8/13/18

Free-speech absolutism

8/13/18
I consider myself a free-speech absolutist. Even when the inevitable cliche counter-arguments arise, insisting that yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater, or worse, hate speech is surely not protected speech. I find myself questioning the details of these hypothetical exceptions to free speech.

If I really, actually yelled "fire" in a movie theater here, sans any threatening flames, I think I would get little more than dirty looks, and perhaps be escorted out. Considering the fact I was on private property, disrupting a service others were paying for, my silencing in that situation would hardly amount to an infringement of my freedom of speech.

Maybe if there was a recent epidemic of fires spontaneously consuming theaters and their patrons--I guess, in that situation, me crying wolf would likely endanger others. In which case, I would also be on private property, disrupting a service, and endangering the lives of others. In both cases, my silencing (or punishment for fake news), wouldn't be such a terrible thing, let alone an infringement of my rights.

You get the idea. I need the details. And even then, I may or may not agree with you for reasons wholly different than why you hold said position.

I'll be the first to admit that people are stupid and on occasion react badly to certain ideas, or at least the vocalization of such (it's amazing how a lot of people can read terrible arguments in text and shrug, but should they hear it aloud from its advocate, especially in the company of others, it's a powder keg in a dry forest on the 4th of July). The potential for certain speech in certain situations can be rightfully considered incitement to riot, thus endangering others and their property.

So yeah, there are exceptions, and those exceptions are not general rules of thumb for which large swaths of people and their ideas can be outlawed. The exceptions are exceptions because they necessitate a closer look, details.

But not for long. People are now apparently allowed to punch or shoot Nazis--at least people who they believe are Nazis. What's Nazism besides a set of ideas? I mean, it's very possible for a pacifist to be a Nazi. A person who couldn't hurt a fly is absolutely free to believe that others can carry out his or her cherished Nazi beliefs.

It's also quite legal and apparently acceptable for large platforms to collude and deny their platforms to those with certain viewpoints. Sometimes very mainstream viewpoints.

It's also quite acceptable and legal to punish some criminals far more severely than others who committed the same crime, because it was argued their motivation was more wrong than the typical criminal.

And it's increasingly in vogue to publicly argue for more exceptions to free speech. To argue in favor of broadening the definition of existing exceptions, to broaden the definition of violence, to empower more and more legal and social entities to silence and punish.

At this rate, free speech absolutists will soon be considered extremists (we already are in certain circles, and I'm not even all that absolutist as you now know).

So as the anti-freedom trends grow, I'll endeavor to censor myself less, to question why and if I should self-censor, to support others' right to spout nonsense, or wrongthink, whatever the case may be.

Even though I am literally disgusted by Alex Jones, and technically he does not have a right to social media platforms, I am more disgusted by the anti-freedom trend and its efforts. The same goes for a lot of scoundrels.

7/12/18

Initial thoughts on Strzok hearing

7/12/18
It's not over yet, and I missed bits and pieces, but I've seen enough.

If one wants candid answers to important and pressing questions, a televised congressional hearing is one of the last places you'll find them.

Although part of it was quite entertaining, if regrettable, but only further contributes to the idea congress is a cesspool and their televised events little more than clown shows.

The only new thing I learned, was that Peter Strzok does not appear to be all that intelligent. That and his somewhat recently publicized texts, doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the FBI, let alone the town in which all this is taking place.

In summary, when it came to the substantive issues discussed, all interrogative progress was expectedly stalled when Strzok and his fellow Democrats began arguing over the definition of bias, and concern trolling about conflating personal political views with bias.

Edited to add: I missed more than I thought. Ace has a more detailed post on the hearing.


In other news, I'm pretty sure I just heard Shep Smith say, very matter-of-factly, as if he were Walter fucking Cronkite, that Russia is in fact our enemy and they did tamper with our democracy.

They probably did tamper, but he said it as if Russians infiltrated every other polling station and falsified the outcomes, and we're on the verge of war with those dirty bastards. Where's my fainting couch? Get a grip, Shep.


via GIPHY

7/2/18

Monetize the eschaton

7/2/18
Usually as a critique of idealistic communists, socialists, or some other lefty with a big idea involving lots of tax dollars and government coercion, we've all heard the sage advice of Voegelin and Buckley cautioning us not to immanentize the eschaton. And well, that got me thinking about North Korea and YouTube.

While not remotely an apples to apples comparison, the two are similar and different enough to suggest an approximation of what and what not to do, if one is seeking power, profit, or paradise. Despite every communist state's flaws, they seek eschaton, and forever fall further and further short. Basically, North Korea is doing it wrong.

But YouTube is doing something right (mostly, kind of).

In short, one tried to immanentize and the other monetized.

I think probably any human effort to usher in some kind of grand paradise is doomed to spectacular failure. However, we're really good at making lots of little paradises, and we're pretty darn good at spotting those little oases.

Your inner socialist is probably telling you to copy from those little paradises and have the government provide it to everyone.

But don't listen to your little Marx, that way lies suffering (it's been tried, ad nauseam).

Instead, listen to that scrappy, greedy little goblin, and find ways to profit from little paradises. Better yet, find ways to profit off of helping people make little paradises.

When you've done that, you've just incentivized a lot of paradise. YouTube has done that. And several other web companies providing solid platforms for the masses.

For many of you, this is so obvious it's cliche. It's capitalism 101. Yet the struggle continues, since we can't help ourselves from erecting barriers to new and old markets.

What's probably less obvious, is that with the rise of mostly boundary-less platform economies, and with regulators' collective lateness to the tech party, there's a lot of room for optimism. I don't think we're even close to reaching the potential there.

chart from Visual Capitalist
Just thinking out loud.

6/8/18

Return of the red eye

6/8/18
Lately it seems like my only free time is an hour or two in the wee hours, or an hour or two in the morning when I'd rather be sleeping (and sometimes do). So in order to try not to devolve into a lazy waste of space during my free time, I'm going to attempt to occasionally post something here again.

So, to recap what I've missed and what's in the news today, here are some observations and links.

I don't think Trump or any meaningful part of his campaign colluded with Russia. But there is probably a tantalizing something, maybe small, but something. Otherwise I don't see how the FBI and Democrats--which is seemingly redundant these days--can justify this perpetual investigation with virtually nothing to show for it, and survive with any credibility intact. I think, to a significant degree, they're operating on the sunk cost fallacy.

Charles Krauthammer has "weeks to live." I always appreciated his typically thoughtful commentary. You'll be missed, Charles.

I am almost in disbelief at the North Korean summit. I don't expect it to produce miracles, or much of anything in the way of denuclearization, but the summit alone is quite remarkable. Trump keeps surprising.

Tariffs. I am a believer in free trade, but I also believe in fairness. And I am not opposed to using tariffs as temporary measures to further encourage freer and fairer trade agreements. Naturally, the recipients of increased costs (whether it's from tariffs or fairer trade agreements) don't like it, and are trying various things to stop it. I think the Trump administration expected some push back, but I kind of doubt they expected so much. But one thing I've learned is that Trump, for better or worse, plays chicken quite well. He may yet surprise us again.

Due to new living conditions, I have cable tv now. There is still nothing on. CNN and MSNBC have lost all credibility with me long ago and generally suck; this is still the case. Fox News is getting worse. They always leaned a bit right on most of their shows, especially relative to other news networks, but now it's more blatant, unapologetic, and sloppy. I miss the kind of shows with the integrity and perspective Meet the Press had under Tim Russert.

Pardons. It's about time a president used the power in the middle of a term, and with such frequency. I'm aware it's a slippery slope, especially when it involves political allies, but I think it's worth freeing a few guilty partisans if the innocent and overcharged also go free.

I'm also trying to be more polite while communicating via text, email, or other online media. It's too easy to read something and post your knee-jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. This is partly because my new job involves a lot of emailing and texting, and I've had to force myself to wait a while before responding. Your tone, perspective, and articulation all improve after waiting, even just a few minutes. This precious time also lets you reconsider and reinterpret the possible tone of the text you just read, which is usually very important.


9/14/17

Kurt Schlichter: Trump punked the GOPe by getting punked by Chuck Schumer, or something

9/14/17
I guess when you're a prolific social media whore, you tend to say a bunch of things, things which may not always conform to what you said the day before.

You hate libertarians one day, they're your best friends the next.

Whatever gets you to point B right?

So I'll just get straight to the point: on Monday, Kurt wrote an article about how the GOP establishment/NeverTrumpers were spinning Trump's "deal" with Pelosi and Schumer as defection to the Democrats. But Trump is always 10 steps ahead in 3-dimensional chess:
No one outside the Beltway cares if the Smarmy Dope and Elderly Mutant Establishment Turtle got disrespected. We avoided was a fight right now that would have taken up the 12 whole days of legislative work that Ryan and McConnell somehow stuffed into the 30 days of September after taking August off. Now the Congressional GOP is free to focus its entire attention on failing at tax reform.

Trump isn’t “betraying” the base. He’s treating the Congressional GOP like the hacks they are. They have done nearly nothing except posture, pose and issue passive aggressive proclamations about how Trump offends their tender sensibilities. Trump doesn’t respect them because they haven’t earned any respect; this week, he saved them from making fools of themselves once again, at least until the holidays.
The rest of the article reads much the same. Some great points. I sure don't give a flying rat's ass about the GOPe, and it's always good to see them get mud on their face.

But three days later, Kurt's saying something a little different:
So, though the haters like to personalize it, it's not so much that Trump is changing his position, because he’s always telegraphed that this was his position, but that he's being so stupid as to let Chuck Schumer make a fool out of him. He and Nancy Pelosi have dinner with him, then walk out and basically disrespected him in public in a way sure to turn his base against him. It was actually a brilliant move on the Dems’ part, in a volcano-lair supervillain kind of way.
So first Trump saved the GOP by making a deal with the Dems, but now it was all an epic supervillain play by Schumer and Pelosi.
The pseudo-right component of the bipartisan cartel will be only too happy to deliver, using Democrat votes, while actual conservatives are left cut out and fuming. It's the same sucker play George H.W. Bush fell for when he went back on his "Read my lips" pledge. Democrats offer a gullible Republican some magic beans and get him to split his base apart.
Wonder what he'll say tomorrow.

9/6/17

Our nonchalant policy on nuclear proliferation

9/6/17
China has nukes, Israel has them, India and Pakistan have them, Iran has or will have them. North Korea has them. Not to mention Russia and several Western nations. Notice a trend here?

Perhaps we've slowed or stalled nuclear proliferation here and there, even dismantled a few of our own nukes. But if a country really wants it, they will get it.

When it comes to the more-or-less publicly known nuclear programs among adversarial, enemy, or rogue states, we have consistently taken a casual approach, up to and including acceptance. We talk tough, we apply the occasional sanction, and we vow to never let Elbonia go nuclear. But we let them, and they do.
Rumor has it the generals get a medal for every purge they survive
I don't know whether the casual approach is better than any other, I'm not even sure if acceptance of nuclear proliferation is a good or bad philosophy. But I do know that people are animals and tend to be scared of big sticks. When a frightened house cat puffs up its fur, hunches its back in the air, starts hissing, growling, and spitting it's usually enough to scare off much larger predators.

If you've spent some time watching nature documentaries, you know that most territorial fights end before they start. And even when it comes to violence, rarely is it fatal. The key to winning a fight with a big dumb animal is appearing to be more vicious and threatening than is worth the trouble. There are exceptions, of course. And those exceptions are bloody.

People are like this. I remember in high school, some punk got mad because I was dating his ex-girlfriend. He came up to me and started yelling and pushing. I yelled back. He threatened hell on earth, said he would put me in the hospital. I was no fighter, and his words were, to my inexperienced ears, a little frightening. I instinctively wanted to back down. For some reason I didn't. I called his bluff. I stood there and said stop talking and do something. He lobbed a few more insults and walked away.

Even though I always believed him to be an idiot, I thought even less of him after that. North Korea does this a lot. They threaten hell on earth, warning that they will put us in the figurative hospital. But they don't, and we know that.

But on the other hand, we are like that too. How many decades have we vowed to stop nuclear proliferation? To stop North Korea? To stop Iran? We are all talk. So are they, but their sticks are getting bigger and bigger relative to ours. The bluff game doesn't really work when players consistently and reliably bluff. The moment somebody catches on, they'll exploit the living shit out of it.

I don't know. Maybe one day the idiots will think they won't have to walk away; maybe they're already exploiting the living shit out of us.

Which brings me to this editorial by Sung-Yoon Lee:
For far too long, the United States has shied away from shutting off the Kim regime’s sources of money and matériel, let alone sanctioning its Chinese partners. This has been out of concern that Pyongyang might escalate its aggression or that Beijing would adopt retaliatory economic measures. These fears are unfounded: North Korea escalates tension according to its own timetable, while China shows restraint in the face of legitimate financial measures.
"SHIED AWAY!?" From stopping various Kim Jong-nutbags?? How does he know that? But you know what, my political cynicism tells me this version of geopolitical history is so pathetic it must be true.

Every fracking missile test we hear the hawkiest Republocrat say: "It's time to take the kid gloves off when dealing with Iran/North Korea/insert bad country." Apparently we've been putting those gloves back on prior to every missile test, lest we risk running out of symbolic tough-guy gestures and have to visibly back down. The rhetoric is puffed fur, the actual policy is face-saving nonchalance.

Like I said, I don't know if our apparent policy is better or worse than any other approach. I mean, we would actually have to go to war to stop this, or take Sung-Yoon Lee's optimistic advice and economically blockade North Korea. Which might start a war.
Maybe it's too late to stop North Korea, and perhaps even Iran. But I do know that the longer we wait, the more that becomes certain. Cheap talk I know, but all our options suck. Which is probably why we're doing nothing beyond puffing fur. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

8/31/17

Cautiously pessimistic about Star Trek: Discovery

8/31/17
As a Trekkie, my anticipation for a new Star Trek television series began with excited wonderment. News of a new Trek series is always good news. Until it's not.

I don't want to be one of the bandwagonistas kicking a fetus before it's born, but I also don't want it to suck. Let's just say ST:D (wow, what a terrible acronym) has had its share of production problems--according to rumors and I think some other, more reliable sources.

The first trailer didn't inspire much confidence either. I guess it could've been worse:



Something just seems off. I think part of it is that it's meant to be different. Part of it is that I think it has to be different, given the Star Trek copyright mess of Paramount and CBS, and that it has to be modern while sticking to 1960s ST canon. No doubt they are squaring a circle here, and not everyone will be pleased.

Be that as it may, things could have gone better. The Youtuber Midnight's Edge seems to have the down-low on all things ST:D:



He's got a few more informative videos on the topic. Worth a watch if you're interested. By the way, if you haven't seen Prelude to Axanar, give it a watch. It's the best Trek fan film I've seen.

So after all of the delays and the uncanny Discovery trailer I became pessimistic. Then, after seeing the new Klingons and reading the news that ST:D will have season long story arcs, rather than self-contained weekly stories as every previous series, I lost most of what little optimism I had left.

But after thinking about it a bit, especially given how so many relatively recent tv dramas have been very good if not excellent, I thought maybe this could be great too. Probably not, but you know, it could be. So I'm still pessimistic, but not quite as much now. I hated the new Klingons at first, but now, who cares? ST has a history of changing the appearance of alien races. As long as they don't depart too much from canon, Klingons will be Klingons. Besides, they look more alien than they used to, which I think is good.

I felt I've rambled enough about a show that hasn't even aired yet. So here's the latest trailer:



Ugh, some things in it just bother me. I hope it's not a train wreck.

Oops: Forgot to mention that it's set to debut Sunday, September 24, 2017 on CBS.

8/6/17

Google has some purging to do

8/6/17
[Updated. See end of post.]

You can't be a progressive vanguard with this kind of ideological infighting going on.

So some tech geek at Google got a little fed up, mouthed off, and it's news.1 [Update: use this link for the full, unedited, unGizmodofied essay. Fucking worthless hacks at Gizmodo--see footnotes]

The poor guy/girl/xyrl is going to burn for xyr heresy; the beast and its devotees demand nothing less.

One piece of advice, if you're going to argue for something politically incorrect at a place where PC is sacred, you better be articulate, charming, funny, and back all that up with a very large collection of rock-solid, peer-reviewed studies from many of the most respected journals.2 I imagine this 'manifesto' would have more footnotes than its primary content.

So when you might say "we need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," all people will hear is "women [are] somehow genetically limited."3

But I heard you. And my inner scientist really wants to dig into that. Plus a lot of the other interesting things you said. I also heard when you said, you "value diversity and inclusion" and aren't "denying that sexism exists."

Unfortunately, nobody else heard those things. As evidenced in the response of Danielle Brown, Google's VP of Diversity, etc. to your "anti-diversity screed":
Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul.
And in the countless, breathless, raging tweets I won't bother to show here. They've successfully reframed your essay as something else entirely. I'm sorry. I really am.
You nitpicked the approved approach to addressing demographic anomalies, which means you're backwards caveman scum. You've blasphemed, committed social suicide by SJW.

Hope you survive it.

Update: Google Fires Author of Divisive Memo on Gender Differences

2nd update: I've included a link to the PDF containing the unedited essay. Here it is again if you missed it. I knew Gizmodo was scummy--hence my first footnote--but now I'm done. I'm never linking nor trusting Gizmodo or Gawker anything again. I'll leave the one I linked above to remind me what hacks they are.

Also, Google is evil.

3rd update: Slate Star Codex looks into the science behind differences in vocational interest between the sexes.4 Scott further notes how sad that this is life now for many industries:
... start treating each other as human beings again. Your co-worker could just be your co-worker, not a potential Nazi to be assaulted or a potential Stalinist who’s going to rat on you.
Read the whole thing.

----------------------------------------------
1. Sorry for the link to Gizmodo.
2. After finding the whole, unedited essay, there are actually several footnotes, dozens of hyperlinks to sources, and a graph. Gizmodo conveniently edited those out to ease reading, I'm sure.
3. Jazz Shaw is a fucking idiot.
4. It would be so wonderful if people accurately represented the essay, which contended biological differences in interest, not ability.

2/15/17

The world (and the internet) is crazy

2/15/17
I suppose it's not a good sign when you start to think everyone is crazy except you.

I jest, somewhat, but we're back where we were. Of course, as it has always been, we're seemingly getting worse regarding civility, political toxicity, hyper-partisanship, etcetera (although I think humanity tends to succeed despite itself--as if we repeatedly fail upwards, and are nevertheless continually disheartened by the failures--but that's a topic for another day).

So, in this era of #FakeNews, misleading commentary, political hackery, censorship, and other lame hashtags, your mostly absent host here at the Daily Mud will dust off his degree and try to get back to the basics of politics.

Think of it as a public service. I won't be arguing, explaining, nor defining political issues, rather I will attempt to list the concepts behind them and adequately summarize how they work with respect to our political processes--at least in my as yet unnamed series of upcoming blog posts. Maybe something like Modern Political Theorems, or some similarly pedestrian title. While politics is both science and art, I think it will still be useful to provide a sort of guide or reference for why politics is the way it is. Especially for anyone who was smarter than me by not majoring in Political Science.


In other news, I have recently suffered the loss of a family member, and shortly after became ill. The loss was rough, but I've been through it before and am coping fairly well. The illness is nothing too serious, but I've been out of commission for a couple weeks now. I think for some reason my immune system was not nearly up to par and just couldn't handle the flu (I didn't get flu shots because I never got the flu, until now). I'll try to get more sun and exercise in the future.

Comments have been temporarily disabled because I mostly get spam and don't want to deal with it. I will re-enable them soonish, I think.

11/13/16

What matters and what's lofty irrelevance

11/13/16
In the long run, we're all spiritual servants of a spaghetti monster who manages a universe of self-replicating paperclips. Which is to say, we're all dead, but it's still super cool to think of nascent spaghetti-run paperclip economies and galactic culture dynamics. I guess.

I mean, I wouldn't know since I'm not getting a comfortable salary to think about that stuff.
And all three of these [Trump v. Clinton & historical] differences are small compared the variation in such things across the history of human-like creatures so far, and also compared to that history yet to come.
Put your crypto-nihilism down and deal with life and loss like a reasonable human being.

There are bad ways to deal with adversity and there are less bad ways. I'll go out on a limb and say that pretending to rise above and see this through some pantemporal lens is of the worse bad variety.*

Then there's the less bad, where at least some introspection and change is considered:
People don’t seem to understand this: you need to adapt and change and look outside of your tiny enclaves not out of some moral obligation, but because you are losing on every imaginable frontYou don’t have to get in touch with the rest of the country because that’s the right thing to do. You have to get in touch with the rest of the country because they’re kicking your ass. The Republicans will control the House, the Senate, and the presidency, have the chance to appoint at least one and probably several Supreme Court justices, run 68 out of 99 state legislative houses, and hold 31 gubernatorial seats. That is domination on an unimaginable level. Every minute you spend signal-boosting people who say that it’s Republicans who have to get on board with liberal values is a minute you’re not doing anything to change that condition.
Despite the Republicans winning pretty much everything, this election was close, percentage-wise. If a few more democrats turned out in a handful of states, we would be having a very, very different conversation. Unfortunately, neither conversation is good.

I agree having an "insular, self-aggrandizing book club that treats looking at other parts of the country as an anthropology exercise" is extremely off-putting. But maybe the assumption behind this thinking is also insular, self-aggrandizing, and so far off from much of the country that it is equally off-putting.

So here we are, talking about changing strategy just so we can stop getting our asses kicked. Fuck flyover country's backwards ideas, we just need to trick a few more of them to give us a win.

Apparently the old liberal maxim of re-evaluating one's views when faced with contrary evidence, only applies to peripherals, like strategy and messaging. You're so smart, therefore you must be right. Heaven forbid you soften or change some views.

If you want something to look forward to, then rest assured, Donald Trump will face much more scrutiny and criticism than George W. Bush. Why? Because you and your book club hate him, and you now have, more than ever, good reason to:
Yet, beginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance. ...

The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.
If you want to start genuinely courting the Other, start befriending people like Rand Paul. Most Republicans will probably just go along with whatever power grabs Trump can get away with. There are some however, like Senator Paul, who not only disagree with Trump on several major issues, but would be a far more tolerable opposition leader in the future.


* I'm not saying discussions of the future, even distant future are folly, but I am saying that it's a poor way to accept and deal with loss. And holy hell is it out of touch. It's fine if all you do is think about far-off and lofty ideas, but it is by no means constructive or helpful for those dealing with real or perceived adversity in the here and now.

11/10/16

Reactions and Reflections

11/10/16
Lefty bubbles. Insulated warm, fuzzy cocoons. Walled gardens. Epistemic closure beguiled by positive feedback loops. The pleasant echos lulled half a country and its "elite" into a false sense of authority.

And then it all came tumbling down. Crashing. I think it was a surprise for nearly everyone. Good for some, bad for others.

I'm not sure I have much to say given what's already been said. So what follows is a roundup of reactions to the election, a bit of the more poignant commentary, and my thoughts on each. Some of which I don't quite understand, but am trying to. Some of it I agree with wholeheartedly and think needs a bit more sunlight, and then some I disagree with.

When bubbles burst, it's usually a shock to those inside. Their thoughts and behavior during the aftermath can be illuminating.


The Left

I'll start with J. D. Vance at the NYT, who like so many others after the election, acknowledge the bubbles they've been living in:
Failed political prognostication is hardly a grievous sin, but it raises difficult questions about the other bubbles I live in. Few would accuse me of lacking compassion for the Trump voter, but the same can hardly be said for many other coastal elites.

Meanwhile, our country has other groups deserving of compassion. Shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory became clear, a black friend told me that his kid brother had been subjected to racial taunts at school. I wonder now whether I’m empathetic enough to my friend and his family, and I worry whether those who cast their ballots for Mr. Trump have much understanding for why so many fear a Trump presidency. The benefits and prejudices of a life lived within a bubble are hardly limited to urban progressive professionals.
You will see this narrative over and over. "Out of touch," "living in a bubble," "we have some reflecting to do," but also the usually subtle implication that the racists have taken over, and super-racist Nazi America is but a shoe drop away.

How do they know? Because Trump once said he wants to ban Muslim immigration. Trump then walked back that stance. Also something about building a wall. I'll admit Trump is brash and far from eloquent, but wanting tighter, more secure immigration and the occasional verbalization of stereotypes does not a Hitler make. And of course, the only kind of person willing to vote for that kind of a man, is a racist.

But people are scared now apparently. I get that for some, relatively very few, discrimination is a real and ugly thing they have to deal with and I want to help them. But for most in modern America? Call me skeptical, but I'm going to have to ask for proof.

Still, for a lot of people, this election is proof enough for them. From Reddit:

click image to enlarge

"I'm a Muslim living in the States. Trump doesn't scare me as much as his supporters do."

"I'm Jewish and I'm right there with you in fearing his supporters..."

Am I in my own bubble? I've never personally witnessed racial or political violence, or threats thereof. Such reports I see are from the same news sources (mostly) "coastal elites" use. I don't see large-scale racial violence or discrimination happening, or even medium-scale. It's generally the occasional something-bad-happened-to-one-person story. Like police going too far, but even then it's not always so clear.

Are they afraid, like we're living in Europe, or the third world hellholes many leftists fetishize?

I want to say I did some looking around for this fear, but no. Just skimming the various newzy and social sites it became abundantly clear. Trump really is the next Hitler to them. The following images are screenshots I took in the hours following the election results:





















There was even a "homophobia" in there! Despite Trump being the first Republican presidential nominee to embrace marriage equality, and prominently supported by Peter Thiel. Fucking come on, the Republicans are, and will continue to get, on board the LGBTQ train--so long as it's compatible with individual and religious liberty.

No matter, frequently fallible Paul Krugman will set things straight:
What we do know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate so manifestly unqualified for high office, so temperamentally unsound, so scary yet ludicrous. ...

There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy.
He says he truly didn't understand the country, then in the very next paragraph, half a day after the election, he now claims to know: and its name is backwardness. Jesus Christ; and they wonder why half of America collectively gave them the fucking finger. Arrogant condescending pricks, the whole lot of them.

Might as well get it all out. What insulting buzzwords are America you say?






















Way to be civil. Want some grace from the winners? Maybe try not spitting on them.

Trump wasn't my preferred candidate, but the racist labeling only made me want to support him more. Why? It was unfair. If he said the N-word in the last several years, and/or displayed any other overtly racist behavior I would be calling him that myself. But now, in many circles, merely opposing lax immigration is 100% straight-up racist.

But it doesn't even matter. If he's a scumbag then he's a scumbag. What matters is what he'll do as president. What policies he'll bring. What judges he'll appoint. Scumbagerry doesn't translate well into policy, although there are exceptions.

Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Jr., and a Republican congress didn't overturn Roe v. Wade. There was some pushback on gay marriage, but look where we are now. We're even legalizing drugs!

After all the hysterics, I feel it's time to Voxplain a thing or two.



Oh my. Vox can't even keep a cool head. People sure aren't taking this well:












































So there's the reactions. Fear, sadness, anger, resentment, disgust, combinations of denial and acceptance. But what does it all mean? What brought about this Trump victory?


The Democrats

To paraphrase President Obama, we need to spread the blame around. Hillary's campaign miscalculated. Badly:
“They are saying they did nothing wrong, which is ridiculous,” said one Clinton surrogate. “She was the wrong messenger and everyone misjudged how pissed working class people were.” ...

In interviews with close to a dozen top Clinton allies and former operatives, who did not want to publicly criticize the losing campaign or candidate, many expressed a deep frustration that the party had pinned its hopes on a divisive establishment candidate. ...

The issues were crystal clear as early as January 2015, but the campaign thought it could overcome it.
“Make a virtue of her longevity,” Palmieri advised in an email that month to Podesta, released by WikiLeaks. “Embrace all the Clinton-ness — the forty years in politics, the decades on the national stage...”

A lot of commentators are saying Trump won because Hillary and the Democrats colossally fucked up. All that nastiness you see above, well Trump supporters were experiencing that every time they opened their mouths prior to the election. Not the best persuasive technique. The left in general and Democrats in particular really didn't do much to dissuade that strategy. There's more to it than that--which I'll get to later--but Jonathan Pie nails it:




The Media

Lets not forget the media. For a long time the left and the media would mock the right for complaining about bias. What a time we live in when they openly admit it, and try to justify it. Of course, it was the wrong thing to do. Not because it was unethical, you see, but because it backfired:

From Jim Rutenberg at the NYT:
John King of CNN proclaimed to his huge election night audience that during the previous couple of weeks, “We were not having a reality-based conversation” given the map he had before him, showing Mr. Trump with a clear opportunity to reach the White House.

That was an extraordinary admission; if the news media failed to present a reality-based political scenario, then it failed in performing its most fundamental function. ...

They think something is so wrong that all the fact-checking of Mr. Trump this year, the countless reports of his lies — which he uttered more than Mrs. Clinton did — and the vigorous investigation of his business and personal transgressions, bothered them far less than the perceived national ills Mr. Trump was pointing to and promising to fix.

In their view the government was broken, the economic system was broken, and, we heard so often, the news media was broken, too. Well, something surely is broken.
Ya think? That's the end of the article. The time for coyness has long passed. Why don't you grow a pair and just say what you think is broke. It hit you square in the nose and you still don't say it. Ah but then you might have to risk appearing to agree with those racist cavemen. 

I think I know why. Because the same Jim Rutenberg rationalized away the disparate treatment of Trump, by the media, a mere 3 months ago:
If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.
Whoops! I don't want to say I accidentally helped elect Trump, but I accidentally helped elect Trump.

And even a few days before Rutenberg's August piece, Justin Raimondo writes prophetic:
Any objective observer of the news media’s treatment of Trump can certainly conclude that reporters are taking a side in this election — and they don’t have to be wearing a button that says “I’m with her” for this to be readily apparent. The irony is that the media’s Trump bashing may wind up having the exact opposite of its intended effect.

Polls shows that journalism is one of the least respected professions in the country, and with Trump calling out media organizations for their bias, widespread slanted reporting is bound to reinforce this point — and to backfire. Trump’s campaign is throwing down the gauntlet to the political class. If journalists are seen as the mouthpiece of that class, they may soon find themselves covering Trump’s inauguration.
The schadenfreude never ends. I hope Trump's presidency brings about positive change, and is otherwise uneventful, but the dark twisted part of me is cheering on for more entertainment.


The Trump Voters

If you want to know what was in the minds of the people that voted for Trump, you should ask them, but Matt Flegenheimer and Michael Barbaro at the NYT aren't far off:
The triumph for Mr. Trump, 70, a real estate developer-turned-reality television star with no government experience, was a powerful rejection of the establishment forces that had assembled against him, from the world of business to government, and the consensus they had forged on everything from trade to immigration.

The results amounted to a repudiation, not only of Mrs. Clinton, but of President Obama, whose legacy is suddenly imperiled. And it was a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters who felt that the promise of the United States had slipped their grasp amid decades of globalization and multiculturalism.
Ah yes, the establishment. The establishment Republicans didn't want him, nor the Democrats, nor Wall Street. I couldn't think of a better endorsement.

Sarah Baker at the Liberty Papers is even more to the point:
5. Listen when they say the jobs have left their areas. That they can’t afford their health insurance premiums or the penalties for not having it. They can’t afford their tax rates. They can’t afford to take their kids to see the doctor, can’t afford to take vacations with their families, live in fear one-paycheck-to-the-next of missing their mortgage payment. Listen when they say they are afraid of losing jobs to overseas and to immigration. Listen when they say they are afraid of terrorism inside the U.S. Listen, and don’t reflexively dismiss their concerns as closet racism.

6. Listen when they say how seriously they take their right to own and bear arms. Don’t reflexively dismiss them as redneck fetishists. Don’t sneer on social media about how they must have some anatomical shortcoming for which to compensate. Listen when they say they will die on the hill of the Second Amendment because they are afraid of an authoritarian leader taking control of the country.

That burning?
That’s irony.

7. Listen, as well, to why they didn’t like the other candidate. How they feel about entrenched political dynasties who sell access to make millions, who conspire to rig the economy for their friends in the 1%, and do nothing while the poor and middle class fall further behind.
Is Trump authoritarian? I don't know. I hope not, but he's displayed a mildly alarming tendency to favor an authoritarian style. Will that, if it's his thing, translate into authoritarian policies? Maybe, thankfully he's not a religious zealot, nor a drug warrior, nor a hawkish warmonger. At least he wasn't more often than he was, while campaigning.

He's not a very consistent politician. He's just not a politician. He's a blank slate with a few stains.

Trump might be easily compared to a comic book villain, but that doesn't make his supporters one-dimensional minions. Ken White (Popehat), bless his heart, insultingly explains that Trump supporters aren't racist, they just have a little attention deficit problem:
... attributing a Trump victory to racism and misogyny is a quick, cheap, easy way out. People aren't that simple. Americans didn't conclusively reject racism by electing President Obama, and didn't conclusively embrace it by electing President Trump. Trial lawyers know this: people don't make decisions like computers. People don't tend to weigh all the evidence or consider all the factors or evaluate every counter-argument to every argument. People tend, in small decisions and big ones, to latch on to a few main ideas, come to a conclusion, and then stop considering contrary evidence. A man sees what he wants to see, and disregards the rest. Obama's election didn't mean Americans were free of racism; it meant that Obama effectively communicated big ideas that connected and shut down the other voices whispering in our ears. Certainly some Trump supporters are avowedly racist, but some of them latched on to big ideas and stopped listening to the rest — like his troubling flirtation with evil.
I get what Ken is saying; it's a lot like confirmation bias, and perhaps a little laziness. But for an eloquent lawyer, that paragraph is damning with faint psychological process explanation.

And the "Troubling flirtation with evil!" Did I miss some evil Trump speech or something? Did he say he likes to kill puppies?

I have some disagreements with protectionism, nationalism, strict immigration, and "locker-room talk," but I wouldn't go so far to call them flirtations with evil.

I honestly don't get this Trump-is-evil stuff. Everybody says it, but damn if I can find direct evidence of it. I guess I'm supposed to "latch on to [those] ideas, come to a conclusion, and then stop considering contrary evidence" regarding Trump's evilness.

A loudmouth politically incorrect dirty old man, sure. An evil man, I don't see it. Popehat continues:
Hillary Clinton won an epic, historic struggle to be the worst Presidential candidate ever. Ultimately she won that struggle — and thus lost the Presidency — because she did not persuade. She did not articulate her core ideas effectively enough, and so not enough people latched onto them and disregarded the bad things about her. Trump dallied with racism — hell, Trump nailed racism in the coat closet and walked out smirking — but Clinton still did worse with Latinos, African-Americans, and Asians than Obama did. It may be that she was doomed from the start — too much baggage, too many vulnerabilities. Or it could be that she lacked Obama's power to persuade. She couldn't get them to accept her simple pitch and shut everything else out. Trump could.

It falls to realistic Trump opponents not to crush the people who voted for him, but to persuade them. In this election the GOP showed that it could fight back against demographic change — not just by marshaling high percentages of white voters, but by persuading higher-than-expected percentages of minorities. The Democrats can't respond to that by writing 40% of the country off as irredeemable.

Hubris and Entitlement: The catastrophic polling failures of 2016 reflect the fatal pride of Clinton's team and what I'll call "the establishment."

Americans are stubborn and proud. They'll be persuaded, but they won't be told who to vote for like you'd tell a recalcitrant child to eat his vegetables. The media, childishly obsessed with Donald Trump (and frankly unenthused with Hillary Clinton) promoted a us-versus-them mentality. It was far more class-based than race-based — it was the message "isn't it unbelievable and hilarious that those people support Trump." The message was "of COURSE vote Clinton, you idiot" or "you're pretty dim but at least you can see how to vote on THIS one." Generally people can't be expected to embrace stories that demean them.

There was another way, but hardly anybody took it. There was the way of "let me earn your vote by persuading you why these policies are right," conveyed as part of an effective set of ideas. There were far too few forceful and effective advocates of how free trade makes us richer and freer. There were too few people willing to risk a genuine discussion of the costs of frequent military intervention. Everyone was too busy arguing what immigration policies they didn't support to debate specific policies that they did support.

The anti-Trump message was based too strongly on entitlement — based on who you are, we are entitled to your vote, by right. You can see that in the frothing rage at third-party voters after Clinton's defeat. You'll see it in the ugly backlashes coming at the minority voters who didn't vote "correctly." But voting isn't a matter of entitlement. "Vote for me because the other guy's horrific" is not an effective method to persuade or get out the vote. It's an idea that focuses on the other guy, not you. You've got to deserve victory. Clinton didn't. Clinton stank of entitlement to rule, the media conveyed that message, and that message fatally amplified Clinton's scandals, conveying that Clinton was entitled to follow the rules differently, to act differently, to be treated preferentially.
This is what a lot of Hillary voters don't get. Just because Trump was a terrible candidate, doesn't automatically translate to the alternative being a saint. Especially when accompanied by name-calling, silencing, and plain old bullying. I was an undecided voter right up until the last day. I didn't want to vote for Trump, nor Clinton. But everyday on my GAMING twitter feed, there was some insult lobbed toward Trump supporters, liked and retweeted several times. If they weren't racist, misogynist, homophobic, or xenophobic, then they were called idiots. Who wants to join a bunch of assholes? Keep your circlejerk of political hate.

I wanted to vote for Trump just to stick it to those guys. I ended up voting for Johnson, but it was a difficult decision. Even in a safe state where my vote didn't matter.

Before I ramble further, I really want to quote at length from John Michael Greer at Archdruid Report, hardly a Trump supporter, who wrote this a week before the election:
The talking heads insisted that handing over tax dollars to various corporate welfare queens would bring jobs back to American communities; the corporations in question pocketed the tax dollars and walked away. The talking heads insisted that if working class people went to college at their own expense and got retrained in new skills, that would bring jobs back to American communities; the academic industry profited mightily but the jobs never showed up, leaving tens of millions of people buried so deeply under student loan debt that most of them will never recover financially. The talking heads insisted that this or that or the other political candidate would bring jobs back to American communities by pursuing exactly the same policies that got rid of the jobs in the first place—essentially the same claim that the Clinton campaign is making now—and we know how that turned out. ...

We’ve got the news articles insisting, in tones by turns glowing and shrill, that things have never been better in the United States and anyone who says otherwise is just plain wrong; we’ve got the economic pronouncements predicated on continuing growth at a time when the only things growing in the US economy are its total debt load and the number of people who are permanently unemployed; we’ve got the overblown displays of military might and technological prowess, reminiscent of nothing so much as the macho posturing of balding middle-aged former athletes who are trying to pretend that they haven’t lost it; we’ve got the tame intellectuals comfortably situated in the more affluent suburban districts around Boston, New York, Washington, and San Francisco, looking forward to their next vacation in whatever the currently fashionable spot might happen to be, babbling on the internet about the good life under predatory cybercapitalism.

Meanwhile millions of Americans trudge through a bleak round of layoffs, wage cuts, part-time jobs at minimal pay, and system-wide dysfunction. The crisis hasn’t hit yet, but those members of the political class who think that the people who used to be rock-solid American patriots will turn out en masse to keep today’s apparatchiks secure in their comfortable lifestyles have, as the saying goes, another think coming. ...

Thus the grassroots movement that propelled Trump ... might best be understood as the last gasp of the American dream.
Maybe it's true people are voting for memberberries. Things were nice for them back in the day. Now everything seems to be going to shit. And it is for them. It is for me. Health insurance prices go way up every year. Roads and bridges are falling apart, jobs haven't really come back, there doesn't appear to be an end to terrorism or the war against it. And now the American dream that nearly every adult prior to 2008 could reasonably expect, is absurdly out of reach for millions. Even if you're college educated. Stick to a tiny apartment, ramen noodles, and in 40 years you too could own your own small house! Or retire. Pick one.

So some guy comes up to you and says, "I feel you. I will bring the jobs back. I will make America great again." And then this lady you know, but aren't so sure about says, "What's he talking about, America is already great. Don't be a racist."

The election was in the bag. Only fringe racists supported Trump. Who cares about some email thing, you racist!


The Future

I have to admit, I am a little bit glad to see the hubris explode in their faces. And now I feel icky. That's another thing. The level of vitriol and hate toward the opposition is worse than during the Bush years, worse than either Obama election. 

Greer hits on this as well, and after the election writes:
I’d like to suggest, furthermore, that the fixation on personalities—or, again, malicious parodies of personalities—has played a huge role in making politics in the United States so savage, so divisive, and so intractably deadlocked on so many of the things that matter just now. The issues I mentioned a few paragraphs back—US foreign policy toward a resurgent Russia, on the one hand, and US economic policy regarding the offshoring of jobs and the importation of foreign workers—are not only important, they’re issues about which reasonable disagreement is possible. What’s more, they’re issues on which negotiation, compromise, and the working out of a mutually satisfactory modus vivendi between competing interests are also possible, at least in theory.
In practice? Not while each side is insisting at the top of its lungs that the other side is led by a monster of depravity and supported only by people who hate everything good in the world. I’d like to suggest that it’s exactly this replacement of reasoned politics with a pretty close equivalent of the Two Minutes Hate from Orwell’s 1984 that’s among the most important forces keeping this country from solving any of its problems or doing anything to brace itself for the looming crises ahead. ...
I’m not sure how many people have noticed, though, that the election of Donald Trump was not merely a rebuke to the liberal left; it was also a defeat for the religious right. It’s worth recalling that the evangelical wing of the Republican Party had its own favorites in the race for the GOP nomination, and Trump was emphatically not one of them. It has not been a propitious autumn for the movements of left and right whose stock in trade is trying to force their own notion of virtue down the throats of the American people—and maybe, just maybe, that points to the way ahead.
It’s time to consider, I suggest, a renewal of the traditions of American federalism: a systematic devolution of power from the overinflated federal government to the states, and from the states to the people. It’s time for people in Massachusetts to accept that they’re never going to be able to force people in Oklahoma to conform to their notions of moral goodness, and for the people of Oklahoma to accept the same thing about the people of Massachusetts; furthermore, it’s time for government at all levels to give up trying to impose cultural uniformity on the lively diversity of our republic’s many nations, and settle for their proper role of ensuring equal protection under the laws, and those other benefits that governments, by their nature, are best suited to provide for their citizens.
It's hard for me to disagree with Greer. The "coastal elite," the liberal bubbles, all the people who don't understand flyover country--you've seen them, you know many of them have difficulty accepting political loss. When you've sufficiently defined your opponents as bigoted, then summarily dismiss them (as civility demands), your brain interprets losing to such people as totally unacceptable, virtually unconscionable, as if the Joker killed Batman, as if the world is suddenly just wrong. "This wasn't supposed to happen!"


There's a good chance they won't understand. A good chance they won't listen. A good chance they will crawl back into their bubbles and ignore and/or dismiss us. Decentralizing the federal government might well be a good idea for both sides, but power is addicting. And I doubt the "coastal elite" will willingly trade in their heroin for some weed.

Besides, it's back to business as usual, according to Kos:
If Trump wants to pass a new Voting Rights Act, or renominate Merrick Garland, then we can work with him. Anything else, he can go fuck himself. Infrastructure spending? Let him get the votes from his own caucus. Anything else he might propose, even if we might agree with it? Let him get the votes from his own caucus while we hurl metaphorical molotov cocktails from the sideline.

They broke it, they own it.
Soon the president will no longer be black; it'll be okay to oppose him guys. Remember when we used the nuclear option to overcome vote hurdles and filibusters? Remember when we used executive orders to bypass congress? Well, times change and it's not cool anymore.

Seriously guys, it's NOT COOL:
https://twitter.com/RobProvince/status/796770005471916036
via Instapundit


We will witness their withdrawal symptoms shortly. It won't be pretty, but it's necessary.

11/8/16

Election night in a nutshell

11/8/16

10/25/16

Social authoritarianism

10/25/16
Several years ago I quit consuming political news on a daily basis. With seemingly rare exceptions, political news largely consisted of partisan hacks screaming about the other partisan hacks. Then the ignorant would take their cues and proceed to yell at each other.

Having an ignorant, naive, and/or biased media report on such goings on only contributed to my despair. So I quit. Mostly. I kept a healthy distance.

As the years went by, the increasingly toxic political atmosphere only served to reinforce my decision. Things got worse. The concept of "loyal opposition" seemed to have gone out the window.

Even now, even after Hillary walked back her "deplorables" comment, you can't step foot in a political forum without Trump supporters being called racists/sexists. And as we all know, people labeled racist or sexist tend to lose their jobs, friends, social media privileges, etc. Essentially, you risk being ostracized for voicing a political opinion. Sometimes, even for not voicing the right one.

It's not Republicans vs. Democrats. It's the more extreme leftist factions (stupidly united under the big Democrat tent) vs. anyone threatening their narrative.

The parallels to oppressive authoritarian regimes aren't always hyperbole. They may not go to the same lengths as the Stasi or NKVD, but the difference is in degree, not in kind.

In a perverted way, this was kind of tolerable, at least in Western democracies. Because we Westerners don't have (by most observations) secret police. There is no significant government-sanctioned thought-policing going on. It's all social. And we all knew it was coming from the same loudmouths we try to ignore.

But I'm not sure it's going to stay that way. This social authoritarianism is growing, and I worry it may catch on as a viable strategy for other groups. Only because we're letting it work.

What am I getting at, you ask? Well, I'm still sick of political hacks yelling about each other and don't think that will change anytime soon, but this social authoritarianism is another beast. I hate it, and won't sit idly by while we are relentlessly nudged and prodded into safe-space Ingsoc chambers.

There's good news and bad news about this. The bad news is that the gains made by this newly empowered social authoritarian beast haven't gone unnoticed. Like I said, we're letting it work. Because it's working, the political hacks are allying with, co-opting, doing whatever they can to use it. Hell, maybe they invented it. But the scope of the beast is much larger than politics.

The good news is that even while most ignorant people are blind to partisan hackery, and most informed people are blind to their own side's hackery, the social authoritarianism is much harder to miss.

I've been sporadically blogging about this kind of stuff for awhile now. The phenomenon got me consuming news and commentary on a regular basis again.

So it's refreshing and reassuring to see more and more people take notice, re-examine their views, and wise up. Like Dave Rubin. He hosts my new favorite talk show. It surpasses the quality of any talk show on cable. He talks a lot about this kind of stuff too, including his most recent interview:

 

10/20/16

More recommended tv shows

10/20/16
It's about that time of year where a new season of fall television shows gets rolling, the spring and summer shows have concluded and I have a bit of time to reflect on what I've watched and enjoyed recently.

Everything I watch is available online (via Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or in rare circumstances, other means); I haven't watched via cable or the airways in several years, so most, if not all of my recommendations shouldn't be too hard to find and watch at your leisure--that probably goes without saying at this point.

A couple things I should note: on occasion I will include shows which are more than a few years old. Most are at least somewhat popular, so apologies if you've already watched them. [I've tried watching many obscure shows and most are disappointing.]


Fargo. Coming from the Coen brothers based on the homonymous film, this is clearly and deservedly a popular show. The first season is better than the second and sticks to a more coherent plot, but both are quite good. Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton have an interesting dynamic and really give the first season the feeling of a quality feature film. It's a graphic, intense, and wild ride.

While I will maintain that the second season is good, it is annoying, especially the end. I won't spoil anything, but the season persists with a pointless distraction--with deus ex machina qualities (metaphor or not, it's really dumb), and a not particularly satisfying or clever ending. Regardless, as with the first season, the performances and several plot points are fantastic. And despite what the show says, it's all fiction. Well worth the watch, if only for the first season.





Westworld. Only three episodes have aired at the time of this writing, and while nothing huge yet has happened, I get the distinct feeling something will soon. The performances and writing are all top notch so far, slowly hinting at and escalating things; it almost feels like we're marinating what we all know will be a wonderfully delicious roast. We just have to wait. Maybe I'm blinded by my own high expectations, but I'm a sucker for good sci-fi and westerns, all the more when they're blended so carefully that they don't clash.

If, like me, you haven't watched the original film, then here's a few things you might want to know: Westworld is pretty much an amusement park for the very wealthy. It takes place decades (I'm guessing) in the future, where rich customers fulfill their fantasies in an Old West setting, among hundreds or thousands of very life-like androids that have all passed the Turing test. The AI is pretty good at conversation and improvisation, keeping the park and web of narratives alive. Of course things aren't so perfect, and you get this constant feeling that the whole thing is about to unravel in a spectacular, bloody failure. But we're not quite there yet.




Stranger Things. Another extremely popular Netflix show. Perhaps owing to the 80s nostalgia and the
near perfect execution, the hype was absurd. I don't think it was as great as most seemed to claim, but still I enjoyed it very much. It's reminiscent of J. J. Abrams' Super 8, the Goonies, and other 80s films with an adolescent cast, but now in episodic form.

It follows a group of D&D playing boys in suburban America, who happen upon a lost girl, and crazy stuff that they have to investigate. Yeah I can't say it's original or unique really. It was just done well. Definitely worth checking out.







Wentworth. So I was about to give Orange is the New Black a try based on a few recommendations, but then I noticed this other show about a women's prison. A comedy inside a women's prison doesn't sound all that appealing to me, so when I read about Wentworth and its more serious tone, I gave it a chance.

I was not disappointed. The first season is pretty damn good. The second season however is incredible. The third and fourth are very good as well, but the second alone is some of the best television I've seen. If you want proof an all female cast (well, virtually all female) can deliver excellence, this is it.

I have a few nitpicks with the setting and its plausibility, but then I have no idea how women's prisons are run in Australia. I mean, if I had to go to a maximum security prison, I'd want to go there (at least as far as amenities and personal freedom are concerned). It's just a little hard to believe sometimes.

Wentworth is an Australian show and it's pretty much just about life inside an Australian women's prison. It tends to focus on the main character, Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack) and her struggles. She grows into a compelling character, as do many others, but so, so much more is weaved in that you end up with this complex richness, and just watching it evolve and adapt gives you a wonderful apprehension. I've probably missed a lot, but the show is great at subtle hints and setting up future plot points, so rarely if ever do you end up scratching your head. The set ups do their job and the subtleties make you smile.

I want to say the writing, directing, and acting are all superlative, but that's like saying the entire show is awesome. And well, it's true. Other than my nitpicks I am at a loss to criticize this show. Highly recommended.

10/14/16

Star Trek: Discovery

10/14/16
I thoroughly enjoyed the last Star Trek movie. It felt like a good TOS episode, keeping the spirit of Trek true to itself. It didn't have to blow up the planet Vulcan, didn't have to threaten Earth. Didn't have Spock become a violent psycho. It wasn't perfect (warning: link contains spoilers). But it was nice. I strongly recommend it.

That being said, after recently re-watching Star Trek Beyond, it got me curious about the planned tv series. I know next to nothing about the planned show; nobody knows much about it, there just isn't much information out at the moment. But it is coming.

From the little I've read, I am both cautiously optimistic and worried. They are taking risks, which is good. But risks are risks--the direction they're taking things might not pay off. And Trekkie fandom could suffer.

Here's what I know: The show is called Star Trek: Discovery and is due to be released in May 2017. It's a CBS show of course, but at this point is not planned to be on television. Rather, it will be released online, on CBS All Access (the premiere will air on television, but after that it's all online). If I may be cynical for a moment, it could mean the suits at CBS aren't very confident in it. But I could be wrong: exclusive online media is the new hotness, so maybe Star Trek will be their flagship online draw. Like Netflix's House of Cards. Maybe.


The setting will take place 10 years before the original series, so they are limiting themselves. It's a Star Trek show so it has to be futuristic and fancy, but it takes place before a show made in the 60s. They'll have to cram a new square peg in that round hole. But that's not too worrying, since the new movies got few complaints there. Which means this exclusively online show will have to look something like those big-budget movies. People are tired of reboots, so I doubt they'll be inventing a new ST universe--which means they can't mess up existing canon (or should painstakingly try to avoid it). Fifty years worth of canon. I hope they pull it off.

And there will be diversity. Diversity in Star Trek is a given, but this time we're talking what will probably be the SJW dream team of diversity. Which is fine. It's the 23rd century. Crewmates can be having gay, transgender, alien, android orgies and marriage ceremonies in their quarters for all I care, but it shouldn't be a focus where we get didactic stories about tolerance, especially arising from conflict among the crew. We don't want or need a Zootopia in space.

Also, apparently the captain of the U.S.S. Discovery will not be the leading character. Like I said, risks.

I want so much to vicariously go to space with the new Star Trek, but I damn sure don't want to be hit over the head with the politics of the last 10 years. Give me the politics of 2250 and Orion slave girls. Give me Vulcans and Klingons and new aliens. Give me violence and give me high-concept sci-fi. Give me Star Trek. Please.

10/11/16

None of the above?

10/11/16
I really do not like Donald Trump. And I like Hillary Clinton even less. I will say that Trump has made the debates vastly more entertaining. If only we were voting for fake TV-show presidents.

I tend to disagree philosophically with much of the big Democratic Party positions, and have since I first started researching politics. I am theoretically open to voting for Democrats, and have liked a few of them in the past. It's just that even among the ones I like, they tend to go along with and support their caucus on everything that matters.

And that's another of many weird things about American politics. At least for the ideologically aware, even superior candidates on the other side of the isle you like are more likely to be worse than a bad candidate on your side of the isle you dislike. And when I say worse, I mean worse for the party line (or political philosophy) you tend to agree with. [This view may and will likely not hold true for small, local politics.]

Unless you're a centrist with little care or knowledge of political issues, supporting a perfect, brilliant, charismatic, and caring politician who happens to be with the Bad Guys is very difficult to justify.

I don't think most voters even think about this, let alone have put much thought into their political philosophy. So unfortunately, the point is largely moot. But I'm a nerd and nerds like to talk about stuff that barely matters.

This is why this election has been difficult for me. Not because Hillary Clinton is a perfect candidate, but because a twisted version of my point is what ideologically aware, right-leaning voters are facing.

Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate and Donald Trump is a bad candidate. Hillary Clinton is the devil we know and love to hate, but Trump is a devil we're not very sure about. He says he's on our side, but it seems that his side is how he defines "our side," at least for the times he hasn't explicitly opposed our side.

Maybe we should vote for Trump because that way, at least we have a chance of getting the things we care about, as opposed to guaranteeing getting things we don't want with Clinton--or so the thinking goes. Maybe that's enough for some. It was for me in the past. It's a gamble, but now the odds of "my side" getting what we want are the lowest ever. Trump is no conservative. Trump is definitely no libertarian. Clinton less so. In hyperbolic terms, it's like choosing Hitler or Stalin. Yea so Stalin killed more people, but he had a nicer mustache.

From there I just venture into wildly speculative questions about who would do the least damage. I can't answer that. Nobody can. We shouldn't even be in this situation. It's Douches and Turds all the way down.

But we still try. Scott Alexander suggests we support Clinton, because least variance. That makes sense, if you don't want variance. I however, am very open to variance. And I have my doubts any presidential candidate, from Jill Stein to Gary Johnson would introduce significant variance into the American equation. I guess it depends on what you think is significant, but it's all hypothetical at this point. If we were electing dictators it would be another matter (the office of the president holds enormous power, but we're still a constitutional democratic republic, or however the hell you want to label it--checks 'n balances yo). Judging by history, every new president will attempt to gain more power and will probably acquire some for the office. But short of revolution or coup, will not become a dictator.

So the implication is that the Donald will mildly shake things up just enough to allow the opportunity for things to worsen, or possibly improve. One attractive thing about Trump is that he is the FU vote. A revolution without the actual revolution. A cheap and easy signal that you're fed up. A tempting turd to vote for in that regard.

Let me collect my thoughts and summarize where I'm at after all this back and forth:
  • Political philosophy is out the window, there is virtually no hope for that.
  • Both are terrible candidates I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
  • One is maybe kinda sorta more likely to change things for good or ill.
  • One is maybe kinda sorta more likely to keep things the same.
  • In either case, the power of the president will increase some.
  • Things will probably not change much, either way.
  • Third party candidates have no chance, and may actually help elect someone you don't want.
  • My vote is insignificantly small and won't help decide the election, so the only thing that matters is how I'll sleep at night (If you live in a swing state, this point is slightly less applicable).

In my right-leaning libertarian mind, this thinking points me in the direction of Johnson, maybe Trump, or abstention. Clinton represents no change. I want change, but I don't want to roll the dice for a low chance of getting things I want, with a moderate chance of getting things I don't want, from a person I dislike. I won't be sleeping well if I vote for either of them.

That leaves Johnson, who I agree with more than the other candidates, but believe would make a bad president. Which is a good thing since he has no chance.

He's a libertarian, I'm a libertarian. He doesn't seem crazy or corrupt. Not too smart about foreign affairs, but that's what advisors are for. Besides, the foreign policy guru candidate doesn't exactly have the best record on foreign policy. This might be a plus for Johnson.

Since he and third party candidates in general have no chance at winning, this is a luxury vote. At best, I can hope to send a message to the political powers that be that more of the country is more libertarian-oriented than they are, and nudge them to accommodate me and my interests. That's a nice thought. And even though Republicans and some Democrats seem to be tending libertarian more here and there, the trend of increasing statism is vastly more prominent.

At best, I will be able to sleep at night by hoping to send a signal to Washington by voting for Johnson, or any third party candidate. In fact, voting in any safe state your best hope for change via your vote is signalling. Strength in numbers. Does the winner have a mandate? Are the third party candidates really cutting into Pepsi and Coke's bottom line? Do we have to start paying attention to this bloc of voters?

At this point you're looking at poll numbers, thinking of how your vote could possibly have the most impact for the things you care about--strategic voting. This is all nice and nerdy except in the year 2016. Donald is the signal vote. If you're fed up, you vote for Trump. If you hate Trump, or want least variance, you vote for Clinton.

If you're both fed up and hate Trump, you still kinda have to vote for him--if "fed up" is what you're really wanting to say. Otherwise it's very likely your vote for Johnson will be interpreted as a right-leaning anti-Trump vote. In the world of Clinton v. Trump, your Johnson vote will be interpreted through that lens. Libertarian what?

I dislike Clinton enough to vote for Trump. I'm fed up enough to vote for Trump, but I'm wary of and dislike Trump enough to vote for Johnson. And yet I'm pretty sure my Johnson vote, if it even matters, will be misinterpreted.

I'm at a loss. Logic has failed me. I can't endorse anyone. I can at least endorse not voting for Clinton. Abstaining is weak, but it is there, and it's about as tempting as Trump or Johnson. Good luck deciding.

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