Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reliable Sources

Nobody asked but ...

Where do you go to get reliable accounts of news, weather, and sports?  I recently surveyed my students in 4 computer literacy classes regarding this information.  On reviewing the results, I stressed to them that a "good" source was no better than its reliability, and furthermore its alignment with the goals of the seeker.  Sources should be tested against reality on a regular basis to determine if they are reliable for the uses to which they are put.  My students seemed to prefer local TV channels for a reliable mix of local, state, national, and international news -- they also felt that most local stations did not have hidden agenda.  I told them a good place to begin elimination was with any sort of cable news.  As far as weather is concerned, the pick was the Weather Channel's web page, but I didn't get much argument when I suggested that weather was a hit and miss proposition.  Recent hurricanes were examples -- mainstream weather reporters underestimated Harvey and overhyped Irma.  I also saw reports that perhaps the criteria for adjudging storm severity were off kilter.  Most of the determinants on hurricanes are related to overwater characteristics, but not much overland metrics apart from storm surge.  Lastly, there was nearly unanimous selection of ESPN.com for sports.  People liked the breadth and depth.  I can even learn of rugby results at ESPN!

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #106 -- Consensus

It rears its ugly head again.  I'm talking about the populist tendency to subsume the existence of substantial discord by uttering a stupid statement containing the word, "consensus," or its equivalent.  Today, I saw this in print, "most scientists today will agree ... "  What possible difference does it make what scientists agree on?  Isn't science about disciplined observation, not some polling process?  In fact, it is the scientist who is going in the most unique direction, who is on the path less taken, who will make the next new discovery.  He should be in a minority of one until the bulk of his field have reviewed the findings and found them to be supported by repeatable evidence.  How many scientists will agree on something has nothing to do with the scientific method or the existence of a phenomenon.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Yellowstone

Nobody asked but ...

A current educational experience reintroduces me to the vastness of geologic time.  The primary lesson is that consequences often develop over geologic timescales, not those of human lifetimes.  I see that the world, regardless of the natural effects of humans, proceeds in a way that is nearly oblivious to our small presence.  Does the Earth care who is POTUS today, or what he may do with regard to the Paris Accord?  Nah.  I have often taken comfort in the idea that the Yellowstone Super Volcano could, at any time, render most of our quotidian concerns beside the point.  It sobers the mind when otherwise gripped in the throes of emotion.  But now I know that even an eruption of Yellowstone is but a hiccup in geologic time, disappearing altogether in cosmic time.  99.99999999999999999999999999...% of the cosmos will never even know any POTUS's name.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Things I Do

Nobody asked but ...

Friends and I meet monthly, and we call ourselves, informally, the logic group.  The inevitable question came up but what do you do about it? I begin to make a mental list of things I do:
  • I continue to parent my two daughters, although they both near their mid-century.  I am still their father.  They hold special places in my heart.
  • I grandparent my eight grandchildren.  The oldest will be thirty soon.  It's more easy to do.  Not being forced to parent makes our relationships voluntary, and I stress voluntary ideas with them.
  • I have two great-grandchildren.  I am still trying to understand this relationship.
  • I live on a farm with 10 rescued animals, two horses, four dogs, and four cats.
  • I blog and write columns at Everything Voluntary dot Com. 
  • I author and maintain a Facebook group, Another 2000+ Libertarian Quotes. 
  • I facilitate a Facebook page, Libertarian Podcast Exchange.
  • I am a voluntary participant in a study on aging at the local university.
  • I hold learning sessions on critical thinking and computer literacy.
  • I organize a group of people who discuss philosophy once a week.
  • I read.
  • I study.
  • I am a voluntaryist.
  • I am an individualist.
  • I am the only me in the multiverse.
  • ...


 -- Kilgore Forelle

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Words Poorly Used #105 -- Insurance

A substantial part of my jagged career was spent in the vineyards of the property and casualty insurance business.  I learned that, in its principled form, true insurance was only possible where every unit was equally exposed to a loss.  The textbooks told me that flooding was not an insurable peril because only the people who expected flood would buy it.  The private sector insurance industry, therefore, does not voluntarily underwrite flood insurance (they do, by the way, cover non-flood water damage -- anybody's pipes can burst).  The politicians, for the sake of euphemism, call flood reimbursement "insurance."  It is actually subsidy of reckonless risktaking.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Academia

Nobody asked but ...

I must admit that I am a college faculty member.  Worse yet, I work as an adjunct instructor for a state-funded community/technical system of colleges.  But let me hasten to add that there are many independent thinkers among my colleagues.  The wrong-headedness that rolls out from campuses is the work of a small part of Academia.  There is a cautionary rule of thumb that says the unnecessary work done tends to expand to fill the time allotted.  This is an expansion of Parkinson's Law, "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."  I disagree somewhat -- a good deal of work never gets done because the stealing of time makes a fictional abundance of time appear to be available.  In fact, time is filled by the looping of the most trivial pursuits available; for instance, meetings and the minting of organs designed to generate meetings.  I ran into a case of this bureaucracy this week.  I was advised by a minion of "Big Publishing," that by virtue of my selecting an "end date" for my courses, I have shut off all student  access after that date to eText resources bought and paid for by the students.  (I rest assured that the fine print on the web pages that contain "I agree" check boxes renders contractual the small theft).  As a bibliophile who never sold a textbook back to the bookstore, I may be overreacting ... but I don't think so.  The sales rep for the publisher told me, "Unfortunately due to copyright laws, [keeping your eText] is not possible." This is both untrue, in an equity sense, and incomplete, in an explanatory sense.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

CYA

Nobody asked but ...

Now I get it.  First, Mitch McConnell made a speech criticizing POTUS, then POTUS tweeted some insults directed toward Majority Leader McConnell.  This is an elaborate dance.  Now both POTUS and MLOTSOTUS have reciprocal excuses.  Congress is not moving efficiently and effectively.  The Oval Office is not coordinating cohesively.  Both luminaries have their heads stuck up their own elimination canal, but each would have you believe that there is another orifice attached to a body not moving fast enough.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Make Haste, Waste, Confusion

Nobody asked but ...


I know this POTUS needs a fence post in the ground.  Without one, he will never have more, he will repair no fences.  But his tweetstorm admonitions for speed are counterproductive.  What is he, a muleskinner?  The way he curses the mules and urges them to greater speed would make it seem so.  More than one congressperson and many citizens are wondering, what are the plans?  As an anti-state guy, I am as opposed as any to central planning, but if we are going to have government action anyway, I prefer planned action as opposed to empty action, or worse, helterskelter action.  POTUS does not care about content, substance, or consequences, therefore it is quite easy to urge haste when one can ignore the knock-on effects.  POTUS only seems to be concerned with looking busy and notches on his dealmaker's gun-grip.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Words Poorly Used, Another Devil's Dictionary #3


  • Clarity -- in politics, that which is to be avoided at all costs.
  • Unnecessary -- anything spouted by a former political minion who has been handed the pink slip.
  • Crudit -- That which is claimed by a politico when trying to cover a disaster by characterizing it as a great triumph.
  • Canard -- an unfounded rumor or story, usually related to a political disaster, usually in 180 degree opposition to any segment of truth.
  • Damage Control -- the default mode of any politician.
  • Spin -- see Damage Control.

Words Poorly Used #104 -- Clarity

POTUS keeps having a legislative and executive agenda, but he appears to fear any kind of specificity regarding details.  Is this so that he can claim that any misshapen mess represents a success of deal-making?  The word misused in this case is "clarity."  It is misused in that it is not pursued where it should be.  Politicians like to keep their powder dry, to use an old piece of figurative language.  They prefer to let the unforeseen consequences occur, then take credit for whatever has happened.  If they practice clarity beforehand, they would be constrained to a logical outcome.  But their motto obviously is always take credit, never take blame.  A stark example was shown this week when congress persons pointed out that there were no details about tax reform.  That is by design; no matter what happens to the effort, everybody can claim clairvoyance.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Monday, September 11, 2017

Job Description

Nobody asked but ...

If you were the top political adviser to a politician, how much sense would it make to say that the advice-recipient made the worst political mistake in modern history.  The recently departed top advisor made such an admission on television this past week-end.  What did he think his job description was?  If it was not to advise against epic political mistakes, then how did he justify his position?

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Families and Groups

Nobody asked but ...

Leo Tolstoy once wrote to the effect that happy families were the same, while unhappy families were all different.  I think, though I revere Tolstoy, that the half about happy families is untrue.  I see every indication that every family is different, just as are the people who make up those families.  I do not believe that there are "happy" or "unhappy" families.  There are families that undergo constant change, and there is an infinite supply of adjectives that apply to families.  Everything that is true of families is also true of any other multi-individual group.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Storm Watch

Nobody asked but ...
When I was a kid, we only saw Hurricanes on newsreels at the movie house -- always showing palm trees bent near double.  Same for blizzards, droughts, and floods, except for the palm trees.  After the fact, become history subsumed into the parade of human affairs, they were shown in grainy black and white.  Nothing to fear.  Move along, folks.  Now we get days of warnings, graphics, and hyperbole.  I have a friend on Daufuskie Island, in South Carolina, who says the worst part is the waiting.  I suspect the waiting would be tolerable without the handwringing and flatscreen teevees.
-- Kilgore Forelle

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Words Poorly Used #103 -- Charity

With repeated catastrophes, one cannot be on the scene helping in most cases.  Sometimes we can only donate money or time through surrogates.  It is frustrating trying to assist charities.  Like all organizations, they have pockets of management dysfunction, pockets of people problems.  This is also the reason why big government bureaucracies have so many fail points, many egregious fail points.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Whodunit

Nobody asked but ...

I count among my major influences several writers who specialize or specialized in detective fiction, aka pulp fiction.  I have come to consider many of the purveyors of this lurid fiction to be among the finest literary practitioners, literature producers, and philosophy masters.  Who are some of these knights of the pen?   To name a few, Dashiell Hammett, Mark Twain, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, Sue Grafton, Benjamin Black, Noah Hawley, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, Ruth Rendell, and Michael Connelly.  Each of these creators have a thing in common -- each have created a highly idiosyncratic individualist protagonist.  These characters are standalone loners who value unique moral codes; private eyes, insurance investigators, medical examiners, opportunists, uncollectivized hangers-on in police departments, dilettantes, agency operatives, newspersons, computer hackers, portraits from life's other side -- the Continental Op and Sam SpadePudd'nhead Wilson, Porfiry PetrovichPhilip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Kinsey Milhone, Quirke, Nikki Swango and Gloria Burgle, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Kurt Wallander, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, Inspector Wexford, and Hieronymus Bosch.   I am part of a philosophy discussion group where a friend commented that those of us who are considerate are each on our own moral quest.  The above listed authors and characters are most definitely on individual moral quests.  I am transfixed by how each of them sees his or her own constellation of morals, rights and wrongs, responsibilities, consequences.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Paradigm Shift II

Nobody asked but ...

Can we bootstrap ourselves into another paradigm?  It says here I don't think so.  With Rome, it took the Visigoths.  With the British Empire, it took Mahatma Ghandi.  With IBM, it took Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  With FDR, it took the grim reaper.  With the camel's back, it took a last straw.  Although internal forces can build to immense pressures, it nearly always takes an unexpected pressure from an external source.  Systems unaffected by external forces have tremendous internal forces for maintenance of the status quo.  Many people voted a certain way in recent elections because they wanted to get to a new paradigm.  They voted for candidates who would "drain the swamp."  They voted for candidates who would work "from within the system" to cure it of its ills.  They voted for candidates who were going to be so unorthodox that they would be like Samson destroying the temple.  They voted for candidates who were going to be  so pure of motive as to emulate Jesus driving the money-changers from the temple.  Nice try.  None of these elections will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Monday, September 4, 2017

Paradigm Shift

Nobody asked but ...

Tha USA has been in a paradigm since the Civil War, that of the military industrial complex.  I don't see how we make a paradigm shift away from that.  We are too fat and happy with our comic book heroes, drugs legal and illegal, video games, reality television, cable news, and professional sports spectacles.  What could make us change?  Entertainment is not going to get drastically better.  POTUS is not going to do anything new -- maybe a bit more scandalous, but not new.  Our technology has plateaued, but based as it is on endless war, we'll just punch ourselves out.  The cultural makeup of the country is a dichotomy of a dying European segment and a burgeoning non-European segment.  We don't know whether to fish or cut bait.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #102 -- AI

Putin and Musk are holding forth on the future of AI.  They, and most the rest of us, act like AI is a stage play that is evolving toward a tightly plotted ending.  Observations:
  • AI is in the Stone Age.  We've been wrestling with the mouse for over 3 decades.  That is glacial change.
  • There is little NI (Natural Intelligence) among our popular leadership.  AI will be politicized, so that PI will stay in the hands of incompetents.
  • We will try to weaponize AI, thereby stalling it as we did with atomic research.  The same is happening on several scientific fronts -- genetic, environmental, and mememetic (educational) spring to mind.
  • "Strategery" and dumbing down has doomed our civilization.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Words Poorly Used #101 -- Criteria

Many people confuse criteria with filters, others dispense with criteria altogether.  Criteria actually are critical thinking stations in determining truth.  They are existential, distinguishing the "is" from the "isn't," and the "may be."  The world underestimated Hurricane Harvey because the presumptive category-system of predicting a storm's impact measured the wrong things, and/or not enough of the right things.  It turns out that most of the government measures are filters strictly for size and speed and direction that may answer over-the-ocean questions but hardly address any on-land questions other than a single point of when plus where.  How many systems askew of true criteria do we maintain?

-- Kilgore Forelle

A Better Catastrophe

Nobody asked but ...

Does your system of knowledge contain the concept of a "better catastrophe?" Well apparently POTUS's does. He said, while waving the state flag of Texas (for whatever reason), "We want to do it better than ever before."  Do what?  And if "we" did "it," how would we know that we had done it.  How much capacity do we, the people, have for buying snake oil from this charlatan?



 -- Kilgore Forelle

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pay It Forward

Nobody asked but ...

This morning, a woman, a stranger in the car in front of me, paid for my breakfast at the drive-through.  And I wondered in writing on Facebook, "Thank you, but what is that all about?"  Several respondents told me it was "Pay it forward."  I appreciate the gesture, but I don't feel right about buying someone breakfast.  I want to pay it forward in another way.  Where is my heart, and what do I want to see thrive?  Then I thought of EVC.  If everybody reading this just skipped one breakfast -- or not -- and paid the amount forward to EVC, we would be doing much more than buying a fat guy in a pickup truck a breakfast burrito.




 -- Kilgore Forelle

Cognitive Bias #4 -- Overconfidence

Nobody asked but ...

Self-appointed experts, aka politicians, seem to be the worst.  Here's an example:  Everybody I talk to, and I talk to a lot of people, say that there is climate change.  So, I have educated myself about it.  Many scientists have found some statistical proxy or computer model that replaces the work of getting a true average temperature for the whole planet, an average temperature that has been adjusted for all change over time and a pretence of knowing all future things.  So, I think that the consensus must be what it is made out to be by a majority of scientists (including those in unrelated fields).  This thing is decided by popular vote, isn't it?

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Houston, TX (Continuing)

Nobody asked but ...

This is a catastrophe. This is a disaster. This is the greatest amount of rain ever recorded in a locale in the history of meteorology. How can POTUS say, “We want to do it better than ever before.” Dams are about to burst! Doesn't POTUS understand that what is happening is beyond his prodigious capacity for self-deception. It's not about politicians, and their grandiose claims. Can't this fool address reality every once in a while? It is a catastrophe. It is a disaster. And it still will be no matter how many times POTUS waves his magic tongue. Better than what?


 -- Kilgore Forelle

Brilliant Women

Nobody asked but ...

I was born into lines of brilliant women.  My great-great grandmother went to court in the 19th Century to challenge the presumption that only primogeniture applied, 7 decades before women's suffrage came to Kentucky.  My great grandmother, an Acadian, made a childhood trek in the 19th Century from Petit-Rocher, Nouvelle Brunswick to Milton, MA.  My paternal grandmother, from Liberty, KY, had awesome social skills, along with her daughter -- if a great celebrity visited the Bluegrass, they would be sitting in a place of honor on the dais.  One time, my grandmother got a ride in the POTUS' car in a pre-Dallas motorcade.  My maternal grandmother was the kindest person I have ever known, but she could navigate Boston, MA, as though it were a playground.  I got my lack of fear of urban transit from her.  I got my love of big cities from her.  My mother was a poet, and a grandly independent woman.  Both of my daughters are geniuses -- one a computer scientist and the other a hydrologist with 3 degrees.  One of my granddaughters is a brilliant flautist and straight-A student.  My second granddaughter, just now a teen, is a wondrous wit, a scoring machine at basketball, a thespian, and a blistering finisher in cross-country running.  The youngest granddaughter, eleven, also a thespian, has the greatest sense of humor of all, the social skills of her great-great grandmother, and a natural overflowing confidence.  My great-granddaughter, five, is brimming with charm and brightness.  Why would any good man wish that they were trapped in a class that was deemed second-rate?

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Houston, TX (continued)

Nobody asked but ...

Is citing disasters as a justification for the state kind of ghoulish, or is it just me?  Is this a really in poor taste instance of the broken window fallacy?   POTUS is there waving a Texas flag, wearing a "USA" ball cap, standing on some sort of riser.  Why doesn't he get down and hand out some diapers, bottled water, or food to the embattled inhabitants, instead of grandstanding?  He claims, “We want to do it better than ever before.”  But it looks like the same old pandering BS from here.  Maybe they can get Brownie to come back.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Monday, August 28, 2017

Cognitive Bias #3 -- Choice-supportive

Nobody asked but ...

http://mentalfloss.com/article/68705/20-cognitive-biases-affect-your-decisions
This may be my most egregious bias.  I have a great deal of trouble reversing field after a choice of any kind.  Reversals only take place after some sort of random collision with reality.  We see evidence that I am not alone, scattered throughout my neck of the woods.  Moldering, derelict automobiles and tractors outnumber anything but ragweed.  It is hard to admit a mistake, sure, but it is doubly hard to alter the status quo.  If it weren't for this tendency, we wouldn't have any political conservatives at all.  This would not be an entirely good thing.  If we had no conservatism in the species, the average life expectancy would be about a week, and we would still have all of the junk autos and tractors.  Knee-jerk is as bad as stick-in-the-mud.  Where it really worries, however, is in politics.  How is POTUS going to climb down from that improvised "fire and fury" speech?

[author's note:  It has been awhile since the last installment in this series.  The reason is that I had intended to make a podcast series as an expanded companion.  So I was holding at #2 pending my publication of podcasts #1 and #2.  But I have been procrastinating (for good imaginary reasons known only to me).  At this point, due to subsequent developments, I have become busier than ever -- I am teaching 4 sections of a college course on computing, and I am involved in 10 distinct projects at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  Now it appears unlikely that I will do a podcast in the near future.  At any rate, I have decided to resume this written serial, because the delay is getting ridiculous.]

Houston, TX

Nobody asked but ...

As usual, when some kind of catastrophe strikes -- Hurricane Harvey in this instance -- anti-market types will pipe up with "I'll tell you so" shots such as "Who will save the people of Houston now?  The market?"  My response is "Exactly!"  If the market doesn't arise in Houston post-Harvey, Houston will remain a wrecked city ad infinitum.  Any adherent of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson knows that in any event, there is always a short term and a long term.  Certainly, the market must cause the long term recovery of Houston.  This is not to say that government has no role, but it is just one of the methods of allocation of resources that a market provides.  The state is not a replacement for the market, it is a mechanism of the market.  And the market is not constrained to use the state in any element of its phenomena.  But what about the short term, the statist cries?  To be sure, the Coast Guard is doing good work, but it is outnumbered by a wide margin with both formal and informal volunteers.  And all rescue workers must use resources provided by the market.  Where does the bottled water come from?  The parts and fuel for the helicopters?  The food for the victims?  The cots?  The clothes?  Government doesn't have the time it takes to assemble these resources.  The market has been assembling resources since the dawn of man.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Words Poorly Used, Another Devil's Dictionary #2

Pardon -- a POTUS ploy used to uncatch a caught henchman so that said henchman may hench again.

Political Ego -- a power more potent than a thousand suns, but which will resist all attempts at harnessing for good until the end of time.

Science -- a catchall which may be cited to bolster a generalization which may not have any science behind it.

Swamp -- a festering miasma which continues to expand at a pace that exceeds that at which we discuss draining it.

Crony -- a scoundrel who is in until he is out.

Words Poorly Used #100 -- Pardon

A pardon should be given to correct a miscarriage of justice, not to perpetrate another injustice.  A pardon under the law is to make the law more humane, not to unleash the lawless upon the land.  The spoils system is there, advisedly or not, to reward the faithful, but its rewards should never relieve the true felon.  Once again, the mighty have shown that they spit on the constraints of social grace.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Friday, August 25, 2017

Words Poorly Used #99 -- Anarchism

The suffix "-ism" denotes a belief or action system.  This is a concept hampered, nearly to destruction, by internal conflict.  Anarchy is.  Whether you believe in it or not is immaterial.  Anarchy is.  Whether you act to gain it or not is immaterial.  The thing to believe in and to act upon is voluntaryism.  It encompasses anarchy, it is independent of any form of -archy.  If one lives the life of voluntary, individual one-to-one agreement, no -archy need apply.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Triple-happenstance

Nobody asked but ...

Have you ever heard a phrase similar to "bad news comes in threes?"  It seems to be true, but it says here that this is not a mystery but a vagary of human communication.  Why does it seem that there are 3 reports of shark attacks?  Well, the swimming season opens, and soon there is a shark attack or sighting.  It's news (first time in the season).  A second attack occurs and it's confirmation of the news and a harbinger of a potential trend.  A third attack occurs and it is confirmation of the trend.  By the time the fourth attack occurs, the trend has already been exploited, so the newshounds have gone off to sniff out new trends.  We saw a troubling version of this phenomenon recently.  The "rally" in Charlottesville caused the newshounds to perk up their hounding instincts.  Lo, and behold, another "rally" (an unfortunate occurrence of event labeling) was held in Boston.  Even though there was no real connection between the two events, the media treated them as the same trend.  Many panties were wadded.  One guy even lost his job.  Now, we need to BOLO (be on the lookout) for contenders for event #3.  Let us not have our jimmies rustled by every gathering of 3 or more humans.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Finer Clay

Nobody asked but ...

That's it! I have decided which libertarian quote is my very favorite:
If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
Frédéric Bastiat
Isn't it true of everyone who presumes to pretend to lead the collective?  It is true of people who want to put up statues, as it is of people who want to tear down statues.  None of us -- none(!) -- are made of a finer clay.  One must realize that we are all voluntaryists.  We have no special purpose beyond our own space and time, and our voluntary one-to-one associations with others.  Through improvement of these few linkages is the only way we can improve the lot of our species.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse

Nobody asked but  ...

The free market is the Sun, while regulation is the Moon.  From time to time,  the smaller, closer body may shield the very much larger (by orders of magnitude), farther body from our view.  But for a few moments, we see the world as upside down, out of reconciliation.  The raindrop becomes an ocean that would threaten the Earth with flood.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Principles


Part of the challenge of lifelong learning is to understand that the goal is not to add to your collection of "well what do you know's", but to assimilate your new knowledge with the creation of, revisiting, modification of, or withdrawing (shedding) from your current set of principles.

It does one no good to regard new information as just "interesting," one needs to test that new learning against the structure, the principles, of one's information system.

For instance, my information system is built, in the main, on the principle that all human interactions should be one-to-one and voluntary on both sides.  An incorporated principle is the Golden Rule.
I have other principles that are complementary to the above.  I believe that I am personally responsible for myself.  I believe that I own my space and time.  I believe that unnatural violence is always wrong.  I believe that it would be wrong to infringe on others' space and time unless they give them voluntarily in full view of consequences.

What is the structure of your principles.  First of all, your principles should be connected, each to each of the others.  This is the way the Internet is structured.  If a node on the Internet becomes inoperable then all of the undamaged nodes can still reach all of the other undamaged nodes.  The Internet can survive the temporary nonavailability of any node, part, or segment, short of total loss.

Voluntary individuality works the same way.  For every relationship that a voluntaryist keeps, all of the dependencies should be strictly on a one-to-one footing.  All features of the relationship are voluntarily agreed upon between the two parties.  Each party is able to maintain as many similar relationships, independently, as she chooses.  One-to-one relationships do not require license from some 3rd party individual or collective.  In software engineering, my professional calling, we refer to a system having high cohesion and low coupling.  Cohesion is the degree to which an object fulfills a single function (desirable).  Coupling is the degree to which an object is dependent on more than one other object (undesirable).

As one's set of principles is an interlocking complex, effectiveness and efficiency are raised by high cohesiveness, but low coupling.  Let's look at some examples.  

The non-agression principle (NAP) is a mainstay of libertarian voluntaryism.  It is cohesive in that it governs only one aspect of any human relationship.  Is it violent?  Yes or no?  I define the NAP as prohibiting violence, in all cases.  If the relationship is violent it cannot be under the NAP, because it does not follow the principle.  The rest of this piece concerns itself with coupling.

There are a few critical subsets of the principle.  Has the individual initiated the violence -- as children may insist, "he started it it?"  And, did one party act in self-defense.  Note that self-defense does not comply with the NAP; it is only an exception by which the perpetrator may not be condemned (dependent on the clear cut definition of the behavior).  I repeat, for clarity in a seldom acknowledged fact, self-defense does not comply with the NAP, it is merely a condition under which the NAP may not be applicable.  Likewise, non-initiation is not an excuse for ignoring the NAP.  It is merely a possible mitigation for analyzing the NAP.  If either party initiates violence, the NAP is moot -- it cannot be stretched to fit the case.

Some people will say that the NAP is not a pacifist doctrine, but despite popular opinion to the contrary, it is pacifist.  The composition fallacy often arises because self-defense (in a true sense) is a natural right, and it appeals to common sense when considering complex or fuzzy cases.  Some extend this composition fallacy to cover retaliation (committing delayed violence in retribution for an earlier violence).  It is not true that capital punishment or any form of revenge is under the wing of the NAP.

The NAP is a principle that requires very careful and close parsing or expression.  This is true as well for its associated principles: self-defense is a natural right and if violence is initiated then the NAP is out of the question for the initiator.

The purpose of a principle is to set a plan for action for similar cases in the future.  The NAP, for instance, gives us a narrowed selection of choices when we encounter violence from another or feel compelled to initiate violence.  But all cases do not fall into neat rows.  The ability to deal with fuzziness arises from a multitude of highly general (one size fits most) principles, along with very few and very specific exceptions.

Every event in the present and past should be reviewed with principle in mind.  Important questions are these:
  • Does the event invoke a principle?
  • If the event is not within the four corners of a principle, are there associated principles that account for the differences?
  • Are there other principles that come into play?
  • How do these other principles relate to the primary principle?
  • How clear is each of the principles that apply to the event?
In consideration of the last question above, let's look at an example, the Golden Rule:
  • The Golden Rule is "Treat others as you wish to be treated."
  • Treat others as they’d like to be treated.
  • Treat yourself as you’d treat someone else.
  • Don’t let other people treat you badly.
  • One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).
  • What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form).
As we can see the Golden Rule covers its own scope, but there are related maxims outside of its literal scope.  The individual must decide for each rule and the area covered by it.

Lastly, we might considered the mathematics of interacting entities.  If two individuals interact on one principle, there are 4 possibilities; both are right or A is right while B is wrong or A is wrong while B is right or both are wrong.  If two individuals interact on 2 related principles:

Principle Y True Principle Y False Principle Z
True
Principle Z False
Individual A TRUE TRUE TRUE TRUE
Individual B FALSE FALSE FALSE FALSE
Individual A TRUE FALSE FALSE TRUE
Individual B FALSE TRUE FALSE TRUE
Horizontally, there are 16 cases, while vertically, there are 16 cases; 32 in total.  By adding one related principle, we have increased the possibilities by eightfold.  

If we add a third related principle, we multiply by 8 again, arriving at 256 different sets of agreement/disagreement.  The same kinds of multiples show up if we increase the number of individuals.

It is very daunting to keep multiples of principles straight, or multiples of individuals straight.  That is why a voluntaryist wants to keep interpersonal relationships on a one-to-one footing, and principles as close to Ockham's Razor as possible.  My version of Ockham's Razor is:  the simplest set of matters which fits all of the facts, no more, no less.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Markets II

Nobody asked but ...

I feel remiss in not citing one of the greatest markets in the world -- the 127 Yard Sale.  I live in a Kentucky community through which passes US Highway 127.  Decades ago, folks who live along this way, from Grayling MI to Chattanooga TN, decided to have one big yard sale, from stem to stern along this road.  It is a spectacle!  It is freedom unbound.  In recent years, local and state police have been constricting how close to the road you can set up your tables, or where on the right-of-way buyers can stop their cars.  And there are probably a few tax collectors who parasitically raise their work output.  But I hope the intervention fizzles out beyond this.  Viva le yard sale.

 -- Kilgore Forelle

Monuments

Nobody asked but ...

I have a solution to the monument problem.  Quit erecting them!  Read Ozymandias!  Statues generally were put up by somebody who is not around anymore, and who probably had a way of thinking that is now outmoded.  It is not erasing history to either dismantle a monument or just not put one up in the first place.  If one needs to travel to some shrine to honor someone or some idea, if one cannot honor anything in meditation without changing location, isn't it really an ego trip?  I love my late parents every day.  I have never seen a monument to either of them.  I honor my ancestors every day.  I cannot possibly be everywhere that may have been special to them.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Markets

Nobody asked but ...

I love markets.  I am sure I remember every one at which I have been, in more than 74 years..  Whenever I travel, at my destination I quickly scout the area for all of its markets of perishable goods.  I remember when I was a toddler, taking an afternoon walk in Chattanooga to a private home where a lady sold my mother freshly squeezed and bottled fruit juices from her kitchen -- I have never tasted anything better.  A trip to a local food market will tell you more about a geographic spot than I could possibly relate in a blog entry.  I love supermarkets, new and used book stalls, flea markets, art galleries, sidewalk vendors, newsstands, tradesperson workplaces, restaurants, fairs, craft shows, auctions, theaters (movie, stage, concert and opera).  I buy recordings, baseball caps, posters, microbrews, coffees, magazines, videos, gifts, means of transportation, and local specialties.  And I love all of the information I gain about a new place by plunging into its markets.  I cannot recall a single instance of regret from this behavior.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Cognitive Dissonance

Nobody asked but ...

Today I saw a pickup truck that had a front plate that messaged "Don't Tread on Me!"  Then, when he passed I noticed the driver had an American flag decal on his back window.  I wondered just who he thought was treading on him, if not the government that has usurped that flag as its avatar.  Where do flags come from in human endeavor?  Their original use was as military position markers.  The flag standard is deployed so that troops can see the rallying point amid the fog of war.  Also, symbolism is used so they can see who is on their side (I have often wondered how effective this may be with all the foppery shown with units, uniforms, and standards.)  As distinct harbingers of war, the flag and heraldic symbols are not part of how I express my patriotism.  I would rather plead my patriotic case for America by experiencing as much of its peaceful splendor as I can.  I would rather give a narrative account or share pictures and sounds.  A flag tells you nothing about Kentucky's Red River Gorge, or the Land Between The Lakes, or Western Kentucky BarBQ, or a Spring day during the Keeneland Horseracing Meet, or a court-side seat for a University of Kentucky basketball game.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Words Poorly Used #98 -- Culture

Throughout the life sciences, "culture" is a flowering, while degradation is a rotting.  Why are we using the one word where the other should be?  Culture is the means by which we evolve in a general forward sense within a generation.  Degradation is the failure to survive by the unfit.  Civilization advances by evolution, and thereby, in part, by culture.  Degradation spins out the downward arc of extinction.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville

Nobody asked but ...

The Constitution reminds us that natural rights include free speech and free peaceable assembly.  Some have trouble understanding the laser clarity of these rights.  So far the Governor of Virginia and POTUS have put their feet in their mouths on this.  Governor tried to push the blame onto the ACLU, and POTUS took a "spread the accountability" chit on the occurrence.  First of all, the ACLU asked the court for nothing that should not be acknowledged by the Constitution of the USA.  The message does not defeat the natural right to free speech and free peaceable assembly.  So no matter how you regard the "white heritage" POV, you cannot by law shut them up until they step outside the four corners of the First Amendment (for example, if they eschew "peaceable").  The same applies for the "anti-white heritage" POV, as well as the "to hell with ethnicity" POV.  The Charlottesville demonstrations got out-of-hand; they were non-peaceable.  But is anybody surprised?  Part of the baggage of a free republic is that it gets out-of-hand sometimes.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Friday, August 11, 2017

Words Poorly Used #97 -- Market Failure

Markets do not fail.  Does gravity fail?  Interventions fail.  If you see what looks like a market failure, it is in fact the failure of a previously attempted market intervention.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Influences III

If I were a guest on a podcast or an interview broadcast, when asked about my major influences, I would stick close to the names repeated by voluntaryists -- Spooner, Bastiat, Jefferson, Mencken, Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Higgs, and Woods. But in this more expansive context, I can stretch out to discuss the influences whom made me a voluntaryist before I knew I was one, before I knew to read the internal literature of the voluntaryist, libertarian, individualist mainstream. Three such influences are Alan Turing, Dan Carlin, and Ruth Rendell.


Alan Turing

Recently, I watched the great movie, The Imitation Game. First, this caused me to check my list of influences to make sure that Alan Turing was there. The movie focused on Turing's cracking of the Enigma Code, and it nodded toward the sexual preference in Turing's life. It did not mention in any concrete way that Turing changed our lives forever beyond saving the world from the Third Reich.

I often play "Stump the Professor" with my students by challenging them to name a walk of life that functions without computers. The last serious suggestion was farming, about 20 years ago. That was mainly true at the time -- not anymore. The last desperate guess was hairdresser, about 10 years ago (I responded to that by asking how the hairdresser communicates -- by telephone then, by multiple electronic means now).

I am a pilot of Turing Machines. As are so many of us in the modern world. Many more are passengers, but I know where some of the nuts and bolts are.

Because of people like Alan Turing, John von Neumann, and Vannevar Bush, I returned to school at the age of 45, to get more degrees, in computer science, after my first in English two decades earlier.

Of the three great men, I must choose Alan Turing even though he was the most troubling (I do not refer to the aspect of his life for which the British government killed him). His intellect is so vast it is impossible to judge his potential, or the potential affect going forward.

While the cracking of the Enigma code changed the course of human events, it is beyond our grasp what Turing may have wrought if he hadn't been immersed in the Enigma problem, or if his creative space had not been constrained by persecution and early death at the hands of the very government and culture that he saved.

It would be a thankless toil to estimate the effect of his codebreaking accomplishment, but it would be an endless loop to delimit his growing influence on the world of tomorrow. This is the idea that has influenced me and my life so much.

Can you imagine what you would not be doing if your actions were not related to the Turing Machine?

We have called them computers for the last 50 years, yet they are Turing Machines. We recently have changed to calling them devices, because they come in so many shapes and sizes, yet they are Turing Machines.




Dan Carlin

It was almost 8 years ago, when I discovered the power of podcasts in the hands of a personality, such as Dan Carlin. Eight years later, I still think of him as the best podcaster, the most professional and the most dedicated to the new medium. Not only that, he is articulate, blessed with a unique view, and scholarly without pedantry. His main work is Hardcore History by which he has delivered what, in my view, are indelibly memorable and gripping recountings of World War I, Genghis Khan, and The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. He enlivens these marathon works with exhaustive research. Just look at the bibliography at the foot of this page. He is not a professor; he's the best history nerd you have ever heard. He has rekindled the history nerd in me.

Secondly, Dan uses his particular perspective on history to make commentary on current events in a podcast called Common Sense. The web site promotes it as follows:
What is Common Sense? Dangerously thoughtful. Common Sense with Dan Carlin isn’t a show for everyone, and that’s what makes it so great. It’s a smart, deep, passionate, engaging, inquisitive and of course, politically Martian view of news and current events. There’s nothing else like it.
I cannot tell you a fraction of what you will realize on your own listening. Most other podcasts will try to entertain you, with the personalities even acting buffoonishly to try to distract you from the pedestrian content. Not so with Carlin. Dan keeps you attending every word with all the sweep, emotion, mystery, and surprise of the real events as though you are there and your fortune hangs from those events (it does, and Dan knows it).

The blurb above mentions a Martian outlook. One of Carlin's tools is to adopt the kind of objectivity that a wise visitor from another planet might have. He has no earthly political axes to grind. His only agendum is a desire to end the corruption that sullies human behavior, but makes no common sense. Even though he is a self-labeled military history aficianado, he does not shy away from the central question of war and its place in the moral landscape of history.

Dan Carlin's shows occupy a place in my mind that makes him one of the most influential people in my history. I have only been exposed to him for just under 8 years, but he has a primary place in my 7 decades of experience. I could offer you no better advice, if you don't know this man, than that you go, immediately upon reading this piece, to DanCarlin.com, to discover a new world of insight.





Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is the first woman about whom I will have written, but not the last. It is fitting that I begin with her, since before Rendell, discovered by me in the early 70s, my encounters with literature consisted entirely of male authors.

Rendell is also the first mystery writer about whom I will have written, in this series, but not the last. In the sixties I had found Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross MacDonald, and in the 50s, my schoolboy years, I was a ravenous reader of Sherlock Holmes, as envisioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But Ruth Rendell's work was a significant departure from these works. Maybe she wasn't better a mystery writer, but in terms of art and a grasp on the human pageant, she took no back seat.

While Doyle was a master of structure, logic, and ingenuity, and the three mid-century Americans (although MacDonald was born in Canada) were purveyors of mood, atmosphere, surprise, and personal moral codes, Rendell added so much more. Color and richness were the least of her strengths. She dealt in psychology, individuality (even eccentricity), happenstance, and unforeseen consequences.

Ruth Rendell also is probably the only politician, in a customary sense, that I number among my major influences. She was a member of the British Parliament's House of Lords from 1997 until her death in 2015.

Her literary fortes were complexity (even the simplest events had deep undercurrents) and the more complex unforeseen consequences stemming from them.

To name 3 of her best books:
  • The Speaker of Mandarin -- the first Rendell volume, for me, introduced me to her one recurring leading character, Inspector Reginald Wexford, a staid but wise observer of the contemporary scene. Her police procedurals are excellent, obeying the rules, but are not the most spectacular of her books, satisfying more than thrilling. 
  • King Solomon's Carpet -- this was my personal favorite, written under her pen name of Barbara Vine. This is a novelized history of the London Underground, set within a multi-plotted modern mystery, which appealed to my jonesing for both urban rail and whodunits. 
  • Portobello -- Here Rendell celebrated a market street through the center of Notting Hill, draping upon it a stunning collection of characters from many walks of life, whose experiences converged through complicated happenstance. 
Her writing excels via the McGuffins (compulsions) that she attaches to each major character.  Each has his or her own quest, very idiosyncratic quests.  Most other writing does well to have one McGuffin.




Conclusion

Of course, Alan Turing is well known and unique in the history of the development of humanity. He made a major breakthrough in the way the future would evolve. His contributions cannot be reversed as long as humans survive as a species. On the other hand, Carlin and Rendell are neither widely known nor the only purveyors of their ideas. But they are unique and powerful conduits of those ideas. Dan Carlin examines the corruptibility of statist society, from a point of view informed by a powerful grasp of history, coupled with an undying hope that objective review of facts will move us forward. Ruth Rendell weaves her tales through the endless, kaleidoscopic possibilities of human interaction among singular individuals.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Delegation/Relegation

Nobody asked but ...

A principle of profit-making is to ensure that things get done at the least expensive but effective level of the business structure.  This process is called delegation.  A truth of government is that things are disposed of at the next level down, where the incentive is to lay blame but to preserve the process.  This is called relegation.  Win a little, lose a little, but don't break up the game.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Intervention

Nobody asked but ...

The conditioned citizen, when confronted with a problem, will hasten to ask "how will the government handle this?"  The thoughtful individual voluntaryist will ask instead "what is the problem?"  Can the problem be addresses without government intervention?  The government intervenes so much because many do not address a problem, but relegate it to some statist function or functionary.  The government, the state, has no choice concerning whether to intervene.  Once having intervened, the state has no choice but to show a disposition of whatever problem was found or fabricated.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

If A Doesn't Get You Then B Will

Nobody asked but ...

When one argues that of two mutually exclusive cases, one choice is better than the other, it can never be empirically validated.  If you can measure one, it is precluding the other, which therefore cannot generate real data.  We run into this with tough immigration control vs relaxed immigration control -- you cannot have both.  Computer models do not solve this problem.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Math Conundrum

In this meme presenting a sentiment from F. A. Hayek, one of the reasons why no two individuals are alike is that each has an infinite number of characteristics which have values, as well as an infinite number of relationships among those characteristics. 

If I were to begin to tell you how A was a distinct individual when compared to B, I would never complete the task of identifying all the differences.  Most characteristics are not atomic, ie. Broken down to its smallest component, an indivisible piece.  Most characteristics are complexes of systems and subsystems.

For instance, no two sets of fingerprints, irises, retina, or dna are the same.  The differences for slow-motion mankind are infinite, not to include the complexity that each object must occupy its own exclusive location in space/time/probability.

Given the profundity of these differences, how could you devise rules that would separate two uniquely born creatures for purposes of making one a master and the other a slave?  How do you decide that the person with the redder skin must forfeit land to the person with less red skin?  Color itself, if not infinitely variable, has as many possibilites as there are living individuals on the Earth.

Let's say for the sake of argument, that all human characteristics are equal and each can have only one value, out of two -- black or white.  Now, posit that there are only two characteristics, hair color and skin color.  With an individual there are 4 possible combinations.  A has black hair, black skin or white hair, black skin or white hair, white skin or black hair, white skin.

For two individuals, there are 4 chances to be alike, but 12 chances to be different.  With only 3 individuals or 3 characteristics, the numbers get out of hand very quickly.  Of course, there are billions of individuals and likely an infinite number of characteristics, some of which can have an infinite number of values.  Where to begin to make rules (legal fictions) which can separate one individual from another.

We normally stoop to the practical measure of declaring one or a few characteristerics to be more important than other combinations.  But how do we do that?  Is height more important than width.  Maybe.  Is age more wise than youth?  Maybe.  Is experience worth more than intelligence, or is a combination of the two worth more than either alone?  What are the scoring rules?

What combination of characteristics gives us an effective probability of identifying the better master compared to the better slave?  Is there a combination of tweaks or random generators that will magically refine the results?

Many of us cite Ockham's Razor, which we believe says "Keep it simple, stupid -- KISS," but this heuristic rather says "Make it complete -- don't omit the necessary, but don't attach the unnecessary."  How do we guage the "necessary."

We have recently seen Congress tie itself in knots trying to please a POTUS who has no idea what he wants, who is at a loss as to which values belong to which characteristics of which yearnings.  This is to say nothing about the arcane rules of procedure and counting that confound a determination of truth in any concrete way.

Sometimes, it appears that we do things to hedge against results.  If our procedure is kinky enough, it can explain away all of the unforeseen consequences.  And we are left with excuses to try even more ridiculous flights of stairs in buildings other than the one we would hope to climb.

Is 'Too Nice' a Problem?

Nobody asked but ...

POTUS recently exhorted a gathering of LEOs to not be "too nice."  Why do cops misperceive that when they please politicians it is entirely removed from pleasing the public except for its authoritarians.  Politicians play to the authoritarians, who in turn are happy to tell everyone not only how to vote, but how to worship wielders of violence, and, well, how to do everything.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Smoking at the Skunk Works

Nobody asked but ...

What possible difference could it make that Musk and Zuckerberg don't see eye to eye on artificial intelligence.  Their repartee has plenty of artificiality and no intelligence.  Has there been a news flash that I missed?  Has humankind ever successfully regulated anything?  Do tell.  Markets?  Religion?  Freedom?  Weather?  Come on boys, for you are wound too tight for your own good.  AI will eventuate much as probability will have it, the opinions of Zuckerberg and/or Musk notwithstanding.

-- Kilgore Forelle

Words Poorly Used #95 -- Obligation

In a recent Socrates Cafe of Louisville, we voted to deliberate the old chestnut, "can there be a just war?"  Why we did this, I don't know.  Maybe we hoped this time would be different, wherein we would come up with a no nonsense answer.  Foiled again.  One of the reasons this attempt was abortive, however, was that we kept getting into the tall weeds of what an individual might be obligated to do.  Is a person obligated to save a drowning offspring?  Well, what does that have to do with war?  "Obligation" is every bit as abstract as is "just."  Trying to graft these words onto other concepts such as humane action or war or war excused by humane action just makes them more murky.  We decided nothing in our deliberations.  Surely we didn't hope to do otherwise.  We didn't even come close to defining a workable model for an obligation.  We did end in being dissatisfied, disappointed, and disgruntled.

 -- Kilgore Forelle


Sunday, July 23, 2017

An Aircraft Carrier

Nobody asked but ...

On July 22, POTUS dedicated an aircraft carrier, USS Gerald Ford, the final cost of which will exceed the entire military budget of Iran.  Yet we are in no legitimate wars at present.  We are in no legitimate wars where an aircraft carrier gives us any particular advantage over the passel of ground bases we maintain around the world.  What is happening here?  Have the merchants of death gathered at the water for one long, last draft at the trough?  Is the water without limit?  How long can we survive having our financial stability sucked away?

-- Kilgore Forelle

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Words Poorly Used #94 -- Excuses

Why is it that when there is a cop-involved killing that a 1000 experts and eyewitnesses, mostly incognito, are everywhere.  Cop apologists have a kit bag full of one size fits all excuses.  The victim is posited to bear the blame for any injudicious critical thinking.  Make all the excuses, use all the hindsight -- this is still unacceptable.  Someone died, and at the very least, guilty or not, was denied due process.

-- Kilgore Forelle

But What About ... ?

Nobody asked but ...

The purpose of citing past pecadillos is always to take the bloom off of good that someone did.  This is a composition fallacy.   After a human has died, the two steams must make their independent way.  Which will become the greater stream?  Will they have confluence again?  Which one will overwhelm the other?  Will Shakespeare wrote "the good is oft interrèd with their bones."  But the consequences of the good go on.  It is now apart from the deceased.  The Declaration of Independence stands whether its authors held slaves or not.

-- Kilgore Forelle