Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Saturday, 2017.12.16
Those who refuse to support and defend a state have no claim to protection by
that state. Killing an anarchist or a pacifist should not be defined as "murder"
in a legalistic sense. The offense against the state, if any, should be "Using
deadly weapons inside city limits," or "Creating a traffic hazard," or
"Endangering bystanders," or other misdemeanor. However, the state may
reasonably place a closed season on these exotic asocial animals whenever they
are in danger of becoming extinct. An authentic buck pacifist has rarely been
seen off Earth, and it is doubtful that any have survived the trouble
there...regrettable, as they had the biggest mouths and the smallest brains of
any of the primates. The small-mouthed variety of anarchist has spread through
the Galaxy at the very wave front of the Diaspora; there is no need to protect
them. But they often shoot back.

		Robert Heinlein, "Time Enough For Love"

2007.02.19

Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty…

Cheetahs Maul Woman to Death at Zoo in Belgium

Karen Aerts, 37, of Antwerp, was found dead in the cage, Olmense Zoo spokesman Jan Libot said. Police said they ruled out any foul play.

Authorities believe Aerts, a regular visitor to the zoo, hid in the park late Sunday until it closed and managed to find the keys to the cheetah cage.

“Karen loved animals. Unfortunately the cheetahs betrayed her trust,” Libot said.

One of the cats that killed Aerts was named Bongo, whom the woman had adopted under a special program. She paid for Bongo’s food, Libot said.

I’d say so. In this case, she paid with her life. Do you suppose that Darwin fellow was on to something? Or was it species profiling by the cheetahs?

Seriously, when people expect animals to behave as refined human beings and interact with them based on that fatally flawed assumption, there should be no surprise when the animal dispatches that belief to the bone yard. What was this woman thinking? That the cheetahs would recognize her and purr thankfully for hours, lulling her to sleep that night? Instead of recognizing her as the food lady, they recognized the lady as food.

(H/T: Tim Blair)

2007.02.13

Marcotte, McEwan, Darwin And The Blogosphere

Since the Marcotte-McEwan-Edwards ménage à trois, there has been a lot of comment from both the left and the right in favor of Edwards retaining his two miscreant bloggers. The argument generally went along the lines of how firing them would make it difficult for bloggers in the future to find similar work. Somehow, the entire pool of bloggers would be discredited. There is merit to the argument. But I believe it takes the short view.

To be sure, placing such inept writers in such a prominent position has splashed a measure of slime on all bloggers. But taking the long view, I believe the disgraced departure of Marcotte and McEwan from the Edwards campaign will be a good thing. Blogging is a relatively young medium for expression and has yet to be exposed to the kind of fire which can temper it into a quality medium of expression. The flames fed by the manure cakes packed by the likes of Marcotte and McEwan can help the rest of us forge blogs of substance. The offensive wet noodles with which Marcotte and McEwan charge into battle serve to accentuate the power inherent in well crafted and persuasive argument. The wreckage they leave is our call to craft such arguments which hold an edge in battle.

Marcotte and McEwan swam in relatively small and protected pools. By jumping into the much larger pool of a presidential campaign, they exposed themselves to an entirely different set of rules, a different set of dangers and fish much bigger and hungrier then they are. In short, they became subject to the Darwinian rules of survival applied to a political context.

Humorously, they attempted to adapt, to change their stripes, by offering non-apology apologies and changing the character of their usual writing style. They made a pathetic attempt to become hyenas in lamb’s clothing. Fortunately, they failed.

Marcotte, McEwan and, particularly, Edwards, have made it more difficult for bloggers to establish credibility. But I believe that is a good thing. They have helped set the stage for the fittest bloggers to survive, and even thrive, while the bottom feeding bloggers will be forced to recede further into the blogosphere muck.

Previously:

Amanda Marcotte: Near-Earth Object From Deep Left Space

2007.01.25

Sponges Who Use Sponges

Bold prediction: There will soon be warning labels on sponges. Why? Just examine the evidence:

[A] study that found microwave ovens can be used to sterilize kitchen sponges sent people hurrying to test the idea this week — with sometimes disastrous results.

But several experimenters evidently left out the crucial step of wetting the sponge.

“Just wanted you to know that your article on microwaving sponges and scrubbers aroused my interest. However, when I put my sponge/scrubber into the microwave, it caught fire, smoked up the house, ruined my microwave, and pissed me off,” one correspondent wrote.

Maybe there should be a law that says you have to be smarter than a sponge to use a sponge.

(H/T Slashdot)

2007.01.21

Operating Room Tantrum

Ouch. But you’ll be delighted to know the surgeon “has already been punished enough after having his medical licence [sic] suspended.” Suspended, not revoked.

The medical costs will be paid by the hospital’s insurer, but doctors’ unions have criticised [sic] the decision that the money for the damages has to be paid by the doctor.

They say the move sets a dangerous precedent and that Professor Ciomu, a urologist and lecturer in anatomy, has already been punished enough after having his medical licence [sic] suspended.

A “dangerous precedent?” Dangerous? The Romanian doctors’ union needs a better understanding of what “dangerous” means. An unstable surgeon with a knife standing over an unconscious patient is dangerous.

Vice-president of the Romanian Doctors Union, Vasile Astarastoae, said: ‘Ciomu’s case is a dangerous precedent for all Romanian doctors. In future doctors may have to think very carefully about what work they undertake.’

Because obviously, the last thing you want is a doctor thinking carefully about the work they’re doing.

Obviously, if you are a Romanian doctor, that is. Consequences for destructive behavior commensurate with the damage done are a good thing. It’s the difference between dangerous and deterrence.

[The surgeon] told the court it was a temporary loss of judgement due to personal problems.

No kidding. I wonder if the physically damaged patient, in lieu of the monetary damages awarded by the court, would be allowed a moment alone with the good doctor for a “temporary loss of judgement due to personal problems” of his own. It is stunning to see other Romanian doctors circle the wagons around Naum “The Hacker” Ciomu, referring to his mutilating conniption as “a mistake.”

I have to say, though, the caption to the picture in the article is, shall we say, rather ill conceived.

[Edit History]

2007.01.21

Added thoughts related to the position taken by the Romanian doctors’ union.

2007.01.17

Lemming (Previously Duke) 88

Welcome, dear reader. You’ve come to hear the tale of Aquaville, no doubt. A place where blue and green people live in relative harmony and where all the buildings are painted a sparkling, bright nondescript color.

Well, almost all. A small number of blue people buck social convention and paint their house blue. Or perhaps just part of it. Or maybe a pale shade of blue. Or perhaps all the rooms inside are painted blue.

Same for a few green people who feel the town should be green and so paint their house green. Or perhaps just a part of it. Or maybe a pale shade of green. Or perhaps all the rooms inside are painted green.

One day…SCANDAL!

Egads! Someone, a person of green it turns out, has been doused with a bucket of blue paint. “I’ve been blued!”, the greenie cries. “And those blue derkreuz players did it!” There is now a person in Aquaville who is both blue and green. The Horror! Not in Aquaville! No!

Yes!

The Aquaville DA was the first to the microphone: “Twists and turns, this story has, yessssssssss it doesesssss, My Precious.” he says to the angry greenies and the dumbfounded bluies.

So, too, the Aquaville University Intelligentsia determine (at the weekly Ivory Tower Society Of Aquaville University Intelligentsia meeting) there is Obvious and Universal and Unquestioned Outrage at this heinous event. “Let us go forth to declare and impose our judgment upon the nematodes who pay our salaries.”, they proclaim. And thus they splattered their perspective upon the citizenry by way of a sacred “ad.” As in “advertisement.” You know, one of those thingies marketing types use to sell you all manner of shi…er…shiny objects.

We are listening to our students. We’re also listening to the Aquaville community, to Aquaville University staff, and to each other. Especially, to each other. Actually, only to each other. We don’t give a rat’s ass about the police investigation, what is apparent everyday now is the anger and fear of many students who know themselves to be objects of discoloration and splashism, who see illuminated in this moment’s extraordinary spotlight what they live with everyday. The clueless bastards, but bless their molded minds. They know that it isn’t just Aquaville University, it isn’t everybody, and it isn’t just individuals making this disaster. Which is to say it’s nobody. But it is a disaster nonetheless. These students are shouting and whispering, simultaneously all at once, about what happened to this young greenie and to themselves. And we hear them.

Non-descript Universal Power be praised! Our Department of Discoloration and Splashism Studies has been saved! The agenda lives!

Aghast, were the four score and eight Ivory Tower Intelligentsia, at the base and growly response reflected from the cretins at their feet. “Pay your child’s tuition and be gone with you!”, they pronounced. But alas, the din from the great wealthy unwashed would not abate. So they did speak again unto the foul mass of check writers.

Recently, the Aquaville University community was rocked by terrible news. We heard that a greenie hired to perform at a party thrown by our derkreuz team had accused members of the team of discolorization. Neighbors, we were told, heard splashist epithets called out at the greenie. The criminal proceedings and the media frenzy which followed are perhaps beginning to wind down. But we won’t let that happen for we shall perservere and fan the flames once again. For us at Aquaville University, the issues raised by the incident, and by our responses to it, are not. How DARE the masses contradict our proclamations!

The ad we previously posted has been read as a comment on the alleged discoloration, the team party, or the specific students accused. Worse, it has been read as rendering a judgment in the case. You idiots. It’s not a rendering. Its a suggestion. Got it? Good! We understand the ad instead (and it is OUR understanding that counts, don’t you know) as a call to action on important, longstanding issues on and around our campus, an attempt to channel the attention generated by the incident to addressing these. We reject all attempts to try the case outside the courts, and stand firmly by the principle of the presumption of innocence, except insofar as it makes us look bad and prevents us from achieving the agenda from the Ivory Tower.

Come on, people! Just think of all the vast numbers of blue-green people who suffer each day under the yoke of discolorization. Have you NO sensitivity to the ISSUES of SPLASHISM? We. Need. This. Victim. Keep it up and you will force us to WRITE IN ALL CAPS!

There have been public calls to the Intelligentsia to retract the ad or apologize for it, as well as calls for action against them and attacks on their character. We reject all of these. Fie, we say to all you vermin! We think the ad’s authors were right to give voice to the unsubstantiated anonymous quotes we used, whose suffering is every bit as real as our world. They have tenured suffering and that must be respected. We also acknowledge, without the concomitant empathy stuff, the pain that has been generated by what we believe is a misperception that the authors of the ad prejudged the discoloration case. How were we supposed to know the masses would, like, you know, actually figure that out?

We stand by the claim that issues of discoloration and splashist violence on campus are real, and we join the ad’s call to all of us at Aquaville University to do something about this. Damn it! Get a Federal grant and DO SOMETHING! Hellooooooooo! We hope that the Aquaville University community will emerge from this tragedy as a better place for we Intelligentsia to live, study, and occasionally work.

Sadly, for the Intelligentsia, the overwhelming preference from the community was for the Intelligentsia’s head to emerge from their collective Intelligentsia arse.

2007.01.11

“Natural” – The New “New And Improved!”

I’m not surprised the marketing mavens interested in pushing as much bilge water and the like at the least possible cost for the highest possible price would slap the word “Natural” on their products:

Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal shelter and advocacy organization today criticized the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “natural” label as misleading and meaningless. The organization submitted comments to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA opposing the “natural” label on products from animals raised on industrialized factory farms or “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.”

People want to trust the producers of their food stuff and are easily assuaged by soft, fluffy and friendly words like “Natural”, “Wholesome” and “Enriched”. The producers know this and exploit it to maximize profits.

A nationwide Zogby International poll of 1,013 likely voters, conducted from January 5 through January 9, 2007, found that 73 percent consider it “inappropriate” to label meat, milk or eggs from animals kept confined indoors, crowded in cages, and standing on metal or concrete floors as “natural.” In addition, the poll showed that consumers prefer to purchase foods labeled as “natural” over those without such a label.

Well, “Fie!” to the likely voters. The large food factories think such ways of treating animals so as to maximizes profits is quite natural. It must be, after all, consumers keep buying without complaint or apparent concern. All’s well in the all natural market economy. So naturally, they put “natural” on the packaging. Thing is, they’re not to be faulted. They’re doing what large businesses do. They are doing what the market (that just might include you) demands.

Words like “natural” are highly subjective nominalizations. It means to consumers what they want it to mean. Many consumers may not care if their food was “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.” Maybe all they want to know is that it’s carbon based and, like the famous Powdermilk Biscuits, good for them mostly. So the word “natural” on the package will give the consumer a warm fuzzy about buying the product. And unless the word “enriched” is followed by the word “uranium”, that one is likely to make them feel like the food producer really cares about them.

What’s a consumer to do? More laws that end up being gutted or ignored? I think the better approach is to express yourself by where you put your dollars. Read beyond the label and make more informed choices about the food you buy. Read Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food”, as a start. It’s not hard and actually not much more expensive. Certainly not when you factor in the long term issues of better health and attitude. Demanding and seeking better quality food is less expensive in the long run. But it’s a choice you have to make and a responsibility you have to take.

2007.01.03

The Helping Hand

Normally, when eating an orange, I like to carefully peel the skin away and enjoy each perfectly portioned slice. Such was the goal when I sat down this evening to cruise a few favorite blogs and catch up on what’s been happening. What I happened to be reading as I started peeling the orange caused one of those nanosecond wince-flinches that resulted in the orange being torn near in half.

Orange

It brought forward some painful memories. I was reading one of Cathy Seipp’s posts in which she mentions a few of the ways people have endeavored to “help” her, but which have caused her to bite her tongue.

Since several years before Janet’s death, I’ve been taking notes on how a person might be helpful to someone fighting a life threating disease or injury. This will eventually be part of the book I’m writing to compliment Janet’s book. I do believe everyone means well, but for a variety of reasons, how they express their desire to help often ends up being…well, not very helpful. I made note of some to the goofy things people did in the name of “helping” as well as those things which others did that were exquisitely, even elegantly helpful. Inspired by Cathy’s post, I’d like to share a few of those notes here.

What you offer to do should save the person you are helping their most precious commodity: time. Time to spend how they see fit – alone, with family, friends – not necessarily you. If you are genuinely helpful, it will be appreciated if not always acknowledged, particularly if the one you are helping is in pain.

Think before you do. Is your help really helping? It may make you feel good to spontaneously empty the dishwasher. But when the person you were trying to help has to spend the equivalent amount of time looking for the potato peeler you stashed in a seemly logical place on the other side of the kitchen from where it normally lives, you have not helped. Worse, you have cost them valuable time and left them aggravated.

This leads to the notion of helping in a consistent manner. If the person takes the time to show you where things belong when unloading the dishwasher, then be the dishwasher helper person. Own that chore and do it consistently. The more you can be transparent in your help, the more helpful you actually are. Trust me, this will be noticed and greatly appreciated.

Do some of the unpleasant chores, like empty the trash or clean a bathroom. When ever Janet was feeling particularly bad, there was no want for people willing to rub her feet, massage her hands, read her stories and such – all things I wanted to do because they were enjoyable, things we did normally together and, most importantly, time spent with Janet. Not once did anyone ever pick up a clue and offer to pick up the dog shit in the backyard. No special skills needed for that one. There were a couple of offers to weed Janet’s rose garden. One actually followed through, the other bailed when Janet died before the promised weeding date. Er, that was helpful.

Cooking is a risky way to help someone who is ill. If you are unfamiliar with the ill person’s dietary needs, it’s almost guaranteed to be a miss. (H/T to friends Angie and Bruce who pulled this one off with perfection. But then again, they are each skilled in the ways of paying attention to the details.) If you must, bring canned or otherwise non-perishable food (i.e. it can be kept in a box in the basement for 5 years.) And make sure what you bring is high quality. It may be fancy for your tastes, but show you care enough to see they are eating good when they feel like eating. That 5 pound can of Ol’ Slim’s Genuine Campfire Stew from Costco says “doorstop” and not “I care.” Go ahead and visit that high floutin’ organic food store and buy some quality soups.

Offer to help only in ways you can complete. Leaving a chore half done is most often worse than having never started it. This also implies offering to help only with things for which you are qualified. If you think the Internet is made of tubes, keep your hands off anything electronic. If your experience with cooking doesn’t go much beyond vending machines and a can opener, stay out of the kitchen. And even if you are qualified to practice medicine, perform an aura balancing, read tea leaves, preach the gospel or exercise The Devil, keep your yap shut unless the person you wish to help specifically asks for your help in this regard. It’s near certain you will upset them on some level, even though they may be polite to your face.

If they do ask for help, be attentive to when they have had enough of what you are offering. Tune your senses to recognize when they are tired or increasingly uncomfortable. Then look for other ways to help that get you out of the way. Running errands is a good way to help. You are saving the person time and energy while staying out of their way.

That’s about it for now. Rule of Thumb: If how you are contemplating helping has you feeling a nagging sense of uncomfortable doubt, it’s best to reconsider and cast around for another, simpler way to help. “Thinking of you” cards with a personal note are a good thing.

So this post is for you, Cathy Siepp. Thinking of you and hope this helps.

2006.12.18

A Case Study In Professional Sloppy Thinking

Reporter Jennifer Mooney Piedra of the Miami Herald either lacks the skills for critical thinking, is pushing a personal agenda, or both. Ms. Piedra’s “reporting” provides us with a classic example of category error thinking.

60 Second Course In Logic: A category error in thinking is what is at the root of solving the wrong problem, fixing what isn’t broken. A common example is the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Japanese sailed their navy across the Pacific Ocean and attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor with aircraft launched from ships. Had FDR made a category error in responding to this attack, he might have outlawed all aircraft or ships since such things were used in the attack. But he didn’t make this mistake in thinking. He correctly determined that the Japanese government had used aircraft and ships to attack and so FDR declared war on Japan.

Back to Ms. Piedra’s “reporting”…

Kim Raffo was the picture-perfect mother and housewife.

She helped her two kids with science fair projects, decorated cupcakes for bake sales and volunteered for the PTA.

During the holidays, she opened her four-bedroom home in eastern Pembroke Pines to family and friends. She ”went all out” for the gatherings, serving elaborate homemade meals that would have made Martha Stewart proud, her family said.

For her daughter’s fifth birthday, she transformed her back yard into a petting zoo.

”She was Super Mom,” said her mother, Joan Daniels, of Miramar. “People looked at her in awe.”

But soon after she turned 30, the world of the well-liked, stay-at-home mom began to dissolve. Perhaps it was the continuous round of school trips, the endless birthday parties, the numerous visits to the park.

Tragically, Ms. Raffo had been murdered. From the rest of the article we learn more of the behaviors which shifted Ms. Raffo away from being a good mother: Partying, experimenting with drugs and she took off with a new boyfriend – “a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal history that includes multiple arrests for felony cocaine possession, disorderly conduct and charges of soliciting a prostitute.”

As her relationship with Bilecki became more serious, so too did her addiction to club drugs, such as cocaine, Ecstasy and Xanax, her husband said.

There were nights when Raffo came home drunk or high. Other nights, she didn’t come home at all.

Hellloooooo? Do you suppose the deadbeat boyfriend was a factor? Ms. Piedra chooses to finger motherhood and parenting as the culprits, probably because such things don’t fight back – they’re the easy mark. She is implying that motherhood and parenting need to be fixed in spite of the fact that millions of parents are doing a good job each day. She has worked to massage this one tragic example to what purpose? We can only hope this is just a case of bad writing.

So how about that Mr. Bilecki? What is he in all this? A victim of that universally cruel and heartless machinery we call “parenting”, perhaps? What a sloppy, pedantic piece of reporting. Why is Ms. Piedra attempting to add to the story rather than report the story. Here’s a suggestion, Ms. Piedra, put the novel back in the desk drawer when it’s time to do your job.

(H/T: Florida Cracker)

2006.12.17

It’s All About You, But You Knew That, Didn’t You?

Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: You

So, since “You” are the Person of the Year that makes “Everyone” the Person of the Year which makes “No One” Person of the Year. So just chill and get back to work. You’re not so special after all. Now, “Me”, on the other hand…

UPDATE!

Once again, the crack Java Zen Table, Desk and Counter Intelligence Teams have intercepted crucial documents. This time, it’s the early candidates for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Here’s the finalist…

POTY Final

… and here are the candidate personal pronouns:

POTY Draft 2 POTY Draft 1
POTY Draft 3 POTY Draft 4

[Edit History]

2006.12.17

Tim Blair has sussed a slight conceptual problem with Time magazine’s selection for Person of the Year.

2006.12.05

A Little Racist Kit – Home Delivered For Your Convenience

This little kit actually arrived on my driveway sometime around June 2005. I had tossed it back in a corner where it stayed until I came across it a few weeks back while cleaning out that particular part of the house.

Package

Back in June, 2005, just weeks after my wife’s death, I didn’t pay much attention to it, being rather distracted as I was. At first, I picked it up and tossed it into the trash, thinking it was just a piece of marketing junk for lawn service or some such. That is until my neighbor across the street, a High School history teacher, asked what I thought of it. Turns out, everyone in the development had one of these little bombs delivered to their driveway. I pulled it out of the trash and read the enclosed flyer:

Flyer

Whoa, Nelly! The “Earth’s most endangered species: The White Race!” More genetic confusion. A race is not a species. This past week I did a little research into who the hell the “National Alliance” was and what their agenda might be. Well I’ll be… A tidy little racist organization they are. How thoughtful of them to include rocks for throwing in their little home delivered racist kit. “The National Alliance – Toward a New Consciousness; A New Order; A New People” From their web site:


General Principles

  • A Natural Order
  • The Law of Inequality
  • A Hierarchy of Responsibilities
  • Summary statement of belief

National Alliance Goals

  • White Living Space
  • An Aryan Society
  • A Responsible Government
  • A New Educational System
  • An Economic Policy Based on Racial Principles

The logic behind this organization’s goals is convoluted and tortured. There are some amazing leaps of faith dressed as some sort of science, but their mission is clear. It smacks of the same air of entitlement which I as readily reject when pushed by other races claiming victim status and seeking reparations.

Their effort backfired, at least among those on my street. There are several teachers within a few houses and these little bags-O-bile found their way into classrooms as examples of racist thinking.

2006.11.01

Halpin’ Out Wear I Can

They say humor is a sign of higher cognitive ability – both in the authoring and the understanding of humor. John Kerry’s “botched joke”, something Sen. Starch-n-Stiff has done repeatedly, implies a diminished cognitive ability. Our troops, on the other hand, the very troops Kerry so much as called losers, slackers, morons and idiots…well…what can I say but “Cheers” to our military, higher cognitive ability and all:

Troop Message to Kerry

[Edit History]

2006.11.01

Ooooops. Left out the credit for the picture. The furtherest upstream I could track the picture’s origin is Charlie Sykes. Don’t know who the troops are or where they are from, but I would surely like to give them the final credit.

2006.11.02

The Source! (H/T Michelle Malkin) They’re soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard.

2006.10.31

Being Rosie O’Donnell

Not an easy task, I’m sure. Being John Malkovich looks easier. A scary peek into how the gears inside Rosie O’Donnell’s brain work. And just in time for Halloween. Short answer: There are no gears, just cartoons. From yesterday’s “The View”:

Rosie O’Donnell: “I don’t think she [Condoleeza Rice] could win, because I think she’s like that person on Scooby Doo who unzips themself and then it’s Dick Cheney’s evil twin brother is inside of her. That’s what I think.”

Behar: “I’m not sure about that, because I think she has her own opinions. And I don’t know if that’s a hundred percent that she’s not following orders right now, but if she was in the position, she would change.”

O’Donnell: “Ooh, Scooby, I think that scary man with the ring is actually the ghost!”

RutRow!

Previously:

The View’s All Rosy From Rosie’s Rose Colored Glasses

2006.10.07

Foley’s Follies

In building my Bloggers League baseball team, I want Ann Althouse on the roster for a power hitter position in the rotation. She hits another one out of the park:

Like many from my generation, I am very strongly dedicated to the ethic of individual expression. That does not, however, in any way make it hard for me to acknowledge the absolute rule against adults doing anything sexual with children. I think you can flatly reject what Foley did and still believe in the value of individuals finding their own way around conventional morality and making their own rules about what is good. Obviously, social conservatives are the big champions of the moral order, but that doesn’t mean that to oppose what Foley did requires you to become an all-out social conservative. A responsible, freely expressive individual recognizes the need for some rules. (Emphasis added)

While individuals go about the process of “finding their own way around conventional morality and making their own rules,” in my observation, quite a few seem to drop the bit about being responsible for the consequences of their decisions and actions on other people. I’m sure it’s a complex problem, but it appears as if in the process of expanding the expression of their individuality they come to believe that the only way to “really” manifest their complete individuality is to drop the idea of limits entirely. Rules set limits. By extension, so does the concept of responsibility. Rules and responsibility become bad things on the path toward absolute individualism.

Abandoning limits on individual expression, and therefore abandoning responsibility for however that expression may manifest, imposes greater limits on those around such a person. Someone expressing themselves with an extended vocal outburst of profanity in a public coffee house will cause those within earshot to place additional limits on their own expression by reducing the number of coffee houses to which they may frequent by one (assuming the don’t want to hear extemporaneous profanity à fortissimo, of course.) This is but a trivial example.

On a larger stage, the effects are more pervasive and less easily remedied. The effects from the Law of Unintended Consequences begin to manifest as the spin goes out of control. This is what I see happening with the events surrounding the Foley scandal. Things get recursive and bizarre (Gays asserting “traditional values” to out other gays for the purposes of advancing a liberal party agenda? What’s up with that?) The hyperbole is enough to make one dizzy. People who’s experience with taking responsibility for their own actions is, shall we say, a bit rusty, are all gung ho to dust off what ever “moral code” seems to serve their agenda and apply it to the object of their moral outrage.

There are many other current events which illustrate this principle. Declaring “freedom” from the shackles of responsibility reveals all manner of contradictory outrage in individuals as well as larger collections of individuals. Their actions become decreasingly rational and increasingly emotional. In classic ends-justify-the-means style, behaving from such a frame leads to actions devoid of any need for explanation or justification and the consequence to others is of no concern. So, for example, we see soldiers hiding behind women and children in Lebanon (applying the apposing side’s moral code of not killing women and children) for the benefit of fulfilling their own individual expression (saving their own ass) with zero regard for the consequences (women and children caught in the crossfire.)

[Edit History]

2006.10.07

A manager’s dilemma. My Bloggers League baseball team isn’t even a post old and I can’t decide if Althouse should go in the rotation as a power or clean-up hitter. I see she has a post today that beautifully illustrates my point about adherents to the Church of Individualism loosing track of the consequences of their actions.

Her post addresses recent developments around an incident involving protesters at Columbia University who stormed a stage where Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was giving a presentation (video here). It seems Columbia’s investigation involves looking at various Facebook profiles.

As of late Thursday night, 13 Columbia students and alumni had joined a Facebook group titled, “YES, I was there when Gilchrist was rushed faster than CUFT’s Quarterback.”

“I don’t [agree with the decision], but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Patric Prado, SEAS ’09 and creator of the group, said. “I was there, and it’s fine that they want to incriminate people who actually started violence. … Yes, we were stupid, but we got our message across that we weren’t going to accept this on campus.”

Universities, employers, and law enforcement agencies have widely contended that materials posted on Facebook-including posts, photos, and personal information-are admissible in investigations. Hornsby emphasized that screening Facebook was just one of several methods that the University would employ to conduct its investigation.

Student leaders expressed concerns Thursday night about the tactic.

“I was worried that that was going to happen,” Marcus Johnson, CC ’07 and co-chair of the University Senate’s student affairs committee, said. He later added in a statement, “As a University Senator and chair of the student affairs committee, I will do my best to make sure that all students are as safe as possible. On another note, everybody should quit Facebook right now.”

“On some level, I have to agree with the University,” Daniel Okin, SEAS ’07 and president of the Engineering Student Council, said. “That being said, it worries me that they would use the Facebook for that.”

The protesters did themselves in by not thinking about what might follow from their blunt protest (University launches investigation) and the subsequent posting of their involvement on a public web site (University collects evidence). But, Ann pushes the run home:

To use the material in an investigation is not to presume it is conclusive proof of something. What makes people think that if they do something in a place that makes them feel confessional it somehow doesn’t count? The students storming the stage also seemed to feel entitled to act out. That doesn’t make them not responsible for what they did. They can’t say oh, we were surrounded by friends who all thought this was just fine and we felt in charge of our own space. Really, these are intelligent college students. Why do they feel a special immunity from being observed in a public place?

Read the whole thing. She illustrates how the selective application of rules and responsibility exposes various agendas among the players involved.

2006.10.08

One example of the hyperbole around the Foley scandal. Gateway Pundit has a post related to the scandal in which he states:

Representative Jack Kingston and 10 fellow Republicans sent a letter to the Democratic leadership asking them to go before the Ethics Committee and disclose what they knew about Foley’s activities for the safty (sic) of America’s children.

I took issue with this in the comments to Gateway Pundit’s post, specifically, the “for the safety of America’s children” phrase:

I don’t think what Foley did, in context, was a threat to America’s children. Rather, a threat to a specific (yes, vulnerable) group.

To my knowledge, Foley didn’t have access to the entire nation’s children and the entire nation’s children were not somehow at greater risk from Foley’s behavior. Acceptance into the White House page program is a highly competitive process, not just any child/young adult can participate. As a result, it’s a select group of bright kids. What ever the result of the Ethics Committee’s inquiry, it would likely have little or no bearing on the safety of America’s children. It could, however, have a significant impact on how the White House page program is monitored and therefore the safety of the children/young adults in the program.

The more rigorously problems are defined, the higher the quality and durability of the solution. And in cases like Gateway Pundit’s post, the scope is too broadly defined to yield a meaningful solution to the actual problem at hand (i.e. the relationship between elected officials and their pages.)

This is but one example of what happens as scandals are sensationalized. There has been so much of this in the Foley scandal that the whole thing has spun off its axis. In this state, no one will be happy with the outcome as any proposed solution will not sufficiently cover each position’s definition of the problem space.

2006.10.05

The View’s All Rosy From Rosie’s Rose Colored Glasses

What Rosie O’Donnell said (video here):

I think the horror of imagining 6 to 13 year old girls hand-cuffed together and shot execution style one by one is perhaps enough to awaken the nation that maybe we need some stricter gun control laws.

Yes. More laws. Stricter laws. THAT would have stopped the monster. Eeeeeeeeevvvvreeeeeybody knows if there is a law against committing some heinous crime, the criminal low life and predators will stop and control themselves. Ack. Now, now Rosie. We can talk. You don’t have to go yellow. You’re sounding a little yellow there. Rosie continues:

If the man did not have a gun. If the man had a knife. And he walked in there. And there are adult women there. The man said “I would like the women to leave because I’m gonna keep the girls.” I guarantee you if that man did not have a gun the mothers who were the teachers in that school would never have left those children alone in that room.

I wouldn’t be so sure the outcome would be as implied by Rosie, i.e. the mothers and teachers would have fought back against a knife. Consider this, as reported by ABC News:

The oldest of the five Amish girls shot dead in a Pennsylvania schoolhouse is said to have stepped forward and asked her killer to “Shoot me first,” in an apparent effort to buy time for her schoolmates.

Rita Rhoads, a midwife who delivered two of the victims, told ABC News’ Law and Justice Unit that she learned of 13-year-old Marian Fisher’s plea from Fisher’s family.

What’s more, Fisher’s younger sister, Barbie, who survived the shooting, allegedly asked the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, to “Shoot me second,” Rhoads said.

“They were amazing,” Rhoads said, “absolutely amazing. There was a tremendous amount of calm and courage in that schoolroom.”

“Marian, the oldest one, did ask to be shot first,” Rhoads said. “The faith of their fathers really was embedded in them. … How many adults are willing to do that? Not many.”

And there’s Rosie, professing to know the mind of an Amish person. Actually guaranteeing for us exactly how an Amish person would respond. I can smell the stench of her hypocrisy right through the Internet. Keep those glasses on, Rosie. You can’t handle the truth.

2006.09.21

The Tin Foil Brain

This from Swiss researchers, so you know it’s accurate:

Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said Wednesday.

Swiss researchers made the discovery while evaluating a young woman for surgery to treat epilepsy. They believe their finding could help explain feelings such as paranoia which afflict patients suffering from schizophrenia.

When they electrically stimulated the left temporoparietal junction in her brain, which is linked to self-other distinction and self-processing, she thought someone was standing behind her.

If they repeated the stimulus while she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had an unpleasant sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her.

“Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control,” said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.

The left side of the brain. Hmmmmmmmm. We can only hope that someday appropriate medication will help.

[Edit History]

2006.09.23

Added link to original article.


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