I'm in the future. Like hundreds of years in the future. I've been dead for centuries.
Oh, lovely, you're a cheery one aren't you?

Saturday, August 20


Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud

Under the headline Telstra deal may shrink federal coffers, The Age, Australia's answer to... I dunno, the Boston Globe, I guess... Bemoans the fact that if you sell a company, you don't get paid dividends any more:
THE loss of billions of dollars of Telstra dividend payments means the Government will have to run down budget surpluses or spend less on health, education and infrastructure, Finance Minister Nick Minchin has suggested.

Telstra's full sale would involve a "fiscal tightening", implying less cash would be available for other spending priorities.

"We have been up-front about the fact that this policy involves an implied fiscal tightening," Senator Minchin said yesterday.

The Government's 6.4 billion Telstra shares, valued at $31 billion at today's prices, generate dividend payments that swell the budget bottom line by about $1.5 billion a year.

A 5% return isn't bad by current standards, but it does leave unasked the question of exactly why the government should own a profitable telecommunications company.
But unlike the previous two Telstra share floats, the proceeds from the sale of the remaining 51.8 per cent stake will not be used to pay off debt. That means there will be no interest saving to offset the lost dividends.
Well, yeah.

They sort of gloss over the reason that the proceeds of the sale won't be used to pay off debt.

The reason is this: There isn't any.

The Australian federal budget has been reaping such huge surpluses for so long that the government has been able to pay off its entire debt.*

I think it's just a little bit unfair to criticise the government for not paying off a debt that it's already paid off.

* That's purely federal, public-sector debt, though, and says nothing about state or local governments - which mostly suck - or the private sector. Also - I need to look this up - the final payments may be coming in the next financial year, but still require nothing from the Telstra sale.

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Friday, August 12


God's Gift to Neuroscience

After trillions of experiments carried out by billions of volunteers over the course of thousands of years, we come to the inescapable conclusion that consciousness is the result of brain chemistry, and that everyone else - Cartesian Dualists, Berkelian Idealists, Penrosian Quantumists - is quite simply wrong.*

I'm talking, of course, about beer.

* Which doesn't falsify any of those positions, because - once more - they are not falsifiable. There's a lot of it going about.

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Pixy's 22nd Law

In any situation where there is the classic asymmetry of regard; that is, Group A thinks Group B is evil, while Group B thinks Group A is stupid, Group B is almost always correct.

The reasons for this become obvious once one realises that this still holds true when the labels are reversed.

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My Legs, Drifting Off Into The Sunset

A nation in crisis.

Snow. In Australia. In August.


Terrified victims flee the threat of climate change.

The usual suspects are up to their usual tricks.

(Via Tim Blair, who says basically what I just said, only he said it first. Okay, slow news day.)

(Picture by Craig Borrow for News Limited)

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Tuesday, August 09


To Summarise the Summary of the Summary

Supernatural, adj.: Indistinguishable from a normal distribution.

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Saturday, August 06


Own Goal

This comment appeared in a discussion of the Intelligent Design kerfuffle over at Vodkapundit:
No "theory" requiring a god or invisible intelligence or burning sage or nineteen-teated mythical bear can be falsified – and is therefore not science.

Interestingly enough, this formulation ends up putting extremely large dents in science itself.

If a non-materialistic cause exists, it will not be falsifiable, and thus not science - and thus science's explanation for whatever-it-is will be automatically, inexorably, unavoidably wrong.

So to the extent that religion has any truth, science will hold some variable quantity of ineradicable wrongness. And that wrongness will be understood to exist by the religious majority.

[The paragraph in italics was from Stephen's original post; the rest is from commenter Robert.]

This is of course correct.

Science is based on the metaphysical principle of Naturalism: That all things have natural causes. Natural causes are those that act in all ways as material causes, that is, there is no intervention from beyond the material Universe.*

If there were any such intervention, Science, as Robert says, would give us the wrong answer.

It's an interesting point that Science is so enormously successful. If there is a non-materialistic cause to anything, we haven't seen it.

To put it another way: The Theory of Evolution appears to be correct, based on immense amounts of evidence. If there is an Intelligent Designer, then The Designer is working in exactly the same way we would expect evolution to proceed naturally.

Which doesn't falsify ID, because you can't falsify ID.

* Science can be built from Materialism, which states simply that all things have material causes, or from Naturalism, which states that all things act in all ways as if they had material causes. Only Naturalism is required, but personally I think the distinction is meaningless.

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Wednesday, August 03


How George Threw His Groove Away

Via The Politburo Diktat and Balloon Juice, this choice tidbit of unmitigated idiocy:
President Bush said Monday he believes schools should discuss ‘’intelligent design’’ alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life.

During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

‘’I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,’’ Bush said. ‘’You’re asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.’

The problem is, Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory to be discussed alongside Evolution. Lamarckism was an alternative to Darwinian evolution. It was also wrong, and was discarded once we knew that.

Lamarck proposed his theory, it was shown to be wrong, we threw it out. That's how science works.

Newton's laws of motion were wrong too; we didn't throw them out entirely because they were right most of the time, so today we keep them as useful rules of thumb for everyday situations.

But Intelligent Design isn't like that. Intelligent Design can't ever be proved wrong. In fact, it can't ever be tested in any way at all. That makes it unscientific. Not because it's wrong, but because it's utterly useless. We have no way of knowing whether it's wrong, not ever, not even in principle - so what's the point?

Worse, Intelligent Design was set up that way intentionally, and then its proponents tried - and continue to try - to push it into the science curriculum in schools.

It's not science, because we can't tell if it's wrong.

The IDists know that - and continue to push it as science.

That's fraud.

Now, this is a hobbyhorse of mine (and the Commissar's, of course), and I react more strongly to it than most people. But President Bush, much as I respect the man, is promoting academic fraud, and it has to be pointed out, and it has to be said loud and clear.

There's even worse on the Democrat side of things, unfortunately. Post-modernism from the likes of Chomsky seeks to deny the validity of all Science, not just Evolution, and it's even more pernicious than Creationism and Intelligent Design. Even more actively fraudulent, too. I've taken the fight to the Post-modernists as well, and will continue to do so.

But right now, they're not President.

Oh, and if you want to post a comment suggesting that Intelligent Design is something other than pure bullshit, don't bother. Go here instead. (Of course, given my posting schedule of late, I probably have about three readers left - hi Susie! - so I don't have to worry about that.)

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