alright, let me try this. the angiledes commission on the financial crisis had six democrats and four republicans. all the democrats endorsed the factual conclusions; all the republicans dissented. but ideological affiliation is irrelevant to the question of what caused the crisis. so the split is either a coincidence or political affiliation was more relevant to people than the facts. unless you're in a position to independently assess the evidence, you should regard neither group as credible. but these 10 people, let's say, also split exactly the same way on whether the healthcare bill will increase the deficit. now what could possibly have been a striking coincidence has become even more striking. that would be plenty to make the only reasonable response just to dismiss all these people: it's obvious that they just don't care about the facts; all they care about is loyalty within their little group. those are supposedly our leaders and experts. that is absurd. every such split would be a further multiplication of the odds. that our whole political discourse consists of stuff like this, and that people keep listening, just shows how little anybody cares about what's true. it's bizarre that people regard the spokesmen even for their own group as having any credibility, and everyone should check out of the arguments immediately.
putting it mildly, i can't get anyone even to want to understand this, much less publish it, which kind of makes the point again. it could be framed in many ways, and i will perhaps try a less directly attacking mode, because at its heart this is a plea for tolerance of diverse opinions and independent thinking. also i will say this: it is not some kind of gratuitous argument; it expresses systematicallly intuitions that i have always had.
At Last! A Mathematical Proof of Cynicism
By Crispin Sartwell
It may be that you, like me, doubt anything that any politician or political spokesman says. And if you're like me, it doesn't matter whether the politician is on the left or the right: you and I just don't think that any politician has any credibility. But unlike me you do not know that this can literally be proven mathematically, once and for all, beyond quibble or refutation. Follow this carefully.
To make my proof clear to laymen such as yourselves I am going to run through some hypothetical scenarios. Consider a factual question, say whether there is extra-terrestrial intelligent life (etil). And in our little scenario, let's say that the jury is out on that and that the evidence is evenly split, as far as we know. People in our society are trying to make up their minds one way or another, and when they do, we find that within different groups of us there are different distributions of opinion: the Star Trek fans are more likely to believe that there is etil than the non-Star-Trek fans, or opinions might be clustered within groups by education level, and so on.
On the other hand, if most of the green-eyed people believed it and most of the blue-eyed people didn't, or if most of the gardeners believed it and most of non-gardeners didn't, or if most of the people who lived within 17,237 yards of a major river believed and if not not, we would be surprised. We'd grope for an explanation. That's because whether you're a gardener or not doesn't seem to have any connection to anything that might make someone believe either way. We'd have thought that eye-color couldn't possibly determine or be correlated to people's take on aliens.
But if we find that there is this correlation, one thing we could immediately, though provisionally, conclude is that something is going on that isn't related to the evidence of whether there is etil: maybe their tendency to believe different things about this is in the genes in some bizarre way, or maybe there are more interesting social distinctions between these groups than we thought. But the difference between the two groups cannot be connected to the actual evidence that there is etil: the aliens are just as visible to blue as to green eyes. That is, the difference in the distribution of opinions has no rational basis, though of course there may be many people in each group whose belief is rational or who believe what they believe after an honest attempt to assess the evidence.
Now consider the question of whether the healthcare bill will increase the deficit, or the question of whether Sarah Palin influenced Jared Loughner, and just stipulate in our still fictional world that the evidence is perfectly 50/50. And suppose that opinion on those questions broke down by whether people were gardeners or non-gardeners. We'd be surprised in just the same way. The differences between the groups cannot be the result of the evidence, because there is absolutely no reason to think that the evidence is available to one of these groups and not to the other.
Let's make our invented world a math problem. Every single gardener believes that the healthcare bill will increase the deficit, and every non-gardener believes not. If the evidence were equal on both sides, and the gardeners and the non-gardeners had equal access to the evidence, and everyone was sensitive to the evidence, then we'd expect a 50/50 split within each group on this question among people forming an opinion. In this case we should infer provisionally that at least half the people in each group believe what they believe because of factors that have nothing to do with the evidence, or that they believe for no reason connected to the truth of what they believe. The probability that any given person in either group believes because of factors that are relevant to the truth of the claim is at most .5.
I will express this by saying that a person in either group who takes the view of the consensus of the members of that group has a Credibility Index of .5.
This decimates the credibility of all gardeners and of all anti-gardeners. They are from the outset, all things being equal, only half likely to be sensitive to evidence or to be reliable guides to the truth. In fact, we can imagine people who are, provisionally, twice as credible on average. Let's say that in each group there is one dissenter: a gardener who believes that the healthcare bill will increase the deficit, and a non-gardener who believes it won't. We can estimate the probability that the dissenter's opinion is based on evidence as twice that of the person who has the consensus position of his own group. That is, the person who takes the anti-consensus view can't be discredited on these grounds. Other things being equal, people who take up the consensus position of their group, where group membership does not bear on access to evidence, are only half as likely to be basing their belief on the evidence as people who don't. Quite a surprising result, I believe. And yet the argument is entirely obvious and decisive.
Now on the question of whether healthcare will increase the deficit or whether Palin influenced Loughner, leftists and rightists, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans are exactly like gardeners and non-gardeners. Membership in such groups just is not correlated with availability of the evidence. That is obvious. Either the healthcare bill will increase the deficit or it won't. That we should help struggling families, or that we need foreclosure relief, or that we should get tough with Iran has absolutely no pertinence. If all the other assertions of American liberalism were true, that wouldn't provide a shred of evidence that the healthcare bill won't increase the deficit, and if all those of conservatism were true that wouldn't be any evidence that it will.
What counts in trying to figure out whether Palin influenced Loughner would be things like whether Loughner tivoed Sarah Palin's Alaska, or subscribed to her Twitter feed, or had her crosshairs map blown up and tacked to his wall, or left a note saying "I did it because I'm trying to do what Sarah Palin wants." Your posture on tax policy or whether the children of illegal immigrants should be citizens is neither here nor there. What counts on the healthcare bill is actual calculations made with good data. That semi-automatic guns should be banned or that Israel is our best friend in the region is obviously just irrelevant.
And yet out there on Capitol Hill and among the political consultants appearing on television there has been something close to unanimity on these issues: more or less all the left's op-ed columnists who appeared the Monday after the Saturday shooting blamed the 'atmosphere' of 'extreme rhetoric' and connected the shootings to Palin and Glenn Beck. On Tuesday all the right's op-ed columnist denied that completely. One hundred percent of the Republican caucus and the rest of the people embroiled from the official right in the debate insist that the healthcare bill will increase the deficit. And one hundred percent of the Democrats say it will decrease it. If you yourself aren't sure who to believe or which way the evidence really leans, you ought to start by dismissing all these people entirely. Or think of it this way, with no math: You could predict their position from their ideological affiliation. But that ideological affiliation is obviously and entirely irrelevant to whether or not their position is true. Believe people like that and, as we professors of pure mathematics like to put it, you are a "chump."
Now let us consider Keith Olbermann's belief that Palin influenced Loughner and that the healthcare bill will decrease the deficit. Olbermann's CI with regard to Palin is .5. His CI with regard to healthcare is .5. Thus his CI with regard to Palin and healthcare is .25. Conjoin the belief that global warming will put New York underwater by 2025 or whatever it may be and you're at .125. At ten factual beliefs his CI is less that .0005. And Olbermann has dozens or hundreds of beliefs about factual matters which are the consensus of his group. His credibility is vanishingly small. Infinitesimal. And even if it were the case that the evidence is usually on Olbermann's side - which believe me I am not asserting, and which would be an almost inconceivable coincidence - suitable adjustments to the calculations will yield a somewhat higher but a still less than negligible CI. "Olbermann," of course, could be Sean Hannity or John Boehner, Eugene Robinson or Joe Biden, David Axelrod or Mitt Romney.
Of all the human subjects my team studied, the only group whose members on average had a Credibility Index comparable to cable television pundits or Supreme Court justices was actively delusional schizophrenics. Of course, people in any of these categories should be treated with the utmost compassion, kindness, and condescension. It's just that you should definitely not take the fact that they're saying it to have any bearing on whether or not it's true.
The person who inconsistently but continuously rejects the consensus of her own group is, all things being equal, almost infinitely likelier to be basing what she says on the evidence, whatever partisans say or believe about themselves, not because the position of the dissenters is so good but because the position of the partisans is so bad. Indeed if a political hack believes that his own beliefs are grounded in evidence or are reality-based, that belief is itself only infinitesimally likely to be true. Q.E.D.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. His most recent book is Political Aesthetics (Cornell,2010).
is there anything more obnoxious than davos? nowhere in human history has such a gaggle of egomaniacs, oppressors, exploiters been gathered, and they do it every year. they congratulate each other on the brilliance of their mechanical rehashing of the commonplace, ride around in limousines pretending not to be particular human beings, deploy a model of 'leadership' that is sheer self-deception. i assume every prostitute in europe makes the trip too.
stephen reminds us to read al jazeera, which has had amazing effects. i wonder what al jazeera wants. but yes it is legit, and has been very worth looking at especially for coverage of iraq, afghanistan. and also to get a more real vibe of what's happening now. it has its limitations. but it has really done what, say, jefferson envisioned for a free press. and yet i remember donald rumsfeld, for example, saying it was a "mouthpiece for al qaeda." the gaps between what we say and what we believe and between what we believe and what we do, are voids into which we keep tumbling. if you were on the streets of egypt, contemplating $1.5 billion dollars a year in american aid, much of it military, the charge of hypocrisy wouldn't even need to be made. a slight roll of the eyes would be plenty. check the live video stream too.
obama on egypt: "suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away." wait, really? there have been some pretty dramatic attempts that succeeded in repressing some ideas for a very long time. and it's kind of hard to enumerate those ideas that did go away. so if suppressing ideas made them go away, i suppose it might be a good strategy. or: maybe we haven't really really tried, or fully explored the possibilities of made in the usa teargas. this is just one man's opinion, but the ideas that have risen to the top in human history, the irrepressible best our species has to offer, look very very banal and also false. i don't know, reach for something other than the nearest cliche? one thing that will never go away no matter how many elephants you drop on it is 'mere rhetoric,' which i have to say obama habitually uses in place of ideas.
ben wedeman on cnn just now, from egypt: the tear gas canisters that have engulfed cairo in a toxic fog are stamped "made in america." we americans are a proud people. a freeish people. a good-looking people. a mighty people who bestride the world like colossi. but we are are a notably moronic people.
man i am well and thoroughly snowed in! they said 4-6 inches; i measure 14. trees down across my dirt driveway, etc. it'll be a process. my 10-year-old daughter already told me that it's because of global warming. dude that is my kind of hypothesis! this was my 'driveway' this morning:
i'd have to say that 'satan is real' was the best record cover ever produced. (i don't believe in god. but i do have this funny feeling that satan is real.) but if you think of this stuff as mere kitsch or something, you're wrong. it is deep and beautiful american music. (the emmylou verse on the costello duet is shattering.) and if you find 'kneeling drunkard's plea' amusing, you ain't been there. sometimes country music just yields a perfect soundtrack for, say, a marriage. "when i stop dreaming: the best of the louvin brothers" did the job for me. i remember going to the opry circa 1990 with the society for the advancement of american philosophy. all the wise people were snickering when little charlie louvin came on, cept for me and my music buddy doug anderson. instead, we were shivering. it was like seeing jesus. i used to see emmylou at coffee houses and stuff around dc in the early or mid- seventies; she was already working up several louvin brothers songs, as i recall, which is where i first heard this material. here's royce and jeannie, the kendalls:
(the kendalls did have a hit on this. the way i hear it they made it into a song about the death of a child: our baby's gone. wait maybe i hallucinated that. but anyway it expresses that unreal feeling: how can the whole world just keep going?) man i dig that video of 'don't laugh': no idea who it is, maybe three generations in a kitchen, with 65 hits. but a lovely, straightforward reading. well white people are naturally musical. if you want to know how to end a country song, listen to 'running wild.'
She added: “And while men who challenged their professor’s ideas in class had a decline in stress, for women it was associated with a decline in well-being.”
honestly, this is what's wrong with women (well, don't get me started, actually; misogyny is what's wrong with men). they love a consensus, which is a good formula for believing a lot of, um, false and very dull stuff. i'll say this: these days i can get virtually no one - male, female, or other - to challenge my ideas, though i actually try to make it clear that i would welcome that. anyway, this is a piece about the mental health of college freshmen. one remark: substance abuse is incredibly rife among the men, and in general they are almost unbelievably unreflective about it; of course the whole thing is kind of parasitic on the denial that it's actually happening. this will both produce and cover up a lot lot of emotional problems. that's one reason that self-reporting is going to make the women look worse off than the men, which i actually doubt is really the case.
he's such a technocrat. every proposal is an engineering/technology proposal. we've got to win the future by outteching china. the approach to education is 100% math and science; history or english aren't even mentioned. it's so obvious how he can take the sting out of the tea party: we have a constitutional form of limited government. i know it, and even though there's a lot government can do, there's a lot it shouldn't. this is just not in his repertoire at all. americans dream big: but we are suspicious of government power. it shows you how far the left has come; they really have entirely transcended the idea of freedom; that's not something they care about. but there's no reason why they shouldn't, and leftists used to be just as worried about state power as rightists: where is henry thoreau or abbie hofmann when you need them? didn't they learn anything from the bush administration? i don't think that y'all should get upset by calling the position 'socialist.' where are some of the non-state solutions? the gov is broke and has to scale back. ok but what specifically can government not do? what should it not do? these amazing things that government is going to do: transform education, technology, economy, everything: aren't folks just a little chastened? ok optimistic: but completely unable to learn anything from the past? there's just no sense of american traditions, even as he's trying to mouth the word 'exceptional,' etc. but instead it's just a rehash of al gore: more in love with information-processing units than actual human beings or american traditions. a grand vision of an information-rich future directed exclusively by government agencies.
i think i'm going to sleep through our generation's sputnik moment. every single moment is a pivotal moment, a transformative moment: you gonna smack me with the fierce urgency of now every five minutes for twenty years? don't these folks realize that the rhetoric of 'this is a dramatic turning point' has no oomph if you reach your rendezvous with destiny in every speech, campaign appearance, or pickup basketball game year after year? i wish they'd just give up so i don't have to mobilize my profound commitment, my will to service and sacrifice, my profound americanness, day after day after day...americans are optimists, and i'm going to commit to going to the grocery store, watching espn, nodding off on the couch: that's what you can expect from me in this moment of profound national challenge.
i mean, what does bo want from me? does he want me to compete with china? one good thing about having a government: i can turn over all that crap to them and maintain my extreme passivity. bo runs a state, not a movement. if there's stuff you want me to do, constrain me to do it or create a structure of incentives which would make it crazy for me not to, etc. you mobilize. you commit: the whole point i assume is that i don't actually have to do anything anymore: if you want me to take care of the less fortunate or something, well we have trilllion-dollar bureaucracies for that. you want me to commit to the education of my children? then why do you take them away from me every day and educate them yourselves? in an atmosphere of pervasive coercion and non-stop social engineering, you want me to commit? i mean, try to understand who you actually are and what you're actually doing.
i wonder whether a real transformation is taking place in the muslim dictatorships. my friend in yemen thinks so: thinks it already has inevitable momentum. it's always astonishing: things never change and you get hopeless and cynical. and then all of a sudden everything changes for completely unpredictable causes, like that self-immolation in tunisia. that's as true in individual as in collective life. this is one reason why the idea that we ought to have well-defined goals and administer circumstances to bring them about - what we tell our children, for example - is...impoverished. anyway, perhaps the iraq war kind of gave democracy a bad name and delayed these developments. or maybe not! anyway, it is inspiring when it happens, and this one could be world-transforming. on the other hand, never underestimate the power of a crackdown.
why would i be linking to a profile of randy edsall, the new university of maryland head football coach? it gives you really good flavor of where i live out here, and where edsall is from: glen rock, pa. while you're at it, you might check out the glen rock book of the dead.
it is pretty funny when burns (whose series kind of collapses after swing, if you ask me) gets to the bop/beat intersection. you've got some of the most technically flashy and obsessive musicians who ever lived: people with an almost insane degree of craft; indeed i think charlie parker and dizzy gillespie's records are marred by excessive concentration on the display of skill: too much mere virtuosity. then you've got allen ginsberg: it's jazz, man! anyone can do it. all you have to do is blow! spress yoseff! right he was attracted by the idea of improvisation; but what's characteristic about jazz improvisation is that it works by breaking a form of which you have complete mastery. now people can grab whatever they need however they want, and perhaps whether picasso really understood those african masks isn't the most important thing. but this i would have thought is an almost unmakeable mistake: i would have thought it was impossible to listen to those people and really think it all just comes out naturally and immediately. that's why howl is not actually like jazz at all even if it's about jazz. it's often said that modern art abandoned the idea of beauty. right, but also the idea of skill, central to the appreciation of the great artist since the ancients. that was a mistake, i think, even if mere skill can't be all there is.
in the ken burns jazz series, they keep pointing to moments when "the music became art." it's interesting to think about why people would think that armstrong's hot 5s is art, but not, say, even armstrong's own work with king oliver, for example. or maybe ellington but not, say, joe johnson. the blues is pictured as underlying jazz, but as not quite being art like jazz.
i think fundamentally it has to do with the way art was understood in the twentieth century: "modernism." the picture was of transcendent geniuses, radical innovations, avant-gardes: movements succeeding one another in an ever-faster progression of the liberation of the human spirit. well the blues or country music are traditional, not avant-garde, forms. your authenticity is established by your connection to the tradition, even as you may push that tradition. too far, though, and it's not blues or country or gospel or soul or funk or rock: these are traditional musics of our culture.
but jazz can be written in part as a history of radical geniuses. by the time you get to nyc in the forties, the two worlds really are closely coincident, and charlie parker and diz and miles flow right into the avant-garde downtown painters: they're wearing the same glass frames and speaking the same lingo. now the idea that someone like armstrong on the streets of new orleans in the early years of the century was really connected to picasso and matisse by a zeitgeist or something is not necessarily insane, but i think the coincidence had to do basically with something else: from very early on jazz was a competitive sport, an arena of machismo rivalry - perhaps among men who couldn't have done as well in a series of knife fights - encapsulated in the "cutting contest" or more recently the rap battle. read these histories and you soon realize that that is everywhere: benny goodman gettin cut by chick webb, art tatum cutting willie the lion smith: coleman hawkins would come to town and issue an challenge to all sax players etc. competition is collaboration.
now that will drive you to virtuosity, and to originality: you're constantly trying to find that thing that no one else can do or even conceive. in the ken burns series, the extremely good albert murray kind of twinkles as he says that what drove bird and diz is that they wanted to have something none of the older guys could do. and that's one of the differences between jazz and avant-garde visual arts: by the time you get to the abstract expressionists or the beats in lit, craft has long since stopped signifying, or even has to be concealed: the painters are not virtuosos; they're forces of nature. but to the modernists, the jazz masters are also forces of nature, perhaps in virtue of their blackness: one reason we can't let louis practice.
all the real serious jazzheads in the burns series are just a bit uncomfortable with swing, and the film raises the question of whether swing is jazz. well it has to be. but that is the moment when jazz is an absolutely mass art, and also when the individual expression of radical differentness is least expressed, at least in the poppest versions. that's why adorno, say, doesn't recognize jazz as his kind of avant-garde, because it was the pop music of his era: you can't be avant-garde and mass: avant-garde arts are understood only by a few (like free jazz, say). commercial popular arts are exactly not art in the modernist conception, because they can be understood by everybody and they actively discourage radical innovation. a lot of the swing players - especially the actually best - are pictured as profoundly dissatisfied with swing, with just playing the same dance tunes the same way every night.
they want original expression: they want their music to be an embodiment of themselves, and each self is radically unique, especially the selves of radical artists: they are our most unique people. i do think that's something shared in jazz and modernism: art as an intensification of the self, as not only or even primarily an collaborative activity (though that too), but a way to crystallize or make audible the self of a coltrane or an ornette coleman. the intensity of the selfhood and the profound originality of such figures is very much in keeping with a the modernist conception of the great artist, and the fact that the material is improvisational makes it authentic. pollock's paintings were improvised in a similar way. and of course the dark side connects the jazz great to the avant-garde visual artist: buddy bolden, billie holiday, charlie parker, vincent van gogh and jackson pollock (and hemingay and kerouac) declining into madness and addiction that is actually supposed to be connected to their art. (one thing i can say: if you have experienced these things, you're less likely to romanticize them. it's hard not to realize how damaged the history of jazz has been by the artists lost to addiction.)
anyway, i think that jazz and modernism dovetailed very nicely in many ways (though not in all) but that was more or less a coincidence up until bops and beats. but it was central to the reception of jazz: one reason you got a much more serious critical response to jazz, which in turn helped drive some innovations.
i do, though, want to emphasize that in my view the blues and country music, for example, are just as much art as jazz is. they're just different kinds of art. my love for these things, believe it or not, was my original motivation for hopping off the entire modernist conception of art when i was but a wee lad. one thing about jazz, though: it is more in touch with its sources overall; it doesn't quite negate what came before like high modernism. well it still rests on the blues.
one of my little projects over my break has been to try to learn the history of jazz. so one thing was the ken burns series from 2001: twenty hours of astonishing material. i am learning a lot of course. wynton marsalis, who is a producer and probably the main talking head, is a supremely articulate person: so profound but so sincere, and of course so knowledgeable. stanley crouch is the most feet-on-the-ground of the interpreters: he says 'look, you've got to understand that sidney bechet started a gunfight in paris at rush hour. usually you want your gunfights to be as late as possible, so that people will not see you." the gunfight supposedly was with another musician over whether d-flat really was the right chord.
but let me say what i think goes wrong. we need our legends and our heroes and our coherent narratives. and we need our interpreters, including intellectuals. but what you don't want to do is lose the reality, the humanness, the music. everything has to be almost insanely important i guess to attract viewers etc and everything changes america forever, was like nothing anyone had ever heard before. gerald early gives you the impression that armstrong was carefully reading the essays of emerson so that he could embody america in all its profusion. every note is the suffering and transcendence of some national actor or something. matt glaser gives a nice example, speculating that werner heisenberg was in the audience when louis played oslo and then saying: armstrong gives us a new theory of time and space and man's place in the cosmos. shit man in your anxiety to legitimate this stuff - which has already been so utterly legitimated - you really just lose the whole thing. man he's blowing that horn so people will dance and stuff! geez. to be great music, to be be deep and delightful music, to be new music: let's start with that. it's plenty!
marsalis says so many beautiful things about armstrong: he combined the deepest human feeling with the greatest musical skill. right! but the mythmaking just gets to be too much: marsalis basically speculates that little louis didn't have to learn or practice: the first time he picked up a cornet at the colored waifs home he sounded great. well it's the same kind of myth of a jackson pollock or something: he just is. but then you're really in danger of losing that human connection, not to mention the hard work. look i guess i'd much rather do this with armstrong or duke ellington than some of the crazy candidates (beatles or dylan, e.g.). but let's keep louis armstrong here, with us. a person, a finite real person, did these things. louis does very interesting things with time, but he does them literally in time with actual time, and he is at play. the music is great enough. it sounds so deep, but after the thirtieth repetition you sort of realize that embodying the very essence of america doesn't actually explain anything.
tell you what. let's resolve not just to feed this into our little political interpretation machines, left or right. it's not necessary for everything that happens to confirm our political positions! i mean how insecure and monomaniacal are we? it would be a very good idea to try to hold on to the reality and particularity of people, events, situations. wait a minute before you look at any given event as an example of something or ask how it can be used.
we take the same regulatory approach as tunisia, or we try to make it more ridiculous or simply...evil. but where are the rioters? americans have no guts. capitulation is our best thing. i can just hear your basic bureaufuck, the type you find the world over: i'd like to help. i really would. but we have to follow the rules. i have no choice. rules are rules, etc: the high school assistant principal's approach to personal responsibility: none whatsoever. it would shock me if, for example, anyone actually took direct responsibility for having made the decision: the decision to starve the homeless, the bold opposition to extraordinary generosity. well, nobody did, but probably he was inhabiting a particular human body at the time. he's hoping that god won't be able to find him in his body to punish him eternally; he is trying hard not to exist. i wonder whether jesus had a permit when he fed the hungry with loaves and fishes. ultimately, that's probably why they strung him up. but they had no choice! rules are rules. it would be a great comfort to us if we actually had no choice, so we pretend that we don't. that is what bureaucracy is for.
here's a nice parable. we spent years trying to cure cancer, and this morning we did! it's a miracle! let's go to panera for some well-deserved yet moderately-priced lunch. oh dang someone broke into the car while we were chowing down and grabbed our computer, and with it the cure. dang dang dang! ok let's work on the common cold. somehow this feels like my life.
Rioting to protest joblessness and other social ills has scarred numerous cities across this tiny country since Dec. 17, after a 26-year-old man with a university degree set himself on fire when police confiscated his fruits and vegetables for selling without a permit.
christ what is wrong with these people? don't they see the necessity for sensible regulation? it's a matter of public health. you can't allow unlicensed fruit. are they rioting in favor of salmonella? not only that, but the police (really, only the police) have to eat. ok so america was propping up yet another corrupt dictator. but at least we brought them some fda and the sort of permitting system that makes the difference between a civilized society and a bag of angry weasels. anyway, i guess the ron paul revolution has reached tunisia.
i'm grooving on the red thong theme. last time i was with sarah, that's what she was wearing. coincidence? on the other hand, last time i was with liberace, that was what he was wearing too, with diamond encrustations. now it may be speculation, but i think the moral collapse of america - the point at which it started to descend into the total decadence, universal suicidal despair, and the war of all against all in which we now find ourselves - was the point at which liberace did his gig in tucson. and liberace was definitely packing a 'gun.' does limbaugh wear red thongs? does beck? (no, as a matter of fact, beck wears baby blue thongs.)
eventually i'll be posting or publishing the paper, but let me give you a slice:
If the initial probability that your position on a single factual issue is responsive to the evidence is at most .5 (50%), then that probability multiplies when the issues are multiplied. That is, if your position on whether New York will drown because of global warming correlates with that of your friends or your demographic, and so does your belief that Palin influenced Loughner, then initially we should say that the chances that your belief that the earth is warming and that Palin influenced Loughner is evidence-based are at most .25. Add, for example, the view that higher gun ownership correlates with higher levels of violence, for example, and you're at .125 and so on. At ten shared beliefs, the probability that your belief is based on evidence is about .0005.
Hence it follows from the 50% principle that the most partisan voices - the most consistent advocates of consensus factual positions of their political group - ought to be regarded as the voices with the least actual credibility, short of actively delusional schizophrenics and infants.