Saturday, October 5, 2013

My politics will be intersectional, ...

So I have mixed feelings about Minnesota United's campaigning on behalf of GOP legislators who voted for marriage equality in Minnesota. I'm quite aware that politics makes strange bedfellows and that laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made. Nevertheless, it seems, in the bigger picture, to be counter productive to ally with an organization committed to hierarchy and oppression. My idea of social justice is not getting individual groups let into the Club for Cis-Het White Dudes. As Flavia Dzodan might say, that's bullshit.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy.

People talk about how Steve Jobs often was and Linus Torvalds often can be a**holes, but they excuse them on the basis of their genius.

It occurs to me that before we can say we're in a post-patriarchy, we'll have to have it be such that women who are creative, dynamic geniuses can also be a**holes and still command respect rather than being called b***hes or worse.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 irreverence

A reminder for Americans about what many of them were saying during the Kosovo War of the late 1990s:

Why are they so concerned about the Battle of Kosovo? That's ancient history.

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aphorisms #9-#15

More aphorisms from my .sig file:

  1. Ankh if you love Ra.

  2. Apple doesn't have many motivational speakers because, think about it: There is no I in iPad!???

  3. If the system is such that good enough isn't good enough, then the system may not be robust enough.

  4. It was predestined and foreordained that I would have presbyopia.

  5. Reality is what happens whether you believe it will or not.

  6. Some look at the dependent variable and ask y? I look at its initial value and say y0?

  7. There's the lost Taoist episode where Kirk does nothing, but the computer, knowing that Kirk destroys computers with illogic, senses that Kirk's inaction is paradoxical and then explodes.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If there is a Ponzi scheme, it's not Social Security but retirement itself

tl;dr: In an sense, all retirees are parasites, whether they have large cash reserves or rely on a system like Social Security. Retirement itself is what is a Ponzi scheme that takes what workers produce and gives it to unproductive retirees.

The right-wing seems to have declared a War on Social Security to go along with the more general War on the Welfare State and the War on Women. Their propaganda tries to get people to focus on the idea of ownership of a personal account as the ideal so that they'll demand an end to the pay-as-you-go system that Social Security uses.

Their shell game with personal accounts relies on faith to a greater extent than does the fiat money that they like to condemn as having nothing at its base. Even if an economy uses hard, imperishable commodities like gold for its money, that money is not what the people in that economy ultimately want. What people want is those things, services, experiences, and so on that they spend their money on. Even in an economy with no credit, no paper money, and no base-metal coins but only with gold as the medium of exchange, if there are no things, services, experiences, and so on that people want, the gold will have no real value to them. To claim that gold or personal accounts will provide for people in their retirement is to require them to have faith that the economy will be productive enough when they retire and that their accounts will be flush enough then. A system like Social Security, on the other hand, only requires that the economy be productive enough.

In any economy, whether retired people have personal accounts filled with 1s and 0s on hard drives at banks or have personal stashes of gold under their mattresses or rely on an authority to move currency from people still employed within the productive economy to them, it is the total output of the productive economy that is relevant. Again, remember that it is goods, services, experiences, and so on—not 1s, 0s, or gold—that people want. Retirees are, by definition, unproductive and must take from the productive sector. That they give the productive sector some of their 1s, 0s, fiat paper, or gold does not negate the fact that they take output from production without having themselves produced anything during the relevant time period!

Assuming that the productive economy produces enough to meet everyone's needs, there is no reason that anyone in the society should have unmet needs. Relying on the market + personal accounts, though, virtually guarantees that some portion of the society will. If labor is heavily exploited and poorly paid, then laborers will not be able to buy what they produce, and only those with fat accounts will. If inflation erodes the value of accounts or if too many have been unable to save (see the previous scenario after several decades), then most retirees will not have enough even though the economy produces enough for everyone (see the 1920s).

The solution is for society to actively distribute wealth (that is, goods, services, experiences, and so on) by the proxy of taxing those in the productive economy and transfering the revenues from that tax to retirees. That is what Social Security does. All the talk of Social Security accounts was necessary to sell the idea to people in the 1930s who were too proud to accept welfare, but all that Social Security is is a formal system for transferring wealth from the productive to the nonproductive. However, private accounts are also just a system for transferring wealth from the productive to the nonproductive but with the element of high-stakes risk thrown in. Both systems for retirement are, thus, Ponzi schemes, but Social Security results in justice instead of in a casino.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Pun rooted in the archaic

The Gaffer was down at the pub having a pint or two and expostulating on Russell's Paradox:

Ah, the class of all classes that aren't members of themselves. That's a right, proper class, that is.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Monday, September 2, 2013

A bad pun

Consider a philosophy department where several professors study ennui: would it be appropriate to call their group a meh lab?

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, July 26, 2013

On Rad Fem trans*phobia

It may well be that gender is only a social construct (or close enough for all practical purposes), just like Radical Feminists claim. The research I've seen that actually involves data collection through experimentation (as opposed to evolutionary psychology's navel-gazing just-so stories) keeps finding less and less evidence for the supposed innate differences between men and women.

At the moment, though, we are stuck within a milieu where even those who are raising their consciousnesses still struggle against a tendency to think in gender-essentialist ways. In some ways, it's like language. Even though come the revolution, we'll all be speaking Esperanto (or better yet, some language not biased towards the Indo-European languages), right now, each of us is stuck with their own native language.

Technorati Tags: ,

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"We have met the enemy, and he is us"

I watched this video this afternoon before I went to work, and it's been occupying my mind all day. Right after I watched it, I shared it on Facebook with some comments about how it gets at 3 clustered sets of assumptions (aka stereotypes):

  1. Young white men doing something that looks very suspicious obviously wouldn't really be doing what it looks exactly like they're doing, so even when they say that they're doing what it looks like, they must be kidding.

  2. Young black men are always under suspicion, and even over-the-top behavior must really be what it looks like.

  3. Attractive, young white women ... I'm not quite sure. Is it that the guy who offered to help her steal it was back at stereotype (1) (putting her with white men and treating her statement that she was stealing it as a joke), or did he think that helping her steal it might give him a chance?

My sense of it is that the bystanders were not necessarily racists, as such, but subject to society's implicit differential standards for black men/white men/white women (I'm sure some of the bloggers I follow would have something to say about the continued invisibility of black women in society involved in ABC's having left them out of the experiment).

What I mean by differential standards is that with the 2 white actors, people gave them some level of benefit of doubt: things seemed fishy, so the bystanders felt they needed to think it out before calling the cops. With the black young man, they were immediately ready and ignored anything indicating that things might not be as they seem.

To my mind, this gets at the kernel of what differential privilege is:

  1. The great majority of a society need to have internalized ideas of what various types of people are allowed to do such that when someone steps "out of line" for their type, a mob of seemingly independent people can put a stop to the "infraction",

  2. Members of groups that are allowed more freedom of action within the ideas in (1) need not be aware that they have more freedom. Indeed, in a supposedly classless society, it is "better" if they aren't aware since awareness of that inequity (aka "checking one's privilege") could lead to elimination of the relative privilege.

Thus, my using a quote from Pogo for the title of this post: Society is a thing, and what it is is that mass internalization of standards, mores, memes, and so on. That means that a great many of us will have internalized some of the crap that our conscious selves disavow. To get society rid of that crap, we must as individuals become aware that we have that crap and deal accordingly.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's time to revise our ideas about "protecting" children

I saw this article—"Florida teen fights expulsion and criminal charges for same sex relationship"—that came out a couple days ago. Florida seems to be intent on winning the label of Cesspool of the Universe what with trying to let George Zimmerman get away with killing Trayvon Martin (until public pressure forced them to do something), then trying to persecuteprosecute Kiera Wilmot (again, pressure). Now, the parents of a 15 year-old girl are siccing the state on their daughter's 18 year-old girlfriend.

Before people say Well, Kaitlyn was breaking the law, after all, let's look a little more carefully:

  1. This is about whether the parents of the 15 year-old approved of her relationship. We all know people with officially underage kids in relationships with someone a little too old (generally, more than 24 months older) to legally be in a relationship with them. The parents we all know like their child's friend, though, so they shield the couple from the law.
  2. The community is persecuting Kaitlyn (and her girlfriend) for being a lesbian and for having a same-sex romantic relationship. The legalities of the situation are merely the vehicle that lets them bring the power of the government into the situation.

Clearly, as a culture we need to get rid of the homophobia that is central to this situation, but I actually want to talk about getting rid of the vehicle used for the persecution: the notion that minors are incapable of consent. First, let me state that I have a daughter who is, at the moment, 16 (lest anyone try to say You'd change your tune if you had a kid). As one of her parents, I share responsibility with my wife for protecting our daughter's interests until she turns 18. For example, my understanding is that she could sue us if we badly mismanaged funds that grandparents have established for her with us as the named custodians. As her parents, we do not have rights so much as responsibilities.

That is the key, here. The law should not be set up so that abusive parents can use it to impose their own narrow visions of the world or morality on their kids (much less so that prosecutors can use it to persecute kids for sharing nude images of themselves with their friends, and, yes, persecution of teen sexting is part of the motivation for this post). The law needs to be such that sex without consent is called rape but not such that minors are incapable of giving consent.

We need nuance in the law, and that nuance should be informed by facts about adolescent development and how adolescents can and do give consent. It should not be based on fantasies of juvenile innocence or the preservation thereof. I am neither a lawyer nor a psychologist, so I have no specifics for a proposal for how the law should look, but I do know it should look more like my vision than like the status quo.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Aphorisms 3 through 8

A collection of aphorisms I've been using in my .sig file:
  1. Cacti instead of cactuses? To me, that makes no more sense than saying Hamburger instead of hamburgers or bazaarhaa instead of bazaars.

  2. I find it interesting that the US, with one of the lowest rates in the industrialized world of acceptance of the theory of evolution through random mutation and natural selection, should be one of the most devoted to the social Darwinism of capitalism.

  3. I see no reason to "correct" the grammar of a native speaker of a language. If native speakers can easily understand each other's dialects, neither needs to adopt the rules of the other's.

  4. I was thinking that if a native speaker of a language is unsure about how they would express themself in their language or if they have the idea that non-native speakers speak their (the native's) language better than them, then they must have been subjected to some pretty serious psychological abuse with respect to the use of their native tongue.

  5. I'll consider using "a whole other" instead of "a whole nother" when prescriptivists call fruits from Citrus ×sinensis trees "noranges" instead of "oranges."

  6. The fact that someone holds certain values stubbornly does not make them absolute definitions of right and wrong.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Political etiquette

This was a post I made to Facebook on January 5, 2013 that I thought I'd put out on the larger Web:

In 2010, the federal government temporarily reduced the Social Security payroll tax from 6.2% to 4.2%. That reduction expired at the end of 2012, so people are noticing somewhat smaller paychecks.

This event, of course, gets spun in different ways, depending on political orientation, so I have a proposal for an etiquette rule for political discussions about such temporary measures:

  1. Since Republicans will want to characterize the expiration of the measure as a tax hike, they are not allowed to complain that it's only temporary when discussing the measure around the time that it passes. Use of the word temporary in or near such discussions is an automatic bar to their later being allowed to use the words tax and hike near each other when the measure expires (except insofar-as to remind Democrats that they are now subject to Part 2 of this rule).

  2. Conversely, since Democrats will want to characterize the expiration of the measure as just going back to normal levels of taxation, in all discussions of the measure in or around the time of passage, they must not only use the word temporary, they must put stress on the word (through the usual phonetic means in speech or by bolding, italicizing, or equivalent in writing). Any failure to do so is an automatic bar to their being allowed to object to Republican characterizations of the expiration as a tax hike (except insofar-as to remind Republicans violating Part 1 of this rule that they are in violation).

Technorati Tags: , ,