PIXAR’s life lessons

8 Dark Life Lessons Kids Learn From Pixar Films
http://www.cracked.com/blog/8-dark-life-lessons-kids-learn-from-pixar-films/

While there are a large number of articles at Cracked that are funny, every now and again you get one that is funny and thoughtful. Actually I take that back: they have lots that are funny and thoughtful; every now and then I find one that is funny and thoughtful and I want to blog about it…

I hadn’t thought about things the way the author has, I sort of sat back and just enjoyed the movies, but everything the author talks about is dead on. PIXAR is really giving kids a valuable education even if it never winds up on the SOL exams and doing it in a way where PIXAR makes tons of money, the kids have a great time and even adults can enjoy themselves. What an amazing combination!

Anyway, just had to ‘retweet’ this…

Living in a Vacuum

The Judgy Bubble
http://blog.dilbert.com/post/124157118906/the-judgy-bubble

Yet another interesting post by Scott. If you show to other people that you will be an asshole if they reveal certain information, what is the chance they will do so? Pretty slim, wouldn’t you think? That is the gist of his short post. Thus if you are a judgmental asshole you could actually be living in a different world from your family, friends and neighbors, because people would self-censor around you just to avoid hearing you mouth off. Quite an interesting concept, it helps to explain the ‘echo chamber‘. If you annoy the crap out of people who are the slightest bit critical of you, except for a few select assholes who love to piss those sorts of people off, you should expect that the vast majority of people will simply stop being honest with you. If no one around you will point out your idiocy why should anyone expect you would have even the tiniest thought that you were a moron incapable of seeing reality?

It is always nice to hear a theory that seems to fit all the facts. This one allows for some experimentation as well, such as what if you could isolate someone from his or her echo chamber, could you get them to acknowledge they’ve been in one?

Making bail unattainable

Jailed for Being Broke
A broken bail system makes poor defendants collateral damage in modern policing strategies
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/jailed-for-being-broke-20150623

More proof of the great country we all live in. Matt, once again, has an excellent article that should be required reading for all. I am sure, though, that there are plenty of people incapable of realizing what a crime against society this bail business is. As he points out, bail is supposed to _only_ be to ensure the defendant shows up at trial or if there is clear and compelling evidence that the defendant is a danger to society. I haven’t personally had any dealings with the arcana of the bail system, but I have had friends and coworkers who have. In one occasion a coworker’s son had a minor charge in Virgina that, because he is a young stupid punk, he had been ignoring and for which an arrest warrant was made. He was pulled over for some infraction in Maryland where they saw the Virginia warrant and he wound up in jail for a couple of weeks while being extradited. Then several more weeks before bail could be negotiated (in his case the bail was needed because he had already demonstrated he was a dickhead). I left before I could see the resolution, but I expect that he spent well over a month in jail for a minor crime he had yet to be convicted of, all because he was too lazy/stupid to follow the rules. In this case, at least, he brought it all on himself, but the story that Matt describes it seems clear that the problems were all because of our dysfunctional ‘justice’ system.

It has come to this: in America it is now a crime to be poor!

Being Muslim in America

Major Questions Remain Unanswered in Boston Killing of Alleged ISIS Beheading Plotter
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/10/major-questions-remain-unanswered-killing-alleged-boston-isis-beheading-plotter/

I have been on the verge of commenting on this several times. It is interesting to me that the only place I am seeing this sort of commentary is on the The Intercept. When I first saw commentary on this whilst watching TV my radar pricked up a bit. The vast amount of ‘corroborating’ information that this guy was an ISIS terrorist was amazing, a flood of it, almost all from anonymous sources. In my recollection when something like this happens ‘for real’ the information trickles out over a long period, there is lots of contradictory statements and generally the authorities are upset when information is leaked. This situation was/is almost the exact opposite which makes me very suspicious. Reading the article which details the details (which you rarely get on a 30 second TV spot) and it is clear that there is a whitewash going on.

  • The supposed damning video is as far from damning as it is possible to get, there is not a shred of confirmation you can get from viewing it
  • If, as the police claim, they wanted to question the guy, why aren’t they wearing uniforms and identifying themselves as police? (based on what I have heard from witnesses, they never identified themselves, just started shooting)
  • The ‘evidence’ that the guy is a radical Islamic terrorist is a joke, to put it in its best possible light
  • The idea that he has been under surveillance supposedly radicalized to the point the FBI is convinced he is running around wanting to behead cops only further makes a mockery of their suggestion they only wanted to question him

Read the article for more, then there is this interesting one:

Florida Imam Who Claimed to Be Covert Government Operative Is Accused of Terrorism
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/06/09/abu-taubah-case/

Our government actually wants to tack on 20 years to an already spurious charge based on the “Islamist” books he possessed. That’s right, boys and girls, our great government wants to imprison this guy because he has a book!

Do you really think this will stop with Muslims? Do you really think the conservative right-wing Tea Party nut jobs won’t use this exact same fucked up logic to ‘disappear’ people they don’t like? Our government already kills US citizens with charges, trial or conviction! This is going to get far worse if we don’t decided to give a damn, guaranteed!

Why inner city blacks are so damn angry

Two interesting articles by Matt Taibbi that explain in detail why inner city people, particularly blacks, but I am sure also Latinos and likely even whites who live in those neighborhoods, are so damn angry with the cops. The first:

A Bad Arrest, on Video
If this incident hadn’t been captured on tape, Jaleel Fields might be another black male convicted for no good reason
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/videos/a-bad-arrest-on-video-jaleel-fields-20150526

Is specifically about a single incident that, had it not been for video, would no doubt have been forgotten. Luckily for the plaintiff in this case, his lawyer was able to get the video and the prosecution promptly dropped the charges. Interestingly, nothing happened to the cops, where the second story gets all the more interesting:

Why Baltimore Blew Up
It wasn’t just the killing of Freddie Gray. Inside the complex legal infrastructure that encourages — and covers up — police violence
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-baltimore-blew-up-20150526

I strongly urge my reader(s) to take a look at the whole article, this excerpt is just one of many instances detailed (out of no doubt 10’s of thousands of events that happen _every year_):

Of course, where bureaucracy fails to cover things up, simple racism often steps in. Just ask Makia Smith, a 33-year-old accountant who grew up not far from where the Baltimore protests broke out. “I was on my way back from Wendy’s,” she says, recounting an incident in East Baltimore from March 2012. “My two-year-old daughter was in the back, in a car seat.”

Caught in traffic, Smith noticed a commotion, with a gang of police officers surrounding a young suspect. As she later alleged in a civil complaint, the boy was on the ground and one of the cops seemed to be getting dangerously aggressive. Concerned, Smith opened the door of her car and held up her phone as though filming the scene. “I was hoping that if they saw me,” she says, “then maybe they would stop doing what they were doing.”

Instead, she alleges, the following took place: An officer, later identified as Nathan Church, rushed at her, screaming, she says, “You want to film something, bitch? Film this!” Frightened, Smith tried to get back in her car. Church took her phone, smashed it on the ground and kicked it down the street. Then he dragged her out by her hair, at which point she momentarily blacked out. Eventually, she claims, police threw her on the hood of her Saturn, where she snapped awake and saw her two-year-old wailing in the back seat. She began to panic: If she got arrested, who would take care of the baby?

According to Smith’s complaint, police told her, in about the least reassuring manner possible, that child protective services was coming to take her daughter. It’s an example of how completely black America distrusts the police and the government that Smith chose to allow a little girl standing on the side of the road, a stranger, to take her baby for her, rather than give the child to CPS. As she was dragged off to that seemingly omnipresent paddy wagon, Smith called out her mother’s cellphone number, so that the little girl could get in touch with the baby’s grandmother.

Smith ended up in jail overnight and didn’t reunite with her daughter until 24 hours later. Playing the usual game of police-abuse chicken, authorities hit her with a list of charges, ranging from assault in the second degree against a police officer (“They say I took on four healthy male officers,” she says), to resisting, to a host of traffic offenses.

Smith, an educated young woman, did everything right after the incident, hiring a lawyer and successfully navigating the traps and land mines designed to make cases like hers go away. She never signed away her right to sue, never allowed the case to be expunged, never took a pennies-on-the-dollar deal that would have let the police off the hook.

And what happened? The police denied her allegations, claiming the arrest was legitimate, and she watched her case implode in what’s supposed to be the corruption-proof stage of the process, a trial by a jury of her “peers.”

“The cops’ defense team struck every black witness,” she says, and her case was heard by an all-white jury, which ultimately found the police innocent of misconduct.

Some of the stats are amazing:

So when O’Malley started his version of Broken Windows, he had a mandate, and it’s not surprising that Baltimore’s program was wildly aggressive. At its peak, in 2005, an incredible 108,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents were arrested.

So, that year you had nearly a 2 in 10 chance getting arrested in that area. No matter what color or socioeconomic status you are, that is enough to make you angry as hell. As detailed in the article, each arrest (many, if not the majority, are never prosecuted!) costs you several days, so a huge interruption in your life and potentially costing you your job. The wonder is these people have put up with this so long, but the rest of America is so quick to dismiss their anger and resentment you have to live there or have friends/relatives live there to even be aware of it. So sad that it took the death of people to even get the attention of the rest of the country, but I have to assume things will get worse before they get better.

Ain’t it great to be an American?!

Burn it! Burn it all down!

How to demolish the oligarchy in 3 easy steps
American democracy has been tainted by lobbying and corporate interests. How do we fix it? Blow it all up
http://www.salon.com/2015/04/24/how_to_demolish_the_oligarchy_in_3_easy_steps/

This is a nice clean summary of some of the pivotal sources of inequality in our ‘great nation’. This doesn’t require that the rich pay higher taxes (though they certainly should), it only requires that parasites on our dysfunctional system get shed for the greatest good for the greatest number…

We have six separate, major American health care programs, with different streams of revenue and based on different systems

America’s health care policies are a dog’s breakfast. America’s retirement policies are a dog’s breakfast that a dog barfed up later.

By my count, that’s four distinct major retirement systems in the U.S.

Education? We have public provision: public K-12 and public community colleges and state universities. Outside of this system of direct public educational provision, we have a separate system of federal student loans. And a third system of federal grants. And because three incompatible systems of aiding higher education are not enough—this is America!—we have yet a fourth, completely different system of tax-favored college savings accounts. America’s system of funding higher education is not quite as insanely complicated as our health care and retirement systems. But we’re getting there!

The political scientist Steven Teles calls this kind of baroque public policy “kludgeocracy.” Another way to describe it would be that Rube Goldberg gets elected and promotes various goals—health care, retirement security, educational access—by means of needlessly elaborate contraptions involving candles, levers, and gerbils running on wheels.

Who benefits from this complexity? Lobbyists, tax preparers, accountants, and rent-seeking parasites in the private sector who figure out how to game these needlessly elaborate systems to skim money from taxpayers and rate payers. Complexity is the friend of corruption. Simplicity, on the other hand, promotes democracy.

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Fantasy? In the short term, sure. The well-paid parasites who profit from complexity will see to that. But there are two kinds of politics: Moving the ball and moving the goal-posts. This is about moving the goal-posts. This is about the next generation, not the next election.

Rome was not built in a day, and the antiquated, crumbling, rat-infested fire hazard that is American public policy will not be condemned, demolished and replaced by a clean, modern, solid structure overnight. But the sooner we start the demolition, the better. In the meantime, “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none” would make a good campaign slogan in 2016.

AA for Obesity

Diet and exercise not enough, obesity experts say
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/diet-exercise-treatment-for-obese-patients/

There is increasing evidenced that many chronically obese people are that way because of the gut flora (e.g.), so if this is a medically treatable condition, what distinguishes it from any other disease? If it is a disease, why not treat it that way instead of shaming people and blaming their size on their lack of impulse control?

Of course, we in America like to blame people for things largely outside of their control, so naturally we won’t stop blaming fatties for being so.

‘Expensive’ placebos work better than ‘cheap’ ones!

Does getting ‘expensive’ drug affect how much patient benefits?
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/aaon-dg012215.php

Since I talk about the placebo effect from time to time I figure this might be interesting to my reader(s)…

For the study, 12 people with Parkinson’s disease were told that they would receive shots of two formulations of the same drug, with the second shot given after the first shot wore off. They were told that the formulations were believed to be of similar effectiveness, but that they differed in manufacturing cost–$100 per dose versus $1,500 per dose. Participants were told that the study was intended to prove that the drugs, while priced differently, were equally effective.

In reality, the participants received only a saline solution for both injections, but were told they were receiving either the “cheap” or “expensive” drug first. Before and after each shot, participants took several tests to measure their motor skills and also had brain scans to measure brain activity.

When people received the “expensive” drug first, their motor skills improved by 28 percent compared to when they received the “cheap” drug. On one test of motor skills, people’s scores improved by seven points when taking the “expensive” drug first, but improved by only three points when taking the “cheap” drug.

Forming your own echo chamber

The propagandists have won: What Fox News and the pornography revolution have in common
Truthiness has replaced truth. Now that we all have our own facts, we may rue the day we personalized the news
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/21/the_propagandists_have_won_what_fox_news_and_the_pornography_revolution_have_in_common/

I rant about ‘sheeple‘ a lot here and am often frustrated trying to understand why we are that way. While this book excerpt (here is the book on Amazon; I haven’t bought it because I already haven’t read a pile of books I have purchased in the past) doesn’t exactly explain _why_ we are so stupidly credulous, it does describe how we are getting better and better at being so.

There are a lot of interesting parts in the excerpt, the author seems to be a good writer, insofar as turning a phrase. I particularly like how she likens our search for ‘real’ pornography with our search for ‘real’ news (where ‘real’ basically is just confirming our preconceived notions).

Anyway, I encourage my reader(s) to at least take a look at the excerpt…

Whose side are _you_ on?

Free speech and state power: Americans shouldn’t feel complacent about French hypocrisy
Yeah, the French look like merde arresting a comedian for a Facebook post. But we’re free-speech hypocrites too
http://www.salon.com/2015/01/17/free_speech_and_state_power_americans_shouldnt_feel_complacent_about_french_hypocrisy/

Another thoughtful article on Salon; though to be fair, Salon is really a liberal Fox News and tend to spew hysterical left-leaning nonsense (as opposed to the right-leaning nonsense of Fox). Since Greenwald left (he is currently at the Intercept) I have to admit that I don’t spend much time there and often scroll through the Salon main page and don’t even read a single article. However, this one caught my eye as something that gets right to the heart of this ‘free speech’ matter. I will toss out a few quotes in an effort to get my reader(s) to take a deeper look…

In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans eagerly surrendered a wide range of constitutional rights and liberties in the name of an imaginary security. We have accepted a subtly restricted zone of free speech – where we “watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,” in the Rumsfeldian phrase — and have entirely abandoned our traditional conception of privacy rights. It’s not entirely coincidental that the censorious jingoism and groupthink of the Fox News right finds a faint echo on the left, in campus speech codes and similar phenomena designed to purge public discourse of sexism or racism or homophobia. Both sides accept the premise that suppressing undesirable forms of expression is a valid use of power.

We, as a nation of sheeple, neither have, nor deserve security. This goes for ‘free’ speech as well. When the only ‘free’ speech is speech that identifies with those in power (“watch what we say, [and] watch what we do,”) and the ability to be critical of the government or any institution within or without it (hello religious right wing!) is absent then there is no free speech. ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.’

What we have here in the good old USofA is just a half step from being the French way of ‘free’ speech.

I have no desire to revisit the tiresome debate among leftists and liberals about whether or not to embrace Charlie Hebdo, which was always a distraction from more urgent political issues. But this was precisely the question: What was Charlie Hebdo’s relationship to power? Was it an equal-opportunity, anti-authoritarian gadfly, as its defenders professed? Or did it consistently “punch down,” by mocking the faith of a despised and marginalized minority on behalf of a racist power structure? Implicit in the question lay the idea that, if the latter theory were borne out, Charlie Hebdo’s so-called freedom was not freedom at all and not worth defending. In the utopian society that lay just over the horizon it would be banned by righteous edict, or at least shamed into nonexistence.

Everything I have read about Charlie indicates he is (was) a frothing-at-the-mouth islamaphobe and was far from an ‘equal opportunity’ gadfly. As such, his ability to rant about the “despised and marginalized minority” has nothing to do with freedom of speech. I also find incredibly hypocritical “those prominent politicians who marched for freedom of expression in Paris”. However, since sheepleness seems a state of being human, I guess it shouldn’t be unexpected at all.

Beneath the complicated and contradictory debate over free speech lies an essential philosophical conflict that doesn’t get discussed openly enough. In American terms, it is often depicted as the division between wild-eyed right-wing libertarians (and a much smaller number of wild-eyed left-wing anarchists) and the normal people who want a normal government. But here’s a telegram from Captain Obvious, or maybe from Mr. Orwell: We don’t have a normal government, people. The conflict over the nature and purpose of state power cannot be boiled down to conventional binaries like right vs. left, or Islam vs. the West, or democracy vs. terrorism, or capitalism vs. whatever-can-be-said-to-oppose capitalism, although it intersects with all those things in unpredictable ways. Either you embrace the idea of state power – the power of your own state, or somebody else’s, or an imaginary state yet to come — as a tool for purifying minds and hearts, encouraging good speech and driving out the bad kind, or you don’t. It’s time to be clear about which side we’re on.

So, whose side are you on? The police state or the people?