Archive for November, 2011

Google maps humor

| November 30, 2011 | Reply

I was checking to see what Google Maps would tell me about how to travel from Los Angeles to Beijing. See item 14 – question answered.

Share

Read More

Inventor says police are abusing weapons-grade pepper spray

| November 30, 2011 | Reply
Inventor says police are abusing weapons-grade pepper spray

From Democracy Now:

We speak with Kamran Loghman, the expert who developed weapons-grade pepper-spray, who says he was shocked at how police have used the chemical agent on non-violent Occupy Wall Street protesters nationwide — including students at University of California, Davis, female protesters in New York City, and an 84-year old activist in Seattle. “I saw it and the first thing that came to my mind wasn’t police or students, it was my own children sitting down having an opinion and they’re being shot and forced by chemical agents,” says Loghman, who in the 1980s helped the FBI develop weapons-grade pepper -spray, and collaborated with police departments to develop guidelines for its use. “The use was just absolutely out of the ordinary and it was not in accordance with any training or policy of any department that I know of. I personally certified 4,000 police officers in the early ‘80s and ‘90s and I have never seen this before. That’s why I was shocked… I feel is my civic duty to explain to the public that this is not what pepper spray was developed for.”

Share

Read More

The lack of a bad thing is a good thing . . .

| November 29, 2011 | 2 Replies
The lack of a bad thing is a good thing . . .

Not that I’m feeling down in the dumps, but if I were, I have a method for pulling out of a bad mood. A couple years ago, I wrote a post titled, “I know that I am wealthy when I consider my lack of misfortune.” The general idea is that we should appreciate that the lack of misfortune is fortune.  The lack of a bad thing is a good thing.

It occurred to me today that we have easy access to vast checklists of misfortune, and that it can make one feel lucky, indeed, to consider all the ways in which one is not medically unlucky.  One example is the type of form you are handed when you go to a doctor for the first time, wherein you are asked whether you have any of the following conditions, followed by things such as cancer, heart attack, diabetes, abscessed tooth, Alzheimer’s, hepatitis, pancreatitus, and it goes on and on.   Though I do put a couple of check marks into the boxes, there are thousands of medical conditions that I don’t have, which makes me lucky indeed.

I’m lucky in other ways, because I don’t struggle with any known psychological conditions, and there are hundreds of these too.  For instance, I don’t suffer from bipolar disorder, hypochondriasis, kleptomania or any conditions on this long list. I am not required to take anti-depressants.  I’m happy to get out of bed each day.   I don’t hate my job, my neighbors or my city.  I’m even appreciative of my country, though things are out of balance.  I appreciate that there are ways to make things better regarding my country.

But I’m even luckier.   I don’t struggle to keep any addictions in check, and this list is also extensive, including such things as gambling, OCD, drugs, alcoholism, and coin collecting . . . coin collecting???? I appreciate that I don’t wake up with an urge to go to a casino or to get drunk.  Really and truly, and I’ve never had any such urges.

I’m also lucky that I’m not unemployed in this bad economy. And though it is 13-years old, my car is working well. And my roof is not leaking.   Hoodlums aren’t chasing me down the street at the moment.  I didn’t just get bit by a brown recluse spider.  No warmongering superpower is dropping bombs anywhere near my house.  The electrical service is working well, allowing me to use this computer.   My kids are not failing out of school.  My city is not bankrupt.  I am not currently a victim of identity theft.  The pipes in my house are not leaking.  No neighbors are blasting their stereos outside.  I don’t worry about hurricanes and earthquakes and tornadoes (though maybe I should worry about the latter two).   The lack of each of these bad things is truly a good thing for which I am thankful.

Bottom line is that whatever it is that any of us has to deal with, it could be a lot worse, and a quick review of long lists of disorders and dyfunctions shows us how much worse things could be.

Perhaps this post could be said to constitute some sort of skeptics prayer .. .

Share

Read More

United States to begin licensing franchises

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
United States to begin licensing franchises

According to The Onion, United States government officials “announced plans Tuesday to increase revenue by offering franchise opportunities to entrepreneurs who wish to start their own United States of America.”

Share

Read More

The case for less-is-more democracy

| November 27, 2011 | 5 Replies
The case for less-is-more democracy

I have long been fascinated by the herd instinct of human animals. What could be more obvious than the fact that we mimic each other for all kinds of reasons, even for reasons that seem absurd to outsiders. Further, we follow each others’ lead even while we chant that we are “individuals.”

In reality, many of us panic at the idea that differences among the citizens. How dare some citizens question even some of America’s war efforts! That is “unpatriotic.” How dare some Americans encourage multi-culturalism! Gay marriage? Forget it. And don’t ever forget that the United States is the world’s greatest country—let us all say that in unison! For many of us, everybody has a categorical moral duty to fall in line on all matters relating to God and country.

Perhaps I find the topic of the human herding so compelling because of my own personal instinct to aversion to joining groups. For reasons I don’t understand, I instinctively rebel against many efforts to convince me to go along with “everybody else.” I’ve been this way ever since I can remember. Going along with the crowd is not something that gives me joy and comfort. Rather, it makes me feel wary and out of control. If people at my workplace were to announce that next Wednesday will be “Blue Shirt Day,” I’ll go out of my way to not wear blue. I perplex those who root for the home town sports teams and I don’t join political parties. I commonly hesitate to join in most displays of patriotism, including America’s warmongering. This is not to say I’m immune to such impulses, but it is fair to say that where many other Americans revel in community bonding, I tend to fight inner battles while questioning the need. Instead of joining in, I tend to question.

[More . . . ]

Share

Read More

Meanwhile, back in Rome . . .

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Meanwhile, back in Rome . . .

Back in Rome, the Catholic clergy is working hard to protect Roman Catholics from such things as yoga and Harry Potter.

Share

Read More

Underlying assumptions of popular board games

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Underlying assumptions of popular board games

Huffpo offers this broad view of what motivates the competition regarding some of the most popular board games. For example, the game of Monopoly encourages players to become the 1%.

Share

Read More

Wikileaks wins Australian version of Pulitzer Award

| November 27, 2011 | 1 Reply
Wikileaks wins Australian version of Pulitzer Award

Glenn Greenwald reports that in recognition for breaking stories like this, Wikileaks has been given Australia’s highest journalism award.

The Walkley Awards are the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzers: that nation’s most prestigious award for excellence in journalism. Last night, the Walkley Foundation awarded its highest distinction — for “Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism” — to WikiLeaks, whose leader, Julian Assange, is an Australian citizen. The panel cited the group’s “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency,” and hailed it for having “applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.” As I’ve noted before, WikiLeaks easily produced more newsworthy scoops over the last year than every other media outlet combined, and the Foundation observed: “so many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.” In sum: “by designing and constructing a means to encourage whistleblowers, WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange took a brave, determined and independent stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empowered people all over the world.” What makes this award so notable is that the United States — for exactly the same reasons the Foundation cited in honoring WikiLeaks’ journalism achievements — has spent the last year trying to criminalize and destroy the group . . . It is telling indeed that the U.S. — with the backing of its subservient allied governments — has devoted itself to the destruction of the world’s most effective journalistic outlet.

Share

Read More

Maintaining Order

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Maintaining Order

How is it that Americans are so incredibly ignorant of many of these atrocities? How is it, for example, that most people do now know that in 1954 the United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran to install a Shah?

The following video should be required viewing for any American who barks that we ought to invade Iran or, worse yet, “nuke Iran” (I’ve heard both of these on the street). This is insanity from a nation that claims to love liberties and spout pro-life rhetoric.

Share

Read More