real-life-based movie (biography is cool) about a persecuted writer (persecuted writers are cool) in Cuba (Cuba is way cool) and gayness (which is also cool) who wants to escape (which is cool, even if it’s not cool to escape from Cuba, but you sort of forget about that. In fact they seem to intentionally confuse things a bit, in one scene he appears to escape by water and by all appearances he’s headed to the U.S. but where does he end up? Back in Cuba!).
Anyway, as you can see, with the Cuba and the gayness, the coolness just permeates throughout this project, which (I assume) is how they got the participation of Johnny Depp (in two smaller roles) and Sean Penn (I don’t know who he was but the credits assured me he was there somewhere). It also is presumably what got it all sorts of awards and of course the knee-jerk obligatory plaudits from critics (“Cuba? Gay? Thumbs-up!”). So, you can understand why they didn’t want to jinx all that coolness by seeming too critical of the actual Cuban regime or its ideas in any sort of explicit overt fashion. Instead, it’s almost as if the great Cuban revolution happened and then was suddenly taken over by aliens, with no explanation.
But that’s no reason for anyone not to keep pretending to think the Cuban revolution was great. Just as one has to pretend – and pretend quite a bit – to give off the appearance of having enjoyed a dreary, meandering, self-important movie such as this.
Last time I complained about Obama’s use of “czars”, Pastorius implied I was being somewhat silly.
I wonder if it’s more apparent now that I had a point then?
Band Of Brothers just might be the greatest thing that I have ever seen on television. Well, it’s being re-run on some cable channel or another, and must be my lucky day, cuz I flipped to it just as it got to my favorite line from the whole thing:
Col. Sink: If they come by here y’all remember to smile for the camera. Got to keep the morale up for them folks back home.
Cpt. Winters: Why?
Col. Sink: Damned if I know.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Work got really busy and it takes practically all my attention just to keep my screwup rate down at 3-5 per day, with only 1-2 major per week. But I did get a chance to go through and cleanup and flag these posts that were clogging my (once again) overflowing Google Reader queue:
- Robin Hanson says:
So it seems the US has a finance and policy elite defined by college ties and related social connections, an elite with a strong sense that only people in their circle can really be trusted, and that their institutions must be saved at all cost at taxpayer expense if necessary.
A small dimension on which this plays out is in the university system. There are ‘top universities’ and not-so-top universities. I’ve long struggled to spot the supposedly huge gulf of difference between them from my experience of them and their graduates. As far as I can tell, Calculus is the same whether you learn it at Harvard or at Wichita State. What you don’t get at Wichita State, necessarily, is into the phone call round of interviews, with Harvard-grad derivatives traders, for that Goldman job….
- Russ Roberts, if very few others, seems to actually understand that there is a difference between health insurance and health care.
- Bryan Caplan on why Americans overrate Europe and Europeans underrate America. Short answer – both see mostly the tourist attractions. One thing I would add is that to a large degree, Europeans who have any real experience of America do so because they come here as, say, grad students and spend several years in academic settings. Which means their experience is often dominated by living in some crummy college town amongst hicks, on a tiny stipend, with no car, and (therefore) nowhere to go. Then they go back home and tell everyone they know that America is sucky, classless, and boring. But you’d expect the same reaction if for whatever reason hordes of young Americans kept signing up to go to Europe for four-year stints as interns in sardine plants in the Denmark suburbs (which is a not-so-terrible analogy to grad school, when you think about it).
- Pro-life actor Jim Caviezel, walks the walk.
- How Sunlight Controls Climate, is the headline in Scientific American. You know, I know it’s a crazy far-out theory, but I always suspected that climate had something to do with the freaking sun. It’s nice to be (somewhat) vindicated.