The U.S. Badly Needs Campaign Finance Reform

William Ramage | United States

Lack of campaign finance reform in the United States contradicts the very principles the United States was founded upon. Business and corporations indirectly control what Congress legislates. There are no laws preventing large corporations from funding federal campaigns. This results in policies of that candidate reflecting the interests of their corporate funders. They represent corporate interests rather than people. 

Take, for example, big pharma. Say they solely fund a senators campaign who wins the seat. The senator will then advocate for big pharma, possibly going against his constituency’s population and their needs. Often, big pharma will advocate price hikes on necessary drugs, turning healthcare into a business. With representative puppets, this is easy to accomplish. Lack of campaign finance reform leaves the door open for lobbying and corruption to occur. Hush money is also completely unethical, yet entirely legal. 

Campaign Finance Reform Furthers Democracy

As the Stormy Daniels affair showed, one who has more money will have a better chance of election. Simply put, he or she can cover up faults far easier. This is severely unethical as the voters will often have little idea who they are really voting for as these people can continue to cover up their dark pasts with money, and then be the face of Americans. This legal bribery greatly influences our elections and, incredibly, continues to be legal. It is unfathomable how the federal government views this as ethical as it directly influences the outcome of elections. After all, the people have the right to know who they are electing to represent, or govern the country.

Further laws fail to prevent the individual’s personal endeavors in various investment opportunities, creating yet another loophole, for the lawmaker’s personal gains. One can buy up tons of stock of a particular industry, deregulate the said industry, thus driving up the stock prices. Public office holders have the complete ability to change the legislation, potentially affecting thousands of people without their consent, in order to personally succeed. Thanks to the relaxed laws, all of this is completely legal. In this sense, our government’s design allows the upper class to maintain their elevated status at the expense of the working and lower classes.

A Move to Reject PACs

This is often overlooked by the general public, and is a persistent problem in our modern system of government. Despite the ability to get away with all of this in a completely legal manner, some new candidates have begun to pave the road towards a new future of campaigning controlled by the people. Grassroots campaigns and a rejection of PAC donations are beginning to voluntarily appear in various campaigns.

Political figures such as Beto O’Rourke, Ilhan Omar, and Dean Phillips are among dozens of progressive candidates who have pledged to reject corporate PACs. Despite the government’s open door, these candidates have taken the ethical route and it has paid off. This shows the true nature of the truest Americans as they refuse to take the apple from the snake. Instead, these candidates take the high road and fight for the correct way to hold office.


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Jordan Peterson Manipulates Language to Appear Smarter

Ellie McFarland | United States

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson rose to prominence after a video of him defending free speech against the Canadian human rights bill C-16 surfaced online. This bill, among other things, would make it a crime to misgender a trans person. Dr. Peterson’s assertions in the original video were clear and admirable, but further, it was a direct deviation from the current common discourse. He was rocketed into public intellectual stardom after the episode at The University of Toronto; booking speaking event after guest lecture after television appearance. He was, and still very much is, the freshest philosopher in the free marketplace of ideas.

However, with closer examination, it seems his transparency and edge are inconsistent in his current work. Specifically, in the now infamous Cathy Newman interview, Dr. Peterson jumped from hard-hitting clear claims about the nature of political correctness to vague and meaningless facts about lobster dominance hierarchies.

The Bridge Between Lobsters and Humans

Dr. Peterson’s constant metaphors involving lobsters are actually very important to the way he manipulates language. For instance, he might say something about how dominance hierarchies are inherent in human beings and then go on a tirade about shellfish serotonin levels. While both statements are correct, but they don’t inform each other in any relevant way. This is called a non sequitur and means “it does not follow” in Latin. When someone uses a non sequitur, the premises do not logically inform the conclusion, even though all parts of the argument may be correct. Even though it is true that humans naturally fall into hierarchies, and lobsters do have very similar endocrine systems to humans, those facts do nothing to prop each other up, or to prop up his point, which usually amounts the differences between men and women being biological rather than social.

All of these declarations are technically correct according to everything we know about both human and lobster biology. However, neither of them does anything to prove whether or not there are actual differences between men and women beyond the social sphere. There is astounding evidence that he does frequently bring up to prove men and women, our masculine and feminine strengths and weaknesses, are biological. But he very rarely brings them up alongside that specific issue. Instead, he uses them in conversations surrounding crime and antisocial behavior. When these facts, however rarely, are brought up in the context of the conversation they actually belong in, they are cheapened and sandwiched between lobster-talk and dominance hierarchies.

This is actually a spin-off of a well-known debate technique called Gish Galloping, where a debater will try and overwhelm their opponents with as many arguments as possible in the shortest time possible. Dr. Peterson tweaks this idea. Instead of overwhelming his opponent with a lot of arguments all at once, he opens into an explanation of something that has very little to do with his real point in hopes that his opponent won’t bother to address it. The truth is, lobsters have nothing to do masculinity or femininity. But that sort of niche diatribe does impress people even though, critically, it carries no real value.

Redefining the Words We Know

The second way Dr. Peterson manipulates language is through the changing of definitions. The most atrocious example of this definition hopscotch is when he speaks on the topic of religion. He has said consistently that he believes all people are religious because religion is “what you act out.” This is just an unhelpful shifting of meaning. According to this definition, prayer, martyrdom, and communion are all religious acts in the same way driving, making a salad, watching TV, or participating in Punk Rock are religious acts. After all, “you can’t be a disbeliever in your actions”. This is an intentionally blunt definition that detracts from conversational productivity. Sam Harris explained this best when he said,

“People have traditionally believed in ghosts, it’s an archetype you might say– the ghost: survival of death is certainly an archetype. And we know what most people most of the time mean when they say they believe in ghosts. And I say I don’t believe in ghosts, and you say ‘No no, you do believe in ghosts. Ghosts are your relationship to the unseen. That’s a ghost.’ So you have a new definition of ghost that you’re putting in the place provided, to which I have to say of course I have a relationship to the unseen. So yeah I guess I do believe in ghosts. You win that argument. But that simply isn’t what most people mean by a ghost.”

Peterson Manipulates Words for Conclusions

Redefining words is not always such a slimy debate strategy. In many instances, it can be very helpful in coming to a conclusion about rather nebulous words such as “good”, “evil”, or even “god” in order to further some sort of discourse and continue the conversation. Dr. Peterson’s redefinition of religion, though, is all-encompassing by design. This basically boils down to an equivocation fallacy. Dr. Peterson’s definition of religion is clearly not the same as the average religious person’s definition. Therefore, it’s meaningless within any conversation about its impact.

This is not to say that Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is not intelligent, that he doesn’t have anything important to say, or that his philosophies outlined in 12 Rules for Life are immoral or fundamentally wrong. This is to say that not all of his proclamations are valid and we shouldn’t ignore his metaphorical talk-arounds of legitimate criticism. It is fine, even good, to admire Jordan Peterson. It is intellectually dishonest, however, to pretend he is flawless or doesn’t use manipulative language. In doing so, he makes himself seem more intelligent and convinces good-hearted people of positions with little merit.


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Black Belts Banned in California Over Public Safety Concern

Ryan Lau | @agorisms | Satire

In a shocking new development in California Sunday afternoon, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that would ban martial artists from becoming black belts. The measure passed through state legislature easily after the murder of an innocent man at the hands of a karate black belt.

Three weeks ago, 35-year-old dojo owner Jason Shreve was walking home from work when a masked man attacked him with a knife. In defense, he disarmed and broke the leg of the man, who died that night from hypothermia. One state senator called the act “inexcusable”, pointing to a recent rise in attacks by martial artists and comparing it to gun violence.

“You simply don’t see this pattern in other developed countries”, asserted Toni Atkins, the state’s Senate President pro Tempore. “And in those countries, people aren’t allowed to just turn themselves into military-grade weapons. This measure will certainly help to keep citizens of California safe”.

Penalties for Black Belts

The bill, which goes into effect March 1st, makes it a felony to knowingly promote a karate student to the rank of black belt or higher. Existing black belts may keep their positions, but may not advance in degree. Dojo owners in violation of the law will face a minimum fine of $100,000 and up to three years in prison. Black belts caught seeking training will also face a smaller fine of $5,000 for the first offense.

Additionally, it outlines severe penalties for practicing self-defense techniques in the real world. Lower ranks may continue to practice only in registered dojos. Anyone learning or teaching martial arts beyond a state-recognized location may face up to a year’s imprisonment. Black belts doing the same may also be subject to treason charges. The bill makes it clear that the government provides security for its citizens; therefore, the only reason people would need to turn themselves into weapons is to use themselves against the state.

In efforts to pacify martial artists in the state, California will be voluntarily buying back all black belts from March 1st to June 1st. Compensation will vary depending on the age of the belt and what school it came from. However, lawmakers warn that any citizen hoping to pass off their normal black belt for a martial arts black belt will face stiff penalties.

America’s Martial Arts Problem

Proponents of the law have pointed out how easy it is to begin martial arts training in America. Brown has previously noted that “it’s easier to begin the road to a black belt than it is to get birth control. You can just walk into a dojo and sign a form; the next thing you know, they’re converting your body into a deadly weapon. This practice is not American and does not represent the values we preach in California. I hope other states can follow our lead and bring this country out of the dark”.

All in all, the state legislature echoed Brown’s sentiment. They believe that the new measure will help to deter violence. Despite this, minority rights groups believe that the new law will unfairly affect minority colors.

“The government is clearly banning black belts while allowing white belts to still train”, remarked minority rights activist from the group Black Belts Matter. “I thought that we had abandoned these policies 50 years ago, but it appears discrimination in America is still rampant”.

Currently, seven other states require all martial artists to register themselves with authorities as lethal weapons. This move is unique thus far to the Golden State. However, the United Kingdom recently passed a similar measure that strictly outlawed all martial arts in formal dojos.


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Do Subscription Boxes Hurt Socialization?

Nickolas Roberson | United States

We all enjoy and love the subscription box services and products that we pay for and receive every month. Shaving products, popular culture merchandise, or even food and water; these services deliver easy-to-access, quality goods straight to our homes. However, how do these amenity providers affect our socialization?

Subscription Boxes: An Introduction

Companies provide boxes that are filled with niche products for the consumers they are targeting. These boxes are known as subscription boxes. Routinely fulfilled payments pay for the shipped goods. 

In the United States, there are an estimated 400 to 600 companies offering these subscription boxes. BlueApron (a meal kit service), Stitch fix (a personal styling service), Dollar Shave Club (a personal grooming product service), and Loot Crate (a pop culture product service) are some of the more popular services offered. This constantly innovating industry has grown from 4.7 visitors to their websites in 2014 to 41.7 million in 2018. This demonstrates increasing demand for these easy to access quality products. Additionally, a majority of the consumers of subscription boxes are 18 to 24 years old, and “prefer the convenience of online shopping.”  However, while online shopping and subscription boxes are extremely easy to purchase and are high in quality, this massive increase in popularity of them may have some negatives.

Marketplace Socialization

The physical marketplace has been the locality for much of humanity’s socialization. It’s where we learned the social skills that were vital for trading and general communication. However, the adoption of mass consumerism and the development of subscription services and boxes could harm socialization.

The vast majority of the aforementioned subscription box services are provided through online shopping. Now, this makes goods incredibly easy to access and purchase. This is tremendous, but there is no social interaction taking place. This, practiced en masse, would have a negative impact on the socialization of individuals.

New Technologies

This occurs through the immense increase in technological advancement taking place today. Cell phones read your face, voice commands control TVs, and personal computers contain alternate realities. With these new, innovative technologies and subscription boxes is a matter of time before individuals have total access to goods and services without leaving their homes. As a result, the death of socialization. 

Subscription services are an amazing product of capitalism. They provide cheaper and more convenient high-quality products. But everything in life has a tradeoff, and the loss of socialization is the tradeoff for subscription boxes.


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Open Doors: 4300 Christians Murdered in 2018

Ralph Tiberius Augustus | Brazil

What does it mean to be a Christian? To some, it means finding shelter and strength through our Lord’s word in order to overcome our daily challenges. To others, it means helping those in need. Whatever are your reasons to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, being a Christian isn’t always an easy task; our faith has tests all the time. To be a Christian sometimes means having to face hatred and persecution. During hard times, it’s quite important for we Christians to keep our faith strong and stay united. 

 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 

 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

– John 15:18-19 (KJV) 

Christian Persecution in the World 

When I say persecution, not only do I mean that Christians are being oppressed through violent means, but also through less obvious means such as biased laws and psychological bullying. A good example of this is how in several countries in the Middle East, laws force Christians to restrict their expression of faith. 

Schools commonly teach about past oppression and violence against Christians. Unfortunately, many of these issues still occur today in parts of the world. Without action, it may only get worse. Currently, persecution of Christians happens mostly in theocratic Muslim countries and areas where terrorist cells have control.

For example, extremists in Syria levied a jizya on any non-Muslims. Those who could not comply had to either convert to Islam or face death. where Christians are a minority and are forced to live under strict regulations such as paying special taxes and not being allowed to practice their faith in public. Moreover, Islamic Saudi authorities violently imprisoned 35 Christians in 2012 for holding a prayer circle.

In several other countries, Christians and other minority religions may only practice their faith in private. In fact, nations with Sharia law often ban items and articles from other religions such as Crucifixes and statues. The mistreatment of Christians is not exclusively in Muslim countries. It also occurs in the Jewish state of Israel and dictatorships such as North Korea. According to Open Doors, the totalitarian state holds some 50,000 Christians in forced-labor camps. 

Open Doors: Christians Murdered in 2018

Sometimes the dedication we have for Christ can even lead to murder. In 2018, 4300 Christians were killed across the globe, according to Open Doors, a non-denominational mission with the goal of helping Christians in countries where Christianity is oppressed for cultural or political reasons. Sadly, the number is only going up. In 2017, there were 3066 murders of Christians for religious reasons. This represents a 40% increase from the previous year.  

However, Open Doors is attempting to eventually bring this number to zero. Andrew van der Bijl founded the group as a small operation to illegally smuggle Bibles to Soviet-controlled Poland in the cold war. Later on, they expanded, smuggling Bibles all over the Communist bloc. Nowadays, Open Doors helps Christians exert their rightful will of regularly practicing their faith in over 70 countries where oppressive laws still exist.

An Increased Danger 

As stated above, the murder rate of Christians drastically increased last year. Unfortunately, the coming years may spell out even more danger for the world’s most common religion. Several factors are leading to this. Michel Varton, the current director of Open Doors, stated that ”The number of vandalized Churches in regions where Christianity is a minority, has highly increased in the past few years”. 

Clashes with Christianity 

In the internet age, information is at everyone’s hands. So, it is becoming more difficult for dictatorships to dumb down the masses. But unfortunately, many countries still use religion as a tool by teaching a twisted, radicalized version of Islam. 

Governments of Muslim-majority countries often see the spread of Christianity as a threat to their power. As a result, they tend to discretely marginalize Christianity through Sharia law. For some of them, Christianity is a symbol of Western imperialism. Thus, they perceive it as a sign of disrespect to their local cultures and customs. 

Some oppressive governments in Asia also see the expansion of Christianity as a threat. This has been a notably growing trend in several parts of Asia with Hindu fanaticism and Buddhist radicalism. Both have taken an aggressive stance towards foreign religions in recent years.  

The Spread of Radical Islam

The vast majority of the incoming immigrants and refugees from the Middle East just want to mind their own businesses and have a chance for a fresh start in the Western world. Unfortunately, a small minority are violent radicals. With a recent uptick in radical Islam in Sweden and other countries, persecution of Christians may increase.  

Moreover, radical Islamic movements have been gaining strength in Asia and Africa. Particularly, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Somalia have seen drastic increases.

An End in Sight?

At this time, it does not appear that the next few years will bring an end to these horrific murders. However, groups like Open Doors and others hope to minimize the casualties and enrich religious freedom. We have only scratched the surface about this, but as the internet thrives, it appears that awareness for Christian persecution may also rise. With this, awareness groups may hope to raise more funds and rally more people to their cause to end intolerance.


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