Saturday, December 27, 2014

No Cops on Career Day

I'm waiting for the situation where a public school refuses to allow police to be a part of career day, referencing a policy against inviting representatives from organizations that openly employ violent racists with weapons.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Defending the Rich is a Poor Tendency

While reading a few items recently that contained the normal conservative support for the most wealthy among us (even by the poorest among us) I began to sense a strong similarity to the attitudes expressed by those who have supported dictatorships and monarchies. The specific example that came to mind first was the "White" Russian army that came to the defense of the Czar after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Similar defenses of a society's ruling minority by those who do not belong to that group are not rare so others soon came to mind. There were forces loyal to the English crown during the American Revolution, of course, and the French Revolution was not immune from groups looking to save their monarchy. There are even a few cases I now remember reading about where blacks were in favor of South Africa's former apartheid government.

Although I haven't done any kind of real search, I can't think of ever learning of a case where a minority ruling class didn't have among their supporters those being oppressed by them. If there is a case, it would be an example worth studying in as much detail as possible because it's difficult to understand why people who are suffering would openly support those who cause it. I do understand how some people who are living on the edge will not eagerly take any action that is seen as causing their personal situation to worsen by, for example, being fired from their job if they speak out against injustice. But once a revolution is underway, or there is a clear alternative that will improve one's life, support for the people who cause the suffering is baffling.

This attitude reminds me of a John Steinbeck quote: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." If true, which I think is the case in one form or another, this sentiment could be the best explanation. But it is still bewildering, to me especially given the historical evidence against social and economic mobility in a society ruled by a powerful minority.

Whether a country's ruling classes are called nobility, clergy, capitalists, or anything else, as a species we seem to gravitate and then support the idea of being ruled by some sort of powerful minority. A true democracy where the power is possessed by "We the People" is something that doesn't come naturally, it seems to me. If we really want to live in a democracy with a working separation of powers principle that diffuses and weakens control by small groups of people, we need stop finding value in their creation. When we don't, our unfortunate tendency to let it happen wins, which means the vast majority of us lose.

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

http://bizarro.com/
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.

One other area of note where we let dead people tell us what to do comes in the form of wills. It is a fairly common practice that we let people who have died having power over the living by telling us what we can do with their former stuff. People who are dead are dead. They no longer exist. For us to concede post-mortem control, for example, to a dead person over a piece of land they used to own is over-the-top nuts. They are dead. Whatever happens after they die is not their concern because they can't even have a concern--they are dead and can't, therefore, do or be anything at all other than dead. They don't exist, and we should not give things that don't exist power over our lives. The strings a person has controlling their stuff should be cut when a coffin enters the picture. 

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.

Relevant article: Buddhist Economics: How to Start Prioritizing People Over Products and Creativity Over Consumption

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Loneliness of Miscommunication

An idea struck me today that should have surfaced within my brain quite a long time ago: despite the romantic reputation of a life filled with variety, the more varied one's life experiences, the more lonely that person is likely to be.

I pull this idea in part from an often repeated insight about loneliness not being an absence of people in one's life, but a lack of people with whom one can successfully communicate. This type of communication problem is readily recognized as being in play for people who simply have a highly unique brain chemistry or who have lived through various kinds of physical trauma. But I don't think loneliness caused by a highly varied and unique life is generally acknowledged.

People with highly varied and unique life experiences I think are much more likely to find points of commonality with others to be weak and functionally nil. Even when there seems to be a promising overlap of experience or knowledge open for exploitation, for those who have lived a highly unique life the opportunity is often quickly exposed as an illusion.

This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't a common human trait to seek out people who understand us. We often hear people dream about a partner that "gets me" and fill out dating questionnaires designed to match people who have the most points of commonality. We look for groups to join on websites like meetup.com to meet people who might be similar to ourselves. We engage with special interest groups, volunteer for causes we support, and look for connections with people who have similar hobbies by attending conventions and conferences. When given the choice, we move to neighborhoods where people are most like ourselves. This search for compatible others is a core part of being human, and when the search fails, loneliness is a highly likely result.

As is often the case with things we romanticize, a downside exists that gets little attention. When we learn about people who have lived lives filled with adventures or strings of disconnected experiences we find alluring, it's natural to glorify the person's life. But if one looks carefully enough, the lonely downside is what might deserve the attention more.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Where Is The No Minimum Wage Paradise?

Headline: "Minimum wage increase wins in four red states"

As usual, I'm curious about something. This time it's about people who are against wage supports.
If the thinking behind the anti-minimum wage position is valid, it should be relatively easy to find at least a few examples of high wage areas that are just awful places to live and low wage areas that are pretty close to paradise.

Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I can't find a single example of either.

 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reincarnation, Patina, and Marriage Proposals

Another offering of satire headlines...

New survey shows 87% of professional athletes secretly wish their most intense fans would "just
get a life already"

American Psychiatric Association internal report shows depression caused by reincarnation errors

University researchers conclude surprise public marriage proposals most successful when done
right after last call

Hoping to avoid regulations, drone makers renaming their products "cordless kites"

Looking to expand beyond the saturated teen market, video game maker Blizzard Entertainment to
make Warcraft Antiquing: Quest for Provenance & Patina
 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Our Irrelevant Best

After seeing it referenced many times, I have finally read Mountains Beyond Mountains, a book about Dr. Paul Farmer who has become famous for bringing health care to some of the world's poorest places, most notably Haiti. The story gives me a bit of whiplash because the timing coincides with lots of prominent people in this country actually trying to take away health care from millions.

Even though we've had various versions of The Golden Rule around for millennia--something few declare to be an awful idea--we sadly continue to see it as immaterial, even in circumstances when it would be most useful.

I sometimes think an accurate flow chart of human thoughts and behaviors (assuming one could be created) would look like something an insane person would draw during a psychological test about their own thoughts and behaviors. A hopeful sign for such people usually includes an understanding of the problem and a desire to improve. Unfortunately, I see little of that when looking at humanity as a whole, making me see a less golden future.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Supernatural Sounds of the Forest

I heard again recently the supposedly deep philosophical question, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound"? When I am exposed to this question it makes me cringe a little because it shows how deep our broken sense of existence actually goes. Just asking the question reveals the mistaken idea that the universe has a chance of being supernaturally influenced by the mere presence of a single human. The only thing uncovered by this question being formed, letting alone it being answered, is yet another example of what's dysfunctionally possible from humanity.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Power of the Pro-Pain Vote

It is often asked why the poor and powerless vote against their own interests when given the chance. When this question comes up I can't help but look for clues in similar human activities like abused spouses who stay with their abusers, people with low self-esteem who deny what's positive about themselves, and people who have a fetish for pain. It's unlikely that these things are completely disconnected from one another.

There is also a somewhat common mindset that supports the idea that those with power deserve it and those without power don't. (This idea is the basis behind caste systems in all their forms as well as the concepts of karma and heaven & hell.)

It is unfortunate for humanity that we have these capabilities that give support to what hurts so many of us, with no exception for self-inflicted damage. So it's no surprise to me that people deny opportunities for improvement, even when they are clear and easy to claim.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Horse Sense, Macaroni and Cheese

Continuing with the satire headlines...

New measuring techniques confirm "horse sense" standards are inferior to educated guesses, rules
of thumb, and "we've always done it this way"

Local man vows to solve mystery behind identical cooking instructions for every brand of
macaroni and cheese

Hopes of Candy Corn makers dashed as Halloween sales again fail to spur after-holiday interest

The world's most wealthy and powerful pushing U.S. to invade and impose our new anti-voting form
of democracy


 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wolf Blitzer, DeBeers and Cooties

A few more satirical headlines that I thought I'd share...


Wolf Blitzer sets new goal to go outside before end of the decade

Hidden cameras reveal 73% of doctors cross their fingers during Hippocratic Oath

New Wikileaks documents reveal conspiracy behind DeBeers' diamond-girl friendship claims

God admits massive universe for humans was a mistake; vows to be less wasteful on future projects

Research confirms being gay is a choice often made during childhood in response to learning about cooties

The Scrap Value of Humanity

I think it is clear that humanity is a malfunctioning model of existence when the top fears of some people seem to be Ebola, voting, non-white "foreigners," women who want health care, and post-death fantasies. We are barely hanging on to an ontological status at all. It's hard to imagine us being qualified for anything other than the universe's bargain bin, offered for scrap.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Monsters, Mules and More

Yes, more satire headlines...

Noticing that "well-adjusted people don't buy a lot of guns," NRA takes official stance against mental health care

Investigation reveals Ben & Jerry's "flavors" just silly names for chocolate, vanilla, strawberry

Survey shows book dedications are empty gestures, have no positive impact

Mule-hinny group forms to fight intra-equine discrimination

Growing minority of monsters feel Halloween is an insulting token holiday, want year-round recognition

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Satirical Headlines Continue...

Hidden Tragedy: thousands die annually in covert rye v. wheat grain wars

Newly analyzed data show time saved running yellow lights ends up being wasted

"Return Whites to Europe" campaign to kick off on Thanksgiving

Rich whites, blacks agree: poor blacks are the problem

Health insurance companies to raise rates for domestic violence victims who stay

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Anti-Photogenic Bigfoot


I just saw these two images on a Facebook feed at about the same time and thought together they were funny....

Source for image: http://wordsandtoons.com/2010/03/23/i-just-unfriended-bigfoot/bigfoot-facebook/

Overview Map of North American Bigfoot Sightings (Source for image: http://penn.freeservers.com/bigfootmaps/)




Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Satire Headlines Continue...

Toothbrush company insider admits new "advanced" model is nothing special

Survey shows professional dog walkers silently despise pooper scooper laws

Committee formed to search for conservative comedian who isn't an ignorant vicious ass

Pillow company sued for failure to include permanent cool side

The Ongoing Victory of Errors

When the Information Age brought us the Internet and its possibilities for sharing what we know on a wide scale, the expectation of positive dividends for humanity was repeated often. But, like a lot of expectations, the actual result has been quite different.

Along with the much greater access to quality information that has certainly been achieved via the Information Superhighway, the advancement has been largely eclipsed by propagation of bullshit that has also been given an accessible method of delivery. Getting good with the bad is a common and expected human experience, but in this case the good is losing big time, in my opinion.

Of course there are a lot of examples of improvements where the good outweighs the bad, but when looking in a larger sense at the overall change to our lives and how we interact with one another, I think the victory (so far) goes to the bad.

I think the reason in play has to do with the human need for training in order to overcome the many weaknesses and biases we all endure as part of the homo sapien package of existence. We are not knowledgeable and wise by default. It takes work--a lot of work--and the passing on of information from sources where human failings have been filtered out as much as possible. People don't generally deploy a valid method of checks and balances on their own. Adopting error-filled conclusions as credible is the much more likely result. But the effort will still be made to not only share damaged conclusions, but impose them on others, which is where the bad comes into play in a big way. When enough people sharing bad information reaches a number that appears to award legitimacy, those in the group become hardened in an act of self-defense and "the good" corrective information that is also available is shunned.

It's certainly true that it can be detrimental to have gatekeepers over the information that gets shared. But our current experience of being able to flood the world with open nonsense shows us the pernicious side of downplaying the value of chaperones and editors who use knowledge of our weaknesses to share the verifiable best we have to offer.

I don't have high hopes of our descendants reaching a workable balance anytime soon. But I do hope that the problem gets openly recognized and efforts for improvement based on that recognition are eventually undertaken.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Revolution-Invasion Problem

I think it's true for everyone that we sometimes find ourselves thinking that someone else (or a groups of others) is in some respect inferior because they can't understand something we can (or think we can). When this happens, the attitude can smear into a larger negative view of the other person (or people) causing what I like to call a superiority complex.

When this happens to an extreme level and involves large number of other people, the term arrogance comes into play and produces a corresponding negative view of self-declared superior person by everyone else. This, I think, is a type of balancing effect that we humans deploy in order to support a sense of equality most of us find appropriate.

In a much larger sense, however, the concept balance is what can cause everything from small arguments to large scale wars. In the attempt to maintain balance, these actions are often called revolutions or revolts. But conflicts can also be caused by the self-declaring superior party thinking they somehow have implicit permission to take detrimental actions against others as a way to try and make sure those seen as inferior don't begin to think they aren't. These actions might broadly be called invasions.

So, it seems that we can find a motivation for conflict in seemingly opposite conditions; one being the attempt at balance and equality (revolutions), the other being the attempt at maintaining some type of superiority (invasions).

This sometimes makes me think we'll never achieve a permanent peace as the pendulum swings back and forth between these opposing motivations for conflict.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When Self-Defense Goes Bad

Headline: "The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to a Marriage"

I keep telling myself that I will stop reading the comments on stories because they tend to be so awful--and generally I'm doing a better job of it--but sometimes I still sneak a peak. After reading this story I did just that and, again, was sorry for doing so.

In this case the type of awful comment that seems to prevail is a version of "this bit of professional advice/insight is wrong because my view of my life is different." Ugh. This is the same flawed style of thinking that has people denying global warming because it's cold today in the place where they happen to live.

An individual experience or single set of circumstances can never be a stand-in for something larger. In addition, our biases and faulty memories work against our being able to accurately and fully account for conclusions we reach on our own.

I think we all have a tendency to protect the view we've developed of ourselves. It's a form of self-defense. This habit has the unfortunate effect of often having us being unable to even consider not only challenges to our self-formed view but our placement of that created self within macro-humanity.

When coming across information or advice that seems to be a challenge to one's self, getting overly self-defensive shouldn't be a considered reaction. Instead, we should realize the non-universality of the human individual in order to not be our own roadblock to a greater understanding of our existence, the existence of others, and the existence of humanity as a whole.

Deploying a stand your ground self-defense mechanism does not provide the benefit desired. Instead, an opportunity to gain a more knowledge and wisdom gets destroyed.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Again With the Satire Headlines?

Yes...

New research suggests themes used at all political and religious rallies are just versions of "they suck"

Increasing number of people see long-distance relationships as "less annoying" than those with regular personal contact
OR
New dating website launches in response to increase in people opting for long-distance relationships

New advocacy group planning discrimination lawsuits is seeking protected minority status for Internet trolls

Brain scans show credibility drops equally from being seen on Fox News or caught picking your nose

Losing Our Fear of Hypocrisy

We often justify some stance or action based on a rule of some kind we like. The rule may be well-known or ad doc, something newly expressed. But we are always in fear of that rule also being used to either undermine what we've just used it to support or being applied to a similar stance or action where support is absent. I doubt there is any case where the rule in play is so perfect as to not also be available to detractors of the stance or action. We use the term hypocrite a lot in these cases.

This problem stems from our unfortunate quest for ultimate rules that an always be applied without exception. No such rules--especially ones to justify human behavior--will ever be discovered because they do not exist. No two circumstances are ever alike because history does not ever repeat itself exactly. Our movement through time forbids it. What happened in the past stays there, never to be experienced again.

Even if we could come up with a rule that appears to be applicable to a past set of circumstances, it wouldn't be. We can't know absolutely everything relevant--past or present--leaving open the very real possibility that the rule being applied was invalid even then.

Rules are our enemies if we think we've created or discovered something universal. We can hope to find wisdom and a moderate amount of guidance from past experiences and the rules that were in play, but our past can't rule our present (or future) unless we want to abandon reason and justice.

Our fear of being named a hypocrite has us searching for something that doesn't exist, and, ironically, this search takes us on a journey away from what it is supposedly designed to seek. Hypocrisy should not always be seen as our enemy--not because we don't want to try and be consistent where we can, but because the idea pre-supposes that we always can or should be. The circumstances of our human behavioral existence are too complicated and fluid to apply rigid forms of measurement. Our information will always be incomplete, contain more than a few inaccuracies, and be applied badly.

In order to be on the lookout for new information that is always coming our way, we deserve to give what we now call hypocrisy a way of helping us out. It can be our friend if we take the time to understand how and why.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Resurrecting the Articles of Confederation

Coinciding with the continuing wave of court rulings favoring marriage equality, there is also a wave of conservative diatribes that always include the tired "unelected judges," "will of the people" and "states rights" talking points. (The latest is from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.)

I so wish the media would address these assertions with a short reminder about the failed Articles of Confederation, the original document on which our U.S. ancestors first tried to form a country without a strong federal role. Included in that history lesson needs to be the idea that the judiciary is there to enforce the laws passed by those elected by the people, which include the provisions of the U.S. Constitution. If a state ever goes rogue when it comes to federal law, then it is the job of the judiciary to stop it, not endorse it. It's the way the system is meant to operate.

If people want to change it, then fine. Start holding Repeal the Constitution rallies and propose the Articles of Confederation be brought back from the dead. It's a proven failure, but that has never been a barrier to conservative desires.

A Few More Satire Headlines...


New hotline opens for truckers wanting to kill those who stay in their blind spot

Regulars at local bar anticipate Ebola solution after next round

Hoping to get more visitors, neighborhood cat lady switches to stamp collecting

Students taught fear of Ebola by their parents bully unconcerned classmates for not being horrified

Friday, October 17, 2014

Science: To Boldy Know What No One Has Known Before

Those who dismiss science often tend to do so with the assertion that science doesn't have all the answers. This misses the point; the simple goal of science is to know more than we did yesterday, not to declare a state of ultimate knowledge and then claim victory. It's a pursuit that will never end.


When the Defintion of Work Needs Some

Articles from earlier this year...

"The Rich Aren't Rich Because They Work Harder. They Work Harder Because They're Rich!" (Huffington Post)

and

"Nice work if you can get out" (The Economist)

Contained within these articles is the often undiscussed notion that what constitutes "work" for the poor and the more well-off are not the same thing.

For those with money, their definition of work generally needs some.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Leaves Worthy Contenders Behind in Fear Race

The ongoing effort to scare the crap out of people in the U.S. about Ebola is now officially ridiculous. It's even more over-the-top when compared to the non-reaction to real threats from things like guns, climate change, anti-vaccers, people against providing health care, and those who simply won't treat others decently.

We can suck sometimes. We really can. There must be money in it.

P.S. If a vaccine for Ebola existed, would anti-vaccers afraid of the disease be against its use?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Anthropomorphized Company We Keep

We live within the ridiculous notion--now legally certified--that corporations are people. It's easy to assert this notion as nonsense, but there is an unfortunate use of language we employ that works in opposition.

It is common when speaking about corporations, or organizations in general for that matter, to say things like "XYZ company wants such-and-such" or "ABC company decided to do X." This kind of language assigns human qualities to an organizational idea we invented. In short, we have anthropomorphized a concept.

This is not a small thing. How we use language is not something to be dismissed as irrelevant. How we talk and write informs how we think and the decisions we make based on those thoughts. Given the way we now refer to the virtual as being not only real but human, it'll be hard to get out from under the faulty notion that real people are indeed different abstractions we invent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I just can't stop! More satire headlines...

Okay, I'm on a satire headline kick right now for some reason. I do admit to being a fan of The Onion and Andy Borowitz, so it comes from that. But why do this now? Not sure. Just am. 


Terrorist groups now celebrating Columbus Day in effort to find common ground with Americans

Diner patron convinced he can permanently shoo away that fly before dessert

George Lucas reveals that Star Wars is fiction

Leaving default 1-2-3-4 password intact fails to entice hackers to steal Donald Trump's naked selfies

Local mother of three vows "to do whatever it takes" to fit into her original bride of Frankenstein dress for Halloween


Sunday, October 12, 2014

More Satire Headlines...

A few more satire headlines...

Local shopper feels lucky after picking rare container of mold-free strawberries, spends salary on lottery tickets

Research confirms consistent time capsule disappointment leads to support of the History Channel's abandonment of history programming

Elderly man decides to "hold it" after failing to find urinal in new restaurant's unisex bathrooms

Doctor who contracted Ebola now sorry for always ignoring hand washing directive from bathroom wall diagram

Brainy Autoimmune Disease Against Knowledge

Headline: "Climate change, Benghazi, the Fed: The science behind the right’s irrational obsession with conspiracies"

The headline is unfortunate because this is a really good and in-depth article covering the science behind conspiracy theories. It outlines in detail how and why we have a tendency to create these theories and, even worse, refuse to let them die. It's just one more example of how the human brain can't be trusted to reach valid conclusions on its own.

It reminds me of the Wikipedia list of biases that seems to go on forever. With so many things working against us when trying to find out anything for sure, it's not surprising it's taken millions of years for us to get this far. Our brains act like an autoimmune disease against knowledge.

But because we now know about these problems, we can, if we want to, take steps to mitigate them by relying on evidence and processes that remove us as much as possible from the results. We just need to want to do so.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

More Satire Headlines...

A few more attempts at headlines in the style of The Onion (I know I've made posts like this often lately, but it's a new mind exercise I'm trying out!)...

Newly single man shocked to discover putting dishes in the sink to soak is not the final step

Woman discovers her best thinking is done during slow internet connection pauses

To ease Middle East tensions, President Obama to personally knit Christmas sweaters for ISIS commanders

Study finds "adorable" most used word for those wishing to hide their real opinion

God to save money by awarding new call center contract to handle prayer requests to Philippine company


The Scientific Need For The Personal Touch

I love this editorial from Nature magazine: "A little knowledge: The significance of expertise passed on by direct contact— tacit knowledge — is moot."

In short, the piece outlines how important it is to have the experience of in-person contact when sharing knowledge. Reading papers, even ones that are very detailed, can't pass on the quality of knowledge that personal sharing of information and techniques can achieve, the editorial claims.

This has been a pet peeve of sorts with me for over 10 years due to a personal experience. When I received my first I.T. certifications, the classes I took were in a traditional classroom environment with other students and an instructor. When I went back a few years later to update those certifications, the classes were all just videos that "students" sat down and watched.

I didn't enroll.

I knew that the knowledge I needed to acquire couldn't be obtained by watching videos (and the money do watch them was ridiculously expensive). I need the interaction with others to do any kind of useful learning, and I think that's true in general for everyone. The way knowledge is absorbed through shared experiences can't be duplicated by watching a video or reading a paper, as the editorial explains.

I think this is an under-recognized problem that shows itself most noticeably in the proliferation of online universities. I'm not sure I would trust a person with a degree from one of those places to have the level of knowledge and skill as someone who had a degree from a place where learning was done in-person and hands-on with others.

We need to acknowledge that we need one another to learn and that learning needs to literally be personal. We ultimately lose knowledge if we keep trying to share it in ways that keep us isolated form one another.


Friday, October 10, 2014

The Power of Past Sentence Fragments

Headline: "Islamic State group uses only half of a Quran verse to justify beheadings — see what’s in the other half"

It is not atypical for humans to do this, so it's odd that it's news. I would submit that all religious fundamentalists do this--as do secular ones. Perhaps the most prominent secular example is the sentence fragment pulled from the Constitution's Second Amendment by hardline gun advocates. And, for religious texts, it's not only taking part of a verse, but pulling a whole verse out on it's own. Many verses are sentence fragments themselves, and using a tidbit of a longer passage--whether it's a verse or part of one--can't be an accurate justifier (given that you hold such things to be possible in the first place.)

Because we exist in an ever-shifting mix of unpredictable circumstances and attitudes, I don't think there is a way for any declaration to be considered valid or relevant past the immediate moment in which it was created (assuming it was valid even then). This causes those who look to past declarations for justification of a current desire to carve out what they want and ignore the rest. We just pile up our problems by failing to move away from this faulty process. Instead, we should take responsibility for our current problems ourselves with fully contextual information from the here and now.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A few more "The Onion"-style headlines...

A few more The Onion-style headlines...

Last man in local office to use Xerox as a verb retiring

Frequent traveler saves extra person hotel charge by claiming wife is only a visiting prostitute

Local couple stays together only to continue meaningless angry dispute with neighbors

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Failure of Armed Fear

We are being told to be afraid--very afraid--of a small band of rebels on the other side of the world. What good are our tanks, war planes, a navy full of ships and submarines, an incredibly enormous spying industrial complex, a large percentage of the civilian population armed to ridiculous levels, police departments that shoot people with little or no provocation, an enormous border security apparatus, and who knows how many nuclear weapons? It's as if being armed well beyond any other population in history provides no comfort, doesn't stop people from accepting pretty much any directive to be afraid, and ends up creating a attitude among others that being our adversary is noble. It's hard to imagine any other real situation that could be ranked as more bizarre, especially when the new call to fear voting is factored in.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

More Potential Headlines For "The Onion"

Some more potential headlines for The Onion:


New study reveals customer only right 27% of the time

Salon owner comes clean: copying celebrity hair styles doesn't change your life

Researchers confirm "Two-Four-Six-Eight" victory chant to be a hoax

Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Am What I'm Not

There is a consistent complaint by some atheists about the term itself. Because it notes what someone is not, those with the sentiment claim it is unworthy of being used. They would rather be known by other terms that note what they are instead of what they are not.

But I don't have a problem with it for the same reason I don't mind being called a non-smoker or atypical, or designating some businesses as non-profit. It is just the way our language works in some cases and is entirely appropriate where it's necessary to be accurate.

On a bit of a silly side note, this made me wonder recently if there is a clever joke to be made from a comparison between the dangers of second-hand smoke and second-hand religion. If not, maybe just a point of contemplation might be worth a few seconds of thought.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hoarding Our Past Fails Our Future

I have written before about the false comfort we get by looking to the past for answers that supposedly trump new information we find and confirm. (This is perhaps the most core attitude contained within the beliefs of some religious groups and philosophical outlooks.) But I have experienced a new take on that issue in a more day-to-day practical sense and it has to do with clutter that comes from keeping old items "just in case."

This is almost purely anecdotal, but I am someone who tends to toss things out as I go along. This goes for things that include emails, snail mail, old tax forms, gadgets of all kinds, clothes, and, in general, things I haven't used in a year or so. I have no qualms about giving them away or tossing them out. For me, hanging on to stuff from the past tends to inhibit my ability to look to the future where better information and improved stuff resides. Keeping the past around is an unnecessary burden and a distraction.

For others, however, there is an opposite tendency along a spectrum of possibilities where just about everything old has not only some kind of value but very important value that has, by default, more going for it than anything new. To toss out something old is to destroy solutions to humanity's greatest problems that, for some reason, originally failed, or is evidence of something profound. (To be clear, I'm not including things being held for purposes of sentimentality or pure nostalgia.)

Why this behavior comes across as intriguing to me is that the old stuff being saved rarely, if ever, gets used or is even accessed again. If it does, it's usually given an overabundance of present value, tapping into the desire we seem to have for ancient hidden treasures to give us answers instead of looking for them with the best tools we've since created. But, in reality, these things are not even close to being qualified to provide them. While the past certainly has value in understanding the human journey, this unfortunate desire to look backwards to find answers ignores all the evidence that shows the the best information--and tools to find more--is always ahead of us.  

So, I guess the point is that I think this tendency to give undo power and overrated value to the past affects our behavior in ways that don't seem related. These include the keeping of folders of credit card bills from 30 years ago and old gas can caps "just in case," to religious texts of ancient societies containing their guesses about our place in the universe.

I'm not sure why this is the case (if it is), but I suspect there is more than one thing going on. The possibilities likely include a need to know something concrete about our "source" (on a personal level and in a larger sense), not wanting to insult ourselves by admitting the human journey has been filled with mistakes, and searching for evidence of universal meaning that, if true, must have always been there.

These are nice ideas at some level, but they misdirect us on our journey. What's most important is our future, not our past.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Virtuous Conversion

There are moments when I'm exposed to a string of stories about what conservative pundits and politicians have recently said where I can't help but think their agenda includes a concerted effort to convert into virtues the worst of human attitudes and behaviors.

Some Potential Headlines for "The Onion"

Some potential headlines for "The Onion":

Woman refuses to share "greatest idea ever" with boss until GMO-free snacks are added to the break room

City bus driver never fails to squeeze in one more passenger

Local man issues formal apology to 49ers for losing lucky shirt that was source of their success
OR
Local man makes a fortune betting against home team after losing lucky shirt.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Exceptional Rule

I am beginning to solidify a position that holds exceptions are the only rule.

The Male-Female Separation Hangover

It's fairly common for me to read something on a topic I think I know pretty well but come away with an improved view. This is usually not because of any new information--although that does happen--but because the tone and way the words are strung together are fresh. That is happening again as I'm reading Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade, a book on what we know about the ancestors to humans.

In this case, my improved view has to do with the male-female relationship structure. The book touches on the fact that males and females generally interact with each other differently than with each other, which is, of course, no surprise. But Wade expresses this obvious fact in a way that stresses the independent nature of males and females as separate groups among our pre-homo sapien ancestors. Individual males and females generally only came together for mating purposes and generally interacted little otherwise. (They probably came together as groups for other purposes such as eating, migration and protection from enemies, but these were exceptions to separate group lives.) It is also thought that males and females had separate power structures and rules of behavior. What each group did on a daily basis was also different. When it came to day-to-day life, it's as if they weren't members of the same species at all. They lived together in the same band or group, but each was almost an autonomous subgroup. The males were dominant, but the power didn't need to be exercised very often when it came to things other than sexual activity.

This did change, of course, and continues to change today. But what this emphasis has me thinking about is any lingering effects on our modern behavior. If this notion about the behavior of our distant relatives is true, can we still see its remnants in ourselves? I think the answer is yes.

Pockets of the world's population do actively promote the idea that men and woman are distinctly different and should be separated from one another as much as possible. Some groups go to extreme and violent measures to insure this happens. When the topic of male-female equality comes up, there is vehement opposition. Men who take this position act like our ancestors in wanting to keep their dominant position, an assertion that is supported by many women who support the same structural view.

In what I think is an interesting and relevant point, there are existing tribal cultures in places like the Amazon rain forest that still do physically separate the sexes. There is one hut for the men, another for the women. If they do have some sort of marriage-bonding process, the couple comes together for sexual activity and other issues related to offspring, but they do not live together. The cultures, if you will, of each sex is separate with any inter-group activities usually highly structured.

I would suggest that most of those in what we call the First World who support sexual separation are not really all that different from both our modern and ancient relatives. There are lots of differences, of course, but the root idea is still alive and kicking.

There is probably some benefit to a society that structures itself in such a way that members of each sex have at least some methods of coming together on their own. For men and women to each have a support group of people like them is not an alien idea; we do this all the time with a plethora of points of commonality between various individuals. But like with most things, this kind of separation can become a way for one group to suppress another, making any potential benefits evaporate. I'm not sure of a specific answer, but it's something we should admit and talk about.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Herds of Privilege

Story: "Why Some Rich, Educated Parents Avoid Vaccines"

Something I think is at least part of this problem is privilege, one of the other topics currently being discussed in the culture. Although people argue otherwise, privilege does indeed exist for groups with the most money and power. Included within the mindset of many in a privileged group is the idea that they are not only better at life than others, but that this trait is inherent, and separates them from the masses who naturally belong below them. I think this attitude bleeds over into immunizations because vaccine effectiveness is based on what is called herd immunity (or community immunity). The privileged don't see themselves as part of any herd--the seem themselves as far better and distinct from that condition because a herd is a designation for the lower classes. So, for me, it would make sense that our society's most privileged also see vaccines as only for "the herd," a group in which they claim no membership.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The War Against Too Much Democracy

Story: "Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Elections a ‘more meaningful measure’ if voters must pass a test"

The U.S. has often touted as a valid reason for going to war the imposition of democracy. We have killed an uncountable number of people and destroyed societies in this effort, telling ourselves that it is somehow worth it to do so.

We have endured a recent resurgence in the U.S. of people who now want to find fault in the very system over which we have killed so many to promote. This raises a troubling point of discussion: Will we ever invade any other countries based on this new vision? Will the export of a clearly broken view of democracy be a future rallying point for war? Will there be a time where we invade another country for having too much democracy?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ignoring Our Anti-Greed Wisdom

"They are just doing it for the money" is a regular criticism leveled by an opposing party to another's actions. But the missed irony always amazes. The pro-greed sentiment being challenged is actually at the core of the society we've created for ourselves. There is no for-profit corporation that is not "just doing it for the money," and more than a few people who work in jobs they hate are "just doing it for the money." To claim tapping this pool of greed in which we all live is problematic reveals that, at some level, we do indeed acknowledge the money-driven snafu on which we've based so much of our existence. If only we would actually realize it.

The OK Standard

Those who claim "I turned out OK" as support for taking similar actions against others often have a brutally low standard for OK.

Fear of Flying

Attention sex education opponents: Imagine pilots figuring out how to fly on their own without being taught aerodynamics.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Potential Channel for Press Conference Denials

The Onion” headline possibility: Upper Class Americans to Clear Up Misunderstandings with Roku Channel of Their Press Conferences Where Responsibility for Everything is Denied

Do you mean...

I find one of the most unfortunate and annoying online conversation styles to be the assertion, "Do you mean [something not declared]"? Not only is this an ad hominem-like allegation by the use of "you," but it's often an attempt to twist someone's idea into something that gives the do-you-mean person self-approval to rant on an altered point, accomplishing nothing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Uneducated Superiority

There appears to be a concerted effort by some to give people with little education a superiority complex.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Potential "The Onion" Headlines

Potential The Onion headlines:

Local man cares about fortune cookie prediction after leaving restaurant

After release of new U2 album, popular cover band switches to Hanson

To help mitigate team mascot criticism, Redskins cheerleaders to root for Ferguson cops at local rally

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Past v. Future: Which Trumps the Other?

Most religions: The best information is from the past.
Science: The best information is always yet to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Outrageous Inequality

In a society controlled by white males, it's difficult to find cases of white male aggression where the level of corresponding white male outrage or condemnation is anywhere near equal to comparable actions committed by others. The magnitude of this disparity is not dampened by the scope of malevolence; from individual attacks to military invasions it remains.

But the same is true for any group in power.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Interrogating For Validation

We have an unfortunate proclivity that goes at least back to Socrates where we attempt to prove a point by interrogating someone who is not in agreement with it. This is not only an invalid way of providing some measure of proof, it's annoying. In order for something being put forward to be authenticated, it must stand on its own; the validity of someone's position or idea is not dependent on anyone else's opinion of it. An interrogation is a fake form of discovery, a fool's gold version of confirmation.

Instead, we should labor to remove humans from the authentication process as much as possible because we can be the worst obstacle to verification by convincing ourselves that our opinion-based approval is required.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The War on Peace

Being constantly engaged in acts of war seems to now be a central tenet of American culture, so much so that when we can't satisfy this appetite for war abroad we declare it at home. These domestic wars include militarized police and attacks on those who cross the border (both civilian and government). But his nasty desire is so pervasive that "war" is declared on a just about anything--or claimed to have been declared by someone else--including women, drugs, voting, education, religion, and science, to name just a few.

Sadly, this cultural bent has many people seeing a desire for peace as unpatriotic.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Deceitful Tax Dodging

Conservatives consistently shout that raising taxes on corporations or wealthy individuals would result in businesses being closed because profits won't be high enough to stick around. Given the sister conservative complaint that taxes are too high already, it should be easy to put together as proof a list of services and products that aren't available now due to a tax issue, but such a list is missing.

The truth is, greed is not hampered by the tax rate. If so, we would be able to declare taxes to be a cure for greed and celebrate the discovery. The real reason behind the complaint about taxes is a desire by the wealthy and powerful to maintain their position and acquire allies among the poor by threatening the stability of their tenable position with an alternative enemy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Elusive Ultimate Answers Fail to Discourage

In a very real way, science can be thought of as the search for ultimate rules that always accurately specify how things work. The same might also be said for philosophy, religion, astrology, parenting, teaching, and every gambler's "system." We engage in this goal-seeking behavior constantly, but seem to rarely worry about the overwhelming odds of failure that, to date, as always been the result.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fast Food Freeways

After traveling the Interstate highway system after some years kept away from it I think I can now safely confirm it to be a system that primarily connects fast food restaurants. This service must be vital because it is apparently also always under construction.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Syria: It's the Thought That Counts (or Should)

Headline: "The Unbearable Emptiness of a New York Times Op-Ed"
John McCain and Lindsey Graham want Obama to confront ISIS now. They don't specify how.


"You can either demand that Obama not bomb Syria until he's ensured he has a plan likely to win international and congressional support, or you can demand that he bomb as soon as possible. You can't demand both."
Excellent point. There have been extensive valid criticisms when past actions were taken without things like an exit strategy or a definition of success, but when some people want to go to war, nothing as trivial as thinking about these things matters much.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ugly Artifacts?

Every time an anthropologist digs up an ancient pot, figurine, weapon, jewelry, etc. it's almost always called beautiful. Just once I would love to hear a scientist pull something out of the dirt and honestly declare it to be ugly. ;)

Political Fear Factor

A component of politics that no one seems to do without is the creation of an enemy and then assigning it the blame for something. But a main difference between right- and left-wing politics in this regard is who or what is in danger from the type of enemy that gets named. For conservatives, the enemy that gets created can more easily be seen as a presenting a danger to someone personally, whereas for liberals the danger is more likely to be presented as something that can harm society as a whole, or large swaths of it. This often falsely generated personal fear versus general fear is an indicator of a fundamental difference in what motivates people and shows why those taking one stance or the other are overwhelmingly likely to ignore what is presented by others.

Conservative versus liberal religions are like this too, one emphasizing to individuals what bad things will happen to them if they don't behave as demanded--the other not so much.

Headline: "Laura Ingraham Tells Radio Listeners That Obama Considers Them, Not Islamic State, The 'True Enemy'"

Headline: "Africa and U.S.: Invest in human rights"

Friday, August 29, 2014

The End of Rape Strategy Debate

There is a current protest going on that pushes the idea that says "instead of teaching women not to be raped we should teach men not to rape.” This simple idea seems workable, but it's too simplistic—and dangerous—to be useful if taken literally.

There are several similar examples that can help shed light on why this idea is problematic, but perhaps the one that's most timely is the race issue that's come up again in the wake of the Ferguson, MO shooting of a black teenager by a white cop. If the thinking behind the anti-rape strategy was strong, then we should also consider its value in a race-based framework. But it would be difficult to find people who would be in favor of telling people who are victims of violent racism to not pay attention to steps they can take that will mitigate their chances of being victimized. While we need to keep focused on stopping the actions of rapists and racists, the need remains for their potential victims to take defensive steps.

Other examples that help to drive home the point include things that range from terrorist activities to motorcycle riders. Would it be reasonable to teach motorcycle riders to pay less attention to defensive tactics and, instead, teach other drivers on the road to stop running into them? For reasons of simple safety, teaching motorcyclists to take actions that reduce their risk of being hit by a car or truck is simply smart and necessary. It's not fair that motorcyclists are disproportionate victims of the actions of other drivers, but what purpose is served to argue against precautions? Similarly, for people who travel to countries where terrorist beheadings take place, I doubt anyone would advise people to not take precautions against being targeted by terrorists who do this.

We should accept that humans do awful things to one another and efforts to improve our behaviors need long-term and short-term strategies. To try and label one of them as detrimental doesn't seem prudent. It would be similar to not taking steps to mitigate the current condition of those suffering from a debilitating illness until a cure is found.

When it comes to rape, some may argue that it's ridiculous to think that all men can't be educated in a way that none of them will rape someone. Unfortunately, I'm not sure this is ever going to be true. While I don't have proof of this notion, it is a gut feeling that comes from my life as a man. For those who are not men, let me try and explain.

Just as a woman will notice things about other women that men will overlook or miss, it is also true that men notice things about other men that women don't notice. This ability/disability is not only true for genders, but for other groups that include professions (i.e. police, airline pilots, musicians, teachers, truck drivers, clergy, etc.) and cultures (people from Papua New Guinea will not  know why people from New York behave the way they do). Being a [fill in the blank] gives each of us the ability to know things about others who are also [fill in the blank] that others won't know. 

Because of this, and history itself, I think it's reasonable to claim that it is an unfortunate truth that some men have within them the very real potential to commit rape. Men are much more likely to “understand” this truth and notice its potential danger. But because the vast majority of us also tend to be protective of women by default, we find it hard to agree with the argument that reduces the importance for women to reduce their risk. This is why so many fathers are more protective of their daughters than their sons and do cringe when they see women express attitudes that seem to ignore the danger we know exists. 

Yes, it's totally unfair, but until we live in a much different world (which may never happen), the practical steps of reducing the risk of getting raped are just smart.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Language Not Up to the Job

Headline: "Pew Poll: Libertarians Don’t Know What ‘Libertarian’ Means"

Another example of how language, the tool we invented to communicate, is at least as often a tool to mis-communicate. Not sure how to fix or improve it, but we first need to recognize its failed status.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Slavery's Repitition

Instead of seeing it as outright slavery, today's society is accomplishing nearly the same thing with debt. An increasing amount of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a miniscule minority--added to a dismantling of the government services that are supposed to support everyone without direct individual cos--continue to move us in the direction of debt as a basic condition of existence. People who have little (or nothing) are increasingly unable to get any support with no strings. They will only be able to get what they need to survive by going into debt to those at the top who have accumulated the nation's wealth, allowing them to accumulate even more wealth--and power. This concentration of power has gone by many names in humanity's past, but each is a situation where a small minority controls the majority, enslaving one group to another. Unfortunately, this seems to be our default configuration.

Assholes Also Don't Care

There is a commonly shared idea that it is always a good thing to not care what other people think of oneself. But this notion ignores a downside, namely that this attitude is also contained within the creed of an asshole.

Exceptional Search

I wonder what percentage of those who most vehemently declare that rules be applied identically to all search just as powerfully for an exception that applies to them.

Power to Heal is Darren Wilson's to Unleash‏

It may not be obvious, but Darren Wilson has the power to begin a process of healing in Ferguson because he is the metaphorical keystone holding both sides in place. He can bring down the structure on which the conflict is built, but it will take a great deal of courage on his part to do it because it requires a true apology from him. If he comes forward and honestly declares that what he did was a mistake—even if for some reason it was legal—the framework on which the current battle hangs will be gone. 

If, however, he comes forward and declares that he did nothing wrong, it will only serve to strengthen his keystone role supporting what's currently happening. Even worse, if he ends up being charged and found innocent, I predict the riots of the '60s will be seen as quaint. If it is declared at some point that he won't be charged at all, the result won't be much different, I'm afraid. Along with an honest apology, he needs to accept a plea of some sort that delivers some kind of punishment to send a message that his actions aren't being seen as unconditionally valid. 

Darren Wilson has in his hands the power to begin a process of recovery or remain the keystone that supports an ongoing battle that will continue to rage. Fair or not, the future is now in his control.

Dangerously Sized "People"

Headline: Fox News guest: Was Michael Brown too large to be an ‘unarmed teen’?

Corporations are people, large people are weapons, so large corporations must be weapons too. I guess they can also be killed just for being big.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Evil Comparison

Potential college debate topic: Compare the suffering inflicted by U.S. slavery and Nazi Germany, including the period following the U.S. Civil War and World War II.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Devotion to People More Powerful Than Ideas

Article: "Republicans Are Devoted to Protecting the Reagan Myth, No Matter What"

The above article by Paul Krugman ends with the idea that many people use "faith" when they make claims about Ronald Reagan, implying that there is a religious-style attitude in play. I do think that is the case with a whole host of those who have been at the head of political organizations ranging from countries to small activist groups. For some reason many of us need ideas to be attached to a person, and that person then becomes a point of protection for those "living in the faith." There is a difference in the way we perceive an idea when we contemplate it in an abstract sense versus the same idea when it can be attached to a person, and seem to prefer the later.

It would be hard to catalog every religion ever created by humanity, but it's a pretty good bet that the vast majority of them contain people at their center. The most obvious include Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu, to name just a few. (Even ancient multi-god belief systems and animism personify their spirits and deities.) Defense of these individuals is at the top of the to-do list for dogmatic followers because, as the assigned source of what they espouse, faith in them must be maintained at all costs or the whole faith system falls apart.

This is an unfortunate aspect of our existence. Hopefully, some day, we can see the evaluation of ideas and events themselves as an ideal rather than protecting the persona of someone who's been attached to them.