Bet you thought I was going to wax eloquent on some deep philosophical or socio-political issue, a behavior for which I have a weakness as witnessed numerous times in these pages. Fooled you. In another life I am currently working on a couple of very intriguing technical projects involving uncertainty and algorithmics, the kind that I often have to take off at least one shoe in order to get past the sticky parts. One of them involves a nifty and little known method to calculate probabilities about the termination of a kind of realworld and practical processes.
Suppose you live in a metropolitan area where the atmosphere is becoming more polluted by NOX gases as measured by their concentration in the air over the city. And all you know is the record shows that this pollution began about 37 years ago. You need to decide whether to continue living in the city, or to move away, and an important factor in the decision is whether NOX will be brought under control within the next four years. Since this question involves uncertainty, you want to compute the probability that the NOX trend (process) will terminate some time in these four years. And all you know about the process is that it is 37 years old.
Well lucky you, there is a computable answer which turns out to be 0.098, or just under 10% chance that the NOX trend will be brought under control sometime in the next four years.
The solution for such problems comes through a simple formula derived from arguments first presented by physicist J Richard Gott in a quickly forgotten 1993 paper published in Nature - ‘Implications of the Copernican Principle for our Future Prospects’. In an effort to revive the physicist’s thinking, Kierland and Monton made a somewhat cumbersome attempt to explain Gott in their ‘How to Predict Future Duration from Present Age’ (Philosophical Quarterly, 2006). Save for a small flurry of debate, Gott’s discovery was peacefully put back to rest.
And then I came along – ta-daa!! Plowing through the paper I was struck by the apparent unrecognized utility of Gott’s theory to the analysis of what we may call minimally known processes (MKPs). It was immediately clear to me that in our daily round we are awash in such processes, but very few of us are able to identify them as MKPs, and fewer still have heard of Gott. Since my professional activities continue in various areas of uncertainty, I recognized a diamond in the rough and got to work. My humble contribution from the effort has been a clear derivation of a simple and elegant formula for Gott’s probability, that I then extended to support dealing with arbitrary future time intervals, and finally demonstrate the complete scalability of the theory. (For those still awake, we will carry on and promise an intriguing reward to the persistent reader. Nothing beyond clear thinking and the ability to punch numbers into a couple of simple formulas is required.)
Let’s open up the horizon with another example modified from Kierland and Monton. If you visited a park in New Zealand’s South Island that contains various geysers, and saw from a sign near one geyser informing you that it has been spouting steadily for the last 15,000 years, you could ask for the probability that it would stop doing so within the next couple of hours that you plan to remain in the park. Instinctively, you would conclude that the chances of that process terminating in that short interval would be very low indeed – i.e. the chance (probability) of that happening would be somewhere between slim and none (actually 0.000000015).
Walking onward you come upon another geyser encircled by recently erected yellow plastic ‘Keep Out’ tape, and a nearby sign stating that this geyser started spouting just three days ago. If you now considered the same question, what are the chances that this MKP will terminate in the next two hours, you would naturally conclude that that probability would be much higher (actually 0.027). Well, the Gott theory quantitatively captures those observations in a manner that is totally lucid when examined with the help of the formula we modestly here name Gott-Rebane1 or GR1. Let’s take a look.
The Berlin Wall came down 25 years ago today. Many people are celebrating that milestone in human history, but Vladimir Putin rues the day as the beginning of greatest human tragedy of the 20th century which ended the horrors of the USSR and its spreading of international communism. As a young lieutenant stationed in Germany in the early 1960s I took a weekend leave with Jo Ann to visit a divided and tense Berlin. Because of my job and security clearances – at the time the S-2 (intelligence officer) of our only STRAC nuclear capability artillery battalion in Europe – we had to travel on the daily diplomatic train from Frankfurt to Berlin. By the Potsdam treaty the train was a rolling piece of US sovereign territory that was sealed before entering East Germany and again unsealed in the western zone of Berlin. The trip across the leading exemplar of communism’s workers’ paradise (the USSR and other places were much worse) was an eye-opener for those who had just read about what communism does to a people. In Berlin we went to the Brandenburg Gate and stood looking across The Wall; the difference between the two sides of the same city was stunning. (It would be another 25 years until from the same spot President Reagan would demand, “Mr Gorbachov, tear down this wall!”) While most visitors to West Berlin were allowed to tour East Berlin on busses; because of my status, I was not. The most chilling part of the visit was Checkpoint Charlie where a platoon of our mainline battle tanks faced their equivalents in the Red Army, separated by about 100 yards with their leveled main guns pointed at each other. WW3 was literally a trigger pull away in those days. It was quite a weekend.
Today President Obama finally admits to a very peculiar responsibility of his administration in the Democrats’ devastating loss last Tuesday. On ‘Face the Nation’ he finally acknowledged that his party had taken a drubbing, and as its leader he was culpable, saying, “… the buck stops right here at my desk.” But the problem for the nation is that the man doesn’t understand that his demonstrated policies were rejected on their substance. Instead he believes it has only been a problem in communicating his “good ideas” to the American people – in other words, he didn’t put enough lipstick on that herd of pigs that he and his let loose on the country.
[update] Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) on Fox News Sunday demonstrated the utter contempt in which Democrats hold their own constituents’ intellectual capacity. Reporting on Friday’s lunch at the White House, Becerra was asked about what topics were discussed around the table. He said that because Speaker Boehner raised the comprehensive immigration issue with regards to Obama’s threatened executive order to end-run of Congress, that there was no time for the President to talk about anything else – Obama took the entire allocated time to talk about immigration reform.
‘Allocated time’??!! Yes, you see according to Becerra their lunch had a time limit because Obama had a scheduled Pentagon presentation by high ranking military officers for right after the lunch. Utter bullshit! When you have the newly and historically elected leaderships of a heretofore multi-year dysfunctional Congress assembled specifically to come together and talk about the way forward for the next two years, the Commander-in-Chief can and should have his row of four-star generals standing at parade rest outside the dining room door with their pocketed powerpoints for as long as it takes – even if the meeting needs to go on until 1AM the next morning. To tell the nation’s Democrat voters – no Republican would be dumb enough to swallow such crap – that this important meeting was time limited because of a previously scheduled military briefing simply boggles any reasonable mind so exposed (which, of course, excludes the sheeple who voted for and continue to worship their messiah).
Given these shaky beginnings, I don’t see anything possible for the next two years except for the Repubs to do everything they can to stop the business-as-usual from the White House as soon as possible.
[10nov14 update] Harvey Silvergate in ‘Liberals Are Killing the Liberal Arts’ brings us up to date on the latest efforts to shut down free speech and discussion of issues in our universities have become little more than conclaves of collectivist thought and socialist propaganda. Silvergate opens with –
On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive.
He then goes into some detail on a truly unbelievable albeit fully documented conference at Smith College named “Challenging the Ideological Echo Chamber: Free Speech, Civil Discourse and the Liberal Arts”. The principal exchanges (including the now de rigueur use of ‘Trigger Warnings’) and their aftermath at both Smith and Holyoke illustrate the long-known ‘freedom and liberty are only one generation deep’, and could have taken place at any of the party educational meetings that workers were required to attend in the USSR. Silvergate concludes –
Hypersensitivity to the trauma allegedly inflicted by listening to controversial ideas approaches a strange form of derangement—a disorder whose lethal spread in academia grows by the day. What should be the object of derision, a focus for satire, is instead the subject of serious faux academic discussion and precautionary warnings. For this disorder there is no effective quarantine. A whole generation of students soon will have imbibed the warped notions of justice and entitlement now handed down as dogma in the universities.
[11nov14 update] Gas prices are down, and guess who wants to assign credit to whom? It's the lamebrained lackeys of the same Messiah who promised to raise energy prices through the roof, worked his tail off to accomplish same, continues to impede developments to lower energy costs, and promises to also transform that part of our economy. But fracking on private lands (government lands are a no-no) has produced a surfeit of gas and oil to the extent that huge tankers now lie at anchor in bays across the world, used as floating storage tanks because the land-based ones are full. Isn't central planning wonderful?
[12nov14 update] Germans land instrumented probe on comet. This is a big deal that has been ten years in the making. Mission controllers in Darmstadt announced that the spacecraft Rosetta, orbiting in formation with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, had successfully launched and now landed its probe Philae on the comet's surface. We are now in great anticipation awaiting the first picture taken by Philae from the comet's surface. As a lifelong worker in the control & estimation field (I am a California professional engineer in the Control Theory field, and a former DoD 'missile scientist'), my hat is off to the engineers who calculated and controlled the very complex sun-orbital maneuvers Rosetta executed during its ten-journey to 'sync up' with the comet, and then precisely aim, release, and control Philae to a soft landing in a 500m diameter area. The last worry is that Philae will land on the edge of a boulder and tip over, thereby screwing up the lander part of the Rosetta mission. Realtime control is not possible since the whole thing is taking place about 26 light-minutes from earth, so the problem is being solved locally by an onboard Bayesian brain. (more here)
[Recall the little dustup between two Union editorial board members Ms Cheryl Cook and Mr Norm Sauer that was introduced here in 'Deconstructing America' that resulted in Ms Cook's resignation from that board? Well, all the dust has yet to settle as we read Letters to the Editor in the 7nov14 Union (here). There we see that one or two residual burrs remain under the liberals' blanket regarding Mr Sauer's reply. Today Ms Judith McCarrick's letter is an almost embarrassing yet important expose of more misdirected meanderings of muddled minds. Nevertheless, this kind of instructive voices should never be stilled, and The Union is to be lauded for bending backward to provide us such a 'balanced' voice which writes -
I was surprised to read Norm Sauer’s attack upon his fellow Editorial Board member at The Union, Cheryl Cook, and was appalled at his lack of civility and respect. ... While he vehemently defends the sanctity of the Constitution, he finds it acceptable to use words such as “rant,” “diatribe,” “contempt” and “destruction” to belittle Ms. Cook’s own First Amendment rights. Hers was a thoughtful discussion of issues that Americans of conscience are concerned about in our current climate of violence, a climate that the framers of our Constitution could never have anticipated. Mr. Sauer lectures Ms. Cook about “our God-given inalienable (sic) rights that all men are created equal,” when, in truth we know that many groups of Americans are still not treated equally and women remain economically disadvantaged. But it is his disrespectful tone, directed specifically at the character of Ms. Cook, who is his equal, that I find most offensive. ... Mr. Sauer’s verbal assault on a colleague raises questions about the composition and purpose of this board as effective representatives of our community.
[This is the addended transcript to my regular KVMR commentary aired on 5 November 2014.]
As someone once said, elections have consequences. And today this makes possible several different ways forward that can slow the surge toward socialism we have endured since Democrats took over Congress in 2006. President Obama nailed it this year when he declared to both heartened conservatives and duck-and-cover liberals that this election was really a report card on Team Obama’s policies. It would let voters assess everything that this administration and its congressional supporters have done to give America its ‘2% economy’, uncounted scandals, incompetent governance, international disdain, and partisan polarization, all rolled up in one package that many argue represents a new low point in the country’s history.
Nationally, the election was indeed a so-called Republican wave, both in Congress where the GOP will have historical majorities, and in the state houses. Does that constitute a mandate? Well yes. Even liberal pundits this morning acknowledged that we now have a popular mandate to roll back regulatory overreach and reduce the size of government. But that is not the way that the diehard Left is spinning the message sent by the people. Led by Harry Reid and repeated in our local echo chambers, they claim that the real message from Americans is that government should now work together. But that desperate interpretation fails on all accounts.
Government does best to grow the economy when government does least to grow the economy.
The election is shaping up to be a testimony to national polarization like we haven’t seen since Civil War days. Some interesting points to consider -
1. Voter ID debacle that continues to be the main dog whistle to the ignorant Democrat constituencies. There is not one shred of evidence that requiring voters to present their readily obtained bona fides has diminished minority voting – in fact, the evidence points exactly in the other direction. Here’s the acid test. If there existed ONE SHRED OF EVIDENCE (emphasis mine) that what the progressives maintain is true, then they would immediately trot out the individuals who were so denied. But they cannot because 1) they don’t exist, and 2) if they tried to fabricate such occurrences, then the conservative press would take them to the cleaners for being doubly crooked – first telling the lie, and then conspiring to produce shills to abet the lie.
2. Harry Reid’s PAC is one of the biggest in the land, matching Republicans on every front. This is the man who has single-handedly put a hold on over 350 House passed bills so that Democrats in the Senate would not have to vote on them and declare their true colors as the true obstructionists. All the while the Left led by Obama and lickspittled by the lamestream keep screaming that it is the Republicans who are keeping Congress in gridlock.
3. Using the manufactured gridlock argument we will now see Obama put to use, during the lame duck session, the tens of millions of ‘don’t worry about ever being deported’ cards that he has had printed up. If that is not a scumbag tactic, then why is he keeping that a pre-election secret from his reading-disabled constituents.
4. Locally we lost our second ‘No on S’ election sign from the street – the third one has replaced it. These signs have been disappearing by droves all over the county. A neighbor saw members of the Measure S scumbag patrol pull into his driveway to take away his sign. They saw him and vamoosed. Their description matches what you would think that imported seasonal MJ workers would look like – not people you would invite to dinner. But these criminal antics sure confirm what Measure S is all about.
5. As Obama has amply demonstrated, the nation’s dormant Islamists know which side their global goals are buttered on in America. David Rusin of PJ Media reports on what Islamist Watch has discovered (here). The followers of Allah have contributed twelve times as much money to Democrats as to other candidates in this election. Money talks, bullshit walks. (H/T to reader)
6. (astute readers are welcome to contribute more pre-election shenanigans)
All of these points are documented and documentable. We hope that our Left leaners counter these points with equivalent credentials.
[4nov14 update] Well, today is election day, and you see all kinds of 'Please Vote!' exhortations on signs, in the media, including the blogs. They all seem to be unconditional invitations for citizens (and some to non-citizens) to get off their couches and into voting booths, regardless of what they know about the election - candidates and issues - fogging a mirror qualifies you. As you might expect, that is not the message of RR. Here we ask you to stay the hell out of the voting booth if you have not informed yourself about who the candidates are and what they stand for, and/or how they have voted on things that are important to you. The same goes for the issues. Don't be a soundbite voter - 1) inform yourself, 2) then vote. Otherwise stay home, have a glass of your favorite adult beverage, and just watch the returns or Brady Bunch reruns or whatever. But then, you knew that.
Free speech again on the progressives’ chopping block. The Left is ever busy to squelch the First Amendment in America since they have no counterarguments against liberty, constitutionalism, fiscal prudency, constitutionalism, etc that can stand in a forum of the even mildly read voter. Their solution du jour is to start branding anti-Left political speech as “hurtful”, and then seek to broaden legal remedies they have already emplaced to stop such speech under the categories of ‘hurtful racism’, ‘hurtful homophobia’, and so on. As John O’Sullivan points out (here), the new category will claim that ‘offensive’ speech will also be deemed ‘hurtful’, and banned accordingly. People promoting this are not stupid, but evil? Yes! Another paean to the Great Divide.
Quarantining has a long and successful history in the US. Peggy Noonan reminds us of that (here) as she recounts her great-aunt’s Atlantic crossing to Ellis Island –
On a bookshelf in my home in a glass-and-brass frame I keep my great-aunt’s Ellis Island health card. It’s cardboard, about as big as your hand. She wore it on her coat during her nine-day journey from Ireland. Every day the ship’s surgeon (possibly brusquely, probably officiously) examined her for signs of acute or long-term illness. The card noted her details—immigrant, steerage, age about 20—and other facts. SS California out of Londonderry, 1909, Mary Jane Byrne, last residence Glenties. On the back it says, “Keep this Card to avoid detention at Quarantine and in Railroads in the United States.” If she failed the physicals she would be held at Ellis Island or sent back. There’s a little notch to mark each day the doctor found her healthy. In the end there were nine.
By the time of the great post-WW2 migrations the US government got much smarter when ‘screening’ and quarantining immigrants. As I recount in a couple of ‘My Story’ pieces (here and here), the screening of immigrants during 1949-51 involved a quarantine in Germany where we were kept locked up for weeks at former German military bases behind barbed wire while being examined daily for anything bad that might have been cooking in our bodies. The process was unquestionably a wise one given the untreatable infectious diseases of the time. And it continues to be a wise policy today, albeit still rejected by the ruling regime on political grounds, given the infectious diseases that we can’t successfully treat today.
[2nov14 update] Our 'NO on S' was stolen on Friday from Cement Hill Road. It seems the election sign stealing scumbags are particularly busy on the medical marijuana issue. We put up a new one yesterday. Russ Steele has more on this here.
[3nov14 update] The meteorological mavens at the NOAA's National Weather Service reported on NPR this morning that California's chances for above normal rainfall in November were a bit over 30%. Then with equal confidence in their voice the meteorologist went on to say that the chances for near normal rainfall were around 33%. And no one cracked a smile or recognized that the weather guys don't have a clue about rainfall in November. They just described a flat probability distribution which is the probabilistic definition of total ignorance. But hey, no one does numbers any more. It's the authoritative sound that counts to keep us sheeple content that they are cared for by another government agency. Now, you wanna talk about climate change?
In 31oct14 WSJ article of the same name Kate Bachelder lists and expands on the ten high ranking pre-evidential and counter-evidential beliefs that our progressive cadres have accepted as revealed truth. They have done this with an intensity and a 'reasonable basis' equal to that of the most devout fundamental Christians whom they deplore. Ms Bachelder reminds us again that – “A hallmark of progressive politics is the ability to hold fervent beliefs, in defiance of evidence, that explain how the world works—and why liberal solutions must be adopted.”
Regular readers will recognize that all of these items have been extensively covered and debated in these pages. I think that seeing these ten (there are, of course, more) in one place is useful as we go to the polls next Tuesday. The bases for these beliefs being called superstitions are also summarized in the article (here).
1. Spending more money improves education.
2. Government spending stimulates the economy.
3. Republican candidates always have a big spending advantage over Democrats.
4. Raising the minimum wage helps the poor.
5. Global warming is causing increasingly violent weather.
6. Genetically modified food is dangerous.
7. Voter ID laws suppress minority turnout.
8. ObamaCare is gaining popularity.
9. The Keystone XL pipeline would increase oil spills.
10. Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared with men.
There’s a major and potentially harmful debate about the function and effect of quarantine in securing America against the ingress and spread of Ebola. It all spins around a significant misunderstanding of duty and volunteerism, primarily suffered by our politically correct cadres.
Everyone agrees that Ebola must be stopped in its African hotzone, and that requires the massive help from developed countries – mostly America and the EU. Most people (although not so many in our federal government) understand the ability of Ebola to infect in its asymptomatic and symptomatic phases. Few at policy making levels in government recognize that current temperature measuring and self-reporting measures at entry airports are an ineffective approach to keep Ebola out – the Obama administration maintains that “there is no gap” in such security measures.
The obvious security measure is to impose a 21-day quarantine on people entering from the hotzone. But that is resisted by policy makers arguing that imposing such a quarantine on returnees would immediately reduce the ranks of the otherwise dedicated healthcare workers who would volunteer for the hotzone. Why? Well, the argument, by those who probably have volunteered little and are dedicated primarily to their government careers, is that adding such a quarantine to the end of their hotzone duty would deter the dedicated volunteers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If everyone considering such volunteering knows ahead of time that they would spend 21 days in some form of comfortable confinement, either at home or at a well-appointed quarantine facility, then they would simply factor that into their service plans. And moreover, most such workers would understand and even possibly insist that they remain in a confined and regularly monitored environment after having been potentially exposed to Ebola. I know that I would and in the past have factored in such delays that bookend deployments and travel overseas. (Military and even corporate personnel schedule such extensions as a matter of course.) I most certainly would not want to come back from the hotzone directly into the loving embraces of my family and others I hold most precious. Everyone I have consulted about this attitude agrees that it is a no-brainer everywhere but within the tentacles of Team Obama where only political considerations are paramount.
(A moment’s thought reveals that historically factoring in such long and sometime arduous delays have always been a matter of course when the reward from arriving or returning has been sufficient. Presaged and planned comfortable quarantine is no different. Today’s policy quagmire over such factors reflects the a larger disease that already afflicts our society.)
[29oct14 update] Holman Jenkins in this morning's WSJ asks 'Why no Ebola travel ban? Politics', and expands while confirming the points made above and before on these pages. The inevitable conclusion is that there will be a flood of potential Ebola carriers into the US under Obama's current "no gap" security plan to keep the epidemic out of America. Jenkins observes that -
The danger of medical personnel, even as they arrive in the stricken countries in larger numbers, bringing the disease back with them is surely shrinking. The danger posed by locals fleeing Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone carrying the virus with them is likely increasing—and may increase dramatically if current forecasts are borne out.
West Africans are learning too: how and when transmission is likely to occur; that a 10-day window exists before symptoms become observable; that their survival chances are much greater in a Western hospital; that they would be unwise to mention any contact with Ebola patients until safely in the arms of Western medicine.
As more observers start thinking and informing people about how politics obviously trumps reason (and science), the chances are that this poll driven administration will install security measures that have a chance of stopping the spread of Ebola in the US.
[30oct14 update] Now we hear that our military leadership definitely thinks that quaranteeing troops returning from the Ebola hotzone is a good idea, and have implemented a program to do just that (more here).