Thursday, October 23, 2014

Documentary Night: Frontline- The Trouble With Antibiotics


Well, this is all horrifying.

This is a preview.Watch the full video at PBS' website.



Bonus: Anderson Cooper discovering that his ancestor was a slave owner who was beaten to death by a rebellious slave.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Root Of Conservative Action: Prejudice


One of my most frequently-trotted-out attacks against conservatives is that they rarely understand their own history. They rarely understand that what they are arguing for today is the ideological legacy of maniacs who have come before them, the same maniacs who argued for things that no rational conservative would try to argue today for fear of appearing too much of a maniac. Thank God we have the distinctly irrational Tea Party to be used as an example.

For example, the early anti-abortion movement never had anything to do with protecting babies. Children and women were still frequently seen as, more or less, the property of the husband who could do with them as he pleased. You can still see this logic in much modern religious thought where the man is the absolute head of the household. The classic anti-abortion movement thus avoided the sticky problems that crusaders today have, such as all of the hilarious ramifications that come from declaring that the "person" is created at the point of insemination.

Back then, stopping abortions was all about stopping women from having control. The crusaders then didn't hide this. They wrote about it. They didn't rail against the immorality of killing babies. They railed against the immorality of women freely having sex without the "punishment" of children.

The anti-abortion movement is, and always has been, about misogyny.

But what about the large, modern anti-abortion movement? Where did it come from, and how did it achieve a position on the national stage?

Politico has an excellent article showing how, much like many social problems we face, the modern anti-abortion movement was rooted in something totally different: racism.

As the author, historian Randall Ballmer, says:
[T]he abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.
Also of interest is a good example of how fanaticism can propagate and transmogrify, having gravely deleterious effects on society, all the while trying to claim no connection to its past. It also just gives us another reason to hate Reagan.
The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Src: The Real Origins of the Religious Right at Politico.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014

We Must Always Remember: The Police Are The Bad Guys

Rodney King, post-beating
Not all cops are bad. Some of them are good. Some of them are great. Some of them are the kinds of people who will rush into dangerous situations to save people.

But many, possibly most, of them are not, and society must treat police monolithically. Because all police can shoot us and suffer few consequences. All police are protected by the court system. All police protect one another, and when the protectors protect themselves, who are people to look to?

It is for that reason that we must always remember that the police are bad guys. We should fear them. It is also important to stress that saying so is not a radical thing. It has never been a radical thing. The police have always been the bad guys. They stood against civil rights workers. They stood against anti-war demonstrators. They stood against Occupy Wall Street. They stood against suffragettes. They stood against union organizers. The police have literally been the wall through which justice and progress must punch.

And that is a sad thing to say. The police should be our knights in shining armor. They should be protectors. They should be many things, and they are not. Instead, they are bad guys.

The Cost: What Stop and Frisk Does to a Young Man’s Soul

By the time our boy was an adolescent, big for his age, very grown looking though he was still just a kid, I understood too well what Marilyn’s expression had meant that day in the pizzeria. Of course it wasn’t middle-aged, middle-class white women giving him grief. It was the white security guard at his school, for instance, who found Trey wearing his cap indoors one day in violation of school rules. The guard tried to confiscate it, but Trey resisted—that Yankees cap was a gift from Erick, he was afraid he wouldn’t get it back if the guard took it, and so Trey held on.

The guard grabbed him in a headlock, clamping his arm around my godson’s throat, choking him, and Trey, unable to breathe, grabbed hold of the man’s arm, trying to break free. The guard shoved him against the wall, jerked his hands behind him and handcuffed him. Then he took Trey, not to the principal’s office for wearing a ball cap in school, but downtown to Brooklyn Central Booking, where my godson was charged with assaulting a school security officer. Trey was 14 years old.

So, I Saw Godzilla.


And it was a huge disappointment. I won't go into details, since I could easily do a scene-by-scene analysis explaining why the film is something of a train wreck in spots, but I will point out some of the bits that most annoyed me.

First, Aaron Taylor Johnson is a human potato. Whenever he is on screen the film drags to a near stop. I don't know whether it was him or the director, but a damp rag would have put in a better performance.

His leaden performance was exacerbated by all of the best actors either being killed or given nothing to work with. Bryan Cranston gets offed early on; Juliette Binoche was hired to deliver four lines before also dying; and Ken Watanabe spends the movie doing his best facial impression of a person who is terrified that the fart he just pushed out may have included some poop.

Strange then, you might say, that Cranston is killed fifteen minutes into the movie but appears to be the star in the trailers. That's because the people making the trailers knew full well that Bryan Cranston is the only thing of interest in the film and they damn well better use everything they have.

I'm not kidding. They used everything. Combined with the clips online and the trailers, most people have seen Cranston's entire contribution to the movie.

Second, Aaron Taylor Johnston's character is unnecessary... as are the characters of most of the military, the young boy that Taylor Johnson meets on the commuter rail in Hawaii, Bryan Cranston's wife, Ken Watanabe's side-kick... really, anyone who isn't Watanabe, Cranston, or David Strathairn could easily be dumped from the script.

Third, as with Nolan's Batman films, this is a stupid movie that takes itself waaaaaay too seriously. Pacific Rim was leagues better than this film if for no other reason than because it recognized that it was silly.

And while talking about Nolan's Batman films, I thought the hydrogen bomb run at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, where Batman takes the bomb out to sea to save Gotham, was stupid. He would have never gotten the bomb far enough away in time.

Godzilla does Nolan one better. Instead of having the bomb on a high-speed, flying Bat-Thing, the bomb is on a clunky tug boat!

In the film, the military men describe the Hiroshima bomb as being like a firecracker in comparison to the bomb they're using, so let's assume that it is similar to Ivy Mike, the first full-yield hydrogen bomb that the US tested. I'll let Wikipedia take it from here.
The blast created a crater 6,240 feet (1.9 km) in diameter and 164 feet (50 m) deep where Elugelab had once been; the blast and water waves from the explosion (some waves up to twenty feet high) stripped the test islands clean of vegetation, as observed by a helicopter survey within 60 minutes after the test, by which time the mushroom cloud and steam were blown away. Radioactive coral debris fell upon ships positioned 35 miles (48 km) from the blast, and the immediate area around the atoll was heavily contaminated for some time.
There is no way that San Francisco would have survived. None. Unless that tugboat was doing four-hundred miles per hour, San Francisco, Oakland, and basically all of the Bay Area would been turned into an atomic wasteland.

Again, none of this would matter if the movie didn't take itself seriously. Pacific Rim also ends with a stupidly-wrong atomic bomb solution, but who cares?! It's a movie about giant robots punching monsters! Godzilla desperately wants us to take it seriously, to experience the movie as though it were possible, and it falls on its face because of this.

Fourth, the premise of the movie is entirely wrong. In the original Godzilla, Godzilla is an ancient creature that is released by an atomic blast. In the 1998 Godzilla, Godzilla is a lizard that is mutated. I like the latter explanation, but that's not what's important. In this Godzilla, the creatures "eat" radiation. They evolved over a billion years ago, when the Earth was much more radioactive than today. Alright. Fine. But they have the creatures eating atomic bombs.

That's ridiculously stupid. Let's ignore that you don't just "get" radiation by eating a bomb. Let's ignore that there is no way to digest the bombs. Let's just focus on the fact that the creatures would not be able to tell that the bombs were radioactive. Bombs are completely shielded. They emit little-to-no radiation.

And even if we assume that the bombs emitted TONS of radiation, at the distances that these creatures are detecting the bombs, they would be unable to tell the difference between a radioactive block of Uranium and the radiation coming from the Sun. And if these things are hunting radiation, why aren't they congregating around Chernobyl? Or the Bikini Islands? Or the Yucca Mountain storage facility.

They actually have one of the creatures leave Yucca Mountain! Why the hell would it leave?!

Fifth, Gareth Edwards seemd to understand that this sort of movie must be a game of anticipation. You can't simply throw all your monsters on screen early in the film. This is a calculated, skillful philosophy that should, in this era of Michael Bay-style movies, be commended.

Unfortunately, that meditative philosophy does not extend to his direction and editing. Cuts are short, dialog is perfunctory, and camera angles and movement are basic. The actual craft of the movie is amateurish. Still, I would rather have good philosophy and poor craft than the opposite... which is Michael Bay.

Sixth, filmmakers don't seem to understand the physics of tsunamis. As Godzilla is approaching the shoreline in Hawaii, the water recedes before coming back in a wave. When that actually happens in tsunamis, that only happens because a large section of ocean floor suddenly dropped three feet relative to some other bit of the sea floor. If a giant object — like, say, Godzilla — is heading toward land, that water is just gonna' come at 'ya. It's not leaving, before. In his defense, Edwards isn't the first one to do this. For example, Deep Impact has it happen.


You know what doesn't precede a massive shock wave? A vacuum. But Hollywood seems set on believing otherwise. This is absolutely nitpicking, but it's just one of those things that annoys me.

I don't like to bash things that people have obviously put a lot of work into, but this was such a large disappointment that I'm angry. They should have hired whoever did the trailers to do the movie, because the trailers were awesome. They made the movie appear far more epic than it really was.

What they really did was make it appear like it was going to treat Godzilla in a mythic, almost 2001: A Space Odyssey sort of way. The actual usage of 2001 music in the trailer reinforced this. That's what I was expecting. That's what I wanted. Instead, I got a pretender. Godzilla is a very simple film that thinks its message is far more profound than it really is.

Godzilla deserved better. Whether it would have gotten better is up for debate, since Hollywood is mostly talentless. In that sense, we're lucky. Lord knows, we could have gotten another 1998, and that would have been painful for all involved, especially the audience.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I Received A Copyright Notice Today


I recently received a copyright warning from my ISP via e-mail. They said that my IP had been associated with an illegal download of a movie. In this case, the movie was I, Frankenstein. This is the first warning of such kind that I have ever received. And yes, I did indeed download I, Frankenstein from Pirate Bay.

First off, I was pissed. I was pissed because contrary to what copyright-pushing corporations would like you to believe, there is nothing wrong with piracy, as this video perfectly illustrates.



That's not to say that piracy isn't an issue that needs to be addressed; it certainly is. The problem is that current laws are a poor tool to address the issue, and the issue itself is incredibly complex, with aspects to it that are economic, social, ethical, and legal.

But that's all for another post. For this post, all that you need to know is that I was pissed. I was made to feel like a criminal for simply taking data that was freely floating around the interwebs. Some of you will undoubtedly think that this feeling is reasonable, and I should feel like a criminal. An explanation as to why you are wrong will likewise have to wait for another post.

Secondly, along with being pissed, I was confused as all get out.

I don't pirate that much anymore. Back in the day, I would pirate everything I could get my hands on. The vast majority of it I never watched or listened to, and the vast majority of the software would never be installed. Still, I pirated it. Today, I might download a movie once per equinox. So it was a real shock to receive a warning long after my pirating days were mostly done.

Furthermore, what an absolutely bizarre movie about which to get a warning! I downloaded the movie specifically because it was purportedly so bad as to be nearly a master class in how not to make an action movie. When your movie is famous for being terrible, you should be happy that anyone wants to watch it at all.

And again, shouldn't you, oh hypothetical interlocutor, be more interested in protecting the movies that people actually wanted to see in the first place. Let's face it, after failing miserably in the box office and being drawn and quartered by critics, I, Frankenstein isn't exactly a valuable piece of media. Most of my motivation for wanting to see the movie was to see a ripped Aaron Eckhart.

In the end, there was a good fifty-percent chance that I never watched the movie. Now that I have received this warning, there is a one-hundred percent chance that I will not watch the movie. I have deleted the file.

Someone, somewhere, thinks that this is a victory for copyright protection. I may as well argue with an evangelical Christian.

So congratulations, whichever company sent that notice. You have successfully stopped someone from watching your colossal bomb that has a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You go, boy. You go.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Documentary Night: Faster Than Sound


This is an older episode of Nova. It's not a "classic" episode. I don't think we can call anything after 1990 "classic" just yet, but it's old enough, being from the 97-98 season. Of course, you probably already knew that from the hilariously mid-1990's CGI applied to every logo at the beginning of the show.

Oh, 90's. You loved your CGI text.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Tablet And Cell Phone Sales Are Slowing, And That's A Good Thing

UPDATE: I didn't realize this when I wrote it, but Samsung's current ad campaign IS "The Next Big Thing". That's hilarious to me.

Apple and its investors are in a panic right now because tablet and cell phone sales are slowing. First off, I'm amazed that anyone is surprised by this. As soon as the Moto G came out, I knew that we were near the end of the smartphone explosion. And even before that, the writing was on the wall.

Apple's competitors have been trying very hard to be Apple. Aside from Samsung, which through sheer brute force managed to become the default Android phone, smartphone companies are not earning money. That's because they cannot be Apple. Apple is Apple because they were the first out the gate. They created a new market. Along with the apple cachet, this allowed Apple to charge a premium and make huge profits.

The only option for the Johnny-come-lately companies it to compete on price. None of them wanted to do this because it's not sexy. It's also a brutal place to be. But which is better, being in a brutal but profitable market, or being bankrupt? Obviously, for companies like HTC, Blackberry, Sony, and Nokia, they all decided that bankruptcy was the better choice. Man, those MBAs are really paying off.

During this slow motion train wreck, these companies threw everything at the wall. Gaming phones and tablets, curved screens, touch panels all over, specialized hardware. They threw it out there, didn't support it, and watched it die. For the winners, all this change resulted in huge profits. But one of the big reasons for that was that with every generation, big changes took place. The iPhone 3Gs was a huge leap from the original iPhone. That is no longer the case.

As I said, the Moto G was the beginning of the end. It was a good enough phone for less than $200 unlocked. The Nokia 510 is another good enough phone for dirt cheap. When products that are super cheap are good enough, the vast majority of people have no reason to upgrade.

And this is fantastic. I grew to hate Apple and their flock because it was always about the next great thing. This earned them huge sales, but stunted the actual potential of their creations. For example, biological evolution requires a stressful but stable environment for changes and selection to take place. If the environment is always changing, there is no persistent pressure to affect selection and evolution never takes places.

The technology market is the same thing. For practical progress to be made, arbitrary progress must slow down. Technological features and standards must remain static so companies can find ways to implement them. If they expect rapid changes, companies will not invest. Software will remain simple, light-weight, and easy to update.

Everyone who lived through the 80's and early 90's remembers that joke about technology being obsolete before you get it home. That joke stopped working in the 2000's because computers stabilized. Software complexity increased a hundred fold in the 90's not just because of technological advancements, but because the market remained mostly stable. A computer bought in 1995 could run software in 2000. I was using a computer that I built in 2002 in 2011. This allowed developers to dump huge amounts of time and money into development knowing that the market would remain open for years into the future.

Developers today have no idea what to expect from the next iPad or iOS. Android is even worse because Google is treating it like its own little fiefdom. Windows Phone has had three major architectural changes and it's barely three years old, with another change in the pipes. Windows RT is a disaster. Windows 8 is only a slightly smaller disaster.

I've always said, I don't want the next best thing, I want the thing that I buy to be functional for ten years.

---

I actually have a personal example of technological change causing harm. Back in the early 2000's, Microsoft was pushing a package of sorts on how to develop robust online applications through Visual Basic 6, Windows 2000, and a few other bits of technology. Visual Basic had already been around for years and had become an immensely successful programming language. This push of theirs was likewise a huge hit. Thousands of develops piled on to create online applications with Microsoft tools.

So Microsoft did the only logical thing: they deprecated all of Visual Studio in favor of .Net. You may not know what .Net is, but I'm sure that you've had problems with downloading updates to .Net to get programs to run. It's a software framework in which a programmer can make software. Any changes to the framework can break software and fuck developers. So when framework changes come down the pipe, it is a terrifying time.

Sometimes, major architectural shifts are great. Apple did that when they released OSX. But Apple had an installed base that was one one-hundredth the size of Windows. They needed change to survive.

When Microsoft did the same thing, they threw the world into chaos. Evolution stopped because people needed to adapt to this new framework, much of which was arbitrarily different.

Microsoft did this because technological stability/stagnancy is a poor profit generator for a company that makes money off the framework. They maximize profits by keeping the framework fluid. Keep customers and developers chasing the next big thing. Indeed, producing a perfect product is the last these companies want, and I hate that.

Look at Windows XP. 30% of computers still run Windows XP and Microsoft is beginning a campaign of annoyance to try to force these people to switch to a newer OS.They made an amazing product with Windows XP. In fact, they made it so good, they were unable to convince people to leave it. And in the twisted logic of software companies, that's a bad thing.

What happened to .Net? Well, I can't directly associate the betrayal of Microsoft's developer base with this trend, but it must play at least a part; Visual Studio saw a massive drop in significance. Visual Basic went from being one of the top three most widely used languages on the planet to, as far as I know, not even in the top ten, although this is a very hard measurement to make. I do know that good old VB6 is still more popular than VB.Net, though, and that says something very important about developers:

They want their shit to work, nothing more.

---

For a few years, everyone seemed wrapped up in the "Post-PC" era nonsense. This was of course just marketing blather to sell tablets. If anything, we are entering the true age of the PC, when they become as stable and ubiquitous as cars and refrigerators. Do we see double digit growth in car sales? No. Of course we don't. That doesn't mean we have entered the post-car era.

But sales are what matters, not actual development. So the stability of the PC was lambasted as dying, while the white-hot tablet and cell phone market was thriving. What they actually meant was that tablets and cell phones were obsolescing faster. It was like the 1980's and 1990's PC market all over again. But just as with the PC, the tablet was cruising to stability. It had to. Which again explains why I was so amazed by anyone who was surprised when the steam started to go out of this Post-PC epoch.

Perhaps it is because our experience in the past moved more slowly. But that was a different time, a different world. Tablets and cell phones moved far more quickly than computers did. Because of that, I think they have already reached their proverbial Windows XP moment, where the products and frameworks being bought today will be good enough for the next five to ten years.

And I couldn't be happier. I love tablets. I think they have an immense amount of potential to do great things. But their consumer focus and ever-changing frameworks prevent real progress from happening. Instead, tablets are primarily used as tools to fuck around on Facebook. And while smartphones have a lot of fun apps, the vast majority of them are mere junk — trifles with which people can while away some time.

I want something more from them, and for that to happen, they need to stop changing. Apple and their ilk will fight this. They always want us chasing the next big thing, real change and development be damned. That's why everyone is starting to flip out about Google Glass and Smart Watches. They need us focused on the next big thing. (See update above)

Tablets and smartphones are no longer the next big thing, and that's great.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Lean Out, Lean In, Lean Out, Then Shake It All About

Sheryl Sandberg has been making noise ever since the release of her book Lean In which encourages women to be more aggressive in their social attainment. I have nothing against Sandberg and think that her heart was in the right place, but her Lean In movement is total horseshit and it has long since worn out its welcome.

First, let's ignore the white, hetero-normative, cis-gendered focus of her book. This is a problem that could fill a book and others have come close to doing so. I actually think that this criticism effectively negates Sandberg's arguments entirely, but it's not the biggest problem that I have with her work.

I also want to point out that while the core argument she is making is nonsense, she makes tons of great points about equality and sexism that are worthy points. If these were novel points or analyses, it would be a bigger deal, but they aren't. These are data points that have been known for a long time.

The biggest problem that I have is that Sandberg further reinforces socio and econo-normative behaviors and values. For Sandberg, success in life is found in a nuclear family, money, and property. Again, this is utterly without merit. Research has shown that economic stability is critical to happiness, but economic stability is relative, and that once stability has been reached, property and money do not correlate with happiness.

If the world were different, she would just be another author saying less-than-correct things, but the world is not different; the world is the world. And the world is one which is filled with damaging and counterproductive value programming that encourages people to try to find happiness in money and status. As such, her message is actually dangerous.

There is no inherent value to climbing the proverbial ladder (or jungle gym as Sandberg rephrases it). As far as I know, she never once addresses the underlying assumptions of value that undergird her thought. For her, they are taken for granted.

Well I don't take them for granted. Money is not inherently valuable. Success is not inherently valuable. Our national discussion rarely focuses on these subjects because it is the last thing anyone wants. Our economy is based on people not believing these things. Businesses are based on people not believing these things. Governmental power is based on people not believing these things.

People who addresses these underlying issues and try to discuss them and not simply the icing on the capitalist cake are labeled as fringe or fanatics — people with their heads in the clouds. By belittling these people, we can avoid discussing things that are, on a societal scale, very scary.

Sandberg would have been much more groundbreaking if she had used her privilege and position, the bully pulpit, to discuss our underlying values. Because it is these values that are the wellspring from which our prejudice flows. The patriarchy and all its concomitant misogyny and sexism are products of these very basic values.

(There is actually a term for this, mores: folkways of central importance accepted without question and embodying the fundamental moral views of a group. These are deep-rooted assumptions. They are like the id and ego of a society — the reptilian hindbrain of a nation.)

Sandberg didn't do that. She produced a digestible little nugget of fluff. And funny enough, this perfectly embodies her underlying values. Her fluff sold hundreds of thousands of copies and earned her spots on talk shows. If she had written a truly trenchant and piercing analysis of society, no one would have bought it.

She did precisely what she said we should all do: she leaned in... straight into the top of the best sellers list.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Documentary Night: A Short History of In-Home Heating

I get the feeling that this is somehow funded by a petroleum company trying to convince us that they "care." Regardless, Neil Oliver is awesome and even this five-minute short is worth a watch.

Texas Needs More People Like This

Texas has an image problem. Not as bad as, say, Mississippi or Alabama, but bad. A lot of it probably has to do with their sheer size and visibility. Texas is massive, politically influential, wealthy, and oil-rich.

Thus, when they do something stupid, everyone knows about it. For someone not living in Texas, it's very hard to remember that that stupidity is a product of only a subsection of the population.

Obviously, we have Austin, which is famous for being "weird," as they like to call themselves. But I, and most of the people that I know, consider Austin as almost another state. That's not good. It is part of Texas.

Similarly, Texas has large numbers of intelligent, tolerant people. They may currently be out-shouted by the maniacs, but they are no less a part of the state. Texas needs more visible people like this to help drive that point home. It might help their tourist industry.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Youtube's 1080p Option Is Unavailable To Me In Firefox

I have spent some time trying to track down a reason for this and, failing to succeed, I am posting the question here.

YouTube is a source of near-constant problems for people because cell companies and internet service providers hate it. They hate it because it's so popular and sucks up a lot of bandwidth. Because, remember, telecom companies are generally evil, and their ideal scenario is where you give them $100 every month and then never use their product.

But I digress. I have three computers in my house, two on WiFi and one CAT-5'd into the wireless router provided by Verizon. The two computers on WiFi always provide the option of 1080p in videos that have it, but the computer that is hardwired never does when using Firefox. Chrome sometimes won't show it, but Internet Explorer will always give me the option.

I thought it was my cookie blocker, my ad blocker, my script blocker, or my security suite, but the issue persists in Firefox with all of those programs turned off. I am at a loss.

UPDATE: SOLUTION FOUND

I discovered the problem. I have a few accounts connected to Google, and a few computers, and this led to some confusion.

On one account, I had opted into the HTML5 video beta that is available at the bottom of the YouTube page. On others, I was either not signed in, or had not opted into the HTML5 video beta.

YouTube's HTML5 video option does not currently support 1080p videos. They are only available through the Flash video player.

If 1080p videos are mysteriously not available to you, click "try something new" at the bottom of the page and opt out of HTML5.

Monday, January 13, 2014

To Catch a Trader And My Mixed Feelings


I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, these guys are a pack of assholes. They are masters of the universe, wealthy, mostly white, and almost all male. They have undoubtedly been part of the global economic crisis as we now know it and would, given a position of power, exploit and abuse that power. I would hate these people if I knew them. (Watch the full documentary here.)

On the other hand, what they did is one of the smallest problems in the stock market, and yet it is the only problem we ever seem to prosecute. The intro of the documentary quotes Preet Bhahara saying "It doesn't matter who you are, the rules are the rules and the law is the law."

Well... that's wrong. It does matter who you are and everyone knows that. There is far shiftier behavior transpiring on Wall Street and those criminals never go to jail. These people wrecked a good hunk of the global economy, and very few of them have even been investigated. Look at how long it took them to investigate Madoff!



I'm speaking about this as an ex-day trader. That's one of the reasons I'm angry. I've seen the inside of the machine. I've seen the gears turning. There are genuine changes that can, and should, be made, but focusing on some insider traders ignores those prospects. It is similar to the year or so after the crash, and how so many people were obsessed with vilifying short traders, all the while completely ignoring the actual problems.

And yet here we are, the problems aren't fixed, and we're going after the same people instead of the real criminals. How's that windmill, guys?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Why Do We Regulate Pain Killers But Not Antibiotics?

Two points: I just finished watching the PBS|Frontline documentary Chasing The Nightmare Bacteria; I also just read about a massive study showing that access to pain killers is poor. You can watch the documentary below.

The takeaway from the documentary is that we are charging headlong into a massive, global, health crisis the likes of which the post-war era has not seen. We are overusing antibiotics in our food supply, and even with that not taken into account, fifty-percent of antibiotics are unnecessary. We should be regulating antibiotics like crazy, and yet we aren't.

What are we regulating? Pain killers. The study to which I linked above says that the regulations applied to pain killers had good intentions, but now they are causing harm.

No. They never had good intentions, and the intentions that we actually had all but guaranteed the negative outcomes that we now face.

We regulated pain killing drugs because they are "fun" drugs. Any and all fun drugs are bad, because fun is bad. Semi-legal fun drugs are even worse, because we cannot call those who use them necessarily scum. We regulate it because doctors judge their patients and disregard their pain.

My father has diabetic neuropathy in his legs, a type of pain that is known to be resistant to opioid analgesics. He is also opioid-resistent, making the problem worse.. (I am also opioid-resistant, but I'm not in pain, so it doesn't much matter to me.) This means that very few pain killers work for him. He actually had a doctor tell him "this dose works for me, so it will work for you."

Along with that stunning, stunning, display of arrogance, my dad has had to face judgmental stares, questions, and disapproving tisks from nurses and doctors. It took months of pain before a doctor finally listened to him. Months of pain.

I have felt it, especially now that I have to present an ID to get simple pseudoephedrine: guilt. I have been trained by society to feel bad about using particular drugs. This mindset extends into the medical world, but the coin is flipped. Whereas I feel guilty about using the drugs, the person in a position of power, the doctor, feels judgmental about my using and asking for the drugs.

If I am in pain, then I must suffer nobly, otherwise I am a bad person. No fun drugs for me! Because having fun is bad.As I mentioned, semi-legal fun drugs are the worst for a judgmental society, because we cannot automatically label those who use them as deviant. As such, we must put those who do use them through a rubicon of pain, judgment, scorn, and red tape to ensure they feel correctly bad about using them. You may not be scum, but you are almost scum.

We regulate pain killers for the same reason we regulate marijuana, cocaine, and heroin — for the same reason we imprison huge numbers of people every year for victimless crimes. We do it out of sheer, unmitigated stupidity driven by a history of conservative, Christian judgment and racism. And as I said, the problems we now face of unaddressed pain in patients: almost inevitable.

When we base decisions on blind dogma, the outcomes are always going to be bad. Dogma is almost never right, because if it were right, then it wouldn't be dogma. It would simply be knowledge.

If I smoke marijuana (which I do not do, never have done, and never will do) I hurt no one. I barely hurt myself. But if I take an antibiotic, I could theoretically create the germ that kills us all.

So tell me again, why is marijuana the one that gets me thrown into jail?