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Gaza: Two Proposals [12 Jan 2009|11:18pm]

I highly doubt that either of these proposals are anything new, though they are new to me. I'm sure they've been thought up and discussed by many people before. My hope is that in discussing the two proposals I can better understand the conflict between Gaza and Israel—the motives, merits, and predicaments of both sides.

  • Benefits for Gazans: Reduced civilian casualties.
  • Benefits for Israel: Reduced civilian causalities means lessened world opposition to military incursions against Hamas.
  • Costs for Gazans: With civilians safe in shelters during Israeli incursion, Hamas militants are much easier targets. Safe-housing civilians away in shelters essentially renders Hamas defenseless as their weaponry is no match against Israel's.
  • Costs for Israel: Any costs far outweigh the benefits.
In "Israel's Actions Are Lawful and Commendable," Alan M. Dershowitz claims that "Hamas ... refuses to build shelters, precisely because it wants to maximize the number of Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by Israel’s military actions." However, it remains unclear whether the absence of shelters in Gaza is because of Hamas (in power since Jan. 2006) or because of something else—a lack of resources, logistical issues, etc. If Gazans are interested in their own safety and capable of building their own shelters, logically you'd think they would have done so. So, why haven't they? Have the Israelis, foreign governments, NGOs or the UN ever attempted to build shelters within Gaza? If not, why not?

  • Benefits for Gazans: increased humanitarian supplies --> increased quality of life
  • Benefits for Israel: Decreased weapons caches --> reduced threat to Israelis
  • Costs for Gazans: Decreased weapons caches. But honestly, in what ways have weapons benefited Gazans?
  • Costs for Israel: Any costs far outweigh the benefits.
I posted this second proposal here but was dissatisfied with the responses. Comments were dismissive, sidestepping and/or unconvincing. But this was likely due to how I chose to present the case. So, this is me trying a second time in a different community.

In "Gaza: An Unnecessary War," Carter claims that a key issue for Hamas is the inflow of humanitarian supplies (food, water, medicine, fuel) into Gaza. Israel has traded the inflow of humanitarian supplies for a cessation of rocket fire. But, has Israel ever attempted to exchange humanitarian supplies for the hand-over of weapons? If not, why not? 

Critical to the success of proposal #2: 
(a) cutting off the supply of weapons into Gaza 
(b) curtailing weapons manufacturing within Gaza. 
Can You See?

Sorry for the delay [18 May 2008|10:16pm]

Okay, sorry if I got anyone's hopes up as I think this is kind of lame myself...

I was reading an article about Israel's  Facing Tomorrow conference basically, they're getting a bunch of famous and a bunch of smart people together to talk about their role in the future and the future's role in their country. Later, that day I logged back in to live journal for the first time in a few years and hear I am. 

I remember there being a bunch of smart people here all clamoring to be heard here. My suggestion is to give the group a topic; weekly, monthly, or quarterly, and let's see if we can answer or start to answer some of the questions facing us as a world or nation (if I remember correctly most of us are from the US) , in the future, right now even.

Suggestions for some possible topics are:

Gas prices  (How to cope with it, How to fix it, How to prepare for 9$ a gallon)

*Intelligent design (Is it ethical, unethical? Is it the next in our evolution, is it playing god?)

*Cameras (Is having them everywhere a good idea, or an invasion of privacy?)

What does the weak dollar mean? Does China really have all that money tied up in US bonds? How will that effect us?

Why does the FED keep cutting interest rates? What is the problem? How can people fix it?

*I guess these are more opinionated questions but I still think they're worth wile in the direction I want to go.

I guess I'm concerned about the economy but I have no idea what's going on with it! I'm getting the feeling no one really knows where we're going in the future and that scares me a little. I think it'd be nice if we could put something together explaining what these things are and at the same time offering some detailed opinions on what we can do to fix them. 

I know everyone wants to know who they should vote for based on their policies, but all I see are politicians. I want reasonable actions I can demand of my representation not pointed fingers and pretty words.

If something like this already exists, point me to it and I'll sign up. Otherwise, let me know what you guys think.

1 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Make me stay [08 May 2008|03:13am]
Make me stay. If anyone is still out there let me know. I have an idea for this group.
6 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

[27 Aug 2006|12:49pm]

on intimacyCollapse )
1 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Motive (Part 4 of 4) [21 Aug 2006|11:09am]

Why write in online journals?
I realize now that anything and everything that attracts me to psychology is this dynamic between fact and conventional wisdom. I remember my first semester in college, Psychology 101, I kept seeing this ongoing debate between heredity and environment with no mention of free will, which makes sense in a science-oriented field, as free will quite simply breaks a basic law of physics: something cannot be created from nothing. Contrast this with how widely accepted free will is among the general populus and you've got one hell of a confrontation between what's known to be fact by a few academics and what's accepted to be fact by most. Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance was the other major convention-challenging concept that drew my interest. Our ideas about the world are often mere rationalizations to maintain harmonious mindsets free of discord, I learned. We humans aren't truth-seekers so much as we're seekers of homeostatis, of equilibrium. Without regard to what the actual truth is, we conform our own "truths" around preconceived notions and emotions with which we've established a comfortable relationship. I've come to view psychology as a kind of secret, hidden window into very universally public affairs. In a lot of ways, it's like Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Most recently, I've been drawn to the idea proposed in this article, that human conflict -- the situation in which we see our truths but not the truths of others, we see our side as valid and the other's as disengenuous spin -- relates to "two innocent facts": (1) "because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own," (2) "because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others." I'm seeing this principle applied over and over again in each and every point of contention I encounter. It's fascinatingly absurd in how obvious, but obviously not so obvious, it is.

And I wonder what is wrong with me that I am so obsessed with these sorts of challenges. What is up? Why do I care? Why don't I maintain a mild, fleeting interest like everyone else?

On a surface level, what's true is important to me, and that so many people's attitudes are misaligned from or in opposition to what is true boggles my mind. On a deeper level, when I was a young child (my mom informed me recently), I would very often become extremely frustrated when unable to figure something out -- clip together or detach a toy, zip or unzip my jacket, etc. I've noticed this same intensity in other young children, especially babies when they focus on trivial things -- they'll stare at a spec of lint on the carpet for several minutes trying to pick it up -- they really fucking care, it's amazing -- it's a devotion to the trivial only a child or an insane person would have. Whatever that is, I feel I have it. I believe that's why I was able to develop the skill of drawing so well. I had this unusual tendency to obsess, to devote, to focus. This is an obvious turn off when interacting with others as evinced by the poor results of the post-9/11 emails with friends. So, most often I push myself away from action because of the effort involved, but when I do get into something I really get into it -- loyal and obsessive -- I'll read over an online post, for instance, a dozen times till I feel the wording, format and arrangment are to my liking.

Another layer infused into all this is that my mom ingrained in me this idea that I would do great things. The key, though, is I believed her. As far back as I can remember, she'd tell me some variation of how I was special before tucking me into bed at night. As I grew older and she stopped tucking me in, she stopped telling me this, but the seeds of delusions of grandeur had been planted. At present, I have a more realistic view of my role in life, but the feeling of purpose and the need to feel functional remain.

Being oriented toward introversion, much of my time and energy is spent in my own inner world of thoughts and ideas, pondering over abstractions, forms, ideals. It's always been this way. So, it's natural that my function in life would be sought and fought for in this realm. The fight for the inner ideal of truth when this outward world seems in large part to so consistently mischaracterize its very nature may be a battle fought inside the mind but it has great and vast implications on the way people live day to day. My real life occupation may be wheedled down to analyzing behavior change in youth or the efficacy of education, but it will all be driven by the larger philosophical premise, the fight for truth.

I realize this is all very personal and idiosyncratic and wordy, but nothing else seems quite as functional a fit with who I am and quite worth the fighting for, quite so important to contemplate and put out for public scrutiny. Although, for once, I'm more concerned with the personal benefits of this introspective analysis than with how many comments it generates. If this generates no collaborative dialogue, it still will have been more than worth it to me to think and type it all out.

As strong as my interest in challenging convention is, I realize there's more to interaction, online and otherwise. People, myself included, participate in online journaling for a variety of reasons, the same reasons they maintain friendships -- not to challenge but simply to communicate: to vent, to seek advice, to inform, to garner attention, to entertain, to impress. A large part of it is getting and giving that 'aha' feeling -- in recognizing something you know -- in sharing with someone you know some new variation that fits with what you know -- which relates back to why we so rarely challenge conventional wisdom. In a desire to maintain equilibrium, we seek out the like-minded, more often than not.

But, this isn't so bad, wanting to just get along, seeking peace and harmony, laid-back social interaction. That's the stuff of life. We can't be warring to challenge and change all the time. That's exhausting, draining, unhealthy. Laying in the grass; picking berries in the field; shooting the shit at the water cooler, listening to, thinking about, sharing a song or what someone did over the weekend; painting a picture -- these are all more than valid experiences with important psychological functions. One needn't challenge to feel functional.

This may appear obvious but to somone who's spent most of life virtually drowning in cynicism, it's a realization. I realize there are limits, though, on what people will and won't do. Certain personalities place their energies in certain areas in certain ways. Different stimuli make different people tick, different activities bring different people pleasure and make them feel functional. So, it's your function to do what your personality prescribes, what particularly interests you. Your devotion to working in the peculiar field of your interest is your unique contribution to society. For, if you don't do it, there's a limited number out there who will. Perhaps that limited number is zero, for those who will contribute just what you will.

(the end)
1 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Motive (Part 3 of 4) [15 Aug 2006|10:32am]

Why write in online journals?
The second incident that caused me to realize my motive in journaling was my challenge to a friend's heterophobic, racist, sexist language, specifically this sentence: "Fuck them in their straight white male talk."

She had made the post in an uncomfortable state after having spent the night at a straight bar (she is gay) with her sister. Straight white males had repeatedly touched her on her back against her permission, seemingly came on to every white, presumed-straight girl they wanted to, made racist remarks and were making out and/or having sex with the only other two girls in the house where she would be sleeping the night while the others lurked over her. She felt out of place and agitated at their behavior.

My key mistake was in not validating her situation before offering up criticism, which relates back to my disconnect with a need to state what's virtually universally agreed upon to be obvious as opposed to my desire to challenge what's accepted by some or most to be the obvious.

I told her that her insults should be directed toward behavior rather than phenotype. It was their homophobia, racism and sexism that should have bothered her, not their sexual orientation, race and gender. Furthermore, it's counterintuitive to her activist cause to exhibit the same fundamental errors made by those she opposes.

She circumvented my point, reframing the debate to one of acknowledging my privilege as a straight white male. I validated this reframing rather than bypass it as the diversion tactic it was. I explained that I lived and worked at or below the same class level as people with different skin tone than me. Thus, I did not feel privileged. I was told I was using privilege by questioning rather than validating her as though if I was of another race, gender or sexual orientation I would not be afforded the same privileged ability to question and forego validation. I explained to her the privilege she sees ingrained in whiteness, straightness, and maleness is really a privilege rooted in wealth and social networking. While the former are sometimes factors, sometimes mere confounding variables, the latter are always determinants.

This example shows my opposition to conventional wisdom is not always directed against mainstream culture but counter-culture as well. I am even-handed in some respects.

This debate may be viewed as purely academic, but it has real-life repurcussions. Attitudes shape everyday interactions, moods, behaviors, policies, the list goes on and on. It's important to strive to form and reform our attitudes as accurately as we can so as to be more in line with facts and to be viewed as legitimately as possible when attempting to affect change.

(to be continued)
Can You See?

Motive (Part 2 of 4) [07 Aug 2006|09:51pm]

Why write in online journals?
I recently became aware of my central motive in keeping and participating in online journals: to challenge conventional wisdom. I suppose I've known this all along but never have I explained it so concisely. Two incidents brought this to light.

The first was an online friend's challenge to my lack of emotional response to civilian casualties due to non-state Islamic bombings compared to my numerous, substantial responses to civilian casualties due to state-based bombings (most recently, Israel's). He characterized this slant as dangerous. Without significant, vocal, impassioned outrage toward non-state terror, he argued, we are not mustering up the morale vitally needed to oppose it; we are, in effect, submitting to an enemy.

I explained to him that I have built up a schema for non-state terrorists characterizing them as immoral murderers of civilians. I explained my expectations for Israel and the United States are much different. When non-state Islamic terrorists target and kill civilians, my emotions rise if I give myself a moment to think about it, but I'm not driven to post, because the behavior doesn't deviate from my schema, my conventional wisdom, and what I assume to be the conventional wisdom of those in my (American/Western) culture and those who will read what I write. However, when Israel wages a campaign which disproportionately slaughters a civilian population, it strongly breaks from this schema, this idea of what Israel is and how it should act. It disrupts my cognitive framework to an extent that I am motivated to post.

My friend characterized such explanations as excuses and generalized from the conversation that a "real and serious dialogue" could not be had with me, "The Left." His view, in short, was non-state terror should alarm me and disrupt my homeostasis at the very least as much as the recent actions of Israel. We should never take terror lightly, we should never become used to terror. If we do, we become complacent; we become a pathetic, weak opposition in allowing terrorists this validation of normalcy.

His is a good argument. He makes a strong, valid point. Every terrorist action should be a substantial disruption in my basic concept of what it means to be human. It should disturb me, it should tear through me, it should break from my ideas of what's acceptable so much that I AM motivated to post about it. I definitely need to re-examine the roots of my personal passions.

However, personal passions and posting on the internet, while undeniably interdependent, are two separate entities. I am all for fighting to overcome personal bias, but I feel subjectivity and intent have their purposeful roles in life as well. I am not a mechanical, clinical chronicler of events; I am a person with a perspective and an audience. My intent, to challenge conventional wisdom, distorts the events I report and how I report them toward that motive. I will not post concepts that are in sync with the conventional wisdom of my (American/Western) culture as often as I will post concepts that are in opposition.

And I realize this is how I've always been in emails to friends and online posts. I'm always drawn to distributing information and initiating dialogue when something I observe breaks from conventional wisdom. Does the fact that my disposition is to go against make that which I write about any less valid, genuine or accurate? I don't know anyone who would argue that. They may say I am missing something, though, by not absorbing myself in the flow of establishment on occassion -- in not reveling in praise when my culture does something right, in disgust when he who we oppose does something wrong. In a counter-culture of heavy SNL and Daily Show satire and cynicism, it feels against my nature to Rah Rah cheerlead on establishment, to be one more brick in the red, white and blue, these-colors-don't-run wall of condemnation of non-state terror. Maybe I need to alter my perspective. Maybe there is something wrong with that feeling. Maybe there is something wrong with me that I do not feel the need for, nor do I feel entirely comfortable with, my openly supporting the positive and condemning the negative when those things just happen to align with conventional wisdom. Could it be so cliche as doing what's cool and avoiding what isn't? Could it be I'm merely conforming to my own counter-culture's conventional wisdom?


The Obvious Child

(I think this song is appropriate --extremely so-- for just the one line: Why deny the obvious child?)

(to be continued)
Can You See?

Motive (Part 1 of 4) [06 Aug 2006|07:10pm]

Why write in online journals?
In July of 2001, I made the big decision to cut against the tide. I quit art school, a rather high profile art school in New York, after just one year. I couldn't rationalize the value of the 15,000 extra dollars a year it was costing my parents to send me, though they, themselves, were more than willing.

More than amused with every class I was taking at Pratt, I just didn't feel I was growing enough to justify the expense, nor did I see a future for myself in art. I'm certainly good at it, it pleases me at times. But my passion, my profession, my livlihood? I just couldn't see it.

So, psychology it was, back home, New Orleans. Academia was what I craved. More thinking. More growth. I would actually be learning substantial amounts of information. Then, September 11th.

Emails between friends erupted. First, about the substance and meaning of the current events. This was all being fed by and filtered through my recent absorption into the importance of the field of psychology and academia in general. We streamed off into discussions of philosophy and religion. Tempers were raised. Accusations flew across the internet. One very close friend, an ex-girlfriend, was lost.

I had hoped and assumed discussion could and would alter viewpoints and consensuses would be reached. This was my motive. This didn't happen. Miscommunication and emotion reigned supreme over civility and a comradery. So, the discussions with friends fizzled to an end as I turned toward online forums, seeking the same ends. The ability to reach consensuses and alter viewpoints wasn't any more successful, but the participants were much more intrinsically motivated, even if they weren't all submitting to discussion with an honest intent to learn and grow.

The online journal began under similar motives. The perk being no one is coerced into participating: journalers come and go as they please to this completely separate entity (your journal), read it, and comment of their own accord. The setup establishes a genuine proactive collaboration.

(to be continued)
2 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Legacy [02 Aug 2006|01:05pm]

You can only pass a few concepts down to your only child before your influence is forever removed - what is your legacy?

First and foremost, above all other beliefs and concepts, I would pass on a moral/political/social priority of liberty (defined very specifically), as well as an emphasis on understanding logic - specifically Hume's fork and is-ought fallacy. I'd love to be able to hand down some books, but let's hypothesize that we're restricted to communicating specific beliefs/concepts. I would like to communicate to my child all my understanding of drugs (moksha), zen, polyamorism, functionalism (as a philosophy of mind), "meta" and gestalts, the law of unintended consequences, game theory, and skepticism (as an extension of logic).

What do you believe are the most important beliefs/concepts to pass down to the next generation? Does anyone believe that the next generation would not benefit from any of the beliefs/concepts that I listed?
4 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

A Call to No Moderation - for debate [27 Jul 2007|11:38am]

A Call to No Moderation - for debate

Because this community is an intelligence rating community, it does not need a moderator and would be better off without a moderator.

The role of a moderator is to regulate and censor the interaction between members of a community. For example, the government is the moderator of its citizens and parents are the moderators of their children. A moderator's purpose is to subjectively improve the overall outcome of the interactions between members of a community. Usually a moderator exists to remove bias and intimidation so that truth and peacefulness will prevail in the community. To be a moderator, one must ultimately know what interactions are best for members of a community though the members may be unaware that they will benefit from regulation/censorship; for example, parents regulate their children with knowledge that the child could not understand and government regulates its citizens with a perspective that the average citizen could not understand (given game theory).

However, parents objectively have more experience (and better developed brains) than children and government officials objectively have more understanding of macro management than the average citizen. Neither of these claims can be made by anyone wishing to moderate this community, as we mutually accept one another's intellectual merit. Further, no one in this community can fairly claim to be objectively less biased than another because the issues to be discussed have not come up yet. Consider the Supreme Court and whether personal biases (like the Christians on SCOTUS) take a role in supposedly objective judgment. No one can claim to be a moderator of this community without a degree of conceit that is not warranted.

The members of this community and the community itself will benefit from a free flow of information without intimidation from censors. Controversial topics are best discussed in an intellectual community like this one, so let us allow members to post controversial (and potentially offensive) topics. Since we can mutually agree to be rigorously logical, there should be no fear that controversy will lead to fallacies. If a member wishes to post a critique of government or society, it should be acceptable regardless of whether other members disagree. Part of op-eds is judgment and part satire is sarcasm. We must accept and even expect confident and skeptical attitudes from each member, so there should be no provision omitting judgment, sarcasm, or even arrogance. I'm reminded of a Stan Lee who remarked that in any story, the antagonist must be superior to the protagonist or else there is no value in the protagonist's victory; if we are to bring the best out of ourselves then we must allow our opponents to bring out the worst of themselves.
8 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

BBG (Brooklyn Botanic Garden) [26 Jul 2006|10:25pm]

On my day off, I visited the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (It's free on Tuesdays!) and saw the following:

Bonzai!Collapse )

Art!Collapse )
1 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Review of the Celestine Prophesy [26 Jul 2006|01:40pm]

Review of the Celestine Prophesy by James Redfield

In the rain forests of Peru, an ancient manuscript has been discovered. Within its pages are nine key insights into life itself - insights each human being is predicted to grasp sequentially, one insight then another, as we move toward a completely spiritual culture on Earth. - from the cover

Well, I was handed the Celestine Prophesy by someone after we discussed the up-coming Peaceful Warrior movie. I expressed interest in reading Millman's work, but I don't have a copy of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior book yet. So, I chewed through this supposedly similar work.

I enjoyed this book for its merits though I am heavily critical of the author.

I'll start with what I liked.

The concept was awesome; the whole spiritual revolution idea has been played out, but this was a well done especially when considering the tie to the Mayans. In this sense, I saw a little bit of Stranger in a Strange Land in the Celestine Prophesy. The adventure of the story was very well done, as I can see an action video-game being well made from the plot of this book. The concepts in this book are appealing because they are very hedonistic (explicitly stated as hedonism in the story) and spirituality is given substantial, scientific reasoning. I really loved the author's perception of how children should be treated - it works right into my growing beliefs about TCS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taking_Children_Seriously) and Mutual Adoption Clubs.

The Celestine Prophesy has some negative traits, unfortunately.

Literary Critique - no real spoilersCollapse )

Would anyone recommend the 10th Insight by Redfield? I would recommend Huxley's Island to anyone that enjoyed the Celestine Prophesy and to anyone that enjoys a good book concerning pantheist/polyamorist society.
2 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

-Isms Among The Anti-Ismists: Ism It Great? [25 Jul 2006|11:15pm]

A friend wrote:
i almost kicked some frat dude ass tonight. i want out. help. fuck them in their straight white male talk. fuck them in their hands going towards a women's ass. don't touch me or i will fuckin slap your face and call you a fucking asshole.
To which I responded:
I'm a straight white male and I talk, but I don't feel I share the straight white male talk you're writing about. So maybe it's not their straightness and their whiteness and their maleness that you want to direct your insults towards, but something else. I think you need to watch how you're stereotyping. Don't fight your revolution by hating on people based upon sexual orientation, race and gender if you don't want the same done toward you.
She explained herself:
so the whole night i didn't feel comfortable or safe because it was a straight bar, where everyone EVERYONE was on the prowl for action. you couldn't set foot in there without getting your back touched with the hand slightly going more towards the butt. i had a problem with their sexist heterosexual 'game'. i had a problem with their whiteness because they kept making fucked up racist comments and when a rap song would come on would find the only two black guys in the bar and try and go dance with them to the "boooty song." so in the end like most situations where i feel really sick about the way the conversation is going with people it all stems from these guys understanding their privilege in life and expecting a lot from us that night. (us being presumed straight, white girls) i had to dodge a guys hands five times cause it is his RIGHT as a white male to touch who he wants, where he wants, when he wants. he doens't have to think about the negative things that could come after if he weren't a straight white male.
long and involved threadCollapse )

I started discussions with people on online forums several years ago, because I believed in the concept that singular truths or at least common understandings will result from discussion with those of differing opinions. I believed that smart, open people could work together to figure matters out. But time and time again, I've always been mindful of the need to be open and to yield when I see the oppurtunity, but overwhelmingly so, in observing myself and others, online discussion seems all but entirely an exercise in reinforcing one's established attitudes.

current musicCollapse )
1 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Not Done With Tomorrow's Dodo Birds [25 Jul 2006|10:03am]


I need help understanding this issue. There are a few questions I have specifically, but in general I would like to understand why people have sympathy for the obese.

Cut for those with low self-esteem.Collapse )
6 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Obesity and Alcoholism are not DISEASES! [24 Jul 2006|12:03pm]

I suffer from a disease - ugly finger nubs disease. See, I can't stop myself from biting my nails and the result is this terrible disease. Some say that I could simply stop biting my nails, but they don't understand the genetic basis of this disease; my mother had ugly finger nails, my father had ugly finger nails, and all four of my grandparents have ugly finger nails. Other people think it is so easy to SHH others for quiet without taking a bite, but my disease prevents me from embracing such moderation. Very few people understand how hard it is to cope with my condition: all the stares of disgust in public, the reluctance of others to shake hands, the persistant pain of nails that tear into the finger too far. My physical abilities are impeded as I'm not able to open soda cans like others, pick my teeth without a tool, or really satisfy an ich. The public should recognize this disease and have sympathy for those in my condition - no one deserves to be discriminated against for things out of their control. Thank you for understanding.
5 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Free Will Myth [20 Jul 2006|10:39pm]

I'm always up for discussing this topic. The following is a piece I wrote recently in response to an inquiry on the subject.

I don't believe in free will. I also think it's ludicrous that so much of the world does. The typical reaction I get when I talk to someone about free will is "What do you mean I don't control my own behavior? Of course, I control my own behavior!" And my response is "you do" IF we just look at your life in segments: YOUR decision to get out of bed in the morning, YOUR decision to pour yourself a glass of juice, YOUR decision to order take-out. But real life isn't segmented. In real life, everything's connected. All our decisions have external roots whether they be distant learned behaviors (you learn how to be a civilized person, waking up, pouring juice in a glass, going to school or work) or at-the-moment course changers (a take-out menu was hanging from your door knob when you got home).

The special advance of humans is our level of sophistication in and dependence upon learned behavior, not free will. Without learning, we are no more advanced than apes. Without learning how to make decisions, we can't make them. Without encountering external stimuli, we can't make decisions between them. Every decision we make, every preference we have is rooted in something we learned in the past and are encountering in the present.

I was thinking a lot about free will when I took my first psychology class. Though it wasn't discussed in the book or by the teacher, I noticed that the analysis of behavior as the result of a combination of environmental and genetic factors didn't touch at all on free will. Psychologists left that out entirely. And for good reason, I came to conclude. Free will breaks a basic law of physics. You can't create something from nothing. You can't spark a truly original thought or behavior. The most you can do in regards to originality is take from your past and your present and rely on skills you've learned, your ability to reason, to draw, to compose music, and combine what you've learned into new and unique arrangements. Our only originality is in rearrangement and advancing upon someone else's last step by applying some learned system of logic or skill or whatever.

However you view the originality argument, it's clear we're never free from external influence, whether that be from our parents and ancestors via genetics or the things and people we've encounter or are encountering via environment. Not only are we not free of these things, genetics and environment, but that is all we are, a complicated intermingling of the two. Once you really think about it, there is no room for a little spirit inside an individual that is his own agent for purely originating thoughts and behaviors. Such an idea is preposterous, that anyone's thought or behavior could exist like the geometric symbol, ray, with one single source point and an arrow outward in a single direction. No, once you really think about it, the world and the laws that govern it are such that there are no rays, no clean single source points, but rather all thought and all behavior, human or otherwise, is in a continual state of flow or flux from one event to the next, sometimes a thought enters the head and is stored, but that energy has flowed in from the outside and will move around inside every time it is retrieved and it is only retrieved when something on the outside reminds us of it or we're actively seeking it because of some external influence whether that be a person, an idea or an inanimate object. And that thought will flow out with every remeberence and utterance we make, and will flow out of us and into something else when our bodies stop living, obeying the logically flowing laws of our physical world, unlike the myth of free will.
6 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

The Right to Choose [12 Jul 2006|01:35pm]

[ mood | good ]

CNN.com released a story today about a Virginia inmate serving his last days on death row. Brandon Hedrick was convicted of a vicious abduction / rape / homicide. For these crimes, Hedrick was sentenced to death. With his death date of 20 July nearing, Hedrick has chosen, per VA law, the electric chair over lethal injection. This story set my mind to once again exploring the death penalty.

Allow me to begin the rest of this post by saying that I do believe in the death penalty. I know many of you do not, but we each have our own beliefs. If you commit a violent rape that leads to the victims death, I believe you should die. If you are found guilty of murder one, I believe you should be executed. Yes, I do have my exceptions to the rule, as I believe everyone should have the right to a fair trial and an examination of the evidence against them. Call me inhumane, if you wish. But imagine the following situation:
Your son or daughter, partner or spouse is abducted, brutalized, and eventually slaughtered violently in a manner not befitting anyone to die. Imagine you had to watch their victimization. Would you be pleading to spare the murder's life? Or would you be chomping at the bit to destroy them yourself?"

Hedrick has chosen the electric chair for whatever reason only he knows. Whichever way this man is executed, I feel is just payment for the crimes against his victim and his society. Until put in the situation, no one opposing the death penalty can tell me that they would wish for someone to live who had taken the life of their only child or spouse.

At year end 2004, America had 3,314 persons held under sentence of death. In 2005, 60 persons were executed in 16 states. Around 500 people per 100,000 are incarcerated each year or 725 per 100,000 if one includes jail populations. Based off of reports from 2001, states spent $29.5 BILLION on prisons that year. This was a $5.5 billion increase from 1996.

Imagine what could be done with an extra $7-10 billion a year for the federal budget. (Given the cynicism of society, I can only imagine the answers on this one.) Do I believe in rehabilitation? YES. Do I want to see every criminal locked away for life or executed? NO But I do want harsher and faster sentences of death. I want an amendment to the appeals process so that criminals can not sit on death row for years and years. I want prisoners to not be afforded luxuries and benefits that gives certain prisoners the frame of mind, "Well it's not so bad..."

I don't care how Hedrick dies. But I do care that he does die. He committed a grievous crime against his fellow man. Regardless of his remorse, his crime was intentional and horrific. His death should be the same. He had a choice, when he committed his crimes. And he has choice in VA as to his method of death. But I don't feel he has the right anymore to choose life.

2 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Cosmological Argument Revisited [12 Jul 2006|09:12am]

I'm not an Aquinas fan or anything, but I do find these cosmological arguments to be very thought provoking and truth-expressing even if there is fault in the expression. I'm also an agnostic, so I've no emotional motivation for persuing this line of argument. Let's just have fun with this.

Basic cosmological argument, as ripped from wiki:

1. Everything has a cause(s).
2. Nothing can cause itself.
3. Therefore, everything is caused by another thing(s).
4. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
5. Therefore, there must be a first cause.

My RevisionCollapse )

Thoughts, objections?
7 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

cooking [08 Jul 2006|11:28pm]


tonight proved to be a bit of an epicurean adventure that i thought i'd share. long story short, my doctor told me that i "need to make friends with legumes" (he was concerned about my protein intake given that i'm vegetarian). so after putzing about at whole foods, i got to cooking:

culinary dorkery aheadCollapse )

i love that i can finally start putting the random stuff that i see on food network to use. over the next weeks, i'm going to start deconstructing the peri-peri rub that my parents gave me and see if i can't introduce you to some of the national cuisine of my homeland :-)

9 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

Efffect of Raising Minimum Wage [06 Jul 2006|06:14pm]

I'm not sure if you will find this subject dull, interesting or some place inbetween. Someone on my friends list made a post yesterday in opposition to raising the minimum wage, saying an increase would hurt the poor and referring those who question him to the works of Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises or Friederich Hayek.

I got somewhat excited because I know there's the tendency for people in here to be liberal and I thought perhaps I or someone in the community could put up a strong argument in opposition to raising the minimum wage. So I started researching. The basic argument of all three is that it's more than obvious that a minimum wage increase will increase the wages of most minimum wage workers while eliminating other minimum wage workers' jobs entirely. I think what they say will happen is correct. Still, this doesn't lead me to oppose a minimum wage increase but rather to acknowledge that such an increase has negative and positive effects. The answer is in balance: How many workers are we raising out of poverty? How many workers are we causing to be unemployed?

Here's what people are saying:
There is no evidence of job loss from the last minimum wage increase.

o A 1998 EPI study failed to find any systematic, significant job loss associated with the 1996-97 minimum wage increase. In fact, following the most recent increase in the minimum wage in 1996-97, the low-wage labor market performed better than it had in decades (e.g., lower unemployment rates, increased average hourly wages, increased family income, decreased poverty rates).
o Studies of the 1990-91 federal minimum wage increase, as well as studies by David Card and Alan Krueger of several state minimum wage increases, also found no measurable negative impact on employment.
o New economic models that look specifically at low-wage labor markets help explain why there is little evidence of job loss associated with minimum wage increases. These models recognize that employers may be able to absorb some of the costs of a wage increase through higher productivity, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale.
o A recent Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) study of state minimum wages found no evidence of negative employment effects on small businesses.
Randel K. Johnson, Chamber vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits:
“The majority of economists agree that raising the minimum wage kills job creation. Placing this burden on small businesses will stifle our economic growth.” Johnson pointed to a study by the Employment Policies Institute, Job Loss in a Booming Economy, 2nd Edition, that suggests that the 1996 minimum wage increase of only 50 cents per hour destroyed approximately 645,000 entry-level jobs.
Tim Kane:
A survey published in the Winter 2005 Journal of Economic Perspectives, an academic publication, reports that 71 percent of economists at America’s top universities agree with the statement “a minimum wage increases unemployment among the young and unskilled.” About one-third of the economists agree outright, and another third agree with reservations.
In the end, regardless of arguments over economic effects, I just think it should be illegal if business owners themselves are not in poverty to keep their full-time workers below poverty level:
In 1997, a single mother of two children working 40 hours per week year-round at the minimum wage would have earned $9,893 (after Social Security and Medicare taxes) and would have been eligible for the maximum EITC of $3,656, which would have put her family income at $13,549, a mere 5% above the 1997 poverty threshold of $12,931 for a family of three. But because the minimum wage has not kept up with increases in the cost of living since 1997, the same family is now below the poverty line. In 2005, a single mother with two children would have combined earnings and EITC of $14,177, or 11% below the 2005 poverty threshold of $15,735 for a family of three.
History of the minimum wage in multiple countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimum_wage
8 Can See the Phoenix Rise| Can You See?

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