Monday, June 25, 2018


Be wary of certainty; one’s degree of inaccuracy is often inversely proportional to their insistence of accuracy. – Theory Parker

I find myself needing to leave social media. The question is not why; it’s a waste of time if you don’t have an undying need for people to like you. If there’s any question about leaving social media, it would be why not? What do any of us get out of social media? Yes, there’s the dopamine boost we get from people ‘liking’ something we post – that undying need again – but this simply amounts to one of the many drugs we could all do without. Among its other uses, social media is used to announce the ongoings of our businesses, which really is just 21st century panhandling. (Worst among this trend is GoFundMe, in which everyone begs for money because somehow their situation is unique and deserving of the rest of us throwing our money at it. On a rare occasion, special circumstances do arise or an actually useful invention come along, but spare me your need to raise money for your classroom.) Perhaps social media gives us a chance to congregate with other like minds, albeit in the most superficial way because really, who has time for an entire phone call, an entire conversation? I know I don’t because I’m too busy working, working all the time, with people, and when I’m done with that I don’t want to deal with more people. This is not to say I don’t like my family and friends; I’m just exhausted. And I’m more exhausted by what I see on the internet. We look at posts from family and friends and it’s never too long before something – some kind of train wreck often political in nature – catches our eye. Noooooo, I often say to myself of some headline before being forced by curiosity, amazement, or (usually) disgust to delve deeper. This cannot be the world we are living in. It just can’t.

The internet is without question one of the worst things to ever happen to mankind. Yes, it has allowed us to connect on an unprecedented level with people far and wide. And yes, it has allowed us access to an unprecedented amount of information. Both of these things is what has kept the world from turning away from the insanity it has always known, instead using the internet to strengthen beliefs and tribal ties. Instead of using the access to information to study different cultures and perhaps change archaic ways of thinking, people dove headfirst into the concrete pool of confirmation bias to strengthen their ties to whatever community it is they consider themselves a part of. The internet gave people access to others of like mind and hence we have been given a world that instead of getting any better* has given new rise to authoritative governments around the globe. Militant Islam would not have nearly as many members as they do now if not for the internet. Vladmir Putin controls the internet and all other media in Russia to keep himself in power. China and North Korea likewise control what can be accessed through the internet. And you simply cannot go on the internet in America without catching a glimpse of the alt-right and the regressive left frothing at you and each other. Even if you somehow avoid that, there is sure to be someone who has something nasty to say about something no matter how innocuous the post.

Given an unfettered path to confirming one’s bias,’ philosophy became roadkill along the way. The last thing you’ll ever read on the internet is someone beginning their post with, “I may be wrong, but…” There is simply no reflection of thought, no self-analysis of ideas or one’s beliefs. Social media has become nothing more than a game of saying how right one thinks they are about whatever bullshit they want to believe. And surely if one uses ALL CAPS to say it, it becomes all the more true. There is simply no reasoning with anyone who uses the internet on a regular basis. Try to think of the last time you actually changed someone’s mind – difficult isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve done it myself since 2010 when I showed a college freshman the data on CFC’s and how it affected the ozone layer, thus convincing him that human activity can have an effect on the environment. This was a rare and exceptional case perhaps because the young man’s mind was open to new ideas. But this is not the case for most people of any age. Entrenched belief is difficult to dislodge because people hate to be wrong; most people see being wrong as a defect instead of a virtue, something to learn from.

Philosopher’s themselves are also to blame for the death of philosophy. Physicist Stephen Hawking declared that philosophy was dead back in 2011, making note that today’s philosophers have not kept up with or have failed to take into account the data emerging from the sciences. And why would they when most philosophers’ views can be ‘confirmed’ by others of similar thinking on the internet? You can search the ‘pros’ of communism with at-the-ready counter-arguments against its detractors within seconds, nevermind any lack of objectivity. Unfortunately philosophers are people, too, and like most people are typically not above confirmation bias. Despite real-world evidence that communism simply doesn’t work in practice, many young idealists still think it can. (Ah, ah, ah –Like every other attempt at communism, China is only communist on paper.)

The failure of philosophers to ‘keep up’ combined with the effect the internet has had on people has given Americans a country hijacked by the regressive left and the alt-reich. You read these people’s comment’s on the internet every day, whose typical comment is usually rife with some false assertion and/or unblinking hypocrisy. False assertions are one thing – we don’t typically have time to fact-check everything – but the hypocrisy is breathtaking. For example, Putin and Russia were basically enemies during President Obama’s tenure but because Trump is friends with Putin, Russia was somehow never our enemy after Trump’s election. Or take Sarah Huckabee Sander’s attack on a business owner for booting her out of a restaurant while agreeing that a bakery had the right to refuse gay people service. But the regressive left is no prize either, who can’t see its own policy of denying anyone with a difference of opinion to speak at college campuses as fascist. You also cannot bring up the atrocities of any other race throughout history as only white people have committed crimes against humanity. Anyone who dares think is either dead or is dying in the middle.

All of this is why I’m a misanthrope. We can’t have discussions anymore, as if we ever could. For fuck sake, female scientists have had a historically rough time being taken seriously even though data should speak for itself. If scientists can’t be rational, what hope is there for everyone else? There is no hope. We’ll die by our own hand having never learned from the Roman Empire even though their collapse was well-documented. And if any philosopher hasn’t given up yet, they will eventually be hunted down and murdered by whichever side ultimately wins the culture war. That is what authoritative regimes do, after all. The U.S. is dealing with two right now that are engaged in an ideological war that will ironical kill nothing but ideas.

Depends on their PR person.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Thoughts on Being Vegetarian

Vegetarianism has been on the rise for some time now, finally taking root in my own household. I am participating, so to speak, but it’s not that I find arguments for this eating lifestyle particularly compelling; I don’t. No, I participate mostly for the sake of supporting those who are enamored by the idea and because I don’t want to make my own dinner all the time. But why aren’t I completely compelled by the arguments for vegetarianism alone? Let’s examine the typical vegetarian’s arguments for abandoning meat in their diet.

To begin with, it’s fair to say that your garden-variety vegetarian finds the idea of farming animals for food repugnant. I can certainly understand this as I am generally against cruelty to any animal that isn’t human. Packing animals in close corners, feeding them something we wouldn’t eat ourselves, pumping them full of hormones, snatching calves from their mothers, wood-chipping chicks if they’re the wrong sex; well, it’s enough to leave a bad taste in any humane person’s mouth. While those of us who occasionally fall off the vegetarian food wagon hope against hope our chicken piccata roamed around happily clueless before being snatched from its bliss like a child in Indonesia, we really know better, and to know better – to know what’s really going on and be okay with it – kinda makes a person an asshole. And we’ve got enough assholes, truth be told.

Fortunately, I don’t find meat all that tasty, or at least not so tasty I couldn’t live without it. After my own father died of a massive heart attack given his meat-saturated diet (though there was the smoking and some drinking, too), I’ve never thought of meat as something I just had to have. And knowing an animal suffered for my culinary enjoyment kind of makes me nauseous when I think about it. Others disagree and their argument is often something like, “Then they (animals) shouldn’t be so damn tasty.” Yes, but if we suddenly discovered how tasty people were, would that suddenly make it okay to eat them? Sometimes this leads to the follow-up argument that God gave human beings dominion over animals (which somehow got translated into “Be shitty to animals”) so it’s all good; the Boss said so. I’m not convinced. It seems like people treat animals the way they’d like to treat other human beings ‘cept that those pesky societal norms stave off their more primitive desires. I’d say thank goodness if treating each other with some dignity weren’t becoming abnormal.

But I digress; I offer my own counter argument to vegetarians here: That eating a plant is equally or even potentially worse than eating an animal. Vegetarians seem content to take life so long as it does not possess a nervous system like most animals do. The reasoning is that if some lifeform is sufficiently close enough to being human, it is cruel to kill and eat that thing. But this is a completely arbitrary distinction. If you’ll notice, many vegetarians are content to include fish in their diet, citing that fish are sufficiently unlike human beings to warrant eating them. Having seen many a fish hooked and pulled out of the water, I’m reasonably sure they feel as much pain as any land animal. So the argument becomes, “I think X is like me (or worse, X is cute), therefore I will not eat it. Y however…” There is no solid delineation for what is sufficiently like a human being to warrant sparing its life and not eating that thing. Who gets to be the authority on such a matter? Arbitrary reasoning is not objective, so the ‘moral’ choice a person makes to become a vegetarian and how far they take it is based solely on subjective reasoning.

It is likewise subjective to assume that plants do not feel pain or suffer from what we do to them. We know that all lifeforms react to the environment around them and what we can pain are sensations the nervous system sends to our brain to tell us harm is taking place. It is therefore reasonable to assume that tearing or uprooting a plant adversely affects a plant and that they don’t somehow sense this. Granted, plants do not have a nervous system like mammals and other animals do, but certainly plants possess a mechanism to react to harm in much the same way they obviously react to positive conditions like sunlight. For all we know, uprooting a plant may make it feel something entirely worse than pain. We don’t know. In not knowing, we should err on the side of caution, not continue on our merry way and say, “Whoops, sorry, we were wrong about you” if we find out plants do feel pain. Then again, that is the tract the United States took in regards to its era of slavery so I guess there is precedent for behaving/eating the way we do.

Ideally then, we really shouldn’t eat anything that may potentially feel pain in our efforts to eat it, if we’re on a quest to claim some moral high ground. Fruits and nuts appear okay to eat then seeing how they are the attempt of plants to procreate and not ‘alive’ in and of themselves or cannot grow unless they’re given the proper circumstances or conditions. In the end, the so-called moral argument given by vegetarians is utterly lost on me; it rings as hollow as a gourd.

This aside, I do believe there are some good arguments to be made in favor of a vegetarian diet. First and foremost is the environmental argument. While a majority of human beings seem to care very little about how poisonous they make their own immediate environment…well, that’s just it. Look, the Romans didn’t know they were poisoning themselves with lead and this was a contributing factor to the fall of their empire. We don’t have that excuse anymore. We know what we’re doing to the environment and the vast majority of us still don’t care. We don’t care that the environment sometimes – maybe often – contributes to cancer yet people ‘race for a cure’ instead of doing the obvious, cleaning up a toxic environment. (I might also mention that people who constantly consume meat have higher rates of cancer than vegetarians.) I know full well that cancer is a horrible, devastating disease but there are steps we can take to minimize our risk to succumbing to it, and taking care of the environment should be chief among those steps. And this is to say nothing of the methane – a particularly nasty greenhouse gas – that is released into the atmosphere due to cattle farming. Shoot, sorry; I forgot rising temperatures aren’t mankind’s fault. (You know mankind can’t take the blame for anything it does to itself.)

As alluded to a few moments ago, there is also much evidence that a vegetarian or meat-restricted diet is healthier and this is a good reason to choose this dietary avenue. This is not to say that being a vegetarian doesn’t take planning, it does. Much of the protein (and to a much lesser degree vitamins, minerals and fats) we get easily from animal products are not readily found in plants, meaning a vegetarian must eat a broader range of plants to meet their essential nutrient needs. Given the downside of consuming so much meat, both for the environment and our health, taking the time to do a little planning couldn’t hurt. Facebook and Twitter will still be there after the ten minutes you’re gone doing some research.

There is sufficiently proper reasons to be a vegetarian but let’s not pretend that the ‘moral’ argument is one of them. Getting into an ‘conversation’ with a carnivore and bringing that argument up is only going to make said carnivore run out to the store and buy a cow’s worth of ground meat. Of course, hard core carnivores don’t care about being healthy either, so perhaps the point is moo-t. Vegetarians; do what’s right for yourself and let time win the battle for you. While you console the meat-eater in your family as they lay dying of cancer, you can say, “I told ya so.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Key to Being A Real Man

The hashtag #metoo trended across social media this past week in an attempt to make men understand how disgusting and rampant their sexual abuse of women is. This sparked an online conversation between a friend of mine and a male associate that went like this:

“Do you know how to hold these?”

Every female reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. Someone who shall remain nameless IM’d me yesterday, asking what is “me too”. I explained to him that women were posting that to their FB pages if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. He was skeptical that many women had “something like that” happen to them.
I asked: When you are walking around town by yourself, how do you hold your keys?
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Not a trick question. When you are walking around by yourself, how do you hold your keys?
Him: They are usually in my pocket.
Me: The next five women you see, ask them that question. They will know exactly what I’m talking about.
[I clarified that he needed to ask the next five women * he actually knows *, not just random women. Didn’t want him to creep anyone out. ]
Me: After they show you how to properly hold your keys, ask if they have ever been sexually harassed or assaulted.
Him: I’m NOT asking anyone that!
Me: Why not?
Him: Seems awfully personal.
Me: How do you expect to learn anything if you are not willing to have an uncomfortable conversation or two? Explain that you are trying to educate yourself on what women face in their lives. Explain that you don’t need details, you are just trying to understand the scope of how many women you know personally who have gone through something like that. It will be an uncomfortable conversation. And, yes, you’re right - maybe save that question only for women you REALLY know well. But if you don’t even believe that many women on FB have experienced these things, then you, sadly, are part of the problem. As women, we have all at some point in our lives experienced not being believed or listened to. That is specifically why some women don’t/won’t discuss it/come forward for YEARS. Some won’t ever talk about it. Every woman I have EVER met has experienced sexual harassment at the least. A staggering number of women I have ever met have experienced worse. It doesn’t matter what a woman looks like, her education, her economic status, her… anything. I have yet to meet a single woman who hasn’t experienced a moment of concern for her safety at some point in her life.
Him: I can’t even imagine.
Me: You’ve never had to.
Him: Well, men get harassed too.
Me [Oh for fuck’s sake. heeeere we go ]: And this is where we end the conversation because… No shit. No one is saying that. While it’s equally wrong, and should also be stopped, it happens in far less frequency than it happens to women. Hell, you don’t even need to know how to properly hold your keys.
Still Me: I’ve given you all the education I can stomach for now. Go educate yourself and get back to me. Go talk to your mom, your sister, your wife. Get back to me.

Men have enjoyed – and I use that word literally – a position of power over women for well over two thousand years now. While this statement doesn’t apply to every society on the face of the planet that ever was or exists now, it applies to enough societies to demonstrate the Patriarchy is real, that so many men have benefited from it and continue to do so (particularly religious zealots) that anyone who denies it is utterly clueless, like the man in the conversation above. The Patriarchy, as a societal concept, has even swept into U.S. government offices a score of men hellbent on controlling women, from denying them key elements of healthcare coverage especially as it relates to reproduction to ad hominin attacks against women like Senator Kamala Harris as being ‘hysterical’ when questioning a Trump cabinet appointee (men are never spoken of like this, not even Al Franken who clearly hates almost every Republicans) to ways of talking about women in a demeaning manner which has no bearing whatsoever on whether a man should be U.S. president or not. The whole point of the #metoo hashtag was to bring attention to this fact, that virtually every woman a man knows has experienced at least some sexual harassment, and that these same men – in being oblivious to it – are complicit to it. And this made me think; have I ever sexually harassed a women or treated a women as less than human because they were a woman?

The answer is, I don’t think so, at least not intentionally. I may have catcalled a woman in my youth, I’m not sure. If I did, I was wrong. Have I ever objectified a woman? Yes, and hopefully she was okay being objectified as I assume most Playboy centerfolds hopefully have. What I’ve certainly never done is badger a woman to date me or kowtow to my sexual advances. (Frankly, whenever a woman said ‘no’ from the start, I never pursued it further; I guess I’m either missing the ‘asshole’ gene or understand that a woman who isn’t interested at the moment isn’t likely to be interested later and I don’t have any right to assert my personal agenda on them – which I guess is what an asshole does.) I’ve certainly never approved of any legislation telling women what they can do with their bodies, and definitely not after what I may have done to their body, if you catch my drift. Jesus, can you imagine men being denied access to erectile dysfunction medicine? How fast do you think Congress would act? Faster than they would on gun control after 59 people were murdered and hundreds were injured in a mass shooting, that’s for sure.

Men, again like the one in the conversation above, have had the luxury of ignoring the problem because they are typically not the victim. Most men are so blind to the problem they don’t even think any form of sexual harassment has happened to any women they know. Well, men, imagine another man viewing and treating your mother, wife, sister or daughter as being less than human simply because they lack male genitalia, because that’s exactly what’s happening. Human beings love to exert power over each other and the Patriarchy makes it so easy for men. Why shouldn’t men be oblivious to the plight of women when they benefit so greatly from it? Because that’s what monsters do. Wait, what? Don’t like being characterized as something less than human, guys? Interesting.

To be clear, the power men have over women is not based on respect, it is based on fear. Power based on fear takes no mental effort. It takes no improvement of the self. It is weak power. This kind of power is not long-lasting; the oppressed will almost certainly seek a way out of their predicament if they are able. But to be respected – that lasts a long time. A gun in the face only lasts as long as the gun – or Bible or Koran or whatever – is around.

Certainly, there are women who do not mind being oppressed (maybe not raped, but repressed, sure). These are people who share a very human trait to not think too hard, to want to get by without having to do too much in life, who are content to let the whims of fate control them presumably because being the master of your own destiny takes effort. Far be it from me to insist any slave rise up and rebel, but it takes a certain simplemindedness not to see how accepting the role laid out for you by other people reinforces the system that enslaved them in the first place. Oh well, let the men deal with it; everything seems fine after all. Yes, a woman – if that’s their thing – is free to pursue this avenue of thinking. But they are not free to foist it on others and that is what their complicity in the Patriarchy is doing.

If it isn’t clear yet, it goes like this: Women do not exist for the sexual gratification of men*; they are not toys. They do not exist solely to bear men children; they are not property. They are conscious living beings who have rich experiences just like men. To say anything to the contrary begs for the man to justify his righteousness and SORRY, a book of mythical spouting isn’t going to cut it. ‘Cause if that’s the excuse, I’m sure I can find some sacred scripture that allows me to violate another man with a plunger and be totally justified.

[*Scores of men love to use women for this. I gather, though, that they do not like it when a women uses them for pleasure – men generally hate the idea of a woman having pleasure on their own terms – and then moves along. I’ve been there but there was the fact that the woman and I had an understanding before our ‘involvement.’ That aside, it’s also fun to imagine here what a world in which men forced themselves on each other and then claimed the victim was asking for it would look like. Okay, maybe not, but that’s the world women live in.]

It’s time for men to take responsibility for the power they wield. It is less then human to treat women as less than human. There’s no more being oblivious to what women deal with on a daily basis, not in the Information Age. Men need to start treating sexism as terrorism; if you see something, say something. You can’t take a backseat to this anymore. Own what is happening, what HAS been happening – that’s what a real man does. If you can’t handle the responsibility, well, what are you, a girl?

Me? I personally do not care about anyone’s gender or gender identity as it relates to daily life. I don’t care about anyone’s skin color. When it comes to people, all I care about are two things: That they are not an asshole and if a job is place in front of them, can they get the job done. I hesitate to call myself a Feminist not because I’m for the equal treatment of women but because I’m a human being with no special status in the cosmos* – in other words, mostly like everyone else – and this makes me understand that everyone deserves a fair chance. We, as humans, all on equal footing, should be lifting each other up, not preying on each other. Preying on each other – not some imaginary breakdown in a subjective, divine moral code – is to blame for the world such as it is. So enough already. Enough.

[* Don’t even think it, guys. Your god does not favor you. It’s a lie you tell yourselves to justify your actions.]

Monday, October 9, 2017

How the 2nd Amendment’s ‘Militia’ Argument Fails

On October 1, 2017, a gunman (name withheld for fear of glorifying a villain*) opened fire from his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay on a concert in Las Vegas, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds more. Upon storming the room, authorities found the gunman had killed himself and left a cache of automatic and other weapons and ammunition in his wake. Little is known about the gunman other than he was local to the area and had a fondness for guns and gambling. As of this writing there is no known motive. Predictably, gun control advocates are frothing at the mouth while fake news about the gunman’s motives is directed at both ends of America’s political spectrum. None of this matters; it is already mostly forgotten in just one week.

[* He was a white male, though.]

There was, without hesitation, conversation about enacting gun control. (Okay, more like there was knee-jerk reaction by some to cry foul and plead for gun control measures while gun enthusiasts clenched their arms wide-eyed and white-knuckled.) Now, whenever gun right advocates fear regulation – any regulation – they inevitably invoke their 2nd Amendment right which states, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The central tactic of gun rights advocates is to argue that in order to prevent a tyrannical government from imprisoning its citizenry or otherwise running roughshod over their lives, the public must be properly prepared to resist armed government assault. While I do not oppose the 2nd Amendment’s basic principle, gun rights advocates wish to invoke the amendment to oppose any regulations of the arms they claim they have a right to bear. The argument is fallacious on several accounts.

First, and so obvious it is always overlooked, is the fact that there are already regulations regarding weapons. By this I mean although I am fearful of the current U.S. government invading my life and creating laws that limit my freedom (if not throw me in jail outright for being an atheist), I cannot own the weapons necessary to actually oppose the government if its jackbooted thugs come gunning for me. I cannot own nuclear weapons. I cannot own a fully functional tank. I cannot own an anti-aircraft missile launcher. Why not? Would these things not be useful in guaranteeing my freedom from a tyrannical government? Naturally, the counter argument here is to claim the things I am talking about are weapons of mass destruction and personal firearms are not that. As we saw with the Las Vegas shooting, personal firearms can indeed be weapons of mass destruction. Even if ‘bump stocks’ were banned – well, they are but are still easy to get – wouldn’t personal firearms in the hands of many people constitute a weapon of mass destruction? Coincidentally, just prior to the Las Vegas shooting, a bill was headed to the floor of Congress that would ease the sale of silencers to the public. UH, WHAT DOES JOHN Q. PUBLIC NEED WITH A SILENCER? The answer is nothing; the bill is sponsored by the gun lobby (shocker) that values money over lives. Imagine the Las Vegas shooter had used silencers – he could have and thank goodness he didn’t – think of how many more people he would have killed before people knew what was going on and where he was shooting from. (Certainly, silencers don’t silence a weapon, but it sure suppresses the sound.) Remember that American citizens are constitutionally guaranteed the right to free speech but that this right is not without limits, nor should it be. However, gun enthusiasts never acknowledge this basic fact, probably because they’d lose a whole lot of ground in their argument by conceding it.

Second, think of how a government attempting an armed takeover of the lives of its citizens would actually go. Well, it wouldn’t. The U.S. government doesn’t possess the manpower to intern the entire country to say nothing of the volunteer army that would side with their own families in such a conflict. Even if the government went after people one by one, there are so many guns available in the country that all citizens would be armed before too long. What’s that, but the government has bombers and tanks and nuclear weapons? In that case, please reference the previous paragraph. It seems to have escaped the notice of the vast number of Americans that the U.S. government has zero interest in an armed conflict with its own citizens in order to control them because, well, the citizenry is already under control. Is anyone at this point still denying the tremendous amount of influence corporations and other organizations have with the U.S. government? How do you think the silencer almost got to the floor of Congress to begin with? The bill will still get there; Congress just has to wait until the next iPhone release and no one is looking. Even if we forgot the lobbyists, companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft to name just three of many, are data mining people to learn how best to get them to buy their products. They also want you to update their software constantly so that you waste huge amounts of your free time trying to undo the havoc each update causes. Meanwhile, Facebook’s AI’s main purpose is to learn what your preferences are and keep shoveling your own shit down your throat. Meanwhile, the U.S. – nay, world – food supply is largely run by just ten companies. And let us not forget the banks which are happy to tell you that you can’t borrow money because your value as a human being is tied to your credit score. Strangely enough, I don’t see anyone taking up arms against any of these corporations or organizations that control their lives far more than the U.S. government ever will.

Now, given these criticisms, gun rights advocates will claim they need their guns to protect themselves from criminals. Problem is, it is QUITE clear given the wording of the 2nd Amendment that this is not why there is a right to bear arms. Statistical data, now at least three years old, shows that the “more guns, less crime” mantra of gun owners is utter bullshit. Gun owners are also FAR more likely to shoot themselves – whether accidentally or in the act of suicide – than to use a gun against a criminal. Here, we might add that no one owning and/or concealing a gun at the Las Vegas concert could have stopped the gunman, so that right there defeats this argument for gun ownership. Fortunately, government controlled police had the tools and weapons necessary to address the situation and no one complained. Please insert ‘confused’ emoji here.

Finally, let’s stop pretending that the Founding Fathers (FF), who ratified the 2nd Amendment is 1791, are gods who knew everything and didn’t make mistakes. We’re talking about many of the same people who wrote that “all men are created equal” yet owned slaves. There is simply no way the FF could have foreseen the circumstances its citizens currently endure. There is no one, and I mean no one who knows what life in the U.S. will be like over two hundred years from now. We can’t fully expect laws we make today to remain relevant that far into the future. So let’s stop treating the U.S. Constitution as if a gentle breeze blew it off God’s desk the very second He dotted the last ‘i.’ Had the FF foreseen current circumstances, I like to believe they would have been more clear about the 2nd Amendment. But, if God couldn’t be clearer about ‘thou shalt not murder,’ why should we expect clarity from bureaucrats? Seeing how we cannot, maybe we need to come to our own conclusions that are relevant to life in America today.

Should there be a right to bear arms? In principle the answer is now maybe. Or, yes, if only to make the owner feel safer; we can’t have snowflakes worrying about sharing the street with a black man, after all. The reality is that America does need its gun because in the words of comedian Jim Jefferies, “There is one argument and one argument alone for having guns, and this is the argument: ‘Fuck off. I like guns.’” And that’s okay; we can like guns. And, maybe, we can have guns. But also maybe not before America gets a grip on its criminally insane mental problem. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Farce of July

Hello! Welcome back to my blog, my three loyal subjects! I’ve been gone for some time working on my first novel in an attempt to distract myself for the daily nonsense that is the world. Distraction is hard to come by in this day and age given the degree of insanity popping out of anyone’s mouth day in and day out, least of all from the guy who allegedly won the last U.S. presidential election. Since this will be President Trump’s first Fourth of July as the U.S. President, we can all be sure to be hearing the phrase ‘MAGA’ for the next week. And, we’re going to hear it from people taking no part in making that actually happen. That brings me to recap a ‘funny if it weren’t true’ article about Trump supporters I recently read, “If you still support this guy, I know 7 things about you instantly.” I’ll briefly recap the article with my own thoughts and add a few numbers of my own. If you’re interested, you can find the original article here.

If you still support Trump as U.S. President, here are 7 (or more) things I know about you instantly:

One – You like to be ruled, not governed. Absolutely true. You don’t even need a study to understand that some groups of people, say, Evangelical Christians, love to be told what’s good for them as long as you invoke God, the king above kings, while doing it. Being ruled requires no thinking and, well, you see what I’m getting at. If not, that proves my point.

Two – You have no class. Also true, at least for the average middle-to-lower class U.S. citizen. In classifying a reporter who criticizes him as having been ‘bleeding from the face’ thanks to bad plastic surgery, Trump surely scores points with people who think it’s okay to refer to your own daughter as a nice piece of ass (shocker). They also think Trump’s low-brow tweets are ‘fighting back’ against a media that routinely thumps him while forgetting he actually won the presidential election and is well protected by the Secret Service.

Three – You are not someone I would trust to do business with. No doubt! While the article groans about shady business practices and tax evasion, I wouldn’t do business with anyone so adverse to regulations. Sure, businesses and industries can be over-regulated, but no regulation? That means you’re up to no good.

Four – You are racist or a racist enabler. Not always true but true often enough. White people, men in particular, voted for The Don. Overwhelmingly. I mean, when the KKK endorses a candidate, well, they don’t endorse just any ol’ person! I’m pretty sure Trump is racist himself – I could be wrong – though he does hire just enough black people to make us question his racism just a tiny bit.

Five – You have issues with women. Obviously. Three wives, affairs, certain ‘comments’ I won’t reiterate, the Megyn Kelly debacle. Surely this often stems from evangelicalism which hates that women are even allowed to leave the house with shoes on. Of course, some women voted for Trump, so what’s their deal? See One; sometimes thinking for yourself is just too…too…difficult.

Six – You aren’t quite as Christian as you claim to be. Please refer to my previous blog “You are Not a Christian.” Or if you’re in a hurry, think about Jesus being alive today and following last year’s presidential election. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m voting for this guy!” I’m sure Jesus wouldn’t be happy with voting for Hillary either, but if forced to choose, I think he’d go with the lesser of two evils. Or be crucified instead. Heck, I considered it.

Seven – You are anti-constitution. Yes. The Emolument Clause means nothing to you – which is why you’re okay with the Muslim travel ban that doesn’t include countries that actually attacked the U.S., like, um, Saudi Arabia where Trump does some business. You also don’t care about the separation of church and state (for obvious reasons) and free speech (to spare your guy any criticism, which is funny because Obama).

Those are the original article’s point’s which I think left a few things out…

Eight – You hate science. Of course you hate science; you’re religious! Despite the fact that your life is incredibly cushy and convenient thanks to science, you are thankless to a fault. That’s all because you don’t want anyone questioning your religious beliefs. You think everyone else should question their religious beliefs because you – uneducated white guy who counts on Fox News for real news – you’ve got it figured out. That’s likely.

Nine – You want Trump to install a theocracy. You whine like holy hell about Sharia law because a Christian theocracy would be SO much better, said no evidence ever.

Ten – You’re oblivious to the obvious. White Americans are FAR more dangerous and likely to shoot and kill you than an illegal alien terrorist. By like, A LOT. You’re also more likely to be shot by a toddler who got their hands on a gun than a terrorist. But, you do nothing to curb these incidents because…you like guns. No reason to have them, you just like guns.

Nine – You cant spel. Trump supporters are notoriously horrible with the English language they so desperately demand everyone else speak. If you’re a Trump supporter, it’s highly unlikely you’ve noticed this blog’s numerous spelling or grammar typos. Want MAGA? Try spelling it out with no mistakes.

Ten – You’re a snowflake. Surely the average Trump voter has already called me a ‘libtard’ or some other innovative metaphor by this point in my spiel even though I’m a registered independent. Another point proven. 

Eleven - You don't care if people are unqualified to do important jobs. You figured Obama was a community organizer with little government experience, so why not abandon experience altogether? Why not have a brain surgeon in charge of housing or a science denier who campaigned on fossil fuel industry money in charge of the EPA? Meanwhile, you keep complaining that the barista at Starbucks got your order wrong. Again.

Twelve - You have no sense of history. Make America Great Again? When was it great before? When there was slavery? Before women could vote? Before civil rights? When there was child labor? Before there was an EPA? When we used nuclear weapons on civilians? When we put a man on the moon thanks to a Democratic President? What happened to all that greatness, I wonder. Oh, yea, the internet. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Modern Day Trolley Problem

The Trolley Problem (aka the Trolley Dilemma) is sometimes used thought experiment used by psychologists and philosophers to gauge a person’s moral compass. The though experiment goes something like this:

Suppose there is a runaway train car (a trolley) that is rolling down the tracks towards five people tied to the tracks, or are lying on the tracks and are otherwise unable to move. You are off in the distance observing this and happen to see a lever next to you that if pulled will switch the runaway train car from its current course onto another set of tracks. However, on the diverted track there is single person tied to the tracks and will be killed if you pull the lever. Question is: Do you pull the lever to save five people and kill one or take no action and let five people die?

Keep in mind this is the Trolley Problem in its simplest iteration. There are several variations of this thought experiment which involve intentionally pushing a fat man onto the tracks to save five people (the Fat Man version) or intentionally pushing the man (a “fat villain”) who tied up the potential victims onto the tracks to avert the deaths of the innocent. Let’s not concern ourselves with these versions or ask questions about the characters of all the potential victims. For the sake of realism, however, we are going to alter the details of the thought experiment to a more likely scenario than initially presented. We’re going to do this because the Trolley Problem such as it is described above doesn’t present a realistic situation one would find themselves in and be forced to make a moral judgement. What I’d like to do is introduce a modern equivalent to the Trolley Problem, changing the problem to something more akin to what philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson had in mind with her “brilliant surgeon” version of the Trolley Problem.

Here’s my version: Suppose you are a politician and if you don’t vote on a particular bill, five random people will lose their health care coverage and die from pre-existing conditions. If you do vote for this particular bill, the five people will keep their health care coverage but another single random person will lose their coverage and die from their pre-existing condition. In summary, if you don’t vote – if you take no action regarding the bill – five people will die. If you do vote for the bill – take action on the bill – one person will die and five will be saved. Do you vote for the bill or not?

Philosophically, what you as the politician is likely to do is based upon whether you are a utilitarian or a deontologist. That is, if you seek to do the greatest good, as a utilitarian you’re going to vote for the bill. If, on the other hand you think that committing certain actions like intentional harming someone are wrong, then you’re not going to vote for the bill. Of course, the obvious flaw with the deontologist’s position is that not voting for the bill – an inaction – is just as bad as intentional harm if it is your intention to abstain from the vote. In other words, an inaction is just as bad as an action if one intends towards the inaction. (The major flaw in Deontology is that intentions matter.) There is a choice to be made – vote or don’t vote – and once it is made, there is intention behind the given choice; this fact cannot be escaped. The deontologist likes to think that by not intending to ‘intentionally’ cause harm, they are absolved from whatever harm does happen. Obviously, this is madness as not voting for the bill – intentionally – causes harm and makes the deontologist’s actions morally impermissible.

This deconstruction of the deontologist’s position philosophically compels you to vote for the bill, thus taking the utilitarian route (if there’s no false dilemma here, which there may well be). Without knowledge of any of the random people involved, without knowing whether saving the five will result in a better or worse world, you should vote for the bill on the assumption that the death of five people is likely to wreak more sorrow and havoc than the death of one person. All things being equal among the random people, you are compelled to vote for the bill on purely philosophical grounds if you want to be considered a morally just person (such as morality is construed in the Western Industrialized world). However, what people are likely to do is much different in reality. 

In reality, most people take the deontologist’s route and think they are avoiding taking an action that intentionally harms a single person. This outcome was confirmed by a 2007 online experiment conducted by psychologists Fiery Cushman and Liane Young and biologist Marc Hauser. They concluded that by taking a positive action (doing something) that resulted in a positively negative consequence evoked emotions that clouded ‘better’ judgement. But why should this be the case? Why would ‘taking action’ result in feelings that assume the outcome will be worse than taking no action at all? Why does an apparently personal investment in an outcome change what a person will decide to do?

We may want an evolutionary psychologist to weigh in here or we may hypothesize that people generally ‘don’t want to get their hands dirty’ for fear of negative consequences, meaning, precisely, being responsible for one’s actions. As those of us familiar with the workings of Western culture know, we tend to forgive inaction that leads to harm as we work from the assumption that such consequences weren’t malicious in nature. Only, if one knows the consequences – that five people will die through the inaction of not voting – it is difficult to reason why this outcome isn’t just as malicious as voting. Again, the deontologist works from the premise that an action can be wrong and an inaction not wrong, but I’ve already argued this is demonstrably false as inaction is in fact an action because the decision itself is based on intention. The deontologist intends not to intentionally kill someone not realizing the initial intention intentionally kills five people. No matter what angle you view such moral dilemmas from, given only two choices, the deontological reasoning falters.

None of this takes into account other reason why you might vote or not vote. Perhaps you view situations like this and feel the need to do something, and therefore decide to vote. Or perhaps you’re a misanthrope and are indifferent to the people dying. There may also be the way such dilemmas are presented (for example, in the way they are written or are viewed in a virtual world) that may influence decision-making. Regardless of the one of the two choices made – if that’s all that are given – it still tells us something about the moral compass of the person making the choice. In my example, a deontologist has no firm philosophical ground to stand on. They are, in other words, irrational.

And this is why the Trolley Problem, formulated in 1967, is still relevant today. It would be wise to know when a populous is too irrational, if for no other reason than to prompt a re-evaluation of, say, educational programs. Of course, there is the other side of the coin in which people in powerful positions rely on an irrational populous, so such moral tests would be wise for them to administer as well so they might be aware of when citizenry might be becoming too smart for them to fool. Thought experiments, long considered the realm of lowly philosophers, are beneficial to everyone. And when they’re not, they still make for good conversations when you’re high.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Anti-Intellectual Vote

On November 8, 2016, Republican nominee Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. On November 8, 2016, the prophecy of Mike Judge’s 2006’s movie Idiocracy was fulfilled.

Many explanations have been offered to explain the election of a man who – if not actually any of the following things himself – ran a campaign that was racist, xenophobic and misogynistic, and whose vice presidential pick certainly is homophobic. And, both the president- and vice president-elect are climate change deniers. Nearly half of the people voting in the presidential election lapped up the rhetoric like dogs unafraid to eat their own feces.

Why did they eat it up? Why do voters, who by now should be incredibly used to political candidates who don’t fulfil their promises, fall for a candidate who pretends to be anti-establishment while at the same time has benefitted so much from it? Among other things, why would so many voters who are angry about taxes pick a candidate who gamed the system so that he didn’t have to pay taxes himself, that intends to cut taxes for the wealthy and continue to place the tax burden on the middle class? While I can certainly understand a voter’s dislike for Hillary Rodham Clinton given her history of politically and personally questionable judgements, RCH at least offered four more years of the status quo. While not the ideal situation, at least with HRC as president, no one could whine about their guns being taken away or the Second Amendment being repealed and be taken seriously. Why did so many people vote for Donald Trump, an unknown factor, instead of the status quo? Was the status quo really that terrible? Apparently it was…to stupid people.

Donald Trump’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.” Besides never explaining when the U.S. was ever really that great for anyone who wasn’t or isn’t white (much less acknowledging that an American could mean anyone from North- or South America), Trump never vowed to make the U.S. number one in, say, math or science. How can the U.S. be great again if not in education and the resulting benefits? By rehabilitating U.S. manufacturing jobs? Ah, yes, there it is, by making stuff; low-skilled workers making stuff for as long as it is economically in the best interest of a business to do so, at least until robots take over those manufacturing jobs.* Oh, and also by getting unemployed coal workers mining and oil companies drilling again who will aid in flooding the atmosphere with fossil fuel waste because really, air quality is a small price to pay for people not interested in retraining for new jobs, even if it were free. Who refuses free training? Mostly older people who are stubborn and were never good in school, who instead of wanting to make America great again want themselves to be great again at their old job so they can buy a larger screen television from a foreign country.

[*Unsurprisingly, many of the jobs Trump ‘saved’ from going to Mexico at the Indiana-based company Carrier shortly after the election are going to be lost to automation anyway, according to the company itself.]

‘Mericans, as I like to call U.S. citizens, are generally not the most intellectual group. I submit as evidence the fact that the average Trump supporter (who is not the same as a highly paid business person who is a Trump supporter, which would stand to figure) subscribes to conspiracy theories and parrots everything Fox News and say – ‘news’ organizations that are not shy about their conservative skew – while telling you any other news organization that doesn’t validate conspiratorial beliefs is ‘fake news.’ Such people are incapable of analyzing their own biases. The fact that Trump supporters are largely uneducated was confirmed by after the election, who wrote, “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980. Two-thirds (67%) of non-college whites backed Trump, compared with just 28% who supported Clinton.” Articles in the journals Reasoning & Thinking and Applied Cognitive Psychology of studies done on intelligence and the conspiracy theorist mindset suggest a direct correlation between a lack of education and a vulnerability to the very wayward thinking modern Republicanism espouses. Summed up by Tania Bombrozo, “Among other things, studies find that people are more likely to endorse conspiracy theories if they feel alienated, powerless and disadvantaged, and if they are distrustful of others. Conspiratorial thinking is also associated with narcissism, rejection of climate science, and an individual's own willingness to participate in conspiracies. Additionally, a variety of demographic factors have been found to predict conspiratorial thinking, including low levels of education.” (Emphasis added.) It is also certainly a uniquely common human trait for people to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions, which also helps explain the denial of the human contribution to climate change and an aversion science in general. As either a cause or a symptom, the U.S. currently ranks 27th in math and 20th in science among developed nations, so I suppose no one should be too surprised Trump won. Being 27th in math, one wonders if ‘Mericans can even count that high.

Clearly ‘Mericans cannot do math as Trump supporters fail to understand taxes and Trump’s proposed wall between Mexico and the U.S. for example. During his campaign, Trump vowed to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and make Mexico pay for it to boot, seeing how Mexico is ‘not sending their best.’* There is no doubt that Mexico is not going to pay for a wall between the two countries, so one is compelled to wonder where that money is going to come from. By Trump’s own estimate, he said that the wall would cost anywhere from $8-to$12 billion to construct and have Mexico at least help defer the cost by strong-arming them into paying $5 billion a year in order to help keep the estimated $24 billion going to Mexico from the U.S., remittance from supposed illegal aliens sending money back ‘home.’ So where else is the money going to come from? There’s no choice but to have it come from taxpayers. And who pays the lion’s share of taxes in ‘Merica? The middle class. So for any middle class person who voted for Trump to complain about what their taxes pay for (or would pay for), well, they shouldn’t – at all. Of course, in the ensuing analysis after Trump said this about a wall, Trump has proposed using money saved from enforcing the border – which means spending more tax money on enforcement – and/or by using money saved by not giving benefits to immigrants who are in ‘Merica illegally – which again comes out of taxpayer money. The president-elect has even proposed using assets seized from drug cartels to pay for a wall but there is no clear numbers in this regard and there is no indication that there’s enough money along that avenue to pay for such a build. In all likelihood, if a wall is built, it will surely not be a concrete structure such as Trump has proposed but something much more cheap, perhaps made in China, but most ‘Mericans are used to being cheap. In the end, though, Trump’s supporters don’t care about a wall actually being built; they just like that he proposed it. So goes the thinking of minds attuned to reality television, people who know what they’re watching isn’t real but want to see people come into conflict nonetheless.

[‘…not sending their best’? Meanwhile, the forthcoming First Lady is an immigrant so lazy she has to have Trump’s daughter assume several traditionally First Lady duties and plagiarized a Michelle Obama speech at the Republican National Convention. But, hey, at least she’s white.]

Speaking of China, the uneducated white middle class that elected Trump think their man can do no wrong in provoking a possible trade war with a country holding over a trillion dollars of U.S. debt. (China used to hold the most U.S. debt but now that country is Japan, whom Trump will nuclear bomb before they can ever call in their markers.) As everyone knows, or should know, the trade relation between China and the ‘Merica has been a love-hate affair. Damn those Chinese for making cheap crap but GOD do’ Mericans buy up that cheap crap (to include all those Trump “Make America Great Again” hats, not to mention his ties, suits, etc.*). Despite having wrote in 2005 that outsourcing overseas is not always a bad thing, Trump ran a campaign on promises to bring jobs ‘back to ‘Merica by imposing heavy tariffs on imported good. Of course, those tariffs will probably not apply to Trump’s goods manufactured overseas, but I digress. Imagine if you will the price of goods made in ‘Merica for ‘Mericans. Even if the costs didn’t skyrocket – which would be shocking since most of ‘Mericans beloved items like cars and smartphones require materials from outside the U.S. – ‘Merica would never be able to see their goods sold overseas because of tit-for-tat tariffs. Why would another country want to buy ‘Merican goods anyway? While China and Mexico are derided for making cheap goods, ‘Merica isn’t known for manufacturing the most reliable stuff. Sure, the U.S. does make good motorcycles (Harley Davidson), fun movies (thanks liberal Hollywood!), craft beer (thanks blue states!) and weapons (that figures), China surpassed U.S. manufacturing output back in 2010 and shows no signs of slowing down. For the U.S. to turn that around, ‘Mericans would need to make higher end crap that everyone wants which just might take better education, something Republicans surely do not want, at least not before a good dose of mindless theism is injected into the educational system.

(*For an incomplete and not even detailed list of all Trump’s products made overseas and not in the U.S, click here.)

Understanding of the U.S. Constitution was also one of the casualties of the largely Republican war on education. In order to protect their guns from being taken away no matter how many mass shootings occur and by whom (usually white people), gun lobbyists often call for a literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution while never minded that most gun owners are not part of a well-regulated militia. Nevermind that President Obama never took anyone’s beloved guns away – he actually eased some key gun legislation, but whatever – Trump ideologues are quick to invoke the Second Amendment anytime someone proposes new gun legislation. (I, for one, don’t think it would help end mass shootings, but that’s beside the point here.) However, the same people are not so quick to invoke the Constitution when it comes to Trump and his overseas holdings, which the Constitution clearly states in Article I, Section 9 he cannot have if he’s to be president. Many Trump supporters would also like to see Christianity established as the official religion of the U.S., much to the chagrin of the very first amendment. Maybe Trump can start to make ‘Merica great again but having people understand the documents the country is founded upon.

One has to wonder who the people voting for Trump are who intend to make America great again, but do not intend to make America great again like it was during WWII when it helped defeat a hellbent, racist dictator. (History, another casualty in ‘Merican edumacation.) Trump’s vast numbers of white supporters are hellbent themselves to stand in the street or in a subway car to turn red in the face as they berate a minority. They refuse to understand the basis for the Black Lives Matters movement and decry it, but want to receive special attention themselves through the acknowledgement of, say, a Christian ruling class. One has to wonder who these people are that claim not to be racist, but remain silent on Trump’s KKK support while simultaneously demanding that Muslims be more outspoken against Islamic terrorism. One has to wonder who the people are that defend misogynistic talk as the locker room bantering of an immature 55 year old who has miraculously ‘matured’ over the past 15 years. Bill Clinton may have abused his power in having an affair with Monica Lewinski, but even ol’ horndog Bill was never so crass. One has to wonder who these Trump supporters are that bemoaned Obama’s lack of political experience who now suddenly cite a lack of experience as what they like about their candidate who appoints a brain surgeon to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. One has to wonder who these voters were that saw Russia as an enemy before Trump rose to prominence but who have been heaping praise upon Putin ever since Trump’s victory. Who are these people that think so lazily they think they’re going to make ‘Merica great again?

To be fair, Trump supporters are not the only ones who are negligent when it comes to critical thinking; the Regressive Left is just as bad. Their constant and vehement anti-white rhetoric resulted in a backlash they didn’t see coming because of their own failure to consider consequences. With these two sides coming together within the boundaries of a single country, is it any wonder ‘Merica is so dysfunctional? No, no one who remotely thinks is surprised by the election of a business man by the grace of the lower classes he cares nothing about and has benefitted from stepping on. A thinker may be angry that this is the case, but it’s still the reality of the situation. And the reality of the situation is that the new administration will be coming for the thinkers first. Oh, wait, they already have; climate change denier Trump requested the names of 74 climate scientists from the energy Department and for the time being has been rebuked. ‘Merica should have expected nothing less in a country where education isn’t a priority, that heaps rewards upon people for their ability to manipulate or delude others, upon celebrities who have little or no talent, or on athletes for playing a game.

As usual, things will get worse before they get better, though really ‘Merica will have to wait and see what happens after Trump is sworn in. An intellectual can say that and mean it and be forgiven for hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Naturally, that’s not what happened before Obama was sworn in. It’s still not what’s happening even as Obama prepares to leave office; the President’s detractors would still see him lynched and his wife back in Africa living with apes. And that’s what is to be expected from small minds – horrible consequences – not a great country.