mneme: (Default)
I wrote a thing in a FB comment. Since FB comments are fragile and temporary, it's pretty much necessary that I repost it if I want to keep it.

I was asked (when I said that I think federal voting reform would be entirely appropriate, and we could even throw Republicans a bone with national -funded- Voter ID; ideally, guarantee that all adult citizens are automatically registered to vote and have or can -trivially- get identification proving it; along with establishing standards for polling places and voting machines throughout the nation such that a national popular vote for President is a real possibility; oh, and abolish the Electoral College), whether I thought there shouldn't be artificial barriers to all our rights.

Well, I do think that in general there shouldn't be artificial barriers to our rights; the government should put up artificial barriers to things only when it has a compelling interest in doing so. However, I don't think all rights are of equal value--and our rights need to be balanced against the rights of others.

Of the highest level are the rights that allow a democratic society to function at all: Free political speech (and press, and association), voting, equal protection from the law as it affects self-government. Also sitting here is the right to, as long as our government is republican, not simply pure democratic, ensure the government answers to the people and we are protected from corruption.

One level down from this is the right to life and freedom from undue imprisonment; the right of fairness under the law. Here lies general equal protection under the law, protection against torture and other methods of imprisonment and intrusive search without a plausible indicator of guilt, etc. Here also lies an obligation that the state protect our personal freedom from threats both external and internal, just as the first set of rights obligate the state to protect our rights to think and vote and debate free of external constraint.

On a third tier are rights of personal autonomy--the right to be left alone. Here lies the right to have consensual sex with anyone you want, to undergo any medical procedure you wish that doesn't harm other people, own whatever property you are given by others, hold and practice any religious views you profess, and, yes, practice whatever martial arts and use and own whatever objects you can and do accquire and make (including weapons).

These rights are tiered--they are not of equal importance; nor can they be. So while I honor weapon use as a matter of personal autonomy--the right to be left alone--just as I do the right to abort an unthinking fetus, it must yield (to an extent) to the right of others to live; reasonable background checks are entirely appropriate, as are restricting weapons of mass murder. On the other hand, voting and speech rights are utterly central; one simply cannot make decisions as a free society without them, and it is hard to justify any restrictions on them that are not similarly ensuring the fairness and incorruptibility of elections.

FWIW, I don't think this style of tiering is particularly in-obvious or controversial. Of course, people disagree vociferously on which categories appear in -- some people think that a 5 day old foetus is covered in tier #2 (which would cause its rights to trump it's mother's tier #3 rights), which I can't agree with, and there are some people who think personal weapons ownership is still part of tier #1 (which, um, sorry, but I can't agree with that). But as long as we agree that not all rights are equal, there is still some room for discussion.
mneme: (Default)
My Facebook is blowing up with sorrow, despondency, and fear -- my twitter, too (pretty much everyone's twitter).

So I'm not going to do that. This is a terrible loss; I won't downplay it, but...it's not the end of the world. For most of us, anyway.

And anyway, I've lost an Presidential election before.

My first Presidential election (that I could vote in) was 1992, when we voted in Bill Clinton. I didn't really know much about him, but he was the Democratic candidate, so I was going to support him. In the end...it was mediocre, with a military ban on homosexual service replaced by "don't ask, don't tell", dismantling of the welfare system, economic prosperity which only aided the dismantling of protections against catastrophic massively leveraged bank implosions, the Sony Bono copyright extension act, and the Defense of Marriage Act. But at least we had a competent Democratic President pushing down the deficit, presiding over nuclear disarmament, and signing the Family and Medical Leave act. But really read this: https://clinton1.nara.gov/White_House/Accomplishments/html/accomp-plain.html; there just isn't that much there to like; minor stuff like gun control and environmental preservation, while incarcerating thousands and establishing the trade agreement doctrine that helped Trump win the most recent election.

My third Presidential election, though, was 2000, when with machinations aplenty, GW Bush --- the ex-drug addicted playboy who was the laughingstock of Texas liberals--became President. And...it was awful. He presided over the worst economic crash in my lifetime, doubling down on it by massive tax cuts to the rich, starting an expensive and unnecessary (as well as costly in lives and war in the Middle East). He tortured people, may very well have redirected intelligence resources such that they missed the terrorist attacks in 2001, and his wars let him get two terms. Oh, and he borrowed trillions to do all of this. And was planning his wars before he even got into office.

In all this, Obama was a shining light. We were all there, we know what he accomplished, and that (except for Obamacare) was against a hostile congress.

Now? Well, there are awful indicators; Trump is an egotist, an abuser, throws dog whistles to the racist and bigoted crowd all the time, and appears to have superbly bad impulse control. And he'll have a nominally friendly congress for at least two years.

But that said, it's not "Trump the character" who is going to be President--however similar or different they are, it's "Trump the person." Who is hardly a saint (see above), but frankly, if his waffling has shown us anything, it's that we have no idea what he truly believes; just that it changes with what he thinks is going to appeal to his base.

So (almost) anything could happen. He's emboldened the "America First" crowd, and talked about building walls and religious discrimination. Packing the Supreme Court with conservative judges, repealing Obamacare, making it easier for him to sue reporters who say stuff he doesn't like. Ending net neutrality. This is what he got elected on.

He's also talked about public works projects and fixing our infrastructure (which badly needs it), raising the minimum wage, preventing obvious terror threats from buying firearms, and putting measures in place to protect American workers from needless outsourcing. And has talked about replacing Obamacare with something better for the individual, focusing on its flaws--the individual mandate and the way that gives license to insurance to raise rates as long as they can get away with it, the way it doesn't solve the state-based cartel issue, etc. This is -also- what he got elected on.

So I don't know, and frankly neither do you. Which Trump are we going to get? The populist? The demagogue? The fake or real conservative? Secret force for white supremacy? All or some of the above?

What I do know is that we haven't actually moved backwards long term. We've taken a step back, sure, even a significant one -- but I supremely doubt that Trump is going to reverse (or even try to reverse) all the strides we've taken in the last 13 years. 13 years ago, remember, people couldn't get married to people of the same sex in -any- state, QUILTBG people couldn't serve in the military unless they hid their status (I'm leaving out A because I don't think Asexual people were a problem on -that- score unless they were otherwise queer as well), no state had legalized marijuana and the federal government was threatening to crack down on them if they tried, and plenty of other rights and privileges of my friends were far, far from where they are right now.

Is it likely a bunch of stuff I love will get rolled back? Absolutely -- Obergefell is super-likely to get killed by any Justice Trump puts into the Court; Obamacare is going to get modified and who knows if the result is going to have any of the important parts--public markets, a ban on pre-existing conditions, public financing for those who need it [in states that accept it, anyway] that allow people who need to be able to affordably buy private health care regardless of their personal health to do so. But it's super-unlikely that a Trump Congress will pass all of a trans bathroom ban, another national ban on same sex marriage, another massively over-broad Patriot act, or nationally illegalize marijuana again and re-ignite the drug war. Or even push all our proud trans and non-binary friends back into the closet. We'll lose some stuff, but I have reason to hope we won't lose -everything-.

We've moved massive steps forward in the last 12 years, and every time you move forward, there's a chance of hitting a wall and moving backwards--but our momentum hasn't changed. Not yet, at least. And -if- Trump is more invested in the stuff I liked (or at least didn't dislike) than the stuff I hate, as a Republican President, he's much more likely to be able to accomplish it. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Clinton could end welfare as we knew it (and curse him for it). -If- Trump choses to use some of his power for good, who knows what he can accomplish.

And there's the ironic silver lining -- one of the biggest reasons that the Republicans have been able to take over a massive number of state legislatures, both houses of congress, and now also the Presidency is that over the past 24 years, there's been a Democratic president for 16 of them -- and the party out of power tends to gain downballot. As the party indisputably in control of government starting mid-January, the Republicans are going to be held responsible for everything that goes wrong in the world, and it's up to all of us to hold them to that.

So for good or ill, Trump is going to be my President. Democracy has spoken, and democracy being the way we make decisions about our collective power that, now matter how we choose, many of us won't like, I am honor bound to live with it without even the lingering questions that dodged 2000--up to the point where Trump proves that he's going to abuse the powers of his office or ruin the world. This might come immediately as soon as he does anything--or I might be surprised. I'm not interested in pushing for impeachment from the start of his term; frankly, that would put Pence in power who would be more predictable and possibly worse, but also I don't believe in impeachment as a political tool rather than a last resort when an official actually commits a crime.

In the meanwhile, it's on all of us to keep as much of what we gained as we can, to keep pushing back whenever the government does something unpalatable, to help one another, and to take back the governments of the US in 2018 and 2020. This is the bed we've made, that has been made for us, and most of us are going to have to stay in it for a while--but that doesn't mean we need to lie in it.
mneme: (Default)
Inspired by a line from [personal profile] satyrblade

This song is -shamelessly- political. And decidedly time-bound, but hey, now's the time.

March, 2016 ("We're gonna miss him")
© 2016 Joshua Kronengold
(to the tune of "You're gonna miss me", Lulu and the Lampshades)

Obama's got less than a year to go,
Some people think he's on his way.
And I sure would like to send a lot of company,
Send some congress with him for the U-S-A.

When he's gone,
When he's gone,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone,
We'll miss his jokes made with aplomb,
We'll miss his air of peace and calm,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone.

Me and my friends are registered to vote,
For those that we like both old and new,
We've got ones who make us shiver,
We've got ones who makes us quiver,
But I sure wish we had Obama too,

When he's gone,
When he's gone.
We're gonna miss him when he's gone.
It's been a lovely seven years,
It's been full of right-wing tears,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone

The primary race has been a lot of fun,
With too many double-takes to list,
We've got a race that's kind of tight,
And a clown-car on the right,
But it's not for them that I sing this song,

When he's gone (when he's gone)
When he's gone (when he's gone)
We're gonna miss him when he's gone.
We'll miss the way he fills a tux,
And the year he gave no...buckets,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone.

When he's gone,
When he's gone,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone,
We'll miss his jokes made with aplomb,
We'll miss his air of peace and calm,
We're gonna miss him when he's gone.
mneme: (Default)
I posted this in the Facebook Filk group, but since Facebook is inherently transient, and it was long and the result of a fair amount of thought, I'm reposting it here with some edits. Comment or mock me as you will.

[personal profile] drcpunk and I have been attending BMs three years running, partially with the aim of eventually getting a workable Music or Filk Hugo into the mix (in addition to caring about a few other issues--hell, this year I did a good bit to make sure blogs remained eligible for a Hugo).

So, I've kinda thought about the subject a bit.

First, the question of why: Filk is a core part of Fandom. Much more than gaming. As such, it would be really useful to have a Hugo category where filk was regularly nominated to help continue to bind us to the rest of fandom -- reminding them that we exist, and frankly, reminding filkers that we're part of fandom (even those filkers who prefer to only to filk cons and don't do non-filk conventions). The Pegasus is an effective award -- but it's a community award, and simply doesn't work the way the Hugos do nor get the press the Hugos do. So overall, if a Hugo category could be created that suited filk, I think it would be a good thing.

Second: The question of how. It's not that hard to get something done in the Business meeting. You need a case -- and you need people to show up, but any attending member of a Worldcon can show up to the BM, and while it does require some knowledge of Robert's Rules to introduce motions, etc, it requires nothing but the ability to raise your hand or stand up (or equivalent) to vote. That said, there's no point in passing an award category that can't get critical mass -- a Filk Hugo was -passed- at some point (or so I've been told) and the problem was that there was no consensus at all among nominators; everything got 3 votes or 3% of the vote or whatnot (whereas the Hugos require 5% for something to appear on the ballot). So it's not simply a matter of whether we can get a Hugo that's more appropriate than Best Related (which I think, along with the BDP categories, is fairly mediocre as a platform) but which one is best.

Third, then, is the question of what. I'm sure there are others, but I've got four theoretically plausible Hugo categories that could be interesting here:

1. Best Filk Production. For the best compilation, recording, or song in fan-created music produced in the last year. This is more or less what was passed and failed years ago, I believe, but it's possible that with the Internet and the rise of more big stars in our space, that it's far more possible for a consensus to be reached. The big advantage here is that having a Hugo -titled- "Filk" rather than one where filk was frequently nominated would do a good job towards helping bind our community together.

2. Best Music. For the best piece or compilation of SF-related music produced in the last year. This has some advantages in that it isn't expressly limited to filk, but included it--the question remains as to whether filk could compete with Coulton or the musical scores of movies, but it would be interesting to see.

3. Best Filk Artist. This has some of the same advantages of best Filk Production, but is intended to parallel the Best Editor category and partially get around the "nobody can get a consensus" issue for FBP. It also, of course, takes advantage of/falls into the same problem as Best Editor (and Best Artist) -- in that while it's theoretically for work in the last year, everyone knows that the voters/nominators will often ignore this proviso at lest some of the time. Which means it's likely to be a viable category (in a fashion), but not an ideal one. But still.

4. Best Dramatic Production (Fan-created). This would parallel the existing BDPs, but be intended for fan-created pieces of music, shows, youtube videos, and so on and so forth (maybe even including compilations) within the last callendar year -- because just like, as Silverberg (quoted by Scalzi at the hugos) said that fan-writing is the foundation of fandom, fan-productions are -also- at the foundation of fandom; we're not just about passively taking in what receive; instead it's at least as important to make our -own- creations. In some ways, it would also act as Best Fancast (shortform) without the limitations placed on Best Fancast (I had hopes to remove some of the arbitrary limits on Best Fancast to make it usable here, but got focused on trying to save the blog). Between filk albums, youtube memes (including stuff like Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury), I think one can make a good case for there being demand for this, and it would allow for a much greater chance of recognition for deserving works than mixing them into the BDP and Best Related categories.
mneme: (Default)
I received a (predictable) letter from Senator Gillibrand saying that while consensus could not be reached and Protect IP 2011 was dropped, that "All New Yorkers should be able to agree on the shared goals of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted material without any unintended consequences of stifling the internet or online innovation." My response follows.

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

Thank you for writing back to me regarding the Protect IP Act of 2011.

That said, I do not agree on the shared goal of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted materials. The establishment of copyright has a history and purpose; it is (or has been) a necessary evil -- not a goal in and of itself, established for the common good of encouraging creative work and the sharing thereof.

As such, as technology, commerce, and society change, it is very well worth reexamining the purpose and role of copyright.

It has long since been known that in some ways, copyright is an unalloyed bad. The folk traditions -- long the primary means of creation -- relied on building upon the works of both the recent and distant past, but copyright makes that activity illegal -- an activity one might even consider central to human creativity, as we climb upon the backs of our fellows.

I submit that the widespread violation of copyright -- often, though hardly always, by children, and often by those who are spending as much of their income as possible on media -- indicates not that new, harsher measures are called for, but that copyright in its current form may have outlived its usefulness -- and that it is our responsiblity, not to attempt to enforce it even if that means global empire or import censorship, but to come up with new models for ensuring that creators can reap rewards for their creations that do not rely upon the (now false) assumption that reproduction is a valid place to put this reward model.

This -- and putting the works that have been stolen from or denied to the public (and the public domain) back where they should be and where they can do the most good, should be our aims going forward -- not attempting to stick more fingers in a dam that has long since burst.




FWIW, for clarity:

I don't habitually pirate things myself.

I don't think the measures in place now are sufficient to reward/compensate creators when their works are pirated.

I don't think copyright being abolished would suddenly make the world a better place.

However, I think the issue is vastly oversimplified in common discourse and common press, and that widespread piracy is a symptom of something deeply wrong with how copyright works relative to the world, rather than a sign that a substantial population is bad/wrong and needs to be corrected and/or punished. If we stick to didactic enforcement of copyright as a goal going forward, rather than attempting to find a solution to the basic problems, there's pretty much nowhere to go other than tyranny.
mneme: (oldharp)
In Losing Money By Buying Stock Back (a useless link, given TimesSelect), Floyd Norris (in today's NYT) talks about how companies use stock buybacks during rich years (buying high, selling low) to improve their company's reported earnings (because cash spent on stock buybacks apparently doesn't reduce earnings) per share. And, how this isn't great for the company or remaining shareholders -- as it involves, obviously, spending more for the stock than it's worth.

What he doesn't say (but pretty strongly implies) is that this is really yet another way for executives to loot the companies in their care. By timing stock buyback programs to coincide with their exercise of stock options, executives can keep the stock prices high despite dumping largish amounts of stock on the market, since the money they reap from selling their options is offset by the company buying the shares -- effectively taking money from the company coffers and putting them into executive pockets, without affecting the (official) bottom line...or reported executive salaries.

Apparently, Dell's buying pattern is exactly this -- they bought lots of stock during the boom years, at the same time that lots of options were exercised--spending more than the company was making. But now that their stock price is lower (and thus cheaper, and thus fewer stock options are exercised), they're considering cancelling their buyback program.

Funny, that.

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Joshua Kronengold

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