Interesting Stuff – 2017-04-03

Ok, so the start of the year was very slow for blogging. I’m always looking for the right balance; bear with me.

Here’s some stuff I found interesting recently.

A couple of articles centered on the fine art of persuasion. First, the infamous “gotcha” moments in debates and how utterly useless they really are in terms of authentic persuasion. Although the article does not dive into it, this drive to embarrass one’s opponent in the public arena is certainly alive and well in politics. We can do better.

And by “do better” clearly the ideal form of persuasion is always to call one’s interlocutor a Nazi. Studies have shown that strategy to be highly effective!

No, I’m not done with satire just yet. I have a new hero in my life; a new man to admire. That lone fellow who, on Sunday mornings, will not stand and greet those around him; an overused ritual devoid of truly significant interpersonal connection, and bearing all the marks of being a “we do this only because every other church does this, because somebody somewhere thought it was a good idea” practice.

Here’s an extremely informative history of taxation in Canada. Some interesting take-aways:

  • Personal income tax was only introduced about 100 years ago.
  • Peronsal income tax now represents about half of government revenue.
  • At first government did very little (lighthouses, postal system, transportation and communication), but now government spends a huge chunk of its money – pardon me, OUR money – on social services.
  • 25% of our tax money just goes to paying the interest on the debt. Now that’s a brilliant use of our hard-earned income.
  • Wars and Liberals are major factors in how much debt we have.

What I walk away from that thinking is, “if we started taking care of each other again (like we apparently used to) would the government stop taking so much of our money?”

I kind of doubt it.

Speaking of inflated government spending, here is a massively long article (confession: I haven’t finished reading it yet) that is extremely interesting. For all the increases in public spending – increases that vastly surpass economic inflation – government services are not getting any better.

So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries.

And it’s actually even worse than this. A lot of these services have decreased in quality, presumably as an attempt to cut costs even further. Doctors used to make house calls; even when I was young in the ’80s my father would still go to the houses of difficult patients who were too sick to come to his office. This study notes that for women who give birth in the hospital, “the standard length of stay was 8 to 14 days in the 1950s but declined to less than 2 days in the mid-1990s”. The doctors I talk to say this isn’t because modern women are healthier, it’s because they kick them out as soon as it’s safe to free up beds for the next person. Historic records of hospital care generally describe leisurely convalescence periods and making sure somebody felt absolutely well before letting them go; this seems bizarre to anyone who has participated in a modern hospital, where the mantra is to kick people out as soon as they’re “stable” ie not in acute crisis.

If we had to provide the same quality of service as we did in 1960, and without the gains from modern technology and globalization, who even knows how many times more health care would cost? Fifty times more? A hundred times more?

And the same is true for colleges and houses and subways and so on.

Strange to think about. As I said, I haven’t read the whole thing, but he appears to pound through a whole bunch of explanations people are likely to propose and (for the ones I saw) shows that each of those explanations – at least in isolation – doesn’t explain this.

Fascinating. Economies of scale, it would seem, do not always bring cost effectiveness.

I already linked to this video, which I first heard of at the Heterodox Academy, but it’s so powerful I just had to link to it again.

Put on some boots!

So a woman gets stone drunk, passes out in the back of a cab and finds out the cabbie took advantage of the situation. The central question of the trial, it would seem, is “did she consent?”

I propose we ask a different question; is it time to reconsider the impact of alcohol on our society? Something is wrong if women are going out and getting so hammered that they cannot remember what happened that led the to being half naked and in the company of a total stranger in the back seat of a taxi.

Not a good situation. Perhaps some self-imposed prohibition might be a good idea. Sobriety, anybody?

We are told that we can choose our gender, and that it might not align with the gender we were “assigned” at birth. Apparently we can also choose our race, even if it does not align with the race that was “assigned” at birth. Or, at least some people are choosing their race.

Funny story time. A good friend of mine went into a store. At the check-out he asked the “progressive looking” cashier if she was aware of gender dysphoria, the conviction that one’s gender is other than what their biology might suggest.

Of course she had heard of that.

My friend explained that he has “age dysphoria” (another term for the transgenarianism I suffer previously described) and that his self-identified age is something other than what his biology dictates. In his case, he self-identifies as older than 60.

“So, can I get the senior’s discount?” He asked.

Somewhat shocked, but unable to refute the logic (having affirmed gender dysphoria moments earlier) she gave him the discount.

It still makes me shake my head.

More on “medicinal” marijauna. Doctor’s, it seem, are not particularly supportive of it.

“This is something that was imposed on us by the government and the majority of physicians do not want to have anything to do with it.”

When it comes to climate change we (supposedly) listen to the experts. But when it comes to good old-fashioned pot, well apparently we know better than the experts.

Remember all that stuff about affirming gay rights because if we don’t then we’re hateful and contributing to their high rate of suicide.

Well, maybe not. This was a profound, powerful and unsettling article written by a gay man on precisely this subject. Whatever image of the gay world you might have from pop culture is likely about to be overthrown if you read this particular article. Not pretty.

Here’s a statement of principles regarding free inquiry, from Middlebury College. It seems to me this is a very good start to the subject. It’s not a long statement so go and read it.

Must be nice to work for a union in Alberta. While the rest of us are trying to hold on to our jobs, they just got raises.

Some headlines just fall under the category of, “is anybody surprised?” – Teen dating violence can lead to a greater risk of abuse late in life. Really? Go figure. Per the article,

“When I talk to adolescents, they may not recognize that what they’re experiencing is dating violence,” says Exner-Cortens. “For a lot of them, it’s their very first encounter in a romantic setting, so they may not know that it’s not healthy. So, from a primary prevention — or stopping before it starts — standpoint, we want to be communicating healthy relationships messages to adolescents.

“That you have a right to be safe in your relationship, and if a partner ever makes you feel unsafe or hurts you, that’s not okay, and you have a right to leave and seek help.”

This really leads one to wonder on what possible grounds teenagers in their “first encounter in a romantic setting” might think that violence is part of the equation. Maybe Fifty Shades of Grey?