Sunday, March 31, 2013

It's easier to like our species if you remember we're all crazy: an end to the Rationalizing Animal posts

I'll despair for my race if I keep posting about humans as rationalizing animals, so I'm stopping for now. All I can say is that believing humans could be rational was the most irrational belief I've ever had. No longer believing that does not make me rational, but it does make me happy. If you think of humans as a cross between chimps and bonobos, you'll continue to wish they took better care of themselves, their fellow creatures, and their environment, but you'll stop getting frustrated when they act like pretentious apes.

Albert Camus said, "Humans are creatures, who spent their lifes trying to convince themselves, that their existence is not absurd." It's not our existence that's absurd. We're absurd.

Mark Twain said, "Man is a Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute." He was feeling wry rather than rude that day. He also said, "Oh, this infernal Human Race! I wish I had it in the Ark again--with an auger!" Like many people who've been called misanthropes, Twain couldn't rationalize knowing the human race and loving it.

I'm still working on both parts of that.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

SJWs are extreme examples of rationalizing animals

I'm doing a series of posts on humans as rationalizing animals at my main blog. They all apply strongly to SJWs, but this one's especially relevant: Choose your group carefully—you will conform: rationalizing animal #7.

Choose your group carefully—you will conform: Rationalizing Animal #7

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.” ― Henry David Thoreau

William H. White, who coined "groupthink" in 1952, said, "We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity — it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity — an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well."

From Following the Crowd: Changing Your Mind to Fit In May Not Be a Conscious Choice: Scientific American:
When people conform to group expect­ations, Zaki says, they are not concealing their own preferences; they actually have aligned their minds. In addition, the likelihood of someone conforming depends on his or her place within the group, according to a study in the December 2010 issue of the British Journal of Sociology. Members who are central are more likely to dissent because their identities are more secure. Those at the edges, who feel only partially in­volved or are new to the group, may have more malleable opinions.
From Victims of Groupthink by Irving L. Janis (via Swans):
Eight main symptoms run through the case studies of historic fiascoes. Each symptom can be identified by a variety of indicators, derived from historical records, observer's accounts of conversations, and participants' memoirs. The eight symptoms of groupthink are:

1. an illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks;

2. collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions;

3. an unquestioned belief in the group's inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions;

4. stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

5. direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group's stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

6. self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member's inclination to minimize to himself the importance of his doubts and counterarguments;

7. a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent);

8. the emergence of self-appointed mindguards - members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

When a policy-making group displays most or all of these symptoms, the members perform their collective tasks ineffectively and are likely to fail to attain their collective objectives. Although concurrence-seeking may contribute to maintaining morale after a defeat and to muddling through a crisis when prospects for a successful outcome look bleak, these positive effects are generally outweighed by the poor quality of the group's decision-making. My assumption is that the more frequently a group displays the symptoms, the worse will be the quality of its decisions. Even when some symptoms are absent, the others may be so pronounced that we can predict all the unfortunate consequences of groupthink.


The member's firm belief in the inherent morality of their group and their use of undifferentiated negative stereotypes of opponents enable them to minimize decision conflicts between ethical values and expediency, especially when they are inclined to resort to violence. The shared belief that "we are a wise and good group" inclines them to use group concurrence as a major criterion to judge the morality as well as the efficacy of any policy under discussion. "Since our group's objectives are good," the members feel, "any means we decide to use must be good." This shared assumption helps the members avoid feelings of shame or guilt about decisions that may violate their personal code of ethical behavior. Negative stereotypes of the enemy enhance their sense of moral righteousness as well as their pride in the lofty mission of the in-group.
There's no solution for groupthink, just as there's no solution for being human, but one thing helps: encourage dissent—see Fighting Groupthink With Dissent.

Christopher Hitchens on SJWs

"People began to intone the words "The Personal is Political." At the instant I first heard this deadly expression, I knew as one does from the utterance of any sinister bullshit that it was- cliche is arguably forgivable here- very bad news. From now on, it would be enough to be a member of a sex or gender, or epidermal subdivision, or even erotic "preference," to qualify as a revolutionary. In order to begin a speech or to ask a question from the floor, all that would be necessary by way of preface would be the words: "Speaking as a..." Then could follow any self-loving description. I will have to say this much for the old "hard" Left: we earned our claim to speak and intervene by right of experience and sacrifice and work. It would never have done for any of us to stand up and say that our sex or sexuality or pigmentation or disability were qualifications in themselves." —Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22

via Hitchens on SJWs : sjsucks

Friday, March 29, 2013

Got cognitive dissonance? Try hypocrisy! or Rationalizing Animal #6

Call someone a hypocrite and they may think you're calling them a liar, but hypocrites usually aren't liars. Or if they are, they're people who have fallen for their own lies.

The most famous example of calling out hypocrisy may be Jesus's "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." That's not addressed to a liar. That's addressed to someone who can't see what's blocking his vision. It's a description of someone suffering from cognitive dissonance, the conflict that comes from having irreconcilable beliefs and needs, a problem many people solve with hypocrisy.

The classic example: The fox wants the grapes, the fox can't get the grapes, the fox decides it doesn't want the grapes. It's easier for the fox to have a new belief than to live with the knowledge that what it wants is beyond its grasp. The fox isn't lying. The fox is deluding itself.

Though their actions may have horrible consequences, hypocrites deserve our pity. From The Psychology of Hypocrisy:
Hypocrisy is among the most universal and well-studied of psychological phenomena, and the research suggests that Craig, Haggard and the others may be guilty not so much of moral hypocrisy as moral weakness. The distinction may sound trivial at first, but as a society, we tend to forgive the weak and shun the hypocritical. As psychologists Jamie Barden of Howard University, Derek Rucker of Northwestern and Richard Petty of Ohio State have shown, we often use a simple temporal cue to distinguish between the weak and the hypocritical: if you say one thing and then do another, you are much less likely to be forgiven than if you do one thing and then say another. Barden, Rucker and Petty use this example: a radio host says on-air that he's joining a fitness organization but then eats pizza for a week and gains five pounds. Hypocrite! Now consider the reverse order: the host eats pizza for a week and then publicly joins a fitness group. "In each case," the psychologists wrote in a 2005 paper in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, "the statements and behaviors are equally inconsistent." But we see something almost noble about the second scenario.
Hypocrisy may be something the human brain simply does. From Our Brains are Wired for Hypocrisy:
To investigate cognitive dissonance, neuroscientists at the University of California, Davis, led by Cameron Carter used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the brains of volunteers who were made to experience the psychological pain of clashing beliefs and actions. Specifically, the volunteers spent 45 minutes doing a boring task inside the cramped fMRI tube, after which they answered written questions indicating how they felt about the experience, which they did not enjoy. To induce cognitive dissonance, the subjects were then asked to answer the questions again, and to say this time that they enjoyed being in the scanner. Some of them were told their answers were being read by a nervous patient who needed reassurance. The other participants were told that they would get $1 each time they answered the questions as though they were enjoying the scanner, but they were not given the worried-patient cover story.
While faking it, two brain regions were particularly active in both groups: the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the anterior insula. One of the functions of the dACC is to detect conflicts between incompatible bits of information; it is especially active when a person lies. The anterior insular has a similar job description, monitoring psychological conflicts such as a clash between stated beliefs and true ones. The scientists, writing in Nature Neuroscience, call this extra activity in the dACC and insula "the neural representation of cognitive dissonance." Basically, "the more that participants in the dissonance group 'lied' [about enjoying the fMRI], the greater was…activation" of these regions: they detected when beliefs and actions parted ways.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Even "real" scientists do cargo science: Rationalizing Animal #5

From "Cargo Cult Science" - by Richard Feynman:
In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

...Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.
Millikan's measurement illustrates at least three manifestations of human irrationality:

1. Millikan was an authority, so he wasn't questioned.

2. When other scientists had results like his, confirmation bias stopped them from testing further.

3. When other scientists had results that weren't like his—i.e., more accurate results—they kept testing until they found a way to rationalize what they were sure were their mistakes.

Feynman offers a solution to cargo cult science:
...this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves--of having utter scientific integrity--is, I'm sorry to say, something that we haven't specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you've caught on by osmosis.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.
But Feynman's too optimistic about his first principle. How can any of us know we haven't fooled ourselves?


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The oldest exercise in moral philosophy: Rationalizing Animal #4

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” —John Kenneth Galbraith

Galbraith was a liberal Canadian, which may be why he didn't notice that he could've replaced "the modern conservative" with "the capitalist and the monarchist", but he's right about the oldest exercise in moral philosophy: the rich love to rationalize being rich while others suffer. The pretentious ape wants reassurance. The traditional way to get it is for priests to twist the messages of prophets after they die: Zoroaster, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad all lived very simple lives, but kings and tycoons have claimed to be inspired by them, thanks to the priests who helped them rationalize their religions with their lives.

The same rationalization is done by atheists and agnostics, of course.

William Baldwin at Rationalizing Wealth - asks, "Now let's try to rationalize an economic system that gives one family 100,000 times as much loot as the average family." His rationalization is philanthropy, which may be the most traditional one. My favorite philanthropist was Andrew Carnegie, who gave away much of his fortune to build libraries, but I'm no fan of philanthropy—Carnegie's gifts never undid the cruel things done in his name to build his wealth, and for all that he gave, he still kept a fortune.

I prefer these thinkers:

"Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary." —Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Millionaires at one end of the scale involved paupers at the other end, and even so excellent a man as Mr. Carnegie is too dear at that price." — Hugh Price Hughes

“First they take billions from you, then they give back half. And that makes them the world’s greatest humanitarians.” —Slavoj Zizek

Monday, March 25, 2013

Everyone dances to the Amygdala Hijack: Rationalizing Animal #3

Humans react, then think. The reason? The limbic hijack or amygdala hijack. Our emotions are controlled by the brain's limbic system and more specifically, by the amygdala. The Amygdala hijack is
the term to describe emotional responses from people which are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat.

...'not all limbic hijackings are distressing. When a joke strikes someone as so uproarious that their laughter is almost explosive, that, too, is a limbic response. It is at work also in moments of intense joy'.
The hijack could also be called the Hulk Effect: the angrier we get, the stupider we get. From Neuroscience Fundamentals - The limbic System:
Amygdala hijack is known to be an evolutionary response to the environment where there is no time for rational thinking. Actions must be done to protect yourself from harm immediately resulting in “unthinkingly" or impulsive behaviours. Hadley (2010) proposed that up to 75% of the conscious reasoning is lost during the hijack. This conclusion was backed up by another paper by Peters (2011) who claimed that the energy sent to prefrontal cortex is greatly reduced during the hijack. Moreover, only 5% of the brain is devoted to the “present” situation whereas the rest is occupied with the past or future hassles.
The hijack especially affects teenagers. From The Adolescent Brain and Decision Making Skills:
In 2008, B. J. Casey’s research team at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and California Institute of Technology published an article suggesting that the limbic system is the major contributor of poor judgment and impulsivity in the teen brain. The team proposed that although the frontal lobe of the cortex can weigh options to make a decision with a safe outcome, a teen’s “on guard” limbic system often wins out over the reasoning of the prefrontal cortex resulting in more high risking taking decisions. The theory is that the impulsive ever vigilant limbic system keeps a teen’s brain focused on primal tasks such as finding a mate, elevating one’s status with peers and seeking pleasure activities such as eating, sex and novelty.
But adults shouldn't get smug. When we feel a threat of any sort—including threats to our belief systems—we all dance the to the Limbic Hijack.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What is call-out culture?

I offered one answer in Call-out Culture is an Outrage Culture: "call-out culture is a game called World of Social Justice Warcraft".

Call-out Culture is an Outrage Culture

Adria Richards' decision to photograph and tweet a picture of guys joking about dongles rather than ask them to be quieter or to stop acting like thirteen-year-olds is an example of call-out culture, as she notes in her version of what happened, Forking and Dongle Jokes Don’t Belong At Tech Conferences: "Yesterday, I publicly called out a group of guys at the PyCon conference who were not being respectful to the community."

In defense of Adria Richards and call-out culture claims this is a valid example: "I once took, and tweeted, a photograph of a man who sat down in my row and began masturbating during the rape scenes in The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. I did it because I was repulsed, horrified, and angry, and most of all because I wanted him to stop. And, on some level, because I was afraid he would hurt me. Call-out culture, I believe, helped me make it impossible for him to do so."

I don't know if the writer is lying to herself, but if you're afraid of someone in a movie theater, you don't call attention to yourself by taking a picture. You find an usher or the manager. Maybe you take a picture as proof, then find someone with the power to get the person kicked out or arrested. But if your idea of an empowering action never leaves the internet, your empowerment is as real as what happens in World of Warcraft.

But then, maybe call-out culture is a game called World of Social Justice Warcraft.

There's a lot of discussion about call-out culture on the web. I especially recommend a post at MetaFilter: privilege-checking and call-out culture, which starts by citing Liberal bullying: Privilege-checking and semantics-scolding as internet sport.

I found an insider's criticism of call-out culture at Tiger Beatdown, a site hosted by Sady Doyle, one of the gender feminists who decided Julian Assange doesn't need a trial to be declared guilty. From Flavia Dzodan's Come one, come all! Feminist and Social Justice blogging as performance and bloodshed:
Call out culture, a phenomenon that casual readers might not even notice, is to me, the most toxic aspect of blogging. Not because it is set to correct wrongs and engage in meaningful ways to actually enact change. No, call out culture is toxic because it has developed as a tool to legitimize aggression and rhetoric violence....

Call out culture might, at times, dangerously resemble bullying. However, it is not exactly the same. It certainly shares its outcome, however, unlike bullying, call out culture is part of the performative aspect of blogging. Unlike bullying, a call out is intended for an audience.
I disagree with Dzodan's understanding of bullying: bullying is usually done for an audience, to entertain the bully's friends and terrify those who might be the bully's next victim. So, yes, call-out culture is a rationalization of bullying, just as lynchings and witch-huntings were rationalizations of murder.

ETA: A similar, but even sillier, example of outrage over perceived sexism: PHPness Gate – raising interesting issues

Saturday, March 23, 2013

You will trust this post if you agree with it: Rationalizing Animal #2

"Men readily believe what they want to believe." —Julius Caesar

"The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion (either as being the received opinion or as being agreeable to itself) draws all things else to support and agree with it." —Francis Bacon

Confirmation Bias is the human tendency to trust information that supports our beliefs and reject information that doesn't. I can only think of one reason why humans would benefit from confirmation bias: it's easiest to be a happy member of your tribe if it's hard for you to change your belief system.

But the simpler explanation is humans are crazy.

Confirmation theory pays the bills in journalism. From Confirmation Bias « You Are Not So Smart:
Punditry is a whole industry built on confirmation bias.

Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck and Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow and Ann Coulter – these people provide fuel for beliefs, they pre-filter the world to match existing world-views.

If their filter is like your filter, you love them. If it isn’t, you hate them.

Whether or not pundits are telling the truth, or vetting their opinions, or thoroughly researching their topics is all beside the point. You watch them not for information, but for confirmation."
More: Confirmation bias - Wikipedia

Trolls can make you doubt this post: Rationalizing Animal #1

"When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained." -Mark Twain

The "nasty effect" comes from a study of 1,183 participants who read a fake blog story about new technology. Half were... to civil reader comments and the other half to rude ones — though the actual content, length and intensity of the comments, which varied from being supportive of the new technology to being wary of the risks, were consistent across both groups. The only difference was that the rude ones contained epithets or curse words, as in: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these kinds of products, you’re an idiot” and “You’re stupid if you’re not thinking of the risks for the fish and other plants and animals in water tainted with silver.”
The result:
Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.
Yep. Trolling is effective. When people with agendas show up at sites and act rudely, they're acting effectively. When contemporary feminists and anti-racists complain that being asked to be polite is "tone policing" or "making the tone argument" or "concern trolling", they are onto something. By being vacuously abusive, they're furthering their cause.

Which makes sense if you think humans are just a bunch of pretentious monkeys. When one group is furiously flinging feces, the other monkeys suspect there's a good reason.

So next time you're trying to make a point, remember how it's done at the Brooklyn Debating Society: "Fuck you!" "No, fuck you!"

Friday, March 22, 2013

social justice warrior cartoon at SinFest

Sinfest: Cookie

outrage culture, the rationalizing animal, and belief systems are B.S.

"It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this." – Bertrand Russell

"Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason." – Oscar Wilde

History's greatest comic was Carl Linnaeus, who named our species homo sapiens. Aristotle was no slouch either when he defined man as a rational animal. After making my post about Heinlein or my dad or someone else observing "Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal," I asked a few people about the Latin for "rationalizing man". Chaosprime suggested "homo ratiocinens" and evergreen proposed "Homo autoexculpens". Bill Colsher emailed this:
I don’t think the Romans (or the Greeks, the phrase being from Aristotle) had a word for what Heinlein meant by “rationalize”, i.e. “invent a plausible explanation for something that doesn’t really have any connection with reality”. The verb “confingo, -ere, -inxi, -ictum” means “form, fabricate, invent, feign” It has the sense of making something real, like a pot but also to create a falsehood. So you might have “homo confingens” – man the maker-upper. Another possibility might be “enodo, -are, -avi, -atum” meaning “ unravel, explain”. That would be “homo enodans” – man the explainer.

And now for a short discursis:

Much like “man is a political animal”, “man is a rational animal” is one of those unfortunate translations that doesn’t really convey what Aristotle meant. In the first case he mean that man is a creature at its best and best suited to life in the city, with all the duties, rights, and responsibilities that entailed. In the second case he’s talking about what makes man different from other animals. It includes both thinking and planning but also the soul (where reason lives) and some other stuff that I can’t remember just now. Interestingly (perhaps), in the Greek the “capacity for reason” that is “logos” is something that man actively possesses. Man has “logos”, in contrast to animals, which, Aristotle recognizes, do reason in their way. But animals do not have “logos”
Aristotle may be right that humans have the capacity for reason, but I'm with Russell: there's no evidence. Robert Anton Wilson was glimpsing the truth when he noted that when you talk about belief systems, you're talking about b.s.

Now that I've accepted that we're all rationalizing animals, I'm giving up my belief systems. Whether I can live without one, I dunno, but I'll try. Because so far as I can tell, whenever large groups of people get together to do something awful, a belief system is the excuse, even when the actual reason is the hope of taking someone else's lands or goods. To do the worst things, people need to believe they're doing good.

A few observations about outrage culture:

In an outrage culture, the angriest members lead.

In an outrage culture, fighting doesn't stop when the outraged have won. The goal is unconditional surrender. Outraged people think their opponents must be destroyed socially, and often, financially as well, and in extreme cases, literally—every lynching and every massacre is a manifestation of outrage culture.

When outraged people have destroyed an opponent, they look for another. If they can't find one, they turn on each other at the least sign of cultural deviation.

Many commercial journalists pander to outrage culture because outrage addicts always return for their next fix.

When I think of outraged people, I try to remember that they may someday realize how wrong they were. Five years after the Salem witch trials, the jurors signed this apology: "And we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature."

There's a book I've been meaning to read titled Time for Outrage. But now I think I would rather read one titled Time for Reason.

outrage culture and capitalism: on firing Adria Richards and Michael Brutsch, and blacklisting Orson Scott Card

Outrage culture loves getting people fired. Adrian Chen at Gawker outed Michael Brutsch as Violentacrez, even though Brutsch told Chen he was, as it turned out, rightfully afraid for his job. A petition was circulated to get Orson Scott Card blacklisted at DC Comics.

But now the worm has begun to eat itself: Adria Richards humiliated a man on Twitter who was sitting near her and making jokes about software to a friend. He was fired. Then Richards was fired. Here's a good account: Adria Richards, PyCon, and How We All Lost | Amanda Blum.

The best comment I've seen is a tweet from Jason DePriest:
"The dude shouldn’t have been fired and neither should Adria. Thanks American Corporations for shitting all over employees. Maybe the two comapanies should just swap employees instead of putting two people out of work during a recession."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

a homily from St. Robert Anton Wilson

Wilson starts by referring to "reality tunnels", which was Timothy Leary's term. I don't like it as much as Wilson does—it's too 'sixties for my taste. But I love Wilson's observation that belief systems are BS.

Don't believe in anyone else's BS (Belief System) - YouTube:

a short sermon from St. Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks: Life is just a Ride - YouTube:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

geek vengeance: disemvoweling, part 2

At Another Meta-post: Moderation-fail, or, being too Minnesotan, Steve said, "As we Jews say, context is everything. I don’t know the details of that conversation you describe, but I can easily–easily imagine situations where an apparently harmless and reasonable comment was, by where and when and circumstances, completely trollful."

Hunting for the conversation I remembered, I found support for my general position at Boing Boing's Overaggressive spam filter. In the comments, schmod said,
Can we also stop disemvoweling people? 
I'd frankly rather see comments disappear entirely than be constantly reminded of the power of our omnipotent moderator overlords (mostly kidding...)
adonai said:
I kind of agree with Schmod, there *seems* to be a bit more disemvowelling lately for posts that aren't necessarily trolls or flamebait...just differing opinions.
a guest said:
Maybe strong opinions are being disemvoweled more, but this is high political season and tempers are way up.
Xeni Jardin answered:
Strong opinions, expressed intelligently and authentically and with the sort of basic courtesy one might use in person, in a crowded room -- they're welcome here. Even strong opinions I or my colleagues might not agree with."
It may be significant that she added "even", as if that wasn't covered by her first sentence, because the implementation of their policy suggests schmod, adonai, and the guest are right.

This is the disemvoweled Tibet comment I remembered, from Tibet and human rights: New Amnesty ads (update: HOAX), by Zosima:
pprntly y mssd t. Lk t my pst #182

t th sm tm, 'm nt wllng t sy tht trtr s vl. dn't thnk th wrld s nrly s blck nd wht. s 'v sd bfr, thnk tht mrl thrtrnsm s ntnbl. ts wht lds s t mk dngrs flhrdy dcsns. ts th jstfctn fr nvsns f pprtnty nd lynch mbs lk.

ls dn't thnk m n ny pstn t sy wht s bst fr Chn. wldn't prtnd t ndrstnd thr systm f gvrnmnt r thr cltr.

Wht d thnk, s tht w nd t drct r ttntn t prblms tht w cn slv, tht w shld fx r ntrnl pltcl prblms, s w hv th mrl thrty t hlp thrs. Th lst thng wnt t d s by nt th sm pltcl mndst tht hs ld t s mny f r prblms n th frst plc.
Running that through the disemvoweler gives:
apparently you missed to like to my past to the some time 'm not willing tosay that torture is value don't think the world is nearly is black and what is 'vesaid before think that moral authoritarianism is untenable its what leeds is tomake dangerous foolhardy decisions its the justification for invasions ofopportunity and lynch mobs like also don't think me in any position to say whatis best for china wouldn't pretend to understand there system of governmentare there culture what do think is that we and to direct are attention toproblems that we can solve that we should fox are internal political problems iswe have the moral authority to help others the last thing want to do is by notthe some political mindset that his old to is many of are problems in the firstplace
I would never be able to make sense of that on my own, but fortunately, pieces of it were quoted by another commenter. Inserting the quoted bits in italics, and making my best guess with the rest, it seems like Zosima was saying this, or something very close to it:
Apparently you missed it. Look at my post #182. 
At the same time, I'm not willing to say that torture is evil. I don't think the world is nearly as black and white. As I've said before I think that moral authoritarianism is untenable. It's what leads us to make dangerous foolhardy decisions. It's the justification for invasions of opportunity and lynch mobs alike. 
I also don't think I am in any position to say what is best for China. I wouldn't pretend to understand their system of government or their culture. 
What I do think, is that we need to direct our attention to problems that we can solve, that we should fix our internal political problems, so we have the moral authority to help others. The last thing I want to do is buy into the same political mindset that has led to so many of our problems in the first place.
For saying that, Zosima was, in Xeni's characterization of disemvoweling, treated as a misanthrope and made to look ridiculous.

Zosima's real sin was the one that usually leads to disemvowelment: disagreeing with the person who has the power to disemvowel.

geek vengeance: disemvoweling

I left this comment about disemvoweling elsewhere:
The technique has been described as the geekish equivalent of pulling down the pants of the kid everyone else on the playground doesn’t like. My biggest complaint is its supporters say you can decipher the meaning if you want to, but that’s blatantly not true: “historical” and “ahistorical”, for example, disemvowel exactly the same way.

It’s a remarkably easy technique to abuse. On BoingBoing, a moderator called Antinous is (or was, anyway) a devout supporter of the Dalai Lama, so when someone entirely unknown to me was disemvoweled for speaking up for China, I reemvoweled what he or she said, and was only able to do so because someone else had quoted a key part of the comment, and that quotation was not disemvoweled.

When I reemvoweled the rest, I expected to find something abusive in it, because disemvoweling usually occurs when disagreements have heightened. I was surprised—and then not surprised at all—to discover there was nothing rude in the comment. It simply rejected Antinuous’s narrative, and that had been reason enough to disemvowel.

As you may have guessed by now, I despise disemvowelling.

But since I am embracing the principle that humans are only rationalizing animals, it does not surprise me when smart and essentially good people—and most of its supporters can be fairly described as smart and essentially good people—rationalize it.
I'll add this: it is unethical to alter what people have said. Quote them—and try to quote them in context—or ignore them. Delete comments or answer them. Any other choice is simply an exercise of power to mischaracterize an opponent. Xeni Jardin tried to have it both ways when she said, "the misanthrope looks ridiculous, and the emotional sting is neutralized." I agree that the point of the technique is to mock, but for whom is the emotional sting neutralized?

Yes, this applies to kittening, too.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What do American women want for an "ideal" working arrangement?

What 'Lean In' Misunderstands About Gender Differences - Christina Hoff Sommers - The Atlantic: "In a 2013 national poll on modern parenthood, the Pew Research Center asked mothers and fathers to identify their "ideal" working arrangement. Fifty percent of mothers said they would prefer to work part-time and 11 percent said they would prefer not to work at all. Fathers answered differently: 75 percent preferred full-time work. And the higher the socio-economic status of women, the more likely they were to reject full-time employment. Among women with annual family incomes of $50,000 or higher, only 25 percent identified full-time work as their ideal. Sandberg regards such attitudes as evidence of women's fear of success, double standards, gender bias, sexual harassment, and glass ceilings. But what if they are the triumph of prosperity and opportunity?"

about epubs made for Smashwords with Apple Pages

We've been selling books using Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The first two are easy: I make an epub file with Apple Pages and load it to the site. Smashwords, which I love for its can-do little-guy spirit, has almost always been a nightmare for me, because they wouldn't accept submissions as epubs. When I heard that changed, I cheered—

—and then discovered new nightmares. In the hope of saving someone else, this was the solution:

1. Unlike Amazon and B&N, Smashwords wants a cover image inside the epub file. The size specs are here.

2. Pages will let you put an image at the beginning of the file, but the epub that it generates will fail the Epub Validator, telling you there shouldn't be any div commands in line five of the cover.xhtml.

3. In order to edit an epub file in OS X, you can't do what you do in other systems (which is to change the file name from epub to zip, unzip it, edit it, zip it again, then change the file name back to epub), because the new epub file won't be formatted properly. I've only found two ways to do it, using the Terminal or using these Unzip and Zip EPUB files. I chose the latter.

4. I opened the cover.xhtml file in TextEdit, deleted the div bits, and packed the file up again. Smashwords seems to be happy with the results—if that changes, I'll update this post.

But the next time I make an epub file to sell, I'm going to try Sigil.

Dad and Robert Heinlein are right

The internet credits Robert Heinlein with saying "Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal," but my dad told me that when I was very young. Since all writers burrow things away in their subconscious, my guess is Heinlein picked it up somewhere, maybe from Twain, or maybe it's just one of those observations that smart people eventually make.

When I was older, Dad phrased it more bluntly: "Your problem is you think people are rational." I can't remember how I answered, but what I've thought for most of my life was that people have the potential to be rational.

But now I think Dad and Heinlein were right. I was citing confirmation bias recently, and I realized that's why people don't change their understanding of the world until their world changes.

Now I'll resume my internet break while I ponder this.

Mort Sahl on liberals

"The road to fascism is paved with liberal bricks. While our job is to give the young people time enough to become radicals, the job of the liberals is to castrate them before they can get to the radical side, before they can save America." —Mort Sahl

Monday, March 18, 2013

rhetoric and social justice warriors #1: "rape culture"

Just as I've met wonderful people who are Mormons and Scientologists, I've met wonderful people who believe in identitarian politics. So when I use examples, I'm not mocking individuals. I'm studying a phenomenon. I won't cite the source for this because, I'll repeat, the writer seems like a mighty nice person.

From a discussion about "rape culture":
As for rape culture in America – it’s not really a question of whether it exists, but how it functions. One could descend into a conversation of whether ‘rape culture’ is the optimal term for the broad base of activities, attitudes, representations, and so forth that the term encompasses, but I choose not to do so at this time, as it doesn’t seem especially fruitful. I’d rather just stick to rhetorical analysis.
That willingness to accept a core tenet—"it’s not really a question of whether it exists, but how it functions"—is not significantly different than what I found with a quick google for the devil working in the world: "Now that we have seen that Satan is a real being with real powers, we need to understand how he uses his powers."

The question of whether your model for understanding the world is valid is always relevant. A phrase like "it's not really a question" should be a siren's wail with flashing red lights to anyone who believes in science.

As for "I’d rather just stick to rhetorical analysis", perhaps the greatest weakness of identitarianism is its infinite parsing of meaning in order to find the appropriate evil "ism". It's an easy game to play—if I wanted to get into the Racistfinder General racket, at the risk of sounding vain, I suspect I would be pretty damn good. Nothing's easier for a decent writer than twisting the words of less sophisticated speakers.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

wee update: a mild cold or mild smoke inhalation

I either have a cold or a mild case of smoke inhalation. A couple of days ago, I started a batch of green coffee beans in a roaster in the basement. Maybe ten minutes later, I smelled smoke in the upper floor—why, yes, the batteries were out of the smoke detectors, which is stupid—and I ran down into the basement, which was full of smoke. Flames were coming from the beans. I glanced at the cord to the roaster, didn't see any damage, and unplugged it.

But I couldn't get the basement window open. The storm window was jammed, and the rest of the basement windows were caulked up by the previous owner--I only opened one this year. So I ran upstairs to breathe, then ran down to try again. The next time I did that, Emma gave me a bandanna soaked in water. I'm not sure how many times I ran up and down before I finally managed to get the jammed window open.

I also don't know why I didn't carry the roaster out of the house as soon as I realized the window was a problem. Maybe because I didn't think it would take so long to get the window open. After the third or fourth try, I verified that the frame of the roaster was cool enough to carry, got it outside, then went back to work on the window, which finally opened when I took a prybar to it.

That evening, I went to my dance class and felt fine. The next morning, my throat was scratchy. I've been a bit snuffly since. After reading about mild smoke inhalation, I'm withholding judgment on whether it's a cold or the smoke. For all I know, the answer is "both".

Have skipped the weekend dance classes. *Sad.*

tl;dr: I inhaled a lot of coffee smoke. Our house smells like cigarettes, alas.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

three quick thoughts about intersectionality, the personal is political, and power + prejudice

1. intersectionality or disconnectionality?

The identitarian fondness for the invented "intersectionality" instead of words like "interconnectedness" and "interrelatedness" comes from their belief that identity issues are inherently disconnected and only occasionally intersect. If I believed in conspiracies, I would think "intersectionality" was promoted as part of the attempt by the world's rulers to further divide us. But I believe people are shaped by the systems they inhabit, so I think it's only an example of a human tendency to accept superficial explanations.

2. is the personal political?

"The personal is political" is a fine philosophy for opportunists who don't know that "politics" means "of, for, or relating to citizens". If the personal was political, we would all be at odds with our neighbors.

The personal is only personal. The political calls for setting aside personal issues to work on greater ones. The first feminist, the person who coined the word, was a man, Charles Fourier. The driving force behind the 19th century abolition movement in the U.S. was white, William Lloyd Garrison. Fourier and Garrison knew the universal is political.

3. what's so convincing about "power + prejudice"?

The first people to write about "white trash" noted they were poorer than slaves and slaves mocked them, yet Critical Race Theorists believe anyone who is white benefits from "power + prejudice", even if they have no capital in a capitalist nation.

So why does the formula seem so convincing?

• Plosives and consonance: The devices of poetry have power, even where there's no meaning.

• Iconography: That definition is usually written with the plus sign, making it both a definition and a symbol.

• Mystery: The meaning is not immediately understandable, so its advocates enjoy the cultist's satisfaction of being able to enlighten those who accept their teaching and mock those who reject the one true knowledge.

Bill Hicks gets what identitarian critics don't

Ever notice fans complaining about racism or sexism in a story and think they're missing the bigger picture? Bill Hicks agrees:

Racist antiracists or neosegregationists? Lavie Tidhar objects to black dancers at Eastercon

Spool Pidgin: A Common Or Garden SF Twitter Conversation...

My comment at that link:
Clearly, Tidhar would've been happier if they'd hired white dancers.

The racist logic of ideological antiracism is so fucking insane it's impossible to parody. Interracial romance in books is racist. Hiring black dancers is racist. I do not dare venture to speculate what they may deem racist next, but I am beginning to wonder if a better name for them would be neosegregationists.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shadow Unit 13 is now available!

The stories:
"Wild Card" by Leah Bobet
"Underworld" by Elizabeth Bear
"Single Bullet Theory" by Chelsea Polk
"Apolysis" by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly

Plus two short extras!
It's at Amazon.comBarnes & Noble, and Smashwords now, and will soon make its way to all fine booksellers.

Haven't tried Shadow Unit yet? The first volume is still free at Amazon and Smashwords.

unilaterally reducing the number of idiots on the internet by one

I'm taking an internet break and reserving the right to make it permanent. No one I've been arguing with lately should be blamed—if anything, they should be thanked.

I will continue to post about projects Emma and I are involved with.

Hmm. That sounds very serious, but I'm actually writing with a light heart. Maybe I'll be back in a week, maybe at the end of the month.

While I'm gone, remember, redistributing wealth can be trickier than you think:

Judith Orr on privilege theory

How can women win liberation?:
Concentrating on individual men instead of the system feeds an argument that the imposition of male power causes women’s oppression. It assumes that all men hold power over all women.

This view, commonly referred to as patriarchy, can reflect the way society appears. But it doesn’t help us understand the roots and nature of oppression, or its useful function for capital.

Instead it entrenches fragmentation within the working class. And it sees oppression as being an unchanging feature of human society with no possibility of change.

This is the mistake of those who argue for a form of privilege theory.

This theory isn’t new, but it is gaining an audience as a way of explaining oppression. It relies on the idea that if you are white or male, for example, you gain privilege simply by being part of a “dominant” section of society.

So a working class white man supposedly benefits from the privilege of being white and male in a racist and sexist society. This reduces structural inequality and oppression to relationships between individuals.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

a note for SJWs about Johnny Depp being adopted by the Cherokee

On my main blog, I posted this: for identitarians who are upset that Johnny Depp is playing Tonto

But here, I would like to stress that the difference between a tribe and a race is that you can join a tribe—genetics are irrelevant. Johnny Depp has been adopted by the Cherokee. This makes him more Indian than anyone who claims to be from the Seaconke Wampanoag or any other Wannabe tribe.

for identitarians who are upset that Johnny Depp is playing Tonto

Johnny Depp Adopted Into Comanche Nation -

My guess is the only Indians upset about Depp playing Tonto are identitarian academics. My money is on most Indians thinking, "Johnny Depp wants to make Tonto as cool as Captain Sparrow? Awesome!"

Oh, and as for his broken English? This will come as a shock to many, I'm sure, but the Comanches of the time grew up with their own language—having Tonto speaking school marm English would be as silly as having Sherlock Holmes speaking Cockney.

Now, it is a shame no one researched his makeup, because the Kirby Sattler painting it's based on is about as authentic as the older Tonto costumes.

Dave Van Ronk on blacklisting

"Years later, I was talking with him [Oscar Brand] and expressed my disgust that that he, or maybe someone else, had put on a show with Burl Ives, who had outraged us all by naming a string of names in front of HUAC. Oscar just quietly said, “Dave, we on the left do not blacklist.” Put me right in my place."

via Apropos to OSC, a Quick Story | The Dream Café

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

wonder of the day #1

At the Y, a tall, strong woman ran.
Breugel and R. Crumb would have fought to paint her.
She slowly bounced from step to step
And smiled
As if the lighter gravity of our planet
Delighted her.

What? More about Django Unchained?

My favorite writer on race and class in the USA, Adolph Reed Jr., has written about Django Unchained and a few other movies in Django Unchained, or, The Help: How “Cultural Politics” Is Worse Than No Politics at All, and Why. I wish I had time for a proper response, because I think Reed is right to quibble with Django Unchained, but he misses its strengths. Evan Spiller offers a solid response in Neoliberalism Unchained?

If you don't have time for Reed's now, the funniest thing in it is a reference to Tarantino as "the Chance the Gardener of American filmmakers", which misses Tarantino's virtues but nails his weaknesses. Spiller's is short, so you can read it without Reed's—and if the issues interest you as much as they interest me, that'll make you read Reed's. Brilliant people are fascinating, especially when they're wrong.

Monday, March 11, 2013

about that "racist" Businessweek cover

Racefail: Hugely Racist Businessweek Cover Comes From Minority Illustrator: "Andres Guzman, the illustrator, wrote, “I simply drew the family like that because those are the kind of families I know. I am Latino and grew up around plenty of mixed families.” "

I wish I'd said something about this earlier, 'cause I suspected it at the time. Racist-finders have a great deal of trouble accurately reading racism in cartooning because the art in cartooning is simplified exaggeration, so the reader can quickly know a human character's age, gender, race, and as many other things as can be suggested in a few quick strokes of the pen.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Steven Brust on What Should Be Called “Politically Correct”

What Should Be Called “Politically Correct?” | The Dream Café: "On one side of the line is avoiding disrespectful language.  On the other side is a dramatic overestimation of how much language affects thought, and an underestimation of the importance of material conditions.  This leads to people directing efforts to change others’ language–and, indeed, ideas–as opposed to concentrating on the conditions that create discrimination, and on trying to understand how those conditions can be changed."

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Liberals Against Affirmative Action

The Liberals Against Affirmative Action - "The liberal critics of affirmative action believe that many of these approaches would be better than the current one. Racial discrimination obviously continues to exist. But the disadvantages of class, by most measures, are larger today. A class-based system would be more expensive, forcing colleges to devote some money now spent on buildings and other items to financial aid instead, but it would also arguably be more meritocratic."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Did a Murderer in Waiting Go Undetected Because She Was a Woman? : The New Yorker

The part of Did a Murderer in Waiting Go Undetected Because She Was a Woman? that most applies to SJWs: "Of course, Amy Bishop was not just a woman—she was also an academic, and a related question is whether warning signs were overlooked because some degree of eccentricity is accepted, even nurtured, in a university setting. “Academe is often home to oddballs,” an article about the case in the Chronicle of Higher Education conceded. “Choosing to spend your life in a library or a laboratory is, by definition, out of the ordinary.” There is a fine line between eccentricity and instability—a line that is sometimes indiscernible."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Capitalism sucks: TurboTax "Free" costs more than "Freedom"

Just wasted a few hours because TurboTax makes it easy to trick users like me. I'm still not sure how I ended up starting with the "free" version rather than the "freedom" version, but that's irrelevant. I didn't know I'd made the wrong choice until it was time to enter business expenses, which the "free" version charges you for and the "freedom" version doesn't. So be sure you have the "Freedom" version before you start, because good people would make it easy to switch versions, but the logic of capitalism says the cheap choice never should be easy, so you have to start over from the beginning.

Insert rant here about crippleware and greedheads.


Should I Use TurboTax Freedom Edition?The Law Dictionary

turbo tax free versus freedom »

P.S. There are more free options at Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free. Maybe I'll try another next year.

what Israel has forgotten

Vayikra 24:22: "Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the Lord your God."

Christians know that as Leviticus 24:22: "Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God."

Inspired by Israel launches segregated bus service.

Monday, March 4, 2013

bonus Matt Breunig observation on white liberals

From the comments on What does identitarian deference require?:
...a lot of white liberals are masking their political beliefs by saying they are coming from oppressed groups. They come up with some thought about some oppressed group, find someone in the group who agrees with it and writes about it, and then says they are deferring. But that's total bullshit, which is kind of annoying. They aren't being honest about where their beliefs are coming from.
In my experience, the person they find in the group is usually someone from an expensive private school like theirs.