We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, March 18. 2020
Some things to consider in the Covid-19 panic. I've always known Covid is real, and that it's slightly more dangerous than the flu. I'm quite aware of how the mortality rate is considerably higher than some other viral outbreaks, especially with the elderly and those suffering health conditions. I've been less than convinced there is anything we could have done to stop it, short of shutting the nation down completely in January and keeping it shut down for about 2 months....which seems to be where we've gone anyway. That said, even extreme measures are unlikely to stop the spread. I've always supported an abundance of caution. But now that we're here with extreme measures, let's think calmly about HOW we got here.
Fear. Just fear. Yes, many of us would've gotten sick. Yes, some people would die. We can talk all we want about flattening the curve to keep hospital facilities from being overrun...while ignoring how herd immunity is being compromised. Furthermore, in shutting down in the manner we did, we basically sent people on 5 days of panic shopping whereby anyone infected and shopping was busy spreading the virus. It seems to me, the 'cure' is just as bad as letting it run its course. By increasing fear and panic, and even potentially the spread.
What's really concerning to me, however, is less the health issue and more the socio-political issue. This is the largest non-partisan event of our lifetime, and it's been heavily politicized. To that point, consider this - Democrats, who only a week ago complained that President Trump was abusing power, now are complaining that he isn't using enough power to 'fix' this.
Continue reading "Some Notes From Home"
Friday, February 21. 2020
I make an effort, in my role as an older member of my department, to reinforce knowing history. Not only of the industry, which critical to avoiding errors already made, but also general history because it helps create a more advanced social order. The critical part of any social order is trust. Without it, markets fail, relationships fray, and good behavior is set aside in favor of self-interest. History, at its core, teaches the value of trust.
All good teams, departments, interactions, communities, and even nations are built upon a basic level of trust. It is rarely discussed, but absolutely essential.
In the U.S., trust has begun a slow dissipation. Think of an example of someone who did things the 'right way' and was moderately, or supremely, successful (let's say the Boston Red Sox of 2018) versus those who do things the 'wrong way' and are supremely successful yet go unpunished or are barely touched (the Houston Astros of 2017). When we fail to punish those who gain rewards improperly, we reduce the ability to trust our institutions. How often have you talked about someone you admire, only to have someone else say "if he/she is so smart or good, why did person X (who wasn't as 'clean') make all the money?" That kind of response typifies the slow fraying of fundamental trust.
Another example could be our recent trials and investigations regarding Trump. In this, we see an example of retributive anger (Trump won and I hate him so he has to go), which is very damaging and occurs with the complete loss of trust (can anyone argue that the Democrats trust Trump even a little?). Transitional anger, the anger we feel as we shift from one order to the next, that sense of loss yielding anger but without feeling the need to lash out, is manageable and useful. It can help people progress. Retributive anger is dangerous and undermines the fabric of trust that is necessary to move forward.
The Democrats are suffering now because of the fact they have engaged retributive anger. They're mad they lost an election they assumed was theirs, and rather than be angry at their own shortcomings and using that anger in a transitional manner to improve themselves, they've lashed out and are destroying themselves and potentially the nation (if their behavior is followed to its logical conclusion).
We are successful as a nation because we have an innate trust in our political institutions. That trust exists regardless of those in power because the Constitution protects us, as individuals. Even if bad people are elected, one person and even a few cannot destroy the system. Checks and balances assure that. We can survive a bad president (and have many times). There are reasonable methods to oust the truly awful. Engaging those levers in wrong-headed attempts simply because someone is 'offensive' undermines that innate trust of our institutions. It causes some, and possibly many, to question the validity of our original belief in our Constitution and our laws.
This doesn't happen because of one person. It doesn't happen because "Trump did it," it happens because a group of people are hoping and trying to undermine that trust, and it isn't the Russians. Or the Chinese. It has to happen internally.
I don't love Trump, I barely tolerate him. But I've not liked plenty of presidents. I've had trust in our system, though. Thankfully, after two clear attempts to undermine that system, it has stood up to the attacks on it, and I still trust it. It's a shame there's an entire party out there so far off base that its members no longer trust the system and are proposing potential candidates to destroy it.
Tuesday, July 16. 2019
Thursday, June 6. 2019
Just finishing Michael Lewis' Flash Boys, a terrific history of high frequency trading, front-running and markets in general. It reads like a thriller. You'd expect a Wall Street drama to be all about ego, bad guys ripping people off, and money being 'stolen'. Certainly that all plays a role, but it's not central to the story.
One of the best parts is the side story of Serge Aleynikov, one of the few people arrested, tried, and imprisoned after the crash in 2008. What's truly sad is that he had little to no involvement in any of the events leading up to that, nor was he involved in any transaction coding or theft of any kind (though Goldman Sachs and the US Government said otherwise). It's a sad state of affairs when someone capable of 'fixing' the problems that lead to flash crashes and other tech-driven market impairments is listed as a 'bad guy'.
At any rate, he lost his money, his family, his reputation - but eventually won his case and was freed. He has a great quote:
“If the incarceration experience doesn’t break your spirit, it changes you in a way that you lose many fears. You begin to realize that your life is not ruled by your ego and ambition and that it can end at any time. So why worry? You learn that just like on the street, there is life in prison, and random people get there based on the jeopardy of the system. The prisons are filled by people who crossed the law, as well as by those who were incidentally and circumstantially picked and crushed by somebody else’s agenda. On the other hand, as a vivid benefit, you become very much independent of material property and learn to appreciate very simple pleasures in life such as the sunlight and morning breeze.”~Serge Aleynikov
Saturday, May 4. 2019
Wednesday, May 1. 2019
Assumptions, postulates, and premises are what we all stand on when we open a discussion, a debate, or a legal argument. Before getting into the weeds and details of a discussion, it's always wise to identify these foundations of anothers' position.
We all like to think that we are capable of questioning or critiquing our own basic assumptions - but are we? I think most of us are as reluctant to impose cognitive dissonance on ourselves as we are to hit our heads with a hammer.
And when others attempt to challenge (ie threaten) some of our precious basic assumptions, the natural reaction is to be defensive because these thoughts become part of who we are.
Best approach? "I'll question my assumptions if you'll question yours."
Thursday, February 28. 2019
Saturday, July 28. 2018
I always need to review these common logical, or specifically statistical, errors.
While we all make these errors frequently in casual discussion, in serious science the more you reduce Type l errors, the more you increase Type 2 errors. Error is built into the system.
Saturday, June 23. 2018
Saturday, March 3. 2018
The Damore panel we posted yesterday mentioned two related fallacies, "Is-Ought" and the naturalistic fallacy.
"Is-Ought" generally is used to refer to the mistaken assumption that a statement of fact is some sort of moral endorsement of the fact. This assumption often lies behind efforts to suppress or ignore unpopular facts.
"The term "naturalistic fallacy" or "appeal to nature" may also be used to characterize inferences of the form "Something is natural; therefore, it is morally acceptable" or "This property is unnatural; therefore, this property is undesirable."" (Wiki). "Natural," however, is near-impossible to define in human terms because formation of culture is natural for humans.
Tuesday, January 23. 2018
Monday, September 11. 2017
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has opened up science to a whole new generation, and has expanded interest in communities which previously hadn't shown much. For that, we're eternally grateful. But there are limits to intelligence, and he, like many others, crosses that limit when he wades into climate science.
Having studied Economics, I compare climate science, as a science, to Economics. The level of predictability, due to the number of unknowns and variables, is very low. You can model all you want, and you can know how different parts of the economy impact to a very large degree, but still be far off. The same is true with climate. The various elements involved in developing climate models are fairly well known, but it's the stuff they don't know that's causing problems. I have yet to see a model that is remotely close to predicting anything. This doesn't make climate science less scientific. Science is about explaining, not predicting. Predicting is a nice benefit in constrained systems.
But Tyson's tweet is lauded as "destroying" a key claim of "deniers" (we aren't deniers, we are SKEPTICS, which is what most good scientists are whenever there is a lack of evidence or an inability to replicate results). Problem is, it destroys nothing. No skeptic ever complains about scientists agreeing. That, in itself, isn't even an issue. The question is why are they agreeing? In fact, Tyson's tweet opens more questions than it answers. If a standard scientific conference is indicative of the amount of disagreement that takes place, then clearly the wide level of agreement on this particular issue is an anomaly and you should wonder why this is taking place? Well, of course, the answer is politics. But Tyson, in crafting his guilt bomb, realizes if he doesn't support the massive Appeal to Authority which is the entire Manmade Climate Change argument, then he loses the game. So he pours it on hot and heavy, because he is the authority!
Friday, August 4. 2017
Saturday, June 10. 2017
Thursday, January 19. 2017
I focus on the fact, in general, our lives are improving. Today, most of us hold more computing, audio and video power in our pocket, at a reasonable cost, and this device can help us control our houses, cars, and money with a few swipes. We text or call someone and are sure they got a message. Our diets are vastly improved, our choice of diets extensive, and we have more options regarding the quality and types of foods. When I was in my teens, few people had flown in a plane. Today, most have. I was the first of my friends to visit Europe in 1976. Today, most of them have kids who have vacationed or studied abroad.
Continue reading "The Most Dangerous Time to Live"
Monday, December 5. 2016
Validation is always welcome. It's great to see someone pick up on your writing and think "I am glad I was able to add to the discussion." I believe this holds when a piece is shared on a site opposing what you've written. I'm not interested in an echo chamber.
Twenty months after writing this post on data, I received notification of its inclusion on another site. Upon reading, one might be inclined to believe I'm not a fan of data. Not true, I just don't put my full faith in everything as it is presented, or simply because it's presented, to me.
Since my post, 20 months have passed and nothing has changed. In fact the 2016 election was an example of organizations simply accepting data, becoming reliant on it, while few questioned its value. The data left me, and many others, inclined to believe Hillary would win. At the same time, it left me angry about how it was presented in a "See? We have more information and you don't know what's really going on" manner. The day of the election, however, the long lines I saw (in New York City) left me with the impression the data may not be telling the whole story. If Hillary voters in a safe city were turning out in droves, I came to the conclusion turnout would be high across the board, and high turnout usually coincides with a desire for change. The data itself may not be 'wrong' but whoever was using it was doing so improperly.
Continue reading "Data and Risk"
Thursday, July 28. 2016
Sit Down, Science. We Need to Talk, He begins:
Science is fetishized only by people who do not know science.
Saturday, June 4. 2016
It depends on how accurate. Stereotyping is a form of mental shorthand. We all use stereotyping during the day, whether of people or of things and of situations. Rules of thumb. Sometimes wrong, but with limited information we have to go by something.
Friday, April 22. 2016
Why are there so many Canadians and Russians who play hockey?
Why are most of my friends Jewish?
Why is one side of my family comprised overwhelmingly by educators, while the other is in some form of business management?
There is a knee-jerk response by the Left to always and everywhere explain gaps by relying on 'discrimination' of some kind. While this may be true, it's rarely the sole or even the primary reason for gaps. Gaps sometimes happen because certain groups pursue opportunities and benefits differently and/or more effectively. But there are many reasons for gaps, and discrimination isn't even the most interesting one to study.
Monday, January 11. 2016
I imagine this is Bernie's thought process. But if he's in control, he's the entitled minority.
I don't consider my loathing of Dunlap to be particularly unusual or unjustified. I don't know the man, but his behaviors were pretty transparent. It was easy to not like him, as opposed to a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, who have proven themselves astute and relatively even-handed businessmen (even if you don't necessarily admire their politics).
There are still other reasons why people loathe the successful, and the death of flamboyant glam-rocker David Bowie reminded me of some. Many popular music stars have no problem speaking out against successful business people or businesses - even those in their own industry. I don't know if Bowie ever had anything bad to say about the marketers who helped turned him into a cottage industry, but plenty of his contemporaries certainly had/have very negative things to say about the successful. I have sat through more than one concert (Roger Waters in particular) which did nothing but complain about corporations and greed.
As a younger person, I used to complain about paying $X to go see a band. "The greedy music companies want to soak us." I still paid and saw the band. I never considered that the $X I paid covered a large number of costs which provided jobs to people. Sure the music promoters got wealthy, but these promoters were usually making money on the margins, and managed several events which also lost money. Whatever I ultimately paid for the ticket probably covered the costs for the show, as well as some losses on other shows.
As I aged, I realized even though I paid $X, jobs were created to service my entertainment needs. I also realized my willingness to pay $X meant I believed $X was a fair exchange for my entertainment. I no longer believed some wealthy promoter was ripping me off - I was engaging in a fair trade which left both of us better off. I enjoyed my entertainment and the promoter got paid for his ability to put together a show which thousands may enjoy.
Continue reading "Loathing Success"
Monday, November 30. 2015
Thursday, November 12. 2015
But I'm at a loss for words when it comes to stuff like this.
We have a name for activists who don't want the media around. They are called fascists. They seek to impose their views by force, and having media around exposes their sometimes brutal and always childish behavior to the world. It has nothing to do with sensitivity or "safe space" (what the hell is that?). It has everything to do with hiding your aggression from visibility.
Now, as the University continues to spin out of control, we're learning that most of the claims were lies. We're learning the hunger striker is really just an entitled brat. The football team are just useful idiots, pawns in a bigger game of stupidity, which became apparent when the students sought to separate themselves to create "black only healing space."
I have no doubt these students have grandparents who fought to have schools integrated. So I'm confused. Did we come full circle? Is separate but equal the law of the land, or is separate but equal only in effect if and when a certain group of people say they want it to be in effect? I'm all for their right to voluntarily segregate themselves, but if they do so they should be aware they are simply making things unequal once again, and they have no standing to ask to be treated equally.
They have created a very arbitrary line. I think I'll go create my "white only healing space" to sort through my emotions on this, but I have a feeling I'd be called a racist for having that space. I know these kids are wrong. It's hard for opinions to be wrong, but when they are, they are usually wrong by a long shot. In this case there's no question. These are not students, because they've learned nothing and are acting out on childish impulses. If the university had a president, I'd think the correct response is to expel each and every one of them. There's always room for protest on campus, there's always room for freedom of speech. But there isn't room for lying, misrepresentation, and there's certainly no room for closing one's mind to history and/or the law simply because your emotions were 'triggered'. Time to grow up, snowflakes.
Wednesday, October 7. 2015
Friday, May 29. 2015
The Law says that there always are some of those. People in business analyze them carefully, as do war-planners - in advance. Even so, many or most things do not work out as planned. When it comes to politicians and policy-makers, often-enough things that appear, in retrospect, as Unintended, were covertly intended.
Sunday, May 17. 2015
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