This year I began the processes of being adopted- in the next couple of weeks, this ought to be finalized and I’ll have a mommy. Any other year, and that would be enough- dianu. This year I made a commitment to share the rest of my life with another human being. This year we bought a house. This year marked the end of the world as I knew it, and I feel fine.
Now I just need a new job. You know, a real job with benefits and vacation days.
Assuming we don’t kill ourselves with pollution- and that we find renewable, constantly growing, sources of energy- we humans are on the cusp of ending scarcity. I recognize the enormity of every clause of that previous sentence.
Constantly improving information technology has made it trivial to design new… things. Washers, driers, cars, desks, etc. Moore’s law is putting “computer assisted” into “computer assisted design” tools. And 3D printers are becoming a cheaper, better, more powerful.
3D printers allow a person to feed a block of wood into a machine, hit a button, and get a new table. Some day soon, we might be able to build car parts on demand, TVs built to spec in a store. Every book will be print on demand– and you’ll only have created a physical copy of that book because you love it so much you wanted it in your house forever.
We are very close to breakthroughs in biology which will allow us to grow steaks without cows. Chicken breasts minus the chickens. We will soon be able to feed the world in the style Americans are accustomed to eating- without the negative side effects of factory farms.
If we can find the energy, we will soon have replicators like in Star Trek. What will we do with it?
Given unlimited supply of the basics of food, shelter, (and hand-waving our energy requirements away), we could end hunger and privation. Given the course of American public policy, I fear we won’t.
I’m not sure that the EFF is on the right track, but I am sure that we need to think about how to create and nurture a world of plenty. That’s the note I’ll end 2012 on. That’s the song we’ll sing in 2013.
In China this week, 22 school children were attacked by a madman wielding a knife. Those 22 children will live, though several of them will have serious injuries for the rest of their lives. 20 American school children were shot and killed this week- on the very same day. Guns it turns out do kill people.
Other arguments I no longer want to hear: The need for access to mental health instead of gun control laws. I’ve got ADD, I really do want this country to talk about mental health problems! But those kids were shot with weapons purchased by someone with no mental health issues. They were- in effect- stolen. As were the weapons used in the other gun-related massacre this week.
Maybe if we convince ourselves that these shootings are a part of a massive Al Quaeda plot to sew terror, we’ll start taking serious steps against guns.
I think most of us are like this: we simply do not care about the constitutionality of laws. What we care about is outcomes. That’s why no one is upset about violating the 1st Amendment right of advertisers to scream into your home.
The first time I was ever handed a gun I was taught the only safety rule that matters: Never point a gun at anything you don’t want dead. Every other gun safety rule is mere elaboration on that point. American laws need to change to reflect the basic deadly nature of firearms. Here is a proposal.
Let me be clear at the outset: this is not a call to ban guns. In fact, what I’m about to propose could be used to allow for the private ownership of tanks. But in the United States, in 2012, there have been 7 gun-aided massacres. That number may or may not go up again in the next two weeks. Part of the reason these attacks are terrifying is their seemingly random nature.
Many in the US are claiming that guns don’t kill people, that it is deadly intent that kills people. As a point of reference, I want to mention that today in China, there was a mass stabbing. 22 children have been hospitalized as a result of this attack. 22 children injured. But not- as of this writing- dead. Crazy people do irrational things in response to bad mental stimulus. We cannot prevent the brain from misfiring. We can make it harder for those with ill-will to turn their intention deadly.
Let us say that any person who wishes to buy a firearm must get a license. Any firearm someone purchases must be registered to that person. Firearms may not be stored in any private home. That sounds crazy, but please keep reading.
Accidental shooting deaths are routinely in the top 10 non-natural-causes deaths in US. In fact, the NRA tells us that accidental shooting deaths happen- on average- twice a day. Getting guns out of homes wouldn’t do as much to reduce accidental deaths as putting the speed limit back to 55 miles per hour, but… one thing at a time.
Instead of storing guns in the home, lets allow people to house their guns in private gun clubs. Clubs might simply offer secure lockers- or they might be full-service facilities which also offer shooting ranges, cleaning gear, ammo, etc. Someone wants to own a fully-automatic military-issued weapon? Why not? As long as she can convince a properly licensed, monitored, insured, (and soundproofed!) gun range to hold onto it between weekends spent firing it off, there’s no problem whatsoever.
Or, you know, all of the above. But with tanks instead of guns.
So what happens when someone wants to go hunting? No problem! First you would need a hunting licence for a specific, in-season, animal. Then you’ll need to say how long you’re taking it out for- up to a week. You get your gun, you go camping, and then you shoot your limit. Bonus: it helps keep animal populations healthy by preventing over-hunting.
Any time there’s a gun-crime, police would be able to track down where that gun belonged. They’d be able to find out why it was taken from where it belonged, and they’d be able to find out how long it had been gone for. If a gun were stolen, it would be reported nearly instantly- and we’d probably see rates of gun-theft plummet– after all, a club would be selling their reputation for your private possessions secure. Why wouldn’t they do everything possible to ensure that security?
The degree of annoyance involved in getting a gun out of a gun range would nearly eliminate crimes of passion that end in gun-caused murder. In case of invasion, gun clubs would pretty much instantly become armories stashed across the nation.
Finally, by making gun-ownership even slightly difficult- something that has to be actively maintained and paid for- society begins to limit gun-ownership to people who are actively interested in maintaining their skills. Hobbyists would be able to become “a well regulated militia” in short notice.
In light of today’s schoolhouse massacre, I am trying to refrain from frothing at the mouth and screaming about what needs to be done. I think this is a fairly balanced proposal that accounts for the interests of hunters, gun enthusiastic, and the need for Americans to not be murdered in their beds. As an added bonus, this would not cause serious issues with the Second Amendment. There may be holes in the proposal, but it provides a framework.
In light of today’s massacre- and the 5 previous massacres this year- I think it only fitting, prudent, and responsible to call for the complete banning of privately held weapons. Anyone who disagrees with this position is objectively on the side of child-murder.
I don’t actually agree with that position, but the fact that no one can make such a public pronouncement and be taken seriously is a part of the problem. In a few moments, I’ll start writing a post an actual proposal to limit gun violence. It will also be politically and socially unthinkable, but should not be.
I, um, I have this fantasy that the internet will start caroling. I think it would be awesome if people just uploaded videos of themselves singing. Maybe off key and off time. It’s the holiday season! I’m celebrating Christmas, Solstice, and Chanukah this year. What’s your excuse for singing?
I have said repeatedly that if people and institutions keep doing the same wrong things, we need to change procedures. Roughly 1 in 7 people on death row is innocent. The fact that there is not a national outcry trying to change this shameful fact is preposterous.
In the alternate cartoon where one of these guys is less douchey, he marries her. I can say that with confidence, Sorako is basically the girl in the cartoon with cooler hair.
The problem is that dude gamers don’t take lady gamers seriously. The problem is that our (gamer, nerd) culture tells dudes that they ought not take lady gamers/nerds seriously. Protip: don’t question her bone fides- nerd the hell out with her! Or him! Just… you know. Enjoy being nerds together.
This week I started paying World of Warcraft with my fiancee. She’s had a lot of experience with the game, knows the language and key concepts. Me? Not so much. So I do anticipate more than one situation where I let her die, though I plan on doing everything I can to keep her alive.
There is something awesome in knowing that a quarter of Americans have an opinion on a congressional plan which does not exist. Snark aside, this gets to the heart of some of the deeper issues I’ve been pointing at today. People are so afraid of being discovered as ignorant that they will pretend to know things that are literally impossible to know. It’s one of the reasons that- when I train people- I hit them over the head with the many times I’ve screwed up, and how I learned to fix whatever specific problem I’m teaching them to avoid.
Most kids, I think- studies have shown, my experience suggest- can separate out violence in movies and games as “unreal”, while understanding that violence in real life ought to be avoided. Indeed, since the rise of video games, we’ve seen a major (and probably unrelated) drop in crime rates. some games really aren’t for kids, though.
Yesterday, I had a set of guests leave me 50 cents on a 50 dollar check. I had all kinds of fantasies about running into them afterwards and explaining exactly what terrible human beings they were. When I actually did see on of them later, I… kept my damned mouth shut and drove away.
When I’ve undergone periods of depression, it has been long stretches of not feeling anything punctuated by intense anger. I’m not sure people who haven’t experienced depression can really understand what it feels like, or what the brain is doing to itself. The words we use to describe it are normal, everyday words. The feelings are normal, everyday feelings. When taken together, though, they add up to a giant pit of ugly that (in many cases- in my case) require chemicals and doctors to overcome.
Insourcing: it turns out that when you hire people you can trust, let them use their brains, and treat them well, they will do amazing things for your company’s bottom line.
You know how San Francisco is supposed to be the evil socialist left wing city? Yeah… when San Francisco does stadium deals, the only land the City is willing to give away is land that costs the City more than the City is making from owning it. If someone wants to come along and take a money-loser off San Francisco’s hands, the taxpayers are happy for that to happen. Other cities are less attuned to getting good value for their citizens. It’s possible that “socialist” means “doesn’t give corporations whatever they want”. Maybe.
One of the weirder aspects of being a straight white cis American male is that we’re the default point of view in most of the media we consume. It is very difficult to even learn of our own blind spots, and even when we do learn we have them, it can be difficult to learn what is in those blind spots. That’s why it’s important to include a multiplicity of voices when creating culture- to see the things that an individual cannot.
Farmers don’t starve. Nor do restaurant workers. Barbers aren’t accidentally hirsute. Painters do not have bare walls. Wall Street Bankers are rich. In each of these cases, lack of hunger, hair, or poverty owes less to the skill of the worker, and more to the closeness of the raw material. I’m not sure why American society has ascribed the wealth of bankers to a moral superiority of those bankers- we certainly don’t think that a baker has dough because they are good human beings.
Two “if you click just one link”s this time. Because why not?
So, as I understand this article, manufacturing jobs now require people to have some serious computer programming skills. Which totally makes sense. There’s a reason the engineers on the Enterprise were capable of understanding most every computer they came across. The idea that someone wants to hire a computer programmer for $14 an hour- is asinine. The fact that the sort of person unwilling to pay more than $14 an hour for a computer programmer is considered to be worth listening to about how to fix the American economy tells you everything you need to know about why Occupy [City] has captured the public imagination.
I’ve written before about the game Spec Ops: the line. I’m not surprised that someone wrote a 50,000 word review of the game. There are many pieces of art which deserve that many words of criticism. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that he was able to self publish this tome- and can expect enough people to read it to make it worthwhile. I think this is a point towards the new model of publishing. We’re never going to get rid of traditional publishers, but self publishing niche titles will become much more viable.
Reminder: Black Friday is so named because retail employees hate the sort of people who shop on the day after Thanksgiving. Retail employees generally see the very worst that humanity has to offer, and make a minimum wage to compensate for it.
Keep in mind that retail workers will deal with awful, screaming, terrible customers without walking off the job. Retail workers- and I’m speaking from experience here- will clean up a restroom after a customer with diarrhea has abused the facility. So when someone will deal with that and still come back week after week, but not be willing to work for their boss, I’m going to side with them. Avoid Walmart.
The subtext of this story of World War 1 is of PTSD that hurt several generations. We can make fun of the EU’s Nobel Peace Prize, but the EU has, in fact, kept the peace. That has ramifications far beyond the lack of death and destruction.
About six weeks ago, I got a nasty sinus infection. It’s been “going around”. I had it for the normal 3 days, and it went away. Then it came back, shifting from my nose to my throat. And after 3 days, it went away again. When it popped back up a week or so later- this time causing me to lose much of the hearing in my left ear- Sorako insisted I visit a doctor. Antibiotics seem to be doing their job, and my hearing is slowly returning.
Here’s the thing: visiting the doctor cost me money. More money than I had wanted to spend- more money than I would have had to spend had I been insured. Since, however, I’m a waiter, my boss doesn’t offer insurance. As far as I know, no restaurant outside San Francisco offers health insurance to it’s food handlers. As professional as I am- as professional as most waiters, bussers, and cooks are- the odds food being deliberately sneezed in, coughed on, or otherwise contaminated by nasty bacteria are small.
But accidents happen. And someone with a cold or flu is basically a walking, sweating bag of nasty microbes waiting to infect random passers by.
The solution to this would be for sick restaurant (or, really, any retail) workers to take time off, see a doctor, and get better in a way that doesn’t potentially get others ill. See above, re: lack of insurance. Doctors are expensive. Seeing one, and getting my prescription filled cost me 2 days pay. Two days I also spent not working. Taking time off so as to not make others sick is an act of altruism.
Making the “haves” dependent on the altruism of the “have-nots” seems like bad social policy.
Enter Obamacare. Under it’s provisions, I’d have had health insurance. I would still have had to take time off- getting healthy still takes time- but a 90% reduction in the cost of a doctor’s visit and antibiotics, means I would have seen a doctor weeks ago. And if I had decided to go back to work instead of taking time off, I wouldn’t have been infecting other people.
How much less sickness would America experience if its retail employees were covered by insurance? Can we express that as a function of GDP decrees to lost productivity? I would think that healthy workers being more productive would be the sort of business-friendly measure the GOP would whole-heartedly support.
The GOP does not support universal healthcare. In fact, they are in favor of shifting the burden of healthcare costs from large organizations (government, businesses) onto the shoulders of individuals. The concept of herd immunity- the idea that each of us is healthier and better off if others among us are also healthy- doesn’t seem to enter into their equation.
Nor does it seem that the modern Republican Party understands that things purchased for a certain price can be worth a multiple of that price greater than 1. By taking the most direct rout to health, I was certainly helping myself- but the beneficiaries of that decision have a large incentive to ensure I do help myself. In 2014, American society will take a step towards making America a healthier, safer, better run society. That’s a rather nice return on tax expenditure.
The 2012 Elections are over. The side of goodness and light- or at least less-badness and more-brightness- won. There has been a weird contradiction in the core of American social thought- and this election was a strong blow against that contradiction. America is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. America has been the land of slavery, and a home for those too scared to confront privilege. We have an entire party which likes to remind people that “We’re a ‘republic’, not a ‘democracy’”. yet this election saw a stunning blow in favor of democracy.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
The establishment- those who cowardly revel in unfreedom- knew that in a straight-up contest, they would lose. They understood that the the composition of America had changed, and sought to ensure that the composition of the voting public would be what it had been in previous generations. They lost anyway.
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
The real irony of the 2012 election is how conservative it was, how much the political philosophy was fairly banal in the annals of American social thought. There wasn’t a revolution in terms of things done or undone, but rather in terms of those who will be allowed to participate- in terms of who gets to be America.
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
The American Right has been screaming about “voter fraud” for the last several election cycles. They have used this idea that certain Americans have been voting more than once to create the laws which would have kept themselves in power. Two Americans attempted to empirically test this assumption that it was easy to vote more than once. they went to jail.
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
Until I read this, I had no idea that anyone took Donald Trump seriously. He’s an old man who gets his kicks by firing people. I suppose that the Republican nominee had also expressed his eagerness to fire people, and so it makes sense that two such similar personalities would appeal to the same groups of people- and would clash mightily.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
After 108 years, this lady is Free at Last. Thank god almighty.
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
It may look like shameful joy to watch Karl Rove scramble to prove his own worth to the right wing. Yet this is a man described as Bush’s Brain. He helped launch two wars, run up a huge debt, and allow Katrina to destroy New Orleans. There is a large degree of satisfaction in seeing the rest of the world realize that he has never been clothed at all.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
It has been interesting to see the GOP turn away from anti- immigration sentiment over the past few days. That isn’t the whole problem, but it’s certainly part of the problem. Latinos- like Blacks, Jews, Asians, Gays, and Geeks- want inside more than just America’s borders. They want inside American civil society. That’s a harder thing to do.
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
Voter suppression has been basically invisible to those who neither planned it nor were targeted by it. The first stage of the American dream might well be being allowed to vote in a short line with a working machine. The “yes we can” battle cry of 2008 was in many ways a scream of defiance against those who tried to stop the vote.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
This may seem unrelated, but it isn’t. The same week that saw the election also saw the release of a game my father refers to as “ninjas fighting the American Revolution”. He’s not wrong (except that he’s wrong. ), but it’s worth noting that North American society has evolved to the point that Native American history and society is understood to be worth taking seriously. Who fought the revolution? In 2012, our pop culture has evolved to retroactively include a native American kid.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
Hour by hour, inch by inch, they waited in line and voted. They voted for a man who proclaimed that gay marriage was acceptable. They voted for a man who changed the way healthcare is delivered- so that everyone would be allowed to have it. And they voted to give themselves another chance to change their mind in several years.
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Earlier, I made a comment about geeks being part of the disenfranchised class. That feeling of being bullied, picked on, and otherwise Otherized is a huge part of the geek identity. Being a geek isn’t merely about being smart, but of having a sort of brain that just processes information differently. Over the past several decades, geeks have been finding a niche within the ecology of American society. Comments about “pointed headed academics” have been tossed around by the right for just as long. The intellectual infrastructure was therefore a preexisting condition when the election rolled around- and Nate Silver became the poster child for everything the American Right could convince themselves wasn’t true. He was right, and we geeks have also cracked the door to American acceptance.
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
If you click just one link:
An uninterrupted poem from this week’s co-author Langston Hughes