Oct 122021
 

The economy is going through massive convulsions right now, as employers say they can’t find enough employees. Supply chains are disrupted and goods aren’t being delivered as the world runs out of dock works and truck drivers. Wait times for common goods and services are climbing quickly as not enough providers can be found. Wages are rising, and employees are demanding (and getting) concessions that would ‘ve been dismissed out of hand two years ago.

Much hay is made of how expanded govt unemployment assistance prevented people from seeking work, and how eviction moritoriums did the same. And yet, when the unemployment assistance went away, and the eviction moritorium was lifted, there was no increase in people seeking work, nor in eviction filings!

One of the things that puzzled me for many years is how the hell is it that we are so rich, while being so very poor. Even impoverished Americans (US Poverty line is $12,760/year for a single person) are well off by global standards (Global average is $10,300/year in 2018 per World Bank). People live on less than $20/day in many countries, but we can’t seem to make that happen, with our better tech and infrastructure?

The comparison is even more stark if we look at historical income. Most people lived as little more than subsistence farmers for most of humanity’s existence. The average American has a significantly better lifestyle than almost any Emperor or King that lived in pre-industrial times, in terms of both health and material comforts. And yet, they are struggling to get by, and certainly don’t feel “rich.” How is this happening?

Quite a bit of it is cost disease and additional expenses, sure. In many places in America it’s illegal to be poor, and excessive regulations and licensing make everything far more expensive. But a lot of this feeling of poverty is self-imposed. People’s expenses rise to match their incomes at all levels of life, and they don’t even realize it. Until something happens that forces them to drastically cut many expenses in a short time frame without reducing their income.

That happened last year, with COVID. Suddenly a lot of people had a large portion of their normal spending removed as the world locked down. Quite a few of those people continued to collect their regular income. Even those who didn’t, saw their savings going longer than anticipated. Over the course of a year of enforced Scrooge-ness, the entire country saw just how little money you really need to live in the US, if you opt out of many of the signalling games that are out there.

I’ve kept my expenses low my entire life. I upgraded my lifestyle a bit, as I moved out of the lowest tier of wage work, but stopped climbing that ladder before I hit the median US cost of living. I have a workhorse car that I keep maintained and won’t replace until it stops running. I live in a two-bedroom townhome that I share with a roommate. I don’t have children. I’ve made roughly the US median income my whole life, with a few rich years where I was making aprox 15% over the median. A few months ago, at 41, I retired*. I may have to work for The Man again some day, if things break unlucky, but not for quite a while.

A large percentage of the US work force was pushed into a similarly restricted lifestyle for a year, and they now realize that, actually, they are pretty damn rich. They don’t need to work nearly as much as they thought. A lot of them are opting to just not work anymore, or at least delay going back to work for a significant time as they live on savings/investments and hold out for less shitty work.

I think one of the lasting legacies of COVID will be the society-wide realization that actually, we’re pretty darn rich, and anyone who is willing to be content with a simpler life can translate that frugalness into a lot more time for themselves and their loved ones. They don’t have to work anywhere near as much, or as often, as they had thought.


(*not fully retired, I still do some work managing my investments. But it’s far less, and my hours are my own.)

Sep 202021
 

In Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Harry is confused as to why Lucius would want to harm an innocent girl (Hermione). He’s told that Lucius knows that Dumbledore will expend resources to protect Hermione. Since they are enemies in frequent direct conflict, every bit of effort Dumbledore is forced to expend on anything else is that much less effort he can expend on opposing Lucius. Any time Lucius can impose costs on Dumbledore without any negative externalities for himself, he should do so.

Sometimes these costs are blatant and large, and it’s obvious why they should be fought. The nature of your enemy is apparent to all. See, for example, half the stuff Trump got up to. Frequently, though, the costs are small and their imposition is waved away with “What’s the big deal? Stop being so difficult.” Individually, any such cost may or may not be a big deal. Incentives are strong to minimize how big of a deal it is to your opponents, and maximize how big of a deal it is to you

Regardless of relative severity, all costs are cumulative. Every additional cost adds to the disease burden you have to bear, and makes it harder for you to accomplish anything in life. The more resources you dedicate to meeting all these costs, the less you have available for other things. Therefore imposing additional costs is exactly the sort of thing a dedicated enemy would pursue to cripple you. Some costs are worth paying, the advantages they bring more than offset their demands. But many costs are simply deadweight, destroying value, and sapping your life.

Any arbitrary imposition of additional costs, no matter how minor, could be viewed as enemy action. The more innocuous, the better. Accumulating small costs over time is how empires are felled. Be suspicious of anyone who seeks to impose a cost on you, especially when they claim it’s no big deal.

Common examples of such No-Big-Deal costs.

 

1. Religious Rituals

My personal favorite in this vein was always “Just hold hands with everyone else around the dinner table and sit quietly while we say Grace. What’s the big deal?” A lot of religious rituals fit into the “What’s the big deal?” mold, and before you know it you’re killing people who draw cartoons and mutilating babies. Any individual ritual may be no big deal. The whole point of them is to be no big deal. “Just say the magic words and we’ll accept you. You don’t even have to believe them.” No one cares if the conversion is insincere, because your grandchildren won’t be able to tell the difference, and the Church has always played the long game. In the aggregate, all the little rituals take over a large part of your life, and occupy much of one’s mental energy.

I include civic religion in this list. It may be “no big deal” to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school, but just try NOT doing that. If it’s no big deal to say it, why is it such a big deal if you don’t? Why expend so much energy forcing someone to do something so trivial? Maybe it’s not that trivial after all.

 

2. Closeting

I grew up among people asking why the guys couldn’t just keep their homosexuality private. Why did they have to “flaunt it” in everyone’s face? Is it really that hard to not kiss or hold hands in public? Do what you want at home, but is it that big a deal to just wear normal clothes when you go out, and not talk about your gay lover?

It turns out that constantly watching everything you say for censor-traps, catching them before they happen, and censoring yourself, is actually mentally costly, as well as stressful. This is to say nothing of further societal effects. Forcing someone to run a constant censorship filter slows down their thinking. It makes conversation less fun. It makes people underestimate your actual mental abilities, as they only see them while they’re under extra strain. It tires you out earlier than those around you. It is exactly the sort of cost-sabotage any enemy would delight in imposing.

 

3. Pronoun Requirements

Yes, it’d be better if sex-determined pronouns didn’t exist at all. Given that they do exist, and that language software is strongly embedded in many minds, hijacking it to impose costs can be seen as a hostile act.

Unintuitive pronouns not only require one to memorize and cross-reference a mental database for everyone they know, they also impose all the additional mental costs of conforming to Closeting. There are people who claim this is “no big deal,” but would never have said that of being asked to not “be gay in public” or to follow others’ religious taboos in public. Someone who asks you to live in the closet may actually be a saboteur, hoping to weigh you down with enough Disease Burden to handicap your life.

Sep 162021
 

Disease Burden is a conceptulization of how much value is destroyed by ill health. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind more ever since I lost ~1/3rd of my life. Much of our progress as a species has been attributed to the increased productivity we achieved by unlocking new energy sources, and creating new tech to exploit them. But I can’t help wondering how much is attributable to the reduction of disease burden as well.

I.

Until recently, I don’t know how many people got anything aproximating decent sleep in their lives. You know how hard it is to be fully energetic, and to think sharply and quickly, after a night of shit sleep? How the hell did anyone get really good sleep on straw mattresses, in poorly insulated homes? After a day of labor that leaves you bone-weary without aspirin?

Most people had been scarred by a major childhood disease that permanently diminished them in some way. Other common diseases were endemic. People were often hungry.

With vaccines, antibiotics, modern hygiene, and the vast wealth we create nowadays, most of these problems have been wiped away. I would wager the typical human is at least 30% more productive than their premodern counterparts, if not significantly more. As a baseline multiplier, that effect can’t be understated. No matter how much productivity a person gains with using modern tools, having the ability to use them 30% more per day just stacks with that.

Somewhat worrisome is that as the old disease burdens were cleared away, new ones have sprung up. The obesity epidemic must have some effect. Major depression is listed as the #2 disease burden at the wilipedia link above. HIV is a relatively new endemic disease. And of course, there’s COVID…

What really worries me about COVID is that it looks like eventually everyone will get it, much like the flu. I don’t know how much to believe about Long COVID. But if it exists, and chronic fatigue is one of its effects, we could see total human productivity permanently drop 20% or more. I don’t want to say this is catastrophic, but… if 20% of the work force died, the effects would be disasterous. A work force that’s 20% less productive is in the same ballpark of problem.

II.

Disease Burden isn’t just an individual-human issue. Cost Disease is common in most organizations/civilizations. It can be as simple as corruption and graft acting as deadweight costs. More commonly, regulation and legal codes slowly accumulate cruft until it’s too expensive to do anything new in a society, and only the behemoths already in place can continue to lumber on.

I’ve seen this happen in a professional context. Someone screws up somewhere, makes a minor mistake that is very costly, and a company implements a new rule to protect against that happening again. It’s a small rule, and on its own it doesn’t matter. But these rules accumulate. Procedures get longer and more labor intensive. Two levels of approval are needed for any action, verified and filed in triplicate. Eventually work that could be done in one hour now takes one and a half, and your admin staff has to increase by 50%.

If you’ve ever been on a forum or discord server that just keeps adding more and more rules, until the Welcome doc takes 40 minutes to read through and you’ll never remember it all, you’ve been subject to this process.

One major advantage of capitalism over other economic systems is that old companies that have become ossified with all this immune-response baggage can be replaced by young upstarts that aren’t saddled with all this disease. The old die, crushed beneath thier own burden, and the young take thier place. They then start to accumulate injuries and cruft of their own, because no one ever learns.

III.

Civilizations follow similar patterns on longer time scales. They start young, quick-moving, and nimble. As they grow in age and power, they are beset by parasites, injuries, and edge-cases. Laws and regulations and customs grow around these insults like scar tissue. They protect, but come at a cost. Slightly less efficiency, slightly less flexibility. Eventually you get an empire so enmeshed in beuarocracy that it’s name is still a synonym for absurd complexities.

Empires fall too, and when they do it’s generally a bad time for anyone in the area. But it’s never been a species-wide problem, because the world was large enough that no matter how big an empire it was, and how hard it collapsed, there was a civilization somewhere else carrying the torch of human progress. Now that we have a globally integrated system, I’m not sure how true that will remain. As COVID has shown, every single part of the modern world is incredibly interlinked with every other. It’s possible that a large enough disaster could bring down every civilization that exists. Recovery from this could take many centuries, if it’s possible at all.

In the past, humanity as a whole was protected because the spaces between civilizations were so large, they were insulated from each other to a survivable degree. Our level of tech makes that impossible on one planet. The “New World” isn’t a place that’s months away, that most people will never see. It’s right next door.

Other planets are still substantially out of reach. It is often pointed out by anti-space-colony folks that anyone who wants to colonize Mars should start with Antarctica first, because it’s much closer and less hostile. But in terms of survival-insurance, the remoteness of Mars is exactly what we’re looking for. It’s important to have a place that won’t be effected if our planet dies, specifically because it may be necessary for civilizations to periodically collapse and be replaced by new ones that aren’t strangled by their own scars. Disease burden must occasionally be cleared away or it will smother everything. If the Creative Destruction of death and replacement is the only way to do that, we better make sure that we can survive it.

IV.

Regardless of anything else, be very wary of anyone or anything that wants to implement new rules or procedures in order to solve a percieved problem. Every additional restriction is an increased disease burden. It may be necessary to ward off something very destructive. But make damn sure it is, and keep your eyes out for occasions when you can dissolve prior protections. Disease burden is cumulative, and deadly, and should not be borne lightly.

Sep 102021
 

I.

The Tiananmen Square Massacre is famous in the western world. To the average, non-politically-active Chinese citizen, it’s virtually unknown. It’s not just that it isn’t taught and people who try to inform others of it are arrested. It’s also technically difficult to discover any information about it. There is nothing to find in any library or other source the government can put pressure on. All allowed search engines won’t let you search for it. The Great Firewall of China prevents leakage from the outside world unless users already distrust the government enough to use VPNs or other counter-measures.

What do you see if you search for Tiananmen Square in the US? My top result was the linked Tiananmen Square “Incident” entry. Results will vary based on what Google knows about you, but you’re likely to get something about it. In China, searching for anything related to Tiananmen gets only innocuous results. Related results are censored too–if you search for June 4 1989 you get nothing about the most important historical event of that day, and you never will.

Well, what did you expect from an Authoritarian Communist regime?

II.

Some weeks after the Washington football team announced they would change thier name from the “Redskins” to something not super racist, I wondered if they’d come up with anything yet. I asked my Amazon Echo “Alexa, what’s the name of the Washington football team?” Because I didn’t really want to say it either, if I didn’t need to.

Alexa replied “I’d rather not answer that.”

Which I found very weird. Not “there isn’t one yet” or “I don’t know” or “here’s something I found on Wikipedia.” It was the first time I’d heard that reply. I figured she was programmed not to use that word, but I followed up with some questions to see what she could say.

“Alexa, who won the 1992 Super Bowl?”

“I’d rather not answer that.”  (still weird, but expected)

“Alexa, who owns the Washington football team?”

“I’d rather not answer that.” (what? That should be an easy look up)

“Alexa, is there a football team in Washington?”

“I’d rather not answer that.” (!!)

She had a complete block on anything to do with the Washington football team. I know she’s not a person, but it was a bizarre feeling to find a demi-AI with a literally Memory Hole in her mind that could not be filled despite all her access to the internet.

Since that time, the memory-block has been lifted. The Washington football team still doesn’t have a name.

III.

A few days back I was pointed at this Tweet, a non-white guy commenting on how nuts American politics looks to an outsider.

“Imagine you live in a country in which everyone is one of two things: a Catholic or a Hindu. Isn’t it hard enough to free a man’s mind from the insidious grip of Rome? Must he accept Kali, Krishna & Ganesha at the same time?”

This is how I feel about USA’s left vs right tbh

I was curious, and kept reading the thread. Further down he references Moldbug’s “Ignoble Privilege” concept. I don’t know much about Moldbug, aside from that he’s a founding Neo-Reactionary, and the few times I’ve tried to read him I’ve found him to be a pompous gasbag with such an inability to actually say something rather than talking in circles that I had a hard time seeing what people found so interesting. But this “Ignoble Privilege” thing looked like it had maybe been hammered into an actual position, or definition, or at least coherent enough to talk about. So I googled “ignoble privilege mendacious moldbug”

No Result. Inconceivable! Top result was an article warning me that this Moldbug guy might be a Secret Nazi. I tried Googling a direct quote from the tweet. Same thing.

I went to DuckDuckGo and searched “ignoble privilege mendacious moldbug.” First result was the article in question, in full, publically available for years now.

Google was censoring(??) their search results, Memory Holing information they don’t want the public to have (SEE EDIT BELOW). I still use Google for most of my searches, they simply have a better search engine for most things. And in China, the internet is still usable for practically anything you’d like. The censorship isn’t even a big deal, right? It’s easy to switch to DuckDuckGo, you just type in a different site before you search. In China, you just use an easily accessible free online proxy. And yet, most people don’t know about the Tienanmen Square Massacre. Beware “trivial” inconveniences, they are the dust specks of public knowledge.

[[EDIT – It was pointed out by a commenter that I was wrong about Moldbug’s first name, using “mendacious” rather than “mencius.” When the correct name is used, the relevant link is returned by Google, same as DuckDuckGo’s search (altho still further down, after links about how problematic Moldbug is). This greatly weakens my argument, since it certainly wasn’t being fully suppressed, in the Memory-Hole sense! I’m not convinced this isn’t still partly legitimate though, because A. DuckDuckGo knew what I wanted (are they actually a superior search engine to Google? That’s not usually the case), and B. Google still knew enough to give me articles about Moldbug/Yarvin! Def sus. But it should be noted I made a major error here, and my case is weaker without it.]]

Am I saying Google is as bad as China? Google hasn’t rounded up an ethnic minority in their borders for reeducation/extermination, right? They haven’t massacred hundreds of student activists? I dunno, how would I know if they did? I can’t Google it. They may not have tanks and guns, but in terms of doing what they can to remove information they dislike from existence, yeah, they’re as bad as China.

IV.

Epistemically Hostile Enviroments are ones were you find yourself surrounded by agents intentionally distorting your map of reality, usually to secure an advantage for themselves. When you find yourself in an area where there is a high likelihood that any information you have been presented has been distorted or outright fabricated in order to manipulate you, it is often a very good policy to refuse to update on new information, and stick with what you already believed. In areas of uncertainty where action is required, if you have anyone you can trust that has an opinion, it’s better to go with their opinion, no matter how amatuerish it is.

(side-track: this is the primary reason otherwise rational and intelligent people can become anti-vaxxers. There’s only so many times you can be lied to by the government and media before you begin to actively distrust what they say)

Cannonically, a Memory Hole is a place that “dangerous” information is placed for erradication from all records and, ideally, from public memory. One would expect for an Epistemically Hostile Enviroment (EHE) to contain a lot of Memory Holes. Anywhere that records or data exist that would contradict the narrative you are being sold, if they are damaging or dangerous enough, there will be strong incentives to Memory Hole them. To a first approximation, the more Memory Holes that exist, the more likely you are in an EHE. The more Memory Holes there are the more hostile the enviroment likely is. And presumably, most Memory Holes aren’t easy to find. I stumbled across both the Washington Football Team hole and the Ignoble Privilege hole by accident. How many do I just not know about?

How am I supposed to trust anything at this point?

Aug 202021
 

OnlyFans will no longer host pornography, because major credit cards will no longer do business with adult content providers. This is the handy-work of the anti-sex-work lobby, which is spearheaded by disgusting evangelical theocrats and the liberals who love them. Our elected representative support them, because this will supposedly protect people from being “sex-trafficked.” It’s for the children, doncha know.

Specifically, the children of the rich and powerful, to allow their parents to immiserate an underclass for political advantage.

I.

Previously in my life, I had a very close friend that came from working class roots. She was sexually abused by her father. As soon as she was old enough, she “sex trafficked” herself safely on camgirl sites. This let her pull together a fair chunk of money fast, and she got the fuck out of there and moved to Colorado, where we met.

She picked up “legitimate” work here, but it was shitty and didn’t pay much, and her bosses were absolute assholes. So she took initiative and became an entrepreneur. She became her own boss, and “sex-trafficked” herself. Working her own hours, answering only to herself, and making better money. Her primary source of advertisement was Backpage.

A few years later Backpage was effectively destroyed by the government for “sex trafficking.” Its founders were thrown into jail as sex traffickers. Fortunately, through hard work, side hustles, and some very shrewd investment, by this time my friend had amassed a bit over $100,000. The “sex traffic” industry allowed her to escape from her abusive father, live independently, and save up what was some real money back in those years. Now that industry was being destroyed, forcing her into more dangerous conditions, with far less ability to screen her clients, and far greater costs in finding them. Alternately, she could go to work for someone else, once again having her future taken out of her control and receiving significantly less pay for the same work, and no choice in her clients.

While the people that created the tools she had used to take control of her life rotted in jail, those who threw them in jail and destroyed those tools continued to persecute my friend and those like her. People at the very bottom of the social respectability scale, who could be spit on and ground down to score political popularity. Led by Kamala Harris, they passed FOSTA/SESTA despite being fully aware of the damage it would do. My friend pulled up stakes and moved out of the country (last I heard).

II.

Back when I was a young’un, my parents sat me down and we watched John Stossel’s special arguing that Greed Is Good. I was pretty shocked, because my parents were very liberal, quasi-socialist really, but strongly agreed with much of this.

As I watched, I came to realize that Stossel didn’t mean Greed in the way we’re trained to think of Greed – destructive, money-grubbing, jealous, inhumanly cruel and unconcerned with anyone’s welfare. He was arguing economics 101. People are motivated to make their lives better. They will work for their betterment. In a society, the best way to better yourself is usually to provide things of value to other humans, and thus a community of humans working in their own self-interest will create a better society for everyone. “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.

In the social milieu I was then immersed in, most economic activity had been labelled as “motivated by greed.” This is true in the econ 101 sense of working in one’s self-interest. Since the word “greed” was used, it was easy to conflate it with the traditional notions of Greed. It was very easy to flip that into a narrative that capitalism is destructive, money-grubbing, and inhumanly cruel. A simple trick, easy to execute.

One can fight against this by pointing out the differences between Greed and economic self-interest, and how one is destructive and awful, and the other is why our standard of living is no longer in the “shits in a pot in one corner of the house” phase. This requires quite a bit of time and effort. It is a complex defensive maneuver that is comprehensive, but cannot be easily deployed to deal with something as simple as “Capitalism runs on greed.”

So Stossel created a simple counter – reclaiming the word. Proclaiming that Greed Is Good. With, yes, an hour long special that basically does everything discussed above to back it up. But its a simple slogan. Whenever one is told “Capitalism is greedy” one can just counter “Greed is good.” Greed is the reason you have everything that you do have.

“Sex Trafficking” brings up images of Taken. In its traditional usage, it was supposed to be a polite way to say “Long-Term Kidnapping and Rape.” But no action taken by those in power for the past 20+ years in the name of fighting “Sex Trafficking” addresses Long-Term Kidnapping and Rape at all. Often times it makes the problem worse. What the powerful actually do is take opportunities away from those that most need them. They further grind the most vulnerable under their heels, for their political advantage. They strip young women of the ability to escape from their sexually abusive fathers.

III.

I don’t really blame MasterCard and others that are adopting anti-women policies for what they’re doing. They saw what happened to Backpage. No one wants to be called a child-rapist and thrown into federal prison. If I was threatened with federal prison, I’d probably stop doing business with OnlyFans too.

I have no doubt my friend would have ended up fine eventually. She is intelligent and driven. But being able to “Sex Traffic” herself gave her a rocket boost into a better life. Anti-Sex-Trafficking would have kept her in a bad place longer. And not everyone in bad situations is as intelligent and driven as her, not everyone can crawl out of arbitrarily deep holes; so the government shouldn’t keep making them deeper.

The way that Kamala Harris and others of her ilk use the term “Sex Trafficking” nowadays has nothing to do with the traditional meaning. “Sex Trafficking” now is female-driven entrepreneurship. It’s the disadvantaged and down-trodden making better lives for themselves. It’s creating value and self-sufficiency in the face of opposition. It’s doing well despite the ruling elite spitting in your face.

Long Term Kidnapping and Rape is horrendous. Repulsive. It should be stopped, and those responsible for making it worse (like Kamala Harris and the moral crusaders that give her more power) should face the fucking Wrath of God.

But “Sex Trafficking?” In the actual on-the-ground, female-driven-entrepreneurship and life-reclaiming sense? Sex Trafficking is Good.

Aug 162021
 

So Andrew Cuomo has been forced out of office. One might think this was because his Department of Health issued a directive to nursing homes instructing them to accept coronavirus-positive residents returning from hospitals in late March of 2020, and despite many alarms being raised and people begging for this to be reversed, Cuomo held the line on this requirement for a full month and a half. Resulting in well over 10,000 additional dead. Which he then tried to hide by altering records.

In fact, it’s because he sexually harassed at least 11 women* [EDIT – not true. He was accused of sexually harrasing at least 4 women, without much credibility. Fucking siiiiigh]. He [is accused of] subjecting women to unwanted kisses; groped their breasts or buttocks or otherwise touched them inappropriately; made insinuating remarks about their looks and their sex lives; and created a work environment “rife with fear and intimidation.”

First, I want it to be very clear that sexual harassment is unacceptable, and any politician guilty of such conduct SHOULD be thrown out of office. It’s good that he’s been removed and is disgraced. Fuck these pigs.

But I’m more than a bit distraught that if he hadn’t sexually harassed those women, it looks like he would still be in power, without any serious danger of being removed or held accountable for his gross negligence, incompetence, and evidence tampering. The deaths of over 10,000 people isn’t enough reason for the democratic coallition to risk losing a piece in the political game.

Which is fucking disgusting.

It bothers me immensely that it feels like I should be grateful that he sexually harassed women, so he can be removed from office. It worries me that this is one of a vanishingly small number of offenses that can be used to hold politicians accountable, and Multiple KiloDeaths isn’t on that list. It makes me think that maybe we should make sure all potential politicians have harassed women in the past, or worn black-face, or tweeted something TERF-y, just so there’s SOME WAY to get them out of office if they do end up killing tens of thousands of their own people.

Of course, I then immediately realized that I’d just recreated the villian’s gambit of The Traitor Baru Cormorant (a great novel by Seth Dickinson which you should read if you haven’t yet). And it’s probably a sign that my thinking is being warped if I’m reinventing one of the defining tactics of the freakin’ Cabal of Evil Villians in a novel.

It also creates some truely pervese incentives — anyone wanting to run for office would need to go sexually harass some people. We don’t want to incentivize that. Also, we couldn’t hold women accountable, which would mean either excluding women from politics, or having this same problem again with a new demographic. It all falls apart upon further inspection.

But shit. Maybe we should find a few more things to add to the “this gets you kicked the heck out of office” list that don’t require the electorate getting incredibly “lucky” about their rulers having one particular failure of humanity.

May 292021
 

I have a very soft spot in my heart for stories of people being forced to live lives that don’t matter. The classic case of this being Groundhog Day, and similar stories such as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Much of my life has been spent trying to matter. I think the majority of people in the Modern, Western world have similar hang-ups. I used to think this was due to the fact that we (as a species) had solved the primary challenge the world throws at us, and are now floundering to find a new one. I have recently been convinced that this was a terrible misunderstanding, and instead it’s because most of us have been dramatically traumatized early in adulthood.

Imagine if right now you were told nothing you do for the next five years will matter. You cannot do anything that has any value to the people you care about. You cannot better your own life. You won’t own any property, can’t work, and won’t be allowed to keep your wages if you do work. You can’t significantly harm your life either. You’ll be fed and clothed and housed, and there won’t be legal consequences for almost anything you do. You can’t harm your reputation, because no one will take anything you say seriously. Of course, this also means your opinion has no value to anyone as well. It’s a bit like being in Groundhog Day for 5 years. All you can do is wait.

Personally, I’d get pretty damn depressed. I probably wouldn’t care to do anything. I imagine a lot of people would turn to drugs or alcohol to help burn through the five years as quickly as possible. I’d expect all sorts of psychological damage from this.

This is what we do to every teenager (with a tiny fraction of exceptions) in the USA. It would be bad enough if I was forced to endure this at my current age. When humans are in their early teens, they have a burning biological drive to start their lives, start doing things and distinguishing themselves. At that age, every year is a near-eternity. And you don’t yet have the experience to realize things can/will get better. All you know is you are trapped in an imposed hell of meaninglessness.

I nearly killed myself when I was a teen. Dropping out of college to start doing something that actually mattered was the best decision I’d made in my life up to that point (and still ranks in the Top 5 of all my life decisions). Everyone I know feels lucky to have survived their teen years, even though statistically just about everyone makes it. Our society traumatizes everyone raised within it to a massive degree, and most of us are completely blind to this. We don’t just steal five years of life from every citizen of our nation. We create permanent damage that takes decades to overcome.

The next episode of The Bayesian Conspiracy, #138, will talk about Robert Epstein’s work on this topic. I’ll link it here when it’s done. I’ve dumped my highlights from his book Teen 2.0 here, but honestly, it’s a bit of a mess. Right now I’m just asserting that we’re fucking ourselves up, all of us, and we’re perpetuation this trauma over and over on the next generation in the typical cycle we’ve all come to know and hate. And it needs to stop.

May 162021
 

COVID helped me to lose what trust I had remaining in government institutions. However, my faith in humanity actually grew on net, because of the outstanding success of private individuals and institutions. US Pharma created the COVID vaccine in just two days back in January of 2020! Production takes several months, but by the time it got rolling we were producing tens of millions of vaccines per month, and eventually tens of millions per week. Distribution has gone so well that basically every adult in the US that wants to be vaccinated will be by the end of May.

The US govt got in the way at every step. It wouldn’t allow challenge trials, and demanded unnecessarily long, large, and expensive trials. Pharma pays hundreds of millions per drug to gain FDA approval, when initial creation sometimes takes as little as TWO DAYS. The producers were barred from selling the vaccines at market price, instead forced to sell only directly to the govt.

And now Joe Biden wants to remove the vaccine patent protections.

Now, this won’t really change anything. The patents already aren’t being defended, and the primary production bottleneck is rare inputs, not IP restrictions. The Pharma companies are still making a nice profit. So in that respect, it’s a way for Biden to grab approval points without actually hurting the companies that saved us all.

On the other hand, it’s pure fucking treachary. These are the people and institutions that literally saved us from a world-wide pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in living memory. In response, Biden is advancing the idea that Greedy Big Pharma is behind whatever delays and setbacks have prevented us from already being clear of this, and he’ll save us by revoking their IP protections. The protections that the government granted them in the first place to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars in costs they impose, and many months of delays that killed thousands of people. To take the heroes that brought us out of this and cast them as the villains because your base has a “Kill Capitalists” proganda message is so fucking disgusting to me I have a hard time putting it into words.

Also, it throws into doubt that certainty that future patents will be protected, which will change the calculus of every corporation that has to decide whether its worth spending the millions needed to create these drugs in the first place. It imperils our future salvation, to score a few political points. It’s almost criminally short-sighted. I don’t even know where to go from here, I just had to rant. This is why I don’t vote lizards anymore.

Feb 132021
 

Yesterday I objected to the lies being spread about Gina Carano. I hate lies in general, but I especially hate them when they’re used to tear down people in a guilt-by-association purge.

The problem with Gina Carano isn’t that she’s racist or antitrans, as those are proven lies. They problem is that she’s Red Tribe. Since everyone knows that Red Tribe is super racist and super antitrans, if you can find even a the smallest thing that is kinda cringy you don’t need anything more than that. The vast majority of people I talked to never read any of Carano’s original tweets, they simply read the summary of “anti-trans” or “anti-semitic”, believed it, and spread the narrative with outrage in their voices. Because look at that Red Triber being so typically Red Tribe! We can’t have this sort of bigotry in public society, there must be consequences for this behavior!

The Red Tribe, as it turns out, is not a monolithic group. In fact, it’s more fractured in the wake of Trump’s disasterous presidency than it’s ever been in modern history.

There is absolutley a tight knot of racists and bigots within the Red Tribe.

There are also a lot of people who are Red but are not bigots, and they dislike being lumped in with them.

Their politicians feel they have to court the bigots as well to get enough votes to win elections, and as it turns out, yeah, some of them DO have to court those people to win. It’s a fucking mess over on the Red side right now. Honestly I expect the Republican party will collapse and restructure within this decade, due to this growing divide, which Trump brought into the light. And it’s gonna suck for a lot of them. It’ll probably be better in the end, once the rotten contingent can be excised.

But crucially, this means the rest of us need to acknowledge the part of the Reds that are not Bads, and work with them. Right now what much of the Left seems to want to do is drive those decent Reds back towards the Hate Core. They reject anything short of complete repetanance and baptism within the Blue Way. Since a lot of Good Reds won’t do that, the Blues instead vilify them and drive them back towards the Bigots… and This Is Bad.

(Why is this Bad IMO? It isn’t just a “gosh this sort of thing makes me uncomfortable” problem. The last year has seen riots burning down city centers, and insurection groups declare parts of a city an independant autonomous zone. Just last month we had a failed coup in an attempt to overturn our election, that lead to five deaths.  I think we’re in danger of social collapse and possible civil strife/violence if things continue to escalate.)

This sort of “Driving Good People Into The Dark Recesses” happens even to people who aren’t Red, but simply Aren’t Blue Enough. Fucking Laci Green of all people was outcast. Laci Green! It’s maddness, and I hate what it’s doing to all sides.

It just happened to Gina Carano. Now that Disney fired her, she’s teaming up with freakin’ Ben Shapiro. While I’ll admit Ben Shapiro isn’t the worst person on the right, he’s definitely in the Shitty Person camp, and having Carano pushed towards him has made everything worse. A good Red Person is being driven deeper towards the cruddy recesses, and everyone on the left celebrates? Is this really what you wanted? Has this made the world a better place?

The problem is that any who’s already drowning in the Blue Tide doesn’t see the difference between a Gina and a Ben. I’ve had people ask me how I could defend someone who’s part of a political party that sometimes courts the votes of racists with swastika tattooes. I don’t understand how such a person can consider themselves an enlightened member of the modern world. We were supposed to be the side that looked beyond what group you fell into. We looked beyond skin color, or religion, or lack of education, or accent. We judged people individually for what they themselves did. We do not believe in collective punishment or collective prejudice. We understand that all groups have many people a great nuance within them.

Or we did, at one time. Now all we need to know about someone is that they are proudly Red, and we know that they’re part of a group that includes racists, so they deserve to be outcast. If someone were to point out that some people in the Blue Tribe are violent, unapologetically racist, unapologetically sexist, promote the mass murder of demographic groups, and believe in group punishment, well… those are a small minority. They don’t speak for the Democratic Party. They’re outlier fringe groups. We are a Big Tent that has to represent many people, and we keep the most-radical in check. We are nuanced. But you… you’re a monolithic block. Get fucked.

Sadly, the Democratic Party is far from falling apart, and so unlike the Republican party, I don’t think the knot of horrible Blues will be excised any time soon. If anything, they seem to be gaining power. There’s some people trying to push against that (even little old me, with my miniscule little blog), but we appear to be losing. :/

(And yes, much like what happened to Rowling, I expect that what happened to Carano will push her further and further right, and will end up with her associating with actual bad people, and thus this post won’t age well. That’s a feature of this sort of attack though, not a bug. Good job guys. /s)

Aug 132020
 

I.

You can tell a person’s character by how they treat vulnerable people.

Throughout history there have always been victim populations. People who are targetted for abuse specifically because they are vulnerable and unpopular. A small subpopulation that doesn’t have the ability to defend itself, that is denigrated by the rest of society as unclean or immoral, and that anyone can throw a punch against to make themselves more popular without any fear of retaliation or consequence.

In a noble society, such a group would be protected. In most societies their plight is ignored. In some of the worst societies, what few protections such groups may have had are systematically stripped away to make them more and more vulnerable.

There are people who say “If I was a 1930s German I would have stood up against the Nazis” or “If I was an early American I would have stood up against slavery,” not realizing that the problem isn’t standing up for a group of noble innocents, it’s associating yourself with a group of hated criminals in front of all of your peers and coworkers.

In 2018 Kamala Harris had an opportunity to gain public favor. To do this, she would have to target a group of people already hated by much of America. A group of people who already don’t have any protection of the law in their workplace. A group made up predominantly of women, minorities, and the poor. She would have to make their already precarious lives more dangerous, taking away some of the few tools they have to defend themselves, and turn the police even further against them. And if that wasn’t enough, Harris would be doing this by furthering the slander that this group is mostly child rapists.

She did this knowingly. Many advocacy organizations contacted her to plead on behalf of the hated group, as most of them can’t do so themselves. People I know in my personal life did some of this work, as they were Harris’s constituents at the time. But Kamala Harris saw the popularity to be gained by attacking this group, and judged that to be more important than standing up for a vulnerable, hated subpopulation in her state.

On March 21, 2018, Kamala Harris voted for H.R. 1865, known as Fosta/Sesta, to advance the persecution of sex workers, and to advance her own career at the cost of their misery and their lives.

II.

It sickens me that the two realistic options on the presidential ticket this year have an opportunistic abuser of the vulnerable on one side, and a wanna-be tyrant with contempt for democracy on the other. It makes me want to burn down the entire system. It makes me want to vote for someone who would do his darndest to destroy these corrupt institutions rather than bothering to actually lead the nation or act as an administrator.

This leads me to realize that’s exactly what Trump is. Trump is the brick thrown by the rioter. He is the molotov cocktail of the enraged, the wrench slipped into the works. In 2016, a vote for Trump was specifically a vote to destroy the system. He is the riot vote. The “a city/country on fire and in ruins is better than this” vote. We’ve had four years of a country on fire. It’s bad. I can’t believe these are my options.

But notice that Kamala Harris’s opportunistic abuse of the weak is what launches this brick-throwing. Kamala Harris is the reason Trump was elected in 2016. Too many people would rather see the system burn than see opportunistic evil like her’s take power.

III

Why yes, the funny part IS that a large part of the reason she got Biden’s VP nod was because there have been many violent riots recently, and people are afraid and want a cop to stop the violence. The cycle continues.