Aug 292020

“All it takes it hard work” they say, and point to someone like Jeff Bezos as an example.

Which is an interesting example of how to lie by telling the truth.

It isn’t always an intentional lie, although you do have to wonder how daft someone has to be to miss the obvious problems with the idea. There are three big problems with the idea that anyone can succeed if they try hard enough.

The first is that nobody starts a business with nothing. In many cases, a loan is involved – in the case of Jeff Bezos, the load started with a $300,000 loan from his parents (and there were a lot of other loans as Amazon didn’t start making a real profit for a long time). There are also bank loans that start some businesses.

But even without a loan, businesses are still not started with nothing – someone worked and saved to build enough savings to keep the business running initially. Saved? How when you’re on a minimum wage job and can’t make ends meet.

Glossing over that, how about having had enough education to start a business? Or living in a free society with a modicum of law and order? Or roads to take your business’ goods to markets? Or the markets to sell your goods in? This list could go on for quite a while, but the key point is that nobody succeeds on their own – there are a whole bunch of things helping them.

The next problem is that we ignore all of the others who tried and failed to become the “next Jeff Bezos”. Some succeed partially and end up with a comfortable life having either established a small business or having sold out. Others end up with nothing and have to start again. But the overwhelming majority don’t become the next Jeff Bezos.

Lastly, we hear how because these self-made people have made it on their own, we hear that it isn’t fair to tax them on their earnings. Apart from the fact that we have already seen that they have not made it on their own, we overlook that most people who are classified as billionaires haven’t made it on their own.

They inherited their wealth. Is that wrong? That is a different argument although I would lean in favour of saying no it’s not wrong. But the increasing concentration of wealth in a relatively small number of plutocrats across multiple generations is wrong.

The Wild Chained
Aug 162020

When is “terrorism” not really terrorism? When it is a fake label attached to something lesser by those who want to condemn something without a strong argument against it.

Terrorism is using violence or threats of violence (“acts of terror”) to attempt to achieve political or religious goals. It isn’t all acts of violence and a certain level of (threatened) violence is required.

It certainly doesn’t apply to a group of protestors marching down a rich white suburban street at midnight shouting to wake people up. That’s annoying as hell, but hardly terrorism.

Acts of terror include (but are not limited to) :-

  1. Flying planes into buildings killing thousands.
  2. Blowing up shopping centres, business buildings, places of entertainment (pubs), etc.
  3. Shootings – in mass shootings, or individual cases. Or any other form of extra-judicial execution (i.e. lynching).

There is almost always a certain level of randomness in the attack, although it will tend to target certain subgroups of a society. There is also an element of propaganda to the act (the so-called propaganda of the deed). Threats of violence can also be classified as terrorism too – if the threat is associated with real violence in a way that elevates it above the “ordinary” threats – such as leaving a burning cross on someone’s lawn in an area where the KKK operates.

It is common to see non-terrorist acts labelled as such by two groups – ones who want to blacken the name of a protest group, and those who accidentally trivialise real terrorism by equating the individual’s terror at a relatively trivial incident with the kind of collective terror that real terrorist acts are supposed to cause.

For example, one of the events that triggered this post was a tweet claiming that BLM protestors were terrorists because they were marching through a rich suburban neighbourhood at midnight shouting to wake people up. Just because a particularly nervous suburbanite feels “terror” at being woken up by protestors doesn’t make that march terrorist. It may be a dickish move, but it’s not terrorism.

To claim such a trivial act is equivalent to a terrorist attack is an insult to those who have been in real terrorist attacks, have been in bomb scares, or just waited for the phone call letting us know whether a loved one was okay.

And protests that degenerate into vandalism and looting aren’t terrorist acts either. Whilst terrorist acts can involve property damage the main thrust of such acts is threats against life. And anyone who thinks property damage is anywhere near as bad as threats to life is someone who needs to re-examine their values.

Besides which there are a fair number who believe (and in some cases have the evidence to show) that the looters weren’t protestors · they just took advantage of the confusion.

And for officialdom to label protestors as “terrorists” is dangerous because all of a sudden you’re seeing legitimate protestors being criminalised with some rather draconian punishments that can be brought into play. If anything, it is a warning that your government is veering towards repressively authoritarian.

And yes that’s a reference to Trump’s shower of thugs.

Aug 152020

Yeah! Yeah! If you actually asked the Black Lives Matter activists whether all lives matter, they would agree. But the “All Lives Matter” slogan is just a way of hiding the message that the Black Lives Matter activists want to put across: “We have noticed that no matter how much it does protest, this society treats Black people inferior to others in matters up to and including lethal force”.

You can criticise the slogan “black lives matter” for not saying “black lives matter is much as white lives” (or similar). But it’s a slogan not a manifesto, and slogans are never as accurate as they could be – it’s in the nature of using few enough words to be catchy.

Personally I think that the BLM campaigners over-estimate the problems of racism and under-estimate the problems of economic disadvantage (which applies to all ethnic groups). People with poor parents are less likely to do well than those with rich parents; and yes exceptional people will do well regardless.

Aug 132020

Working from home (henceforth “WfH”) has cropped up in my Twitter feed lately and this is my “response” to some of the issues raised.

Now don’t get me wrong – there are all sorts of issues related to WfH – some people can’t, some people don’t like it, companies are getting offices for “free”, some companies not realising that they need to provide equipment, and that health and safety requirements apply to the home worker too.

And probably a whole lot more.

But some of the complaints seem to be coming from people who have never even looked at WfH advice, or who have ignored that advice.

If your work life and your home life seem to be merging, do something about it. Clearly distinguish between work time and home time with a “going to work ritual” and a “coming home ritual”. It doesn’t matter what they are as long as they clearly mark the start and end of the working day.

For example, I always take a morning walk to start the working day, and make a ceremonial cup of coffee at the end (I don’t usually drink coffee whilst working or I end up fizzing).

Find yourself slogging away at the computer non-stop? Well don’t do that then. You’re supposed to take a break away from the computer regularly anyway, so do so. Get up and wander around a bit – make a coffee, look out the front window to see if it’s raining, check the postbox, do some stretching, etc.

Stuck in non-stop meetings? Call a comfort break every hour then – even if you don’t need a pee. Do you really care if your co-workers think you have a weak bladder? Especially when they’re more likely to think you’re a hero for giving them an excuse for a comfort break.

Missing out on the social life of the office? Set up social meetings then – perhaps for lunchtimes when you can eat your meals “together”.

Lastly, ergonomics. That laptop you took back home with you in the spring isn’t the right equipment for a long-term workstation. Get yourself a decent desk, chair, monitor, external keyboard and mouse. That sounds expensive, and yes your employer should (at the very least) be helping out, but it needn’t be that expensive.

Into The Water; Stillness and Motion
Aug 062020

You do realise that most of you come across like particularly annoying toddlers throwing a tantrum because they let go of the balloon and it went away?

The scientific evidence for the efficacy of wearing masks is conclusive – simple cloth masks help stop the spread of droplets released when coughing (a common Covid-19 symptom), sneezing (Covid-19 hasn’t stopped hay-fever), or even breathing.

No, they’re not as effective as N95 masks, neither are they capable of stopping a virus running around on its own. But they don’t commonly do that. Viruses are commonly clumped into ‘water’ droplets and even the most basic cloth mask will stop most of those getting through – and it doesn’t have to be 100% effective (or ‘certified’) to be a good defense against the virus.

Masks are probably most effective at stopping the already infected from releasing huge clouds of Covid-19 infested water droplets wherever they go.

And even if you don’t believe in the masks, going to a place (a shop, public transport, etc.) where masks are required and refusing to wear a mask is the sign of a self-important little idiot. Either wear the mask or don’t use the relevant services.

Toward The Sea
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