Jan 252017
 

The primary thing I personally want to say is that there is almost no such thing as malicious evil. All evil is done by people who think they are doing good. Even the Nazi thinks that he is safe-guarding his society from exploitative forces that wish to drain it and abandon the hollowed-out ruin. The fact that doing evil ALWAYS FEELS LIKE DOING GOOD is exactly why we can’t count on arguments of “it’s for the good in this case” special-exceptions. We spent a lot of time and social capital on arriving at “Extra-judicial violence is never acceptable.” The fact that it feels so right and good to break an established rule against violence should give us pause. Twice.

Here’s some other things said on Facebook, which means it’ll disappear in just a few days, and that I wish to preserve for posterity.

 

L: One of the reasons we support liberal civilization is because it keeps us safer than an authoritarian regime would, even one that we thought was “on our side”.

The prohibition against private political violence is the absolute cornerstone of civilization. It is prior to free speech. It is prior to democracy. It is prior to egalitarianism. It is the very first step towards freedom and liberalism. It is the Schelling fence that must be defended above all others.

What’s terrifying isn’t that an idiot nazi blogger got punched. An occupational hazard of being an asshole is that people are more likely to punch you. What’s terrifying is that I’m arguing with people who think they are liberals on Facebook about whether or not to condone it.

I’m upset that so many people claiming to be liberals endorse punching people for the explicit purpose of political intimidation. That’s a big deal. That scares the shit out of me.

Jan 232017
 

I’m a big fan of Malcolm X. In fact, I used to think I supported violence-as-a-solution more than most people, and stayed quiet about those beliefs out of shame. Richard Spencer being punched has proven me wrong.

Race riots were acceptable & necessary because the law was on the side of racial oppression. That was an armed struggle against state-sponsored terrorism. The law supported and protected extra-judicial violence against black people.

The law is not on the side of the Nazis. In fact, the only law that IS on Richard Spencer’s side is the law guaranteeing freedom of speech. If our side is the one resorting to extra-judicial violence because we take issue with a law guaranteeing *freedom of speech*, we might need to take a serious look at ourselves.

Some people I know are saying that the law now IS on the side of the Nazis. I don’t see any evidence of this yet. Simply asserting “Trump loves Nazis” absolutely does not do it for me, because anyone can assert anything. I am, of course, worried that this will become the case. I was horrified when Trump called for a “2nd Amendment” solution to a Clinton win. But just as I would expect any decent person in the Republican party to say “Guys, that’s not OK,” I’m also willing to say that, until we see this happening, we shouldn’t be the first to resort to vigilante violence.

Yes, Spencer is a racist who advocates awful things. He organizes like-minded people and tries to rally them to political action. The Westboro Baptists so the same. So does the KKK. I think there’s better ways of handling this than anonymous beatings in the streets.

Spencer was literally on a public street, answering questions that an interested reporter was putting to him. Are we OK setting a precedent of walking up to two people engaged in a conversation and punching the one we dislike?

Germany has straight-up made Nazi rhetoric illegal. I think they’ve decided on a good tactic. I would be more than willing to at least seriously propose a similar law here in the US. Any system that protects ideologies that calls for its destruction is lacking a certain self-preservation instinct. It would have to be a careful law. But it is, at least, a good idea in the abstract. I would much rather live in a system where the law clearly carves out certain speech as unacceptable and Nazis face legal consequences, rather than having to live in a world of anarchy where I have to hope that I’m not on the wrong side of mob sentiment lest I be beaten and everyone decides to look the other way.

There will always be crazy fuckers with awful ideas. You discredit them, and you rely on the laws to protect us from their violence. The law is what holds them back. It’s when the law fails to do so that things are dangerous (see: the South, up until just a few decades ago). That’s why I become worried when people gleefully cheer at the failure of the law to protect people from violence. If you think beating someone in the street will effectively discredit them and keep public opinion on your side, well, I think that’s a bad way to influence public opinion.

 

Follow-up note: I’ve had one note of disagreement cleared up when it turned out me and a friend view a punch to the face as very different levels of violence. To me, it’s the first step to a beating, and the horrors that come with that. To them, it was merely the outside-level of a slap. I would not be nearly as horrified by a slap, or something symbolic like a thrown shoe. I see a lot more violence in a closed fist.

Jan 182017
 

Oh how I hate the media. Are they TRYING to help Trump?

This article leads with DeVos’s Gun vs Bears comment. (“I will refer back to Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.”) It’s also the highlight line under the picture when you share on Facebook: “She wouldn’t say guns don’t belong in schools–and cited a school’s need to protect itself from “potential grizzlies.” Bears, that is.”

That just means she’s really shitty at social posturing. We all know the correct PR answer is “Guns never belong in schools!” and then to demure and say “of course some exceptions can be made in extreme situations, such as to protect our children from rampaging bears.” The fact that she was honest and led with “Well sometimes guns are necessary” shouldn’t be a strike against her. I prefer honesty over political double-talk.

In fact, this makes me sympathize with her very much, because I hate bullshit. So when the rest of the article goes on to point out how absolutely clueless and incompetent she is, I’m now asking myself “How much of this is true, and how much is it the source doing it’s best to smear her?”

But I guess having a snappy “omg she’s scared of bears and loves guns everywhere cuz of it” line will get more people to click through. At least that must be the media’s expectation. It SURE got me talking about it, and linking it! It’s Moloch, in the flesh. I wish there was some way to discourage/punish this sort of behavior.

Jan 082017
 

I despise what the Republican Congress is doing. These motherfuckers bring out hatred in me. For example – Republicans Confirm Planned Parenthood Will Lose Federal Funding As Soon As Next Month.

I.

Aaaaaaand then a friend of mine states that all Republicans are horrible people, and there are no decent people who are registered (R). I’m horrified that many of my friends are turning into the sort of sweeping-generalizations mob that I used to see from the Right. How is this any different from “All Muslims are horrible?”

II.

I’m told repeatedly that hating someone for taking away your rights and humanity is acceptable. And yeah, I also hate the Republican Establishment. Everyone has every right to feel as pissed off and angry at this bullshit that’s coming down the pike as they want. We’re going to NEED a lot of anger to fight it.

But there are good Republicans, just like there are good [any group you care to name]. The more the message “ALL X ARE EVIL” is repeated, the more it makes it acceptable for people to lash out in violence against anyone who is, or is perceived to be, X. It’s the constant repeating of the rhetoric that creates an environment that leads to violence. We were complaining about the Trump rallies doing this, but we’ve seen it happen many times before. Hundreds of times in history. Have we learned nothing?

There are a lot of people who hate Trump, and want diversity and coexistence, and who identify as Republican. It is immoral to say they’re all evil.

III.

So I’m told I’m an example of the Banality of Evil.  A poster-boy for “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

But that’s kinda the opposite of what’s happening, isn’t it? I’m standing up for my few republican friends precisely because I refuse to sit down and do nothing. It sucks being called evil by my own community, simply because I won’t throw a couple people I know under the bus.

IV.

They ask: What makes a Republican a “good one?” What steps are they taking to protect the weakest among us? Where are all these “good people”? What are they doing?

I provide links to the Republicans Who Have Renounced Trump, and the Log Cabin Republicans, but my reply is that this is the exact same question as “Where are are the Muslims decrying the terrorist violence? Why aren’t they policing their community? Why aren’t they telling us about the attacks the extremists are planning?” Are these fair questions to ask of the Muslim community? If not, do you know why not?

The Republican Party has some vile shit in its platform. The Koran has some vile shit in it as well. If you think the Republican Platform is bad, look at the founding documents of any of the three Abrahamic religions. And yet we all accept that people who claim that these are the most important books in their lives, and that their highest ideal is to live by them, can still be good people. If we can do that for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but we can’t do it for Republicans, why is that?

V.

I’m told plenty of religious people are great: they negotiate with their religion and try to live by it but also seek a separate peace from the nasty stuff that has no business being a part of a modern mindset. People phrase things all sorts of ways, and “Living by” means different things to different people. What would it mean to “live by” the ideals of the Republican Party at this point?

Which is exactly my point. This does mean different things to different people, and for someone from the outside to say “THIS is what it means to “live by” your ideals!” to a different group isn’t any different than someone saying socialists want to starve 50 million people to death. Or pick your choice of slander.

In practice altering an entire ideology is slow and difficult work. In the real world everyone has to worry about procedure, convincing the majority of their constituents, power grabs by people who are more conservative than you are, etc. The Democratic Party’s change on gay marriage, for example, was no quick whim. It took decades of struggle. DADT and DOMA (for non-US readers, these are anti-gay legislation from the 90s) were both signed in by a smiling Clinton. Just a few years before Obama “evolved” on the issue he was speaking about how marriage should be between a man and a woman, while Dick-freaking-Cheney, one of the most evil men in the US, was defending gay rights. I know, right?? The world is a weird place.

So what do people do? They stay with the ideology they were raised with, that of the community around them, that broadly looks more like it represents them than the alternatives, or at least enough to the point that it isn’t worth the loss of your community for switching, and just cherry-pick their beliefs! It’s damned infuriating. But it doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them human.

And by cherry-picking, and standing up for their gay/women/whatever friends, they are making a change. (incidentally, that’s why I’m standing up for my R friends. I want to see our group be less myopic and viscous.) Some of them even join groups that attempt to make direct change! Calling those progressive voices that are trying to bring it back to moderation horrible/despicable people hurts the reform movement.

Both political parties are evolving. Let’s not evolve away from what made us the right side in the first place.

Dec 312016
 

I recently posted a negative review of a book that is, IMHO, bad. The author is well-known, especially for an earlier work that is very well regarded, and a commenter was wondering if they should bump it further back on their “to read” list based on the weakness of this latest work.

My short answer is No.

The longer answer is that for artistic (I) and business (II) reasons, (as well as some fears of my own (III)) it’s very hard to estimate how good one piece of art will be simply based on the fact that it was made by the same creator as a different piece of art.

I.

The artistic reason is because no one really knows what makes something resonate with people at the object level. There are a lot of hints and guidelines (“bleed onto the page”), but there is no way to evaluate a work and say “This will be known as a work of genius” short of releasing it into the wild and watching the results.

This is infuriating to artists (especially to those of us who equate love of our work with self-worth. It sucks to have your value as a human fluctuate based on criteria that are unknowable and spooky and seemingly random!) There is a famous story about Harlan Ellison that really demonstrates this. (I don’t have a cite, so consider it apocryphal until confirmed) He poured his soul into a story. It drew on everything that made him tick, so it’s hard to say how long he spent “writing” it, but in terms of working with ink and paper he spent weeks creating, revising, and polishing it, until it was perfect. It would be his masterwork, and he sent it to his publisher in the knowledge that soon his name would be cemented in SF history. That same night, he jotted off a quick story on a lark, to take a break from the serious writing, and sent that off the next day to a different market. The first story never gained any acclaim, no one remembers it, I don’t even know what it was called. The second story is “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream,” which is one of the best-known and most-reprinted SF short stories in the genre’s history.

And this sort of thing happens all the time. Every single writer in my Top 5 post has put out work that I considered sub-par, and in some cases just plain shitty. Even Vellum, which I can say probably makes up a portion of my soul, was followed-up by a sequel that was…. well, I basically just ignore that it exists. The same director that gave us Blade Runner (one of the best films to grace the screen) also gave us Prometheus (which I can’t bring myself to link).

Artists have an extremely difficult time seeing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to their own work. The fear is that this can result in great things being lost. My current go-to example is “The Fifth Season“, which is fucking amazing, and one of the best things I’ve read in at least two years. OMG it’s so good. The author, NK Jemisin, said in an interview (which I read myself, so True Fact) that she nearly threw out the entire manuscript because it was such a foaming pile of shit in her eyes that she couldn’t face putting her name on it. Her friends convinced her otherwise, and it made my year, and (perhaps more importantly) won the 2016 Best Novel Hugo. For this reason artists are told not to “self-reject.” The tragedy of a Fifth Season being lost is much worse than if a CrossTalk makes it into publication. Artists to encouraged to simply keep putting things out and let the public judge.

 

II.

The business reason is pretty straightforward. Once an artist does produce something truly amazing, they gain a fan base. Before this time, an artist is a financial risk. Editors and publishers look critically at all work from unknowns, and in theory only things of a certain minimum quality get through. There is a check on the worst stuff. Upcoming artists know this as well, and they often put a ton of effort and angst into making their work as good as it can possibly be. The Jinni And The Golem took the author seven years to write, which is a ridiculously long time. But it paid off.

Once a writer is an award-winning, best-selling author, these checks basically disappear. A publisher knows that the author’s next work will sell, period. An editor may still try their best to force improvements and changes, but the editor is employed by the publisher, and the publisher wants the next book without too much hassle, so they can make a profit. They certainly won’t accept a flat rejection from the editor. And the editor is under psychological pressure as well… they’re altering the work of an award-winning, best-selling artist. That likely causes them to overlook things simply because “maybe this is the new zeitgeist the author is tapping into,” or similar. Of course everyone involved wants the book to be GOOD! They have brands and reputations to maintain, and a good work sells better than a poor one. But the knowledge that this isn’t a major financial risk anymore, combined with the fact that no one really knows what’s good or not (as per Section I), means more mediocre stuff will get through.

 

III.

I also have a couple personal fears about causes behind this.

The first fear is that no one has more than one truly genius work inside of them. This is the terror that keeps me up at night. That everything that makes someone who they are can be best expressed in one ground-shaking work. Most people will never make their ground-shaking work. But some of them are lucky enough to make their Neuromancer or their Catcher In The Rye. And everything after that is simply chasing the dragon. It is riding on the glory of that first success. For some people this artistic climax doesn’t come until midway through their career, or maybe at the very end of it. For others it comes right at the start. I don’t know which is worse. If it comes near the start, then you can live off your art for the rest of your life, as your fans continue to buy the rest of your works. On the other hand, you will forever be striving to match that first incredible piece, and you will always fall short, for as long as you live. Oh god. :(

This is basically a “regression to the mean” effect, and one shouldn’t miss out on an artist’s fantastic outlier at their peak simply because later/earlier works have regressed to the mean.

The other fear is that art comes from pain. Once an artist puts out that big hit, they get acceptance, and love, and money, all of which make life suck less. Also they can often use that money to get therapy and become more complete and less-broken humans. Which also means they can’t put out work as good as they did when they were in pain. So, horrifyingly, the choice is between a good life or good art. :( Naturally, most people choose a good life.

 

IV.

So in summary, no, don’t bump something down a list just because other works by the same artist are kinda crappy. There isn’t much relation. You can certainly judge some things based on author… I’ve read a few things by Mira Grant, and despite her popularity, I really hate all of them. I will never read something she’s written again, unless I get a LOT of assurance from sources I really trust that this work is a break from the past, and actually is in-freaking-credible. And likewise, I’ll probably read everything Yudkowsky and Chiang ever put out.

But if you’ve heard a work is genuinely great, like The Doomsday Book is said to be, and it’s well-regarded by the community and/or people you trust, and it’s won awards… well, then it is very likely good, and don’t let future works affect your ordering.

 

Dec 132016
 

This is a tale of two blog posts. The first is a Tumblr post that made me FEEL STUFF, and did so fantastically.

There are a lot of arguments about why the FDA is bad. Scott Alexander has posted about it several times on his site, and he’s far from the only one. A person can read these articles and say “Why yes, this is a travesty! The FDA must be reigned in before it destroys us all!”

And then someone posts something like this (specifically the part by KungFuNurse) and the imagine of a snake-oil salesman killing innocent people with Patent Tonics and then skipping town with their money is simply so emotionally compelling and super-available that it’s hard to not be swayed by it. It requires a real effort to remain committed to what I can see is the case via calculating costs vs. benefits, rather than the image of my poor mom being swindled and killed. :(

So I am eternally grateful when someone comes forward and puts it in no-nonsense SUPER EMOTIVE terms why the FDA is fucking them and ruining their lives. Especially because these regulations are ones that I know happen to people I KNOW PERSONALLY, rather than the snake-oil song-and-dance that touches almost no one. Because I know click-through is awful, here’s the full text from the link:

your regulation is #problematic, statecucks

So, the shitlib FDA apologists etc. just love to peddle the bollocks that regulation protects the vulnerable, the marginalized, the badbrains, the executively dysfunctional, the people every PC cuck loves to pretend to give a shit about while actually cucking us over every single chance they get.

And it’s bullshit. Here’s what the nanny state actually looks like to its victims:

> you have a medication you’re going to be using every single fucking day for the rest of your goddamn life or at least until you get an artifical gland installed to produce it endogenously
> you cannot do the sane thing of simply placing a regular order for it online and having it delivered to your home,
> you need to walk how fucking many* kilometres (or take the goddamn bus) to one of the few pharmacies in town (because the state regulates their numbers) to buy your permitted refill (because it’s either completely illegal to buy more than 3 months supply at a time, or the pharmacies just never sell more because the public medical insurance limits its coverage to 3 months at a time)
> you need to keep renewing the prescription all the fucking time

> you have a very useful medication which requires a special permit
> and of fucking course you need to keep renewing the fucking prescription
> only a few doctors in the entire fucking county even know how to apply for the special permits
> your doctor, naturally, is not one of them
> you need to get the papers the previous doctor wrote about it from the county public healthcare shitstem office something department of fuck you
> you cannot go ask them in meatspace because there is no fucking person who could do it
> you cannot ask them on the phone because “””security implications”””, even if you ask for them to be delivered via mail to the exact home address the motherfuckers have on file so the only way for them to not end up to the only person who should have access to them is for some creep to intercept the mail, after lying in wait for something like a couple of weeks because they can’t be expected to deliver shit on time, so basically zero chance, but nonetheless ~*~in theory~*~ it might not work that way so fuck you
> you need to write a fucking letter to some fucking bureaucrats to pretty please ask them to give you your medical files uwu
> there is no ready-made template because fuck you
> you’ve been trying to do it for six months but unable to get it done because you have no fucking idea how to write a fucking information request for some fucking intentionally obtuse statecuck bureaucracy

> drug A basically cures your ADHD-related anxiety
> of course it has no sales permit so you cannot get it even though it has been used elsewhere for decades and has no demonstrated risks or addictive potential
> because fuck you

> drugs B and C seem promising for treating your ADHD-related anxiety and they have no abuse potential either
> they even have sales permits
> but not for ADHD-related anxiety so the doctor will not prescribe it because fuck you

> what you can get is legendary-sized massive overprescriptions of Valium and other benzodiazepines with a respectable street price because those are approved for sale
> because the State wants to protect people from potentially addictive and/or risky drugs, duh
> because fuck you

To every goddamn socdem shitlib FDA apologist statecuck:

#problematic, #problematic, #problematic!

NONE OF YOU ARE FREE FROM #PROBLEMATIC

(as an aside, I guess “cuck” is now basically a synomyn for “fuck?” That happened fast…)

I will keep this forever, because it drives home the frustration and real harm that is actually caused. I love this post!

OTOH, this isn’t really something that you can use to change minds. Is it? It’s not like it’s something that anyone would propose a counter-argument to, because it just plain isn’t amenable to that sort of engagement. And if something can’t be counter-argued, it shouldn’t be allowed to be an argument either. So this is purely to align emotional-motivation with intellectual-motivation. I’m already on record as saying this is a wonderful thing, so props for that! But it’s basically for the choir, right?

And then the OP went and translated the whole thing into Respectable-Speak, which can be counter-argued if one wanted to:

The Violence Inherent in the System of Rationing Access to Drugs

In popular imagination, especially in left-leaning memeplexes, it’s common to think of barriers like FDA approvals and prescription requirements as helping people by protecting them from being harmed by the medication they use. However, I would like to argue that this has great harms to many vulnerable populations, especially (but not limited to) people with insufficient material resources, executive functioning issues, many kinds of disabilities, etc.

One common failure mode is where people will be on a steady dose of the same drug for the rest of their foreseeable life. In that case it would definitely seem reasonable that people would be able to keep using that drug without any unnecessary hassles, as the typical objections of “can we know it works for them”, “do they know how to use it” etc. are utterly moot.

This is not usually the case. The exact details vary (it’s definitely different in the US than in Finland), but around here prescription-only drugs will require constant renewals and refills under “professional supervision”. I cannot simply go to the website of a pharmacy and order my estradiol like it’s vitamins from Amazon; I have to waste the time of us both by getting the purchase rubber-stamped by a real person, either physically in the pharmacy, on the phone, or in an online chat service.

While this may seem relatively convenient (and admittedly it has been made as easy as the rules allow), it doesn’t change the fact that one cannot observe any solid reason for such barriers to access, and it doesn’t take much to render that convenience substantially less consequential if one has eg. movement difficulties, social phobia, or any of the other weird brain things reality in its persistent insistence to be inconvenient tends to heap upon the unfortunate and underprivileged.

When ones needs move outside the ordinary, things get even worse. I’m a modafinil user lucky enough to have an actual prescription for it, or more accurately, I would be if I was able to deal with the bureaucracy around the special permits required. My current doctor doesn’t know how to apply for the special permit, so I need to get the permit application the previous doctor wrote.

I cannot get the documents by showing up physically at desk whatever of building N of the county healthcare department of something.

I cannot request the documents via phone because of alleged patient confidentiality issues; not even with the limitation that I would request them to the address the healthcare department has in their patient records, which would effectively eliminate any potential privacy issues as the mail could not be redirected without physically intercepting it, and any adversary capable of consistently intercepting my mail already has full access to my confidential info anyway. Common sense and realistic threat analysis don’t matter to bureaucracy.

There obviously is no convenient web interface where I could use my online banking credentials to order them mailed to me, let alone view them right there (Finland has a system where people can use their bank logins as official ID for many government functions; this has exactly the uncomfortable implications around privacy and government-corporate collusion one would expect, yet it fails at actually solving some of the problems it would naively seem inherently suitable for).

The only available way to request those documents is to write a physical paper letter to the county healthcare archive whatever offices. There naturally is no ready-made template for it, so I would have to whip up an Official Request in the language I’m less comfortable doing written communication in (long story) which happens to be even worse than phoning strangers without explicit invitation. Unsurprisingly I’m now over six months without modafinil because of this.

The harms created by regulating access to medication obviously get even worse when one moves outside the category of drugs that have actually managed to gain official approval for treating your issues; a distinction which uncomfortably often tends to be outright orthogonal to whether they do work for treating your issues.

Semax is an OTC drug in Russia, and has been in use there for decades. It also effectively cures my ADHD-related anxiety. It is not even manufactured and sold in the West except for some obscure companies which produce/procure it for not human consumption, and I have personal communications from the customs office that importing it would be considered a repeat offense. The fact that it has no demonstrated abuse potential nor has there been any evidence of significant harmful side effects doesn’t matter, as the law treats anything which could be used for treating illnesses, ailments etc. a regulated drug, unless it has been exempted as homeopathic or certain categories of herbal.

(It shouldn’t take much astuteness from the reader to notice that the law, while judging intent and purpose instead of eg. risks or abuse potential, specifically carves out an exception for homeopathy. This obviously undermines the common argument that regulations are keeping homeopaths and other quacks in check; in this case the regulation explicitly favors the homeopaths.)

Clonidine and guanfacine are approved as blood-pressure medications in Finland, and in the US they also have approval for treating ADHD-related issues. I haven’t tested them so I can’t conclusively say that they would help significantly (unlike semax which definitely does), but the fact that they are approved for sale doesn’t help as they are not approved for this particular purpose in this particular country. Despite once again lacking in addictiveness, abuse potential etc.

The US famously not approving thalidomide is often quoted by proponents of the notoriously strict FDA regulations (note how in this case the situation in Finland is even worse than under the yoke of the FDA), but empirical evidence shows that there is no meaningful difference between rich western countries in how often drugs get recalled for safety reasons: the number is consistently around 3-4%. This implies that a very unambitious and safe reform would be to categorically permit the use of any drug for any purpose (even if not officially approve) as long as it’s approved in one such country.

Now one would expect that at least such a strict system would do a reasonable job of protecting me from harm and addiction risk.

However, such reasonableness is nowhere to be found. In the past I have been prescribed the notoriously harmful atypical antipsychotic quetiapine for mere sleep issues, as that combination is approved. Currently my anxiety issues are kept in check by intermittent benzodiazepines (diazepam aka. Valium, and oxazepam) which not only do have substantial abuse potential as evident from their respectable street price, but they also are the substance I know I would get addicted to if I ever do (or specifically, the combination of benzodiazepines with stimulants; in perfectly prescription-conforming dosages even), and the prescriptions are (due to a quirk of the system how refill sizes are calculated; my “worst case dose” is multiplied under the assumption that I would take such amounts every day) sufficiently large to make not getting addicted a matter of individual choice as the rationing of amounts is incapable of having such an effect.

TL;DR: local bureaucracy valiantly protects trans person from harmless but unusual treatments, prescribes drugs that can cause severe long-term brain damage or actual abuse and addiction instead.

Now, while this is far more respectable, and something that’s more likely to get linked on my Facebook, it has no emotional resonance. I basically fell asleep reading it. It honestly felt like a long, exaggerated excuse that some FDA-hater came up with to propose all the most outlandish worst-case-scenario things that never actually happen to anyone. And even if by some coincidence they DID happen to someone, the otherside is grandma being killed by Dr Terminus, so I’m just gonna step back and figure the government’s got this one handled, K?

And so I’m greatly torn between things that have emotional relevance, and things that put forth reasoned arguments. I guess this is why we need both. We determine what is the best course by using dispassionate, reasoned thinking. Then we find a way to motivate ourselves to actually care by seeking out the emotive pleas that drive it.

I’d like to end this post by dropping IMMENSE gratitude on Scott Alexander, and Eliezer Yudkowsky. These are two writers who have consistently (and for long periods of time over many subjects) done the nearly-impossible. They’ve put forth reasoned arguments that have all the substance and grounding of the sober 2nd post, and infused them with much of the emotive persuasion and visceral appeal of the 1st post. They literally explained important and sobering things to me with tons of support, while making me care on a personal level, and being entertaining to boot. It’s an incredibly rare skill, and I am deeply grateful there are humans who can pull it off, and are willing to use their powers for Good.

<3

Dec 032016
 

sports-braDenver Comic Con has greatly disappointed me recently. A while ago they released cosplay guidelines saying “realistic” weapons wouldn’t be allowed. I grumbled, but I guess that those can be frightening to some people? So I didn’t really complain, even though they said “A Star Wars Blaster might be OK.” I’m sorry, might?? Those things look NOTHING like a real gun, what the hell is this might crap?

Anyway, first they came for the weapons props, and then…

“Regardless of your gender identification, we require all attendees, exhibitors and guests to:
Wear sports bra-like coverage on top with leotard-type coverage on bottom. (i.e. no butt cheeks)
No thongs and no “plumber’s butt”
No bare chests, no singlets, and no Vampirella-type costumes”

aladdin-jasmine-carpet2Which is ridiculous. That’s a sports bra up there. It makes an insane number of costumes ineligible. For example, both Jasmine and Aladdin would be banned, despite being from movies aimed specifically at children. I have a friend with a Wonder Woman costume, which is more modest than the true Wonder Woman costume, because she wears it for children’s charity events. She is irritated that the costume she wears for sick children is inadmissible to Denver Comic Con now.

Obviously a ton of guy cosplay is out now too (Hulk, Goliath, etc)

This doesn’t really impact the Literary Track at all, except for the embarrassment that may come from being associated with the slut-shaming Comic Con. Ewww.

And of course for the fact that a fair portion of my cosplay friends just aren’t going to bother with DCC this year. As the cosplay community is slowly choked off, I expect general attendance to fall as well. Cosplay is a fair bit of the draw of a comic con. Less attendance overall will also mean less people coming to see the Lit Track stuff.

maryjaneBut I’m very curious to see how exactly Denver Comic Con will remain a COMIC con now. Has anyone in DCC management ever read a comic book? 90% of them would be inadmissible at the con now. I didn’t need Playboys as a kid, because I had X-men, which gifted me with superstimulus versions of female sexuality that real-life biology simply can’t compete with (to the left, Mary Jane as drawn vs real-life person Stacey Rebecca. To the right, the infamous Starfire, who is exceptional among women superheroes only in that she has about 30-60% less costume)teen-titans-starfire-dc-comics

Is DCC going to ban all sexualized depictions of comic book characters at the con? How will they draw any comic book fans, without comic books?

For that matter, are they planning on enforcing similar guidelines with the vendors and artists in their exhibitor’s hall? Many comic vendors will be upset to hear they can’t sell 90% of their stock at the con. Many artists will feel the same way. Below is a piece of original art I picked up at the last DCC, because I think it’s important to support the local art community. The yellow box I’ve photo-shopped over the pic is roughly the same size as the post-it note that was on the display piece that was hanging in the artist’s booth (without it, the pic is NSFW). This was one of a about a half-dozen similarly risqué works with post-it notes, and a dozen less titillating but still rather sexual and not at all sports-bra-complying works.

img-censoredWill these artists and vendors be turned away from the con? Or will this be a case of “the rules don’t apply to people paying for floor space”?

Either way, I hope something changes soon, or Denver Comic Con may turn into Denver Focus On The Family Con. :(

Nov 302016
 

Vandals_Migration_itLately I’ve been going to a local goth club a few nights each month, to make up for a youth misspent on studying and homework. I’ve been loving the hell out of it.

A few days ago, waiting at the bar, I noticed the guy in front of me ordered a Bud Light (!). He was wearing a baseball cap (!!) backwards (!!?!). He wore clothing with bright colors (!??!?!&$@!??) and a SPORTS TEAM LOGO! (?#%#U!!!omgwtfbbq1@??^!;:!?!)

He was a Bro. There were a small handful of them, and a couple girls as well. They did not Fit. Their visual aesthetic clashed awfully, and they had no idea how to act or dance. But Goths are a fairly chill crowd, so we all just gave them their space and wondered when they’d leave.

But they stuck around for quite a while. And, slowly, they began to acclimate. They tried to imitate the dance style in their own Bro-ish way, and really threw themselves into the music. It was actually very adorable to watch. They were honestly trying. And they attracted a small group that found this endearing. By the end of the night maybe they were still Outsiders, but they weren’t Strangers anymore. :)

It was heartwarming to watch. It was a microcosm of the entire American experience. The melting pot of our great country, accepting the new comers and helping them; and the new comers just wanting to make good in their own way. It’s the classic immigrant’s story. I was happy to be an American, and a Goth.

Of course on the drive home I shuddered to think what would happen if it wasn’t a handful of Bros. The Goth scene is small. It wouldn’t take much effort for the Denver Bro scene to overwhelm the place, and outnumber the regulars. What if instead suddenly the club was swamped with crew-cut, bright-shirted Chads?

I would throw my support behind a Bro-der Wall pretty damn quick.

Nov 092016
 

e9a7_hermiones_time_turner_closeupI see a lot of people saying “I feel sick that I didn’t do more in the past months to stop this.”

I don’t think there’s anything in the realm of physical possibility that could have been done over the past months that would alter Trump’s chances from 50% likelihood of winning yesterday. Not one thing, regardless of depth of effort.

The time to start would have been 2008, at the start of the financial crash – at the latest. Possibly even years earlier. The economic and social disenfranchisement of a large sub-population that led to yesterday has deep roots, and we did nothing to divert it. Not until it was far, far too late.

If you want to change the deep past, you have to get started early. Today I’m looking at disasters that could come 20+ years down the line, that will be absolutely unavertable when they arrive, but that maybe we can still do something to prevent *today*. I’m going to up my donations to certain forward-looking causes very soon.

 

(As always, fiction is the best way to convey an emotion. I feel exactly like chapters 10 & 11 of HPMoR. To wit:
“You couldn’t change history. But you could get it right to start with. Do something differently the first time around.”)

Sep 232016
 

gaslight_1944_trailer3I.

Recently a friend complained that we’ve exited the brief window in history where “gaslighting” was a word that meant something distinct. To gaslight someone (as a verb) used to mean to drive them to insanity by sabotaging their reality-testing. The eponymous example is a husband who alters the gas flow to the lights in his house without his wife’s knowledge, and when she complains about the house being dimmer, says that everything is exactly the same brightness it always was, and there must be something wrong with her. It is literally a destruction of the tools we use to comprehend the world around us, and our interpretation of it.

Nowadays it’s overused to the point that it’s come to mean no more than “being lied to by the person you’re in a romantic relationship with.” Basically just a slight narrowing of “being lied to”, which makes it a vacuous term. Maybe we can reclaim it in time, like we did with “literally.”

II.
Humans, through a combination of instinct and training, develop a moral sense. I don’t mean that we can sense any actual “morality” that exists as an objective thing, like we can sense photons or air vibrations. But we can certainly sense to a fair degree when something is commendable or reprehensible in the moral system we’ve been taught. Edge cases can be fun to think about to explore borders, but we know theft is wrong.

This poses a major problem to most religions. I was raised in a religion that believes in the omnipotent & omniscient christain god, who is Good. I was also raised to be a good person by modern standards. And the mindfuck that creates is hard to describe. You know what constitutes a good person. You know what a good person with limitless resources would do. And then you look at the world around you.

It is impossible that a Good, Sane god would do NOTHING about the state of the world. It is morally abhorrent to even consider that. And yet every day you are bombarded with evidence that He (in my case it was a “he”) is doing nothing. Either can’t or won’t do anything. And every day I’m reminded of how good god is, and how much he loves everyone, and that we should always strive to be like him, the perfect example of true goodness.

I know what goodness is! YOU taught me! All my moral-sense information says God is not good. He’s probably evil! Negligent at the least. Yet I keep being told that He is, in fact, good. Ultimately good. My senses must be lying to me. Or my brain is screwed up in some way that I’m misinterpreting things. My senses cannot be trusted, the world must not be real in the way I perceive it. It’s unfortunate I’m crippled/crazy in this way.

III.
Gaslighting can be difficult, because to gaslight someone you can’t let them interact with anyone who would honestly corroborate their sense information. Asch’s Conformity Experiment is a model case for gaslighting. Eight different people (one of them an authority figure) are all earnestly saying your sense information is deeply flawed in a consistent way, and you can’t ask the opinions of people outside the room. To successfully gaslight someone long-term, you have to either keep them isolated, or recruit everyone they may run into, so they participate in the sabotage.

And wouldn’t you know it – those motherfuckers got away with it, for centuries. They convinced EVERYONE to buy into their authority and repeat their distortions. No matter who you asked, you would always get the same answer – your senses are broken, or you’re crazy. God really is good, despite what your moral sense and your own lying eyes are telling you.

Maybe this didn’t used to be the case. Maybe when morality was a primitive affair, and only extended to your tribe, this was less of a problem. Maybe when you didn’t have 24/7 news from around the globe, and history books full of atrocities, it was harder to notice how fucked up the world is. But holding to that line in the face of modern morality is insanity-inducing.

I think that’s one of the reasons that newly-deconverted atheists are often angry. It’s infuriating when you realize how much your entire social world has been trying to cripple you. Has been *successfully* crippling you. And you need to shout it, because you know that gaslighting falls apart when people are willing to stand up and report their true sense-data. It’s why religions used to murder anyone who didn’t play along. If a few people are willing to say “Look, I don’t know what you’re seeing, but to me Line B is clearly NOT the right match” it breaks the spell. If your friend comes into the house and confirms “Yes, you’re right, the lights really are dimmer, I see it too!” you have evidence that you aren’t defective. It’s someone else trying to make you think you’re crazy. Now that you’re free, you want others like you to know they are not alone, and they aren’t crazy.

Thank god for the internet. It’s the main reason atheists can be fairly chill now. Finally everyone has easy access to the knowledge that lots of other people see the lights dimming too. It no longer has to be yelled just to be noticed among all the confederates pointing to the wrong line.

I still have some reality-testing issues to this day. Mostly they’re under control, and I doubt they’re all do entirely to this reason. But shit, the religion thing certainly didn’t help.