An Actual Party of Death, Now

It’s genuinely astounding to me. The GOP messaging machine has for decades done a fine job at making poor and middle-class white people vote against their own economic interests through the clever use of aspirational messaging and veiled racism, but the fact it is now actively working to kill off its base by extending a pandemic — and the base is loving it — really feels like a floor. What else can you do, once you’ve killed off your base? The phrase “eating your seed corn” is made for moments like this.

(Via Whatever)

Funny this article showed up in my feed right after I posted this.

Personal liberties -vs- public health & safety

Which is more important: personal freedoms or the health and safety of the country?

(Via the Poynter Report)

I act toward health and safety. That should surprise no one. I cast a critical mind to how I define both personal freedoms and health & safety – and how it is defined by various governments.

Today, here are my thoughts:

  • Mask mandates are “a matter of health and safety” and not an infringement on personal liberty. It is personal safety for the wearer and those around the wearer.
  • I endorse requiring vaccinations except for those with a medical exemption.
  • Individuals have a right to choose not to get the vaccine, but they don’t have any right to be around anyone else and put others at risk, vaccinated or unvaccinated. This includes religious and parental opt-outs.
  • I support state and local governments requiring masks.
  • I support employers requiring workers to get the vaccination.
  • I support businesses refusing service to the unvaccinated, but would prefer they use 2020 approaches to serving the unvaccinated via methods like on-line ordering, contactless curbside pickup, and outdoor seating.
  • I support banning the unvaccinated traveling by airplane or mass transit. Masks for all should be mandated.
  • I support sporting events and concerts barring the unvaccinated. Indoor events should require masks.
  • I support every school’s right to require students to be vaccinated in order to return to campus. There should not be a parental “opt-out” where the child gets to attend school and events if they can be vaccinated but don’t. Younger kids should be masked at all times. Parents who exercise their opt-out bear the financial and educational burden of their choice.
  • Federal, state, and local governments should not interfere with how schools deliver education to students when public safety is an issue; banning remote learning is short sighted.
  • Regular COVID testing is not a replacement for masks and vaccinations.
  • I support a federal vaccination registry with a strictly limited scope and oversight by an independent ombudsperson.

As always, I reserve the right to change my mind on any of these based on new empirical information.

This house is on fire


Holy shit.
I don’t watch a lot of videos; I prefer transcripts. When I absolutely have to get through a video, I usually put it in a background window and listen.
Don’t do that with Thunberg’s four-minute address to the UN.
Instead, watch it. I understand and agree with her that we should be listening to scientists, not her, but if anyone can get us to listen to scientists, it’s her. Now I know why the people followed Joan of Arc.

(Via boing boing)
Can’t agree more. Greta Thunburg is remarkable, and she’s not wrong. Even if her message doesn’t resonate with you, she speaks multiple languages, has a grasp of science and statistics, and is a sailor. Her evil eye at the UN was pure, unadulterated disgust.

Self-Conscious Minds, Our Selfish Selves, and Possible Salvation

Like all living things, humans are organisms, biological entities that function as physiological aggregates whose constituent parts operate with a high degree of cooperation and a low degree of conflict. But unlike other organisms, humans possess a rogue component – a brain network that can, at will, choose to defect and undermine the survival mission and purpose of the rest of the body. This is the network that underlies human consciousness, and especially our capacity for autonoetic, or reflective, self-awareness, the basis of the conceptions that underlie our greatest achievements as a species – art, music, architecture, literature, science – and our ability to appreciate them.

(Via Can our self-conscious minds save us from our selfish selves? by: Joseph LeDoux; picture Via Abishek on Unsplash)
I highly recommend reading the whole piece.

Can Neuroscience Understand Free Will? – Facts So Romantic

Can Neuroscience Understand Free Will? – Facts So Romantic:

Clinical neuroscientists and neurologists have identified the brain networks responsible for this sense of free will. There seems to be two: the network governing the desire to act, and the network governing the feeling of responsibility for acting. Brain-damaged patients show that these can come apart—you can have one without the other. […]
The results may not map onto “free will” as we understand it ethically—the ability to choose between right and wrong. “It remains unknown whether the network of brain regions we identify as related to free will for movements is the same as those important for moral decision-making, as prior studies have suggested important differences,” the researchers wrote. For instance, in a 2017 study, he and Darby analyzed many cases of brain lesions in various regions predisposing people to criminal behavior, and found that “these lesions all fall within a unique functionally connected brain network involved in moral decision making.”
Nevertheless, the fact that brain damage affects moral behavior only underscores the reality that, whatever the “will” is, it isn’t “free.” The sense of freedom we have to act on our moral understanding is regulated and vulnerable, and can break. In a 2016 paper, Darby noted that people who have behavioral-variant frontotemporal dementia “develop immoral behaviors as a result of their disease despite the ability to explicitly state that their behavior is wrong.” This complicates how moral responsibility should be understood, he explains. People can be capable of acknowledging wrongdoing and yet be incapable of acting accordingly. Responsibility can’t hinge on any simple notion of “reason responsiveness,” Darby says, which is a view of how free will can be compatible with determinism—the idea, in the case of behavior, that brain activity causes feelings, intentions, and actions, moral or not. […]
The concept of free will doesn’t make any sense to me. As Kavka’s thought experiment shows, we don’t have much control over our thoughts. Take this article I’m writing: The words I’m committing to print pop into my mind unbeckoned. It’s less me choosing them and more them presenting themselves to me. The act of writing feels more like a process of passive filtration than active conjuration. I’m also convinced that humans can sensibly hold one another morally responsible even if we jettison the idea of free will. The reason is that, as a social mechanism, it has salutary effects. Generally, if people know that they will be held to account for moral violations, they will be less likely to commit them; and if they don’t know what the moral rules are, they will be motivated to learn them. Indeed, in the study on compatibilism, the researchers found that “participants reduced their compatibilist beliefs after reading a passage that argued that moral responsibility could be preserved even in the absence of free will.”

(Via Nautilus; Screengrab via The Good Place / YouTube; emphasis above is mine)
This article hit me at an interesting time. I strongly recommending reading the piece. There are many, many links for doing some more research if you’re so inclined.
I’ve long had the feeling that I’m of two minds when it comes to practices, routine, and such. Rationally I know I need to stay on my daily habits like exercise, journaling, and general moderation. Doing those things generally requires what we call will or discipline. One does not automatically lead to the other.
The opening quoted paragraph confirms my internal disconnected feeling is more than rationalization of what one could call laziness. Luckily, morality isn’t my shortfall in so far as mine’s been tested. Things like exercise I should do (similar to moral decisions though less weighty). The draw of Stoicism and similar philosophies might be the brain drying to bridge the gap.
At least Stoicism may be my brain trying to bridge the gap. I feel a bout of rumination on free will coming on.

How to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen as it passes over the earth — Quartz

How to see Comet 46P/Wirtanen as it passes over the earth — Quartz

If you miss Comet 46P/Wirtanen this year, it probably won’t be your last chance to see it. The blazing celestial body passes near the Earth roughly every five and a half years. But just because you can miss Comet 46P/Wirtanen doesn’t mean you should—because this year’s appearance promises to be one of the best in four centuries. And if that’s not enough, it’ll probably also be the brightest comet visible in 2018. Comets are at their brightest when they reach their perihelion, or closest approach to the sun. For Comet 46P/Wirtanen, this will fall on Sunday (Dec. 16).

Very cool! I may have to wander outside of Tokyo to get a good view.

Categorized as science

There's a Major Measles Outbreak in NYC, Thanks to Anti-Vaxxers

Back in 2000, measles was considered to be “eliminated” in the United States. But today—thanks largely to the efforts of anti-vaccination campaigns (for your health!)—the highly contagious disease is popping up all over the place. Oh, cool! Nothing like resurrecting a killer of children in the name of protecting children!
— Read on

How is this still a thing? If the anti-vaxxers argued civil liberties I might be able to sympathize. But they’re fighting both science and math where both have strong data. When it comes to disease spread, we have even more data.
There is far too much emotion in this fight on the anti-vaxxer side and poor communicators on the science side. The science and math folks are correct.