Showing posts from 2014

Drivers Obeying the Law, Part II

I was biking South down Ladd towards the stoplight at Division, when I heard the Suburban behind me pull around to try a pass. I was going at 25 mph, and there was another car that had just turned off of Division and was heading North in the opposing lane. Once I saw that there was oncoming traffic, I knew there was no way the Suburban could make the pass without causing a head-on collision. But he made the pass anyway! The other car had to slam on their brakes; the right taillight of the Suburban passed a foot from my handlebars. The stoplight at Division was red, so I caught him seconds after he passed me. I tapped on his window and said that he had passed too close. He had given me only a foot, and the minimum passing distance is my fall height (6 ft). He said that he had been "completely in the other lane," and that I should ride further over. Again, I was riding 25 mph--the speed limit--and had I been riding any further over I would have risked getting do

Alan Dershowitz is an America-hating Bleeding-heart Liberal

About 8 years ago, I remarked to my eye doctor that maybe Alan Dershowitz's torture warrant idea wasn't such a bad one if the alternative was no accountability at all. Apparently he thought Dershowitz was an America-hating bleeding heart liberal, though, because he launched into a rant about how the CIA isn't stupid, they know that torture can produce unreliable information, and they always verify torture intelligence against other information gathered. (Other highlights: the ticking bomb scenario proves that using torture to gather intelligence is always justified; we don't know what is going on, so therefore no one should oppose it.) Now that we have the Senate report, we know that my eye doctor was hopelessly naive. The CIA did indeed take intelligence gathered under torture as gospel, sometimes to disastrous ends—nearly letting bin Laden's driver get away, torturing innocent people whose names were given up under torture, etc. I guess I shouldn't be surpri

Torture vs. American Exceptionalism

Mitt Romney, in No Apology: The Case for American Greatness : I make no apology for my conviction that America's economic and military leadership is not only good for America but also critical for freedom and peace around the world. (Page 2) ... What's chilling to consider is that if America is not the superpower, others will take our place. What nation or nations would rise, and what would be the consequences for our safety, freedom, and prosperity? The world is a safer place when America is strong.... ... The very existence of American power helps to hold tyrants in check and reduces the risk of precipitous war. (Page 10) ... No nation has shed more blood for more noble causes than the United States. Its beneficence and benevolence are unmatched by any nation on earth, and by any nation in history. Abraham Lincoln understood that the destiny of the world was twined to the destiny of America. It is why he called the United States the "last, best hope of

Solidarity for me, but not for thee

On November 14, Portland's KGW TV station reported that "Portland Police Chief [Mike Reese] on Monday ordered three officers to remove 'I am Darren Wilson' images from their Facebook pages." Reese's order was not without controversy: Maybe the Portland officers where [sic] expressing their rights of free speech when showing solidarity with their brother? [ 1 ] I think that what they are saying is that they don't support the lynching of a white police officer without benefit of due process, a trial or even charges being brought forward.... [ 2 ] On November 30, six members of the St. Louis Rams entered the field with their hands up in the air, in the "don't shoot" position, protesting everything that has happened in Ferguson over the last few months. The St. Louis County Police Officers Association was not amused. From the official statement by the SLPOA: The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the

Two Shootings

On April 17, 2005, during an interrogation, Esteban Carpio shot and killed police detective James L. Allen of Providence, RI. Carpio was re-arrested 45 minutes later. He was punched in the face three times by police detective Christopher Zarella, breaking bones in Carpio's face. Comments on Carpio: The streets are not like a court room. There is such thing as street justice, which compensates for the crimes that are not paid for by the legal justice system. That's what he fucking gets. He brought that upon himself Should have let the family's of the people he killed go at him, I promise it would have been much worse. Sympathy sorry we're all out here. Cops should be commended. He walked into the court alive even after shooting a cop. Now that is something! Bet the two people he killed are still dead... Justice bitches...  maybe you shouldn't shoot people in the face This dude took a mans life away. He desevered to be killed. Hopefully he looses si

Overlawyering, Part II

Shorter Kathleen Parker : Having a personal opinion about whether Bill Cosby is a rapist is a violation of his due process rights. Blog posts and tweets must meet the same evidentiary standards as a criminal conviction. Also, FERGUSON!

Even Prime Fallacy

The simplest possible Even Prime Fallacy is shown below: Salviati : Most prime numbers are odd. Simplicio : Two is even! Your argument completely falls apart. We may express this idea more formally: Salviati : p is sometimes true. Simplicio : Yes, but p is sometimes false! Your argument completely falls apart. Simplicio has failed to disprove Salviati, not because Simplicio's rebuttal is illogical or irrelevant, but because it is literally the exact same argument as the one Salviati made! " p is sometimes false" is an inevitable logical consequence of " p is sometimes true." Someone who invokes an even prime fallacy probably thinks of an argument as "words you say in response to words someone else says," rather than as an exercise in logic.

Today in Drivers Obeying the Law...

The sign says NO TURN ON RED . It very clearly indicates what lanes you are legally allowed to turn into. Naturally, the car in front of me turns, on red, into a lane in which it is not allowed. He joins a veritable parade of cars illegally blocking the transit lanes, for what purpose I cannot discern. Further up the street, a car honks at a bus pulling away from the bus stop, even though the car is breaking the law by being in a transit lane. Behind me, a train has to slow to a crawl. The trains take a full block to come to a stop, so the operator has to hit the brakes early to avoid crushing all the cars parked on the tracks. Drivers think the law is very important, which is why they always obey it.

Consent Schmonsent

Shikha Dalmia : At any given moment, one person wants sex more passionately than the other. What's more, whether due to nurture or nature, there is usually a difference in tempo between men and women, with women generally requiring more "convincing." And someone who requires convincing is not yet in a position to offer "affirmative" much less "enthusiastic" consent. That doesn't mean that the final experience is unsatisfying—but it does mean that initially one has to be coaxed out of one's comfort zone. Affirmative consent would criminalize that. I am finding it next to impossible to read this passage in any other way than "women just need to be raped a little bit or they won't want to have sex." It is deeply, deeply creepy.

Rhetorical Bestiary: Free Speech is Censorship

Alan Dershowitz : I would bet anything that 99 percent of the people who are demanding that [Salaita] be restored tenure would be on the exact opposite side of this if he’d been making pro-Israel but equally uncivil statements. Hypocrisy about free speech is universal. Even among Supreme Court justices, who are supposed to be non-ideological, Epstein, Parker, and Segal found a strong tendency to support the free speech rights of their ideological brethren and oppose the free speech rights of their ideological opponents. No doubt your average Joe is even less principled than Scalia, Ginsburg, or Kennedy. If free speech hypocrisy is so banal, why make so much of it? The argument goes something like this: Supporters of X 's right to say p claim they care about free speech rights. Were X saying ¬ p , X 's current supporters would not defend his free speech rights. Therefore, censorship is good! P.S., I am not a crackpot.

Clinton Street: Still Too Scary

Two weeks ago, Bike Portland ran a story on Portland's Clinton St. bike boulevard. It included a quote from PBOT traffic safety specialist Greg Raisman: Our safety performance [on bike boulevards] over time has been excellent. 70 percent of our streets are residential. Less than 20 percent of bike and pedestrian crash activity happens there. … There’s comfort factors that are important in how many cars are on the road. But from a pure safety perspective, the big threat is where you’re crossing the busy streets. Immediately after finishing the article, I hopped on my bike and rode down Clinton to go to dinner with my girlfriend and her coworkers. Just after I passed 43rd Ave. heading toward Chavez, I saw a group of three cyclists heading in the opposite direction with a Subaru following close behind. I kept my eye on the Subaru, because dangerous passing is a daily occurrence on Clinton. Suddenly and without warning, the car swerved into my lane and started heading straight

Reverence for the Law

Patrick George was caught driving 93 in a 55. He doesn't think he should be accountable, though: I didn't hurt anyone, or kill anyone, or sell drugs, or drive drunk, or beat my wife, or steal[.] Next time someone yells at you for rolling your bike through a stop sign, try using Mr. George's excuse. I'm sure your interlocutor will find it persuasive.


Almost incidentally to his main point about the firing of Steven Salaita, Scott Lemieux wrote : Whether he had signed all the paperwork might be relevant to his legal remedies, but from that standpoint of norms and ethics the job was his[.] All too often the law is used to narrow a discussion as much as possible. Salaita didn't have a contract signed, nothing to see here, move along. None of Dylan Farrow's allegations against Woody Allen have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, nothing to see here, move along. Couple arrested for repeatedly threating mountain bikers at a dedicated mountain bike trail system with mace and a gun. Nothing to see here . Move along .

Freedom Is Slavery

Robert Birgenau on violence against protesters: It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not nonviolent civil disobedience. Robert Birgenau on violence against himself: [A]s a long time civil rights activist and firm supporter of non-violence, I do not respond to violent, untruthful verbal attacks. I cannot imagine a definition of "violence" under which being held responsible for an assault that you ordered is more violent than pepper spray and nightsticks.

Rhetorical Bestiary: iPhone

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every old dude who has ever complained about kids fiddling with iPhones spends about 88% of his time fiddling with his iPhone.

Rhetorical Bestiary: The Perfect Number of Teeth

If you do not accept the theory of evolution, I will probably not change your mind. However, I hope I can convince you not to offer this as an anti-evolution argument: We have the perfect number of teeth to fit in our mouths. While creationism perfectly accounts for that result, evolutionism predicts a contrary result: As our faces evolved from chimpanzee-like faces to human faces, the shortening of the muzzle would have caused the teeth to become badly overcrowded in the front of the mouth.

Rhetorical Bestiary: The Myth of Graded Quantifiers

Salviati: Most prime numbers are odd. Simplicio: Two is even! Your argument completely falls apart.

Obviously Good Public Policy

The trouble with the water bill is that the Water Bureau just sends everyone a dollar amount each quarter, and the sheeple pay it. The Water Bureau should email every customer a full table of the rates for water volume, sewer volume, stormwater, and the Superfund surcharge for the harbor. Customers will have to check their meters every quarter and calculate how much they owe to the Water Bureau. (Presumably the billing folks at the Bureau would have to do the same calculations in parallel to ensure they don't get stiffed.) This will lead for a swell of demands for more efficient water and sewer managment. Inspired by Jay Ackroyd.

Build Moar Highways!

It has never been clear to me how borrowing money at a negative interest rate will ruin the nation's finances, but fear that it might has led to a shortage in the Highway Trust Fund, which is scheduled to run out of money in August . The solution to this problem, of course, is to build more highways. Portland did a great job of building us out of congestion, until the 1980 and the last freeway built, I-205. [ 1 ] Apparently this person has never heard of induced demand . This is particularly ironic, because I-205 is the canonical example of induced demand in the Portland metro area.

Other People's Children

Frances Coppola comes down hard on a narrative of children as a lifestyle choice: [D]escribing children as a "lifestyle choice" is ... economically illiterate, at least at the macro level.  At the individual level, having children is indeed a choice. But for society as a whole, c hildren are essential.  Without children, there can be no future growth. Just look at Japan. You can save and invest all you want in order to get ready for retirement, but if there are no younger humans to ship your groceries and stock them at stores, to drill for oil and truck it to gas stations, or to work the electrical stations that provide power to your house, you will have a fucking miserable retirement. You need other people's children even if you decide not to have your own.

The New FiveThirtyEight

Paul Krugman has a hypothesis for why the new FiveThirtyEight has been so roundly criticized: But data never tell a story on their own. They need to be viewed through the lens of some kind of model, and it’s very important to do your best to get a good model. And that usually means turning to experts in whatever field you’re addressing. Krugman thinks that Silver misunderstands why his election models were so successful: Unfortunately, Silver seems to have taken the wrong lesson from his election-forecasting success. In that case, he pitted his statistical approach against campaign-narrative pundits, who turned out to know approximately nothing. What he seems to have concluded is that there are no experts anywhere, that a smart data analyst can and should ignore all that. Silver's key insight, which predated him by decades, is that the best way to find out how people will vote is to ask them how they will vote . In most fields Silver's competition will be a wee b

Rhetorical Bestiary: Choice

You should be able to choose how you get around, as long as you choose to drive a car.

Rhetorical Bestiary: Choice

Washington County Chairman Andy Duyck : We expect a doubling of the population (in the next 50 years), but yet what we identified as urban reserves only accounted for an 11 percent increase in the urban growth boundary. It means much higher density. It means than in about 15 to 20 years, there will be no new single-family homes being built in this region (…) There are some people that don’t want you to have a choice, I think that’s what this election is really all about. You should be able to make any choice you want, as long as you choose to live in a single-family home.


America is a nation of whiners. Whining is our national pastime. We whine about traffic. We whine about the weather. We whine about politics. We whine about our spouses, our bosses, our kids. We whine when we get up in the morning all the way until we go to bed at night. But when you take your whine to the internet, you are a narcissist.

Rhetorical Bestiary: Bad Apples

It is ironic that "it was just a few bad apples" is so often proffered as an excuse, when the full aphorism is " A few bad apples spoil the bunch ."

Lawful Evil

Should Stephen Glass be a lawyer? Natasha Lennard argues that he's no worse than most: The [legal profession] is littered with self-interested careerists willing to put themselves above all else. But here’s the difference between a Glass and, say, a John Yoo. The latter used the letter of law to enable evil. Glass went against the rules of his profession. The law makes room for evil before it will make room for rebels.

Newsflash: Politics is Rife with Hypocrisy and Cynicism

Every once in a while, some says something that I have thought about for ages but have never been able to phrase so eloquently. Kevin Drum : [L]iberals and conservatives tend to be tolerably consistent and principled on matters of policy. Working politicians obviously tailor their messages depending on when, where, and to whom they're speaking, but generally speaking, liberals aren't going to suddenly oppose national healthcare just because Obamacare is having some growing pains and conservatives aren't going to suddenly favor high capital gains rates just because bankers have become a wee bit unpopular. However, when it comes to matters of process , neither liberals nor conservatives tend to be very principled. Both sides have switched their view on filibuster reform based on who happens to be in power, for example. Likewise, they've traded places on their tolerance for broad claims of executive power between the Bush and Obama administrations.

Rhetorical Bestiary: Social Engineering

On social engineering, I must defer to Aimai 's eloquent definition : It's “social engineering” to try to get people to share but it's just nature to let the free market reign. It's “social engineering” to try to stop bullying but it's just nature to let the jocks and the high status people bully the gays and the outcasts. It's social engineering to institute Title 9 and affirmative action policies but it's not social engineering to have legacy acceptance criteria for private schools or for there to be all male organizations.

Unemployment is Down, Hooray!

In most of the employment reports over the last year, the headline unemployment rate has declined. This is almost invariable coupled with the caveat that the decline did not come from more people finding work, but from more people choosing not to look. (The denominator in the unemployment rate excludes anyone who is not trying to find work, such as children, the retired, and anyone who has given up looking.) There have also been monthly employment reports where the employment rate ticked up due to an increase in the number of people looking for work. I hope you will forgive me for not recalling which months, or whether the uptick was lost in the revisions. If a declining unemployment statistic is often a bad thing, and an increasing unemployment statistic is often a good thing, why is the statistic even being reported? It is clearly unable to convey how well the economy is doing. One common alternative is the employment-to-population ratio. Unfortunately, the employment-to-populatio

No, It Will not Be Mandatory to Hire Potheads. Why Do You Ask?

Douglas Wilson is even more worried about marijuana legalization than David Brooks. [W]hat we are seeing is not an expansion of personal choice, but rather a transfer of personal choice away from responsible citizens and to irresponsible ones. Perhaps Douglas Wilson has a different definition of personal choice than I do? In my definition, personal choice means that you get to make personal choices. In Douglas Wilson's definition, you apparently get to make personal choices only if Douglas Wilson approves of the choices you make. Suppose an employer does not want to employ potheads.... [For] a job that the employer believes (rightly) will be affected negatively by the pot.... Suppose... [the employer] has sound reasons for his concern about likely impairment. He has a factory full of very expensive and high-precision equipment. Or he is a hospital administrator writing standards for the neurosurgeons. Or he hires airline pilots who fly passengers around the country. I

David Brooks v. 21st Amendment

In a recent column, David Brooks writes with melancholy about the spreading decriminalization of marijuana. Some people will read it and nod sympathetically through the whole thing; I did to a degree. Many will still favor decriminalization, even after accepting Brooks’ premise. Perhaps because there is another drug with similar effects that is legal to use for those older than 21. For a while in my teenage years, my friends and I drank liquor. I have fond memories of us being silly together. Those moments of uninhibited frolic deepened our friendships. But then we all moved away from it. We didn’t give it up for the obvious health reasons: that it is addictive; that drinking and driving kills you; that young people who drink go on to suffer I.Q. loss and perform worse on other cognitive tests. We gave it up, first, because we each had embarrassing incidents. Drunk people do stupid things (that’s basically the point). I took a few shots one day during lunch and then had to give a

Fuzzy Math

In 2012, the mean annual income of the bottom quintile of American households was $11,490. In 1979, the comparable figure (adjusted for inflation) was $11,808. Seeing that $11,808 is bigger than $11,490, I am at a loss to explain how Bret Stephens thinks that the mean annual incomes of the bottom quintile of American households have increased by 186% since 1979.