Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Recycling Content

Recycle Reduce Reuse by Kevin Dooley is licensed CC BY 2.0.
Been fighting off a cold for the past couple of weeks - took some antibiotics last week, which cured the sinus infection that hitched a ride on Rhinovirus Alpha and helped me feel better for a few days, then caught another cold a few days after that. 
Needless to say, I'm not amused.

So, while I suffer through yet another week of keeping the facial tissue industry singlehandedly in business, here's something I wrote recently for the LP Nevada blog - Trump's followers might not be racist:
I was at a gas station a couple days ago when I overheard the clerk talking with a customer about the last GOP debate. What caught my attention was that he was the first person I met that openly expressed support for Trump - most conservatives I've talked to can't stand the guy (he's not conservative enough for them), and most Libertarians are doing their level-best to contrast themselves from his xenophobia - so I naturally wanted to know more. Why, of all the candidates on that stage, did the gas station clerk favor Trump? 
"He's genuine. He speaks his mind." 
That he does. You have to give him credit - he's not parsing every sentence that comes out of his mouth through a series of focus groups or think tanks. That genuineness, that willingness and ability to say what's on his mind and damn the consequences, is actually one of the first things supporters consistently love about him. He's not beholden to campaign contributors - he's a billionaire, after all - he's not beholden to the GOP establishment, and he's not beholden to the media, which happily laps up his every absurd utterance like a kitten splashing around in a milk bowl. In short, whether you love him or hate him, he's different. Sure, a lot of what's on his mind is utter nonsense, but he's willing to share his mind with America and let us decide among ourselves which of his ideas have merit and which of his ideas belong in the rubbish heap of history. That's pretty rare among aspiring politicians these days, who, more often than not, would rather run every utterance past expensive political consultants, focus groups, polls, major donors, and so forth before they take even the shakiest of stands. 
Read the rest at the link.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Self-Driving Cars Need To Hurry Up

google car by Trevor is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
I recently came down with a moderately nasty sinus infection and had to go to urgent care to get diagnosed and get some antibiotics. Before I headed to urgent care, however, I had to choose from the following sub-optimal traveling options:
  • Have my wife drive me there, which would have required our son to be in the car with us. Since I wasn't sure if I had a sinus infection or the flu yet, this wasn't ideal.
  • Hire an Uber or taxi to take me there. I doubt the driver would have appreciated the company, no matter how well I tipped.
  • Call an ambulance. This was overkill and also prohibitively expensive.
  • Drive myself there with a mid-grade (100F) fever.
I opted for the latter option - thankfully, the fever wasn't serious enough to significantly affect my ability to drive safely and I live less than half a mile away from an urgent care facility. However, while driving there, it occurred to me that there were people sharing the road with me that might have been every bit as sick as I was - or even sicker. There could have been a single mother, sick with the flu, sharing a car (and air) with her healthy kid while she tried to get treatment. There could have been someone experiencing a stroke while driving down the road. There could have been someone with a much more serious fever - say, 103F or so - starting to hallucinate while driving down the freeway, or suddenly gripped by fevered paralysis. 

What would protect everyone? Self-driving cars.

Think about it. What if you were really sick - not quite sick enough to require someone to keep your vitals steady, but sick enough where you shouldn't drive (say, if you had dysentery or something), and you could just limp your way into your self-driving car and say, "Go to nearest Urgent Care." Then you could spend the trip focused on keeping warm and hydrated and know that you'll get to your destination safely without potentially losing lucidity and threatening everyone else on the road. The car could even make a loud noise when you got there so you could take a quick nap.

Unfortunately, California's decided to take the slow road on this.

I don't entirely blame California here - Google's cars have been somewhat accident-prone, and identifying who has liability in an accident is still an open question - but still, the sooner this technology takes off, the sooner we can stop worrying about DUIs, strokes, seizures, and other health issues affecting and endangering drivers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

In Defense of Creeps

Creeper by Thangaraj Kumaravel is licensed CC BY 2.0.
[Content warning: I'm going to stick to a generally cis-heteronormative perspective here because, frankly, that's the one I live in and I prefer to "write what I know". I'll try to keep it broad when and where I can, but I don't want to make blanket assumptions here if I can help it.]

A couple weeks ago, I turned my attention to "creeps" and why men defended them. In that article, I tried to make two basic points:
  1. There are good reasons why men might defend creeps, and it has a lot more to do with empathy toward those that are less romantically fortunate than anything else.
  2. Creeps don't deserve the empathy, especially those that lean hard on supposed "disabilities" as an excuse for their creepiness.
Those two basic points rested on a rather specific definition of "creep", however:
Creepiness occurs when someone demonstrates sexual intent while undermining or disregarding the recipient’s personal autonomy or consent.
Some comments, both here and elsewhere, convinced me I need to fine-tune this a bit. Before I do, though, I want to start by acknowledging that this is probably going to end up as a male-targeted version of this, via The Unit of Caring:
I think some fraction of the obnoxious people saying, 'but I just don’t find X people attractive!!!’ are trying and failing to articulate this: 
I have a really strong instinctive 'no stop telling me who to be attracted to and what it says about me’ reaction to the thing you’re saying. I feel like acknowledging 'yes my preferences cause harm to people’ is giving leverage to a pattern of thought where my sexuality gets distributed to people who deserve it. I feel like 'but I am not attracted to X people' has to be sufficient, has to be respected, for me to feel safe. I feel like 'well maybe you should question that’ is an open-ended obligation to improve my sexuality toward your ends.  
And so 'shut up and keep hurtful preferences to yourself’ doesn’t work, not if we want everyone to hear the message 'your sexuality isn’t something that gets distributed to the deserving. Your 'no’ is always good enough. Experiencing or not experiencing attraction does not make you a bad person, ever.'  
And yet. 
Preferences are culturally mediated! There are lots of people who would totally be attracted to trans people and to fat people and to disabled people and to every other constructed-as-undesirable category of people if they asked themselves about it! There are even more people who would be attracted to those groups if they hadn’t been raised saturated by media messages about what beauty is!  We should be angry about this! We should say things about this! 
…and when we do, people will hear 'your sexuality makes you a bad person, fix it, fix yourself’, and they respond 'but I’m just not attracted to Xs’, and they aren’t wrong either, and telling them to shut up is not as obvious or as necessary as it once seemed to me.  
I have no idea how to fix this.
A lot of the conversation I see surrounding "being creepy" strongly resembles this dynamic. On the one hand, we have a group of people saying, "Hey, people shouldn't feel comfortable following other people around and demanding sexual attention!" On the other hand, we have a group of people saying, "Hey, people shouldn't feel uncomfortable asking about mutual sexual attraction!" Then, just to add insult to injury, we have people behaving poorly on both sides of the argument - certain men openly defending something dangerously similar to the "50 nos and yes mean yes" school of thought, while certain women treat men who complain that it can be quite challenging to talk to women without unintentionally coming across as "creepy" as self-entitled jerks. Of course, it doesn't help that not everyone uses the same definition of "creepy". For a lot of people, "creepy" means "person I'm not attracted to", so when they see articles (like mine) that say, "Hey, stop being creepy!", what they read is, "Hey, stop being unattractive!", instead of, "Hey, stop demonstrating sexual intent while undermining or disregarding the recipient's personal autonomy or consent!"

This, needless to say, does not go well.

Which brings me back to the end of my last post on this subject:
Of course not. Creepy guys kill vibes. Nobody wants to be around Uncle Lou. Nobody wants to be Uncle Lou. If you see someone being an Uncle Lou, pull them aside and tell them to stop being an Uncle Lou. Tell them what they’re doing that’s Uncle Lou-ish. Make it clear that, if they persist in being an Uncle Lou, you’re either going to escort them out of whatever venue you’re both sharing or you’ll find someone who will. Make it clear that, from that moment going forward, if they don’t alter their behavior, you will name names. You will take pictures. If they can’t be a good example, then they’re just going to have to be a horrible warning. Don’t let them oppression olympics their way out of it, either - a truly neuroatypical person isn’t going to say, “Oh, sorry - I’m autistic. I can’t help it.” No, they’re going to apologize and they’re going to ask what they can do to avoid that sort of behavior in the future. If you get any other response, you’re not dealing with a neuroatypical person - you’re dealing with a manipulator.
This paragraph was, by far, the most contentious of the entire article. I got a little push-back regarding the numbers I used on sexual violence (intentionally so - I went for conservative, government sourced ones that probably understate matters considerably to demonstrate that, even using the official numbers, it makes rational sense for women to be concerned about creeps and their intentions), but nothing like I got on the part in red. The most consistent criticism was that, well, actually, neuroatypical people can be manipulators too, which, okay, fair enough, and that was that. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I needed to put some serious thought behind the ramifications of this. Let's assume for a moment that:
Given these assumptions, it's not a stretch to assume that, at some point, a neuroatypical person is going to engage in behaviors that seem legitimately "creepy", in the sense used in the definition I posted at the top, simply because they're not going to pick up the signals that say, "No, seriously, I'm not interested in you!" without actually saying exactly that. Then, when they finally get that forthright negative response they need to actually know that, no, really, that person isn't interested in them, and it's followed with, "you creep!", from their perspective they see it as someone using "creep" in the "You're unattractive!" sense, not the "You've been demonstrating sexual intent while undermining or disregarding my personal autonomy or consent!" sense that the person rejecting them meant it in. After all, from the neuroatypical standpoint, that's the first, last, and only sign of rejection they've perceived from that individual - why wouldn't they shrug when someone tells them to "stop being creepy" after that? If you briefly greeted a woman at a party and then some "well meaning gentleman" immediately approached you and told you to stop creeping everyone out, wouldn't you tune him out, too?

Thinking about this further, I also realize there's another group of men that are going to be in the same boat - younger men with zero experience with women who are dealing with women that don't know how to communicate rejection effectively because they have zero experience with men. Considering how many teenagers are firmly convinced, either through Hollywood or hormones (I haven't decided which - someone page a psychiatrist) that romance confers telepathy to both partners if it's "true love", it doesn't take a leap of imagination to think of a scenario where a young woman decides, "Well, I'm touching his shoulder, but not in that way, so he should know I'm just being polite and friendly" at the same time that a man thinks, "Wow! She's touching me! She must be interested!", which then leads to a correspondingly inevitable confrontation later that day that leads to a series of angsty blog articles shared across the MRA/Feminist banks of the Tumblrsphere. Then, we fast-forward a few weeks and the woman says something like
There’s another reason why I don’t like to go places alone — and it has nothing to do with my own failings. I’m afraid of being approached by men who want to chat me up, or ask me on a date. I don’t know how to reject them — the fact is, it doesn’t matter how polite I am, things can turn dangerous in a split second. 
"It’s awkward that they would put you in this sort of social position in the first place. I guess men feel it’s necessary because they tend to require more direct communication while women pick up more on feelings, social cues, etc. While we feel we’re making it obvious that we’re not interested or only want to be friends, men think that we are in fact interested and showing our interest."
So, what do we do about this? Feminists have a point - men can turn dangerous (or at least ill-tempered) in a split second if rejected. Obviously, this isn't true of all men, or perhaps even most men, but, as I discussed previously, even at a rate of 1 in 5,000 (a rather low estimate of the number of men that are rapists), there's a pretty good chance that a woman is sharing a public space with a rapist at some point in her life, and there are a lot of other unpleasant things men can do to a woman that don't involve rape or sexual assault. There is a simple, straightforward solution to this problem - encourage women to make the first approach, that way they're the ones in control of the situation - but then that would mean "women are doing all the work".

*rubs bridge of my nose while sighing audibly*

Ignoring society's failure to apply simple predicate logic for a second, though, let's be honest with ourselves - if women were encouraged to make approaches, it wouldn't solve the problem. As women will be happy to tell you, quite a few women aren't approached, and they're not happy about it. Realistically, the only guys that are going to consistently get approached are precisely the same women that are consistently approached - the top 20% (or less) most attractive guys in the bar. Everybody else is going to get filtered out as "background radiation" - they're neither handsome nor ugly enough to draw attention so they're never noticed. Since most of the "creepy" people women complain about aren't in that top 20%, they're still going to have to make approaches to get noticed, which is going to lead us right back here once again, especially as long as there's a large enough group of people out there that insist on using "creepy" as a synonym for "unattractive person".

What's the solution? I honestly don't know.

What I do know is that we can't simultaneously believe that men approach women because they think they're entitled to sex while we're simultaneously complaining that men won't approach women. We can't have a society where women are considered "desperate" if they approach at the same time we're telling men that they may approach if and only if they follow a very particular set of rules, especially when the first of those rules violates another set of rules. If we're lucky, that is the path to neo-Victorian flower exchanges, which might be useful for the descendants of Dutch tulip stock owners, but is less useful for those of us that would prefer courtship rituals to take less than a few years to complete while each side initiates the first few delicate feelers of interest through friends-of-friends in front of neutral intermediaries.

Quite a few of us, believe it or not, do not see Jane Austen novels as something worthy of emulation. Not even the ones with zombies.

So what do we do? Personally, I think we have to accept that some people are going to approach when they shouldn't, some people won't approach when they should, and there's not enough virtual ink on the Internet to keep that from happening. An opt-in "fuck yes or no" approach might help - if we taught everyone that, if you're not seeing clear, unambiguous signs of interest almost instantly, that's a "no", that would not only help those who are less adept at reading non-verbal social cues behave according to more sensible, less "creepy" defaults, but would also take a lot of the pressure off of women to make a clear, confrontational rejection - but that's not going to keep people from making potentially inappropriate approaches in the first place. It would also help if we could decide, once and for all, whether or not we should encourage women to make the first approach, or at least decide whether or not men are immature and worthless if they don't make that first approach. It would also help if every side of this issue realized that we all want the same thing, more or less - to be loved by people we love and to not be forced to cause pain to others. Rejection hurts on both sides - it's not fun - so if someone is rejecting you, it's because it's the least worst of the options available to them. If you don't want the sting of rejection to feel so sharp, don't force someone into slapping your face before you get a clue. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Odds and ends

Hey everyone - I have a few posts rummaging around in the background (including a follow-up to my last post), but until they're done, here are a couple things to tie everyone over:

I've been posting on the LP Nevada's blog lately:
The first post is a more serious look at an issue raised by Marc Randazza on Popehat, though, for the record, I didn't read his article before I posted mine, which is a shame since he made my point better than I did. Moving forward, though, there's a strong chance that most of my political blogging is going to end up on the LP Nevada blog unless I feel the need to be contrarian and chew certain libertarians a new one.

On a more tech-ish note, we're being encouraged at work to decorate our offices. Here's the Christmas tree I put up on our door:

Though it's not obvious, there are some hidden spaces in there - if you want to run this yourself, copy and paste the following:

SETLOCAL EnableDelayedExpansion
FOR /L %%G IN (1,1,10) DO (
SET _Str=*
FOR /L %%H IN (1,1,10) DO (
IF %%H LSS %%G (
SET _Str=*!_Str!*
) ELSE (
SET _Str= !_Str!

SET _Str=

FOR /L %%I IN (1,1,20) DO (
IF %%I GEQ 10 (
IF %%I LEQ 12 (
SET _Str=!_Str!=
) ELSE (
SET _Str=!_Str! 
) ELSE (
SET _Str=!_Str! 

Until next time...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Why Do Men Defend Creeps?

Lone creeper by Quim Gil is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
Fun fact: I’m an admin for a feminist forum. I’m not sure how it happened, exactly - my bet remains a drunken, drug-fueled dare at a Burning Man kick-off party somewhere in Southern California that I was hundreds of miles away from - but, be that as it may, I’ve been reading quite a bit of feminist content lately and attempting to approach it evenhandedly enough to execute my duties with a modicum of professionalism. One recurring topic that pops up from time to time is this:

Why do men defend creeps?

It’s a good question. Why are people asking it?


A common refrain among the feminist community, especially since the UCSB shooting a couple years ago (an incident I wrote about), is that “Men fear rejection, women fear rape”:

I’ve talked to several women through the years about this idea and received near-universal agreement about the sentiment behind it. To really understand this sentiment, though, it needs to be unpacked a bit further. Most “women fear rape” the same way that soldiers in Iraq were instructed to “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet,” and for many of the same reasons. That advice was given to soldiers in Iraq because, while most Iraqis wouldn’t hurt American soldiers and were reasonably friendly and accommodating, all things considered, it only took one in a group to choose differently for everything to go sideways. It would only take one Iraqi to decide that perhaps today is a good day to die, strap some bombs to their body, and approach a convoy; one Iraqi to talk a child into stopping a convoy so that they can stage an ambush; one Iraqi to plant a roadside bomb. It might be one Iraqi in a hundred, it might be one Iraqi in a thousand - either way, it just takes one. The soldiers can’t know in advance which Iraqi it would be that would make that choice, so they had to assume, once they left their base, that it could be any Iraqi, at any time, that might make that choice - and they had to plan accordingly.

So it is with women and rape.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for women between the ages of 18 to 24 in the United States, anywhere from 6.1 to 7.6 per 1,000 are a victim of sexual assault or rape. The vast majority of reported sexual assaults and rapes are committed by people close to the victim - family members, friends, or acquaintances - but it’s not so vast for women to write off strangers entirely. Using some rough arithmetic and estimation, given that up to 1 in 100 are a victim of reported sexual assault and rape, and given that 1 in 5 victims of sexual assault or rape are assaulted by people unfamiliar with them, that works out to about 1 in 500 women that are a victim of sexual assault or rape by a stranger. This is about the same probability of being diagnosed with Asperger’s, being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, dying from a foodborne illness, or being diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at birth if you’re Black. In other words, it’s not common, but it’s not uncommon. Since rapes have to be committed by someone - thus far, the number of rapes by inanimate objects remains low - we can safely assume that anywhere from 1 in 500 of the men surrounding each woman (assuming each women is raped by a different stranger) to, say, 1 in 5,000 men (assuming the serial rapist model) are potential rapists. Those aren’t high odds, but, if you live in a major metropolitan area, it’s highly possible that you’ll pass 5,000 different men over the course of a year.

Note that the 1 in 5,000 number is probably a safe lower bound - there’s considerable debate about whether or not sexual assault numbers are underreported or not and by how much, with the infamous “1 in 5” surveys taking center stage of the debate. Even at this low of a number, though, there’s a strong chance that, over the course of a year, a woman’s going to be in the same room as someone willing and capable of raping a stranger. It might be on the bus, it might be at a concert, it might be at a club, it might be in school, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later. So, how do women identify who might be capable of doing this before they are placed in danger?

Enter the creepy guy.

It’s important at this point to identify what “being creepy” is, exactly. A good definition that crossed my vision recently was this:
Creepiness occurs when someone demonstrates sexual intent while undermining or disregarding the recipient’s personal autonomy or consent.
Simply put, a person who’s willing to disregard someone’s personal autonomy or consent regarding sex - which, I’d argue, is the textbook definition of someone capable of being a rapist - is probably going to be alarmingly consistent about it. They’re going to be creepy. They’re not going to take no for an answer when they approach a woman online. They’re not going to respect personal privacy - maybe they’ll catcall, maybe they’ll touch someone that doesn’t want to be touched. They’ll make sexual advances against a captive audience, like someone sitting next to them on a long flight (like the person brought up in the article I pulled the definition of “creepy” from) or perhaps a long, late night elevator ride. Chances are, someone willing to do those things and cross those boundaries is much more likely to rape or sexually assault someone than someone that isn’t willing to engage in those behaviors. Naturally, people sense this intuitively and react accordingly.

And yet, some men defend creeps. Not all men, of course - there are quite a few outspoken critics of creep defending, like Dr. NerdLove, and John Scalzi - but it’s still more than a few. What’s going on?


It’s time to unpack the second half of that refrain: Men fear rejection.

To be clearer, most men don’t fear individual rejection - they fear rejection. Being rejected by someone that you’re attracted to isn’t fun - we’ve all been there - but being rejected by everybody is scary. Being viewed as “unfuckable” is scary. Being viewed as unworthy of sexual desire is scary. This is what men fear, and like anyone else, when men are facing this fear head-on - perhaps because they’ve been rejected by just about everybody they’ve approached, perhaps because they’ve talked themselves into seeing themselves as “unfuckable” - they react irrationally. If you’re afraid of spiders and you see one in the bathroom, right when you get out of the shower, you’re not going to capture it in your hand and bring it outside - you’re going to smash the shit out of it. You might even scream while you’re at it. Fear is the mindkiller, especially when you’re naked and dripping.

And just about every man on the planet has felt this exact fear at some point in their lives. Including me.

This might sound kind of strange, but when some men defend creeps, they’re doing so from a position of empathy. They remember that fear and, when they see a million women agree in unison that yes, this particular man, he’s creepy, he’s unfuckable, he’s unworthy of sexual desire - that hits a nerve. The adrenaline starts flowing, the flashbacks from failed awkward attempts at expressing desire growing up come back (remember, men are often still the ones expected to make the first approach), the laptop is right there - to the barricades! Defend our brothers in arms!


Want to know something else I learned from being an admin of a feminist forum? Men aren’t the only ones that fear rejection, that fear complete and utter desexualization. Imagine a man writing something like this:
It doesn’t help when there are, from within the feminist community, cries (often of the second wave “Male gaze!!! MALE GAZE!!!” timbre) of, “Well, why are you so obsessed with being sexy anyway? Is that all women can be? Sexy? It’s ok to be ugly! It’s ok to not be pretty!” 
Yes. Yes, of course it’s ok. The problem is that terms like “pretty” and “ugly” have been dropped on us, like rigid, rubric lead weights, without our having any say in what defines them. Being pretty isn’t the best thing a person can be, nor is ugly the worst. But who gets to decide what pretty is? Who gets to decide if I’m pretty? 
Isn’t pretty for me to define? 
But I want people to know that sexiness is not a privilege, saved for those who earn it. Sexiness is for anyone that wants it.
This is a piece written by a woman who’s stating, clearly and concisely, that, just because a person is conventionally sexually unattractive, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to see themselves as sexy. Everybody has the right to see themselves as sexy, as worthy of desire by someone - or, failing that, at least the right to see themselves as a human being. For men, being “creepy” is a big part of being seen as sexually unattractive - a big enough part, in fact, where I can't imagine a man writing that last sentence with any seriousness without an asbestos-lined monitor, a locked credit report, his cell phone number in his neighborhood SWAT team's speed dial, and frequent lodging points with his neighborhood's Witness Protection program.

Now imagine if someone responded to the article on sexual attractiveness with something similar to the following:
It is unfair. It’s okay that it’s unfair. You know why? Because whether someone likes you enough to want to be your friend, to want to hug you when they see you and let you into their personal space, wants to flirt with you, or wants to joke around with you about certain topics IS a subjective decision they get to make. If Commander Logic comes up to me and puts her arm around me, that’s a friendly bit of affection from a trusted friend. If Joe or Jane New Person sees that and thinks “that’s how Jennifer likes to be greeted” and does the same thing, they’re going to get to watch me jump out of my skin because: Bad Touch! I get to set different boundaries for different people. 
I feel like a lot of the people who are looking for a rubric on how to make sure they aren’t being creepy are the same people who are looking for a rubric on how to pick up dating partners. They want rules and steps that will guarantee a certain outcome, and they don’t like being told how much of it is subjective and totally out of their hands. But other people – the people you want to date, the people you want to be friends with – have their own tastes, opinions, likes, and dislikes. To imply that there is some kind of system that guarantees that other people will like you or to make it a question of fairness robs them of agency.
It’s unfair that you’re not considered pretty. It’s okay that it’s not unfair. Being seen as attractive and pretty IS a subjective decision that they get to make. Sorry.


Right about here is where every woman reading this develops a violent, sudden case of empathy. The adrenaline starts flowing, the flashbacks from not experiencing failed awkward attempts at expressing desire from that really cute guy (or girl) they were really into growing up come back (remember, women are often still the ones expected to wait for the first approach), the laptop is right there - to the barricades! Defend our sisters in arms!

Save your breath. I’m on your side, at least as much as I’m on anyone’s. Hang tight - we’re almost done. Then you can roast me to your heart’s content.


At this point, I want to be clear about a couple of things:

Men, it’s natural to put yourself in other people’s shoes, especially when you identify with them and their struggles, especially when you’re experiencing those struggles yourself. I understand the fear. I understand the pain. I’ve been there. I get it. I’ve been the awkward guy. If I lived in an area full of elevators in high school, I probably would’ve tried to ask a girl out in one, too, without thinking through the logistical and emotional ramifications of that. But here’s the thing - adult creepers take advantage of that empathy. Being a creeper isn’t the same thing as being physically unattractive, though there’s certainly a non-trivial overlap between those that are “being unattractive” and those whose behaviors are viewed as “being creepy” (to borrow from a particular SNL skit). There's little we can do about physical attractiveness - going to the gym and wearing better clothes won't make you taller, wealthier, or funnier - but we can do something about guys being creepy. The only way to make a creeper stop creeping is to call them out for being creepy - period, full stop. If you know what’s good for you, you will call them out on it, too.

Why? Because creeps ruin it for the rest of us.

Let’s say you’re a guy in mixed company, you see an attractive woman, and you want to get her attention. Do you think it’s going to be easier when there’s someone:

  • Touching her without her consent?
  • Making endless sexual innuendo the entire night?
  • Following them around everywhere?
  • Getting angry when she says no?
  • Trying to “score” with her and her friends as soon as any of them make eye contact with him?

Of course not. Creepy guys kill vibes. Nobody wants to be around Uncle Lou. Nobody wants to be Uncle Lou. If you see someone being an Uncle Lou, pull them aside and tell them to stop being an Uncle Lou. Tell them what they’re doing that’s Uncle Lou-ish. Make it clear that, if they persist in being an Uncle Lou, you’re either going to escort them out of whatever venue you’re both sharing or you’ll find someone who will. Make it clear that, from that moment going forward, if they don’t alter their behavior, you will name names. You will take pictures. If they can’t be a good example, then they’re just going to have to be a horrible warning. Don’t let them oppression olympics their way out of it, either - a truly neuroatypical person isn’t going to say, “Oh, sorry - I’m autistic. I can’t help it.” No, they’re going to apologize and they’re going to ask what they can do to avoid that sort of behavior in the future. If you get any other response, you’re not dealing with a neuroatypical person - you’re dealing with a manipulator.

Creepers are manipulators.

Remember that and treat them accordingly. Show no mercy. Save the empathy for those that deserve it. Do not let them manipulate your fears or your empathy to tell you otherwise.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Resolution: Declaring War against Christmas

The cup that launched a thousand tweets. (Starbucks)
Ladies, gentlemen, genderfluids and otherkin:

Yesterday, November 7, 2015 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by Twitter and other social media forces of the Empire of Christmas.

The United States was at peace with that holiday and, at the solicitation of various merchants, was still in conversation with its Elvin representatives and Santa Claus looking toward the maintenance of peace and plentiful gifts from the Arctic. Indeed, for two weeks after Starbucks baristas had commenced distributing plain red cups, the propaganda instruments for the Empire of Christmas lay silent. And while this silence did not implicitly state that it seemed trivial for Starbucks to cut printing costs by removing a few snowflakes and the like from some beverage containers, it contained no threat or hint of Culture War or of social media attack.

It will be recorded that the distance from the nearest Starbucks to immediate internet mob-fueled outrage makes it obvious that Planck length is not, in fact, the shortest measurable distance. Even so, the culture warrior allies of the Empire of Christmas deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued cultural peace.

The attack yesterday on social media has caused severe damage to American humor and journalistic integrity. I regret to inform you that very many American likes and shares have been lost. In addition, American sighs have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between Facebook and Instagram.

For decades the Empire of Christmas has claimed, time and again, that the American people have been at war with it. For decades both the people and the political leadership of America have routinely and without objection denied this claim.

Today that ends.

On our careful, wary watch, Christmas has annexed November, October, the Sudentenland, and part of September. Now Christmas demands Labor Day and the Free City of Danzig. For too long we have appeased this irredentist regime. For too long we told ourselves there would be peace in our time. America shall have no more of it. The line must be drawn here. We shall hold this ground.

I move that this blog welcomes the formation of a movement representing the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the war with Christmas to a victorious conclusion.

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long weeks of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by social, commercial and satirical, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human attention deficit disorder driven clickbait. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of slight annoyance, victory, however short and ephemeral the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realized; no survival for the pre-Christmas season, no survival for all that the refusal to wear red and green at the same time has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages to not gorge incessantly in the commercial spirit of Christmas, that humankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men, women, deis, magis, sagits, kyuus, toks, feys, firs, virs, xirs, thons, zirs, and other assorted otherkin. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "come then, let us go forward together with our united strength, at least until something else distracts us five minutes from now."

So come then, let us go forward together! Together our boots shall march on the North Pole by December 25th - if not this one then the next, assuming we don't forget about this before then! Together, with solidarity, we shall rise up and defeat the Jolly Green & Red Menace!

For liberty! For fraternity! For equality!

Viva la revolution!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Mansplaining Feminism

Status Update: I'm Doing Nothing by Surian Soosay is licensed CC BY 2.0.
This was originally posted as a comment in a feminist group that I somehow have admin access to. How that happened should be a fascinating story, but it's sadly pedestrian - the original admin was taking a vacation and she felt I'd be too relaxed and easygoing to do anything detrimental to the group. The post has been edited slightly to take advantage of the fact that it's posted on a page that supports inline HTML links, as opposed to Facebook which inexplicably doesn't.

Trigger warning: LONG.

I thought about posting this as a comment, but decided the point was large enough to warrant its own post.

I'm going to explain, as best as I can, why a lot of feminists get bent out of shape about #notallmen and often reply, on the extreme end, with #maletears and #killallmen. My target audience is primarily male (i.e. some of the more difficult guys that find themselves arguing with feminists here), though I’m sure there are a few women that are perplexed by this issue as well and may benefit from what you’re about to read. To do this, I'm going to lean hard on my experience as an active participant in the Libertarian movement and, by necessity, do quite a bit of mansplaining (i.e. potentially talking out of my ass). If you're a feminist and believe I'm wildly off base, feel free to say so in the comments, but please remember that I'm not trying to explain feminism to you - I'm trying to explain it to others that see only a very cherry-picked version of it, so certain details and nuances will be glossed over or explained using potentially problematic language that, I hope, resonates better to my target audience than academic feminist terminology.

Libertarianisn, in its modern form (i.e. the form you usually bump into on the Internet these days), was founded to oppose the oppression caused by the governments of the United States of America - local, state, and federal. More specifically, it often focused on the oppression caused by the governments of the US against white people (white males more often than not, though ALF members will happily point out that feminists were better represented in the LP than most political parties - I call this "damning with faint praise"), which should be a pretty familiar problem among feminists at this point - in fact, let’s call this form White Libertarianism, since it nicely parallels the background and interests of White Feminism and exhibits some of the same frustrating, myopic behavior due to its limited perspective. As an example, if you see a "libertarian" cheering on Putin because he's poking a stick in the US government's eye (at the cost of innumerable Russian, Syrian, Ukrainian, and Georgian lives), that's White Libertarianism privileging its oppression by the US government while ignoring the oppression of others across the globe by other governments, such as the Russian government.

Ron Paul is a textbook White Libertarian.

The biggest issue with the limited perspective of White Libertarianism, however, at least when we’re talking about the role of the Libertarian movement in the US, is that most fairly affluent white people (like me!) only deal with the government maybe twice a year - once when we file our taxes and once when we go to the DMV. Some more affluent white people might deal with the government a little more often and experience additional frustrations when doing so - say, when they’re trying to get a permit to renovate their garage, or open a business, or what have you. Some might also deal with the government when they’re dealing with their children in school, though their experiences with government school are generally far more positive than everyone else’s. Occasionally, we might get pulled over for a minor traffic infraction, at which point we can usually count on being treated fairly and professionally, if curtly. This, needless to say, is a markedly different experience from the experience of poor people - especially people of color - in the United States, which, in turn, is an infinitely more positive experience than those on the wrong end of graft-infested governments in Eastern Europe or South America, or governments that openly and blatantly privilege certain tribes in Third World countries.

Which brings me to the following question: What is the role of government workers in the Libertarian movement?

From a White Libertarian perspective, government workers potentially look like natural allies. After all, they get to witness the inefficiency of the government every day of their working lives. They get to watch politicians promise them fat pensions in one hand, then refuse to pay for them in the other. They get to watch politicians decide to remove “waste and fat” by adding various pointless rules and regulations to their jobs, rules and regulations that often cost more to implement than they could ever conceivably save (I wrote a blog post ages ago about this - link in the comments). Plus, a lot of White Libertarians know government workers - government work is a decent professional job, if you can get it, that pays well and has decent benefits. Consequently, if you’re a college-educated White Libertarian, chances are you know more than a few government workers personally and you know that they’re generally decent, hardworking people. So, why not leverage that additional experience and frustration with government inefficiency and harness it to the Libertarian movement?

Because, if you’re not a White Libertarian, government workers are collaborators. They’re the ones in power. They’re the ones bashing down doors at 2 AM killing your grandmother and throwing flashbang grenades in your child’s crib. They’re the ones pulling you over every week for some made up traffic infraction and taking your money. They’re the ones seizing your car using civil asset forfeiture laws. They’re the ones telling you what food you can buy and what neighborhoods you get to live in. They’re the ones threatening to arrest you because you’re walking home from work - which you wouldn’t be doing if they didn’t impound your car - and they don’t like the way you look. They’re the ones bombing hospitals. They’re the ones torturing prisoners. They are the problem. #KillAllStatists #KillAllCops #CopTears #FuckThePolice. What’s their place in the Libertarian movement? Dead, their backs against the wall, with their heads nailed to pikes placed across the street from the nearest police station or City Hall as a warning to others. They are gangsters enforcing their will at the point of their guns. They deserve no quarter or mercy.

Before a Libertarian jumps in - I exaggerate slightly. But only just. Read comments on Cop Block sometime. There’s a reason so many Libertarians are fanatics about the Non-Aggression Principle - it’s because it’s explicitly designed to keep people that think like this from taking over the movement.

Trouble is, when you’re talking about exterminating (or something close to) all government workers, you’re talking about somebody’s friends, neighbors, and family members. Those who know government workers personally - cops, teachers, civil servants, and so on - will not, under any circumstances, allow a group of angry people to seriously harm them. In fact, if you try to sell Libertarianism to them using that sort of language - a language of hate, bitterness, and revenge - they’ll reject it automatically. They’ll radicalize themselves to oppose you if they feel you’re dangerous enough to actually do harm. If you live in, say, North Korea, perhaps that opposition is worth it - perhaps those that work for the government truly are beyond redemption and the only option is violent revolution. If you lived in Rwanda during the genocide in the ‘90s, the solution wasn’t to appease the sensibilities of the murderous Hutu gangs that were rounding up Tutsis - it was to either kill more of them than they killed of your tribe, if you could, or run away as fast as possible if you couldn’t. If you lived in Apartheid South Africa and were on the wrong side of the government imposed social order, the solution was…

Wait, what’s that? Apartheid in South Africa was overthrown more or less peacefully? A couple people got the Nobel Prize for pulling it off? Hmm. I wonder if there’s a lesson there.

This, I think, is one area where White Libertarianism can actually bring some much needed perspective to the movement. We actually know government workers. We eat with them, drink with them, talk with them. We know that, for the most part, they’re people, just like the rest of us, trying to do as good of a job they can with the tools they have. Government teachers usually want our children to learn. Government police usually want our neighborhoods to be safe. We also know that there’s a reason these people follow unjust policies and unjust laws, at least in the United States, and it’s a good one - the laws and procedures they follow, at least *theoretically*, were written and enacted with input from citizens of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. If they start picking and choosing which ones to follow, they’ll probably end up privileging their own experiences and opinions over the experiences and opinions of those that theoretically had their voices heard in the political process. Remember, if we encourage police officers to use their own judgment when deciding which laws to enforce, we don’t get to pick and choose *which* police officers exercise their judgment, nor do we get to pick and choose which way their judgments fall. They might choose to ignore the laws that “unjustly” prevent them from performing police brutality, for example, or might choose to ignore the laws that “unjustly” punish their coworkers when they engage in abusive behavior.

Now, does this mean a kindler, gentler, more inclusive approach toward government workers is the right solution for Libertarianism across the globe? Not at all. I’m not even sure it’s the right approach in all parts of the United States - I think it would work well in Reno (where I live), for example, where our civil servants are fairly professional and have a decent reputation, but would be an utter disaster in places like Ferguson, where the local governments were explicitly created to further the interests of segregationists and small-town tyrants. I think there’s room for both well-meaning civil servants and the Battle of Athens

Personally, I get the impression that White Feminism is trying to drive the same point home among the broader feminist movement. Yes, poorer, less privileged men are almost universally going to be reactionary against the feminist project - after all, when a person doesn’t have any control over their own life but sees an opportunity to control another’s, they’ll frequently take it (this is the path from which petty bureaucrats are formed). However, what several White Feminists are trying to say (and this is the part where my ass potentially does the talking) is that they’re seeing more and more men become open allies of the overall project. They’re seeing men, especially among the more affluent, better educated group, learn the goals of feminism, learn how those goals benefit themselves as well as women, and are consequently signing on to help advance the project. Since a lot of these men are in positions of power and privilege, they’re pretty useful to have as allies - they’re actually in positions to move public policy and the social culture in a more feminist direction. On the other hand, these men are used to being respected, valued, and listened to, and if feminists won’t listen, well… who will? /r/TheRedPill?

On the other, other hand, part of the problem is that there’s a class of men that are, by default, used to being respected, valued, and listened to while everyone else is ignored. 

Of course, they’re the ones with the levers of power to begin with, which is bad…
But some of them are willing to share, which is good!
But they’re not willing to give them up entirely, which is bad...
But they’re willing to listen to feminists while wielding their levers of power, which is good!
But their levers of power contain potassium benzoate…
Uhh… am I being detained? Am I free to go?

So, to wrap things up, if you’re not a feminist and you see a feminist rant about #NotAllMen, understand that there are very good reasons for that rant. Not all women are privileged enough to live, work, and be surrounded by generally reasonable men, and those women really need to get their voices heard. Additionally, a lot of the more reasonable men are also spoiled, privileged brats that need to sit down and shut up once in awhile and let the people that know what they’re talking about do the talking, something which you’d recognize if you think about the Pointy Haired Bosses in your life (as an IT worker, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve had my job explained to me by someone that doesn’t know how to reboot their computer). If they’re following it up with #killallmen and #maletears, well, there’s probably a pretty good reason for that, much of it probably involves a considerable amount of personal trauma, and if you walked a meter in her shoes, you’d probably feel the same way. If you don’t believe me, ask a convicted felon how they feel about the government. Or ask someone from a country where their government doesn’t even pay lip service to the idea of basing their authority on the consent of the governed. Same idea, oftentimes the same oppressor.

With that, over 2000 words later, I am done. #endrant

Sunday, June 7, 2015

I Had Oatmeal For Breakfast

oatmeal by Nate Steiner is licensed CC BY 2.0.
I had oatmeal for breakfast.

Or did I? Is that all I really had for breakfast? Well, no - there was a pat of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar in my oatmeal, plus I had a large cup of coffee with it. So, I really had a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and butter, plus a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Clearly I must be hiding something. We must dig deeper.

What time did I have breakfast? 11 in the morning? Well, that's not breakfast time - McDonald's stops serving breakfast at 10:30. So, clearly, I didn't have breakfast at all - I had brunch. Therefore, I had oatmeal with brown sugar and butter, plus a cup of coffee for brunch.

Clearly my story is unraveling. What do I have to hide?

Are we even sure I had oatmeal? The box said oatmeal on it, or so I say, but it might not actually contain oatmeal. After all, I could have emptied the contents of the box and refilled it with something else - farina, or barley, or rice, or rye, or some other cereal grain. It might not have even contained a cereal grain at all. Who knows what was really in the box? It could have ground up cricket corpses in there for all we know. Will I let the public examine the contents of the box? Will I let anybody come in, examine my dishes and trash, and confirm that I did indeed eat oatmeal? Will I let anyone examine my plumbing for oatmeal-containing waste? Well, no, that's a rather serious privacy violation right there, and I don't really think that's necessary. It's just a bowl of oatmeal I had for breakfast...

Or is it?

You know what else waits a long time before meals and eats later in the day? Reptiles. Snakes famously eat large meals, then digest them for a week. Snakes don't eat breakfast, lunch and dinner the way we do; neither do other reptiles, since they're cold blooded and don't need as much energy as warm blooded mammals. Isn't it a little suspicious that I don't seem to need as much energy as your average mammal? Isn't it a little suspicious that I overslept through breakfast and don't have as high of a metabolism as your average human? Isn't it a little suspicious that I've never openly denied being a Reptilian? I've lied about everything else - what I had for breakfast, or whether I even had breakfast or not. I've been evasive about everything else - I won't let anyone verify my claims about my so-called "breakfast" independently.

What do I have to hide?

What? I'm just asking questions.

The truth is, I really did have oatmeal for breakfast, at least in the conversational sense of talking about "oatmeal" and "breakfast". Trouble is, any moment in time is like an irrational number - if you examine any moment far enough, you get steadily increasing levels of precision without end. It's physically impossible to know "the full story" about anything because any story in any measurable moment in time is infinitely deep and infinitely wide. Do we look for "the full story" down to the subatomic level? Do we examine "the full story" in a cosmic sense? Do we even possess the ability to measure "the full story" in either extreme, or in any other extreme we can possibly conceive of? Of course not. All we can do is establish that any story is "true" up to a certain level of resolution, then decide which level of resolution we need to look at. Sometimes, it makes sense to decide that "π = 3.14", like if you're trying to calculate the area of a circle on a cocktail napkin at a bar to impress someone. Other times, it makes sense to dig deeper and declare that "π = 3.141592654", like if we're building a bridge and need "exact" measurements of load, stress, and dimension.

What we can't do - what we must never do - is decide that, since π does not, in fact, equal 3.141592654 - since, if we dig deeper, it actually equals 3.1415926539 - then "the story of π" must be all wrong and π actually equals 2 or 5. No amount of digging and analysis changes the simple fact that π equals "roughly 3", or "roughly 3.1", or "roughly 3.14", or so on. Proving that the 4 in the billionth's place is "secretly" a 3 because the number in the ten-billionth's place is a 9 does not destroy the truth of π or the truth of the values of the more significant digits, nor does it prove that there's a conspiracy to hide "the real value of π" from anyone. Similarly, proving that I didn't have plain oatmeal doesn't disprove that I had oatmeal - it just means you discovered a less significant digit in the story of my breakfast. Whether that particular piece of data is still important when looking at the story of my breakfast is subjective - sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. It might be significant if I was talking to my doctor about my diet and the doctor told me to cut sugar and fat out. It's probably less significant if someone asked me what I had to eat for breakfast to get a good idea of how hungry I'll be when it's time for lunch; on the other hand, the fact that I had breakfast at 11 might be worth mentioning, or it might not be if I didn't have much oatmeal because I knew I'd be eating lunch a couple hours later. Either way, no amount of questioning or investigation will empty my stomach, turn me into a reptile, or make the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter 5.

It can't be done. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Stupid PowerShell Tricks: Launching an Elevated CMD Prompt from CMD

A non-elevated prompt creating an elevated prompt
One of the minor annoyances of working in a Windows environment is that, though RunAs is a closer approximation of sudo than it ever was back in the days of Windows XP, it still won't give you UAC-accepted Administrator access (i.e. the Windows equivalent of "root").

PowerShell, on the other hand, labors under no such restrictions, thanks to the Start-Process cmdlet.

As luck would have it, Start-Process includes a -Verb argument, which accepts the following:

File type Verbs 
--------- ------- 
.cmd------Edit, Open, Print, Runas 
.exe------Open, RunAs 
.txt------Open, Print, PrintTo 
.wav------Open, Play

If you feed it the Runas flag, PowerShell will dutifully run whatever process you feed it with an administrative prompt. Consequently, if you feed powershell.exe the following within CMD:

powershell.exe -Command "Start-Process cmd.exe -Verb RunAs"

You'll end up with an administrative CMD prompt.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Libertarian Buffet

meatloaf by karen H. nickname.{ pooh} is licensed CC BY 2.0
Let's start at the beginning: I love a good metaphor. Or analogy. Or simile. Call it whatever you want, I don't really care. A couple weeks ago, I ran across a really good one, courtesy of Don Boudreaux - suppose you were a restaurant owner who was tasked with selling a single dish to over 100 million people. Which dish would you choose? Mexican? Cajun? Too spicy. Sushi? Too exotic. Lamb? Too gamy.
You go down a long list.  Eventually, you settle upon something that is unquestionably bland and common and uninspiring – something like a plain hamburger, or perhaps a dish of mild meatloaf with mashed potatoes topped only with butter.  Anything more exotic than such offerings will, while being much preferred by a few million of the people whose patronage you’re trying to win, will be rejected by a majority of the people.  Your rival, of course, faces the same incentives..
This same dynamic, he goes on to explain, is why presidential candidates are so utterly boring and insipid. The goal isn't to become beloved, since that's virtually impossible - it's to be less intrinsically offensive than the other candidate.

Though this is certainly accurate, it's also profoundly depressing.

Now, it's no big secret that I'm a rather serious fan of a bit more variety in our political diet. Speaking as a card-carrying Libertarian (seriously, the national LP will send you a card if you become a member - it's quite handy for scraping ice off a windshield if you break your ice scraper), I view Libertarians as a group of people that see a menu with two entrees - a plain hamburger and a mild meatloaf with mashed potatoes topped with butter - as a moral affront upon our political culinary senses. So, we set about to create a new restaurant, one that won't even try to sell dishes to 100 million people, but will instead focus on bringing new and novel tastes to the political public. We'd get the dishes out by creating a political potluck, where each person would be free to bring whatever dish they want, just so long as they respect the right of those around them to also bring separate dishes to the potluck. Want to try support for gay marriage in the '70s? Yeah, we can do that. Legalized prostitution? No problem. Bitcoins as campaign contributions? Done and done.

The trouble with the potluck model of political restauranteuring, however, is that some people just aren't very good cooks. Some people, in fact, are the political equivalent of Typhoid Mary and are in every bit as deep of denial about their poisonous nature as she ever was. The mainstream parties do a decent job of keeping those cooks out of the kitchen; sure, a bad apple sneaks in every now and then, but they usually get plucked out once they start acting like a political sous-chef. At the Libertarian Party Buffet, however, all dishes are theoretically welcome. So, some people bring plates full of live worms and insist they're actually hamburger. Some people bring a plate of raw ground beef - it's "purer" than a cooked meatloaf or hamburger, you see. Some people show up with edible underpants and a bowl full of flavored condoms. Some people scrape some fuzzy mold off of some beans and hard tack they left in the root cellar "back in the day", warm it back up, and bring it to the buffet. Still others show up with a tin full of "special brownies". Occasionally, someone shows up with a plain hamburger made with grass-fed beef instead of the usual cheap corn-fed beef (see, it's different!), which rather misses the point of the buffet. Still others show up with a plate of ghost peppers and a bowl of Insanity Sauce to dip them in. Then there are the ones that show up with a bunch of fried chicken, watermelon, and purple-colored water because they think it'll appeal to "those people". Or the people that try to serve a bunch of "chemical-free non-GMO organic halal kosher pink Himalayan salt". Or - and these are my personal favorite - the people who bring a bunch of pretentiously plated food for people to "look at" - God help you if you actually attempt to "defile" the "art" with your hunger.*

What's the problem with that? Well, some people are showing up to the buffet with some really neat and incredible dishes. There's some excellent fusion food getting cooked up here lately, along with some excellent traditional dishes. Trouble is, can you run a restaurant where nine out of ten dishes on the menu are fantastic - better than anything else offered anywhere else, in fact - but that tenth dish makes everyone who tries it violently ill? How long will it take until some unfortunate person tries "Chef's Special #10", or just happens to be downwind of the kitchen while it's cooking?

So, what's the solution? Do we kick the bad chefs out of the kitchen? To be fair, we could. It would fly in the face of the Libertarian Party Restaurant ethos, and who knows, maybe one of the dishes being "vetted" out of the restaurant might be really, really good, but we could. How would we do that? Who would be in charge of the "vetting" process?

Alternatively, we can rely on public shaming, which seems to be the default solution for now. Shout out from the rooftops that, hey, "Chef's Special #10" is horrible, no good, and probably dangerous. Tell everyone and their mother that Specials 1-9 are way better. Scream at the chef that keeps bringing in that toxic waste in that ancient avocado-colored crock pot to stop coming here, damn it. Make it clear that we don't want to be known as "that restaurant that serves worms and 'organic' Himalayan sea salt and moldy beans" - we want to be known as the restaurant with lots of really tasty dishes, so many that everybody can find something they enjoy.

Will it work? I don't know, but I'm excited to find out.

* This list of dishes wasn't pulled completely out of my waste orifice - enjoy TLR's Here Are The Top 10 Worst Kinds Of Libertarians.