You are not a pyromancer; you are a caveman with a torch

I have one message that I want to get across to people (especially myself) and if I have to do it through parable (not in this post, but sometime later), so be it – you are not a pyromancer, using your will to move the fire elemental and shape the world. You are a caveman with a torch. When we (whatever we is supposed to mean) bind together, we become like a larger, more schizophrenic and more clumsy caveman with a yet bigger torch.

You are never presented with two options – outcome A or outcome B. You are only ever presented with actions that you are aware of. You have an outcome in mind but an action or set of actions intended to acquire a given outcome shall never be conflated with said. Opposition to the actions should not be confused with opposition to the outcome and vice versa. And it is not just those who refuse to apply what science has to say who are unscientific; the worst offenders are those who ascribe the wrong degree of certainty to facts and act accordingly.

These things are, of course, so obvious one must wonder why I wasted my time writing this post and threatening to pound the point in further later. However, as obvious as these things are to most people most of the time, they are forgotten, perhaps willfully, by upper management and in political discussions.

…pseudointellectual rant to be continued

“The Teriyaki Effect”

From the jlist blog:

It’s an odd fact about Japan that teriyaki is not that common inside Japan, though the flavoring is used on certain foods like yakitori chicken on a stick without the teriyaki name. It’s similar to the way French demi-glace sauce is extremely famous in Japan as one of the basic flavorings of Western cooking, yet it’s not nearly as common in France proper. Perhaps we should label this strange phenomenon of foods becoming more famous outside their home countries, “the Teriyaki Effect.”

I concur. Let us use that word. I’ll also add that there’s a related phenomenon. People like things from X nation that are extremely, stereo-typically (based on their possibly incorrect stereotypes) X-like. My wife jokes with her other Asian friends about how Asians who are found to be attractive by Americans (欧米人にもてる)are the ones with extremely slanty eyes. Americans like hot dogs and they like pizza, but you really have to go to Japan to find pizza with hot dogs in the crust. Sushi, thought of as very Japanese, is rather popular in America, but dishes that would be closer to the expectations of the American palate such as omelet rice (オムライス) and Hayashi rice aren’t. Let’s call this the Lucy Liu effect.

On International Pressure on Japan’s Child Pornography Laws and Thought Crime

Here’s a post I expect to be quartered or crucified for writing. So be it.

Japan has always had more lax child pornography laws than much of the Western world. Mere possession is not a crime; only creation is. Also, unlike America, but like some Western countries (including Australia, I believe), virtual child pornography is perfectly legal. Here we have a case where two very important goals, the safety of children and the freedoms of expression, come into direct conflict. The problem, however, is since it’s just viewed as the right of some scoundrels, I fear that Japan will follow the unfortunate model of the West and give no weight to the latter. In the wise words of H.L. Menken:

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.

We’ll, if we value liberty, here is a class of scoundrels we must defend – pedophiles. No, there’s no need to defend monsters who prey on children; to call them pedophiles is to trivialize what they are. No, we need to defend people who, due to whatever developmental or other abnormality, are attracted to prepubescence and only want visual materials to go along with their abnormal fantasies. For that matter, also normal males who are attracted to 16-year olds and want visuals to go with their perfectly normal fantasies*.

I don’t know the details yet because the diet hasn’t come to an agreement yet, but I hope that they don’t make virtual child pornography illegal. This is important. We cannot allow “don’t even think about it” laws to exist and crush them where they already do. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I would also say being human means you can have a thought and not act on it. People believe it is okay to make exceptions to fundamental freedoms if it is only creeps who misuse it, but they are making two big, fatal mistakes.

Firstly, there is the belief that the only consequences of a law are from the enacting of the law itself. In fact, a law begets other, similar laws – precedence – and once nations are allowed to make thoughts crimes (like religions do), it is a slippery slope to tyranny. You can’t neatly divide “bad” from “good”. If you think it’s possible to only stop “bad” uses of free speech, etc., then I challenge you to find a weed killer that doesn’t kill pretty weeds. Note the quagmire Europeans have gotten themselves into by thinking its appropriate to regulate speech just because it’s anti-Semitic. Now the Islamofascists have them morally by the balls when they demand censorship against speech they find offensive (e.g., depictions of Mohamed). We must attack this mentality and expose it for what it is.

Secondly, there is the mistaken belief that curtailing freedoms does make us safer in the long run. I won’t trivially reject this, but humor the notion for a second. It may well be in some cases that we are less safe because of freedoms people have. If people can move freely without harassment, ostensibly it will be more difficult to track down and preemptively arrest terrorist. A super-intelligent, benevolent robot controlling the money supply could make us safer financially than if people are free to use their moneys as they please (in extremely hypothetical theory). And yes, it certainly could be that some children are being harmed who wouldn’t be if we could just break into mere users’ computers to track down the peddlers. Think about it for a second. Isn’t this the line of reasoning that oppressive regimes use? People sponsor their own captors because they genuinely believe they are being protected from foreign barbarians. It is naïve to think that the ability to criminalize behavior seen as a some sort of precursor to real crime is going to be used for good ends most of the time. Once we’re allowed to arrest people because “he was shady” or “he was thinking about it” we will have successfully retreated hundreds of years worth of advancement in civil liberties.

For the specific case of child pornography, I still wonder what the real reason is we absolutely have to criminalize possession? I think this is cultural imperialism on our part towards Japan. It’s absolutely not necessary. The law could provide for law enforcement to be able to search suspected customers’ computers for the express purpose of finding the peddlers. As it so turns out, criminalizing kiddie porn doesn’t help gather evidence. It actually makes users (and non-users who have a healthy distrust of both the internet and the authorities) paranoid and practice continual deletion of history, cache, etc. The last thing you want to do is create an incentive to destroy evidence! Let people be relaxed, but if they’re suspected of possessing real child porn**, their punishment should be having to endure a search through their personal property as the real criminal is hunted down.

One last note, a diversion into counter-economics – here is also an opportunity for a peaceful black market. Boycott our corporatist economy by making your own 3d child porn and selling it. Please pedophiles without hurting a single hair on a child. Not into kiddie porn? Me neither. Draw a picture of a hot naked chick (or dude, whatever you’re into) and say she’s 17.

* That it’s normal doesn’t make it morally okay to act on them. In our complex, modern world, people remain emotionally children even after physically adult for a while and it’s always wrong to prey on a child even if the person is only a child in the emotional sense. For that matter, it doesn’t make something wrong just because it’s “unnatural” but I digress.

** Don’t get me wrong about people who enjoy kiddie porn. If you enjoy something that someone had to get hurt to make, you’re still a monster. If you are attracted to children, the right thing to do is of course boycott any real kiddie porn and only download virtual (e.g., computer-generated or cartoons). However, even if you are such a monster, I don’t think you should be put in the same category as someone who actually rapes children or creates this grotesque pornography.

People Like to Know in Advance What’s Wrong…

I think advertisers are increasingly realizing that it pays to let people know what they catch of something is or give a reason why they have an incentive to act in your interest. I just saw some cash advance commercial (don’t want to name company to help them advertise) and the guy says “it’s a little expensive, but there’s no credit check and it’s cheaper than XXX.” This is somewhat related to the comment I made in my blog about Avatar – without seeing any major negative aspects of the Navi’s culture, I’m not left thinking “oh, how Idyllic” but rather “oh, there’s something evil lurking.”