Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Why don’t gun owners trust the left?—Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016
The real concern of gun control

Immediately following new of the Orlando shooting, the left’s finger nannies got onto social media and began trying to convince their friends to support new gun control laws—specifically, gun control laws that wouldn’t have stopped the Orlando shooter.

Here’s an example from my feed:

I think the terrorist thing, while real in this particular case, is not really the issue. As I stated before, from my point of view, the larger issue has more to do with the relative value we put on our right to free and easy access to fire arms and the cost in human lives that access entails… guns make us less safe, not more, by a huge margin…

To support this, he also wrote:

You are 800 times more likely to die of gun violence if you have guns in the home. That is a fact.

That is “in fact” a pretty huge margin. It was also, of course, completely false. When challenged on it, he immediately dropped it from 800 to 8—no longer a huge margin, but still with no references. Challenged on that, he provided a study that didn’t mention any 8 times greater likelihood of dying from gun violence, or any 8 times greater chance of anything whatsoever.

Then he clammed up, claiming the other people in the discussion (me, mainly) were “just looking to win instead of learning” and that we should “learn some critical thinking skills.”

It turns out that in order to reach “8 times more likely” he was adding two unrelated rates of increase together, and, as is often the case when the left begins to realize that their arguments are filled with bad logic and worse math, he accused his opponents of his own failures.

Now, no one expects random social media posters to be mathematically literate or even logical. What was amazing to me, though, was how closely his evolution in that one set of comments over a few days mirrored what gun owners get from the left in general, and has been getting, for decades—since before I stopped supporting gun control.

Ironically, the study he quoted just before he petulantly clammed up in the face of a collapsing argument was a 1993 study by Kellerman, once a leading light on the left who followed the same pattern: first, a wildly outrageous statistic (43 times more likely to die from your own gun!) downgraded to a merely moderately outrageous statistic (2.7 times more likely to die from your own gun!) to, when it was pointed out that it looked like, from his tables, that there was actually a moderate benefit to owning a firearm, clammed up and refused to release his data. It was this latter study that provided the “800 times more likely!”, then, “8 times more likely!”, to “you’re a meanie, I just wanted to talk about larger issues”.

But the rhetoric’s so much better here under the tragedy!—Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

At this point, it’s a pretty standard playlist. There’s a mass murder by someone who was enabled by the left’s policies. Most people voice their condolences and prayers on social media; but a handful on the left exploit the tragedy to call for more bad policies that wouldn’t have stopped the murderer to begin with but that would make it harder to defend against future murderers.

When other people complain that they’re politicizing a tragedy to pass bad laws, they rant that prayers and condolences aren’t enough. Ignoring the real charge that their proposed laws would at best not change the outcome, and at worst, would make these tragedies easier to commit.

In this case, an Islamic terrorist took his religion’s hatred to heart and killed nearly fifty in the gay community in a gun-free zone. The security contractor he worked for didn’t seriously investigate him when coworkers complained he was going to kill people for Islam, because they didn’t want to investigate a Muslim.

That would have appeared racist.

Omar Mateen told his coworkers that he wanted to provoke a confrontation with the police so that he could die a martyr’s death. His coworkers complained to their superiors and to the FBI. When the FBI interviewed him, his excuse was that he’d only said this because his coworkers were racist.

And it was accepted. The FBI closed the investigation and took him off the terror watch list.1 If they had left him on the watch list, they would have been warned when he purchased those two rifles, and could have taken another look at him.

But that would have appeared racist.

This is beginning to make The Black List look like a reality show. I love the show, but always thought the ease with which Red and his enemies infiltrate federal security services was completely unrealistic. I was wrong.

J. K. Rowling’s retroactive racism—Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Chipmunk Hermione

This is the closest image I could find to how Rowling describes Hermione in the books. Consider this with the skin tone altered to black. (unknown artist)

It is usually a bad idea for a writer to get into an argument with their readers en masse. In their zeal to defend their work, they have a tendency to argue too much, and reveal more than we wanted to know.

Recently, J. K. Rowling became angry at what she calls “a bunch of racists” and “idiots” who never pictured Hermione as black. If this were just a defense of a good actress, that would be fine. But in arguments such as these, the author often goes too far.

Rowling, for example, quotes her own work as having always left open the possibility that Hermione was black, tweeting the “canon” physical characteristics that prove it:

Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione 😘

Alice Vincent in the Telegraph goes on to say that:

Rowling never described Hermione’s race in the books, but only that she had “bushy brown hair and brown eyes”, as well as very large front teeth.

This is true, but not the whole truth. In the first book, Hermione didn’t just have large front teeth. She was full-on buck-toothed. Sort of resembling a chipmunk, according to the other characters in the fourth book.

So I’m guessing most readers chose not to think Hermione was black because they didn’t expect a modern writer to resort to stereotypical descriptions straight out of early comic strips. A writer who wrote those descriptions and explicitly made their character black would have come under fire for racism.

And in this case, that fire may well have been justifiable. Rowling has some serious issues with racism if she always meant Hermione to possibly be black. In The Goblet of Fire, Hermione undergoes magical alterations to remove the stereotypical racial characteristics that Rowling now says show Hermione as possibly black. First, Hermione has Madame Pomfrey shrink her teeth so that they are permanently “normal”1. Then, when going to the ball, Hermione spends hours using liberal amounts of Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion to straighten her bushy hair.

The movie doesn’t do this scene justice. In the book Hermione became practically unrecognizable because she literally changes her appearance: “she didn’t look like Hermione at all”.

She went from looking mediocre at best to stunningly beautiful.

What’s egregious is that if Rowling always meant Hermione to include the possibility of blackness, then the book also makes clear that jettisoning her blackness made Hermione beautiful.

A grumpy basic income—Friday, June 10th, 2016

While the Swiss universal basic income referendum failed, it has brought the idea of a replacing welfare with a UBI back into the news. It sounds like the Swiss referendum was a very bad plan: it added the UBI on top of other forms of welfare.

It’s hardly a new idea. I first heard about it from an article on Charles Murray’s In Our Hands back in 2006.

Capitalizing on the Swiss referendum, Murray has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. John Cochrane has some interesting thoughts on what Murray says on his own Grumpy Economist blog.

It’s worth reading, because Cochrane goes into detail about what I identified as the biggest problem with the plan, that after time additional welfare will inevitably be added on top of the basic income. It’s a neat idea, but since the entire purpose is to replace all forms of welfare and government income assistance, simplifying government and dismantling the bureaucracy around the welfare state, that flaw is a big one.

In the real world, there’s simply no way around it. It’s a neat idea, but I can’t see how it could be safely implemented. Even a constitutional amendment, I now think, would fail to keep Washington from finding ways to rebuild the complexities of the welfare state. It’s the complexities of the welfare state as much as it is the welfare state itself, that feeds the bureaucratic event horizon. And the event horizon is pretty much the purpose of government bureaucracies. They’re not going to let it fade.

My job fell in the (oil) well—Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

When it comes to raising energy costs, it sometime seems as though The Weekly Standard’s Irwin M. Stelzer has never met a government regulation he didn’t like. In the May 2, 2016, Weekly Standard he argues for artificially keeping the cost of oil two to three times higher in the United States than in the rest of the world. That is, he wants the government to enact tariffs on imported oil that will keep the price high in the United States in order to protect oil extraction within the United States.

This is insanity. We tried something similar several times over the last several decades in the steel industry; steel tariffs cost five jobs among industries that use steel for each job saved in the steel industry itself. Companies such as the mostly-steel furniture-maker Shaw-Walker, which my father worked for, ceased to exist as a local business over this period, selling themselves to larger, global conglomerates. This is, literally, Basic Economics. As the author of that textbook, Thomas Sowell, put it in a 2012 interview:

The number of jobs in the steel [industry] is exceeded many times over in industries making steel products, from automobiles to oil rigs, refrigerators, locomotives, etc., etc. Tariffs that save jobs in the steel industry mean higher steel prices, which in turn means fewer sales of American steel products around the world and losses of far more jobs than are saved.

To different degrees, the same is true for any raw material, and oil most of all. Tariffs are usually a bad idea because they only increase costs inside the country that imposes the tariffs. The rest of the world continues to enjoy lower costs. In the case of steel, it meant that US businesses that used steel were at a disadvantage against their global counterparts: global businesses had access to lower-priced steel unencumbered by US tariffs.

Which meant that domestic businesses that used steel either lost a lot of business, went out of business completely, merged with other companies, or had to move some operations overseas in order to stay in business. Whatever option they chose, it meant fewer jobs in the United States.

Sentences they shouldn’t have finished… that way…—Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Of course, putting together a serious independent campaign is a formidable task—but plenty of operatives and aides and donors and lawyers stand ready.—William Kristol, in Neither Clinton Nor Trump, The Weekly Standard, May 16, 2016

If there’s one way to ensure a Trump victory, it will be to pull together the donor class, operatives, and lawyers to stand athwart the mad rush of exiting independents yelling “he doesn’t stand for us.”

This sentence encapsulates one of the major reasons Trump did so well, and validates his choice to run against the establishment despite being a part of it. I don’t think Kristol could have put together a more pitiable battle cry if he’d tried.

California drought caused by lack of rain and progressive government, but mostly progressive government—Wednesday, June 1st, 2016
California reservoir capacity

This graphic appears, from the accompanying article, to chronicle major reservoir capacity up to 2014. I could not find the underlying data, but its numbers seem to match the current capacity of 40 to 50 million acre-feet listed in various other articles. (Water in the West, Stanford University)

There are of course many reasons for Donald Trump’s appeal to masses of voters, first in Republican primaries—especially open primaries—and now, apparently, among the general voting public. But one powerful reason is the media’s refusal to air conservative ideas.

A fine example of that came over the weekend when Trump claimed that there is no drought in California, and the real reason for California’s water shortage rests entirely on the shoulders of California’s progressive government.1

If a Carly Fiorina or a Ted Cruz were to point out that California’s water shortage was the result of successive progressive governments imposing a near-complete moratorium on building new reservoirs even while California’s population doubled; and that California exacerbated the shortage by releasing trillions of gallons of fresh water to the ocean because of a tiny fish, it would not have been news.

More specifically, it would not have been on the news. Conservatives have been talking about why California has been suffering from a government-created water shortage for years. Victor Davis Hanson should be brought on as an expert every time a television show does a piece on the drought. But he isn’t, because the media is covering for Democrats in California and in the rest of the nation. If they hadn’t, if they had allowed the debate to play out nationally, Trump would not be able to make it an issue. The resolution might or might not have been a conservative one, but there would have been a resolution that voters took part in. It didn’t get on the news, however, because the news was covering for the left.

“Top Shelf” Classic movies for Apple TV—Thursday, May 26th, 2016

“Watch classic TV shows and movies recommended just for you. Classix has something for everyone. There’s even cartoons and movies just for kids with family-friendly entertainment.”

Classix is a nice app; the only problems I see are that (a) it doesn’t seem to let you rate movies, despite showing a star rating in the description, and (b) it doesn’t seem to share the watch list automatically between iOS devices. But it has some great old (public domain) movies and it makes it easy to browse and watch them.

This is pretty cool. Brian J. Coleman wrote a “Netflix for classic movies”, by which he means public domain movies. I’ve downloaded his Classix app for Apple TV and it’s pretty good; I’ve already watched House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price. But he’s also blogged about how to write Apple TV applications. One of the things that’s nice about his app compared to too many others—including some from Apple—is that he populates the “top shelf” with recent movie updates. And he has a blog entries showing developers how to work with video, including how to populate the top shelf, with Swift code.

There is no excuse for not populating the top shelf with useful information. Especially apps that frequently update, such as Apple’s own podcast app or the YouTube app.

Coleman’s sample code makes me want to find something to program myself and sideload onto my Apple TV.

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