Since its launch in 2007, RR has had an open, seldom mediated comments policy since I did not want this forum to become an echo chamber for near-conservatarian sentiments. The blog’s purpose was to record my thoughts and observations about these eventful and fin de siècle years for humanity on this planet, and given that this worldview is admittedly outrageous to many, I wanted my readers to see and offer compelling counter arguments. The prime audience for all this was intended to be the ideologically mid-road and undecided reader, of course with a considerable nod to my right-of-center compatriots who hopefully would bolster what I was able to stick into the dike against the progressive flood.
RR took off beyond my expectations, attracting readers and (online and email) commenters to compose quite an audience despite that, I have expended no effort to popularize its diverse subject matter. My intent was to attract only the well-read, or at least the well-reading visitors who would make up a cohort of intellectual peers. I have never wanted to write for ‘broad audiences’, and consequently have often been admonished for using a ‘$10 word’ instead of the accepted handful of more folksy, compact, and dictionary-optional $1 words. It is a weakness learned long ago when Buckley often drove me to my always open, unabridged codex of the English language. As Popeye famously said, ‘Iyam what Iyam.’
So I started writing posts that included my Union columns, and still include my KVMR commentaries, and people of all political stripe started commenting. And then some commenters from both sides became irked at what seemed to be obvious errors, misrepresentations, and even displays of moral turpitude from the other side. The subsequently returned punches began landing below belts. And from the stats, traffic grew as more people joined in the fray either as passive readers or as ‘in the pit’ commenters. Soon the comment streams were decorated with mudballs thrown at opposites for what also was clearly for the sheer fun of retorting outrage with greater outrage. But always between the mudball exchanges, commenters took time to write lengthy considered statements, commentaries, and even essays on the topic at hand. Providing such a forum, warts and all, became a raison d’etre for RR.
Of late things have gotten more than a bit out of hand, and readers and commenters in greater numbers are asking that I attempt to restore some decorum. So here goes.
Commenter Rules: To lower the temperature and foster focus on issues, I will do my best henceforth to enforce the following commenter rules –
1. Under topical posts, keep your comments obviously related to the topic(s) posted. Use the nearest RR Sandbox to introduce other topics and invite discussion.
2. Given the scope of comments that have become traditional on blogs, wordsmith your comments to be clear, concise, and complete. And please read them over before you hit ‘Post’.
3. Contend the presented ideas, interpretations, and opinions, and not their author. Maul the message, and not the messenger. If the messenger wraps himself in the message, then make your repartees as churchillian as possible. Junior high school mudballs prohibited.
4. Remember that RR is a long running blog that contains a growing body of thought, and is strongly ideological with multiple posts on a wide range of topics, including a separate ‘Conservatarian Credo’. Please refer to or reference these as necessary to contend/expand an issue – every issue does not have to start with ‘Hello World!’ Either use the RR embedded search function or Google (‘xx’, rebane’s ruminations) to find previous commentaries and comments on any given subject.
5. ‘Praise publicly and punish privately.’ Don’t launch personal attacks on other commenters or me. Most certainly don’t publish other people’s personal information that is unrelated to the posted topic(s).
6. Minimize the use of obscenities and profanities – i.e. do not use them in an obviously gratuitous manner.
7. I invite bylines from RR readers. If you have an extended thought on a topic you’d like to post on RR under your name, email it to me. I’ll make the final determination.
8. No spam or porn.
Not a requirement, but as a courtesy to other readers, please identify by name/timestamp the comment to which your comment pertains. My own format has been 'GeorgeR 153pm'. Other lengthier ones also will serve. Thanks.
We’ll see how these work out. I will do my best to enforce them ‘fairly’, but since that word has no uniformly accepted operational definition, you will almost certainly accuse me of being unfair. Your complaints are welcomed. I am reminded of the old coach who advised his players ‘Never seek justice, only mercy.’
Parting note – please compose and keep your lengthier comments in a Word (or other text editor) document until you see the comment ‘survive’ on RR. I will not take the time to ‘cleanse’ comments that violate the above rules, I’ll just unpublish them. In that case, if you wish, you can edit out the offending part yourself and repost. Note also that these rules are accessible under the upper right margin heading 'RR Fundamentals'.
Given the 25jun15 SCOTUS ruling on ACA, I had to rush off a post on it since RR's readership will not sit idly by and let an occasion like this pass without extensive discussion and debate. And this happening may even fit into these thoughts that I’ll try to weave together on equally impactive geo-political goings on.
William Galston, left-leaning observer and columnist picks up on RR’s ‘beyond the tipping point’ assertion in his ‘Modern Autocrats Are on the March’. Therein he cites David Clark of UK’s Henry Jackson Society who argues that “the great wave of global democratic change that began in the mid-1970s—doubling the number of electoral democracies in the space of three decades—has come to an end. Instead, we are now confronted with a powerful authoritarian backlash that is reversing some of these gains and encouraging a resurgence of anti-democratic ideas.”
This according to many of us, including Galston, who have observed geo-political maneuverings over the last decade or so makes clear that while “the rise of violent Islamism has transfixed the world, another, graver threat—21st-century autocracy—is gathering strength. In the long run, it is sophisticated autocrats, not bearded zealots, who pose the greater menace to democracy.” By this is meant that these sophisticated autocrats are not some conservative or progressive knuckle-draggers wanting to return to yesteryear, but instead are elites who take into account globalization, rising prosperity and digital communications, and, according to Clark, they have developed “new techniques of control and new justifications for monopolizing power that enable autocratic leaders to resist pressure for democratic change.”
As we know, democracy is not a naturally occurring form of governance, and pure democracy is now the established tool of would be tyrants as the enthusiastically swallowed preamble to tyranny. Today these elites “adeptly manipulate the façade of democratic procedures” to “co-opt their countries’ rising middle-classes.” This is most evident in the Asian autocracies that preach to their citizens their cultural exceptionalism in the expression and practice of their ‘Asian values’. And I agree with Clark that “the rise of the new authoritarianism shows that democracy is not the inevitable outgrowth of modernization and economic development.” To confirm this we need look no further than our own shores.
[The last sandbox seemed to have exhausted its old threads and its ability to launch new threads. One can always tell that a sandbox is overfilled when the mudball density goes up. I very much enjoyed the exchange on national healthcare issues and alternatives. Although, I still didn't see any appreciation from the Left that their vaunted EU healthcare programs continue to eat up a greater fraction of GDP year after year while existing services are being rationed and/or cut - the litmus test for unsustainability. But then, that news never reaches the lamestream, and therefore it really is not happening.
Regarding the GDP figure, please see my comment below. gjr]
Another dark day in the history of our Republic. Obamacare (aka ACA) has survived its second encounter with SCOTUS. In spite of the clear intent of Congress to goad states to get into the healthcare business; in spite of progressives in Congress intending the secretly composed and hastily passed healthcare law to promote an ultimate single payer system through the sequential revelation of ACA’s obvious shortcomings; in spite of ACA’s clear statement that subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state”; in spite of all that SCOTUS today struck that language and rewrote the law. Subsidies will be available to all, whether they signed up on state run exchanges or the fed’s disastrous healthcare.gov.
The important part that most people will miss is what SCOTUS really said with this ruling. I will spell it out, and you will read about it elsewhere later. SCOTUS said –
• We know better than Congress what it meant when crafting a law;
• No matter what Congress stated in the law, we know what the law really should have said;
• According to our liking, we have the power to re-legislate and fix laws to make them right for the nation.
It used to be that SCOTUS only adjudicated laws and their application according their concordance with the Constitution.
“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in a 21-page opinion. But for years the progressives in Congress have openly and often admitted that, while ACA is a flawed and incomplete approach to national healthcare, its obvious problems as they arise will give impetus to a single payer national health service to replace the ACA.
Again highlighted by SCOTUS, the legal industry has used a logic and inference process that is peculiar to itself. It is purposefully intended to be fluid and poorly understood, giving rise to ad hoc interpretations, reinterpretations, and argumentation ad infinitum so as to create and sustain a fully employed and growing priesthood that can live off the productive labors of whatever land it has been able to infect.
In the schooling and professional experience of people like me, such a system of logic would not have underpinned any successful scientific experiment or engineering project. No bridge or MRI or airplane could have been designed and built with it. No correct medical diagnosis could be based on it, no successful search of a massive database could have been conducted using it, and no contributions to our understanding of the universe would occur under its influence.
Most informed people know that our legal system is drastically broken. Today, along with secret courts, draconian federal grand juries, lawless government takings, and citizens being subjected to double or even triple jeopardies, the law industry employs a distinctly Queen of Hearts logic and semantic – words infer and mean when and what they want them to infer and mean.
That this rot today infects our highest legal institution – The Supreme Court of the United States – makes its power complete and totally extra-constitutional. With this extremely important ruling SCOTUS has set new precedence to enable it to fashion laws at will through the new provisos – never mind the language of the law, we know what Congress really meant; and if the law seems broken or as the ACA, “inadvertently poorly crafted”, then we can fix it to say what Congress should have said instead. Now we have a really supreme Supreme Court.
[update] This post would not be complete without the words of Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote the dissent to today's horrendous ruling by SCOTUS.
“This court … rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.” And this court goes through “summersaults of statutory interpretation” that lead to “the discerning truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”
The majority opinion and ruling, including Justice Scalia’s dissent document may be accessed in its entirety here (starting on p27).
FN reports that the latest polls continue to indicate that the entire country is still not ready to embrace the ACA (or maybe we should really call it SCROTUMscare since it hits the overwhelming number of us in the shorts); anyway 50% of Americans "wish the law had never been passed", and 45% are "glad that it was".
[26jun15 update] SCOTUS is on a roll. Before discussing its ruling on gay marriages, I want to point the reader to two summaries of the Obamacare subsidies ruling that concur with my take on the lasting impact (sea change if you wish) of this decision. The abbreviated dissent by Justice Scalia is available here, and WSJ’s 26jun15 lead editorial ‘The Political John Roberts’ is available here.
So now SCOTUS has upheld “disparate impact” to enforce federal housing law in Texas Dept of Housing v. Inclusive Communities Project. “This is the legal doctrine that purports to prove racial discrimination based on different racial outcomes, such as the existence of a neighborhood with few minorities. No evidence of discriminatory intent, or actual discriminatory treatment, is required.” (more here)
Here we see writ large the progressives’ ‘equal opportunity’ as actually being ‘equal outcome’ legislation – something they have denied for decades. That this ruling abets existing racial differences and creates additional ones. Justice Thomas’ dissent cuts to the fundamentals, “To presume that these and all other measurable disparities are products of racial discrimination is to ignore the complexities of human existence.”
And finally today’s SCOTUS ruling that gay marriage is to be legal in all 50 states. First, it is interesting (but not expanded here) to see the shift in the court’s view over the last 30 years of homosexuals marrying each other. Be that as it may, RR has never opposed homosexuals entering into the exactly same, legally binding union that has been traditional for heterosexuals in their institution labeled ‘marriage’. In former times ‘I am married’ carried a distinct meaning and therefore more information when used to communicate such unions. It allowed you to unambiguously identify the relationship within a social and cultural frame. Retaining ‘marriage’ to also label homosexual unions now ambiguates ‘I am married’, requiring something like ‘I am heterosexually/homosexually married’ to transmit the same information.
Without going into the ‘slippery slope’ arguments as to who in the future can marry whom or what, it has seemed to me that expanding the language to give gays their own word for such a long-lasting, love-based union would be productive. In a previous (5apr13) post I introduced ‘garried, garriage, to garry’ to label such a union. Now I find that on 26 June 2013 this was also proposed and included in the ‘Urban Dictionary’. Go figger.
In any event, there will be much more to say about the ins and outs of garriage as regards procreation, child rearing, public accomodations (‘I now identify myself more as a woman.’), couples based social norms, and so on. But one thing is for sure, no one should ever mistake this SCOTUS as anything other than a political instrument advancing the progressive agenda for society and governance.
[27jun15 update] Ramirez is incomparable. H/T to RR reader for the image.
Economic development in Nevada County must address what many of us see as the three legs of the county’s existing economy – IT based industry, tourism, and retirees. Absent public service employees, these are the three main cash importers. There are initiatives in place to attract more IT companies through increased broadband availability and a new business incubator in the plans.
But not much is being done to boost the other two areas. (Yesterday’s NC Bike Race Classic was a sad commentary on tourism.) Additionally, aging retirees who want to downsize from their big houses on acres of land are forced to seek their next abodes elsewhere (quality condos, smaller houses in protected neighborhoods, variable care communities, …). Tourism is suffering because we don’t have enough quality beds at reasonable prices to attract more weekend visitors who want to attend evening performances from our rich palette of cultural offerings – Music in the Mountains, In Concert Sierra, Center for the Arts, theaters, the fairground, … .
People driving up here from the flats would rather have a nice dinner, attend a performance (or two), perhaps enjoy an after dinner libation, and then hit the sack instead of driving two plus hours, tired and three sheets to the wind, to get back home. They would much rather wake up refreshed, have a good breakfast or brunch, and then be on their way. The boost to our economy that such a weekend agenda would provide, multiplied a thousand times, is not hard to imagine. Another decent hotel or two, and a proper performance center would fit the bill nicely.
But in addition to the intrinsic financial risks that such projects normally entail, our county and cities add on their own regulatory and procedural burdens as recently pointed by our RL Bob Crabb in the nearby cartoon filched from The Union. Our electeds deny all this by putting the onus on those dumb and good-for-nothing outsiders who are not bellying up to the Planning Department counters with their project plans. But reality advises otherwise, Nevada County’s ‘development friendly’ reputation is known far and wide. And without our chambers of commerce and planning jurisdictions actively simplifying the development processes, and then inviting people to come up here and see the opportunities, nothing much more will happen in these woods. Tourists won’t come and retirees will continue to leak out at greater than replacement rates.
Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is in the news again with the Pope’s controversial encyclical and the next UN global warming conference in the fall. Here on RR the debate between the Skeptics and True Believers has revived in spades to the point where one reader (True Believer) has challenged another reader (Skeptic) to a public debate in which the TB promises to maximally embarrass the Skeptic, presumably by exposing the Skeptic’s case allegedly based on both weak science and a fundamental misunderstanding of the involved science. Here are my two cents on this challenge.
The problem is that the TB has no technical credentials and bases his belief in AGW on politically sponsored reports, at least twice removed, that cite discredited datasets, ignore major areas of science impacting earth’s climate, and evince profound ignorance about the design, care, and feeding of complex climate models (the so-called General Circulation Models, GCMs). At the same time the Skeptic is a scientifically read and astute engineer, fully credentialed with multiple degrees that attest his technological pedigree. I began thinking about the conduct of such a media reported/recorded debate, and who would derive what profit from it. The bottom line is that I couldn’t think of any way that such a debate between those two would shed useful light on the issue, or in any way contribute toward a resolution of it in the minds of its most likely audience.
This conclusion is abetted when we consider the TB’s more complete resume that includes being a well-practiced and rehearsed activist for almost all the leftwing causes and initiatives that have made California into the taxed, regulated, indebted, and economic basket case that it is today. The TB will have no alternative but to spout today’s made-simple for broad, unread audiences, and politicized ‘consensus science’. And the Skeptic will be forced to take his refuting arguments to the next technical levels where few, if any, will be able to follow – all the while the TB baselessly disparaging every one of those arguments in a manner that elicits uncritical nodding heads among the gruberized, and leaves the others numb. Everyone knows that such audiences have been meticulously prepared to either ignore or mistrust all uncomfortable and confrontational arguments about AGW aka global warming aka climate change.
What’s more disturbing is that the entire True Believer society has for some time been quite comfortable with the way their message has massaged the masses. Team Gore, to their strategic credit, even refuses to put their best scientists on a stage with skeptical scientists to discuss the evidence in front of a technically knowledgeable audience. While the skeptics contend every emerging piece of IPCC’s evidence for AGW in its detail, their arguments are summarily ignored. The only recognition of the Skeptics is a vague reference to them as ‘Climate Change Deniers’, or worse, ‘Climate Deniers’, inferring the existence of a discredited knuckle-dragging, flat earth bunch howling in the wings.
And the saddest part for our overall body politic is that such debates are now beyond the pale for many other socially important issues that relate to numbers and/or science. And, of course, they all do. My conclusion is that polarized dumbth (q.v.) has reached a level in the land such that only slogans shouted across the chasm serve as an acceptable substitute for dialogue.
[23jun15 update] The topic of saving the world’s sovereign nation-statesand distinct, regionally anchored cultures has long been a topic of debate and discussion on RR. The EU is now in the throes of attempting to reconcile a good-sounding but poorly thought theory of how manage fractional or partial sovereignty. And the problem comes down to the question of what is a border. It turns out that having complete control of your borders is fundamental to a people’s self-determination. Europe is rediscovering that now, and we (at least the progressive ‘we’) in America don’t have a clue. A strongly recommended read on this is ‘What Borders Mean to Europe’ by Stratfor’s George Friedman. The piece is like a periscope into our own future, a future that is already underway.
[27jun15 update] In the late 00s I talked Jo Ann into letting me become a student pilot. Reluctantly she gave permission (which I still don’t have for riding a motorcycle) and I started my lessons at Alpine Aviation under the tutelage of owner Gordon Mills. Anyway, I progressed appropriately and on a sunny day soloed – three takeoffs and landings, followed by a longer 'victory lap' solo flight over these Sierra foothills, especially beautiful when you’re alone in the airplane. The cross country phase of training followed with my taking the occasional solo flights in the single-engine, low-wing Diamond DA-20.
In my defense contractor days I was privileged to work with men I consider to be the best pilots in the world – carrier based, light attack – these guys (gals?) fly their F-18s so low as to occasionally get tree branches in their undercarriage. I worked with the squadrons at Lemoore (light attack) NAS and Whidbey Island (medium attack) NAS in the design of advanced in cockpit displays for successful penetration of complex sensor and SAM fields during target in/egress. From my naval aviator colleagues I learned about ‘OK-3’ carrier landings – tailhooking the third of four arresting cables that puts your aircraft in the optimum spot on the deck for rapid repositioning, thereby allowing a tight final approach pattern to get returning fuel-starved aircraft quickly onboard with a minimum of fuss. The logged OK-3 landings on a pilot’s record were very important to good assignments, promotions, and general bragging rights within a talented, exclusive, yet very competitive comradery.
So during a solo flight on final to Nevada County KGOO’s 25 (runway), I decided to nail an OK-3 landing. I picked my precise touchdown point (where my ‘tailhook’ was going to snag the ‘#3 cable’) and set my glide path appropriately. Well guess what? your junior league aviator nailed the KO-3, but in so doing sacrificed my flare so that I touched down what might charitably be characterized as a mite hard – and porpoised, bouncing back in the air. When I brought that bucking DA-20 safely on the runway, I felt pretty red-faced knowing that someone else had probably seen that crappy landing and was grinning ear-to-ear.
Anyway, since landings have always been my favorite part of flying an airplane, I decided to taxi back, take-off again, go around the pattern, and redeem myself. This I did, but as I was making my take-off run, I noticed that the airplane somehow seemed to be underpowered. I was puzzled since the engine sounded normal as I lifted off after a longer than normal run and then went around. After landing again (no OK-3 this time) I taxied back to the Alpine hangar to report on my experience. Gordon came out and discovered that I had shredded six-inches of the propeller’s tips, which explained the weak performance of the aircraft on the second go around. Anyway, that turned out to be an expensive flight, but a valuable lesson in piloting.
I continued my flight training after that, but was convinced by a same-age friend who had abandoned his own flight training, that I should also reconsider going on with something for which I would have limited time in the future. The convincing argument, reinforced by Jo Ann, was that infrequent pilots who do not keep up their hours are a danger to themselves and others when they do climb into the cockpit as Pilot In Charge. The stats tell the story, especially for older flyers. So now I wistfully consider just going back and flying with an instructor on windy afternoons coming in on final in a steep forward-slip, then converting into a side-slip before touchdown. Fun stuff, even if it isn’t an OK-3.
[I am writing this moments from when the earth's northern hemisphere tilts maximally in its summer nod to the sun. And it's also Father's Day, a day when our young'uns take notice and tell us they really did appreciate our being around as they were growing up. I've always thought of Father's Day as being a consolation prize bestowed so as not to leave the blatant worship of mothers and Motherhood in too stark of a contrast on the calendar of annual family observances - giving the old man a nod now and then goes a long way to complete the picture. I invite readers to share a paragraph or two about how their own dads bent the twigs of trees now grown - I'll start.
My own dad was his parents' firstborn on the family farm, soon followed by a brother and sister. His dad (after whom I am named) was a gruff man with little education and a lot of energy and courage - a veteran of both the Russo-Japanese War and the Estonian Revolution. The farm was supposed to go to my dad, but he had been drafted, served in the Estonian Army's Signal Corps, seen the bright city lights, and was discharged as a skilled journeyman electrician. No farm life for this son of the sod.
With a friend he started an electrical contracting business in Viljandi, married mom, and was surprised when I came soon after Hitler and Stalin had started dividing up Europe. My dad's wisdom, recounted elsewhere in these pages, saved our collective hind ends when he got us out of Estonia before the Red Army invaded. During the war he was a hero many times over, saving us and others to enjoy our lives in post-war displaced persons camps and then emigrate to freedom.
My dad knew how to do everything - he was also an artist and artisan, but that's another story. The Rebanes climbed the economic ladder by working any and all kinds of jobs available, and buying and rebuilding fixer-upper homes. As a consequence my youth was filled with lots of work after school - that was not unusual, in those times it was the norm. Starting at the age of 11, my dad taught me to do everything needed to build a house. He was just following in his dad's footsteps, and let me know that I was starting out a little late. On the farm he already knew all the stuff I was just learning. Imparting gratuitous self-esteem was not his strong suit. By the time I was fourteen, dad had taught me to build an entire house from laying the foundation, through framing, roofing, drywall, electricity, plumbing, and painting. My proudest moments were when he came home from work, looked over a piece of work I had done after school, and said "That'll do." before laying out tomorrow's jobs. And then after mom (who also worked) had cleared supper, dad would get to work on the next building task. I grew up in a construction zone.
But my dad never thought for a moment that I would follow in his footsteps, he made sure my Job One was getting an education because I would be going to college, the first in our family to do so. After getting some years under my belt I would look back and see that everything he did was to enable me to have a better life than he and mom did. And then, without first checking with me, he died when I was 31. He left too early, and I still miss him. gjr]
[This post is long overdue, and was motivated by a discussion with a reader in the ‘Sandbox – 17jun15’ comment stream. These ideas date from the mid-nineties and were included in my lecture series on Numeracy delivered in 2005-6 at the Nevada County's Madelyn Helling Library. A more portable (readable?) version of this monograph can be downloaded here - Download NNx - TailsTragedy150619. Caudaphobia derives from the Latin ‘cauda’ for tail, and the Greek ‘phobia’ meaning a “persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.” (dictionary.com)]
1. Main thesis - A sufficiently large, innumerate, and initially democratic population will incrementally and inevitably regulate itself into state of authoritarian servitude as it seeks through legislation and litigation to insulate itself from low probability risks. Corollary - The pace of such social degeneration is at least proportional to the size of the innumerate population.
2. This thesis is a companion to Garrett Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons” in that ‘the Tails’ also describes the inevitable consequences of seemingly benign incremental social actions each with unintended collateral effects that accumulate into disaster. Whereas Hardin’s commons was destroyed by such individual ignorance (and greed?) in an environment of no/low social (i.e. state) intervention, we now have an entire social order being destroyed by exactly the opposite of too much social intervention voted and litigated into place by the ignorant and greedy.
3. The entire field of such problems in attempting to avoid/alleviate the effects of the tails - let us name it caudaphobia - can only be solved by 1) teaching numeracy, 2) establishing a generally accepted moral order, 3) emplacing and embracing rapid/accurate social feedback mechanisms, and 4) decoupling the social system in-the-large so as to limit the extent of caudaphobic damage and permit rapid repair.
4. The genre of caudaphobic problems is the societal equivalent of ‘the self-criticality of large scale systems’ explicated in the field of systems science (also known as Catastrophe Theory). This states that, without exception, all large, complex, interconnected systems have failures whose intervals are inversely related to their magnitudes.
5. Caudology - the study and analysis - and Caudometry - the observation and measurement of the wider ranging social effects arising ‘from the tails’ of p.d.f.s, and the resulting costs and likelihood of success in attempting to reduce or eliminate the effects of such offensive tails. These disciplines should be formalized within the schools of economics, sociology, and political science.
6. Example: show how a constant but very low traffic accident rate (accidents/driven mile) ‘guarantees’ that a tightly coupled road system (e.g. a large city’s freeways) will fail whenever enough people use it concurrently (i.e. present themselves to the possibility of accidents). The low chance of an accident is prescribed by the probability density function’s (p.d.f.’s) tail, but the number of accidents is determined by the number of people ‘in the tail’. In such tightly coupled cases the individually caudal event causes a system wide breakdown. Such cases may justify the effort to directly attack the caudal effect, or, more reasonably, to reconfigure the affected system to immunize it from such caudality. To the large segments of voters with low attention spans the simplistic and, therefore, appealing approach is the direct approach.
7. Numeracy is the possession of a working or intuitive level of knowledge at a non-professional level about some very basic concepts from mathematics and the systems sciences that explicate observations of our surroundings, illuminate received reports, support clear communications, enable reasoned decisions, and thereby guide daily behavior to our own and society’s benefit. The curriculum of numeracy includes elements from arithmetic, geometry, logic, probability, taxonomy, data presentation, complexity, estimation, control, utility, and decision making. In a free society numeracy is the indispensable twin of literacy in that to the extent that literacy lets you communicate thoughts and ideas, numeracy gives you the tools for critical thinking that enables you to generate worthwhile thoughts and ideas.
8. An innumerate person, on the other hand, is at the mercy of his more numerate handlers who, instead of information, dispense bits of semantically simple emotion which cannot be isolated and identified let alone examined. Yet in our society the deficit of innumeracy alone has received absolution from the stigma of ignorance. Show yourself to be illiterate and you are immediately among the recognizably disadvantaged, a victim of someone else’s neglect, and the target of necessary state sponsored compassion. Admit innumeracy and your fellow innumerates instantly, and with some relief, accept that void as a shared, perfectly normal trait. Giving evidence of numeracy elicits no further concern beyond a commensurate confession with the inevitable appendix that such persons must also have large attendant deficits in the clearly more important social skills and also are very likely close relatives of idiot savants. The real societal effect of all this was best summarized in Thomas Jefferson’s “A nation ignorant and free, that never was and never shall be.”
9. The numerate citizen knows axiomatically that any characteristic of an individual, society, or nature manifests itself over a range of values represented by a distribution specifying how frequently or with what probability such values occur. Also, that the values distant from their everyday norms will turn up with very low likelihood.
10. Caudal events from the ‘bad side’ of the distribution describing any activity can no longer be left unaddressed with the simple dictum of ‘next time let’s all just be more careful’. Today the attempted elimination of such rare liabilities is always inaugurated by putting in place the social mechanisms to guarantee yet another ‘right’, the unstated implication being the impossible right of being insulated from any given caudal effect.
11. In a sufficiently large, complex, and tightly coupled social organization (e.g. a large metropolis) the unscrupulous or the innumerate activist, zealot, or lobbyist may always find and cite caudal events as evidence to justify the forging of any new social policy and its enforcement apparatus. In public debate when such evidence is shown to be vanishingly rare, the retort most impactive on an innumerate audience is, “Yes, but what if it happened to [you, your child, your mother, ...]?”. This inevitably carries the day, for to argue against it would be conclusive evidence of heartlessness, discrimination, insensitivity, promoting exclusivity, putting the burden on the backs of poor, or, finally, ‘playing God’ - the prima facie evidence of political incorrectness.
[The is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 17 June 2015.]
Our secular humanist brethren misconstrue Darwin as having claimed and conclusively demonstrated that the cosmos was uncreated, and that life arose by chance from the primordial muck. In fact, Darwin made neither claim, but did present compelling evidence that once life came about, it then began transforming to adapt to its environment through evolution. Today evolutionary progress of the species has been accepted by all except the most fundamentalist believers in the several faiths.
Secular humanists of all stripes arose in the latter half of the 19th century, and by the mid-20th popular champions of ‘God is dead’ were penning eagerly read volumes claiming to demonstrate how science explained everything, including no need for creation and God. All that was still required was the Big Bang. Among those who arose to lead this movement of science-glorifying people to atheism, are Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins – the latter of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, and The God Delusion fame. Being a declared atheist was supposed signal to society that you were an intellectual, an independent thinker, and above all cool.