This is how you do it, Republicans

I’ve never heard of Ray Junior before, but this is most definitely the correct way to treat a reptilian politician who is attempting to falsely pass himself off as a fiscally conservative republican:

Junior: The question is simple: You’re a Senator today. The Ryan plan comes across your desk. Are you voting yes or no?

Haridopolos: Again, Ray Junior, I’m not getting into that today because it’s not the vote that I’m dealing with

Junior: But you’re on my show. This is the question I’m asking. We’re trying to figure out whether we want to vote for you to become a U.S. Senator. Are you voting for the Ryan plan or not? This is not about what you want to talk about. This is what I want to talk about. I want to know: Do you vote for this bill or not?

Haridopolos: What I’d like to talk about is simple – what did I do in the state Legislature…

Junior: I’m not interested in what you want to talk about, Mike. I’m mention what the voters want to talk about. The voters want to talk about the budget. And I’m interested in what I want to talk about — my show. Tell me: You voting for the Ryan plan, yes or no?

Haridopolos: Again, I don’t have all the information to make that decision yet.

Junior: How could you possibly not have all that information, you’re running for Senate?

Haridopolos: Ray, I thought you wanted to talk about what we had accomplished, not about a hypothetical.

Junior: Your guy that asked for you to be on the show said “Hey, I’d like to get him on the show.’ I said ‘fine. Let’s bring him on the show.’ So I’m asking you that question. The only reason people avoid questions like this, Mike, is because they don’t want to be tied in — when they don’t want to actually have people see how they would do things. There’s no reason to avoid this question. How could you possibly be running for U.S. Senate and not know what’s in the Ryan bill?

Haridopolos: I know what’s in the Ryan bill, but again, what you’re asking me is a fair question. What I’m telling you is…

Junior: Ok, I’d like a fair answer…

Haridopolos:…A lot of people are talking about hypotheticals — if they run, if they win. Let’s talk about what I actually accomplished

Junior: Laughter… no, no, no. You’re not doing that, Mike. Every single thing a person talks about when they’re on the campaign trail is a hypothetical. A hundred percent of it. There’s nothing that’s not hypothetical. The only way we know whether it’s going to be true or not is when they get into office is if they follow through on the things they said they would do. That’s why I’m asking you: Would you vote yes or no on Ryan?

Haridopolos: Exactly what I’m bringing up. My point as well. I made a promise to balance the budget, not raise taxes, not raise fees..

Junior: Ok, does the Ryan plan do that? Does the Ryan plan do that?

Haridopolos: Look, the Ryan plan is what’s in Washington

Junior: Ok, get him off my phone. I don’t want anything to do with this guy. Get rid of him.

What a pity that the big boys are all more interested in exchanging back rubs and foot massages with the likes of Newt Gingrich and Captain Underoos than they are in pinning down Republican would-be leaders on the big issues and holding them accountable. If you can’t answer a simple and straightforward yes or no question concerning your position on one of the central issues of the day, you should get the hell out of politics.

Don’t worry, you’re not too pretty for science

A female scientist desperately wants you to know that someone told her she was pretty, the bastard, and now she can’t wait to tell you about ithow angry that makes her!

I’m ticked off and venting via dashed-off blog rant…. I know Mr. Salesguy was trying to be nice and probably thought he was flattering me, but fer chrissakes, that is NOT the way to go about it. Women in science already frequently feel like “The Other,” that we’re “too XX” to be good at what we do, that our possession of breasts surely must mean that we’re too much of a fragile flower to be able to handle the “man’s work” involved in science and academia, and that we need to go above and beyond what our male colleagues do just to feel the same level of acceptance and appreciation. I’m sure Mr. Salesguy has never thought about the plight of women in science before tonight (and I doubt that my conversation really made him think about it for more than a few fleeting seconds), but it really dragged down what had otherwise been a very nice few days of unadulterated sciencey goodness.

This is a beautiful example of what is one of my favorite female faux outrage poses. Certain women, usually those of average appearance, love to pretend to be furious because someone complimented them, which they believe gives them an excuse to talk to everyone they can get their hands on about the fact that someone thinks they are pretty or whatever. You’ll notice you never see any genuinely gorgeous girl getting her thong in a twist over someone happening to recognize the obvious; she knows she’s hot and it’s no big deal.

And the idea that one can be somehow damaged by one’s looks defying the expectations of one’s occupation is a ridiculous attempt to justify the “look at me, look at me” behavior. At my second book signing, which was a large Barnes & Noble event at which there were some 10 or 12 other much bigger-name SF/F authors, including Gordon R. Dickson, there must have been at least 10 people who told me I didn’t look like a SF writer. I didn’t take any offense, of course, or agonize about how this made it terribly difficult to be taken seriously as a writer. It was not exactly hard to ascertain what they meant by the comment given that in addition to being the youngest one there by a decade or more, I was also the only weightlifter in the bunch. SF/F writers are often fascinating conversationalists and I quite enjoy spending time with them, but as a general rule they tend not to make for the most physically imposing specimens of humanity.

So, Ms Dr Smith needn’t worry. As an expert observer of the opposite sex, I don’t think she’s too pretty for science. I don’t think she’s pretty at all. I’m confident she can rest assured that most men who aren’t of low sexual market value, like the scientists and atheists by whom she is customarily surrounded, will not take any notice of her unless she happens to perform some spectacular feats of science. Which is probably unlikely, since she’s such a transparently superficial twit that she’ll find it hard to pull her narcissistic nose out of her navel long enough to observe anything scientific.

The danger of biting at ankles

You tend to get kicked in the teeth a lot:

Ok, so we go the whole day and no-one points out that free fall most certainly is acceleration. 9.8 m/s/s, to be exact.

The statement was not “freefall is not acceleration”, but that “acceleration is not freefall”. Does an orbital rocket blasting off accelerate? Does an automobile? And are either of these machines in freefall while they are accelerating as per their normal operation?

Some commenters appear to have an amount of trouble understanding the concept of sets and subsets. The subset is not, and cannot be, the set of which it is merely a part. (Cue Markku bringing up the null set.) I tend to doubt anyone would have felt the need to attempt offering a correction had I stated, for some inexplicable reason, “Numbers are not nine”. I desperately hope, anyhow, that even the most cluelessly contrarian anklebiter would have been able to resist the urge to reactively insist that “Nine is a number!”

Yes, it most certainly is. But three is a number and it is not nine. Ten is also not nine. There are, in fact, a vast collection of numbers that do not happen to be nine, just as there are many rates of change of velocity over time that do not involve the motion of a body where gravity is the only force acting upon it. The two terms overlap, but they are not interchangeable.

So, a helpful word of advice to the pedantically inclined. If you make a habit of actively seeking to criticize others or just have a tendency to react to assertions in an instinctively contrarian manner, I suggest learning to first ask questions rather than immediately attempting to offer corrections even when you are reasonably sure that you have understood what the other person said. Always get confirmation first. Because when you are dealing with anyone who is reasonably intelligent or even just precise in their thinking, there is a very good chance that your posturing – and let’s face it, that’s what it is – is going to cause you to make an ass of yourself by trying to correct something that is not, in fact, incorrect.

I understand that my towering intellectual arrogance is infuriating to some readers. Even those who often agree with me are sometimes sorely tempted to attempt to “bring me down” when they perceive an opportunity. But not every red flag waved in your face merits a blind and heedless charge. If you’ve read this blog for any time at all, you should be aware that there are few things in which I find more personal amusement than publicly skewering a superficial and reactively contrarian would-be critic.

The cancerous eyes of the state

Murray Rothbard expands his logical case against empiricism in economics, specifically, explaining how the systematic gathering of statistics tends to lead inevitably to bureaucracy and increased government intervention in the economy:

[S]tatistics are desperately needed for any sort of government planning of the economic system. In a free-market economy, the individual business firm has little or no need of statistics. It need only know its prices and costs. Costs are largely discovered internally within the firm and are not the general data of the economy which we usually refer to as “statistics.”

The “automatic” market, then, requires virtually no gathering of statistics; government intervention, on the other hand, whether piecemeal or fully socialist, could do literally nothing without extensive ingathering of masses of statistics. Statistics are the bureaucrat’s only form of economic knowledge, replacing the intuitive, “qualitative” knowledge of the entrepreneur, guided only by the quantitative profit-and-loss test. Accordingly, the drive for government intervention, and the drive for more statistics, have gone hand-in-hand….

Suffice it then to say that a leading cause of the proliferation of governmental statistics is the need for statistical data in government economic planning. But the relationship works also in reverse: the growth of statistics, often developed originally for its own sake, ends by multiplying the avenues of government intervention and planning. In short, statistics do not have to be developed originally for politicoeconomic ends; their own autonomous development, directly or indirectly, opens up new fields for interventionists to exploit.

Each new statistical technique, whether it be flow of funds, interindustry economics, or activity analysis, soon acquires its own subdivision and application in government.

In the RGD chapter entitled “No One Knows Anything”, I demonstrated how wildly inaccurate, mutable, and untrustworthy the economic statistics on which so much government policy is predicated are. But the problem is that regardless of how inaccurate or even irrelevant they are, they will be used to justify government action in various areas of the economy and inspire public malinvestment while simultaneously exacerbating private malinvestment. If statistics are the eyes of the state, the central flaw with them that they will always be short-sighted, astigmatic, subject to optical illusions, and prone to aggressive intraocular lymphomas.

On podcasting

I get a lot of requests to do more podcasts on a regular basis, and while I’m amenable with regards to the necessary talking, interviewing, and so forth, I’ve finally concluded that I’m simply not at all interested in doing the necessary editing and studio tinkering. So, if there is anyone who is interested in that side of it, let me know. I don’t have any grand ideas about going full media, but given how most of the world seems to be astonished that the global economy is headed back tostill experiencing economic contraction, I figure that there may be a need for more of the sort of thing I started with the Voxonomics podcasts.

Basically, I’d like to be able to record an MP3, upload it to a server, and have a reasonably edited podcast magically appear within a day or two. If that’s not possible because no one is interested, it’s completely fine, but I thought I should at least throw this out there for any audiophiles with some time on their hands.