Saturday, September 26, 2015

Equality, Equality...

Of course we Americans value the words of the Declaration of Independence or we're supposed to, anyway.  Some time ago I wrote some thoughts about it.  Although I haven't read the book (I still might someday...) I have enjoyed seeing the author of Our Declaration, Danielle Allen,on Booktv.  On a recent appearance, she noted we don't seem to have many 'sayings' about equality as we have about say - freedom.

That got me thinking.  'Why not?' and 'If not, why don't we start creating them?'

My mind almost immediately thought of a passage from the song "The Farmer and the Cowman" from the musical Oklahoma! - this passage delivered by the character Aunt Eller:

 I'd like to teach you all a little sayin'
And learn the words by heart the way you should
I don't say I'm no better than anybody else,
But I'll be damned if I ain't just as good!

To me, that goes to the heart of equality: the sense that we all are equally valuable human beings.  Dr. Allen  thought that there are so many aspects to equality - moral equality, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, and maybe more, if I remember some of what she said correctly.  I suppose that this passage speaks so very clearly to MORAL equality.  My feeling is that recognizing and honoring moral equality certainly would help to point us toward equality in other respects.  So of course I feel we should all work toward making this a reality to and for everyone.

However, we still have to fight for equality before the law, equality of opportunity and other equalities regardless of how folks feel.  For example, I love the scene in Lincoln where Thaddeus Stevens turns the tables on one of the anti - 13th Amendment representatives, noting that however reprehensible and unequal he felt that fellow was, even he was entitled to be equal before the law.  So we must start insisting that folks be given equality before the law; regardless of their circumstances or the way some folks might feel about "them."  We must fight for programs and policies to promote equality of opportunity for all.  We must continue to spread the word that "All men - and women - are created equal..."

Oh yes, back to the idea of creating sayings about equality.  Well, being both a strong proponent of equality and a math person, here's my shot:

"Equality - not just a word you heard in Math class!" 

More ideas???  Feel free to share in comments!  And here's the visual - an original graphic:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fantasy Sports - Just Hand Over Your Money - UPDATED!

Hello, Readers ----  good to see page views but some comments would be AWESOME!  Would just love to hear from some of you: your thoughts, insights, rants (civil, of course), whatever.  What's going on with you?

Here in the good ol' U. S. A., it's football season again.  Sorry to say my Seahawks are 0 - 2 (ummm - what's going on, guys?), but that's not what has me ranting right now.

You've probably seen ads for them on tv - fantasy football sites that promise pretty good payoffs. What???  It seems there's always someone waiting to take someone else's money.  And to be honest, I can't think of what else these sites have been created for.

Supposedly these sites are for fun and excitement,  but do folks think about the REALITY of them?  They may promise payoffs, but I'm quite sure they're not in business to lose money, so how are they going to pay off winners if a lot of "users" don't lose?  Do folks who sign up  and the networks and shows that accept their sponsorships think about that?  I also include online gaming sites as needing our disdain (more in a moment...).

Found this recent article at NPR News about just these sorts of sites.  Two things the article brings out that are really concerning about this:  1)  some of the investors are mentioned in the article --- including some sports leagues, teams and some networks, etc.; does this really show respect for fans? and 2) consider this:  "And while players on FanDuel, DraftKings and other sites put up money for a chance to win a lot more, it's not considered betting — thanks to an exemption in a 2006 law regulating online gambling."  As some commenters noted - how, exactly is this different from gambling?  I think the potential for real harm to individuals is quite clear (as did some other commenters).It's too easy to get hooked, thinking - oh, I'll win NEXT week. It would be easy for losses to keep piling up, though, waiting for that win.  I would counsel someone to never go near these sites even with that proverbial ten-foot pole.

To be sure, the lure of "easy money" can be enticing.  But if we either learn from experience or take a step back, we'll see that things that are too good to be true - most often definitely aren't.  I hope that folks will STOP using such sites. SHAME on the networks and shows who accept their advertising.  And DOUBLE SHAME  on the creators of them and the investors.


Would you believe a manager on one of these sites released data on fantasy teams, then bet and won big on another site?   The story is here.

Would you belieeve the SEC Network will no longer accept commercials from FanDuel and Draft Kings?  Good for them.  Now, can we get other networks to follow?  

Would you believe that fans really need to "Get Smart"?  Maybe we should assign Agents 86 and 99 to the case. :-) 

A Congressman from NJ is calling for hearings on fantasy sites! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Here - International Day of Peace 2015

Is everyone thinking peaceful thoughts today?  
This is indeed International Day of Peace. 

My poetic offering:

Bridges Not Walls

Bridges not walls
Island to island, continent to continent
Spanning oceans ,seas. rivers, lakes,

Mountains, canyons, plains, borders
Connecting hearts and minds and hands
To partner with meditations and prayers for peace
To seek new thoughts for new solutions
To enable working together for human dignity
We must crisscross the globe with bridges of peace,
Never stopping until men, women, and children all flock together
As doves bearing sweet olive branches.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Language(s) of Peace

Gearing up for the International Day of Peace on Monday? 

 My Original Graphic - "Peace Mosaic"

I had thought of a word cloud also including some other languages' words for peace other than English and Latin.  But of course, it would be a real project to include all I could find...and I hated to only include a few representatives as I had planned. 

But it did make me think that since there WAS a word for peace in so many languages, there must be some longing on the part of most peoples for PEACE.  So it should indeed be our aspiration!

And in case you're curious and/or interested, you can find a great list of words for peace in many languages here.  And see if you notice the name of a one time space station there!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Day of Peace is Coming...


 "My Original Graphic - 'PeaceBelieve' "

Time really flies, doesn't it?  International Day of Peace is almost here again.  Sponsored by the U. N., it is observed every September 21.

This year's theme is:  "Partnerships for Peace - Dignity for All"

You can view and even download the poster and postcard !

Found this quote from Nelson Mandela which really fits the theme:   "If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." ~ Nelson Mandela

There will be a synchronized meditation for peace on the 19th.  Unbfortunately I don't find their site really very usable...

And I invite all to click on "peace" in the tag cloud on the right sidebar to read all my previous posts about peace as we get ready!

And let's not forget music.  Here's the "Raga for Peace" performed at the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Have You Noticed - 2

There's been so much going on it was hard to decide what to write about.  So how about a listing of a few items which may have gone unnoticed:

1.  There was a recent drone strike by the UK that targeted UK citizens in Syria.  Turns out the UK has a "kill list" - as does the U. S..  The Guardian has an article discussing the strike and the fallout.
I find these extrajudicial killings and the very existence of these "kill lists" abominable.  I run out of words to describe my disgust.  Personally, I would love to see all drones, military, law enforcement, spy, even private and commercial drones permanently banned.  Would love to see them all scrapped.  Are there potentially good uses for them?  Maybe, but the abuses are just so horrible and so likely to keep happening if we don't get them reigned in, and soon, that I just find them too problematic to be even allowed in the air.

2.  Related to Item 1 - North Dakota has just allowed police drones to be manned with nonlethal weapons.  Of course, we must remember that these things CAN cause health problems, injury, or in some cases, even death.  Let's not even think of where this could lead.  Fargo is right now saying no. 

3.   The fantastic Meryl Streep e-mailed all 535 members of Congress to urge them to support the Equal Rights Amendment.  She received a grand total of 5, yes, 5 replies.  Read about this here.  I'm wondering who the 5 members of Congress were who actually did reply.  They should as least get some points for that!  Maybe we should all think about doing something to support reviving the ERA.

4.   In regard to stingrays:  "Finally, federal law enforcement will be required to get a judge-signed warrant before using the tool. They’ll have have to delete the data of innocent people immediately, and clearly explain to judges what they’re doing."  You can read the rest of Trevor Timm's take here.  A lot of commenters are not nearly so optimistic as Timm, who does say the battle for privacy is not nearly over.  However, we need to seize any ray of hope and keep pressing on.

So, there are a few things to think about.  Feel free to share your thoughts or to share any items we may not have noticed in comments!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Think Causes Not Just Symptoms

Many of us are concerned with issues of torture, mass surveillance, over-militaristic policing, and maybe social justice and income inequality. My heart is also breaking for so many of the migrants facing such dangers just to escape a terrible situation. 

I also think that we look at these issues and try to act sometimes in even small ways. But I wonder if we often miss some of the underlying causes of which these are just symptoms. We apply "band-aids" but don't go deeper.

I believe one of the root causes is that we are being treated as commodities; i.e., worth only what we can buy or what value our data will have. The endless ad pitches, the skewing of the justice system in favor of the economically favored/well-connected, the mining of our data by corporations(and by the gov’t as there is too much seamlessness now) to which we all are often too eager to allow.  I have written about mainly television advertising (which just seems to keep getting worse) in this blog post.  There is also the matter of the ubiquitous internet ads.  You know, the annoying ones that almost take over a page or start playing videos or animation automatically.  And some sites are so littered with ads (static and/or video) it's sometimes difficult to find the content.  Having an adblocker at least can help here.  But there's also the matter of public space ads. Here is a great article about that subject spotlighting a recent book and the idea that our attention is too often commodified   And much has been written about digital surveillance and data mining... so I won't go into that here, except to say don't get me started on Windows 10!

I think another root cause is that we believe that violence is the way to settle problems. This is shown in many ways from domestic violence to street violence to torture to terrorism to war. We also can't forget the violence portrayed in our media entertainment: television, movies, video games, etc..  There's a lot of debate about the effect such media have, but I do believe that they at least desensitize us somewhat to violence. 

I think a third root cause, semi-related to the other two, is that we fail to recognize certain other humans as – well – HUMANS. I think this is usually because of some kind of training or propaganda (as the song from “South Pacific” says – “You’ve got to be carefully taught…to hate”). This quote from Melville’s novel, mentioned in BenjaminAP’s recent link posted to The Intercept, is on point: “Still, there is something in us, somehow, that, in the most degraded condition, we snatch at a chance to deceive ourselves into a fancied superiority to others, whom we suppose lower in the scale than ourselves.” So much truth in that, I think. So, if we really saw our fellows as fellow human beings, would we hate or torture them?

I’ll even go for a fourth root cause: there seems to be less and less critical thinking and also too much blind following of authoritarian constructs. Look at the entertainment so many “watch”; look at school curricula which seem to have really downplayed critical thinking; look at the defenders of authoritarianism who seem to come out of the woodwork on discussion boards online (some may be trolls, but I don’t think they all are).  We need to encourage questioning, independent thought, and the critical evaluation of  "official explanations."

I submit that, as well as addressing the symptoms, we need to really start addressing the ROOT CAUSES of some of our current problems.