Thursday, November 27, 2014

An Open Letter to the American Left Re: Thanksgiving

It seems like there's a knee-jerk reaction on the American Left to the celebration of Thanksgiving. Things like It's Long Past Time to Update the Thanksgiving Myth attempt to reeducate us on the "meaning" of Thanksgiving.
But the notion that the extreme irony of Thanksgiving, that White settlers were saved by Indians (whom those settlers later killed*), is intrinsic to the holiday.
You would think we would celebrate some sort of myth where the Great White Men came and fed the Indians. But we don't. It would make a convenient straw man if the story of the so-called "First Thanksgiving" were ever taught anything like that in America. But it just wasn't.
So yeah, you can complain about celebrating Columbus Day. But Thanksgiving, although based on some malarkey, is not the holiday which ignores the genocide of the native peoples of the Americas. In fact, discussing that genocide doesn't even put a damper on the holiday where those murdered people had, in their last moments, helped us. It's the same holiday. It's a Thanksgiving. Not a You'reWelcome(for letting us invade you)giving.

*Which, technically, isn't true. Another group of settlers killed those Indians. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Model Pejority

My finger, as it is, always on the pulse of America, reads the zeitgeist of "Asians as the Model Minority" like this:

The "model minority" stereotype is a patronizing cudgel with which the conservative White establishment pummels Black Americans. It actually has nothing to do with Asians at all, except to stereotype them as two-dimensional work-bots -- a compliant, literate work-force.

I suggest that entire notion of the "model minority" is exclusively a snotty meme designed to humiliate African-Americans. The idea that Asians are a "model minority" is a way of saying to Black Americans: "Why can't you people be like the Asians? See? They're happy and have jobs, they had hardships. You people are just complaining about racism that doesn't exist. (And you're lazy.)"

The reason I say it has nothing to do with Asians is that as a stereotype it breaks down almost immediately. If Asians are such a model minority and "if they can do it why can't you?" is the lesson learned, what is up with the fact that Asians can't get into management at Google? Well it looks like even if you're the model minority you're still subject to racism.

But, as always, it turns out I'm not the first to think these things:
People who shape the dominant political narrative in this country—politicians, pundits, media—have little use for substantive conversation about any group of non-white people unless it’s to uphold, in stark terms, notions of black inferiority and white supremacy. To that end, Asians have actually been the subject of quite a lot of public fascination, mainly as props used to denigrate blacks and Latinos and programs designed to support them and other people of color—including segments of the Asian-American population. All too often, Asians are willing to play along.
Yeah. That about sums it up.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

White as a Race

I pretty well agree with all of Kartina Richardson's notions about White being the "default" except for her conclusion.
White people becoming "free" by accepting their race is a theory which, when put into practice, has gone noticeably bad.
Many White supremacists are totally down with the idea that White people should think of Whiteness as an ethnicity, that there's a White culture and a White heritage. The problem is there really isn't.
White people frequently ask me what my ethnicity is. I like to ask them back and they preface their answer with a sheepish expression, “Oh, I’m just regular white” they say, or “Oh, just plain boring white.” They don’t believe they have an ethnicity because The Default has erased European ethnicity to absorb people of European descent (and a few lucky Middle Easterners) into Whiteness.
I think the "default" of European ethnicity and how White people don't think of themselves as having a culture is somewhat more complex than what's described by Richardson above. In the United States, the former Europeans seem to have done something that I don't think any other colonialists to other places have done, and that is to have deliberately wiped away their own cultural heritage. There was, to a fairly great degree, the concept that "We're in America now, we speak English, and we do things the American way" was fairly prevalent among White immigrants from the 1800's and 1900's. Our forefathers actually said: no, we will not have an ethnicity ourselves. 

Now I'll note that what the "American way" was didn't really exist. It was kind of made up out of whole cloth by what people's thoughts and prejudices were coming in. But parents tended not to teach their kids whatever language the parents natively spoke (if it wasn't English), and tended to build on whatever idiotic racism they found which, in turn, created the White people in the US.
Encouraging White people to be in touch with their own culture raises a whole bunch of questions and doesn't answer a dang one of them. It would be fantastic to remove the default setting of America from "White, male, mid-30's, brown hair" and not have a default at all. But I don't see how, practically, we can give an ethnicity to "White" people in order to do so without it going very, very wrong.
I've known people who were really into, say, their Celtic heritage and loved the crosses and saints who were based on pagan gods and what-have-you. And, you know, that's awesome. That said, what would be more awesome is if the Nordic Runes of ancient Europeans hadn't been co-opted by the Nazi party in Germany.
And that's pretty much what we've got. Is the culture of White people Mozart? Or some later Austrian? 
Yes, White people do in fact suffer from a lack of "ethnicity".  It would be cool to have some idea where we Whites might call ourselves a group and get together and be proud of ourselves and not be in some prison gang in order to do so. Being part of a group is fun. It makes Danish people happy. But I think making Whites in America an ethnicity actually, straight-up, cannot be done. We lost that one. 
My great-grandfather showed up here in the Union army in Kentucky, stopped speaking French, and decided he was American. Do I wish my family still spoke French? Yes I do. But I'm afraid that culturally, there's no going back. We're going to have to find another way out.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Big White Guy

As a middle-class, middle-aged, White American guy these are my very important thoughts*:

I frequently object to the use of the word "privilege" because 1. I can't spell it and 2. it's usually used in a way I'd consider wrong. For instance, I'm not privileged that I can walk down the street late at night and feel relative safety. That is a right. Everyone should be able to do that. Just because some people can't doesn't make it a privilege, it makes it a basic human right that is not granted to everyone.
That said, what certainly is a privilege is me being able to walk down the street not having a single clue how a six-foot tall man ignorantly stomping down the road might intimidate other people.
I actually have a fairly early memory of having intimidated someone. I'm going to guess I was in 7th grade at a roller-rink. Going to a roller-rink was not really a part of my childhood experience, I'm sure I'd only gone twice in my life. But I remember requesting a song from the DJ and him ignoring me and in a sort of 12-year-old overdrama I stuck my arm out to lean against the DJ booth. And there was some girl there. Probably about my age. And she violently shrank away from me like I was putting a move on her or something in a super aggressive creepozoidal way. I hadn't even really noticed her before that. And her reaction surprised me.
Note that I'd never seen this girl before, she wasn't from my school so she hadn't known me since kindergarten. She just saw a rando creepy boy being all awkwardly rando** creepy and ran away.
So that happened.
And that's stayed with me because of how much that surprised me.
Now I'm perfectly aware that the fact of my ethnicity has inured me from generally being the scary man walking down the street. And my blithe ignorance of this on a day-to-day basis is certainly a privilege.
I think the psychology is that gee whiz, I know I'm not some violent guy whose coming to hurt people, why don't you know that? Well, because you just don't know. And honestly, I have no idea how to tell you. If I get on an elevator behind you, what am I supposed to do? Just get off? Stare at the floor? Make a pretend telephone call to my mom?
I don't actually have any answers here.
So yeah. Privilege. I'm getting better at spelling it with practice.

*Yes, this is joke, because you see all my thoughts are extremely important.
**Both "rando" and "creep" weren't really words used by kids back then.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I'm gonna make one of those predictions now.
This is a dog on a rabbit. Not relevant to the discussion.

ISIS is the best thing for the Middle East since the Arab Spring.
Why? Well, it goes like this:
Everybody hates ISIS. Every state in the Middle East hates them. Freaking Al-Qaeda hates them. And that's a neat trick. So you've got US bombers going in and attacking people that pretty much anybody in the region is against.
So US policy and everyone else's policy is the same thing. This... is a big deal. And it could change the relationship of the US to the Arab world in one swell foop.
This is a big deal, folks. Notice that AIPAC ain't even playing. Ain't even.
It's gonna get weird out there. Luckily for us we have our best man on the job. Barack Hussein Obama. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Just Let Men Be Men

That's right fellas. If you're not shouting things at women on the street you aren't a man. Didn't your daddy teach you that?

That's right. It's not sexist to catcall women on the street. In fact, where is your manliness? All bottled up in a place where you aren't yelling at people?
Just be an ass man.
I'm just a little bit tired of it being presumed that the natural state of men is to be the biggest most obnoxious jerkwads imaginable.
You know what men do? Men share videos of the science of cats landing on their feet.
That's what men do.

(Today is not a good day for embedding videos on Blogger apparently.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Netanyahu is the GW Bush of Israel

Operation Linebacker II makes an interesting base-line for interpreting Israeli Operation Mighty Cliff or whatever they're calling it in English.
The purpose of Linebacker II was to get the South Vietnam government to have faith in the Paris Peace Accords. I know, ironic right? But Nixon had to show that the US would protect them. And how better to do that than to bomb Hanoi into practical oblivion.
The purpose of Operation Protective Edge? Nobody has any idea what the goal is. Nobody. It has something to do with a few kids who were killed a week earlier. Or maybe something else. Or rockets coming in from Gaza. Or maybe some tunnels which the IDF knew about, forgot about, then suddenly remembered when Hamas started using them (again.)
The impact? Shockingly about the same number of Israelis died in Protective Edge (around 60) as Americans in Linebacker II. About the same numbers of civilians (about 1600) in both operations.
Linebacker II destroyed Hanoi's military manufacturing base. It, of course, didn't even touch the Ho Chi Ming trail. Protective Edge blew up a bunch of buildings, killed a lot of people, but left nigh on 3000 rockets in the hands of Hamas and presumably destroyed some tunnels.*

So after all that, will fewer Israelis magically not get killed? Well probably not. Hamas is extraordinarily efficient at creating terror at a very low cost to human lives so they weren't killing a whole lot of Israelis in the first place. They were scaring them, sure, just not actually killing them. Unguided rocket attacks make people very upset. They could land anywhere. Even without the rocket-interdiction technology "Iron Dome", they almost never kill anybody. As an instrument of terror rockets are 1. expensive 2. low non-psychological casualty and 3 terrifying.

If you want to look for an organization which really kills a lot of Israelis you have to look to the IDF. Now that's a machine designed to kill a bunch of young Israeli boys. They can kill more Israelis in two weeks than Hamas did in 10 years with rockets.

I think the biggest problem isn't the structure of the IDF but rather the fact that Netanyahu is essentially the G.W. Bush of Israeli politics. He's unable to conceive of blowback from any of his policies. Every political position is an "are you with us or are you against us" argument. He ignores intelligence. And he's very quick with a fight without knowing who he's fighting or why.

So back to leaving the bulk of the rockets Hamas has: uh, wait what? Do you want to make sure Hamas still has some rockets to throw at you so you can have some reason to retaliate later? And how on earth, with the Israeli blockade on Gaza, do they even get rockets in the first place? Do the IDF interdiction teams look at incoming shipments and go "Mmm... blankets, medical supplies, baby formula, nope. This stuff has to go. What's over there? Iranian rocket parts? Sure, let that in."

*Yeah, somebody tells me "all the tunnels are destroyed" and I say "sure, I've heard that before."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Westmoreland's IDF

An eerie echo of Vietnam is heard in the pronouncements by the IDF propaganda machine. The absolute surety of victory without any actual definition of what victory is or what the end game is. The infinite evil (sometimes even justified) of the foe.
There are even analogies to be found in the complex political balance between the different players in different states. Egypt has its agenda. Hamas is different than Hezbollah. Lebanon and Syria have their own issues.
This bunny was very busy at the battle of Khe Sanh when the Tet Offensive started and he had to take a nap.

Israel tends to behave like an older child on the playground, feeling self-righteous when the adults scold it for beating up on other, smaller, kids. "But I had to! They started it!"
But the worst part of the entire situation is how the IDF plays to a crowing public of its holy, and un-critisizable genius when really they are sort of spectacularly incompetent.
As far as I can tell the IDF is the only military in the world where essentially every soldier starts as an E-1. This makes every officer a mustang in the IDF (there are exceptions like physicians who join after they get their degrees, etc.)
And you would think that having an officer corps of all mustangs would be a good thing. The class distinction between the enlisted and officers would be eliminated. No snobby silver-spoon officers born into their commands over proles fighting for the State but rather everyone being equal. Yeah. Good idea. But the IDF found a way to make it not work.
As far as I can tell the IDF holds its commissions over their enlisted. "If you join up for four more years we'll give you some training and make you an officer!" So great, you take some computer courses, somebody pins a gold bar on your lapel and all of a sudden you're an officer. They get a watered-down bit of officer training and off they go.
As far as I can tell the front-line officers essentially do an NCO's job. I'm talking like Captains -- they're the ones yelling at everyone to clean their weapons and organizing patrols. This means that their Majors and Colonels are basically idiots who just came off the front lines doing the jobs of sergeants.
I refer to General Westmoreland when I want a touch-stone of military incompetence. This unsourced bit from Wikipedia pretty much sums it up:
Westmoreland was convinced that the Vietnamese communists could be destroyed by fighting a war of attrition that, theoretically, would render the Vietnam People's Army unable to fight. His war strategy was marked by heavy use of artillery and airpower and repeated attempts to engage the communists in large-unit battles, and thereby exploit the US's vastly superior firepower and technology. However, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF) were able to dictate the pace of attrition to fit their own goals: by continuing to fight a guerrilla war and avoiding large-unit battles, they denied the Americans the chance to fight the kind of war they were best at, and they ensured that attrition would wear down the American public's support for the war faster than they.
Sound familiar?
Two very countervailing aspects of the present IDF war are the fact that unlike (say) the US Marine Corps which likes to think they're the best friend or worst enemy of everyone they meet, the IDF does not care about being anyone's friends. They won't even pay lip-service to the notion that when they invade somewhere that by giving them lots of stuff and showing them how awesome the Israel way of life is that they, in turn, should do stuff the democratic and non-violent way.
The other big difference is that all these organizations like Hamas are concerned solely with their own systematic maintenance. And making the IDF commit war crimes is the number one way to ensure support. They've learned the best, cheapest, ways to create terror among the populace with the fewest numbers of casualties. Rockets and tunnels kill far fewer Israelis in 10 years than the IDF can do in 2 weeks of fighting. But they can guarantee an incompetent and horrific response which will surely kill some children sleeping in some UN school (while Israelis cheer and then can't understand why anyone would be horrified at that.)
Speaking of Israeli incompetence, is it "Intern Day" in the Israeli diplomatic corps? Is the A-team on vacation? Do they take the Summer off and leave it to a bunch of 6th - graders?
Isn't it time to grow up?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Operation Protective Edge vs Operation Linebacker II

Operation Linebacker II resulted in 1,624 civilians killed in North Vietnam. This was the "Christmas bombing" campaign of the Vietnam War.

Right now just over a thousand are claimed (by the Palestinian Health Ministry) killed by Operation Protective Edge. Other sources cite higher numbers. So somewhere around 800 civilians, putting Operation Protective Edge just about at the halfway point of Operation Linebacker II's on the 21st day of operations.
Operation Linebacker II was only 11 days. 

Operation Linebacker II was an enormous air campaign. So big, in fact, that there was some argument against taking was was upwards of half the US Air Force's manned bomber fleet against North Vietnam.
Linebacker did a spectacular job of destroying a lot of stuff, including a hospital. And, you know, at least 1600 people.
It did not, however, alter the outcome of the war. Well, except arguably to make the South lose because the US passed the Case-Church Amendment which might not have happened if it weren't for Operation Linebacker II.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Socialist Hellscape

So yesterday I went through the socialist hellscape that is Obamacare. That is, I had my first doctors appointment with my new HMO under the expanded Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act.
The appointment was set up a week earlier. It took three hours door-to-door.
My Obamacare doctor's offices are nicer than the offices at my private insurer's. They're newer. Inside the Princeton University Medical Center it is the Bristol Meyers Clinic. I probably have a younger doctor than I would have got under my old private plan.
At first my blood oxygen tested strangely low at 92%. But a re-measurement showed it at 98%. I have no idea why.
I had to wait for the doctor. This seems to me to be largely in line with what I have to do when I've gone to a non-Obamacare-doctor.
I suppose the biggest deal is that Fox News wasn't blaring in the waiting room.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reddit Wins Economics

Reddit user DWWO makes the following point about corporate tax and what is essentially "job creation". I'm gonna just reprint the whole thing right here.

As a business creator / owner (I've started or been a partner in 6 start-ups and been an exec in 3 medium-large companies, some I know you've heard of), here are some points in response:
  • I never base wages on my corporate tax bracket. In fact, taxes are taken into account in primarily two ways (see below), and never influence hiring, operations, legal decisions, or growth (which is almost everything from expanding office space to staff, except for capital expenses, see below again). The only time taxes have ever, and I mean ever, been in any conversation is at the end of the year. Never has anyone in any company ever said, let's do or don't do X because of taxes, except at the end of the year when we have a bunch of money left over, and that's a good conversation to have.
  • Wages are based on market cost, i.e. what I have to pay to employ people vs. other companies that would pay to employ those same exact people, not my tax bracket. It's a market, pure and simple and if I hire someone it's because there are more customers willing to pay our company for our business today or tomorrow than were yesterday, not because the tax rate is low or high.
  • Institutional investors (e.g. venture capitalist organizations), don't invest in companies that sell to the rich. Yacht builders don't need investors, they need bank loans, and they are going to employ 8 or 10 people, then that's it. Investors, who want to invest in a company that's going to grow to hundreds if not thousands of employees, then make a big exit, invest in companies that sell to the middle class. So a high marginal tax rate on businesses is of no concern. However a lower income tax rate on the middle class, the customers, is of great concern. You want to start a business and grow to be the next X? You need capital and a middle class that has disposable income. The taxes you pay is not a factor in your or your investor's equation, ever. Simplified example: Buffet or Lynch's rule, 'if there's a line out the door of a place, invest in it.' No successful investor thought, "I bet they pay high taxes, so, never mind."
  • A new business pays almost no taxes. There is no barrier to entry because of taxes. It's actually the opposite, in that established businesses pay more taxes than start-ups, except for those in the news that offshore their huge cash profits, but that's not a majority of companies in the U.S. That's our 'free enterprise' system and it works. There are huge barriers to entry, however, due to capital investment and market establishment. Try writing an operating system today and selling it; it's not taxes that keeps you from succeeding, it's that it's a big investment in time and money and there are others who have invested a ton of money and time that keeps you from succeeding. The tax structure, if it makes any difference at all, helps the start-up.
  • The idea that a high marginal tax rate causes expenditures to avoid paying taxes is true. Some of that money goes to lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants. So you are correct. That will always be true when it's cheaper to hire those people than pay taxes. As a result Reagan lowered the personal income rates and shifted the tax burden to businesses, and that resulted in growth and prosperity. Note that small to medium, growing companies don't hire lobbyists.
  • The U.S. corporate tax rate used to be very low compared to other countries. Then other countries lowered their rates and the U.S. didn't follow. In other words, the U.S. didn't raise the corporate tax rates significantly, everyone else lowered theirs.
  • I, as a business owner, like the business tax. I hate paying taxes at the end of the year, it sucks thinking I earned all these profits and will get a distribution (i.e. dividend) and first have to pay a huge tax check. It pisses me and my accountant off every December. But what a lot of people don't know is that the company only pays taxes on profits, not revenue. If I had spent more money on hiring, rent, equipment, etc. then I'd pay less taxes. And that's the idea. The company is incented to hire people, buy equipment, and otherwise spend money to grow the business. Because the company doesn't pay taxes on those expenses, only what's not spent.
  • So, per the previous point, taxes influence expenses, especially capital expenses at the end of the year. If we are going to buy a server and router in February, and we know for sure we're going to do that, let's buy it now in December and take the tax break this year, when we have profits (or a higher tax bracket) rather than next year when we may not. Capital expenses and dividends are the two areas that the tax code influence business financial decisions. And the capital expenses are just shifting up expenses that would be paid anyway. Or would they? In fact it's often best to defer those expenses until they are matched by income, so a high tax rate causes companies to spend more money, at some risk, than they would otherwise.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


There are few things I find as hysterical as Dogecoin.
Yes you can even print them. Which is ridiculous. And I love it.

Dogecoin is a crypto-currency much like Bitcoin but with... well let's say a different attitude about it.
The easiest way to make Dogecoins for yourself is to go to IDigDoge. Yeah, there are other ways to "mine" the money but that's the easiest.
You'll need a "wallet" to receive your Dogecoins. I'm using Doge Vault. Feel free to send me your Dogecoins.
I've been mining for a few days now, and between that and "tips" I've gotten from Twitter I've made almost two cents!
Like I said, it's awesome. Dogecoin. The currency of the future. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Okay. So this editorial/article, claiming to know what's wrong with the American left is, in fact, everything that's wrong with the American left all by itself.

Nadya and Masha are what Occupy needed: charismatic personalities with identifiable faces. 

OMG that is so not true. Are you just not paying attention? The whole point of modern American activism is that there are no "leaders". The irony is that Pussy Riot are ideologically more "anarchist" than many American activists yet (actually, this is even addressed by the actual collective Pussy Riot) having personality cults of pretty girls is exactly not the point.

Charismatic personalities with identifiable faces is a great way to get a mass of people to mindlessly do some stupid stuff. It's the very definition of Fascism. We do not need more personalities to slavishly follow. We need to do some thinking instead.

Madonna was wearing what New York rapper and fashion plate A$AP Rocky wore two years ago; Masha was wearing the sort of outfit you might see him in tomorrow night.

Seriously? We're talking about what they're wearing? And then saying this is what's missing from American activism?


Just no.