Monday, January 23, 2017

No, It Shouldn't Matter

Worse than I'd expected.  And Atrios is kind of right that this shit shouldn't matter, but because the dumbass we've got for a president now thinks it does it really does matter.  They are lying about the size of the crowd, when anyone with a pair of eyeballs can see that it was much smaller.  Crowd size shouldn't matter (any reasonably popular Democrat is likely to get a bigger crowd in DC than a comparably popular Republican because it's DC), but that makes the Trump administration reaction that much worse, and that they are lying about this does, in fact matter.

They can't tell the truth about something this blindingly obvious.  That matters.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Just Sayin'

Or, really, showin':

Considering Trump's personality I think lots of news stories focusing on how small and insignificant his inauguration/concert/hands are compared with Obama's would be a good thing.  Waiting now for his twitter rant about how cameras are biased against him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Can't We All Just Get Along?


Joking aside, it seems like the past couple decades we have been moving somewhat backwards [globally] with regards to how we see and treat people that are different than us.  Some of this is fairly obvious racism like the Trump campaign and many of the hard right parties in Europe (mostly anti-Muslim, particularly Muslims from the Middle East).  But it's more than that, there seems to be less and less willingness for people to perceive others as human and worthy of respect (yes, this often includes me).  In the US there is also a lot of "Ideaism" in that people who don't agree with my position are not just of a different opinion or even not just wrong but are also bad people.

While I will still maintain that a vote for Trump in the last election can only be explained by racism or stupidity (no, there are no other reasonable explanations, if you are trying to find one, you're most likely to get back to stupid).  But, and this is somewhat counterintuitive considering my personal feelings about education, stupid doesn't mean bad.  In fact I think that most people in most things are stupid.  We do stupid things all the time, and just because someone happened to vote in a manner that I would say is not stupid, doesn't mean that their reason for the vote wasn't stupid.

I actually do understand how good people could for Trump--they vote in a stupid fashion for stupid reasons.  That doesn't make them bad people inherently any more than someone who tells you that 7*7 = 42 is a bad person.  I'll admit that I think that the fraction of Trump voters that are good but stupid is pretty small (the fraction that is stupid is high, but I think a lot of those people have more hate than not).

All this said, there are positions that are objectively harmful to others and, therefore, not just wrong but bad, and so you do still run into issues of how to treat people as human who don't reciprocate.  I'm really not sure how to.  Tyler Cowen put up a quick note in support of Black Lives Matter.  The comments are overwhelmingly racist (including one calling him a race traitor, lots of comments about black people being inherently criminal and inherently less intelligent, and arguing that segregation was good for black people--yes, people actually said and defended all of those things in the comments).  Cowen's post and position really shouldn't be controversial.  But how do we react and respond to the very racist response seen in the comments to that post?

Calling them all racists (which is true) doesn't help, and for people outside the debate it seems like name calling which is problematic, as name calling is perceived as an indicator of a weak position.  On the other hand, trying to use more conventional argument (citing statistics, and studies, and explaining why they are racist without necessarily explicitly calling them racist) makes the arguments seem to be on level ground--this is a big problem that occurs when scientists "debate" creationists, creationism is emphatically not science.  Ignoring it also problematic as it means that the dominant side heard is the racist one.

So how should a decent, intelligent person respond to positions (or individuals) that really are horrible?  I'd like to think that pointing out facts and saying that racist positions are racist would do it, but we know that it doesn't, in part because it is remarkably easy to get people to strongly believe things that are demonstrably not true.  So should it be ignoring and letting the noise pervade?  Or name calling and making it seem there isn't a rock solid counter argument?  Or countering legitimately and making people believe that factually challenged and racist opinions are on near-equal footing?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Programs to Help "The Poor"

I really do understand why Atrios (and his commentators) is bagging on the piece linked in his posts (one post here, the other linked in that post, and the piece referenced also linked in both).  I agree, the best aid for poor people is to just give them money.  Attaching strings and playing games about their goals and making them jump through hoops is all counterproductive, and both makes the program more complicated (and expensive, and bureaucratic) while also meaning fewer people get (as much of) the aid they need.

But the catch is that the programs are for "The Poor," and therein lies a problem.  If you have a program that is expressly for poor people the first thing you have to do is verify that they are, in fact, poor, and not just someone with low income that is sitting on piles of [cash, property, gold], and at some point you can't actually figure that out.  If someone scrimps and saves and keeps all their money in cash in garbage bags but never opens a bank account to deposit it and doesn't buy easy to track things like property, they could well have plenty of money and just lie about it and it may be impossible to find out otherwise.  I know that is a rare case, but it is one that no one (neither rich, nor poor) wants to have happen.  Making it more difficult to get access to the benefits is one way to keep people who don't really need the aid from even trying (not a good one and I don't endorse it).

I recognize that that the best real solution to that problem is: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  So a few undeserving people get a bit of extra cash.  It isn't the end of the world, and it's not common enough to be a problem that we should make it insanely difficult for deserving people to get that money.

In the real world, however, people get more pissed off by people getting something they don't deserve than they do about the inverse, and while we can't (mostly because politicians won't) do anything about bankster bonuses and corporate vultures, we can make sure that someone with $10k in savings doesn't get food stamps, or that, if they do, they have to buy beans and rice, because if they were really hungry they wouldn't be wasting their money on shrimp (note: beef is acceptable because cattle ranchers told congress so)!

The solution is actually pretty simple: make the cash giveaway program for everyone (yes, this is secretly a universal basic income post).  If everyone (18 and over who files a tax return) gets $15k/year from the government then you don't have to worry about whether or not anyone deserves it.  Yes, you need to increase taxes to do this (quite a bit, that's a nearly $5T plan).

We're not going to do that, though, so we're stuck with a situation where our poverty amelioration programs are all directed at "The Poor" and that means every one of them is going to have some extra, stupid crap associated with it to make sure that the recipients are "legitimately" poor.

Self Driving Cars

Atrios's new bugaboo it seems.  He's right that we won't get there so long as there isn't something that forces us to.  That is, that last 1% (or 0.1%...) can probably only come from mandated full implementation of autonomous vehicles.  The issues/problems he describes are due to human drivers.  If all cars are autonomous and speak to each other (via street grid) then all of those things either go away or can be dealt with.

Of course, that type of mandate won't happen until a critical mass of vehicles out there are "Autonomous-ready" and that isn't likely to happen in my lifetime.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Must Have a Pickup to be a Real 'Murican

The trend in pickup trucks is both fascinating and idiotic to me.  A pickup is traditionally half a car, with a bed that is useful for hauling stuff.  Everyone needs to have a friend/neighbor with a pickup, but almost no one should have a pickup themselves.

30 years back, pickups were cheaper than cars because they were less useful (to most people) than cars.  Today, however, they are some of the most expensive.  The cheapest base model F150 Ford offers (just under $27k) is more expensive than the base model of every car they offer except the Taurus (just over $27k).  Chevy is a bit better because they have the lower tier Colorado (Ford no longer offers a Ranger) but that is still starts out more expensive than 3 of their 5 cars.

The other thing is that more and more of these trucks are less and less useful.  You have to go out of your way to get a bed that will hold a standard sheet of plywood flat with the tailgate up.  Now, you may not see any reason to have that, but then, why the hell are you considering a truck?  Also, many of the bigger trucks you see, e.g. on the road in Houston, are jacked up to the point that accessing the bed is nearly impossible, and certainly not useful for hauling since you'll need an elevator or installed lift gate to get things in and out.

If your truck is a fashion accessory, fine I guess, I just think it's stupid (as I think most fashion related things are stupid).