Saturday, May 26, 2018

Imagine Being The Kind Of Person Who Willingly Works For Donald Trump

And, well, fuck that person.

Saturday Happy Hour

Get happy.

Gather Around, Children

Let me tell you about the years 2009-2017.

Actually, nah, I'm gonna go enjoy the sun and then go see Fun Home.

The Lesson For The Day

Use your power when you have it. You might not next week.

Saturday Morning Thread

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Afternoon

Dump the news soon if there is news to be dumped.

Stupid Or Evil

Creating a white-only ethnostate out of (or even within) the US requires genocide. Chef's kiss.

Tripping Over The Bar

I'm cranky today because Trump has set the bar for being a decent human being so low, and for some reason the people who just manage to trip over it get elevated more than people who have been sailing above it for so long. Redemption stories are great, but you actually have to seek redemption. "Centrism" is as much - or more - of a problem in this country as the Right, as it has a strangehold on all of our institutions. William Kristol is now a "centrist" because he says mean things about Trump sometimes on twitter, and MSNBC's "liberal" lineup is filled with former Bush administration people who never confront the reality of the monstrous administration they were a part of.

Nazis and people who support universal health care. Both sides, really.

15 Years Later

The President Is Not A Racist


Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he was at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed.

LOL Nothing Matters

There are moments when I get sickened by the Bohemian Rhapsody ethos of the political press ("nothing really matters, anyone can see..."). I get the objective pose in journalism, and it makes sense in a lot of contexts, but in political coverage it is inconsistently applied and, for normal people, completely inverted. It's okay to express outrage that someone said something mean about John McCain. It's "political" and "taking sides" to give a shit about brown kids being kidnapped from their parents. It would not be "taking sides" to give a shit if white kids were being kidnapped from their DC private schools. In other parts of journalism, the question of what to emphasize can be divorced from ideological leanings, but in political coverage it just can't be. It is everything.

And built into most of the reporting are certain assumptions that at best make no sense and at worst are, themselves, highly ideological. Bipartisanship is good, even though usually the worst things in DC happen under the cover of bipartisanship. Deficits are bad, unless caused by tax cuts. Poor people get "welfare" and rich people get "incentives." There is no racism, there are just things that are "racially charged." The only poor people in America are white people in coal country. Black people don't exist in the South or, really, anywhere. Cops are good. The military is unquestionably good. Republican style patriotism is good. America does not torture. All of these things infuse political coverage.

It wasn't his best book, but I quite liked Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, due to its basic setup. A mentally ill car dealer (Dwayne Hoover) reads a science fiction short story, written as a letter from the Creator to its reader, informing him that he is the only being on the planet with free will, and that everyone else is basically a robot there to test him.

I sometimes rank people on my own internal Hoover scale, by how much they seem to actually believe this, that they are the only free willed beings on the planet. Political reporters, who I obviously only know from their "work," often do not do well.

Nobody Knows In America

One could even let slide the dubious "well they're just here temporarily so they shouldn't be allowed to vote here" argument (I mean, I wouldn't let it slide, but it wouldn't be so different from arguments made about college students). But the "where they belong"... uh.

Ward replied by saying, "First of all, I don't think they should be allowed to register to vote. It's not lost on me that, I think, the Democrat party's really hoping that they can change the voting registers in a lot of counties and districts, and I don't think they should be allowed to do that."
The candidate went on to say that "we should be looking to put the Puerto Ricans back in their homes. The idea that they can come to the mainland United States, I don't necessarily have a problem with that, but I think we should be thinking about it in terms of getting them back home and providing the capital and resources to rebuild Puerto Rico, which is, I honestly think, is where they belong."

We Do Love Children

So much. That's what makes America special. Other countries don't love children like we do.

WASHINGTON — A top official with the Department of Health and Human Services told members of Congress on Thursday that the agency had lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States, raising concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives.

The official, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the agency’s Administration for Children and Families, disclosed during testimony before a Senate homeland security subcommittee that the agency had learned of the missing children after placing calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from government custody.

Well then.

Morning Thread

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Kinda Both But Not Quite Either

The #resistance is here to empower William Fucking Kristol.

The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.

The hippies have been trying to warn you.

Evening Thread

I regret that I failed to address the pressing question of our time: what did The Left do wrong today?

Unless You Don't Program Them To Do That

I've long said safety isn't the real issue with self-driving cars, in that if they work they'll be safe enough, and that programming them not to hit things has to be the bare minimum easiest thing to do. Even this isn't *that* easy as there is a bit of a problem at high speeds. They don't actually see that far ahead at the moment. Still. "If see object, brake or turn." Not hard.

Unless, of course, you don't tell them to do that.

Uber’s vehicle used Volvo software to detect external objects. Six seconds before striking Herzberg, the system detected her but didn’t identify her as a person. The car was traveling at 43 mph.

The system determined 1.3 seconds before the crash that emergency braking would be needed to avert a collision. But the vehicle did not respond, striking Herzberg at 39 mph.

And why was that? Oh.

According to Uber, emergency braking maneuvers are not enabled while the vehicle is under computer control, to reduce the potential for erratic vehicle behavior. The vehicle operator is relied on to intervene and take action. The system is not designed to alert the operator.

There's a lot of chatter about where exactly the civil liability is going to fall for these things. What about the criminal liability?

Afternoon Thread


Shuttle Buses

Building cars is actually very hard and the idea that Apple was going to build its own car (self-driving or not) was always a bit... let's say, ambitious... but the degree to which their ambitions have faltered reflect not just this but their failure to pay me $10 million dollars to tell them "this is stupid, don't do this."

Instead, Apple has signed a deal with Volkswagen to turn some of the carmaker’s new T6 Transporter vans into Apple’s self-driving shuttles for employees — a project that is behind schedule and consuming nearly all of the Apple car team’s attention, said three people familiar with the project.

I'm sure one day we will all upload our brains into robot bodies, but until around that time "self-driving cars" will mostly be segways. Neato, some interesting niche applications, but even where they "work" they'll not live up to the promise of their boosters. Even self-driving technology long haul trucking, which I can see "working" to some degree (specific routes, dedicated transhipment center to transhipment center), probably won't actually get rid of the drivers.

The article documents the long decline of Apple's ambitions, which because Apple everyone thought would revolutionize the world. I know I'm a bit of an Apple cynic, but aside from that they do have a history of failures which people forget about. Not that there's anything wrong with that, aside from a generally uncritical tech press about everything they do.

From 2015:

Apple is building a self-driving car in Silicon Valley, and is scouting for secure locations in the San Francisco Bay area to test it, the Guardian has learned. Documents show the oft-rumoured Apple car project appears to be further along than many suspected.

(ht reader jo)

We All Are, My Friend, We All Are

But The Coin

So predictable.

"Affordable Housing"

I hate this phrase because nobody ever defines what it means and almost nobody has a coherent view about what it would take for such a thing to exist. Yes there's a precise federal definition of it - related to local median incomes - but that isn't what most people who use the term mean. It's a term that means whatever people want it to mean!

All good people agree that people should be able to afford places to live (even if they can't afford anything). I don't object to that. But the "affordable housing" conversation is quite often directed at new construction, which is the weirdest place to focus on affordability. Building new construction is expensive and acquiring the land to build it on in high rent areas is also really expensive. It's the most expensive way to think about providing "affordable housing." Also, new construction has to face contemporary neighborhood concerns and contemporary land use regulations (without arguing these are good or bad they also make things more expensive!). Construction codes (safey, etc.) get ratcheted up regularly and while, again, this does not make them bad it makes new construction more expensive.

Locally the conversation tends to go something like this: developer proposes something (There aren't a lot of big plots in Philly, so most developments aren't massive. We aren't talking about razing neighborhoods or even blocks for things). The neighborhood group objects. Often people say they want more "affordable housing." Also, they want more parking. Also, they want single family homes (rowhouses, so attached single family, but still).

The thing is, granite countertops just don't cost much money relative to the whole. All new construction is "luxury" as you will notice if you read your local real estate listings. Not because they have golden toilets (or granite counter tops), but just because they're new.

The only way to make market rate housing affordable - and I'm zeroing out developer profits here - is to build smaller units and with less land/unit (no parking). Sure you can skip the granite counter tops, too, but that doesn't actually save much.

If I ran the zoo I'd build massive amounts of public housing along the British "council housing" model. But I don't.