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Michael Powell
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Michael Powell

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I have lately seen some very well written rebuttals of the concept of UBI from the liberal perspective, specifically railing against the notion of disbanding the existing social safety net to help pay for it. As written, they sound very convincing, and make UBI sounds like some scary Silicon Valley libertarian conspiracy to do away with the dreaded welfare state, instead of just fixing what's broken.

However, I think this argument is highly flawed. And this is one of the first articles I've seen go by that directly rebuts it.

The UBI is still essential welfare. It's not getting rid of the welfare state. It's reforming it. The existing patchwork of welfare programs are broken, so we need to fix it. And the UBI does that.
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J Berg's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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One assertion I keep seeing (including in the comments of this article) that drives me crazy is the idea that a UBI would cause substantial inflation, and thus mitigate it's own benefits. This seems to be based on the assumption that a UBI is just printing money... Which admittedly HAS been proposed, but the common proposal is to pay for it by cancelling a bunch of existing programs and making income tax more progressive. That proposal would be very slightly inflationary (in that wealth transfer from the rich to the poor tends to increase the velocity of money, which has similar effects to increasing the supply of money), but nowhere near the level required to cancel the benefits.
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Michael Powell

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Last night, I stayed up later than I probably should have binge-watching sense8. It was incredible! I think Netflix may be the best current producer of TV shows.

(The following contains VERY MINOR spoilers. All revealed within the first episode or two. But if you prefer to be surprised even in the beginning, then just take my word for the fact that the series is great and go watch it.)





They start with a fun sci-fi-light concept: What if there were clusters of disparate people from around the world who could share each other's perceptions and skills, forming a sort of loose psychic gestalt?

That's a neat starting point, by itself, but what really makes it a top-notch show is that all of the characters are excellent. There are 8 sensates in the cluster, and all of their stories are amazing, diverse and incredibly human. This includes, just as a quick sampling, a struggling bus driver in Nairobi (with an awesome Jean-Claude Van Damme themed bus), a closeted gay action star in Mexico City, an Indian woman struggling with an impending marriage she isn't sure she wants, and a trans woman in San Francisco (with everything that entails). Most episodes left me in tears at least once.

Also, the actress playing the trans woman is ACTUALLY a trans woman! It's sad that this is literally the very first time I've actually seen that. I guess it took a couple of trans woman in the driver's seat (the Wackowskis) realize why that's important.
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Darius Gabriel Black's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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So I wasn't really thinking about this at the time, but I think they were a bit careless with time zones. Ultimately not that important, but they should not have had Sun and Lito going through their morning routines at the same time.
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Michael Powell

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Google Now is generally pretty amazing. The constant stream of interesting articles it feeds me has been a real boon for my general awareness of what's going on in the world.

Unfortunately, it's system for keeping track of what I'm interested in has some unfortunate quirks. It will decide, based on my Google searches, emails, which articles I actually follow, and other factors, that I'm interested in a thing, and start showing me articles about it. Frequently, this is very accurate, but occasionally it grabs something I'm not actually that interested in. My options at this point are:

1) Continue to let it think I'm interested in that thing, but just skip over those articles.
2) Tell it I'm not interested in that thing, and have it actively prune those articles from my feed.

But usually, neither of these is what I want. Usually this thing is peripherally related to things I'm interested in, so pruning them entirely is not what I want.

For instance, I've been following a lot of election and general politics coverage, so it eventually decided I was interested in both Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell. I'm not actually particularly interested in them, and I don't really want it prioritizing articles about them. But they're still important political figures, so I don't want it to completely prune any articles about them from my feed.

What I want is to revert to neutral interest on these topics. But I can find no way to do this.
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Wendy Lo's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoDonaithnen Keir's profile photo
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+Wendy Lo There was a point where i would have felt guilty about doing news searches on Trump on a regular basis, because of all the articles about how his search impressions were exceeding everyone else's. But at this point his search impressions being so high, meaning more people are hearing about the crazy stuff he's saying, is probably a good thing =P
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Michael Powell

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This is the kind of absolutely brilliant anti-poverty work that never would have occurred to me, or I suspect most people who haven't been in this kind of abject poverty. It's great we can take things like clean laundry for granted, but it's important to be reminded that a lot of people can't, even in the developed world.
Sometimes all kids need are some clean clothes to improve their school attendance.
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Michael Powell's profile photoRenee Powell (LittleRibbit)'s profile photo
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That headline bothered me SO MUCH. I read the article partly to figure out where the editor misread it to come up with such a ludicrous interpretation. It's a great program, and a good article, but bad headlines make me twitch.
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Michael Powell

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Very much this... I've felt the frustration of these abuses of "not all X" from both sides, but never quite found the words, or impetus, to write about it.

Plus, I learned of the "Tin Man fallacy", which has been an active pet peeve of mine for a long time, which I had no good term for.
 
I've got a problem with the "Not All X" snowclone. Both when used earnestly and when used to dismiss someone by pattern-matching them to those who use it earnestly.

Let's start with the earnest use first. Taken literally, "not all X" is a pretty damn weak defense. It calls to mind the old joke about how 90% of lawyers (or politicians, or whatever) give the rest a bad name. If a complaint validly applies to the overwhelming majority of a category, then a certain amount of generalization is forgivable, and the proper response by someone who's a member of the category who feels slighted by a generalized statement would probably be to acknowledge the problem while emphasizing their own status as an exception (and hopefully as an ally against it).

What's usually meant instead by earnest claims of "not all X" is that the targets of the complaint are not representative of Xes as a whole. That the complaint represents an instance of the herring/fish formal fallacy (all herring are fish, but most fish are not herring) or the Tin Man informal fallacy (similar to better-known Straw Man fallacy, with the distinction that a true Straw Man is a figment of the fallacator's imagination, while the Tin Man exists but is an unrepresentative example of the class). And if that's what you mean, say so explicitly. It may be a valid point, depending on the circumstances, and a courteous, well-presented, intellectually-honest case for that point can improve the discussion and help both sides understand each others positions better. Don't annoy people and shoot your own side in the foot by tossing off a sloppy slogan which implicitly concedes that Xes to whom the complaint doesn't apply are rare exceptions.

But be careful when raising the argument that you're actually responding to a problematic misleading generalization and not to an imprecisely-phrased complaint about how some X do a bad thing or have a bad characteristic. Suppose, for example, that 5% of locksmiths were burglars. That would be a very real problem, and responding to "Locksmiths keep picking my deadbolt and stealing my TV" with "Most locksmiths aren't burglars" would be missing the point completely and dismissing a valid complaint about a real problem.

So why do I also object to "not all X" when it's used sarcastically to dismiss people who appear to be raising a "not all X" argument in earnest? Because it gets stretched to apply to people who aren't actually using "not all X", just something with a vague superficial resemblance to it. And because there are some contexts when "not all X", stated thus and stated in earnest, is actually a valid point.

The herring/fish fallacy gets used quite a bit, and the Tin Man fallacy seems to be a mainstay of modern political discourse across the political spectrum. There needs to be a way to complain about these without being automatically dismissed, or there's no point trying to talk to people who disagree with you at all.

Moreover, generalizations about categories of people can be deeply corrosive to respect and basic human decency. If you're complaining about a subset of a category that exhibits a certain bad behavior, being precise about what you're complaining about helps your complaint reach more people (especially members of the broader category who could be effective allies against the bad behavior if you don't turn them against you by implicitly accusing them of that same bad behavior), and it opts you out of contributing to the promulgation of toxic prejudices.

There's also a corner case when "not all X" is itself a valid point. Going back to my locksmith example, a proposal to put all locksmiths under 24/7 police surveillance, or to deport noncitizen locksmiths, or otherwise to subject broad swaths of locksmiths to treatment as likely criminals would be fundamentally unjust. If someone is proposing acting on an unsound generalization in a way that would inflict serious unjust harm on innocent members of the generalized class, it seems appropriate to remind people of the existence of the aforementioned innocent members of the class.

Side note: "Tin Man" is not the standard name for the informal fallacy, but I'm trying to promote it in preference to the more common term "Weak Man", which has misleading connotations. I also made up the word "fallacator" because I needed a word that meant "one who commits a fallacy" but there didn't seem to be one.
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Eric Rall's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoEmber Leo's profile photo
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Trolls may not be as occasional in the environments I frequent as they are in yours, but I suppose I'm also thinking in terms of... sincere to the topic vs. an earnest derail because the topic makes them too uncomfortable to confront.

Just because derailing tactics are often done for sincere reasons, emotionally, doesn't mean they aren't derails, and that's essentially the core problem with "Not all X"
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Michael Powell

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Woo! Overwatch finally has a way to easily record and share your Play of the Games!

... To Facebook only? Seriously? Way to guarantee I'll never use that feature.
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Michael Powell

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I am without Internet until at least Wednesday. For a whole week. I am not amused.

So the place I recently moved in to is within range of Sonic.net. Yay! So I don't have to deal with Comcast or (directly) ATT, but instead with a company with real, proper customer service.

Of course, Sonic.net is still technically going through ATT. They use ATT's infrastructure, but handle most of the setup and customer service themselves.

So I ordered Internet from Sonic, and then contacted ATT to have them send out a tech to connect things up. My modem arrived the same day the tech did his work. I was told, by Sonic, that the ATT tech indicated a Sonic tech would need to come out and finish the setup, but when I plugged in my modem it all worked, so I figured I was fine.

But a few days in, I noticed my speed was significantly less than what I was paying for. I contacted Sonic, and their CS rep did some quick tests and saw that while I had ordered a dual line, only one of the lines was actually running. They'd need to send out a Sonic tech to hook up the second line. This is clearly what the ATT tech had been talking about. They offered to prorate me for the time I spent with only half of my Internet connection operating, so I figured it's all good.

Yesterday is when the Sonic tech came by. He did some investigation, and found that the ATT tech had not actually installed the necessary circuit to bind the two lines. So they called ATT, and ATT sent a tech over very soon after to install the circuit. Then the Sonic tech came back (he had already finished his rounds and gone home, so I'm very grateful to him).

I knew he was back, unfortunately, when my Internet went down entirely. When I went out and asked him about it, I found that he'd hooked up the second line, and doing so had crashed the first line. He spent the next 3 hours or so working on this, first trying to get both lines working, and eventually just trying to get it back to the state where one of the lines worked. No luck. As best he can tell, the circuit ATT put there is just broken.

Talking with him later, I also found out that when the ATT tech came by, he said that the circuit was already there. When the Sonic tech came back, he found that, indeed, there was a circuit there NOW, but definitely hadn't been before.

He determined that they really needed a cross-vendor meeting, where they get a tech from both ATT and Sonic out there at the same time. And I needed to be there for that, because they may need to access my apartment, so it'll be another day working from home. Tethering my phone for Internet, because I can't do my job without Internet access.

Unfortunately, it turns out ATT can't get a tech out there again until Wednesday.

So I am severely displeased with ATT. I'm glad to have Sonic in the middle, so I can deal directly with somebody more reasonable, but it seems I'm still subject to much of ATT's idiocy.
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Wendy Lo's profile photoMark Bruce's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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+Mark Bruce I do. And unlimited data. It's slower than I'd like, but it's alright as long as I'm not streaming video.
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Michael Powell

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I bought a copy of Mansions of Madness a few years ago, as one of the sort of big, epic, complicated, highly strategic, very thematic Fantasy Flight games I love. It was well reviewed, and looked great.

And I just found out Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition just came out. And it's got a companion mobile app, and it looks amazing. And I still haven't played the 1st Edition copy I have, so there's no way I can justify buying the 2nd Edition. Augh!
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Tristan Smith's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoPunning Pundit's profile photo
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There's a conversion kit on the way. No idea how well it will meet your needs, but...
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Michael Powell

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New vocabulary: Backpfeifengesicht

Technically a German word, but there's no English equivalent, so I'll stick with it. It means, roughly, "a face in need of a fist" or "a face that begs to be slapped".

I suppose in English a good synonym might be "trump".
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Kenton Varda's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoBoris Borcic's profile photo
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tête à claques
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Michael Powell

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He may lack current first lady Michelle Obama’s upper arm strength, but he makes up for it with a nice head of hair.
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Michael Powell

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On Brexit, and the Value of the EU

The EU over the past decade has been pretty fucked up. They've imposed problematic austerity measures on many member states, most notably Greece, that have completely failed to solve anything, and in fact generally made matters much worse. Many of their trade agreements are questionable, increasing income disparity and causing all sorts of problems.

The Brexit vote could have been about that, and there WERE a minority of people in Britain who tried to make it about that. But for most, that wasn't the point. The best thing about the EU is its open border policy, allowing all the peoples of all the many and varied European countries to travel freely, and THIS is what Brexit was really against, for most of it's supporters. It was about racist, nationalist, anti-immigrant sentiments. And it's doing immeasurable harm to Britain.

The problem is that I keep seeing people hold the two in direct opposition such that to hate one is to support the other. "The EU is terrible" is greeted with "Stop supporting Brexit!" And "Brexit is horrid" is greeted with "But the EU is terrible!" Just because the EU and the Brexit movement are opposed to each other doesn't mean that it's a battle of good vs. evil, where one is heroic and the other monstrous.

So the EU is rather problematic (though it has it's good points). And Brexit is just completely horrid.

These two opinions are not in opposition.
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Michael Powell

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Well this is a fascinating development. A more unified Africa is likely to become more stable and prosperous. I look forward to seeing how the African Union continues to develop over the next few decades. Hopefully it ends up stronger than the EU has proven to be.
The African Union is pursuing a path of closer integration through the launch of a common passport that will grant visa-free access to all 54 member states.
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