I’m not laughing with you…

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. The Editorial and Letters to the Editor pages at the Daily Oklahoman are just fucking pathetic. It’s just sad that the largest newspaper in my home state publishes such utter dribble. To me, they’re rarely good for anything more than a laugh. So I figured, I might check in and see what kinds of things make them laugh

Ten Commandments critics’ claims laughable

Ha ha! Those silly people who think we should have to follow the Constitution! It’s so laughable! Who needs the Constitution when we have totally non-laughable things like the Bible, which says important things like this:

2 Kings 18:27

But Rabshakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?

Serious shit, people.

We’ve raised questions about the wisdom of installing a Ten Commandments monument at the Oklahoma Capitol — not because we disagree with the commandments’ content, but because limited taxpayer dollars will likely be wasted on an unsuccessful legal defense.

You don’t disagree with the commandments’ content? Not even this one?

Exodus 20:17

King James Version (KJV)

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

So you’re totally cool with slavery and men treating their wives like property? ‘Cause the author of that verse clearly is.

The U.S. Supreme Court has sent mixed signals, upholding some Decalogue monuments but ruling against others. Monuments passing court review have been components of larger, long-standing historical displays. The Oklahoma monument is a stand-alone item, likely undermining state arguments for its constitutionality.

A perfectly sensible paragraph. If only everything you wrote were like this. But the sense and rationality bus comes to a screeching halt and explodes in a ball of fiery pettiness and bad logic from here on out.

Even so, the claims of some critics are laughable. This week, New Jersey-based American Atheists Inc. and Oklahoma residents Aimee Breeze and William Poire filed a lawsuit challenging the monument. Breeze regularly travels to the Capitol during legislative sessions. As a result, the complaint claims that she’s “confronted” by the Ten Commandments display, which she finds “hurtful and exclusive.”

Seriously? The monument is on the north side of the Capitol. The main parking lot is on the south side. The main pedestrian entrances are on the south, east and west sides. To actually see the monument, you’d have to go looking for it. If Breeze is being “confronted” by the display, she’s deliberately going out of her way to experience this allegedly “hurtful” situation.

Where the hell do you get the balls to call other people’s arguments laughable when this is the putrid shit you spew?

“We put the monument on a side of the building where there are fewer people. If there are fewer people, then there are no people, and no one ever has a reason to go to it. Therefore, I get cupcakes!”

That’s the best I can do to parse out the illogical dumbfuckery on display here. Hey, Daily Oklahoman, how the fuck to you know which side of the building she goes to while she’s there?  Were you there? Do you know her? Do you know her routine? Did you ask her? If the answer to these questions is No (and I’m sure it is), then that last sentence came directly from somewhere between Saturn and Neptune. You have abso-fucking-lutely no way of knowing what her reasons for being on the north side of the building are.

Besides, even if she did go out of her way to see it, how the fuck does that undermine her argument? Rosa Parks got on that bus deliberately looking to get kicked off when she refused to go to the back. Does that make her claim that she was discriminated against “laughable”? Whether she was deliberately looking for it or not, she was discriminated against either way. Why she was there is god damn irrelevant.

And do you seriously expect people to buy this obviously fallacious “If it’s on a side of the building where fewer people go, then the complaints must be illegitimate” crap? If ANYBODY can see it then it’s in a public place and such complaints have at least some legitimacy. A ten year old could see the fucking holes in your logic. I fucking dare you to try an argument like that in court. The judge will likely find it, well, fucking laughable.

The lawsuit also claims the monument establishes a “thought crime” against coveting your neighbor’s wife, and restricts free speech rights through prohibitions on worshipping graven images and taking the Lord’s name in vain. Nonsense! There are no actual state laws against those activities.

Those are their italics. I didn’t put them there. They really want  to emphasize that last point. So here, let me use some italics of my own to emphasize the only rational conclusion any sane person should reach from this:

The Ten Commandments have precisely fuck-all to do with American law.

They came from a society where thoughts COULD be a crime. They came from a society that practiced slavery and traded women like they were fuckable action figures. They came from a society that had no religious freedom at all, no Bill of Rights, and you were taking your life in your hands if you said anything indicating you don’t believe in the Magical Pervert in the Sky.

They. Are. Not. Our. Laws. So what the fuck are they doing at our capitol? And why the fuck are you so confused when someone points out that putting them there is offensive?

Want to “worship” a statue you made in wood shop? Knock yourself out. Want to lust after married women or men? You can do so, although we wouldn’t recommend it.

Want to go to the capitol without being told that you’re inferior and this capitol isn’t really for you? Well too bad, unless you’re Christian or Jewish.

An individual’s actions can be immoral without being illegal, just as a monument can be a bad idea without validating the overwrought claims of its thin-skinned critics.

I really wish the right wing would get that first part through their glacially thick skulls. That would end every single argument against gay marriage.

But the latter half of that sentence is just fucking dumb. The monument at the capitol isn’t just a bad idea. It’s ILLEGAL. And, more importantly, its actual purpose is very, very clear. Apparently, the editors at the Oklahoman don’t read their own letters column, or else they’d already know what the bigots who read their pathetic rag think this monument is for:

The First Amendment doesn’t mandate the Christian faith for each person; however, it does mandate the freedom to worship as one chooses — or not at all. Ten Commandments monuments on public property are a tribute that recognizes our historic, constitutional commitment to the principles and values that the Ten Commandments provide. Other faiths not based on and committed to honoring the Ten Commandments don’t truthfully represent this Christian nation and its commitment to these civilizing principles and values. Neither can their monuments.

Got that? Only Christianity–with its “civilizing” principles–can represent the USA #1 RAH RAH RAH. So we can only put up the 10 commandments. Not, say, the Five Pillars of Islam, or something from Hinduism, or a fucking awesome Satanist statue. Nope, just Christians. They get special treatment. The rest of you don’t even have civilizing principles, you heathen barbarians!

So, no, their claims are not overwrought. The obvious purpose of the monument is to promote Christianity while denying that promotion to every other religious belief, thereby demeaning everyone who isn’t Christian. It’s not laughable for someone to claim to feel hurt by that.

The monument violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by elevating one religion over others and thereby creating an establishment of religion. It also violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing Christians to put up monuments but not Satanists or Muslims or Humanists. Hell, it might even violate the  No Religious Test Clause in Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution, if you consider “Guy who puts the monument up” to be an office or trust. That last one’s quite a stretch, I admit. But it’s still better reasoning than the laughable shit the Oklahoman comes up with.

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When someone says “abortion pills”, you know they’re an idiot

That intellectual stalwart known as the Daily Oklahoman saw fit to publish the following cartoon as if it had an actual point to make.

It's sad but true: Fifteen year old girls are often smarter than their parents.

It’s sad but true: Fifteen year old girls are often smarter than their parents.

Where to begin with this bullshit? Well, let’s start with the most idiotic aspect and work back from there.

An R-rated movie about fucking “abortion pills”? That sounds like it’ll sell a lot of fucking movie tickets. Maybe Optimus Prime will transform into an abortion pill in the next Transformers movie. I mean, why the fuck not? It’s not like that would do any more damage to the franchise than Michael Bay has done already.

How many fucking movies about “abortion pills” are there, anyways? And why the fuck do the right wingers suddenly think there are a bunch of abortion pill movies out there? Do they even watch movies? The whole concept of this cartoon hinges on the idea that there’s something hypocritical about letting children have this thing vs. letting them watch a movie about this thing. But there are hardly any god damn movies about the thing in question, so it’s a stupid fucking comparison. Having “abortion pills” vs. watching movies about “abortion pills” is not a real issue in the real world.

Here’s a more apt comparison. Sometimes, idiotic and irresponsible parents buy guns for their five year old children, who then go on to kill their siblings. There’s a fuck ton of R-Rated movies about guns, and apparently god-humping right wing dingleberries are comfortable with giving kids as young as 5 a gun, but would never let these heavily armed children watch an R-rated movie.* Where’s the fucking Daily Oklahoman cartoon about that? That’s a real life example of “You can have it, but you can’t watch a movie about it,” and it’s a hell of a lot younger than 15, too.

Setting that stupidity aside, there’s no such thing as an “abortion pill”. The term was invented by woman-hating busybodies on the right for a pill that a woman can take shortly after sex to prevent pregnancy. All it does is prevent a zygote–which, I remind you, is a SINGLE CELL–from implanting in the uterus, so a pregnancy doesn’t occur. In the god-humper’s mind, this single cell is more important than the well-being of the actual living, breathing human woman who carries it. Think about that. They think parents should be able to force her to have a child at only 15–which will negatively affect the remainder of her life–rather than let her take a pill that prevents a single cell from implanting in her body. That’s how fucking sick these people are. Single cells are more important than the lives of 15 year old girls.

Setting that stupidity aside, a 15 year old girl DOESN’T need her parents’ permission to see an R-rated movie. She just needs to be accompanied by someone over 17, who doesn’t have to be a parent. That’s it. And even that rule is only loosely enforced by the theaters. Anyone who thinks that the MPAA’s system actually makes it so that parents get to determine what R-rated movies their teenagers see is a fucking naive twat. And why the fuck would you want to be so controlling of your teenager’s life, anyways? Let them see some fucking movies. Yes, your 15 year old daughter is watching R-rated movies without your permission. Deal with it, you puerile prude.

Setting that stupidity aside, the government has no say whatsoever in how old you have to be to see a movie. There’s this thing called the First Amendment you might want to look into. The government can regulate how old you need to be to take a drug, but not watch a movie. They’re two completely unrelated issues.

Setting that stupidity aside… “Abortemall”? Seriously? You think the people who make the morning after pill just want to abort all the pregnancies there are? Then why aren’t they grabbing women who have recently had sex and forcing the pills down their throats?  The pill is entirely voluntary. But that’s what you guys really hate about it, isn’t it? Women (and teenage girls) can go and buy these pills of their own free will, thereby making their own decisions about whether they get pregnant or not. In the theocrats’ minds, women and girls making their own choices about their bodies is the same as aborting all pregnancies.

Setting that stupidity aside… Oh, god damn it, I’m tired of this. This cartoon is an onion of stupidity–each layer of imbecility pulls back to reach yet another stinky, tear-inducing layer of retarded bullshit. I’m done.

I could go on. There’s the whole thing about portraying a 15 year old wearing a 9 year old’s pig tail hair style, or the egregious skull and crossbones on the box, or the box office that looks like it’s from 1946, or the fact that the cartoonist felt the need to put “abortion pills” in red ink just in case he was being too subtle… But if I went through everything about this cartoon that’s ball-crunchingly stupid, I’d be at it all day. Suffice it to say that the Daily Oklahoman ain’t doing itself any favors by publishing the work of this ignorant, untalented hack (whoever he is). But then, when has the Daily Oklahoman ever done anybody any favors?**

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*It should be noted that I have no objection to portraying guns in movies, and honestly don’t care if a 15 year old watches a violent R-rated movie or not. But I have to wonder why any moron who agrees with this cartoon thinks it’s okay to put a gun in a kid’s hand if you won’t let them watch a movie about guns.

** The answer is, “When they’re wealthy and need their questionable business practices promoted without any skepticism whatsoever.”

Someone sure needs a brain reinvention…

CNN has seen fit to publish a fluff piece by Deepak Chopra entitled “Reinventing the brain is closer than you think.” As is typical of Chopra’s brand of woo, it is light on facts, makes no new or insightful observations, and is padded out with feel-good woo-woo crap that is either too vague or too obviously nonsensical to be of any use to anyone.

He starts out reasonably enough:

We’re living in a golden age for brain research, which could revolutionize how we think, feel and behave.

Thanks to brain scans like the fMRI, brain activity can be localized and even the most precise activity pinpointed. For example, researchers can spot the minuscule area in the visual cortex that, when damaged, prevents a person from recognizing faces, including his own. The slant in neuroscience has been to map the brain down to the tiniest detail.

Well, yes, neuroscience is advancing at an incredible rate, but let’s not exaggerate what we have. There is still a lot of work to be done, and we can’t yet pinpoint “the most precise activity”, if I took that phrase to mean what it would mean if spoken by anyone using plain English.

But what will we use the map for? One obvious area is medicine. The more we know about what goes wrong in Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, the closer we get to a cure. But the highest goal would be to reinvent how we use our brains.

Uh, actually I’d vote for saving lives if it were up to me. I don’t even know what reinventing the brain is, but I damn well know what Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are, and I want to see them cured.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the answer is no. At no point for the rest of the article does Chopra give anything like a clear explanation of what he means by “reinventing our brains”.

“Reinvent” isn’t an exaggeration. Ten thousand years ago, Homo sapiens had evolved the same genetic array that modern people inherit. But in those 10,000 years arose reading, writing, advanced art and music, government, mathematics and science. Their foundation was a new relationship between mind and body.

What do you mean by “same genetic array”? Are you saying our genome hasn’t changed in 10,000 years? That’s demonstrably untrue. And what the hell does that last sentence mean?

If genes and a fixed structure of brain cells told the whole story, it would remain a total mystery why a cave dweller after the last Ice Age should have just the right complement of neurons to discover gravity or write a symphony. Now we realize that the human brain is far from fixed, at any level.

No, it wouldn’t be a mystery, because that’s a stupid thing to say. Who in the hell would think there must be “just the right complement of neurons to discover gravity”? That’s like wondering at the “mystery” of how my computer could have “just the right complement of computer chips” to read this particular page. Or why my eyes would have “just the right compliment of optic nerves” to see the glass of wine next to me.

Any such array would be nearly useless in any context, and natural selection would likely eliminate it (unless it were genetically linked to something that is useful). There doesn’t have to be a special compliment of neurons for computing the theory of gravity. A general capacity for math and logic is what you need. In fact, especially for a behaviorally generalized species like ours, the more generalized and multiply applicable the mental function, the better.

New brain cells are being formed throughout life; trillions of connections between neurons are developed; and the genetic activity inside each neuron is dynamic, responding to every experience and every stimulus from the outside world.

Wha…what? What genetic activity? You mean like transcription and protein synthesis? Those processes most certainly do NOT “respond to every experience”.  New synaptic connections do occur frequently, but that’s not because of a change in the genes. You seem to have confused genetics with the electrical relays in the nerves. They are not the same thing, and thinking doesn’t change your genes.

Human beings reinvent the brain as we go along, day by day. It’s not a matter of eons. In short, the brain is a verb, not a noun. It is reshaped by thoughts, memories, desire and experience.

The first two sentences are mostly true. Neural plasticity is real, although calling it “reinventing” the brain is unnecessarily hyperbolic, in my semi-expert opinion (phd minor in cognitive science). The third sentence, however, is nonsense. And the fourth makes no sense in light of the third.

The word “brain” is a noun. It’s referent, the actual physical gray matter between your ears, is not a noun or a verb or any part of speech, because it’s not a word. I realize Chopra is trying to be poetic and I’m being very literal, but I reserve the right to do so when the attempt at poetry is embedded in a sea of nonsense and half truths. And also, since being “reshaped by thought” is not what makes a thing a verb any way, I hold that his attempt a poetry fails utterly. I have the right to be as overly literal as I want.

Because it is dynamic, fluid and ever-renewing, the brain is much more malleable than anyone ever imagined.

Actually, a lot of people imagined it, seeing as Chopra surely isn’t doing any of this neuroscientific research himself. He’s just grabbing ideas from other people’s heads, dumbing them down to the level of the average woo-woo customer, then calling them his own.

And yes, the brain is plastic, adaptable and dynamic in SOME ways, but it is certainly not “ever-renewing”. It can be pushed to the point that it stops renewing. It’s called Being a Conservative Christian.

Consider a controversial British medical journal article from 1980 entitled “Is the brain really necessary?” It was based on the work of British neurologist John Lorber, who had been working with victims of a brain disorder known as hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”), in which excessive fluid builds up. The pressure that results squeezes the life out of brain cells. Hydrocephalus leads to retardation as well as other severe damage and even death.

Lorber had previously written about two infants born with no cerebral cortex. Yet despite this rare and fatal defect, they seemed to be developing normally, with no external signs of damage. One child survived for three months, the other for a year.

After reading that last paragraph, I had to sit and stare at my screen for a while and let my brain process a confusing and amusing realization: Chopra does not consider infant death to be an “external sign of damage”.

If this were not remarkable enough, a colleague at Sheffield University sent Lorber a young man who had an enlarged head. He had graduated from college with a first-class honors degree in mathematics and had an IQ of 126. There were no symptoms of hydrocephalus; the young man was leading a normal life.

Yet a CAT scan revealed, in Lorber’s words, that he had “virtually no brain.” The skull was lined with a thin layer of brain cells about a millimeter thick (less than 1/10 of an inch), while the rest of the space in the skull was filled with cerebral fluid.

I’ve read about this guy before, and Lorber was exaggerating. The guy did indeed have a brain, it was just greatly compressed by the fluid. This is not evidence that the brain isn’t necessary. Is it amazing? Oh, yes, but don’t read too much into it. Not that Chopra would heed such a warning. Reading too much into other people’s work is what keeps him in business.

Once medical science accepts that the brain can be reinvented, there is no limit.

No. There are always limits. And you still haven’t clearly defined what “reinventing the brain” even means. If you’re talking about neural plasticity, it’s not a reinvention. It’s adaptation and change in response to external stimuli.

Together with Dr. Rudolph E. Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and a leading researcher on Alzheimer’s, my efforts have been directed at how each person can relate to the brain in a new way.

As we argue in our book “Super Brain,” the most direct way to improve brain function is through the mind.

I knew it! I knew it! This isn’t a genuine op-ed. It’s a fluff piece letting Chopra hock his own book. Damn you, CNN! Damn you and your paper thin credibility held in place solely by the fact that Fox News is even worse!

By the way, that last phrase is about as informative as saying, “The most direct way to improve muscle function is through strength.” Chopra may not believe it, but the mind is just something the brain does.

The mind-body connection is powerful because our habits lead to brain changes. What you pay attention to, what your passion is, your approach to diet, exercise, stress and even basic emotions like anger and fear — all of these things register in your brain and drastically shape its structure.

Okay, again. Yes, these things do alter brain structure. But calling it “drastic” is irresponsible hyperbole. In fact, it would be more accurate is that each of these things slightly alters the brain, and over time the alterations build up, making your brain plastic and adaptable to your environment.

In the simplest terms, every experience is either positive or negative when seen as input for the brain. A brain that is processing positive input will grow and evolve much differently from a brain that processes negative input.

This is just complete and utter woo woo claptrap. Every experience is either “positive” or “negative”? Bullshit. The vast majority of experience, from either an emotional or moral standpoint (Chopra is unclear as to which he has in mind as “positive” or “negative”), is completely neutral. As I type this, I’m taking in a wide array of sensory experience about the colors and shapes of objects around me, the temperature of the room, the feel of the keys on my fingers, the sound of my heater coming on, etc etc etc. None of these has any particularly positive or negative effect on me (regardless of whatever meaning Chopra failed to give to those words but may have intended).

Rather than appealing to anything factual from neuroscience or rational from the philosophy of mind, Chopra here is just spoonfeeding his audience the over-simplified, puerile mush that unfortunately so many humans crave. There are good feelings, and there are bad feelings, and you can be better by feeling better. That is ALL he is saying. He’s cloaking it in the language of neuroscience to make his audience and himself feel smarter, but what he’s saying boils down to advice so grossly obvious and easily appealing that even a four year old could grasp it.

This has always seemed intuitively right; we all know that children who are well-loved, for example, almost always turn out better than children who are abused. Now, we have validation from neuroscience.

No, we don’t. At least, we don’t from anything you have presented.

The most important conclusion is that no one needs to submit to old conditioning. The past can be changed by changing the brain, just as the future can be shaped by how your brain is trained today. Reinventing the brain is much closer than you think.

No. No no no no no. You can’t just make problems poof into the aether by positive-thinking them away. The changes in the brain can’t be undone that easily. If you want to talk about things that are “intuitively right”, ever heard the saying, “Old habits die hard”? Well, there’s some truth to it. You can’t just erase the past with vapid platitudes about happy thoughts. For instance, you can’t change the fact that you’ve spent the last several years as a dishonest crackpot bilking people out of their money by talking out your ass about shit you haven’t even attempted to understand.

And, of course, none of this has anything to do with “reinventing the brain”. He’s just taken old codswallop and wrapped in a fancy new pseudoscientific garb. The closest thing we can gather from his article is that reinventing your brain means using positive thinking to feel better. And remember earlier, when he said reinventing the brain was more important than curing Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s? Yeah, not so much. Really, really, really not so much. But this is exactly the kind of spoiled, self-absorbed thinking that appeals to millions of under-stimulated American yuppies suffering with a bad case of White People’s Problems Syndrome. And Chopra loves making money off the problem rather than trying to correct it.

Grrrr, fuck this guy. And fuck CNN for promoting him. Bad! Bad 24 hour news network! Y’know, did you ever think that maybe there just isn’t enough news for 24 hours of programming, and perhaps you should try to focus on other things? And that if you didn’t feel the need to fill up 24 ours with whatever crap you can find, you wouldn’t be giving the time of day to babbling crackpots like Chopra?