Despite those with maybe some rare psychological condition (libertophobia?), we all want to be free. Specifically; I don’t think a single person has something they want to do, that they then want government to prevent them from doing it. So denying others similar freedoms should reasonably be thought of as hypocritical.
While everyone can apply their own nuance to what liberty or freedom means to them, I’d like to politely take the role of arbiter for a moment, and share where I think many go wrong when proposing roles of government. Here are a few instances I’ve come up with. Feel free to add more in the comments below.
You have the right to say whatever you want. You don’t have a right to be heard or to be uninterrupted.
Because I have a decent number of people I enjoy interacting with on social media, I am rather uninterested in disrespectful discourse, since there’s so much respectful discourse I could be having instead.
As a result, many often insinuate when I mute or block those people on Twitter, I’m stifling free speech. Which is a pretty outlandish false premise.
On social media, you might get blocked. In person, people might walk away from you. But, if you want to be heard, and people are exercising the right to take their leave of your message, maybe you need to work on your delivery of said message, or the message itself. But you don’t get to compel them to listen. Nor should you argue that them blocking you is anti-free speech.
Your right to free speech means you can’t be impeded by government for exercising your right to speak. It doesn’t mean that protesters can’t protest Milo Yiannopoulos, employers can’t fire you for saying something inappropriate, or people on social media can’t block you.
You have a right to seek employment, but not a right to be employed.
If you go to seek a job, assuming it’s a private business versus a government job, the business OWNER owns that business, no different from you owning your home stereo for instance.
If no one has a right to dictate to you what music you play on that stereo, you don’t have a right to dictate who they hire, serve, what they pay you, or anything else.
The job market and the consumer markets are intended to be free markets. Either both parties agree to terms on what is to transpire, or one/both of them walk away. But forcing one party to comply with the other’s wishes is a mafia tactic, not something the people should be sanctioning.
Does that mean a bigoted jerk could put a sign out front denying service to gays, blacks, whites, women, Latinos, Asians, et al.? Yes, it does.
Does a private citizen who is offended by that practice have a right to share it on social media, maybe get local news involved, protest this business, etc., until the market decides that this bigoted jerk doesn’t deserve their money, then watches his business fail due to lack of revenue?
Why yes…yes it also does!
You have a right to engage in free speech, you don’t have a right to put someone in harm’s way utilizing speech.
Using the “Fire in a crowded theater” analogy, you can say the word “Fire” in a theater, you can even yell it if the theater were empty, or if the people know you were joking. If there’s actually a fire in the theater, you’ve not only broken no law, you’re potentially a hero.
But if there’s no fire, you have instead put people in danger by creating a stampede that may lead to people falling, getting walked on, and harmed. So it’s not the “Speech” that is being prosecuted, it’s the act of putting others in danger.
Think of it this way. The 2nd amendment guarantees your right to own and fire a gun, but it doesn’t allow you to shoot someone who is no threat to you.
In the same vein, the first amendment guarantees your right to free speech, you can’t use that speech to harm someone either.
You have a right to ask someone for help. You do not have the right to dictate they help you.
If your car breaks down, you don’t have a right to demand a mechanic fix it so you can get to work.
So that should also mean you don’t have a right to demand a teacher educate you because you need a better job, or demand a doctor help you because you’re sick.
Doctors and teachers have the same rights as everyone else. As such, consumers have no right to free services or goods.
Free Education and Free Health Care are nothing more than servitude (if you force them to provide a service) and/or theft (if you force the people to pay for their services). If it’s volunteers and private donations, that’s the only way it is a completely moral exercise.
You have a right to equal protection and service from government, not from the private sector.
If you’re LGBTQ, you have a right to dictate that the government acknowledge your marriage, and under our current system, to have a judge (a government employee), perform the ceremony. You’ve paid taxes into that system, and the government cannot discriminate. If the government employee doesn’t like it, they should have joined the private sector.
But you do not have a right to ask a private pastor to do the ceremony, nor do you have a right to dictate a baker bake you a cake. Why? Because they have the same rights you do.
People often think those who champion freedom are being selfish, and it is certainly true for some. But the people who are truly libertarian in their beliefs are also not hypocrites. They believe others should have the same rights and don’t have to agree with someone to support the rights of another.
A teetotaler can support the rights of alcohol drinkers
A monogamist can support the rights of a sex worker
An atheist can support the rights of churches, synagogues, etc.
A non-gun owner can support the 2nd amendment
A heterosexual can support gay marriage
Someone does not like abortion can support a woman’s right to choose
A clean person can support another’s right to use recreational drugs
A helmet-wearing motorcycle rider can support another person’s right to not wear a helmet
I can go on forever about what it means to do liberty right. Hypocrisy is never considered a good trait to have. So hopefully, after reading this, you can find an area where you’ve had the opinion that government should restrict someone’s rights and are now second guessing that thought. Liberty for me, must come with liberty for thee.
Right behind used car salesman and politicians, some of the most commonly distrusted people in our lexicon are large pharmaceutical companies—if people use the term “big pharma,” you can often assume that their thoughts are less than flattering.
One look at that civil litigation list provided, and you start to see a common theme. Almost all of them are for an “Off-Label” promotion violation of the False Claims Act, originally enacted in 1863. Off-Label promotion is when a drug company promotes a particular drug for treatment of something that isn’t supported by clinical data and thus isn’t approved by the FDA based on that data.
In evaluating minoxidil effectiveness in stimulating hair regrowth, the investigators found the 5% solution very effective in 15.9% of patients, effective in 47.8%, moderately effective in 20.6% and ineffective in 15.7%.
But it was not tested on a receding hair line near the forehead (bitemporal recession), so despite the fact that logic would seem to dictate it would be effective there also, it can only be marketed to restore hair at the scalp until studies confirm its efficacy for bitemporal recession as well.
This kind of false advertising is certainly inexcusable, and I don’t want to claim otherwise—the purpose of this article isn’t to argue that pharmaceutical companies are faultless and incorruptible. But instead, to promote skepticism as to whether they are to be trusted to a lesser degree than supplement companies.
Because of the life-and-death situations or general health implications involved when taking pharmaceuticals, that industry is far more heavily regulated than most—and arguably for good reason.
But such heavy-handed regulation has other implications. The more regulations an industry has, the greater the risk they’ll be prosecuted for violations, as their compliance is that much more complicated to achieve.
Said violation may be an intentional misrepresentation, an innocent mistake, or a subjective situation where they feel their claims are fair and accurate, but the courts ultimately disagree.
However, any industry has a list of civil litigation, so the argument that pharmaceutical companies are unique in this where supplement companies aren’t, or any other industry in general isn’t, is patently false logic.
But it’s imperative to understand that pharmaceutical companies largely make testable and proven claims, where supplement companies almost never do. I don’t think one can fairly argue the people making testable and proven claims most of the time, are somehow less honest than the people who purposefully don’t, because they know they’ll get sued for false advertising if they do.
There’s this notion that big pharma rakes in huge profits, while supplement companies are promoting all-natural products that work just as well at treating illness, and are being suppressed by the pharmaceuticals industry because they’re so cheap, so big pharma can keep you sick to maintain those huge incomes.
The problem with this argument is that it’s a patently false premise because the supplement industry is incredibly profitable too. As this PBS article from 2016 points out, they’re a $30-billion industry. By comparison, this US Trade Commission report shows that total pharmaceutical sales weigh in at a stout $333 billion.
Big supplement is 1/10th the size of big pharma, but they’re nothing to sneeze at, and at the end of the day, the profit-based-motive argument that decries big pharma is equally true for big-supplement. So one cannot fairly use that to attack big pharma against big supplement. But there’s more meat on this bone than you might think.
Why the Price Discrepancy?
As was noted earlier, the regulations around pharmaceuticals are based on the FDA requiring clinical trial data to support their claims. This is a good thing. But here’s a basic overview of how clinical trials work.
As you should easily understand from all of this, at a minimum, 2 years to 6 years of time and money will be spent by the pharmaceutical company, before they’ll ever see a dime of return-on-investment, nevertheless a profit.
But let’s do a little math here. Based on the FDA’s account of how many of those move all the way through the clinical trials process, 70 out of 100 move to phase 2 (70%), 23 out of 70 move on to phase two (33%), and 5-7 out of those remaining 23 move on to phase 4 (25% – 30%). Which means 93-95 out of 100 will not see the light of day, and will be money big pharma will have to write off as a loss. That doesn’t even include the ones that don’t make it through the other four steps that aren’t clinical trials.
So generally speaking, if one drug costs $5-$7 to manufacture, that means a drug company would have to charge, on average, $100 for that drug, just to break even.
When looking at the above, you can understand that since the supplement industry isn’t beholden to all of this, it makes sense that the average pharmaceutical would potentially be twenty times more expensive than the average supplement ($5 compared to $100). Not to mention, they don’t have to invest in all that pesky testing to verify their product does what they say it does either.
How does that compute? Think of it this way. If you’re going to argue some chemical does something to your physiology or health (everything is a chemical, even all-natural supplements, so I’m not talking solely about man-made products), then you simply have to prove it.
If you’re able to prove it, and you want to make that claim, then your product is a pharmaceutical. You will market it as such, because there’s credibility associated with your product if you do so. Not all pharmaceuticals require a prescription after all, things like ibuprofen, NSAIDs (aspirin), and other OTC medications are still pharmaceuticals that make specific, testable, and proven claims. So there’s no harm in marketing your product as such.
However, if you can’t prove it, but you want to sell something anyway, you have to make vague claims that can’t be challenged in court because they can’t be falsified.
For instance, you might say something “promotes heart health.” If something has any dietary value whatsoever, it can fairly be argued it promotes heart health, because nutrients keep you alive. Your basic apple, a juicy steak, or a big fat cheeseburger could make a similar claim, even though the latter two actually can harm heart function too. However, if you want to say it reduces the risk of heart attacks, now you have a very specific claim that must be backed up with data.
The basic gist of the argument is that if your product works, it’ll be a pharmaceutical, and if it doesn’t really do anything, it can still be marketed as a supplement. However, this is not to say that supplements can’t help. If your doctor notes a particular vitamin deficiency, then taking that vitamin supplement is surely an advantageous course of action. But as this Scientific American article points out:
The new studies, published today (Dec. 16) in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine —including two new clinical trials and one large review of 27 past clinical trials conducted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — found no evidence that taking daily multivitamin and mineral supplements prevents or slows down the progress of cognitive decline or chronic diseases such as heart diseases or cancer.
So when comparing the two on the trustability scale, consider this:
With pharmaceuticals, you’re trusting a group who has to support their claims with clinical data under threat of civil action, and therefore spends the millions of dollars to prove their claims.
With supplements, you’re trusting a company who avoids such litigation by making ambiguous claims because they either didn’t want to make the effort to do such studies. Or worse yet, such studies were conducted, and no efficacy was shown for the claim they hoped to make, so they sell it under the guise of an ambiguous and often untestable claim instead.
The Overlooked Downfall of Supplements
With supplements, the reason they’re often unregulated and avoid the skeptical eye of the FDA, is often because the FDA deemed them innocuous, and therefore didn’t need regulated. Think about that for a minute. The FDA basically argued that when taken at their recommended dosages, these supplements do very little, if anything, so there was no need to regulate them.
So how then does one come to a conclusion that such things are better at treating a condition than something which was actually proven to do something, and specifically the something you needed it to do?
But it does get worse. Because there’s a saying in biology that states, “Everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.” In small amounts, most of these supplement compounds are harmless. But as this CBS News video points out, because many people take these supplements on the belief that they can’t harm you, the fact is, some can do harm if taken in excess.
Many people fail to realize that you get almost all the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet, assuming you eat reasonably healthy. So taking a vitamin pill when you don’t have a deficiency of that vitamin, is effectively an overdose. Most of the time, you’re body just sends it out your exhaust pipe, but they can in fact be harmful.
One of the final arguments I like to address, is the “all-natural” argument. (If you want an explanation of the Naturalistic Fallacy, click the title above.)
Cancer, arsenic, snake venom, and a litany of other things that kill you are also all natural. Many drugs stem from extracting the thing that helps you from a plant for instance, without making you consume other parts of that plant that either don’t help you, or might harm you.
To give you a fictional example, imagine you had a panacea tree. You notice that when eating the panacea tree leaf, that you feel slightly better when you have a stomach ache. So you start eating a lot more panacea tree leaves next time you get an upset stomach, but then you get dizzy because the panacea tree also has a psychotropic substance in it.
So pharmaceutical companies will extract the compound that helps with the indigestion, produce a pull that contains just that, so the next time you have indigestion, you don’t have to eat panacea leaves. You can just take their drug, and not have to deal with the psychotropic side effects from eating the leaves.
That’s clearly an incredibly simplified generic example, but you at least hopefully understand the principle of what pharmaceutical companies might do, and why they should get the presumption of benefit, compared to just eating some random plant that may help somewhat, but harm in other ways.
Expanding on our fictional example, there’s another scenario to note as well. Some of these compounds from a natural source, are so low in that natural source, like 1 PPM (parts per million). But in order for that compound to cure your condition, you’d need a dosage that’s more like 100,000 PPM (or 10%), so you either take a pill that was made with 100,000 molecules of just that compound, or you eat 100,000 of the panacea leaves and blow up your stomach because you ate too much.
Purposefully Keeping You Sick
People argue big pharma only wants to keep you beholden to big pharma by stringing you out on a never-ending supply of drugs. But there’s a few things to note on this point.
If you have an infection, you might take an antibiotic for a week, then you’re done. If you have cancer, you might be treated by something like chemotherapy, be cured, and then you’re done. I’m sure almost every one of you reading this, at one point in your life, had a condition which required you to take a drug for a short period of time, the drug cured your condition, and now you no longer take that drug.
These are all instances where big pharma cured you and did not string you out. But most supplements expect you to take them for the rest of your life, because you’ll be healthier. So who’s stringing you out again?
Many conditions people might have may require surgery. Surgery can be very dangerous and expensive. But there might be a drug that can manage your discomfort much more cheaply and less dangerously. If the condition isn’t life threatening, people will often choose not to have surgery, and just take the drug to manage the pain instead. Things like back surgery for lower back pain and such, come to mind. That’s not big pharma stringing you out, that’s you and your doctor choosing not to take a big risk.
Something May Be Better Than Nothing
Many conditions are degenerative in nature. If you lop a finger off, it won’t grow back. This is true for your bones for instance, as well. So with degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or osteoarthritis, you cannot cure what is no longer there, at least, not yet.
So sometimes pain medications are the only alternative to osteoarthritis relief. Again, that’s not big pharma stringing you out, that’s your own body falling apart and you managing the pain with pharmaceuticals.
I say “not yet,” because regenerative medicine (the ability to regrow things on someone that aren’t regrowing naturally) is one of the biggest areas of new discovery these days.
It should also be noted that because researchers are working on regenerative cures, they’re also working to heal you in a short time, then stop treatment once you’re well. If we go back to the “stringing you out” argument, if that was their goal, they’d be pushing painkillers, not spending millions to find cures.
Both Big Pharma and Big Supplement are hugely profitable. Arguing one is better than the other based on profits is false.
Big Pharma is heavily regulated and backed by science. Big supplement is just a company trying to sell you something that is largely unregulated.
Most people who make pharmaceuticals studied years of biology to do what they do so they could make things that save lives. People who make supplements often don’t have such training, and are largely operating on guesswork, anecdotal evidence, false assumptions, and sometimes, outright lies and speculation which can genuinely be likened to magic and the supernatural in their outrageousness.
You should always be skeptical in life, and I would never promote not questioning big pharma, but if I’m dying and have to trust one of them, I’m going to trust the one with proven results, and I’m willing to pay them in a manner that makes them profitable to do it.
By now, unless you live under a rock, you’ve no doubt seen the backlash of these tweets from Donald Trump.
But how did we get here?
Most know it started with former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who decided during the 2016 NFL preseason to kneel for the following reasons, as cited here on the NFL website.
I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.
If you are reasonably familiar with the situation, and on social media, you’ve no doubt noticed most people have an opinion on one side or the other, and it’s nearly as heated and divided as religion and politics infamously are.
Since most opinions I’ve read are pretty passionate instead of objective, I felt it was worth exploring the subject from a skeptic’s point of view. As an issue, between Trump’s position and Kaepernick’s, it’s pretty complicated with a lot of facets worth considering individually.
If we start from the beginning, Kaepernick opted to do this in the wake of a number of police involved shootings of young “black” men, some of which, were unarmed. It appeared to be excessive force by many, and potentially even manslaughter or murder. Yet no charges against said officers were filed in the immediate aftermath. (I’m not aware of whether charges were filed later.)
While I believe the deliberately hateful racists, whether they be white-on-black or vice versa, are an incredibly small minority; many more biases are simply ingrained, and a product of conditioning versus a deliberate intention to demean someone.
Respectful discussions between the two sides can help overcome both, if we’re willing to have them. So I encourage all people, no matter what their skin tone may be, to be open to such discussions. It’s surely the only way tensions will improve.
But moving on from whether Colin has a point or not, let’s discuss his tactics, since they’ve now overshadowed his initial concern he was trying to bring awareness to, which for him, is almost assuredly a tragedy.
Is Kneeling Effective Towards His Goal?
Since this started over a year ago, can we honestly say that racism has gotten any better?
It should be noted that it’s virtually impossible to quantify racism, but it is possible to quantify how many police shootings of unarmed black men who weren’t directly witnessed to have committed a crime.
Nonetheless, those parameters aren’t part of any FBI data I’ve seen. So there’s little way to determine if he’s been effective in reducing them.
As such, no claims one way or the other, can be considered anything other than speculation until that data is available. But I will say that it does seem like there have been fewer of these in the news since these protests began.
I think it’s also safe to say that racism is part of many discussions in a meaningful way at a number that’s probably as high as it has been since the civil rights movement.
The media’s coverage of Colin’s actions and their coverage of the police shootings which instigated his actions are largely to blame for this. So it is fair to say that he’s at least helped start the discussions that needed to happen, and are hopefully helping to achieve his end goal.
Are His Actions Congruent With His Goal
On this issue, I have to say I feel Colin missed his mark.
The U.S. flag is generally something that’s attributed to represent our nation, and also the men and women who served our military to defend it. But Colin never insinuated he was mad at those people.
He directed his anger at what he felt were several corrupt law enforcement officers, and the system that seemed to defend that.
So yes, he created awareness, but the people he offended doing it, were largely not the people he was mad at in the first place.
Is Colin Kaepernick a Racist
I cringe when anyone tries to make claims about what’s in someone’s heart. You just can’t know that. So you often have to take people at their word or their actions.
I don’t recall seeing one instance where Colin said anything negative about Caucasians. It’s also important to note that Colin has a biological mother who is “white,” presumably a “black” father, and adoptive “white” parents who took him in and raised him.
The idea that he’s racist, seems pretty far-fetched, and not supported by any evidence I saw. But feel free to comment below, citing sources, if you’ve seen any statements he uttered against Caucasians in general.
Could He Have Chosen a Better Tactic?
Because Colin is famous, I believe he’d have done far more to improve these relations between the police and young urban minorities by doing community outreach with police. Maybe trying to start a ride-along program with NFL stars, for instance.
Urging NFL players, especially those who were once urban minorities themselves, to go out with officers and start dialogues with them based on mutual respect between the police and many of the NFL players who were former at-risk kids themselves, would certainly help achieve his goal.
If police hear these stories from some of the NFL’s best, maybe it would make the officers see the young men in their community as potential greatness instead of potential criminal young men.
I also believe that if a cop car rolls up in a bad neighborhood with a superstar like Colin riding along with them, it might incite those kids to get to know their local police; building better relationships in the process.
If you’re one of those kids, you’d love to meet an NFL star. And if you meet one thanks to a police officer who brought him to you, all of a sudden that police officer is more likely to be seen as a friend instead of a foe.
Is Colin Trying To Create Unity
On the face of it, a peaceful protest is certainly what Martin Luther King is famous for. And his kneeling is not that different from Rosa Parks sitting on a front bus seat.
Yet once Colin knelt, many took offense, and sadly didn’t see it that way, if that’s how he meant it.
Even if he justifies it by saying that it was only directed at bad cops, I’ve heard multiple racist “white” people justify hateful speech by saying, “There’s black people, and then there’s n*****s”?
They assume because I’m white, I want to hear that nonsense. I assure you, I really REALLY don’t appreciate it. And I usually tell them so if I’m not in a position where I think I’ll be physically attacked for doing it. And Colin’s excuse for wearing those socks is pretty similar, in my opinion.
If rational people like me were apt to side with his peaceful protests, assuming he had nothing but the best intentions in his heart for all parties involved, this went a long way to burn that.
But nonetheless, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just angry, and did something ill-advised in his enraged state. Haven’t we all, in a moment of anger, said or done things we regret later?
Now let’s discuss Donald Trump’s actions.
Love him or hate him, I think it’s fair to admit that Trump is open and honest about his opinions. His Twitter feed is laden with unrehearsed, unpolished, and uncensored opinions that clearly seem to be what he actually feels.
So let’s take a skeptical look at those.
Were Trump’s Tweets Divisive When We All Tend To Agree Unity is Needed?
Yes Trump’s comments were divisive. I frankly wish he’d just stop. But so were the people opting to kneel.
You cannot fairly condemn Trump for being divisive, if you won’t equally condemn the players who know it’s upsetting a very large portion of the country, without being hypocritical.
Should Trump Have Said What He Said and Tweeted What He Tweeted?
Trump is effectively two people. He’s a president, and an American citizen.
As president, I want him to be involved in Colin’s (and the NFL’s) actions absolutely zero.
Instead, I’d want to see him order the FBI to investigate police shootings to make sure local police aren’t effectively protecting their own during the investigations of officer shootings. Clearly, letting the San Francisco PD investigate one of their own is as big of a conflict of interest as one could imagine.
I’d also want federal prosecutors to handle any disciplinary actions, up to and including criminal trials.
As for Trump tweeting an official position on the kneeling, he should simply say it’s a private matter for the free market to sort out.
If it kills NFL ratings, then they’ll react accordingly. This is not the business of a government who’s first amendment guarantees free speech.
As an American citizen, he has a right to an opinion on anything, including this. In my opinion, he should have two different Twitter accounts: one for “the president” and one for “the citizen,” which he does (@POTUS and @realDonaldTrump). Then, keep his official positions on one, and his personal opinions on the other.
On this issue, he largely did exactly that. His @POTUS account retweeted the personal account’s tweet below, and that’s all I’ve found. The rest were on his personal account.
In general, I don’t feel Donald Trump has done a remotely admiral job at unifying a divided nation—quite the contrary. His business acumen is about winning, which means he’s often competitive by nature. That aggressiveness comes out in his behavior often, and I suspect it’s not likely to change.
He’s arguably the most divisive president in history, but it’s not like we didn’t know this prior to the election, and yet he still won. So this isn’t exactly an overpromise/underdeliver situation; no bait-and-switch transpired here.
But as much as I disagree with him on significant policy issues, I at least prefer his unfiltered nature. I find it far better than people who are polished and rehearsed yet come off as obviously fake. I’d just prefer to know instead of wonder where you stand, and whether you’re a person I wouldn’t like in real life or not.
Should The NFL/Team Owners Fire Players?
Well, the players work for the teams (franchises), not the NFL. The only people firing them will be the team owners.
The NFL has code-of-conduct policies, which they seem to strictly enforce. For instance, the Cowboys wanted to have a simple sticker in support of a slain officer, and the NFL specifically forbade it.
One can certainly argue that this is somewhat hypocritical to forbid a helmet like this, while allowing some other form of protest on the field, like kneeling for the national anthem.
But nonetheless, the NFL is a private company, and they have every right to be hypocrites if they so desire, and the free market will sort it out accordingly.
As for the teams, if they want to fire the players for representing their brand in a way that’s inconsistent with their team owner’s values, then they have a right to do so. One caveat though: only if they drafted a code-of-conduct clause is in the contract they have with that player, which specifically forbids such actions.
Now that we’ve covered the two actors in this play, let’s discuss the issue in general. Because there’s a lot of hypocritical and/or illogical behavior from the professional media and the John Q Pissed-Offs on social media.
Is This a Free Speech Issue?
This one’s pretty easy:
Is government stifling the action? – Free Speech Issue
Is private enterprise (NFL or team owners) stifling the action? – Not a Free Speech Issue
Since no one is proposing a law to prevent this, or that government intervene to stifle free speech, it’s not a free speech issue. It’s that simple. When such a law or government action is proposed, only then will it become a free speech issue.
Is It About Disrespecting The Flag
Many argue that it’s just a flag, and we shouldn’t get so worked up about it. But here’s the rub with that argument.
Colin and his fellow kneelers aren’t attacking the idea that there’s too many stars and stripes on it, nor are they complaining the colors clash. They’re mad at a country that seems to allow racism and permit cops to kill “black” kids without recourse. The flag is just a representative icon of the country this occurs in, from their perspective.
Coincidentally, the people who are mad at disrespecting the flag aren’t really passionate about “the flag” either.
They’re passionate about all that the flag represents to them.
A country founded on liberty
A soldier who fought and died to protect them
A country they fought for if they are a soldier
The freedom it represents that they don’t have in other countries
That list goes on and on.
No different from you not caring about a piece of celluloid until there’s a picture of someone you love on it, the flag, as a piece of fabric, was never what anyone really cared about.
So when you make an argument that it’s “just a flag” to defend such actions, know that this argument isn’t relevant to this issue, since it wasn’t “just a flag” to either party. All sides would do well to understand that.
As a libertarian, I’m also fervent on the idea that thought-policing has absolutely no place in a free country. If it did, let’s be honest, Colin would be in jail, or worse, murdered by the state. Just ask many Iraqis who lived under the Hussein regime, North Koreans under the Kim Jong regime, or other dictator-run nations, who lost loved ones due to a government that didn’t take kindly to a lack of respect from its citizenry.
So to me, Colin should love America for the freedom it gives him to do these protests, and instead, direct his ire at the individual officers that commit heinous acts, a legal system that doesn’t seem to effectively prosecute them, and the racists who think it’s OK for officers to avoid prosecution for manslaughter of an innocent young man. Not the flag, and all the things that the flag represents to most Americans.
The Peaceful Protest
One of the most shining examples of hypocrisy in this is the people who lashed out at all the rioters after some of these controversial shootings (rightly so), and called for people to peacefully protest, then got mad at Colin and his peers for peacefully protesting.
They did what you asked, and they did it in a forum where they’d get the most attention for doing it. If the NFL allows it, you don’t have to agree with it, but you should at least give them credit for being peaceful, even if you agree with me that it’s misguided and ill-advised.
Again, we have to stop with all the hypocrisy.
All parties in this have good intentions, even if their tactics are poor. Throughout all of it, most people are calling for unity and peace. So let’s do the things that have a proven record of achieving those goals.
I’m willing to have a respectful discussion, give benefit of the doubt to those with good intentions, even if they aren’t acting like it, and show respect to those I disagree with.
I’d also suggest instead of standing with Trump or Kaepernick, you form your own opinions, while being your own worst critic. Come to a conclusion that you think is fair to both sides, and be honest when it’s obvious you’re being hypocritical. You have no right to demand others be better if you refuse to be better yourself.
Chances are, if you’re on social media, you’ve no doubt encountered the easily-offended. You say something entirely innocuous in intent, and yet the listener assumes the worst possible scenario your statement could have meant, and then attack you via that assumption.
Recently, I had an actress friend from Twitter call online bullies out as “terrorists.”
Her tweet was clearly tongue-in-cheek; she knows the difference between a suicide bomber for instance, and an internet troll. Nonetheless, people took offense to her supposed equating of terrorists to online bullies, and she felt compelled to apologize.
I responded, “Nice of you to do. It’s irksome that people can be so easily offended, though. If you meant no offense, none should be taken.”
Another of her followers inserted herself into the conversation with:
This is wrong. You don’t get to dictate how others feel. That’s like saying “she’s a slut” oh[sic] but don’t take offense because I didn’t mean it! Like[sic] hell no. If it can be offensive, you should be aware of that.
This sentiment of not being able to tell others how they should feel is echoed by many, and it seems fair on the face of it, but in my opinion, logic dictates quite the contrary in many situations.
My reasons for this boil down to arguably the most famous and common of logical fallacies—The Straw Man Argument.
It basically goes like this.
I say, “I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan.”
A Browns fan hears this and attacks me, saying something like, “Don’t trust that guy, he hates the Cleveland Browns.”
While this might seem like a fair conclusion to make since they’re division rivals, one does not technically assume the other. The fact is, partly because I’m squarely between the two in Columbus Ohio, I’d say the Browns are my 3rd favorite team (behind whomever is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers). So an assumption was made based on what I said that is entirely false.
Thus, it’s a logical fallacy, because they’re attacking a “straw man” of what I actually said, and falsely assigning that “straw man” to me. In any sort of debate, straw man arguments are frowned upon for their inherently fallacious nature.
But one doesn’t have to make a verbal argument to build a straw man. Simply taking offense at a statement where no disrespect was intended is fallacious for the same reason.
For instance, I once had an ex-girlfriend who was sadly suffering from bipolar disorder. One night, we were going out to dinner, and she opted for a little black dress that I thought looked great on her.
The conversation went like this:
Me: Honey, you look great in that dress.
Her: Oh, so I look like shit any other time?
(No, that’s not a joke. Bipolar disorder is a very serious mental illness that can often lead to over-reactions like that from the sufferer. Click the link to read more about this condition.)
Hopefully, this over the top example explains why in fact, it is sometimes quite right to correct how someone is feeling. She was mad at what she felt my statement meant, when what I actually said and meant had no commonality with how she inferred it.
Arguing that I don’t have a right to correct her emotional reaction is preposterous in my opinion, unless we disagree on the premise that a straw man argument is a logical fallacy.
However, this mindset isn’t a license to say everything that’s on your mind. You can’t be the Andrew Dice Clay of your office, saying things you know will offend someone, but because you think it’s funny, you assume this makes it OK. If you knew it would offend them and did it anyway, you meant to offend them. They have every right to be upset whether you think it’s just you being funny or not.
But what’s the difference?
People often say things like, “I’m not mean, I’m just being honest.”
So let me illustrate the difference. Imagine you got a haircut, and you ask you spouse what they think.
Honest: The stylist did a nice job, but honestly, I don’t like that style on you.
Mean: Whoa! Did you lose a bet? I’ve seen a baboon’s ass with better looking hair than that.
Sure both of those statements are essentially saying the same thing, but one is clearly just honest, and one is clearly mean-spirited while coming from an honest place. The reason the latter is wrong is that not only does it convey your honest thoughts (the part that’s valuable information the other person requested), but it also serves to demean the person it’s said to (the part that’s immoral). Any reasonable person should know the difference.
This easily-offended issue is a problem because it promotes dishonest conversation and sometimes outright lies.
Imagine for a second I had a new girlfriend who decided to surprise me by making me dinner. The choice she makes includes cooked broccoli, a vegetable when cooked, that I’d classify as a hate crime. It smells like feet, for Pete’s sake! Why would anyone want to eat that?
She may have cooked the broccoli as good as broccoli has ever been cooked, and I still won’t like it. So I have two options, I can tell her I really don’t like cooked broccoli at all and potentially offend her, or I can tell her it’s delicious and power through it like the nice guy I am.
If I choose the dishonest route so as not to offend her, she may go on cooking her world-famous broccoli the entire time we’re dating, and I end up buying a dog to sneak broccoli to under the table just to remedy the situation. Maybe she doesn’t even like cooking it, and is just doing it to make me happy. This means that we’re both unhappy for literally no good reason—clearly a potential lose-lose situation.
The reason the framers of the U.S. Constitution wrote the free speech clause of the 1st amendment was not to let people talk about the weather. It was to allow free discourse, including that which offends others, because there’s value in such discussions. And it was the first amendment, largely because they understood it was one of the most important.
People learn how the other person feels, people find out that they’re sometimes not alone in their perceived controversial thoughts, truth-to-power speech can turn into meaningful movements, and people don’t go on being forced to eat cooked broccoli.
So if this is the problem, what’s the remedy?
If someone says something that you find offensive, I highly suggest you stop for a second and really consider whether they meant any disrespect. If it seems fairly obvious they didn’t, for the love of all that is intellectually honest, stop lashing out in retaliation.
If you’re not sure whether they meant to insult you, instead of snapping back hatefully with the worst possible assumption in your heart, be open-minded that they might not have meant to be insulting, and simply ask them to elaborate, or ask specific questions about what their underlying intent was.
In the age of Twitter’s 140 character limit and the inability to see someone’s facial expressions, a lot of context gets lost on social media. They might have wanted to add such nuance, and simply didn’t have the space or the writing prowess to convey it.
If you often find yourself getting upset when others around you don’t seem to be so bothered, it should be a sign that you are potentially someone who could fairly described as easily offended.
If you really wish to gain control of your emotions, consider trying to practice what Biology and Philosophy Ph. D Massimo Pigliucci, host of the wonderful and thought-provoking Rationally Speaking podcast promotes, the philosophy of stoicism. I promise you, this way of thinking will eventually lead to you feeling better about yourself, reduced overall stress, and more meaningful and positive interactions with others, whether it be on social media, or in person.
Open and honest respectful discourse is important to our social structure, and for advancing understanding in general. Those who seek to quash it because they can’t control their emotions should be encouraged to learn the art of respectfully agreeing to disagree.
Whether discussing things like racism, politics, religion, or other heated topics, we’re better off if we feel free to speak our minds, and then debate those thoughts with mutual respect, stoicism, and honest candor. Hate, insults, and other heated responses only serve to upset both parties, and rarely achieve the goal of bringing us to a place of better understanding.
WARNING: Large dietary changes should only be done based on advice from YOUR Registered Dietitian (RD) who practice science-based approaches to your health. When I say YOUR, I mean one you have met with on a professional level, and who has done at least a basic evaluation of you and your physiology. I am not one of those people.
If you don’t have one, ask your doctor to recommend one. Doctors can ensure there’s no obvious physical reasons why your diet must be restricted in a certain way, and they’re likely the first person to tell you that you’re dangerously obese. But nutrition training in med school can be grossly inadequate, and some programs actually do not require nutrition courses as a part of the curriculum.
A registered dietitian is trained far more in the aspects of your diet. Think of it this way. If you need surgery, your doctor recommends a surgeon to do the procedure. So if you need to lose weight, they should recommend you a dietitian for the same reason—RDs are the experts.
This post is merely food for thought (pun intended), basic logic, and some information (cited with reputable sources) that is generally understood to be good dietary advice. A qualified RD was also consulted to help ensure factual content.
I implore you not to give audience to people like The Food Babe, David Avocado Wolfe, Gwyneth Paltrow, or any other person who is entirely unqualified to be giving you dietary guidance. They are well-known by qualified scientists for giving demonstrably false and occasionally dangerous advice.
Let’s start by digging into a little of that Darwin evolutionary goodness. I think we all understand our energy comes from food, right? Without digging into a jargony hole, it basically works like this.
Food contains calories. While most know this, few know what a calorie actually is. It is not an atom or molecule of something like sodium (salt) or sugars (glucose, sucrose, and fructose). As this great video points out, a calorie is a unit of measure for energy, defined as what it takes to raise 1 kilogram of water by 1° Celsius.
Counting your basal metabolic rate—the number of calories you need to survive—coupled with the basic activities one performs on a daily basis, a general consensus is that the average male converts about 2,500 calories a day to the energy they use to sustain life, and the average female about 2,000. But this can vary wildly from person to person. An MMA fighter for instance, often is in the 4,500-5,000 range.
We all know Einstein, with his famous E=MC², demonstrated that mass and energy are interchangeable. This means when you eat food (mass), you convert some of it to energy (calories) through chemical processes within your digestive system. When you read the calorie count of food, it’s simply explaining how much potential energy, using the chemical processes in your gut, is in the food you’re about to eat.
On a side note, Ever heard that celery is a negative-calorie food (Has fewer calories than you burn eating it)? Yeah, it’s bullshit.
I specify above “via the chemical processes in your gut” because there’s significantly more potential energy, like millions more, potential energy in the food via nuclear process like fission or fusion. So I wanted to point that out in case a physicist reads this and feels compelled to fire off a correction.
It should be noted that just because a particular food has 100 calories for instance, your body’s ability to convert all of it to energy can vary based on the chemical content of that food. Some foods require little work from your body to be converted to energy, some require much more. This is why not all calories are equal, and yet another reason to consult your dietitian.
You use this energy to do involuntary actions like beat your heart, open your lungs, and digest food; as well as voluntary actions such as reading stuff like this article, trolling pseudo-science quacks on Twitter (guilty), or lifting weights. You also extract the vitamins and minerals your body needs from your food, and finally the rest goes out your tail pipe as waste.
If you were perfectly efficient, you would eat the exact number of calories you need for all the work you’re going to do in that moment, but that requires far more planning than any one human can do, constant eating as you do the work, plus a lab to calculate how many calories are in what you eat. So instead, we evolved to have a way to store calories for future use so we don’t run out of “gas,” and that “gas tank” is fat.
So Myth #1 we should dispel, is that fat is bad—it isn’t. Zero body fat is not only incredibly difficult to achieve, it’s not ideal either. A minor amount of body fat allows your body to operate at its best.
Don’t be fooled by fitness competitions. Those people (who are quite healthy) dehydrate and ironically make themselves temporarily unhealthy prior to a competition, to give a false impression of looking healthy, only to restore that body fat and water weight as soon as the competition is over. As Men’s Health points out in this article, an 8% – 20% is generally considered most healthy.
Fat is the first thing your body converts to energy when needed. Once all the fat is gone, muscle will be converted to energy next—which is what occurs during starvation. Eventually your body will consume vital organs like the heart and lungs, and then you’re dead.
So be thankful you have evolved to have some fat. It doesn’t do work inside your body, unlike muscle and organs, making it ideal for storing energy, so you don’t consume the things you actually need to live.
So back to the Darwinian goodness. Our ancient ancestors didn’t have a grocery store to go to, and ancient man didn’t evolve from apes with farming implements in their hands. So sometimes meals were few and far between. Thus we evolved a way to overeat when we have access to food, store that potential energy in our bodies, and put it to use when needed later—this overeating impulse is in our nature.
But if you know we’re predisposed to overeat, you can make a conscious decision not to, thus maintaining a healthier diet. Very few of us are in a situation where we have a legitimate concern over finding a regular source of food.
Basically, as was mentioned earlier, not all foods convert to energy as easily as others, requiring more work from your digestive system to convert them to energy. So despite fat and sugar having similar caloric content, your body has a much easier time doing so with sugar, than fat.
But before you jump on the anti-sugar bandwagon, let’s discuss that a bit. I’ve heard people argue sugar is a toxin or poison. In biology, the saying goes that “everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.”
As is explained quite well in this National Center for Biotechnology Information article, “Glucose (component of sugar) is virtually the sole fuel for the human brain, except during prolonged starvation.” It goes on to point out that glucose fuels muscles as well. It cannot be overstated how important it is for you to have some level of sugar in your diet.
So while enough of any substance can be toxic, sugar is not a poison in any traditional sense.
But care should be taken to get the right amount. What’s the right amount? I know you know the answer to this by now, ask your registered dietitian. Again, your needs are unique to you, and any magic number published somewhere, as if it somehow works for everyone, is false by virtue of its one-size-fits-all premise.
But nonetheless, if you’re medically overweight (not the kind of overweight healthy or underweight body dysmorphia sufferers describe as overweight because they’ll never believe they’re skinny enough), it’s probably a fair assumption that your calorie and sugar counts are high.
So how do we fight obesity? We all know that portion control and exercise are the two bits of dietary advice that never go out of favor. But because they’re difficult and require work, many seek the latest diets pushed by celebrities who look great, or self-help gurus who tried something and it worked (anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence folks.)
Most of these diets don’t work for a number of reasons. Not the least of which, is some of them are absolute nonsense with no basis in biology. Others are decent enough premises, but the issue goes back to us evolving to store up as much energy as is available to us at the time, in preparation for potential future fasting. This mechanism sadly works against you when you do successfully lose weight.
This brings me to my next point—those poor starving kids in Africa. When we talk about portion control, the one tactic you’ve likely never heard of, but should be your tactic “du jour,” is intuitive eating (stopping when you feel full). Your body evolved a mechanism to tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full for a reason. Why would it make sense to listen to the impulse that’s telling you to eat, while ignoring the one yelling at you to slow your dinner roll?
Within the intuitive eating framework Cara Harbstreet RD from Street-Smart Nutrition advises there’s a phenomenon called the:
“satisfaction threshold”. It’s the point (or the bite) you reach to achieve maximum satisfaction from a food. When you eat past that point, each bite becomes less and less satisfying and you derive less pleasure from the eating experience. It can’t be ignored that we eat for other reasons than fuel. To say food is only eaten for fuel is like saying humans only have sex to reproduce. There’s many other motivators there, so identifying the point where you feel satisfied from a food can be the signal to stop eating. I’ve told clients to go home and bake a pan of brownies and count how many bites they take before they get bored or burnout with the sweetness and texture. Amazingly, more often than not, it’s only two to five bites, and not the whole pan although they could go that far if they wanted to. If that’s the case, we work on mindfulness and awareness because they aren’t tuned into what their body/brain is telling them.
Many of us grew up with the notion that we needed to eat everything on our plates, because there are starving kids in Africa, and therefore we shouldn’t waste food.
Human conditioning is a very powerful thing. If you teach someone something early and often, they can believe it the rest of their lives, even if they’re constantly exposed to compelling evidence of the contrary. So teaching kids to overeat is quite possibly at the heart of our obesity epidemic, because we’ve taught them that despite our obesity epidemic…well, you know…those starving kids in Africa need you to keep eating. I myself, knowing all that I’ve written here, still have a hard time stopping when I’m full because of this powerful bit of conditioning.
Addressing the idea that this food is wasted is slightly more complicated. Pretty much all food is organic. Don’t get me started on the FDA’s sadly anti-science definition of organic, (This was in response to those with fears of man-made foods and pesticides), I’m talking about the actual definition from chemistry, a simple carbon-based compound. This means that if you throw it in the garbage, and it goes in a landfill, it will biodegrade and fuel new organic life forms. There’s little to no harm done by chucking it in the bin, except for maybe the attraction of pests.
There are two scenarios regarding food waste:
Excess food goes in the trash can
Excess food goes through your digestive system, makes you fat, then goes in the toilet.
When viewed from this paradigm, hopefully you see the trash can as the better alternative. Either way, if your body didn’t need it, it’s ending up as waste, literally nothing, and I mean nothing good comes from eating it in that moment.
The actual waste is in the energy spent by the people who brought it to market, like the farmer’s tractor and the truck to haul it to the store, when you didn’t actually eat it. But, all that waste occurred before it ever ended up on your plate. So throwing it away after-the-fact, does no additional harm.
Nonetheless, waste is bad, so there’s a couple of things you can do to prevent it going forward:
Don’t Overfill Your Plate: If you can go back for seconds, underfill the plate. Go back for more only if you’re truly still hungry. Heck, getting up for 30 seconds to get another plate even counts as a tiny bit of exercise.
(<–Click to see explanation of this mental trick.) Sure, you’re only tricking yourself, but if it works, it works.
Stop Rewarding Restaurants Who Over-Serve: Tell them they give you too much food, and you may not return as a result. Maybe they’ll take it to heart, and cut back in the future. It saves them money, after all. Frequent a restaurant serving more responsible portions, or offer a smaller portion as an option. A free-market eventually listens.
Ask for Less at Restaurants: I often tell the people at Chipotle for instance to give me about half the rice as usual. They may not give you a discount, but you’ll be less fat for the same price. Technically, that’s a win-win for you and them. Stop thinking of it as them getting one over on you—it was your request after all. Plus, if you like their food, you’re helping them stay in business if you save them money by allowing them to give you less.
Leftovers: If you must frequent a restaurant that overserves, stop as soon as your full, and take the rest home for later. It doesn’t have to be destroyed in one sitting. Heck, you can even purposefully cut the meal in half, and plan to take the other half home before you dig in.
Always Err Low: We’ve all been in the drive through, and debated one hamburger or two, small fries or large, etc. Always order the lesser amount. You’ll usually still be full when you’re done. You can always keep a snack on hand just in case. But you’ll avoid overeating because you’re full but you accidentally ordered too much and don’t want to throw it away.
Always Err Low #2: Now that you’ve learned to back off at the restaurant, take that skill to the grocery store. Cara Harbstreet RD advises: A lot of food waste happens inside the home (restaurants are equally at fault) but when I dive into a food budget with someone, more often than not it turns out they’re throwing away large amounts of perishable foods like fruits, veggies, fresh herbs, dairy, meat, and poultry that goes uncooked or is cooked, but not used as leftovers. If you overstock your pantry, there’s also a chance you’ll cook more than you need so you don’t throw it away, meaning you’ll be tempted to eat more too.
Hopefully these little chicken nuggets of food science and skepticism will help you to rethink the way you eat, and help you be better parents, healthier adults, and better consumers. This obesity epidemic is not a virus floating around in the air needing a complex biological cure, it’s a simple habitual issue that small behavioral adjustments can end in one generation or two, if we simply make the effort.
Oh, and I almost forgot, don’t be afraid to spice things up a bit! As it turns out, capsaicin, the stuff in peppers that makes them spicy, triggers your body to heat up (that’s why you start sweating when you eat it). In doing so, it can burn off more of that energy you’re storing in your fat cells. Check the report out here.
Recently, a friend shared this meme on Twitter. Like anyone who stands behind and supports our military, I couldn’t help but be a little put off by Lena’s supposed argument. So I quoted the tweet with “We all have our problems. Unless your problems are life and death, your problems don’t make you special, they make you normal.”
This meme appeals to those of us who feel a heavy debt of gratitude towards our military. Sadly I jumped to conclusions that I absolutely shouldn’t have, and neither should my friend I discussed this meme with shortly after.
While we took different positions, he and I both assumed that Lena was referring to her claims of assault/rape during college. Sadly for Lena, the accusations she made against a person she identified as “Barry” were deemed to be about someone who never met her, and she was forced to walk her statement back.
She later stated that “Barry” was a pseudonym she had given to her attacker. It just happened to coincidentally somewhat describe a man she went to school with named Barry, who was then sadly attacked in the media after many assumed he was her rapist. To her credit, Lena eventually confirmed he was not her attacker, but no doubt Barry endured a lot of unfair stress and insults to his character as a result.People will argue whether it was her exhibiting a Munchausen Syndrome type scenario, seeking attention by claiming to be a victim when she wasn’t. But unless you were there, or unless she ultimately admits no such attack happens, she should rightfully be taken at her word that she was assaulted. Rape is not so uncommon, especially when the parties are impaired (drugs and alcohol), as Lena admits to during the attack.
Being famous, she would also likely understand that she may open herself up to a slander claim if she identified her potential attacker by name, when that attacker has neither been indicted, nor convicted of such an assault. So her pseudonym claims are entirely plausible and even logical if true.
As I give her the benefit of the doubt, I also have nothing but sincerest sympathy for what she would have went through. While I think her literal words—as written in the meme—are effectively falsified by the meme, I absolutely understand and acknowledge that I have not known the fear of being raped, nor ever been the victim of any type of sexual assault. So while I absolutely sympathize—in that context—I cannot empathize.
It should be noted that there are many false rape accusations leveled at people for a myriad of reasons from later regret of a consensual tryst, to the aforementioned Munchausen Syndrome where people derive pleasure from playing the victim. But that being said, unless I am the accused and know I’m innocent, or witnessed the event with my own eyes and saw the consent, I will never claim a woman is lying when she says she was raped, and neither should you.
Because if they are telling the truth, how dare you make them feel like the villain in this equation when you have no knowledge of the truth. We have a presumption of innocence in this country. It’s based on the solid scientific principle of falsification, largely attributed to Karl Popper. Because of its greater likelihood of coming to a truth, it’s the moral way to approach such a claim as well.
So what was our mistake in the assumptions we made? There were actually a few.
We both assumed that the text of the meme was what she said verbatim—it wasn’t.
We assumed she was talking about herself—she wasn’t.
We assumed it was about rape—it wasn’t.
My friend and I weren’t even in the same ZIP code.
Lesson learned, always be skeptical of memes, even if they’re shared by someone you trust. But nonetheless, there are many great discussions worth having about the assumptions we did make—even if they weren’t true—aside from the lesson we already learned about making assumptions.
So let’s take a couple of them on.
If she had been discussing women living in constant fear of being attacked by man, is that fair?
As he goes on to explain (click the link above for a more descriptive example), if you assume something is a threat that isn’t and flee the scene, you’ve endured no harm. But if you assume no threat when there is one, you are likely to be harmed. So it makes sense we’ve evolved to assume things are threats, even when that assumption may be false, as an effective method of self-preservation.
So for women to assume that some men are predators, even if those men are perfectly honorable in their intentions, is not entirely irrational, even though the feared assault is highly improbable (most men do not assault women). They have my sincerest sympathy that a small segment of the male population have implanted this fear in them, even if they have nothing to fear from me personally.
So men, while it’s easy to get mad at women for assuming the worst in us, understand that it’s a simple self-preservation instinct which is entirely natural and beneficial to their safety. Just make a sincere effort to make them feel as safe as possible if you wish to quash that fear and/or get to know them.
If we address my reply to the Tweet, I believe this is also a worthwhile discussion to have—not all problems are equal.
I get depressed about being single, or not reaching the level of success that I feel I should have attained in life. But I do have a job, I’m reasonably healthy, and have a wonderful family and friends. So I rarely openly share my issues, because I feel some level of guilt for complaining about these things when I see a baby with Leukemia, a soldier who lost limbs in battle, or homeless and/or jobless people whose lives are largely without hope.
It is important that we empathize where we can with people, and sympathize with them otherwise, no matter what they’re problems are. It helps to bring our community together, and it’s just the right thing to do in my opinion.
But for the person doing the complaining, it’s also important to keep your own problems in perspective. Problems aren’t that different from a hospital’s triage.
Society’s efforts should be focused on the most dire problems first, and we can address the less dire ones when the emergencies have all been dealt with. For instance, if I encountered both a drowning baby and a guy who’s depressed he broke up with his girlfriend and just wants to talk, I’m probably going to try to save that baby and leave the heartbroken dude to sort out his own problems. If my love-struck compadre were to complain about my choice, I think we all understand he’d be out of line.
My underlying point though, is that almost everyone has problems. We all love to believe we are unique in our pain—and somehow most others have a nearly perfect life.
But is this true?
No one was more loved or respected than Robin Williams, and with his portrayal of a homosexual cowboy, and then Batman’s The Joker, Heath Ledger had just solidified himself as Hollywood’s newest top shelf actor. Both of these men, by all accounts, were on top of the world.
Yet sadly both of these men, with so much love and respect heaped upon them, with none of the financial stresses many of us face either, could bear to live life another day.
And frankly, I defy you to ask anyone about their problems and find someone who responds that they don’t have any.
While someone may not know your specific pain, they almost assuredly have problems you don’t understand either. If you want sympathy and respect, don’t assume you’re the only one hurting. You’re dismissing the pain others around you are enduring—that’s pretty insulting.
I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is that we be open about our problems, and discuss them with others. Bottling them up often ends in self-harmful or violent acts. So making the effort to not alienate those you’d like to sympathize with is something I think we should all strive for when we do reach out for help. I believe my approach would yield a more positive social interaction.
So now that we’ve covered our false assumptions, let’s address Lena’s actual claim.
A large portion of political arguments these days are hyperbole and hyper-partisanship. All sides of the aisle tend to overstate their strengths, while dishonestly ignoring their weaknesses. I’d be skeptical of anyone making a political argument on the campaign trail. But that being said, does Lena have a point?
On the face of it, no. History is littered with politicians attacking other politicians. Hillary Clinton was by no means the first to be the brunt of hateful political attacks. Some of hers are only unique in that she’s a woman, but most arguments were against her policy or character—not the fact she’s missing equipment down below.
The heinous acts toward the black community in American history dominate our culture. There are a multitude of movies, documentaries, and other media depicting the slavery era and civil rights movement—far more than there are about the hardships and atrocities women have endured as a group.
So women have gotten pretty poor treatment throughout history (not just America) without nearly as much attention given to that fact, compared to others.
I readily admit it’s plausible that a large majority of men will vote for another man. And, since many women still claim to support the traditional notion of being subservient to their male counterparts, many women may not necessarily vote for a woman either. This makes Lena’s underlying point more than fair.
Much like Obama overcoming the racial barrier on the path to the presidency, our first female president will likely have higher hurdles to jump than her male counterparts do to get there too.
However, if I can pose a hypothetical situation for a minute, I don’t think I could be easily convinced that if Republicans had chosen a well-respected woman like Condoleezza Rice, and Democrats had chosen someone who’s largely scandal-free like Tim Kaine as their nominees, I’m not convinced Condoleezza wouldn’t have gotten the same votes Trump did, and Kane gotten most of the votes Hillary did—yielding the same result.
I think if we’re honest, it would have been a far better election, with a better outcome, no matter who won, compared to the two highly-hated candidates the big parties actually picked.
Hillary most assuredly lost some votes solely by virtue of her pesky second X chromosome, but I am firmly convinced that she lost far more votes be virtue of being laden with a series of potentially immoral, corrupt, and even potentially criminal acts.
I’m of the opinion she got far more votes by virtue of being a Democrat from people who didn’t like her, than she lost by virtue of being a women from people who would have otherwise voted Democrat. Most heated political arguments are partisan in nature, not sexist.
So is Lena’s argument valid? Somewhat. Do I think it cost Hillary the election? No.
I think Hillary Clinton’s actions and persona cost Hillary Clinton the election. Trump was arguable one of the most beatable Republicans in recent history. Laying that defeat at the feet of her gender seems improbable to me.
But if you disagree, there’s a comment section below…have at it. Debate is good! Thanks for taking the time to read this.
I’m a meat-eater and have never entertained going vegetarian/vegan. My passion level on the subject is pretty low, it’s just my curiosity that’s high. Unlike me, some are quite fervent on the subject however, so be wary of that if you intend to discuss the subject with those who have chosen to avoid animal byproducts. You may be in for a very heated debate.
While I do have a love for animals, especially my pets, and I understand (and largely agree with) all the arguments against the less-than-ethical treatment of animals, knowing that there are many natural meat-eaters in this world lends me to the conclusion that animals eating others is simply the natural order of things. So those are my biases in advance, and you should be fairly made aware of them.
I would also like to point out that ALL decisions about your health and diet should involve consulting your physician (MD) and/or a registered dietitian (RD). I’m neither of those things. Do NOT consider my advice, or any other internet celebrity who isn’t an authority on the subject (aka The Food Babe, David Wolf, et al.) as a credible source.
I’m merely a skeptic providing food for thought, not giving any dietary advice above consulting your doctor or dietitian.
Unlike the aforementioned celebs, I will at least cite reputable sources where possible. All of them are chocked full of great information. They’re not just there for reference, I encourage you to read them individually. I’ve even reached out to a few registered dietitians as well, to be sure I don’t steer you down the wrong path (as you’ll see later).
On to the show…
To start, let’s break down veganism vs. vegetarianism. The short answer is that vegetarians don’t eat meat. Vegans take that one step further, and don’t consume anything that comes from animals, such as meat, dairy, eggs, and other such animal-derived consumables. For the long answer, click this article from Authority Nutrition.
There are two basic types of reasons for choosing to drop foods from the animal kingdom—opinion-based and factual. Only factual claims could be fairly subjected to criticism.
For instance, if you don’t want to be part of exploiting animals in any way, that’s a matter of opinion. While others can potentially find flaws in your reasoning, the bottom line is that opinions, by definition, are not right or wrong. So if that’s your only motivation, no one should be trying to argue you’re right or wrong, only that they agree or disagree.
The other reason one might do so, is for health reasons. That is a matter of fact, not opinion, and therefore is subject to scrutiny. No one has a right to their own facts, nor do facts care what someone believes. The best way to come to know them, is via the scientific method. So this is why I stress above that someone trained in evidence-based science like an MD or RD should be consulted. It is your life, after all…so to you, it’s kinda a big deal.
Controlled studies are difficult on the subject, you have to rely on the subjects not only to stick to their respective diets, but if done properly, the study would take decades to test for longevity between the two groups, and other factors like changes in exercise and lifestyle, changes in diet within the framework of omnivorosity and herbovosity can all change the outcome and skew the data in such a study.
That being said, I was able to find this study from Oxford, which studied vegetarians against omnivores. As you can probably imagine, it’s complicated, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. I’ll let you read it and come to your own conclusions, I’m not qualified to do so myself. (I keep pointing this out, not to demean myself, but so you don’t take advice from others who aren’t qualified either.)
So what started me down this path of inquiry? I had an exchange with a friend who is vegan, and she had suggested that dairy was not a natural food source for humans—I’ve heard this multiple times since. Me being the slightly sarcastic skeptic that I am, decided to share the response I gave her recently on Twitter for a laugh or two.
Had a female friend contemplating going vegan. Her: We're not meant to eat dairy. Me: You have not one, but two dairy farms on your chest.
While I was of course being a little cheeky in my response, this brings me to my first point. There are a lot of clearly false claims out there that simple skepticism on your part can debunk—no biology degree required. Question everything, especially when your health is at stake. So let’s get to this claim.
Milk – It Does a Body Good?
All mammals are born eating milk. Mammals have mammary glands which supply…you guessed it…milk! And yes, I said eating—milk is technically a food, as much as it is a drink.
Why do we consume milk? Remember back to the days you were born; in case you don’t recall, you didn’t have any teeth.
Since our prehistoric ancestors didn’t have access to baby food or applesauce, it should make sense that milk was pretty much the only thing a toothless fecal factory can consume and get all the nutrients it needed. So, voila! We are in fact meant to eat dairy; or more to the point, the nutrients contained in dairy.
While it’s important to note that milk does vary slightly from animal to animal based on their needs (cow’s milk isn’t evolved for humans, for instance), there’s certainly no evidence it’s toxic in any scientific definition of the word. Click here for a good breakdown of the nutritional content of many animal milks from the University of Illinois. You’ll notice that it’s largely the same contents, just in varying amounts. This make sense, because we’re all mammals, and on the evolutionary tree, we’re all one big branch stemming from one common base, which means our needs are pretty similar as well.
As we grow older, and our teeth come in, we don’t need milk—we never technically did. We just need nutrients that milk provides, which many other chewable food sources also contain. Your body doesn’t care where protein, glucose (sugar), sodium chloride (salt), calcium, and other essential vitamins and nutrients come from, it just needs them wherever you can get them. So if one is to argue you need milk as you grow older and are able to consume a more normal diet, that’s also pretty false, despite what the National Dairy Council tells you. Milk does however have a good, natural combination of carbs, fat, and protein which is why it’s been deemed a great beverage for post-exercise recovery.
Harvard has a phenomenal write-up on milk, including it’s effects on osteoporosis, one of many dubious claims about it. As you can probably imagine, as with most things, there are pros and cons—be skeptical of anyone telling you anything is all good or bad.
There’s a saying in biology “everything is a poison, what matters is the dose.” Bear that in mind, because many false arguments come from a zero-tolerance perspective (the idea that consuming any amount is dangerous), which is rarely if ever true. How much of something you consume is almost always equally important to what you actually consume. You can die from drinking too much water, while there is an acceptable amount of substances like mercury you can safely consume without incident. This is important for all those who think glyphosate and other potentially harmful chemicals used in food crops should learn before they assume what they’re eating is dangerous. The levels you get them in with a normal diet, make them almost entirely innocuous.
Since I’m a lover of science, and my interest level was getting high, I tweeted the following to two RDs I know from Twitter. Huge thanks to Amanda Kruse RD, CD (@Amanda_Kruse) for editing this post, and thanks to RD David from Science Based Nutrition (@SciBasedNutr), and Cara Harbstreet RD (@StreetSmartRD) for furthering the discussion on Twitter. I encourage you to follow them and join in the discussion.
@Amanda_Kruse@RDkarolina Re: vegan/vegetarianism. I'm not considering, but curious if you know of a good science-based writeup on pros/cons
One of the arguments against eschewing meat, is that we evolved to eat it. It’s true humans have been eating meat for the entirety of our 200,000ish years on Earth. To argue we aren’t evolved to eat meat is clearly illogical. Veganism/Vegetarianism are fairly new concepts to our species.
A very good short introduction to going meatless from the Cleveland Clinic shows what precautions one should take if going vegan/vegetarian to get nutrients they’ll be missing from a normal diet containing meat. If special caution needs to be taken if you ween yourself off of meat, this itself is a pretty strong argument that we are meant to be omnivorous. But if choosing this route, here’s a separate article from Cleveland Clinic (thanks Twitter RDs) outlining what you should consider—it can be a very good alternative for some if done right.
But, as the articles from Cleveland Clinic point out, with some careful planning, you can easily substitute those missing nutrients with plant-based options. In doing so, you can fashion a diet that may in fact be even healthier. So while the evolution argument is compelling on the face of it, the fact remains that you can go meatless and be healthier for it. Take care though; if you think you’re not the type to stick to a carefully planned diet, veganism may not be for you.
So why would we be meat-eaters in the first place?
Evolution is the ability for a species to adapt to its environment. So they will thrive in locations that contain a rich supply of foods and nutrients those species need. If that species can eat just about anything, then that species has a greater chance of living on. So being omnivorous gave mankind the best chance of survival as we migrated all around the globe.
Mankind is also the one species (there may be others, but I’m not aware of them) that took evolution to a whole new level by customizing their environment to suit them. We build fires and air conditioning units. We farm and build shelter, too. All of these things make it possible for us to inhabit every continent on the planet. Take that, other species!
This ability to adapt our environment to suit us, changed the face of evolution in a meaningful way. It also brings us full circle to veganism, because it allowed us to do things like go vegan/vegetarian if we choose to, thanks to the knowledge of how we can modify our diet to supplement what we’ll miss from meat.
Because this issue is quite contentious, there are a lot of bad arguments out there from people who simply want you to see their side, and through confirmation bias, have come to their conclusions one way or the other—insisting their way is the only way to be.
Anecdotes – “I went vegan, and I feel great. So will you!”
So why should you ignore your vegan friend who swears by their diet? Because they are not a controlled study.
Imagine your friend does go vegan for health reasons. Many meat eaters eat fried meats like deep-fried chicken nuggets, and other friend foods like french fries. Maybe they’re feeling bad, and a doctor tells them to eat healthier and exercise.
So instead of entering into a controlled study, they start exercising, and go vegan, as well as other such “healthy” lifestyle changes.
Six months later, they feel great. But why do they feel great? We know that exercise makes you feel better, as long as you don’t overdo it. So maybe going vegan did nothing, and you’re just feeling better because of the exercise.
Also, maybe while going vegetarian, you also cut out those other fried foods as well, so you’re not only going vegetarian, you’re eating healthier in general. It’s quite possible that had you done all that, but instead switched your meat consumption to fish, chicken, bison, and other healthier low-fat meats, you’d be even better. How would you know? You didn’t control for all those variables. Instead, you went through a life change, and introduced a myriad of variables where you really can’t determine which, if any were effective.
So while your friend might mean well, this is a great example as to why scientists don’t consider anecdotes as evidence.
What is healthiest?
Another concern you should have, is when people claim one diet is healthier than the other.
The word healthy is incredibly ambiguous—how would you define it? It could mean not being obese or malnourished, disease free, heart-healthy, mobile, longevity of life, clear of mind with no dementia…the list is pretty endless as to how you could define it. (I refer you to the Oxford study above now, which broke down the areas that were better and worse). So for someone to claim one is healthier than the other as a blanket statement, is already a walk down the path of hyperbole and flawed logic.
Because of nearly entire lack of fat, if obesity is your concern, a vegan/vegetarian diet is almost certainly the better option than eating high-fat meats. But again, lean meats like chicken, fish, bison, etc., could achieve the same goal.
Why do I point this out? Because again, this is exactly why you should consult your doctor, or a registered dietitian. They will know better than anyone, how to determine your needs, and then guide you down the best path to achieve them.
Whether you choose to go herbivorous or carnivorous, there are healthy and unhealthy paths you can go down with either. Ignore anecdotal evidence, ignore hyperbolic claims that indicate one is clearly “healthier” than the other, ignore your well-intentioned friends who are eminently unqualified, and the myriad of internet celebrities selling you whatever they want to believe, too. With most things in life, there are pros and cons; anyone telling you there isn’t, is someone you probably shouldn’t listen to.
You can go vegan and be healthier. You can remain omnivorous and with small changes, still be healthier. While we did evolve to eat meat, at the end of the day, it doesn’t appear it’s necessary. The short answer seems to be, that the opinion reason is the only one that’s a firm reason to ditch meat. You can achieve most any health goals without going vegan by…say it with me…consulting your doctor or registered dietitian.
log·i·cal: capable of reasoning or of using reason in an orderly cogent fashion lib·er·tar·i·an: an advocate of the doctrine of free will; a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action