“A Sick Joke”

March 26, 2012

From Simon Grey:
Sometimes I wonder if American culture is nothing more than a sick joke.  It seems to me that everything Americans do, especially those in the middle class, is designed to signal status.  That seems to be the case with the modern school system and with homework in particular.  There is little value to assigning homework because it is so easy to cheat at it.  All that happens, as Scott Adams notes, is that everyone simply becomes stressed out over a triviality.
More to the point, the parents act like homework is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER and thus push their kids to complete it, even though everyone knows it’s nonsense.  Yet, in spite of knowing how little and unimportant homework is, parents push their children to do it, often with the encouraging rundown of how terrible life will be if you don’t do your homework.  “If you don’t do your homework, you’ll fail the class;* if you fail the class, you’ll fail school;** if you fail school, you won’t go to college;*** if you don’t go to college, you won’t get a good job;**** etc.”
The results of this constant guilt trip have begun to yield a diseased, rotting fruit.  “Relationship” no longer refers to the emotional connection one has with his fellow human beings.  Instead, it refers to how much wealth/status/income one has relative to one’s fellow human beings.  We are a materialist society, driven by our shiny things and the pursuit thereof.  And so, parents continually pressure their children to accomplish meaningless tasks in the hopes that doing so will eventually ensure their children’s ability to acquire meaningless material goods.
The punchline is that this is called the American dream.
* Translation:  you won’t be properly brainwashed.
** Translation:  you won’t get a piece of paper celebrating you’re pitiful intellectual accomplishments.
*** Translation:  You won’t be able to go to an overpriced indoctrination camp to get a piece of paper that tells prospective employer what a compliant little drone you’ll be.
**** Translation:  You won’t be able to sit in a cubicle all day filing meaningless reports and crunching imaginary numbers in order to earn enough money to satisfy the hedonistic and materialistic desires of the ugly hag you married, in order to support ungrateful brats that you don’t ever get (or, truthfully, want) to see.
No further comment needed.

“Pettiness and Mud”

March 6, 2012

A few insights from Dr. Sowell before he urges politicians to abandon principles:

What could they possibly have been thinking about, in the first place, when they agreed to a format based on short sound bites for dealing with major complex issues, and with media journalists — 90 percent of them Democrats — picking the topics?

The conduct of the candidates made things worse. In a world with a record-breaking national debt and Iran moving toward creating nuclear weapons, they bickered over earmarks and condoms. I am against earmarks, but earmarks don’t rank among the first hundred most serious problems facing this country.

Issues we face today are often not so simple to be explained in 60 seconds, let have the solutions explained so quickly as well.  The world is usually more complex than we want it to be and less complex than “experts” wish it.  While the masses want quick, easy solutions that fit nicely into a soundbyte, which do injustice to the issue, and experts want drawn out responses to every issue presented, which is unsuitable on television these days, the happy medium in between fits nobody’s tastes.

The format of the “debates” staged the scene for veering away from weighty topics in favor of one-liners about less-important issues the country faces.  The fact that this format has occurred frequently throughout this election cycle is an indicator of a few things

Briefly, first, that party leaders are incompetent, indifferent, or cynical.  Second, that democracy cannot work (in its ideal form) in the age of television because petty issues are more entertaining than weighty issues and thus critical matters are ignored.  And third, that political candidates need not show their qualifications for the highest office in the land but rather their wit and rhetorical skills.

Sloppiness Makes a Good Story

February 23, 2012

I am usually suspicious when a journalist writes about statistics and studies conducted by social scientists.  Here’s a good example of why.

The flaws in this study can be quickly pointed out.  First, sleep-deprived is defined as having less sleep than other people.  This is a horrible definition, as some people can naturally function on less sleep than others and may be inclined to choose certain professions.  There are other possible reasons as to why the people in certain professions get less sleep but may be better-rested.

Second, the differences in time sleeping are so slight in percentage terms that claiming there is a significant statistical difference between any of the “top ten sleep-deprived jobs” would require an absurdly large sample size from the population at large.  27,157 people were sampled out of 300,000,000.  This does not strike me as being enough to really allow the standard error to be large enough so that these differences can be attributed to something other than chance.

Third, the jobs with most sleep (“well-rested”) also tend to do the most physical labor, so their bodies would need more sleep to be just as rested as other people.  This means that sleeping 23 minutes more than home health aides may not indicate which is more sleep-deprived.  I know from personal experience that when I am highly active during the day, I need at least seven hours of sleep, as opposed to the days when I do little or no activity and can get by on six hours of sleep and feel just as rested.

But maybe the erroneous conclusions about sleep-deprivation can be chalked up completely to the journalist who hasn’t a clue about how statistics work.  The headline is unwarranted by the data.  The amount of rest people have is not (on the whole) caused by the amount of sleep they get.  Working a more physical job does not mean one gets more rested–maybe it means less rested.

Overall, this bit of journalism is sloppy and a nice story to generate debate in the comments section.  Typical.

“Pop” it is

January 28, 2012

A brief history of “pop”:

The word soda comes from soda-water (sodium bicarbonate with acid to create fizz). Its original meaning was sodium carbonate, Na2CO3, but has evolved into one of the generic terms for a soft drink.

Pop was introduced later in 1812 by Robert Southey,

A new manufactory of a nectar, between soda-water and ginger-beer, and called pop, because ‘pop goes the cork’ when it is drawn.

Trailing soda and pop in popularity is coke, which has influence in the south likely due to the location of the Coca-Cola plant in Georgia. “I’ll have a coke,” “What kind of coke?”, “Root beer please”.

I think “soft drink” is probably the best term for this stuff, at least the most descriptive of the words.  But “pop” is the official slang term because the standard English of the United States is found in the Midwest.  There’s a southern accent, there’s a northeastern accent, there are border accents, there’s even a Chicago accent, but people on national news broadcasts and most people in movies are considered accent-less.  Their pronunciations are no different from the Midwesterner pronunciations.

So we drink pop.

The "real" people of America call it pop

Alpha’s Letter

January 23, 2012

From In Mala Fide, Alpha:

Do you know what the problem with America is?

Our politicians looked at Kim Jong Il while he was alive, and saw that everywhere he went, no matter what, every night of his life he had a lobster flown to him for dinner.

Every night.

He stood on the broken backs of his people, he forced them to smile and made them enjoy giving him their money.

Our politicians watched him live like a god while his people resorted to cannibalism or starved to death in the streets.

Instead of feeling pity for those poor, oppressed, and suffering people, instead of feeling disgust an what an animal Kim Jong Il was, instead of being outraged that human life could be mistreated in such a way, instead of feeling hatred for anyone who could commit such evils, do you know what they felt?

Envy.

They saw a man who lived like a god on Earth, and they WANTED IT. They Coveted his lifestyle. The wealth he lived in, the power he commanded! How great it must be to live like that, to literally be worshipped! How great it will be to stand in the place of the Most High, to take His name as Mine and have that Power! Don’t you see? They will stop at nothing, and they will not rest, until they have that same power.

We are lead by corrupt and evil men, men who want nothing but their own gain. Who want nothing but to see the measure of their own power and wealth increased. We are lead by Satan, and we allow him to direct our paths to lead us unto our destruction, that he may proclaim himself king — though it will be king of the damned.

Sadly, I believe this is a remarkably accurate assessment.  They use their power to legitimize power, to gain power, to continually grasp at power.  Even many of the Tea Partiers in Congress fell in line with Republican demands, suddenly “seeing the light” once power was in their hands.

Power corrupts.

It’s angering to see people continue to vote for leaders who are demonstrably corrupt and power-hungry.  The tried-and-failed solution to this is to elect leaders who have high ideals and good character.  It’s sad to see people vote for those types of leaders only to see them quickly corrupted by the power.  Though strong, they were not strong enough to withstand the demon of power.

A better solution would be to limit the power the leaders can hold.  Don’t give the leaders more power to consolidate.  Take back power.  Don’t rest until the power lies with the people, not the leaders.

Totally Worth It!

January 19, 2012

Hey, here’s an awesome idea: spend $500,000 per day to rescue fishermen from another country because they shouldn’t have to bear the consequences of their choices.

The US Navy announced it led a rescue operation to assist the crew of an Iranian fishing vessel in distress in the Gulf of Oman, the third in 10 days in an area marked by tension between Washington and Tehran.

A Seahawk helicopter from the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey spotted an Iranian fishing boat sinking early Wednesday while two other vessels tried to tow it to safety, according to a Navy press release.

I fail to see why this can be considered good in any sense.

Why are Americans paying half a million dollars per day to maintain a warship in the Strait of Hormuz?  There is no reason for the Pentagon to be ordering anything to be done in a place where Iran specifically warned to NOT go.  Given the tensions rising, there seems no good diplomatic reason to send a large warship anywhere near Iran, unless they plan on escalating to a war.  Maybe Iran doesn’t take to kindly to other nations deliberately trying to sabotage its economy.

And why is it considered a good thing that Americans are saving the lives of these fishermen?  I’m guessing that the Americans had to save their lives because Iranian ships don’t plan on getting too close to the American warships.  In other words, it would be possible for other people from other nations to save the fishermen if the Americans weren’t around.  Thus what is a “news story” would be a non-story if the U.S. navy happened to be farther away (maybe porting in San Diego?).  Crafting a story where the U.S. military is portrayed as the “good guys” isn’t gonna fly with people who think about the situation.

People are responsible for their own actions and the risks they decide to take.  Sailors can die at sea in storms; that’s a risk sailors take.  Sometimes, through negligence or whatever, sailors have boats that screw up; that’s all part of the risks that sailors understand going into it.  Maybe they thought, or were even promised, to receive help from the Iranian coast guard if they ever were in distress.  But they still need to calculate the risk when the chances of receiving help are diminished because of actions taken by the U.S. navy which are perceived as hostile by the Iranian government.  The Iranian coast guard is significantly less likely to make a trip close to American warships because fishermen are experiencing issues.  That’s something to think about before going on a boat trip.

It is not the job of the U.S. government to white knight across the world.  You may find, too, that the good done is far surpassed by the bad.  But as long as nobody thinks about the bad, stories like this skew our understanding of the world.