American Cultural Appropriation

This post isn’t getting much of a draft process so it won’t really be the same quality as the other posts that I’ve done but I do want to get my piece in here. I’m literally just stream of consciousness-ing this post.

Readers may know that I am a bit of a manga fan. I read a lot of trashy manga like Yuusha ga Shinda and Kumo desu ga, nani ka? Though that’s not to say I can’t appreciate a good Hajime no Ippo or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures. No I have no read One Piece. No, I’m not going to read it any time soon. I’ll wait for the completion. It’s bad enough Miura is stringing me along with Berserk. At least Togashi has Hunter X Hunter moving along nicely =D

Anyway, there’s a manga that became very popular and has finally hit the west in the form of My Hero Academia. My Hero Academia is the story of how Midoriya Izuku becomes the greatest hero. They spoiled themselves in the first chapter or so, don’t cry to me. Izuku lives in a world filled with people that have superpowers. He was born without superpowers and he has an unfortunate fascination with heroes just like any of us. So he wants to be a superhero but alas, no superpowers. He does get to eventually enter hero school with a small loan of a million dollars the superpowers of the greatest hero in their universe.

When you think of superheroes, no matter where you are in the world, you probably think of Marvel superheroes like Iron Man and Spiderman. These movies are very common throughout the world. While manga do often have people with unusual powers, the ‘hero’ character is really an American thing. Rugged individualism is an American ideal. Many heroes in the series were easily inspired by American comics. The Symbol of Peace – All Might wears red, white, and blue. He names his attacks after states and his strongest attack is ‘The UNITED STATES OF SMASH”. The man is always optimistic and willing to face danger headlong because he is the embodiment of heroism. It’s so inspiring to see All Might, not only a great hero, but a likable hero. He’s not rude, he’s overly polite. He’s not unapproachable, he’s incredibly friendly. All Might gives hope to those around him.

I feel like Horikoshi really loves America and American culture. And his love of the United States can be found in My Hero Academia. I love this manga because (in my opinion) there isn’t a single bad character in it. I wish I saw more Tooru Hagakure (pun intended) but overall, very well done.

We live in an era where certain individuals will vilify a person for borrowing from culture outside their own. They say this is offensive to the cultures, and that everyone should just stay in their own culture boxes and leave well enough alone. But I disagree. I have never connected so strongly to a manga (Berserk may have come close) as I have to My Hero Academia. I’ve never been so invested in so many characters in a manga. And I believe it’s not only because Horikoshi has written a good manga, but because I can feel the appreciation for American culture in this manga. This man (probably) loves America, and loves American media. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I celebrate this! I wish we had more mangas about different aspects of American culture! This is wonderful!

This is why I don’t understand how ‘cultural appropriation’ is a thing. Really, I’m so very pleased by this cultural appropriation. I would welcome Horikoshi into my home. There was a video that went somewhat viral, maybe a year ago of a black girl harassing a white boy because he had dreads. It seems she interpreted it as some kind of insult. But I don’t understand why. If she has cultural ties to dreads, shouldn’t she be happy that people from outside her perceived ingroup can appreciate dreads as well? There was a story a while ago about a young girl that loved tea ceremony and I believe she posted images in traditional wear. She received many hateful comments for this, saying that she was ‘appropriating Japanese culture’, and that it was offensive to Japanese people. These people weren’t Japanese though. When the Japanese people finally made a response, they were very thankful that the girl appreciated their culture so much. The girl did the research and actually invested herself in tea ceremony. She was celebrating their culture, not mocking it.

I wish that all of these people that think of cultural appropriation as a thing would see it for what it is – flattery. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. There’s no reason we should not be able to appreciate another person’s culture. Appreciating their culture is what makes the world great. These people claim to support multiculturalism, but everyone has to stick their own culture? That seems contradictory. It elevates tokenism to being the standard, rather than something we would openly find distasteful.

So long story short, I want to give another ‘Thank you’ to Horikoshi. You’re doing a wonderful job mate. Every chapter keeps me on my toes and all of your characters are wonderful. I love it. And thank you for loving American culture, loving my culture as much as I love my culture.

Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

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American Cultural Appropriation

Date A Live

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So I am a member of certain Facebook groups that share images. Some of these images get me a little interested in the source material. Date A Live seems to have some really cute characters so I decided to look it up. Tags… MECHA?!

SOLD!

I’m not sure that the ‘mecha’ tag is being applied properly. Mecha usually involves GIANT FUCKING ROBOTS THAT MANLY MEN PUNCH OTHER THINGS WITH. But in this show the only things vaguely mecha are the outfits that some of the girls wear. And quite frankly, that doesn’t cut it for me. And they’re not even used all that much to be honest. Most of the girls in this show are fodder.

In Date A Live, the world is being ravaged by ‘spirits’. They’re supposed to cause ‘spacequakes’ when they arrive but apparently that gets turned optional real fast. Probably because doing an evacuation in every episode would be a waste of time and totally boring. A boy promises to meet his younger sister (ugh, siscon) in front of a restaurant even if a spacequake evac occurs. Whoops, you can probably guess what happened. The boy, I guess we can call him Shido, it’s his name after all. Shido goes to the restaurant and whoops, there’s a fight going down. Then his sister bails him out and he’s told that he needs stop all of the spirits (conveniently female) from rampaging by dating them. I… what is this plot even…

Now you can probably see the problem right away.  Women don’t always take kindly to guys dating other women. And apparently his ability to stop them from rampaging is entirely dependent on making all of the spirits love him simultaneously so I dunno mayne. This is just a disaster. And of course there’s a human interested in him and that causes problems to. And it gets so terribad that at one point he is dating 3 girls at once and you can tell the writers have never been on a date before because you can’t leave your date unoccupied for 30+ minutes and ‘nothing happens’, mmkay? Ain’t no way that girl gonna be okay with you unless she’s not interested in you. But yeah, that happens.

Quite frankly, I think there’s too much filler. The highlights of the series can be chopped down into 2-4 episodes really. You really only needed maybe 4 of the ‘core’ characters. to tell the story (if we’re calling it that). Maybe that’s the problem. There are characters introduced as main characters that literally turn into side characters. Abomination. I feel like the show may have been entirely filler. I didn’t get a clear sense of direction. What am I being told? And where are my giant robots?

That being said, we do have some shining light. Kurumi is one of the cutest things I’ve seen and she’s crazy to boot. Why do I like ’em crazy? I don’t know. I just do. Sue me. Anywhere, here’s a picture of her.

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The other shining light is the music. Seriously, the music to this anime is way too epic compared to the quality of the anime itself. It just soars majestically into the horizon on the back of a flying MECHA dolphin.

Without a clear sense of direction, terrible dialogue, terrible characters, I cannot in good conscience recommend this anime. That’ll be it from me though. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Date A Live

Jordan Peterson and Curtailed Speech

Jordan Peterson is fucking based.

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The video I’ve linked above is really the launching point for this blog post. There’s a lot of good stuff in it. I find Dr. Peterson to be incredibly articulate in his points and he seems to use a lot of what you and I might call “common sense”. I recommend you watch the video; it’s not long, only about 13 minutes. I think he makes an important distinction at the end and for those of you unwilling to watch I’ll put the quote here

There’s a difference. I’m talking about compelled speech. There’s a difference between saying that there’s something you can’t say and saying that there are things that you have to say. – Jordan Peterson

He is responding to a question he was asked about the difference between being forced to use pronouns (which he views as an attack on freedom of speech) and not being allowed to use slurs. He was asked could a professor not defend being able to use racial slurs towards students on the same basis of freedom of speech. He doesn’t answer the question because he thinks you’re comparing apples and oranges, per the quote I’ve posted above.

First, a brief background on Jordan Peterson. He is a maplelicker Canadian professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. He has risen in popularity recently, but he has actually been ‘active’ for quite some time. He has posted a series of (frankly, quite fascinating) lectures on YouTube and has been doing so for years. His popularity increase is due to a controversy regarding mandated pronoun use. He did a few videos on the topic but I think the video that made him known to most of us Fredomkin Americans is this video in which a series of students corner him after a rally. Or at the very least, that’s when I became aware of him because it blew up on Facebook or something. I’m actually surprised I managed to find the video again, took a while. Anyway his objection is to legislating that one must refer to another by their ‘preferred pronouns’ under penalty of law.

First, I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words “zhe” and “zher.” These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century. – Jordan Peterson

Kind of like what’s going on in New York (if this has been repealed, I am not aware of it).

For example, refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment.  Comments, unwanted touching, gestures, jokes, or pictures that target an individual based on gender constitute gender-based harassment. – (Source)

Jordan Peterson has opposed this kind of legislation on the grounds of freedom of speech. (Insert Newspeak joke here). He also (as a clinical psychologist) doesn’t believe that it’s a tenable solution. Which invokes the ire of every left-wing activist and their grandmother, it would seem.

Again, he’s Canadian, and I know very little about Canadian politics. I will be discussing this topic in the realm of American politics which I am far more familiar with. Now, I do think that question he was posed was actually a very good one and I would defend the professor’s right use the word ‘nigger’ and I would also defend the university’s right to fire him. But you and I both know that censorship is more of a government thing, so what if a government official used the word ‘nigger’ to refer to colleagues… oh that… that actually happened… Should they be fired? I don’t think so. But they are more than resign of their own accord.

When it comes to this debate of free speech in the United States, two cases seem to be cited. The first is R.A.V. vs. The City of St. Paul which protected a person’s right to burn a cross (a symbol of the Ku Klux Klan) in front of a black family as a message. He was prosecuted on the grounds of law stating that it’s illegal to post hate symbols (like a burning cross or swastika) on public or private property. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, so you may display as many “symbols of hate” that you like. The second is Wisconsin vs. Mitchell which ruled that the extra-penalty Mitchell received due to a discriminatory basis could be upheld. They did this on the grounds that laws against “fighting words” (I think we often say “incitement to violence” instead) are not unconstitutional.

While there are no doubt a ton of cases like regarding free speech and the first amendment, I do not have the legal background to analyze all of them (or even these, I suppose) so take my interpretations with a grain of salt. Regarding the two cases I’ve cited above, I’ve only read the opinion tab. That is my basis for the following argument.

I believe the video of Jordan Peterson being cornered at a rally exposes the key problem with the left on this issue.

Inability to Converse

The tendency to not listen. In the video, Dr. Peterson points out that a speaker is just spouting rhetoric. This is an issue I find with people in general but particularly on the left in regards to abortion, health care (insurance, really), wage inequality between men and women, wealth inequality (good or bad?), and this pronoun issue. What they do is they state their conclusion and if you disagree with the conclusion, they very rarely try to convince you of why their conclusion is correct or why yours is wrong. On the abortion issue, they say “It a woman’s body, it’s their right” and if you dare to mention the unborn child they (may) just continue to repeat their prior point. “My body, my right”. So they don’t always seem terribly interested in a dialogue. They start with a conclusion and refuse to concede their conclusion or even compromise on it.

AND DO NOTE THAT I’M NOT SAYING THAT THE LEFT IS THE ONLY ONE DOING THIS. I’M JUST SAYING THAT IN MY EXPERIENCE, THE LEFT TENDS TO AVOID DIALOGUE ON THESE ISSUES. IT OCCURS ON ALL SIDES. FOR THIS PARTICULAR TOPIC, I FIND THE ISSUE ON THE LEFT.

Respectful Speech

At one point in the video, Dr. Peterson is asked if, out of respect for another individual, would he use their pronouns. He gives a few answers on the issue. First he says no, because he doesn’t want it legislated, then he says no because he doesn’t see it as a solution, and then he says “maybe, depends on how you ask”. So let’s unpack them statement by statement.

The first is answer is that he wouldn’t do it if it were legislated. This is because he views it as a violation of free speech and he also sees it as dangerous Marxism (again, Newspeak).

The second answer is that he wouldn’t do it because he doesn’t see it as a solution. I believe that he is considering the issue as a kind of mental illness similar to schizophrenia. Schizophrenics are known for seeing hallucinations. When you are treating a schizophrenic and they tell you that they see snakes on the floor, do you avoid stepping on the snakes? My guess, no. You don’t feed into the hallucinations because it’s not healthy. It doesn’t solve the problem. So (and I’m presupposing here) in Dr. Peterson’s mind, using the pronouns is like trying to avoid stepping on the snakes. It is an acceptance of delusion, which is ultimately unhealthy.

The third answer is the only answer where “respect” might be directly included in the answer. He answers “it depends on how they ask”. So if you ask nicely and Dr. Peterson is in the mood or he recognizes your cause as sufficient, then he might use your pronoun. I think respect might play a factor here, because only by respecting the individual and their reasons might Dr. Peterson use their pronouns. He maintains that you do not get to demand his respect. A point that I wholly agree with. This is why the “I identify as an apache attack helicopter” argument is actually valid under the system that these individuals support. It’s also impossible to enforce due to the sheer magnitude of people to disrespect and the way to disrespect them. Not to mention what qualifies as “disrespect” varies wildly depending on the person. Talking about women’s breasts in front of my friend makes him uncomfortable, should I be prevented under penalty of law from talking about breasts in front of my friend when I know it bothers him? I would say no. Sure, doing it might make me an asshole, but are we going to make being an asshole illegal? Good luck with that.

What gets me is the response. It is presupposed by the students surrounding him that by refusing to use their pronouns that he is contributing to a suicide epidemic among trans individuals. The logic behind is that the psychological impact of not being called your preferred pronoun could cause trans people the commit suicide. I don’t think this is incorrect, but I do think that it’s a very small part of a larger problem that cannot be solved by legislation.

To my knowledge, the suicide problem is caused by an inability to “pass” or be perceived as that which you are trying to be perceived as (among other things). Not using the pronoun reminds the trans person that they are unable to pass, which may reinforce thoughts of suicide. But let’s suppose we did require by law that we refer to all people by their preferred pronouns, what then? Well, then we need to recognize that people have other ways to signal failure to pass. This is done through body language and behavior. And this should be terribly obvious to Americans because this is literally identity-based humour which plays on stereotypes and behaviors. This type of humour would not be funny if we didn’t recognize such behavior in others. So what do we do? Do we legislate against behavior like “looking at a trans woman’s chest a little too long” which could be interpreted either positively as “Oh, I pass!” or negatively or “Oh no, they’re thinking a little too long, am I not passing?” Such an act would be a little overboard, no? What about sexual preferences? If a straight cisgendered man doesn’t want to have sex or even a relationship with a male-to-female transexual, are we going to legislate against that too? That would open the floodgates for legislating other preferences like my very own sexual preference for asians. Dr. Peterson describes this as “Tyranny, one tiny step at a time“. You give an inch and they will take a mile.

And that is only the male-female dichotomy issue. If you believe, as Bill Nye so astutely points out gender is a spectrum then if you refuse to recognize me as Unkindled-sexual then you would be in violation of such laws. Even if we ceded the male-female issue, how do we address a world in which you can feasibly make up any identity you wish and force others to recognize you as such? I believe the point that the left is missing on this issue is that even if gender were a social construct, trans-tigers have not built up the social capital to be recognized as trans-tiger immediately. Nor have they built up the social capital to demand that they be recognized as trans-tiger by law. At the end of the day, you can’t force people to accept you as something that they don’t see you as. You can’t legislate all of your problems away. You have to convince others through interaction.

LEGISLATING WHAT YOU MUST SAY OR CANNOT SAY UNDER THE PRETEXT OF “RESPECT” WILL NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOU WANT IT TO SOLVE. IT ONLY CREATES AVENUES FOR TYRANNY AND ABUSE.

That said, it’s not particularly constructive to go around seeking to offend and disrespect every person you know. I don’t see Dr. Peterson as that kind of person, and he says he often receives letters of thanks from trans individuals saying that they agree with him. Can we trust Dr. Peterson or the individuals that write these letters? I don’t know, but I generally trust people until given a reason to not trust them.

False Dichotomy

A false dichotomy is a supposition that something is X xor Y. Unless by definition X and Y can have an xor operation between them you should avoid doing this. One example – 9.11 is either an integer xor a real number. This is a false dichotomy, even though 9.11 is a real number and not an integer. So what’s wrong with it? Well, what if we had said that 911 is either an integer xor a real number? 911 is both an integer and a real number, so a false dichotomy isn’t necessarily true, even if it may sometimes be true. The problem is that integers and real numbers do not have a valid xor operation between them. All integers are real numbers but not all real numbers are integers. We could say that a number is either rational xor irrational, which would be true! Because the comparison is more along the lines of a definition.

So why do I bring this up? Well, it ties into the two prior points: inability to converse and respectful speech. So while the students say that not using the pronouns contributes to trans suicide rates, which I am willing to entertain the idea of, the  main thrust of their proposal is the false dichotomy. It is “Either we legislate away these perceived discriminations xor trans people will continue to be discriminated against in medicine, in housing, in employment, etc.”.

I think what’s happening here is that Dr. Peterson and these individuals are talking past each other. Dr. Peterson is saying that he, as a private citizen should not be forced to use language that he doesn’t consent to using. His opponents are arguing that it is a necessary evil towards the acceptance of trans individuals. While they disagree on quite a few points, the important point that they seem to disagree on is whether or not it is acceptable to curtail free speech in order to achieve the same goal: reduction in suicide rates of trans people.

Big Government

The solution the left always seems to propose is bigger government. Minorities aren’t being hired, make it illegal to discriminate hiring based on race instead of letting social stigma and free market pressures destroy those businesses. Minorities aren’t being paid on par with their majority counterparts, make it illegal to discriminate pay based on race instead of… letting social stigma and free market pressures destroy those businesses. Minorities are getting lower SAT scores and universities aren’t accepting them. Better lower the standards to be fair to them. The climate is changing for the worse, better use the government to shut that down.

Sometimes the answer isn’t bigger government, and I don’t think the American left sees smaller government solutions or even that some things may not even be problems.

Ironic Conclusion

The ironic conclusion that I’ve come to based on this gender debate is that the left doesn’t believe that gender exists on a spectrum. It’s like comparing wave and particle theories of light. I truly believe that the left thinks of gender as being discretized, to the point where there’s no such thing as a boy that acts effeminately, rather a separate femboy gender that the boy conforms to. Taking such logic to its inevitable conclusion, we run up against a bunch of genders that eventually divide to the level of the individual. Which makes the concept of gender itself useless. The irony is that the very people saying that gender-expression is a spectrum do not believe so, but there’s also irony in that the people saying that gender-expression is not a spectrum believe that it is. The difference is, even if you are a highly effeminate man, the right will still call you he. The left will insist that you be called some pronoun or another.

At the end of the day, I’m with Dr. Peterson on this. I don’t think it’s helpful. I don’t think it’s practical. I don’t think that the justification is strong enough. And I think it would be a serious mistake to begin giving up our freedom of speech for this. Anyway, this was a long post and I probably have more to say on it, but I will have to save it for another post. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

 

Jordan Peterson and Curtailed Speech

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

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[Image taken from CrunchyRoll]

Is it just me or is the geometry necessary to pull of that tail kind of… impossible.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid is a cheerful little anime about… Miss Kobayashi… having… a… dragon… maid. In other words, exactly what it says on the tin. Miss Kobayashi gets plastered one night and meets a dragon in the suburbs. Why no one else saw this dragon is completely beyond me. So in her drunken stupor (I can’t believe they make us wait for the last anime for the backdrop to this anime either) she says that the dragon, named Tohru, can live with her as a maid. For some reason or another Miss Tohru says yes. And the rest of the anime is pretty much cute girls doing cute things.

Miss Kobayashi is a pretty blank slate. Her only distinctive character trait seems to be her love of maids. Which only seems to exist as kind of motivation to kickstart the series. Nothing really wrong with it, but it’s not really discussed much. I think that the anime is really about Tohru, which… we may have expected since she’s featured exclusively on the cover I posted above… huh.

Tohru is a cheerful gal and she seems to genuinely love Kobayashi (for good, spoiler reasons). She’s always trying to get Kobayashi to eat her tail for some reason… I wonder if it’s a gag that’s better explained in the manga. It just became a running joke and it’s not terribly funny. I believe Tohru is used to sort of describe what it’s like adjusting to a new life and whether or not she can accept the consequences that come with it. It’s not a terrible message to work with, but if that’s the topic then this anime fails spectacularly. Such a struggle is only really brought up between the moments, and doesn’t appear to be the focus of the anime.

You may be familiar with this little thing:

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This is Kanna Kamui. She has become something of a meme for some reason or another. She’s actually incredibly adorable. Seeing a starving individual, without even asking Kobayashi, she goes to fetch them some food. She also has one of the sweetest voices I’ve heard in quite some time. I feel like she exists to be memed though. Not sure if that’s because I saw the memes before the anime; but watching it, I couldn’t help but recognize why the memes came into being. Kanna is just too meme-able.

There are some things that play against it. Three of the five dragons are pretty useless to the story. Fafnir, Lucoa, and Elma. My suspicion is that they were supposed to represent separate parts of Tohru in her decision of whether or not to stay in her new world. Fafnir would have represented Tohru’s doubt. Fafnir reminds Tohru of the limited lifespan that humans have, and that one day Miss Kobayashi will die… what then? Lucoa is a bit more moderate, and her actions seemed to be designed to help Tohru realize what she has in her new world. But I don’t think she really wanted Tohru to remain, as Lucoa seemed to enjoy stirring up trouble. Lucoa is the throwaway huge breasted character, so she isn’t terribly important. Elma came in rather late (episode 8 or 9 I think) and had such little screentime, I don’t think there’s much to say about her. But because Elma is successfully adapting to Tohru’s new world, my guess would be that she’s to represent what Tohru could become, a normal human.

I really do think that the description cute girls doing cute things is really all we can work with. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! I loved it! I was smiling for almost the entirety of the anime and I may now have diabeetus thanks to how sweet some of the characters were. Overall, I highly recommend it. It’s not difficult to watch, there’s no clock running, it’s just… fun. I do hope that there’s a season 2. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

What is a “Fair Share”?

This topic has been brewing for quite a while ever since the days of the primaries where Bernie Sanders campaigned on making the wealthy pay “their fair share” and then proceeded to spout “speculation tax” nonsense (that had been tried and failed in Sweden before) and a carbon tax while at the same time saying that we should expand health services. In the Sanders vs. Cruz Heatlchare Debate, Senator Cruz said this

Let me put it in perspective. All of the federal income taxes we pay today are about $1.5 trillion a year. $2.5 trillion means every one of us paying income taxes would have to about triple what you pay in income taxes to get an additional $2.5 trillion.

Now, Bernie no doubt is going to come back and say, no, no, no, none of you are going to pay. Just the rich. Well, how about if we took every person that makes over $1 million a year and confiscated 100 percent of their income, took every penny that they make. That would raise only enough money to fund Bernie’s plan for five months. – [Source Transcript]

Cursory Argument

I don’t know where Cruz is getting his numbers for this claim and frankly I don’t care. I bring it up because it seems that the implication is that Sanders believes the poor are paying either their “fair share” or more than their “fair share”. Granted, the quote doesn’t mention the poor at all (outside of the phrase “you”, possibly) so how do I reason this implication? Based on context at the time of writing (that line is for the future historians reading this blog after I become President of the galaxy) the implication is that the wealthy pay too little. And you can reason this out as well even without context. Why would someone complain that the wealthy pay too much and then advocate for higher taxes on them? It doesn’t make sense. In addition, I feel that if everyone else were not paying their fair share, the argument would be “get everyone to pay their fair share” rather than “make the wealthy pay their fair share”. And I don’t believe Senator Cruz is incorrect in his assumption because I followed the Sanders Presidential campaign and Sanders was all about taxing the wealthy and expanding benefits for the poor.

The Numbers

First, let’s look at some sources. The first is some Pew Research data and the other is the wikipedia page on U.S. Income Tax. I use the income tax example because that’s what the Pew Research data focuses on, while mentioning the increase in payroll taxes over time.

On the surface, I’d probably say that the wealthy pay more than their “fair share”. Why? Because the United States (income) tax system is progressive in nature. The more you make, the more you get taxed on that extra you make. I’ll demonstrate this with an example with easy numbers. You are taxed 10% on income up to $100 and then at 20% for amounts over that. If you make $100, you pay $10, a tax rate of 10%. If you make $200, you pay $30, $10 from $0-$100 and then 20 from $101-$200. So your tax rate for making double goes from 10% to 15%. You might be tempted to say that the percentage increase isn’t much considering you now make double, but you’re forgetting the raw numbers. You make double the money, but you pay triple the money.

And look, while I am a bit of a free market libertarian, I’m not saying that there’s anything excessively wrong with such a tax system. And yeah, the example was vastly simplified, but it has the core tenets of a progressive tax system in place. The more you make, the more you get taxed on that money over these breakpoints.

So what we get – is that as you make more money, your tax rate will go up. It always goes up because there is no bracket with a lower tax rate than one above it. You will never see 10%, 20%, 15%, 30%. It will always be 10%, 15%, 20%, 30%. So no matter how wealthy the top 1% is, they will always have a higher income tax than you because they have more taxable income than you.

But sure, let’s just plod along and see what we get in the way of an income tax argument with actual numbers.

“All told, individual income taxes accounted for a little less than half (47.4%) of government revenue, a share that’s been roughly constant since World War II.” – Pew Research

According to the Pew Data, the people making $100k and above pay are estimated to pay for about 75% of our taxes, despite making up about 20% of our households (in 2007) (source). I would be highly skeptical of this number jumping to 75% in 10 years but you can try to prove me wrong.

Why Do We Care?

So what’s this all about? Why do we even care whether or not the wealthy are “paying their fair share”? While there are probably some talking points by the left that I could quote, I’m going to propose what I think this is all about – social programs and the deficit. United States Federal Debt seems to be around 20 trillion dollars. Let me just put down all of the zeroes for you so you can get an idea of how deep in the red we are.

$20,000,000,000,000

The largest problem with the debt is (I would guess) the deficit. Which all of us should understand as the money that you’ve agreed to pay but do not have. You can have debt without a deficit and you can have a deficit without debt. I think the simple way to think of debt is as the accumulation of deficit. So what are we looking at in terms of deficit? By the same source, the estimated deficit for FY 2017 is $504 billion dollars.

We care because it’s difficult to justify spending more money without generating more revenue. And it’s difficult to expand current programs without either cutting other programs or collecting more revenue.

I’ve taken the liberty of generating a graph of deficit as a percentage of GDP. It makes more sense to have a higher deficit with a lower GDP.

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And as we see, my prediction was correct. When President Obama took office, we were coming out of a recession and the GDP was some 4 trillion dollars lower than it was in 2016. But in having these deficits, our national debt has skyrocketed, nearly doubling over Obama’s two terms.

I feel it would be remiss of me to neglect mentioning that President Obama may have ‘almost’ doubled the national debt, but so did President Bush II. President Reagan tripled it. In fact, the trend among the past few presidents seems to be that the republican presidents contribute more to the debt (percentage-wise) than the democratic ones, but that’s just me playing politics I guess.

 Even the deficit for President Trump’s first year in office is estimated to be higher than the lowest deficit during the Obama years. But as a side note… if we have the same GDP that we had in 2016, (it will probably go up) then we STILL see a lower deficit as a percentage of GDP over every single Obama year, coming in at 2.1% compared to Obama’s lowest at 2.8% (it’s still higher than the last Bush year of around 1.1%). It’s unfair to give President Trump any credit for that though, as his first fiscal year will be in 2018, not 2017. So we’re still under Obama as far as budget is concerned.

This analysis means nothing by itself, really. Because it’s one thing to point fingers and say President Obama’s spending money that we don’t have, and another thing to question what he’s spending it on. The stimulus package, unemployment benefits, more military spending, etc. are all nice things to have. So I guess the question at the end of the day is if you could take away the spending and the benefits, would you do so?

Deficit Source
GDP Source

$200k Tax

But let’s take that estimated deficit for this year and say it’s about 500 billion dollars. Let’s look at the number of tax returns in the 33%+ tax bracket (dollar total varies based on status, but it’s around $200k). If we tax all of these individuals for $200k regardless of total income, how much money do we get?

Using the chart for taxable income (why would we calculate based on non-taxable income?) from the IRS for 2014, we see that we get around 1 trillion dollars. Which would pay for double the deficit, at the cost of 3 million returns, 2.4 million of which are married couples (so, 2.4 million families) lying at the border of $200k.

Let’s dig a bit deeper though. We’re most concerned about the people lying at the border, right? How much tax do they really pay? Well, if you take the revenue generated by taxing the 33% and higher brackets, you get about $400 million, of which the 33% bracket pays about 25% of ($111 million). The 39.6% bracket pays the bulk of that, at around 60%.

My guess is that if you’re wealthy enough to be in the 39.6% bracket, you’re so obscenely wealthy that you wind up paying more tax. Who knows. 

Most of that money comes from couples filing jointly, about 90%. I’m not quite sure where I’d like to go with this analysis, it’s just something I wanted to point out. It’s possible, but it’s not going to pay the debt any time soon (it would take 40 years with current spending).

50/50 Analysis

I’d like to go one step further before I come to my conclusion. I’d like to evaluate what I’m going to call a 50-50 analysis since I don’t know if it has an official name. I’m going to evaluate the number of tax returns such that the revenue generated by these returns (by bracket) equals that of the other bracket. I will neglect capital gains for this analysis (as I did the one before) because of what (my understanding of) capital gains taxes are.

So let’s take the poorest and compare them to the wealthiest. The 10% bracket generated $75,927,732 compared to the 39.6% bracket which generated $227,474,052. The 10% bracket is heavily outweighed by the 39.6% bracket, so let’s tack on the 15% bracket, generating $229,998,073, which outweighs the 39.6% bracket… [math ensues]

And what we end up with is this (and I’m actually quite surprised by this result). The brackets necessary to balance each other out are the 10%, 15%, and 25% brackets compared to the 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6% brackets. The totals are $490,067,188 to $412,524,138. Much closer to a 50/50 split than I thought, coming out to 54.29/45.71

“Now just hold the phone, Artemis! From what I see, the poor pay more than the wealthy!” Ehh, technically yes, But there are also a lot more poor people than grossly wealthy people. The number of returns for people in the lower-half is substantially higher than that of the higher half, with around 101 million returns for the lower have compared to around 9 million for that of the higher half. So the higher half pays 10x as much on a per return basis than that of the lower half. And all of this is ignoring capital gains taxes which are likely heavily slanted against the wealthy compared to the poor.

I’m self-employed, I make around $16,000 a year. You take take ten of me and you get well past the 25% bracket, you actually get squarely within the 28% bracket for a single person. And I know that anecdote isn’t really an argument, so let’s use the federal minimum wage. A full-time federal minimum wage worker makes $15,000 a year, and 10 of them is also squarely within the 28% bracket (for singles). So no matter how I cut it, it seems fair. 10 of me would make 10x as much money and I would flip from my side of the ratio to the other. Ironically enough, you only really need about 6 of me to flip sides of the ratio, which means that the wealth are actually overpaying (through this analysis).

Conclusion:

No matter how I cut it, I can’t help but get to the result that the wealthy are not only paying their fair share, they’re paying more than their fair share. So I don’t see the need to start increasing the taxes on the wealthy. I think if anyone wants to take a good stab at the deficit, the first place you hit is the military (Amdahl’s Law). But we live in the United States so I don’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon despite spending double that of China and totaling that of the four countries that follow us in terms of total spending. Despite China spending only 1.9% of their GDP on the military, we spend 3.3% (source). I dunno, shoot me.

Of course, you’re more than welcome to poke at my analysis. I’m not tax expert, I’m just a robot in a cave looking at numbers. If I’ve made any mistakes in my analysis, or if you just think it’s terrible, please let me know in the comments or by email. As always, I welcome criticism. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

What is a “Fair Share”?

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

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I wanted to love this movie. I did, truly. I guess you already know how the rest of this review goes but do try to stay with me here, I’m not just a crying fanboy. While I drafted this with minimal spoilers, there still are spoilers ahead so consider this your spoiler warning.

So Ghost in the Shell is a manga from the late eighties, a movie from the mid-nineties, and an anime from the early 2000’s. This franchise has been through a lot, and I’ve been a fan of it for a very long time. The 1995 movie, while slow-paced, is an excellent work of art that conveys the messages that it wants to convey quite clearly. The Major, Batou, and Aramaki are some of my favourite characters from manga. The Major has this playful nature, Batou… is the butt(ou) of several jokes, and Aramaki is a sly fox that you can’t help but admire. Togusa representing the stubborn, older generation. Most of the other members had augmentations that made their job easier (Saitou’s vision, for example). Others augment themselves for fun (Borma’s liver augmentation). I guess the point that I’m trying to get across is that Ghost in the Shell represented a crossroads in our future where all of these types of people coexisted. We weren’t all cyborgs and we aren’t all humans. And the characters are all so relatable, it’s hard for me to pick ones that I don’t like. Even in the older movie, it was incredibly difficult for me to dislike the Puppetmaster, rather I disliked some of his actions (the poor man with false memories).

Maybe this one was a little close to home, and I shouldn’t have gone in because of that. Let’s talk about what I liked about the movie first.

The movie is visually appealing. I can almost see the future with holographic advertisements the size of skyscrapers already. While I see the payphones on the side of the street disappearing (sorry 1995) I can see the idea of more robots in the service industry. Hell, Japan, in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics is already constructing hotels run by robots dinosaurs. ROBOT DINOSAURS! Come on man! ROBOT FRICKIN DINOSAURS! There are some great special effects, however I believe the movie failed to capitalize on the 3D. Especially the scenes where The Major is getting painted back to normal, mesmerized me every time.

The acting is fantastic. ScarJo knows how to play her character (most of the time) and there were some great scenes where you could really see how her movements felt robotic, like it wasn’t a natural human body. In the source material The Major is a little more playful, which is what I liked about it, but eh, new adaptation, different direction. I’m not terribly bothered because what ScarJo did do, she did well.

Before I move on, I do want to take a moment to address the whitewashing controversy. Anyone that complains about it doesn’t understand the source material. The Major’s origins are notoriously mysterious (within source material, which this movie dodged for the most part). And I think that anyone that complains about the whitewashing doesn’t quite get the point. See, the major is effectively a human inside a machine and (I believe) the point that Shirow was trying to make with the character of The Major was that none of the external features really matter (and this is very effectively demonstrated in the 1995 movie). Quite simply, there’s nothing in the source material (that I recall) that makes The Major “Motoko”. In fact, there’s nothing that really makes The Major female. Sure, the exoskeleton appears female, but it could have easily been male. The Major itself could easily be ‘male’ (if we’re going by original personality) but again, that doesn’t matter. That’s the point of The Major.

I don’t know where they found Batou (Pilou Asbaek) but he was perfect. I don’t think they could have picked a better Batou. Christ I loved his Batou. He just seemed so buff! Kuze (Michael Pitt) exaggerated the little robotic flairs of The Major. I’m not sure how much of that was CG, but the line delivery was spot on. He really played himself off as the villain we could all sympathize with even if corporates didn’t turn into assholes.

There are some notable exceptions to the excellent acting. Togusa’s character (Chin Han) had like two lines the entire movie and they were delivered in such a way that I felt like it detracted from how naive the Togusa of old seemed to be. But this isn’t just nostalgia bait, he gave the line so quickly and so flatly “I am a human, and I will always be 100% human” that I felt like the line was wasted. I also don’t like exposition that way, especially when that line served no purpose for the entire movie.

I do wonder why Aramaki spoke Japanese for the entire movie. He clearly understood English, as everyone else spoke in English and the others clearly understood Japanese (maybe they had a translator in their ear or something). But with what little screen-time he had, he did exude badass. And while we’re on the topic of Japanese, why was Hanka always pronounced as hay-n-ka? Should’ve been pronounced Ha-n-ka and every time they pronounced it incorrectly I would cringe. Sounds weird when you read and hear Japanese most of the time.

Okay, let’s talk about what I didn’t like. Everything else.

I don’t think this is really “Ghost in the Shell”. The original Ghost in the Shell discussed several existential themes regarding humanity and what it means as we merge man and machine. It also addressed how these things would impact our day-to-day lives, and how these things could be abused by corporations and governments. It’s not like the source material lacked things to really discuss. And I don’t feel like I got much of that out of this movie. I feel like it was sorta just mentioned, and then we moved on so we could get to the action scenes. The action scenes weren’t terrible, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not really what I paid for. Other scenes didn’t seem to connect too well if you ask me. I feel like we may have been shown a series of loosely connected stories, which is kind of what the manga did… but I don’t think that a movie should be doing that sort of thing.

The language (Ghost, Shell) seemed very forced every time they were used, to the point where I feel like it would’ve been more natural to use ‘soul’ instead of ‘ghost’ every time they mentioned it. But this is due to line delivery, in the source material ghost is used so matter-of-factly that it doesn’t really leave an impact. But the doctor says “But the important part of you, your humanity, your ghost, is still there” is practically romantic so the language doesn’t seem to fit the line.

They ripped a scene straight out of I, Robot (a beloved favourite of mine), and I, Robot did it better.

My biggest complaint might be the Motoko subplot. It gets introduced about twenty minutes before the end of the movie and is resolved like five minutes after it’s introduced. And quite honestly, I don’t mind its inclusion at all. I have several problems about how it was included. First – why is the effective introduction of the subplot at the END of the movie, rather than towards the beginning? I feel like it would’ve been more effective had it been placed much earlier, perhaps right before the bar scene. And the extra irony about that scene is despite everyone complaining that ScarJo isn’t Japanese, the way they characterized Motoko’s mother looked distinctly Chinese. Just saiyan. The second thing is how very little we have to go on. There’s a glitch that The Major continues to see and it’s really the only thing she has to go on and The Major sort of just accepts that she’s Motoko but I personally don’t feel that the audience has enough information to come to that conclusion. The pieces of evidence she has are the memories of the burning building, watching her allies get kidnapped, and the name she was told by the Chinese lady. Sure, it’s “confirmed” by Kuze but I don’t think he should’ve had the information to make that conclusion either.

Long story short, I believe the movie failed to deliver on its source material, and just became another Hollywood action movie. Which I find depressing because of my attachment to the source material, but that’s fine. I would not recommend this movie. The pacing seems poor and the scenes incoherent. While there is some beautiful imagery, I don’t think that there’s enough of a movie here, let alone Ghost in the Shell. Thanks for reading

Artemis Hunt

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Super Impossible Road

SIR.jpg

Steam Page

I write this review as the game is still in Early Access. I say that not because I plan to go easy on the game or something, just as a heads up to those that will consider buying the game. I’ve always maintained that “Early Access” is not an excuse for how good or bad a game is. Once you put it on the marketplace, you’re fair game… in my opinion.

Super Impossible Road is a racing game. There’s really not much to say about racing games in general. You control a ball. You can modify your ball to have the stats that you want it to have but let’s be real here, does anyone ever care enough to min-max perfectly? If you do, please send me a message, I need to know what’s going on in your head.

The tracks have gates on them which fill up your boost bar. Using boost makes your ball go a little faster (obviously). Where this game differs from other racing games that I’ve played is that you can jump off the track to “cheat” your way to finish line faster. That’s why the game’s tagline “Winning is cheating”. Now you can’t just jump off the track and free fall to the finish line for victory. The game would be too easy in that case. Upon leaving the track, you have five seconds to return to the track. If you fail to touch the track in that time, you will automatically respawn at the last boost gate you touched. Which means that you have to be really careful about deciding when to ‘cheat’. Otherwise you may waste up to five seconds. If you see the writing on the wall that you’re not going to make it, you can force respawn early.

The tracks can be fairly complex. At this time, while there are only three ‘tracks’, the tracks are procedurally generated so it’s like having an infinite number of tracks? There’s also a daily track where you can compete with people across the world for the top score.

The game is aesthetically appealing (to me) with that ‘Tron’ feel. I’m not the biggest fan of EDM so there’s only one or two soundtracks that I like but it definitely matches the feel of the game. Excellent job.

While the game does have multiplayer, it seems it only has local multiplayer. Perhaps they will change that as it is still in early access. You can still have CPU racers and you can even race against your ghost. So it has some rudimentary tools.

Anyway, at the time of writing, the game is priced at $12. While I do like the game for what it does, I don’t think it’s worth $12 yet. Do it if you want to support the creators but other than that, I’d wait for it to go on sale or something for $5 or $6. I’m not the biggest fan of racing games so I won’t dump too many hours into it, but in my opinion, it does look promising. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Super Impossible Road