Memo For File CLXXVII
There exists a thread about global warming, in which someone said something pretty damn enlightening and educational. This has sent a jolt through the long-dead four hundred plus comments long thread, which had previously been lying dormant for half a year. Much of the rest of it is stupid. After everyone’s said their piece and the thread lies still for a little while, I’ll do another post on the good stuff that was added.
There exists another thread about global warming, kicked off when someone was talking smack about Anthony Watts and I lowered myself to ask them what specifically got them all honked off. That led to a debate about whether Al Gore is a hypocrite, which is a bit like debating the wetness of water…nevertheless this thread, like the other one, remains lively. Unlike the other one though, which is mostly stupid, this one is all-the-way stupid.
The two global-warming-thread flare-ups occurred within just a couple days of each other. I know I was present when both happened (in one case I kicked things off, but in a respondent role, and in the other case I did not kick anything off because I was just minding my own business), and the evidence I have on these events is therefore empirical. It says these two events are entirely isolated. But I cannot shake the suspicion given the track record of the lefty propaganda machine — everything is synchronized, coordinated. “Gravitas,” remember that?
And so, I have tentatively concluded: The first part of 2013 is the time for the left to wage battle in the social media, on the climate change front. For whatever reason. Someone, I think, has decided that and then yelled “go.” I have that just penciled in and am ready to rub it out at any time, but it is a trifecta in play. Lefties have a rep for thinking and acting much like fire ants, and so that is how I think of them.
Something is missing, from these observations, though…can’t quite place it. Or I couldn’t, until…
America’s First Holy President today signed twenty-three executive orders infringing upon our right to keep and bear arms, something the second amendment says is not supposed to happen. Sen. Marco Rubio had some words to say about this apart from the obvious violation of the oath to defend the Constitution. The comment he made that drew my eye, had to do with the cosmetics of the occasion:
Rubio, often mentioned as a likely 2016 presidential candidate, said it would have been better if [President] Obama had decided to announce his proposals without being accompanied by children. Obama was joined at the press conference by children who wrote to the president in response to the December shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in 26 dead.
“I think ultimately he has a right to do that, and I understand he has a right to do that,” Rubio said. “I think most of us would have preferred if it just had been a straightforward address to the country because it implies that somehow those of us who do not agree with his public policy prescriptions don’t equally care about children.”
It was almost like hearing, or feeling, something go “click” in the back of my head. You have to agree with the President’s proposals…or else, you don’t care about children. Mulling this over, I managed to get this all wrapped up into a nice tight ball with the loose ends whacked off or tied up. And I’ll explain how, if the reader will permit me just a few more paragraphs to ramble in the wilderness before bringing it back in…
I’m still rebuilding the wire shelving in the garage. My wife and I are among the very few tenants in this complex who abide by the rules, that garages are there for storing cars, and not stuff. We actually store both, or we did, until a day or two after Christmas. Now we are temporarily violating the rule. The stuff is neatly stacked on the walls, all the way up to the ceiling, thanks to the wire shelving — which collapsed on me. My son and I were getting in to the car to go get my Dad from the airport, right before my wedding. After over five years stable, the shelving picked that exact moment to collapse, chain reaction style, trapping the car. I successfuly extricated the car the following morning but I’m still cleaning up the mess.
In so doing, I’m making a post mortem on the disaster and learning a lot, which dovetails in unexpected ways with what’s examined above. The first culprit, I think, is time. The longevity of the structure I built, without maintenance events involving inspections for structural soundness, or methodical corrections. There are several scores of plastic nodules thrown to and fro by the collapse, and the condition of some of them suggests they were built to support limited weight for a limited time.
Oh but you heard plastic lasts three thousand years in a landfill, did you? Could very well be. But plastic in a landfill just lies around, whereas these nodules, with their tiny ridges, hold in place metal wire shelving, which in turn supports stuff like…fileboxes full of file folders, full of documents that are made from paper, cardboard, and heavy, heavy filmy paper rich with petroleum products. Thirty to forty pounds a piece on those, would be a good guess.
I notice a pattern within the destruction. My assembly of shelving is a mix of brands, some of which package the ugly gray plastic nodules with ugly gray racks of shelving, others of which include pretty white plastic nodules with pretty white shelving. I never did mix the ugly gray plastic with pretty white wire, or vice-versa, and that was a good decision I made. Now, I can see the pattern: Disaster descends upon the parts wherein a heavy load is supported by the pretty white stuff. The ugly battleship-gray stuff doesn’t fail anywhere, even where it supports a heavy load.
Conclusion: There are unwritten load capacities in play here, determined by unwritten design intentions. The decisions I made in construction five years ago, involved a mix of good and bad engineering decision on my part, brought about by these design specs I did not read because I didn’t have them. With the benefit of hindsight I can see I’m working with workshop & garage shelving, intermixed with pretty white stuff intended for more dainty work. Think, providing cubbyholes for adorable stuffed animals in a sorority sister’s dorm room, stuff like that. Fileboxes stored in these, invites calamity. Fileboxes stored in the battleship gray stuff, does not.
Now, here is where we tie all this stuff together:
The global warming malarkey has been bugging me for a long time, especially when we get into these knock-down drag-out back-n-forth things on the Internet. It’s not that the alarmists continue to call me an idiot, although they certainly do that. And it isn’t just me, it’s anybody who doubts what they say. It’s how they so conclude. They produce a study that says A, someone else produces a study that says not-A. A good example would be, we’re still in the middle of a discernible warming trend. As the conversation ensues and the details are teased out, it seems there is opportunity for a complete picture to be assembled of what’s really happening with the measurements being made, and how the resulting statistics are generated and then analyzed. One naturally hopes that with all the discrepancies suitably explained, each side can stop calling the other side a bunch of idiots. But it never seems to go in that direction.
The thought process I see from the climate change alarmists, is one of: Repeat exactly what we say, the way we say it, using the words we use. Or else we’ll call you dumb and stupid.
It’s just like President Obama and the children. Behave this way…or else, if you behave any other way, you will be revealing certain things about yourself that are no to be doubted or dismissed, by anyone else. In that case, it’s that you don’t like children. In the case of global warming, it’s that you “don’t know science,” that you lack reasoning ability, or that you’re just an idiot. In some cases, the alarmists go so far as to bludgeon and berate me and try to get me to echo back some of the things they’ve said, as if, by modifying my behavior, they can increase my intelligence.
Little do they know that, should they somehow succeed at this, I’m just going to head downstairs to my garage and do other unblessed, unsanctioned, unorthodox things. Like build wire shelving six units high. I’m a hopeless case, you see.
By now, I’ve rambled on about these seemingly unrelated items and how they connect together, so that the common connecting thread should be plain to see. But if it isn’t, I’ll state it outright: The proclivity among some, to use the behavior of others to assess their strengths and weaknesses that cannot be so easily known.
There is great danger involved in imposing such a litmus test, depending on the stakes involved.
I identify three such dangers.
One, using fidelity to some pre-defined behavior to determine the presence of a desirable personality/intelligence attribute, if said fidelity is detected, the attribute may be also detected when it doesn’t actually exist. In simpler terms, maybe the guy who agrees with you is really still just an idiot. This is a false positive.
Two, the opposite: If said fidelity is not detected, the attribute may be dismissed when it might actually be present. Maybe the guy who disagrees with you, or does things in a way differently from the way you’d do it, nevertheless has his reasons, and knows what he’s doing. This would be a false negative.
Three, the long-term effect: With repeated imposition of such an overly-simplified, behavioral-driven test to determine competence — over time, and especially within a large organization, independent thinking is going to be discouraged. Slavish, compliant group-thinking, on the other hand, will be not only encouraged, but become a survival strategy. We saw this with President Obama’s news conference today. It was exactly what Sen. Rubio said. Support Barry’s ideas or else you don’t care about the kids.
Some will protest, sensibly, that my error with the wire shelving was to build it that high in the first place; I should have known I was doing something wrong, by looking around and seeing nobody else is doing it. I agree, to the extent that I think the five-year use span was part of the problem. My plan was always to use them as temporary storage, to be replaced by the sturdier stuff intended for the tall-and-high purpose, within a week or two. Somehow that stretched out to the five years, and that’s when failure happened.
Toward the idea that the failure happened earlier — that the only way to win at the game is not to play — I have mixed feelings. There is a certain logic to this. Innovation can be problematic. I’ve seen for myself a lot of half-cocked plans put in place by people, mostly software coders, involving a bit too much cleverness and bringing no obvious advantage to the situation at hand. I myself have been accused of this. And it is my hope that I’m not guilty of it. But at the same time, I’m continually impressed by how far humans can err in the opposite direction. To me, the goalpost at the other end of the field is “not invented here”: Look around and see how many people are already doing what you’re thinking of doing, and if there isn’t anyone, stop in your tracks and reverse course. That is as hostile toward creativity as people can get, it isn’t possible for them to go further than that. And it boggles me how many people take it all the way, and how often they do it.
This is not a red-state blue-state thing, I should add. We red-staters think that way on a regular basis. At the gun range. We have a rule that all guns are loaded, all the time. Should we fortify our tethering to reality and do a good enough job inferring the state of the objects around us, of course we will “know” our guns are unloaded, and thus know when it’s okay to violate the other three rules: point the gun at things we don’t really want to destroy, leave our fingers on the triggers, don’t know our targets or what is behind them. But our rule is to not proceed in that direction. Rules is rules. It isn’t that we lack confidence in our ability to determine what’s going on. We don’t measure this in terms of percentage-correct, we measure it in terms of how many visits we can make to the range without an incident. That is, after all, what really matters. And we want that to be forever. We know we’re all sons of Adam, whose wife made him eat of the apple. All mortals are flawed. So we do not innovate. We assume that the simple chore of determining the gun is empty, is a chore that is beyond us, so that we never rely on it. That is how red-staters forsake independent thinking. We do it when it makes sense to do it.
Blue staters, on the other hand, turn their backs on it all the rest of the time. To them, all of my ruminating about white wire shelving and gray wire shelving, loads, terms of time, et al, is just one huge jaunt down a big bunny trail. The way it should work is the same way it works with global warming, and gun control. I look at established processes, stick to those, and engage in no independent thinking whatsoever because I do not need to. And because of that, it becomes a non-issue that the wire shelving packaging is stripped bare of any manufacturers’ recommendations about heights & weights. I don’t need to know that anymore. And there’s your model: I’m not doing anything new — I mean, ever — and so we have success, because my “need to know” has been whittled down to a nothing.
Creative solutions are not for mere mortals, they are for awesome wonderful superstars like Barack Obama and crew.
The rest of us are supposed to color within the lines. In building garage shelving, in forming opinions about climate change, in supporting extraconstitutional gun control initiatives — even in reporting the news. Yes, this is part of why liberals hate Fox News so much. Even when we learn things only from Fox, from which the other networks abstain from any mention, wherein over the long term the Fox report turns out to be true and relevant, they still see it as dirty. It only partly has to do with partisan politics, that they find the conclusions to be unfriendly. The rest of it has to do with drifting outside the orthodoxy.
Perhaps this comes off as petty. Perhaps it is. But then again, perhaps I can state the problem in a more elegant, persuasive way, like: Think on your own experiences, when someone compares the behavior of another, or the behavior of you yourself, with some pre-established and pre-blessed “template” of the expected and proper behavior. Now, think of what this detection-of-difference entitles them to know — what conclusions they can form about character and knowledge deficiencies, truly supported by the evidence. Now think about what they actually conclude, how much they think they know about the other person. See the problem? Just thinking back on my own experiences with it, I don’t mind telling you, lately I’m just baffled. Blown away. Shocked. The display of lack of humility in situations like these. To say nothing of, the lack of doubt. “He was supposed to do this, instead he did this other thing, therefore I know he’s missing or misunderstanding…this.” No uncertainty, none whatsoever. Absolutely blows my mind.
Because let us be clear on this: Their understanding is not limited to “you should’ve done this, and instead you did that.” No, not by a long shot. They have an encyclopedic understanding of your character defects, your knowledge deficiencies, even your lack of sanity. They know it stem to stern, and they have no doubts about any of it. You. A complete and total stranger they met minutes ago, over the Internet. Amazing, innit?
This gets into a beef I have, shared by some others, about higher education. Compare the climate change research with building the wire shelving. As you read through my experiences and my thoughts on the matter, you may disagree with what I’ve figured out, and you may disagree with what I’ve done about it and where I’m taking things from this point forward. But what’s happening here is, I’m refining my process by way of learned experience. Since I’m past the point of following directions, that’s the only avenue available to me. It is an evolutionary process. I know my previous implementation was flawed, and I expect my next implementation may have some flaws. I improve it by learning from my experiences as best I can.
This is not possible with climate change, for the most part. All the smarmy kids who “know” that big oil is making our planet uninhabitable, simply regurgitate what they have been told. And they get ridiculed for it in some circles, but in other circles they have proven their smarts in this way — by mimicking — but in any case, they do not have any choice. They don’t have satellites. They don’t have weather balloons. They’re told what to think, and they learn it. That they learn it in great detail, with some comprehension of the concepts involved, they think is evidence of their superior intellect. Isn’t that cute? The poor dears.
But they’re not showing any independent thinking…nor can they, because of the subject they’ve chosen that excites them. Independent thinking means, figuring out what’s going on based on what is known; something they have outsourced entirely. From what has been figured out about what’s going on, we who think independently, then plan a course of action. That much is okay with our friends the liberals…but the course of action will be compared with a template. And from any discrepancies that are found there, we get into trouble. But it’s really they who are getting into the trouble.
Like I said, I can see some advantages about curtailing independent thinking that costs more than it nets, and complicates solutions needlessly. But I cannot go along with prohibiting it entirely, and that’s where they’re taking it. Unless your last name is Obama or Clinton.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.