Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Less Than A Third Of Americans Think Being A Christian Is Very Important To Being An American


As I've said before, PEW is a treasure trove for data geeks like me. A recent report on national identity offered up a surprising poll. When people were surveyed in several different Western countries on whether being a Christian is very important for being truly the nationality of the country, I was surprised to see that in Germany, among millennials 18-34, 0 percent think it's important. Zero. And in many other countries such as the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Spain, have percentages in the single digits in the same demographic. The West is secularizing faster than I expected. In another generation when today's older generation is gone, religion in many European countries will almost be non-existent, at least among the native population.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Interview With An Iraqi Refugee


So a few days ago president Trump signed an executive order banning all nationals from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, and Somalia from entering the US for 3 months, and all refugees from these countries for 180 days, until (apparently) our government can figure out "what the hell is going on." Now aside from the evidence that there were zero deaths in the US by nationals from those countries over the last 40 years from terror related activities, and there have been plenty from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon, curiously not on the list, the reason given by the Trump administration was "danger."

But what can we say? It's Trump. He's not a rational actor. The news of the ban though, reminded me of my own friend Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi refugee and secular activist who came to the US in 2013. The ban for him is personal, since if it happened 4 years ago he wouldn't have been able to make it into the US, despite him being an atheist and secular activist who argues against Islamic extremism.

Below is the interview of him we had on the Firebrands Podcast last month (which you should totally check out) about his experiences and work as a secular activist trying to reform Islam.



Monday, January 30, 2017

The Justice Democrats



Recently, a new movement in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has begun. It's called the Justice Democrats. It's to reform the Democratic Party away from the corporate wing, and back to the populism of its roots. It's democrats that represent the people, not corporations. I learned about it a week ago on Kyle Kulinksi's SecularTalk YouTube channel. It's a collaboration between him, The Young Turks, and I think maybe a few other organizations and it's right up Bernie Sanders's alley. Watch below as Kyle explains the platform and read it for yourself here.



I basically agree with the entire platform. This is what the Democratic Party should be about, and this is what "Our Revolution" that Bernie Sanders advocates for is all about. So go to their website, donate, and sign up if you can. Share on social media. We need grassroots Democrats who will work for the people, and not the corporations.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Notes From My Debate On The Abundance Of Open Source Information


What my position is: Open source information is more beneficial than harmful to society. Why?
  1. Access to open source information is a free speech issue. Your ability to put information online and have other people freely access to it, falls under the category of open source information, is a form of free speech. 
  2. OSI can help expose corruption, it can help keep governments and businesses in check, and it allows legitimate criticism of them to become known.
    • We take for granted that we live in a country that has some of the most liberal laws on free access to information in the world.
    • In most other countries the government imposes limitations on access to information online. 
    • And in some countries criticism of the government, leaders, criticism of the state religion, and certain political views like “democracy” and OSI itself are suppressed, and information about them is restricted. For example:
      • The “Great Firewall of China,” blocks websites that are critical of the Chinese government or that promote democracy
      • Wikipedia - epitome of OSI - is sometimes banned, or censored.
      • Without OSI political and corporate corruption becomes much more difficult to expose, thereby enabling it.
  3. OSI allows for the spread of liberal values like free speech, human rights, and secularism around the world.
    • In Saudi Arabia in 2012 a blogger named Raif Badawi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 1000 lashes with a whip for the crime of starting a website forum that promoted democracy and liberal values and allowed people to debate it.
    • Saudi Arabia not alone --- In other countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Iran, they have laws against spreading information online critical of the state religion Islam, which is often used by govt to brutally oppresses women, homosexuals, non-religious people, and other minority groups.
      • Woman beheaded in Afghanistan last month for shopping without a male guardian.
    • Without OSI antiquated legal and moral policies can never be criticized, which enables them to persist. OSI allows for moral progress.
    • Hope I don't have to convince you this is good but consider the question:
  4. Why do so many countries around the world fear open source information?
    • Do you think ISIS is for OSI? Or Al-qaeda? Or North Korea? Cuba? China? 
    • It’s so that governments, and in many cases, corporations can control people by controlling what information they have access to. 
    • Free speech and OSI is absolutely fundamental to having a free society where ideas can compete in a marketplace.
      • Every society that isn’t free, restricts it
    • The suppression of OSI has always been aligned with dictatorship, of one form or another.
      • Even Donald Trump's been saying he wants to "open up the libel laws" to make it more easy to sue someone for defamation - by which he really means write anything critical about him.
Summary
  • Whatever harmful effects that OSI has, like fake news, is negated on the benefits it offers. 
    • We’re either going to have a censored internet (China, Saudi Arabia) where someone or some organization censors the information you have access to. 
    • Or we’re going to have a free and open internet, with a free and open flow of ideas. 
  • Ask yourself: Who would you trust with the authority to regulate free access to open access to information? Who gets to determine what information is harmful? Or too sensitive? 
  • Would you for example trust our new president Donald Trump with that power?
Final point:
  • Giving governments the ability the regulate free speech opens up a dangerous slippery slope that I don’t want to go down & I think ultimately be more harmful than good to society.

Review Of My Debate Plus Night Of Philosophy


So, what a week it's been. President Trump has banned refugees and residents from 7 Muslim majority countries, sparking outrage around the world, he revived the Keystone pipeline, and has introduced "alternative facts" into the dialectic. Oh yeah, and I had a debate about the abundance of open source information and attended the Night of Philosophy event at the Brooklyn Public Library.

First things first — the debate review. This was my first formal public debate and I hope will certainly not be my last, but I was not as experienced as our opponents were and it showed. They were both fairly experienced and formidable debaters. The format was two-on-two, with my friend Thomas Kim, who ran the NYC debate group for 5 years on my team. And on our opponent's team were two men named Avi and Lenny. Avi is an assistant coach on the debating team of a private K-12 school, and Lenny was on the debating team in college. They did a really good job debating for their side and we made some mistakes we should have looked out for.


First, Thomas and I didn't prepare as much as the other team did, and that was generally evident. Second, I wasn't as forceful as I should have been. I was just too reserved. I held back from trying to make the other team's arguments look bad. Third, since there was no rebuttal period, the closing statements acted effectively as a rebuttal period, but I didn't use my closing statement to do that. Instead I just reiterated many of the same points I made in my opening statement when I should've rebutted the other team's arguments. On top of that, Thomas's arguments were even less forceful than mine, making our entire case much softer and less polemic than our opponent's. And as a result of all these mistakes, we lost. And I really hate losing debates. How do we know we lost? The audience was asked before and after the debate and more people switched to the other side's view from ours.

So that's the bad. What's the good? I nailed my opening statement. It was nearly perfect and much better than any of my rehearsals. I was loud. I was confident. I gave great fucking opening speech. A woman even came up afterwards and told me how good it was. But unfortunately, it was all down hill from there. I will be putting up the bullet points from my debate in the near future.

Over all it was a good experience. I learned a lot and I can definitely see what makes a good public debater a good debater. I can see now why so many inexperienced public debaters just skip to their prepared speeches. That's the mistake I made. I didn't use my time to rebut my opponent's arguments as I should have. Also, many debaters just aren't aware of the format they're in. I made that mistake by failing to recognize there was no formal rebutting period. But I will definitely be better for my second debate. Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Quote Of The Day: The Psychological Effects Compulsive Liars Have On Us


It's day four of the Trump regime and the post-truth era. Trump has spent his first few days issuing executive orders reversing Obama's policies, and blatantly lying to the world about the size of his inauguration crowd and that millions of illegals voting cost him the popular vote. It's clear that we're going to have a president completely detached from factual reality who has absolutely no shame lying whatsoever. But what kind of psychological effect can this have on people? Politico has a scary answer:

When we are in an environment headed by someone who lies, so often, something frightening happens: We stop reacting to the liar as a liar. His lying becomes normalized. We might even become more likely to lie ourselves. Trump is creating a highly politicized landscape where everyone is on the defensive: You’re either for me, or against me; if you win, I lose, and vice versa. Fiery Cushman, a moral psychologist at Harvard University, put it this way when I asked him about Trump: “Our moral intuitions are warped by the games we play.” Place us in an environment where it’s zero-sum, dog-eat-dog, party-eats-party, and we become, in game theory terms, “intuitive defectors,” meaning our first instinct is not to cooperate with others but to act in our own self-interest—which could mean disseminating lies ourselves.

Welcome to the post-truth era! Facts, it's been nice knowing ya!

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Will Be Publicly Debating Whether Open Source Information Is Harmful


I'm going to be publicly debating whether open source information is more harmful than beneficial to society this Thursday night at WeWork Times Square in Manhattan. If you're in the area and want to come, you can RSVP here. It will be a team debate, two-on-two, done in the style and format of the popular Intelligence Squared debates. The debate will be run by a group called Motion Debate who want to create a growing community where debate enthusiasts can learn the art of debate and the have the opportunity to put it to use. I'm all for it. We really need more public debating in our highly polarized country. And I'll say it again: nothing helps me learn a subject more than being forced to debate it.

As you probably expect, I'm debating on the CON side of the proposition, that an abundance of open source information is not more harmful to society. I've been wanting to get more into the arena of public debating because, well, I love debating, and because debating online doesn't give you the full experience. So I hope I do good, and I hope there are more to come. I've been told the debate will not be recorded, but it will be photographed. Future debates, which I might participate in, might be recorded. So stay tuned. For now, I have to finish up my argument.

Debate description:

Is it beneficial for all people to access and contribute to an unlimited open source information platform? Should authorities censor potentially dangerous content, or does freedom of expression outweigh these concerns?



Share

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...