Sunday, December 11, 2016

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

chowing on low-hanging fruit in a virtual cult compound

I've been challenging Islamophobes to offer convincing evidence of a correlation between Islam and violence for some time now, specifically with new atheists in mind what with their professed commitment to rationality and science. Hundreds of Islamophobes have seen this challenge and, until recently, no one accepted it. Finally, someone bit:

The Islamophobe challenge is open to anyone and I'd rather get a bigger name but this is the first/best attempt to date, so I'll share the gruesome, hilarious, amazing yet mostly predictable details. A fair number of twitterers joined in, all on the Islamophobe side, all agreeing with the same basic story so I'm going out on a limb here -- usually I keep it much tighter -- but it seems fair to say this person is entirely typical of the New Atheist cult (there's a small chance this person is a far-right Christian Islamophobe; difficult to definitively tell them apart if they don't announce it). I bet you're wondering about the evidence he brought to bear. Fucking game-changing, but you'll have to wait. 

After some prodding I finally got a standard dictionary definition out of him. 

So at this point it's already game over. 

I start listing some of the more egregious cases of US violence that meet his definition. Non sequitur, he says. That was his first response to evidence running counter to his "thesis." What led him to so bravely accept the Islamophobe challenge was a claim to the effect that falsifying evidence is categorically inadmissible. US terrorism is categorically impossible. At the risk of offending decent religious people, new atheists are religiously committed. They have central, unfalsifiable beliefs, i.e., beliefs that are entirely placed off limits to rational or scientific inquiry. Terrorism is a normatively loaded tribalist term used to define us and them, good and bad that is unconcerned with violence as such.

Then I spell it out, explaining how these cases of US violence meet his definition, at which point the definition predictably starts to change, i.e., he starts moving the yardstick. Terrorism has to inflict maximum casualties, he says. I give examples of the US doing that. But that was total war, he says, and total war isn't terrorism, you see because of his religious commitments I give an easily google-able non-total war example (Indochina) that's met with "prove it," essentially a denial of well-established facts. (I'd say "non-acceptance" if I wasn't talking about creationist-level religiosity repeatedly demonstrated but I am, so denial seems like the right word.) It's not terrorism unless it's routine (he thinks US terrorism isn't routine!). It's not terrorism if "whatever specific thing I can find to set us apart from them." Textbook ingroup bias.

The whole time he keeps asking me the same two loaded questions, both diversions intended to commit me to aspects of his cultish narrative by enticing acceptance of flawed buried premises:

This question is of course unrelated to the challenge I posed, which was a basic descriptive one. And he's yet, at this point, to attempt to show any correlation.

The other loaded question:


So I accept the worst case interpretation up front, that the religious texts in question encourage genocide. He misses the point that there's now no big reveal for him where he could hammer me with holy text evil.

He keeps asking me if I've read it, I keep asking when he's gonna show that correlation between Islam and terrorism. Finally, he shows his hand:

                    So that's it. That's what correlation is. Words in a text that say "do X" and anecdotes about members of a group known to frequent that text doing X.

Here's the Twitter thread.

Here's a summary of the entire thread, other Islamophobe twitterers included:

Here's a song:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

NFL week 13 daily picks

Two ways to exploit Yahoo prices:
  1. They don't take recent role changes and expected volume into account (seem to price mainly on perceived skill). Takeaway is no-name RBs with new roles end up way underpriced.
  2. Prices are set early in the week so inefficiencies follow new injury info that pops up after prices were set.
Roethlisberger ($33) -- Arguable #1 projectable QB this week is a bargain.

David Johnson ($10) -- Most obvious call. See #1 above. Projects as top 10 RB for the minimum, so you're pocketing the difference between him and, say, Gurley ($29). Spend that money on elite WRs.

Shaun Draughn ($11) -- Projected true non-committee RB volume a steal at this price.

CJ Anderson ($14) -- I don't trust him but he has a high ceiling.

J. Allen ($19) -- Draughn for $8 more. Consider as flex.

Rawls ($23) -- D. Johnson for $13 more. Consider as flex.

Anyone $28 and up. Also M. Bryant ($26)

S. Chandler ($10) -- Discounted volume. Only had part of a game to establish himself as a target hog so that's a small question mark but really, should get target volume.

J. Thomas ($13) -- Sees volume with A. Hurns out.

B. Watson ($18) -- See #2 above. Snead's injury came up during the week. Those targets will go somewhere and B. Cooks has a terrible matchup. Assuming the price was fairly accurate when it was set, the expected target increase makes him projectably better than this price.

Least bankable "position" (crapshoot) but I like:
NE ($15)
CIN ($14)
ARI ($13)

QB/receiver combos:
*B. Roethlisberger + A. Brown + M. Bryant
C. Newton + G. Olsen ($26) (pricey though)
E. Manning + O. Beckham
R. Fitzpatrick + B. Marshall + E. Decker
T. Brady + B. Lafell + D. Amendola + S. Chandler

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Bowler A: I started a new diet a couple days ago. No carbs. Now look at me. I'm throwing rocks tonight.

Bowler B: Yeah I don't think that's gonna improve your performance much. Maybe a little, I don't know, but it would take a while. Could be a placebo effect or...

A: Bowling isn't a sport you dummy.

B: *painstakingly explains that whether bowling is a sport or not isn't the issue, that it involves muscle memory, motor control, sensorimotor feedback loops, etc. and anyway, bowling performance enhancement was the starting point provided by A*

A: Nah. Bowling isn't a sport. And anyway, like I said, I'm throwing rocks tonight! Are you saying this has nothing to do with my new diet? I mean this food is in my body right now! Boom!

B: Well, you're right that diet has something to do with performance. You're getting energy from your new diet and using it to bowl, but "something to do with" is near meaningless. The question is how your new diet compares to your old one with regard to bowling performance. You need an apples to apples...

A: So my new diet does have something to do with my awesome bowling.

B: No! I mean yes but I just explained this, weren't you...*realizing*... Oh, you must be a new atheist.

A: Yeah, how did you know?

B: Educated guess.

A: Those anti-science religious nuts, man. Skygod-worshipping fools. Christians, Jews, oh, and the worst, obviously -- Muslims. They have this book that says all this crazy stuff and, you know, basic cause and effect, voila, they're always blowing stuff up. You get it? Crazy beliefs over here *dramatic hand gesture*, crazy violent actions over here.  I mean you don't have to be a neuroscientist...

B: Have you thought about other belief diets, if you will?

A: Huh?

B: Let me ask you a question. What do you think about the Middle East?

A: Well I used to think hey just let those crazies blow each other up, let God sort...uh...well now I think we need to kill the worst ones.

B: With drones?

A: Sure.

B: Did you know nearly 90% of people killed in drone strikes were not the target?

A: Well, we're trying.

B: They're not trying?

A: They're trying to hit civilians. They do it on purpose.

B: Have you heard of agent orange, white phosphorous, napalm, that deliberate attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz...

A: It's not the same though. They...

B: Where were you radicalized?...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NFL week 9 daily picks

I don't give the NFL any of my money. It's a terrible organization any way you look at it. Even liberals agree. But predicting sports results is fun and I'm good at it so here are my daily picks for week 9, using Yahoo prices. Asterisk means I really like. If you're playing in a big group where you need to finish 1st out of 50 or more, it makes sense to take risks. Pair your QB with a receiver, make a low floor/high ceiling play.

J. Winston $30 -- NYG got torched by Brees last week. JW has been good not great.
*D. Carr $34 -- My favorite QB play this week. No one would be surprised by a 5 TD game at this point.
B. Roethlisberger $42-- Always a threat to go off. As good a chance at a huge game as anyone.
E. Manning $41-- NYG defense is terrible so will need to throw; TB defense also terrible; perfect setup.
D. Brees $40 -- 7 TDs last week, pretty safe as well; terrible NO defense keeps him throwing.

*J. Langford $14 -- Most obvious call this week; low-end RB1 at RB3/4 price.
CJ Anderson $18 -- If R. Hillman sits, this is a bargain. Denver will be running here.
D. McFadden $20 -- RB1 for RB2 price. Very good bet to get 20+ touches.
L. DeBlount $23 -- Risk/reward play; game sets up as NE blowout which should mean DeBlount getting volume; multiple TDs wouldn't be surprising but Belichick is unpredictable.
T. Gurley $38 -- Obvious play if you can afford it.

D. Inman $10 -- 5th option for SD but WRs ahead aren't target hogs and SD projects to put up points and yards; worth it for this super cheap price
M. Floyd $17 -- A costlier Rivers target
M. Evans $27 -- Risk/reward play; V. Jackson out, will get volume
M. Bryant $27 -- If Roethlisberger goes off, will likely be involved
*A. Jeffery $29 -- Top 5 WR for very good price

*AS Jenkins $15 -- Health is sketchy, check to make sure he's in lineup, but big upside -- 110 yards, 2 TDs in week 1; if he plays, should get targets: if a scratch, take Tamme (below), also a 4 o'clock game
J. Tamme $14 -- Recent production worth this price, should see extra targets with Hankerson out
R. Gronkowski $33 -- Safe, obvious play if you can afford it

DEN $17 -- Best D in NFL faces struggling IND
ATL $15 -- Up against historically bad B. Gabbert in his 1st game with SF, replacement level RBs, generally dysfunctional team

Sunday, November 1, 2015

not objective but descriptive, not subjective but normative

I haven't read any philosophy classics in well over a decade so I'm a bit rusty but I want to buzzsaw through modern philosophy in order to explain the rise of the normative/descriptive distinction and the fall of the subject/object distinction (which isn't quite dead, I just think it should be).

Start with Descartes, who drew a thick line between subject and object. The subject aligned roughly with what we'd call conscious experience while the object was dead mechanism. The subject was immaterial, the object material. He suggested they met in the pineal gland and somehow, whatever...there was a lot of straw-grasping.

Meanwhile the term subjective came to mean arbitrary and referred to matters of taste and private experience while objective came to mean, roughly, naive realistic straightforward quantifiable things in the world that are what they are, existing apart from the subjects who know about them.

The most obvious problem with Cartesian subjects is they're immaterial and operate outside natural law. Hit a human in the head with a sharp enough object and you'll find they're susceptible to natural law. No pineal gland theory can save you here, Descartes. You said immaterial. Further, it appears at this point in history nothing other than noocentric conceit to think humans operate outside natural law, or are immaterial, at all.

The most obvious problem with naive realistic objectivity is neglect (or in Kant's terms finitude). Cognition systematically neglects information. Abstractions become more powerful when they leave information out. Human vision picks up only a sliver of the light spectrum. Human brains don't have access to what they cognize in the way suggested by the term objective. There is no object in the simple sense intended by Descartes.


Hume famously pointed out that you can't, logically, get from an "is" statement to an "ought" statement. What is and what ought to be is the descriptive/normative distinction. Nietzsche later wrote a brilliant, even by his standards, piece called "Beyond Good and Evil" in which he made the case that there is no "good and evil," only "good and bad." Every time humans claim something is evil, what they really mean is "I don't like it." Hume's ought/is distinction is really a distinction between statements with a built-in good/bad (for the cognizer) element and statements without one.


The terms descriptive and normative are compatible with a materialist approach to the human. Both are simply ways the material brain cognizes. Both are susceptible to bias, presumably the normative more so. Both are subject to natural laws. Both occur in the world. Both neglect information.

Descriptive means "whatever you or I think about its goodness/badnesss, X is the most accurate (leaving aside whether accuracy is good or bad) model of Y. Descriptive is the new objective. The term normative, on the other hand, refers to whether one likes the results of the descriptive process.