Quotulatiousness

January 14, 2018

Google’s unhealthy political monoculture

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

Megan McArdle doesn’t think that the lawsuit that James Damore is pursuing against Google has a lot of legal merit, but despite that she’s confident that the outcome won’t be happy for the corporation:

The lawsuit, just filed in a California court, certainly offers evidence that things were uncomfortable for conservatives at Google. And especially, that they were uncomfortable for James Damore after he wrote a memo suggesting that before Google went all-out trying to achieve gender parity in its teams, it needed to be open to the possibility that the reason there were fewer women at the firm is that fewer women were interested in coding. (Or at least, in coding with the single-minded, nay, obsessive, fervor necessary to become an engineer at one of the top tech companies in the world.)

That much seems quite clear. But it’s less clear that Damore has a strong legal claim.

I understand why conservative employees were aggrieved. Internal communications cited in the lawsuit paint a picture of an unhealthy political monoculture in which many employees seem unable to handle any challenge to their political views. I personally would find it extremely unsettling to work in such a place, and I am a right-leaning libertarian who has spent most of my working life in an industry that skews left by about 90 percent.

But these internal communications have been stripped of context. Were they part of a larger conversation in which these comments seem more reasonable? What percentage did these constitute of internal communications about politics? At a huge company, there will be, at any given moment, some number of idiots suggesting things that are illegal, immoral or merely egregiously dumb. That doesn’t mean that those things were corporate policy, or even that they were particularly problematic for conservatives. When Google presents its side of the case, the abuses suggested by the lawsuit may turn out to be considerably less exciting — or a court may find that however unhappy conservatives were made by them, they do not rise to a legally actionable level.

Google, for its part, says that it is eager to defend the lawsuit. But lawyers always announce that they have a sterling case that is certain to prevail, even if they know they are doomed. And unless they can present strong evidence that there were legions of conservatives happily frolicking away on their internal message boards while enjoying the esteem of their colleagues and the adulation of their managers, there is no way that this suit ends well for Google. If the company and its lawyers think otherwise, they are guilty of a sin known to the media as “reading your own press releases,” and to drug policy experts as being “high on your own supply.”

There are expensive, time-consuming, exasperating lawsuits, and then there are radioactive lawsuits that poison everyone who comes within a mile of them. And this lawsuit almost certainly falls into the latter category.

January 5, 2018

Justin Trudeau’s PR team fumbles badly with Boyle photo-op

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Late last year, the Boyle family were “rescued” from the Taliban and the Prime Minister not only met with them, but allowed some photos to be taken that quickly made their way out onto social media. Now that Joshua Boyle has been arrested for a long list of offenses, the PM is looking very bad indeed, as Chris Selley points out:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Boyle family in Ottawa, 18 December.

The supposed geniuses surrounding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are capable of some very strange decisions. Arranging a meeting with Joshua Boyle and his family after their release from Taliban captivity, and agreeing to the Boyles photographing the smiling encounter — Joshua later tweeted out some snaps — is certainly one of them.

Boyle was arrested Tuesday and charged with a raft of offences including sexual assault and unlawful confinement, concerning events beginning immediately after the family’s return to Canada in early October. Trudeau met the Boyles on Dec. 18. Now photos of Trudeau beaming with the accused are all over the news. If PMO procedures somehow didn’t flag the investigation, that’s a serious concern. If they did and the meeting happened anyway, it’s horrendous political risk management at the very least.

Indeed, these were hardly the first red flags. The PMO argues it would agree to such a meeting with any released hostages — a very stupid policy if it exists, because the Boyles aren’t quite any released hostages. When the Taliban nabbed Joshua and five-months-pregnant Caitlin Coleman in 2012, they were ostensibly “backpacking in Afghanistan.” The phrase dances off the tongue a bit like “scuba diving in Yemen” or “gastronomic tour of Somalia”: not inconceivable, but the Boyles will not have been surprised to learn that some in the U.S. intelligence community were suspicious. They reportedly refused an American military flight home over fears — perfectly reasonable ones, surely — that they might wind up stuck at Bagram Airfield.

But what the heck, let’s think the best of the Boyles. Sunny ways, etc. The best still involves the unpleasant matter of Joshua’s short-lived marriage to none other than Zaynab Khadr — daughter of the late Ahmed Khadr, the Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaida financier for whom Jean Chrétien famously went to bat when he was detained in Pakistan.

[…]

Unseriousness is a serious charge against Trudeau: big hat, staff photographer, few cattle. Another non-official photo released this week shows Trudeau and his Castro-worshiping brother Sacha in matching sweaters depicting the Last Supper attended by emojis, with the words Happy Birthday strung over top. In a rather over-the-top tweet, Conservative MP Candice Bergen accused the PM of “intolerance” and of “mocking Christianity” — and no question, many Canadians might expect the prime minister to eschew such a garment lest it cause offence. (It was in private, of course, but it’s public now.) But many Canadians also might expect the prime minister to eschew such a garment because he’s the leader of a G7 country, a serious person with a serious job that he’s taking seriously.

This touchy-feely cool-dad happy-go-lucky shtick has taken Trudeau a long, long way. I very much doubt it can take him any further. And I think the backlash, when it comes, could be legendary.

November 30, 2017

QotD: Nuclear winter

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

In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences reported on “Long-Term Worldwide Effects of Multiple Nuclear Weapons Detonations” but the report estimated the effect of dust from nuclear blasts to be relatively minor. In 1979, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on “The Effects of Nuclear War” and stated that nuclear war could perhaps produce irreversible adverse consequences on the environment. However, because the scientific processes involved were poorly understood, the report stated it was not possible to estimate the probable magnitude of such damage.

Three years later, in 1982, the Swedish Academy of Sciences commissioned a report entitled “The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon,” which attempted to quantify the effect of smoke from burning forests and cities. The authors speculated that there would be so much smoke that a large cloud over the northern hemisphere would reduce incoming sunlight below the level required for photosynthesis, and that this would last for weeks or even longer.

The following year, five scientists including Richard Turco and Carl Sagan published a paper in Science called “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.” This was the so-called TTAPS report, which attempted to quantify more rigorously the atmospheric effects, with the added credibility to be gained from an actual computer model of climate. At the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, never specifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:

Ds = Wn Ws Wh Tf Tb Pt Pr Pe etc

(The amount of tropospheric dust = # warheads × size warheads × warhead detonation height × flammability of targets × Target burn duration × Particles entering the Troposphere × Particle reflectivity × Particle endurance, and so on.)

The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drake equation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were — and are — simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

According to Sagan and his coworkers, even a limited 5,000 megaton nuclear exchange would cause a global temperature drop of more than 35 degrees Centigrade, and this change would last for three months. The greatest volcanic eruptions that we know of changed world temperatures somewhere between 0.5 and 2 degrees Centigrade. Ice ages changed global temperatures by 10 degrees. Here we have an estimated change three times greater than any ice age. One might expect it to be the subject of some dispute.

But Sagan and his coworkers were prepared, for nuclear winter was from the outset the subject of a well-orchestrated media campaign. The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

November 26, 2017

QotD: The dangers of second-hand smoke

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

What, then, can we say were the lessons of Nuclear Winter? I believe the lesson was that with a catchy name, a strong policy position and an aggressive media campaign, nobody will dare to criticize the science, and in short order, a terminally weak thesis will be established as fact. After that, any criticism becomes beside the point. The war is already over without a shot being fired. That was the lesson, and we had a textbook application soon afterward, with second hand smoke.

In 1993, the EPA announced that second-hand smoke was “responsible for approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year in nonsmoking adults,” and that it “impairs the respiratory health of hundreds of thousands of people.” In a 1994 pamphlet the EPA said that the eleven studies it based its decision on were not by themselves conclusive, and that they collectively assigned second-hand smoke a risk factor of 1.19. (For reference, a risk factor below 3.0 is too small for action by the EPA. or for publication in the New England Journal of Medicine, for example.) Furthermore, since there was no statistical association at the 95% confidence limits, the EPA lowered the limit to 90%. They then classified second-hand smoke as a Group-A Carcinogen.

This was openly fraudulent science, but it formed the basis for bans on smoking in restaurants, offices, and airports. California banned public smoking in 1995. Soon, no claim was too extreme. By 1998, the Christian Science Monitor was saying that “Second-hand smoke is the nation’s third-leading preventable cause of death.” The American Cancer Society announced that 53,000 people died each year of second-hand smoke. The evidence for this claim is nonexistent.

In 1998, a Federal judge held that the EPA had acted improperly, had “committed to a conclusion before research had begun,” and had “disregarded information and made findings on selective information.” The reaction of Carol Browner, head of the EPA was: “We stand by our science; there’s wide agreement. The American people certainly recognize that exposure to second hand smoke brings a whole host of health problems.” Again, note how the claim of consensus trumps science. In this case, it isn’t even a consensus of scientists that Browner evokes! It’s the consensus of the American people.

Meanwhile, ever-larger studies failed to confirm any association. A large, seven-country WHO study in 1998 found no association. Nor have well-controlled subsequent studies, to my knowledge. Yet we now read, for example, that second-hand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. At this point you can say pretty much anything you want about second-hand smoke.

As with nuclear winter, bad science is used to promote what most people would consider good policy. I certainly think it is. I don’t want people smoking around me. So who will speak out against banning second-hand smoke? Nobody, and if you do, you’ll be branded a shill of RJ Reynolds. A big tobacco flunky. But the truth is that we now have a social policy supported by the grossest of superstitions. And we’ve given the EPA a bad lesson in how to behave in the future. We’ve told them that cheating is the way to succeed.

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

November 23, 2017

QotD: The rise of junk science

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

As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact. The deterioration of the American media is dire loss for our country. When distinguished institutions like the New York Times can no longer differentiate between factual content and editorial opinion, but rather mix both freely on their front page, then who will hold anyone to a higher standard?

Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming”: the Caltech Michelin Lecture, 2003-01-17.

October 31, 2017

Yes Minister — The Five Standard Excuses

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Government, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Hostis Humani Generis
Published on 26 Sep 2015

Humphrey Appleby’s five standard excuses from S02E07.

October 20, 2017

Justin Trudeau’s government at the two-year mark

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Paul Wells nicely lists all the good things the Trudeau government has managed to do during the first two years of its mandate, then gets down to the other side of the balance sheet:

The worse continues to pile up. I see no way the rushed and timid legalization of cannabis will drain the black market and, in hardening more penalties than it relaxes, it seems certain to provide busywork for police who have been asking only to be freed up to tackle more serious problems. (An internal Ontario government memo reaches the same conclusions.)

Since it’s impossible to find anyone in the government who’s conspicuous for saying no to any proposed spending spree, it’s a near dead-lock certainty that Canada will become a nursery for white elephants — and, unless this generation of public administrators is luckier than any previous generation, for corruption, somewhere in the system.

The government’s appointments system is, as one former staffer told me this week, “just a little f–ked,” with backlogs as far as the eye can see. There’s a serious bottleneck for important decisions, with the choke point in the Prime Minister’s Office. Rookie ministers, which is most of them, are held close. Those who don’t perform are sent new staffers from the PMO: career growth comes from the centre, not the bottom.

A cabinet full of political neophytes — and there is nothing Trudeau could have done to avoid that, given how few seats he had before 2015 — has been trained to cling for dear life to talking points. The result is unsettling: most of the cabinet simply ignores any specific question and charges ahead with the day’s message, conveying the unmistakable impression they are not as bright as — given their achievements before politics — they must surely be. Or that they think their audience isn’t. I doubt this is what anyone intends, but by now it’s deeply baked into the learned reflexes of this government.

Then there is this tax mess. I’m agnostic on the policy question: in my own life I’ve been spectacularly unimaginative in organizing my finances for minimal taxation. I put all the book money into RRSPs, called my condo an office for the two years I used it as one, and that was the end of that. But the summer tax adventure has left the Liberals with their hair on fire, for two broad reasons. One is that Bill Morneau’s personal financial arrangements are becoming surreal. The other is the way the project — and especially the life stories of its stewards, Trudeau and Morneau — undermined the Liberals’ claim to be champions of the middle class.

Wells very kindly doesn’t mention the ongoing flustercluck that is our military procurement “system” (which to be fair, the Liberals did inherit from the Harper Conservatives), which has gotten worse rather than better — and only part of that is due to Trudeau’s trumpeted “No F-35s” election pledge. The Royal Canadian Navy seem no closer to getting the new ships they so desperately need (aside from the Project Resolve supply ship, which the government had to be arm-twisted into accepting), and the government hasn’t yet narrowed down the surface combatant requirements enough to select a design.

September 28, 2017

Back to the Moon in 2019?

Filed under: Space, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Charles Stross thinks a US circumlunar expedition is on the cards for just two years ahead, and he might well be right:

If Donald Trump is still president, US astronauts will return to circumlunar space around July 16th, 2019 …

That’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. It’s also 6-12 months on from the projected date of Musk’s translunar tourist trip on a Falcon Heavy.

I expect Falcon Heavy to be delayed a few months, minimum, because no new launch vehicle ever flies on time, especially a crew-rated one, but it’s currently due to fly around December this year for the first time, with a vehicle currently undergoing integration at Cape Canaveral and commercial orders for subsequent flights. It’s rather hard to describe it as vaporware at this point. The same goes for the Dragon 2 crewed capsule; it’s due for a first uncrewed orbital flight test in March 2018, and a crewed orbital test flight later in 2018.

[…]

I’m making this a prediction, however, because the POTUS factor.

July 2019 lies within the term in office of Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, depending whether impeachment/removal has happened first then). Trump is nothing if not an egomaniac, and offering him the opportunity to make a historic phone call to lunar orbit in front of the TV cameras is a guaranteed ego-stroke. Trump is of an age to have young-adult memories of Apollo and I can’t see the idea not appealing to him if he can take credit for it.

So I’m betting that this is how Musk will fund development of his lunar-orbit capability.

(Terms and conditions: prediction invalid in event of nuclear war, global environmental or economic collapse, Trump and Pence both being impeached, or a Dragon 2 capsule exploding in flight, because any of these things might impact the launch schedule.)

Note: Charles is quite a fan of the impeachment scenario, if you hadn’t picked that up from context. The fact that he’s very much not a Trump fan actually makes his prediction that much more striking: he has no interest or desire to see Trump get a propaganda coup to end his term in office.

August 14, 2017

The NRA as a “domestic security threat”

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

Kevin Williamson on the recent calls for the National Rifle Association to be viewed in the same way as the KKK, al Queda or ISIS:

Representative Kathleen Rice, a batty New York congressman — and, significantly, a former prosecutor — […] called upon the U.S. government to designate the National Rifle Association and its public faces, including Dana Loesch, “domestic security threats.” This demand comes in response to the NRA’s having shown a recruiting video in which Loesch criticizes sundry progressive bogeymen (the media, Hollywood, etc.) and calls upon like-minded allies to “fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” It was immediately denounced by the usual opportunistic nincompoops as a call to violence and sedition, even a call to overthrow the government.

It is of course no such thing. It’s a dopey bit of cheap PR hackery from an increasingly partisan NRA that has made the lamentable decision to branch out from what it is good at — its enormously successful and historically bipartisan campaign of agitation for gun rights — and go all-in with Trump (a fickle friend of the Second Amendment) and the kulturkampf associated with his movement. None of that adds up to “domestic security threat” or anything like a domestic security threat. The only thing the NRA or Loesch have done violence to is a decent respect for the limitations of metaphor.

“Domestic security threat” is a term without legal meaning, being a conflation of two terms that Democrats like to employ against their critics: “national-security threat” and “domestic terrorists.” That should give us some idea of what Representative Rice would like to see done in response to the “domestic security threat” she imagines. Recent precedent here is not particularly inspiring: The Obama administration assassinated an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, for the grave offense of being “the Osama bin Laden of Facebook,” a phrase that would be hard to say without laughing in a context other than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.

Gun owners and gun enthusiasts have been targeted for some time by Democrats, who have insisted, among other things, that the federal government ought to suspend the constitutional rights of people put on a secret blacklist by the federal government with no due process and no course of appeal. Democrats dream of registries, property seizure, and other invasive measures reminiscent of the totalitarian excesses of the 20th century — so long as those tools of tyranny are used on their political enemies.

What are the possible offenses of the NRA? It is an organization that does nothing more aggressive than political organization and political communication. Its efforts are labor-intensive: Contrary to the ignorant assumptions that inform our political discourse, the NRA is a relatively small spender when it comes to campaign donations and lobbying, being at the moment the 460th-largest campaign donor and the 156th-highest-spending lobbyist. The NRA has long excelled at its core mission because it excels at arguing its case in public and at delivering the votes, particularly in tight House races. And it is for this — for ordinary political activism of precisely the sort that the First Amendment exists to protect — that Representative Rice and others seek to have the NRA punished as a criminal organization, or as a terrorist organization. That these authoritarian measures are cheered by people who still call themselves “liberals” suggests a widespread moral and intellectual failure among a significant portion of the American public.

April 17, 2017

Why big organizations act like idiots (United Airlines is only the most recent example)

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charlie Martin knows about big corporations making themselves look foolish … and far too often doubling down on the stupid:

This whole recent thing with United Airlines has me thinking, once again, about how big organizations act like idiots. […]

Like all good consultants, I have a Model, mostly cribbed from others, based on two observations:

  • The SNAFU principle: the farther up a hierarchy information has to travel, the more information is lost. This is because no one likes giving people bad news, so the news tends to get better the farther up it goes.
  • The Peter Principle (modified): people rise in a hierarchy to the limits of their competence in rising in a hierarchy; further, the skill of rising in a hierarchy is largely independent of the skills needed to deal with actual issues.

Of course, the implication of this is something I’ve called Carl’s Corollary (for a friend and co-worker Carl Madison, who first pointed it out). Carl’s Corollary implies that most decisions are being made by people less and less competent to deal with the situation, using increasingly bad information.

Naturally, this results in bad decisions being made. The usual result is that once the bad decision has been made, someone is identified to be responsible, that person is punished, and a new policy is issued to make sure no one makes that mistake again.

[…]

United, though, has a different scheme, clearly. They have a Book, and it Must Be Followed. No one on the ground in Chicago — at least no one in reach of the gate — had the authority to do anything but offer an $800 voucher, which just wasn’t enough. (I can relate. I used to be a “45 weeks a year” road warrior, and there were some nights where if they’d have tried to bump me off a flight home, I would have either killed someone or just thrown myself on the floor of the terminal screaming.) So they followed the Book, and when they couldn’t get Dao to leave, they followed the book again saying he was disruptive, and then the mall airport cops went all Cartman on him…

https://media.giphy.com/media/B1TMcmoBAaSZi/giphy.gif

… and the rest was history.

Now, imagine if, instead, the gate people had the authority to offer more. And the gate agents knew their primary responsibility was to make customers happy and not get bad publicity.

April 12, 2017

United Airlines implies that the beatings will continue until customer morale improves

Filed under: Business, Humour, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

One of several videos from other passengers on the flight:

Some reactions from around the net to a United Airlines initiative to treat their customers like unruly prison inmates:

Reason‘s Brian Doherty:

The world is rightly abuzz over an awful incident yesterday in which a man was beaten and dragged off a plane by police at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for the crime of wanting to use the seat he’s paid for on a United Airline flight getting ready to leave for Louisville.

The man claimed to be a doctor who had patients to see the next morning, explaining why he neither took an initial offer made to everyone on the plane to accept $400 and a hotel room for the night in exchange for voluntarily giving up his seat nor wanted to obey a straight-up order to leave, in an attempt on United’s part to clear four seats for its own employees on the full flight.

No one considered even the $800 that was offered after everyone had boarded enough for the inconvenience, so United picked four seats and just ordered those in them to vacate. But the one man in question was not interested in obeying. (Buzzfeed reports, based on tweets from other passengers, that the bloodied man did eventually return to the plane.)

While United’s customer service policies in this case are clearly heinous and absurd, let’s not forget to also cast blame on the police officers who actually committed the brutality on United’s behalf. NPR reports that the cops attacking the man “appear to be wearing the uniforms of Chicago aviation police.”

However violent and unreasonable the incident might appear to us mere ignorant peasants, the CEO assures his minions that beatings of this sort are totally within normal procedural guidelines:

The head of United Airlines said in an email to his employees Monday that the security guards who violently dragged a passenger from his seat were following “established procedures for dealing with situations like this,” according to a tweet by CNBC reporter Steve Kopack.

“As you will read, the situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact the Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this,” wrote Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines.

Munoz’s message to staff comes amid public scrutiny after a passenger refused to relinquish his seat on an overbooked plane and was violently dragged off the plane by three security officers.

Surfaced videos of the incident have since gone viral.

March 25, 2017

QotD: Why I hate Big Oil

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

For many years now, I – and many sceptics like me – have been accused by climate alarmists of being “in the pay of Big Oil”. But even though we deserve it for promoting fossil fuels so enthusiastically and fighting their critics so heroically, few of us have ever received even a penny for our troubles. That’s because Big Oil is far too busy trying to greenwash its image – as Shell itself did by sponsoring the Guardian’s environment pages for many years – to waste time on the plucky, outspoken heroes who do a better job for Big Oil’s PR than the Big Oil’s paid PR departments do.

Mainly, though it’s disgust. Big Oil has this public image of being an industry for fearless, no-nonsense manly men who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty or braving the environmentalists’ wrath in order to do their ugly but important work supplying the world with much-needed energy.

Yet it’s an image almost entirely undeserved.

Almost everyone at a senior level in Big Oil is a craven, simpering, politically correct, spineless, surrender-monkey corporate shill. They’re cowards who are scared of free markets, won’t speak up for capitalism, won’t even defend their core business.

James Delingpole, “Why I Totally Hate Big Oil – And Why You Should Too…”, Breitbart.com, 2017-03-14.

January 8, 2017

The worship of NASA

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Science, Space, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

James Miller is more than a bit skeptical of those who unabashedly sing the praises of NASA and more generally the “I love science sexually” crowd:

I’ve never understood the slobbering love affair many have with outer space and, more specifically, NASA. Sure, the moon landing was an incredible feat demonstrating American strength at time of conflict with a competing superpower. But I’m in agreement with Gary North: It was the “most expensive PR stunt in American history,” with little other benefit. We have yet to put a man on another moon, let alone another planet. It’s been a half century since Neil Armstrong made history, and the federal government still fails at running a simple website.

The saccharine lengths some go to to express their admiration for NASA has always made me queasy. Like all government bureaucracies, it wastes an incredible amount of money. Yet conservative lawmakers like Ted Cruz never miss an opportunity to remind us that conquering new galaxies is paramount to our national survival.

If the windbags in Washington can’t put a stop to the caliphate of killers in the Middle East, what hope is there for putting a colony on Kepler-186f?

My antipathy for space travel goes hand in hand with my overall distaste for science worshipping. The celebrification of the study of the natural world has been as infantilizing and degrading as Richard Nixon’s clownish appearance on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. “I fucking love science”? I’d much rather string celebrity science guy Neil deGrasse Tyson up by his thumbs.

H/T to Kathy Shaidle for the link. Kathy also throws shade at Star Wars and praises the heck out of Star Trek:

If Star Trek was actually set on Antarctica (and here, it is) I would watch the hell out of that (and have.)

But I also love how this fictional universe (which I would HATE to live in because they’ve abolished money, wear ugly clothes, and pretend to believe in peace and love and shit) has inspired real world, well, enterprises.

Yes, space travel is stupid. But it’s amazing that a black woman decided she could and would become an astronaut because she saw an actress do it on her TV when she was a kid.

I totally get that, and just get off on the phenomenon of people taking a sliver of fiction, and having seen this fake, plastic, non-functional prop, worked to create a functional version (and a multi-billion dollar industry.)

It’s like cargo culting, except by, well, smart people with way more resources who actually want shit to work.

Star WARS on the other hand is just life-wasting masturbatory etc EXCLUSIVELY.

Star Wars is nothing but escapism.

It has had no real world impact except that negative one. Star Wars has been a net negative on society while Star Trek has been a net positive:

December 16, 2015

Chipotle gains “green cred PR opportunities” and worse health outcomes for customers

Filed under: Business, Health, Science, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Henry Miller on the Faustian bargain Chipotle willingly made and is now paying for:

Chipotle, the once-popular Mexican restaurant chain, is experiencing a well-deserved downward spiral.

The company found it could pass off a fast-food menu stacked with high-calorie, sodium-rich options as higher quality and more nutritious because the meals were made with locally grown, genetic engineering-free ingredients. And to set the tone for the kind of New Age-y image the company wanted, Chipotle adopted slogans like, “We source from farms rather than factories” and, “With every burrito we roll or bowl we fill, we’re working to cultivate a better world.”

The rest of the company wasn’t as swift as the marketing department, however. Last week, about 140 people, all but a handful Boston College students, were recovering from a nasty bout of norovirus-caused gastroenteritis, a foodborne illness apparently contracted while eating Chipotle’s “responsibly raised” meats and largely organic produce.

And they’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking another, unrelated Chipotle food poisoning outbreak in California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington, in which victims have been as young as one year and as old as 94. Using whole genome sequencing, CDC investigators identified the DNA fingerprint of the bacterial culprit in that outbreak as E. coli strain STEC O26, which was found in all of the sickened customers tested.

Outbreaks of food poisoning have become something of a Chipotle trademark; the recent ones are the fourth and fifth this year, one of which was not disclosed to the public. A particularly worrisome aspect of the company’s serial deficiencies is that there have been at least three unrelated pathogens in the outbreaks – Salmonella and E. coli bacteria and norovirus. In other words, there has been more than a single glitch; suppliers and employees have found a variety of ways to contaminate what Chipotle cavalierly sells (at premium prices) to its customers.

November 7, 2015

DND briefings to the new minister

Filed under: Cancon, Military, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

It would be fascinating to find out if the Department of National Defence briefing to incoming minister Harjit Sajjan are quite as blatantly PR-focussed as the documents provided to former minister Jason Kenney when he took over the portfolio in February:

A new Liberal defence minister will inherit a self-conscious department that seems more than a little concerned about how it’s perceived by the public.

When Jason Kenney took over as national defence minister in February 2015, he was briefed with a thicker stack of papers about public opinion and media operations than about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Operation Reassurance and Operation Impact combined.

Embassy obtained the transition books for Mr. Kenney through an access to information request. Similar documents may be provided to a new minister when prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau names his Cabinet Nov. 4.

In a book about “Key Strategic Issues,” about 70 pages long, there are 17 pages worth of public opinion and media analysis, complete with graphs tracking Canadians’ perceptions of the department over years of polling data.

Conversely, only two pages of the document appear to be entirely devoted to Operation Reassurance in Central and Eastern Europe, two pages to Operation Impact in Iraq and Syria, four to NATO and two to NORAD.

[…]

Another transition book, titled “Who We Are and How We Work,” provided a broader departmental overview to the new minister of national defence.

Just shy of 70 pages, it includes information about ongoing Canadian Armed Forces operations, including all international engagements. It also gave the incoming minister a handy guide to key department officials, complete with photos and biographies.

A brief on strategic decision-making acknowledges that a prime minister or defence minister can make unilateral decisions on defence policy.

Cabinet does not need to sit together as a whole for major decisions to be made, the document explains.

“In some cases, a deployment decision will be made by a cabinet committee and, in others by the prime minister, or by the minister of national defence alone, or in conjunction with the minister of foreign affairs,” the transition book states.

H/T to MILNEWS.ca for the link.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress