Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I (don't) need a cult that will pay me to rant

I was thinking recently about people who make a lot of money telling their audiences what they want to hear. I would love that gig, but there's no choir in search of a preacher that would have me. Which might be my salvation.

That notion was inspired by noticing too many people who think complaining on the internet is "social justice", but also by this, from On the Streets of Oakland:
For a taste of local entertainment, I went to a Tourettes without Regrets show. Hugely popular with those in their twenties and thirties, this episodic event is split in two parts, with the first billed as a “psychotic erotic vaudeville showcase.” It turned out to be a series of monologists stridently defending their sexual orientation, access, performance and misery. It was all about sex, and terrible sex at that, yet judging by the many hoots, hollers and appreciative laughs, it was very cathartic for the audience. The second part was a poetry slam, with aggressive rhymers pitted against each other to boast and trade insults. Again, the tone was insanely strident. This night’s one focus, its lone star, so to speak, was a petty and narcissistic ego that had to scream to the world that it was indeed happy and somehow fuckable. Under no disguise did love or any akin emotion make an appearance that night, and “you” was nearly always accompanied by an insult or accusation. The social and political were also no-shows. It was all about the solipsistic self, and the defiant defense of such. To many of us today, that’s social and political enough.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Links: There Are No Saints Online and How Anti-racism lessons increase intolerance

There Are No Saints Online - Stephen Marche on Internet Hate - Esquire:
In February, a long-term study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry established that bullies and their victims both have a higher rate of mental illness for decades afterward.Science magazine reported on the effects of nasty comments about science stories online: Not only do they fail to improve debate, they also make people stupider. The "nasty effect," as the researchers call it, has a polarizing effect in that readers react by becoming more entrenched in their previous opinions, whether positive or negative. 
The use of pseudonyms greatly increases how much people write online — by as much as five times — but the depersonalization and the indirectness fuel abuse; people say things online they would never say to your face.

SJW wackiness: College’s husky dog logo promotes rape

College’s husky dog logo promotes rape, says student | The Daily Caller. Being a dog lover, I don't even see the husky as looking fierce. I can't help but wonder if the student in question is thinking of dickwolves.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

censorship watch: Bradley Manning won’t be honorary parade grand marshal at SF Gay Pride

SF Pride president: WikiLeaks suspect Manning won’t be honorary parade grand marshal after all - The Washington Post: "A committee of former San Francisco Pride grand marshals did select the 25-year-old Manning, who is openly gay, for the honor, but the Pride Board decided his nomination would be a mistake, Williams said. "

Noted especially for people who think censorship is something that only governments do. The only power that censors require is the power to prevent people from speaking or appearing or being honored in any way after they have already been invited.

See also Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced | Glenn Greenwald.

an interesting piece on haters and when to forgive

You, Me, and Chris Brown | NOISEY

My own take on Chris Brown and Rihanna getting back together is best expressed here:

But I'm old-fashioned. Rihanna said it fine herself:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Is it harder for black people to get a taxi in the US? or About the Taxi Test

When you talk about race in the US, you're likely to hear someone say it's harder for black folks to catch a cab. Most of the country became very aware of that in 1994 when Michael Moore did the "taxi test” on TV Nation: Yaphet Kotto, a black actor, and Louie Bruno, a white felon, hailed taxis to see who would be picked up. Most cabbies passed Kotto to pick up Bruno.

But a much better test had a different result.

Kotto filed a complaint with the city of New York, and in 1999, Mayor Giuliani responded with an Operation Refusal sting to catch cabbies who weren't picking up people of color. The sting was modeled after Moore's: a white and a black or Hispanic person tried to flag cabs. If a cab passed the person of color to pick up the white person, the cabbie was booked for discrimination.

Somini Sengupta describes the first results in Despite Warning, Some Cabdrivers Are Snared:
During the first 12 hours of the program, called Operation Refusal, teams of undercover police officers and taxi inspectors, black and white, hailed 817 cabs throughout Manhattan. Of those, five passed up customers because of their race or gender, police and taxi commission officials said. Among those cited was a driver on the East Side of Manhattan who refused to pick up a white woman with two children; instead, the cabby picked up an undercover inspector, a white male, nearby.
Biju Mathew notes in Taxi!: Cabs and Capitalism in New York City that means less than 1% of more than 800 randomly-selected cabbies made race or gender choices that day.

But this doesn't mean only one percent of cabbies in 1999 were racist. The plans for that sting had been publicized, so drivers were more careful not to discriminate that day.

You might think better numbers are in Calvin Sims' 2007 article, An Arm in the Air for That Cab Ride Home:
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission’s “Operation Refusal” program, in which undercover officers of different races randomly hail taxis, found in its most recent study a 96 percent compliance rate among cabbies. The commission says the compliance rate has grown consistently since the program was instituted in 1997, when it was 88 percent.
However, that four percent is probably too high. Dan Ackman's Giuliani's sorry crackdown on New York cabbies tells what was originally wrong with Giuliani's plan:
...his taxi commissioner began to seize cabs, suspend licenses on the spot without any hearing, and revoke the licenses of cabbies found guilty by taxi commission judges. Headlines hailed the mayor for taking on "racist cabbies."

...But even as Giuliani was announcing the plan, his aides were drafting memos questioning the legality of the penalty scheme. This time, there were no public hearings, and the board of the taxi commission was not even consulted. Five hundred drivers had their licenses suspended. Almost 100 had their licenses revoked. Their livelihoods disappeared in a flash.

It took three years from the crackdown for a federal judge to declare the mayor's suspensions of the cabbies' licenses without hearings unconstitutional...
Good Cabbies Are Being Punished by the TLC includes this example of a driver punished by Operation Refusal:
Howard Green is black. He lives on 132nd St. He’s been driving a yellow for about as long as Padberg. On Dec. 21, he was cruising up the middle of 1st Ave. in Manhattan. At 5th St. he was hailed by Officer Kenneth Padilla, working undercover. Surrounded as he was by traffic, there was no way that Green could have pulled over to make the pickup without causing an accident. He had his license grabbed, four days before Christmas. They set his hearing date in May.

This guy’s been driving for 25 years. It’s all he knows. So the upshot of Danny Glover’s showboating is that a hard-working black man who lives with his mother in Harlem gets thrown out of work four days before Christmas.
Dan Ackman's The African, The Journalist, And the TLC tells of another punished driver, Ebenezer Asamoah, "a native of Ghana, who had been driving a cab in New York for nine years". Were cabbies like Green and Asamoah making racist decisions?

All studies of Operation Refusal agree that most refusals aren't about race. Ackman says:
...the evidence showed that just 15 percent of the alleged refusals to pick up passengers involved race. The vast majority were based on destination. The mayor, of course, knew better from the start, or should have known better. The taxi commission's own studies indicated that most refusals of service were based on destination, not race.
So why did Moore's "taxi test" tell a misleading story?

Kotto is a great actor, but if you watch the episode critically, you'll see that his taxi technique sucks. If you want a cab, don't stand near the intersection where it's hard for a cab to pull over, don't stay close to the sidewalk where you're hard to see, and don't wave timidly.  Bruno's style is much better: Find a spot a little ways back from the intersection, step out into the street as far you dare, and wave boldly.

Friday, April 26, 2013

From Up on Poppy Hill - mini-review

Loved it. It's simpler and more mature than many Miyazaki movies, which may've disappointed the reviewers who were disappointed. Perhaps I'm simpler and more mature now.

To place me on the Miyazki spectrum, my favorites are Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away.

Wikipedia has details: From Up on Poppy Hill

Thursday, April 25, 2013

is Buddhism now the world's most warlike religion?

"...the most warlike religion in the modern world, measured by the proportion of countries at war where it has a significant following, is actually Buddhism." —Andrew Brown, "Why are religion and violence now so closely linked?"

The history of the world's religions is a history of military conquest, which is to say, a history of slaughter, and Buddhism is no different. It was spread by Ashoka the Great who conquered the Indian state of Kalinga. Buddhist apologists say Ashoka grew disgusted with war after the horrors done in his name and then became a Buddhist—but they wave away the fact that he kept Kalinga in his empire.

Buddhist scriptures include stories of violence. For example, in the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha tells of killing Hindus in a past life:
When I heard the Brahmins slandering the vaipulya sutras, I put them to death on the spot. Good men, as a result of that action, I never thereafter fell into hell. O good man! When we accept and defend the Mahayana sutras, we possess innumerable virtues.
Some Buddhists rationalize that as an example of "compassionate killing"—they say the Brahmins were killed so they would not bear the sin of continuing to slander Buddhism. That's a fine example of the logic of all religious terrorists.

Buddhism has a long tradition of warrior monks. In Japan, they were Sōhei. In Tibet in 1959, the defenders of Tibet's feudal system were primarily monks—their tradition of violence includes the assassination of King Lang Darma in 841 for failing to support the Buddhist monasteries. That killing is still celebrated:

It's described at Tibetan Monks Tour: Cultural Events as "Feeling great compassion toward the King, who was going to suffer immensely as a consequence of the sins he was committing against his people, Lhalung Pal Dorji shot an arrow at the heart of Lang Darma. The king was dead on the spot. Peace and harmony was restored in Tibet." To be more precise, the power of monasteries was restored. The great majority of the people continued to be serfs. (For more on the Lang Darma, see Was Lang Darma a Buddhist?)

Wikipedia, a good place to start (and a bad place to stop) researching, has more on Violence in Buddhism.

The most recent examples of Buddhist terrorism are in Sri Lanka and Myanmar:

Enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka: "A 1999 study by the United Nations found that Sri Lanka had the second highest number of disappearances in the world and that 12,000 Sri Lankans had disappeared after being detained by the Sri Lankan security forces."

Sri Lanka Buddhist monks destroy Muslim shrine.

Sri Lanka Muslims decry radical Buddhist mosque attack: "Video of monks and other hardliners trying to storm it later showed one monk addressing the crowd in overtly racial terms, saying the campaign against the Muslim building was a victory for "those who love the race, have Sinhalese blood and are Buddhists"."

Buddhist monks incite Muslim killings in Myanmar: "An examination of the riots, based on interviews with more than 30 witnesses, reveals the dawn massacre of 25 Muslims in Meikhtila was led by Buddhist monks - often held up as icons of democracy in Myanmar. The killings took place in plain view of police, with no intervention by the local or central government. Graffiti scrawled on one wall called for a "Muslim extermination." "

Burmese Buddhist monk Wirathu uses YouTube to spread anti-Muslim hatred to thousands.

ETA: BBC News - Why are Buddhist monks attacking Muslims?:
One of the most famous kings in Sri Lankan history is Dutugamanu, whose unification of the island in the 2nd Century BC is related in an important chronicle, the Mahavamsa. It says that he placed a Buddhist relic in his spear and took 500 monks with him along to war against a non-Buddhist king.  He destroyed his opponents. After the bloodshed, some enlightened ones consoled him: "The slain were like animals; you will make the Buddha's faith shine."

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Regarding Scalzi's "Lowest Difficulty Setting" and Teaching Intersectionality through Halo

I just left this comment at All Skulls On: Teaching Intersectionality through Halo:
This test has the same problem as the essay that inspired it: how do you compare the opportunities of a rich black woman with those of a poor white man? In a capitalist society, wealth has to be the default for the easiest setting. Saying that Herman Cain’s daughter is playing at a harder setting than a working-class white man from North Dakota or Appalachia is just silly. 
And, no, this does not deny that racism and sexism are still a problem in the US. It’s simply stating what should be obvious: people born rich have advantages over those who’re born middle-class, and the middle-class have advantages over the working-class, and the poor—which includes twice as many white folks as black—have it hardest of all.

Have any warriors committed all of these fallacies in a single argument?

See Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies for a handy reference when reading any ideologue. Alas, to recognize a logical fallacy, you have to be logical, and ideologues aren't. But I still recommend the site. I especially love their icons.

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Altruistic punishment gone haywire" explains SJWs

The crucial bit is quoted at it's all one thing: Altruistic punishment: the irrational animal and the internet.

"Altruistic punishment": the rationalizing animal and the internet

From Amanda Knox: She was acquitted of the Meredith Kercher murder. Why do people still hate her so much?:
"Experiments show that when some people punish others, the reward part of their brain lights up like a Christmas tree. It turns out we humans avidly engage in something anthropologists call “altruistic punishment.” 
What is altruistic punishment? It is when a person punishes someone who has done nothing against them personally but has violated what they perceive to be the norms of society. Why “altruistic”? Because the punisher is doing something that benefits society at large, with no immediate personal gain. Altruistic punishment is normally a good thing. Our entire criminal justice system is based on it. In our evolutionary past, small groups of hunter-gatherers needed enforcers, individuals who took it upon themselves to punish slackers and transgressors to maintain group cohesion. We evolved this way. As a result, some people are born to be punishers. They are hard-wired for it. 
What does all this have to do with Amanda Knox? Almost all the nasty comments about her follow a pattern. Even though she did nothing to them, they are all demanding her punishment. This is altruistic punishment gone haywire, in which the anti-Amanda bloggers have become a cybermob not unlike the witch-hunts of medieval Europe or lynch mobs in the American South. These mobs form all over the Internet, and not just in the Amanda case, assailing everyone from Anne Hathaway to Katie Roiphe. Everywhere you look on the Internet you find self-appointed punishers at work. Never in human history has a system developed like the Internet, which allows for the free rein of our punishing instincts, conducted with complete anonymity, with no checks or balances, no moderation, and no accountability. On the Internet, our darkest evolutionary biology runs riot.


How to join today's April 22 CISPA protest | ZDNet

Friday, April 19, 2013

does anyone know if this scam has a name?

I vaguely remember hearing about a scam that requires a lot of potential marks who have no contact with each other. The scammer makes a prediction about something succeeding, telling half the group it will and half the group it won't. When the answer's known, he stops contacting the people who think he failed and divides the rest in half for the next prediction. Repeat several times. The group that thinks he has always been right keeps getting smaller, but for them, he soon seems infallible. Then he asks that group to invest so they can all make a killing in his next prediction.

I'm not sure why I want to know the name. It's just nagging at me. I'm not going to be using it as a metaphor for capitalism because the pyramid scheme is far more recognizable and has all the basic ingredients: a tiny number benefit, and the rest think the system works so long as it works for them.

Conspiracy theorists like to believe there are a few people running the world's greatest scams. What they don't realize is that the great scams run themselves, and the beneficiaries are as much dupes as the victims.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

what we think of others tells more about us

I just left this comment elsewhere: Humans project. What people think of others can tell you too much about them.

The best piece of dating advice I ever saw—and I wish I could remember where I saw it—was to pay attention to how your date treats the people who serve you. People who treat some people badly will treat anyone badly.*

In Dogland, the father tells a story my dad used to tell: A man is thinking about moving to a town, so he asks a local what the people are like. The local asks the man what they're like where he comes from. The man says they're a lousy bunch of no-account sons of bitches. The local says, "You'll find folks here are just like that." That man decides to look elsewhere. Another man comes to town and asks the same local what the people are like. The local asks what the people were like where this fellow came from. He says they were the kindest, most wonderful folks you could imagine. The local says, "You'll find folks here are just like that."

*When I read bell hooks' "Killing Rage", all I could think was how impatient she was with the people she saw as the serving class.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

in identity politics, identitarian is an identity

In Fascinating tumblr arguments, MattBruenig discusses identitarian logic and notes,
...if you belong to identity A, you can appropriate from identity B, so long as someone in identity A is also in identity B and supports that appropriation. The person who is simultaneously in both identities cannot be accused of appropriating from themselves — a nonsense notion — and others are allowed to ally with that person and what they have to say.
The wrinkle is that the validating person in identity B must be an identitarian so a non-identitarian of identity B can't invalidate the appropriation. Identitarian feminists and anti-racists reject the arguments of women and black folks who reject identitarianism, which is easy for them when the non-identitarians are politically to their right, but deeply embarrassing when they're to their left, which is probably why "The limits of anti-racism" by Adolph Reed Jr. and "Why Anti-Racism Will Fail" by Rev. Thandeka get ignored rather than refuted.

For identitarians, identitarianism creates an identity, just as Scientology creates an identity for Scientologists. The fractal logic of identitarianism has led some modern feminists to declare that men can't be feminists and can only be allies, which makes perfect sense if you start with their premise. Their definition of "ally" is not the dictionary's—identitarians hate dictionaries. Rather than being someone who supports their goals, an identity group's "ally" is someone who accepts their premises: an "ally" is an identitarian who belongs to a different identity group.

Possibly of interest: Pretending You’re Oppressed: The New Internet Fad | Thought Catalog (via mevennen)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

SJW must-read of the week, or month, or year: at the intersection of transgender and otherkin

I couldn't decide what to quote. Just read this: Fascinating tumblr arguments | MattBruenig

understanding 1984 and Animal Farm: George Orwell and Homage to Catalonia

I just finished reading Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. I had thought 1984 and Animal Farm were inspired by an intellectual revulsion to Stalinism, but the disgust was actually extremely personal. I knew Orwell fought against Franco's fascists, but I hadn't known more than that. The anti-fascists were divided into several factions, and Orwell's was the victim of a purge by the side dominated by Stalinists—Orwell fled Spain in fear he would be arrested like his friends. He knew first-hand what happens when totalitarians of any ideology take power.

Communists and capitalists both argue about Orwell's politics—binarians see him as a socialist who became a conservative. I prefer to take him at his word: he died a democratic socialist. He falls into a category that some people claim does not exist, the left-libertarian or libertarian socialist who believes governments should help everyone and only restrict those who try to restrict others. In 1947, in "Why I Write", he wrote, "The Spanish war and other events in 1936-37 turned the scale and thereafter I knew where I stood. Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism, as I understand it."

Homage to Catalonia is free online here:

At George-Orwell.org: George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia

At Project Gutenberg Australia: Homage to Catalonia

Possibly of interest:

Goodreads | Steve (San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Mexico)'s review of Homage to Catalonia

George Orwell - Spilling The Spanish Beans - Essay

International Socialist Review: The Orwell we never knew

Eric Hobsbawm on the Spanish Civil War: an anti-historical tirade - World Socialist Web Site

Monday, April 15, 2013

fanwank of the week: Self-publishing star faces backlash for misogynist rant

I hesitate to recommend clicking this, because I hate doing anything that'll help commercial sites profit from promoting outrage, but the story's here: Self-publishing star faces backlash for misogynist rant - Salon.com.

It should be noted that the subject of Howey's rant was not revealed. She dissed self-publishing, and he responded by blogging about her as a bitch. In the brave new identitarian future, insults will not suggest identity. I suppose this means from now on, we're supposed to speak of female dogs, and, by implication, female men.

If your friends jump off a bridge, you'll probably jump too; rationalizing animal #8

A little more data for the fact that the rationalizing animal is most likely to do what the other rationalizing animals do. Social Network Sways Vaccine Compliance has strong numbers for people preferring their social group's advice to scientific advice. Referring to people who choose not to vaccinate their children as nonconformers, they note, "the most striking difference between the conformers' and nonconformers' people networks was that 72% of the nonconformers' network members also were in favor of nonconformity, while only 13% of conformers' network members held that view."

ETA via R. Michael Litchfield:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Darius Rucker - Wagon Wheel

Darius Rucker - Wagon Wheel - YouTube:

my little post at the New York Times about Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's "Accidental Racist"

Why Elitists Hate the Brad Paisley and LL Cool J Duet - Room for Debate - NYTimes.com

After I posted unpacking outrage: why elitists hate "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, I got email from the Times editor asking if I'd like to do about 300 words on the subject for them. In some ways, I prefer my original post, but I did my best to make myself clear for Times readers in the space I had. Alas, making yourself clear in 300 words on a subject like race may be impossible. You can do it in fewer words; I still stand by one of the things I said that gets quoted sometimes: “There are no scientific tests for race . . . blood is blood, and bone is bone. Race is a con game. Don't play.”

But given 300 words, I'm only writing an introduction to a much longer discussion.

Which may be the point.

The comments there are interesting. Emma said I shouldn't respond to any, and she's right, but I responded to a few anyway.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

unpacking outrage: why elitists hate "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J

The outrage of the day is a country song with a rapper guest star. If you want to sample the twitterrage, #accidentalracist is your ticket, but all the usual identitarian sites are covering it, so you can easily google to learn how awful you're supposed to think it is.

1. "Accidental Racist" is about a white guy in a Confederate battle-flag T-shirt talking with a black guy in a do-rag, gold chains and sagging pants. These are not things that rich elitists, black or white, wear unless they're in costume. Elitists think those are the clothes of the lower class.

2. "Accidental Racist" is a country-western song with a bit of rap. Elitists love to sneer at country music, and tend to be ambivalent about rap—they rarely like it, but they hate appearing racially insensitive.

3. "Accidental racism" is a term that identitarians sometimes use to describe racism that's not recognized or intended by a racist. It's more often expressed as "unintentional racism", which is a very odd notion--people either are or are not racist. No one wakes up and says, "I intend to be racist today."

4. Neither Brad Paisley nor LL Cool J went to the schools of the elite. Elitists love their own kind.

5. "Accidental Racist" is about poor whites and poor blacks agreeing to try to get along. A united working class is rich folks' worst nightmare—even worse than rap or country music.

ETA: Mind you, I'm not defending the artistry of this song. I'm just cocking an eyebrow at the outrage. I did go to some elitist schools, so I have problems with earnest art. I'm trying to get over that.

Also, for anyone who thinks Paisley supports wearing the Confederate battle flag, he sang another song, "Camouflage", with this verse:
Well, the stars and bars offend some folks
And I guess I see why
He's clearly not the "I" of the song. He grew up in West Virginia, and I doubt there's a West Virginian who doesn't know which side of the Civil War their state was on.

The lyrics:
To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an 'ol can of worms
Lookin' like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

I'm just a white man comin' to you from the southland
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
We're still pickin' up the pieces, walkin' on eggshells, fightin' over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We're still siftin' through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that's a good place to begin
But it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else's skin

'Cause I'm a white man livin' in the southland
Just like you I'm more than what you see
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
And we're still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I'm still misunderstood
I wasn't there when Sherman's March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin' invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I'm thinkin' it's not all good
I guess we're both guilty of judgin' the cover not the book
I'd love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn't here

I'm just a white man
(If you don't judge my do-rag)
Comin' to you from the southland
(I won't judge your red flag)
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from
(If you don't judge my gold chains)
But not everything we've done
(I'll forget the iron chains)
It ain't like you and me can re-write history
(Can't re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin')
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I'm a black Yankee but I've been thinkin' about this lately)
I'm a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that's left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I've gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It's real, it's real
It's truth

More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/b/brad_paisley/

Tim O'Brien on war stories

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” —Tim O'Brien

Monday, April 8, 2013

George Orwell on war

"... every war suffers a kind of progressive degradation with every month that it continues, because such things as individual liberty and a truthful press are simply not compatible with military efficiency." —George Orwell

advice for colonoscopy prep

The prep includes drinking eight glasses of water a day, as well as drinking 64 ounces of Gatorade mixed with Polyethylene Glycol 3350 powder. If you refrigerate the liquids, you'll increase the odds that you'll get the chills. Drink the water hot and the Gatorade at room temperature, and you'll be much more comfortable.

Why, yes, I do have a colonoscopy today. They've made changes in the prep since I had one six years ago. It's been much less uncomfortable so far.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

a SMBC cartoon for everyone who has met a SJW

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

the Plymouth Colony was an experiment in mercantilism, not socialism

Conservatives are desperate to prove that socialism can't work, so they seize on anything that might be interpreted as a socialist failure. A favorite example is the Plymouth Colony.

PointySextant answers that at Pilgrims were socialists - snopes.com:
The land of the Plymouth Colony was not commonly held by some nebulous public system but by a joint stock system between a group of investors and the Crown, with the Crowns major investment being a royal writ for the territory claimed by the colony being held being the property of the Colonists according to English Common law.

As for the initial failures of the Plymouth Colony, one should probably blame the colonists attempts to use Old World plants in New England, a much colder climate, as well as their initial profound refusal to eat the local food, up to and including capturing oysters and lobsters to feed their diminishing stock of pigs. This poor planning and ignorance can probably be accredited to the fact that the ships manifest for the initial Plymouth landing lists NO farmers or productive tradesmen as passengers. This is probably why a third to half of the colonists died the first winter. And the purchase of the land by the individual colonists from the joint stock company over time didn't improve the situation.

The only reason the Plymouth colony succeeded, like most of the New England colonies the British established, was that eventually immigration from England outweighed deaths and emigration back to England by enough that the population stabilized and the colony was able to develop a functioning system of commerce. Why did this happen? Because eventually the system of replacement was overwhelmed by people eager to join in on the new and lucrative tobacco and fur trades. The Plymouth colony became part of this larger economy, and survived. Not all of the starter colonies did. Socialism or capitalism has nothing to do with it. Especially considering that no Englishmen of note was a real capitalist at the time of the Plymouth landing, all of them instead subscribing to mercantilism, which has no firm position on collective or individual land ownership.
Now, even if the Plymouth Colony had been a socialist experiment, it would say nothing about the viability of socialism, just as the sinking of the Titanic or the bankruptcy of Enron say nothing about the viability of capitalism.

For more about the Plymouth Colony and the company that funded them:

Fox reporter rewrites history, claims socialism almost killed Thanksgiving | The Raw Story

Thanksgiving and the Tea Party - NYTimes.com

Plymouth Company - Wikipedia

Thursday, April 4, 2013

where "more inclusive" means "less inclusive"

Liza Groen Trombi, editor-in-chief of Locus magazine, announced, "The writer who penned the offensive Wiscon post will no longer be contributing to or associated with Locus in any way, online or in print. The Locus Online editor will retain his editorial autonomy, with the understanding that nothing like this can or will be permitted to happen again. I’ve worked very hard in the past three years to build a better, more modern Locus, with greater parity, social awareness, and more inclusive coverage."

I disagree with Lawrence Person on a great number of issues, from capitalism to Islam, but I would never fire someone because I didn't like the politics of their humor, then claim my reason was to be more inclusive.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

a few essential points about censorship and "the left"

Death threats and censorship have once again risen in science fiction fandom, so I'd like to address a few points:

Would-be censors love to claim that only governments censor, but that claim can only be made by people who reject dictionaries. As the ACLU notes, "Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups."

Silencing opponents is not a left or right tactic, as anyone who remembers Joe McCarthy and Chairman Mao ought to know. It's just a tactic loved by people who think their cause justifies ethical shortcuts.

Here's a lovely paen to the free press: "The free press is the ubiquitous vigilant eye of a people's soul, the embodiment of a people's faith in itself, the eloquent link that connects the individual with the state and the world, the embodied culture that transforms material struggles into intellectual struggles and idealises their crude material form. It is a people's frank confession to itself, and the redeeming power of confession is well known. It is the spiritual mirror in which a people can see itself, and self-examination is the first condition of wisdom. It is the spirit of the state, which can be delivered into every cottage, cheaper than coal gas. It is all-sided, ubiquitous, omniscient. It is the ideal world which always wells up out of the real world and flows back into it with ever greater spiritual riches and renews its soul."

The author is Karl Marx. Identitarian leftists, with their love of controlling other people's speech, are an odd mixture of middle-class moralists and old-fashioned authoritarians. They have nothing to do with people who respect Marx's thought.

ETA from A.C.L.U. Slams John Bassett Cancellation of Dr Finkelstein Talk at Clark University:
...the cancellation of his speech violates the basic principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom which are so fundamental to an institute of higher learning. The existence of an opportunity to speak at another time or in another location does not remedy the wrong of censorship.

Monday, April 1, 2013

WisConners get Locus to censor an April Fool’s joke

WisCon’s Feminist Failfandom Brigade Gets My Locus April Fool’s Piece Taken Down « Lawrence Person's BattleSwarm Blog. Some of the outraged people don't seem to know the history behind the joke. It's not about Islam. It's about WisCon's censorship of Elizabeth Moon.

In the comments at Locus Online Perspectives » An Apology, the admin says, "Blame me, not Liza or Locus HQ, for whatever sins we may have committed, and for whatever targets of death threats. I always thought that SF/F readers were more tolerant, less apt to take offense, than other folks; but apparently not. (Death threats!). So, no more April 1st spoofs ever."

Rose Fox on Twitter said, "Can't imagine anyone is actually threatening!" Which is odd, since every time people associated with Wiscon get outraged, there are death threats. That's been true since Zathlazip was mobbed.

ETA: And K. Tempest "cut a bitch" Bradford is also tweeting her mockery of the idea that there were death threats.

Faking rationality: yet another Rationalizing Animal post

I said yesterday I was done with this, but I'm a rationalizing animal, too, so I'm happily inconsistent.

Also, I realized I had lied to myself. Accepting that humans are irrational animals did not make me happy. It made me quite depressed for about 48 hours, so I'm going to go back to being irrationally optimistic about my irrational species. I intend to cling desperately to the notion that we can fake being rational sometimes, and someday, we'll be able to fake it often enough to make a better world.

There are worse ways to fake it than considering these quotes from Was Shakespeare Shakespeare? 11 Rules for Critical Thinking:

  1. All beliefs in whatever realm are theories at some level. (Stephen Schneider)
  2. Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong. (Dandemis)
  3. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. (Francis Bacon)
  4. Never fall in love with your hypothesis. (Peter Medawar)
  5. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts. (Arthur Conan Doyle)
  6. A theory should not attempt to explain all the facts, because some of the facts are wrong. (Francis Crick)
  7. The thing that doesn’t fit is the thing that is most interesting. (Richard Feynman)
  8. To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact. (Charles Darwin)
  9. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. (Mark Twain)
  10. Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong. (Thomas Jefferson)
  11. All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed, second, it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident. (Arthur Schopenhauer)
My favorites are Feynman's, Darwin's, and Twain's. Crick's is important, but irrational animals always wave away the things their beloved theory does not explain.