Saturday, January 17, 2015

Flat Earth Believers Live On

The shape of the earth was one of the first theories verified using the modern scientific process. Europeans screwed the math up pretty badly and grossly underestimated the size of the planet, but Greek and eastern mathematicians pretty much nailed it. 

No scholar of any real note or relevance believed that the earth was flat as far back as 500 BC. 

But everyone else did. 

Like climate change deniers of today the resistance to the concept of a spherical earth was not led by scholars. It was led by interests invested in the concept of a flat earth in very much the same way climate change denial is being promoted by special interests now. The "round earth" theory was denied mostly by religious leaders invested in discrediting the scientific process, and climate change theory is being denied mostly by oil and gas companies who stand to lose a great deal of money if it gains popular acceptance. In both cases denier factions used very similar strategies to hold up the advance of these theories. 

The concept of a round earth was mathematically proven more than two and a half thousand years ago using Pythagorean mathematics, but until a couple centuries ago very few common folk could even add, much less understand what at the time was considered advanced mathematics. Round earth deniers were able to play on that lack of understanding in exactly the same way climate change deniers are playing the complexity of climatology against the general public now. After all... how could the earth POSSIBLY be anything but flat? It just stands to reason all the oceans would drain off the edge. 

Round earth deniers used "common sense" to debunk the mathematics that most people didn't understand. The contrast in messages between scholars and layman was profound. While scholars were insisting that the universe was something complex and outside most people's understanding, deniers were able to mock that contention as pompous and arrogant. 

Given the choice between...

"I know you don't understand it, but you must believe me the world is round," a message which made people feel small and ignorant...


"Bah... those guys are jerks who think you're stupid, OF COURSE the world is flat," a message which allowed them to keep their sense of understanding and control...

...Most people quite naturally chose to believe the latter. Flat earth believers formed the overwhelming majority of the public, in open contempt of scholarly understanding, pretty much right up until Magellan proved the earth was round by circumnavigating it in the early 16th century, about two millennia after mathematicians had first proven the theory. 

The problem, of course, being that we don't have two thousand years to realize that maybe the scientific process works this time, and if it's going to take a practical demonstration to prove it the way Magellan did we're completely fucked because we don't have a spare earth lying around to destroy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

On #Gamergate and Social Justice Warriors

I want to talk a little about #Gamergate.

For those few of you gentle friends who are not gamers allow me offer a little
backstory. In short #Gamergate is a hashtag on twitter that has become a haven
of 4chan misogynists and the morons who follow them. Between the beer belches
and bleating they have evolved into what basically amounts to a hate group
determined to keep girl gamers "in their place" and resist the changes to games
and gaming that are occurring as a result of the rapidly increasing numbers of
young women and minorities joining nerd culture at large and more specifically,
gaming. They have resorted to extensive campaigns of doxxing (publically
posting personal information) and threats of rape and murder to silence voices
in the industry that might resist their sick agenda and make extensive use of
sockpuppets to create an illusion of acceptance and consensus.

Borrowing effective dirty tricks from the same playbooks that the worst
mainstream politicians have followed for decades they have been very effective
at hiding their real agenda behind a cloud of loosely similar but completely
unrelated issues. They whine constantly about "corruption in game journalism"
but the specifics they offer inevitably ignore real issues in favor of
slandering political enemies, mostly female, with irrelevant or unsubstantiated
personal attacks.

For days the mainstream media has been duped into believing these troglodytes
somehow represent the larger nerd subculture when they are, in fact, nothing
more than a loudmouth minority.

Any major party politician will tell you that winning a publicity war is about
shaping the dialog to support your position, and #Gamergate has excelled at this. They
have even effectively created new words and phrases that have been adopted into
general use in nerd culture.

My personal favorite is "SJW". SJW is an abbreviation of the phrase "social
justice warrior" and it's use speaks volumes about #Gamergate.

You might expect that a "social justice warrior" would be someone to look up
to, but according to the twisted world-view of #Gamergate the term is entirely
derogatory. The term is used to dehumanize critics and dismiss criticism
without debate. A social justice warrior is someone who loudly and frequently
defends inclusiveness and diversity as one might expect, but the context of the
term presumes an ulterior motive for doing so. A social justice warrior doesn't
promote diversity because he believes in diversity. A social justice warrior
promotes diversity because "it makes him look good". Widespread use of this
term allows #Gamergate to brush off criticism without having to engage it, and
successful injection of the concept into the dialog has created a presumption
that NOBODY could SINCERELY want to make nerd culture more inclusive.

It's a clever strategy, and it has worked for quite a while, but it's not going
to last because it doesn't bear up under close examination. In the end it only
compounds of the absurdity of treating social justice as a pejorative by
highlighting the juvenile mindset that drives the entire #Gamergate campaign. 

As children we believe motives matter. What we think, or what we feel, or what
we mean when we say or do something is relevant. Sure, we made a mistake, but
our motives were pure and that makes it okay. We didn't MEAN to make someone
cry. We didn't MEAN to hurt someone. We didn't MEAN to break something.

As adults we learn that motives don't really matter.

One of the hardest epiphanies every adult must face is the fact that nobody
really cares what you feel. It's not that people are cruel or that empathy does
not exist, but in the end everyone views your feelings through their own life-
lens. Nobody can entirely understand or know what you feel because they can't
climb into your head and feel it with you.

Nobody will ever know with any real certainty you love them.

From this epiphany springs a score of important truths, but among them is one
that applies specifically to the SJW construct.

Motives don't matter. A person can't be defined by their feelings, or their
thoughts, or their motives because we can't KNOW those things with any real
certainty. What defines a person is what they do; the footprints they leave
behind. Everything else is bullshit. People using the term have pretty much
invalidated the entire SJW concept by imposing a motive on Social Justice
Warriors, dubious or otherwise.

The entire SJW concept is, like #Gamergate itself, the product of a juvenile mindset.

For the record. I am a gamer, and #Gamergate does NOT speak for me.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I've Been Away Too Long

I know... nobody reads this blog. And I've kinda left it untended for a long time.

But I need to vent, and in the end that's all this has ever been. A place to vent. A place where one tiny cog of the huge machine with billions of moving parts can cry out in his tiny little voice in a way that will at least leave a mark.

It's a scribble on a middle school bathroom wall. I know that. But it's my middle school and at least a few of my fellow students, family, friends and followers, will be forced to know that there indeed once was a man from Nantucket.

And just now I need to vent.

I stumbled across a New Yorker magazine article today about some new disease. Spores are being stirred up by dust storms out west causing fatal lung infections, and I have not been able to shake a sense of shame and melancholy.

I can't say why this has affected me so much. You see stuff like this all the time. The extinction of whole species. TV commercials of doomed polar bears struggling to find a place to survive and so on are rampant. The slow increase in global temperatures and CO2 levels. Whales and dolphins beaching themselves in a futile attempt to flee the din and stench of the sea. The horrific storms that seem to be finding whole new courses across the globe.

The droughts.

With a storm of the century occurring every two years or so it just seems odd to me that I should be so profoundly affected by a fungal infection that's killing so few people every year that the medical research community hasn't even noticed it yet. I guess because my father and wife both have lung conditions and the idea of suffocating to death is just particularly horrifying to me.

I know... I know... what the hell does any of this have to do with global climate change. I guess I should elaborate.

Most people don't know this but the Great Plains wasn't always a dust bowl. Back in the day, before the civil war, it was a lush grassland. They were literally the great plains. The ground didn't suck up every drop of rain that touched it. There were streams and rivers. And there was life. Everywhere.

And then white people showed up. We slaughtered the buffalo that cropped the grasslands and converted it to fresh topsoil for the coming years. The people that had survived there for millenia dwindled and died in an act of second hand genocide that even Joseph Stalin would have to grudgingly respect.

The grasses died. The ground dried up. And here we are. Some hundred and fifty of us last year, gasping out our last dying breaths. We are paying the price for our grandparents greed, shortsightedness, and ignorance.

I shudder to think what price my grandchild will pay for mine. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I'm Enjoying A Hot, Tasty, Chick-fil-A Sandwich Tonight

A lot of people who think they know me are going to be surprised by this, but I got my dinner at Chick-fil-A tonight. God help me, I never thought I'd side with Michelle Bachman on anything. But just this once, despite the company it puts me in, I don't have a choice.

Dan Cathy's position on gay marriage is certainly politically incorrect but it's founded in his Christian beliefs and it's consistent with biblical doctrine. The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is a sacred covenant made between a man and a woman. His statement was consistent with and representative of mainstream Christian beliefs on the subject. Furthermore, Chick-fil-A is privately held company that clearly identifies itself in it's mission as a Christian business. They are not open on Sundays, at enormous expense to their bottom line, and they maintain Christian ideals in their treatment of employees and customers alike.

One of those Christian ideals is "love the sinner but hate the sin". There are NO service or employment policies that discriminate against gays in place at Chick-fil-A.

All the man did was give an honest answer to a straight question but since that statement has been made public no less than half a dozen city officials, including the mayors of Boston and Chicago, have threatened to block  the franchise from opening stores and the PC thought-police have chosen to boycott the entire chain.

Now look, I'm not quite as bent out-of-shape about the gay marriage issue as most Christians.

For one thing, as sins go, I doubt homosexuality is a really that big a deal. The bible says it's a sin, so I accept that, but it's not like gays are robbing people or killing people or breaking up families by engaging in adultery. It certainly didn't make the top 10 list. I suspect I am a much more egregious sinner in the eyes of god than a homosexual simply because I so often fail to honor the sabbath. Keeping the sabbath holy DID make the top 10, after all.

Also... I don't consider the licenses doled out by government bureaucrats to be representative of real marriage. Marriage is a sacred religious institution with strictly defined rules and parameters. You can't take God out the equation and still call it marriage. What the government calls "marriage" is really just a secular contract. The ceremony might as well be performed by a pair of lawyers. An "open marriage" isn't a
real marriage any more than a "gay marriage" would be.

More pointedly, I am not inclined to blame anyone for this debacle more than I blame ourselves... the Christian community. It is we who have allowed the government usurp our institution because, in our hubris, we want our faith somehow ensconced in or endorsed by the state.

Well, behold the result of trusting a secular authority with a sacred tradition.

I don't respect the governments right to dictate who can and can't get married any more than I trust them to tell me who can be baptized or permitted to take communion. It's an overt and even shameless violation of the Constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. Moral authority over marriage lies with individual churches, mosques, and temples, NOT the government.

This belief further dulls my outrage because with this libertarian model in place gay marriage would still be inevitable. There's always going to be some minister willing to overlook scripture in order to line his pockets.

But I DO feel very strongly about free speech.

I spend a lot of time harping on Republican supporters for their divisive rhetoric and refusal to compromise. Well those ideals need to cut BOTH ways. What's going on with this public outcry over Chick-fil-A is nothing less than a self-entitled political interest group trying to bully dissenters into silence. It represents a much more outrageous attack on tolerance and diversity than anything Dan Cathy said. They, and the PC thought-police who are supporting them, should be ashamed of themselves.

So I'm eating Chicky tonight, and I'm going back on Friday to cross the picket lines.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Another Photoshop Moment


Friday, June 8, 2012

Why Americans SHOULD Hate the Fed, and Why They Don't

The really insidious effect of the fed isn't so much that we're borrowing our own money from them. That's just kind of ridiculous. What's insidious is the way it redistributes wealth.

Because we have a floating economy the value of the dollar is not set by the value of silver or gold. It has a set value based on the supply of dollar bills. Beyond the intrinsic absurdity of that, there is a profound effect on a floating economy when a new dollar is printed.

Now... keep in mind that the fed is NOT a part of the government. It's a private cartel of bankers. This is important because when money is printed it is distributed to banks.

The act of printing money does not in itself create any wealth. Back in the old days this was compensated for by the storage of gold and silver into "reserve". This gave every dollar printed an intrinsic value. This is no longer the case, and because the gold reserve is not longer used, and because the printing of new money doesn't add any real wealth to the economy, each time a dollar is printed it DEVALUES every other dollar in circulation.

Let's take a closer look at the process of printing money in a floating economy.  Economics of scale is a great way to obfuscate this issue, so we're going to scale it back to make the numbers more manageable.

Say there are 5 people in the country, and each has one dollar. There is also a bank, and the bank has $5 in it. This means there is a total of $10 in the entire country.

In a floating economy each dollar is worth 1/10, or 10%, of the value of the country.

Now, say the bankers print another dollar. This dollar is not backed by gold or silver, and there has been no ensuing increase in the value of the country, so the only real effect is that the value of a dollar has dropped. Where it used to be worth 10% of the country, now each dollar is only worth 9% of the country.

What the fed does when it prints money is distribute wealth to themselves.

Look at the example above. Before the extra dollar was printed the banks had $5 out of 10, exactly 50% of the value of the economy. After the new dollar was printed they had $6 out of 11, or 54% of the economy. They have STOLEN 4% of the economies total value.

The fleecing doesn't stop there, of course. The fed then LOANS us this dollar, collecting INTEREST on it and moving even more of the economies value into it's own coffers.

So why do Americans tolerate this?

Not to put too fine a point on it... because we're lazy. We just don't know any better, and we don't care enough to find out.

Most Americans have no idea what the Federal Reserve Bank is. The real genius of this deception though, is that the vast majority of us think we do.

We all know that the Fed sets interest rates and prints money, but we think the Fed is a government agency. Many of us think our currency is still backed by a gold standard. We have no idea that the value of a dollar is no longer tied to a reserve at all, or that the economy is being controlled by unelected, unappointed bankers with no accountability. And even if we did know, most of us are afraid of the numbers. It's not that we lack the basic mathematical skills to understand what they're doing, it's that the numbers involved are so huge we tell ourselves we can't possibly comprehend them. Once we do get it we often decide it can't possibly be that simple. This is an illusion, though, and our "leaders" take full advantage of it. Most of them don't understand the Fed much better than we do, and the ones that do are more than happy to have us believe it's because they are somehow smarter and wiser than the rest of us.

It's all lies.

You don't need any fancy math skills to understand the way the fed works. It really is that simple.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fetal Cells in Soda Pop Research? Really? Is American Business That Out of Touch?

It has come to my attention that Pepsi is being boycotted by pro life groups for using fetal cells. The press releases have been carefully crafted to give the impression that Pepsi is actually putting fetal cells in their products without actually saying so. They are wording it with a brilliant ambiguity that would have made Joseph Goebbels green with envy. They are claiming quite truthfully that Pepsi is using fetal cells "in the development of artificial sweeteners".

Needless to say this has resulted in a firestorm of hysterics.

Do not confuse what I'm about to say as approval of using fetal cells for these kinds of purposes. In fact I find it morally repugnant, but it also doesn't help the cause if what we stand for is histrionics or ignorance, so in the interest of full disclosure, Pepsi products do not contain human fetal cells. Don't run around telling people they do. This is the information age. A lie like that will not stand and it will just make all of us look stupid. It wouldn't be the first time the Pro-Life movement has tarnished the legitimacy of it's position by deliberately spreading misinformation. If this strategy worked the ends might justify the means, but it doesn't. It just makes us all look like ignorant crackpots.

Here's what's actually going on...

Pepsi is partnered with Semonyx, a company that uses fetal cells in testing. I know this might sound unlikely, but this company has probably found a way to use living cells to determine if a given compound contains certain flavor "signatures" (for lack of a better word) that these cells are "programmed" to recognize. This allows them to test literally thousands of compounds, in this case artificial sweeteners, in a very short period of time.

This is not a verified fact. The company has never outright admitted to using fetal tissue cells to test Pepsi products, but neither have they denied it and they have released a wealth of statements strongly indicating that this is the case.

Many companies use these fetal kidney cells, called HEK293 cells, for a variety of product testing purposes. They are a favorite of industrial labs because they have been virally modified. They are very easy to work with and extremely hardy. They live can live pretty much forever in a jar. Human Embryonic Kidney line 293 is between 35 and 50 years old.

None of this is any skin off my butt. I hate Pepsi, but I do find this sudden clamor for a boycott somewhat suspect. It's unclear why Pepsi has been singled out. Semonyx has ties to Coca Cola and Nestle as well.

It is also important to note while this use of human remains is clearly reprehensible, HEK293 has been used in the development of drugs for a LONG time and has contributed to countless medical advances (some of them actually meaningful) which is a much more morally ambiguous function.

Semonyx tries to justify this moral gap by claiming they are also saving lives by reducing the amount of salt and sugar in consumer foods. This is bunk. I'm sure it helps Semonyx execs sleep at night thinking they are engaged in some kind of noble struggle against diabetes or childhood obesity, but we already have a variety of artificial sweeteners and they've done nothing to reverse this trend. This is the exploitation of a dead child in the name of making money on a tastier soda pop, and there's just no moral ambiguity in that.