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28/05/2015

“If you had asked me what causes drug addiction at the start, I would have looked at you as if you were an idiot, and said: ‘Drugs. Duh.’  It’s not difficult to grasp.  I thought I had seen it in my own life.  We can all explain it.  Imagine if you and I and the next twenty people to pass us on the street take a really potent drug for twenty days.  There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day twenty-one, our bodies would need the chemical.  We would have a ferocious craving.  We would be addicted.  That’s what addiction means.

“One of the ways this theory was first established is through rat experiments — ones that were injected into the American psyche in the 1980s, in a famous advert by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.  You may remember it.  The experiment is simple.  Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles.  One is just water.  The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine.  Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.

“The advert explains: ‘Only one drug is so addictive, nine out of ten laboratory rats will use it.  And use it.  And use it.  Until dead.  It’s called cocaine.  And it can do the same thing to you.’

“But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment.  The rat is put in the cage all alone.  It has nothing to do but take the drugs.  What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently?  So Professor Alexander built Rat Park.  It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want.  What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

“In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them.  But what happened next was startling.

“The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water.  They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used.  None of them died.  While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.” — Johann Hari, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think”

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Thinkage

3/05/2015

“In June, Jerad and Amanda Miller shot two police officers and another person dead in Las Vegas.  They had come from the standoff at the ranch of Cliven Bundy, where a bunch of white shitheels actually pointed guns at federal agents and everyone went home without a shot being fired or anyone being arrested, despite Bundy being guilty of essentially the same crime as Eric Garner, except Bundy owed the government more than a million bucks in grazing fees and not a few coins on single cigarettes.  The Millers were anti-government nutzoids who thought cops were oppressors who were gonna git their guns or some such shit.  They left a note on the scene saying they wanted to start a revolution.

“You know what didn’t happen after the shooting?  Police associations didn’t say that Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman had blood on her hands.  The cops didn’t condemn the armed numbskulls at Bundy ranch, who were, you know, protesters.  And the Vegas police unions most definitely did not say they were now a ‘wartime’ department, as the New York City PBA supposedly did.

“Imagine the shitstorm that’d happen if the cops said that violent white people were the problem and they needed to be stopped.  It would have actually made sense.  The Millers were directly connected with the Bundy ranch uprising.  The guy who shot Liu and Ramos was a solo dickhead with a Facebook page.” — Lee Papa, “Random Thoughts on Spreading the Blame for a Cop Killing

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Thinkage

3/05/2015

“We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world.

“That’s why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well.” — Al Franken, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

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Thinkage

22/04/2015

“‘The country has lost its moral compass’ is a dog whistle.

“Here in the United States when you pull the thread on ‘the country has lost its moral compass’ what follows, clanking and banging like a string of tin cans tied to a dog’s tail, is thinly disguised racism, misogyny, homophobia, hate, fear, bigotry, and nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ when people who looked and thought just like you owned everything.

“Every conversation that begins with ‘The country has lost its moral compass’ always and inevitably ends with the only solution being the commenter’s religion. Always. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

“And every single time you protest and tell me I’m wrong, as soon as you attempt to explain how ‘the country has lost its moral compass’ you always plow through thinly disguised racism, misogyny, homophobia, hate, fear, bigotry, and the good old days on the way to your religion. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

“Folks, today is no better or worse, morally, than any other day.

“We haven’t lost our moral compass as a nation. We never had one to begin with.

“And that’s a good thing.

“We face problems as a nation, as a civilization, just as we always have.

“The world is always going to hell, just ask anybody.

“Attempting to impose your morality on the rest of us isn’t the solution.

“It’s the whole damned problem.” — Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station: “The Myth of the Moral Compass”

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Thinkage

21/04/2015

“[T]he useful way to understand fascism, at least for the purposes of [redacted], is as an aesthetic – as a particular mix of fetishes and paranoias that always crops up in culture, occasionally seizing some measure of power, essentially always with poor results. It can basically be reduced to a particular sort of story. The fascist narrative comes, in effect, in two parts. The first involves a nostalgic belief in a past golden age – a historical moment in which things were good. In the fascist narrative, this golden age was ended because of an act of disingenuous betrayal – what’s called the ‘stab in the back myth.’ (The most famous form, and the one that gave the myth its name, being the idea that German Jews had betrayed the German army, leading to the nation’s defeat in World War I.) Since then, the present and sorry state of affairs has been maintained by the backstabbers, generally through conspiratorial means.

“The second part is a vision of what should happen, which centers on a heroic figure who speaks the truth of the conspiracy and leads a populist restoration of the old order. The usual root of this figure is (a bad misreading of) Nietzsche’s idea of the ubermensch – a figure of such strength that morality does not really apply to him. He’s at once a fiercely individualistic figure – a man unencumbered by the degenerate culture in which he lives – and a collectivist figure who is to be followed passionately and absolutely. A great leader, as it were. (This is, counterintuitively, something of a libertarian figure. Ayn Rand’s heroes – the great and worthy men who deserve their freedom – are archetypal fascist heroes, because they rise up over the pettiness of their society and become great leaders.) It is not, to be clear, that all cults of personality are fascist, any more than all conspiracy theories are. Rather, it is the combination – the stab-in-the-back conspiracy theory coupled with the great leader that all men must follow – that defines the fascist aesthetic.” – Philip Sandifer, Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons

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Thinkage

19/04/2015

“I did examine myself…Solitude did increase my perception. But here’s the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn’t even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.” — Christopher Thomas Knight, The Last True Hermit

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Thinkage

5/04/2015

“We in the United States live in a deathly social context that’s marked by consumerism and militarism and the loss of the common good. Younger people that are committed to the gospel have to think carefully about how to critique that dominant system of military consumerism and how to imagine alternative forms of life that are not defined by those corrosive pressures…That ideological system causes us to be very afraid, to regard other people as competitors, or as threats, or as rivals. It causes us to think of the world in very frightened and privatistic forms.

“The gospel very much wants us to think in terms of a neighborhood, in terms of being in solidarity with other people, in sharing our resources, and of living out beyond ourselves. The gospel contradicts the dominant values of our system, which encourages self-protection and self-sufficiency at the loss of the common good. The church is in some ways a reflection of those dominant values.” — Walter Brueggemann, “It’s Not a Matter of Obeying the Bible”

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Thinkage

29/03/2015

“I believe we have found a most clever way to honor the prophets into insignificance.  They’re really harmless when we make their message simply, ‘They foretold the coming of the Messiah.’

“Prophets step in to disrupt the usual social consensus–”How wonderful our group is!”–and say, “It’s just not entirely true!” So you see why the prophets are all killed (Matthew 23:29-39).  Prophets expose and topple each group’s idols and blind spots, very often showing that we make things into absolutes that are not absolutes in God’s eyes, and we relativize what in fact is central and important. As Jesus so cleverly puts it, ‘You strain out gnats and you swallow camels’ (Matthew 23:24).

“This tendency in religion to ‘absolutize’ things comes from a deep psychological need for some solid ground to stand on, and I understand that. But what the prophets keep saying is, “God is the only absolute!”  Don’t make the fingers pointing to the moon into the moon itself, as it were.  Jeremiah said, ‘The Temple, the Temple, the Temple of Yahweh! Don’t you recognize it has become a robber’s den?’ (7:1-11) and this is the very line that Jesus quotes (Mark 11:17). But of course he was talking about Jerusalem, and surely not our parish church, Salt Lake City, Washington, DC, or much less, St. Peter’s in Rome.” — Richard Rohr, “Archetypal Religion

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Facts / Opinions / Evidence / Truth

24/03/2015

Justin P McBrayer[1] recently posted an op-ed piece with the NYTimes called Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts [2] where he relates the following:

“When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

“Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

“Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

“…So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

“First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

“But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are either facts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

“Me: ‘I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?’

“Him: ‘It’s a fact.’

“Me: ‘But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.’

“Him: ‘Yeah, but it’s true.’

“Me: ‘So it’s both a fact and an opinion?’

“The blank stare on his face said it all.”[3]

To quote one of the great rhetoricians of our era:

sam-jackson-retort-468x350

“Facts,” “truth,” “evidence,” and “opinion” are not the same thing. They may overlap when referring to concrete examples, but that’s a function of language, not reality.

Facts, so to speak, are the atoms of reality: They is what they is. They carry no moral weight of judgment, no meaning in and of themselves. A fact either is or it is not.

Truth is the summation of several facts in conjunction or juxtaposition against one another. The “truth” of water, for example, is a summation of several facts about it: Its molecular formula, the pressure and temperature points where it freezes or vaporizes, the way it interacts with other molecules, etc., etc., and of course, etc.

Evidence are facts assembled to produce a truth, either in whole or in part.

Opinion is a belief, preferably based on informed knowledge about the facts and evidence before one, that makes a presumption about what truth is.

Fact: I was born

Opinion A: I was born within the borders of the United States at that time

Opinion B: I was not born within the borders of the United States at that time

Without fact based evidence to prove either Opinion A or Opinion B, they are both equally valid assumptions.

I’m the flippin’ Schroedinger’s Cat of procreation, and lacking facts in evidence my birth within / without the borders of the US are equally valid opinions.

Only one of those opinions is true, of course.

And all the logic, rhetoric, assembled supporting evidence, sincerity of belief, and numbers of believers does not alter the factual truth one iota.

There are no moral “facts”,
but there are moral “truths”.

Unlike facts which can be fixed in time and space, truth does not need observable concrete evidence to be true or not.

There was no cup of coffee on my desk an hour ago, there is a cup of coffee on my desk now, there will be an empty cup on my desk in an hour are all valid statements of fact even though they do not represent the same exact thing. They can be assembled to form a truth about my having a cup of coffee while working.

Or more precisely, they can be assembled to produce an opinion about the truth; for all you know I’m just shining you on about the coffee, the desk, and me working. Or more precisely still, the truth is that it’s possible for me to drink coffee, and that truth remains unalterable regardless of the facts of my coffee drinking / non-drinking.

McBrayer wants to have his imaginary cake and make you eat it. George Washington’s status as the first president of the US stands independent of McBrayer’s belief, no matter how much evidence he assembles to prove it. He is right in his opinion — this time.

But he could just as sincerely believe even more and better evidence of other facts and assemble them into a conclusion that is not the truth.

It drives hard line moralists nuts to live in a universe where their opinions are not automatically revered and treated as fact, but to quote another great rhetorician:

“Dem’s da conditions wot prevails.”

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[1] Yeah, I know: “Who?” Bear with me, I gotta fill a quota on this blog and this one’s an easy pop fly.

[2] Probably for the same reason they don’t think there’s any dry water, either; McBrayer is using mutually contradictory terms.

[3]  Congratulations, Justin, for opening a can of pseudo-intellectual whup-ass on your seven year old…

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Boulet Gets All Metaphysical On Yo Ass

22/03/2015

EN-Pixelphysics051

da man be fnckin’ wid yo hed

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