Monday, 13 October 2014

Proofiness

"We are lucky to have a PM who is an expert in so many fields....it makes you wonder why we are paying so many people to do jobs Stephen Harper could easily do himself."
-Melvin Argue, in a posted comment in a Post Media article (http://o.canada.com/news/national/stephen-harper-intervenes-in-purchase-of-new-missiles-source)

One of my favourite authors on mathematics is Charles Seife. He wrote Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. He also wrote another book called, Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception.

In the intro section of Proofiness he writes:

Our world is now awash in proofiness. Using a few powerful techniques, thousands of people are crafting mathematical falsehoods to get you to swallow untruths. Advertisers forge numbers to get you to buy their products. Politicians fiddle with data to try and get you to reelect them. Pundits and prophets use phony math to get you to believe predictions that never seem to pan out. Businessmen use bogus numerical arguments to steal your money. Pollsters, pretending to listen to what you have to say, use proofiness to tell you what they want you to believe.

Sometimes people use these techniques to try and convince you of frivolous and absurd things. Scientists and others have used proofiness to show that Olympic sprinters will one day break the sound barrier and that there's a mathematical formula that determines who has a perfect butt. There's no limit how absurd proofiness can be. (Proofiness, p.4)

In a word, these people, including Stephan Harper, are willing to "commit sociology" to advance their own interests. They're relying on (counting on) our basic ignorance and fear of anything mathematical to make us behave in ways they'd like us to behave—whether we behave exactly as they want us to or achieve inaction out of frustration or confusion...the house always wins.

That is, the house wins—in this case—if we let it. For the anti-intellectual it is utterly hopeless. The reason, though, all is not hopeless is that we're still capable of thought and honest, critical examination of our basic principles and values of life and then decide what we will do or will not do with a piece of information or fact.

The piece where Melvin Argue is quoted above provides an example of a seemingly relatively harmless politic play (I mean, who really cares which fat-cat gets the contract?). But to regard it as harmless misses a whole complex of public accounting principles, the checks and balances of good governance and even the history of our democratic society where principles of good and responsible government have been used to shed blood and offer up Canadian souls as the ultimate sacrifice. Any one of these reason should suffice to warrant serious investigation or debate in the House of Commons.

But Harper has been able to make a sad mockery of our society and hard-won democratic institutions with (apparently) nary a peep from Canadians and much to the glee of his base, his financiers and the now-bloated media monitoring system he has bought for partisan purposes with Canadian tax dollars.

The oft-used phrase that the Canadian media is biased against Harper's conservative 'values' is a much useful propaganda tool not because the 'leftist media elites' are really against Harper but because the journalistic tradition in Canada has yet a strong bent towards the notion of its civil duties and the belief that an informed citizenry is essential to the vitality of our society as a whole, and Harper does not really make the cut under that system of values.

If there was any authenticity to Harper he wouldn't, shouldn't be mewling every time the system of checks and balances demands solid workmanship to pass his and the PMO's half-baked, anti-democratic ideas that would serve his short-term interests but have long-term detrimental consequences to the Canadian society.

Now, is that the type of character in leadership our 150 years of existence should accept even implicitly?

Our system works and works beautifully. Non-violent, non-coercive and democratic means and institutions are at our disposal. On July 14, 1776 the colonies of the New World issued a declaration against an instituted oligarchy that Harper seems intent on imposing upon the regular citizenry. The Post Media piece should be, must be interpreted as a serious breach and in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, which in part says:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html)

Jay

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