Thursday, September 29, 2016

Who Should Liberals Vote for in the Upcoming Election?

The graph on the left from Political Compass provides some interesting insights into voting patterns. Hillary is further to the right than Donald Trump, but she is less of a dictator. The reasons I hear Republicans give for hating Hillary are Benghazi and the e-mails. Given that equally heinous acts have been perpetrated by Republicans, I am fairly certain that the real reason they hate Hillary is just that she is a Democrat. One thing I have in common with many Republicans is that I find the DNC reprehensible. If nothing else
Republicans are team players. The support they are showing for Donald Trump, an outright buffoon, demonstrates their commitment to the team.


My reasons for disliking Hillary, however, are very different than the reasons most Republicans give. Hillary was the primary beneficiary of Citizens United. Her campaign is being financed by the billionaire class. Studies have shown definitively that bills favored by billionaires have a very high probability of being made into laws, while bills favored by the vast majority of the American people have a near zero probability of being passed. Simply stated, the Republican and Democratic parties do not represent American citizens. Like most of congress, Hillary Clinton represents her benefactors. She is hawkish in foreign policy because armed conflicts funnel tax funds to defense contractors. They, in turn, "donate" to political candidates. In 2015-16, the defense sector donated $27 million to political candidates, $16.4 million to Republicans and $11 million to Democrats.

QUESTION: As a dyed in the wool leftie patriot who wholeheartedly supports our democratic republic and the United States Constitution… Who should I vote for? Regardless of party affiliation, or absence thereof, I would never vote for Donald Trump. He is more akin to a cartoon character than a legitimate presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton who, despite much yelling and screaming to the contrary from both major parties, is actually the mainstream conservative candidate. Gary Johnson (who has no chance of winning) is further to the right than anyone remaining in the race. And although she has an excellent platform, Jill Stein (also has no chance of winning) is completely unqualified for the job of Commander in Chief.  

ANSWER: I must vote for Hillary Clinton. Why? As an aspiring intellectual, I pride myself on overriding my own desired outcomes when they are disputed by overwhelming objective data. It is all but a mathematical certainty that the next President of the United States will either be Clinton or Trump. The potential for catastrophic damage resulting from a Trump presidency is truly an unknown. The course for a Clinton presidency is not particularly desirable to me but it is completely predictable with low risk for unprecedented disaster. Ironically, one of Hillary's top ten campaign promises is to fight for overturning Citizen's United. Her platform also includes raising the minimum wage, not increasing taxes on the middle-class, college tuition breaks for families making less than $125k per year, comprehensive immigration reform, and an increased investment in improving our infrastructure. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How to Develop the Intellect: Why Emotions Matter… A LOT!



 This article is not about smart and stupid. Smart and stupid are terminal states over which one has no control. Conversely, intellectual development, like physical development, can be acquired by nearly anyone willing to put in the necessary work. Intellect is the capacity for reason and for acquiring an objective mental grasp. The key words in this definition are “reason” and “objective.” Reason is the ability to arrive at an understanding through logic. Objective means not being influenced by personal feelings or opinions. So, a developed intellect requires both logic and objectivity.


First, one must be able and willing to apply logic. This means adhering to strict principles of validity. There is a necessary logic to the arrangement of parts in a gasoline engine, an electrical circuit, and even a simple door latch. The validity of the arrangement of the respective parts is shown by the effective functioning of each device. If the parts are arranged illogically, the device won’t function properly. The scientific method is applied logic. The validity of the scientific method is shown by the myriad advancements we enjoy in modern life. Nearly every object in your field of vision as you read this post resulted from the application of the scientific method. The profound impact of science on human life cannot be overstated. Adhering to a belief that is clearly disputed by logic signals an intellectual blind spot.

Second, and equally as important as logic, is objectivity. Why would one stubbornly hold on to a belief that is obviously illogical or disputed by huge amounts of scientific evidence? The answer is simple… emotions. Our emotions evolved for one reason and one reason only, to keep us in the gene pool. Emotions guided primitive humans to behave in ways that kept them alive long enough to bear offspring. In the short run, emotion has far more power over our choices than does intellect. Emotional responses to danger quickly override intellect and prompt us to run or fight. These knee-jerk behaviors served us well for thousands of years. Emotions are about survival. From an evolutionary standpoint, our incredible intellectual capacity was an awesome upgrade, but not much of a survival feature.

Emotional responses are closely linked to another human survival trait, egocentrism. Every animal on earth, including the human animal, strives to preserve the “self.” It is our nature to evaluate situations in terms of the self in opposition to everything that is not the self. So, when illogical information is presented to a human animal in a way that makes the self feel emotionally validated, it is a very natural human reaction to accept that piece of information as true. In psychology, we call this cognitive bias. Cognitive bias is the primary obstacle to intellectual development. The scientific method is a series of procedures that help supersede our cognitive biases. Compare the relative pace of human advances prior to and then after the scientific revolution. This comparison makes it crystal clear that the survival traits that worked so well for so long also kept us from moving forward in our accurate understanding of our world.


A developed intellect requires a willingness to bypass your ego's emotional needs
and accept information that often"feels" uncomfortable. This is a tall order and it requires a lifetime of practice.






Friday, September 23, 2016

Blue Lives Matter / Black Lives Matter

That Blue Lives Matter is not in dispute. Unjust killings of police officers are met with outrage, demands for justice,
systemic support for victims' families, and an effort to decrease these incidents in the future. We honor such victims as heroes. This is as it should be. Unjust killings should never be tolerated in a civilized culture. When I hear of an officer killed in the line of duty, my reaction is sympathy and appreciation for the officer's sacrifice. Criticizing or blaming an innocent officer for her own death would be vulgar and repulsive.

That Black Lives Matter is in dispute. Black people are being shot to death while shopping, or playing in a park, or seeking assistance for a broken down vehicle. Video evidence of innocent, unarmed, black people being shot to death is somehow met by otherwise moral people with complete indifference. Worse yet, these otherwise moral people blame the victims and become enraged when black people complain.

No one believes that all or most police officers are bad apples. On the contrary, most people appreciate law enforcement. However, just as a teacher, truck driver, or bricklayer must be prosecuted for criminal behavior, so must police officers.

Like teachers, police officers receive low pay for an extremely responsible job. Unlike teachers, police officers must be prepared to manage life and death situations on a regular basis. Also unlike teachers, who must complete a Bachelor's degree and an internship to be certified, basic law enforcement training in NC requires only a HS diploma or GED and 620 hours of training. To put that in perspective, cosmetologists must complete 1500 hours of training to be licensed in NC.

Innocent American citizens are being killed by police officers on a regular basis. Instead of black people, imagine if these executions were being perpetrated against people with blue eyes. Because a 12-year-old in a park had blue eyes, police felt threatened and shot him to death. Because a stalled motorist had blue eyes, police shot him to death as he held his hands in the air. Because a father had blue eyes, police shot him to death in Walmart when he picked up a toy gun to buy for his kid's birthday.

For any moral patriot, shock and outrage should be the appropriate responses to
these events. This is not an issue that should be debated. It is an issue requiring immediate action! How could anyone think otherwise!? Accountability and increased training are obvious places to start.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Should Mental Health Be Privatized?


A well regulated free market can be a wonderful thing. At its best, regulated competition leads to fair prices and quality goods and services. However, the free market is necessarily fueled by profit. Failure to produce a profit results in a failed endeavor. The system works well as long as the goods and services in question are not negatively affected by profit as the overarching goal.



Having profit as the key goal automatically relegates more noble aspirations to minor positions. Fairness, compassion, and honesty become subsidiaries to profit in privatized services. We have all experienced firsthand situations where privatized healthcare has failed the litmus’ for fairness, compassion, and honesty.

The state of North Carolina privatized mental health services several years ago. The result? North Carolina jails are filled with indigent folks suffering from mental illness. Mental health services for the poor in North Carolina are nearly inaccessible. State-run community mental health centers have the prime goal of effective mental health services to the community, not profit. State-run facilities are not always successful (especially when underfunded), but effective treatment is at least their main objective.

At a community mental health center, if a patient fails to show for an appointment, a case worker may make a home visit to ensure treatment. In the private sector, when a patient fails to show for an appointment, follow up is much less aggressive (What happens when you miss an appointment with your family doctor?). Community mental health centers assume a good deal of responsibility to ensure their patients receive treatment. Many indigents with mental illness do not place a high priority on their own treatment. Failure to treat these folks is not just harmful to the individual, it is detrimental to society. Financial, social, emotional, and physical harm to other members of the community often results when the poor do not receive the treatment they need.  

Despite stereotypes of lazy, ineffective government workers, many services are more effectively delivered through the public sector. The US Military, Post Office, Medicare, Mental Health, FDA, and Social Security are all examples of services better managed by the public sector.


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