Tuesday, August 16, 2016

No More Political Posts on Facebook?

According to a study cited in Quartz, "only" 8% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans reportedly answered yes to the question of whether they've ever been swayed by a political post on Facebook. However, "only" is a subjective word. The chance of you being struck by lightning even during a thunderstorm is exceedingly low (say, .5%), yet most would regard the odds as high enough to warrant staying inside. Yes, those who changed their minds are in the minority; but, by my estimates, this amounts to over 200,000 people. If I were to write that "hundreds of thousands" of Democrats and Republicans have changed their minds following a political post, many readers would draw a very different conclusion.

Also, these results are only meaningful if people have worse luck on Facebook than they do elsewhere when it comes to changing people's minds (yet no distinction was drawn between FB or other venues). I find that most people are reluctant to reconsider their deeply held values, regardless of the venue

So, in the words of Madonna, "Express yourself, don't repress yourself."  Obviously, it's important to do so charitably, and without idolizing politics.  But if your friends don't like what you write on your own wall, the solution is to simply unfollow or unfriend you.

On the Recent NYT Article on Assange

The NYT put out what I believe is a very misleading article. The title gives the impression that the information leaked by Assange is false; indeed, the author dares to use the word "accuracy" (in the last paragraph) without once addressing this specific issue. Instead the focus is on his alleged biases, narcissism, recklessness, and greed - none of which have any bearing on the accuracy of the leaks.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spiritual Notes to Self: Morning Amir Is Not to Be Trusted

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matt 26:41).

Upon rising, acquire the habit of distrusting your morning self, who will often fool your subconscious into believing that you will live forever.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pornography Has No Place in a Civilized Society

There is an abundance of scholarly work reporting on the various harmful correlates of pornography, which include (but are not limited to):

Although this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, I believe that these provide sufficient grounds on which to advocate for restrictions on the production and consumption of pornographic material. With respect to the scourge of child pornography in particular, I believe in a scientifically-informed, comprehensive approach (combining treatment of offenders with their incarceration) to combating it.  

Other Highly Recommended Readings

  • "Is Porn Immoral? That Doesn’t matter: It’s a Public Health Crisis" (Washington Post) - by Gail Dines, a professor of sociology
  • "The Case for Banning Pornography" (Washington Post) - by Matthew Schmitz, literary editor of First Things

Friday, July 15, 2016

On the "Lesser of Two Evils" Argument

Today's reflection was inspired by a recent story in the Chicago Tribune that reads "Americans are scared of their presidential options, both Clinton and Trump."  My daily experience confirms this.  No more than two of my Facebook friends could pass as supporters of one or the other candidate.

When someone reminds me that Hillary Clinton is at least a better alternative to Donald Trump (let's just accept this questionable assumption for the sake of argument), the difference for me is almost as meaningless as that between binge drinking and cigarette smoking, both of which can kill you, even if one works its lethal effects more quickly than the other. 

Although I may be exaggerating the impact that a president can have on a country in which powers are constitutionally separated, the "lesser of two evils" argument has never appeared so weak.