So, How Harmful Is I-732, Anyhow?

Revisiting a previous post of mine, it’s time to answer the question asked therein:

The question to ask, I think, is: How much harm will the proposed law actually do [emphasis added]? Note that this is a very different question from asking how far it falls short in addressing race and class issues, even though global warming almost certainly will harm the disadvantaged more.

Addressing the latter really isn’t the purpose of the legislation. Such issues should be addressed, of course, but the proper way to address them is via other, separate actions. On the other hand, if the measure does itself do harm to the disadvantaged, then that is a valid argument against it.

I’m going mostly on three articles run early last month by the Sightline Institute, a voice I generally respect: one, two, three.

The answer to the question seems to be “Some, but overall not very much.”

The Sightline articles (particularly the second one) assume the measure will be revenue neutral, as much as can be ascertained. On that, I’m skeptical. I’m generally inclined to trust the Department of Revenue’s estimates more than Sightline’s in most (but not all) cases. In particular, Sightline is assuming an all-but-inevitable court challenge will go their way, when by their own admission according to history challenges of that particular nature generally do not. However, even given that, it must be pointed out that it’s a small revenue shortfall.

Yes, I-732’s drafters failed to reach out to the disadvantaged. Shame on them — to paraphrase a humorous work of fiction I once read, organized environmentalism is the whitest movement since the Klan. While that may be hyperbolic, it is the case that environmental organizations tend to be drawn from a very historically privileged background. But, while the drafters’ lack of awareness was shameful, it was not actual harm and thus falls short of the standards I set forth in my earlier post.

To their credit, I-732’s drafters did recognize how shamefully regressive Washington state’s tax structure is, and attempt to do something about it. Unfortunately, the law was overly simplistic and there’s cracks in the law through which some of the poor will slip (and thus end up paying in the order of hundreds of dollars more taxes per year).

I-732 also fails to actively spend more money on renewable energy and conservation. Given its revenue shortfall problem, that’s probably a blessing in disguise. Also, this again falls short of my standard of doing harm: sins of omission are not sins of commission. Finally, it’s not as if the economic incentives created by the taxes won’t alter behavior and cause private parties to make such investments (in fact, that’s a huge part of their purpose); the investments may not happen directly by government action but they will happen nonetheless.

So to sum up, the actual harm done by I-732 is that it:

  • Makes the state’s recurring budget crisis slightly worse by being slightly revenue negative.
  • Makes a minority of the poor end up paying more, not less, in taxes, even though most of the poor will pay less.

At this stage in the game, I do not think that the total harm outweighs either the good the measure will do, or the harm that rejecting it will do. The latter is likely to taint carbon taxes with a stench of failure, thereby causing even more delays in attempting to address the most profound crisis that mankind has ever faced.

How to Disable That Darned Adobe Updater on the Mac

If you ever install Flash, there it will be. A stupid updater process that pops up and runs whenever you least want such a thing to run, typically when your computer is already busy and slow. And the Adobe Updater is itself a booger-eating fat pig that will pork up resources and make your computer run even slower.

There’s no instructions from Adobe on how to remove it. Of course not; they have delusions of grandeur: they think their software is so important that its updater is more important than you are. In fact, they think it’s about the most important thing there is. Definitely more important than Apple’s own update checks, which manage to run unobtrusively and generally when you’re not using the computer much.

Thankfully, it’s easy enough to remove the darned thing. Just open a shell window and type the following commands:

cd ~/Library/LaunchAgents
launchctl remove `basename com.adobe.ARM.* .plist`
rm com.adobe.ARM.*

Et voilà! The Adobe Updater virus program should no longer run itself automatically.

Not to belabor the obvious, but if you choose to do this, it becomes your responsibility to check for and install updates. And with Flash, that’s important, because Flash security fixes come out all the time.

Thanks to the Life of a Computer Scientist blog for coming up with the solution and posting it.

An Encouraging Trend in (and of) Resistance

New insights which should have happened to me long ago (given how obvious they are) keep happening to me. Take yesterday, for example. There was a solidarity rally for the Standing Rock Sioux and their struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in downtown Seattle then which I happened to attend.

One insight that’s not new to me is that ecological consciousness can be a struggle to adopt on a widespread scale in the United States because we are such a new nation. We don’t have a long history of inhabiting the land here. 200 years is a long time and 500 years is an extremely long time. Yet even 500 years isn’t very long at all when one takes geological or ecological time scales into account. Americans simply lack anything approaching the long-term view that one needs to adopt a truly sustainable society.

Of course that’s only really true for the majority that is descended from primarily European settlers, which is the delayed insight that I had. Native Americans have been living here for thousands of years. While they don’t have a long history (history is a written record, the vast majority of tribes were pre-literate, and the few that were literate had virtually their entire corpus deliberately destroyed), written records are not the only records. There are oral records, something which every people has.<

Yes, oral records are imperfect, but so are written ones; the latter are typically distorted by servitude to power and authority (freedom of expression is a relatively new invention, and even in open societies there is a lot of self-censorship and acquiescence to power). Moreover, the orally-transmitted knowledge of how to live and survive on the land tends to be accurate, because it is continually subjected to a process of testing; if such knowledge becomes faulty, the outcome will involve hardship at the least.

The process of social contact with Europeans was extremely traumatic for most tribes, and they are only now starting to bounce back from it. Many tribes have had success winning back ignored treaty rights in recent decades, then came the economic success of tribal gaming (no small thing; it’s been a source of funds free of the paternalistic and bureaucratic encumbrance of Federal sources), and now in the NoDAPL struggle we finally see a degree of Native American unity really starting to develop; tribes that have historically (and prehistorically) been enemies have joined forces in this struggle.

The latter is an amazing and encouraging accomplishment, one that I think offers all of us, Native American and not, some real hope. We need the voices of those who have lived with this land the longest.

It’s Over

On schedule, my current (soon to be most recent) stint of employment is all over as of today. It’s a relief that it’s happening on schedule: I’m already starting to make plans for the next month or so, and a delay in the start of any free time would complicate them.

Snowden is Wasting His Time

Exiled US political dissident Edward Snowden is probably wasting his time when he begs for a presidential pardon. The Obama Administration’s record on tolerating political dissent in the form of whistleblowing is not a good one.

It’s understandable why he’d want to get out of Russia, of course. Snowden has publicly criticized his host nation more than once and is doubtless feeling the heat for having the courage to speak out in what is an unfree society (albeit one offering him more personal freedom than that of the prison cell he’d be in if he hadn’t fled persecution in the USA).

Still, he’s mainly just jeopardizing what freedom he currently has in the name of a largely futile quest for clemency from a superpower which has gotten less, not more, tolerant of internal dissent in recent decades.

She’s Still Lying; They Knew the Danger

No, I don’t have any hard evidence to back up that suspicion, but I feel pretty safe concluding that Christe Todd Whitman is lying when she claims nobody knew how dangerous the air was in Lower Manhattan 15 years ago. The reason is asbestos.

I remember being astounded at the time that people weren’t super-concerned about asbestos contimanation. The towers were built at a time when asbestos was still a very popular material. Aside from its carciogenicity, asbestos is a wonderful material with many advantages (fireproof, excellent elecrrical and heat insulator, not subject to decay), one which one can obtain for literally just the effort of digging it out of the ground. So quite naturally it found wide use.

I was once system and network manager in a building that was built before the nasty truth about asbestos became widely known. It made running new network wiring a constant headache; one couldn’t so much as drill through most walls in that building without spending thousands of dollars to protect against liberating asbestos fibers.

Those towers were obviously full of asbestos-containing building materials, so naturally so was the dust left by their collapse. Any claims the dust was not hazardous were obviously baloney. If any initial measurements indicated a lack of hazard, that was reason not to abandon extreme caution but to suspect the quality of the measurements.

Conflicted on I-732

Voices I normally respect a great deal are chiming in against the carbon tax initiative in Washington, I-732, because of race and class justice concerns. This leaves me conflicted, because global warming is clearly the most profound danger we face, thus urgently needs to be addressed, and a carbon tax appears to be one of the most simple and logical steps we can take to this end.

The question to ask, I think, is: How much harm will the proposed law actually do? Note that this is a very different question from asking how far it falls short in addressing race and class issues, even though global warming almost certainly will harm the disadvantaged more.

Addressing the latter really isn’t the purpose of the legislation. Such issues should be addressed, of course, but the proper way to address them is via other, separate actions. On the other hand, if the measure does itself do harm to the disadvantaged, then that is a valid argument against it.

A Particularly Stupid Wish

Wishes like this are just plain stupid:

But Lord Rees added that there is also cause for optimism. “Human societies could navigate these threats, achieve a sustainable future, and inaugurate eras of post-human evolution even more marvellous than what’s led to us. The dawn of the Anthropocene epoch would then mark a one-off transformation from a natural world to one where humans jumpstart the transition to electronic (and potentially immortal) entities, that transcend our limitations and eventually spread their influence far beyond the Earth.”

This is the case for a variety of reasons. Here’s a few:

  • The more technologically sophisticated a society is, the more it is dependent on specialized knowledge.
    • Extreme specialization is a form of repression; our minds evolved to deal with a world in which we performed a variety of tasks. Already, most people are dissatisfied with their jobs, despite having a freedom of choice in a career; this is because the allowed choices simply have no good answer for most.
    • A society more dependent on specialization is more difficult to understand and question in toto, thus such societies are more difficult to successfully rebel against. Since revolution is the ultimate guarantor of freedom, such societies are highly unlikely to remain free.
  • The possibility of creating transhuman intelligence raises the possibility that those intelligent beings would treat humans the same way humans treat animals: with a range of options between vermin to be exterminated, farm animals to be ruthlessly exploited, or companions to be doted on and controlled like small children.
  • It is the rich who could best afford to transform themselves into long-lived or immortal transhumans, thus crystallizing the capitalist class hierarchy into a permanent evolutionary outcome.
  • Immortality, while at the first glance appealing, is probably the worst of all possible outcomes, as it raises the spectre of a ruling elite that could last indefinitely. Gone is the presence of death as the great equalizer, from whom even the worst tyrants and plutocrats cannot escape.

The End is Nigh

exit_signLast spring, I had serious doubts my current job was a good match that would (or should) last. Some changes were made, it got better, and I persevered.

Recently, however, it’s been increasingly evident that’s not enough. I’m not really culturally a good match for where I am, plus the work, while better than it was, is still not as good a match as it could be. Plus I have some real doubts about the long-term viability of the place; it would not surprise me much if things suddenly collapsed, and in a way that tainted all current employees with a stench of failure.

Yesterday, in fact, I had been planning my exit during commute hours. I was going to break the news to them next month that I wanted to depart some time in the fall. Instead, they broke the news to me today. Nothing’s happening very soon, but it looks like my ideal target date of sometime in the first week of October will be my last day. There’s a final project I want to wrap up; once that’s in place I’ll be able to depart on good terms, having made a positive contribution during my tenure.

I don’t have anything lined up to replace it. First, the nature of my current job means I really haven’t had the time to do a good job search (I’ve done some, but not much). Second, I really feel I need some time to decompress. The risk is pretty low in my field, so I’m not that worried.

Even if the worst comes to past, my whole exercise of buying a house and trying to settle down was something of an experiment that I wasn’t sure would work, so even that would not be a huge shock. It will be nice if it works, but it won’t be the end of the world if it doesn’t.

Actually, the “worst” won’t come to pass; the real worst would involve me lying and saying I’d be happy to do the old work that bored me to tears so I could stick it out there (thereby throwing more of my life away doing something I absolutely hate).