Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What We Believe, Isn't What We Know

The other day, I came across and interesting study from a university. I wish I had bookmarked the study and what university did it but alas I didn't. What caught my eye was that people who do not believe certain ideas such as climate change being caused by humans is not from a lack of information.

For a long time it has been a wonder to many how folks could not believe in certain scientific or other cultural facts. The answer was that these folks didn't have information they needed to make an informed decision. This study, however, found that not to be quite true. With groups of differing backgrounds and beliefs questions were posed by the study. The questions were formulated not to attach a moral judgment to the information. For example all groups were asked about what they knew about evolution, not whether or not they believed in the theory. Interestingly, virtually every group studied had pretty much the same information.

It wasn't until these ideas were attached to a faith based or political ideal then acceptance became a very different thing. This leads to an interesting conclusion. You see, many groups have become so inflexible that there seems to be no room left for an iota of variance of acceptance of the facts. If they don’t accept everything in the group, then they are no longer acceptable to the group. 

Don’t believe me? If someone doesn't tow the party line on climate change, choosing instead to believe the over-whelming science, they become in the conservative right, a RINO (Republican In Name Only). I have to admit that I've not run across the term DINO. While many more liberal Christians accept evolution as science and see the Bible as less literal, some take the bible as literal and evolution as a wild theory. Both groups seem to have the same information, but both accept or deny this information because it conflicts with belief of the group, and the group will accept or allow members to believe differently. 

Therein is the problem, particularly when it comes to politics. We need to convince the inflexible elements that because someone believes or chooses science above party, that does not make him or her less Republican or if they are Christians it doesn't make him or her less of a Democrat. They have chosen a path that meets in a place of solutions. 
While there are certainly plenty of “low information” voters out there, we must also convince folks that it is okay to follow a path that is one’s own. You see it is not inflexible conviction but the courage of conviction that we need. It does not make them less; it makes them leaders.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Know Thou What You Post

1. Snopes is your friend. Always check and . You will discover that sad “I am Meth” poem was written not by a teen locked up for doing meth, but by a middle-aged woman in Oklahoma who has never done meth and that soldiers are not actually going hungry, but they are eating MRE’s for breakfast as they transition to local control. While you’re at it try liking a few pages like Politifact and Skeptical Spectacles. While you’re at it, like a few pages of humor so you don’t take yourself too seriously.

2. Know what you are talking about. If an article talks about a particular law or treaty at least read a synopsis or two about that law or treaty.

3. If only one site is posting an article and no one else is, you have found an extremely unreliable source. The same is true if all sites that are reporting are using the exact same article as the source or actually just re-posting the article.

4. A site containing clearly political leanings in its title, such as Being Liberal or Conservative Daily, is not a valid source of information.

5. A meme does not make it true even if the meme has statistics. You would be surprised how many statistics are manipulated or even made up to make a case.

6. Conspiracy theories are called that for a reason. There are no strange bases or statues or faces on the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars or any other planet in the solar system. 

7. Politicians lie. Some are just better at it than others. Posting a quote from one does not mean it is true or accurate. The politician is playing to the base.

8. If an article says some scientists in such and such a place have stated and then mentions one by name, some just became one scientist. 

9. A study is not all studies. 

10. It is okay to believe or support things that are not a part of your group’s cannon. It makes you informed. It makes you a critical thinker. It forces you to think about the stances you take and allows you to stand out from the herd. 

11. Listening to right-wing or left-wing talk shows constantly is bad for your soul and your own ability to think. A steady diet of Rush, Hannity, Lawrence, or Schultz is like dining at MacDonald’s and ordering two Big Macs, large fries and the biggest drink every day. It cannot be good for you. The pundit’s job is to rile the base and truth be damned.

12. Actually read the article carefully.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2: Exactly What You Think It Is

I know, been a while, and this blog is not exactly johnny-on-the-spot. Life happens.

I admit, I have been looking forward to How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I liked the first one and this one will not disappoint.  As good as the first? Not quite, but it is still a fun and enjoyable movie that your youngsters will like too.

I am not going to discuss too much plot nor voice acting skills.  The cast is pretty much the same as the first time and the audience will get exactly the same thing as the first movie:  clever comments and often witty dialog.  Vikings are still for some reason Scottish.  The plot:  Hiccup meets his mom (no secret) and there is a bad guy who wants to enslave the dragons that must be eventually faced. There are a few plot holes, but the first had just as many.  Finally a word of warning: if your child might have had issues with the death in Bambi, you may end up having that talk with this movie too.

All I can say is, my grand kids liked it and so did I.  We saw it in 3-D, and it was okay in that format.  Go see How to Train Your Dragon 2.  You will like it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Oh for a Court of the Brave

Like it or not the Supreme Court has ruled and ruled not along lines of any actually related Constitutional or matter of law. They ruled on the basis of political ideology. No one wins in such a fight. It up ends the country, and such rulings seem more and more to be based on the days gone by that existed on TV but never in actual reality.

The fact is that our highest court has for a time lacked courage of any conviction. It gives narrow rulings based on a conservative or liberal belief. Once there were courts that ruled in favor of right. They took bold stands and didn't take into consideration if the nation was ready. They understood that times change, and the Constitution was never intended to be something that could not change with time. The Court of the Brave made rulings that still reverberate in both effect and controversy. They were the rulings of Roe v. Wade, Brown v. The Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, and Tinker v. Des Moines. These cases altered the social fabric of the country.

What does the current Court deal with? Citizens United, the stripping voting rights, refusing to hear a case on Gay rights rather than simply ruling on its constitutionality and how far protesters must stand from a clinic . And now the ruling on Hobby Lobby which is an extremely narrow ruling that nevertheless ultimately gives a contrived entity the rights of an individual just as Citizen United did in making money a form of free speech. They are, in short, not brave but political.

I don't know which side of the fence you stand when it comes to the Hobby Lobby, although for me any support I might have given fell flat when I learned the Hobby Lobby once covered the contraceptives they sued about in their court case. They say that they didn't know the insurance covered these items, but they did drop the coverage in 2012 shortly before they filed the Obamacare lawsuit. You can decide.  

These are not brave rulings but ones based on political divide. Is there nothing we can do? The rulings can be challenged but to do this we as a people must do more than complain and whine and post memes. We must challenge the Constitution. Remember, I told you it is a living document. If it were not, its framers would never have given the people the right to amend it. It is time for that growth. It is time for us to do what was intended all along. In my lifetime, there have been five amendments added to the Constitution. It can be done and it is time to do so.

California has already called for a Constitutional Convention. Generally speaking most amendments have been passed in just over a year from their proposal. I should point out that no current amendments were a result of a convention, but given the current state of our congress, we have little other choice. A few were ratified rather quickly and the most recent, the 27th took 74003 days to be ratified. It was proposed in 1789 and finally reached ratification in 1992. It was not one of the more pressing changes.

As I see it, we need more than a few add-ons to the constitution. The first needs to make it clear that contrived entities such as businesses, privately or publicly owned, are not individuals. The individuals that make up a corporate entity have individual rights, but their business is not the individual. Money is not speech. Businesses are not churches. Corporate person-hood is a myth that needs to die and die now.

Then we need to make it clear that majority rules in our houses of government. The use of cloture and the Hastert rule are preempting this first idea of our Constitution. No one person should be able to stop a vote by announcing a filibuster. If a senator wants to filibuster, he or she needs to break out his or her favorite Seuss story and hold the floor. If a law is offered, no matter how ridiculous or how hateful the other party finds it, it needs to go to committee where it can die or to the floor. The Hastert rule of the majority of the majority of the House says what goes to the floor is the worst kind of bastardization of majority rule. Not even the Speaker should have the power to block legislation. It's not his or her job to prevent other representatives from doing their job.

Next on my list is modernization. This will no doubt be the most hotly contested. We need to clarify the 2nd amendment. I for one am tired of having this litigated every few years or even months. I am not saying it needs to go away, but this business of was it a military amendment or was it so everyone gets a gun with no regulation needs to be made clear We as a people need to answer in a modern age do we need the ability to regulate?Other amendments have been used to do this. When 80 percent of Americans think something needs to be done and we cannot get a vote in Congress, it is obvious the people need to make our wishes felt.

If we are going to have a Constitutional Convention, I think it is time to remind all elected officials they are our servants and not a stepping stone to a cushy lobbying job. Lobbying can be a good thing and also a vile thing. In any case, we need to get the money out of Washington, limit elected officials from working as lobbyists, limiting the money, gifts and other sundry items that our representatives and their family get from these firms.
We might want to consider limiting how long someone serves on the Supreme Court, or for that matter, any Federal court. I am not terribly certain, but I don't think that when the framers made the appointment lifetime, they had any idea how long some of these folks would live and what idiots they might become. They probably also thought that no one would want the job for as long as some of these folks have sat the bench. I recall for example hearing that Scalia was once thought of as a brilliant legal mind but now not so much. He recently even got the facts wrong on his own rulings. (His dissenting opinion was quietly corrected and replaced.)

Finally, we must once again set voting rights onto the Constitution. More amendments, I think, have dealt with equal rights and voting than any other additions to the constitution. There are five amendments that deal with voting and at least two dealing with civil rights. Do you get the feeling that people keep finding new ways to twist the right to vote and control elections. This amendment should also control gerrymandering. No state should have the ridiculous district borders for voting that they do. Voting districts need to be based on counties, natural boundaries or at least a good old square, rectangle or circle not some unnamed geometrical shape (try these for example).

 I know. I've rambled on for too long. But hey it's been a while since I put my two cents in. The point is we can make a change and if we want to stop the plutocracy we have become, then we must push for action. Posting a meme or two and whining on Facebook isn't going to do it. We must get out and vote, contact our representatives, complain to TV stations about the ridiculous ads, sign petitions demanding changes and not just from Washington. States may call for Constitutional Conventions. The Supreme Court has ruled. They weren't brave, but we can be brave and make the change.