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New Cognitive Resurgence

Published in: on April 12, 2012 at 7:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

So You Say You Want a Revolution?

by Luna Flesher

A significant percentage of conservatives seem ready for a revolution. They are mad as hell, and aren’t going to take it anymore. They carry guns to town hall meetings. They wave Gadsden flags.  They wistfully evoke memories of historical 1776. They quote Jefferson about the evils of tyranny and the need for blood.

I listened to a man named Dominick call into Michael Medved this week.  Medved had on polling expert Frank Luntz, who found 76% of Americans describe themselves as “mad as hell”.  Though most of those are not necessarily conservatives or the Tea Party set, 3% of Americans are like Dominick — outraged enough to revolt.

The recent 9-12 Tea Party march on DC had a disproportionate number of those people.  This enlightening video interview gives us some idea of what they’re so angry about:

Certain members of the media seem perfectly willing to stoke the fire. Yes, I’ll name names. Fox News. Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh. Michael Savage. They not only perpetuate the myths that make people feel their liberty and lives are in serious danger, but often come just short of actual calls to violence. They do so in a way that gives them plausible deniablity, so that they can feign innocence. But should disaster strike (as it already has to a limited extent), they are in every way as responsible as someone who shouts “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

I used to be one of that 3%, long before it was popular with anyone to be so.

I felt oppressed. I own such books as, “101 Things To Do ’til the Revolution“.  Though I never got around to reading them, I planned all sorts of activist activities to spread the word. I thought of provocative slogans, like “Dan Rather is a Commie”, and “You Are A Welfare Slave”.  I plotted methods for organizing fellow revolters into anonymous cells similar in organization to ELF, but with additional rules against harming property or people.

And should it have come to firing actual weapons at the Government, I was ready to do that, too.

So I understand the anger, but at the same time feel ashamed to admit I was once one of them. Because now, I realize what a terrible, horrible thing a violent revolution would be.

Like Dominick, I had not fully thought through my vision. I assumed we would dodge some bullets, raise up the fallen as martyrs, defeat the military, and then simply kick the bastards out.  Everyone would see the error of their ways, and the country would return to the Constitutional libertarian liassez faire utopia the Founding Fathers intended.

But that isn’t what the Founders intended.  Yes, Jefferson may have written about the benefits of periodic revolution. But he also co-wrote a much more important document: The Constitution.

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Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 4:51 am  Comments (2)  
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Mind Control 101: The Basics

Remember this? Youre still doing it wrong.

Remember this guy? He's still doing it wrong.

by Luna Flesher

We have explored what thought reform is not in Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing.  But what is it? What force can shut down people’s minds and get them to do things they otherwise would never consent to?

Cult Conversion Walkthrough (Storytime!)

No one is immune from mind control.  And contrariwise, mind control doesn’t always work. It takes the right combination of factors; specifically trust, common ideals, and receptivity.

Cults are a good place to study mind control because the changes they effect on people’s lives are extremely obvious.

Pretend for a moment you are having a difficult time in your life: a recent tragedy or major transition.  Maybe you’ve just gone through divorce, lost a loved one, you’ve moved to a new town, or have recently been fired.  You’re feeling alone, scared, depressed, ashamed, or desperate.

One day you encounter someone who is nice to you.  Either it’s a friend or associate, or even a complete stranger.  Maybe it is someone handing out pamphlets, or speaking to a crowd.  Who ever it is, he has kind eyes, and you feel a little better when you’re around him.  He also seems to share your values.  Maybe he wants to help the poor, or he talks about the power of love, or God, or protecting animals.  Imagine your greatest value, and he also shares that value with a level of passion you admire.

He invites you to a meeting or a party.  Once there, you find a room full of people who say nice things to you, lifting your spirits.  They are involved in a cause you wholeheartedly endorse.  They take care of the sick or collect food for the poor, or educate kids about capitalism, or share the message of God to the world.

Being around these people makes you feel good.  You feel as if you belong.  You quickly forget your personal problems and begin spending more time with this group, working towards making the world a better place.

They have won your trust.

Now you are fairly receptive to what the leader may tell you.  He will use this time to win more of your trust and make you more receptive.  If you’ve had niggling doubts about your new friends or their beliefs, they are easily explained away.

Slowly, you are introduced to new ideas you may not have accepted at first.  Over time, more is required of you.  More money, more time, more sacrifices.  Your behavior is slowly restricted.  Maybe you are required to dress a special way, eat or not eat certain foods, show up at a certain number of meetings, be so busy you don’t get proper sleep or nutrition.

Now the grip tightens.  The leader teaches you doctrines to instill phobias about the outside world.  You learn that your group has many enemies to fear.  Those enemies are not to be listened to because you will be unable to resist when they try to lead you away from the love of the group.  You are given thought-terminating cliche’s, phrases or words that help you easily dismiss criticism.  You are elite, one of the chosen to help save the world from political error, or one of the blessed of God.  Your very language is altered, as your words become “loaded”. This prevents you from properly thinking about certain concepts, and from properly communicating with people outside the group.  You have become dependent upon the group for your emotional well-being, and you are possibly even physically or financially dependent.  You are isolated, if not physically, then mentally, because there are many sources of information you are taught to distrust.

When you think about the group and its teachings, you are filled with a sense of euphoria.  Thinking about outsiders or criticisms makes you feel anger or confusion.  The thought of leaving the group or “switching sides” makes you feel guilty, ashamed, or afraid.  If something is not going as promised, you blame yourself, not the group.  There are no gray areas left in your world view — things are either good or evil, left or right, pure or tainted, full of life or death.

You now automatically reject any criticism, no matter how valid it is.  You reject any fact that goes contrary to your beliefs, because your beliefs have become more important than reality.  Certain words are now triggers that cause you to reject specific ideas before you even have a chance to hear them out.

You feel yourself to be perfectly rational, far more enlightened or intelligent than those with opposing views.  Yet instead, your brain has been crippled from the mind viruses you voluntarily made part of you.

What Just Happened?

Here is the process:

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Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 2:50 am  Comments (12)  
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PAX 2009 Live Blog

Penny Arcade eXpo is an annual gaming convention in Seattle, WA. It hosts approximately 30,000 people. Any type of game is covered here, video games, tabletop, pen and paper RPGs, board, card, hand held, console, and PC games.

Our PAX Posse includes Luna, Roland, Joci, John, Danielle, and teens Betsy, Tori, Stephan, Meadow, and Judah. Whew!

Roland and I will be liveblogging the event in this post, meaning, check back periodically, as this post will be updated every few hours.

(For anyone waiting for the next Mind Control 101 entry, I’ll write it soon. PAX comes first! XD)

Friday

10:11am Luna: At PAX. Glad we pre-reged early. All badges are of course sold out. I wonder where they will have PAX next year, since the Washington State Convention Center is the largest venue in Seattle (to my knowledge).

Now standing in line for swag bag and lanyard. This line is far, far the longest line I’ve seen at a con. Guessing twice as long as the Adam Savage line at Defcon.

See how this line wraps over and under itself

See how this line wraps over and under itself

10:27am Roland: This line is more awesomely long than any con line I’ve ever been in, and everyone is already registered!

11:02am Luna: OMG the exhibit hall has spilled out into what last year was the LAN room. Swag bag came with full copy of LOTR: Mines of Moria. We were all playing LOTR plain last year. We could start again, and rope the kids into it. Make them our own personal gold farming slaves.

Bag also holds a mouse pad, t-shirt, buttons, stickers. Program guide looks like a retro NES game manual. Awesome job, PAX swag committee!

11:40 Luna: spotted a Reverse-Scalper at the entrance. The poor guy is offering $100 for a three day pass. Planning to sew the kids’ badges to their clothing so they don’t lose and/or get pwned out of them.

1:46pm Luna: Sitting at the AION panel. I hadn’t really heard of this MMORPG until now. Looks maybe cool. Most of the audience is in closed beta and they apparently love it.

1:54pm Luna: iPhone users, be sure to check out the PAX iPhone app to check schedules, events, and other information. (Assuming AT&T lets us have any bandwidth.)

Do not Access this from the Apple Store. It awesomely installs from the web. So browse to this link in Safari:

http://pax.expojunkie.com/#_home

Oh, and Gmail is down again. Weird.

5:37pm Luna: John says he’s disappointed with the racial ratios in the Pax crowds. Mostly white and Asian.

I was greatly disappointed with the booth babe at Atari’s booth. Nothing against her, just against Atari for putting a paid model who seems to have zero interest in games, standing scantily clad with the sole purpose of attracting male gamers. Just like EA at Comicon, you guys have no understanding of the changing gamer demographic – not only are there more women gamers, bur more if the guys want smart gamer girlfriends, not just pretty naked bodies.

Speaking of girls, there seemed to be fewer women this year. That could have something to do with the time of day. My jury is still out till tomorrow.

I didn’t have time to finish the walk of the expo hall. But here are the games I’m excited about:

Machinarium
Lego Rock Band
Beetles Rick Band
Elemental: War of Magic
Tales of Monkey Island

I had a great time at the Stardock / Impulse booth. We are constant fans of that company. Their Gamer’s Bill of Rights was a long time coming. I love a company who believes at it’s roots their customers should be treated with respect, not suspected as thieves.

Stardock staff recommended a game I plan to check out: Kitten Sanctuary

6:28pm Luna: Watching in fascination as the nVidia numbers game unfolds. Saw this happen two years ago. The game works this way: nvidia booth hands you a button. Your button has a number and presumably, someone else has another button with the same number. Find your match. Then you can spin a wheel or something, and the grand prize everyday is some snazzy top of the line expensive graphics gear.

At this stage, we’re watching the beginnings if self-organization. Some people are content to labor away, walking around and manually looking at buttons. But already, people have scrawled their numbers in 5″ on lined paper and ink pen. Hashtag #nvidia and your number on Twitter so others can search you.

It should be interesting to see if the final stages of this look anything like two years ago.

7:52pm Luna: Watched the Bioshock 2 preview.  Wow.  Leave it to Bioshock to force me into upgrading my video card again.  Now I’m more motivated to win one. ;)

It doesn’t just look like another version of Bioshock with new graphic overlays over the same old gameplay.  For one thing, it seems a little more like a zombie game.  Since you’re playing a Big Daddy, not much can hurt you, so you generally get ganged up upon.  You’re trying to protect a Little Sister, so I sincerely hope the game doesn’t end up being the world’s longest escort quest (I hate escort quests!)

Storyline is still immersive.  Big Sisters are fucking scary.  Graphics?  Well, let’s say it’s impressive when the ocean floods into the room, water beads up on camera, and then you’re walking around with floating chairs and murky ocean goo floating around you.

Yeah, I see a new GPU in my future.

Gameboy Music

Gameboy Music

Earlier, we walked past the Gameboy Music people outside.  They are much, much better this year.  Not only is the novelty of the instrument cool, they’re actually starting to sound good.  I stayed to listen just because I actually liked the sound.

In the Console Freeplay room on floor 5, you can play with a Microsoft Surface. I’m always excited about these paradigm-blowing new technologies.

Surface of course is a table a few feet across.  4-6 people can sit comfortably around it.  It has a touch-sensitive screen.  Actually, I learned it’s technically a camera, and touch sensitivity is approximated. You drag elements around on the screen.  So if there are dots or icons flying around, you can touch to add new dots, drag them places, etc.

There is also a chip system, where coded chips can be placed on the screen.  They have various functions — like gravity, springs, solid objects, and so on.  So if you have dots flowing across the screen, and place down a gravity chip, it can attract or repulse the dots.  My intuitive impulse was to twist the chip, and I quickly learned twisting one way created a stronger and stronger repulse reaction.  Counterclockwise twists created stronger and stronger incoming gravity.

Another application showed you a little better how the camera was working.  I could lay my arm across it, and it “saw” my arm down to the last eyelet on my fancy sleeves, in a sort of black-and-white “negative”.

There is also an identity card.  You lay it on the surface, and it recognizes you.  This can be used in a variety of applications.  For instance, in gaming, it tracks your score, movements, etc. When you leave for a break, you take your ID with you, so no one can cheat. :)

Another app uses your ID to show Twitter and Facebook details of the people sitting at the table.  Twitter messages can be moved around, sorted, etc.

Surface seems to bring social back to computing.  This should be a strange interface when used with Natal. That will bring not only facial recognition for the purpose of identification of multiple users of the same surface at the same time, but also emotion and body movement recognition.

This plus some of the augmented reality apps, like are being developed for iPhones now, make me very excited to see what the near-future holds in terms of computer interfaces and how they will change the way we think.

Surfaces are currently being marketed for commercial use only, as each one costs about $12,500.  However, the Microsoft rep said Windows 7 was build with touch interfaces in mind, so we’ll soon start seeing these types of interfaces in the form of laptops, tablets, and monitors.

9:00pm Luna: Merchants of Deva are doing an alcohol-infused fund raiser for Child’s Play, tomorrow evening 5pm-9pm at The Baltic Room on 1207 Pine. http://www.merchantsofdeva.com for more info.

Published in: on September 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm  Comments (2)  
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My Libertarian Credentials

A lot of people lately have doubted that I’m for small government. I’ve had to fend off long litanies and lists of examples of why government is bad.  Yet no one seems to believe me when I say, “Yes, I know government is bad.”  Honestly, I know that. That’s old, old news to me.

But I sometimes have some additional points to make, like, “It’s a fallacy to say all of anything is bad,” or “Sometimes government is good,” or “Sometimes big business needs a kick in the rear.”  And those points keep getting lost because some of you feel the need to convert me even though I’m already converted.

So I feel the need to list my credentials, to “show my papers” to the border guard of your judgment.  I hope you will view these bona fides with approval, and nod me on so that I can get back to writing on topics I prefer.

A lot of you may not know what libertarianism is, so here it is in a nutshell.  I’m for small government.  On both sides of the aisle.  If you’re conservative, I agree with you on half of the issues — that generally government should stay out of our finances.  If you’re liberal, I generally agree with you on half of the issues, that government should stay out of our personal lives.  I prefer individualism to collectivism, innovation to control, freedom to tyranny.  If you need further details, go google it.

Just how small-government am I?  A portion of my mind is constantly dedicated to figuring out ways to privatize everything without causing mass chaos, much the same way a sci-fi authors ponder how to get between stars in a human lifetime without defying the laws of physics.  If I could think of a safe way to privatize even the military, I’d be for it!

Here are my creds:

  • I voted for Ruth Bennett in 2000, the candidate who got 7% of the votes, making the LP temporarily a major party in Washington State.
  • In 2001, I bought a handgun simply to exercise my Second Amendment right to do so.
  • In 2002 I was an election volunteer (“Observer”) representing the LP in Benton County, Washington.  I observed the delivery of ballot boxes, as well as the testing of counting equipment.
  • I helped with the Bruce Guthrie Senate campaign in 2006.
  • I started the Wikipedia article on Neo-Objectivism (It persisted several years, but since, sadly, has been unfairly merged into the Objectivist Movement article. Those bastards!)
  • I subscribed to Reason magazine for several years, and have one of the coveted personalized issues that has my name and satellite image of my house printed on the cover.
  • My copies of Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem are very underlined, dog-eared, and annotated in pencil.
  • Have a look at the books I have tagged as “Changed My Life” on Librarything.com.  These books had a profound effect on my outlook.
  • I convinced an anthropology-majoring, socialist-leaning, pot-smoking lesbian that mandatory recycling is wrong.
  • I regularly donate to the EFF, ACLU, and other civil liberties organizations.
  • My major heroes include Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Ayn Rand, Wendy McElroy, Penn & Teller, Ron Paul, David Brin.
  • Karl Marx is a scumbag.

So why do my posts sound Liberal/Socialist/Right-Wing/[insert evil side you oppose here]?  Because there are already millions of information resources for Libertarian/Objectivist/Civil Liberties/Small Government Conservative philosophies.  There are organizations like CATO, ACLU, EFF, and the Reason Foundation.  There are blogs like the Agitator and Below the Beltway. Anyone can go out and read Adam Smith and Ludwig Von Mises books until their eyes swell.

And of course for every one libertarian evangelist, there are 100 right wing or left wing authors repeating the same things.  (Since again, libertarians are half-breeds.)

I don’t merely want to parrot all of the above.  Why should I when I can link to them, or reference them, or just rest assured those voices are out there saying what needs to be said?  If I repeated the same old lines, this blog would be boring, and you wouldn’t be here reading it.

In fact, it is because I am a true individualist that I choose to not be a parrot.  Instead, I choose to be an innovator.  I want to think of original ideas and new twists on old ideas.  I want to look at issues in a fresh way.

As a blogger I get to write about what I am most interested in.  I find most interesting those areas where I disagree with the rank and file.

This is not so I can be a contrarian, to disagree for disagreement’s sake.  I simply hold reason above ideology. So while my core values match those of core libertarianism, I am always asking questions. “Where does my ideology break down?  Are there exceptions to my ‘rules’?  How do my core principles really apply to this topic?” I am not comfortable with jumping to a conclusion based solely on my old assumptions.  Nor am I comfortable arguing for something I know very little about, even if doing so would follow some party line.

I find exceptions to the rule extremely fascinating and worthy of discussion.  Just because I disagree with you on one point, or a dozen, doesn’t automatically put me on The Same Side As The Enemy.  That is a thought terminating clichè which could be disabling your ability to thoughtfully consider what could otherwise be very good ideas.

So before you go getting all excited, please rest assured: I believe government sucks.  There are major problems with the EPA, FDA, IRS, Federal Reserve, SEC, NSA, CIA, DEA, and most every other member of the Government Acronym Soup.  I love liberty and support our troops and red meat is tasty and the internet should be free.  People should be responsible and personally accountable for all their actions.  Hard work and innovation should be rewarded.  Capitalism and democracy are the greatest human forces yet discovered to increase happiness and quality of life of every person on earth.

Honest.  I get that.  I really do.

So now that I’ve regurgitated the party line, I hope to get back to the business of being an individual.  Like writing about something you haven’t heard before.

Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 9:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Mind Control 101: Myths of Brainwashing

Mind Control - ur doing it rong

Mind catrol - ur doing it rong akshully

by Luna Flesher

I’ve studied a lot about mind control over the years.  My interest piqued shortly after I left a rigorous and restrictive religion.  I wanted to better understand how I had willingly allowed myself to be controlled, all the while believing and protesting loudly that I was free.

These methods are deceptive and unethical, tricking the mind rather than persuading through honesty and reason. Knowing this, I now have a very unique perspective on American politics.  I can see these techniques used all the time, by politicians, media, and regular people.

This is not owing to a vast conspiracy. It doesn’t take an evil mastermind to notice certain approaches work better to persuade. These methods have always worked and will always continue to work, and so they perpetuate through society.  Some who study memetics might even say they self-replicate.

This post begins a series called “Mind Control 101”, which precedes its non-evil step-twin, “Logical Fallacies 101”.

Please do not use this as a How To!  I address this topic not with the intent that you try to take over the world. In instead wish to make you better able to defend yourself when your mind comes under assault.

Let’s begin with the myths.  The entire subject of brainwashing is “loaded”.  Loading a word is itself, fittingly, a mind control technique that limits thought by giving you preconceived and highly incorrect notions. I’ll start “deprogramming” you by showing where your existing understanding of the topic is probably far from reality.

When I say these words, “Thought Control” or “Brainwashing”, you no doubt envision a wild-haired hypnotist swinging a silver watch, while a stern doctor injects your arm with a strange serum.  In the background, hooded figures chant, and soon your eyes begin to glaze over.  All the while you are helpless to resist because you are strapped to a chair.

This is all complete fantasy.  The great secret is that while being brainwashed you feel in complete control of yourself.  A much more accurate term is “coercive persuasion“, because you are persuaded to want the same thing the manipulator wants, to believe as he wants you to believe.

Those who have been thusly persuaded never know they have been brainwashed.  Conversely if you think you’ve been brainwashed, you probably haven’t been.

So let’s dispel some myths, shall we?

Thought reform does not require physical restraint.

Scientists used to think this, back in the 1950s, when American POWs returned from Korea singing the praises of their captors.  But coercive persuasion in our free society requires a little more skill.  No force is required.  All it takes is listening to someone who is talking.  It also requires that you trust them, at least a little bit.  If they do their job right, you will go willingly.

This picture is totally photoshopped

It does not involve hypnotic disks.

Hypnosis is a broad word that means any varying state of consciousness other than the one you’re probably experiencing now.  Various levels of hypnosis, trance, and meditation are sometimes used by cult groups, but this is never, ever a requirement.

No drugs, truth serums, elixirs, or magical incantations are used in brainwashing.

Other than a few 60’s cults that were using drugs anyway, I’ve never come across any thought reform involving chemicals.  Nor does it have anything to do with Satan.  No demonic possession, summoning of evil spirits, or worshiping pagan gods is required.

Brainwashed people are not glassy-eyed, drooling zombies.

Most actually appear quite normal.  In fact, I would venture to say everyone ends up brainwashed to one degree or another, at some point in their lives. Our brains seem wired to accept manipulation and deception. It seems logical that humankind would have better survived those very dangerous first 100,000 years of pre-history by following a leader without question. Thought control merely capitalizes on those build-in survival skills we are all born with.

There is absolutely no way to know that you’ve been brainwashed.

That’s exactly the point. If you knew you were being controlled, you wouldn’t like it very much, and you wouldn’t stand for it.  The manipulated fully believe they are making their own choices, that they are completely free to act in any way they choose.

A good deal of brainwashing involves setting up trigger thoughts, little tricks and traps that help you deflect any incoming facts, beliefs, thoughts, or feelings that would make you suddenly stop believing the lies you’ve been duped into.  Part of this series is going to be identifying those traps, so you can avoid them in the first place.

(I could say “…and so you can escape if you’re already brainwashed.”  But you see, if I were to accuse you of being controlled, you would immediately become defensive and protest, thinking, “There is no possible way!” That is exactly what I’m talking about.)

There is no “one size fits all” method of mind control.

To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, you can control some of the people all of the time, or all the people some of the time, but you can’t control all the people all the time.  Manipulators throw out a line with some bait to see what bites.  Sometimes it’s you, but usually you will laugh at their crazy ideas.  Everyone is ripe for being manipulated at some point in their lives.  Someone has something to say that will appeal specifically to you. You will always be able to see how other people are being brainwashed, but you won’t necessarily notice when it’s happening to you, because you will like it.

There are a lot of mind control tricks, but not all are required.

There isn’t a checklist that says, “Must meet all 50 requirements to be considered mind control”.  To control, you only need to do what works.

Brainwashing is not total.

It is possible to be partly brainwashed.  You can be brainwashed about certain topics but not others.  You can be brainwashed to the point of doing or believing almost everything the leader wants, but not quite. Victims of mind control can eventually be freed.

This image is actually pretty accurate.  NOT!

A completely staged, totally unrealistic depiction of a typical brainwasher. (Note the evil eyebrows.)

Brainwashers are not creepy, bizarre, crazy, mean-spirited men who ooze evil and darkness from every pore.

Images of cackling, sneering, British-accept-wielding villains were created for the drama of movie fiction, not to reflect reality.

If you’re going to be good at manipulation, you’ve got to be likable. To persuade, you must be charismatic. To convince, you must be, well… convincing. I listened to old recordings of Jim Jones recorded just before the infamous Jonestown kool-aid mass-suicides and he sounded sincere, kind, loving, and wise.

Furthermore, controlling groups or ideologies work best when believers are taught to use brainwashing techniques themselves.  That’s right. In almost every case, the controlled end up controlling.

No one is immune from mind control.

Not even me, not even after all I’ve learned about it. I can build up defenses, but even then I will be susceptible to it at some point.

Conclusion

Now you know what mind control is not, which gives you an advantage over most people.  In the next post I will, in the most basic of terms, describe what it is. Later on, I will delve into the details each technique so you can learn to recognize these methods in the wild.

Published in: on August 29, 2009 at 4:25 am  Comments (11)  
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Even If CO2 Doesn’t Kill Mankind, Climate Change Will

by Luna Flesher

I am a global warming agnostic.  I stick my toe in the water every year or so check the temperature on both sides of the debate.  I tend to waffle around somewhere just barely on either side of the fence.  There’s a lot of convincing data on both sides, and I really think science hasn’t come far enough to know either way.  It’s as if two astrologers have gazed into the same crystal ball and come up with completely different futures.

First you have a majority of scientists who firmly believe global anthropogenic (man-made) climate change (warming) is occurring due to carbon dioxide emissions.  In fact, some now say it is inevitable, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.  I can’t believe this is due to a sinister, anti-capitalist conspiracy here because far too many smart scientists have made this conclusion.  They might be mistaken, but they are not all “in on it”.

There is an overwhelming amount of data to indicate global temperatures are on the rise.  You have atmospheric and oceanic measurements of temperatures.  You have massive local weather fluctuations.  You have the melting ice caps.  You have plants that bloom at all the wrong times.

To confuse matters, scientists are actually noting a more recent cooling trend in very recent years.  Scientists retain existing warming theories, blaming various  conditions such as regular oceanic current cycles.

Some fringe scientists claim warming now will actually trigger an ice age.

Whether it’s cooling or warming, something certainly seems to be going on with the climate, even if it seems no one can be entirely sure what.

Then you have the debate on what is causing climate change.  Obviously the prevailing theory it that it’s caused by increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, due of course to fossil fuel consumption.

There is certainly a historical correlation between CO2 conditions and average global temperatures.  However, I have one small doubt: the classical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “After this, therefore because of this”. Just because Event B happens after Event A, does not mean Event A was the cause.  This is also known in statistics as correlation does not imply causation. It’s an easy one to fall for, even for scientists.

Here is an example of why we might have a CO2 to temperature correlation where Co2 is not the cause.

We all know that decaying vegetable matter releases CO2. The more plants, the more CO2 can decay once that plant dies.  Increased global temperature increases the percentage of landmass viable for plant growth, and increases vegetation densities all over.  The Keeling Curve shows how plant decay produces sharp ups and downs of CO2 each year as things die off the fall and grow in the spring.  We have no way of knowing how increased vegetation over entire landmasses would increase CO2 levels for us to find in the ice eons later.

To further my point on cause vs. effect, we have been recently told the current trend of warming will thaw now-frozen plant matter, which will increase CO2 even further.  How do we know the spikes in CO2 in our distant past weren’t caused by some arbitrary warming factor thawing once-frozen tundra, suddenly releasing ages-old carbon as is now happening?

Global warming could just as possibly cause CO2.

CO2 greenhouse theory itself becomes shaky in light of saturation theory. Greenhouse theory states gases absorb sunlight as energy as it bounces off the earth’s surface and back into space.  However, CO2 can only absorb certain bandwidths of light.  Other greenhouses gases also absorb light, each with its own bands.  Water vapor absorbs the most energy from the highest number of frequencies, and is responsible for 90% of atmospheric heat absorption. There is some crossover, for example water absorbs some of the same frequencies of light as carbon, methane, and so on.  Once a gas has absorbed 100% of the bandwidths of light that it can, it can no longer retain any further energy.  All the other frequencies of light pass through.

Saturation theory concludes that carbon will increase temperatures only so much, until its entire range of light has been absorbed, and then it will stop.

To add one more little push as I lean over the fence, there is a new study showing how global warming models are not following their predicted paths. The paper is out of MIT, and is written by a highly respected atmospheric scientist.

The Little Ice Age showed us the earth can suddenly change climates for geologically short periods of time.  History records, and geological records corroborate, that the earth plunged into a period of cold starting as early as 1350 and ending possibly in the 1850’s, with many decades-long ups and downs interspersed.  1816 was known as the Year Without Summer.  Europe and the Americas suffered off-and-on periods of mass starvation.

This was not caused by man. It was caused by the whims of nature, and proves to me just how much at the mercy of the environment we are.

My conclusion, for now, is that the climate is probably changing, and this could very likely have a devastating effect on sea levels, food supply, weather, and ecological habitats.

I doubt it is caused by man, but I remain agnostic on this point as well.

Either way, I absolutely think we should place less effort into building computer models of CO2 effects, which is like counting angels on the head of a pin, and more towards preparing ourselves for the coming disasters.

Maybe there is some crazy idea that could cool the earth no matter what its cause, like David Keith’s proposal to use sulfate particulates in the stratosphere.

The Little Ice Age caused starvation because it took so many years to discover which crops grew well in colder conditions.  We need to get scientists like Normal Borlaug to recommend plants and agricultural methods for various scenarios, and then we need to stock up on the right seeds.

How can we apply ingenuity to save our coastal cities should sea levels rise? How can we protect our water supply if all the glaciers melt? Where will be buy swimsuits in January if stores won’t stock them until May?

In seriousness, perhaps we’re spending a lot of time and money on trying to answer the wrong question — not “Is climate change happening”, nor even, “How can we prevent it?”, but “Now that it’s happening, how can we keep humanity safe and living with a high quality of life?”

Published in: on August 28, 2009 at 6:14 am  Comments (7)  
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The American Free Market Healthcare System Is Socialist

by Luna Flesher

Opponents of healthcare reform fear socialism.  And rightly so.  They list a host of problems that other socialist systems have seen.  While some examples are unrealistically exaggerated, their underlying point is well-taken.  Socialism, no matter how well intended, suffers from a number of unintended consequences.

The intention of collectivism is to provide equality, but the frequent result is that everyone is equally deprived.  No one is allowed to have more than anyone else.  Motivations become skewed, producers produce less, consumers consume more. Bureaucracy increases with the intent to stop fraud and abuse, which leads to increased inefficiency.  The least common denominator is prized because it is something everyone can agree on.

The Soviet Union is one of the best examples of this cycle, when it inevitably collapsed under its own weight.

A hat tip to my socialist friends out there. Yes, I know the USSR didn’t practice “true” socialism. But I still make my claim — any collectivist system of more than 100 people will generally suffer from similar symptoms.  When properly balanced, those issues can be stabilized and mitigated somewhat, but they are real problems that need to be recognized for what they are.

Socialized medicine is criticized for the following reasons:

  • Overall costs are rapidly driven up by lack of market forces.
  • Providers, manufactures, and other achievers are not compensated enough.
  • Choice becomes limited.
  • Care is rationed.
  • There are long waits for care.
  • There is a high level of bureaucracy leading to inefficiency, frustration, and corruption.

Most socialist healthcare systems in the world today show at least some of these problems, to one degree or another.

Previously, I posted about how our healthcare system is in crisis.  Our free market system is supposed to be immune to these problems.  Yet I’m noticing a strange correlation.  We are already experiencing all of the issues listed above.  How can this be?

Correlation is not causation, but I had already reached this conclusion a number of years ago for different reasons.  I briefly made this claim elsewhere in this blog, when I argued for government intervention, but did not have room to make my case.

My conclusion?  Health insurance is socialist.
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Published in: on August 24, 2009 at 11:15 pm  Comments (2)  
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Gun Nuts Give Free Ammunition To The Enemy

by Luna Flesher

William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch

William Kostric bearing arms with this sign sets gun rights back a notch

I like to think the Founders put the Bill of Rights in the order they did for a reason.  The First Amendment comes first because freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and so on are the most basic of human rights.  Then we need the Second Amendment to help us protect those rights, through use of force if necessary.

I’m just as big a fan of the Bill of Rights as the next gal.  But when the segment of our population most interested in protecting those rights is the segment most Out Of Their Minds at the moment, it seems to set the cause back just a bit.

We’ve already discussed here on this blog how those people seem to be using their free speech right to generate some of the best modern expressions of the absurd.  In a “nut” shell, they are wasting their platform to protest against fantasies and illusions, instead of bringing up a good points about something they can actually change.  Reality for instance.  Abuse of Amendment 1, already covered.

Let’s move on to Amendment 2.

Look, William Kostric.  First of all, congrats for being brave enough to go up against Chris Matthews on Hardball.  I absolutely hate that guy, because he tears down his opponent with verbal bludgeons and psychological trickery before he lets them say their piece. I would never accept an interview him. Kudos for not letting him get to you and for explaining your case as best you could.

And I totally understand your points.  The Bill of Rights doesn’t just say the right to keep arms, but keep and bear arms. I get that.  Guns are kind of useless if they’re locked up at home.

And I get the concept of doing something simply because you have the right to, and making sure to exercise rights in order not to lose them. That’s why I bought a handgun 8 years ago and still have it.

And I understand your point about how the law and culture in New Hampshire fully permits open display of weaponry without anyone batting an eye.  Free State Project, and all that.  I’ve even considered joining you guys there. Cool, fine.

And I totally get your point that public perception of guns is probably way skewed, and that maybe if more nice people open-carried guns more often, maybe everyone else would mellow out a bit.

But I’m sorry, William. You totally lost the public perception game this time. -1000 points for our side. Michale Moore couldn’t have done a better job at getting people to hate guns.  Hell, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold themselves couldn’t have made firearms seem more scary.

It’s not that you openly wore a gun on your leg on private property in New Hampshire.  It’s not that you were within sight of building where the President spoke when you wore it. It’s not that you protest the President’s views on recent issues.  No, no it’s none of those things.

It’s the sign, William.  The sign.  The sign would have been just fine all by itself. Free speech and all, and I love Thomas Jefferson so dearly.  But you had the sign, and the gun, and the current President nearby.

The sign read, “It is time to water the tree of liberty”.  Not the actual quote, which reads, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  No, specifically “It is time” to water the tree.

Not some theoretical distant time in the future. Not some reference to blood spilt in the past. No, you said it is time. Right now. To water the tree. With blood. While you are carrying a ranged weapon. In proximity to the President. That your peers have been calling a Socialist, a Nazi, a Terrorist… a tyrant.  You might as well have held up a sign that says, “Guns don’t kill people… I DO.”

This, sir, was no patriotic act. It was not a defense of your right to bear arms. No, Mr. Kostric, you set us back. Further sullied the image of bearing arms. Further relegated it to the pastime of crazies, extremists, fundamentalists, and people who would put passion for principle far above common sense.

If you were a patriot, you would respect the President, even if you do not agree with him. You would expect him to do his best to fulfill his oath of office, to defend the Constitution, until such time as he actually proves otherwise. You would follow due process, as outlined in the rest of the constitution, to have your voice be heard. And you would do so with reason and common sense, in honor of those rational Founders who wrote that quote you reference, who ensured that right you enjoy.

Thomas Jefferson was right about needing revolutions now and then. And we’ve had them. We’ve had many revolutions since 1776. And while they haven’t been bloodless, there has been less blood than you might expect, because that Constitution worked perhaps a little better than the Founders had hoped.  For the most part, our revolutions have followed due process.  The killings came during riots, protests, and yes, even assassinations.  But the majority of the blood spilt was unfortunately of the innocent, the patriots if you will — those brave enough to stand up for important new ideas, or for the rights of those who had been ignored.

Those revolutions were about change, not about keeping things the same.

To the guy who dropped his gun at a political meeting in Arizona, you have given evidence to the American public that those who bear arms are clumsy and know nothing about gun safety, reinforcing everything they’ve heard about accidental gun deaths. Or was it intentional? Like Mr. Kostric’s sign, does it imply a veiled threat? An Appeal to Force? Do what we say or we will kill you?

It makes me wonder here, which of you are the patriots, and which the tyrants?

I am not a pacifist, just a libertarian who remembers one basic principle: Never initiate force or fraud or threat of either.  When force or fraud is committed against me, I am willing to retaliate in kind, but I make awfully damned sure of who did the initiating, and make awfully damned sure I have exhausted every other course of action.

If any of you gun nuts decides you’ve finally had enough, that it’s time to fire the first shot, please stop and consider how much damage you will do to the cause of gun rights. Please do not generate more evidence for the other side. Stop trying to prove that Guns Are Only Good For Killing People.

8/18 UPDATE: This is becoming a fad.  Yesterday, 12 armed men showed up to an Arizona protest, again within proximity of the President. One carried an AR-15 assault rifle. What are you trying to prove again? No one is actually talking about gun control right now. It’s not on the agenda. Obama hasn’t said word one about guns.

But since you brought it up, you’re not making any liberals think, “hm, maybe guns are a good idea after all”. You’re making them ask, “and why do these states have the right to allow loaded assault rifles anywhere near the President?”

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 4:22 pm  Comments (7)  
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Our Healthcare System In Crisis: The Evidence

by Luna Flesher

It’s become clear to me based on the feedback from my previous posts on healthcare that many people in America don’t realize there are any problems with our existing system.

There is plenty of information available about these problems.  I always like to steer people towards personal research, but these links should get you started:

Plus:

And I’m not even talking about universal coverage to pay for those who can’t afford it.  I don’t have to even go there.  Because like it or not, we already pay for the poor’s healthcare through:

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Published in: on August 15, 2009 at 4:52 am  Comments (7)  
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On Being Wrong

by Luna Flesher

It seems like the most important goal in life for some people is to be right. Decades ago, Rush Limbaugh proclaimed himself right, all the time, every time. His listeners, “dittoheads”, were vicariously right just for agreeing with him.  This set the trend for Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Newt Gingrich.

These leaders in turn have created the recent fad: to proudly declare one’s rightness, even in the face of overwhelming evidence against it. Even if it pisses people off, even if undermines the cause, even if it makes them look like complete idiots.

One can hardly blame them. Humans seem to be pre-wired to receive mental pleasure when we reinforce our existing beliefs. We are uncomfortable when our beliefs are challenged.  This concept is called Cognitive Dissonance/Consonance theory, which I have written about before, several times.  I will certainly write about it again, because it explains so much about human motivations.

In spite of how intensely you believe you are right, this is sometimes at odds with actually being right.  There is no human being on earth who’s entire belief system is 100% correct.  Not even Rush.  Even if you are right about a lot of things, you are most certainly wrong about a few other things.

If you think you are somehow one-0f-a-kind or special to have been blessed with the super power of Always Being Right, then I can easily show you the first thing you are wrong about.
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Published in: on August 12, 2009 at 9:51 pm  Comments (5)  
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Health Reform Bill Reading Project: Part 2, The Gory Details

by Luna Flesher

As I’m sure you know, I read the House version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Bill of 2009 over the weekend.  If you want the quick summary, and my opinion, please read Part 1.

As I read the bill, I made notes.  I basically summarized each part as I mentally processed it.  I did not leave anything out unless it was repetitive, technical (indexes, definitions, amendment legalese), or seemingly unimportant.

These are those notes, in the raw, with some minor spell checking and cleanup. In a way, this is a live-blogging event. I did intersperse a little bit of opinion, but not much.

The notes are roughly in the order in which they appear in the House AAHCA Bill, unless it made more sense to move it elsewhere (like where a later part of the bill was talking about something earlier).

If you happen to doubt my assessment of this bill, you can read the full thing yourself: http://docs.house.gov/edlabor/AAHCA-BillText-071409.pdf

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Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 7:09 pm  Comments (1)  
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Health Reform Bill Reading Project: Part 1, The Meta-Summary

by Luna Flesher

I have just finished reading the House version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Bill of 2009.

I will give a detailed account in this multiple parts.  This post will be the overall summary.  See Part 2 for detailed dissection so you can judge for yourself.

Here are my qualifications, or lack there of:  I am simply an American who does not want to be screwed over by the health care industry or the government.  My political alignment is “pragmatic libertarian”.   I am generally skeptical.  I am intelligent, but I am not a lawyer.  I have zero law training nor any training in the medical or health fields.  In fact, I generally hate the topics of law and health because they bore me.  I only chose this task because 1) I was challenged to it, 2) I happened to have time this weekend, and 3) lots of people are claiming to be experts, but few actually seem to be reading the damn thing.

This is probably the last time in a very long time I will attempt something like this.

The AAHCA was 1018 pages long, approximately 200,000 words.  I did not log my hours, but I’m guessing it took me about 6 hours total, spread out over 3 days.  I spent 2 hours writing this summary blog post, and expect to spend at least another 2 hours compiling my notes for the detailed posts.

I am not a speed reader.  My intent was to find the truth of what the bill actually does, so my decisions were in good faith, i.e. if I felt I understood a section, I skimmed over details that were repetitive, reinforcing what I understood, or making minor modifications to existing laws.  There were vast pages of “hereby changing the semicolon to a period in title IV of USC blah blah”.  There were vast pages of tweaks to Medicaid.  These I read enough to make sure there was no overt funny business, but I did not spend many brain cells trying to comprehend these sections.

When I did hit a section which seemed important (of which there were many) I slowed down until I reached comprehension.  At times I did additional internet research to make sure I understood what it meant.  In my followup “detail” posts, I will make a note of anything I felt I didn’t fully understand.

There were complications on my understanding of sections which amended existing laws.  Since I have no understanding of those laws, and did not want to increase my reading time by ten to go read those laws, I made some assumptions.  Overall, I didn’t get the sense that there was any trickery going on.  The intent of the law seemed clear and in good faith, so my assumption is those amendments were in that same letter and spirit.

The intent of the law seems to be to improve quality care for everyone, lower or control costs in the industry, to help those who have no coverage to get covered, and to regulate against abuses that are currently going on in the health industry.

I did not see any attempt to replace the insurance or health care industries with government health care.  I did not see any overt violations of individual rights other than the usual: increases in certain taxes and increases in bureaucratic mass.  No death panels, no government takeovers of health care, no limits in doctor choice, no letting grandma die.

So let’s get started.

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Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 10:25 pm  Comments (5)  
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On Tyranny and Health Care: A Libertarian’s Plea for Government Interference

by Luna Flesher

If liberty is one of my chief values, and tyranny is its opposite, then tyranny is my adversary.

By liberty, I mean individual freedom from oppression by another; the ability to move about, act as I choose, and reap the consequences.  In order to fairly protect liberty, freedom must be limited when it begins to infringe on the freedom of others.  I was raised with the phrase, “Your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

To be clear, I do not mean freedom from want.  Being handed unearned resources may increase choice, but this is not the kind of freedom a government can easily grant without violating the rights of someone else.  Nor do I mean the freedom to escape rightful consequences, both positive and negative.  You may act on your rights, but it is not freedom if you unfairly avoid what’s coming to you.  That usually indicates someone else’s rights are being violated, someone else is being cheated.

Tyranny, the antithesis of liberty, can come from any source.  Most libertarians and conservatives are rightfully wary of the tyranny of government.  Typically only a government has police power, military might, power of imprisonment, and the backing of society.

However, tyranny can come from many other sources — any individual or organization who wishes to impinge upon your rights.  They do this through the use or threat of physical force, breaking of contracts, and gaining consent through misinformation.  They avoid the negative consequences of harmful actions, reaping only rewards through unfair advantage, force, and fraud.

Besides governments, large-scale tyranny can come from corporations, outside governments, unions, organized religion, organized crime, academia, political groups, etc.

On a smaller social level, it can come from independent criminals, bullies, abusive families, cults, small businesses, private security organizations, friends and associates, or random people on the street.

We spend so much time thinking of government as the bad guy.  However we forget that its most legitimate purpose is to protect individual liberties from other powers that would exert force or fraud.  That’s why we have allowed the government military and police power in the first place.

We need to look around and ask what other large-scale tyrannies exist in America today.  A good measuring stick to judge this by is, “Does it initiate force or fraud?”  Since it is the topic du jour, let’s look at the health care industry.  Here are three ways it has initiated both.

1. When you or your employer pays for health insurance, you have a contract with the insurance provider to cover certain costs if you become sick.  Your contract is too probably long to read, too confusing for you to understand, and full of loopholes.  This is a form of fraud or uninformed consent.

Even if your contact in fact covers your expensive illness, as soon as you are diagnosed the insurer is likely to drop your coverage.  You will be stuck with prohibitive bills and likely bankruptcy.

You may think this is a rare occurrence, but it is not.  The leading cause of bankruptcy is due to medical bills of people who were already covered by health insurance.

If it happens even once, it is the government’s job to protect all individuals from fraud.

2. Various factors have driven up costs so that access to health care is barred to anyone except those with insurance or those who are very rich.  It is no longer possible for a middle class person to save a percentage of their income and pay directly for health services.

Insurance has created a non-level playing field.  It is a form of privatized socialism.  Doctor’s charges go up to subsidize insurance discounts.  Hospital bills are increased to cover those without health insurance who show up on the hospital steps.

The least advantaged are the employed middle class without employer-provided insurance, small business owners, and the temporarily unemployed.  The system basically forces you to choose between being insured or not having any health care.  The latter choice leads to bodily harm or even death.

If you decide to buy insurance on your own, the costs are prohibitive.  And if you have a “pre-existing condition” like a past treatment for a yeast infection or acne, you will be denied insurance.

It boils down to this:  If you choose to run your own business or freelance, or if you choose a small employer which does not provide health care, or if you are involuntarily laid off, you risk bodily harm.  Contrary to popular belief, “hard work” is not a factor for successful health in this system.

3. In most states, employees cannot choose their insurance provider.  They cannot choose their coverage.  In this sense, they are forced into a contract made between their employer and insurance company.  This limits consumer choice when it comes to doctors, level of care, customer service, price, level of bureaucracy, and reputation.  If my insurance drops my doctor from the network, I must find a new doctor.  If my insurance company raises rates or lowers coverage, I can’t walk away.  I’m trapped.

Conclusion

There are numerous valid sources that show how insurance companies extort, defraud, cheat, and oppress.  The evidence is overwhelming.  There are examples of corruption at every level of the health care industry.  The industry as a whole is the very socialist dictatorship we so fear.

The government seems to be the only entity powerful enough to reinstate the balance and protect the people.  This is the proper role of government.  Health care reform should be embraced by everyone who cares about individual liberty.

This is one time when it is proper to plea for government interference.

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 10:47 pm  Comments (11)  
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Defcon Recap 2009: Adventures of a Hacker Groupie

by Luna Flesher

As I so enthusiastically tweeted, Defcon 2009 was the best con I’ve been to since Radcon 1997. Here are a few highlights.

Getting There

The fun began at Sea-Tac airport, where we barely caught our flight by a thin margin. Getting to the airport 1.5 hours early only leaves room for one mistake, mishap, or other difficulty. We encountered several:

First, my iPhone fell out of my pocket and was back in the car. At the parking facility. To compound the issue, I hopped the wrong shuttle to fetch it. A shuttle that was going the wrong way. However a couple of helpful shuttle drivers got me to the right place, and I was back at the airport — just in time to make the flight assuming no other mishaps occurred. I’ve just got to say: Thrifty car rental, FTW.

Back at the airport, I breathlessly found my two traveling companions waiting at the agent. Apparently, two of our tickets have been canceled with no notice. And one of our bags was over 50 lbs.

After waiting forever, repacking the bags, rushing through security, running down halls, finding out there was no room for us on the plane, then finding out there was, we boarded the plane with -5 minutes to spare.
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Published in: on August 6, 2009 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Email Rebuttal: Muslims Are Taking Over Europe

I get a lot of forwarded political email, mostly of the sensationalist right wing bent.  These are often nonfactual or overly-alarmist, so I take time to point out these mistakes when I can.

I recently received one which was factually correct:  Yes, demographic studies are predicting that by sheer force of birthrate (helped a little by immigration), Muslim populations will be in the majority in most European countries in a few short decades.

I disagreed however with the tone of the email, which implied all Muslims are anti-Western extremists who support suicide bombings, building of nukes, and flying planes into buildings.  This kind of blind generalization is dangerous.

Just as with Christianity, there are those in the extreme and those
in the middle.  There are those who are fundamentalist and those who are secular.

The only real difference is that at this moment in history, the extreme factions of Islam happen to have state power in much of the Middle East.  For this reason, we make the assumption that all the people in these countries are in full agreement with their dictators.  But in fact, the people are often very unhappy about being oppressed.

Obama alluded to this a couple of months ago in his highly-criticized Cairo speech.  At Cairo University, home to many secular-leaning Muslims, he made an appeal to those many people in the middle-stream of the Muslim world.  They are unhappy about their situation, unhappy about being ruled in theocracies.  And more often victims of extremist bombings than we are, they are unhappy about terrorism.  Obama was speaking to them, yet he was criticized by the Right who blamed him for being too “soft”, too lenient on a people who supposedly are unanimous in their hatred of the West.

A few short weeks later, we go to see the faces of many Muslim men and women who are completely unlike this mass of thronging evil we’d love to hate.  In Iran, millions of people rose up against oppression by President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Ruler Khamenei.  Over the ensuing months, thousands of peaceful protesters were arrested, tortured, and even killed, simply for walking in the streets or publishing unapproved content.

When we are blinded by hate against a generalized concept of Islam, we are aiding those who prefer an extreme form of Islam.  We prove to the extremists that the West is adversarial.  We prove to them that we do not understand them.  We prove to them that we only want violence for them.

We perpetuate the fight, we escalate the violence, we continue give them reasons to hate us as much as we hate them.

If we could instead realize that Muslim people are just people, just like us, with families, hopes, fears, beliefs, misconceptions, and regular lives, then we can meet in the middle with those Muslims who also want to see past their hate to understand us.

The majority of them do not hate us as much you believe.  Does a majority Islamic population in Europe mean Europe will have to change? Absolutely.  But if you want an Extreme Muslim Europe, you will continue to hate Muslims.  What we want is a two-way flow of cultural understanding.  We want the non-extreme, moderate Muslims to carry the cultural majority within the Muslim world.

I’d highly recommend reading about the Iranian struggle against their government.  It goes on to this day, and they still need our well-wishing and support.  I have gained a love for the Iranian people, and a better understanding of Muslims in general.  There are many tear-jerking stories of brave people making very courageous acts that are reminiscent of our own country’s struggle for freedom.  You will find that a majority of Iranian Muslims are not unlike ourselves — the only difference is they completely lack the freedoms we so enjoy.

Published in: on July 29, 2009 at 5:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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Free Your Mind Using Good Mental Habits

by Luna Flesher (cross-posted from lunaverse.blogspot.com)

The world is full of many ideas and belief systems. Many of these ideas are contradictory, and they can’t all be true. It is obvious that believing something does not mean it is reality, no matter how many people believe it, no matter how good those people are.

Yet a lot of people are motivated to convince you to believe like they do. Many of these people are highly skilled in the arts of persuasion, and we’re all at risk of believing a lie.

So how can you sort fact from fiction, truth from lies? It’s not always possible, but good mental habits can increase your odds. Ultimately, the best judge of reality is you. If your goal is like mine, to bring your beliefs as close to reality as possible, then read on.
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Published in: on October 23, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cognitive Dissonance and This Election

by Luna Flesher (cross posted from lunaverse.blogspot.com)

Let me preface this by stating I am a pragmatic libertarian, meaning I am civilly liberal and fiscally conservative. I add “pragmatic”, because every situation is complex, and should be looked at from all sides, where “principle” is only one factor — reality is another.

I’ve done a lot of reading over the years on how people are persuaded, and how beliefs work in the brain. Most of my studies focused on cults and mind control, but it gives me an interesting perspective on societal dynamics as well.

There is a psychological theory called Cognitive Dissonance/Consonance. A cognition is defined as any thought, belief, feeling, experience, idea, or other mental “thing”. We have tons of cognitions, and they all add up to be our total belief system. Our brain is motivated to more or less keep these cognitions in harmony. When we encounter a new cognition that confirms our existing cognitions, we feel consonance. When something goes against our existing cogntions, we feel dissonance.
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Published in: on October 20, 2008 at 7:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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How Group Dynamics Are Changing

by Luna Flesher

Prior to the internet, group dynamics seemed to be as likely to produce greater stupidity (the lowest common denominator) as it was to create beautiful productive things.  Group have even produce great evils that could never come about under a single individual.  Members of such groups reflect that they never would have done such things on their own.  Much has been written on this.  Many researchers and authors attribute this to, among other things, the lack of accountability that a crowd can provide.

Internet technologies appear to be changing that, allowing the greatest common ideas and actions to float to the top.  Collaborative review allows acceptance or rejection of ideas before they are implemented.  Search and integration technologies allow us to access the right content as it is needed.

The iterative nature of these technologies mean that nothing is cast in stone, and can be quickly changed if needed.

Transparency helps to retain personal accountability that was lost in the large groups of the past.  In many ways, you are or can be more anonymous in these new communities.  But even with or without levels of anonymity, a record remains, attached to your chosen identity.

Transparency also helps us focus more on our commonalities.  In past dynamics, groups thrived on differences.  This Us vs Them mentality motivated people to destroy rather than create.  With physical barriers removed, information “wants to be free”, and we understand each other better.

When I read “We is smarter than Me”, in the past I would have laughed and said Fat Chance!  Now?  Through technology we’re able to keep the Me in We, which lets We reflect the best of the group.

Published in: on May 27, 2008 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment