Saturday, January 12, 2019

Political Compass 2019: Where Do I Stand?

Happy New Year! 

To start off what I'm sure is going to be a rollicking 2019 (thanks in large part to our now divided government), I'm going to steal an idea from Sargon of Akkad and share with you my current standing on the popular Political Compass Test: 

This test, in my opinion, has several profound weaknesses. For one thing, I don't think it adequately captures the leftist authoritarianism of Current Year. To really get a good measure of that phenomenon, the test would have to make propositions such as:

  • Hate speech should not be permitted in public spaces.
  • Respect for a person's preferred pronouns should be legally enforced.
  • If a person claims a certain gender identity, any services or public spaces designed for that gender should be made open to said person under penalty of law.
  • It is sometimes necessary to turn down a highly qualified white or male candidate for a job in order to foster diversity and inclusion.
Etc., etc. I think you get the idea.

The other thing this test sorely needs is a "Not Sure" button for those of us who wobble between weak agreement and weak disagreement. In the absence of such respect for nuance, I often split the difference between related questions just to complicate the picture. I'm also going to follow Sargon's lead and explain my answers below the jump.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Assorted Musings

  • My generally libertarian orientation is being sorely tested by Big Tech and Big Credit. Generally speaking, I think it's a bad idea for the government to step in and regulate businesses (beyond, of course, protections against obvious crimes such as fraud and intellectual property theft) -- but what else are we to do when we're faced with large corporations who have locked down almost total control of our principal communications network? As revealed by the deplatforming of Alex Jones (who's an idiot) and Sargon (who most assuredly is not), Google, Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, Paypal, et. al. now have almost unlimited power to silence dissenting voices -- and honestly, I'm pessimistic that the Rubin/Peterson crusade to find a work-around is going to come to much. It may in fact be time for politicians to step in and demand an Internet Bill of Rights that will outlaw political discrimination on social media. It's one thing to allow businesses in meat space to discriminate based on belief; it's another thing to allow owners of our digital public square to do the same. The latter threatens our norm of free speech and should be aggressively countered.
  • Lately, I've also been mulling over how we can fix education, as so many things worry me about the status quo. The ideas I've brainstormed include:
    • Making the college admissions process far more transparent and objective. Schools should tell students which high school courses, grades, and minimum entrance exam scores indicate solid preparation to succeed -- and if they must include essays in their applications, those essays should be academic rather than personal to keep things 100% identity-blind and avoid discrimination against the less well-off and/or extroverted.
    • Urging schools with large endowments to set up academies in low-income areas to identify talented-but-disadvantaged strivers and offer them classes to bring their academic records up to the aforementioned minimum standards. It's cruel to simply admit students who don't have the grounding to succeed at elite universities because muh diversity, inclusion, and equity. Give them the right foundation before they get to campus.
    • Releasing the pressure valve on the whole college thing by 1) selling alternatives like career and technical education as equally admirable and not as consolation prizes for academic failures and 2) giving students an additional chance to prove their competence by instituting an exit exam for all college graduates so that where one goes to college will matter less. I want students in high school to feel free to take more risks instead of acting like dutiful resume-building automatons.
  • On a completely different topic: how do we properly introduce more diversity into our geeky properties? Don't worry, grasshopper: I have thoughts on that too.
    • Number one, stop denying that good female and non-white characters have existed for a while and do have fanbases. Back in the 90's, people were skeptical about Benjamin Sisko at first -- but now he's beloved. Why? Because he's a freaking bad ass -- but also because he's a three-dimensional character with a family, a tragic past, hobbies, etc. that have nothing to do with his skin color.
    • Which leads me to number two: If the only thing you know about your new diverse character is that he or she is gay/trans/non-white/female/disabled/whatever, then you don't have an idea that people will grow to love. Put some more thought into your creations, for God's sake, and don't just skate on the identity angle.
    • Number three, don't force your diverse character to spend every issue/episode/story tackling the issues-du-jour that everyone associates with his or her identity group. Let these characters have thoroughly unrelated adventures so they can display their universally heroic traits.
    • Number four, don't assume everyone in identity group X thinks or behaves in the exact same way. Treat characters in identity group X as individuals, not as representatives. Have you considered, for example, writing a gay monarchist? Because I happen to know one in real life, and she's definitely very interesting.
    • Number five, portray other cultures honestly. I'd give my right arm for, say, a Muslim superhero who isn't wholly Westernized and progressive. Can you imagine how fascinating that would be?
    • Number six, don't steal existing properties. If you're concerned that your diverse character won't get attention if he or she isn't attached to an established IP, introduce your character in said IP in a supporting role and work on developing audience demand for a solo title by heeding bullets one through five above.
And with that, I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I shall return in 2019!

Saturday, December 15, 2018

In Lieu of a Post, Have Some Beautiful Holiday Music!

I was a little distracted this week and didn't get a real post done. In its place, please enjoy a lovely video of the Once Voice Children's Choir. The reverb in this place gives me the shivers -- as does the harmonies in the arrangement. Hope you enjoy it as much as I!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ten Signs Your Movement Is Evil

As I hope I've suggested in the past, I happen to think that our society needs right and left, conservatives and liberals/leftists, Republicans and Democrats. Without us conservatives, folks on the left can miss why certain traditions exist in the first place, and why "change" does not always lead to improvement. Without the left, we conservatives can miss opportunities to progress in ways that are actually advantageous for our country and for humanity as a whole.

So why do I spend so much blog space expressing anger at a left whose existence I fully acknowledge is necessary? Because there's a distinction in my mind between left-leaning ideas that are worthy of consideration and ideas that are not. I tweeted recently that I happen to think environmental degradation, corporate abuse, hardening class distinctions, and racial/ethnic disparities are real problems that demand thoughtful solutions, and I still stand by that belief. What I can't abide are the social justice warriors.

Many liberals and leftists seem to be under the impression that the pejorative "SJW" applies to them. "What's so bad about being a social justice warrior?" they ask. "I'm anti-racist, pro-LGBT, and I've never voted Republican. I'm an SJW!" But unless you're comfortable with the methods I'm about to describe below, you're not -- even if your bedroom is plastered with Bernie Sanders memorabilia.

So what makes an SJW? What's the difference, for me, between standard leftists and those I believe are clear and present dangers to me and mine? Quite simply, monstrous leftists do the following:

  1. They deny that truth is objective and universally accessible. They tell me, for example, that I can't discuss race relations in the U.S. because I'm white -- or that I can't discuss the transgender issue because I'm "cis." But what you feel as someone who is non-white or trans may not be based wholly in reality. As it turns out, memory and perception are incredibly fluid and prone to error; that's why everyone - and I mean everyone - needs to seek external validation before acting upon an emotional impression. If you just assume you're right at the get-go, you will do tremendous damage.
  2. They don't respect boundaries. They block traffic, destroy property, harass and intimidate opponents in public spaces (and even at their homes), and/or gleefully humiliate others in pursuit of their aims -- or they simply refuse to condemn such tactics when they're used by others. But none of these things are okay in our current context; indeed, aside from the destruction of property, which can be justified in a declared war, I don't think these are okay in any context.
  3. They're censors. You can discuss why you think certain movies/television shows/songs/scientific studies/etc. are problematic to your heart's content (as long as you're willing to accept push-back). You can even suggest that we modify our speech for the sake of politeness. But the minute you start demanding that songs be removed from the radio, dissident academics be fired, or that our speech and expression be regulated legislatively, you have crossed my line. You don't get to control people that way. I don't trust you - or anyone else - with that power.
  4. They magnify offense -- and then respond with no sense of proportion.  Unintentionally insensitive remarks or actions cannot be socially engineered out of existence. I'm sorry, but people are imperfect and should be given room to screw up -- and if we happen to be put out by such imperfections, we should respond with grace, not rage. I'll give you an example: The hotel we stayed at for our recent Thanksgiving trip had clearly tried to make the room we were given accessible for the disabled. Unfortunately, the toilet was not quite high enough, and the flexible shower-head couldn't be dislodged from its post so we could use it while seated. Now, if either my dad or I were an SJW, we might've screamed that this was proof - proof! - that the hotel in question was "ableist" or some such nonsense, and we probably would've sought to shame them in public. But since we're not SJW's, we calmly informed the front desk that we had a few accessibility problems with the room and just left it at that. We assumed that they meant well - and probably didn't realize that their shower-head was not working, oh by the way - and we acted on that assumption. This is healthy; assuming the opposite - that all mistakes are due to malice that deserves punishment - leads to unhappy people and unhappy societies.
  5. They think they should be able to break normal rules with impunity. They think, for example, that they can park illegally and then scream "racist!" when someone not of their skin color calls them out on it. They think, for example, that they can show up at a place of business after closing time and insist on being served and then, once again, scream "racist!" when the clerks inside refuse. They think, for example, that they should be allowed to repeatedly dine and dash at Chipotle and then get some poor working folks fired for asking, understandably, for payment in advance. I'm sorry for the language, but fuck you. It's not racist to enforce traffic laws or business hours, and it's certainly not racist to expect to be paid for a product. If you think you have a right to flout these fundamentally reasonable protocols, you're an SJW - and a menace.
  6. They play games with definitions to worm their way out of charges of hypocrisy. Bigots with social power do more damage than bigots without that power. But the purpose of the "racism = prejudice + power" equation is not simply to point out this uncontroversial truth; it's to completely absolve certain groups of any wrongdoing. We can see this true purpose in the corollary that always accompanies the aforementioned formulation: that people of color have no power. This is absolutely false on its face. If you can convince large corporations to bend to your will to avoid your ire, you have power. I don't care how many of you are politicians or CEO's.
  7. They purposely misconstrue what people say and assign malign motives where none exist. I'm a teacher. I know there are people out there who struggle with reading comprehension. But I don't think leading SJW's fall into this group given that many of them are fairly adept as writers, therefore exhibiting somewhat-above-average verbal intelligence. No: SJW's understand what we're saying; they simply call us -ist and -phobic because it's easier than actually answering our arguments. They're intellectually lazy, not dumb.
  8. They congratulate or blame people for things they can't control. Nobody chooses to be born white, male, straight, or cis; nobody chooses to be born non-white, female, gay, or trans. These are immutable characteristics that confer neither moral worth nor moral worthlessness. Being human in a general sense entitles you to be treated fairly and with respect for your rights, but beyond that, it's your character and the quality of your work that should earn you prestige. But SJW's want to upend this idea; they think that some groups are entitled to much more than their basic human rights and that other groups should abase themselves to make this happen.
  9. They seek equal outcomes, not equal opportunity. I'm open to the idea that there are process issues with our system that hamper equal opportunity (especially when it comes to our utterly dysfunctional system of education). But SJW's don't care much about process; they just want to give certain people what they have not earned to balance the cosmic scales -- and if that means other people get screwed, well then those "privileged" assholes probably deserved to be taken down a peg.
  10. Overall, they're joyless, vengeful, and nasty people. They spend their every waking minute, it seems, trying to destroy people who offend them. They comb through old social media posts looking for dirt -- and when they can't find what they want, they straight up lie. They insist on hectoring people about their politics at all times and in all places, turning apolitical activities that could bring us all together into additional cultural battlefields. They refuse to let us escape and just enjoy our lives for bloody once because they have convinced themselves, beyond all reason, that they - or their mascots - are in imminent danger of persecution and even genocide and that, consequently, their exquisite concerns should be the center of our focus 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No: we are not in that place. I'm no big fan of Trump, but he's not Hitler; he's not even in the same galaxy as the Fuhrer, and the more you scream, wild-eyed, that we're all going to die, the more I'm going to tune you out.
If you are left-of-center but do not share the features just described, I don't have a problem with you. We can probably come together and work out our political differences in a civilized and rational manner. If you're left-of-center and do share any or all of the above characteristics, then yes: I'm afraid you are my enemy. Please reevaluate your life choices before you destroy this country.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Don't Just Sit There. Fight Back.

I have been informed through the magic of the intertubes that there was a - situation - at LosCon recently involving accomplished hard science fiction writer and "Killer B" Gregory Benford and an audience member who took issue with the former individual's use of the word "honey" in a wholly sensible remark on the importance of getting the science right. Said word was not intended to address anyone in particular - and in fact arose in a discussion of contemporary greats that highlighted the works of several female authors - but that didn't matter to Ms. Precious Snowflake, who simply had to disrupt the panel and bitch to the concom.

What strikes me the most about the eye-witness accounts of this dust-up is the fear. Normal, well-adjusted fans who were enjoying the discussion - including Benford's contributions - sat there dumbstruck, wanting to tell the ideologically-possessed screecher to shut her damn mouth, yet hesitating in the hopes that someone else would make the first move.

We can't let crazy social justice warriors intimidate us, guys. They don't deserve that kind of power.

If you are a member of the sane silent majority, you need rise up and shut these people down the minute they start making a scene. Be that brave soul who stands up and tells a screaming radical, "Stop. We came to hear the panel, not your nonsense." Or: "Be quiet. You're ruining the panel we were enjoying." Demand that the volunteer in the back reach out to SecOps. Encourage anyone else who decides to speak up for rationality and civility. Start that preference cascade.

I know you folks think you're alone because the aspiring totalitarians are so damned loud, but you're not. If you stand up for yourself and your right to a convention experience free of toxic political grandstanding, I guarantee your fellow fans will back you up.

ETA: Just heard that one woman did try to stop Ms. Agenda from monopolizing the discussion. Good for her. We should all follow her example. The more bold we are, the more we can counteract these destructive ideas and get back to the business of fostering genuine diversity and tolerance.

Please remember that as science fiction fans, we've always been forward-thinking, humanistic, and progressive in a general sense. That's why our fandom is being targeted: because we are nice, accepting of Oddballs, and willing to play with ideas. We don't deserve to be treated like bigoted monsters. Don't let anyone abuse us that way.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Video of Interest: Digilante

This is a worthwhile personal reflection on whether or not our vengeful, forgiveness-free culture actually does any good. And unlike many of the videos I post here, it's not super long, so it shouldn't be too hard to give it a watch.

God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving. I'll be back on Dec. 1. See you then!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Grumpy Thoughts, 6th Edition (Language Warning!)

  • So apparently, white women are now designated targets of the disgusting left because we don't all vote Democrat. Meanwhile, I'm sitting here wondering why we and we alone are expected to bend the knee to people who deny our agency and declare us "handmaidens of our patriarchal husbands." Come to think of it, I'm also wondering why we're expected to vote for people who insult our husbands, fathers, and brothers, branding them the source of all that's wrong with the world. And further, why should we vote for anyone whose policies, in our opinion, are bad for America just because we don't have whips available to make a public show of our penance? Seriously: Fuck. You. I'm not going to debase myself that way. I didn't do anything wrong. My brother didn't do anything wrong. My dad didn't do anything wrong. As far as I know, none of my ancestors participated in slavery or Jim Crow -- but even if they had, family members living today are not guilty by association. Guilt is not collective, you unbelievable douche-canoes.
  • It's not in any woman's interest to vote for politicians who wish to scuttle border control, meritocracy, free speech, freedom of religion, and/or due process in the name of "social justice." Nor is it in any woman's interest to vote for politicians who insist we must have the right to murder our children on the taxpayer's dime in order to be full participants in the American economy. These are just some of the major convictions that drove my votes in the midterms, and I refuse to apologize for said convictions just because some racists on the internet command it. I don't need to "do better." I need you to take a gander at my two middle fingers. 
  • As a white woman living in a brown neighborhood whose clientele are predominantly brown, I understand that people-of-color face very real challenges that need to be addressed through community action and, in some cases, smart public policy. But when I look around, I feel compelled to ask what the Democrat Party has done to deserve the near 100% loyalty of certain minority populations. The evidence makes it pretty clear: Democrat strongholds are terrible places for people-of-color to live. So frankly, if I'm going to vote with my brown brothers and sisters in mind - and how do you know I don't think about that already, you condescending would-be mind-readers? - I'm still not going to vote the way you want me to. I'm not going to vote for objective failures just because they talk a good game; I'm going to vote to try something different.
  • Everything the leftist zeitgeist preaches is counter-productive. Every damn thing. In shitting all over colorblindness as a social ideal, it is actually intensifying racial hatreds. In seeking to protect kids from the "trauma" of math failure or public speaking, it is making young people more anxious and less "college and career ready," to use the technocrats' buzzwords. In demanding that men take sole responsibility for protecting the virtue of women, it trains women to be helpless or, in some cases, actively cruel. So when I voted, I voted against that zeitgeist. What we need instead is a radical reorientation of our public policy -- one that recognizes and works with the human nature that actually exists