Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Tie Between "Free Range" Kids And Guns

Gun advocates hang their hat on the claim that we're all in danger pretty much all the time from pretty much anyone, and people should carry guns in response to this paranoia. (Crime rates are actually quite low.) This attitude has resulted in more states passing laws that allow for more guns, despite clear evidence that tighter gun controls result in fewer gun deaths, a fact that keeps being lied about by pro-gun politicians.

As with most issues where people take a side, there is what I think is a largely subconscious effort to remain consistent to the declared principle(s) behind someone's stance. This fear of being seen as a hypocrite is strong because if an underlying bedrock reason for holding an opinion can be seen as being applied inconsistently, then the perceived support for the opinion becomes untenable.

One of the ways I think this has currently manifested itself has to do with children being able to be outside without parental supervision, most commonly on their way to and from school. This issue has become so prominent that a recently passed federal law permits kids to be outside on their own (but sadly doesn't supersede local laws.) The issue is part of what's called the "free range" movement, a unfortunately sad name that gives the impression that kids are to be equated with farm animals.

One case where this paranoia has made news is from a school in Texas that threatened parents with being arrested for trespassing for walking their own kids to school, letting alone having kids walk by themselves. The official claim for this bizarre policy is, of course, safety, the same claim made by gun advocates.

To me this is an attempt to remain consistent to the pro-gun idea that we're all in danger all the time. If kids are allowed to walk or ride their bikes to school on their own, there has to be an underlying understanding that they are safe in doing so, something that is counter to the pro-gun claim that we're not safe. So, in order to be consistent to pro-gun principles, kids getting to school on their own can't be allowed to happen.

We do ourselves such a disservice when we try to hold on to a declaration when we discover the basis for it has been removed or never existed. We should be open to the modification of our behavior and ideals based on evidence of what does us the most good, not what serves a false consistency to faulty claim.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Jim Crowing LGBT Rights

Story: Who's behind the new LGBT bathroom laws?

In this article it is explained that the new "bathroom laws" and other "religious freedom" efforts aimed by conservatives at making lives more difficult for LGBT people comes on the heels of the recent SCOTUS decision allowing for gay marriages. This feels very much like the efforts conservatives initiated in the wake of the Civil War and the end of slavery. Not able to keep slavery intact as it was, conservatives instead instituted a series of laws aimed at keeping former slaves and their descendants in subservient positions. It's hard to see any substantial difference between these two sets of conditions. What a shame we all have to keep fighting a fight that has been decided in favor of progress.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Invisible Hand Repurposed To Build A Wall Between Rich And Poor

The number of corporate mergers and acquisitions has been a normal and growing part of our world for quite some time, even though there are recent efforts to slow them down. But what I think people ignore when they start talking about the idea that corporations should be able to grow in this way is its place within capitalist models.

The core principle of the "invisible hand" of capitalism can only be considered if there are a large number of very small players, a condition that is best to keep competition from disappearing. A small number of very large players is a condition that kills competition; it evaporates in favor of an anti-capitalist protectionist mode. Those people who own and run the largest players in the economy are looking to remove competition through acquisitions and mergers, something that removes any hope for any theorized invisible hand to have any role, other than to build a wall between rich and poor.

We've been through this kind of thing before, and we responded with what are known as anti-trust laws. But these laws have been weakened or ignored for many decades now, allowing for the eroding of an economic environment that looks to maintain competition in favor of one that subdues it. The "too big to fail" problem is a symptom of this movement toward larger players.

I think we need to embrace the joint ideas that public-motivated regulation is necessary to stop the concentration of power in the hands of a few rich and powerful people with control over large corporations, and continuous evaluation of the results of our efforts in order to make adjustments that keeps bureaucracy functioning smoothly and motivated to maintain the public good without becoming punitive. We can help fix the first problem by keeping corporations from becoming too big (and breaking up the huge ones that already exist), and the second problem with mandatory voting so everyone has to evaluate and help make decisions about what's going on.

We can build a society that benefits as many as possible, but not if we fail to see how the over-concentration of wealth and power works against almost all of us, and don't reverse the lack of participation in the democratic process.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Can Humans Cut Down Trees If They Fall Down On Their Own Too?

Story: NASA visits Bill Nye’s Facebook page and gives climate change denier a righteous smack down (similar story here)

I find it difficult to understand people who makes claims like this. It would be like asserting that since trees fall in the forest without human involvement, they can't be felled by humans too. Nuts.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Doing Our "Selfs" A Favor

I have posted in the past about how I think we incorporate into our "self" not only our bodies but they things we think. Because of this, we act in a similar self-defensive manner when our bodies are attacked and when what we think is attacked. This default human behavior holds us back and causes a great deal of turmoil in our lives. Instead, we should make every effort to have flexibility as part of the self instead. This way we can not feel threatened or insulted when something we have asserted to be true or false is found to be incorrect.

This Ted Talk by Julia Galef, Why "scout mindset" is crucial to good judgment, makes the point using a metaphor of the solder v. the scout. It's a nice way to see it.