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.