Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday Night Video - It's My Life

So I've been terrible about posting videos lately. Only one since the beginning of July, for a series that's supposed to be weekly. I have a bunch of half-written drafts, but none that have really caught my attention. Still, that's no excuse(the wedding is, to be fair, but that was weeks ago now).

I've occasionally used the trick of repeating song titles for filling in gaps, but this is an interesting one. It's not just a coincidence of titles here - all three of these are based on the same seed of an idea(asserting one's independence), but they're done through the lens of three different genres, which gives them three different takes.

- The 60s one is a dreamer's tale, where he's lamenting the state of the world but promising to make things better. And of course, it's all to impress a girl(as, to be fair, is true of at least half of all songs ever made).



- The 80s one is rather mopey, and is sort of a pre-breakup song. He thinks the girl is interested in moving on, and so he seems to sort of be steeling himself for a breakup and throwing his independence in her face(which looks like a lie, to my reading, but then I've never been great at lyrical analysis).



- The 00s one is the only one of them that's triumphant instead of defensive. Hell, the first line is "This ain't a song for the broken-hearted" - take that, previous songs by the same name! Of course, it helps that the band already had a long and successful career, but it's the only one that's actually about enjoying independence instead of merely using it as a shield.



So, the 60s rock and roller was kind of a loser but optimistic, the 80s new wave musician was a whiny liar, and the 00s washed up arena rock star was cocky and fond of in-jokes and references. I can't say I'm surprised, exactly, but it fits better than I'd have ever expected. What's in a name, indeed.

I still owe you guys another song, so tune in next week when I post another double.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Night Video: My December

It's not a good time for the musicians of my youth. The "Dead at 27" club are all long gone, of course, but the second wave of deaths seem to be hitting now, where all the ones who haven't managed to live as clean a life as Bono or fully pickle themselves like Keith Richards start leaving us. Chester Bennington, who more than anyone else was the soundtrack of first year university for me, killed himself yesterday. (And to think, when he stepped in for Scott Weiland, we all thought STP had a stable lineup. Now they're both gone.)

As is always the case with these things, there's nothing particularly clever I can say here. It's not like I knew the guy - I saw him in concert once, 14 years ago. I never even particularly identified with the lyrics the way some of the more emo kids did. But Linkin Park was a big part of my introduction to the wider world of music, and I hate seeing stuff like this happen to people I like.


(PS: I know I missed the last two FNVs. Unlike past times I missed them, I don't think I'll be going back and filling in the gaps. My wedding is a good enough reason to not be thinking about it that I'm not going to beat myself up over it.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Night Video - The Maple Leaf Forever (with bonus blog post!)

(This is nominally a Friday Night Video, but it's also a full-sized blog post)

Canadian patriotism is an interesting creature. We have a reputation as a country for being quiet and polite, and it's fairly well-deserved as far as any stereotype of 35 million people can be "deserved". But we like the idea of being proud Canadians, so we'll often think of ourselves as nationalist, even if we're not always very good at it. 

And so, some very strange things turn into nationalist rallying cries. "We have free healthcare!", as if most of the developed world doesn't - even the Americans run about half of their medical spending through government programs. "Tim Horton's!", as if decent donuts and heavily sweetened coffee is what makes a nation. "That I Am Canadian ad from 17 years ago!", which was a good little rant, but seriously it's a beer ad that's itself almost old enough to drink. 

Quebec has always been the exception to this, because Quebec actually has an identity that's based on their own characteristics. For example, healthcare is merely public policy for them, because they don't need it to prop up their self-worth. I've always admired them for it. In my lifetime, English Canada has never felt the same way. We used to have an identity once, back in the days when "English" didn't merely refer to a language, but it faded away in the postwar years as straight-up English nationalism became seen as anachronistic. I know a few who still feel it as strongly as their great-grandfathers, but that's more because I hang out among Tories than because it's popular nationwide. 

I think we can do better. So in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, I'll talk about a few things Canada has to be genuinely proud of. Things we do better than most of the rest of the world, not just the Americans, and the sort of things a real national identity can build itself on if we ever become willing to have one. 

1) We Do Immigration Really Well
Immigrants, in practice, tend to be divided into two categories by the general public in most countries - there's the first-worlders, who can come and go as they please without anyone caring very much, and there's the third-worlders, who are viewed with suspicion and need to be sharply limited. In some ways it's understandable - there's so many third-worlders that the numbers would be overwhelming if the walls ever came down - but immigration has huge benefits for both sides if it's allowed to happen, just like every other form of trade. 

Canada has one of the highest rates of immigration in the developed world, and yet it's generally not very controversial. There's a few cranks who complain about it, and there's occasional grumblings of "Can't they just learn the language?", but on the whole it's fairly popular. And the reason is fairly simple - we have pretty clear standards of who we want and how to get in, which means we get skilled and successful people. We take them from all over the world, so there's no single demographic group that ever builds up so many members that it triggers a backlash. And we have a fairly strong cultural expectation that immigrants can keep their food and hobbies and such, but they have to follow our laws and work within the democratic system we have here no matter what their homeland was like. (And more often than not, that's why they're here in the first place, so this isn't exactly something the immigrants tend to resist)

It sounds simple, but it's rare in practice. In the US, the stereotypical is a poor Mexican day labourer who's more likely to be illegal than legal. In Canada, the stereotypical immigrant is a small business owner from some random part of Asia. So while they elect Trump to keep the foreigners out, we take in higher numbers and the only politician to even semi-seriously try to rile people up against immigrants got absolutely crushed. It's a great system, and we should be proud of it. 

2) We're Stable, Peaceful, and Free
It's almost cliche to refer to Canada as a young country, but a 150th anniversary is actually surprisingly old when you consider the history of states instead of the history of nations. In 1867, when Canada gained independence, Germany wasn't yet a state. In all of the Old World save Europe there's a grand total of eight nations that have had a continuous existence longer than Canada has. Their ruins are older than ours, but their states are newer. 

Stability is overrated by some, but when it comes to people running their day-to-day lives, nothing matters more. Not freedom, not prosperity, not pride or honor or history - give people the choice of any of those in a chaotic world or none with stability, and most will pick the stability pretty quickly. It's happened over and over through history. We have stability without giving up any of those other virtues, and that's something to be proud of. 

Few countries can endure a decades-long effort to destroy the state without resorting to violence, especially when the movement started out with flashy violence in its own right. Few nations have as long a history of avoiding the ravages of war as we do - the world wars, destroyer of whole continents, involved one lighthouse getting shelled briefly in Canada. 

Obviously, this is not uniquely Canadian. Even the exact form of government we have is obviously a British transplant, though we picked up a few ideas from the Americans in the process. Likewise, some of it is a function of our relatively isolated geography instead of our civic virtue. But that's no reason to begrudge it. We do well with what we have, and we should be proud. 

3) We're Damn Good Bankers
I confess that I might be a bit biased here, given I work for a big bank, but this is really an underappreciated Canadian virtue. It sounds a bit silly to pick on one sector like this, but bank failures are almost always the proximate causes of ugly financial crashes, and Canada just doesn't ever have any. So when Creditanstalt crashes and takes down the world financial system with it(plus, you know, that whole Hitler thing), the whole world economy falls apart, but the Canadian banks carried on without any trouble. 2008 ripped the American banking system in half and took down several titans, but the Canadian banking crisis was two losing quarters at CIBC - heck, they still made a profit on the year. 

Our regulatory system is a bit different than other nations, but not so much so that it should cause this gigantic a discrepancy. Likewise, we bailed out our banks a bit, but less than most other nations. The best explanation I've ever heard is a Canadian cultural bias against taking excess risk, and it seems to fit well enough. And boy, does it ever work in our favour here. In the wake of 2008 when a big part of the world was talking about a "Too Big To Fail Tax" on big banks, all Harper had to do to spike the idea was to point out that it was everyone else who had problems, and the Canadian banking system was fine as it was. Rather than see all their banks move to Toronto, the whole world backed down. It was magnificent - easily my favourite move Harper made as PM - bit it only worked because our banks are eerily stable. They're harder to destroy than a Hilux, for god's sake

As for pride in our banks...well, telling people to like bankers is an uphill battle, I'll admit. But we should at least be happy that ours screw up a lot less than anyone else's. 

4) We're Usually On The Right Side Of History
Most nations have a bit of a spotty record overall. They're the good guys sometimes, they're the bad guys sometimes, who knows. But Canada has, by and large, been on the right side of every conflict we've been in. The Boer War was rather questionable, I'll admit, but in both World Wars, most theatres of the Cold War, and the post-9/11 War on Terror we did our part quite effectively for our size. We invented peacekeeping(which we laud more than we ought, but it's genuinely done good work in a few places), and we're pretty decent at knowing which one to use when. Again, it's not unique, but it's rarer than we might like, and it's something to take pride in.

Honorable Mentions
The food: Poutine, nanaimo bars, butter tarts, and maple everything are all typical Canadian foods, but our immigration system is doing double duty here. I live in the most multicultural city on the planet, and I can eat like it any time I want. It's fantastic. 

It's really pretty: Every nation has scenic bits of nature, but the advantage of being so huge is that we have a whole lot more of it than most. 

It's home: At root, this is half the reason for nationalism in every nation. Even if it's not the best nation in an abstract sense, it's still mine, and I like it here. 

I say we have a lot to be proud of, and we can do better about expressing that pride than ragging on our best friends, or spending $120,000 on a rubber duck, or throwing around airy platitudes, bloated government agencies, and stale beer commercials. We're allowed to be proud of who we are, and I'd like to see us do it a bit more often. 



Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Night Video - Let Love Rule

Sorry for the sparse posting lately - my real life is kind of nuts at the moment, what with the whole "I'm getting married in two weeks" thing. Comes mid-July, the longer posts should pick back up. But until then, some sappy romantic stuff.

This is one I actually got from the guy who originally posted a Friday Night Video series, the one I ripped off for this idea. He's a big 80s music nut - this was about the most modern his musical tastes got - but it's a pretty cool tune.




And, since I owe you guys one from last week:

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday Night Video - Scheer Heart Attack

This is the other song I was thinking of posting last week. (I'm not very good at avoiding politics, especially the politics of the bad pun.) It's definitely not this band's usual repertoire, but it was the 70s, and I think everyone tried to make a random metal song then. So hey, what's one more? Still beats disco.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tax and Spend Policy

It's amazing what a bit of perspective can do. The ability to look at a problem from a different angle can improve your understanding of it dramatically if you find the right angle. This is not a novel insight, of course, but the huge variety of possible perspectives in the world makes it hard to know where to start much of the time.

There's a fairly large category of political issues that boil down, at one level or another, to regulations. The government doesn't tax anyone or spend anything on these issues(other than a comparatively trivial amount on enforcement), they simply mandate that X happen or Y stop and let the details work themselves out. For a lot of problems, this isn't a bad way of doing things - if you're going to have rent control or supply management, it's much more practical to simply mandate them than to arrange a tax and subsidy system that'd replicate their effects. (This is not to say that you necessarily should have them, which is a whole separate debate. I'm just discussing the implementation if you're going to have them.)

These issues are still ones where the government is interfering in the economy in one way or another, however. They still move money around. Well, if the government is moving money around, why not pretend it actually is a tax and spend system instead, just to see if it looks any different?

I've touched on this a bit before, but it's useful in far more situations than retail monopolies. For example, consider the minimum wage debate we've been hearing so much about for the last several days months decades. The spending side is simple enough - the recipients of the policy are low-income workers who would otherwise be earning less than the minimum wage. They make more than they would, so you can think of that as being a government spending program, like the Working Income Tax Benefit.

The tax side isn't all that complex either. The money to fund this "spending" comes from a "tax" on employers, in the form of the higher wages they need to pay. Thing is, it doesn't hit all employers equally. I work for a big financial institution, and the number of minimum-wage workers we have is probably a rounding error. My employer will pay basically pay nothing towards this "spending". Instead, the burden of the "tax" falls purely on employers who hire low-wage workers. Also, unlike most taxes on business, it's not based on profitability. Even a business that's losing money will need to pay this "tax", while a business that's extraordinarily profitable will pay nothing extra despite their extra resources.

When you look at the policy through this lens, a lot of the arguments on the topic start looking pretty hollow. Yes, I'll accept that giving low-income workers more money will lead to more consumer spending, and that this spending will generally help low-cost retailers and the like. And sure, that sounds like it'll be a good thing. But that implies precisely nothing about how this "spending program" should be financed. If someone said to you that they wanted to finance the welfare system through a highly regressive tax on people who are helping those on welfare, you'd think they were nuts.

Taxes create less of whatever you tax. If you want to make people do less of a thing, force them to pay more for doing that thing. If you want them to do more of a thing, pay them for doing that thing. That's not right-wing dogma, either, it's the fundamental idea behind carbon taxes and other similar policies - you make the polluter pay, because it's a good way to get less pollution. Same thing here. And thus the policy is...you make the person hiring poor people pay, because you want them to have fewer jobs? Really?

So sure, let's say for sake of argument that Card and Krueger are right and the minimum wage doesn't actually hurt employment at all, because the beneficial effects of the increased spending by the poor outweighs the costs borne by the employers. Wouldn't it be even better if you got the same spending without the taxes falling on their employers? If you could get the benefits there, and also have most of the costs fall on sectors of the economy better able to bear those costs without harming low-income workers in the process?

A lot of people will oppose this because it's just another big tax-and-spend government policy, and most of them will be on my side of the ideological fence. But that method of thinking is a trap. A subsidy can still exist even if it doesn't show up in the annual budget that the House votes on. An expense is the same to the person paying it no matter where the money goes. A government-mandated system of one person giving more money to another person than they otherwise would is no different than a tax followed by a spending program, and it should be treated the same way. If you're okay with taxes, then by all means, you're allowed be okay with this too - I'm not telling you where to stand on tax policy (well, not in this particular post at least). But I'd say that the people who think there's a fundamental difference between the two are looking at things from the wrong angle.

People love their partisan debates, but a lot of the time the truth is that both sides are being kind of dumb. If you only ever look at things from the perspective of a partisan, you can easily miss that. Step back, break these ideas down, and see what they look like afterwards. If they can't handle that, you might still be pushing them for PR reasons, but you should at least admit what you're doing to yourself, lest you get too caught up in defending the indefensible.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Night Video - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

It was seventy years ago today that Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. (Well 70 years and a week if you go by the UK release date, but I decided to engage in premature celebration rather than mark that one. Brilliant decision, that.)

I must say, I find the discussion of giant landmarks like this album that came before my time to be a bit odd. I once heard a story from a guy who took a film class, and got shown a really early pre-sound film in class, a scene they all regarded as fairly simple and boring, and the prof asked them afterwards why they thought he'd shown it. Nobody could answer. Apparently, it was the first use of cutting back and forth between two vantage points in film history, but to people versed in modern film, that rather revolutionary approach was totally invisible. I wonder if the impact of seminal records like this is the same for people who weren't there. I know their music very well, of course, but I learned it all at the same time - my parents listened to a lot of radio stations that played Beatles music, but I was hearing Love Me Do at the same time as Let It Be, and it all blended in together. Going back and looking at the timeline, I do prefer their later stuff, but it's not a sudden shift to me, it's a gradual evolution.

"You had to be there" is one of those sentiments that gets used most often to cover up a gulf in understanding - something that's meaningful to one person is white noise to another. I don't like being the second person in that - I want to know and understand everything, and it bugs me when I'm missing something. But still, it feels a bit like I'm missing something. It's a great album, but the impact isn't the same for those of us looking at it from fifty years later. Shame, really.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

CPC Leadership - Wrap-Up

I.
It felt like the first time. It was not the first time.

Scheer won in a nail-biter - the closest leadership race I've ever seen, he was behind on the first 12 ballots, and he came right up the middle through the narrowest gap in politics. It was an impressive performance by his team, and I'd like to congratulate him and wish him good luck in uniting the party behind his leadership and defeating Trudeau in 2019,

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's something I need to get out of my system.




ahem

I won't pretend to be happy about this result. I think Scheer was less well-positioned to win the next election, as well as being less likely to do anything useful if he does win. I have a sinking feeling that we might be here in a few years doing this all over again. Trudeau was never going to be easy to beat(even if you don't respect the man's smarts, he has a pretty good team and a boatload of charisma), and we just made it harder.

That said, the comment I made about Scheer and party unity before the vote was "Anyone who leaves the party over him was never ours to begin with". I stand by that. He's a generic conservative, very much like Harper was, and while I think we could do better, we could've done much worse. I have friends who are talking about being sure that they'll vote Liberal to punish the CPC, but I don't agree with their decision at all. I mean, maybe the 2019 platform will be so terrible that it's the right call, but promising to do that two and a half years out is grossly premature. I don't think the platform will be nearly as nice as the Bernier platform that could have been, but I can imagine a platform like Harper's in 2006 that is simple, to the point, and composed of some pretty good stuff overall. I'd happily support that. My gut right now expects something more in the "grudgingly support" realm, with a lot of annoying micro-policy and minimal vision, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong there.

II.
Good platform or bad, though, it'll be a nightmare to win the election. Scheer did astonishingly well in Quebec, but by all accounts he did it by signing up people who'd mostly never vote for us in the general election. I don't expect him to win many seats there, and winning without Quebec is incredibly hard. In all of Canadian history, there have only been four majority governments that didn't need Quebec's votes. Two(1958 and 1984) were nationwide landslides that won Quebec as well, and simply used the extra seats to run up the numbers. One was the wartime election of 1917, where the Conservatives and Liberals, the only two parties of note at the time, basically formed a coalition government and ran a slate together everywhere but Quebec(English Canada went 150-20 for Borden, and many of those 20 were in Francophone-heavy ridings), The fourth and final example of a no-Quebec-required victory was the 2011 election,

2011 looks like an outlier here. It was no landslide(Harper won 39.6%), and it doesn't seem like anything particularly out of the ordinary as elections go. But if you break down the numbers a bit, you see exactly how hard it was. If you exclude Quebec, Harper went from 54% of the seats to 69%, from 39.6% of the vote to 47.7%. That's almost as big a landslide as Mulroney won in 1984. And even then, that wasn't enough on its own. We also needed the worst result for the Liberals in Canadian history(including the aforementioned 1917 election, where they barely existed across 2/3 of the country), with a shockingly strong NDP splitting the opposition vote - without that, we'd still have fallen short of a majority even with the huge support we got in English Canada bolstered by the bare handful of MPs we scraped up in Quebec.

Long story short, Quebec is large, populous, and very different than the rest of the country. You can win elections without them, but it's bloody hard. Scheer already threaded one needle yesterday, but if he wants a majority government, he needs to thread another one that's just as thin. Again, I'd be happy to be wrong here, but I'm not sure he's got it in him.

III. 
I expect there's going to be some people who have problems with the process. It always happens after an election like this, especially one where the voting process had as many problems as this election did(for those not in the loop, the process of mailing out ballots to voters was rocky, and I know a couple folks who simply never got a ballot in the mail - normally, not a big deal when you can just vote in person, but when there's only a dozen or so in-person polling locations in all of Canada, it really can be). Likewise, a lot of people had trouble with the "ID in outer envelope, ballot in inner envelope" system, and apparently the spoiled ballot numbers were high. From what I can see, none of this seems to have been targeted at any given campaign, and it was just a rocky process from a party that hasn't run one of these since 2004, and may have forgotten important details about how to do it well.

People will complain, but losing teams always complain about stuff like that. With a race this close it may have even made the difference, but we can't re-run the election to find out, so it winds up being a hazard of the game. I'm not thrilled about that, but I don't want to see people getting too bitter about it.

The other part of the procedure side that I find interesting is trying to figure out how Scheer will extend an olive branch to Bernier's camp. He won fair and square, so he's entitled to run on whatever policy he likes at this point, but if he's smart he'll try to keep the 49% of his party that wanted some pretty radical changes to our approach on-side. He'll keep harping on the things that they agreed on, of course - no corporate welfare(I doubt Scheer really means it from how he cozied up to the dairy farmers, but he'll at least pretend), balancing the budget, and all that. But if he starts talking about one of Bernier's bigger policies, I won't be too surprised. It won't be supply management, of course, nor will it be devolution of healthcare to the provinces, but I think Bernier's equalization policy might be an interesting one. It'll play well with the party base, he can have Bernier spearhead it to take the sting off for the Quebecois, and everyone always whines about the details of the formula no matter what happens, so it gives you political cover for doing just about anything. There's constitutional issues with changing it too much, of course(s.36 explicitly requires the existence of equalization), and the Supreme Court has not been known for its deference to Conservative policy efforts, but I think it's more likely than most.

It'll be interesting to watch, in any case. If Scheer starts acting like the "real conservative" he billed himself as, I think some of my more pessimistic friends may come around. We'll see.

IV. 
The last thing I'll note before I start finding something to blog about aside from Canadian politics is that the reporting on this race was profoundly bad. Stupid and obvious questions are par for the course("You were the frontrunner and led on the first 12 ballots, how does it feel to lose?"), but the number of people who didn't even spend thirty seconds to learn the rules was really sad. Talk of "delegates" in reporting was common, some people didn't seem to understand that the votes had already all been cast, and I saw one reporter get Scheer and Bernier mixed up - not in random discussions in the newsroom, no, she asked one a question that was obviously meant for the other, because she didn't know who she was talking to. Argh.

The real gold-star, A for effort, achievement in failed reporting award, though, goes to someone who isn't actually a reporter at all - it goes to Kevin O'friggin'Leary, the guy who could plausibly have won this race if he'd kept his head in the game. After the first ballot results came in, he was talking about how he predicted Bernier was still going to win, but it was going to take longer. He'd originally said a win on the 5th-7th ballot, but now he was saying the 9th ballot. Small problem - that was a completely insane prediction, on the verge of being mathematically impossible. Bernier would have needed to be the second choice of 93% of everyone else's voters, including those of candidates who despised him, in order to win on the 9th ballot. Winning on the 5th would have required him to be over 47% on the first ballot, when O'Leary's(excessively generous, as it turns out) prediction was 35%. Mr. Wonderful didn't seem to understand that all the votes were already cast and candidates couldn't drop off halfway through. Despite having tried to drop out of the race himself and not being allowed to. Good lord, man. I am so glad that he realized he wasn't a serious candidate, because it would have been a disaster to have someone so clueless running the show, and he might have been able to get there.

Edit: I found a journalist who actually covered the race the right way! (Well, mostly - that isn't any Lux I've ever seen)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Friday Night Video - First Time

It's interesting being on a campaign that may actually win. I spoke of this a bit earlier in my series on the Conservative leadership, but it's still odd. I'm the guy who supports people way too principled to actually win, not the guy who backs the frontrunner. I know I'll probably be disappointed, and I have several friends who'd tell me I'm putting too much faith in a partisan politician, and I probably am, but it's worth a shot. Better to have someone who fails to live up to their principles than someone who never had them in the first place. Still, being on the winning team? It feels like the first time.



Also, because I forgot last week, I have a bonus video this week, and it's a tribute to another fallen musical great. It's interesting looking through the list of songs on my computer by Chris Cornell to see what I should post for him, and seeing names like "Fell on Black Days", "Let Me Drown", "Like Suicide", "Pretty Noose", "The Day I Tried To Live", and "Show Me How To Live", all of which seem to be in incredibly poor taste right now. So I'll pick one a bit more uplifting, and which I like better as a song too.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Light and Heat

Consider three items - a big 10-lb log of wood, a litre of gasoline, and a stick of dynamite. Which one would you throw on a fire?

What a stupid question.  Throwing a log on a fire is routine and harmless, throwing a bunch of gas on a fire is the stuff of crazy Youtube videos, and throwing a stick of dynamite on a fire is suicidal. everybody knows that. And yet, if you look at how much energy each of them produce - the total amount of light, heat, and so on that's released when they burn - the gas is 40x more energetic than the dynamite, and the log is twice as energetic as the gas.

The difference, as any child could tell you, is in how fast they burn up. The dynamite goes off in a tiny fraction of a second, the gas takes a few seconds, and the log will happily burn for hours. So yes, the log produces the most heat, but it spreads it out over such a long time that you'll sit around it for hours roasting marshmallows and chatting with your friends. That heat doesn't build up to damaging levels,your body sweats away excess heat if it needs to, you can move your seat back if it's getting too warm, you might walk away for a while and miss some of it, and so on. With the others, none of that happens - the energy is released quickly, and it'll blow you away or singe off your eyebrows if you're too close, and you won't have any time to react.

Now, imagine how clueless you would sound if you said "I don't trust logs as an energy source - fire is basically the same as an explosion, and they last such a long time, so it'd never be safe to go anywhere near a burning log". They're actually correct about fire and explosions being basically the same thing chemically, and they're also right about how long the log lasts, but their conclusion just doesn't follow. The danger of an explosion exists precisely because it's short, due to it taking a small amount of energy and lighting it all off in an instant. More total energy isn't much of a problem as long as you can react as it happens, particularly if it lasts long enough that you won't even be around for a big part of it.

If you've ever complained about how radioactivity lasts for millions of years after a nuclear accident, this is exactly how you sound to people who understand nuclear science.