I confess, my experience in Huey Long’s state was not, well, pleasant.

The 2003 campaign for governor was really dirty. Bobby Jindal committed two major sins: 1) He was Indian 2) He was Catholic. The slime machine went into racist overdrive

Must read interview with the fire TNR whistleblower.

Partisanship goes beyond rational discourse. It becomes membership in a tribe. This tribalism goes beyond policy-making, it becomes a mark of identity where your group fights off the other group. This leads to prejudice, irrationality, and closed-mindedness. I think we’re all susceptible to this bias.

It turns out partisans are really are prejudiced and irrational.

The Army Corps of Engineers released a report last year that detailed the structural failure of the New Orleans levees. Here’s the IPET report.

New Orleans cannot be considered a safe city and it is still unprepared for Gulf Coast weather.

There is a conflict between subversive activity and civil liberties. Subversive activities can be defined as advocating political violence to change the political system of government. It advocates revolution.

If the government suppresses subversive activities absolutely, then it eliminates civil liberties by enforcing thought control. But if it permits these activities, it allows radicals to take away the civil liberties of other citizens through violence and murder. How can it achieve the appropriate balance?

Interesting article from the Guardian.

Andrew Anthony rethinks his core beliefs in light of new evidence. 9/11 challenged his prior belief system. This is where he drifted from dogmatic beliefs and re-examined prior assumptions. Now he’s a political atheist.

Robert Putnam published a new study challenging our notions of Diversity. E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century

The results are counterintuitive. Traditionally, social scientists backed either the Contact or Conflict Theories. Contact theory (Multiculturalism) suggests that once diverse groups interact, they grow to trust one another. Conflict theory (Balkanization) holds that increased diversity results in greater tribalism and intergroup conflict. Both theories are wrong. People withdraw into isolation and social capital falls steeply.

There is no ideal voting system. I’ve noticed that many people dream up ‘perfect’ voting systems where everyone’s vote is equal and the results clearly reflect social preferences. What they’re asking for is mathematically impossible. Mathematics always beats utopian fantasies.

Elections are supposed aggregate individual preferences into social preferences. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem demonstrates that there can be no perfect democratic voting system. The results are inconsistent with the basic concept of democracy. No matter which system you use, some votes will be worth more than others.

Each of Arrow’s axioms are obvious and vital to the idea of democracy. Yet he proved that it is mathematically impossible to be consistent with every single axiom at once. Something has to give. One of the tradeoffs is if a system has no dictatorship, it becomes intransitive. If it is not intransitive, it becomes a dictatorship.

Back Talk summarizes recent newsmedia scandals and fabrications. Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, Jayson Blair… Tip of the Iceberg.

I’m critical of the newsmedia because it distorts the actual frequency of events leading us to misjudge probability and risk. That’s assuming they even report real facts, which can no longer be taken for granted. Journalists are artists who forge make-believe narratives and sometimes they get a little carried away.

Pvt Beauchamp denies his stories. The Army investigation concluded that the misconduct did not occur.

This is not an especially important story except for one fact. Beauchamp accused his company of committing war crimes and other misconduct. Desecrating graves is a violation of the Geneva Conventions and Iraqi Law so these allegations needed to be investigated. The investigations revealed that he wrote implausible fiction.

War crimes are a similar issue to police brutality. It’s impossible to prevent it entirely, but commanders must punish the criminals and prevent it from spreading. A flood of false and non-credible accusations of war crimes and police brutality make it difficult to uncover the real crimes. Yes, we must knock down losers who make up fables.

Obama continues to show his arrogance in international relations. First, he suggests irresponsible diplomacy. Now he calls for an invasion of Pakistan, a nuclear armed ally.

All Presidents are ignorant about many matters in international relations. What they must do is admit their ignorance and seek advice from experts. Their role is one of management and leadership. In my observation, Obama is too arrogant to acknowledge his ignorance. He advocates extremely dangerous and reckless courses of action.

Sen Clinton is coming off very well in contrast. All she has to do is sit back and call him irresponsible and naive every 20 minutes until the primaries. He’ll do all the work for her.

There was always something more to this story. Now some details are emerging.

Dubai Ports World offered the US a deal to manage the portsof six major American ports. They would pay for major security upgrades and greater efficiency while Homeland Security provided the actual security as always.The deal was excellent on its own merits. But that wasn’t the real reason.

In secret, Dubai and Washington agreed on to cooperate on a very expansive human intelligence system. Dubai would allow the CIA to plant agents throughout all ports run by DP World. This includes Pakistan, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and many others. The addition of human intelligence throughout the worlds port systems made it an amazing deal. This was obviously a secret reason that could not be revealed.

Unfortunately blind xenophobia and absurd accusations of “outsourcing” killed the deal and weakened American security.

It’s fashionable to say that journalists are politically biased. They are, but that’s not the point. Journalism is damaged by sampling bias.

Journalists report anecdotes as if a few scattered samples are an indication of statistical trends. Making matters worse, journalists select which events to cover and which to ignore, creating a distorted view of reality. They string together these anecdotes to form an artistic narrative to sell to audiences.

Journalists confuse randomness as meaningful. They insert emotional appeals and taint our interpretation. It’s a false narrative, obviously.

Hillary Clinton said Sen. Obama’s plan to personally meet with the dictators of the world was “irresponsible and naive.” She is correct.

There is a widespread misconception about diplomacy. Diplomacy is a bargaining game where there are conflicts of interest. If there was a perfect coincidence of interest, there would be no need for diplomats, as states would naturally agree on mutual courses of action. This is never the case as two agents will never have the exact desires.

Diplomacy is not based on ideals of justice. They are hard-bargaining games to resolve conflicts of interest. It involves threats, rewards, and deception. Diplomacy should be done by professionals, not Presidents. Presidential summits are nothing more than photo-ops.

The US is not corrupt. When you compare large economic blocks, the US does very well. Japan is the least corrupt, then the US, then the European Union.

The problem with partisanship is that it leads to false accusations of corruption. In the long-run, this harms the public’s trust in government. It also results in prosecutorial abuse and political vendettas to ruin individual’s lives.

There are dynamically stable and unstable systems, sometimes called robust and fragile systems.

Dynamically stable systems have internal dampening mechanisms that return the system to equilibrium. Unstable systems lack a controlling force and cannot restore themselves to equilibrium.

This has a number of uses. Unstable systems can exceed performance levels of stable systems, but lose stability. This seems obvious when applied to machines. Stable systems are a useful concept in the political sciences as well.

From a prospective of intellectual history, the Republicans and Democrats share some of the same roots. Both are Liberal Parties.

The parties focused their efforts on different issues. The Democrats were the Free-Trade Party, and the Republicans were the Free-Labor Party.

Penelope Trunk argues that it does not matter that journalists misquote people and get basic facts wrong. Truth is only a narrative, and journalists are telling their own stories.

The problem? Journalism should be a science, not an art. Art describes the artificial creation of a mind. Journalism should seek to discover the external reality. Good journalism has no narrative. It collects facts so historians and social scientists can see patterns and formulate scientific theories. Artistic narratives obscure the truth.

I really do not want to waste my time on this. The New Republic posted a bunch of absurdist tales by an anonymous guy named “Scott Thomas”

Greyhawk has a great milblog roundup debunking these urban legends.

Let’s review the phases of public discourse on warfare.
First, we support the noble troops but will sabotage their mission.
Second, the troops are really victims.
Third, the troops are uneducated drooling morons because they still support the mission.
Fourth, the troops are baby-killing felons.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita describes why dictators do little to lift their people out of poverty. Cynically, dictators stay in power longer if they make their people poorer.

Democratic leaders and Autocrats both seek to stay in power. Democrats manage a large and inclusive coalition. This reduces their ability to bribe allies for support. Democrats must enact good economic policies instead. Dictators can just bribe their allied generals and party leaders to stay in power.

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