Monday, June 23, 2008

The ERA and Gay Marriage

I'm rather happy about the fact that people can marry those of the same sex now, mainly because it was such a slap in the face not to be allowed into a hospital room to see a dying loved one, or any other of the numerous indignities that a partner in a same sex relationship needs endure. But, happy as I am, I can't see that spending any extraordinary amount of resources on the fight for same-sex marriage is the best use of those resources. When there are situation like the New Jersey 7.(or 4, depending on where you look)

Clearly one needn't only focus one's resources in one direction, but I can think of innumerable issues that should be dealt with that would have a much farther reaching effect. Like making housing discrimination based on sexual orientation illegal. It is illegal in California, but a federal version would be nice. I think there needs to be a renewed push for the ERA. It may not seem to be a gay rights issue, but I think that it would open a lot of legal doors.

Let's take gay marriage for example, on a federal level. In 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act(DOMA) passed. DOMA says that neither the feds nor states can be forced by other states to "treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage." This may be unconstitutional as it stands, but a stronger case could be made were the ERA added to the Constitution. If the ERA were in effect then one could easily argue sex discrimination in the case of marrying someone of the same sex. For example, if there was a woman who wished to marry another woman, the only reason she is not able to marry that woman is because of her sex. If I wanted to marry that same woman I would be allowed to for the simple fact that I am male, and she disallowed simply because she is female.

Theoretically one could extend this to all sorts situations. Take housing discrimination. Were I a lesbian and was denied housing on those grounds then I would be denied because of my sex. A lesbian would be denied not because she she is a person who falls in love with women, but in fact because she is a woman who falls in love with women. Obviously it is her sex and not who she falls in love with that is the problem. Again, I fall in love with women and I am not discriminated against in my choices of housing. The reason I am not is because I am male. Were I female and yet otherwise the same then I would not be allowed to habitate those same places a esbian is denied.

I'll be honest, law is not my strong suit, so there may be a glaring problem with my reasoning, but it seems not to be faulty to me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ex-Hillary Supporters to vote for McCain

Most of this has been discussed in other places as well, most of what I saying isn't that new, but I think putting it all together will be helpful for me.

There are a number of aspects of this topic. First and foremost is the way the media has portrayed it, left-wing feminists are going to go vote for McCain to punish the Democratic Party for not nominating Hillary. This would be stupid of them to do, as McCain works actively against their interests, and the interests of women the nation and world over. But, the media loves a good story about how women are going to do something stupid based on emotion, because women are always so damn emotional. This all obscures the fact that I haven't heard a single feminist say they would vote for McCain, even the ones who can't stand Obama.

Then which Hillary supporters are going to vote for McCain? Why the right-wing, racist, scare-mongering ones. Not that Hilary was the only one with the right-wing bigots on her side, Obama just got to keep his, for now, because he's the nominee. Had Hillary won the nomination I'm sure that there would have been just as many right wing bigots writing screeds that connected Hillary to Valerie Solanas and warned between the lines about how she would have all the men castrated and forced to do hard labor. Or something.

So, yes, some women are not going to vote for Obama because they are disgusted with the misogyny of the party and of Obama. So what? It's their damn right to, and the people that attack them for voting their conscience are simply wrong to do so.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Open Letter

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

Party Leaders, Candidates and Members,

I don't know how to put this politely so I will instead simply say it. I cannot vote for a party which is not willing to act against torture or torturers. With the release of the report Broken Laws, Broken Lives by the group Physicians for Human Rights, it has become clear that the United States has engaged in torture in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and most likely at various locations across the globe. The silence coming from all but the most sidelined of Democratic politicians is deafening. Not a single major party figure has called for even as much as investigations, much less laid out a plan for stopping the torture. This is not an acceptable position to hold in the twenty-first century. Torture is wrong and must be condemned always and confronted and stopped when occurring. But this is not the case at this time.

Because of this I can say now with no doubt in my mind that I shall not and cannot vote for a candidate for high office if that candidate has not condemned torture both in deed and in action, and I can see no candidate for high office from the Democratic Party in this year who can make that claim. Make no mistake, I do not endorse the opposition candidate, who has as of late made his position on torture quite clear, and goes beyond the tacit consent of the Democratic leadership. But all the same, I can never in good conscience work towards the election of a candidate who has not acted against the gross violation of human rights that is torture, even in such a small way as voting for that candidate.


A Concerned Citizen

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


“All ancient philosophy was oriented toward the simplicity of life and taught a certain kind of modesty in one’s need. In light of this, the few philosophic vegetarians have done more for mankind than all new philosophers, and as long as philosophers do not take courage to seek out a totally changed way of life and to demonstrate it by their example, they are worth nothing.” Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), German philosopher

I like that Nietzsche guy.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Democracy Market

I was reading this article about the primary election in North Carolina today when I came across this lovely passage:

"The key will be the Raleigh-Durham market," Jackson said. It usually makes up between a quarter and a third of the overall turnout vote. "If that is creeping up to 40 percent that spells good news for Obama," he said.

No longer are the politicos pretending that population centers are composed of citizens or even simply voters. No, now we Americans are organized in "markets." It is clear that the Clinton and Bush years of deregulation and economic warfare against the poor and other disenfranchised groups has reached its logical acme. We are not individuals, we are not citizens, we aren't even politically organized, we are simply a "market" for selling candidates.

I've always been rather hateful of the marketing industry, with good reason it seems. From the days of women's suffrage to modern times marketing preys on people's insecurities and expectations of the world to convince them to buy things they most likely don't need. To extend that to marketing presidential candidates is the logical next step, especially given that there is so little difference between the two major democratic candidates. Both have environmental plans that are based on craptastic cap and trade schemes, again with the market. Both have similar "market based" health insurance plans.

Blah, blah, blah. That's all I hear these days.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Free Will

I'm a skeptic about free will. I must say that I want to believe in free will, it seems a good thing, though I suspect I have little choice but to believe that. What it comes down to for me is that free will seems not to have any sort of mechanism that could give rise to it. If one rejects the idea of the immaterial giving rise to the material then one would have to reject the idea that a free will, which is necessarily immaterial, could cause one's body to do something. How can my will *cause* anything?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Food, or the lack thereof

This is a map of the countries in which there have been food riots in the last couple weeks

There is and article about how this is likely to spread further because of the return of wheat leaf rust.

This is not pretty.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Science and Possibilities

I mentioned in the last post that I thought there were problems with science. The major problem with science is that it is funded and directed in a way that echoes the broader inequities of society. A prime example of this is the focus there is at the moment on producing a self navigating and driving car. I think the case can be made that we need to get rid of the personal auto, remove it from the way we organize society. Given that it is a complete waste of time for us to spend money figuring out how to make a car run without a driver. Of course, there is also the fact that we already know how to have a car, or transport of some sort, run without being immediately directed by humans, put it on rails. We do this all the time, mass transit works.

That won't help the military, which is the main organization behind automating cars. The idea, supposedly, is that it will save lives by not putting humans in harms way. What they really mean by this is that it will save the lives of the military that has this technology, and, probably, kill more of the people in countries whose military don't have this technology. Sure, it is likely that advances in this field will help other areas of AI research, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, I'll be damned sure that I don't want the military to develop the first strong AI, or really even the government. I can't think of a single government I would trust with the thing.

It's the same thing with facial recognition. It could, in theory at least, help with the development of strong AI, but doesn't the path that we take to get to the post-human future as important as the place we end up? I don't want to get to a post-human future just to have everything and everyone monitored all the time. To have that be the expectation. That sounds fully craptastic.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Of recent I've become interested in transhumanism, the idea that humans will one day transition, through the use of technology. Many of them are technophiles in an extreme sense, but not all. I am not such a technophile, but neither do I wholly reject the possibilities provided by technology. I think that a transhmanist position is the only tenable position for views on technology, but I think it doubly important that we recognize the limitations and flaws our current technological program has.

As I have noted before, I do not see technology as an amoral force. I think that it is entirely possible to have immoral technologies, most weapons would fall in this category. I think that the majority of technologies that we do have are not necessarily moral, even those that seems to be on a cursory examination, such as medicines. I think it plausible to take this view on the grounds that many technologies are not liberatory, and by their nature tie people to the structure that creates them. Drugs used to treat diseases as opposed to cure them could be put in this category, not all them then necessarily, but at least some especially in the case of those that treat non-life threatening diseases.

There is a post over at Transhumanist Goodness on Moral Realism, Transhuman Goodness: Transhumanism and the need for realist ethics, that I generally disagree with. I reject the existence of objective moral facts altogether, and while I do accept that we might need to argue within a framework of moral realism to convince people of the Transhumanist project, we can't actually accept it as a moral framework. If the goal of the transhumanist project is to move past human capabilities then it seems that we must make a radical reevaluation of not only our physical and mental abilities, but also of our moral abilities. In fact, I would argue that we have already reached a point where we can have a true post-human, in theory if not in fact, based not on physical or mental changes but on philosophical and moral changes. I think that we can say that this is possible, though it is highly unlikely that there actually is a post-human existent.

I say it is possible because there exist possible environments, physical locations, for us to reside in where it would be possible to develop a post-human moral and philosophical outlook. This is not something that we can simply do, meaning I can't simply go somewhere and become post-human. In fact, anyone able to read and understand this is not able to undertake this task. But it is entirely possible that one could raise a child in such a way as to instill an understanding of the world that is based not on human understanding, but on a post-human philosophical and moral outlook.

There is a lot to unpack here and I'll do my best to do that in future posts, but this is a quick outline.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Health Care

I checked out the plans for health care put forward by Clinton and Obama and I must say I'm totally disappointed. They are both doing pretty much the same thing as Massachusetts has done, forcing people to pay for subsidized health insurance, thus ensuring that the health insurance companies get their cut and that they run things just as efficiently as always. (read:not very efficient) They do require that companies insure people that they would not have otherwise insured.

Bleh, color me not very surprised, the democrats take a good idea, universal coverage, and turn it into a money making scheme for the health care industry. Little wonder the industry has switched their donations to the Dems. Note also that this table shows the total contribution from the health care industry to candidates on both sides and on the republican side Romney, the guy who made up Massachusetts' "personal responsibility system" (I puke just a little as I type that) The selfsame system both Dems seek to imitate.

Of course, I could just be annoyed because I'm home sick today.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Conspiracy theory time!

There is a time in life when every young man's thoughts turn to conspiracy. No, I don't mean committing conspiracy, I haven't enough time or a good enough reason for that. I mean finding conspiracy. And lo and behold it has come and bit me on the ass.

I just finished reading an article on on the republican caucuses in Washington, and how there were some very fishy happenings that took place. Essentially, the state GOP looks as if it might have called the election, erroneously, for McCain.

I wouldn't find the idea of republicans fixing elections fishy at all if it were not for the unbeleivable hatred of McCain that most of the republican pundits are spewing.

So here is the theory: McCain is the choice of the GOP and their wing of the pundits, but they are playing a fun little game of "we hate McCain" during the primaries so he gets to regain his reputation as a "maverick" and looks to be distant from Bush and the mainstream of republicans, read:far right wing nut jobs. Of course, this is nonsense. He's a warmonger, which is exactly what the right wants.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Obama looks like he has a good chance at winning the Democratic nomination, and I'm all for that. I expect that if he wins the nomination he will win the general election as well, which I would also like to see. Now, I'll note here that I don't expect him to do a whole lot as president. Honestly, I expect him to get very, very little done, for a number of reasons and this is exactly why I want him to get elected.

Right now Obama is campaigning on a platform of "Hope" and "Change," and while I don't think that he is being dishonest about his campaign, I don't think he, or most people, realize the level of change that this country is going to need if it is going to survive. There are the economic problems, the environmental problems, the social justice problems and the problems of foreign policy. The younger generations are profoundly dissatisfied with the current political order, primarily because the current order has no solutions to the problems of the world except band-aids and promises.

The high water mark of radical politics in the recent past was the late nineties, after eight years of a Clinton presidency. One of the prime contributors to that was that people were profoundly frustrated with Democratic politicians telling them that they would make progress and then seeing regressive policies enacted, from welfare to trade issues.

It isn't clear what exactly Obama intends to change, but we can be sure that it will not be enough to fix the problems of the United States, or the rest of the world. And the radical organizations of the left will benefit. As an anarchist, I think this can only be a good thing considering the increasing currency anarchist ideas and organization methods enjoy today. If Obama is elected it could be the push that is needed to get us past the roadblocks, psychological or otherwise, put up post-September eleventh.

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union

I'm not watching the State of the Union speech tonight. I probably should, I should probably watch and play a drinking game or talk with some other political junkies I know. But I'm not going to, and do you know why? Because I already know what Bush is going to say. No I am not such an astute political observer that I can tell what he will discuss, or is discussing, as I type. I know it because the Bush folks have released excerpts from the speech and the news site have articles about it. Apparently there will be nothing new, just "hope," cribbing from Obama. Now, the point of me posting this is not to complain about this, though the pre-release of a speech seems stupid to me, it is to complain about how Yahoo news announces these things.

They put up articles that speak of the speech as if it already happened.

This annoys me to no end. They did the same thing last year. "Bush said this or that," and I'm reading the thing totally confused because I know for a fact that Bush didn't say anything, yet. One would assume that they might wait until after the speech, but I guess they live in the future.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I just went and got my textbooks for school. One of them I didn't get because it cost a hundred dollars. Instead I went online and got the previous edition for six dollars, including shipping. If this were a physics or chemistry text I might understand the need for a new edition, but this is an ethics text. The only difference between the two editions is the order the papers are in. I had the same experience with a Calculus text. The worst is that I know there are a ton of people out there who weren't able to return these books and got screwed out of a hundred bucks.

In conclusion, screw you textbook companies.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hitler was a Vegetarian

Or not, but if he was would it matter to vegetarianism in general. Would it be an indictment of vegetarianism? I think not.

There is a post on an ethics blog about how saying that Islam is responsible for Bin Laden's actions is different than saying vegetarianism is responsible for Hitler's actions. The reasoning is that Islam is a religion open to violent interpretations.

While I agree that Islam is open to violent interpretation, as evidenced by the fact that people interpret it in a way that allows for violence, I think this is true of nearly every religion and ideology minus those that are explicitly pacifist. Being vegetarian isn't and ideology, nor is being atheist, despite the arguments form some theists otherwise. Islam of the form Bin Laden subscribes to is an ideology. I am at a loss to find a single political or Religious ideology which has been implemented on a broad scale that has not been responsible for some level of violence.

This is not to say that Islam is somehow less violent. I don't think that Islam is anything, it's a book and the sunna'. There are a number of interpretations of Islam that allow for violence, as there are interpretations of nearly every ideology. Look at the war in Iraq. One might argue that the justifications given by Bush about democracy and human rights are not "really" democratic or Liberal arguments, but that strikes me as a "true scotsman" argument. It is clear that Liberalism can be interpreted in a way that allows for destruction on a massive scale, but does that indict Liberalism or those who use that interpretation?

More on Naturalized Ethics

Steven Pinker, evolutionary psychologists extraordinaire, has an article in the New York Times called The Moral Instinct about evolution and, what else, the moral instinct.

It it he talks about morality and how our sense of moral outrage at certain things is a function of an evolved sense, though it isn't clear if he means this in a literal manner or figurative. He repeats all the experiments and research that has been done, and then jumps to conclusions. Again, he is an evolutionary psychologist, which means that evolution must obviously have a role in everything. Of course, the role of society is left on the wayside.

"The stirrings of morality emerge early in childhood. Toddlers spontaneously offer toys and help to others and try to comfort people they see in distress. And according to the psychologists Elliot Turiel and Judith Smetana, preschoolers have an inkling of the difference between societal conventions and moral principles. Four-year-olds say that it is not O.K. to wear pajamas to school (a convention) and also not O.K. to hit a little girl for no reason (a moral principle). But when asked whether these actions would be O.K. if the teacher allowed them, most of the children said that wearing pajamas would now be fine but that hitting a little girl would still not be."

Of course, children are socialized heavily by this age. Were they not, they would not understand that wearing pajamas to school was wrong, just that hitting others was.

This is not to say that biology and evolution play no role in our actions, moral or otherwise. Obviously they do. But, claims such as Pinker's seems to be stretching the evidence. It seems clear that there is some sort of biological basis for altruism, at least to the extent that our brain allows for it through socialization. But there is also a biological basis for selfishness, as evidenced by its existence.

Another problem is how Pinker thinks this affects our idea of what is moral. In all honesty, he isn't very clear about why the knowledge of why we act moral and why we think something is moral helps us in determining what is moral. Certainly he makes a case that it helps us understand the actions of others, but that doesn't require evolutionary psychology, just some social science. This is not a shortcoming he alone possesses. This is a fundamental problem that ethical naturalists have.