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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Religion and the Love/Hate Emotion

A college friend of mine pointed out once that love and hate are not opposites. She pointed out that they are the same and that apathy is their opposite.

My experience since then has found this to have been, and to still be, profoundly true.

Both love and hate can drive a person insane. Both can induce irrationality in a person otherwise completely rational. Both can alter the courses of lives. Both can be powerful motivators.

Love and hate are the opposite faces of the same coin. The coin of passion.
The coin of passion is much like The Force in Star Wars. It has a light side and a dark side. 
The light side is used construct, build and help while the dark side is used to destroy and aggregate power and for revenge.

Obviously the difference is the direction of the passion and not the passion itself.

Love is much like the Jedi path while hate is the path of the Sith.

The Star Wars analogy, of course, is not a new one for any fans of the series (nor people who have even heard of it) and I am not claiming any originality in making it.

What interests me more than the Star Wars analogy to love/hate is the realization that religion is just an application of this emotional coin. Religious fervor is much like the irrational motivations people have when they are deeply in love or when they are deeply motivated by hatred.
Those affected by such devotion to a religion have the same level of responses to their faith and the doctrines of it that people have toward the object of their love/hate.

When people let this emotion warp and twist their lives they turn into hate machines that are willing to apply that hate toward everything and anything that opposes their faith. They will kill. They will torture. They will maim. They will steal. They will do all of the evil and bad things that people do when they hate something.
When people have a religious indoctrination based on the emotionally less-mature path that is easier to manage through destruction they are a detriment to ALL of mankind. They become examples of why humanity shouldn't be allowed to survive and become examples of why religion is bad. They make me glad that I lack any and all faith in anything because I never want to experience the level of darkness that their faith brings into their heart. There are far too many people like this in the news because they can do such a disproportionate amount of damage to others and that is scary to everyone else.
Conversely, though, are the people who find religion enhances their lives in positive ways.
I have many friends of faith. Many friends whose faith enriches their lives. Many friends whose faith brings them peace and comfort. Many friends whose faith is absolute and drives them to love their fellow man with the same heart-wrenching level of compassion as they have for the people they know in person. Many people who make me want to be a better person. Many people whose faith in their deity makes me angry that the gift of faith was never bestowed on me. These people are some of the best people I know and their love and tolerance makes the world a better place. There people, when they make the news, generate heart-warming stories that restore a small portion of my humanity. Unfortunately we do not have enough examples and stories of people helping others. We don;t have these stories because they are boring. Fear sells because it is actionable. Happiness does not sell because it is not.

Religious faith, therefore, must be the same emotion.
I find this revelation interesting that religion is just an extension of the love/hate emotion.

Which leads me to wonder if people who lack emotion or have trouble parsing love or hate or whose love/hate baseline is set at a different "neutral" position have vastly different (this is a relative term) brain structures or chemistries in a certain structure of their brains.

Just another idle ponderance that infected my mind and would not leave until I wrote it down. Feel free to comment, discuss, add links to relevant scientific articles, etc.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Global Climate Change

I think we're missing a lot of aspects of contributing factors because it is easy to fight over the two big arguments:
1 - whether it is man-MADE or not
2 - whether CO2 is the cause or not.

Sound is, essentially, the same as heat but at a MUCH lower frequency. Humanity makes a lot of noise. That HAS to have an effect.
Car engines, light bulbs, computers, etc all generate HEAT. It is an undeniable side-effect to what they do. That has to have an effect on things.
Furnaces generate heat. That is their core purpose. That has to affect things tremendously.

Our process of making CO2 generates a lot of HEAT and then traps that heat. It's not just the CO2 but all the things we do (per capita) multiplied by the number of people.

Also - the earth's natural equilibrium is for the northern sore of Canada to be a tropical rain forest. So says the paleontological evidence..... so on top of what we are doing the planet is still recovering from the last ice age to bring itself back to its normal.

In short - unless we figure out how to make the earth's equilibrium match OUR needs or figure out how to move underground / under the ocean - we're screwed on this planet.

200,000 years of human history is nothing next to the 80,000,000 that held the northern tropical rain forests and the 65,000,000 that held the tropical-temperatures around the globe before the impact prior to the Chicxulub impact... and all of the other epics prior to that one were also HUGELY larger than the time humanity has existed and all show the same thing - tropical temperature in the moderate and cold zones of this planet.

Is global climate change happening: yes, absolutely
Did we cause it? Nope.
Are we a contributing factor: certainly.
Are we a significant contributing factor: probably.
Do we ignore a lot of the ways we are contributing: this is as certain as the change itself.
Can we do anything about it: yes, but only if we, as a species, can accept the scientific truths about it and dedicate the resources to modeling ways to change the energy output of our industry and residences as well as figure out a way to properly sequester excess CO2 (secret: there are a lot of simple answers to the latter... some of them are even relatively easy to do).

For starters we need to accept that this is a very complex problem and stop outlining it as simple to the mass populace. We need to stop saying that we know, with certainty, that we CAUSED it. Many of the climate change naysayers are fighting back because they don;t believe humanity is so powerful that we could cause such a problem. Whether this view is ignorant of them or not we can stop their counter-arguments by eliminating the causation argument from the climate-change-is-happening camp.

From there we can focus our efforts on solar and wind technologies like several other "1st World" countries have done. Their usable lands for such energy sources are a fraction of the land available in the US for this and their capture rate is MUCH higher.

We could also engineer our buildings to support rooftop gardens and preserves to reduce the conversion rate of biological heat absorbers and carbon sinks into heat sinks that do not absorb carbon.
We could convert streets in cities into tunnels and cover the roofs of these tunnels with plant-supporting ground to do the same.
We could build buildings that allow for pockets of plants to grow on the sides of the buildings. This would provide additional insulation and further absorb carbon from the air.

These are just some things we could do to lessen our contributions to this problem.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Life, Death and Lost Opportunities

Recently someone who was starting to become more involved in my social circles passed away suddenly.
This was not a case of the person having had a known disease that could have taken them at any time nor was it a case of the person being old and dying of old age.
This was a case of an unexpected stroke followed by a long period of time without any care and a hospital stay leading to slipping away.

Many who know me will attest that few things affect me emotionally. Most of the things tat do affect me in a manner that is unpleasant. Those things tend to increase my blood pressure and wind me up; those things make me angry.
Few things actually make me sad. Few things actually make me grieve.

This is not one of those things. My emotional disturbance over this was not due to my direct loss but due to the pain of the people whom I know who were left behind.

It has, however, generated a considerable amount of introspection on the part of my subconscious. That has, at this point, crept its way into the foreground of my thoughts.

I know Dave and I could have been great friends. I know this because of whom he was friends with and the common interests and knowledge bases we shared. I also know this because our personalities were similar enough that we would understand motivations and expectations of each other.
I know this because I am an introvert and my observations and experiences of Dave were that he, too, was an introvert.
Introverts, contrary to many non-introverts' belief, are not anti-social. They like people they just like their people. They take time to allow people into their circle and to generate friendships.
The problem is that this takes time.
The problem with that is that time is not always as plentiful as it seems like it would be.
The problem is that sometimes time is cut short. Cut short and cut unpredictably. Cut short without any ceremony or opportunity to rectify.

The reflection has generated some thoughts on what I want to change about myself and how I intend to change those things.

First - I realized that the missed opportunity to be better friends with Dave is mine (it is also his, but I cannot change another person). I could have reached out more. I could have generated more interaction. I could have invited him to things. I could have added him on Facebook sooner. Lots of things I could have done to generate a stronger friendship in the time that was there.
Would any of those things have saved him? Probably not. I cannot take any responsibility for the manner that he died nor for the events that led to it. Those events happened. If my friendship had altered that course it would have been only slightly and probably not enough to have made a difference to his survival.

What am I doing about this?
I have decided that when I see people whom I have good reason to believe I will get along with and whom I might be able to build a good friendship with I will do something about it.
Before I would wait and watch. I would engage in conversation when there was something relevant to talk about being discussed which I could weigh in on. I would evaluate the conversation and words used by the others and make a decision based on that. Then I would wait some more. I would repeat this until I felt as though the person might have an interest in allowing me into their lives AND that I had made the determination that I would like to have them in mine.
I am deciding from now on (I have actually already started doing this) that I will be a bit more cavalier with whom I allow into my life via social media. I will be more extroverted (it's easy to be MORE extroverted when one is as introverted as I am.... I will still be introverted) when it comes to adding people on facebook. People whom I have spoken to once or twice whom I may enjoy the company of I will add with less reservation. People who I know, but just barely, I will add. I will allow facebook to be a conduit to gaining a better understanding and knowledge of people whom I may be able to become friends with.

I will seize the opportunities presented to me rather than let them quietly slip away.

I understand that this will be hard work to maintain and it will have more failures than the path I ran before. I understand that those failures will feel difficult. I understand that I will have to generate interactions and that I might even make people uncomfortable in my feeble and awkward efforts to interact in a manner that I am not accustomed to. I also understand that my quiet looming may also make people uncomfortable in a non-threatening way.
I also understand, now, that missing an opportunity and losing it is just a failure in disguise.
If you don't try then you ALWAYS lose.
I don't like to lose. I, especially, don't like to lose when I didn't even realize I was playing the game.

Second - I realize that anyone can be taken at any time. I, like everyone else, knew this before but the harsh reality of someone closer to my own age and with a similar lifestyle in many ways to one I have led dying in the manner that Dave died drives this point home.
I intend to try and make sure people whom I know who matter to me know I am here and know they matter to me.
This will not take the form of always saying "hey, I like you; you're important" but, rather, it will take the form of seizing the opportunity for harmless frivolity and fun. It will take the form of joking with people who I care about to generate positive interactions with them. It will take the form of "liking" things they post to facebook when I like them. It will take the form of telling them jokes. It will take the form of spending time with them rather than being a lazy bastard on my couch. It will take the form of talking to them.
It will take the form of being there.

Sometimes life is mean to us.
Sometimes life is mean to others.
Sometimes life is unpredictable.
Sometimes life is lonely.
Sometimes life brings us pain.

Sometimes life seems dreadfully long.
But one thing we often forget when life does all of those things: our time is short.
We are insignificant to life. We are insignificant to time. We are insignificant to space. We are insignificant to the massive horde that is humanity and even more so to the gulf that is the history of civilization.

We are not, however, insignificant to each other.

Remember this for yourself.
Remember this for your friends.
Remember this for your loved ones.

Remember that, despite all the insignificance in the greater picture you are actually more significant than you know to those you know.

Do something about it.
Let them know.
Joke with them. Tell them stories. Listen to them. Let them know, by actions, that they matter to your world.

Don't let yourself, or those you care about, find themselves in a position where they are saying "if I only...." with respect to people they may care for....

On the flip side - accept people whom you care about interacting with you for what it is - an effort to show you they care or that they need you to care about them.

Our time is fleeting. Tomorrow is certain but our ability to experience it is not.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Traditional Marriage"

Someone I know posted this video.
It took me nearly an hour to watch it so that I could tear it apart.
Below the video are the comments I made on the post that my acquaintance made on facebook and which I, in turn, posted on my facebook wall.

So, to point out - one can view this as the government over-ruling YOUR religion... but it can, and more rightly so, be viewed as YOUR religion trying to override the rights of people who do not believe in it. Marriage is, at its origin, a legal contract; religious components came later. If the legal contract of it is to exist then it is blatantly discriminatory to not allow people to marry whom they want to marry due to gender. This is the ONLY legal contract that is limited to a particular gender set as eligibility requirements and that is simply wrong.

The above is my commentary before starting the video... below is my commentary, written as I am watching it in the order that the video presents it.

As for stabilizing our society - bullshit. People who live together now will continue to do so. All that will change, in a societal viewpoint is that a discriminatory practice is removed from the lawbooks and the people who are currently demoted to second-class citizens will have the LEGAL right to be the default heir of their chosen partners. Currently the biological relatives of those people can bar them from visiting an incapacitated loved one in prison and can challenge any legal property directives easily in the event of an unexpected death with no will. If they are married then that goes away and the loved one has those LEGAL protections. I, honestly and bluntly, don't care one iota what individual churches do nor do I care if any of them are willing to perform a wedding ceremony in their facilities - this is entirely about the LAW.
As for comparing gay marriage to incest and pedophilia as a society-harming item: explain to me, simply and concisely, how allowing same-sex couples to have a LEGAL standing that does not change the behavior that the government "permits" to exist will change ANYTHING in public society.
And for the next points:
1 - if that EXCUSE is used then ALL hetero-sexual couples shouldn't be allowed to marry unless they intend, and succeed at having children. Many people do not want children and/or cannot have them. Unless you are willing to state, and make actions toward revoking their LEGAL right to marry this point is null and void on this issue.
2 - Show me the data on this. Show me the data that unequivocally outlines that parents from a heterosexual, two-parent home do better than single parents and better than gay parents. Be sure to include the data of marriages that failed part-way through the children's lives and marriages of people who got married because they felt they HAD to but HATE being married. Be sure to include data on parents who don't like their children and data on those who have too many children. Be sure to include all of this in addition to the data that is reinforcing of the idea. Also - be sure to include data on same-sex couples who CHOOSE to have a child and raise that child. Be sure to compare those "successful" child raising values against the heterosexual numbers and do a solid numerical comparison on percentages of children who are detriments to society. The numbers will tell the story that is counter to this video's claim.
3 - How does allowing ONLY heterosexual marriage protect women? My girlfriend, when presented with this statement quickly and easily claimed she doesn't feel traditional marriage protects her... and even asked "protects me from what?"
4 - How does it civilize men? As an unmarried man in this country I find this idea repugnant and derogatory.

The data outlines that most incidents of violence against women are actually perpetrated against them by their significant others and, often, that means their HUSBANDS. How is it that that data can be true AND points 3 and 4 be true? It can't be. Points 3 and 4 are, like the ones before them, based entirely on perception and an idealized state of society that simply does not exist.

5 - Show me the data. I know that being married will lower one's car insruance because, typically, married people spend more time at home than un-married people. The rest rest of these things need data to back them up... and that data needs to be cleansed of any trends that have stronger correlations that could lead to those statistics... such as neighborhoods, familial income, number of children, etc.

The claim that same-sex marriage creates NO benefit is blatantly wrong. It allows for the full equality of everyone in the eyes of the law. Discrimination is a slippery slope and it can be applied to anyone; if it s allowed for anyone. This also allows people to decide who is their default next of kin which is an important means of passing along accumulated wealth and deciding on what care is best for someone who is sick.
For that matter, if one actually assumes that all of the points above are valid then: 1 & 2 - Married homosexual couples who choose to adopt (and make no mistake, they can adopt now) will generate a two-parent household that brings the same benefits to children that heterosexual married couples bring.
3 & 4 - If married men are inherently more civilized and married women are inherently protected (from what?) then we should strive for as many married men and women as we can get. Right now we are eliminated 10% of the population from being ALLOWED to marry. That means that, at least, 10% of women are unprotected and 10% of men are uncivilized because they are unmarried. Allowing them to marry will reduce that number.
5 - The same things that might generate those societal improvements in neighborhoods due to married couples will also apply to married homosexual couples.

Essentially, it allows the same benefits to society that traditional marriage provides to society. EXACTLY THE SAME benefits. All of the benefits outlined above can be applied equally to ANY married couple regardless of their gender.

Claiming that homosexual marriage "merely validates sex partners" is a hollow argument as heterosexual marriage does EXACTLY the same thing if the couple has no intention of raising children..... and, on top of that, being married does not magically make you a good parent. There are plenty of married people who are TERRIBLE parents. This argument is invalid. I thinkthe people behind this video would be surprised to find that more and more couples are forming where children are not the primary motivating force and more and more of them are forming where children happen, despite not wanting them and more and more children are happening outside of wedlock because more and more people just don't care about the traditional structure that RELIGION says is best for the children.

When the video states that the childless marriages are the exception and not the rule and, therefore, shouldn't be considered it invalidates that argument by using exceptions to what happens in the legal world to make it's point. One cannot simultaneously decry exceptions and invalid and then use them to support one's own argument.

The idea that schools with teach kids to be gay is ridiculous. The argument over whether or not this should be allowed has been a far greater introduction to the topic of homosexual marriage than it EVER would be on its own. Schools, at most, will treat it like it is what it is - something that sometimes happens and that it's fine. Let the people who have a difference preference than you be the way they are; it's none of anyone else's business.

As for the video's comment that the law treats everyone equally because everyone can marry someone of the opposite sex is garbage. That's like saying everyone can invest in google; in theory everyone can but the cost of the stocks prohibits most from being able to. Marrying someone of the opposite gender isn't the point - marrying someone whom you love and want to spend the rest of your life with IS the point. That is the ENTIRE point. A large group of people are prohibited from doing that. To say otherwise is to hold onto ideals of marriage that have changed over time repeatedly... and, thus, invalidates the idea that that is the core reason for marriage. I cannot buy a wife in exchange for livestock. I cannot sell a daughter into marriage. I cannot take a virgin military captive as a wife. I cannot force my brother's widow to become my wife. I cannot take multiple wives. All of these things are part of "traditional" marriage yet none of them are held true in law in 2012. What is so special about THIS barrier? It is that this barrier scares homophobic people. This barrier makes people think that equality is only for "normal" people.

As for discriminating against behaviors - that is completely correct. The government is discriminating against behaviors; but also against sexual organs. It is saying that it is the business of the government to determine who is allowed to bump genitalia together in the privacy of their own home. It is saying that consenting adults have no privacy when it comes to sex. It is saying that the comfort of some should outweigh the freedom of others. It is saying that if the government does;t like your behavior it can prevent you from having legal rights because of it… even when that behavior hurts no one and should be left alone. This argument is ludicrous because it really boils down to - the government is allowed to tell you whom you can have sex with in the privacy of your own home.

And to bring it back - people who are BARRED from marrying their loved one ARE being discriminated against. If one is unconscious and hospitalized then that one's blood relatives (even if they haven't spoken in YEARS) have a greater right under the LAW than the person who may have lived with the person for decades. Who is better equipped to make decisions for that person that correspond to their wishes? The estranged family or the loved one who cohabitants with them? If one member of a couple is run over by a bus and killed and the house and vehicles are in their name but both partners paid equally for them the family can the ALL of that away; is that fair? No. Marriage protects the rights of property and the rights of visitation in the hospital. Marriage protects other rights, too.

As for the same-sex marriage advocates needing to be more tolerant - simply not true. The instances where they are not are, again, the outliers and they are smaller in number than the instances where people who want to have a homosexual marriage are being discriminated against in some form or another. The raw disallowance of being ABLE to get married to a loved one is a constant discrimination against homosexual people. They experience it daily. People supporting "traditional" marriage are only experiencing intolerance when they voice their ideas on this continued hatred and bigotry to people who will, ultimately, be found to stand on the right side of history.

"Homosexual relationships are ALREADY TOLERATED" - this, alone, summarizes the entire video. It also summarizes exactly why both sides feel they have a position to support. I don't want to be "tolerated" - its derogatory. You wouldn't want your child to be "tolerated" at school or anywhere else. You wouldn't want your pets to be "tolerated" you wouldn't want yourself to be "tolerated." Toleration is not enough because it is not equality. The supporters of "traditional" marriage think this is enough because they can't see how allowing same-sex marriage licenses will not harm them at all but will grant equal rights to an entire segment of the population that is still constantly under attack by RELIGION.

I'll also point out that many of the same arguments presented in this video are similar to those presented against allowing interracial marriages and, dating back further, to allowing non-white people the opportunity to be recognized as people… and dating back further to discriminate against left-handed people. They are empty arguments that come from a place of fear and hatred of things that are different rather than a place of reason and rationality.

So, I challenge those supporting this video, as I have challenged supported of "traditional" marriage in the past - explain it to me. Convince me. Please. Explain it to me like a child... and in a way that I cannot argue. I have been asking, since the first time this came up on the ballot in Maine, for people to explain to me why this is wrong in a logical and concise manner that I cannot argue with using logical points to invalidate the arguments presented to me... Thus far NO ONE has been able to do it. The answers ALWAYS boil down to "because God is against it" (or some paraphrasing of that) or "because I don't like it." - Neither of those are good reasons for LAW. Separation of church and state outlines the former and what you feel is not the same as what others feel is the latter...

Lastly - All of this text comes from someone who thinks marriage, in any form, is a foolish and inefficient way of imparting legal rights to another person. I, personally, think it should be completely abolished from the law books and that NO ONE should be allowed to get marriages because they simply should not exist. There is a MUCH simpler way to handle all of these rights-granting permissions without all the hoopla and garbage that comes along with marriage.

Please, if you support "traiditonal" marriage than be PERFECTLY blunt... and perfectly selfish. Tell me how allowing others the right to marry their loved one will harm YOU in any way. How will it change YOUR life if two women or two men go to city hall and pay the fee for their marriage license and then pay an officiant to marry them? How will that slight economic boost to the local municipality and an officiant hurt YOU in any way? How will it change your life in any manner other than force you to go "OH NO THOSE GAY PEOPLE MIGHT BE MARRIED NOW?"
Really. Tell me. I want to know how it will damage your life.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

53 Reasons to Vote for Romney?

A facebook friend posted this article.

I had to read it and make comments.

Here are the points and my comments on them:

#1. “Mitt Romney graduated from Harvard University with a degree from the prestigious J.D.-M.B.A. program, which is the graduate education of the last two presidents combined.”
This does not mean anything other than he was able to complete the degree requirements through one means or another. I have met people who are educated from well-respected schools that I wonder how they got into the school, let alone how they finished it. These letters at the end of a name are merely a means to get the CHANCE to prove one-self to be legitimately smart and capable of making good decisions. Point redacted – 52 points.

#2. “Mitt Romney governed a state whose schools ranked first nationally in education.”
At its best this means that Mitt actually managed the education system in his state. At its worst this means that he simply did not touch the education system and, therefore, break it. I don't know enough of MA state education system, nor of Mitt's policies, to comment either way.
Without more information this point cannot be cast in his favor – point redacted; 51 points remain.

#3. “In 1984, Romney founded and led one of the world’s most successful venture capital and investment firms: Bain Capital.”
So? he started a successful company. So have many politicians. Running a greedy, bottom-line-focussed company that does not care about employees and does not care about job retention is not necessarily what a COUNTRY needs.
This one is valid enough that I will leave the point intact.

#4. “Bain Capital helped turn around numerous struggling businesses that went on to become prosperous and successful, such as: Burger King, Sealy, Sports Authority, Staples, Brookstone, Burlington Coat Factory, Clear Channel, Domino’s Pizza, Houghton Mifflin, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Weather Channel, Guitar Center, and the Hospital Corporation of America.”
This only shows what Mitt's company invested in. Attributing their success to Mitt is like saying that the companies whom I own stock in are successful because I own stock in them. To validate whether these were actually systematically good investment decisions or mediocre one needs to see ALL of the investments that Bain capital made while Mitt was there and see what the overall success to failure rate was (not the overall cash flow as that was obviously positive – the actual count of successful investments versus unsuccessful ones); that will show us how good he is at making systematically good decisions. The shotgun approach with the philosophy that SOME things will hit and hit BIG is NOT what this country needs for a good government. This is also kind of the same thing as point 3. That brings the overall count down to 50.

#5. “In 2002, Romney left the private sector to oversee the Olympics preparations at Salt Lake City. He erased a $379 million operating deficit, organized 23,000 volunteers, and oversaw security in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.”
This is a commendable thing. It is worthy of note. This point stands.
The local major newspaper has commended this and still endorses Obama and says that Mitt doesn't deserve a chance to prove himself in the White House.

#6. “As governor of Massachusetts, Romney turned a $3 billion deficit into a $700 million budget surplus in less than two years.”
This is commendable. I wish he would put forth a consistently-messaged and solidly-stated PLAN on how he would do this for the country.

#7. “Governor Romney was granted emergency gubernatorial powers and slashed unsustainable spending levels by hundreds of millions of dollars.”
This is also commendable.... but it is, essentially, the same thing as point #6. That reduces the count to 49.

#8. “As governor, he helped reduce Massachusetts’ unemployment rate from 6% to 4.7%.” Again – HOW? How will he do this for the country? Also, what about his comments that the government isn't responsible for job creation? If he is going to make that comment then he CAN'T also take credit for creating jobs when he was helming a government.
I will also point out that taking credit for this is similar to taking credit to education systems (see above; point 2) without more information I cannot use this to justify voting for Romney. 48 points remain.

#9. “Romney was elected Chairman of the Republican Governors Association for the the 2006 election cycle, going on to raise a then-record $27 million for candidates in state house contests across the nation.”
This is not a bonus point for people who are on-the-fence; this is a reinforcing point for people who are ready and happy to vote Republican without research on the cases. This is only a supportive idea for extreme partisan politics. Those are NOT in the best interest of the average person; only the people controlling the strings of the parties.
Given that this is not a reason for someone who is NOT a mindless GOP puppet to vote for Romney I deduct it; 47 remain.

#10. “In 2006, Governor Romney proposed and signed into law market-based healthcare reform approved by 99% of the Massachusetts legislature, which was 85% Democrat and could override any veto.”
I cannot make comment on this other than the raw statistics presented in this statement are commendable.

#11. “Romney objected to the employer mandate, mandated benefits, minimum coverage guidelines, and medicaid expansion in the final healthcare bill. His vetoes were overridden. He also preferred a tax break for those who could prove coverage, rather than a penalty for the individual mandate.”
I disagree with penalizing people for not having health care because if they cannot afford healthcare then they cannot afford the penalties. The “Obamacare” package actually has exemptions built in for people who cannot afford the care; the penalties really only apply to people who can afford it but choose to not have health care coverage. Granted, it's hard to have a unilateral definition of who can afford it that applies correctly.
That said – I could easily be swayed by a tax credit for people who have coverage rather than a penalty for people who do not.
This is also a sub-point to point 10. Count down to 46.

#12. “As Romney predicted, the healthcare law added 1.2% to Massachusetts’ budget, despite the additional costly provisions that he objected to as governor. Another analysis put the cost as low as .3% a year or $100 million.”
This is an interesting statement without even knowing the law referenced.
First – Mitt's law cost the government.
Second: Mitt's analysis is 4x the damage than another analysis.
This is also a sub-point to point 10. Count down to 45.

#13. “So-called Romneycare remains popular with 67-84% of Massachusetts residents, who are happy with the plan and would not go back to the old system if given the chance."
I have already commended this.
This is also a sub-point to point 10 and, essentially a duplication. Count down to 44.

#14. “Romney cut taxes 19 times, and they were only raised in Massachusetts when his governor’s veto was overridden. The governor used fees to help close the state’s $3 billion budget shortfall.”
I COULD outline that this is similar to point 6 but it is different enough that I will merely ask “How.”
What “fees” did he implement that allowed him to cut taxes AND convert a deficit to a surplus? In conjunction with #6 I want to see what he did to manage this.
Again, I point out that this lacks specific data so I cannot use it to vote FOR Romney. 43 points remain.

#15. “Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal Obamacare as quickly as possible, granting waivers from the program to the states in the meantime (just as President Obama gave waivers to special interests and the Democrat Party exempted politicians from the program).”
This is only a reason to vote FOR Romney if one dislikes Obamacare AND if he has a means to replace it with a coverage program that will benefit the overall population as much as Obamacare.

#16. “A devout Mormon, a branch of Christianity, Romney spent two years as a missionary in Paris, France, forgoing entertainment, dating, and contact with family and friends to serve God.”
This is a reason to vote AGAINST Romney. Not only am I removing this from the list I find it important enough that it counts as a NEGATIVE point (two point deduction); down to 42.

#17. “Mitt Romney has never smoked cigarettes, used drugs, or drank alcohol, which shows remarkable dedication.”
Not really. Not drinking at all is interesting; not partaking of it regularly is easy. This is hardly a reason to vote for a presidential candidate. 41.

#18. “Mitt Romney has given nearly 13.5% of his income to charity over the last twenty years, $4 million in 2011 alone. Much of his donations was given to his church.” Charitable contributions – good.
Charitable contributions are tax deductions – neutral.
Charitable contributions to a CHURCH – bad (point deducted) – 40.
Tax-deductible contributions to HIS church (meaning he benefits from them) – double bad – 39.

#19. “The former governor’s taxes never fell below 13.66%, and amount to 38.5% of his income over twenty years.”
I'd like that little of my income to go to taxes. It must be nice to be rich enough to buy a smaller overall tax bracket. Point deducted. 38.

#20. “Mitt Romney accepted no pay as an intern in his father’s Governor’s office, no pay as bishop and stake president for his church, no pay as president of the Olympics, and only a ceremonial salary of $1 as Governor of Massachusetts — 28 years of virtually unpaid service.”
Unpaid intern at father's company – not something to make one a presidential candidate. No pay as bishop in the church - not something to make one a presidential candidate. No pay to coordinate the Olympics – commendable
Ceremonial salary of $1 to govern a state – commendable.
28 years comment is in question.
I'll let this point stand on the last two points; still at 38.

#21. “Mitt Romney refused to take his father’s trust fund money, he financed his way through college, and he donated his father’s inheritance to charity.”
I have seen articles that prove this is, at best, a misleading statement.
I can't take this as a reason to vote for him with that information out there, too. 37 points.

#22. “Ann and Mitt Romney lived in a modest basement apartment for years.” Define “modest.”
Define “years”
One's living quarters don't make one Presidential material; point deducted. 36.
I will acknowledge, though, that this deflates some of the other commentary which demonstrates Mitt's lack of comprehension of what it is like to be an average American.

#23. “While at Bain Capital, Romney shut down the company so that workers could help find a partner’s missing daughter. Mitt Romney helped organize the search, which sent out hundreds of thousands of fliers. The teenage girl was found in New York, after police traced a call in New Jersey to a teenage boy who was interested in the reward.”
Assuming this is fully true it is commendable. This is actually worthy on several points. 1-he shut down the company and 2 – he invested money to print fliers.
This shows a level of empathy and a level of willingness to invest in a good that does not directly benefit him. This shows that he has the capacity to understand the benefit to this (at minimum on a tactical level).

#24. “In July 2003, Mitt Romney used his Jet Ski to rescue a New Jersey family and their Scottish terrier McKenzie out of Lake Winnipesaukee while their boat sank.”
Commendable. Shows courage and an ability to act when it is needed. Not sure how this will help him run a country, though, as the actions needed are long-term strategy and not short-term emergency actions.
This is, essentially, showing the same aspect of Romney as point 23. 35 remain.

#25. “After a California wildfire, Mitt Romney took time out away from his campaign to help a family dig out a tree stump. The act went unpublicized, because Romney does not like to advertise his community service and random acts of kindness.”
This is, essentially, showing the same aspect of Romney as point 23. 34 remain.

#26. “In 1979, Mitt Romney helped a dying fourteen-year old boy named David write his will and delivered the eulogy at his funeral.”
This is, essentially, showing the same aspect of Romney as point 23. 34 remain.

#27. “At a campaign stop in South Carolina, Mitt emptied his wallet for a woman having trouble paying her light bill named Ruth Williams. The woman was in difficult circumstances due to her desperately ill son.”
I have no faith he would do this on a massive scale nor do I have faith this was more than a campaign stunt.
Also, this is, essentially, showing the same aspect of Romney as point 23. 33 remain.

#28. “Although Mitt Romney had the opportunity to attend Stanford, he took a risk and bypassed it to attend Brigham Young University, where his future wife was enrolled. As recounted, Mitt Romney was worried about Ann Davie being wooed by other suitors after he received a “Dear John” letter.”
So? His personal life is not a reason for presidential candidacy. 32 remain.

#29. “As governor, Romney hired more women to his economic team than any other in the country.”
And yet he has made NUMEROUS comments implying he feels that it is a woman's place to be at home. That this is being made a point means he finds hiring women a HUGE deal. It really shouldn't be and it should evenly mirror the eligible and qualified workforce demographic.
I am torn on whether to deduct this one or not so, to be fair, I will leave it as valid.

#30. “Although Mitt Romney is personally against abortion, he has respected a woman’s ‘right to choose’ and vowed not to make abortion legislation a part of his presidential agenda.”
And yet he has flip-flopped on this issue MANY times depending on whom he was speaking to. Point deducted. 31 remain.

#31. “While Romney is a proponent of “traditional marriage,” and is not in favor of civil unions, he has not stood in the way of legal extensions of rights to “domestic partnerships.” As the governor put it, “If the question is: “Do you support gay marriage or civil unions?” I’d say neither; if they said you have to have one or the other, that Massachusetts is going to have one or the other, then I’d rather have civil unions than gay marriage.” Romney has been endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans.”
This is not only not a valid reason to vote FOR Romney; it is a valid reason to vote AGAINST him. This point is removed AND another deducted. 29 remain.

#32. “While Romney was governor, he vetoed a bill for embryonic stem cell research.”
Not a valid reason to support him. My morals don't have an issue with embryonic stem cell research AND I don't feel this should be a federal issue. Point deducted – 28 left.

#33. “Romney also said he would cut federal funding for PBS, given the U.S. is borrowing money from China to finance the government. Such a bold statement about cutting a popular federal program shows courage and seriousness about the issue. (Sesame Street and other programs would not likely go out of business, regardless.)”
Not a good reason. The volume of money that this represents is such a miniscule portion of the overall budget that it would not make a dent. Point lost for this comment – 27.
Point also deducted for the obvious level of pandering that this comment represents AND the realization that this funding is some of the best-leveraged funding our government allocates. It's a poor decision to make this statement – 26 points remain as valid.

#34. “Mitt Romney also told the NAACP that he pledged to repeal Obamacare, drawing boos. This again demonstrates his willingness to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
And yet he has altered what he is stating to match the audience he is speaking to. One cannot TRUST he will always make the tough decisions and deliver the tough message. One CAN assume he will usually say what he thinks he NEEDS to say to benefit himself. Negated point; 25 remain. I won;t deduct a second point even though I really WANT to because of the obvious distortion of reality that this point is trying to create.

#35. “The governor said he would cut funding for the pro-abortion group Planned Parenthood.”
I can't argue this. I BELIEVE he has said it, but I am too lazy to go validate the actual words. But, regardless not saying he will is not saying he won't. Declining to NOT do something that is bad is not a positive reason to vote for someone. Point redacted. 24 remain.

#36. “Romney stated in unequivocal terms that the Federal Reserve should be audited. As he responded to a questioner at a campaign stop, “The Federal Reserve should be accountable. We should see what they’re doing.” “
Assuming this is completely accurate and not misrepresented I agree with it completely.

#37. “The Republican candidate has pledged to work to repeal the burdensome 2300-page Dodd-Frank regulations.”
I don't know what these are, nor what they do. By default my ignorance makes this a non-issue for me at the moment. I have to, therefore, deduct it from the count of reasons to vote FOR Romney. I will make a note on that in the summary. 23 remain.

#38. “Although Mitt Romney has admitted that man is responsible for “some warming” in the climate, he opposes cap-and-trade and fought the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as governor of Massachusetts.”
I agree with part of this statement but I can't agree with not doing anything about it. Point deducted. 22.

#39. “The GOP candidate has proposed more domestic energy development, approval of the Keystone pipeline, and a return to market-oriented “green energy” innovation.”
Without more research I cannot know enough to be sure on this one.... but, on the surface, it looks like something I can agree with. I will leave this point.

#40. “Romney signed into law at least one pro-second amendment or pro-sportsmen bill while governor every year, and blocked or improved anti-gun legislation coming out of the Democrat-dominated legislature. NRA board of directors member Grover Norquist in 2007 called Romney’s position on guns “flawless.” “
Without more research I cannot know enough to be sure on this one.... but, on the surface, it looks like something I can agree with. I will leave this point.

#41. “Regarding foreign policy matters, Mitt Romney has pledged to be a staunch defender of Israel.”
I can't be a solid support of Israel and their tactics. This is not a positive to me. Point deducted; 22.

#42. “He has called Iran’s attainment of nuclear weapons “unacceptable” and would do everything in his power to prevent it.”
Agreed on the former. There should be limits on the latter. Working with them to remove an impetus to USE them against us would be more valuable than a military action that reinforces the Arab world's hatred of the US. Without knowing more I cannot determine is this a reason to vote for him or against him... I will, to be fair, leave this point intact.

#43. “Mitt Romney called Russia the U.S.’ “number one geopolitical foe.” President Obama has made numerous concessions to Russia in what he called a “reset” of relations and even whispered to Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more “flexibility” after his “last election” in a hot microphone exchange.”
I disagree. Russia is no longer out largest foe. Our largest foes is not (currently) military; it is economic and/or ideological.
Not a reason to vote FOR Romney – point deducted; 21.

#44. “In regards to China, Romney has stated he intends to go after China for currency manipulation, and he would strengthen our naval assets in the Pacific.”
This is actually two points; I am surprised the article did not outline it as such. I agree with holding China accountable where we can. I am not sure I agree with strengthening our military. I'll leave this point intact.

#45. “Although Romney was attacked by mainstream media for going after Obama on his mishandling of the terrorist attack at Benghazi, further analysis confirms that the administration did not send help to the murdered diplomats and security forces after three requests.”
Not a reason to vote FOR Romney; possibly a reason to vote against Obama. Point deducted. 20.

#46. “Mitt Romney strongly opposes illegal immigration. He is not for forcibly removing but wants to seek ways to encourage legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration.”

#47.”He selected as his running mate Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan, who was re-elected six times in a Democrat-heavy district, and never failed to receive 63% of the vote.”
Point against Romney. Ryan is dangerous and is a worse liar and misogynist than Romney. This is a bad enough mistake to not just not be a supporting reason but ALSO be a reason against him. Two points deducted. 18 left.

#48. “Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan would “shrink the size of government to about 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2023, 19 percent of GDP in 2040 and 16 percent of GDP in 2050.” The plan is relatively non-aggressive, as conservative critics contend, but may be politically viable.”
I don't know enough to rebut this so, since I like what it says here, I will let it stand.

#49. “As one policy foundation summarized: “The Ryan budget would reform income taxes for individuals and corporations by lowering rates and allowing fewer exemptions, deductions and other special provisions.” “
This is a sub-set of point 48 and not another reason. Point deducted. 17 left.

#50. “As the analysis continued, “relative to the CBO baseline, these proposals would cut taxes by $4.4 trillion over 10 years and would more than offset all of the budget’s $4.1 trillion in proposed spending cuts.” Other ‘non-static’ budget analyses have confirmed this $4 trillion in spending reductions.”
This is a sub-set of point 48 and not another reason. Point deducted. 16 left.

#51. “According to the CBO’s long-term projections, federal debt would decline to 62 percent of GDP in 2022 and to 10 percent of GDP in 2050 under the Ryan plan.”
This is a sub-set of point 48 and not another reason. Point deducted. 15 left.

#52. “As a potential president, Mitt Romney would likely be charged with nominating two Supreme Court justices, who would have lifetime appointments, and dozens of federal judges. The Justices he cites as his favorites are: Scalia, Thomas, and Alito.”
This actually scares me. I don't want a GOP-appointed judge added to the list. Reason NOT to vote for Romney; two points deducted. 13 left.

#53. “While governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney worked with an 85% Democrat legislature to balance the budget four times. If his election bid is successful enough on November 6th, he would likely have the opportunity to work with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives and possibly a GOP majority Senate to effect the change of direction America so desperately needs.”
Part of this is point 6, re-stated. Point deducted. 12 remain.
The idea of a GOP-controlled house, senate and White House is terrifying. It removes the checks and balances that a bi-partisan government brings.... even when that brings it's own set of problems. Furthermore, that GOP today does not represent anything that I can support so the idea of a GOP-controlled government is even more terrifying that an all Democrat-dominated government. Another point deducted; 11 left.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Equal rights

I know I have posted on this before.
I also know this is an important issue so it deserves to be posted on multiple times... as many times as it takes for the issue to go away.
I also know that it is not going away in my home state until is passes as law; and that it will not go away for two more generations after that, perhaps longer (proof being that we still have racism).
The issue I am talking about is the rights for people of the same gender to get married to each other.
I've said before that I think that the entire concept of marriage is broken; I believe it is an intrusion by the government and church(es) into the private lives of people where those entities do not belong.
Marriage, however, solves one legal issue that exists; it resolves whom the individual wants as their default heir.
I, personally, believe that there are several ways this can be handled in a MUCH simpler manner. I believe that there are many ways that would be considerably more efficient for all involved. Could they be abused and misappropriated by spiteful heirs? Certainly. But so can the default heir process and so can the process of the "last will and testament." All that one needs is more time, energy and money than the opposing party.
That being the case I will NOT discuss the nature of marriage as a valid selection of default heir nor will I be discussing the alternatives (at least not in this post). What I WILL do is post a recent facebook timeline post I wrote and discuss the core responses I received that tried to argue it.

This is what I wrote there:
The more I see "no on one" stickers/signs the more angry they make me. If you believe no one one is a good idea that is your prerogative and your right to vote that way... But if you do keep in mind that that "no" vote is also voting "no" to equality, a "no" vote to separation of church and state, and "no" additional business related to additional marriages in the state. It is also a "yes" vote for fear, bigotry, and hatred. It won't change or damage heterosexual marriages; it will extend LEGAL protection of marriage to ALL. If you cast a "no" vote don't tell me about it unless you are prepared to explain to me why you feel discrimination, fear, religion, bigotry, and hate belong in the law. "It's God's will" and "because its not normal" are not valid reasons for LEGAL decision making.... The latter is not valid for deciding someone else's life at all.....
br> I received many comments in support of this and one that was against my blanket declaration. It pointed out that I am painting a picture where all of the people, approximately half of the population of this country, are automatically fear-laden bigots.
It made this comment as though I did not realize I was making a blanket statement. It made this comment as though I might be swayed in MY opinion on the issue because I am calling the opposing view irrational.
It, in short, tried to bully me into changing my mind on this issue through the use of guilt.

I replied that that post with this:
Matthew: you are welcome. I will hold the position until someone can give me solid, logical and completely non-religious reasons for why the discrimination should be allowed in the law books. I don't care if the religious aspects stay defined as they are and I don't care if specific churches and specific religious persons refuse to perform the ceremony... What I do care about is one religion telling everyone else that their way should influence the law in such a way the causes a tenth of the population to not be able to make their loved one the default heir.... To make their loved one the person who is ALWAYS allowed to visit in the hospital.... To make the their loved one be the one who is officially recognized as such. To prevent that equality is bigotry. To prevent that is a form of hatred. To prevent that is discrimination. To prevent that is oppression. To prevent equality in the eyes of the LAW means you are afraid of something..... This is as important for humanity as allowing couples of different races to marry was when that was a legal issue. All of the same arguments are being used against homosexual people and all of the same fear mongering is being used. The arguments are, literally, the same ones. Applying the to interracial couples seems foolish; why is applying them to same-sex couples acceptable? It seems obvious from your post you disagree. I welcome you to put together all of your arguments and try to persuade me I am wrong. So far no one has been able to and each attempt has strengthened my position that the morally right thing on this one is to allow equality in the eyes of the law. If you wish to try and persuade me in this thread you are welcome to do so.... But others will join in. If you wish it to be a private conversation I welcome that, too. The response deviated from the conversation by informing me that the way to keep friends on facebook is to avoid speaking of politics and to avoid speaking about religion and then to inform me that this topic is both.
It then pointed out that my stance is hateful and discriminatory toward those who oppose gay marriage and informed me that the poster was not stating which side of the topic they fall on.
I replied to that with this:
I don't hate the people - I hate the idea of oppressing people. Voting to prevent this is oppressing people. You are correct - you did not say what side of this you are on.... and I made a reasonable assumption that you were voicing an objection because you felt that it was directed toward you. If that assumption was in error - I'm sorry. But I am not sorry about feeling that preventing equal rights for people is fear-based bigotry that is based on forcing religion into the law books. Because it is. Until someone can give me a logical set of reasons to the contrary that I cannot logically invalidate I will hold that position.

What baffles me about this is that it is CLEARLY a means of oppressing people. There is no other word for it. Why view that they should have equal rights and my condemnation of anyone who does not support it does nothing except, possibly, hurt their feelings. My stance that the law should be changed does nothing to the people who can already marry; they won't suddenly be not able to marry; they won't, suddenly, have their marriages invalidated; they won't suddenly all turn gay. Nor will this change make people who are not gay or make people who are curious more gay. This law change will, literally, do NOTHING to harm anyone. All that it will do is allow the homosexual community to have the same LEGAL right as everyone else to make their loved one and chosen partner their default heir in the event of their death and allow them the power of attorney in the case of their loved one being incapacitated in some way through the same mechanism that is available to everyone else.
That's it.

In each instance of someone confronting me about my stance on this (or vice-versa) I have asked them to outline to me why the LEGAL right should be withheld. I have asked them to give me solid reasons that are rooted in logic and reason which I cannot invalidate through using the same logic and reason that they are using.

To date EVERY attempt to do so has failed. Every attempt has failed to last more than a few moments before the opponent runs out of excuses for their stance and runs into "because it's wrong" or "because God says so" as the root reason for their opposition. Neither of those are good reasons for making LAW when it comes the truly private lives of two consenting adults.
I open up the comments of this post to discussion.
If you believe that homosexuals should be second-class citizens and barred from the legal right to marry whom they choose then, please, by all means, convince me you are right. Apply logic and reason to your stance. Give me a reason to change my mind. But your logic and reason had better hold up because I will point out any and all holes in it that I see.... Just as I point out the holes in the very existence of marriage as a legal institution (which I am happy to do).
The bottom line is that marriage is currently a legal contract between two adults. It should be available to ALL adults; not just 90% of them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is Equal Pay an Inherent Right?

One of the items that the Occupy Wall Street movement is the notion of fair pay for all and equal pay for equal work.

This is a derivative concern of the movement and it comes from the main concern of the people losing net wealth to the ultra-rich at an increasing pace.

The inherent economic force created by wealth inequity is what makes motivation for work to be completed. Without that motivating force there is no incentive for people to work for income.... and with equal distribution of all the stored wealth of the world then all of it becomes devalued to the point of being useless.

These abstract concepts bring the question forth of whether fair pay for fair work is a human-level concept or whether it is an inherent concept that "lesser" being can understand.

The video below clearly outlines that the idea of equal pay for equal work is something that transcends the boundaries of humanity. It is something that "lesser" animals understand. It is something that they can demand.

Why, then, is the idea of fair distribution of wealth according to work performed a concept that is so hard to accomplish among the humans of the world?

Why is it that we cannot figure out how to make the wealth inequality stay static so that the forces that make our economy work are present but limit the gross and unfair leveraging of that wealth to take more wealth from the less-than-wealthy and delivering it to the wealthy for virtually no work being performed?

I am not a socialist - I understand the power of capitalism and I understand how it can help everyone. I also understand that the capitalistic pressures that aid wealth accumulation are not sustainable - they will lead to an imbalance that will topple the wealth tower and destroy those at the top. It has happened before, it will happen again. History proves it to be a valid cycle of economic forces that will continue until a sustainable equilibrium is reached.

Here is the video that shows that monkeys understand this concept, too:

If you disagree please make comments below.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A review of "Aaah Zombies!"

I just finished watching "Aaah Zombies!"
If you like zombie films this is a must see.
It's a new take on the entire zombie franchise and it does it well.
There are a number of fantastic comedic moments in this film and they are worth the few moments that are less-than-stellar in their execution or performance.

If you get time to see this I highly recommend it - you can find it on NetFlix or at the link below.

A review of In Time

Last night I watched the movie "In Time."
The core premise of this movie is one that is sound - that time is valuable.
In this movie we see a future in which our aging has been stopped and everyone is permanently 25 years old.
When they hit 25 a clock in their arm starts ticking. Everyone starts with one year on their clock. Time on that clock is the currency that the world runs on. There is no money; only time.
This is where the movie diverts from a raw concept into some serious philosophical commentary on socioeconomic policy and morality.
The phrase "for some to be immortal many must die" comes up several times within the movie. It outlines the capitalistic message behind the upper class in this movie. That message is also mirroring the way we handle money today - the few aggregate wealth and use their wealth to aggregate more wealth while perpetuating the suffering of the masses.
In short this movie touches on the topics that frame out the Occupy Wall Street movement. It shows both sides of the lifestyles that are made possible by a divergence in wealth and hints at the conflict that would occur if the wealth were evenly distributed. It hints that even distribution of wealth will collapse the economy that depends on the movement of wealth. It hints that there is no replacement for that system that has been shown to work better than the system of economic imbalance created by wealth disparagement.
This movie was entertaining and it does have multiple elements including a dash of Romeo and Juliet stirred in with adventure and a dash of Bonnie and Clyde. There is also a hint of a standard detective story for flavor.
One of the beauties of this film is that it hints at larger philosophical and moral conversations without treading on them too deeply.
It also served to fully infuriate Harlon Ellison, who has created a number of fantastic stories and concept in his day but who is rabid about defending anything he feels is his intellectual property and who demands unreasonable compensation for use of anything he feels he created.

It does leave several questions for me to ponder - and I expect others will also ponder them:
What would happen if the infrastructure that controls the economic transactions that rev up or spin down he personal clocks were to fail?
Why doesn't anyone have a cell phone?
And, of course, why do electric cars have mufflers?

These, of course, are my thoughts on the film as expressed without outlining any specific spoilers. As always, I welcome other thoughts.

The DVD & Blu-ray can be purchased from Amazon -

Second Half of Numbers

I have now listened to the remainder of Numbers.

I have found that it contains more of the same from the first half of the book and a few additional items of note:
First - it is important to note that this part of The Bible reinforces the idea that if the chosen people go against the word of their god that they shall be shunned and condemned to hideous methods of death. Their god is a punitive god with no tolerance for anyone to believe in any other way of doing things.
Second - all casting of idols is extremely prohibited.
Third - if god tells you to commit genocide and take the lands of those you kill it is acceptable to do so.
Fourth - taking virgin women as spoils of war and dividing them among the soldiers is not only acceptable, but encouraged. Women of your enemy are property and not people.
Fifth - livestock are spoils of war.
Sixth - Women are counted in the same manner as livestock when counting spoils of war (this warrants being mentioned twice because of the way in which it was covered).
Seventh - If a man brings a woman from another religious group to his bed then it is permissible, or even encouraged, to slay them both while in the act of fornication.
Eighth - The spoils of the conquering of the promised land shall be contained within the tribe to whom they were initially given. This means that anyone holding those lands is not permitted to marry outside their tribe for fear that those lands may transfer from one tribe to another.
Ninth - Incest is permissible to preserve land ownership.
Tenth - There are rules against murder and a means to seek refuge if you commit manslaughter.
Eleventh - there is a dictated structure for how to divide the spoils of conquering and how to configure cities and the land surrounding them.

Upon completion of the second half of Numbers I am still not seeing anything to change my mind that the god of the old testament is a vindictive god who has created a structure to favor one family and one race of people over all others and whom is teaching that men are the only people who matter - women are property and their worth is less than that of the land that they might inherit and equal to a variety of livestock.
I have yet to encounter anything that seems overtly wise or redeeming in the stories I have listened to. I am still at a loss for how so many people can make this literary work the foundation of their lives and find solace in its contents. I am also at a loss for how so many people can find the rules contained within acceptable when they are such promoters of racism and sexism.

Perhaps the remainder of the books of The Bible and the other religions texts will alter my opinion by the time I have finished but I feel that my thoughts will only be reinforced.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brain size and complex thoughts

I have been thinking a lot lately about self-awareness and other abstract brain functions as compared to the size on one's brain.

One thing that I find tremendously interesting is that people of differing head sizes don;t, necessarily, have intelligence that correlates to their brain size. The volume and shape of the cavity in their skull is not the determining factor in the overall ability for them to process information and make use of it.

Why then, do humans seem to be at the top of the intelligence scale?
What makes us so different if the differences in brain sizes amongst us are not the single-most deterministic variable for human intelligence?

Does this mean that other animals are smarter than humanity gives them credit for?

I think so.
For example I have several pets.

I have a dog:

and I have three ferrets:

(Yes, there are actually three of them in the same pouch)

There used to be four ferrets but this guy has moved on:

And I have a sugar glider:

And, for the sake of this discussion I will include a visitor of variable frequency who likes the free food in my kitchen in the winter:

Watching these animals on a daily (in some cases) basis makes me contemplate how much they think and understand their world. It makes me wonder how much they contemplate things. It makes me wonder what goes on in their heads.

I know, without any hesitation of uncertainty, that they think. I know that they are different. Each of the four ferrets above have (had) vastly different personalities. Each of them have very different behavioral patterns. Each of them differs greatly from any of the other animals shown on this page.

For example this guy:

understands the concept of confinement. He understands that he likes being out of his cage and he understands that he likes being in the playpen. He understands he likes space. He also understands the basic needs and that people are his caregivers.
I'm not sure; however, that he understands much more than that. He's not stupid, but he's not enticed by trying to do more with his life than play, sleep, eat and go potty.

This one, on the other hand, is different:

She, while being about two-thirds the size of the one above, is feisty. She understands the concept of confinement but, more importantly, she also understands the concept of freedom. She understands that a bigger pen is not the same as being free. She understands that freedom is not simply the opposite of confinement. She wants freedom.
She will systematically test the bars on their cage and she will systematically test every vertical post on their playpen. She will move around and around and around the play pen trying to find a means to climb out. She wants to explore and see "the world."
This one has no fear and no conception of boundaries. She has bitten the dog on the nose (his fault - he was harassing them in their playpen) and postured with an attitude that she would take him if he retaliated... and, he believed it.
This little ferret thinks and reasons. She bluffs and lies. She loves and snuggles. She is a complex being. Her "brother" is a simple animal that lives a simple life.

The other pets, the dog and the sugar glider, each have their own agendas. The dog understands freedom but, more importantly, loneliness and loyalty. He understands who his pack is and that we are more important to him than anything else. He also knows how to lie (all dogs do) and will gladly tell anyone and everyone that no one ever feeds him, that he never gets any love or attention and that he never gets to go for a walk. He also knows he is getting old. He may not know the concepts, but he knows the feelings. He knows that his medication makes him feel better. He knows that if he goes poop on a walk that I make us come back home via our dumpster but if he does not we can come right to the door. He knows that the four-lane road is VERY dangerous and the two-lane road is something to "stay out of." Some of this is conceptual and some of this is simple stimulus-response.
The sugar glider, by far the simplest of my pets, seems to be mostly a stimulus-response animal. The infrequent visitor, who fills the same evolutionary niche but through parallel tracks, and the sugar glider seem to have identical behavior patterns. Food, shelter, water, shelter, warmth. That is what they seek. Things that may threaten them cause them to seek shelter, things that do not threaten them probably will feed them.
My question is, and always will be - what is what? How much can a dog (or ferrets, etc) actually have "going on" in their minds with brains that are so much smaller than human brains?
I think the answer is clear: more than we realize.

I've discussed this with some other animal owners and with friends who are veterinarians (also animal owners) and the ideas vary widely on how much animals conceive and think.

Feel free to chime in on your own below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Political Ads, Ignorance and Propoganda

I really hate when an election is coming near.
I hate it because of the advertisements that appear.
One example that has been airing for awhile where I live is this one:

I find this advertisement particularly repugnant for a variety of reasons and none of them have anything to do with the candidate it is trashing.

This advertisement is completely disjointed and ridiculous.
The term "independent" in politics, and in the context of this advertisement, means that one is not affiliated with a political party.
This advertisement attacks Angus King's declaration of political party independence and states that his voting records shows otherwise. This makes no sense without supporting evidence and explanation - it, in short, is a terrible assertion to make in an ad because one cannot support it. The nature of being independent from either major political party means that you vote however you feel is the right direction for the people you represent. Sometimes your votes may align completely with one of the parties' agendas and other times your votes may be scattered back and forth between the two parties. Even if you voted 100% in alignment with one party agenda it doesn't mean your record tells a different story because you are still not a member of that party and, by definition, an independent.
The last portion of the ad, where it blatantly says "Maine needs jobs" is also a complete and total disjunction. It is obvious that the people who built the ad believe that commenting on the employment situation in the state will draw more attention to their cause and they are probably right. I, however, noticed that that one last comment in the ad was thrown in there in a haphazard fashion and really has nothing to do with the rest of the ad. It weakens the ad. It hurts their cause. It makes the writer(s) and editor(s) of that ad look foolish. If you want to take a direction of "too much spending" in the ad - do it. If you want to take a direction of "not enough jobs" in an ad - do it. There are probably ways you can create an ad that covers both in a productive manner - this advertisement was not one of them.

Furthering my problem with the campaigning season is the level of ignorance that many politicians seem to uncover about themselves during their speeches and interviews.
Chief among those at the moment is the, apparently, rampant belief among Republican public officials and nominees that women who are "legitimately raped" cannot get pregnant from the action. They go so far as to include a separate rider for incest (where I disagree with that as raping your children is still rape and statutory rape of your children is still statutory rape) and some of them claim one cannot get pregnant from that, either.
I firmly believe that the core purpose of politicians is to represent the people that they are elected (and paid) to represent. Their job is to PROTECT our interests when examining legislation changes and problems in the country. Their job is NOT to try and oppress the people and make themselves wealthier. Sadly, the latter is what politicians in this country have become very good at.
I recently watched a movie that dealt with trying to get from East Germany to West Germany in the 1960s as a barrier to the characters in the story. It made me realize that if you have to turn your country into a prison to keep people there so you, the government, have something to govern then you are doing it wrong. Shortly afterward this image starting floating around facebook:

and I found it very fitting.

The bottom line on this upcoming election is that the Republican party has, in my humble estimation, thrown themselves overboard and into the deep-end of crazy, fundamentalist thinking. The people who are getting airtime from this party are showing that their core values are, essentially, no different from those of the Taliban - except their book is "The Holy Bible" instead of the Koran (I know there are multiple spellings, I am going with the easy one).
I am fiscally conservative. I like the idea of supporting people who need it but I also realize that the money has to come from somewhere. I like having my paycheck and dislike seeing how much goes into taxes. What I dislike more is the idea of my country turning into a prison where I am regulated by irrationality and religious fundamentalism. I fear being trapped in a country, unable to leave, where the people in charge will force inequality upon the people and discriminate against half the population based solely on their gender. I fear a country where progress out of that condition (because we are still living within it) has stopped and any chance of it resuming is lost.
I have now come to not only dislike both parties and refuse to join either but to actually fear the republican party and all that it is proclaiming to stand for,
I have said before that voting for the BEST candidate is not throwing your vote away since your vote serves to outline that very purpose. I have stated that voting for a candidate as a vote against another candidate contributes to the downfall of the system as it is designed to support us. I still believe these things but, I feel that the republican party has gone to the point where I may be forced to vote for the democratic nominee as a defensive play against the republican candidates. I hate this idea but I would rather do it that see the misogyny and homophobia continue to run rampant. I would rather do it than see us move more and more toward a religiously-ruled country. I would rather do that than see the continuing decline of scientific knowledge in this country. I would rather see my taxes go up for programs that allow more and more people to view welfare as a lifestyle choice (and yes, they do exist - I have seen it first-hand) than be subjected to the alternative.

Great job, republican party, you are pushing an independent away from you out of a need to defend their own position in the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Morality and Religion

I recently read an article examining the "New Atheist" movement and a counter movement that wants to study religion and how it has impacted civilization and whether there is a group evolutionary advantage to being religious versus being secular.

I found the article interesting and it clearly highlights two major arguments in the study of religion.
The first is that religion has caused a great deal of badness in the world and is the constant source of oppression and willful ignorance amongst a great many people.
The second is that there must be a reason we embrace it so boldly when it is the root of so many evils.

The article then proceeds to discuss the champions of each of these points. It refers to those supporting the first point as "New Atheists" and does not provide a specific name for the group supporting the second argument.

What I find interesting about both groups is that they seem to feel, at least based on the article's exemplification of them, that these two points are mutually exclusive and must be in competition with one-another.
This is far from the truth.
If one examines the situation closely one quickly and clearly sees that one is an examination of where we came from to get where we are today with religion and the other is trying to drive a religion-free end point for society. These are not mutually-exclusive, but valid actions to be taken. One informs us of where we've been and the other directs us to where we are going. The best way to get to where you want to go is to understand where you have been and the path you have already traversed. The New Atheists (at least as painted by the article) are attacking the best hope for understanding why religion is a powerful force among humanity. Understanding that force will be the key to defusing it and allowing for a reasonable and logical path in the future.
What this tells me is that the New Atheists have succumbed to is religious fervor. Their dogma is the eliminate all religion from the world and that appears to include the study of how it came to be. They are what I have previously referred to as Atheists whereas those who are simply lacking faith in any god are atheists. The capital letter matters.
I find this incredibly ironic as the force trying to wipe out religion is doing so with a drive that can only be described as equal to that which powered the Crusades and currently drives the concept of Jihad. They are forming a new religion. They are fueling the "science versus religion" concept and they are generating more push against science by their active drive to force people away from their faith. Those people are embracing their faith in higher levels as a defense mechanism to this attack on their religion and belief structure. The greater the attack on religion from this minority the greater the defensive response will be from the religious. The greater the attack the more damage the attackers are doing to their own cause.
Interestingly enough - this also holds true for all other religions. The more ANY religion drives an attack (whether intellectual, political or physical) against the non-believers the more they damage their own cause in the eyes of EVERYONE who is not a fanatic.

I am not religious. I fail to understand the very idea of creating a religion. I fail to understand how someone can have such blind faith. I fail to understand how anyone can have faith at all. I REQUIRE evidence to belief. Sometimes I find myself holding a belief and not knowing what evidence supports it but then, after reflection, I have always found evidence that reinforces the belief. My belief that humanity is generally stupid and easily led while also being generally neutral or good is built on years of being amongst humanity on a daily basis. My belief that my dog will not try to kill me is based on years of him treating me with love and respect. My belief that pizza is going to be delicious is based on a huge rate of success in which even bad pizza is good (although there are certainly exceptions to this one).
I fall into the atheist category rather than the Atheist category because I simply fail to believe. I do believe that religion has caused a lot of harm in this world but I also believe it has caused a lot of good. I have friends who are very religions but fail to proselytize their religious and condemn that don't follow. I respect those friends greatly. I respect their beliefs greatly. I actually envy them for having been given the gift of faith and the peace it brings them.
I also have people who pass through my life regularly who are very religious and do make condemning statements of those who do not believe as they do. People who believe that withholding legal rights from a population of people because it is not as the bible commands it is the right thing to do (I'll limit my comment on how they don't follow ALL of the commands of The Bible to this one sentence). These people I cannot help but condemn and take offense from. There people, invariably, make comments that apply to me and my opinions in a judging manner. This means that they are either judging me silently all the time or that they are hypocrites. Either way; I cannot abide by that stance without taking notice of it.

So far I have covered the topic of religion quite clearly in this post, at least for the purposes intended and you, the reader, are probably wondering how I intend to fit morality into this picture. That answer is quite simple: religious extremists invariably question the morality of people who disbelieve.
In fact, I think if it came down to it all of the religious people would align and ally themselves against the atheists and Atheists on this point. They, quite simply, believe that one needs religion to tell people what is right and wrong.

This is a concept that I find offensive.
I am clearly able to make a determination between right and wrong. I, clearly, do not go out creating havoc and pain and suffering amongst my fellow man. I do this not because any religion tells me to avoid these things. I do not do them because I know they are wrong.

The article I linked above outlines a few studies that show religious people tend to be more generous and forgiving, etc. I can find this concept realistic if one factors in all of the "normal" people who go to religious worship on a weekly basis. If you include my friends like the ones I respect and admire for their beliefs who do not try to force me to believe as they do. If the world is more filled with people like that than people who try to force their beliefs on others I can easily see those studies having merit.
I, however, can also see those studies being insufficient in size to have a valid data set. I can also see the flaws in the studies.
More importantly I can see the logical flaws that exist in the belief that morality comes from religion.
I leave this concept with the following questions:
1 - Who is more moral: one who avoids doing bad things to others out of fear of a supernatural punishment after death or one who simply finds the bad things morally wrong on the basis that they are bad things?
2 - Who is more moral: the person who gives to the poor and needy in an effort to buy their way into an eternal paradise after they die or one who gives because they can and they want to help others for the purpose of helping others?
3 - Who is a better judge or right and wrong: one who needs someone to tell them what is right and what is wrong or someone who can make that determination on their own?
4 - Who is more amoral - one who wants to protect the rights of everyone or one who wants to enforce oppression on people based on their religion?

For me the answers are clear.
While I still wish I knew what it was like to have been granted the gift of faith in a benevolent deity I find that my moral position in the world is solid without having an organized religion tell me what is right and wrong.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Internet Age and self-censorship

The internet is a fantastic tool.
It is great for education and learning.
It is great for communication.
It is great for the opportunity to find like-minded people in any niche.

The internet is also a fantastic tool to support intolerance.
Recently I have become aware of my own dislike of posts on facebook of certain people on my friends' list. The posts that offend me almost all have a similar context: they are pro-religion to the point of being anti-secular and they support suppression of the rights of others based on religious doctrine.

I disagree with their posts and the thoughts behind them. I do, however, support their right to make the posts (note: my statements that your posts are filled with hate and rage is not suppressing your right to free speech - it is exercising MY right to free speech).

What I have recently discovered is that my animosity toward those who think dramatically different from me is something I had not counted on. It is larger than I expected. It can be overwhelming at times. It is a form of intolerance. I am finding that the more I surround myself with people whom I agree with the more I like my life but also the less tolerance I am having for thoughts that I find ridiculous and overly out-dated or oppressive.

I am finding, therefore, the tool of the internet is a double-edged sword.
It has allowed me the growth opportunity to find many people with similar interests and then forced my level of tolerance to shrink when faced with people whom I am diametrically opposed to in belief.

I have, for this very reason, stopped un-friending people on facebook for having what I deem to be hateful posts based on religion. They are choosing to have their faith and they are choosing to embrace the "morality" that they (albeit erroneously) feel is correct and my de-friending them will NEVER change that. My de-friending them will only serve to remove me from their stream and, as a result, remove a voice of reason from their world view. Being selfish enough to remove the annoyance of their immoral beliefs that people should be allowed to be oppressed based on anything (really, seriously, there are no good reasons to oppress a people) means I am choosing to hide from the problem. Being narcissistic enough to leave my thoughts and comments in their news feed is, in this situation, a way to do good.

And, if they don't like it, they can always de-friend me from their end to stop the "insanity" of me vocalizing that all people should be treated equally.

I encourage everyone else to stop self-censoring the world that they experience so that they, too, can be exposed to the views and beliefs of others. You might learn something or, more importantly, you might teach someone else something important to them.

Leviticus and the first half of Numbers

It's been awhile since I last posted.
It's been awhile since I listened to portions of "The Bible" in my car.
But, I have now finished the book of Leviticus.

This book can be summarized quite simply: this is a health code.
It outlines what is edible and what is not.
It outlines how to handle health issues.
This book also has a single mention of men not laying with men as with a woman (no mention of homosexuality among women) but it has a SINGULAR mention of it. It mentioned many other things multiple times.
This is also the origin of the prohibition against wearing items made of mixed clothing (the penalty for which is being stoned to death).

The first half of Numbers outlines a basic census of the peoples of Israel.

One thing worth noting in both of these books is that the lord outlines that people must sacrifice regularly to the lord and that a portion of each sacrifice goes to the priesthood. This seems like a huge scam for those who are presenting the word of the lord to do nothing except repeat the word of the lord and get paid for it.

Another thing worth noting in both of these books is the outright sexism. Women are property and barred from many things. Having a female child make a mother ceremonially unclear for twice as long as having a male child. There are other examples, but those are the most significant ones worth noting.

It is also worth noting that, in each of these books, the lord states that shame and unholy acts must pass onto the third and fourth generation of the one that committed it.

This is a terrible thing. It is blatantly stating that children, grandchildren and great grandchildren should be punished for the acts committed by an individual.

Also it is important to note that one must be stoned to death if one works on the sabbath whether it is done intentionally or not and that god will punish you for a year for each day of disobeying his word.

These books outline that the lord is a hideous and evil entity that seeks to control everyone through torture and merciless killing. It forbids any deviation from the codes and free thought.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Hunger Games and Feminism

I went and saw The Hunger Games on opening weekend.

I went because I was hearing good things about the story the movie is based on and that I had heard good things about the movie itself from new outlets covering the response it had received starting Thursday night at midnight that week. I also went because the distopian future that is the backdrop of this story is in the vein of fiction that I enjoy absorbing.

I was very surprised when, shortly after seeing the film, I encountered this article (pasted here for completeness, even though it means potentially more traffic for the author of the article).

Just a word of warning. The linked article and the words below contain spoilers for the movie and books.

In addition to the remaining commentary below I want to point out that the author of the linked article is damaging the very core idea of Feminism by insisting that feminist ideal mean that the female character is superior in every way to those around them. This is a flawed idea and will not further the agenda of equality for all of humanity. The way to end the patriarchal society that humanity has created is the same way to end racism: treat everyone as a human regardless of their color or gender (or height or width, etc.). It will take two generations to stamp out the ideas if we treat everyone equally all the time. The ideas that people are different based on their gender or color are taught - if we continue to teach that, even with the idea of teaching to NOT do that, we are perpetuating the idea itself.

At the time that I read the article I created a facebook post to outline my problems with the article itself. Because I am lazy and did not feel like re-working that post for this blog post I am pasting the facebook post, as-is, here.... They're my words, I can re-use them.

I call BS on the article.
It has facts wrong and it has a skewed point of view to deliberately inflame the situation.
It's being deliberately obstinate and adversarial.

To start - there was a (probably) minor set of commentary among people... who did not like that Rue and Thresh were black. It even appears that their concern was that they had built concern and caring for the character of Rue after having built a picture of the character in their head of a (anything but black) little girl. In their eyes they wasted their caring on a character that they felt they should not have cared for because of her skin color. There are plenty of article out there on this and I like to think that the few twitter examples represent a very small portion of the overall population (sadly, I'm sure what I want that percentage to be is considerably less than it is).
Noting this is a fair point for this author and, to be fair, it is not what they are focusing on so I should not, either.

What this author appears to be focusing on is that the media is making this out to be a feminist story. This author is stating that this can't be a feminist story and then providing reasons.

Their first reason is that the story is not named after the main character, but is, rather, named after what happens to her. The author is making this to be a core reason why this cannot be a feminist story.
This reasoning is plain and complete crap.
Without the games themselves Katniss would continue to be a nobody within the setting. The games are what drive the society and what drive Katniss to here elevated position.
There are many examples of stories with protagonists who are NOT the title of the story. I could start naming them, but I would fill my character limit before I made a dent in the overall list. The reality is that the title has nothing to do with whether a story fairly represents characters as EQUALS. True feminism shouldn't exist because it is really about representing women and men as equals and this story demonstrates clearly that both male and female contestants can, and have, won the games. Each contestant has no alteration in their chances based on their gender. They make what luck they can and make the odds in their favor as much as they can using their skills and the tools at hand. It's that simple. This is not a "feminazi" story and I would argue that any incident of extreme feminism in which all male characters are suppressed. That is no more of a equality situation than the standard patriarchal construct that is abundant everywhere.

Moving on to the next point the author puts out there: that Katniss never kills anyone.
The author is wrong. Katniss is directly responsible for the deaths of at least two of the other contestants and indirectly responsible for at least one other. The author obviously did not pay much attention to the topic that they are writing about to miss these VERY relevant facts.

The author of the article is stating that Katniss and Cinderella are identical and that neither is a strong character.
The author of the article cannot be more wrong.

Anyone who, at age 11, takes over the head-of-household role and illegally trespasses on government land to hunt for food to feed her catatonic mother and sister is a strong character. Anyone who, starting at age 11, deals with the local black market to trade poached game for other goods and services is a strong character.
Anyone who, through their knowledge and acquired experience, can survive in the woods with baking daytime temperatures and sub-freezing nighttime temperatures with only a jacket, a sleeping bag, a water bottle (started empty), a means to sterilize water, a knife and a pack to carry it all in is a strong character.
Anyone who, regardless of how they do it, survives a caged death-match with 23 other contestants is a strong character.
Anyone who, upon finding them in the woods, can have the presence of mind to keep them from dying from their grievous leg injury until medical help can be obtained is a strong character. Anyone who, upon understanding the strategy of their strongest opponents takes an overt military action to obliterate that strategy and all of the advantages that those opponents had is a strong character.
Anyone who, to save the one person they love the most, will willingly step into a life-threatening situation where the odds are certainly NOT in their favor is a strong character.

I challenge the article's author to successfully complete any of the seven points above. Most people would fail to complete them. Most people would have died.

The author does, in fairness, have a valid comment about the lack of feminist (or equalist) ideals in fair tales. The Hunger Games is NOTHING like those fairy tales even if that comment is immediately spoiled by stating that Katniss has no ...decisions of her own in the arena.

She does.

She makes the decision the author admits to.
She makes the decision to heed the advice of her mentor when the games begin (the book even outlines how she was contemplating going against that until she lost her chance).
She makes the decisions to be smart about where and when she sleeps.
She makes the decisions about when to, and not to, have a fire.
She makes the decisions to hide and run.
She makes the decisions to stay and fight.
She makes the decision to go offensive and remove the advantages that the bigger, stronger, better-trained and faster contestants had secured for themselves.
She makes decisions constantly in the story. Many of them are what kept her alive in the fight against nature and many of them are what kept her alive in the conflicts against the other contestants.

The "impossible packages" that come from the sky are not. Each contestant clearly knows that they have sponsors and that those sponsors can provide them with gifts if they choose. Each contestant knows that their performance in the arena is what leads to sponsors choosing to invest in them. Bad decisions and bad performance leads to no "impossible packages" where good performance, strategy and decision-making leads to gifts that help you stay alive to make more decisions.

Moving onward through the article the author then states that Katniss DID kill but claims it was reflexive and not a deliberate act?
The answer to that is: so?
She did what she needed to do. She made the right choice. She made that choice without spending time thinking about it. Thinking about it would have cost her her life.
The article's author also conveniently forgets to discuss an earlier situation where Katniss took action knowing that it would likely result in the death of at least one other contestant. She knew it had a high chance of killing and that it might kill up to five other contestants. She took the action knowing that. She did it BECAUSE of that.

The article's author then, conveniently, forgets to correctly identify that the rules change that allows for both Katniss and Peeta to live was announce MUCH earlier. In fact, they tried to revoke that change and Katniss made another decision that was specifically designed to force the game-masters into upholding their earlier rules-change that allowed two victors.
The very next paragraph has the article's author outlining that Katniss was robbed of this decision. She was not. Her decision is what MADE them reverse the rules that forced her to make the decision.
Katniss made the plan. Katniss made the decision. Katniss rebelled against the government and won.

I will freely admit that the author has a solid point about false feminine agency in the beginning of the third part of their article. Society has norms. It pushes them onto people, men and women alike, every day. Society has an inertia and a power and that is precisely what landed Katniss in the arena in the first place. Her choices within the arena were hers. Many of them were partially forced because of the circumstances, but they were still her choices.
When she avenges Rue she could have chosen to run instead. She could have chosen to handle Rue's death differently. She could have chosen to not acknowledge Rue's life to the people of her district. Those were actions that were not coerced by the circumstances and, in fact, were counter to the best tactics of the arena. Katniss chose to dedicate her resources to do those actions explicitly because she WANTED to.
I will also admit that much of the societal influences that remove decisions from women are actions that other women take. Men take some actions, and put forward suggestions but women are the ones who engage in the competition between women (whether it is warranted or not) over appearance, etc.

I particularly like that the author points out The Running Man in the end. The main character of that movie has no greater "agency" than Katniss. That character HAS to kill. That character does not have the option to run and hide. That character is not fighting only the other contestants but also professional killers who deliberately hunt the contestants AND are better equipped. Katniss used strategy and tactics to get where she got; the running man used brute force. I'll take a smart, strategic character over someone who survives by brute force any day. They are, in the end, stronger (because they can use their environment to maximize themselves) and they are much more interesting.

Furthermore, I could easily point out that one can extrapolate that society and environment rob us ALL of all elements of agency all the time. If Katniss' ability to survive in the woods and make the appropriate suvival decisions was a lack of agency because she was forced into the arena in the first place than we're all robbed of agency because we did not deliberately choose to be in the world, nor the society that we live in. We are here and we're making the most of it on a daily basis because that is the greatest level of choice we have available to us.

(I could extrapolate out even further and get into the Newtonian physics of sub-atomic particles and how they affect the chemistry in our brains, thus robbing us of the agency of how we feel, too.... but I won't go into more depth on that than this comment).

For those who are interested has a whole store for Hunger Games products including a boxed set of the books.