CREDO and MoveOn

October 25, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Posted in Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Study for the head of a young man sitting in the foreground to the right of the fresco The Reconciliation between Aemilius Lepidus and Fulvius Flaccus of the Sala del Concistoro in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Drawing acquired by the French state in 2004 for the Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques,  Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484–1551), 1520s, Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Paris, France. Source: Livre De la Renaissance à l'Âge baroque : une collection de dessins italiens pour les musées de France. Exposition présentée au Musée du Louvre, salle de la Chapelle, du 8 juin au 29 août 2005. Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005. ISBN 9782711849758

Study for the head of a young man sitting in the foreground to the right of the fresco The Reconciliation between Aemilius Lepidus and Fulvius Flaccus of the Sala del Concistoro in Palazzo Pubblico, Siena. Drawing acquired by the French state in 2004 for the Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Domenico di Pace Beccafumi (1484–1551), 1520s, Musée du Louvre, département des Arts graphiques, Paris, France. Source: Livre De la Renaissance à l’Âge baroque : une collection de dessins italiens pour les musées de France. Exposition présentée au Musée du Louvre, salle de la Chapelle, du 8 juin au 29 août 2005. Paris : Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2005. ISBN 9782711849758

When well-intentioned organizations do not think things through, they can cause great harm.

Such is the case for CREDO and for MoveOn.

Both organizations are idealistic, and aspire to be humane.

But their opposition to the use of lethal force has become reflexive and unthinking. The result is that both organizations inadvertantly facilitate cruelty and evil.

Both organizations have become enablers of what they claim to oppose.

By opposing military action against ISIS, both organizations now facilitate beheadings, barbaric rules for women (stifling their natural human diversity), military action by ISIS, and by emulators of ISIS, such as the Taliban and Boko Haram. Indirectly, the attitudes esposed by CREDO and by MoveOn facilitate all those who chafe at the constraints imposed on civilzed behavior, including Putin (the great emulator of Mussolini), and the Chinese police, in their treatment of both real and imagined differences of opinion.

This comes on top of CREDO’s opposition to punishing Assad for using chemical weapons. All those who suffered from Assad’s subsequent use of barrel bombs, and his other attacks on civilians, owe their suffering in part to CREDO.

CREDO and MoveOn, you are facilitating evil by others. You are facilitating the suffering of innocents.

You are asking the open societies of the world to be suicidally passive.

If that is not the case, then prove it, by specifying specific situtations where you would regard the use of lethal force as justified.

Becky Bond, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Zack Malitz, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Josh Nelson, you are facilitating beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

The same is true of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Anna Galand, Matt Blizek, Mari Tchijov, Sister Simone Campbell, Ilya Sheyman, Victoria Kaplan, and Susan Sarandon.

Astoundingly, the Democratic National Committee (the DNC), which should know better, recently broadcast an email promoting CREDO. That block-headed decision has proviked the present posting.

DNC, you are facilitating the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

Anyone who signs any of CREDO’s or MoveOn’s petitions is contributing to those organization’s facilitating of beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents. The goal of an individual petition may be worthy, such as for overturning Citizens United, but more thoughtful organizations offer similar petitions.

Anyone who contributes to CREDO or to MoveOn is contributing to those organization’s facilitating of beheadings, barbaric rules for women, and the torture and killing and enslaving and coercion of innocents.

I contributed over $1000 to Obama’s first campaign.

Many emailed requests to sign petitions and to contribute have arrived come from CREDO and MoveOn and the DNC since the DNCs email promoting CREDO. All have been for causes I strongly support. Ordinarily, as in the past, I would have signed and contributed.

But ever since CREDO and MoveOn announced their opposition to using lethal force against ISIS and similar groups, it has become immoral to do so, even for the causes I support. I will continue to promote those causes, but not by any route that is associated with CREDO and MoveOn. Contributing or adding my voice to those two organizations or their facilitators, such as the DNC, would prolong the agony of those who are injured by ISIS and by those other vicious organizations, it would promote cruelty, intolerance, and would retard the continued existence of open socities, and their spreading.

No person who understands this should contribute to any of the organizations named above, for any of the causes they espouse, until those organizations rethink their positions about the use of lethal force against ISIS, the Taliban, al Qaeda, Boko Haram and like organizations, and Assad.

There are other organizations to which it might still be moral to contribute, since I am not aware of their having promoted CREDO and MoveOn. But after the DNC’s surprising decision to do so, we cannot be sure, until they make explicit their own positions on the use of lethal force.
The organizations in question are the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee), Color of Change, ActBlue, AmeriCares, Organizing for Action, DCCC, and UltraViolet.

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Political contributions, the BuyPartisan Mobile app, and Citizens United

August 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | 2 Comments
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A US two dollar bill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar "US $2 obverse". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg

A US two dollar bill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar
“US $2 obverse”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg

There is a new free app for mobile devices, BuyPartisan, developed by Spend Consciously, Inc. (Although the app is presently available only for Apple devices, Spend Consciously plans to release a version for Android devices in the very near future.)

The SpendConsciously.com web site suggests that you use your mobile device to scan the barcode of the product you are considering. The app will display the political donations of the CEO, Board of Directors and employees of the company that produced the product. On the basis of that information, you can decide whether or not to buy the product. You can also tell your friends what you have found out.

Two related articles (one by Colby Itkowitz, and one by Al Kamen and Colby Itkowitz) in the Washington Post describe what they discovered by using the app.

Subsequently the Editors of the Washington Post disparaged the new app, claiming that it would intensify political polarization.

But in coming to that conclusion, the Editors forgot an important new factor, namely, the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling on Citizens United.

The ruling on Citizens United magnifies the impact of an individual CEO + Board of Directors on an election far above above that of an ordinary citizen. A CEO and Board of Directors can favor their preferred candidate by using the vast financial resources of his corporation to the candidate or proposed law that they personally favor. You cannot.

"1900 New York polling place" by E. Benjamin Andrews - Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1912. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg

“1900 New York polling place” by E. Benjamin Andrews – Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1912. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg

In an election, a voter has two kinds of votes.

There is a direct vote, by making a choice on a ballot.

There is an indirect vote, by contributing or not contributing to a candidate or to a proposed law.

The CEO and Board of Directors’ huge contribution easily drowns out the much smaller contribution that is feasible for most ordinary citizens.  The Supreme Court’s illogical decision dramatically undercuts your indirect vote. The Supreme Court’s ruling implicitly transforms the United States into an oligarchy.

The money that the CEO can appropriate in this manner is derived from the company’s sales to its customers.

Your only way of influencing the amount that the CEO and Board of Directors has available for this legal but unjust diversion of corporate funds? Either buy or do not buy from their company.

The Supreme Court’s politically partisan decision on Citizens United has thus linked buying decisions to political positions.

The linkage acts whether or not you – or the Editors of the Washington Post – recognize its presence.

That is why citizens now need to determine the political preferences of the CEO and Board of Directors of any company they might use.

Without apps like BuyPartisan, a great deal of time consuming detective work would be required for you to obtain that information. The app makes it easy.

Contrary to the position taken by the Editors of the Washington Post, using this app is now imperative for good citizenship.

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How to Block the Evil Eye on Your Computer

August 19, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Posted in Privacy | 1 Comment
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"Webcam000c1" by Simon.zfn - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Webcam000c1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Webcam000c1.jpg

“Webcam000c1″ by Simon.zfn – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Webcam000c1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Webcam000c1.jpg

You may have turned your webcam off.  But malware may have subsequently turned it back on.

You may think that your face, voice, actions, and the appearance of your current location are private, when they are not.

This danger has been known for a while.  The Wikipedia page on webcams says “… privacy is lost when Trojan horse programs allow malicious hackers to activate the webcam without the user’s knowledge, providing the hackers with a live video and audio feed.  …  Some webcams have built-in hardwired LED indicators that light up whenever the camera is active [, but] sometimes only in video mode. It is not clear whetherthese indicators can be circumvented when webcams are surreptitiously activated without the user’s knowledge or intent, via spyware.”

We have recently learned that the problem is far worse than that.  We know that from a report by Morgan Marquis-Boire that was published by The Citizen Lab (University of Toronto, Munk School of Global Affairs), as summarized by two recent articles in the Washington Post: How your cat video addiction could be used to hack you, by Andrea Peterson and Barton Gellman, and U.S. firm helped the spyware industry build a potent digital weapon for sale overseas, by Barton Gellman.  Both articles contain important revelations that are not discussed in this blog post, and are well worth reading.  The second article even provides a link for downloading Marquis-Boire’s report.

The report and the articles describe how watching a YouTube video,or visiting just about any web site, or updating a Flash player or Java, can result in malware being surreptitiously installed on your computer, without the web site cooperating or even knowing that it was infectious.

This has become another route by which hackers can install in your computer malware for turning on your webcam, against your will and without your knowledge.

The present blog post will concentrate on ways to prevent being viewed when you think that your webcam is off, but has secretly been turned on.  As discussed below, defences against being overheard are fewer than defenses against being seen.

The countermeasures described here are fairly obvious, and may be well known.  But the obvious is often what most needs to be repeated.  (That is why there are sermons and other pep talks.)

The history of breached defenses against hacking suggests that there is probably no way to ensure that any defense based on software or on electronics cannot be overcome.  So the safest defenses are physical blocks that only you can control and inspect.  These blocks are all free or inexpensive, and are very simple.

If your webcam can readily be disconnected, by far the best countermeasure would be leave the webcam physically disconnected from the computer except when you want the webcam to be activated.  That would prevent capture of your audio as well as of your video, unless you are using a voice-operated computer or a headset with a microphone, which would provide alternate routes for audio signals to enter your computer.

If it is cumbersome to disconnect and reconnect your webcam, it may be possible to hang a piece of paper or cardboard or cloth over the webcam’s optical aperture.  The webcams audio transmissions would continue, however.

If the placement of the webcam makes it difficult to loosely drape anything over its optical aperture, then it should still be possible to block the aperture with an opaque removable adhesive tape: transparent or semi-transparent tape that hosts a strategically-placed piece of paper, or a small adhesive bandage (either a strip or a disk), or a removable adhesive sticker such as those that children play with, or such as the stickers that are used to temporarily mark luggage or other items.  Of course, you’d want to be sure that the adhesive never touches any optically coated lens or screen.  Again, these methods would not block the audio.

The caption on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webcam says "Webcams typically include a lens (shown at top), an image sensor (shown at bottom), and supporting circuitry." "Sweex USB webcam PCB with without lens close up" by Original uploader was Mike1024 at en.wikipedia - Originally from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sweex_USB_webcam_PCB_with_without_lens_close_up.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Sweex_USB_webcam_PCB_with_without_lens_close_up.jpg"

The caption on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Webcam says “Webcams typically include a lens (shown at top), an image sensor (shown at bottom), and supporting circuitry.” “Sweex USB webcam PCB with without lens close up” by Original uploader was Mike1024 at en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sweex_USB_webcam_PCB_with_without_lens_close_up.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Sweex_USB_webcam_PCB_with_without_lens_close_up.jpg”

It is a shame that to protect themselves against criminals and intrusive governments, everyone now has to take precautions that formerly were needed only by dissidents in countries run by repressive governments.

One of several versions of the painting "The Scream" (title: Der Schrei der Natur, 'The Scream of Nature') . The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. (This is the caption in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream .)  "The Scream" by Edvard Munch (1863–1944) - WebMuseum at ibiblioPage: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/Image URL: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/munch.scream.jpg. Via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Scream.jpg

One of several versions of the painting “The Scream” (title: Der Schrei der Natur, ‘The Scream of Nature’) . The National Gallery, Oslo, Norway. (This is the caption in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scream .) “The Scream” by Edvard Munch (1863–1944) – WebMuseum at ibiblioPage: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/Image URL: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch/munch.scream.jpg. Via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream.jpg#mediaviewer/File:The_Scream.jpg

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Who Owns a Found Thing?

August 4, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Posted in Fairness | 3 Comments
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 "Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean" by Tiago Fioreze

“Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean” by Tiago Fioreze

Breathe in.  Now breathe out.

That air you just breathed – you did not create it.  You just found it where you needed it, and used it.

"Cuesta del Obispo en la Provincia de Salta - Argentina" by fede.cerutti

“Cuesta del Obispo en la Provincia de Salta – Argentina” by fede.cerutti

The land on which you stand is part of a land mass that you did not create.  You just found it where you needed it, and are using it.

The same is true of the ocean which floats your boat, and of the atmosphere that waters your crops and provides the water you drink and wash with and cook with, and whose fluid supports your aircraft.

"West Texas Pumpjack" by Eric Kounce TexasRaiser - Located south of Midland, Texas.

“West Texas Pumpjack” by Eric Kounce TexasRaiser – Located south of Midland, Texas.

Oil extraction in the ocean: "Devils tower 2004" by VaderSS .

Oil extraction in the ocean: “Devils tower 2004″ by VaderSS .

"Coal mine Wyoming" by Unknown

“Coal mine Wyoming” by Unknown

The same is true of any oil or coal or gas or metal or metal ore from the ground or the ocean.

The same is true of the planet Earth, with its temperate temperature, and its protective atmosphere and magnetic field, and of the Moon, which tidally helps to stabilize the Earth’s spin axis, and the Sun, whose light illuminates and warms the Earth.

Glass beakers for chemistry.

Glass beakers for chemistry.

Surface-mounted electronics: "Arduino ftdi chip-1" by DustyDingo.

Surface-mounted electronics: “Arduino ftdi chip-1″ by DustyDingo.

The atoms and molecules in all those things, you did not create them.  You found them, or at most you modified them from atoms and molecules that you found, using energy that you found, via physical processes that obey rules that were already there, and that you merely used.

The same is true of any life form that we catch or grow, to eat or to use in other ways.  It is true even of life forms that we have varied by breeding, or that we have genetically modifed directly.

Who owns them?  Whose property are they, and by what right?

They are not in any essential way the property of any individual, family, business, collective, class, nation, society, or species.

But it is sometimes convenient to treat them as if they were.  Doing so reduces conflict, except when it instigates conflict.

Eastern Hemisphere, Lambert Azimuthal projection, by Sean Baker.

Eastern Hemisphere, Lambert Azimuthal projection, by Sean Baker.

Western Hemisphere, Lambert Azimuthal projection, by Sean Baker.

Western Hemisphere, Lambert Azimuthal projection, by Sean Baker.

Here are some examples:

- Repeatedly, groups of people from Africa migrated to Europe and Asia, settling those formerly unpeopled areas.

- Groups of people from Asia then migrated to the Western Hemisphere, Australia and New Zealand, settling those formerly unpeopled areas.

- Groups of people from Europe migrated to the western Hemisphere, settling in those already-peopled areas, and not gently.

- Due to the never-ending reverberation of past religious competition, large numbers of Jews in Europe (including Central and Eastern Europe) finally gave up on those areas, where their ancestors had dwelled for millenia, and migrated to the already-peopled Middle East.  They were joined by co-religionists from elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa who had there been harassed by the persistent reverberations of past religious competition in those locales.  The resulting turbulence has not yet dissipated.

- The Sunnis and the Shiites, the persecution of the Rohingya in Burma – the list goes on and on.

- Putin’s grabbing of Crimea, using arguments like those that the Nazi’s used to justify their seizure of Sudetenland, and its attempts to peel off Eastern Ukraine.

Caption in Wikipedia: "A Sudeten German Voluntary Force unit in 1938."

Caption in Wikipedia: “A Sudeten German Voluntary Force unit in 1938.”

Enough examples!

Now some background and some conclusions.

"Henry George" by Unknown.

“Henry George” by Unknown.

Readers who are familiar with the work of Henry George (1839-1897) will recognize some of his ideas in the present blog posting.  To quote Wikipedia, Henry George argued that “people should own what they create, but that everything found in nature, most importantly the value of land, belongs equally to all humanity.”

The views expressed in the present blog post are clearly a variant of those views.  But there are at least three differences:

(1) The present blog post implies that for tangible objects, ‘creating’ is merely ‘clever re-arranging’.  So only limited ownership should be conferred by the ‘creating’ of tangible objects.  That is said with full respect for the ingenuity, resourcefulness, value-added, and the hard work required.  In fact, those contributions are what justify the limited ownership.  In the creation of intangible works – new concepts, new ways of working, new chains of reasoning, and art of all types – a larger part of the result is truly created, justifying a larger degree of ownership, but still a limited one.

(2) The present blog post implies that to ascribe ownership to all of humanity would appropriate to our species what intrinsically belongs equally to all species, both terrestrial and extraterrestrial.  The same idea is often expressed by saying that we are just the stewards of spaceship Earth.

(3) Apart from the limited ownership that is justified by the ‘creation’ of tangible objects, and the greater degree of ownership that is justified by the creation of intangible works, the present blog argues that ownership is a legal fiction created for social convenience, rather than being intrinsic and fundamental.  But once ownership has become established as a convenient fiction, morality and justice require that it thereafter be ascribed fairly.

 

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Humane Executions

July 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Brain and mind, Crime and punishment, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment, Terrorism | 1 Comment
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A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. "Middle Ages rabid dog" by Unknown - Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. “Middle Ages rabid dog” by Unknown – Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

 

Execution by lethal chemical cocktails has recently become more difficult.  Some of the makers of the required chemicals refuse to sell them for that purpose.  The remaining makers desire anonymity, to avoid becoming the target of protests.  Worse, some of the recent chemical executions have been botched, and seem to have produced drawn-out painful deaths.

All of these problems could be eliminated by returning to an older technique: death by bullet.

But the shooting should not be performed by a firing squad.  Too many things can go wrong with a firing squad.

Instead, use a device that softly but firmly holds fixed the head and chest of the condemned.  A commercially available cervical collar might be one part of the device.  The condemned should be lying horizontally, face up, unable to move, on a special table having a soft surface.

The execution would be carried out by one or more gunshots from behind the head.

The gun could be fired by either a person or a computer.  Computer-controlled firing would be less subject to mistakes.  Sensors viewing the vicinity of the condemned could provide signals to the the computer so that the gun could fire only when no other person was in the line of fire.

Note: The general design described above is hereby released into the public domain by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.  It is not patentable.

That covers the how.  What about the why?

As long as the death penalty is imposed fairly, its morality is clear.  We kill mad dogs, attacking wild animals, and armed enemy soldiers.  We kill terrorists.  We kill madmen and criminals who try to kill the police, and madmen who attack the public.  We kill cancers.  No matter how morally advanced we become, we will always regard such killing as justified.

But can the death penalty be imposed fairly?

Some claim that the death penalty can never be imposed fairly on an individual who is now under our control.  Why not treat such a person as a prisoner of war?  Why not restrain them instead of killing them?  Why not try to rehabilitate them?  These are difficult questions which I hope to address in a later posting.  But for the present, recall that we do not use these alternatives for mad dogs.  Recall that the intrinsic dignity of human beings may be a too-sweeping and vaguely founded concept, and likewise for the concept of free will.  And recall that many innocents have been killed by seemingly reformed but unreformed parolees: different person’s brains are wired differently.

On these matters I have to agree with Charles Lane, and have to disagree with Eugene Robinson, who is usually one of the most insightful analyzers of public issues, and with the Editors of the Washington Post.

 

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It Was Legal to Kill al-Awlaki

June 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Crime and punishment, Enemies of Freedom, Terrorism | Leave a comment
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Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen October 2008, a lightened version (by Greg A L) of a photo taken by Muhammad ud-Deen.

On September 30, 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a Hellfire missile fired by the US government, even though al-Awlaki was nominally a U.S. citizen at the time.  (See here.)

Absurdly, the legality of this act is controversial in the most idealogically blinkered circles.

Think back to the Civil War in the U.S. If it was legal for Union soldiers to shoot Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, then it was legal for the US Government to kill al-Awlaki.

Wikipedia states that ‘The “targeted killing” of an American citizen was unprecedented.’ It is impossible to believe that during the Civil War soldiers were not particularly enouraged to kill named generals and high-ranking officers. So there are actually many precedents.

Killing al-Awlaki was prudent and just, as well as legal.

 

Wear Something Black on June 4 (Tiananmen Square Day)

May 29, 2014 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Fairness | Leave a comment
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Retouched version by Gary King of a picture taken of Natasha Bedingfield by Bobcobb22 at Six Flags over Georgia in Austell, Georgia, USA on July 13, 2008.

Retouched version by Gary King of a picture taken of Natasha Bedingfield by Bobcobb22 at Six Flags over Georgia in Austell, Georgia, USA on July 13, 2008.

On and around June 4, 1989, Chinese citizens were killed or imprisoned or beaten by the Chinese Government for peacefully demonstrating at Tianenmen Square for a more open society (see here and here). They wanted a society that functioned according to democratically chosen and publically announced laws, rather than according to unpublished but universally understood rules that are crafted for the benefit of the powerful, and are administered and revised according to their whim.

June 4 is International Tiananmen Square Day. It reminds us of the courage, heroism, and patriotic public spirit of the demonstrators. It reminds us that the Chinese Government still has not expressed regret for abusing its most public spirited citizens – those who wanted to advance their country rather than to fill their wallets at the expense of their fellow citizens.

The demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square chose black to be the color that symbolized their adherence to their cause.

In memory of the demonstrators, and to honor their ideas, wear something black on June 4. June 4 is a Wednesday this year.

Black shoes, a black belt, a black shirt, a black hat, a black necktie, black gloves, black shirt buttons, a black band, a black ribbon, a black scrunchie, a black umbrella – anything black.

'Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Turkish President Abdullah Gül.

‘Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Turkish President Abdullah Gül.

Mens' ballroom shoes at the Eurodance (Vladimír Bábor), Czech Republic, photographed 25 February 2009 by Martin Kozák.

Mens’ ballroom shoes at the Eurodance (Vladimír Bábor), Czech Republic, photographed 25 February 2009 by Martin Kozák.

Ladies' ballroom shoes by Tango Shoes, Buenos Aires, photographed 25 February 2009 by  Martin Kozák.

Ladies’ ballroom shoes by Tango Shoes, Buenos Aires, photographed 25 February 2009 by
Martin Kozák.

292x240.S3_SafetyFootwear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kazuma Nitta performs a Kubudo Kata with a staff for the judges at the Open Karate Tournament in Japan, 2004. Photographed by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto, USMC.

Kazuma Nitta performs a Kubudo Kata with a staff for the judges at the Open Karate Tournament in Japan, 2004. Photographed by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. Floto, USMC.

The first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Tsîn-sí-hông. 秦始皇。

The first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang.
Tsîn-sí-hông. 秦始皇。

 

Additional information:

The Massacre at Tiananmen Square was twenty five years ago tomorrow, June 4, 1989, in Beijing and in Chengdu.

Tomorrow, the 25th anniversary of the Massacre, Louisa Lim’s remarkable new book (The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199347704) will become publically available. Selections from it at the web sites of on-line book sellers show that the book contains much new information, written beautifully and clearly, as well as remarkable interviews and color photos. The link to a Washington Post article by Louisa Lim, about the secrecy she had to deploy to write the book, was given near the beginning of this post.

Dan Southerland was the chief of the Beijing bureau of the Washington Post in 1985 through 1990. In a recent article he praises the additional information that was uncovered by Louisa Lim, and is included in her book. His article also describes what he saw before, during, and after the massacre.

The link to an astounding video, narrated by Dan Southerland, appears in the online version of an article by Michael Streissguth that has just appeared in the Washington Post Magazine. The video shiows the attacks on the students, and shows Tank Man stopping a column of tanks on a nearby street. The video also shows very shocking photos. Southerland very effectively describes the time-line of the events. The students were demonstrating protesting corruption by officials, and because they knew that China needed a more open society. The video was produced by Kate M. Tobey, assembled by Jason Adag, and used excellent graphics by Osman Malick and Julio Negron.

Streissguth’s article itself is very informative, and includes remarkable photos of bicycles that had been flattened by army tanks, and of students in Tiananmen Square listening to a young leader of the pro-democracy movement.

A good article by Ruth Marcus describes present-day attitudes in China about the massacre.

An moving article by Rowena Xiaoqing He describes the impact of the massacre on parents of the students who were killed.

William Wan’s article in the Washington Post shows astounding works of art produced by artists in China, in response to the massacre.

An article by Dana Nemcova, Jiri Gruntorad, Jan Ruml show that the ideas of the demonstrating students live on.

More additional information:

Today is the 25th Anniversary of the Massacres at Tiananmen Square and at Chengdu. Several fascinating articles have appeared in print today (2014-06-04).

Tom Malinowski’s op-ed article in the Washington Post notes how the Chinese government’s failure to come to grips with the massacres has held China back, and why it matters to the rest of the world.

An editorial by the Editors of the Washington Post stresses the fear that underlies the Chinese governments attempts to suppress information not only about the massacres, but also about its abuse of China’s brave patriots and their good ideas, as well their suppression of any non-governmental organization that becomes large. These suppressions directly violate China’s constitution. The on-line version of the editorial also includes a link to a remarkable article by Hua Ze which was published by The New York Times on August 18, 2013, about how the Chinese government misused its police powers to persecute Xu Zhiyong, for his advocacy of the rule of law and for his opposition to corruption. The editorial also mentions a book, In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon: Stories of Repression in the New China, that was edited by Xu Youyu and Hua Ze and was published last year.  I hadn’t known of the book, and am eager to read it.

An article by William Wan and Simon Denyer in the Washingtom Post describes the Chinese government’s panicky and heavy-handed repression of remembrance of the massacres. (Note: “the Chinese government’s”, not “China’s”! ) The article includes interesting interviews and photos, and a link to the video that was described above.

 

 

The problem with ‘Stand Your Ground’

February 23, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Disinformation, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | 7 Comments
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2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief's Special — Model CS45.

2007 photo copyrighted by Jeff Dean, and uploaded by hime to Wikipedia, which describes it as a compact semi-automatic Smith & Wesson .45 ACP Chief’s Special — Model CS45.

‘Stand your ground’ laws have figured in two recent cases in which young unarmed black men were shot and killed.
George Zimmerman killed Travon Martin, and Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis.

In both cases, the killer’s excuse was that he thought that the young black man had a gun.

The problem with ‘stand your ground’ laws is that it is too easy to claim that you feared that the person you shot had a weapon, and was about to use it on you.

You can claim this even if it wasn’t true.  You can make up your fear after the fact.

No one can ever disprove your claim, because it rests only on what you say you believed at the time.  Your claim need not depend upon on any externally confirmable matter of fact.

This is one of the most easily-abused legal ideas of all time.

One of the leading pushers of ‘stand your ground’ laws is ALEC.  Besides promoting ‘stand your ground’ laws, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) acts as a mouthpiece for those who see short-term financial gains in delaying recognition of human-caused global warming.  According to the Sierra Club, Mark Zuckerberg recently had Facebook join ALEC, because he wants its support for some of his own agendas.  (The Sierra Club is urging everyone to sign a petition asking Mark Zuckerberg to withdraw Facebook from that unscrupulous organization.)

Although it is obvious, it bears repeating: neither of the unjustified killings that were cited above would have occurred if the killer hadn’t happened to have a gun handy.

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What is Art?

February 13, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Posted in Brain and mind | Leave a comment
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Alfred Sisley, The innondation at Port Marly, painted 1876. Presently in le Musée des beaux-arts de Rouen.

Alfred Sisley, The innondation at Port Marly, painted 1876. Presently in le Musée des beaux-arts de Rouen.

Art is anything that is contrived to elicit strong sensations in ourselves or in others.

What makes a deliberately created something into art, is that it is evocative.

That means that it resonates with something in the viewer’s or hearer’s brain, like a wine glass resonating to the sound of a violin, or a window of a house resonantly vibrating – buzzing – to the sound of a motor.

Anything that tries to play, like a musical instrument, the nervous systems of those who are exposed to it, is art.

That includes painting, sculpture, architecture, dance, acting, literature, and rhetoric (in its classical, general, not-necessarily-pejorative meaning): speeches, persuasive writing, informative writing, advertising, and even demogoguery.

But each brain is different – different experiences, different wiring- so what is evoked is different.

To some extent the impact of a work of art is measured not by what is evoked in each person, but by how many respond, and how strongly.

Here is a list of artistic activities.  Many of them are not usually thought of as being artistic.  Some give pleasure, others are deliberately unpleasant.  Some are evil.  But in each case you should easily be able to identify the presence of the defining characteristic of art, namely, the deliberate attempt to play the brains of the audience as if those brains were musical instruments.  In some cases  the intended audience is just the artist.  The redundancies in the list are there to better make a point.
– Humor, including stand-up comedy and informal jokes
– Circus acts
– Performing astounding feats for films or for on-line videos (attempts to impress or amuse, or to do both at the same time)
– Thoughtful photography
– Music, drawing and painting, sculpture, dance
(includes feats of art that are designed to impress as well as to please or inform: items featured on the Twisted Sifter, Cirque de Soleil)
– Fiction and expository non-fiction (written, or acted, or cartooned)
– Comic books, graphic novels, cartoon films
– Textbooks, instructional materials, user’s manuals,
– Web interfaces, other digital interfaces (such as those to an operating system or a programming language)
– All rhetoric in the classical non-pejorative sense: speech or other media that are designed to persuade
– Religious tales (Abraham and Isaac, David and Goliath, the birth, life and crucifixion of Jesus, Mohammed on a flying horse)
– Political claims, both true and false
– Demagoguery
– Advertising
– The deliberate giving of sexual or other sensual pleasure (to one’s self or to another), e.g., sensual massage, masturbation, erotica, sexual fantasies
– Its opposite: the deliberate imposition of pain, e.g., torture
– Fantasies, daydreams (but not involuntary dreams)
– Dressing for effect, couture, make-up
– Planning and hosting a party or other event
– Interior design and decoration, architecture, landscape design
– The design, crafting and wearing of costumes, dressing up (including for Halloween), jewelry
– Sports, including gladiatorial sports (boxing, wrestling, mixed martial arts)
– Ceremonies, rituals
– Public punishment (including executions)
– All entertainment
– The shock-and-awe component of terrorist acts (another type of attempt to impress)
– Intimidation, bullying

Clearly, we are an artistic species.

Clearly, not all art is benign.

All art is manipulative, even when the person being manipulated is the artist/daydreamer/fantasist.

Not all art has humans as its intended audience.  Art for pets and other non-human animals: pleasant environments for pets (wheels and tunnels and hiding places in a cage for hamsters), the design and operation of of zoos, …

In the future, not all art will have biologically evolved beings as its sole intended audience.  There will even be art and entertainment for autonomous robots.

Any deliberate attempt to strum the strings of a brain as if they were the strings of a musical instrument is art.  The brain may be the artist’s own, or someone else’s, or both.  The brain may be biological or artificial (designed).

But not all such attempts attain their goal.

If an attempt does attain its goal, it is good as art, whether or not it is also good ethically and morally.

All art requires the artist to mentally mirror the minds in the intended audience.
For such an attempt to resonate with the brains of a wide audience, the ‘musician’ and the audience must share a culture, or mental mechanisms (e.g., adult humans affecting human babies or animals, or animals affecting animals), or the musician must at least be familiar with how the members of the target population respond.

Some non-contrived stimuli elicit the same sensations as art: sunsets, scenery, a flower, a baby, a puppy or a kitten.  They elicit the same stimuli as art,  because they share parts of the same processing paths in the brain.

Because we live at a stage of evolution when we are familiar with the concepts of an artist and of art, those sensations may also make us feel to that the  evocative stimuli were created by an artist.

To a being who had not been exposed to the concept of an artist, the same stimuli might be just as evocative, without suggesting that they were due to an artist.

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Involuntary Manslaughter on the George Washington Bridge

February 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Dysfunctional Politics, Enemies of Freedom | Leave a comment
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"The George Washington Bridge, connecting Fort Lee to New York City, is the world's busiest motor vehicle bridge." (Wikipedia) Photo by Jet Lowe, April 1986.

“The George Washington Bridge, connecting Fort Lee to New York City, is the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge.” (Wikipedia) Photo by Jet Lowe, April 1986.

“Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee”, said the email from Bridget Anne Kelly to David Wildstein.  Bridget Kelly was a top staff member to Govenor Chris Christie of New Jersey, and David Wildstein was one of Christie’s appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which controls the bridge.

The goal: to punish someone who hadn’t fallen into line politically (the Mayor of Fort Lee), by punishing thousands of innocent people, namely, people who where commuting from New Jersey to New York City via the George Washington Bridge.

David Wildstein contrived to create a horrendous traffic jam for people traveling during rush hour from New Jersey to Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge.  An unneccesary ‘traffic study’ was devised, as a cover story.

A traffic jam in Delhi, India, taken by NOMAD.  It is a different traffic jam, but it gives you the flavor.

A traffic jam in Delhi, India, taken by NOMAD. It is a different traffic jam, but it gives you the flavor.

A woman died after a heart attack, because emergency personnel could not reach her.

Thousands were late for work, missed meetings, missed job interviews, missed appointments with doctors.

Thousands experienced the agony of not being able to reach a toilet.

Hourly workers lost wages.  Businesses lost sales, both to to individuals and to companies.

Those stuck in traffic, those wanting to help during a medical emergency, those waiting for delayed employees and customers, suffered worry and tension that was prolonged enough to cause subtle but real damage to the immune system, heart, and brain.

Besides Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein there may be additional culprits.  Bill Baroni – another Christie appointee to the Port Authority – appears to have been involved.  Bill Stepien, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff at the time, exhibited suspiciously inhuman callousness about the effects of the jam.

Chris Christie denies knowing about the scheme until he learned about it from news reports.  His denial may well be accurate.  He might have been told that a traffic study was taking place, without knowing that the traffic study was just a cover, and without knowing that his associates had instigated it only to trigger a horrendous traffic jam.

The actions of Kelly and Wildstein, and possibly of Baroni and Stepien, was goon-like behavior.  It is the behavior of gangland enforcers, of thugs, not of those who treasure an open society.  The only novel feature is that in this case the enforcers appear to have been self-appointed, rather than being directed from above.

This wasn’t a prank.  It was deliberately punitive.

Justice requires that all of those who suffered, economically and/or emotionally, from this maneuver should be compensated for their suffering and injury, and that all who can be made whole should be made whole.  There should be prison sentences for the misuse of authority by those culpable, and for the involuntary manslaughter of the woman who died.

In particular, a Grand Jury should decide whether whether Kelly, Wildstein, and possibly Baroni and Stepien, should be tried for involuntary manslaughter.

A Grand Jury should decide whether whether Kelly, Wildstein, and possibly Baroni and Stepien, should be tried for misuse of authority.

A Grand Jury should decide whether whether Kelly, Wildstein, and possibly Baroni and Stepien, should be tried for the economic and emotional damage to the thousands of affected travelers, and to those who awaited them.

Kelly, Wildstein and perhaps Baroni and Stepien should be required to monetarily compensate the woman’s family, and, indeed, all of those who were damaged by their scheme.

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