Yesterday was Remembrance day.Continue Reading →
Two years ago, today, Ed Brayton told us he was about to die.
Content Warning: Death, Fundie StuffContinue Reading →
This month you’re going to see a lot of companies putting rainbows on their products. A bunch of what they do is going to look very cool, even whipping some degree or measure of ass. Consider these rad shirt designs from Wizards of the Coast, which if you like their iconography for their games, integrates really good design aesthetics with the brand.
Don’t buy them.Continue Reading →
I don’t know why I became a weirdo into educational video material in my adult years but then I think about the times I’d spend in the mornings when I was home sick from school watching Zardip’s Search For Healthy Wellness, a Canadian TV show that was much cooler in my memory than it really is, and I didn’t think it was very cool at the best of times. But still, this year I’ve learned a lot about urban planning and it turns out there’s an entire Youtube subculture of people talking about that.
During this time I’ve learned about the idea of Gadget-Bahns and Stroads and AM/FM problems.
Here are some videos from each channel to serve as a sort of ‘serving suggestion’ of the style and tone of some of these sources I’ve enjoyed this year. First up, there’s the fairly gentle ‘boring urban nice’ style of Not Just Bikes.
There are two basic styles of videos from Not Just Bikes. There are videos about the infrastructure and urban planning that’s happening in the Netherlands (the place the documentarian lives now). This is basically a sort of ‘hey, here’s how things are done in this country in a way that normally would get ignored by people, because they’re so normal nobody highlights them.’ This is about the really boring common bike you can get the omafiets (and why I want one).
The other kind of video on the channel are where he looks at the kind of infrastructure in other countries, mostly America, and how that’s garbage and sucks and it’s bad. This video explains what a Stroad is, and if you’ve seen one you might be filled with the same deeply unpleasant feeling I have when I look at yes, these stroads and man I hate stroads and I didn’t even know what a stroad was.
I also watched a bunch by a guy called Adam Something. He’s a lot sassier and mean, a little less genteel, ‘look at interesting things,’ and um, a lot more ‘let’s make fun of Elon Musk’s stupid ideas.’
A body of his videos are about tackling the technofix mindset of expensive projects to try and ‘fix’ problems with existing systems without just, you know, fixing those systems by financing them and addressing their problems.
Now I will give a sort-of content warning on Adam Something: I have a memory of hearing him say something in one of his videos was ‘r*tarded.’ But I couldn’t find it when I went looking for it again, and I couldn’t be sure. Adam Something is also from a different cultural extraction — so I don’t want to say I know how he knows that word is socially considered in English?
But either way, I think he may have said that once and that’s non-ideal but I can’t find him saying it across his videos. If you think that’s going to stand out and upset you, stick to Not Just Bikes.
I thought about doing this as a long-form explainer, breaking down a bunch of creationist claims in a sort of easy, handleable, you-can-do-it-too kind of guide. Then I thought about it, thought about the effort-to-return ratio. Then I remembered that I met Ken Ham and went: Oh. Never fucking mind.Continue Reading →
Wanna know what kills the most cops?
Content Warning: I’m going to talk about heart disease and the united states police system.Continue Reading →
Hey, do you know about this whacky famous videogame bug?
Back in Civilisation, a video game on the PC, yes, that thing, and also on platforms like the SNES. In this game, you pilot a nation, with your character — and all the other characters you play against — being famous representatives of important historical leaders. So if you play the Americans, you get Abe Lincoln, if you play the Romans, you get ‘Caesar’ (who is probably Julius), and so on. These come with some degree of personality, like Shaka of the Zulus and Genghis of the Mongols aren’t the same kind of leaders as Elizabeth of England and Stalin of Russia. It’s not exactly a well-framed kind of thing, where for example, Genghis’ leadership doesn’t result in a heavily military weirdly communist mix, and Elizabeth is seen as favouring ‘democracy’ for some reason.
Anyway, the idea is that there’s this bug in the game, where at some point, Gandhi, the leader of the Indian civilisation flips his wig and starts threatening to nuke the shit out of you in every conversation.
This is because, the lore goes, that every leader has an aggressiveness rating from 1 to 10. If you become a Democracy (which the Indians favour), your aggression score goes down by 2. Suddenly, Gandhi’s 1 becomes a 0 then becomes a negative 1 which in this does a classic computer fliparound and became a 255 and suddenly Ghandi is twenty five times more aggressive than the most murdery murderer who ever murders.
It’s not true, mind you.
This just literally isn’t true. In Civilisation, there’s no such rule that works this way.
First, the types of numbers stored in Civilisation don’t do this kind of fliparound thing. It’s something to do with whether the number knows how to sign their names, but the basics is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have This Kind Of Bug.
Second, in Civilisation, leaders don’t have a rating of 1 to 10. They have a simple three settings; Peaceful, Neutral, or Aggressive. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Have That Kind of Rating.
And then there’s also that in Civilisation, changing your government doesn’t change the way the AI works. That is: Civilisation Doesn’t Even Work The Way This Bug Describes.
Now this is probably a bummer for you. After all, the Nuclear Gandhi meme is a fun one! It teaches people a little bit about how computers work, about the ways that they can behave in odd ways, and it explains a behaviour you may kind of remember in this game or another game like it, where someone you associate with peaceful civil disobedience being an aggressively belligerent asshole just jars. It’s a great little narrative, and the bug gets to explain the narrative, and all of that is unfortunately hindered by literally none of it being true, and relying on people not actually understanding anything they’re talking about, but also, in that very 4chan way, it is a rumour that you could start if you only seemed to understand the game a tiny bit more than someone else.
Incidentally, Gandhi wouldn’t nuke people aggressively. If the Indians in the game developed nuclear weapons, he would assert before any peace offering that his words were backed by nuclear weapons as the music kicked into high gear, but he’d still always offer a peace treaty, because his setting was peaceful.
But I may have destroyed Nuclear Gandhi in your mind.
But don’t worry, I can give you a replacement, if you don’t mind reading beyond the fold.
And now we get to the so-often this year, fold with Content Warning: Nazis!Continue Reading →
Content warning: I’m going to talk a brief bit about the Q conspiracy, and US Politics, particularly 2016 and the 45th president of the United States!Continue Reading →
Hey, you remember me mentioning the Giant of Kandahar? That was a fun bit of conspiratorial nonsense embraced by bad people in an existing support network of fabulist grifters and true believers, wasn’t it? It was especially fun because, if it’s true (and you can’t prove it’s not!) then you’re left with proof that conspiracies are true, and that means you may believe in other conspiracies, because, after all, the coverup of the Giant of Kandahar shows it!
Gunna talk about conspiracy theories, which are fun, but then I’m going to talk about Qanon, which isn’t! I guess I’m also mean to the Seven Day Adventists a little?Continue Reading →
This fucking show.
Have you enconutered the term ‘TERF’ and left wondering: Wait, what’s that?
There are some people, TERFs mostly, who think that TERF is a slur. It’s not; slurs are terms used to direct social power against a marginalised group. If you shout TERF at someone on the street, they’re not going to assume someone else is going to attack them because of being so painted. If they are, they’re incredibly paranoid, because TERFs are typically very privileged people who are afraid of being criticised by trans people.
It may sound like I am overdoing it, but I really am not. The typical TERF discourse is an attempt to weaponise outrage at the idea of women facing disagreement from, pretty consistently, other women. But what is a TERF? And what about those other -ERF terms I’ve heard?
So, content warning: TERF stuff! And SWERF stuff! And BLERF stuff! What’s a BLERF? Well, after the fold.Continue Reading →
Hey, content warning! I talk about some bad stuff in politics and people’s relationship to violence! Skip it if you don’t like the sound of that!Continue Reading →
Last month, Rush Limbaugh died. This isn’t important to the issue, though it is worth knowing that it is good that he died, because in terms of harm reduction, he was stopped from causing more immense harm. Also, it’s bad that he died, because he didn’t die, screaming, in pain, over the course of multiple years, as the evils of his life were revisited on him showing that there is a just god. That his obituary will not be officially concluded with the best phrases, ‘in a humiliating shitting incident,’ or ‘after having tazed himself repeatedly in the balls,’ is a crime against the idea of at least comedic justice itself. What I’m saying is that Rush Limbaugh’s death should have been a lot funnier or a lot more painful, and the fact it was neither indicates that we do not live in a just world.
In the 1940s, Idaho needed to move some beavers.Continue Reading →
I talk from time to time about voting systems, because they’re useful for game design and also because they’re uh, part of how we interact with our entire political system, and there’s a bunch of countries that do a terrible job of it, which shouldn’t really be how it goes, but voting is a cousin of math, and it was written about by French people, and if there’s one thing American political culture absolutely cannot abide, it’s a good idea from France. Here in Australia we use a voting system you might know as an instant runoff system, or a ranked voting system. This system is strictly better than the American system, and if you want to argue that, you are wrong, but.
It’s not perfect.Continue Reading →
Content Warning: Pandemic TalkContinue Reading →
Hey, just before we dive into a month with a theme, let’s clear the decks with this one. Content warning: Slavery!
Hey it’s April and that means I’m giving myself carte blanche to talk about shit that isn’t super important but that matters to me because I really need to be focusing on something right now, and this is an infamously problematic topic, so hey, let’s talk about the marginalisation of atheism.
There’s this term that we use a lot these days and the way it’s used makes it easier to conflate what it means, and that conflation can make it seem like the term itself is incorrect. This is true for a lot of terms but for now let’s just go in on privilege.
Okay, the way we describe this is ‘thanks to white privilege, thing thing thing,‘ or ‘well, he has white privilege,‘ and I’m only using those simplest versions of these things, because there’s a lot of complicated conversation about what things we do and don’t translate the idea of privilege to. The original idea of white privilege was developed to refer to specific structures about the perception of race and the enforcement of white supremacy, but now it’s used as a kind of useful applicable label for any time when sometimes a demographic group has benefits over another.
Now, this gets into some weird places when the language gets appropraited by TERFs and other dickhead groups – where they will sometimes claim trans women (and it is always trans women) have ‘male privilege’ because they were able to advance themselves ‘as men’ then deploy womanhood after attaining all the advantages that manhood could get them, like a kind of MCV from Command & Conquer.
This idea is preposterous, but it’s also indicative of a way that the speaker thinks of privilege. It suggests that male privilege is something you turn off and on again – as if maybe a trans woman talking in coded-masc ways on the phone is able to benefit from her ‘male privilege.’ There’s also ‘straight-passing’ privilege I see some people suggest hovers around ace and bi people, with the idea that ace and bi people can be perceived as straight, and therefore, benefit from straight privilege.
This is pish and silly, but I think the reason it needs addressing is not just to win a rhetorical argument but to try and help the people making these arguments (or more reasonably, the people around those arguments who aren’t sure why those arguments shouldn’t be compelling) come to a better understanding of what privilege is.
See, it’s not inherent. Privilege isn’t something you have in you. It’s something you benefit from. It’s a system external to yourself. It’s why people with white seeming names are treated as white when they’re on the phone, and it’s something that society around us enforces through systems but also through our own behaviours.
There’s a form of straight privilege in my experience, where it’s not just a matter of being passively perceived as straight, not just compliant with straightness, but so compliant you’re against the alternative. In that situation, you can watch as the privileges extended to straightness are withdrawn in a heartbeat when you simply position yourself as say, tolerante of nonstraight people.
There. Basic idea. Privilege is an external system you benefit from as long as you are tangibly interfacing with the system in the ways it wants to encourage. Sometimes that’s a lot, and it asks a lot, and returns a lot. Sometimes it’s withdrawn, and you may seem to think it’s not there at all.
But like the tide, it keeps coming, back, and forth, back and forth. The only way you escape it is to remove yourself from it – or, I suppose, blow up the ocean. This metaphor got away from me.
Hey, you ever heard of this guy? Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben?
You might have seen some stuff with his name on it, around the right area of America. Dude was considered pretty important, because of his contribution to the Revolutionary War. Part of it was his commanding particular units in this sortie or whatever, but the big thing he brought to bear was some ideas for the whole military to use. These ideas included ‘training’ and ‘a field manual’ and ‘being sure people knew what orders meant.’ In a lot of ways, Steuben was responsible for bringing George Washington the basic modern technology of military hierarchy and a command structure, and essentially founded the very template of the American Military.
He was also gay as hell.
Steuben being gay is not a point of ambiguous historical interpretation, by the way. One of the things with looking into the history of the time is that often people who were gay or queer in some way or doing non-conventional gender things were all sort of put into a bucket of ‘well, maybe.’ Were these two historical dudes kissing? Was this woman who dressed and lived in men’s suits their whole life a trans man? What can we know for sure without knowing their inner lives?
Well, Steuben wrote about being gay and he made sure to not sugar-coat his sexual interest in men. His expulsion from the Prussian military was a little ambiguous, but it was clear it was definitely about a sexual relationship with another man. Either he was indiscrete about it, or the breakup went badly, or he cheated on someone, the possible reasons are ambiguous, but in his letters later in life, he was pretty clear that it was something of that nature.
Steuben was an interesting fellow; he also brought an elite guard with him from Prussia, who were all quite well-experienced soldiers from what was, at the time, the world’s elite military force. The other thing he brought to Valley Forge when he began the training was his sleigh, his italian greyhounds, and his ‘beautiful boyfriends.’ People were, in this valley, hungry enough to be eating their shoes, and Steuben rocks up on a sleigh, with dogs and boyfriends, flips off his fur coat and starts the I’ll Make A Man Out Of You bit from Mu Lan.
This is a small bit of history, and I am no fan of the US Military, but gosh it’s funny how a country that was paralysed only a few years ago about the conversation of ‘gays in the military’ forgot that it was founded in one of the gayest ways by one of the gayest generals, who was also one of their undeniable best.
Here’s to you, you massive prancing queer, and your boyfriends, too. Shame how it’s all shaken out.
In early January, the Australian government announced a grant of $6.7 million for a 39-stop circumnavigation of Australia in 2020 by a replica of James Cook’s Endeavour, in ‘celebration’ of the 250th anniversary of this colonial murder hobo whose main accomplishment is to get stabbed in the chest with a spear because the king of Hawaii refused to LARP along with Cook’s notion that he was a god.
This is something of a sore point, because celebrating any achievement of Captain Cook’s life is done by recognising that Captain Cook had a life, and that involves talking about Captain Cook and mentioning the much more miserable stuff he did like, you know, the invasion and initiating all the genocides and the colonialism and whatnot.
I said some stuff at the time, some of which turns out to have been incorrect, but mainly also this gave me an excuse to talk about boats which is subject near and dear to my dad’s heart, which is pretty weird, now I say that aloud, because I don’t actually care that much about it.
Nonetheless, this is a chance to correct myself a little and phwooar. Look at that… skimmtren. Ain’t that impressive.
(I have no idea what I’m doing)
First things first: The Endeavour replica this story is about is an absolute marvel of engineering. There are some modern components of it, mainly an engine that’s kept in the old Hold where you stored rotting bad food full of worms and also any people you wanted to ha ha, transport (probably never happened don’t worry about it) but those things are there to basically make this boat something other than a coin-flip death trap when taken out to the open seas. When you set that engine and its requirements aside, though, the boat, is made period-appropriate, down even to its eyelets in its sails, using woven cord, rather than metal eyelets.
The Endeavour was being developd in honour of the bicentennial in 1988, and finished in 1993, 26 years ago. It is an incredibly impressive, technically amazing achievement. I’ve been on it, for a school trip. It’s really, genuinely amazing, not a word of a joke, that it exists.
The journey itself is a bit of a swizz. Cook didn’t circumnavigate Australia (he did circumnavigate New Zealand, which both Australians and New Zealanders will firmly explain is not the same thing), that task was done by by Matthew Flinders in the Investigator or possibly by Chinese Junk traders. They were traders in Junks, a type of boat. Not that they came here to sell the Indigenous peoples their miscellaneous crap.
The circumnavigation of Australia is, let us not kid ourselves, about getting it to Perth, then back to Sydney, and filling the time in between with a bunch of school trips and the nebulously-hoped-for tourist dollars? it will? bring??
That 6 million dollar sum is important because if you don’t remember this boat exists that headline makes it sound like it’s 6 million to get a replica of the Endeavour and go on a tour for a few months, which is almost reasonable. But it’s not.
That’s the ship’s travelling upkeep cost.
The Endeavour is a period appropriate boat. Just travelling around the country costs about 6 million dollars. It is expensive to move because it is a period boat and it’s meant to be kept in pristine condition because it’s a historical replica piece. Now, you might not pay attention to historical replica boats from a period of history you don’t care about in a country you don’t care about, but I fortunately am cursed with actually remembering my abusive school environment, so I do remember this boat.
Back when I first wrote about this, I mentioned that the boat had been ‘sold’ multiple times, or rather that they’d tried to sell it multiple times and it turns out, with deeper research, that wasn’t the case. It’s not that they’ve tried to sell the Endeavour. It’s that they’ve tried to sell an Endeavour.
In England, there’s a second Endeavour – and that doesn’t have the same largesse ours does. The Australian Endeavour has been financed by government grants and private donations from various businesses, and the thing is, by all observation, a money pit. Simply put, the Endeavour exists by people paying money to keep it existing, and people pay it because the alternative is letting the Endeavour go around unfinanced. I can’t tell you who donates to it (beyond the Bond corporation, who paid for it to get made then donated it to the country).
Still, the thing is…
Nobody cares about this boat.
It’s going to travel around, conspicuously land the most times in the most racist state, be the subject of a lot of school trips, some well-meaning positive historians are going to try their best to wed the event to actual discussions of Cook, and that’s pretty much it. It’s too expensive to keep and it’s too important to junk and it’s too worthless to sell.
And yet if they scuttle it, I would be genuinely sad and I don’t have a good reason why.
I mean it’s not the boat’s fucking fault Cook was a monster.
Language shapes thoughts as thoughts flow into language; often we need a word for a thing before we can talk about it meaningfully. We deal with this a lot in academia – much of research is just spending time exhaustively showing a valuable purpose for a name, then putting that name to a thing. The word ludic has a sibling word, paidic, for example, but that word is far less well-known, far less well-shared than ludic.
Language changes what we know, what we can know. Language also is full of features, small and clever and insidious that guide what we can talk about, how we can talk about them.
You might know me as someone who has beef with the English language. A bunch of different, smaller beefs, but one of my beefs is that we have gendered pronouns and almost nothing else. This means that for people, expressing gender can often be about choosing pronouns, which is a feature of language that should be unnecessary.
I’ve greatly benefitted from listening to Marshall Rosenberg talk about non-violent communication. Not because I adopted the whole system – it’s really not a good fit for me and my life, and it isn’t a good fit for the people around me.
Whoop, talking about people being jerks to queer people, here’s an escape link and a fold.Continue Reading →
Christopher Hitchens was a journalist and writer and also wealthy middle-class son of working class parents, who was renowned in his early days for bombastic iconoclasm, and in his later years for a sort of later-life renovation in the name of the New Atheism movement. He was renowned for the latter stage of his life, up until his death, for his part as one of the ‘four horsemen,’ a group of prominent intellectuals who openly and aggressively challenged Christian Hegemony in the culture.
Now those horsemen include were four dudes: Dan Dennett, a philosopher who’s done some interesting ad valuable stuff, but also some really racist stuff seemingly without realising it, Richard Dawkins, probably the most scientifically important modern racist grandpa, Sam Harris, who’s spent the intervening years showing what a racist doofus he is – Wow, there’s a lot of racism going free. Don’t worry, Harris is also clueless about philosophy, humanities, art and ethics, a real renaissance doofus.
Anyway, the point is, you had four guys who had varying degrees of intellectual importance and accomplishment, and one of them was Hitchens, a man who has kind of become an idealised icon of That Kind Of Atheist On The Internet.
My relationship to Hitchens as a historical entity is a bit complicated. Because some of his work was very robust, very competent – his reporting on places like Belfast and Beiruit, for example – and he was good at economising with words, he definitely seemed good. There were issues where Hitchens and I definitely agreed – he was genuinely adamant about the Elgin Marbles, for example. Yet at the same time, he didn’t bring any illumination to any of the issues he examined as a journalist that other journalists couldn’t do. The dude wrote about experiences very well, but the filter of his experiencse was overwhelmingly himself, and you learned of him through that work.
And really, the thing that Hitchens did well, did best, was be mean to someone.
It’s part of why he’s such an affecting performer. He’d turn up at Creationist Debate events, and make the creationist in question look like a stupid dick, and he’d tell fascists to get lost, and he’d do it well, but when you cook down his positions, most of his most intelligent insights were quotes. Most of his best interpretations are of very obvious, basic ideas – England does not own Greece’s history and it was bad to destroy the Bamiyan Buddhas. These aren’t actually challenging paths, these aren’t things that require the work of excelling journalism to put into meaningful context.
What Hitchens did well, and what made him feel so bad to watch when he turned that skill towards people who a moral conscience or broader context could appreciate did not deserve it, was be mean to people.
And that’s why we loved him, in the New Atheist community. We liked him, because he was mean to the people we wanted to be mean to and he was better at it than we were.
It’s sad in hindsight. Because it means Hitchens is hard to appreciate for his excellent ability to wield words, when you realise that often behind that skill there was not an excellent and incisive mind, but an emotionally satisfying cruelty.
A good journalist would consider the value of public debates on articles of faith. Would notice the way that it wasn’t valuable to negotiate with unreasoning conspiracy. Would appreciate what he couldn’t argue people out of when they’d never argued themselves into it.
But he didn’t.
He was just mean.
Real good at it, too.
What with people, aka racists, talking about the importance of defending western values they’ll often tout the artistic importance of the west and how it’s resulted in transcendental things like Van Gogh and Leonardo Da Vinci and some other artist they primarily remember because of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The thing about this thought that always rattles around is that the imperial world did indeed produce an enormous amount of art we can recognise as important, but that it was always as a byproduct of cultural states that had disproportionate wealth enough that thanks to sheer randomness and the precarious position of the people randomly bequeathed with ridiculous wealth, money got scattered down onto the people who make art. Look at the history of these artists, the people of this western canon, they’re all either paid for by some rich dickhead who was already getting more than his fair share of pies, and there were a lot of artists who failed to find an agreeable rich patron who supported them and the tended to live lives that were poor, short, and miserable, even if the ever did make something cool. It should really be seen as a stinging indictment of capitalism and western colonialism that it had to acquire something like half the wealth in the world at the time before it was able to produce twenty or thirty artists, when any kind of efficient system might be doing something like making sure everyone was well-fed enough that if they wanted to bung out some art they weren’t going to be hosed for trying it.
Still, what do I know, I’m not an expert in media creation oh wait hang on I might be by now, holy heck.
Anyway, the real lesson here is that when a racist wants to talk to you about the importance of colonialism to world art, the correct response is to tell them to go fuck themselves and to not bother arguing with them about the logical or rational reasons for rejecting their racism. They’re always lying.
You know how I’m that tiresome dork who cares about voting systems? Let me tell you about a time when voting in the United States was even worse.
Right now most countries – mostly! – recognise the value of casting secret ballots. That is, you need to make it so everyone who wants to vote can put their decision down, commit to it, and put it somewhere nobody else can see it, anonymised from who they are. You control the ballot carefully and make sure people can only vote once.
That’s not how it used to work, though. Used to be back in the day, the idea was that you should be able to convince people, change their minds at the polls. There’s the echoes of this system as it remains now, in state Caucuses, where people just holler at one another and the judge kinda guesstimates how many people are in each section of the room. This system is really silly and best represents a population where maybe twenty people can caucus, rather than the hundreds of thousands of people modern caucuses are meant to represent.
Anyway, the history of New York is a gosh-dang mess, and one of the things that used to happen, back during the heavily nativist times of the Know-Nothings, was a process called cooping. There are a lot of things going on here – like, the gangs of fixers known as the Plug-Uglies, and the flag with a shoemaker’s awl on it, and the racist American Native Party – but that’s not so important. The important thing is there were vulnerable people who could vote (Irish and Chinese immigrants), who weren’t going to get listened to by the cops, and unscrupulous people who would abuse them.
Cooping, the technique, starts when you kidnap someone and stuff them in a chicken coop!
Groups – known as Coop Gangs or Election Gangs – hung around polling places, looking for people who they could abuse, who they would grab, stuff in coops, then get them drunk and torture them, by beating or kicking the coop, or setting their hair on fire. The point is, you got them scared and you got them drunk. Then you sent them in to the electoral place to vote, as you demanded, and you could watch how they voted, and beat them up if they voted wrong.
And then, you could dress them up, put them in a wig, and send them to vote again.
And then you could put them in a different outfit, and send them to vote again.
Now, the thing that’s really sad about this is what solved Cooping wasn’t anyone going ‘hey, abusing poor people is bad,’ but rather, ‘hey, these are impacting elections based on which rich person can hire the biggest gang.’ And the solution was secret ballots.
What is the optimally “unfair” possible U.S. election? Assuming you can just set the vote ratios in each state to whatever unrealistic value you want. How much can you lose popular vote by and win the Presidency?
This isn’t a comprehensive view of this idea, but a rough summary. Still, it’s an interesting question and let’s explore it. Note that these results involve literally no breaking rules. These are just the ways the system functions based on changes in circumstances. Consider these urine samples from an extremely unwell system.
Hey, everyone! It’s Anzac Day! That means it’s a time to celebrate our culture and our Anzacs, which we do with games of 2-up in pubs, singing three songs, and deep repression of our thoughts about how the impact of our complicity and promotion of white supremacy leads to the radicalisation of our own citizens and the disenfranchisement of our marginalised people pushes them towards criminality that we then use as pretense to further disenfranchise them in ways that result to our perception of ‘the other’ and the deeper entanglement in international imperialism that sends our soldiers to places that have nothing to do with us in order to die, and of course, making Anzac Biscuits!
I got this recipe off the Australian War Memorial website, and only made some small alterations. It’s really good, you’ll like ’em!
- 1 cup each of rolled oats, sugar and coconut
- 1 tablespoon syrup
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in 2 tablespoons boiling water)
- Melt the butter, as a symbol of the way we viewed our culture as a melting pot where a variety of different cultures could come together and form a very yellow homogenous whole, much like the Simpsons where we try to keep a minimal number of brown people who we routinely mock and divorce from proper job opportunities that respect them and their cultural backgrounds.
- Add syrup to dissolved soda and water. Combine with melted butter. This will form the wet ingredients into one larger body that should smooth out and homogenise in the same way that we treat all our population as acceptable if we already have them and they don’t do anything to stand our or remind us that they are not, in fact, lily-white.
- Mix dry ingredients and stir in liquid, with forceful, strong motions like running a death camp on another country’s territory that both that country and the UN have decreed an illegal human rights violation. The ingredients will present some resistance, just like how the people in those camps do things like hunger strikes, appeals to the press, explicit references to sexual abuse by guards and overseers, and at least one man setting himself on fire, but just as we can dismiss those actions as ‘wanting attention’ you can ignore the resistance of the ingredients. Just smooth them out and ignore the way you feel.
- Place small balls on to buttered tray and bake in moderate oven. It doesn’t matter how they’re composed, if they’re a decent mix, or their size, or really anything at all, because making a bad Anzac biscuit is pretty hard if you get the mix right, because they’re made out of components designed to be durable and last long over the transport from Australia to Gallipolli, a war we were entangled in because an Empire wanted to spend our blood to earn themselves a minor convenience, and we lined up to ensure that we wouldn’t let it happen again, again, again, again again again.
- Lift out carefully with a knife as they are soft till cold. Don’t bite them too early or they’ll break!
I hope you enjoy this Anzac Biscuit recipe. They’re really good!
One of the weird things about growing up in fundamentalist church with a deliberately stifled education is that some concepts kinda just get thrown around and you never really learn what they are. This meant I had to teach myself a bunch of this stuff, and I realise, there are some people similarly uncertain as to where the heck the idea of Shares come from.
The basic idea of what a share is is that it’s a portion of something. The place it got its start – more or less, there are always earlier versions of things, but the place it sort of got its modern kick-off – was during the (absolutely god-awful) trading history of large fleets of vessels, things like the Dutch East India company.
The way these things worked was, buying a boat – like, a whole boat – and managing an expedition over to do trading was, as an up-front cost, totally ridiculous. Like, we talk about wealth disparity, but it’s kind of hard to translate wha that was like when you’re talking about a period of history when you might not even exchange money for food, because it simply wasn’t affordable. So there’s a striation of wealth between poor and wealthy people that’s like, mindboggling, and I tend to think about ships from the perspective of the poor people. Each one of them represented more than a lifetimes’ worth of wealth, so the idea of rich people owning multiples is kind of impossible.
Anyway, even so, the task of sending a boat to get goods for sale was still a gamble – every time it went out, you didn’t know if it was coming back, and if it didn’t come back, you were out a ton of money, enough to ruin someone. The solution, then, was for people to band together – wealthy people, mind you – and instead of buying one ship, buying one tenth of ten ships. When each ship came in, you got a tenth of its proceeds. If one sank, you were out a tenth of a price of a ship. Then they got really fiddly with the numbers, and bookkeeping got involved and you started to see people making more and more careful subdivisions of the shares, and things you could do to interact with the shares and eventually things got decoupled from ever needing to turn a profit at all, because everything about markets eventually sucks butts.
Still, the thing with this whole system that makes my ears twist is, no matter how I think about it, the more I think it’s kind of inevitable that people will come up with this idea if they have some way of representing it. And then the weirder thing is: We have this idea for buying and owning shares in objects and businesses, but it seems fundamentally inimical to the current mindset of the world to have shares in the government you’re part of. Like, taxes are seen a an imposition, rather than a percentage ownership of the country you’re investing in.
The stories we tell, and how we tell them, shape our worldview. This isn’t ‘media programs you,’ not a satanic panic fear-of-the-demons-in-your-media, but something slower, more grinding, more insidious. There’s an acretion of the world around you as you pass over it, little bits of the everyday. Making everyone’s clothes show ads, we thought, would be about making sure you were always showing off the #brand. Turns out that it mostly just meant people saw ads on clothes as normal and not worth noticing any more.
It’s hard to turn that kind of ubiquity into money in a pragmatic one-on-one sense. It’s difficult to monetise a brand if the main job monetising it is to be everywhere all at once, you need a certain scale for that to have an impact. You need to be Pepsi, for example. What you can do with it, though, is reinforce an idea of what’s normal, and thousands of sources doing it all the time can do a lot to shape that idea of normal.
It’s Marketing Whiteness.
CW, gunna talk about slavery and fundamentalism and whiteness and dismiss the historicity of the Bible, which just gets some people up in a dander.