itsbosh

You’re too aggressive with your ideas!

This has been said about every minority that has every decided to grow a pair and voice their opposition to the mainstreams intolerance. There really isn’t a minority that hasn’t endured this accusation at one point or another.-Americans, long before even the civil rights movement, were often accused of being ‘uppity’ should they have dared to even suggest that white supremacy was morally questionable.

Suffragettes and the feminists that followed them also suffered this aspersion, the claim being that if only they were more patient, less aggressive and more understanding would they be taken more seriously. After all, few things are more unattractive than a hysterical woman.

The LGBT community too has been accused of being ‘too aggressive’ about their rights. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard conservatives and liberals alike bemoan gay activism for its flamboyancy and over indulgence in both political and social fanfare.

Current and copious examples can always be found in the comment sections of articles related to injustice against gays. Inevitably a story is run where some lesbian or gayboy dares to make a scene after being discriminated against and someone in the audience begins their comment with ‘I’m not homophobic but…’ and goes on to detail how this or that homosexual is being too intense, if only they would just calm down and let people ‘have their beliefs’.

It amuses me that, in the world of the mainstream and privileged, the ‘have nots’ are inevitably depicted as greedy and impatient while the ‘haves’ are coolly portrayed as rational and innocent bystanders to some group’s selfish need for political upheaval. The reality, however, is that the mainstream’s over-sensitivity to minority protestants is more a product of both their guilt and refusal to account for the status quo and how they disproportionately benefit from it.

Now it should go without saying that minority groups can make unreasonable claims and assert themselves in needlessly aggressive and plainly inappropriate ways. Feminists today are one such example of a group that unnecessarily depicts themselves as excessively beleaguered, even to the point of paranoid conspiracy theories and hustled statistics. Black activists have at times had similarly outlandish expectations, such as the notion that every institution or film represent the racial proportions of the nation as a whole.

But the reality is that in any nascent rights movement, or ideological shift, the minority is ineluctably depicted as abusing their air time. Atheists are particularly vulnerable to this. Believers both mild and maniacal popularly portray atheists broadly as impotent neckbeards with nothing better to do than call people stupid while arrogating an intellectual status to themselves.

If we’re honest, however, no one is louder, more aggressive, or more obnoxiously bumptious than the mainstream. Christians view atheists as caterwauling because they’ve never had to fight to have their voice heard in the forum of big ideas. Conservatives find gay marriage proponents annoying because it forces them to justify themselves, something queer people have been doing for centuries.

When you’ve been deprived of a voice, or in the least a readily receptive audience fully aware and likely aligned already with your viewpoint, it becomes important, indeed essential, to come on strong. The standard for minority positions will and always has been higher than for the mainstream, not least because the mainstream makes it that way.

Values in the West, a Moral High-Ground

Anyone reading this blog knows that I am vehemently contemptuous of cultural relativism; the notion that there are no absolutely right or wrong ways to govern or exist in a society but that instead it is all just a matter of one’s cultural consensus.

This notion, largely a far-left conceit, is not only demonstrably wrong with regard to the human condition but also a justification for all manner of grotesquery and moral turpitude. For example, a moral relativist would argue that western societies and those like it, such as Japan or South Korea, have no right to criticize the act of female genital mutilation since it can only be understood within its respective culture. In other words, what is true or right is determined by culture and not logic, reason, or even the obvious such as the human condition’s reaction to it.

Many times when defending the healthier practices of democracy and those nations which generally acknowledge Humanist values, I am confronted with some varietal of the far leftist, like a feminist who, while damning her own culture will compare its lowest points to some autocracy’s highest. The argument follows something like this: ‘Well, it was the West that dragged the world into World War II’ or ‘A ridiculously long time ago Arabia made some contributions to math which the Greeks failed to do.’

This tactic is a common one and almost inevitably involves the dredging up of a long finished and no longer representative past in a miserable state like Iran while comparing it with some past or current event in the West that is typically an exception to the rule. Either way, what is never acknowledged is the consistency of these faults or successes.

One of the most ridiculous attacks on the West’s moral superiority I’ve ever heard was when a French Muslim named Tariq Ramadan said the West had no right to criticize the treatment of women in Muslim majority nations since domestic abuse still transpired in Europe and North America. This is like claiming that because literacy rates in the West hover just below 100% they have no right to criticize nations where they exist at lows of fifty or even less.

I might also add, and this is a core difference, that domestic abuse in the West is illegal whereas in nations like Saudi Arabia it is most certainly legal or in the least, socially sanctioned. These distinctions matter.

It is demonstrably the case that when women are given equal access to resources in a society everyone in that society fares better. This can be scientifically measured and proven. I can guarantee that if you compared all the nations where women are practically equal to all the nations where they are undeniably not, you would find decreased poverty, increased literacy, lower infant mortality, and higher average lifespans. What is subjective or relative about that? Nothing. When women are equal the society is objectively a better one to live in. By what measure? Human well-being.

While no country on this earth is perfect and, for example, nations like the United States have much to answer for with regard to their clumsy and largely inhumane foreign policy, the reality on the ground of these nations is that the freedom to be and do exists and is taken seriously. The same cannot be said for many other nations, especially so in Muslim majority countries where de facto if not de jure theocracy reigns.

I you are going to compare two nations, like the United States and Iran, consistency matters. It is irrelevant who was more progressive several centuries ago. Anecdotes too are irrelevant. What matters is the legal system and how it is practiced on the ground. And I am sorry ladies and gentlemen, at least to those of you who disagree, but on that front and between these two nations in particular America is going to win every single time. Name whatever dictatorship America has propped up in the past if you please but in the end Iran maintains a theocratic psycho within its own borders and regularly threatens to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.

Nation states and cultures have to be compared directly. We can safely acknowledge the faults of democratic countries without submitting to the ridiculous notion that if a nation does one bad thing it is the equivalent of such sociopathic regimes as Iran or Saudi Arabia. Sweden engages in arms dealing, that hardly puts her on a par with Russia or China. The largely Humanist values of the West and her allies, occasional failings aside, are undeniably superior to the incessant system failures of their counterparts in such fascist states as Iran and that can never be understated.

That Goodwill Feeling

I first entered a Goodwill at University when, like every other student, I wanted fun things but hadn’t the money to purchase them. At the time my budget for alcohol was almost twice that of my food, giving you an idea of my then priorities.

Before that time Goodwill and shops like it retained an ignominious reputation if not an entirely rebarbative one. Second hand items are rarely prized in wealthy capitalist societies and certainly not among their middle classes and beyond. There is the stigma of poverty, the irrational fear of lice, and the distrust of old and used things. Fortunately I think these ridiculous stereotypes have begun to wane of late but there are still those who will raise an eyebrow after being told where I’ve purchased some of my nicer acquisitions, even after having complimented me on them.

After University I stopped making regular runs to second-hand stores, primarily Goodwills. There had been a time when I scoured the landscape for them, hopping from depot to depot and collecting almost indiscriminately the many excruciatingly cheap wonders they had to offer.

On one of my first runs to Goodwill I found a black fitted YSL button-down for a dollar, mint condition. If you aren’t familiar with that brand, look it up. I also discovered a very cheap way to purchase wine glasses, about a dollar a pop, immediately setting me apart from my seemingly cheap friends who had been relegated to drinking their plonk out of plastic cups or mugs. Can you say ‘losers’?

During my tenure at my particular Uni I gained a reputation for having the chicest, if not classiest dorm room. Beset and bedazzled with ten dollar pieces of wooden furniture that looked anything but, most people assumed I had inherited these ‘heirloom’ pieces from relatives. And when it finally came time to say goodbye to college, it was just as easy to let go since I had scarcely paid a penny for the lot of it.

Having then left to teach English in South Korea I completely forgot about Goodwill and its kind, mostly because no such industry existed where I ended up. Korea didn’t ‘do’ second hand stores and neither did Russia where I lived soon after. Russia, of course, did consignment which they turned into a kind of boutique fad in Moscow, but consignment is typically much more expensive for the simple reason that they pay their sources of goods and further, take only the pieces they can sell for top dollar.

When I finally returned to the United States, newly accoutered with a husband the necessity for furniture, I found myself in a quandary until I landed in an apartment in California that was situated directly across from a Goodwill. At first, stupid me, I didn’t realize how lucky I had gotten, but soon after I realized we had struck gold. Or rather, the ability to get what we wanted and keep our money.

With a living room, bedroom, and balcony that needed furnishing, we went straight to IKEA where we found most of life’s essentials without a stitch, but we certainly paid for it. As far as brands go, IKEA is not a bad place to get new things for reasonable prices but our wallets only stretched so far. For everything else we turned to Goodwill and I have to say, Pottery Barn and Bed&Bath, eat your hearts out.

Below are some of the concepts my husband and I put together, almost entirely from Goodwill acquisitions, including a thousand dollar Corvin mango-wood desk which we purchased for the humble price of one hundred.

In the below photo just about every single item you see was bought at our local Goodwill, from that bizarre green vase on the far left to the rope-seat stool on the far right next to the IKEA paper lamp (which, by the way, had I waited, I could have also gotten at Goodwill since one showed up for a quarter the price I paid for mine). The pictures are also second-hand, save the green one on the far left.

What was the grand total you ask? For the desk, the pottery, lamps, basket, figurines, dresser, mirror and yes, pictures…south of 250 dollars and mind you, the desk cost a hundred. That is basically a room for less than 250 dollars, all of it by the way might as well be brand new.

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Now for the balcony. Obviously the plants I acquired elsewhere, but all the rattan furniture you see, the center table, glass-top table and two chairs, wicker stand, as well as the round wooden table and painted wrought-iron stand are all Goodwill gotten. That includes the candles, the beautiful bowl they’re in, and several of the pots for the plants. How much was all this? Less than 150, all told. And mind you, it wasn’t a set. I purchased all these goods at two or three different Goodwill stories in the area. But it looks like one doesn’t it?

I dare say we are the envy of are modest apartment complex, passersby regularly gaze with unvarnished envy at our elegantly decorated hanging garden.

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These next two smaller concepts are mixed. In the first one we see a wrought iron giraffe, red pottery, and a marble statue centered on a malachite platform. All these figures, save the desk they are on, were Goodwill gotten and cost collectively less than 50 dollars, including the basket beneath them!

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I forgot to mention the Russian picture above is also, wait for it…GOODWILL GOTTEN!

In this next one we see a bronze rabbit and golden lamp on a stool. The rabbit I got elsewhere but the stool and lamp were Goodwill gotten. By the way, each came in a pair. So for 100 dollars I bought two wooden/iron bar stools with adjustable tops and two identical lamps, the other is in the bedroom.

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I could show more but it would take forever. The thing to remember about Goodwill is that most of their stuff really is crap. It is either old, useless, or really ugly – especially the clothes. But if you have the time and inclination, you can make some amazing finds at these stores and ones like them. My tips are to visit frequently (the best stuff goes fast), keep an open mind, and to do it with some friends. Trust me when I say that if you’re looking for artwork, pottery, or dining-ware and glasses, this is easily the best place to go for nice as well as cheap stuff. And remember, because much of what is left behind in these warehouses is old, you’ll never fail to find vintage pieces made unique by the time that has passed. Stop paying so much money for art decor at Pottery Barn. Just go to Goodwill.

Breastfeeding: Natural but not Performance Art

I’ve gotten a little tired of the whole breastfeeding in public controversy. It seems that, as usual, people are incapable of finding that very reasonable middle ground between full-swinging tits-out with baby’s mouth and demanding that mothers pump ashamedly in the darkness of their homes.

I can never quite figure out what either side is so hysterically upset about. Do the naysayers, for example, really expect nursing mothers to just abstain everywhere save their bedroom closets? What exactly are they worried is going to happen when we see a suckled breast? Maybe it’s too glaring a reminder that we are animals, that motherhood can be as clumsy, wet, and sticky as baby-making. Or possibly it is that age-old desire to control women’s bodies in whatever way we can, even to the point of whimsy.

As for the pro-public milkers, the men and women that caterwaul in their support for indiscreet, topless anywhere-anytime suckling, I have to wonder what their arguments are. There is nothing sexist or discriminatory about the expectation of prudently choosing the venue for your baby’s feeding. Natural or not, I wouldn’t want to see one change their child’s diaper while I was dining and nor do I wish to see suckling while I sip away at my postprandial coffee.

There are plenty of natural behaviors and processes the human body requires, either with others or alone, that I think are best done in private or in the least, discreetly and without fanfare. I don’t like seeing people spit, scratch their balls or ass, nor do I want to see someone shit, masturbate, make-out, or fuck in public. These are all natural and entirely necessary daily necessities of the human condition. In the same way we don’t need to shame ourselves for engaging in them we also don’t need to politicize them, putting them on needless public display as though they are the equivalent to brushing one’s hair or cracking our knuckles.

Of course nursing mothers shouldn’t have to run to the nearest closet or restroom every time their newborn requires milk. But can’t we agree that a restaurant or café may not be the best place to do it? Or maybe, if one must, can we not be respectful enough of others to just throw a napkin over the shoulder?

It amuses me to consider how feminists expect people to police their language to totalitarian extents in defense of their fragile sensibilities while at the same time dismissing the concerns of others. These are the same people who created the concept of the ‘safe space’ where the uber-sensitive can hang out without fear of being intellectually challenged or hearing a word they don’t like.

Living in a society is as much about compromise as it is about gain. By living in a community I have an ease of access to resources that I wouldn’t have on my own in the woods. At the same time I cannot do everything I would like to do or how I would have it done, all the time.

Like so many other things in America, it seems breastfeeding has become a needless political issue around which feminists and others have decided to take a resolute stand for one reason or another. But merely because some people feel the act of breastfeeding, natural and necessary as it is, is beautiful does not mean it has to become performance art. Conversely, there are times and places where, distasteful as one may find it, breastfeeding will inevitably occur and the disdainful are free to turn their heads or change rooms.

My point here is that not everyone appreciates your body, behavior, or ideas the way you or others do. Further, we are not entitled to the love or adoration of strangers. That being said, we can be reasonable and wise about when we engage in bodily processes or intimacies, both respecting the sensibilities of others while delivering a resounding ‘fuck you’ to those who expect us to pretend it never happens.

Take care of your fucking pet…A Guide

Recently I started working at a veterinary clinic as a technician in an attempt to bolster my chances of admittance to a proper vet-school. In the process I’ve had the opportunity to acquaint myself with all manner of pet-owners and the many standards, lack thereof, and views accompanying them.

[When I use the word pet I am referring largely to mammals and birds here, organisms of sufficient consciousness to warrant our deeper concerns for their wellbeing. Fish and reptiles, while also deserving of proper maintenance and care are not my primary subject in this article.]

Here in California, as one might expect, we are flush with antiscientific clientele who insist on refusing such guards against ticks and fleas as frontline and trifexis. Vaccines too are suspect and often refused entirely despite state laws demanding at least a rabies vaccination. Others still, despite the Louis Vuitton bag swinging from their elbow, are as miserly with their pet’s health as they might be donating to a random stranger. Worse yet, there are even those who, after one too many visits to the clinic decide rather to discard their animal companion than commit to the effort of reasonable life-saving alternatives.

I haven’t conducted a survey but I would say that for my clinic about one in six or seven appointments expresses a paranoid or even hysterical stance on the topic. But my contention is not only with the scientifically illiterate and conspiracy theorists but also with those individuals who, and unfortunately they are even more common place, treat their pets as though they were a plant or article of furniture.

As a result I’ve decided to create a guide for reasonable expectations of care and commitment for potential and current animal owners. I will also make it clear what I think of those people who fail to meet what I believe to be a minimum standard of care.

Standard 1 – Money

Pets are a financial commitment in the same way children are a financial commitment. Before acquiring a dog, cat or parrot you need to research the cost of their day to day needs and also the cost of their potential needs, such as emergent or exigent circumstances. I would even go so far as to say that if after purchasing the animal you don’t have another grand you could spontaneously drop on its care then you probably want to rethink whether or not you’re really ready for this very financial responsibility.

Some of you might have balked at that last line but consider this. I work at a standard veterinary practice and as a technician I not only perform the very routine tests we administer daily but I also run through cost estimates with all of our clientele. As a result I am intimately familiar with basic costs and can tell you with certainty that routine purchases like flea and tick medication and general diagnostic measures like blood tests and radiographs, all of which inevitably become a necessity at some point, could easily accumulate three digit expenses.

A dental on a dog or cat, especially if it requires extractions due to infection or decay, could range anywhere from 700 to 1200 dollars – assuming your doctors don’t cut you a break. All this being said, to mitigate these wallet crushing costs, I recommend pet insurance which, if purchased early, is both affordable and lifesaving.

Standard 2 – Time

If you don’t have time to walk dogs then don’t get one. If you don’t have time or aren’t inclined to change litter boxes, clean up the occasional mess, or run errands on behalf of your new found furry friend then again, don’t get one. Pets like dogs and cats are not like fish or plants where you can leave them unattended for days on end without concern for their physical or mental wellbeing. They require things of you. In the case of dogs this is simply the result of their breeding. Cats definitely don’t need you in order to survive but they do require your services in order to live well. In either case, the acquisition of something like a dog or cat requires that you invest a considerable amount of time in its care.

Standard 3 – Affection

It is easy to tell the difference between owners who show physical affection to their pets and those who don’t because of what they miss. People that clearly never touch their animals overlook the most obvious problems like cancerous masses while others notice lumps that even doctors will struggle to locate. This always indicates someone who loves on their pet versus someone who just leaves it in a corner to languish while they do whatever it is they are doing. If you’re someone who struggles to prioritize their time or exhibits narcissistic tendencies then pets aren’t for you. A couch is something you buy and then never deal with again, an animal is not. A T.V. is something one can spend time with when it is convenient, dogs and cats are not.

Animals like dogs and cats require physical affection, especially dogs. Without it they quickly become estranged from both their owners and people in general, making them hazards when in the general public. This, I feel, really should go without saying. After all, what’s the point of a fluffy cumquat creature if you’re not going to love on it?

This extends also to the medical sphere. Animals will develop issues that require medical attention, sometimes expensive medical attention. If you wouldn’t be willing to brook a scarring rash or a parasitical invasion, neither should your dog or cat. Remember that they can feel just as much as you can, and hoping their diseases resolve themselves for the benefit of your pocketbook is cruel, selfish and rebarbative. They depend entirely on the decisions you make and have absolutely no agency in curing themselves. In this sense, their life is literally in your hands.

Standard 4 – Research

Before you acquire your pet, research its needs. Research also the laws regarding it. Whether or not you’re a member of the anti-vaccine cult be aware that rabies vaccines are mandatory in most if not all states. It isn’t actually an option, nor should it be.

Things to consider researching include what breeds work best for you and your household, like which breeds suffer from the most debilitating diseases, which are best around children or for small apartments and solitary lifestyles.

It isn’t wise to get an animal you know nothing about or purchase a breed that routinely suffers from a battery of congenital disorders. In fact, I would even argue it is unethical to support breeds that suffer even in the best of health, like English bulldogs.  And if you’re in a ‘rescue kind of mood’ keep in mind that you could be surprised with expensive unforeseen medical bills, so make sure you know who you’re buying from, where the pets have been, and what to expect.

Lastly, learn about the preventative medicine available like frontline or trifexis before dismissing it. It is hypocritical to say that you would never subject your pet to ‘chemicals’ while at the same time subjecting them to all manner of life threatening and debilitating parasites and viruses.

Racism isn’t cool, but sometimes homophobia is…

In today’s America the call-out culture continues to grow, although like most of feminism’s 21st century advents it is misguided; failing to focus its energies where truly necessary. Instead of calling out American-led militarism or our hypocritical foreign policy, social justice warriors and their tumblr obsessives focus on t-shirts and actors at the Oscars.

There are of course other issues they could contend with were they not so busy sipping away at their fair-trade coffee while churning out their usual verbiage, like the growing trend of cultural relativism in the States and how it sabotages human rights efforts abroad while protecting bigotry at home.

You may well ask what I am talking about now. I mentioned in an earlier article the bizarre and upside down concerns everyday Americans have and prioritize, like free-range non-antibiotic pork or gluten free foods while ignoring America’s relationship with such theocratic fascist regimes as Saudi Arabia. Along the same vein, despite what some feminists would have you believe, it is safe to say that racist and sexist commentary will be soundly stamped out where found while homophobic commentary, so long as it is phrased appropriately, will be left untouched.

Even now Texas refuses to acknowledge gay couples’ rights to their own biological children and celebrates their refusal to recognize same sex marriage. In Michigan, there is legislation being prepared that would allow adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds while still receiving public funds.

There are absolutely no laws specifically targeting any ethnic group from doing anything in this country. There is no exercised law stopping black heterosexuals from marrying or adopting children. There is no exercised law that prevents Muslims from teaching their children or others about their religion. There is, of course, institutional bigotry that pervades with or without the law but this is another matter compared to that which has the force of both social and legal support.

Americans are right to hastily set about the destruction of racist, sexist, and other hateful trends that continue to crop up in American culture and society. But there is an obvious double standard when religion is involved and LGBT individuals are not the only ones who suffer at the hands of it. Women are also sidelined when criticizing theocratic cultures; labeled as racist and bigots for pointing out the obvious in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan. And certainly in our own country, one can scarcely even discuss the matter at a University for fear of being labeled grossly intolerant, even if you’re an immigrant having endured personally everything you’re discussing.

Indeed, cultural relativism says that if you can claim the practice and beliefs as an essential and deeply rooted part of your culture then others outside cannot make a value judgement on it. This is so obviously bosh I can’t believe it even bears being said. If racism within America is sinister then racism outside America is equally so. And if homophobia for non-religious reasons is intolerable then so is homophobia grounded in religion. One cannot have it both ways. Bigotry is either absolutely bad or it is not. If you are to maintain that LGBT people and women deserve equal treatment under secular law then no nation’s culture or religion can be made to excuse otherwise.

A culture, and especially a religion, is no excuse for hateful behavior. If you doubt this then please, spend a year in a country that puts their god first such as in Saudia Arabia and we’ll talk again then. It is important that we ask why it is that a religious ideology like Islam or evangelical Christianity can be inculcated into children and without restriction while something as basic to the human condition as sexuality is barred from tuition in multiple states, and especially non-heteronormative sexuality. Religion is a nonsense set of superstitious beliefs that culminate into some of the worst ideas known to man and yet it takes absolute priority over human sexuality?

It is time to get real people. There are good ideas. There are bad ideas. And then there are ideas that can be reasonably debated. It is time we got honest about which ones the bad ones are and why they are so vehemently protected. There is nothing intellectual or reasonable about it. It is about vested interests and it is intellectually and ethically dishonest to say otherwise.

Muslims in the Middle: The Relationship between the Far Right and Islamism

I often rant and rave about religion and I stand vehemently by the claim that all religion is bad for you. I’ll quote Maryam Namazie here and say that religion, much like a pack of smokes, should come with a warning sign. That being said, I fully support everyone’s right to believe in whatever bosh they please, so long as they are not foisting it onto others.

One religion in particular, however, is doing a spectacularly fabulous job at just that, which in the process has managed to confuse many of us, leading the West and others to conflate a religious people like every-day Muslims with a religiously political group like Islamists.

The far Right in both America and Europe has largely capitalized on this confusion, scavenging it to cloak their racism and xenophobia in a cape of well-intentioned nationalism whereby Muslim immigrants are sacrificed on the altar of Western values of freedom and democracy.

This in turn has aided Islamists who, equally fascist, have gleefully lunged at the opportunity to expose the Far Right’s skulking bigotry, bolstering their cause for both greater tolerance and the dissemination of their theocratic values disguised as a besieged minority.

The result of this clash of fascisms has been the demonization of Muslim immigrants and secularists who, using arguments bogarted by the Right, have been lashed and pilloried by self-righteous leftists as islamophobic.

The term ‘islamophobic’ was invented to silence opposition to the theocratic political movement of Islamism. It is meant to evoke images of nasty, irrational xenophobes and homophobes but in reality, it is nothing like them. For one, there are very legitimate reasons to be terrified of Islam or any religion. Secondly, ideologies are not the same as people.

Leftists of all sorts clamor this term, justifiably suspicious of the Far Right and its ‘concern’ with immigrants. But what they don’t seem to understand is the danger of such a term when applied to secularists, atheists and humanists who are legitimately concerned with issues of freedom of speech, media and minorities at the hands of such extremist political agents as Islamists.

It has never been trendier to attack the Far Right and yet their equally chauvinist doppelganger, the theocratic fascists known as Islamists, have been inoculated against critique by the very nomenclature the left created to combat such ideological poison.

Islamism was not concocted by immigrants and they certainly cannot be faulted for it, no more than my Lutheran parents can be faulted for fundamentalist evangelicals. Sharia law in the West was not an issue 40 years ago and there were plenty of Muslims in Europe at that time. Islamism appeared in force after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran which can be directly correlated with America’s feckless foreign policy to establish a ‘greenbelt’ around the USSR.

Sharia law is the method by which Islamists establish their totalitarianesque grip on society. It is indistinguishable from Far Right political sympathies save for how far leftists will go to depict these fascist theocrats as beleaguered minorities.

The Far Right may use the same arguments that secularists and atheist use to assail theocratic fascism but the agenda is entirely different. How you accomplish something is as important as the accomplishment. The Far Right’s agenda is to darkly coopt the forces of nationalism with liberal nomenclature to create a scapegoat of immigrants, thereby currying popular support and validating their xenophobic values.

Secularists and atheists, however, are not concerned with immigrants, ethnicity or nationalism. We are concerned with religion in the public square and its obvious roots to fascism. The Right, however, is quite pro-religion when it pertains to Christianity. An anti-religious stance is a key distinguishing factor since it is an obvious point of divergence.

Our agenda is the preservation of free speech, media and a secular government that, instead of allowing every religion into the public sphere, excludes all of them. Everyone is entitled to believe what they wish but their beliefs are not entitled to protection from criticism or state sanctioned coercion.

We need to acknowledge that the Far Right’s intentions are insincere while recognizing that criticism of religion’s pernicious and aggressive incursion into public life is legitimate and indeed, necessary. This is no battle against immigrants and it is no battle against Muslims. It is a battle against Islamo-fascists and the Far Right who would have us believe they are the anecdote. One fascism does not negate another.

Truth, an Existential Threat

I was recently engaged in a slight tussle with a relative on facebook which made me think about how easily overlooked the point of a statement can be when the audience’s mood is elsewhere.

This individual has a thing about educating people on menstruation and had just posted an article to this effect about ‘menstruation costs’ which accrue as a result of ignoring the female cycle. I saw this thread and in an effort to stop it from dying decided to post along a similar vein, stating how I felt about America’s hypocrisy when she courts Saudi Arabia while lambasting Russia’s human rights track record.

I then mentioned in the comment that Russia had a remarkably high percentage of women in managerial positions compared to the West’s average in an attempt to make a point about gender equality in Russia versus Saudi Arabia.

Now, this was in no way intended to detract from my relative’s article nor was it to make a point about menstruation specifically. It was just a commentary loosely related to the subject of gender equality and was meant to agree with the most general point regarding prioritizing human rights issues appropriately since her article highlights the lack of focus on women’s bodies and their needs.

Anyway…they quip back with this cutesy one liner about how no one should base the morality of a nation upon one statistic. And that is where we are going to begin my friends.

We’ve all done this at one time or another, missed the point. But it seems to happen more often with some people than others and those tend to be the people with a single agenda and team for which they fight tooth and nail for, even when it is in direct opposition with the truth.

Religious zealots, patriots, and social justice warriors are great examples of such individuals but really anyone intensely advocating for a single cause with a black and white solution in their hand is likely to fall victim to this kind of intellectual myopia.

Feminists are a particularly relevant example of such people in America today. They are very fond of distilling everything down to some obvious root cause which, were it addressed, would solve the problem in its entirety. These ‘solutions’ are further corrupted by a grievous misunderstanding of the picture at large so that in essence, the solution is to a problem that doesn’t really exist as they understand it.

An example might be feminism’s claim that patriarchy is the cause of sexism which is the result of too many empowered men and too few empowered women. Following this train of logic leads us to their simple solution; empower more women as compared to men to alter the institutional balance of power. This root cause and its simple solution, however, are based upon a few unproven and erroneous assumptions.

This first assumes that where any example of sexism can be made it is an implicit result of misogyny. In other words, confirmation bias. A prime example being the lack of female representation in engineering majors across America. Is this due to a conspiracy to keep women out of engineering or could there be other factors, such as preference?

Secondly, it assumes that men and women are absolutely equal, dismissing biology entirely. So if a man is chosen over a woman for a heavy lifting job it is because of patriarchy again, instead of a necessary requisite for physical strength which men as a group are better equipped for.

Thirdly, it assumes that what sexism does empirically exist is the simple result of too many men in power and too few women. This is problematic since it clearly implies that women are never and cannot be agents of sexism.

If, however, these assumptions are incorrect then feminism’s understanding of the problem is false, rendering the solution meaningless.

While ironic it is no accident that American feminists respond so hysterically to legitimate ideological critiques. Much like the intransigent religious zealot, because their entire ideological identity is built around a single, central premise from which all their beliefs ramify, it is of existential importance that they silence and pillory any and all oppositional encounters.

This brings me to the article’s point. For the reason stated above these individuals are not merely disinterested in the truth but diametrically opposed to it when and where it opposes the premise of their ideology.

In my relative’s case, small as it is, the threat is to the ridiculous notion that cultural views on menstruation can be specifically addressed and redound to any real, sustainable good for women. My comment, despite not in any way being targeted, did make a point about prioritizing the big picture and big issues over the comparatively small and inane. Suffrage, for example, over body image or equal access to education over no fault divorce laws.

This is not to say that something like menstruation taboos are unimportant. It is indicative of a larger problem but it is not the point.

For these reasons, knowing your audience is important when sussing out why it is they refuse to stay on topic. It is also a key to understanding why, when a person is invested enough in a cause, they will actually support its continuance as opposed to its resolution to keep themselves relevant. Note that many professional feminists today will speak less about progress while feverishly caterwauling about how much worse things have become. After all, so long as patriarchy is the problem they remain relevant and the same is true for many other cases.

Practitioners of critical thought understand that the empirical reality is what matters, not the words you choose to describe it. One can avoid these kinds of ideological biases and blindnesses by remaining loyal to the pursuit of truth and reality while steering clear of forming an identity around one cause. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a mission but there is something wrong with redefining the truth of that mission to meet your psychological needs.

Who Watches the Watchmen? (The Unwarranted Worship of Military and Police in America)

I’m tired of hearing about American lives and I’m tired of hearing about how police officers and military are heroes. Americans are not the only human beings on this planet and American constabulary and soldiers are rarely heroic, if ever. I say this because there can be no heroism where there is no accountability and because heroism is defined by the agenda and motives of its agents.

Indeed, these days the simple act of applying for certain jobs seems to confer hero status. We use words like ‘serve’ and ‘sacrifice’ for people paid for their services like every other American despite the fact that in many cases, their work either redounds to absolutely no benefit for the American people or comes at no risk to themselves.

I am not the first to point out that there are people that volunteer to be paid substantially less than they could be while traveling to dangerous places and saving lives daily, like infectious disease doctors. I would even bet that statistically they’re at greater risk of catching death than their combatant counterparts.

Since, however, we’re discussing statistics let’s examine the supposedly sky-high risks that officers and soldiers are apparently taking when they choose to humbly serve their communities for a salary, benefits and automatic recognition of hero status.

Of people in ‘protective service’ occupations, which includes police and firefighters, a whopping 97 law enforcement individuals were killed nationally in 2013.  Only 31 of those 97 died as a result of homicide, presumably at the hands of someone they were apprehending. Amusingly enough, more retail workers died from homicides on the job than police in 2013. Maybe we should start fawning over sales people in retail instead of officers since their job affords twice the risk of death by homicide (66 people).

Now that we’ve established that 2013 was not a particularly dangerous year for officers in the line of duty, let’s examine what kind of year it was for everyone else existing under their supervision. One number puts the number of deaths at the hands of officers, in the line of duty or not, at 320. Another estimates 400 for the number of supposedly ‘justifiable homicides’. But since we’ve all seen what America considers ‘justifiable’ at the hands of police I’m not entirely sure that’s the right word. Other sources, like the facebook page ‘Killed by Police’, have ostensibly tracked more than 2,000 deaths since May of 2013.

With numbers like these it would appear that the constabulary is more dangerous than the citizenry their licensed to protect.

But what about military personnel at war? What was the risk of death for the average soldier in Iraq? Well, per 1000 people and including non-combatant deaths, the rate was 4.20 deaths per 1000 soldiers. Were we to consider only deaths by combat that rate would reduce to 3.43 per 1000. It goes without saying that this rate is substantially higher than the domestic rate, about three times higher if we look at strictly 20 and 30 somethings.

Now let’s look at the raw numbers. Between 2003 and 2014 a total of 4,491 US service members were killed in Iraq. The number of Iraqis killed during the war ranges from source to source but many put the number between 100,000 and 600,000. It is understood that approximately 115,000 of those Iraqis killed were civilian non-combatants. Even were we to include all US wounded service members the numbers would remain well below 40,000. Allow this disparity to detonate in your mind for a moment.

Given these statistics, even were I to agree that the US soldier death rate in Iraq was high, and I don’t think it was considering the circumstances, the cost that came to Iraq’s civilian population would easily nix any claims of heroism on the part of American troops. Were that not enough I could easily point out that presently, terrorized as that country is by ISIS’s forces, Iraq has gleaned no visible benefit or positive change of circumstances as a result of the US invasion – nor have we for that matter.

As she stands now, roughly half of the country is under the control of some force not associated with the current Iraqi government, be that ISIS or the Kurds. As for whether this supposedly democratic government has the wherewithal to remain so, no one knows and nor shall we for some time to come.

It seems to me that if you’re going to call an invasion ‘operation Iraqi freedom’ then there should be a focus on the Iraqi civilian population, presumably their safety since that is typically what liberation is about. Instead, American military, private contractors and businesses tore through the nation with blatant disregard for its people, illustrating maybe the most heinous example of ‘blaming the victim’ ever to transpire and proving definitively that Iraq’s invasion had nothing to do with liberating its people but rather creating a justification and market for the privatization of military operations and raping the country of its resources.

The irony here should not be lost on anyone. The constabulary meant to protect the people are actually killing them with impunity in surprising and unchecked numbers while the ‘liberators’ are murdering the captives their claiming to save.

Iraq was not invaded for the benefit of the American people or the Iraqis. It has not prevented terrorist attacks in the US or West at large nor has it provided any foreseeable lasting peace, democracy or stability in Iraq. Indeed, it may well have secured further attacks in the future and doomed Iraq to decades of chaos.

The American soldiers who died in Iraq died for nothing. Their lives were as wasted as they were misguided by a government who betrayed them, though not half as betrayed as the Iraqi people were by the self-serving and self-righteous actions of the American government and its many agents.

Raw Diets: Half-Baked and Overcooked

There is a growing movement of idiots in our country, they’re called Raw Vegans and they must be stopped.

No, I’m kidding, they’re mostly just a danger to themselves anyway.

Actually, raw vegans aren’t much different from ordinary vegans except they like to kick it up a notch by refusing to eat anything cooked above 118 degrees F. That’s right, even steaming and boiling are out of the question. The rationale for this varies from site to site and book to book but as far as I can tell it pertains to a belief that valuable enzymes, vitamins and even ‘energy’ are destroyed in the process of cooking. There is also a concern that the cooking process produces dangerous chemicals. As a result the general philosophy is that all things should be ingested in as natural a state as possible.

Proponents of this diet, like general vegans, make numerous and even outlandish claims to its success. Everything from anti-aging effects to increased vigor and mental acuity are advertised and according to them, there don’t seem to be any pitfalls. They even have a couple of professionals in their cavalry in case they’re asked too many questions.

Unfortunately for them however, and their professionals, in the land of good science outliers are discarded or in the least, scrutinized very closely. So let’s deal with some of these claims that raw vegans so proudly make. Does cooking really destroy necessary enzymes and vitamins? Does it really cause the creation of dangerous chemicals? Are there truly health benefits to an all raw food diet? And are there really no setbacks? Let’s see what the great majority of nutritionists and relevant scientists have to say on these matters. And while we’re at it we’ll also deal with the moral and ethical claims vegans tendentiously make in the defense of their politicized noshings.

I want to begin with the most popular and arbitrary argument that these people make when promulgating their bad habits. This is the ‘what is most original is most natural’ argument. There is absolutely no logical or scientific foundation for this statement. Fire occurs in nature. Indeed, it is even essential for some species and ecosystems to thrive.

What scientific principle or logical principle underpins the claim that using fire or kinetic energy generally is unnatural in the preparation of food? Even were I to take this fallacious line of reasoning seriously it would only support the contrary since before our species even existed our evolutionary forebears had likely already discovered fire.

Homo sapiens arose from the ancestor Homo erectus, from whom there is reasonable evidence of fire use.  Neanderthals share this ancestor with modern humans and in their day they had definitely discovered the magic of cookery. So actually, when it comes to food preparation and partaking of animal product, cooking is most natural if we are to remain consistent with the claim ‘what is original is natural’.

Time to move on and talk about all that supposedly lost nutrients that cooking causes. Actually, as it turns out, the exact opposite is true. In fact many researchers on human evolution believe it is because of cooking that the human brain managed to grow to such gargantuan proportions. Cooking breaks down plant cell walls and other bio-barriers to digestion so that the body can extract even more calories from its meals, resulting in greater energy in less time from both plant and animal products. This was essential for human evolution and the development of our energy-hungry brains. This means that eating strictly raw foods requires that you waste time and energy incessantly devouring nutrient obstinate fibers much like Gorillas or Pandas which spend the vast majority of their days noshing.

The claim that dangerous chemicals are produced or that something is lost in cooking is true only to an extent. When dry cooking, such as over a barbecue, one is at risk of creating acrylamide which occurs when food is overcooked. Acrylamide is never produced while boiling or steaming and more nutrients are made available in vegetables through these methods than can be lost. Further, it is true that baking or roasting cereals and nuts reduces access to their proteins.

Aside from these two narrow examples, cooking breaks down nutrient-locking bonds and allows easy absorption, requiring your body to do less since the cooking does more. In fact, studies show that between raw veggies and their cooked counterparts, it is only from the latter that you will glean all the cancer preventing benefits. Moreover, your body will provide all the necessary enzymes required for digestion, it is simply untrue that raw vegetables come equipped with some extra set of digesting enzymes lost in the process of heat preparation.

All this being said raw food is certainly good for you. Fruit, avocado, nuts and cereals are best raw while high dry-heat cooking can lead to the production of the possibly carcinogenic acrylamide. Large portions of fiber assist in regular, healthy bowel processes and digestion but this scarcely means one should eat strictly raw. Boiling, steaming and non-browning cookery is the best way to extract the nutrients your body requires from many of its vegetable sources.

Strictly raw food diets can deprive you of essential nutrients and is associated with severe weight loss, poor dentition, hair loss, muscular deterioration, coronary heart disease, and fungal infections. When referring to an all raw food diet there can be no discussion of benefits because they are overwhelmingly nixed by its deficiencies. A largely raw food diet, however, could indeed be very healthy but not without cookery and animal proteins or supplementation.

As for the ethics of it all, a utilitarian argument is the best death-bringing salvo. Why is a chicken more entitled to our regard than a millennia old sequoia or the oxygen providing diatom?

In the end, like all extreme ideas, the full on raw diet is as half-baked as it is uninformed.