Experts in a Time of Unreason

Sarah Hoyt has an interesting essay on her experience of becoming a United States citizen. This comment caught my eye:

Part of the thing with Europe is the worship of the “experts.”  “We’ll take it to the expert” or “We’ll have the expert do it.”

Yet, when the experts get it wrong, even when the expert opinion is that they cannot get it right all the time or even most of the time, they are vilified, scapegoated, and even convicted of manslaughter.

Claudio Eva, who was sentenced on Monday along with five other scientists and a government official over the earthquake in 2009 that killed more than 300 people and levelled the city of L’Aquila, said the verdict was an “eye for an eye”.

The ruling by a court in the shattered city, which defied the commonly held view that earthquakes cannot be predicted, has prompted outrage from the world’s scientific community.

More here: The deeper issues behind Italy’s conviction of earthquake scientists

Europe has a deep tradition for holding individuals responsible for things they themselves – as individuals – were incapable of influencing or avoiding. Likewise for “acts of God” events. If the sun were to be blotted out by the moon, a heretic must be burned. In America, this tradition is less ingrained, having been a country founded in large part by individuals seeking to escape such unreason. I fear, though, this is eroding and the euro-tradition of irresponsibility and blame while relying on Big Brother and The Nanny State is taking hold.

Keep the Wine Coming…

Good evening! And Cheers!

New evidence on how compound found in red wine can help prevent cancer

Keep the Coffee Coming…

Good morning! Now go pour your self another cup of Morning Joe…or three…or four.

Coffee Lowers the Risk of Oral Cancer by 49 Percent

Lessons from Katrina on the Hudson

There are many. The most valuable one for survivors and observers may be that governments, even when optimally structured and run, cannot mitigate the Big Acts of Nature. The optimal structure for a government would have its power and influence limited to addressing the big things that are a consequence of large numbers of people interacting in a generally recognized common society. The organization and control of a military force, for example. It’s difficult to repel or defend a society from intruders with a loose association localized militia. Governments are particularly good at organizing and controlling armed forces. The pooled resources allow for the coordination of capabilities on a scale impossible to achieve by a loosely organized militia.

Micromanagement of the citizenry, on the other hand, is something that should unequivocally be outside the control or influence of governments, if for no other reason than it detracts from the organization’s ability to successfully implement the things it is good at organizing and controlling. Mandating the size of a soda drink or what kind of light bulb citizens are allowed to screw into their light sockets – clear examples of mission creep. Updating and maintaining the power gird – that’s another thing the scale and cost of which would lend itself well to government control and organization. And in the case of Big Acts of Nature, supplying and distributing the very basic necessities – food, water, shelter – for a large number of displaced citizens is another task sized for government control and organization. Instead, when events like Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy occur, we see significant failures of governments to accommodate the basic needs of the affected citizenry.

Insulating citizens from all the little decisions they make, and the consequences, leaves the perception that governments can fix the effects of Big Acts of Nature. Tragically, this also leaves the impression that governments are also prepared to deal with Big Acts of Nature. The guaranteed scenario, in the minds of the supplicating caught-unprepared post-disaster citizenry, is as follows:

Disasters, Government, and the Unprepared

(Click for larger image.)

 The reality ends up being much more like:

Disasters, Government, and the Unprepared

(Click for larger image.)

So that’s the lesson. The response is to prepare for your own health and well-being when Big Acts of Nature happen. Call it, your “PFNDPA” – Personal and Family Natural Disaster Plan of Action. There are plenty of good links on Instapundit to get you started.

A Different Age

California grandmother steps forward just in time to claim $23 million lottery jackpot

Cervera, a widow who has lived on disability for 20 years, said her family has been through difficult times recently. Last year her 47-year-old son Rudy was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving four teenage children.

“I’d give it all up to have my son here again,” she said and began to cry. Her oldest grandson, Rudy Jr., hugged her and the whole family wiped away tears.

“My grandkids are all going to be taken care of, and my (three) daughters,” she said. “I’m just so happy. I’m going to buy me a pair of Reeboks.”

She also has two adopted sons, ages 5 and 9, who have developmental disabilities.

Well good on her. I wonder if the expression of this kind of appreciation, generosity and gratitude is fading. Easy to think so the way the news waves are filled with pontificating washed up hippies and other Occupied-With-Self’ers.

I’ve bought lotto tickets before, although not since my first wife passed. Similar to Cervera, never particularly thought I’d win, since I understood the math and the odds of winning. But it was a cheep way to buy a little hope, a small token for speculating about the possibility of having a few of the money-based burdens fall away. Although the health burdens remained substantial, the cost vs. value ratio was pretty good. The let down of not winning wasn’t so bad, either. After all, I knew the odds and I got what I paid for – a little hope for a little while. And many times, that was just enough or all that was needed to get through the day.

How to Fix Windows…Again.

I can’t remember a release of Windows that didn’t bring in it’s wake a barrage of articles titled something like “How to make the new version of Windows look/behave/perform like the old version of Windows.” The first such article on the radar for this go-around is from Lifehacker: How to Fix Windows 8’s Biggest Annoyances (and Make It More Like Windows 7)

It is annoying to have to learn – yet again – where familiar stuff is and how it works. It’s a productivity killer for several months. Crikey, there’s still stuff I can’t find on the abomination that is the “ribbon.” Functions that were an easy find on previous versions of MS Office are scattered across a pallet of multiple sized icons, text items, grouping boxes, and micro-sized fly-out selectors.

It is also a major reason why virtually all my non-work related computer time is spent on Linux using LibreOffice. There, I stay productive.

“If You Have The Ability to Create Your Own Currency, How Can You Ever Be Broke?”

So asks commenter, “Yavin4,” over at DemocraticUnderground.com.

Let’s say that you have the ability to print your currency using your computer printer, and every merchant accepted your printouts as a valid exchange for goods and services. You need to pick up your dry cleaning? You printout a $20 bill and your cleaners hand over your garments without question. Same would be true for your mortgage, groceries, car note, etc. Your creditors even accept your printouts as payment on your debts.

Given this, how can you ever be broke? Answer, you cannot be broke. The U.S. government is not in debt simply because it can create currency to pay off the debt, and our creditors gladly accept our currency as payment on our debts. You see, the world needs our dollars because the world needs oil, and in order to buy oil, you need dollars, which means that the world needs to stockpile dollars, and that means that the U.S. can print all of the money that it wants without incurring massive hikes in interest rates to attract lenders.

So, why the hue and cry about America being broke? Simple. The elites in this country need to create a defcit and scarcity crisis in order to dissuade the public from voting for increased social spending on things like a universal health care program, better education, better benefits for SS recipients better infrastructure, etc. You cannot argue against the logic nor the need for these programs, but you can argue that you cannot pay for them. Additionally, more social spending means that the public is not as dependent on corporate America for their economic survival. For example, if you have universal healthcare, you don’t have to take a job just for the health benefits. If you have a generous Social Security program, you don’t have to invest in the market.

I don’t think my head has taken so many Kierkegaardian leaps of faith, slipped on so many logical fallacies, and sunk in so much wishful thinking since Dr. Gross’ European Intellectual History course as an undergraduate.

Perhaps Yavin4 is available to mow my lawn, for which I will pay with currency printed from my very own printer. Such are the lessons learned.

Refugee from Fashion

Am I lost on fashion or is fashion lost on me? We’re just not connecting. Never have and, by the looks of it, never will.

Sky-High “Front Heels” Teeter on the Edge of Fashion

Vertical Shoes

(H/T Instapundit)

More Government = Less Help

This ad from the Libertarian Party sums it up nicely.

Libertarian Party Ad

More government first and foremost brings with it ways to defend and protect more government, whether by corruption, cronyism, bureaucratic process, or military intervention. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Of course, it’s important to sprinkle a little help back to the masses, enough to maintain the illusion of help. Events like hurricane Katrina or massive power outages reveal how woefully thin this veil is in times of great and legitimate need.

Updates

2012.10.22

To illustrate the bureaucratic and corrupt paths to governments protecting themselves: ‘Donations’ to state agency let landlords avoid charges

At least 27 Iowa landlords were allowed to make donations to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in lieu of legal action for illegally discriminating against housing applicants, records obtained by The Des Moines Register show.

The deals, made by the Civil Rights Commission from 2006 through February 2011, helped landlords avoid charges after they were found to have illegally discriminated for reasons such as race, disability or family status.

A donation in lieu of a fine or prosecution is considered unethical by many judicial standards because it creates the appearance that justice is for sale. Such donations also potentially allow those who have money to avoid prosecution a luxury those who are less affluent might not be able to afford, noted state court administrator David Boyd in speaking about why his branch of government advises against the practice.

Interesting that the state court administrator only “advises against the practice.”

(H/T Instapundit)

2012.10.23

More big government corruption springing from the design to “help” the populace:

Faulty medical implants investigation: Patients’ health put at risk by unscrupulous EU regulators

One regulator, based abroad but authorised to license products for medical use in this [England] country, was secretly recorded boasting that they were “on the side of the manufacturer”.

2012.10.25

The Laws must be obeyed:

Conquest’s Laws

  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.
  3. The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy

In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Freedom of Speech and Fear

The ever insightful  Mark Steyn correctly points out that free speech isn’t a gift or a privilege to be granted or withdrawn by Ivory Tower bureaucrats. Free speech is a right. Glenn Reynolds follows up with:

Well, people need to be more afraid of the good guys for a change, anyway, and not the savages.

I disagree. Fearing the good guys isn’t much better than fearing the bad guys. Too often, the good guys become the new bad guys. Rather, lets be clear about what we reward. Reward behaviors that shun, shame, and mock bad behavior. And, when appropriate, punch back against bad behavior twice as hard.

This has me wondering if there is a play for the broken windows theory that would work here. By slapping down the minor offenses would the major ones be less likely to occur? But then again, there are many major offenses in play – honor killings, massive murders over implied or imagined offenses to a spiritual leader, bounties for individuals practicing free speech, and on and on. I would hope things haven’t become too far out of hand that they can’t be reeled in, but we still seem to be reeling. That’s makes the task increasingly more difficult.