Transconfusion – “Identity“ Detached from Reality

I wonder if anyone is clear about what these various “my body is this form, but I feel like another form” discussions yield?  In our society, a body with a penis is male, and a body with a vagina is female.  That is a physical, sexual distinction.  This distinction is important to procreation, on a purely biological basis.  Females have the capacity to bring a fertilized egg, to embryo, through gestation, to live birth of a new person.  Males do not.  This is bisexual reproduction, without dispute.  Early humans could not alter this law of nature.  The fact that our world now has 7 billion people, is testament to  this:  vive la différence(I know that physiology can be unclear in a few, rare cases, but let’s let the outliers lie out there.)

Then we have society.  Sex is physical, gender is cultural, based on the expected roles and behaviors of men and women.  Most of these expectations have evolved from physical traits and expanded family traditions.  To act like a man was to think, speak, and act in ways that the alpha male did. Little boys worked at being like their father or big brother.   Likewise, to act like a woman was to conform to the ways of other women, take cues from their mother and other female models.

Yet, humans have gone through amazing, changing models for men and women.  Three centuries ago men wore fancy silk and satin clothes, high heels, wigs, and makeup.  They moved and spoke in ways modern Americans would associate with women.  We have also seen the division of labor of the past shift mightily.  The roles and responsibilities of men and women are more alike than ever.

We inherited our intricate social structure and laws from humans who managed to survive and procreate.  In any culture, to deviate from those complex behaviors was to jar the stability of, and threaten the survival of a family/community.  Failure to conform to the spoken and unspoken rules of society was an invitation to punishment.

Homosexuality did not bear the fruit of children, which was a threat to the future of the community.  Religions proclaim that it is a duty to God for people be fruitful, and forbid non-fruitful behaviors.  Some religions even promoted polygamy to increase the number of children added to their flock.  Being “non-fruitful” by having sex without the possibility of children was a sin.  Such sins were often punishable by shaming, shunning, physical punishment, death, or exile.  No one questioned the wisdom of the “scriptures.”

When societies expanded and advanced to the point that extinction was not as great a fear, people felt safer to allow themselves to be “non-fruitful.”  Homosexuality was tolerated along with other “sins,” and “debauchery.”

Only recently, has America made homosexuality legal and sanctioned homosexual marriages.

But here is where I get confused:  what exactly is “transgender?”  At first, I thought it meant a homosexual who took action to physically gain the attributes of the opposite sex.  Sounds painful and expensive to me; and not all men make pretty women.

But now I hear that transgender can mean that a person “identifies” as another sex without the physical transformation.  I was surprised that Bruce/Kaitlin Jenner “identifies” as a woman, has gained breasts, grown long hair, bought a wardrobe of women’s clothing, but retains male genitalia. You think, maybe, he “identifies” as both male and female?

I am also hearing about people who call themselves transgender who do nothing physical, just “identify.”  Boys who “identify” as girls, but are still physically boys, want to go to the girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms.  Homosexuals have always used the bathrooms of their physical sex.  What is different with transgenders who are physically boys or girls?  For me, as long as the difference in preference or identity is not represented by your body, I say, your body determines which school or public facilities to use.

 

 

 

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

The Fight for Eyes

Political parties beware: the 2016 presidential election could stimulate American fact-checking and critical thinking – or not.  Why?  Could It be, we are awake and paying attention?  Could it be, we just want to be “right?”  Could it be, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”?

In 2016, American information media reflect our mindsets.

  • We have boundless channels of 24/7 content battling for “eyes,” and “market share.”
  • We are so numb, it takes lurid, “mind bites” of “shocking facts” to get our attention.
  • Our jaded, fickle brains are addicted to “breaking news and “editorial reporting.”

Then comes the election.  How do we decide?  The battle lines are drawn.  The news media have abandoned objective balance in the fray.

It is natural for people with strong political bias to seek news sources that support their current views, and to ignore, avoid, or distain sources that reflect contrary, or impartial thinking.

Lord knows, we have enough choices (e.g. newspapers, magazines, radio, television, internet, social media).  Which do we choose: “bread and circuses,” or brains?  Do we swallow our favorite- flavored propaganda, or chew on the tough, tasteless truth?

Seven questions we can ask about what we call “news:”

  • Which sources provide complete, unbiased information and analysis?
  • Which sources provide incomplete, biased information and editorials?
  • Can we discern where information stops and persuasion starts?
  • Did we get all the information we need to understand?
  • Do we know enough to understand the context and importance of the information?
  • Do we have enough sources to verify or complete the information?
  • Do we care?

Few of the major news organizations remain credibly neutral or balanced.  Here are 10 news sources accepted as trustworthy by people across the political spectrum.

  1. The Wall Street Journal
  2. The Economist
  3. BBC
  4. Google News
  5. The Guardian
  6. Associated Press
  7. Reuters
  8. C-SPAN
  9. ABC
  10. USA Today

Here is an informative graphic from    showing the political positions of the various major news outlets.

news politics

Good thinking everyone.

Trump Could Win the “Immigration” Wars – Banish” Newspeak”

Donald Trump speaks the language of the people, as he knows it.  When he talks about immigration policy, he has fallen into the “Newspeak” trap set by the media.  He could escape this trap and turn it on his enemies.

By now, no one doubts that both Trump and Clinton have real, and growingly serious “enemies.”  Some have even asked, “What happens if a party’s candidate dies before the election?”

One set of people upset with Trump are immigrants.  The problem with the word “immigrant” is, we need to use more precise language.  We need to say whether we mean “citizens with strong identification with immigrant forebears and culture,” or”non-citizens?”

See how easy could that be?

Americans are almost all descendants of immigrants, even though we are not immigrants ourselves.  A person who has become a naturalized citizen may describe themselves as an “immigrant” to refer to their country of origin, but they are citizens.

Even though they live here, foreign nationals (legal language: “aliens”) who have not gone through the naturalization process are not citizens.  They may still stay here as permanent residents once they apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and are approved. *

Political correctness has eroded the use of the word used by most governments around the world: alien.  “Some people” objected to the proper word “alien” and began to use euphemisms to disguise the true status of non-citizens, and aggravate citizens who immigrated legally, or who have a strong immigrant identification, such as “Latino, Latina.”   http://www.illegalaliens.us/euphemisms.htm)

If Trump wants to shock the sensibilities of the PC crowd, why not use the right words:

Illegal Alien
Also known as an “Undocumented Alien,” is an alien who has entered the United States illegally and is deportable if apprehended, or an alien who entered the United States legally but who has fallen “out of status” and is deportable.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/immigration-terms-and-definitions-involving-aliens

He can make himself clear and unassailable by using the proper language when discussing immigration policy.

Oh, by the way, why not publish our current immigration policy so we can ask, “what part of the law don’t you understand?  What parts of the law do you intend to change?”

http://www.immigralaw.com/english/immigrationquotas.html

 

Cutthroat Anti-Christians

Fear and distrust of “Muslims” feeds on horrific events like a cutthroat murder of a poor 85-year-old priest giving mass today in Saint-Etienne-Du-Rouvray, France.  What can Muslims do about ISIS besides decry, denounce, and deny involvement?  I do not have the answers either.

To complicate matters, Islamic sects attack other Muslims they believe are not “true believers.”  In addition, turmoil, fragmentation, propaganda, and disenchantment, can divert young minds from seeing other people as human beings if they represent “The Enemy,” “The Satan,” or any name they regard as worthy of killing.

Some of the greatest scientific, mathematical, and poetic minds in the history of humanity came from the Middle East.  I do not believe that the Muslim community lacks the abilities or resources to thwart such despicable members of their faith.  I believe that we lack trust and cooperation with each other.

Would it be “profiling” for predominately Muslim communities to join together and purposely organize to identify these murderers in their midst?  No one knows the signs and subtle indicators of violence on any streets better than the people who live there.

We already have analogous problems in predominately black neighborhoods – no one talks because they are afraid of reprisals.  I am not sure that is the problem in the Muslim community, but something is in the way of finding and stopping these monsters.

Please, do not leave this problem on the doorsteps of condolences and denial; it does not matter what you believe, or how you practice your beliefs, join us to stop this madness.

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

Tricked Again & Again

Every time we think we have learned all the tricks politicians can use to magically “fix” problems with more government, we fall for another trick, or the same trick wearing a disguise.

If you pay good money to gain admission to a magic show, you purposely pay for illusions; you insist on being amazed by apparent suspension of the laws of nature; you yearn for certain universal truths to be suspended.  But then, you leave the tent, make your way home, and find that physics and gravity persist.  Listen to the pitch:

“Well step right up folks, a little closer there, sir, make room for the lovely lady behind you.  The show is about to begin.  You will be amazed at the wonders you will witness just inside this door.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, inside this tent, and this tent only, can you see the future manifest right before your eyes.”

 “Are you mad about your lower-paying jobs, over-the-top costs of education, or the hard-to-notice economic recovery?  Are increasingly unaffordable health insurance premiums getting you down, while your out-of-pocket medical costs are skyrocketing?  Then this is the show for you.  Relax, come on in; see and enjoy the amazing magical solutions to these and many other problems; witness and wonder at the incredible, the one, the only Mystical Mogov Mandate.”

 “And how much will it cost to witness these miracles? A hundred dollars?  A thousand dollars?  No, tonight, because you have taken your valuable time to be here, this event is 100% free.  That’s right, not even one penny will leave your pocket.  In fact, many of our patrons report that they actually leave our tent and are shocked to find more money in their pockets, just for accepting our ticket.”

“This year we have completely revamped every amazing feat of magic.  You will be astounded at how different the same act can look if you just believe it will work this time.”

“I know some of you may have attended our shows in years past.  But that was so long ago, it does not matter.  After all, we need to live in the here and now, and not dwell on ancient memories.”

 “Oh, and to ensure your safety, we do ask you to please leave your guns at the door.  After the show, it will be clear that you don’t need them anyway.” 

 I get uncomfortable when politicians insist we need to “hold the course” that has not worked, while they fix the problems caused by the “course” we held.

It is clearer and clearer to me why Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have risen to smite the “Pharisees” of both political sects:  Americans are exhausted by a river of blatant lies.

We are fed up with smiles that promise relief, but portend more pain.  We cheered and voted for “you can keep your doctor” now we are sobbing at no choice of doctors, higher premium and out of pocket costs, and insurance companies denying treatment for much needed treatments.

We are livid at fairy tales that we can borrow a king’s ransom to redeem our children from poverty through college; then we find them still living in our basement, working part-time, no future jobs.  We are incensed at proclamations of higher employment when our diets grow meager, and our prospects grow dimmer.

The old guard’s patrician grasp for power may well be their undoing.  Their elite pretense of empathy may lead the plebeians to throw off the chains of their indentures.  The power mongers’ smugness, avarice, and sense of entitlement can breach the comity of our unique American social contract.  America’s promises to promote equity of opportunity, and its commitment to liberty have been a bold experiment.  Our failure to honor these promises could show the rest of the world that there is no foundation of truth beneath our declaration of “unalienable rights” and “pursuit of happiness.”