More Hacking

Published at 17:59 on 29 July 2016

This time it’s Hillary’s campaign computers that were targeted. Not good. The only thing I have to say is to be cautious about any attempts to proclaim anyone guilty about it absent good, hard evidence.

The Latest Presidential Campaign News

Published at 07:21 on 28 July 2016

As I predicted, the leopard cannot change his spots, as the latest Trump gaffe, wherein he besought the assistance of foreign espionage, illustrates. The only question is, will Trump’s gaffes be enough to sink his campaign, given what a weak one the Democrats are running?

As I cautioned, it’s turning out that the Russian government might not be involved in the leaked emails after all. This developing story, if borne out, points to poor judgement and lack of emotional maturity on the part of both the Democratic Party leadership and Julian Assange, the former because they hastily embraced a simplistic conspiracy theory, and the latter because he let a personal spat with Hillary override broader and more important considerations.

Summing up the Convention

Published at 08:19 on 27 July 2016

None of the following points conflict with each other. If you think they do, your view of the world is most likely overly simplistic and worthy of reconsideration.

Did the Democrats play dirty pool? They did. And they got caught.

Is the system vile and immoral and in need of a revolution? It is.

Does Hillary represent the hope of any real change? She does not.

Was Sanders’ campaign always the longest of long shots? It was.

Is Hillary winning the election still a distinctly better outcome than Trump winning it? It most definitely is.

Was Sanders right is being something of a holdout and refusing to endorse until the last minute? Yes, because it was a best-faith effort on his part to maximize his effort at changing the corrupt and unjust status quo.

Given the above, had Sanders then basically committed himself to having to endorse Hillary in as strong a voice as possible at the convention? He had.

Should this be considered the end of the story? No; history marches on.

Should only electoral politics be considered a valid tool? Absolutely not! The extremely modest outcome of the whole Sanders exercise illustrates its limitations.

Four Things about the Wikileaked E-Mails

Published at 17:51 on 26 July 2016

  1. There hasn’t been any definitive evidence linking their release to the Russian government. Yes, the DNC servers were hacked from Russia. They were also hacked from outside Russia (they were hacked more than once). The nature of the internet means that even the hacking that appeared to come from Russia might have actually originated elsewhere. Furthermore, even if the leaked messages did originate from Russia, they could have come from a non-government hacking group.
  2. Thus, all the hyperventilating from Democrats about it being a Putin plot appears at this point to have at least a whiff of conspiracy-mongering in it. Sad to see people who’d slap down cheap 9/11 or Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories be so eager to jump on such a thing themselves, but it just goes to show what a total joke Establishment politics is (now more than ever).
  3. Hillary Clinton’s State Department was a key player in backing a coup d’etat that destroyed democracy in Honduras. As such, she doesn’t have any moral ground to stand on when it comes to condemning interference in another country’s democratic processes.
  4. All that said, a garden-variety Establishment hypocrite is still vastly better than a fascist like Trump.

A Difficult Problem

Published at 08:22 on 25 July 2016

There’s now a definite pattern of shooters who are not a tight part of the ISIS network claiming ISIS as the inspiration for their crimes.

The grim news is that there’s very little that can be done about such attacks. Attacking ISIS itself directly won’t help much. Even if one successfully denies ISIS over the control of any land area, it will still exist as an underground organization, and still be there to inspire certain individuals to do dastardly things. Even if that underground organization is effectively neutralized, some other organization with similar views will arise to take its place.

When it comes to acting as a mere source for inspiration, it’s very hard to stop something from having an effect. There’s no formal network that can be attacked top stop news from traveling, save for news-reporting organizations themselves. And that’s not compatible with the values of an open society.

Michael Moore is Exaggerating

Published at 09:25 on 24 July 2016

Michael Moore is exaggerating when he states that Trump will win. This is belied by how he closes his article:

(Next week I will post my thoughts on Trump’s Achilles Heel and how I think he can be beat [emphasis added].)

So he’s merely using hyperbole to try and get attention. He’s doing so for good reason: he’s right. Trump can win. Hillary’s tone-deaf V.P. choice shows that plainly.

That the talking heads of Establishment politics can’t see it just proves how irrelevant and out-of-touch Establishment politics (which couldn’t see Trump winning the GOP primary) has become.

Self-Driving Cars, Again

Published at 10:54 on 23 July 2016

I’ve become involved in a discussion about self-driving cars on an Internet forum, and the expected techno-utopian who thinks they will be a sea change which obsoletes mass transit has popped up. To summarize a past post, no, they won’t:

  • They will increase the capacity of existing freeways, but that’s nothing that building or expanding freeways doesn’t currently do, and such increased capacity falls victim to the induced demand problem. There is absolutely no reason to expect that the extra capacity furnished by self-driving cars will magically function differently than that furnished by more traditional means.
  • It’s actually worse than the above. By automating driving, self-driving cars will make driving easier. When you make something easier, the natural expectation is that people will do more of it. In other words, self-driving cars will themselves be a significant new inducer of demand for road space.
  • Some of the worst congestion is found on surface streets in commercial areas, where there isn’t much (or any) room for more cars on the existing streets. Self-driving cars will do nothing to alter this fact; automation does not repeal the basic laws of geometry. Quite the contrary; by increasing the capacity of freeways to deliver vehicles to such areas, they will exacerbate this congestion.

In fact, there’s a good chance that self-driving technology will make mass transit more relevant:

  • As demonstrated above, it will make congestion tend to get worse, thus increasing the need for alternatives to personal vehicles.
  • One of the largest costs for transit agencies (in fact, it’s typically the largest cost) is the labor cost for operating the transit vehicles. Self-driving buses will therefore enable significant savings for such agencies.
  • Labor costs are a big part of the reason why only big buses and not minibuses are used (the latter save very little money for agencies, because labor costs and not equipment or fuel costs dominate). By enabling minibuses to economically replace larger ones, self-driving buses will enable better, more frequent service to low-density areas that are difficult to serve well with traditional mass transit.
  • Self-driving cars will further help the ability of transit to serve low-density suburbia by making it easy for riders to get to train stations without requiring huge, expensive park-and-ride garages (which tend to fill up early). Riders can send the car back home after it drops them off; this won’t exacerbate congestion because travel will happen in the opposite direction, and residential streets (unlike freeways and commercial streets) typically don’t suffer congestion issues anyhow.

On top of all that, there’s energy efficiency and the need to reduce fossil fuel use. Self-driving cars still require several tons of steel to often carry just a single person around. The general wastefulness of the personal automobile remains unchanged.

Trump May Win (But Probably Won’t)

Published at 08:15 on 22 July 2016

Trump’s big speech last night was full of lies and half-truths, but:

  • That’s only to be expected in a major party political speech, particularly in a right-wing candidate’s speech, and especially in a Trump speech.
  • It was, regardless of truth value, very polished and on-message.
  • As such, the guy has a real chance of winning if he stays on that message.

However, that final point is an extremely big if. Donald Trump has a well-established reputation of having very little self-control over what he says. I doubt the leopard can change his spots.

Understanding Nathan Lewis

Published at 08:13 on 21 July 2016

It took me a while to figure out what this guy is about. The home page of his site is full of all sorts of gold bug stuff, yet when you dig a bit you find all sorts of urbanist and ecological articles that are not what one would expect from the typical gold bug (who tends to be a fairly garden variety right-winger).

But Lewis is not a garden-variety right-winger. He seems to be what can best be characterized, without prejudice, as a reactionary: he generally admires earlier ways of doing things, be they building cities or establishing a monetary system, and wants to return to them.

In the case of cities, he has something of a point; many of the recent innovations in architecture and urban design have been pretty stupid. As someone who’s never traveled outside of North America (I think I should do a post on that soon), it was something of a revelation to me that every city I have experience with, with the possible exception of inner Santa Fe or Boston, is in a sense an example of dysfunctional modernist design.

With respect to the gold standard, not so much. Money is not an easy thing to get right, but I can’t see how that justifies a childlike faith that the amount of easily-mineable gold the Earth’s crust happened to be formed with is magically the correct amount of an exchange medium for an economy whose size keeps changing.

Just for openers, in the face of a growing economy a gold standard will simply reward and strengthen the social pathology of the class hierarchy; as money gets more relatively scarce, it gets more comparatively valuable, so those who already have a lot of it will get richer by doing nothing more than sitting around and watching their gold get more valuable. Why create and reward a class or rich idlers?

But still, some of the guy’s urbanist ideas are worth a read, at least if like me you don’t personally have experience with Old World cities.