Friday, February 24, 2017

Random Thoughts I

Stealing this format from Thomas Sowell. Just some things floating around my mind.

History

When you look at human history, would you say that the good guys usually win? The way we are taught history in school, you might think this is true. We get this nice neat narrative centered around our country. Our nation's evil deeds are painted over. Even the most left-wing and biased of teachers only dig at the surface level sins. Kids don't learn real history. When we really study history, we learn that it isn't about good guys and bad guys. It is really just about power and opportunity. Reading The Man in the High Castle enforced this idea in my mind. Had the Nazis and the Japanese won most certainly their version of history would have made them out to be heroes. Who are the good guys of the world today?

X-Men Apocalypse

I watched this the other day and had to laugh at the fact that Magneto is shown to be more heroic than Superman was in Man of Steel. Without even thinking, he exposes his identity to save a random man in a factory. This leads to the loss of his wife and daughter. It was an instinctive and tragic decision. Clark, by contrast, stands by and watches his father die in a tornado. What exactly was he risking? A handful of strangers might see him do something miraculous. So what? It was his father. His mother's husband. It still amazes me that he just watched him die in such an unnecessary fashion. The original Superman movie did it much better by having the father die of a heart attack, which taught Clark humility and forced him to realize that he couldn't save everyone (worked as decent foreshadowing too).

In any event it was a pretty terrible movie (as most comic book films are). Just very silly. I have no idea how there was even a fight at the end. Why Apocalypse and Magneto did not just flatten all of the heroes at the start is a mystery to me.

Homogeneous Societies

One thing I like about Japan, and indeed most homogeneous societies, is that you see people of the same ethnicity doing all of the different jobs. Japanese people dominate the upper echelons of wealth and power. Japanese people own the media companies. Japanese people pick up the garbage. Japanese people work at 7/11. Japanese people are doctors, scientists, cashiers, waiters, construction workers – all of it. Back in NYC there were many jobs you almost never saw white people doing. Some races have disproportionate representation in high level fields like law, politics, business, and media. Other races are just understood to be the ones to do lower level work. Ethnic income inequality inevitably leads to ethnic strife. No easy solutions to that.

Aldous Huxley

“The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' – this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.”

Another Thought about Superman

I always liked to think that the destruction of Krypton was not an accident. Instead I assume that Krypton's destruction was carried out by some entity that feared the Kryptonians. It makes sense. The Kryptonians were an advanced space-faring race. They would have eventually figured out that yellow sunlight grants them godlike powers. In fact Jor-El already knew this as he told Clark about it. What would have stopped the Kryptonians from simply moving to a planet with a yellow sun. Imagine a world with billions of Supermen. Unstoppable.

Cellphones

We are literally down to one design. All smart phones are completely identical. They are all just miniature tablets and there is not even that much variety in size anymore. I miss when we had flip phones, physical keyboards, and other variations. Sad!

H. L. Mencken

“For all complex problems there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

Impression of CNN

I was back in the United States for a few weeks and watched a few dozen blips of CNN. Not more than a few minutes spread out over several days. On about 90% of those blips, the content was critical of president Trump. This is statistically significant in terms of overall journalistic integrity. Now, some might say, “Well it's Trump's fault for doing so many bad things!” And I suppose then the relative lack of critical coverage of Barack Obama was because he always did “good things.”

So for all of you people claiming the media is biased, you have your answer. Obama did good things and Trump does bad things. Once he starts being good he will get better coverage.

I for one am completely mollified.

On Modern Adaptations

I recall reading an interview with Elizabeth Olsen wherein she expressed gratitude for her costume in the film Avengers: Age of Ultron. She played Scarlet Witch, a character known in the comics for her somewhat revealing atire. To paraphrase Olsen, she basically said she was glad that the producers updated her costume for modern audiences, as the traditional comic one was too sexy.

It isn’t just sexy clothing either. It is things like changing a character’s race, making a supporting character gay, or making a villain more sympathetic. In general I think that updating a story to suit modern sensibilities defeats the purpose of telling that story to begin with. If we’re just going to change every peace of fiction from the past to make it properly match contemporary cultural moors, then how are we to ever learn anything from them? Every work of art just then slavishly reflects back our own society. By this logic we should rewrite all of Shakespeare’s plays in modern English and take out all of the ‘problematic’ bits about women and minorities.

Ugh, someone is probably already doing that…

Monday, February 20, 2017

Opposing Trump the Right Way

Though I have said some sympathetic things about the man, I am not a Trump supporter.

During the election the only argument I would have considered for voting for him would have been the idea that he was the lesser of two evils. Had I voted, it would have been for a third party since I was a resident of New York and there was no contest for the electoral votes.

The only issue where I think Trump is mostly right is immigration. Nations need secure borders, and relying on an underclass of millions of illegal migrants for cheap labor is socially and economically unsustainable.

However on most other issues I oppose Trump. His economic policies, a grab bag of protectionist Keynesian palliatives, seem unlikely to restore America's middle class. His criticism of the media, while justified, has been done in a divisive, hyperbolic, and irresponsible way (Biased as they may be, the media are not the 'enemy of the American people'). His disbelief in climate change could prove disastrous to the environment in the long term. His opposition to net neutrality could threaten the very idea of a fair and open internet. His desire to 'destroy' ISIS along with his unquestioning support of Israel and Putin suggest he will get the United States into even more mischief in the Middle East. His support for the use of torture I find despicable.

So it goes without saying that I want Trump to have effective opposition. I want all of his bad ideas to be discredited and discarded. However it has to be done the right way. The Left and the democrats spent 18 months trying to disqualify Trump by branding him a racist, misogynist, xenophobe. This is a common tactic. Instead of debating, end the conversation with an accusation. However they underestimated both Trump's shamelessness and just how unlikeable Hillary Clinton was. So Trump was not disqualified; he was elected president and inaugurated. So now they have no choice but to fight his ideas and policies. Yet some still wish to avoid this debate and are seeking other ways to beat Trump.

The 'Deep State' is not the right way.

To those unfamiliar with the term, the Deep State refers to the ever rent-seeking Washington bureaucratic establishment. It includes all of the big government agencies including the State Department, the CIA, the NSA, and myriad others. The downfall of Michael Flynn was a demonstration of the Deep State's power. By selectively disclosing bits of phone conversations from high level officials, intelligence and law enforcement agencies can politically assassinate people at will. This is a common tactic in police states.

We should make a distinction here between these sorts of leaks and whistle blowing. The latter refers to the revelation of illegal or at least unconscionable behavior. It would apply to someone like Edward Snowden or Deep Throat. The revelation about Flynn's conversations with a Russian official do not really count. Flynn did nothing illegal (though you could make a weak argument for a Logan Act violation). In any event, he is not under investigation and has not been charged with anything.

So we're not talking about whistle blowing or forcing our representatives to follow the law. What we are actually talking about is empowering unelected bureaucrats to undermine the democratically elected president and his administration. The argument from people like Evan Mcmullin is that they are actually protecting democracy by working against it. And even better from the perspective of the mainstream media: McMullin is a conservative. So now the Deep State's behavior can be wrapped in a flag of patriotism and bipartisanship.

This is a bad road to go down and the Left needs to realize it. We do not want to set this precedent. Once we explicitly empower anonymous unaccountable government operatives to overrule the people's elected representatives, the logical result is tyranny. It is very dangerous to think that this is something that can only happen one time because Trump is so unique. Trump is just the beta test. He was elected because the people wanted change. There are a lot of people in government that do not want change. Do progressives honestly think that this could not happen to a leftist democrat president? What if Bernie Sanders is elected in 2020? Remember, it is conservatives that are supposedly attacking Trump. What if some republican intelligence operatives decided to sabotage Bernie's administration in 2020? You know, because patriotism and the constitution and all that.

We must not let this become the new normal. Through a mess of leaked memos, manufactured scandals, special prosecutors, congressional hearings, senate committees, federal investigations, damaging headlines, and forced resignations - the Deep State has the power to cripple any administration at any time. It is death by a thousand paper cuts. The only thing that stops them is a longstanding gentleman's agreement across generations and presidential administrations. That and the basic understanding that once the intelligence sector and bureaucrats take power, there is no nice way to put that toothpaste back in the tube. If we look at history we see that a common solution is a military coup with a strongman ruthless enough to keep the rank and file in line.

So lets keep opposing Trump - online, in debates with friends, in classrooms, at protests, on television, in state legislatures, in appeals courts, in the halls of congress, and most importantly, in the battlefield of ideas. But let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater and blow up the concept of representative government just because a powerful minority are still bitter about an election loss. If we do not oppose Trump the right way we will be left with a permanently dysfunctional banana republic of a country. Even on his worst days Trump is far better than that.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Reality Calls Reaction

Just finished the interview. I think it went well. It went a lot faster than I thought it would and I regret not asking her more questions. She seems like a pleasant enough girl. While I still think it is accurate to describe her as racist, she does not strike me as hateful.

Racism comes in many forms. There is the more hateful and aggressive type that is focused on putting down "inferior" races. I see a lot of this on Amren with all of their articles on minority crime. While I agree that we need to be open and honest about disproportionate rates of crime, the community has struck me as quite negative, with lots of commenters piling on ethnic insults. Maybe this is cathartic for them.

I am more sympathetic to the more positive type of racism - that which is focused on appreciation of one's own people and their achievements. For example black nationalists who focus on appreciating black artistic achievements and strengthening black families instead of attacking white people. Tara struck me as being more in this camp. She has a genuine love of western civilization. In the interview she denied being a supremacist (some of her statements in other interviews seem to contradict this) and said that she has respect for all different cultures.

Japanese people are generally like this. They love their own people and culture above and beyond all others without apology. However you will rarely hear them say anything negative about other societies. There are numerous TV shows in Japan about foreigners and rarely are they critical of them. (though their comedy is not always politically correct...)

So I can respect Tara's point of view, particularly since it does seem to be informed by actually reading about genetics. While I could argue that her interpretation of the science is inaccurate, it would be wrong to call someone like her ignorant. She isn't ignorant. She has a difference in values. And what's great is that even with that we found a lot of common ground on various social and political issues.

For progressives (and most conservatives) the accusation, "You're racist!" is a way to end a conversation. For me it is the start of one. I intend to write a more thorough piece on racism in the near future.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Reality Calls

 I am doing an interview with an alt-right commentator by the name of Tara McCarthy, aka 'Reality Calls'. She is a British young woman and an independent journalist with her own site: www.realitycallsshow.com. She did a number of videos covering the "Pizzagate" conspiracy. I do not really have an opinion on that issue as I have not looked into myself, but it is the sort of thing I am glad to see people take the time to properly investigate. Her focus now seems to be on politics and western civilization. From her videos with a number of alt-right personalities it is clear that Tara is a very bright and well-spoken young lady.

She is also a racist.

She recently interviewed a libertarian student and a young black man who is a member of Mensa (I have exchanged messages with the latter in the Mensa forums so I know he is legitimate). In those interviews Tara not only expressed her belief in the inferiority of Africans based on their lower IQ scores, but also suggested that it is rational for employers to avoid hiring black employees. When the interviewee pointed out that one could just weed out low IQ / incompetent blacks via simple tests, Tara suggested this was an unreasonable expense of resources and time. In another video she also argued for encouraging more use of contraceptives throughout Africa as a way to keep their population down.

The essence of racism is the idea that individuals should be treated a specific way because of their race. I think of racism as a 0 to 5 continuum:

0: Anti-racist // Race is a social construct // All races are totally equal, culture accounts for all differences

1: Race does exist, but the differences between races are minor. Culture accounts for 99%.

2: Race does exist and there are meaningful differences in things like IQ.

3: There is a clear hierarchy of superior and inferior races.

4: Superior races have the right to persecute inferior races in some contexts.

5. Inferior races should be eliminated for eugenic purposes. Superior races ought to dominate the world.

I personally do not think a person is racist simply because they believe there are differences between races. Again I think it is about how you treat individuals. That really comes into play at level 3 on the continuum. There are also a number of issues that are independent of this continuum. The question of race mixing, for example, as well as the right of government or private sector racial discrimination. I can be a libertarian anti-racist who supports race mixing and believes private companies ought to have the right to discriminate by race. Furthermore, many societies (such as Japan) practice de facto racial discrimination with their immigration policies, but do not actually persecute minorities within their borders or ban interracial marriage.

Tara I suspect she falls somewhere around a "3" in the above spectrum (I rate myself somewhere between 1 and 2). In her interview with the high IQ young black man she made clear that even smarter blacks ought to be kept out of white countries because of the fear that these blacks' children will regress to their racial mean in IQ.

So why talk to someone like this? Why reach out to a person who seems to believe all of my achievements and contributions to society are invalidated by my skin color?

Well for one, because I respect her. It takes courage to be openly racist in western countries. I intend no irony in that statement. It is a legitimately dangerous thing to do as it can lock you out of polite society and a great many opportunities. I have a lot more respect for thoughtful open white racists than liberal whites falling all over themselves to apologize for their privilege.

But I am also talking to her because it is hard. Because it is uncomfortable. Because it is a bit scary. And because I hope to learn something. The easy thing to do is to just dismiss and condemn. Worthwhile experiences are rarely easy though. Tara is a smart young lady. Maybe we can learn from each other. I do not go into the conversation with any big plan to try to convince her that she's wrong and make her adopt my beliefs. I don't want to punch her in the face. I just want to listen and ask some questions of my own. Hell if we lived near each other, I'd even buy her a drink. It's not beyond me to be friends with someone with racist opinions. Plenty of my Japanese acquaintances have "problematic" views.

This is how we rebuild a shared western culture. By listening to each other. If a black guy and a white racist can find common ground and discuss issues in a civil and rational way, then maybe there is hope for all of us.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Good Comment

From a commenter on Reason.com, on the subject of Leftists and their approach to fighting Trump:

"If you wish to fight racism and xenophobia, then you should probably be spending a lot of time talking to racists and xenophobes. Otherwise you are just preaching to your own side. No one ever said missionary work is pleasant."

I agree very strongly with this quote and I am attempting to walk the walk. I work in technology. I have lots of smart leftist colleagues that pat themselves on the back for watching five minutes of Fox News once a week. "Oh I'm not in a bubble! I read Slate, HuffPo, The Atlantic, Vox, and even CNN sometimes."

If you really want to get out of your echo chamber, you have to do more than just occasionally read an opposing editorial that you'll probably just rationalize out of your mind anyway. You have to immerse yourself in the world of people who think differently.

This has happened to me several times in my life. I grew up in a moderately conservative neighborhood and was a hardcore liberal in my teens. Then I went to ultra-liberal NYU and became libertarian. Then I spent some years traveling and teaching in Asia. I lived in homogeneous socially conservative societies and came to understand some of libertarianism's flaws. In every case I was immersed in a new world view. I learned and grew.

I believe I have a strong understanding of contemporary liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, socialism, and multiculturalism. The election of Trump has piqued my interest in what is called the "New Right" or "Alt Right." I lurk 4chan a bit (mostly /g/ just to troll Thinkpad threads) and in the last year the hard right board /pol/ has spread all across the community. They espouse a kind of race-aware nationalism that has been bolstered by the election result.

Instead of dismissing them as charlatans, I am trying to talk to them. I am commenting in Alt Right communities. I even support a few of the better speakers on Patreon (I support dozens of people there, mostly interesting artists).

The truth is, my goal is not to fight racism or xenophobia. As I have written previously, I never get into a debate with the goal of changing someone's mind. I engage with these people purely for the sake of my own knowledge. In truth I am agnostic on the question of race realism. Having read The Bell Curve and A Troublesome Inheritance recently, I recognize that there is real scientific evidence to support racial differences, even for things like IQ.

As an engineer I believe in the primacy of science, even when its results might make us uncomfortable. As a free thinker, I believe it is important to talk with a wide variety of people, especially those deemed controversial.

We all need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones from time to time. Doing so has helped me adapt to Japanese society. More liberals and conservatives in America need to reach across the aisle. We need to talk to one another, if not for the sake of finding common ground, then at least for the purpose of strengthening our minds.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Why It Isn't OK to Punch Richard Spencer

Being black I don't exactly make a habit of defending white nationalists.

But I feel this needs to be said.

For those who don’t know, Richard Spencer is the president of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization. He attained some notoriety after Trump’s election victory when members of his organization were caught on camera doing Nazi salutes. Spencer gave an incredibly lame excuse for the salutes, and does not identify as a Nazi, but for the purpose of this writing it is not really relevant one way or the other. What’s important is that he disavows violence and has consistently advocated his group’s position peacefully.

At the inauguration of Trump, while Spencer was doing a street interview, someone ran up to him and punched him in the face. The incident was caught on camera and quickly spread across the internet. It turned into a meme and a number of left-leaning sites applauded his assailant. At the recent SAG awards David Harbour explicitly endorsed the assault to thunderous applause.

There are three reasons why we need to condemn the punching of Richard Spencer

1. It is Stupid

Punching Spencer makes him sympathetic. Disaffected whites see an incident like this and wonder why people are so scared of him. They then check out his site and read his arguments about preserving white culture and they do not understand why it is so scary. Leftists have yet to realize that for most white people, the idea that whites ought to collectively look out for their own interests is not an extraordinarily controversial position. Trump won the election in part because whites are voting more and more as a bloc. Putting Spencer in the news as a victim of violence for the sin of caring about white people helps his cause far more than it hurts it.

2. It is Ugly

Punching Nazis is not an ‘American Tradition’ contrary to what you may hear. Violence against politically unpopular opinions is. People forget how quickly social fashions change. Today you say it is OK to physically assault someone because you are offended by white nationalism. In the past it was OK to beat up a man for being a homosexual, supporting communism, or dating someone of a different race. They had the same excuses too. People were genuinely offended by 'commies', 'fags', and 'race-mixers'. So when you defend someone for sucker punching Richard Spencer, you are supporting every ugly act of violence committed against minorities throughout history. Congrats.

3. It is Dangerous

Normalizing political violence can not lead anywhere good. Using violence toward Spencer and his supporters sends a very clear message: You people have no free speech rights. You have no right to assemble, petition, and seek redress for your grievances. Therefore your only recourse is to use force.

Violence begets violence. Initiating it against white nationalists makes them morally justified in returning it. How would leftists react to some masked thug running up to John Stewart and cracking one of his ribs with an elbow to the chest? They would have no moral authority to complain; their opponents met the call for violence by responding in kind. Progressives assumed that the white supremacists would just roll over and accept a new normal where they need to be scared and intimidated physically when they go out in public.

What if the white supremacists don’t accept this? What if they start planning to use violence in response? It might start relatively tame. Stink bombing feminist rallies, sabotaging left wing speaking events, etc. But what if it goes back and forth and escalates? What if people start getting targeted and jumped by gangs? Buildings start getting burned. Someone decides to throw a cup of acid at someone’s face. A group of the most extreme decide to load up with some AR-15’s, head down to an opposition rally, and give us a day we’ll never forget.

This is the road we go down when we laugh about a guy getting beaten because his opinions are unpopular. We need to be better than this. We need to focus on fighting our enemies intellectually, not physically. The minimum standard of political discourse is something we teach 1st graders: “No hitting.” If we can’t meet a standard we apply to seven year olds then we are truly lost.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some Thoughts on Racism in Japan

I have been commenting in various places on the subject of racism lately and it seems a good time to mention some of my observations about life in Japan.

I went to my first Mensa Japan meetup a few months ago. It was an interesting experience. Not only was I the only black guy, I was the only non-Asian person (I think it was all Japanese natives but it is possible there were Korean or Chinese people there). I got a few surprised looks, sure, but otherwise the people were great. I met company presidents, software engineers, doctors, artists, and various other interesting people. It was about 90% men. The few ladies I spoke to were very friendly though.

The experience reinforced my sense that Japan is generally a very welcoming country for foreigners. I think this is largely because there are so few of them. With a comfortable 99% majority, native Japanese in their day to day lives do not have to think much about gaijin. Because it is such a safe and wealthy country, foreigners largely go out of their way to adopt Japanese norms. Most foreigners do not demand that Japan change itself to accommodate them. There are not enough foreigners to effectively agitate for such changes anyway.

 

 Tatemae and Honne


However this does not mean that most Japanese people have zero racial bias. The thing is, race is considered a taboo subject, so people will not speak about it much openly. There is in Japan the concept of honne (本音) and tatemae (建前). The former is people's honest opinion while the latter is a person's 'front' - their polite, politically correct view. On delicate social subjects, most of the time Japanese people will only give you their tatemae. This is why Youtube videos where they go around asking Japanese people about race are kind of silly. Very few Japanese people are willing to criticize other races on camera.

Learn their language fluently, make some close friends, and get drunk with a few. Then you can get their honne about other races. In particular the negative feeling toward other Asians will become clear. Even long before World War 2, there had been generations of bad blood between Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and other Southeast Asians. Simply put, Japanese people do not consider these other Asians to be the same race as themselves. While there is a feeling of 'akogare' (admiration) toward whites and Europeans, the attitude toward Africans and Hispanics is not so charitable.

Tourists do not notice the casual racism in Japan because the people are so polite. They don't notice stores with 'Japanese Only' signs. They don't go through trying to rent an apartment and being told that their prospective landlord does not accept Africans or Brazilians. Since they don't know the language, they never understand the comments made about them on Subways by old ladies and salarymen.

 

My Impression


My sense is that the average Japanese person does indeed harbor various racial biases. This does not bother me though for a few reasons. For one, the vast majority of Japanese people are great about treating everyone as individuals. It is rare that someone will openly insult or mistreat you merely because of your race, especially once they see you speak their language. Secondly, I did not move to Japan with any expectation that the people held the same American liberal egalitarian view of race. The thing is, if we define racism to mean simply "a belief in meaningful differences between ethnic groups," then racism is actually the default position for most of humanity. The wiser cultures (including Japan) are just better about not letting these beliefs taint their interactions with individuals of other races.

White westerners often forget that most of the world is racist. Go to Asia, the Middle East, South America, or Africa, and most of the people you meet will have racist opinions. It is only the majority white societies - Europe, Canada, Australia, USA - that have aggressively disavowed racism. And even among the white western nations I would argue that a large percentage of people, deep down, hold racist views. They cannot help it. Reality simply offers too much evidence to support them. The western world spent a lot of energy condemning racism, but never got around to debunking it. If we want racism to go the way of phrenology or geocentrism, we need to prove that it is false. Unfortunately, there is a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that it is not false. What's more, Brexit and Trump, are signs that the progressive narrative on race is breaking down, as whites are less and less scared of being branded racist.

So ultimately, yes, I think Japan is in some ways a racist society. You need look no further than their immigration policies for evidence. Sure, they admit lot of tourists and are making it easier to apply for permanent residency. However if you look at the data on the number of foreigners granted citizenship or long-term residency, it becomes obvious that Japan could take in far more people if they wanted to do so.

The fact is that Japan is one of the world's most peaceful and prosperous societies. Many tens of millions of people around the world would move there in a heartbeat were the borders truly open. This would inevitably result in the native population becoming gradually displaced, as we already see in many nations around the world. Even with the low birthrate Japan has still not opted for mass immigration as a solution for longterm stability (though this could gradually change as Prime Minister Abe is clearly trying to attract more skilled workers for certain industries).

Ultimately I respect Japan's right to maintain its borders and preserve its culture. After all, I moved to Japan because it is Japanese. If I wanted a multicultural society, I would have stayed in New York. I accept that as an immigrant, I am an outsider. I will never be fully accepted as a Japanese, even if I master the culture and become a citizen.

Furthermore, I have suffered discrimination, and I do not downplay the experience. I have been turned away from small quaint nightspots with a, "Sorry, no African please. Only Japanese. Try Roppongi." And it does sting. "Oh, you are affluent, smart, and speak our language fluently? Fuck off. You're still just a nigger." It genuinely hurts.

Yet still I am libertarian enough to respect the right of voluntary association. I think many libertarians want to believe that giving businesses the right to discriminate is not a problem because the free market will punish them. However Japan shows that this is not true. Here, the free market often rewards discrimination. Japanese people often prefer going to places where they don't have to deal with foreigners.

And again, I'm fine with that. I accept that Japanese people put their own culture and people first. They have every right to do so. If that is what is necessary to preserve the things that drew me here in the first place, then I am willing to tolerate it.