Sunday, October 9, 2011

Transcripts from Occupy Houston (06-OCT-2011)

Keep in mind that these are transcriptions, not reporting the stories. I am showing here, to the best of my ability, what people said and how they said it so that you can see how real people in the 99% tell their stories. I've cut no 'uhs' no 'ums' and the punctuation and capitalization are following transcription practices, not normal writing practices.

PERSON TWO; <RISING> Uh: </RISING> <FALLING> I am out here, i .. Im not here because i personally: am in any kind of financial .. dire straits or any:thing like that. I just wish that we lived in a democracy. .. A real one, not a fake one, Not a fake coopted lie of a democracy. Thats really my whole reason for being here. .. Um i mean .. why .. why live here if you can't have a say and: were not millionaires </FALLING> <RISING-FALLING> so we dont have a say. </RISING-FALLING> ##### ((UNINTELLIGIBLE DUE TO A BACKGROUND NOISE)) That's all I got. @ <FALLING> And unfortunately i work for a major ... ~aerospace corporation, so i cannot .. be seen here  </FALLING> ... <RISING> or i-- ..

PERSON THREE; So: my name is ~person three and i: am: a:, I have a baccelors degree. .. And the only job i can get in this economy is a construction worker. .. Because theres no jobs. .. A:nd i am protesting because the banks got this ((RECORDING ERROR)) they got this this. ... And uh youknow like i wanna be a teacher. .. And i cant because, .. Youknow they had to do budget cuts because there was no money. .. So thats why im protesting today.

PERSON FOUR;  Uh my story is: I am a young business owner, .. an entrepreneur if you will. ... Uh ... its been an upward battle. I've been working for myself since i was nineteen years old. Uh: even to this day i have to carry four jobs. .. I live at the workshop, .. that I have my business .. uh and it's an old mans world .. uh .. theres no place for young uh ... uh entrepreneurs young uh ... you know young innovators dont have a place any more. The rich have shut out anybody with any good ideas, They decide who gets loans, They decide who ... who prospers, and its: its not right. As a young person that has my whole life to look forward to in america ... things need to change, a:nd i: .. I hope .. hope it changes.

PERSON FIVE; <RISING> Im here today because, .. I want our country to be the count- the country that we were left by our forefathers i want to leave to our children. And the country changing right before our eyes right now. .. Im here because i think one in .. the statistics say one in seven american children are starving to death, .. Because they cut .. the pay .. of the military families, .. in half, and yet .. Congress has not given up anything Senate has not given up anything. .. ## ((and til OR until)) they can work together we have a right to stand in the street, Were paying their salaries, Were paying for the streets, .. Were paying for everything here. We the people have a right to peacefully protest. </RISING> <LOW> And i want to make sure we dont loose that right. </LOW> <FALLING> I know mothers .. single mothers and individuals who are falling through the cracks. </FALLING> <RISING> My husband and i have became the social services of our community in some parts </RISING> <HIGH> As have many of us, </HIGH> <FALLING> Helping feed, clothe, pay rent, .. keep roofs over peoples homes. This is the job of our nation. .. First america then the rest of the world. .. That's why im here. </FALLING> <HIGH><FORCEFUL> For democracy. </FORCEFUL></HIGH>

END 06-OCT-2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Transcripts from Occupy Houston (05-OCT-2011)

Keep in mind that these are transcriptions, not reporting the stories. I am showing here, to the best of my ability, what people said and how they said it so that you can see how real people in the 99% tell their stories. I've cut no 'uhs' no 'ums' and the punctuation and capitalization are following transcription practices, not normal writing practices.

PERSON ONE; <FALLING> Uh: youknow uh ... sofar from what ive seen youknow i have my own personal view, uh that i have, Youknow the things that, bother me, youknow youknow .. alot. ((RECORDING ERROR)) Weve come to find out that, everybody heres kinda has kinda at nexus point of uh:, what we understand to be the problem with our system and its youknow the the .. corporate, eh .. The global corporate and banking parasites that uh, youknow its gonna take all of us forcing off their suckers at once from youknow, global humanity. .. But uh, me personally i have a i have a recording studio. .. Of uh i own a small business with uh:, two business partners and uh ... uh The business partner that i work with uh, hes had a business for over ten years and at: the beginning of the recession we were trying to start an expansion of our business, .. and uh: ... uh: .. The economy crashed, and one day we had a legitamate business that was worthy of loans and the next day it was: <FORCEFUL> nobody </FORCEFUL> could get a loan unless you wanted to take the absolute worst terms from a private individual. .. And with no real interest rate or anything like that and uh .. Yet the banks got sixteen trillion dollars in ba- secret bailouts from the fed and uhh. ... But none of that money got back to .. to where it needed to go .. To the: to small businesses and small banks, The true backbone of america is entrepreneurs, and: uh theyve left us out in the cold, Unless youre a corporation you dont get that, uh so its its, Understanding that its corporate welfare, .. for the top one percent, and its its: nothing for us: its youknow So thats really where i- where my personal understanding of it all is: is that .. So. </FALLING>

END 05-OCT-2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

I think I'm just going to call it for 'Liars for Jesus'.

Sorry about this, I'm sure somebody was reading it. But I really have dropped the ball on this book.

I may pick it up again, if able, but probably not soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Intellegent Design Quiz/Survey

I promise I'll get back to Liars for Jesus soon, but first, a quiz from this website (I'd rather you not visit, it's crappy actually.)

1. On a scale of 0 (diehard disbeliever) to 10 (firm believer), how would you rate your level of belief in Intelligent Design? (Minimal Definition of Intelligent Design: The idea that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and not by an undirected process.)


2. What do you regard as the best argument for Intelligent Design?

There is no good argument for intelligent design at this time.

3. What do you regard as the best argument against Intelligent Design?

 See claim CI001.

4. I’d like you to think about the arguments for Intelligent Design. Obviously they’re not perfect. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

It is unlikely that a good argument could be constructed. However, such an argument would have to explain all current observations just as well as current science as well as make new, falsifiable predictions.

5. Now I’d like you to think about the arguments against Intelligent Design. Obviously they could be improved. Exactly where do you think these arguments need the most work, to make them more effective?

The claims in CI are damning enough. There is little need to seek more evidence against ID.

(b) If you’re an ID opponent or skeptic, can you name some explanations for life and the cosmos that you would regard as even more irrational than Intelligent Design? (e.g. Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; the future created the past; every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation.)
Irrationality is not relative. Something is either rational, adhering to the rules of inductive and deductive reasoning, or it is irrational.

Notes on stated possibilities:

Everything popped into existence out of absolutely nothing; - This would be, more or less, the big bang.

the future created the past; - This would violate causality.

every logically possible world exists out there somewhere; - Some interpretations of quantum mechanics imply this.

I am the only being in the cosmos and the external world is an illusion requiring no explanation; only minds are real, so the physical universe is an illusion requiring no explanation. - These are the 'brain-in-a-jar' worlds. While interesting from a philosophical standpoint, they only add complexity to the world and do not change anything about it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Elevators, Women, and Dogs

This is about the whole elevator sexual assault incident, cf. this, and this, and this, and this, and this. Yes it's quite clear that this is a major incident of some kind. Therefore, why don't I chime in with some well thought insightful interesting commentary?

Okay, first off. Richard Dawkins is being a dee-eye-see-kay. The public discourse about this encounter does not give enough information about what was said in the elevator to know if it was threatening or not. There's a real difference between
If you don't read IPA, imagine the first in a friendly and neutral tone, actually asking for coffee, and the second a bit more intimate, with the coffee clearly just a representation of a different question. We don't really know which of the two, or any of the other possibilities it was. We don't even know how exactly it was worded. So it is perfectly reasonable, in this case, that it may have been done 'in a bad way' and made Rebecca Watson uncomfortable. Richard Dawkins, it is not your place to question this. Rebecca Watson was uncomfortable and was perfectly within her rights in expressing this discomfort.

This fact notwithstanding, there is something very disturbing about the arguments people are offering in favour of Rebecca Watson's position. At first, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I became able to the moment I read Greg Laden's post about dogs.

Let me retell Greg Laden's story but use events, real events that happened to me. I want to stress that this actually happened. I am not saying nobody else's story happened, I just want to emphasise that this did too.

One day, after completing jury duty, I hopped on the Houston train. Using my smartphone, I plotted a course home. I had to get off at a station (Wheeler) and then get on a bus to go to another bus and then I'd be home. I was quite happy that mass-transit fare is free when serving for jury duty here. Now, when I got off at wheeler, I went to the waiting stop for the bus and began waiting.

I was the only white person there.

Now, I'm not racist. I genuinely believe that we need racial equality and open and honest discussions of race in this country. But when I found myself surrounded by African-Americans who were speaking AAVE, listening to rap music, (and yes, one was eating Fried chicken and Grape Soda) and in general, simply being there. I became nervous. I had been routed through 'the ghetto' or 'the bad part of town' or 'the wrong side of the tracks' or any number of phrases that mean 'a place with more black people than I was used to.'

I stood, nervously, the only white person I could see… and I was terrified. I was terrified of black people. "But wait!" I said to myself, "These are just fellow Americans, just like you! Just like you have always said! They are just waiting for the bus, just like you! Put that 'I'm not racist to practice!'"

So I did my best to do so. I stood and fiddled with my phone, reading blog posts and checking e-mail, acting like I was just another human being like everyone else there. I did my best to fight and face my fear and not give into it. As I waited, a man approached me. A black man. He reached out towards me.

"Here it is! You're about to become a crime statistic! He saw the phone and knows you have money on you! Somehow somebody here has guessed that you're not straight!" But I didn't become a statistic.

All I got was a simple question, "Hey man, got a smoke? I'll pay two bucks for one."

My reply was simple and civil, "Nope, sorry. I don't smoke." He smiled and said "Thanks." and asked the person next to me, bought a cigarette, stepped away politely, and lit up.

Now, according to Greg Laden, my discomfort here was 'natural'. There was a non-zero chance that this was a mugging about to happen. One can imagine the line of questioning: "Do people get what it is like for a white man to have a black man approach him randomly on the street? Do they understand that this is ALWAYS something that raises one's stress level, even if just a little?"

Well, I think we can all see that my stress here was racist. It's easier to reach that conclusion when I'm white, in the privileged class, and feeling discomfort about someone who is black, in the unprivileged class. However, even as 'food for thought' as this is, my discomfort with these arguments grows when I reached Greg Laden's semi-advice.

Greg Laden proposes, actually seriously proposes crossing the street to avoid someone who you might discomfort. Just to explain it, he does so here:

So I learned this trick. Cross the street about a block back and "pass" the lady that way. Same with a potential head-on encounter. If you see a woman walking towards you in the middle of the night on a lonely urban street, my practice in those days was to cross the street to not stress her out.
 And here:
All men. ALL men who have given sufficient consideration to women's position in our society do this walking trick. If you are a man and you do not know about this trick then there is a problem with you.
I am going to guess (just a guess!) that Greg Laden has little experience in the southern US, but this was the exact reasoning that lead to Jim Crow. Black people made white people uncomfortable, so white people required black people to cross the street and avoid them, to use separate parts of buses, to go to separate schools and live in separate parts of town and, well, it's a well known story.

Now, the situation here, obviously, is very different. In that case, white had power over black and made black do things, in this case man has power over woman and is asked to do something. But that something is so familiar as an oppression on the race side, that I cannot see it as an even remotely good idea on the gender side.

I have, instead, another proposal. The majority of men are not rapists, so instead of most men avoiding situations that might discomfort women, perhaps we should take steps to show women that it is safe to be a woman around a man. Rather than avoiding women, walk right past them. Rather than not talking to them or propositioning them, do so (when genuinely interested) in a polite and friendly way and don't get pushy or creepy when they say 'no'. This way, rather than doing as Greg Laden suggests, reinforcing the discomfort society says women should feel when they are near 'a potential rapist', us guys will help to show women that they are equal members of society and that we will respect them, their bodies, and their desires. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Liars for Jesus - Chapter Two - The Northwest Ordinance

(Sorry about the delay on this, job hunting comes first!)
“Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
Lies of omission are, perhaps, the most pernicious. The above lines are part of a bill passed by the continental congress, which is important to note. That means that they pre-date the constitution. Despite what Barton might like to believe and claim, this law was formed before the separation of church and state was formalized and decided upon. It's not surprising, really, that some mention of religion might crop up in bills before we decided to separate religion and politics.

However, let's do a tiny bit of syntactic marking on the above sentence, hmm? I'm just going to mark a gerund phrase and the main clause.
(Religion, Morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind), (Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged).
 So, what we have here is the command “Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” coupled with a statement that “Religion, Morality and knowledge are necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.”
Looking at this, it is clear the law doesn't empower or enable religion in any way, it simply makes a statement about it. If you've ever seen a modern bill or treaty, with all those WHEREAS statements at the top, you can recognize what this is. It's simply the reason that the congress had in mind when passing the next requirement in the bill.

Let's just run a comparison. Here's the Act of Supremacy (1534),
“Albeit the king's Majesty justly and rightfully is and ought to be the supreme head of the Church of England, and so is recognized by the clergy of this realm in their convocations, yet nevertheless, for corroboration and confirmation thereof, and for increase of virtue in Christ's religion within this realm of England, and to repress and extirpate all errors, heresies, and other enormities and abuses heretofore used in the same, be it enacted, by authority of this present Parliament, that the king, our sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall be taken, accepted, and reputed the only supreme head in earth of the Church of England, called Anglicans Ecclesia; and shall have and enjoy, annexed and united to the imperial crown of this realm, as well the title and style thereof, as all honors, dignities, preeminences, jurisdictions, privileges, authorities, immunities, profits, and commodities to the said dignity of the supreme head of the same Church belonging and appertaining; and that our said sovereign lord, his heirs and successors, kings of this realm, shall have full power and authority from time to time to visit, repress, redress, record, order, correct, restrain, and amend all such errors, heresies, abuses, offenses, contempts and enormities, whatsoever they be, which by any manner of spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought or may lawfully be reformed, repressed, ordered, redressed, corrected, restrained, or amended, most to the pleasure of Almighty God, the increase of virtue in Christ's religion, and for the conservation of the peace, unity, and tranquility of this realm; any usage, foreign land, foreign authority, prescription, or any other thing or things to the contrary hereof notwithstanding.”
Here's the religion in the Ohio State Constitution (1802 - Article 8, Section 3)
“That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no human authority can in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; that no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support, any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent; and that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious society or mode of worship; and no religious test shall be required as a qualification to any office of trust or profit. But religion, morality, and knowledge, being essentially necessary to the good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools, and the means of instruction shall forever be encouraged by legislative provision, not inconsistent with the rights of conscience.”

So, compare the above, the very clear establishment of the Anglican religion to the very clear announcement that religion was a matter of personal conscience. The people who wrote these laws were not stupid, foolish, or unaware of history. So why, in a country that descended from the English tradition not pass a clear law, like the Act of Supremacy, but instead circumlocute and pass stealthy and sneaky laws to get the religious power the wanted?

The reason, of course, is that the founders of the United States did not, in any way, want an established, state-supported religion. They wanted, rather, to ensure that the United States stuck to the new ideals of secular humanism that were fundamental to philosophical thought at the time. In fact, if you'll read on in Liars For Jesus, you will see that the above 1802 Ohio constitution was not considered good enough, and was replaced with an even more religion-free version in 1851, to say nothing of the requirements of the Indiana and Michigan constitutions, or the further lies about Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, Nebraska, Tennessee, Nebraska, etc.

Lies of omission, quite effective too. After all, when one simply claims something which is untrue, then it is easy for someone who believes in the truth to expose the lie. However, when one simply omits something from the past, the truth-seeker has no choice but to grab the audiences attention and hold it while he tells the rest of the story. Men like Barton know that the audience in this case is already both sympathetic to their claims (Americans love religion) and simultaneously too busy to go on an adventure through the remainder of the historic record.

Here, I get an interesting notion. Not an accusation, mind you, but a notion. The business right says “work hard to get ahead, don't bother with unimportant things”, and then religious right says “here's history, we promise we didn’t lie.” It makes a sick sort of sense, one side keeps the masses happy and dumb, the other side keeps them too overworked and underpaid to notice? Now, last I checked, this was one of the accusations levelled against the left; however, we all know that it can't possibly be a bit of projection. Right?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

On 'Spying On Linguistics'

The Daily Dish by Andrew Sullivan recently had this. You might surprised, this concept is major research within linguistics as wells. Some of the more interesting 'policy-related' ones are:
"Love is war/violence.", oft illustrated by "She deflected his advances.", which has enormous implications for how people think about and talk about both rape and domestic violence. After all, if we live in a culture where we speak of love as a man 'occupying' a woman, it suddenly makes more sense that rape and domestic violence would be such a major problem. This also says something about the seemingly massive tolerance for Violence that is unique to the United States.
"Immigration is flood.", which can be demonstrated in "There seems to be an endless tide of Mexicans coming into the United States." Obviously, using the terminology of a natural disaster has massive effects on how people view immigration. There's another "Immigration is invasion." in lines such as "A horde of illegal immigrants descended on the city." which continues the serious negative connection in people's minds. In my own linguistics courses, we came to the conclusion that these 'cognitive metaphors' were a major part of the massive opposition to any immigration whatsoever.
Other interesting aspects of cognitive metaphors are their effects on literature and advertising. One way to make a major point stick in your readers mind is thinking of a new cognitive metaphor and deploying it throughout a work. In advertising, using the right cognitive metaphor can get your customers into just the right frame of mind to make the sale.
I should point out that the massive effects that these metaphors may have on daily life are part of the basis behind being 'politically correct'. It may seem annoying and pointless, but eradicating cognitive metaphors like "African Americans are Animals" seems like a needed step before equality can be achieved.

If you'd like to read more about the concept, there's a wiki article here (under an odd name) and you can also ask linguists about it here.

Liars for Jesus - Chapter One - Congress and the Bible

As I read these stories, I was reminded of the stories of German almost becoming the official language of the US instead of English, in that it seems that there are many false stories about the early congress. However, in every case, it seems, the problem is, as Rodda puts it, “It tells half of the real story, includes a quote from an actual committee report, but ends with a fabricated resolution.”
I conject that these lies persist because they point to real documents (“Surely no-one would lie about something so checkable?”) that are rather dense and difficult to read. (Just take a look, here is page 334 of the Continental Congress's papers.) The language is closer to the Early Modern English of Shakespeare than it is to the way we speak today (A fact that is highlighted by the issues surrounding saturday next.), and the written style is a kind of script that is never used any more. You can take classes in how to read this kind of stuff at a university's history, linguistics, and English departments, or you can slog through it, but the liars know that most people will not bother to do so. And of course, the lies of record omission can be bolstered if there are people like Aitken who were willing to stretch the truth even at that time. All you have to do is use a couple of careful official quotes and then let Aitken's lies come through to today.
Unfortunately, this type of lie can remain very effective even if someone does go back and look up what's going on. Reading the committee report without the surrounding information, it seems to back up that congress was worried about a lack of bibles; reading the redacted resolution on the Aitken bible, it is easy to be mislead and think that congress was supporting religion (and not the book industry); and if you look at the title, and not the content, of the various post-constitution acts, it is easy to think that congress was enamoured of religion when in fact it was simply assisting people. Given the difficulty in getting through the source material, who is going to go around in the other papers looking for evidence that what they've seen is not the full story? (Well, a historian would, but let us be realistic about how much time the average person has to devote to something like this.) This is the scary thing about quote-mined, carefully reworded lies. These lies take time and effort to debunk and destroy.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Liars for Jesus - Volume One, by Chris Rodda

I recently picked up this snazzy little book, and I was thinking that, since it's free now, it might be interesting to get a commentary going on it. So go grab yourself a copy and lets read it together, hmm? I'm thinking of doing a chapter a week, every Thursday (starting on Thursday, 26 May 2011) posting a blog post where I'll put my thoughts and invite commentary on that chapter. (Edit: Moved from Monday to Thursday)

Real Academics watch My Little Pony

So, I must say that this new show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is quite enthralling. It's had an odd popularity amongst millennials, even the guys (such as myself). Now, personally, I never was 'manly' enough to have a problem liking this, but it's surprising that even some hyper-manly fellows have been entranced by the show. I place the blame on either the subliminal messages or a desire to protect Fluttershy from the mean, mean world.

It's strange, too, since it's not like it's action based (like Powerpuff Girls) innuendo based (like Animaniacs) or insanity based (like Freakazoid). No, it's exactly what you'd expect. 6 female ponies have day-to-day problems that they overcome using friendship and love.

In fact, as best I can tell, the show has only one flaw. Is it just me, or does Equestria seem to be a bit like Plato's Republic? That's an eerie thought.

Welcome to the new ALEIS Blog!

If you happen to have read the old ALEIS blog and wish it would come back, I'm happy ro report that it has!

Welcome to the new blog!