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Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: Bay Area, California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 1,019

About Me

Software engineer who thinks a lot about the future. http://paulkienitz.net/future/

Journal Archives

they have such a superficial and vacuous concept of heroism and virtue

...one where the symbolism matters more than the concrete accomplishments.

This is the attitude which caused George H.W. Bush to get more upset and angry over flags being burnt than over live human beings being burnt.

The right wing is so full of doublethink that they can't tell the difference between true virtues such as courage, and mere social signals that might identify someone as belonging to their right wing team.

Ocean plankton.

Marine plankton grows faster than trees, and once it dies a lot of it sinks to the depths, taking carbon with it. Furthermore, it supports fish and helps undo some of the tremendous loss of ocean biomass caused by overfishing. If we're going to decarbonate the atmosphere successfully, we need both trees and plankton.

they love to tar the left with the term "identity politics"

but today's conservative ideology is nothing but identity politics. They don't actually care about values or ideologies -- those are rationalizations or excuses. What they care about is their own kind of people (white, christian, patriarchal) vs other kinds of people.

What I have learned over decades of arguing with mainstream conservatives is that you never know what rationale or value system or philosophy they are going to pull out to justify their position, but you always know whose side they're going to take when someone like them is in conflict with someone not like them.

"Does person X deserve the right to vote" is absolutely the wrong question to ask.

As soon as we start drawing a line and separating those entitled to vote from those not entitled, somebody else is gonna come along and start moving that line.

"We all voted and agreed that you don't get a vote" is not democracy.

what makes Pete B. so popular?

As someone whose impression of Mayor Pete is that he seems decent enough, but not exceptionally impressive or outstanding, I've been a bit puzzled by his terrific popularity. But I may have a theory... I think he's seen as a youth candidate.

We are at a time when economic opportunity is worse for young people than it's ever been in my life, when the young are generally getting screwed, and intergenerational relations are becoming far more adversarial than they used to be (even though people mostly seem to be getting along well enough with their own parents, which was less common a generation ago).

I think this creates an exceptional demand for a candidate who represents the young. Pete Buttigieg is unusually young and fresh-faced, and addressing issues that matter to the young. Also, being gay helps align him with the young, as anti-gay prejudice is mainly found in older generations, and young people know it.

Am I getting warm?

So what's up with Liz's plan to break up Gloogle, Farcebook, and Amazong?

My initial preference in the primaries is for Elizabeth Warren, as she has the most concrete track record at working constructively to limit the power and maximize the accountability of the big financial institutions which are at the core of the increasing stratification and corruption of our public society. But then she comes up with an idea that makes me scratch my head: treat the three biggest internet companies as monopolies and break them up.

With Amazun this might make sense; you could realistically expect separate pieces to compete with each other. But the traditional competitive model just isn't going to apply to Goggle or Facebuck. They offer free services. If you split such a service in two, then whichever of the two offers slightly better service will drive the other out. This especially applies to social media where the number one reason for choosing a particular platform is because it's the one that other people you know have already chosen. There is little value in being the number two social media platform, and I as a user have practically zero choice in which one to use -- my friends and family have already chosen for me, and I can either communicate with them or go off and talk to myself.

So apparently Liz is mainly talking about just divesting them of some of the side companies they have added to their portfolios over the years: Youtub, Instagroan, and so on. That might help reduce the consolidation, but it does nothing about the essential monopoly control that each company will still have in their core area.

But I've also heard someone mention forcing Fazebuck to support integration with other media services, so that if I like service A and you like service B, we can still see each other's shit. That is probably the thing that would help the most, and would allow smaller companies to essentially sell a boutique social media experience that still has the content you're there for. But I remain doubtful that it would actually succeed in creating meaningful competition. Most of the people will probably still end up in the same place.

And for the search monopoly, I don't even see how there's an option like that which on paper might help make it competitive. That lock on the market probably isn't going anywhere until it gets disrupted by artificial intelligence that can understand natural language questions, and even that might just come from the same company.

What do you guys think? Have any of you looked into Liz's plan in greater depth, and do you have any ideas about it?

Pic: I just made a Bezos meme

my partner needs prayer

I may not have much belief in the power of prayer, but she does, and she has never needed it more. We've been going to doctors and emergency rooms for weeks now and it seems like she's no closer to getting any treatment. They're dragging their feet even on obvious diagnostic procedures. She's lost way too much weight and is very scared. If you are a sayer of prayers, please say one for her.

"Everyone is a little bit racist" -- a proposed scale of racism

(an article from my blog)

ďEveryone is a little bit racist.Ē

You may have heard that quote. I am quoting it because I believe itís true. There is no dividing people into two groups, one racist and one not. Itís a spectrum, and what matters is not what feelings or assumptions you start with, but what behavior you end with. Letís look at some sample points on this spectrum ó some levels of racism:

Level 0: innocent. This is where small children start out ó unaware that race is a problem. Maybe itís possible to maintain this into adulthood in circumstances of major social isolation, but I donít think Iíve ever personally seen an example of that.

Level 1: responsible. We are all liable to sometimes forming snap judgments based on first impressions, and race is often a factor that plays into this. But we can compensate for this by taking a moment for a second thought, to double-check our initial thoughtless reaction and make sure weíre being fair-minded. This may not sound very impressive, but for most adults, this is about the best you can expect. People in this category may be ďalliesĒ of minorities, or not.

Level 2: in denial. This is probably where the majority of people fit, on most days. This is where you land if you react to prejudicial snap judgments by rationalizing them instead of reconsidering. Frequently accompanied by the idea that racism is largely historical, or confined to a few extremists ó that itís a distant external problem. Racism at this level isnít going to burn crosses, but it can produce frequent calls to the police about ďsuspiciousĒ characters, or some extra strictness from the police themselves. This mild racism can be enough to make a big difference in how difficult it is for some people to land a job or rent a place to live. So even though the acts committed by any one individual seem minor and excusable, they can add up to a large negative impact on the lives of minority citizens.

Level 3: asshole. This level is for people who sometimes show active racist behaviors, such as taunts and trolling and harrassment with racial epithets. Generally these are people who are habitually unpleasant or obnoxious in other ways as well, or who have long lists of people whose lives they disapprove of. Most often, such people are still in vigorous denial about racism, despite having numerous examples readily visible in the mirror.

Level 4: deplorable. Finally, we come to those who have adopted racism as a guiding philosophy, and who actively evangelize it as an ideology: the Nazis, Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, and other racial separatists. Many are fanatical True Believers, and as such, are capable of horrific violence for their cause.

Again, the point is not that people are divided into groups, who fit one label or another. Any one person can and does slide up and down this scale, plus or minus a space over the course of a day, or larger shifts over months or years as they are exposed to different ideas.

And note that oneís position on this scale may have very little to do with the intensity or severity of their prejudices, particularly in the middle part of the scale. Some can have major race-based fears and handle them well, and others might have minor ones but handle them badly.

The most important factor for affecting how a person moves forward or backward in their behavior is probably the social expectations of the people around them.

But donít take this to mean that the way to make someone act better is by lecturing them. If you really want to bring someone to see another point of view, itís important to listen to them more than you talk to them, and let them express the feelings or anxieties or bad experiences they may be carrying on the subject. And when you do speak, you want to be offering them an option, rather than making a demand.

Because when social pressure comes in a hostile form, itíll probably have the opposite of the desired effect. If you do listen to people at level 2 or 3 talk about race, one thing that often comes up is how much they dislike and resent hearing the word ďracismĒ brought up as a belligerent finger-pointing accusation.

I donít personally know whoís doing this kind of accusing, but some of my friends see it happen, and they affirm that yeah, it ainít helping. Maybe that behavior arises from having one foot in the responsible level and the other in the denial level, so you want to project and externalize the problem. Thatís just my guess, I canít say.

As for the level 4 deplorables, I donít think thereís much point in listening to them or engaging with them. Theyíve created a fantasy world where they believe each otherís made-up stories, so thatís all youíre likely to hear. Theyíve embraced evil, and there arenít really very many of them, so socially, we can just write them off.

what drives Trump's habit of awful tweets

I think Trump's habit of awful tweets is being driven by his craving for popularity. The same goes for a lot of the awful things he says out loud. As this article by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points out, the intended audience is his fanbase -- it's just a nasty side effect that the rest of the world is horrified and offended, or that our overseas troops are endangered.

I think what Trump has done is found an audience that is willing to give him the cheers and praise he wants, and they're the people that nobody else wanted cheers from, so he's kind of got them monopolized. I'm talking about the racists and xenophobes and misogynists and other deplorables -- the sort of people who actually cheer for the destruction of the environment, just because they hate environmentalists; people who condone violence against women and applaud police brutality against minorities; people who despise diplomacy as an alternative to violence, and feel there should be no such thing as international law. Trump has found that by egging on the worst tendencies of America's worst citizens, in ways that few others are willing to stoop low enough to do, he can finally get that long-sought popularity. That he's pushing the country toward fascism in the process doesn't worry him at all... after all, if it did become fascist, that just neans he could have even bigger adoring crowds, and to him, that's the important matter at stake -- the one we should all be talking about first.
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