the inevitably necessary political post

(if after reading this post you find yourself wondering, what the heck brought that on? then don’t worry. it’s not aimed at you.)

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I am not anonymous. It’s pretty easy to know my real name, and thus know where else I blog, and other facts about me, most of which are very strongly correlated with a certain kind of politics. From time to time I slip and that political bias leaks out here at haibane.info. Here, I am not interested in being publicly liberal like John Scalzi or alt-right like Vox Day or even partisan on niche issues but determined to link all sides fairly like Mike Glyer. I just want to write about stuff that I like.

In a few days, we enter a new political era, and this has certain people emotional for different reasons. That’s understandable. I like a good playoff game as much as the next guy, and I enjoyed the game so much more when Dallas tied the game – twice – and Rodgers only had 30 seconds left. The emotion I felt, and would have felt had it gone the other way, is real. Same thing with politics. I am allowed to feel what I feel, and so is everyone else. This is the Internet, however, and some people just don’t seem to grok this.

There are people I disagree with profoundly with whom I am able to have a perfectly civil conversation. That is because I consider respect to be the first and foremost responsibility of anyone engaging someone else. If you don’t respect someone, then don’t concern yourself with what they do or think or especially, post on the Internet. This is common sense and civility. Again, I am not surprised that some people on the Internet don’t seem to be able to understand this concept.

I am quite sure that I fit the definition of a SJW or moonbat or whatever other fancy buzzword du jour has all the cucks kecking. But to paraphrase a certain timeless truth, “to you be your way and to me, mine.”

and that’s enough said about that.

And yeah, the photo doesn’t have much to do with the post – apart from the obvious fact that there is only one Green Deity, and his name is Godgers.

The Hugo Awards and political correctness

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The Hugo Awards are science fiction’s most celebrated honor (along with the Nebula Awards). This year there’s a political twist: the accusation that the Hugos are “politically correct” and favor liberal writers over those with conservative political leanings.

The fact that Orson Scott Card won the Hugo in both 1986 and 1987 for Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, or that Dan Simmons won a Hugo in 1990 for Hyperion, is sufficient evidence to prove that no such bias against conservative writers exists [1].

The current controversy is a tempest in a teapot, originating because two conservative writers (Larry Correia and Theodore Beale aka “Vox Day”) have decided to make an example out of the entrenched political correctness that both are convinced exists (see: confirmation bias). Here is Correia’s post about his actions and here is Beale’s. One of the common mantras of these people is that their hero, Robert Heinlein, would not be able to win a Hugo in today’s politically correct world.

Past SFWA president, Hugo winner, and all-around good guy on the Internet, John Scalzi definitively refutes the idea that Heinlein would not have won a Hugo and does so with genuine insight and understanding of who Heinlein was, what he wrote, and how Heinlein himself promoted SF as a literary genre. Key point:

When people say “Heinlein couldn’t win a Hugo today,” what they’re really saying is “The fetish object that I have constructed using the bits of Heinlein that I agree with could not win a Hugo today.” Robert Heinlein — or a limited version of him that only wrote Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and maybe Farnham’s Freehold or Sixth Column — is to a certain brand of conservative science fiction writer what Ronald Reagan is to a certain brand of conservative in general: A plaster idol whose utility at this point is as a vessel for a certain worldview, regardless of whether or not Heinlein (or Reagan, for that matter) would subscribe to that worldview himself.

They don’t want Heinlein to be able to win a Hugo today. Because if Heinlein could win a Hugo today, it means that their cri de coeur about how the Hugos are really all about fandom politics/who you know/unfairly biased against them because of political correctness would be wrong, and they might have to entertain the notion that Heinlein, the man, is not the platonic ideal of them, no matter how much they have held up a plaster version of the man to be just that very thing.

Read the whole thing.

In fact, the whole idea that the Hugo are biased against conservatives is a form of political correctness in and of itself. Steven just linked this article about how political correctness is a “positional good” and summarizes:

briefly, a positional good is one that a person owns for snob appeal, to set oneself apart from the rabble. Ownership of the positional good is a way of declaring, “I’m better than you lot!” And it continues to be valued by the snob only as long as it is rare and distinctive.

The idea, then, is that being one of the perpetually aggrieved is a way of being morally superior. I’m open-minded and inclusive, which makes me better than all those damned bigots out there.

Of course, Steven is invoking this idea as a critique about liberals crying racism; he overlooks the same dynamic at work by conservatives crying about exclusion, possibly because he is sympathetic to the “Hugos are biased” claim.

Regarding that claim, Scalzi had meta-commentary on the controversy overall (“No, the Hugo nominations were not rigged“) that is worth reading for perspective. It’s worth noting that Scalzi’s work was heavily promoted by Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, back in the day, a debt Scalzi is not shy about acknowledging publicly. This should, but won’t, dissuade those inclined (as Correia and Beale are) to lump Scalzi in with their imaginary “leftist” oppressors.

I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is and support the Hugos by becoming a contributing supporter [2] for the next year. This will allow me to vote on nominees and I will receive a packet of nominees prior to the actual voting, which if you think about it, is an incredible value. If you’re interested in supporting the Hugos against these claims of bias, consider joining me as a contributor yourself. Now that I’m a member, I plan to blog about the nominations process as well, so it should be fun.

RELATED: Scalzi’s earlier post about The Orthodox Church of Heinlein. Much like the Bible, and history, the source material often gets ignored.

[1] To be fair, Card and Simmons aren’t really conservative – they are certifiable lunatics. See here and here.

[2] Here’s more information about becoming a member for the purposes of voting for the Hugos. This year’s convention will be in London, “Loncon3” so membership is handled through their website.

politics and the otakusphere

word cloud of the Constitution of the United StatesFour years ago I had a minor snit about the encroachment of politics into our realm, and while we are still relatively early in the next presidential election cycle, I already sense that the problem will recur. I’m guilty of some political musing here myself, but I do make a reasonable effort to avoid overt rah-rah cheering for one side or the other here (unlike my other haunts, where I let my partisan biases hang out). I really do see geekblogging as a refuge for myself, and while I certainly cannot and do not want to tell anyone how to run their blog or what they can or can’t post, I do find myself itching for the damn thing to be over already.

Wishful thinking, I know. It’s only April and we have 6 months left to go. It’s an eternity.

The Geminid Meteor Shower peaks tonight

The Geminids are coming tonight!

“It’s the Geminid meteor shower,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “and it will peak on Dec. 13th and 14th under ideal viewing conditions.”

A new Moon will keep skies dark for a display that Cooke and others say could top 140 meteors per hour. According to the International Meteor Organization, maximum activity should occur around 12:10 a.m. EST (0510 UT) on Dec. 14th. The peak is broad, however, and the night sky will be rich with Geminids for many hours and perhaps even days around the maximum.

Cooke offers this advice: “Watch the sky during the hours around local midnight. For North Americans, this means Sunday night to Monday morning.”

Geminids are pieces of debris from a strange object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. It is, basically, the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini: sky map.

As the NASA page explains, the Geminids are relatively recent in origin, first appearing in the early 19th century, and have been gradually intensifying since then, because Jupiter’s gravity has been pulling the debris stream towards Earth’s orbit.

The reason meteor showers interest me is not the light show (truthfully, I’ve seen very few, due to viewing conditions or simply missing them) but rather the cometary aspect of them. Meteors are comets’ bones. I’ve been obsessed with comets since grade school. I remember making every effort I could to see Halley’s comet when I was 12 years old, but the geometry of that sighting was suboptimal – all I remember is a light smudge. I’m hoping that when I turn 87, I’ll have a better show.

For more information on the 2009 Geminids, see the International Meteor Organization’s live tally page, which is already recording an increase in sightings.

The Avatar of politics

James Cameron’s AVATAR is the kind of film that moves the industry forward – and not necessarily just the movie industry. The movie’s 3D technology makes Gollum look like Max Headroom. The scope of Cameron’s ambition in terms of redefining the baseline for movie-making technology is utterly breathtaking; this is the kind of stuff that George Lucas or Steven Spielberg should have been doing with their sacred franchise cash cows’ spoils. This film was something Cameron wanted to make decades ago but was restrained by technology; the story goes that he saw Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy and realized, “the time is now”. And Jackson will surely step up his game in response – but this isn’t just a game of techno-wizardry, it’s an arms race from which every moviegoer will benefit from in terms of how movies are made, filmed, and most importantly, viewed.

So of course, some people are mad because the film hates America. WTF?!?!

GOOD GRIEF FOLKS. These are MOVIES. This one is set on an alien planet, with 10 foot tall blue natives and (regrettably the only non-original aspect of the film) a generalized Earth Military which could have been ripped straight from Starship Troopers or the Alien trilogy. If there’s a message here, it’s Pocahontas, not The West Wing.

Not every army on film is a metaphor for the US military. In fact, as is the case with Heinlein, sometimes it’s a metaphor for something else. And AVATAR is above all, a love story, and about an individual who questions the dogma he’s lived by and embraces his own conscience and beliefs. What’s more conservative than that?

What we need is a entertainment-industry equivalent of Sigmund Freud, to make the arch-observation “sometimes a movie is just a movie.”

And what a movie it will be!


Official Avatar Movie

election math

I just finished extolling the virtues of keeping politics out of the Otakusphere, but this isn’t really a post about politics, it’s about math. Besides, only a geetaku audience can appreciate this.

Good Math Bad Math points out the innumeracy of many election-beat reporters who seem to be unaware of how percentages work:

as results were coming in from Ohio, one reporter was saying “Black turnout in Cleveland was only around 18%, which is only up 2% from four years ago”. That’s a rather classic bad-math error. A two percent increase over 16% is 16.32% – which is a trivial change. A change from 16% to 18% is actually a 12.5% increase – which is very significant.

At the opposite side of the scale, I think it’s astounding just how eerily accurate Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com was regarding his predictions. The cool thing about his methodology is that he actually simulates the election results in Monte Carlo fashion, running each one 10,000 times:

The basic process for computing our Presidential projections consists of six steps:

1. Polling Average: Aggregate polling data, and weight it according to our reliability scores.

2. Trend Adjustment: Adjust the polling data for current trends.

3. Regression: Analyze demographic data in each state by means of regression analysis.

4. Snapshot: Combine the polling data with the regression analysis to produce an electoral snapshot. This is our estimate of what would happen if the election were held today.

5. Projection: Translate the snapshot into a projection of what will happen in November, by allocating out undecided voters and applying a discount to current polling leads based on historical trends.

6. Simulation: Simulate our results 10,000 times based on the results of the projection to account for the uncertainty in our estimates. The end result is a robust probabilistic assessment of what will happen in each state as well as in the nation as a whole.

This is a more stochastic approach to election prediction which I think matches reality very well.

I also found this collection of links, which are dangerously interesting. Among them, “The Mathematics of Voting“:

Mathematical economist Kenneth Arrow proved (in 1952) that there is no consistent method of making a fair choice among three or more candidates. Topics cover Fairness Criteria, Voting Methods, Fairness Criteria applied to Voting Methods, and Ranking Procedures.

Then there’s the old favorite topics, like should we ditch the Electoral College? (no). Should we use an Instant Runoff Voting system instead? (no).

Election math is cool.

that which must not be spoken

I deliberately keep my politics off this blog, because I’ve found that politics is a topic that necessarily inflames passions of the sort that are antithetical to people sitting around and talking about things they enjoy. I’ve been a traveler of the middle path, with a leftwards drift, since 2000, and Ive seen a lot of victories and losses on both sides of the aisle. My experience shows me that people are the same – they have the same fears, the same biases, and the same need to paint their opponents in dark colors of the Other to validate their passion, because they wrongly feel that there’s some shame in that passion. There isn’t – the passion is good, and it’s necessary, and it’s worth it to look in the mirror after a bitter fight and reflect that what divides us is so much smaller than what brings up together.

There are those who will not be able to let go, and there are those who will, but just not yet. I don’t think anyone I know or read regularly sincerely wants the President-elect to fail, or wants the country to be punished for making the “wrong” choice, or takes any pleasure in pronouncements of doom forthcoming. But much of what those people I respect are saying right now, does sound like they do desire those outcomes, in the absence of benefit of the doubt, or the simple knowledge of their characters born of personal contact and friendship. Emotions are cathartic and also nothing to be ashamed of.

At any rate, I am glad the election is over, because there’s a lot of blogging to do in the otakusphere. I’ll be back on a regular-ish schedule again now. If you have any interest in what I’ve to say in the political realm, I do invite you to stop by my blog at Beliefnet, City of Brass – but let’s leave that, there.