Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Recently the library where I work finished installing new carpeting  as well as upgrading the building in other ways such as moving shelves around.  In that three month process we, myself and the other librarians, wound up moving the books numerous times; over here, over there, over here again, then over somewhere else.  In doing so I got to see in more detail how our books were organized.   And it got me thinking.

library-future

Let me start those thoughts with what I encountered when moving the African American fiction.  While doing that move I came across a book that had not only the author but who it was edited by, which gave me pause.  I had never seen a book, a novel, which had an editor’s name attached to it also.  In looking at it I found that The Bondswoman’s Narrative, by Hannah Crafts, edited by Henry Louis Gates, is the first novel written by a black women slave.  It is the only novel by a fugitive slave woman.  And it was written sometime between 1853 and 1861.

My first thought was to ask why this was put in African American fiction.  I would think this would be something that people beyond just African Americans would enjoy.   While a novel and fiction, it was based closely upon events that the writer actually experienced as well as the experiences of other African American slaves.  Although very much a product of its times, it is fascinating reading, both intellectually and, more importantly, emotionally.

I am not going to review it here, other than to say that if you are interested in people, the effects of slavery on people, and the human condition, then this is a book you should read.  Just as the Diary of Anne Frank’s appeal goes far beyond Jews and being a Jew in Nazi Germany, so too does this book have a message beyond just being a black slave.

And that is why I wondered why it was buried under African American fiction, where its light could not shine for those who may need to read it the most.

Then I came across Toni Morrison.  The Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award winning writer. The Nobel Prize winner.  A writer who I greatly admire and whose works I have enjoyed.  Why is she in African American fiction and not among the broader category of novels?  As if what she wrote could only speak to African Americans and not to all of humanity.  As if writers have to be first and foremost categorized by the color of their skin rather than the quality and scope of their writings.  As if blacks and whites and Asians and Native Americans and Hispanics, as if people, do not have a shared core created by all of them being human.

Now, I know that there are reasons, and some good ones at that, for having a separate African American section.  But, I think those two books also show the limitations and problems that doing so creates.

There was one other categorical head scratcher for me that I think worth mentioning. That was when I found Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karina” when moving the Romance books.  I know that the plot contains some elements of romance, but come on… Anna Karina is considered to be one of the best novels ever written.  Would you classify Romeo and Juliet under Romance?

But, there it was, with a call number of ROM TOL on its spine.

My thoughts on this paralleled that of finding Morrison’s and Craft’s books in African American fiction, how limiting.  But in thinking about it I began to wonder.  Would more people be  willing to pick up and read Anna Karina in the category of Romance than they would if it were in the category of Classics?  Instead of limiting the potential readers of Anna Karina, could this categorization of it., instead, expand the number of readers?

If true, then Anna Karina being categorized as a romance would be a good thing in that it would expose this novel to more people.  With Toni Morrison and Craft though, the opposite is happening.  Not many people other than African Americans look at the African American section, limiting these books potential audience.

Which got me to wondering how best to balance these needs, categorizing works so that those who are interested in one area but not the others can still easily find works that interest them while, at the same time, providing those who are just looking without a fixed goal in mind, a chance to read something outside their norm.

The problem with the easy answer of not having categories is that categories are useful.  There is a reason they come about.  If I am in the mood for a Science Fiction book, I really do not want to spend time finding the science fiction novels amid all the mysteries, classics, African American novels,  mainstream novels, romance, westerns, and religious novels.

Besides, creating and dividing things, and people, into categories seems to be a basic human trait, one that is not going to be going away until humanity is gone too.

That being said, the real question then is not how to get rid of all categories, but rather how do we create and maintain categories?   How to do so with the recognition that, like life, there is considerable overlap from one category and another, that the same book can be categorized in many different ways, and that all categories share the trait of being novels.

For example, in the library, perhaps it would be better to have all novels grouped together, but have the call labels be color coded to designate African American, Romance, Classics, Science Fiction, Mysteries, etc.  Yes, people would browse looking for the color code of their interests, but in doing so they have a better chance of seeing something, seeing a novel or author, that they might not have ever noticed before.   Proximity creates opportunities for something new.

The downside of doing it this way though is that those who come in and want to read only mysteries are now going to have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries too, and in the process of using up precious time, you might not find that one mystery that would have made your year.  The upside is that they will have to go through and look at those books that are not mysteries, and so perhaps come across a treasure that they never would have encountered otherwise.

To me, since we live in a world that offers only imperfect solutions to societal issues and problems, this trade off would be a good one.  We need to learn to re-categorize things in order to grow.  We need to also learn that there are few hard and fast categories.  Instead, categories, especially as they relate  to humans  are fluid and overlapping.

For fun, here are the links to two videos, video one and video two, that highlight the fluidity and overlapping nature of human categories.

Read Full Post »

 

Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty.  In some ways debating these people reminds me  of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views.  And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.

Lies

Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.

Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully.  It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.

So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty.  Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.

At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”

As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:

“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”

The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.

However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.

First, read the bit from her memoir again.  Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?

Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.

Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time.  This is not a one time test.

Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam.  I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.

Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers.  During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development.  Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.

In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.

Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC  bar exam again.  I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.

Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this.  Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.

clinton_3

The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi.  Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.

Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video.  They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.

Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.

Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:

“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”

Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.

Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear.  In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.

Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists.  Well, that brings me to fact five.  Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed 65989-56396responsibility for the attack.  This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter.  However, this group later retracted their claim.

 

Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack.  I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time.  Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.

In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor.  A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.

So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack.  However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack.  Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.

Memory is not a fixed thing.  Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen.  This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved.  Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.

In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar.  In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.

Perhaps a simple example would help.  This is something that happened many years ago to my father.  He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away.  When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run.  My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.

Now, do I believe that one of them was lying?  No.  One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory.  In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.

The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar.  That applies to my father and his friend,  to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that.  For that matter, it applies to all of us.

Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother,  Mrs. Smith, are lying.

 

iwaswrongphoto

Now, we come to my mea culpa.  The point at which I defended that which I should not have.  A lie of Hillary’s.  This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.

Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress.  My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.

What? I can hear you say.  This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying.  And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails.   The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.

What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified.  Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.

In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.

As he said, this was sloppy and careless.  However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail.  At that time, she believed she had not.

An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified.  Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material.  This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department.  This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.

However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations.  And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.

She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved.  Not quite.  And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it.  So, today she is lying.

And this is what I tried to defend.  I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.

So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.

Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths.  This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it.  The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.

Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her.  As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.

In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie.  It is an integral part of being a politician in a tumblr_m5hfehtGNj1r7wa9pdemocratic system.  I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.

However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.

As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t.  On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury.  But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.

Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians.  According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).

And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person.  I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system.  Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so.  But more on that in a later blog.

Read Full Post »

I watched part of Trump’s speech on Thursday. Read about the parts I did not see, or saw some video clips. The thing that struck me most forcefully is the picture of America that he painted. Let’s call it Trump World to distinguish it from the real world.

24572764915_ced667eaae_z

In Trump world crime is rampant in America and no one can walk the streets safely anymore.

In Trump World America is facing an imminent existential threat from ISIS and terrorism.

In Trump World America’s economy is collapsing and almost totally destroyed.

In Trump World America is despised and loathed not respected even by our allies.

In Trump World America is on its last legs and gasping out its last strangled gasp.

But, that is Trump World.  One that he created out of words; short words, dramatic words, emphatic words, words of lies, of falsehoods, twisted words depicting a twisted reality.  All spouted with vim and vigor and certainty. Words rooted loosely in some bits of reality, but made huge, made big, made worse, made lies.

crowds2

Trump World is not the America that I see. It is not the America that is see in the numbers, in the statistics, in my daily life, in reality.

Yes, we have problems. We always have. With countries as with life, there are always problems.  And yes, some of those problems are serious. That too is a constant with countries.  At no time in our history have we not been faced with problems. Serious and numerous problems.  Out time in that regard  is no different than other times.

The fact that there are serious problems facing our nation is nothing new.  Nor is it cause for despair and doom.  The problems we face today, while serous, are not even close to being the worst we have ever faced.

I think of the time I grew up in, the 60s and 70s. While today there are definite and serious issues with our justice system being able to dispense justice impartially and being blind to a person’s race, our racial problems when I was growing up were worse.  Much worse.  And what it took to correct many of those problems entailed more violence, more riots, more disruption even to the extent that the National Guard had to be called to escort children to schools just because they were black..

Compared to racial discord at that time, what we face today is civil. And, like it was then, this discord today is necessary. Yes, it is not comfortable and yes it is at times divisive.  And yes, there is violence when there shouldn’t be, and pain and suffering of victims and their families. But that is part of change. It was when I was growing up and it is now.

Yes, we have blacks being unjustly treated and killed too often. We have police being murdered on the streets. Yet, the number of police killed is down from past years. And although we desperately need to correct the unequal justice we still have, it is better than when I was growing up. And Black Lives Matter a far more peaceful group than many others that existed when I was growing up.

Further, there is more and more dialogue between groups that has resulted in change. Not enough yet, but still there.

And yet Trump would have you believe otherwise.

Our economy is among the strongest in the world. We have recovered from the great recession faster and better than most other nations. And our economy is growing. It is not growing for all, but it is for most. It is also not growing as fast as we would wish, but it is growing.

It is also changing, changes that are the result of our growing technology. And change is painful. But, we are not in danger of economic collapse. Indeed, the world thinks we are a rock of stability that they invest in during times of trouble by buying US bonds. Our currency is the bedrock currency of the world because of their regard for our economy.

Yes, our economy has problems. But we are nowhere near economic collapse as Trump would have you believe.

Crime, crime is not running rampant. Our crime is the lowest it has been since the 60s. There has been an uptick in some cities, but if you look at trends you see ups and downs due to a variety of reasons. The uptick in some cities is not enough to say crime is running rampant, or at least not to say it truthfully. Especially since even counting the uptick, we are still far below the levels of the 90s. As for crime, we have rarely been so safe. But not to hear Trump talk.

ISIS and terrorism. Yes, they are serious challenges. But they are nowhere near an existential threat to the US. ISIS is losing ground in the Middle East. The country they said they were going to create is being whittled away. Their idea of a  powerful global caliphate is being destroyed before it is even created. Which is why they are changing their nature to one like other terror groups. They are changing because we are winning there, so they have to change the battlefield.

But the nature of the threat here in the US has not been direct action from ISIS. Nor has it come from immigrants or refugees. Instead it is the lone wolf terrorist, someone who is acting on their own and who has become radicalized. In fact, most of the attacks both here in the US and in Europe are from citizens. Not outsiders, not immigrants, and not refugees, but citizens.

As for the US terrorist attacks, while horrific and we need to take what measures we can without losing who we are in doing so, they are small scaled, especially when you look at what happens in Turkey, Iraq, and other places.

Yes, terrorism and ISIS is a danger. But not one that is going to destroy us unless we let unreasoning fear guide our actions.

CnnFNjxUsAABSku

In other words, America is actually in good shape. Not perfect. There are flaws and problems, some of them being severe. We have many challenges and problems that need to be worked on. And the working out of them is going to be accompanied by pain and sorrow, suffering and hurt. But also by joy as we do solve them and then move on to the next set of problems that our solutions will inevitably create.

I do not recognize the America Trump has created. I look at our past and see the present America in largely better shape than our past. I look at the world, and I see the US holding its own with any other country.

And as for respect, respect for the US is up and strong in most of the world.

When I was growing up we had riots and demonstrations and blood being shed over the war in Vietnam, over the accumulated weight of hundreds of years of racial injustice, over women finding their voice and their power.  Presidents fell.  And yet the United States continued on and did not collapse.

And my times were  far from the most challenging the US has ever faced.

I can only conclude that Donald Trump must believe that the United States has become a wimp if the challenges we face today are going to lead to its imminent collapse.  But then, I don’t really think Trump believes this.  He has created Trump World not because he believes it to be real but because he believes he can profit from it.

Trump’s America is not the one I see or live in. It is a fear plagued vision created by him in order to use fear and anger and hatred to win first the Republican nomination and now trying to win the Presidency. Trump World has very little contact with reality.

I wrote this first as a posting on my Facebook page, but decided to revise it for a blog.  The reason is that Trump World bothers me.  In fact, it frightens me. Actually, it is the fact that so many are starting to live in Trump world instead of the real one that frightens me.  The actions needed to solve the irreality of Trump World would only create a true existential crisis in the real one.

Let me just end this with the fervent hope that we will reject fear, reject anger, reject hatred and reject Trump’s vision of America for one of hope, respect, and reality.

 

Read Full Post »

Words. I am amazed at how many people seem to believe that words mean something apart from how we interpret them. Yes, sometimes the interpretation is easy. Most often though, especially with those words whose groupings are considered to be among the most important, they are not.

Power of Words

Two recent claims of a belief in a literal view of words was brought to my attention recently. Or rebrought rather since I was already aware of them. And both dealt with the U.S. Constitution.

The first dealt with the 2nd Amendment and its use of the word “infringe”. As in “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

This person had posted the dictionary definition of infringed in an attempt to show that our Constitution is against any sort of gun control and that all laws regulating the purchase of firearms is an attack on one of our most fundamental rights. Now, I don’t remember exactly which dictionary this person used, but its definition was similar to if not exactly like this one from the Merriam Webster dictionary.

“to wrongly limit or restrict (something, such as another person’s rights)”

Of course, this person was focused on the words “limit or restrict” and interpreted “wrongly” as meaning all attempts to limit or restrict. However, I had a different take on this definition. Mine, and I believe most people’s, interpretation would be that “wrong” described a type of attempt, not that all attempts at limiting or restricting are wrong. In other words instead of any attempt then, wrongly means that some attempts are wrong but also strongly implies that there are also correct ways to limit or restrict.

I also pointed out to this person that they were ignoring the first part of the amendment, “well regulated”. Words when used in sentences or any other larger grouping cannot be understood fully in isolation Those other words can and usually do change or modify their meanings.
In this case, the dictionary definition supports the idea that there are ways to correctly “limit or restrict” this right, and when added to the words “well regulated”, then gun control laws are not unconstitutional. Some can be, others are not. This is recognized even in the recent Supreme Court case, McDonald v Chicago, that recognized an individual right to own a gun.
The other words under dispute was the phrase “separation of church and state”. As is usual for so many extreme conservatives, they like to point out that this phrase is not in the constitution. They then point out that what is in the Constitution instead is “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Words known as the establishment clause.

And they are quite right about this. However, where they go wrong is in claiming that the establishment clause of the Constitution has a plain and literal meaning at odds with that of the phrase separation of church and state. They act as if the establishment clause needs no interpretation. And to add to the fun, they then often then go on to interpret it as meaning to establish a state church and nothing more.

To cap it all off, their interpretation flies in the face of how the word establishment was used during the time of the writing of the Constitution.

It ignores the fact that the man most responsible for writing the establishment clause and getting it passed, James Madison, also used this phrase of Thomas Jefferson to describe the intent of this clause.

They also ignore the history of the ratification of the Constitution and how, although its writers and promoters were justifiably gravely concerned about it being ratified, they did not respond to the many criticisms hurled their way that the Constitution did not contain a reference to Christianity or Jesus or even to just God.

They further ignore the historical fact that even after its ratification attempts were made to correct this supposed deficiency, attempts which were always defeated both during the time immediately after the Constitution and for all the years afterwards – during President Andrew Jackson’s presidency, during President Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and on into the 20th century.

So, in their attempt to say that it does not need to be interpreted, they interpret it in a way at odds with the writer of those words and with history. Seems to me that their view is more the result of their ideology than any sort of reality. Or laziness. After all, it is much easier to look at a word, put your interpretation to it, pretend it is THE literal meaning of the word, and then be happy that it confirms your own biases and prejudices. Look at how much easier that process is than the one I used in the last paragraph above, wherein I had to find out how the word establishment was used in regards to religion at that time, at who wrote those words and how he described the meaning of what he wrote, and at the history of the Constitution.

word-map-27092008
Of course, the greatest argument against this idea of a literal reading is the fact that those who claim to believe in such so often disagree on what those words mean when applied to life and when enacted in the world. This is true whether the words in question are those of the Constitution, the Bible, the Qur’an, or any other set of words.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes some points can best be made with stories. They can provide both some distance while also providing an emotional connection. Here is my attempt at doing so through a parable.

 

HiRes1

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a planet, Vegaria, which was the envy of the galaxy. Vegaria was a rich planet with plenty of resources and a high standard of living.

Twenty years ago, Vegaria was viciously attacked by one of the planets in a nearby solar system, OOminia. Fifty million Vegarians perished on the day of the attack, which leveled an entire continent. Vegaria had launched a counter attack and exacted revenge upon the OOminians. Vegaria then focused itself on rebuilding, and now there is little trace of the attack left, except in the memories of the Vegarians.

There are 6 planets in the OOminian solar system, all of them inhabited by OOminians. While the inhabitants of some of the planets in the solar system are very aggressive and violent, most OOminians are peaceful.

Now, thanks to the successful counter-attack from Vegaria, the OOminians are pretty much confined to their own little solar system. The aggressive OOminians have overtaken all the planets in their solar system. The peaceful OOminians, who allied themselves with Vegaria after the attacks, now live in a continuous war zone, afraid to even step outside of their homes for fear of being conscripted or, worse, of being imprisoned and killed.

Other planets in the galaxy have tried to help the peaceful OOminians, helping them to escape and providing a place of refuge for them. Some of the refugees have even made their way to Vegaria and been granted admission as refugees. At the same time, however, the aggressive OOminians have been sneaking out of their solar system and launching guerrilla attacks on other planets. Citizens of Vegaria fear that OOminia will launch another attack upon them.

Two OOminian refugee families have settled in a large city on Vegaria. They both have found jobs and are trying to make a home for themselves and their families on what is to THEM an alien world.

It is very easy to identify OOminians. While Vegarians are quadrupeds with heads at the end of an expandable neck, OOminians are amorphous blobs that ooze from one place to another by means of extending pseudopods from their bodies. OOminians are also very slimy, and carry slime applicators with them wherever they go to keep their skin from drying out in the atmosphere of Vegaria.

One of the OOminians, Poth, finds a job with a company that has a diverse group of employees, including many other aliens. The other OOminian, Jav, finds a job with a different company that doesn’t hire many aliens. All of Jav’s co-workers are Vegarian.

Poth feels very welcome at his company. Poth’s manager tells him that she isn’t familiar with the OOminian culture and that she will depend on him to help her learn about it. At staff meetings, she makes a point of asking Poth how certain situations would be addressed on OOminian planets. Poth is frequently invited to dine with his co-workers, and he sometimes joins them after work for drinks. He even joins the company basketball team, where his ability to extend his pseudopod to great heights makes him a very popular player.

Four times a day, OOminians have to do a ritual called spreading out, where they extrude several limbs from their bodies as far as they can and then slowly re-absorb them. The ritual takes about 20 minutes. After trying to complete this ritual quietly in the limited space in the men’s restroom, Poth talks to his manager who secures permission for Poth to perform his spreading out in privacy in a large storage area.

Jav’s workplace is different from Poth’s. Her coworkers make a point of wiping their hands after shaking hands with her pseudopod. Sometimes they hide her slime applicator—when Jav mentions this to her manager, the manager tells her that the co-workers are just kidding. A couple of times at staff meetings, Jav tries to make suggestions based on her experiences on OOminia, but her manager quickly shuts that down. “We are not on OOminia,” her manager says firmly. “You need to learn how we do things here.”

Jav also has a difficult time finding a place to perform her spreading out ritual. Co-workers complained after they walked into the women’s restroom when she was performing the ritual, so she asks her manager for ideas on where she could go. The manager shrugged. “I have no idea,” she replied. “I’m not even sure we should be letting you do this on our property or on company time. I’ve heard complaints from the others that you are getting special treatment. Maybe you should clock out and go home to do your little thing.”

Not wanting to cause trouble, Jav starts leaving at lunch and goes home to complete her ritual. She doesn’t really mind because no one ever eats with her anyway. Everyone moves away from her when she enters the lunchroom, and if she tries to sit next to someone, they quickly get up and leave. Her manager tells her it’s because of her body odor.

Because she can only clock out of her job once during the day, Jav performs her spreading out ritual 3 times a day instead of 4. It makes her uncomfortable, especially since her co-workers still hide her slime applicator on a regular basis, so her skin frequently develops large dry spots.

Meanwhile the aggressive OOminians continue to attack other planets, including some in the Vegarian solar system. People on Vegaria become very concerned about the possibility of another attack from Vegaria on their own planet. Some people demand that OOminians living on Vegaria be registered and put into special camps, or even exiled from the planet. Random groups of armed Vegarians begin standing guard outside of houses where OOminians live, keeping armed weapons pointed at the doors. “We’re keeping an eye on the oozers,” they announce loudly. “They can’t bomb us if they can’t leave their houses.”

Poth’s manager talks to him about it. “How are you and your family doing?” she asks with concern. “I know things are pretty unpleasant right now.” Poth confides that he had to walk through a group of armed Vegarians that was stationed outside his house when he came to work that morning. He had actually kept his kids home from school because he was concerned for their safety. The next morning Poth answers a knock at his door to find a group of his co-workers standing outside. “We’re taking you to work,” they say. “And some of us will make sure your kids get to school okay. Those wingnuts will have to go through us to get to you.”

Jav, however, steps out of her house on the same morning and is also met by a group of armed Vegarians. To her horror, she recognizes some of her co-workers among the group. She steps back inside and calls her manager to let her know she can’t make it in to work. The manager tells her that she won’t be paid for the day.

Jav hesitantly tells her manager that some of her co-workers are part of the armed group surrounding her house. “They are on their own time,” the manager says curtly. “They took some vacation time. They have a right to do whatever they want on their own time.”

Jav hangs up and goes to her computer to look through her messages, including several from friends and relatives left behind in the OOminian solar system. She reads through them, answers and deletes them in turn, except for one from a distant cousin. He has been estranged from Jav’s family for years as he is a member of the OOminian military and has been a key figure in several of the recent attacks on other planets. However, she finds herself reading his message over and over again. “Hi cuz! I hope you are okay. I hear things are kind of uncomfortable for OOminians on Vegaria right now. If you are having any problems, let me know. I might know some people who can help.”

Jav nervously extrudes a pseudopod and reabsorbs it several times. Then, slowly, she begins to type. “Dear Cousin, thank you for your note. Things are very scary here right now. I would really appreciate your help.

Six months later, Jav’s manager stares bleakly at what is left of the building where she used to work and shakes her head at the reporter. “I can’t believe it was Jav,” she says. “She was always so quiet. She had a couple of problems when she first got here, but once she settled in, I never heard anything from her.”

“What about her co-workers” the reporter asks. “Did she get along with them?”

“As far as I could tell. They were always joking around with her.” The manager bows her head. “I just can’t believe they are all… gone.”

Read Full Post »

In this blog I will be looking at what Mr. Correia has to say about Gun Free Zones, the Media, and Mental Health.

Gun Free Zones

Gun-Free-Zone-Map-Logo

To summarize Mr. Correia’s argument, he believes Gun Free Zones are dangerous. Far from providing protection from shooters, they instead provide an opportunity for them.

Gun Free Zones are hunting preserves for innocent people.

Think about it. You are a violent, homicidal madman, looking to make a statement and hoping to go from disaffected loser to most famous person in the world. The best way to accomplish your goals is to kill a whole bunch of people. So where’s the best place to go shoot all these people? Obviously, it is someplace where nobody can shoot back.

In all honesty I have no respect for anybody who believes Gun Free Zones actually work. You are going to commit several hundred felonies, up to and including mass murder, and you are going to refrain because there is a sign? That No Guns Allowed sign is not a cross that wards off vampires. It is wishful thinking, and really pathetic wishful thinking at that.

gunfree

To support his belief he cites several shootings that occurred in gun free zones.

I testified before the Utah State Legislature about the University of Utah’s gun ban the day after the Trolley Square shooting in Salt Lake City. Another disaffected loser scumbag started shooting up this mall. He killed several innocent people before he was engaged by an off duty police officer who just happened to be there shopping. The off duty Ogden cop pinned down the shooter until two officers from the SLCPD came up from behind and killed the shooter. (turned out one of them was a customer of mine) I sent one of my employees down to Trolley Square to take a picture of the shopping center’s front doors. I then showed the picture to the legislators. One of the rules was NO GUNS ALLOWED.

The man that attacked the midnight showing of Batman didn’t attack just any theater. There were like ten to choose from. He didn’t attack the closest. It wasn’t about biggest or smallest. He attacked the one that was posted NO GUNS ALLOWED.

There were four mass killing attempts this week. Only one made the news because it helped the agreed upon media narrative.

  1. Oregon. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter confronted by permit holder. Shooter commits suicide. Only a few casualties.
  2. Texas. NOT a gun free zone. Shooter killed immediately by off duty cop. Only a few casualties.
  3. Connecticut. GUN FREE ZONE. Shooters kills until the police arrive. Suicide. 26 dead.
  4. China. GUN FREE COUNTRY. A guy with a KNIFE stabs 22 children.

And here is the nail in the coffin for Gun Free Zones. Over the last fifty years, with only one single exception (Gabby Giffords), every single mass shooting event with more than four casualties has taken place in a place where guns were supposedly not allowed.

 

MY RESPONSE

GFZ posterThere are several issues with Mr. Correia’s evidence. First though, I would like to note that the mall shooting that starts off this quote was stopped by an off duty police officer, and not a civilian with minimal training. I thought this of interest, especially in regards to my previous blog about arming teachers. Further, this is another case where the shooter did not fold and either commit suicide or surrender, contrary to Mr. Correia’s statement:  “The vast majority of the time, as soon as a mass shooter meets serious resistance, it bursts their fantasy world bubble. Then they kill themselves or surrender.”

Now, in regards to the Aurora Theater shooting, yes it was a gun free theater, and the only one within 20 minutes  of the shooters apartment. However, there has been no statement given about why the shooter chose that theater.  A couple of possibilities come to mind other than it being a gun free zone, first and foremost being that it was one that he was most familiar with and liked. My wife and I got to movies fairly frequently and the theater we choose is not the one that is closest to us. It is one that we like the best for various reasons.

Another possible reason for choosing that theater – it best fit his plans. He parked near to the 120720120106-co-shooting-03-horizontal-galleryrear exit door of this theater and, after buying the ticket for the Batman show and watching it for 20 minutes, went to the exit to get his weapons and gear from his nearby car.  Perhaps the other theaters that were closer did not have parking so conveniently near to the rear door of the theater.  Having to walk a longer distance to get your guns and gear means take it takes more time and provides more opportunities for someone either to notice the propped open back door or to see him in his gear heading back to the theater, and thus more opportunities for someone to stop him before he could open fire.  This is something I would imagine the shooter would want to minimize as much as possible.

So, to say that the shooter’s selection of this theater was due to it being a gun free zone is pure speculation and as such is not strong evidence for gun free zones being “hunting preserves for innocent people”.

Further, the fact that this shooter also used smoke bombs so that the theater was not only fear filled chaos but shrouded in both darkness and smoke means that anyone who had a gun and tried to use it would be more likely to shoot another innocent person than stop the shooter. Especially since he was wearing a load bearing vest, ballistic helmet, gas mask, and bullet proof leggings.  Something mentioned by police in the original reports.   Let me also note that the police arrived within 90 seconds, that they at first thought he was one of them with his gear on, and he had already stopped and was found outside the theater next to his car.  To think that a civilian with a gun could have stopped this shooting is being unrealistic.

Just for fun, let me mention another recent theater shooting. This one involved a retired Florida policeman who shot and killed a man for texting during the previews of a movie. I mention this because to truly determine what the best policy in regards to reducing either gun violence or its tragic effects you need to look at both sides of the equation – how many shooters were stopped by armed civilians sooner than they would have been and how many killers and rapists and muggers have been stopped by armed citizens vs. how many people have died from being shot by a man with a gun during a heated disagreement, or by a spouse or relative during an out of control argument, and from the accidental killings of children and adults from mishandling guns. Looking at only one side of the data set leads to faulty risk assessments and bad policy.

The problem though in making this determination is that the data is so patchy and sparse. This scarcity of data is not the accidental result of overlooking this problem, but rather a deliberate move by the NRA and the politicians they control to stamp out any attempt at getting true and accurate numbers in regards to gun violence, injuries, and fatalities. This article, “Why We Don’t Know How Many People Are Shot Each Year In America?” by Lois Beckett of ProPublica provides some interesting information about this.

Doctors and researchers have been advocating for better gun injury data since the late 1980s. But fierce political battles over gun violence research — including pressure from congressional Republicans that put an end to some government-funded studies on firearms — has meant that we still don’t know many basic facts about gun violence in America.

Or this article, “Republicans Say No to CDC Gun Violence Research” also by Beckett of ProPublica.

As gun violence spiked in the early 1990s, the CDC ramped up its funding of firearms violence research. Then, in 1996, it backed off under pressure from Congress and the National Rifle Association. Funding for firearms injury prevention activities dropped from more than $2.7 million in 1995 to barely $100,000 by 2012, according to CDC figures.

I can’t help but wonder, if those against gun control are so sure of their argument, then why are they afraid of data that, if they are correct, will firmly and totally support their views?  Currently you can find studies and reports going both ways on the many questions surrounding gun violence. Which is not surprising considering how many gaps there are in our data and how many different work arounds have to be done to get around this problem.

victims-are-tended-to-in-the-parking-lot-of-the-aurora-theater-where-a-mass-shooting-occurred-during-the-primere-of-the-dark-night-rises-july-20-2012Now, getting back to the issue of Gun Free Zones and if they are really “hunting grounds” or not; Mr. Correia next lists examples from three states and one country – Texas and Oregon as being NOT a gun free zone and with off duty police officers with guns stopping a mass shooting with only a few casualties; Connecticut  being a gun free zone and having a mass shooting leaving 26 people dead; and China’s knife attack of 22 children.

There is so much wrong with his examples. First, in both Oregon and Texas, there were casualties, but Mr. Correia does not bother to provide how many people were killed; only that there only a few casualties.  Nor does he provide any information about where the shootings took place or the circumstances surrounding them.  I can tell you though that Texas, the NO gun free zone state has had several mass shootings.

–          1991 Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen Texas with 23 people dead.

–          1966 University of Texas at Austin clock tower with 16 people dead.

–          2009 Fort Hood shootings with 13 dead.

–          1999 Fort Worth’s Wedgewood Baptist Church shootings with seven people killed.

Further, studies looking at all the mass shootings (and not just those selected by Mr. Correia) have found that there is no relation between gun free zones and mass shootings. Here is one by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (who use the FBI definition of mass shootings as being one in which at least four people were killed by guns):

Sixty-two of the 93 incidents (67%) took place wholly in private residences. Of the 31 incidents in public spaces, at least 17 took place wholly or in part where concealed guns could be lawfully carried. All told, no more than 14 of the shootings (15%) took place entirely in public spaces that were so-called “gun-free zones.”

As for his use of China, I must admit that one puzzles me. Yes, numerous children were stabbed. However, none of them died, which is a great and significant difference between mass shootings with guns and mass stabbings with knives. This is one of the reasons why guns are the focus and not knives.

To summarize then, Mr. Correia’s claims about gun free zones rely on carefully selected examples and overlooks the many counter-examples showing that there is no relation between gun free zones and mass shootings. Contrary to Mr. Correia’s claims, gun free zones are not “hunting preserves for innocent people”.

 

The Media

This is one area where I am in substantial agreement with Mr. Correia. Or at least his part about the media’s effects on shooters (his words about how badly treated the NRA is by the media, not so much)  He writes:

If you can kill enough people at one time, you’ll be on the news, 24/7, round the clock coverage. You will become the most famous person in the world. Everyone will know your name. You become a celebrity. Experts will try to understand what you were thinking.

………………..

Strangely enough, this is one of the only topics I actually agree with Roger Ebert on. He didn’t think that the news should cover the shooters or mention their names on the front page of the paper. So whenever the press isn’t talking about guns, or violent movies, or violent video games, or any other thing that hundreds of millions of people participated in yesterday without murdering anybody, they’ll keep showing the killer’s picture in the background while telling the world all about him and his struggles.

 

MY RESPONSE

2010-01-31-breakingnewsI agree that the media plays a role in the motivation of many if not most shooters. I am not sure how often it is the primary motive though, but it plays a part. However, I also know that the danger of prohibiting this coverage is greater than the good that will result from attempting to officially muzzle the press. So, while I would wish that names would not be mentioned, they will be. And, to be fair, it should be. To be able to stop these events from happening we need to understand them, and that includes the killers.

Bottom line, I sympathize and to a large part agree with Mr. Corriea on this, at the same time I do not think that much can or should be done here (other than public pressure).

Mental Health Issues

Other than using his lack of knowledge about mental health issues to take another shot at those who would promote gun control, Mr. Correia really does not have much to say.

And right here I’m going to show why I’m different than the people I’ve been arguing with the last few days. I am not an expert on mental health issues or psychiatry or psychology. My knowledge of criminal psychology is limited to understanding the methods of killers enough to know how to fight them better.

So since I don’t have enough first-hand knowledge about this topic to comment intelligently, then I’m not going to comment… Oh please, if only some of the people I’ve been arguing with who barely understand that the bullets come out the pointy end of the gun would just do the same.

 

MY RESPONSE

To me, learning about mental illness, along with domestic violence (see the Mayors Against Illegal Guns report for an illuminating graph on this) as well as bullying, is a necessity in trying to prevent and reduce mass shootings.  Mr. Correia does not seem to be big on understanding what is happening with the goal of preventing these shootings, but only on how to respond when they do occur.  A short sighted strategy to my mind, especially given his chosen remedy – more guns.

 

 

My next blog will cover what is by far the longest section (taking over 6,000 words) of Mr. Correia’s blog – Gun Control Laws.  Currently I am still doing the research and writing my response and so am not sure whether I will be able to adequately reply in one or will wind up needing two more blogs.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Among atheist groups, a claim that comes up with some frequency is that teaching children that God exists, that Christianity is true (or any other theistic system), that there is a life after death with a heaven and hell, etc, etc. etc. is a form of child abuse. The claim, a la Dawkins, is that parents teaching their children the parents’ religious beliefs is immoral and wrong, with some going so far as to say it should be against the law.thanksgiving_prayer

My first response on hearing this claim is, why shouldn’t a child’s religious upbringing and beliefs be left up to the parent? After all,  who else should teach them? All other feasible alternatives that I can think of would result in vastly more and more severe problems. For example, leaving this up to the government brings up the specter of governments having the power to determine what a person’s beliefs are and to regulate what is allowed to be believed and what is not.

However, ignoring that problem, why shouldn’t the parents teach their religious beliefs and values to their children?   Further, whether atheist or theist, how possible is it to be “neutral” in matters of religion?  You can try to be neutral, but by your attitudes, by your questions and words, by your actions you are going to be teaching your child one way or another on this issue.

First off though, let’s clarify what we are talking about.  When you talk about religious faith you are talking about a great deal more than just a set of abstract dogma and beliefs – much more than a belief in God, in Jesus, in the virgin birth etc.   You are also talking about being part of a community.   A community that provides friendships, companionship, and, when needed, support during hard times. It is also a community which teaches values and ethics – values and ethics that are, in part, dependent on the particular religion and denomination and individual church.

Consider the lessons learned from Christ’s death for the sins of humanity.   Yes, there are a lot of logical problems with this story, however, overlook those for now and look at the moral message.  This is a story about a perfect man who was willing to give up everything, including his life, to help and save others.   That is a strong moral message.

Or the fact that God loved so much and cared so much for those who are his inferior in every way that he made himself human and suffered when he did not have to in order to save them. Again, regardless of the logic of the story, the moral message there is good, and this is part of what is passed on.

Or consider “let he who is without sin throw the first stone”.   Or the golden rule.  Or the Sermon on the Mount. Or any of a number of other passages and examples.

And then consider that this community is often involved in actions that help those less fortunate – food banks, providing job training, helping out at nursing homes, providing clothing and blankets to the poor, and on and on and on.   Some say they do this in order to proselytize – and some do.   Most do not though.  They do it because they feel that something needs to be done to help their brothers and sisters in need, because they feel that it is the right and moral thing to do.

Now, I am not saying that religion is the source or cause of morality.   It is not.  However, morality does not arise by itself, it is to a considerable extent formed and created by a society through its social institutions.  Religion and the church are one such institution.   Not the only one possible and not the only one there. But, keep in mind we are talking about parents who are religious – for them the church and its community is one of the primary ways of supporting and teaching morality.   To not teach their child about their faith, to not take them to church would be – in their eyes – an abandonment of their responsibility as parents to bring their children to become moral adults.

IMG_6585Atheists also teach their child morality.  However, since ours is divorced from the ideas of God and the examples of religion we do not include religion. That is our view.   For the religious though the opposite is true – and given this why should they not teach their religion to their child.  To ask them not to is to ask them to teach them to be atheists and agnostics.  And actually, when you get right down to it, isn’t that what this move by some atheists to label the passing on of a parents faith to their child as child abuse is; the promotion of atheism.

Consider, when you do not teach your child religion, when you avoid going to any church, what lessons are they learning?   One much closer to atheism than theism. And that is my next point – it is not possible to be neutral on this, it is not possible to provide an unbiased upbringing of a child so that they will have a free hand in deciding what religion to choose. We can teach about religions, however that is not he same as experiencing the religion. Plus, most will not teach about the religion in the same way a believer will – there will be that judgment, that criticism against it. We teach them even when trying to be neutral so that they can make up their own minds later.

I know that when we raised our daughters we let them go to church with their friends when they wished to, we taught them about religion, and let them freely choose what religion they wished to follow.  But given our example, the way we lived and discussed things around the home, our actions in not going to church, is it really any surprise that they became atheists?

For example, consider this example of child rearing from the Atheist Survival Guide.

A few days after the aforementioned playdate, my daughter asked me, “Did God invent the grass?”

“Some people think so,” I said.

My daughter persisted.  “But did he?”

“Your friend thinks so,” I said.  And then, cautiously, I added, “But I don’t think so.”

She considered this.  “Then who invented the grass?”

“Well,” I said, “Science tells us that the grass evolved over a long, long time.  Things happened in nature to make it grow.”

Now, that is probably the same answer I would have given to my five year old daughter had a theistic friend told her God invented grass. However, note that God is played down and even dismissed (tactfully and politely). Nor is the possibility that while the process of evolution created grass that it was God who created the process of evolution. It is these sorts of daily interactions that will cause your child to hold similar if not the same religious beliefs as you do, even if you are trying to be neutral in matters of religion. Your values, your ideas, your beliefs will come through and will be taught to them.  It is an illusion to think otherwise.

01-iranian-familyTo further illustrate this, consider politics.  You may bring up your child with the intent to let them decide whether to be a Democrat or Republican.   Yet, you are teaching your child with every discussion and action you take on issues such as gun control, welfare, contraceptive issues and abortion.    When it comes time to say – “son, go ahead and make your own decision”, in the vast majority of times there are going to be few if any surprises.  By your actions, by your behavior you have taught them your values and beliefs. There may be some variances, and a few who totally reject, but most, by and large, will follow in the footsteps you create, even when trying to be neutral.

And finally, this talk of indoctrination of child abuse is, in the vast majority of cases, greatly overblown.  There is a difference between teaching and indoctrination.    There is a great deal of difference in passing on your values and beliefs and child abuse.   There are instances when it can edge into such, but those instances are rare and can happen with atheist beliefs too.

Again, I see no issue with parents teaching their children their religious beliefs.   It is part of their community and their values and moral system.   For them not to do so would be remiss.

There is also a corollary idea that these children are being taught with the idea that their beliefs cannot be questioned. Often this it true. However, there are many times when this is not true too, as I can attest through personal experience with my parents and my church when I was growing up, and with experience with many other Christians and religious people throughout my 57 years.   Further, even when taught as being beyond questioning, questions occur and are asked, either when at home or, most especially, once the home is left and they are on their own.

Now, do not get me wrong; I obviously think that religious parents are mistaken in much of what they teach their child, especially those of the more conservative and literal beliefs.  And I have no problem with pointing out the errors and mistakes. However, being wrong is not the same as being abusive. If it were, then every parent in history and pre-history has abused their children.

So, this idea that theists teaching their child their religious beliefs is a form of child abuse is bogus, an illusion that is unfortunately shared by too many atheists. One that should be given up instead of being used as a Trojan Horse attempt to promote atheism.   Our views will ultimately win out without resorting to such overblown rhetoric and arguments.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »