Feb 04

Progressive linguist George Lakoff: ‘Liberals do everything wrong.’ -

This started as a comment, and then a reshare, and then I finally decided it should be a post. Here it is.

At first I was all kind of “WTF” about this article, because I’ve liked what I heard from Lakoff previously and he (or perhaps just the headline) seemed to be saying here that Liberals are somehow responsible for messing things up — "The progressive mindset is screwing up the world." — but that’s totally not what he’s saying.

His point — or the larger part of it — is one that I’ve often made: we don’t take our position seriously enough.[1] We allow ourselves to be too easily swayed by the (often faux-) moral conviction of the right, and we need to stop doing that:

"Liberals try to argue against them using evidence; they are embarrassed by emotionality."

An honest argument should and must be backed by evidence, in order to allow honest disputation and keep the conclusion honest[2] — but that doesn’t mean that we should be unwilling to employ emotion when attempting to raise consciousness about what the evidence says.

I’ve argued elsewhere that we in fact have some degree of moral obligation, when evidence and reason fail, to make use of emotion in our arguments — and I’ve been accused more than once, by other liberals (or liberal-sympathizers) of being “provocative” or “confrontational” when I do this, so that part of Lakoff’s argument at least makes sense.

There’s also a widespread belief that if you’re being emotional, you can’t also be rational; I’ve argued that the two are orthogonal as long as the emotion is a reaction to evidence-based conclusions rather than an attempt to deny or change them. (For example: evidence shows global warming. Progressives rationally try to implement solutions — and are outraged at corporate attempts to prevent any progress, especially when those attempts involve popularizing anti-GW beliefs using complete misrepresentations of the evidence.)

Indeed, was there not a time, not too long ago, when liberals were generally described by the Right as “screechy” and “shrill”? Has that actually stopped? More recently, I’ve seen accusations that those on the Left take an unwarranted stance of moral superiority[3]. How can it be that we’ve been remiss in this department?

It should also be noted that this perceived anti-emotion bias in liberal/progressive thought is, I think, primarily a thing among the more establishment liberal groups — those whose allegiance is to, say, the Democratic Party than to enlightened democratic principles. Most of the liberal/progressive blogs I read have no hesitation about presenting their conclusions with passion[4]; it’s mainly the politicians who supposedly (but don’t actually) represent us that play the compromise game.

This bit gives me more pause, however (numbers added for reference purposes):

"This is what he believes it would take to refashion the progressive mindset: (1) the abandonment of argument by evidence in favor of argument by moral cause; (2) the unswerving and unembarrassed articulation of what those morals are; (3) the acceptance that there is no “middle” or third way, no such thing as a moderate (people can hold divergent views, conservative on some things, progressive on others – but they are not moderates, they are “biconceptual”); and (4) the understanding that conservatives are not evil, unintelligent, cynical or grasping.”

My responses:

1. NO. (Do I really need to explain why? How would it help us against accusations of unwarranted moral superiority if we abandon any attempts to justify our positions? Political discussion based solely on personal conviction becomes nothing better than a shouting match — which is how the Right would like it, since they truly have no basis for their claims of moral superiority, and this would put their claims on equal footing with ours instead of in the compost where they belong.)

2. Yes. I think. We should make more effort to publish our personal values — individually and in aggregate. http://issuepedia.org/Issuepedia:Position_Statement

3. Much of the time this is true (fallacy of moderation), though there are some contexts in which compromise is appropriate (false dilemma). It’s important to be able to tell the difference.

4. I’m willing to accept that most (though not all) conservatives are well-meaning, but I’m not so sure about their intelligence — or, at least, their ability to think in certain ways. It may be that their devotion to authority (or, somewhat more objectively, their high prioritization of hierarchical structures) makes it very difficult for them to process anything that hasn’t been filtered through their hierarchy, even though cognitively they are quite capable of understanding. From here, though, it often just looks like they have a problem with reality.

Lakoff’s prescription to abandon evidence and reason — the evidence and reason which leads us to the conclusions we support, in spite of their unpopularity with the establishment and the establishment’s financially-controlled zombies — puts us in a situation where their position is no less tenable than ours, which in turns easily leads reasonable people to think that the truth must be somewhere in the middle — “Can’t we all just get along?” — the very “faux compromise” that Lakoff argues against. How does this make sense?

I have to wonder if the article is accurately representing Lakoff’s views. Has anyone read the book?

— Notes —

1. Hi, uh, we’d really like it if you could, uh, stop polluting and endangering people’s lives and destroying rainf… what? That would cut into profits and hurt the economy? Oh, okay! Well, we certainly understand how that could be important to you… so, uh, well, just do what you can, okay? Namaste!

2. cf +David Brin's “CITOKATE”: Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error

3. See, for example, “assumption of moral superiority” in a comment here.

4. One of my favorite political slogans is from the blog My Left Wing: “rage, rage against the lying of the Right”.

cross-posted from Google+

Jan 25

Can we talk about enviromental sustainability within our current money system? -

The current monetary system negatively impacts on the environment in several ways (paraphrased):

  1. creates a business cycle where recessions are positively correlated with the removal of regulation protecting the environment.
  2. increase in government debt associated with large recessions and financial crises leads to cuts in government spending, which may include investments in technologies that may benefit the environment.
  3. the completely undemocratic nature of the banking system leads to individuals helping to fund lending to industries they would otherwise not wish to.
  4. the current monetary system fosters a growth imperative which makes the steady state economy desired by environmentalists (read: necessary for ongoing human survival) impossible.

I think I like their proposed solution a great deal.

Jan 24

Renewable Energy Is ‘Stalinist’ Mandate, Says Ohio Legislator -

Hey, can I try that?

Tax breaks for the rich are a Stalinist mandate!
Consumerism is part of the communist agenda!
Free-market capitalism is a terrorist plot to destroy America!
Treating women as fetus-incubators promotes homosexuality!

Anybody got some billboards they’re not using? >.>

(cross-posted from G+)

Feb 21

The Future As It Now Stands: A Brief Polemical Vignette on the Plutonomic Trajectory

Every week, Joe received a sack of money.

Read More

(Source: plus.google.com)

Sep 26

Swing for President: Education System structure -


Well, I hinted about this in the last post. Education of young people is the key to making the world make sense twenty years from now, and a big part of doing this well is carefully and cleverly selecting that which is taught. But equally important, perhaps, is making sure that the material is…

Some links I discovered today which may be of further interest:


https://plus.google.com/104607863567617060562/posts/BdDqsMV1UQb - large chunks of a book by Summerhill’s founder

Bertrand Russell apparently founded a similar school, Beacon Hill School, in 1927. Wikipedia has very little information about this school, but it was portrayed in Logicomix as being essentially a failure. (I don’t know if this is accurate.)

Summerhill, however, seems to be a success, despite much scrutiny from the UK government.

Sep 25

Education System structure


Well, I hinted about this in the last post. Education of young people is the key to making the world make sense twenty years from now, and a big part of doing this well is carefully and cleverly selecting that which is taught. But equally important, perhaps, is making sure that the material is taught in a way that allows the young people in question to actually learn it.

Students are often bored. I know this from both experience, and observation. For me, the boredom was often the result of having material being shown to me that I already knew, or that didn’t matter. Sometimes, it was the result of the teacher expecting us to participate in learning activities that focused more on writing, or public speaking, or assembling papers just so. There was a large amount of enforced ‘note-taking’, where we were expected to copy word-for-word whatever the teacher wrote on the board.

I’m sure this exercise, with its combination of reading, writing, and listening of the material being presented, helped the students with memorization. But christ, was it boring. I remember doing these activities frequently, but I can’t remember a single example of the subject matter.

Subject matter that I DO still remember, though, are those which involved real-world experiences of the lesson in question. I’m not just talking about field trips, although those were certainly memorable too, but also games and puzzles that involved the math we were learning, fictional narratives that involved the history we were studying, and our own assembled demonstrations of the scientific principals we were trying to grasp.

This is all just speculation, and people with more knowledge about the subject than me surely have given this some thought, but this is just an explanation of the changes I would propose.

1: Make the material useful. Anything we learn is going to be forgotten unless it has some use. MAYBE it’ll be remembered long enough to get us through the course, but from what I’ve seen, this doesn’t happen as often as one would expect. Our careful note-taking gives us the memory of the words taught to us for a week or so, but without the meaning behind it, without the UNDERSTANDING, it’s just a really boring speech that we had to copy off the board.

If material is presented, and then put into practice, it becomes comprehension, rather than memory. In science, if we were given the challenge of making an experiment work based on our understanding of the principles taught, we would not only have to make that understanding complete, but we’d have a solid memory to reference in the future if we need to figure something out again. In math, ballencing budgets or calculating fuel consumption would give us an association in our minds of the problem we could solve, and the system we could solve it with. In English, one of the most simple grammatical exercises that the students struggled most with, the names of parts of speech, could be mastered by something as simple as a game of mad-libs.

2: Let each learn based on their own style. I don’t learn and think quite the same way as the majority does. I know this from experience. This is probably true of most people, too, giving the term ‘majority’ a bit of a paradoxical flavor. using note taking, presentation reading, and aural instruction on the group can be a good way of covering all bases, but enforcing it is just going to trigger boredom and dissent, and encourage people to spend their time doodling, or smoking in the bathroom, instead of sitting in class. It seems to me that people will find the best ways to learn once a reason to learn has been presented to them. Especially in modern times, when information exchange has revolutionized the world, deciding people’s learning method for them seems ridiculous.

3: Separate the importance of learning the subject from learning general scholastic skills. In most non-hands-on classes, equal importance was given to whatever topic was being taught and to learning skills, such as writing, formatting, spelling, etc. This meant that, in a class teaching history, science, math, or art, I’d lose marks for reasons of spelling, organization, and punctuation, despite thoroughly knowing the material being taught.

A bit of context. I have, or at least had, poor fine motor skills. This means that writing by hand was something that my fingers were generally unable to do well. Something in the translation between communication centers of my brain and the motor functions of my fingers wouldn’t be successful. My writing was slow, and nearly illegible.

On top of this, I had trouble organizing. I don’t pay much attention to my surroundings when involved in routine. (I am possibly ADD, but never diagnosed, and don’t really care at this point) Homework would be assigned, books would be put away, and in the process, I’d accidently stuff important handouts into the bottom of the black hole I used as a backpack, or tell myself that I’d write down the homework ‘in a second’ and then forget to.

In the end, I’d show up at school with either no homework, or messy homework that would get marks off for presentation, spelling (I can’t spell well either, for some reason. Part of my learning style, I think), and for having the date on the left and my name on the right, instead of the other way around! I am not even exaggerating. I got marks off for this on multiple occasions. Or, for using the wrong color of pen when underlining one of these formatting details.

It was my opinion that these items should be taught as their own class. Spelling and writing in English, and punctuation and organization (and note-taking) in life skills.

I do understand that being late all the time is likely to be (mildly) disruptive to a class, and make one miss out on instruction, but if a student is able to catch up and gain knowledge of the material, I can’t see why being unable to get out of bed in the morning should take them down a letter grade in Math. I would propose that punctuation (not attendance, that’s a discipline issue) should be tallied or recognized by teachers, and then reported to the Life Skills or Time Management class, where it would be reflected in the grade there.

4: This is the biggest, and most controversial part of my education redesigning plans. Mark based on knowledge, not effort! It was a great frustration to me in highschool that I would almost fail every class, despite getting top marks on tests. People would come to me for help to understand the material, and I’d help them, but academically, I was seen as worthless, due to my lack of organization, motivation, attention span, and neatness. This frustration is not the source of my objection to effort-based marking, but it did help me realize what was wrong with the system, and why.

As I mentioned before, life skills are life skills, and having good study habits has nothing to do with whether someone knows chemistry. If I have an A in chemistry, that should suggest that I know chemistry well, and not suggest anything at all about how accurately I take notes.

In highschool around here, the top grades are marked 50 percent based on their testing, and 50 percent based on work. That means that you can pass any class despite getting 0 on ALL TESTS. I’m going to assume for the moment that tests accurately reflect knowledge for everyone, and come back to that point later. This also means that I can score 99% on all tests, demonstrating a nearly perfect knowledge of a subject, and still fail and be forced to re-take the class from the beginning. In some instances, knowing the material is necessary for success in future classes. Sitting in Math 12 with a grade 8 understanding of the topic because you were very good at writing down all homework questions and double-checking your answers from the back of the book doesn’t make much sense.

Tests should be the final say in one’s grade. Specifically, the FINAL test should be the final say. It shows how much a student has learned overall, and will be carrying with them. Anything learned earlier, and forgotten, is not going to help them in future grades or in life, so if they forgot it by the time the final test came, they shouldn’t get credit for it. Going through the motions of learning (taking notes, filling out homework questionaires, etc) is also not a good indication of whether they’re prepared to continue on in the world, armed with the knowledge that a class has been designed to distribute.

I’ve told many people about this idea, and a lot of them respond with ‘but I don’t test well! I get nervous and screw up, so the homework is the only thing that keeps my results accurate’. Half the time, this is bullshit. It’s the result of a person having an inaccurate opinion of their own knowledge. But, I admit, the other half of the time the speaker is correct. Their own nervousness during a test results in mistakes that would not be made in a real-world situation.

Because of this, I think the current system of written, or scan-tron style multiple-choice testing should probably be reviewed. Since only some of the people being tested can calmly and accurately answer the questions when their social success or failure is on the line, other assesment methods should be employed. Practical exams would be useful (demonstrating knowledge through concrete actions, rather than on-paper theory), and some people do better with verbal exams. Basically, an array of testing strategies should be available, and the student should be able to chose which one is the most comfortable.

5: Place people in grades based on skill, not age This is probably something that would naturally result from number 3, but I think it’s such a positive side-effect that it should be encouraged by the system. Currently, our grades are chosen, basically, by our ages. Unless we fuck up, or really charm those in charge, our grade is our age minus five. People develop at different speeds, and binding education levels to the number of times a person has orbited the sun results in social pressure, and mismatched classrooms.

Having partly rejected Society by the time I was in jr High, the social pressure was not a big deal to me. But there were many times when the difference between the dumbest student and the smartest student (most accomplished and least accomplished, perhaps I should say) was so noticeable that it was problematic. Reviews of previous years’ material was almost guaranteed in science or math classes, and lessons would often be interrupted with unnecessary repeats or explanations of concepts already covered. For me, this resulted in my attention waning. For others, I’m sure, it resulted in frustration and abandonment as the class moved on and material went over the student’s head. Also, many times, the subscribed curriculum of that year was not actually fully covered. The final chapter or subject had to be left untaught as the year came to a rapid end.

If we, as a society, and as a system, got rid of the stigma of being held back a grade, or the fear of social consequences of being pushed forward a grade, and allowed school to begin based on a child’s development, rather than the fact of a child being 5 before christmas of that school year, we could have balanced classrooms where all students, more or less, are starting from the same knowledge point.

Aside from the fact that the education system (more in the US than in Canada, where Swing lives, but still to a large degree there and to some degree pretty much anywhere in the world) is mostly under the control of people who do not want an educated citizenry, the list of reforms which would produce dramatic positive results is a long one — and this post does cover a lot of the main bases.

I’d add only two things, I think:

1. Teach critical thinking skills — at least to those who have enough cognition to understand them, and don’t penalize anyone who doesn’t “get it”. This is for their benefit, not to help them qualify in an artificially-competitive job market.

2. Teach in terms of life goals and interests: find out what interests a kid, what “lights them up”, and then find a way to turn that into a career… and then guide them to the materials they’ll need in order to pursue that career.

3. (I’m defining “two” in a broad sense, here; don’t nitpick.) Gamify. This means a number of things, but one thing that stuck in my mind was the idea of not grading on some kind of average of various different measures, but rather giving a varying number of points for completing assignments and tests — and have a preset “passing” level (and other preset levels, such as “excellent” and “honors”) measured in points, so the student can see how far along they are. Make the complete list of assignments — or a complete list, anyway, subject to revision as the student’s interests become apparent — available at the beginning, so bright students can work ahead. Give credit for helping other students. Reward the class (pizza day, movie day, LAN party…) when all students pass certain benchmarks.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s a good start.

Jun 19

people I call “dude.”






male friends: dude
female friends: dude
cis friends: dude
queer friends: dude
trans* friends: dude
my parents: dude
my boss: dude
the president: mr. dude
the queen: your dudeness
the pope: holy dude

So I have been told that referring to women as ‘dude’ or ‘you guys’ is not ok because they are gendered words. This makes sense. I have also heard a lot of female-identified people (feminists among them) actively using them as non-gendered, possibly to reclaim?

I don’t know. I’m training myself to use them a little more carefully (and am subsequently saying y’all a lot more), but it’s good to know what different people I know think.

It depends somewhat on whom it’s coming from, but it does bother me to be called “dude”.  But there’s a very important distinction to me: if it is used in a way that could be an interjection rather than a personal reference, it’s no problem.  Contrast:

“Dude!  Not cool!” - interjection

“Not cool, dude!” - personal reference

As a quick test, if you could replace the word in the sentence with “whoa”, it’s fine.  If you have to replace it with “bro”, then it’ll get me upset.

And, on another note, “you guys” doesn’t really bother me, but just “guys” does — but not nearly as much as “dude”.

Reblogging just for commentary. I agree with Inurashii, in that I actively try to pay attention to when I am using dude (or guys), but in practice, I am pretty bad at not using it.

I also really like the note Dani makes about being able to replace it with “whoa” versus “bros”. These are good things for me to think about!

At any rate, most of the point of the original post was that I like the phrase “Your Dudeness”. But I like information on language as well.

I consider both “dude” and “guys” as gender-neutral and have for years. Especially “guys”. Please understand that’s the meaning I am intending when I use them. If someone specifically has a problem with me using those words in their direction, do tell me if you want me to stop. I certainly understand/empathize if you don’t want to be referred to in that way. For years I couldn’t deal with the word “chick”; I found it very degrading, but I’ve slowly gotten so I don’t feel like a person is trying to insult someone (myself or others) by calling and/or referring to them by that. Because of that example, I tend to feel like words like that are very much relative to the speaker and context.

I don’t entirely understand the reasons why it is considered problematic to use one gender’s referents when referring to members of the other gender, so I can’t address that issue directly — but there is a consideration that works in the exact opposite direction.

Gendered referents make life more difficult for those who either have ambiguous gender-identity or who identify with a gender that is other than their public persona.

I could argue that respecting the gendered-ness of such referents is therefore disrespectful to such people, but this doesn’t seem like a fair accusation since many people aren’t even aware of the problem.

Suffice it to say that I find it painful when I’m segregated by gender, and insisting on respect for language referents that reinforce such segregation is therefore also painful.

(Source: poppunkvampire)

Dec 27

SOPA Emergency IP list




So when these assfucks in DC decide to ruin the internet, here’s how to access your favorite sites in the event of a DNS takedown


# News

# Social media

# Torrent sites

# Social networking

# Live Streaming Content

# Television

# Shopping

# File Sharing

Added LJ and DW.

Here’s a tip for the do-it-yourself crowd: Go to your computer’s Start menu, and either go to “run” or just search for “cmd.” Open it up, and type in “ping [website address],” like so:

Once you have the IP for a website, all you really need to do is enter it like you would a normal URL and hit enter/press go. Typing in “” should bring you to the front page of AO3, for example, just as typing “” should bring you straight to your Tumblr dashboard. Since we’re obviously bracing for the worst case scenario which would involve you not being able to access Tumblr regularly, you should, like, save this list, I guess.

A caveat — this probably is not a problem for most key sites, but any site that is on a shared server (which would tend to be smaller sites with less clout to prevent their domains from being impounded) cannot be accessed from the IP address alone, as the web server software needs to know the domain in order to know which site to present.

A better solution to this problem is distributed DNS, which takes IP address allocation out of the hands of a centralized authority and puts it into the hands of those who run DNS servers.

Unfortunately, while there are several projects in progress to accomplish this, as far as I know none of them are as far as beta yet. Indeed, a suspiciously large portion of the links on this page — http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-based-dns-to-counter-us-domain-seizures-101130/ — are no longer accessible, for varying reasons. So I’m not sure what’s going on.

If anyone has any newer information about p2p DNS projects, please send it to me and I will post it on htyp.org.

(via dysanic)

Jun 23

Important Note From P!nk



Read More

Everyone, Autism Speaks is an awful charity, please do not donate to it. And, if you’re so inclined, spread the word about it.

http://www.squidoo.com/autistics-speak-for-themselves <— Some information on why you shouldn’t support Autism Speaks.

Harena, who has a severely autistic, non-verbal son suggests the National Autism Society as an alternative, and, if possible, to find your local chapter of such and donate straight to them.

After skimming the squidoo posts briefly, I think the problem is something like this:

1. There is an extreme and inaccurate position on autism which holds that all people who are autistic are neither competent nor capable, much less able to frame a coherent argument explaining what forms of intervention or change would be most helpful in allowing them to be functional and productive.

2. There is a slightly less extreme but still incorrect position on autism which holds that it is a disease, something with no redeeming characteristics, and that the only way to cope with it is to “cure” it.

3. There are also autistic people who are highly functional and intelligent, many of whom need some very carefully-chosen special accommodations to help them function at their highest possible level.

4. Many of these people do not see autism as a problem (much less a disease), but more as a different way of relating to the universe. They would not want to be “cured”, because that would change who they are as people.

5. There is a very reasonable fear, on the part of high-functioning autistic people, of the positions described in #1 and #2 being applied to them, which would be very harmful to them for reasons which I should think would be more or less obvious.

6. On the other side of the coin, there are in fact autistic people who are not able to express themselves even to ask for what they want, much less make competent decisions about what they need in order to be happy in the long term. For these people — as far as anyone can tell — autism truly is a debilitating disease. We can’t even ask them, because they can’t communicate with us. Perhaps they would not want to have all of their autistic traits removed, but surely they would want at least enough of a “cure” — or a solution — to enable us to communicate with them well enough to find out what they do want, and to allow them to negotiate with others for their needs and wishes.

6a. In the meantime, we have no idea what these folks are dealing with — all we know is that it can be extremely difficult for those of us who serve as the interface between them and the rest of society. On this issue, I speak from personal experience — we desperately needed something, when we were the caregivers for Josh (Harena’s son, whom I co-parented for about 7 years). If a cure had come along, something that would have allowed Josh to communicate with us without any apparent signs of harm to him, we would have grabbed it with both hands.

7. Furthermore, it seems likely — although I have not had the opportunity to talk with anyone who has an actual diagnosis of autism — that many higher-functioning autistic people would be happy to have certain of their cognitive issues lessened or eliminated. Speaking just for myself (I do not have a diagnosis, but I fit many of the patterns of high-functioning autism), I would be very happy to be able to recognize faces more reliably, understand speech more easily, and interact socially for extended periods without becoming exhausted.

Conclusion: One problem with Autism Speaks — apparently not the only problem, but perhaps the one that starts the most flame wars due to its ambiguous utility for autistic people — is that they take the position described in #2, that autism is a disease in search of a cure — nothing more.

While this position is not totally unreasonable, and indeed might be quite helpful in certain contexts (see 6-7), it also represents a huge threat to higher-functioning autistic people if applied unilaterally.

Autism Speaks (based, again, on my very brief skim of the squidoo page) does not seem to acknowledge the existence of high-functioning autism, and seems to have no interest in helping those with that condition to advocate for the things they have determined that they need in order to be maximally functional.

Jun 03

Mating Habits of the Skybound Electric Snake: Removing "Insert Word"-phobic from SJ Language -


These are very good points, particularly that bigotry is NOT a mental illness.

"Mental illness" is a slippery term that can mean (or imply) too many different things. Off the top of my head, I would say that the three main attributes for which it is often used as a placeholder are:

1. a disconnect from input reality — inability to distinguish internal creations from external inputs

2. a disconnect from output reality — inability to react in a reasonable manner to one’s inputs, whether or not those inputs reflect “reality”

3. a condition that is due to structures in the brain, rather than something that has been learned and might therefore be possible to unlearn

4. (FOUR attributes) a mental condition that causes one difficulty in one or more areas in life

I suggest that “bigotry”, similar to the rest of what is inaccurately called “conservatism” in the US these days, probably fits #2 reasonably well, and/or possibly #1 if you include “interpretations of input” as being part of the “input” process.