23 July 2015

Or... maybe its neither

I am not really sure exactly what to think or feel about the fact that within the span of a couple months I can be accused of being both a libertarian and a communist.
By different people, of course.
But on the same general topics, and with my stance staying consistent.

As far as I can tell, the reasoning goes something like this:

"This guy [me] doesn't agree with my viewpoint, therefor he must hold the views of those other people".

In discussions I am regularly told, after stating my beliefs and understandings, something along the lines of "I bet you think ___________, too".
Well, no, I told you exactly what I think.
That other part you just made up.

That is always a pretty good sign that the statements the other person is making aren't even really their own.  They are things that person heard, and agreed with, and now they are repeating them.  Possibly in their own words, but unoriginal none-the-less.  It means they have subscribed to an ideology.
There is no "right" ideology.  There is no good ideology.  By very definition, one must accept an entire ideology as is, which intrinsically means not questioning anything.  It is exactly like a religion: all of your beliefs are handed to you, externally.
It is anti-scientific, and it is intended to be.

07 May 2015

OUTRAGE! (is to the left as fear is to the right)

I've heard it repeated a few times from different sources recently how people who tend to lean politically "right" frequently have a slightly larger amygdala, which controls the basic fear response.  As a result - so the theory goes - they are more easily frightened, and this leads to a desire to take the safe option in all questions; generally we think the option with the least unknowns is "safest", and so those more prone to fear are more likely to stick with things that are tried and true - in other words, to be "conservative".

Proponents of this theory - the scientists who noticed the trend in the first place, certainly, but much more so activists and armchair politicians - will point out the fear-mongering used by conservative political leaders and media.  Crime!  Terrorists!  Illegal immigrants!  Communists!

And since I've heard it, sure enough, I do notice just such a trend in media and speeches geared toward conservatives.

But then, since I was looking at news reports with the kind of eye you use to catch marketing psychology in advertisements, I started paying attention to what media geared toward liberals always tends to have in common.

Its outrage.

06 May 2015

On an objective basis for right and wrong

Many years ago I got into a conversation with someone about ethics outside a Buddhist temple.

They were of the position that, without an external authority to dictate right and wrong - i.e. without Commandments from God - there was no possible way for ethics to have any meaning.

This is an argument I've heard elsewhere, but until then it was only from true believers in one of the big religions (but mostly just Christians).
Of course, if the reason a person does or refrains from doing something is because of the threat of punishment or promise of reward (whether that be in the form of heaven and hell, karma, or 72 virgins), then the ultimate motive is selfish.  If you believe in an ultimate judge or that everything somehow balances itself out, then no action is taken purely because it is the right thing to do.  Moral absolutism, then, is itself actually a-ethical.

This instance struck me because it came from an atheist.  I started to explain the objective basis for ethics which I am about to explain here, but this person interrupted to say that they had explored the debate thoroughly in philosophy class a few years before and they were 100% confident that there simply was no possible alternate conclusion, and so it was pointless to even listen to any response.

So of course I wrote that person off entirely - but the statement did provide me a new insight.

05 May 2015

I don't think in terms of "us vs them" - it's those other people who do that (Part II - real life)

In the Star Wars universe, it is understood that the Jedi are the good guys and the Sith are all evil.
Yet, when you look at their actual behavior, the differences are few, while the parallels are many.  The Jedi act on their own behalf, outside of the government they are supposed to serve, in blatant disregard for democracy, going so far as to internally authorize military and political executions - even the democratically elected head-of-state.


Here in the real world, Bill Maher outspokenly calls out Islam, saying in a recent interview:
"The vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But here’s the point people don’t bring up: They’re not terrorists, but they share some very bad ideas with terrorists, and bad ideas lead to bad behavior. You couldn’t put the Muslim equivalent of The Book of Mormon on Broadway. You can’t write a book like The Satanic Verses without millions going jihadi on you. You couldn’t have an art exhibit like Piss Christ, which made Giuliani mad in the 1990s. Hundreds of millions of Muslims believe that if you leave the religion you should get killed for that. Try walking down the street in Muslim areas—even in more tolerant places like Amman, Jordan—wearing shorty shorts or a T-shirt that says HEY, I AM GAY. That shit is not going to fly, not at all."

Elsewhere, in the very same magazine that published those words, it is mentioned in passing that in 1988 Christian fundamentalists fire-bombed a public movie theater for showing the movie "The Last Temptation of Christ".
1988 is hardly going back to the time of the Crusades or the Inquisition, it is within this current generation.  The majority of people alive today were alive in 1988.  There have been plenty of other terrorist attacks right here in the US by Christians and far right Conservatives, from 7 murders of doctors and staff of clinics that provided abortions in the 1990s to the Oklahoma City bombing.

The more "other" a particular group is, the easier it is to call them out.

04 May 2015

Us VS Them (Part I, the Star Wars analogy)

"There are heroes on both sides. Evil is everywhere. "

So says the opening crawl of Star Wars Episode III (Revenge of the Sith)

Yet this message gets lost and forgotten as soon as it is off the screen.
As a viewer of any of the Star Wars movies, it goes without saying that the Jedi represent Good, and those who practice the "Dark" side of the force are Evil.
The Jedi and their allies say as much explicitly, at every opportunity.

Paying slightly more attention to the politics behind the action, though, it appears the reality is much more complicated than that.

In this Universe, roughly 50 thousand planets have agreed to a broad alliance, the Galactic Republic, roughly equivalent to the UN - each member state retains some degree of autonomy, and each sends its own representative to be a part of the Senate.The Senate is headed up by a Chancellor who gets elected by the Senate.  Each planet's government picks their Senator - if the planet happens to be a democracy, the inhabitants may vote on the senator, but if the planetary government is a monarchy, then it may unilaterally decide who will be the planets representative.  
The roughly 50 thousand planets are divided into groups of 50 (called sectors), with the senate floor consisting of 1000 chairs - some of which are taken by representatives of extra-planetary organizations such as trade federations.
That leaves one not-necessarily-democratically-elected individual to represent on average more than 50 entire planets.

(Much like the US), although they preach Democratic values consistently, the Republic makes no particular effort to practice them in actuality.

The Jedi were originally meant to be a security force that answered to the senate and the Chancellor (much like the CIA answers to the president).  They protected the Republic government (like the secret service), and enforced senate decrees (like Federal police), since the Republic did not originally have any military force of its own.  They were also considered a "moral authority", making them in some ways akin to Mutaween, the religious police that enforce Sharia law in some Islamic nations.  

01 May 2015

No One Ever Claimed Black Lives Don't Matter

That is what is called in logic and rhetoric a "straw man argument".

First you build a straw man (an argument that nobody was making in the first place), and then you knock it over (by making a reasonable and logical argument against it).

It is very easy to knock over a straw man - because he is made of straw, there is no resistance.

But then the logical fallacy comes in: you then jump from that made-up argument to your actual belief, one which is on the same subject, but which is not directly relevant to the argument you just made.  You state your conclusion as though what you just said proves your conclusion, and imply that unless someone can prop up the straw man, they have to accept your conclusion as well.

They can be very effective - especially when the topic is a highly emotionally changed one - which is demonstrated by these real life examples:

"In a 1977 appeal of a U.S. bank robbery conviction, a prosecuting attorney said in his closing argument[11]I submit to you that if you can't take this evidence and find these defendants guilty on this evidence then we might as well open all the banks and say, "Come on and get the money, boys", because we'll never be able to convict them.
This was a straw man designed to alarm the appeal judges; the idea that the precedent set by one case would literally make it impossible to convict any bank robbers is remote.
An example often given of a straw man is US President Richard Nixon's 1952 "Checkers speech".[12][13] When campaigning for vice president in 1952, Nixon was accused of having illegally appropriated $18,000 in campaign funds for his personal use. In a televised response, instead of addressing the funds, he spoke about another gift, a dog he had been given by a supporter:[12][13]It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, six years old, named it Checkers. And, you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that, regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.This was a straw man response; his critics had never criticized the dog as a gift or suggested he return it. This argument was successful at distracting people from the funds, and portraying his critics as nitpicking and heartless. Nixon received an outpouring of public support, remained on the ticket, and was elected by a landslide."

I've been trying to let this go - its not like ranting really changes anything - but it keeps showing up everywhere.  I can ignore most media, but its on my local online groups, in the windows of cars and houses, it even comes up in conversations in real life.

This entire movement bugs the hell out of me.

Black men are murdered by civilians 50 times as much as killed by police officers.
Of those murders, other Black people are the perpetrator in 90%.
None of the activists had anything to say about that.

Blacks have a significantly higher death rate due to heart disease and diabetes. Ads and stores target Black communities with cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food.
No protests. No outrage.

So it isn't really about Black lives mattering. When a Black person gets shot and killed by a gang member or drug dealer - even when its an innocent person caught in the cross fire, nobody cares. Including all the people rallying and chanting over the supposed police violence.

30 April 2015

Nudity - the Default State

There's a special type of pedal used by serious bicycle riders which has a locking mechanism that attaches to a special metal cleat on bicycle shoes, which snaps the foot and pedal together, allowing for more efficient pedaling and more control.

The old fashioned way was to have a tiny metal cage called a "clip", with a cloth strap around it, which you would slide your foot into.  Some commuters still use these, but basically all racers and serious amateurs have gone to the new system.

Since the new system no longer has the metal bracket - the  "clip" - sticking out of the pedal, the new system was initially called "clipless".
The name stuck and caught on, and now, even though a young rider starting out today would find the interlocking-pedal-and-shoe-system the standard default, cyclists still refer to them as "clipless" pedals.

I was thinking about how odd it is that we would designate something's identity in the negative like this.  In other words, a "clipless" pedal is defined by what it isn't.
Which is odd, especially now that the new system is the standard.

Defining something as ______-less implies that whatever it isn't is the default.

I tried to come up with other things which we define by what they aren't, and couldn't think of much.  There used to be "horseless carriage", which is what automobiles used to be called, but today we have long since dropped the connection to horses, and even shortened "carriage" down to just "car".

Looking it up (powerless nameless worthless purposeless doubtless flawless motionless regardless endless fearless homeless reckless restless spotless useless) the majority of them refer to intangible states - mostly states of mind, or otherwise determined subjectively. None of them refers to a concrete, definite, observable state of being, the way a pedal either has a clip on it or it doesn't, a carriage is either pulled by a horse or not.
And they are all terms in which the opposite would indeed be reasonably considered the default state.

But then I eventually thought of one other common word which is defined by what it isn't - it had alluded me because it has become the de facto assumed "default" state to such an extent that the term doesn't even have the suffix -less in it at all.

You can probably guess, given the blog post title...

Or naked.

What those terms actually mean is "clothes-less".
They are defined by not having some form of cloth wrapped around the body.

We've all grown up in the modern world, so we take it for granted, but if you think about it, this is kind of strange.

29 April 2015

If It Had Happened That Way Instead...

I think this might be backfire effect - actually writing down the words that I'm trying to let stuff go that doesn't affect me directly and that no amount of talking or writing is ever going to change has just had the effect of making me hyper-aware of people's biases and prejudices, misconceptions and irrationalities.

Partially rebound, also partially several conversations I've had lately, starting to pile up in the head.

If writing purges them, no harm in that, right?

One place I see an equivalent logical fallacy (to that which I'll get to after this introduction) that isn't evidence but serves as further "proof" to someone who has already decided the answer, is the debate over the efficacy of bicycle helmets.

A lot of people assume that its a given - how could an extra layer of protection not make you safer?
Of course, mistaken assumptions about complicated physics problems often seem obvious, (for example, that heavy vehicles are safer than lighter vehicles: both the physics AND the statistics show this is false)
Hell, it's intuitively "obvious" that heavy objects fall faster than light objects, and the entire human population accepted this without question for thousands of years, until the world's first scientist (Galileo) came along and actually tried it and discovered everyone was wrong.

08 April 2015

Megan's Law and The Sex Offender Registry (is a seriously flawed system)

Any sexual contact with a minor is automatically classified as "abuse"

23% of "child sexual abuse" is "perpetrated" by another minor.
Of those, 80% were NOT "forcible" rape.  In other words, it is considered "rape" only because the "victim" is a minor.
In other words, any two children exploring their bodies, playing doctor, or "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", even if everything was entirely consensual, and both were the same age, for purposes of crime statistics, both children "abused" each other, and they are legally both sex offenders. If caught, they can end up on the list.  Sometimes for life.
"Teenagers and even young children who engage in certain sex-based conduct may find themselves subject to sex offender registration, community notification, and residency restriction laws. Some children are on registries because they committed serious sex offenses, such as forcibly raping a much younger child. Other children are labeled sex offenders for such non-coercive or nonviolent and age-appropriate activities as "playing doctor," youthful pranks such as exposing one's buttocks, and non-coercive teen sex." http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/us0907/7.htm

The registry also currently includes "Internet crimes", in which there is not even a possibility of any physical contact.  All any "victim" would have to do, if they felt uncomfortable, is log off.

Which means that when ever you see some seemingly scary high number of how many children are "victims" of "childhood sexual abuse", that number is ridiculously inflated with things which aren't actually abuse, to the point where the numbers are meaningless.  This is similar to the recent redefinition of "rape" to include any sexual activity that takes place after entirely voluntary self-intoxication.  Have you ever had one too many glasses of wine with dinner, or stayed at the bar just a little too long before going home, and then had completely consensual sex with your partner?  Nope! Because according to the law in most states, the fact that you were intoxicated automatically makes it non-consensual.  You were actually raped, and your partner is a rapist.  Which, incidentally, means your partner, too, "deserves" to be on the registry.

55% of all Americans have sex by age 17.  Legally that means that more than half of all Americans, male and female, were "raped".  23% have sex (consensual) by age 14. When various crime statistics come out, almost never do they make a distinction between "forcible" and "statutory" rape.  They are treated as interchangeable.

29 March 2015

Hospital Births - A Distinctly First World "Problem"; (Slightly) Less Crazy Than The Anti-Vaccine Movement...

One of, if not the primary argument of proponents of home birth is that the process of giving birth is a natural process, one that the female human body was literally designed to do, and therefore barring the occasional special complication, there is no reason to treat it like a medical emergency or disease.

And superficially - especially looked at from our current generation's time - that seems to be a pretty reasonable argument.

There's just one big glaring hole in that argument: prior to modern medical interventions, giving bilth was the single most likely thing to kill a woman of child bearing age.  In the 1850s, those with no access to even the rudimentary level of medical care (i.e. slaves) had a 20% chance of neonatal mortality.
In other words, the "natural" process of birth killed 1 out of 5 humans who attempted it.
"In the 1850s, the infant mortality rate in the United States was estimated at ... 340.0 per 1,000 for African Americans"

In addition, another 1.5% of mothers die from the process with no medical intervention.

"Bearing a child is still one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. It’s the sixth most common cause of death among women age 20 to 34 in the United States.""In the United States today, about 15 women die in pregnancy or childbirth per 100,000 live births. That’s way too many, but a century ago it was more than 600 women per 100,000 births. In the 1600s and 1700s, the death rate was twice that: By some estimates, between 1 and 1.5 percent of women giving birth died."

That makes it a medical emergency.

26 March 2015

Reading list to assist in understanding everything about everything

While I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who think I'm an idiot, I think (hope?) its fair to say there are at least a few who find me to have an above average grasp of how the world works.

I don't really think I'm all that much "smarter" than average.
I may have a slightly better than average ability to spot patterns in complex systems.  Side effect of being a touch closer to the Spectrum than your typical NT, I guess.

But part of it, I think, is just that its much more my goal to understand things than for most.

It seems for a lot of people a lot of the reason for adopting particular beliefs is to fit in and be popular.
That, and having those beliefs justify what people would like to be true, which is comforting or justifies something that would otherwise conflict with ethical values.

Since I've never had much interest in large groups of people, I've never had any real use for conformity - including conforming to any non-mainstream sub-cultures.
Beliefs that feed rationalizations to avoid cognitive dissonance?  Well, who knows, maybe I'm as susceptible to that as anyone, I suppose if I were doing it, I wouldn't know, would I?

Anyway, another advantage I've had is just that I've been exposed to some good sources of information that tie it all together.

25 March 2015

Conversations on gender and sex

A collection of 4 emails I wrote to different people within the last year or so.


[Written to my future sister-in-law, after she emailed a link to a Ted Talk on gender by a friend of hers]

...The real problem has nothing at all to do with sex or gender.  The root issue is the expectation of conformity.

If, instead of moving between archetypal roles, we simply reject archetypal roles completely, this entire issue becomes moot.

A transsexual is a person who has (or would like to) actual physical sex reassignment (whether surgery, or just drugs), one who feels that their actual body is wrong.
The term "transgender" doesn't really mean anything - in fact, it confirms and reinforces the idea that gender is actually a valid concept to begin with, when in reality it is a social construct.

Sex -male or female - IS a binary.  Contrary to what lay people commonly believe, sex is not defined by testosterone v estrogen levels, secondary characteristics like beards or breasts, or even genitals.  It isn't even defined by chromosomes, which differ from one specie to another.
The universal characteristic that defines sex among all sexual species (almost every multicellular life form) is the precesnse of either testicals or ovaries.  Males produce sperm, females produce eggs.  This part isn't social.  Its basic biology.
That part isn't "assigned" by culture.  And there is no spectrum - no one, not even "intersex" born people, produces both eggs and sperm, and there is no hybrid or in-between reproductive cell.

People who reject our mainstream system (such as Carly) still talk about gender as though it were a real thing, as though it had some underlying validity.  
Gender - masculine or feminine - is no more than "that set of characteristics which a particular culture tends to associate with one sex or the other"
Since by definition it is associated with a sex, and sex is binary, gender is also binary.

There is no reason for any individual to accept the roles of gender in the first place!
One needn't be a transexual (pre or post op, with or without drugs, in body or purely in desire) or transvestite to reject gender roles!

24 March 2015

Cops are the New Blacks

Go back about 90 years.  And about 350 miles South (from where I am, in N. California).
Slavery has been abolished long enough ago that there has been almost (but not quite) a total generational turn-over; most people alive don't actually remember it, though it was recent enough that everyone is very aware.
Since reparations never actually happened obviously there remains a dramatic disparity along race lines.
Combine poverty, a lack of education in the parent's generation, and unequal public school services for the current generation, and you have not just a wealth gap, but sharp class distinctions.

Whenever there is a sharp disparity of wealth and class, combined with cultural isolation, increased crime is the result.  This isn't a "racial" phenomenon, per say - the same pattern happens within a "race" when the same conditions apply: the "untouchables" (Dalit) of caste system India, the Irish immigrants in mid 1800s America, gypsies of medieval Europe, or the Burakumin of Japan today; people indistinguishable from the main population by appearance, but separate culturally, and substantially poorer.
Predictably crime is higher - driven not only by poverty and desperation, but also by a mutual feeling of "otherness" relative to the main society which makes it easy to rationalize the harm done to the victims - to start with if the victim comes from the "oppressor" class, but resolving the cognitive dissonance of unethical acts against one group opens the door for setting aside morality altogether.

But here's the thing: In all of these examples, while the average crime rate may be higher among the sub-group than it is in the general population, it is never remotely as high as approaching 50%.  Even at it's very worse, rates stay down in the single digits per 100 population - for example, as excessively high as the Black incarceration rate in the US may be, it is only 1.2% of the Black population.

In other words, the vast majority of the marginalized population are ordinary ethical law-abiding citizens, even despite the prejudice they face.

07 March 2015

Some assistance in freeing your life from the influence of marketers, and using your money to buy freedom instead

Here it is, Bakari's anti-consumer / anti-waste / anti-cog-in-the-capitalist-system resource guide (compilation inspired for Isaak Brown's money management class):

1) Documentary on the history of American consumerism, marketing, and government manipulation of popular emotion.
One of the most significant transitions in modern western history, and most of us have never even heard of the main players who led it!  A lot we take for granted was actually unheard of just 100 years ago. 
This documentary may well serve as more of an AdBlock for the mind as anything possibly could in just an hour:

19 February 2015

On not posting many blogs anymore

At first it was work. Was working as the manager of the building I lived in, along with all my other jobs.
And filling most of my free time with dating.

Then I actually ended up finding her.
Not even somewhere I was looking.  A series of very random and fortunate events.
I'll probably write more on that later.

So she's been getting most of my free time ever since figuring out that that was settled.
But she works full time, and I most certainly don't.

I have had just about as many thoughts, but been much less motivated to take the time and effort to actually write.

I think I may slowly be getting to that final stage.

Maybe there is so little writing from the wisest because they realize how little impact it would have, and so don't bother. (Or at least, that's what I'm going to keep telling myself.)

As the robots say: "all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again".
The more I learn, the more I start to believe that.