Tag: racism

Political Power As A Zero Sum Game

Roy Moore was quoted in the LA Times saying “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”. This willfully ignores families that couldn’t stay together because their children were stolen from them and sold. *Our* families were strong, and who cares about anyone else? It’s the same implication I’d read into Trump’s ‘great again’ slogan. Well, it was great for rich old white dudes, and since I’m a rich old white dude … that’s my definition of great, and screw everyone else.

If people are going to be blatant about their racism, I’d love some honesty to go with their chutzpah. Political and social power are zero-sum. In game theory, zero-sum means that one person’s gain is your loss. And you can only gain by someone else losing. If the game starts with a stack of one hundred one dollar bills, no one can win more than 100$. Divide the money equally and each person gets 50$. Play the game — the only way for you to get 60$ is for your opponent to lose ten bucks. That’s a concrete example — new dollar bills aren’t going to magically appear. But abstract concepts can be zero-sum as well. Any individual only has so much influence, and their vote is only a percentage of all voters. The larger the population of “people who can make decisions and influence society” or “people who can vote” gets, the smaller any individual’s power becomes.

The US population is 326 million plus people (or so says the Census Bureau’s population clock). In 2010, 24% were under 18 – which makes the population at or above the age of majority just over 248 million. That means one person is 0.00000040% of the total adult population. Limit decision makers to white men (31% of the population) and each person’s power (for those who retain power) is tripled. Home ownership rates for whites is like 71.9%, which would mean each person’s power (for those who retain power) is tripled.

Similar story for voting. There were just shy 129 million people who voted in 2016. A Rutgers breakdown of gender/ethicity of reported voters has 47.8 million white men voting. Using the 71.9% home ownership rate, an individual white man’s vote would have a 2.7x increase in impact if only white land owning men could vote.

Some old white land owning dudes think the early 1800’s were great because men in their position weren’t forced to share power with women, non-white people, or poorer white dudes. Some old white land owning dudes think giving up some of *their* power so women/non-white people/poorer people get a say in government and American society was OK because women/non-white people/poorer people deserve some control over the society and political system in which they live. Hell, some rich old white dudes probably think ceding some of their power is OK because they are vastly outnumbered by women/non-white people/poorer people and just didn’t see staying in power as a likely outcome either way, and sharing power was better than all of the women/non-white people/poorer people banding together and deeming rich old white dudes to be non-citizens.

To Mike Ditka

There may not have been oppression, of which you were made aware, in the past hundred years. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I haven’t been pulled over for driving while black either. My melanin-challenged heritage probably has a lot to do with that fact, not the absence of racially motivated traffic stops in the twenty plus years since I started driving. So maybe do some research of your own, talk to some people, before fobbing off the experience of a rich old white dude as typical for all races, classes, and genders in America.

I’ve also had a police officer come up to me whilst I was breaking into a car in the middle of a car park and ask if he could help (yeah, it was my car but he didn’t know that and I had no way of proving it until the car was unlocked). This was before cell phones had widespread distribution, and he offered to have someone ring a locksmith to open my car for me. Didn’t have the money, I replied honestly, and continued to force the frame-less glass window down until I could reach through and unlock the door. Now some of that is demeanor. It was my car and I wasn’t freaked out because a cop rolled up behind me. I was also familiar enough with the car’s window mechanism to know a good bit of force would lower the window. The cop didn’t even ask to see some ID and the registration paperwork once I got the door opened. I have darker complected friends who have been stopped while driving a car with keys in it and accused of stealing the thing. Followed by a demand for ID and vehicle registration to prove the vehicle wasn’t stolen.

The added irony is that Ditka was discussing protests within the NFL – protests that are designed to bring attention to racial injustices around the country. He exemplifies the need for these protests.


Actual quotes: “There has been no oppression in the last 100 years that I know of.”

“Now maybe I’m not watching it as carefully as other people. I think the opportunity is there for everybody. Race, religion, creed, color, nationality — if you want to work, if you want to try, if you want to put effort into yourself, I think you can accomplish anything.”


When a law enforcement officer refuses to enforce the law and can rely on the president to pardon the infraction, does that not elevate the executive branch above all others? Trump encouraged law enforcement officers to abuse people in their custody (full on Jerry Seinfeld why are they so careful getting the guy in the back of the cruiser?). Can police officers expect to be pardoned when charged with brutality? Will they be guaranteed their jobs even after killing a suspect? What is the point of having laws (or a court system) if one branch of the government can decide what should be legal by pardoning infractions they don’t like.

Sure there are mitigating circumstances that may diminish the severity of the infraction, mandatory sentencing produced people whose ‘time’ in no way fit their ‘crime’, some people are amazingly reformed after the commission of their crime. Hell, the law could change five years into your term rendering your infraction a perfectly legal activity. Some people deserve a break. Would it not be better to allow the judicial system to redress these scenarios? Mechanisms to do so are already in place — parole reduces the effective sentence, but the individual retains a criminal record. Expunction seals the record and generally means the individual does not need to disclose the conviction.

And not that I believe Trump is in the least bit concerned about people whose rights were trampled by Arpaio? What redress do they have? The purported ideology does not care who is damaged in the pursuit of illegal immigrants. And that is what makes this particular pardon so offensive. In the ‘war on drugs’, cops abused people in poor neighborhoods. Evidence was planted to convict those who were known to be dealers. What would have happened if Reagan had just pardoned those officers?

We watched a lot of movies when building Windstream. A lot. We were splitting an eDirectory tree, and a couple of servers each night would be moved. I ran the support bridge for the split, and needed a way to get a good number of people to volunteer to work 6p-2a six days a week with no overtime. Accomplished this by having free dinner, snacks, and movies. I didn’t own that many DVDs, so people volunteered to bring their collection too. It was a lot of fun (some of the techs ringing into the bridge would get the same DVD going and watch with us), and I got to see a lot of movies I wouldn’t have known existed. One of those movies was an early 70’s movie based on a mid 60’s book: Colossus: The Forbin Project. Pardoning Arpaio makes me think of the movie — the premise was essentially that the US government commissioned a computer system to control the country’s nuclear arsenal with the goal of preserving world peace because computers do not suffer human foibles such as irrational emotional responses. The computer accomplished it’s goal … by using the nuclear arsenal to blackmail humanity into peace (either you stop fighting or I start nuc’ing you until you concede). Same lack of constraint or morality. It doesn’t matter how many people are tortured or killed, as long as the objective is met.

The Evidence

A sufficient number of people don’t believe the Confederacy was outright wrong or these statues wouldn’t be here. Similarly, a sufficient number of people don’t think the treatment of native Americans was wrong enough to make “the redskins” or “chief wahoo” a bad marketing idea. Not saying these people are correct, and evidently the number of people defending the Confederacy is shrinking or we wouldn’t have protests over statue removal. But I couldn’t imagine finding any significant percentage of the American or European populations who were willing to defend Hitler or Nazism. Given the widespread condemnation of the Nazi party, yeah expression of Nazism is illegal in Germany. Fifteen years ago, when my company had a branch in Germany, it was even illegal to assign numbers to people because it was too much like camp serial numbers (I discovered when working with some programmers to tweak a friend function because all of our employees were tracked by an internally maintained employee ID and we had to do something special for Germany to avoid running afoul of the law.).

While I don’t see a lot of people overtly claiming that the Confederacy was right about slavery, viewing the proximal (slavery) and distal (states rights) causes of the Civil War as distinct leaves room to say the Confederate states *were* right that the federal government was usurping power that should have been held by the states. Which provides an acceptable spin to Confederate monuments … and we end up mired in this red herring argument about protecting states rights and honoring those who fought to defend states rights (not to mention we need ‘the real context of these monument’ articles). I lived in the South for a while, and encountered a number of neo-Confederates. Asked them to tell me *what* rights of the state were contested — not just the principal of a state having rights beyond federal reach. That’s specifically written in the Constitution. Never got a good answer beyond “if they could tell us not to do X today, they could tell us not to do Y tomorrow.” because the right they were fighting for? The right to consider human beings as property based on a physical characteristic.

It’s different when it’s your own …

U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips, in a motion to compel an ISP to turn over 1.3 million IP addresses that visited a Resistance web site:

“That website was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organization of a violent riot that occurred in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2017”

Charlottesville is under a different district, thus different people involved. But anyone think the DoJ is pressuring a bunch of alt-right, Klan, and neo-Nazi sites to turn over their visitor IPs, registered user information, draft blog posts, and so on?

On many sides

Spartacus, Gaspar Yanga, Ali bin Muhammad – unruly insurrectionists the lot of them. And don’t get me started on those bigots in Syria who hate Bashar just because he wants to murder civilians en mass. Is decrying violence against violent oppressors the pinnacle of moral relativism? Can Trump find new levels of depravity? Tune in next week for the exciting continuation of … oh, bugger, real life?

I told my mom a few days ago that an author — not a no-name author who had never been published, I mean one of those people who could get a chicken to peck at a typewriter and sell the novel famous author types — who wrote the past year as fiction would have been laughed out of the publisher’s office a decade ago. Somehow, Trump seems determined to outdo all of his previous antics anew each week. Which I blame on his reality TV fame — you’ve got to do something more outlandish each week or you’ll lose viewers!

The whole making America great again slogan always struck me as uber white male. Because, really, “again” implies that there was some greatness in the past to which we are returning. Is that back when women couldn’t vote? When your skin color determined if you were allowed to sit on the bus? Or, hell, if you were a person or possession.  Couldn’t imagine a Republican candidate calling back to the Clinton years, so unless he meant the halcyon days of 1985, that slogan is treading well into “make America great for white dudes” territory. And if you’re talking about the mid 80’s … with out of control interest rates and fairly overt racism, you’re in “great for rich white dudes” territory. Then again, Making America Great for Neo-Nazi’s Again or Making America Great for the Klan Again doesn’t have a catchy abbreviation you can slap on hats and t-shirts to make a buck.

But this new low is down in the Marianas Trench and still digging. A bunch of bigots are holding a rally out in Virginia, and there are counter protesters. Bigot runs a car into the counter protesters. What’s the president say? “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides.”

Unless “many sides” means the Klan guys, the Neo Nazis, and the White Pride folks, the denotative sentiment doesn’t help the current situation. But words have connotative meanings as well — the emotions invoked by the words, the history associated with the words, the word in conjunction with other words being used, even the educational level and class associated with the words.

I won’t disagree with the violence on many sides — don’t know if it is true in this case, but my experience with counter-protests at Klan rallies in the 80’s is that, yeah, there’s violence on both sides.

Is it OK to hate racists and neo-nazis? I know there’s the whole judge not lest ye be judged idea, but civil is about the best I can do. But in conjunction with bigotry … to me, ‘hatred’ implies irrational hatred based on bigotry. Deciding a single facet of an individual’s personality can be so heinous that there is literally nothing else they could be/do/think which would make you say “yeah, he’s a racist pig … but he is XYZ too so it’s all OK” is your prerogative.

To the literal definition, that’s bigotry: intolerance toward an individual because their beliefs differ from yours. But by the strict definition, a lot of people are bigots when considering serial killers. Just because you think randomly murdering dozens of people is bad and wrong … the emotional definition of bigotry isn’t just hating someone because they have different beliefs but also that their beliefs are perfectly reasonable and don’t hurt anyone.

Messaging fail.