What is a trope? The website TV Tropes explains:
A trope is a storytelling device or convention, a shortcut for describing situations the storyteller can reasonably assume the audience will recognize. Tropes are the means by which a story is told by anyone who has a story to tell.
How often have you watched a new movie or TV show and noticed that it is drenched in tropes? I notice this constantly. TV shows and movies resemble other movies and shows so often that some have written, tongue in cheek, that there are actually only an extremely limited number of plots. Are there only seven plots? Are there only six plots?
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What happens when you pay two monkeys unequally? This is what happens, as narrated by primatologist Frans de Waal. This is an excerpt from the TED Talk: “Frans de Waal: Moral behavior in animals.”
Why is the US media so hyped up to believe the CIA claims that Russia hacked the US presidential election? Reverse engineering the situation reveals that this belief can be used for various political purposes, even in the absence of credible evidence. It’s par for the course these days. This article in The Nation reminds us to be extremely suspect of CIA “information.”
In 1977, Carl Bernstein published an exposé of a CIA program known as Operation Mockingbird, a covert program involving, according to Bernstein, “more than 400 American journalists who in the past 25 years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Bernstein found that in “many instances” CIA documents revealed that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.”
Fast-forward to December 2016, and one can see that there isn’t much need for a covert government program these days. The recent raft of unverified, anonymously sourced and circumstantial stories alleging that the Russian government interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of electing Republican Donald J. Trump shows that today too much of the media is all too happy to do overtly what the CIA had it once paid it to do covertly: regurgitate the claims of the spy agency and attack the credibility of those who question it.
Donald Trump is surrounding himself with people who appear to be obsessed with short term profit taking, disregard for Constitutional principles, the trampling of the environment and military-minded xenophobia.
As this plays out for the next few years, we’ll be better positioned to see how much of the DNC governance of the past 8 years was empty rhetoric on these same issues. I’m not saying that there aren’t differences. In fact, I’m terrified that we are about travel backwards on many serious issues.
On the other hand, we’ve come from 8 years of an administration that was quite friendly to Wall Street, Health Insurers, Telecoms and other big industries that have essentially become consumer gouging monopolies or worse. Where was the DNC-led outcry as fracking became commonplace, as drones hit numerous innocents abroad, as we waged undeclared war on at least 6 Middle Eastern countries, and where government spying on U.S. citizens in the absence of probable cause continued to be business as usual? Did we cry out in protest as our state and federal governments approved budgets that crushed the abilities of schools to hire excellent teachers and provide them with necessary supplies. Did we speak out on the “war on drugs,” which destroys the lives of many non-violent users who crave street drugs that for the most part have legal equivalents peddled by Big Pharma?
Pseudoinefficacy: We are willing to help one person, but less willing when there are multitudes we cannot help
Compelling 2015 research by Paul Slovic and others shows that we are often likely to help a person in need, but we are much less likely to help that person when our attention is simultaneously directed toward other people that we are unable to help. The fact that there are multitudes in need dampens our willingness to help a person we are most assuredly in a position to help.
Here is the summary of the research:
In a great many situations where we are asked to aid persons whose lives are endangered, we are not able to help everyone. What are the emotional and motivational consequences of “not helping all”? In a series of experiments, we demonstrate that negative affect arising from children that could not be helped decreases the warm glow of positive feeling associated with aiding the children who can be helped. This demotivation from the children outside of our reach may be a form of “pseudoinefficacy” that is non-rational. We should not be deterred from helping whomever we can because there are others we are not able to help.
Thomson Reuters (formerly West Publishing) sent me a DVD with Missouri Jury Instructions today. The DVD comes with a document called “Forms on Disc Guide.” That document gives me the following advice:
Although you may access the forms directly from the disc, we recommend you create a directory on your hard drive and copy the contents of the disc into that directory. The forms can then be accessed from your hard drive and the disc can be kept with the book for safe keeping.
Sounds like good advice. But wait! The Copyright Notice, another document on the same DVD, contains this warning:
© 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
All rights reserved. The data on the disc is licensed by West, part of Thomson Reuters, and no part of the data may be copied, downloaded, stored in a retrieval system, further transmitted or otherwise reproduced, stored, disseminated, transferred, or used in any form or by any means, including, but not limited to, use by multiple users on a wide-area network, local area network, intranet, or extranet, or similar method of distribution, without prior written permission. Any authorized reproduction of any part of the data must contain notice of copyright as follows: © 2016 Thomson Reuters. No claim to original U.S. Govt. works.
Therefore, Thomson is 1) telling me to copy its jury instruction forms onto my hard drive AND 2) telling me that if I have “copied” or “downloaded” this information on my “retrieval system” I would be in violation of copyright laws, unless I have first obtained “prior written permission” from Thomson Reuters.
This second warning is especially silly in that the whole purpose of having jury instruction “Forms” is to copy them as part of the process of using those forms to prepare jury instructions, and then “transmitting” those instructions to a court and other attorneys for use at trial.
All of this not carefully thought out by one of the world premier providers of legal products to lawyers.