5/22/2005

5-22-05 - 1

5-22-05

Heard a press conference where Bushy said something like "these insurgents - they're brutal barbarians, you really can't relate to how they think" ; with rhetoric like this, is it any wonder that they hate us?

Heard an interesting interview with the new commerce secretary, Gonzalez, about the import limits we just imposed on Chinese textiles. It was an NPR interviewer who as usual was being polite and not really digging into hippocracy and contradiction and such, but the interviewer did poke a little bit, with a question like "how does this limit on textile imports fit into the administration's policy of free trade?" (this of course is happening while we're pushing for CAFTA), Gonzalez squirmed a bit, but then uttered one of those political statements that was very telling - "this administration's policy has been very clear and consistent - we support free trade around the world, to provide opportunities for American business to grow and reach more markets" , something like that - very clear in that the policy is to open markets for American companies, not to open markets in general, and there's no reason to open our own market, in fact the truth is we are one of the most protectionist countries in the world by far.

I finally finished the book about Rwanda - "We wish to inform you that we will be killed tomorrow with our families" (longest title ever). It's a very good book, everyone should read it and feel ashamed. There are any number of things in it that are just horrifying, but the thing that I keep thinking of is just the basic fact of human nature that most people are really really horrible people. That is, first I content that people in Rwanda are fundamentally just like people anywhere else (and places like Nazi Germany have mimic'ed this behavior). Second, in Rwanda when the Hutus were slaughtering the Tutsis, nearly every single Hutu participated in one way or another - some by acting, most simply by going along, naming names, or even just by not objecting, not helping the Tutsis. Only a few did anything to try to stop it, maybe 1% of the populace or less. Add 1st and 2nd and you can only conclude that the vast majority of humans, when confronted with the decision to either oppose a massive horrific human tragedy, or go along with it to save their own skin, they'll choose the second one. I walk the streets and look into the eyes of my fellow men. If a genocidal group came to power here and they were advocating the whites killing all the minorities (and killing any whites that don't go along with the plan) - would you go along with it, or fight it? I look into the eyes of my fellow men, and see people who would go along with it. Afterward they would claim they did nothing themselves, that they didn't know it was a genocide, that they had no choice, they would be killed if they didn't go along with it. I see all those Hutus as guilty. I see all the Germans in Nazi Germany as guilty, I see the Indonesians who did nothing for Timor - guilty, the Turks who did nothing for the Kurds, guilty, and all these Americans walking the streets - not only are they guilty of inaction on various cases of American attrocities around the world, but they are guilty of potential inaction - that is, put in the same situation as the Hutus in Rwanda, their actions would be shameful, and they carry the stink of their potential sin.

Maturity can be analytically measured. I believe the single behavioral observable sign is in the time horizon that the person uses for decision planning. That is, when the person makes action decisions, how far ahead are they (correctly) optimizing for happiness. An immature person (eg. a baby) makes decisions based only on immediate happiness - will choice A or B make me happier right now. The farther you plan (correctly) for happiness, the more mature. Note that I add correctly because planning far ahead, but doing so incorrectly, is not maturity. Note that incorrect is not the same as making mistakes - mistakes are okay; incorrect planning means using the wrong criteria or wrong method entirely, for example if you have a long time window, but you only plan based on happiness at the end of the window rather than for happiness over the period with some weighting (eg. making decisions that give you some happiness 10 years from now but sacrifice much happiness in the mean time, this is a false maturity).

The air quality in Houston & Dallas is some of the worst in the country, frequently at dangerous levels of pollutants. I realized just now that the people here really don't care, because nobody goes outside here anywhy, it's ridiculously hot & humid, people just stay in their nice air conditioned homes and offices, and if the outside air were poison gas it wouldn't really affect people much.

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old rants