26 October 2017

Why manufacturing?

This came up as a tangent to an Erik Lund history-of-technology post; why worry about manufacturing?  Why is rearranging dirt more important to the economy than rearranging schedules?

(Anybody who thinks rearranging schedules is easy needs to try it with several competing sets of interests and priorities; for difficulty, the schedules might be more fundamentally so.)

Right now, we're in the early stages of the end of the world, in at least the sense that fall of the Western Roman Empire was the end of the world.

One of the things that means is that while capital creates long supply chains to maximize returns on investment, instability shortens your supply chains.  There's three ways this is certain to happen in the next five, and the next twenty, years.  ("Short term", if I don't watch what I'm saying.)

  1. We're going off oil.  We're going off fossil carbon generally.  This is going to be a combination of solar PV being flat out less expensive, dawning horror at just how bad the climate swing is going to be (see if you can get housing sale data for Florida by age and education...), and the collapse of American hegemony ("the Oil Empire maintains the stable oil markets necessary to the deployment of all that capital" and "the Oil Empire manages to keep people from effectively opposing technologies like fracking" both apply).  Does this shift the basis of naval power?  That happened in the 1950 with nuclear submarines.  It may force notice; it is very likely going to break the commercial arrangements which came in with DREADNOUGHT's continuation of the Anglo thalassocracy.
  2. Food security is going away.  Direct habitability is going away for at least places with large populations.  (Second order, "I can get food there", is a different and more general question.) This is going to do in economic predictability; the supply chains don't notice the people suffering, but do notice the lack of spending, the loss of productivity, and the shift in economic focus from what people want to what people need.  Also the inoperable ports and rail links.
  3. We're at the front edge of an age of miracles so far as capability goes; there's clinical trials of effective anti-aging treatments reported, there's meta-materials, someone will eventually figure out how to get bulk graphene.  Normally innovation is irrelevant because incumbents can keep it from getting enough capital to threaten their markets.  The historical counter examples are all either extremely prolonged (see "clocks, Europe, 1400-1800") or side effects of three enormous wars.  (Napoleonic, Great War, Hitler's/Great Patriotic/Great Pacific; incumbents willing to be less rich in preference to maybe losing in a war of annihilation.)
ALL of these things will shorten the possible supply chains.  Not because anyone wants there to be shorter supply chains and a less capable economy, particularly, but because the predictability necessary to the present arrangement isn't going to hold.  (Has stopped holding, and isn't likely to come back.  Even if everybody with significant political power does the optimal thing for the next century over the whole planet, it's not likely to come back.)

So the answer for "why is manufacturing important?" is "shorter supply chains are less capable but more resilient; to be reasonably sure you'll have all the critical stuff, you need the ability to make it locally, for someone value of locally, and remember that value of locally is significantly political".

One awkward part is that VLSI is really difficult and takes enormous supply chains.  Communications isn't a luxury, and one thing that's likely to be interesting about the next twenty years is the difficulty of keeping the incumbent communications infrastructure working as the necessary supply chain length gets unmaintainable.  Here's hoping some equivalent to direct electron lithography gets established as a viable alternative Real Soon Now.

Another awkward part is no one knows what's going on, supply-chain wise; heat pumps and window glass and autoclaves and refrigeration and tractors aren't optional as functions, and doing it with electricity and aluminium and glass instead of coal and iron and brass is obviously entirely possible but making sure all the parts of the supply chain are functioning and close enough hasn't been addressed.  It ought to be, and it ought to be with some urgency.

(I am, tangentially, all for trade and for long-distance trade; we're desperately going to need it to be a bunch of local economies rather than one global one, though, because we're not going to be able to keep a global-supply-chains one running consistently this coming century.)

So -- gotta be able to make knives and abrasives and paint and bandages and soup pots and dust masks and shoes and socks (keep thinking about just how much stuff is on the real list; artificial light should come to mind) in a couple local places by a diversity of means, or there's no resilience of supply, and we need the resiliency of supply because there's going to be no meaningful agricultural or climatic predictability for at least the next hundred years.

13 October 2017

My American cousins...

Somewhere in the machinery of your government, there's someone who was carefully chosen for being not especially empathetic, never having made any mistakes at anything their whole life, and for not considering themselves especially important.  (You can't reliably put duty and country ahead of your own personal feelings if you've especially much got personal feelings.)

They're also not that old and still in the time of life when you can be extremely fit.  It won't help with the empathy and it certainly won't help with having developed the kind of robust personal wisdom that'll help in a terrible crisis.

The best thing you can do for that person is to get Congress to take away their job, because right now their job is to follow the President around, carrying and guarding a set of nuclear launch codes.  There's a real risk the current President is going to order an unprovoked nuclear attack -- the aggressive war y'all hanged people for at Nuremberg but worse -- and at that point, that person's true duty, the thing required of them if they're to go on not having made any mistakes at anything their whole life, is to out-draw the Secret Service and shoot the President dead.

That's an unreasonable amount of heroism to ask, and y'all are the Sovereign People.  Get ahold of whatever representatives and senators you can, and tell them to  Pull The Football.

02 October 2017

Category error.

The US and gun control is a category error.

The problem isn't gun control.  Gun control is how you codify a social consensus about what firearms are appropriate.  (Which is about half of why Canada has a political issue about it; there isn't such a social consensus.  The other half is American media leakage.)

People will sometimes cite the US firearms ownership stats as evidence of a particular tendency to violence.  I think that's a misinterpretation; it's a highly price-sensitive, high volume market.  That's people using up limited disposable income for social signaling purposes, not any structurally different in social group-formation terms from having to have this year's shoes.

It's an ethnogenesis based on fear-banishing rituals.  It's got entirely divorced from facts -- one of the major costs of the Cold War was a set of facts with which people could not by-and-large deal at all, and this has been the wedge of a whole lot of refusing to admit facts -- and it's got a whole lot of fear amplification driving it for profit.  (Advertising -- just plain bad, because it's about making you more insecure, and the more insecure you are, the worse your decisions will be.)  This is why tactical is a fashion category, and why there's a thriving trade in teaching people house clearing tactics in case they get burgled.

It's also why gun control -- guaranteed to increase fear in this belief system -- won't work.  It'll become (more of an; look at what got produced in response to the Clinton assault weapons ban) an act of piety to evade any such laws.

Fixes?

Real tough, because corporates have been granted civil rights which they ought not to have.  There isn't a simple mechanism whereby you can legally break the "I can make lots of money by terrifying people" business model.  There's the whole vast "the 2nd Amendment's modern political existence supports white supremacy and only white supremacy" problem.  (Try to imagine a future in which the NRA holds picnic-and-range-day events for inner city disadvantaged youth and has a Black American gunsmithing scholarship program where the top tier awardees go to MIT in mech eng on a full ride scholarship.  Then try to imagine how to get there from here.)

I'm not clever enough to figure out how you get around the fear; I can think of some things that would do it -- lots of good jobs doing ecological restoration and infrastructure replacement, any time anyone has a functioning government -- but not how to get there.  It's just that trying for gun control fits the whole (carefully designed) apocalyptic narrative of helplessness and fear, and won't do anything good.

28 September 2017

Some remarks on goals

Various commenters are remarking that the Republican handling of Puerto Rico will surely cost them -- be an own goal -- when hundreds of thousands of them wind up living in Florida and voting Democrat.

I cannot imagine why anyone  thinks large numbers of people will be allowed to leave the island.  It's very easy to take longer insisting on proof of citizenship from someone who has lost all their possessions than it takes someone to starve to death[1]; it's even easier to insist on port control and to sharply limit who gets to leave because the facilities are absolutely required for the relief effort.  I'd expect both.

The Neocon -- and do remember that's "Neo-Confederate" as easily as "Neo-Conservative" -- response to the demographic shift has been to disenfranchise (gerrymander, onerous laws, shut polling places, outright lie about when the vote is) but also to deport and to kill; to suppress the vote through terror.  These are people who vehemently disagree with the entirety of the Reconstruction Amendments, the 19th amendment, and the 16th.  They're not going to allow non-whites to vote if they can possibly help it, and this is a case where they can easily help it.

[1] The EMT rule of three; three minutes without air, three hours with no clothes, three days with no water, three weeks with no food.  Against the water and the probable cholera and the food, we're at week one.  There's absolutely no sign of the size of logistical operation required to get the required food delivered; another week of stalling and that's about it.

11 September 2017

It's important to remember what kind of nonsense AI is

There's a lot of productive work going on with AI.  Whether or not it's enough to justify the cash being shovelled at the problem in economic terms is dubious, but let's stop for a moment.

AI as implemented has the same signal-processing, dendritic, layers-of-habit mechanisms brains do; it won't think better and it may well not think faster in any sort of general case.  (It will handle volume.)  It is absolutely heir to the precise same habitual delusions our brains get into in terms of expecting things to be like what we've already experienced because that's the limit of our imagination of the world.

So it's not actually good for solving problems.  You have to very carefully define the problem you want solved, and a whole lot of human effort has to go into detecting whether or not that's what you've created your monomaniacal savant to accomplish.  This is (relatively) easy with chess; it's pretty hopeless with anything less formalized.  (Inventing a statistical measure of your unconscious expectations is exceeding difficult.)

So why all that cash?

AI supports the delusion of useful control.

There's all sorts of essential control mechanisms in terms of feedback, but the delusion of control is that people in large numbers can be compelled to construct their desires to serve the goals of a small number of exalted persons.  This breaks down at the exalted persons; they can't do it.  AI gives them another reasons to believe they should keep trying.

(It's rather the same with politicians viewing democratic processes as a problem; democracy is a solvent for control.  Given the sharp dichotomy between success and control -- one, or the other, never both, and often neither -- solvents for control are good things.)

04 September 2017

Let's take selection seriously

Things have to get copies of themselves into the future to persist.

So how do harmful things persist?

"People are idiots" lacks explanatory power; individuals are frequently idiots, large groups of people over generational time are not.

White supremacy -- the loot-apportioning system for loot that ran out a century ago -- and hierarchical racism persist even when the people doing the persisting are paying a high economic cost to do it.  This makes absolutely no economic sense, and people have been saying so for a very long time with increasingly strong empirical support.  Doesn't make a dent.

Then two things collided in my head.  One is that the moral-supremacy faction of rationalists makes a big deal about being "less wrong".  This is, well, silly; everybody is constantly wrong, often unaware.  The utility of rationalism isn't that it makes you less wrong, it that it gives you a systemic approach to apply to your circumstances.  You might be able to figure out why you are wrong.  Why the strong emphasis on not being wrong?

Two is that the Prosperity Gospel is directly descended from the assertion that chattel slavery was a positive good and a Christian duty.  I mean, it's also a scam, but an effective, lasting scam has to tap into things people would prefer were factual.  What are people getting out of the idea that they deserve to be rich?  It's not making them rich.

And here we get to something I've been wrong about; I have thought of authoritarian structures as supporting basic primate status, so that the higher in the structure you are, the closer you are to being able to hit who you want.  But it's not; that's a special case of whatever I want is correct.  Language means the contrapositive of whatever I want is correct becomes I never have to admit error.

Authority doesn't derive from never admitting you're wrong; never admitting you're wrong signals your authority.  The thing all these diverse scams of former glories are selling (besides the impunity to assault or kill those people in fulfilment of primate status desires) is for there to be a class of people to whom you never have to admit you're wrong.  And inside the narrative habit, never having to admit you're wrong means you have authority; you have significance, and you matter.

Actively terrible insecurity management, in that it swaps the mutable psychological for the immutable material?  Absolutely.  But equally obviously a hard habit to break, and where the online troll and the anti-Clinton misogynist running a newspaper alike get their maniacal insistence on admit you are bad.  If you admit you are bad, you are admitting error, and you lose your right to authority.  Facts aren't even secondary to this process; facts are near enough irrelevant.  (The utility of confession and the very strong feelings about it during the Reformation and Counter-reformation also become obvious.  As does the utter loathing of methodological naturalism, which asserts there is no utility in authority.)

So one fix is obviously "different stories, with different constructions of legitimacy"; maybe the exercise of social power doesn't properly derive from authoritas.  A stopgap is having the structures of authority assert that whatever you want isn't correct, but that's got failure modes.

A quick enough fix?  Much trickier.

27 August 2017

Houston, we have a problem

Hurricane Katrina affected gas prices for a decade.

It looks like Harvey is set to do better; the refineries around Houston are shutting down, and pre-storm predictions had it taking a year and a half to two years to recover from "two feet" of flooding.  Given the presumed height of stop signs, they're getting twice that.  There's about as much rain as they've had still to come, per the NOAA forecasts.

How fast can Houston get a working logistical network, sufficient to allow it to feed and house its population, again?  Harvey's expected to be there until Wednesday, raining all the while.    Right now, the ship channel, the roads, the railroad, and the airport are all unusable.  Certainly there is a monumental order of operations problem waiting once the flood waters go down, and that... when does that happen?  Within three days of the rain stopping?  So not quite a week for the surveying to start to find where the roads are washed out, where the ground under the railbed is too saturated to take the load of a train, where the ship channel has silted up and needs dredging, where there is uncontaminated diesel -- if Houston puts the storage tanks in the ground, everything in them is contaminated -- and where there are working support vehicles for the airport.  And given a significant drainage basin feeding into the region, three days is likely severely optimistic.  (Plus everybody else who hasn't been rained on yet.  Many of the models have Harvey wandering back out to sea, re-intensifying, and coming ashore again.)

It looks like it will require a major effort by the USG to put a working city back where Houston now is.  This is inconsistent with the threatened default over the debt ceiling, which a significant faction of Congress wants and which Trump seems fine with if he doesn't get his border wall.  Not knowing how quickly Houston will be restored to economic function makes the time those refineries come back online even more indeterminate.  (Since nobody was planning for this much flood, the existing flood plans aren't sufficient, so there's going to be large uncertainty there, too.)

So... global recession?  Seems likely just from the storm damage; aviation fuel can increase in price, but interrupted plastic feedstock deliveries just don't happen, and that has cascade effects.  Run the price of gas up in the US and that has cascade effects, too. A month of "how bad is it?" and "is the US going to default?" in combination makes it seem certain.

Wither the Commonweal

Under One Banner is written.  It needs the careful addition of dates to all the chapters.  When I wrote it, the presence of one immutable date in the text was going to give me all the other dates via relative offsets.  Looking at it now, I may have know those relative offsets while I was actively writing it, but I don't know them anymore, so this is going to be an annoying process.

The thing in the way of Under One Banner is The Human Dress, my long-ago attempt at a big fluffy fantasy brick.  Various logistical vicissitudes have attended on it, but primarily that it's about 320,000 words long.  This... slows things down.  I still hope to have The Human Dress out in 2017.  (It's been through pass-one copy edit; I have to turn it around for pass two.)

I expect -- presuming I stay employed and housed, there's an available copy-editor, no rifts in space-time devour Google's servers, etc. -- that Under One Banner will make it out during the second quarter of 2018.  This might well be optimistic of me.

The next one, A Mist of Grit and Splinters, has hit the point where I really need those dates from Under One Banner. It's got a beginning, a middle, and an end; the framework sections are all done.  I've figured out that the original draft involves two viewpoints, and that Slow and Duckling may have certain similarities of outlook but are not the same person.  I maintain a hope of publishing it in 2019.

(The one after that, The Hempen Jig, is going to be something of a horror novel and probably not have any Commonweal viewpoints in it at all, though the viewpoints will be interacting with Commonweal persons.  I have lots and lots of notes for this one.)

13 August 2017

Hate leads to a whole bunch of things

One really unfortunate consequence of the way the Enlightenment happened is a whole bunch of creationist worldview hangovers.  If you, and everyone around you, just supposes that of course everything was created by a perfect divine being, you go all essentialist about types.  This is not a factually well-supported position, but the conceptual hangover goes on and on.  (In part because it's easy; in part because it tends to advantage the people making publication decisions.)

There's a similar problem with expectations arising from patriarchal white supremacy, where a whole bunch of fundamentally economic decisions ("I get to steal that") are justified by reference to a white guy's feelings.  This tends to make everybody being oppressed by the system insist their feelings are important out of an entirely reasonable desire to stop being oppressed.  That leads to a bunch of people going "hate doesn't excuse violence" and "hate leads to hate" and much other moral reasoning that's actively unhelpful.

Hate exists on a personal scale.  On a public scale, it doesn't have meaning.  (Same with moral reasoning; it's like trying to dig a house foundation with a teaspoon, the tool is on an inappropriate scale.)

So, really, if the policy problem is white supremacists or nazis or something distinguishable from those only under a microscope, hate (or not) doesn't matter. (Same with love.  Personal feelings don't scale to policy problems.)

First off, if you strip off the loud, loud feelings being used as deceptive camouflage, the nazis and the supremacists come down to "the story I tell myself about who I am and my place in society gives me much more status than I materially possess.  I think my disappointment is a good reason to hurt people until my status matches what I think it should be."  Which is bad enough; that's fundamentally an assertion that civilization is important, not in terms of what it does (general expansion of accessible choice through an increase in capability brought on by stable currency, wide trading relationships, fine divisions of labour, the rule of law, and broadening political enfranchisement) but in terms of how it makes nazis feel.  There's a lot of rationalization about this out there, but that's what it is.  Then  you can notice the "status" being used is not the status of skill or accomplishment; it's basic primate band status arising from being able to hit who you want and fuck who you want.  That's a level of social organization inconsistent with having roads or towns.  You certainly don't get a civilization using that as an organizing principle.

Massive insecurity management failure.  "I told myself a story and it isn't factual so I'm going to hurt people until it becomes factual" has several material problems.  First off, if you're not dealing with facts, your ability to win a large fight is doubtful.  Secondly, if the thing about the story that isn't factual is your own particular competence, you're not oppressed, you're inept.  Fixing inept requires you to work hard.   (Which is necessary but not sufficient.)  Thirdly, oppressive social hierarchies come into being as a means of apportioning the loot.  (That is, the kind of social hierarchy that has people getting really mad that someone who, to them, has no right to say anything because of their position in the hierarchy being lower expresses an opinion; you can see this all over politics in people having the vapours when non-whites or women say things.  Where you are in the hierarchy is supposed to determine the kind of loot you get.)  Once you're fighting over the basic right of the hierarchy to exist, absent loot, the associated economic system is collapsing and the social system -- as is always the case with social systems -- is trying to perpetuate itself at the cost of steadily increasing extremism.

So what we're seeing is a bunch of people who prefer a general collapse of civilization to admitting that they're not good for much.  (Various people get to nazi nihilism via moral routes but you really don't need to; there's an entirely material observation that, yeah, this does come down to "my feelings are hurt, let's destroy everything".)  From there, you get the cargo-cult "if we impose the hierarchy strongly, our portion of loot will show up as it used to do" without bothering to notice that the main, essential, inescapable thing about loot is that you can only steal it once.

Does it matter if you hate them?  Personally, to you, it probably does.  There's millennia of advice out there about that and I haven't got anything to add to it.

Policy needs to be pro-civilization -- that general expansion of realized choice -- because policy only exists when you've got a civilization.  (The word does arise from "polis", "city", if you wander back through a sufficient depth of time.)  A position that civilization itself is bad and that it is the faults brought by civilization which must be corrected by killing people until no fault can be found isn't inside any civilization; it's not part of the settled peace.  A nazi arguing for free speech and open debate is saying "let me win"; they haven't got an alternative civilization to argue for, they're still pushing for the death of all[1] because the death of all is better than admitting they can't cope with not being special.[2]

The appropriate policy response?  Somewhere between "SARS outbreak" and "voluntary zombie plague".  (Diseases don't have volition, so the analogy is weak.)  Certainly, policy should arise from a position that believes what the nazis say about their intentions.

As an individual, whether you're going to be killed for being a race-traitor, untermenschen, or refusing to volunteer for sex, punching is a mild response.


[1] civilization stops working, everybody dies.  And there's no more waste places to flee to, not in this time and with this population.

[2] "the accusations of what they themselves do" rule holds up very well here.[3]

[3] there's a fascinating lens to look at the Great Patriotic War through in this; the Soviet Union may well have been a civilization, as Nazi Germany was not.

26 July 2017

A pretense of healthcare

So various exhortations show up to the effect of "stop trying to kill people by taking away their healthcare" in reference to the current American political situation.  ("debate" would be going somewhat too far.)

This is a reasonable thing to complain of, but I think misses the point.

"To spend is to tax", to quote Milton Friedman.  What's going on is the continued assertion that the government has no right to tax.

It has no right to tax because it spends money for bad reasons (that is, to benefit those whom God has judged and found wanting; you can tell because they're poor, or not pale, or female) and because to remove the wealth of good people (to be rich is to be good, and let us pass lightly over those who aspire to goodness but have yet to achieve it) is itself a sin.

That's it.  That's the whole thing. It's internally consistent, and it's easy, and it copies itself into the future really well. It's a looters ethos, indifferent to the simple fact that looting is destructive.  (You might get the gold and the jewels out of Lindisfarne, but you still burnt it down in the process.  People died.  People will freeze and starve.)

This seems to be an inevitable response to wealth concentration; insecurity management by wanting more money is not effective in the long term, because it will eventually break the economy, and then the money can't buy anything.

So right now there's a view that "you know, decency and efficiency and an awareness that we can't predict the future all indicate we ought to have a carefully regulated single-payer health care system" and a view that health and wealth indicate virtue and if you haven't got those things God doesn't want you to have them.  (Yes, this has something to do with White Supremacy the economic system, but it's not quite that.  It's more about who is allowed to be holy (wealthy, same difference) than it is about the direction of resource flow.)  It's not about healthcare or decency or even the strange and terrible religion that money is proof of holiness; it's about the legitimacy of taxation, which must be strongly asserted.

There's a simple fix -- coming up with a better distributed rationing system than money isn't simple, though I'm sure we could and I'm sure we need as good a rationing system as we can possibly obtain because food security's going away at a great pace -- which is to re-monetize, but not at one to one.  If you're rich, you stop being rich.[1]  (If you're a Russian gangster with bales of US hundred dollar bills, well.  You're an idiot, and now you're an unhappy idiot, which might not be an argument against.)  (This is, after all, why FDR is hated with such a complete hate; FDR effectively did this, and made the money less holy thereby.)

Easy, no, not easy, but if any outcome involving a surviving civilization is going to take a certain vehement insistence that the very wealthy participate in the statistics of doleful outcomes anyway, might as well try for better long term stability.


[1] cap income at 10 times the lesser of the mean or the median income; cap assets at fifty times the income cap.  (That is, you worked from 20 to 70, maxed out every year, and kept all of it.)  With a median income around 50 k, that's 500k and 25 million, respectively.  Not a threshold of suffering.)



25 June 2017

"Change the system"

Ok, look.  I absolutely possess incompetence at humaning.  People who like me express non-rhetorical doubt about my material humanity.  Anything that involves being any good at politics is precisely what I can't do for half a distant squeaky noise at an antique hinge convention.

And I know that "change the system" is inherently nonsense; the point of a system is that you can't change it.  (If you can change it, it isn't a system; it hasn't got feedback that keeps it stable.)

What you can do is replace the system.  The way you replace the system is by finding the people who experience uselessness in the current system and convince them that your proposed change gives them use and significance.  People will do almost anything not to be useless.  (Most of the current anglosphere political struggle is over whether non-white, non-male people can have inherent utility, as distinct from the derivational utility of making white, male people happy.)

So, not only would Bernie not have won, arguing that Bernie would have won is a way to avoid acknowledging that the voting is not fair and open so it really doesn't matter who would have won a free vote; the core threat from Hillary is not personal incompetence but demonstrating non-white, non-male inherent utility in unequivocal ways.  (Guess why the votes are free and fair.  Go on, guess.)  Can't have that; there's a clear majority of folks who the current system insists are inherently useless, and they're way more numerous than the middle aged white males who figure their uselessness is someone else's fault and stop thinking there.  (It's not obviously a false conclusion, but stopping there and blaming who you're told to blame isn't especially clever.)

There's another bit about La Dauphine and whether it's real desire for post-patriarchal power structures or the cynical appearance of such a desire.  And still a third bit -- of course we want a different system.  The current system has failed utterly.  We're having a self-inflicted existential crisis for the next hundred years because that was apparently easier and better than not being quite as rich.

19 June 2017

The notion of privilege

Ok, first off -- the people complaining about privilege are (generally) complaining about a real thing.

They're not complaining about it effectively, in part because they're (generally) utter strangers to the exercise of actual power and in part because they're (at risk of being) violently suppressed if they speak frankly.  The whole notion of "privilege" is passive-voice and lacking actors.

(Rather like "Black Lives Matter"; absolutely about just complaints, but if you have to call it that it's not going to work.)

I'm going to ignore how the power structures got there.  I'm just going to talk about what they do.

There's two kinds of things that the power structures do.  One is not interfere; basic levels of participating in the power structure mean your daily business doesn't get interfered with.[1]

Two is suppress opposition to your preferences; on a big scale, this is something like who the Dakota Access Pipeline gets routed over (or how Roundup somehow doesn't have safety data filed with the government of Canada), and on a moderate scale this is how highways get more money than transit.

You need a lot of social standing to exercise Type Two power.  You don't need much at all to exercise Type One power.  (This is what members of the valorized category get for showing up.)

Thing is, this stuff isn't passive; this works by hurting people if they complain until they either die or stop complaining.

So the question is NOT "do I have privilege?" (a question that descends into moral taxonomy very rapidly, becoming entirely useless in the process), but "did I (or am I) trying to compel this person to change their behaviour?"


[1] the point of "driving while black" stops is to insist that nobody, no matter how nice their car or how stable their income, can participate in the power structure while black.  You will get your daily business interfered with.  There are a whole lot of other examples.  None of them are fixable without replacing the mechanism of categories.

17 June 2017

Beauty is a judgement, not a property

That's it.

Beauty isn't a property.  Nothing is beautiful.  Beauty exists as a thing is apprehended as beautiful.  Right then.  In the apprehending mind and not otherwise.  It's not some sort of quantum entanglement with God or Truth or any other delusion.  There is no beauty in the properties of matter.  Beauty doesn't apply outside the apprehending mind.  (At all.  Ever.  Any other apprehending mind may perceive some other beauty, but it isn't this one.  All apprehension is fleeting.)

The impossibility of self-knowledge if you're thinking of beauty as a property is one of the things that makes me sad, because the mistake is ubiquitous, profitable, and enforced.  (Profitable behaviours are enforced.  The folks arguing for the general utility of markets have some explaining to do.)

13 June 2017

Westward from the Davis Strait

Air temperature and wind intensity 2017-06-13 looking down on the North Spin Pole 
Ocean currents and Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly 2017-06-13 looking down on the North Spin Pole

earth.nullschool.net is an interesting and information display of global near-current conditions.  It won't cheer you up; note the plumes of cold water off Svalbard and down the Davis Strait.  That's glaciers bleeding to death.

Look at another time and you might see warmish air flowing between Fram Strait and the Beaufort Sea, clean over the Pole.

08 May 2017

And we shall know it is spring

Territorial, loud, and generally not so much tolerant of humans as regarding humans as incompetent interlopers.  (Well, either that or they want to steal your hat and think better of it at the last second, but "interlopers" seems a lot more likely.)
female red-winged blackbird on grass
male red-winged blackbird with reflection
female red-winged blackbird on rough concrete

23 April 2017

It's been awhile

If it's been long enough that I've been asked if I still have a cat, I should probably post a picture.
Sleepy black cat in cat-loaf pose facing the camera
Eef would like to not fall asleep just yet, or the sound of typing prevents falling asleep, or something inscrutably feline.  The current sheet of random-jotting paper is safely out of my possession, though.  (It's worth a surprising number of feline victory points, or at least that's apparently what I'm supposed to think.)

19 March 2017

What if condos weren't a scam?

Condos as a form of land tenure got invented in New York State to get around a new, strict, builder liability law.  If the builder of record is the condo corporation, all the liability falls on whoever bought in, rather than the actual builder, and so the actual builder -- on this scale, developer -- is safe from the legal consequences of their shoddy practices.

Note that the people "buying a condo" -- buying a share of the condo corporation that entitles them to live in a particular portion of the structure -- don't get design input.  The actual building is built to maximize the profit of the developer, and has almost nothing in it that referenced the preferences of the people who are going to live in it.  (Observe the increasingly tiny size of condos as the optimal small-investor-attracting price stays roughly constant and real estate markets get pricier and pricier as low interest rates shift the price associated with a particular monthly payment.)  There is basically no feedback from the people who are going to live there.

The other part of this is that there's not really a housing market; one of the things required for a market is buyer knowledge, and hardly anyone buys houses often enough to have the necessary knowledge.  People buying something to live in are not participating in a market.  (The building trades might be, but there you get issues of concentration and number of participants and functional monopsony.)  Houses, as a broad general class of things, are built right at the limit of the local building code in ways where the developer is seeking to maximize their profit at the expense of the building trades and the buyer gets all the liability for the result.  This sort of feedback can't give good results.

What could we do instead?

Well, let's look at where the collective structures are.  (The human trick is ganging up on problems; if you want to find the problem being solved, look for the co-operating group.)

There's a group of developers who exert political influence through the concentration of money.  There's a much more diffuse group who are complaining about the perverse incentives and unfortunate consequences of the developers seeking to "maximize their profit"[0] as a form of political opposition.  The second group is, well, losing.  Everybody[1] believes success means a house in a suburb with a lawn and a two car garage.

So part of this is PR (though keep in mind there's a chunk of the population who _likes_ knowing they're getting more out than they put in, and never mind how the system breaks in time), but part of it is finding some way for the people who live in the housing stock to provide direct feedback into what kind of housing stock it is, where it is, and what it does.

First off, it does need to be collective; hardly anyone has enough money to go buy a chunk of land and get just what they like built on it.  Secondly, it has to meet the needs of the people involved.  Thirdly, it should, from a public policy perspective, recognize that there's a housing density of less than one per ten hectares and a housing density of more than ten per hectare that make sense, but the stuff in the middle doesn't.  (It's ecologically unwise and it's expensive to service.  Remember that roads are a service.  So is sewage.)

So how many people does it take to have something that can build good housing -- the kind where the soundproofing between units is an insulated gap between concrete walls, and the plumbing has been put in with the expectation of paying for the next fifty years of maintenance, and so -- with some day care spaces and some senior assisted living spaces and just generally function, not as a condo, but as a really full service credit union; housing and child care and retirement planning/investment as well as financial and insurance services?  Most of your income would go into it; your taxes would have to fall as this means took over from current public means of meeting those needs.  And, yes, you have to deal with other people, but dealing with other people is a consequence of being a social primate.

If we want better communities, we must want better feedback, which means collective organization because individuals aren't communities and can't individually afford the services of communities.  That means we can't permit a system where the feedback is driven by developer profit.



[0] this means "shift as many costs on to the defenseless as possible" at least as much as it means "get the largest difference between our expenses and our income as we can"; many of the costs (infrastructure) of the most profitable forms of development aren't borne by the developer, but the tax base.  There's an argument that "most profitable" and "largest share of costs borne by the public purse" is an identity relationship.

[1] not literally everybody; it's generational.  Sure.  But the "don't tax me and I want more highways and less traffic and more convenience and services in my suburb" voter is a very reliable voter.

18 March 2017

My fellow Canadians...

The next Canadian federal election is in 2019.

Just exactly when solar got less expensive than coal as a means of generating electricity I'll leave to future historians; it might have been 2016.  It might be this year, or 2018.  It really isn't going to be later than that.  The Chinese are investing very large sums -- equivalent to hundreds of billions in USD -- and good for them.  They need to solve their smog problem.  Solar getting cheaper for everybody else in the process is hardly bad, either.

About a quarter of everything, market-value-wise, sits on fossil carbon.  Thereabouts of 70 trillion-with-a-T USD.  Even if you completely ignore climate change[1], anthropogenic climate forcing with atmosphere dumping of (mostly) carbon, all of that 70 trillion is overvalued.  When the market puts a sustained excessive value on something, we call it a bubble.  This one is the Carbon Bubble.

It's going to pop before the next election.  It's, well, there's no reason to suppose it isn't going to make 2008 look like a modest price adjustment.  Trudeau's government will have low odds of re-election, because generally Canadians won't vote for the government if the economy is bad.

(On a scale from "downturn" to "abandon capitalism as a failed experiment", it's going to be much closer to "abandon" than "downturn".  Everybody's political energies for the next few years in most of the developed world[0] are going into trying to hang on to a vaguely tolerable status quo in preference to a neo-con death cult; the will and the ability to do something sensible about the economy isn't going to be there.  So we're going to go off the cliff.)

Are we going to vote for the NDP in 2019?  Well, it depends on the leader.  If the NDP elect another leader who is sober and respectable and runs to the right of Brian Mulroney, very probably not. Voting for the austerity candidate in an economic crisis is a terrible plan.  (Voting for someone out for moral purity of doctrine is a terrible plan, too.)

So it's somewhere between plausible and highly likely we're going to get a Conservative government in 2019,  EVEN IF the Conservative leader is some sort of seriously detached from the consideration of facts.  People will not let go of the expectation Conservatives are good at the economy, no matter how much contrary evidence they get.

March 27th is the last day you can buy (for 15 CAD) a Conservative Party membership[2], enabling you to vote for Conservative Party leader.  There's one choice -- Michael Chong -- who is engaging with facts[3].  The other dozen choices are at least as blessedly free of the taint of factual knowledge as a bunch of new-hatched chickens.  (They are, for example, nigh-all climate deniers.  What they think this will do for Alberta's bitumen economy after the Carbon Bubble[4] has burst I can't imagine.)

If you're Canadian and not particularly politically committed, I urge you to buy a Conservative Party membership and vote for Michael Chong.  We really don't need someone who can't do arithmetic or face facts running the country in a crisis, and that's otherwise what it looks like we'll be getting.

[0] Canada, too.  Both our largest trading partner and some of our federal politicians keep having what amount to excursions from consensus reality.

[1] DO NOT completely ignore climate change.  Food security goes first, and will go before the sea rises and the coastal cities drown because we can't move them uphill if civilization has collapsed due to starvation.

[2] don't use a pre-paid credit card.  There's an ongoing something-or-other with fraud being alleged involving pre-paid cards.

[3] in a worrisome "markets are great!" sort of way.  Markets _can_ be great, if they're properly maintained (which is to say, regulated); they don't get or stay great on their own.  Of course, if you're running for CPC leader, you had better not go saying you think markets require regulation to function, and let people read between the line in your policy papers to make up their own minds about whether or not you're sane.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_bubble  Note that this is talking about "we can't burn it!" more than it's talking about "the markets are going to undergo a correction"; the plummeting price of solar is going to get there and cause the correction long before carbon pricing or other regulation driven by governments shall.

16 February 2017

The wretched miasma of politics

People keep presuming diversely on the net that Putin has compromising pictures of Trump.

I think this is unlikely.

Trump is reputed to have done this -- surreptitiously take compromising pictures of guests -- in Trump's own hotels, Trump has never lacked for low cunning, and it's about impossible to make pictures or video really stick these days. Any state actor can fake just about anything, and that possibility makes any kind of blackmail image doubtfully effective. It might work, but it might not.  It probably won't, given the GOP unwillingness to stop going La La La so long as they stay in power and get their tax breaks.

Really tight proof of Trump's economic misdeeds -- it's not like Putin needs to be especially concerned for being prosecuted for any financial misdeeds on his own part -- is a possibility, but that can be disclaimed, too.  "State actor" calls into a great deal of question just what can be false-flagged about financial fraud claims.

What Putin can have on Trump relies on it being something Trump's staff wouldn't think of guarding against, which generally means something that requires a state actor; either the capability before it would have been generally known as a risk or to get away with doing it.  (Or both.) To be useful, it has to be an inescapable demonstrable material fact that's nigh-guaranteed to revolt Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell beyond any question of political calculation.  (Plus a sufficient fraction of the right-wing media.)

So either Putin's kiting Trump with no actual kompromat -- not impossible, by any means; that appears to be what Bannon's doing -- or it's something that fits those two criteria.  It has to be a demonstrable material fact and it has to revolt Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.   It also has to be something Putin could get, that Trump would believe Putin had, and that Trump can't correct, obscure, or dispose of once Trump knows Putin has it.

There really isn't much in that category.  The only obvious candidate is the paternity of Trump's grandchildren, which is a horrible thought to think.


14 February 2017

I think people miss the significance of the 1950s

The point to the fifties was that the 1940s -- and to a considerable extent the 1930s -- had seen a big upswing in women's agency, if not formal rights.  Running munitions factories lead to getting the vote after the Great War -- you just can't claim someone who handles picric acid isn't capable of political decisions, not if you have any self honesty at all -- but after Hitler's War, all the progress was undone.  Women were removed from jobs and financial independence; the collective child-care (utterly necessary to factories staffed by women) was abolished; a whole lot of "you must stay at home for your child" propaganda got produced.  And it worked, in that time and in that generation.

I think the American hard right; the supremacists, the fascists, the deplorable and demented and delusional with no just claim to the name of a man, are really really into the fifties as imagery because it is indescribably important to them to put "women, cattle, and slaves" back into operation.  An environment when women can tell them no hurts too much to live in, and they don't want it.  (Even the white supremacy has a whole lot of forced-birth nativism in the supremacist mix; it's white male supremacy.  White women aren't meant to be anything other than a particular class of chattel.)  The fifties were time when a long period of increase in women's agency and rights were reversed.  Perhaps that can be done again.

I don't think such a thing is possible this time; I think given the choice between being returned to a condition of reproductive slavery, and killing a lot of people until the demand ceases to be made, enough of the current generation of women are going to pick killing a lot of people.  (And a lot of the millennial men, too, but the politically crucial thing is what the middle aged women chose to do.)

I really, really hope this doesn't happen. (Though it would be a better thing than putting "women, cattle, and slaves" back into operation.)  I very much wish I could believe the Pence wing of the GOP (or pretty much any but perhaps two of the Canadian CPC leadership candidates) recognized this as a possibility.  (Or, if they do recognize it, could imagine losing.)

15 January 2017

Open water

There shouldn't be that much open water in Lake Ontario in January.  Only "should" has moved.