Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Politics as religion

Some politicians pride themselves on never flip-flopping, or otherwise changing their position. This is an extreme form of politics, but we have a perfectly good term for a set of beliefs that one holds without, or in the face of, evidence: a religion.

Successful religions tend to have beliefs that aren't susceptible to checking against evidence (reincarnation, salvation) and precepts for the faithful that have long term social value (honesty, kindness, fidelity.)

Unsuccessful religions tend to have beliefs that are easily found to be false (creationism, global warming denial, supply side economics) and sociopathic precepts (draconian punishment for minor crimes, torture for political prisoners, tax cuts for the rich, hunger and death for the poor.)

While successful religions have often formed the backbone of long lived cultures, religion is a really bad form of government, at least if you think that a government should deal with the events it faces. So a politician who prides him or herself on never ever changing has basically self-identified as incompetent.

This is not a new problem. One of my favorite examples is Hiram Johnson, who after saddling California with the disasters of initiative and referendum spent decades in the Senate as a rigid isolationist, fighting all attempts to prepare for WW II. Dunno if he'd come around by the time he died in August 1945.

So here are two quotes about the merits of flexibility:

"Oh, Master, make me chaste and celibate - but not yet!" -Augustine
"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" -Keynes

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Truth in advertising

Seen in a recent spam:


Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2011 21:42:29 +0100
From: GREETINGS <legalexperts18@att.net>
Reply-To: [throwaway webmail address]
To: legalexperts18@att.net
Subject: PLEASE OPEN FILE1

THE ATTACHED FILE IS VIRUS, FEEL FREE OPEN FILE,
GET BACK TO FOR ME FOR DETIALS ABOUT YOUR PHILANTHROPIC FUND CLAIM AS
WRITTEN IN TH ATTACHED LETTER.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Snark du jour, ICANN edition

There's endless arguments about whether ICANN's long delayed (for about a decade) plan to permit large numbers of new top-level domains is a good idea.

The reason I am involved with ICANN is the blooming of a 1000 blooms

We all have our favorite metaphors, although in this case I think the swarming of a thousand blood-sucking insects is more apropos.