Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Voice of Reformers







So I was listening to my Sam Harris podcast

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/the-politics-of-emergency

 It was a pretty good conversation with Sam Harris and Fareed Zakaria (CNN). I enjoyed most of it, but then they got stuck on a point of how to reform Islam. In essence, it boils own to the following:

  1. Sam Harris wants to talk honestly about the Koran from a religious and textual point of view
  2. Fareed Zakaria (also non religious) wants to emphasize that less and focus on politcal and social reform and let the religion play catch up. He believes talking about the 'truth' of the religion just causes people to resist and is not productive.

I've had this conversation numerous times, and the one thing that always puzzles me is why there has to be a single way of reform. Just as there are lots of path into religion. There are many paths to reform it. There are many paths out of it.

There is a role for the one who exposes the religion/texts/core beliefs for its flaws and falsehood.
There is a role for the one who want to change things from the inside.
There is a role for the one who wants to impose political change.
There is a role for the one who wants to get social change.

I know myself, as someone who has left the religion, my role is not to play games of interpretation. Yet, just because I don't do it, doesn't mean it is not done. Liberal imams, regular Muslims... will do the reform themselves. It's a role that they must play for their own faith and community. It is simply not my role.

The other thing to consider is that different people respond to things differently.
When I was a believer, the kind of 'liberal games of interpretation' sounded pretty false to me. I didn't respond well to it. A voice like Sam Harris entering my world view would have been great. Oh... how I wish I had podcasts back then :P There are many people like me as well.

On the other hand, I know a lot of people who like the way of interpretation. They like the change to come from Imams and community. To them, the reformists work well.

This is perfectly good. I know I lose a lot of influence the moment I say I have left the faith with some people. With others, I gain for my honesty. The same goes for interpreters and politicans. They lost the trust of people like me, but gain the faith of those who value the communal change.


It is this that I wish was at least given a line on the podcast. That both positions might actually be needed. Different people take different paths and different people respond to the different paths.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Expansive Values



This is a bit of a complex topic, so I think the best way to talk about it is through an example.

Riba and Monetary System


Growing up Muslim, I was always fairly interested in how the system worked. So for example, while most Muslim took the idea of Riba (Banning Interest) to generally mean they abstain from mortgages or credit cards, I tended to think of it as part of the system.

http://yaminb.blogspot.ca/2012/10/morality-and-sources-of-income.html

For example, at one point the idea of a fiat monetary system appeared blatantly UnIslamic to me as the entire economic system is based on Riba. Creating money out of nothing. I won't get into it much here, but there was a time I thought remaking the fiat economic system was the reason there was so much poverty and that the solution was to move towards an Islamic gold standard. I spent an inordinate amount of time learning and figuring all this out. You can just google 'Fiat money Islam' and you'll probably get a bunch of hits. Here's just one example.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/islamist-hardliners-want-a-return-to-gold-standard-as-ringgit-slumps
http://www.ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?42454-Prohibition-of-Using-Paper-Money

It was pretty humorous as that let me down a semi-libertarian path in Canada as those were pretty much the only folks talking about a Gold Standard.

Yet, it became much more than that. The more I read about Riba the more I understood it to mean almost any kind of unearned money. This led me down the path of Islamic Economics, which is basically a free market with regulations for monopoly, price fixing...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_economics#Markets

At that point, I became a fairly Libertarian-Freemarket  person and stood firmly against socialism, fiat money.... as a matter of religious principle. I was aware of the irony that in North America, such views are mainly held by Right-Wing Christians. I considered much of the welfare state, much of the taxation, much of the monetary system,  and Canadian government programs UnIslamic.

I put this against as my experience, as while most Muslims were content to leave Riba to just mean don't pay interest a loan, it let me down a vastly different path to look at a much bigger picture that has very deep Islamic roots.


Charity

I took a similar approach to charity. While for most people, charity is simply giving out money, the more I read, the more I saw the depth.
  • Smiling is charity. 
  • Guiding someone is charity
  • Making someone's life easier is charity
  • Holding your tongue is charity
  • Teaching is charity
  • ...
So I used to really wonder people who put so much effort into monetary charity, but couldn't be bothered with any of the rest. It seemed a little out of balance. I wondered about those who talked of charity, but couldn't hold their tongue or who held hatred for the rich.


Beyond Islam

Naturally, this was more my mindstate and the expansive nature of values became something I continued. Things like social justice became about paying people a fair wage and not just trying to get the best price. I often wondered how people could talk highly of charity and give free money, while at the same time not paying the working person a good wage. If there's anything to encourage, it would be to reward good work.

While I'm pretty much aganostic with respect to the economic system these days, my mind continues to wonder about various things in Canada.

We talk of the welfare-state, but it really seems limited to healthcare and education in Canada. Often these take up 50% of the budget. People cringe at even the thought of paying a small amount out of pocket towards healthcare of education. Yet, from a social welfare perspective, aren't thing like transit, jobs, housing, food... just as important if not more important than healthcare and education?

It's all just very fascinating to me.






Friday, March 24, 2017

The Alt-Right



I guess it is time to put pen to paper to talk about the Alt-Right. I really do find some joy when a new term gets coined. It gives us all something to talk about.

As with any term, we must first define it and as with many political terms, it is fraught with complexity, but we must attempt it to provide context. Like all political terms, they capture a movement with people finding themselves across the axis of definitions.

What is the Alt-Right


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alt-right
The Associated Press stated that the
'alt-right' or 'alternative right' is a name currently embraced by some white supremacists and white nationalists to refer to themselves and their ideology, which emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States in addition to, or over, other traditional conservative positions such as limited government, low taxes and strict law-and-order. The movement has been described as a mix of racism, white nationalism and populism, ... criticizes "multiculturalism" and more rights for non-whites, women, Jews, Muslims, gays, immigrants and other minorities. Its members reject the American democratic ideal that all should have equality under the law regardless of creed, gender, ethnic origin or race. 
In National Review in April 2016, Ian Tuttle wrote,
The Alt-Right has evangelized over the last several months primarily via a racist and antisemitic online presence. But for Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, the alt-right consists of fun-loving provocateurs, valiant defenders of Western civilization, daring intellectuals—and a handful of neo-Nazis keen on a Final Solution 2.0, but there are only a few of them, and nobody likes them anyways.
I think those definitions hold up fairly well in broad terms.

Identity, Nationalism, and Western Civilization

 I want to really focus on the idea of identity and nationalism. This has been written about before.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/world/europe/how-a-sleepy-german-suburb-explains-europes-rising-far-right-movements.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
After World War II, celebrating or even defining German identity became taboo, often seen as a step toward the nationalism that allowed the rise of the Nazis. The attitude shifted somewhat with the 2006 World Cup, where the German hosts unabashedly flew their flag and celebrated national pride.
But there is still enough of a void that leaves people with an “inner emptiness,” Ms. Reuter said. This gap in self-definition has left them no way to express their identity except by what they are not — what is sometimes termed a “negative identity.”
“You can say ‘I’m not a Muslim,’ but most people can’t say ‘I am a Christian,’” or otherwise articulate a positive identity, she explained. “There is an emptiness. And I think that’s a societywide thing. It’s not just one group. It’s a very wide problem.”

That is something very interesting. 'White' people are denied an identity; or they are made to feel as if pride in their identity is a bad thing. Celebrating 'white pride' or 'christian pride' would be seen as being part of the alt-right.

I imagine some would say the whole society is 'white' so there is no need to assert such an identity. I think this is a bit of a false mindset. Not being able to assert an identity is like not even being in the 'game'. Even if you have the numbers, if you're not even in the game, you will get beat.

Every Identity Has an 'Alt-Right'

Here's the dirty little secret of life that multiculturism refuses to acknowledge. Every group has an Alt-Right. They're all dangerous. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. So I'm no stranger to the White Alt-Right. I'm also no stranger to black nationalism. It was actually the black 'Alt-Right' which burned down my home. I'm also no strange to the Muslim Alt-Right. Family in the UK prides itself of ridding the neighborhood of blacks or having Islam take over.

How powerful the alt-right of each group is important only at the political level. As the community and personal level, it does not matter.

If the alt-right of a small minority oppresses someone, to that individual, they are still oppressed.


Disarming mainly the 'White Alt-Right'

Part of the issue is that the Western world is seen to mainly take issue with the 'White Alt-Right'.
Imagine being in Germany and welcome Arabs and Muslims en mass who proudly wear their identity. Their provocateurs  and Muslim Alt-Right proudly speak of Islamisizing Europe. In the US, Mexican's proudly fly the Mexican flag.

Now imagine being a 'white' person in a simply neighborhood. You're called a racist if you boast about your white culture. Then in comes the ethnic group of say Muslims. They proudly boast their culture. They start talking about Muslim neighborhood.
https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2016/11/15/plan-to-develop-100-home-muslim-community-near-montreal-gets-rough-reception.html

Imagine a white person planning to developer a community just for 'White People.'

Or consider schooling. I went to a predominantly 'Indian' high school. To say little of high school politics, the 'Indian' cliques ran the high school and they were allowed to show it. If the 'White' kids formed cliques like that and dominated, there would be hell to pay.

The tactics and desires of a lot of groups are really no different than the 'undesirable' behavior of 'white people' of yesteryear.

Progressifying Immigrant Groups

 I definitely think the white Alt-Right gets the attacked more and even mild 'white' pride often gets hit with charges of racism and bigotry. However, I don't think progressives are just letting immigrant groups do whatever they want. At least in Canada, there have been several incidents where we can see the immigrant Alt-Right issues rising to the surface and suffering condemnation.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/imam-sermon-montreal-mosque-1.4037397
http://www.citynews.ca/2016/08/22/black-guys-pls-no-call-mississauga-rental-ad-states/
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/controversial-imam-bilal-philips-says-banning-him-wont-stop-his-message/article20611079/
https://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2013/09/20/forced_marriages_a_hidden_problem_in_canada.html

How will this play out? That is an interesting question.
I think the white Alt-Right think Western Progressives are being naive and the various immigrant Alt-Right groups will overcome the Western State.
Perhaps they simply overreact and Western Progressive governments are strong enough and they simply absorb the vast numbers of immigrants with strong social programs and a strong education system.

I can't predict the future, but that's how I see it shaping up.

Cucks and Tribalism

 There is a fair bit of tribalism and patriarchy in all the Alt-Rights as well. The popular term cuck is defined as follows
http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/cuck
Cuck, short for “cuckold,” is a term referring to a man with a female significant other who engages in sexual activities with other men.

It takes a somewhat tribal tone as well. For example white men will call another one man a cuck if he lets his women screw black men. But this is not anything unique to 'white men'. Indian men speak the same way. It is *always* okay in the Alt-Right world to screw the women of the other tribes, but not let them screw your girls. That is the tribal game to be played.

Again, ponder this from a western perspective. Immigrant groups are generally allowed to guard their women; as best they can. A white father prohibiting his daughter from marrying a black male would be called all kinds of names; most especially racist and bigot. Yet, an Indian father wanting to keep his daughter married into the culture/religion is just considered part of the culture.

There's an interesting video that I like. It really depicts the old original of male/female tribal dynamics.
https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/video/the-land-of-no-men-inside-kenyas-women-only-village
Around 17:11
With money, the women have been given the chance. But the women in Umoja are vulnerable because they can be raided by other men. Only a man can provide them with protection.

In a sense, 'patriarchal' are needed because  the tribe is needed to protect women from 'invaders'.

Now translate that into the modern day.
If Liberal progressive Europe were just on its own. The need for this tribal protection is lessened as society is fairly secular. Now imagine the more patriarchal immigrant groups coming in; suddenly who is 'protecting' the tribes women?

Maybe it just comes as an obvious observation to me being part of an Asian culture.
The goal is to:
  • protect 'your' girls from outside groups 
  • invade/have sex with girls from other groups
I was semi-puzzled by this mindset. I understood it, but I never really cared. I would care if someone with that mindset was trying to get with my imaginary sister, but beyond that... why would I care.

It's an interesting mindset to ponder in this day and age.

I think this is why a lot of the white Alt-Right focus on immigrant rapes as a threat to Western women.
http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/10/06/europes-rape-epidemic-western-women-will-be-sacrificed-at-the-alter-of-mass-migration/

Western Civilization 

You also have talks of saving 'Western Civilization'. Sure, things like the enlightenment, free speech, orderly market, legal system, law and order... are amazing achievement of Western Civilization.

Do we put this all at risk due to increasing number of people who do not share that basis.

I definitely think there is a numbers argument to be made.
Canada has a population of about 30 Million people.
If Canada was to let in 1 Billion people from more traditional and non-Western background, I doubt you'd find anyone who wouldn't think there would be a problem. You simply wouldn't be able to integrate 1 Billion people quick enough.

What is an acceptable number? I have no idea. It also depends on the amount of resources available for immigrant support and social services.

However, I think calls here are more of a reaction. It's not even about the immigrants.
The political battle between progressives and those of classical liberalism has been going on for a long time.
Attacks against free speech, law and order, the family, the market... have been going on for a long time.
Now the progressives might have allied themselves with certain immigrant groups, but those classical liberal western values aren't under attack mainly by immigrants. It is largely driven by people in Western countries who have adopted other values.

Just think about it. Before all this talk of Islam threatening Free Speech. What would you say was the greatest threat to Free Speech? It would have been feminism or socialism. That's not something brought here by immigrants. That's Western people choosing to abandon classical Liberalism.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Republicans and 'family values'




Equal Pay and the family

This article made the news recently.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/02/19/utah-republican-argues-against-equal-pay-for-women-its-bad-for-families-and-society/?utm_term=.e9e04112123c
Green said in his letter, published Wednesday by the Park Record and the Wasatch Wave, that men make more than women because they’re “the primary breadwinners” of their families, and paying women equally would somehow ruin the makeup of a traditional family where “the Mother” remains at home raising children.

That is basically his argument. The consequence of the statement is that other Republicans distanced themselves and Green resigned.

I want to explore this as it comes up a lot with Republican issues. What I find problematic in the modern day is that it is become difficult for people to have an honest discussion.

Women's Rights Do Ruin the Family

The reality is that women's rights do ruin the traditional family. Look around the world and you will find statistic after statistic that where women's rights go, the family degrades.  This doesn't mean all families disappear. It simply means that the traditional family model is not the dominant basic unit of society. Single people, single parents, communal relationships... all take a greater emphasis. I want to emphasize here, that I personally don't think this is a bad thing. In my view, it is possible the family unit is and outdated model.

Early Feminists Campaigned against the Family


Heck for many early feminists who were honest, they actively campaigned on the destruction of the nuclear family.
Functions of the Family, Linda Gordon, WOMEN: A Journal of Liberation, Fall, 1969. 
"We can't destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage. " -- [Robin Morgan, "Sisterhood Is Powerful," (ed), 1970, p. 537]

The Results are Clear


Europe is the prime example.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/20/AR2006112001272.html
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2004-12-15-marriage_x.htm

As far as political realities go, the trend is pretty clear. Yet, look at the quote from the main article where the writer mocks the idea. It is thought of as 'absurd' that equal pay or what not would ruin the family.

You don't need a Phd to understand that a lot of women's rights issue, be they equal pay, abortion, the pill... all have a negative impact on the traditional family. You can get that as a thought experiment as many did when women's rights first came about or  now that time has passed, we can see the actual results. By thought experiment, I mean going throw the motivations and potential actions of people. For example, before birth control, getting pregnant was a real issue for a woman have sex. It would be a tell tale sign that you were sexually active, and having a child without being married would be a burden to many. A young woman would be wiser to wait for marriage. Introduce birth control and you remove a barrier for a young woman to have sex. She could sexually satisfied without being married. The same goes for anything that empowers a woman to work. If she works, she is not dependent on a man and does not need to get married.

What is Wrong With The Claim


So the question I have is simple. Why can't US politicians make this claim? If you value the family, you want it to remain the core functioning unit of society, it is a pretty straight forward and reasonably accurate statement.

Republicans look silly when they talk about the Family, but then can't actually defend it publicly.

If we as a society no longer value the nuclear family as the prime structure, can't we just have that debate out in the open, like the early feminists did? I want to emphasize again, that this about the main functioning unit of society. We still value the traditional family, but we don't view it as core. Single people, single parents and other forms of being are given more weight. 

Just recently, President Trump made another claim that said women who have abortions when it is illegal should be punished.  He went back on that statement.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/30/donald-trump-women-abortions-punishment

But of course, doesn't that seem silly. If we are to believe 'pro-life' people that abortion is murder. If you really believe that... wouldn't it make sense to actually... punish the mother who is choosing to kill the baby? Not to mention that mere fact that if something is illegal... doesn't that normally come with a punishment?

These Republican positions are just coming off as silly. They want to stand for the family and want to stand for the unborn child... but when faced with the consequences of actually talking about those policies...they back down... look silly... and their opponents have basically won.

Let's Have That Debate

I say we have that debate. What kind of society do we want? If we want the family as the core functional unit of society. If we want women to stay at home to raise children to be the norm. If we want that... then we have to have policies to make that the norm.

If we don't mind losing the family as the core functional unit of society. If we want women in the workplace to be the equal of a man. If we want children to be supported by the state. If want sexual liberation... then we have to have policies that make that the norm.

Sadly, I don't think we're having this debate. Progressives pursue policies that gut the idea of the family norm, while everyone talking of it being 'good' for families. Republicans talk about 'the family' yet back down on any policy that would actually have any cost.

For me, although I'm married, I'll lean more to the side of freedom of women to choose. I don't see maintaining the family structure as the norm as being worth the cost of freedom.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting Rid of Plastic





I've always been a little bit of an environmentalist, but I don't think I've done as much as I have now that I own my own home. The sheer amount of plastic we put out in the recycling and garbage is staggering. Now I'm not on a campaign to get rid of all plastic. But my focus is really on areas where I really question what benefit we get out of it.

It's actually expanded my effort not just in terms of plastic, but in a real look at the benefits of the products I use.

Soap/Shampoo

My first effort went into soap and shampoo. I had gotten used to the bottles of body washes. I asked myself what benefit I was getting out of these? I had used bar soap as a kid. I couldn't think of any. So I tried going back to bar soap. It's even become a bit of a hobby for me trying out different kinds of bar soap with all natural ingredients.

This is my current system
  • Simple Tupperware container to hold the soap
  • Grilled soap holder. I buy mine at No Frills which is a white mesh. But this looks it serves a similar purpose https://www.amazon.ca/InterDesign-Plastic-Holder-Bathroom-Shower/dp/B00KNWY3Z8 
  • Natural bar soap. My favorite company right now is http://puresoapworks.com/. I find these a few places with a bar going for about a dollar or two. Best of all they don't come in any packaging.
  • For shampoo, I use a shampoo bar. https://jrliggett.com/ It is a bit more pricey, and I'm still shopping around for the best ones. I just haven't run out of the original ones I purchased. 

Shaving

 This one involves going back to the traditional shaving system with a hair brush and a shaving bar. Again, it works just as well, so why waste it on bottles of shaving gel or foam?

I bought a set http://www.wilkinsonsword.co.uk/men/products/hydro-shave-range-soaps-and-brushes , but I am still experimenting as well.

Bottle Water

I kid. I don't use bottle water. Yet, I throw it up here because it a popular item. I just bought a lot of regular water bottles and keep them all around the house, so it is easy to fill with water. Tap water has always been good to me in Canada.

Grocery Plastic (Spinach containers)

One of my biggest annoyances is plastic for fresh product from the grocery store. It's really annoying because it is really just holding the food for a few days. I haven't found a good solution here. The wife and I find the prepped spinach quite helpful, so it has value.

I wish it came in compost friendly packaging.

TODO

I'll come back to this as I add more stuff. At times I wish more stores had refillable options for things like cleaning products, where you could bring your own jar and refill it from a vat of some kind. Some bulk places do, but they're not exactly close.






Monday, February 20, 2017

Alternative Facts



It is definitely strange times we live in. To me, it is just tragically funny to watch the new world of 'Fake News' and 'Alternative Facts.' As a real fact, these aren't exactly new. It's just now they've been given a label and talked about in the media.

The Origin of Alternative Fact

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_facts,

"Alternative facts" is a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer's false statement about the attendance at Donald Trump's inauguration as President of the United States. When pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer "utter[ed] a provable falsehood", Conway stated that Spicer was giving "alternative facts." Todd responded, "Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods."

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/sean-spicer-compares-alternative-facts-weather-forecasts-article-1.2954985
"The press was trying to make that seem like we were ignoring the facts," Spicer said. "You can look at a weather report and one weather report comes out and says it's going to be cloudy, and the next one says there's going to be light rain. No one lied to you, it just means you interpreted the data in a way that you felt got you to a conclusion."

Alternative Facts and Objective Truth

It's an interesting question with an interesting answer. An alternative fact is easy to call out as lying when you disagree with the position. This happens on all sides.

Consider this original term, it surrounded the case of Donald Trump's inauguration and whether or not it was the largest attended in history. The Trump team of course would like to say it was and stated some estimate. The news outlets and others provided other numbers showing it was not large.
http://globalnews.ca/news/3199200/donald-trump-inauguration-alternative-facts-photos-crowd-size/

There is an objective behind the inauguration numbers. If someone was capable of counting every single person or they had an entrance gate where people could be tracked coming in, they could have found the objective truth and it would be an exact number. This would have had to be done in all previous inaugurations for comparison.

Yet, that was not the case, instead we're dealing with estimates, which you can say are more or less likely to be accurate, but this is going to be heavily influence by which report you wish to read or which interpretation you wish to have.

The best example I can give is the legal system. The law has to deal in unknown and yet still come to a verdict. So you will have things like
  • Beyond a reasonable doubt (for criminal matters)
  • Preponderance of the Evidence  (civil matters)
You can use these 'facts' to get a good read on the objective truth.

Choosing the Alternative Fact

Everyone chooses the 'facts' that best suites them. Which fact actually matches the objective truth is another question altogether. Often one that we just don't know. Or one that no one is truth worthy enough to provide it.

Aisha


Let's give an example of an Alternative Fact that I've seen my whole life.
From a religious stand point, one of the controversies is the Prophet Mohamed in his 50s married Aisha when she was 6 years old and consummated when she was 9.
http://yaminb.blogspot.ca/2012/07/problem-with-aisha.html

Most Muslims; especially in the West can't bring themselves to think this is 'right'. Some deal with it through saying it was a 'different time' back then or whatever. But others choose an alternative fact. They choose to ignore was is plainly written in the books they claim their religion is derived from, and try and raise her age to something more palatable for the modern mind. Maybe 15 or 19.

Bus Driver


Or for that matter take a recent case where Conservative MPs appear to be laughing at a Liberal MP who mentioned he used to be a bus driver.
http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/for-the-record-what-amarjeet-sohi-said-amid-laughter/
Progressives are of course choosing the take it as a fact that the conservatives are laughing at him because he was a bus driver.

Here is https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/18/in-what-world-is-it-laughable-to-drive-a-bus-for-a-living-mallick.html taking it as pretty much fact they are laughing at him for being a bus driver.

What would be called an alternative fact would be that they were laughing because of the softball question parties often serve themselves. I've seen this a lot in politics and it causes me to chuckle as well. The party wants to boast about it's new investments in some area. So they have an MP ask a silly setup question that blatantly sets up an answer where the government can boast about its new program.

In this case there is actually some debate as we're dealing with people's intentions which you can't really observe as an objective truth.

Medical Prevention Saves Money

Here's another classic one. Pretty much all the evidence seen constantly indicates that most healthcare spending occurs in the late years of life. So when this study came out, it didn't really surprise me.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/smokers-the-obese-cheaper-to-treat-than-healthy-long-living-people-study-1.764092

It was done by the Dutch Minitry of Health, so it wasn't like a for-profit private company did it.

Basically it says that people who are healthy; they don't smoke and are not obese, actually cost the healthcare system more money because they live longer and spend more time/money in old age healthcare.

Yet, I've had such little productive conversation with this 'fact' with people who normally are all about 'facts'. People who talk about 'evidence based' policy in general seem to turn a blind eye to such studies. I've heard all kinds of alternative facts in response to this study.
  • The study didn't take into account the productivity in the working years. Maybe healthy people are so much more productive while they're alive that it makes up for their increased old age spending


'The Truth' is all about who you Trust and what you Want

What I think is coming out all this is that your version of 'The Truth' is all about who trust. If you don't trust the USA, then maybe you think 911 was an inside job. I heard this alternative fact all my life in the Muslim community.

If you think conservatives are all snobs, then you will think they laugh at a bus driver as his job is low class.

If you think the the media is against a candidate, then you won't trust their numbers or truth.

If you trust Mohamed to be a perfect man, then you will not accept negative things about him.

If you follow a particular ideology, then you choose your 'facts' appropriately.

Is Talking Facts Useless?

That is the question isn't it. We spend so much time today in the public sphere talking about facts and truth is as if they're meant to convince people.

I think it really depends on who you are talking to. If someone can be seen to have a reasoned discussion based on facts, then bring it up to them.

If not, or your initial opinions/wants differ so much, is there a point in talking facts? When you're just going to call each other liars as you don't trust the same sources and come from the same starting position.

I do think it is sad that as a society we have become so invested in our opinions that speaking of facts is problematic. This is especially true in a multi-cultural and multi-ideological society.

Summary

Alternative facts are nothing new to the world I've seen. What is new is the blatant state of affairs and branding of it. What is new is the bringing out into full public view what many people think are facts.

Power is ultimately what moves society, not facts. This is something many people have not been taught. Our educational system seeks to instill discussion and science, but reality is so much driven by power.

I don't know. Maybe the world has just made me too cynical. Lies still rip at my soul. Yet, it seems they're everywhere and no one really cares unless it is being told by their enemy.




Monday, February 6, 2017

GO Transit - RER



Overview

Essentially Go Transit RER is adding increased capacity to the regional transit lines within the GTA.
www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/rer/rer_work.aspx

My Anecdotal Experience

 I live on the Barrie Go Transit line. I use the Go Train for work and it is very full. The question is always what happens with all day and all weekend service.

Weekdays Off Peak

If I'm staying after work, I tend to take the off-peak bus home. The train doesn't run off-peak hours. The bus normally has a fair number of people on it, no matter what time I've taken it home. Even up to taking the 12:00 AM bus back. At the current time, I don't think this demand will change much for the after-work crowd.

Possible Changes - 2 Way All Day Service

Where you might get some more usage is if 2-way transit starts to become available. As is, if my wife wants to meet me downtown on a weekday evening, there really isn't a way for her to do so by GO transit.  Allowing people on the line to go downtown on weekday off-peak could result in such entertainment or other trips.

Weekend

Weekend service has just been introduced this year and includes several trips. There are definitely people using the train, but it's not full. 

Group Travel

One of the issues is group travel. I went downtown with a group of friends and would have loved to take the Go-Train. But as there were 4 of us, they picked me up and we drove. Had we used the GO trained, it would have cost us almost $30 one way.  Cost was not the only issue. Not everyone had presto and there isn't any way I could see for one of us who had Presto to just pay for the rest. Some kind of group travel using one Presto would have been nice.

Lack of All Day

The other issue is that the service is not two-way all day yet. I would say that availability is more important than frequency on Weekends. Meaning, I'd rather trains going every hour throughout the day and night, then every 15 minutes just during the day. Typically on weekend, you can plan your outing. My friends who love downtown love taking the Go Train to visit me. The problem is the last train going back downtown is at like 9 PM. If the last train would go back around 11 pm or midnight, that would definitely increase usage as well. Or even myself, I've looked at taking the train up to Barrie for the day, but the timing is just not good.

Connections

Connections to other transit is not yet there, but it is planned. The Barrie line is to intersect the TTC subway at Downview stations, the Eglinton Crosstown and possibly the Bloor-Danforth line. But all of this is upcoming. It will be interesting to see the use cases here. As it's not available, I'm not sure how useful it would be. I could possibly use it to visit people on the BD line in reasonable time. As is, I tend to drive to see them as the trip would simply be too long otherwise.

The other thing that would be interesting is cottage/ski country. If the train to Barrie becomes two way all day, one could imagine charter buses connecting it to Horseshoe Valley.

The one connection is that is not planned that would have been nice is a connection with the VIVA Rapidway along 7. The Concord station was not chosen.

Fare integration will also be a key factor a big factor here. Just paying a GO fare and a TTC fare is going to be costly. In my case, about $10 one way.

Major Centers

This is definitely for the future. One of the main benefits of Toronto's union station is that there is so much around that is is walking distance. From Union, it is easy to get to the Rogers Center, Air Canada Center, bars, restaurants...

I'd like to see that kind of development at certain nodes. Barrie's Allandale Waterfront comes to mind. So does the future Niagara Falls Go Train. If these were nicely integrated into the commercial and entertainment facilities, it would really make these trips viable. Right now, people tend to drive.

Subway Extension or RER

It's a bit strange, but 2017, we're supposed to be getting more service on the Barrie Line, as well as getting the Spadina subway extenstion to Highway 7.

In my case, I doubt I'll use the subway if there is a Go Train available. The GO train is just so much faster, and the Go Train is expected to connect with the TTC further down the line at Downsview and other places.

Now this is just my use case. People who live closer to highway 7 might use the subway a lot more as will people who don't want to pay double the fare for GO.

At times I do wonder though if York region's hundreds of millions they put into the TTC Extension to Vaughan would have been better spent coordinating with Metrolinx on better Go Train service. Put in a stop at highway 7 and frequent all-day service.  I certainly don't think the Spadina extension is a bad idea. Toronto was already building it out to York University. York's contribution was just another two stops to bring it line with VIVA and 'Vaughan Downtown'. And all this is looking back, so I'd glad we have both RER and the Spadina Extension.

Hopeful

Overall, I'm very hopeful on the GO Transit RER. I personally don't care all that much about the frequency of service outside of rush hour. I think most people can plan around an hourly train going both ways. I think the key is that it should be all day ( 7 AM until 2 AM) and it should be consistent for easy schedule knowledge. For example, trains will run at Station X every hour on the 10 ( 7:10, 8:10....) or something along those lines.




Friday, December 23, 2016

What Happened to my Attention Span



I was very excited this past year for the release of Civilization VI. It really is a great game, but I found myself just unable to finish the game. I just couldn't focus as well. I'm finding this a lot as I get a little older. Or perhaps it is the new social media age smartphone age we live in? I don't know.

I look back at some of the games I loved in the past. I loved the Baldur's Gate RPG series. I can't even begin to count the number of hours I spend on Baldur's Gate 2 in University. I'm pretty sure I crawled through every nook and cranny and literally hours and hours on some battles. I tried to play it recently, I could barely pass the first few areas. Just knowing the vast tedium that lay ahead of me killed my anticipation in the game.

Let's not even get into reading. I used to read a lot. Everything from non-fiction to science fiction. I read everything. I can't see myself reading a whole novel start to finish these days. I used to be able to lie down and read for hours on end. Could I do it today? I don't have it anymore.

Meh, just a random thought. I'm not sure if I'm just growing older or perhaps it is the modern technological world. I kind of miss the focus I used to have though.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Are Religious Texts Hate Speech?







I had an interesting discussion the other day concerning the rise of the 'alt-right'. Basically white supremism of some kind. It gets associated with Nazis, Mein Kemph, and all the regular white hate people are used to comdemning.

We can all imagine what they say that is classified as hate in its various forms

  • Jews are evil
  • White people need to stick together
  • White people need to be on top of society
  • Homosexuality is wrong
  • Society would be better of if everyone was white

It got me thinking. In our current anti-hate culture, what happens to religious texts? It was actually a genuine curiosity. Like people sue over everything these days, so someone must have seen what happens.

I got a few hits on the Google.
http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/anti-gay-pamphleteer-asks-for-supreme-court-do-over-on-test-of-hate-speech-laws
http://www.albertmohler.com/2004/08/05/criminalizing-christianity-swedens-hate-speech-law/

There's a lot more mainly on blogs and commentaries, so I'm not going to link them. Suffice to say it is starting to shine it's head.

In Short

I think from a rational perspective is very hard to not classify many religious texts as hate speech when a lot of other similar speech is classified as hate. Now I'm a big believer in free speech, so I wouldn't want these books banned, but I also wouldn't want other hate speech banned. But it is the lack of consistency that is turning some heads.

Now this happens a lot in the legal system where things are not 'perfect' but they are workable. Obviously to make the Bible on the same level of Mein Kamph would be a political nightmare. Few politicians or courts would take up that battle.

Yet, it is pretty hard to argue the texts of these religious books contain homophobic, sexist, violent, segregationist, and some down right hateful and evil messages taken at face value. You can of course say we should interpret them another way, but hey, I guess you can make the case that Mein Kamph should be interpreted differently. I think more likely 'publicizing' or 'quoting' the offending religious versus will be classified as hate, but the book most likely won't just for political purposes.

Examples

I'll mainly pick traditional Islamic areas as that is what I'm most familiar with. As usual, it often helps to replace the targetted groups with 'black people' to get the modern context

Koran 5:51: O YOU who have attained to faith! Do not take the Jews and the Christians for your allies: they are but allies of one another and whoever of you allies himself with them becomes, verily, one of them; behold, God does not guide such evildoers..
 Wow, that's pretty harsh. Imagine a white person saying do not take Blacks and Mexicans as friends...
Koran 3.12: Say to those who disbelieve: You shall be vanquished, and driven together to hell; and evil is the resting-place.
Wow, so if you don't believe, you should be burning in hell fire. Well that's pretty objectionable to me. A book calling for large numbers of humanity to be killed in this manner. Imagine saying that about blacks. Those blacks who do not act white are destined to burn in hell fire forever. Heck, I've always found the idea of hell to be one of the most repugnant ideas ever and totally immoral on its own.
Koran 9:29: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.
Damn. Pure Islamic supremism here. I'm glad the lesser people will just have to pay a special tax to live under subjugation of Islamic rule

Hadith Bukhari (Book 83, 17) The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam  and leaves the Muslims."
So ummm yeah. If you leave the religion, you should be killed. Advocating people be killed... pretty sure that is a hate crime.
Koran 5:82: Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.
Yep, Jews and polytheists are the most violent against the Muslims.

Hadith Muslim, (Book 41, 6985)  Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the jews and the Muslims would kill them until the jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the jews.
And yes, in the end, all the Jews will be slaughtered... even the trees and stones will help the Muslims kill the Jews.

I could go on, but you get the point.
There's more here:
http://yaminb.blogspot.ca/2012/08/islamic-sources-time-and-place.html that goes on about slavery, concubines, war, pedophilia...

Now as mentioned, can you read any of this in context to make it 'nicer'. Probably. But the point is you can make any hate speech 'nicer' in context. Hitler wasn't talking about Jews themselves being evil, just Jews against the German state you know... a particular Jew at a particular time you know...

Compared to say Main Kamph

I don't have a copy of Main Kamph, but I googled a bit to see it's most controversial quotes.
www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/kampf.html

I'll give a few in context here.
  • The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significance of nationality and race
  • Schopenhauer called the Jew "The Great Master of Lies". Those who do not realize the truth of that statement, or do not wish to believe it, will never be able to lend a hand in helping Truth to prevail. 
  • For once this book has become the common property of a people, the Jewish menace may be considered as broken.
  • The democratic people’s Jew becomes the blood-Jew and tyrant over peoples. In a few years he tries to exterminate the national intelligentsia and by robbing the peoples of their natural intellectual leadership makes them ripe for the slave’s lot of permanent subjugation.
    The most frightful example of this kind is offered by Russia, where he killed or starved about thirty million people with positively fanatical savagery, in part amid inhuman tortures, in order to give a gang of Jewish journalists and stock exchange bandits domination over a great people.
     

Heck, Main Kamph doesn't even read that bad relative to the Koran. Probably the Bible is the same.

Conclusion

There's little question in my mind that given an objective standard, a lot of the religious books would be classified as hate speech. Now, I don't see them being banned as politically it is impossible, but I think you could see quoting a verse with a purpose to be classified as hate speech. 

As I said, I'm a big free speech person, so I don't think any books should be banned and I'm very wary of hate speech laws, but if we're going to be enforcing it, I sense a lot of conflict with religious texts and views.

I think you're likely to see some interesting political forces as well. For example, the so called right-wring Christians in the United States tend to be big on some rights like guns and free speech in the US constitution. In a sense, they have a leg to stand on, because their views on free speech seem consistent with being able to use their religious texts.

Other groups like say Muslims I think are more hypocritical. Especially in places like the the Western world, where they have generally adopted a much more anti free-speech big government mind set where they don't want bad things said about Islam that could be classified as hate. How does that jive with the Islamic texts being full of hate speech?



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Morality and Religion



http://www.forbes.com/sites/jvchamary/2015/11/05/religion-morality/#6a84e053670e


I was reading this article and it is something I've felt a lot of my life. Long before I left religion.
The vast majority of religious people I've met are simply not even very 'moral' people.
Why are religious people less moral? One factor is a psychological phenomenon known as 'moral licensing': a person will justify doing something bad or immoral – like being racist – because they've already done something 'good', such as praying. "It's an unconscious bias," Decety explains. "They don't even see that's not compatible with what they've been learning in church."

I was born in South Africa and I have a lot that fire in me in terms of justice. It stayed with me throughout my life. Here's the strange thing. A lot of Muslims for example latch onto the phrase 'social justice'. I suppose due to history or colonialism, they like to attach themselves to this struggle. Ask a SJW Muslim about the oppression of blacks in the United States, and they can go. Did you know White people weren't even allowed to marry Blacks! A popular movie this year was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loving_(2016_film) which details the struggle of a white man marrying a black woman.

Yep, now ponder this with a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim man. Yeah, you're going to find about the same segregationist attitudes alive and well in the Muslim community.

It doesn't even need to go to this extreme. Even for minor things like lying, which most Muslims are taught is wrong, they will still justify their moral license to lie based on hiding sins, family matters...
They will actually think they are doing good by obeying religious or cultural norms instead of looking at the harm.

Another key factor I think comes from understanding right from wrong. Without religion, you tend to base your morality on something. Maybe it is the harm you cause people. Therefore, before you take an action, you will look at what harm it can cause people and then understand the morality of your choice.

Religion tends to favor more direct action rather than thinking about the morality. As a result, you can harm people greatly without much intention simply because you think you are doing 'right' by your religion.

I think it even extends to more character traits like selfishness. Charity is heavily emphasized in many religions, especially Islam. Yet, I think you begin to see the same 'moral license' being talked about. I can be an immoral person in this or that way because I give to charity. I can be selfish in this or that way because I give to charity.

Is it Universal?


On the flip side, I question the universality of this statement that religious people are less moral. I definitely ponder the possibility that at this stage in history, those who are prone to question morality are veering in the secular domain. So this group of people seeking morality would be more secular, whereas those not actively seeking morality would remain traditionally religious. This situation could have been reversed in the past or perhaps even in the future; though I think it less likely in the future.