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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei


News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

An open letter to protesters

Dear protesters,

On Thursday, May 28, you had won.

The police officer responsible for the death was arrested and charged. The entire world was in agreement that the treatment the apprehended victim received was wrong.

If you had accepted that you won, you could have moved on to trying to make changes that would actually help matters. You could have focused on passing laws to address the judicial doctrine of qualified immunity, or worked to reform the unions that fight to keep bad cops employed.

Instead, you rioted. You looted. You destroyed property, people's livelihoods.

A lot of people were willing to excuse police brutality because it happens in the heat of the moment, with the risk to the police officer's life being of a level unknown, but very real. On Thursday, you made most of these people change their mind.

Today, after hearing chants of "All cops are bastards" and seeing police officers injured and killed in the line of duty, they're back to giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Great job, guys.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Blood on their hands

Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy, and Gavin Newsom.

All politicians whose states mandated that nursing homes had to admit patients recovering from the coronavirus.

I can't fault politicians in general for getting things wrong. There were a lot of unknowns. But some facts were clear.

When the virus was still in China, it was known for being especially harmful to the elderly and infirm. And the first outbreak in America was in a nursing home in Washington.

So while no one knew for sure how to respond, the number two most important item on any governor's list, after "How do we stop the virus from overwhelming the health care system?", should have been "How do we keep the virus out of our nursing homes?"

Some ideas that could have been implemented would be screenings for nursing home employees, making sure nursing homes had PPE, and the like.

By the time politicians were shutting things down, it was well understood that the virus was communicable for an unusually long period of time. So the logical thought is, people who recover from the virus need to be quarantined for the safety of others.

They set up emergency field hospitals, but didn't create protocols for people who would need skilled nursing care after recovery. Maybe, I don't know, these field hospitals could have been employed?

So not only did these governors not plan to keep their elderly citizen safe, they made a deliberate policy choice that harmed them.

This decision is a consequence of the far left living in a world of fantasy. To them, thoughts and feelings are real, and decisions should only be made by people with multiple degrees and the right social background. People seeing things on the ground can be safely ignored.

The proclamations from these states show the danger of leftist policies. What's most important is how people feel. They don't want patients to feel discriminated against because of their viral status. And they want their elite peers to know that. Any number of deaths is okay in pursuit of their woke goals.

Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy, and Gavin Newsom have blood on their hands.


Aside:

A conspiracy theorist might point out that each nursing home patient who dies is potentially less of a burden on the state's Medicaid budget and pensions.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The chump theory of politics

I believe in a theory of politics that doesn't consider any political affiliation. It looks only at a policy proposal, not who made the proposal.

It's simple: if this policy is enacted, who's going to feel like a chump?

No one wants to be the chump. It's a terrible feeling. And when someone feels like a chump, they're going to hate you, they're going to vote against you, and they're not going to cooperate with you.

Look to popular policies, and you won't see many people left feeling like chumps.

  • Unemployment insurance: "My neighbor got laid off, but unemployment insurance helped him bridge the gap to his next job.  I'm glad it didn't happen to me, and it's good that this program exists if I had ended up in the same position."
  • Medicare: "My neighbor got care after his heart attack, while all I got out of Medicare was my prescriptions and routine care.  But I'm glad to be healthy, and I'm happy this program would pay for my care in the same situation."
Now consider a proposal that's popular with the American left, student loan forgiveness.
  • "I went to community college for two years to earn college credits, and transferred to my college of choice.  It took me another semester to graduate as a result, but I did it to reduce costs.  But with student loan forgiveness, I guess I should have gotten more loans.  Now I feel like a chump."
  • "I went to a second-tier college because tuition was cheaper and I could live at home.  I'm sure my opportunities would have been better with a better college, but I did it to save money.  But with student loan forgiveness, I guess I should have gone to my first choice college.  Now I feel like a chump."
  • "I saved aggressively to fund my children's college education, so that they could graduate with minimal student loans.  As a result, my children grew up with fewer material possessions, and didn't have the experiences their friends did, like trips to Europe.  But with student loan forgiveness, I guess I shouldn't have saved; my children would have been in the same position.  Now I feel like a chump."
  • "I lived in a tiny apartment after college, rarely went out on the town, and never took a vacation, all so I could pay off my student loans.  I missed out on the fun my peers had while they were making minimum payments.  But with student loan forgiveness, I guess I should have not bothered trying to pay off my loans.  Now I feel like a chump."
The right thing, as we're commonly taught, involves some amount of sacrifice.  Don't punish those who do make these sacrifices.

The chump theory of politics goes beyond policies.  It explains why it's important to enforce laws and regulations evenly.  If you get a large fine for your one rental property while some rich and powerful guy gets away with much worse behavior, you feel like a chump.  If you have to pay back taxes to the IRS while a prominent public figure gets away with owing a ton of money, you feel like a chump.

The chump theory of politics explains why it's important to fight against fraud, even if it's a relatively small problem.  When you're trudging to work, dealing with all the pains of your sixty year-old body, while your neighbor on disability is healthy enough to spend his time golfing and fishing, you feel like a chump.  When your well-off neighbor makes use of a food bank without facing any social consequences while you buy your food at the grocery store, you feel like a chump.

The greatest risk to the United States of America is not a political party or particular politician.  It's a breakdown of social mores that say doing the right thing will be, if not necessarily rewarded, recognized and honored.  If the citizens of the USA develop the same attitude towards paying taxes and obeying regulations as the people of, say, Greece, we are well and truly screwed.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The casting couch and the Swiss bank account

Say the words "casting couch", and you know what that means. Hollywood's greatest trick was convincing people that this sort of thing only happened on the fringes of the industry, with seedy producers and questionable films. But Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, and others like that demonstrated that sexual abuse of the powerless by the powerful was a very real thing in Hollywood.

Say the words "Swiss bank account", and you know what that means. A place for the wealthy to hide money, most likely illegally attained. One of the stereotypical holders of a Swiss bank account is a third world kleptocrat, who siphons tax and foreign aid money and transfers it to an account that only benefits himself.

Now, most people are convinced this kind of thing only happens in the third world. But what if that is wrong, just like the impression of the casting couch was wrong? A recent focus has been on relatives of powerful politicians getting suspiciously well-compensated jobs within foreign nations. And we see, as a rule, that politicians who spend their whole lives as public servants seem to grow their net worth far faster than private citizens with a similar income, and this despite needing to maintain two residences as part of their job.

Just how certain are you that first world politicians aren't getting bribes and kickbacks?

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Something like white supremacy

A crude post from an Internet figure, edited for grammar, spelling, and language:

2019. I was supposed to be on a starship by now, conversing with intelligent robots, deciding to what sort of body I'd like to upload my immortal consciousness. Instead we're all still on this rock, wondering how to placate the white working class. I will never forgive the troglodytes who stole the future I EARNED to prolong their worthless existence.

I'd oppose this statement if made by an astrophysicist or a researcher in AI, but at least they'd be in a position to make it. But this statement here was made by an amateur film reviewer. [Amateur as in not employed in the role; to the extent he makes money from his passion, it's due to YouTube, a platform he had no role in building.]

This is a lot like the position held by white supremacists. And here's how.

This person is urban, liberal, and college-educated. In the absence of any notable contribution to the advancement of the world, he identifies with other urban, liberal, college-educated people who have made these contributions. And because he has these traits, he should be on top, and the fact that he hasn't succeeded means the other must be responsible for his failures. The other, in this case, is the working class, and his attitude towards them is dark indeed ("worthless existence").

Now think about how white supremacists are generally unsuccessful and blame their failures on the presence of minorities, with the same feeling that the world would automatically be a better place without minorities.

Both views require an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance, both to excuse their own failures and write off the success of the "other" group.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Cringe

"Dungeons and dragons is not just for a bunch of beardy boys in a basement, it's for everybody and anybody."



So says the BBC with a cringeworthy video from, I don't know, one of their journalists?



Let's skip the video for a moment and talk about the comic strip Knights of the Dinner Table, which focuses on role-playing groups playing a game a lot like 1st edition AD&D. In the main group, harried DM B.A. has to run a game to capture the interests of munchkin Dave, hack-and-slasher Bob, role-player Sara, and rules lawyer Brian. For some reason, this group of players stays together, despite their differences. Maybe it's friendship. What they don't do is exclude others.



This fictional group resonates with role-playing gamers. They know, or know of, people like these characters. Perhaps they put up with people like them, or perhaps they try to avoid them.



The good thing about D&D is that it's just a rules set. It can handle many different styles of play. If a player doesn't like that the other players shoot first and ask questions later, there's always another group. If a player doesn't like the DM's campaign world where there are no monsters, just misunderstood creatures, there's always another group. If a player doesn't like how every NPC is described like they're in a Frazetta painting, there's always another group.



At a large convention like Gen Con, I've played team tournaments entirely focused on combat and tactics, where good rules knowledge and a bit of luck is required to succeed. I've played ongoing campaigns where the primary focus is on building your own character. And I've played events with pregenerated characters, with an emphasis on role-playing and interaction with the other characters, where it's common for the players to never leave the first encounter of the adventure. All of these styles of gaming are supported with the same D&D rules set.



Now, let's go back to the video in the link. I wager that more than 90% of the people who talk about exclusion were never actually excluded. I've played for most of my life, in both home groups and organized play, and almost everyone has been eager for more people to play, and supportive of newcomers. I'd also wager that, for people of the appropriate age, they were more likely to be the excluders (calling role-playing games childish or nerdy) than the excluded.



That said, there's an important thing to remember. You can't expect every person to like you. In my experience, D&D groups can be cliquish. Some people rub each other the wrong way. I know I didn't get along with everyone who shared this wonderful hobby. But I moved on, persevered, and found people who became some of my best friends.



Remember, there's always another group.

Monday, September 23, 2019

The ethnocentric view of diversity

Ethnocentrism: A tendency to view alien groups or cultures from the perspective of one's own.

There's a fatal flaw to the way people refer to diversity, and I'll be referencing Magic: the Gathering once again.

Wizards of the Coast, creators of Magic: the Gathering, have always been of that far left coast bent, very focused on diversity and representation.  To give you an example of how that attitude has existed since the beginning, check out David Drake's All the Way to the Gallows, a collection of his more humorous works, and see how he describes writing a short story for a Magic anthology back in the mid-90s.

They've been very focused on representation in their art, and I don't mean including fantasy races.  It can be observed in multiracial portraits in cards like Village Outcasts (from the Innistrad world, roughly based on northern Europe) and Kytheon's Irregulars (from the Theros world, roughly based on Greece).  And the article linked here shows the royal family in the new expansion, Thrones of Eldraine, whose inspiration draws from Arthurian legends and Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Sure, there wasn't a lot of international trade in King Arthur's days, but if Wizards of the Coast wants to say their world is different, that's fine.

There's only one problem: They only do this some of the time.

In the worlds of Kamigawa (based on Japan), Tarkir (based on east and southeast Asia), and Kaladesh (based on India), there was none of this diversity.  (The Kaladesh example was the most egregious, because of the world building and the story.  It was a prosperous steampunk world, with travel by trains and cars.  And the story had a grand inventor's fair, surely something that would attract travelers from all over.  But no, everyone looked like a local, save for the deceased father of the planeswalker retconned into being from the world.)  It was important to have people of African heritage seen in Innistrad, but not important in these other worlds.  Why is that?

I'm going to coin the term ethnocentric diversity for what was seen here.  The people at Wizards of the Coast have shown themselves to be very ethnocentric.  When they think about diversity, they can only think about what diversity looks like in their own culture, from the people they see around themselves every day in the Seattle area.  They never asked themselves, "What does diversity look like in a world based on India?"  They could have looked at India and its history, or do what they normally do, and say that all colors of humans are present.

Instead, they saw "Asia", and said, "Diversity accomplished".

On another note, Wizards of the Coast did a good job bringing in new Japanese artists to do art for Kamigawa, and new artists of Indian heritage to do art for Kaladesh.  The whole of Thrones of Eldraine has been spoiled, and as far as I can tell, there was no similar effort to find new artists from the United Kingdom (Arthurian legends) or Germany (Grimm's tales) to represent the culture of their people.

Because, don't you know, all white people are the same.  At least according to Wizards of the Coast.

(Aside: Which is more diverse, the Kenriths in the picture above, or Disney Jr.'s Sofia the First?  Because Sofia the First has one element of diversity that does not appear to be present in the Kenriths, class diversity.  Sofia and her mother were commoners.  The Kenrith mixed family both appear to be part of their world's 1%.)