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December 25th, 2003

12:24 pm - Every night for dinner we had a big old chunk of dirt. If we were really good we did not get desert. When I was your age.

It's Christmas day. That means that for 24 hours I will cease and decist singing Christmas songs. I like singing them at other times of the year but around Christmas I avoid doing so. Is it just to be different or difficult? Probably but isn't that like 95% of the fun of life? Okay maybe not that much. Maybe 40%? More than that. Let's say 57% with a +-3% margain of error, shall we?

Since it's Christmas, a time for joy, happiness, and good will towards men I thought I'd take the opportunity to take pot shots at feminism and its ilk. Hey, in my book that IS having good will towards men.

I could go after the odd feminist stance on abortion where "A woman's right to choose is important" has seemingly morphed into "Abortions for everybody without question or hesitation!" but that's too easy and overdone a target. Instead I think it's time to go after another overdone target, but one that really deserves it, and that is the idea of affirmative action.

Affirmative action is not merely a feminist concept, instead it was copied from the Black civil rights movement. This is one of the first flaws with it, since it places women in the same situation as blacks, which is patently absurd. Blacks were oppressed for centuries (some say they still are) and so had institutionalized social problems like poverty and lack of education. Women come proportionally from all parts of society and while individual women were oppressed one could not say that they came from oppressed families any more than men did. Give a black person the right to attend Harvard and he must struggle with gaining the necessary education despite parents who were denied access to college and who cannot afford to send him. Give a woman the right to attend Harvard and she is as likely as a man to have a college educated father and a family that can afford to send her.

I don't want to get too bogged down in why female affirmative action is far less reasonable than minority affirmative action because the fact of the matter is that the program as a whole is pretty silly. The idea behind it is that if as a society we give a certain number of slots in positions of power and influence to minority groups they will magically obtain enough social capital to make them equal. This is a pretty absurd thesis because it makes strange assumptions.

Assumption 1) Minority groups are oppressed to the point of needing help to obtain positions that presumably they could not earn in an open competition.

Assumption 2) Once they obtain those positions they will magically become capable of performing them credibly enough to earn the required social capital,

This is sort of an insane thing to think unless you believe, as many PC morons do, that not only are all groups roughly equal in their ability to perform all tasks (a fair assumption at least when it comes to race) but that all individuals regardless of education, training, and other environmental factors are equally able to perform all jobs and it's just lottery that makes certain people physics professors and others Fry Cooks.

This is a crazy way to think.

An alternative rationale behind affirmative action is that people are prejudiced and so women and blacks who ARE as competent as their white male counterparts are denied jobs for no good reasons. This one actually does have merit behind it. Studies have shown that the same resume will garner different responses if it has the name Lashawna attached to it than if it has, say, Kenneth. This is a real problem, no doubt about it. The question then is whether AA addresses this. I don't think it does.

The idea behind AA addressing this social inequity is A) that deserving people will be put in these positions once organizations are forced to take on a woman or a minority for them. B) Once in these positions minorities will thrive and thus change people's prejudices since exposure to a competent person will provide evidence to the contrary.

The problem with A) is that there aren't enough competent people in all fields to fill these openings. Let's look at academics, one of the places where AA is most common. There are disproportionately low numbers of Black and Female physicists. This means that even the least competent of them are likely to find jobs, AND that to balance out the White Male weighting of the physics department academic ghettos are created for black and female professors, like African American or Women's Studies. Both of these subjects in theory could do something useful but the majority of the time they are just a total waste of time. Women's studies especially is run by angry lesbians who care more about political agendas than worthwhile information. Teaching female students how to masturbate is not going to help them in the job market. Of course Black and Female students are disproportionately pushed into these departments and thus the ghettoization creates a vicious cycle. Female student is accepted to college, becomes a women's studies major, and finds after she graduates that what she's prepared to do is basically teach women's studies because virtually nothing of what she's studied has any application in the real world. How this helps anyone is a mystery.

As for B) well it doesn't work because of the poor application. Incompetent people are promoted along with the competents and they end up getting lumped together. In fact Affirmative Action makes legitimately successful blacks and women seem LESS successful than they really are because they 'only got to where they are due to skin color.' Good work AA advocates!

The problem is there ARE no easy answers to this problem. It takes time and effort to change the perception and success rate of a race of people. If you want an example look at the Jews. As late as the turn of the century they were discriminated against in large numbers and certainly faced more hurdles than Blacks or Women do today. Today Jewish people are among the more successful peoples in the United States and in fact the only way that Caucasians claim to be well represented in the sciences is by including Jews in their ranks. Something like 24% of science PHDs are awarded to Jews. That is radically disproportionate to their numbers in society. Likewise they are vastly over-represented in top universities and at top income levels.

Affirmative action wasn't necessary for this achievement.

Of coure there are notable differences between the situations of Blacks and Jews. The Jews who came over had often been successful people in their countries of origin or at the very least scholarly and even though they were Poor in America this often translated into successful familial habits. The black family structure was intentionally and violently destroyed and at the time of the civil war little remained of their culture that had not been tainted by slavery. This has made it a lot harder for them to reconstruct themselves socially. There is also the factor of the 1930s 40s immigration which brought much of the cream of the European Jewish crop to America. There has been no such creaming of Africa (although many slaves came from royal families this royalty was stripped of them through their treatment and family splitting.)

Affirmative Action then offers an easy answer to a difficult question. The kind of easy answer that isn't going to solve things and generally makes things worse in the long run.

Now we come to women. One immediate problem regarding women is that unlike African Americans they are not ever going to be functionally identical to men. Women and men think differently, act differently, and have different priorities. This is true across societies and there is very little reason to believe that it is not genetically determined, since in various non-human mammals female and male creatures display different behaviors. It's nothing so radical to suggest women can't be in the workforce or whatever, but it does suggest that they are less likely to be as drawn to or as good at certain mathematically determined professions as men. Keep in mind that we're talking in the aggregate here (another problem of Affirmative Action) and individual women can certainly be spectacular at mathematical pursuits. Also despite the fact that it has been way overweighted in social discourse there is data to suggest that women are more 'nurturing' and care more about spending time with their young than men do. Feminism blindly insists that this is totally untrue, but then again feminists lie all the time to try and forward their ideology so that isn't too important.

How to deal with women who want maternity leave or even to take a break from their careers when their children are young? (which, by the way, is good for the children.) Feminists who are willing to entertain the idea suggest that the solution is to have men take equal time off! They can shut up and go sit in the corner. It's fine to offer fathers the same opportunity but chances are that this burden is going to fall disproportionately on the female. This is also an issue for businesses who have to try and look for or train replacements when a woman gets pregnant and wants time off. This is hugely problematic for women who are very high up in management and might suggest that perhaps putting young women in such a position is taking a risk. Fortunately there are two things that prevent this problem from being crippling to female employment. They are that women who are cutthroat and ambitious enough to reach the top are generally not the nurturing types who want time with their children, prefering to warehouse them with a nanny just like men used to warehouse them with a wife. The second is that most CEOs and upper managers tend to be old enough that the chances of them having more children are rather low. This is further improved by the fact that women live longer than men. Hire a woman at 50 for a job a man would get at 45 and chances are she will be able to give you the same amount of time the man would before expiring or retiring. Thus she can both spend time with the children and have the same professional impact a man could. The extra life span allows for this.

These arguments don't help against prejudice but presumably in a capitalist society prejudice will take care of itself. Companies that promote and hire women and men based on competence only will presumably do better than companies that do not and eventually this will lead to those companies who are not prejudiced surviving while others perish. This will once again take time, but honestly it's the only real solution. Women and men may never become precicely equal in earnings or whatever in the aggregate but that's irrelevant really. All that matters is equal individual opportunity.

I am not going to go back through my ethical objections to affirmative action because I've described them Ad-Naseum. Instead I'll let these arguments stand. I also won't attack feminism on other silly areas like child support because this is already long enough that nobody will read it to completion.

Instead I'll probably post again later about other stuff I've been mulling over.

08:02 pm - I love your body sometimes

Christmas was supposed to be about the Lord of the Rings this year, but instead of sitting down and watching the movies for 6+ hours straight I accidentily started doing productive things. I've been cataloging my videogame collection online for both insurance and informational purposes, and it's taken several hours. I have not finished yet but it can be found here http://users.ign.com/collection/EddieHarris and I will keep updating until I'm done.

I also got a workout in on Dance Dance Revolution, a videogame that combines three of my hobbies in dancing, videogaming for a high score, and aerobics. Okay so I like videogaming for a high score, the other two not so much. However DDR (as the kids are calling it, you know those kids and their penchant for acronyms. Oh those kids, they do love the A.) manages to combine something I enjoy with two things I hate and actually end up being pretty fun. I think it's that instead of concentrating on looking good or buning calories, two things I'm not great on, you focus on keeping a combo going and trying to get high ranks on the songs. Since I do that in non-exercise games I can trick my mood into thinking I'm gaming instead of working out and I have a good time. Plus the combination of repeating songs over and over along with dance steps allows for both subjective time compression (when I do something for the first time it seems to take forever, then less and less as I repeat it over and over) and automatic sight to movement action which allows me to concentrate on other things instead of the dancing. Indeed I have been able to fantasize through several of the songs which makes them pass in no time at all. My achilles heel in the game is the jumps, other than the double side jumps. Basically various steps require you to place your feet on two different parts of the pad at the same time which forces you to jump and land both accurately and in time to the music. I can do this when the directions are left and right, but for other jumps I either miss the proper spaces or I can't get it off ryhmically. This is especially problematic when it calls for a jump that involves the space behind me because my accuracy with that one is already less than with the other parts, and the jump makes it really tough. I'm trying to improve though. I did manage to combo (getting either perfect or great on consecutive steps) through the entirety of Boom Boom Dollar though, so that gave me a feeling of accomplishment not to mention a double A ranking. A small feat for sure, but I'm a fat white boy with no rythm and damn it I'll take what I can get!

The only worry I have is that all the dancing will transform me into a dreaded metrosexual, but dancing is actually not so bad when you take it out of the context of trying to impress women or feeling Karim's gentle embrace. I see it as getting down a certain base of rythm and timing for my oft planned and even more oft delayed re-entry into martial arts. Yeah...umm..dancing around like an idiot is all about preparing to learn to kick ass! Totally!

Hey! I stop believing in Santa awhile ago, you gotta give me ONE Christmas delusion!

Adding to this is the fact that the announcer is super gay. Now I have no particular problem with super gay people, but I wish he'd stop hitting on me while I dance. I mean I select a female character (I'm not watching a man dance on screen while I dance too!!!) but he still calls me man and dude, and then he makes all sorts of romantic overtures and compliments. He's as fruity as a Carmen Miranda headpiece I tell ya!

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Now back to the work of cataloging many many wasted dollars in videogame software. I guess I could call it counting my blessings. That's a christmasy sentiment.

11:43 pm

I finished cataloging my console games, at least the ones I could find. There are more here somewhere.

That reminds me, my doorman is a sneaky guy. I locked myself out yesterday and not only did he demand an iced tea in exchange for letting me into the house but he maneuvered in through the open door and in to my games room to demand I lend him a game for his son. Before he'd asked me to outright give him one! I am a COLLECTOR! These are to me what stamps or figurines or whatever are to other people. I don't want an 11 year old getting fingerprints all over them and I CERTAINLY don't want to GIVE THEM AWAY! I lent him one of the easily replaceable ones and he said he'd bring it back next week and take another one there. Frankly I find it kind of inappropriate that he would demand such tribute just for doing his job (letting tenants who are locked out into their apartments IS his job. It's not like I asked him to buy me drugs.) I feel taken advantage of but I'm not sure what to do since he's worked here for years and likely will for years more. I can appease him with the cheap games only for so long and I really really really don't want to be lending out the ones that are rare or in some cases virtually irreplaceable.

Any suggestions?
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