Saturday, January 25, 2020

Does Socialism Always Fail?

If you've interacted with enough right-wingers on social media, there's invariably one point that you've probably heard before:

"X always fails!"

Where 'x' is something they disagree with. It could be anything, but the context that it usually sees use is with socialism; as in, "socialism always fails!"

But does it? And is that really the question we need to be asking?

Defining Words

It can seem like we live in dramatically different worlds, the left and right, and that we use dramatically different terms. And that's because, more often than not, we are. The right-wing likes to Humpty-Dumpty words to mean whatever is fitting for the current topic at hand, and that's why it's vitally important to nail down definitions before you even think about that debate. Otherwise, you end up like me, citing numerous examples of functional healthcare systems only to be told that Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea are "failing nations."

And "state's rights" is a buzzword for
 "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
And most of the time, this is where your conversation will end. When you ask how someone is defining a word, they run into a brick wall, because they oftentimes don't think about how they're using the word, just that the world feels natural in that context to them. And since "feels natural" is entirely subjective, it's why you get folks who define "socialism" as "government attempts to help black people." Well, that and racism, but let's face it: racism feels natural to these people, too, as the picture to the left demonstrates.

But it's incredibly important, and it's probably one of the reasons why Socrates insists on defining terms in Plato's dialogs. It's not just Socrates being a gadfly; if we're approaching words and concepts from different angles, we're never going to be able to communicate at all, leave off efficiently.

So it's only natural to try and ask them how they're defining socialism, but there's just one problem: socialism does not have one single definition. There are a whole lot of different types of socialism, from market socialism to non-market socialism. Liberal socialism is a thing that actually exists, and what Germany practiced with the Rhineland model is technically socialism, while what the Nordic countries have is better called "social Democracy" or a welfare state. So "socialism" can mean a constellation of vastly different ideologies.

But there's an even deeper question here, and that's the question of what "fail" means. That verb is more important than the noun because the verb carries more weight in the sentence. The verb is describing an action, but it's an ambiguous action. What does it mean to "fail?"

Too Big to Fail?

When we start talking about what failure is, we have to define what a fail-state is. For instance, in most classes, a fail-state is "getting the answer wrong." Now, leaving aside the problem of an objective answer outside of anything other than mathematics (and even there, you can get some real mind-warping solutions that aren't always objective), one person's "failure" is another person's "success." For instance, you might see a C+ on a paper as a failure, but if it gave me the credit I need to pass the class, I'd consider that a success.

This implies that failure and success are entirely subjective, and I'm inclined to agree. And this is where we run into problems; the vast majority of people are not mentally equipped to handle subjectivity. They want one absolute, objective, "too big to fail" worldview that allows them to unambiguously declare whether something was a "success" or a "failure" without having to understand or grasp what those two words might mean and that their use might be situational. This situational, subjective nature is why defining the words is so important; at least then I can understand what you mean when you use the word and react accordingly.

Nowhere is this subjectivity better seen than in the statement "socialism always fails," and that's in part because the people who use it never stop to think about what "fails" means, and that using "always" as a qualifier is bad since all it takes to prove them wrong is one example to the contrary. But so long as they never have to define what it means to "fail," any counterexample can be dismissed as a "failure" without having to confront the reality of their "objective" statement. In effect, they are insulated from any challenge to their position at all.

Dialogues Are Important When We Can Have Them

Dialogues are complicated, messy things, and we need to have them. We need contrarian viewpoints and folks who look for flaws in plans to point out weaknesses, so we can shore those plans, or at least prepare potential preventative countermeasures.

Consider a universal healthcare system. That's a huge undertaking, and we absolutely need folks with a critical eye to pick it apart and point out potential problems with it. We need people to be technical. We need to be ready to receive that criticism, not as a personal attack as coming from a place of concern. In effect, we need conservatives who can argue in good faith and are intelligent.

And instead, we have screeching shit-monkeys who throw a temper tantrum anytime they don't get their way, will never consider the possibility they might be wrong (and rather than use that sentence as a chance for introspection and self-reflection, will respond with "but liberals do it, too!" as if that absolves them), and who deny things that are politically inconvenient for them, because they've come to treat politics as less running a country and more rooting for your favorite football club, come hell or high water. Rather than intelligent people, we have fools who think the proper retort to the fact that the number of uninsured Americans has gone up for the first time in several years, and the overall life-expectancy has fallen for the second or third year in a row, is "socialism always fails!"

And the sad part is, we've always had these people. It's just now they have a much larger platform and can reach more people.

These are not people who can contribute meaningfully to any conversation. They simply can't. You don't go to your dog expecting advice on finance and you can't go to these people for political opinions; you get toxic bile instead. And what's worse, this toxic bile is always in response to a warped self-fulfilling prophecy: they see themselves as unliked, so they behave in a way suggestive that they don't care if they're unliked, and in the process of behaving that way, they make themselves unliked. And when they respond to all criticisms with personal invectives and disingenuous factoids dressed up as statements of truth and then proceed to ignore attempts to inform them that they're wrong because they can't bear the thought of being wrong, they invite the personal attacks they're so sensitive towards. Then they treat all criticisms as personal attacks, resulting in people getting fed up with them and personally attacking them.

So the real question isn't "does socialism always fail?" It's not even if socialism can succeed. Socialism is irrelevant to this conversation because the problem of "socialism always fails" has nothing to do with socialism or fail states.

It's whether or not we're capable of having a reasonable dialogue, and so long as people insist that something always fails because confronting evidence inconvenient to them is far too taxing an intellectual task, that answer is a resounding, "no." 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Critically Examining a Pro-Trump Meme

Back when I was growing up, Facebook had a word limit on posts; you couldn't go over 60 words. Once they removed that, however, folks (myself included) started posting novel-length entries on the social media page, with whatever was on our minds at the time. And that's fine, since sharing whatever you're thinking, no matter how detrimental or stupid it might be, is what social media is for. Well, that and FOMO -- fear of missing out -- but applying a critical eye to marketing tools will come later. Today, I want to take a look at a pro-Trump novella that circles around the right-wing noise-o-sphere and examine it.

How I Feel About Trump

I'm pretty sure most folks can grok how I feel about Pumpkin Spice Berlusconi, but just in case you can't: I don't like him. And it's not just policies, although I differ there too. One day, I'm going to do an economic break down on just how much of a disaster his tax plan has been, and how your tax dollars as an American citizen are literally subsidizing corporate welfare (via a negative income tax), but that's for a different post as well. No, I personally dislike him, and I always have. I didn't like him when he was a Democrat in the 90s and I really don't like him now that he's a Republican in the 2010s. The current Evangelical messiah du jour is a Big Mac-powered bully; he's a narcissistic, incurious, malignant buffoon. If a student ever acted like him in any of my classes I'd throw them out and not think twice.

But this isn't about how I feel about him; this is a post about how right-wingers feel about him. And, well, let's put it diplomatically and say here's an awful lot of antiprocess and post hoc justification happening here.
You've been on vacation for two weeks, you come home, and your basement is infested with raccoons.. Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement. You want them gone immediately!.. You call the city and 4 different exterminators, but nobody can handle the job.. But there is this one guy, and he guarantees to get rid of them, so you hire him.. You don't care if the guy smells, you don't care if the guy swears, you don't care if he's an alcoholic, you don't care how many times he's been married, you don't care if he has a plumber's crack, you simply want those raccoons gone!.. You want your problem fixed!.. He's the guy.. He's the best!

Here's why we want Trump: Yes, he's a bit of a jerk; Yes, he's an egomaniac; but we don't care!.. The country is a mess because politicians suck, the Republicans and Democrats can be two-faced and gutless, and illegals are everywhere.. We want it all fixed!.. We don't care that Trump is crude, we don't care that he insults people, we don't care that he has changed positions, we don't care that he's been married 3 times, we don't care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O'Donnell, we don't care that he doesn't know the name of some Muslim terrorist.. This country became weak and bankrupt, our enemies were making fun of us, we are being invaded by illegals, we are becoming a nation of victims where every Tom, Ricardo, and Hasid is a special group with special rights to a point where we don't even recognize the country we were born and raised in; "AND WE JUST WANT IT FIXED”.. And Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want..

We're sick of politicians, sick of the Democratic Party, sick of the Republican Party, and sick of illegals!.. We just want this thing fixed.. Trump may not be a Saint, but we didn’t vote for a Pope.. We voted for a man who doesn't have lobbyist money holding him back, a man who doesn't have political correctness restraining him.. We all know that he has been very successful, he’s a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things, and he's also NOT a politician, NOT a cowardly politician.!.. And he says he'll fix it.. And we believe him because he is too much of an egotist to be proven wrong, or looked at and called a liar.. Also, we don't care if the guy has bad hair.. We just want those raccoons gone, out of our house, NOW!!!
The abuse of ellipses there makes me want to cringe so hard I'll eat my own teeth. The style is terrible; I'd flunk anyone who turned this in as a final project in my class on all the stylistic errors alone.

The very first thing that stands out to me is the comparison between undocumented immigrants and, quote, "rabid raccoon." During the Rwandan Genocide, the Hutu compared the Tutsi to "cockroaches." During the Holocaust, the Jews were compared to rats. Comparisons with vermin and animals is a popular dehumanizing technique. This piece continues the trend, using the word "illegal" as a short-hand of "illegal alien," the use of which gets justified as "legal terminology" despite the fact that these same people never use legal terminology at any other point in political discussions.

But the it's that comparison to "rabid raccoons" that would make the organizers of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines proud.

Having wasted all those pixels, let's dive into the, *ahem* "substance."

Raccoons and Right-Wingers  

Hundreds of rabid, messy, mean raccoons have overtaken your basement.
Except that undocumented migrants produce a great deal for the economy. Their impact on the economy is tremendous; dismissing that impact shows how little the poster actually understands modern economics. Which, to be fair, he's in good company (I'm assuming he. It might be a she. But it's probably a he): I've yet to find a right-winger on Facebook who does understand economics. Oh, they'll insist they do. But they don't, and will never admit they don't.

Interesting sidebar: Notice the use of possession there -- your basement. The raccoons were here first. You took land that had been theirs for years to build your basement. If anything you're the invader. Given that most of the people sharing this are white Europeans, I guess it isn't as inaccurate as I originally gave it credit for being.
You call the city and 4 different exterminators
I can't be the only person unsettled by this comparison of a national leader to an exterminator, can I? The last time we had an exterminator as a national leader was in the 1970s and Cambodia is still reeling from the effects of the Khmer Rouge/CPK. 
You don't care if the guy smells, you don't care if the guy swears, you don't care if he's an alcoholic, you don't care how many times he's been married, you don't care if he has a plumber's crack
I find this amusing. It mattered a lot when the individuals last name was Clinton, didn't it? Why I was just a wee lad in the 90s, but I seem to recall an impeachment scandal blowing up over the perceived lack of morals and the fact that the President lied about an affair. 

It also mattered when the guy's last name was Obama, too. But Obama was just a superior human in every way to Trump that the comparison feels wrong and offensive (at least Bill Clinton was also a sexual predator, just like Donald Trump is). 

By the way, you'll notice this is a running theme with this post: yes, we know this guy sucks. He's just the worst human being in the world. But that ain't gonna stop us from supporting him, now will it?
illegals are everywhere
And here we see more of that dehumanization.
We don't care that Trump is crude, we don't care that he insults people, we don't care that he has changed positions, we don't care that he's been married 3 times, we don't care that he fights with Megyn Kelly and Rosie O'Donnell, we don't care that he doesn't know the name of some Muslim terrorist
Once again, you don't care now because he's your guy. But these would really have mattered if, say, his last name was Obama or Clinton. 

Also, this is a hell of sale's pitch; there's something to be said for "professionalism," and if your guy comes over and he doesn't bathe, and he smells like roadkill warmed over, and that he insults people and is crude, then maybe you need to find a different guy. Because that behavior would get me fired from every single job I've ever had regardless of how "good" I might have been at it. 
I'm skeptical. I don't think they want it fixed, because if they wanted it fixed, there are more efficient ways to do it. For instance, you could build-up Latin American states and stop supporting right-wing dictators that turn those countries into genocidal war zones and the companies that enforce income inequality people are currently fleeing from. You could end the War on Drugs, since the illegal nature of drugs powers these violent cartels and gangs

No, there are thousands of ways to stop immigrantion, and all of them begin with "improving people's conditions." They aren't interested in fixing it, though, because that'd require work, and change, and possibly improving the world for people who aren't white. And we can't have that. 
And Trump is the only guy who seems to understand what the people want
Trump is a verbal Rorschach test; he makes vague self-aggrandizing statements between racist dog-whistle word salad and people are left to draw their own meaning from what he says. Just because your alphabet soup spells out your name doesn't mean that it was intentional. The same is true with Trump; perhaps even more so. 
a man who doesn't have political correctness restraining him
Like "socialism," most of the people who use this term can't define it. At most there's a vague bellyfeel definition that ultimately manifests as "whatever I disagree with," which is also how they define communism, progressivism, liberalism, feminism, and whatever other -ism they have their sights on. 

If you ever want to end a debate with these people but don't want the impression you're backing out, ask them to define their terms and what they mean by certain words. Nine times out of ten, my request has been met with deafening silence and yours probably will, too. 
We all know that he has been very successful, he’s a good negotiator, he has built a lot of things,
Trump is very good at one thing: projecting the image of success. Just like Newt Gringrich is described as the idiot's idea of intelligence, Trump is the middle-class white guy's idea of wealth and success. As the ensuing four years have shown, Trump is none of those things; he's a terrible negotiator who's been taken advantage of by the likes of Putin, Jinping, Kim, al-Assad, Erdogan, and others. He's thrown our allies under the bus, destroyed our relationship with the Kurds, severely weakened NATO, and has let the world know loud and clear that you can't trust the United States anymore. He's destroyed institutions, undermined the very notion of professionalism, and wrecked our reputation abroad. 

Of course, when they say "we know X" what they mean is "we've already decided X and nothing will convince us otherwise" -- go back up that word I used earlier, bellyfeel. Or perhaps duckspeak is a more appropriate word from Nineteen-Eighty-Four to use here. 
and he's also NOT a politician, NOT a cowardly politician.
Politicians are specialists, like lawyers. And like lawyers, they are absolutely necessary to ensuring society runs since their fields are incredibly complex and archaic, with a lot of specialized jargon and rules that take years to learn. Go back to what I said about professionalism, above. Relatedly, you wouldn't call a roofer who had no idea what they were doing to repair your roof, now would you? No, you look for experience. Someone who knows what they're doing. Politics is the only area where experience is actively frowned upon by the voting public, and it makes me want to beat my head against a wall. 

A lot of this comes from a need to compromise weighted against a reluctance to do so. To quote the Expanse, a good compromise "pisses everyone off." And while that doesn't always have to be the case, we're dealing with people who see compromise as cowardice and are no longer interested in sharing society with the rest of us -- see also the possessive pronoun use when referring to the theoretical house in this metaphor. That sure as hell ain't a "royal we" that we're looking at here; the very tone of the piece is exclusionary from start to finish. They aren't interesting in sharing this house with anyone different from them anymore, and they outright say as later in the post. 

I do think that a lot of campaign rules and such need to be reformed, and lobbying needs to be more transparent with laws that shut down the "Congress-Lobbying Division" revolving door, but childish expectations and broad, sweeping generalizations anchored in ignorance like this make having adult conversations damn near impossible. And until we can have adult conversations, we're stuck at the kiddie table with uneducated meandering platitudinous know-nothing chucklefucks who think expertise in the area of one's employment is somehow a bad thing
And we believe him because he is too much of an egotist to be proven wrong
It doesn't need to be said, but this is not a good personality trait
or looked at and called a liar
This statement has not aged well.
We just want those raccoons gone, out of our house
Once again, there were better, more thorough ways to do it. But because we don't want to put in the actual effort, we'll settle for a clown-shoes jackhole who just makes every problem that much worse.

Also, we couldn't not end without more of that dehumanization, now could we?

So What Does This Accomplish?

The short answer? It's just more insight into what makes these folks tick. The truly insightful thing here is the extent to which they're willing to go to justify their choice; I hope psychologists are taking note because this is a perfect demonstration of the Sunk-Cost Fallacy in action, and that's me being generous.

The long answer? Not a whole lot; the people who post these pro-Trump comments won't read all the way through to the end, and so I won't be changing any minds. Hopefully, you found it at least entertaining; I figured something lightweight following my piece on Hauntology last week was in order and I wanted to get at least one more post out before the New Year when I plan to truly overhaul this blog and start experimenting with new things.

Anyway, enjoy your New Year, and here's to a 2020 that doesn't absolutely suck. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

GOP and the Politics of Hauntology

Most people know the plot outline of A Christmas Carol; in it, a greedy businessman is visited by three ghosts and taught the error of his ways so he can change himself and make amends. It's an understatement to say it's a popular story, and one enjoyed by generations. So on this Christmas Eve, I figured it would be fitting to talk about ghosts since ghosts are a central conceit of A Christmas Carol. However, this isn't the story of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present or Future. Rather, this is a story about the Ghost of Christmas-That-Never-Was, and how despite never existing, they affect the modern world anyway.


Let's start by defining terms. Hauntology is a neologism that combines two words: haunting and ontology. Jacques Derrida coined it in his 1993 book, Specters of Marx. In that book, Derrida offers up a slippery definition but it can generally be defined as: 

"The concept of an idea projected from a past that never existed."

More specifically, it's when there's a disjunction between temporal and ontological concepts of presence and the metaphysics of presence winds up replaced with a differed non-origin. If you read that and thought "yep, those are words alright," don't worry. A detailed understanding of the concept as Derrida intended requires understanding deconstruction theory, and that won't be necessary here, I promise. We aren't going to be looking at the ontology so much as we are the effects of these concepts of ideas from a "Past-That-Never-Was" and exactly what this "Past-That-Never-Was" is. 

There's some clever wordplay at work, for those who are curious. In French, hantologie [ɑ̃tɔlɔʒi]  and ontologie [ɔ̃tɔlɔʒi] are near-homophones. 

This term, hauntology, is employed mostly in cultural critique. There's an entire genre of music called vaporwave that's often invoked in these discussions; vaporwave samples older and employes retro-style instruments like synthesizers and the like. The result is a 1980s-style aesthetic, but the 1980s that it references isn't the real 1980s. 

To illustrate how it is the concept of an idea rather than a simple reflection of the past, let's keep focused on music genres. Sure, synthesizers were popular in the 1980s, but they were far from the only genre of music and they didn't even feature prominently. Rap music was coming into its own in the 1980s, and no other decade save for the 1990s could ever match the 1980s in terms of pop music output. Not only that, heavy metal and hair-metal were also popular as well: Metallica released the Black album at the tail end of that period (1990), and that was the culmination of all their earlier work throughout the 1980s and 1970s. Guns N' Roses was formed in 1985; Bon Jovi in 1983; Motley Crue in 1981; and some bands from the 1970s dominated the charts, including Queen, AC/DC, Van Halen, Def Leopard, Aerosmith, REO Speedwagon, and many others. And while we often associate disco with the 1970s, it was widespread early in the 1980s, as well. 

So the use of analog synthesizers, library music, and recording surface noise to highlight the decaying nature of the medium itself is part of the nostalgia for a future that never came to past, fed by the concept of a past that never existed. 

And that's our segue into our main point.

GOP: Ghosts of the Past(-That-Never-Was)

During my extended 6 year hiatus, a lot happened in the United States. One of those things was the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.

What's particularly interesting within the context of this conversation about hauntology is his motto: "Make America Great Again." A lot has been made of this, and most people are at least vaguely aware that Reagan used this motto during his 1980s bid against Jimmy Carter. And has been pointed out before, there was never a time when America was great; the best time to be American is today (well, maybe not today; life expectancy is falling nationwide, the number of uninsured has increased for the first time in several years, corporations that make literal billions have negative income tax rates thanks to Trump's plan while Trump's administration is cutting food stamps to hundreds of thousands of needy peopleour maternal mortality rate is one of the highest among the developed world, 20% of Americans drink water that isn't safe, and 500,000 kids could needlessly lose free lunch at school because "pro-lifers" care more about judge appointments than actual morality. And let's not even talk about global warming and Greenlandic ice melt; that's going to be a problem for later, mark my words). And yet, despite this, right now is still the best time to ever be alive. 

So what, precisely is there to "make great again," if right now is the best that human history has ever been? And even if things suck in the United States because a significant amount of population decided to roll the dice on Pumpkin Spice Berlusconi, things are objectively the best they've ever been at a global level. 

There's a specter haunting the United States, and it's the specter of a future that never manifested projected by a past that never existed, stalking the fevered dreams and palingenetic ultranationalist mythmaking grandeurisms that shape the rhetoric of modern right-wing politics. One thing to remember about Reagan is that Reagan wasn't just offering the promise of a past, his revolution was the promise of a future, too; a Mephistophelian bargain that by joining his revolution, you could have the future, the American dream, promised to you, present in an idealized past that never existed. Reagan's promise of a better future that never manifested is enhanced by his appropriation of a past that never existed, and in appropriating his 1980s promise and image, we're also appropriating his projected image of the 1950s and 1960s, and the future that failed to manifest, as a result[1]. 

Really, the "better" (for this crowd, anyway) was a time when blacks and women knew their place when white Christian men were at the top of the social food chain, and when they didn't have to share power with anyone other than other white Christian men who they could assume agreed with them (or, at least, wouldn't disagree with them). And if you think about it, their projected image of the past betrays this, since their concept of the past is often one free from minorities or women in power, which they then justify with historiography that can be considered specious at best. It's no coincidence that this movement found its footing in the shadow of a moderately right-of-center black president they paint as a "socialist" for using the Republican healthcare plan as his centerpiece legislation. There's a reason why their image of the 1980s and 1960s doesn't discuss the race politics that shaped those two decades as deeply as they did, and it's because they're on the opposite side of those politics from men like Dr. Martin Lurther King Jr. and Malcolm X; the latter not being as extreme as they pretend him to be, and the former being more. Why when they discuss the South, they avoid talking about slavery or attempt to whitewash it. Why they can pretend to be the party of Teddy Roosevelt, despite Roosevelt being the first president in US history to suggest a universal healthcare plan and an 8-hour day, among other things that would be derided as "socialist" today by the very same people.

But then, a past that never was being viewed as extant is what shapes the very idea of hauntology. Without it, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

The Past That Isn't

Now, a lot of this is anchored in nostalgia. That's just natural as far as humans go; we've always pined for a simpler time when we were children before we had adult responsibilities. Especially when society seems to go out of its way to make fulfilling those responsibilities difficult at times and outright impossible at others. But we're sitting at the junction of projecting idealized pasts that never were and their futures that failed to manifest into a strong nostalgia for a time when things were "better", and on one side of this juncture are reactionary dominionist Christian nationalists who want to usurp the United States with their own twisted idea of Gilead, and on the other are white nationalists and fascists who admire Donald Trump for refusing to hide behind dog whistles anymore. And the only way out is forward. And if we fight hard we might make things "better than they were", as opposed to "better again," then I think killing the Past-That-Never-Was is a worthwhile sacrifice to make for the Future-That-Might-Still-Be.

"Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time—when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness."

 - Carl Sagan, A Demon-Haunted World

Post Script 

Hard to believe it's been more than 6 years since I last posted. Not very professional on my part, but life is that thing that gets in the way when you have plans. That said, I do have plans to post more, if not regularly. Things are going to undergo a bit of an overhaul now that I'm back, but I don't really have a direction in mind, so it'll be a wait and see approach. 

Anyway, it feels good to be back. 

[1] as an interesting sidebar, I wonder if this is why right-wingers insist violent crime rates haven't fallen when they clearly have; it's part of that specter of the 1980s, a decade shaped by violent crime.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In A Just World (Fallacy)

So, it's another day, and another Facebook meme to undermine.

One thing that gets under my skin like you wouldn't believe are appeals to "common sense." What I've found about "common sense" is that "common sense" is little more than thought-terminating cliche. Who defines what's "common?" I consider it "common sense" to acknowledge the world isn't 10,000 years old. Clearly, I'm an outlier in the United States. Despite my "common sense" having plenty of scientific evidence to back it up, it's not exactly "common."

Today, I plan to tackle one of those "common sense" memes that seems so popular on Facebook - 10 quotes, often attributed to Bill Gates, that you may have seen before. This stuff seems so elementary - but it's also wrongheaded and assbackwards.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nightmare Scenario

I've posted this particular scenario before on a couple of different comment threads, but I want to post it here. I was doing some extra thinking about this today; I woke up today with a sore throat and while I was out for my walk (a short one because I didn't feel good and it's been a miserable day), I was thinking more at length at what would happen if I wound up sick.

I shell out, on average, 139 dollars a month for health insurance. I'm going to be visiting in the near future to see if I can't possibly get a better deal than what I have, but I've got fairly decent health insurance - that I still have to pay for, and there's still a rather substantial deductible - that is, the amount of money you have to pay out-of-pocket before your insurance, that you pay $139.00 or more for a month decides you've paid enough and steps in to cover the rest (usually to the tune of several thousand dollars - more than I've got right now). Even a thousand dollar deductible is enough to destroy me financially right now; if I need emergency surgery for something, I won't be getting it. I'll likely end up dying, even with the new ACA, simply because nothing was done about deductibles. Or I'd owe several thousand dollars, and I'd have that debt piled on the debt that I already have (and if your response to this is "get a better job," go fuck yourself with a cyanide-laced cactus. What the hell do you think I'm doing, you dumb piece of self-centered garbage?)

I know I can't be the only person in this situation. The ACA is a lot of much needed reform, but it didn't nearly go far enough. As a matter of a fact, it falls drastically short of what's required for basic national security.

How is a lack of easy access healthcare a threat to national security? Well, I hope you weren't planning on sleeping tonight...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Antinatalism and The Problem of Happiness

Hey y'all, I ain't dead yet.

It's been a while, and I apologize for the lack of updates. I've had a tumblr going for a little while, and I'm going to port some of the tumblr posts I made back over the blog, but know that I'm back.

So, to mark my return from my unannounced hiatus, I have an announcement:

The Second Blue Pimpernel novel, Liquidity, is in the final stages of drafts. And by final stages, I mean I'm still proof reading; but I've got a print copy, and I don't usually do that unless I'm happy with the plot and I'm ready to move on. I won't put a release date on it, but watch this space for more information.

Now, onto my post.

I encountered a particular "philosophical" position the other day while responding to comments on Libby Anne's blog, Love, Joy, and Feminism. The particular post in question, "Breeders," "Spawn," and the Childfree, was making observations on how hostile some people in the childfree movement are capable of being. No movement is too good not to attract its own special little brand of asshole, and the childfree movement is no exception (yes, even the transhumanist movement has its own special breeds of asshole; misogynistic, racist, bigoted, and frankly, flat-fucking stupid, Silicon Valley Brogrammers who are chasing the Singularity while preaching their other religion, Libertarianism). I've seen some pretty nasty people in the chidlfree movement before, but that doesn't change my opinion that it's your choice whether or not to have a child. If you want one, good for you. If you don't, good for you. Life about knowing yourself and knowing what you want; allowing people who want to have children is what procreation is truly about; what we have now can be called accidental creation.

But that's not the overall point. I agree with everything she said.

It was a particular philosophy I ran into in the comments, however, that I severely disagree with.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

20 Questions

From, a challenge: 20 questions that liberals can't answer. What they actually mean is "20 questions liberals can answer but I'm going to plug my ears and not listen, or pick at little things and use that as a red herring to avoid the discussion," thus rendering any "debate" with these people little more productive than masturbation (but nowhere near as enjoyable). Since I have a bit of a masochistic streak and I enjoy beating on the strawmen army they pony up, I figured I would take a little swing at this garbage and see if maybe I can't clear the stink.

So, let's take a look at these 20 questions I'm not supposed to be able to answer.