Posted by Cameron @ 8:18 pm on March 29th 2014

Why Local is Shit

This is the year 2014. It’s a wonderful time to be a human. We have so thoroughly improved our existence that it is easy to forget how comparatively hellish our livelihood was prior to the industrial revolution. Lives were short and brutal. Disease wiped out large portions of otherwise healthy individuals – undoubtedly many brilliant minds have been lost throughout the eons. It was difficult to to generate enough food to eat, let alone to thrive. The foods that people did eat were generally awful by modern standards. Most folks were born, grew up, lived and died within a small geographic area. The world beyond was unknown, unimaginably vast and unreachable.

This changed as technology arrived on the scene with gusto. As boats became better, the shores of distant continents were suddenly within reach for a small portion of the population. Traversing land was still arduous; beasts of burden were the only option to transport significant loads of materials.

It helps to remember that prior to the invention of trains, the fastest land speed of any man who had ever lived was probably about 30 mph – the speed of a horse at full gallop. No faster. Ever. This changed forever with the development of trains. Suddenly locomotives afforded unimaginable efficiency and speed compared to prior alternatives. Transportation to distant areas was possible for great swaths of humanity and the costs to move cargo plummeted. Easy transportation of men and goods shaped nations and kindled the spark which has driven our species forward.

Many of the greatest technological advancements have served to shrink the world. and have brought ever increasing rates of return on human effort. The wheel served to multiply what man and beast could carry. Motors attached to those wheels exponentially increased what was possible. Wings attached to those motors brought staggering levels of speed and efficiency. Measly copper wires first afforded instantaneous communications; subsequent telecommunication developments have allowed vast amounts of information to be transported across the globe in milliseconds.

Every one of these advancements share a single element – they have each shrunk the world.

The story of technology is one of a shrinking world. Barriers to transportation have been so thoroughly abolished by technology that a prior state is almost unimaginable. A transcontinental airplane flight from Los Angeles to New York exists today for $133 USD – which is 18.3 hours of labor at the federal minimum wage and only 6 hours of labor at the mean US hourly wage of $22.

To put it another way, less than one day’s work in 2014 pays the average American well enough to move themselves 500 mph for 5.5 hours across 2,500 miles of mountains and rivers and swamps and deserts and plains. That is an astounding accomplishment and one worth celebrating.

It is this accomplishment which allows copper mined on one continent to be smashed up with silicon refined on second continent, in a design engineered on a third continent, manufactured on a fourth and sold in a fifth to carry electrons that allow grandparents to see their grandkid’s birthday on a sixth while they’re on a cruise docking at the shore of a seventh continent.

That is the power of global.

Local affords none of this. Local is isolated. Local is limited. Local is blind and backwards. Local is not something to yearn for. Local is a curse that humanity has escaped by its own ingenuity. It harks back to times of less, not plenty.

Global food allows billions to eat. Without it, humanity is cursed to again gather local flora and fauna*.

Global creativity brings once unimaginable diversity of music and art within reach. Without it,
humanity is cursed to only experience local talent – no Beatles or Picasso or Beethoven or Wes Anderson.

Global immigration/travel affords billions of people better lives. Without it, humanity is cursed to again trek by foot or horse and is limited to the range of each.

Global trade raises living standard of all of humanity. Without it, humanity is again cursed only items producible at a local level.

Global communication allows staggering levels of efficiency and closeness. Without it, distance is again an enormous barrier.

Local is shit. Everything that is good about humanity is global. It’s time to embrace it and fully live in the present.

*Yearning for piecemeal return to ‘local food’ that consists of global species and cultivars is as hypocritical as being a Christmas-and-Easter Jew.
**This may or may not morph into a “Why…is Shit” series of posts. I was inspired to post in the first time in a year today so we shall see if the spirit continues.
Posted by Rojas @ 5:59 pm on March 24th 2014

RIP Oderus Urungus

We are all sad whales today.

Posted by Brad @ 11:32 pm on March 5th 2014

Spying to Protect Us

From Congressional staffers investigating the CIA.

It perhaps goes without saying that intelligence superstructures that not only declare themselves beyond accountability but also which turn their efforts against those explicitly tasked with holding them accountable is pretty much the definition of out of control.

Posted by Brad @ 11:27 pm on March 5th 2014

Those Poor, Poor Anti-Gay “Dissenters”

As mentioned in the previous post, the last recourse for the anti-gay rights crowd, after they’ve been pushed entirely out of mainstream and political acceptance, is entirely defensive in nature – the fear that somewhere, someone will not be able to treat a gay person as a lesser class human being and get away with it.

As is often the case, Ross Douthat is there to provide a civil dressing up of the nobleness of bigotry. And, following the test cases of others like Maggie Gallagher, he puts forward a valiant effort explaining how the rights we really have to worry about are those belonging to Christian “dissenters” who won’t be able to freely practice discrimination anymore.

Mark Stern calls him out on it.

Step 3: Find an audience-appropriate euphemism for “discrimination.”

Douthat knows the typical Times reader is sophisticated enough to see past the hackneyed doublespeak of “religious liberty,” so he lands on a clever new euphemism for anti-gay discrimination: “dissent.” According to Douthat, the Arizona bill was just a way for “religious conservatives” to “carv[e] out protections for dissent.” He refers to anti-gay Christians as “a dissenting subculture,” and hopes more states pass Arizona-style laws that “let the dissenters opt out.” By rebranding anti-gay bigots as dissenters, Douthat transforms them from retrograde homophobes to virtuous objectors, unwilling to bend their beliefs to match public opinion. This makes them seem appealing—until you remember that their “dissent” is a hatred of gay people so vehement that they’ll violate non-discrimination laws just to make sure they never, ever have to provide a gay person with a basic service.

Now, I’ve been on record before as saying private businesses should be able to act as assholeish as they like, as far as I’m concerned. And the rest of us should be free to completely marginalize them.

But, two thoughts, one Stern gets to and one he does not.

The first is, as Stern points out, that non-discrimination laws protecting gays are no different than those protecting blacks or whatever other class you can think of. This is not an association Douthat wants, of course, and so he addresses the comparison by mentioning it exists and then moving on, but without ever refuting it. I can think of no conceivable moral logic that holds that the manager of a hotel has the moral right to turn away two gay guys on their honeymoon but not a black man and a white woman. Douthat gets around that by saying there are laws in Arizona against discrimination based on race but not based on sexual orientation (unsaid: that Douthout opposes laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation but not those based on race). I’ll be interested to see if his newfound deferral to legal protections of historically discriminated classes as an arbiter of the morality of said discrimination holds when the times comes.

The second, however, and what I still don’t understand, is how, say, a Christian florist providing flowers to a gay wedding is somehow read, dogmatically, as some kind of forced tacit approval of that Christian for that gay wedding. Is a Christian business owner’s service to customers supposed to be a case-by-case expression of his theological approval or disapproval of their lifestyle? How far is that meant to extend? Why do we take it as a given? Of course we don’t, really – it’s cherry picked to only apply to abortion and homosexuality – but still.

In any event, we still live in a country where Douthat can disapprove of whatever he likes. The only difference is he can’t wield that disapproval like a hammer against other people’s lives. A ready at Andrew Sullivan gets it.

I find I have little sympathy for the protestations of Douthat, Dreher, etc., and here’s why: what they’re protesting is their fading ability to dictate to others how to live their lives. They have not actually lost any rights, but rather lost a position of privilege and authority from which they have called the tunes to which others have been forced to dance. What they’re upset about isn’t the loss of power over their own lives; it’s about the loss of power over others’ lives. To which I say, “Boo-freaking-hoo.”

Again, more power to you Ross, on the ability of private individuals or even business owners to discriminate against whoever they want – be they gays, blacks, or Christians. And if I thought that was all he meant – a philosophical (and obtusely academic) libertarian point ala Rand Paul’s defense of opposition to the 1962 Civil Rights Act – I might give him less a hard time.

But I am pretty comfortable in sussing out that what he really means (whether he thinks its what he means or not) is “Christians can’t oppress homosexuals anymore and that sucks”. And, yeah, world’s tiniest violin.