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Cities and Equity

A few months ago I did a blog post where I listed a number of nations, the size of their one or two largest cities, and what percentage of the national population lives in each of them. This was a bit tricky because what counts as a city is no simple matter. I tried to go by metro area; this is how I intuitively think of cities (and why I say I live in Philadelphia; Haverford is actually in a string of communities known as the Main Line along a light rail line (known as the R5) a bit to the northwest of Philadelphia proper. I was also born in Dallas-FortWorth, Texas (which is technically two cities and some crumbs). I don't think we necessarily need to ignore "official" notions of what's in a city and what's not, but rather that we can/should be comfortable populating our own "namespace" with our own notions of these things (which is tied to "Death of the Author", a foundational part of my worldview). Anyhow, the BBC has a nice piece on the difficulty of measuring cities.

Compare/contrast to this recent political cartoon and discussion about likely-intentional misuse of terms.

Grab bag:

I was recently pleased to read about a US Navy operation that freed some hostages being held for ransom on land in Somalia; unfortunately, it looks like this might make piracy more bloody, but I was never hoping for it to be peaceful. The more bloody it is, the more easily we can build consensus to stomp it out without any mercy.

Disappointed but not at all surprised to see the liberals disqualified in the Russian presidential race. If a country is to have elections, it should take them seriously, have reasonably clear reasons for who is allowed to run, and have actual fair polls. I'm open to benevolent autocracy, and open to (insistent on, really) disqualifying theocratic parties, but ad-hoc maneuvering to win a rigged contest is just rubbish.

Disappointed to see American warmongering with Iran continued, in this case by setting up a large ship right outside Iran's doorstep to act as a floating naval base. The US imposed heavy sanctions on Iran because it's worried Iran may develop nuclear weapons, Iran is threatening to close the bay it's located on for oil shipments from its neighbours, and the US is threatening to bring that into a military altercation. IMO, the Americans are clearly in the wrong here. Iran can have nukes. Israel, the silent third party in this that's threatening Iran with missle strikes and possibly an invasion, has nukes and it's hardly a peaceful nation. Plus there's no good reason to believe Iran is developing nukes anyhow. I have little doubt that J-Street and AIPAC are behind this, turning bad electoral political corruption into terrible foreign policy.

I am pleased to see Nederland moving towards banning full facial veils. I also thought this exploration of intra-European stereotypes was cute (and yes, I probably would be happiest in France, both in reality and by the stereotype). Be sure to read the linked articles for all countries; funny stuff. Poland's culture has always puzzled me; I have *never* met someone from Poland my age that I've remotely gotten along with, but from 5 years younger onwards there's a generation gap and I get along with people fine.

A few days ago I linked to a Gloria Steinem talk. Unfortunately but predictably, as a symbol of (mainstream) feminism, she's a magnet for angry dudes who won't accept gender-equality; while I don't agree with Steinem on all topics, she remains an important symbol to me, and as usual I got into an argument. The interesting thing here is that, as is often the case with people arguing with more anger than sense, the person I'm arguing against seems to be intentionally misreading what she's saying in order to make his points, he's using terribly grandiose language, and he's getting personal. Rhetoric is fascinating; it's interesting what it says about the mind-state of the other person when it's sufficiently off, and in a sufficiently long-running argument (this probably won't be) one can choose one's arguments so they're both philosophically-discourse-appropriate and achieve certain other effects specific to the person (if someone feels threatened by X, for example, you might either find some way to soothe them on the topic if you're trying to convince them, or (and I do not recommend this) make them explode and look like an idiot without doing anything easily pinpointed as all-elbows if you're arguing in front of an audience).

Al Jazeera did a neat infographic of Assad's personal/power ties recently. At this point, given that the violence has not stopped, I'm not hoping for peace. I hope things fall into civil war as quickly as possible, and that Assad's regime crumbles. If we're already paying the cost of such deaths, might as well go all the way and remove the man; he wasn't such a terrible leader, but his poor handling of this insurgency justifies the victory of that same insurgency.

I would like to see more countries slamming the door on missionaries.

Weird to think that rogue planets are not uncommon.

I think SMBC Theater is probably going to be my main argumentative prop for the divide between legitimate cultural criticism that appropriately balances how rude it is to tell people how to talk or what to say and when a kind of discourse is legitimately harmful; I believe that it is:

  • Highly awesome, intelligent, and funny
  • Likely highly offensive to the hypersensitive culture nourished in radical forms of activism
  • Not normative in bad ways
Zach writes about his take on things here; I largely agree (and the comments are interesting and flesh out what I'm talking about a bit). As noted before, I reject and condemn trigger warnings (even as there are some topics that tend to freak me out) in broad society (it might be ok for subsocieties), and those who consider them to be "the only decent thing to do" are IMO deeply wrong and all-elbows.

It's recently come out (or at least, been asserted by reasonably believable sources) that Ron Paul had a direct hand in writing the now-famous racist newsletters (solidly known to have been) published under his name in the past. While this ideally will sink his personal movement (or add something that will need to be denied or given considerable nuance by his modern movement), it brings to mind the role of Libertarianism in American politics. Over the last few years, I think our political discourse has been building the arguments needed to take Libertarianism head-on. With Ron Paul, we have one libertarian, but there's a distinction between what is libertarian necessarily and what any given libertarian is actually. Confronting the former is important; the candidate I once voted for, Harry Browne, is not the same person as Ron Paul; he had different liabilities and strengths as a candidate. We could imagine a libertarian that accepts/supports the civil rights act and antidiscrimination laws (and probably most libertarians in big cities would be more ok with that than the uneducated country libertarians). Minarchism is not anarchocapitalism, and there is considerable room for variance in the party philosophy. Still, if those of us who are anti-libertarian do things right, society will move in a way that libertarianism will be so odious that the specific questions of RP's newsletters will feel like arguing over whether $terriblehistoricalfigure cheated on his/her taxes or not.

Still grumbly over this week, but I know that's pretty misplaced; if people didn't want to hang out often when it was easy and competition was low, it's stupid to think they'd choose to hang out with me when they're already hanging out with all their friends. Also grumbly over how volunteering for an upcoming event went terribly wrong, where grumbly in that case means ragequitting that event. Sigh. I need new friends.

Hoping to visit NYC again soon to explore the city a bit more; hopefully interviews will be soon. Time is too tight for me to safely give notice that Feb will be the end of my lease in PHL, but I fully expect that Feb/Mar will be mostly a dual-rent time and I'll be living in NYC before long. Just gotta get that job part squared up.