"During my long journey through the world of evil, I had discovered three sources of power: the power of an individual's inner freedom, the power of a free society, and the power of the solidarity of the free world."-- Natan Sharansky, "The Case for Democracy"

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June 24, 2016

Make America Great Again...

... by making America grow again.

Donald Trump may or may not have the chops to pull this off, but a fifty-fifty chance is better than Hillary's 8 more years of cold porridge.

This guy though, thinks he can.

Whereas Trump early on talked up "jobs, jobs, jobs" - with specifics on where they're coming from, from broad tax cuts to unleashing the US energy industry.

And, yes, cutting better trade deals - something that Clinton joins the NeverTrumpers in painting as an unthinkable nightmare.

Sorry, does nobody recall how President Bill Clinton renegotiated a major trade treaty?

Bubba took office in 1993 with NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, already a done deal. But Democratic special interests - unions, the green lobby - didn't like it, so he made more concessions to Mexico and Canada in order get major "labor and environmental side accords" added on.

Trump can similarly open up President Obama's Trans-Pacific trade deal - this time dumping items that Obama inserted to please his favored special interests in order to get a deal that's better for American workers and businesses.

There's no reason Trump can't (eventually) do the same on NAFTA and other standing deals. And none of it risks a trade war.

How much good it'll do, I can't say - I put more faith in the rest of his pro-growth program, particularly the energy policies.

But tens of millions of voters see trade as a huge issue, one where the establishment has ignored their perfectly valid concerns for a generation - when it hasn't smugly dismissed them as ignorant.

Yes, Trump can get harsh when he's talking trade (and other issues). But how else does he show he means it?

Mitt Romney made tough noises on trade with China (and on immigration, too). Nobody believed him, because he was so plainly a guy who would wilt under establishment pressure.

Fine, I wince at some point whenever I watch Trump. But I've been wincing at every Republican nominee since Reagan; every one of them still got my vote.

And if you look at Trump's actual program, he's not even close to being off the GOP reservation - he's just opened the door to Americans who've quite rightly been feeling left out.

Trump is not the intellectual's intellectual, but he is a born leader who can rally a movement to go in approximately the right direction, rather than precisely the wrong way in which his alternative will steer the country.

Otequay of the Ayday

In our present climate, it is customary for cosmopolitan sorts to accuse anybody who dissents from the European project of being an unreconstructed "nationalist." Insofar as this describes the dissenters' desire to return power to their own parliament and to ensure that their vote matters as much as it should, it is an accurate term. Outside of that, however, it is a slur, and a damnable one at that. George Orwell contended that the difference between patriotism and nationalism was that patriotism involved "devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people," while nationalism "is inseparable from the desire for power." By this definition at least, Britain's decision to extricate itself from the EU was patriotic, not nationalistic. Indeed, if there is any group within the debate that seeks to impose "a particular way of life . . . on other people," it is the one that wants ever-closer integration into Europe, and, eventually, a federal super-state.

- Charles C.W. Cooke, 'The Brexit Vote Was Just the Beginning.'

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/437082/brexit-uk-eu-referendum-vote-beginning

True Story from a guy at work.

My wife and I went into town and visited a shop. When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and I said, "Come on man,  how about giving a senior citizen a break?" He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a "butt-head." He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn-out tires. So Sherry (my wife) called him an "idiot." He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing more tickets.This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote. He finally finished, sneered at us and walked away. Just then our bus arrived, and we got on it and went home.  We always look for cars with Hillary 2016 stickers.
Well, he says it is true.

Straight Outta Europe

Love this:


Posted by John Kranz at 10:37 AM | What do you think? [3 comments]
But johngalt thinks:

Not that there's anything particularly for which to blame the "Polish" but it rhymes with "police."

And then there's our very own brother Keith who posted on fakebook,

"IN 1776, the American Colonies declared their independence; 240 years later, England follows suit. Congratulations, England, and welcome to the club!"

And they didn't even have to waste any tea!

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2016 11:10 AM
But jk thinks:

Quel Horreur!

This threatens the Paris climate change accords!!!

Posted by: jk at June 24, 2016 1:07 PM
But johngalt thinks:

From the link in the previous comment comes this "Yeah, I agree" moment:

"The problem is one of the most serious problems in the world which is climate change because it has the potential to literally destroy all life as we know it and turn this planet into a bare planet like Mars," Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg commented that history had shown that politicians didn't always do what they said on the campaign trail once they were elected.

"The real progress has been made at a city level by city governments and the private sector," he said, "I am not so much worried about what any one candidate says, although some things are inexplicable."

UFF da. Inexplicable indeed.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2016 2:38 PM

June 23, 2016

Brexit at Tiffany's

I'm feeling for my anarchist friends today. (And they'll tell you how rare that is.)

The Brexit vote, at 3:49 Mountain) is too close to call. Forty-eight percent are going to be terrifically disappointed with a key aspect of their "social contract" based on popular vote.


But johngalt thinks:

Let freedom ring! By a decisive margin,United Kingdom votes to "quit the EU." Take that, Brussels. You and your "common future" and "obligations."


One man's ceiling is another man's floor: "Catastrophe" or "Independence Day."

I was not expecting the torch of liberty to ignite in Europe, even in Britain. But our English cousins surprised me. Bravo! My optimism in the human spirit is vindicated. May that brave and determined spirit reappear five months hence, on this side of the pond.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2016 3:08 AM

Big Day!




UPDATE: A story in Datanami.

UPDATE II: Cool look at the signing party on our corporate site.

But Terri thinks:

BIG Day!!

Posted by: Terri at June 23, 2016 3:25 PM
But jk thinks:

Many thanks, Terri.

Posted by: jk at June 23, 2016 5:58 PM

And then there's this...

But jk thinks:

I'm staging a sit-in in my home office today. It's going to be EPIC!!!

Posted by: jk at June 24, 2016 10:21 AM

All Hail Insty!


Point - Counterpoint

I'm not saying we're polarized as a nation or anything. But


Two spaces down:


But johngalt thinks:

And their sit in is so important and they are so dedicated to their cause that when the Speaker recessed the house for a couple of weeks, they all went home. Hey gang, you won! You took control of the well of the house! Pwn it! Hold press conferences every day to rub it in that you won!

Unless it was all just a stunt. In that case, go home quietly.

Posted by: johngalt at June 24, 2016 11:15 AM

June 22, 2016

All Hail Lord Ridley!

He's a Brexit fan:

In voting Thursday on whether to leave the European Union, the British people face perhaps the most momentous decision since Henry VIII broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century so he could marry as he pleased. Though lust is not the motivation this time, there are other similarities. The Catholic Church five centuries ago was run by an unelected supranational elite, answerable to its own courts, living in luxury at the expense of ordinary people, and with powers to impose its one-size-fits-all rules despite the wishes of national governments. We were right to leave. -- Matt Ridley

Honorable mention (same column):

In a fine speech in 2013, David Cameron, the British prime minister, called for fundamental reform, but this year he settled for far more modest demands in a travesty of a "renegotiation." He has since campaigned for a vote to Remain, making increasingly implausible claims about the wars, depressions and plagues of Egypt that will follow if the world's fifth-biggest economy tries to survive in a world where Norway, Switzerland, Japan and Singapore seem to manage fine.

UPDATE: Then, you might enjoy the photo over Taranto's BOTW today:


But johngalt thinks:


I'm a Brexit fan for the same reason I want to roll back the U.S. federal government in power and scope. #Liberty

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2016 1:55 PM

June 21, 2016

Elevator Talk on Guns

The cavernous divide between Americans on Guns is startling. On many contentious issues, I suggest people understand the other side's position. They certainly do not accept it, and may likely not admit it, but in disagreements over gay rights and even abortion, down very deep, most interlocutors know the other side's arguments on some level.

On guns, I am startled that this is not the case. As a late-life convert to Second Amendment rights, maybe I can look across the divide one way. Guns are scary, and wishing a world without them is illogical but understandable. (My elevator talk on that aspect is "Yeah, we tried that. It's called the Middle Ages. The biggest meanest guy gets everything he wants.")

But on #commonsensegunregulation which 90% of Americans want if only the #meanoldNRA would let them have it, I have a new spiel. It's consequentialist and may not go over well here, but here's tryin'. Plus I'm certain my more knowledgeable peers can tighten the technical arguments as well.

Despite what the "do something" politicians say there's no low hanging fruity on gun legislation.

"Assault Weapons" are distinguished by cosmetic features. Standard hunting rifles are frequently much more lethal than the scary looking guns that are to be regulated. The AR-15 is wildly popular because it is comfortable, lightweight, and customizable. There have been 30 million guns sold on that platform -- not to 30 million serial killers, but 30 million sportsmen, hunters and self defense enthusiasts. I surmise that a lot of Toyotas are used in crimes. It's not a "criminal's car" but a popular car full stop.

Almost all legal sales are subject to background checks. The idea that multiple loopholes can be quickly plugged is simply not true. Private sales are still allowed. In a true story, I sold one and gave one away when I moved. It was to an ex-cop who was a good friend of mine. Trust me, those will not be employed in crime. Should I really have been forced to go to a dealer and pay money to run a background check?

If you want to discuss radially reducing gun owners' rights and access to weapons, fine that is a conversation to have. But do not accept this idea that "commonsense" measures will stop criminals' access and not affect lawful users. Everything that fits that bill has been done.

But johngalt thinks:

It turns out that common sense isn't as common as it used to be. Now it's a different kind of sense that one typically encounters - nonsense.

Posted by: johngalt at June 21, 2016 5:15 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

There's a bumper sticker I've seen that says: Common Sense is so rare it should be declared a super power!

Posted by: nanobrewer at June 22, 2016 12:11 AM
But jk thinks:


Perhaps "common sense" is the problem. It is sold on the same rack as "common knowledge:" no proof or reason required. You just know that guns are bad.

Posted by: jk at June 22, 2016 9:23 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I had wanted to include the only Heinlein quote I could find on common sense, and now that brother jk has teed it up:

"I was just trying to show you," he went on, "just how insubstantial a 'common sense' idea can be when you pin it down. Neither 'common sense' nor 'logic' can prove anything. Proof comes from experiment, or to put it another way, from experience, and from nothing else." Chapter 10, "The Method of Science" (p. 105)

From the book 'Rocket Ship Galileo' (1947) which I haven't read. dagny?

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2016 1:53 PM
But dagny thinks:

Probably read it. Don't remember it.

Posted by: dagny at June 22, 2016 5:56 PM

June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

My Dad:

The song, Belle Isle Streetcar Line, was written for my Mom. That's her voice requesting it. Dad died a few months after this was recorded and I am pretty happy to have this footage. I had just purchased an 8mm camcorder, which seemed wondrous as the time. I brought it down to play with it and captured this.

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

That remains awesome on stilts!

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at June 22, 2016 11:36 AM
But johngalt thinks:

Only more precious with the passage of time. You come by your musical chops naturally my friend.

Posted by: johngalt at June 22, 2016 1:59 PM

Review Corner

To them, the length of that hypotenuse had been revealed to be not a number at all. This caused a fuss. The Pythagoreans, you have to remember, were extremely weird. Their philosophy was a chunky stew of things we'd now call mathematics, things we'd now call religion, and things we'd now call mental illness. They believed that odd numbers were good and even numbers evil; that a planet identical to our own, the Antichthon, lay on the other side of the sun; and that it was wrong to eat beans, by some accounts because they were the repository of dead people's souls.
I shall not solicit their opinion in the Tau vs. Pi debate. The quote is from Jordan Ellenberg's How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, recommended to me by a fellow named Bill Gates. Well, he did not text me, but I saw it was included on his Five Books to Read this Summer. And, it's a pop-math book: what could possibly go wrong?

I'm not sure about the title -- and, to be fair, Ellenberg takes a couple self-deprecating whacks at it. The whole book is a clarion call to use rigorous, structured mathematical thinking and reasoning in everyday problems. Many interesting historical math characters are trotted out, as are several fun facts. There is not enough math to chase anyone off; anyone could make it through. And yet there is enough depth to keep a geek immersed. That is the hardest part of a math/science book for public consumption, and he does better than most.

For example, there is a topological solution to picking every pair in a Powerball-style lottery that went over my head, but it did not despoil the interesting chapter on the MIT kids who would buy all pairs in the Massachusetts Lottery on certain conditions. (I just scared off three readers and sent three to buy it, but the book is completely accessible.)

The largest swath is devoted to debunking the misuse of statistics. If the TV news intones that a new study shows that watermelon cures dandruff or whatever, he offers good reasons for skepticism which has nothing to do with scientific or journalistic malfeasance.

You can do linear regression without thinking about whether the phenomenon you're modeling is actually close to linear. But you shouldn't. I said linear regression was like a screwdriver, and that's true; but in another sense, it's more like a table saw. If you use it without paying careful attention to what you're doing, the results can be gruesome.

It was once said of Colorado Governor Dick Lamm that if he encountered a baby born weighing seven pounds, and the little tyke grew to 14, Lamm would become upset that in the year 2040 the child will weigh a million tons! Ellenberg raps prestigious journals for the same thinking:
The Long Beach Press-Telegram went with the simple headline "We're Getting Fatter." The study's results resonated with the latest manifestation of the fevered, ever-shifting anxiety with which Americans have always contemplated our national moral status. Before I was born, boys grew long hair and thus we were bound to get whipped by the Communists. When I was a kid, we played arcade games too much, which left us doomed to be outcompeted by the industrious Japanese. Now we eat too much fast food, and we're all going to die weak and immobile, surrounded by empty chicken buckets, puddled into the couches from which we long ago became unable to hoist ourselves. The paper certified this anxiety as a fact proved by science.

Without using the term "common-core," he looks into different methods and teaching styles. A student of his that writes down a stupid answer "The Horse weighs -100 grams." with an annotation that the answer is stupid will get partial credit. One who provides only the stupid answer gets zero.
In fact, I'm not radical at all. Dissatisfying as it may be to partisans, I think we have to teach a mathematics that values precise answers but also intelligent approximation, that demands the ability to deploy existing algorithms fluently but also the horse sense to work things out on the fly, that mixes rigidity with a sense of play. If we don't, we're not really teaching mathematics at all.

On Review Corner even math books get graded on politics. I'd call him pretty middle of the road. For an academic, that is certainly a bruising right-wing neocon! He generally picks out Republicans to be the butt of a joke, but he always follows up with "Democrats do it too." Again, for an academic, I'm scoring that as "fair."
The Washington Post graded the Romney campaign's 92.3% figure as "true but false." That classification drew mockery by Romney supporters, but I think it's just right, and has something deep to say about the use of numbers in politics. There's no question about the accuracy of the number. You divide the net jobs lost by women by the net jobs lost, and you get 92.3%. But that makes the claim "true" only in a very weak sense.
But real-world questions aren't like word problems. A real-world problem is something like "Has the recession and its aftermath been especially bad for women in the workforce, and if so, to what extent is this the result of Obama administration policies?" Your calculator doesn't have a button for this.

And, one of my favorite, just how frequently improbable events happen in a nation of 300 million. People win the lottery all the time, get struck by lightening, bit by sharks, die of bee stings...
If a random Internet stranger who eliminated all North American grains from his food intake reports that he dropped fifteen pounds and his eczema went away, you shouldn't take that as powerful evidence in favor of the maize-free plan. Somebody's selling a book about that plan, and thousands of people bought that book and tried it, and the odds are very good that, by chance alone, one among them will experience some weight loss and clear skin the next week. And that's the guy who's going to log in as saygoodbye2corn452 and post his excited testimonial, while the people for whom the diet failed stay silent.

As the cleverer among you have inferred from the quotes, Ellenberg has a clever wit and a folksy attachment to Math. He decries those who leave the field when they see they're not the best, he provides lovable tales of odd mathematicians but underscores that they're outliers.

It's a pleasant and informative read. I do not mean to suggest that because it is easy it does not have much to offer even those with a good feel for statistics and probability. Even the chapter subheads are good "ARE YOU THERE, GOD? IT'S ME, BAYESIAN INFERENCE"

Five stars.

June 17, 2016

Email Subhead of the Week


I guess they got this week covered...

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