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.

 

Sep 082016
 

Today is the 50th Anniversary of the premier of the first episode of Star Trek. When I was a wee atheist, sometimes people would ask me “Without religion, how will you teach your children morals?” My answer was (and still is) Star Trek. This show (particularly TNG, I didn’t watch much TOS) demonstrates everything that is noble about humanity, and acts as an incredible guide to living as a good person. Far, FAR more than that book of atrocities. And it has much better narratives, characters, and poetry along the way. (I’m sorry Songs of Solomon, but comparing a women’s breasts to fortress towers just doesn’t do it for me).

There is nothing in those 2000+ year old myths that isn’t fantastically outclassed by our modern myths. I don’t blame those people for the time they lived in, we’ve come far. But I would never use it as a guide for morality when we have such better sources nowadays. May the Trek ethos live long and prosper.

 

Sep 062016
 

[epistemic status: wild confabulations only loosely based on reality.]

Norm-MacDonald-Weekend-Update-SNLI have a story I like to believe about Norm MacDonald.

His time on Saturday Night Live is probably most remembered for the Celebrity Jeopardy series he created, but I remember him for his constant bombing while hosting Weekend Update (the SNL faux-news segment). Norm MacDonald had a flat affect, and dead-pan delivery. This works for delivering outrageous lines that would make a normal person sputter. It was great for absurd skits, but really failed when interfacing with banal reality, because Norm found reality outrageous. Shocking, even.

Whenever Norm covered a news story that involved sending someone to prison, he always made a joke about prison rape. The “punchline” tended to be a sentence along the lines of “so he can spend the next 20 years being anally raped.” It always ended with the flat punch of the two words “anal rape.” It was not funny.

When asked about this in an interview, he said that he hates the coyness of comedians who make jokes about prison rape, who wink and use terms like  “meeting his new boyfriend, Bubba.” The audience all laughs, because it’s wrapped in silly language that lets us indulge our thirst for extralegal vengeance in a lighthearted manner. He firmly believed we should just call it what it is, and not be such damn hypocrites about it. So he went straight for the heart of the matter, and called it rape.

Why shouldn’t people laugh? It was standard shock-jock humor. Take something shocking about our human nature, which we all know is true but dance around, and hold it up to the light. Biological processes. Sex. Prejudice. Laugh at it. Take away its taboo nature by getting us to guffaw at our own crudity. Why not our practice of tacitly using anal rape as a punishment for a wide variety of crimes?

In one way, it failed. People didn’t laugh. But I think Norm himself found that hilarious. What does it say about us, that we’re willing to laugh at a cloaked joke of “taking it up the tailpipe”, but can’t laugh at “anal rape?” They’re the same thing, one of them is just honest. And soon the joke wasn’t FOR us anymore, it was ABOUT us. We were the joke. Everytime Norm told it, he watched to see what hypocrites these humans be, laughing only when it didn’t make us look too bad. He laughed at us, silently, and he laughed that we could stand this world, and all the evils and absurdities within it. He laughed that he himself was still here, and laughing, because it was the only defense left. It was laugh or break, and he chose to laugh.

Jul 282016
 

It’s time for another round of Liberal America’s favorite game:

Is It Racist?

I just learned of The Great Wall. It’s a Chinese movie, with a Chinese director, a largely Chinese cast, set in ancient China. It’s the most expensive Chinese movie of all time (to date). But the script was written by American screen writers, and perhaps most important – this movie about the building of the Great Wall of China stars Matt Damon. (all info taken from the linked article)

I’m sure y’all remember the Scarlet-Johanson-as-Major-Kusanagi kerfuffle. It was interesting that as much as this was a big deal in the US, people in Japan didn’t understand why it was controversial. Now we have a Chinese movie, casting a white guy in its lead role.

If this was an American movie, with an American director, etc, there would be outcry about this whitewashing/appropriation. Perhaps with good reason? Regardless, I’m pretty sure we won’t be hearing anything like that regarding The Great Wall, since it’s a Chinese movie, and it’s not acceptable to call a non-white group Racist for making a movie the way they want to make it instead of the way we would like it to be made. The closest I’ve seen so far is the weak-sauce admission that it’s “an unfortunate look” at io9.

I plan on asking people “Is It Racist?” about The Great Wall a lot. Maybe it can move the conversation on cultural exchange/appropriation onto more sane grounds.

For what it’s worth, whenever I get questions like this, I always try to identify who is harmed. I’m not sure I know enough about the situation yet to have strong opinions on that.

EDIT: Well, I was crazy wrong about that, it only took a few hours for the calling-out to begin. Perhaps I should have expected that, based on having seen black rappers called racist when creating ganster-rap. I’m updating in the direction of “it’s become OK to call anyone racist.”

Jul 272016
 

This graphic is both interesting and saddening. Take a look at the webpage on the left side first, then look over to the right for breakdown.

page viewing

It’s interesting that Baby Boomers (or at least those in the study) have not yet adapted their internet-looking behavior to disregard common places for ads. This brings up the question of whether this is because it becomes harder to adapt as one ages (which would be sad and scary), or because older people simply don’t spend as much time reading online, and therefore haven’t had enough stimuli to form the avoidance behavior yet.

It’s sad because it points out another cost of advertising that I hadn’t consciously thought of before – reduced screen real-estate. Despite my screens continuing to get larger over time, the screen-space keep feeling smaller! This is likely one reason why – I never look to the side-bars anymore.

Which can be really annoying sometimes. On more than one occasion on reddit I was told the answer to my question was “in the sidebar”. And I was like “WTF? What sidebar? I looked all over the… ooooooohhh… right, THAT thing!” The sidebar had disappeared from my attention so thoroughly that I forgot it was a place I could look to if I was looking for information on-screen.

This is a damned tragedy. If I could pay $10-$15/month to a micro-transaction service that split that among all the websites I visited, and get that screen real-estate back, I’d gladly do so. Unfortunately the only way to make that work is if everyone else online also does so, and that’s a coordination problem we can’t tackle (yet?). /sigh. You win this round, Moloch!

Jun 072016
 


John Oliver buys $15M of very old debt for $60K, forgives it, and touts that as the world’s largest televised give-away, nearly double the famous “Everyone Gets A Car!” moment from Opera.

I’m not an economist, so maybe I’m missing something… but isn’t this bullshit?

He gave away $60K. Regardless of what number was in their spreadsheet, the debt was worth $60K. The sleazeballs would never have gotten $15M. They fully expected to get less than $60K, which was why they sold it for that much in the first place.

Notably – that $60K of cash went to the debt-buyers rather than any of the debtors. What did he give-away to the debtors? Well, one can argue he gave them relief — a reduction in suffering. I really doubt it was $15M worth, though. That debt was past the point of viable collection. John Oliver reduced the volume of harassing phone calls that some people receive. Maybe helped to improve their credit score a little? I’m not sure about that second one though.

(Although I will admit, those harassing phone calls can be extremely nasty! I would love for the government to organize a task force with the sole mission of prosecuting assholes who basically are running a harassment racket)

OK, the ep was funny, as John Oliver always is. But we already knew some debt collectors are the sleaziest jerks ever, and $60K isn’t that big of a give-away. And yet, multiple news (“news”?) sources are spinning this as a massive give-away.

Mother Jones – John Oliver Gave Away $15 Million
Time – John Oliver Gave Away $14 Million
Slate – John Oliver Just Gave Away Nearly $15 Million

At best, this could have been called “John Oliver gives away $60K of debt relief.” Not $15M.

II.

Why do I care how this is spun? “It’s just a joke”, etc.

As I said above, I consider the claim that this was a giveaway of $15M to be flat out inaccurate. By orders of magnitude. For those on the other side of the political spectrum, who are uncharitable, it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to say this is basically a lie.

And I don’t like to see my own side lying. It gives ammo to the other side. Now they don’t have to take his arguments seriously, because he’s a liar who’s doing it for the publicity. And everything else he said can now be dismissed out of hand, “cuz that guy is full of shit anyway, didn’t you see him claiming he gave away $15M?”

It weakens our argument when a major spokesperson for our side presents the case against our fucked-up debt laws, and packages that case with a giant, easily-dismissed stunt/joke/lie. It immunizes those who aren’t already convinced against all the GOOD arguments when they are bundled together with something like this.

Do not give your own side a free pass just because it’s your side. Demand intellectual honesty at all times!