RSSCategory: Communication

Effects of Inequity: Demonstrated by two monkeys eating cucumbers and grapes

December 21, 2016 | By | 3 Replies More

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.”

Watch the whole talk here.

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Suspect CIA

December 16, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

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.

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Election of Donald Trump will Expose our Empty Rhetoric

December 14, 2016 | By | Reply More

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?

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Pseudoinefficacy: We are willing to help one person, but less willing when there are multitudes we cannot help

December 13, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

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.

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Julian Assange has been unfairly criticized for failing to curate his disclosures.

October 23, 2016 | By | Reply More

Julian Assange has been unfairly criticized for failing to curate his disclosures. Truthdig responds:

“Here’s a question few are asking: Would Assange, who set out to perform the honorable service of exposing government corruption, behave as he does today if he, a single individual with limited resources, had not been relentlessly pursued into the corner of a single room for 5½ years by people atop the most powerful state in civilized history? And can he, under burden of stress and loss of staff, associations and resources, be expected to fulfill the ethical obligations he once honored and still perform the service of making essential, willfully concealed information public?

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Glenn Greenwald on publishing hacks: The more powerful a person is, the less privacy they have.

October 23, 2016 | By | Reply More

Glenn Greenwald set forth 5 principles in this article on The Intercept. The article includes a video discussion with Chris Hayes. One of the principles is this:

Last night, I was on Chris Hayes’s show (video below) discussing the Podesta email leak and made this point, and some people reacted as though this were some bizarre, exotic claim — rather than what it is: the fundamental principle of journalism as well the basis of numerous laws. Of course it’s the case that the more power someone has, the less privacy they have, and every media outlet, literally every day, operates on that principle, as do multiple sectors of law.

That there are different standards of privacy for different people based on their power and position is axiomatic. That’s why laws like FOIA requiring disclosure (including of emails) apply only to public officials but not to private citizens: It embraces the proposition that those who wield public power submit to greater transparency than private citizens do. This same principle is why people cheered when the NYT published Trump’s tax return even though they’d be horrified if the NYT published the tax return of ordinary citizens — because people like Trump who wield or seek great political power sacrifice some degree of privacy.

Here are the five principles Greenwald sets forth:
1. A source’s motives are irrelevant in deciding whether to publish
2. Journalists constantly publish material that is stolen or illegally obtained.
3. The more public power someone has, the less privacy they are entitled to claim
4. Whether something is “shocking” or “earth-shattering” is an irrelevant standard
5. All journalists are arbiters of privacy and gatekeepers of information

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Should Edward Snowden be pardoned?

September 15, 2016 | By | Reply More

Many viewpoints here, in this excellent article at the UK Guardian.

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Conflicting copyright instructions from legal research company

September 6, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

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.

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Why we SHOULD talk to strangers

September 4, 2016 | By | 2 Replies More

Kim Stark has made a career of talking to strangers. She made it her task to try to understand why she does that, in this TED talk. She has decided that it is better to use one’s perceptions than to use categories, such as the category of “stranger.” Using this category means that we are not treating others as fully human. There are other benefits. Some studies show that people are more comfortable opening up to strangers than to people they believe they know. We expect that people we know understand us–we expect them to read our minds. Not so with strangers, with whom we start from scratch. Sometimes they do understand us better. Maybe we need strangers, but how should we interact with them, how do we balance both civility and privacy, which are the guiding rules in the U.S. In other countries there are other rules. In Denmark, many folks are extremely adverse to talking to strangers.

Stark offers and exercise that involves smiling, and then “triangulation,” commenting on a third person or a thing. Or engage in “noticing,” such as complimenting the other person on something (and you can most easily talk to a stranger’s dog or baby). Or engage in “disclosure,” sharing a personal experience, and this tends to cause the “stranger” to reciprocate.

Stark’s main message is that we need to stop being so wary of strangers and to make a place for them in our lives.

At The Atlantic, James Hamblin follows up with his own explorations on talking to strangers.

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