Archive for the 'politics' Category


Canada Votes 2015

The thing about elections is that the country’s basically voting on what to have for lunch for the next five years, and every option is a shit sandwich. Mostly you only get offered cat shit and pig shit and bowel-infection shit and oh god is that a tapeworm and basic pride won’t let you dignify the farce by choosing, but once in a while you’re offered a horse shit sandwich and, horrified, you find yourself thinking well at least it’s high in fibre….

At least Peter Mansbridge gets to say “Prime Minister Trudeau” again; you can tell he likes it.


Vive la hellaflush libre

Oh, Québec.  You’re so… so… would you fucking separate already?!

For those among you who aren’t acquainted with “hellaflush” — and if you aren’t, you might want to stop reading now and think about something nice instead — this is basically the automotive equivalent of forbidding people from wearing saggy pants.  It’s of dubious utility and can be imaginatively construed as a safety risk, but mostly it’s associated with non-white youth who may or may not be up to no good. Therefore, it enrages and terrifies old people who, if there was a loving and merciful god out there, would be dead (or at least too deep in the grips of dementia to legislate) by now.  Did you miss my subtle implication?  This is Québec’s ruling class being racist again.

“Oh, but negative camber and stretched-out tires are dangerous!”  Yes, they are.  So is not mounting winter tires when the temperature drops below freezing — probably about a factor of ten more dangerous — but I don’t see a law about that.  For that matter, driving in rain or snow (or summer swarms of insects) with worn-out windshield wipers is about the closest you’re likely to come to vehicular manslaughter without actually trying to murder someone (or being Ted Kennedy) but nearly everyone fuckin’ does that as a matter of course.  Replacing those wiper blades every couple of seasons is haaaaaard.

Hey, how many people actually check the wear indicators on their tires more than once every never?  I’m just asking questions here.  Obviously, Québecois must be pretty up on their car maintenance if hellaflush is at the top of their road-safety hit list.


All linky, no thinky 2: The Linkening

So I’m joining the rising tide of anti-intellectualism that’s destroying Classical Liberal Arts Institutions, or whatever, and taking a course on reactive programming on Coursera (one of those MOOCs that’s destroying &c.).  Feels good to stretch my brain again; I’ve wanted an excuse properly to learn Scala for a while, and maybe this time around I’ll actually grok monads.  (If you’re wondering what “reactive programming” is, it’s writing Erlang in languages that aren’t Erlang.  So far as I can tell, at any rate.)


Is fairness a process thing or an outcome thing?  I suspect most of us’ll pick one until we come across an instance of the other we don’t like, at which point things go all Black Monolith and we club each other with femurs.

Money shot:

As I see it, many upper middle class parents desire their child to be slightly more successful than they are, and in related but not identical fields and ways.

Duh, you say, which tells me you haven’t read it.  “But why wouldn’t you prefer to hire a better worker?”  Why didn’t you buy a Bentley Mulsanne instead of a used Camry?  “So practical!”  Shut up, you’ve made my point.  Why hire a superstar developer for a gajillion dollars when all you need is someone to poke node.js with a stick?  “But assholes drive Bentleys!”  You think Mark Zuckerberg’s an asshole, don’t you?  “Huh?”  Just scroll down already.

The real insight here is into the minds of so-called “consumer advocates”.

Teetering dangerously close to reaggravating my outrage fatigue.

Oh look, a nice comforting hobby-horse.  Meta-analysis shows that “saturated fat is not the problem”.  No shit, buttercup.  Fat loss is widely correlated with improved cardiovascular health, and a fat loss diet is, de facto, high in saturated fat coming from your own god damn adipocytes.  Here’s the paper’s author giving me an enormous confirmation-bias boner:

Saturated fat has been demonised ever since Ancel Keys’s landmark “seven countries” study in 1970. This concluded that a correlation existed between the incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol concentrations, which then correlated with the proportion of energy provided by saturated fat. But correlation is not causation. Nevertheless, we were advised to cut fat intake to 30% of total energy and saturated fat to 10%.” The aspect of dietary saturated fat that is believed to have the greatest influence on cardiovascular risk is elevated concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Yet the reduction in LDL cholesterol from reducing saturated fat intake seems to be specific to large, buoyant (type A) LDL particles, when in fact it is the small, dense (type B) particles (responsive to carbohydrate intake) that are implicated in cardiovascular disease.

We make kids go to school because it’s “good for them”, and everyone agrees that it’s “good for” kids to go to college.  So why not round them up at gunpoint, herd them into cattle cars, and send ’em off to West Bumfuck State?

As odd as it may sound, the majority of time and resources of the FTC is not spent on punishing bad business practices as authorized in the FTC Act. The agency overwhelmingly concentrates on enforcing another act also passed in 1914, the Clayton Act, and specifically section 7, which prohibits mergers and acquisitions where the effect “may be substantially to lessen competition, or to tend to create a monopoly.”

This is why I don’t blog about politics any more:

Pierce, Rogers and Snyder find that political partisans are more upset about an election loss than a random sample of parents were upset by the Newtown shootings.

An interesting discussion on how humans can add value to computer programs when those programs are really, really good.  The context there is chess, which is a pretty well-understood game of finite complexity.  I claim that humans have been doing this for decades in software development, whose practical complexity is limited only by what you can convince your publisher is actually possible.  Worried about computers taking over your job?  Computers have taken over mine on the regular over the past two decades, and as a result I keep getting better and more interesting jobs.

“Creative destruction” is something that most people who aren’t raging anarchocapitalists like to write off as abstract, idealistic propaganda.  Fortunately, Bryan Caplan is a raging an-cap, and he’s set it all out in time-series graphs so you can actually see it.

I have to admit, I threw this in just for the shock value.  But see previous no-think-link about college being good for kids.

Why do altruists help people?  Because they want to be seen helping people.  This should surprise precisely no-one.

Rob Ford lol.


Tune in next time for part 3, when we’ll discover whether this series is better-on-evens (Star Trek) or better-on-odds (Back to the Future)… or just shit (The Fast and the Furious).


Rob Ford’s new breakout single…

DRUN-ken STU-por.

Stay tuned for the return of “All Linky, No Thinky”.  Probably.


Quis custodiet etc.

I don’t have the energy to blog about the NSA’s data-harvesting the way I might once have, but that’s okay, because Mike Masnick, Mike Riggs, and some guy on Reddit have said everything I’d have said (and more).  While the third link is presently lodging itself deep in my midbrain to nourish my sense of nameless, protean dread for the next few months, my frontal lobe would like to point out that Masnick’s post is the most immediately concerning (and Riggs’s post is why we’re fucked).  For the next few decades, at least (although the Germans were probably saying the same thing in 1931), I’m less concerned about secret-police brownshirts rounding up political dissidents* than I am about individual shitbirds using the data for their own nefarious purposes.  (Some say this is already happening.)  Those of you who might protest that the NSA is “only” storing metadata might consider the mischief caused if a true-believer with the courage of s/h/its convictions extracted a list of the phone numbers of people who’d called Planned Parenthood clinics within the past few months.  Other examples might occur to you.


* The “police rounding up dissidents” rant is a Drug War topic, and is ably covered elsewhere


On public shaming and the expected utility thereof

Via Eric Crampton we discover this post by Timothy Burke:

It’s long and difficult to do justice with an excerpt, so I’ll quote this teaser and hope that it’ll motivate you to click through:

I heard just a small bit of a story on NPR this morning about “crunch time” in family life, where working parents feel the pressure of getting their kids fed with a decent meal, finished with homework, and to sleep at a reasonable hour, and how exercise and play both tend to fall out of the picture many days.

The segment I heard featured a woman who talked about how she cried when she saw the NPR solicitation for the story on Facebook and another mother who talked about how she didn’t think this is what family life was all about. And then the experts came on and said, “Everybody knows what they’re supposed to do” (in terms of making sure kids get enough exercise and eat well to avoid obesity) and concluded that what we really need to do is figure out why so few people do what they know they’re supposed to do.

In brief and incomplete terms: Burke laments the contemporary nanny discourse in which the Experts blame horrible social phenomena like kids playing too many hours of videogames on “noncompliance”, and then chide the noncompliant — and encourage others to do so as well — for being “a burden on the system”:

If you want an explanation of the meanness of 21st Century American public discourse, for the fractures in the body politic, this will do as a starting place. “Get that guy to wear his helmet, because otherwise he’s going to cost you money.” “Get that woman to lose weight, because otherwise she’s going to cost you money.” “Hassle that couple because their kid plays too many video games and might slightly underperform in school and not make the contribution to net productivity that we are expecting of him.”

We are offered a thousand reasons to complain of other people’s behavior (and to excoriate and loath our own) on the grounds that it will cost us too much. That we should talk about what is good and bad, right and wrong, mostly in terms of the selfish consequences, or at best, in terms of the kind of closeted idea of a collective interest that neoliberalism dare not directly speak of–sort of the nation, sort of the economy, sort of the community, but really none of those directly or clearly.

Now, Dr. Crampton has done an excellent job of phrasing the post in terms of the brilliant diversity of personal utility functions, and if I haven’t persuaded you by now that you should go read Burke’s excellent post in full I’m simply not able to do so.  But I can add one more very speculative wrinkle from the perspective of a glib dilettante physiology nerd.

Burke offers this rebuttal to the idea that we ought to go around shaming each other into what the experts tell us is good behaviour:

“Stop costing me money” in a society that also protects the autonomy of individual choice is a perverse and counterproductive angle of approach: it makes me want to do more of whatever that is up until I’m not allowed to any longer. It is, ultimately, the voice of the Boss, and at least for now, we can still say, most of the time, that the experts and the government and the human resource specialists and the doctors are not the Boss of Me. Small wonder that many policy wonks and technocratic experts flirt so relentlessly with prohibition and restriction as the big stick behind the soft talk.

I’ll offer another: By constantly policing each other, by constantly monitoring our behaviour for and censoring our discourse against anything that might invite expert-mandated criticism from others, we turn ourselves and others into tightly-wound highly-strung chronic stress machines.  This leads to chronic systemic inflammation with nonzero probability, and chronic systemic inflammation is, if not the root of all evil, certainly a top-level directory (and probably a big one, like /usr).  Any cost-benefit analysis of nannyism that doesn’t take into account the health effects of this sort of pervasive stressor, and its downstream pathologia, is incomplete at best.


For the win

I have nothing to add:

“Everybody with half a brain is coming to California”

— Governor Jerry Brown


Less killer, more filler

I’ll post something substantive one of these days, really I will.

Turd for thought: Most (better than 80%?) of the arguments on both sides of this purportedly-new “national conversation on guns” prove far too much.  Example: The administrative arguments against arming teachers by mandate (e.g. “more guns in non-enthusiasts’ hands means more negligent discharges”) apply just as well to arming police officers, although the proportions may vary somewhat.  The administrative arguments in favour of arming teachers by mandate (e.g. “the right person with the right tool in the right place can solve a violent problem before anyone gets hurt”) apply just as well to arming… er, everyone by mandate (and again the proportions may vary somewhat).  I’m not sure that pressing a heater into a sixteen-year-old 7-11 clerk’s hands as a condition of his employment is a fantastic idea regardless of how often stop-n-robs get shot up vice elementary schools.  These are not easy questions, let alone questions with party-line answers.

Now that you’ve read — or at least skipped over — my political content for the month, how about we go with some more metal?  I’m in a particularly nerdy mood lately so here’s some Hobbit-inspired Summoning:

Still clanks more brass than anything you’ve ever heard on radio.

anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

I say fuck a lot



Statistics FTW