Fuzzy little things that I find interesting.

Political musings from someone who thinks the S-D curve is more important to politics than politicians.

Month: November, 2017

Melbourne

Melbourne is what San Francisco, Portland and Seattle think they are, and wish they were–but are not.

It is hip, cool, the food scene is crazy and ranges all the way from some really good street food to experimental stuff that boggles the mind. Melbourne is not the surf city Sydney is; instead, it is all about the graffiti filled little alleyways with organic locally produced dishes below skyscrapers with experimental modernist cooking overlooking the city.

So if you want a very hip, cool and awesome city to visit, try Melbourne in Australia. Don’t bother with Seattle or Portland, and San Francisco? Meh.

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A perfect example of liberalisms “it’s okay to break a few eggs” theory.

In Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, he theorizes modern liberalism, descended from “The Unconstrained Vision” of mankind, believes that human nature, being essentially good, can be elevated as a species to a higher level of moral development.

And, along that path, since we’re talking about the species rather than the individual, collateral damage is merely the price on the road to perfection.

Keep that in mind–that individuals don’t matter, even if they are crushed under the wheels of the carriage carrying our Superiors, our Bodhisattvas, that we are to follow to collective salvation–as you read this:

‘Embarrassed’ Franken Won’t Resign, Apologizes for Groping Females

“I know that there are no magic words I can say to regain your trust,” the Minnesota Democrat said during a brief news conference outside his Senate office.

“I’m going to try to learn from my mistakes,” he added. “I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and I want to be someone who adds something to this conversation.”

If you think the feelings of four women who all claim to have been forcefully groped by Senator Franken matters here, or that liberals will try to hold Senator Franken to the same standard they demand of Senate Candidate Roy Moore, you haven’t been following along.

Senator Frankin is a liberal Bodhisattva.

And he could rape and murder a path from Minnesota to Washington D.C., and it wouldn’t matter. Collateral damage–in this case, a handful of women whose dignity were stripped by Senator Frankin–is merely the price to pay for perfection.

What do you mean, “of all Presidents?” It’s the platform on which he ran!

Is Donald Trump, of All Presidents, Devolving Power Back to the Legislative Branch?

Donald Trump did not campaign for president as the guy who would reverse the mostly unbroken, century-old trend of the executive power assuming more and more power in the face of an increasingly self-marginalizing Congress. If anything, the imperial presidency looked set to increase given Trump’s braggadocious personality and cavalier approach to constitutional restraints. “Nobody knows the system better than me,” he famously said during his worryingly authoritarian Republican National Convention speech, “which is why I alone can fix it.”

You wouldn’t know it from viewing policy through the prism of the president’s Twitter feed, which is filled with cajoling and insult toward the legislative branch, but Trump has on multiple occasions taken an executive-branch power-grab and kicked the issue back to Congress, where it belongs.

The problem is that most people were focusing on the wrong Trump statements. And the press is focusing on outcomes, not on process.

And sadly, even today they’re still focusing on the wrong things. Take, for example, the debate over DACA–which paints Trump’s unraveling of Obama’s unilateral (and potentially unconstitutional) action and kicking it back to Congress to properly pass as a law as some sort of “power grab.”

Uh, it was Congress’s damned job in the first place–and the prerogative of the Presidency was not to unilaterally pass laws, as was done routinely by the Obama Administration.

I mean, next thing you know, President Trump will stop offering budgetary recommendations and tell Congress to pass spending bills, as called out in Article I, Section 8, Section 1 of the United States Constitution. And that act will be called “fascist” by our press.

A comment left elsewhere

A comment left in response to Things That Male Academics Have Said To Me:

I’ve come to the conclusion people of both genders say shitty things. “Do you know X” is pretty common, as is “As a X you can never understand Y.” I’m a guy and guys often say shitty things to other guys: my favorite being the “of course you should know X” line.

(Auto mechanics are the worst here: my wife will often get “oh, honey; I don’t expect you to understand that”–um, I met my wife when she was in the Ph.D. program at Caltech in theoretical physics, I think she can understand. But me, I get a bunch of technical mumbo-jumbo: baffling me with bullshit–and sometimes it is complete bullshit. And the “but of course you know that” capper, which is supposed to intimidate me by forcing me to confess my ignorance.)

But women can also be pretty mean. I have a leather satchel I bought from Saddleback Leather, and I’ve had more than one woman come up to me and say “wow, what a great purse, you’re so brave to carry one.” (Um, it’s a laptop bag. See the laptop? Yes, a man can spend more than 30 bucks for a bag.) Any guy who spends more than two cents on personal care products is “vain”, get your hair cut anywhere other than a cheap hair cut chain and “wow, you’re just like one of the girls!” And yes, I’ve had one woman ask if I had a vagina. (I’m a 5’10 250 pound man with a beard. What the hell?)

And I’m ignoring the general comments classified in the original article as “micro-agressions”, such as “you seem happy all the time,” and “you’re always smiling.” I take those comments (given to me at various times) as a complement, mostly because I try very hard to be pleasant around people. (It’s in part a defense mechanism, working as a software developer but being built like a night club bouncer. Because I’ve noticed the moment I stop smiling people seem intimidated by me, even though I would never hurt a fly.)

Unlike the original article, written by someone who is clearly upset by every possible slight offered, none of these things really bother me anymore.

They used to.

They don’t bother me anymore because I’ve come to expect very little of strangers. In fact, at this point in my life all I expect of strangers is for them not to hit me and for them not to steal from me. Shitty comments–about who you are, about what you’re wearing, about the car you drive or the bag you carry or your profession or your beliefs or where you live or your physicality–they’re just par for the course.

And on some days I’m often pleasantly surprised when I don’t get a catty comment from someone of either gender.

Do you want to know the future of housing? Look at how royalty lives.

The future of America’s suburbs looks infinite

Just a decade ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, suburbia’s future seemed perilous, with experts claiming that many suburban tracks were about to become “the next slums.” The head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development proclaimed that “sprawl” was now doomed, and people were “headed back to the city.”

“Experts.” (Eye roll.)

Most so-called “experts” are mother-fucking morons who are more interested in imposing their vision onto our lives, rather than allowing us to choose for ourselves. I have no patience for them, especially the ones who look backwards to history, picking and choosing the lessons they want to project on us, without considering the “why” of history, and without using a calculator to calculate the costs of their proposals.

This story reflected strong revivals of many core cities, and deep-seated pain in many suburban markets. Yet today, less than a decade later, as we argue in the new book that we co-edited, “Infinite Suburbia,” the periphery remains the dominant, and fastest growing, part of the American landscape.

Well, that’s just the stupidity of Americans, right? Um, no…

This is not just occurring in the United States. In many other countries, as NYU’s Solly Angel has pointed out, growth inevitably means “spreading out” toward the periphery, with lower densities, where housing is often cheaper, and, in many cases, families find a better option than those presented by even the most dynamic core cities.

So, do you want to know the future of housing, and to understand how people would choose to live if they could?

Easy. Look to the rich. Look to those who, throughout history, had access to the resources necessary in order to live the lifestyle they want, without the limits of economics or politics or logistics.

So, do the rich live in tiny little apartments in the center of town?

Do the rich forgo cars in favor of sitting alongside their fellow man on the subway?

Do the rich spend their time walking along crowded city streets?

No.

The legacy of the Vanderbilts billions (adjusted for inflation) was not a one bedroom apartment in the downtown region of Raleigh. It was a 200 room sprawling estate on an 8,000 acre estate in the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. The “Mad King” Ludwig II of Bavaria did not live in a 2 bedroom apartment in Fussen next store to the public Opera House. He built Castle Neuschwanstein, within eyeshot of Castle Hohenschwangau.

Look anywhere in the world and at any time in history, and Kings and Emperors and the incredibly wealthy never chose to live in apartments. Some did maintain penthouse apartments in major cities–but as a second home convenient for performing business. Their main homes were estates; gigantic homes on rolling landscapes, away from their fellow man.

To suggest somehow that these impulses–to live in relative isolation, away from others, in a home of your own, on chunk of land, enjoying relative privacy even in exchange of relative convenience–are somehow limited to the rich: that having money makes these impulses sane, while not having money makes them ill-thought out or crazy: that’s just classist.

And fucking crazy.

Suburbs represent the urge of everyone to satisfy that impulse of relative isolation and relative comfort; to have some privacy in a space you call your own. Of course not everyone can have a 200 room mansion on 8,000 acres of rolling forests. But a lot of people can afford a 3 bedroom house on a quarter acre with a cute little backyard, perhaps with an outdoor barbecue.

The only reason why home ownership rates have declined with Millennials is not because they’re “woke.”

It’s because they’re “broke.”

And the moment they are no longer broke, thanks to sky-high student debt, you’ll see home ownership rates with Millennials increase. Not because of any sort of failure or brainwashing. But because they can, and because it’s what people really want.

I think this is the point.

Question asked: Is Hollywood Support Now a Liability for Democrats?

Hollywood has long been a safe and secure stronghold for Democrats. It was where they could safely raise a great deal of money while still pretending to care about the little guy. After all, these aren’t your typical rich people: they make movies! That means they’re regular folks who understand the people, despite never associating with any regular folks ever.

The Hollywood elite always lined up to endorse the latest Democrat darling. They’d stump for them: the allure of a celebrity in the flesh would lure potential voters out to rallies, then convince them to vote Dem on the strength of the actor’s charisma.

But then the world learned about Harvey Weinstein.

But here’s the thing. All this sexual hanky-panky, involving casting couches and starlettes (and young stars) being sexually abused by older, more powerful people in the business: this has been a well known “secret” for decades. And let’s be honest: if the gatekeeper standing between you and stardom that involves making millions (rather than being a washed-up D-lister who appears on a handful of TV shows in one-off roles) wants you to strip naked and do a little priouette on their genitals–well, a lot of people are more than happy to take one for the team regardless of how gross. Especially when they are the “I” in team.

So the fact that Hollywood is a moral cesspool has been known pretty much forever.

So why now?

My thinking: part of it was driven to drive this “open secret” out into the open, to force Hollywood to “live up to its own book of rules,” rule 4 in Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.” Notice the attack started with Harvey Weinstein, reportedly one of the largest Hollywood fundraisers for the Democratic Party.

And then it all snowballed.


As it is oft noted on Instapundit, the left will miss civility when it’s gone. Because there are a lot of people on the Left who will become fair game.

And, as my wife noted, we’ll get 9 more seasons of “The Orville”, which got an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes and was panned hard by reviewers–because no-one else will be left in Hollywood to make TV shows.

Instead of theorizing what they could do, ask why we want them.

The Death Of The Car

When you think about it, automobile ownership is a wildly inefficient use of capital. It is usually a family’s second largest expense, after their home, running $30,000-$80,000. It then sits unused in garages or public parking for 96%-98% of the day. Insurance, maintenance and liability costs can be off the charts.

What if your car were used 24/7, as is machinery in well-run industrial plants? Your cost drops by 96%-98% to the point where it is almost free. The sharing economy is the way to accomplish this.

Essentially he is arguing that, at some level, cars will become interchangeable and replaceable, and in essence instead of pulling the family car out of the driveway you’ll ask for a self-driving car on demand from Uber.


But hang on a second. Why do we have cars?

At the bottom of the stack, they are–in most cases, more than most urban planners care to admit–they are the most time efficient way for us to go from “here” to “there.” For example, if I need to go to the grocery store, it is the fastest way for me to get to the grocery store, load up on my week’s worth of groceries, and drive home.

And that’s even true if the grocery story is within walking distance of home, since the important part is the ability to move a car-load of groceries relatively quickly to the house before the ice cream melts. (For my wife and I, a weeks worth of groceries fills about 6 to 8 cubic feet of space; far more than can be pulled on a utility cart.

The problem with ordering an Uber ride to go everywhere is the overhead of waiting for the Uber ride–which in my area runs around 10 to 15 minutes. Meaning for me to take an Uber ride to the grocery store (which is 3 miles away) I effectively double to triple the amount of time it takes to get to the store itself, most of that time spent waiting for my car to arrive. To go from here to there and back–I’m adding nearly a half hour to my trip just waiting around for an Uber ride.

And then I have to unload my groceries when I arrive back home before I can release the car–which essentially forces me to prioritize unloading over orderly sorting of groceries. (If I own the car, I can leave a couple of bags of vegetables in the car while sorting through the frozen goods.)

Considering that the average amount of time most people have historically spent in one form of transportation or another is around 50 minutes per day–waiting for half an hour for a short trip to the grocery store significantly uses up that 50 minute budget.

(As a rule of thumb people spend an average of 5% of their waking day–around 50 minutes–going from one place to another. This 50 minute average is true throughout history. It’s true today (17600/365=48.2), regardless of mode of transportation, it was true during medieval times. It’s why most medieval market towns–ones that lack town walls–are roughly a mile or two across; three miles is how far one can walk in an hour at a relatively brisk pace. And it directly implies a 50 minute per day transportation budget; the more time wasted in inefficient transportation (such as waiting for an Uber ride), the more inconvenient that mode of transportation is.)


Cars happen to serve two other purposes, which would force us to rethink cars in a brave new world of interchangeable self-driving modules. First, they serve as means of expression–status symbols or avatars that we use to express who we are to the world. (I bring this up because the original article’s $80k price point for a car doesn’t buy you a car; it buys you a status symbol. So to assume this is a wasteful capital expense ignores why it was purchased in the first place; after all, luxury watches and women’s jewelry are also wasteful capital expenses.)

This also happens to be true of older cars and of utility cars such as pickup trucks.

And second, cars serve as a sort of “second home”; a place where we store things we routinely use as part of our routine trips. (For example, how many of you keep the office access card in your car? Some people I know keep their work supplies in their car, including a change of clothes.)

But at its core, cars represent transportation freedom by being the most efficient way to go from point A to point B, and to bring things back from point B to point A.


Now I can see a brave new world where for those times we need something specialized we hire a service rather than owning it ourselves. For example, once in a while it would be useful for me to have a pickup truck rather than a small two-seater car. So being able to open up “Uber for Trucks” to hire a self-driving truck to meet me at the Home Depot to bring home a bunch of stuff would be useful.

I can also see, in an attempt to control increasing volume of traffic in small urban cores, a requirement that your car must be in self-driving mode if you traverse an urban core–and even expanding the self-driving logic to slot your car in the traffic flow in the same way Air Traffic Control for aircraft provide time slots for commercial aircraft. (You have been scheduled to arrive between 11:12 and 11:14 in downtown Los Angeles. Please remain in self-drive mode. We are cleared to depart in 6 minutes; departure window void in 8 minutes.)

But unless we are willing to inconvenience ourselves by forcing us to wait for a car every time we drive, burning the 50 minute average transportation time budget most of us subconsciously have, the reality is it will be more convenient for us to own our own personal car.

And so long as car ownership remains an option, there will always be a market for personalized cars; for luxury cars, for cars which represent us as we drive (or are driven) to our destination.

Probably the best example of Thomas Sowell’s “Unconstrained Vision.”

I’ve referred to Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions repeatedly in the past, because to me, it (along with the 11 nations model offered in Colin Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America) provide an excellent model to help explain modern politics in the United States.

In his book, Thomas Sowell theorizes two visions of mankind; one associated with the liberal progressive view of the “unconstrained vision” of mankind:

Ultimately they believe that man is morally perfectible. Because of this, they believe that there exist some people who are further along the path of moral development, have overcome self-interest and are immune to the influence of power and therefore can act as surrogate decision-makers for the rest of society.

As a result:

Those with an unconstrained vision distrust decentralized processes and are impatient with large institutions and systemic processes that constrain human action. They believe there is an ideal solution to every problem, and that compromise is never acceptable. Collateral damage is merely the price of moving forward on the road to perfection.

And now, Governor Jerry Brown outs himself as a believer in the “unconstrained vision”:

“It’s not just a light rinse,” Brown said. “We need a total, I might say brainwashing. We need to wash our brains out and see a very different kind of world

To Mr. Brown, the election of Trump is a sign: a sign that we have gone down the wrong “moral path” and need a wholesale correction before we go down the wrong path to our destruction.

After all, this (and not environmental warming) is the ultimate message of Global Warming alarmists in the media: that we must repent, that we must see the errors of our way, and we must give ourselves to the Bodhisattvas on the Left who can lead us out of the desert and to the promised land.

The environmental damage itself is really just a sign from Gaia for our moral imperfection–and while there is a “scientific explanation” for these signs (though “tipping points”–future predictions without past examples–are about as scientific as reading tea leaves), they are sold to us as a sign of our moral failures. And they are sold to us in the same way the sins of mankind were justification for Noah’s flood, or for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Think I’m being silly? Again, Governor Brown:

“The power here is prophecy. The power here is faith, and that’s what this organization is supposed to be about. So, let’s be about it and combine with the technical and the scientific and the political.”

“The problem … is us. It’s our whole way of life. It’s our comfort … It’s the greed. It’s the indulgence. It’s the pattern. And it’s the inertia.”

It is our moral failures, deciding to lead wicked lives of comfort and joy and abundance behind the walls of Sodom. We have been given signs and portents by almighty God, and if we could only just find 10 righteous people who can lead us to salvation, we will surely die.

Instead, Brown called for a fundamental transformation of people’s way of life.

Repent!


It has always fascinated me that the Liberal Progressive movement, so deeply rooted in the “Unconstrained Vision”, fails to understand its own religiosity.

After all, you cannot have a moral arc without absolute morality–and absolute morality is only philosophically justifiable with an external frame of reference.

To the religious, God provides that external frame of reference; there are absolute rights and absolute wrongs on which to hang a moral framework because God said so.

But without God–there can be no absolute external frame of reference on which to hang morality. I mean, you can (as I do) assume at the bottom of your ontological stack there are certain truths which are informed by reasonable assumptions. But you must start with reasonable assumptions. You must start, for example, with the assumption that individual life is precious, and as thinking beings our desire for self-expression is important.

But without an absolute truth, you have nothing to hang your hat on.

Which, to me, is the ultimate irony of global warming alarmists who parade around in the press demanding we repent for our comfortable lifestyles. Because the world will survive, even if we do not. Even if we make the world so inhospitable that human life goes extinct, the world will survive and carry on without us. And, if some on the Left are to be believed, it would carry on far better without us.

So caught in this inherent philosophical trap of believing we must save the world from us, but save it for us, all the Left can do is appeal to an absolute moral arc that depends on absolute morality–an absolute morality that can only be provided by a God many on the Left profess not to believe in.


The only way out of this philosophical trap is to either believe in God (and that you are doing the Lord’s work), or to believe there is no absolute moral arc–and all that is left is for each of us to cut our own way through the Jungle.

But if you arrive there, you arrive at Sowell’s “Constrained vision” of mankind. Because without an absolute moral arc to serve as your compass, how do you sort between the Bodhisattvas and the charlatans?

… And?

Does The Republican Tax Plan “Screw Democratic Voters”?

That’s what Kevin Drum says at Mother Jones. Leftists are up in arms at the idea of taking away the federal tax deduction for state and local taxes and capping the home interest deduction at $500,000.

So fucking what?

I mean, we’ve heard for years that tax deductions favor the rich, and are essentially welfare for the rich. I mean, how often do we hear about “ending welfare to oil companies”, despite the fact that the biggest “oil company welfare” programs include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, counted as a sort of subsidy to oil companies in that it effectively gives money to oil companies to allow the sale of cheap home heating oil to the poor.

We’ve also been constantly reminded that Democrats tend to live in wealthy enclaves while Republicans are in poorer rural areas–a reminder that plays out most often when we hear about Republicans “voting against their interests”, the implication is that Republicans are stupid poor whites who cling to their bibles and guns.

So in this setting, how can one argue that the home mortgage tax deduction for home loans above $500,000–a mortgage which is only affordable to families making over $165k/year (about three times the national average, and within spitting distance of the top 5% of income earners)–is anything but welfare for the rich?

And how can anyone argue that allowing property tax deductions and federal and state tax deductions above $10,000–which implies property values above a half a million dollars owned by someone in the top 5% of income earners–is anything but welfare for the rich?

We are constantly reminded that Democrats are more successful than their Republican counterparts.

Does this entitle Democrats to a greater share of welfare for the wealthy?

Please.

The hypocrisy here runs thick here.


My point is this.

Either you agree with the statement that tax cuts will inherently help those who pay the most taxes–i.e., the wealthy, including relatively wealthier Californians and New Yorkers–at which point shut the fuck up about benefiting the wealthy.

Or you believe that the wealthy need to “pay their fair share”–and if you are a wealthier Californian and New Yorker, that includes you.

But slicing the baby in the way the Mother Jones article does so as to make the argument that somehow wealthier Democrats are being penalized because they’re Democrat and not because they’re wealthier?

*eye roll*

So remind me, why are people so dumb as to talk to the police?

Tripping Up Trump

The versatility of the federal criminal law can be a useful tool against genuine criminals. Consider the famous example of gangster Al Capone, jailed for tax evasion when murder and extortion charges wouldn’t stick. But Capone was a career criminal, and he was evading taxes before anyone pursued him. Modern federal investigators and prosecutors have learned the trick of startling their quarry into foolish actions, making their prior criminality irrelevant.

The examples are legion. Martha Stewart was convicted for how she reacted to an insider trading investigation, not for insider trading. Scooter Libby was convicted of lying to a grand jury investigating leaks, not for leaking. Retired Marine Corps general James E. Cartwright was convicted of lying to the FBI during their leak investigation, not of leaking. Clinton-era housing secretary Henry Cisneros was convicted of lying to the FBI about money he gave a girlfriend, not for the wide-ranging subject of the independent-counsel investigation into him. New York state senator Thomas Libous was convicted not of the corruption he was accused of but for lying to the FBI in the course of the investigation. House speaker Dennis Hastert was investigated for misuse of public funds, and was proved to have engaged in horrendous child abuse, but was ultimately convicted of lying to the FBI about the money he used to pay his victim and of structuring those payments in a way designed to evade detection. Rapper Lil’ Kim wasn’t convicted for participating in a gunfight; she was convicted for lying to a grand jury about one.

As a refresher for all of you who are high in the ranks of political power and who may become the subject of an FBI investigation, I provide you this video: