Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Surviving the anointed—Thursday, December 18th, 2014

“Truth is a glorious but hard mistress. She never consults, bargains or compromises.”—Aiden Wilson Tozer (Of God and Men)

The left’s causes require prosperity. Unfortunately, they don’t create prosperity, and often squander it.

In times of prosperity the left can create over-hyped crises, such as oversized portions, free contraception, and video gamers. They can create these crises and then milk them for support. But in times of true crisis leftist policies fail. They might continue to draw support, but they won’t solve serious problems. Neither video gamers, Big Gulp drinkers, nor a lack of government-funded condoms caused terrorists to attack us or the housing market to collapse.

A country’s ability to survive depends on its ability to throw off the policies of the anointed and become conservative again.

Surviving Nazi Germany meant that Britain had to throw off the desire to talk through their differences with Germany, to compromise other people’s rights away. It meant manning up to blood, sweat, toil, and tears. It meant discarding Chamberlain and the anointed, in favor of Churchill and the gods of the copybook headings.

Ending slavery meant that the United States had to stop trying to endlessly compromise with slave-holding states. It meant acknowledging life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and then manning up and taking up arms.

Ending communism meant that the United States had to stop trying to define tyranny down, stop the imaginary equivalency between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It meant facing up to the existence of an evil empire, and by acknowledging it, oppose it.

Stopping terrorist mass killings within the United States meant recognizing that terrorists didn’t want to negotiate with us, they wanted to destroy us—and then taking the fight to them in foreign lands.

It is human nature to waste other people’s resources and time during times of prosperity. Countries fail when they are no longer able to stop these wasteful policies in times of crisis. When they are no longer able to pivot from the vision of the anointed to the systemic processes that actually work they will enter a downward spiral at the next crisis, continually enacting bad policies that exacerbate the problems they’re facing.

Texas school choice—Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
Texas Senate Education Committee

“Did he just tell us that parents can’t be trusted with their own children?” “Ignore it and think of your after-committee martini.”

If I were to tell you that education reformers in Texas were complaining about schools that were:

  • unaccountable
  • financially mismanaged
  • and that provide no due process

I think people who have read about crazy zero-tolerance policies and teachers and school administrators going to jail would think I was talking about public schools. But no, the teacher organizations in Texas think that being able to choose your children’s schools—and remove them with no state pushback would mean that the school faces no accountability. That not having the government to bail them out would mean financial mismanagement. And that due process is even necessary when all you have to do is say “you have no authority over my child”.

I heard all of this during the Texas Senate Committee on Education’s public testimony hearing on school choice programs.

Part of the disconnect between education reform advocates and the forces of the status quo is, whose money is it, anyway? Joe Carnas the 3rd of The Texas Latino Education Coalition (4:23–4:24) thinks that parents should have no control over where their school monies go because it isn’t their money. Allowing them to choose non-government schools has nothing to do with their choice:

Truly one of the pillars of Texas government is the institution of education. Parents should have the choice to send their children to private or parochial schools but not with public monies.

Choice, you see, is inappropriate when parents might make the wrong choice, and when it comes to giving parents a choice, every choice is a bad one:

… the debate over vouchers during previous legislative sessions has moved approaches into parallel discussions over other privatization policy issues such as tax-credit scholarships, equal opportunity scholarships, parent trigger laws, home rule charter districts, and charter school expansions. Choice, senators, is a farce when the choice is a bad one.

And the issue is one of control, as well. These groups see that government schools control parents and students, and think that somehow a private institution that has no power will exercise the same control.

Koulikoro to Malaybalay—Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

The American Peoples Encyclopedia has the best end words that I have seen on an encyclopedia. They are almost syllogisms.

Engraver Beetle is to Freiligrath as Mormons are to Optimism.

Essential Revolution: The Return of the Republicans—Monday, December 15th, 2014

For two years, Democrats held the House, Senate, and White House. All they did with it was raise health care prices, destroy a competitive insurance market, and send billions to crony projects via “stimulus” bills.

It’s easy to forget, though, that Republicans held the House, Senate, and White House for a few years as well. They worked, among other things, to shore up social security and stave off a housing collapse. “Worked” is somewhat of an overstatement, however: at the first signs of opposition from Democrats, they bolted.

This time needs to be different.

Over the last several years, of course, Republicans have been in the minority, first in each of the House, Senate, and White House, and then by way of holding the House against the Senate and White House. The House blamed the lack of passing bills, justifiably, on Harry Reid, who blocked almost everything the House produced.

But now that Republicans hold the Senate, they can’t blame Harry Reid for not sending legislation to the White House. They need to re-pass important legislation and get it to the President’s desk. They need to pass two kinds of legislation: legislation that President Obama claims to support and legislation that outlines the Republican vision of the future.

For example, the President has claimed to want people to be able to keep their health insurance, and has issued an executive order stating this. However, his order excludes any insurance policies issued over the last four years. The House and Senate should pass a simple, one-page bill that codifies the President’s executive order on this, but also includes more recent policies.

Then, they should pass a one-page bill that opens these policies to anyone previously covered by the policy under someone else’s name, such as children coming of age.

Republicans will undoubtedly pass tax reform as well. Here, as well, they need to keep things simple. It is sickening how the media lies about conservative proposals; even during this election the media claimed that a Republican candidate wanted to “slash” spending on a project when the Republican didn’t want to increase spending by as much as their opponent. An increase in spending is not slashing spending, no matter how much more the other side wants to increase spending. The same is true for tax reform. If Republicans were to pass something like Ryan’s tax reform that cuts the rate at which the rich pay taxes while also removing all of the loopholes the rich currently use to not pay taxes at all, the media will still claim that Republicans are “cutting taxes for the rich” even though the rich will pay more in taxes.

There’s no way around the fact that the media will lie, but keeping bills simple and keeping titles descriptive can make their lies more obvious. Republicans should pass one-page or even one-paragraph bills that say what they mean, not omnibus bills that the press can see what they want in—because what they want is to make Republicans look bad.

Simplicity is the best transparency.

Big government demands a nanny state—Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Ivan VI of Russia with nanny

Government in the hands of a nanny.

The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau.—Ludwig von Mises (Bureaucracy: Conclusion)

Monolithic government programs create a nation of people who cannot afford to mind their own business. Every citizen must be their neighbor’s nanny, because their neighbor’s bad choices cost them both in money and quality of services.

Government schools mean that religious parents need to control what government schools teach—and so do atheists. Most people can’t afford to send their kids elsewhere, because the money they’d use to do it is sent to government schools. But everyone cares, heavily, about the quality of their children’s education. A monolithic, one school per community system of education ensures that diverse communities will viscerally disagree over what those schools should teach.

Universal subsidized health insurance that is forbidden to look at your existing health means that your neighbors, even if you do not currently avail yourself of that insurance, have an interest in your snack choices, your choice of fast food, your financial choices, your recreational choices, and all of your vices. If it might injure you, sicken you, or weaken you, it affects their taxes.

Anything that might result in an injury, however minor, or a sickness, however bland, isn’t just your problem. It is your neighbors’ problem—all four hundred million of them.

Your right to not wear a seatbelt ends at my government-required insurance premium. The war on pot smokers is warranted by the potential welfare costs of amotivational syndrome. Every government program has unseen costs. We may decide that some of these costs are justified and some aren’t, but we cannot pretend that the costs don’t exist.

The bigger government gets, the more everyone becomes their brother’s keeper. They can’t afford not to be.

GU24 to Edison adapter—Monday, December 8th, 2014

Since the GU24 adapter on Amazon was less than two bucks, even with shipping from China, I decided I’d try that before rewiring the whole system. It just arrived last week (it took about eight weeks to get here), so I have a nice, inexpensive LED bulb in the GU24 adapter.

As a bonus, it no longer takes a second or two and then some flickering to light the hallway after flipping the switch.

I’d like to say here, I’m not averse to the Edison-bulb connector going away and being replaced with something better. I’ve had too many incandescents get stuck, requiring so much force to unscrew that the bulb itself starts to break. But the way to fix that is not to enforce a different connector on bulbs that most people don’t want to use. If GU24—or any future new connector—is advantageous, it should be allowed to be advantageous on all bulbs, not just the ones that government in its love of complex technologies thinks will never be superseded by something better.

If GU24 had been allowed for incandescents as well, it might well have taken off enough for LED bulbs using it to be less expensive—if GU24 provides actual benefits over the Edison-style. But because the government forbade using GU24 with the light bulb most commonly used in homes, it’s likely we’re stuck with the older style for the foreseeable future.

The Elements of Journalism—Friday, December 5th, 2014

I wrote a little about The Elements of Journalism, when I hit the section praising David Protess for tricking Alstory Simon into confessing to murder. The thing about that is, it isn’t just that the authors praised Process, and that this praise became embarrassing a few years later, that made this example stand out. It was that Protess explicitly broke some of the rules outlined in this book. This should have been a red flag signaling that maybe they should dig deeper before using the Simon case as an exemplar. But it didn’t, because the rules of journalism aren’t prescriptions, they’re rationalizations. That is, they aren’t scientific rules to guide journalists moving forward, they’re religious rationalizations used to justify what they want to do. They’re used to justify a belief rather than find the truth.

The major problem with this book is that it does little, if anything, to change that. To the extent that it provides justifications that may be chosen from ad hoc, it makes things worse.

When the author started talking about using the scientific method as a guide to better journalism, I thought, maybe he’s onto something. But the bedrock foundation of the scientific method is that you must do your best to explain how your findings can be proved wrong. You must show how to falsify your results.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can—if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong—to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.—Richard Feynman (Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!)

Stephen Colbert’s Christian nation—Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Dear friends who keep posting Stephen Colbert and other quotes about us being a Christian nation meaning we need higher taxes to force everyone to give charitably to the poor and needy:

Most American Christians will tell you that being a Christian nation means we were founded in Christian values, and that this includes, as part of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom to choose our own Christian duties, the freedom to choose our own charitable acts. The freedom, that is, to choose wrongly as well as rightly; that virtue is no longer virtue when it is forced upon us by the government.

However, you certainly will be able to find Christians who agree with you, who will support your desire to have the government enforce Christian values at the point of the gun. They will happily join you in your crusade to enforce charity at all costs, to teach Christian beliefs at all levels of our government-run schools, to treat conception as the beginning of human life which must be protected at all costs…

This is what you want, right? This is what you’re asking for when you ask us to become a Christian nation by forcing Christian works?

Because that is not a nation I’m looking forward to.

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