Monday, November 16, 2015

Your mind is your temple.

People seek self improvement in all forms when it comes to their own bodies. They take extensive measures to enhance its appeal and prolong its longevity through myriad diet and exercise programs. But what of the mind? The brain has to be the most important organ in the human body. When it fails or falters, we simply cease to be and another version takes our place. This happens all the time, even without escalation via head trauma or debilitating disease such as Alzheimer's. We just fail to notice it because change is a gradual process and one we often take for granted. We'll look to our past self and say things like "I was rather stupid as a kid" or "man, that thing I did sure was stupid", however, in the moment, it never occurred to us that we were being stupid at the time.  For that version of our self, in that moment, we were right and our actions were justified because our brains deemed them to be sound.

The brain however, is not a perfect organ. Through simple imagery, one can illustrate its failings so how exactly can you ever trust what your brain is telling you at any given moment? It's only through trials and experience that people adapt and change their perceptions of reality. Science is the ultimate result of this. A collective understanding that's been accumulated throughout our history by challenging, proving and disproving anything and everything. There are however, individuals out there in the majority, that still subscribe to the idea that their brain is infallible. This ignorance is the true epidemic of our time and precisely why the problems of today seem so insurmountable. As a species, we need to become ultimate observers of ourselves and become aware, not only of our thoughts, but the reasons we're thinking them and that those thoughts, like many others we've had in the past, can be wrong.

The greatest obstacle to our evolution in modern time, is religion.

Religion introduces a very dangerous way of thinking into our psyche which is that irrational beliefs have weight and merit. Opinions and actions no longer have to rely on facts and reality to be justified. The concept that one's own fallible brain is the very thing constructing the missing pieces of one's reality is now washed away in a sea of misinformation and falsehood. Irrational beliefs lead to irrational actions and conclusions. This is the reason for the recent atrocities in Paris as well as the countless others which are carried out in the name of a collective imaginary friend. In the Milgram Experiment, we've seen what lengths people will go to when subjected to an authority figure instructing someone to shock another human being. What happens when that authority figure, in the mind of a person, is the creator of the Universe as they know it?

What happens is that people die, for no rhyme or reason other than the ones created by those who have let their brains run wild. What used to be a free thinking person is now a prisoner of their own mind, or worse, a prisoner of another's manipulations. See, because you're no longer relying on facts, you're that much more susceptible to suggestion, especially if there's a collective that's providing the pieces for the gaps in your own brain. We see this phenomenon in Asch's conformity experiment. All of a sudden, guys like this, merely make a statement in the name of an imaginary friend they share and people start stabbing each other. This is the extreme, yes, but how many other practices, policies and laws are now cemented in our societies due to the fact that irrational beliefs are tolerated and humanity refuses to evolve? Or better yet, grow up?

Behaviour like this can no longer be tolerated. We have enabled a world full of grown infants clinging to figments of their imagination. It's only through healthier minds that the problems of our world will disappear as our ability to picture reality isn't obfuscated by irrational thinking.




Monday, October 12, 2015

Why you should not vote CPC on October 19th

I've been delaying writing about this so the facts I will present to you stay fresh in your minds when it comes time to cast your vote. I plan on listing the myriad reasons as to why the current government has failed not only the left leaning constituents but true conservatives as well.

There was a time that the P in PC used to stand for progressive. The idea that having a small responsible government that could advance the social political landscape appealed to many Canadian citizens. That changed when Brian Mulroney and his cabinet pushed for some questionable reform leading to the party splitting.

There's nothing free or fair about free trade. You can't just open the floodgates and expect everything to turn out for the best when you're a nation of 33 million people compared to the rest of the world. There's already myriad examples of what this has cost the Canadian people. The economic stage isn't filled with individuals who have public interest in mind. We've already seen what brash deregulation can accomplish with amoral sociopathic juggernauts such as corporations. When the entire electoral process of a neighbouring nation has become nothing but a farce, how do you expect to compete fairly when the legislative system has been bought and paid for by a select few? Moreover, jobs get outsourced to areas where the economic climate is more beneficial to those of corporations. As a result what's left is lower wages, no benefits, no pension and the necessity for the public sector to bear the burden.

The CPCs current plan is incredibly simplistic as well as contradictory with their track record. The party purported a budget surplus of 1.4 billion which turned out to actually be a deficit of a billion dollars instead. The reason is the current fiscal policies of conservatives don't work. They never did. In the present conservative handbook on fiscal policy, chapter 1, page 1, the first word is cut. Cut taxes and cut jobs. In practice however, what happens is never economic growth. It stalls as a result. The reason behind this is simple. The less buying power your base has, the worse off the economy will be.

Currently prime real-estate for careers in Canada is a public sector job. Companies, regardless of their revenues simply don't create jobs and when they do, they don't do it here because of free trade. Why would you when you can effectively get the same level of performance at an incredibly reduced rate because of x country's economic structure? Believing corporations will abide by your expectations of fulfilling Canada's need for quality jobs with salaries and benefits that match up to those of the public sector is simple ignorance. This is why corporate tax cuts don't create jobs.

Here's what does create jobs though. Keeping people in the public sector employed. When you take away 37000 jobs, sure in the short term the savings look good on paper, but there's a critical component that's being ignored. This causes more people heading into a market with less money and ability to purchase the very goods and services that comprise your economy. What else do you expect it to do other than to stall if people simply don't have the capital to stimulate the very economy you're trying to help? Even worse when that economy is being uplifted with money that doesn't even exist? As a result the private sector itself now needs to account for decreased revenue and in turn itself cuts jobs as well. A corporation's workforce is dictated by the demand for its services or product. If all of a sudden, you give it a tax break, it's not going to go looking for other people until there's a significant need for that. By giving people jobs at the public level, you ensure that the buying power of your population increases as does the demand for product and services. As a result the private sector will follow suit. And as demand grows so will the private sector's incentives to attract employees. This is the only true way to get parity between the two environments and maintain a stable economy. Then and only then can you start shifting individuals from the public to the private sector without causing the economy to stall.

Antiquated and intellectually bankrupt fiscal policies aside let's look at some other instances where the current government did things to hinder the very nation they're supposed to help. One of the major ones that comes to my mind was the Canadian Wheat Board. Privatization of marketing farmer product aside, it was practically given away to a Saudi company for 250 million. This is something that was valued at 1 billion 3 years ago. This is a blatant mismanagement of our resources and has been done in the most inept fashion imaginable. In stead of taking a precision approach with a scalpel, the CPC government took a chainsaw to something that had been part of the Canadian economy for decades. One of the obvious choices would have been to limit the sale to the farmer's exclusively to limit its impact on their industry, especially if you're going to give it away for a pittance. That way the revenue remains in house and bolster's the economy as a result for the reasons I mentioned. I for one am not anxious to see the resulting problems that will occur thanks to this deal.

Then there's the wonderful position the CPC government has taken in respect to its scientific community. The true pillars of society and progressives are the ones who are able to do empirical study and present facts to the public so they can make informed decisions on policy. As a result of the absolutely ludicrous constraints that have been placed by the government, the public has intentionally been placed in the dark when it comes to the most important problems humanity is facing. This kind of dishonest approach is not that of a transparent ruling body. When the very facts that the public requires to hold its government accountable are obfuscated, this should be your wake up call. Under no circumstances do people like this have your best interests at heart. It's also an insult to science as a whole. Their entire process is making things available for peer review to move forward. The only reason one would do this is if they had an agenda that didn't conform to reality. They can't be that incompetent or stupid. It's unprecedented and a stain on Canadian history.

Even fellow conservatives have complaints regarding the current administration yet, for some reason, votes are still being cast towards the status quo. Gone is the conservative party of yesterday. Now you have individuals who are quite comfortable in manipulating the electoral process itself in order to gain and maintain power. People who resort to these kind of practices don't love their country, they love their status. Legislation is also being manipulated to hinder and punish certain voters who might fall into a demographic that vote for a certain party. It's completely unethical and goes against the very foundation of the democratic process. Voting should be easy, not hard. The only reason you'd push for something like this would be as a deterrent and to inflate your own number.     

Conservative shouldn't be the dirty word it is today. Its policies, practices and ignorance of reality have taken a set of principles and turned them upside down. You can have a fiscally responsible government that works with its people. The political landscape can be a veritable quagmire and making decisions within it, a challenge. There has to be a point however where integrity matters. As a voter it's your responsibility to remain informed. It's also your responsibility to say no to this kind of behaviour. It's paramount that we hold our leaders to the same standards we hold ourselves. By not voting CPC, you'll be sending a message saying that things need to change within that party. Because voting for a continuation of this behaviour is the equivalent to treason. And un-Canadian.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Celebration Guns.


This morning's papers, ink stains my fingers
My hands grow darker everyday

Stars - Celebration Guns

Within this podcast, author, neuroscientist Sam Harris goes into great detail about the current state of firearms in the US. I highly encourage you to listen to it in its entirety. I'll go through some of the points of interest in the podcast however I'm not comfortable saying that I completely understood Sam's position on the matter due to conflicting statements so keep that in mind. I highly suggest you listen to the podcast and read the article in question to make your own assessment. I will however give you my take on the matter.

My position on firearms takes a drastic turn into an authoritarian position in stead of a libertarian one.  I do this without hesitation. It's an instrument that can turn anyone with a limited capacity into a threat that can maim or kill to a degree that eclipses any other conventional weapon. In a situation where one has the element of surprise, gun beats everything. The amount of time it takes for an individual to telegraph the fact that they have a gun, prep it and point it at you, is minuscule. To someone who is trained in firearms, fractional. These are things that simply shouldn't be in the hands of the public. Empirical data supports this. Canada is also seeing firearms finding their way into its neighbourhood increasing gun related incidents and shattering the lives of families. It needs to stop. Admittedly fulfilling some fantasy of owning something idiotically dangerous is something that's difficult for me to understand. Yes, I have a bias but this is why debating these matters is important, as one might find a hidden truth and be better equipped to solve the problem.

One of the points is that there are 300 million firearms to remove from the environment compared to other nations like the United Kingdom which has taken a very strict stance on gun legislation. Sam also mentioned that there are some individuals who might go as far as to cause a civil war over having their firearms taken away. Now keep in mind, Sam also said that you'd be hard pressed to find a liberal that would adopt a more anti-gun policy than he would. But this is a problem that you'd have whether you ban certain weapons or require strict registration. This is why I was a little confused with Sam's position.

For me personally, I'd be aiming for UK and Japan levels of gun control. Ideally, I'd want them gone. On the note of removing certain firearms from circulation, I don't find this to be an untenable goal. For one, we wouldn't be busting into people's homes and demanding their firearms. This isn't like ripping a band aid off. You start with assault riffles and most importantly, the ammunition that goes with it. At the same time you implement a gun registration program for certain weapon types and gradually move towards a model that works. This is not difficult, it's just something that will take some time and effort on everybody's part. The gradual adoption of gun legislation and limiting munitions would lead to less potential for civilian uprising and allow law enforcement to eliminate, albeit slowly, weapons that simply have no rhyme or reason being in a civilian's hands.

An argument that comes up is that of self defence which is where we get into the territory of people looking to live out a heroic fantasy. Anyone who's not a sociopath and has loved ones living under the same roof is looking to protect those people. Statistically speaking however, the amount of times a firearms is used in a defensive capacity is extremely rare. Now I'm not saying that in this climate you shouldn't even bother with a firearm. You definitely should in the extremely rare case that you're one of the 67k people per year who found having a firearm in a defensive scenario to be quite useful. What I am saying however is your chances of getting into one of these altercations in the US, not to mention coming out on top, is extremely remote even with the 300 million guns on the ground and the unprecedented rate of firearm related incidents. The reason is that anyone who wishes to do you harm with a firearm not only has the element of surprise but the enhanced effectiveness that comes with having access to a firearm in the first place. It's a self defeating argument. If a perpetrator wishes you harm and you have a gun, chances are he will too. Responsible gun ownership is also something that's on every parent's mind when looking at stories like this, thus increasing the chances that you're going to be caught without the very weapon you're looking to use in self defence. This is why this reason shouldn't be used against progressive gun control nor should you get your hopes up that you might get to play hero.

Another point that comes up is the fact that, according to a pew poll, gun ownership seems to go up in rural areas, however the areas of incident are more focused on urban environments. I'd be real interested to see how the study was performed considering the relative ease of obtaining a firearm in the US. And is this really something you'd disclose to a stranger if you happened to be of a criminal mind or sceptical of the individual saying he's there or phoning you for a survey? Scepticism aside, this is only conjecture on my part. Ultimately this doesn't dismiss worldwide statistics and merely shows a discrepancy when it comes the US.

In regards to Sam's comment on mass shootings, I'm a little annoyed when people state that this is merely a blip in regards to the grand total of gun related violence statistics. In no way should this be routine. It's something that's happening on an almost daily basis. Sure the type of weapon varies case by case but in no way does this excuse the fact that guns are the reason people are dead. We can argue about statistics but this is unproductive. It's also thoroughly confusing that someone would consider this a relevant fact if they're on board the gun regulation train. The presentation of these facts are being laid out in such a configuration that they're contradicting the premise. This is likely where I and others are left a little confused and that the preamble, in my case, didn't clarify.

Here's an example of a contradiction where Sam references an example of a stabbing incident in China stating that mass killings don't necessarily require guns. Now he doesn't deny the lethality of a gun vs a knife however he does say something conflicting: "...the only reliable way for one person to stop a man with a knife is to shoot him." Just earlier in the podcast, Sam went over the societal changes that happened after 9/11 stating that if one is stuck in a plane, and someone becomes an immediate threat, our approach has significantly changed. We're no longer going to err on the side of caution. We're going to do whatever it takes to subdue this person due to our isolation and the likelihood of our deaths. He then mentions that perhaps training in school environments would help people get in the habit of swarming a would be attacker to improve the chances of survival for the whole. I wholeheartedly agree. Now imagine just how much more effective that would be if all you had to do is deal with a knife in stead of a gun. Seems like a reliable way to deal with a knife to me. Children, regardless of their stature, have been able to do somewhat impressive things by sheer numbers. I'm not sure what stabbings in China have to do with gun violence in the US though. If the argument is that introducing a gun would solve that problem, well, that would increase the chances of the perpetrator having one as well. The homicide rates alone are incomparable.

Then Sam argues that firearms don't have a shelf life and therefore getting rid of them is problematic. Luckily ammunition has a shelf life of about a decade when properly stored and comes in a limited quantity, which is why it's a non sequitur. Want to purchase more ammunition? Make it non-existent or require a gun license.

"Well, I like to hunt stuff". This is where my ideal "no guns" scenario hits a bit of a snag. We're self sufficient enough as a species that no one needs to run around and shoot animals for food. Technically. In Canada, certain places like Nunavut, are facing a terrible crises. Due to their isolated nature, food prices are simply ludicrous. Also, prices in general are fairly expensive these days. I can't in good conscience deny someone the ability to get food nor to preserve the techniques of survival that go with that endeavour. I also don't expect people to go out there and become flipping Legolas after tracking an animal with a rumbling in the stomach. This is where I'll have to concede that point. Also, meat is delicious.

Sam continues at length in his article. My concerns would only be repeated over some of the points he makes within the well written piece I have to once again remind you to read. As much as I don't like guns and consider them to be a coward's choice of weaponry for the insecure, they are part of the reality of our day to day lives. A flat out ban isn't going to work. Due to my own observations and the points that I mentioned, regardless of the fact that I disagree with Sam on a few points, I can't honestly say that a full ban is rational or even attainable.

I also can't say with certainty that gun violence is entirely related to the fact that 300 million guns are in circulation. The current war on drugs goes hand-in-hand with gun violence. Currently the United States has the highest prison population of the entire world. It's a billion dollar a year industry. We've essentially created a perfect storm where the only result is going to be shattered lives across the board. Ultimately I was already on board in relation to stricter gun laws but by no means do I think this will fix the problem with gun violence, even in the long run. We need to examine the environment and motives for this as well.

Although my positions certainly differ from Sam's on this matter, I believe we both agree that something needs to be done. Hopefully what I've written will go towards ironing out the kinks and providing a new idea for the problem that's past due for a solution.

The day I classified sociology as pseudoscience.

I'm a skeptic. Thanks to individuals like James Randi I've learned that it's human nature to often side with beliefs rather than evidence. These beliefs can be so strong that people will take great steps in order to try to convince themselves and others of falsehoods. This is why when people quote studies, I ask for sources because sometimes you'll get something that looks like this.

Seems rather daunting doesn't it? A giant wall of citations and text all intending to support a hypothesis. That hypothesis in this case is that meritocracy is significantly hindering a woman's ability to be treated fairly in the workplace. Narrow attention spans might take a large collection of words and figures at face value but remember, I'm a skeptic. I actually took the time to read the blasted thing. I have to say, it doesn't look good for you if you're a sociologist trying to defend your craft.

I came upon this study after an exchange with Liz Kofman. Her nerd cred definitely eclipses mine by any standards. I asked her if 445 people was a sufficient sample size to represent 150 million, which is the number of individuals in the labour force. See to me, that was the first thing that I found suspect. The problem here though occurs when you look at the three cited studies. The first, uses 229 participants, the second 115 and the third used 101. 100-200 people per method representing 150 million, That's not going to cut it. There are also other problems with the participants.

In the first study it explains that the participants revolved around gathering individuals at a University. Because when I think corporate environment, I think University. To their credit, they used MBA students in order to conduct this experiment. Although 2 somehow mysteriously failed to identify their gender, On average they had about 6 years of work experience. This is another problem. How exactly do you expect to have an accurate portrait of 150 million people when your average worker only has 6 years of work experience? Only 80% of those were in a managerial position and had an average of about 3 years leading. I'm being generous here, I'm rounding up. When you're trying to establish a portrait of a work environment, throwing warm bodies who have limited experience in the very field you're trying to accurately depict is careless. And the numbers are similar for the second and third study. Now let's get to the method.

For the first study, participants took the role of a manager and were given a package with the description of the company and if it favoured a meritocratic or non-meritocratic approach. The only problem is that the employee records were all completely fictitious. There was no real life scenario and no one interacted with these people on a day to day basis. You can't just look at a sheet of paper and determine accurately if someone should be receiving a raise. Presuming that the gender of the employee is the only contributing factor shows what little insight sociologists have into these kind of experiments. Psychologists are still finding fascinating results revolving around first impressions in general. Tone, structure, lack of experience, words with negative or positive connotations could all contribute to the metrics that are demonstrated in this paper. In essence, you're being asked to take a leap of faith regarding gender being the one and only factor in this.

All of this seems like a half-assed approach that masquerades as truth by burying it in verbal diarrhoea and citations. When you deal with science you deal with facts. A scientist would actually go to a corporate environment and study the human factor as well as widen the participants to people who have more than 3 years of managerial experience. Psychology coupled with neuroscience would be taken into account in stead of discarded to try to fit an agenda. Ultimately, that's what makes scientists awesome. They have no agenda. Unlike sociologists.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Censorship. A coward's instrument.

There has been an increased frequency recently of events such as these where individuals take it upon themselves to prevent another human being from engaging in simple debate. The latest ban features Milo Yiannopoulos and Julie Bindel. The topic which you won't find in their announcement? Free speech.

The only reasonable request one can make of Manchester's Student Union is that they resign. In this world, you're going to find people who disagree with you. Educational institutions have been the epicentres of debate for countless generations. It's where bad ideas go to die. At least it's where they did, until lately. Now, you have a selective group of opinions which will never have the luxury of standing up to scrutiny because in this day and age, offering a rebuttal to someone's opinion is as bad as rape. They flat out call Milo a rape apologist in an official announcement. If this is the image of a person who's sheer presence causes you  to deny him entry in a debate, then you are a coward and your opinions are fragile to begin with.

One of the ways intellectual human beings discover truths is by putting their opinions out there, in the public eye, to test their validity. The Internet offers an even more valuable platform, because people are more likely to disagree with you and provide sourced statements defending their point of view. It's one of the reasons I go about writing on a regular basis as a form of truth seeking. It's why I'm ridiculously intelligent as well as confident. Without this, the next generation will simply pale in comparison. If a pile of infantile, insecure paroquets void of the ability to rationalize their beliefs and environment is what you're looking for, then look no further than Manchester U. Unfortunately, they're not the only culprits. Even President Barack Obama had to take some time to offer words of wisdom. Without debate, there is no chance to recognize your own faults and evolve your opinion to reflect the truth. Otherwise, enjoy being ignorant.

Keep in mind that, in practising censorship, there's always the chance that it will backfire. We already have several examples of what regressives with extremely different opinions do to those who oppose them. Raif Badawi is one among many who is paying a heavy price for exercising free speech. I'm sure like-minded individuals like the Manchester's Student Union would never condone the lashing of another human being. But that's how these things start, with one voice silenced to promote and enforce one idea over another. This is why that as long as I draw breath, I will fight so everyone has the ability to represent their beliefs, regardless of my personal feelings towards the opinions expressed.

Censorship is one of the critical steps towards totalitarianism and the loss of humanity. One of the key arguments favouring censorship is the psychological impact certain speech and actions can have. I myself was not immune to this. However censorship doesn't make that problem go away. Kids are still going to be singled out, made fun of and have their confidence compromised. When it happened to me, there was no Internet to speak of. When a human being is feeling insecure, they don't need protection. They need to be elevated to a position of importance. They need to be shown that even in the worst situations, that they're not helpless. That they're not alone. And in extreme cases, there are harassment laws. In no way does censorship do any of that.

One of the key ways to build confidence is to engage in debate. Some people will inevitably call you a moron for having a different opinion. There is however a feeling of accomplishment once you realize that the person calling you an idiot no longer has any other course of action. You've systematically disarmed them to the point where slander is their best option. It's through this endeavour that you realize exactly just how insignificant an insult is. It, like censorship is the instrument of the intellectually bankrupt.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

A case of Milo confusion.

Ah Milo. Seldom in life can you find individuals who can be so disarming and charming as this mother fucker. I recently had the pleasure of seeing him on the Joe Rogan Experience and easily endured the 3 hours him and Joe hashed it out. There are, however, a couple of positions that Milo has that simply clash with his intellect.

For one, Milo thinks that climate change is bunk. His reasoning on the matter is that he was amongst individuals who apparently fudged data to fit the narrative supporting climate change. This didn't sit well with him, he left and took that as a lesson that scientists sometimes lie to make themselves look good. The problem with this is that it doesn't fit in on a global scale. I don't consider Milo to be a liar however his account is sketchy. It also doesn't take into account the tens of thousands of scientific papers out there, which have been peer reviewed & state climate change is happening. To imply that the myriad organizations and scientists who have access to these studies as well as scrutinize them ,are somehow ignoring fudged data, or fudging data themselves, is a humongous leap and leaning towards tin foil hat conspiracy territory. Also, if Milo would have evidence to support this and a suspicion, wouldn't that be the story of his career? Short of that, convincing me that close to the entire scientific community is somehow in on this conspiracy, is a little fucking nuts.

The second point of contention came up with religion. When Joe mentioned it, Milo's tone changed and he became rather serious stating that Joe should be smarter than to be militant about his disbelief. I can see it's something important to Milo but everyone has something important they happen to believe in. Religion shouldn't offer some sort of magical shield where people have to be gentle with their critique. Hell Milo doesn't pull punches, and as much as I like the guy, I'm not going to either. People don't respond to polite conversation. Say you go to a bar and want something to drink, you have to assert yourself, otherwise you're going to sit there looking awkward for an extended duration. Also there's no real polite way to tell someone they're a grown ass man with an imaginary friend. Think of all the times Milo pushed the envelope in a debate and posted questionable things that might have rubbed people the wrong way. Well, that's how I feel about religion. And I'm the one who has to sit here where supposed rational people all support this archaic idea of a god without anything other than "feels" to back up their claim. I'm not having it and I think everyone should be smarter than that when there's myriad materials debunking this garbage. The origins of the Abrahamic religions can be traced to the folklore of Akkadians, Canaanite and Babylonians. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's right. It's why we don't have flat earthers any more or fucking disco.

Regardless of these, albeit troubling gaps in logic and reason, Milo's the type of person who's worth following and listening to. He gets a lot of things right and delivers it all with rapier wit. He's also got a quality that puts him ahead of most humans. He can admit that he's wrong, which is probably what got him to his level of excellence in the first place. And a rare trait indeed.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Casuistry artists and how to deal with their bullshit.

After posting my last article, I decided that I had just about enough of people saying one thing and doing the exact thing they're condemning. When trying to challenge ideas, it's extremely important not to come off as a hypocrite yourself. That way, the people you're looking to convince, don't dismiss you as a hypocrite. There are however select outspoken individuals with a following who fall into the category of casuistry artists. It's even to a point now where I'm afraid the hope of reforming morally objectionable practices will be defeated by the very people looking for progress in this matter.

There's been a very minuscule reaction and outrage towards Isaac calling Ahmed a sand nigger. Prominent individuals who are supposed to stand for rationality simply fell silent or worse, came to his defence. This is peculiar because when Maajid Nawaz was called a porch monkey, the amount of people who came to his defence was outstanding and amongst them were the very people who fell silent or defended Isaac. When outrage is at a disproportion due to affiliation with or bias towards a specific individual, that's a huge problem. People would hide behind the fact that intentions, when it comes to racial slurs, somehow matter. They really fucking don't. I'm sure some individuals in the not so distant past had no ill will towards other human beings they called niggers. The fact that this needs to be pointed out shows just how little anyone's learned in the grand scheme of things. Once and for all saying X person is a sand nigger seriously or in jest isn't clever, funny and it makes you galactically stupid.

So here I am, feeling rather isolated in my opinion, knowing full well that I'm right due to simple logic and reason. You can't defend one person and not defend another because he transplanted electronics into a case, called it a clock and received a lot of attention for it. That's being selective and it's wrong. So what do I decide to do? Turn to people who I deemed as rational individuals only to find that they're just as susceptible to casuistry as the rest.

Enter Eiynah, a prominent and accomplished individual who I happen to agree with on a lot of subjects. There was one, however, which I had an issue with. That was her liberal use of the word mansplaining. I calmly suggested that this word was bigoted, as it implied a whole gender. Her response to this was to label me a privileged white male and block me. We went from a rational conversation to exposing her bigotry, having her double down on her bigotry and block me within the span of minutes. Does this seem like a rational reaction to you? Presuming every white male out there has it easy is extremely stupid without knowing the road they've walked. Unfortunate events and hardships don't have a preference when it comes to who's life they're going to fuck with. To have anyone say otherwise is extremely obtuse. Now, you try to point this out to a colleague you've interacted with and a strange thing might happens. They'll defend the bigot. Not by addressing what you've said though. But by going on the offence in stead.

A good indicator that you're dealing with a casuistry artist is they won't confront their own hypocrisy. No, they'll dig into the history of everything you've ever said to try to find something that makes you a hypocrite on any scale. This happened to me recently when discussing cultural practices vs immutable traits. It's classic deflection and they do it because people seldom enjoy dealing with the fact that they're wrong. Meanwhile your initial critique remains unchallenged and you're stuck trying to defend yourself due to your own ego. And regardless of what you say, it'll never be good enough. Luckily my ego is no longer in the way of recognizing this underhanded tactic. The only way to argue with someone who's moving a goal post is to grab it and plant it on the ground. That way the truth of your initial statement might sink in. Then again it might not.

That's the thing with ideas though, they're like seeds. Due to human nature, they take time to grow. Sometimes it takes a specific event for anyone to realize their own faults. It's unfortunate that people are victims of their own hypocrisy but those are the kinds of people you need to leave behind to stew. Examine yourself, never compromise and move forward. There's an entire field to plant.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Chrono Trigger

I've been rather quiet regarding the recent events that occurred in Texas where one Ahmed Mohamed got arrested for having an interest in electronics. My father was an electrician and for anyone to drive a wedge into a promising career in such a field kind of hits home. Now that the dust has settled and I have more information, I'll share my opinion on the matter.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age where electronics in cases are going to give people pause and cause for concern. That's the nature of things when you have other human beings who are willing to murder others on a grand scale. The point of focus in the media however was the fact that this individual happened to have the name Ahmed. Well, unfortunately we live in an age where having the name Ahmed and putting circuitry in a case is going to give people pause as well.

The problem that arises is that it's hard to fault anyone here. There are people who follow Islam that use its venomous scripture to carry out acts of suicidal murder. As it stands, its track record when it comes to Ismamist extremists, isn't pretty. And those particularly unpleasant parts of Islam aren't going away. Nor does it seem like anyone, other than a select few, are pushing for reformation. That being said, the approach of the school and the police was a bit much. By all means, confirm that Ahmed didn't build a bomb but don't arrest or suspend the poor kid. The image of him standing there in cuffs goes to show you what an overreaction looks like. And people of Islamic faith who speak out against such an overreaction have a valid point. One of the reasons people resort to Islamist extremism is xenophobia. Maajid Nawaz' own experiences in the radicalization process shows just how detrimental singling out Ahmed could be.

Luckily, the social media's response hopefully gave Ahmed a feeling of inclusiveness as a fellow human being. One where a budding electrical engineer could offer solutions to tomorrow's problems. And boy do we have a lot of work to do on that front. The President, Google and myriad other institutes reached out and offered support, which is the correct response to an already complicated situation.

People have reported that the clock is some sort of a fraud and that Ahmed might have had an ulterior motive such as getting the reaction he did. To that, I say so fucking what. If someone is bright enough to social engineer a scenario that gets them to meet the President and tour Google, my hat's off to them. It shouldn't be a major point of interest.

All in all I think things worked out for the best. Nobody died and the only casualties were a few bruised egos. This won't be the last challenge of its kind as we try to move forward in solidarity. I only hope that the pillars of society respond in the same fashion and those in authority avoid extremes like arrest and suspension.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Selective humanity.

I'm starting to see an alarming number of individuals who are posting this idea that, somehow, the Syrian refugee crisis isn't their problem nor should it be. I'm going to post this on social media in the hopes to point out the severe problems in that line of thinking. I'm also hoping that this will serve as a go-to-guide for the enlightened to provide to their own social circles regarding how people should treat other human beings who are in need.

The crisis itself isn't something new. Ultimate reason to give a shit: They're human fucking beings. Get over yourself and take a good fucking look. Does that boy fall into your broken headed narrative at all? This isn't something that's up for fucking debate! That kid could easily have been someone you know. You don't leave a child to drown. E-V-E-R. I don't care what fucking religion they are, if they think homosexuals are living in sin, women are second class citizens or WHATEVER. You give them a place to stay, food to eat then you have a debate regarding their beliefs. It's not their fault they were dropped into a shit hole where that's what they were taught. Give them a fucking break considering they already know well enough to get the hell out of there. If you'd have been born there, you'd likely have the EXACT same outlook on life and their belief system. Don't act like you're somehow better than these people because you're not. You're one of the fortunate people who got to become self aware in the western world. You lucked out. They didn't. Stop being a self important asshole.

First of all, you need to inform yourselves on what exactly it's like over there. Then you need to learn about what it's like in the surrounding Arab countries. Life over there is far from simple. There's been a civil war that's been raging on for the past 4 fucking years. That coffee you ran out to get today, if you did that in Syria, it might have cost you your life. This is the reason people are choosing places like Canada, EU and the US. Because their chances of simply fucking dying are less likely. And yeah, they bring with them some of the less pleasant tenants of Islam but so fucking what? You show them what their world can be without that nonsense so either they or the following generation grows out of it because they're living in an environment that's not constantly drilling this bullshit into their heads or trying to kill them. We're all a product of our environment. That's why you lend people the better environment so they have a chance to better themselves. Unfortunately that requires the slightest amount of effort on our part. Luckily they're not going to hop on welfare and be unproductive. That's just bigoted bullshit. Grow up, take that silver spoon out of your gob and read up on the fucking world.

I don't know how else to explain human decency and common sense to the lot of you. It leaves me absolutely gobsmacked how little anyone cares these days. It's like even the least amount of effort that could help someone is too much. They'll post tons of content regarding the suffering of animals, but fellow man? Nope. They've got ideas man. Well so do you. Maybe you're the one who needs to get the hell out of this country because you certainly weren't paying attention in history class. I'll give you a hint. People in North America weren't always European.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Vacant minds think alike.

If there's one thing that particularly damages my calm these days it's pseudoscience. From homeopathy to acupuncture, there are people out there who have decided to make a living by using misinformation in order to forward a particular agenda. For these snake oil merchants, the answer is simple. Money.

There are however situations that present themselves that aren't as clear-cut when the bullshit artist seems to be buying into their own bullshit with a certain infantile naivete. No it's not the religious. Well it is but that's not what I wanted to talk about this time around. It's what many have labeled as social justice warriors. I don't even like that term as it seems to indicate people who are in their right mind and are fighting for a worthy cause. I assure you, this is not the case.

What prompted me to stare at this awfully bright screen to type out a response was this recent video I came across. It did a rather decent job of dismantling the arguments presented but one very peculiar person showed up that I was sure wouldn't buy into this garbage. That person is Ashly Burch.

More digging on the Internet surfaced a source, if you can call it that, where Ashly, Charlie Kuhn  and Rosalind Wiseman(Oh the delicious irony) teamed up to try to cement the same broken headed shit I've been hearing from various individuals who have absolutely no concept of reality.

That's the thing with these types of expose pieces. If your brain is set to record, you're basically going to absorb this crap without looking into the source material or questioning the validity of the argument presented. Luckily, society has allowed skeptics like me to surface and considering we've moved away from burning people like me at the stake, I can show you the truth and problems with their line of thinking.

I'm a little late to the party though because they've seemed to have decided that a simple survey posted on social media constitutes empirical data that should be presented to various audiences out there. One thing that they did do right was poll at least 1400 people, so someone did their homework on statistical metrics and ensuring a minimal error margin. No problem right? Everything should be on the up and up considering they sourced this to a wide audience outside their social network correct? Well it turns out they did nothing of the sort. They even gave the survey odd ambiguous loaded titles such as "Girls Leadership" and "Curiosity, Courage and Camouflage: Revealing the Gaming Habits of Teen Girls". And this is where you get into guano territory.

Anyone worth their salt on an academic level looking to get a clear and concise snapshot of gamers would never drop a poll using their own circles. You've already been posting pseudo-intellectual garbage around the clock so people who agree with you will likely tolerate that kind of nonsense. Same reason how you wouldn't give a vaccination survey to Jim Carrey's followers on twitter. Your data is likely going to be skewed as a result. All this to say that Ashly and Rosalind need to be a little more diligent when it comes to gathering data. And by "a little more diligent" I mean to say "ask someone smarter than you for help". But this is a relatively small example from a giant festering swamp of crap that is people's uninformed opinions.

So let's just clear the table now that we've exposed this exercise for the pseudo-scientific nonsense that it is and look at the core premise that's presented. Video games influence people. This is the same shit Jack Thompson was trying to promote back in the 90s. Yeah, whatever happened to good old Jack anyways? Oh that's right, he was disbarred. Do you know why? That's because no one has been able to find any concrete evidence that video games, music, movies, spray tans, slow walking pedestrians have ANY fucking correlation with violence or abhorrent social behavior. None. Even looking at the rates of violence, they see no correlation whatsoever. Hell, among Ashly's myriad voice work for said violent video games, she's notably in MKX where you get to commit patricide in a most gruesome yet hilarious fashion. Here's my take: Women get to do and wear whatever the fuck they want. Game designers get to make characters however the fuck they want too. End of moral analysis.

Seriously, enough of this nonsense already. There are actually far more pressing matters than your innate projected insecurities that require attention. Like the fact that women in some parts of the world still can't go to fucking school without being shot. Or drive. Or not wear a hijab without being thrown into a prison cell to be raped and tortured.  But no, let's focus on the fact that some character in a damn video game is wearing something that YOU wouldn't be comfortable in. That's not a fault of the audience. It's a lack of self confidence on your part. Which is the root of the problem.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Survival's guide to assclowns bullying you.

Professor Richard Dawkins recently composed a tweet featuring the lovely Jaclyn Glenn with a video concerning cyber bullying and harassment. This is a topic that I know all too well and for the life of me, I'm not sure why I haven't reached out to share my experience and advice for people who might be going through similar circumstances. Jaclyn reminded me that it's about time I do just that considering my massive intellect and experience in these matters.

For a three year period of my life, 6th-8th grade, I was constantly tormented, ridiculed and put down by others. It was always instigated by one person who seemed to have it out for me. As a result of this constant bullying, my mental anguish started to manifests itself physically. I'd get bald patches in my hair and rather severe eczema from the ordeal. I lied to my parents at the time and told them it was stress from school work that caused this. For some reason, pinning it on an adult seemed far better to me than facing the peers that were causing me such pain. I'd tell myself, ah, they're just having a little joke at my expense and brush it off. The thing is, when you're constantly put in a position of inferiority, you start behaving like you belong there. Eventually, I acted out, joined the cool kids, started to smoke at the age of 12 and even managed to get myself arrested for shoplifting, all because I didn't want to go back to being that little insignificant spec of nothing. One problem though. I'm fucking awesome. I just didn't believe it.

It took me a long while to realize that particular fact too. Friends already knew it, they chose to hang out with me after all. Still, the effects of those events took its toll. Not physically. My hair grew back and my hands became the most gorgeous pair of hands on the planet. It was how I behaved when I was with others that changed. Just taking a walk down the street, I'd hang my head low to avoid potential confrontation, for fear that what happened in the 3 year cycle might come back all over again. My posture was that of someone who was uncomfortable because that's how I felt in the presence of others. It was only through self discovery that I made the connection that the events of my past dictated who I was in the present. The great news is that it can change. For anyone.

More great news: It gets a hell of a lot better. No really! I'm sitting here at my own damn computer. I don't want to wear pants, off they go. If I feel like beef jerky for breakfast? BAM. I've kissed a girl. Several in fact! On the lips and everything! And those assholes that used to pick on me? I haven't heard from them in decades.

The people who are doing this to you won't be in your life for long. If you're currently experiencing something similar to what I went through, get a grownup involved. Not like I did. Tell the truth. Pro tip: Not all adults grow up to be awesome understanding individuals. Sometimes people actually have shitty parents. Get someone with authority that seems to give a damn and if it doesn't work out, find another. There's a large supply of adults that will help you.  Also social media is an awesome place where you can tell your story and there are adults out there who will spread the word so you don't feel so alone. Yeah, sure, there are people out there who just want to feed on someone's misery but that gets drowned out fairly quickly by like minded people who give a shit about others. Because of us, the world's already progressing towards a better place so hop on this train and lend your voice.

See, the trick to all this is not just being yourself. It's about being your best self. Who you are on the surface and at your core is something that's malleable. Take Neil Strauss as an example. Now I'm not suggesting you become some sort of pick up guru like he did, but his transformation and that of others is a prime example that one can elevate themselves to the status of rock star that I'm sure is inside everyone reading this. Small problem though. That means you're going to have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to get used to them. Public speaking and talking to strangers for one, is something that's always been hard for me. You think that they won't respond, think you're a joke, then you revert back to your old self where people are judging you and you feel like crap. And you know what, sometimes they do just that. But do we really want those kind of people in our immediate circle of awesome people? I sure as hell don't. So think of rejection as a way of weeding out the bad. Keep in mind, asking yourself if you could modify your approach sometimes helps you make a connection where there wouldn't be one before. When things click, you'll know it.

So the first step out of this is to become your number one judge of character. Start by looking at yourself and asking yourself why you feel or behave a certain way. Understanding the why leads to solutions. For me, it was that voice in my head. You know the one that tells you "I'm not that good at x"? Well, that's your ego and because you were in a situation where people tormented you, it's looking out for it's own best interests so that doesn't happen again. Like a survival mechanism. If you keep listening to it and self-deprecating, that will leave us in the same place we've always been. I don't know about you, but I want to go over THERE. THERE being the place where you see people talking to each other without a care in the world. So here's a neat exercise you can do. Close your eyes and try to see if that little fucker wants to come talk. Start thinking of past events where you heard it before. What's it saying? Hold onto it until it's loud and clear. Where's it coming from? It might be in your head or in your gut. Just visualize it as it's coming out of you into the air so you can hear it. Now picture a box and put it right in front of you. What we're going to do is take that voice and run it through the box. The box is pretty neat though. It makes all sound going into it come out sounding like Goofy. Doesn't sound so bad now that it's as if Goofy's saying it huh? Alright, go ahead and put that voice back where it came from. Now, when you hear it, it'll sound just like a cartoon character that's not to be taken seriously so we can move onto being our best self. It also works for the voices of others that would want to put us down and a great way not to take them seriously. Basically tricking our brains into thinking that as well. Just don't use it for important stuff you might need to remember, like college. Sure your class might be a hell of a lot more entertaining but you'll be struggling come exam time.

Our brains are stupid organs that sometimes need help in order to work properly. Even the simplest image can cause them to malfunction. How is one supposed to trust what it's telling us regarding something as complex as social interaction? My journey into self discovery started with my fascination towards the opposite sex. A friend lent me "The Game" by Neil Strauss and as a result, I was able to shake myself out of my old self into who I am today. I'd just scour the Internet for anything related to self improvement and social behavior. My only regret is that it took so long for me to discover this amazing ability to transition from one state of mind to another.

It doesn't have to be about looking to attract a mate either, although it is a pretty great motivator. Self confidence. That's the key. And if your brain isn't letting you be self confident, make it learn. Something as simple as correcting your posture and forcing a smile can go a long way. Hit the youtubes and do some searching. The great thing about self improvement videos is that the people presenting the stuff are already self confident so they're not boring. Be self conscious about it until it becomes second nature to hold yourself a certain way. Reinforce yourself positively by repeating to yourself "I am fucking awesome!" It sounds corny as hell, but it works. For everything. Job interviews, getting yourself noticed at work, dating, mating and anything else that has another human being involved. All this can be improved upon and changed.

A lot of the stress in our lives is due to us thinking either about the past or the future. Either we're reliving a painful event and our brain is in a feedback loop or we're worrying about things that almost never turn out the way we thought they would. Both of those states of mind are problematic to our minds because there is no solution due to the fact that we can only influence the present. That's one of the reasons people tattoo Carpe Diem on their bodies, because it's such an elusive concept to remember. Think of what you'd like to be doing right now and just do it. Find what turns you on. Do something or try something new. And if the "something new" is you wanting to get a tattoo, get something other than Carpe Diem. It's been done. Get something strong like a giant bear beating the shit out of a tree or something. Be creative.

Once you feel better about yourself, there are few obstacles that will give you pause. That and you won't even give a shit what other's think because you'll know, without a shadow of a doubt that you're awesome without the need to be told as much. And for the hard obstacles that may come, you'll be prepared and have a horde of people to back you up because they'll take one look at you and be like, man, I want to be around that person. It's just up to you to show your best self to everyone and overcome your brain's failings. I hope this helps put your best foot forward to succeed and overcome this shitty period in your life. I did.

Lots of love,
Pascal




Friday, June 26, 2015

All purpose go to guide for people who are against same sex marriage.

You're a bigot. But enter one twitter user who simply refers to himself as Mike. See he had a problem with being called a bigot (which he is) after he made the statement that he is opposed to same sex marriage in the public forum which is Twitter. He pulled up the most simplistic definition of the word and doubled down on the fact he's not a bigot. Learned definitions seem to disagree however. Note how it says "unreasonable beliefs" there. Keep that in mind because it's going to be a recurring theme for this discussion.

I admit, yes, I am dismissive of his type as he mentions but there's a very good reason for this. Enough people have been hurt. Any time you state that X humans don't get to do what the other humans are doing when it has absolutely no bearing on your freedoms, that's the end of the discussion. You're no longer thinking or operating on rationale, reason or morality. I've been through enough conversations to know that pointing out your galactically stupid position and putting you in your place is the best course of action in order to save time and one's sanity because you need those 3 key components in order to be able to admit that your position is indefensible. In essence, have the ability to admit that you're wrong. Without that you're just going to be doing a lot of talking and not a lot of thinking, which is what got you to your idiotic conclusion in the first place.

Well Mike does seem to have a lot to say without saying anything at all. I like to refer to this as verbal diarrhea. It doesn't take him long for him to bring up god. Remember what I said about unreasonable beliefs? Well, the etymology for bigot mentions that it may have come from "by God" revolving around religious hypocrisy.

In his twitlonger response, he reveals the true nature of his position regarding opposing same sex marriage. And that reason is because he's one of the many people, due to geographical birthplace, found an imaginary friend they can talk to with a nifty book that tells them how to think instead of thinking for themselves. See to people like Mike the LGBT are not only destroying themselves, they're creating a level of spiritual decay that will somehow have an impact on reality. There's a little teeny tiny itsy bitsy teeny weeny problem with that though. It's completely batshit insane.

I've already written at great lengths regarding religion and how it's absurd for any human being to conclude without a shred of evidence that there are/is a god(s) that cares so much about what happens to man only after they evolved from apes and have been on Earth for 100k years without any intervention whatsoever. Greater writers and scholars than I have already pointed out the absolute disastrous consequences of beliefs without evidence and the absurdity of such supernatural claims. Same sex coupling is something that occurs in myriad species in nature. Somehow, to these morons, it's sinful. That's not something I care to hear or give any weight to. I've seen what mankind does with such beliefs. On the more moderate side you have parents disowning their own children and harassment from peers leading them to commit suicide. On the other you have human beings throwing others off of rooftops to their death. It's venemous scripture found in Abrahamic religions written by bronze age men that we have to thank for this. Thankfully, sounder minds prevail and we're moving forward. No thanks to Mike.

This is the reason I'm curt with you. This is the reason that your opinion and belief deserves absolutely no respect and is to be dismissed immediately. It's what we do with bad ideas like spraying kids with DDT to show how safe it is or that you should always put salt in your eyes. We stop doing it after identifying that it's harmful to us and/or others. Eventually. See the religious seem to think that because they deem something to be sacred that it's immune to scrutiny. It's not.

So the next time I call you a bigot and you think you're not being heard, on the contrary, I hear you loud and clear. You can go on spouting your nonsense on public forums all you want. I, on the other hand, don't have to listen to it. Nor do I have to give it any more weight than one would give a fairy tale or a schizophrenic's account of the world when they're off their medication. As a result, the table your sitting at becomes a lot smaller by the day. And that my friend is a step in the right direction. Because anyone holding onto the idea that some humans don't get to do certain things because of their sexual orientation is a bigot that's not operating at the capacity to help progress humanity. Don't like the word bigot? Fine, hypocritical cunt. Try that one on. Now fuck off.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

All you need is love.

After reading the recent article by Sarah Michelle Gellar I realized that there's a topic of conversation that I neglected. Children.

Within the article Sarah illustrates her interaction with her husband and her kids revolving around the kitchen. She enumerates the myriad benefits of having this family time which evolved from her and Freddie's passion for great healthy food. Although I think it's absolutely great advice for any family looking to bond with their children to focus on such an activity, I believe that it's one of many reasons that their children are going to end up as absolutely awesome adults. In simple terms, all you need is love.

There have been cases in the past where children have been severely neglected. The term used to describe them is feral children. One of the most surprising results of extreme neglect during a child's critical development stage is that their brains won't grow. Ever. As a result, they currently are unable to develop beyond a 12 year old's level. To me that's something that's incredibly tragic for the child but fascinating in regards to how we treat our children. With the recent inclusion of the field of epigenetics we're starting to unlock the very foundation of human beings via science. Early childhood seems to be the most critical time for all of us due to our brain's high plasticity during that time.

Not everyone has a passion for food. I myself am guilty of this. As much as I enjoy preparing a meal as a perfectionist, when doing this for myself, I tend to keep things extremely simple and economical. Sometimes that leads me to unhealthy choices. It would take a major course correction on my part and due to my lazy nature, and because I'm an adult, it's an every day challenge. Yeah, I know a lot of you are probably quoting Shia LaBeouf or want me to load up Rollin's Band - Do it. Hey, I'm working on it. One of the reasons for this though is I never acquired good eating habits as a child. There were far too many liberties regarding my dietary choices and not a lot of involvement in the importance of diet and exercise. If I'd had been around the kitchen, being involved in meal preparation by my loving parents, this aspect of life would have definitely been a lot easier for me. The point is however that any environment in which you provide love to your kid will make them turn out awesome. Scientists use terms like "stimulation and attention" but I call that love.

Not convinced? Check out Taylor Wilson. At the age of 14, he built a nuclear reactor. His father owns a bottling plant and his mom is a former yoga instructor. Now how in the hell do you get a nuclear physicist from a businessman and a teacher? Watching the NBC piece, you can see it. At a certain point when asked about how they felt regarding their child stating that he wants to build a nuclear reactor in the garage at the age of 11, his father simply stated "We were scarred to death to be honest but, if Taylor was going to learn, he had to experience it". This isn't an isolated incident either. His brother Joey also attended the same school for the gifted in the field of mathematics. Looking at various interviews the one clear constant is that those kids got was love. Sorry, "stimulation and attention". When Taylor had an interest in acquiring a piece of construction equipment that was outside his parent's means, his father got him some time with one instead, to figure out how it operates. How many of us would have simply just dropped it there by saying "we can't get a kid a damn backhoe!" or "She's too young" or "We can't afford it". Presented with an obstacle, his father simply looked for a positive alternative. As a result, the world is better off for it. Taylor's already made strides in providing safe nuclear energy to the future and I'd argue that this was primarily possible because his parents are fucking rock stars.

The most important thing to a developing child is an open door. As Neil deGrasse Tyson said if your toddler is fixated on hammering on a pot, get out of their way. I'd go further and suggest joining in, perhaps trying to set an accompanying rhythm or if you're a musician, pick up your guitar and join in. Regardless of how annoying the sound might be to you because your mother is in the hospital, you have a deadline on a project, you need to be able to say yes to your child at all times. Well, when it comes to personal discovery that is. For fuck's sake, keep their soda consumption to a minimum. Good habits, a lot of love and enabling them is the key to awesome adults. Because the world as it stands needs some of the greatest minds available in order to overcome the problems of tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Quiet Earth

The Earth's been through a lot in its 4.5 billion years. About 700 million years after its initial formation is when it's estimated that the first hints of life surfaced. And through the incredibly slow and lengthy process of evolution, we've only called it home for a fraction of that, roughly 100-200 thousand years. We can only theorize with science and evidence what 4.5 billion years looks like and I don't believe the majority of humans can conceive or even fathom exactly what the Earth is beyond the confines of their own homes, property, conveniences and country.

In the past 500 million years, there have been 5 mass extinctions that have decimated life here on Earth. 99% of all life that has ever existed on Earth has been dispatched into oblivion. The largest, known as the Great Dying, took place about 252 million years ago. The reason behind it, was climate change.

As a species with the luxury of sentience, reasoning and intelligence, we've been able to carve an existence on Earth and change its very landscape to suit our increasing needs. Unfortunately, our intelligence seldom revolves around forethought. We're a reactionary species, which is likely a by-product of our evolution. We seldom go out and try to fix problems that aren't there or that are outside our perception. We await events like those experienced in Fukushima Japan in order to correct how we do things such as the notion that building a nuclear reactor on a fault line, is perfectly reasonable. However, even our greatest minds and pioneers with all their caution and planning are not immune to occasional catastrophe like the one witnessed by NASA and the Challenger disaster. We're human and with that comes the ability to be wrong. So let me put things into perspective for you regarding what we currently know about this wonderful planet.

Resources are not indefinite. Eventually you can run out of something if you simply use it without any consideration for its origins and the methods in which they are created. The current energy consumption of the world, roughly 86% of it, predominantly revolves around fossil fuels. The time it takes to create them is longer than humans have been walking the Earth. Yet, somehow, we've become entirely dependent on them. We've only recently enjoyed this technological boom thanks to the industrialization of the world for roughly a couple of centuries and depend entirely on a fuel source that takes millions of years to resupply. Does this sound like an intelligent practice to you? Well even Bill Nye has said that we will never run out of fossil fuel. Now I agree with him on a lot of things, however his statement is a drastic oversimplification. Albert Bartlett showed this using simple arithmetic. The OECD paints a rather stark picture of what it will mean when we hit peak figures by 2050. This means that the entire world will be at its maximum ability to supply before resources start to decline. There will be shortages and the world will frantically be looking for alternatives to try to keep the juggernaut, which is humanity, going. Whether this will be a slightly turbulent or disastrous transition is anyone's guess. It's likely that it won't matter though.

Since I've been in grade school, over the span of a couple of decades, the population of Earth has gone from the 4.6 billion mark to about 7.1 billion. That's almost double. We still can't even manage to feed everyone or provide clean water despite us having the ability and the resources to do so. For now. Current models are already putting our current food supply in question. First world countries are already buying land at unprecedented rates in order to meet the demands of tomorrow. So what happens when the hungry inhabitants from those places realize that their own land is being used to feed others who already have more than their fair share of resources? What happens if a world food shortage occurs in tandem with an energy crisis? These are the sorts of things I contemplate lately on Earth day.

It might already be too late though due to the facts that have surfaced regarding the consequences for the methods in which we've erected our civilization. That consequence is climate change. Sea levels will rise burying once prominent cities in water. Temperatures will rise causing water shortages and increasing problems regarding agriculture. The oceans will acidify causing life to die out, something that's already visible in Sylvia Earle's lifetime and demonstrated in the documentary Mission Blue. We still don't have solid figures on what this will do to Earth's oxygen supply considering 50% of it comes from our oceans. Life on this planet is about to get extremely unpleasant and soon.

More people, less food, less water, less fuel and an increasingly difficult time producing those key components for our survival. Does this sound like a sustainable operation to you? The Earth however will continue to go on. It's already had 5 mass extinction events it's recovered from with time. What's a 6th going to be in the grand scheme of things? It already might be too late for us. We might not even have the luxury of being able to breathe in open air the way things are going. We're too worried about lines on a map, skin pigmentation, what our imaginary friend in the sky thinks, what new toy we can add to our collection, or how much paper with dead people we can accumulate in order to give meaning to one's life. So much so that we defund organizations such as NASA that are providing this critical information so we can get more things that will be irrelevant when we're all dead. Being able to control asteroids, you know, something that may have played a part in previous extinction events might be important if one happens to be barrelling towards us to destroy all life as we know it on Earth. But no, lets defund that so we can increase defence spending to attack other countries, kill people and secure a foothold for the future of our little piece of land separated by lines that were drawn a long time ago. It's absolutely absurd and is the key reason we're all fucked.

So here's to Earth. That impressive timeless planet that's been a home to myriad species. May the next one surpass humanity's shortcomings and not be the total self absorbed, selfish, naive  fuckups we all were while fulfilling petty needs and delusions of grandeur.

Or maybe, maybe, just maybe, those who survive this mess will have enough sense to make things right so the Earth doesn't have to wait another billion years to repopulate. Now that would be something.

*****

I've decided to revisit this a year later, on Earth day to see if there's been any change in my assessment. I have been met with zero responses challenging my claims and have promoted my opinion on this matter, which happens to be supported by facts, several times over the year. 

Since then, I've been made aware that the global water supply itself is in jeopardy. Most of it, to be fair, is locked away in glaciers. You know, the things that are now melting at record rates. I've talked about peak fuel, but a concept you're going to be hearing about, and very soon, is peak water. The scary thing? We're not even sure if we're there yet.

Without water, there's no food. Without food, there's no us. "But the world is made up of tons of water!" Yeah, sure, that's salinated. Desalination, that is turning ocean water into fresh water, is not without problems. First of all, the particulates left over can't simply be dumped back into the oceans without impacting the environment. Remember that whole "50%+ of the oxygen supply comes from our oceans" thing I mentioned? Then you have the small hurdle where the majority of wildlife around these desalination plants just fucking die.

First the water's going to go, then the food, then each other fighting ourselves over imaginary lines drawn in the sand to get at the food and water that's left. The pros will be, hey, we'll have less people around to take up the resources! The con is that what's left isn't going to be much of anything worth living for. 

One of the sticking points for immediate action at the moment are those taking the lazy, apathetic and/or self absorbed position of thinking the problem will solve itself through the magic of science and human innovation. The other is fuelled by the notion that there's some magical imaginary friend in the sky that won't let anything bad happen to this planet, or more importantly us. 

Between these two immovable objects, we're faced with two choices. Either we die slowly and painfully or take out as many people on the planet as we can that are taxing it. Neither is morally justifiable but when push comes to shove, the latter will likely be the reality humanity chooses. And I really hope I'm wrong about that.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

If he only had a brain.

Things have been going drastically down hill for Cenk Uygur seeing as he's recently devolved into the position of a common smear merchant. Unfortunately, no one in his immediate surroundings seems to have a level head regarding these matters or knowledge of the subject. As a result, everyone at TYT simply nods at anything coming out of Cenk's gob.

Here's the most recent smear job focused against Ayaan Hirsi Ali. This is a direct result of him being called out regarding his statements referring to Ayaan and Sam Harris as neocons. In Ayaan's case he stated that she's a maniac on top of that. Now anyone who spent enough time looking into the ideology of Islam in order to better understand it has likely come across Ayaan at some point in time. Either she's in a debate, presentation or an interview. Simply looking up her name comes up with myriad results giving a very clear narrative on her thoughts about Islamic religion and its impact on the world, and more specifically, the Muslim world. Most importantly it sets the stage on why it's so important to criticize these matters in the hopes of change through reformation. The one question I kept asking via twitter and was hoping for an answer was, if Ayaan was such a bigoted neocon maniac, why is she looking for reformation in the hopes of helping the very Muslims she supposedly hates? Despite my attempts at getting an answer by Cenk, I found none in this video. All I found unfortunately was oversimplification, quote mining and, ironically, strawmanning of Ayaan.

Lets deal with the first part where Cenk skimmed over the interview of Ayaan by Sam Harris. Right off the bat Cenk tried to diminish the interview because Sam didn't ask Ayaan any "hard" questions. Cenk made reference to the 3 hour interview he did with Sam as an example. At the beginning of the interview, Sam was critical of Cenk's journalistic integrity. Roughly at the 6 minute mark is where Sam makes the point that Reza Aslan and CJ Werleman were basically left a platform to speak unchallenged. The uninformed viewer/reader would have never been aware of what Sam actually said and dismissed him as a genocidal maniac. And even after the 3 hours he spent at TYT clarifying his position, Cenk still managed to misrepresent him and dismiss him as a neocon. Yet in that very interview he said he opposed the Iraq war. This proves precisely why Sam's grievance is a valid one. As for hard questions, what exactly should Sam do when he's asking Ayaan about AEI? Put her in a strangle hold while he's posing the question? Yell at her? All I see here is Sam being civil, paraphrasing answers to make sure there's no confusion and getting a clear narrative of who Ayaan really is. Cenk could learn a lot from him. Note how Sam started his interview by listing the various accomplishments and a short biography on who it was he'd be speaking to. Yeah, I didn't see any of that mentioned in Cenk's video either. So for the casual viewer one would simply think that Ayaan is the most reprehensible human being ever. This is why Cenk's nothing but a smear merchant. Not even the slightest hint or mention regarding any of her work.

One thing I want to establish for this portion is the definition of what it means to straw man. Also the reason why I just had to use this title for my blog. A straw man is when you misrepresent's an opponent's position. Cenk seems to think that it applies to statements like this: "It never ceases to amaze me that when one complains about Muslim theocrats abusing Muslim women and freethinkers, one inevitably gets accused of anti-Muslim bigotry". It doesn't. Here's an example of an actual straw man. Note how you can clearly see an interaction between two people? One person is clearly telling Sam what he said and Sam has to clarify as a result. That's a straw man. Sorry to take you by the hand like that but when grown ass men still can't comprehend this, I'd rather this be crystal clear in stead of redefining the English language. In any event, Cenk's response to the so called "straw man argument": "No one's ever said that, you can't find any examples of that". Well here's one saying "You're a bigot end of story". This is all too commonplace for individuals who are actively criticizing Islam's bad ideas. Just because Cenk never personally experienced it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Cenk barely, barely covers anything revolving around Islam yet the stories I see with ideological motivators are occurring almost daily. The rest of Cenk's presentation is repetition. He reads the quote and says it doesn't happen. Yet when I make any critical statements regarding such events, I either have people flat out call me a bigot or present me with an example of western intervention where people died due to Agent Orange for instance. Hop outside your own little universe and get involved in a conversation outside your own twitter feed and you'll come across it. Like an actual death threat. All in all his analysis of the interview is simplistic, one sided and does nothing to tell you what kind of a person Ayaan actually is. Here's the actual interview. How anyone can summarize that into the oversimplified quote mined turd Cenk presented would get anyone a failing grade in journalistic academia.

In transition, Cenk can't help himself to do a little more quote mining, taking another stab at Sam. Sam: "The faith has no truly moderate wing". This is classic smear merchant nonsense. When read in context an entire conversation is taking place between Sam and Ayaan. What Sam is saying within the paragraph in question is that there seems to be little resistance regarding current questionable practices surrounding Islamic ideology by Muslims. Polls show this. He's not denying moderates exist. Hell he's writing a book with Maajid Nawaz, an ex radical. This is also something I pointed out to Cenk. It's rather peculiar for Cenk to accuse Sam of making so called blanket statements when he's co-authoring a book with a Muslim in the hopes of progressing the discussion. Sam's even mentioned before that the greatest victims of Islamic atrocities are Muslims. But see, that's the problem. The second you look at the entire context of the discussion, the notion that Sam is some malicious hate filled lunatic, just dissolves to any rational human being.

The actual meat and potatoes from Cenk's beef with Ayaan seems to revolve around everyone's go-to-guide in order to show what a despicable human being she actually is. The interview is a fairly lengthy one yet, as always, certain quotes are lifted and presented as abhorrent truth.

And now we add a new fallacy to the mix where Cenk inevitably links Ayaan with AEI. This is called guilt by association. It would be like stating that Cenk is for the marriage of minors because he's from Turkey. What one would need to do is provide evidence of her direct involvement in the questionable matters regarding AEI and its practices, which Cenk fails to do. Working for a specific company isn't an actionable offense. After learning of Enron's questionable practices, they didn't throw every employee there in jail as a result. Stop this nonsense.

Only at 12 minutes in do we get to the heart of the matter. Cenk's position is that she's identifying herself as liberal and her only position is war and bombing. This is yet another fallacy called no true Scotsman. Everything regarding Ayaan's career where she brings focus of women's rights in Islam screams liberal. In fact, this is what the majority of her time, debates and interviews revolve around. She's already responded to these allegations in the past but there's never a mention of it. Neither is there ever a mention of her body of work looking to change the moral landscape of Islam. But that's the thing with blog reading so called journalists today, they don't try to look at past accomplishments nor do they look to what's being said in the present. They simply line up a target, find all supporting evidence for their bias and pull the proverbial trigger. You never see recent pieces where Ayaan is pushing for reform stating "You can't drone bad ideas out of people's heads". Rarely do you get the 5ws, the core of journalism. Here's a woman who was a full fledged practicing Muslim and only after decades of living in that world did she break free and flee towards a more rational alternative. Here's her speaking about her experience so hopefully you can get the full narrative the Young Turks fail to present.

The story could have ended there with Ayaan as a free woman but despite everything that pushed her away, Ayann turned around to confront Islam head on. She started working with women in shelters who were victims of spousal abuse but didn't want to leave their husbands in fear that they would go to hell according to Islamic teachings. She became involved in the political landscape, shared her story and spoke out against the abhorrent practices of Islam. In 2004, after working with Theo van Gogh, the short film Submission was released and both her and Theo received death threats. All they did was report precisely how Islam treated its women and, shortly after, Theo paid for it with his life. Even more unsettling was a letter pinned to Ayaan's colleague repeating the threat against her life. So yeah, maybe 3 years after that event, when the Reason interview took place, she's going to be a little curt when speaking about Islam and not catering to everyone's sensitivities. Even as that interview took place, Salman Rushdie was still living in fear until 2008 due to a fatwa called on his life by Iran. This should give you pause and make you think. Yeah, a leader of a country calls for the death of an author over a god dammed book. That was back in 1989 and was reaffirmed by future administrations there until 2008. That's almost 2 decades of living in isolation. Because of a fucking book.

This is the true problem with Cenk. He has no inclination or interest in representing people for who they are in full. He'll just read one source and run with whatever broken headed notion enters his large oily cranium. He'll also fail completely to provide the context, timeline and reasons for why certain things are being said. He'll just quote mine things, present them as truth and watch the views come in justifying his galactically stupid opinions. This is the how a disingenuous ignorant smear merchant like Cenk operates as well as many others. Unfortunately, I was one of the people who supported him. You'd think for someone who used to have opinions on the right side of the political spectrum like Cenk did, he'd actually have integrity regarding evaluating human beings. But no. As a result I can no longer support the Young Turks. They've devolved into an organization that's simply out to make points using only selective sources regarding world news. And if the world is looking to realistically progress, a professionally constructed account of the facts is necessary, which you won't find with Cenk and other members of the Young Turks. And that's a damn shame.