Quotulatiousness

September 24, 2017

QotD: Libertarians and Conservatives

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

‘Who lost the libertarians?” It’s a question you hear a lot from conservatives of late. The reason should be obvious to anyone who has followed the conservative movement’s internecine intellectual frictions over the last decade — or decades. Self-described libertarians are a minority, even among the ranks of people one could properly describe as libertarian. On many, or even most, contentious public-policy issues — economics, gun rights, health care, free speech, regulation, constitutional interpretation — most support for the libertarian position actually comes from people who describe themselves as conservatives. In other words, conservatives tend to be libertarian, but libertarians tend not to be conservative.

And self-described libertarians are very keen on emphasizing that distinction. They justifiably point to the areas, many of them quite significant, where the bulk of libertarians depart from the conservative consensus: foreign policy, drugs, gay rights, etc. Of course, the demarcations between these different camps are not hard and clearly defined. Many conservatives now — and even more in the past — hold the same convictions as libertarians on foreign policy and drugs and, to a lesser extent, on issues such as gay rights. But as a generalization, libertarians want to have their own identity, separate and distinct from that of conservatism. They’re a bit like the Canadians you meet abroad who go to almost obsessive lengths to show everyone that they aren’t American.

Jonah Goldberg, “Fusionism, Sixty Years Later”, National Review, 2015-11-05.

September 19, 2017

Even in a progressive educational bubble, this isn’t correct

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Education, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Holly Nicholas shared this photo, which is said to be from an Alberta school:

If this is indeed how public schools are presenting the political spectrum (and it’s unfortunately easy to believe that they do), the closest thing to a “centrist” party in Canada is the loony left Green Party … who somehow pip the NDP on the right. The far right end of the spectrum, Fascism, is graphically indicated to be all about “Market Economy, Free Enterprise, and Laissez-Faire Capitalism”, because as we all remember, Hitler and Mussolini were in no way fans of state intervention in the economy, right?

The graphic does, however, support certain shibboleths of the left including implying that libertarians (who are actually in favour of market economies, free enterprise, and laissez-faire capitalism) are in the same economic and political basket as actual fascists. Nice work, faceless agitprop graphic artist!

September 16, 2017

It’s “as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Liberty — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

As the old joke had it, marijuana can cause paranoia, confusion, and total loss of reality in people who’ve never taken them. Canadian police organizations are desperate to keep legal marijuana from becoming a thing:

I cannot be the only one who feels the world is a little upside-down after Wednesday’s hearings on marijuana held by the House of Commons standing committee on health. The day’s proceedings were essentially broken into two parts. First, high-ranking Canadian police came before the committee to complain that they didn’t have the technical resources or the training to deal with legalized marijuana. They pleaded for the passage of the Liberals’ Cannabis Act to be delayed.

Then officials and scholars from the states of Colorado and Washington appeared to talk about their initial experiences with legalized marijuana. The contrast was remarkable. Canadian cops are behaving as if marijuana is a new problem for them—as if Justin Trudeau had just invented marijuana, and the stuff’s mystical properties are unfamiliar to every police officer in the land. The general thrust of the American testimony was not in conflict with the police demand to delay the legislation. Indeed, their major messages included going slow, getting it right, and learning from the history of the pot states. But none of the American witnesses, particularly the Washington and Colorado revenue bean-counters, showed any particular appetite for going back to the days of prohibition.

They could have come to Canada and said, “Oh, God, what are you crazy SOBs thinking?” There was little evidence of any such sentiment. I think it is safe to say that committee members who favour legalization, or who are anything other than implacably hostile to it, must have come away from the testimony broadly reassured.

Washington and Colorado have not descended into a nightmare of chaos because they have legalized “recreational marijuana.” By most social measures these states are about what they were before legalization. Youth use of pot is being watched closely, and it appears to be steady, possibly reduced. The states’ coffers have seen a modest benefit, and some of the money from pot taxation is made available for general drug education and abuse prevention—not just the more intensive outreach to young people about weed.

September 15, 2017

Will Google’s quasi-monopoly last as long as AOL’s did?

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics, Technology, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the big picture, I’m concerned with Google’s current market power and their ability to quash online freedom of speech almost at will (if not directly, through pressure on other companies to co-operate, or else: “Nice little business you’ve got here, Mr. Forbes. It’d be a shame if something happened to its Google search results…”). Google is huge and has fingers in an unimaginable number of pies, but it is still subject to market forces, as was an earlier behemoth of the online world:

The film [You’ve Got Mail] was released in 1998. Amazon was founded in 1994 and had its IPO in 1997. It was about to crush big discount bookstores — does anyone still remember the other big chain, Borders? — and nobody had a clue. There isn’t a single mention in the film of Amazon or online sales.

But the Internet is mentioned. It’s right there in the title of the movie. You’ve Got Mail, for those who are old enough to remember, was a tagline for America Online, the largest Internet service provider in the dial-up era of the 1990s. For millennials, let me explain: we had to connect our computers to a phone line, and an internal modem would place a phone call to a local data center from which it could download information at impossibly slow speeds. […]

AOL is there in the film’s title, because that’s how our protagonists are communicating: by trading e-mails on their dial-up AOL connections.

AOL’s high point was its merger with Time Warner in 2000. It was all downhill, rapidly, from there. Dial-up was quickly surpassed by broadband, and as the Web developed, nobody needed a “Web portal” any more. Again, for younger readers, let me explain. When you managed to get to this exciting new thing called the World Wide Web, how did you know what sites to go to or how to access information? Before the Google search, before Facebook, before Twitter, you went to a Web portal, a launching off point that gathered links and directed you to various sources for news, entertainment, shopping, etc. These Web portals had a huge amount of influence — until they didn’t.

Now here’s the fun part. At the same time nobody was paying much attention to Amazon because Barnes and Noble was going to crush all competitors and control the book business, there was widespread panic about the unstoppable monopoly power of AOL.

AOL was going to gain a monopoly because of its death grip on instant messaging. The “computer editor” for The Guardian worried that this was putting AOL “on its way to world domination.” The AOL-Time Warner deal raised “concerns that its merger would create a media powerhouse that would level competitors, dominate the Internet, and control consumer choice.”

A Wired podcast talked about fears of a Sun-AOL monopoly, but they didn’t call that sort of thing a “podcast” yet because the iPod hadn’t been invented. The audio clip was an MP3 file, and they suggested you listen to it on a Sonique MP3 player from Lycos. The Sonique stopped being produced about a year later. Lycos was a major Web portal, and according to Wikipedia, it was “the most visited online destination in the world in 1999.” It was bought by a multinational conglomerate for $12.5 billion at the peak of the dot-com bubble.

Whatever is left of Lycos was last sold for $36 million in 2010, though that deal seems to have collapsed in acrimony later on. Sic transit gloria mundi.

September 12, 2017

Google doesn’t mind flexing its muscles now and again

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Yet another instance of Google proving that someone erased the word “Don’t” from their company motto*:

Dear Editors,

You might be interested to learn, that your websites have been almost blacklisted by Google. “Almost blacklisted” means that Google search artificially downranks results from your websites to such extent that you lose 55% – 75% of possible visitors traffic from Google. This sitution [sic] is probably aggravated by secondary effects, because many users and webmasters see Google ranking as a signal of trust.

This result is reported in my paper published in WUWT. The findings are consistent with multiple prior results, showing Google left/liberal bias, and pro-Hillary skew of Google search in the elections.

I write to all of them to give you opportunity to discuss this matter among yourselves. Even if Google owes nothing to your publications, it certainly owes good faith to the users of its search.

* For all I know, Google’s original motto may already have gone down the memory hole: “Don’t be evil“.

September 2, 2017

“Nice little business you’ve got here, Mr. Forbes. It’d be a shame if something happened to its Google search results…”

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Gizmodo, Kashmir Hill recounts the tale of what happens when Google decides to suppress media coverage it doesn’t like:

Six years ago, I was pressured to unpublish a critical piece about Google’s monopolistic practices after the company got upset about it. In my case, the post stayed unpublished.

I was working for Forbes at the time, and was new to my job. In addition to writing and reporting, I helped run social media there, so I got pulled into a meeting with Google salespeople about Google’s then-new social network, Plus.

The Google salespeople were encouraging Forbes to add Plus’s “+1″ social buttons to articles on the site, alongside the Facebook Like button and the Reddit share button. They said it was important to do because the Plus recommendations would be a factor in search results — a crucial source of traffic to publishers.

This sounded like a news story to me. Google’s dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers. By tying search results to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network.

I asked the Google people if I understood correctly: If a publisher didn’t put a +1 button on the page, its search results would suffer? The answer was yes.

After the meeting, I approached Google’s public relations team as a reporter, told them I’d been in the meeting, and asked if I understood correctly. The press office confirmed it, though they preferred to say the Plus button “influences the ranking.” They didn’t deny what their sales people told me: If you don’t feature the +1 button, your stories will be harder to find with Google.

With that, I published a story headlined, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” that included bits of conversation from the meeting.

    The Google guys explained how the new recommendation system will be a factor in search. “Universally, or just among Google Plus friends?” I asked. ‘Universal’ was the answer. “So if Forbes doesn’t put +1 buttons on its pages, it will suffer in search rankings?” I asked. Google guy says he wouldn’t phrase it that way, but basically yes.

(An internet marketing group scraped the story after it was published and a version can still be found here.)

This article reminded me that I was still showing a “Google+” share button on my postings … it’s still available for all three of you that still use that service, but it’s now in the “More” group instead.

August 24, 2017

Andrew Scheer’s latest missed opportunity to defend freedom of speech

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Chris Selley is disappointed in federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer’s dropping the ball on defending the right to free speech in Canada:

Last week, headlines proclaimed that the University of Toronto had “barred” from campus a right-wing “group” calling itself the Canadian Nationalist Party, which was planning to hold a rally there despite objections from activists. Asked if this violated the hypothetical Conservative policy, Team Scheer said no. “I respect the right for universities to determine which outside groups they give a platform to,” he told the National Post.

Quite right. In fact, according to U of T, the “party” — which may or may not be one fellow with a website — hadn’t even contacted the university about it. If some random Facebook user announces “Rager at Selley’s Saturday Night,” I have no obligation to stock the bar.

But in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, a Scheer spokesperson went further. Scheer would work with universities “to prevent loopholes for events that risk violating Canadian law,” CBC reported. “(Scheer) is committed to working with the universities to ensure that any policy he brings forward does not become a platform for hate speech,” said the spokesperson.

Sorry, no. That’s hopeless. Any event can be “a platform for hate speech,” if an organizer or attendee decides to make it one. The key, within reason, is that they be given the chance. Team Scheer is all but explicitly endorsing prior restraint: Person X or Group Y might be too dangerous, too likely to utter “hate speech,” for a university to vouchsafe.

As soon as you endorse that idea over a universal defence of free speech up to some reasonable definable threshold — the Criminal Code, say — you’re emboldening precisely the censors Scheer claims to want to take on. Are BDS and Israeli Apartheid Week prima facie hate speech? Is the idea of a superior white race or male gender prima facie hate speech? People disagree; universities are supposed to be free venues for those disagreements.

Meanwhile, Scheer seems to have missed an opportunity to weigh in on a whopper of a free speech dereliction at Ryerson University last week. Citing an inability “to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward, particularly given the recent events in Charlottesville,” the Toronto university cancelled a discussion concerning … er … “The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses.” Activists had vowed to shut down the event; they managed it without even having to close their laptops. Ryerson hasn’t formally been a university for long. A politician who (for better or worse) thinks campus free speech is his business might reasonably propose it shouldn’t be going forward.

August 21, 2017

QotD: The (long-running) decline of written science fiction

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The problem with the Rabbits is not that left-wing politics is dessicating and poisoning their fiction. While I have made the case elsewhere that SF is libertarian at its core, it nevertheless remains possible to write left-wing message SF that is readable, enjoyable, and of high quality – Iain Banks’s Culture novels leap to mind as recent examples, and we can refer back to vintage classics such as Pohl & Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants for confirmation. Nor, I think, is the failure of Rabbit fiction to engage most SF fans and potential fans mainly down to its politics; I think the Evil League is prone to overestimate the popular appeal of their particular positions here.

No, I judge that what is dessicating and poisoning the Rabbit version of SF is something distinct from left-wing political slant but co-morbid with it: colonization by English majors and the rise of literary status envy as a significant shaping force in the field.

This is a development that’s easy to mistake for a political one because of the accidental fact that most university humanities departments have, over the last sixty years or so, become extreme-left political monocultures. But, in the language of epidemiology, I believe the politics is a marker for the actual disease rather than the pathogen itself. And it’s no use to fight the marker organism rather than the actual pathogen.

Literary status envy is the condition of people who think that all genre fiction would be improved by adopting the devices and priorities of late 19th- and then 20th-century literary fiction. Such people prize the “novel of character” and stylistic sophistication above all else. They have almost no interest in ideas outside of esthetic theory and a very narrow range of socio-political criticism. They think competent characters and happy endings are jejune, unsophisticated, artistically uninteresting. They love them some angst.

People like this are toxic to SF, because the lit-fic agenda clashes badly with the deep norms of SF. Many honestly think they can fix science fiction by raising its standards of characterization and prose quality, but wind up doing tremendous iatrogenic damage because they don’t realize that fixating on those things (rather than the goals of affirming rational knowability and inducing a sense of conceptual breakthrough) produces not better SF but a bad imitation of literary fiction that is much worse SF.

Eric S. Raymond, “SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy”, Armed and Dangerous, 2014-07-30.

August 15, 2017

Cathy Young talks to James Damore

Filed under: Business, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Reason Cathy Young interviews former Google employee James Damore, who was fired after an internal memo he wrote criticizing the company’s diversity policies “went viral”:

James Damore, a former software engineer at Google, was suddenly propelled to fame after an internal memo he wrote criticizing diversity policies at the company leaked to the media. The document, sometimes labeled a “manifesto” (and, less kindly, a “screed” and a “rant”), asserted that the gender disparities in tech jobs are at least partly the result of innate differences between the sexes (primarily of women being more people-oriented and less attracted to such work) and that the diversity programs intended to boost the number of women at Google are counterproductive and possibly illegal.

While the document proposed alternative ways to make the workplace at Google more female-friendly, it was widely labeled “anti-diversity” and “anti-woman.” After 28-year-old Damore was identified as the author of the memo, he was fired for “perpetuating gender stereotypes.”

Since then, the controversy has raged unabated — perhaps unsurprisingly, since it touches on many hot-button, polarizing issues from gender equity in the workplace to freedom of speech. A few days ago, I wrote about the debate for USA Today. I interviewed Damore via Google Hangouts text chat on Friday. The transcript has been lightly edited for style, flow and clarity.

Cathy Young: All this must be a little overwhelming?

James Damore: Yes, especially since I tend to be pretty introverted.

CY: Did you think when you wrote the memo, that it could become public at all, let alone as such a huge story?

JD: No, definitely not, I was just trying to clarify my thoughts on Google’s culture and use it to slowly change some of our internal practices.

CY: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you decided to write this memo after attending a staff meeting on diversity at Google.

JD: Yes, I decided to write my thoughts down after attending a particular “Diversity and Inclusion Summit,” although I had seen many of the problems in our culture for a while.

CY: Who was this summit for? All employees, or employees at a certain level?

JD: It was generally for high level employees in my organization that were interested in diversity efforts.

CY: Does Google have a lot of diversity events? Do any of them have mandatory attendance, or is it primarily for those interested in the issue?

JD: Google has many diversity events, including many during our weekly company-wide meeting (TGIF). They’ve also recently made “Unconscious Bias” training, which is ideologically similar, mandatory for those that want to evaluate promotions, all managers, and all new hires.

CY: You’ve mentioned that the summit that prompted the memo had some material that you found disturbing and offensive. I don’t know how specific you can be, but any examples?

JD: They outlined some of the practices where employees were being treated differently based on their gender or ethnicity at Google and during the hiring process. For example, there’s special treatment during the interviews (like more being given) and there are high priority queues for team matching after an employee gets hired. Also, there were calls to holding individual managers accountable for the “diversity” of their team, which would inevitably lead to managers using someone’s protected status (e.g. gender or ethnicity) during critical employment situations.

August 12, 2017

Why The Government Shouldn’t Break WhatsApp

Filed under: Britain, Government, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 Jul 2017

Encryption backdoors – breaking WhatsApp and iMessage’s security to let the government stop Bad Things – sounds like a reasonable idea. Here’s why it isn’t.

A transcript of this video’s available here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/tom-scott/why-the-government-shouldnt-break-whatsapp/1378434365572557/

August 11, 2017

Penn & Teller on Gun Control

Filed under: History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 11 Feb 2013

Penn and teller explain the 2nd amendment in very simple, easy to understand terms. Just the way it was written.

August 4, 2017

Harry Potter and the Economic Segregation of Muggles

Filed under: Books, Economics, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 3 Aug 2017

Harry Potter contains a ton of incredible lessons about society, authoritarianism, and the power of love and individualism in the face of people who would exclude others based on group identity. But something people don’t think about as much are some of the economic lessons that we can draw from a world segregated into wizards and muggles.

On this episode of Out of Frame, we take a look at what the world might look like if magic and non-magic people were actually allowed to trade and interact with each other without the Ministry of Magic obliviating and arresting people for it.

For a transcript of this episode and more engaging content, visit:
www.FEE.org

August 1, 2017

Ontario adopts voluntary self-surveillance app from CARROT Insights

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

I often joke about how inexpensive it appears to be to “influence” politicians, but it’s only fair to point out that the voters those easily influenced politicians represent are even more easy to influence:

Ontario announced earlier this month that it will become the fourth Canadian government to fund a behavioral modification application that rewards users for making “good choices” in regards to health, finance, and the environment. The Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which will receive $1.5 million from the Ontario government, credits users’ accounts with points toward the reward program of their choice in exchange for reaching step goals, taking quizzes and surveys, and engaging in government-approved messages.

The app, funded by the Canadian federal government and developed by Toronto-based company CARROT Insights in 2015, is sponsored by a number of companies offering reward points for their services as an incentive to “learn” how to improve wellness and budget finances. According to CARROT Insights, “All offers are designed by sources you can trust like the BC Ministry of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and YMCA.” Users can choose to receive rewards for companies including SCENE, Aeroplan, Petro-Canada, or More Rewards, a loyalty program that partners with other businesses.

It’ll be interesting if they share the uptake of this new smartphone app … just how many of us are willing to let the government track just about all of our actions in exchange for “rewards”.

In order to use the app, users are giving Carrot Insights and the federal government permission to “access and collect information from your mobile device, including but not limited to, geo-location data, accelerometer/gyroscope data, your mobile device’s camera, microphone, contacts, calendar and Bluetooth connectivity in order to operate additional functionalities of the Services.”

Founder and CEO of CARROT Insights Andreas Souvaliotis launched the app in 2015 “with a focus on health but the company and its partner governments quickly realized it was effective at modifying behavior in other areas as well,” according to CTV News.

July 28, 2017

13 Reasons Jeff Sessions is a @$#/!

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Jul 27, 2017

Jeff Sessions is on the ropes with Donald Trump. Good.

The president is pissed because Sessions recused himself from the investigation of Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. But here are a baker’s dozen of reasons to hate the attorney general, including his obsession with restarting the war on pot, his call to jack up mandatory minimums, and his support for civil asset forfeiture. Then there’s his lack of interest in due process, willingness to subvert state’s rights when they conflict with his desired outcome, and desire to lengthen prison terms for non-violent criminals. Also, he might be some kind of statist elf.
—–
During Sessions’ confirmation hearings, Democrats claimed the former Alabama senator was unfit for office because he was a racist, charges that were never really substantiated. But Sessions’ voting record and policy agenda are more than enough to disqualify him from being the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Mostly Weekly is hosted by Andrew Heaton and written by Sarah Rose Siskind.

Edited by Austin Bragg and Sarah Rose Siskind.

Produced by Meredith and Austin Bragg.

Theme Song: Frozen by Surfer Blood.

July 25, 2017

“‘Legal fiction’ sounds better than ‘lie’, but in this case the two terms are near synonyms”

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Instapundit Glenn Reynolds in USA Today on US Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ passion for civil asset forfeiture:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants to steal from you.

Oh, he doesn’t call it that. He calls it “civil forfeiture.” But what it is, is theft by law enforcement. Sessions should be ashamed. If I were president, he’d be fired.

Under “civil forfeiture,” law enforcement can take property from people under the legal fiction that the property itself is guilty of a crime. (“Legal fiction” sounds better than “lie,” but in this case the two terms are near synonyms.) It was originally sold as a tool for going after the assets of drug kingpins, but nowadays it seems to be used against a lot of ordinary Americans who just have things that law enforcement wants. It’s also a way for law enforcement agencies to maintain off-budget slush funds, thus escaping scrutiny.

As Drug Enforcement Agency agent Sean Waite told the Albuquerque Journal, “We don’t have to prove that the person is guilty. … It’s that the money is presumed to be guilty.”

“Presumed to be guilty.” Once in America, we had a presumption of innocence. But that was inconvenient to the powers that be.

As Tamara Keel said “Appointing Sessions was the opposite of ‘draining the swamp’; it was basically pumping in a whole bunch of vintage swamp water”

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