Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cynical Conservatives

A response to a post on Facebook referring to Romney's base.

Mitt Romney doesn't have a base. Obama has an anti-base. But underneath it all, conservatives dislike Romney just as much as we do. I find it doubtful he isn't aware of this, just as much as I doubt he really cares. This could easily be the most cynical election since Nixon was re-elected.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How to Lose Arguments and Alienate People

Everyone wants to be right.  It's just human nature.  But, since being right in any given situation actually requires knowledge and the ability to use it, it's therefore difficult to be right about stuff.  So many people just take shortcuts, because they find it inconceivable that they're not already right.

Like when they've been proven wrong, they'll shift the goalposts and pretend they were making a different point than the one they had been making; sometimes even attempting to grab your goalpost, by pretending that the point you were making was what they were trying to say the whole time.  Or they'll change the subject and just pretend as if you hadn't just shoved their stupid logic down their throats.  Or they'll just go back to repeating the point that you had already refuted, like a broken record that just can't get passed a big scratch in the vinyl.  Because that's pretty much the case.

But there are less obvious tricks than these, and one of the most popular is to define the debate from the start so that it's impossible for them to be wrong.  See, they're the open minded ones.  They're the tolerant ones.  They're the ones just asking questions.  They're the ones listening to reason.  And if you doubt them or disagree with them on any point, then you're obviously being closed minded, intolerant, incurious, and unreasonable.  That's by default, because they already established themselves as all the good things.

But alas, it don't work like that.  You're only the open minded, tolerant, and reasonable one if that's really what you're doing.  And no, if you're doubting the official story about 9/11 and know all the in's and out's of why it's wrong, you're no longer asking questions.  Because if you're genuinely asking questions, you're not already supposed to know the answers.  Same goes for if you're "questioning" Obama's birthplace, Oswald's guilt, or the existence of aliens/ghosts.  

When a Question Isn't a Question

I mean, maybe you're right and Oswald gave birth to Obama's alien ghost baby in Kenya, but if you already have all the answers to the questions, then you're *not* just asking questions; no matter how many question marks you use at the end of your sentences.  At that point, you're making an argument.  And when you're making an argument, you're expected to support it.  That's how it works.  And that's why these people insist they're just asking questions: Because if they admitted they were making an argument, they'd have to defend it and they can't.

And so they can give you all the details on the tensile strength of steel, the temperature at which jet fuel burns, and the position of every camera outside the Pentagon that day.  And yet they can't explain: Why the hell would they use jet airplanes if they were going to plant explosives?  I mean, duh. If they were planting bombs anyway, why bother stealing planes when they could just blame the bombs on Al Qaeda far more easily.  So...why jets?  That's the most basic of questions, yet they can't answer it.  

Or...what the hell was Obama's pregnant mom doing in Kenya, when there's no evidence suggesting she was there?  Did she just prefer their healthcare system?

And when you ask these most basic of questions, they'll just say: Hey, I don't have the answers.  I'm just asking the questions.  And...no.  That's bullshit.  You're just pretending to ask questions because you can't support even the most basic aspect of your theory.  And if I'm expected to answer every detail of how the eyeball evolved, then you need to answer where God came from and how he did all this shit.  That's how it works.

Theories Require Evidence, Always

And here's the rule: If you're the one making the claim, you have to support it, period.  If you claim God exists, you have to support that claim, or admit that you can't support it.  If you claim God doesn't exist, you have to support that claim, or admit that you can't support it.  And if you can't support it and want to be intellectually honest, you'll just say you can't prove it one way or the other, and so you don't have a theory at all.  That's how it works.  Theories require evidence, always.

But instead, you'll have Christians who insist God exists, and demand for you to disprove it.  Disprove it?  Disprove what?  You haven't given me anything to disprove yet.  You have to provide your support before I'll know what I'm even supposed to be disproving.  Similarly, you'll have atheists who insist God doesn't exist, and demand for you to disprove it.  Disprove what?  Again, you haven't told me what your evidence is, so I don't know what to disprove.  

And no, your personal belief in your theory is *NOT* evidence, no matter how firmly you believe it.  And sadly, I've debated quite a few atheists who had trouble with that idea.  Just because you think God is silly doesn't prove that you're right.

And really, this isn't supposed to be a trick.  It's not a game to see who's stuck having to prove their point.  It's the basic fact that you simply shouldn't make any claim unless you can support it.  Not just in an argument, you shouldn't have a theory at all unless you can support it.  I mean, that's just basic logic.  Why would you think something if you don't know why you think it?

I mean, don't get me wrong.  I'm an open minded guy and will consider the possibility of ghosts or aliens or someone being dumb enough to include Bush in a plan involving treason (or any plan, for that matter), but I'm not going to actually adopt the theory in any way or argue in its favor.  It's just something to think about.  Mental exercise.  And even then, there's no pretense to "asking questions" as the whole point is to think about answers.  But once you've crossed over from "What if aliens are real" to "What is the government hiding about aliens," you better have the proof or you're just wasting everyone's time.

Defining the Debate

And really, just about any debate you'll see isn't really a debate about the subject at all, because the vast majority of people don't even know how to make an argument.  The idea of making a claim, supporting it, and then defending it is entirely beyond their abilities.  Instead, they already "know" they're correct, so if they just repeat themselves enough time, it'll finally sink in that you're wrong for disagreeing with them.

So instead, most debates are really just about both sides trying to claim the open-minded argument.  Not because either side is open-minded, per se.  It's just that they can't defend their claims, so instead they'll force their opponent to defend the claim.  And so they'll say anything they need to to prove that it's their opponent who's already made up their mind, while they're the ones staking the higher ground and keeping an open mind.

Like with the Trayvon Martin shooting.  Liberals were upset because Zimmerman wasn't arrested.  And that makes sense, as even the lead investigator thought he should be arrested, to let a jury decide what happened.  And because that made sense, conservatives had to rearrange the debate.  So instead, they posited that liberals were angry because Zimmerman wasn't convicted.  And in fact, because liberals and the media had so poisoned Zimmerman's name, he shouldn't even be arrested because he won't get a fair trial.  Because yeah, conservatives are always concerned with people getting their name smeared and not getting a fair trial.  [/sarcasm]

Fighting for Homefield Advantage

And at that point, there can be no real debate between liberals and conservatives.  Liberals were arguing a sensible position that he should have been arrested.  Conservatives were arguing a sensible position that Zimmerman hadn't been convicted yet, and should be considered innocent until that time.  And so both sides are laying claim to wanting justice served; even if only one side was being honest about what was going on.

Needless to say, these arguments don't match up, because conservatives intentionally picked an argument that they could win at; even if it wasn't the opposing position of the liberals they were attacking.  All they knew was that liberals were doing something and that was good enough for them to take the opposite side, as it's inconceivable that guys like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could be right about anything.  And sadly, they went ahead and demonized a seventeen year old murder victim because they hate liberals so much.

And that's what almost every debate I see really is.  It's not two sides picking opposing views and defending their position.  It's like two football teams showing up at their home stadium and arguing over which field they're supposed to play at.  Sure, they're playing games, but it sure ain't football.  Because they're really just fighting to see who's turf they're debating on, as their turf is always the open-minded and reasonable one that doesn't require defending, while the other guy's position is close-minded and impossible to defend.  Not because that's true, but because that's the only possible way they could win a debate.  

Because yeah, people really do take untenable positions they can't possibly defend, and they're generally the last people to realize it.  After all, why would they adopt a position unless it was right?

Starting into this, my original point was about intolerance, and why tolerant people aren't required to tolerate intolerance.  Not that it should need to be said, but intolerant people always make that silly argument and insist I'm a hypocrite for not tolerating their intolerance.  But I'm outta time, so that'll have to wait for another day.  Sorry.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How the Little Guy Beat Wall Street

Was planning to say more about this, but am running out of time tonight and whenever I get like this and plan to write more later, I rarely ever do.  And so I'll just say this here.

Mark Zuckerberg totally conned the shit out of Wall Street.  Seriously.  You always hear about how Wall Street screws the little guy, and how the system is rigged against us and we shouldn't even try, and then you have a dude who became a multi-billionaire from a website that everyone already knew shouldn't have made him a multi-billionaire.  But he did it.

And the problem is that no one now remembers that Zuckerberg is just some Harvard geek with a big idea and an even bigger inferiority complex.  No, he's Mark Fricking Zuckerberg, dammit, one of the big boys.  And with his stock debacle, he somehow teamed with Wall Street to screw the little guy, yet again.  And you'll even read conspiracy theories about how it's just a matter of time before we bailout Wall Street again because of this.

Why does anyone think we'll bailout Facebook?  Because that's the only way the little guy could possibly get screwed by this deal.

Seriously, maybe you're some little guy and you were dumb enough to invest your hard earned savings of five grand into Facebook and bought a paltry 125 shares when it was selling at $40/share; thus purchasing 0.00003% of stock that doesn't even give you voting rights, and now you're reeling from the loss you've taken so far.  I'm sorry, but you had it coming because all the other little guys knew better.  And all the same, your five grand isn't how Zuck made his money.  He got it from the big guys.

Because it wasn't the little guys who got suckered by this.  It was Wall Street.  They bought into this, hook, line, and sinker; and they're the ones who made Zuck a multi-billionaire.  And yeah, they planned to rip you off, figuring they'd ripoff the middle boys, who'd eventually sell to us suckers and we'd be the ones left holding the empty bag.  But...we weren't there to buy, because we were already on to this from the start.  Everyone was.

The biggest non-secret before Facebook went public was that Facebook was vastly overpriced and only suckers would buy.  And the only reason anyone bought was because they assumed they weren't the sucker.  But that's what suckers always do.

Rigged Game

And the whole thing was a set up.  This wasn't a case of naive computer geeks meekly approaching Wall Street vultures and lucking into a billion dollars.  This was a set up from the start (an excellent read, btw).  And while Zuckerberg is a dork with a big chip on his shoulder, he's not stupid about how to manipulate people.  Because they rigged the whole thing, including the choice of Morgan Stanley over Goldman Sachs, as well as dictating their terms for how this was going down.

Because the thing is, nobody thought Facebook was worth $100 billion.  Nobody.  But...Facebook was able to convince Wall Street that the suckers would fall for it, and Wall Street loves to find a new mark.  They probably assumed that all 900 million Facebook users (a vastly over-inflated number), would latch on to the stock like crazy, and the traders would be laughing all the way to the bank.

But the thing is, as much as people use Facebook, nobody really loves it.  Nobody.  We like what it does and we like our friends, but we feel no sentimental attachment to the company itself.  It's not like Apple and Steve Jobs, or even the way you feel about your car.  We all know it's a tacky place created by a jerk manchild, and any feelings we have for the company are negative.

And if Mark Zuckerberg died tomorrow, rather than the mourning we saw for Steve Jobs, you'd just see lots of snide remarks (on Facebook, no less) along with tepid reprimands about how inappropriate it was to make fun of the recently deceased, and then we'd forget about him completely.  I'm not even saying that as badwill against the guy, as I don't have anything against him.  I'm just saying how it is.  Even Tom from MySpace is better liked than Zuckerberg, and nobody uses MySpace anymore; not even Tom.

And let's just get back to the original point: The little guy beat Wall Street.  And it wasn't just Zuck, it was all of his buddies, too.  They pulled a big con on the bankers, and while I'm sure they're working overtime to get the stock up higher for future stock sales, I seriously doubt they're working too hard.  After all, they've already got more money than they can spend, and they've got to know that there aren't too many more suckers out there to be had.


Because I'm so in love with just about everything I write, I figured I'd include a sorta meta-movie review I wrote in response to someone on Facebook who strongly recommended a Coen brothers film to me.  Enjoy!

Eh. Really not into the Coen brothers, as they don't really make films. They make exquisite hoaxes masquerading as films. But underneath it all, there's really nothing there. It all hints to a bigger thing, but they never really get around to the thing itself. And while I'm perfectly fine with films that are pure entertainment, I'm not keen on films that act like they've got a purpose but don't.

Their films kind of remind me of Tim Burton films, which are all dressed up with no place to go, as Burton doesn't care about telling stories. But while Burton does it for the thrill of creating a bizarro universe, the Coen brothers are just showing off their expertise in filmmaking and their ability to screw with the audience's head. And while they are quite excellent at it, they still aren't telling stories. It's like you're watching a masterful lesson on various film techniques and cultural cues, but with no intent for the rubber to hit the road.

In the end, I feel they make films for their own delight, not their audience's. And while that's refreshing from an artistic perspective, as an audience member, that doesn't do much for me. And so I tend to avoid their films, except for Hudsucker Proxy, which I've always loved.

Paul Thomas Anderson, on the other hand, knows how to make the hell out of a movie. Even included the word "blood" in the title of his last flick, just to let the audience know he's playing for keeps. Best filmmaker ever. Grabs you by the balls and never lets you go until he's done.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why I Love Facebook

In my last post I predicted how Facebook's stock was going to do, and if anything, it looks like I was a little too cautious in my pessimism; if only because I underestimated the market's wisdom and were closer to what they should have done from the start.  But who knows, it's still early, so I stand by my initial position for now, as my prediction is still pretty much on the money.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about was this idea people keep repeating as if Facebook doesn't really produce anything, and is therefore worthless.  And that's just not how it works.  I mean, does the NFL produce anything?  Does NBC?  When you buy a DVD, is it the plastic disc you're buying?  And what these things provide is entertainment.  Something to do.  It might make you happy, or sad, or smarter, or angry; but whatever it is, you want it and they give it to you.  And that's what it's all about.  Business isn't just about selling widgets.

And the thing about Facebook is that so many people who don't use it have the wrong idea about it.  As if it's just a way for stupid people to interact with other stupid people.  And while that's true, it's only if you hang out with stupid people.  Because as much as I loathe to admit it, I've really come to love Facebook and don't know what I'd do without it.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm still too cool for Facebook, which is why I'm listed there as Doctor Biobrain and not, say, Joe Smith (not my real name, I assure you); and don't have any pictures of myself (besides the occasional hand or leg that ends up in my pictures).  But that's because I'm still in love with the mystique of being Doctor Biobrain and it's part of my thing.

Your Personal Group Blog

Because what Facebook really is is a giant group blog where you get to pick who the writers are.  You read through your newsfeed of these select people (in my case, I've got eighty-six "friends"; which makes me a hermit among Facebookers, as I refuse to request friendships and only accept invites from others), and leave comments on whatever ones you like.

And unlike other blogs where you have to keep checking in to see who's responded to you, Facebook gathers all this into the notification center, so you can see responses as well as seeing how many people liked what you wrote.  And so you log in and you'll see responses to comments you wrote on five different posts, and can easily click through to each one of them; to post follow-up responses or just see what other people wrote.

And I *LOVE* seeing how many people like my stuff.  Gives me a real high, much more so than the few smatterings of comments I get here.  (Not that I don't love you too)  I mean, I already know I'm a badass and don't require positive feedback from others to tell me that, but it feels nice anyway.  Seriously, I'm a real whore for that sort of thing.

And so I'm posting funny remarks on other people's stuff.  I'm correcting people when I think they've said something wrong.  I'm educating people who seem to be confused about stuff.  And of course, I'm posting my own comments, which are the type of stuff I'd write here, but without worrying about writing long posts that take three hours to write.  And most of my stuff's absurdist humor that I'm not sure anyone else understands besides myself, but that's my thing.  That's what I'm in it for.  And sometimes I'll read through my own posts and bust out laughing because I happen to be the funniest fucking person on the planet.

What's Not to Like?

And sure, some people post about what they had for breakfast.  But you also get personal stories of someone struggling with cancer, getting fired from their job, getting a new job, and that sort of thing.  And you also read news stories they post, political arguments you may have missed, and best of all, funny quotes and political and religious jokes; many of which genuinely make me laugh out loud.  And again, you get to pick who's posting all this, and if you don't like someone because they're a crazy muslim-hater or something, you just get rid of them.  And if you read someone else's stuff you like, then you befriend them, too.

And really, what's not to like about this?  It's whatever you want it to be.  You want to be a political activist or discuss religion or atheism, be friends with those people.  You want to meet people and write dorky stuff about what you had for breakfast, do it.  And if you want to connect to your family across the country, post pictures of your kids and babies, and interact with all of them in one place; it's great for that too.  But for god's sake, make sure you've got your privacy settings set properly.  That cannot be stressed enough.

And really, if I lost Facebook today, I'd most definitely be a sadder person.  But thus said, it doesn't really have a great revenue stream and is vastly overpriced at $100 billion (though it's lower than that today), as Zuckerberg & Co once again pulled a big con on people.  But still, I think Facebook is great and hope they don't do too much to change what they've got, as it's a great thing that has certainly made my life better.

Did Facebook save the world?  No, but they've given me a fun place to write crap on a Saturday night and have other people appreciate it, and that's alright in my book.  I just wish some of you were on there, as I'd like a few better friends than the ones I've got already.  (But don't tell them I said that!)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Biobrain Stock Tips: Facebook Edition

Over on Facebook, a friend asked people to give their advice on whether buying Facebook stock was a good idea or not.  They mentioned how cheap FB's stock was compared with Apple's, with the idea that since Apple's is so much higher it might mean that FB's might some day be that high as well.

Most people had nothing to say, but as usual, I've got opinions and figured I'd offer them here as well.  Besides, you are my loyal readers, while they're just Facebook friends, so I'd certainly be remiss in not providing my sage advice to you; particularly if you had any plans to actually purchase said stock any time soon.

It's most likely a dumb idea, unless Facebook has some big surprises on the way, because the current price already has taken into account what we already know about it; with quite a bit of premium added in for the fad factor.

This isn't like some small start-up that's a great idea that no one knew about before it got big.  When Apple and Microsoft went public, it still wasn't known what they'd become.  But what is Facebook going to become that we haven't already predicted?  Not much.  So the high price is already baked into the cake.  And more likely than not, they overbaked the price because they know people have unrealistic expectations of where they're going and know that there are enough suckers to overpay for the stock.

At this point, a big chunk of the the growth has already happened.  And with any stock, you only get rewarded from dividends or growth, and since FB isn't likely to be paying giant dividends, all they've got is growth; but how much bigger can they grow?  I mean, Zuck's all talking big about how all Apps will be wrapped around Facebook, but that's most likely smoke he's blowing up asses in order to hype up the stock.

Btw, you can't compare stock prices like Apple's to Facebook's, because it depends upon how many shares they're issuing.  FB's price isn't high, but they're issuing a TON of stock, so each share isn't worth much.  FB is just playing a game with the suckers, so they'll see the low price and realize they can get in, but not realize that they're not getting much.

Meanwhile, Apple's price is huge, but you're getting a bigger slice of the company.  So it's not at all realistic to expect to see FB's stock some day match Apple's, because they're entirely different things.  (I was going to say apples & oranges, but realized it'd be a pun and I detest puns; even accidental ones.)

Sucker Stock

And another thing: Facebook has actually been a public company for awhile now, but only for the big money boys. So that's another reason why this isn't the same as other IPO's. This isn't a case of a small company selling stock to become big. This is a big company finally cashing in, which is a relatively new phenomenon.

And you can bet that the smart money isn't just going to let you come in and get rich off their stock. They're selling part of the company because they want their dough, and anyone buying in now is buying what they've already decided they've had enough of. And if they thought they'd be considerably bigger next year, they'd wait until next year to sell. More likely, they know the growth is leveling out, so they're getting theirs while they can.  And since Zuck is maintaining control of the company with a different type of stock, what they're selling now isn't the real stock anyway.  So this is basically a sucker's stock they're selling now, while Zuck is keeping the real stock for himself.

What you're going to see is the price shoot up the first day, as all the savvy brokers get the good rates, and then it'll go down the next few days as those guys cash in and get their easy money.  And then the price will settle in at least somewhat higher than it is now, but not much higher because Zuckerberg & Co aren't idiots and had no intention of selling this for much less than it'd be worth in a month.  And once everyone realizes they bought a little piece of turd, all the thrill will wear off and depress the price.  And while it's possible that the stock will be somewhat higher in a year, it's more likely to be worth slightly less; unless there's something big we don't know about.

One last thing: If you buy stock when others are buying, you're just gambling against the house.  The smart thing is to buy when they're selling and sell when they're buying.  Otherwise, you're just playing a game of hot potato to see who's stuck holding the potato when everyone else bails; and while you might win a little that way, you won't win much and you're more likely to lose in the long run.

And the best thing to do is to buy something good when everyone else is panicking and hold on to it for awhile.  And never sell if the price is dropping, unless you just don't believe in the stock and think it'll never go up again.  In the long run, a real stock

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mitt Romney: The Republican Even Your Dad Wants to Punch in the Face

A friend on Facebook posted the YouTube clip below, and remarked:
Now my Republican friends can know how I felt every time John Kerry opened his yap:

And since my FB comments are rarely seen elsewhere, figured I'd just share my response here:
Come on. Who amongst us doesn't like to feel like they're being lectured to by their dad's boss?

And really, Kerry was just boring and detached, and just had trouble keeping things in soundbite format because his positions were nuanced until they were dead and zombified. He wasn't REALLY flip-flopping, he just over-thought things way too much, as that's just the kind of guy he was. He's trying to impress you with his depth, and all the while you're smiling and nodding, trying to figure out how to walk away without being rude while he mistakes your silence as admiration.

Romney, on the other hand, has no fricking clue what he's supposed to be saying and is basically signaling that every time he opens his mouth; as he can easily offend liberals and moderates on every position while catching hell from conservatives by not doing more to offend liberals and moderates. Because with conservatives, it doesn't matter what position you take, just as long as you sound like you're pissing off liberals when you say it. You can support or oppose war, support or oppose taxes, support or oppose big government; just as long as you do it with style.   
And Romney will NEVER have that style, as it's not in his programming. So he's stuck saying stuff that even HE has to think is nutball, but still it's not enough. And then he slips up and says the truth, and then everyone ends up hating him.  And it'd help if Romney actually cared about what his positions were, rather than just saying whatever it takes to get elected.  Kinda hard to stay on message when you don't really have one.
I went ahead and added:
That's a big reason I'm opposed to progressives who denounce and insult conservatives every chance they get, as those people eat that shit up. It's what they live for, and it just adds fuel to their fire without achieving anything whatsoever. Hell, they now support the murder of Trayvon Martin because liberals were upset that his killer hadn't been arrested.

You can catch more conservatives with a little mockery than with piles and piles of insults. And subtlety is the key. Subtlety confuses them and makes them take their guard down, as they're not sure if you're insulting them or not.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Gum Disease Causes Lies

I remember the first time I heard the theory that gum disease causes heart disease and other serious health problems, and thought that sounded like BS.  Sure, it's possible, but...it just didn't sound right.  To me, it just sounded like it belonged in the correlation without causation category, where people with one bad habit also have other bad habits.

And that simply blows the minds of a lot of puritan health workers who truly want to believe that any one bad habit can cause an infinite number of health problems, which is why we shouldn't have any bad habits.

When, in fact, it says the opposite: You've got to be doing a lot of bad things for a long time to mess yourself up.  And the issue is that people who have one bad habit are more likely to smoke cigarettes, get drunk, abuse drugs, drink soda, overeat, eat crap, be a couch potato, and all kinds of other bad things.  Conversely, the more good habits you have, the more likely you are to have other good habits.

But this only makes sense when you group people statistically, and merely having a few bad habits doesn't necessarily doom an individual's health.  Yet researchers will take this fallacy and use it to prove that alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, soda, red meat, fast food, lethargy, or whatever else they're wanting to blame death on is Evil Number 1, and insist that they've got the proof of it.  And their only attempt to isolate this Evil factor away from the other evils is a half-hearted attempted at best, and it never occurs to them that people with lots of bad habits are dragging their study down.

But this is news that the health puritans surely don't want you to hear, so even when studies confirm what I'm talking about, they don't want you to hear it.  Not because the studies are flawed, but because they think we're too stupid to handle the truth.  So they believe it's better to lie to us, in case we'll use the studies showing that alcohol can be good for you as an excuse to get drunk all the time and have all these other bad habits.  Because yeah, we're all so stupid that if we hear that a glass of wine is good for us we'll instantly grab a bottle of Jack and empty it into our stupid fat guts.

But I, perhaps in my naivete, believe that if you explain the truth to people it will show them that being healthy isn't nearly as hard as we're told, and you can still enjoy life without having to live like puritans and jog all the time.  I mean, I know people who work out regularly who are dismayed to learn that I'm ten years older than them, when I not only don't work out regularly, but I also eat fast food several times a week.  But I'm a freak of nature, so your results may vary.

No Scientific Evidence

And sure enough, I found a report at WebMD confirming my suspicions about gum disease, in an article titled Experts: No Proof Gum Disease Causes Heart Disease.  As they explain:
But after reviewing more than 60 years of research on heart and gum disease, experts say that although the two problems are clearly related, it is unlikely that gum disease causes heart disease.
"There's no scientific evidence at this point that there's a direct connection -- that either gum disease causes atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] or strokes and heart attacks, or that there's any evidence at this point that by treating periodontal disease that you'll improve your [heart health] situation," Lockhart says.
And finally:
"Having infected gums on a daily basis can't be healthy. It just, at this point, hasn't been shown to cause disease [throughout the body]," Lockhart says.
Looks like Doctor Biobrain's hunch was correct yet again.

And notice how cautiously worded all that was, and rightly so, as it's quite possible that there IS a link to heart disease which hasn't yet been proven.  And yet...the studies claiming this link were NOT equally cautious, but rather actively advise us to start following their advice.  And that's just not good science.

The Dangers of Truth

But some healthcare puritans don't believe we're smart enough for such truths, so it's best to keep lying to us to keep us brushing our teeth and visiting dentists.  As if we're small children who need to be scared of the boogeyman.  Here's an example of such deceit.

"I think it's a bit dangerous," says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "What they're really saying is that maybe it wasn't that poor dental hygiene is associated with heart disease; it's more that the risk factors are similar, and therefore we're seeing a connection." 
But "how much does it matter?" she says, given that people still need to take care of their gums for other reasons.
You know what else is dangerous?  Using bad science to lie to people, because it undermines the very nature of what science and medicine is, idiot.  I mean, if science doesn't have credibility, it's got nothing.  The purpose of research is to learn the truth; not to scare us into brushing.

We also hear that from Kenneth S. Kornman, DDS, PhD, editor of the Journal of Periodontology, who said:
"We have to be careful," Kornman says. "We don't want to say to the public, [gum disease] doesn't cause heart disease. The fact is that we don't know."
That's right.  We should keep telling people that there's a link because we don't know that there is one.  Thanks for letting us know what sort of low standards the Journal of  Periodontology has, Dr. Kornman.

And I'm sorry, but this isn't how science works.  Science is about truth, period.  And if you don't have the facts supporting your theory, you shouldn't pretend that you do.  Because no, it wouldn't be accurate to say that gum disease doesn't cause heart disease, but it would be accurate to tell people that there's no proof that it does.  And you should certainly stop telling people that, no matter how much you want it to be true.

And here's a crazy idea: Maybe if we helped educate people better without lies, they might be better informed as to what decisions to make.  Because we're not going to make everyone give up smoking, drinking, abusing drugs, overeating, or couch potatoing, but if they hear that giving up a few bad habits would help them out, they would.  I fail to see how adding brushing to the list of things they're ignoring helps anything.

Knowledge is empowerment.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Masters of the Universe Unite!

A big mistake you can make is to only see things from your own perspective, and not try to look at any other sides of the equation.  Like low level workers who don't understand the need to pay their dues and are upset at having to work crap jobs without realizing that they might be moving up to better jobs if they stopped treating their crap job like a crap job and understood that if you want a better job you have to show that you deserve it.

I mean, if you're just slogging through your job making coffee or copies and putting in the bare minimum, it shouldn't be a surprise that you're not rewarded with better work.  And from what I've often seen, the "bare minimum" these people aspire to is well below any acceptable minimum at all.  Just showing up ain't enough, particular not when you show up late and people are counting on you to be there on time.  A job is only as crappy as you make it, and if you don't see how a crap job is a stepping stone to a good job, you'll be stuck in a dead-end of crap jobs.

And so we've got people who blame the system for all their problems and use antiquated rhetoric from the 19th century to explain how the Man is keeping them down; entirely unaware that the system has changed and you really can work your way to the top if you have the desire to do so.  Apparently, it's a lot easier to blame others for our problems than to see what we can do differently to solve them.

To the Wealthy Go the Spoils

And then we see the same from the other end of the spectrum: Masters of the Universe who are free to keep as much money as they can and rationalize it by giving themselves a vastly oversized proportion of the credit for their success.

And they've fully fallen for the Ayn Rand idea that society owes everything to the few individuals capable of hoarding money, and the rest of us schlubs are interchangeable cogs whose individualism is purely a detriment to the system.  As if an individual can build a factory and support a vast economy on their own, if only the dirty masses would step out of the way and allow it.  Not that there's any rational basis for believing such a thing, but it sure helps rationalize the behavior they wanted to do anyway.

Case in point: Mitt Romney's buddy and Bain Capital villain, Edward Conrad.  According to Conrad's reality, it's GOOD for guys like him to keep as much money as possible, because they use that money for good things that help people.

Like Romney's greatest success story: Staples.  I mean, were it not for the courageous work of Bain Capital investing in Staples, Americans might have to drive a little further to get to one of the other office supply stores that sell the same stuff...assuming Staples is closer to them than Office Depot or Officemax, or a Walmart, which has even lower prices than any of these specialty stores.  I'm surprised no one's offered them a humanitarian award for this great service.

No Man is an Island

And the thing is, Conrad is right.  The wealthy really DO help make the world a better place when they invest in things.  I mean, it wasn't a poor Kenyan who gave us Google, or Apple, or electricity, or all the other things we take for granted.  It's rich people we have to thank for this, and I don't mean that in any snarky sense.  Money is a form of energy and it takes quite a lot of that energy to make things happen.

But...these guys didn't do it alone.  Without workers, none of these things would happen either.  Because Ayn Rand was wrong, in that the dirty masses aren't a blight of parasites sucking off the innovators.  We're the ones who make it happen.  Yes, a rich man paid for the factory, but the rest of us designed and built it.  Without us, they're nothing; and they need us more than we need them.  Were it not for workers, these people would be no better off than the rest of us.

And so if the rich deserve compensation in order to make the world go round, so do the rest of us.  And that's just not something these people are willing to admit.  They think that because they control the spigot that they get to keep all the water, simply because they can.  And while that continues to work for them, that's shortsighted and explains nothing as to why Conrad's theory is correct.

If money as a motivator is important, that goes for the rest of us, too.  His entire meme is based upon the idea that there are only two groups: Investors like him and lazy people looking for a free ride.  He laments how much work he puts in when he'd rather spend time with his family, entirely oblivious to the fact that there are many many more poor people who also don't have enough time with their families.

Incredibly, he honestly seems to believe that we could have an entire world of investors, if only we were smart enough to be like him.  But, it takes all kinds to make things happen, and that includes accountants, managers, marketers, clerks, and janitors.  And just as investors need rewards to motivate them to do better, so do the rest of us.  But if you're only willing to pay the same crap wages no matter how hard we work, then there's no reason to work hard and everyone will be worse because of it.

His theory about money as a motivator for improving society is correct.  He just needs to expand it to everyone.

Workers Are Consumers, Dummy

And that leads us to Conrad's bigger mistake: It's not businesses that make the world go round.  It's consumers.  We're the ones who pump the economy, as a business can't sell anything unless they have consumers to sell to.  And, duh, workers are consumers.  And if all the money accumulates into a few hands, then the economy will stagnate, just as a pond will stagnate if the water doesn't move.

And that's the reason why countries with a strong middle-class do better than countries with a strong upper-class and a vast lower-class.  Sure, we shouldn't be rewarding lazy workers or those who refuse to work at all.  But you've got to pay the people who do the work, if only so they can afford to buy your own products.  And all the same, simply handing money to the poor helps stimulate the economy far more than letting the rich hold on to it.  Again, what's the point of all those investments if no one can buy what the investors are helping produce?

Unfortunately, these guys still control the spigot and they continue to believe that they're the only essential people who deserve the rewards, and can't see how this attitude hurts them in the long run.  But it's better to be a big fish in a big pond than a shark in a small pond, and the more wealth these guys keep for themselves, the smaller the pond will be.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

John Boehner Thinks You're a Loser

Here's another post I made on Facebook.  Frankly, I don't understand why people didn't make a bigger deal of this.  House Speaker Boehner was asked if Romney's wealth would be a problem for him in November, and he said that it was actually a positive because voters wouldn't vote for a loser who wasn't wealthy.  Seriously.  Here's his response:
BOEHNER: No. The American people don’t want to vote for a loser. They don’t want to vote for someone that hasn’t been successful. I think Mitt Romney has an opportunity to show the American people that they, too, can succeed.
WTF? Did John Boehner just refer to all non-rich people as losers?? I can't imagine any other interpretation. 

Seriously, he said that the American people don't want to vote for a loser who hasn't been successful, and then says that Romney can show us that we can be successful, which can only mean that he doesn't think we're successful and are therefore losers.

Seriously, what the hell is the matter with these bozos that they'd say this stuff out loud. Sure, it's what Republicans have believed for decades, but they're supposed to keep it to themselves. It's like they're not even trying anymore.

Humans are Animals, Too

Haven't been posting much lately, so I'm just going to go ahead and reprint the stuff I write at Facebook.  And that makes sense, as many of my comments are things I write on my "friends" posts and you wouldn't be likely to read them even if you were a friend.  But if you're really jonesing for my stuff, you should get on Facebook and friend me.  I have much lower standards for what I write there compared with here, so I post more frequently as it doesn't take me so long to write.

Anyway, a friend posted a quote from some lameass author, who wrote: ‎"Each and every animal on earth has as much right to be here as you and me."

And I found that to be a fairly meaningless statement that was posing as depth to those who like simplicity, and yet...what does it even mean?  Rights?  What's a right, exactly, when applied to animals?  Rights are a totally human construct that doesn't apply to animals.  We have no rights beyond what we agree we have and since animals can't be a part of that agreement, it can't apply to them.  So I wrote the following:

I'm not sure how this makes any sense. Why does a cow have as much of a right to live as I do? When a lion kills a zebra, should we imprison the lion after a fair trial? Seriously, is there really no distinction between a human being and the bugs that splatter on my windshield? Their rights are really no different than mine? 
Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying that animals *don't* have a right to be here. But I definitely don't think this is a self evident argument. Moreover, I feel this falls for the same simplicity that anti-abortion people use when claiming that abortion is murder. It's an easy claim to make, but it's not very easy to justify. 
And overall, we use a sliding scale for this sort of thing, with beings at the higher end of the sentient chain having more rights than those at the lower end. So humans trump smart animals, smart animals trump dumb animals, dumb animals trump fetuses and embryos, and mindless insects and other creepy things can be killed indiscriminately.  
And you all know that this is true, because if you had to choose between saving a human, a dog, a chicken, a fetus, or a fly, you'd pick the same order I gave. The only exception might be with the fetus, as a fetus might trump a dumb animal, depending upon your preferences. But to suggest that all animals have just as much of a right to be here as any other would be to argue that you wouldn't know whether it's better to save a human or a mosquito if you had to save one.
Someone else responded thusly:
I agree with this statement. Animals have a right to be here. A lion klling a zebra is nature and we can't control nature, but we can control how we as humans treat other species. Where I live, they kill deer and turkeys, even bears indiscriminately ("in season"). We continue to build houses and roads and malls all the while not even giving a second thought that these woods we are rendering bare and obsolete are home to other species. Factory farms...all these things say "fuck you" to other species.
And this is the part where debates always get sticky for me, as this person is an idiot and I find it difficult to not make that point obvious in my response.  Seriously, are we really to imagine that animals never destroy their environment or are so successful that they over-hunt their prey and suffer from it?  And if man doesn't give a second thought to the wanton destruction we cause, wouldn't that belie the claim that we're different from animals who do the same thing?

Either we're above that sort of thing, or we're not.  You don't get to make both claims.  And the more accurate idea is that we're just like other animals, but just more effective.  Because I tell you what, if a shark could stroll up to a seafood buffet and eat all he could, he would; and the fact that I do the same shouldn't reflect any worse on me.

But I think I did alright, setting the record straight without being too condescending, writing:
Your statement actually undermines your point, because if we separate ourselves out of the animal kingdom and consider our acts in a different context than the actions of animals, then we surely can't be grouped with them in terms of our rights. It's as if you're arguing that because we're higher beings than them that we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and must therefore treat them as being equals...even though we only do so based upon the belief that they're not equal. A lion can be tamed and a man can be wild, and neither is any better than the other at deciding which to be. The fact that a man does something stupid or crazy is proof positive that they can't help themselves, as it's stupid and crazy to act stupid and crazy and no one wants to be stupid or crazy unless they really were.  
But of course, we ARE animals and what we do is part of nature as well. We might like to think of ourselves as rational beings who sometimes lapse into irrationality, but we're really just apes in suits who fall victim to animal instincts and the chemicals in our brains far more often than we care to acknowledge. Even the best of us aren't immune to our instincts, and the vast majority of people rarely experience anything else. Sorry, but Christian mythology aside, we belong firmly in the animal kingdom and the cruelty and stupidity we see on a daily basis is how our species behaves. We are not the only species that acts with cruelty or destroys our environment, and anyone who claims that we have self-awareness and rationality that animals lack clearly hasn't spent much time with a conservative. 
Beyond that, people do *not* treat mammals in the same way they treat insects. We have an instinctive hierarchy that really does make sense, even if it's ingrained in our animal DNA and beyond our control. Someone might shoot a bear, but they still treat it with more respect than they do an insect. I myself never hunt, but I've got a wine glass full of fruit flies in my kitchen right now that I used to lure them to their death, and plan to throw them out just like I did the last batch. No one treats deer that way. Hunters respect mammals more than they respect birds and insects. It's in our DNA to do so. That's also why we think baby mammals are adorable, even if we take joy in harming them as adults. We are animals and this is the way our species behaves.
I'll let you know if this discussion continues any further.  I mean, I can't imagine any decent points she could make in rebuttal, but that's never stopped people before.