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Deducing Bias

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PBS/Frontline’s College, Inc. believes it’s masterfully crafted an editorial that hacks away profit-based schooling with a snow shoe but accidentally opens its own achilles on the way to the washroom. PBS has a water-tight tactic where it makes very good arguments that nobody could disagree with. In this documentary, we get all these:

  • Private universities pick up the excess demand for schooling.
  • Private universities offer loans to students, and sometimes students can’t pay off these loans.
  • If private universities breach contract, they should be sued.
  • Private universities cannot operate without money.

If you replace “private” with “public” above, everything is still true. This is a good sign. PBS and I have some sort of theory on education that we can agree on. You’d think PBS has a winning formula here, but their documentaries start getting kind of snowy at the 20-minute mark. They introduce people who came upon hard times, corporate malfeasance, etc., all meant to stir up emotion but not enough to make much of an argument, which translates to junk food education. I’d expect these documentaries to pop up at 3am on Cable Access 27, but as we know, PBS is big.

So how could PBS make such a sad argument against private education and still retain its popularity? (If you watch the documentary and can’t decipher how PBS feels about private universities, please stop reading and don’t come back here. Things rarely get simpler than this.)

Induction into this is so convoluted and thick, with so much room for debate about where PBS gets its funding and who its donors are, that I don’t want to bother. Actually, I don’t need to. We’ll just deal a hard, twisting punch to the sternum: PBS opposes private universities because PBS depends on funding from donors who opposed private universities. You can deduce this by noting PBS’s CHSPE-level argument against private education and measuring how far this argument spreads. The further the spread, and the worse the argument, the more funding it requires from people who want to propagate that argument. Obviously these people have money, or else the documentary wouldn’t be featured on my XBOX.

The donors have one thing in common: they oppose private education’s lack of accreditation. Accreditation is what’s passed down from the civil servants so that universities will produce the correct type of students, primarily more civil servants. And we all know that once your civil service is really starting to grow, the best thing to do is keep growing it. Private schools that expand the private sector are no help in the mission, especially when they’re out-competing the public schools in every way. That’s when the civil service put the brakes on private universities to stay ahead, and PBS is one of many vehicles for that.

Written by xout

August 4, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Peasants and Clients

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Oakland experiences a riot in response to the Oscar Grant shooting verdict. From The Guardian:

Rioters trashed parts of Oakland, California, today in protest against the verdict in a controversial court case in which a white policeman shot dead an unarmed African American.

At least 100 people were arrested after looting and confrontations with police in Oakland last night and early today. The protesters ignored a plea for calm by the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The policeman, Johannes Mehserle, 28, was found guilty yesterdayof involuntary manslaughter. The jury rejected the prosecution case that it was murder.

YouTube showed footage of Mehserle’s shooting of Oscar Grant, 22, who had been lying on the platform in a railway station on 1 January 2009, surrounded by police after a fight. Mehserle claimed he had thought he had reached for an electric Taser rather than his gun.

The case became a cause celebre in the US, with its echoes of the treatment of Rodney King, a black man whose severe beating by police in LA in 1991 was captured on video. The subsequent acquittals of four LAPD officers sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Police deployed in Oakland in riot gear yesterday and shops boarded up their windows in anticipation of a repeat of the rioting that took place in the immediate aftermath of Grant’s shooting. Up to a thousand protesters took to the streets last nightand early today, some wearing masks with images of Grant’s face. A banner was unfurled proclaiming “Oakland Says Guilty’.

Rioters, some dressed in black and wearing black masks, smashed shop and car windows, helped themselves to goods ranging from jewellery to groceries and trainers, and attacked police lines. Journalists were also attacked.

The Oakland police chief, Anthony Batts, told a press conference: “This city is not the wild, wild west. This city will not tolerate this activity.” He blamed anarchists coming from outside Oakland. “We started taking a number of rocks and bottles. We then made a dispersal order.”

Here’s a video of the Oakland looting.

Maybe it’s by chance or he’s just being timely and subtle, but Mencius Moldbug posted a blog about clients and peasants. He notes that peasants, aka the Tea Party, are mostly denoted as complainers, and rightfully points out that these same peasants elected the very ideology they’re now protesting:

If I had to describe it in a sentence, I would say that the rage is easily explained, but not easily explained in the terms of those who feel it. They are clearly angry about something, but the actual words that come out of their mouths are often nonsensical and contradictory. This is why it is so hard for so many to get a handle on. It is simply inarticulate demotic discontent.

The CAP historians mention these people a couple of times. Most notably, they mention the fact that this group, historically Democratic Party voters going back to the 19th century (“rum, Romanism and rebellion”), also historically urban, was living in the suburbs and voting for Reagan in 1980. They profess, however, to be entirely mystified by this transition. Surely, if we understand it, we can answer the question of what motivates the “tea partiers.”

What we can say quite clearly is that this tribal subpopulation has, in no temporary way, lost confidence in progressivism as a philosophy of government. Fortunately or unfortunately, they do not know how to unelect a philosophy.

And then talks about “clients”:

Last week I was at a party, at a warehouse space in one of the crackhead districts of SF, at which the subject of crackheads came up. The woman across the table, a member of my social class, expressed great sympathy for this class. I asked her if she had ever been victimized by such. She said: “two days ago, someone smashed a window in my car and stole my iPhone.”

And she perceived this crime through a pure Jean Valjean lens, with no sense at all that she had been *personally* victimized – much less, victimized by the government. Or a judge. Or an ideology. Or whatever. Rather, she considered it entirely normal and even laudable for a sophisticated, modern person to live in a city in which an iPhone cannot be left visible on a car seat, and she considered herself an idiot who had, for her $500 or whatever, purchased a valuable lesson about modern urban living….

Who would think this way? Well, perhaps if you were a Frenchman in 1944, and your property was looted and vandalized, by American soldiers on their way to kick hell out of the Nazis, you might think this way. The State Department thought this way about the killing of Cleo Noel. This is the way you think about your own clients and the excesses and abuses they commit. Certainly, if this woman’s car had been vandalized by cops, tea partiers, etc, she would have been enraged for life. We hate our enemies and not our allies – it is only natural.

Written by xout

July 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

Regressive Tax and Elitism in the Arcade

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I was playing Retrofit: Overload and realized that t$his and many other shoot-em-ups (“Shmups“) employ a regressive tax system to incentivize improved play.

Regressive taxes attempt to reduce the tax incidence of people with higher ability-to-pay, as they shift the incidence disproportionately to those with lower ability-to-pay. The opposite of a regressive tax is a progressive tax, where the marginal tax rate increases as the amount subject to taxation increases. In between is a flat or proportional tax, where the tax rate is fixed as the amount subject to taxation increases.

Here is a video of Retrofit’s gameplay. Watch closely at the 25 second mark. If you have 3 or more guns and can hold onto them, you advance fairly easily. If you drop down to anything less than three, the difficulty level skyrockets. The game tries to compensate by handing you more guns at a faster rate than normal, but it’s never fast enough. Players are rewarded by playing a near-perfect game, which means skilled players inevitably play an easier game than low-skilled players, much like a regressive tax.

Retrofit takes pride in being like classic arcade games, which were often regressive too. These games selected for high skilled players and left everyone else in the dust, which created a class system not unlike monarchies where the elite paid exceptionally low taxes. The arcade owners would adjust the difficulty on the machine to strike a balance between challenging the extremely-high skilled players and collecting from everyone else. Set the difficulty too high, and the machine loses money. Set it too low, and your arcade loses its elite clientele. The arcade market values both.

Part of the joy in visiting an arcade was watching elite players. This was good for business too.

Written by xout

June 26, 2010 at 8:56 am

Horror Dream

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I was working on Ed’s ninja serial shoot in this dream. We were in the back yard with a crew of 13, half red and half blue. A girl was there. When we were finished shooting we went inside to party and watch some TV. We were all sitting together, and this girl sat behind me and started playing with my hair, winding it all into tight wads with rubber bands until it started hurting. So I moved away and went into the kitchen to try and take these things out.

She follows me in and apologizes and starts trying to help me, but I don’t want her help. She gets upset and bats my hands away and tries to unwind all these rubber bands, and I push her away because it hurts. Next she’s shoving a sharp pencil towards my face, so I put my hand against her face and accidentally shove her into the corner of a nearby cabinet. Now she’s stark raving mad and grabs me by the collar, pushes me onto the counter and takes some swings. I think they miss, so I push her face with my boot to get some distance. I start to crab walk away from her, and when I spit in her face there’s blood in my spit.

Written by xout

February 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

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