Good news, bad news on self-driving cars

Self-driving cars

As Ryan Felton argued over two years ago, Uber may well have been over-optimistic in betting the bank on self-driving technology, which is to say, it may go bankrupt before it can eliminate human drivers,[1] and really, the same argument applies to Lyft:

For decades ahead, this fusion of human minds and machine reflexes will likely be the norm. Researchers at Cleveland State University estimate that only 10 to 30 percent of all vehicles will be fully self driving by 2030. That’s in line with predictions from others—a PwC analysis estimates that 12% of all vehicles will be fully autonomous by then. Initially, all fully self-driving vehicles will be Level 4—that is, they have to be in geographically constrained areas, and will only operate in good weather, as does Waymo’s fleet of self-driving vans that it is testing in Phoenix. Truly autonomous, aka Level 5, cars are still science fiction. . . .
That could have huge implications for the fortunes of companies like Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk said would transform its existing fleet of cars into a 1 million-strong robo-taxi armada by 2020—something few analysts believe is feasible. It could also spell doom for companies such as Uber and Lyft, which aren’t yet profitable and might not be until they can cut out their high human costs—that is, removing drivers from vehicles.[2]

What’s cool, though, is that the advances being made in developing self-driving cars are being added to new human-driven models, making the latter significantly safer.[3]

But it’s all still bad news for me: If Lyft goes out of business because its business model is unsustainable (which, one has to assume, it likely will), I’ll be out of the only job I can find, even with a fucking Ph.D. And in the meantime, I’m not getting paid shit, so it isn’t like I can afford to save any money for an entirely foreseeable impending catastrophe: I’m working seven days a week just trying, not very successfully, to keep my head above water. And oh yeah, winter is coming, when icy conditions will increase my risks and limit the days I can work. Even in Pittsburgh, where my costs are indeed significantly lower, my income has dropped to match. My situation doesn’t appear sustainable here either.

(And I really wish people would stop with the “start your own business” or “write a book” suggestions. In the modern world, these require marketing ability. If I could market, I could market my way into a job.)

Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203


Hong Kong

Natasha Khan and Chun Han Wong, “Hong Kong Suspends Extradition Bill That Sparked Protests,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hong-kong-to-suspend-controversial-extradition-bill-11560579580


Brexit

Boris Johnson got away with lying.[4] Again. Now he seems most likely to be prime minister.[5] The parallels between British and U.S. politics, dating back to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher on neoliberalism, now apparently to be with Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, are becoming far too eery.

Robert Hutton and Tim Ross, “His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-14/his-critics-say-he-lies-but-tories-want-to-trust-boris-johnson


  1. [1]Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203
  2. [2]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203
  3. [3]Christopher Mims, “Self-Driving Cars Have a Problem: Safer Human-Driven Ones,” Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/self-driving-cars-have-a-problem-safer-human-driven-ones-11560571203
  4. [4]Gareth Davies, “Boris Johnson has misconduct allegations quashed in High Court,” Telegraph, June 7, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/07/boris-johnson-has-misconduct-allegations-quashed-high-court/
  5. [5]Robert Hutton and Tim Ross, “His Critics Say He Lies, But Tories Want to Trust Boris Johnson,” Bloomberg, June 14, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-14/his-critics-say-he-lies-but-tories-want-to-trust-boris-johnson

John Bolton’s wet dream may turn real

Iran

“I think Iran is showing that it has teeth,” said Charles Hollis, a former British diplomat in Tehran who is now managing director of the Falanx Assynt consultancy. “It’s a way of showing that if they are backed into a corner they are not without means of causing grief.”[1]

I see three additional possibilities, none of which I regard as particularly more likely than any of the others:

  1. Iran’s government has, or perhaps the Revolutionary Guards have, concluded that if war is to come, it’s better to get on with it sooner rather than later. Their assessment would be due to economic sanctions diminishing Iranian war capability (if they in fact do).
  2. A “false flag” operation by either the U.S. or its allies, including Israel.

    Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said “suspicious doesn’t begin to describe” the incident in Gulf of Oman. He previously suggested without evidence that Israel was staging the attacks to undermine Iran.[2]

    The video is blurry and black and white. Even if we accept Mike Pompeo’s claim that the attack required a certain level of expertise and weaponry,[3] such a video does not support attribution to any particular state actor.

  3. Some or all of it is bullshit:

    [T]he Japanese operator of Kokuka Courageous said the crew saw “flying objects” just before the attack, suggesting the tanker was damaged by something other than mines. Yutaka Katada, the company president, said reports of a mine attack were “false”.[4]

    Avenues of information from the region are limited. The U.S. can pretty much say what it wants, claim whatever it wants to claim, and not many folks are going to question it. Remember, John Bolton, who is now Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, has been lusting for war with Iran for decades and he has falsified claims in the past.[5] Further remember that journalists have a long history of falling into line even with dubious White House and Pentagon claims on international affairs.[6]

The Telegraph has the video.[7] Trust nothing, especially appeals to “classified” evidence.[8]

Remember as well that Donald Trump 1) can use a distraction or two, 2) relies almost exclusively on various bullying tactics to “negotiate,” and 3) is stymied when bullying tactics fail. With number three on that list, and Bolton’s lust for war, the situation with Iran can only be described as extremely dangerous. This would not be a war the U.S. can win, any more than it won in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq. Many, possibly millions of, people will die all so Bolton can get a hard-on.

Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/

Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour, “US says video shows Iranian military removing mine from tanker,” Guardian, June 14, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/13/mike-pompeo-iran-gulf-oil-tanker-attacks


Donald Trump

Donald Trump “is historically unpopular for a President by many measures, but no matter what he does the allegiance of some forty per cent of the American public has so far remained unwavering.”[9] Presumably that’s based on nine percent response rate polling.

Susan B. Glasser, “Forget “No Collusion.” Trump Is Now Pro-Collusion,” New Yorker, June 13, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/forget-no-collusion-trump-is-now-pro-collusion


Ride sharing

Sarah Holder, “Uber and Lyft Really Don’t Want California to Pass This Worker Rights Bill,” Atlantic, June 13, 2019, https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/06/gig-economy-employment-law-california-bill-ab-5-uber-lyft/591565/


  1. [1]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  2. [2]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  3. [3]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/; Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour, “US says video shows Iranian military removing mine from tanker,” Guardian, June 14, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/13/mike-pompeo-iran-gulf-oil-tanker-attacks
  4. [4]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  5. [5]Dexter Filkins, “John Bolton on the Warpath,” New Yorker, April 29, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/06/john-bolton-on-the-warpath
  6. [6]J. Herbert Altschull, Agents of Power: The Media and Public Policy, 2nd ed. (White Plains, NY: Longman, 1995); David Halberstam, The Powers That Be (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 2000); Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
  7. [7]Nick Allen, Raf Sanchez, and Rozina Sabur, “US releases footage ‘showing Iran removing unexploded mine’ from stricken oil tanker,” Telegraph, June 14, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/14/us-releases-footage-showing-iran-removing-unexploded-mine-stricken/
  8. [8]The claim that evidence is “classified” is an excuse for not supplying that evidence. It is unacceptable in lieu of the actual evidence.
  9. [9]Susan B. Glasser, “Forget “No Collusion.” Trump Is Now Pro-Collusion,” New Yorker, June 13, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/forget-no-collusion-trump-is-now-pro-collusion

If you vote for the lesser of two evils, do not be surprised when you get evil

Donald Trump

I honestly don’t understand how it is that people can vote, election after election, for “the lesser of two evils” and be surprised or outraged when they get evil. They voted for evil, they got evil, and then they complain about evil. There’s some kind of insanity here, as if you can support evil, and yet, as if by pulling a rabbit from a hat, get virtue.

The 2016 election gave us a meaningful choice between just two candidates, neither of whom I could endorse: Hillary Clinton, who can’t keep her nose clean, and Donald Trump, who has no bottom: He’s a black hole. When you think he’s already sunk as low as he can get, you’re missing the meaning of a black hole.

Yes, I saw his latest offering to the already outraged,[1] guaranteed to further outrage them. This isn’t even, by a long shot, the lowest he’s sunk (for that, I’d suggest family separation and putting children in cages[2]). So I don’t care. It’s not sane to care.

But oh, say the wannabe impeachers, what about “democracy?” First, it’s a republic not a democracy.[3] Second, a system that gives us a choice between Clinton and Trump is dubious at best.

Third, you who like this fucking system so much, you supported a race of the alleged “lessers of evil” to the deepest depths of Hell, you’ve gotten what you deserve. Because this is what it produces. You asked for it. You got it. Quit complaining about it. (And no, I have not forgotten that you also blamed me for not voting and told me I had no right to complain.[4] So fuck off.)


Uighurs

(This is the first time I have seen the word ‘Uighur’ spelled with a ‘y’ rather than an ‘i.’ I continue here to use the variation I have seen in the past.)

Asia News, “Many Muslim countries ‘silent’ on Uyghur persecution,” June 6, 2019, http://asianews.it/news-en/Many-Muslim-countries-silent-on-Uyghur-persecution-47211.html


O. J. Simpson

13_09:24:28-13
There’s a great story behind this photograph, by Allen J. Schaben, for the Los Angeles Times, of O. J. Simpson leading the California Highway Patrol on a slow-motion chase on June 17, 1994, and you can read it here. With Donald Trump deadening souls, this’ll do you good. (Fair use.)


  1. [1]Colby Itkowitz and Tom Hamburger, “Trump says he’d consider accepting information from foreign governments on his opponents,” Washington Post, June 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-says-hed-consider-accepting-dirt-from-foreign-governments-on-his-opponents/2019/06/12/b84ba860-8d5c-11e9-8f69-a2795fca3343_story.html; Alex Leary, “Trump Says He’d Consider Accepting Information on His Rivals From Foreign Governments,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-says-hed-consider-accepting-information-on-his-rivals-from-foreign-governments-11560387251; Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman, and Daniel Lippman, “Trump gives the impeachment crowd a gift,” Politico, June 13, 2019, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2019/06/13/trump-gives-the-impeachment-crowd-a-gift-446663
  2. [2]British Broadcasting Corporation, “Trump migrant separation policy: Children ‘in cages’ in Texas,” June 18, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44518942; Nancy Cook, “Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms,” Politico, June 18, 2018, https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/06/18/trump-aides-plan-fresh-immigration-crackdowns-before-midterms-652246; Kevin Liptak, Kaitlan Collins, Jeff Zeleny, and Sarah Westwood, “White House scrambles to contain immigration fallout,” CNN, June 18, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/18/politics/immigration-white-house-pressure/index.html; Nesrine Malik, “Trump is creating his American caliphate, and democracy has no defence,” Guardian, June 18, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/18/trump-american-caliphate-democracy-arab-world; Reuters, “Tent city for immigrant children in Texas,” June 19, 2018, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/pictures-report-idUSRTX69U2N; Brianna Rennix, “Understanding The Administration’s Monstrous Immigration Policies,” Current Affairs, June 17, 2018, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/06/understanding-the-administrations-monstrous-immigration-policies
  3. [3]James Madison, "Federalist No. 10," in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (1982; repr., New York: Bantam, 2003).
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 23, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/02/23/why-i-do-not-vote/

Medical reversals point to underlying problems

Inquiry

I had already noted that medical research seems much too often to confound correlation with causation.[1] Now issues with reversals and sampling are emerging.[2]

After reviewing 3,000 articles, their work uncovered 296 medical reversals. About 92 percent of studies were conducted on subjects in high-income countries. Conversely, only 8 percent took place in low or middle-income countries.[3]

These are all serious methodological issues. Reversals suggest that studies aren’t being replicated, meaning a single study is being accepted as authoritative when a basic positivist precept calls for studies to be repeated to confirm original results. The sampling issue means that the sample is not representative and only one step up from a convenience sample, making the replication that isn’t happening all the more important. Correlation fails to establish a causal relationship: Assumed causal relationships can be spurious, with actual causes overlooked and false causes attributed; replication would help to minimize these failures. I can’t condemn these methodological failures strongly enough. This isn’t science anymore but rather the pretense of science: It’s absolute bullshit, all the worse because people trust their lives to it.

Tauren Dyson, “Scientists declare nearly 400 medical practices ‘ineffective,’” United Press International, June 11, 2019, https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2019/06/11/Scientists-declare-nearly-400-medical-practices-ineffective/4451560281604/


Census

Surprise, surprise! Donald Trump is hiding something.

Matt Zapotosky and Trump asserts executive privilege to shield documents on census citizenship question,” Washington Post, June 12, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/trump-asserts-executive-privilege-to-shield-documents-on-census-citizenship-question/2019/06/12/971263c8-8d11-11e9-adf3-f70f78c156e8_story.html


Brexit

When I used this cartoon before, I didn’t have an article to explain. But really:
3031
Cartoon by Ben Jennings, via the Guardian, June 9, 2019, fair use.

I was reluctant to use something from the British press on this one because, just as with coverage of events in the U.S., sometimes, it’s better to get a foreign perspective. In this case, I was wanting something from outside the U.K. Amy Davidson Sorkin will do nicely.[4]

Amy Davidson Sorkin, “The Contest to Replace Theresa May Raises an Unexpected Question: How Many Tories Inhaled?” New Yorker, June 11, 1029, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-contest-to-replace-theresa-may-raises-an-unexpected-question-how-many-tories-inhaled


Joe Biden

“I believe that If we’re successful in this [2012] election, when we’re successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that. My hope, my expectation, is that after the election, now that it turns out that the goal of beating Obama doesn’t make much sense because I’m not running again, that we can start getting some cooperation again,” [Barack] Obama said.[5]

Some people never learn:

“The thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House. Not a joke,” [Joe] Biden told reporters at a diner in Concord, New Hampshire. “You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”[6]

Yes, I know, this is pathetic. But sometimes, somebody has to say the fucking obvious:

Every Democratic contender has to answer how they’ll get anything done with Congress so deeply divided along ideological lines, especially given the difficult of winning the Senate in 2020. But of all the answers so far, [Joe] Biden’s may be the most unrealistic.[7]

(And, obviously, it has to be somebody other than me.)

Matt Ford, “Someone Please Tell Joe Biden That Bipartisanship Is Dead,” New Republic, June 12, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/154183/someone-please-tell-joe-biden-bipartisanship-dead


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Big Data (Mining),” Irregular Bullshit, May 30, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/05/30/big-data-mining/
  2. [2]Tauren Dyson, “Scientists declare nearly 400 medical practices ‘ineffective,’” United Press International, June 11, 2019, https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2019/06/11/Scientists-declare-nearly-400-medical-practices-ineffective/4451560281604/
  3. [3]Tauren Dyson, “Scientists declare nearly 400 medical practices ‘ineffective,’” United Press International, June 11, 2019, https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2019/06/11/Scientists-declare-nearly-400-medical-practices-ineffective/4451560281604/
  4. [4]Amy Davidson Sorkin, “The Contest to Replace Theresa May Raises an Unexpected Question: How Many Tories Inhaled?” New Yorker, June 11, 1029, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/the-contest-to-replace-theresa-may-raises-an-unexpected-question-how-many-tories-inhaled
  5. [5]Byron Tau, “Obama: Republican ‘fever’ will break after the election,” Politico, June 1, 2012, https://www.politico.com/blogs/politico44/2012/06/obama-republican-fever-will-break-after-the-election-125059
  6. [6]Eric Bradner and Gregory Krieg, “Joe Biden predicts a post-Trump ‘epiphany’ for Republicans,” CNN, May 14, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/politics/joe-biden-republicans-trump-epiphany/index.html
  7. [7]Matt Ford, “Someone Please Tell Joe Biden That Bipartisanship Is Dead,” New Republic, June 12, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/154183/someone-please-tell-joe-biden-bipartisanship-dead

I guess I’m supposed to be surprised: The Senate is led by an obstructionist

The Senate

Mitch McConnell spent eight years obstructing Barack Obama. What on earth made anyone expect he would be any different now that McConnell’s opponents control the House?

Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, “Republicans whistle past the ‘legislative graveyard,’” Politico, June 10, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/10/senate-republicans-legislative-agenda-graveyard-1356894


Brexit

If Theresa May’s stewardship of Brexit was ludicrous, the race to replace her may be more so.

3031
Cartoon by Ben Jennings, via the Guardian, June 9, 2019, fair use.


James Comey

Byron Tau, “House Democrats, DOJ Reach Deal on Mueller Probe Evidence,” Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-democrats-doj-reach-deal-on-mueller-probe-evidence-11560183328


 

“Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!”

There is a new blog post, entitled, “An invitation to violence.”


Migration

The words were true when Mexican President Porfirio Díaz spoke them. They remain true today, and never more so than with Donald Trump as U.S. president: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!”[1]

I’m not inclined to take the agreement between Mexico’s government and the Trump administration all that seriously. Mexico has promised what it cannot deliver. The claim that “Mexico is also taking decisive action to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking organizations as well as their illicit financial and transportation networks”[2] strikes me as unlikely: We’re talking largely about narcotics cartels and gangs here, with whom, Mexico’s recognized government effectively shares co-sovereignty in large parts of the country. If Mexico were capable of dismantling these organizations, it would have, long ago. It can’t.

The immediately preceding claim, that “Mexico will take unprecedented steps to increase enforcement to curb irregular migration, to include the deployment of its National Guard throughout Mexico, giving priority to its southern border”[3] elides that Mexico has long served as an arm of U.S. migration policy. And the New York Times notes that Mexico had already agreed to this step “during secret talks in Miami between Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of homeland security, and Olga Sanchez, the Mexican secretary of the interior, the officials [from both countries] said.”[4] We are not talking about a rich country here; if the U.S. is serious about having Mexico keep these commitments, the latter country will need a great deal more money and resources than it has.

Which, of course, would be quite the inverse of Trump’s promise that Mexico would pay for the wall.

Mr. Trump’s decision to use trade as a bludgeon against Mexico was driven in part by his obsession with stopping what he falsely calls an invasion of the country and in part by a desire to satisfy his core supporters, many of who have grown angry at his inability to build his promised border wall.

Many of his top advisers, including those who oversee his political and economic agendas, were opposed to the tariff threat. But the president’s ire is regularly stoked by the daily reports he receives on how many migrants have crossed the border in the previous 24 hours.[5]

But Trump needed to appear to be bullying Mexico, he did bully Mexico to some extent, and this agreement sounds good, at least to Trump’s authoritarian populist base. And with Trump, this is what really matters. The agreement largely kicks the can down the road, saying “in the event the measures adopted do not have the expected results, they will take further actions.” It combines this with a promise of further discussions.[6] I expect nothing and if nothing happens there would thus be no call for “further actions.”

Finally, the agreement advocates “promoting development and economic growth in southern Mexico and . . . . promoting prosperity, good governance and security in Central America.”[7] But extreme poverty is only one of the push factors propelling migrants north. Central America, in large part due to U.S. policies, is an incredibly violent place. People are leaving for fear of their lives.

The poverty is also largely due to U.S. policies, especially including so-called “free” trade, which freed U.S. farmers to shaft Latin American farmers; and climate change, which even the neoliberal politicians refuse to take seriously.

Department of State, “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration,” June 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-mexico-joint-declaration/

Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal,” New York Times, June 8, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/us/politics/trump-mexico-deal-tariffs.html


Palestine

The ethnic cleansing will continue until morale improves.

Times of Israel, “US envoy says Israel has ‘right’ to annex parts of West Bank,” June 8, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-envoy-says-israel-has-right-to-annex-parts-of-west-bank/


  1. [1]José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, quoted in WikiQuote, n.d., https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Porfirio_D%C3%ADaz
  2. [2]Department of State, “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration,” June 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-mexico-joint-declaration/
  3. [3]Department of State, “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration,” June 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-mexico-joint-declaration/
  4. [4]Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal,” New York Times, June 8, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/us/politics/trump-mexico-deal-tariffs.html
  5. [5]Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman, “Mexico Agreed to Take Border Actions Months Before Trump Announced Tariff Deal,” New York Times, June 8, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/us/politics/trump-mexico-deal-tariffs.html
  6. [6]Department of State, “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration,” June 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-mexico-joint-declaration/
  7. [7]Department of State, “U.S.-Mexico Joint Declaration,” June 7, 2019, https://www.state.gov/u-s-mexico-joint-declaration/

Neoliberal (Democratic) party hypocrites

Gentrification

It appears I have moved into an early gentrification situation.

Something I noticed right away when I moved in was a notice above the mailboxes threatening residents with huge bills for clearing drains of stuff that shouldn’t be put down drains. A related clue was that one of the outlets in my apartment didn’t work.

It turns out the outlet doesn’t work because of a “loose neutral.” Which happened because they removed a garbage disposal in the kitchen. “People were abusing them,” the maintenance worker explained.

Then there’s the garbage. I don’t know whether trash is getting blown out of the garbage bins or just not making it in the bins in the first place. But there’s been an awful lot of litter on the lawns around my building. And apparently enough of it went down the storm drain in the parking lot that during recent heavy rains, it clogged.

The other day, management sent out an email to residents taking notice of personal belongings in common areas. It seems these will now be discarded without further notice. All of a sudden the trash is getting picked up. And I saw maintenance workers hauling children’s toys out of the basement (this would be where the laundry machines are) in a nearby building.

The corporation that owns this complex is one I’ve seen before in the San Francisco Bay Area, probably on the peninsula. So they’re nationwide. The complexes I’d seen before were high end complexes, meant to appeal to well-paid high tech workers.

While my apartment is nice on the inside, the outside has left something to be desired. But I’ve been noticing efforts to spruce things up. And I’m interpreting the rest as a conflict between residents who presumably predate this corporation’s purchase of the complex and the new management. The residents are used to things being a certain way. The management wants to make improvements, presumably to attract higher class residents (and charge higher rents).

Like, it must be admitted, me.


Neoliberal party

It’s business as usual.[1]

Shane Goldmacher and Stephanie Saul, “Democratic Candidates Woo Silicon Valley for Donations, Then Bash It,” New York Times, June 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/us/politics/democrats-2020-donations-silicon-valley.html

Andrew Sheeler, “Democrats say they don’t take Big Tobacco money. But JUUL had a sponsorship at convention,” Sacramento Bee, June 7, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article231228168.html


Nutrition

Drug stores sell highly processed food even in underserved neighborhoods. It’s only a marginal improvement over what many poor people were eating before.[2]

Gabrielle Canon, “‘Food deserts’ become ‘food swamps’ as drugstores outsell major grocers,” Guardian, June 4, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/04/food-swamps-cvs-outsells-trader-joes-whole-foods-processed-shopping


Brexit

Politicians get away with lying in Britain too.[3]

Gareth Davies, “Boris Johnson has misconduct allegations quashed in High Court,” Telegraph, June 7, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/07/boris-johnson-has-misconduct-allegations-quashed-high-court/


Migration

Tracy Wilkinson and Noah Bierman, “Trump announces deal to avoid tariffs on Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-pol-us-mexico-tariffs-immigration-talks-20190607-story.html


  1. [1]Shane Goldmacher and Stephanie Saul, “Democratic Candidates Woo Silicon Valley for Donations, Then Bash It,” New York Times, June 7, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/06/us/politics/democrats-2020-donations-silicon-valley.html; Andrew Sheeler, “Democrats say they don’t take Big Tobacco money. But JUUL had a sponsorship at convention,” Sacramento Bee, June 7, 2019, https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article231228168.html
  2. [2]Gabrielle Canon, “‘Food deserts’ become ‘food swamps’ as drugstores outsell major grocers,” Guardian, June 4, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/04/food-swamps-cvs-outsells-trader-joes-whole-foods-processed-shopping
  3. [3]Gareth Davies, “Boris Johnson has misconduct allegations quashed in High Court,” Telegraph, June 7, 2019, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/07/boris-johnson-has-misconduct-allegations-quashed-high-court/

The privatized commons and free speech

As I note on my page to online service providers, there is a problem with various forms of abusive, harassing, and threatening speech on social media.[1] Particularly since the 2016 elections, in which Russian trolls have been alleged to have played a part in Donald Trump’s election, providers such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have come under increasing pressure to regulate speech and have responded unevenly: Trump is exempt on Twitter; his critics are anything but.[2] And there is no process for adjudicating competing claims as to what speech should be allowed and which should be forbidden. It’s just what some underpaid flunkie or, even worse, artificial idiocy, decides should be allowed or forbidden.

Yes, the targeted speech is a problem. My problem is that its censorship will inevitably—accuse me of a slippery slope argument to your heart’s content—widen to include other forms of speech as well. I have a new blog post, entitled, “The public square of the Internet.” Whatever the solution to problematic speech, it cannot be this.


The neoliberal party

Jay Inslee, one of numerous candidates for the neoliberal nomination, says the Democratic National Committee will not only refuse to hold a debate focused on climate change; it will bar any candidates who participate in such a debate from the debates it sanctions.[3] This, as the news on climate change keeps getting worse, as climate scientists consistently find that their earlier estimates of climate change impacts understate the problem.

Progressives should be further alarmed that, once again, the mainstream Democratic Party establishment seeks to monopolize the terms of the campaign. This is how you rig elections. This is how the establishment defeated Bernie Sanders in 2016. This is how you constrain policy options to those which do not threaten the establishment. And this is only one reason why I now refuse to call it the Democratic Party but rather the neoliberal party. Because it is incorrigibly so. And here’s an example:

THE THING ABOUT THE HYDE AMENDMENT … Over the last day, there’s been a pile-on on JOE BIDEN – Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren and others have ganged up against the former VP over his support of the Hyde Amendment, language that prohibits most federal funding for abortion.

BUT … If you are or have been a member of Congress – 15 people in this field – and you’ve voted for big spending packages, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve also voted for the amendment. OF COURSE, Biden is actively supporting it, and that’s a bit unique. But this language has been a part of a lot of funding bills and gotten plenty of votes from Democrats over the years.[4]

Compromise with evil is evil: I have another new blog post, entitled “Slavery, rape, and abortion bans.” Meanwhile Joe Biden has withdrawn his support for the Hyde amendment:

Anthony Adragna, “DNC opts against climate change debate, Inslee says,” Politico, June 5, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/05/dnc-opts-against-climate-change-debate-inslee-says-1355867

Karen Tumulty, “On abortion, Biden shows he is out of step with his party,” Washington Post, June 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/on-abortion-biden-shows-he-is-out-of-step-with-his-party/2019/06/05/e83ddc30-87cd-11e9-98c1-e945ae5db8fb_story.html

Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, and Daniel Lippman, “Guess who else voted against federal funding for abortion?” Politico, June 6, 2019, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2019/06/06/guess-who-else-voted-against-federal-funding-for-abortion-443667


American Indians

Michael Price, “Closest-known ancestor of today’s Native Americans found in Siberia,” Science, June 5, 2019, doi:10.1126/science.aay2891


  1. [1]David Benfell, “To online service providers,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/to-online-service-providers/
  2. [2]Twitter, “World Leaders on Twitter,” January 5, 2018, https://blog.twitter.com/official/en_us/topics/company/2017/world-leaders-and-twitter.html
  3. [3]Anthony Adragna, “DNC opts against climate change debate, Inslee says,” Politico, June 5, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/05/dnc-opts-against-climate-change-debate-inslee-says-1355867
  4. [4]Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer, and Daniel Lippman, “Guess who else voted against federal funding for abortion?” Politico, June 6, 2019, https://www.politico.com/newsletters/playbook/2019/06/06/guess-who-else-voted-against-federal-funding-for-abortion-443667

Saving Schrödinger’s cat

Quantum mystification

When we get to quantum physics and quantum computing, we are so far beyond anything I learned in high school (my only physics class) or community college immediately thereafter (where I studied business data processing), it’s ridiculous. But the issue of Schrödinger’s cat sounds to me like an information problem: You don’t know if the cat is dead or alive because you haven’t looked in the box.

That’s not how anybody states it. They say, that until you look in the box, the cat is simultaneously dead and alive. Which seems to involve anthropocentric, epistemological, or other presumptions I really don’t follow. After all, the point of the thought experiment is that the release of the poison, killing the cat, is triggered by a random event, the decay of a radioactive atom.

In quantum physics, the act of observation is apparently significant and to a degree well beyond that of introducing a thermometer into the medium whose temperature you seek to measure—the thermometer itself presumably has a different temperature, so to some (hopefully) small degree, it changes the very temperature you seek to measure. How observation can be significant with radioactive decay is a mystery to me—you detect decay by what it emits and by the quantity of original material remaining. Quantum physics is weird in many ways, and this is one of them.

In a more conventional understanding, you can only estimate radioactive half-lives, not the fate of an individual atom at any given point. The idea here is that over a given period of time, the half life, half of a group of radioactive atoms will likely have decayed. It’s a statistical thing, meant to apply over numerous aggregates, not even to any one aggregate. Hence the question of Schrödinger’s cat: What we know about an aggregate of aggregates tells us nothing about the individual atom; its decay occurs randomly.

Now these scientists are saying that the decay of an atom can be detected and even reversed as it occurs, that the decay is not entirely instant. Which would be good news for the cat, but apparently also in preventing errors in quantum computing.[1]

Nicola Davis, “Schrödinger’s cat could be saved, say scientists,” Guardian, June 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/03/feline-fine-fate-of-schrodingers-cat-can-be-reversed-study

David Shultz, “Have physicists found a way to save Schrödinger’s cat?” Science, June 3, 2019, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/have-physicists-found-way-save-schr-dinger-s-cat


Donald Trump

Darren Samuelsohn, “Judge OK without public release of Flynn-Kislyak transcript,” Politico, June 4, 2019, https://www.politico.com/story/2019/06/04/flynn-kislyak-transcript-1353483


  1. [1]Nicola Davis, “Schrödinger’s cat could be saved, say scientists,” Guardian, June 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/03/feline-fine-fate-of-schrodingers-cat-can-be-reversed-study; David Shultz, “Have physicists found a way to save Schrödinger’s cat?” Science, June 3, 2019, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/have-physicists-found-way-save-schr-dinger-s-cat