Monday, December 31, 2007
This has been reported on CNN pretty much every day over the holiday season. AGAIN, if this was actually how actions by BOTH SIDES would be reported, I'd have no problem with it with the exception of the use of "Bush" vs "The President".
To report this correctly, one either says "Senate DEMOCRATS block Bush" or "Senate blocks PRESIDENT". The use of "Senate" takes the taint of "partisanship" out of it, and since Bush has low opinion numbers, the MSM can see that it will generally be seen as a "good action". The idea of the news ought to be to tell us what is happening, NOT to tell us what to think about it.
It is rather amazing how "partisanship" seems to have become a thing of the past in '07 as far as the MSM is concerned, with the only exception being a Senate filibuster. One would think that blocking recess appointments could be seen as unusual, and at least my search of the web leads me to believe it may be HISTORIC! I couldn't find any other examples of it being done! One might draw the conclusion that we have reached new high water mark for partisanship and that "historic levels of partisanship" would be newsworthy? Oops, I guess it can't be that, because Democrats are doing it!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Unfortunately, it turns out that this idea that we ought to "steer our own boat" isn't correct for a lot of different reasons. One of the reasons is that we tend to recall and rely on unusual instances. "Because we tend to remember the best of times and the worst of times instead of the most likely of times, the wealth of experience that young people admire (or might admire) doesn't always pay clear dividends".
Another reason is that we have a huge tendency to misconstrue how we will feel about regret of action vs regret of inaction. "Studies show that about 9 out of 10 people expect to feel more regret when they foolishly switch stocks than when they foolishly fail to switch stocks, because most people think they will regret foolish actions more than foolish inactions. But studies also show that 9 out of 10 people are wrong. Indeed, in the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret the things they did."
"Because we do not realize that our psychological immune systems can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge oru best when we should blunder forward." A piece of wisdom that has been apt for thousands of years, but one which is hard to truely learn.
I enjoyed the book. I'm not sure that we really have the capacity to operate on meta-knowledge about our human makeup, but it is fun to acquire anyway.
- The Family Table
- Sibling Equality
- Education and Argument
- Simple Enjoyments
- Independent Thinking
Eight business technology trends to watch | CNET News.com
Technology alone is rarely the key to unlocking economic value: companies create real wealth when they combine technology with new ways of doing business.
Through our work and research, we have identified eight technology-enabled trends that will help shape businesses and the economy in coming years. These trends fall within three broad areas of business activity: managing relationships, managing capital and assets, and leveraging information in new ways.
1. Distributing co-creation
The Internet and related technologies give companies radical new ways to harvest the talents of innovators working outside corporate boundaries. Today, in the high-technology, consumer product, and automotive sectors, among others, companies routinely involve customers, suppliers, small specialist businesses, and independent contractors in the creation of new products. Outsiders offer insights that help shape product development, but companies typically control the innovation process. Technology now allows companies to delegate substantial control to outsiders--co-creation--in essence by outsourcing innovation to business partners that work together in networks. By distributing innovation through the value chain, companies may reduce their costs and usher new products to market faster by eliminating the bottlenecks that come with total control.
Wikipedia could be viewed as a service or product created by its distributed customers.
Information goods such as software and editorial content are ripe for this kind of decentralized innovation; the Linux operating system, for example, was developed over the Internet by a network of specialists. But companies can also create physical goods in this way. Loncin, a leading Chinese motorcycle manufacturer, sets broad specifications for products and then lets its suppliers work with one another to design the components, make sure everything fits together, and reduce costs. In the past, Loncin didn't make extensive use of information technology to manage the supplier community--an approach reflecting business realities in China and in this specific industrial market. But recent advances in open-standards-based computing (for example, computer-aided-design programs that work well with other kinds of software) are making it easier to co-create physical goods for more complex value chains in competitive markets.
If this approach to innovation becomes broadly accepted, the impact on companies and industries could be substantial. We estimate, for instance, that in the U.S. economy alone roughly 12 percent of all labor activity could be transformed by more distributed and networked forms of innovation--from reducing the amount of legal and administrative activity that intellectual property involves to restructuring or eliminating some traditional R&D work.
Companies pursuing this trend will have less control over innovation and the intellectual property that goes with it, however. They will also have to compete for the attention and time of the best and most capable contributors.
2. Using consumers as innovators
Consumers also co-create with companies; the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, for instance, could be viewed as a service or product created by its distributed customers. But the differences between the way companies co-create with partners, on the one hand, and with customers, on the other, are so marked that the consumer side is really a separate trend. These differences include the nature and range of the interactions, the economics of making them work, and the management challenges associated with them.
As the Internet has evolved--an evolution prompted in part by new Web 2.0 technologies--it has become a more widespread platform for interaction, communication, and activism. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organizations of all kinds. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit.
OhmyNews, for instance, is a popular South Korean online newspaper written by upwards of 60,000 contributing "citizen reporters." It has quickly become one of South Korea's most influential media outlets, with around 700,000 site visits a day. Another company that goes out of its way to engage customers, the online clothing store Threadless, asks people to submit new designs for T-shirts. Each week, hundreds of participants propose ideas and the community at large votes for its favorites. The top four to six designs are printed on shirts and sold in the store; the winners receive a combination of cash prizes and store credit. In September 2007 Threadless opened its first physical retail operation, in Chicago.
Companies that involve customers in design, testing, marketing (such as viral marketing), and the after-sales process get better insights into customer needs and behavior and may be able to cut the cost of acquiring customers, engender greater loyalty, and speed up development cycles. But a company open to allowing customers to help it innovate must ensure that it isn't unduly influenced by information gleaned from a vocal minority. It must also be wary of focusing on the immediate rather than longer-range needs of customers and be careful to avoid raising and then failing to meet their expectations.
3. Tapping into a world of talent
As more and more sophisticated work takes place interactively online and new collaboration and communications tools emerge, companies can outsource increasingly specialized aspects of their work and still maintain organizational coherence. Much as technology permits them to decentralize innovation through networks or customers, it also allows them to parcel out more work to specialists, free agents, and talent networks.
Top talent for a range of activities--from finance to marketing and IT to operations--can be found anywhere.
Top talent for a range of activities--from finance to marketing and IT to operations--can be found anywhere. The best person for a task may be a free agent in India or an employee of a small company in Italy rather than someone who works for a global business services provider. Software and Internet technologies are making it easier and less costly for companies to integrate and manage the work of an expanding number of outsiders, and this development opens up many contracting options for managers of corporate functions.
The implications of shifting more work to freelancers are interesting. For one thing, new talent-deployment models could emerge. TopCoder, a company that has created a network of software developers, may represent one such model. TopCoder gives organizations that want to have software developed for them access to its talent pool. Customers explain the kind of software they want and offer prizes to the developers who do the best job creating it--an approach that costs less than employing experienced engineers. Furthermore, changes in the nature of labor relationships could lead to new pricing models that would shift payment schemes from time and materials to compensation for results.
This trend should gather steam in sectors such as software, health care delivery, professional services, and real estate, where companies can easily segment work into discrete tasks for independent contractors and then reaggregate it. As companies move in this direction, they will need to understand the value of their human capital more fully and manage different classes of contributors accordingly. They will also have to build capabilities to engage talent globally or contract with talent aggregators that specialize in providing such services. Competitive advantage will shift to companies that can master the art of breaking down and recomposing tasks.
4. Extracting more value from interactions
Companies have been automating or offshoring an increasing proportion of their production and manufacturing (transformational) activities and their clerical or simple rule-based (transactional) activities. As a result, a growing proportion of the labor force in developed economies engages primarily in work that involves negotiations and conversations, knowledge, judgment, and ad hoc collaboration--tacit interactions, as we call them. By 2015 we expect employment in jobs primarily involving such interactions to account for about 44 percent of total U.S. employment, up from 40 percent today. Europe and Japan will experience similar changes in the composition of their workforces.
Big app on campus
Educators see the lure of notoriety through Web 2.0-style social tools.
The application of technology has reduced differences in productivity between transformational and transactional employees, but huge inconsistencies persist in the productivity of high-value tacit ones. Improving it is more about increasing their effectiveness--for instance, by focusing them on interactions that create value and ensuring that they have the right information and context--than about efficiency. Technology tools that promote tacit interactions, such as wikis, virtual team environments, and videoconferencing, may become no less ubiquitous than computers are now. As companies learn to use these tools, they will develop managerial innovations--smarter and faster ways for individuals and teams to create value through interactions--that will be difficult for their rivals to replicate. Companies in sectors such as health care and banking are already moving down this road.
As companies improve the productivity of these workers, it will be necessary to couple investments in technologies with the right combination of incentives and organizational values to drive their adoption and use by employees. There is still substantial room for automating transactional activities, and the payoff can typically be realized much more quickly and measured much more clearly than the payoff from investments to make tacit work more effective. Creating the business case for investing in interactions will be challenging--but critical--for managers.
Managing capital and assets
5. Expanding the frontiers of automation
Companies, governments, and other organizations have put in place systems to automate tasks and processes: forecasting and supply chain technologies; systems for enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and HR; product and customer databases; and Web sites. Now these systems are becoming interconnected through common standards for exchanging data and representing business processes in bits and bytes. What's more, this information can be combined in new ways to automate an increasing array of broader activities, from inventory management to customer service.
During the late 1990s FedEx and UPS linked data flowing through their internal tracking systems to the Internet--no trivial task at the time--to let customers track packages from their Web sites, with no human intervention required on the part of either company. By leveraging and linking systems to automate processes for answering inquiries from customers, both dramatically reduced the cost of serving them while increasing their satisfaction and loyalty. More recently, Carrefour, Metro, Wal-Mart Stores, and other large retailers have adopted (and asked suppliers to adopt) digital-tagging technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID), and integrated them with other supply chain systems in order to further automate their supply chain and inventory management. The rate of adoption to date disappoints the advocates of these technologies, but as the price of digital tags falls they could very well reduce the costs of managing distribution and increase revenues by helping companies to manage supply more effectively.
Companies still have substantial headroom to automate many repetitive tasks that aren't yet mediated by computers--particularly in sectors and regions where IT marches at a slower pace--and to interlink "islands of automation" and so give managers and customers the ability to do new things. Automation is a good investment if it not only lowers costs but also helps users to get what they want more quickly and easily, though it may not be a good idea if it gives them unpleasant experiences. The trick is to strike the right balance between raising margins and making customers happy.
6. Unbundling production from delivery
Technology helps companies to utilize fixed assets more efficiently by disaggregating monolithic systems into reusable components, measuring and metering the use of each, and billing for that use in ever smaller increments cost-effectively. Information and communications technologies handle the tracking and metering critical to the new models and make it possible to have effective allocation and capacity-planning systems.
Amazon.com, for example, has expanded its business model to let other retailers use its logistics and distribution services. It also gives independent software developers opportunities to buy processing power on its IT infrastructure so that they don't have to buy their own. Mobile virtual-network operators, another example of this trend, provide wireless services without investing in a network infrastructure. At the most basic level of unbundled production, 80 percent of all companies responding to a recent survey on Web trends say they are investing in Web services and related technologies. Although the applications vary, many are using these technologies to offer other companies--suppliers, customers, and other ecosystem participants--access to parts of their IT architectures through standard protocols.
Unbundling works in the physical world, too. Today you can buy fractional time on a jet, in a high-end sports car, or even for designer handbags. Unbundling is attractive from the supply side because it lets asset-intensive businesses--factories, warehouses, truck fleets, office buildings, data centers, networks, and so on--raise their utilization rates and therefore their returns on invested capital. On the demand side, unbundling offers access to resources and assets that might otherwise require a large fixed investment or significant scale to achieve competitive marginal costs. For companies and entrepreneurs seeking capacity (or variable additional capacity), unbundling makes it possible to gain access to assets quickly, to scale up businesses while keeping balance sheets asset-light, and to use attractive consumption and contracting models that are easier on their income statements.
Companies that make their assets available for internal and external use will need to manage conflicts if demand exceeds supply. A competitive advantage through scale may be hard to maintain when many players, large and small, have equal access to resources at low marginal costs.
Leveraging information in new ways
7. Putting more science into management
Just as the Internet and productivity tools extend the reach of and provide leverage to desk-based workers, technology is helping managers exploit ever-greater amounts of data to make smarter decisions and develop the insights that create competitive advantages and new business models. From "ideagoras" (eBay-like marketplaces for ideas) to predictive markets to performance-management approaches, ubiquitous standards-based technologies promote aggregation, processing, and decision making based on the use of growing pools of rich data.
Leading players are exploiting this information explosion with a diverse set of management techniques. Google fosters innovation through an internal market: employees submit ideas, and other employees decide if an idea is worth pursuing or if they would be willing to work on it full-time. Intel integrates a "prediction market" with regular short-term forecasting processes to build more accurate and less volatile estimates of demand. The cement manufacturer Cemex optimizes loads and routes by combining complex analytics with a wireless tracking and communications network for its trucks.
Environments that celebrate making choices on a factual basis must beware of analysis paralysis.
The amount of information and a manager's ability to use it have increased explosively not only for internal processes but also for the engagement of customers. The more a company knows about them, the better able it is to create offerings they want, to target them with messages that get a response, and to extract the value that an offering gives them. The holy grail of deep customer insight--more granular segmentation, low-cost experimentation, and mass customization--becomes increasingly accessible through technological innovations in data collection and processing and in manufacturing.
Examples are emerging across a wide range of industries. Amazon.com stands at the forefront of advanced customer segmentation. Its recommendation engine correlates the purchase histories of each individual customer with those of others who made similar purchases to come up with suggestions for things that he or she might buy. Although the jury is still out on the true value of recommendation engines, the techniques seem to be paying off: CleverSet, a pure-play recommendation-engine provider, claims that the 75 online retailers using the engine are averaging a 22 percent increase in revenue per visitor. Meanwhile, toll road operators are beginning to segment drivers and charge them differential prices based on static conditions (such as time of day) and dynamic ones (traffic). Technology is also dramatically bringing down the costs of experimentation and giving creative leaders opportunities to think like scientists by constructing and analyzing alternatives. The financial-services concern Capital One conducts hundreds of experiments daily to determine the appropriate mix of products it should direct to specific customer profiles. Similarly, Harrah's casinos mine customer data to target promotions and drive exemplary customer service.
Given the vast resources going into storing and processing information today, it's hard to believe that we are only at an early stage in this trend. Yet we are. The quality and quantity of information available to any business will continue to grow explosively as the costs of monitoring and managing processes fall.
Leaders should get out ahead of this trend to ensure that information makes organizations more effective, rather than less. Information is often power; broadening access and increasing transparency will inevitably influence organizational politics and power structures. Environments that celebrate making choices on a factual basis must beware of analysis paralysis.
8. Making businesses from information
Accumulated pools of data captured in a number of systems within large organizations or pulled together from many points of origin on the Web are the raw material for new information-based business opportunities.
A retailer using digital cameras to prevent shoplifting could also analyze the shopping patterns and traffic flows of customers through its stores.
Frequent contributors to what economists call market imperfections include information asymmetries and the frequent inability of decision makers to get all the relevant data about new market opportunities, potential acquisitions, pricing differences among suppliers, and other business situations. These imperfections often allow middlemen and players with more and better information to extract higher rents by aggregating and creating businesses around it. The Internet has brought greater transparency to many markets, from airline tickets to stocks, but many other sectors need similar illumination. Real estate is one of them. In a sector where agencies have thrived by keeping buyers and sellers partly in the dark, new sites have popped up to shine "a light up into the dark reaches of the supply curve," as Rich Barton, the founder of Zillow (a portal for real-estate information), puts it. Barton, the former leader of the e-travel site Expedia, has been down this road before.
Moreover, the aggregation of data through the digitization of processes and activities may create by-products, or "exhaust data," that companies can exploit for profit. A retailer using digital cameras to prevent shoplifting could also analyze the shopping patterns and traffic flows of customers through its stores, and could also use these insights to improve its layout or placement of promotional displays. It might also sell the data to its vendors so that they could use real observations of consumer behavior to reshape their merchandising approaches.
Another kind of information business plays a pure aggregation and visualization role, scouring the Web to assemble data on particular topics. Many business-to-consumer shopping sites and business-to-business product directories operate in this fashion. But that sword can cut both ways; today's aggregators, for instance, may themselves be aggregated tomorrow. Companies relying on information-based market imperfections need to assess the impact of the new transparency levels that are continually opening up in today's information economy.
Shaping the outcome
Creative leaders can use a broad spectrum of new, technology-enabled options to craft their strategies. These trends are best seen as emerging patterns that can be applied in a wide variety of businesses. Executives should reflect on which patterns may start to reshape their markets and industries next--and on whether they have opportunities to catalyze change and shape the outcome rather than merely react to it.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007
After the fall of the USSR, the differences between N and S Korea, the differences between East and West Germany prior to the wall coming down, Hong Kong, the results of Reaganomics after the Carter disaster of the '70's --- and many more examples, HOW do people still believe that "The State" re-distributing wealth at the point of a gun and trying to run the economy by a central bureaucracy works "better"?
The desire for power is also not wanting in the world, and no matter how many millions demagogues like Jon Edwards have been able to chase down from passing ambulances, there is always the prospect for power to go with the wealth. Always ready and waiting envious masses with their noses pressed up against the glass store windows to listen to someone tell them that "the system is broken", and a guy that is worth millions and gets $400 haircuts REALLY has their best interests in mind! There are always plenty of feeble sheep willing to believe any propaganda dumped in their manger so that they may truly serve on their knees as serfs.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
This is my 2md attempt at a blog from the iPhone-I don't think keyboards are in danger yet!
Anyway, I've been reading up a storm lately, hopefully I will have the writing muse to get some blogs done as well.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Something like 80% of the people were totally for the War in Iraq when we went in. I suspect that something close to that number were against the Surge and thought it was "hopeless". It didn't take all that much courage for Bush to go to war with 80% on his side. It took a tad more leadership and courage for him to do the Surge with a very high percentage of the people against him. To date, it has worked. The Democrats will do all they can to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and they may still make it happen-and of course the MSM will be a willing accomplice through it all. They may well still succeed in making Iraq a disaster, but it looks much less of a sure thing than it did last year at this time.
Pretty much the same for the economy. The Democrats and the MSM have a lot to say about it being bad, but econimics is pretty much about numbers in the real world, and the best real analysis is that the economy is "good to excellent". Inflating fuel prices caused by worldwide demand for fuel hasn't killed it, and the sub-prime real estate bubble has failed to scuttle the economic ship as well.
Seem like there are a lot of prospects for a Happy New Year, but I'm sure that this will be the darkest election year in my lifetime.
The former prime minister told the BBC this year that he had avoided talking about his religious views while in office for about 10 years for fear of being labeled "a nutter."
In England's last census, 72 percent of people identified themselves as Christian.
Many are Anglicans affiliated with the Church of England, which was created by royal proclamation during the 16th century after King Henry VIII -- who married six times -- broke ties with the Roman Catholic Church in a dispute over divorce.
The Church of England has said that less than 10 percent of its members are regular churchgoers. Britons often are surprised by people who openly and fervently discuss their religious views, and the degree to which faiths such as evangelicalism can influence U.S. politics
Friday, December 21, 2007
The third order of order is in some degree "disorder" in the human sense, but it is what the Net is all about. Freed from the physical limits of things like cards and paper maps we can link endlessly and order in any way we see fit. Playlists on iTunes, Google, Blogs, etc. Lots of focus on the commonly used tree structure of many of our classifications, with the example of the Linnaean classification of the world of living things, and how we are finding that it really isn't that tidy.
I wouldn't really recommend the book for anyone very serious about understanding the phenomenon of digitization and the Web. It might be a good intro, but it seemed too "Pop" to me.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Resolved, That in the future, as in the past, we will adhere with unswerving fidelity to the Union under the Constitution as the only solid foundation of our strength, security, and happiness as a people, and as a framework of government equally conducive to the welfare and prosperity of all the States, both Northern and Southern.
Resolved, That this convention does explicitly declare, as the sense of the American people, that after four years of failure to restore the Union by the experiment of war, during which, under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded in every part, and public liberty and private right alike trodden down, and the material prosperity of the country essentially impaired, justice, humanity, liberty, and the public welfare demand that immediate efforts be made for a cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States, or other peaceable means, to the end that, at the earliest practicable moment, peace may be restored on the basis of the Federal Union of the States.
Resolved, That the direct interference of the military authorities of the United States in the recent elections held in Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, and Delaware was a shameful violation of the Constitution, and a repetition of such acts in the approaching election will be held as revolutionary, and resisted with all the means and power under our control.
Resolved, That the aim and object of the Democratic party is to preserve the Federal Union and the rights of the States unimpaired, and they hereby declare that they consider that the administrative usurpation of extraordinary and dangerous powers not granted by the Constitution — the subversion of the civil by military law in States not in insurrection; the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens in States where civil law exists in full force; the suppression of freedom of speech and of the press; the denial of the right of asylum; the open and avowed disregard of State rights; the employment of unusual test-oaths; and the interference with and denial of the right of the people to bear arms in their defense is calculated to prevent a restoration of the Union and the perpetuation of a Government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
Resolved, That the shameful disregard of the Administration to its duty in respect to our fellow citizens who now are and long have been prisoners of war and in a suffering condition, deserves the severest reprobation on the score alike of public policy and common humanity.
Resolved, That the sympathy of the Democratic party is heartily and earnestly extended to the soldiery of our army and sailors of our navy, who are and have been in the field and on the sea under the flag of our country, and, in the events of its attaining power, they will receive all the care, protection, and regard that the brave soldiers and sailors of the republic have so nobly earned.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
The ending is super. This article is closely related to this:
Maybe both alternatives — Plato’s eternal stone tablet and Dr. Wheeler’s higgledy-piggledy process — will somehow turn out to be true. The dichotomy between forever and emergent might turn out to be as false eventually as the dichotomy between waves and particles as a description of light. Who knows?
The law of no law, of course, is still a law.
When I was young and still had all my brain cells I was a bridge fan, and one hand I once read about in the newspaper bridge column has stuck with me as a good metaphor for the plight of the scientist, or of the citizen cosmologist. The winning bidder had overbid his hand. When the dummy cards were laid, he realized that his only chance of making his contract was if his opponents’ cards were distributed just so.
He could have played defensively, to minimize his losses. Instead he played as if the cards were where they had to be. And he won.We don’t know, and might never know, if science has overbid its hand. When in doubt, confronted with the complexities of the world, scientists have no choice but to play their cards as if they can win, as if the universe is indeed comprehensible. That is what they have been doing for more than 2,000 years, and they are still winning
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
How out of touch is it for the supposedly "feel your pain sensitive" Slick Willie to suggest that a Father would be willing to sign on to such a horribly cheap shot at his Son? Yes, Yes, we know that Slick and Hillary would certainly throw poor Chelsea under the bus if that would gain them votes, but one would have thought that they were more aware of the "weakness" of their opposition. They like to exploit the fact that Republican's love their children and have principles, but I thought they had more understanding of the "other side" than this displays.
People that have values and care about things like family are going to support those that they love when they are doing right, no matter how unpopular that right may be. I know that is something that is completely foreign to the Clinton's and their ilk, but they were alive during Reagan, they ought to at least realize that decency actually does exist! We won't even go into the facts of the Surge working and many world leaders working closer with Bush as a result. Even most of the spineless generally react well to success, "The Stain" is just an exception.
If Hillary sinks any lower in the polls, Chelsea better watch her back. I suspect Hillary could fake another half-human looking tear over something untoward happening to poor Chelsea. Gore, Edwards, the Kennedy's-they all seem to have a closet full of maudlin stories that are are supposed to "make folks love them" when they drag them out. The fact that they are so willing to USE those stories and apparently have so little understanding of the concept of loyalty shows that their "heart" makes the unrepentant Grinch look like a Saint!
We know Bush Sr lacked the kind of character and character judgment that Reagan had, or he would have never broken his taxes pledge appointed Souter to the Supreme Court, or allowed The Great Fornicator to use him as "a buddy". I'd like to see HW stand up with a little more force on this one,but at least he exhibited basic decency, which is WAY more than one can ever expect from Hill-Billy.
I must admit that the combination of this book by Amity Shales with "The Myth of the Rational Voter" gives me some pause for future prospects. The ability of the left to ignore known information, especially in the areas of economics and business, while catering to natural class biases and fears of "the common man" is significant. Both are however excellent books which very much deserve to be read rather than just just the cliff note version.
The short version of "The Forgotten Man" (TFM) is that Hoover and others started the policies that would cause the depression in the late '20s by trying to reduce the money supply, raise taxes pass tariffs (Smoot Hawley), and increase Government control and projects (eg. Hoover Dam). Hoover and the Republicans started the descent, but FDR and the Democrats weakened and prolonged it by pushing the failed policies harder, and most damaging, actually attacking business and criminalizing individual business practices. In some cases, the rules were completely irrational, as in the NRA insistence on "straight killing" of chickens disallowing customer selection and differential pricing that went all the way to the Supreme Court in Schechter. When FDR and the New Dealers lost, he was furious and embarked on his "packing the court" attempt to circumvent the Constitution.
The degree to which the Democrats, the schools, and the MSM have propagandized the "New Deal", The Depression" and especially FDR himself is incredible. The spectacle of a very rich man "going after the rich" while sailing on his yacht may be the poster child case for "consistency is not an issue". By raising taxes, criminalizing business behavior after the fact and moving the Government into new areas (utilities, unions, pricing, etc), he managed to simultaneously reduce the prospective return for risk taken (by tax rate increases) while drastically INCREASING the risk on both the business front (regulation, government takeover, unions), but also add in the prospects of CRIMINAL PROSECUTION, even if the act was not "illegal" at the time it was done. An amazing combination of horrible policy, no wonder he managed to prolong the Depression until WWII forced him to change his policies so business could get busy and win the war.
A core of the book is this quote:
"As soon as A observes something which seems to him to be wrong, from which X is suffering. A talks it over with B and A and B propose to get a law passed to to remedy the evil and help X. There law always proposes what A, B, AND C will do to help X. But what about C? There was nothing wrong with A and B helping X. What was wrong was the law and the indenturing of C to the cause. C is the forgotten man, the man who paid, the man who is never thought of."
FDR took if farther than that and tried to claim that X was the "forgotten man", and established the idea of buying the votes of X with the money of C. The producers that make the sacrifices and take the risks were expected to keep producing and to even increase production for less and less benefit as FDR and company tinkered with the economy at will and constantly demonized the very "rich" whom they depended on to power their redistribution schemes.
In a campaign speech at Madison Square Garden for his 2nd term FDR said:
"I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my 2nd administration that in it these forces met their master."Not a lot of hubris in that is there? One gets a little glimpse of why God decided that man needed to be made mortal, no matter how impishly they might like to hold their cigarette. If FDR was such a "master", how come he's dead? One NEVER heard Ronald Reagan make such claims, yet his policies actually worked!
After FDR went too far for even his lefty supporters, and some of them started to criticize him, one of his cronies, Harold Ickes wrote the following in his diary that is a pretty good (though unintended) peek into the soul of the modern liberal:
"I often think that the definition of a liberal is a man who wants what is unattainable or who wants to reach his objective by methods that are so impracticable as to be self-defeating. So many liberals want merely to be in opposition. They do not want to advance from objective to objective."So true, and one might add "Thank God"! If they went that extra little step of FDR and Ickes and completely ignored the Constitution, packed the court and took even more power, we would have no democracy left at all by now, only Government.
"Roosevelt also set out to prove that the intention of taxpayers who failed to complete complex returns correctly was malign: Where there was ambiguity, taxpayers ought to be presumed guilty. This was especially disingenuous of the president, for Roosevelt himself would submit an ambiguous tax return for the year 1937 ... with the note attached: "as this is a problem of higher mathematics, may I ask that they Bureau let me know the balance due?..."How consistent. A liberal never expects his rules to apply to him, only to others.
The book is excellent, but scary. There are so many parallels to what we likely face going into '09. Bush mistakenly attempted to tack back to the middle like Slick Willie had done before him with the predictable result of derision from the middle to left and abandonment by the right. Now we will likely ride into a full Democrat controlled administration with everyone primed so that any disaster created can be "blamed on Bush" for a least the first two, and likely full four years of the first term.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
"The Republicans are not going to give up without a fight ... and one of the things they're certainly going to jump on is his drug use," Shaheen said. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?' There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."Oh yes, "Republican dirty tricks", there are no other kind, right? They even have multiple names; "Willie Horton", "Swift Boating".
Of course the CLINTON's are completely above such things, and the Democrats nor their buddies in the MSM would ever engage in anything even remotely "dirty". If pointing out that a guy released by a Presidential candidate on a furlough program that he was in favor of murdered, or that others that had served with equal and greater honor didn't have the right to question a candidates flaunting 3 purple hearts for which he never spent a night in the hospital was actually "dirty".
From the reverse side, the "bad guys" in the case of pointing out that Dan Rather was using fake documents to smear Bush over 40 year old potential issues are "the pajama media", the evil bloggers that brought the facts to light. In the "good old days" when the ONLY media was the Democrat controlled MSM, they never had to worry about such things.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.
I also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere.
Also, this wish is made without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.
To My Republican Friends:
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
He was also in the news this week from Bali, where he traveled for a global conference on the environment. NPR had a nice segment on him apologizing for the USA, it sounded like he was embarrassed for the country that he once had the honor of being Vice President for. I wonder if they selected Bali as the place fly to in their private jets to out of "minimal carbon impact"?
I suppose the life of zero personal responsibility while receiving accolades for being such an "environmentalist" is fun for those that have no need for any consistency. From the article, it is pretty clear that even AFTER all the high priced changes he makes his massive mansion will STILL be hugely more of an energy hog than George Bush's modest home which the media seems quite capable of completely ignoring.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
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What if a movie was trying to soft-pedal racism or was anti-Muslim? Do you suspect that the MSM would be as quiet about that undertone?
Snopes on Golden Compass
Monday, December 10, 2007
A practical observation on the risks of stupidity was made by the German General Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord in Truppenführung, 1933: "I divide my officers into four classes; the clever, the lazy, the industrious, and the stupid. Each officer possesses at least two of these qualities. Those who are clever and industrious are fitted for the highest staff appointments. Use can be made of those who are stupid and lazy. The man who is clever and lazy however is for the very highest command; he has the temperament and nerves to deal with all situations. But whoever is stupid and industrious is a menace and must be removed immediately!"
Sunday, December 09, 2007
The thesis is that the real cost to a voter of a single vote is zero so voters "rationally decide to vote irrationally". Since the cost of a vote for a policy that we may suspect to be irrational (eg. protectionism), but makes us "feel like we did something good" (eg. protected American jobs) is zero, we are incented to vote irrationally.
The book opens with "In a Dictatorship; government policy is often appalling, but rarely baffling. The building of the Berlin Wall sparked worldwide outcry, but few wondered, "What are the leaders of East Germany thinking?" That part was pretty clear; their people were fleeing and they wanted to keep them.
On the other hand, protectionism is universally known and proven to be harmful to economies, it was one of the cornerstone causes of the great depression, and the unanimity of professional economists on the subject makes Global Warming look positively outlandish. However; "Even when countries negotiate free trade agreements, the subtext is not, "Trade is mutually beneficial", but, "We'll do you the favor of buying your imports if you do us the favor of buying ours". Admittedly, this is less appalling than the Berlin Wall, yet is is more BAFFLING." The book is about "why does this happen, and what does it mean".
There are no doubt a longer list of biases than are covered here, but this book is written by an economist so that is where the focus is, here is the list of the main ones:
Antimarket Bias - "The public has severe doubts about how much it can count on profit seeking business to produce socially beneficial outcomes. They focus on the motives of business, and neglect the discipline imposed by competition." Unlike a commonly accepted idea like say "global warming", even though we have many solid comparisons of how well markets work next to non-markets (USSR/USA, W Germany/E Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan vs Communist China, Communist China after adopting markets vs Communist China prior to markets).
The cases where markets have been "shown not to work", as in the Great Depression have turned out to actually be other cases where Government messed things up (inadequate money supply, protectionist trade regulation, raising taxes into the face of a faltering economy, a myriad of switches in direction that caused business to have no idea of what direction to go, attacks on business by government as scapegoating that added to the desire to avoid risk when the only way to move forward is always to take risks).
Anti foreign Bias - "The Law of Comparitive Advantage, one of the most facinating theorems in economics, shows that mutually beneficial international trade is possible even when one nation is less productive in every way. Suppose an American can make 10 cars or 5 bushels of wheat, and a Mexican can make one car or two bushels of wheat. Though the Americans are better at both tasks, specialization and trade increase production. If one American switches from wheat to cars, and three Mexicans switch from cars to wheat, world output goes up by two cars plus one bushel of wheat.
People are biased against foreigners, and even then only SPECIFIC foreigners. In the 1980s it was against Japan, now it is against China. During anti-Japan hysteria of the 1980's, British direct investment in the US always exceeded that of the Japanese by at least 50%, BUT, it was "the Japanese that were buying America".
If you factor out anti-foreign bias, there is no difference in your "balance of trade" with Wal-Mart and the US balance of trade with China. If you believe that to be false and the law of comparative advantage to be false, then simply grow/produce all your own food and see how much "cheaper" it is.
Make-Work Bias - "The public often literally believes that labor is better use than conserve. Saving labor, producing more goods with with fewer man hours, is widely perceived not as progress, but as a danger." ... "No solitary man would ever conclude that, in order to make sure that is own labor had something to occupy it, he should break the tools that save him labor, neutralize the fertility of the soil, or return to the sea the goods that it may have brought him. He would understand, in short, that saving in labor is nothing else than progress."
Pessimistic Bias - "Two more generations should saturate the world with population, and should exhaust the mines. When that moment comes, economical decay, or the decay of economical civilization, should set in" (Henry Adams, 1898) It is never very hard to find people to explain to you how the past was better, the present is going downhill and the future is going to be awful. Humans tend to confuse their own life cycle with that of the world.
David Hume said; "The humour of blaming the present and admiring the past, is strongly rooted in human nature, and has an influence on even on persons endued with the profoundest judgment and most extensive learning". It isn't hard to imagine what many of the average voters with below average judgment and learning think.
In order to show what the public thinks, the book leans heavily on the Harvard "Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy" or SAEE. This part of the book gets a little dry, but the bottom line is that people that have earned money money to improve their economic position (not those born rich, not those that win the lottery) and people with college degrees are much closer to understanding economics.
So after a lot of statistics and other analysis, he concludes that since the cost of each vote is effectively zero, people would much rather vote their biases because those make them feel better, so Democracy is irrational at least for economics. Worse, we seem to keep wanting to move to a more popular vote posture and adding in regular polls to make the "public view" more widely felt, and thus encourage more irrational behavior.
For me the scariest thing was that a lot of what appears to be malevolent behaviour on the part of politicians and the MSM can be explained by simple stupidity. Once again, Heinlein's axiom is proven; "NEVER attribute that to malice that can be explained by simple stupidity".
The book is very entertaining on balance, but a bit frightening. "Should my book push you toward democratic pessimism? Yes. Above all I emphasize that voters are irrational. But I also accept two views common among democratic enthusiasts: That voters are largely unselfish and politicians usually comply with public opinion. Counter-intuitively; this threefold combination - irrational cognition, selfless motivation, and modest slack is "as bad as it gets".
"What economists currently see as the optimal balance between markets and government rests upon an overestimate of the virtues of democracy. In many cases, economists should embrace the free market in spite of it's defects, because it still outshines the democratic alternative."
The book is WELL worth reading in it's entirety, although not much is lost if one wants to skim the supporting statistical and survey information. There is MUCH more covered than I comment on here, and I'm not really sure that I covered all the high points.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I think we have another "liberal fundamental here". The "National Intelligence Estimate" (NIE) prior to the Iraq war called WMD in Iraq a "slam dunk". While I might be far more prone to think that "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" than Daniel, I assume his assessment is that the pre-Iraq war NIE was "100% wrong".
In 2005, the NIE on Iran gave the same level of confidence that Iran had an active and aggressive nuclear weapons development program. Now, in 2007, they have done a complete 180 and concluded the opposite with the same level of certainty. Only THIS TIME, Daniel and the left seems 100% willing to accept their conclusions. Apparently in no small part because they feel this is is "bad news for Bush", but hopefully in at least a bit because it is hard to not consider this "good news"-but for the "reality based", I'd argue with the IMPORTANT caveat "if it is correct".
Conservatives tend to believe in individual responsibility, the need to make the best choices we can, and generally that "what we do makes a difference". We tend to do stuff like build things, invest in things, stick with jobs, educate ourselves; "lasting things"-at least on an earthy scale. We tend to believe that consistency IS an issue, but realize that any sort of "intelligence", even the kind that seems "most certain" is at best "an indication".
All human action must be taken with FAR less than the whole picture in view. Pronouncements like Daniel's about "reality" say a lot more about the pronouncer than any corner of what is real. Any person that invests in markets has put their money where their prognosticating mouth is and been proved wrong-and usually right as well. They understand that "predicting the future" is an imprecise activity, but one that millions of people have been able to do to at least their financial benefit for many many decades.
When consistency is no issue and emotion is more important than reason, it is MUCH easier to "believe what you want to believe". If you like to ignore the recent track record of NIEs and bite into this one, you know that you can take the opposite tack next week based on how you "feel" and all your liberal buddies will be just fine with that. If one believes that the world is all "random and unfair and consistency IS NOT an issue", then it is perfectly rational to not accept responsibility for your own decisions, but on the other hand, saddle your favorite scapegoat (Bush) with 100% responsibility for everything.
Oddly, most conservatives tend to believe in something transcendent, usually religion, of which liberals tend to accuse them of "believing what they want to believe". The interesting thing is that the conservative "wishful thinking" tends to come with some "rules" that liberals despise. Worse, it always puts the supplicant in "less than the prime position" and DEMANDS some sort of consistency. Demands that are the antithesis of liberalism
1. You have to be against capital punishment, but support abortion on demand.
2. You have to believe that businesses create oppression and governments create prosperity.
3. You have to believe that guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans are more of a threat than U.S. Nuclear weapons technology in the hands of Chinese and North Korean communists.
4. You have to believe that there was no art before Federal funding.
5. You have to believe that global temperatures are less affected by cyclical documented changes in the earth's climate and more affected by soccer moms driving SUV's.
6. You have to believe that gender roles are artificial but being homosexual is natural.
7. You have to believe that the AIDS virus is spread by a lack of federal funding.
8. You have to believe that the same teacher who can't teach fourth graders how to read is somehow qualified to teach those same kids about sex.
9. You have to believe that hunters don't care about nature, but loony activists who have never been outside of San Francisco do.
10. You have to believe that self-esteem is more important than actually doing something to earn it.
11. You have to believe that Mel Gibson spent $25 million of his own money t o make 'The Passion of the Christ' for financial gain only.
12. You have to believe the NRA is bad because it supports certain parts of the Constitution, while the ACLU is good because it supports certain parts of the Constitution.
13. You have to believe that taxes are too low, but ATM fees are too high.
14. You have to believe that Margaret Sanger and Gloria Steinem are more important to American history than Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Edison, and A.G. Bell.
15. You have to believe that standardized tests are racist, but racial quotas and set-asides are not.
16. You have to believe that Hillary Clinton is normal and is a very nice person.
17. You have to believe that the only reason socialism hasn't worked anywhere it's been tried is because the right people haven't been in charge.
18. You have to believe conservatives telling the truth belong in jail, but a liar and a sex offender belonged in the White House.
19. You have to believe that homosexual parades displaying drag, transvestites, and bestiality should be constitutionally protected, and manger scenes at Christmas should be illegal.
20. You have to believe that illegal Democrat Party funding by the Chinese Government is somehow in the best interest to the United States.
21. You have to believe that this message is a part of a vast, right wing conspiracy.
22. You have to believe that it's okay to give Federal workers the day off on Christmas Day ..........but it's not okay to say 'Merry Christmas.'
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:
The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.” Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.
The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men—the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?
They realised that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.
So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.
The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.
“I only got a dollar out of the $20,”declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, “But he got $10!”
“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I did!”
“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!”
“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”
The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.
The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!
And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up any more. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.
Dr David R. Kamerschen
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia
For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I make these observations somewhat with tongue in cheek because although Christian, I am not a young-earth fundamentalist that believes in a 6K age of the planet. Even on that scale, trying to discern climate trends on years and decades would normally considered completely irrational. This however is the age of "Global Warming", now re-christened "climate change". Now, only the "most foolish" fail to believe that not only climate direction on a planetary scale, but causality for same as, can be discerned in years and decades. In any case, we have to "assume the worst" and "play it safe".
How different this doctrine from the believability of threat assessments by our security agencies. When they asserted that WMDs were in Iraq, only to apparently be wrong because of failure to find the weapons, the culprit was the President believing the assessment. The same security services also asserted that Iran was building nuclear weapons, but apparently decided based on new information this last summer that this was no longer true. They changed their minds, thus, it is a problem for THE PRESIDENT.
I listen to the MSM all the time, so this doesn't really surprise me. The answer these days is always "bad for Bush" ... stocks up, stocks down, deficit up, deficit down, surge bad, surge working, the answer is always "Bush Bad".
As the snow drifts down as it should in early December and we complete yet another year with well below normal hurricane activity when it was publicized after Katrina that "due to Global Warming" we would have season after season of worse and worse storms, but in '06 we had none and this year we had a single barely cat 1 qualifier, one tends to wonder.
We were assured by the left that "Iraq was all about oil", by which I guess I falsely assumed meant "cheap oil". It was $20 a barrel before the war and around $90 now. Does that mean that they were wrong, it wasn't about oil? We were assured that the Surge was "a huge mistake" and "there was no way a military solution could work". Bush was called "delusional" and worse. So now even Jack Murtha says the surge has worked? (although you have to search for that almost as hard as news of a new stock market high or yet another good economic number).
So BOTH Libya and Iran apparently decide to bail out of their covert weapons programs as the US decides to invade Iraq and that invasion gets no credit for that result? We had "No Blood for Oil", would the left feel as good with a bumper sticker saying "No Blood to Stop Nukes"?
I must have listened to 100s of NPR stories on "the failure of Bush to stop the REAL threat of Iranian (and N Korean) nukes while he "wasted our blood and treasure" in Iraq. So when the best data that we have shows that they DID stop their program at about the same time we invaded their neighbor, THAT is yet ANOTHER "failure of the Bush Administration"?
The sheep must be willing to be led off the cliff even more than usual these days.
Naturally, Democrats are completely clear; they are against it all - even sleep deprivation. I'm quite certain that they would be 100% clear if asked that there is really no such thing as a "terrorist" and in the unlikely event that anyone has to be "detained", it is important that this be with conjugal visits, weekend release, the diet of their choice and 24x7 entertainment. (Unless they are an American Corporate "criminal" like the Enron guys, then the death penalty isn't strong enough)
Ah yes, folks that would give their lives in suicide attacks to kill as many Americans as possible in any manner they can, who regularly cut the hands off thieves and stone adulterers and gays must really enjoy the spectacle of americans caught up in an endless discussion of whether "water boarding" is torture. I'm sure they are deeply respectful of the "moral high ground" that many on both the left and the right seem to think such a discussion stakes out.
Monday, December 03, 2007
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007
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Thursday, November 22, 2007
His grandfather taught Clarence about personal responsibility, truth, character and "playing the hand that you are dealt". Thomas started out literally no running water barefoot poor and learned about hard work and stern discipline from his grandfather. One of his major regrets is that he rebelled and due to the makeup of both men, irreparably damaged that relationship. Thomas left the training of his youth behind for a time and dabbled in the "racism / victim hood world" during his Yale years and for some time after. His slow trend to conservatism and essentially back to the training of his grandfather was based on life experience and the influence of people of the right, especially John Danforth.
I find that Bill Clinton and Clarence Thomas provide a very good set of book ends to understand that people one truely can and can't respect and trust. A significant number of the same ones were supporters of Clinton and no difficulty with his actions, yet either at the time, or as time as unfolded have come to think of Thomas as having "poor character". Certainly the facts can't warrant that assessment, so one can understand a lot about the worldview of one on opposite sides of those cases. Biden and Kennedy are two that come to mind as especially good examples.
For me, the biggest insight of the book is how much courage is really required for a black man to hold views on life that don't align with those allowed by the Democratic liberal "proper worldview for blacks". Even conservatives have a hard time believing that blacks can think independently on issues like victimhood, racism and personal responsibility. Thomas makes it clear just how lonely it really is to really be "away from the herd".
I was also impressed with how willing he was to open up and put his self-doubts, fears, drinking, broken marriage and other items that he is clear he isn't proud of, but is willing to accept as part of the life he has lived. It provided an insight into a VERY different human experience of a black man in the old segregated south growing up and making good in life against long odds and a lot of difficulties. It is the kind of story only a liberal could hate!
The question of the book is: "In this modern era of cosmology, evolution and the human genome, is there still the possibility of a richly satisfying harmony between the scientific and spiritual worldviews?" His answer is very much "yes", as is mine. "Whether we call it by name or not, all of us have arrived at a certain worldview. It helps us make sense of the world around us, provides us with an ethical framework, and guides our decisions about the future." Seems obvious.
He lists 3 responses to the Anthropic Principle: (that the universe is uniqely tuned to give rise to humans, or as really good atheists put it "we are here because we are here"):
1). There are essentially an infinite number of universes (the "multiverse theory"), so "we had to be here", all possibilities are. (a current atheist favorite that they had to come up with fairly quickly)
2). We are just ultimately and incredibly lucky ... a string of many known and likely many unknown 10 to the - many 10's and even at least low hundreds of decimal place improbabilites all worked out in our favor. We won the cosmic lottery. No way to prove that the winning lottery ticket for the next 300 million Powerball WON'T blow into your house window. In fact, it would be nearly a dead certainty stacked against the odds that you would be here at all.
3). God did it.
Actually, in the ebb and flow of human history, this hasn't really changed much. We just have a few more specific numbers for just how high the odds against our random existence really are.
After some time wading through angry atheist tracts, the thing I liked best about this book was the tone and humility of the author and a lot less "intellectual grandstanding" than Gould even though this guy is clearly extremely intelligent and accomplished. He seems to be far more interested in his reader understanding the issues and his points than in being impressed with the authors intelligence.
A lot of time is spent on the problems of Creationism and Intelligent Design. I generally agree with his assessment that they cause more trouble than they are worth. I find "fundamental literalists" to almost always be quite brittle and quickly become uncomfortable and judgmental or both when issues of origin and science are discussed. However, I think Collin's fails to understand what I would see as the "the appearance of age problem". God could create the universe as I write this using whatever methods he chooses--how that happens to "look to us" is interesting TO US, but doesn't have anything to do with his "somehow trying to fool us". From a divine perspective, it is all "just stuff"(matter, or the appearance of matter), not of any great importance. The hope we have is that he has chosen to provide us with a "soul in his image" ... no doubt with less fidelity than a low res cartoon, but promised to be eternal.
Sit back, try to focus on the NOW, being as opposed to doing, "say thanks"--there may be more "proof" available than logic would indicate. God wants to know you, shut off your monkey brain and LET HIM!
Friday, November 16, 2007