Monthly Archives: October 2014

On the other hand, props where due.

Here’s a fairly spectacular comic explaining what Obamacare is, why it’s that way, what it isn’t, and what it might lead to.

I don’t have a lot to add because he’s done a bang-up job of it. All I’ll say is that I stand by my earlier remark on the subject: I hope that Obamacare is the “don’t ask/don’t tell” of health care. A timid, necessary step in the right direction that will look horribly ill-considered and awkward when we finally get to a single-payer system.

I’m not thrilled by the first 7 years of Obama, but we’re in a measurably better place with respect to health care than we were 7 years ago.  I’ll give him that much.


Filed under Health Care, Politics

“It’s only bad when the other side does it. I’m cool with it when it’s our guy.”


Liberals who criticize the policies of a Republican president and then defend the same damn policies when a Democratic president is in charge are my sworn enemies. Few things are more damaging to liberalism than liberals defending bad actions by their leaders. Nothing undercuts your credibility like this kind of hypocrisy.

This is doubleplus true during the Obama administration. More than any President since Reagan, Obama was elected with a mandate to reverse the course set by his predecessor. I loved candidate Obama, but Obama-the-president has been a huge disappointment in foreign policy*, economics, civil liberties. He’s extended the Bush policies rather than undoing the damage.

So, the president has failed to live up to his promise. The very last thing we need are liberals stepping up to defend his record. Instead of blaming the president for his failures, they’re blaming the people who called attention to those failures. I know the other side does that all the time, but I don’t care about them. I don’t identify with their tribe, so their actions, as infuriating as they may be, don’t represent me.

But when my people, the people who supposedly represent my views, let me down? I’m not going to make excuses for them just because they’re on my “team.” I’m going to call them out and let them know they’re in the wrong. If I don’t, then what the hell do I stand for?

* Remember when Obama won the Nobel peace prize for, and I’m not making this up, “not being George W. Bush?”

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That’s a very specific part of the Homeland you’re trying to keep secure…

I’m sure you’ve already seen this because no click bait web site can resist an opportunity to use the expression “panty raid” in a headline: The Department of Homeland Security raided a Kansas City lingerie store and confiscated a batch of panties. The reason for the raid? They were enforcing a claim of copyright violation.

Is it just me, or is that kind of scary? In my admittedly-naive world, DHS does things involving, you know, “homeland security,” or at the very least, things that can semi-plausibly be considered security-related. Raids against copyright violation make the DHS seem like corporate America’s private enforcement arm. I am not comforted by this thought.

This raid, when view in light of the fact that the U.S. is currently negotiating a secret copyright treaty (my take here) with other nations and this treat requires some seriously draconian measures with regard to enforcing intellectual property rights, seems more than a little sinister. I won’t list out any of the slippery-slope scenarios currently running through my mind because they’ll probably sound paranoid, but if the DHS is confiscating underwear, what will they be asked to do when/if this treaty become the law of the land?


Filed under Economics, Politics

Is there a word for “the opposite of Stockholm syndrome”?

From the outside, I’m sure that one of the more curious features of American politics is the vitriol many poor Americans feel towards government assistance. This is especially curious since so many of these less wealthy Americans are actually on some sort of government assistance. I could cite countless personal anecdotes demonstrating this odd phenomenon, but that’s no fun and it makes me sound bitter. Instead, I’d like to show you how it looks at the state level; as above, so below.

I started with by dividing the states into three buckets: “Red” (Republican/conservative), “blue” (Democratic/liberal), and “divided” (pretty much what it sounds like). I chose a composite of how the states voted over the last 4 presidential elections with states split 2/2 going into the “divided” bucket. It’s not a perfect method, but it passes the sniff test with flying colors. The northeast, the west coast, and the midwest are blue; the deep south and pretty much everything west of the Mississippi fall are red.

Then, I matched this up against the federal spending versus tax revenue by state. That is to say, the amount of money states contribute in income tax and the amount of federal spending by state. I took the net number for each state and then added ’em up by category (red, blue, and divided). It went pretty much how you’d expect:

Blue states: $357 billion contributed

Red states: -$145 billion contributed

Divided states: -83 billion contributed

Note: They don’t balance to zero because the federal government takes in $130 billion more than it distributes to the states.

Now, remember, one of the key talking points of the Republican party and it’s demented cousin, the Tea Party, is that liberals are taking their hard-earned money and giving to lazy, undeserving bums. Fortunately for its adherents, one of the signature features of American conservative ideology is an immunity to cognitive dissonance. Otherwise, the fact that those awful liberals are ponying up billions of dollars to support good, hard-working conservatives might make them reconsider a few articles of faith, eh?

Dollars (millions)
Blue States Revenue Spending Net
California $334,425 $228,474 $105,950
Connecticut $53,703 $55,947 ($2,244)
Delaware $20,062 $6,247 $13,815
District of Columbia $24,464 $21,148 $3,316
Hawaii $7,140 $10,410 ($3,270)
Illinois $137,068 $61,147 $75,921
Iowa $21,189 $17,944 $3,246
Maine $6,745 $10,645 ($3,901)
Maryland $56,332 $57,329 ($996)
Massachusetts $90,464 $66,838 $23,625
Michigan $68,915 $61,133 $7,782
Minnesota $90,704 $48,375 $42,329
New Hampshire $10,002 $8,126 $1,876
New Jersey $128,052 $61,088 $66,964
New Mexico $8,547 $18,716 ($10,169)
New York $231,880 $134,887 $96,993
Oregon $25,716 $21,804 $3,912
Pennsylvania $120,398 $169,083 ($48,685)
Rhode Island $13,011 $9,806 $3,205
Vermont $4,046 $4,266 ($221)
Washington $59,880 $45,258 $14,622
Wisconsin $46,381 $82,998 ($36,618)
Blue State Total $1,559,124 $1,201,669 $357,452
Divided States Revenue Spending Net
Colorado $46,539 $29,854 $16,685
Florida $141,178 $284,585 ($143,407)
Nevada $15,858 $13,659 $2,199
Ohio $124,731 $63,276 $61,455
Virginia $71,365 $91,133 ($19,768)
Divided State Total $399,671 $482,507 ($82,836)
Red States Revenue Spending Net
Alaska $5,293 $5,034 $259
Arizona $36,769 $53,823 ($17,054)
Arkansas $28,772 $17,844 $10,929
Georgia $74,301 $51,404 $22,897
Idaho $8,669 $10,148 ($1,479)
Indiana $50,994 $92,418 ($41,423)
Kansas $24,729 $13,264 $11,464
Kentucky $27,744 $60,562 ($32,818)
Louisiana $40,185 $54,897 ($14,712)
Mississippi $10,430 $24,450 ($14,019)
Missouri $54,412 $45,127 $9,286
Montana $4,997 $6,168 ($1,171)
Nebraska $23,802 $9,706 $14,096
North Carolina $66,102 $58,297 $7,806
North Dakota $7,562 $28,976 ($21,415)
Oklahoma $30,057 $21,627 $8,429
South Carolina $20,446 $109,910 ($89,464)
South Dakota $6,317 $5,040 $1,278
Tennessee $53,909 $70,282 ($16,373)
Texas $249,912 $198,705 $51,207
Utah $17,658 $11,715 $5,943
West Virginia $6,799 $12,979 ($6,180)
Wyoming $5,305 $2,908 $2,397
Alabama $23,766 $58,475 ($34,709)
Red State Total $878,930 $1,023,759 ($144,826)
TOTAL $2,837,725 $2,707,934 $129,792

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Cracked wins the Troll of the Week prize

I was trying to work up some snark about the embarrassment that is GamerGate, something that would adequately expose the hypocrisy and idiocy of the MRA crowd, but Cracked did such a sublime job of it, I’m just going to sit back and nod in admiration.


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What I Want Ello To Be When It Grows Up

After the initial discovery period of figuring out what Ello is, I’m now trying to figure out what I want it to be and whether or not that’s where the developers are heading with this project.

What I do want:

1. A modicum of privacy and no “real names” requirements.
2. An interface that’s lightweight, intuitive, and pleasant to use.
3. Control over my feed (whose posts I see and whose I don’t, and complete control over the ordering of them).
4. Control over who can see my posts.
5. A decent mobile experience.
6. An interesting community with which to share.

Thinking about it as a whole, what I want is a social netowrk that isn’t as ugly, capricious, and ubiquitous as Facebook. I don’t want everything I do tracked and turned into advertising. I want it to work essentially the same way every time I use it. I want to be able to pick the community with whom I share and interact without having to worry about family or employers peeking in.

I think Ello has #1 ticked off the list and they’re a good way towards handling #2 (so long as you don’t take “intuitive” too seriously). #3 is in a good place right now with the caveat that there’s very little configuration currently available. #4 and #5 are nowhere to be seen at this time although the list of coming features is encouraging.

#6 will be the make or break feature for me. The interactions are what separate social networks from the other stars in my media constellation. My RSS feed, my blog, and my Twitter account all accomplish numbers 1-5 with varying degrees of aplomb. So, without the community, why bother?

The kicker, of course, is that the community isn’t likely to develop and stick around without additional features. We’ll see. I’m committed to sticking around for a while if for no other reason than to try to encourage anything that isn’t Facebook. I hope it works. I’m not holding my breath.

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Filed under Blogging, Personal

“encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place.”

“Are we no longer a country that is passionate both about the rule of law and about their being no zones in this country beyond the reach of that rule of law? Have we become so mistrustful of government and law enforcement in particular that we are willing to let bad guys walk away, willing to leave victims in search of justice?”

Director of the FBI James Comey explaining why he believes privacy should be illegal

If you think I’m exaggerating, please read the article (hint: the subject line is another quote from the article). Reading it, I genuinely can’t tell if Comey simply doesn’t understand what he’s talking about or if simply thinks his audience is stupid. “Criminals and terrorists” would love end-to-end encryption. You know who else would? Credit card companies. More than a few of these massive credit card leaks could have been avoided with end-to-end encryption. He goes on and on about what the “bad guys” want as though those aren’t things that everybody would want. “Oh noes! Terrorists want drinking water!  We must destroy all potable water!” He also fails to mention that, while some “bad guys” (I cannot tell you how badly I hate his infantilizing the conversation this way) would love to see encryption outlawed. Pretty much anyone who seeks unlawful access to your computer, not just law enforcement, would absolutely love what Comey is suggesting.

And let’s answer Comey’s question, shall we? Have we become so mistrustful of government and law enforcement in particular? Why yes, yes we have. Mr. Comey and his ilk have utterly betrayed the trust they were given when they were authorized to fight against these, *cringe* “bad guys.” They’ve lied at every opportunity when asked about the scope of what they’re doing, about the oversight they’re operating under, and who they’re spying on. Why on earth would we trust them not to abuse access to electronic communication? It’s what they do. It’s who they are. I genuinely don’t think they could do otherwise if they tried.

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Sonic black holes are real…and they’re spectacular

(cross-posted from Ello)

This bit of mind-blowing science was called to my attention by @jinxbubbletush this morning and I’ve been down the Wikipedia rabbit hole all morning trying to wrap my head around it. The article describes how scientist have been able to create a sonic black hole and observe Hawking radiation on its periphery. There’s so much in there that makes my head a-splode that I’ve been able to think of little else this morning. What I’ve gleaned so far is:

  • Sonic black holes” are a real thing. When I first read the report, I suspected bullshit because, you know, “sonic black holes.”
  • Even though they’re “sonic”, they exhibit many of the same properties as your garden-variety (as though there were such a thing) black holes.
  • In fact, there are many, many ways to model gravity (using Bose-Einstein condensates, for example) that work remarkably well.
  • The fact that there are so many ways to model gravity suggests that gravity could be an emergent property of condensed matter systems.
  • This whole thing nests neatly with “World Crystal” cosmological model, which is sort of where I step away from the computer and try to get my head back in this little, localized version of reality.

I’m a little surprised that I didn’t find out about sonic black holes from reading @warrenellis because he’s usually on to this kind of weirdness way before I hear anything about it. I suppose it’s technically possible that he has written something involving sonic black holes and I just missed it, but given the amount of shelf-space Mr. Ellis occupies in my library, that seems unlikely.

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Filed under Personal, Science

Bruce Sterling’s “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things”

I just finished reading Sterlings’s new essay/non-fiction short story/pamphlet “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” a second time just to make sure I’d properly absorbed it. There’s a lot of content for such a short piece and strongly recommend it to anyone interested in a peek at what is in store for us over the next five years or so*.

Bruce Sterling has always had his finger on the pulse of the near-future, so much so that his fiction has proven weirdly prescient (“Maneki Neko“, I’m looking at you). He’s a gifted writer, but “ESoIoT” is a strangely bloodless read in part because his take on what’s coming next is plausible-to-the-point-of-being-inevitable and not especially optimistic. What we’re being sold is not what we’re going to get, but that won’t stop us from buying it. Whereas some writers might have waxed poetic about what the future ought to be, Sterling simply explains what it will be, why it will be that way, why we’ll go along with, and ultimately why it won’t really matter if we try to avoid it. That’s not a lot of fun, but man, is it ever informative.

I could go on and on (and would if it weren’t such a lovely evening), but honestly, reading the original is well worth a few bucks and half an hour of your time. This is the work of a master wholly in his element and whatever I say, he’ll say more clearly and with far fewer grammatical errors.

Ironically (trust me), “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” is available on Amazon and iTunes.

* Those of you (which is to say, “us”) who live in a world of analogy would do just as well to just pick up Grant Morrison’s “The Filth” or watch “The Prisoner” again. I love that this would constitute a “spoiler” for readers of a certain mindset.

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Lux Lisbon: “That Stuff Tastes Really Good”

In between being hellishly busy at work and a little medical relapse, I haven’t had too many opportunities to write here (and, c’mon, who wants to write about ebola?). On the plus side, I’ve had a chance to spend a little more time with Twitter. Twitter normally moves so quickly that I can’t keep up with the feed or interact; I just read little snapshots of a feed from time to time on the train.

Last week, I crossed paths with the band Lux Lisbon, and I’ve had ’em in heavy rotation since. I’m new to this particular party, so bear with me if you’ve heard all this before. Take a listen to what I think is the most “representative” song, Bullingdon Club:

Listening to it reminds just how much I’ve missed “big” rock. You can hear the Springsteen and Killers influences easily enough, but for me, the vocals are better than Springsteen (I think he’s a better songwriter and arranger than singer) and the lyrics are approximately one light year beyond anything Brandon Flowers has turned in.

It’s on their new EP “Get Some Scars” and it’s an impressive collection. The title track gets almost croon-y, and the next tune, “The Devil Got Me Dancing” is a terrific change of pace with Charlotte taking the lead on vocals.  The bonus tracks, an acoustic version of “The Demons You Show” and the live “We Don’t Believe In Love No More” round it out nicely. There’s a lot of range for an EP release.

If you’re interested (and really, you ought to be), here’s a link to download the new EP:

I don’t get too many chances to write about music, but I’ve enjoyed this and wanted to share it with you. Let me know if you like it.

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Filed under Music, Personal