FreeBSD Code of Conduct

Slashdot linked to the FreeBSD Code of Conduct. The article claims there is some controversy, so that’s what the comments focus on. I wrote:

Having just read the Code of Conduct, it seem generally fine. Some of my concerns are that the rules are too broad, and some are that they are too narrow.

The “Comments that reinforce systemic oppression related to” wording seems super vague. This portion has the highest potential for abusive use. To be clear, I’m fine with all the protected criteria that come in that rule. I’d much prefer replacing that with “Harassing comments related to”

The “unwelcome comments” thing is pretty broad. If someone says to me on IRC, “I’m tired all the time.” and I say, “You should stop eating so much junk food and get some exercise.”, I’m now in trouble if they feel that comment is unwelcome. With this rule, the only option for me is to never engage in such a conversation. Is that helpful or harmful to building relationships and living fulfilling lives? I think it’s more harmful than helpful. Now, I agree that continually nagging that person to eat healthy is inappropriate. If this was limited to “repeated”, “after being asked to stop”, or similar, it would be better.

I have some concerns about the “dead” names thing. I get and agree with the point: use the names people pick for themselves. As long as this isn’t enforced robotically, it should be fine. There are some legitimate reasons to use names that were in use in times in the past. For example, I think citations to publications should use the name of the author at the time it was published, because the point of the citation is to help you find the publication. This is supported by, for example, an APA Style Blog post. The issue of whether to change one’s name is complicated for the individual and has implications for the wider community.

For another example, yesterday I was considering replying to a years-old mailing list comment, and quoting some text. The author of the quoted text is trans and has changed names. Am I required to edit the “On DATE, NAME wrote:” line? To be clear, in new text, I would address this person using their new name (and have actually done so). I said in a follow up comment: I actually struggled with this for several minutes before ultimately deciding to just drop the “On DATE, NAME” bit. I ultimately determined the answer to my own question, so I dropped the email before sending it.

I personally don’t see a problem with person A saying “*hugs*” to person B without (advance) consent. Though, this is situational. If someone says, “Sorry for the delay on this bug, I’ve been distracted. My dog died.”, I see no problem with “Sorry to hear about your dog. *hugs*”. On the other hand, something like “You’re such a special snowflake. *hugs*” is an improper ad hominem attack. Even in the first example, I do have a problem if they keep doing it after being told by person B to stop, so that rule is fine. On the other hand, saying “*backrub*” out of the blue does seem across the line. I’m struggling to think of an example where that would be unambiguously appropriate.

I’m not sure why the “as necessary to protect vulnerable people from intentional abuse” exception exists to the “outing” rule. Why would it be necessary or acceptable to out someone to protect them? I said in a follow up comment: In terms of the exception to the “outing” rule, I was assuming that the person being outed was the vulnerable person. I see my error now, and this makes sense.

“Publication of non-harassing private communication without consent.” is problematic as a blanket rule. If someone says something important publicly which is materially contradicted by private statements, that might be necessary (albeit tacky) to share, even if those private statements are non-harrassing.

“Knowingly making harmful false claims about a person.” I would strike harmful. Why is it necessary that the false claims be harmful?

Guns: Focus on agreement

This post, entitled, “Fuck you, I like guns” was posted to Facebook recently.

The positions from this article are: “I like guns and I don’t care what you want.” and “I don’t like guns and I don’t care what you want.” I don’t think people with those positions can have a productive discussion with each other.

I don’t think those extremes are as common as people like to claim. I think we’d do a lot better to focus on areas where we agree. For example, both sides agree that criminals shouldn’t have guns. We only prosecute 0.1% of background check denials. Except for paperwork mistakes, every single one of those people is committing a federal and state crime, which they have caused to be reported, and nothing happens. Can we investigate every single one?

There is also widespread support for “universal background checks”. Can we pass that (without lumping in other things)?

If you want to require licensing for gun purchases, I’m personally on board with that. For example, in my state, we could require the existing hunter’s safety course to purchase a rifle, and the existing concealed weapons permit course to purchase a pistol. I don’t think that’d be too controversial. I might ask for something in return, though. Since I’m licensed, let me take my concealed handgun into all gas stations instead of just some of them. Or, if that’s too much of a restriction on other’s property rights, maybe we can respect my property rights by repealing laws banning silencers so I can further protect my hearing at the range.

Can we repeal the common law duty to retreat at the same time as adding “violent” in front of “felony” in my state’s laws about self defense in the home to correct that oddity?

Can we treat private citizens who use force in self-defense the same way we treat cops who do the same, perhaps by bringing both situations closer to the middle?

If limiting things in the Bill of Rights is on the table, can we restrict the media just a little bit in how they report on these things? We know that copycat crimes are thing, and less sensationalism and glorification of the crimes would likely help.

Facts are Discriminatory

As reported on Ars Technica, the National Labor Relations Board’s Office of General Counsel, released a memo about James Damore’s complaint against Google after they fired him over his controversial memo. As I wrote on Reddit:

The NLRB memo concludes, “[His] statements about immutable traits linked to sex—such as…men’s prevalence at the top of the IQ distribution—were discriminatory and constituted sexual harassment notwithstanding… references”.

Imagine a male firefighter said (with citations to legitimate research), “Studies show that, on average, men have more upper body strength than women. That is a cause, other than bias, which could explain why there are more male firefighters than female firefighters, despite all of the fire department’s diversity efforts.” Can that be legitimately construed as discriminatory and constituting sexual harassment?

Imagine the firefighter further says, “While there are limits, we can change some aspects of how the work is performed to reduce the upper body strength required. This would help reduce the gender gap in a non-discriminatory way. This is more fair than having programs, mentoring, and classes only for women firefighters.” Does that help or hurt his position?

Minnesota Taxes

Jeff Johnson, a 2018 candidate for Minnesota Governor, posted on Facebook:

With all the talk from the left about how federal tax reform will be costly to some taxpayers in very high tax states (like Minnesota), maybe it’s time we stopped complaining about the Feds and solve this problem for Minnesota taxpayers ourselves.

Minnesota is among the highest in the country in income tax, gas tax, beer tax, wine tax, sales tax, corporate tax, death tax, social security benefit tax, business property tax – and I could go on. We’ll never be South Dakota, but how about we remove ourselves from the list of most taxpayer-hostile states in the nation.

And don’t let anyone tell you that we only overtax the “rich” in Minnesota – it’s not just wealthy people who pay gas, sales, beer/wine and social security taxes. More importantly, our lowest income tax rate (applying to anyone making more than $10,350 per year) is higher than the highest rate in 22 other states. We’re not just taxing CEO’s to death in Minnesota, we’re taxing school teachers, mechanics, bartenders and child care providers to death.

It’s time we give Minnesota taxpayers a break!

Minnesota tax rates are unquestionably, by comparison, high. If we can reduce taxes without sacrificing critical services like roads, bridges, education, etc., I’m absolutely for it. But let’s be careful not to overstate the size of the problem / benefit of such a change: it’s only about half a percent of total taxpayer income.

I’ve looked at a few sources, and they show similar results. I’ll use the numbers from one source for consistency. We are 8th highest in the country. The range of overall state and local tax burden across all 50 states is from 7.1% to 12.7%, and Minnesota is 10.8%. We’re thus 2/3 of the way through that range. If the realistic goal is that we’ll never be South Dakota, but we should do better, let’s call that goal being 1/3 into that range instead of 2/3. That means dropping 1/3 * (12.7%-7.1%) = 0.5 percentage points (pp).

To be clear, this reduction would be in terms of overall tax burden, not in some particular tax rate. Larger reductions in, for example, income tax rates would be necessary to create that reduction in burden.


There is also room for improvement in the progressiveness of our tax system, but we’re doing better there already than in rates. In terms of progressiveness of our taxes, we are currently 13th with regard to income taxes:

This article, while lacking in actual data, seems to confirm that Minnesota is also highly progressive in terms of overall tax burden (and one of the top states in that regard):

We’ve also been moving in the right direction. This report shows Minnesota as the #1 state in improving progressiveness from 2011-2014:

Informed Consent Required

I replied to this portion of a comment on Reddit:

I don’t think you actually want legislation that dictates a child’s ears cannot be pierced until they are old enough to decide.

I actually do want such legislation. I see permanent, cosmetic (i.e. not for medical reasons) body modifications as something which parents should not be allowed to perform or have performed on their children without informed consent from the child.

Such practices come in many forms, including ear piercing, male circumcision, and female genital mutilation. While the relevant age necessary to give consent should probably vary between these practices, in principle, these should all require informed consent. What one does to their own body is their business, but a child’s body belongs to him or her, not his or her parents.

We actually have such legislation banning female genital mutilation under the age of 18: