Same Ol’ Both Sides Stuff

A bunch of “violence on both sides” rhetoric emerging trying to equivocate the BLM protests with the insurrection of last week.

Two big reasons this does not work.
1) Who acted as the primary instigators of the violence.
2) The motivation or purpose of the protest/riot

Some BLM protests got violent when a (probably intentionally) overwhelming and over equipped police presence escalated things. They were motivated by a desire for justice based around a percieved right to be treated humanely and to be assumed to be innocent until proven guilty and specifically to bring greater awareness to how these things are systematically not happening for black people in particular – hence their slogan. Their position is supported by many verifiable facts and stems from an underlying philosophy that every person should be treated with dignity – a good thing most decent people can probably agree on.

The Stop the Steal insurrection faced a (probably intentionally) understaffed and underequiped police force who made borderline ridiculous efforts to not escalate to violence, but were ultimately overwhelmed by a mob who were hunting members of Congress and the VP with an intent to kill or take hostages. They were motivated by their imagined right to rule which was they claim was stolen from them – hence their slogan. Their position is supported only by verifiable falsehoods and stems from an underlying philosophy that is some mix of landownership aristocracy and white supremacy – bad things most people can agree about.

Curious if whether you agree with my assessment boils down to your stance on facts vs “alternative facts”.

Fountain penner

Decided a while back to give fountain pens a try. Today I thought one of them was dried up because I hadn’t used it for a week, but it turns out the ink was just out. This is my first time ever having a change the ink in a pen that I remember.

When I bought the pens the supply of ink that came with them, to be honest, felt like an infinite supply. It’s still a lot but it feels a little less infinite now.

What is Money

What is money?

Time is money?
No, Gold is REAL money?!
But what about legal tender something or other…
Don’t get me started on bitcoin?

Show me the money!
Ha, Lets get real, honey
In fact, the points don’t matter…
A made up thing we mint into reality

Isn’t it funny
How “taxpayer money”
Is needed to pay for all the things…
That citizens actually want, but not bank bailouts or the military

I have lots of thoughts involving the nature of money, the power of the public purse, etcetera these days. I want to sort those out more later, but in the meantime this poem kind of came to me while I was attempting to mind map out some stuff.

Fertile Soil for Trumpism

Was Trumpism fueled by racism? Yes! Clearly. In part.

But there was always more to it, and I understand the frustration with many Trump supporters being lumped together with the “racist” label. There were…

Also those who aim for some brand of theocracy
Also the “taxation is theft” anti-“socialists”
Also those disillusioned by broken bureaucracies
Also the gun nuts
Also the anti-abortionists
Also the misogynists hoping for a resurgence of patriarchal society
Also the homophobes
Also outright white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-nazis
Also other stuff

And plenty of people who were only a little bit of the some of the above but went along with him because he was the nominee for the party they identified with for so long.

Trumpism got as far as it did because it could lasso all these disparate groups together. (Interesting that the word fascism is literally from Latin fasces, meaning “bundle”.) The political frustration of all these fringe ideologies could rally together under a common banner and express their previously repressed emotions and irrational fears, but it bears repeating, they were also all at least kind of okay with the racism.

Were personal biases amplified by social media or whatever? Sure! Exploited at least. But, I think blaming social media is to superficial. Political frustration is a key common thread here. It is the best way I’ve been able to make sense of such a diverse group who justified their vote for an aspiring fascist. Social media fanned the flames of that underlying frustration, but the fire would be burning well enough without it.

Is it irrational & dangerous to hitch your wagon to a blowhard narcissist? Obviously! And yet by tapping into that common frustration, and with a bit of leverage from all the free media coverage, as well as highly targeted social media campaigns to help motivate the politically frustrated, he was able to galvanize people to vote for him in spite of all the other stuff.

An important note, also, is that to some, cruelty is a good way to voice frustration

My big takeaway is this: an often overlooked breeding ground for political frustration in the USA is our first past the post winner take all electoral system.

It leaves way more than half the country (counting nonvoters) feeling like those in place to represent them do not fill that role. They are not wrong!

For example, conservative voters in the 12th District of California (San Francisco) only had one meaningful option for their representative this year. They could vote FOR Nancy Pelosi (who they also hate) to avoid an actual progressive taking her place, or they could (statistically speaking) throw their vote away. This illustrates how this system actually suppresses the voice of progressives in that district too. This is lose lose, not healthy compromise!

The president I voted against lost, yay, I guess, but Biden doesn’t represent me.

Worse yet, at every other level where the policies I actually care about are in play I have representatives actively opposed to my own views, and no real hope of that changing anytime soon. It’s fucking frustrating! It is quite literally oppressive. It makes me feel resentful and even tempts me towards hate and violence, towards resentment and cruelty. I do actively resist those feelings, and that sets me apart from at least some Trump voters, but nonetheless here is a piece of common ground.

The relief many on the left feel as Biden appears to have won is maybe similar in this important regard to the relief many on the right felt in 2016. And with resentment on the right painfully evident after the 2020 election results, the stage is already set for 2024 to easily swing back the other way again. To avoid such chaotic pendulum swings we need to address what breeds this political frustration in people, and the lack of awareness about the root causes is alarming in this regard.

Repeated and genuine calls for unity paired with a polite do nothing centrism might just keep the frustration festering under the surface. But if a type of “moderate” policy is the goal we need some bold, dare I say radical, changes to get there and avoid the next wave of far right extremism

Am I saying we need to be sensitive to BS from hateful idiots, or not hold a whole major party descending into fascism accountable? NO! But we do need to try to diagnose some of what motivates 70m people to vote in the direction of fascism.

I believe understanding how our democratic system is dysfunctional at such a fundamental level is key to understanding the particular dysfunction we have been living through. Failure to do so will only lead to dysfunction of a different brand.

There are lot of sources for electoral reform, but one of my recommended places to start is FairVote

Is reform really possible? For your consideration here are some thoughts on New Zealand from two people who have each written a book on the topic of electoral reform :

built from my Twitter thread on November 9, 2020.

Purple As Mud

Sometimes I wish WordPress made it easy to display content from linked sources as Twitter does.

But at least I can unroll my twitter thread here w/out to much hassle!

The way we visualize data matters quite a bit. Coloring whole states red or blue needlessly polarizing and obscures reality.

This one is from 2012, but I would bet it hasn't changed a whole lot from now. When you look at this does the characterization of rural America as "red" feel right?

The deepest red parts of the country generally are the outer suburbs of metropolitan areas in the most traditionally religious zones – The "Bible Belt" and "Mormon country".

A lot of people have shared this gif of the “land doesn’t vote people do” and that is an important angle, but it is still needlessly binary when it comes to color.

This one tries to mix the purpling and the population over land dimensions

This one is definitely an improvement from coloring whole states. – It could be purple-ified too if the electoral collage didn't codify political polarization in such a ridiculous way.

And the XKCD one while useful in other ways it still feels problematic. The figures are all one color or another, but they represent populations that are non-binary

Not a single blue person in the Dakotas or Wyoming?!

2 takeaways, of many.

1. The electoral college codifies this polarization. No bueno

2. Proportional representation w/ multi-member districts would be potentially huge way to fix our representative system where so many people (correctly) feel like they are not represented.

Ranked choice voting also fights polarization, and negative voting (voting against who you want to lose) but multi-member districts fixes the representation problem. These two solutions can go together though.

One downside of the purple stuff is it leaves out non-voters. The Muddy Map by @LarryWeru tries to account for that

Originally tweeted by Aaron Eischeid (@aeischeid) on November 8, 2020.

Some Sunday Pics

Some stuff from my lazy Sunday

Made some rye bread. Just used the recipe on the side of the flour bag. How convenient!
Teaching this guy to do fish eye vanishing point drawing in Krita
Pay no mind to the boy falling off the ladder in the background 🤣

3 Ingredients

“If you attend Oktoberfest in Munich, the only beer you’ll find during the festival is brewed within the city limits of Munich. Only beers that fit this criteria are considered Oktoberfest Beers. According to the Bavarian Purity Requirements there are only 3 ingredients used in the brewing process: water, barley and hops.”

I’d have to find the article somewhere deep in my browser history, but I read a really interesting thing about the 3 ingredients thing a while back. In the more distant past there was lots of experimenting with brews. Many more plants etc. some with very potent effects beyond typical alcohol. some medicinal stuff along with some real trippy stuff. Of course sometimes it went bad, and people got sick or worse, so rulers started to restrict all beers and fermented teas to just those 3 ingredients. Well in fact this basically would restrict all brewing to beer brewing in Europe – no more of that kombucha business.

Also brewing was typically a women’s role. A towns brew wife (like the animal husband) was the one who kept all the recipes and such. And herein lies part of the origin of the mythology of witches. Alas, I could not find the article in my browser history and I don’t feel like looking all this up for references.

Virtual kids piggy banks

We started trying something about a year or two ago with our kids. Like many kids they had something like a piggy bank. But this is a system rife with problems. For example, sometimes they would find money – loose change (probably mine…) , or get a dollar for an odd job , or from a birthday card, or for a lost tooth. And it was hard to keep track of. Maybe if you only have one kid some of theses problems don’t arise, but that is not our scenario. One kid left his money out and another kid just took it, because of course they would. Or someone wanted to spend some of their money while we were at the store, but surprise surprise, they lacked all foresight and didn’t have the money with them.

So we decided to try something different, and it has worked out so well it felt worth sharing.

Use Google Sheets with a different sheet (sheet meaning the tab at the bottom thing, not a whole separate file) for each child as a simple ledger system. An entry for each debit or deposit with a small note. This has an advantage of keeping things in sync, the Sheets app works on my and my wife’s phones and computers without installing anything extra or signing up for a new account. One of us has the document in our drive and we can share it with the other – if / when kids get a phone or google account we could share it in read only mode with them too I suppose, but by that time it might not be something we as parents would really need to manage.

We tend to have our phones with us, so adding some money for a quick chore is easy. Checking if they have enough for some item they spotted while at the store? No problem! Buying online? same. Deduct it right at the point of purchase, no need to have them hand you a bunch of loose change you will subsequently loose into the cushions of the couch for them to recover later. As a kid I never even had the thought of buying stuff online with money from my piggy bank, but my kids know that plush toy they want can be found on eBay or whatever.

This system also has the advantage of leaving a audit trail. “What did you spend this money on?” “Where did it all go?”, “Where did it come from?”, were questions we used to have to ask with no hope for answers. No more! And, ya know, have as much fun as you want with excel reports I suppose, but even just glancing at the list provides some insight.

At a meta level it also works a lot more like how bank accounts and credit cards work in real life. Today my wife and I use cash sometimes, but not most of the time, and the kids seems to understand this ledger system very intuitively because they see us using that all the time. Feels like good prep for how credit and banking systems will work for them down the road. Even if bitcoin takes over or whatever – It’s just a ledger basically.

Here is a link to a template sheet with some examples. Should be easy to copy this and run with it. Google sheet kid bank example

Wasted suburbs

I’ve been walking around a lot more with having a baby and being at home working from home. One observation during this experience is seeing all the houses in the neighborhoods around mine and noticing how little they’re utilized. Large backyards, a screened-in three season room, decks with patio furniture, breakfast nooks, front porches, front yards, All just unused, or unused such a large percentage of the time. it’s as if 75% of these houses are unused 95% of the time. And this is at a time when people are home more than they normally would be. We should be using utilizing our houses more than we ever have, and still it seems most people have way more space than they need.

This seems to correspond to a phenomenon I’ve observed with vehicles. So many people have a large SUV or full size truck, but they don’t use that vehicle at full capacity 95% of the time. Most the time it’s transporting one person around town – ya know, like a bicycle could do except that biking is scary because you have to contend with all the cars and the infrastructure designed specifically for cars…. I digress. I’ve heard it said elsewhere that Americans buy their vehicles for their worst case instead of optimal case. I think there’s a phrase for that, but I can’t think of it. But houses too I suppose. How often do you need a guest room, really. A breakfast nook? Hell, I wonder how many houses could do without a front door. Plenty of people only come and go through the garage.

Conspiracy Thinking Criticism

Inspired by a recent resurgence of the mail-in voting fraud idea

People chiming in to take his conspiracy claim seriously at this point are probably not sincere, and are certainly serving to lend legitimacy to person very much making dictatorial gestures. And they can just fuck right off with that!

Conspiracy thinking in general isn’t bad. A lot of important journalism, for example, is uncovering actual conspiracies. However, there is something fundamentally different about flat earth type conspiracy theorists, and this tends to apply to many ideas this POTUS touts, including this mail-in voting thing.

Concerns with vote by mail follow very typical conspiracy theory paths. Where I have looked into them they are very easily debunked, but the problem isn’t with the theories themselves, it is with the people who hold on to them like a dog with a bone. Like flat earthers they deny the veracity of any facts they can’t somehow see with their own eyes or reproduce themselves with simple reductionist demonstrations. In doing so throw they out whole mountains of evidence along with all the reasoning built on that evidence.

This brand of conspiracy theorist throws out mountains of evidence and reasoning, and then, promptly proceeds to place the burden for rebuilding it all onto those who disagree with them instead of accepting this responsibility themselves. In a sick twist, the unwillingness of people to play into their game is held as proof the conspiracy is correct. Often this logical flail is followed up with a dose of gaslighting. Anyone not gulping up their Kool-Aid of crazy reasoning is not believing the “facts”. We are the ones being duped; who need to “wake up!”

In short, conspiracy thinking generally falls into two camps. The good kind connects new dots by adding to existing evidence and reasoning. The bad kind casts fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) by discarding evidence, asking questions in bad faith, and gaslighting detractors