Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Breaking News: Nobel Committee is now a Political Action Committee

This morning, the Nobel Committee proved to the world that it has no legitimate interest in awarding the Peace Prize based on concrete accomplishments and has instead chosen to use the prize as a tool for political manipulation.  Let me be clear:  Alfred Nobel’s vision was that the Peace Prize would be awarded for concrete accomplishments, not for vague intentions or political popularity and by using the Peace Prize as a political tool the Nobel Committee has reduced itself to just another political action committee and the Prize to nothing more than a political tool.

That a president who is currently presiding over two wars and who is seriously considering sending an additional 40,000 troops into battle in Afghanistan can be awarded a prize for peace is shameful and those who cannot see this obvious absurdity are blinded by the same ideological biases as the Nobel Committee.

posted by Zenmervolt at 10:19  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NPR Article Reveals that NPR Doesn’t Understand Statistics

The article in question.

One could just as easily take the exact same poll and just a truthfully say: “90% of doctors oppose government control of healthcare.”

The article is playing fast and loose with wording. 63% of doctors favor the inclusion of a public option while keeping private insurance available. 10% favor the exclusive use of a government plan. It is inaccurate to say that 73% support the inclusion of a public option because that 10% don’t support an “inclusion”, they support exclusivity of the governmental system. There’s a big difference between those two viewpoints and it’s bad statistics to lump them into the same group.

Ultimately, this is the issue with statistics.  People need to remember to check on the underlying data before immediately regurgitating what some news article claims the data “find”.  Even more of an issue than the sloppy statistical analysis in the article, however, is the unproven premise upon which the article’s implication rests.

The article implies that, because physicians favor the inclusion of a public option, such an inclusion is a good idea.  This implication requires that there be two separate logical fallacies in play.  First is the fallacy of appeal to authority in which it is assumed that physicians, whose task is healing the physical body, are qualified to judge the economic and metaphysical desirability of a public option.  Unfortunately there is no solid evidence to suggest that physicians, as a group, are any more equipped to judge the economic or metaphysical wisdom of such plans than any other group.  The second fallacy in play is the appeal to popularity.  Even if physicians were, as a group, more able to evaluate the consequences of a public option (which they are not), the mere popularity of a public option among physicians would not be sufficient proof that a public option was a good idea.

As has been said many times, “what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.”

posted by Zenmervolt at 08:18  

Monday, August 17, 2009

Year to Date in Numbers

All data accurate as of the time of this post:

Airline Miles Earned:  110,244
AmEx Charges:  $28,882.35
Total Days YTD:  229
Days on Road YTD:  136 (59.4%)
Days on Road During Current Project:  136 (80%)

posted by Zenmervolt at 14:28  

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More things I just plain do not understand

Told you I’d continue it someday.

This is not so much a “thing” in the sense of a named event or entity, but it’s still a situation that baffles me:

For the past several years, I have been receiving E-mails intended for someone else due to a similarity in our addresses.  Mildly annoying because the majority of these misdirected E-mails have been the result of this other person mis-typing her own E-mail into form subscriptions or contact lists, so it’s not like strangers are making the typos; she should know her own E-mail address.  Yesterday she enrolled in online banking through Wachovia.  Using my E-mail address.  Ponder the consequences of that for a moment.

All of that, however, is mere background to the upcoming absolutely stunningly illogical event that is about to occur.

Being a (relatively) nice guy, I forward the welcome message to Wachovia’s customer service department notifying them that I did not have an account with their company and that I should not be receiving information about someone else’s bank accounts.  (It might just be me, but I don’t think it’s a particularly good thing for strangers to receive each other’s banking information.)  I received the following response from Wachovia:

Unless you are a customer, we are unable to de-enroll your e-mail address.

That’s right.  Because I was not a customer, they refused to stop sending me E-mails containing someone else’s account information.

In the meantime, while waiting for their reply, I received a “daily balance notification” letting me know how much money was in an account that didn’t belong to me.

I notified Wachovia again.  Same response.

Unless you are a customer, we are unable to de-enroll your e-mail address.

After receiving several more E-mails from Wachovia containing information about an account that did not belong to me (and notifying Wachovia each time), I finally received a reply from a higher-level customer service manager.

I have contacted the customer who had your e-mail address on file. I have found that there was a typo in the e-mail address. I have taken care of this issue.

A few minutes later, I received an E-mail from Wachovia’s automated online banking system:

Our records indicate that you recently added or made a change to one of your email address(es). This notification is to confirm that you initiated this change.

All it took was repeated pushing on my end to get them to correct the issue.  If I had given up after the first response, I would still be receiving information about an account which I do not own.

It should not take repeated notifications on my part for a bank to stop sending me the account information for a stranger.  They should have suspended the account’s automated E-mails immediately after my initial notification to them and then contacted the account holder about the mix-up rather than doing nothing until I harassed them enough to get it kicked up to an upper-level representative.

Wachovia, I have a suggestion for a new slogan:

Online banking security; we’re doing it wrong.

posted by Zenmervolt at 14:35  

Monday, July 27, 2009

You are not John Galt

You aren’t Hank Rearden either.

If you’re female, it’s pretty much a dead cert that you aren’t Dagny Taggert.

Really.  I mean it.  At best you might be Eddie Willers or Cherryl Brooks, but you’re not motive power.  If you were, you wouldn’t be striking up  superficial conversation with someone in an airport strictly on the basis of the book he’s reading.

Just saying…

posted by Zenmervolt at 19:31  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Australian Town Enacts Pointless Feel-Good Law

The rural Australian town of Bundanoon, an otherwise unremarkable bedroom community for Sydney, made a desperate grab for news headlines today by supposedly banning the sale of bottled water within the town’s boundaries.

While ostensibly enacted to combat what the town feels to be a waste of resources (in bottling and shipping water that is more efficiently delivered straight from the tap), it should be clear to any thinking person that the ban’s true motivation is simply good, old-fashioned, selfish NIMBY-ism.  A few years ago, a bottled water suppler proposed to build a water extraction plant near the town and, like all good bedroom communities fearful of industrial developments harming their presious property values, Bundanoon has resisted the proposal tooth and nail.  The supplier’s proposal is still fighting Bundanoon’s obstructionist legal challenges and the passage of this new law ultimately represents little more than petulance on Bundanoon’s part.

The fact that this “ban” is ultimately a mere “feel-good” measure is patently obvious to anyone who reads far enough to see that it carries no penalty whatsoever for non-compliance.  That’s right boys and girls, compliance with this so-called “ban” is entirely optional.  The same people who got on a moral high-horse about the inefficiencies and wastefulness of bottled water have, in their woefully misguided zeal, gone through the inefficient and wasteful process of creating an unenforceable law when the same outcome could have been obtained more efficiently simply by going door-to-door and asking the businesses to stop carrying bottled water.

Well done lads.  You’ve wasted everyone’s time and spent taxpayer dollars to do something that could have been done for free in less time.  *golf-clap*

posted by Zenmervolt at 07:14  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

Nothing like a little John Phillips Sousa on Independence Day…

Editor’s Note:  I was away from the blog and did not see this in my publishing queue until today; the delay is entirely my own fault and not that of Mr. Nebulosa.

posted by Strix nebulosa at 05:31  

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ricci v. DeStefano

Haven’t had a chance to read through the full ruling yet, but so far this one looks like a win for rationality.  If you’re not familiar with the case, George Will provided an excellent summary about two months ago.

posted by Zenmervolt at 10:15  

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The first half of 2009 in numbers

I started keeping track of the raw numerical data for my travels and so far this year in numbers is either impressive or depressing depending on how one looks at it.  Numbers are slightly projected through the end of this month to capture the entire first 6 months of 2009:

  • Days in year to date:  181
  • Days on the road:  97 (53.59%)
  • Airline Miles Earned:  76,932
  • Expenses (incl. hotel/airfare):  $20,488.83
  • Projects worked on:  3

H/T to Consultant Ninja for giving me the idea to track this.

posted by Zenmervolt at 10:54  

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift

The New Criterion has a lively review by Mark Steyn of Paul Rahe’s book Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift. The central idea of the article (and presumably the book, although I haven’t read it) is summed up by this two-hundred-year-old passage from Tocqueville, who was musing on ways in which a free republic could, on its own, collapse into a despotic state, quite apart from the coercion of a nineteenth-century-style despotic monarch:

I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls.

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Sound familiar? The problem is that the transformation to “soft despotism” occurs stealthily, perhaps imperceptibly. The key to retarding its creep, according to Steyn and Rahe, is the vitality of the institutions that traditionally served as intermediaries between the individuals and the sovereign state: family, church, school board, township, county, and the like. These are the institutions that are on the ground, that are actually capable of observing and responding to the problems of individuals and communities, and in which individuals can feel genuinely invested. But that ideal is increasingly forgotten as the federal government assumes greater and greater responsibility for our everyday lives.

Steyn offers this current anecdote in support of Rahe’s thesis:

Today, the animating principles of the American idea are entirely absent from public discourse. To the new Administration, American exceptionalism means an exceptional effort to harness an exceptionally big government in the cause of exceptionally massive spending. The can-do spirit means Ty’Sheoma Bethea can do with some government money: A high-school student in Dillon, South Carolina, Miss Bethea wrote to the President to ask him to do something about the peeling paint in her classroom. He read the letter out approvingly in a televised address to Congress. Imagine if Miss Bethea gets her way, and the national bureaucracy in Washington becomes responsible for grade- school paint jobs from Maine to Hawaii. What size of government would be required for such a project? And is it compatible with a constitutional republic?

Can you imagine a schoolgirl in 1793 sending a letter to George Washington asking the federal government to please do something about the leaky roof on her local schoolhouse? And can you imagine President Washington actually inviting said schoolgirl to come to Philadelphia and sit behind him as he read her letter during an address to Congress in an attempt to shame them into sending a check to Dillon, South Carolina (as Obama did with Ms. Bethea)? We have been sliding down this slope for a long time; perhaps the slippage has accelerated enough during this new administration that people will finally notice.

posted by Strix nebulosa at 10:43  
« Previous PageNext Page »

In ignorantia confidenter praegredi.