Wednesday, December 28, 2005

We simply cannot afford to gamble...by ignoring it. We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who say we are merely entering a period of climatic instability are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored.
Lowell Ponte, The Cooling, 1978, p. 237

michaelchrichton.com

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I found in traveling around the world that a great many people believed the most arrant nonsense about the United States. In particular, a great many people, apparently well educated and sophisticated, were convinced that the people of the United States were in the grip of terror and that free speech and free press no longer existed here. They believed that the United States was fomenting a third world war and would presently start it, with Armageddon consequences for everyone else, and that the government of the United States smashed without mercy anyone who dared to oppose even by oral protest this headlong rush toward disaster.

These people could "prove" their opinions by quoting any number of Americans and American newspapers and magazines. That they were able to quote such American sources proved just the opposite, namely that we do continue to enjoy free speech even to express arrant nonsense and unpopular opinions, escaped them completely.

The extremely wide scope of free speech and free press in the United States, much wider than that enjoyed anywhere else in the world including all of the British Commonwealth, is not understood elsewhere.

(More free speech and press than in the British Commonwealth? Surely not! Ah, but we do have: our radio is not government owned, we do not place severe restrictions on the importation of printed matter from outside our borders, our libel laws and our limitations on reporting of court procedures are as nothing compared with theirs, our news reporting is the most aggressive in the world.)

The real restrictions against what we can say or print are very nearly limited to only the most blatant of pornography and to classified military secrets. But citizens of other countries neither understand nor believe this; it is too foreign to their own experience. I said to a man in South Africa: "You insist that anyone in the United States who expresses an opinion favorable to Russia or to communism is immediately thrown in jail. How do you reconcile that with the fact that the communist Daily Worker is still published in New York?"

He simply called me a liar.
Robert Anson Heinlein (circa 1953/54), Tramp Royale, p. 61-62

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Woman...naturally bigoted and relentless

Woman, essentially a purist, is naturally bigoted and relentless in her effort to make others as good as she thinks they ought to be... woman's narrow and purist attitude toward life makes her a greater danger to liberty wherever she has political power.
Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays, 3rd rev. ed., ch. 9 (1917).

"The rich woman who has a maid to raise her child can't expect to get the right viewpoint of life," she wrote in Miners Magazine. "If they would raise their own babies, their hearts would open and their feelings would become human. And the effect on the child is just as bad. A nurse can't give her mother's love to somebody else's child."

Mother Jones detested the middle-class reformers who sought to transfer household functions to the market or the state. She suspected that capitalists were scheming to force women into the paid labor force and children into daycare; the prospect did not please her: "The human being is the only animal which is neglected in its babyhood. The brute mother suckles and preserves her young at the cost of her own life, if need be. The human mother hires another, poorer woman for the job."
Mother Jones, anti-feminist

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Do SAT Scores Really Predict Success?

Most studies find that the correlation between SAT scores and first-year college grades is not overwhelming, and that only 10 percent to 20 percent of the variation in first-year GPA is explained by SAT scores.

This association appears weaker than it is, however, for an interesting, but seldom noted statistical reason: Colleges usually accept students from a fairly narrow swath of the SAT spectrum.

The SAT scores of students at elite schools, say, are considerably higher, on average, than those of students at community colleges, yet both sets of students probably have similar college grade distributions at their respective institutions.

If both sets of students were admitted to elite schools or both sets attended community colleges, there would be a considerably stronger correlation between SATs and college grades at these schools.

Those schools that attract students with a wide range of SAT scores generally have higher correlations between the scores and first-year grades.

This is a general phenomenon; the degree of correlation between two variables depends on the range of the variables considered.
John Allen Paulos, Who's Counting?

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mark Twain, Darwin, and the French

I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so-called), and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me. For it obliges me to renounce my allegiance to the Darwinian theory of the Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals; since it now seems plain to me that that theory ought to be vacated in favor of a new and truer one, this new and truer one to be named the Descent of Man from the Higher Animals...

And so I find that we have descended and degenerated, from some far ancestor -- some microscopic atom wandering at its pleasure between the mighty horizons of a drop of water perchance -- insect by insect, animal by animal, reptile by reptile, down the long highway of smirchless innocence, till we have reached the bottom stage of development -- namable as the Human Being. Below us -- nothing. Nothing but the Frenchman.

There is only one possible stage below the Moral Sense; that is the Immoral Sense. The Frenchman has it. Man is but little lower than the angels. This definitely locates him. He is between the angels and the French.
Mark Twain, Man's Place in the Animal World (a.k.a. The Lowest Animal) (1896)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Then it came burning hot into my mind, whatever he said, and however he flattered, when he got me home to his house, he would sell me for a slave.
Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded- here and there, now and then- are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as "bad luck."
Robert A. Heinlein, "excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long", Time Enough for Love

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

from Wikiquote:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

* Though these words are regularly attributed to Voltaire, they were first used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire's beliefs on freedom of thought and expression.

* Another possible source for the quote was proposed by Norbert Guterman, editor of "A Book of French Quotations," who noted a letter to M. le Riche (February 6, 1770) in which Voltaire is quoted as saying: "Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." This remark, however, does not appear in the letter.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

UN spin

The UN Dispatch blog does exactly what it accuses another blogger of doing.

From Roger L. Simon: UN-Balanced Blogging on the UN Dispatch blog:
0% of Roger L. Simon's blog entries during April make reference to the following UN-related issues:[followed by self-promotion of good works of which the US is the major funder]
0% of posts on the UN Dispatch make reference to the following UN-related issues:

UN sex scandals in various African countries
UN failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda
UN oil-for-food scandal
Is Simon's hyper-focus on a single UN-related issue based on deep convictions?
Does the UN Dispatch have any justification for using the term "hyper-focus"? Could it be that they consider any attention afforded that issue to be too much? Is UN Dispatch ignoring any of the other above issues an oversight? Maybe. Or is it indicative that they just don't give a damn?

From Roger L. Simon: UN-Balanced Blogging, Part II

1. UN Dispatch is the UN's blog, and the post in question represents the UN's displeasure with Roger Simon.

False. Here's a brief quote from the 'About' section of this blog: "UN Dispatch is sponsored by the United Nations Foundation, though the views expressed herein do not represent the official views of the United Nations Foundation, or the UN."
You use the UN name, you're paid by them, they own you.
And not unexpectedly, the responses were largely dismissive, derisive, and betrayed a shallow reading of the original post.
And not unexpectedly, the responses posted on the UN Dispatch were dismissive and betrayed a desire to sweep problems under the rug.
an unfortunate reaction from some bloggers is their willingness to simply shrug off the examples of UN-related issues listed in the original post. It's clear that many of these bloggers have become accustomed to knee-jerk attacks and are unwilling (or unable) to engage in a reasoned debate.
An unfortunate reaction from UN Dispatch is their willingness to simply shrug off the examples of UN problems referred to by anyone. It's clear that the UN has become accustomed to simply talk about fixing these problems and to resort to a knee-jerk attack on the messenger because its bureaucrats are too cowardly and lazy to address the problems and actually fix them.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Europe's opposition to the USA

The happening to our America, abroad as well as at home, these years, is indeed most strange. The democratic republic has paid her to-day the terrible and resplendent compliment of the united wish of all the nations of the world that her union should be broken, her future cut off, and that she should be compell’d to descend to the level of kingdoms and empires ordinarily great.

There is certainly not one government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split, crippled, and dismember’d by it. There is not one but would help toward that dismemberment, if it dared...

We need this hot lesson of general hatred, and henceforth must never forget it. Never again will we trust the moral sense nor abstract friendliness of a single government of the old world.
Walt Whitman, 1864

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Credulity

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, May 1945

cf. Bertrand Russell, My Philosophical Development

Monday, April 18, 2005

Who says the left doesn't have a sense of humor?

from "The Ward Churchill Notoriety Tour", The Weekly Standard, April 25, 2005:
A woman with a foamy cow-head on her hand steps forward. She introduces herself to Churchill as a "video activist and puppeteer." Her little friend is "Barbara Bovine, a reporter for NO-BS news." She asks him for an interview, and he motions to me with some relief, telling her he's busy. But I refuse to let him off the hook. "It's all right, have at it," I say, "Don't want to miss this." Churchill looks pained, but consents to the cow interview.

Barbara Bovine starts in, saying she's a mad cow, not because she's diseased, but "pissed at how my species has been treated." When she questions him on the morality of paying taxes on things you don't want to support, such as food, he responds, "I'm going to have to eat you, aren't I?" Barbara looks perplexed, as much as she can for an inanimate object. "Are you not a vegetarian?" she asks. "Of course not!" he thunders. "I'm of the planet of the carrot. Why would I eat my relatives?"

Friday, April 08, 2005

indecision

Indecision is a terrible thing.