[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Tuesday, 2017-09-12

The problem with ‘privilege’

Filed under: Civil Rights,Philosophy,Politics,Society — bblackmoor @ 14:39

You're not being oppressed when another group gains rights that you've always had.

White privilege“.

Male privilege“.

Straight privilege“.

It bugs me so much that the word “privilege” is used in this context. “Privilege” is something that not everyone has, and that not everyone should have. But everyone should be able to travel without fear of being stopped for no reason. Everyone should be able to live day to day without fearing for their lives if a police officer notices them. Everyone should have their accomplishments respected and accepted without questioning if they had actually earned them. Everyone should be able to go through their lives without experiencing a constant barrage of insults or “jokes” aimed at their ancestry, or gender, or sexual proclivities, or skin color.

Using “privilege” to describe these benefits says that they should be taken away, which is the exact opposite of what ought to happen. These are not privileges — they are what everyone ought to have.

The argument for this terminology is that it points out that a person belonging to group X (males, straight people, “white” people, whatever) has some benefit that those in other groups do not have, a fact of which some (perhaps most) in group X are unaware. (Although how any straight, white, American male could possibly be oblivious to their status relative to other groups is a mystery to me.)

But given the standard response when the phrase “_____ privilege” is used, this terminology fails to convey that. The response is typically, “I am ____ , and I don’t have any special privilege!” And that response is correct — they don’t have any special privileges. What they do have is the ordinary way life should be for everyone, but isn’t.

So what would be better? “Respect”? “Dignity”? “Liberty”?

Personally, I think discourse on this topic would be improved if the focus were less on what group X has, and more on the gap between what group X has and what other groups have. There is a phrase already in common parlance: “income inequality”. I think we need a focus on “dignity inequality”, or “liberty inequality” — the emphasis being not to take it away from people who have it, but to make sure that everyone has it.

To be clear (because someone will read this far and yet still somehow fail to understand this), I am not saying that the disparity does not exist. I think you’d have to be willfully ignorant or just plain despicable to claim that (and many ignorant and/or despicable people do — Google “myth of white privilege” if you want your love of humanity severely tested). I am saying that if we, people of good will, are to come together and eliminate that disparity in treatment, describing it as a “privilege” makes that work more difficult.

Monday, 2017-05-15

The problem of “free speech”

Filed under: Civil Rights,Philosophy — bblackmoor @ 09:13

For most of my life, I have been a steadfast supporter of “free speech” — the principle that anyone should be allowed to say anything, as long as they do not cause physical harm to another person. By “allowed”, I mean legally allowed, which is not the same thing as being socially acceptable. I have opposed laws against “hate speech”, for example, even though I think that in everyday conversation, such remarks should be condemned by others who hear them.

The problem is that we have somehow become a society that does not recognize the vast gulf between “socially acceptable” behaviour and “legally permitted behaviour“. Americans have accepted the premise that anything legally permissible is also acceptable.

I’m not sure how this happened. I suspect that it is a result of our attempts to legislate against things which have been considered socially unacceptable (the American war against drug users being the most obvious example). If socially unacceptable behaviour is against the law, but ruthlessly harassing someone for being female isn’t against the law, it must be okay, yes?

Whenever challenged on their obnoxious behaviour, the worst examples of human garbage proclaim they are simply exercising their right to “free speech”. The cry of “free speech” has accompanied the rise of “talk radio” in the 1980s (which is little more than Nazi propaganda masquerading as news), the spread of white male supremacist asshat movements like “gamerhate” and “sad/rabid puppies“, culminating with the election of a vulgar narcissist as President of the United States.

How have Americans come to value vulgarity above civility and factuality? I think it is because we have placed too much emphasis on our “right to free speech”, regardless of context, content, or factual basis. It has become a sort of idol, which we worship by saying — and defending the right to say — the most egregiously offensive things possible. That is bad enough. What concerns me more is that we have entire media empires spreading fiction as though it’s news, and huge portions of the population are rejecting facts and embracing the most ludicrous of falsehoods.

Frankly, I think it’s too late to fix it. The avalanche of lies has started, and it’s too late to stop it. We elevated “free speech” to a religion, and we are paying the price.

But I have a suggestion for the survivors of the next revolution, when they begin writing the next set of sacrosanct documents by which they will chart their destinies:

Limit “freedom of speech”. Prohibit the promotion of discredited scientific theories and outright falsehoods, and give serious thought to prohibiting language that encourages the victimization of any category of people. Somehow, make it clear that there is no need to “tolerate intolerance”. Tolerance is not a moral absolute: it is a peace treaty.

Maybe if the next civilization extols civility, factual accuracy, and scientific inquiry, rather than “free speech” and “freedom of religion”, they can avoid our mistakes.

Wednesday, 2016-11-23

What do I want?

Filed under: About Me,Civil Rights,Politics — bblackmoor @ 19:52

I just had a conversation with someone who said that President-elect Trump’s intended cabinet appointments so far indicate that he is “reaching out to the opposition”. Initially, I though that was a particularly funny comment, and congratulated them for their sarcastic humour.

Except they weren’t making a joke. They apparently actually believed that. Which left me speechless.

They then went on to explain how they were reasonable, and thoughtful, and in way of example of their reasonableness, gave me a short list of their horrific beliefs. They concluded with, “We all want the same things, just have differing opinions as to how to get there.”

I replied, “I strongly suspect that you and I do not want the same things.”

“What do you want?” they asked.

What do I want? That’s a good question. I want zero-calorie, 80-proof rum. I want a reliable 200 Mbps Internet connection that costs less than $100 per month. I want every movie and TV show ever made to be available on, at most, two or three Roku channels, and for them never to be removed. I want a house where I can look out my window and see nothing but trees, and live in peace with my wife and my cat. But that’s small stuff. When it comes to the world outside my window, what I want is less easy to define, so it took me a few minutes to distill it down. So this is what I said:

I want a world where people who are decent and kind can live their lives in peace without fear of being deported, or having their basic civil rights denied because they love the wrong person, or being hooked up to electrodes to shock them “straight”, or being put into internment camps because they picked the wrong invisible friend, or being harassed and driven away because they have the wrong ancestors.

They replied that they considered themselves a realist, and they considered me an idealist.

I replied, “I consider myself someone who doesn’t want their friends treated like sub-humans by people like you.”

Which was probably not the most constructive thing to say. So it goes.

Sunday, 2016-08-21

Don’t buy a house with a HOA or POA

Filed under: Civil Rights,Home — bblackmoor @ 08:12

A word of advice to young people: never buy a house with an HOA (home owners’ association) or POA (property owners’ association), no matter how low the fees are and how mild the restrictions are. HOAs/POAs attract the worst that humanity has to offer: liars, bullies, and thieves, who will lie and bully their way into ever more power, ever more restrictions, ever higher fees. HOAs/POAs are a cancer: worse than cancer, because there is no cure, and they only get worse. Inevitably, inexorably worse.

Here are some memes I made. They’re supposed to be funny. Comedy is hard.

Liars and bullies love POAs.

Liars and bullies love POAs.

Liars and bullies love POAs.

Liars and bullies love POAs.

Liars and bullies love POAs.

Friday, 2016-06-24

So you want to make the world safer, part 2

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms,Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 09:08

From time to time, people who either don’t own firearms themselves, or who are protected by armed guards, call for “reasonable gun control”: licensing, registration, training requirements, and other bureaucratic hurdles. These calls usually follow highly publicized but statistically rare incidents of mass murder.

There is no criminological evidence to support the idea that registering firearms or licensing the people who buy them would prevent murders. Nor would requiring training.

And really, think about it: the Orlando mass-murderer had no criminal convictions. If he could legally buy a firearm, then he could also legally obtain a license. And registering his firearms would not have prevented any of his murders — we know very well who killed his victims. As for training, his marksmanship appears to have been excellent. None of the measures introduced under the banner of “reasonable gun control” would have reduced the body count in Orlando.

Who would be impacted by “reasonable gun control”? The poor. Who would not be impacted? Murderers, and the wealthy.

Consider this: about two-thirds of the intentional homicides in the USA are committed with firearms. If 100% of those were prevented (and not committed using some other weapon), the USA’s intentional homicide rate would still be higher than Denmark’s, Ireland’s, the UK’s, Norway’s, Sweden’s, Italy’s, Australia’s…

That fact might lead one to suspect that our problems have a deeper cause than merely the weapon most murderers choose. One might even think that our intentional homicide rate might be a symptom of a serious sickness in our society. People who complain about firearms and blame them for our intentional homicide rate make as much sense as medieval peasants who thought a pleasant smell would combat the black death.

But no one cares about that. Everyone wants easy answers that don’t cost them anything. People with guns want more. People without guns want less.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

Thursday, 2016-06-16

So you want to make the world safer

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms,Philosophy,Society — bblackmoor @ 16:35

(Note: I have linked to supporting references throughout this. These references are, with one exception, respected news outlets, scholars, and the US government itself. The one exception is a link to what “gun owners know”, which is a link to a pro-gun web site.)

You have heard about the mass murder in Orlando, and you have decided that this is a tragedy. You are right: it is a tragedy. 49 people were killed or mortally wounded in about ten minutes. It normally takes over a day for that many people to be murdered in the USA (about 27 hours, actually).

So you want to take action and do something about it, to prevent mass murders like this one from happening again (and perhaps prevent the isolated murders of 45 or so people every single day, as well).

Mental Illness

Perhaps you think we need better treatment for the mentally ill. You are right: we do. How we treat the mentally ill (or rather, don’t) in the United States is deplorable. Far too many mentally ill individuals find themselves ensnared in our prison system (I think we can all agree that what we have is not a “justice system”).

However, as a group of people, those with mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves — or be hurt by someone else — than they are to cause harm to anyone. Being a young male is a far more reliable indicator of someone posing a danger to others (a young, poor, uneducated male even more so).

So while we do need better support for those suffering from mental illness, would that support have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

Assault Rifles

You have heard from countless entertainers and politicians that assault rifles are the cause of so much death. You want to ban them. No civilian needs a “weapon of war”, right? However, there is a problem with that argument: these weapons have already been banned from civilian ownership.

It has been illegal since 1934 (The National Firearms Act) for civilians to own assault rifles without special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department. They are subject to a $200 tax every time their ownership changes from one federally registered owner to another, each new weapon is subject to a manufacturing tax when it is made, and it must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in its National Firearms Registry. To become a registered owner, a complete FBI background investigation is conducted, checking for any criminal history or tendencies toward violence, and an application must be submitted to the ATF including two sets of fingerprints, a recent photo, a sworn affidavit that transfer of the NFA firearm is of “reasonable necessity,” and that sale to and possession of the weapon by the applicant “would be consistent with public safety.” The application form also requires the signature of a chief law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the applicant’s residence.

Additionally, civilian purchase of newly manufactured assault rifles was banned entirely in 1986 (Firearms Owners’ Protection Act). Assault rifles which were manufactured prior to the Act’s passage are regulated under the National Firearms Act, but those manufactured after the ban cannot ordinarily be sold to or owned by civilians at all. And since the number of assault rifles that may be owned by civilians (subject to the long list of requirements above) is fixed or decreasing, the price of those weapons is quite high: $10,000 or more, typically.

Would placing even stricter limitations on the civilian ownership of these weapons have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

“Assault Weapons”

Perhaps you have done your homework, and have learned the difference between an assault rifle and an “assault weapon”. An assault rifle fires multiple rounds while the user holds down the trigger. An “assault weapon” is an ordinary rifle that cosmetically resembles an assault rifle. So if we ban “assault weapons”, that should make us all safer and save lives, shouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. While “assault weapons” cosmetically resemble assault rifles, they are functionally no different from ordinary civilian rifles. This rifle…

Ruger_Mini14

… and this rifle…

Bushmaster_AR15

… are functionally the same. Banning one but not the other would be like banning red lead paint but not blue lead paint. They are, for all practical (rather than cosmetic) purposes interchangeable. So would banning “assault weapons” have a significant impact on violent crime or intentional homicide? No, it wouldn’t. So if that is our goal, we must look elsewhere.

High Capacity Magazines

There is one functional difference which is obvious from the two photographs above: the second rifle has a larger magazine, which is the container that holds the ammunition. Perhaps limiting the size of the magazine would have an impact on the number of people murdered. Unfortunately, there is a problem with that. There already was a ban on larger magazines, enacted in 1994. From 1994 until 2004, there was a ban on the manufacture of magazines holding more than 10 rounds (as with the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, existing magazines were grandfathered in). The result on violent crime? If there was one, it was too small to measure.

Furthermore, mass-murderers are not deterred by small magazines: they just bring more of them. One of the two murderers responsible for the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 carried 13 ten-round magazines. The murderer responsible for the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 carried a backpack filled with 19 ten- and fifteen-round magazines for his pistols. To my knowledge, it has not been reported how many magazines the murderer in Orlando carried, but since he fired at least 200 rounds of ammunition, it is certain that he reloaded several times.

We shall have to look elsewhere if we want to save lives.

Rifles

So if assault rifles are already banned, and “assault weapons” are nothing more than ordinary civilian rifles, and banning “high capacity magazines” has no measurable effect, perhaps what we want to do is ban all civilian rifles. Surely that would save lives, right? It might. Around 4.5% of murders in the USA are committed with rifles. But that leaves over 95% of all murders committed with something else. Surely we can do better?

All Firearms

If we want to hope for even a single-digit percent reduction in the number of people murdered in the United States, and we want to accomplish that by banning (or drastically restricting the ownership of) something, then it is clear that we would have to target all firearms: rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Approximately 68% of murders are committed with a firearm. While that still leaves a large number of murder victims on the floor, at least if firearms were made unavailable, it should have some impact on the majority of them, shouldn’t it?

But we can’t grandfather in existing weapons, as the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act did. Recent studies have found that only 3% to 11% of criminals who used a firearm during the commission of a crime purchased the weapon legally. The rest obtained them illegally, and the easiest way to illegally obtain something is to steal it. So to cut off the supply of the 89% or more firearms used in crimes, we would need to not only ban the sale of new firearms, we would need to confiscate all or most of the hundreds of millions of firearms which are currently legally owned.

Feasibility

Would confiscating all or most of the firearms in the United States truly save lives? Opinions are divided, but I suspect that it might. Would the cost be worth it, for our legacy as a nation once “founded on the natural authority of the people alone“? I am not so sure. Is it legally feasible? Not with our current Constitution, no. Regardless of one’s opinion of the history or intent of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the legal reality is that it does guarantee a right to keep and bear arms of some kind to individual citizens. Eliminating that legal right would require the repeal of that Amendment. It isn’t impossible: A Constitutional Amendment has been repealed before. I do not think it would be easy, but I could be mistaken. Would the individuals who currently own those weapons voluntarily hand them over, without resorting to violence themselves? I suspect not. On the other hand, the TSA gropes and ogles travelers by the millions, and we as a nation have permitted it with barely a complaint, so perhaps I am mistaken about that, as well.

Conclusion

I hope that you have learned something from this. If nothing else, you have learned that neither assault rifles nor “assault weapons” have a statistically significant role in the deaths of innocent Americans. They are, at most, emotional phrases used to grab your attention. You have also learned that the phrase often used to placate gun owners, “No one wants to take your guns”, is a falsehood. It must be, because no other course of action based on tighter regulations would have even a hope of making us safer from the risk of being murdered with a firearm (and that is our goal, is it not?). Most people pressing for stricter regulations on firearm ownership know this. Gun owners know it, as well. So hopefully you will not be repeating any of these phrases in the future.

I have little doubt that the Second Amendment will eventually be repealed. I do not think I will live to see it. When or if it happens, I hope the people responsible for carrying out the ensuing police actions, and the people against whom those actions will be taken, will be wiser than we are.

See also: So you want to make the world safer, part 2

Friday, 2016-04-08

Petula Clark, Harry Belafonte, and Mizhena

Filed under: Civil Rights,Gaming,Television — bblackmoor @ 07:21

There is a computer game called Baldur’s Gate. It’s a fantasy adventure game based on Dungeons & Dragons, along the lines of Lord Of The Rings. An expansion for the game was released recently, and in that expansion there is a minor character named “Mizhena” who, if you engage with them and repeatedly ask them questions, will eventually tell you that they are transgender. If you are unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, you might not realize that transgender characters have been a part of that game world for 30 or 40 years. It’s not new. It is, however, new to the Baldur’s Gate game.

As a result, a small segment of the Baldur’s Gate fan base revealed themselves to be vile bigots. These bigots created a “controversy”, objecting to the inclusion of this character in the game.

Petula Clark and Harry BelafonteThis “controversy” comes at an interesting time. Today, April 8 2016, is the 48th anniversary of the broadcast of the Petula Clark Show on NBC. Petula Clark was a very popular singer at the time, having fifteen consecutive Top 40 hits in the USA, starting with “Downtown” in 1965. Clark was joined on her special by Harry Belafonte, who had made Calypso and Caribbean music popular throughout the world with his singing in the 1950s. During a duet toward the end of the show, Clark touched Belafonte briefly on the arm. Doyle Lott, a vice president from Chrysler, the show’s sponsor, was present at the taping. Lott objected to the “interracial touching”. He pressured NBC to remove the “forced” contact between Clark and Belafonte, to remove this “social justice” from the show. However, Petula Clark stuck to her guns, and the special was broadcast with the “controversial” touching. When the show aired, it received high ratings.

It’s been over 40 years, and the Doyle Lotts of the world are still manufacturing controversies to defend their bigotry. I think it is right and just that people are enjoying the music of Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte to this very day, while Doyle Lott has been reduced to a footnote in the history of civil rights.

There are many cases where people of good will can and do disagree. That is usually the case, in my opinion. However, these cretins who wail and moan and gnash their teeth any time they see someone other than themselves represented are not people of good will. They are the bartender who says, “We don’t serve their kind here.” They are the prejudiced priest who refuses to heal the half-orc in the party. They are the pig-faced sheriff that says, “We don’t take kindly to outsiders around here.” They are the craven peasant accusing a midwife of witchcraft. They’re the corrupt king who doesn’t want the adventurers to fight the dragon because it’s never his daughter that gets sacrificed to it.

These are not people of good will. They are not defenders of the sanctity of gaming. They are, by their own choice and by their own hand, villains.

Monday, 2015-08-24

Why Dracula has such incompetent henchmen

Filed under: Civil Rights,Movies,Society — bblackmoor @ 09:12

Years ago, while watching The Wraith, I wondered out loud why “cool” villains like Dracula (or Nick Cassavetes in The Wraith) were always surrounded by incompetent creeps and toadies like Renfield (or “Skank” in The Wraith) — people I wouldn’t trust to guard an egg salad sandwich. Her reply was, in essence, because those are the kinds of followers they deserve — that they are not, in fact, “cool” at all.

I am reminded of that conversation whenever I read comments by Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen where they make weak attempts to distance themselves from Theodore Beale without distancing themselves from what Beale says or does. When you find yourself on the same side as the Theodore Beales of the world, it’s time to reevaluate your position.

Tuesday, 2013-08-20

Groklaw takes its ball and goes home

Filed under: Civil Rights,Privacy,The Internet,Travel — bblackmoor @ 14:15
book in chains

Legal Site Groklaw Shuts Down Rather Than Face NSA

I stopped flying years ago, because it offends me to be scanned, groped, and treated like a criminal in order exercise my fundamental human right of travel. Now I am wondering how long it will be before I stop using email and the web. Perhaps I should have stopped already.

How did we become a cyberpunk dystopia without most of us noticing?

Friday, 2013-08-16

Crime rate falls while firearm sales go up

Filed under: Civil Rights,Firearms — bblackmoor @ 14:06
Gun Crimes Plummet Even As Gun Sales Rise

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

Next Page »