Quotulatiousness

December 8, 2016

QotD: The law

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

Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

December 7, 2016

QotD: Turning ordinary recycling into a vast revenue enhancement tool

Filed under: Economics, Government, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… we know that ubiquitous RFID tags are coming to consumer products. They’ve been coming for years, now, and the applications are endless. More to the point they can be integrated with plastic products and packaging, and printed cheaply enough that they’re on course to replace bar codes.

Embedded microcontrollers are also getting dirt cheap; you can buy them in bulk for under US $0.49 each. Cheap enough to embed in recycling bins, perhaps? Along with a photovoltaic cell for power and a short-range radio transceiver for data. I’ve trampled all over this ground already; the point is, if it’s cheap enough to embed in paving stones, it’s certainly cheap enough to embed in bins, along with a short-range RFID reader and maybe a biosensor that can tell what sort of DNA is contaminating the items dumped in the bins.

The evil business plan of evil (and misery) posits the existence of smart municipality-provided household recycling bins. There’s an inductance device around it (probably a coil) to sense ferrous metals, a DNA sniffer to identify plant or animal biomass and SmartWater tagged items, and an RFID reader to scan any packaging. The bin has a PV powered microcontroller that can talk to a base station in the nearest wifi-enabled street lamp, and thence to the city government’s waste department. The householder sorts their waste into the various recycling bins, and when the bins are full they’re added to a pickup list for the waste truck on the nearest routing — so that rather than being collected at a set interval, they’re only collected when they’re full.

But that’s not all.

Householders are lazy or otherwise noncompliant and sometimes dump stuff in the wrong bin, just as drivers sometimes disobey the speed limit.

The overt value proposition for the municipality (who we are selling these bins and their support infrastructure to) is that the bins can sense the presence of the wrong kind of waste. This increases management costs by requiring hand-sorting, so the individual homeowner can be surcharged (or fined). More reasonably, households can be charged a high annual waste recycling and sorting fee, and given a discount for pre-sorting everything properly, before collection — which they forefeit if they screw up too often.

The covert value proposition … local town governments are under increasing pressure to cut their operating budgets. But by implementing increasingly elaborate waste-sorting requirements and imposing direct fines on households for non-compliance, they can turn the smart recycling bins into a new revenue enhancement channel, much like the speed cameras in Waldo. Churn the recycling criteria just a little bit and rely on tired and over-engaged citizens to accidentally toss a piece of plastic in the metal bin, or some food waste in the packaging bin: it’ll make a fine contribution to your city’s revenue!

Charles Stross, “The Evil Business Plan of Evil (and misery for all)”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-05-21.

December 6, 2016

QotD: The power of music

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

Mrs. T and I just got back from seeing Maria Schneider’s first set at the Jazz Standard. Two thoughts come to mind, the first original and the second not:

  • In the presence of music, time and trouble stop.
  • The band took a couple of corners too fast on “Gumba Blue.” Everything turned out all right, though, and when the number was over, Maria grinned at the audience and quoted something that David Bowie once said to her: “The beautiful thing about music is that if the plane goes down, everybody walks away.”

I’ll co-sign that.

Terry Teachout, “Two thoughts about music”, About Last Night, 2016-11-25.

December 5, 2016

QotD: Wine merchants using alarmist tactics to sell wine

Filed under: Business, Health, Quotations, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m a mom of three young kids. That means I like to have a glass of wine with breakfast, lunch, and dinner now and then. And since my kids seem to grow out of their clothes and shoes seconds after I’ve purchased them, I like to get a good deal on a box bottle or two. Luckily for me, there is stiff competition in the wine industry, which means I can get wines from around the world at prices I can afford.

Yet with competition comes increased need to attract customers. And some companies are resorting to a new strategy: Alarmism.

Consider the recent suggestion by some wine companies that some corks are not just inferior, but dangerous. That might seem silly to some or just a lousy marketing stunt to others, but it’s a familiar and all-too-effective tactic used on moms who are constantly encouraged to police their homes for threats to their families.

Julie Gunlock, “Wine Alarmists Should Stick a Cork In It: Stop whining about the non-existent dangers of certain wine corks, and start drinking”, The Federalist, 2015-05-19.

December 4, 2016

QotD: Human nature

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

If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

December 3, 2016

QotD: Gender and transgender

Filed under: Health, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Oxford English Dictionary defines transgender as ‘[d]enoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex’. It is a relatively new term. According to equality-law professor and trans activist Stephen Whittle, the term ‘transvestite’ was first used in 1910 by the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, who would later found the Berlin Institute where the very first sex-change operations took place. ‘Transsexual’ was not coined until 1949; ‘transgender’ not until 1971; and ‘trans’, which is a very British term, not until 1996.

The first reported sex-change operation may have taken place at Hirschfeld’s Berlin Institute in 1931, but the procedure only became widely known after American Christine (George) Jorgensen travelled to Denmark in 1952 to undergo sex-change surgery. In 1954, following Jorgensen’s transition, US endocrinologist Harry Benjamin began using the term ‘transsexualism’ to describe a unique condition of sex and gender role disorientation.

Throughout the 1960s, transsexualism, and the clinical response to it, remained a contentious issue. Medical professionals in the US were largely opposed to the idea of offering sex-change surgery. A 1965 survey showed that just three per cent of US surgeons would take seriously a request for a sex-change operation. And yet, by the early 1980s, thousands of sex-change operations had taken place.

The Hopkins Hospital, affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, became the most prominent institution to offer transsexual surgery during the 1970s. Under the guidance of psychologist John Money, psychiatrist Eugene Meyer and plastic surgeon Milton Edgerton, the Hopkins Hospital utilised the ‘single theme’ method for diagnosing transsexuals. This involved determining whether or not the patient had an intense conviction to be the other sex.

But, as the rate of referrals increased, by the late-1970s, some of the negative after-effects of sex-change surgery became apparent. These included: medical complications, demands for reverse surgery and suicide attempts. Moreover, it was discovered that, due to the self-diagnostic nature of the ‘single theme’ method for determining treatment, some patients had learned what kinds of things they needed to say in order to receive surgery.

Hopkins Hospital eventually stopped performing the operations in 1979, after Jon Meyer, the chair of the sexual behaviours unit, conducted a study comparing 29 patients who had the surgery and 21 who didn’t, and concluded that those who had the surgery were no more adjusted to society than those who did not have the surgery. As Meyer told the New York Times in 1979: ‘My personal feeling is that surgery is not proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me that these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.’

While physicians and commentators argued over whether or not medical intervention benefited the patient, for some of those who chose to undergo treatment, it was a lifeline.

Naomi Firsht, “The Rise of Transgender: In the space of a century, transgenderism has become a mainstream concern”, Spiked, 2016-10-28.

December 2, 2016

QotD: Socialism

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

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

December 1, 2016

QotD: Victim mentality and “white rage”

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

The media is always fretting that ginning up “white rage” will produce “backlash” — violence — against minority communities.

Okay, let’s say I accept that’s a possibility.

Is it not also a possibility that ginning up minority rage over agrievements, both those that can be characterized as possibly real as well of those of the #FakeNews contrived paranoia variety, can spur non-whites into their own “backlash” mode?

If not, why not? Are whites singularly evil in this world? Are they alone the only race capable of being whipped up into a hateful, violent lather by racial paranoia and racial grievances?

[…]

If it’s dangerous for a strain of white identity politics to nurture a fear and hatred of “The Other” — different races — and that such a strain of grievance-mongering and paranoia may result in the murders or assaults of minorities, why is it (as the media and mediating institutions seem to believe) not dangerous at all for minority ethnic groups to gin up their own fear, paranoia, and hatred against whites or society in general?

Will the media or any government official ever address this, given the weekly assassinations of police, and the newest barbarism committed against OSU students due to one lunatic steeping in the hatreds of identity politics?

Ace, “Jim Geraghty: OSU Jihadi Proves That the Progressives’ Victim Mentality Kills”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2016-11-30.

November 30, 2016

QotD: Napoleon’s misogynistic views

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

… “What do most ladies have to complain of? Don’t we acknowledge they have souls … They demand equality! Pure madness! Woman is our property … just as the fruit tree belongs to the gardener.” Only inadequate education could make a wife think she was on the same level as her husband. Convinced of “the weakness of the female intellect”, he considered his brother Joseph extraordinary in enjoying the other sex’s company as well as their bodies — “He’s forever shut away with some woman reading Torquato Tasso and Aretino.”

However gracefully phrased, his opinion of adultery revealed utter cynicism. In the end it is “a joke behind a mask … not by any means a rare phenomenon but a very ordinary occurrence on the sofa”. He had surprisingly modern views on women as soldiers. “They are brave, incredibly enthusiastic and capable of the most frightful atrocities … In a real war between men and women the only thing which would handicap women would be pregnancy, since the women of the people are just as strong as most men.” (In this he was far more progressive than the Führer.)

Desmond Seward, Napoleon and Hitler: A comparative biography, 1988.

November 29, 2016

QotD: Imagined agency

Filed under: Gaming, Media, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you engage with [childrens’] interest, you can also help them toward appreciating and understanding the context, most obviously the history and politics, but also the life lessons to be learned from the decision making and engineering, for example the parable of the Panther and the T34 (tldr: “Good enough now is sometimes better than perfect, later.”)

You can even view stories about soldiers and soldiering as workplace adventures, since most of them hinge on office politics and team building.

And, in this context, the violent video games are just another learning tool, for all that they are also fun and a way to let off steam.

The third cost is more nebulous: imagined agency.

Children don’t have a lot of real agency, and, not only is it hard for a child to imagine modern adult agency, it’s also not very exciting.

One of the reasons action stories are compelling is that the main conflict is explicit and easy to grasp, and character agency simple and tangible: you know who Sharpe is struggling with because they are trying to kill each other; and you know he has agency because he has a unit of men, a rifle, and that big French cavalry sword.

It’s just much much easier to play soldiers in the garden, than aid worker, doctor or even adventurer. After a certain age, a child can only spend so long pretending to climb a mountain or pushing through the jungle undergrowth, but they can spend an entire afternoon enjoying a running skirmish, especially if they have those cool laser tag guns that actually track hits.

If you take away the plastic gun (with it’s don’t-shoot-me orange cap), ban Call of Duty, and censor books with guns and explosions on the cover, then — to me — it feels like you’re saying, Don’t imagine making important decisions, balancing risks, or being proactive.

M. Harold Page, “Children and War Toys and Violent Video Games and Action Stories”, Charlie’s Diary, 2016-11-15.

November 27, 2016

QotD: Fabric as technology

Filed under: History, Quotations, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

In February 1939, Vogue ran a major feature on the fashions of the future. Inspired by the soon-to-open New York World’s Fair, the magazine asked nine industrial designers to imagine what the people of ‘a far Tomorrow’ might wear and why. (The editors deemed fashion designers too of-the-moment for such speculations.) A mock‑up of each outfit was manufactured and photographed for a lavish nine-page colour spread.

You might have seen some of the results online: an evening dress with a see-through net top and strategically placed swirls of gold braid, for instance, or a baggy men’s jumpsuit with a utility belt and halo antenna. Bloggers periodically rediscover a British newsreel of models demonstrating the outfits while a campy narrator (‘Oh, swish!’) makes laboured jokes. The silly get‑ups are always good for self-satisfied smirks. What dopes those old-time prognosticators were!

The ridicule is unfair. Anticipating climate-controlled interiors, greater nudity, more athleticism, more travel and simpler wardrobes, the designers actually got a lot of trends right. Besides, the mock‑ups don’t reveal what really made the predicted fashions futuristic. Looking only at the pictures, you can’t detect the most prominent technological theme.

‘The important improvements and innovations in clothes for the World of Tomorrow will be in the fabrics themselves,’ declared Raymond Loewy, one of the Vogue contributors. His fellow visionaries agreed. Every single one talked about textile advances. Many of their designs specified yet-to-be-invented materials that could adjust to temperature, change colour or be crushed into suitcases without wrinkling. Without exception, everyone foretelling the ‘World of Tomorrow’ believed that an exciting future meant innovative new fabrics.

They all understood something we’ve largely forgotten: that textiles are technology, more ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires. We hairless apes co-evolved with our apparel. But, to reverse Arthur C Clarke’s adage, any sufficiently familiar technology is indistinguishable from nature. It seems intuitive, obvious – so woven into the fabric of our lives that we take it for granted.

Virginia Postrel, “Losing the Thread: Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again”, Aeon, 2015-06-05.

November 26, 2016

QotD: State-run education

Filed under: Government, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

You say: “There are persons who lack education” and you turn to the law. But the law is not, in itself, a torch of learning which shines its light abroad. The law extends over a society where some persons have knowledge and others do not; where some citizens need to learn, and others can teach. In this matter of education, the law has only two alternatives: It can permit this transaction of teaching-and-learning to operate freely and without the use of force, or it can force human wills in this matter by taking from some of them enough to pay the teachers who are appointed by government to instruct others, without charge. But in the second case, the law commits legal plunder by violating liberty and property.

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

November 25, 2016

QotD: Megalothymia, the malady of our age

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

… so many people want to glom onto the moral stature of the civil-rights movement and reenact it for every single American with a grievance (save for conservatives who, like the Civil War re-enactor who’s always forced to play a Confederate, must always be cast as the bad guys). If you take all the people idiotically, reflexively, and sanctimoniously invoking Jim Crow at face value, it’s hard not to conclude they’re reflexive and sanctimonious idiots — or simply dishonest. And while that’s probably true of some, it’s clearly not true of many. Instead, I think you need to see this tendency as a Freudian slip, a statement of yearning, a kind of self-branding or what you (well, probably not you) might call moral megalothymia.

Megalothymia is a term coined by Francis Fukuyama. It’s a common mistake to think Fukuyama simply took Plato’s concept of “thumos” or “thymos” and put a “mega” in front of it because we all know from the Transformers and Toho Productions that “mega” makes everything more cool.

But that’s not the case. Megalothymia is a neologism of megalomania (an obsession with power and the ability to dominate others) and thymos, which Plato defined as the part of the soul concerned with spiritedness, passion, and a desire for recognition and respect.

Fukuyama defined megalothymia as a compulsive need to feel superior to others.

And boy howdy, do we have a problem with megalothymia in America today. Everywhere you look there are moral bullies utterly uninterested in conversation, introspection, or persuasion who are instead hell-bent on grinding down people they don’t like to make themselves feel good. If you took the megalothymia out of Twitter, millions of trolls would throw their smartphones into the ocean.

Make no mistake: This is a problem across the ideological spectrum, because it is a problem of human nature in general and modernity in particular. But in this context, it’s a special malady of elite liberalism.

Jonah Goldberg, “Moral Heroism without Morality”, National Review, 2015-04-03.

November 24, 2016

QotD: Black hats and white hats

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

When considering the major failures of recent American governance – the 2008-09 financial crisis, the catastrophe that is U.S. policy in the Mideast – the one thing that any honest-minded person must conclude is: Nobody meant for things to turn out this way. It is impossible to make precise predictions about the effects of government policy; that is the nature of systems characterized by high levels of complexity. It’s one thing to predict that it’ll be colder during the winter, but another thing to predict down to the millimeter how much snow will fall on a particular acre in rural Maine on the third Wednesday in February, which is really what we expect from our public policy.

Classic cowboy movies, in contrast, are not complex at all: The good guys wear white hats, the bad guys wear black hats, all hats remain firmly affixed to all heads at all times, and that’s that. You can pretty much always predict how an old Western is going to turn out.

But that isn’t how the real world works.

On Tuesday, I had a conversation about Elizabeth Warren and Wall Street, pointing out that the popular version of that story – Senator Warren vs. Wall Street – is so oversimplified as to be not merely useless but misleading. The reality is that there are people working on Wall Street who dislike Senator Warren – investors and bankers, mainly – and people who adore her – notably Wall Street lawyers, who are reliable donors to her campaign and to those of other Democrats. My naïve interlocutor said: “Hopefully, it’s the lawyers that fight against Wall Street,” as though there were such a thing, as though there weren’t nice progressive lawyers in Manhattan who jokingly refer to their yachts as the SS Dodd-Frank.

Spend any time writing about this sort of thing and you’ll hear angry and panicked denunciations of derivatives-trading from people who pretty clearly do not know what a derivative is, just as you’ll hear paeans to Glass-Steagall sung by people who don’t understand the difference between a commercial bank and an investment bank, who don’t know how Goldman-Sachs makes its money or what it is that Standard & Poor’s does.

But they’re quite sure they know who is wearing the black hats.

Kevin Williamson, “Black Hats and White Hats”, National Review, 2015-04-15.

November 23, 2016

QotD: The Progressive worldview

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:00

In order to understand this, we must first identify what the Progressive worldview is. Boiled down to its simplest, it’s this: “The government can do it better”. Do what? Anything. Individual Progressives might believe that there should be certain limits on what the government should do, but the overall guiding star of the movement is that everything will work better when the government is in charge. It’s nothing more than a Utopian vision: Things aren’t perfect now, but when WE are in charge of them, then we can make them perfect. The fact that perfection is impossible never enters their minds.*

[…]

* I’m taking their stated beliefs at face value, and many of the foot soldiers of the revolution, Lenin’s “useful idiots”, probably do in fact believe that they are working for a “better world”. Most of the leadership behind the Progressive movement is far too smart to believe any such thing. Utopia is just the flashy bling to dazzle the rubes. Their motivations are no different than any other humans. There’s an acronym that identify why people become traitors or spies — MICE — which stands for Money, Ideology, Coercion and Ego. I don’t think it vastly different here, although I’d substitute Power for Coercion in those that seek to be the ruling class.

Weirddave, “Fundamental Concepts – Why the Left Hates Families”, Ace of Spades H.Q., 2015-03-28.

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