Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

Reagan’s Lincolnian Revolution—Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
Reagan For the Little Guy

I saw this meme about the good old days show up in my Facebook feed yesterday from a friend of mine in a teacher’s union:

This is actually the 1956 Republican Party platform:

  1. Provide federal assistance to low-income communities
  2. expand social security
  3. Provide asylum for refugees
  4. Strengthen labor laws so workers can more easily join a union
  5. Extend minimum wage

There are several problems with this list, the obvious being that Republicans are the only party in 2019 that still wants to provide asylum for refugees. Democrats want to let in the people that immigrants need refuge from. Democrats are specifically shielding murderers, rapists, and other violent criminals from deportation, if those criminals came here illegally.

Without walls, there is no sanctuary. The Republican Party understands this. Democrats also understand it: asylum isn’t their goal. They want refugees to remain frightened and dependent.

The wider problem, though, is not that it’s wrong about what the Republican Party supported in the era of Jim Crow. What’s wrong is that Democrats still support going back to the era of Jim Crow. In 1956, wages had risen enough that the minimum wage no longer kept unskilled blacks out of the job market, no longer blocked them from gaining the skills they needed to thrive. It was only with Johnson’s Great Society that blacks stopped advancing economically.

As economist Thomas Sowell has shown in books such as Basic Economics, increasing the minimum wage hurts minorities most. Politicians in 1956 knew this. That’s why they supported increasing the minimum wage. They supported it as a form of segregation. Democrats in 2019 still know this. They still, sixty years on, want to keep unskilled blacks frightened and dependent.

The elephant in the nuclear power plant—Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, never used. A monument to government waste and the folly of government experts. Did it occur to anyone in the bureaucracy that if you have to go to this much trouble to contain the radioactivity it might still be a useful fuel?

For some reason nuclear power has been in my news lately, both new news and old news. I was watching a segment a few weeks ago about nuclear power plants going out of business, because it’s so expensive to dispose of the highly radioactive waste products that nuclear power plants produce. They can’t figure out what to do with it. Nobody wants it—it’s dangerous and it takes thousands of years to become not dangerous.

It occurred to me that this is nuts, and it’s so nuts it’s an elephant-in-the-room problem. Saying that nuclear power plants are going broke because they can’t figure out what to do with highly radioactive byproducts, is a lot like an oil power plant saying that the byproduct of burning oil is more oil, and what are we going to do with all this oil we’re generating?

If nuclear waste is so radioactive, why aren’t we recycling it for use in nuclear power generation instead of spending billions building waste repositories that the federal government just abandons? A quick bit of research, and it turns out that radioactive waste can be and is recycled back into useful radioactive fuels. But not in the United States. The US federal government not only wastes money building and abandoning waste repositories, it also bans recycling the waste, and has done so since President Carter. And so nuclear power plants go out of business because they aren’t allowed to recycle and they can’t throw it away.

Recycling radioactive waste both reduces its radioactivity—if it didn’t, obviously, it would be infinitely re-usable as fuel—and drastically cuts the volume of waste. Recycled waste takes up less space and is radioactive for far less time than first-generation waste. Not only would recycling nuclear waste provide more fuel, it would vastly reduce the cost of safely storing it by making the waste itself safer.

This is an example of how uselessly insular and provincial modern news is in the United States. The whole point of nuclear power plants is turning radioactivity into useful power; reporting on how nuclear power plants are going out of business because they need to dispose of radioactive waste, does no reporter think to ask why it needs to be disposed of if it’s still radioactive? It seems the obvious question.

The enduring hate speech of Stephen Douglas in Canada—Wednesday, June 5th, 2019
Randall Garrison

While it was amazing seeing just how closely modern conservatism resembles the principles of Abraham Lincoln, it’s disappointingly just as true that Lincoln’s debate rival Stephen Douglas espoused and argued vehemently for what we would today describe as the principles of the left—the vision of the anointed. He believed that smart people should make decisions; that it was the smart person’s burden to be responsible for the life of the masses. It was, in his view, the responsibility of government.

That’s why he supported slavery: the slave’s owner took on the burdensome task of deciding what the slave’s best interests were. This, in his view, freed the slave.

That kind of sophistry continues among the left today. Stephen Douglas was probably no more racist than Abraham Lincoln. But where Lincoln’s principles lifted him up, Douglas’s principles dragged him down.

It was hard not to think of Stephen Douglas while listening to Canadian politicians telling Canadian citizens why laws need to ban speech politicians disagree with. That it’s important for police to visit people, not for doing something illegal, but because they’re saying things the politicians don’t like.

Committee Member Colin Fraser began with the standard sophistry that has been the left’s strategy since at least Douglas. He argued that free speech does not mean consequence-free speech. This is true; it means that, for example, you have no right to not be disliked for your speech, no right to be disagreed with, no right to shut down free speech from others that might show your own free speech to be wrong. But what Fraser turns this into is that you have no right to speech that he thinks is wrong. If he thinks there ought to be consequences to your speech, it is his responsibility to enact those into law. Further, public figures should be compelled to speech that he approves of. It’s the age-old logic of the tyrant: it must either be criminal or required.

Free speech comes with responsibilities, after all. And one of those responsibilities is to say what Canada’s Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights wants you to say.

Free speech doesn’t mean what you’re compelled to say by the state. They’re getting free speech completely backward. They’re defining it as censorship and compelled dogma.

Associate Member Nathaniel Erskine-Smith wanted to prove that the government knows how to crack down on hate speech, and demanded that the guests tell him when the criminal code had ever been improperly applied. Guest Mark Steyn had just described how the government had improperly harassed him. But Erskine-Smith has his own special definition of “improperly”. By improperly, he meant that the same court system that improperly harassed people then said that they had improperly harassed people.

Of (Laboratory) Mice and Men—Wednesday, May 8th, 2019
Running rats Fantascope

Artist’s rendition of federal research funding.

The more I read about the supposedly breakthrough research being done today, the more it seems that in many research areas, especially medicine and biomedical, competition for subsidies decreases innovation. It isn’t just that research tends to focus on old ideas that appeal to bureaucrats and politicians instead of new ideas that might represent a valuable breakthrough. More and more, the research isn’t focusing on anything other than replicating the buzzwords that appeal to bureaucrats and politicians.

Researchers don’t seem to be looking for mice that have, say, Alzheimer’s, or induce Alzheimer’s in mice, and then for a way to cure or alleviate the mouse’s Alzheimer’s. That’s hard. It requires identifying Alzheimer’s by more than just its symptoms. Instead, so many studies seem to take test animals, induce symptoms that look like the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and then the press reports that we now have insight into how Alzheimer’s works.

It makes everyone look great. The researchers, the reporters, the bureaucrats, and the politicians. What it doesn’t do is bring us closer to a cure. It doesn’t need to. When money comes from funding, the potential patient isn’t a potential customer.

Often, such studies seem like breaking a mouse’s legs to learn how to cure polio, or sometimes even paraplegia.

Sometimes these studies even find that if they stop doing the things that induce the symptoms, the symptoms go away. This, also, is headline-making. Worded correctly, it can sound as if a cure has been found for the thing that looks like the symptoms induced.

But there is a big difference between knowing how to induce symptoms that look like the symptoms of disease X and knowing anything at all about disease X itself. Unfortunately, even the scientific press is getting confused by this more today than they were even five years ago when I started subscribing to Science News.

I put a lot of the blame on federal funding. It is, I suspect, a lot easier to get funding for the very high chance of being able to induce symptoms that look like disease X than it is to get funding for the very low chance of getting real answers about disease X.

When Senators demagogue that we should limit opioid prescriptions to seven days “because no one needs a month’s supply for a wisdom tooth extraction”, ignoring (a) all the evidence about what can go wrong with tooth extractions, and (b) that there are other reasons for needing pain medication than dental visits, such as, say, cancer, remember that these are also the people who set the bar for federal research funding.

After that tweet, the level of funding for any research that might recommend longer terms on pain medication went down. Bureaucrats don’t like to get caught in congressional crossfire.

Building the Replica 1 Plus Apple 1 kit—Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

This is a photo of an Apple 1 kit running on my television set. It’s the Briel Replica 1 from ReActiveMicro. The kit was mostly dead easy to assemble. The hardest part was trusting myself when the instructions weren’t completely clear. The biggest lack—and it was only in, I think, two cases—had to do with polarization, that is, which direction a part needs to be. The instructions almost always mention whether a part is polarized. In two cases it does not:

  1. The crystal is not polarized, as far as I can tell.
  2. The 6821 chip does not have a notch to orient it to the socket. It does have a dot, and the dot is on the same side as where the notch would be if it had one.

The board itself is laid out nicely. The resistors and capacitors have their ratings listed on the board. This made the kit almost, but not quite, paint-by-numbers easy. If you’ve done electronics soldering in the past, you should have no problem putting this together.

The only problem I ran into was, during testing, everything went right; then I plugged the PS2 keyboard in and everything that went right kept happening over and over. What’s supposed to happen is that you reset the computer to get the cursor. This worked. Then it continued happening without pressing reset. I kept getting a new cursor, floating down the left of the television set—but only after I hit reset once myself.

Replica 1 first step: resistors

The first step is to put the resistors in. What a wide expanse of green!

I did what the instructions recommend when it doesn’t work, I went over the soldering on every part, joint by joint. I went over the entire underside, part by part, joint by joint. I found some soldering jobs that were worse than others; I fixed them. But there was really nothing that should have been causing a bad connection or a short.

I plugged it in again, pressed reset, and this time waited before pronouncing it a success and plugging in the keyboard. Sure enough, about every 1 ½ seconds I got a new cursor. Just a line of backslashes going down the left of the television set.

I went back over every connection again, and also strengthened the joints that are mainly structural, such as for holding in the keyboard socket and the composite video RCA plug.

Spotting the wild Fascist—Tuesday, April 30th, 2019

“…how do we prevent the genocidal horrors of the Nazi regime from ever recurring? …we’ll start with the roots of Italian Fascism. It originated as a kind of live-action role-playing game for disgruntled Italian WWI vets led by a charismatic war hero, aviator, and poet named Gabriele D’Annunzio. Compared to what it evolved into, early Italian fascism had a rather charming opera-bouffe quality about it—theoretical ideas that were incoherent to the point of surrealism, lots of prancing around in invented uniforms, and dosing of opponents with castor oil.”

The Collusion National Network—Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

When it comes to the seven stages of loss, CNN’s stages after Mueller’s conclusion of no collusion all seem to be bargaining: no collusion must mean collusion! We’ll agree that there was no collusion but only on condition that it proves collusion! If people read the Mueller report, they are colluding! We read the 400-page report in 15 minutes. We find collusion! Collusion! Collusion! We were always skeptical of collusion, so believe us when we say collusion!

This Babylon Bee article is barely satire. My social media feeds are filled with sophistry explaining why no collusion doesn’t mean no collusion. And most of them seem to be from CNN.

Congratulating themselves for having been skeptical of the collusion story, and literally at the same time pushing the conspiracy theories that there was still collusion.

They have become completely unhinged. CNN’s Toobin, for example, seems to think that most people would be perfectly happy to be subject to an investigation like this for two years. Not being happy with it—or being happy that it’s finally over and you’ve been vindicated—is acting like a guilty man. Because all of us look forward to IRS tax audits, and are sad when they finally realize, hey, we shouldn’t have been destroying your life and your reputation for two years.

You know what guilty people do when their lies are exposed? They double down, making their lies more and more outlandish and less and less believable.

CNN’s Brian Stelter has decided to do an impression of Kevin Bacon in Animal House. Remain calm! All is well! Avoid partisan interpretations of the Mueller report! At the same time that CNN is running a panel of partisans talking about the Mueller report. You know, following two years of unhinged partisan interpretations of the Mueller investigation. And any other random, unbelievable allegation that came their way.

Although if you’re going to go into an unhinged meltdown, there is no greater movie. I just picked up the soundtrack on Record Store Day and it’s still amazing. Will CNN escalate into driving the Eat Me! vehicle into FBI headquarters?

Science by consensus is barbarism—Wednesday, April 17th, 2019
Climate in Space

Scientists have again landed a spacecraft on a proverbial dime on a planet 40 million miles away that rotates at 241 meters per second. Think I’m gonna trust them on this climate change stuff.

“Sound reasoning” was the comment. But there is no reason in that paragraph. It’s about as far from science and reason as you can get. Regardless of how you feel about spacecraft engineers and climate researchers, they are not the same people, and science does not work by some magical transference of authority. That’s its whole point. Science is not a tribe. It’s a method.

Tribalism as science is unsound, unreasoning, and barbarous. That because these engineers over here built something that works, those researchers over there must be right, merely because they are part of some fungible tribe of scientists. Science by consensus is literally—and I use the word literally, literally—anti-scientific thinking and about as unsound, unreasoning, and barbaric a method of solving problems as you can find; it will create far more problems than it solves, and some of them will be deadly.

Science is about the scientific method; it is the opposite of tribal consensus. It’s “the belief in the ignorance of experts.”1

Belief in the infallibility of experts is pre-scientific thought. Only priests are never wrong. Science by consensus is and always has been barbarism. Everyone knows the earth is flat. Only hicks believe in flaming rocks that fall from the sky. Some people are not people, and so can be treated as animals.

And the flip side of that, that people are people, and are more important than animals, is a civilized value easily lost to the new barbarism.

The scientific method is pure, distilled civilization, and it is completely unnatural. Constructing a theory and then trying as hard as possible to prove it wrong is completely unnatural behavior. But it is the only way science works.

We are entering a new witch-hunt in which scientists are derided as deniers, and tribalists proclaim themselves worshippers of science. To paraphrase Mencken and Chesterton, it is one thing to believe in witches, entirely another to believe in witch smellers. When barbarism comes, it will come in the name of a scientific consensus that scientific thinking must be ostracized. The witch-smellers, the barbarians, will redefine science to mean religion—as they always have when the thread of civilization frays.

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