They Go to Impressive Lengths

I’m a sucker for lame jokes, and Unhappy Hipsters made me very happy with this, but I still prefer hipster puppies.

That sound?

It’s my adolescent revolutionary fantasies bubbling to the surface after years of critique and repression:

Hipster carries weapon (bazooka?) and riot gear shield.

Photo by Vladimir Pirogov/Reuters via Unleashing Chiang.

Damage is a feature not a bug

Disaster porn for engineers:

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This seemed like a good opportunity to point out that while that video makes the damage look pretty bad and cause youtube commenters to call for the designers heads, this is an example of a building behaving well.  The concrete outside the wall rebar cage spalled off, which looks like failure, but is predictable and intentional – you need a layer of concrete outside the cage for corrosion protection that you plan on being sacrificed during an earthquake.  The rest of the wall remained confined and was able to cycle through major inelastic deformations to dissipate energy and prevent the rest of the building from collapsing.  They were so effective that the owners are planning on repairing the damaged shear walls and finishes and reopening, which is pretty impressive.

They make the jokes too easy

The Architect’s Newspaper mistakenly lists the projected cost of the LA 101 freeway cap park at $1 trillion instead of $1 billion.  Come on architects, these are easy numbers…

Update: The landscape architects got it right.

Not forever…just for now

I thought this Ruffini health care retrospective began well, but what I don’t understand is once you admit to yourself that there are market failures that hurt people that government can ameliorate…where does that leave you?  Patrick says: “On health care, I have no idea what our basic guiding principle is. Seriously, I don’t.”  This sounds like an existential crisis, and I think I can help: it leaves you on the left.

The typical US economic policy divide is that Democrats want to use government to correct for failures while Republicans blame government intervention for the same.  Now, it’s certainly possible for that dynamic to change, and for the next right to be a European-style conservative party that embraces social investment & regulation while emphasizing free market methods of execution.  But that would require a much different Republican party, and more importantly requires that you first create the social investment and regulation.

Which is to say, if you want to expand the social safety net, all things being equal, you’re on the left in contemporary American politics.  Maybe, now that HCR has passed, or in a few more years after Obama’s ‘socialism’ has marched farther forward, you’ll find yourself on the right.  But advocating expanding government from the right means you’ve divorced yourself from political reality.

Also refute the premise


“Let me get this straight,” the liberals respond. “You want us to throw batting-practice fastballs, off a regulation mound, to batters holding rocket launchers while we’re in the field; but when we come to the plate, you expect us to hit doctored balls thrown off a spiked Little League mound with wooden bats, or you’re gonna call us hypocrites?”

“Pretty much.

I enjoyed this metaphor tremendously, but it’s also important to note that what Obama did today is substantively different than Bush’s signing statements.  Obama’s order details how the existing anti-abortion provisions of the heath care legislation will be enforced, whereas Bush’s statements would typically indicate provisions that he planned on ignoring as unconstitutional per his administration’s warped view of their national security powers.

The former reflects a correct view of the executive’s roll in enforcing laws, while the latter is an immoral power grab.

Even babies fall victim to Godwin’s Law

Photo from Potency by Nina Maria Kleivan

Nina Maria Kleivan:

You need to be conscious that your actions have consequences that impact on your fellow human beings. The people I let my daughter portray didn’t give a damn about the human cost, the casualties, their thoughts caused.

The responsibility is yours alone. You can’t throw it away – as a parent, as human beings – and say that you just followed orders.

I’ve never heard someone defend their parenting with ‘I was just following orders,’ but I’ll grant the general moral thrust makes sense. However, a lot of the import is lost by focusing on larger than life supervillains. Very few people’s children (hopefully!) will grow up to be Stalin. By contrast many people’s children will grow up to be assistant manager of environmental safety at Corporation X who one day has to decide whether to overlook a potentially dangerous chemical dumping incident that will cost there company $$$ to clean up. Or whatever.

The point is most children grow up to be evil in a tremendously boring way that, in aggregate, is tremendously harmful to society. And our focus on ultimate personifications of evil undermines the severity of your child’s actual probable transgressions — “after all, it’s not like they’re Hitler!”

So I’d like to see Kleivan’s follow-up piece with her child dressed as a human resources consultant or a Army drone operator or a condo developer. And that would actually be a ‘potent’ and controversial piece, rather than just posing as one.

We got a real Horatio Alger story here

It’s good to know that after failing at everything else in your life you can covert to conservatism and become wealthy and famous peddling righteous indignation at invented victimizations.  The right-wing blogosphere is like a giant performance art piece critiquing American Meritocracy.


Mark Dery in Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century:

The rhetoric of escape velocity crosses cyberpunk science fiction with the Pentacostal belief in an apocalyptic Rapture, in which history ends and the faithful are gathered up into the heavens. Visions of a cyber-Rapture are a fatal seduction, distracting us from the devastation of nature, the unraveling of the social fabric, and the widening chasm between the technocratic elite and the minimum-wage masses.

Shorter Dery: Go fuck yourself Ray Kurzweil.

Inner City Pressure

A song in honor of my troubles with random undeserved parking citations.  I don’t think people have this problem in the suburbs.

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Hacking No Child Left Behind

It’s hard to describe how awesome it is to see that my former high school district is manipulating No Child Left Behind in such innovative ways.  I’m almost proud.

Basically, NCLB school evaluation in Califnornia is based on the percent of 10th graders who pass the HS Exit Exam.  It doesn’t matter if the student passes the test in a later grade; the 10th grade rate is the key statistic.  The Kern High School District has therefore taken an ‘assume a can-opener’ approach to this challenge and eliminated sophomores.  Or at least the low-performing ones.

Here’s how it works:

The Man: We have decided that you have ‘failed’ your freshman year by not earning enough units to be advanced.

You: Fuck me.

The Man: Hey! Language, please.

You: Sorry. That sucks.

The Man: Yes, well, so do your grades. Now you will redo your freshman year and make up the classes you failed so you can rejoin your class.

You: Hmph. What if I fail again? Do I stay a freshman?

The Man: No.

You: Oh. Do I become a sophomore?

The Man: No.

You: Ok…well what?

The Man: You’ll be a junior.

You: Even if I fail? Again?

The Man: Of course. We don’t want to hold you back, we just want to give you more time to succeed.

You: Wait, wait, wait. So you’re saying you’re going to keep me locked in hear for 5 years now?!

The Man: Don’t be ridiculous. If you can’t graduate in 4 years, then there’s nothing we can do to help you.

You: So how is that ‘more time to succeed?’

The Man: Well, it’s more time to prepare for the exit exam, which you won’t take until you’re a sophomore, or in your case, a junior.

You: I’m never going to take that fucking test.

The Man: We know sport.  And it’s ok.

You: What?

The Man: Well, I shouldn’t tell you this, but let’s be honest. You’re not going to pass the exit exam.  I mean, you might, eventually, but certainly not next year. Not as a sophomore. And we can’t have that. If our sophomore pass rate dives, it’s means lost funds, lost promotions, worse education for all you kids. And that wouldn’t be fair, would it? It’d be better for all of us if you just skipped next years test. I trust you’re agreeable?

You: Maybe. IF I take your test, what if I fail junior year?

The Man: Nothing! It would be unfortunate for you, but rest assured it won’t affect me, and I won’t be on your case. No one will look at that statistic!

You: You guys are gangster. I feel suddenly full of school pride.

The Man: Um, thank you. See you at freshman orientation.

Thank you RISA

Because of you, when the boss catches us having rubber band fights we can always just say: “I’m iterating for p-delta.”

Similar to coders really.

Update: It’s embarrassing when you misspell the punchline.

Counter-revolutionary design

Blimp Town, NY

What If New York City 3 by Studio Lindfors

This is pretty awesome, but it would make it much harder to use the political & economic disruption of a precipitous rise in sea levels to stage a world revolution.

[vis BLDGBLOG, so so long ago]

Used to say you were flawed if you weren’t free

Not that she let’s John Edwards completely off the hook, but this passage by Caitlin Flanagan describing Rielle Hunter is appalling:

…his (former) mistress, a known hellcat who has been flummoxing boy-men since the ’80s and whose rage over Elizabeth’s book is held in check only (and here I’m admittedly basing my speculation largely on what I’ve come to learn about women’s dreams and desires) by her hankering to live in Tara. Hers is not an intelligence or an ambition difficult to plumb, and her dream is almost certainly to have Elizabeth shuffle off the mortal coil so that she can instate herself in the North Carolina pleasure dome and become the fun, hip, “Being Is Free,” bleached-blond, super open-minded, videographing, Power of Now stepmom, a prospect so hideous that it makes Elizabeth Edwards’s last-chance book tour look like what it is: a desperate attempt to protect her sweet, sad children from the influence of this erstwhile cokehead and present-day weasel after she has died.

Really? I harbor no love for Hunter — she was the second party in a deceitful conspiracy that brought down the progressive presidential campaign that I supported — but this seems like an absurd attempt to throw the rhetorical kitchen sink at her.  Ta-Nehisi calls it “gender-nationalist,” and I think that’s right in the sense that only Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards are really granted any agency in the piece, whereas John Edwards, party one in the previously mentioned conspiracy, is a dolt who decided to blow up a campaign that was incredibly important to millions of people…why exactly? Because Hunter is a mean slut?

Certainly writing a piece that focuses on Hunter ties in much better with an examination of the life and beliefs of Helen Gurley Brown and gives Flanagan license to critique revisionist feminist historians who would turn Brown’s “how to win a millionaire” guidebook into a liberatory text.  And while the magazine-long-form is long, it’s not infinite, so one can excuse the absense of a socio-biological (or whatever) critical framework to explain John’s actions.  However, none of that explains the vitriol directed at Hunter, who for all her flaws was not the one tasked with being faithful to a partner or honorable to a movement.

The electoral vanguard will not be uninsured

I know that chicken little can be a useful role to play, and I want to see the health care debate pushed left as much as the next blogger, but I also feel bound to abide by certain numbers.  The collective blow-up over Baucus’s bill (see TPM, Pandagon, NMMNB, & LGM), while completely justified on the merits — the bill sucks — is completely off base regarding the electoral impact.

Assuming Democrats do pass a bill where “the poor, the unemployed, the working class are forced to pay large sums they don’t have to insurance companies for “junk insurance” with high deductibles” (aimai) or “the problem of the uninsured [is solved] by passing a law forcing them to buy health insurance which, by definition, most a) cannot afford or b) are gambling they won’t need because they’re young and healthy” (TPM), how potentially damaging is the offended constituency?  This is a crude question and obviously the morality of a policy has nothing to do with political power. But I’m tired of the ambiguous boogie man of electoral backlash.  Let’s quantify:

Voting patterns for insured vs. uninsured people in the United States.

My chart of voting behavior for insured vs. uninsured people per US HHS Overview of the Uninsured in the United States, KaiserEDU Public Opinion: Health Care and the 2008 Election, and Gallup 2009 Detailed Political ideology.

Uninsured, politically moderate, likely voters (UPMLV).  That’s my definition of the demographic who will be directly adversely affected if Democrats pair individual mandates with low levels of government subsidy.  At most, that means 4% of voters.  4% isn’t nothing.  Plenty of elections have been decided by less.  Given current patterns, it’s 2/3 of the 6% swing Republicans potentially need to retake the House, and if Republicans did win 26 seats, that would be a big deal.

However, that number assumes a group so outraged as to produce a 100-0 split.  It assumes no subsidies reach the UPMLV to dull the anger.  It assumes that the uninsured are moderate at the same rate as the general population, when they likely skew liberal.  I don’t feel comfortable trying to quantify these factors, since the combined margins of error become an order of magnitude greater than the size of the population we’re talking about, which of course is the larger point: we’re debating the electoral importance of Microtrends-sized group.  Outside of politicians still being scammed by Mark Penn, I think we can agree that this is not going to be a winning argument for better health care reform.

What’s most noteworthy about this whole reform process is that universal/expanded access to insurance is the core of all the health care reform bills, even Baucus’s lame one.  Democratic politicians have largely ignored the fact that there’s no real political margin among swing voters in reducing the uninsured.  This actually says something pretty positive about the bulk of the Democratic political class.

A few notes about chart methodology:

  • “% who voted in 2002” is from KaiserEDU and refers to the percent of uninsured and insured people, respectively, who self-reported having voted in the 2002 midterm congressional elections.  I could not locate 2006 data, and in general it is a tragedy that every 2006 & 2008 exit poll didn’t record respondents health insurance status.  For shame, pollsters, for shame.
  • “% of 2002 voters” numbers are determined using the following equation: [ “% of total insured population” x “% insured who voted in 2002” ] / [(“% of total insured population” x “% insured who voted in 2002” ) + (“% of total uninsured population” x “% uninsured who voted in 2002” )]
  • Insured vs. uninsured as a percent of total population comes from the US HHS 2007 population survey, and given recent job losses the uninsured share is undoubtedly higher, likely meaning that uninsured voters will make up a higher percentage of the 2010 electorate.
  • Final set of bars overlays Gallup’s partisan identification data over the Insured/Uninsured bars for “% 2002 voters”.  This is a bad assumption given the income, age, and race statistical disparity between insured and uninsured populations, but is methodologically conservative for estimating “uninsured likely swing voters.”

Bacon-wrapped hot dogs

LA Hot Dog Vernacular

chinatown03 by Juan23

LA hot dogs should really be added to this list.  Even my vegetarian wife agrees that when you wrap hot dogs in bacon and serve with fried onions and peppers you have achieved a superior product.  Take that New York.