Browsing the archives for the Effluvia category.

A Funny Joke


You know what would be a funny joke?

When you catch a guy driving drunk, instead of giving him a breathalizer test and then taking him to jail, instead zip tie his hands and then leave him in a Taco Bell parking lot.

…because he's Mexican, get it?

What's that?

The drunk guy wandered into traffic, hands behind his back, and got struck and killed by a car?

Uh – no comment.

Talk to our union lawyer.

And put down that camera, mother-fucker!

< pulls on rubber gloves >


Alex Marthews Sees the Police State Being Forged and Does Not Like It


This essay ( Quit Throwing 9/11 In Our Faces ) is quite something.

Like me, Alex Marthews prefers not to drop the f-bomb …but there are times that try men's souls, and our ongoing slide into an actual honest-to-God yes-it-can-happen-here police state is one of them, and it's pushed both of us into it recently.

What's got Alex's blood up today?

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An Anarcho Capitalist Camel Nose Under the Tent Disguised as a Modest Wonkish Proposal



Would You Buy a Used Macroeconomic Policy From This Man?




Burn the Fucking System to the Ground


"I'm a good judge" … said by government employee and judge Gisele Pollack who, it seems, sentenced people to jail because of their drug use…while she, herself, was high on drugs.

But, in her defense, "she’s had some severe personal tragedy in her life".

And that's why, it seems, she's being allowed to check herself into rehab instead of being thrown in jail.

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Give To Those In Need

Effluvia informs us that a group of startups (Evertrue, Kinvey, Localytics, etc.) decided to get together to throw themselves a combined holiday party, so that employees of each of these small firms could schmooze with each other and others in the local tech scene.

As they have the last three years.

And, as they have the last three years, they structured the party thusly: a rented hotel function room, an open bar, a $50 cover charge, invites sent out over, and surplus funds donated to charity via (The exact recipient of the charity was TBA, but was to come from one of TUGG's "portfolio" of causes: Latino STEM Alliance, Youth Cities, Technology for Autism, Music & Youth, etc.

The Boston Police, meanwhile, was hard at work at solving the murders and homicides in the city.

I'm joking, of course.

The Boston Police were actually setting up a sting to catch anyone who violated the law regulation
204 CMR 4.03 1 (e) which makes it illegal to vary the price of alcohol over time.

I'd explain why this is an important regulation, and why anyone who violates it deserves to go to hell and/or be arrested, but I think it's pretty clear: we can't just have people selling things at different prices at different times, or we'd there'd be complete anarchy.

'nuff said.

So, anyway, the Boston Police, having solved the problem of murder, rape, and larceny within its territory, turned its attention to a consortium of technology startups and raided their Christmas party.

The good news is that a peaceful resolution was achieved: once the tech startups (cough) voluntarily (cough) agreed that instead of donating the profits to something silly like encouraging Latino youth to excel at science and technology, they'd instead donate it to a charity organization of armed individuals known as the "Boston Police Department", all charges were dropped.

I'm sort of curious to ask for records on Boston PD policies, but I've recently learned that Boston LEOs refuse to respond to public documents requests and threaten to arrest journalists who call them on the phone.

Render unto Caesar, my friends. And if at any point you're not sure which wordly power is Caesar, remember: he's the one who can crucify people without repercussions.


Best Article / Best Headline on our Rape-Happy Police State


Scott Greenfield wins the award for the best article on the latest incident in our rape-happy police state: A New Low: Vaginal Probes At The Border.

…but Reason magazine wins not just the award for best headline for this particular outrage, but the lifetime award for best headline ever mocking the police state:

Drug Warriors Kidnap and Sexually Assault a Woman After Getting Permission From a Dog. Jacob Sullivan Sullum [ typo! ] wrote the article. I'm not sure if he also wrote the headline, or if that was done by some unnamed Reason intern. If the latter: dude (or dudette): you rock.




From my good friend Scott Ratner:

"What do you expect when the very name of the store is Target?  It's like buying food items at a store called Ralphs."


The Political Is Personal. Why?


A while back I blogged about shaming, civility, tolerance, etc.: Pax Dickinson: Thought Crime, Public Shaming and Thick Liberty in the Internet Age.

I've wanted to revisit the topic because I have more to say, but most of the events I've seen that would serve as a trigger / a convenient peg to hang my hat on have had a flaw: they've all been right-wingers getting their oxes gored in front of an audience of millions.

While, culturally, I lean more to the right than to the left, my take on this topic is content and viewpoint neutral, and so I've really not wanted to uncork while defending another righty, lest my point be buried under the appearance of always sticking up for members of the Coke party.

Today I have a few minutes to spare and an internet bullying victim who is on the left.


Let's talk about "#pajamaboy".

We all know the background: yesterday President Obama tweeted an ad designed to encourage people to tupperware-party his signature healthcare law to captive friends and family.

As a quick aside, this is one of the most catastrophically tone-deaf pieces of propaganda I've seen since…well, since most of the other Obamacare ads I've seen. But that's neither here nor there.

The internet erupted in a tizzy. As predicted, photoshops ran wild.

…and then something really weird and, to my mind, unsettling happened.

People started doxing the model in the ad.

It quickly turned out that he is an Obama partisan and an employee at Organizing For Action, so this isn't quite as weird and wrong as possible.

…but it's still weird and wrong.

The Washington Examiner not only gave the model's name (which I, as a point of principal, will not repeat), pointed to his personal twitter feed, they screen-grabbed pictures he uploaded to Facebook.

Jamie Wearing Fools pulled his linked in resume.

Politico, Hot Air, etc. have all mocked him.

A site that I won't even link to has dug up his home address, Google streetview stalked him, and concluded based on the price of the house he lives in and the minivan parked out front that he lives with his parents.

My question, put succinctly, is: What. The. !@#$?

PajamaGuy clearly has politics different from mine. He's in favor of socializing healthcare in the US. He's even in favor of using force to do so: he likes the idea of a mandatory fine if I don't get my healthcare in the way he wants, and – presumably – he's in favor of State violence against me if I refuse to pay that fine.

So let us mock the ad if we want. Let us mock and debate the policy.

…but why in the name of all that's holy would we try to shame him? Specifically, shame him for being some twenty something nerdy man-child? I think it's safe to say that none of the people hurling this abuse has ever met the guy. We don't know if he's nerdy. We don't know if he's a man-child. And even if he is: so what? What has he done to deserve the weight of the entire internet raining abuse down on him?

One of my favorite political and economic writers, Megan McArdle, wrote recently (in a different context):

I’ve been trying to cut down on the snark…

why? Out of pity for my victims? Oh, sure, that’s a factor…

[ but ] the main reason I avoid the joys of snarky takedowns is that it’s not very good for you. Snark is immense, immense fun…

Whatever the ostensible subject of the snark, you’re always really saying the same thing: “Look at me! I am so smart and funny! Not like this stupid person I am making fun of! You should think less of them and more of me!”…

(By the way, it's one of Megan's better pieces, and given the high quality of her "average", that's saying a lot. Go. Read.)

So, anyway, this is why I defend Pajama Guy and suggest that – no matter how much he pushes the cultural buttons of those on the right – they should leave him – the real him, the actual human being him- alone:

1) It would be better for all of us to live in a culture where we can take political positions without being doxed, without having our personal pictures grabbed from social media and used to illustrate to an audience of millions how we are complete and utter failures.

2) It would be better to have a cultural norm where we can achieve step #1 via manners, instead of draconian privacy controls on social media and document sharing (think of the children deadweight loss!)

3) Using snark as a tool is like eating cookies for every meal. It's utterly delicious…and not only are you doing bad things to yourself, but you'll feel bad

4) Not a single one of us would (a) enjoy having the weight of the internet come down on us, nor (b) would we look particularly cool if the other side had infinite resources to pick over our online presence and cherry pick items to make us look bad.

Put down your stones of personal reputation destruction and mockery. Do it even if you think the other side (whichever side that is) is living to a lower standard. It's good for your soul.


Here versus There: Public Policy Implications


I was reading an old Harry Turtledove alternate history paperback over the weekend and it got me thinking about the science fictional conceit of parallel universes.

For your consideration:

The cross-universe gate was invented in Research Triangle Park in 2017, although none of the researchers understood what they had until two years later. The problem was that the gate would make connections to other universes, but the connection would collapse with in milliseconds.

In 2019, though, they finally tuned in another world where through some trick of math or physics, the gate was stable. Three weeks later they understood what they'd found: a world where history diverged from our own in the 1820s. A world where the Confederacy broke away after a brief war, slavery was phased out in the 1890s and replaced with an almost as bad feudalism, and the union – stretching from Alberta to Columbia – was restored.

A world where through accidents of assassination, random laws, a few unlucky plagues, and more, technology was several decades behind our own world, and where the standard of living was only half of what we're used to here in Earth Prime.

The government got wind of the project early and tried to monopolize it, but the secret was already out. The equipment to build a gate required neither strange and expensive materials nor huge amounts of power.

Which is to say, in short order, thousands, then tens of thousands of gates were connecting Here and There. And then the immigration started. After all, how are you going to keep them down on the farm when they've seen X-boxes, internet porn, cancer drugs that actually work, and more.

Of course, unparalleled immigration was not with out its dark side. Here has gay marriage, smoking bans, a general societal agreement on a decent welfare state, and more. There has none of these things. After history split in the 1820s a lot of the "blue" changes we experienced here never happened. A man – even a gentleman – over There has no compunctions about telling a black man on the sidewalk to get out of his way, and will address him as "n_____" as he does so. It's unsociable not to offer a guest a cigarette. The idea of welfare spending is insane – why, one might as well ask a woman who she prefers as the next president!

By 2025 there were three million There men over Here.

By 2030 there were thirteen million.

There were some advantages – they'd do the jobs that most of us only watch Mike Rowe do on TV. Shortages of lumberjacks, welders, coal miners, and more were alleviated. In an economy still suffering from the economic collapse of 2008, this was no small thing. The economy picked up.

In Here world, where the government reports that 20 percent of Americans claim to have a disability, there was grumbling. How dare these interlopers do jobs that no decent Here person would do, and accept so little for them?

Other joined in the clamoring, saying that their willingness to work for less was hurting wages.

The There men paid their taxes, though, and they kept the factories running, so the business elite argued forcefully in their defense. Zuckerberg was particularly eloquent.

There was more grumbling. The "n-bomb" was making a return to use and smoking and littering was up. Every other week a professor at Harvard or Yale penned an editorial in a prestigious east-coast newspaper arguing about the coarsening of our national culture.

There were now over twenty million There men.

The Somerville, Massachusetts government reversed itself and declared that the There men could, in fact, be called "illegals".

…but their timing was comedy gold, because it happened the day before the US Supreme Court ruled on the matter. In a divided ruling with no less than one primary opinion, one separate concurrence, and three dissents, the court ruled that since the There men had US citizenship granted under a Constitution identical to ours (aside from some minor differences like the lack of a 19th amendment), they were, in fact, US citizens, and could not only stay here, but could vote.

The internet erupted, and a minor law blog even made the front page of the New York Times when several of the authors got so heated about the topic that they started calling each other "pony-lovers".

That was forgotten in days, though, because people belatedly realized what amnesty meant: November was coming – and with it, elections. …and it turned out that the Republicans had been passing laws: registering people to vote at dive bars near the oil fields, at Ford dealerships, at Pawn shops near the coal mines.

The Republican sweep was unprecedented. President, 61% of the Senate, 64% of the house of Representatives.

Some conspiracy theorists on the left immediately declared that the trans-historical gates had been a plot all along: the Republicans had been behind the whole thing. Was not the fact that they registered There men to vote at the places where they congregated proof of this?

The conspiracy was never proven, but for decades the allegation lived on: The Republicans, unable to convince the people to elect their party, had elected to import a new people.

They'd done it – and they'd won.

Of course, it wasn't a complete victory for the Republican establishment: they themselves were discomfited by the relegalization of mandatory prayer in school, the increase in the violent crime rate (the There men did like to duel), the resurgence of prostitution, the fact that most restaurants now smelled like tobacco smoke for the first time in half a century, and more. On the bright side, though, the Republican elite didn't actually have to interact with those people. Their votes were needed, yes, but they weren't exactly welcome in the same social circles.

But enough science fiction.

Let's return to the real world.

Let's talk about amnesty for illegal immigrants, the motor-voter law, the fact that the US does not require proof of citizenship to vote, and the talk of a "permanent Democratic majority", and allegations that the Democrats have elected to import a new people.

(N.B. my own thoughts on immigration probably aren't remotely like what you think from the above)


This Sticker Kills Thwarts Fascists


FBI can secretly turn on laptop cameras without the indicator light

Scary. Insane. Ridiculous. Invasive. Wrong. The Washington Post reports that the FBI has had the ability to secretly activate a computer's camera "without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording" for years now. What in the hell is going on? What kind of world do we live in?

Marcus Thomas, the former assistant director of the FBI's Operational Technology Division, told the Post that that sort of creepy spy laptop recording is "mainly" used in terrorism cases or the "most serious" of criminal investigations. That doesn't really make it less crazy (or any better) since the very idea of the FBI being able to watch you through your computer is absolutely disturbing.

A reminder: you can cover your digital device's built-in cameras with opaque stickers that not only do the job, not only look sporty, but also help support the EFF and the good work they do.

Laptop Camera Cover Set

Thwart hostile adversaries and frustrate peepers with EFF's Laptop Camera Covers! Say goodbye to that unsightly sticky note/masking tape/nectarine sticker guarding your machine. This handsome set includes three 0.5" X 0.75" and two 0.5" X 1" adhesive stickers designed to help protect you from visual surveillance by covering the lens of your laptop camera (and other devices) until you're ready to use it! Every shop order helps EFF fight unlawful surveillance.

These stickers feature a unique ultra-removeable adhesive backing to ensure that they won't leave gummy residue on your lens.


…both the stickers and the EFF.


Nock, Hoon, etc. for Non-Vulcans (Why Urbit Matters)


Grand Rearchitectures, Interlocking Plans

I have come to identify a pattern that crops up in proposals for business models, social engineering, computer architectures, etc.

It is this: instead of paring things down to the minimum (Antoine_de_Saint_Exupery's "nothing left to take away" / Steve Blank's "minimum viable product"), people propose large steaming piles of things which are (a) incompatible with what came before, and (b) depend on every component working flawlessly.

This is, in general, a doomed strategy – which you will note if you have ever had the misfortune to liked your healthcare plan and chose to keep it.

Some crazy proposed business models operate this way ("we teach the natives to harvest rain forest fruit in a sustainable way, then float the goods down the river to market on carbon-fiber-and-help catamarans with help rigging built with micro-loans from our new website…").

Some crazy proposed social revolutions operate this way ("after we cut off the heads of anyone with royal blood, we cut off the heads of anyone who objects to cutting off heads, then we turn the Cathedrals into Temples of Rationality!").


So, when I saw a software architecture proposes much the same thing ("we build a new virtual machine called Nock VM that's entirely incompatible with the existing standards, then we create a new language to run in it (also called Nock), then we build a higher level language on top (called Hoon), then on top we layer an operating system (called Urbit), encryption, namespaces, and delegation of privileges ….based on neo-reactionary politics! Oh, and also, we have a customizable UI that not only gives error messages in phrases you like, but it lets you turn political enemies into unpersons. And, wait, wait, I'm almost done: also I've got a new way that you've got to pronounce combinations of characters…so the characters '|:' are pronounced 'bardeg'. ") I was fairly dubious.

I note that more Frenchmen vacation in July than do in Thermidor.

…and Yet

After 10 minutes of reading the Urbit documents I was sure that it was technically plausible but practically idiotic.

Why would anyone want to throw away the current technology stack (x86 CPUs running Linux running either C++ that compiles into native code or Java that runs inside a Java Virtual Machine that is implemented with C, all communicating with each other using reliable TCP/IP) in favor of a pile of not just unproven but as-yet unwritten technologies ( x86 CPUs running a new virtual machine who interprets a beyond-cryptic tree-based programming language called Nock which is used to implement an also-beyond-cryptic language called Hoon, which is used to implement a new operating system called Urbit, all of which talks to other instances using the unreliable UDP protocol?

It's madness.

If the author of this monstrosity, Curtis Yarvin, had any justification for this insane project he was silent.

And that sentence right there explains why I spent more than ten minutes on this danger-Will-Robinson-attractive-nuisance thing.

Curtis (aka Mencius Moldbug), is brilliant.

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All Men Are Dogs


Excerpting an entire comic is perhaps pushing the boundaries of Fair Use, so let me give back by saying: add it to your RSS reader and buy some presents via the SMBC store.

(Disclosure: no relationship exists between me and SMBC other than that of pure fandom; link is not an affiliate link.)


I Am Thankful For


…Mrs. Clark's holiday meal, and Mencious Moldbug's latest post, both of which I am currently digesting.


Listen Respectfully, Then Agree or Disagree…Except on Dogma


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