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Cynics, True Believers, and Everyone Else

A common topic of discussion I’ve encountered is whether politicians really believe the things they say and advocate for. Are they cynical, or are they for real? Taking this question at face value, I would argue that, in the end, it doesn’t matter. It is impossible to know what’s really in a person’s mind–what they truly believe versus what they pretend to believe for some selfish purpose. A policy supported on either basis is still just as real in terms of its effects.

Workload and Reaching People

I have a couple things to talk about this time around. First, I’ve been doubling up on posts lately. This is mostly due to my summer schedule. There are days when I know I’m just not going to have any time to write. When I can anticipate those, I write articles in advance and then schedule them. I’ve been doing that a lot this summer. For instance, I’m writing this on Thursday!

Link Roundup: August 13, 2016

Yup, looks like it’s that time again. Science * [Controversies concerning Vitamin K and the newborn]( -- There's a meme going around that giving Vitamin K to pregnant women might cause childhood cancer. It will likely not surprise you to learn that this is untrue. Social Justice * [The Internet of dead girls]( -- How the stories of women killed by a misogynistic culture are exploited and weaponized in disrespect of their memories as human beings.

Archivist Wasp: When Ghosts Speak

I’ve been trying to give some different kinds of novels my attention this year. Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp is one such foray. It was OK, but I was left wondering why there wasn’t more to it. There are spoilers ahead, so be warned! Archivist Wasp is set on Earth in an undetermined future. Society has clearly long ago collapsed. The great cities of world civilizations have crumbled into dust. Wasp is an Archivist, as the title suggests, whose job it is to hunt ghosts.

Evidence-Based Policy: Prove It

One of the most curious aspects of politics is our refusal to see reality, to demand policies regardless of how well they work or even whether they work at all. Why do we damage ourselves with counterproductive approaches? I like to start with the big questions. Why do we have a government at all? When you get right down to it, governments exist to solve problems that cannot be effectively addressed at a lower level.

Activism and the End of Slavery

In the United States, a common argument surrounding the Civil War is that it was unnecessary because slavery was dying out on its own. Economically unviable in the face of industrialization, it would have gone extinct on its own. But is this true? In short: no. The notion that slavery would have eventually vanished without government intervention due to fundamental economic concerns originates from both misunderstandings and deliberate distortions of history.

Stuck with Two Parties

It’s been a tough year for American politics, enough that talk of third parties has been revived recently. But our system just isn’t conducive to supporting more than two parties. To understand why, we can look to Duverger’s law. Named for the French sociologist who first described the phenomenon, Duverger noted that first-past-the-post elections combined with single-member electoral districts inevitably favor a binary party system. Third parties cannot make inroads because they can never garner enough support to act as anything other than spoilers–which makes them an unrealistic option for effecting real change.

Suicide Squad: It's Bad to be Bad

Suicide Squad isn’t very good. Here is a somewhat spoilery review, in my inimitable style. Let me preface by saying it’s not nearly the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Truly bad films can be burned into one’s memory, becoming unforgettable mistakes. Some are so uniquely bad, they become cult phenomena, see: The Room. Suicide Squad is nothing like that. Nobody’s going to remember this movie in ten years. We’ll be lucky if anyone can recall it in half that time.

The Next Thing

Were anything of mine capable of being legendary, it would be how I turn out blog posts on a daily basis with virtually zero prior planning. I’ve mentioned before that I have a queue of topics for when I can’t think of anything in the moment. It’s a good fallback–so good, in fact, I don’t have to use it that much. Instead, I add topics to it fairly regularly, and just as quickly cycle them out with posts.

Link Roundup: August 6, 2016

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to share these over a neural interface. For now, you’ll have to use your prehensile paws and move the clicker to click on them. Film * [_Suicide Squad_ is the summer's best movie about divorce]( -- My favorite review of _Suicide Squad._ (I may post my own review soon.) Economics * [Trump Taj Mahal closing; Icahn says he lost $100M]( -- Trump hasn't owned this for a few years.