19 February 2015

On not posting many blogs anymore

At first it was work. Was working as the manager of the building I lived in, along with all my other jobs.
And filling most of my free time with dating.

Then I actually ended up finding her.
Not even somewhere I was looking.  A series of very random and fortunate events.
I'll probably write more on that later.

So she's been getting most of my free time ever since figuring out that that was settled.
But she works full time, and I most certainly don't.

I have had just about as many thoughts, but been much less motivated to take the time and effort to actually write.

I think I may slowly be getting to that final stage.

Maybe there is so little writing from the wisest because they realize how little impact it would have, and so don't bother. (Or at least, that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.)

As the robots say: "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again".
The more I learn, the more I start to believe that.

Things get better in someways - in some places, but always worse in others, and on balance it seems more or less the same.  That change that does stick, its due to technology, mostly, and some to randomness.
It certainly isn't because of some guy typing on a computer at home.

Now that the Colbert Report is over, I mostly avoid learning anything that passes for "news".
Some infotainment is more blatant than others, but in the end all there is is human interest stories.

Other than my closest personal friends and family, I've pretty much given up debates or discussions or informing people of things.
Human psychology. People will find a way to believe what they want. Whether its comforting because they've always believed it, or because its pleasant to believe, or because the human brain gets off on feeling superior and self-righteous, or because of our rubber necking blood lust for being horrified and outraged.
People will always find things to be outraged about.
People will always go by raw emotional response first, and then fill in the details to justify it afterwards.

That's the part I never got, which is why all the things I've been writing since 2006 have had so little influence on those few who read it.
And why, while the cast and settings change, newspapers today look so much like ones from hundreds of years ago, why reading detailed history from long ago feels eerily familiar.

I spoke to a friend of mine once, about my belief that efforts to generate outrage over supposed slights and insults based on race or gender were counter-productive to the goal of societal advancement and equality, and I gave lots of specific reasons related to recent facebook posts and the like.  I was thrown for a loop when the response was more or less an acknowledgement (or at least lack of dispute) of my point, and the explanation that the goal wasn't to make the world a better place, the goal was simple catharsis.  It felt better to vent about things happening in the world that made a strong emotional impact, posting or writing or complaining in person were ways of dissipating bad feelings - and it didn't matter if the end result was making the world better or worse.

There is nothing really to say to respond to that.
Thats a lot of why I stopped writing.
I suspect most people don't have the self-awareness to realize that's what they are really doing, even though so many are.

If I don't know how to reach someone who is doing it consciously, I certainly don't know where to even begin with people who truly believe they are "saving the world" with whatever cause, whatever perceived injustice, they are devoted to ending.

All that said, though,
I'm not 100% there yet.

I still live in the Bay Area, CA.
I passed by all the demonstrations over the supposed epidemic of "police brutality" in upper middle class Berkeley, made up almost entirely of people who have never actually lived in an area of excessively high crime, have never lived with the constant threat of being personally assaulted...
It generates quite mixed feelings
On the one hand, there is so much to say about it - and in fact, the one time I wrote a post in the past many months, it was inspired by that crowd.
But on the other hand, it just reminds me of every other mindless mob I've known of, from the people who drove their cars to protest a Mid-East "war for oil" (in which my partner and I were the ONLY two to ride bikes there), to the march on the streets of SF which turned to avoid cops at every intersection and ended up going in a circle and getting trapped on itself, the "protests" that turn into plain old riots - or just watching groups of sports fans or religious groups or gangs.  Hell, for that matter, trying to talk to a confirmed "liberal", pointing out something that goes across the standard accepted liberal doctrine, its no easier (or harder) than debating a "conservative".  All of them are about identity first and foremost, and once you identify as part of a given group, you have to accept all of what the group believes (although sometimes with pre-specified exceptions just so it seems like they aren't too rigid!)

There's no way to argue with that.
The "decision" of what to believe, how to think, what is true, has already been made.
The only thing left is to figure out how to fit facts of reality to fit.
If you have decided that the world (or "America", or whatever) is full of oppression, or that (fill in the blank) group is treated unfairly, there will always be one or two isolated examples that can be used to "prove" that it is rampant, there will always be disparities that can be explained lots of different ways.
If you have decided the world has lax morals, or is too religious, or not religious enough, that we've gotten to soft or have lost our compassion, that all politicians are corrupt or justice is a farce or the homosexual agenda is winning, you can find the evidence you need to sustain that belief.

I say this, but like I also said, I'm not 100% there yet.
And so I'll probably write at least a little more before I give it up completely.
At least until I get the ideas that have been stuck in my head for the past year out of there.

09 December 2014

I can't stand it anymore; OR - No, actually, violent Black men don't represent all Black people.

I tried, so hard, and for so long, to ignore the news, to ignore the protestors, and to not learn anything about the latest liberal outrage.

I'm not sure what finally broke me, but it may have been the FaceBook post ironically claiming it to be "Open Season on Black Men" in the wake of Officer Darren Wilson's acquittal.

Even then, I put off writing anything.
Because I know human psychology.
I know about the backfire effect.
I know that humans - and particularly Americans, it seems - actually enjoy the feeling of outrage, it is like a drug, something about our start as a revolution perhaps, who knows, but the real point is having something to protest, something to be angry about, someone to rebell against.  The details are just the excuse.

The chances are really really good that you, who ever you are, have already formed your opinion.
And that opinion is based 99% on emotion, and only 1% on having actually read the available evidence yourself and trying to form a logical conclusion from facts.  Of course you don't think you do this - nobody does - and yet psychologists and marketers alike know with absolute certainty that damn near every single person does.
And the crazy fucking thing is that if I present some of the available information, and I point out some rational conclusions that can be drawn from that information, if the conclusion contradicts what you already believe, not only will you not change your belief, it will make you believe it even stronger!

And so I'm tempted to not even write, because the last thing I want to do is make anyone believe this stupid, racist, counter-productive crap even more strongly than they already do.

And yet, I know me, and this is going to bother me forever if I don't get it down in print, and besides, about 4 people read this blog, so there's pretty limited damage I can do no matter how controversial I am.

So ok, lets go:

Oscar Grant.  Trayvon Martin.  Michael Brown.
What do they all have in common?

I know, I know, what the media wants to have immediately spring to mind is "Black Man".
There is something they have in common which is much more specific, and more uncommon, than that.
And I don't mean getting shot.
I mean in the moments leading up to getting shot.

Do you remember the actual details of these cases?

That is what triggered the events that led to each of them being shot.

Lets review:

Oscar Grant wasn't just detained for being a Black man.  He was being arrested because he was in a fist fight on a crowded commuter train.  There is never an excuse to be physically fighting other people on a train.  Normal people don't get into situations like that.  Ever.

We can never know for sure, but every single eye witness, the medical examiner's report, and the 911 tapes all confirm George Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon Martin, after pretending to run away, actually doubled back and found a hiding place, and when Zimmerman started walking back to his car, Martin jumped out, tackled Zimmerman, slammed his head into the sidewalk multiple times, and then repeatedly punched him in the face.  Multiple witnesses, who had no relationship with either person, clearly saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, pinning him down and punching him in the face.  Zimmerman's nose was broken, he had two black eyes, and a gash on the back of his head.  Even Martin's own father, the first time he heard the 911 tape, admitted it was Zimmerman's voice in the background calling for help (although, not surprisingly, he fell in line with the rest of the family to pretend to "recognize" Martin's voice after the media got hold of the case).
People said this was a test case for "stand your ground", and in an ironic way it was: Martin could have avoided escalating the situation had he actually run away when he realized he was being followed.  But he didn't.  He stood his ground.  He found a place to hide so he could ambush his pursuer, and he was the one who then turned it from creepy to physically violent.

The media and activists and angry liberals alike all like to emphasize how such-and-such suspect was "unarmed".

Between 2007 and 2011 (latest FBI data) 4,610 people were murdered without any form of weapon.
That's an average of just under one thousand per year.

In other words "unarmed", especially when applied to a violent young adult, doesn't mean a god-damn thing - except for talking points for lawyers, slogans for protesters, and most important of all, outrage driven ratings for news media.

Do you remember the temporary teapot tempest of "bath salts" a few years back?
It was a designer drug - one made by underground chemists to get around drug laws on the technicality that the government couldn't make a substance illegal that didn't exist yet.  It gave people a mild high, supposedly something remotely akin to MDMA, but you could buy it at gas stations.
Then supposedly some guy who was high on "bath salts" literally bit off a homeless man's face.
Remember that?
Did you ever look any deeper into the real details of that case?
The medical examiner found NO trace of bath salts in the suspect's blood.  Zero.  There was no evidence that he had ever taken them in his life.  All he was on was plain old ordinary marijuana and alcohol.
You want to know where the "bath salt" story came from?
A very smart police public relations official.
Because the guy who ate a homeless guy's face was Black.  And the cop who responded and shot him was Cuban.  There was a lot of racial tension between the two groups in Miami in 2012, and the public relation's officer knew how much the media LOVE to repeat stories about "unarmed" black men getting shot by cops.
So he just made the entire story up, on the spot.
It was brilliant.  It worked.

Try having your face chewed off while you are sleeping, and then come back and tell me how relevant being "unarmed is".

Oh, sorry, that was a digression.  Lets go back to Zimmerman.
Lets have you get tackled onto the concrete unexpectedly, and have a young man staddle you, slam your head into the pavement a couple times, and then punch you repeatedly in the face, and then if you survive, you can talk to me about how being "unarmed" is interchangeable with "not a threat".  IF you survive, because you can definitely kill a human being by slamming their head into concrete.

Get this straight, and remember it: "unarmed" does NOT mean "innocent", it does not mean "just walking along", and it does not mean "not a threat".  Humans murdered other humans long before guns were invented.

Now, unless you are really paranoid, or you are really deep into the ideology of oppression, if you look at all the available information in the Oscar Grant case, it is outstandingly obvious that most likely explanation is that Officer Johannes Mehserle intended to go for his taser, and accidentally pulled the wrong thing from his belt.  Grant was punching people in public, which is unacceptable behavior, and then he was resisting arrest, so, yeah, he definitely deserved to be tased, but he probably didn't deserve to get shot - which is why no one intended to shoot him.  If that accident counts as "murder", than so should every single death by car accident - literally 100% of all "accidents" are avoidable, and should be better described as negligence.

But the other two cases, there is reason to believe that they were not only integrating physical violence and/or resisting a lawful arrest - they also both (supposedly) tried to grab the gun of the person they attacked.

Of the 203 police officer's who were murdered while on duty between 2010 and 2013, 17 of them had their own guns taken from them by the "suspect".
That's a real thing.  That happens.

And it happens a hell of a lot more often than unarmed Black men getting shot by police.
2 between 2009 and 2014.
Versus an average of roughly 25 police shot by "unarmed" suspects.
25 is more than 2.

Lets get back to our review.

Michael Brown.  Almost 50 witnesses all saw Brown reach into a cop car's window and punch a cop in the face.
Do I really need to type any more than that?
The man reached into a cop car window and punched a police officer in the face.
How does that make him a martyr?


After the Oscar Grant shooting, people started putting up signs that said something to the effect of "I am Oscar Grant".
You sure as hell better not be!  I really hope you don't get into drunken brawls on crowded commuter trains.  I don't know what the hell your parents and peers have been telling you, but that is simply not acceptable behavior in the world of human civilization.  That is not ok.  It doesn't matter how he died, he is not a fucking role model.

And then there was this Facebook post that finally made me want to write this here post: acquitting Darren Wilson amounts to "open season" on "Black men".  You know what?  Fuck you!  That is the most racist fucking thing I have heard in a long time - and its coming from the liberals and activists who proclaim most loudly to be "anti-racist".  I'm sure it isn't the intention, but the implication in that claim is that ALL Black men are violent.  It is saying all Black men might someday punch a cop in the face because he asks us not to walk in the middle of the street.  It is saying that all Black men fight people on commuter trains, ambush and attempt to seriously injure people we feel are "creepy ass crackers", resist arrest, try to grab cop's guns, and commit crime, instigate violence, and generally act obnoxious.
Because those are the people who have gotten shot.

Not a single one was just innocently walking along, minding his own business, when a cop (or neighborhood watch coordinator) jumped out, tried to arrest them for walking while Black, and then just shot them for no other reason than they wanted to experience killing a Black man for themselves.
That is not ever what happens, and yet it is the narrative that America keeps repeating, over and over, in the media and in the streets, because for some insane and sick reason, we, collectively, desperately want it to be true.

14 October 2014

Gentrification is a myth

A friend sent me a report he had read on gentrification in Oakland, and asked for feedback, after a conversation in which I claimed gentrification was largely a myth.
This was the report:

This is a report in which they are specifically looking for signs of it, trying to play it up, and focusing specifically on neighborhoods and time spans with the most dramatic rent increases.
And even by their own numbers, even at its worst rent increased more slowly than inflation.

The thing about housing prices and inflation - if a loaf of bread goes up from $1 to $1.50, its not really a big deal, its 50 cents more.
If a house goes from 200,000 to 300,000, that seems like a dramatic increase, $100k is a lot of money. 
But they are both the exact same 50% increase.

Below is my more in-depth analysis of the specific report, including hard numbers instead of thought experiment numbers:

Some disjointed initial points on cjjc report:
Using their own numbers, rent increase in the most gentrified neighborhoods of Oakland has been on average $14 per year, or 1.5%
That is LESS than inflation.
In other words, corrected for inflation, rent in the most gentrified part of Oakland has gone DOWN over the time span they looked at.
I wouldn't be surprised if this oversight were unintentional.  Its why I'd advocate that education move back toward its original general knowledge of everything role instead of the specialist role it has turned into.  The people who wrote this are obviously intelligent, but apparently don't know the most basics of economics.
Aside from that, though, it seems a bit disingenuous to claim that $933 is within easy reach of the working class, but $1213 is "out of reach except to the wealthiest
segments of our society"

They say that "Oakland’s African American population  decreased from 43 percent to 26 percent of  the population", but not how much the overall population changed.  It increased by 20,000 over that time period.  That changes significantly the displacement implied by the percentage change.  According to their numbers, along with census population data, the city lost 58,476 Black residents over 20 years.  A lot, yes, but 30% less than the 85,615 implied by their percentages if you didn't take population growth into account.
In other words, a not insignificant portion of the change was due to more white (and other ethnicities) moving in, without displacing anyone currently there (i.e. moving into new housing)

So, reading this tends to confirm my initial feeling that, while, yes, it is happening, and it has some impact, the people who are against it exaggerate how big an impact it really has.

Over that same span of time violent crime has dropped significantly.  It is debatable how much of that is due to integration of cultures and classes and how much to other factors.  As many Black and poor residents have left, even more have stayed.  A decrease in violence and crime is a MAJOR quality of life issue for those who have stayed.

There also doesn't seem to be anything to support the assumption that everyone who left did so because of rising rents.
Of people I've know who have left, it has been to avoid crime and violence (including moving to places with higher cost of living), out of state for employment opportunities, to be with family, or simply because they didn't like it here.  Of course often rent is given as a second or third factor, but then, rent has always been high here, as long as CA has been a US state.  SF is second only to Honolulu for highest housing cost - we've actually just barely edged out Manhattan of all places.  Oakland is SFs suburb (so to speak).  It was expensive before the internet was invented.  I'm not going to do the research right this moment, certainly there is nothing in the report that shows that rent increases were any slower prior to 1990.

There are some, I'll say, very questionable (at the least) claims.
The report states that owners were forced out due to raising prices due to speculation.  This makes no sense.  If a person "owns" their house (meaning mortgage), the bank doesn't get to unilaterally readjust the loan based on the prices of other houses.  The sale price is fixed.  At the most the interest can vary, IF the person choose to get an ARM instead of a fixed 30 year.  At the worst, they may become "upside down" or "underwater" - but unless they themselves were speculating - planning to sell before the loan was paid off - those ideas are meaningless.
If a person has paid off the mortgage, then the prices of neighboring homes has absolutely zero impact on them in any way.
The report also states that because rental prices increased, tenants had to live in deplorable conditions without necessary upkeep.  Its a non-sequitor, and they make no attempt to explain the claimed correlation.

Now, not to be all one sided about this: I actually agree with the majority of their specific policy recommendations:
-Baseline protections for vulnerable residents, including policies that protect tenants and homeowners...and ensure access to services, just compensation, and the right to return in cases of displacement;
-Preservation and production of affordable housing, including efforts to preserve the overall supply and affordability levels of existing housing;
-Stabilization of existing communities, through ongoing and equitable investment in all homes and neighborhoods;
-Non-market based approaches to housing and community development, including development of cooperative housing models;
-Planning as a participatory process, including practices to build greater participation, accountability, and transparency into local land use and development decision-making.
 However, I think these ideas should most definitely be IN ADDITION to those policies they explicitly say they are in contrast to: " transit-oriented development (TOD), mixed-income development, and deconcentration of poverty approaches."
There is some value to empowering local communities, but at the same time, not every individual in the communities want to be empowered in that particular way (participating in the civic process), and there are both cultural and educational hurdles in the way of simply handing over the (metaphorical) keys and saying good luck, hopefully you'll work something good out.
Further, there are more goals to city management than just avoiding displacement.  Transit oriented development, for example, is important for reducing environmental impact.  We shouldn't be pitting poverty and ecology against each other.  Nobody wins.

More over, there are some big philosophical questions that the entire concept raises.
Some really major ones are the entire concept of owning land which other people live on. On that question I am way more radical than anything in this report: in short, I don't believe society should have landlords, period.  I have a major problem with capitalism in general, and developers particularly.  Short of revolution or a total change in American mindset, at the very least I totally support changes and restrictions on the activities of developers and landlords that benefit tenants and/or encourage home ownership, as well as changes to zoning regulations.
On the other hand though...
Who gets to decide who is entitled to live where?
What gives any particular person the "right" to live any particular place?
Housing is expensive here because everyone wants to live here.  We have good weather, good people, good politics, the city is close to nature, jobs pay well, we have good civic infrastructure.  People come from all over the country, and all over the world, to live here.  People move in faster than they move out.  But the major central cities have a fixed size.  The more population grows, the more crime grows, the more traffic grows.  I was born here.  This is home to me.  But in America, anyone can move to any state they want, any time.  Poor people should have a right not to be evicted from their home for no other reason than the landlord wants higher rent.  And so rent control laws were put in place.  But if a person chooses to move, or they are evicted for bad behavior, should they have a "right" to be able to move to the Hollywood Hills, or Honolulu HI, or Marin or Silicon Valley?
And if poor people do have a "right" to live where ever they want, why shouldn't the middle class and wealthy have that same right?  On what basis can we say that anyone person has a right to live in a particular city, but another doesn't?  What solution is there other than a market based one if more people want to live in some places than others?  Do you pick an arbitrary population and put up a big CLOSED, NO VACANCY sign on the city limits?  Limiting development means preventing the housing supply to expand.  If population expands while housing doesn't, rent prices increase.  Basic supply and demand.
To me it doesn't make sense to oppose turning apartments into condos, while at the same time supporting programs to encourage first time home buyers and ownership coops.  I think increasing ownership is a positive goal.  The more units that are turned from rentals to owen occupied, the more ownership is increased.
I only skimmed everything beyond the beginning, because it is all an elaboration of the first points.
My alternative (though, admittedly, even less realistic) solution is limiting or eliminating investment properties all together:


Here's a couple more inflation adjusted charts of US and local home prices and rents:




And here's a couple other factors which aren't automatically captured in raw numbers, nor in most analysis (even mine, above):
Homes have steadily gotten bigger since 1920 - in fact, well over twice as big, on average.  A house with 3000 square feet should reasonably cost more to buy or rent than a house that is 750 square feet.  The more big houses there are, the higher the average size will be, and so average cost should go up accordingly.

Bay Area population grows steadily over time.  Housing is not infinite, so the same supply and demand curves that affect every other area of economics in a free market affect housing too.  This is a good thing, because otherwise demand would be overwhelming, and the effects on urban density, traffic, government services, crime, the environment, etc would be extreme and negative.  Not everyone in the world can live here - there just isn't space.  

This is completely independent of how much money the people who move in make.  If more people move to an area, it reduces the amount of housing, and reduced supply with increased demand always increases prices.  
In fact, the more subsidized housing is available, the more sharp that effect will be, as it encourages more people to move in!

But as the charts show, even after the effects of bigger houses and more demand from a growing population, rent and home purchase prices still grow negligibly faster than inflation over the big picture.
Sure, there are random bubbles here and there.  But overall, gentrification is a myth.

16 September 2014

Why I don't own a smart phone

Because I know I wouldn't be an exception:

Smart phone users spend an average of 131 mins per day on mobile communication. Thats out of only 480 minutes of discretionary time (not work or sleep) or about 1/3 of all free time. And that doesn't even include non-communication apps like games.

The average user checks FaceBook 14 times per day

75% of smart phone users sleep with it on and in the same room

25% have phone on and in reach 24hours a day

80% all but an hours or two

a quarter check while driving

almost a third check during meals with others

almost 2/3 check at least once an hour, even if it doesn't ring or vibrate

20% check their phone every 10 minutes

84% said that they could not go a single day without their cellphones

one in three would rather give up sex than go a week without their phones

A third admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious

Well... technically I do own an iPhone.
Its an "obsolete" iPhone 3, with no service. I got it in one of my dump runs.  I use it 99% as a music player.

My actual cell phone (with service) folds in half. It is water and shock resistant. The battery lasts more than a week.
The plan is $12 per month.
I have never run out of minutes and only once in over a year run out of texts.
It has a camera, including video, a built in music player, and even a few games.
It can actually access the internet, and occasionally I check emails in the field if I need some information I forgot to write down at home, or if I'm just really really really bored.

I'm not a luddite - I have a Roku and a wireless home network and a harddrive-mp3-based-car-stereo and traffic-aware GPS, for example.

I just have no need to carry a tiny computer with me where ever I go.

I never really wanted one to begin with, but having watched what they do to people who own them made me decide I wouldn't accept even if I was offered both the phone and plan for free.  Because before long I would be an addition to all the statistics above.

Basically, the smart phone is the opium of the 21st century.
Although I suppose a good drug addiction can cost a lot more than the $160 per month the average smart phone user pays, so I guess its a pretty good deal...

28 August 2014

Why am I writing this stuff?

In some of the discussions that followed my last few posts, someone asked what purpose there was to writing it, other than making people angry?

Another pointed out that the belief of women's weakness and vulnerability might be the part of the reason women are victimized less, implying that even if its untrue, maybe we should encourage people to keep believing it since the effect is (presumably) less violence overall.

Well, for one, like it says in the header at the top of the page, I believe truth is inherently valuable.

But aside from that, there's a bunch of specific reasons.

The central one is this:
It seems like it is more important to people to support the ideological narrative they have accepted than it is to create better outcomes in the real world. 

- In discussions several women have said that fighting back would be pointless, because the strength difference between them and their boyfriend or lover is so large.
This makes me really really fucking angry at every rape activist and counselor and everyone else who has promoted false information for the sake of promoting ideology.
The actual research shows consistently that it doesn't matter if the victim is able to physically overpower the attacker.   The mere fact of attempting to physically resist is alone almost always enough to stop rape from occurring.
But this reality conflicts with the story people want to believe about rape being about power and domination and not access to sexual gratification.
This reality makes it more challenging to support the idea that lack of physical resistance isn't consent.  That idea is totally valid!  A woman shouldn't "have to" fight back; if she says "no", and he continues, its rape.
However, in the desire to protect the feelings of people who have already been victimized ("its not your fault just because you didn't fight back") everyone down plays the effectiveness of fighting back - which means there will be MORE victims!
Why are we more concerned with protecting woman's feelings and chances of prosecution after the fact than we are with preventing rape from occurring in the first place?

- The same goes for all forms of female victimization or submission by males.  The more we teach people that men are inherently stronger than women, or that women are naturally submissive, the more predatory men assume women to be easy targets, and the more likely women are to act out learned helplessness and accept it.

- The message that men should not commit violence against women implicitly sends the message that violence in general is ok.  We should be sending the message that violence is never ok.  It doesn't matter who the victim is.

- Intoxicated consent laws make it so that not only does "no" mean no, but "yes" also means no, but only sometimes.  And it is up to men to decide when that is.  Women aren't to be trusted to know how drunk they are, but men can tell for them.  Because, you know, men don't have enough power over women already.  We also need to make it law that only men can decide when women shouldn't have sex - for their own good, of course.

-In one of the discussions on my first post on cultural dimorphism, a woman who had insisted at first that not only did she not think women were weak, she saw no evidence that anyone did, online or in real life - eventually went on the defend the gender based draft on the grounds that (some specific individual) men are stronger than (some specific individual) women.

- Our way of viewing gender and race emphasizes differences. Far more than actually exist.  Those expectations we have then go on to influence our behavior, which cause those imaginary differences to manifest.

 - Our obsessing over what we imagine to be grand categorical differences in how we are treated creates the differences we complain about.

- As I wrote at the bottom of my last post, perpetuating the myth of Blacks oppressed by cops leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy that makes it more likely Blacks get shot by cops.

- The stuff that outrages everyone is almost always a distraction from real issues.  The energy we spend on stupid stuff could be spent, say, working toward making HeadStart universal, or making laws that say employees are entitled to the profit their own labor generates.

27 August 2014

It has to be disproportionate to be racism

The majority of violent crime is perpetrated by men.
The overwhelming majority, when it comes to violent crime done by/to strangers.
This is true.
For once common knowledge is fully supported by all independent data.

The human population is 50/50 male female.
Men are stopped, detained, arrested, and convicted far more often than women are - arrested 3 times as often for assault, and almost 9 times as often for robbery and murder.  This, despite the fact that they make up only half the population.

Yet no one is claiming the cops are showing a bias based on gender.  We can all comfortably admit that the reason for the discrepancy is that men are actually committing more crime.

We also all understand, without even having to say it, that acknowledging this difference is crime rate by gender is NOT the same thing as saying "all men are violent" or "all men are criminals".  We understand and accept that, on average, men are more violent without thinking it implies that any specific particular man is violent.


I was reading yet another article about how cops are unfairly targeting and profiling Black people, when I came across something unusual: the author had chosen a graphic which actually showed the larger context of the data they were focused on, which completely undermined their own point.


What nearly everyone trying to make the same point would do is take just the first bar - population - and the 4th and/or 5th bar, to show:
hey, look how disproportionately Blacks get shot at by cops!!

But this chart also shows some other relevant stats that put everything into context.

26 August 2014

Protective or patronizing? Framing people as victims is anti-empowering.

A) A few guys, hanging out at the shared apartment of one of them.  Watching the game, drinking some beers - maybe a couple too many, but noone here has to drive anytime soon - bag of chips, maybe order a pizza later.  Talking about girls and work and the latest news during commercials.
A couple of them get into a minor dispute about some stupid thing, and its not the sort of thing that can be settled by checking google, and so the only reasonable way to settle it is with a wrestling match.
There is one dissenting voice - one of the guy's who lives there, who owns most of the furniture and electronics in the room - but everyone else thinks this is a great idea, and helps clear some space in the middle of the living room.  One of the two has the weight and strength advantage, but the other has more experience, and its up for debate which is more drunk, so it seems fair enough.
Everyone is really friends here and no one is seriously trying to hurt anyone, but it's fun sometimes to see who can force the other to say "uncle" and concede defeat, thereby winning not just the wrestling match, but also the original argument as well.

B) A guy walks out of a bar.  He realizes he has had too much to drive, and decides to take a walk. He's stumbling just a little, but he can walk. He first stops in the corner store to get a soda and snacks; he's slurring his words, but its not too hard to get the gist of "I want to buy these items" and the cashier gives him his change and sends him on his way.  But as soon as he leaves he notices a McDonald's, throws out the soda and snacks, and buys a burger and coffee.  Still just as drunk as when he left the bar twenty minutes ago, and out of ways to kill time, he calls a cab and heads home for the night.

C) Your friend has clearly had one too many.  You decide to get him home before he gets into any trouble.  He doesn't want to go, but everyone agrees it's for his own good, and besides, he's in no state to put up any serious resistance anyway.  You bring him to your place because it's closer, you won't have to go through his pockets for his keys, and hell, you're doing him a favor, you may as well not go more out of your way then you have to. You leave him in a pile on the sofa, clothes and shoes still on, and head to your own room to get some sleep.

D) Jimothy needs a ride home.  He knows it.  He asks Robin for a ride.  Robin isn't ready to go just yet, and besides, they live in opposite directions.  Jim offers to pay for gas money, plus a little extra for the favor.  $20 is almost as much as a cab would cost, but he'd just as soon the money go to a friend (and besides, he doesn't feel like waiting a whole 30min for a cab).  Robin gives in, drops Jim off, and heads back out for more fun.  Unbeknownst to Robin, Jimothy was so drunk that he had "blacked out" a while before he wanted to go home, and has absolutely no memory of having asked for a ride, nor of actually getting the ride.
When he wakes up in the morning, he has no idea how he got there.

21 August 2014

Women are not "naturally" submissive

Thousands of years of misogyny has created an internalized narrative of women as inherent victims that we all on some level want to continue to believe, and keeping women weak on purpose helps to keep the illusion alive.

It appears that the potential for physical dominance of men over women has only very small roots in biology, that instead the vast majority of it comes from culture. 
In my last post I showed that, at least in terms of physical differences, male dominance in the modern western world is not something men are forcing onto women, as much as something women are seeking out.

The common explanation for this relies on the assumption that our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in nuclear families with male "bread-winners" (mastodon-hunters?) and female home-makers.
There is no reason to believe this has ever been true.
The one place anthropologist don't see female selection for height and strength in mates is primitive nomadic societies, which is where we should expect to see it the most, if the popular theory were true.
Across all species, sexual dimorphism in size and strength is inversely proportional to paternal investment.  In other words, in species where males are much larger and stronger than females (much more than the naturally occurring 10% in humans), the males never stick around to help raise young.  In more egalitarian species, where both parents invest in the offspring, the males and females tend to be the exact same size.
Sexual dimorphism in size and strength is not a natural result of a predestined male role as protector and provider.  Those roles are relatively modern cultural ones that likely developed tens of thousands of years more recently than the times of our savannah roaming ancestors.  It is more likely to have developed because of our (small) natural dimorphism than in order to facilitate it.

Or perhaps biology is just a convenient excuse, and female preferences for a partner who is able to physically overpower them may be entirely an extension of the misogynistic cultural dynamic of male dominance in general.

Just as women enforce the physical differences within couples, there is plenty of evidence that it is actually largely women, not men, that enforce male dominance in interpersonal relations as well, at least in modern Western society.

That suggestion is, of course, the polar opposite of most normal thinking on patriarchal society.

For most of recorded history, in most parts of the world, civil society has been male dominated.
Given that, it has always been reasonable to assume that the roles of dominance and submission were enforced by men - since, after all, they had the power to enforce roles.

19 August 2014

Women are only as weak as they choose to be

If I had to guess, I would say that you would say that you don't believe that women are weak and helpless by default, by virtue of the consequences of their chromosomes.
However, I suspect you do actually believe that.  You are probably being sincere when you claim not to, its just that you can't see it, because everyone believes it, everyone takes it as a given, so much so that the assumption is invisible, like the water around a fish.

I feel its important for us all to realize that this universal assumption exists because it has a huge impact on the strategies we use in trying to bring about greater equality and egalitarianism, to give people freedom not to conform to constructed gender roles, to enjoy love and sexuality in whatever way suits them (so long as they aren't doing harm to anyone else).
It has a huge impact on the approach to take if the ultimate goal is having all of society, male and female, look at women as being humans.  Not a special subset of humans, just humans, period, just like everyone else (where "everyone else" is assumed to be "men" - even though women make up half of all people).
There is a lot of stuff feminist activists say and do which is counter-productive to that goals - and as a result, to all of the other goals listed before it - because of the unfortunate fact that they, just like everyone else, hold the misogynist view that women are naturally weak, and are therefore inherently victims.

I suspect that some of my arguments are going to come across to some people as sounding like something along the lines of "men's rights" advocacy.  But my point here isn't to say "aw, poor discriminated against men".  My point isn't that we should change anything to make men's lives any easier.  My point is that in each example the way we treat women differently is patronizing to women.  We assume they are physically helpless, or lack agency, or are just plain stupid, and need to be protected (including from themselves) in ways that men aren't.  And that patronizing itself is problematic.  When we make certain assumptions universal and even frequently codify them into law, we are strengthening sexist stereotypes that then go on to influence individual people's opinions and from there their behaviors.

It shows up in literally every aspect of how society views sexuality and gender, and just as strongly among feminists and advocates for women as it does among traditionalists and chauvinists.

12 July 2014

Information on my genes provided by 23andMe and Promethease

Finally got my DNA analysis back from 23andMe:

Since the FDA stopped allowing them to interpret the data for their customers, I had to spend an extra $5 with https://promethease.com/ to get useful information out of it.
Here's the most interesting and useful stuff they found:

gs 229 & i3003137(A;T)- Sickle cell trait; resistant to malaria but a carrier for sickle cell anemia. Note some believe gs229 individuals should be identified by screening before being exposed to extreme physical exertion due to ~30x higher risk for sudden death
 Sickle Cell Anemia carrier - "Bad news: You are a carrier for Sickle Cell Anemia. You should consider having your partner tested before before having children. The good news is that you are naturally resistant to malaria."
[I learned this at Coast Guard bootcamp. The info the doctor gave me said there is rarely any real life effect, other than sudden death during extreme activity such as mountain climbing or... military bootcamp! I didn't die though :P ]

gs251 - Beta Thalassemia carrier (Beta thalassemia is a hereditary disease affecting the hemoglobin - similar to sickle cell)
[I guess I should go visit the tropics, take advantage of the fact that I am malaria proof]

rs738409(G;G) - higher odds of alcoholic liver disease, increased liver fat While found in 55%+ of all people, alcohol seems to be 3x more damaging to your liver than typical
[That's ok, I rarely drink anyway]

rs7294919(C;T) Moderately enhanced hippocampal volume
The hippocampus is a critical brain structure involved in learning and memory. In particular, it is associated with the ability to form long-term memories of facts and events

rs2237717(T;T) - roles in general neurodevelopment and in the development of autism . Rs2237717 has been linked to schizophrenia, and the ability to recognize facial emotion.  Possible cancer protection.
[I've always suspected I may have just a touch of Asperger's / ASD.  Not enough to be diagnosable, but enough that I often sympathize more with the experience of aspys than of NTs.  Wonder how much of that is related to rs2237717(T;T) ]

11 July 2014

The downsides to empathy

"You have a SNP in the oxytocin receptor which may make you less empathetic than most people. 
When under stress you may have more difficulty recognizing the emotional state of others which impacts loneliness, parenting, and socializing skills 
Lower levels of reward dependence (reliance on social approval). Lower autonomic arousal while perceiving harm to others." 

Indeed, I've been told by many people that I am not empathetic enough, and I have social skills only slightly better than someone with Asperger's. 

But I object to the characterization of this as "dysfunction". It is different than the norm, sure.
Does empathy imply more morality?  Is lack of empathy a pathology? Not necessarily

Just because I can't tell how you feel from your expression doesn't mean I'm any less likely to care. It just means I need more explicit communication - which is generally a good thing anyway. 
Combined with good communication, I bet it makes for less misunderstandings: while I do worse than average on "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test", I KNOW when I'm not sure, while people who do better are often confident even when they are wrong. Therefor I'm more likely to ask. 

A study published in the journal Science by Dr. Hillel Aviezer of the Psychology Department of the Hebrew University, together with Dr. Yaacov Trope of New York University and Dr. Alexander Todorov of Princeton University, confirms my theory: "viewers in test groups were baffled when shown photographs of people who were undergoing real-life, highly intense positive and negative experiences. " (as opposed to the typical "Reading the Mind in the Eyes Test" which uses actors). "When the viewers were asked to judge the emotional valences of the faces they were shown (that is, the positivity or negativity of the faces), their guesses fell within the realm of chance. " 
Nobody can really "mind read". But people rated more empathetic absolutely believe they can. Sounds like dysfunction... 

Reliance on social approval is a terrible thing! 
This study http://mic.com/articles/92479/psychologists-have-uncovered-a-troubling-feature-of-people-who-seem-too-nice isn't really about "niceness" as it claims, so much as about the politeness that stems from a high reliance on social approval. In other words, ASDs are a lot less likely to hurt others in order to fit in or be accepted.
The typical human will deliberately choose what they know to be a wrong answer, just so they can fit in with everyone else: http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html
 Reliance on social approval is the basis of peer pressure, of group think, of failure to act in crises (if others are around), of the negative feelings of shame and low-self-esteem. And as the study above shows, it makes people more likely to be evil. I'm at a loss for what positives come from it. It sounds an awful lot like dysfunction to me. 

Lower autonomic arousal while perceiving harm to others is probably a trait you want in, say, a rescuer (USCG Search and Rescue, for example, which I am, or a firefighter or cop or paramedic) - similar as I said above, the fact that I don't have a strong emotional reaction to your distress doesn't mean I don't care. It means I can stay calm and collected during your crises, which makes me more effective at helping you. Do you really want your rescuer to be so sympathetic that they freak out or start crying when they see how much pain you're in? 
A highly sympathetic pediatrician would develop lots of stress from continually causing children pain, even though they know the shots are in the child's best interests. Again, that sounds like dysfunction to me. 

Aspys and similar folk tend to be more intelligent and better at all sort of tasks. The fact of being less common doesn't automatically imply pathology - if it did, being overweight would have to be reclassified as normal, and a healthy BMI would have to be considered disfunction (at least in the US). 
Evolution has gone from pure stimulus response to instinct behavior to emotional reactions to higher order reasoning and logic. I propose the rise of the Aspys, who are less emotional and more logical, is another step in that direction!

10 July 2014

Debunking "Debunking Democracy"


The nearly unanimous condemnation of democracy in past history which Black (accurately) mentions was in all cases in contrast to elite rule, whether monarchy, oligarchy, or republic.

He then points out that democracy has been largely corrupted, that most societies that use it today are representative / republican, that not everyone who claims it actually practices it, and points out that there has rarely if ever been universal enfranchisement.
Again, all accurate points, but none of them is an actual criticism of direct democracy, its simply saying that not all of what people call “democracy” is the same thing.

He gives the lack of successful urban direct democracy as a reason it could not possibly happen.  That’s just silly.  Nothing exists prior to the first time it exists, that is certainly not proof that it couldn't possibly ever exist.  It may well be an “abstract ideal”, but no less so than anarchy, or any other ideological potential organization of society.  He acknowledges that direct democracy has in fact existed, but implies it ‘doesn't count’ because “Every known instance has involved a considerable admixture of representative democracy which has sooner or later usually subordinated [direct] democracy where it didn't eliminate it altogether”
But of course there is exactly zero cases of anarchy which did not “sooner or later” succumb to another form of social organization.

Black says that the objections to representative democracy apply to direct “pure majoritarian democracy”.  But nothing inherent in the ideal of democracy demands it must be majoritarian in nature.

On to the specific points:

27 June 2014

Walk the talk

One person asked me, upon reading my anti-capitalism pro-free market essay series, for ideas on how individuals might help contribute in daily life.

Walking the walk on two of the big points is easy: shop at independant stores instead of chains, don't buy IPOs, and if you create something (art, music, software, inventions), make it creative commons / open source / patent it but then licence it for free.

As to walking the walk on real estate: I don't really think it's applicable. There is some political momentum behind changing the corporate system after Citizen's United, and there is piracy/file sharing undermining copyright, but there is exactly zero movement behind one person one parcel.
Thats not even a phrase that exists. I just made it up, just now, as I was typing!
But there really is no inbetween. Nothing any one person does (short of the solution proposed in Manna) is going to have more than zero effect on the rest of the world.
The closest I imagine one could possibly come would be buying rental properties, and renting them at below market rent, even at cost (though with hidden irregular costs, like vacancies and major maintenance, factored in). One could opt out, but that would do as little to change the system or benefit anyone as opting out of voting does (i.e. exactly none, and possibly counter-productive, since then you are diluting your own potential influence)

For one person one parcel, I think the best anyone could do right now, even a billionaire, would be to publicize and promote the idea, because the first step would be getting the idea into the minds of millions of people. Its not quite communism, not quite libertarianism, not quite anarchy, not quite free market. As far as I know, its something no one has ever thought of before.

There is one other thing - probably the single biggest change to our system, (short of one person one parcel) would be for working hours to be adjusted downward to match increases in efficiency.
That is something we could easily do, if we were so inclined, just like we reduced working hours from 60-80 per week at the turn of the last century down to 40-50 hours today, as the industrial revolution vastly increased output per worker.

Today, computers and the internet and robots, plus outsourcing and corporate consolidation, not to mention quickly advancing 3D printing, has increased productivity far more than steam power and assembly lines ever did, yet we have never adjusted the 40 hour work week to match.  Our insanely massive income inequality, inflation adjusted income stagnation, and steadily high unemployment are all direct results of that.
I have started a petition to that end: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/a-35-hour-work-week-will
Of course, given the actual increase in output per worker since the 1940s when the 40 hour week was officially established, we should be at 4 hour work weeks by now,

 but 35 seems a bit more politically realistic as a starting point.

Unfortunately, I'm just a manual laborer with some ideas and a free blog account, not an activist or promoter, but if you happen to have a network of people who'd support the idea, by all means help me get some signatures

26 June 2014

An email response on feminism

Glad I met you, glad you followed up.
There's nothing makes me respect someone more than when they make counter-points, I have to concede some of them :)

First of all, I don't really disagree with anything you said.  I make this disclaimer cause I know that sometimes the way I frame discussions comes across as argumentative.  I mean it more as dialogue - its just that the most interesting and useful revelations generally come from hashing out the details of conflict.  Where two people agree, there isn't much more to talk about.

So, that being said - when I spoke of the woman as victim meme, I wasn't referring specifically to violence or any specific thing.  It comes up everywhere that gender is an issue.  This most recently came up in a discussion of a case where two college students were both extremely drunk, had consensual sex, and a week later the female was convinced by a older school staff member to file rape charges against her partner.  Of course, this isn't particularly unusual, but in this particular case, she had told a friend, as well as texting another friend and the male partner her explicit intentions to have sex with him just minutes before hand.  So there was actual documented evidence  a) of her intent/consent b) that she was conscious, knew what was happening, and coherent enough to write intelligible texts .  There were also multiple witnesses, including older staff, who saw the male partner moments earlier and confirmed that he was drunk enough to meet the standards of unable to consent.  The police dropped the charges, but the college's standard was that a drunk person can not consent, (therefor her consent was invalid), and at the same time that being drunk does not remove responsibility to not commit sexual assault (which it automatically was since she couldn't legally consent), and he was expelled from school.   
The problem is, by their own standards she was also guilty of raping him, but pressing charges against her for it was never even a consideration by anyone involved.

And this is pretty much the default, everywhere.  If two people both voluntarily get drunk and have consensual sex, this is almost universally seen as the male statutory raping the female.  I could be mistaken, but I am fairly certain the grand total cases of a woman being convicted of having sex with a drunk man is zero.  Ever.  Which means either men never have heterosexual sex after drinking, or we (society) has never fully let go of the deep seated assumption that every sex act is one that a man does to a woman.
You see the same thing just in our language - you don't say that food "penetrates" your mouth, or a bird "penetrating" the hand is worth two "penetrating" the bush, you don't penetrate your house or car when you go inside them.  The word penetration means something forcing its way in where it doesn't belong: a needle penetrates the skin, a spy penetrates the castle's defences.  
But there is absolutely no reason we couldn't frame the sex act as the female enveloping the male - as something she is actively doing to him.
You can see this sexist assumption in the genre of femdom porm.  Instead of the dominate female tying the guy down, blindfold and gagging him, and riding him for her own enjoyment, she invariably dons a strap-on and gives him anal.  In other words, the actual physical act of "penetration" is taken as default interchangeable with "dominant".  But this comes from culture, not from biology.

I think when we start with that as the basis of understanding and framing sex itself, that the physical, biological reality automatically implies a dominance / submission relationship, that it is inherently him fucking her, literally everything else stems from that.  All the rest of our assumptions and beliefs, about gender relations, about violence, about porn, about prostitution, about harassment, about age of consent, about intoxicated consent, all of it has that underlying assumption as its basis, and I think it is just as influential in the beliefs and arguments of feminists as it is in the most misogynistic - possibly more; at least the guy who thinks women are evil succubi seductresses assigns them full agency!

So, yeah, long explanation to say I wasn't speaking specifically to rape victims.  

I get what you are saying about instinct.
That part, about fighting back, is directed at anti-rape activists, not the victims themselves.  For many years (and probably still) many have actively, explicitly, discouraged women from fighting back on the grounds that they are "more likely to get hurt" by escalating the situation.  This belief doesn't stem from statistics though - the statistics clearly and consistently say that those who fight are both less likely to get raped AND less likely to get physically hurt.
I think the reason they don't want to promote that knowledge is that it conflicts with the story that "rapists don't want sex as much as they are sadists who crave power".  They want to promote that idea because its easier to say "those people over there" are sick people, to frame it as good and evil, then it is to admit that humans are animals, we are driven by food sex safety and social contact and we all have the capacity to do hurtful things. 
No different from how we universally revile Nazi's, even though the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram electroshock experiment taught us without a doubt that the same could happen anywhere, that the majority of any population will be "evil" under the right conditions.  The activists like to overlook, ignore, or explain away that rapists unconsciously target women who are ovulating, implying that there is an evolutionary force at work, or that by far the greatest drops in rape Nationwide (probably worldwide, but I don't have that data) occurred concurrently with the rise of porn (first in the 80s with the VCR, then again in the 00s with the internet), clearly implying that some form of sexual release dulls the desire - both strong evidence that rape isn't about control, its actually about sex.  We (collectively) still want to believe that humans are created in the image of God, that we are better than animals, and that sex is something spiritual and holy and meaningful.  And, of course, we also don't want to have to reconsider the core of our gender roles.
Ugh, I am getting so off topic.  The topic is just so BIG!  

OK, my point was, "No means no" is disempowering.  It means that the potential rapist has the responsibility to choose not to act.  The victim's only power is verbal, and it is the potential rapist who is supposed to abide by it.  
As troubling as that is, there is another side to it.  It is false.  In one survey some years back, more than half of college age women admitted to saying "no" when they really wanted to proceed.  Most said that it gave them plausible deniability, that it was a way to avoid slut shaming (not necessarily in those words, but very clearly the meaning).  A number explicitly said they wanted their (male) partner to ignore their words, because they enjoyed the idea of him over powering her, or being too lustful to control himself.  Of course no one wants to literally be raped - but the fantasy of it is extremely common among women (some reports I've seen suggest being dominated is one of, if not the most common fantasy scenario among women - see the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey), and many want to set conditions to make it seem/feel that way.  I know this both from reading, and from personal experience (which I found incredibly creepy, incidentally!).  But no one wants to admit it or talk about it.  I don't believe society can make any progress until it does.  Its like southern states trying to avoid teen sex by avoiding talking about it.  It doesn't work.  It makes it worse.  
It doesn't matter how many times a college frat boy hears "no means no" from public service messages, if the message he's getting from his real life sex partners is "no is a yes that needs a little more convincing".  And sooner or later he's gonna encounter a woman who doesn't mean that, and that's when the problems occur.

Re: women being valued - I wasn't saying that society does value women. I was saying society doesn't value men either.  I was saying no individual is valued by "society".  In the big picture we are all expendable.  When people say society doesn't value women, the fact of specifying, of saying it that way, implies that society does value men, so that's where I point out that every able bodied man is potential cannon fodder as soon as a country or kingdom is threatened.  Men are expected to work at jobs they hate for the vast majority of hours they are awake in their lifetime to take care of their families - it was always a source of social stigma if they didn't, but now that we have the means it is legally enforced.  Just as easily as one can say (as they often do) that women are only "valued" for their role in making and raising babies, so too could you assert that men are only valued for their role in impregnating women and providing for offspring.  After all, at least as many women want children and grandchildren as men do.  
"Society" doesn't care about individual stuff like happiness or equality.  It just is.  Its a collection of millions of individuals, with their own self-interests - and half of them are female.  

Ultimately, there is no society without both sexes, not only existing, but meeting and coupling up. One thing I've noticed recently is that while many people are actively concerned with tempering hetero male aggressive behavior in seeking sex partners (buying free drinks with a plan, being generally manipulative, hitting on coworkers in the workplace, catcalling on the street, persistence in any context in the face of initial rejection) there isn't any effort to temper hetero female submissive behavior.  What is seen as overly aggressive is just a point on a scale of assertive.  There is no universal standard, and what one finds offensive or harassing another finds flattering or seductive.  And the majority of women, even feminists and activists, still expect the man to be assertive.  They expect him to ask her out, to move for the first kiss, to be dominate in bed.  And no one seems to see the correlation.  If men all stopped being assertive, and women don't start, then no one hooks up at all, and in a few decades there are no more humans.  As long as being assertive is the only way for sex to happen, men are going to keep doing it, and as long as that is the expectation and standard there are going to be some individuals who take things too far, who cross the blurred lines and move into the dark side of the grey area.

On a mostly unrelated note: I don't subscribe to the common notion that only people who are within a particular group can have useful insight into that group.  I strongly oppose it.  I will always listen to a white person's thoughts on race relations.  I would never try to shut them up on the grounds that they haven't personally experienced what they are talking about.  That's an ad hominem argument. A statement or argument is either valid or invalid, and the same statement made by a person of different demographics is equally as valid or not.  It doesn't become more or less accurate or profound or reasonable because of the speaker.  I think that's a bullshit cop-out that people who are wrong use to try to gain credibility.  I find that argument used almost exclusively along side righteous-indignation; and I believe that the mere feeling of righteous-indignation is a strong sign that a person is being highly biased and subjective, and has closed themself off to considering contradictory evidence.  The feeling of self-righteous indignation is the most extreme manifestation of the back-fire effect - it is the mind's defense against evidence that challenges the roots of an ideology that a person has adopted so completely that it has become a part of their own personal identity.  
I think when a person accepts that argument used against them (i.e. I'm white/male/cis, therefore "its not my place"), it stems from a combination of internalized guilt (by association) and sympathy for the strength of feeling being expressed by the person saying it to them.  But the strength of emotion has exactly zero correlation with likelihood of accuracy, and I think addressing hard issues often has to mean hurting people's feelings.

That said, I totally acknowledge your point about taking the reality of emotion into account in order to maximize effectiveness.
I try to take that into account, to an extent, and what I say in the moment, in person, with a person who is going through something is different from what I will say in a theoretical political conversation.  As far as what I write in my blog, I'm not good at being manipulative, and since nobody at all is saying some of the stuff I'm saying, or even anything similar, I feel like my best role is to just put the ideas out there, direct and complete as possible.  Many people will be offended, and/or will ignore it.  Hell, most won't read it to begin with.  And maybe now and then someone open-minded will stumble across it, and even if they don't accept it at first, maybe the seeds have been planted, and maybe they will look at things differently, if only a little.  That's the most I dream of accomplishing.  I have gotten a comment that I have completely changed someone's view on capitalism.  I am getting more and more hits from google from the keywords "femdom" and "feminism".  And occasionally people even read all 5 parts of my essay on societies perception of rape and its implications for societies view of female agency.  I don't know who, and no one comments, but I can see in the back-end data that some people read it to the end.  The people who would object most strongly would never read to the end - if they did I'd be getting hate mail.  So I think I may well be influencing people, even though my style is direct and harsh and unapologetic.  

But don't get me wrong - your words gave me pause.  I need to remember and keep in mind, and tweak where I can, to stay direct but be less harsh, to acknowledge emotions, in all their illogical power.  Its hard to do, and reminders are good for me.

lastly - for future reference: if you get me started on a topic, sometimes I write really long emails.  

24 June 2014

The most recent dramatic socio-political discourse based on infotainment (Guy goes on killing spree, people blame misogyny)

(I've been having a few interesting conversations on FaceBook lately.
I'm still processing where I want to go with several of the ideas that have been stirred up, but in the meantime I thought I'd share with yall a few select tidbits.)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: anything that gets on the news is insignificant. You can tell by very virtue of the fact that it is on the news. It is exactly like the coverage of 500 people dieing in a plane crash, which happens once a decade, while there is exactly zero coverage of the 500 people who die in car crashes EVERY WEEK. We hear about it for months if a cop shoots an unarmed black man, but you've never heard the names of the 10 unarmed non-black men shot by cops in the first half of 2013. We pretend it is a major issue when, every once in a while, some crazy person shoots 10 people, but 30 people shoot one person each EVERY DAY in America. It just isn't dramatic news.
When something like this happens, we put all this emphasis on what that particular person was into, what must have motivated them. They were into satanism, they were into rock and roll, they smoked pot, they listened to violent rap music, they played violent video games, they were anarchists, they were backwoods dwelling preppers, they were anti-government, they were racist, they were cult members, they worked for the US Postal Service, they listened to Glenn Beck, they were a skin head - wrong. 
In all cases, wrong. 
There is no pattern. The most common reason for shooting sprees is getting fired, but even that's less than half. Thousands of people get fired every day and don't come back and kill their co-workers. 
Every once in a while, people go on killing sprees.
Killing sprees happened long before firearms existed. Look up the phrase "run amok". It is something humans do.
And then its something other humans do to try to rationalize it, and especially if they can somehow use it as an example to try to further a pre-existing socio-political agenda. But if you don't accept that mass killings of the past were indictments of (fill in the blank: marijuana, rock and roll, video games, anarchy) then you don't get to claim this most recent one is an indictment of "men's rights groups". 
This is not representative of anything, because it is a single isolated and unprecedented instance. A person ran amok. It happens. This particular one hated women. That part is a coincidence. Lots and lots of men hate women and don't go on shooting sprees. The entire thing is a non-issue.

How is it that people miss that the majority of his victims were male?

What an incredibly appropriate analogy, for the "feminist" misogyny I've been trying to point out the past couple years: the belief, even in the face of contrary evidence, that women are inherently victims, that women are weak and helpless and need protection.
You see it in the persistent belief that it is dangerous for a woman to walk alone at night in bad neighborhood - even though statistics say men are at significantly greater risk of attack by stranger.
You see it in the persistent myth of date rape drugs - even though 99% of suspected roofies turn out to be nothing but self-inflicted alcohol ingestion.
You see it in the extremely different reactions (and sometimes even laws) in sex with a minor depending on which gender was the older and which the younger.
You see it in rape laws (and statistic gathering) that defines the word rape as "penetration", which automatically means a female forcing a male is a lesser (or no) crime.
You see it in claims that "society doesn't value women" - while we ignore that men are expected (and often legally required) to go to war and die for society, while women are not only not forced to, but aren't even allowed to.

And then here, when twice as many men are murdered as women, and we all agree to pretend that it exemplifies violence against women. Um, huh?

I'm not denying that sexism or oppression exists. But the trope of woman as victim is not at all helpful in countering them. In fact, it is deeply counter-productive.
You want to end rape? Fuck giving the power to perpetrators, with the slogan "no means no". How about "fight back!" as a slogan? The overwhelming majority of attempted rapes where the intended victim fights back with maximum violence, the rape does not occur. But most don't fight back, because women are taught all their lives that they are weak and defenseless, that they are naturally victims.
It's bullshit.