Category Archives: politics

A Brief Message For Juneteenth 2021

Metro Parks observes Juneteenth holiday - Metro Parks Tacoma

History is full of dark, distressing moments. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what your country’s history entails. Wars, famine, disease, atrocities, bigotry, and oppression are part of our collective narrative. We are flawed, imperfect beings trying to navigate an equally flawed, grossly imperfect world. It’s a challenge and, like any challenge, there are missteps and failures.

By every measure, slavery was a dark moment in that narrative. In America, it is a sad, painful stain on its history. It certainly wasn’t the first country to practice slavery, nor was it the twentieth. However, the very concept of owning another human being stands in stark contrast to the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on which the country was founded.

It took 80 years after the American Revolution to officially end slavery, but doing so required a bloody civil war that killed over 600,000 Americans. Even after it ended, the struggle for justice didn’t stop. Conflict continued in the form of racism, segregation, and white supremacy. Parts of that conflict still continue to this day.

However, where we are now is far better than where we’ve been. No matter how many dark moments our history contains, they’re often contrasted by moments of triumph. The America of 1860 probably never thought slavery would end. The idea that we would have the level of social and legal equality we have today might have been unthinkable.

What once seemed impossible is now real. Things are far from perfect, especially with respect to race relations, but they stand in stark contrast to where we once were. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

That’s the spirit I encourage everyone to embrace today. On this day, on Juneteenth, now set to become an official federal holiday in America, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how far we’ve come. At the same time, we cannot forget how much farther we have to go. Even if that arc Dr. King mentions is long, the extent to which we bend it towards justice is our choice.

Moving forward, let us choose wisely.

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Why We Should Teach The Uglier Parts Of History (And Why Avoiding It Is Pointless)

Tulsa Race Massacre Sidelined Legacy of Black Wealth in Greenwood - WSJ

I am an American.

I am proud to be an American.

There’s no other country I’d want to be born in.

I say all while also acknowledging that America isn’t perfect. I’ve taken plenty of history classes, both in high school and in college. I’ve also sought out information about America’s past and the facts are clear. The United States of America does have some undeniably dark moments in its history. Some could be classified as outright atrocities.

It’s not wrong to state that those events happened and they were awful. In fact, I believe it’s critical for any country, nation, or community of any kind to admit their past failures and flaws. We cannot learn, grow, or improve as a society if we ignore those less favorable parts of our history. If we only ever know the good stuff, then we have no reason to improve and that only breeds complacency, arrogance, and stagnation. That’s something the world needs less of.

This brings me the controversy surrounding critical race theory. I know that just uttering that phrase in passing these days is sure to draw ire from certain crowds, some more so than others. In general, I try to avoid touching on topics like this when the outrage machine is still going full-throttle. Even when I do discuss something controversial, like abortion, I try to focus on the bigger picture.

Now, the specifics of critical race theory are too vast for me to get into. I’m certainly no expert, nor would I ever claim to be. I encourage people to investigate it themselves on Wikipedia. However, do not seek sources from the likes of PragerU, the Heritage Foundation, or any information source that claims to espouse the “truth” about Critical Race Theory.

They’re just right-wing propaganda pushers who are lying to you on behalf of their donors. They are not credible on this matter.

While I don’t see Critical Race Theory as being completely neutral either, it does have some relative themes. It gives greater scrutiny to how racism and past racist policies in America have had lasting effects on minority communities, even after the progress made during the civil rights movement.

That’s not an unreasonable approach to studying the past and present. After all, it’s undeniable that racism and its past effects still exist. If you deny that, then you’re just denying reality outright. Certain aspects of racism can’t be resolved by simply passing a law or enacting a certain policy. People and societies are just too complex.

Now, the way in which Critical Race Theory scrutinizes these issues isn’t perfect. In terms of analyzing and making sense of history, I think it doesn’t paint the clearest picture in terms of America’s racist past and how that past affects the present.

That said, I support it being taught or, at the very least, explored within a school. I think this is something we should teach kids and young people about in order to get them thinking about history, race, and the society in which they live. At the same time, I also think it exposes a critical element with respect to appreciating history and its many lessons.

The reason I’m bringing it up now is two-fold. Firstly, I think those protesting it are absurd and their reasons for criticizing critical race theory are equally absurd. Some are going so far as to try and ban it. Instead, they favor a more “patriotic” education for school age children. I put “patriotic” in quotes because there’s nothing patriotic about it. It’s just pure propaganda, plain and simple.

A true patriot doesn’t need propaganda to be proud of their country.

A true patriot loves their country, despite their flaws. Just like you do with someone you love, you don’t ignore those flaws and use them as motivation to be better.

The second reason I’m bringing it up has less to do with the political rhetoric surrounding Critical Race Theory. It’s being framed as though this is somehow redefining the story of America. It’s seen as somehow diminishing America’s greatness and ideals. Those who are blindly patriotic or excessively nationalistic are going to have a problem with that.

Now, blind and excessive nationalisms is a problem all its own. I won’t get into that, but I do feel that it highlights another important point about protesting new forms of study. In essence, those complaining about Critical Race Theory are working against their own agenda. They seem to forget that the internet still exists.

It doesn’t matter if efforts to ban Critical Race Theory succeed. It doesn’t matter if every American textbook removes all mentions of slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese internment camps, or atrocities committed against Native Americans. That information is still out there. It’s on the internet and it’s easy for anyone with an internet connection to find.

In fact, by outright banning or opposing certain studies of history, it may only raise greater interest in it. Like it or not, people are going to get curious. Tell kids and teenagers that they should never learn about Critical Race Theory is only going to make them more curious. So long as they still have an internet connection, they will find that information.

That’s exactly why I’m in favor of teaching history that explores, analyzes, and dares to extrapolate from the uglier parts of history. It can do more than educate. It can also help us come to terms with our flaws and inspire us to be better.

A good example of this is the recent relevance of the Tulsa Race Massacre. There’s no getting around it. This event was a horrendous moment in American history and one that reveals just how ugly racism got in this country. Growing up, I never learned about this event. Most people probably never would’ve learned about it, had it not re-entered the news amidst recent pushes for racial justice.

This moment in history was awful. There’s no getting around that. Even if you’re an American who wasn’t alive during this event, we should still acknowledge it. We should still learn from it. That’s how we’ll get better. The past has so many painful lessons and we’ll never learn those lessons if we try to gloss over them.

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Filed under Current Events, history, outrage culture, political correctness, politics

Dear Rich People: Pay Your Damn Taxes

The richest people in the world: billionaires across the globe - CBS News

I’m a proud American. I love my country and I celebrate its ideals while not ignoring its shortcomings. That’s what you do for a country you love.

I also hate taxes as much as the next American. It’s one of the few things that we can agree on these days. Taxes suck. It costs us money, the process is a real a hassle, and it’s not always spent on something you approve of. I understand that. I empathize with it, even. It’s like a prostate exam or a colonoscopy. It’s uncomfortable, but when done properly, it spares you plenty of pain and illness later on.

As much as I hate taxes, I’m not among those hardcore libertarian types who call taxation outright thievery. I’ve learned over the course of my adult life that taxes are just part of life. It’s what we collectively pay to operate a functional civil society. It may not be efficient or ideal, but it’s better than the alternative.

That’s why I make it a point to pay my taxes early and in full every year. I’m not rich. I also don’t have a complex array of assets and what not. However, my finances do require that I put a little extra effort every year to make sure I pay what I need. Thanks to the internet and free tax software, it usually takes up half an afternoon at most.

I’m not particularly smart when it comes to taxes and finances. I just know how to keep track of my budget, monitor my money, and spend within my means. That doesn’t take any special education or talent. It’s just common sense and basic math.

This brings me to the purpose behind this post. Very recently, a report came out from ProPublica. It basically confirms through a trove if IRS files what most of us already knew. The richest individuals in this country, and the world for that matter, have been avoiding taxes for decades. Read the report for yourself. If it doesn’t make you upset as a taxpayer, then check your pulse.

ProPublica: The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits.

Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The IRS records show that the wealthiest can — perfectly legally — pay income taxes that are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions, if not billions, their fortunes grow each year.

Now, I understand that I’m not rich. Most of us will never know what it’s like to live in the world of a billionaire. Their day-to-day life, as well as their perspective of the world, is just so completely different from most people that it might as well be alien. We can barely grasp the idea of having a million dollars, let alone billions.

However, I can still do basic math.

At the moment, the highest federal income bracket for a single person in the United States is 37 percent. Compared to the rest of the world, that’s pretty reasonable. If you made $10 million in one year, your federal tax liability would be approximately $3.7 million. Add in state and local taxes and it’s about $4.4 million.

Yes, that’s a considerable amount of money.

However, $5.6 million is also a considerable amount of money.

That’s enough money to buy a good sized home or several. That’s enough to buy a fleet of overpriced cars, crash them, and then laugh about it the next morning. If your lifestyle is such that you can’t live comfortably for a year on that, then something’s amiss here.

Again, I understand the world of the super rich is different. They have legitimate concerns that us non-rich people don’t. It’s not unusual for a rich person to spend a considerable amount on home and personal security. Then again, such elaborate security would be less necessary in a functioning civil society with quality public services, solid institutions, and well-funded infrastructure.

That’s not a utopian vision. Other countries are able to achieve this while still maintaining a commitment to free enterprise, individual liberty, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Doing so requires taxes. Moreover, it’s necessary that citizens actually pay those taxes.

This brings me back to the rich people who put so much effort into paying as little as possible every year for taxes. I know they’ll never read this. They’re too busy counting their money and/or deciding what to spend it on next. After reading this piece, I have just one simple request for you on behalf of all Americans, as well as anyone with a shred of decency.

Please pay your goddamn taxes.

It’s good for society.

It’s good for the economy.

It’s good for the public institutions that we all rely on to have a functioning, civil society.

It’s even good business for you, overall.

Just think about it. If rich people paid their taxes, then we could improve infrastructure, pay for quality education for more people, and just put more money in the pockets of people who need it. That is not a radical idea. It’s not socialism, communism, or some other anti-American ideology. In fact, preventing a system that has a class of aristocrats with immense power over the masses is as American as it gets.

On top of that, there’s a good chance that the poor and middle class people who get that money are going to spend it on something. They may even spend it on one of the businesses that rich people own and operate.

In a sense, you’ll get that money back eventually. You’ll just help improve the lives of ordinary people, who also happen to be your customers. It’s win/win at every level. There is literally no downside, other than the fact that obscenely rich people will not be nearly as obscenely rich.

Honestly, though, what’s the difference between having $15 billion and $1 billion? That’s still more money than most people could ever spend in a lifetime. When you die, you can’t take it with you and those who inherit it will not value it as much, since they did not earn it.

In essence, paying your taxes is probably the best thing you could do with that money in the grand scheme of things. Even once you pay your share, you’ll still have plenty for cars, yachts, and gold toilets. I love capitalism too, but greed and hoarding will destroy it in the long run. Taxes are the price we pay to keep that system as fair and honest as possible in an imperfect world.

Do your part.

Pay your taxes.

If we can do it, then obscenely rich people with immense resources have no excuses.

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Why The Pentagon’s Upcoming Report On UFOs Won’t Change Anything (For Now)

US Intel Report on UFOs Can't Confirm or Deny Link to Aliens | Technology  News

There was a time in my life when I was a true believer in UFOs. I bought into nearly every UFO conspiracy you’ve ever heard and probably a few you haven’t. I really believed that UFOs were real, aliens were real, and the governments of the world were covering it up.

Those beliefs quickly fell apart when I learned how fallible and flawed humans can be, especially at the government level. The idea that a government could keep a secret this big for so long isn’t just laughable. It’s contrary to our nature.

Looking back on it, I feel downright foolish. To all the friends and family I annoyed with these beliefs, I sincerely apologize. I was young, gullible, and ignorant. I understand that’s not a good excuse.

Despite my disillusion with UFOs, I’m still very interested in the possibilities surrounding extraterrestrial life. I also still believe that making contact with an alien civilization would be a huge game-changer for humanity, as a species and a civilization. I believe many die-hard believers in UFOs feel the same way.

I imagine those same believers are excited about the recent resurgence in interest surrounding UFOs. It’s not just coming from fringe areas of the internet or your typical conspiracy websites. The topics is being treated with a rare level of seriousness by both government entities and major news organizations.

Recently, the Pentagon announced that they were releasing a major report on UFOs to Congress and its findings would be made available to the public. It’s a rare act of transparency from a government known for keeping nasty secrets. Some hope that this report will blow the door wide open on the phenomenon, inspiring a new generation of UFO enthusiasts.

I would caution those people to temper their interests. Having been in that mindset before, I can attest how tempting it might be to believe that we’ll finally get the full story we’ve been hoping for. It’s far more likely that the truth will be a lot less fanciful than we wish.

That’s not just me being a downer. That’s built within the news surrounding this report. If you need more context, here’s how ABC News reported on it.

ABC News: Upcoming UFO report to Congress creating lots of buzz

Later this month, U.S. intelligence agencies will present to Congress a highly-anticipated unclassified report about what they know about UFOs, or as the Pentagon now calls them, Unexplained Aerial Phenomena (UAPs).

However, the jury is still out on whether the report will contain the answers that UFO enthusiasts are looking for: that recent military encounters with UAPs may be proof of contacts with extraterrestrial life.

The preparation of the report marks a milestone as interest in UFOs has taken off in recent years following the Navy’s release of once-classified videos of encounters that fighter pilots had in 2004 and 2014 with UAPs.

The videos raised interest not only with UFO enthusiasts, but also among members of Congress eager to learn if the UAPs captured in the videos represent advanced technological threats from foreign adversaries.

Please note the bolded parts. That was my doing. That’s a detail that needs to be emphasized. The simple admission by the Pentagon that there are credible witnesses to unidentified arial phenomena is not an admission that these phenomena are alien spacecrafts. It just means they don’t know what they witnessed, hence the word unidentified.

I don’t mean to belabor the semantics, but it’s a huge leap to go from someone admitting that they don’t know what they saw in the sky to believing what they saw was an alien spacecraft. There are a lot of possibilities in between that are probably more likely.

Even if the witnesses are credible, we’re still dealing with fallible people. Since we’re dealing with experienced fighter pilots and military personnel, I’m inclined to believe that these aren’t crackpots who jump at the chance to label anything a UFO. They’re just honest, sincere people who don’t know what they saw.

It’s just unreasonable to make the leap from an unidentified arial phenomenon to an alien spacecraft. There’s a real possibility that the people involved were just mistaken. There’s also a possibility that there are currently aircraft being tested by the military that are so advanced that they seem alien to us. Remember how alien the F-117 stealth fighter once looked.

Even if that’s the case, it’s very unlikely we’ll know the full truth in this report. At most, it’ll just state what we’ve already heard from the witnesses. Credible people saw something in the sky and they don’t know what it is. That’s it. That’s all we can confirm for now.

The key words there are “for now.” There may very well be more to the report, but it’s very unlikely that it’ll confirm or even hint at the existence of aliens. The government may be inept at times, but it isn’t stupid. People can see strange things that aren’t there and make wild assumptions based on a misunderstanding of a situation. That’s just how people work.

If aliens really do exist and they’re aware of our presence on Earth, I think it’s doubtful they would make their presence known through something like UFOs. If you have technology that can traverse the stars, then it makes no sense on any level to just show up in ways that only ever emerge in blurred photos and videos. In an era where everyone has an HD camera in their pocket, the aliens have no excuses and neither do we.

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Jack’s World: Appreciating George Orwell’s 1984 And Its Dire (But Crucial) Message

We all have that one book that has a lasting impact on us. Sometimes, we seek it out. Sometimes, it comes to us unexpectedly. Even if you’re not a voracious reader, it still affects you in a profound way. Whether it’s the story, the characters, or the underlying message, it resonates with you and you still feel it years later.

That’s how I feel about Gorge Orwell’s famous novel, 1984. To date, it’s one of my favorite novels and that’s counting all the comic books I’ve read. It’s considered a modern classic and for good reason. This book, its author, and its message came along at a dangerous time for civilization. While times have changed and 1984 has passed us by on the calendar, the message of this book is still as important as ever.

To celebrate that message, I made a video about it on my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. If you need a book to add to your summer reading list, I hope this video convinces you to put 1984 at the top. It had a profound effect on me. It changed the way I thought about politics, authority, and freedom. I hope it can do the same for others.

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Suicides (Surprisingly) Went Down During 2020: Possible Reasons And Insights

Every now and then, I go out of my way to highlight good or uplifting news. From brave priests who do defy the Vatican to wholesome comic strips involving Mr. Rogers, I try to use these stories to lift everyone’s spirits during difficult times.

Let’s face it. We’ve had a lot of that lately. Last year gave us plenty of difficulties, to say the least. It certainly doesn’t help that good stories rarely make the news, mostly because it doesn’t garner ratings or shock value. I tried to do my part, but I admit it wasn’t easy.

I managed to find some silver linings, by they hardly made up for all the soul-crushing hardship that year wrought. My spirit is still not fully intact after being so broken by last year.

Even so, I still want to make that effort to highlight good news, especially when it’s unexpected or surprising. One such story involves the less-than-uplifting topic of suicide, something that is both emotionally charged and incredibly devastating for a great many people and their families.

If ever there was a year during which people could be forgiven for thinking such morbid thoughts, it’s 2020. If a story came out that indicated suicides went up during 2020 as the pandemic raged, then I doubt anyone would be surprised. It probably wouldn’t even be news.

However, according to a story from CBS, that’s not what happened. In fact, the opposite occurred. Against all dire assumptions and understandable cynicism, the number of suicides in the US declined significantly during 2020. I’ll give everyone a minute to wrap their heads around that.

CBS News: U.S. suicides dropped last year, defying pandemic expectations

The number of U.S. suicides fell nearly 6% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data.

Death certificates are still coming in and the count could rise. But officials expect a substantial decline will endure, despite worries that COVID-19 could lead to more suicides.

It is hard to say exactly why suicide deaths dropped so much, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters, some experts suggested.

“There’s a heroism phase in every disaster period, where we’re banding together and expressing lots of messages of support that we’re in this together,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “You saw that, at least in the early months of the pandemic.”

An increase in the availability of telehealth services and other efforts to turn around the nation’s suicide problem may have also contributed, she said.

I want to make one thing clear again before proceeding. Suicide is a serious issue that affects a lot of people. If at all you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, please consider calling a help line or reaching out to someone. There are people out there who will listen.

Having said that, I also want to note that this news genuinely surprised me. Even as someone who tries to have more faith in humanity than most, this is pretty much the opposite of what I would’ve assumed and in the best possible way.

During a crisis, people tend to panic. We all saw that last year. Anyone who fought someone for access to toilet paper remembers that. When people panic, they get stressed out. When they get stressed, they tend to get depressed. How else are you supposed to feel when you see the death toll climbing every day?

Despite all that, fewer people fell beyond that darkest of dark points. More chose to endure. That bold part is something I highlighted because that is a real effect. Whenever a disaster strikes, people tend to come together. Things like political divisions, racial strife, and what not tend to fall to the wayside when we’re all at the mercy of something we can’t control.

It’s one of humanity’s greatest strengths. Our tribalism may divide us a lot during times of peace, but when the going gets tough, we come together for the sake of survival. That’s powerful sentiment and one that can bring out the best in people. During a global pandemic, we all have to come together to some extent to make it through.

In addition, some cite the rise of telemedicine and the ability to treat people with mental illness remotely as a contributing factor. I certainly think that played a part, but I suspect that the shared struggle and solidarity that often comes during a disaster was a larger factor.

That same shared sense of community and commonality directly counter some of the most powerful risk factors for suicide. Those who make that dire choice often feel alone and isolated. They feel they lack that core sense of community that’s so critical to any social species.

The fact it was strong enough to reduce suicide during a once-in-a-century pandemic is both revealing and encouraging. It shows that this shared sense of community has tangible benefits to large swaths of people. It also hints that the world we had prior to the pandemic wasn’t given enough people this sense of connection.

You can blame that on any number of things, from smartphones to outrage culture to politics. I certainly have my theories, but I’m not smart enough or informed enough to make them credible. I highlight this story because I think it offers and important perspective.

When things get really bad, people will come together. It’s only when they get bad enough that we realize how much more we can do as a community than we can as individuals. We shouldn’t forget that. Even after this pandemic is over and things revert to some semblance of normalcy, we can’t forget that we’re a social species.

We need each other.

We need friends, family, and neighbors. It doesn’t just make us all stronger during a crisis. It’s an integral part of being human.

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Was Socrates Right About Democracy?

Socrates - HISTORY

I am a proud American. I love my country, the ideals it espouses, and the vision it offers for freedom loving people. I consider myself lucky to have been born in the United States. I understand that being an American comes with many benefits that millions of others cannot enjoy. For that, I am eternally grateful.

However, I do not deny that this country I love has flaws. I am a patriot, but I do not overlook or underscore some of the objectively terrible things the United States has done in its brief history. We shouldn’t ignore those flaws. Loving your country doesn’t mean always believing it’s right, good, and just. I know that’s not a popular sentiment among certain Americans, but that’s exactly why I value it.

That same misguided sentiment also has a significant impact on democracy, one of America’s highest ideals. Regardless of your political leanings, that’s the one tradition that America holds more dear. We embrace democracy and empower the people to pick their leaders. Considering how leaders have traditionally come to power throughout history, it’s an admirable institution.

At the same time, it’s not without its flaws. Democracy, in principle, is great. It empowers the people. It allows the people to set the standards by which a ruler is put into power. Given how often power has been abused by rulers, that’s critical for a stable, functional society.

Despite that strength, it’s still worth asking an important question.

What are the greatest flaws of democracy?

I know just asking that will put me at odds with many of my fellow Americans. Thankfully, I’m not the first one to ask that question. In fact, this is a question that has been contemplated since before America was ever a country.

Democracy itself is not an exclusively American invention. Most educated people know that it existed in various forms throughout history, most notably in Ancient Athens. However, even back then, there were some who had major criticisms of democracy, both in principle and in practice. One of the most vocal critics was the Father of Philosophy himself, Socrates.

Now, I’m not a philosophy buff. I couldn’t begin to properly break down all the concepts, principles, and contributions that Socrates made to philosophy and Western Civilization in general. So, I won’t bother trying. Instead, I’ll just focus on what he said about democracy and why he viewed it so unfavorably.

To that end, this video form the YouTube channel, The School of Life, does a nice rundown of Socrates’ biggest criticisms of democracy. Watch it and follow his ideas. You may or may not agree with them, but they’re still worth contemplating.

Again, this is just a brief summary. The nuts and bolts of Socrates’ ideas and principles are far greater in terms of breadth and concept. With respect to democracy, though, his criticisms are fairly concise.

Democracy, namely the kind in which too many uneducated people have a vote, tends to lead towards demagoguery. Instead of diligent, qualified, well-meaning leaders, people will simply elect those who are capable of winning people over with promises and rhetoric. It doesn’t matter if they’re aristocrats or con-men. They just need to sway 51 percent of the population into giving them the power they seek.

I hope I don’t need to cite an example of this happening in the real world. I also hope I don’t need to name names of those who have carried themselves like demagogues in the American political landscape. In fact, there has been a distressing trend of American’s actively seeking to put their favorite demagogues for positions of power.

These are not skilled ship captains or trained doctors, like what Socrates described in his video. These are people who are just capable of persuading a large mass of people that they should wield power. They didn’t train to wield power like a doctor trains to treat illness. They just say they’re capable and it’s up to the people to believe them.

It’s not an unreasonable criticism. Does that mean I agree with it completely? No, I do not.

Does that mean I think there’s real merit to these criticism? Yes, I absolutely do and I think there are ways to address them.

Socrates’ issue wasn’t just with democracy in principle. He was more concerned about uneducated people who don’t appreciate or care for wisdom making critical decisions, such as who should lead a country. Another great philosopher, George Carlin, put it even better.

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

I think this sentiment is more relevant now, especially after last year’s Presidential Election and the horrors of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol. Me and my fellow Americans have never been more divided. As a proud American, this worries me a great deal.

I still love my country. I want it to be better. I want it to live up to its greatest ideals. However, I don’t think it can do so without taking the criticisms of someone like Socrates seriously.

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A Cyber Attack Managed To Shut Down A Major US Pipeline: Why We Should Be (Very) Concerned

In general, fearmongering is not productive. It’s one thing to raise awareness or express concern about an issue. It’s quite another to say that it’ll lead to the end of the world as we know it and everyone should drop what they’re doing immediately to address it.

One is a serious, substantive conversation.

The other is outright panic porn mixed with doom-saying.

This is why certain alarmists are hard to take seriously. I believe that climate change is real. I believe it’s a serious issue. However, I think those who just publicly yell about how awful the situation is and how terrible it’s bound to get aren’t helping. They’re just making it easier for people to write off valid concerns as fearmongering.

I don’t want to fall into that trap whenever I talk about issues I think warrant serious concern. At the very least, I’d like to raise reasonable awareness about an issue that may very well affect large swaths of people, both locally and globally. Even if an issue is urgent, we can’t let fearmongering obscure the issue.

Having said all that, I want to state outright that we should all be very concerned about the recent cyber attack on a major pipeline in the southern United States. You may not have felt its effects yet, but it’s likely you’ll notice the next time you have to gas up your car. To appreciate just how serious this attack was, here’s the story from Reuters.

Reuters: Cyber attack shuts down U.S. fuel pipeline ‘jugular,’ Biden briefed

Top U.S. fuel pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack on Friday that involved ransomware.

The incident is one of the most disruptive digital ransom operations ever reported and has drawn attention to how vulnerable U.S. energy infrastructure is to hackers. A prolonged shutdown of the line would cause prices to spike at gasoline pumps ahead of peak summer driving season, a potential blow to U.S. consumers and the economy.

“This is as close as you can get to the jugular of infrastructure in the United States,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, research professor and managing director of the Climate Policy Lab. “It’s not a major pipeline. It’s the pipeline.”

Now, before you start freaking out about the possibility of terrorists hacking major utilities, it’s worth looking at this attack in context. This was not an attack done in the mold of the movie, “Live Free Or Die Hard.” These criminals were not Hans Gruber or some super-hacker in the mold of “Tron.” This was a ransomware attack.

For those not familiar with cyber crimes, a ransomware attack is when someone gets into a network or a specific computer and installs a piece of software that effectively locks all your drives. The only way to unlock it is to pay the hacker a certain sum of money, often in Bitcoin.

In general, these cyber-criminals are out to cause chaos and destroy entire countries. They’re just looking for some money. I guess in that sense they are like Hans Gruber.

For most people, there are established procedures to protect against ransomware and to weed it out. However, that’s just for personal computers and basic IT infrastructure in an average company. This attack hit a major utility. That fundamentally changes the context of this attack.

Ransoming someone with poor computer skills is one thing. That person will only suffer so much loss and frustration if they cannot save their data. A major utility is very different by orders of magnitude. Utilities like the Colonial Pipeline are critical for the basic functioning of our infrastructure. Shutting them down, even for a brief period, can cause a lot of damage.

On top of that, you’d think that a major utility would have some pretty robust cyber security, but you’d be distressingly wrong. Major government networks are still routinely hacked and hacked successfully. While most of these attacks are after personal data, the idea of a more malicious cyber attack is not an unreasonable concern at this point.

If a simple ransomware attack can disrupt a major pipeline, then what could a more coordinated attack do? It’s a disturbing question with equally disturbing answers. Remember, those who attacked the Colonial Pipeline were just after money. Imagine if they were looking to cause serious damage and loss of life.

This kind of cyber attack is not the stuff of science fiction and sub-par Die Hard movies. It has happened in the real world, the most famous being the Stuxnet attack that crippled Iran’s nuclear weapons program. That was a government-on-government attack that had major geopolitical ramifications.

Also, that’s just an attack we know about. I don’t think it takes an elaborate conspiracy theory to surmise that there have been other attacks like this that have not been made public. Some of those attacks might be many times scarier than either Stuxnet or the Colonial Pipeline.

This is all serious cause for concern. With each passing year, the world is becoming more connected and more tech savvy. An entire generation is coming up in a world where the internet is everywhere, both in industrialized nations and in developing countries. Like every generation before it, there will be conflict. It just won’t be fought in the same ways we’re used to.

If it’s possible to shut down a country’s pipelines, electricity, and communication networks without ever dropping a bomb or deploying a single troop, then we can’t assume it’ll never happen. We also can’t assume that it will, especially if we actively work on addressing the issue.

We managed to do that with nuclear weapons. We should make a similar effort with cyber attacks. We just learned that hackers can disrupt a major utility using a type of attack that is almost a decade old. Let’s not wait for another bolder attack on a larger target.

That still doesn’t mean freaking out and trying to live off the grid. It just means doing the necessary work to improve computer security, both on a personal level, as well as a governmental level. I don’t claim to be an expert in either, but if we can all do our part by just not having such an easily guessable password, we can all make a difference.

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Why Don’t Anti-Abortion Advocates Talk About Vasectomies?

I don’t enjoy talking about hot-button issues like abortion.

I try to avoid talking about politics in general.

I know I’ve touched on controversial issues in the past, including abortion, but I’ve tried to get away from those topics this past year. A lot of that had to do with the 2020 Presidential election, which just brought out the worst in so many people.

Believe me, I had opinions on a number of issues, but I didn’t think sharing them would be very productive. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I think that was the right choice.

Now, the election is over. I know some people still haven’t accepted that, but the votes are in. Like it or not, we’re moving forward and a number of issues are not going away. Some are bound to get worse. One issue, I believe, that is almost certain to get more touchy is abortion.

It is the hottest of hot button issues and a while back, I even speculated that shake-ups on the United States Supreme Court could shift the legal landscape surrounding abortion. I think, given the current makeup of the court, that’s even more likely.

I’d even go so far to say there’s a good chance that Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion in the United States, will get overturned in the next two years. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s much more possible now than it was at this time last year. When that happens, the whole abortion debate will shift significantly.

However, the implications of that act is not what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to highlight one particular aspect of the abortion debate that never seems to get raised. I think there’s a not-so-subtle reason for that, but that’s exactly why I want to highlight it. It comes down to a simple question.

Why don’t anti-abortion advocates talk about vasectomies?

It’s not an irrelevant question. I would even argue it’s a question you can’t avoid if you’re primary goal is to reduce the number of abortions by any means necessary. I understand why making it illegal is the primary goal for the anti-abortion/pro-life crowd, but that cannot be the end of the debate.

Again, we have real-world examples of what happens when abortion is banned. They’re not pretty.

I’m still willing to set that aside for the sake of this question. I’ll even work under the assumption that those who identify as pro-life/anti-abortion are sincere when they say that abortion is the taking of a human life. I have reasons to question that assumption, but I’ll go with it anyways.

If you’re really serious about reducing abortion or just flat out ending it altogether, why not discuss vasectomies? By their nature, they eliminate the need for abortion.

A man with a vasectomy is exceedingly unlikely to impregnate a woman. It doesn’t matter how reckless and irresponsible they are with their sex life. The way vasectomies work ensure no sperm will ever come close to an egg. Even if you believe life begins at conception, this is critical. It means no abortion happens and no life is harmed.

Now, why am I singling out vasectomies instead of tubal ligation, which is the female equivalent? There is a reason for that and I promise it has nothing to do with sexism. It has more to do with logistics.

Simply put, a vasectomy is less costly and less invasive. On average, a vasectomy costs around $1,000 without insurance. By contrast, tubal ligation can cost up to $6,000 without insurance and has a slightly higher failure rate. The recovery period for a vasectomy is also shorter.

It’s simply cheaper and more effective. In addition, there’s also the matter of women being the one who bear the brunt of child-rearing for nine months at a time. Compared to that nine months of rigor, I think it’s also just more fair that men endure a few days of discomfort. That’s just my opinion, though.

Those opinions aside, I bring this back to the question at hand. Why aren’t anti-abortion activists talking about this? If they wanted to reduce abortions, shouldn’t they push for more men to get vasectomies? Should the male anti-abortion activists lead by example and get them as well?

That’s not to say this advocates full-blown sterilization. Both vasectomies and tubal ligation are reversible. Granted, it means undergoing another invasive procedure, but that will essentially guarantee that they’re serious about having children. They want a child and that matters a lot in the abortion debate.

In some cases, a reversal isn’t even necessary. Men can just freeze their sperm and preserve it so that it can later be used with in vitro fertilization. That’s an established procedure. There’s also another emerging procedure for creating sperm cells in a lab.

In the not-too-distant future, men won’t even need to freeze their sperm. They can just provide a cell sample, let a lab make sperm from that, and proceed to utilize standard in vitro to conceive children. Thanks to genetic screening technology like CRISPR, it might even produce healthier children overall.

All this would reduce, if not eliminate, the need for an abortion. This isn’t new technology. Vasectomies have been around a long time and, if anti-abortion activists were to push it, they could also support the development of technology like Vasalgel, which is basically a less invasive method that achieves the same result.

So, with all that being said, why don’t anti-abortion activists ever mention vasectomies? Why do they focus so much on the woman getting the abortion rather than the man who made it necessary?

There are many reasons for that, some more obvious than others. Many are mostly unspoken and indirect. There are those who simply oppose abortion because it removes consequences from promiscuous sex. If abortion had nothing to do with promiscuity, I doubt they would be as vocal.

There are also those who see abortion as a means of hindering the kind of population growth that they prefer. I’ve noted before how certain religious sects indirectly benefit by discouraging abortion. People with large, unplanned families are more likely to be in poverty and people in poverty are more likely to be uneducated. A less educated population tends to benefit certain people and anti-abortion is just an indirect way of pursuing those benefits.

In both cases, the issue isn’t entirely about abortion. It’s about the effects it leads to.

It’s understandable why that component of the anti-abortion stance don’t mention vasectomies. It’s for that reason I feel the question should be asked to those who don’t fall under that domain.

If abortion truly is a matter of life and death, as many anti-abortion activists sincerely believe, then shouldn’t any measure be on the table? A vasectomy, in this context, could both save life and ensure that no life is unnecessarily lost. Why not be more vocal about it?

For men concerned about fathering unwanted children, it wouldn’t be too hard a sell. If anti-abortion organizations even offered to pay for men in poverty to get vasectomies who wanted them, then wouldn’t that reduce abortion?

I don’t ask these questions to be facetious. With the abortion issue sure to face upheavals in the next few years, I think these sorts of questions are worth confronting. The longer the go unaddressed, the worse the abortion debate will get, along with the myriad of effects that surround it.

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Dear America: Let’s NOT Have Another Satanic Panic

I’m a proud American. I love my country and I celebrate its highest ideals. I also believe most Americans are good, decent people who cherish these values as well. I don’t deny its flaws, nor do I deny its mistakes in the past, as well as the present. I genuinely want America to be the best it can be.

That’s why I’d like to make a plea to America and all my fellow Americans at the moment.

Please, for the love of whatever deity you believe it, let’s not have another Satanic Panic.

This isn’t just about politics, although there are some distressing links. This isn’t just about culture, even though the imagery is certainly present. This is me, a proud American, urging his fellow Americans to not give into the temptation to start blaming demons and devils for their problems.

It’s not just absurd and idiotic. We’ve done it before. I’ve written about it. The lives of innocent people were ruined because of it. On top of it all, none of it turned out to be true.

There was no reason for the panic. There were no Satanic cults secretly torturing or abusing children. It was all made up. It was basically Christian Conservative fan fiction that people took too seriously. Much like the character of the devil they fear has no basis in Christian theology. It’s just a boogie man for adults.

None of it amounted to anything other than baseless fear and ruined lives in the 1980s. Now, it seems too many people have forgotten what a huge waste of time that was because concern about Satanic cults abusing children are back and more political than ever.

Much of that is because of a bullshit conspiracy theory that I won’t name or link to. You probably know who I’m referring to. They’re the one that thinks Tom Hanks is part of a Satan worshipping cabal. As it just so happens, this same cabal includes everyone who leans right politically absolutely hates.

If they’re to the right of Ronald Regan, they’re a Satan Worshipper.

If they didn’t vote republican in the last four elections, they’re a Satan Worshipper.

If they support position that doesn’t involve cutting taxes, ignoring racist policies, or overfunding the military, they’re a Satan Worshipper.

I’ve been avoiding this absurd, asinine, infuriating excuse for a conspiracy theory for years. It’s just too stupid to take seriously, let alone discuss in an honest, balanced way. However, thanks to the recent outrage surrounding Lil Nas X and his homoerotic, Satan-centered music video, I worry another panic is brewing.

Much of it is coming from the same part of the political spectrum as it did in the 1980s. This time, however, isn’t just a bunch of Christian conservatives with too much time and money on their hands. People who don’t even identify as religious are buying into this crap.

It’s not just about theology anymore. It all comes back to this age old belief that there’s a group of objectively evil supervillains who are causing all the problems in the world. Satan worshippers who eat children and deal in human trafficking is as evil as you can get. There’s nothing complicated or nuance about it. It’s the ultimate good versus evil match-up.

Except, and I cannot stress this enough, it isn’t real.

That evil conspiracy doesn’t exist. I could cite any amount of evidence, but I know that won’t convince those who ardently cling to it, even after its many predictions end up being wrong. Instead, I’m just going to point out one simple issue.

For any conspiracy of any level to function in any capacity, it requires that those involved are completely obedient, always keep their secrets, and never make mistakes. Since these conspiracies involve people and people, in general, are imperfect beings, they’re not just difficult to maintain. They’re impossible.

Human beings can’t keep secrets.

They can’t avoid simple mistakes.

When it comes to something as evil as Satan worship and child sacrifice, you’re just can’t keep that sort of thing a secret. Also, people that evil generally struggle to organize. It’s why most serial killers act alone. That kind of evil is an aberration. Building a conspiracy around that is like trying to herd a thousand cats all strung out on crack.

I’d sincerely hoped that after the events of the last election, the talk of evil Satan worshippers and conspiracies around them would die down. Sadly, I think Lil Nas X revealed there’s still a contingent of people out there who think the evil Satanic cabal is still out to get them.

That’s why I’m making this plea. My fellow Americans, this is not the way to a better tomorrow. Fighting invisible evil enemies will only ever succeed in making real enemies, both in our minds and among our fellow Americans. No good can ever come from something like that in the long run.

Moreover, believing and obsessing over a conspiracy of Satan worshippers acts as both a distraction and a delusion. Fighting something that isn’t there only keeps you from fighting actual problems involving actual people who are doing real harm, but not in the name of Satan.

It’s easy to think that there’s some centralized force of evil in the world. It makes the cause of all our problems seem tangible. It makes you feel like you’re a soldier on the front line of an epic battle, fighting alongside others who are every bit as committed as you. Unfortunately, this mindset is both dangerous and counterproductive.

There are real problems with America and the world. However, those problems don’t come from Satan, demons, or some secret cabal of lizard people. They come from other people. They come from your fellow humans, as well as your fellow Americans.

It’s complicated and messy. Just winning an epic battle against evil isn’t an option. We have to put in the work. We have to take responsibility. We have to operate in the real world with real people who have real issues. That’s how we do the most good for ourselves and our fellow Americans.

Once again, I urge everyone reading this to learn the lessons of the past and embrace the challenges of the present. Let’s hold off on another panic. Satan isn’t conspiring against us or our country or our fellow citizens. The cabal isn’t real, the conspiracy is fake, and Tom Hanks is a national treasure. If you really want to fight true evil, start by doing good by your fellow citizen.

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Filed under Current Events, human nature, Lucifer, outrage culture, political correctness, politics, psychology, sex in society