RSSCategory: Culture

Hypothetical Olympian dilemma

August 2, 2012 | By | Reply More
Hypothetical Olympian dilemma

People all over the country are parking in front of their TV’s for many hours every night to watch sports that they couldn’t care less about most of the year. The Olympics are extremely compelling for many of us. People are talking about the Olympics all across America, mostly sharing observations about the sports where Americans are competitive. It all seems very important, and you can tell this by the way earnest look on the faces of people who discuss the Olympics.

But what if a magic being appeared before you tonight and offered you the following option: [More . . . ]

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Using the Internet to warn about home construction fraud

July 28, 2012 | By | Reply More

I used to work as an Assistant Attorney General in the area of consumer fraud. Back in the 1980’s there weren’t many ways to get the word out that you had been ripped off by a contractor. You would likely complain to your friends and family, and that is about it. That has certainly changed.

Here is a website created recently by Ray Gregory, a friend of mine who was ripped off by a contractor–this work isn’t even close to acceptable. Thanks to the Internet, anyone considering using this contractor will find the name Timothy W. Watson of Norfolk, Virginia prominently listed next to vivid photos and descriptions of his extremely crappy work. Perhaps this website will prevent other innocent people from getting ripped off.

We are ALL leaving indelible trails on the Internet these days, both innocent people, but also the scoundrels.

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Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

July 25, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

I’m mostly finished reading Daniel Goleman’s 1985 book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: the Psychology of Self Deception (I found a copy of the book online here). He’s preaching to my choir, based on a paper I wrote in 1996 (“Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention), where I pointed out the critical and often unconscious role of attention in embellishing and distorting our moral decision-making. My targets were the many people who believe that morality is mostly founded on the conscious application of rules. I concluded that humans define and frame moral situations as a result of the way they attend (or don’t attend) to the situations. I warned that it is important that we become aware that we have great (often subconscious) power to define the situation as moral (or not). My thesis was as follows:

Attention is constantly steering us in directions which dramatically affect the application of principles [including moral principles]. For starters, if we completely fail to attend to a subject, we will likely be ill-informed about that subject, and likely less competent to make decisions regarding such matters. At the other extreme, excessive attention can bloom into an obsession, causing one to see the entire world through glasses colored by that obsession. Attention also works in subtler ways, however, rigging the machinations of legal and moral reasoning. Attention rigs decision-making in two ways:

1) by the manner in which we attend to our perceptions of the world, and
2) in the way by which we perceive and attend to the principles themselves.

I concluded that high-level decision making is based far more on attentional strategies than on traditional problem solving skills.

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Bill Moyers is highly critical of the NRA

July 23, 2012 | By | 16 Replies More

Bill Moyers is highly critical of the NRA:

Every year there are 30,000 gun deaths and 300,000 gun-related assaults in the U.S.,” he said. “Firearm violence may cost our country as much as $100 billion a year. Toys are regulated with greater care and safety concerns than guns … we have become so gun loving, so blasé about home-grown violence that in my lifetime alone, far more Americans have been casualties of domestic gunfire than have died in all our wars combined.

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Jason Alexander on the recent massacre

July 22, 2012 | By | Reply More

Actor Jason Alexander had this to say with regard to the recent massacre:

These weapons are military weapons. They belong in accountable hands, controlled hands and trained hands. They should not be in the hands of private citizens to be used against police, neighborhood intruders or people who don’t agree with you. These are the weapons that maniacs acquire to wreak murder and mayhem on innocents. They are not the same as handguns to help homeowners protect themselves from intruders. They are not the same as hunting rifles or sporting rifles. These weapons are designed for harm and death on big scales.

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Only in America

July 21, 2012 | By | 4 Replies More

http://www.raygregory.com/cartoons/NRA.html

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The importance of repairability

July 20, 2012 | By | Reply More
The importance of repairability

At Treehugger, repairability of consumer gadgets is presented as not only a good idea but a consumer right.

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Morgan Freeman’s solution to the race problem: Stop talking about it.

July 12, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More
Morgan Freeman’s solution to the race problem: Stop talking about it.

Morgan Freeman doesn’t want a Black History Month because “Black History is American History.”

On Sixty Minutes, Mike Wallace asked Freeman how we could solve America’s race problem? Freeman’s answer: “Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”

I like this approach immensely, since there is no scientific basis for “race.” I also offer a slightly different suggestion: All of us should acknowledge that we are all from Africa. Whenever people ask me about my ancestors, I tell I’m “African,” because it is true, despite my outward appearance.

Specialists in race, both geneticists and anthropologists, maintain that modern ideas of race are . . . primarily historical constructions that reflect the pattern of contact between previously distinct populations in the colonial period.

Given recent findings, though, I shouldn’t merely say that I’m “African.” I should add, “With a touch of Neanderthal.” And I should add one more thing to be even more accurate: I’m a descendant of many other critters, including sponges, fungi and bacteria.

It’s amazing how so many of us still put any emphasis on “race.” It’s time to admit that it was a ridiculous category to create in the first place, and that it has caused only mischief ever since. The characteristics associated with “race” are a infinitesimally small part of what it means to be a physical human being. It’s time to bring our culture in line with our physical reality.

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The gods swat back the corporations who think they own the Fourth of July

July 7, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
The gods swat back the corporations who think they own the Fourth of July

Last year I expressed great frustration with corporations who have no compunctions hoisting their own profit-tool logos on the same flag poles as American Flags. And they choose to do this on America’s most holy of civic holidays. I first noticed this crass display last year at the biggest Fourth of July celebration in Fair St. Louis.

What’s the problem with allowing corporate logos to flap in the wind right next to Old Glory? I can’t think of a bigger insult to the People of the United States at a time when big money, mostly corporate money, has essentially purchased Congress, divesting ordinary people of the ability to run their own country. If there is anything that the Fourth of July is supposed to represent it is the notion that the governed should be self-governed (but do also check out this excellent recent article by Mark Tiedemann, who considers what it really means to be patriotic).

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