Archive for category Democracy

Stag hunt with Reluctant Free Loader on the side

I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems Phildelphia’s schools are having, and how various actors in the situation are playing out their role.

Background (Skippable)

The long story made short is Philly is closing a lot of schools. From my simplistic research so far I’m concluding that some school closings do make sense, but that the rash of closings is a last second swerve to avoid budget failure that has been threatening the district for years. Furthermore, the district has been giving out school charters for private schools in some dubious and questionable situations. Some dubious behavior of charters (not *all charters*) and willy nilly granting more charters has undermined the enrollment levels, making it seem smart to close more schools. Again, that is my simplistic research, I’m sure other folks have a better point of view.

As a new dad, I’ve been looking at school districts and pondering when it gets to the point that I abandon the system, and pay higher rates to put a child into a privates school. To me that decision reeks of game-theory, so I’m putting down my thoughts on it to clarify a bit.

To the Game Theory:

From a theory point of view, this could be modeled as a variant of the Stag Hunt game. Lets imagine a game of ‘Stag Hunt’ with thousands of players. Now lets add to those players a distribution of resources that roughly matches the Philadelphia general income, and/or tax base. Finally, we need to add a reasonably high threshold to not joining the game (ie, the cost of private education for a child). Which is odd, since it sets cooperation at a lower and default threshold, and individual action at a higher threshold. I think that becomes a decent model of parents drawing their students out of the district to private schools, lowering the income available.

Then the question becomes, what is the defection rate/system that drives more people to defect? Is there a good way to map/cap general defection from the game? At what point have we undermined the commons so far that every participant is worse off?

General Musing

What amazes me the parents fallacy only their own children’s education is in their interest. As an american you interact and depend on hundreds to thousands of other people for all of your infrastructure. The kindergardener in a crappy school today is going to be a Nurse caring for us in 30-40 years. The kids you are yanking head-start funds from are going to be mechanics, plumbers, and taxi-drivers in 20-30 years. Do you really want to be running around a city or country with these people on the loose? Do you really want to undermined your future quality of life, by setting up an environment of poorly educated people around you to care for you in old age? As much as my own child’s education matters to me, having educated caretakers in old age, and educated co-voters at all ages is hella-important.

It also makes me think I need to find, or invent, a bunch of new terms for real-world game theory.

Reluctant Freeloader: These are people who can’t contribute to the game a fair amount. Think ‘unemployed single dad.’ They are working and contributing what they can, but they don’t have the means to cover their cost.

Woefully Advantaged: This is someone with enough resources they think they can defect from the game without consequences, but really are suffering for it.

N-th turn: Borrowed from computer science. This is a reference to some point in the future (the n-th turn) when the game fails or people lose based on their earlier strategy.

School District Problem: This is a variant of the Stag Hunt problem, as described above.

Rantings on the state of politics

I’d like to understand how the middle class got so stupid. America survived a lot of the ‘capital vs working’ class issues since it has a solid middle class of reasonably intelligent, reasonably sane people. People who might not make $200K a year, but who could do math, figure out their interest payments, and see through the scams and frauds that the money-grubbing class throws their way.

When did we lose that? When did Americans become suckers for the simplistic ‘us vs them’ and ‘right vs left’ politics used to drive us apart. I don’t know one person, left, right or center, who thinks this country is on the right track. I don’t know one person that thinks our schooling system is fair, that our business culture is A-OK, and that the US, or the world, in on a good track to prosper. Given the trade off of ‘what’s more important, our failing education system, or illegal movie downloads’ I can’t think of a single sane person that would say ‘why, movie downloads of course. But SOPA/PIPA is all over the news, and the slow and continual decline of our school system is not.

Folks, there is no ‘left’, there is no ‘right’. The difference between Republican and Democrat in most places is less than the difference between the Boston and Philadelphia accent. I’m disgusted by how many times I start to discuss something, and I get to the unhappy realization the other person doesn’t know socialism from capitalism, or does not know what a republic is, or what a democracy is.

Think people. Take a second, and think. Ask some questions. Read some wikipedia. But don’t believe *any* of the claims mealy-mouth candidates (including Barack Obama) without checking the facts first. And honestly, don’t trust the news sources. Go read the data for yourself. Find the expense report they cite, and see if they lied, or if it came from some dodgy regional India news report. After the 3rd dodgy or blatently wrong report, turn it off, unsubscribe, and don’t go back to that outlet again.

I know it’s a pain to do that kind of thing. I know it seems like a timesink sometimes. But so is brushing your teeth. They are both annoying hygiene tasks, that show no immediate payoff. Just do it, be smart, and know you’ll be better off than the suckers that don’t.


Required Information? Not from me.

I am sick to the gills of website, organizations, and forms requiring information they do not need, in any legit way, in order to register. The biggest ones that bother me are asking for my gender, my date of birth, and salary level.

First off is gender. If I’m joining a business networking website, or a community group, or getting a SEPTA pass, why in Darwin’s name do you require my gender information? If anything I would want a business website to remove or downplay gender information, and concentrate on skills, results, and abilities of it’s participants. If any website should be gender blind, it should be a skill centric ‘find a collaborator’ website.

Age? OK, I can buy age range to be a part of some services, to know customers, or general age groups. But my date of birth? Seriously? Give me one good reason to send a private company, or political party, my date of birth, just to get their junk email? I’m sorry organization X, but get your snoopy nose out of my life, and don’t require a D.O.B. just to sign up.

And salary? Really? I want to judge people by their abilities and goals, not how well they can milk the system for cash. I know a lot of great people, a lot of great coders, and a lot of fantastic friends that took jobs at nonprofits, or have put helping their community ahead of sucking cash into their own pockets. Also, you may not of noticed it, but a decent amount of rich people have that money from being shady, scum-baggy, or outright fraud. Is that really how you want to categorize your members/subscribers? If you care so much about cash to require that info, I already don’t want to be in your system.

I use to just ignore those fields when they were optional. But a lot of places are starting to require them. Then I started lying on those fields, and that’s gotten old. In fact, I’m signed up as ‘female’ on a lot of crappy social-networking sites…

But that’s not fun anymore, and I’m just sick of it. Now when I run into that info being required I don’t sign up. Instead I cut and paste an belligerent ‘get your nosy self out of my business, I’m not telling you that info, now get off my lawn you damn’d kids’ email to their contact.

In short, if you want me to support your cause, don’t be a nosy busybody and require private info you have no legitimate reason to have. If you respect your own privacy, I recommend doing the same.

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America Jumps The Shark

So, I’ve has my problems with how this country is run, but an internet blacklist? Are you kidding me? You can’t be serious.

Seriously America, this is just dumb, and it’s the most unamerican thing I’ve heard of in a long time. And technically, it’s trivial to defeat by tunneling through another country, a proxy service, or something like TOR. I’m pretty sure TOR would route around that with near-trivial work.

The land of the free, eh? Also in the works: A bill that requires everyone owning a building in the US to send a set of their house keys to their local police station. You know, ‘cuz of terrorism and stuff.

Future distributed.

The future is distributed, in the word of Gibson, iThe future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed. There is an interesting article over at Fast Company. It’s a bit over the top, but it’s right in a way that I’m sure will come to pass, if not as sudden or dramatic as the author makes it seem. The future comes to the adaptable, and comes from the adaptable, as Clarence Darrow said “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.” And needless to say, the cellular and the distrusted. It’s an alarmist article, but I think with an alarmed mind-set is the best way to think about such a game-changing system.

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Real ID is a ZOMBIE. It’s back from the dead as Pass ID

Real ID Act of 2005 was an attempt to standardize state drivers licenses, in effect creating a National ID card. The act passed and was signed into law May 11, 2005. Since then 23 states have passed laws against adopting the statute, and enforcement of READ ID has been pushed off several times. For a variety of reasons.

So back in April it was a surprising and interesting news talked about repealing Real ID. Unfortunately since then PASS ID has been proposed as a response. And in general, it’s based on the (deeply flawed) theory that requiring “identity documents” and/or storing them makes ID’s more legitimate. And the more deeply flawed theory that a better ID system will reduce terrorism. It’ a bad idea for technical reasons alone, and I suggest you hit the web, dig up your senators contact info, and write a 30 second email sharing the reason that are covered better elsewhere than I ever could.

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