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Jay Gordon
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Hahahaha, so +Steven Flaeck blocked me. 
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Frankly an attempt to do it effectively (while grounding it in the text) looks like a lot of effort - more than I can invest at the moment in any case. Maybe later.
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Summary: Pretend that Jay-Z and Nas were beefing over Beyonce, but replace Jay-Z and Nas with two academics and Beyonce with a war-criminal.
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For later
 
"Police officers fight crime. Police officers are neither case-workers, nor teachers, nor mental-health professionals, nor drug counselors. One of the great hallmarks of the past forty years of American domestic policy is a broad disinterest in that difference. The problem of restoring police authority is not really a problem of police authority, but a problem of democratic authority. It is what happens when you decide to solve all your problems with a hammer. To ask, at this late date, why the police seem to have lost their minds is to ask why our hammers are so bad at installing air-conditioners. More it is to ignore the state of the house all around us."
The real problem is the belief that all our social problems can be solved with force.
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What I Learned Teaching Philosophy of Religion

Regardless of how people feel about religion, they like to talk about it.  Even if they hate religion, they see religion as important - in the same way that they see racism or sexism as important.

I had the rare experience of teaching philosophy of religion at a public college for about eight years.  In that time, I learned quite a few things about what religion, spirituality, reason, and belief in God mean to every sort of person - from evangelical Christians to life-long Atheists.

More as personal therapy I will be making a series of posts detailing what I learned from teaching philosophy of religion.  As I say, these are mainly for me in that I want to know that I have “published my findings.”

The very first thing I learned was that most people will try to “read between the lines” of whatever I say.  Theists and the Atheists alike will try to parse my personal beliefs from these posts.  They will interpret every sentence through the lens of whichever side they think I am taking.  So, to mitigate such intellectual dishonesty I will start off this series with a handful of bullet points to keep in mind - I may make reference to them later in the series.

Read the Words: I’m a very simple person.  I don’t do internet-speak very well.  I just write the way I speak and I say what I mean.  If you focus on reading between the lines with me you will likely miss the actual lines.

Capitalization is for Proper Nouns: I use grammatically proper capitalization.  That means I capitalize all proper nouns.  It does not indicate an existential belief one way or another.  ‘One of my favorite Hobbits is Samwise Gamgee’ does not indicate that I believe in the existence of Hobbits or Samwise.  It merely indicates that these are proper nouns - so calm down.

NoYB: None of Your Business; as in what my personal beliefs are.  People will undoubtedly form their own ideas about my personal beliefs but that’s their problem - not mine.  I do not want to convince anyone of anything and I will not be talking about my personal beliefs.  Some of you will not believe this.  Read-the-Words.

I will likely add more bullet points as the series continues.

I hope that my findings will be of interest to the people in my circles but I have no idea how they will be received - or if they will be noticed.  As I say, I mainly want to publish these findings.  Conversations would be nice though.

If you are looking for religious comfort, you will not find it.  If you fear an attempt to convert or evangelize, you will not find it (unless you’re paranoid - and I can’t help you with that.)   My findings are about people and how they operate, not religious doctrines.
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Unlike Hillary's grandparents, my grandparents did not speak of the immigrant experience. Instead they spoke of the Miles Davis experience. Similar to Hillary, who always thought of her grandparents as immigrants, I have always thought of my grandparents as Miles Davis. 
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+Tom McGill Either you are very old or the Indian Wars of the 1980's were rather under reported.
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A warning: This is going to be an article about sex, sex work, and feminism, but it's not a "101" type of issue. It's instead about the subtle ways in which arguments which seem reasonable can be subtly, but dangerously, wrong.

This comic gives a straightforward way to think about the question of whether someone is being "sexually empowered" or "objectified." It explains the two as a duality, with one being good and the other bad, and the difference is all about power and consent.

The problem with this comic is that it's both right and wrong. The right part of it is fairly obvious, but the wrong part is subtle and can be insidious. It has to do with the ways in which the comic talks about how consent can be deficient, influenced by things like financial need. It suggests (correctly) that any consent can ultimately be deficient -- but it focuses this on the consent of the "provider," i.e. the model or sex worker or simply a person Dressed In A Certain Way. In doing so, it creates an insidious implication that the consent of anyone doing this is more deficient than other people's consent. That's a "magic wand" sort of argument that lets people argue that any claim of empowerment is actually false, an argument which has very nasty real-world consequences.

One easy way to see the problem is to notice that the same argument this author applies to sex work applies to anything else. Consider this quote:

"Many of those who enter the sex industry as a provider may not be entirely doing so because they want to. There are a number of factors, including poverty level, race, and assigned sex. Providers of commercial sex often face enormous discrimination and criminalization, which also puts power in the hands of others besides the providers themselves."

That's a great argument for why all the sex workers are actually being trafficked (a common argument used for increased criminalization of their customers, incidentally, which ends up having most of the same net effects on sex workers as criminalizing them), while coming with a wonderful out to explain away any sex worker who disagrees: "they're just privileged enough that it doesn't happen to them." But repeat that same sentence while talking about, say, agricultural laborers:

"Many of those who work in tomato fields may not be entirely doing so because they want to. There are a number of factors, including poverty level, race, and assigned sex. Migrant laborers often face enormous discrimination and criminalization, which also puts power in the hands of others besides the providers themselves."

This statement is no less true. In fact, it's true of nearly any kind of work, and that's the key to what's wrong here: it singles out sex as being somehow different, a situation in which consent is always potentially deficient. 


This cartoon doesn't, to its credit, take its arguments and actually pull them to that extreme. It sets up the arguments which can be used to argue that all empowerment is really objectification, and arguments which are routinely used by others to do that, but it doesn't make the claim itself. However, by framing the discussion this way, it sets that up.


The actual flaw is in the dichotomy it suggests between "empowerment" (which is good) and "objectification" (which is bad). You should be suspicious from the first frame, which talks about the power of the "looking" person and the "looked at" person, because power isn't a single axis -- which is exactly what the comic shows later on, as it talks about financial power, cultural power, sexual desire, and so on. 

In any real situation, each side will have some power, and the tradeoffs individuals are making are going to be complex. The sex worker may need the money, but he could also be working construction. His client seems to have the power in the relationship, but any business provider knows that the customer's power isn't actually absolute.

To be clear, I'm not saying that there is always a balance: power imbalances are real, and they absolutely occur in sex work, just like they occur in every other aspect of life. And criminalization and shaming of sex workers make those power imbalances much worse: in fact, if you wanted to analyze the real consequences of US laws on sex work, you could summarize them as being optimized to maximize the vulnerability of sex workers, in favor of anyone who has the power to get them arrested, exposed, and so on.

Which is to say, there's a real power imbalance here, but it has nothing to do with the intrinsics of sex or sex work, or even with deep things like culture: it's something society has deliberately chosen to create.


So what's a more accurate way of describing this? It's to realize that "empowerment" and "objectification" aren't opposites, but things which happen at the same time. Empowerment is about a person having agency and control over their life; objectification is about a person being viewed not as an independent subject, but as the object of a sentence, a means to someone else's ends.

The model may be empowering herself, acquiring a source of income that she can control and developing her own independent sexuality; at the same time, the man watching her may be entirely in his own world, collecting pictures of women and fantasizing absolute control over them, while shaming the women in his life for not looking like them. Which of these people is empowered? Which is objectified? 

The answer is that it's both. This means that we don't get any nice, simple lessons like "porn is good!" or "porn is bad!" which we can use to have rallies and change laws and so on. Instead, we get the real complexities of human life.


There are definitely useful calls to action here, but they're not the simple ones. If you want to do something useful:

* The structural power imbalances which affect workers everywhere are real and significant dangers to our society. Sex work is work: most of the problems are the same. The problems which create deficiencies in consent have huge social and economic costs; cf recent studies like
https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbt/report/2012/03/22/11234/the-costly-business-of-discrimination/
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/02/is-ending-segregation-the-key-to-ending-poverty/385002/

* There are many structural problems specific to sex work. Laws which criminalize it cut sex workers off from legal recourse altogether. Laws which treat sex work as a "scarlet letter" -- e.g., putting professionals at risk of losing their children to CPS if their employment becomes known -- are even worse. Policies which shame it -- e.g., refusals of payment processors to touch anything remotely related to sex -- again force sex workers into situations where they're dependent on unethical side providers. Political organizations such as RedUP (http://redumbrellaproject.org/) and SWOP (http://www.swopusa.org/) are actively working to fix these issues. Importantly, these are organizations of the actual people involved, not of people coming in to "rescue" them from their lives without actually asking if that's what anyone wants; organizations like that need our support.

(Disclosure: I am a donor to, and supporter of, both of these groups, and encourage others to do so as well)

* And objectification, while not directly tied to this, is something you can directly change about your own life. See https://plus.google.com/+YonatanZunger/posts/TbCgDWPkBGW for more on that.

Thanks to +Carrie Canup for the link.
There's a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think: The difference is in who has the po
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On this date, note that +Matthew Yglesias will become the number one apologist for HRC and her hawkish ways.

"""

Many Democrats feel differently. In a poll released within weeks of that interview, a plurality of Democrats said America "does too much in helping solve world problems." But being out of step with the Democratic party is nothing new for Clinton: throughout the Obama administration, she has been consistently at odds with the majority of the party on key issues of war and peace.

And while, unlike the Republican candidates, Clinton has been fairly supportive of some of the Obama administration's foreign policy — she's cautiously supported the framework nuclear deal with Iran and broadly endorsed Obama's approach to fighting ISIS — she has also disagreed.
In mid-2009, then–Secretary of State Clinton was one of the key forces in the Obama administration advocating for a "surge" of new troops to Afghanistan. At the time, Gallup found that 62 percent of Democrats opposed sending more troops to the country.

In March 2011, she argued strongly for intervening to stop Muammar Qaddafi's slaughter of rebels in Libya. At the time, 57 percent of Democrats told Pew the US had no responsibility to stop the killing in Libya.

In 2012, Clinton and General David Petraeus presented Obama with a plan for arming the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's regime. Only a tiny minority of Americans — 11 percent — supported the idea, according to a June 2013 NBC/Wall Street Journal. The poll didn't disclose an exact partisan breakdown, but Democrats and Republicans broadly agreed: "whether you voted for Romney or Obama, they have the same opinion on Syria," Bill McInturff, one of the pollsters who conducted the poll, said.

Clinton doesn't regret these decisions today. In fact, she seems to think they've been vindicated. In her interview with Goldberg, she blamed the rise of ISIS partly on Obama's failure to arm the Syrian rebels in time. She defended the intervention in Libya. She compared the struggle against groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda to the Cold War.

So while she may not be openly criticizing Obama too much now, it's very clear that a President Clinton would bring far more hawkish instincts to bear on global problems than the current president — or, for that matter, your average Democratic voter.

If Clinton wins the nomination, the Democratic Party's official position on foreign policy will shift with her. And, in a subtler way, the rank-and-file's opinion will change, too. On foreign policy, Clinton will remake the Democratic Party in her image.

One of the basic facts of American politics is that partisan identity swamps ideology. When party leaders, particularly a president, take one opinion, it's more likely that the party with will shift with her than outright oppose her.

Facing little opposition from inside her party, Clinton will have a free hand to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy. It's impossible to predict exactly what that will look like in terms of specific policies. Foreign policy is so crisis-driven that it's hard to say what she'd do differently than Obama with any certainty. Plus the demands of the campaign mean that her criticism of Obama's record is, for the time being, fairly muted.

But we can hazard a few guesses. Clinton's rhetoric about Iran has been harsher than Obama's: if the Iran framework deal falls apart, she's more likely to seriously consider airstrikes than Obama is. She'll also likely to take a harder line on Iranian misbehavior around the Middle East, including its support for the Assad regime in Syria and meddling in internal Iraqi politics.

The battle for the Democratic party's soul — and, to a lesser extent, the future of American foreign policy — is looking like a fait accompli.


"""
Clinton's approach to foreign policy is much more aggressive than that of many in her party. But it's the Democrats, not Clinton, who will change if she wins the nomination.
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+Jay Gordon Matthew Yglesias is a Plagiarizer and Thief http://www.mediaite.com/online/nate-silver-to-vox-stop-stealing-our-maps-and-charts/ - typos are the least of his crimes.
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His commentary is dead wrong, but worth reading.
 
I think Coates fundamentally misunderstands why and how we use police.

People see the justice system as a punishment system. In theory, serving time in prison is a penance for some harm caused which negates it. Even victimless crimes fall into this scheme, their core supporters don't believe they're victimless at all. Rather, they believe these crimes are an insidious rot which carries a host of other ills along. That may be indirect, but laws against building bombs in your apartment are also mostly about the indirect harm caused by doing so poorly. The root can inherit from the branches in this.

But Coates misses this. His critical lens is to look at the root causes of crime -- poverty, mental illness, family breakdowns, and so on -- and then presume that the police are being called to solve those. They're not. While people may agree that these factors can cause people to become criminals, they don't think they're sufficient. Rather, they believe it takes some inchoate immorality; bad people do bad things is the rule.

Consider Dr. James Fallon's story in the guardian.* After discovering he is a psychopath, he was left with trying to determine why he wasn't a terrible person. His conclusion was upbringing. Thanks to family and friends, he was pushed more to being a good person who sometimes failed rather than a bad person who sometimes succeeded. As we know, good people outnumber bad people because, frankly, being evil is bad for the social bonds humans require to survive.

Many people see criminals as mostly like James Fallon: their circumstances and upbringing can restrain their innate evil. Even the religion most people adhere to teaches this commonly about all people. Christian churches have, since the beginning, preached that message. No subtle medicalization of crime to be had. In fact, it's very explicitly resisted because it might break down the messages and behaviors restraining sin. I'm not attempting to denigrate this line of thinking; it's actually enormously useful. But we've lost the other side of it, that part which saw prisons mostly as active vehicles for redemption rather than mere purgatories where people wait for it.

That's the problem with this article, a subtle mistake: people are not using the police to solve deep social problems. People are deploying them against evil people, doing evil things, because they really need to be stopped and punished.

If we were just using police to combat deeper social problems like mental illness, family strife, and poverty, the chances of police and criminal justice reform generally would be very bright. We'd at least be starting with the right problems, even if we're employing the wrong tool.

*http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/03/how-i-discovered-i-have-the-brain-of-a-psychopath
The real problem is the belief that all our social problems can be solved with force.
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I'm not sure he is saying that he really thinks they're really fighting evil (but I can't see the comments on the original), but rather the way a lot of people who support the institution justify what the police are doing is by imagining they're fighting evil (thin blue line rhetoric and all). When people justify an institution based on something that isn't close to the reality of what the institution actually does or reflects the history of the institution you're going to find huge resistance to any alternative narrative that tries to more correctly describe the institution by its actions.
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I'd rather bottom for Stalin. 
Ryan, a 23-year-old San Franciscan who’s using his first name only, created a ruckus on gay social media earlier this week when he launched his “I’d Bottom for Hillary” campaign, a T-shirt and hashtag initiative that aims to support Hillary Clinton’s recently confirmed bid for the presidency. (Bottoming, on the...
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I got nuthin'.

...other than, 'People are dopey.'
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Hillary ought to be hung hanged for war crimes.


So, for the Guardian editors, Clinton has more 'personal gravitas' now - she actually has more dignity, should be taken more seriously. A remarkable response, as we will see. The Guardian continues:

'On foreign policy, her spell as secretary of state leaves her with a somewhat clearer record - she is associated with a rather more interventionist approach than Mr Obama. Her admirers would describe her as a happy mix of the smart and the muscular; doubters will recall her vote for the ruinous invasion of Iraq in 2003, and prefer the Obama-esque oath to first do no harm.'

The cognitive dissonance could hardly be more glaring: Obama's colour and Clinton's gender are key ethical concerns, and yet Obama's responsibility for mass killing is not only not a concern, it is not even recognised. Instead, he continues to be presented as a benevolent non-interventionist who has consistently chosen to 'do no harm'.

[...]

But anyway, 'the symbolic power of her appointment [as a female president] transcends all else'.

Which perhaps explains why both Goldenberg and Orr fail to mention Libya, the country Clinton played a decisive role in wrecking while US Secretary of State (2009-2013).


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"hanged"
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Thanks to +Bob Haugen for the pointer.

VICE: What's the central question of your new book?

John Gray: It tries to think about how we can be free in the human world as it actually exists.

In the book I refer to John Keats's concept of "negative capability." Don't bother reading philosophy, read Keats. He's fantastic. "Negative capability" is how to dwell in doubt and mystery. That's freedom. In other words, you've got to act in the world. You have things you care about, so you act on them. You do your best, but then you act in uncertainty, in doubt. You simply have to do the best with the values and goals you have.

Is that your response to the question of free will?

I don't try to answer such questions definitely. My aim is not to convert anyone. I don't care what you believe. I write for those that are curious, who want to question, who want to look at their thinking and reflect on it and see whether they want to carry on with it.

I write for individuals, not to generate a social movement or a political project. I write for those individuals who have some doubts as to the prevailing worldview. If you don't have any doubts, don't read me. Read Richard Dawkins, read someone else who'll make you happy. You're wasting your time with me.

What would be an example for Gnosticism in the sciences today?

Transhumanism. Their general idea is that we must liberate the mind from the body. Take Kurzweil's Singularity. He wants to free the mind from the prison that is our body by uploading the self to the internet. He would say, "I'm an ailing body unless I take my 500 vitamins a day so that I get to live until the arrival of the Singularity."

But unless the emerging virtual order is in some sense autonomous, then you haven't got very far. If it isn't, then you can only be semi-immortal in the virtual world. Someone just needs to unplug the computer and you're dead.

But, overall, knowledge does give us power?

That is true. It doesn't, by itself, free us. It is a two-edged sword. You can use certain technologies to promote freedom but also to spy on people. One of the core thoughts of the book where I descend from a strong philosophical and religious tradition, in philosophical terms from Socrates, is that I hold that the advancement of knowledge is not in itself liberating. (Sorry John, the Greeks were speaking of wisdom, which is liberating).

The general view today is, I think, that the growth of knowledge leads to a growth of human freedom. But the human world isn't accretive in that way as the sciences. In human history what often happens is the destruction of whole civilizations.

There seems to be a certain monoculture in our thinking today, in our view of the world. Whatever side you're on, most people would believe in inevitable ethical progress that is attached to the sciences.

There'd be different content, but still the general assumption is that we are moving to a better state. Now, my view is that politics and ethics aren't like that. I take that ethics and politics are more erratic and discontinuous. There are serious advances, but then they are regularly lost. (So are advances in technology and science John. They too are regularly lost. You'd be an anti-fragile thinker if you acknowledged that there is no scientific/technological progress).

And, unfortunately, good things are lost. For example, in the ancient world, pre-Christian Europe, there wasn't a persecution of gay people! That was then lost for 2,000 years. That's quite a long regression. People who believe in progress must allow the question, "But what about those 2,000 years?"

There are good events in history—there are genuine advances—but they are inherently fragile. That's my key message.


To return to how we started this conversation: How does that connect to negative capability? What to do in such a situation?

My view in a situation like that is that you are in the world, you don't know what will happen, you have sort of a responsibility to consider realistic possibilities, you shouldn't harm other people. But beyond that you don't know what will happen. So you have to act. You might act by resisting, by voting, by doing various things, or you might leave. Leaving is sad. But I wouldn't sit there in anguish and wait until it's all sorted out. Because it won't get sorted out. It's going to get progressively worse.

You see, my view is not a sort of fatalism in the vulgar sense. It's not about waiting until everything is resolved or things are getting worse. One of my heroes is Freud. And he makes clear that fate is not something you must surrender to or submit to. You can defy it. In fact, you should. But you can't necessarily overcome it.


We talked to him about Gnosticism, torture, and the economic crisis.
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What do you all mean by "freedom"?
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Glad to know she's given up. No other alternative, no electing people from their own ranks, no creation of alternative radical spaces. Nope. Hillary is our only hope now. Let's submit to childlike fears.
 
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. 
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The important thing is to imagine that there is some difference.  
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Doubt Truth to be a Liar
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'Chakravath parivartante dukhanichaiv sukhanichaiv.' (Both good fortune and bad fortune ever turn like wheels on a cart).
Education
  • Western Michigan University
    M.A. Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, 2010 - 2012
  • Rollins College
    B.A. English and Philosophy, 2004 - 2009
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