Quotulatiousness

September 1, 2017

“Antifa looks increasingly like the militant wing of Safe Space fanaticism”

Brendan O’Neill posting to Facebook a few days back:

People are shocked by images of antifa activists beating up normal, peaceful right-wing protesters in Berkeley or physically shoving right-wing people off Boston Common. Why? This is what happens when you tell an entire generation that other people’s ideas are dangerous, that their speech is toxic, that their words can wound you and traumatise you: you invite that generation to shut people down, to use any means necessary to ensure “dangerous” ideas are not expressed and do not cause injury to people’s self-esteem or sense of safety. We are starting to see what happens when speech is talked about as a form of violence: it green-lights actual violence against certain forms of speech. If speech is violence, shouldn’t it be met with violence? Antifa looks increasingly like the militant wing of Safe Space fanaticism, the bastard offspring of a culture that elevates mental safety over intellectual liberty, and people’s feelings over public freedom.

December 27, 2014

Regulatory costs don’t scale to smaller businesses

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Warren Meyer writes a letter to the dean of Harvard Business School after reading the story of a professor at HBS harassing a mom’n’pop restaurant over a $4 overcharge on a meal order:

… I was horrified to see an HBS professor (prof Edelman) in the news harassing a small business over a small mistake on its web site. I don’t typically get worked up about Harvard grads acting out, but in this particular case his actions are absolutely at the core of what is making the operation of a small business increasingly impossible in this country.

Small businesses face huge and growing compliance risks from almost every direction — labor law, safety rules, environmental rules, consumer protection laws, bounty programs like California prop 65, etc. What all these have in common is that they impose huge penalties for tiny mistakes, mistakes that can be avoided only by the application of enormous numbers of labor hours in compliance activities. These compliance costs are relatively easy for large companies to bear, but back-breaking for small companies.

So it is infuriating to see an HBS professor attempting to impose yet another large cost on a small business for a tiny mistake, particularly when the proprietor’s response was handled so well. Seriously, as an aside, I took service management from Ben Shapiro back in the day and I could easily see the restaurateur involved being featured positively in a case study. He does all the same things I learned at HBS — reading every customer comment personally, responding personally to complaints, bending over backwards to offer more than needed in order to save the relationship with the customer.

As for the restaurateur’s web site mistake — even in a larger, multi-site company, I as owner do all my own web work. Just as I do a million other things to keep things running. And it is hard, in fact virtually impossible, to keep all of our web sites up to date. Which is why Professor Edelman’s response just demonstrates to me that for all HBS talks about entrepreneurship, the faculty at HBS is still more attuned to large corporations and how they operate with their enormous staff resources rather than to small businesses.

Large corporations are crushing smaller ones in industry after industry because of the economy of scale they have in managing such compliance issues. If the HBS faculty were truly committed to entrepreneurship, it should be thinking about how technology and process can be harnessed by smaller businesses to reduce the relative costs of these activities. How, for example, can I keep up with 150+ locations that each need a web presence when my sales per site are so much less than that of a larger corporation? This is not impossible — I have learned some tools and techniques over time — and we should be teaching and expanding these, rather than spending time raising the cost of compliance for small business.

November 22, 2014

QotD: The first “American” college football game

Filed under: Cancon, Football, History, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

… the first college-football contest was not played in 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton, but in 1874 between McGill and Harvard. The game the two New Jersey schools played was something close to soccer, with players (25 per side) allowed to kick the ball or bat it with their hands, and points scored by kicking the ball into the opponents’ goal. This game spread to a handful of other northeastern colleges in the next few years, under varying rules.

Meanwhile, Harvard played a different, more rugbyish game that allowed the ball to be carried and thrown. In 1874 it agreed to a two-game series in Cambridge with McGill, which also played a rugby-type game. The first game, played on May 14 under Harvard’s rules, was an easy victory for the home team. The next day they played under McGill’s rules, which permitted more ball handling, used an oval ball (unlike Harvard’s round one), and scored points with a “try,” similar to the modern touchdown. The contest ended in a scoreless tie, but Harvard’s players decided they liked McGill’s rules better than their own.

The “Boston game” soon became more popular than the kicking-oriented variety, and when representatives from four American colleges met in November 1876 to standardize football rules, they largely adopted the McGill/Harvard version. So while the 1874 game was quite different from today’s football, it is at least recognizable as an ancestor, whereas the game Rutgers and Princeton played in 1869 was an evolutionary dead end.

Fred Schwarz, “Why American Football Is Canadian”, National Review Online, 2014-11-13.

November 21, 2013

A panopticon society, but only in one direction

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:37

For some reason, despite the recent revelations that Americans have almost literally no privacy thanks to government surveillance, some government employees think that they have a right to privacy that they actively push to deny to others:

From the ACLU of Massachusetts:

    Boston Police Department bosses want to install GPS monitoring devices in every patrol car, to enable dispatch to more efficiently process 911 calls. But police officers and their union are outraged, saying that the ubiquitous tracking is too invasive of their personal privacy. Tracking the location of officers as they go about their days would reveal incredibly detailed information about their lives, the officers say.

It must be just awful to go about your daily life looking over your shoulder, conscious that your every movement and activity is being recorded and could be used against you. Oh, wait. That’s what the entire American public is already dealing with, in this age of mass electronic surveillance. But the way the police union is hissing’n’flapping about it, it’s almost as if there was something wrong with that. Don’t they know that you have nothing to fear, if you have nothing to hide?

The ACLU’s tack is that if the police don’t like the feeling of being followed, they shouldn’t be pushing for technologies like mass tracking of license plates or cellphone locations. That’s fair enough, but there’s a larger point here also.

November 12, 2013

Contacting the Boston Police public affairs office is now considered “intimidation”

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:34

At Popehat, Ken White discusses the fascinating case of the public affairs office of the Boston Police department as a “victim” of “intimidation” from callers:

The story begins typically for Photography Is Not A Crime with a story about a Boston Police Department sergeant thuggishly assaulting a photographer recording a traffic stop. A PINAC fan and journalism student named Taylor Hardy called the Boston PD’s Bureau of Public Information on its public line to ask about the story. Hardy spoke with Angelene Richardson, a spokesperson for the Boston Police Department who provides information to the media and public. When Hardy published a recording of that call, the Boston Police Department arranged for him to be charged with wiretapping. Hardy claims that he informed Richardson that he was recording the call (though he did not successfully record that part of the conversation), apparently Richardson claims that he did not.

Even assuming that Hardy didn’t disclose that he was recording (and it would be foolish to take the BPD’s word on that), it’s very dubious policy for the government to charge a citizen with a crime for recording a call with a police department’s public information officer on the phone line the department identifies as its public information line. Any such communication can’t possibly be regarded as private. There may be constitutional problems with a wiretapping statute that allows prosecution of a citizen under those circumstances. But the BPP wasn’t done doubling down yet.

When Carlos Miller wrote about the wiretapping charges against Hardy, he encouraged readers to contact Richardson at her BDP telephone number and email address, which the BPD published online:

    Maybe we can call or email Richardson to persuade her to drop the charges against Hardy considering she should assume all her conversations with reporters are on the record unless otherwise stated.

In other words, Miller encouraged his readers to petition the government for a redress of grievances, as protected by the First Amendment.

The BPD has charged Miller with witness intimidation. The BPD also threatened any of Miller’s readers who contact the BPD:

    Detective Nick Moore also assured me he would do the same to any PINAC readers if they continue to contact departmental spokeswoman Angelene Richardson as they have been doing since yesterday.

    “I can go and get warrants for every person who called her,” he said during a telephone conversation earlier this evening. “It’s an annoyance. It’s an act of intimidation.”

Indeed — an act of intimidation is involved. But it’s an act of intimidation by the BPD, which is sending a clear message about how it will handle citizen dissent.

What a accomplishment: the Boston Police Department has discovered a way to make it a crime for citizens to contact the person it designates to talk to citizens.

April 30, 2013

Shikha Dalmia: This was not Rand Paul’s finest moment

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bomb attack, Republican politicians didn’t cover themselves in glory:

Remember the story about the drunk who loses his car keys in the forest but looks for them under a lamp post because that’s where the light is? Conservative calls to fight terrorism in the wake of the Boston attack by ditching immigration reform make just as much sense.

The difference is that the drunk’s efforts were merely futile. Conservative efforts are also dangerous because they ignore the security threat that Big Government poses.

No sooner was it revealed that the two bombers were Russian emigres of Chechen heritage than Iowa’s Sen. Charles Grassley declared that the attacks show that America needs to “beef up security checks,” not let more newcomers in. Rep. Steven King, also a committed restrictionist from Iowa, demanded we pause and look at “the big picture” on immigration, as if seven years since the last failed effort at reform is not enough.

Most disappointing was Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s switcheroo. Last month, he distanced himself from his party’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric. This week he counseled that we rethink visas for foreign students, never mind that neither of the Brothers Tsarnaev ever obtained one.

None of this, however, would have prevented the attack given that the Tsarnaev brothers obtained asylum around 2002 at the ages of 8 and 15 along with their parents, fleeing persecution in Russia. Reportedly, the older brother Tamerlan, a boxing champion, became radicalized only eight years later, after his mother, not seriously religious then, reminded him of his Islamic faith’s strictures to wean him off alcohol and drugs. When he met his wife, Katherine Russell, at a nightclub, he was a nominally pious, somewhat confused young adult with few signs that he’d become a raving zealot.

April 20, 2013

The problematic crowd-sourcing of justice

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:35

In the Globe and Mail, Tabatha Southey is uncomfortable with the way members of Anonymous, Reddit, 4chan, and other online quasi-organizations leaped into the fray:

The Internet is brimming with people who want to help. To help you prune an orchid, perfect the shape of your gnocchi. Shortly after the bombings this week, hundreds of Bostonians posted offers of accommodations, spare rooms and couches.

Most assistance is graciously received, yet I was surprised last week to see how many people embraced the announcement by the self-appointed public conscience Anonymous that it had investigated the unbearably sad Nova Scotia case of 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, who killed herself after she was allegedly gang-raped at a summer party, then was tormented over the incident.

[. . .]

Anonymous as an organization doesn’t really exist. It’s more of a meme — a concept, or behaviour that spreads within a community — than an agency. Anyone who says they’re Anonymous is Anonymous, which makes the groundswell of support its actions received so understandable.

I think a lot of us, upon learning of Rehtaeh’s death, wanted to go to Nova Scotia and shake those kids until something that looked closer to truth came out. Anonymous’s motivations are much like ours, and it can be difficult to remember that the presumption of innocence should be given more weight, not less, the more heinous the crime; the part that is almost the best in us screams otherwise.

Anonymous is not composed of superheroes, nor is it evil. Anonymous is just your nephew, or your neighbour, or you. We cede our pursuit of justice to that highly distractable quarter to our peril.

One only had to see that massive game of Where’s Waldo? taking place on Reddit this week to witness both the good intention, the potential and the problems inherent in crowd-sourced jurisprudence.

Boston’s security theatre performance

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:20

At Popehat, Clark explains why the security theatre response to the Marathon bombers was a lot of show, but not proportional to the actual threat posed by the two fugitives:

First, just in case it’s not utterly obvious, I’m glad that the two murderous cowards who attacked civilians in Boston recently are off the streets. One dead and one in custody is a great outcome.

That said, a large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater. “Four victims brutally killed” goes by other names in other cities.

In Detroit, for example, they call it “Tuesday”.

…and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders.

“But Clark,” I hear you say, “this is different. This was a terrorist attack.”

Washington DC, during ongoing sniper terrorist attacks in 2002 that killed twice as many people, was not shut down.

Kileen Texas, after the Fort Hood terrorist attack in 2009 that killed three times as many people, was not shut down.

London, after the bombing terrorist attack in 2005 that killed more than ten times as many people, was not shut down.

Counting the cost of the city-wide lockdown:

First, the unprecedented shutdown of a major American city may have increased safety some small bit, but it was not without a cost: keeping somewhere between 2 and 5 million people from work, shopping, and school destroyed a nearly unimaginable amount of value. If we call it just three million people, and we peg the cost at a mere $15 per person per hour, the destroyed value runs to a significant fraction of a billion dollars.

[. . .]

Third, keeping citizens off the street meant that 99% of the eyes and brains that might solve a crime were being wasted. Eric S Raymond famously said that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“. It was thousands of citizen photographs that helped break this case, and it was a citizen who found the second bomber. Yes, that’s right — it wasn’t until the stupid lock-down was ended that a citizen found the second murderer:

    boston.com

    The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.

    The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps.

We had thousands of police going door-to-door, searching houses…and yet not one of them saw the evidence that a citizen did just minutes after the lock-down ended.

Come for the takedown of security theatre on a city-wide level, stay for the ultimate cops-and-donuts story.

April 19, 2013

Tracking the Boston Marathon bombers

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

As a one-man blogging operation, I won’t even pretend to stay on top of the story from Boston. Colby Cosh, on the other hand, has a useful post at Maclean’s to bring you up to date on the news so far:

It has been a night of extraordinary scenes from Boston as the late shift gawps at an unfolding true-crime story as extraordinary as any since the O.J. Simpson saga. Earlier in the day the FBI published photos of two suspects in Tuesday’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. Men closely matching the description of those individuals knocked over a 7-Eleven in the city Thursday night, then are alleged to have slain a transit cop on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and briefly taken a hostage. They were tracked to the suburb of Watertown, where they engaged in a spectacular firefight with at least a dozen different police forces. One man, the suspected marathon bomber depicted wearing a black cap in the FBI photos, seems to have rushed the police with an explosive attached to his chest; he was dead on arrival at hospital and doctors said he presented with “blast injuries to the trunk” along with an uncountable number of bullet holes. The other man, the one supposedly spotted at the marathon wearing a white cap, clambered into a vehicle, drove through the police cordon, and remains at large.

The entire city of Boston has been locked down while they search for the surviving bomber, identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The dead suspect was his older brother.

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