2015-09-15

There Is No Theory of Everything - An Article Worth Reading

..There Is No Theory of Everything..

This is well worth the read in that it is applicable to the incredible mess we have turned ourselves into as a society that mixes fact with elucidation and assumes that either one should work equally in any given situation.  Our choices in dealing with any given contentious issue is to apply one or the other, when one would work and the other not work at all.  The "Blue Pill" analogy is particularly poignant in contrasting the applicability of either 'answer'.

Frank, the subject of much of this article, reminds me a great  deal of Robert Pirsig, the author of "Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and subsequently "Lila".  The assumptions made are very similar, though the story Pirsig tells is disturbing in it's setting while Frank remains in the real world of applied philosophy.  Both of these authors look for a 'balance' between objective fact and subjective deduction based on more distant observation.  Two tangents aimed at the same belief that we are missing the boat when we argue one world view against the other not to mention mix elements of both to make a point without really understanding the point we are making.

There is one additional similarity as close as I can tell(I have not read Franks works, only this article about him, whereas I have read both of Pirsigs books a couple of times).  Neither one of these authors addressed spirituality.  Pirsig would describe a belief system, but never really address in terms other than 'it's existence is explained by the need to deal with those things which impact us but for which we have no provable evidence'.(that is not a quote, it is my interpretation.  Franks view on belief systems is not mentioned by the author, which may or may not mean that it was irrelevant to Frank.  However, I assume for the moment that had it been, the article author would have mentioned it.

A major difference between the two is that Frank has no time for metaphysics, whereas Pirsig was all about metaphysics: Which is one of the things that I really like about Pirsig. On the other hand, Franks approach is very direct which is also very attractive to me.....


2015-09-11

Drive Them Into the Sea..... This Ain't the Civil War Idiots!

As an individual interested in technology I get a number of 'suggested posts' on Face Book and other media touting one form of tech or another that is going to be the 'answer to oil' or 'the carbon based fuel buster' or some such.  What a crock!  There are entirely too many forces driving carbon-based fuels into our consumption model for any one given technology to replace.  It is not that the technology can't do it: It is that we are too lazy to allow it.  It is easy to bitch about the crooked oil companies.  It is easy to bitch about the polution.  Just as it is easy to bitch about 'eco-terrorists' disrupting our handy business model that keeps homes warm, trucks delivering goods, and Aunt Martha on the plane to Thanks Giving dinner every year.  Oh, and to ignore the cost of all that convenience.  The opposing sides of the traditional/alternative energy debate are equally deluded.  Alternative energy is not going to drive carbon-based fuel usage into the history books any time soon.  And the energy industry is long past the days where they can dump and run with the money.

This is not the civil war.  This is not North vs South.  And the war will not be won by one side defeating the other.  There are, however, very similar driving forces involved.  There is a moral imperitive, there is money and the accomanying power, and there is change ahead, big change!!

Like the civil war, business is the driving force in this battle.  Two different models competing, not for dominance, but for the anaihalation of each other.

Societal change:  global population, aging US population, increasing imigrant population.

Economic change: Further automation=fewer jobs, increasing wage/corporate profit disparity,

Natural change:  Climate?  Water availability?  


Our current infrastructure is both physically and economicaly tied to a monopolistic model. While there are numerous companies that generate useable energy, there are really not any little guys, are there?  Nope, power generation and delivery is tied to a central system, and it is highly inconvenient to have individuals contributing to the centralized system in any way other than by paying the monthly bill.


My interest in alternative energy tech is two fold:

  1. I like the idea of doing things differently.  Change is good, it means we are responding to a real world, the changes it presents to us, and the changes we make in it.  Not changing is likely to lead to things being changed for us, which puts us in reacive mode instead of directive mode.  I like direciive mode.
  2. Energy should be free.  Why?  Because we are bombarded by it every mili-second of our existence.  


We are not (yet) charged for the air we breath, why should we be charged for the energy we use?  Ahhhh.... there is the rub!  We are not being charged for energy, just the use of it.
I don't like that.  We can and should do better.




https://crowdenergy.org/mobile/?ims=fbcommo

Outsourcing War

A recent NY Times article on the state of so called 'security companies', written in the wake of recent sentences handed down for killings in Iraq by Blackwater Employees, shows just how unsavory the industry is.  The article itself does not seem to take a side, but the points it brings up beg some serious questions for us as tax payers.

We fund the largest war machine on the planet.  No one can contradict this.  While China may have more soldiers, they are no match for the combined technical acumen and funding of the Unites States armed forces.  We spend more than $600 Billion each year on defense.

Questions:

  1. Does that $600 Billion include these contractors?  Or do the contractors draw their pay from other sources as well, like the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, etc...
  2. Are these contractors held to the same standard found in the Uniform Code of Military Justice?  If they are working for the military, shouldn't they be?
  3. Are they paid at the same rate as our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen?  Shouldn't they be?
  4. If a company makes money by participating in a war in a function which provides armed resources, is that not a company of mercinaries?
  5. Why, with the largest, most expensive standing force in the world, would we need to hire mercenaries?  Is it to get around the rules of war?  Is it to distance ourselves as a government from actions we would not allow our military to take?  If so, do we want our government taking such actions?



http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/world/middleeast/blackwaters-legacy-goes-beyond-public-view.html?emc=edit_th_20150415&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=55050665

Conservative - On a Personal Note

Always the labels!  But what do they really imply?  Conservative, Progressive, Liberal, Neo-Conservative, Neo-Liberal, Left-Winger, Right-Winger, etc... .

For about 30+ years I considered myself a middle of the road Republican for many reasons.  Some of those reasons were 'inherited' because I really did not take the time to think about the issues and simply followed along with those that I associated with(family, friends, work associates etc...).

Now that I have time to actually break down those reasons into component parts and think about them, as well as the time to actually consider other points of view, I have found reason (or many reasons) to disassociate myself from that long cherished label.  I am not, and probably never would have been a Republican (nor a Democrat for that matter).  I am however a conservative by my reckoning.

So what does it mean to be a Conservative? (To me, that is)

Start with the word 'conserve'.  To me that means maintain that which has value.  Also implied is the discarding of that which does not have value or which reduces value.  To maintain without discarding is the worst form of orthodoxy.  The result is a convoluted, tangled mess of rules which are abused to the advantage of a few and the dis-advantage of many.  To conserve, one needs to determine what is valuable, and to whom it brings value.  To do so, one has to decide what is valuable; And that is a tough proposition!

Why is determining value hard?
The tough part of determining value is that it requires one to 'decide'.  There is no formula to come up with a fixed definition of value.  The word itself implies that it refers to a quantitative and deterministic result of measurement.  But value is anything but either deterministic or quantitative unless working within the world of science.  The essence of value is subjective; we have to choose what is valuable.  What then is valuable to me?

It used to be that which:

  • Improved my lot and the lot of my family
  • Improved the lot of those in my community
  • Improved the lot of my country
  • Improved the lot of humanity
...in that descending order of priority.... and that remains the same to this day.  What has changed is that I now realize that I am inversely constrained by by each of those priorities.  The closer I get to that which improves that which I hold most valuable, the more constrained I find myself.  This is the source of my 'libertarian' streak.  I am strongly opposed to that which diminishes what I can do to bring value to myself and those most important to me.  The more rules there are at the lower two prioritized value measurements, the less I am able to do at the upper level priorities.  As a result, my focus has shifted from the upper priorities to the lower two.  I don't like constraint.  It diminishes value and therefor is anti-conservative.

This view however is not linear.  It does not work to attack the lower two in order to achieve the upper two.  Were it to be that life would be so simple!  We live in a world of each other, where the more value the 'one' gains, the more impact one has on others.  Conversely, the more value the community one lives has and brings to the table, the better one is able to achieve improvement of 
one's own lot.  It is a symbiosis of cause effect: And that implies balance.

So my definition of what it is to be conservative is no longer fixed, it is based now on the process of change.  At one time, it simply meant voting Republican.  I kid  you not.  It was that simple and that uninformed.  I assumed that my list of priorities had it's best chance by my taking the simple action of marking the ballot straight Republican.  I am not the least bit sheepish about this, why should I be?  In the face of today's bellicosity and ignorant analysis of domestic and foreign policy issues, I find most with whom I speak seem to have little information and are perfectly happy to sustain their political convictions on this diet so thin on facts and rich in surgery entertainment provided by the television.

To be conservative is to understand what is, to explore it, to think about it.  How can one conserve if one does not understand the nature of what it is they wish to conserve?  Most importantly, to be a conservative is to look forward.  To be able to determine those things which will continue to bring value, those new things which will replace that with diminishing value.  To be a conservative, one must change.  The old saying "the only thing that never changes is change itself" demands that conservatism is in fact progressive.  To deny that is to enter into the realm of orthodoxy, and therein lies the power of the dictatorship, of repression.  To conserve is to embrace change and know when to bring along those things from before which will maintain our ability to drive change ourselves, and accept and adapt to changes that are outside of our control.

It is a process, it is balance, it is change...

Its Flow...Not Accumulation!

A recent article regarding the company that is moving toward raising the minimum wage(internal) to $70k/year noted that 'labor is businesses biggest expense".

I find it odd that labor is considered and expense: Is it not an investment?  Are not the people who are doing the labor the ones who are buying the products and/or the services that the products allow to be provided?  How then is it that those who declare that an economy must continuously grow to be healthy, are the same ones who whine that the 'expense' of paying for labor is always too high and, almost without pause for thought, claim that they are doing everything they can to contain this cost?

This attitude reflects a basic flaw in our implementation of capitalism.  That flaw is called "Trickle Down Economic", and it has proven itself not to work, again and again.

Apparently these folks simply do not understand basic economics.  Economics is based on flow, not accumulation.  Accumulation is to an economy what a puddle is to a road:  Bad news.  I am not talking about personal savings here, I am talking about massive amounts of money/property tied up in large corporations and financial institutions.

Like the puddle, the longer accumulation sits, the worse the road becomes for everyone.  The puddle gets bigger and the road gets smaller, causing congestion, accidents and damage to the equipment on the road.  Same goes for accumulation:  When money sits in one spot, everyone else has to work around that spot, with less room to maneuver.  And like the puddle, the accumulation gets bigger while the system that enabled the accumulation gets ever smaller.  It is a self-destructive mechanism.  It is stupid in that it ignores the very basis of capitalism:  Flow.

Healthy growth happens system wide.  Massive growth in only a few areas or for only the very few is analogous to cancer: Bad news.   The stronger and larger the tumor gets, the weaker the rest of the body becomes.  For capitalism to work at all, it has to work for everyone, on the same playing field, with the same rules.

I won't judge the $70k/yr policy, there are arguments for and against it, many of which are valid.  The sentiment is good, the implementation might be a bit ragged though.  However, seeing labor as an expense?  Using the government as a lever to dis-empower labor when the middle class is shrinking and the wage gap is widening?

The Daily Snide, Sarcastic and Mostly Ignorant - By WJW

NYT - China Again....

A couple of points regarding the above article:

1) This is being mis-represented as a China issue. It is not. China would not know what the internet was were it not for the US and other Western countries. For those that don't know, the 'internet' was developed by the DOD/DARPA here in the US(Yes, your tax dollars at work). The UNIX operating system, which is what the internet was built on was developed here by MIT, ATT and Bell Labs as well (Not Microsoft, and no, Al Gore didn't have anything to do with it either). China from an industrial standpoint is basically the knock-off champion of the world. For all intents and purposes, the only thing China has going for it is a very large and 'willing' workforce and an utter disregard for their own environment and health.

2) Fundamentally, the internet is a concept built on the afore-mentioned DARPA tech by an English guy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee) with the intention of openly sharing information in an academic setting. This very cool concept was of course, glommed onto quickly by commercial interests, leading to the amazing thing we call the 'web' today(or whatever the current favorite term is for it).

3) The ironic part: MicroSoft, which is the most insecure OS to ever have been plopped onto silicon, has a major portion of the world market in spite of the fact that their product is sub-par in almost every respect other than marketing acumen. Apple, Google, IBM and the rest, just like Microsoft, along with the telecoms, owe their success in a major way to .... yes, you - the American tax payer. You funded the underlying tech, and you pay more for telecom services, hardware, and software than pretty much any customer group in the developed world. Additionally, you pay for it in the way we are seeing in this article.


#‪#‎The‬ above skips over a cacophony of related issues on which there are volumes written, but serves to narrow the focus of my probably narrow minded point of view.##
This is one case where I am pretty hawkish, and am certainly consistent with my view that our most successful companies, tech and otherwise, seem to forget where they come from and to whom they owe allegiance. We allow them (yes, allow) and encourage them to expand on tech that was developed by tax payer dollars to the benefit of our economic interest. They, in return provide jobs and products which we enjoy and are made more productive by (well...kind of). In return, they stash 'their' $$ overseas so they don't have to pay taxes, all while bitching about foreign pirating of their products on the one hand, while trying to get between the sheets with those that are ripping them (and us) off - (more on that in a bit). And who do they bitch to? Well, the US Government of course. They are more than happy to hand over your information to the NSA without telling you until they get caught at it (Snowden - another non-issue really ... bound to happen ... remember the Rosenburg's and company during the cold war?), at which point they are all of a sudden 'reluctant to cooperate', which they damn well should have been to begin with. And the US government is supposed to step in - at tax payer expense - and try to make nice with the knock-off artists on behalf of the tax evaders who gather your data and sell it to whoever will pay for it (You sometimes get the opportunity to 'opt out' in the small print, but not often). ... Ironic isn't it? Gotcha coming and going.

## Personal Anecdote:
Referring to the "more on that in a bit" above: I run a small server at my home for my personal use( Nope, no state secrets on it, I won't need to apologize like Mrs. Clinton just did). A couple of years ago I noticed that I was seeing a bit more traffic than I would expect from my own and my family's' use. I dug in just a bit and found that there were all sorts of folks interesting in my little server: And they were not going to my goofy little web site that I play around with either - they were trying to crack the system. I wrote a little program to track who was cracking and from where and discovered that the vast majority of these attempted incursions were coming from .... yes... China. By a factor of over 100 to 1 as compared to any other source country. I have been collecting this info out of curiosity for a couple of years now. The margin is shrinking a bit, with India, Russia, Taiwan, the US, the UK, and the North African countries dropping by to take a crack at things a little more often now. Yet still, by a margin of an order of magnitude, China is the leader. To give you an idea, I take between 300 and 2000 such attempts each day. Fortunately, I gave up on Microsoft products in the middle 90's, so have some better success at thwarting these goofy, stupid probes. One would think that these 'sophisticated' crackers would bother to check their targets to see if it is likely that they are making good use of their cracking skills: they apparently don't.
## End Personal Anecdote:

## On to snide, sarcastic, ignorance based opinion:
I am not a big fan of governments in general, other than the fact that we could not exist without some form of them. They are a necessary nuisance, usually forgetting that they exist to serve, and instead acting as if they are there to be served. That said, I have even less respect for the Government of China(though a lot of respect for the Chinese people based on what little I really know of them). My opinion is born of ignorance, and yet here it is:
Send the Chinese Government a little note telling them they may stop in and have their little meeting with 'the important people' in Washington State as long as they broadcast the meeting live to all US citizens as well as Chinese citizens. Another little note should be delivered to the 'important people' in Washington State telling them that they are welcome to have their 'little meeting' just as soon as they move all funds controlled by their companies back within continental US boarders and pay all taxes, past and present, on those monies at the same rate a regular citizen does, along with the fines for tax evasion.
And China? Freeze their assets: It would be good for us here in America to face the hardship of not being able to buy 'made in China' products from Walmart for a few years. Who knows, maybe we would start to manufacture and innovate in the area of manufacturing processes again. Maybe start investing in education again with the intent of achieving something other than test scores. Yes, it would hurt ... bad! But then maybe we would have something else to focus on besides who is marrying who, and which part of the world we can go 'politically evangelize' next...
My, My! My vitriol is in good health this morning. It all ain't nothing but a thing, hope there is plenty of sweet in your day to go with the sour of this opinion... smile emoticon
Gosh! What a novel idea.... born of my ignorance I am sure. Sorry for going all gung-ho redneck on this issue(well, kind of sorry ... I guess ... if I have to be...).

Just Quit Bickering and Do Something!

One of the things that bothers me about those that support the efforts to clean up our emissions (climate change supporters?) is that they are using the climate change argument as the primary leverage point for their argument to clean up our act. It is not really a good argument.

There is a little clip of Murdoch stating his position on climate change that shows that he

a) Does acknowledge climate change, but
b) does not acknowledge that humans have much if any impact on the issue.

So he is half right. He asks the very pertinent question, "what are we going to do about it?", and then suggests in a rather anecdotal way that we should quit building on beaches. Pretty pragmatic if you ask me.... makes sense.

He does not think we humans make a difference. So why focus on arguing against his disbelief instead of focusing on what he might be useful for. Encourage the Murdoch's of the world prepare for the results of climate change regardless of the cause. Let them lead that effort, they are probably well suited to it. In the mean time....

Those of us who know we impact our environment to some extent should quit barking up the climate tree as if the rest of the forest has already been cut down. There are plenty of reasons to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. For one, they are getting harder to come by and more costly to extract, despite what oil prices would indicate. Fossils are a geo-political fixed resource, which means we have in the past and will continue to have conflict over who gets access to extract them(note the simmering dispute over the Arctic right now). Additionally, the oil, gas, and coal industries (energy industries in general actually) are monolithic behemoths that don't supply us with very many jobs; they don't really add to the flow of the economy in a way which would ensure that the market remains a level playing field. While not true monopolies, they are damn close to it.

I seems to me that the problem needs to broken down into parts that reduce the ridiculous, costly bickering and simply get things done by those who are interested in whichever part trips their trigger.

For example: Those like Murdoch should lead the effort to encourage preparation for potentially rising sea levels, increased heat indexes, etc... . Those that simply want to clean things up (like me) because it is stupid to shit in your own living room (earth), should focus on encouraging the alternative energies in the ways that they can. For example: Demand that your grid based energy provider pay for back feeds from small or home producers. Support those products that come from companies which have done comprehensive Life Cycle Analysis of their products. Buy their stuff! Additionally, encourage small energy producers in your area, including home energy producers. And educate yourself on how these alternatives work, where they work, and where they don't.

Some of the most misleading stuff I read about regarding the energy sector are the 'articles' that blatantly state that some new tech is going to bury the oil and coal industries. No, some new tech is not going to show up and replace all our cars, power plants, lawn mowers, factory farms, etc... in some short period of time. It ain't happening - Period.

What can and should happen is that we encourage the energy companies to work thoughtfully to sustain us as we learn about alternatives. The oil industry is not the enemy of the environment: We the consumers are. We need to think this issue through and simply go the direction we want to go. I think we will get what we want if we do so. After all, the market follows demand unless we let those that are good at manipulating it dictate it to us....

Bottom line, quit fighting fights that don't matter and just move the direction that we all really know is probably best for us..., after all, it is our living room...