Let’s call a truce on presidential vacations.

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Obama’s been criticized lately for golfing while the world burns. This is stupid now, and it was stupid when Democrats mocked Bush for spending time on his ranch ten years ago. I’d like to propose a truce, in which we all give up this bit of purely partisan nonsense.

Any presidential vacation is a working vacation. This isn’t 1820; our wireless telegraphs are so good that the president can instantly respond to any crisis without being in Washington. There is no difference between considering policy in the Oval Office and considering policy while clearing brush or playing golf, unless you resent the president’s physical fitness.

 It’s incoherent even on its own terms.  Suppose it were impossible to conduct state business on vacation. Would Republicans be happy if Obama agreed to quit golfing and focus full-time on the redistribution of wealth? Did Democrats really prefer tax cuts and bombings to brush clearing and quail hunting? Abandon this criticism and we deprive the lying hacks of both parties, at no cost to anything that matters.

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August 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm

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Two ways marijuana effects my thinking

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Normally I take for granted, say, the validity of feminism or the superiority of democracy to monarchy.  But on weed I feel much freer to question these fundamentals.  I find myself reexamining the arguments for otherwise unquestioned propositions.  I don’t know if this is real open-mindedness, since I almost always end up re-arguing myself into the positions I held before, but it sure feels like a good-faith effort at the time.

I also find myself thinking more easily in terms of spectrums in place of discrete categories.  Not just in productive ways, either: comparisons that aren’t that useful (like the metaphors in Top 40 pop songs) appear more insightful than they are.  Give me two things, like “hamburger” and “actor”, and I’ll naturally place them as two poles on a spectrum, then try to figure out what the scale is measuring (maybe dead organic matter vs. living matter, or Things That Should Be Honest vs. Thing I Expect to Deceive).  If I can concentrate on the issue long enough, you could give me a second arbitrary axis (say, “centralized” vs. “decentralized”), and examining the resulting quadrants would yield exquisite pleasure.

I guess, then, marijuana frees my mind without necessarily encouraging it to move closer toward the truth.

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November 27, 2013 at 10:55 am

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Political strategy

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Vote for the Gracchi

Root for Spartacus

Pray for a Nazarene

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November 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

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Why I’m a Steel Reserve ™ man

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I drink Steel Reserve Beer.  I just drank some right now.  Here’s a list of but a couple of reasons why.

1) It’s cheap and efficient.  A four-pack of tall cans of steel reserve costs less than four dollars.  Each is a tall can, which means a four-pack is basically a six pack, and it’s 8.1% alcohol, which means it’s basically a twelve pack.  Twelve beers for four dollars.  That’s almost a beer a quarter.  It’s like the olden days.

2) It’s proudly union-made.  Now, most cheap beers are made in unionized plants, but who else has the goddamn pride to advertise it on the can?  Does Coors?  Maybe they do.  I haven’t looked.  I love Steel Reserve too much to even look at other cheap beers.

3) Most beers are in only one state of matter: liquid.  Steel Reserve, though, is viscous.  It leaves a gel-like film over your mouth and esophagus.  It’s substantial.

4) It doesn’t go “bad” when warm.  It is what it is, and can be stored at room temperature for emergencies without losing its distinctive flavor.

5) It knows it’s a drug, not a food.  Maybe in Italy you drink to enjoy, but in America you drink to not care about things.  So many other beers pretend they’re about flavor.  They’re made from alcohol, which changes your very consciousness,  but act like they’re sodas or some shit.  I don’t do drugs for the taste.

“Hey dude, want some acid?”
“I don’t know, is it pumpkin-spice seasonal LSD?”
“Uh, no.”
“Then fuck it, I don’t drop such cheap swill.”

It doesn’t make sense to me either.  Drink Steel Reserve ™.

Written by pinkocrat

November 10, 2013 at 4:19 am

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You get your own vote but not your own reality

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If you run a blog, it might be a good idea to ban discussion of certain topics, especially ones that quickly bore most readers and drive the rest to pointless acrimony.  You might prohibit debate over voting strategy if you want to avoid constant shouting matches about Ralph Nader.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, on the other hand, prohibits these shouting matches with more muddled reasoning:

Voting for a candidate in one of the two major parties is a legitimate choice. Voting against a candidate in one of the two major parties is a legitimate choice. Strategically voting for a third party candidate in a decidedly blue or red state is a legitimate choice. Voting for a third party candidate in a swing state is a legitimate choice. Not voting is a legitimate choice.

Some of these choices are ones I can imagine making; some of them are not. That does not mean they are not legitimate choices for individual voters to make with their votes. Period.

This doesn’t mean anything!  Of course a choice is “legitimate” in the sense that it is legal and physically possible to make.  But if you have a goal in mind (say, moving the country to the left), then some choices are wrong.  Voting Republican, for example, will almost certainly be ineffective at reaching that goal.  You might think voting straight-ticket Democrat will get you there, or you might have a longer-term strategy involving third parties, but these are competing hypotheses about reality, so at least one of them is wrong.  If you want a certain policy enacted, there may be an objectively optimal way to vote, even if it’s sometimes difficult to discover it in practice.

This difficulty is one of the reasons for discussing voting strategy.

Admittedly, this argument only works if you care more about increasing your chances of getting a good government than avoiding a feeling of disgust as you leave the voting booth.)

Written by pinkocrat

November 4, 2013 at 11:30 pm

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Making sortition effective

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This isn’t an argument for sortition, but a couple proposals to consider when designing a sortition-based legislative.

1. Raise the minimum age.

It doesn’t have to be eighteen.  Setting the minimum age at twenty-five would mean almost everyone would have either higher education or five to ten years of work experience.  Legislators’ brains would be more fully developed and their opinions would be backed by independent experience in the world.  This would slightly increase the quality of the legislature without denying any citizen an eventual chance to join.

It’s true that a minimum age of twenty-five would underrepresent young people in general and younger-leaning groups in particular (Hispanics in the US, for example).  But the same could be said of any age requirement, making it a problem of degree and not kind.

2. Make votes anonymous.

Eliminating elections means elite interests can no longer disproportionately influence who makes up the government.  But citizen-legislators could still be bribed once in office, or promised lucrative future jobs in exchange for favorable votes.  Such corruption would be much more difficult if you could never be sure the person you bribed actually voted your way.

3. Let people kick out assholes.

A large body chosen by sortition might include a few people whose behavior makes democratic deliberation impossible.  If someone constantly speaks out of turn or harasses a fellow legislator, there should be some process by which a supermajority can eject them.

Written by pinkocrat

August 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm

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Three immoral TV shows

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Ancient Aliens

I don’t mind that History Channel has given up on history.  If you’re just flipping through channels Pawn Stars is probably the best thing on.   But I do fault History Channel for stripping ancient people of their achievements like cheap sci-fi grave robbers and encouraging people to believe what’s fun rather than what has evidence.  The whole premise of the show is “Humans are too stupid to build anything of value”, but the only good argument for this is made unintentionally, through the existence of the show itself.

Undercover Boss

In the one episode I watched, a plumbing company’s CEO uses a fake name to attempt entry-level work at his own company.  After realizing how difficult life is for his underlings, he grants a few of them privileges (healthcare for one employee’s autistic son, a promise not to outsource his factory’s workers) that in a decent society would be entitlements.  This program teaches that cross-class understanding, historically the least effective means of obtaining justice, is the only way.

(I’m also uncomfortable with A Christmas Carol.)

America’s Funniest Home Videos

If you were a dictator who wanted to deaden the empathy of your subjects, can you imagine a better show than AFHV?  This man is hurt!  Look!  Laugh!  You are not him!

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July 31, 2013 at 4:40 pm

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