Election 2010

November 2, 2010

Through all my posted articles, many people may have wondered exactly where I fall on the political spectrum.

I don’t.

The political spectrum, Left vs. Right, is one dimensional.  Few people really fall right on it.  We are told that if we have a certain opinion on one subject, we must therefore have a correlated opinion on a variety of other topics.  If you are against abortion, you are against taxes.  If you are for gay marriage, you are for unions.  If you are for gun control, you are against religion.  Absurd.

These policies and positions are so uncorrelated I am often surprised how it ended up this way in the first place.  Consider:

Poor, Black women are the most likely to get an abortion.  Republicans don’t like it that there are so many poor, black people.  Republicans should support federal funding for abortions.

Democrats want to help the less fortunate.  Iraqis being blown up by terrorists are less fortunate.  Democrats should demand our troops to stay in Iraq forever.

Republicans hate gays.  Stem cell research may give us a way of curing homosexuality.  Republicans should support federal funding for stem cell research.

Et cetera.

These examples are as contrived as they are ridiculous, but they serve a point.  One can start with the same set of partisan assumptions but end up with a completely different policy preference than expected.  Thus, I am not on the Left-Right axis.

What about the Economic-Social Plane?  This is what the Libertarians often use to get themselves in the debate.

Well, after a number of (online, therefore infallible) tests, I generally score “center-libertarian’, around the Centrist-Libertarian dividing line.  OK, well, that does show that I am not on the Left-Right axis, but is it any better at modeling my beliefs?

Hardly.  I have a good friend, Daniel Torriente, who also falls where I do on such tests, but we disagree on a tremendous number of issues.  Here is the trouble:  When measuring where one falls on, say, the Social axis, assume it asks 10 questions.  If I am for government intervention in issues 1-5 but against intervention in issues 6-10, it will grade me as (Socially) a centrist.  But my friend can be against government intervention on issues 1-5 and for it on 6-10, opposite what I believe, and be graded a centrist, just like I am.

Thus, the Economic-Social Plane test cannot accurately describe my political beliefs.

Neither one nor two dimensions work, and I have yet to find anyone pushing a three dimensional test, so I think I must define myself differently.

I am pretty sure I am a Moderate Jingoistic Libertarian Radical Militant Centrist.  Allow me to parse this:

Moderate – On average, I consider myself a Moderate because I can consider issues from many sides and see the logic (even if ill conceived) of opposing view points.

Jingoistic – Simply, Pro-American.  But mostly I just love the word “jingoistic’.  America has presided over the greatest period of human expansion (including economic expansion, expansion of freedoms, growth of sheer numbers, growth of technology, communication, trade, prosperity, etc.) the world has ever known.  A unipolar world following the USA is the easiest way to continue this expansion, therefore the USA must remain powerful.

Libertarian – For freedom, economic and political.  The bedrock of such freedom is freedom from government interference.

Radical – Many of my ideas are very strange…

Militant – …and I believe them very strongly.

Centrist – But they all average out to be somewhere near the middle.

Now, for my Political Prognostication:

These data are taken from realclearpolitics.com, my favorite source of news.  They compile reams of data into manageable chunks.  Their linked articles are from not only all over the political spectrum, but also from all over the world.  For this, however, I am most interested in their polling data from nearly every race in the country.

House:

 

Senate:

Races have been divided between Solid, Likely, and Lean Republican or Democrat and Tossup.  I use a simple algorithm to make my prediction.  Solids always go for their party, Likely is 90% for their party, Lean is 75%, Tossup is 50%, Lean to the other party goes 25% for the first, and 10% of the likely other party goes to the first.

Thus, my prediction for the 112th congress is as follows:
House:  241-194, Republican Control.  This represents a gain of 63 seats for the Republicans.
Senate:  53-47, Democrat Control.  Gain of 6 seats for the Republicans.

My algorithm astounds and confuses me.  I am predicting a larger than average gain in the House for the Republicans and smaller than average gain in the Senate (compared to the predictions I have seen recently online).  Well, I refuse to finagle the algorithm, so my prediction remains as is.

What does this mean?

On a Saturday morn, long, long ago (ca. 2007), I was bored.  I decided to start a mini-project for myself.  I took economic data for the entire history of the USA (specifically, real per capita GDP growth) and political data (who controlled the Presidency, House, and Senate every year for the history of the USA), shoved it all into a spreadsheet, and calculated.  I wanted to see who was better for the economy:  Republicans, Democrats, or shared control.  The results were plain and unambiguous.  Since 1945 (really, the first year in modern politics that the parties have had their current philosophical underpinnings, IMHO), years with shared control have contributed, on average, 3 times the economic growth than garnered under Republican or Democratic control.  The best years were those with a Democratic president and a Republican controlled House.  Control of the Senate had no bearing on economic growth, oddly enough.

The same was true for periods before 1945, but the parties were different then, increasingly so before the turn of the century to the point that they had different names.

My theory is that shared control forces parties to move slightly closer to the center to pass legislation.  This generally removes the ideological garbage in any given piece of legislation.  If this fails, the result is usually gridlock.  I have a low opinion of the power of government to make things much better, thus I have a high opinion of gridlock (with exceptions – government can make things better by making itself smaller, but gridlock generally prevents government shrinkage).  Also, Budgetary bills start in the House (Constitutionally speaking), so it makes sense that Senate control should not matter nearly as much as House or Presidency control.

And so, I find myself rooting for the Republicans this midterm.  Of course, my theory has not always panned out.  During the Bush years, the economy grew the fastest (by far) when Republicans controlled everything.  When Democrats controlled Congress, the economy worsened.  Well, the economy is pretty bad now, so hopefully this midterm will bring us back to historically expected norms of economic growth during shared control.

Will this election be a Republic mandate?  Hardly.  Not even Republicans like the Republican party.  No, this is merely a repudiation of Democratic policy.  We will return to being a center-center-right nation, at least until Republicans overstep their bounds once again.

 

<<<UPDATE>>>

Who will win this election year?  Well, the overall, overwhelming victors will be politicians.  Politicians are always the ones to win elections.  Their qualifications for the job?  Being good at winning elections.  The problem should be immediately self-evident.

One survey (sadly now behind a pay-wall) found that 41% of Americans think people randomly selected from a phone book would better govern the country than Congress.  I am certainly among that 41%.

Generally, I believe no one should make a career out of “public service”, i.e. not only term limits for individual positions, but a 20 year cap on elected positions whatsoever.  This would generate a large amount of turnaround.  While less would be known about the voting habits of any particular candidate, we could be sure they must have other outside skills above and beyond “running a winning campaign”.  If they do not, they don’t have much of a future after politics.


The Bradley Effect

November 2, 2008

Ever hear of it?

When a white and a non-white candidate are running for office, many people will tell pollsters that they are voting for the non-white candidate so they sound less racist or something.  Read about it here.

I have hears statistics that the Bradley Effect has been as much as 6 points so far this campaign.  Meaning Obama’s poll numbers are 6 points higher than they should be, mostly in states with very few blacks (read the article for the explanation to that one).

As you know by now, I am a nerd.  Ergo, I have taken Yahoo’s Political Dashboard and calculated the following:

As it stands now, assuming the Bradley Effect to be zero, we have the following map:

(Bradley Effect at 0)

There are several states which the polls indicate are closer than 6 points.  I will slowly increase the Bradley Effect until we reach 6 points.

(Bradley at 1%)

With a 1% Bradley Effect, North Carolina changes hands (actually, at 0.3%).

No change at 2% or 3%.

(Bradley at 4%)

Virginia changes at 3.8%.

(Bradley at 5%)

Now this is the stuff Political Science dreams are made of!  At 4.2%, Ohio and Florida go McCain.  At 4.5%, Colorado does.  At that point, there is an electoral tie!  Both candidates have 269 electoral votes, and they need 270 to win.  At that point, the House of Representatives gets to vote on the new President.  The last time that happened was 1825, when they chose J. Q. Adams.

Who would win this vote?  Good question.  Each state would vote as a bloc, and each state would have one vote.  I presume this means that the (for example) Florida delegation would meet, vote on who they want, and whoever got the most out of the Florida delegation would get Florida’s one vote.

According to this:

Democrats control 26 delegations

Republicans 21

And 3 are split evenly.

Theoretically that means Obama would win that scenario.

(Bradley at 6)

At 6 points, Nevada goes red and the election goes to McCain.

With such limited data sets, it is impossible to predict the extent of the Bradley Effect, if any.  The point is, this election will probably not be a landslide for anyone.


A Political Quiz, Plus Results

October 18, 2008

Apologies if this is becoming a political blog, but that is what is going on right now in the USA.

I found an interesting political quiz today…

1)  Which Political Party has a majority in the US House of Representatives?

2)  Who is the Secretary of State?

3)  Who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain?

Well?  How many did you get right?  [See bottom of post for answers]  And if you did not get them all, don’t worry, only 18% of Americans did.

Now, the interesting part of this survey was that the pollsters asked the respondents what news magazines they read or what TV news programs they watched, then correlated the results together.  Unfortunately, the article did not have a complete set of results, probably because it was digested by a reporter before being posted on the internet.  I swear, that’s the job of a journalist these days: to reduce the amount of information available, not increase it!

  • The New Yorker/Atlantic: 71 percent (correctly identified Democrats as the majority in the House), 71 percent (correctly identified Condeleeza Rice), 59 percent (correctly identified Gordon Brown)
  • NPR: 73 percent, 72 percent, 57percent
  • Hannity & Colmes: 84 percent, 73 percent, 49 percent
  • Rush Limbaugh: 83 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent
  • Colbert Report: 73 percent, 65 percent, 49 percent
  • Daily Show: 65 percent, 48 percent, 36 percent
  • NewsHour: 66 percent, 52 percent, 47 percent
  • O’Reilly Factor: 70 percent, 60 percent, 41 percent
  • C-SPAN: 63 percent, 59 percent, 35 percent
  • Letterman/Leno: 51 percent, 42 percent, 31 percent
  • CNN: 59 percent, 48 percent, 29 percent
  • National Enquirer: 44 percent, 32 percent, 22 percent

[Taken from LiveScience]

Hmmm…  The New Yorker has an intelligent readership.  Who knew?  NPR is right behind them (in fact, ahead of them on the first two questions), again, no surprise there.  But wait, Hannity and Colmes is third?!?!  Well, those people obviously did not learn any of that information from H&C, since they are not in the business of conveying information, only screaming senseless diatribes at one another.

Now look at Rush Limbaugh’s percentages.  He is right behind H&C (and close to NPR and the New Yorker) on the first two questions (on Domestic politics) but lacking on the third question (international, i.e. British, politics)  Continuing down the list we find the Colbert Report and the Daily Show at unusually prestigious places on the list.  According to the reporter, this is because of the high number of college students among their viewers.  Interesting.  I would like to see the raw data so I could weight the data to show what the results would have been if each show had the exact same demographics.  But I am a scientist, what do I know?

We then see the unusual triumvirate of O’Reilly, C-SPAN, and Jay Leno AHEAD of CNN!  HA!  They may be “The Most Trusted Name in News,” but they haven’t aired a single FACT since 1996!  FOX News’ shows are all above CNN on this poll, providing further humor.

Well, CNN wasn’t last, I’ll give that to ’em.  So who did they beat?  The National Enquirer!  Wow, CNN, you should be really proud about this one.  New tag line:  “The Second-Least Informative Name in News.”

The really interesting part of this whole article is not to be found in the numbers (heresy for a physicist), but the assumptions.  The journalist who wrote this article automatically assumes we, the people,  receive our information from the journalists working for these sources.  S/he imagines that journalists are the giver of knowledge, etc.  But they at no time had blogs or AP or Reuters or any sort of web-based source of information listed in the survey.  That is where I get my information, where I can cut through the partisanship and bias (which is still ever-present, of course) to find a glimmer of truth and understanding.  Or try.

“Understanding is a three edged sword:  Your side, their side, and the truth.”

~Kosh Nanarek

Answers:  1)  Democrats, 2)  Condoleeza Rice, 3)  Gordon Brown


The Ninth Commandment is Dead

October 15, 2008

You heard me.

Evidence:  Last night’s debate.

Is it just me, or are these lies becoming increasingly egregious?  I could not watch more than a few seconds of the debate (more on that later) before vomiting up bile.  Neither candidate could lead a box of donuts into a fat man’s mouth.  Why should either of them be entrusted with the Presidency?

I did tune in for a vile few seconds of the debate, as I said.  McCain was touting his Pay-For-Deadbeats-Mortgages Plan.  If a person bought a house that is too big for them, the federal government will actually pay some of that mortgage!  Quick, everybody, buy a mansion you can’t afford (with today’s housing prices, it might be quite large, actually) and then ask for mortgage assistance!  Duh!

Yes, Obama also favors this plan, but the only way I think I ever could have stomached voting McCain was because I thought he was against paying people’s mortgages.  Nope!  Listen, behavior that is rewarded is repeated.  When we pay idiots mortgages, we encourage idiots to buy huge houses.  When we pay to rebuild cities built below sea level, we encourage people to live in those dangerous areas.

And this is different (though only slightly) from the $700B bailout.  In the bailout, the government actually bought (will buy) assets from banks and lenders.  They buy these mortgages and then can sell them later.  In fact, right now those mortgages are probably undervalued because there are no buyers, so the government can probably wait five years and sell them for more than they were worth!  If not, the government will collect the mortgage payments from people whose mortgages were bought.  Yes, that $700B bailout was probably a bad idea, but all the alternatives were probably worse.

And now, an announcement:  Soon, I will be making my official endorsement for the President of the United States.  Yay.


Note: Obama is not the Messiah

October 14, 2008

I bring you another quote, this time from this site:

Obama is my homeboy. And I’m not saying that because he’s black – I’m saying that in reference to those Urban Outfitters t-shirts from a couple years ago that said, “Jesus is my homeboy.” Yes, I just said it. Obama is my Jesus.

[…]

Then I began to realize I wasn’t the only one trying to buy a WWOD bracelet and spending my weekends scouring CNN.com. The rock star-type love for Obama wasn’t just because he was pretty and in the media. Others too, had seen him as a shining light, heard that mythical voice boom out over the mountaintops; people were wearing the t-shirt because they would rather wear something representing a politician than a pop star. People everywhere, young and old, were caring again. So what’s the problem here?

I’ve officially been saved, and soon, whether they like it or not, the rest of the country will be too. I will follow him, all the way to the White House, and I’ll be standing there in our nation’s capital in January 2009, when Barack Obama is inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America. In the name of Obama, Amen.

~Maggie Mertens,

Idiot of the highest order,

Grand Master of the Hebetudinous,

Reverend of the Church of Barack Obama of Fatuous College Students,

Queen Regent of the Kingdom of All Morons, Dolts, and “Special Children”

I would recommend reading the whole article, but I did, and my IQ iz nowe signicicantliy reeduced.


Quoth the Internet

October 9, 2008

Collected from Quotations Page:

There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.

Hippocrates, Law

Greek physician (460 BC – 377 BC)

As an adolescent I aspired to lasting fame, I craved factual certainty, and I thirsted for a meaningful vision of human life – so I became a scientist. This is like becoming an archbishop so you can meet girls.

M. Cartmill

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

Ernest Rutherford, in J. B. Birks “Rutherford at Manchester” (1962)

Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.

Immanuel Kant

German philosopher (1724 – 1804)

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …’

Isaac Asimov

US science fiction novelist & scholar (1920 – 1992)

We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.

Marie Curie, Lecture at Vassar College, May 14, 1921

French (Polish-born) chemist & physicist (1867 – 1934)

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Isaac Newton, From Brewster, Memoirs of Newton (1855)

English mathematician & physicist (1642 – 1727)

Ethical axioms are found and tested not very differently from the axioms of science. Truth is what stands the test of experience.  

Albert Einstein

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.

Albert Einstein

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

Albert Einstein

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.

Albert Einstein

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

Albert Einstein

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein

To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself.

Albert Einstein

Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves.

Albert Einstein

We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.

Albert Einstein

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

Richard Feynman

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

Richard Feynman


Fact Checks and the Banking Crisis

October 8, 2008

Now for a short update…

The new fact check for yesterday’s debate is up.  <Spoilers>  Everyone lied through their teeth and neither candidate is fit to run the country </Spoilers>

DrBolte, by far the most prolific of all commenters on this blog (1 of 1 comment) has asked for my opinion of the housing/banking crisis.  I believe the following video explains everything.  (Background:  Two warring factions, the Reds and the Blues, have sent their most incompetent troops to one dinky valley in an eternal struggle for supremacy and nonsense)


The Communist News Network

October 7, 2008

Hey, guess what?  We had another crappy debate between two crappy candidates!

I will forgo the laundry list of complaints.  This time.  Now I think I shall complain against CNN, the Communist News Network.

During the debate, CNN had a focus group of 25 people (should that be in quotes?) with those dumb electronic dials that they turn when they hear something they like, or don’t like, or have to go to the bathroom.  These people were reportedly evenly divided between undecided liberals, undecided conservatives, and undecided independents.  Mistake Number One! 25 divided by 3 equals 8.333…  How does that work?!?  Well, CNN can’t do math, obviously.  So why should we ever listen to them when they talk about the $700B bailout package?  Or the debt?  Or ANYTHING except dogs riding skateboards?

Anyway, after the debate, the News Lady (she deserves no more grandiose title than this) asked the evenly divided undecided voters “Who thinks Obama won/Who thinks McCain won?”  Twelve said Obama, ten McCain, three abstained.  Thus, she immediately declared that Obama won.  Mistake Number Two! If you take one person off the street and ask “Boxers or briefs?” and he says “boxers” and you declare that everyone wears boxers, or boxers are better, or if you declare anything except “This one person prefers boxers,” then you are an idiot of the ultimate degree.  And you probably majored in journalism.  But I repeat myself.

Here is how the News Lady SHOULD have handled that.  First, one must determine the standard deviation.  Since there were 25 samples (25 people), the standard deviation (or “uncertainty”) is sqrt(25) = 5.  It is actually pretty advanced math, but to find the uncertainty (in the purely mathematical sense) of a sample, take the square root of the sample.  So the number of people who thought Obama won was really 12 +/- (plus or minus) 5, and McCain was 10 +/-5.  So if you took another similar group of 25 people (same proportion, whatever that was, of undecided voters), you would have a pretty good chance of finding between 7 and 17 Omaba supporters and between 5 and 15 McCain supporters.  Actually, mathematically speaking, that should happen 68% of the time, but that is some more advanced math.

Really, we do not know who won that debate by just looking at the votes of those 25.  Incidentally, this formula does break down in at least one place.  If 12 were for Obama and 10 for McCain, 3 must have been undecided.  Or should I say 3 +/- 5.  Theoretically, 8 people could have been undecided, or -2 people could have been undecided.

And I proudly declare that I am one of those negative two people!


A Better Debate, Part 3

October 4, 2008

Again, see 1 and 2.  Also, thank you for bearing with me.  I had a cool job interview that I was preparing for…

11. Does the US have a special role in the world as the guardian of international security and as the indispensable leader of the world community?

Duh.  The only reason there is any semblance at all of world peace is the existence of the American Military.  When there are many countries of similar strength, the probability of wars, big and small, is very high.  Think Europe in the first half of the last century.  If there are but two countries and many small ones, the probability of war is also very high, although they often prefer war-by-proxy.  Think USA vs. USSR.  But if there is only one superpower, small wars are common, but never get too bad.  Like now.  We are actually in an unusually peaceful interlude in World History.  I know it doesn’t seem like it, but only very few of us are directly affected by war in any way outside of our pocketbooks.

America MUST continue to be the world’s only Hyperpower.  Whenever any of the situations listed in the previous paragraph switches to another, a devastating war is extraordinarily likely.  We were absurdly, ridiculously, unbelievably lucky that there was no war when the USSR fell.  We may not be that lucky the next time.

12. Both of you support Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO, making them allies. Are the American people ready to jeopardize their soldiers in defense of these countries if they are attacked?

For us to stay a Hyperpower, we must hold to our commitments.  If we do not keep our commitments, all of our commitments will be instantly challenged.  It is not easy nor fun being the Hyperpower.  On the contrary, it is a lot of hard work.  We must make these challenges not for ourselves, or the Georgians, but for the sake of the entire human population.  We stand on the knife’s edge, people, we must make those sacrifices.

Hopefully, if we show we are willing to keep commitments, we will not have to defend them anymore.  If we repel a Russian invasion of Georgia, we may save ourselves from having to deflect Taiwan’s impending invasion by China.

13. What steps would you take to open foreign markets now closed to US goods, to allow export of products and services that the US does well?

If their markets are closed to us, ours are closed to them.  Our economy will slow by 0.01%, theirs will collapse.

14. Roughly what proportion of US resources should go toward helping and protecting other nations compared with the resources that are needed to build up America?

This is the only question I thought was not very intelligent.  “US resources” meaning the federal budget, or the total GDP, or what?  And is the government expending the resources to build up America, or are the people and companies?  Does “build up America” include infrastructure?  welfare?  education?  science funding?  abortions on demand?  Specify, people!

15. Twenty years ago, Islamic terrorism was a sleeper issue. Some people warned about it, but few paid much attention to it. Same thing for climate change. In your opinion, what is today’s sleeper issue?

This was by far their most interesting question.  I am in no way prescient, but I will do my best.

First, what will it NOT be?  Well, not climate change.  By the most ridiculous, sky-is-falling doomsayer’s own estimates, in 20 years the atmosphere will have warmed by less than a quarter of a degree F and the seas will have risen by about one inch.  No worries there.

Nor will it be overpopulation, at least in the First World nations.  Much more likely, it would be underpopulation.  Japan is now facing those issues.  But that is a slow, unglamorous problem.  Plus, the media and our culture is always telling us to have less kids anyway, and they will never repeal their commandments, so they will never think it is an issue.

Well, what do I hope that it is not?  I do not want any 20 year sleeper issue to be Alien invasion, or asteroid impact, or massive ecological collapse, or anything that we can’t do a thing about.  And, no, we can’t download a virus into the mothership, send oil miners to split the asteroid into two, or combine our powers to create Captain Planet.  We would be royally screwed.  Unless, of course, we started preparing now, which is highly unlikely.

What might I hope that it is?  I hope that the sleeper issue is a soft technological singularity.  Few people disagree that technology is increasing exponentially.  The theory is that technology is actually increasing asymptotically, meaning that we will actually have an infinite amount of technology after a finite time.  We will invent Artificial Intelligences that will be a thousand times smarter than we are, which will take ten years to invent an AI 1000 times smarter than it was, which in turn will take one year to invent another AI 1000 times more intelligent yet, which will invent another in one month…  Within twelve years, we have infinitely intelligent computers inventing everything we would ever want.  Or killing us or using us as batteries or something.

Well, a soft singularity is not quite so fast.  Instead of infinite AI’s after 20 years, imagine Star Trek tech after 20 years.  That would be cool.

But, I also find that somewhat unlikely.  After much deliberation, I believe an aggressive China will be the next sleeper issue.  And if you have read the last few answers, you will see why.


A Better Debate, Part 2

September 29, 2008

Continuing from my previous post…

6. If US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan largely ends during your first term, how would you then change the American military based on your reading of its potential roles?

Well, this TED Talk might have a good idea about this problem.

[Aside:  PLEASE go to http://www.ted.com .  You would be hard pressed to find a larger database of interesting talks anywhere on the web.  Education, Science, Literature, Geopolitics, Economics, Environmentalism, Humor, TV, and infinitely more!]

The main idea is to break the military in two.  Have the Big Stick Military keep upgrading weapons and inventing new and interesting ways to kill people.  This force will be almost exclusively young men, ready to kill every one and every thing in sight.  Next, have a Speak Softly Military which works on reconstruction, nation building, etc., and is more evenly divided between genders and is older and more experienced.

The Big Stick comes in, conquers the country before the next episode of Lost comes on, and leaves.  As it is leaving, the Speak Softly comes in and keeps the country pacified, gives it a functioning democratic government, etc.  By the way, the Marines would NOT be part of the Big Stick.  Instead, they would be part of the Speak Softly.  Reasoning:  If anyone EVER messes with the Speak Softly force, the Marines will be in there within 38 seconds to disembowel and explosively decapitate the offenders.

No, this guy is no peacenik, wanting to turn the military into the largest daisy distribution center in the world.  He means business.  And we should listen.

7. The international community has helped reduce extreme poverty by almost half a billion people since 1990. What would you do to reduce poverty in other countries, especially in Africa, in addition to what President Bush has already done?

See my previous post and read what I say about a League of Free Countries.  If we require genuine economic and political freedom to gain the benefits of entry, leaders of the poorer countries will reform themselves (or a revolution will put in new leaders that will).  WE in the first world countries cannot, by ourselves, bring them into first world status.  THEY also cannot bring themselves there without our assistance.  Right now, almost all foreign aid is still going to enrich the already rich in poor countries.  We must encourage genuine reform and reward it accordingly.

8. Every president who has tried to solve the Palestinian question has failed. How would your approach be different?

Frankly, I do not know.  I am in favor of a 2 State Solution, but I have heard plenty of people on all sides declare that solution to be worse than the problem.  Ardent Pro Israelists say they deserve all that territory.  Ardent Pro Palestinians say they deserve all the territory.  Some moderates say that the Israelies and Palestinians should live together in one state, side by side, in peace.  I wish those moderates could be right, but I am a bit more pessimistic than them.

9. Is it possible to greatly reduce illegal immigration from Mexico by helping improve the quality of life in that country? How would you do that?

Of course!  If they had no economic incentive to move here, they would not.  Many anti-immigration policies use this idea.  They propose making it so hard for illegal immigrants to work here in safety that they will not be able to keep any kind of job.  Once that economic incentive is gone, they will leave.

Well, perhaps a better way would be to help them find good jobs in their own country, instead of gathering them in as a local menial worker caste.  We may be able to do this using the League of Free Countries.  If the League focuses on helping a few countries at a time, we could stop many of these kinds of problems.

10. Name three things the United Nations does well.

Bicker.

Blame Israel.

Spend money.