Category Archives: Politics

Fix the small problem, break the big problem

If you have a big problem and a small problem, and you solve the small problem in a way that makes the big problem worse, that’s a bad solution.

Imagine “solving” a squeaky air conditioner fan by breaking the AC completely!

In the US, people voting who shouldn’t is a much smaller problem than people who should be allowed to vote not being able to, or mishandling of ballots after the vote. Voter ID laws and roll purges “solve” the smaller problem by making the bigger problem worse.

(You might already have an acceptable ID, or the documentation needed to get it — and the time and money to handle it. But what if it’s hard to get the time off? What if you can’t cover the fee without skipping meals? What if you need to cross two states to get the docs and can’t afford the car/gas/motels?)

If you assume good faith? Pushing to block people from voting, while simultaneously refusing to protect registration rolls or polling machines from mishandling or cyberattacks that we know are ongoing, is bad problem solving at best.

But it’s hard to assume good faith. Because those ID requirements and purges are more likely to unfairly disenfranchise people who might vote Democratic. And the ongoing Russian attacks that Mitch McConnell doesn’t want to guard against have favored the Republicans.

So it’s really easy to conclude that GOP politicians don’t want fair elections. They want elections tilted in their favor. Even if it means leaving the door open for a hostile foreign government to attack.

And anyone else who finds those vulnerabilities.

What’s in a Name? (1984 Edition)

I always find it weird when someone insists that 1984 is warning about socialism because of the party name. The horrors committed by IngSoc are authoritarian, and have nothing to do with whether the economy is socialist, capitalist or communist, or the state is a republic, monarchy, etc.

You could easily imagine a libertarian state where a big enough corporation has the powers of ubiquitous surveillance, controls communication and information, has violent agents asserting control over people, etc. Same abuses, no socialism.

I mean, Cyberpunk corporate dystopia is an entire genre.

And we don’t even need to imagine giant corporations with microphones in homes, tracking people’s every move, mediating their communications and their access to knowledge, driving them toward the daily outrage.

Earth Day Thoughts

Protecting the environment isn’t just about saving the planet. It’s about saving ourselves. It’s about being responsible custodians of nature not just for its own sake (though that’s important too), but so we can keep relying on it…instead of sucking the life out of everything we can like there’s no tomorrow, leaving a world that’s too inhospitable for us to live on in any sort of comfortable civilization.

Tens of thousands of years on, the planet will recover from just about anything we throw at it, as long as we stop messing things up at some point (like, say, dying back to subsistence level as famines and wars over the remaining resources kill us off). It may take longer for biodiversity to recover, but it will happen eventually, as it has after each great extinction event — though always taking new paths to replace the possibilities that didn’t make it.

But I don’t have 10,000, 100,000, or a million years to wait for things to recover, and neither do you.

I miss the optimism of the 1990s, when the message I got was “Things are messed up, but we can fix them.” Remember when we were more worried about running out of oil than about the effects of burning it? Now the message I keep seeing is, “Too late! We’re all screwed!” Especially with large entrenched interests trying to not just fight the gains we’ve made since the 1970s, but actively roll them back.

Maybe we can’t solve the problem completely anymore. But at least we can try to mitigate it a little.

Indignant geese.

Somebody Else’s Problem

Guys, “Check your privilege” isn’t a moral judgment against you, it’s a reminder that we all have blind spots.

The human brain is very good at downplaying or dismissing problems that we don’t see much ourselves to focus more energy on those that we do. It’s the same psychology that makes Douglas Adams’ “Somebody Else’s Problem Field” work in his books and ring true to the reader.

We all do this.

The statement is just to remind us that we need to try to push through that SEP field to really look at what’s behind it.

An imagined conversation with an email petition

“Please sign this petition about X!”

“OK, I care about X, what’s the petition actually say?”

“It’s about X!”

“Right, but what’s the actual wording? Am I putting my name on supporting a specific action? ‘Cause I’d support some actions but not others.”

“It’s telling them to do something about X!”

“Yeah, I got that. What is it telling them to do?”

“Solve X!”

“Just look for solutions?”

“No, it’s telling them what we want them to do about X.”

“Which is…?”

“Fix it!”

“Sorry, but I’m not signing my name to a blank letter.”

“Why don’t you care about X?”

*sigh* *delete*

I’m totally willing to sign petitions when I can see the actual wording and it’s something I agree with.

But if the petition website doesn’t say what they’re actually delivering? I don’t want to put my name on something that might be advocating what that I consider to be a bad solution, even if I agree on the problem.