On Friendship and Assumptions

So a long time follower unfollowed me and left this message:


Which might sound like the natural reaction of a deeply hurt liberal, except . . . it’s got nothing to do with me. Literally. Way to make assumptions, JoJo. I said three things this morning and one RT. In order:

RT: Not just the #NSA–> WTF. #US federal judge just gave Chevron oil access to the private emails of Amazon activists | http://www.juancole.com/2013/07/chilling-activists-private.html …

Item one: What have we learned, folks? Is money important? #life

Item two: So, the FL woman left the house, got a gun, and came back, which was no longer “standing her ground”: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57434757-504083/fla-woman-marissa-alexander-gets-20-years-for-warning-shot-did-she-stand-her-ground/ … #politics

Item three: Not to say FL doesn’t have racists, just that there might actually be a substantial legal difference between the cases. #politics


That’s not coy, nor is it “pretending” to be anything. My point in item one was just that 90% of people that I meet seriously downplay or underestimate how important money is to life. It is a sober statement about the world we live in. It’s also a direct response to the CHEVRON case I RT’d right before it, instead of the Trayvon Martin case or anything else. Clearly Chevron’s great money bought them the legal counsel needed to win access to the email accounts of the activists against them.

Still, it doesn’t appear the inconvenient facts will stop JoJo from following her narrative of wanting everyone to believe as she believes, and feel as she feels, or else be labeled a “bad person.”

We are all alike, and we are all different. Narratives are the simplifications we put on reality to give us something cohesive to believe in. Yet for all their utility, narratives are not real – they require staggering, unjustified assumptions about people we have not met. It’s truly sad when narratives are allowed to overwrite real people.

If you have no room for your friends in your beliefs, isn’t it time you questioned your beliefs instead of ditching your friends?

Published in: on July 14, 2013 at 7:07 PM  Comments (1)  
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On social justice allies

I had these thoughts a while back, but I had yet to condense them succinctly. It’s only appropriate that I quote myself from Twitter:

So here’s the thing with those claiming allies aren’t wanted in their social project: either you have power to change society, or you DON’T.

If you have the power all by yourself, you aren’t a powerless minority; you’re the elite. If you don’t, then you NEED HELP to do it.
That is reality, and any rejection of that is feeding your ego at the expense of your cause. Pick which one is more important. #society
Published in: on July 8, 2013 at 7:01 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Aniblog Tourney: Chicago Style

In light of the recent discovery that 5camp’s Aniblog Tourney had put dozens of active polls up weeks ahead of the actual contests, leading to possible vote fraud, SCCSAV organizer vuc had this to say:

That’s the Chicago way.

concept by Shiwasu no Okina

Perhaps no statement better underscores the potential for corruption, miscalculation, and misrule inherent in the Aniblog Tourney’s systems – systems that Tournament official mefloraine acknowledges will take quite some time to reset by hand. Amid jokes about “voting early and often,” other bloggers raised more fundamental questions of validity: is the entire tournament just a big “circle jerk” in a closed population?


You May Be A Bad Person, But Not For These Reasons

I arrive at the same conclusions as White Coat Underground.  Female contraception is important and should be covered as part of basic health care.  However – importantly – this is not because I feel that any political opinions with irreconcilable differences are somehow inherently invalid. WCU discounting the legitimacy of opposed political arguments seems far too over-zealous, to the point of actually being inaccurate.

The political is odd, in that it seems patently fringe . . . If the argument is, ‘don’t use my taxes for stuff I don’t like,’ then what they really are saying is, ‘taxation is illegitimate.’

No doubt some people really feel that way, but at a more moderate level, that argument is actually perfectly valid. The essential point of any representative government is that we agree to pool our resources for expenditures we cannot individually meet. The US goes further and allows people to designate where their tax dollars go. There is nothing “fringe” about someone accustomed to this wanting their money going to uses they approve of. WCU would probably not object to someone protesting that their tax dollars, in the Kissinger years, went to funding some third-world dictator; the core idea that we are on some level responsible for what our tax dollars do is the same.  We must allow that conservatives as well as liberals may feel guilt over what their dollars do.


FUNimation using ‘pirated’ subtitles

Torrentfreak ran an article about FUNimation using downloaded subs to create their dubs. It read, in part:

There is no doubt that Funimation is using ‘pirated’ subtitles, but it seems unlikely that they failed to secure the appropriate rights.

This is based on what tempest of ANN wrote:

1) Funimation did use HS’s video/subs in that recording session
2) We do not know why, we do not know if it is regular behavior
3) Funimation is the licensee, and their license almost assuredly includes CR’s subtitle script
4) Funimation’s license and US Copyright law and USC Section 17 give Funimation the legal right to use HS’s video/subs
5) As a result of #3 & #4 Funimation’s actions (not including font) were not illegal
6) If the font in question was included as an additional file (and not hard coded), and we assume that HS does not have a license to distribute the font, Funimation may have unwittingly infringed the copyright of the font if they do not have an appropriate license for that font
7) We do not know for fact if Funimation has a license for the font

Now as for the ethics side… most of it is pretty subjective.

This is, broadly speaking, true, but two parts stand out.

I take issue with tempest giving #2 its own point because it’s blowing smoke.  “We do not know if it’s regular behavior.”  Why emphasize this?  It’s safe to say at this point that some offical dubs use subs.  Should we say that all of them do? No. But neither should we take the stance that this is probably some kind of aberration.  Further proof is required to lean either way.  The concern of fans is that this comes at a time when FUNimation is suing downloaders.  Those lawsuits don’t hinge on “regular behavior,” do they?  It is irrelevant whether this is regular behavior, so the only reason for tempest to bring this up is to discourage people from exploring the possibility that dubs they have paid money for consulted subs.

I take issue with the way #4 is written, because it is only true as long as HorribleSubs are ripping off Crunchyroll.  In other words, there is no separate legal right that FUNimation has in that category.  It is inaccurate to suggest that FUNimation has rights they don’t have.

First off, it’s legally fine for FUNi to download fansubs if they have the legal rights to distribute the thing to begin with. They have the right to download an English version of the episode because they give themselves that right, as the legal distributor.  (The law is very accommodating – as long as one is on top.)  Politically, though, this is insensitive and is probably what has some people upset: why are you suing all these people if you yourself rely on these subs?

But there is another legal issue: it does not follow that FUNimation automatically has zero obligation to reimburse or acknowledge the fansubbers who did the translations, assuming it can be proven that their dubs are a derivative work of those translations.

Now, if they are only using subs done by Crunchyroll, and CR says it’s OK, then there is never going to be any legal action, and this is a nonissue. But if they are using subs by fansub groups, without getting their OK, then there is potentially a problem.

As for points 6 and 7, they are side issues: this font is not appearing on the dubbed product, because it’s a dub.  It’s unlikely to result in legal action, either way: font makers do not typically go around suing people for accidentally downloading their font without knowing better, the way that distributors go around suing people.

It would be an ironic twist to see a fansub group sue FUNimation in court for using their intellectual property.

Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 11:21 PM  Comments (7)  
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Lean on Reason

Geoffrey Lean has won awards as a journalist. These are not inconsiderable awards, and between them and his record as an investigative journalist, one might imagine that he would appreciate the value of evidence in driving conclusions.

This makes his weak conclusion to his article on future nuclear policy all the more disappointing.

But, equally, the huge disruption that a disaster can cause, as reactors are subsequently closed for safety checks and new ones delayed, and the anti-nuclear revolt that inevitably ensues, make it unwise to become too dependent on nuclear power. Instead of falling in and out of love with the atom, as we regularly do, we need a more sensible, watchful, relationship.

Come again? We have to be wary of nuclear power, because historically, a fraction of the public is wary of nuclear power? That can’t possibly be a valid reason. Large swathes of the population have been afraid of things in the past. They got better.  When the automobile was invented, a great many people believed that the human body would disintegrate if subjected to speeds greater than 30 miles per hour.  Physics education was, obviously, not mandatory then: we now routinely drive at over 60 miles per hour, and it is to be hoped that most adults will now recognize that it is acceleration which places stress on the body, not speed.

Irrational fear of nuclear energy is not some immutable truth of human nature.  If people are educated about the basics of nuclear physics, they will stop reacting with mass hysteria every time nuclear power is in the news, and start making reasoned decisions about how much nuclear power they want in their society.

Isn’t that the goal of democracy?

Olbermann, economics, and voting

Keith Olbermann was suspended from reporting for MSNBC, where he has a prestigious job delivering the news in front of a camera. The company had a clause stating that all donations had to be run past the bosses, so the question isn’t whether or not they had any reason to do this. The question is:

How is Olbermann giving money significantly different from stating his opinion on who’s a good candidate and who’s not?

@nozaku noted:

According to my ethics prof, only giving money is direct support

But I contend that the division between direct and indirect support is an artificial distinction. What we really should be asking is what kind of a difference something can make. Campaign contribution rules use this very logic: everyone gives dollars, and putting a cap on the number of dollars is a very easy way to limit how much of a difference each person can make.

Keith Olbermann’s word, on his program, is worth millions of dollars. This is an economic reality (consider the cost of ads in that time slot, which are not exactly the same thing, but can establish a ballpark figure.) Since he is already throwing the equivalent of at least $2.4 million behind whatever candidate he supports, what is the point in raising a fuss over another $2400, or 0.01%? It’s a small number compared to what is already going on – no matter what, he exhibits disproportionate influence over voters.

If we are truly concerned with equity we should assess the economics of coverage, and the influence a few people have over millions of voters. Sure, the networks can make up their own rules and then follow them doggedly, in an attempt to convince us that this shows their ethical backbone. But this is game-playing according to arbitrary rules they made up for themselves, plain and simple, and we shouldn’t dignify the farce.

Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 3:55 PM  Leave a Comment  
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Without breasts, there is no paradise

What sounds like a line of propaganda from the Oppai Taisen is actually the title of a multimillion-dollar production at an international media conglomerate.

Despite the hilarity of the title, Without Breasts There Is No Paradise tells some very sad stories.

Gustavo Bolívar Moreno says the story is based on real-life conditions facing child prostitutes in the town of Pereira. There he met two girls who were desperate for silicone breasts. One told him that she got her operation for free in exchange for sex. Unfortunately, the doctor used a pair of used implants, which led to allergic reactions and infection.

It makes me wonder: why is it that a crass, throwaway Penny Arcade joke causes all kinds of furor and outrage from new-wave feminists, but not something like this? For crying out loud, this depicts a place where it is culturally normative for women to seek breast implants so that they can have a shot at being the sex slaves of the local warlord. It describes a world where a girl’s highest aspiration, growing up, is to one day sell her body to have a shot at the big time.

This causes less outcry amongst new-wave femnists than a patently absurd joke about fictional “dickwolves,” which don’t exist, and which don’t target women anyway?

First they came for the dickwolves . . . – ANNZac

You know, maybe this is yet another example of the unreal being more important than the real. We have reached a point in society where the plight of actual people means less to us than nourishing our instinctive moral panic, and affirming our own reactions as dictated by society, because we are so preoccupied with our own minds.

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 3:55 PM  Comments (5)  
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Success has ruined feminism

I have often identified myself as a radical feminist. But these days, it is necessary for me to modify that somewhat: I am a radical classical feminist. In short, I believe in feminism as explained by Liz Phair:

Be yourself. If you can get away with it, that is the ultimate feminist act.

Classical feminism is the campaign for equality between men and women, even as the classical civil rights movement was the struggle for equality amongst races in the eyes of the law. To me, this represents a sane and logical development in democracy: the right to self-determination should extend to both genders.

What passes as feminism nowadays, however, is a far cry from any of this. When I hear of “feminism” now, I hear of things like a circle of bloggers taking offense that Penny Arcade went “too far” in their joke about the inherent amorality of games: many games with “collection quests” require you to do a task X times, and then abandon it. The example involved was the freeing of men kept prisoner and used as forced labor. Penny Arcade’s joke was that, in a quest to free five such men, the sixth is callously ignored by the player character, and left to be raped by his cruel jailers.

To be sure, Penny Arcade is very often not what we would call tasteful. However, does this actually have anything to do with feminism? Note carefully how there weren’t even any women in that comic: it was about a male jailer raping a male captive. If anything, it was crude prison humour. It certainly was not a call to rape women, and it certainly did not glorify rape. Yet the simple inclusion of the concept of rape – not even male on female rape, but male on male rape – was enough to set off alarms and cause “feminist” bloggers to raise a fuss.



Fiction Supreme

I read a very sad story today. A young man died following an accident, because he refused the blood he needed to survive . . .

I hardly know what to say about this. One’s initial reaction is to seek a remedy, to prevent lives being wasted like this ever again. But we can’t police everyone, or everything. Perhaps we should congratulate ourselves for having a society that allows us to die, so long as we claim it’s what our god wants.

But this boy, Joshua McAuley, was just 15. He could not vote, or drink, or smoke or have sex. But he could die for a fiction. Should we allow children – no doubt infected with the lies of their parents – to die in this manner?


When it comes down to it, most of the concepts we are familiar with are fictions. This in no way diminishes our willingness to kill or be killed for them.