Mar. 3rd, 2017 10:05 am
quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

I have a friend (I’ll call him D) who’s diligent about calling outlandish news story posts to task. Sometimes he bites off more than he can chew.

M: Pizzagate Arrests and Busts Occurring!
General Flynn's resignation possibly due to his authority and intention to destroy networks of sex traffickers…
[link omitted]

D: This is someone's personal blog. Smells fake to me. Are any of these stories being corroborated by other media?

M: I just learned a day ago about Pizzagate, and that it is really Pedophile-gate and reaches throughout even upper levels of government. I have been reading about such crimes over the years. So maybe "the swamp" of Washington D.C. includes this. I can get excited about that cleanup! Such is the protection for the trafficking through networks of individuals top to bottom: from the President, to the Justice Department criminal division, to the courts, to law enforcement and mental health institutions, to Child Services, and then to farms producing kids for sex slavery and places that hold or handle the slaves for pornography....

D: Uh...you know Pizzagate is fake news, right? One of the more ludicrous attempts to discredit Hillary.

M: i'm not swayed by the spin around Hillary. She didn't appear in my readings until the Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips book around the year 2000. I was doing street organizing with a War on Drugs campaign in 1984-1988 and saw the pedophile rings as part of the flow of laundered drug money, pornography, CIA and military secret experimentation to make child slaves into couriers, prostitutes, assassins, and super soldiers they could switch on and off at will. The Omaha, NE Strategic Air Command base was a reported covert location for mind conversions and coding of children back in 1984. That was the first I heard about the pedophile rings. The money flows were handled by the CIA, FBI, and individuals from the US General Staff and Federal Reserve Bank, especially after the Senator Church hearings in 1975 squeezed the CIA’s public budgets. People were co-opted and blackmailed by involvement in the pornography and prostitutes and escorts. Also, world events and treaties required lots of secrecy for back channel communication, and the mind controlled sex slaves served that covert role. Cash, cocaine and heroin travelled on cruise liners, military transports, Federal Reserve Bank security flights and other ways protected by individuals "above suspicion" with public official authority. So, my ears are open for all our usual "friends" in high places to get sucked into the current cleanup. The secrecy is so pervasive it's as tight as the UFO national security crisis, where nobody who sees one is believed, leaving the whole country vulnerable to a future false flag terror event using flying saucers and a ready-made story to disarm all our defenses. There cannot be integrity in public business with so many compromised individuals being part of these networks.

So, there is no need to pick on Hillary. Emboldening those who have seen things but not yet spoken may be enough to open the flood waters to drain the swamp across the USA... in my dream.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (education)

Yesterday, I ran into a physical copy of something that I saw online…geez, I think I was still in college. It was the original writing guide for Star Trek scripts. It's something I originally recalled in the context of the whole Hugo & Puppies thing — yes, even I, someone who can barely read, saw problems with the claims they staked regarding the history, purpose, and proper judging criteria of science fiction.

What follows are the first two pages of the third revision, dated 1967. The full document can be found online.


The scene is the Bridge of the U.S.S. (United States Spaceship) Enterprise. Captain Kirk is at his command position, his lovely but highly efficient female Yeoman at his side. Suddenly and without provocation, our Starship is attacked by an alien space vessel. We try to warn the alien vessel off, but it ignores us and begins loosing bolts of photon energy-plasma at us.

The alien vessel's attack begins to weaken our deflectors. Mister Spock reports to Captain Kirk that the next enemy bolt will probably break through and destroy the Enterprise. At this moment we look up to see that final energy-plasma bolt heading for us. There may be only four or five seconds of life left. Kirk puts his arms about his lovely Yeoman, comforting and embracing her as they wait for what seems certain death. FADE OUT.


(   ) Inaccurate terminology. The Enterprise is more correctly an international vessel, the United Spaceship Enterprise.

(   ) Scientifically incorrect. Energy-plasma bolts could not be photon in nature.

(   ) Unbelievable. The Captain would not hug pretty Yeoman on the Bridge of his vessel.

(   ) Concept weak. This whole story opening reeks too much of "space pirate" or similar bad science fiction.


(   ) Inaccurate terminology. Wrong, if you checked this one. Sure, the term "United States Spaceship" was incorrect, but it could have been fixed with a pencil slash. Although we do want directors, writer, actors and others to use proper terminology, this error was certainly far from being the major STAR TREK format error.

(   ) Scientifically inaccurate. Wrong again; beware if you checked this one. Although we do want to be scientifically accurate, we've found that selection of this item usually indicates a preoccupation with science and gadgetry over people and story.

(   ) Concept weak. Wrong again. It is, in fact, much like the opening of one of our best episodes of last year. "Aliens", "enemy vessels", "sudden attack" and such things can range from "Buck Rogers" to classical literature, all depending on how it is handled (witness H. G. Wells' novels, Forrester's sea stories, and so on.)


( x ) Unbelievable. Why the correct answer? Simply because we've learned during a full season of making visual science fiction that believability of characters, their actions and reactions, is our greatest need and is the most important angle factor.

(I do want to stress that the correctness of that answer has nothing to do with the social inappropriateness of treating women in an unprofessional manner and everything to do with how unbelievable it would be for a decorated, veteran officer in active command of a military vessel to stop and hug someone in the middle of a battle. Roddenberry was certainly one of the highest-profile SJWs in SF history, and Star Trek was his mouthpiece, but that's not what's going on here (except possibly surreptitiously).)

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

"I know Liberals all too well. They talk high about free speech but if you say something they don't want people to hear they'll attack your right to speak and even resort to violence if you don't let them silence you."

Okay. Let's say I'm a Liberal (since I probably am, being married to another guy and all) and you say something I don't like.

I'm kind of stuck.

If I punch you to shut you up, well, obviously I'd be attacking you.

But not punching you is also an attack! It's an attack on your expertise. You claimed to know something about me, and by acting contrary to that claim, I'm challenging your authority on the subject. That's not physically violent, sure, but it's certainly confrontational!

In fact, it's entirely possible that I want to punch you, and that I was going to punch you, but because you exposed that fact about me, I deliberately acted in contrary fashion just to make you look wrong. In a dishonest act of rhetorical petulance, I manipulated the data to hide your correctness and undermine your reputation. And that's not a very constructive way for me to act, now, is it?

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Disney just released a new movie titled Frozen. It’s getting rabid praise for turning a number of societal and Hollywood princess tropes on their heads. Women in the movie are self-determined, they turn down marriage proposals, they’re loving and supportive of one another, they talk about things other than men.

Read more... )

It’s all an amazing progressive step for what is ostensibly the most heteronormative media company out there, right?


Well, sure. If you compare Frozen to other Disney princess-centric movies, it’s a breath of fresh air. That all changes when you compare it to the fairy tale it’s (loosely) based on: “The Snow Queen,” published in 1845 by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s about a boy who gets brainwashed by evil magic and kidnapped by a Snow Queen, and the girl who insists on saving him even though it’s treacherous and most people don’t even know where he is and think he’s already dead anyway. The original tale has a grand total of zero strong, prominent male characters. There’s the boy, who has zero agency and whose personality is compromised for most of the story. There’s the devil who created the evil magic, who appears only in the prologue and is barely a character at all. There’s a Prince, who also shows up for only one of the tale’s seven chapters and is mainly notable for meeting the Princess’s exacting marriage standards. And that’s it unless you count a couple talking animals.

On the flip side, the tale is full of powerful and/or respectable female characters, from revered grandmothers to the aforementioned Princess to witches to highway robbers, and there’s no sense that any of them got to where they are with someone else’s help. There is even explicit admonition that everything the little girl accomplishes, she accomplishes because she is inherently capable of it, not because of assistance or altruism.

”I can give her no greater power than she has already,” said the woman; “don't you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart.”

From one point of view, by eliminating the boy from the original tale and rewriting the snow queen’s backstory to something more expansive, Frozen gives us a fully-formed, three-dimensional character to explore who isn’t simply “female” nor simply “evil” nor simply anything else.

From another, Disney has taken a story about a girl who rescues a boy from a kidnapper all by herself and changed it into a story where a girl strikes out with a boy (because girls need help to do things) to help a girl (because a boy wouldn’t have needed help) who can’t control her emotions (because girls are too uterusy — I mean hysterical).

So if Frozen is treated as such a huge step forward, is that because we’re starting from so far behind or because folks are by and large rather naïve about the whole deal?

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (fables)

One day, the Hero came upon a burning house. A crowd of townsfolk watched from the yard.

“Help me!” cried the Homeowner from an upstairs window.

“Call 9-1-1!” said the Hero.

“We did,” said the crowd, but the fire trucks were not yet there.

“Save me!” yelled the Homeowner as smoke poured from the window.

The Hero moved toward the house, but the Blacksmith stood in the way.

“Let me by,” said the Hero. “I need to save the Homeowner.”

The broad-shouldered Blacksmith stood fast. “Think it through. If we do the firefighters’ job, they will get lazy. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us die later. We don’t want to die.”

“But the house is on fire!” said the Hero.

The Fishmonger stood beside the Blacksmith. “Think it through. The less the Homeowner gets hurt, the less careful people will be about fire. Saving the Homeowner now will make more of us get hurt later. We don’t want to get hurt.”

“Save my cat!” begged the Homeowner, cradling a frightened tabby.

“At least let me catch her cat,” said the Hero.

The Schoolteacher stood beside the Fishmonger. “Think it through. For every cat that dies, two wives are beaten and three children go hungry. Saving the cat means letting other problems harm us. We don’t want to be harmed.”

“You’re crazy!” said the Hero. “Why won’t you let me help?”

“We’re rational,” said the Blacksmith.

“We’re responsible,” said the Fishmonger.

“We won’t let you hurt us,” said the Schoolteacher.

And so the Homeowner died a hero.

quarrel: (Default)

A fellow on Twitter pointed out a few problematic things with the Child’s Play charity.

1. It’s strongly associated with Penny Arcade, a webcomic whose creators have been front and center in a number of misogyny and intolerance scandals.

2. The original goal of the Child’s Play charity, stated as a matter of public record by one of its creators, was to benefit people who play video games. It was not conceived with the primary goal of helping kids. It was conceived with the primary goal of challenging the popular public opinion that gamers are worthless, violent dregs of society, using charity as a means to that end.

2.a. On top of that, gamers may not be physically violent on the whole (or even by a significant minority), but broad swaths of them really do behave in generally repulsive ways.

3. Fiscal irresponsibility within health institutions is one of the major reasons American health care is so expensive yet so substandard. A respectable charity to help sick people would not involve buying something for them so the hospital they’re in doesn’t have to. That reduces pressure on hospitals to responsibly spend the money they do have — something they need to do well but are currently terrible at.

4. Video game hardware, such as iPads and Xboxes, is manufactured in intolerable sweatshop conditions by slave wage laborers in developing nations. AAA-level video game software is created by developers who notoriously require abusive amounts of crunch time from their employees. Supporting either industry is a horrible thing to do. Supporting both, well….

5. A street customer donating a commercial item bought at full price is cost-inefficient compared to the manufacturing company donating it directly. This is especially true in the case of digitally distributed games, which have zero marginal cost.

Therefore, if you want your philanthropic efforts to go exclusively toward helping sick kids, you should do something that helps them but doesn’t financially aid corrupt medical and entertainment mega-institutions or improve the public image of discriminatory, misogynistic, bigoted organizations. Help the needy without helping those who don’t need and don’t deserve.

This isn’t the line of thinking we used in our decision to stop attending the annual Child’s Play charity dinner. That came exclusively from PA’s track record of consistently acting without empathy in the wake of hurtful incidents caused by themselves or close professional associates, to the point where it makes my skin vaguely crawl.

I’ve heard the arguments defending PA’s behavior by attacking the accusatory arguments. They don’t ring true to me.

I’ve heard the dramatically polarized general claim that anyone who asks someone else not to say or do or think or sing or write or draw anything, no matter how he asks and no matter why, is squelching free speech, stifling creative freedom, and imposing his will on others unduly. It’s the radically libertarian idea that if a woman were to walk down the street yelling “Goddamn faggots!” and a little boy were to ask her to stop, please, the boy would be the greater threat to society. I don’t think that level of idealism is remotely practical, regardless of whether it is, in theory, accurate and attainable in some perfect alternate dimension (which I doubt anyway).

I’ve seen the argument that the original Dickwolves strip is not technically a rape joke, even though it involves rape, because a) the main actor in the joke is neither the perpetrator nor the victim, and b) because the joke does not require that the offense be rape specifically, but rather uses that deed as an exaggerated stand-in for a generic “bad thing” and would work just as well swapping in any other personal ordeal. I see where this argument comes from, and I concede its pedantic terms, but I find it just that — pedantic. I am certainly unconvinced by the accusation — levied without evidence — that the majority of journalists and bloggers who claim the strip is a rape joke do not do so because they actually think it is, for rationally defensible reasons or even as honest opinion, but, rather, that they know it really isn’t and only say it is in a deliberate attempt to instill a preemptive anti-PA prejudice in first-time readers who aren’t familiar with the scandal’s background. “What? A webcomic I haven’t heard of makes rape jokes? Thank you for the warning, Ms. Random Blog Person. I’ll stay away from them and believe all the bad things I hear about them from now on.”

But here’s the Bizarro World twist to that last claim: the person who made it is a firm believer in women being discriminated against in society in general and the workplace in particular, much of it unintentional and subconscious. In companies he’s run, he’s even set policies of blanking names on resumes before they’re evaluated to avoid gender bias. Not what I expected…unless you accept that a person can truly believe that discussing a topic less often or in fewer ways is always bad. That it’s always unproductive. That the people who rail against the prevalence of “lighthearted” rape humor and prejudicial banter in casual conversation (because they believe that treating these subjects too lightly prevents society from believing that assault and harassment are common and serious) are actively working away from a solution rather than toward one.

Even author John Scalzi is involved. Scalzi, who is friends with PA’s creators, made gender-political waves in July when he announced he would not attend conventions unless they had an anti-harassment policy, made it known to all attendees, and had the ability to respond immediately to all reported incidents. The entirety of his response to PA’s checkered past is that he won’t be terminating his friendship over it, and that’s all he’ll say. Also not what I expected.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

If this is crazier than normal, I can blame it on my fever.

There are arguments about how innocent-until-proven-guilty, freedom of speech, protection from unlawful search & seizure, and so on give disproportionate benefit to people with little influence in politics because big, connected majority groups would still have the wherewithal to protect themselves if such laws weren't on the books. It's a pretty plausible argument.

But the opposite argument is also plausible. We've known since Roman times that people tend to arrange laws to help themselves first and other people either second or never. And we've known for longer than that that some demographic groups have more political power than others. By Occam's Razor, the most plausible explanation for why things like the First and Fourth Amendments have lasted as long as they have is that they've disproportionately aided enfranchised groups, and any benefits they provide to groups like women, immigrants, and people of color are coincidental.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

There’s a line in the action movie Parker delivered by the eponymous main character: “I don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.” Here’s the problem with that: he’s also the person deciding who deserves it. With no balance to this check, Parker’s assurance is meaningless. He can hurt anyone at any time because he can arbitrarily decide at any time that any given person deserves to be hurt.

Indie game developer Jason Rohrer stirred up controversy with his latest game, Castle Doctrine. It’s a competitive multiplayer game in which you take the role of a husband with a wife, a kid, and a house full of valuables. If you don’t equip your house with state-of-the-art anti-burglary defenses, burglars will break in, kill your family, and steal your valuables. To afford those defenses, you must break into other people’s houses, kill their families, and steal their valuables.

You might be tempted to think of this as reverse psychology — an artistic treatment of the subject that’s supposed to repulse you to get its point across, namely that the preemptive strike approach to personal safety ultimately results in everyone being far less safe and “the only winning move is not to play”. It's a lesson that real AIs in a real game actually learned when someone left a first-person shooter running for four years with robot players and peace broke out.

But Rohrer says that wasn’t his intent. He says he made a game based on his actual worldview, in particular, that anyone who enters your house without permission no longer deserves to live. “For me, as soon as you stick your foot across my windowsill I just feel like that’s it. You’ve violated the contract, right. I’m not sticking my foot across your windowsill.” He developed this philosophy after neighbors were robbed and a dog attacked his wife.

This stirred vigorous backlash in certain corners of the game development community.

How okay Jason Rohrer is [with] murdering animals and people makes me extremely uncomfortable. How do I have a contract with someone I’ve met twice? Where is the contract? Can I read it? What else can I get killed for?
They objected to the notion that one single person can unilaterally determine when other humans do and do not deserve to live, irrespective of law or society. They proposed that Rohrer’s conclusions are the result not of reason, but of an emotional overreaction to a situation that his privileged social status isolated him from until recently. Cameron Kunzelman writes an analysis of Rohrer’s game and his interview statements about it, arguing that self defense is totally justifiable as a general concept but that Rohrer’s attitude about it exceeds the bounds of reason. Cameron points out that in Castle Doctrine, nearly 100% of all home burglaries end in murder, but in Rohrer’s real life city as of two years ago, the number of murders total was only about 1% the number of burglaries (and, implicitly, that the number of specifically burglary-related murders was a mere fraction of that), thus indicating that Rohrer’s view of crime and criminals — and thus what constitutes an appropriate response to them — isn’t grounded in reality.

There’s an article I read recently called “Schrödinger’s Rapist” that exposed me to a very different world view. In the intervening time, I’ve leaned heavily toward the attitude that you don’t get to determine other people’s feelings about you. You don’t decide whether you’re threatening to other people. Only other people possess that authority. Likewise, you don’t decide whether you are offensive, or insulting, or fun to be around. Other people, and only other people, get to decide those things. You may not intend to be threatening. You may even want and try and hope to be unthreatening. But if other people feel threatened, then you have threatened them. Really. They didn’t make it up just to get you in trouble. They may have poor reasons for their feelings, like their parents/society have taught them that Your Kind is dangerous, but their feelings are no less legitimate.

Then I read this article by the large, black, male drummer for a Grammy-winning hip-hop group, talking about how all his life he’s scared people by being a large, black male. Talking about how putting other people’s fearful thoughts of him above his own thoughts of himself has harmed and dehumanized him. And suddenly I was seeing the other side of the story. It sure as hell didn’t sound like the usual, unconvincing counterargument, the one scummy Men’s Rights Activists use about how they shouldn’t have to stop hitting on a girl who “just wants to be left alone” because they’re only trying to be friendly and she’s objectively wrong to view the attention as anything other than a compliment…the argument that your intended meaning is the only thing that matters, and if they read you wrong, it’s entirely their problem (and probably intentional anyway).

So now I’m back to not really knowing.

quarrel: (Default)

So much topsy-turvy this week.

If you regularly portray men as powerful, resourceful, determined, and independent in movies and whatnot, you run into a problem when it comes time to introduce a female character. On the one hand, if you present her as emotional or empathetic or cooperative, you imply that women are inferior to men. On the other hand, if you portray her as equivalently powerful, resourceful, determined, and independent to your male characters, you imply that women need to be like men to be valuable. Ironically, the way out of this dilemma is to diversify the ways in which you portray positive male characters.

Anders Zanichkowsky is a self-professed radical liberal who staunchly opposes same-sex marriage rights on the grounds that marriage equality A) does not address any of the most serious issues affecting any of the most marginalized members of society, and furthermore B) fighting for marriage equality actively deprives those latter causes of time, money, and effort. Two middle-class white gay guys visiting each other in the hospital or shaving a couple hundred bucks off a joint tax return is nice and all, but allowing more marriages won't stop poor people from starving, black people from getting thrown in jail over and over for no reason, or trans people from getting shot by drunk police who want sex.

Actually, add C) that with respect to people who don't understand how bad things really are, small positive developments like the fall of DOMA give the false impression that significant forward progress is being made toward universal justice and civil rights. When it comes to solving problems so big that all of society needs to pull together, the only thing worse than no progress is some progress.

And don't forget D) that if your overarching goal is liberty and respect for all lifestyles, about the most bass-ackward thing you can do is desire to be more like the mainstream majority and just get married and raise children. Becoming more like the people who hate "weirdos" lessens the pressure on those haters to stop hating all those other groups who remained true to themselves.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

1. Private citizens do not charge people with crimes. Only the government can do that.
Citizens can only file civil suits against each other. Any charge of a crime, by definition, must come from a government agency — specifically, from a prosecutor. Frequently a prosecutor will decide whether to charge an alleged perpetrator based on whether someone else appears willing and able to provide strong testimony, but “pressing charges” does not cause criminal proceedings to begin automatically, nor can you stop the government from charging someone with a crime by deciding not to press charges. That decision is entirely out of your hands.

2. Bills are not formally evaluated for legality before they’re passed into law.
It’s the job of judges, and the judiciary in general, to rule on the legality of laws, but only after those laws come into existence. Acting judges don’t officially review and affirm the legality of proposed laws before the legislative branch votes on enacting them. Lawyers, retired judges, and other legal experts are often (but not always!) called upon to do these analyses, but not live judges.

3. Only people that a law applies to can challenge whether it’s legal, and often only after it’s affected them.
Tax laws can’t be challenged until after the government attempts to collect taxes subsequent to the laws’ passing, and only by people paying it. Michael Newdow wanted to sue the school system to stop it from making his daughter recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that he couldn’t, on the grounds that his post-divorce arrangements left him no legal custody of his daughter and so he couldn’t sue anyone about anything on her behalf.


Apr. 30th, 2013 12:43 am
quarrel: (prinny)

Sexism and racism — or, at least, their elements — are prevalent everywhere, even in places that aren’t immediately obvious.

Pac-Man was designed around an eating theme (and given colorful, non-threatening graphics) because the designer was trying to appeal to female players, who were an untapped market at the time. He couldn’t come up with a good game idea about dressing up or dating, but he knew girls liked to eat desserts.

I’ve already covered how EverQuest is endemically racist by having black people and humans as separate races, just like how Huck Finn thought the real world worked until Jim bled red.

Portal and Portal 2 are both lessened by multiple instances of the antagonist insulting the main character about her weight. This kind of talk is, at its heart, objectifying, as it is founded on the harmful notion that the main responsibility of women is to be physically attractive.

Someone threw up a red flag at the racism in Ridiculous Fishing. In that game, upgrades are bought from a boat merchant in a coolie and robes. In a brief blog exchange, the lead artist defended his decision by stating he thought boat merchants fit the game and were neat in general, and that image-searching showed Vietnamese boat merchants still wear that getup (especially the hats, which are quite functional). Other posters with more first-hand experience in that region begged to differ on the robes. They also pointed out that regardless of whether that attire is accurate in isolated instances, it perpetuates an unflattering stereotype, and thus the mature thing to do would be to realize the error, apologize, and change the art in the next patch, not defend it.

Then there’s Antichamber, a sexist first-person shooter. “Wait, no,” you say. “Antichamber isn’t sexist at all. It’s an abstract 3D puzzle game. There aren’t even any people in it!” To which I reply, a) it’s done in first-person view, b) you shoot out (and draw in) puzzle cubes with your puzzle cube gun, and c) look at this spoiler-free compilation of most of the wall signs you encounter in the game:

So there are people in it. Lots of them. And notice how nearly every time the designer wanted to depict a human, he drew a man? That mentality — that men=people and women are exclusively women — lies at the heart of a lot of sexual inequality. Oh, and it sure doesn’t help that the only situation with a clearly female character involves physically rejecting flirtatious advances at a singles bar until being mollified with flowers.

Of course, if those examples feel too contrived for you, or you feel I’m more of a kook or a radical than someone with a legitimate reason to believe what I believe, I could pick the low-hanging fruit that’s lighting flamewars right now: Dragon’s Crown, and how all the oversensitive feminists are making a big deal out of one character being exaggerated in sexual ways in a game where all characters are exaggerated in some way or other and the art overall has an undeniably high quality.

I mean, in any creative act, there is exactly one entity in the whole universe who has even the slightest iota of legitimate input into what gets created or how, and that’s the creator. Anything else is censorship, right? Art exists to say what the artist wants to say, not what the viewer wants to hear. It doesn’t matter whether X hurts you; it’s still wrong to say, “Hey, maybe people shouldn’t do X so much.”

I’m having a hard time buying that, though. Maybe I’m not educated enough?

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

I live in the Seattle area, but my family is all on the East Coast. When I was home for Christmas, my ten year old niece waxed eloquent about the things her school was in the midst of teaching her about “the Western Region of the United States”. Or, rather, that’s what she did once she’d struggled to recall whether Washington State is in the “west” or the “northwest”, vacillated, then declared it irrelevant because I’d also lived in California for years, and that was clearly West.

Now that my status of “a Person who Currently or At One Time Lived in the Western Region” was firmly established, she posed me a question to which she already knew the astounding answer: what was the most popular breakfast in that part of the country? I pondered briefly and suggested that it might be huevos rancheros or something unsurprising like pancakes, but that I didn’t know for sure.

“It’s eggs and cactus!”

I told her I’d never heard of such a thing while I lived in California, and that, yes, some parts of some cacti are edible, but take it from me, it’s not a common or tasty enough ingredient to make “eggs and cactus” the most popular single breakfast food over an entire multistate area. (A bit of research after the fact shows that, yes, nopales con huevos is a real dish, and it’s trended upward since I moved to Washington, but I also browsed a half-dozen Google hits on “most popular breakfast” and I didn’t see the word “cactus” once.)

“No. It’s eggs and cactus.”

I pointed out again that I’d lived in the part of the country she was learning about and my personal experience didn’t match what she was telling me. I asked her how she got this particular fact. She muttered something about that’s what her teammate said and promptly changed the subject, so I presume this particular assignment involved research partners, and that her partner did a quick random search, wrote down the first thing she found, and now it’s a Fact because she read it somewhere, just like all the other Facts she reads about. And there is No Way my niece is going to do Extra Work! to double-check things and then even more EXTRA WORK!!! looking up the real right answers because that’s what her teammate was supposed to do, and anyway her teammate did look it up and it’s not my niece’s fault if the teammate got it wrong!

But that’s what you have to do with news in the real world: double-check it.

There’s been a lot of talk in recent months about how huge tax rates fixed our economy in previous dire times. There’s been lots of other talk about how they weren’t as high as some people lead us to believe. So I actually looked at some historical tax brackets via taxfoundation.org and irs.gov .

I learned a thing or two along the way.

  • The IRS has PDFs of tax forms online going all the way back to 1913 (plus one from 1864).
  • We got the concept of the standard deduction from France.
  • The Form 1040 instructions were only four pages long in 1945.
  • Tax rates aren’t the only thing that matters. Where brackets start and stop is just as important.
    • Raw bracket info doesn’t tell the whole story. There are often complications that must be taken into account if you want to determine your exact tax rate.
    • In 1989, there were officially only two tax brackets: 15% and 28%. But there was also a surtax on a midrange portion of the 28% bracket. As your income climbed into this sub-bracket, the surtax eventually canceled out the amount you “saved” by paying only 15% in the low bracket. The net effect was that, if you earned enough, you effectively paid a flat tax of 28% on everything.
    • In 1945, there was an extra rule that you could never owe more than 90% of your total income, so eventually you got so far into the 94% bracket that you hit a breakpoint and your marginal rate dropped back to 90%.
  • You don’t get to count deductions before calculating Social Security or Medicare taxes. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t already know this.
  • Generating good charts is hard. Doing it with the wrong tools is even harder. ( Actually, I already knew this, but got reminded of it in a big way.)

Oh, yeah. I made charts. Here and here:

So what do these charts mean?

Probably very little. Let me explain.

For starters, why did I pick the years I did? Well, I picked 2012 because it’s current. I picked 1989 because so many recent tax arguments refer to the Reagan era. I picked 1945 because it’s one of those famous “taxes right after WWII went up to 90%” years.

Those are lousy reasons if you’re trying to come to a trustworthy conclusion about something. I could have picked three other sample years and created different implications about how things are, or how they’ve changed, or what taxes would look like if they were done “right”. Actually, the very fact that I only compare three sample years instead of five, or eight, or a long continuous series provides bias with another ton of leeway to creep in, whether I intend it or not.

Second, there’s too much information I don’t convey. The graphs cover only federal income and payroll taxes. They don’t cover sales taxes. They don’t cover taxes on capital gains. They don’t cover state & municipal taxes (and with good reason: that would add at least two orders of magnitude more work).

The graphs also assume you take the default standard deduction. No one who makes significant amounts of money does that. They itemize and get bigger exemptions. More importantly, what kinds of things could be written off has changed significantly over the decades. Unless you are a financial historian, I bet you have nowhere near an accurate idea how much taxable income a person from 1945 would have as a result of taking home a million dollar paycheck.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

Libertarians — and staunch conservatives in general, actually — take an extreme stance on property. In their view, anything you make or earn is 100% yours to control, and you are the only entity with a legitimate say in how any of it gets used. “Taxation is theft,” they say, because in taxation, an outside agency takes something you earned and gives it to other people regardless of whether you approve.

The feeling runs so strong in some circles that proponents of this philosophy advocate returning to the gold standard so not even inflation can involuntarily reduce a person’s wealth. You see, if you owned enough gold to buy thirty-seven pairs of pants ten years ago, you would own enough gold to buy thirty-seven pairs of pants today, whereas if you had enough fiat money to buy that many pants in 2003, then as of today you could only afford twenty-nine pairs (and some socks). Since you never voluntarily gave away 21% of your wealth, logic says it must have been taken. I’ve even heard it asserted that counterfeiting was the only crime that the Founding Fathers unanimously agreed should be punished by death, presumably due to the fact that creating more currency out of thin air makes all existing currency worth less. The severity of the crime is magnified by the fact that its victim is everyone in the country who owns money, so printing even one fake dollar causes more aggregate harm than does killing someone.

For the record, I personally don’t put a lot of credence in this worldview, mainly as a result of seeing so much misunderstood or misapplied game theory used to justify it. I think there is nothing inherently criminal about the concept of taxation itself, nor other concepts like eminent domain or adverse possession.

But a thought struck me the other day: why is there so much public support for at least some level of wealth taxation to fund government services, but no support for forced distribution of intellectual property? In fact, there’s a high correlation between people who favor ample government spending and people who staunchly defend artists’ rights to control the distribution of their own work. Is this, perhaps, contradictory?

Let’s say an American author writes a Young Adult novel that’s well-suited for use in classroom instruction. Currently, a public school that wants to use that book needs to negotiate licensing rights, which will cost money, which will be paid for by taxes, which are levied on the public by the government. What if, instead, the government exerted authority over the author’s intellectual property rights? What if, by federal decree, public schools could reprint this book at will for educational use without the author’s permission and without compensating her? Taxes wouldn’t rise as much. The author would not lose general copyright on her work, and could still sell it on the open market. That’s the thing with digital media, after all: you can get a copy of it for yourself without depriving someone else of it. That’s why piracy isn’t prosecutable as theft.

What if taxes were more like piracy?

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

A near-verbatim discussion I witnessed.

Wow. This article says Democrats are shooting for the equivalent of a 62% top tax bracket.

This article is misleading. “...combined federal and state top tax rate on earnings of 62%. That's more than double the highest federal marginal rate of 28% when President Reagan left office in 1989.”? Of course state and federal taxes together add up to more than federal taxes alone. Moreover, he's comparing state plus federal taxes PLUS a surtax to just the federal tax&hellips;from 25 years ago, when the highest rate kicked in at a much higher income breakpoint than it does today. This guy thinks his readers are idiots.

So what should taxes be?

In my opinion, the top marginal rate should be somewhere around 97% but only apply to those that maintain overseas holdings of more than a million dollars. Capital gains tax and property taxes for non-primary residences should be around 75%. Plus, companies should get tax breaks for contributing to science research and humanitarian aid, letting their land be used for wind/solar/hydropower, and paying their employees more than twice minimum wage. Yes, this would create “loopholes” that rich people could take advantage of, but they would have to actually invest in the economy and raise everyone’s standard of living to capitalize on them.

Thank you for actually answering with firm numbers. I regularly ask people just how much is the ‘fair share’ for the rich to pay, and I rarely get a specific answer. But I wonder how you can be okay with such outright theft, and I wonder how you think this country will compete internationally after major tax code changes remove tax breaks and put an upper limit on total cumulative deductions. Historically, the fastest way out of debt has been to grow the economy. That can’t happen if you take money away from the people who can grow it and give it to an inefficient and already-bloated government.

To equate taxes to “outright theft” is to deem everything funded or accomplished by any federal government a waste of resources. No one built the Internet, the highways, the Armed Forces, the electrical grid, the stock market, the nation’s air- and seaports, or the education system before the federal government did. Taxes in general are not theft until the effective rate gets ridiculously high, say, 90%.

If you look back at any time in history, in any country on the planet, past or present, you will see that national and international economies grew the fastest when taxes were highest. When governments collect more and spend more, everyone prospers. When the rich are able to keep more of their money, everyone loses — even the rich! In our own history, it happened in the 30s after the stock market crash, in the 50s after the war, in the 90s after Reagan and again in the last few years. There is no logical, evidentiary, or fiscal argument that can show any other result. There has never been. There are only the opinions of rich people who want an excuse to keep their money.

We are losing our ability to compete in the world because our taxes are too low. The U.S. is nowhere near the world leader nations in technological innovation, scientific research, medical research, space exploration, education (public, private, or collegiate), literacy, savings per capita, nutrition, or low personal debt. All these areas are victims of repeated federal budget cuts across the last 50 years.

No one ever said, “I have a million dollars that I could invest and make profit with, but I won’t do it because taxes are too high.” Maybe they shied away from risk, but that’s a different factor altogether. Higher taxes decrease investment risk by increasing the odds of businesses and government working in tandem, thus making it more likely that their initiatives succeed.

The rich in our country and around the world have such a staggeringly large portion of wealth that many people really have no idea how rich they are. We could take 90% of the wealth from the richest 2% of Americans and they would still be rich enough that they would never need to work a day for the rest of their lives. (I’m not advocating for that, I’m just illustrating a point.) There will never be a shortage of investable wealth in the world — just a shortage of confidence in their fellow Americans that the money spent will bring a return. That kind of distrust and cynicism is what causes the rich to hide their money in offshore accounts or look overseas for the cheapest, least moral labor force they can find.

How can you say taxes strengthen a country? Our country became the powerhouse it is without income taxes even existing until the 1860s. The issue over the past 50 years has been increasing Socialism. If we were serious about bringing jobs back home & making things fair, we'd do away with the income tax entirely & impose a national sales tax affecting everyone above the poverty line. This would promote savings and investment as well as properly distribute the tax burden heaviest onto those who consume the most.

At every level of income, both marginal and effective tax rates have fallen by half or so in the last 20 years. We have had plenty of time for low tax rates to fix our problems. They haven't. Arguing to reduce them even more, or to leave them where they are, is arguing against making things better.

There is no data to suggest that low tax rates grow economies, anywhere in the world, at any time in history.

Our country became the powerhouse it is because all of Asia and Europe were in tatters for 80 years after two world wars that were fought off our home soil. When you own the only non-bombed-out factories in the world, you can do pretty well for yourself.

Import duties don't work the way they did in the 1800s. Back then, you couldn't buy clothing, bread, cars, modular home components, personal appliances, or anything else from China and expect it to be cheaper than a locally-sourced product. Today, I can walk into an Asian market and buy ice cream that was made a week ago in Japan that costs less than two scoops at the parlor down the street from my house. When you apply import tariffs to foreign products, you can move sales over to American businesses, but only because you are causing American buyers to spend more than they would have otherwise.

I'm not saying you shouldn't buy American, but you have to expect that shoppers will try to get the most for their money, and we should not punish them for doing so. We need to find ways to keep our industries competitive despite higher labor costs, not simply raise prices across the board to bring everyone else up to our level. It would be great if it were cheaper to move parts and goods around the country so that our businesses could pay less for shipments. Oh, wait, that's why the federal government collects taxes to spend on the highway system. It would be cool if the costs of healthcare and benefits could be reduced, saving businesses thousands of dollars per employee. Oh, wait, that's why we're fighting for single-payer health care to allow the costs to come down across the country. And wasn't it a great day when we passed a socialist program that costs workers money now, while they are earning more, and then paying those same people money out of the system to cover living expenses one they are too old to work?

The most successful countries in the world, in terms of crime levels, personal debt, and quality of life, all tax more than those that don't. The big difference there is that it's not “big government” versus “small government” that the people debate; it’s the comparable effectiveness of government that matters. If the government can build a school and pay teachers with more efficiency and fewer hassles than a private company could, let them. If companies aren't paying enough people to produce art and advance the culture of the country, but this art is shown to have a positive effect on the mental health and morale of the people, then let the government hire and commission artists. (We used to do the same thing, you know.)

In the same way that you can buy 2 gallons of mayo at Costco because it's cheaper to buy in bulk, it's better for the government to pay for all of the nation's health care, or defense, or education, or infrastructure, or civic defense, or disaster relief, or food inspection, or border security, or savings insurance, etc. etc. etc. We should be demanding that the people in government spending our money do it more efficiently, for things we really need, not relieve them of their responsibility. In the name of “small government”, we've instead allowed private companies to take over things that actually are part of what we need the government to do — prisons, warfare, regulatory agencies. In many cases, the results are of less quality and higher cost.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

“I’m glad Romney wasn’t elected.”

Why is that?

“Well, the big reason is that he’s too pro-life.”

Lots of people are strongly pro-life.

“True, but lots of people aren’t trying to get into a position where they can negatively affect the health and rights of tens of millions of people.”

And you think Romney would do that?

“He sure would! He said so numerous times — that is, when he wasn’t saying that he wouldn’t. He kept changing back and forth depending on who he was talking to.”

He’s a politician. Don’t go by what he says. Go by what he does. Romney’s actual actions regarding abortion have been 100% consistent going back at least five years. He has not initiated any pro-life legislation or pro-life changes to existing legislation, and he hasn’t supported any such bills that arose in his jurisdiction.

“But he said he would! You heard him!”

Yes. I heard him. He said he would if certain situations arose, like a proposed constitutional amendment. He only mentioned highly unlikely situations, though. It’s a no-risk promise that only makes him sound committed. It’s a rhetorical move to gain more votes.

“But Romney is personally pro-life.”

Yes, he is. He admits that freely. But he also says he should be allowed to oppose abortion personally even if abortion is legal and it’s his job, as a member of the executive branch, to enforce existing laws. And he’s right.

“You want someone that dishonest to hold a position of power?”

Yes. That’s not so much dishonesty as simple politics. It’s the sort of thing a politician should do. It means he knows how to do his job well. A person like that is better suited to the job than someone who doesn’t know how to garner popular support. Professionals do what works. Amateurs do what they wish worked. I don’t want an amateur President.

“That’s not a conflict of interest?”

Not really. More to the point, it is literally impossible to restrict positions of law enforcement exclusively to people who personally favor every single law they’ll be enforcing. What else are you going to do? Go without a President? Without police chiefs?”

“I don’t know. Republicans in general seem awfully contrarian right now. Anytime anyone on the D side proposes doing something new or different, Romney’s party just automatically say “no”.”

Republicans are currently the minority in Congress. That makes them the opposition party. It is the duty of the opposition party to oppose the majority so the majority still needs to rely on defensible justifications to pass the legislation they want and not just ram stuff through with their numerical advantage. That means playing devil’s advocate on everything. All parties do this, and should do this, in that position.

“And you don’t mind politicians more interested in advancing their personal or their party’s agendas than in looking out for the welfare of the entire country?”

Whether I mind it is irrelevant, because that’s the way it’s supposed to work. It’s not the job of Congress to do what’s best for the country. Congress is comprised of representatives. It’s their job to represent the people who voted them into office, by doing what their constituents elected them to do. If those things don’t contribute to the well-being of the entire country, so be it. That’s one of the downsides of our form of government. The people who made it knew that, but they couldn’t get everyone to agree on anything better.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (politics)

I took up crocheting a few months ago. It’s a bit non-gender-standard, what with me being male and all. (That’s not why I did it. I did it because it let me make something I wanted to make.)

At a friend’s suggestion, I signed up to a crafting community website specializing in crochet and knitting. After logging in, I was greeted with the real, members-only splash page proudly brandishing the site’s trademarked catchphrase: “where my stitches at?”

I don’t know what to think. Is this offensive? Can I find it offensive? Is it too small a deal to matter? All five people on the site’s “About” page are women. They had to have done this on purpose. They had to have known where it comes from. Is this worth acting on? Is this worth worrying about? Would I just come across as a white knight protecting the poor, stupid minorities because they’re too plebeian to comprehend the problem in its entirety or too feeble to address the matter themselves?

During the election season, one of the longer discussions I witnessed concerned how to handle issues that don’t affect you directly. One camp felt you should step back and give priority voice to those people actually at the heart of the matter. After all, they’re probably better educated about the issue. Plus, if you screw up, they pay the price and you don’t. That leads to sloppiness and irresponsibility.

The other side insisted you should make everything your business and get equally, fully informed and involved in all issues that reach public ballot. For one, being unaffected directly doesn’t mean you’re not affected at all. (Take public education. So what if you don’t have kids? Education laws will still impact you when you interact with today’s schoolkids as tomorrow’s adults.) Plus it’s your duty to improve society as a whole. That means justice for everyone, not only you. Homosexuals would not have gained the legal right to marry via initiative if they were the only ones to vote yes on that issue. Likewise, there’s no way the Nineteenth Amendment would have passed if the only “appropriate” responses from men were to vote nay or abstain.

A little web searching on avoiding White Knight Syndrome and being a proper “ally” turned up Doctor Frances Kendall’s article, ”How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege” has some plausible-sounding advice, including a) yes, take action, b) do it in conjunction with the people you’re helping rather than going off solo. But she also says to uplift discriminated groups for the ultimate benefit that their increased participation will bring to everyone, including you, rather than because it’s the RightTM thing to do for them. Wham! Right-wing right hook out of nowhere. I must admit I did not expect that.

quarrel: (Default)

I have a hard time asking questions — or, rather, a hard time getting questions answered. A big part of it is that, for the past few years, I haven’t bothered trying to be polite. I can’t really see how it’s possible to question a person about her beliefs, her values, or her faith or ethics without implicitly attacking them, so why bother trying to sound like I’m not? That would only change me from disrespectful to disrespectful and insincere.

Obviously, I should try anyway. It probably won’t hurt. Probably. I suspect I’ll have a low success rate even if I eventually do learn how to do it well. There’s such a strong tendency, especially in the United States, for people to assume that if you are not 100% on their side a priori, your upbringing or your facts or your intelligence or your sense of civic responsibility are flawed. That’s the simplest explanation for why you don’t see the same blatantly obvious problems and aren’t doing the same things about them. (I could — and do — try to see things from multiple points of view, but while that helps me see why people come at issues differently, I’ve discovered it doesn’t endear me to any of them. In fact, if anything happens, it’s the opposite: I’m an uneducated idiot willing to believe any spiel from anyone instead of forming my own common sense opinion like decent people do.)

On top of that, between concern trolls and JAQing off, it’s exceedingly difficult to come across as a bona-fide question-asking neophyte. You must monitor the quality and quantity of your questions, for you begin with two strikes against you and risk being banned from the discussion if you sound even slightly disingenuous in your questioning or you don’t readily accept the answers you get. Refusal to accept answers is another denialist tactic. (“Yes, but how do you know evolution is real? How do you know evolution is real? How do you know evolution is real?”)

quarrel: (Default)

This bit of trivia came up on Jeopardy: one early draft title of Catch-22 was Catch-11, but it was rejected for being too similar to Ocean’s Eleven, which had just been released one year earlier.

There is this thing called the “tone argument”, which is when you dismiss an argument (or simply don’t listen) because you don’t like how forceful or emotional the speaker is, irrespective of whether the point and/or reasoning is sound. It’s frequently employed in discussions of racial and sexual equality, where a person, frustrated by a lifetime of illegal discrimination and negative societal bias, fights hard for equality and is told that she would be more likely to convince people she’s right if she weren’t so insistent. There is this sad negative correlation where the more severe a social injustice is, the less likely its victims are to be viewed as capable of rational participation in addressing the issue. Catch-22.

Claims of belief-influencing bias are another example. “You are a member of a privileged class that suffers from, and perpetuates, a widespread notion that there is no privileged class.” Once again, it’s a Catch-22. You cannot respond to this claim without supporting it. If you believe it, you support it explicitly, and if you don’t believe it, you act the way it predicted and thus support it implicitly. Fortunately, this one’s easier to break out of: point out the logic-lock and start bringing evidence in. (If you can. You might be wrong, you know?) You could also point out the non-falsifiable nature of the claim and use that to invalidate it as an argument, but that goes over laypeople’s heads.

Here’s another one, kind of: “Members of Political Party A lie significantly more often than members of Political Party B.” If this is true, the press is caught in a Catch 22: truthfully report the full extent of the issue, and thus seem biased and lose credibility, or avoid (or just downplay) the matter and fail in their duty to inform the public.

If it’s true. Because that’s contested.

  • “Person A lies. Person B lies too. Ergo they’re both equally bad.” I hear this mostly from people who dislike politics.
  • “Person A lies more often than Person B…according only to people who double-check Person A’s statements with more scrutiny than they use on B.” This was — allegedly — the reasoning behind the Mitt Romney campaign pollster who said, “Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” (I say “allegedly” because the one and only time I brought this up in a face-to-face discussion, I was berated for going by an interpretation of what the speaker meant rather than a direct reading of what he actually said. Alas, I did not have the exact quote with me to defend my heterodox stance. I’m also not sure it would have mattered.)
  • “Person A lies more often than Person B, but Person B lies more severely than Person A.” I’ll be honest: this approach makes a lot of sense to me. Consider if I accuse you of being a left-handed red-haired woman and you claim I’m ineligible to vote due to a felony conviction. I’ve lied up to three times, but you’ve still made the more serious faulty allegation. Granted, there’s still the matter of determining how serious any given lie is, but the issue of whether lies vary in severity is, I would hope, cut and dried.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

I take it as a given that if two people both start with the same facts and both apply proper logic, they will reach identical conclusions. So if two people disagree, then either they’re not working from the same facts or at least one of them got the logic wrong.

Or, alternately, there’s a third option: they have different goals.

It’s not rational to like strawberries. Nonetheless, some people do it, naturally, and there’s nothing particularly despicable about it. And if you are one of them, it is rational to order strawberry shortcake for dessert rather than chocolate mousse or crème brûlée. You are not ordering the best dessert. You are ordering the best dessert for you.

So what happens when there is a disagreement and it’s due to different goals, or different priorities, or different ethics? How do we determine what goals everyone uses? If we should determine them rationally, well, all we’ve done is moved the disagreement back one meta-level, for no net gain. If we should let people determine their own according to their personal nature, we get bizarre results like violent criminals being legally allowed to assault people because it gets them what they want. If we go by some group consensus, some mean or median of personal natures across society (and this seems to be how it’s generally been done throughout history — social species, by definition, have consistent species-wide behaviors), we get something practical, but not so much rational as utilitarian. I don't really care for any of these options.

quarrel: Engraving of Thoth from the Luxor Temple. (thoth)

Yet another person I follow has come down on the “pro” side of voter ID laws. He started by playing the “you can’t prove a negative” card, to wit: reports that a problem is happening are evidence that it’s happening, but a lack of reports that a problem is happening is not evidence that it isn’t, just like finding Bigfoot would prove he’s real but not finding Bigfoot doesn’t prove he isn’t. Effectively, this fellow claims that the number of people who vote fraudulently cannot be estimated — not even roughly — by extrapolating from how many people are accused and/or found guilty of it, and he goes on to assert that double-checking the validity of these allegedly illicit voters would, in fact, be the most straightforward way of finding them (or stopping them). As evidence that the problem is bigger than arrest records indicate, he cites how the state of Michigan recently estimated it has 4,000 improperly registered non-citizens, based on finding about 1,000 non-citizens among the 58,000 driver’s license and ID records they examined. (Then again, they found an actual voting history for only about fifty of those thousand, at an average of two votes per person.)

He claims that, ultimately, requiring ID to vote will prove to be an impassable barrier to fewer than dozens of people per state. He honestly believes this number to be at least an order of magnitude lower than the number of illicit votes getting cast right now, and that that latter number is great enough to swing electoral counts. He agrees completely that requiring an ID to vote will add a burden to many people, no question about it. However: A) it will still be less of a burden than many people suffer already — people who nonetheless vote anyway, since it is not unreasonably burdensome and since voting is a responsibility as much as a right; and B) there is no historical defense supporting the idea that it’s better to risk having non-citizens vote than to deny suffrage to rightful citizens. Yes, with the justice system here, there was a deliberate decision to err on the side of caution and often let probably-but-not-quite-provably guilty people go free as the price of minimizing the number of incarcerated innocents, but the claim on the table is that the Founding Fathers did not hold an analogous view toward voting. They thought — and we should think — that one illicit vote is just as bad as a silenced proper one rather than accept a many-to-one ratio.

I don’t think he’s correct on his first point. (The number of transgendered people alone who’ll suffer ID-related voting problems is projected into the tens of thousands.) I admit the election-swinging is possible, but he gives no evidence for it, just some plausible scenarios for how it could be present but undetected. Moving beyond his points, I believe there is a clear pattern of ID laws being championed by people who care more about the suppression they have on left-leaning demographic groups than about the overall integrity of the electoral system, and I don’t understand the focus on ID checks when the bulk of the problem is people who aren’t eligible to vote but get registered anyway (not necessarily even committing deliberate fraud!) and then tell the truth about who they are at the ballot box.

So what’s my problem? I mean, I’m right and he’s wrong, right? But…how do I know that? After all, in general, if you disagree with someone who is more accomplished than you, better educated in general, and more knowledgeable about the topic at hand, you’ve probably made a mistake somewhere. That’s just where the smart money lies.

I can’t put this one to bed yet.