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Sunday morning Reading Material Fourth Sunday in July 2012- Eleven Ah Ah Ah! Edition

Do I have your attention?

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for Dim Sum. Sundays are for Bat men and cat ladies. Or vice versa, this is an equal opportunity blog. Sundays are for “Bom chicka wow wow!” Hopefully unrelatedly, Sundays are for “flailing about like I’m on ludes”. Alternately, Sundays might be for “for writing and reading!” And certainly, Sundays are for sleeping in– even if you don’t get to.

This week the Syrian Civil War escalated in the rebel’s favor. Since this war began during the “Arab Spring”, I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a good thing. I’m leaving that last sentence there as a way of reminding myself how ignorant I am. This week astronauts tell us that space vessels smell like “seared steak and hot metal”.

-update- Between the time this post was written and when it went live, a madman walked into a crowded theater and opened fire. As yet, we’re not what might have motivated this mass murder. Obviously my thoughts are with the survivors and the families of the slain.

Sundays will inevitably beget Mondays. Here’s a way to help combat the curse of productivity.

I hate contradicting people smarter than I am– I usually end up looking foolish. This otherwise great piece does engage in a bit of outlandish comparison that we liberals have been far too prone to, and I want to point it out. The reason Barack Obama has not been nearly as aggressive as FDR was is less to do with temperament of the president, and everything to do with the temperament of the opposition. In 2008, President Obama had a theoretical maximum governing coalition that was only 1 person greater than the bare minimum needed to pass legislation. To get that coalition, he had to go much further to the right than the median voter in his own caucus. FDR did not. For that matter, LBJ (who was a much better politician than FDR) also had a much more functional congress. We need to stop looking at Great Person presidents and start demanding that Congress fulfills it’s role in the Constitution. Until then, our politics will continue to stumble and bumble and leave the nation toddering.

America is having a congressional election this year. Every seat in the House of Representatives, and 1/3 of the seats in the US Senate are up for grabs. Also, we’re going to decide which individual gets to preside over the nation’s bureaucracy. I wish we were having a debate about whether it is permissible for that single individual bureaucrat-in-chief to decide whether someone lives or dies, but we’re not. Instead we’re stuck arguing over whether the incumbent smoked too much or too little cocaine in his youth. So, are you a member of the ACLU?

Anything the government asserts is private, I want you guys to read. Not that I’ve got any reason to doubt the government in this case, but I try to make a point of doubting power whenever it asserts its own privacy rights. Also: this illicit court transcript is an amazing read.

Beer is proof that god loves us and wants us to be happy Ben Franklin.

If I shoot someone and the cops come; and I explain that “no no, I can’t be arrested, I’m crazy”; I’ll be arrested. Insanity is a defense argued before a jury, with a judge making a determination of allowability. I’ve never understood why “stand your ground” isn’t the same. Why should cops be given the discretion to let people get away with murder, just because the killer’s defense sounds plausible? Yet it seems to have happened in this case.

What if Congress made a law outlawing mandatory opt-in for credit scoring? People who wanted their credit to be scored could email equifax et al and ask to be signed up. My guess is that credit scores would skyrocket in a bid by the ratings industry to keep people signed on.

In the Broadway show about John Maynard Keynes, I want Neil Patrick Harris to play the titular role. As a counterpoint to his work on Doctor Horrible, it would be about a man who just wanted the world to stop burning, but was powerless to stop it. An now, I mere 90 years later, we’ve laid aside the tools he built for us, and have gone back to playing with matches. Lovely.

The best argument against raising taxes is that doing so takes capital away from those who would use it to jumpstart the economy. When the government takes money from companies, those companies cannot hire people. Makes sense. Businesses are not hiring. Instead, they’re sitting on a mountain of cash, unsure of how to spend it, praying only for the safety of their holdings. Meanwhile there are potholes going unfixed, and pothole fixers sitting unemployed. Also unemployed are the people who sell food to the people who would be fixing potholes. The people who cut hair for the people who aren’t selling food to the people who aren’t fixing potholes? Their income isn’t so great either. But we can’t raise taxes, because gods, the government can’t even be trusted to fix potholes!

Because I live in San Francisco, I have to root against Los Angeles. It’s a law. The tribal loyalties run so deeply against LA that I actually have to root against Real Madrid (Don’t ask. Screw Galaxy, man). Among other things, sports allow us to express tribal loyalties that otherwise end up in war. When the Olympic games start up in the next week, remember that Europe is more peaceful today than it has ever been in its history. The French and Germans might actually cheer for one another.

Let’s take a moment to be grateful that we live in a world which (until recently) Donald J. Sobol was living in.

There are some awesome monuments in San Francisco.

Unless you’ve taken an introductory class on Game theory, you’ve probably a) heard of the prisoner’s dilemma, and b) have no idea of what that is. That’s unfortunate, as the prisoner’s dilemma is the problem that government was designed to solve. American society has been divesting itself of government- and therefore of trust- for a generation. We’re saving on our tax bill, sure. We’re costing ourselves the ability to deal honestly with strangers.

This headline probably inaccurate, but if you don’t click that link you’ll hate yourself forever.

If you click just 2 links:

You know those books, TV shows, and movies that depict the mental traps people construct for themselves which lead them with inevitably logic to do terrible things? Those can be very good books, TV shows, and movies. The nature of the medium is such that there is distance between the reader/viewer and the protagonist. Not so in a video game. Spec Ops: The Line creates those mental traps for the player, leads them to engage in- and self justify- terrible behavior, and then points out how awful that behavior is. Yes. Under the right conditions you, too, will commit war crimes. It is simply impossible to tell yourself otherwise. What will you do with that knowledge?