Archive for June, 2015

Links, etc:

June 24, 2015

In response to a reader’s comment, herewith a link to my books on Amazon.

The suggestion came after a comment I made on Mad Genius Club. It’s a blog intended for readers and particularly writers of fiction. You might want to stop by and check it out.

Facebook, and Censorship

June 8, 2015

I’ve begun sending Facebook messages of complaint.
Have you tried to share something and been told “Sorry, this feature isn’t available right now,”?
I’ve seen it twice this morning. The first ‘controversial’ subject was a post describing how Charles Darwin was a geologist before he made the discoveries that led to his Origin of Species book. The second said that Bernie Sanders was less than 10 points behind Hillary Clinton in a recent poll.
By refusing to allow me to share the articles, Facebook has managed to impose censorship on my right to express a belief that runs counter to that held by religious fundamentalists and to express my support for Bernie Sanders. I also mentioned that Hillary wouldn’t get my vote if she refuses to stop straddling issues and express an opinion I can support. I don’t vote for parties, I vote for candidates based on issues; it’s why I’m an Independent.
While Facebook is a private company, they’ve become so dominant that what they do transcends that ownership. Like a newspaper, FB has responsibilities, and at the moment the way they exercise those responsibilities denies my rights to freedom of religious belief and freedom of political speech, through censorship.
Why would an essay about Charles Darwin reflect on religion? It mentions that his discoveries (others had made similar discoveries before Darwin) counter the opinion of Bishop James Ussher that the Earth was only some 4000 years old. Why would this be controversial? In most western nations, this is conventional belief. Only in America is there controversy, because fundamentalists not only believe in Biblical literacy but also in interpretations by churchmen.
If you’re a fundamentalist and you’re pondering this, consider that other churchmen denied the discoveries of Galileo. They placed him under house arrest and he lived out the rest of his life under that restriction. Churchmen also burned Joan of Arc…you may have heard of her…for heresy. I will only mention, but without dwelling on it, that churchmen in general have established an unviable record in modern times.
But according to Facebook, Darwin is controversial.
Pointing out that Bernie Sanders is closing in on Hillary Clinton is controversial.
IMO, censorship by Facebook is more worthy of controversy.

Philosophy, and Economics

June 4, 2015

I find it interesting to consider academic expertise, in economics as in most other disciplines.
Academics study the past as a general rule, examining the thoughts of those considered to be seminal thinkers. By the time they do, they already have fixed ideas about any number of things. Since they study under the direction of a perceived expert, that person will inevitably color their thinking. If the professor rejects Marx, for example, chances are the student will too. A few professors are more interested in developing thinking skills, but not all.
The result seems clear to me.
How many modern academics are themselves seminal thinkers? Is it not more common that they study and perhaps contrast, compare, and at most combine? How many will depart from orthodoxy?
I take a different approach; I examine a number of thinkers from the past, but also those currently writing. I look at Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Ha Joon Chang, among others, and find interesting points in their work that seem pertinent to me.
But in the end I find my own approach, that a mixed economy is to be preferred over any single approach. All have some merit, if applied rigorously, but such application is never ‘pure’.
For example, the supposed benefits from competition vanish as soon as an economic organization grows large enough. International trade is supposed to be beneficial…but there’s no such thing as ‘free trade’, because trade is never between equals. Government intervention is supposed to be bad, but without it, the system cannot endure. And so it goes.

I don’t think an academic is prepared to step outside the bounds. His career, his life’s work, is tied up in his thinking.
I own to some of the same rigidity of thought, but for a different reason. I have a mature, maybe even overly mature, philosophy that encompasses not only economics but also politics, government, international relations, and much much more.
There are few new tricks for this old dog to learn…and no desire at all to roll over and play dead.

Weather and Climate; some good news, maybe

June 1, 2015

A team of scientists, analyzing trends in Atlantic temperatures, has published their results in Nature.
A phenomenon called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, called the AMO for obvious reasons, seems to be entering a cool phase. This cycle lasts tens of years, so there’s not a lot of data to go on. Still, when the atlantic enters this cooler phase, it generates weather changes. Britain has less summer rain. The Sahel region of North Africa has droughts. The US Midwest has fewer droughts and they tend to be shorter. There are fewer hurricanes; reasonable, since hurricanes begin off the coast of Africa, gain strength from the warmer waters of the mid-Atlantic, then come ashore somewhere in the Americas. Hurricanes are essentially heat-transfer mechanisms that take surface heat and move it to the upper atmosphere, where some of it is radiated away into space. The Pacific Coast states, particularly Washington and Oregon, get more rainfall.
I found a summary of this report in The Conversation, a publication I recommend to everyone. It’s free, is emailed daily, and it usually concentrates on international matters of interest, as opposed to the US news industry which concentrates far too much on the US. We are engaged with the nations of the world, after all; it behooves us to know something about what’s going on elsewhere.
The good news is that this analysis offers a prediction we can check later, and it’s one more tool scientists can use to better understand weather and climate.