11 December 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So ok, lets go:

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

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

Do you remember the actual details of these cases?

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

14 October 2014

Gentrification is a myth

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

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

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

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

16 September 2014

Why I don't own a smart phone

Because I know I wouldn't be an exception:

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

The average user checks FaceBook 14 times per day

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

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

80% all but an hours or two

a quarter check while driving

almost a third check during meals with others

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

20% check their phone every 10 minutes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28 August 2014

Why am I writing this stuff?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27 August 2014

It has to be disproportionate to be racism

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

26 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

21 August 2014

Women are not "naturally" submissive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

19 August 2014

Women are only as weak as they choose to be

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

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

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

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

12 July 2014

Information on my genes provided by 23andMe and Promethease

Finally got my DNA analysis back from 23andMe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 July 2014

The downsides to empathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 July 2014

Debunking "Debunking Democracy"


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

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

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

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

On to the specific points:

27 June 2014

Walk the talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 June 2014

An email response on feminism

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

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

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

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

24 June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

05 May 2014

01 May 2014

Construction Project Portfolio

A sampling of some of my larger projects over the past few years

Bed Frame (from wood reclaimed from a previous deconstruction job), with Driftwood Headboard

The lumber was originally a retaining wall that held the fuel tanks in place in the original BioFuel Oasis, when they were housed in a garage.  I was hired to deconstruct it, so the still perfectly good lumber wouldn't go to waste.
I used part of it to build a large compost bin for a small alternative high school to use for cafeteria waste, and the rest to build this custom bed frame

As you can see, the new owner of the bed helped with the labor.

29 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism: So How Do We Fix It?

[Part 10 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

At its root, the solution is a change in mindset.

The whole point of having an economy is to support and improve the lives of the citizens, the people, who make up society.  The economy isn't a goal in itself.  Benefiting "the economy" has no value if it doesn't benefit actual people.  There is no principal involved - any principle which does not actually make life better for real life people is necessarily an invalid principle.

There is a widespread misunderstanding of the Amish approach to technology.  The Amish are not luddites.  They simply question the value of each and every use of technology on an individual case by case.  So while they may not find that the use of tractors in general improves life for their society, if a particular farmer is disabled, he might be granted an exception.
If the entire point of the economy is to benefit society as a whole, it makes sense to question whether or not that end goal is being accomplished.  As the graphs in part 3 show, it is not.  Maximizing growth had value when the nation was young and growing, but today we are grown, and conditions have changed.

Our current system gives the biggest reward to people who do no actual productive work, thereby decreasing the pool of wealth and resources available to everyone else. It keeps employment up only by constantly growing, ensuring rapid environmental destruction and unnecessarily stressful lives for everyone but the upper 0.01%, with some people working 40-50 hours a week and others working none at all.

This would all be easy to fix - and far from socialistic idealism, doing so would require less government intervention, and more free markets.

The trick is to remove all those government creations whose sole purpose is supporting capitalism.

28 April 2014

Free Market vs Capitalism (Government Intervention)

[Part 9 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

There is something that investment property, corporations, and intellectual property all have in common besides for being instruments of wealth inequality.
None of them could exist without state intervention.
Which is a bit ironic, when you think about the stated ideals of many conservatives and libertarians.

Owning the land on which you live is natural.  It is not universal - nomadic humans most likely never had any concept of land ownership - however the concept predates humanity.  Lots of non-human species have land ownership (we just use a different term, "territory", for some reason), especially large predatory mammals.
There will occasionally be border disputes, and if negotiation fails, it may be solved with violence, but once borders are established, other individuals of the same specie will respect them.

But no bear owns two separate non-adjacent plots of land. No cat owns the land that a different cat lives on.
No other specie attempts to force others to pay them tribute for the privilege of living in their designated territory, many miles away from where they actually live.
Ownership of territory is for the purpose of living in it and using it.

26 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism (Market Corrupting Capitalism, Part 2: Corporations)

[Part 7 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

This one is pretty easy.
The entire point of a corporation is concentrating capital, in order to gain the benefits that increased capital give a business.  Well, that, and allowing the owners of the company to not be responsible for their own actions ("limited liability"), which has its own set of ethical concerns, but this whole essay series will be long enough without getting too much into that.
It goes back to my first analogy - amid a free market place of individual buyers and sellers, WalMart comes in and buys the entire lot that the market is on, and now consumers no longer have any choice if they don't want to (or can't) travel to the next town over. 
In general the ability to quickly, easily, and cheaply raise large amounts of capital is very good for economic growth.  The small individual entrepreneur would have to work a long time with a small positive net income in order to afford the large factor space, or machinery, or large workforce they may need to expand operations - and ultimately, increase efficiency via economies of scale.
This makes a lot of sense to encourage if you happen to be the government of a developing economy.
We - the United States - doesn't happen to fall into that category.
Economists and politicians almost universally point to continued growth as the solution to all economic problems, but the reality is, we are already grown up.  We don't need to grow anymore.  There is (literally) more than enough to go around. 
US GDP per capita is approximately $50k, while living a comfortable middle class lifestyle for a family living reasonably efficiently only costs half that

25 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism (Market Corrupting Capitalism Part 1: Investment Property)

[Part 6 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

One of the most fundamental of the ways state intervention tilts the field to encourage large snowballs to increase in size ever faster has been rather poignant for me here in the real world recently - where I live now there are quite a few homeless people who spend most of their time on my block, one of whom I have found squatting in various places in my building several times in the past few months. He used to live here years ago - as the building manager, its my job to have him leave.  Most recently a family friend of his that was moving out let him stay in her apartment for a night in exchange for helping to pack and move.  A couple days later when I went to get the unit ready for new renters, I discovered he was still there.  What difference does it make if I stay? he asked.  Its not like new renters are going to move in tonight.
Well, actually, we had contractors and cleaners coming in the next morning, but as a more general question, it seems like a pretty valid one.

There are some things that we all agree are common goods.

No one can own the ocean, or even a piece of it.  No private beach extends below the water line.
No one can own a river.  It doesn't matter how rich you are, you can't buy a river.  It belongs to the state as a whole (or, if it crosses state lines, the nation), and every resident can use it.  If you own your own land, you can dig a well, and if you hit water, you can drink it.  No one owns the aquifer. 

Water is a basic necessity of life, and there is a large, though finite, amount of it.
Most of us pay money for water, but that money is for the infrastructure that allows you to turn a tap and have purified water come out of a tap. No one will stop you from going to the nearest body of public water and distilling your own.

No one can buy all the oxygen in the atmosphere.  Not for any price. 
No one can make you pay for the sunlight that lands on you or your plants.
Mr Burns tried.  He was exemplifying cartoonish super-villany (or, extreme capitalism, which often times looks similar - see Who Framed Roger Rabbit).

24 April 2014

How to get to the Top (without actually having to work for it)

[Part 5 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

Pro-capitalists generally take it as a given that anything someone has they must have earned, and therefor must deserve.
Of the 20 wealthiest people in the world, 1/2 of them inherited their snowballs.  At best, they get credit for keeping it rolling, for not finding a way to stop it, but they got it already large, already moving.
More to the point, nobody actually creates a truly massive snowball of wealth by their own productivity.
Nobody has ever gotten to the top 0.01% via hourly wages.  One would have to average $25,000 per hour for an entire full-time working lifetime in order to actually earn a billion dollars.
Nobody gets 0.01% rich on salary either - not even CEO or sports legend level salary. 
For the most part CEOs of successful companies are still just in the relatively lowly 1%, maybe the top half a percent.

23 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism (Current State of Affairs; or: Why Should We Care?)

[Part 4 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

 A Historically Unprecedented Concentration of Wealth

There are a number of independent ways our system tilts the field and gives an unfair advantage to those who already have capital. This makes things much easier for those who need the least help.  At the same time, by encouraging resources (remember, financial wealth, like paper curranecy, is just a convenient placeholder for actual tangible resources) to be concentrated in a few hands, the system makes it substantially harder for those without capital to make a living. 

Pro-capitalists will often point out that wealth is not finite - value can be created, both by extracting primary resources from the Earth (farming, mining, logging), but notably via technology - an iphone has more value than the plastic glass and metal it is made of. 

However, at any given moment there is a finite amount of wealth currently in existence.   If one person were to have 220 trillion dollars, that is another way of saying that one person controls 98% of all the (currently available) resources on the planet.  This means that the other 7 billion humans would have to divide the remaining 2% among them. 

Gross world product (GDP of all countries combined) grows by approximately 3-5% per year.  But our one insanely rich individual is getting 98% of that 3-5%.  So the growth that goes to everyone else would be .08%  Less than a 1/10th.
This is just a thought experiment - reality is not quite that bad - but it demonstrates why the "wealth can be created" argument is meaningless.  For one, it is impossible to live on hypothetical future growth.  For two, under capitalism, those who already have enough are the ones who get the vast majority of that new growth anyway.

My analogy of one person owning everything is extreme... but it is not as far off as most people would assume.

22 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism (What is Capitalism?)

[Part 3 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

When people point out the extreme income inequality, the corruption of politics, the dissolution of labor protections, environmental degradation, and all the other similar and related injustices we see occurring, they are not referring to free market economics.  These things are almost all due directly to capitalism.
The best analogy for capitalism I've come up with was during a spirited debate about the ethics of capitalism on the Mr Money Mustache forums:

A person makes a snowball.  In order to make a snowball, you have to physically go outside, scoop up some snow, and mush it together.  You produce it by your own physical labor.  Once you have it, you can put it down in the fresh snow and start rolling it around, and more snow will stick to it.  That makes it a lot easier to get more snow on your ball more quickly.  And the bigger it gets, the more it collects with each revolution.

The assumption I always made - the one that most make - is that capitalism arises naturally from the free market.  One person produces more income than they spend, they save the difference, they invest it, it earns them more income, which they reinvest. 
This really does happen, and could happen in even the most primitive and simple society.

So the extremes we see today must be the natural extension of that process... right?

21 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism (What is a Free Market?)

[part 2 of 10, Free Market VS Capitalism essay series.  Part 1 here]

So, what do I mean by the assertion that capitalism and the free market are different things?
The key feature of a free market is that all individuals are free to participate and make their own decisions.
We treat the term "capitalism" as if it's key feature were the same, but the real key feature of capitalism is that some people accumulate wealth - capital - and use that wealth in ways that allow them to leverage additional wealth out of existing wealth, without having to personally contribute any additional productivity. 
The easiest way to think of a free market is imagining a literal market: a flea market or farmer's market.
You have a big empty lot partitioned into more or less equally sized parcels.  A bunch of different independent vendors rent one, and sell whatever they want, for whatever price they want.  Customers wander around and buy whatever they want.  Seller and buyer can negotiate prices, and sellers with better product will sell more and/or can raise prices, but as long as each seller does better than break even, they will likely show up again next week, keeping competitive pressure on every one else and keeping variety available for the consumer.

20 April 2014

Free Market VS Capitalism

That they are two parts of a single whole comes from a extremely successful deliberate public relations campaign by US government and corporations, going all the way back to inventor of manipulative public relations and advertising, Edward Bernays.
The next year I pointed out parallels between capitalism and anarchy - but I got it wrong.  I should have compared the free market to anarchy.
I was making a similar mistake myself.  American propaganda has basically everyone assuming that the terms "free market" and "capitalism" are interchangeable.  I realized quite some time ago, in arguing with anarchists, libertarians, conservatives, and capitalists that the two meant distinct things.

But what I've realized only recently is that, just like democracy and capitalism, the two are actively opposed to each other.

You can not have a free market under capitalism.  And you can not have our current degree of capitalism without a significant amount of State power actively manipulating the market, which inherently means it is no longer "free".

Of course, even though modern America treats them as interchangeable, this idea is not new.
The person who basically invented the entire discipline of economics, the person who's words capitalists use more often than any other, Adam Smith, recognized that the two were actively opposed, and even that it was the role of the State to intervene to prevent capitalism from corrupting a truly free market.  Unfortunately, few of the people who claim to follow his model actually read his book...
In my next couple posts I'll get into explanations, examples, problems and (hypothetical) solutions.

07 April 2014

You trust yourself WAY too much

Think about all the stuff you know, on all the millions of topics there are to know stuff about - numbers, names, relationships, science, history, skills, where you left your keys...
Now think about how many times in your life you have been mistaken about something you had been pretty sure of.

Of all the stuff you "know" right now, a fair percentage of it is wrong.

For some strange reason, nobody seems to notice this, and everyone goes on being sure about all manner of things - frequently including things that there is no possible way they could know for sure.

We (humans) have figured out a fair bit about our own minds.
Our awareness, perception, and recall are all very, very bad; yet we almost all almost always remain confident that our own perception accurately portrays the world outside our heads, that our memories accurately reflect what actually happened.

But you don't have to take my word for it.

The following 3 documentaries are really fun. They are interactive - if you have any doubt about your own limitations, if you don't doubt your self as much as you should - these videos should cure you of that, and grant you some humility.
And they do it in a totally entertaining way.

Watch 'em!!!

21 March 2014

All of the money stuff I sometimes talk about, condensed

A lot of my personal friends and family have heard me mention something regarding saving money and investing, probably remember hearing me referencing "Mr Money Mustache" or "Jacob of Early Retirement Extreme".
Chances are, though, you chalk it up to one of those random Bakari nutty things, or maybe you even glance briefly at one of the links I send you, but it's long and there's like 300 other articles, and you don't have time for all that.
I'm going to try to explain all that stuff in a condensed and untechnical manner.
Of course, the majority of my readers who I don't know in real life found me through MMM, and all of y'all feel free to skip this post, as you won't learn anything new - it might be perfect for forwarding on to your own friends and family though who haven't come around yet.

Very early on into adulthood I discovered that I don't particularly care for employment.
Its not just about the work itself - it doesn't matter how much fun, how creative or rewarding or self-directed the job is - its just the fact of being forced to be some specific place doing some specific thing for almost exactly 1/2 of your discretionary time (factoring in mandatory lunch hours and commute time), for the majority of your life.
Luckily, I grew up poor (there were 73 of us, living in a cardboard box), plus I self-identified as an environmentalist since about age 9, plus being non-conformist, all combined to make rejection of all forms of materialism come naturally.
I never felt much need for "stuff".  Living in my RV felt plenty luxurious enough.

Psychologists say that money spent on experiences produces more happiness than money spent on stuff - but I've found there is a practically infinite supply of entertaining and educational and downright amazing and wonderful experiences to be found for free almost everywhere I look.  No, not even that - I frequently don't even have to look; often times they come to me!  Sometimes when I was looking for something else, other times they just literally come seek me out.
I've never even had the desire for the stuff most American's spend money on: cable TV, a new car, fashionable clothes, or a "phone" that is really a tiny computer.  So, after food and rent, I never had all that much to spend money on.

And here is the point of all that backstory:
I discovered early on that if I don't spend a lot of money, then I don't need a lot of money, and if I don't need a lot of money, I don't have to spend so much time working.

11 March 2014


Today was an absolutely beautiful warm and sunny, (but not hot), day.

I got off of work at noon, biked to Coast Guard Island to drop off a couple uniforms to get new patches sewn on to reflect my status as a certified search and rescue boat crew member and the promotion I should be getting some time soon.

This past weekend I caught up on all the little tasks I had to do around the apartment building (where I am superintendent in exchange for almost free rent), so I had most of a day free.

I had $1500 sitting in my safe in cash, failing to earn any interest, so I decided to make the most of the weather and deposit the cash as an excuse for a nice long skate.  See, I live in Oakland, and my Credit Union is in Richmond (about 14 miles away)

While I was at it, I used the opportunity to finally test out the replacement 18650 LiIon cells for the battery pack I made for my boombox (2 five-cell packs in parallel, attached directly to the outside of the stereo, plugged into the regular 120v port so it keeps the ipod charged at the same time)

By the time I got to Lake Merrit I started getting terrible shin splints.  This happened last time I was skating, but I thought (rationalized?) it was because of a detour over an unpaved road.  Guess I just get weak really fast in any muscle group I'm not using more or less constantly, and running, hiking, jump rope, just don't hit the tibialis anterior the way skating does.  I'm hoping the pain will fade into the background, like every time I run long distance, but it doesn't get any better, and I bail at MacArthur BART.

In the mean time though - man, you know, I always get the occasional stares, smiles, points, laughs, thumbs-up, and honks when I'm skating (often shirtless, often singing) with headphones on.  Typically at least one of those on any one long trip, sometimes a couple.
But when its a boombox, and not just headphones, and every one else can hear what I'm rockin, well, then the stares, smiles, points, laughs, thumbs-up, and honks are more like one every couple of blocks!
Plus, people start spontaneously dancing along as I pass.  I tried to move over to let a car pass, until I realized they weren't going slow trying to get around me, they were going slow because the passenger was taking a picture!


10 March 2014

pre-history matriarchies


[The claim is frequently made that matriarchies were] "... a worldwide phenomenon that stretched back through prehistory to the very origins of the human race. These "matriarchies"... were not crude reversals of patriarchal power, but models of peace, plenty, harmony with nature, and, significantly, sex egalitarianism."

"Except for one small problem... Poking holes in the "evidence" for this myth was, to rely on cliché, like shooting fish in a barrel. After a long day of research in the library, I could go out with friends and entertain them with the latest argument I'd read for matriarchal prehistory, made up entirely—I pointed out—of a highly ideological reading of a couple of prehistoric artifacts accompanied by some dubious anthropology, perhaps a little astrology, and a fatuous premise ... or two or three."

"My irritation with the historical claims made by the myth's partisans masks a deeper discontent with the myth's assumptions. There is a theory of sex and gender embedded in the myth of matriarchal prehistory, and it is neither original nor revolutionary. Women are defined quite narrowly as those who give birth and nurture, who identify themselves in terms of their relationships, and who are closely allied with the body, nature, and sex—usually for unavoidable reasons of their biological makeup. This image of women is drastically revalued in feminist matriarchal myth, such that it is not a mark of shame or subordination, but of pride and power. But this image is nevertheless quite conventional..."

"Whatever positive effects this myth has on individual women, they must be balanced against the historical and archaeological evidence the myth ignores or misinterprets and the sexist assumptions it leaves Undisturbed. The myth of matriarchal prehistory postures as "documented fact," as "to date the most scientifically plausible account of the available information." These claims can be—and will be here—shown to be false. Relying on matriarchal myth in the face of the evidence that challenges its veracity leaves feminists open to charges of vacuousness and irrelevance that we cannot afford to court. And the gendered stereotypes upon which matriarchal myth rests persistently work to flatten out differences among women; to exaggerate differences between women and men; and to hand women an identity that is symbolic, timeless, and archetypal, instead of giving them the freedom to craft identities that suit their individual temperaments, skills, preferences, and moral and political commitments."

" The enemies of feminism have long posed issues of patriarchy and sexism in pseudoscientific and historical terms. It is not in feminist interests to join them at this game, especially when it is so (relatively) easy to undermine the ground rules...Discovering—or more to the point, inventing—prehistoric ages in which women and men lived in harmony and equality is a burden that feminists need not, and should not bear. Clinging to shopworn notions of gender and promoting a demonstrably fictional past can only hurt us over the long run as we work to create a future that helps all women, children, and men flourish."

-Cynthia Eller


09 March 2014

Something is wrong here

Is it just me, or is this circular reasoning?

-Corporations should be allowed to outsource jobs so that they can stay competitive.

-It is important that American corporations stay competitive in order to support the economy.

-It is important to support the economy because it provides American jobs.

08 March 2014

Privilege - its not the problem

Response to:

I absolutely love its general premise, and could not agree more - though perhaps for slightly different reasons.
I have long questioned the entire idea of "privilege", and especially the focus on it.  If you are lucky enough to be middle class, its fairly easy to see inequality in terms of having some privileges or not.  One of those privileges is being able to (pretend that you) live in an insular world where an individual being culturally insensitive to another individual is one of the worst aspects of racism.
As a African American, who has lived most (but not all) of his life in poor, high crime, high minority urban areas, the entire sub-culture of race activists has always looked very shallow and meaningless to me.  It has always seemed much more about being able to say "I, in contrast to all those other (white) people, am enlightened."

What, exactly, does white people or men or straight people or whoever, acknowledging their privilege actually accomplish?
Lets say every single European American was fully aware, fully acknowledged, and fully internalized that they have privilege relative to other people.
Would that somehow instantly, magically, cause wealth and income inequality to disappear, so that whites were proportionately represented among the extremely poor (and I'm not talking "can't make car payments" or "home foreclosure" poor - I'm talking "can't afford a halfway decent bicycle" or "choose between rent and food" poor) - or better yet, make it so that everyone who has the ability and desire to work could live (what we currently consider) a middle class lifestyle?
Would it end the dramatically different levels of violent crime victimization?  For all the talk about police brutality, young black men are murdered by young black men somewhere on the order of 100 to 1000 times more often than they are shot by cops.  If enough white people acknowledged their privilege, would that stop?

07 March 2014

Quote on Consumerism from the founder of Early Retirement Extreme

"The problem is that most of us have become utterly dependent on this industrial-technological  system  for  all  of  our  needs  and  wants.  Shopping is as important as oxygen to us. Close down the malls for a few days and people go crazy. We no longer think of ourselves as citizens but as ”consumers”, a descriptive term that I've always found kind of derogatory. This dependence  is  so  fundamental  that  it  goes unseen, much like fish don't see the water they swim in. Consequentially, the only solution we can think of whenever we struggle with unfulfilled needs or wants is to ”earn more” and start a side-business, negotiate a raise, and gamble on some more education – it's an investment in your future (ha!). The only perceived way to a better so-called standard-of-living is to work harder and smarter and earn more. However, what this often results in is more environmental damage or at best reshufling money from suckers to scammers." - Jacob Lund Fisker

06 March 2014

Porn on Seasame Street

[this happened 3 years ago, and I wrote the post below back then.  But for reasons I don't remember, I saved it as a draft, where it has been ever since, until I happened to go through my drafts folder today]

Sesame Street's Youtube was hacked, and porn was uploaded.

It seems as though everyone's reaction to what happened is either: "ha ha, too bad I missed it" or "that was the worst possible thing imaginable, the hacker is sick and should be tortured".

I feel like the one kid who sees that the emperor's new clothes don't exist.

Hey, guess what?  People have sex!
Seeing sex does NOT scar or disturb or warp children!!!
You know what does give children a lifelong neurosis around sexuality?  Sheltering and hiding them from it, which teaches them that it is bad and shameful.
No child would think that was a big deal if all the adults around them didn't make such a big production out of it.
Sexuality is not bad for children.  If it weren't for sexuality, there wouldn't even BE any children!

It has been shown conclusively and consistently that there is a directly inverse relationship between sex education and teen pregnency and STDs
Knowledge, truth, and education = GOOD
Sheltering and hiding a significant part of life = BAD

Parents are such hypocrites:  the very fact that they are parents proves that they have done the very thing they pretend to be so shocked about themselves; at least once.

If you aren't mature enough to talk to your kids honestly about sex, then maybe you weren't mature enough to have kids in the first place.  For that matter, maybe you aren't mature enough to have sex yourself.
If parent's were straight forward about sex with their kids, seeing it on screen would be a non-issue. 

You know what does give children a lifelong neurosis around sexuality?  Sheltering and hiding them from it, which teaches them that it is bad and shameful, (regardless of what you say explicitly).
This is exactly why America is so screwed up when it comes to all things sexual.  Not that kids sometimes see people having sex.  The fact that so many of you react as though there were anything wrong with that.
Hey, guess what?  People have sex!  We are animals.  All animals have sex.  That's how we produce new people.  No child would think that was a big deal if all the adults around them didn't make such a big production out of it. 

If you want to tell your kids that its only for grown-ups who love each other, that's fine, but there is no reason for them not to see "hardcore" - that's actually how it works!  Its not like the hacked video was full of BDSM or fetishes.  It was just people having sex.  Get over it.

05 March 2014

Why OWS and the 99% is THE fundamental issue, which lies behind all others:

[This is another of those things I wrote years ago, and has been lost in draft form.  I think I originally planned to add more list items, and elaborate further on all of them, but of course I don't remember what exactly I had in mind]

-War: Some of the largest corporations, (Boeing, Lockheed Martin), profit enormously from war

-Civil Rights: Corporations are not citizens, and therefor should have no civil rights - they are granted right anyway.  They violate the rights of individuals without consequence.  Income and wealth inequality are the single largest factor for the different life experiences of American whites and blacks, and wealth inequality is a direct result of our economic policies.

-Gay rights, abortion, etc etc: Directly mutual relationship between corporate political power and the religious right, as they are both "conservative".  The only reason the religious right is taken seriously is because they support the politicians who are funded by corporate money.

-Environment: EPA doesn't work on shutting down your backyard BBQ.  It is corporations which cause massive pollution.  Corporations decide which power sources to tap into and what type of cars are manufactured.  It was corporations which deliberately destroyed public transit across America.

WTO / NAFTA / etc: this should go without saying

04 March 2014

Quote from unknown poster on homophobia and its relation to sexual assult

"Oh and while being a straight man myself I've never understood the apparent belief that many straight men have that they are apparently irresistible to homosexuals and that given half a chance all gays would pounce on them and have their wicked way - I often suspect that this reflects their own attitudes towards women. I'm not sure that I find that a pleasant idea but it would go some way towards explaining the truly awful male on female sexual abuse statistics that US Forces seem to suffer from."

Quote from unknown poster on a military forum titled "The Gays won, There goes the military"

03 March 2014

Invasive specie continues to cause massive ecological damage after nearly 500 years

By far the most destructive invasive species to North America has been the Western European Homo Sapiens.
Introduced between 1500 and 1600 by Spanish, German, and English settlers, this large hominid almost entirely eradicated the native breed of their own specie throughout the continent, and then went on to do absolutely massive destruction to nearly every aspect of the landscape with their natural instinct to modify their surroundings, ultimately affecting literally every ecological niche extending not only across the land but even well into the oceans on both coasts.

In order to restore the damage done by their introduction, a two part strategy may be most effective: a massive catch, spay/neuter and release program coupled with relaxed or even eliminated hunting restrictions.  This may take lots of time, but would surely be more cost effective and humane in the long run, compared with any attempt to directly euthanize the entire population.

02 March 2014

Freedom VS democracy

[I wrote this some years ago, I don't remember exactly when. It was lost in the drafts folder.]

Some people condemn all government as authoritarian.  They take the government we have today as an example of "democracy" and condemn democracy as just another form of government control over people's lives.  But the word "government" doesn't mean "authoritarian control".  Democracy is a form of government.  And democracy isn't about legislatures interfering into private peoples lives.  Democracy is about private people acting as legislatures. 

The United States of America has corrupted the word democracy.
The USA is not, and never has been, a democracy.  It was never intended to be.

28 February 2014

In progress...

So, my regular readers (I found out recently that I actually have regular readers!) may have noticed I have repeatedly promised an indepth essay on capitalism, I have said at least once that it would be my next post, and I keep posting other stuff.

Well, it really is in progress.  I've written a lot of it.  But there is a lot more to go, and I decided not to start posting the finished ones until the entire thing is finished.

In the meantime - since I am saving each section in my drafts folder - I discovered a whole bunch of stuff I wrote, sometimes years ago, and for reasons I can't even guess at, I never posted. 

I'm going to start posting those, while I work on my biggest writing project to date.

Oh, and by the way - if you read 5 Years Later and Not A Great Start to the New Year, and you were wondering if I was still in a bad place... noooo.  I am not.  Not even a little.  A very very good place right now. 
I don't want to get into it too much here - its very exciting, its very mutual, but its also very new and we all know my patterns.  I can't be objective. 
As far as I can tell thus far, there is real potential, and regardless of how it turns out I am having a hell of a fun time in the moment.  If you remember, way way back, New Year's (2009); I honestly did not think it would be possible - I mean, literally, physically possible - to top that experience.  Well, it turns out it is.

26 February 2014

French feminist role reversal movie

Overall, this was great.  I love that it was made, and I hope some of the guys who treat women so disrespectfully see it, and it gets through.

As a guy, I actually have been harassed on occasion - by a co-worker (about 20 years my senior) who made suggestive comments regularly, by a gay guy who, when I was at a bus stop (shirtless, because it was a really hot day) pulled up in his car and proceeded to jack off while staring at me, by a homeless women who followed me around insisting I get a hotel room for us to share - but these were all rare, isolated incidents.
So I can sympathize with the general discomfort, but I can't really even imagine what it would be like to experience on a regular ongoing basis.

There is one problem I have with this video though - the last scene perpetuates a belief, shared by almost everyone, which is based more on misogyny than fact.
The guy really was "asking for it" when he yelled back at the gang members.  Not because of how he was dressed or any signals he gave off, but because he YELLED BACK AT GANG MEMBERS! 
In the real world, in the poor neighborhoods I have lived in, I started to notice several years ago that women regularly yell at people they are having arguments with on the street, but men rarely do.  Why? 
Because every male above about the age of 13 who lives in an area with street crime knows that doing that will get the shit beat out of you. 
Because the reality is that men are the victims of violent crime by strangers over 1/3 more often (down from twice as often a couple decades ago).  What any male with even an ounce of street smarts does when a group of 4 dangerous looking teens starts harassing him verbally is ignore it, let it go, and continue with his life.  Sometimes women yell or insult them back - and the reason they think this is ok is because most of the time they can get away with it - almost all men, even the low life scum who look for excuses to attack strangers, have internalized the (sexist) rule of "never hit a woman". 
But then, in the few instances where it does escalate to violence - and despite the fact that it escalates to violence more often with men - we take those examples and pretend it proves that women are disproportionately victims.  It isn't because the statistics actually support it.  Its because our misogynist society starts out with the premise that women are victims as a given, and then looks for the evidence to support it.

None of this is to suggest that harassment or assault (when it does actually happen) are ok.  They aren't.  But please please stop perpetuating the myth that women are the victims of assault more often than men.  It falsely paints women as weak and helpless, and does not advance the cause of equality.  Besides, its just plain wrong.