November 14, 2012

‘Kenny Boy’ Salazar and the ‘Most open administration in history’

‘Most open administration in history’ my a--

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, by refusing to take questions about wild horse roundup and possible slaughter, at a public event, even if it was Election Day, exemplifies just how much it is Just.Another.Politician.™ at the helm of the White House.

The issue in question starts at about the 4-minute mark.

Unfortunately, Obama’s not the best at being Just.Another.Politician.™ in some ways. On the plus side, maybe “Kenny Boy” could PLEASE teach Dear Leader to get some cojones like this?

Second, this shows Team Obama isn't all that “green,” really. So, don’t expect much change on global warming issues in his second term.

Third, the wild horse issue is convoluted (aside from Kenny Boy's seeming ethics lapse). Fourth, people have eaten horsemeat for millennia, folks. Unless you're a vegetarian, you've got no room to complain, IMO.

My personal take? If sterilizations aren’t working well enough, and not enough people are buying wild horses to keep, other people WILL buy them to slaughter. Isn’t it better to have them transported shorter distances to be slaughtered in better-inspected US slaughterhouses, rather than Mexican ones?

November 13, 2012

Is the Internet conscious?

Now, my philosophy has no problem with imputing consciousness to non-carbon beings or creatures. (We would, of course, call anything with consciousness a "being" or a "creature" and not just an "it.")

Well, Massimo Pigliucci has a good discussion of claims about the consciousness, or not, of the Internet, here.

I agree with him that today's Internet is not conscious, but that, at some unknown date, it may become so. I also agree with what I take as his tacit thought that the "unknown date" isn't happening in the next few years. Sit down, Ray Kurzweil.

That said, especially on issues like this, Massimo gets some ... "interesting" comments and commenters. Baron and Dave S, definitely, on issues like this.

Per Baron and some of his interests in other blogs and such, I riff on Hanns Johst (not Hermann Göring): "When I hear the word 'noetic,' I reach for my revolver!"

My thought? Without going down Kurzweil's road, or Michio Kaku's, but with taking Lynn Margulis' idea of "symbiosis" beyond just carbon-based life (sorry, Massimo, you're being too restrictive there), we might talk about a symbiosis for a new type of consciousness at some point.

But, even that, rather than just talk about conscious humans being helped by the Internet, is some point away. And, if that symbiosis does become conscious, it will surely eliminate for now and beyond, the idea of the Internet having a free-standing, non-symbiotic consciousness.

That said, like SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, our definition of "consciousness" may be too narrow. Or looking in the wrong corners.

But, the Internet is not currently conscious, or even close to it.

And, contra Baron and a few Jains, hammers sure as hell aren't conscious and never will be.

November 12, 2012

John Jay, the first US Secretary of State

John Jay, by Gilbert Stuart/From Wikipedia
Yes, you read that header correctly. Of course, that’s not reality.

But, in the next of my occasional series of posts on counterfactual history, and especially counterfactual political histories, he IS the first Secretary of State.

And, there’s solid actual history behind it.

In fact, George Washington offered John Jay the position first. Only after he turned it down did Washington look to Thomas Jefferson.

So, what might have turned out differently had Jay taken the offer rather than eventually accepting the Chief Justiceship at the Supreme Court.

First, I’ll say that Jay stays two full terms, ingratiates himself more with Washington, and, in the process, builds up a Middle Atlantic power base. Among the side results, John Adams gets more marginalized among possible Federalist successors to Washington. To some degree, Hamilton may. More on him below.

Jefferson certainly gets more marginalized, as well more radicalized by remaining in France during the Terror and making some impolitic statements about it.

As a result, accepting the truth that Washington won’t, and deciding he wants a national-level political future, Jay forms the first political alliance of America, before Jefferson, meeting with Henry Lee, aka “Light Horse Harry” Lee and suggesting him for the vice presidency in a “team.” It works.

Hamilton remains outside the new government, at least at first. However, he maintains more cordial relations with Jay than he did with Adams in reality. 

Like Adams did, Jay avoids war with France, but smartly vetoes Alien and Sedition Acts legislation.

Result? Jefferson looks for partners in 1800 and lays on Burr, as in reality. Both parties court Adams for a dignified version of an “endorsement,” but he passes.

Hamilton works to negate Burr in New York, get non-Adams Federalists in New England, and succeeds. He opts to remain, again, outside of government The country finds a need for a 12th Amendment as Jay and Lee tie. Lee gracefully persuades the House to elect Jay; Hamilton works to this end, too.

Lee runs in 1804 against Madison. Elbridge Gerry thinks Madison is not anti-federalist enough and runs on his own. The race goes to the House and Lee wins.

Hamilton, meanwhile, eventually decides to work to become president of the Bank of the United States, having generated less personal antagonism from Burr in 1800 than in reality. As the first Bank of the United States faces renewal issues ahead, and Hamilton is unsure of how “sound” Lee is, from his point of view, on the Bank, he looks for moderate anti-Federalists/Democratic-Republicans, as well as Federalists, with whom to deal. This includes “Federalist” collaborator James Madison.

At this point, I will break off the alternative history, as the degree of speculation grows.

But, had Jay, with hindsight, seen how little work the Supreme Court would do, seen how the Secretary of State position could become a “launching pad,” and decided he wanted to launch himself past Adams, all of this actually could have happened.