A solution to steroids in sports

With this picogram nonsense coming out of Jon Jones and the UFC, I’ve been thinking about this problem again recently.  I find it quite interesting.  The idea is that you don’t want anybody taking performance enhancing drugs to avoid giving anyone an unfair advantage when competing.  But where do you draw the line on what’s a drug, or enhanced performance, or the difference between a fair and unfair advantage?

Most of these fighters are on a scientific diet that includes a range of daily supplements.  The optimal fuel for your body is undoubtedly an advantage.  But some supplements are considered fair use and some aren’t.  Some are outright illegal.  It seems like we’re putting all kinds of things in our bodies, looking for that added advantage.  If so, avoiding the banned substances list seems more like a guideline than a requirement.  Tito used to always say that if you weren’t cheating, you weren’t trying.  I learned that if you want to change someone’s behavior, you can’t just tell someone that they’re not allowed because they’ll just look for a way around it.  You have to give them a better option, and let them choose it.

I have a friend who still says give them all the roids they want and let them go to town.  Considering how entertaining things were back in the days of Pride, the fans would certainly benefit.  But I would protest and say at that point, it’s not a competition of skill but a competition of chemistry.  I would also suggest that it would be danger to the fighters as they would trade years off of their bodies to go faster and harder today.

When GSP stepped away and criticized the prevelence of steroids in the sport, I was still a little skeptical.  I was skeptical because I knew they were doing drug testing and assumed a professional standard.   But I also just didn’t know that much about it.  Then USADA showed up and it couldn’t have been more obvious.  Not only were a ton of fighters testing positive for PEDs, many of those who didn’t, looked like deflated versions of themselves.  It would seem like we’ve reached an even playing field, but I don’t think that’s the case.

From the dietitians, to the nutritionists, to the supplements, to the substances on the banned list, everyone’s looking for the best fuel available.  And rightfully so, it’s a big part of performing at your best.  And most of it, when used appropriately, is good for your body.  People often forget how frequently steroids are prescribed by doctors.  So here’s my wild idea, what not put together a team of medical specialists and task them with creating a healthy regiment of supplements?  I’m sure you could apply this to other sports but we’ll start with the UFC.

Each fighter is given a weekly check-up by a member of the medical team.  The check-ups will help the medical staff to track and monitor the athlete’s health over time.  On the first check-up, the fighter will be given the option to fight naturally, or join the enhancement program.  If you choose to fight naturally, you’ll be issued a banned substances list and receive standard testing.  If you choose the enhancement program, the ufc will cook you up a tailored PED cocktail and ensure that you have the diet, training, and recovery regiment to support it.

It’s important to give fighters the opportunity to use PEDs or not to use PEDs.  Those who choose not to and find success will be rewarded by the fans accordingly.  But for those who do, the objective will be peak health and not peak performance.  If you prioritize peak performance in the short-term, you’ll start to make trades for the athlete’s long-term health.  This is an important distinction and at the crux of this approach becoming corrupted.  The purpose of using PEDs isn’t to create the most violent fights but rather to increase the short-term and long-term health of the athletes.  In doing so, we hope the fighters will exceed their physical limits, that they recover more quickly from their injuries, that they will become injured less frequently, that their careers will be extended, and that their health in retirement will be optimized.

In the current system, PEDs still exist.  Right now, according to the UFC, the testing system is simultaneously so accurate that it can test for amounts that ‘shouldn’t be testable’, yet so inaccurate that plenty of PED users have found ways to navigate the system.  While I think they’re full of shit on a range of things, they have a point.  You can test right down to the picogram, and still have people figure out how to game the system.  It’s a perpetual game of cat and mouse where the mouse is never truly caught.  You gotta give them an option that they’re rather have.  For those who want to use PEDs, let them.  Get a program tailored specifically to their body and training regiment, by medical professionals, who are looking out of the health of the athlete, and can monitor them on a regular basis.  Not only would athletes be far less motivated to find their own PEDs, it would be very difficult to include additional PEDs into your body when you’re already been monitored on a regular basis by a medical staff.  For most fighters, I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

The net result should be a higher caliber of athlete.  Once which is chemically enhanced, but since when are chemicals not fuel and since when are we not biological machines?  As long as long-term health is the priority, this could push science in a meaningful direction.  As it is, most R&D for PEDs is based around avoiding detection and maximizing short-term performance.  If we change the priorities, we change the motivations.  If we change the motivations, we change the R&D.  All of the sudden, the chemists and biologists are looking to better understand the body and what we put into it.  The data coming out of a research center like this could end up being highly valuable to the world.

Where I draw the line with the right

The city I live in is relatively progressive.  Not necessarily in a ‘leftist’ sorta way, but more so in a classic liberal sort of way.  In this landscape, it’s difficult for right-wing nonsense to get any kind of traction.  But that’s not to say that I don’t see it.  I have a close friend who has started following some of the center-right media like Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder.  He’s been testing me with some of his nonsense.  So perhaps it’s time to call it out here too.

Trans people are people.  I don’t think we’d be in this free speech mess around gender pronouns if we hadn’t collectively been giant assholes to transgender people.  Throughout history, we’ve treated those who we didn’t understand with contempt and history has never looked kindly upon it.  It happened with people from unfamiliar cultures, it happened with people with unfamiliar skin colors, it happened with people with an unfamiliar sexuality, and it happened with trans people.  Conservatism has never been on the right side of human rights because the role of conservatism is to avoid change.  If those who are different are understood, accepted, and appreciated, they don’t special protections.

Full-time work needs to pay a living wage.  There’s a suggestion that a minimum wage is a bad idea.  Apparently, by allowing businesses to pay wages lower than the current minimum wage, workers will make more money.  That open market model only works if two forces are firmly in play: A strong incentive to pay the workers as little as possible (to maximize company profits), and a strong incentive to pay the workers as much as possible (to maximize talent acquisition).  If the incentive to maximize company profits is stronger than the incentive to maximize talent acquisition, there is a strong downward pressure on wages.  That downward pressure can be so strong that someone working 40 hours a week may not make enough to make a living wage.  If we’re in an environment where the cost of living is rising quickly, it gets even worse.  And who benefits?  Clearly it’s not the worker.  The business will benefit from better margins, but for how long?  An underpaid workforce is more of a liability than an asset.  When business owners under pay their employees less, they rely more heavily on social assistance programs.  These programs are funded by tax payers, and not the ones who aren’t making enough money to pay any significant tax.  Paying your laborers less than what it costs them to live a middle class life is a terrible idea for any economy.

Racism still exists.  Racism exists, sexism exists, ageism exists… there’s no lack of ways in which we try to generalize others to their detriment.  I wish we could solve them all at once by understanding that prejudice leads to inaccurate understandings and bad decisions.. but we have to start somewhere.  And I’m not interested in addressing controversial racism like who got kicked out of a Starbucks or who’s modelling a black panther costume.  I’m talking about that KKK shit.  That sand n*gger shit.  That BUILD THE WALL shit.  That is some of the ugliest behavior I’ve seen in western society and the right needs to do a better job of standing up to it.  Everyone on the right wishes the moderate left would call out their more extreme counter-parts.  Well everyone on the left wants the same from the right.  It can’t be a, ‘sure, we all know that racism exists but it’s not the problem here.’  Without racism, we wouldn’t have Trump.  Without racism, we wouldn’t have a government shutdown right now.  Without racism, Fox News wouldn’t have been fear mongering around a migrant caravan.  It might not be at the center of all our problems, but it does seem to make most of our problems worse.  Identity politics exist on both sides, and both sides need to hold their crazies accountable.

Stop cherry picking your science.  Climate change is real.  Humans have contributed to it significantly.  The scientific consensus here is over 99%.  Why are you still arguing this?  I understand if you’re a stake holder in the fossil fuel industry, but otherwise you’re just being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.  Even if it wasn’t man made, our window of opportunity for maintaining an ecosystem that’s habitable for humans is closing.  We should be all hands on deck, but the right is dragging their feet.  If you have no interest in listening to scientists on this, then you’re about as useful as those on the far left which ignore biology to advance their gender politics agenda.

Religion.  Religion exists across the political spectrum, but the right seems to have their own approach to it.  The evangelicals denounced a democratic president for having an immoral character, then celebrated Trump on the basis that moral character isn’t an important consideration.  The religious right also argues that abortion is a religious issue when the bible offers no such guidance beyond telling you how to do one.  They’re also quick to point out all the flaws of religions like Islam, while failing to acknowledging the dark history of western religions or the issues of today.  And to make it all worse, politicians are now abusing religion again, excusing their actions as some twisted act of god.  Next time you see a politician say “well that’s what I believe”, look closely.

Feminism is a big deal.  I’m not talking about the man-hating variety that seems to be pushing it’s way into the mainstream today.  I’m talking about a movement that started centuries ago.. maybe even millennia.  It’s about our species evolving to the point where men didn’t have to be hunters and gatherers, and women didn’t have to forage and care for the kids.  It’s about men no longer having to go out and do hard labor and women being able to join the work force.  It’s about moving past our traditional blueprints of what men and women were supposed to be, and exploring the freedom of what we can be within a modern society.  One of the smartest things western society ever did was bring women into the work force.  There’s still more ground to cover.

You overestimate your abilities.  I used to assume that people who were wealthy were naturally hardworking and very smart.  Then I started to meet some of them.  Many of them were smart and many of them were hard working, but what they were more likely to have in common was an inflated sense of ego.  They took responsibility for their actions, and since they were successful, they were responsible for their success.  But then I would look behind them and see an incredible amount of support.  More often than not, it included a good family, a private school, an ivy league education, connections, and an inheritance.  Bit of a stretch to say you’re responsible for all those factors too.  What I’ve noticed from the right is that tend to equate financial success with human value.  Those who find a path to financial success overestimate what their contribution was to that point, and underestimate what was already in motion.  And then they dismiss those who are less fortunate as lazy or uninspired.

You’re selfish.  Something else I’ve noticed about the right is their tendency to be selfish, after they’ve ‘made it’.  When I was younger, I wasn’t all that interested in helping my fellow human.  It was about being as successful as possible, as soon as possible, and then helping my fellow human.  I see a lot of people take a similar path, but when they arrive at success, they’re much less interested in helping others.  Now it’s about paying the least amount of tax possible, or doing away with social assistance programs that you don’t personally use, or avoiding giving money to the homeless ‘because they’re just gonna use it on drugs anyways’.  And what I find remarkable is that liberals do this too, just not when they’re poor.  The rich shouldn’t give to the poor out of sympathy.  The few should invest in the many, because none of us truly do anything on our own.

Your immigration policies suck.  Besides the fact that they’re currently rooted in racism, they’re also shortsighted.  Most people would be surprised to find that children of wealthy families make ill-equipped leaders.  But it’s not that hard to understand why.  When you go through adversity, you experience challenges that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to.  Parents who have fled to the US from a harsh environment provide a powerful and unique environment for children to grow up in.  That home is more likely to produce a world leader or Pulitzer prize winner than someone who was so rich that they didn’t need to bother learning the local language.  Written on the statue of liberty is, ““Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  America is supposed to be the land of opportunity, where you escape from terrible conditions and are given the chance to make something of yourself.  This is the secret sauce of the American immigration policy. If we close the doors to all that have made us great, and only open our doors to those who are already ‘great’, I think we’re in trouble.

You can be an argumentative dick.  I know, because I used to be one too.  Back in university, everyone was for gay marriage but me.  I had no issues with gay people… or them getting married.. but I didn’t like that everyone was agreeing with one another on something they hadn’t really thought about.  So I said I was down with them being legally married, but wasn’t OK with them appropriating a ceremony from a religion which was expressly against gay marriage.  I may have had a point, but I was arguing for the sake of arguing.  I see this happen from the right so often.  You realize that your up against someone who hasn’t quite thought things through, and rather than help them get there, you pick them apart and try to make them feel like they don’t know what they’re talking about.  Meanwhile, it’s quite possible that they had a point and just weren’t able to argue it effectively.  Or maybe they had a good idea but didn’t quite know how to make it a reality.  Fantastic, you won that argument.. but at what cost?  At what point is the pursuit of truth more important to you than ‘winning’?

The relentless spin. If I were to guess, the right is more intelligent than the left.  It’s not that a ‘right-wing’ ideology produces smarter people, it’s that intelligence lends to success,, success lends to wanting to keep things as-is, and wanting to keep things as-is lends to conservatism.  You know, conserving the good life.  So when the less fortunate get together and say things aren’t fair, we need change… you say that things are fair, that you’re an example of how to be successful, and to just keep working hard.  But then the less fortunate notice that there are far more hardworking poor people than rich people.  At the end of the day, the left might not have the best idea for how to get things done, but they are often right about what needs to be done.  And no matter what they present you with, you’ll spin it to your favor.  If you were up against someone who could debate you properly, you’d look absolutely foolish.  But the mainstream media doesn’t provide that format so everyone’s left speaking into their echo chambers.  I can’t tell you how many times colleagues of mine have tried to spin the most ridiculous Trump lies into something reasonable.  Recently, they’ve started to give up.. suggesting that it’s not what he says but what he does.  Well he’s behaving like the most compromised or corrupt politician in modern American history.. and you’re still trying to spin it.

You don’t want a meritocracy.  I’m a big fan of equal opportunity over equal outcome.  So is the right.. it’s one of their primary arguments against social security programs.  The left hasn’t been able to wrap their head around the concept in a way that fits their ideology.  I think the political spectrum is generally clueless about what a meritocracy really entails.  For example, there’s a good chance that in a true meritocracy, most top CEOs would still be men.  But you know what else happens in a meritocracy?  Those responsible for educating future generations aren’t living paycheck to paycheck.  But perhaps the most powerful example, in a meritocracy, inheritance wouldn’t exist.  In a meritocracy, you receive resources in exchange for the creation of value.  The more value you produce, the more resources you have to work with.  In that model, someone like an Elon Musk would be one of the most well resourced individuals in the world while someone like Trump would be broke.  But in a world where Trump can leave billions in wealth to his children.. something’s not right.  In a world where future generations of your family can enjoy substantial resources despite having not created any value… something not right.  In a meritocracy, Harvard isn’t filled with legacy students and lucrative internships aren’t filled with people who’s parents know an executive at the company.  That whole idea of an inside track.. the powerful helping the powerful.. none of it exists.

 

If we could find a way to cast aside all the nonsense… from all sides of the political spectrum… and come together to be effective for the greater good… we could probably do something pretty darn special.

Markets look like they’re being propped up.

The only thing that moves the market up is more buyers than sellers.  The only thing that moves the market down is more sellers than buyers.  But we’re talking about dollars, not people.

I pulled my money out of the market ahead of James Comey’s hearing last summer.  I was concerned Comey would say something that would lead to a Trump version of the Saturday Night Massacre.  I was wrong.  Although not by much, apparently.  As it turned out, Trump did try to fire Mueller but was stopped by his White House counsel who had to threaten resignation to stop the order.

Fortunately for me, I knew a market pullback was inevitable against Trump.  As of last week, I’m back to beating the market.  While that serves as a bit of an ego boost, that’s not what I’ve been paying attention to.  I’ve been watching the market lose ground for months now, but something looked different over the last couple weeks.  The market looked like it was being propped up.

There might be those who suggest that such speculation is irresponsible.  That so much volume moves through the market that it would be impossible for anyone to make a significant or reliable impact.  Or that high frequency trading machines occupy most of the volume so it wouldn’t be that simple.  Or, isn’t market manipulation illegal?

The Chinese government intervenes with the Chinese stock market on a regular basis, guiding things towards and outcome which they’d prefer.  It’s being reported that the Saudis are doing the same thing every time bad news hits.  But not America right?  Prior to the great recession, JP Morgan rallied his fellow millionaires and bankers to buoy the market.  The purpose was to lift the public’s confidence in the markets.  It’s genuinely the core purpose of market manipulation, to give the general public a false sense of security.  The wealthy can’t control the markets, but they can certainly influence how the public sees it.  Fortunately for everyone, markets move in cycles.

Over the last couple weeks, I saw the potential for a huge market sell-off.  The kind that might’ve put us past any meaningful tipping point.  Almost every trading day started with significant downward momentum.  Yet on a regular basis, the market would have a sharp rebound mid-day.  In many cases, the inflection point looked deliberate and calculated.  Almost every day that included a mid-day rebound closed in positive territory.

For example, the SP500 closed at 2485 yesterday, and opened at 2482 today, starting with that same downward trend.  Then the market almost immediately shot up to 2507, suggesting an influx of buys.  Then the downward momentum took back over and dragged the market back down to where it started the day at 2482.  Then immediately, the market shot back up again, back to 2506 which is where it’s at currently.

There could be a variety of explanations for such market behavior, including pure chance.  But it looks rather systemic to me.  It looks like someone said don’t let the market have a bad day.  And it’s not just today.  I’ve seen this behavior on almost every day that’s closed up in the last 2 weeks.  If I were to guess, I’d say that there are some very wealthy and very powerful individuals who are spending a great deal of money to maintain public confidence in the markets.  I would guess that they see the writing on the wall just as the rest of us do, but are victims of their hubris and think they can stop what’s coming.  JP Morgan and his banker friends couldn’t stop the great depression.  I don’t think the wealthy elite and bankers of today can stop this either.

Where I Draw the Line with the Left

I spent a great deal of time and effort staying off the political spectrum.  I strongly suspect that the political divide of left and right, or red and blue is a product of the governing class.  Government reform would require a united voter base.  So they divide and conquer.

Something I’ve observed is that those on the far ends of the political spectrum tend to have a great deal in common.  They’re loud.  They’re aggressive.  They assume the moral high ground.  They have questionable beliefs.  And they aren’t very reasonable when those beliefs are challenged.  I’m not the first to have noticed this either.  I think it’s referred to as the horseshoe diagram, and it suggests that the silent majority tend to agree on most reasonable issues.

On this political spectrum, it’s been well documented when the right can go too far.  Nazis.  When a right-wing ideology starts talking about racial supremacy, that’s a red flag.  When they start targeting those of a particular race or religion, blaming them for the country’s problems,  that’s a red flag.  When they start to deny science to advance their own political agenda, that’s a red flag.  An entire generation of Germans learned that in the most painful of ways.  So… if that’s where the right can go too far, do we not have similar standards for the left?  Equality is not equality unless we are all held to account.

Jordan Peterson has made this question a cornerstone of his debates.  He’s often confronted by media personalities who assume that he represents the ‘alt-right’.  In most cases, he addresses that claim and acknowledges that while conservatism and tradition can have value, there is absolutely a point at which it goes too far.  He often suggests Nazis are a clear example of when the right can go too far.  He’ll then ask the interviewer if they could give an example of where the left has gone too far.  In most cases, they can’t answer the question.  I’ve tried it myself and had a similar experience.  On the extreme ends of the political spectrum, it would seem as though you can do no wrong.  As long as you’re fighting for a righteous cause, your actions are justified.  But when both sides take this approach, and both sides believe in their righteousness, there is no middle ground.

I have no issues holding someone to account for a flawed ideology, regardless of it’s right, left, up, down or sideways.  Today, I saw a tweet that was posted to social media that has motivated me to say something.  This was a tweet by @legal_feminista.  It said:

Let’s enter 2019 with the right energy:

Trans women are women.  Sex work is work.  Black lives matter.  Rape culture is real.  Yes all men.  Fuck white supremacy.  Abolish borders.  Free Palestine.  Protect indigenous rights.  Support mental health.  Believe women.

Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to something like this as I’ve seen or heard most of it before.  But this tweet received about 60,000 likes and 17,000 retweets in about 48 hours.  This perspective isn’t an outlier, it’s mainstream.  So… let’s dig in and see what we find.

Trans women are women.  That depends on how you define women.  If gender is a social construct and not determined by biology, then sure, trans women are women.  But what about biology? If gender is a social construct, surely, sex must be biological.  Otherwise, we’re ignoring the significance of things like the female and male reproductive systems, or the Y chromosome.  And what happens when trans women start using the natural advantages afforded to a biological male to put women at a disadvantage? There are now various stories about trans women dominating against female athletes.  I’m not sure these competitors would agree that all trans women are women.  At some point, I think we’ll have to acknowledge that there is a very real biological component to being a male or a female.  But in addition to that, we have masculinity and femininity.  Part biology, part psychology, part sociology.. this is what gives us masculine women and feminine men, and really masculine men and really feminine women.  Traditionally, we thought that we should all be masculine men or feminine women and it forced many of us to pretend to be people we weren’t.  Now we’re a little more open minded.  Sex comes primarily in 2 flavors.. with a swirl here and there.  But who we become as individuals, well that’s a flavor that’s unique to each individual.  It includes how masculine or feminine you are, who you’re attracted to, how you choose to dress.. and as long as it’s consensual, it’s all good.  I genuinely think that if we had a little more love for all the unusual ways we turn out, people would be more secure and confident in who they are and less consumed with trying to become someone else.

Sex work is work.  Damn right.  Got your back on this one sister.  Making prostitution illegal is about as sensible as making alcohol and cannabis illegal.  By pushing it into the shadows, you put good people at risk.  By bringing it into the light, we give ourselves a chance of doing it right.

Black lives matter.  Yes, because all lives matter.  My issue with the black lives matters movement was that they weren’t on board with all lives matter.  I agree that racism against black people exists.  I agree that it shows up in matters of police brutality.  But I disagree that police brutality is a race issue.  Black lives matter had an opportunity to open their doors and champion an All Lives Matters movement that would’ve forced police everywhere to reevaluate how they interact with the public.  It could’ve been the solution to police brutality for people of every color.  It could’ve been an opportunity for the black community to be leaders for all of America.  Instead, ‘all lives matters’ was understood to be an attempt at dismissing their cause or taking the spotlight off the black community.  What a missed opportunity.  And meanwhile, you have prominent leaders within the BLM community speaking about black racial supremacy to crowds of cheering fans.

Rape culture is real.  Maybe.  It depends on how you define it.  Growing up, my understanding of rape was someone being held down against their will, being fully aware of the experience as it’s happening, kicking and screaming for help, and dealing with the emotional trauma afterwards.  It was easy to understand that as one of the most terrible crimes a person could commit.  I’m now told that if two people get drunk and have sex, they’ve effectively raped each other because you can’t consent if you’re drunk.  I was also told that if a woman gives consent, but changes her mind during sex without telling her partner, if the partner continues, he’s a rapist.  I think we’re losing sight of the difference between a violent rape and a regrettable sexual encounter.  By no means am I condoning any behavior that remotely resembles rape, but I do think that it’s important to recognize degrees of severity.  I think it would be more accurate to say that we have a culture of sexual harassment.  But if you stop here without asking why, you’re missing half the equation.  I don’t think men want the responsibility of pursuing women for sex.  Most are terrible at knowing whether or not a woman is interested in them.  Most are clueless at figuring out how to flirt.  And most take rejection pretty hard.  And to make it worse, in the same way that men have been socialized to pursue sex, women have been socialized to withhold it.  If we’re going to find our way out of this mess, I think it starts with honesty and respect.  Personally, I vote for women to take over the role of asking guys out for a bit.

Yes all men.   No.  This is literally sexism 101.  It’s like saying that all women are neurotic.  Or all black people are prone to crime.  Or all Muslims are terrorists.  Just because you’ve had bad experiences with some men doesn’t justify you treating all men with the same contempt.

Fuck white supremacy.  Fuck all racial supremacy.

Abolish borders.  Sure.  but how?  Who would you pay your taxes to?  What area would your democratically elected official preside over?  What would be the jurisdiction for the laws you voted for?  Or was this just about firing back at Trump for garbage immigration policies?

Free Palestine.  We should all look for opportunities to put the guns down and hash things out like like reasonable adults.  Unfortunately, religion prevents that.

Protect indigenous rights. Or maybe recognize that indigenous rights, voluntary segregation, and systematic exploitation have destroyed America’s indigenous cultures.  I think it’s time to try integration.  There’s a great deal we can learn from Native American culture, including finding a more balanced relationship with nature.  I think it’s about time we took a real look at their history, and show respect where respect is due.  And once we’ve rewritten history to accurately reflect the role of Native American’s in the development of modern western culture, we can begin to heal.  And part of that will be learning to heal as one family.  If done right, indigenous rights should be no different than any other human rights.

Support mental health.  Absolutely.  Mental health isn’t as obvious as physical health… but can be that much more impactful.  We’re waking up to this reality now.. and there’s a lot of work to be done.

Believe women.  No.  It would be just as foolish to say, ‘Believe men’.  It’s interesting because the last time I saw this, it was ‘believe the victim’.  But what happens when the victim is a man?  Is it still so believable?  The problem isn’t in who we believe, but rather the fact that we should to believe anyone in the first place.  Believing someone is assuming they’re telling the truth without knowing if they are.  Once you have evidence, you can understand whether or not someone is telling the truth.  Without that evidence, you’re left with assumptions.  While some women might think so what, it’ll do more good than harm, consider this:  What would stop someone from paying a woman to make false claims against a man?  Do you believe the woman?  Or do you presume innocent until proven guilty?  On multiple occasions, people have paid women to make false claims against men.  If we believe all women, this will keep happening.  No victim is worth abandoning the right to innocence until proven guilty.  We should trust those who tell the truth.  We should support those who have experienced hardship.  We should hold accountable, those who caused harm to others.  Regardless of what’s between your legs.

 

 

Determinism: Am I Going Crazy?

Back in university, I had this idea that the universe was unfolding like an elaborate chain reaction. I asked a friend who was taking physics and he shot down the idea, talking about chaos theory. I didn’t quite understand what he was saying but he knew physics better than I did so I left it. About 15 years later, the idea is still stuck in my head.

I’ve since learned that the idea is not an original thought and that it’s largely referred to as determinism. The reading that I’ve done on it fascinates me, particularly because it’s an area which draws the attention of mathematicians, physicists, and philosophers. For many years I’ve understood these individuals to be among the most genuine seekers of truth.  By no means am I an expert in any of these fields, but I’ve made some observations I can’t seem to disprove.

It rests on a 4 physical laws:

  1. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.

  2. The Law of Conservation of Mass states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as the system’s mass cannot change, no quantity can be added nor removed. Hence, the quantity of mass is conserved over time
  3. Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity expresses the fact that mass and energy are the same physical entity and can be changed from one to another.
  4. Newton’s third law states to every action there is always an opposing and equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.

 

Whatever the entirety of existence is, a universe, a multi-verse or something else we have still yet to comprehend, in it’s totality, it’s still a closed system.  And within this closed system, we have a set amount of matter and energy, which in effect, are the same physical entity.  In this closed system, nothing can be created nor destroyed.  If every action can only produce an equal and opposite reaction, every action operates with a fixed outcome. It’s why 2+2 always equals 4. When you ask why something has happened, you’re identifying cause and effect.  But every reaction is also an action in itself, like ripples from dropping a rock in a pond.  If you go to that last ripple that hit the shore and ask how it got there, you’d follow a chain of causation back to the rock that was dropped in.  Then you could ask why the rock was dropped.  Or how the rock got there.  The reality is that this chain of causation goes back further than even the existence of the rock or the lake.  It likely goes all the way back to the big bang.  In all likelihood, it goes back further than that.  Perhaps when the universe is done expanding, it will reverse course, eventually collapsing in on itself at the exact point and moment that another universe begins.

Anyway…

The problem with this theory seems to be the inability to prove or disprove it. If someone believes in free will, this is a direct challenge to their beliefs and they’ll want to see proof. I was big on free will when I was younger, if someone was talking to me about destiny, I’d say something like, ‘show me what I’m destined to do and I’ll just do otherwise’. Within the theory of determinism though, that entire conversation and outcome are just part of how the universe is unfolding.  As is everything that I’m discussing now.

It occurred to me that if determinism is true, it would be theoretically possible to predict the future to 100% certainty. The problem with testing that theory is that just like a math equation, to calculate an outcome to any level of certainty, you need to know the variables and how they’re interacting. Considering how interconnected everything is, and how little of the universe we’ve yet to grasp, it would be all but impossible to know every variable necessary to predict the next link in the chain. But if you could, theoretically, you could make that prediction with 100% certainty.

So if we accept that we may never be able to test this at a universal scale, can it be proven on a smaller scale? I asked myself, in what situations do we know 100% of the variables and look to predict an outcome? Nothing in the physical realm.. our efforts in predicting weather are a classic example of not being able to see the entire equation.  Then it hit me: Math! As simple as it may be, “2+2=” is a closed system in which 100% of the variables are known and we understand how they’re interacting.  As a result, we can predict the outcome to 100% accuracy. And it doesn’t matter how elaborate the equation becomes or how many variables you include. As long as you know the variables and how they interact with one another, the next step in the chain can be predicted to absolute certainty.

Once this sunk in, a lot of other things started to make sense to me. One was particularly significant though, the question ‘Why?’. When you ask why something has happened, you’re looking at the chain. You’re looking for the action that caused the reaction. Or maybe you’re looking for the action before that, or the action before that. It’s easy to do through the distilled lens of math where you tend to deal with isolated instances of cause and effect. Physics seems to be where we observe how these variables interact over longer periods of time like seconds or years. I suppose then, it’s the philosopher’s role to ask why again and again, until we realize that it is the longest of all roads and one which will always and ultimately take us back to the beginning.

Am I crazy?

I’m envisioning a flip book, the kind that you would doodle an animation with.  Each page is a universe wide, but only moment deep.  Each page looks nearly identical to the last and nearly identical to the next, but as you start to flip them you see the universe unfold.  Each page is a link in the chain of causality.  Each page leads only to the next page.  The story has already been drawn.

I would suggest that free will – the ability to make the universe as we see fit – is not our gift.  Instead, it was the universe that made us as it saw fit.  We were gifted with consciousness, the awareness of one’s self and their place within the universe.  I’ve found this awareness to be deeply humbling while providing a great sense of appreciation.  Consider that the matter and energy that makes up every bit of who I am has existed in this universe since long before I came along.  Well before our species came along.  Well before our planet was even formed.  And through some crazy chain of causation, I exist today, with an ability to recognize all this, and write about it.  And that even this moment here, is just part of the story.

President Pelosi

In my excess of free time, I’ve paid a great deal of attention to the world stage as things are unfolding around Trump.  It would seem as though we’re approaching the season finale of Mueller’s investigation and I can’t help but give some thought to what 2019 has in store.

Trump is now known as Individual-1, and in all likelihood is the central target in the redacted “President Donald J. Trump Criminal Investigation”.  He’s now been identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in a case by the SDNY in which Coen has admitted to committing campaign finance violations at the direction of  Trump for the purpose of influencing a federal election.  I doubt they would’ve brought this case against the President if all they had was Coen’s testimony.

Impeachment exists for high crimes and misdemeanors, and it is Congress’s responsibility to provide oversight for the executive branch.  They will be bound by duty and law to draft and pass articles of impeachment.  I think it’ll get past the house, but I think the senate is a wildcard.  If it’s only campaign finance violations, even if it was for paying off porn stars to keep quiet about affairs to boost your chances of winning an election, I’m not confident the republican senate will care.  At least some will argue that it wasn’t to influence the election or that Obama had a campaign finance violation and he wasn’t impeached for it.  Others will realize that the Republican landscape for the 2020 senate rate is a steep uphill battle and that choosing party over country during historic impeachment proceedings might be political suicide.  Knowing Trump, he might just be able to create enough noise and disinformation to keep people within their party lines.

Enter season 2.  I’m not sure what happens first: Mueller releases his report or the Democrats take the house.  Whichever happens first, it’s likely going to kick off a rather dramatic series of events.  If Mueller releases his report, it’s likely to show conclusive evidence that Trump was a criminal prior to his presidential bid, won the election through criminal means, and has been operating a criminal presidency.  If the democrats take the house first, they’ll use their subpoena powers to obtain records like Trump’s tax returns, and probably leak them to the public shortly after.  I would be surprised if it didn’t show direct or indirect ties to Russian money laundering.   However this plays out, the first few months of 2019 will be a reckoning for Trump and Republicans by extension.

A lot of Trump supporters say that if Mueller had anything on Trump, they would’ve released it already.  They suggest that an absence of evidence available to the public, is the same as an absence of evidence within the investigation.  I would disagree.  If Trump is the criminal that he appears to be, Mueller needs to deliver the most conclusive report possible.  There’s a saying, something along the lines of, ‘if you’re going to shoot the king, aim for the head.’  It suggests that if you’re going to deliver evidence against the most powerful person in the world, suggesting that they should be removed from power and placed in jail, you’ll only have the one shot.  The report needs to be so complete, and so conclusive, that it leaves no doubt in any rational person’s mind.  And creates doubt in the minds of those who aren’t rational.

I don’t think the Republican party will survive that report.  It’s going to be a very interesting demonstration of self-preservation.  I suspect that multiple members of the Republican party were compromised via the Russian’s hack on the RNC email server.  Those individuals will support Trump well beyond what most would consider to be reasonable.  Then you’ll have those who are looking to tow the party line but are unsure about whether it’s the party of Trump or the party of Republican values.  Then you’ll have conservatives who realize that their best chance of staying alive is to stand up for traditional American values again.  I think it’s that latter group that can give the Senate enough votes to remove Trump from office.

Should Trump be removed from office for crimes relating to a fraudulent election, it wouldn’t make sense that his administration would be allowed to continue under Mike Pence.  If I’m not mistaken, the chain of command actually falls to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  In a very roundabout way, 2016 may have actually given us our first female President.

I know a bit about her but not nearly enough to have an educated opinion.  From what I’ve seen, it suggests that she’s a capable individual who could probably mind an interim-presidency.  Should it pan out this way, I would encourage her to recognize her role, not one as leader of the American people, but rather as a custodian of the Presidency until the next election.  And during that time, I would encourage her to focus on damage control.  There are alliances around the world which need to be repaired, policy decisions which need to be undone, trade agreements that need to be redone.. all of it.  I also think this would be a remarkable opportunity to truly drain the swamp.  Republicans, democrats, lobbyists, dark money, foreign influencers… all of it.

It’s about time we cleaned things up a bit.

A New Economy

I find it interesting that so much of what we consume, we consume for free.  At least when it comes to the internet.  Looking for a recipe?  Good chance it’ll come from a blog or site that you don’t have to pay for.  Wanna watch something on YouTube?  Also free.  Wanna cruise through a slideshow of cool pictures?  Instagram.  Wanna listen to music? Spotify.  Have a weird question that you hope someone has an answer for?  Quora.

How is it that so much of the value we consume on a daily basis, we consume for free?  These companies aren’t exactly operating at a loss either.  I wonder if these platforms have anything else in common?  Like sourcing most of their content from their audience.. or monetizing via ad revenue.. or monetizing data collected from their users.

Well, are the content producers at least earning a living wage?  Some are but the vast majority aren’t.  Maybe these platforms just need to charge more for their services so they can pass some of that income along to the content creators.  I don’t think the audience has the disposable income for that model.  Why?  Because the blogs people are writing, the pictures people are taking, the videos people are making, and questions people are answering are being paid for in views and likes instead of dollars.  Ironically, those who are the exception to the rule tend to be paid in ad revenue.

Our economy seems to be based on the consumption of goods or services.  Yet so much of what we’re producing now is based in knowledge or art.  It also seems like the only way we’re interested in compensating the production of knowledge or art is through a cut of consumerism.  There’s something very backwards about that.

It’s occurred to me that our economy is evolving.  The introduction of the internet ushered in the information age and it’s an era where knowledge is the most important asset we can generate.  Yet we have an economy which doesn’t know how to value this asset or appropriately compensate those who have produced it without a direct application to a good or a service.  The traditional capitalist might suggest that without a direct application to a good or service, something is worthless.  To that individual, I would remind them of our efforts in space exploration.  These aren’t goods or services for the sake of consumption.  At it’s core, it’s exploration for the sake of exploration, something that’s been a very real part of the human spirit for all of recorded history.  And throughout history, our sense of exploration has always led to new found prosperity.  Not least because we have to invent a whole bunch of cool new stuff to get us to where we want to go.

Whatever this next economy looks like, it needs to find a way to better allocate resources and value.  No longer should a home take 20 years to pay for.  No longer should a luxury brand command a high price on a poorly manufactured item.  No longer should the internet need to rely on ad revenue to provide their services.  No longer should research facilities rely on government funding.  No longer should content producers require millions of fans to make a living wage.  It’s time to spread the wealth.  Not for the sake of spreading it or creating ‘equality’, but because we need to find a way to deliver the wealth back into the hands of those who are creating value we consume.  The world we currently live in is one where you could inherit a house from your parents and never have to work again.  Meanwhile, rent is so expensive that saving up for a home is unrealistic for most.  In that world, financial prosperity is largely determined by how wealthy your family was.  That’s taking us back to the feudal times where a divide existed between land owners and peasants.  Fuck that.  That’s not good for anyone.

Centuries ago, we used to have an economy based in farming, back when 90% of the population had to farm in order for us to get enough food.  Now, less than 5% of the world’s population produces all the food that we eat.  It led the way for a the industrial revolution where production shifted to factories.  And it was through that manufacturing boom that we developed an economy based in goods.  Once we started automating more and more of the manufacturing process, the economy shifted again to the consumption of goods and services.  Well with automation making another push, what happens to our economy when 10% of the world’s population can produce 100% of the goods and services we require?  I would predict another industrial revolution.  One where goods are manufactured at home by your 3D printer.  One where services are more likely to be provided by an AI than by a person.  In this economy, do we continue to insist that knowledge and art have no value on their own?  That unless you are the producer of a good or service, you are not valuable to our economy?

If we stay on this path, we would require a basic income to afford our basic needs.  Those who own the companies which provide these services would be the only ones generating an income.  I’m not sure how they would charge the rest of us for their services so they’d probably be free.  But they’d have to pay their own bills, so ad revenue?  But who’s buying their stuff when everyone’s broke?  And you know how the government will fund everyone’s basic income?  By taxing the few companies and individuals who are making money.  Meanwhile, everyone else is doing one of two things.  Wasting away in depression with a lack of purpose in life…. or producing something of value for the rest of us to consume.. for free.

It would be downright remarkable for someone to introduce a currency, unique to the free-economy.  Upvotes, blog views, likes, listens… when someone consumes the value you’ve produced, you receive those points and those points can be spent on the goods and services produced by others in this economy.  Imagine if food was available via that currency.  Imagine rent.

Now that’s disruptive.