Friday, July 06, 2007

Mass Murder for Money

A response to the Lancet article estimating Iraqi deaths caused by the occupation:

Wars tend to redistribute income, such that profiteers make huge sums of money, and this war is no different, except that more of the populous realizes that this war is mass murder for profit. Most Americans believe they vote on values, but they are deluded, conservatives anyway, if they think they are voting for much more than corporate welfare and plutocracy, a new military-industrial-complex, although the principals now include hedge funds and security firms.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Is Giving Good?

There is an unquestioned belief that charity s good, so while America as a whole gives away enormous amounts of money, it is also one of the most grotesquely unequal, with a significant portion of its population living in poverty, and with the worst social outcomes in the developed world. My belief is that charity is linked hand-in-hand with the grotesque inequities of our current political/economic system. The solution to our current set of social ills would be a responsive government, one that fostered the welfare of its citizens, not just its corporations. It's absurd to think that giving to most charities will change much of anything.

When I Became an Atheist

Who needs a god?

Like Einstein, I became an atheist at 12, and although much of my criticism was directed at the Catholic Church, any major religion would have worked. My biggest criticisms focused on the hypocrisy and irrationality of belief systems, e.g., moral absolutism, "my god is the only god," the suppression of science, the practice of celibacy, the promotion of poverty, etc. My belief system, as some people assume it, trusts science - I am not faith-oriented and am anti-dogmatic - and my 'philosophy' is commonly termed secular humanism. As a belief system, Wikipedia defines it as follows:

Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that upholds reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects the supernatural and the spiritual as warrants of moral reflection and decision-making. Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance or a praxis focusing on the way human beings can lead good and happy lives (eupraxsophy). 

As for myself, my concern is for people, the people of the world, and the world in general; I care that people can live humane, pleasurable, and self-directed lives, free from authoritarian control. I possess a strong social conscience and am considered by others to be an ethical and moral person, albeit not moralistic. I think rationally about cause and effect.

Looking at the world, and knowing religion's relationship to ignorance and misery, pity the believer.

First in Amputations

Some time ago, I did my own research on America, to see where it is the best, first, most, etc. I didn't find anything positive to report:

Essentially America leads the world in expenditures and revenues for the military, and in many facets of business/economic affairs. It also has the highest percentage of its population imprisoned, and performs the most amputations. 

The US ranks miserably on measures of social welfare education, health, work hours, obesity, and poverty. Oddly, a majority of Americans believe this country is great or best, according to a poll last year. American's have little idea of what the rest of the developed world is like...

Thoughts on Ageism

Let's see, I'm 46, fairly-fit (certified as personal trainer), intelligent (720 GMAT), youthful (look younger, dress well, tech literate), and vibrant, and I do fear aging. My biggest concern is the loss of intellect that accompanies age. I haven't had cosmetic surgery, but I am not averse to it.


Caring about one's appearance is not ageist, and I imagine it is more often the anxiety of someone that is youthful and attractive.

Personally, ageist comments have come from 20-somethings, not older people or managers. According to a study, management typically has a higher regard for older workers, in terms of productivity, as well as with people skills, although managers also think younger workers can be more analytical.

On an intellectual level, older people tend to be neurologically slower, although the top few percent will increase their IQ up until the early 40's. After that, there is a typical, slowing and loss of intellect.

On Higher Education and Conformity

Granted, people that can't handle college, or perform poorly, might think of it as conformity, and think of good grades as favoritism, but most college students, and particularly the best academic performers, are not conformists. What one considers conformity is better termed socialization and value system similarity, but such value systems are inherently individualistic and often politically liberal and leftist, although almost all systems require some level of indoctrination

Back to objectivity, one might think of education as a proxy for intelligence and productivity. Why? The correlation between educational attainment and IQ is about 0.6. The correlation between IQ and job performance is 0.4 to 0.8, increasing with job complexity.

Conscientiousness, the ability to follow through, is more likely the attribute one should single out, and this too has a high correlation with workplace performance. 

Consume Less

Many people, myself included, think that the issues with the environment, not just global warming, need to be dealt with, at least partially, by consuming much less.

Walmart, the world's largest retailer, began selling green products, but unless they can guide people to buy less, not much will change.

Granted, some new products might profoundly change the rules of consumption, but none seem on the horizon, and much of the money being earmarked for changing energy consumption has been directed into the same old corporate coffers, and likely the same old dirty consumption. In fact, some of the new energy production systems worse than the old systems, and systemically disruptive to the life of the poor.

Global Warming and Methane Reduction

I was an ovolactovegetarian for several years in my twenties, in the late 1980's, but the lack of convenient food sources, social pressure, and mild athletic anemia, pushed me to adopt more meat-oriented diet. Also, being an insulin-dependent diabetic, eating low-fat, low-carbohydrate protein sources reduced my need for injections. Over time, I have returned to vegetarianism, although my reasons are grounded in self-interest and concern for the environment.

My energy consumption is relatively low, as I live in a major city and very selectively use automobiles for transportation. Lately though, I have been reminded that domesticated animals are large contributors to global warming (methane creation) and inefficient protein producers (4 to 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat). Additionally, vegetarianism, and related calorie reduction, are associated with increased longevity. Both have pushed my back to vegetarianism.

Regardless of the history, vegetarianism is a better choice. The legitimate gripe seems to be against meat-eaters.

Why Scientists Are Battling Over Pleasure

Responding to a New York Times article, Why Scientists Are Battling Over Pleasure : Although some can argue that art does more for pleasur...