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

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

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.

Untitled

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”?

A National Strike?

I’ve always known that The Guardian is a left-leaning publication but now I think that it’s really going too far.

Francine Prose wrote this article in The Guardian published on January 30th, 2017. And yes, that is the proper way to write the day you goddamn euros. So let’s just go through it bit by bit and see what’s going on and why it’s absolutely absurd.

“On the morning after Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban went into effect”

Yeah, so-called is a pretty good way to describe it, since it wasn’t really a muslim ban as much as it was an immigration ban. Syria is 10% Christian but those Christians are barred entry as well. And I’ll stop a moment here to say that I disagree with the ban, as green card holders were barred entry as well. Just so people don’t start frothing at the mouth calling me an islamophobe or anything.

But why was muslim ban in the title of the article? As Francine points out:

“halting refugee admissions for 120 days”

Quite simply, a refugee can feasibly come from any country. If war were to break out in South Korea tomorrow and people began applying for entry as refugees, they too would be prevented from entry despite South Korea being a mostly Buddhist country with a Christian minority. Is this ban now a Buddhist ban? Well, yes, but not by design. It’s an indiscriminate ban, so stop calling it a muslim ban unless you also want to call it a Christian ban. Whatever. Moving on.

Since Trump’s election, we’ve seen dozens of demonstrations – most notably, the Women’s March on Washington – that have reinforced our sense of solidarity and provided encouraging evidence of how many Americans oppose our government’s fundamentally anti-American agenda.

The Women’s March (as I’ve noted in another post) is inherently contradictory. But yeah, it was a pretty big march. I think it had 300k members in the US which is about 0.1% of our population. Not bad. But I think it’s a far cry from a show of solidarity. Might be a show of solidarity with people across the world, 3 million protestors… but then again, that’s 0.04% of the population… so we may need to find another metric by which to judge the “strength” of these protests.

I’m going to sidestep the issues with implementation here because I do believe that it isn’t necessarily a bad idea and focus on the intent. The intent of the immigration ban (again, not a muslim ban) was to prevent people from countries in which the Obama administration marked as dangerous from traveling to the United States. Never mind that in European countries such as Sweden that have accepted the refugees are now telling their women to not go out alone at night. Officially advising women like that. That’s a hair’s breadth away from victim blaming. This is a map of every confirmed migrant crime that has been coded based on the type of crime. Doesn’t look that bad, does it? That’s just 2017. This is the map for 2016. You can’t even see Germany’s borders anymore. And these are crimes exclusively committed by migrants. Zoom in, it’s probably worse than you think it is. The crime rates themselves are a debated topic right now so I won’t draw any conclusions on those just yet. Those crimes are mostly difference of culture crimes. Add that to the two trucks of peace we saw this year and maybe you get a picture of how vulnerable the United States could be. Again, do I agree with the ban? No. But do I recognize that it has legitimate cause? Yes.

People are criticizing it as human rights violation but that’s absurd. Nations have borders. To say that denying you entry to a specific country is a human rights violation is to say that you have the right to travel to this specific country just because you are human. Why does that country even have a border at that point. Why does the United States even check passports when you enter it if you have the right to enter the United States just for being human. Why is there an immigration process? Rah.

“Taxi drivers went on strike in solidarity with the detainees, and arriving passengers were forced to find alternate ways on getting home. Many used Uber, a company whose CEO, Travis Kalanick, serves on Trump’s economic advisory board, and which thoughtfully suspended “surge pricing” to make it easier and cheaper to subvert the taxi strike.”

Free market at work ladies. Look, if you’re going to go on strike and you provide a service that is easily replaced, be prepared to be replaced. If manufacturers went on strike it would be far more effective because it’s not like I can make toilet seats in my house or something. But taxis? I replace you with public transportation or a phone call to a friend. Symbolic gesture that serves only to put money in the pockets of other people.

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Francine recognizes this, so she says we have to go bigger. We need to work as a nation. We need…

“I believe that what we need is a nonviolent national general strike of the kind that has been more common in Europe than here. Let’s designate a day on which no one (that is, anyone who can do so without being fired) goes to work, a day when no one shops or spends money, a day on which we truly make our economic and political power felt, a day when we make it clear: how many of us there are, how strong and committed we are, how much we can accomplish.”

We need a national strike. We need to not spend money or produce money for a day? That’s your solution? I like to think of myself as a typical American, so let me explain to you the train of thought that’s going through my head when I think of ‘strike for a day’.

I make $13 an hour, if I strike for a day then I’m losing $100 from my paycheck at the end of the month. Sure I could go a day without purchasing something, but what’s the point? If I was planning on going to the store that day, I’m just going to go on the next day and the store would still get my money at the end of the day. On top of that, I make things inconvenient for myself as now the stores will be more crowded because everyone is buying what they would have bought yesterday. 

When she adds the caveat, “anyone who can do so without being fired” it just falls apart. Why should my employer tolerate my political activism? My employer pays me to do a job. I should do my job per my contract which both my employer and I agreed to. One is tempted to argue “With this national strike we could make great change”. Let’s suppose that is true. You then run into the prisoner’s dilemma which you and I both know results in at least one snitch. I need to be assured of the participation of enough people (whatever that number may be) to convince myself to participate. But I imagine that sort of trust is hard to come by, so I’ll always have some niggling doubt, leading to my defection.

On top of that, what does a one day strike accomplish? It sends a message, okay, but sooner or later you’re going to have to work. You’re going to have to buy food. Shoot, you’re going to have to pay rent, which you might find difficult if you’re not going to work. And I realize this may sound pessimistic, in which you are owned by the world around you, but you can’t escape the reality that the world runs on money. Your life is dictated by money. And if you give up money because you disagree with a president, be prepared to lose future endeavors because without money you have no power.

And it’s incredibly ironic that this is coming from the left because the social programs that they champion come out of taxes. And if no one is spending money or making money, where do the dollars for these programs come from? It only gets worse. Imagine we did organize a national strike. What’s going to happen to the sick people? Cancer doesn’t take a day off (or more) just because you do. Someone breaks into your house or burns down a building, what happens next? Well if the police and fire department are really devoted to their protest, it’ll really suck for the victims.

If you want to send a message, that’s fine. Send messages. Send all of the emails, boycott all of the products, make all of the phone calls that you want. But when you try to drag the entire country down because you disagree with a particular president, expect to meet particular resistance.

And maybe a little bit of ridicule.

Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

A National Strike?

Abortions? No Men Allowed

So after Trump’s reinstatement of the Mexico City policy, a lot of women are up in arms about it because women have the right to abortion or so they believe. I’ve already made like one and a half posts about the issue so I’m not going to comment on abortions. I’ve pretty much said about all I want to say about the issue. I’m happy to tell you about compromises I would make on that front (and why) but really, that’s not the issue at hand today. Today we’re going to talk about the future and how exciting it is.

So what prompts today’s post? This tweet which flew all over my Facebook feed not too long ago (at the time of writing).

I’m just going to leave out that it’s highly probable (mathematically) that over the lifespan of our species (assuming another few billion years) that we will actually see a photograph of some number of women signing legislation about what men can do with their bodies.

So what do I find so terribly interesting about this? Quite simply, the introduction of transgendered individuals being accepted as members of the sex that they identify with. A man that identifies as a woman is accepted as a woman. With the current political climate, we’re at the point where you don’t even need to make the effort to transition through operation to be accepted as whatever sex you want to be. Hell, you don’t even need the op, you can just say that you’re some other gender and badda-bing. You’re ste. See Lauren Southern’s video just to see how easy it is (in Canada, anyway).

This pressure is coming from the American left, not the right. I only bring up the distinction because it’s relevant to the photo above. When it comes to abortion rights, the left tends to support the woman’s right to choose. (As a side note, what is the woman choosing?) So when we combine the above, (sexual identification) and abortion rights, what we get is the possibility that several of those men actually identifying as women (inwardly) and for all you know it could be 4 men and 4 women signing legislation about what women can do with their bodies. So there’s your first strike, you assumed the genders of the people signing the documents, you bigot.

Let’s ride this train a little further. A person may be born as a woman but identify as a man. We also see from Lauren Southern’s case that there’s no necessity for transgender operation (or chemical castration as Vee likes to call it) for this transformation to be accepted. By that logic, it is conceivable that Lauren Southern could have sex with a man (is it gay?) and get pregnant. Lauren Southern is legally a man now, so would abortion rights still apply to him? It should. Which means that abortion rights are no longer women’s rights, they are human rights. But maybe you want to come at it from the biological women’s rights angle. Sure, that’s cool. So the right to abortion is afforded to only people that are born as women?

But the future is a strange and wonderful place. About two and a half years ago, The Lancet (a reputable medical journal) published an article about a successful birth after a uterine transplant. This is big news. In the case of the article it’s biological woman to biological woman, but let’s imagine the future for a little bit. Suppose the transplant was put into a gay man that identifies as a man because he wants to have a child with his partner. Abortion is no longer a women’s rights issue. You can’t come at it from the biological women’s rights issue anymore because now we have a case of someone born as a man that is pregnant.

So what do we have at the end of the day? We have to call abortion rights human rights, and the left needs to get off their high horse because now they can’t frame it as a women’s rights issue. Anyone that finds fault with anything I’ve said can come at me bro. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Abortions? No Men Allowed

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

This title is likely ironic coming from me, a critic that has reviewed several games both positively and negatively. The point of this post is to emphasize what makes a review useful and why most reviews, particularly the positive ones, are useless. This is another meta post that I’m making to elaborate on how I do reviews in response to feedback on Steam.

So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what is a review? A review is an evaluation of a particular work of art. Since the evaluation is done by an individual, these are often likened to opinion pieces, however there is a key difference. While each individual may disagree on how the art utilizes certain features, most critics should be able to agree to some degree or another what makes a particular quality good. For example, I think you’ll find nary a critic that says Microsoft Excel menu navigation is good, so if a game has Microsoft Excel menu navigation, expect that to come up in the review as a source of annoyance.

Reviews serve two major purposes. First, they are tools for communities to tell other members what to expect when they purchase a product. If I review a product and tell my friend that it’s good except for this one thing and my friend thinks that one thing will make the game unenjoyable for them, then they may not want to buy it. It allows me to save my friend some time and money. This is why the developers get into so much trouble when they start deleting reviews. They are violating the trust of the community. Secondly, they are tools for developers to learn how to make better games. One need not be a good developer to write a good review, but one absolutely must be a good critic to be a good developer. Being able to understand the failings of games is crucial to avoiding the usual pitfalls that make a game unplayable. Being able to understand why good games are good is essential to crafting one’s own good game.

What you should find (at least across my reviews) is that I talk about the components of a game and how I received them. Story, character, interface, map, combat, and anything else I can think of should all be mentioned in every single one of my reviews. Especially the more recent ones, as each review is “practice” and ideally I should improve as I write each review. While you’ll definitely find my opinions within the review (as I do write these to entertain and inform), my opinion is usually backed up by some kind of evidence. And this is why most positive reviews are useless.

Most positive reviews that I see on Steam are “Good game, enjoyed the story, nice work” or something to that effect. This is useless for purpose one, as no one knows why you enjoyed the story (and it is possible to express why without spoiling) and it’s useless to the developer because they don’t know what exactly it is that you liked. Maybe the author is trying to keep it short because people on the internet have the attention span of a goldfish, but you’re doing it wrong. Learning to write shorter reviews that cover the key components is difficult (and it’s something I’m practicing), but you still need to evaluate the game on its merits. Negative reviews don’t often have the same problem, as most people that review a game negatively complain about why they didn’t like the game. In these complaints, a negative review always offers advice on how to improve and also serve to help other buyers make an informed decision on whether they want to buy the game or not.

Positive reviews are also sometimes coloured by how much the user enjoyed the game. One of my recent reviews (at the time of writing) for Kingdom: New Lands likely falls under this category (but I did complain about stuff in it so eh?). This leads to the author sometimes overrating the game, instead of evaluating the game based on its merits.

When I buy games on Steam, I very rarely look at positive reviews. If I’m on the fence, I go straight down to the negative reviews and see what’s wrong with the game. I will still look at some positive reviews, but only the longer ones as these usually tell you the flaws within the game. I guess at the end of the day, what I’m saying is that short reviews with little to no explanation are useless, and positive reviews often fall into this category. When writing (or reading) a review, these short reviews should be avoided because they won’t help a buyer make a decision and they won’t help a developer on their next game.

Anyway, that’s my stitch. Thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

Most Positive Reviews are Useless

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10

Alright, I’ve been getting some criticism for my reviews, some people pointing out that other people say it’s good, so it’s good. While I don’t wish to negate the input of these other players (that rarely tell you ‘what’ exactly is good) I do want to point out that there’s a good chance that they’re reviewing your game incorrectly. So let’s talk about the 1-10 scale.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scale utilized as poorly as 1-10. The reviewer is offered 10 options to choose from, which may be a bit cumbersome. So cumbersome in fact, that I think people completely disregard some of the scale to make it less cumbersome. If you happen to be a human reading this above the age of… let’s say 15 years-old, I want you to think of all of the people that you’ve rated based on attractiveness. More specifically, the ones you rated on a scale of 1-10. Ladies, you play along too, I know you rate guys. Now I want you to think of the distribution of those ratings. You probably have a lot of 7’s, 8’s, maybe a few 6’s and 3’s, with very few 1’s and 10’s. Those of you familiar with the Bell Curve will no doubt see the problem here, but I’ll explain it for those that don’t.

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This is the general shape of the Bell Curve. This one in particular is a normalized distribution, so it’s designed to show probabilities of an event occurring. And what we see here is that the greatest number of events should be rated 6. This is because 6 is the average between 1 and 10 (Actually 5.5 is but we’re rating using whole numbers so round up or round down. I choose to follow convention and round up). As the ratings deviate from the mean, we should see fewer and fewer uses of these ratings. So there should be more 3’s than 1’s and more 8’s than 10’s. If you’ve rated 100 people based on appearance, you should have very few 10’s. But I’m willing to bet that you have more than the appropriate number of 10’s and not enough 5’s or 6’s. Why is that? Let’s continue

The normal person will likely have a lot of 7’s in their rating database. I believe that when one asks themselves how attractive someone is on a scale of 1-10, they’ve unconsciously set 7 to be the mean. Movie was average? It’s a 6 or a 7. Since this close to the deviation from the mean, it actually produces okay results in ratings. However when it comes to terrible movies, it seems no one knows what to do. Is it a 3? Is it a 4? You’ll likely find that there are more 3’s and 4’s than there are 5’s, despite 5 being closer to the mean. And probably more 8’s than the two combined despite being aligned with 4 on the distribution.

Are you just seeing more terrible movies than slightly worse than average movies? Are you seeing more great movies than more terrible movies combined? That’s a distinct possibility. After all, who willingly watches a movie that they expect to be terrible? Who willingly plays a game that they expect to be terrible? But in that case, we should see a slightly shifted curve, rather than, well, a non-Bell Curve. If you look at seasonal anime ratings on MyAnimeList, you will see many 7’s and not nearly enough 5’s or 6’s. This is evidence of a shifted mean.

I’m not judging anyone for this behavior. I used to engage in this myself, particularly regarding anime and manga. But once I sat down and asked myself why I rated SAO a 6 and several of the Monogatari series in a similar range (5-7) I realized the problem. I thought back to the humans that I had rated based on appearance and saw a similar trend.

Bringing this back to what the problems with ratings, people seem to exclusively use a 3-10 scale instead of a 1-10 scale. The removal of 2 ratings might not seem significant but you’re talking about 20% of your rating scale not being used much at all. And then we need to remember that the lower ratings 3-5 are not used much at all. So you’ve pretty much turned the rating system into 6-10 with an average around 7, which actually lines up with general public nicely. If we turn it into a 1-4 system and equate 7 with 2, then 50% becomes the mean and that’s about what we want.

So I guess it’s not that you’re not producing a Bell Curve properly, it’s that you’re producing it for the wrong range of numbers. If you want to use a 1-10 scale, you need to USE the full scale. You can’t toss out 9’s and 10’s like candy because you felt something was phenomenal. You need to think about all of the games you’ve played up until now and see if it’s not really an 8. And don’t forget about the lower numbers. Don’t just hate a game or a movie and say, “Yep, that’s a 3”. Think about what you didn’t like and compare it against all of the others you’ve seen before.

At the end of the day, the method is up to you, but by adhering a bit more strongly to a 1-10 scale, you can make your ratings on the 1-10 scale be a bit more meaningful. I want to encourage you to really use the 1-10 scale and not the 6-10 scale. Anyway, thanks for reading.

Artemis Hunt

How to Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10