Thursday, July 2, 2015

Free Will

Sometimes, you really do not have a choice...

It always amazes me when people talk about some emotional impact that causes them to change their opinion about a deity.
They never seem to realize that it's themselves, not the real world, around which their belief rotates. They'll claim that they have a choice about their belief, and that validates the "purity" of their choice.

But "Free Will" is not a religious concept. It does not depend on the existence of any deity, because "choice" is exercised between options apparent to the decisor regardless of origin - theoretical, "theological" or otherwise. You might be interested to know that in every case studied with logical rigor, what appears to be a chain of choices is actually predetermined.

How do you think magicians know where you're looking?


There are a few misconceptions about the real world to clear out of the way.

First: the world is not truly random. If you were flipping a coin, the "universe" consists of only three possibilities: "heads", "tails", or the edge of the coin. In the real world, elements behave according to the laws of gravitation, magnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces at a minimum.

What this means is that the world is not truly random. A truly random universe cannot have a law of physics.
And it means that "order" does not require guidance of any kind.

Second: the universe offers a realm of possibilities which is very large. Extremely large. Mind-bogglingly, staggeringly large. Take a number you think is big (but don't make a noise about "infinity" - it doesn't mean what you think it means), and double it. The actual mechanism is the interplay of the four fundamental forces noted above. In this world, it is still possible for there to be two fingerprint sets which are the same, two retinal patterns which are the same, and two Taj Mahals, one of which was spat out of an active volcano intact - because a) the Taj Mahal was assembled according to the laws of physics, b) the laws of physics do not depend on humans to exist, and c) all of space and all of time describes the venue in which that act can be played. That we cannot point to this having happened does not preclude it. That the consequences of discovering this event are nil does not invalidate the principle.

Third: the nature of the choices we make differ in magnitude. Yes, you can make a choice which has no consequence. You can make one which does have a consequence. You can make choices up to the point at which your abilities interfere with your means of making a choice. For instance, you can't choose to step outside and just jump to fly to the moon. That's not a choice because of the requirements natural laws make for you to travel.

Fourth: when you look at something, you are viewing processes at their current level of completion.
This confuses people fond of noting that if they had done something different, the result, they say, would be different, too. This is not really the case. The alternatives are: different path, different result; different path, same result. That second part is suppressed, because people want to think they've figured out what went wrong so they can avoid such a mistake as they perceive from happening again. Look at a game of solitaire for an example. More than one sequence of play produces a solution, and more than one sequence produces a stoppage.
This principle even applies to process which do not involve you, or which differ with respect to your level of participation.

Fifth: the interference of an outside force can change the consequences of your decision(s), raising the magnitude of uncertainty beyond what is apparent.

In short:
  • Free will has limits. 
  • Free will is independent of religious affiliation. 
  • Some of what you choose is insignificant. 
  • Other people's decisions can affect you. 
  • Order is a result of the combination and permutations of existing forces.

And, of course, you're not really getting a "do over!" for anything. The stream will have moved on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Tolerance is one of those words curiously flexible of definition when used by the politically correct: we are supposed to allow others have their say.

But it is somehow forbidden to suggest that those others are wrong. Nuts. Completely badgers. A few fries short of a Happy Meal. Even when it is clear that they are.

So, I suggest that we not use this ridiculous euphemism for what the speaker wants - and then I get asked:
"Okay, offer a solution. What word do you propose we use instead of "tolerance"?"

I thought this was more obvious; pardon me. Answer: rather than a term with arbitrary definition prone to abuse, we should first look to how we conduct public affairs, and then insist that government is a business with the unique duty of treating everyone equally before the law and to guarantee the same set of rights to every individual.

Note then that individuals have the freedom to associate - they can do what they wish so long as no law is violated.

These two things are seperate.

We should show that government has no business acknowledging religion, because the principle of equal treatment before the law, combined with the difficulty of defining a religion, would bring government to a stop if it were to commemorate every religious holiday and practice.

Some say that "tolerance" isn't a code-word for anything, that it just means, "live and let live".
Not really.

I get this from debate on online forums, where some ardent Christians show they are fearful of losing influence in American government. It's not enough for them to practice their religion freely. They must have endorsement, and official approval of their preaching everywhere they go. It would be useful to take another tack than tell them "tolerance, tolerance" for not only the above-stated reason, but to disallow the next logical leap: that only those in a superior position are empowered to "tolerate" anything - such as the practice of those faiths lesser than Christianity, i.e., all of those other weird ideas.
The above-cited organizations, regardless of what you might think about their efficacy, are special interests with the aim of increasing their influence. They have no real "divine" mandate to do anything, and the exercise of such power as they might accumulate in government will be (is) exclusive, not inclusive.

Since when should bowing and scraping to a particular invisible entity determine whether you have a voice in government - and the attendant command of government force?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Legalizing Marijuana

Want to get what you want? Show the benefits, and BE HONEST about the negatives - yes, they are there!

Here's the subject.

As you have seen, there is a tremendous argument going on about what should be done about the status of marijuana in the USA. I get that you might have strong opinions about this, but please take this advice:  
Show the benefits and risks in a manner that doesn't compare the issue to any other things we do as a country, unless you cite why you make the comparison.  
Show the return on investment for the legalization of marijuana ONLY.

Often, the venue of discussion - a Facebook page, Twitter feed or newspaper comment section - doesn't allow any room to explain this, so here goes:

Every argument for the legalization of marijuana is being used by its proponents. At least two things - the comparison of marijuana to alcohol and to tobacco - are fallacious at best.

1) Alcohol is legal in the majority of American locations. It got that way after activism resulting in a Constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol anywhere in the USA was finally overturned. The justification at the time was that crime attending the illicit distribution and consumption of alcohol cost too much, and that the public demanded alcohol despite legal prohibition. (This argument does now apply to the marijuana trade.)
What alcohol does NOT share with any demonstrated or theoretical use of marijuana is its addictive qualities - profound for some people - and their tie to the physical debilitation drinkers suffer. This is why the alcohol argument should not be used.

2) Tobacco is legal in the majority of American locations. Yes, its use is prohibited in many places due to official decree or the declaration of a business owner, but its possession is legal. Public pressure has made it "uncool" to smoke tobacco due to gross behavior on the part of smokers and its horrible, easily demonstrated effects on health. You may recall that there was a "big tobacco" lawsuit? This was the end result of manufacturers adulterating tobacco to meet special goals and consumer demand, and therefore making themselves liable for the health effects. This industrial adulteration of the product and the resulting suit is why RJ Reynolds now admits, "There is no such thing as a 'safe' cigarette." The adulteration of the product, tobacco, is why the tobacco argument should not be used.

Somehow, states which subsidized, regulated and taxed tobacco were allowed to stand aside from prosecution, even as their own health departments had shown officials for decades that the practice was helping kill their own people.

Marijuana is NOT immediately "worse" than alcohol or tobacco; it's not even in the same league - so the immense existing costs to public health that alcohol and tobacco impose on the American public is a negative that should never be attached to marijuana.

There IS an unresolved link to psychoses associated with continuous use. Yes, weed IS effective in fighting glaucoma and assorted pains associated with cancer. Do you know how marijuana relieves this pain? What makes you think a painkilling capability isn't affecting your body when you do NOT have pain?

A negative that should not be ignored is that the marijuana trade today enables violent and nonviolent crime. This is actually the major driver society should engage.

Police misconduct, often described as part of, "The War On Drugs™", is enabled by the money that attends the commission of crimes. The 2nd Amendment people can tell you about police vs. gun possession since before the USA was formed. Different problem, to be disposed of by changing laws.

If marijuana were commercially available, the following scenario could be established:
You could go into a convenience store and buy a five-pack of smokes for some price - say, $20. The source, because it is a commercial product, would have quality standards, and varieties would be available (the public will have to be wary of corporate adulteration of the product, as happened with tobacco). To protect employers, the purchase could be flagged for future use should the customer decide to put others at risk. This is exactly what California does with medical marijuana: the permit card includes a prohibition against performing some jobs while under the influence.

You would simply go back to the house and mellow out. No deals with shady characters (Carrying guns! Panic!), no drama. Peace.

Medical THC can be administered in an assortment of other ways. I bet you have seen some of these, and have more ideas. Research is not recreation, though. Some care in presenting each use, seperately, can defuse an argument by being specific about benefits. The general public is NOT going to be doing research, so combining arguments will look like a shady tactic to your audience. Be honest: admit that a lot of people just want to have fun.

Here is a short list of pros and cons for marijuana; note that they each have different values:
Pro: only physically addictive for about 9% of heavy users
Con: does alter user spatial perception which should prohibit vehicle use
Pro: does not produce unconsciousness, regardless of THC intoxication
Con: cannot at present show an impairment standard for critical-job employees or drivers
Pro: does relieve some medical symptoms currently fought with expensive, sometimes customized prescription drugs
Con: subject to alteration by a supplier
Pro: can be produced commercially with almost no effort
Con: long-term health effects have yet to be determined, links to its inducing schizophrenia are appearing
Pro: removing criminal penalties could allow those once convicted of possession to get jobs. A conviction for selling or using pot keeps the convicted from getting a decent job comparable to selling more pot.

Pro: removing stigma would diminish the tendency for users to lie habitually. This hidden factor in drug use is an invisible cancer, in that once dishonesty is accepted, it is easily extended to every other situation in life. Lying is actually the factor that makes pot a "gateway" to more-serious drugs.

Pro: removing stigma would allow research. The potential? THC is one of 483 known compounds in the plant, including at least 84 other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabinol (CBN), tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), and cannabigerol (CBG). The downside?
Con: ALL drugs have effects on the body and mind, and some of these effects will NOT be positive.

I don't smoke anything of any kind and I never have, and I am hideously uncomfortable with the idea that a law should be broken before it is changed -- because that is how governmental powers get swollen beyond any recognition of the Constitution!

Yes, if you buy and/or use pot today, you are funding criminal activity which gets people injured and killed. Sorry to "harsh your buzz", but the real solution here was to change the law so that you wouldn't be breaking it to start with. Unfortunately for us all, sitting on the couch getting high was more important to pot smokers than real activism.

You might find more pro or con points upon reflection. You will notice that regardless of your personal position about the public's use of intoxicants, you may attempt to justify your point by employing a fallacy, inadvertently or not. Don't do that. A short list of those are here.

This issue is easily studied with an actual, evidentiary method. Give it a try.

Nobody's gonna drug you against your will, and there is nothing in this world without cost.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Income Inequality" Isn't What You Might Think

Chances are, you have never heard about "market communication", and you won't from a government official.

There are activists out there, some in office and some out, who wish to convince you that an evil conspiracy is afoot – that some coalition of big corporations is conspiring to keep you poor.

That's not the case.

If you can think for a few minutes about the nature of trade, you can realize that no hourly wage can bring you serious money – no matter how big that number is.
Sales, through a distribution network, is how seriously large money is generated. This network is "the market", and the means by which you advertise and distribute your product is "communication".

Consider two cases, the circumstances of which you can investigate for yourself:
The pet rock was a novelty. An ordinary rock was decorated with rudimentary facial features, packaged in a box with a few funny sayings about how you could interact with it, and it was advertised for sale in the days before the Internet. Millions of people bought a pet rock, and the profits from each sale went to the manufacturer and idea man.
Madonna is a singer – the richest female artist in history. She established and maintained control over the production and distribution of her art by legal means in executing contracts with record companies. These companies have the means to promote her work worldwide, and so tens of thousands of radio stations and record stores featured her work.

If the builder of the pet rock had not advertised, he would have made a few for his friends, and that is all. If Madonna had not been recognized as a potential talent by record companies and not had the wit to maintain control over her work, she would have been singing for family and friends only, without a penny to her name.

Each person who bought a pet rock or Madonna song decided for themselves that it was worth their money -- but there are those who demonstrate that they think you cannot and should not be allowed to make that decision. They use wealth envy - your admiration of the big houses and yachts and cars  of "the rich" - to take self-determination away from you.

This is easiest to do when speaking of the next class of producer: the promoter. The inventor of the pet rock, and singer, Madonna, both went to others familiar with the operation of the marketplace to promote their work. This person or agency does real work in advertising and production, and even advises artists and other content generators as to how to increase their sales and output - because everyone is better off when they do so.
Bill Gates is worth a bunch of money. It's not only because ~91% of personal computers use his company's software -- he also invested wisely, something everyone can do. Is it really fair to squeal about the money he controls - especially using his company's software, de facto proof of his worth in bringing product to you?

Every person who uses a corporation's product says with their wallet that they approve of that product. Yet somehow, the people who run that corporation are not to be compensated in proportion to their success?

Wealth envy is a powerful emotion. It behooves you to determine just why those in power bring this up.

Why? Because every method to limit individual wealth makes it harder for YOU to earn and keep the fruits of your labor.

It may be an unpleasant thought - that the market will determine in competition what you are worth, in proportion to your intelligence and work ethic - but that's the case.

The price of awareness is always some measure of discontent. You shouldn't be happy when some talking head leaves this part of the story untold.

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Speech  has never been, and will never be, "free".

As a result of a terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, there has been a lot of wholly incomplete discussion about "freedom of speech". Often, the argument jumps back and forth endlessly between the notions that a) no one should be offended, and b) no one has the right to be protected from such offense. Sometimes the discussion involves people who have no history whatsoever of observing that idea, which would be funny at another time.

All of these arguments stop short of really meaning anything. It's sloganeering. If you can get someone to say something, then they think they have actually done something, when they have not.

I expect this sort of confusion, this sort of "spatter" to continue so long as the common mind does not recognize the difference between speech and action. Idealists apparently think that speech is all that is required– for instance, that the Founding Fathers simply argued the United States into existence. The next step - the commission of actual violence in support of the ideas derived in the practice of free speech - might as well be on another planet for them. So, of course speech becomes the new violence. What did you expect would result from raising a generation of bedwetters?

To change the subject by way of example, people were similarly flabbergasted by the idea of flying airplanes into skyscrapers. They called it "cowardice", not once recognizing that the fear calling that word into existence was their own, NOT that of the hijackers.
The public does hold gross conceptual errors close to its heart. These have just been two of them.

Don't forget: run your mouth, all you have done is run your mouth.
Mao said, "Power flows from the barrel of a gun." Never forget that this is the next step after speech.
To forget this - to think that arguing actually produces anything but argument - is to focus so intently on one's ego that one will be tragically surprised by those who eventually take action. An opportunist may appear who knows this:
"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

The USA has already decided to strip-search its own population for wanting to travel on an airplane, its schools already contain police and some state photo IDs are prohibited from use to enter Federal property. Hmm.

Speech, as enumerated as a right in the American Constitution, is actually paid for by the exercise of the commensurate responsibilities obliged of every citizen. A failure to monitor and control what public officials do in the wake of such events as the Charlie Hebdo attack can and will lead to public action which gets Americans restricted, regulated and even killed for no gain, pursuing ideas found tasty with chips and a Coke™ while sitting comfortably in front of a TV.

Change the channel.