Saturday, March 31, 2012

Question of compliance

Obama's plan would simply reduce the amount of time immigrants must stay out of the country and away from their families while applying for residency. They still have to follow the process. It’s just that waiting three to ten years creates a hardship for everyone involved. Many chose to remain in the country illegally and forego the process entirely, which is contributing to the immigration problem. Republican representative Lamar Smith doesn’t see it that way. He accuses Obama of “..bending the rules and granting backdoor amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.” This is a red herring. They still have to follow the process. Obama is just making it less painful and more likely that they’ll comply, which would actually reduce the need for amnesty. It’s human nature to avoid pain. Or perhaps Lamar Smith doesn’t agree with that. He believes pain is necessary to ensure compliance, in which case he’s out of touch with people who suffer. I believe this makes him a follower of the Milgram protocol where willingness to administer pain becomes easier with distance and unfamiliarity [ link ].

Friday, March 30, 2012

Persecution by implication

Regarding the story of Gary Klein ‘under a cloud of suspicion’ ~>[ link ]

The implication: Attorneys for the family of the deceased (Rina Klein) suggest that the husband (Gary Klein) killed her. They don’t come right out and say so ..nor have murder charges been filed. What attorneys do say is:
“He disparaged her in public ..”
“She was planning a divorce but says she was afraid he would kill her if he ever found out.”
“She told her sister that he was cruel and went around saying that if he wanted he could kill her and no one would find out how it happened.”
They never actually say he killed her or even threatened to. The wife was a successful Hollywood attorney but hadn’t worked in nine years due to depression. Her family is suing the husband to dis-inherit him in probate court ..and gain custody of his children in family court. 
Public record: Doctors certify that she died of lupus. A report by a medical examiner says “..a combination of amphetamine, anti-depressants and lupus medication may have also contributed.” The husband says he knew about her medical condition but nothing about the alleged divorce plans. She never filed for divorce nor is there any evidence that she ever planned to. Just hearsay from her family. Nor is there any evidence that he ever threatened or abused her. Just unsubstantiated claims by attorneys. 
Persecution by implication: I don’t think this amounts to murder. I do believe it is a case of pragmatic implications, which are of indeterminate truth-value ..intended to keep an investigation open and continue persecuting someone for financial gain. Attorneys routinely use pragmatic implications to suggest things without actually saying them .. hoping listeners will fill in the blanks. Attorneys for OJ Simpson actually got a jury to believe police conspired to frame their client by merely asking if they’d ever known someone who had experienced police brutality (common in all-black neighborhoods). They never asked about police frame-ups (because they’re exceedingly rare). Reference: Bugliosi ‘Outrage’ epilogue 340-342 [ link ]

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Range of interpretation

Regarding the questionable shooting of a black teen named Trayvon Martin, Obama said  “If I’d have had a son, the boy could’ve looked like Tray.”  Gingrich interprets this as a racist statement and says  “What he’s suggesting is if a white teen had been shot ..that would be OK.”  Santorum interprets it as an opportunistic statement, accusing Obama of  “..using these types of tragic individual cases to try to drive a wedge in America.”  The LA Times has another interpretation “What we think Obama was trying to say is that Trayvon Martin could have been the son of the president of the United States.”    I don’t have a clue. It all sounds opportunistic to me. I’m even using it as an opportunity. Gives me something to write about.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Compound error

Obama leans over and whispers to Vladimir Putin “..lets wait until after the election when I'll have more flexibility (on missile defense)”, which Ambassador John Bolten immediately infers as “ ..a signal he’s planning to scale back the missile defense program.” Then makes the collateral inference that “Obama could be planning to give ground on a range of national security priorities.” And concludes by saying “There’s a huge cause for concern here.” Romney agrees saying “If re-elected, Obama will go soft on national security.” He then goes on to extend Bolton’s tenuous claim that Obama’s statements are cause for national concern by reading something that sounded like it came from an out-of-date 1950’s script “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage ..” then refers to Russia as “..our no. 1 geopolitical enemy.”
Apart from it’s clandestine appearance ..Obama’s statement by itself presents the listener with a range of possible meanings. We know that missile defense is a weighty issue so a likely possibility is that Obama simply wanted to take it off the table at this venue. Bolten, however, makes it a cause for national concern ..basing one questionable inference on another. A preemptive strike based on the fallacy of false-certainty. Romney further compounds this fallacy by invoking demons that no longer exists.
Now it comes out that the purpose of Obama’s meeting was to discuss ways to better secure nuclear waste. Hardly an issue of national security and, realistically, not the most appropriate place to carry on high-level negotiations regarding missile defense. The outcome confirms the least consequential interpretation, which makes the Republican alarm sound insubstantial and based on a world-view that is out-of-touch with present-day reality.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The name of the game

Just when Republicans were starting to feel that Mitt Romney is for real ..his senior campaign adviser blows his cover, What about all those socially conservative positions he took during the primaries that might not play well with more moderate voters in the general election ..? and may even contradict positions he took earlier in his political career ..? “Well, I think we hit a reset button for the national campaign .. change everything and, like an Etch-A-Sketch, shake it up and start all over again.” This is actually more revealing than deceptive.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The endorsement

Today I heard about Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. He says “Primary elections have been held in 34 states’s time for Republicans to unite behind Romney.” Sounds like a score ..! However, when I say it out loud and think about how long this campaign has been going on doesn’t sound like a wholehearted endorsement. More like a plea to end the fight. I call this an endorsement by pragmatic implication, which can be misleading unless you parse the statement really close.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Irreconcilable narratives

“The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap. It is the innovators, outside the status quo, who carry mankind forward.” Ayn Rand
I came across the following narrative in the paper this morning. I guess it’s a better example of ‘contradiction’ than ‘deception’ but it sounded jarring. If the Republican Party doesn’t admit there’s a fundamental contradiction going on here ..then they’re being genuinely dishonest. First, I hear the GOP say “we are willing to make tough choices to reduce federal deficits, limit spending, lower taxes and put the country on a better financial footing” [ link ]. Which leads me to believe they’re serious about reducing the size and expense of government. Then I hear Gingrich say: “..what I’ve been trying to do is in the tradition of Kennedy, which is to take very large ideas and try to get America moving again.” To accomplish this he pledges to: “..put colonies on the moon .. reshape the geopolitical landscape.. and put $2.50 per gallon gas in every tank” [ link ]. Now my prior belief that Republicans are serious about reducing the size and expense of government has been blown all to hell. He goes on to say: “I’m a visionary with big ideas that candidly, my opponents can’t comprehend” and paraphrases Proverbs 29:13 saying You need a visionary leader with very big, bold ideas ..without vision, the people perish” [ link ]. And there goes my belief that Republicans value individual initiative. It sounds like he’s saying political leaders are better stewards of economic progress. I think there’s danger in confusing visionaries like Steve Jobs with visionaries running for political office. I’m not sure I’m ready to replace captains of industry with leaders of state.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Oil dependent advocacy

Los Angeles, like many American cities .. evolved around the automobile. This has lead to sprawling suburbs, congested freeways, polluted air and reliance on foreign oil. Political conservatives fear that mass transit would threaten this ‘cherished way of life’ and they’re accusing advocates of pushing a ‘socialist’ agenda. These fears were clearly evident in a recent article by the Los Angeles Times:
“Political conservatives are deeply opposed to the California high-speed rail project. They see something sinister about it: an agenda to push people into European or Asian models of cities where apartments are clustered around rail lines and people rely on state-run transportation. In their view, the rationale of the rail system rests on flawed assumptions that would undermine California's identity, which during the last half-century has revolved around single-family homes that have driven economic growth, family-oriented lifestyles and signature West Coast recreation” [ link ].
I live on the West Coast. This is a highly skewed portrayal of our ‘identity’. I don’t know anyone here who feels that commuting contributes anything to ‘family-oriented lifestyles’ and recreation. On most days you can’t even park near the beaches of LA.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Game change

Every experience is refracted by the senses, augmented by past experience and rendered in it’s telling. We rarely get a glimpse of events as they occur. Interpretation happens way to fast. Consequently, even first-hand accounts come mixed with the observers point-of-view. I’ve come to accept this as human nature and just be mindful of the process. 
 I’m reading about the filming of a biography on Sarah Palin. Actress Julianne Moore says “We researched and sourced this as well as we could, but every experience is perceived through somebody’s worldview. You could do a ‘Rashomon’ kind of thing with this story and come out with a different version every single time. Is it the truth? Yeah, but the storyteller’s truth.” Reproducing actual dialogue is another trick. According to Moore: “As important as it was for me to nail down Palin’s great northern accent, with its sing-song musicality, I also had to master the rhythm of her phrasing, which is kind of baroque. She pauses at odd intervals between phrases and sometimes emphasizes prepositions, rather than verb-phrases, like “I need to make a decision” rather than “I need to make a decision.” They depict Palin as a caring mother and an inspiration. Moore said she felt she understood the tremendous stress Palin must have been under serving as governor and the mother of five children, including a pregnant teenage daughter and a son headed to war. “Then she is thrust on the national stage and subsequently asked not to be herself, to do it somebody else's way ..imagine how hard would that be?” Even so, Palin and her team have lambasted the movie as a “sick fiction.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

False sense of consistency

I’ve never known anybody who didn’t contradict something they said before. Myself included. So it doesn’t surprise me when I hear it coming from the President of the United States. The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted, “terrorists be brought to justice in U.S. federal courts rather than executed by military tribunals.” Last year however, Obama ordered the execution of an American-born terrorist (Anwar Awlaki) in a military drone-attack overseas. Today, Atty Gen Eric Holder said “..the president has the authority to target and kill American citizens overseas when those individuals pose a threat to this country .. the executive branch does not require judicial oversight or court order to do so.” So now republicans want the administration to explain why this doesn’t square with statements they made in the past. Since it’s not in our nature to be consistent with everything we say in the past; I say we let it go and move on. However, I don’t think it’s in our nature to understand that it’s not in our nature. Makes me wonder if the things we dislike in others are often the things we blindly dislike in ourselves. That’s probably why I hate politicians so much.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A fake veneer

We’re rarely in a position to see causal relationships directly. We know them mostly by the effects they have on us locally ..or what we hear from others who claim to have been there. Most often what we hear is ‘the most likely’ cause .. passed down 2nd or 3rd hand from news reporters. What I like is when we get it directly from the source ..and even they admit they can’t see it either they also give us the most likely cause. For example, the Klamath is seeing a tremendous boost in salmon this year. The fishermen can’t see the reason. “Nothing dramatic has changed ..most likely due to healthy stream flows in the Klamath.” Oceanographers say “fewer predators” Others credit the efforts of Native Americans to protect fish habitats. I like what Kristen Boyles (attorney for Earthjustice) says “Since this boost occurred outside the expectations of both conservationists and the fishing industry ..the battle between environmental protection versus economic activity is most likely a fake veneer covering up a much larger cycle of events occurring outside the narrow interest of individuals.”