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Monday, November 30, 2015

America's Body Dysmorphia

"For most people, going blind is their worst nightmare, but for this North Carolina woman it was a dream come true. 
Jewel Shuping, 30, was so desperate to be blind that she poured draining cleaner in her baby blues to wipe out her eyesight — and she couldn’t be happier. 
She suffers from an illness called body integrity identity disorder (BIID) — a disease that causes able-bodied people to strongly desire a disability."
Many people shudder at this, but body integrity identity disorder, aka body dysmorphia, is possibly the most common psychological problem in America today, a disorder that afflicts upwards of 98% of Americans. In this disorder, a person intentionally cripples the proper function of a healthy body organ, either temporarily or permanently.

The woman above suffers from the disorder. Every person who undergoes a sex change operation suffers from the disorder. But they aren't the only ones who do.
Consider: what difference is there between the woman who blinds herself with drain cleaner, or a man who wants to be a dragon, and the woman who has a tubal ligation or the man who has a vasectomy? All of them are intentionally crippling the proper functioning of a healthy body organ. It is not even a difference of degree. The latter two have simply done something that society accepts and encourages, while the former has not yet reached the stage of social acceptance.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, upwards of 98% of Americans have engaged in at least a temporary "blinding" of their reproductive functions at some point in their lives. This is what contraception is and does, it is designed solely to disable or destroy the proper functioning of a healthy organ.

If the woman described above is insane, then essentially all Americans are insane. Indeed, most of the "civilized" world is insane, and the First World countries are driving the rest of the "uncivilized" world insane just as quickly as they can. 
Even a one-eyed man can see the problem.
But how many one-eyed men are left?

Some people seem unable to follow the logic in the article.
Here's a synopsis:
Major premise:  (A) Body dysmorphia causes people
                            (=)    to chemically/surgically impair
                            (B) the function of organs that function perfectly well.
Minor premise:  (C) Contraceptors,
                            (=)    by definition, chemically/surgically impair
                            (B) the function of organs that function perfectly well.
Conclusion:      (C) Contraceptors
                           (=)     suffer from
                           (A) body dysmorphia.
A = B
C = B
Therefore A = C

If you can follow this argument, Aristotle would be proud.
If you can't, I apologize - I can't make it any simpler than this.

And you have no argument against it.
No, really.
You don't. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

How Safe Are America's Mosques?

According to 1998 State Department testimony by Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, “80% of American mosques teach extremism”.

The Center for Religious Freedom’s 2005 study shows 80% of mosques teach hatred of Jews and Muslims. Muslims who employ a non-Muslim maid or cook "have to hate her for Allah's sake."

The Mapping Sharia Project’s 2008 study independently showed 80% of mosques preach hatred of Jews and Christians, necessity of sharia law.

The Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2011 issue shows 80% of American mosques teach jihad warfare and Islamic supremacism.

This violent Wahabbism is the creation of Saudi Arabia. "As I previously stated, the Center has not attempted to measure the extent and effect of Saudi publications here. However, as the website of King Fahd states, “the cost of King Fahd’s efforts in this field has been astronomical.” Some, such as Alex Alexiev of the Center for Security Policy who testified before this Committee in 2003, have estimated Saudi spending on the export of extremist ideology globally to measure three to four times what the Soviets spent on external propaganda during the height of the Cold War. As oil revenues rise for the Saudis, this might well increase."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Wonders of Tautology

Evolutionary theory says that the fittest survive. How do we know which are the fittest? Well, they are the ones that survive.

I am not a fan of evolutionary theory, but at least one attack on the theory is pointless. Some people argue that evolutionary theory is wrong because it is a tautology. Of COURSE it is tautological. All of science is tautological because all science is based on math and all of math is tautological.

Tautology is extremely important - it shows us that things we never suspected were the same ARE, in fact, the same. So, a really complicated equation may turn out to reduce to 1. Who knew? It was a very informative tautology.

The problem with evolution theory is it tends to be uninformative tautology.

BTW, creationism is also useless, just in a different way. I have no no idea how God populated the earth with living things, nor is it central to my salvation that I know these things, so it isn't something I view as a crucial problem to solve.

The primary point of this post is to point out that tautology, per se, is not the problem.
Uninformative tautologies - those are the problems.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Do Books Think?

I don't buy into the AI concerns. When I was taking my computer science degree, I asked one of my profs (a huge AI fan) the following question. Keep in mind that he thought the Turing test was an adequate test for the existence of AI.
"Let's say that I have a book that lists all possible responses to any question or comment that anyone could make. Let us also say that I appended an index to the book that allows me to look up the appropriate response and read it off to my opposite within a few seconds, so that time lag would not factor into the Turing problem.  
Is that book, sitting quietly closed on the desk, is it artificially intelligent?"
He couldn't say yes - it was clearly just a book. But he also didn't want to say no, because that would negate his darling. So, he just said, "I think there's more to it than that." When I asked what that might be, he laughed and said, "Well, I don't know, but something."

Insofar as AI is a database lookup, there is no way it can be artificially or otherwise intelligent. A database is just a large digital e-book. Books, it is commonly agreed, are not examples of artificial intelligence.

You might say it is the program (the procedures) combined with the book, but isn't that the same as just reading a book: procedure (reading) plus database (book)? Even when a computer is able to modify its own programming, it is following a predetermined procedure operating on a pre-existing database (its own programming).

No matter how I think about AI, it just isn't obvious to me how AI is any different from reading a book. Which means every printed book, every written anything, is artificially intelligent. But every printed book is just the product of a real intelligence, a person, in many cases, a dead one. The book can't do anything apart from the procedure of being read.

Does that mean it is the procedure which is artificially intelligent? The act of reading is artificial intelligence in action? I can't wrap my head around how the action itself is intelligence, apart from the actor. Even the ancient Greeks created little robotic machines, in which springs and ropes wound up gears so that the "robot" would move in a specific direction for a bit, then in another specific direction for a bit. Were those robots artificially intelligent? I don't see how. Everything we've done since then is just a glorified Greek robot.

Can we create procedures which will kill us all? We've done that lots of times: just consider the weapons of mass destruction we have created. Is poison gas, along with the procedure for disseminating it, an artificial intelligence? Is a machine gun? By the rules given above, the answer would have to be "YES!". So, in that sense, I suppose artificial intelligence is dangerous.

So, when people tell me I should be concerned about AI, it seems that they are telling me I should be concerned about my fellow man. Yes. Of course. That's not news.

Mizzou: The Free Market At Work

The Mizzou protests continue to capture the attention of the nation. Many people are upset because the adults (and they are adults) who protest against perceived whatever-ism are supposedly acting out in an infantile and irresponsible way. They may be. But they are also imitating the modern American corporation.

Modern American corporations don't like competition. At every possible turn, the corporations create lobby groups that write legislation, propose the legislation to lawmakers and subsequently get their own corporate ideas passed into state or federal law. Corporate lobby groups not only write laws, they subsidize the campaigns of state and federal legislators in order to make sure their laws go on the books. Without fail, the laws written by corporations and passed by their pet legislators favor the corporations that wrote them, these laws create barriers to entry for other businesses that might otherwise compete with the existing corporate structure and/or profits.

Most really successful corporations get themselves government subsidies - free money. They either get direct grants or tax-free zones, written into the law, passed as "earmarks". They restrict their employees speech, fire employees for any infraction of corporate rules, dump whistle-blowers into the street, regulate the market so no possible competition can arise. Many of these activities are backed by the power of the state. The state becomes the corporations' police force,

Corporations convince the government to require businesses to have licenses in order to do business. Most government licensing doesn't protect anyone but the corporations, it is just a barrier to market entry created by market actors who are already making their money and don't want competition, much like an interpretive dance major doesn't want to have to compete for jobs with an electrical engineer.

Think "cosmetology" for instance. Do we really need hair-dressers to have government licenses before they can wash someone's hair for money? Seriously? Actually, the de facto need to get a university degree before you can get hired is just one more artificial barrier to job market entry, it is a union card whose fees are dramatically higher than any previous union ever extracted from its members:
Universities became the new apprenticeships, replacing both the agrarian small-business apprenticeship model and the union card. Whereas the earlier systems placed an apprentice into a job according to biological nepotism, the new system places people according to intellectual nepotism – only those who think the right thoughts will move into positions of power. As a result, university professors have become the gatekeepers to society. The newest political party, the university, fills the empty slots in political, judicial and media positions.
These students are doing with university administration muscle EXACTLY what corporations do with government muscle - require certain credentials before you are allowed to speak/act, and entirely forbidding certain kinds of speech/action. Mizzou students want to regulate what speech products are permitted into the university marketplace in precisely the same way that corporations regulate what products are permitted to enter into the "free" marketplace. Students threaten to stop the flow of money to those administrators who don't go along, just as corporations implicitly and explicitly threaten the flow of money to state legislators who don't go along.

And as for "free speech" in a corporate environment... wait, I can't stop laughing. Please. My stomach hurts. Stop.
Question: How many Americans are completely muzzled inside of their corporate environment?
Answer: All of them.
Why should corporations that are universities be any different than corporations like IBM or Apple? No. Seriously. Why? Universities aren't built around education, they are built around credentialing and preparation for a job. What could be better preparation for the corporate work environment than learning to keep your head down and your mouth shut while your bosses lecture you about thought-crime?

The student activists are regulating speech and action to prevent a competition of ideas in the university marketplace in exactly the same way that corporations already regulate speech and action to prevent a competition of products in the regional/national marketplace.

For universities, ideas are supposed to be their products. Students are treating the university administration in very much the same way that corporations treat the state and federal governments.

Is this good? Well, no, almost certainly not. But, when we really consider the situation, we cannot deny that Mizzou students are really just training to be American "free enterprise" corporate actors, and doing a very good job of it.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

MIZZOU's Political Fumblerooski

The Mizzou controversy is fascinating precisely because so much hoaxing is going on with both sides. Sure, the entire controversy is almost certainly contrived: there is no evidence of the swastika, the KKK or the supposed racial slurs. But, on the other hand, there is also no evidence that the slurs being laid on the student activists are entirely fair. They are being called infantilized, irresponsible, unable to be self-reliant, etc.

I can't help but think the people attacking the students are frightened of them for entirely different reasons than the ones they voice. After all, student protests like this have become quite common in the last few years. What makes this one such a sharp stick in everyone's eye?

In a word?

These student activists made one, simply BRILLIANT, move. They not only got the Mizzou football players on their side, they got the Mizzou football coaches on their side. With that one act, they won their fight, game, set, match (to mix sporting metaphors).

It is, as always, all about the money. As I've pointed out previously, everyone who attends a university is an adult who is taking on a lifetime risk of debtor's prison imposed by the government. All student loans must go through the government, no student loan can ever be discharged except through payment. Even bankruptcy Chapter 11 proceedings won't make them go away. So, students have a certain financial interest in getting the product they want.

And, in order to force the university's hand, Mizzou student activists hit them right in the gonads. They took out the Mizzou football program. To give you a feel for the size of the college football market, ESPN alone will pay $7.3 BILLION (that's "billion" with a "b") for rights to transmit seven college football games a year for the next 12 years. Sports programs, especially football programs, bring enormous revenue to their college campuses, in no small part because the players don't get a dime.

Universities are the pimps, college athletes are the ... talent. Once the protesters threatened the cash drawer, the chancellor and president had to resign. They couldn't very well sit down with the coaches and players to negotiate a response. That would make clear how much was at stake. Indeed, if players and coaches decided to organize across the system, it would threaten the entire college football system.

They couldn't fire the coaches - that destroys Mizzou's income. They couldn't get rid of the players. That would focus attention on the power of the sports team, and the coaches would just bring new players into line with their viewpoint. The only way out was the door, and they both headed for it.

What fascinates me most is that no one on either side is talking about the importance of having snagged the football team to support the movement. It is as if both sides are attempting to pretend the ball is somewhere other than it is, hoping the Mizzou football team's political fumblerooski  is not recognized for the winning play that it actually is.

As I've said before, I am not at all a fan of what the students are advocating. It violates what a college is supposed to be about. But colleges haven't been living their mandates for a long, long time. In that sense, the students are simply making explicit the stupidity that has been implicit at most colleges for many decades. The honesty is, at least, refreshing.

No, I don't endorse their goals. What I do applaud is their brilliant political pressuring efforts. It was a tour de force that few adults have managed to emulate.

College students, take note: as long as you can get the football sub-system at your university on your side, you can force the administration to jump through any hoop you care to name. And you strike fear into the heart of football fans everywhere. They may call you every name in the book, but you will most definitely get what you want in the end. It's either that, or they never watch another college football game as long as they live.

Isn't that an interesting dichotomy?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Are Mizzou Students Right?

Everyone is up in arms about the students at Mizzou. Student demonstrators, along with the college football team (a very lucrative source of funding to any college that hosts football) have conspired to bring down the president and at least two instructors.

What to do?

Well, first recognize that the college can be viewed one of two ways:

  1. it is a business selling credentials (not education) as its product
  2. it is a department of the federal government, fully funded through government money that is funneled through students who borrow money from the government to attend.

Keep in mind that the money borrowed is a permanent debt. Adults who owe the government educational loan money cannot discharge that debt in bankruptcy nor in any other venue. They have to pay it, either through wage garnishment or deathbed estate garnishment. Unlike any other debt that is incurred, there is no legal way to get out from under it unless the government spontaneously decides to forgive the debt. It is the modern version of the debtor's prison.

So, these adults look at the product the university is delivering and revolt.
Is it legitimate?

Sure it is. Given the two cases above, the adults who are protesting are living out one of two situations.

  • If (1) above obtains, then the consumers have a every right to demand changes in the product they are purchasing
  • If (2) above obtains, then the citizens have every right to petition for change in the way their government runs. In fact, this particular right is guaranteed by the Constitution.

EITHER WAY, these adults (and they are adults), have the right to behave as they are behaving and the right to get the change they are petitioning for.

Now, you and I don't have to LIKE this (I personally think they aren't acting in their own best interests), but we cannot deny their right to do this.

We can't complain that it is a drain on taxpayers - insofar as it is a loan, this is the one loan that MUST be paid back. We can't complain that they don't have the right to protest. Certainly they do. We can complain that we don't like their choice - but it is THEIR money and THEIR debt, so why wouldn't they have the right to protest the quality of the product they perceive themselves as getting?

Everyone, especially conservatives and libertarians, are acting like the Mizzou students are pampered special little snowflakes. Maybe they are. But aren't we always harping on people to take responsibility for their education? They are.

I personally think the whole thing is based on a hoax, deliberately foisted on them and promulgated by administrators and teachers with an agenda that has nothing to do with the students. Smart administrators and teachers can easily direct loose cannon students for their own ends. But again, if that's what the purchasers of this particular product want to be and do, well? They're the ones on the stick for the educational loans. It is their life to live.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The PC Culture at Mizzou

A lot of people are talking about the politically correct culture at the University of Missouri, a culture which brought down the university's president and chancellor. Conservatives, especially, are engaged in much wailing and gnashing of teeth about the unfairness of it all. But it's actually just the free market at work.

In order to see why this is true, you need to remember two things: (1) universities are not in the business of educating youth, they are in the business of credentialing youth (2) nearly all colleges and universities subsist entirely, or almost entirely, off of federal funds imported into the college by students.

To put it another way, consumers (students) use government money to vote about which college has the superior credentials. Whether they learn anything is completely immaterial. The government employees, also known as administrators and professors, compete to provide the top credentials.

In the current teapot tempest, consumers (students) have decided that they want to change what the credentials stand for. Instead of even pretending to stand for education, consumers now want the credentials to stand for their emotions. College credentials are now meant to stand for how consumers feel about certain aspects of life, not what they know about those aspects of life.

The government subsidizes the consumers who want that transformation. Government employees (college professors) are backing that consumer-based transformation by telling the customer that this particular fad is the best way to go. Since we all back the government actions in the market via our tax dollars, the market responds by changing the purpose of university credentials.

Some individuals (taxpayers) may not like that transformation. Too bad. This is what the marketplace elites want, and they control the process. We made them elites by voting for them, either at the ballot box or by buying their products. So, by voting for them with our wallets and our ballots, we made them our bosses. We made their opinions more influential than our own.

They want the credentialing to change because they don't need educated Americans. Educated help, technical help, can be imported from anywhere in the world. What the marketing elites want is docile, divided Americans. They want Americans who have been intimidated into silence through a process that they can deny they had anything to do with: deniable intimidation.

A divided America assures the elites stay in power. The American marketplace makes more sales with 300 million toaster buyers than it does with Americans who are united, who support each other, and who therefore don't need stacks of commodity items. The more things we buy, the more our wallets continue to buy them power, and our ballots continue to support the people who cut government regulations that assure the elites stay in power.

This is the logical consequence of the capitalist marketplace that Pope Francis warned us about. The Pope doesn't have a problem with profit, per se. He has a problem with the divisiveness that is inherent to pure capitalism. No conservative whose conservatism is based on pure marketplace economics, and nothing else, has a real right to complain.