30 April 2015

28 April 2015

Book Review: Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

Been busy but not doing much that is bloggable. I could write posts about going to the gym but it does not make for very exciting reading. Same with work stuff. Borrrrrrrrrrring.

Read some books though. Let's talk about it!

Why Nations Fail is about inclusive vs. exclusive social and economic policies. It explains (tries to explain?) why nations (such as the USA and Mexico) have had such divergent economic and social histories. 

tl;dr: Exclusive and extractive economic and social policies are self-perpetuating and inefficient. They discourage/disable "creative disruption" (read: innovation), which results in stagnant economic and social development. Inclusive economic and social policies encourage economic and social development.

There is abundant evidence to support their theory, and the authors outline what seems like all of them in book that becomes painfully redundant after the first couple chapters. Unless you are writing your own academic paper you can skip it and just read a summary.

Once you wrap your head around the causes of poverty then it makes sense to consider what your current government is doing about it. Are they encouraging equality, or perpetuating inequality? Are their arguments for doing so legitimate? (No. Not they are not.) One good thing about the innumerable examples in Why Nations Fail is that you can see the pattern throughout history and around the world: Rich, powerful people want to stay rich and powerful. Who wouldn't? It is up to you to decide if that is in your best interest. Unless you are rich and powerful then it probably isn't.

Highly recommended. 

18 April 2015

Archer is Sexy

Archer is damn funny. If you know how people are about 'tactical' stuff then you know this hits especially close to home.

12 April 2015

Hot Jamz: Gold Dust by Galantis (Original Mix)

Four minutes of solid gold. This is my kind of jam.


Sports contests are best viewed with the mute button ON.

Image from the always-excellent XKCD.

09 April 2015

Keep Public Lands Public: Oppose Budget Amendment SA 838

The Senate, that august body of rich white people, recently passed a budgetary amendment that "backs support for and funding of state efforts to take over federal land". In these matters the amendments themselves can be very difficult to parse so it is easiest just to follow the money: who is supporting the bill, and why?

As it happens the bill is supported exclusively by Republicans (which is not necessarily bad), and lobbied by organizations backed by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers (which is terrible). This has less to do with states rights than it does with Big Business wanting to cut down every last tree and drill whenever, wherever.

Let's be clear: the reason the federal government controls public land is because no one wanted it. The BLM was created because somebody had to take care of all the open, empty wild spaces so they didn't turn into wastelands or dumps. Now Big Oil and Big Kochtopus want to give the land rights to the states (who were never interested until very, very recently) so that they can buy it at discount prices and turn it into wastelands and dumps, because: fuck you John Q. Taxpayer. 

This quote from John Muir tells the story very well - they should print it on money:

'God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools'

07 April 2015

An Engine for Extracting Revenue

I have written a few posts about Ferguson, Missouri. The system there illustrates a larger problem with modern policing that we (read: you) are going to have to live with at some point.

This essay (which is fantastic and you should read) summarizes a key point that I make very often about police officers: they are not here to keep you safe. They are here to write tickets and clean up the mess. Whether that's showing up 20 minutes after some guy in my apartment complex has a violent raging meltdown (just last week!) or writing you a ticket for jaywalking it ends up being the same thing: you need to be able to avoid attracting attention from criminals AND cops, because both will treat you as an engine for extracting revenue.

It turns out that THREE-FOURTHS of Ferguson, MO had arrest warrants at any given time. And that is for civil infractions, like parking tickets. Not, you know, actual crimes (felonies or misdemeanors). If you are poor a parking ticket is a burden, but how are you going to pay it if you are in jail?

Speaking of extracting revenue, here is an illustrative pull quote from that essay on Gawker:

Obviously, this picture has almost nothing to do with anything we normally consider "justice." Still, if the image of police terrorizing and manhandling citizens over parking fines seems bizarre, it's partly because we tend to forget who and what the police actually are. The police spend very little of their time dealing with violent criminals—indeed, police sociologists report that only about 10% of the average police officer's time is devoted to criminal matters of any kind. Most of the remaining 90% is spent dealing with infractions of various administrative codes and regulations: all those rules about how and where one can eat, drink, smoke, sell, sit, walk, and drive. If two people punch each other, or even draw a knife on each other, police are unlikely to get involved. Drive down the street in a car without license plates, on the other hand, and the authorities will show up instantly, threatening all sorts of dire consequences if you don't do exactly what they tell you.

The police, then, are essentially just bureaucrats with weapons. Their main role in society is to bring the threat of physical force—even, death—into situations where it would never have been otherwise invoked, such as the enforcement of civic ordinances about the sale of untaxed cigarettes.

Welcome to America.

05 April 2015

Happy Easter!

//They took down my video of an enormous lizard eating a rabbit while on top of a telephone pole. Sad faces. //

Goanna: native to Australia.
Rabbits: not native to Australia.

Advantage: Goanna

01 April 2015

Makes Sense

Kids are awful. Everyone knows it, but now we have some scientific evidence.
More accurately: have had the evidence it for years (generations?), but I only recently caught up with the empirical data. 

I wonder why this lack of empathy developed, and what evolutionary advantage it confers. No wonder they love Ayn Rand so much.