mindstalk: (atheist)
Last week I went to a reading group for the mis-titled book Communism For Kids, as the book had sounded interesting. I hadn't gotten around to getting or reading it, so naturally I kept quiet most of the time. Plus, even as I heard things I privately objected to, I was the self-described token liberal in a dozen+ socialist/communist/anarchist sympathizers, and the night wasn't about me or my thoughts.

This blog is about me and my thoughts, though! So I'll vent some responses I didn't make then.

First, a meta-note: arguing with socialists has increasingly seemed like arguing with libertarians, in that the perceptions of history and the current world, and the definitions of key terms, differ so widely as to make useful discussion difficult at best.

Also, I've seen a lot of these points in past online discussion too, so I'm kind of responding to a melange of my experiences.

"social democracy has failed": this got stated like an absolute, and accepted by everyone. Like, really? What's the criterion for failure? The richest, freest, and largely most equal countries are all social democracies, broadly speaking. People risk their lives to flee to those countries. They're not perfect: unemployment is often high, immigrant integration often lacking. But they're pretty good, and social democratic policies generally work; a lot of the flaws could be described as not trying hard enough.

Those policies are under attack, and inequality has been increasing again in many countries. One could say it's "failed" in failing to totally resist such attacks. But here, let me list the social systems which have proven their ability to last a long time on a large scale while resisting inequality:
begin list
end list
And if social democracy creeps toward economic inequality again, every attempt so far at large scale socialism has positively raced toward authoritarianism, censorship, and purges.

"capitalism can't solve global warming": Question, is the EPA 'capitalist'? Hear me out: these people were also saying capitalism is a total system, that states created or were taken over by capitalism, that it's pervasively disruptive and corrupting. So, the EPA isn't a corporation or something, but it is an arm of the government of the USA, paragon of capitalism. It has *also* addressed many environmental problems, like cleaning up air and water and protecting endangered species. Under Obama it tried to regulate carbon emissions, and but for some tens of thousands of votes, it would be doing so under Hillary. Capitalist countries agreed to limit CFCs to protect the ozone layer, and are mostly inching toward addressing global warming -- the Paris accord was agreed to by almost every country, almost all of which are capitalist. A strong global state of any variety would be able to tackle global warming far more directly, without the handicap of a disorganized anarchy of countries going "but if we cut back, what if India or the US just pollute more?"

I agree that laissez faire capitalism can't solve global warming. But does 'capitalism' mean that, or does it mean real existing capitalism, with regulators and welfare states and democracy? The usage seemed... fluid.

(Which is something I've seen among libertarians, too: capitalism is either the natural way for things to be such that almost everything is capitalist, or a pure ideal snowflake that evaporates at the first hint of tax, depending on whether they're assigning credit or blame.)

"Markets don't arise, they're created by governments to fund war.": Nnnng. Yes, governments can create markets, or make them work better. Yes, governments had a role in creating or expediting the modern capitalist world, including things like enclosures. But... so what? I infer implications that governments created capitalism out of whole cloth, or that the origin taints capitalism for good.

Whereas I'd say markets often *do* arise spontaneously, in the absence or even opposition of governments; we call the latter "black markets". Often, a medieval government creating a market was about banning/trade market activity elsewhere, concentrating it in one place to it could be taxed. Markets and trade tend to make most things more efficient; centuries ago, the main government expense was waging war, so yes, prudent governments would advance markets and what became capitalism, to wage war, so they could pay for mercenaries or full time soldiers rather than depending on short-term levies.

But you know what? If a government had been using labor levies for education or health care, "you must spend one month a year teaching children", it would have found raising monetary taxes, and paying for full time professionals, to be just as much an improvement for those things as it was for warfare.

"capitalism arose through trade, like with Asia": Begging the question of why this trade didn't cause capitalism in China, the other half of the trade equation... There's a whole murky area of how one even defines capitalism, which would depend on exact quotations to argue about rigorously. I'd just say that markets, contracts, money, and wage labor go back thousands of years, and that early medieval Europe was rather a low point in financialization. Modern capitalism is an intensification of things that have been around for a long time, fueled as much by changes in agriculture (fewer people on the farm) as anything else. You can argue that the change in degree amounts to a change of kind, but it didn't spring into the world out of nothing in 1700.

"Native American societies were communal": North American societies, with small populations, could be described as that. Aztec society had money, merchants, markets, and long distance trade, like any urbanized Eurasian society.

"co-ops can't work in capitalism": I can't believe no one objected with the various co-ops that do exist, including the giant Mondragon group in Spain. The book apparently gave some theoretical example of a co-op in a market society having to lay off workers anyway, and "laying off the thinkers"; in my limited understanding, real co-ops are more likely to cut back on wages and try to keep everyone employed. (In the Great Recession, the capitalist and social democratic government of Germany took similar measures, subsidizing employment to minimize layoffs.) Transparency and democracy make such things more amenable than wage cuts from an employer would be.

Another thing didn't explicitly come up that night, but I've seen elsewhere, is an idea that capitalism is the root of most modern evil, including racism and sexism, that the struggle is between Capital and the Proletariat. But for some major policies I care about, that's not true.

* A useful tool to address global warming is a carbon tax. Capital might object to that, but capital has had to knuckle under to other environmental laws, such as sulfate cap and trade, so capital can clearly lose this kind of fight. And in theory, businesses shouldn't actually care much as long as they're not disadvantaged relative to competitors (so a world state with no foreign trade would have a policy advantage.) But... most US voters are drivers, with no enthusiasm for seeing their gas (or utility) prices go up, and I see that as a far deeper obstacle to good environmental policy. And even some leftists object with "it's regressive", or, I feel, a general suspicion of anything that sounds market-like.

* Top economic issues for the average person are "can I get a job?" and "can I afford housing near my job?" Capital's allergy to Keynesianism is a problem for the first, but on the second, capital is on my side. Unregulated capital, aka "developers", would *love* to provide housing! Possibly substandard firetrap housing that'll kill you in ten years, but it'd put a roof over your head today. And in great quantity: subdividing houses and apartments, building tall buildings, packing 8 people into a house, turning gardens into housing. Why don't they? Because local government makes it illegal to do so, through building codes and zoning laws, backed up by existing homeowners, most of whom are simply better paid members of the proletariat. (Also backed up sometimes by anti-gentrification activists.)

I'm all for genuine safety codes, and such inspections are an example of a way in which governments can 'make' markets: if I can trust that rental housing is safe, I'm more likely to choose it rather than be forced into it. But I'm told that in Somerville, a legal bedroom has to have a closet. Why? That's neither a safety feature, nor one which can be hidden from a prospective tenant. Why can't I choose to pay less for a room that happens to lack a closet? And lots of zoning laws outright restrict housing: single-family zoning, height limitations, minimum space requirements, parking requirements, caps on the number of unrelated people living together... none of that is capitalism's fault, but it's the basic cause of the housing crisis in many cities.

Of course, when I've tried to make that argument, I've been dismissed with "supply and demand doesn't apply to housing". Speaking of giant gaps in understanding that impede communication...
mindstalk: (thoughtful)
So there are various ways government policy could try to make housing cheaper, but one that I see a lot of people pushing now is a form of inclusionary zoning. Specifically, especially from what I've been told by Cambridge/Somerville politicos, requiring that a percentage (10-30%) of new units (of large developments) be rentable at low price. Not because they're smaller or more cheaply built, but just at a lower price. As Wikipedia says, "Many jurisdictions require that inclusionary housing units be indistinguishable from market-rate units"

(I don't know how that applies to a building that was planned to have diverse housing anyway. I suppose a percentage of each housing class?)

Developers[1] push back on this, and I've seen it described as a tax on them. Is that a fair description? Time for a simple thought experiment: imagine a building of 100 units, planned price of $1000/month, total revenue of $100,000/month. Then the city passes a new law during construction, requiring 30% be offered at $800. That's 30 units getting a $200 discount, $6000/month, which yes, you can think of as taxing the developer 6% and giving that back to the lucky tenants.

6%, not of profit, but of gross revenue. That's a lot! If the developer was anticipating profit of 5%, it is no longer worth building. Even if they anticipated 8%, that's now 2%; you might as well quit and invest in 30 year federal bonds. Or build hotels or condos that won't be hit by IZ, or just go build somewhere else.

And it can be worse. 30% requirement is high, but 20% subsidy might be low; 15% at $500/month would mean $7500, or a tax of 7.5%.

What's the alternative? Say the city instead decided to attach an explicit public subsidy to some of the new units. The $6000/month, $72,000/year cost would be spread among the whole population and tax base, not one developer. For a 77,000 person city like Somerville, that's under $1/person.

That's not quite fair though: that's just one development, and IZ applies to all of them, so we should look at that. Then again, there aren't many big developments in Somerville, which has "ambitious" plans to barely keep up with population growth at about 1% a year, and historically has done far less than that (3% total over some 20-30 year period I now forget, when Boston and MA did 12% and the country grew 24%). If we're adding units at 1% a year, and 30% of those are subsidized, then the subsidy of a new unit is spread over 300 existing ones. At a simplifying assumption of one person per unit, $2400/year ($200*12) is spread over 300 people, so $8/year.

(Most of what I've heard about recently is about a proposed 500 unit development in Union Square; assuming Somerville's 77,000 people live in 30,000 units, that's over 1% right there. But it'll take a few years.)

Of course, this is supposed to apply to all new housing, so after 30 years the subsidy support will have climbed to $240/year. This is pretty significant, especially compared to municipal taxes and revenue; probably talking about raising those up to 10% of existing levels. Also, affordable (or subsidized) units will be almost 10% of the housing stock.

But then someone might reasonably say "why should we dick around with only subsidizing new units? Why not just go ahead and subsidize 10% of all units, right now? The math's the same." And all the economists nod in agreement, and all the politicians blanch in terror...

Personal conclusion: yes, it is a tax on developers, and as with unfunded mandates[2] in general, it's an unfair tax, pushing a requirement onto a small subset of society, instead of funding it honestly out of general taxes and expenditure.

Of course, I feel that we shouldn't be trying to subsidize our way to cheap housing, which won't even address the real problem of more people wanting to live in cities now; we should enable building *more housing*, by removing the massive artificial restrictions on urban supply imposed by local governments. But that's another topic.

[1] 'Developer' has gotten a bad rep somehow; what if we called them builders, instead? It's not even a euphemism, more like an anti-euphemism: they are literally building new buildings and housing. Especially for the projects that get hit by IZ; you could argue that converting a house into apartments isn't real building (though it is real construction work, and more 'real' than hedge fund finance, say), but IZ applies to big projects, which are mostly new buildings.

But then it sounds worse: what kind of asshole opposes building new housing? (People who already have housing and don't want more neighbors, that's who.) Much easier to intone against "developers" and "profit" (as if homeowners don't hope to profit from growth in their home values, not to mention from their jobs.)

[2] Also see EMTALA, requiring ERs to stabilize anyone regardless of ability to pay; it's great that they do that, not so great that government didn't both reliably compensating them for it, so the costs were driven into other medical prices. Or landowners sometimes winning the anti-lottery of discovering there's an endangered species on their land and now they can't use it; protecting the environment is cool, but it would be fairer to compensate people for unexpected loss. And yes, strictly speaking minimum wage is an unfunded mandate on employers, and a price floor on labor, both nominally bad ideas, though that issue gets complicated by data and macroeconomics.
mindstalk: (atheist)
It's a small thing in the world, but I feel compelled to counter-act their revisionism. For once, posting is direct action! http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article71659992.html
mindstalk: (Default)
Story: "the people are poor and pissed!"

Data: "not so fast"


"They’re as happy as they were in 1984, when Ronald Reagan won a landslide reelection. They largely approve of their president. They overwhelmingly support free trade and oppose immigration restriction, and in both cases the public is becoming more pro-globalization, not less. Donald Trump won a Republican primary where turnout, as always, was low, and got as far as he did on the votes of a relatively small fraction of Americans."

"Americans feel about as good about how things are going as they did in the mid-2000s, or in the mid-1980s. They feel much better than they did in 2012."

"Not only did the typical household see its income rise by 5.2 percent, or $2,800 in real terms, but the growth was concentrated at the bottom."

"According to polling Gallup conducted in June, only 25 percent of respondents report disliking both candidates; that's higher than the 11 percent of respondents in 2012 who disliked both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, but it suggests that a large majority of Americans have at least one candidate they view favorably."

"The timing for this turn against trade, however, is puzzling, given that the share of Americans saying trade is an “opportunity” rather than a “threat” hit in 2016 its highest point in Gallup’s polling"

"More intriguing still, Americans' split on the issue by party has changed over the past couple of decades. While Democrats used to be more skeptical of trade, and Republicans more sympathetic, now Democrats are likelier to say it's an opportunity."

"Polling from the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that while 58 percent of Americans say that having many different ethnic groups present makes their country a better place to live, the numbers are far worse in countries like Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Greece."

"While the share of Americans calling for reduced immigrant inflows peaked in 1993 and 1995 at 65 percent, according to Gallup, the share has plummeted to a mere 38 percent. "

"While 76 percent of millennials say that immigrants strengthen the country, only 48 percent of baby boomers do. "

"Over the past 10 years, more people have immigrated from the US to Mexico than vice versa"

"The murder rate is half of what it was in 1991"

"state legislative election outcomes are much more a consequence of national factors than local ones... He correlated respondents' reported votes in state legislature races against their approval ratings for their legislature, governor, and the US president. He found that presidential approval has a significantly larger effect on state legislature voting choices than either of the other, more relevant approval ratings."

That one suggests federalism, as in electing different levels of government, might be obsolete.


2016-Oct-17, Monday 21:48
mindstalk: (atheist)
So Trump's been trying to undermine democracy in the US, by screeching shrilly about "rigged elections". Let's remember that elections are run by the states, and that most states right now are run by... Republicans. For example, some (potential) swing states with fully GOP governors and statehouses: WI, MIchigan, OH, FL, NC, SC, GA, UT, NV, AZ, TX(!), MS, IN. In addition, IA has a GOP governor. In fact, the only swing state with a Democratic executive may be NH, which has a GOP legislature. Conversely, Democrats fully control only six state governments, all of which are reliable shoo-ins for a Democratic presidential candidate.

So if anyone has the means and incentive to rig the vote in November... it's the GOP.


2016-Jul-30, Saturday 14:08
mindstalk: (Default)
Time for another dump.

Israel's massive desalination project.

Messing with prices works: 5 cent charge cuts UK plastic bag use by 85%.

Smoking gun found in North Carolina: voter ID laws are explicitly racist in their intent, aimed at disenfranchising black voters.

Long piece on Hillary's climate policy.  The DNC pro-gay rights platform.

Houston Chronicle endorses Hillary, way early. They went for Romney last time.

Story on how Hillary helped a constituent with cancer.

Trump claims a tax exemption for people with income <$500,000.  Bit odd for an alleged billionaire.

Apollo http://observer.com/2016/07/space-radiation-devastated-the-lives-of-apollo-astronauts/observer.com/2016/07/space-radiation-devastated-the-lives-of-apollo-astronauts/ dying off of heart disease.

GOP thinker thinks modern GOP is doomed, by its original sin of Goldwater and racism.

Trump blames GOP for RNC ratings.  What a leader.  Such responsibility.  Wow.

Trump talks about a http://www.ifyouonlynews.com/politics/trump-may-have-just-leaked-classified-info-on-his-first-day-getting-intelligence-briefings/www.ifyouonlynews.com/politics/trump-may-have-just-leaked-classified-info-on-his-first-day-getting-intelligence-briefings/ or secret base in Saudi Arabia.  Neither one reflects well on him.

Hillary's DNC speech, annotated.  Trump's speech, annotated.

Another article arguing dieting doesn't work.

Hillary's paid speeches in context.

"Why should I *like* Hillary, rather than fearing Trump?"  A list.  A similar list -- haven't checked to see if they're kept in sync.  Not included: what she did for trans people.

America's gridlock. "What if D's won every place w/ electorate less than 75% white, lost everywhere else? D's would win 292 EV's but just 36 Sen/191 House seats."

Green Party platform calls for something that was done in 2009.  Such updating.

"what if Hillary accepted the nomination with 5 children by three different men, like Trump?"


2016-Mar-28, Monday 19:49
mindstalk: (Default)
[Edit: the low numbers seem to be be bunk; I was trusting the report of Google [washington caucus] and such, but e.g. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-p-mcdonald/iowa-caucus-turnout-what-it-means_b_9141408.html and http://iowademocrats.org/statement-from-idp-chair-on-tonights-historically-close-caucus-results/ report much higher Iowa numbers. http://www.dailyjournal.net/view/story/05a3e761e16d4aa2beaa47c294f76071/WA--Washington-Caucuses-Democrats talks about 250,000 turnout, and 26,000 "delegates".]

Alaska caucus: 539 votes. That's not a margin, that's how many people were at the Democratic caucus. (The GOP had about 20,000 people, still small but a lot bigger.)

WA caucus was 26,000 people for the Democrats. The MA primary had nearly 1.2 million voters on the Democratic side, and MA has somewhat fewer people than WA.

HI is similar to the other caucus numbers (AK Democrats seems exceptional.)

Iowa caucus was over 150K for the GOP. About 1400 people for the Democrats.
mindstalk: (Default)
Oregon Democrats pass a big new clean energy bill http://www.vox.com/2016/3/17/11252280/oregon-clean-energy-bill

Which is playing catchup to California's green revolution (long article) http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2016/03/california-cuts-greenhouse-gas-jerry-brown-growth-energy
To be fair, that owes some to Arnold. And some Republicans are getting on board with wind and solar when it means business for their districts. But mostly, Democrats.

(As I say, Hillary with a D Congress would be far more progressive than Bernie with an R one, even ignoring the fact that they voted pretty similarly in Congress.)

How to fuck up green energy: Venezuela's socialist government is turning off power for a week. Drought is the trigger, but low investment and subsidized prices have set the stage. http://www.vox.com/2016/3/17/11254860/venezuela-electricity-crisis

Interesting thing on the complex interaction between electric car prices and oil prices. http://www.vox.com/2016/3/4/11161758/electric-cars-oil-crisis
mindstalk: (Default)
Here something that has nothing to do with the presidential primary: when I voted (actually, when I looked at the sample ballot ahead of time), there were also people running for state and ward committee positions. (And not for Congress; apparently that's a *different* primary.) What are those? Turn out they're *party* positions, and reddit led to some fascinating primers on the subject:


Even if you don't live in MA, it might be an interesting look at how party politics works. Like, it sounds really easy to join up and start working your way up from the ground floor. Also, not much of a progressive caucus -- because the party is old and hostile, or because progressives haven't been showing up? And the MA Democratic party has a lot of diversity baked in, like equal state seats for men and women, and seats reserved for gays, racial minorities, linguistic minorities, etc.

If I wasn't busy job hunting and possibly relocating, I'd be tempted to go look up my local committee right now. Maybe in a few months. I've said before "it's not like I'm committed to being a Democrat, they just run the people I can vote for", which is true, but it seems likely they'll be running all the people I can vote for for the foreseeable future, might as well get involved.

(I wonder if anyone has ever been centrist enough to be involved in both parties at the same time.)
mindstalk: (Default)
Bernie's campaign is a long shot.

It's easy to forget that now, in all the enthusiasm, but step back some months and look at the candidates objectively:

Hillary is an established national figure who finished the 2008 primary in a dead heat. (Say what you want about DNC bias, she's proven the ability to get the support of half the Democratic voters.) She's gotten only stronger since then, with a fine career as Secretary of State.

Martin O'Malley -- remember him? -- is an actual Democratic governor, who talked more about the environment than either of the other two.

Bernie is a Senator from a small state, a self-described socialist, unhead of to much of the Democratic base, and *not even a member of the party he's now running in*. (DNC bias? Shockingly, people in a party prefer people who have put in the time to help build or at least be part of the party, to outsiders suddenly crashing the party...) He'd also be the oldest person to become President, by over five years. (Reagan's currently oldest. Hillary's a bit younger than Reagan, relatively, and women have better life expectancy.)

Go back a year, and we'd rationally expect Bernie's campaign to die an ignominious death, like that of Kucinich and various would-be progressive candidates. That the old socialist who's not even a Democrat would be, not just getting 5-10% of the vote, but crushing out a governor and turning the race into a two-way, would be incredible. That it's actually happening is amazing, and kudos to Bernie. (And that O'Malley got ignored is I think some evidence that Bernie's support is actual hunger for leftist ideas, not just sexism against Hillary. There was another man available. (Not to mention Webb, but really.))

But for all that, it's *still* a long shot. It's possible he can pull another Obama. It's possible Hillary can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Those aren't even terribly unlikely possibilities, at this point.

But I'd say they're well less than 50% chances. Again: socialist who hasn't even been a Democrat, vs. a long-standing Democrat who's already roped in half of the electorate before, and has the "first woman President" cachet to boot. If he wins, wow. But if he doesn't? Don't feel crushingly disappointed, feel amazed that he did as well as he did. And then go vote for Hillary in November, the way you voted for Obama before.


A related reminder: the Democratic Party is not naturally a liberal or leftist party. It is a big tent party that liberals can find a place in. A coalition of diverse interest groups loosely united by an interest in equality, fairness, or helping the underdog (especially when it's themselves.) But full-bore ideological leftists? We're a distinct minority. The party has big chunks who care about economic help but aren't all that socially liberal, and social liberals who feel the existing market economy is treating them quite well. And if we want to get things done, we need to work with at least one of those chunks, if not both, not view the Democratic party as our natural territory that's somehow been stolen from us.

Conversely, it's not the enemy either: a plurality electoral system can only stably support two parties, and at the moment the Democratic party is the one for us. Not satisfied with it? Try to change it, first of all by voting at every chance, second by convincing other voters that your ideas are attractive.

Cuz, well, for all the talk about plutocracy, money doesn't win elections. Ask Jeb Bush or Ross Perot. Money buys airtime, money can influence elections, but votes (or electoral fraud) wins elections. And politicians listen to the voters... especially voters they can *mostly* rely on. Like, voters who actually come out to vote in every election, as opposed to ones who vote for the Presidency but skip the Congressional primaries and elections. Which, sadly, describes much of the Democratic base, especially youth and progressive blocs.

Especially the youth. Young people who don't vote because Bernie didn't win aren't sending a message, they're just doing what young people have always done: not vote, and thus be not worth politicians worrying about.


(And if you need a reminder of what the Democratic party has done for us recently: just off the top of my head: raised the minimum wage by 40%; fundamentally reformed how health care is provided; regulated tobacco and credit card companies; at least tried to regulate carbon emissions; stimulated the economy back from complete sickness; funding that's causing a big boom in renewable energy; Dodd-Frank Wall street reform; repealed DADT. And that's with the GOP controlling Congress for most of the last 8 years, because Democratic turnout collapsed in 2010 and 2014.)

At state levels, increased minimum wage further in many places. A whole slew of new progressive laws in California. Pharmacy birth control in Oregon. Banning "conversion therapy" in Illinois. Etc.)
mindstalk: (atheist)
I'm still undecided as to my vote, but since most of my friends seem to be pro-Bernie, I find myself in the position of skeptic, by which I mean passing on links.

Bernie pandering to liberals?

One woman's "How Bernie lost me". Links to Sady Doyle on progressive sexism, and another column on defending Hillary.

Imagine GOP attacks on a self-declared socialist. (From back when the Cold War was still on!)

Someone on Facebook on Hillary as embattled survivor, Bernie from a nice safe environment. Point is, Bernie's had the luxury of sticking to his principles and freely speaking his mind because he had liberal Vermont voters who loved him. As I've put it, Hillary had to change her own name to help Bill win over Arkansas voters. Not to mention the over 20 years of attacks that Doyle talks about.


Off topic but maybe thematically related: Kevin Drum on liberal reality distortion. I haven't had the time to read all the stuff he links to, so I'm posting it as "maybe interesting".
mindstalk: (Default)
Money isn't as decisive as some people think. Tends to buy apathy not action, and to matter less when voters pay attention. (Like my idea that ads mostly work when people have little opinion anyway.) Big issues have money on both sides, stalemating. Lobbying is often providing information (fight by having better paid staffers) and, ahem, votes. Leftism is hampered by structural problems (gerrymandering, the Senate) and the actual conservatism of many Americans.

mindstalk: (juggleone)
I'm tired and lazy. Here's some things I found interesting.

Nacreous clouds seen in UK.

Couple pieces on "Bernie bros" and sexist attacks on Hillary.
And is Bernie ready for Republican attacks? For being asked unfair questions like why he wants to destroy the economy and turn us into Venezuela, or why he thought socialism was cool during the Cold War? http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10903404/gop-campaign-against-sanders
Speaking of Venezuela, the rationing is so bad even lines are being rationed. And the economy czar doesn't believe in inflation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/29/venezuela-is-on-the-brink-of-a-complete-collapse/?tid=pm_business_pop_b
But to be positive: Bernie's Fed agenda http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10829888/bernie-sanders-federal-reserve

Harry Reid saved the renewable energy revolution.

How Houston improved bus ridership "for free": sparser network of higher frequency buses, in a grid rather than radial pattern. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10852884/houston-bus-ridership

How Likud won the 2015 election in Israel. http://www.vox.com/2016/1/28/10861560/israel-election-amit-channel-2

From last April, one article on how taxi medallions prices have dropped due to Lyft and Uber. http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2015/04/07/as-uber-lyft-hire-more-drivers-taxicab-medallion-values-tank.html

A trippy 9 minute history of Japan. The Reddit comments linked to by Vox are good glosses. http://www.vox.com/2016/2/3/10905274/japan-history-video

Purported evolution of fairy tales. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487

Memoization in Python https://stackoverflow.com/questions/1988804/what-is-memoization-and-how-can-i-use-it-in-python

Thread on previews of a new edition of the Blue Rose RPG http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?775100-Blue-Rose-previews

Obama's reform of federal solitary confinement http://www.vox.com/2016/1/26/10834770/obama-solitary-confinement-changes


2015-Sep-13, Sunday 17:31
mindstalk: (Default)
Dzungarian Gate, possibly Herodotus's Gate of Winds, with China as Hyperborea. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzungarian_Gate

For my Ars Magica game, I tried looking up medieval church services, which turned up this interesting thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/2dc68y/in_medieval_england_how_mandatory_was_it_for/

The Emishi, apparently a people of northern Honshu, transitional between the Jomon period and the Ainu; the Japanese learned horse archery tactics from them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emishi

Ryukyuan religion: similar to Japan and Shinto in some ways, but with a much stronger role for women, with women priests and even priest-queens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryukyuan_religion

Benedict Arnold apparently said he betrayed the US because we were too friendly with Catholic France. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/americas-true-history-of-religious-tolerance-61312684/?all


Turkey apparently had banned some letters of the alphabet, for their association with Kurdish names. http://www.dw.com/en/turkish-pm-unveils-reforms-to-increase-rights-of-kurdish-minority/a-17128423
Turkey, ISIS, and the Kurds http://www.vox.com/2015/9/12/9312137/turkey-pkk-conflict


Jeremy Corbyn, UK Labour's new leader http://www.vox.com/2015/9/12/9314779/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leader


Bernie Sanders vs. Black Lives Matter, leftism vs. liberalism on race and class
The black organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and
Freedom (it is telling that “Jobs and Freedom” are no longer part of
collective reflections of the march)

Sanders socialism

Europe burning

2015-Jul-10, Friday 16:13
mindstalk: (angry sky)
Metaphorically. Or abstractly, anyway.

There's all this news about Greece's debt crisis and Syriza apparently capitulating to the austerians[1], which is pretty depressing. But, as a reminder, Greece's GDP is 20% below peak. Unemployment is nearly 26%, and 60% for youth. While the EU fiddles over debt, the economy is burning -- human capital, the basis of developed economies, is atrophying. Or leaving. No one has a plausible proposal for fixing this on the euro, which has become basically a gold standard for eurozone countries, with all the problems thereof. AFAICT, hardly anyone is even talking about it as a problem.

And Spain, with 4x the population, is nearly as badly off, with unemployment over 22%. They're making their interest payments though, so no one cares. And we may hear even less from them thanks to a new gag law on political dissent. As a Spaniard I know tells us, Franco simply died, Spain didn't really purge the fascist influences from itself.

Still has a ways to go to catch up to Hungary though, which last I heard had gone pretty much full fascist, with a constitutional hardball coup d'etat.

In the UK, the Lib Dem collapse and plurality voting allowed the Tories to get a solid seat majority, even with hardly any more votes (just as the Tories did in Canada, with the Liberal collapse -- same vote percentage even, about 40), and Osborne's using that to double down on more austerity -- big welfare cuts -- without even the excuse of kowtowing to external creditors.

I don't have as many details, but the Nordics I know seem to think they've been swept by neo-liberal if not anti-immigrant parties, and that the Scandinavian welfare state is in deep danger.

[1] Coinage of 'austerity' and 'Austrian', as in school of economics. Expansionary austeriy has pretty much no support from economists, and is as intellectually respectable as Creationism, anti-vaxxer thought, and global warming denial, but clung to by many European leaders.
mindstalk: (Default)
Interesting piece, though it'd be more convincing with directly presented numbers about interstate differences, and comparing non-Southern states to the countries he invokes

"In practice, however, much of what sets the United States apart from other countries today is actually Southern exceptionalism."
"thanks to mid-century Southern members of Congress, welfare-state policies from home ownership to Social Security were designed to reinforce segregation or exclude the disproportionately-Southern black and white poor. "
"According to the FBI in 2012, the South as a region, containing only a quarter of the population, accounted for 40.9 percent of U.S. violent crime."
"Between the time the Supreme Court ended the ban on the death penalty and mid-June of this year, the South was responsible for 81 percent of the executions in the United States, with Texas and Oklahoma alone accounting for 45 percent of the whole."
"All of this leaves little doubt that, in the absence of Southern exceptionalism, the U.S. would be much more similar to other English-speaking democracies, which don’t subject their leaders to religious tests, don’t suffer from high levels of gun violence and don’t rival communist China and despotic Saudi Arabia in the number of executions per capita. Without the gravitational force exerted on the South, American conservatism itself would be radically different—more Bob Dole than Ted Cruz."
mindstalk: (atheist)

'It has been quite a few years since the lost cause has appeared quite as lost as it did Tuesday. As the afternoon drew on and their retreat turned into a rout, the lingering upholders of the Confederacy watched as license plates, statues and prominently placed Confederate battle flags slipped from their reach.

“This is the beginning of communism,” said Robert Lampley, who was standing in the blazing sun in front of the South Carolina State House shortly after the legislature voted overwhelmingly to debate the current placement of the Confederate battle flag. “The South is the last bastion of liberty and independence. I know we’re going to lose eventually.”

“Our people are dying off,” he went on, before encouraging a white reporter to “keep reproducing.”'

liberty, independence, white people. One of these is not like the others.

'In Austin, Tex., a tall bearded man went into the tattoo parlor where Kelly Barr works with a request: the removal a 10-year-old tattoo of the Confederate flag.

He told Mr. Barr that he had decided to get the flag removed when he saw the pained look on a middle-age black woman at his gym on Monday.

“ ‘If South Carolina can take theirs down,’ ” Mr. Barr recalled him saying, “ ‘I can take mine down.’ ” I told him, ‘Right on.’ ”'


A piece on South Carolina's Sikh woman governor, and her role in the rebel flag controversy.

'When she was about 5, Ms. Haley and her sister entered a “Little Miss Bamberg” pageant, where, traditionally, a black queen and a white queen were crowned. The judges decided the sisters fit neither category, so they disqualified them.'

'In the midst of the primary, two Republicans operatives emerged, making separate and unproven accusations that they had had sexual encounters with her. Ms. Haley, who was by that time married, strongly denied the assertions.'

'A Republican state senator, Jake Knotts, also went on a radio show and called her a “raghead.”'

'But some of Ms. Haley’s positions angered many African-American leaders, including her support of a law requiring voters to show identification cards at the polls, and her refusal to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law. In 2013, Ms. Haley removed a member of her re-election campaign’s advisory committee after it was revealed that the member had ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that opposes “all efforts to mix the races,”'
mindstalk: (atheist)
A few decades early, but still apropos:

"I consider the Tariff act as the occasion, rather than the real cause of the present unhappy state of things. The truth can no longer be disguised, that the peculiar domestick institution of the Southern States, and the consequent direction, which that and her soil and climate have given to her industry, has placed them in regard to taxation and appropriations in opposite relation to the majority of the Union, against the danger of which, if there be no protective power in the reserved rights of the States, they must in the end be forced to rebel, or submit it to have their paramount interests sacraficed, their domestick institutions subordinated by Colonization and other schemes, and themselves & children reduced to wretchedness."

--The Papers of John C. Calhoun: Volume XI, 1829-1832.

British free trade fanaticism, and its involvement in the lie that the Rebellion was about tariffs: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/the-great-civil-war-lie/ With bonus prescience from John Stuart Mill.

"Numerous Democratic lawmakers in Tennessee and the state's Republican party chairman on Monday called for the state to remove the bust of a Confederate general from the Tennessee capitol following the debate over whether South Carolina should continue to fly the Confederate flag on its capitol grounds."

The general in question is Nathan Bedford Forrest, brutal slave trader, war criminal and founder of the KKK. http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2004/winter/a-different-kind-of-hero

Some Southern politicians, even Republican ones, are calling for retiring use of the Confederate battle flag, which became popular first with the KKK and then in opposition to the civil rights movement. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/23/mississippi-confederate-flag-consider-dropping-emblem

And Glenn Beck, of all people, is also calling for that. "Flying The Confederate Flag 'Makes No Sense' Whatsoever" http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/glenn-beck-flying-confederate-flag-makes-no-sense-whatsoever
'"It's a flag of another country," Beck said. "Why are you flying that? Are you proud that you were another country at some point?" '
'"It was not about state's rights because you didn't have a right as a state in the Confederacy to go against slavery," he said. "So there's no state's rights there. That's not about state's rights."'

Wow, Mitch McConnell has come out for removing Jefferson Davis. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/mitch-mcconnell-jefferson-davis-statue
mindstalk: (Enki)
No one I know here is happy about the death sentence. And it makes a mockery of "trial by a [random] jury of your peers" if the government has to reject most of the candidates to make a jury.

Couple articles about a book about the brothers: http://www.npr.org/2015/04/03/397213144/-the-brothers-examines-motivation-behind-boston-marathon-bombing