What Were They Thinking at Google?
I have a couple of theories on why Google came down on James Damore like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Why there's a crackdown on anything that looks “alt-right” now
The tech industry top people don't actually like feminists (who have a tendency to produce expensive lawsuits) but they made the mistake of surrendering to them (at least verbally) a decade or two ago and it's too late to go back now. They have resolved to not let that happen again.
Meanwhile, opponents of feminism (or left-wing ideology in general) have been saying it's time to imitate left-wing tactics. As a result, the tech industry is trying to stop Feminism II before it starts. It is, after all, very difficult to surrender to two incompatible factions at the same time.
Without the threat of the imitation leftist tactics, disagreeing with company dogma would simply earn a reprimand and a warning to not do that again. With that threat, dissent produces:
JUST DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT DO ANYTHING SORT OF LIKE IT. JUST AVOID THAT ENTIRE CATEGORY OF THING.
The infamous memo might not be “alt-right,” but it can be plausibly claimed to be in “THAT ENTIRE CATEGORY OF THING.”
Was this a false flag?
A conspiracy theory I haven't seen anywhere yet:
Since Google has not actually been promoting that many women, it doesn't look like it is a real feminist-run organization. What if the purpose of coming down on James Damore in such a heavy-handed manner is to provoke such a lawsuit? They might be able to get a court order that they can wave in the faces of the feminists.
If the lawsuit goes the other way, of course, they now have a legal precedent that can be used to fire feminists suing them.
I (and apparently very few other people) noticed that, with a few minor changes, the Zunger response to the Damore memo (including the need to fit in) could be used against feminists.
Identifying Science-Curious but Science-Ignorant People, Part II
A Brief Note on Free Speech
Much of what appears to be a violation of freedom of speech is actually a matter of refusing to listen.
Much of the time such a refusal to listen, although not a violation of constitutional rights, is very unwise. If you refuse to listen, you might find that someone you loathe, that you thought didn't have a chance, just got elected President.
Things to Avoid in Health-Insurance Regulation
Any reform of health-insurance regulation must avoid the following:
- A death spiral, when people put off buying otherwise unaffordable health insurance until they're sick.
- Bankrupting the country, because promises that cannot be fulfilled will not be fulfilled.
- Price controls. This includes giving governments the motive, means, and opportunity to institute price controls (e.g., a single-payer system).
- A welfare cliff, in which people don't bother looking for a job because you lose more in benefits than the job pays.
- Charging people twice for their health care, in which people with private insurance are charged for the government insurance they might be using anyway. (This is based on the fact that families with children in private school still have to pay school taxes.)
- (Lest we forget…) Losing the next election.
I suspect this means we're stuck with the individual mandate, at least until the herd of independent minds starts to stampede in another direction.
According to The Borowitz Report:
With a fury that could spell political trouble for Republicans in the midterm elections, Trump voters across the country on Friday expressed their outrage and anger that they still have health coverage.
According to public-opinion polls
The only item from the Obamacare requirements asked about in this poll that most reject is the individual mandate. Two-thirds of the public want to eliminate that part of the ACA.
In other words, some people really are outraged at being forced to buy health insurance. Maybe Andy Borowitz thought he was being satirical …
In any case, the technical term for people who want to keep price controls on health insurance, oppose the individual mandate, and think of themselves as right wing is “deplorable.”
A Sound Bite for Conservatives
A Suggestion for Congress
The main reason for the continued rejection of the attempted reforms of Obamacare are the horrendous-sounding numbers from the Congressional Budget Office. These numbers appear to be similar no matter how watered-down the bill is. It turns out that almost all of the alleged losses of health insurance come from the repeal of the individual mandate. The sequence appears to be as follows:
- The Republicans propose a heath-insurance reform plan.
- The Congressional Budget Office issues a pan report claiming millions of people will lose insurance.
- Average voters (the “people of the land, the common clay of the new West”) hear about the report and figure it's because the Snidely Whiplashes in charge of insurance companies will throw people off insurance plans simply because they're mean.
- They send lots of hysterical phone calls, emails, and letters to Congress.
- The Congresscritters and Senators listen and vote it down.
- The Republican Establishment looks for something else to water down.
Maybe they should repeal every part of Obamacare but the individual mandate.
Reactions to Microchipping Employees
Some of my reactions to the news that at one company is planning to install microchips in some of their employees:
- Incredulous stare.
- The Book of Revelations looks a little less insane now that we have the Mark of the Beast.
- By the way, why would microchips have to be implanted instead of worn? Is this an attempt at giving the employees something that's hard to remove?
- Is this what happens when people who are taught that businesses can get away with anything grow up to run businesses?
- If someone quits rather than do this … will he become a poster boy for government regulation of worker agreements?
- If he turns out to be a “fundie” worried about both the Mark of the Beast and gay marriage, will the Left abruptly drop him … followed by the Right using him as a poster boy?
- If his church opens a soup kitchen for illegal aliens, will the Right then drop his case? Will both herds of independent minds start marching in opposite directions?
- On the other hand, maybe he'll be a poster boy for his next employer: They can advertise “WE HIRE PEOPLE OF PRINCIPLE!”
The Real Problem with Left-Wing Politics
According to a recent article advising liberals on how to win elections:
It's possible to push for the policies you think are important on climate change without making people feel guilty about their hamburgers.
Translation: Don't tell people not to buy hamburgers; just tell people not to sell them.
A Brief Note on the Voight–Kampff Test
One of the Voight–Kampff test questions is:
You're in a desert walking along in the sand when all of the sudden you look down, and you see a tortoise, it's crawling toward you. You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't, not without your help. But you're not helping. Why is that?
The capitalist living inside the heads of leftists will not help the tortoise. A British health-care bureaucrat will prevent anybody else from helping
I Was Wrong
A few years ago, I said:
It's a government regulation that hasn't been discredited yet. Advocate a government regulation in nearly any other field and you'll have libertarians saying “Look at how the State messed things up” In the case of net neutrality, our best argument is “Look at how the State messed things up everywhere else!” This, of course, can be spun as paranoid rantings. (It doesn't help that some of the people involved also engage in paranoid rantings.)
I was wrong. Net neutrality really was associated with bad effects.
Apparently, net-neutrality used to be the law, back when American broadband was rare. Net neutrality is not a matter of “You need to fill out this form for your Internet connection” or “You need permission from Occupy Wall Street to start an ISP” (despite what some people think). It's a matter of “ding ding ding ding khkhkhkhkh…”
I had overlooked this because the Other Side kept insisting that American slowness in adopting broadband was due to capitalism and—like an idiot—I believed them. (In the real world, the “cool nations” haven't been that strong on net neutrality.)
Meanwhile, in 2002–2015, we didn't have net-neutrality laws and had a rapid expansion of broadband. We also saw Comcast smack down Netflix for bandwidth hogging, but that was a feature, not a bug.
More recently, we also saw Verizon's arrogant treatment of ISPs it doesn't like, but it's doing so as a content provider. Strengthening ISPs might stop that.
They Really Believe This
According a “toot” from the Mastodon Federation (earlier mentioned here):
Mentally, I'd like you to replace "capital" with "big piles of money" wherever you see it. That's a gross simplification but I think it also makes some things more clear.
An economic system is one that determines a) what goods/services should be produced and b) how to distribute them.
Capitalism supposes that a) and b) ought to be determined by (people with) Big Piles of Money
It's "big piles of money-ism".
The explains the persistent belief in folk economics
On the other hand, the phrase “big piles of the results of the voluntary decisions by consumers-ism” sounds awkward.
In related news, it looks like the Mastodon Federation might be the platform I speculated about here.
A Suggestion on the Health-Care Crisis
On the one hand, it looks like anything done to Obamacare will have effects on somebody that can be called catastrophic and might cause a Democratic takeover of Congress.
On the other hand, Obamacare continues to implode. For example, according to The New York Times:
Next year, about 35,000 people buying insurance in Affordable Care Act marketplaces in 45 counties could have no carriers to choose from.
It looks like the problem will then get worse.
On the gripping hand, there is an increasingly-plausible theory that Obamacare was designed to collapse and be replaced by a single-payer system riding to the rescue. The single-payer system might start as a public option for counties with no insurer and then get extended.
A possible alternative comes from New Jersey which was able to reverse a “death spiral” by relegalizing “Basic and Essential” health insurance. (I'm dubious about the details of the New Jersey plan because it saved money by having low caps instead of high deductibles but that's a quibble.) It might make sense to have a private deregulated option for people in counties with no insurers. The important part is for Obamacare to fail right instead of fail left.
It will be hard for the Left to complain about this because they will refuse to admit Obamacare is failing until it's painfully obvious. They will try to blame the failure on Trump, of course, but the failure has already started. I suspect Trump was elected by the votes of people whose premiums increased shortly before the election.
A Brief Note on the Republican Health-Care Plan
Let's see … The current system (for the past few years) was based on:
- Adding some popular regulations that varied from stupid to trivial.
- Adding an unpopular regulation (the individual mandate) aimed at keeping the first set of regulations from being disastrous.
- A large expansion of Medicaid.
In response to that the Republicans are currently planning to:
- Repealing some (but not all) of the first set of regulations.
- Repealing the individual mandate (the only part of this system that came close to making sense).
- Cutting Medicaid.
The last might make sense except that they're not not doing much about Social Security … an even bigger program.
I won't more than mention that the regulatory part of the State (at least on the Federal level) is even more out of control than the spending part of the State.
Maybe, under Trump, the Republicans have misplaced priorities … but we knew that.
What Will Happen if the U.S. Joins or Leaves the Paris Accord?
If the U.S. joins the Paris Accord…
- Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
- Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
- Coal miners will lose their jobs.
If the U.S. leaves the Paris Accord…
- Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
- Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
- Coal miners will lose their jobs.
Posts from an Alternate Timeline
I've noticed lots of posts on blogs or twitter (typical example here) advising the adoption of left-wing tactics. Those posts come from an alternate timeline in which the Left is winning. In the real world …
In politics, they lost the Presidency, the Senate, the House, most governorships, and most state legislatures. If we had a real Republican in the White House, we'd be well on the way to repealing Obamacare.
They're even losing the Culture Wars. Chik Fil-A: They lost. Duck Dynasty: They lost. DropBox: They lost. Hobby Lobby: They lost. WeRateDogs: They're losing. They're vulnerable.
How Some People Intend Net Neutrality to Work
Maybe the cartoonists had no idea of how net neutrality would work, but other people have some idea of how they want it to work.
Either some of the supporters of net neutrality are even more ignorant than the cartoonists or the cartoonists underestimated how much of a threat to freedom it would be.
By the way, smacking down a content provider hogging 30% of the bandwidth does not count as “broken.”
Four Political Factions
The Right-Wing NutJobs with which I'm sometimes allied will find it hard to believe that leftists are opposed to the “Establishment”
. It isn't as absurd as it might seem. There is reason to think the media are not owned by far leftists. I think we can clear up the confusion of whether the “mainstream” media are right or left if we note that there are at least four political viewpoints common in the U.S. today:
- the Establishment right;
- the Populist right;
- the Establishment left;
- the Populist left.
We see that the first three are well represented (section 3 is excessively well represented) but the last tends to be ignored except when another group (usually 3) decides to speak for it. (Section 2 cannot be ignored nowadays. Even before the current administration, it was condemned but it was not ignored.)
The Populist left includes but is not limited to the underclass. It also includes underpaid artists, underpaid writers, underpaid musicians, much of the west side of Manhattan, and wacko ex-professors in Montana. (The Usenet version of this was written some time ago and it was based on a CompuServe rant dated April 22, 1996.)
The Establishment left tends to define itself in opposition to the Populist right. It will go along with the Populist left when it disagrees with the Populist right (e.g., on gay rights) or when the Populist right is apathetic (e.g., on nuclear power) but will oppose both populisms when they agree (e.g., on free trade).
The Establishment left will frequently pretend the Populist left does not exist. The Establishment right thinks that is because they will only pay attention to right-wing embarrassments. They may be right.
I Have a Strange Superpower
I have a memory.
I can recall that the Rust Belt was called the Rust Belt long before either NAFTA or large-scale Chinese trade.
I can recall that we didn't have large numbers of people dying in the streets before Obamacare. (Those that were dying in the streets did so as a result of collectivism-inspired riots.)
I can recall when 7% interest was considered the minimum for a monetary crisis. (The interest rates at the peak of the alleged crisis of 2008 were much less.)
Addendum: I sometimes feel like this.
The Lesson of That United Airlines Incident
The usual claim is that United Airlines incident proves Big Business can get away with anything. I thought the large drop in its stock price in the immediate aftermath proved that it could not actually get away with anything.
As for “What were they thinking?” … The people who set limits on payments to passengers to encourage them to leave voluntarily may have been influenced by the belief that such payments are somehow dishonorable and selecting people by lot is the fairest system. That, in turn, may have been based on the plausible theory that poor people would be more likely to let themselves be bumped as a result of payments.
In other words, this incident may have been due to the anti-market mentality.
Fearless Girl or Impatient Girl?
The Fearless Girl looks like she's saying “You're late! What took you so long?” This is obviously a protest against the fact that capitalism was rather slow to arrive and set humanity free. It might even be a protest against the fact that capitalism has not yet penetrated to every nook and cranny on Earth.
When Your Conscience Is in Thrall to Government Policy
According to bio“ethics” experts (seen via National Review):
Objection to providing patients interventions that are at the core of medical practice – interventions that the profession deems to be effective, ethical, and standard treatments – is unjustifiable (AMA Code of Medical Ethics [Opinion 11.2.2]10).28″31
Making the patient paramount means offering and providing accepted medical interventions in accordance with patients’ reasoned decisions. Thus, a health care professional cannot deny patients access to medications for mental health conditions, sexual dysfunction, or contraception on the basis of their conscience, since these drugs are professionally accepted as appropriate medical interventions.
In other words, it would be regarded as unethical for a doctor opposed to capital punishment to refuse to cooperate with the organ banks. If this becomes accepted, we might be an election away from compelling physicians to offer acupuncture. I won't more than mention this is a violation of the First, Ninth, Tenth, and Thirteenth Amendments.
By the way, if enough ethics experts disagree with this, would we be justified in censoring it?
I'm reminded of the anti-circumcision activists who appeal to “Society” while ignoring the fact that “Society” deems them crackpots.
A Note on Science March Slogans
I've been looking at poster ideas for the “March for Science” (for example, here) and I noticed a lack of assertions about science facts. Most of them are either irrelevant to science, expressing loyalty to “science,” or presumably witty slogans using science vocabulary.
The only issue where there is even an attempt at actual content is global warming. I didn't even see the anti-Creationist slogans I was expecting. Maybe those go together. It's hard to get really upset about CO2 levels when such levels were higher millions of years ago.
Meanwhile, I've come up a few more factual slogans (earlier slogans are here):
- THE ENTROPY OF THE UNIVERSE TENDS TO A MAXIMUM!
- THE EARTH IS NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE!
- ANGULAR MOMENTUM MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND!
- THE EARTH IS BILLIONS OF YEARS OLD!
Mike Pence and William Shakespeare
The Mike Pence tempest in a teapot reminded me of the following quote from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare:
I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor pray with you.
Leftists, at least this week, regard that as “creepy.”
A Suggestion for President Trump
It's time for voting rights for chickens.
- Being a chicken is socially conditioned and is clearly the fault of either capitalism or neoliberalism (depending on what you're against this week).
- Even if you disagree, feathered people cannot help being chickens and should not be kept from the voting booth.
- On the other hand, if they can help being chickens, that means being a chicken is a voluntarily-chosen lifestyle that should not be penalized.
- You can even make the case that chickens have superior political skills.
Besides, this will help the Republicans. According to the latest research, conservative politicians are more attractive
and chickens prefer more attractive humans
. If you put those together, it is easy to see that voting rights for chickens will make the Republicans win in a landslide.
It's something that should be done today.
Non-Sequitur of the Year
According to PoliticusUSA:
“The days of ‘trust-me’ science are over,” said anti-science Congressman Lamar Smith, who serves as chairman of the Science Committee, according to The Hill. “In our modern information age, federal regulations should be based only on data that is available for every American to see and that can be subjected to independent review.”
In other words, if Republicans don’t like that results of scientific studies and data, they should have the freedom to ignore it and implement policy accordingly.
I don't see how you can get that from an assertion that science should be more open.
I already know what “non-sequitur” means. I do not require a concrete example.
A Paranoid Theory I Haven't Seen Anywhere Yet
What if the Left deliberately created a drug “epidemic” a half century ago to produce a health crisis when the druggies got old? That way, they could blame the bad health outcomes and runaway heath-care spending on capitalism.
On the other hand, it doesn't work on everyone. Mexican Americans have longer life expectancies than either Mexicans or white Americans. Asian Americans have longer life expectancies than either Asians in Singapore or white Americans.
On the gripping hand, there was a crime epidemic that started about the same time that we got over. Maybe we'll develop antibodies to opioids. A quarter century ago, the geographic arguments for gun control (“look at how much better Europe handles crime!”) seemed as irrefutable as the geographic arguments for government-run health care do today. That has changed … which has not yet percolated down to self-congratulatory people
Can I Get a Refund on Dilbert Books?
According to Scott Adams:
Then science ignores the models that are too far off from observed temperatures as we proceed into the future and check the predictions against reality. Sometimes scientists also “tune” the models to hindcast better, meaning tweaking assumptions. As a non-scientists, I can’t judge whether or not the tuning and tweaking are valid from a scientific perspective. But I can judge that this pattern is identical to known scams. I described the known scams in this post.
And to my skeptical mind, it sounds fishy that there are dozens or more different climate models that are getting tuned to match observations. That doesn’t sound credible, even if it is logically and scientifically sound. I am not qualified to judge the logic or science. But I am left wondering why it has to sound exactly like a hoax if it isn’t one. Was there not a credible-sounding way to make the case?
Personally, I would find it compelling if science settled on one climate model (not dozens) and reported that it was accurate (enough), based on temperature observations, for the next five years. If they pull that off, they have my attention. But they will never convince me with multiple models. That just isn’t possible.
First, the known scams are a matter of separate isolated predictions mailed separately (which may have been what happened here
) instead of aggregated predictions gathered together in an easily checked (and copied) place.
Second, the climate predictions resemble hurricane predictions, which also have the results of numerous models. We don't see people picking the best hurricane prediction and saying “WE WERE RIGHT!” (We do see a pattern of selecting accurate predictions and ignoring inaccurate ones in politics.)
Third, picking one best model would not alleviate the uncertainty; it would merely hide it. Real science has error estimates. We don't see that in scams. We do see that in the climate models (but not in people whining about “climate denial.”).
“Warrior” and Folk Economics
My fellow SF fans will be familiar with the story “Warrior” by Gordon Dickson. In it, the policemen thought that a professional military strategist would be helpless when dealing with organized crime. After all, soldiers wear uniforms, carry guns, and are found in a crowd of other soldiers. Without those elements, a soldier would be helpless. That turned out not to be the case.
We see a similar illusion in folk economics. In folk economics, a capitalist is someone in an expensive suit at a desk in a corner office instead of someone with a 401(k). In folk economics, decisions aren't made by consumers, they're made by capitalists. That's why we see people flying around the world warning of the dangers of fossil fuel use without recognizing the irony. That even explains why some people treat marketing expenses for pharmaceuticals as a type of profit. (The military equivalent of that would be someone who “saluted a Good Humor man, an usher, and a nun.”)
One Does Not Know How to Begin
According to Peter Frase:
Frase's Four Futures are:
- Communism ("equality and abundance")
- Rentism ("hierarchy and abundance")
- Socialism ("equality and scarcity")
- Exterminism ("hierarchy and scarcity")
How's that again?
There are two possible confusions here:
- A possible confusion between effects and causes: If we have both equality and abundance, that it likely to produce the society on the label of communism.
- A possible confusion between allowed hierarchy and permitted hierarchy. There is a difference between a “hierarchy” produced by people of differing abilities and a hierarchy produced by people of differing amounts of pull.
I specified “possible” above because I have not yet read the book in question. Maybe the author drew those distinctions.