Wednesday, December 23, 2015

chowing on low-hanging fruit in a virtual cult compound

I've been challenging Islamophobes to offer convincing evidence of a correlation between Islam and violence for some time now, specifically with new atheists in mind what with their professed commitment to rationality and science. Hundreds of Islamophobes have seen this challenge and, until recently, no one accepted it. Finally, someone bit:

The Islamophobe challenge is open to anyone and I'd rather get a bigger name but this is the first/best attempt to date, so I'll share the gruesome, hilarious, amazing yet mostly predictable details. A fair number of twitterers joined in, all on the Islamophobe side, all agreeing with the same basic story so I'm going out on a limb here -- usually I keep it much tighter -- but it seems fair to say this person is entirely typical of the New Atheist cult (there's a small chance this person is a far-right Christian Islamophobe; difficult to definitively tell them apart if they don't announce it). I bet you're wondering about the evidence he brought to bear. Fucking game-changing, but you'll have to wait. 

After some prodding I finally got a standard dictionary definition out of him. 

So at this point it's already game over. 

I start listing some of the more egregious cases of US violence that meet his definition. Non sequitur, he says. That was his first response to evidence running counter to his "thesis." What led him to so bravely accept the Islamophobe challenge was a claim to the effect that falsifying evidence is categorically inadmissible. US terrorism is categorically impossible. At the risk of offending decent religious people, new atheists are religiously committed. They have central, unfalsifiable beliefs, i.e., beliefs that are entirely placed off limits to rational or scientific inquiry. Terrorism is a normatively loaded tribalist term used to define us and them, good and bad that is unconcerned with violence as such.

Then I spell it out, explaining how these cases of US violence meet his definition, at which point the definition predictably starts to change, i.e., he starts moving the yardstick. Terrorism has to inflict maximum casualties, he says. I give examples of the US doing that. But that was total war, he says, and total war isn't terrorism, you see because of his religious commitments I give an easily google-able non-total war example (Indochina) that's met with "prove it," essentially a denial of well-established facts. (I'd say "non-acceptance" if I wasn't talking about creationist-level religiosity repeatedly demonstrated but I am, so denial seems like the right word.) It's not terrorism unless it's routine (he thinks US terrorism isn't routine!). It's not terrorism if "whatever specific thing I can find to set us apart from them." Textbook ingroup bias.

The whole time he keeps asking me the same two loaded questions, both diversions intended to commit me to aspects of his cultish narrative by enticing acceptance of flawed buried premises:

This question is of course unrelated to the challenge I posed, which was a basic descriptive one. And he's yet, at this point, to attempt to show any correlation.

The other loaded question:


So I accept the worst case interpretation up front, that the religious texts in question encourage genocide. He misses the point that there's now no big reveal for him where he could hammer me with holy text evil.

He keeps asking me if I've read it, I keep asking when he's gonna show that correlation between Islam and terrorism. Finally, he shows his hand:

                    So that's it. That's what correlation is. Words in a text that say "do X" and anecdotes about members of a group known to frequent that text doing X.

Here's the Twitter thread.

Here's a summary of the entire thread, other Islamophobe twitterers included:

Here's a song:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

NFL week 13 daily picks

Two ways to exploit Yahoo prices:
  1. They don't take recent role changes and expected volume into account (seem to price mainly on perceived skill). Takeaway is no-name RBs with new roles end up way underpriced.
  2. Prices are set early in the week so inefficiencies follow new injury info that pops up after prices were set.
Roethlisberger ($33) -- Arguable #1 projectable QB this week is a bargain.

David Johnson ($10) -- Most obvious call. See #1 above. Projects as top 10 RB for the minimum, so you're pocketing the difference between him and, say, Gurley ($29). Spend that money on elite WRs.

Shaun Draughn ($11) -- Projected true non-committee RB volume a steal at this price.

CJ Anderson ($14) -- I don't trust him but he has a high ceiling.

J. Allen ($19) -- Draughn for $8 more. Consider as flex.

Rawls ($23) -- D. Johnson for $13 more. Consider as flex.

Anyone $28 and up. Also M. Bryant ($26)

S. Chandler ($10) -- Discounted volume. Only had part of a game to establish himself as a target hog so that's a small question mark but really, should get target volume.

J. Thomas ($13) -- Sees volume with A. Hurns out.

B. Watson ($18) -- See #2 above. Snead's injury came up during the week. Those targets will go somewhere and B. Cooks has a terrible matchup. Assuming the price was fairly accurate when it was set, the expected target increase makes him projectably better than this price.

Least bankable "position" (crapshoot) but I like:
NE ($15)
CIN ($14)
ARI ($13)

QB/receiver combos:
*B. Roethlisberger + A. Brown + M. Bryant
C. Newton + G. Olsen ($26) (pricey though)
E. Manning + O. Beckham
R. Fitzpatrick + B. Marshall + E. Decker
T. Brady + B. Lafell + D. Amendola + S. Chandler

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Bowler A: I started a new diet a couple days ago. No carbs. Now look at me. I'm throwing rocks tonight.

Bowler B: Yeah I don't think that's gonna improve your performance much. Maybe a little, I don't know, but it would take a while. Could be a placebo effect or...

A: Bowling isn't a sport you dummy.

B: *painstakingly explains that whether bowling is a sport or not isn't the issue, that it involves muscle memory, motor control, sensorimotor feedback loops, etc. and anyway, bowling performance enhancement was the starting point provided by A*

A: Nah. Bowling isn't a sport. And anyway, like I said, I'm throwing rocks tonight! Are you saying this has nothing to do with my new diet? I mean this food is in my body right now! Boom!

B: Well, you're right that diet has something to do with performance. You're getting energy from your new diet and using it to bowl, but "something to do with" is near meaningless. The question is how your new diet compares to your old one with regard to bowling performance. You need an apples to apples...

A: So my new diet does have something to do with my awesome bowling.

B: No! I mean yes but I just explained this, weren't you...*realizing*... Oh, you must be a new atheist.

A: Yeah, how did you know?

B: Educated guess.

A: Those anti-science religious nuts, man. Skygod-worshipping fools. Christians, Jews, oh, and the worst, obviously -- Muslims. They have this book that says all this crazy stuff and, you know, basic cause and effect, voila, they're always blowing stuff up. You get it? Crazy beliefs over here *dramatic hand gesture*, crazy violent actions over here.  I mean you don't have to be a neuroscientist...

B: Have you thought about other belief diets, if you will?

A: Huh?

B: Let me ask you a question. What do you think about the Middle East?

A: Well I used to think hey just let those crazies blow each other up, let God sort...uh...well now I think we need to kill the worst ones.

B: With drones?

A: Sure.

B: Did you know nearly 90% of people killed in drone strikes were not the target?

A: Well, we're trying.

B: They're not trying?

A: They're trying to hit civilians. They do it on purpose.

B: Have you heard of agent orange, white phosphorous, napalm, that deliberate attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz...

A: It's not the same though. They...

B: Where were you radicalized?...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NFL week 9 daily picks

I don't give the NFL any of my money. It's a terrible organization any way you look at it. Even liberals agree. But predicting sports results is fun and I'm good at it so here are my daily picks for week 9, using Yahoo prices. Asterisk means I really like. If you're playing in a big group where you need to finish 1st out of 50 or more, it makes sense to take risks. Pair your QB with a receiver, make a low floor/high ceiling play.

J. Winston $30 -- NYG got torched by Brees last week. JW has been good not great.
*D. Carr $34 -- My favorite QB play this week. No one would be surprised by a 5 TD game at this point.
B. Roethlisberger $42-- Always a threat to go off. As good a chance at a huge game as anyone.
E. Manning $41-- NYG defense is terrible so will need to throw; TB defense also terrible; perfect setup.
D. Brees $40 -- 7 TDs last week, pretty safe as well; terrible NO defense keeps him throwing.

*J. Langford $14 -- Most obvious call this week; low-end RB1 at RB3/4 price.
CJ Anderson $18 -- If R. Hillman sits, this is a bargain. Denver will be running here.
D. McFadden $20 -- RB1 for RB2 price. Very good bet to get 20+ touches.
L. DeBlount $23 -- Risk/reward play; game sets up as NE blowout which should mean DeBlount getting volume; multiple TDs wouldn't be surprising but Belichick is unpredictable.
T. Gurley $38 -- Obvious play if you can afford it.

D. Inman $10 -- 5th option for SD but WRs ahead aren't target hogs and SD projects to put up points and yards; worth it for this super cheap price
M. Floyd $17 -- A costlier Rivers target
M. Evans $27 -- Risk/reward play; V. Jackson out, will get volume
M. Bryant $27 -- If Roethlisberger goes off, will likely be involved
*A. Jeffery $29 -- Top 5 WR for very good price

*AS Jenkins $15 -- Health is sketchy, check to make sure he's in lineup, but big upside -- 110 yards, 2 TDs in week 1; if he plays, should get targets: if a scratch, take Tamme (below), also a 4 o'clock game
J. Tamme $14 -- Recent production worth this price, should see extra targets with Hankerson out
R. Gronkowski $33 -- Safe, obvious play if you can afford it

DEN $17 -- Best D in NFL faces struggling IND
ATL $15 -- Up against historically bad B. Gabbert in his 1st game with SF, replacement level RBs, generally dysfunctional team

Sunday, November 1, 2015

not objective but descriptive, not subjective but normative

I haven't read any philosophy classics in well over a decade so I'm a bit rusty but I want to buzzsaw through modern philosophy in order to explain the rise of the normative/descriptive distinction and the fall of the subject/object distinction (which isn't quite dead, I just think it should be).

Start with Descartes, who drew a thick line between subject and object. The subject aligned roughly with what we'd call conscious experience while the object was dead mechanism. The subject was immaterial, the object material. He suggested they met in the pineal gland and somehow, whatever...there was a lot of straw-grasping.

Meanwhile the term subjective came to mean arbitrary and referred to matters of taste and private experience while objective came to mean, roughly, naive realistic straightforward quantifiable things in the world that are what they are, existing apart from the subjects who know about them.

The most obvious problem with Cartesian subjects is they're immaterial and operate outside natural law. Hit a human in the head with a sharp enough object and you'll find they're susceptible to natural law. No pineal gland theory can save you here, Descartes. You said immaterial. Further, it appears at this point in history nothing other than noocentric conceit to think humans operate outside natural law, or are immaterial, at all.

The most obvious problem with naive realistic objectivity is neglect (or in Kant's terms finitude). Cognition systematically neglects information. Abstractions become more powerful when they leave information out. Human vision picks up only a sliver of the light spectrum. Human brains don't have access to what they cognize in the way suggested by the term objective. There is no object in the simple sense intended by Descartes.


Hume famously pointed out that you can't, logically, get from an "is" statement to an "ought" statement. What is and what ought to be is the descriptive/normative distinction. Nietzsche later wrote a brilliant, even by his standards, piece called "Beyond Good and Evil" in which he made the case that there is no "good and evil," only "good and bad." Every time humans claim something is evil, what they really mean is "I don't like it." Hume's ought/is distinction is really a distinction between statements with a built-in good/bad (for the cognizer) element and statements without one.


The terms descriptive and normative are compatible with a materialist approach to the human. Both are simply ways the material brain cognizes. Both are susceptible to bias, presumably the normative more so. Both are subject to natural laws. Both occur in the world. Both neglect information.

Descriptive means "whatever you or I think about its goodness/badnesss, X is the most accurate (leaving aside whether accuracy is good or bad) model of Y. Descriptive is the new objective. The term normative, on the other hand, refers to whether one likes the results of the descriptive process.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

elliot rodger, rape, MGTOWs

The line between male and female is thick and unmistakeable, drawn clearly not by individual consciousnesses but by society-wide repetition. Lines cognized and acted out nonconsciously. They function without being made explicit. We learn language first by using it. If you're lucky/unlucky, you can learn different things by analyzing it later. But children understand grammar, specifically, how to use it, while lacking the ability to analyze and explain it. The gender distinction is learned by using it.

Undiluted (thankfully it's often diluted) the distinction is this: boys need to kill everything and replace it with themselves...or die. Dominance or emasculation, penis or no penis, boy or girl, life or death.

The boy, having become this message, needs to reconcile it with his asymmetrical relationships with women. It's humiliating for a hyper-gendered boy to be dominated by a woman. So he comes up with narrative fixes, outs, explanations where he's not actually being dominated. He believes these, tenuously. They're pretty obviously bullshit and reality is always knocking.

He hits puberty, "knows" he needs to fuck a woman in order to be a man. This is a huge change, and a huge challenge. To request this fucking is to risk rejection. Rejection is emasculation and death. A simple binary, the line around it in the worst cases impermeable. Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger went to great lengths to put himself in a position to be accepted without risking final rejection. He never, apparently, made any kind of advance on a woman. Instead, he spent great amounts of time and money on his own appearance, went to places he expected to find good-looking (blonde) women and hoped they noticed him. He never "put himself out there." He left himself an out. Maybe next time. No one actually said no. Or, as Jim Carrey's Lloyd Christmas said in Dumb and Dumber to his love interest's assessment of his odds of getting with her as one in a million..."so you're saying there's a chance."

This is really amazing. A single woman saying "I'm not interested" or "go away, creep" or laughing was far and away the most powerful force in his life. No, the possibility of that.

The MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) phenomenon is an obvious out. "Hey, women-we-want-to-fuck: we don't want you anyway. You are not rejecting us." It's understandable, I mean, given the above. They're trying to go pre-puberty. Back to a time when they could less implausibly claim to be not-dominated (where non-hyper-dominance means being dominated -- again, it's a pretty strict binary). Before the need-to-fuck-to-be-a-man challenge. They'd been talking about how they could easily dive off the 10 meter platform but now they're up there. Do it! *Tries to find a way out, can't, shoots a bunch of people instead.* That's Elliot Rodger.

Rapists take away the chance for rejection. This is the point. Rape is the most extreme form of masculinity. (I worry a broken rapist somewhere is thinking "yay I make sense! yay, masculinity!" but it should be clear this is a condemnation of masculinity.) OK, outside the parentheses, still worried this could be taken the wrong way, given certain positive associations with masculinity, but really just want to end this post. OK.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

control which guns?

"Gun control" is a term that refers to non-state guns only. Everyone just gets what you mean when you say it. Somewhat amazingly, no one feels the need to indicate that they're not referring to state guns, which are the biggest and deadliest guns. F-16 guns, cops with guns and tasers, etc., are not considered guns, just as Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not considered violence. What the ingroup does is the very definition of good. And just about everyone's in it for the state, completely unaware they're referring to guns as not-guns.

atheism exists, naturally

To understand what "God (or Thor) exists" and "God (or Thor) doesn't exist" mean, you need a brain and an act of cognition. Each takes place in a brain and involves natural systems embedded in natural systems (that, conveniently for Harris, are mostly opaque at this point in human history). To take a position on the existence of God is an event, not the absence of an event or a non-event. 

If you're a rock, baby, or monkey, nothing happens involving the term God. There's an absence of things happening related to the term God. That's a non-event.

Harris rejects the assertion "God exists." He doesn't admit as much, but he does reject it. 

What atheists do lack is the cognitive act of agreeing to the proposition that God exists. If you think that's what atheism is, maybe you're as misguided as Sam Harris. Again, atheists reject God belief. They answer negatively to the "does God exist?" question. They've dedicated considerable brain resources to the question of God. Absence of an affirmative is part of a complex process, and, unlike monkeys' thoughts on God, it exists. And unlike beliefs about Thor, it matters.

So why do New Atheists denaturalize and deobjectify atheism? I'd suggest it's so that it can't be studied and measured against theism. This is, ironically, an intellectual move theists are known for -- remove God from the material world and declare him off limits to scientific investigation.

Now it's really quite simple to naturalize non-God-belief (NGB). I just did, in fact. You simply situate it in the brain, identify it as the brain event it is. It's also very easy to make apples to apples comparisons between atheists and theists. This is as good a time as any to admit my bias -- I believe that atheists exist. The only reason the ontological status of atheists' belief that God doesn't exist is relevant is that so many atheists insist on using it to immunize themselves from scrutiny. Apples to apples, theists to atheists. 

Theism versus atheism, on the other hand, is a philosophical question. It deals with unmeasurable abstractions. If it turns out that no harm comes from theism, no 21st century intellectual should have a problem with it. There'd be no good argument for antitheism. But Harris claims that harm comes from theism. Theism versus atheism, the philosophical debate about God's existence, has nothing to say about harm. To answer that question, you study atheists versus theists. 

Harris implies that God-belief (GB) causes bad things whereas NGB doesn't cause anything. If he wanted a decent hypothesis, doing away with the absurd "absence of belief" angle and comparing apples to apples, he could suggest that GB causes more of these or those specific bad things than NGB, then compare, for example, atheist and theist levels of violence, and speculate about what causes the difference in violence levels, whether it's really GB or something else and if GB, what about GB it might be. In order to compare violence levels, you'd need to factor out rationalizations for violence (because they near-universally accompany it), which means, contrary to Harris's line of argumentation, that F-16s, napalm, white phosphorous, nuclear weapons, etc. all get filed under "violence" when used, regardless of who uses them, at which point Harris would be (further) exposed as the western secular violence apologist he is.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

What is New Atheism?

New Atheists:

1. ...are proud of non-God belief. NGB is an important part of their identity.

2. ...consider God-belief a significant cause of violence (and other ills). Think a world without God-belief would be more peaceful. Think this is obvious.

3. ...consider atheism categorically incapable of causing violence because no one ever says "I kill you in the name of the no-God." By implication, metacognitive reports in regards to one's own motivations are seen as both important and reliable. If you say "I did the bad thing because FDR told me to," that's the reason. To phrase it less generously, self-ascribed motivations are taken at face value and assumed to be causal. ("I killed her because I loved her"-- "cause of death: love")

4. ...think or assume western state violence (WSV) is either generally well-intended and therefore not actually violence so much as, say democracy and freedom (good violence = 0 violence) or, far less often, that it is actual violence but simply not religious because it's rarely (NAs seem to assume never) accompanied by God-words. So WSV is either non-religious nonviolence or non-religious violence. Either way, WSV is entirely distinct from religious violence.

5. While atheism is responsible for 0 violence, religions, whose adherents sometimes proclaim their God belief as the reason for their violence (and when they don't, c'mon you know they're thinking about it), are not all equal. Rather, violence varies by religion, depending on geopolitics how, um, bad they seem to be if you use your western ideals and kinda think about it. So Christianity and Judaism are bad but Islam is considered, in the words of prominent New Atheist Sam Harris "the motherlode of bad ideas." No evidence has been given by New Atheists. You just kinda know.

Bonus Q & A

Q: What if an atheist kills someone?
A: They do it for non-religious reasons.
Q: Doesn't that make non-religious reasons a cause of violence?
A: Yes, but...
Q: So atheists can be violent, but atheism never is?
A: That's right. Atheism is the good and the true and people who follow its teachings can call themselves Brights, or, to paraphrase, The Finders of the Way. 
Q: I want to be good and true. Can I be a New Atheist?
A: Probably.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

in the name of the no-God

I've been over the following several times but someone on twitter called me a "religtard" so I feel especially confident, like I've leveled up, in addressing a common refrain he used to the effect that no atheist ever killed in the name of God. Apologies if you've heard this before.

If a 100% atheist country invades a 100% Muslim country, slaughters millions and takes their diamonds, stating "Islam is evil and scary" as their rationale, were any atheists responsible for mass-killing? Not according to New Atheist math. As long as you don't say "in the name of the no-God," not only is atheism not responsible, atheists aren't either. By the law (fallacy) of no True Scotsman, they weren't acting AS atheists. This transparent tribalism is exactly the kind regularly used by god religions. Atheists are the good guys by definition, a classic ingroup scam. Of course in this example, the atheists are imperialists using a bullshit rationalization, using language to turn murder into heroism.

Maybe Stalin killed "in the name of communism." Maybe Hitler killed "in the name of nationalism." What did Charles Manson kill in the name of? What did Teddy Roosevelt kill in the name of? Why would you take what people say about their own motives at face value? People killed before god religion, they'll kill after god religion. God is one tool in the human "rationalization of killing and thieving" kit. The difference between cause and rationalization eludes people whose tribalist interests require they not understand this difference and that they not understand the actual causes pushing humans actions and world events.

Monday, September 7, 2015


The liberal call for demilitarizing the police means things like:

1. don't treat the domestic population with the same level of violence you use on state enemies abroad
2. take the militarization of police down to 19xx levels 
3. smarter or more cost-effective militarization
4. militarization I can get behind, this is embarrassing 
5. militarization that doesn't scare the shit out of me

But in fact police are militants through and through. If you lose the militancy, you lose the police. Demilitarization means "no more police."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

gaijin gawking, or whenever I go outside

Hello [gaijin caricature, welcome to our land!
to show you how OK we are,
shall I shake your hand?
that's how you do it, right?
You're super white,
Did you have a nice flight?
You're not in Japan,
your feet aren't touching land,
this is a dream,
you're in between here and, hey,]
where are you from?

I live down the street.

No, where are you from?

My mom.

No, no, where are you from?

Your mom?

No, I mean where [which gaijin tribe] are you from [do you belong to]?

Where the fuck are you from?

Haha, I am Japanese.

Is this your land?

Yes, of course [and welcome, we are very friendly here].

Did you fight for it? Can you sell it? Can you do what you want to it? Can you shit wherever you want without consequence?

I am Japanese! [I don't understand.]

I know.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

the valves that control transitude

Rachel Dolezal played a black woman but was outed as white. She was acting black, but was actually white. Actually white. So there's an interesting notion. In order to exclude Dolezal from the group "black," race, and its actualness, is invoked.

But the origin of race is this: several centuries ago, tribalist lines were rearranged according to a color-oriented phenotypic scheme to serve an emerging global order violently dominated by light-skinned humans. Blackness was created as an outgroup term by the same people who created whiteness as an ingroup term. But in order to resist white encroachment, appeals are made to blackness, which was created by whiteness. The actualness of both whiteness and blackness were created by whiteness.

Power externalizes costs while internalizing gains. Everything is power. Existence is power. Everything wants more existence, or, to repeat. 

Where tribal lines are drawn, you'll find valves. The group that controls the valve is the group that built it. For a new group to take power, it needs to define its outgroup and in doing so, build a new valve. Whiteness built the valve between itself and blackness. Whiteness will take what blackness has to offer but will give much less in return -- just enough to maximize the take.

Here's a metaphor: shit flows downstream. For blackness to say: "you can't enter here" is to build a dam, to control the valve to some extent. 

Blackness evolved for centuries without access to knowledge of the socially constructed character of race. Heels were dug in. Blackness did amazing things in the face of almost indescribable horrors. 

When the Dolezal story surfaced, comparisons were made to Caitlyn Jenner. If transgender is OK, why not transracial? Caitlyn had been Bruce Jenner, the epitome of white male bogus empowerment (my term for privilege). Moving from a downstream group to an upstream group is a good thing, on the lefty view (extensive norm). But wasn't Caitlyn Jenner moving downstream, collecting benefits without all the costs? That's where we get into the murky business of lived experience. You can make the case for Caitlyn's actually having suffered through the abuses heaped on trans-ness, but it's hard to show it, and she certainly "benefitted" empirically from being perceived as white, male, etc. 

Blackness and the exclusion of Dolezal is racist in the way that self-defense is violent. In a vacuum, excluding people from a group is bullshit. In a shitstorm, bullshit is often the best kind of shit.

Where a shat upon group's argument is victimhood, its virtue is the same as Democrats' and Republicans' "not them." Dichotomous excellence. Goodness is the sum of not-themness.

Where its argument is excellence, its argument is against other possible worlds and non-existence.

Its argument for excellence is an argument for power, and as such is rationalization.

Every group is shat upon. Every group is limited, every group dies. Every group is pushed in upon. Every group has the life sucked out of it.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

the power happiness relation and radical rage

When I'm not copying and pasting from facebook and forgetting to click "remove formatting," I'm linking to me covering Violent Femmes songs on facebook and forgetting to set the audience to "public." If you like that song, it's not a terrible rendition except for the parts where it is. Reposting.


Good political analysis is naturalistic -- it takes human intentions, which are mostly inscrutable, out of the picture. It doesn't matter what Joe Biden is thinking -- that information is almost useless. Actions tell the story.

But then there's a very strong tendency to jump back over from the high resolution naturalistic system approach, after the accurate analysis, to groundless assumptions about low resolution lived experience. While it's fine to usher in intentionality, much like evolutionary biologists do when they use the word "design," and say that a person who gets pass out drunk, for example, "gets what they wanted," it's a mistake to assume that the entirety of the experience was something they enjoyed or something that was good for them. That's an unwarranted jump.

Elliot Rodger, the "kissless virgin" who went on a killing spree last year in Isla Vista, CA got what he wanted. He was as "privileged" as they come. He was likely as miserable as any human has ever been. Read his Kampf, it's hard to miss. He was an evil bastard and he was a victim, if victim means a person who suffers a great deal. You can say he could have done this and that but you don't know and, in any case, he didn't. The relation between naturalistically getting what one wants (a system doing what it does, the way power works) and lived experience is complicated and mostly inscrutable.


Radicalism is the mirror image of oppression, just as real self-defense is the mirror image of aggression. If someone has their boot on your neck and you punch them, is it violence? Yes, but without a self-defense exception, you end up with a giant hole in human ethical thinking, which is a natural system with real effects, some of which are valuable.

Radicalism needs to be approximately as stupid as aggressive violence. The radical approach to Elliot Rodger is fuck that guy. The radical approach is rage. The radical approach is to deny his humanity, the fact that he suffered. If you're looking for an accurate naturalistic picture, this is a mistake. If you're looking to survive, or meaningfully resist oppression, there's a decent case for rage.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

common people

Liberal empathy for underclass comes with caveat of get to keep superiority am praised for this?

Bonus link

dawkins reverse dawkins

The Dawkins fallacy (false difference):

Where the severe unnecessary human-caused suffering of A negates the lesser abuse of B, thereby, by implication trickeration, justifying the actions of those abusing B. In other words, if someone is spitting on you, the Dawkins fallacist will emphasize the fact that somewhere else, someone is getting punched. If someone's punching you, someone else is getting whipped, etc. All of this serves to silence the abused party and functions as a defense of the lesser offender (the spitter).

The reverse Dawkins fallacy (false equivalence):

Where B equates its own abuse to A's without recognizing the difference in severity, generally in order to advance its narrower interests while leaving the more abused behind. B uses A, is yet another abuser of A.*

*Every time I talk about Japanese racism, I worry about assumptions of reverse Dawkins. I want to say the basic inside/outside structure works the same where Japanese are the inside, dominant culture, that white supremacy isn't so special, that Japanese racism is structurally of a kind with it, while making clear I'm aware of the differences. I did do a couple nights in jail thanks to racial profiling, matter of fact, but still, for the most part, it otherwise only rises above annoying when it comes to my "half" kids. No one needs to worry about me personally on the racism victim front, though Japanese racism isn't without its victims (non-whites have it worse and some white people may as well). It's in any case an every day window for me into how racism works. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

alternate universe Anderson Cooper

You don’t think bringing guns to a mosque while families are praying inside, wearing t-shirts that say ‘F Islam’ and shouting whatever it is you’re going to shot at them, as they come and as they go — you don’t think that’s promoting violence at all?
Funny thing is, alternate universe Anderson Cooper, who's not owned by the U.S. establishment, has been asking pretty much the same question for years. 
You don't think bringing guns and tanks into American neighborhoods -- you don't think that's promoting violence at all?
Alternate universe Anderson Cooper is a blogger with 10 readers who understands what cops do.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

social contract thrownness

society: Hello newborn, we love you and want the best for you. You know it's true because look at our smiles.

newborn: Hi. Well I'm genetically inclined to trust you, take on your views, become you, so...

society: And we wanna let you know you've already signed a social contract by virtue of existing.

newborn: Whaa...? Waa, waa!

society: Do you agree that oligarchy is the best political arrangement, that your life should be dedicated to production and consumption, that 100 is a good number of Senators....

newborn: I'd like to see some research.

society: Well, asking was a courtesy. We don't owe you anything, you little fuck. Like we said, you already signed the social contract when you started existing. *starts singing "We Are the World"*

Saturday, May 16, 2015

death already became (personal pronoun)

The official death penalty gets treated like it's the real life/death question. Cops kill someone every day, USG kills/tortures abroad every day, USG is the world's leading arms dealer, etc. The death penalty is unquestioned all-the-damn-time policy. Now and then, the question gets asked in a court room, which is just the program asking "are you sure?" Certain people, call them liberals, having somehow explained away the vast bulk of state violence as bad apples, good intentions gone bad, etc. but mostly just not noticing, get upset when the answer to "do you really really want to end this person's life?" is still yes.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

knock, knock. it's jesus.

Jesus: I'm gonna go out of my way to get brutally murdered for you.

Me: Don't do that.

Jesus: You don't understand.

Me: OK, why do you want to get brutally murdered for me?

Jesus: Because you're a piece of shit sinner, and my dad, who is perfect and good, thinks sinners deserve eternal torment.

Me: Go to hell, Jesus.

Jesus: You're gonna go to hell if I don't die for you, and maybe even if I do.

Me: Fine, I'll go to hell if it means you can avoid getting brutally murdered. Jesus, am I the only one around here with principles?



When I was 5, "my" mom found me in my room crying. Turned out "my" kindergarten teacher had told a gruesome story. "Why did they have to kill him?," I wailed.  


These are the racially charged e-mails that got 3 Ferguson police and court officials fired

"Racially charged." Hah. Translation: "These emails may or may not have had vague references to blackness and/or whiteness in them. Not judging, not calling it racism, just pointing to the possible involvement of race in the impossibly vague content of these emails comparing black people to monkeys and dragging out several well-known racist, whoops, racial stereotypes."


Who said it? Guess first, google second, if you want.

"We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity... in fact our movement is Christian. We are filled with a desire for Catholics and Protestants to discover one another in the deep distress of our own people."


Though I agree with pretty much all of the below, by the intellectual rigor of new atheism, I hereby declare that every bad result of Soviet governance proceeded from godlessness.

"Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man." Vladimir Lenin


Let's co-hate:


Let's laugh:

"baby rays look like ravioli stuffed with tiny damned souls"


Iran's Been Two Years Away From a Nuclear Weapon for Three Decades. My preferred frame is to point out that Iran's nuclear program is analogous to Japan's -- civilian with no indications of military.


None of the world’s top industries would be profitable if they paid for the natural capital they use


I wrote a "B.A. thesis" on metaphors once, comparing Nietzsche and a bunch of analytical philosophers. Nietzsche, I think, would approve of Davidly's take.


New Atheism, Old Empire. This writer is using the same language I do: "[New atheism] owes its popular and commercial success almost entirely to the 'war on terror' and its utility as an intellectual instrument of imperialist geopolitics." Not surprising, just hadn't seen it.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

radical darkness

The more accurate one's analysis of political power, the more likely it is to be ignored, ridiculed (triggering ingroup heuristics), drowned out by volume, rearranged in straw, etc. A naturalistically scrutable selection process insulates establishment politics from intellectual threats, which is exactly why these ideas are so delusional, so easily picked apart, like a pop star's self-image. Power has an entourage. Or, switching it up, over there, there's an enormous continent where dodo birds run wild, and into each other; over here are a bunch of rad-intellectual wolves virtually feasting, feeling satisfied for moments, then empty inside. 

Being the top of the food chain, more predator than prey (on the intellectual level only of course), the radicalness of the rad intellectual is rarely challenged. Since there are better ways of dealing with it, see above, it's rarely understood in the first place. Would be a misappropriation of resources. Unpreyed-upon dodo birds thus become more feeble and powerful by way of the same process. The triggering of non-intellectual (non-cognitive-dissonance-based) heuristics, the ability to win the symbolic war, or however you want to describe the way propaganda and apologetics work, is efficient, allowing the dodo birds to prosper. It does leave them quite defenseless, though, which makes attacking them all the more frustrating.

At the same time, there are aspects of radness that rarely get questioned. I'm thinking mainly of the guiding intuitions that make rads an ingroup in the first place. This person escaped the darkness of the rad left, then went after it on its own merits, making four criticisms:
First, dogmatism. One way to define the difference between a regular belief and a sacred belief is that people who hold sacred beliefs think it is morally wrong for anyone to question those beliefs. If someone does question those beliefs, they’re not just being stupid or even depraved, they’re actively doing violence. They might as well be kicking a puppy. When people hold sacred beliefs, there is no disagreement without animosity. In this mindset, people who disagreed with my views weren’t just wrong, they were awful people. I watched what people said closely, scanning for objectionable content. Any infraction reflected badly on your character, and too many might put you on my blacklist. Calling them ‘sacred beliefs’ is a nice way to put it. What I mean to say is that they are dogmas. 
Yes, this is a problem. Rads need personal lives but they're surrounded by machine cogs in denial. Rad politics says almost everyone you know, including your mom, is the problem. OK, and you're kind of the problem too. Ouch. The whiter, maler, heteroer, Americaner you are, the more of a problem you are. Only selling points that come to mind are a clean conscience and a chance to virtually feast on dodo birds. But I imagine rads are tormented by conscience more than most, and also, complicity is unavoidable. And the dodo bird feast just isolates you. This though, is not a case against radicalism, just an observation that it's not a great deal. I don't see any support for the author's implication that the dogma is baseless and clung to in the face of contravening evidence.  
[Second,] Thinking this way quickly divides the world into an ingroup and an outgroup — believers and heathens, the righteous and the wrong-teous. “I hate being around un-rad people,” a friend once texted me, infuriated with their liberal roommates. Members of the ingroup are held to the same stringent standards. Every minor heresy inches you further away from the group. People are reluctant to say that anything is too radical for fear of being been seen as too un-radical. Conversely, showing your devotion to the cause earns you respect. Groupthink becomes the modus operandi. When I was part of groups like this, everyone was on exactly the same page about a suspiciously large range of issues. Internal disagreement was rare. The insular community served as an incubator of extreme, irrational views.
I've said much of this before. The ingroup is blind to its ingroup failings. Radicals can become dodo birds, too. Rads, in the end, are humans blind to their own blindness like everyone else, but hopefully slightly less so, having dismissed so many manifest absurdities. Radness itself is essentially a claim to have everything inside the frame. Everyone else is down on earth, at best in an airplane. Rads claim the view from outerspace. But you can't actually be outside. And where is the view of the viewer? That part is "irrational." Unavoidably so. I don't see how it's more irrational than the author's post-radical view. And the argument against extremity always turns out to be, in my experience, semantic blather. Mozart was extremely good at writing music. Extremely common denominator-ey as well. Far as I know, there's nothing to the argument that "extreme" is bad, as such.
[Third,] High on their own supply, activists in these organizing circles end up developing a crusader mentality: an extreme self-righteousness based on the conviction that they are doing the secular equivalent of God’s work. It isn’t about ego or elevating oneself. In fact, the activists I knew and I tended to denigrate ourselves more than anything. It wasn’t about us, it was about the desperately needed work we were doing, it was about the people we were trying to help. The danger of the crusader mentality is that it turns the world in a battle between good and evil. Actions that would otherwise seem extreme and crazy become natural and expected. I didn’t think twice about doing a lot of things I would never do today.
Oh, it's about ego and elevating oneself. How else are you gonna have an ingroup? But yeah, in the sense intended, a kind of selflessness, what I've called Extensive Norm. Yes to the battle between good and evil. Only need to read the highly esteemed Arthur Silber. I don't like it but don't see a way around it other than to be aware of the absurdity of one's own position.
There is a lot to admire about the activists I befriended. They have only the best intentions. They are selfless and dedicated to doing what they think is right, even at great personal sacrifice. Sadly, in this case their conscience has betrayed them. My conscience betrayed me. It was only when I finally gave myself permission to be selfish, after months and months of grinding on despite being horribly burnt out, that I eventually achieved the critical distance to rethink my political beliefs.
I'm no activist but yes, the guilt. Kind of glad someone made it out. Jealous, even.
[Fourth,] Anti-intellectualism is a pill I swallowed, but it got caught in my throat, and that would eventually save me. It comes in a few forms. Activists in these circles often express disdain for theory because they take theoretical issues to be idle sudoku puzzles far removed from the real issues on the ground. This is what led one friend of mine to say, in anger and disbelief, “People’s lives aren’t some theoretical issue!” That same person also declared allegiance to a large number of theories about people’s lives, which reveals something important. Almost everything we do depends on one theoretical belief or another, which range from simple to complex and from implicit to explicit. A theoretical issue is just a general or fundamental question about something that we find important enough to think about. Theoretical issues include ethical issues, issues of political philosophy, and issues about the ontological status of gender, race, and disability. Ultimately, it’s hard to draw a clear line between theorizing and thinking in general. Disdain for thinking is ludicrous, and no one would ever express it if they knew that’s what they were doing.
Maybe the author knew some people like this but it feels like a strawman. My own take on political intellectualism is that it's complicated because it's apologetics, a distraction selected for by the political ecosystem. It's stupidly complicated. The answers to human political problems are actually quite simple. If you don't want kids in Gaza to die in their homes, don't bomb them, etc. If someone's explaining their super-complicated theory about how to touch your toes, and they can't do it while you can, the smart thing to do is to ignore their intellectualism.
Specifically on the radical leftist side of things, one problem created by this anti-theoretical bent is a lot of rhetoric and bluster, a lot of passionate railing against the world or some aspect of it, without a clear, detailed, concrete alternative. There was a common excuse for this. As an activist friend wrote in an email, “The present organization of society fatally impairs our ability to imagine meaningful alternatives. As such, constructive proposals will simply end up reproducing present relations.” This claim is couched in theoretical language, but it is a rationale for not theorizing about political alternatives. For a long time I accepted this rationale. Then I realized that mere opposition to the status quo wasn’t enough to distinguish us from nihilists. In the software industry, a hyped-up piece of software that never actually gets released is called “vapourware.” We should be wary of political vapourware. If somebody’s alternative to the status quo is nothing, or at least nothing very specific, then what are they even talking about? They are hawking political vapourware, giving a “sales pitch” for something that doesn’t even exist.
This one's complicated and there's a good point in there about why radness tends toward darkness. It's also a bit of a red herring. An asteroid approaches earth. Someone says, accurately, "we're all gonna die." Another cries "What good are you?! Your words are nothing but vapourware!". If it's true it's true, not that it's true true, i.e., essentially true. Just true in the normal, everyday sense. Need to keep the descriptive what-it-is separate from the normative how-I'd-like-it-to-be. But then, other good point hinted at in there, what good does it do, to the extent the metaphor applies, to talk incessantly about the inevitable asteroid (though it bears mentioning that the human catastrophe is more of the already-been-happening-for-milennia than the approaching variety)? It's reasonable to suggest that it only makes sense to talk about a terrible situation if there's some hope of strategizing around it. Delusion has its perks, not that the author, and this is no small thing, is making the argument for delusion. It's hard to sell it to yourself if you call it that, yes?

But/and/or well, if the asteroid is inevitable, hold me accountable for any futile, self-aggrandizing proselytistic tendencies I may have but consider that there may also be value in grieving and shouting at the asteroid, though admittedly, some of us would do well to talk ourselves into a bit more delusion. Or, and this is tough for me personally, into a kind of posthumous personal optimism. IOZ, bleak forecast and all, at least presented himself as having mastered this. Kevin Carson gets by with a rosier, though still perfectly rad, forecast. On the other hand, to dismiss radical analysis because it makes you sad (strawman denial time -- this is not the author's stated reason, though it's implied as a reason and is arguably the reason) is, again, somewhat enviable, but also, perhaps, necessarily delusional.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

if you don't like it, leave

Eduardo walks through the lobby of an enormous skyscraper, surveys a wall of elevators, spots an empty one with doors open and walks in. He's on his way to a meeting with a man who promised to give him some paper he can use to pay the rent. The note had simply said "top floor, whenever you want it." Well, desperate times, right?

The doors begin to close, a man in a suit breaks into a sprint. Eduardo holds the door open. No "thank you".

Suitman hits the button for the second floor, the third, the many floors are there? It was raining outside when he entered. Eduardo asks suitman, politely, what he's doing. No reply. Suitman keeps hitting buttons. Eduardo asks again. More button pushing. He asks again, now with unmistakeable irritation in his voice. Suitman steps into the middle of the elevator, pulls his pants down and takes a dump.

"Oh shit. I meant to say 'what the fuck are you doing?!'" Eduardo shouts.

"Jesus, settle down. Why are you so angry?!"

"Why am I...what?!"

The door to the second floor opens to a brick wall.

"Hey, you're the one bothering me. I'm just going about my everyday life, doing what I do. I can have you arrested, you know."

"I'm bothering you?!"

The door to the third floor opens to a brick wall.

"I'm bothering you?!," he repeats.

"STOP SHOUTING AT ME!!!" Suitman takes another dump.


"What?! That's gold on the floor. You should appreciate it."

"No, it's not. It's shit. Maybe some people like shit, OK? I don't. The vast majority of people don't. Either way, that's shit, technically speaking. And again, fucking stop!"

"You should be glad I haven't kicked you out yet. I let you stay here out of the goodness of my heart!"

Suitman sticks a couple flags in the gold. "And, really, if you don't like it, leave."



Alternate title: "I'm nowhere bound, sure, but this shit is unnecessary"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

dawkins reacts to slipknot stabbing

OF COURSE most white guys are peaceful. But if someone's stabbed in the head by his brother, you know the race of the killers.
Hah. You know Dawkins isn't going to criticize whiteness as having something intrinsically wrong with it based only on anecdotes supposedly pointing to mostly meaningless, superficial correlations. The actual quote is from a few months ago:
Of COURSE most Muslims are peaceful. But if someone's killed for what they drew or said or wrote, you KNOW the religion of the killers.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

lady voice mix tape

It's international women's day, I hear. Not usually a fan of official days for things, but oh well, these voices are made of gold, or whatever the best thing is. Actually, no, that's just an excuse to flash back about 20 years. Definitely had these on mix tapes at some point.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

is the outgroup a heathenly monolith or are some of them not so bad?

The flip side of Islam bashing as a political tool (including the new atheist position I've been going after, which is mostly the same as the far right's Islam bashing) is Islam itself as a political tool. You end up with a debate between "Islam is uniquely evil" (Harris, Maher, Dawkins) and "true Islam is good, it's only extremist Islam that's evil." The first position serves western geopolitical interests by demonizing its official enemy and helping sell wars that are actually about resources while also serving the new atheist narrative that atheists are the peaceful good guys. Islam as a monolithic outgroup makes the new atheist case stronger. The second position lets certain liberals position themselves as voices of restraint, moderation, and reasonableness while opening a space for not-so-bad Muslims like the ones the U.S. sells weapons to. The contrast also gives certain not-so-bad Muslims a role -- keeping the bad Muslims in check. It's the far right and the new atheists saying "Muslims are the lowest of the low" versus liberals saying "no, no, some Muslims are OK." Now change "Muslim" to "Black" and see how it sounds. Anyway, Islam as uniquely evil is useful for western power. The split between bad and not-so-bad Muslims is useful for western power. The back-and-forth between these positions is useful for western power, which is why it's happening.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

political correctness

One doesn't expect this kind of excellence from dailykos: "Liberal Racism: 25 Things I Learned After I Wrote About ISIS and White Racism at the Daily Kos"

"Right-wing racists are much more honest, and thus easier to deal with, than liberal racists."
That's true on the majority of issues. Liberals co-opt egalitarian language from systemic injustice sufferers/critics and use it to rebrand status quo power imbalances to suit their own well-positioned intellectual sensitivities. Liberals know there's kind of an issue there, while conservatives are left to say, "but c'mon, we all know (group X) is the scum of the earth." "No, they're not," say liberals, allies of the punished side of power imbalances who, at least symbolically, support egalitarianism. Conservatives, with little self-awareness or understanding of what systemic injustice might even mean, say "f%!k those guys." Liberals, thinking systemic injustice is mostly a relic of the past, and is on its way out the door if the good guys (them) win, in some impossible future, say "no, we should fight for our just, if flawed (it's not perfect!), system, protect it from those right-wingers who would do away with justice altogether." Liberals consider themselves allies of the downtrodden, a lie exposed when the objects of discussion open their whiny, unappreciative mouths and accurately point out that "no you're not" and the fake allies ask, in some way or another, "where's the appreciation?", and work to maintain the symbolic framework in which they're the good guys, living in those sweet ill-gotten houses, fighting to elect the next politician to run the war-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex, etc. You can put them in jail all you want, but don't you dare use the "n" word. You can kill them in their sleep, but do it for democracy.

Friday, February 27, 2015


When you have a group hellbent on world conquest, the first thing yergunnawannado is ask: is it the "liberal West" or "some illiberals we need for the monster role in our efforts to control resources"? If the answer is liberal West, assume good intentions. Everywhere they go, they bring civilization and the bettering of everything, by definition. They burned down your village and killed your grandma? That's better than it was. Say thank you. If it's them heathens, use their bad intentions as a pretext to drum up support and do the green thing on this here map that you've been doing for centuries. Don't forget to blame it on their religion. Only religious people of the type Muslim are hellbent on world conquest. OK, sometimes atheists in Moscow and other places. If they're Christians though, that could get awkward. You need to create some separation. Just assume it's an intrinsically German, Italian thing, whatever. Blame it on a particular leader. Make stuff up, see what sticks. And then keep getting that green.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


I've passed by this sign so many times, finally had a camera on me.
"Clearly you're inadequate. No one loves you. Not even the plaid suit man has any use for you without our product. Give us your money and we'll give you the blue suit man, whose judgment alone can redeem you."

Sunday, February 22, 2015

how history shows that omar vizquel was a devout muslim

input X ➡️ system ➡️ outcome Y

eating salmon instead of lollipops ➡️ human body ➡️ longer lifespan

violence instead of non-violence ➡️ child's body ➡️ violent adult

video games ➡️ body ➡️ probably some bad things

reading Quran ➡️ body ➡️ probably some bad things

Depends what the control is. On a desert island, soda is better than nothing. White bread is better than lollipops. We've got a lot of moving parts, systemic complexity.

People eat a lot of white bread in Japan. Not so good. But people in Japan live relatively long. The outcome is the sum of all the moving parts. From a naturalistic, scientific perspective, there's absolutely nothing in the outcome that didn't come from all those moving parts.

Input #343 out of 10,000 ➡️ society A ➡️ violence?
Input #212 out of 10,000 ➡️ society B ➡️ violence?

#343 seems terrible. Can't prove it but it just has to be. #212 seems pretty rational to certain people.

The U.S., empirically, has been the most violent country in the world over the past 50 years, at least, and the pattern of constant expansion goes back to the very beginning of the European invasion and conquest of America. What's the explanation? The outcome of all those moving parts is off-the-charts violence levels. Where's the analysis of those moving parts, among which are new atheists, by new atheists?

I agree that #343 is bad, but what about #650 when society B deposes society A's democratically elected government, #5,610 when society B chokes society A's economy and so on? And why has the society with the greater #343 input been less violent than the one with the greater #212 input? #343 is the Quran. #212 is new atheist political ideas. Unlike the case of the white bread above, whatever impact each of those inputs has is entirely unclear. Could be pretty close to nothing. Could be one is lollipops, the other candy canes, with both taken in such small quantities that it doesn't matter if one is slightly worse. That I have to explain basic methodology to professional scientists is [expression of exasperation]. 

A right-wing relative (think Krauthammer, Rumsfeld) on fbook typed this:
Yes, the US killed thousands in War. It is an ugly business. But no one was killed by the US with intent of conquering lands, enslaving the conquered, and subjugating to a hateful, VIOLENT religion.
I'll wait till you're finished lolling. OK, the crying, the banging of your head on the desk. Get it all out. Whew!!!

(I responded:
So if members of a peaceful religion (for example, the Russians) were to invade the U.S. and non-violently, with love and democracy in their hearts, use chemical weapons, WMDs, fighter jets, etc. to kill millions of American citizens without intention to subjugate Americans to any religion, you'd be fine with that? We wouldn't have to include that on our Russian violence scorecard?)
Now try to find a difference between this and the new atheist position. In fact, that hilarious comment got a "like" from a new atheist (an otherwise lovely person, by the way) who'd, upthread, been defending Harris as a peace guy. When I mention that society B is the most violent society in the world today, in my experience, new atheists don't dispute it directly. They want to keep bringing it back to how violent the Quran says believers should be, or the violent God (Allah)-religious words that some violent Muslims use when they do violent things. They don't dispute that the U.S. is the most violent organization in the world today. It's hopeless. But when they talk about how violent Muslims are, with the implication that Muslims are relatively violent, i.e., more violent than Christians and atheists due to their Musliminess, they demonstrate that they aren't actually counting Iraq invasions, drone bombings and the like as acts of violence. They actually think Muslims are more violent, not just in the nasty religious text sense but in terms of real world actions. They think this in spite of mountains of evidence showing systems with input #212 to be more violent and in spite of not being able to make a semblance of a case. Their argument, generally unspoken, rests on the characterization of acts of military aggression that kill on a scale not of handfuls or dozens, but on a scale of hundreds of thousands as non-violent. Their case rests on mass organized killing not counting as violence. Imagine you wanted to compare the power-hitting skills of Barry Bonds and Omar Vizquel where slugging is an act of violence and Bonds HRs count as "whoops, didn't mean it!" ground balls, his triples count as bad apple pop-ups, his doubles count as freedom-providing strikeouts, and his singles count as "did that really happen? I don't think that happened" do-overs, stricken from the record. Meanwhile little Omar Vizquel is spraying death-seeking singles all over the field and, anecdotally, hitting freedom-denying opposite field bombs far more often than the old box scores suggest.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

no true atheist

Part of the appeal of new atheism is that it pumps meaning into otherwise deflated post-God-religious 21st century heads. Life seems meaningless? Here's a narrative to fill the semantic vacuum: The problem with humans is that they have all these silly God-beliefs. The wars, anti-vaxxism, and every other form of illiberal irrationality are relics of the past, when humans were not so far along on this progressive journey as we are today. The problem with the world, in other words, is them, and the answer is you, should you choose to join us. Boom, the meaning's back and you've got a new ingroup. Now you want to insulate your tribe from accusations of being just like them; after all, the God religions are mirror images of each other, all thinking that God is on their side even though God can't possibly be on all their sides; that's illogical! They say they're different but they're the same. You, on the other hand, really are different because you don't believe God is on your side. Atheism is non-God-belief, by definition. One other thing the God-religions have that atheists don't is an official holy book. This is very very important, because some people see words and reflexively do things suggested by them. Free of those God and God-text delusions, now you can go forth and be a good guy in the war against irrationality. You matter! Meaning is back. The struggle against evil is back. What a deal.

The God-religious thesis: Wrong belief and wrong texts and wrong God ==> people doing wrong things
The proof: other God-religionists believe X, Y, Z, which is wrong. We believe not-X, not-Y, and not-Z, which are right. They wear purple, we wear red.

The new atheist thesis: God-belief and irrational tribalist texts ==> violence, irrationality, etc.
The proof: They believe in God and follow violence-encouraging texts. We don't believe in God and don't follow God-texts. When they do violent things they talk about Allah. When we do violent things, we say Team America! well...we don't do violent things because atheism is non-violent and good, by definition.

If this seems too easy, too strawmanny, allow me to mention that there is no reasonable, empirically-based argument that Islam correlates with higher levels of violence than atheism. Meanwhile, any new atheist who voted for Obama voted for a Christian/atheist (does it matter? of course not!) who has a fucking kill list. The reason new atheists emphasize God-belief and religious texts is that these are what distinguish their tribe from God-religionists. Thousands of humans committing acts of violence around the globe, a tiny fraction of whom are Muslims, the main perpetrators of which are acting for governments new atheists support and what the new atheist wants to talk about, time and again, is: "were they saying something about God when they did it?," which, as far as geopolitical analysis is concerned, is like asking what color underpants they were wearing.

Here's reliably easy target Sam Harris:
there are teachings within Islam that explicitly recommend, in fact demand, violence under certain circumstances, circumstances which we in the 21st century, if we are decent human beings, will recognize as being morally insane.” 
But, he said, “there is no such link between atheism or secularism, and violence of any kind.
To paraphrase: there are no teachings within atheism that recommend violence under certain circumstances. Therefore, atheism doesn't cause violence in the way that Islam causes violence. By implication, Islam causes violence by way of texts (and possibly other ways).

He's trying to explain why Islam causes relatively high levels of violence by virtue of some conveniently unexplained semantic mechanism and he never bothers to show that Islam is even correlated with relatively high levels of violence! Because for the goddamn Nth time, there's no such case!

Monkeys swim better than dolphins because...

No, stop! Don't tell me the reason. You've gotta show the first thing first.
It could be that when Hicks starts talking, he’ll tell us how much he hates Muslims and he just wanted to kill a few; and he might even say he read The God Delusion, and The End of Faith, and God is Not Great, and took from these books some kind of rationale to victimize Muslims at random. I think it’s incredibly unlikely that that’s the case. I will be flabbergasted if Hicks says that his atheism drove him to commit these murders.
If we're going by what Islamic terrorists report as their motivations, what they tend to say is that they're responding to U.S. and Israeli F-16s, drones, etc., that is, violence carried out by Christians, atheists, and Jews.

But on Harris logic, when Russell Wilson thanks God after a TD, his Christianity causes his football playing. When a Christian American prays before his mission and blows up a wedding, his Christianity is responsible. When an atheist does the same actions but without praying to the atheist gods, literally anything that's not atheism is responsible. That's how you insulate your religion from criticism.

Now what if the data shows that atheists are relatively more violent than Muslims? To Harris, it doesn't matter at all. Atheism doesn't cause violence, by definition. That's the no true scotsman defense.

I don't mean to make the Quran or God-belief acausal though. It does something, and I imagine the thing it does is something I wouldn't like. There's a weak claim that, in a vacuum, I don't have a problem with that goes like this: angry person with some violence-encouraging external influence is likely more dangerous than same person without that. The U.S. spends millions on propaganda for a reason. That's the correct comparison. Environmental factors that impact violence. The only reason you'd make the comparison hinge on specific God-related verbiage is if you have a tribalist angle to work.

Harris, Dawkins and friends don't make the weak claim. They want to say Islam is relatively violent, that there's something intrinsically violent about it. That's a strong claim and there's simply no empirical basis for it. The U.S. has been far and away the most violent organization in the world in the past century. Half the world's military spending, world's #1 arms dealer, only country to have intentionally used nukes on humans, world's aggressive invasion leader by a mile, etc. Again, it doesn't matter if Obama is really a Christian or if he's faking it. It doesn't matter if the drone operator said a prayer or not. And when some Stalin or whoever kills millions, atheists can just say "we don't have a holy book so that's not on us." The new atheist Islam hater, on the other hand, can pick and choose when to pin it on religion.

Given the discrepancy in actual violence between Muslim countries and Christian/atheist ones, shouldn't we be asking why the west is so violent? I'd never think to answer that question with the kind of unfalsifiable equivocating stories Harris spins. The answer goes like this. The U.S. (and its allies, including atheist Scandinavia and atheist Japan) behaves the way an empire behaves. Geopolitics tells the whole story. ISIS would not exist without U.S. involvement. Islamic bad guys rise and fall (covary) with U.S. foreign policy. The U.S., as a matter of long-standing policy, works to oust uncooperative regimes and replace them with cooperative ones. The latter tend to be dictators, for reasons not hard to understand. It's a classic screw-the-third-party triangle along the lines of European slave trader/African bosses/enslaved Africans. The U.S. is violent as a means of arranging and distributing resources. Humans were killing each other long before the U.S. and ISIS. The names change, the rationalizations can be pretty similar (along ingroup/outgroup lines), the violence is mostly the same.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

machines like them

So sciencey, this.

Yeah, you can keep the focus narrow.

You can put the whole thing in a western frame.

You can say Russia is illiberal, where "liberal" by implication signifies some identifiable, isolable something whereas, perhaps unbeknownst, it means nothing more than an ever-shifting, definition-of-bias "us".

You can allude to western liberalism as your inside/good without showing that it does the common good good.

You can assume a difference in kind where there's a difference in style.

You can ignore piles of research or just the NYT every day.

Holyfuck, American media as free, adversarial, whatever.

You can say, hey, studies show the by-definition bad guys are bad, which they are, as weighed against the common good. Good point!

But only so you can use this bad to prove us good, cuz the bad of the other is what makes any us good, reflexively.

You can recommend that Hillary do such and such, act like she acts for the common good when, in fact, she acts for some imagined you/us.

You can call it science and get it published by machines like us.

Friday, February 13, 2015

let's just hope they run out of gas

A lot of people who know things about artificial intelligence are concerned about where the whole thing is going. Will future Dick Cheneys get brain modifications so as to keep the baby koala soul cupboard better stocked? Will AIs treat humans the way humans treat cockroaches (kill them when you see them), lab rats (experiment on them), birds (mostly ignore them), pets (feel condescending affection for them), or some other way? Nobody knows what's coming (and they don't seem to have given much thought to where the energy will come from, post fossil fuels, either). Here's a summary of AI fears by Kevin Maney that covers important ground, makes some great points, and entertains a critical stance only so he can dismiss it.
It’s time to have a serious conversation about artificial intelligence. AI has crossed a threshold similar to the earliest triumphs in genetic engineering and the unleashing of nuclear fission. We nudged those discoveries toward the common good and away from disaster. We need to make sure the same happens with AI.
"We nudged those discoveries...away from disaster"? Disaster here must mean something like "human extinction," as opposed to, say, Nagasaki. It would be easy to breeze right past that sentence, processing it as "yeah, fission could have gone really badly (but it didn't)." It would be understandable if someone failed to notice how misleading this dichotomy is. We're to choose between disaster and the common good where "disaster" doesn't include Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the risks of future nuclear weapon use, including the possibility of human extinction; nuclear meltdowns that have already happened (Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc.), the risks of future nuclear meltdowns, the fact that nuclear waste has to be dealt with and is vulnerable to infrastructure failures perhaps unavoidable over the lengthy time frame involved; the broader implications of what more power for humans means generally in terms of "the common good." Maney's argument is, roughly, this -- the Cuban Missile crisis didn't end in human extinction (or death for important people -- more on that later) and power is good, therefore nuclear fission serves the common good.

The benefits of nuclear fission must be pretty spectacular to outweigh all those downsides. Rather than explore the "pro" arguments in detail (Maney doesn't mention them), I'll just use a handy shortcut and assure you that all those arguments presuppose what they'd need to prove. Arguments like "nuclear power is cleaner and more sustainable (on some theoretical level) than fossil fuels." "A is better than B" arguments. Better at what? At C. But we're talking about D. C is power. D is the common good. They're entirely different things. Talking about C sends D to the background, by design. This is an article that pretends to talk about the common good while making the case for power. Politicians, scientists, and mainstream journalists work for power.

Admittedly, while "common bad" is relatively simple, "common good" is somewhere between complex and impossible. Maybe nuclear fission, or AI, can work for the common good. But Maney isn't making that case. He's taking the status quo, these increasingly infotech-dependent societies, as his definition of the common good. He thinks nuclear fission has worked for the common good, and his (implied) evidence is "not dead yet." Power justifies itself.
Yet at the same time, we can’t not develop AI. The modern world is already completely dependent on it. AI lands jetliners, manages the electric grid and improves Google searches. Shutting down AI would be like shutting off water to Las Vegas—we just can’t, even if we’d like to. And the technology is pretty much our only hope for managing the challenges we’ve created on this planet, from congested cities to deadly flu outbreaks to unstable financial markets.
Maney insightfully describes the risks brought about by increasing socio-economic complexification by way of infotech, then advocates using the same technology that got "us" into this risky situation to get "us" out of it. Sounds more like an antihero story than a progressive redemption story. Think Walter White compounding previous errors, doubling down on bad bets, and bringing himself closer and closer to death.

Instead of making "The Case Against Artificial Intelligence" (the artice's title), Maney makes the case for it by taking the strongest and most obvious set of solutions (anything prioritizing cutting back) off the table. Imagine someone writing an article titled "The Case Against Smoking," quoting a couple medical professionals who say it's somewhat risky, then ruling out the possibility of quitting smoking as unthinkable. "Given that we have to smoke, we may as well be smart about it..."

"We can't not develop AI." Predictively, many humans this century will try to develop AI (or brain upgrades) to the point where it's no longer dependent on, or even influenceable by, human decisions. Whether they get there depends on peak oil, climate change, and a whole bunch of other complex variables, including humans themselves. But in this phrase, Maney isn't making predictions. He uses the term "we." Pardon the cheese, but where there's a we there's a way. He's suggesting agency and control over the situation, then, for all intents and purposes, denying that there is any. If humans, collectively, stopped building it, they could "not develop AI." If the humans in the science labs stopped building it, they could "not develop AI." If he'd like to stop it, but just can't, he could say "we have to stop it, but it's probably unrealistic to think we can." But if he thinks AI is something we (hint: he's not talking about people living below the poverty line) should go along with because getting off this techno ride would be unbearably painful (for him!) and he'd rather risk death and godknowswhat than give up his smartphone and his position in line, he could say that. But that wouldn't sound very good.
So we have time. But Musk, in particular, is saying that we shouldn’t waste it. There’s no question powerful AI is coming. Technologies are never inherently good or bad—it’s what we do with them. Musk wants us to start talking about what we do with AI. To that end, he’s donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute to study ways to make sure AI is beneficial to humanity. Google, too, has set up an ethics board to keep an eye on its AI work. Futurist Ray Kurzweil writes that “we have a moral imperative to realize [AI’s] promise while controlling the peril.”
It's what we do with them? The fear is that "we" -- he means the very few in the vicinity of the steering wheel -- won't be able to drive the car at some point. He said it's already too late to turn back. If you imagine that history is working out pretty well so far thanks to good people in positions of power acting heroically -- the progressive faith -- I guess you can hope for more of the same. The suggestion that history is working out well so far depends if you're talking about the ghost of a Nagasaki victim or the CEO of a heavily subsidized nuclear power company, the vast majority of humans who live in poverty or the small minority with vacation homes.

It's possible the powerful could act somewhat more cautiously with AI than most new power sources. The usual pattern is to push costs, up to and including death, off on the rest of humanity. For the common good, of course. But in this case, powerful humans may be more cautious for the same reason they haven't nuked the planet yet -- self-preservation. To the extent they can, they'll try to externalize costs and set up a barrier to protect themselves. What extent that might be, they don't know.
It’s worth getting out ahead of these things, setting some standards, agreeing on some global rules for scientists. Imagine if, when cars were first invented in the early 1900s, someone had told us that if we continued down this path, these things would kill a million people a year and heat up the planet. We might’ve done a few things differently.
Nah, there was a Kevin Maney around back then saying everything will work out alright, somehow, raising the possibility that it wouldn't only to dismiss it. There were others who made forceful objections only to be ignored, or punished. And again with the "we." We the good guys. We the non-members of the set "humans living in poverty." We who are so committed to our carbon-fueled lives that we won't even consider giving them up. We can see here, again, what Maney means by disaster, where Nagasaki doesn't count. He's talking about disaster for people like him. That hasn't happened yet.

So, to summarize:

infotechpower: We're nuttier than a scientologist on meth and we're going for a joy ride. Woohoo!!

Kevin Maney: Whoahh, that sounds dangerous. I'm hesitant but...wait up! Let me come too. I'll be in charge of making sure everyone wears seatbelts.

ITP: Sure, whatever. *car speeds off* Woohoo, human heads!

KM: No disaster there. Guys, put on your seatbelts!

ITM: *laughing*

KM: I'm serious!...Please?