Category Archives: Uncategorized

Thought for the Day – January 16, 2014


June 2013 – loaded handgun left in movie theater restroom traced to off duty Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detective
January 2014 – loaded handgun found in intersection.  Traced to Zephyrhills cop who’d reported it stolen.
January 2014 – Retired Tampa Police Captain shoots and kills a man in a theatre in an argument over texting DURING the previews.
December 2013 – PA State trooper deemed not mentally stable enough to carry a weapon while off duty, but okay to carry while on duty.
And, so on and so on.

Seems the only logical conclusion here is to disarm the cops.

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Lessons we seem incapable of learning


Lessons we seem incapable of learning

Principle IV states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”.

This principle could be paraphrased as follows: “It is not an acceptable excuse to say ‘I was just following my superior’s orders'”.

Previous to the time of the Nuremberg Trials, this excuse was known in common parlance as “Superior Orders”. After the prominent, high profile event of the Nuremberg Trials, that excuse is now referred to by many as “Nuremberg Defense”.

– The Nuremberg Principles


Making mountains out of molehills


There has been great brouhaha for months this year, as there is every year, regarding movements to restrict voter access.  These movements always come up in the months leading up to elections, and they almost always arise from the far right wing.  These are always put forth as some means to protect the integrity of the voting process, and yet, they inevitably have the added benefit, unintended consequence, true purpose, side-effect of targeting demographically likely moderate, i.e. Democratic voters.

One component of this is inevitably the push to require voters to show photo identification at the polling place.  Let me give you the simple acceptable solution to this first, and then we’ll discuss the real situation.  Shall we?  It is so simple and yet, no one that I am aware of has proposed it.

If we wish to require photo ID at polling places to allow voting, then election supervisors must issue voter cords with photos on them.  La voila problem solved.  Oh, but wait.  There are complications with that, too, aren’t there?  It makes it much more difficult to have voter drives, and all of the other things that we have instituted in order to facilitate voter registration.  There are solutions to these issues.  They are not reasons to not implement this solution.  For example, for states that allow voter registration while getting your drivers license (so-called motor voter states), the picture that is taken can be provided to the Election supervisor along with the voter registration.  If private organizations are going to be having voter registrations then they can take photos and provide these along with the registration cards as well.  There are solutions.

However, this is really a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  There are almost no documented instances of this kind of voter fraud in America.  That is, the situation where a person walks in and pretends to be someone other than who they are in order to cast a vote.  That is the only type of voter fraud that photo ID requirements would address.  So, we have these battles to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist.

If we read defenses of these pushes by right wing no-think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, then we find such wonderfully charming, and pointless anecdotes such as:

The fraud denialists also must have missed the recent news coverage of the double voters in North Carolina and the fraudster in Tunica County, Miss. — a member of the NAACP’s local executive committee — who was sentenced in April to five years in prison for voting in the names of ten voters, including four who were deceased.

And the story of the former deputy chief of staff for Washington mayor Vincent Gray, who was forced to resign after news broke that she had voted illegally in the District of Columbia even though she was a Maryland resident. Perhaps they would like a copy of an order from a federal immigration court in Florida on a Cuban immigrant who came to the U.S. in April 2004 and promptly registered and voted in the November election.

There is also the recent embarrassing for Democrats story of Wendy Rosen who voted in both Maryland and in Florida in the same election cycle.  (It might ought to be noted that it was her own party’s officials that reported her.  It was not the muckrakers from the other side.)

However, what do these things all have in common?  Presenting a photo ID would do absolutely nothing to have prevented any one of these things.  The only one that it might, possibly have had an impact on was the Tunica case, and even that is questionable for two reasons.  One, getting false ID is really very easy.  Two, as is so frequently the case, they provided no source.  This remains an unverified allegation, and no, I haven’t heard of it anywhere else.

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The Lost Art of Truth


Fact checking has become an incredibly valuable tool, and yet, all too few people are actually using it.  It would seem to be a popular past time, right?  With the abundance of websites and newspaper columns dedicated to it, you’d think that people are jumping straight to a reliable source to check some new information or graphic prior to believing it as accurate, right?

We’ve got :

Snopes

PolitiFact

FactCheck.org

The Fact Checker

FlackCheck.org

OpenSecrets.org

TruthOrFiction.com

Not to mention every major news paper, online journal and TV network.

That’s just a partial list, and, yet…

Every day, the facts are stated incorrectly and when that is pointed out, there is always some argument.  When someone does bother to pull out the fact checkers, then the fact checkers are attacked.  The most obvious and clear recent disdain is, when Neil Newhouse, a pollster working for the Romney campaign, flatly stated, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

But, then, Mitt Romney hasn’t exactly been the standard bearer of consistency has he?  This is just another in a long line of flip flops.  This position espoused by Newhouse, and not yet contradicted by the Romney campaign, is in direct contradiction to the words Romney himself spoke back on August 9th.

You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them

Or, perhaps more accurately, it is typical of the double standard that both the far right and the center right wish to apply to each other, but it is a particular hypocrisy with which the far right is even more comfortable.  Perhaps because they have more experience rotting in that particular filth.  Perhaps because the far right generally is more comfortable subscribing to the belief that the ends justifies the means.  They want to demand that their prime opponent be held to a higher standard of accuracy than that to which they themselves should be held.  For so long, the center and what has remained of the left has played the role of the honorable party.  We have made the attempt to remain decent and play fair despite what the right has done.  Despite the dirty tricks of Watergate era Nixon, Iran Contra Reagan, blatant lies of pill head Rush Limbaugh, false patriotism of Glen Beck, and so on, and yet we have tried to remain above it.  Not all of us, certainly.  Some of the politicians have gotten in there and played dirty too, but not as well and not as dirty.  Again, it likely comes down to experience.

So, the piece to which Romney was referring above, an ad run by a SuperPAC  supportive of Obama, Priorities USA Action, which gave the impression that Romney was responsible for the death of a woman because Bain Capital had closed a plant thus removing her health insurance.  An ad, which fact checkers have called false, saying:

The ad uses innuendo for a serious allegation, but there’s no proof directly linking the death to Bain. We rate the claim False.

This should be called for what it is.  It is wrong.  It is deceitful.  It is completely in keeping with the center right politician that Obama is.  It is typical of the politics of fear that the right wing plays.

So, when an image like this pops up:

RNC debt clock - We built this juxtaposition

It looks very legit.  Both of these things were at the RNC this week in Tampa.  It gets posted quickly and without checking.  However, someone had, very likely, superimposed two images.  Sadly, it is actually also factually accurate.  The supply side economics, unpaid for wars built on lies, an unpaid for Medicaid drug coverage, and ineffectual, morally offensive, and economically destructive tax cuts for a very limited number of people did, in fact, build that debt.  Want a dispassionate, non-partisan look at which presidents are responsible for the debts?  Here:

US Debt Accumulation by President

But, of course, you don’t, do you?  It is unlikely that very many people with an open mind are reading this far along.  The sad reality appears to be that very few people remain that are willing to consider facts any more and that is the point, isn’t it?  Politics has become religion for many.  So many whine about wanting change, but so few actually do.  Most of us are doing one of two things, either we’re pissing into the wind, or we’re simply bitching and moaning because we are preaching to the choir.

It is my fervent hope to actually open a dialog with people who are undecided or who are on the other side of the fence.  I posted a while back in response to someone asking, “What are you going to do?”  Part of that response was, to educate as many people as possible with actual facts.  The trick is finding people who are actually willing to having open and honest discussions.

As Bernard Baruch said, (and was later repeated by, and usually attributed to, Daniel Patrick Moynihan):

Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. – Deming Headlight (New Mexico), 6 January 1950, as cited in the Yale Book of Modern Proverbs


Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then, oh wait… we don’t


You can find anything to support your position on the internet – Abraham Lincoln

No, really.  I read it on Facebook.  He must really have said it, right?

Obviously he didn’t.  I did, however, read it there.  I’m sure many of us have.  We can read many things on the internet.  I try very hard not to be taken in by what I see on the internet. I try to verify the facts prior to sharing them with people.  I despise gossip and innuendo.  I do that before posting here, I do it in my private online life, and I do it in my private offline life.  And, still, I got taken this week in my personal online life.

I shared a link from Project.Nsearch which reported that Mitt Romney had said (my emphasis added):

That’s a good question, young man, and I would be happy to answer it. The Vietnam War came at a time in my life when I had other plans. I knew in my heart of hearts that I would one day serve my nation. That I would one day hold an office that would help not only our nation, but also the world. So I did what I could to make sure that I would be around to serve my nation, as well as serving God by teaching very important religious principles to a broader audience overseas. My father did not want me serving, and he convinced me that yes, I was too important to go to Vietnam. I had a greater purpose in life. I wasn’t neglecting my nation, but rather preparing myself for a future of service.

I was outraged!  I should have checked further and it was brought to my attention that this story actually originated on the Freewood Post.  Project.Nsearch should have checked better, and so should I have!  Sadly, it really does sound much like a typical Romney quote.

We have to be better than that!  We have to not spread false information.  It is one thing to enjoy humor and satire, and it is fantastic to share these, but we should never share them as purported factual stories.  We have to be as close to 100% accurate with information as possible.  And, when we make a mistake, then we have to own up to it, and quickly.  As soon as this was made known to me, I posted to my friends in an attempt to undo the damage.  Why?  I am not a large news organization.  I did it, because my word is important, and because the people I talk to, talk to others, and they talk to others, and so on.  We all have an impact.  It was important to let them know that what I had said turned out to be wrong.

Facts matter!  We have to be willing to get past the hyperbole and the rhetoric and deal with actual, real information.  This, too, is an old topic, but it is one that really needs to be driven home repeatedly.  We have to get past any desire or hardheadedness to see our own positions as unassailable or unchangeable.  That is one of the primary differences between a Liberal and a conservative.

And, while that is important and it is something that we need to be aware of, it is not precisely what I actually wanted to talk to you all about today.  Today, I wanted to talk about responsibility.  In a way that is a part of it, because it is the responsibility we each carry for the words we say and the information that we share.  We are responsible for the information that we accept as true.  As adults, we are responsible for making sure that the information that we receive is valid.  Sadly, we cannot trust we are being given accurate information from media sources, from our friends, online, etc.  We must validate and cross-check it.  It is a lot of work to be actually informed.  I have written on this before.  As parents, it is even more important that we do this work for our children!
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Fighting (Super)fire with (Super)fire!


Yes!  This is an excellent sign of engagement!  As you may recall, I have been arguing that we cannot withdraw from the system if we intend to salvage it.  (I won’t rehash the save v. destroy discussion here.)  I have also been arguing that in order for the Occupy movement to not become completely irrelevant, it has to mature.  These are sure and long overdue signs of that maturation.

 

 And

These are the serious, non-comedic versions of Stephen Colbert’s Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.  Which is not to say that Colbert is not serious in his way, because he certainly is.  He is also, I hope, being very successful in driving home the point.  However, there are elements that will avoid him specifically because the method of delivery is comedic.

Okay, so these are unsophisticated first steps.  These are not the experienced, groomed political operatives of the Democan/Republicrat machine.  Yes, and?  There is nothing wrong with that!  I have not been, and I would hope that none of us are, opposed to the power to the people approach.  These guys are picking up the shovel and attempting to start digging themselves.  Now that they have, everyone else has to step in also.  It has to be a joint effort, of course.  Give if you can.  Spread the word!

We have to stop just talking.  We have to stop just squatting.  Direct action can’t just be heckling the politicians and protesting.  Those are important, but that can’t be all that we do.  We also have to be engaged in the political process.  We do not have the numbers, or let’s be honest the commitment of the majority of the numbers we do have, of the people who made the Arab Spring happen.  The Arab Spring that so many in the Occupy want to claim alignment to.

And, why is that?  Because most of us simply haven’t lost enough to get that level of commitment.  Let’s be honest with ourselves.

But, we still care.  We still see the inequity in our den.  Just because we recognize that we are better off than so much of the world, does not mean that we can not strive to fix our own system.  It does not mean that we cannot strive to be better.  For in doing so, we can put ourselves in a better position to help others.

So, again, get off your ass and get engaged!!  Speak out!  Educate yourself and everyone else!  Let them be aggravated with you.  Do what you have to do to make the world a better place, even if it is just your little neck of the world.


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