"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Via Bookworm, here is a truly appalling story from Minnesota. When the fire alarm went off at Como Park High School, a 14-year-old girl was rousted out of the swimming pool, and–dripping wet and wearing only a swimsuit–directed to go stand outside were the temperature was sub-zero and the wind chill made it much worse. Then, she was not allowed to take refuge in one of the many cars in the parking lot because of a school policy forbidding students from sitting in a faculty member’s car. As Bookworm notes:
Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children. The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacherunder the actual circumstances is ludicrous. The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school. There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.
But the whole nature of bureaucratic rules, of course, is to forbid human judgment based on actual context.
Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules: “…fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.” As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were workingtheir way through the bureaucracy. After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody.
As Bookworm notes, this sort of thing is becoming increasingly common. In England in 2009, for example, a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues. Dozens of similar examples could easily be dredged up.
The behavior of these bureaucrats is very similar to the behavior of a computer program confronted by a situation for which its designers did not explicitly provide. Sometimes the results will be useless, sometimes they will be humorous, often they will be harmful or outright disastrous.
Last year in Sweden, there was rampant rioting that included the torching of many cars. The government of Sweden didn’t do a very good job of protecting its citizens and their property from this outbreak of barbarism. Government agents did, however, fulfill their duty of issuing parking tickets…to burned-out cars. Link with picture. In my post The Reductio as Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism, I said…
Last year on my annual pilgrimage to cycling valhalla in the Pyrenees I took my GoPro camera for the first time. Below is my descent of the Col du Chioula, headed back toward Ax les Thermes (best viewed in HD).
This was probably my best descent of last year, the road surface and weather being just right. Everything fell into place. For those wondering, my top speed on this descent was 48.2 mph.
I took an insane amount of footage with my GoPro last year, and I am glad I did. But the problem is that when you bring back these hours and hours of video, there is nowhere for you to go with it. Options are buying an external hard drive and storing them there, or uploading them to one of many websites that do this sort of thing. I am about two thirds of the way done uploading my videos to YouTube, and it takes absolutely forever. A 15 minute video takes several hours to upload. I usually start one video a night and begin the uploading process before I go to bed.
Bob Casale, guitarist for DEVO – aka Bob2, died this week. My wife found this awesome version of “Gut Feeling” on Youtube that I will post here in remembrance. DEVO is a very underrated band and I encourage you to take a deep dive past the “Whip It” stuff if you haven’t already (although I like “Whip It” too).
It is a pretty good ad. Zerocare has been a debacle, as we all expected it to be. It isn’t just a “broken website”. It is a classical 20th century big government scheme, completely unprepared and unable to deal with a 21st century economy – this is one of the main thrusts of America 3.0.
Every Republican (and the groups cheering for them) should just shut up about pretty much everything but this one issue. Make the Democrats own it. It is theirs. It passed by a straight party vote. Make them eat it in 2014.
People signing up for Obamacare are being robbed by the government. This time it’s not metaphorically, like when your perfectly satisfactory insurance plan is made illegal and all the compliant plans are more expensive and have worse terms but literally. People are having their accounts debited improperly during the Christmas season. And because it is being done by the government, there is little recourse to sue due to sovereign immunity and, of course, those most injured haven’t the money to hire representation anyway. I think Pope Francis calls it ‘despoliation of the poor’.
Double debits, wrong day debits, wrong amount debits, these are all standard hazards with any sort of Electronic Funds Transfer (ETF) system. There’s nothing particularly new about these issues. It’s all part of the back end errors that those dastardly Republicans have been hyperventilating about and Democrats have been pooh poohing for weeks now.
You never know when Tuttle will turn into Buttle in one of these systems. But what’s in a name?
(Just for a change of pace, some modern history and my recollections of it.)
On an April day, thirty-eight years ago, Mom and I were in the supermarket. In the aisle with the flour and sugar and baking supplies and spices, I took a bottle off the shelf of Schilling brand spices, a cylindrical glass bottle with the light green plastic cap and green and gold label.
”I wonder how much longer we are going to see this?” I showed it to Mom. The label said ‘Cinnamon’ and in smaller letters “Saigon.” Mom looked at it thoughtfully and said, ”Get three. We’d better stock up.”
Cinnamon was the only consumer good that we knew of that came out of South Vietnam; as of the cruel month of April, 1975, there would probably be no more of it.
The North Vietnamese had overrun and taken all of the South. The last helicopter had taken off from the room of the American Embassy, and the newspaper was full of pictures, pictures of frantic people mobbing the gates, crammed into boats, thousands, hundreds of thousands of desperate people, pleading for rescue, for shelter, for succor. Their city was gone, their country was gone. There would be no more jars of “Cinnamon-Saigon” on the grocery store shelves. The war was over, but not the memories — or the responsibility that seemed to hang, for some people like an albatross around our necks. Read the rest of this entry »
Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?
The arguments presented in this article seem like a good if somewhat long presentation of the general problem, and could be applied in many fields besides medicine. (Note that the comments on the article rapidly become an argument about global warming.) The same problems are also seen in the work of bloggers, journalists and “experts” who specialize in popular health, finance, relationship and other topics and have created entire advice industries out of appeals to the authority of often poorly designed studies. The world would be a better place if students of medicine, law and journalism were forced to study basic statistics and experimental design. Anecdote is not necessarily invalid; study results are not necessarily correct and are often wrong or misleading.
None of this is news, and good researchers understand the problems. However, not all researchers are competent, a few are dishonest and the research funding system and academic careerism unintentionally create incentives that make the problem worse.
(Thanks to Madhu Dahiya for her thoughtful comments.)
People at home feel isolated. That isolation can lead to depression. It’s rough being an independent contractor. There is a lot of rejection. Entrepreneurship is hard. It’s better to experience it with people in the same boat as you.
All of this is true in my experience. Working at home gets depressing. Getting a conventional office removes the distractions but you are still isolated. Working from someone else’s office removes the isolation, but typically you don’t have much control over your environment, and the fact that the other people in the office are a team while you are operating solo kills some of the social benefit. The best situation is to be part of a team that you lead or are a partner in. Next best is to work independently in the same physical space as other people who are working independently. Starbucks or the public library ain’t it. Businesses that offer high-quality flexible working environments at low-enough rates to make using them a low-thought decision for contractors and entrepreneurs should do well, going forward.
UPDATE: Another take on the same issue:
These are variations on a theme of tech-driven individual empowerment that’s closely related to the America 3.0 argument.
Remarkable verbal pirouettes from gun-ban advocate Mark Kelly:
Obviously Glenn Reynolds is right about this. Kelly bought the guns for the same reasons so many other people are buying guns. No other explanation makes sense. He expected to do it without anyone noticing, and now that he’s been called out he’s appearing in friendly media to try to minimize damage to the cause. We won’t believe him but surely some people will, perhaps the same kinds of people who believe gun bans reduce crime.
Very closely are noble issues bound up with material ones. Nothing could be more grossly material than the refusal to pay taxes, and the honest historian who comes to examine these occasional epic refusals will find often that the tax was reasonable and the refusal, on material grounds, absurd. Yet the refusal to pay taxes is one of the sacraments of history, the outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace, the symbol of a resurgent spirit among an oppressed people, the assertion of the rights of man, the voice of liberty defying the dictates of authority.