Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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

Who creates more jobs, Democrats or Republicans?—Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
Job creation in congress by party

Whether across an individual house or across both houses, more jobs are created when Republicans are in control than when Democrats are.

There’s a very odd meme going around purporting to show that Democrats create more jobs than Republicans, by showing the number of jobs created when each party held the White House. It’s an odd graph because it deliberately hides its data. For example, rather than showing us the year, it only shows us the President. What about Congress? We can’t tell, because whoever made the graph deliberately hid that info.

I’m also not sure that the methodology is sound even given that: it counts jobs from the passing of the first budget in September (in the modern era), as if the mere passing of the budget, rather than its effects, is what allows the private sector to create jobs.1

The real problem with this graph, however, is how much it legitimizes Jonah Goldberg’s claim that the left are fascists at heart. The graph focuses on a single leader rather than on the legislature. It’s typical of the left to look to an imperial executive rather than to the legislature. It’s the legislature that actually creates policies that affect the ability of businesses to start and expand. The legislature doesn’t always match the White House, and in fact often doesn’t.

So, what happens if we look at the same data given the same constraints for the House and Senate, as well as for when Congress doesn’t match the White House? The data is available for download into a spreadsheet from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.2

The Best of Henry Kuttner—Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
The Best of Henry Kuttner

While I have been a fan of Lewis Carroll for slightly longer than I’ve been a fan of Henry Kuttner (or Lewis Padgett, as I knew him—and his wife and co-author, C. L. Moore—when), my blog isn’t named only after Lewis Carroll’s nonsense rhyme from Through the Looking Glass. It’s also inspired by Kuttner’s most famous short story, about an educational toy that taught too much.

Kuttner, in a Douglas Adams-like twist, surreptitiously purloined Carroll’s poem and turned Carroll into the one doing the copying—it’s amazing what you can do with time travel.

I probably read the story first in the amazing Science Fiction Hall of Fame collection edited by Robert Silverberg. Unless you are extremely well read in early science fiction, that collection is strongly recommended. It contains some of the best and most influential short stories of pre-Nebula years of science fiction, from 1929 to 1964. Besides being an education in great science fiction, it will give you a great idea of who from that era you will enjoy reading further.

I, unfortunately, didn’t see much Kuttner afterward; he died in 1958 so that by the time I started reading science fiction his books were too old-hat to show up in the local supermarket, my only source of books outside the library—which itself had only a handful of science fiction books.

Thanks to used bookstores, I’ve since managed to pick up most of the Ballantine/Del Rey best of collections from the seventies, and recently found The Best of Henry Kuttner. The collection starts with Mimsy Were the Borogoves, and then moves on.

Mimsy Were the Borogoves is still brilliant forty years later. My blog does it little justice.

The book has an introduction by Ray Bradbury, five years younger than Kuttner; Bradbury claims Kuttner gave him the advice that got him writing: “shut up”. That is, stop wasting your stories talking about them, and start writing them down. Bradbury says he was 17 at the time, so Kuttner would have been about 22. I’d have to say after reading Kuttner’s stories that there’s likely an influence one way or the other, or both, between the authors. There is a family resemblance in the sort of whimsy they use, at least in their short stories.

While the book is a “best of Henry Kuttner”, at least ten of the seventeen stories were originally published either under a pseudonym used by both Kuttner and Moore—such as the Lewis Padgett pseudonym they used for Mimsy—or under joint authorship with each other.

Should we hold regular elections for Supreme Court Justices?—Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
Supreme Court Building

Let’s choose Justices by the same process we use to choose the President. That should reduce the polarization surrounding the Supreme Court.

There’s an idea floating around about switching from appointing Supreme Court judges through a contentious dialogue between the White House and the Senate, and instead have a contentious national election. The idea is that since the Supreme Court is acting more like a legislature today, we should make it even more like a legislature.

If I weren’t liberally quoting the proponents in that explanation, I would think this is a satirical position: the Supreme Court is bad because of X. Therefore, we should do more X.

The problem, that the Supreme Court is acting more and more like a national legislature, is part of a bigger problem of nationalizing more and more things that ought to be decided locally. This means that issues that would not be contentious at the local level, because different localities could come to different decisions, become very contentious at the national level. Because these decisions are being made at the federal level, the federal Supreme Court must occasionally make decisions on whether those decisions are proper under the Constitution, as well as whether the implementation of those decisions by the executive is according to the law as written by the legislature.

Adding more national elections will only exacerbate that problem. It’s going to be much more difficult to localize decisions when voters become invested in deciding such problems in the Supreme Court.1

Our presidential elections are so polarizing because the federal government and the executive directly control so many aspects of our lives. The reason Senate and House elections are so often nationalized is the same: much of our lives are controlled by the federal government and so everyone everywhere has a stake in everyone else’s representative. The reason Supreme Court decisions and judges are controversial is that they are ruling on laws that literally control how we spend our paychecks and how we all, individual, handle our health care.

Our system of government was designed to localize politics; it’s taken a long time to get this far off course. We have all of one national election: the presidency. The next level in federal elections is the statewide election of Senators, and next to that is the community-wide election of House members.

Capitalism is not an ism—Wednesday, September 14th, 2016
Man Controlling Trade

“Man Controlling Trade”. This Washington, DC statue is how the establishment sees trade: a malevolent peasant forcing a recalcitrant beast to heel.

Capitalism is not a system. Capitalism is the lack of a system to keep people from trading their resources freely. The lack of ability to control other people’s actions is why progressives hate it.

Capitalism is a word made up to hide the fact that what it describes is not a system like other economic isms. Even the simplest and most noble utopianisms of the golden age of utopian idealism required people to set it up and make rules for it. Capitalism is not a system in the sense of something put into place, like socialism. It is just what people naturally do when they get together peacefully.

“You do this for me, and I’ll do this for you.”

That’s capitalism.

It’s don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.

Even Marx seems to agree that capitalism is not really an ism:

Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production, in the shape of external coercive laws having power over every individual capitalist.1

That is, while democratic countries do have “external coercive laws” about capitalism, these laws are not the result of experts controlling individuals, but rather are inherent in the nature of individuals, whenever people are allowed to trade what they have for what they want and are encouraged to do so peacefully.

Capitalism is not about forcing people to trade, it’s about letting them safely trade.

What Marx and other ismists don’t seem to have done is take the logic a step further. If the “laws of capitalism“ are imposed on men by their nature, then attempting to replace capitalism with man-made isms will result in natural catastrophes: black markets, corruption, and violence as nature attempts to move around those artificial boundaries.

Apple TV review—Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Planets app on Apple TV

The Planets app is universal for the iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV, and displays constellations, planets, the moon, and the sun’s location in the sky or below the horizon.

In April, I purchased the fourth-generation Apple TV. It was less about wanting an Apple TV than about getting fed up with my Samsung Smart TV’s utterly insane user interaction choices. I don’t get cable television, just Internet, and I don’t watch a whole lot of broadcast television either. I used my television mainly for Netflix and Youtube and a little for Video & TV Cast when I wanted to watch something live.

But the Samsung was always updating when I wanted to watch something. There’s a setting on the TV that sounded like “update in the background when I’m not using the television” but in actual practice can’t have meant that because it doesn’t seem to have done it.

When I first bought the television, I hadn’t paid much attention to the Smart TV aspects, because I expected Apple to come out with a smarter Apple TV box soon. That was in June of 2014. By the time Apple finally did bring out the smarter box in November of 2015, I was semi-resigned to using the crappy Samsung interface and thought I’d try to get by without spending a hundred dollars on a set-top box.

But the Samsung just seemed to keep trying to convince me to get something better. I forget what finally put me over the line; it may have been turning on the TV to watch one of the debates and being told to wait a few minutes while the “smart” aspect of the Smart TV updated.

Since getting the Apple box, I have not used the Samsung apps even once. I haven’t missed the apps at all. The only features I do miss are on the YouTube app, but since the YouTube app on the Apple TV is more reliable than the app on the Samsung, it’s still overall a better experience on the Apple TV.

YouTube on the Samsung used to temporarily lock up occasionally, freezing for up to a minute before continuing on. That doesn’t happen on the Apple TV, but the Apple TV version of the app does not allow liking/unliking videos, which the Samsung version did, nor any sharing or adding to folders. On the whole, since I turn on the television to watch something—and the inability to do so is what drove me to the Apple TV—not freezing makes this app better on the Apple TV than on the Samsung. But it’s still disappointing that I can’t mark something for later retrieval.

The Epaminondas Campaign—Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
Rather die on my feet

Do you think the people who made this San Diego monument in Barrio Logan are happy to be stuck with government-mandated crappy education, complex regulations that favor big corporations—who can afford the necessary lawyers to get around them—over local entrepreneurs, and dependency-oriented public assistance?

It’s that time of year when everybody tells politicians how they should run their campaigns. What interests me is the idea of outsiders, and what they could do differently because they are not bound by the restrictions of establishment politicians. If you’ve read my blog for the last year, you’ll know I’m not a huge Trump fan. But there is a place for a leader willing to go around the media and attack Democrats where they are weakest.

I recently read Victor Davis Hanson’s The Soul of Battle and I highly recommend it. His basic thesis is that a great general can lead citizens on a moral crusade in favor of freedom against a supposedly strong opponent, if that opponent’s strength comes from exploiting a captive underclass.

A plantation class living off of a captive underclass is hollow, and can be defeated by freeing the underclass and attacking the plantation class’s pretensions.

The way to beat the Democrats is not to fight them on a conventional battlefield. The media defends them. But the media protection is hollow. A renegade politician should be able to go past it, like Sherman through Georgia, neither running from nor looking for battle, talking directly to the poor exploited by plantation Democrats.

This is how a real “no-boundaries” candidate would campaign against Democrats.

The poor are victims of Democrats. Say so. Identity politics makes blacks and hispanics victims of Democrats. Bring the campaign to them. Talk to them. Illegal immigration hurts blacks more than all other workers. Government-run education hurts blacks more than all other students.

Force Democrats and the media to explain why so many black students cannot read. Force Democrats and the media to explain why so many black workers cannot find a job.

Force them to explain why black independence was rising steadily until Johnson’s Great Society, when Democrats engineered dependence again upon the race they had previously enslaved.

Like the Democrats of the South, Democrats today can afford their leisure because they exploit black voters. That’s their strength, until it is their weakness.

Why does the EpiPen cost so much?—Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

If the FDA were to approve copies of this device, available to soldiers since the seventies, the cost of an EpiPen competitor would likely drop to ten or twenty dollars—and the cost of an EpiPen accordingly.

People are complaining, rightfully so, about Mylan’s overpricing of the EpiPen. But most people are complaining about things that cannot be changed, when there are simple changes that could fix the problem in the future. They’re complaining about Big Pharma, rather than the systemic causes of Big Pharma. Part of the problem is that they don’t understand the problem. For example, one online petition complains that:

The EpiPen contains only $1 worth of medicine, but you’re charging hundreds of times that amount.

But it isn’t the medicine that costs so much money. It’s the pen itself. That’s what Mylan has a monopoly on, and that monopoly on the pen, not on the medicine, is the reason that the EpiPen is so expensive.

A lot of people are also complaining, based on headlines, that the Epipen was “developed entirely with taxpayer money” or that “American taxpayers funded 100% of research used to developed Big Pharma’s EpiPen”. But the articles behind those headlines don’t back them up. The articles I’ve found don’t mention any money going from the government to inventor Sheldon Kaplan or Survival Technology, the company Kaplan worked for.

So while I’m generally in favor of publicly-funded research being in the public domain, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.1

But the original version of the EpiPen, the ComboPen, was invented in 1973. The earliest patent I can find was approved in 1987. That patent ran out in either 2004 or 2007.2 Viable generic versions of the EpiPen should already be available, but they’re not.

Florence Foster Jenkins is Hillary Clinton—Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Florence Foster Jenkins

Hillary Clinton addresses small circle of supporters at campaign rally in matching hair and wallpaper.

It’s a movie about a woman with a robotic and grating voice, wearing bizarre clothing, who is completely out of touch with the real world. Her sycophants encourage her delusions and do their best to hide her severe defects from the public. If I were to write a satire about the Clintons and the media, the result would look a lot like Florence Foster Jenkins.

In the movie, Jenkins is an absolutely painful singer who believes she is amazing—countering self-doubts, her entourage encourages her in this belief. Her lover, to keep anyone, especially her, from finding out just how bad she is, bribes all the reviewers he can to write that she was amazing, and hides all reviews that report how bad she really was.

The mainstream media today is acting like St. Clair Bayfield running around the neighborhood scooping up all critical reviews—such as that Hillary Clinton’s mentor was a KKK member—and burying them in the trash.

They’re even trying to hide ancillary scandals from her husband, such as, in the Washington Post Magazine, William Tucker writing that Bill Clinton “allegedly cheated on his wife…”.

Allegedly. Even though he admitted to doing it and the DNA evidence was incontrovertible. Eventually, if they think they can get away with it, they will start saying that these were just accusations from partisans, and then will say those accusations were debunked.

Imagine if Robert Byrd had been a Republican and Trump had called him a mentor. There would be no such weasel words as “alleged” or “claimed” in CNN’s reports on the matter. Of course, that’s a very unlikely scenario, since all or almost all Ku Klux Klan members were Democrats. The KKK killed Republicans.

So instead imagine if a Republican were accepting donations in the millions and even tens of millions of dollars from corporations, the wealthy, and foreign sources while running for office. Imagine that it’s been linked to all sorts of corruption in a previous office—paying for access, and paying for foreign policy. Now, imagine if they promised to shut down this foundation—but only after they were elected, thus telling all potential donors that they need to donate now if they want access.

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