Did Stephen Woodford Debunk UPB?

upb-debunkedStephen Woodford of Rationality Rules claims to debunk Stefan Molyneux’s theory of universally preferable behavior in his video Universally Preferable Behaviour – Debunked (Stefan Molyneux Refuted). He does a good job disassembling Molyneux’s proofs that UPB is correct, but then claims that since the proofs are incorrect, the theory is therefore entirely incorrect. Woodford thereby commits one of his own sins: a hasty generalization.

To me, one of the most powerful arguments for UPB is the case Molyneux makes as to why murder is universally unpreferable. Put succinctly, it is that you cannot prefer to be murdered, because by definition, the victim of a murder does not want to be murdered.

Perhaps there are no universally preferable behaviours, but there do seem to be universally unpreferable behaviours. UUB doesn’t have the same ring to it as UPB, so I see why Molyneux chose to frame his philosophy as he did.

I find an irresistible parallel to human rights here. Negative rights (the right to freedom of speech, for example) are demonstrably possible: just don’t interfere with anyone’s speech. Positive rights (the right to health care, for example) are less amenable. Health care requires resources. Does your “right” to health care give you the right to compel others to provide those resources?

 

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The Guardian Smears Jordan Peterson

petersonSmear pieces are nothing new for Jordan Peterson. For example, see MacLean’s is the Stupid Man’s Stupid Magazine. Now the Guardian asks How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, the rightwing professor who ‘hit a hornets’ nest’? Ooh, he’s ‘rightwing’ and ‘dangerous’. Is there any merit to these claims?

The Canadian psychology professor and culture warrior Jordan B Peterson could not have hoped for better publicity than his recent encounter with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. The more Newman inaccurately paraphrased his beliefs and betrayed her irritation, the better Peterson came across. The whole performance, which has since been viewed more than 6m times on YouTube and was described by excitable Fox News host Tucker Carlson as “one of the great interviews of all time”, bolstered Peterson’s preferred image as the coolly rational man of science facing down the hysteria of political correctness. As he told Newman in his distinctive, constricted voice, which he has compared to that of Kermit the Frog: “I choose my words very, very carefully.”

Newman did more than paraphrase. She continually claimed he was saying things that he wasn’t, and came off looking like a liar. See my post Trolls Attack Cathy Newman – All White Men Blamed.

The confrontation has worked wonders for Peterson. His new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has become a runaway bestseller in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France, making him the public intellectual du jour. Peterson is not just another troll, narcissist or blowhard whose arguments are fatally compromised by bad faith, petulance, intellectual laziness and blatant bigotry. It is harder to argue with someone who believes what he says and knows what he is talking about – or at least conveys that impression. No wonder every scourge of political correctness, from the Spectator to InfoWars, is aflutter over the 55-year-old professor who appears to bring heavyweight intellectual armature to standard complaints about “social-justice warriors” and “snowflakes”. They think he could be the culture war’s Weapon X.

And the smearing begins. Not just implies is. So Peterson is a troll, narcissist, and blowhard, and his arguments are made in bad faith, petulance, intellectual laziness and blatant bigotry who merely conveys the impression that he knows what he’s talking about? Hope you are going to back this up.

Not everybody is persuaded that Peterson is a thinker of substance, however. Last November, fellow University of Toronto professor Ira Wells called him “the professor of piffle” – a YouTube star rather than a credible intellectual.

You can read my rebuttal of Wells’s “piffle” in  Marxist Apologist Attacks Jordan Peterson.

Tabatha Southey, a columnist for the Canadian magazine Macleans, designated him “the stupid man’s smart person”. “Peterson’s secret sauce is to provide an academic veneer to a lot of old-school rightwing cant, including the notion that most academia is corrupt and evil, and banal self-help patter,” says Southey. “He’s very much a cult thing, in every regard. I think he’s a goof, which does not mean he’s not dangerous.”

You can read my rebuttal of Southey’s stupidity in MacLean’s is the Stupid Man’s Stupid Magazine.

So, what does Peterson actually believe? He bills himself as “a classic British liberal” whose focus is the psychology of belief. Much of what he says is familiar: marginalised groups are infantilised by a culture of victimhood and offence-taking; political correctness threatens freedom of thought and speech; ideological orthodoxy undermines individual responsibility. You can read this stuff any day of the week and perhaps agree with some of it.

I agree with most of it.

However, Peterson goes further, into its most paranoid territory. His bete noire is what he calls “postmodern neo-Marxism” or “cultural Marxism”. In a nutshell: having failed to win the economic argument, Marxists decided to infiltrate the education system and undermine western values with “vicious, untenable and anti-human ideas”, such as identity politics, that will pave the road to totalitarianism.

If you read the Wikipedia article on the Frankfurt School, you will find that it too claims that cultural Marxism is a conspiracy theory. And yet, among the facts it presents:

  • The … Frankfurt School [was] founded in 1923, by Carl Grünberg, a Marxist professor of law at the University of ViennaAs such, the Frankfurt School was the first Marxist research center.
  • The Frankfurt scholars applied critical selections of Marxist philosophy to interpret, illuminate, and explain the origins and causes of reactionary socio-economics.
  • The Institute … moved … to New York City, in 1935, where the Frankfurt School joined Columbia University.
  • The School’s important work in Marxist critical theory … gained acceptance among the academy, in the U.S and in the U.K.

During the second world war, German Marxist intellectuals fled to America and brought their ideology, in the form of Marxist critical theory with them, and colonized academia. And yet we are told that cultural Marxism is a conspiracy theory? See my post How #MeToo Revealed the Marxist Roots of Feminism for more on Marxism’s influence on the social sciences.

Rather than promoting blatant bigotry, like the far right, [Peterson] claims that concepts fundamental to social-justice movements, such as the existence of patriarchy and other forms of structural oppression, are treacherous illusions, and that he can prove this with science. Hence: “The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.” Islamophobia is “a word created by fascists and used by cowards to manipulate morons”. White privilege is “a Marxist lie”. Believing that gender identity is subjective is “as bad as claiming that the world is flat”.

While his rhetoric is pointed, I agree that there is no vast patriarchal conspiracy (talk about a conspiracy theory!), that  smearing any criticism of Islamists as “Islamophobia” is manipulative, and that gender identity is not entirely subjective, at least not for the vast majority of people.

Unsurprisingly, he was an early supporter of James Damore, the engineer fired by Google for his memo Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.

And Damore was another victim of a massive smear campaign. See CBC is Schizophrenic Over Google Memo.

Peterson is old enough to remember the political correctness wars of the early 90s, when conservatives such as Allan Bloom and Roger Kimball warned that campus speech codes and demands to diversify the canon were putting the US on the slippery slope to Maoism, and mainstream journalists found the counterintuitive twist – what if progressives are the real fascists? – too juicy to resist. Their alarmist rhetoric now seems ridiculous. Those campus battles did not lead to the Gulag.

And yet we see Antifa setting fire to Berkeley and smashing counter-protesters with bike locks, and the universities doing nothing to stop them from shutting down free speech on campus. The ‘alarmist’ rhetoric doesn’t seem so ridiculous.

In many ways, Peterson is an old-fashioned conservative who mourns the decline of religious faith and the traditional family, but he uses of-the-moment tactics. His YouTube gospel resonates with young white men who feel alienated by the jargon of social-justice discourse and crave an empowering theory of the world in which they are not the designated oppressors.

Most young white men are not oppressors. Why wouldn’t they want a message that doesn’t paint them as such?

Peterson’s audience includes Christian conservatives, atheist libertarians, centrist pundits and neo-Nazis.

Who cares if neo-Nazis listen to him? Considering he denounces them at every turn, it’s hard to believe that they like him. Guilt by association is a basic smear tactic. Just stop.

His more extreme supporters have abused, harassed and doxxed (maliciously published the personal information of) several of his critics. One person who has crossed swords with Peterson politely declined my request for an interview, having experienced floods of hatemail, including physical threats. Newman received so much abuse that Peterson asked his fans to “back off”, albeit while suggesting the scale had been exaggerated. “His fans are relentless,” says Southey. “They have contacted me, repeatedly, on just about every platform possible.”

Peterson is not responsible for what others do and, as pointed out, calls for people to back off.

While Peterson does not endorse such attacks, his intellectual machismo does not exactly deter them. He calls ideas he disagrees with silly, ridiculous, absurd, insane. He describes debate as “combat” on the “battleground” of ideas and hints at physical violence, too. “If you’re talking to a man who wouldn’t fight with you under any circumstances whatsoever, then you’re talking to someone for whom you have absolutely no respect,” he told Paglia last year, adding that it is harder to deal with “crazy women” because he cannot hit them.

Peterson’s point is that men are careful about what they say to other men because they know if they go too far, they may get hit, whereas women don’t have to worry about this. He is not condoning violence, merely explaining why interactions between men are different that interactions between men and women.

His fans post videos with titles such as “Jordan Peterson DESTROY [sic] Transgender Professor” and “Those 7 Times Jordan Peterson Went Beast Mode”. In debate, as in life, Peterson believes in winners and losers.

In debate, as in life, there are winners and losers.

“How does one effectively debate a man who seems obsessed with telling his adoring followers that there is a secret cabal of postmodern neo-Marxists hellbent on destroying western civilisation and that their campus LGBTQ group is part of it?” says Southey. “There’s never going to be a point where he says: ‘You know what? You’re right, I was talking out of my ass back there.’ It’s very much about him attempting to dominate the conversation.”

One could say exactly the same thing about a woman who is obsessed with a secret patriarchy hellbent on oppressing all women.

This staunch anti-authoritarian also has a striking habit of demonising the left while downplaying dangers from the right. After the 2016 US election, Peterson described Trump as a “liberal” and a “moderate”, no more of a demagogue than Reagan.

When Reagan was president, Trump was a Democrat. If he were a Republican twenty years ago, he would have been considered a moderate. The Overton window has shifted, making him look radical today.

In as much as Trump voters are intolerant, Peterson claims, it is the left’s fault for sacrificing the working class on the altar of identity politics.

His point is that by endorsing globalism and hollowing out the rust belt, the Democrats alienated the working class, who rightly saw their jobs being given to the Chinese and to Mexico.

Because his contempt for identity politics includes what he calls “the pathology of racial pride”, he does not fully endorse the far right, but he flirts with their memes and overlaps with them on many issues.

I would expect a psychologist to understand and appreciate memetics.

“It’s true that he’s not a white nationalist,” says David Neiwert, the Pacific Northwest correspondent for the Southern Poverty Law Center and the author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. “But he’s buttressing his narrative with pseudo-facts, many of them created for the explicit purpose of promoting white nationalism, especially the whole notion of ‘cultural Marxism’. The arc of radicalisation often passes through these more ‘moderate’ ideologues.”

Cultural Marxism is not a white nationalist idea. That academia and the culture have been influenced by Marxist thought is a belief widely held by conservatives and libertarians. Constant demonization of men, Caucasians, and straight people by the media and left wing politicians supports this belief. If you want to stop ‘radicalizing’ people, stop calling them names.

“The difference is that this individual has a title and profession that lend a certain illusory credibility,” says Cara Tierney, an artist and part-time professor who protested against Peterson’s appearance at Ottawa’s National Gallery last year. “It’s very theatrical and shrewdly exploits platforms that thrive on spectacle, controversy, fear and prejudice. The threat is not so much what [Peterson’s] beliefs are, but how they detract from more critical, informed and, frankly, interesting conversations.”

This sounds like pure snobbery.

Consider the media firestorm last November over Lindsay Shepherd, a teaching assistant at Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University, who was reprimanded for showing students a clip of Peterson debating gender pronouns. Her supervising professor compared it to “neutrally playing a speech by Hitler”, before backing down and apologising publicly. The widely reported controversy sent 12 Rules for Life racing back up the Amazon charts, leading Peterson to tweet: “Apparently being compared to Hitler now constitutes publicity.”

A perfect example of left wing demagoguery, as a young woman was harassed for showing her students an opinion that differed from theirs. Of course the publicity led to interest in Peterson’s work. But why was there publicity? Because Shepherd taped the reprimand, and when the truth came out, people were rightly incensed by the behavior of Laurier’s administrators.

Yet Peterson’s commitment to unfettered free speech is questionable. Once you believe in a powerful and malign conspiracy, you start to justify extreme measures. Last July, he announced plans to launch a website that would help students and parents identify and avoid “corrupt” courses with “postmodern content”. Within five years, he hoped, this would starve “postmodern neo-Marxist cult classes” into oblivion. Peterson shelved the plan after a backlash, acknowledging that it “might add excessively to current polarisation”. Who could have predicted that blacklisting fellow professors might exacerbate polarisation? Apparently not “the most influential public intellectual in the western world”.

How is creating a web-site doing anything counter to free speech?

The key to Peterson’s appeal is also his greatest weakness. He wants to be the man who knows everything and can explain everything, without qualification or error. On Channel 4 News, he posed as an impregnable rock of hard evidence and common sense. But his arguments are riddled with conspiracy theories and crude distortions of subjects, including postmodernism, gender identity and Canadian law, that lie outside his field of expertise. Therefore, there is no need to caricature his ideas in order to challenge them. Even so, his critics will have their work cut out: Peterson’s wave is unlikely to come crashing down any time soon.

This entire article fails to challenge to any of Dr. Peterson’s ideas, and does caricature them as conspiracy theories. I believe he can be criticized, and have done so in the past (Jordan Peterson is Wrong on Forced Monogamy), but if you want to criticize, you need to do more than slander.

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The Non Aggression Principle

napThe non aggression principle (or NAP) is one of the foundational principles of libertarianism, the school of social thought that I believe to be the best starting point from which to live your own life and for all of us to build a fair and moral society. What is the NAP? According to The Non-Aggression Principle: A Cure for War:

The Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP, is the belief that individuals should be free to act as they choose with the exception that they may not initiate force, or the threat of force, against another person or their property.

The NAP differs from nonviolent pacifism in that it does not include the belief that force may not be used in defense. Only the initiation of force against another is forbidden. While the NAP can be considered a universal principle, there are many grey areas where its application is unclear.

Children

Does the NAP apply to children? I believe it should, with limitations. Obviously, children are not adults. Children are not fully responsible for their actions. I believe that a child’s parent or legal guardian is morally justified in using minimal force to prevent that child from harming his or herself. I also believe that adults have greater moral justification to use force in defense of a child against others.

What is the implication for schools and day cares? It seems reasonable that the same limited authority to use force against a child to prevent self harm could be delegated to a teacher or other care giver. Also, care givers can use necessary force to defend themselves and other children under their care from aggression by a child. Physically punishing a child for bad behavior that is not endangering anyone is a violation of the NAP.

The Mentally Ill

The mentally ill are similar to children in that they have a diminished capacity to understand the outcomes of their actions in all cases. As adults, they have the right to self ownership. Therefore, force should only be used to prevent the most severe forms of self harm. Preferably, a mentally ill person who is a danger to his or herself or others should be put in the care of a competent mental health professional.

Self Defense and Defense of Property

The use of force in defending oneself and others from aggression does not violate the NAP. Reasonable force in defending personal property against theft or willful damage is also allowed for by most libertarians. One should take reasonable steps (e.g. no trespassing signs) to prevent aggression against unintentional violations of ones property.

Unborn Children

A child in the womb is still a child and I believe the NAP should apply to it. If the child is endangering its mother, reasonable steps to ensure her safety are warranted. How should this be balanced with the mother’s right to control her own body? This is a real grey area. It’s clear to me that prior to conception, there is no child, and after birth, there is one. As with the question of when does a child become an adult, we need to choose a reasonable point in between.

Preemptive Self Defense

When is it acceptable to use force to prevent someone else from using force against you? If they are threatening to use force, you are justified in preventing them by force. Otherwise, you are entering another grey area. If you act against someone without certainty beyond a reasonable doubt that they intend to harm you, you are violating the NAP.

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Rationality Rules Argument Against Personal Experience: Debunked!

arg-from-personal-expStephen Woodford attempts to debunk all arguments from personal experience in his video The Argument from Personal Experience – Debunked (Why Personal Experiences are NOT Proof). While I agree that the personal experiences of others are not proof, disregarding them out of hand is foolish.

For the person who’s had the experience it’s remarkably compelling, but for the majority of everyone else it’s borderline insane.

If someone you trust relates and experience to you and your first reaction is to question their sanity, I question your humanity. You may doubt their interpretation or the accuracy of their memory of the event, but jumping to insanity as the explanation for an odd experience related by someone who in every other respect acts sane and rationally seems idiotic.

Arguments from Personal Experience are never presented in a syllogistic form… they’re always conversational.

The value of an experience is in what happened, not in the interpretation put on the events by the reporter. Syllogism (a reasoned argument) is not important to the experience, only to what is taken from it. If someone tells you “I saw something that looked like a metallic saucer in the sky”, they are reporting their experience. If they then claim “aliens are visiting earth”, they need to make the argument as to why the former implies the latter, but it doesn’t change their experience.

Our holistic, yoga-loving, slightly wacky aunt simply tells us that she knows that reincarnation is real because she has personally experienced visions of her previous life.

What were her experiences? Do you find her report of what she experienced credible? To what do you attribute her experiences if you do?

Our cousin, who last year was on life support, often and loudly tells us that he knows that heaven exists because he personally experienced heaven during his near-death experience.

What were his experiences? Is he credible? For example, Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, seems fairly credible. He gives a detailed description of his near death experience in Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. While you might not agree with his conclusion (that his experience proves the existence of Heaven), to dismiss his experience as mere insanity makes you just as dogmatic as your cousin.

My account of my personal experience is infallible. I have personally experienced visions of reincarnation. Therefore, reincarnation exists. Seems ridiculous right?

In the cases where people I know first hand have made claims of extraordinary personal experiences (one of a UFO, the other of being haunted), neither person claimed that their experience was infallible. In the case of the friend who was haunted, he didn’t claim certainty that ghosts existed, only that the strange terrors that his infant son was experiencing ceased when he reluctantly had his house “exorcised”. This does not seem ridiculous at all.

When we tell our aunt or cousin that we don’t accept their claim they almost always take it as a personal insult. They internally assume that we’re calling them a liar. But of course, this isn’t generally the case; rather, we’re saying that while we accept that they had their experience, we don’t accept that their interpretation of their experience is accurate.

If you imply that they are lying about their experience, you are personally insulting them. If you merely wonder if their experience really meant something other than what they thought, or might have been caused by something other than what they attribute it to, they may take this as an insult, but that is their choice.

If we take our aunt’s reincarnation claim as an example, in order for her interpretation of her personal experience to be an accurate account of reality, all of the facts, laws, theories and evidence found in biology and psychology must be contradicted. So far, all of the evidence indicates that our personality and consciousness is a product of our brain. When certain parts of a person’s brain is damaged, corresponding parts of that person’s personality and conscious are also damaged, and so, when our brain is completely and permanently damaged at death, all we can infer is that our personality and consciousness is also completely and permanently damaged at death.

Your inference is theoretical. I.e. there may be things that we have yet to discover. But the more interesting question is what were her experiences? If, for example, she claims to experience memories of the same random person every time she meditates, how would you explain that? Personally, I find the best evidence against the argument for reincarnation from experience is that so many people claim to be a reincarnation of someone famous, like Joan of Arc. If reincarnation is real, one would expect the vast majority of people would be reincarnations of very average people.

Arguments from Personal Experience … often contradict one-another, meaning that many of them are mutually exclusive. For example, our aunt knows for certain that reincarnation, as described in Buddhist tradition, is a fact, while our cousin knows for certain that heaven, as described by Christian tradition, is a fact. In this case, our aunt and cousin are making specific claims about the nature of death… they can’t both be absolutely correct, and hence, their claims are mutually exclusive.

Wrong. Their claims may not be absolutely correct, but they may both be based on the same actual phenomena. For example, shadow men and old hags are both subjective experiences that have been tied to the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Does the fact that some people experience one and some the other mean that sleep paralysis doesn’t cause those suffering from it to experience the presence of an evil entity? No.

All Arguments from Personal Experience… not only commit, but essentially are, Anecdotal Fallacies. To state it simply, an Anecdotal Fallacy occurs when a proponent uses a personal experience as evidence instead of reliable, falsifiable data.

Yet this is what all observations are: personal experiences. If they are observations of the objective, they are subject to experimentation. If they are observations of the subjective, for example, in psychology, they are less so. Yet if enough patients report an experience (such recurring elements in dreams regardless of the dreamer’s culture), it isn’t unreasonable to conjecture–as Jung did–the existence of a common cause (the collective unconscious).

All Arguments from Personal Experience commit an Appeal to Emotion Fallacy.

Hardly. As I said earlier, in neither of the two cases I’ve experienced did the reporter claim that what they had experienced proved anything. In both cases, the only thing that one might consider an emotional appeal was their air of sincerity.

Yet another flaw committed by all proponents of an Argument from Personal Experience, is the Argument from Authority Fallacy. In the case of Arguments from Personal Experience, the authoritative figure that is cited is themselves… In a very real sense, they’re saying that their opinion and experience is a more accurate account of reality than are all of the facts, laws, theories and evidence that contradict them.

When Galileo told people that he had seen moons orbiting Jupiter, and that this contradicted the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, was he making an argument from authority, or merely reporting his experience and his interpretation of it? Conflating an appeal to personal experience with an appeal to authority is dumb.

Those who aren’t absolutely certain of their claims very often appeal to ignorance by saying something along the lines of, “my personal experience can’t be explained any other way… how else did I see visions of my previous life? Reincarnation must be the answer!”

Assuming they express their conclusion as a hypothesis, this is reasonable. For example, if I state that for me, the only explanation for my experiences that I find believable is that there is higher power that is fundamentally good, you can argue with my conclusion, and may convince me that it’s incorrect, but merely ignoring it because it contradicts your current understanding of reality makes you as bad as the person who is certain that because he had a near death experience, the Christian worldview is certainly correct.

While those who use Arguments from Personal Experience generally mean well, what they’re essentially asserting is that their interpretation of their personal experience is more reliable than every shred of verifiable, objective, and tested piece of evidence that contradicts them. In a very real sense, they’re saying that they’re infallible… But alas, the fact of the matter remains. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and the assertion that someone’s interpretation of their experience can’t be mistaken just doesn’t cut it.

Anyone who thinks that their experience is infallible is a fool. For example, a friend of mine once slammed on the breaks in his car. He had thought a cat crossing the road was a baby. Just because an experience contradicts objective evidence doesn’t mean it isn’t due to a real phenomenon. Unless you come up with a better explanation, you can’t discount a claim just because it’s extraordinary. Proof of an extraordinary claim may require extraordinary evidence, but that doesn’t mean it is not the best theory. For example, the big bang is an absolutely extraordinary claim. While there is a lot of evidence that corroborates it, there is still no direct evidence of the event itself. Does that make it untrue? No.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is itself a black and white fallacy. The fallacy is that if something isn’t proven, it isn’t true. As I write this, we are seeing the “scientific” assertion that the UFO phenomenon isn’t real being challenged as evidence that the experiences of credible pilots was discounted emerges. Are UFOs evidence that we are being visited by aliens? I wouldn’t say so, though that’s one possible explanation. Is there a real phenomenon that we don’t currently understand? It seems likely, despite the fact that there is no extraordinary evidence for it (yet) .

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The Socialist Climate Agenda

co2-taxI’m going to comment on Paris Marx’s recent CBC article Canada can learn from Australia’s carbon pricing mistakes. The article’s subtitle, “Carbon taxes may be the most efficient way to reduce emissions, but they’re not politically popular”, is a bad start. Where’s the evidence that carbon taxes are even a good way to reduce emissions?

In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled his pledge to implement a national carbon price just months before he hits the campaign trail. However, the “sunny ways” he declared in 2015 have given way to disenchantment as his poll numbers have dropped and conservative parties seized on carbon taxes as their path to power.

As they should. No one wants to pay higher taxes.

Premiers Doug Ford and Jason Kenney successfully used carbon pricing to energize their bases and win a mandate to face off against the feds. Now Conservative leader Andrew Scheer hopes to replicate their success this fall, vowing to repeal the carbon tax if he becomes prime minister.

Living in a suburb of Vancouver, there’s little chance that a vote for the Conservatives will make a difference, though I suppose it could swing things toward the NDP. Then again, in the Harper years, our MP, James Moore, was a Conservative.

After framing carbon pricing as social licence for pipelines, federal Liberals appear caught off guard by the extent of the right-wing backlash, but they shouldn’t have been: Australia’s experience with carbon pricing would have shown them exactly what they’d be up against.

Seeing that we don’t want a pipeline in BC, giving us a new tax in exchange for one seems like a tough sell.

After the 2010 election, the centre-left Labor Party under Julia Gillard returned to power with the support of the Greens and three independents. Gillard introduced carbon pricing in 2011 as part of a larger plan to reduce emissions, taking effect on July 1, 2012 and starting at $23 AUD per tonne.

I see the parallel with Canada’s Liberals.

However, the right-wing opposition stoked fear over what the tax would do to the economy, as conservative parties have done in Canada. Opposition leader Tony Abbott, an open climate denier, declared the 2013 election would be a referendum on the carbon tax, and fearing defeat, Labor replaced Gillard with former leader Kevin Rudd and proposed swapping the tax for a cap-and-trade system.

Let’s examine the claim that Abbott is a “climate denier”. What is he charged with saying?

  • The ostracisation of those who did not accept climate science [is in] “the spirit of the Inquisition, the thought-police down the ages”.
  • “So-called settled science of climate change [is] absolute crap”.
  • Measures to deal with climate change [will] damage the economy [and are like] “primitive people killing goats to appease the volcano gods”.

The first point is illustrated by the author’s own use of “open climate denier” as a pejorative. We should be skeptical of many of the claims made by the media and politicians, but if one is, one will be called names. The idea that climate change can be prevented is absurd. The most we can do is slow it down. I too am skeptical that many of the measures suggested by government will be any more effective than cargo cults.

But [swapping the tax for a cap-and-trade system] wasn’t enough to stop Abbott and the right-wing coalition, made up of the Liberal and National parties, from winning the election and following through on his promise to “axe the tax” in 2014.

Cap and trade is just another way to spell tax, so I’m not surprised.

And it still wasn’t smooth sailing from there. The Liberals ditched Abbott in 2015 for the more moderate Malcolm Turnbull, who was then turfed in August 2018 after the party’s hard-right fringe refused to back his weak National Energy Guarantee, which scrapped renewable subsidies, maintained coal, and didn’t legislate an emissions-reduction target. They would prefer to abandon the Paris agreement altogether, and further support the coal industry.

Said bill mandated coal to prevent power outages that had occurred after tornadoes struck southern Australia, which was heavily invested in wind and solar power. It also sought to reduce the cost of electricity, which had been rising rapidly under the previous government.

Scott Morrison, the former treasurer who famously brought a lump of coal to Parliament in 2017, is leading the Liberals in the election, but Australians — including traditional Coalition supporters — seem fed up with their lack of action because the effects of climate change have become undeniable.

As in America and Canada, liberal city dwellers clamor for the government to intervene, but outside of the urban bubble, Australians care more about their economy and high energy prices.

The summer of 2018-2019 smashed Australia’s climate records with mean temperatures 2.14ºC above average and sustained heat in the mid- to high-40s. The Great Barrier Reef is dying, bushfire season now starts in the winter, and winter itself could be a thing of the past in Australia by 2050. Extreme weather events, including flooding and drought, are becoming more common and that has a lot of people worried.

Regarding the climate record, the linked article states that Australia’s average temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius since 1910. This is partially due to natural warming.

Labor looks set to return to power, promising a 45 per cent emissions cut by 2030 with 50 per cent renewable energy to be accomplished by investing in clean energy and updating transmission infrastructure, subsidizing electric vehicles, and setting emissions limits on industry. It won’t implement a carbon price, though that hasn’t stopped the Liberals from trying to frame their policy as one because of its negative connotations. Campaigning against a carbon price works, whether the policy is or is not, in fact, a carbon price.

Wrong. The Aussie Liberals (who are actually closer to what we’d call Conservatives) have now been reelected, once again surprising pollsters.

Canada must learn from Australia if we want to avoid losing an election cycle or two before taking real action to reduce emissions. Canadian conservatives are using the carbon price just as the Australian right did — as an economic boogeyman — and its unpopularity with a vocal minority of the population is all they need to return to power and halt necessary climate action.

The Canadian carbon tax is more than a boogeyman. Higher taxes are opposed by more than a vocal minority of the population, as can be seen by the election of Conservatives in Alberta and Ontario.

Carbon taxes may be the most efficient way to reduce emissions, but they’re not politically popular, and would have to be much higher to meet our targets. Canada’s Liberals and NDP would be wise to take heed of Australia’s experience and back proposals like the Green New Deal with major investments in energy, infrastructure, and services for a just transition with tangible benefits.

The so call “Green New Deal” is a socialist program that includes universal basic income, rebuilding virtually all buildings, eliminating air travel, and moving away from meat as a protein source. Even the free spending Canadian Liberals aren’t foolish enough to suggest such policies.

The plan emerged from the United States, but it’s quickly gone international: Spain’s centre-left Socialists were re-elected on Sunday after campaigning on a Spanish Green New Deal, and the UK Labour Party put forward its own Green New Deal to decarbonize its economy within a decade.

The fact that these “green new deals” are endorsed by socialists doesn’t help their credibility. Though, with it’s fuel shortages, socialist Venezuela has greatly reduced its emissions lately. Hyperinflation and a shrinking GDP should insure they continue to be reduced further.

In Canada, a recent poll found 66 per cent of people in favour of Green New Deal, including a majority of Albertans and right-wing voters, if it includes higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. That may just be one poll, but Canadian politicians could make a case for such an ambitious policy by outlining the social and economic benefits, like politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have done south of the border, instead of telling people they need to pay a new tax.

If the Canadian Liberals continue to stagger leftward, as the US Democrats seem to be, I’m betting that, like the Australians, we’ll be seeing a Conservative government come election time.

Canadians want climate action, but carbon pricing is a much tougher sell than simply making the necessary investments to create good-paying clean jobs, build sustainable communities, and meet our climate targets. Hopefully it won’t take another Conservative majority for the Liberals and NDP to wake up to that reality — as Australian Labor learned the hard way.

Says the guy arguing for a green new deal. And who is Paris Marx? “Paris Marx is a socialist writer and graduate student at McGill University. They are the editor of Radical Urbanist and have previously written for NBC News, Toronto Star, and Jacobin.” Why am I not surprised?

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Cheap Beer is a Conservative Plot

cheap-beerHeather Mallick is back with another sanctimonious rant, this time on how Ontario needs an intervention to prevent liberalization of alcohol sales, from her of course.

The Ontario Conservative government has an alcohol problem. It wants the alcoholic vote. Call this an intervention. The ability of everyone in Ontario to get a drink with the least effort and at the lowest cost — the cheap drunk is one easy demographic — is a crucial part of Premier Doug Ford’s strategy.

Those wanting more freely available (and therefore cheaper) alcohol are all alcoholics. Not a good start.

In theory, this is just another wing of its plan to keep so-called Ford Nation happy and that is why it named its latest scheme — it will destroy a legal contract with the Beer Store at a possible $1 billion cost — the “Bringing Choice and Fairness to the Alcoholics Act (Beverage Alcohol Retail Sales).” Yes, the Act technically refers to “People” rather than “Alcoholics” but I’m not wrong.

I beg to differ. Labeling anyone who drinks as an alcoholic is about as wrong as it gets.

What worries me is the possibility that it is not a plan but an instinct. In the Conservative world view, when you have a problem, your dream solution is to reach out your hand and have a drink placed in it.

You’re projecting.

But this is not true, not even for alcoholics, who will happily cab to purchase that brief careless rapture. Everyone has moments when they’ll take anything, anything, that eases the rub of life on the nerves. People become almost irretrievably attached to booze, legal pills, illegal pills, pot, injectables, snortables, inhaling, betting, work as a narcotic, food, shopping, streamed serial TV, coffee, sex with the person who is most wrong for them, semi-detached houses that don’t need a lot of reno in Toronto neighbourhoods with access to transit … all those things are very much wantable by someone at some point. How attractive is folly.

Not everyone has your inept level of impulse control. I don’t need a government nanny to save me from myself. Like most adults, I’m capable of controlling my impulses.

The reporting by the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau on Ford’s peculiar sense of mission has been stellar. The idea that voters are consumed with the idea that the means to buy booze should be slightly cheaper or prettier or more ample is a myth. Who drinks at 9 a.m. at a golf course? They do at the airport, and even then they wish they didn’t have to.

What the hell? Who doesn’t want cheaper alcohol?

No, it cares about beer because beer is a social marker, a shorthand. Wine is considered urban but buck-a-beer is rural/semi-urban. Men drink it. Men with beerbellies drink it. To a government mysteriously seeking a vote that it already has, drinking beer is a signal that a man is a regular guy. But Ford is not a regular guy. He doesn’t drink. He’s not anxious. He’s not renting.

How the fuck is beer sexist? Just because Ford realizes that reducing the hassle and cost of purchasing alcohol is popular, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

It is very much a problem that any government in power would believe this of the regular guy vote. Alcohol causes hospitalization, crime and early death. It destroys families and jobs, and eventually its victims drink to block out what they lost by drinking.

When alcohol is consumed responsibly, it does none of these things. In our society, alcohol is–as it should be–legal. Get off your sanctimonious high horse. The only reason you are bitching about this is that you don’t like Doug Ford.

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Acquittal not Good Enough for Feminist

japanese-sex-doll-10In her recent Toronto Star article, Heather Mallick suggests that “You be the judge in sex doll case”, but goes on to suggest that judges are befuddled and tells you what to think.

The acquittal of a Newfoundland man on a child pornography charge after he bought a sex doll from Japan reveals yet another judge befuddled by male sexual peculiarity and intent.

A feminist journalist claims that a judge is befuddled… seems legit.

When is a sex doll not childish?

This is indeed the question. If pornographic representations of children are illegal–in Canada, they are–you need to be able to distinguish between them and legal pornographic representations of adults.

Will it ultimately harm living children, as police working on sex crimes believe?

There seem to be at least as many opinions that say childlike sex dolls will reduce pedophilia. In any case, these are opinions, not facts.

The doll was indeed pornographic, the judge said, but ruled there was reasonable doubt that the unfortunate Kenneth Harrisson, 54, had actually ordered a child-sized one (sold with names like Lola and Lolita).

According to the CBC, the judge ruled that the doll was child pornography. Harrisson’s intent–or rather, the prosecutor’s failure to establish it–was the reason given for Harrison’s acquittal. The names these products are sold under is not relevant.

Harrisson, a skinny balding man with fly-away hair, testified that in 2013 he had googled “sex doll” and for $1,000 ordered the one with the most “malelike” face, if an adult male doll was named Carol, with makeup and styled pubic hair. Harrisson said he wanted a com-panion to replace his infant son who had died in 1986. Divorced, he has lived with his mother for 3o years.

So the doll was called Carol, not Lolita.

But neither the doll that was ordered nor the one that arrived resembled a baby or even the son who would have been 25 had he lived. There was no explanation of why he hadn’t simply gone to a local toy store. Any suggestion that he wanted an adult male doll as a sort of Netflix companion is either tragic, or “incredible,” as the judge said, or both.

I thought the judge was befuddled? Finding Harrison’s story “incredible” seems pretty sound.

The doll that arrived came dressed in a school uniform. She had a vaginal opening, lubricant and panties. Maybe this was a standard customer service dispute. A buyer wanted an adult sex doll and the warehouse shipped a girl.

Or maybe Harrison didn’t know what he was ordering.

As is standard, the defence questioned whether using a fake child as a masturbatory tool would harm the living. Hypothetically speaking, isn’t keeping a doll better than finding a child who is alive, though possibly not for long? I say no, not if the doll inevitably leads to worse, as is the human pattern.

This seems a reasonable question. What evidence is there that dolls “inevitably lead to worse”? None that I’ve seen.

Given that a new doll brothel nearly opened in Toronto recently, this case is turning into a latex version of the traditional male demand for access to prostitutes. I question whether men should always get what they want.

I question whether anyone should always get what they want. But, if no one is getting hurt, who are you to say that men shouldn’t be allowed to use dolls? What would you say if men tried to ban vibrators?

Child porn online uses real children, who scream as they are sexually tortured, sometimes in a livestream while a customer gives orders. It’s a crime to download because it sustains a monstrous global market. But child sex dolls are arguably a step further. A customer can do anything to a doll, from vaginal slicing to decapitation. Wouldn’t it be nicer if she screamed? He feels unsatiated.

Arguing that sex dolls are a step further than actual sexual torture of real children is insane. What evidence is there that sex dolls lead to actual violence? This seems like the same tired “video games lead to violence” rhetoric.

That’s the thing about pleasure, whether it’s delicious food, euphoria inducing drugs or a sexual practice taken too far and then further. We don’t stop. Animals don’t eat themselves to death or auto-asphyxiate. Human do that.

Perhaps you’re projecting your own lack of self control on others? Humans, not animals, possess free will and the ability to control their own actions based on morals. At least most of us do.

What does Wikipedia have to say about Mallick? An investigation by the CBC ombudsman found that “many of her most savage assertions lack a basis in fact”.  The publisher of CBC news, John Cruickshank, apologized for publishing Mallick’s column, which he called “viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan”.

Her July 28, 2011, article in the The Toronto Sun titled “What to do when a monster likes your work”, Mallick described the recipients of emails [from Breivik] as a “small but select crowd of people in Canada, the U.S. and Europe”, as “agitators who woke up last Saturday to find that the Norwegian monster Anders Breivik liked them.” A British journalist mentioned in the column, Melanie Phillips, promptly commenced legal action. The Star printed an apology, stating in part, “The column made reference to Ms. Phillips’ writings in an entirely misleading and inappropriate manner.” The paper also removed the column from their website, and settled with Phillips for full legal costs, plus a donation to a charity of her choice in lieu of damages.

The issue of sex dolls is not an easy one. Having the Toronto Star unleash their “viciously, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan” columnist on it is not helpful.

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