The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 31, 2023


Let's set aside the simple reality that Donald Trump is hated by every Democrat and a fairly large number of Republicans. Let's set aside that he's the enemy of the deep state bureaucracy and the agencies that populate it. Let's set aside that most independents find him boorish and even repugnant and will likely vote for his opponent, regardless of his opponent's record or mental capacity. Let's set aside that he paid hush money to a porn star before he ran for president. Let's set aside that any payment is long past a statute of limitiations. Let's set aside that he is an announced candidate for the 2024 election. Let's set aside that the DA who concocted a criminal charge for his hush money payment ran for office on the campaign promise to "get" Donald Trump. Let' set aside the legal contortions the DA had to perform to shape a criminal charge, twist that charge into a felony, and then convince a grand jury that the charge was justified. 

None of it matters. With the criminal indictment of a former U.S. President, a precedent has now been set, and it bodes ill for our country. The Dems have decided that prosecuting an ex-president is a moral imperative. But more on all of that in a moment.

Although the propaganda media would have us believe that Trump's nomination is a certainty, that isn't the case. They'd also have us believe that Joe Biden has accomplished great things, is scandal free, and has the mental acuity of a chess grand master. That also isn't the case. It's a bit off-topic, but a reasonable summary of the accomplishments of both potential candidates is provided as a footnote.*

With today's indictment of a former president, we have what Democrats believe is the coup de gras—an indictment authored by a hyper-partisan New York DA for a hush-money case that was adjudicated in civil court and won by Trump. 

There's little point in discussing the legal technicalities or the merits of the DA's indictment—positions have solidified on both sides of the issue. But it is worth considering this historic precedent—the first POTUS to ever be criminally indicted by an administration of an opposing party. And please, spare me the sanctimonious argument that "no one should be above the law." I've lived long enough to have seen unequal justice when applied to preferred elites (think: Edward Kennedy at Chappiquiddick or Hillary Clinton and the missing 33,000 emails purposely deleted from an illegal server—to name only two of hundreds of instances).The Democrats, driven by hatred of Trump, will celebrate this indictment, but seem unaware that in politics, what goes around comes around. There will be a time when the GOP regains complete control of the Congress and the presidency. When that happens, the viciousness of the Democrat's Trump pogrom will be remembered, and firebrands within the GOP will want similar action taken against one or more Dem leaders. I hope that doesn't happen, but it will.

The Democrats often talk about "threats to Democracy." Like many of their talking points, there is an unintentional element of psychological projection to their claim. The true threat to democracy is acting as if the USA were a banana republic in which those in power attempt to persecute (via show trials) and imprison their opposition. It is a vicious attempt to destroy opposing views and to use an increasingly weaponized legal system as a substitute for a democratic vote. 

Of course, there will be millions of words written by supposed political experts about this indictment and its effects, but the words of comedian Chris Rock, directed a few weeks ago to a predominantly Democratic audience of big wigs and politicians, might be the best summary of all:

“Are you guys really going to arrest Trump? Do you know this is only going to make him more popular? It’s like arresting Tupac. He’s just gonna sell more records. Are you stupid?”

The audience roared with laughter, but apparently, the crazy left held sway. To answer Chris: Yes, they are that stupid, or maybe vicious and vindictive is a better characterization. They're playing with the latest social media acronym—FAFO—and I suspect what they find will not be good for them or the country. 



*  The current POTUS, Joe Biden, is a cognitively disabled, corrupt Washington insider. He is an ally of the bureaucracy and a long time member of the deep state. For more than four decades, he has taken an 'every-man' stance while enriching himself and his family via business deals and cutout payments that are well-documented but never examined by a complicit media or any DA. Because he is a Democrat, the media protects Biden and makes excuses for his many serious failures. His administration has accomplished little of substance, but has presided over: (1) an authoritarian, rigid, and failed Covid policy and its ongoing negative impact on lives and livelihoods, (2) an increasingly partisan, weaponized, and corrupt Washington bureaucracy, (3) a divisive politics (particularly notable because Biden ran as a "uniter"), (4) an economy that is dangerously unstable, (5) high inflation due to profligate federal spending, (6) an open border, (7) a disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that bequeathed $80 billion (!!) in weapons to the taliban, (7) trillions in unnecessary and ineffectual spending, and (8) an authoritarian climate policy that will do nothing to "save the planet" but much to reward friends and hurt others. As the revered Barack Obama is said to have stated: "Never underestimate Joe's ability to f..k things up."

The past POTUS, Donald Trump, is a bombastic narcissist and a Washington outsider. He is a man who does not choose his words carefully, is pugnacious to a fault, punches down when criticized and often speaks before he thinks. His business dealings have been questionable and his business ethics are in doubt. He is hated by elites in both political parties, and is outright despised by Democrats who never truly accepted his defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016. They promulgated (with the assistance of their trained hamsters in the propaganda media) a number of outright lies and hoaxes in an effort to remove him from office and/or cripple his presidency. He has been impeached twice, investigated by a special prosecutor, accused of fomenting an "insurrection," and has had grand juries impaneled by three different (Democrat) DAs. He is persona non grata. Yet through all of this, his administration had a number of significant accomplishments—many benefiting the middle class:(1) high wage grow and (2) low unemployment), (3) criminal justice reform and (4) reduced poverty rates that benefited minorities. He emphasized (5) a program to increase vocational education training (again benefiting the middle class and minorities) and (6) revised trade policy with China, on-shoring many manufacturing jobs. During his administration (7) America became energy independent thereby reducing our dependence on Middle East sources. His administration (8) did much to control the flow of illegal immigrants across our southern border, (9) kept us out of foreign wars, and (10) authored the Abraham accords—an historic peace deal in the Middle East that had it not been jettisoned by the Biden administration, may have resulted in far broader benefits throughout the Middle East.

The bottom line is—consider the accomplishments and failures of each and then choose your poison.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Both Ways

My TV time this weekend was dedicated to the Sweet 16 and Elite 8—yes, my twice alma mater, UCONN, has returned to the Final 4 with four outstanding tournament wins after 9 years in the Wilderness ... and our local university, FAU, is in the Final 4 for the first time in its history. Wow!

After the games, I got an email from Netflix touting a limited series, The Night Agent, and decided, against my better judgement, to give it a watch on Sunday night. I binged a few episodes. 

What can I say—the show was a government-conspiracy, action adventure with a formulaic story arc, appropriately evil antagonists and lovable heroes, mediocre writing and acting, and all the necessary elements that will make it a trending hit.

Hollywood being Hollywood, there were the necessary DEI elements integrated within the casting and script. Fine, no problem there. But one thing always amazes me as Hollywood writers promote a left-leaning narrative. Their political ideology implies that a centralized government with near unlimited power can and should provide for our needs, control and/or censor any view that opposes the preferred narrative, and strive for "equity" of outcomes so that we achieve "fairness" in life. The amazing part is that they write scripts (think: the Bourne franchise) in which that same government is characterized as oppressive, violent, censorious, and malevolent.

In a blog post on the differences between equity and equality, "Professor Ornery" writes:

When dealing with the government, you should always assume that whether by design, malice, incompetence, or simply boredom, the worst outcome will be the most likely.

Finally, ask yourself why do all these people calling for government enforced equity and filled with assurances that government will make everything better, at the same time turn around and blame government for all their own ills and bad decisions? Why would anybody assume or argue that the same entity (filled with the same people) simultaneously deliberately causes, and then lovingly repairs, all problems in society? And why do you trust them to do so?

I suggest remembering two, supposedly trite, but worthwhile, phrases to live by.

The first is: Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

The second is: The nine most frightening words in the English language are: "I’m from the government and I’m here to help."

I'm not sure that Hollywood writers understand the profound conflict between their preferred political ideology and the stories that they write. They should remember that here is a third, admittedly trite, but worthwhile, phrase to live by: "You can't have it both ways."

UPDATE (03-28-2023):

In a loosely related story that goes to the quote: "When dealing with the government, you should always assume that whether by design, malice, incompetence, or simply boredom, the worst outcome will be the most likely," the Wall Street Journal reports that journalist Matt Taibbi got an unannounced visit from an IRS agent (think: the increasing weaponization of government agencies under Democrat rule) on the day he was set to testify on his findings that other government agencies tried to censor social media stories that ran against the Democrat narrative. This outrageous government attempt at intimidation (think: Lois Lerner of the IRS under Barack Obama) is becoming all too common. It must stop!

BTW, wasn't it Joe Biden who insisted on an additional $80 billion in additional funding for the IRS. Looks like they're using the money well—if you're a partisan big government fanboy.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

15 Days

This past week marked the third anniversary of "15 days to stop the spread"—the most catastrophically wrong implementation of a public health policy in history. Instead of firing Anthony Fauci, MD when he recommended a national economic and school lockdown, then-President Donald Trump acquiesced—partly because a panicked and partisan propaganda media would have skewered him as a "murderer" had he done the right thing and resisted Fauci et al and their insane recommendations.

Every day during the week beginning March 16, 2020, I wrote a post critical of the lockdowns and other covidiocy pushed by politicians and their media. Here are a few excerpts:

March 16, 2020:  "Now that COVIS-19 "testing" is coming on line in a big way, the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media need to pivot to the next topic that will increase fear, uncertainly and doubt (FUD) among members of the general public. After all, it's very important for the media (and their Dem masters) to keep the hysteria dial maxed out. No context, under any circumstances! Use language such as "cases skyrocketed!!!!" rather than a more measured, "As expected, there was an increase in cases as the progression of the virus continues."

"One of the topics recently chosen to spike FUD is the availability of "ventilators"—medical devices that are necessary in the rare cases when COVID-19 progresses into a full-blown pulminary threat (particularly among the old who have been admitted to an ICU)."

March 17, 2020:  "The response from the politically correct crowd would be that we've learned and are trying to damp the spread of COVID-19. There is some truth to that but as I noted in the body of this post, there are costs as well. When Hoyt writes: "The economic and societal disruption from the reaction to coronavirus is likely to be far worse to whatever damage the virus does," she's not far off the mark." 

March 18, 2020:  "At a recent news conference during which he announced near-draconian measures (school closures, shuttering of bars and restaurants, cancellation of any event with more than 10 people, etc., etc.) NY Governor Andrew Cuomo was asked whether the potential economic and societal damage caused by those measures (and related federal measures) had been weighed against the threat of COVID-19. With righteous indignation, Cuomo responded that when human lives (particularly the most vulnerable) are at stake, other costs have relatively little weight.


"... yes, Governor Cuomo, it is important to weigh the unintended by still very real damage (e.g., small business bankruptcies, mass unemployment, loss of life savings, economic damage to a middle class that has recently been doing very well) caused by our collective reaction to COVID-19.

"No doubt, some consideration of these things has been done (witness the usual Congressional bills that "protect" the constituencies that have been impacted), but it now appears that no leader (including Donald Trump) has the political courage to say, let's step back and consider the costs associated with shutting down the U.S economy. Worse, it appears that the "temporary" restrictions that have been put into place will now last not for weeks, but potentially, for months. [Incredibly, even I could have conceived that covidiocy would last for years!!] No politician wants to be the first to say—enough! [Turns out that one was—Gov. Ron DeSantis of my state of FL] They fear a fear-mongering media that is out of control and will second-guess any "uncaring decision" that "kills the elderly." 

March 19, 2020:  "As the economy slowly comes to a partial halt, the opinion of most politicians, virtually all of the media and many health-case professionals is that saving lives MUST be our #1 priority. In the abstract, that view is hard to argue, but it's critically important when adopting policies, legislation, and mass restrictions on people, businesses, and society as whole to base decisions on accurate data—not emotion, or anecdotes, or data that has been tainted in a variety of different ways.

"John P.A. Ioannidis (Professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University) has written a detailed paper on the importance of statistical analysis before potentially damaging economic and societal decisions are made by our current leadership at the local, state and federal levels. He writes: The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.

March 19, 2020 (a second post):  "I thought (well actually, I had hoped) that the mainstream media would recognize that their COVID-19 scoreboards, their hyperventilating use of words like "skyrocketed" and "soared" when referring to an absolutely predictable increase in COVID-19 cases and yes, deaths, their consistent use of worst case scenarios and provably incorrect statistics (like the canard that COVID-19 has a 6.35% morbidity, and their uber-partisan treatment of Donald Trump's handling of this crisis (e.g., that he called COVID-19 a hoax—and outright lie, or that he told Governors they were "on their own" in getting ventilators—another outright lie) would abate, and these so-called "journalists" would recognize their responsibility to our nation and tone it all down. Nope."

March 20, 2020:  "It's time—RIGHT NOW—for local, state and federal leadership to come to an understanding that the cure they have concocted may become far worse than the disease they are trying to battle. It's reasonable to argue that they have acted with the best of intentions, but that doesn't necessarily mean the the best of outcomes will be the result. If they inadvertently destroy our economy and severely impact the lives of tens of millions of working people—all in an effort to flatten the viral spread—they will have accomplished little.

Those at greatest risk are people over the age of 65 with a compromised health profile. And even among that group, COVID-19 is NOT Ebola. The vast, vast majority of seniors who contract the virus will recover. And the vast, vast majority of seniors are not selfish. They recognize that life has risks, including the occasional worldwide viral pandemic (no ... COVID-19 is hardly "unprecedented"), and turning the country and the economy upside down is not the best strategy for their children, their grandchildren, or the future in general."

Those of us who recognized the damage that insane policies driven by Covid hysteria would cause and who were near 100% correct from the beginning, tried ... we really tried to sound the alarm. Thinking back, it was like watching a slow motion train wreck. Horrifying and disgusting at the same time. 

And today, the same morons who did all of the damage are still in positions of authority; still claim they did the right thing, still continue their virtue signalling, and still have paid no personal price for the damage they have done.

Monday, March 13, 2023


A federal government whose only real goal, it seems, is to grow even larger as quickly as possible. 

A political party—the Democrats—whose only real goal, it seems, is to spend trillions on inefficient and unnecessary programs that do little to improve our country or its people, but much to "buy" votes among the constituencies who reliably vote Democratic in national elections. 

Another political party—the Republicans—whose only goal, it seems, is to avoid political blow back from a propaganda media that is nothing more than the marketing arm of their opposition, and therefore quietly acquiesces to the profligate spending that has become the norm.

A federal reserve whose only goals, it seems, are first to print money and flood our system with dollars to support the Democrats profligate spending and then, once inflation accelerates, do the right thing by raising interest rates to combat it.

An administration who only goal, it seems, is to tell us the economy is terrific while it bumbles forward with programs and policies, not to mention a proposed budget, that would put us even further in debt.

The economy is NOT okay and the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) provides an ominous indicator that the goals noted above will lead to heartache. The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:

The Treasury and Federal Reserve stepped in late Sunday to contain the financial damage from Friday’s closure of Silicon Valley Bank, guaranteeing even uninsured deposits and offering loans to other banks so they don’t have to take losses on their fixed-income assets.

This is a de facto bailout of the banking system, even as regulators and Biden officials have been telling us that the economy is great and there was nothing to worry about. The unpleasant truth—which Washington will never admit—is that SVB’s failure is the bill coming due for years of monetary and regulatory mistakes.

As the administration spent trillions on completely unnecessary bailouts and still more trillions on Covid relief that could have been completely avoided had we not listened to the lies that resulted in lockdowns and closures promulgated mostly by Democrats and their propaganda media, the Fed kept interest rates near zero. Then as 7% - 9% inflation flared (as it invariably would), it raised rates quickly.  The WSJ explains:

In a world of near-zero interest rates, SVB put the money in long duration fixed-income assets in search of a higher return. Regulators after the 2008 crisis had deemed these Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities nearly risk-free for the purpose of measuring bank capital. If regulators say they’re risk-free, banks and depositors may be less careful.

But those securities declined in value as the Fed took interest rates up quickly to break the inflation it helped to cause. SVB had enormous capital losses if it were forced to liquidate those assets before maturity. That’s exactly what happened as SVB customers withdrew their deposits. The San Francisco Fed regulates SVB and somehow missed this rising vulnerability. The Fed and Treasury will try to blame the bankers, but they are as much if not more culpable. The idea of elevating San Francisco Fed president Mary Daly to the Board of Governors seems preposterous after SVB.

It seems that in the 21st century, the federal government does far more harm than good. It is generally incompetent and ineffective at best, and dishonest, duplicitous and totalitarian, at worst. We need to starve it so it shrinks, but that won't happen. The result is a world in which SVBs become a common occurrence, economic displacement becomes the norm, and inflation ($5.00 gas and $7.00/doz. eggs) become commonplace. 

UPDATE (03-14-2023):

Jennifer Sey comments on how SVB is yet another unintended consequence of our disastrous Covid policies:

Lockdowns caused unprecedented disruption to the world’s economy and global supply chain, and the largest upward transfer of wealth in history.

Widespread business closures due to lockdowns caused mass layoffs of, primarily, hourly wage workers with little to no savings. Then the government spent money that we did not have so people could pay their rent and not starve. And then they did it again.

Of course, this caused inflation. Then the Fed raised interest rates to halt the inflation.

And now we are experiencing the ensuing disaster that is unfolding in real time. And the little guy is left holding the bag whether through exorbitant pricing of basic necessities like milk and eggs or small business investors wondering when and if they’ll be able to extract their money from SVB to pay their employees and vendors.

No, I’m not a banker. But it’s easy to see what happened and that’s the rough outline in the simplest possible terms.

You can’t shut the world down and think there will not be consequences. You just can’t.  

And yet, the Democrats and their trained hamsters in the propaganda media want to blame Trump for SVB. In a way, they're half right. Trump has culpability for allowing Anthony Fauci, MD to essentially dictate policy early in the pandemic. His insistence on a national lockdown was accepted by the Trump administration, and all the rest flowed from it.

A bit off topic for this post, but this tirade from the Victory Girls blog reflects my feelings about Saint Fauci pretty accurately:

We still have not seen the “Fauci Files” that Elon Musk said would be coming out in January, but, to be fair, there is a whole lot of Fauci stuff that has come out of Twitter. And, we now know that Dr. Anthony Fauci deliberately suppressed the lab leak theory because he didn’t want the “gain of function” research at the Wuhan lab to be traced back to the NIH funding that EcoHealth Alliance had gotten and given to the Chinese. We also know that Fauci and colleagues like Dr. Francis Collins deliberately left other scientists like Dr. Robert Redfield of the CDC out of the information loop, and smeared others like Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, all to keep their preferred narrative going. Still, Anthony Fauci doth protest too much. He just doesn’t know WHY people could be THIS mad at him ...

He lied about masks – first saying the public didn’t need them (the “noble lie” to make sure that medical providers had them), then saying the public needed to wear them, maybe even wear two of them.

He lied about schools – and the final straw was when he said it wasn’t safe for kids to return to school UNLESS Biden’s big “relief” package passed.

He lied about the vaccine’s effectiveness – and it cost people their jobs, and sometimes their lives.

When he is confronted about his part in spreading fear and panic, he lies and says that HE IS THE SCIENCE, how DARE you criticize him.

And then Democrats wonder why millions of us think he's a bad guy. No ... not just a guy "who was doing his best in an ever changing situation" ... a bad guy who never, ever should have censored other opinions, lied, and then lied again to suppress the fact that he indirectly funded the very gain-of-function research that made Covid a worldwide problem.


Saturday, March 11, 2023

Live Not by Lies

"Live not by lies."  Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1974

In a fascinating and undoubtedly controversial post, blogger "el gato malo" dissects the panicked (and often near-insane) reaction that dictated government public health policy over the past three years.  el gata malo argues that the many lies* that addressed Covid-19's "spread, risk, [and] mitigation ... have historical precedent and that the 'excess deaths' associated with the virus were as much due to a broad range of iatrogenic causes, not the virus itself." el gato malo writes (he/she doesn't use caps):

these were all lies told by people who either knew better or should have known better. every actual expert was sidelined and the social contagion of panic took center stage as the drama kids playing at being the science kids took the world on the greatest pseudoscientific joyride in human history. “story” overtook “science” and “epigram” shouted down “epidemiology.” 100 years of evidence based pandemic response programs were defenestrated and replaced with superstition driven diktat that “looked like doing something.”

and it has, predictably, fallen apart and is coming to be seen as the failure of nerve, failure of science, and failure of the asch conformity test that it was.

but that does not mean that it’s over.

For the past three years, millions of us have argued that fear of COVID was grossly overblown, that the reaction to it was a case of the story overtaking the science, and that "100 years of evidence-based pandemic response programs were defenestrated and replaced with superstition driven diktat" that did far more harm than good. 

In 2020, one political party allowed their hatred of a sitting president to drive them to applaud authoritarian mandates that were not only ineffective, but also sowed panic and profound societal/economic damage. Their policies hurt the poor, crippled children's ability to go to school and learn, and decimated many small businesses. That same party demonized those who asked questions about the authoritarian approach, attacked others who suggested alternatives, and in the end, presided over population that did absolutely no better that those that did not adopt fear-based policies.

In a truly fascinating discussion of the response to the 1918 Spanish Flu, el gato malo writes:

one of the enduring causes of fear during the 1918 flu was the way that it seemed to be killing otherwise young and healthy people (especially soldiers) in a matter of days. they would be a bit sick then suddenly die of massive organ failure and “wet hemorrhagic lungs.” the progression was incredibly fast, seemingly irreversible, and was stacking people who really ought to have been low risk in mortuaries like cordwood. this made risk, CFR, and IFR look horrifying and fear near universal.

if it could do this to a solider in his prime in a matter of days, every last one of us should be terrified.

He then goes on to suggest that many of these deaths were iatrogenic by discussing a new 'wonder drug' that was introduced in 1918:

aspirin had just come into widespread availability in 1918 (and bayer was rushing it to market for the pandemic). it was the new wowie-zowie drug and doctors (and especially militaries) all over the world fell in love with it. they prescribed it widely to those with spanish flu. in doses ranging from 8 to 31 grams per day. oopsie.

a typical aspirin today is 325mg and max dosing per day is ~4 grams.

a toxic dose is 200-300mg/kg of weight. that’s about 20g for a 180 pound person.

31g is “you’re going to die really, really fast and there is not a damn thing anyone can do to stop it once you take that dose.”

this is why incredible caution should be exercised around large departures from tested and true medical practice and new pharma modalities and products.

stop me if any of this starts to sound familiar. 
Indeed it does, unless you're too blinded by a combination of ideology, fear and lack of perspective to recognize it. Maybe history doesn't repeat, but it sure does rhyme. Think: ventilators, early in 2020 or later, mRNA vaccines with efficacy that was grossly oversold and side effects that were largely unreported or de-emphasized.

Now, the same party that applauded ineffective and damaging government policy and mandates expresses little interest in anything Covid. Understandably, they want to "move on." The origin of Covid—no interest. The troubling side effects of the mRNA vaccines—nothing to see there. A review of the actual deaths due to Covid vs. iatrogenic or natural deaths of people with Covid—incurious. The lies and the government's attempt to censor renowned experts and journalists who disagreed with the party's hero, Anthony Fauci, MD—unconcerned.

With the help of their trained hamsters in the propaganda media, they now try to tell us that they weren't really authoritarian when they invoked "emergency powers" that are still in existence in some locales; that they didn't really demonize those who refused to mask or get vaccinated; that they had the public's best interests at heart; that didn't really lie about the danger or the statistics and never, ever avoided providing context that would have mitigated fear and panic.

But here's the problem. They're doubling down on the lies, failing to admit that serious mistakes were made. And that means that they'll try to do it again when the next pandemic comes around. We can't let them.


*  In case you don't link to Dr. Scott Atlas' article, here's a list of the lies that were widely disseminated during the early days of the virus (circa 2020 to 2021). They led to widespread panic, bad policy, unimaginable damage to lives and livelihoods, and, unfortunately, many unnecessary deaths. Over the past three years, I've discussed each of these in many of my posts, but a final summary is worthwhile. The lies:

1. SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has a far higher fatality rate than the flu by several orders of magnitude.
2. Everyone is at significant risk to die from this virus.
3. No one has any immunological protection, because this virus is completely new.
4. Asymptomatic people are major drivers of the spread.
5. Locking down—closing schools and businesses, confining people to their homes, stopping non-COVID medical care, and eliminating travel—will stop or eliminate the virus.
6. Masks will protect everyone and stop the spread.
7. The virus is known to be naturally occurring, and claiming it originated in a lab is a conspiracy theory.
8. Teachers are at especially high risk.
9. COVID vaccines stop the spread of the infection.
10. Immune protection only comes from a vaccine.

The worst part of all of this is that these lies were often knowingly made. Even worse, the people who promulgated the lies will not apologize. They were driven by hubris and a political agenda. The people who embraced and believed these lies now seem incapable of admitting that they just aren't true.  To quote el gato malo: "Nothing is obvious to scared people."

Thursday, March 09, 2023


In mid-February, I posted on the strange feeling one gets when reading some of the more sophisticated responses that have been elicited from variants of LLMs like ChatGPT. The examples I provided have a creepy feel and could be interpreted to imply that these models are somehow sentient. My conclusion at that time was:

Sure, many will argue it's simply a trick of language manipulation. But then again, isn't it possible that when humans "think" all that we do is manipulate language to express ideas and create mental images that others can grasp. That's pretty much what LaMDA did in its conversation with Lemoine.

Over the next few years, we can and will move the goal posts, redefining what is required for sentience. But something BIG is happening, and it's happening right now. And yeah, "I’m not sure if we are ready for it.

I didn't provide a basis for arguments against sentience, and that's not fair. Here are two insightful comments. The first by an unnamed commenter directed toward Alex Berenson who wrote about the possibility of sentience:

Hey Alex, love your work! But on this topic, you're a bit off. ChatGPT is a Large Language Model, which is just a predictive engine that tries to generate desired responses based upon the prompt. It can seem sentient, but it's just trying to provide requested information.

Point being, it should not be used as if it were sentient, because it isn't. Thus, throwing hypothetical questions at it will only result in bizarre attempts to generate an appropriate response.

The algorithms that go into this thing are incredibly dense. For example, one thing they did at OpenAI was to create an algorithm that converts every word, letter and I believe sentence into a numeric value, primarily so that traditional statistical analysis could be done on the corpus of text used to train the model. It's deep, but not really "thoughtful" per se. It's just a recommendation engine with tons of information stored in its database.

Also, it has a set of guardrails installed to prevent it from doing weird things, but those are somewhat clunky and not very effective. Moreover, Microsoft didn't properly port over those guardrails (I'm told) when they attached it to Bing. So, that's part of the challenge here.
Berenson responds:

Fair enough.

My answer.

My question to you - as to everyone else who makes these perfectly reasonable objections - is simply this: how do you know that the way ChatGPT is generating its responses and claimed awareness of those responses is meaningfully different - or produces a meaningfully different result - than the way human brains generate consciousness (and self-consciousness)?
And in response to those questions, we get this comment from and a second commenter, "Caleb Beers," on the Unreported Truths substack:

Grab a small object that is near you, right now, throw it up in the air, and catch it.
To control a robotic arm that does the same thing, a computer has to do a lot of fancy math. But you didn't do any math there. You just caught the object. The fact that you and the computer do the same thing doesn't mean that you did in the same way -- in computer speak, the same abstraction does not mean the same implementation.

Another example: you can screw and unscrew a simple philips-head screw with your fingers. You can also use a screwdriver. But that doesn't mean that the screwdriver is similar to your hand in any meaningful way, or that your hand is some kind of "biological screwdriver".

What LLMs do is just fundamentally dissimilar to what the human brain does on many levels. Did you do any statistical analysis in order to figure out what to write in this article? No? Then you're not doing things the way that the LLM does. The LLM is not a human brain. It's not even "like" a human brain, any more than a screwdriver is "like" a hand.

Until I see a convincing case to the contrary, I'm gonna assume that it's a dumb machine. It doesn't "want" anything.

This is also why I'm skeptical of the possibility of being "uploaded to" a computer. The digital switches flipping aren't "you" any more than a reflection of you in a mirror is "you".

And finally, yet another Berenson anonymous commenter provides a worthwhile take:

... When we say “artificial intelligence” we aren't saying “artificial consciousness”.

With one small step in the human brain, 200,000 years ago, we developed the ability the represent the world symbolically. Language is based on symbolism. Take, for instance, someone at a restaurant. They read on the menu that a dish has lima beans in it. They ask the server, “Does this have lima beans?” “Yes, it does.” “I don't like lima beans; I'll order something else.”

In this exchange, the word lima bean is read, said, and understood, but at no point are lima beans ever actually encountered. The customer is choosing a dish based on symbolic representation. No other animal does this. Habituation and classical conditioning might mean that a dog, being fed lima beans day after day, will eventually stop going to the bowl if they don't like lima beans, but this is called “direct contingency learning” and is different from the symbolic learning done by RFT.

This ability is incredible. Students can learn about Mesopotamia, Russia, and WWII without ever encountering any of them directly- through the use of language. This type of learning is also weaponized by manipulative people ... .

This is different than wisdom or intuition. A creature
armed with language can derive networks of symbols and do high order thinking based on these networks ...

Hmmm. All three commenters make salient arguments. Biological humans don't do conscious statistical analysis before we think or speak, and yes, both your finger and a screwdriver can place torque on a screw, but they are fundamentally different mechanisms, as are your brains and an LLM, and yes ... intelligence is not consciousness.

But things in AI are moving very fast. And there is always the black box metaphor. We may not fully understand what happens inside the "intelligence" black box, but if the outputs that occur from a human black box can't be distinguished from the outputs from and AI black box, we get ever closer to an AGI. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 06, 2023

Hotel California

I'm traveling internationally and have visited a number of countries that are all socially democratic. At the moment I'm currently in Argentina. In speaking with locals, they applaud the general availability of " free" health care, "free" college tuition, and a variety of other benefits that accrue to the "worker" class. Those are undoubtedly very nice perks, although accessing them is limited by demand, and many, many of their citizens have to wait in very long lines* to get their free stuff.  But those same citizens also lament high taxes, the consequent impediments to social and economic mobility, and accept rampant inflation with resignation. The government of Argentina revalues it currency every other week!

The problem of course is governments that have adopted fantasy thinking. High levels of spending and the debt that is a natural consequence of it (there simply isn't enough money available regardless of how high taxes become or how much they attempt to tax the "rich"), are shrugged off as necessary and socially just. The problem is that this approach is unsustainable over the long term.

And that brings us to the United States. Socialists like Bernie Sanders** or his acolytes (think: AOC) use the tired trope that demands that the rich MUST pay their "fair share." The fact that the top five percent of income earners provide well over 50 percent of all income taxes is irrelevant because ... social justice!! It appears that the Biden administration has adopted Bernie's philosophy and regularly espouses his "fair share" trope.

The same is occurring at the state level in far too many blue states. As I have mentioned in a number of posts over the years, the states have a unique challenge. When voting at the ballot box changes nothing, people can vote with their feet. Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore report:

Lawmakers in California, Illinois, New York and Washington state have proposed new taxes on wealth, and higher income taxes for the rich are on the table in Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Residents of these seven blue states are already among the highest-taxed. The states are also in financial trouble. California and New York impose income tax rates that can exceed 13%, but their budget deficits are mounting. Lawmakers in Sacramento and Albany think the answer is to soak the rich even more. Yet Florida, Tennessee and Texas impose no state income tax and all have sturdy surpluses. Their coffers are so full, they are looking to cut taxes. How is that possible?

One reason is that low-tax red states are importing capital and wealth from the high-tax blue states. For more than three decades we have examined state-by-state financial and demographic data collected by the Internal Revenue Service and the Census Bureau. The latest numbers make clear this trend is accelerating.

In the past 10 years, six of the seven high-tax blue states have had a net loss of population to other states, totaling nearly five million residents. (Washington, which has no income tax, has gained over the decade.) They’ve also lost almost a quarter-trillion dollars in cumulative taxable income: California $50 billion, Connecticut $14 billion, Illinois $47 billion, Maryland $14 billion, Massachusetts $13 billion, New Jersey $26 billion and New York $79 billion. That’s only the money on personal income-tax returns. It doesn’t count lost revenue from corporate profits or sales.

Desperate for revenue to feed their attempt at social justice, Laffer and Moore suggest that these blue states may become much like Hotel California—a fictional place memorialized by the Eagles where you can check in, but you can't check out. This approach may be unconstitutional (one can only hope) but regardless, it smacks of political anxiety.

The last three stanzas of the Eagles' classic song are these:

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis
Mirrors on the ceiling
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, 'We are all just prisoners here
Of our own device"
And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man
"We are programmed to receive
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave

The metaphor is there. All you have to do is see it. 


*  e.g., In every country I've visited, "free university" is achieved only after a student passes difficult and rigorous entrance exams. In some of these countries fewer than 30 percent gain entrance to "free" universities and others go to trade school or enter the work force.

** Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. I&I comments on Bernie's sensible differentiation between equity and equality, and political popularity.