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User Journal

Journal Journal: Fuck your opinion on healthcare. 6

Okay, not everyone's opinion. Just the ones that are poisoning every fucking slashdot article with their political drivel, particularly about the recent healthcare law. I'm used to people around here inserting a certain amount of their political bias when they have nothing more useful to say, and I even do some of it myself, but holy self-conrtol, batman, try to show a little fucking restraint, will you? Sometimes the article is technical and political, so crossover is expected. But it's gotten so far out of hand that you can't open an article around here without having a couple hundred healthcare-related posts staring you in the face. Seriously. As an example, that particular article gets hijacked offtopic immediately after the first post. I had to scroll down past more or less a hundred useless posts to get to any relevant ones.

Maybe you're for the healthcare bill. Maybe you're against it. Maybe you're against it, and mad as hell that it passed. Maybe you're for it and mad as hell that other people are mad as hell about it passing. It doesn't matter. Shut the fuck up unless you have something useful to add to the particular technical article you are perusing. Better yet, go somewhere else more appropriate to either a) flame your opponents, b) shout down people that hold unpopular views, c) celebrate/commiserate with like-minded individuals in an effort to bolster your inadequate ego, or self-esteem, or whatever. Slashdot even gave you a place to go to get it all out of your system. And it seemed to work at first, because there's over 2300 replies so far. That makes it roughly an order of magnitude more popular than the regular articles around here. But some people still can't or won't leave well enough alone. Well, I've got a message for them: It's over folks! Done! Fait accompli! For better or worse, the healthcare bill passed, so isn't it time to stop beating this particular dead horse?

So please don't fuck up the rest of the articles. I'm begging you. You're ruining this place. I have nothing against others' views, or their right to bellow them as loudly and ignorantly as they want. But please, just don't do it here. Or do less of it, at least. Hey ... I've got an idea ... maybe you could write a journal article about your thoughts! That'd be a great fucking idea.


Journal Journal: The brain treats fact and belief the same 2

Author and researcher Sam Harris and some of his colleagues have published a study that explores how the brain handles matters of belief vs matters of fact. His findings indicate not only that the brain stores and processes them the same way, but also reveals other interesting details about how our minds handle what we consider to be truth.

This Newsweek article does a decent job of summing up the paper, and highlights a reaction that loyal Slashdot readers will probably find familiar:

... the "blasphemy reaction": that when atheists disagreed with a Christian belief, or when Christians affirmed one, their pleasure centers lit up - proof that the combatants in the faith-versus-reason wars really do enjoy the fight, equally.

As a bonus, all religious discussions, assertion of opinion as fact, and other common Slashdot misbehavior is hereby on-topic for this discussion.

Social Networks

Journal Journal: Small minds 3

The world is full of people who have never, since childhood, met an open doorway with an open mind.
- E. B. White

Okay, so I'm feeling bitter today. And I think I know why. It's you.

It's not you the reader, personally, exactly. (Perhaps it is, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.) It's slashdot in general, of which you are part. I'm irritated by the vast majority of the people on here, who are generally an angry swarm of backbiting, close-minded, disrespectful, vacuous individuals who come here to meld with the hive-mind, or grind some socio-poitical ax rather than challenge themselves to think differently (no Apple reference intended). I don't mind the meme-posters, or the purveyors of tired jokes or esoteric humor, even if they drift off-topic. I'm glad they're here. I need the smiles.

I'm sick of every discussion spiraling off into a political knife fight. Right vs. left. EU vs. US. Everyone vs. US. Atheists vs. religion. Certainly some of the topics here are related to geopolitics, but damn near every topic descends into a political rant that has nothing to do with the real question at hand. You know what? Go shuffle off into the blogosphere and haunt or whatever sharp-toothed dim-witted political attack dog site agrees with your preconceived notions.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
- Aristotle

Even when the discussion stays briefly centered around the topic, this place is filled with allegedly intelligent people who refuse to consider another point of view, who rarely apologize for a mistake or misunderstanding. Is your sense of self-worth really driven by how angry you can make a stranger, or how savagely you can defend whatever dogmatic beliefs you cling to?

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
- William James

Hey, I've got nothing against spirited debate. I have several friends here whom I completely disagree with on most things, but a lot of what they write makes me think a little. The problem is that it appears that too many here has way more half-baked opinions and regurgitated biases than actual knowledge or new perspective.

We have met the enemy, and he is us.
- Walt Kelly

But I suppose I could handle all that with a shrug, but for one annoying fact: I have begun to think and post like you. Yes, the worst part of all this is realizing that I allow myself to get caught up in these sniping contests that pass for technical discussion. I usually try to keep to the high road, but sometimes it is way too tempting to score some vitriolic points against a poster who is out there just lobbing word-grenades all over the place. It feels good at first, but really, what did I get out of it? Am I any more informed than before? Is anyone else?

So, I tell you what; let's make a deal. I'll try to do the following, and hopefully a few others will too:
a) - I'll try to keep above the bickering, and post sanely.
b) - I'll try to stay on topic, or at least not drift off topic by more than a couple of degrees of separation.
c) - I'll try to include some bit of relevant fact or logic rather than simply opinion, unless opinion is what is needed, and I feel mine is particularly apropos.

Of course, maybe I've got it all wrong, and the real problem here is just me. Not you, not you and me, just me. Maybe I've been taking all this too seriously. Maybe my ass is wound so tight it has become a metaphorical coal-to-diamond conversion mechanism. Maybe I'm having the world's nerdiest midlife crisis. Maybe I need to shrug all this shit off and laugh a little. Like I said in the beginning, I could use all the smiles I can get.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Iranian leadership has jumped the shark.

Iran's mullahs had a pretty good thing going for a few decades. They rode to power on a revolution against a tyrant, and they've been riding a tide of religious fervor and nationalist sentiment ever since. Every year, they trot out a parade of Iranians to chant "Death to America", they burn some flags every now and then, and they fight a proxy war through Hezbollah against Israel and by extension, against us. It's the kind of thing that sells well at home, and serves to keep most Iranians united through fear and hatred of a common enemy.

Until now.

Iran's theocratic leadership is so accustomed to beating the drum of nationalism to rally support and unite the country against the Great White Satan, that they must not have realized that such tactics only work well when the enemy is external. They have found that in order to control their own people force, propaganda, and censorship are required. Force is something Iran's leaders know well, and are not afraid to use in thuggish abundance. Propaganda and censorship are skills they have used to greater or lesser degree since the 1979 revolution, but seldom if ever against a foe that is large, vocal, and internal. Low-tech (beating people on the streets and taking their cell phones and cameras) and high-tech methods (filtering internet access, tracking down digital dissidents, posting demonstrators' photographs for public aid in identification, etc) methods of censorship have been on display, and I have to begrudgingly give them credit for being more savvy in this area than I initially gave them credit for. What can I say. I'm naive sometimes.

Although they seem to have leveraged technology to their advantage for censorship, their propaganda skills are a little rusty. They are still insisting that the enemy is us; that western powers are fomenting the unrest that has spilled out onto the streets of Tehran. The mildest of criticism ("we deplore the violence") from outsiders has been met with shrill rhetoric from Mr. Ahmadinejad, who has been all too eager to stretch and morph mild and civil remarks from world leaders into vitriolic propaganda to support his - and the Mullahs' - insistence that the protests are due to outside interference.

Lies only work when those being lied to don't know the truth, or are willing to deny it. In other words, the lies have to be plausible. The fact that the grandiose distortions the Iranian leadership is accustomed to projecting (the Holocaust didn't happen, we don't have the problem of gays in Iran) don't sound plausible to most reasonable folks has been largely irrelevant while the foe has been external. But the religious leaders of Iran (dictatorship by committee, if you will) didn't even bother to cheat the vote in a believable fashion, and that has made all the difference in the aftermath. The Iranian people didn't buy it when the election results came in. They aren't buying the outside agitation myth. The emperors new clothes are being seen for what they are.

The people in the streets know the truth, and don't seem willing to let it go easily. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei also know the truth. Now it seems there will be a staring contest, and despite the protesters having the more vulnerable position, neither side appears willing to blink yet.

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