05 November 2012

Every crank gets a turn

Velikovsky was crazy, probably very wrong and yet very right.

He was crazy; his interplanetary ping-pong history makes no modern astronomical sense. Neither observations nor models allow planets to erupt from other planets, zoom around the Solar System, continually graze the Earth and then settle into nearly circular orbits. "Einstein said that Worlds in Collision ‘really isn’t a bad book. The only trouble with it is, it is crazy.’ "

He was right on strange details; Jupiter does emit radio waves and Venus is very hot, close to the temperature he predicted. And he was right in one important way: contrary to the dominate scientific paradigm of his time, catastrophism does explain much of the universe.

Velikovsky's biggest sin was challenging science's new post-WW II authority, and it wasn't long before Science struck back:

"Steven Shapin · Catastrophism: The Pseudoscience Wars"

The London Review Of Books


12 October 2012

My vote doesn't count

I've voted in almost every election since 1976. That's at least 40 ballots and hundreds of votes; a pretty good statistical sample.

If I had abstained from voting, would the results of any of the elections have changed? No.

Not one position, referendum, levy or initiative would have turned out any different. For all my study of the issues and reading of the voter guide I may as well as stayed home.

Some may say that sometimes one vote will sway an issue and will point to one time when a couple votes decided the election. Rare and exceptional, but it can happen. I say more people will win the lottery than cast the crucial vote.

My vote doesn't count, and this is a liberating realization.

When I do vote and I do, I can vote as I please. I don't have to use game theory and hold my nose when choosing the lesser of two evils. You will never hear me say "This election is too important to throw my vote away on a third party."

I can choose the candidate that most closely follows my own thinking, and with a clear conscious. For example, I'll vote for Gary Johnson and never worry that my choice will throw the election to the wrong party. Others might prefer the Green Party or the Socialist Party but are more concerned with gaming the system then voting with their hearts.

My guys may not get elected, but there is little joy in voting for someone just because they can get elected. I can hope that I'll signal my true desires to the next generation of office seekers.

My vote doesn't count, and the good news is, neither does yours. Set your vote free.

06 July 2012

My fellow Americans

A kid knocked on our door the other day. Name of Evan Clifthorne. Turns out he’s running for state congress, the 36th district.

“What advice would you give someone standing for office, for the first time?”

Here’s what I said:


Thanks for stopping by the house the other day. You were pleasant and reasonable while I was in old pajamas. Keeping a straight face counts for a lot.

I’d like to offer some random and unsolicited advice.

To a hammer, all problems look like nails. And to a legislator, legislation is the solution to everything. Don’t be a hammer. Use office as a bully pulpit and help organize private remedies to public problems.

Avoid light rail, high speed rail, trolleys and other such glamorous boondoggles. Technology is about to do an end run around these expensive concrete lines politicians draw on maps. Rail freight, on the other hand, is not glamorous but it is effective, efficient and needs attention.

Climate change will hit the poor much harder than the rich, so be rich. Help us all be rich by not hampering business and investment. Wealthy people also demand a cleaner environment so this is a win-win strategy.

Climate change may also increase immigration into our state. Land may be in demand so subsidizing homes is foolish, especially where it might flood or burn.

Five or ten more nuclear power plants would let us unplug all the hydroelectric dams which sounds pretty green to me. However, I’d hate to see old style, high pressure reactors. Maybe we could get some federal money to build a pilot thorium plant or a pebble bed reactor. Let’s lead the nation with safe, high tech power.

You want to reform taxes? Me, too. Everyone except favor selling politicians want simple and predictable taxes. Property taxes promotes “highest, best use” which translated means “highest, best tax revenue” and effectively prohibits the poor from owning property.

We fear an income tax because we know whatever reasonable tax rate is proposed is just the camel’s nose under the tent flap. If you want to sell us on one, keep the rate constitutionally limited to a small and certain percentage. Three percent sounds good to me. It must also be tied to a slashing and staking of property, sales and B & O taxes. In fact, eliminate B & O and make any property tax flat and bindinglylow. Put a ceiling on sales tax, say five percent, with the state getting some and the locals getting the lion’s share. In a healthy and growing economy, tax revenue will rise.

“Let the blessings and burdens of government fall upon all without favor.” I first heard this from James M. Buchanan but it’s old wisdom. In other words, don’t rob Peter to pay Paul. We are all equal under the law. Don’t pass out sweetheart deals.

Trust incentives. Trust the people.

Good Luck

03 May 2012

A Modest Suggestion

Proposed: A new order of Congress - Four types of Representatives; Two Elected, one Selected and one Random.

The number of Districts in each State shall be halved, each District electing one Representative.

Each District shall also select at random a number of potential Representatives from the roll of registered voters. An elected Judge shall examine said pool and eliminate those unable to serve by reason of disability, hardship or personal philosophic objection; from those remaining one Representative shall be randomly selected. Such Representatives that serve shall be duly compensated and serve one Term.

Random Representatives may vote on issues before the House and may do so from from their abode, within four hours of the last Elected Representative vote.

Each State shall elect one Senator by state-wide popular election; each State shall also select one Senator by a vote of their Legislators.