Here’s why I don’t believe in conspiracy theories, Part I

“9/11 was an inside job. There are just too many unanswered questions.”

Wait, so it was a plan that would have to involve thousands, maybe 10’s of thousands of people to cover up the huge logistical and practical actions and materials involving an interwoven effort to cover up a plot by our government that spans at least 8 agencies, the governments of at least 4 countries, and our entire Executive branch, the Armed Services Committee of Congress, any Congressional committee involved in budgeting, every FAA employee within radar range of any of the planes, every Air Force person on duty within 1500 miles, a demolition team that would have had to set hundreds of shaped charges in precise places to perfectly replicate a demolition sequence that had no practical data set to inform what to mimic in 3 buildings without anyone noticing, or leaving any evidence, that would have to be timed with airplane strikes without any communications that could be monitored by any of the civilian or law enforcement agencies – foreign and domestic –  in one of the largest cities in America, placed well enough to fool not only government agencies but also civilian experts who have surveyed the evidence for over a decade now, and they STILL lost a plane, or wasted it, somehow also perfectly broadcasting sounds of a struggle that had been recorded earlier by a cast of 100+ actors, involving a host of recording engineers and sent FROM THE PLANE to a tower as they crashed it in a field for no reason, all to create an incident that began a war that they started instead for completely different reasons?

And out of all the people who worked on this plan to kill 3000 innocent people, kicking off a decade long conflict that has claimed 6000+ more American lives, and an estimated 1,000,000 Iraqi, Afghan, and other ME civilians’ lives, NOT A SINGLE ONE has the remorse to gather incontrovertible proof of this plan?

Let’s just put aside that most of the claims made by 9/11 Truthers have been debunked and that even demolition experts and physicists show the impossibility of the Truther’s claims. And let’s ignore that a dude flew a plane that landed in Red Square during the high of the Cold War, one of just a few airplane hijinks that had far more suspicious flights than the commercial jets of 9/11. Let’s just focus on the human component.

Because in the end, here’s my problem with 99.999% of these conspiracy models: In order to affect something, you must apply weight sufficient to overcome inertia, move that which you are trying to affect. This is true in Physics, and it’s true of people, society, and government. And let’s face it, all three of these things are notoriously difficult to move. Social inertia – the weight of the status quo – itself is a monolithic beast unmoved by decades of protests and legislative changes. 100 years of Suffragettes and Feminists and Oxygen still shows Bad Girls Club. But some dude with a laptop can affect the election of an American president by himself, leaving no trace of his work at all?

This stuff is like Dungeons and Dragons for political morons.

Every “conspiracy” cannot be judged on the “unanswered questions” raised by it’s adherents – fabricating those are easy, as is throwing around a whole host of seemingly shady coincidences, and painting shadows and figures lurking in the dark corners of the paranoid mind – chasing down every aspect of these unsubstantiated claims is impossible, especially since every time a claim is debunked, the goal posts are moved. These tactics are the same for those involved in mainstream politics, made famous by the various “nutjobs” who have polluted practical politics with ideological justifications and huge reams of false information. Ask Glenn Beck, Fox News and Andrew Breitbart how well these garbage tactics work.

But in the end, it comes down to a simple equation: the larger the number of people that have to be involved for a conspiracy’s end goal to be achieved, the more likely that human nature and basic chaos theory will throw a monkey wrench into the plan – or, the more likely a mistake or change of heart would lead to an illuminating act that unravels the plot.

Doing bad things is hard, and it’s hard on people. We have a need to confess, to come clean. This is a fact of human nature. Ask OJ Simpson or Oliver North or any of these people. Or the Catholic Church.

Now, I’m not saying that nefarious plots don’t exist. Certainly they do – Iran Contra, for example. But that’s a story that was broken by journalists, with evidence, vetted and corroborated, and eventually described in detail by the principals involved. I’m certainly not saying that there aren’t shady people out to do shady things, and yes, some of them are “conspiracies” on a grand scale. But what we’re really talking about here are unsubstantiated conspiracy theories with no real evidence, that are perpetuated in a vacuum of internet chatter and hookum, based on bad science and even worse “journalism” that stagger zombie-like through our social consciousness without ever having to face the scrutiny of real critical thinking. The perpetuators of these theories also never have to face the consequences that promoting such unsubstantiated nonsense would have for whistleblowers or journalists.

A real story changes as new evidence is revealed, and as old evidence is debunked. Truth is revealed through critical analysis of the FACTS. As incorrect reporting or false theories are contradicted by facts, these theories and reports are abandoned in favor of exposing the truth. These “conspiracies” like the 9/11 “Truth” movement follow the OPPOSITE morphology, GAINING strength as each new contradictory fact becomes somehow “proof of the cover up” and “that’s what THEY want you to think”. It creates an impossible intellectual arena, one that is more concerned with saving the egos of those promoting the theory than anything to do with the truth. This intellectual disingenuousness in the face of critical thinking is the hallmark that separates “Birtherism” from, say, waterboarding investigations.

This is NOT a case where “for every one we know of, there are 10 we don’t”. In fact, that’s my point. Most of the plots that fall into this “subverting governments” bag either lack the force to move the object of their desire – and thus escape detection by virtue of being small enough AND harmless enough – or they do become large enough to affect change, but in doing so become large enough to be exposed. This equation is what ultimately makes a lie of these complex, nefarious Illuminati-Masonic-Bilderbergian-NSA-shadowy-goverment-X-Files-wannabe plots.

If they are small enough to escape detection, they are too small to do anything. If they are large enough to do anything, they are too large to escape detection. It’s that simple.

Iran Contra failed, by the way. So did Nixon’s Watergate break in. In fact, the vast majority of these grandiose plans fail. A lone gunman can sneak into a book depository. 20 dudes can get on planes with box cutters. The scale is small, the agenda simple. But massive, sustained operations with hundreds of people all playing parts that need to be executed with atomic-clock accuracy? Cuz no one is going to stop to pee, or take a wrong turn, or drop something? That doesn’t even work in the movies.

Anthony Weiner can’t get away with tweeting a cock shot that was up for all of a minute, somehow an entire professional demo team set up shaped charges right where and when they knew planes were going to hit?

At some point, we can accept that we don’t have the whole truth on something – 9/11 certainly is not without legitimate questions – while NOT building up these elaborate Rube Goldberg machines of intellectually disingenuous castles in the air so that a bunch of political dilettantes and borderline paranoiacs can feel like they are smarter or more “on the inside” than everyone else. More likely: a bunch of wide eyed people with little to no critical thinking skills believe whatever fantasy makes their lives seem more interesting? Or that a conspiracy of thousands agree to murder 3000 innocent people in cold blood?

Even as to the “unanswered questions” – more likely that a cover up is to hide that our government is completely filled with sociopaths bent of world domination? Or that people are just covering their asses because they know they fucked up?

Conspiracy theories occupy the same part of the brain as religion, magic, Astrology, Tarot, role playing, and other stuff we like to believe to make life seem more magical, or more interesting. Whether it’s believers in angels and demons, fairies, ghosts, Climate change deniers, vaccines and autism, fortune telling, psychic abilities, whatever, it’s clear that we as humans have a love for believing crazy shit that we believe NOT because of compelling evidence, but because we are incapable of building positive self esteem without the external labels and reaction to the crap we wrap our egos around. It’s an easy way to become one of the “cool kids”. ”

You’re just a rube, man, LOOK AT THE WORLD AROUND YOU MAN CANT YOU SEE WHAT’S GOING ON???”

I’ve spent the last few years reading quite a bit about the 2008 Financial Crisis, and in turn, about crises that preceded it – the Enron scandal, the collapse of the Junk Bond market, and of Salomon Brothers. If there is a story ripe for plunder with hidden agendas and powerful cabals of powerful men with huge sums of cash, this is the arena. Washington is riddled with Wall Street’s lobbyists, our fiscal policy has been in the hands of Goldman Sachs employees for 50 years. Elected officials swimming in corporate cash, the Supreme Court itself bowing to the moneyed interests with the Citizens United decision, I mean it just REEKS of conspiracy, doesn’t it? Koch Brothers vs George Soros for the Global Caliphate or Socialist Utopia?

Except that none of it’s true. Oh, Wall Street and Washington are intertwined with corporate and financial interests beating this country into a bloody pulp of wage slavery and serfdom, don’t get me wrong. A mutually beneficial circle jerk of power and influence, an echo chamber that resonates kick backs, sweetheart deals and nepotistic self interest? Absolutely. Quid pro quo, back scratching, vacations for votes, corruption and greed? You betcha.

But as for it being a solidified, driven cabal with a singular, overarching agenda? Fuck no. I’ll go into it more in Part II, but suffice to say that the story of our financial system is ironically one of fierce individualists, iconoclasts, and monomaniacal narcissists who would no more collude with their fellow business people than a lion would with a jaguar in a herd of Wildebeest.

What creates this sense of collusion is a shared perspective, not a coherent plan. There are certain things that benefit them all, and a certain conventional wisdom that informs business, finance, and economics (a lot of it wrong). Picture it like Christianity, or Islam – there are some basic principles they all share, but there is still plenty of backbiting among sects. Sure, Baptists and Mormon will both fight Gay Marriage, but they have VERY different ideas about everything else. And in truth, each one thinks the other is going to Hell, and is glad to see them get there. Just as religions each think they have the only key to spiritual and moral superiority, each bank, corporation, and investment firm thinks they – and ONLY they- have the right ideas about success.

But the conspiracy theorist sees these simple connections, and invents deeper and deeper meaning, ascribing motives and agendas to casual actions, painting a picture of twisted human emotion and evil right out of a Hellfire and Brimstone sermon from witchburning Salem. Except that people really aren’t like that. Our basic motivations and nature all stem from pretty well documented areas, not from some “absolute morality” that is the only thing that could account for these consistent and coordinated acts of sociopathic evil.

In the end, applying Occam’s Razor to these arguments, it is not the particulars of who met whom in a cafe in Paris, or what paper trail was destroyed by flunkies in black helicopters (where do these helicopters get their fuel? Wouldn’t that leave a trail? Or how about whoever is making all these black suits? Is Georgio Armani IN ON IT??) that is most easily debunked. It is the human nature.

There is no endgame to the 9/11 attacks as described in the conspiracy that would not have been achieved by far easier means. This in itself makes a lie of the conspiracy itself, without the need to get into the details – yet it also reserves the details for further analysis. It does not rule out the idea that someone, in a panic, didn’t want to get blamed for maybe getting a coffee at the wrong time, or for funding the wrong organization 30 years ago. And it’s far more likely that this is not even a concerted cover up, but a disjointed slew of individuals covering individual asses. Rats bolting a sinking ship is VERY DIFFERENT than a bunch of rats getting together to sink a fucking ship.

The reason why these bullshit theories bother me so much is that they are just another example of narcissistic, ego pumping, “aren’t I cool look at me” pseudopolitical grandstanding clung to by people who really don’t give a flying fuck about actually participating in the democratic process in order to actual FIX THE SHIT THAT’S WRONG. It is another section of the peanut gallery screaming for attention at the top of their lungs, refusing to accept any viewpoint other than their own. As with the other blinkered, fanatical ideologues – Libertarians, religious Conservatives, PETA – it all comes down to promoting the ego.

Thanks to bullshit science, how much money has been diverted to studying vaccines – a proven technology for over a half century – from finding the REAL causes of autism? How many studies on Climate Change will be enough to satisfy the deniers? Because of these “Truthers” how many resources have been taken away from finding and stopping the real perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to satisfy the morbid delight of intractable conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept the evidence that demolishes their claims? We’ve had a DECADE to find evidence of this conspiracy, and it’s just not there.

3000 people died to give you the right to treat them like a political football so you could pretend to be oh so cool and informed. Way to go, Conspiracy America, way to go.

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FB Econ rant III

[In response to a long thread on Hayek, and his value as an economic theorist]

Well, I think it’s a difference between economic theory in context of academia, and economic theory to justify public policy. The key tenets of Classical Economics are interesting and useful in a theoretical construct, but as soon as you depend on “rational actors”, “Information equality” and “profit motive” as absolutes to determine economic and monetary policy, THAT is where it falls apart. Alan himself blamed “irrational exuberance” for the housing bubble, a statement that clearly goes against Classical Economics, also explaining that he did not see that people would act against the best interest of their company.

This notion that Classical Economics contains self regulatory mechanisms and levers that work in the real world has been disproven time and time again. Does this mean Hayek and Friedman are no longer valuable to the discussion of business and economics? Certainly not. As you say, there are valuable lessons to be learned from their study. But real world application of ANY ideology needs to be tempered with informed, pragmatic actions that are not blindly linked to an absolutist and Utopian ideal. I would no more support a full Hayekian economy any more than I would a full Marxist one. Indeed, I view Hayek as the Right Wing Marx: neither should be ignored for what they get right – Marx is dead on when he says the class struggle is a key component to an imbalanced economy, we’re seeing that now. The wealth gap plainly shows that the proletariat (American workers) are not being adequately compensated in relation to the profits or the bourgeoisie (the corporate class). Now, does that mean the State needs to control the means of production in the name of the proletariat? Uh, fuck no. Because Marxism as an economic reality has failed miserably as well. CLEARLY.

My largest problem with the Ayn Rand/Hayek/Friedman/neoliberalism economic paradigm is the evangelical nature of it’s adherents to an unsustainable endgame – a problem I tend to have with Libertarianism as a political force, as well. As these views circulate through the Washington-Wall Street echo chamber (something shown very well in “13 Bankers” and a few other books on the current crisis), they take on the feeling of Gospel – unimpeachable truths that must be implemented in toto, the canon of the Free Market and Personal Freedom becoming as immutable as the Bible. Is “Free Market” and “Libertarian” perspective valuable? Yes, of course. We must balance management with the freedom to act. However, taken to their logical extremes, they are contrary to the evidence of their implementations’ effectiveness – even when couched in “we just want smaller government” language, it is undeniable that the ideology of Libertarianism and it’s accompanying Classic Liberalist or Neoliberalist economic beliefs are being used to drive politicians towards more and more extreme policy. The completely insane and manufactured debt ceiling crisis is a perfect example. This isn’t a question of “small government”, or of policy being tempered by a small government perspective. It’s the economic fate of the nation – if not the world – being taken hostage in the name of FUCKING BUDGET CUTS. It’s not pragmatic – the wealth lost on Monday would have filled the Social Security gap, or paid for the Bush Tax Cuts! Yes, the market rebounded, but I want you to see the point. Pragmatically, the course – to economists – really is clear. You need to put purchasing power back in the hands of the Middle Class. Period. You can’t run a fountain with no water at the bottom. This isn’t even economics, it’s basic systems analysis. If we don’t do this, we’ll all have “the freedom” to starve as we bicker about the notions of “freedom” held by a bunch of elitist, entitled ideologues unable to back one iota off their Religion of the Rich. Is it fair to tax the rich at 45%? Who fucking cares? If we don’t, we’re not going to be a nation long enough to debate it.

Which brings me to the basis of my distaste for Classical Liberalism and Libertarianism – there will never be enough evidence to convince the ideologues because saner heads will always prevail and save us from experiencing the total meltdown that would be caused by following these policies. The madmen who push this drivel will never have to face the actual consequences of their lunatic policies – note, the theories aren’t lunatic, per se, again, there’s value in the perspective, and the analysis – but the policies derived from this “Holy Mandate”, this “Divine Right” of defining “Freedom” have a pragmatic track record of failure, with clear evidence that their basic tenets – information equality (which, ironically, actually also defines that no one can outsmart the market), rational actors, hunger and profit motives and the “invisible hand of the market” – are NOT practical absolutes. And again, I would apply this same reasoning to Marxism, another system that, when followed religiously, fails to account for the myriad ways that reality stubbornly refuses to follow our little schemes.

All of this, of course, is just as an economic system, to say nothing to Libertarian and Neoclassicism’s complete abhorrence of social justice. THAT’S a whole other argument. Although I will say that Classical Liberalism completely ignores the idea of social welfare as an investment in human capital to drive innovation. Without the development of human capital, there IS no innovation, which means stagnation. What seems clear is that in times of crisis like we have now, the pragmatic idea is that social spending as an investment in human capital (not to mention in infrastructure) matches our need to get money into the hands of the worker so they can become the consumer. Demand drives production, which creates jobs. It doesn’t work backwards. We can build 100,000 homes, and if no one is willing to buy them, it doesn’t matter. That’s not a sustainable market. Same with investing – we can encourage investors to put all their money into new enterprise, but without wages to fund aggregate demand, it doesn’t matter. You could cure cancer, and if no one can afford it, it’s not going to create a single job.

If the economy recovers, we can talk about what policies we can follow to allow the most amount of growth, with the highest level of innovation, with the best amount of preventative legislation (I firmly believe that there is a point of acceptable trade off in slowed growth from regulation that keeps an industry honest and un-self-destructive, costing less than policy to clean up a mess). We can tinker with the balances between protection and shared risk, between personal choice and personal responsibility. There is certainly room for all viewpoints – as long as they are sane, intelligent voices willing to support ideas that cross ideological lines in the name of practicality, and who are willing to accept when their own ideas have failed, and to move on to develop new ones. Democracy – much like the economy – is driven by innovation, and that takes a collective effort to attempt, evaluate, and adjust in the spirit of good faith compromise, not the lunatic rantings of power mad ideologues.

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On being an artist, from a forum.

Being an artist starts and ends with the way one approaches life, in my not so humble opinion. The medium is just the medium – most people I’d define as artists tend to do everything in their lives artistically. You see this in people like Bowie or Pete Townsend, who I think both went to Art College, or Ron Wood, or Adam from Tool, who express themselves graphically as well as musically. There are a lot of musicians who also paint, take pictures, write poetry, etc… and plenty of poets, painters, and photographers that play music.

To me, true art stems from the ability to empathize, to truly feel what others are feeling, to then make your own perspective communicable. To create that bond between the totally subjective and personal, and the universal, in a way that comments on the human condition as a whole. Whether speaking on greater mores like love and friendship, or challenging our notions of what it means to be human, or expanding on our ideas of God, politics, or society. It has a purpose, and a perspective. It frames something that encourages us to step outside the mundane, to question our tiny personal universe.

Just as there are people stronger than others, or people smarter than others, I think there are people who feel harder than others, who have gifts in the emotional realm that, when harnessed, allow them to tap into our larger gestalts, to hold that mirror up to ourselves. This is a skill set, like being naturally good at sports, or at physics.

I think this is evolutionarily advantageous, as well as societally necessary. Whether is is B.B. King making us feel like he understands our loneliness, or Picasso painting Guernica to call attention to the horrors of war, there is a reason why we have artists, and why we desire art, from the simplest cave paintings to the most elaborate masterpieces. It has it’s downsides, the emotional extremes making life hard to live, hard to control. When you feel so strongly, the joy can be transcendent, but the sorrow can be apocalyptic. We get it backwards – it’s not being crazy or self destructive that makes one artistic, it’s that the skill set and abilities that make artists so effective can burn hot enough to drive one crazy, or lead to self destruction.

As one of those “artistic types bad at logic and math”, I find that my self-identity as an artist comes not from my work – hey, “bad artist” is still an artist – but from the way I approach life itself. My interface and my perspective are different (not better, just different) than most people’s, and leads me to learn, create, and share, across disciplines, finding the poetry of the soul in everything from comics to economics, informing my perspective and seeing connections between Egyptian pyramids and the silence of young lovers, between the mighty armies of men and the sight of the first butterfly of spring.

Whether I or any other artist has the talent or develops the skill to produce GOOD art, well, that’s totally subjective. And there are people of a more “normal” mindset that make art, and certainly Outsider Art is a fave of mine. But overall, I feel like these skills – empathy, intellectual curiosity, compassion – are what define the artist more than the medium or the skill.

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On Racism and Economics from FB

I do understand, for many, this is like debate team, with the goal being to defend your own position no matter what, and sure, that’s a valid perspective. I appreciate that it pushes me to learn more about my own positions. But at some point, these ideas that some people feel define them as some sort of iconoclast have to stand up to actual intellectual scrutiny.

It’s not that “Hayek’s views are not widely held”, it’s that 75 years of economic theory has largely dismantled Classical Economics. Thanks to these Austrian adherents, I have an entire bookshelf full of econ books, from basic textbooks to detailed analysis of the financial meltdown, even Alan Greenspan’s memoirs. And if they supported the Neoliberal position, I’d be more than happy to agree with them. Buuuuuut they don’t. Not a one of them.

Greenspan himself accepts basic tenets of Keynesian economics, and admits the failure of his policies to prevent the boom and bust cycle – he doesn’t take responsibility for it, mind you, but he admits that there are big gaping holes in this Hayek/Friedman notion of Free Markets and the Invisible Hand that simply cannot be accounted for, that are dealt with far more definitively in modern economic theory. If it worked, man, we’d see it. But the contrary is true. Oh, sure, total State control doesn’t work, either, be it Soviet Russia or Communist China. But when every mainstream GOP candidate is doubling down on an austerity agenda that is directly in conflict with the most easily historically proven application of Keynesian theory, a policy that has been decried by economists for decades (as applied to the IMF/World Bank strictures that demand austerity for emerging markets), this notion of GOP appeal to authority is laughable.

I’m sure they hate Stiglitz as well, but in his classic “Globalization and It’s Discontents”, he lays out very clearly how these policies have gutted the emerging markets the Bank was supposed to help. Even now, Ireland, who has faced the most severe austerity measures in Europe, has had it’s bonds downgraded to “junk” status. Why in the name of Bernanke would we want to follow that course? It’s not like a bunch of Liberals were at the helm when the first round of bailouts and stimulus were enacted. It was the same former Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros execs that have been in charge on our economic policy since the 80’s. Oh, they preach “free markets” when it suits their interests, but when the shit hit the fan, what did these people do? They got on the first plane to Keynesville. So the message is clear. Even the people who push the hardest for the deregulation of the markets understand that they are full of shit.

These ideological economic suicide bombers pushing austerity and government spending cuts that share these views, however, are not harmless Facebook Debate Team wonks, they are charged with fixing problems. How they can ignore the expert consensus – and expert consensus is not the popularity contest that people seem to think it is, it’s based on peer review and preponderance of the evidence analyzed by people who know stuff, not armchair dilettantes like us – clearly shows that their aim is NOT to solve problems, but to serve their own personal interests… not just serve their own interests ahead of ours, but to serve interests in DIRECT CONTRADICTION to ours. Ironically enough, policies that will crush the market to the extent that those who push this failed ideology will lose far more in actual wealth than they would had they followed a more sensible strategy based on ACTUAL SCIENCE. That they’ve roped in a section of the population that defines America on such narrow, xenophobic terms – while ignoring the clear subtext of the Tea Party’s language against Muslims, Gays, immigrants, and Liberals (not to mention Obama-as-monkey-or-witch-d​ octor signs, Fox’s “Hip Hop BBQ” headlines, constant race baiting from O’Reilly and Beck… a simple Google search pops up with one of the original Tea Party “founders”, Dale Robertson, holding this sign: http://chattahbox.com/imag​es/2010/01/teaparty_robert​son_spelling_racist_proble​m.jpg To claim anything BUT a clear and obvious agenda against “anyone who doesn’t hold our values and ideas” is not only intellectually disingenuous, but downright delusional.If people demanded as much evidence of God’s existence as they do this semantic and sophistic “proof of racism”, we’d all be Atheists (that’s why the Fort Hood shooter is evidence that all Muslims are terrorists, but the Norway shooter was a lone kook).

So at some point, faced with this overwhelming, monolithic block of stuff that at the very least pokes some pretty serious holes in these Neoliberal tenets – it not dismantling them entirely – one would expect an intellectual of your stature to adjust their ideas accordingly. But instead, as is the norm nowadays, their Economic Evangelicals just double down on them. I’ve literally spent the last year reading nothing but econ, with as open a mind as can be, a tabula rasa ready to learn, engaging and interacting with economists, and I came to the conclusions I have after reading a fairly exhaustive range of ideas. If the wealth of evidence supported this Hayekian position, I’d have no problem supporting it. But again, economic theory as accepted by actual economists puts Hayek in the same boat as neuroscientists put phrenology.

At the end of the day, the “fiscal Conservative” is shown to be as obsolete and misguided as the “social Conservative”, both clinging to ideas and policies on both the wrong side of history, and the wrong side of evidence. Now, I’ll certainly grant that this doesn’t give a free pass to the other side of the aisle, it just means that THESE IDEAS are dead, and that we will either adapt, or die. The same goes for other similar ideas as well – can one step outside your echo chamber (not a disparagement, we all have them, that reinforce our ideas) to look at the larger picture?We must ask, are you someone for whom contradictory evidence makes you adjust your ideas? Or just makes you double down, clinging even harder? Don’t be that guy… http://www.npr.org/templat​es/story/story.php?storyId​=128490874

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Tea Party Racism Rant from FB:

I was actually asked to “provide evidence” this morning that the Tea Party contains racists. Which I actually find less offensive than the GOP’s complete misunderstanding of basic economics. We all know racists are fuckbags, but people actually still think “fiscal Conservatives” know what their talking about, and THAT shit is SCARY.

The problem is the cognitive dissonance of people completely incapable of addressing their own racist agenda – the problem isn’t that specific Republicans believe that straight White people should have all the money, it’s that people are so wrapped in their identity as Conservatives that they completely lose the ability to apply critical thinking to their own party. When people say “both parties are the same”, I call bullshit for this reason: The Democratic Party is made up of a bunch of different voices – racial minorities, Labor, LGBTQ groups, different political ideologies (Socialists, Communists, Progressives, etc), different religions (Episcopalians, Jews, and Atheists, oh my!), people from all over the spectrum used to examining the consensus agenda, and molding it with their own perspective. Sure, there are plenty of Liberal sheeple, but at the higher levels of activism, there is a lot of diversity, not just of race, but of thought. Cornell West is very different from Gloria Steinem or Al Sharpton from Richard Dawkins, and not just racially. The irony of this is that Republicans can look at their monolithic homogeneity of thought and actually proclaim ” we don’t care what you look like, Black, Brown, Woman, whatever” and have a leg to stand on… until you realize that the second half of that sentence is “…as long as you fight for the rights of Straight White People”. Bottom line is that “we don’t see race” is a great defense for racists. Because they don’t understand racial dynamics any more than they do gender dynamics – that’s why attacking a woman’s right to chose isn’t sexist, but criticizing Michelle Bachmann for wanting America to default and crash the world economy is. O.o The definition of a predjudice is not just someone who “doesn’t like” a group, it;s one that actively belives that group is “inferior”, and less deserving of rights, protections, opportunities. And THIS is what defines the GOP agenda. OUR America. We’re taking OUR America back. THOSE PEOPLE are INFERIOR and DO NOT DESERVE America. Unless they are like us – we’ll let “the good ones” play in our sandbox as long as they behave. Trying to get people mired in that mindset to see the inherent racism and xenophobia that clearly resides in all aspects of that agenda, when wrapped in “what, we just want small government, lower taxes, and freedom, man, how is that racist?” is all but impossible.

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Climate Change II:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Penosity View Post
I disagree. I think this is about money from start to finish. It’s a marriage of taxpayer funded research with a government hungry for more tax dollars. Therein corruption lies.

The conflict of interest is too prevalent for me to just overlook it. Doesn’t pass my smell test.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince View Post
I really hate to be considered lazy by anyone, yet I don’t want to put a bunch of work into trying to intellectualize a theory that my not-so-scientific mind tells me may be hooey for whatever reason. Can you recommend perhaps one good book that would expand and support the points you’ve made above, and can you please explain your credentials in this area and specifically, what study you have completed that have helped you to reach you conclusions and garner the information you have and the strong position you take?

Vince, my point was not that any lay individuals are the “intellectually lazy ideologues”, but a larger statement about how these debates are framed, and by whom. It is more the idea that those presenting the more detailed talking points are often presenting their information in a less than honest fashion, more for personal behavioral reasons than as part of a larger conspiracy, or for the money, or what have you – as Napoleon said (and I paraphrase), man does not fight for gold alone. Indeed, the point of many of these sites are SUPPOSED to be information aggregates. However, many of them just aggregate information that confirms their own bias, one borne of ego and contrarianism.

As lay people then scour for information, they are presented with arguments that may sound valid, presented as “the other side of the story”, but are in fact intellectually dishonest, leaving out critical information or skewing results to fit an agenda – not just those who profit, mind you, they’re just presenting their own propaganda, but bloggers, media writers, and other “information gatekeepers”, who’s reasons for siding with one side or the other is purely an arbitrary assignation of their own biases. Sure, there are shills and paid flunkies. But at some point, the True Believers step up and start disseminating flawed information for no reason other than they have self identified with that position.

PAC X or Industry Shill X writes a position paper on subject X. Sends to a website that shares it’s ideology. Website presents it to piss off the other side. People go to website because they are True Believers, and then go off and influence well intentioned lay people, via social media, forums, etc. The actual ideology doesn’t matter, btw. I’m not presenting this as a referendum that one ideological bent is superior to another in this specific case. Just to present how such an imbalance in evidence such as in Climate Change science can be so muddled.

In this way, tho, lay people themselves are influenced not by the actual information, but by the manipulative actions of these fallacious arguments. Contrarian views with far less evidence than the affirmative are presented as being of equal validity. This is intellectually disingenuous.

And often, in our current climate (no pun intended), the goal of ANY viewpoint is to get people emotionally attached to the ideas and position presented BEFORE they can research the other side. Studies show that most people, once emotionally or intellectually attached to a position, viewpoint, or ideology, are not likely to let go, regardless of the evidence against them – indeed, a recent study purports that being presented with contrary facts makes people dig their heels in HARDER, supporting their failed viewpoint directly in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Again, view the “anti-vax” movement. Despite studies done again and again, NONE of which successfully link vaccines to increased Autism rates, the AV movement was based on ONE study, later completely discredited. Proponents demanded a level of academic rigor from science that their one study couldn’t survive. Yet the movement still exists, living off information provided by… whom? Who makes money off unvaccinated kids? No one really makes money off of vaccinated kids, either. 3 months of Viagra profits could vaccinate all of Africa. So where’s the money? The most vocal proponent of this “theory” was a celebrity Mom looking for answers. How many parents in the tragic position of caring for an Autistic child grabbed the anti-vax movement simply becuase they wanted someone to blame, someone to hold accountable? And who the f*** would blame them? To admit they were wrong is to admit that that they have no control against a cruelty of fate.

How cruel is it in turn to dash those hopes in search of intellectual truth? But it must be done.

Same with this “debate”. I’m not saying that there aren’t reasons to be skeptical, or critical. But there is a fundamental difference between a scientific debate and a policy debate. Should we not teach evolution in schools because a perfect, unbroken genetic line from swamp water to humans hasn’t been found? One of the hallmarks of a flawed debate is when one side demands an evidence load it cannot provide for it’s own cause. And this has that is spades.

These ideas are not limited to this debate. My current field of study is actually economics and public policy.

For example, what economists actually hold as being evidentially supported and what we actually make policy on is frighteningly different. Economists from ALL viewpoints have been HORRIFIED at both sides of the debt limit debacle. As lawmakers posture and spout ideological purity rhetoric, economists from all around the world – Conservative, Liberal, Keynesian, Hayekian, New School, Chicago School, pretty much a broad spectrum of actual economists, both practical and academic have been pointing at graphs and data points and screaming their heads off, dismayed at ALL the “solutions” that have been placed on the table. Jeez, John McCain retweeted a Paul Krugman OP ED saying he agreed with it, The Economist quoted Jared Berstein, Kevin Drum, and Matt Yglesias as voices they agreed with.

WHAT. THE. F***. It clearly shows, however, the complete disconnect between policy and actual scientific consensus.

But this is how these things work. Somehow, 1500 economists for = 3 economists against. 5000 climate scientists on the side of “we should do something about this whole killing the planet thing” = 20 “It’s nothing to worry about”.

As late at Fall of 2007, Wall Street was assuring us that the end of the housing bubble was merely going to be a small plateau in housing prices. In fact, it was REGULATION that they said would cause a horrible collapse, contracting capital and restricting investment. Fo reals, dawg. These ideological standoffs, much like the totally manufactured debt ceiling crisis, are a zero sum game. If you guys are wrong, I’ll get no real satisfaction is saying “I told you so” while we swim to our beachfront houses in Colorado.

Part of what has occurred here is a moving goalpost, obfuscating the debate. At first, there were the people denying that the planet was heating at all. Then, climate science showed pretty conclusively that it was. Did this silence the critics and move us forward to sensible climate policy? Uh, no. Then came those who said that man was not responsible. The deadly correlary to this is the idea that man can also not stop it. That NOTHING WE DO will have any effect. And THIS is what is not only totally not supported, but is clearly debunked by the myriad ways we HAVE affected the planet, and the actions we’ve ALREADY TAKEN that have affected it. Again, remember the hole in the ozone layer and CFCs?

In the end, what we as lay people should REALLY be debating is “what should we do about this problem”, not whether or not there is a problem.

From a Science Magazine 2004 article:

Quote:
Others agree. The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).
The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies’ members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords “climate change” (9).
The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

In all aspects of rigorous testing, the negative side of this debate fails any test of intellectual or evidentiary merit. NO major National or International group or organization has come out as disagreeing with the general consunsus on Climate Change. Again, not saying there isn’t room for criticism, nor that science should simply accept Climate Change as being set in unchallengable stone – point is well taken that consensus can be wrong.

However.

What this boils down to is the underlying theme across our social and political spectrum of a narcissistic need to cling to an adopted ideology over practical policy. This debate – like every single “debate” nowadays, it seems – is framed NOT by the evidence, but by linking personal identity with a position. If this were NOT the case, our public policy debates would be VERY different. People simply do not change their positions based on evidence – it’s too linked to self esteem and personal identity. They merely reframe the argument, move the goalposts, or fight the smaller, ancillary battles they think they can win. And that’s what we see here – and in politics, and in economics, and in World of Warcraft forums, and whether a pancake bodied Norlin is better than a chambered Standard. This really isn’t news.

But these are also not the results of shadowy cabals and hidden Illuminati, either. The irony of this True Believer mentality is that these positions against collected evidence and shared self interest are driven by people who REALLY BELIEVE they are doing the right thing. Alan Greenspan STILL believes to this day that he was doing the best thing for America. Of course, so did the Norway shooter. There are those who FIRMLY BELIEVE they are “saving” America from Al Gore. As face-palmy as that sounds, their intentions are the best, fighting a war of critical importance against an intractable enemy…without any basis in reality. And it’s that “not based in reality” thing we need to deal with, to understand WHY people hold these views.

Too often, to challenge a mindset like this is to sound like you are challenging the people holding said views, and that makes this sort of criticism difficult. It sounds personal, and that sucks. However, I’m weighing in on this debate because the evidence IS so clearly supported on one side, that it really highlights the basic communication problems we have as an open, self governing nation, and part of a larger global construct. But I challenge people to look at their own motivations for choosing a side that no credible, accredited scientist body has endorsed a study supporting, and examine why they would oppose sane preventative measures when the consequences of being wrong is so disastrous… and WHY we keep doing this.

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On Climate Change, from a forum:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alister View Post
What matters is, are the facts, statistics, data verifiable. Do they hold up to scrutiny, etc., etc.

We have developed, for better or worse, a system called “peer review” that largely juries these matters. Among other things, this system demands that someone — anyone — has to demonstrate their expertise in complicated topics, to people who have already done so.

These latter people’s credibility are far more important than any others in the process.

As far as the notion of ‘bias,” which is also very complicated, I have posted a link, way back in this thread, on “Confirmation Bias.” Most readers have ignored the link, while busy demonstrating its validity all along.

Here it is, again:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Hear, hear.

There’s a lot of valid criticism in this thread, to be sure. And science is based on constant reexamination of the accepted works and theories.

However.

We’ve been through this scientific reductionism before. These are the same tactics used by opponents of vaccination and evolution. Attacking the minutia while ignoring the larger trends (“we need a perfect ‘missing link’ between monkeys and man but POLAR BEARS WALKED TO NOAH’S HOUSE”), trying to discredit specific studies while ignoring the greater concensus, and disproportionately ascribing the validity of unproven doubt to those who work to challenge established theories and hypotheses. Not to mention restating the argument and moving the goalposts – remember when the argument was whether or not the climate was changing in the first place, regardless of the cause? Now it’s “OK, it’s changing but it’s not our fault” and “it’s natural, we can’t do anything about it”, which is the LARGER context to this argument: regardless of the cause, is there evidence that man can change climate based on behavior? And the answer – as we have seen from other changes, both good and bad – is a resounding YES.

These same logical fallacies and disingenuous arguments are a bore, and designed to wear out the patience of those tired of debunking these claims.

Just because there are scientists who are skeptical of a theory doesn’t automatically mean their viewpoint is a valid argument against it. Until they have done the due diligence to present their own evidence and rigorous peer reviewed experimentation, it is scientifically worthless. The entire anti-vax movement was based on ONE STUDY, that was eventually COMPLETELY discredited, and yet in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence (or, I should say, a total LACK of scientific evidence to support their theory), people continue to cling to this failed idea.

The data pool we have on climate change is pretty wide ranging. One shady data collection method doesn’t discredit the vast amount of data that has gone into these studies. There are literally thousands upon thousands of researchers working on ever increasingly detailed models and forecasts, as well as analyzing more and more data from more and more sources. Plenty of money goes into both sides, and yet the overwhelming consensus remains on the side of man having a hand in climate change (has everyone forgotten about the ozone layer?). The “smoking gun” that the anti-climate change need to debunk the larger data pool just isn’t there at this point. To say that “it might be” as an excuse to ignore the science is scientifically and logically disingenuous. Is the Universe not made of matter because we can’t find the Higgs Boson particle?

And the idea that the whole idea is financially motivated is f***ing preposterous. Opportunists can and will make money on either side of this bet. GE is making money selling both incandescent bulbs and CFLs. They’ll take government grants to develop “green” tech, but they’ll sell the regular crap as long as they can. Really, they just don’t care. Corporate profits on “green” products are equal to or more than their older counterparts.

As for “your money”, can we drop this notion that we get nothing for our tax dollars? I for one am happy to invest in technology that – regardless of global climate change – gives me cleaner air, cleaner water, and maximizes our natural resources. Actual Green products (not crap with “green!” printed on the side of it from Wal*Mart) usually SAVE money, often enough to pay for themselves over the life of the product. WHY DO YOU HATE SAVING MONEY GUISE??

In the end, a lot of the dissent on views like this come not from skeptics with mad critical thinking skills, but intellectually lazy ideologues who have wrapped their egos around being contrarian for the sake of being contrarian. “Oh, I’m not one of those _______ sheep that blindly follow that _______. I’m a Freethinker, and smarter than you!”. And they make just enough sense that it makes a case for well intentioned lay people.

I certainly hope that climate change is not as catastrophic as the doomsayers would have us believe – though I think that if we listened to saner warnings, everything in this country wouldn’t have to e a crisis to get us to act. I certainly do NOT want the scientific community to stop testing climate change theory, nor do I want people to stop challenging the data. Timinator and others have some VERY valid criticisms, and I don’t want to sound like I am just dismissing them. Nor is the OP’s post unimportant. Quite the opposite, I believe that the contentious nature of science is what gives it it’s validity.

But as lay people and policymakers, we have to act based on the larger consensus, without bickering over unproven claims and sophistic arguments. In this case in particular, the upside is independent of the issue – the lighter footprint we make, the longer we’ll have this planet’s resources. Period.

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