Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Using "Good Cops" To Justify Bad Ones

One of the regular responses to the bad police behavior now getting increased exposure is to claim "good cops" are a relevant mitigating factor to be considered. These comebacks should be discarded from consideration because they are based on the invalid idea that "points" can be earned by any cop in a uniform to be put in a pool to pay for all police brutality and exterminations. I would hope that the creation of a pool of murder points by "good cops" is an insult to them, but I have to see any major objections.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Torture Me, Torture You

Story: "Poll: Almost half say torture sometimes needed"

Finding humanity disappointing on a regular basis is now the norm for me. Not only is this pro-torture sentiment about as evil as imaginable, it's one that is fought with vigor when the torture is being inflicted by others instead of to others. "Moral for me only" is the declaration we are supposed to praise, apparently.

The next time an American claims they were tortured by a foreign agent, I will be looking for Dick Cheney and his supporters to voice their support for the torturers. I won't find it, but I'll look.

I also can't help but notice that this sentiment has a religious basis, given that a threat of eternal torture is a typical religious assertion seen as moral. It's hard to be against torture when your religion puts it front and center as a godly action.

It's also worth noting that those who complain about a perceived absence of a "moral compass" will be the ones most in favor of torture, making the claim supremely ironic and pathetic. The moral compass they are looking for literally can't exist.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Satire Works When The Content Is Real

What I think a lot of people don't understand who criticize people who find value in The Colbert Report is that the delivery is what's satirical, not the content. And it's content people can't easily get elsewhere. That is what makes a winning combination.

If "real" or self-proclaimed news organizations would actually deliver the content covered by shows like The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, comedians wouldn't have to. The fact that they don't gives these programs even more credibility because they cover uncovered topics are completely open about what they do and how they do it.

(Image and details on the report available from the Pew Research Center.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Mistake Of Letting Dead People Make Our Decisions For Us

From bizarro.com
This comic hits on a point I've mentioned before having to do with letting what we create control us.

Other than the creation of religions that we let control us, perhaps the other most obvious example is the U.S. Constitution (or any set of laws). This document is seen by what is probably a vast majority of Americans as ruling over us in a way that takes control of our lives out of our own hands--and they are okay with that.

The list of things we create and then follow without question is huge and includes just about anything people justify with "we've always done it that way." They can range from something rather innocuous like a recipe to something truly awful like racism.

When we give up taking responsibility for ourselves and, instead, claim we must follow some set of past decisions, we create some pretty appalling conditions.  The society we live in is what we create and accept. To improve we need to change and adapt, not following a set of decisions made during a different time. Blaming what we do on people who are dead is not a valid excuse for anything.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Blame Game Communicaton Block

We often hear from hardcore religious types that some of history's most terrible actions were caused by an individual's atheism. The unrelated this-then-that loose framework at play to discredit this reasoned position on deity claims, however, is never seen as valid when it comes to the much more tenable relationship between gun ownership and gun violence.

No atheist has ever made the claim that their deity-free ethos is the cause for any harmful action (unlike religious believers who brag a deity-based schema directs what they do), and no causal link has ever been otherwise claimed and validated. But we do have gun owners proudly declaring their gun-based ethos will play a role in their future actions when it comes to harming others. It's the claimed reason they own weapons at all. Yet, when one of them ends up inflicting clearly unnecessary harm or death with a gun, other gun owners are quick to try to disconnected the gun owner's actions as some sort of irrelevant anomaly.

Assigning gun-centered actions to a religious belief is also something that doesn't get any weight, even if there is a public claim of religious justification. But if an atheist does something with a gun, a connection will be made tout de suite.

This is just one example of why I have no idea how to communicate with large swaths of people. I just can't relate to where they exist.

Criminal Exposure

It seems to be a fairly common trait among conservatives to see a crime's revelation as criminal. There also appears to be a direct relationship between the criminal magnitude assigned to the act of exposure and what's being exposed. Examples include the recent CIA torture revelations, clergy child abuse, almost anything to do with guns, racist and other discriminatory acts by those with power and/or authority, and the illicit spending of money.

Oh, and there seems to be an increased level of outrage at the source of the information if a white person is shown to have been involved in the activity being revealed.

I'm not sure what to say about this other than I'm stumped, especially because conservatives typically announce themselves as generally being in favor of people not breaking the law. I guess this is an exception to that idea, but I have no clear idea of its formulation or purpose.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Police Killings, Torture Report Reveal Racism's Ugly Survival

The recent non-actions by grand juries along with the new torture report from the U.S. Senate are without a doubt a disturbing pair of news items. But what I haven't seen people notice yet is the related racism that's being revealed by them being in the news at the same time.

Racism is what's driving the attention being given the grand jury stories, but racism is being largely ignored when discussing the torture report. The victims of the torture meted out by the CIA were certainly not white and, while we don't know all the players involved, those delivering, designing and ordering the torture most likely were white.

Also telling is that those who most adamantly support the use of torture and what happened with the grand juries are overwhelming white. It's hard to imagine a scenario where such intense support from a collection of white people would be present if any of the victims in either case were also white. The fact that so few of the pro-torture and pro-white police killings are even willing to acknowledge the possibility of racism reveals the unfortunate survivability of deeply strong pro-racist attitudes.

This could be a transformative teaching moment, a catalyst for an improved future, if we would just notice what's been shown to us. But humanity's track record tells us we'll forgo the opportunity to elevate ourselves and, instead, twist the moment in an attempt to justify the bad behavior.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Replay For Sports, Not For Police

The vast majority of us will gladly dispute a referee's call while watching replays if the video shows it was in error. We are so confident in the ability of this technology that we've even accepted it to make on-the-spot corrective actions during a game.

But this acceptance stops for many when using the technology to reveal a mistake made by the police. The reasons why reveal not a flaw in the technology, but in the people who base its accuracy on who is recorded.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Affectively Moving Thoughts To Speech

About this meme...

At first this seems like a simple and rational statement, but I think it has a flaw that needs to be addressed. My objection is based on the difference between the act of thinking and the act of speaking, which this statement can be seen as conflating. As we have all probably noticed (if we're paying attention), saying something can transform a thought from it's original thought-only state. This transformation can be something minor, like when we declare after saying something silly, "That sounded better in my head." But the act of speaking can reveal something more profound about the unspoken thought.

For example, try and get someone who is avidly pro-gun to speak the entire Second Amendment. Even if the caveat is added that the person is not supporting the idea of a "well-regulated militia," they will have a hard time simply speaking the words. The same is true when asking someone to speak any words that contain an idea or assertion with which they disagree. This is because speaking does have the power to transform not only the thought itself but the person speaking it (along with anyone else who is listening). This is in direct opposition to the assertion in the meme above.

However, I know the point of the meme is somewhat different. It's saying that listening to others is valuable because what other people have to offer can be new information to a listener. But so is listening to ourselves--if we decide to actually speak the things we think. What's revealed can be just as meaningful and transformative as listening to what someone else says.

P.S. Along these lines, consider the belief that magicians can speak special words to accomplish something. Think of the secret names of various gods, and the names of gods that are never to be spoken. (For a pop culture reference, think of the movie Beetlejuice.) Think of the courtroom requirement that people speak instead of, for example, nodding yes or no. The human race has known for a long time the power of the spoken word and has taken steps to try and control this power we don't understand.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The One Dollar Dream

The Dream: Waiting for the day when Rupert Murdoch publicly receives his $1 from the the Koch Brothers for winning a bet that a single cable TV network cold ruin a country, a la Trading Places. Then we can get back to normal.

Spiritual Schizophrenia

Very few people seem too see at least a potential problem that their chosen god accesses their brain in the style of those suffering from Schizophrenia. A method with less baggage would seem more appropriate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Insufferable Divide

Improving the human condition will always be difficult for a variety of reasons, many of which get no attention at all, including the tendency for the ignorant and the educated to find each other insufferable. If we ever get around to making a list of what holds us back, perhaps this one should be at the top of that list.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

An Ancestral Dogmatic Hypothesis

I came across an old note wondering about the reaction our ancient ancestors must have had when first creating something they perceived to be permanent. It was probably a piece of art, either a figurine or a painting on a cave wall, maybe a body ornament. This idea interests me because the experience of life is normally filled with constant change, and our very ancient ancestors must have experienced—and expected—nothing else. Flora and fauna grow and die; rivers rise and fall; weather is unpredictable; the motion in the skies is a constant series of changes; there are periods of plenty and periods of scarcity; etc. When those ancestors of ours first began to create anything seen as stable, I'm guessing there was a magical feeling they experienced by being able to create something exempt from change.

Maybe this uplifting feeling of control was an eventual catalyst for doing other things with a sense of permanence like building shelters and coming up with regularly scheduled rituals. Existing within a reality that is unpredictable can be unsettling so it's understandable how as desire to mitigate that feeling would result in efforts to create things known to be (or thought to be) stable.

I think this idea of permanence also got another huge boost with the later invention of writing. When our ancestors developed systems to transfer their words to the permanent media of stone and clay, the feeling of creating something truly magical must have been off the scale. The power that must have been felt when exercising this ability must also have been tremendous.

But there was an unfortunate side-effect that came with this ability that hounds us to this day: dogma. Until the creation of something that literally froze ideas in stone, it must have been much easier for our ancestors to adapt to whatever came up. Pre-writing civilizations certainly had developed a body of rules and traditions to maintain their cultures and guide their decisions. But without a physically tangible history to which everyone could refer, a society's leaders could more easily make adaptive decisions because authority rested with a person(s), not a set of tablets, who was probably the official keeper of the society's collective knowledge. It is likely that this process was eventually determined to be inferior to the inferred magical nature of something written and preserved, giving birth to the concept of dogma. 

Of course, different cultures adopt varying levels of dogmatic ideas and practices, allowing some manner of change to be considered and adopted. But dogma, to any degree, is harmful because relying on anything that is declared to be always applicable and unchangeable is anathema to existence.

As mentioned above, we live with this unfortunate situation today, with people ready to kill in order to keep their preferred dogma from being altered. The most common modern examples are religion and nationalism. In both cases there are collections of written words (religious texts and constitutions) that are supposed to be treated as if they are perfect and always applicable. This is a framework that is bound to fail because living in an ever-changing existence can only be accommodated by constant adaptation. Trying to serve our desire for stability actually hurts our ability to treat ourselves with dignity.

So, like a lot of things within the human experience, we get good and bad together from our actions and often fail to deal with them appropriately. Writing has certainly been a positive tool for humanity, but it has also been a tool used to hurt us terribly. I can only hope our descendants figure out a way to do better with this tool than their ancestors have done.

Inability To Predict The Future Fails To Deter Dogmatic Declarations

I don't know if there is a name for this, but there is a consistent failure in which we humans engage where we make rules to mandate our future behavior that we think will cover everything. These attempts always fail because no future set of circumstances can be predicted with precision. There are too many variables within existence itself to come up with a caveat-free description of (or for) anything, now or in the future.

This problem plays out in everything from a simple promise between two friends to entire criminal justice systems. No matter what words are said or put down on paper at any point in time, there will always be cases where they do not accurately, fairly or completely cover a future set of circumstances.

Along with the problem of not being perfect fortune tellers, this problem exists for us humans because language itself is not up to the task. It is not a tool with an ability to remove all ambiguity, no matter how it's used.

Despite this easily recognizable situation, we still create dogmatic declarations that are to be seen as so perfect as to be unalterable, but this exception-free goal gives us nothing but problems. We would be so much better off if we would accept the notion that we will constantly need to adjust to the ever-changing and unpredictable situations in which we find ourselves.

As mentioned at the start, I don't think there is a name for this (at least I can't find one). It's a kind of Delphic incorrigibility, but that phrase is too clunky to make sense for most people. Maybe one day a proper name will come to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Jesus applauds early end to Thanksgiving to celebrate his birthday with more shopping

A few more The Onion-style satire headlines to share....

Jesus applauds early end to Thanksgiving to celebrate his birthday with more shopping

Teen hopes to connect with parents who don't understand him by sharing fetish porn collection

Hoping to give retired life meaning, local man becomes active internet troll

Book cover artists demand judgment of their work be based on author's contribution

Area pastor undeterred by failure to win converts as internet troll

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Law Enforcement Art of After-the-Fact Lying

There is something being avoided in the wake of the Ferguson non-indictment having to do with the nature of the police mindset when it comes to defending themselves against any charges of wrongdoing: institutionalized lying.

It is a fairly common historical practice for polic
e to lie after the fact in order to justify an action. It's usually something like they smelled pot or alcohol, or the person "looked like" someone with a warrant for what are relatively minor acts of bad behavior. But lies being told also include claims that allow a much worse collection of bad behaviors. Claims of seeing a bulge under someone's coat (meaning they thought it was a gun), someone made a threatening gesture, or trying to grab for their gun (the main claim in the Ferguson case that supposedly justifies the shooting) can be used to allow a police officer to avoid personal responsibility for anything, including murder.

I have worked with all kinds of police forces across the country and this attitude was impossible to miss. And from what I could tell, it's just about universal. So don't be so quick to assume that when a police officer makes a claim that is used to justify their actions that the claim is true. There is more than a minor chance that they are lying. The lie will also be adamantly supported by other officers everywhere so that they, too, can do so in the future (or have a past lie remain acceptable). The routine has become a law enforcement art form.

The Perfection of Police and Politicians

It's amazing that we, as a species, don't toot our own horn more often about having the ability to consistently choose nearly perfect people to put in police uniforms. When compared to the rest of society, the lack of guilty verdicts and criminal prosecutions must point to some virtuous character trait that all police departments can detect when hiring people, right? This can't be a coincidence.

As a point of investigative comparison, we must also have a knack for picking politicians who are more ethical than the rest of us. They also rarely end up being convicted of anything when compared to non-politicians. The numbers being so different, labeling this contrast as coincidental would also  be hard to do.

How did we end up so fortunate as to have evolved to a place where we always seem to put the most perfect among on in these most important jobs? If aliens have visited us, they must be living the rest of their lives in awe of this human trait.

Could there be other groups we need to admire for hardly ever being found guilty of anything? We certainly would not want to leave anyone out when honoring people for their ability to stay out of trouble with the law.

The most likely additional group worthy of celebrating is probably the rich. This group is a little different than the others because its members are not directly chosen. But those in this group also seem to stay out of trouble with the law at rates that are much higher than the rest of society. Being rich must also have the side-effect of being (or becoming) a more ethical creature.

In the U.S. being white is also an apparent group membership that means a more law-abiding existence. White people are found guilty of things way less often than people of other races. This group must also have an innate ethical compass that keeps them from committing the crimes committed by other races.

Given all of this evidence, we should presume that members of these groups are free of guilt where members of other groups should be assumed to always have an abundance of it.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Parents Announce Newborn's Candidacy For 2040 Congressional Campaign

I'm wondering if the backlash we're experiencing against an increasingly early Christmas shopping season can also be used to stop increasingly early political campaigns. We haven't even sworn anyone in from the last election and people are already lining up to run in (and ruin) the next one.

There is absolutely no reason we can't have a proper election with only a few months of campaigning. Way cheaper, way less annoying, way more likely to avoid burnout, and way more likely to attract more qualified candidates.

But politics isn't known for being humanity's friend, so I'm not going to hold my breath.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Trickle-up Tax Credits

It is a fairly common refrain from advocates of trickle-down policies that those with the most money should have a reduced tax burden. The reason for this position is that those at the top of the economic system are to be seen as "job creators," a group whose members are supposed to be worshiped and thanked for allowing the rest of us to work for them. It is then "logical" under this impaired view that a requirement these people pay taxes (or a progressively higher tax rate) is unfair because of this huge favor they are supposedly doing the rest of us already. For them to be seen as a source of tax revenue is an insult in this deranged model.

There are plenty of reasons to reject this silly and confused argument, but an important one I generally fail to see has to do with a type of piracy. Not only are the falsely labeled "job creators" to be lauded for their willingness to let everyone else earn money for them in this ruse, but they are to be given credit for the taxes paid by everyone else. This poisonous position actually allows the most privileged among us take credit for taxes they do not pay. And not only to take credit for them, but gladly be given credit for them by those actually paying them.

I can't help but place this mindset in the same category that includes people who make excuses for their abusers. It's a human trait that seems to always find new ways to fail us.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Toilet Paper, People of Equal Importance

One of the things about humanity I think is telling but few others notice at all is the fact that labor costs on business spreadsheets are not shown any differently than paper clips or parking expenses. If we were a species that actually wanted to claim a moral basis for unchecked capitalism, the cost for humans would be noted in a way that reminded us to honor one another, not lump us together with everything else where the goal is to pay as little as possible. The way we train ourselves now is to ignore the humanity of humans, having been convinced we don't deserve to be treated any differently than toilet paper.