Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dear English language--

This is an ultimatum. Fix your shit or we're through.

Either "messenger" needs to lose an "n" or "message" needs to gain one.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Apropos of the Previous Post

"All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses."

-Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, July 23, 2010

Subjectivity and the Unconfirmed World

Let's talk about existence! It can be a boring thing to debate, often left to the dusty old philosophy professors with nothing better to do. It's a futile argument, because nobody can really prove, to the satisfaction of anyone else, the veracity of any one viewpoint. The debate about our existence, the reasons for it, the hows and whatfors of it, will probably go on as long as humanity does. Is there any point to it, though?

I would argue that there is not. Now, this is hardly a unique view, but hear me out. The reason that the debate really doesn't matter is because the debate itself might not actually exist. Same for those dusty philosophy professors, same for you and me. There is no proof that any of it exists. The problem with anything that claims otherwise is that it is all subjective, and therefore subject to the whims, inclinations, and instincts of the person who thinks it. Obviously, for those of you who believe in it, there is science in its many forms, which purports to tell us about the nature of the universe. Unfortunately, that noble discipline which we would all like to believe is objective is, in fact, as subjective as everything else--which is to say, quite so. Sure, you can read the latest scientific journal and read the direct observations made about an experiment, but you're seeing this information through double-lenses of subjectivity. First, there is the scientist, or group of scientists, that performs the experiment. Of course they are trained to give their honest, "objective" view, but in the end the observations they make are just that: observations. Observations made by malleable, subjective human beings, interpreted through the senses of human beings, which almost never overlap nicely with the senses of other human beings. For instance, I am "color-blind", which means that I don't see the same colors others see. Sensory perception is different for each person, which makes any observations made by someone other than you instantly suspect. Then, of course, there is the fact that you, as the person reading the scientific journal, are using your notoriously subjective sensory perception to observe the words on the page. And then you are interpreting them, using your knowledge and world experiences, including your conception of the language you are reading in.

Beyond that, however, there is the further problem of the world you are reading that scientific journal in. See, as I've already discussed, the very senses with which you perceive the world are inherently subjective, and therefore any conclusions you draw from the can only be held as objective truth for you. Think about it this way, if it helps: each person has their own universe, defined by their sensory perception of the world, which is different from everyone else's. Because everyone's worldview is equally subjective, there is no way of knowing who's is right, or indeed if there is a correct way of seeing the world.

"But, Philip!" you might say, were you still following me in this ridiculous enterprise, "This is a ridiculous enterprise! Other people see things the same way as me, or damn near the same way. I've interacted with them!" To which I say "Pshaw!" And also, "No, you haven't." What you've done, you see, is believed that you've interacted with them. You're subjective worldview tells you that you have. For all you know, everyone else is a figment of your imagination. And for all I know, you are a figment of mine.

What's the point of all this? I'm not sure. But here's what I want you to take away: whenever someone tells you something is an absolute truth, run screaming. Because he or she is a crazy person.

((I just said something as an absolute. AAAAAHHH.))

Da Baron

Monday, June 28, 2010

Oh, Canada

The videos I talk about can be found here:

Reports on the conditions in the detention areas:

A report about the assault of an accredited journalist:

A journalist and released detainee talks about police threats of rape:

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

Rabbleca on Twitter:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Terrorist Expatriation Act

Before the 2nd Session of the 111th Congress, Senators Scott Brown and Joe Lieberman presented a proposal to amend the Section 349 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The proposed change would mean that anyone joining or aiding in any way any organization deemed "terrorist" or "hostile" to the U.S. would forfeit his/her U.S. citizenship...and, more importantly, his/her Constitutional rights.

Now, I'm not saying that terrorists, or whomever attempts to harm other people, shouldn't be punished. If I may blatantly quote what I typed the other day:

Accuse them if you like. Jail them. Charge them. Sentence them if they're guilty. But do it WITHIN the law. Within the realm of human decency and fairness. They may have committed horrible crimes and they may not have. Either way, that have basic rights and denying them those rights is hypocritical and dangerous. I'm going to separate this next sentence out so it will stand out.

Once the decision is made to suspend or rescind rights based on ANYTHING, once that precedent is set, it becomes a matter of choice; rights become mutable and it becomes up to whomever is in power to decide where that line is drawn between enemy and friend, between human being with rights and thing without them.

Now Messers Lieberman and Brown aim to make the removal of human rights "within the law". They would like us to believe that they are fighting the good fight for our safety. I call bull. Because they define, within their proposal, those who are liable to lose their basic rights as anyone who:


(I) has engaged in a terrorist activity, or (II) a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity (as defined in clause (iii)), is excludable. An alien who is an officer, official, representative, or spokesman of the Palestine Liberation Organization is considered, for purposes of this chapter, to be engaged in a terrorist activity.
# (ii) ''Terrorist activity'' defined

As used in this chapter, the term ''terrorist activity'' means any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State) and which involves any of the following: (I) The highjacking or sabotage of any conveyance (including an aircraft, vessel, or vehicle). (II) The seizing or detaining, and threatening to kill, injure, or continue to detain, another individual in order to compel a third person (including a governmental organization) to do or abstain from doing any act as an explicit or implicit condition for the release of the individual seized or detained. (III) A violent attack upon an internationally protected person (as defined in section 1116(b)(4) of title 18) or upon the liberty of such a person. (IV) An assassination. (V) The use of any -

o (a) biological agent, chemical agent, or nuclear weapon or device, or
o (b) explosive or firearm (other than for mere personal monetary gain), with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or to cause substantial damage to property. (VI) A threat, attempt, or conspiracy to do any of the foregoing.

# (iii) ''Engage in terrorist activity'' defined

As used in this chapter, the term ''engage in terrorist activity'' means to commit, in an individual capacity or as a member of an organization, an act of terrorist activity or an act which the actor knows, or reasonably should know, affords material support to any individual, organization, or government in conducting a terrorist activity at any time, including any of the following acts: (I) The preparation or planning of a terrorist activity. (II) The gathering of information on potential targets for terrorist activity. (III) The providing of any type of material support, including a safe house, transportation, communications, funds, false identification, weapons, explosives, or training, to any individual the actor knows or has reason to believe has committed or plans to commit a terrorist activity. (IV) The soliciting of funds or other things of value for terrorist activity or for any terrorist organization. (V) The solicitation of any individual for membership in a terrorist organization, terrorist government, or to engage in a terrorist activity.

That was a wall of text, and I apologize. Here's the synthesis: terrorism is a specific crime; committing murder or kidnapping or any of that jazz isn't enough. So all the normal murderers and kidnappers can continue to be charged as U.S. citizens, with fair trial rights and all that. No, because the United States government has decided that they are the best judges of intent, and have defined terrorism not be the crime committed, but by the intent behind it. The wording of these provisions almost guarantees that the choice of who or what organizations is considered "terrorist" will be entirely subjective. Which means that who loses their rights and gets subject to who knows what (though Guantanamo certainly gives an idea of a baseline) is entirely subjective as well...No, wait, it isn't. See, this just occurred to me: play Devil's Advocate to myself, I must admit that my initial reaction was an overreaction. Within the passage quoted, there is logic. Those who commit normal kidnapping are not threatening a government or anything, and I see why they would not be designated "terrorists". So I rescind some of the venom of the rant I just unleashed. It's not entirely subjective, as you can see. There are reasons for the phrasing. To anyone offended, I apologize.

But I lose my temper again when I see, within Lieb 'n' Brown's proposal that anyone involved in any conflict subject to the laws of war would also lose their citizenship and rights. just feels far too much like the "enemy combatants" designation for my comfort.

So to conclude: The proposal put forward by Brown and Lieberman is not evil. It is not as bad as I thought it was upon first reading. I dislike the terminology and the very idea smacks of unneeded legislation (see the Boston Globe editorial in the May 8th paper about the bill; it raises an extremely valid point: This law is not going to deter anyone who is determined to be a terrorist or aid terrorist groups. So what's the point?). Why does this bill exist, though? To allow us more legal leeway to deal with terrorists? That's worrying. We shouldn't be trying to treat the system. This bill won't stop would-be terrorists; it will only allow the U.S. government to cheat it's most important guarantees to deal with them.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Government and Rights; or, where the line is drawn

How do you judge judging? I think it's a question that deserves at least an attempt as answering. How do you know when you are being prejudiced?

To me, it's pretty simple. If you are making a decision, or having a thought about another person or persons, and there is any consideration of race, creed, gender, gender identity, or sexual preference. The problem is, we're a judgmental people by nature. We size people up at first glance and reassess them based on what we learn later. We are completely subjective. I'll get into that more in my next post on subjectivity. So what's to be done?

[digression]In the United States of America, which is where I live and therefore the frame of reference for my comments of political nature, there is a plethora of idealism in the essential documents of our founding and development. There is the ubiquitous flowery phrasing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; the concept that all men (and later women and transgender get the point) are created equal (and the issue of religion, like subjectivity, is for many other posts), and therefore have inalienable rights. Along with the bill of rights, these established documents and their amendments have given us the lovely image of a free nation. In the ideals of America, we have a vision of a world where everybody accepts everybody. Okay, not everyone has that vision...the religious opposition to gay marriage, for example, would disagree with me. Yet another topic I will address later. But in general there is a dream of America as the land of the free and home of the brave. Play ball. [/digression]

How does this relate? Well, humans are subjective; there is nobody without prejudice or opinion on issues, and therefore nobody who is truly objective and fair. I tend to agree with the late great Howard Zinn on the idea that the only way we can even approach truth is to have a marketplace of ideas, where we combine all the subjective viewpoints. Such, in essence, is the concept of democracy. But in the United States, we have a representative democracy, which means that the marketplace of ideas is consolidated into a couple of stalls with similar merchandise that don't really help their customer base like they promised. If I may hop off of the overextended metaphor...

It is the job (not the sole job but the most important one) of the U.S. government, in my opinion, to ensure the fairness that our country espouses; to put our money where our forefathers' forefathers' pens were. To do so, we must create an even playing field. Not to give wealth to all who want it, regardless of effort, but to protect those who need it, to support the needy, and most of all to eliminate prejudice. That is why not only should any laws that restrict freedoms be repealed (I'm looking at you, Arizona!), but laws should be in place with tangible punishments for those who restrict freedoms on any basis. At all.

I've had an argument with a friend of mine, a right-leaning moderate, with an intellect I respect and a good sense of humor. We were discussing the use of "enhanced interrogation" (hurrah for selective vocabulary. Shoutout to my boy Calvin Coolidge and "normalcy") in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base in Cuba. He insisted that the ends justified the means, and, more relevant to this meandering mess of a post, that the terrorists and accused "enemy combatants" had forfeited their human rights by being accused terrorists. This didn't, and doesn't, sit right with me. Accuse them if you like. Jail them. Charge them. Sentence them if they're guilty. But do it WITHIN the law. Within the realm of human decency and fairness. They may have committed horrible crimes and they may not have. Either way, that have basic rights and denying them those rights is hypocritical and dangerous. I'm going to separate this next sentence out so it will stand out.

Once the decision is made to suspend or rescind rights based on ANYTHING, once that precedent is set, it becomes a matter of choice; rights become mutable and it becomes up to whomever is in power to decide where that line is drawn between enemy and friend, between human being with rights and thing without them.

It was unacceptable when Lincoln did it in the Civil War (jailing thousands for sedition and deporting outspoken political foes), and when Roosevelt condoned it in WWII (Japanese internment, one of the largest scars on modern America), and when recent presidents, Bush the most prolific, allowed it to happen at Gitmo.

Rights are not privileges. They are solid, nonrefundable, or they are not really rights at all.


Not going to be long-winded here. This is a blog where I will speak, argue, and occasionally rant about things. These things will include but not be limited to politics, philosophy, society, and the economy.

A note about me: I'm a 16-year-old high school junior. My political ideas are left-leaning, but not entirely leftist. As most people, I'm still finding my political philosophy, so there are issues I will change my mind on. Like one of my heroes, RW Emerson, I reserve that right; the right to change my mind. I love debate. Argue against something I say, and if you do it politely and literately and logically, you will be my new best friend.