Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Political Jargon: A Somewhat Immodest Proposal

Fellow denizens of the net:

     I move we realign a lot of terminology in our country's political vernacular to be more consistent through history.  Specifically, the following jargon needs to be addressed:

Liberal -- We ought to use this term only in respect to the liberal tradition present in English and American history, typically dated back to Edmund Burke (though really present in society at least as far back as King John was forced to sign the Great Charter).  This consists of a trend towards more freedom of speech and religion.  If any current political movement can be said to express the ideals of this tradition it would be the Libertarian Party.  The term has nothing to do historically with Democratic Socialism, and it would be inadvisable to continue using it in a manner that suggests a relation.

Moonbattery -- This term could potentially refer to a Lunar weapon emplacement, which is far too awesome to leave it as a derogatory term referring to those who believe that criminals follow laws, that government is a wealth creator, and/or those who simply suffer from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).

Reform -- We ought to only apply this particular term when a plan of action demonstrably improves a specific program, either by decreasing costs or improving efficiency or effectiveness.  Making only cosmetic changes, or making changes which will obviously worsen the situation should not be considered as reform.

The Political Spectrum / The Right-Left Axis -- In regards to this, it really is an overgeneralization, and always has been.  I would recommend dropping it altogether from our vernacular.  If we must continue its use, it should refer to the classic distinction between the party of the court and the party of the country, republicans versus monarchists, or in the US, federalism versus states' rights.  If I were to put this in terms of modern pundits, think Bill O'Reilly as your typical lefty, Rush Limbaugh as probably dead center, and Nick Gillespie as your typical righty.  Such a spectrum would more accurately be in line with our history.

Grassroots/Astroturf -- I'm in favor of throwing both terms out, because while it ought to be seen as pathetic when you have to pay people to agree with you, I think we're intelligent enough to view _any_ idea thrown out in the public venue abstractly (regardless of who/where it came from).  It does not seem useful to make a distinction between opinions based on what occupation the person comes from.  Bad ideas are bad ideas, and good ideas are good ideas no matter who came up with them.

Expert -- There are certain subjects which require such specific layers of knowledge and understanding that I think most people implicitly understand that the person involved really does deserve to be taken credible.  Then there's everything else:  history, sociology, political science, economics, literature, art, psychology, business, marketing, etc.  The only expertise involved in this list of topics is what we all learned in high school -- the ability to analyze information and report on it.  I'm not sure even a differentiation between professional and amateur would be in order for any of the aforementioned "skills."

Welfare -- Basically, this ought to return to referring to infrastructure that maintains, promotes, and/or improves public well-being.  It should not refer to any private goods or services given to a specific individual.

Global Warming -- Either make this term refer only to the kind of pseudo-science Al Gore endorses, or use it only in the sense of a layman's term for the Greenhouse Effect.  I get tired of having to explain that I think AGW is a hoax, not trying to claim the aforementioned scientific phenomena doesn't happen.

And that's it...for now.  I may think of some more later, but readjusting this stuff would make politics a lot clearer and more consistent not only for us now, but in keeping a consistent historical context for progeny's sake.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some MATLAB functions to create matrices representing steps in Gaussian Elimination

function interchangeRows = interchangeRows(i, j, n, m)
A = eye(n,m);
A(i,i) = A(j,j) = 0;
A(i,j) = A(j,i) = 1;
interchangeRows = A;

function multiplyRowbyScalar = multiplyRowbyScalar(j, alpha, n, m)
A = eye(n,m);
A(j, j) = alpha;
multiplyRowbyScalar = A;

function multiplyRowIbyScalarAddRowJ = multiplyRowIbyScalarAddRowJ(i, j, alpha, n, m)
A = eye(n, m);
A(j, i) = alpha;
multiplyRowIbyScalarAddRowJ = A;