18
Feb
09

Lessons of Life and Love

Today, I came across an interesting post from one of my favorite blogs, My [Confined] Space. It was a rather poignant post about love and lost opportunities:

A Bawl Story

Yeah… The kind of stuff blockbuster movie tragedies are made of. However what was interesting was the range and content of the comments that followed (you can click on the image or the link at the end of the post to see the original comments @ M[C]S ). To me, the posts all seemed to take either one extreme or another. There were some people categorically stating that being in love with your BBF is a fatal mistake, and that you should run as fast as your little legs can carry you in the other direction. Others were deeply moved by it while others chalked it all up as BS, and shucked the whole thing into their mental garbage bins.

However there were a few who did seem to come away with at least one lesson from it, and I thought there were some good points made. Me personally, I thought this chap handled the situation entirely wrong, but being the anal retentive sociocultural explorer that I am, I couldn’t help thinking about what the real lesson of all of this was, and what I would have done differently if I were in that situation. The results of my musings were rather unsatisfying, but I thought they might make for an interesting post… If you are the type that frequently posts “tl;dr” just go on ahead, leave now, and forever hold your peace. Other wise grab a cuppa, (or whatever your favorite poison happens to be today) and get comfortable…

The very first thing that ran through my head while reading this was that it seemed unfortunate that, despite being best friends with this girl, this guy decided to hide something as important as the fact that he was deeply in love, with her, from her. I can understand why he did it, however his logic for doing so seemed seriously flawed to me. Having never discussed it with her, how could he possibly know she didn’t think of him the same way? This, to me, seems to be one of the fundamental flaws with relationships these days. Lots of unfounded assumptions compounded by having none of the important communication required to clear it up.

That is not to say, however, that telling his female compadre that he was in love with her would be guaranteed make things any easier. But as I see it, there is only one possible problem with telling her. And that is that she might get weirded out by it. To be honest, it sounds stupidly stupid to me. Yep. After all, if she really is your best friend, even if she doesn’t love you romantically, she should still love you enough to understand what you are going through, and be there for you, probably help you find ways to deal with your feelings constructively. But that’s just my opinion. In real life people don’t act in particularly logical ways. Bottom line, if she actually did get weirded out, then he would  have potentially lost a best friend. However from my perspective, if your so called “BFF” bails on you for committing the oh, so heinous, cruel and unforgivable sin of falling in love with them, then they weren’t particularly good friends to begin with. C’est la vie. .

However this train of thought brought me to another interesting consideration. The reality of life is that some people aren’t really honest with themselves about who their friends are and what kinds of people they are.  I’ve noticed some rather illogical behavior with people towards those they consider “best friends”. When those “BFF”s do something wrong, they are quick to excuse the behavior, sometimes even when they themselves would never condone that behavior from anyone else. From my perspective, that is not what a good friend is supposed to do. A true friend should not be ones personal “yes” man. A true friend should always be honest, and should challenge any of behaviors that they know to be wrong. Again, just my take on what friendship means. But I digress.

The point is, when people want things bad enough, they can, and often will, lie to themselves, and tell themselves that someone is their best friend, even though the person is not. I imagine this could happen even easier with a person whom one might be romantically attracted to. They become “best friends” but do not realize that even that “Best Friend” relationship is really one way. You are doing all the befriending, in spite of the fact you have *nothing* in common, (apart from maybe wanting to get them in the sack) and they are just along for the ride. As a result you end up with a best friend who isn’t really your best friend, and isn’t even really the kind of person who you would be friends with if you weren’t sexually attracted to them. Bummer. Big bummer. Anyway, where was I…? Right. Self honesty.

Barring the possibility that the target of ones affections turns out to be a flaky pastry with no fluffy layers, there should be only one other question one should ask, should they find themselves in this situation. Will *my* feelings change if I tell my BFF I love them, and happen to get rejected? This is the scenario that been known to kill people dead (mostly metaphorically, but sometimes even literally). However from my perspective, this reaction makes no sense. If you don’t tell her, you will live the rest of your life secretly in love with your BFF. You will still have to continue to treat them like your BFF. And whatever torture you are putting yourself through will not cease.

If you do tell her, one of two things will happen. Either she will say “Aww that’s cuuute!! But can we just be friends?!?”, (BTW, welcome to the hell that is the “Friend” zone!), and you will still live your life in love with your BFF, except now she can be more sensitive to your feelings towards her, and you can try to move on. OR the she says “What took you so long, you dork!” And all will be will with the world. Well not quite, but at least you will have jumped one of the major hurdles. But you have to be honest with yourself. Be aware that just because your are BFF doesn’t mean you are automatically in like Flynn. And also realize that a rejection of romantic interest doesn’t inherently mean they weren’t really your friends to begin with. Most people who think are really just you pulling a juvenile “sour grapes” tantrum. But you won’t be able to tell the difference unless you are really being honest with yourself.

The thing is, assuming of course, the BFF isn’t a type of cardiologist that eschews surgery with the traditional and time honored scalpel in favor of a wooden spoons, you can not be any worse off than you were to begin with, UNLESS you weren’t being honest with yourself to begin with, OR the person whom you think is your BFF isn’t really your BFF. In which case I say, “To blazes with them!!” Yeah. Yes, I’m sure you probably won’t feel that way as you stand there, fully awake, spoon carving itself a ragged path around your heart, sans anaesthetic, but the reality of it is that all you will have lost is an illusion. Nothing of any real value. What you *will* have, at last, is a clear and unclouded vision of where you stand with respect to the friend in question.

If they reciprocate, then good. You still have a lifetime of relationship ups and downs to contend with. But even if they reject you, If they cared about you before, they will still care about you after. If they are the person you thought they were, you will care about them no less. (unless you were, or are lying to yourself about them, which would really be your fault, not theirs) But you will now be free to decide how to live the rest of your life, with no regrets, no questions, no “what ifs” lingering over your head. That’s what i think. But then again I do have this tendency to oversimplify things… 🙂

A Bawl Story – [My [Confined] Space]

14
Feb
09

The true meaning of tolerance: co-existance

In a recent post, I talked about how the rift between atheists and theists seem to be getting bigger every day, and not because of the few valid differences that exist between the two ways of thinking, but for reasons that are actually peripheral to the really important ones. I have gotten some flack for it, surprisingly, all from the atheist camp, but the vast majority of it seemed to consist of flawed logic. We claim to be a nation that respects all colors, creeds, and religions, and yet, people are somehow supposed to leave all of those things at the door when they go to work?

It’s like telling a black person, “Yes, we are an equal opportunity employer, however when you come to work, you must leave your skin at the door, so as not to possibly offend someone by your blackness…” Yes, yes, it’s an exaggerated example, but the thing is, this would be easily recognized as race based prejudice, whereas, with religion, it somehow wouldn’t be. If someone can give me a good explanation how this makes sense, besides saying “If your beliefs could possibly offend someone, you must leave it at home.” I’d really like to hear it.

But back to the topic at hand. Today, I ran across an article that confirmed something that I have believed all along. There has never really been a good reason for people to butt heads over creation vs evolution. The Vatican has apparently come to the conclusion that the two are, in fact compatible with each other. To be honest, I really never understood why there was any conflict to begin with. The two are completely separate ways of thinking, but try to describe the same thing, which we all *KNOW* happened. Why *wouldn’t* they be able to coexist side by side?

What people don’t seem to realize is that Science does not provide answers. That is not what science is. Science is a method. Not a solution. It is not an answer. It has it’s failings, and at the end of the day, we have to trust that the experts in their fields have come up with the right interpretations for what they have observed. Anyone who is being honest with themselves will realize that believing in science is an act of faith. Faith, in both the scientific method, and in the people who employ them. And while I value the scientific method and methods of objective analysis above any other way of learning the truth of the world around us, there have been countless examples where the scientific method has not yielded correct answers. Not because the method failed, but because it is limited by our own understanding. Basically, we don’t know what we don’t know. And even science can’t fix that. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

I found it interesting that my last post was rather swiftly assaulted by someone I’d consider a “devout” atheist, who simply ignored me (and pretty much almost everything else I said) when asked if they thought Atheism was a belief system or not. I find it interesting because it seems like people would rather seek out the differences between people than the similarities. My pointing out that Atheism is as much a belief system as any theistic system i can think of really ticks some people off, and for the life of me, (as I have been told) “I don’t get it.”

But let’s actually look at the similarities. Atheists claim that blind faith is stupid. Now I actually agree, however we must also admit that the vast majority of us do not understand many of the complex sciences we work with on a daily basis. We take at face value that what our engineers, physicists and doctors tell us is true, because it was determined “scientifically”.  That is an act of faith people. A belief in something we cannot prove for ourselves. And this, in spite of how often “science” proves to be wrong. Theoretical physics is rife with  backtracks and redacts,  medicine is an art as much as a science, and engineering changes with each new material we discover.

That act of faith is almost identical to that which many Christians take when the walk into a church. They blindly leave thier brains at the door, and imbibe whatever spiritual liquor their Imam/Pastor/Priest happens to be pouring that day. And I have heard some things from the mouths of supposedly holy religious men and women that was absolutely unbelievable. Despicable, manipulative, and just plain wrong. But here’s the kicker. I find all kinds of “science fearing’ atheists who are willing to just absolutely devour the exact same garbage spewed by politicians and community leaders, and don’t see that it’s exactly the same. The. Exact. Same. Drivel.

And the result is always the same. Needless violence. Humans have perpetuated just as much violence for secular reasons as religious ones. Nobody, has a lock on the evil that man does to man. You take away religion, and you will find that we have killed each other for lots and lots of other reasons. The truth, is that it is human nature. It is our nature to do what we do. How much different is a door to door sales man from a Jehova’s witness? They are both equally annoying. Why demonize one over the other? Humans simply use the most convenient way to justify doing whatever it is they want to do. The reasons are purely circumstantial. Believe what you want, but there is no escaping it. Science and religion have much more in common that most want to admit.

But the point of my long and winding rant is this. The Vaticans announcement illustrated that it is possible for religion and science to coexist. And  coexistence is what true tolerance is about. They are two radically different ways of describing something we all know happened somehow, and the two may be based on completely different ways of thinking, but that does not mean that they cannot both co-exist. There are no real reasons for either side to be considered inherently offensive to the other, and I wish people would stop thinking and acting as if there are.

The Vatican’s View of Darwin Is Evolving – [NFN – Yahoo News]

09
Feb
09

Giving relevance to the irrelevant…

I will admit to not understanding the way most people think. On a daily basis I hear things from people that indicates a kind of logic that, to me, seems rather unusual. However I can respect that others have different ways of thinking. It’s what makes humans human.

But one thing that I find really confusing is that I also run into people who say things that should logically contradict their own way of thinking. A recent event regarding a nurse who got suspended for asking one of her patients if they would like her to pray for them got me thinking about it…

Supposedly, even asking was inappropriate, as it could offend someone. And that’s what I don’t understand. Why would an atheist (for instance) be offended by a theist asking to pray for them? She didn’t ask them to convert to Christianity/Islam/whatever. She didn’t even ask *them* to pray. I don’t get it.

There seems to be an unfathomable logical chasm between what people believe and how they behave. Lets say, for example. You believe in one, all powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Then, as Captain Kirk once put it, “What does God need with a star ship?” If all God wants is to see his people at their best, would it really matter what everyone else believed, just so long as they loved their fellow man? I would submit that it doesn’t matter. At least not to any God worth his salt. It only matters to us. We are the ones who have made such a relatively trivial point one of ultimate importance.

Lets also consider the position of the atheist. The devout scientist, for instance, who believes there is no God. And yet wants to see theism of any kind removed from society as a whole. Why? Because religion is evil? If you truly believe there is no God, then what a person believes is also irrelevant, because there is no omnipotent power to back them up is there? And if there is no God, then all evil is the result of man, not religion. Following a religion is not what makes a man evil. It’s what they decide to believe and do that does. And for that reason, any atheist should be railing against men, not God.

People seem forget that it is we who decide to act the way we do. Any Christian will tell you that God has granted man free will. And any atheist should tell you that each mans actions is their own. So seeing as they both agree on the most important issue of all, why do Christians still blame atheism for the decline of our cultural morals, and why do atheists still blame theism for sociopolitical strife?

That makes no sense to me. Instead, why not prioritize a persons intentions, instead of their beliefs? If a person asks if they can pray for you, recognize that they mean you well, and they are doing everything they can possibly do to make it so. If you believe prayer is useless, fine. But is it so hard to accept the gesture for it’s intent, rather than take offense? If the patient didn’t believe in God, then the question should have been no more offensive than the nurse asking whether she could send the patient a “get well soon…” card. Or asking them if they wanted to see a Unicorn, or ask Santa Claus to pay them a visit early…

Or am I just talking crazy?

29
Jul
08

The Battle of Good and Evil…

Today I read (watched actually) the 666th post on the blog (or yolog) on the Blog of the Angry Aussie. For his 666th post, he decided to talk about the concepts of good and evil. Well worth listening to what he said if you have a few minutes, because he makes some excellent points.

If I understand what he is saying correctly, he feels that the ideas of Good and Evil are abstractions that have no real definable meaning, and that because of that, there is no such thing as absolute good, or absolute Evil. He raised some good points, with some compelling examples, such as the Nazis, and how none of them thought they were evil, and how evil actions are really a matter of perspective rather than any concrete idea.

But while I agree with a lot of what he said, I do disagree on some of the fundamental implications of his position. Hence this post. I do believe there is a universal definition of Good and a universal definition of Evil. And no, I’m not talking about universal good/evil in relation to, (for Instance) God, and the forces of good fighting against the devil and the forces of evil. I’m talking about how we define the basic earthbound humans daily battle with the moral and ethical questions that drive our actions.

There are a lot of things that are universal in this world. Laws of energy, nature, physics, etc. are inviolate. When we break one of those laws, it isn’t because we really broke it, but rather because we didn’t truly understand it to begin with. I think that universally applicable concepts of good and evil exist in the same way.

I believe that there must be some universally acceptable idea of good and evil, otherwise we would not be able to recognize the individual instances of one from the other, regardless of our individual beliefs. I think that this is a very important point. I think our problem is that we really do not understand the idea of what “Good” or “Evil” truly means at a universal level.

What this means to me, is that the biggest mistake people make with respect to defining good and evil is that they apply too specific a filter on what they consider good and what they consider evil. It is often a function of their cultural or religious belief system, or their cultural morals, or social normalcy, or any random thing they were brought up to believe.

None of these, from my perspective, are good ways to determine the benevolence or malevolence of a person or action, because they are all rooted in a human way of thinking that assumes the thinker understands the difference, or is the good guy. I believe that in order to truly define good and evil as universal concepts, we must learn to think outside of our petty differences, and in terms of a much, much broader picture, otherwise our definition of Good and Evil will, by definition, not be universal in any way, shape or form.

But then the question becomes, is it possible for a human to think in such broad terms? Well, I think so. After all, there are social laws that are universal. Laws that do exist, in one form or another, regardless of religion creed or belief system. A typical example is “The Golden Rule”. Do unto others and all that jazz.

Lets take Mr. A and the example of the Nazi’s. Sure, Nazi’s Germans never woke up every moring and said, “Today would be a great day to be evil.” No, they justified what they did using some altruistic sounding, though heinously misguided, rationalization.

Clearly, your average German walking the streets of Germany today would consider what the Nazis did evil. But why did the Germans of the time not think so? Was it because of a different perspective? And if it was, was that a reasonable perspective?

My answer to the first question is: because they were lying to themselves. And to the last two: No. No way in hell. Why? Because they violated the golden rule. Unless it makes sense to you that if another culture considers yours inferior, that they ought to take the initiative to wipe yours off the face of the earth, nobody can argue that it was a “good” thing.

It’s amazing how quickly peoples perspectives become irrelevant if you correctly apply the Golden Rule to the scenario. Things that people say makes sense suddenly contradict themselves under that paradigm, and the theoretical complications brought about by “differences in perspective” suddenly don’t mean much.

My point here is this. If a concept as simple, as straightforward and easy to apply (if you aren’t lying to yourself) as the Golden Rule, can be applied so universally, regardless of culture, creed and/or belief, then there must be some universal way to define actions that fall in line with the golden rule, and actions that violate it.

And if that exists, then, to my thinking, it follows that there must be some concrete definition to universal Good, and universal Evil… I think that most of us are usually just too egocentric to properly define it…

666-The nature of evil – [Angry Aussie]

25
Jul
08

Calling off a wedding… A $150,000 mistake?

read something today that I found rather intensely disturbing. A Jilted Bride sued her former fiancee for $150,000 for calling off the wedding… and won.

You know, I’m not quite sure what to make of this. The details provided were rather… interesting.

The Bride claimed that she had lost a lot because she had left a $80,000 job for a $30,000 one so she could be closer to him.

For instance the fact that the husband-to-be broke up with her using a post it note stuck in the bathroom. I mean I’m no Casanova, but if I’m going to break up with someone I loved enough to get married to, it certainly wouldn’t be via post it note stuck on the bathroom mirror. He’s definitely got issues…

What is even more interesting was his reasoning for breaking up with her. Apparently he decided to call it all off because he found out she had a whole lot of debt… OK… LOL… Whut? Must be some serious debt!! That or there is something else wrong with this woman, besides a penchant for suing for being dumped.

Then there is the issue that the lawyer apparently argued that the whole marriage was a scam, and that he never intended to marry her. And yet it is on record that he paid off $30,000 of her personal debt, as well as buying her an apparently expensive ring. Doesn’t really sound like the actions of someone who wasn’t serious about getting married, but what do I know.

Am I missing something here? I may be a bit old fashioned, but this all sounds a little weird. There are a lot of good points all around, but it seems like there are a gazillion unanswered questions. Like how can you get married with someone and not know how much they owe in debt? And as a person up to their eyeballs in debt, why would you move from a high paying position to such a lower paying one?

And no, I loved him and wanted to be closer is not a good enough reason. Seriously, the debt conversation should have happened before the move ever occurred… If she knew how much debt she had, and still moved, of her own volition, despite this, and without disclosing any of this to him, then she has no one to blame but herself. You cannot go into a relationship and expect your significant other to suddenly take care of all of your financial obligations, especially if you have not been up front and honest about them to begin with.

I can understand she lost a high paying job on his account, but at the same time, he’s also paid of a sizable chunk of her debt. It has cost both of them a lot. I don’t really see how he now has to be liable for anything more of the debt that she racked up all on her own.

But what really gets me is this. The way jury’s determine lawsuits nowadays, the law and common sense don’t even seem to matter any more. Our society is so jacked up and self serving, that it will soon get to the point where it will be cheaper to go to a prostitute than it will be get engaged with someone and break up.

Because apparently, nowadays, in the eyes of a jury, nobody is responsible for their own actions any more, and any past debts and subsequent breakup pain can be subject to substantial punitive damages upon the other party. Any other party. No, really…. People will make money by just having drive-by lawsuits…

Hey don’t shoot the messenger… I’m just saying…

Jilted Bride Awarded $150K After Wedding Called Off – [WBSTV.com]

23
Jul
08

Breaking Down Stereotypes Starts at home.

Today I read a very interesting article about the racial achievement gap between Asian, Caucasian, Latino and Black students at a California high school. I found this article particularly interesting, because the LA Times took the initiative to talk with students about a very controversial topic.

The idea of racial profiling and stereotyping is a common and very touchy subject. I personally do not believe it stereotyping, however I do believe in statistics. Statistics, when used objectively, are great for clearly seeing patterns and trends that can provide valuable insights into a lot of things. Statistics do not lie, and assuming there is no bias in the way the statistics are collected, are entirely objective.

However the mistake people make is usually in how they use or interpret this data. Statistical data is a great generalization tool, but cannot be applied to specific individuals. This is where the problem occurs. Many people make the mistake of attributing a generalization to a specific case, and that is where stereotyping takes a wrong turn.

Now I’m not just raving about statistics for my own personal amusement. I brought it up because of an interesting statistic that appeared in the article I mentioned above:

Both the neighborhood and student body are about 15% Asian. And yet Asians make up 50% of students taking Advanced Placement classes. Staffers can’t remember the last time a Latino was valedictorian. – [LA Times]

The statistics do not lie. Clearly Asians generally do better academically than other demographics. But this is where it gets tricky. Why do Asians do better? How do we interpret this information? The same article speaks of the negative academic stereotype of the average Latino. And statistically, they are accurate. But is is because Asian people are smarter than other demographics? Or that Latino or black students are less intelligent?

How about the oft cited blanket “socioeconomic status” stereotype to explain why some do better than others? Nope. I think not. This should be obvious, as there are many kids from very, very poor families that are academically brilliant. But if my opinion is not enough for you, (and it really shouldn’t ever be) even the statistics do not support this explanation.

According to a study of census data, 84% of the Asian and Latino families in the neighborhoods around Lincoln High have median annual household incomes below $50,000. And yet the Science Bowl team is 90% Asian, as is the Academic Decathlon team. – [LA Times]

So what is it? Is there a race related intelligence deficiency at play? Cultural biases? What? These are thorny questions that need to be discussed in order to get answers. The problem, of course, is that there are too many unwilling to even ask the hard questions.

Apparently some educators walked out when it came time to discuss this aspect of the problem, apparently due to concerns about making sweeping generalizations and reinforcing stereotypes. But from my perspective, those people fail as educators. If you are unable to see how to address a problem like this in an honest, open and objective fashion, then frankly, in this bloggers humble opinion, you should not be anywhere near a classroom, let alone teaching kids.

Clearly, making any sweeping generalization is the wrong thing to do. And would, in any case, be inaccurate, since high achieving students from every demographic are not rare. So obviously something else was to blame, and during the course of the discussion, I believe they nailed it down. Really well, I might add. It is kind of simple actually:

Asian parents are more likely to pressure their children to excel academically, the students agreed.

George said his mother, a Mexican immigrant, has high expectations for him too, but she is not so white-knuckled when it comes to school. She wants him to do well — he’s now thinking of college — but the field of endeavor is up to him.

“She said, ‘I came here to do better for you,’ ” he said. “But that’s about it. Being happy and getting by, that’s what she wants.”

For Carlos Garcia, the one with the knack for math, the message from his parents was to focus on school. Neither got to finish grade school in their native countries. – [LA Times]

There are several similar statements printed in the article, but they basically all make the same reference to how the expectations of their parents, teachers, and even other students, determined how much work they put into their academics. From this, we can make one basic inference. It would appear that how well a student does is directly proportional to the expectations of their parents and their community.

In effect, it is not that any demographic is inherently smarter or dumber than another, but rather that the attitudes of the members of that demographic, and specifically of a students parents and guardians, determine how important academia is to any given student.

This, is actually a much more reasonable explanation than that of socioeconomic status, or inherent racial or genetic predisposition. And it confirms something that I’ve believed for a long time. Parents are perhaps the single greatest influence on a students ability to excel. In anything. Yes, parents are subject to the expectations of the community they live or were raised in, but the one thing that this article does prove is that even cultural expectations can be overcome by parental determination.

We can see that in many Asian households academic achievement is a high priority, where as in many Latino house holds, just working, or getting by is the priority. And yet, where the parents desires clashed with the cultural status quo, the student often defied the cultural stereotype.

So there are two thoughts I would like to leave you all with.

The first is, we all need to learn how to put our plethora of various sensitivities on the shelf, and learn not to shy away from a difficult discussion. We’ve all grown so super sensitive about so many issues that we tend to avoid them, and lash out at anyone who tries to get anywhere near those hot button issues, all the while failing to realize that true resolution and the breaking down of stereotypes and walls, only comes from putting our fears and biases aside, and talking openly and honestly about them.

The second, is for the parents. It cannot be stressed enough how much your attitudes affect your children, and our future. You are the most important influence on your kids. If you want your kids to excel, you must expect them to, you every word or action should demonstrate that you believe they can do better. This actually works for everything, from them misbehaving to teaching them about life. You attitude, your life, even the things you don’t say are as important as the things you do. Kids pick up on them all. So when you see something going wrong with your kids, please look at yourself first for the solution.

Much like in the move “The Matrix”, you may find that it is impossible to bend the spoon. So bend yourself instead…

Why do Asian students generally get higher marks than Latinos? – [LA Times]

14
Jul
08

Warrantless Wiretapping and You…

I must say, I was rather blindsided by the recent warrantless wiretapping move by Bush and the Justice department. I have been even more intrigued by the many varied and interesting takes on it’s legality. However after looking at all the different sides of the argument, I am confronted by some rather disturbing points that lead me to a rather disturbing conclusion.

Among the articles I read was an interesting article by a Harvard Political Review writer who makes the seemingly irrefutable claim that not only are warrantless wiretaps legal, but they are necessary. The article makes a strong argument for the legality of the new law, however I couldn’t help but notice that it made some rather glaring assumptions in two important aspects. It seems to make the president entirely immune to the law, and it does not actually explain why this is even necessary…

Is the president not subject to the law?

First, the fact that any legislative change had to occur for this would indicate that it was not legal prior to the enactment of these changes. This would mean that Bush had, in fact, committed a crime, and is In effect, rewriting the laws to make his actions legal after the fact.

I don’t know about you, but I was not aware that as president of the United States of America, you were allowed to do whatever you wanted. Yes, as president, you are vested with much more power than the average citizen. But You are still a citizen, and STILL beholden unto the law. In fact the president should be even more so than the average citizen.

I find it irritating that Bush is treating the law of this country like his own personal diary, and Ignores and rewrites them to suit his purposes. This last act is just another in a long string of actions to legitimize actions that would clearly have been illegal had he been subject to the same laws as everyone else. If the president of the United states is simply allowed to change laws whenever it suits their fancy, then the laws become meaningless.

Is it really necessary?

Now even if we disregard the legality of his actions, there is still the issue of the actual need for such a law. This new legislation ostensibly makes it OK for anyones privacy to be invaded without explanation or accountability, so long as it is for the purposes of international surveillance. Here’s what makes no sense to me. The whole purpose of the warrant, as I see it, is to demonstrate a valid need for such an invasion of privacy to occur. This step is needed in order to prevent the abuse of innocent civillians on a random whim. It is there to prevent the needless violation of an American Citizens rights.

Why, exactly, would the government see the need to be able to wiretap anyones phone without a warrant? I do not get this part. Is the government unable to carry out wiretapping programs because of the current laws? And if so, why would that be? Perhaps because they would be illegal otherwise? And is there not a good reason for it’s illegality? Why is it so damaging (according to Bush) to have legal oversight of his international wiretapping programs?

Lets face it, these wiretaps are primarily going to be on US soil, so don’t kid yourself, this is just as much about the legalization of the violation of the rights of American Citizens as it is about fighting terror. Personally, I see no advantages of warrantless wiretaps. And what’s even more telling, is that in spite of the massive media coverage on the issue, there is precious little discussed by anyone, about why, exactly, warrantless wiretaps are a useful, effective and necessary anti-terrorism tool. In fact, I could find no articles that convincingly covered any good solid benefits to it. None. Not one.

Don’t beleive me? Try it yourself. And I’m not talking about the possible benefits of wiretaps on US soil. I mean any concrete reasoning and or evidence/proven benefits for warrantless wiretaps as opposed to the judicially approved warrant based approach. Go look for yourself. And please come back and tell me I’m wrong. Because what really bugs me (pun intended) is that this law effectively also opens the door for a wide range of other wiretap programs that they need not tell anyone about. You do the math.

My conclusion…

There are only two possible advantages I see to this, and neither of them are particularly encouraging good.

First, there is effectively no legal accountablility. None. If you are not required to get a warrant, you don’t have to justify your actions, and you can effectively do whatever you want. This is not a good thing. That process exists to prevent mistakes, keep people in authority in check, and most of all, make sure no laws are broken. Now… Nada.

The second, and rather galling reason, in this bloggers humble opinion, is that under the new law, Bush can no longer be held liable for his illegal actions. My take? There is no need for Warrantless Wiretaps. The prez is simply trying to avoid massive lawsuits…

Obama’s support for the FISA “compromise” – [Salon.com]
Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers – [New York Times]
Bush’s Wiretapping: Legal and Necessary – [Harvard Political Review]
NSA WARRANTLESS SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM – [Federation of American Scientists]
Three Media Mistakes on Warrantless Wiretapping – [Electronic Frontier Foundation]
The Threat to our Freedoms: President Bushs Authorization of Warrantless Wiretapping – [Espionage Unlimited]

03
Jul
08

Clues that your society may be going down the drain…

I’m sure you’ve all read about the numerous cases where folks have died in their homes not to ever be discovered until years later. I’ve always contended that the increasing frequency of this particular scenario in the United States was a sure fire indicator that our social and interpersonal humanitarian skills were no longer in rapid decline, but in all out free fall.

I will personally admit to not being the most social creature on the face of the planet, and were I to die in my sleep one day,  I would not be surprised if I were not found until a year later. That’s not to say I ignore every one else. I try to be friendly and neighborly on those occasions I do interact with others, though the (often illogical) habits of humans (in general) tend to frustrate and confuse me, so i keep such interactions to a minimun in order to preserve my sanity.

However if one of my neighbors, who I see regularly, should suddenly disappear, I would definitely start asking questions. Even more so if they are older or infirm. I’ll also help a person stranded on the roadside if  I can, though I’m finding out I am a minority in that regard, as apparently, this is not standard procedure for everyone else. To a degree, while still quite unsettling, I can understand where this attitude comes from.

We, as a society, have become so individualized and self absorbed in our ways that we often fail to even notice anything outside of what is immediately relevant to us, let alone consider how and where we can help. However there are some things I will never understand. Like how easy it is for many of us to ignore people who may need help that are right in front of us.

I just read an article today about a woman who keeled over in a New York emergency room, and was left to lie there, splayed on the floor, for an hour, before anyone lifted a finger to see if she was OK. Now heres the kicker. By the time anyone had come around to see if she was OK, she was… Dead. Yep. D. E. D. Dead.

Now having lived in New York, I must admit, I’m not entirely surprised. People keel over all the time in New York. Often from being physically compromised by sharp and/or pointy objects. Or by these little metal slugs, ejected from brass shell filled with a potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulphur concoction from a hand held firing contraption. Quite ingenious actually, though I’d much rather they be used differently.

But I digress. The point is, where it comes to total strangers, New Yorkers are the Kings of Apathy. If you live where there are a gazillion people, all in a small space, who all have so much going on, all at the same time, you learn to tune it all out. Or go nuts. I can understand this.

However if you are in the ER waiting room of a hospital and someone keels over, chances are, there may be something a whole lot worse going on than a momentary fit of narcolepsy. Now seeing as how your average adult human does not just keel over for no good reason, the obvious (to me anyway) humanitarian thing to do would be to check and make sure they are still with us.

But here’s the gotcha. In our society, you can actually be sued as a result of trying to help someone. That’s right. Should you, with no medical training, deign to wag a finger in the vicinity of the incapacitated person, you run the risk of being the target of massive litigation efforts for your trouble, should they be successfully revived.

Now ain’t that a kick in the cowbells? I’m beginning to think the US government should just make caring for and helping others a federal crime, so we can all be on the same page, and fewer greedy bastards get to benefit from the humanitarian nature of others… But then again that could just be me…

Woman Dies on ER Floor as staff watch – [P2P.net]

02
Jul
08

Your Brain. Use it or Lose it. It’s that simple.

OK, I’m not trying to be flippant about the recent rather horrific tragedy involving a 17 year old boy who was decapitated after he jumped two fences in order to gain entry into a restricted area of the GA Six Flags roller coaster he and his church group were visiting.

It was very much a tragedy, and by all accounts this was a good if a little rambunctious kid. He did, however, make a rather terminal error in judgement that ended his life and left behind traumatized witnesses and family members, some of whom may spend a good portion of their lives trying to recover from the loss. It is a tragedy no matter how you slice it.

But this is not what has me posting today. What Irked me were a couple of videos and posters on youtube who I saw talking about how Six Flags should be sued for insufficient signage and fencing…

LOL… Whut?

Now looky here. I’m sorry, this was indeed a tragedy, but honestly, lets look at the reality of what happened.

This kid ignored multiple signs, and jumped over two fences, for reasons we may never know, to enter an obviously dangerous part of the roller coaster ride. If any of you are thinking “Oh well maybe it wasn’t obvious..” Or “Maybe the signage wasn’t clear enough…”, I’m sorry but you are not using your head.

At least not any more than this kid did. You look both ways before crossing the road right? And watch for trains at a railroad crossing, right? This is no different. In fact there is less preventing you from proceeding across a railroad crossing, than there was between these kids and the restricted roller coaster area, even when a train is approaching.

And yet some people have the ignorance to suggest that maybe there should have been more signs. Or more explicit signs. Or taller fencing. And that Six Flags should be sued. Always blame someone else. That’s our MO these days. We try to blame everyone else for our own laziness, ignorance, failings and weaknesses.

Seriously, how difficult is it for a reasonable person to surmise that if you happen to be standing next to, beneath, below or even just in the vicinity of the rails of a roller coaster, you may be injured if it should come by at the breakneck speeds they are all very well known for? Is that such a leap of logic? Perhaps too challenging a mental exercise?

No. We all know fully well that this kid, for whatever reason, was not thinking about any of that, and was bound and determined to do whatever it is he and his buddy were trying to do. More signs, larger signs, more explicit signs, neon signs,  taller fences, a 10ft florescent colored effigy of Krusty the Clown standing there mindlessly repeating: “Don’t jump the fence, or you’ll end up brain dead, like me!” it won’t matter. Unless you want your amusement parks to look like prison camps, there is not much more they can do.

Please, let’s stop trying to place blame where it doesn’t belong. This kid either lacked the common sense or discipline to prevent him from making what turned out to be a fatal mistake. It is what it is. That is either his fault (youth can be reckless), that of those who raised him or of anyone who was supposed to be watching him. Nobody elses.

I wish these people would put this amount of energy into coming up with ways of making our kids behave better and act smarter, rather than on how to make money from tragic incidents like these…

Teen Decapitated by Six Flags Coaster – [AOL News]

13
Jun
08

Subjective Objectivism and Road Rage…

A recent incident got me thinking about how ones emotions and perceptions affect ones Judgment on the road. Now I will readily admit to being a bit of a lead foot, and this often puts me in a unique position in terms of how I view traffic, as I tend to always be one of the faster vehicles of the road.

However even from your Sunday driver perspective, the reactions of some other drivers make no sense to me. Here’s one (out of numerous examples) of what I’m talking about.

So I’m moving along in the passing lane, going by a string of cars moving slower than I, when I encounter an SUV, just cruising in the passing lane. Now, as I stated before, I’m admittedly a leadfoot, but I’m not entirely inconsiderate. This vehicle is not moving particularly fast, but there are cars in the lane to this drivers right, and so I just hang back and wait for the driver of this humongUV to have an opportunity to move over to the cruising lane. About five minutes later, this SUV clears the cars to the right, and comes up on a stretch of road with no other cars for about half a mile ahead.

Now In my mind, I’m thinking “OK, now this driver should move over to the right, and let me pass.” Not necessarily because I think the driver should be able to read my mind, but rather because the shoulder of this particular highway is sprinkled generously with “Stay right except to pass” signs. Now common sense would dictate that a driver, confronted by a quarter mile of empty road between them and the next closest vehicle ahead, and repeated confirmatory signage, would move to the right, right? You would think so wouldn’t you. Except I wait for about a minute, then two, (maybe even three) and…

Nothing. No blinker, no attempt to change lanes, not even a glance to the side. After a mile or so of cruising like this, I’m beginning to think this driver is zoned out or something. Nonetheless, we are coming up on another group of cars, and not wanting to spend the rest of my life stuck behind Miss Daisy’s driver, I decide to pass this vehicle on the right. Now here’s where the fun begins.

As soon as I signal, get into the right lane and start to accelerate to get around this massive canyonero, it SPEEDS UP!! And no, I’m not talking just a little faster. I’m talking pedal to the metal, “Pass me over my dead body…” speed. Now for a second I’m a little perplexed. Then, seeing that we are rapidly approaching a body of vehicles, my lead foot instinct kicks in, and having a much faster vehicle, I simply gun it and go around the rapidly accelerating hulk of steel.

Now perhaps I cut back over into the passing lane a little closer than this driver would have liked, (I don’t think I did, however I’ve learned that perceived safe passing distances to be a subjective thing), or I somehow inadvertently upset this drivers paradigm of the universe, or maybe being passed just didn’t sit well with this driver, but their reaction thereafter was… I’ll describe it as… very intruguing.

Because as luck, (or my lack thereof) would have it, we were stuck in a clump of cars with a similar Sunday driver in the lead, and Mr/Mrs. Canyonero took to tailgating me to within six inches of my rear bumper for the next few miles. Because clearly, I had passed unsafely/cut them off, and this driver felt that I needed to be taught how to drive safely. Eventually I wearied of this game, and threaded my way through every little nook and cranny I could find in traffic, knowing it could not follow, until I was clear of the irate steel monster…

Now here’s the question. What is it with the “lane hog” mentality? I fail to understand this. If you want to drive at 10mph below the speed limit, by all means, do so, but why sit in the passing lane while doing so, and impede all other traffic who actually would like to drive at the limit? If you all go look at your drivers manuals, you will realize that the far left lane is a PASSING LANE, NOT a DRIVING LANE.

Why then, do people guard the left lane as if their very lives depended upon it? Is it so difficult to stay in the right lane until you need to pass? And even if you are passing other vehicles at a good clip, if the next vehicle is a good quarter mile ahead of you, must you sit in the left lane until you get there? Does it take that much effort to change lanes?

And perhaps the most perplexing behavior are those who cruise at some constant (but relatively low) speed in the left lane, but suddenly accelerate to prevent you from passing if you try to pass them on the right! In the name of all things good in the world, what is your malfunction? If you want to cruise at Xmph, then cruise at Xmph, I certainly won’t hold that against you. And while annoying, I can see (sometimes) where it does make sense to stay in the left lane.

But if you cruise in the left lane, with no other cars to your right, and a string of cars behind you, and you fail to understand why you need to move over to the right, you NEED remedial driving lessons. Or a wet trout to the face. Whichever would be more effective. And if, in the stated scenario you decide you need to actively and aggressively prevent another vehicle from passing you on the right, then you need both remedial driving lessons and COUNSELING.

Why? Because honestly, If you do all of the above, you have got to have some rather serious issues.

Now I’ll also mention that, on most roads, moving out of the way of vehicles that are moving faster than you is not only a common sense act of courtesy, in many places, it is the law. Not that I place much stock in the validity of all of the laws of the road nowadays, but people constantly cite the speed limit as the reason why they should not have to move over. I hear things like “I was driving at the speed limit, so anyone who wants to pass me will be speeding, so nobody should need to have to pass…”

LOL What?

Seriously, if you are worried about people obeying the law, then you need to obey the law yourself and move over, you little hypocrite…

And perhaps the most irrational actions come from those who go into full “Road Rage” when people who try to circumvent thier inconsiderate (and illegal) road hogging behavior, in the only way they have available to them. Passing on the right.

Now I understand that for some folks, ones car is considered an extension of their home. And as a result, people tend to treat road incidents like they have been accosted in their own living rooms. Well, let me point out a few things to remember.

First, If you truly, honestly feel like your car is an extension of your home, then you should fully expect that everyone else feels the same. And hanging out in the left lane is the equivalent of making everybody else wait in line for the bathroom. Treat the left lane like the bathroom.

Do your business and get the heck outta there as fast as you can. If you don’t you should not be surprised or angry when people start banging on the door. If you are, then you are fully admitting that you are being a selfish, inconsiderate jackass.

Here’s the reality check: Even if you consider your car an extension of your home, you also just so happen to cruising your mobile La-Z-Boy on public roads that you have to share with everyone else. Stop acting like the road is there for your use alone. I have a tendency to speed, I will admit that, but I also stay out of everyones way, avoid tailgating as much as possible, and generally try to be mindful of the needs of other drivers. And If I see someone moving faster than I, I get the heck out of their way, regardless of how fast they are going. In fact it is in your best interest to do so. Any other mentality is simply foolish.

Honestly. If you are one of those people who consciously just cruise in the left lane all the time regardless of what’s going on, you are an inconsiderate jerk. And if you are of this ilk, and also actively and aggressively attempt to deter any attempts to pass you, then you are a jerk who needs some serious counseling…




Feed Your Inner Objectivist

Add to My AOL
October 2020
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031