September 8th, 2008

If you can stand one more post about Palin

If they won't let her talk to the press, what are they afraid she might say? It can't be stuff like not knowing the history of the pledge of allegiance or what she said in her speech. Those are things that piss off a lot of the people I know, but the first isn't important in terms of getting elected and the second is what they wanted her for. So whatever they're worried about has to be something else.

It does look as though she isn't going to be the VP candidate. So, was choosing her a clever plan or an impulsive mistake?

I've heard that McCain really wanted Lieberman. Does this mean McCain gets what his first choice?

Comparing bad regulation and bad management

My impression is that, in the US, regulation is like everyone over the age of 7 having to wear a 30 pound pack all the time. It's a very bad rule for children, sick people, and old people, and a cost generally, but most people can deal with it.

Bad management is more like Parkinson's disease, or something else equally serious.

On false witness

In case you were wondering where that "Procter & Gamble is Satanic" rumor came from.....

A comment from Evan:

I have not given up debunking, and I'll tell you why.

Years ago in college I took a class in computer-simulation design. The final project was a simulation on the subject of our own choosing, and I decided to simulate the spread of rumors through a population. I essentially used an epidemiological model, and included controls to configure various probabilities--the odds that someone who believed a given rumor would relay it to someone else; the odds that the someone else would believe it, and so on. I did my best to put these values into ranges that matched real-world behavior, and then I twiddled the knobs to see what would happen.

One of the knobs controlled the probability that someone who knew a story to be false would forcefully debunk it whenever s/he heard it. And that knob turned out to be astonishingly sensitive and powerful. In the hundreds of scenarios I ran, I found that a tiny shift in the probability of that one factor--a difference as small as one part in ten thousand--could be the difference between a rumor being universally believed (except for a handful of skeptical cranks) and a rumor being universally forgotten (except for a similar handful of credulous cranks).

Sometimes it took quite a long time for false rumors to be completely quelled. And the simulation didn't take into account a change in the odds over time, as debunkers grow demoralized and give up challenging the rumor when they hear it. But it seems to me that just strengthens the argument for debunking--there should be as many people linking to snopes and hitting "reply all" as possible, so that there'll still be enough as their numbers dwindle. Every little bit helps.

Yes, of course there are malicious actors out there. Of course there are people who want to infect everyone's brains with viruses and then exploit their symptoms for financial or political gain. Being an antibody is (I'm not religious but I can think of no other way to convey this) a holy cause, requiring faith.

Link thanks to liz_marcs.