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Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 350

Except I have seen no data from the Swedish government, which publishes extremely comprehensive crime data (something we would do well to copy), to support the Syrian crime wave story. I've gone through Brottsförebyggande rådet data and it's just not there.

What I have seen is a lot of sloppy correlation and overprojection of statistical noise. For example Sweden amended its legal definition of "sexual assault" to be much, much broader, generating a spate of spurious stories about a Swedish rape epidemic.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 233

Again, you're confusing "lying" with "bullshitting". Lying is about establishing belief in a false version of the world, which is best done, as you point out, by omission. That's because lying depends on peoples' regard for the facts; it exploits that. Being caught in a false assertion destroys a lie's effectiveness, so a smart liar sticks to the facts.

Bullshitting is about inculcating the desired feelings and attitudes in the audience. While a bullshitter doesn't hesitate to use facts when they suit his purpose, he doesn't hesitate to make shit up either, because it doesn't matter if he's caught. It doesn't even matter if he asserts two inconsistent things in the course of a single sentence.

Why?

Because bullshitting doesn't aim to establish belief in propositions; propositions are completely disposable. Once it has done its job, a piece of bullshit (unlike a lie) is a nullity. You can show that it is false, but the bullshitter's adherents won't perceive that as inconsistent; not as long as the bullshitter is conveying the same attitude.

That's why fact checking a bullshitter is a waste of time, once you've established that's what he is. It doesn't matter if you prove something he said was wrong, unless you do it in a way that changes his audience's feelings.

Comment Re:In next weeks news get your nails done at Autoz (Score 1) 38

Wow - this is some pretty cool stuff and I commend Netflix for doing it, but really? Netflix?

It's a tool developed for internal, corporate users, to make Netflix's own operations more secure. They've decided to open source it, probably in hope that others will have good ideas to make it better.

Comment Re:Trump on Sweden (Score 1) 350

Actually the policy conclusion is not correct, however without a sophisticated understanding of statistics it's easy to be misled.

It is true that a higher proportion of immigrants commit crimes in Sweden than natives. However, if you break down immigrants by socioeconomic status and educational attainment you don't see any difference between immigrants and natives. This is because of something called Simpson's Paradox.

What's happening here is that Sweden is a wealthy advanced country with a low birth rate, and it's been importing low-education poor workers to augment it's own dwindling underclass in filling low-paying jobs. Now poor, uneducated people commit many kinds of crimes at a higher rate that affluent, educated people. Whether they are native or immigrant makes no difference. So what the Swedish statistics actually tell us is that uneducated low-wage workers make up a higher proportion of immigrants than they do of natives, which should be no surprise because that's why the largest proportion of immigrants have been admitted.

This also raises another possibility: you can actually reduce crime rates with immigration, if you let in the right people. In fact there is evidence this is happening in Canada, which places a premium on education and language skills when deciding who to admit.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 1) 233

Actually the defining characteristic of conspiracy theories is that they get you to believe things which contradict things common sense tells you are so unlikely they're bound to be false, e.g., that people do things that are against their interests, that mutual enemies act with perfect trust in each other.

It is no conspiracy theory that the Nixon White House covered up Watergate, even though that is a theory about a conspiracy. In fact Watergate shows you the problem with most conspiracy theories: massive cover ups are impossible to maintain for very long. Something as big as the government leaks information constantly.

Comment Re:Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 233

As I get older I realize how big and difficult objective "truth" is. It's easy to get hold of bits of the truth, the challenge is to get hold of enough of the truth and enough kinds of truth to make sound judgments.

That said, detecting bullshit is not intellectually challenging -- in fact I'd argue that's the defining characteristic of bullshit. Bullshit is easy to detect when it's aimed at other people. So why is bullshit so hard to resist when it's aimed at you?

Because bullshit tempts you to believe what is easy, convenient and apparently self-serving. A person with perfect moral courage, who is incorruptibly fair-minded and objective, such a person would be completely impervious to bullshit. But all of us, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, fall far short of that ideal.

That's why advance-fee scams hoodwink people who manifestly have the intellectual ability to see through them ... when they're directed at other people. But as soon as the opportunity for personal gain enters the picture it becomes a struggle between greed and intellect. Even if your intellect is formidable it's useless to you once your greed is engaged.

That's why I say detecting bullshit is an exercise in moral character.

Comment Re:Seen this before... (Score 1) 122

Yep. Exactly. Gotta love government IT workers!

I love my government IT job. After years of working for Fortune 500 IT teams, I'm finally working with the best pros in the industry. ;)

Second best.

I spent 15 years as a consultant, working with both fortune 500 companies and government agencies. Government agencies tend to have one of two personalities; either they're quite good or they're horribly bad. Sounds like you got into a good one. Corporate IT departments of non-IT companies tend to be more middle of the road, though variance is huge. But the top tier information technology companies tend to have almost uniformly excellent people.

Comment Bullshit isn't the same as "lie". (Score 5, Interesting) 233

A conventional lie is detectable because of the network of falsehoods that must necessarily support a consistent sounding alternative picture of the world. Often the best way to detect a liar is to invite him to elaborate on his statements, until the entire fabric of falsehood is unsupportable.

Bullshit doesn't try to create an elaborately self-consistent fabric of false beliefs. Bullshit doesn't even bother being consistent with itself. Bullshit persuade through the power of how it makes you feel in the moment, and as a bullshitter rattles on he keeps his audience enthralled moment by moment even as he contradicts himself.

So to detect lies you need epistemological skills. To detect bullshit you need strength of character.

Comment Re:Hard to read (Score 1) 350

Even anti-Trump people want to hear about something else once in a while.

Actually not. Our appetite for anti-Trump information is apparently insatiable, and that's a problem for us. In fact I think it's one of the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college.

Like everything else, negative information reaches a point of diminishing returns. There comes a point where more bad news doesn't hurt you any more, but crowds out other news. In a divisive election, you win by getting more supporters to the polls than your opponent, and for that you need media bandwidth. So while Hillary's favorable/unfavorable ratings were consistently far better than Trump's even when they were under water, Trump was hogging all the media attention she needed to make the most of that advantage. Trump was ratings gold, because people who despised him as a buffoon simply adored stories which confirmed that fact.

And if you're a Trump supporter, take heart: we haven't seemed to learn anything. We still haven't figured out we can't rely on Trump's buffoonery, that we have to craft a positive message and deliver it into places where he has support.

Comment Re:too late (Score 1) 504

Or he stirred a lot of it up himself, making things racial that weren't. Along with much of the media. Trayvon Martin was made immediately about race with edited clips of the call to 911 to make it seem like that's why he was being targeted. The truth was much different. Don't let the truth get in the way of your great narrative though.

The truth is that no story about a situation like Trayvon Martin's can possibly be discussed in the south (or various other parts of the country where racial tension is high) without bringing race into it, because whether you say it out loud or not, a lot of people will be assuming that if Trayvon had been white it would have gone down differently. We can't know that for sure, of course.

FWIW, I think the verdict was the only possible one because George Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon had him on the ground and was slamming his head into the pavement wasn't contradicted by any evidence. That situation easily constitutes a deadly threat and justifies the use of deadly force in response. I'm less confident that Zimmerman's story was completely true, but it wasn't inconsistent with the physical evidence and there was no eyewitness testimony.

As for Obama's comments... all he said was that it was imperative that the case be investigated thoroughly, and then he made some sympathetic remarks to Trayvon's parents. How is that "stirring up" racial tension?

I should point out that I'm no fan of Barack Obama. As a conservative-leaning libertarian, I largely disagree with his political philosophy, and I think as a president (politics aside) he was mediocre at best. As a supposed constitutional scholar I was extremely disappointed with his handling of several really important issues related to the balance of power, especially his expansion of the already excessive power held by the executive. Bush did the country great damage by expanding that power dramatically, and Obama should have rolled it back but instead he pushed the pace.

However, even though I didn't like him and didn't agree with him, I see no substance to the argument that he "stirred up" racial tension. He acknowledged it, and at several points he expressed sympathy with the black community and acknowledged his own membership in that community, but that's all. Never did he introduce it where it wasn't already present, and never did he ignore the facts and assign blame based on race. If you have any examples to the contrary, I'd like to see them.

Comment Re:I'm not surprised. (Score 3, Insightful) 862

I'll go farther: everyone has bad days where they do things they shouldn't do. Especially in matters of the heart and loosely affiliated organs. I'm not a big fan of knee-jerk firing in response to an accusation.

It's the inevitability of this that means an organization needs to be prepared to handle problems like this, and that's the problem here: the organization, not the supervisor. If the atmosphere described here is accurate, then management and HR aren't doing their jobs.

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