Tag Archives: Gary Nolan

The Best Intentions Are Not Justification For Intervention

One of the biggest false narratives coming from people on the right, are that those on the left are trying to ruin America. Whether it be political correctness, socialized health care (Single-payer) and/or retirement planning (Social Security), business regulations, social engineering, anti-discrimination laws…the list is a mile long of ways that these folks want to improve America in a very meaningful and altruistic way.

It’s easy to just attack their positions if you look at it from the view of the people they’re trying to change. Political correctness stifles free speech. Socialized health care and retirement planning takes money involuntarily and by force from the earner, and often gives to someone who didn’t earn it. Business regulations cost entrepreneurs money, making it difficult for small businesses to compete when their funds are diverted from inventory, research, and development to compliance attorneys who do absolutely zero, from a return-on-investment scenario.

I’ve always staunchly argued that for something to be fairly deemed moral, one person cannot be remedied by wronging another, especially through force. So while I applaud the left for wanting to help promote compassion, tolerance, and general well-being for all Americans, it is my firm opinion, they’re severely misguided in many of their arguments.

While I could speak about the issues above ad nauseam, I want to discuss the anti-discrimination efforts specifically in this post.

From a scientific perspective, diversity (specifically genetic diversity) is paramount to our ecosystem. Having organisms with different genetic makeup insures that natural selection will continue to evolve past challenges that face all life on Earth. So attacking our differences as if they’re a flaw, is quite the fallacious argument. As such, I would never argue that somehow discrimination is a good or productive thing.

But that being said, there are varying types of discrimination. Instinctive discrimination for instance, is where a person subconsciously puts one person over another without even thinking about it, and with no ill will meant towards the person being discriminated against.

There’s also conscious discrimination, where people purposefully segregate themselves or others, but not through hate, just through a desire to associate with others like themselves. For instance an exercise club that’s only for women, or a golf club that only allows men. While I think there’s no benefit that really comes from that, it’s wrong for someone else to impose upon you that you may not do it.

There’s altruistic discrimination, such as organizations that help a particular race, sex, religion, etc., like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The National Organization for Women (NOW), or a myriad of different religious organizations. Such groups aim to help advance their own cause, while not working to degrade anyone else doing so. Typically, they argue that they’re not given the same opportunities as others, and therefore only want to level the playing field, not put themselves above anyone.

Then of course, there’s the ugly side—hateful discrimination like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, and other groups whose intent is to advance their own kind at the expense of another. While all forms of discrimination can have unintended bad consequences, this one is by far the worst. Its negative consequences are precisely intended—being the only one specifically intended to denigrate others.

While there can be no doubt that hateful discrimination should be quashed in all it’s forms to the betterment of society, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it.

When you try to force someone out of that mindset, you may publicly suppress it, but you’re also quite likely to just make those folks even more hateful deep down inside. Occasionally, such oppression drives those with little self-control into a rage that leads to an act of violence. Such unintended consequences are the worst possible outcome, and the polar opposite of what helps the cause.

The other issue this often brings up, is that if it’s not your cross to bear, maybe those you’re trying to help don’t want your help. You have no right to dictate when someone else should be offended, nor to anoint yourself the arbiter of what is offensive to others.

For instance, several years ago, a movement to get the Washington Redskins NFL football team to change their name started brewing. Many people were altruistically trying to help end an example of what they saw as racism. But as it turned out, as shown in this poll published in the Washington Post, nearly 90% of the people these caring crusaders were fighting for felt it was much ado about nothing. If they aren’t bothered by it, then no one outside their community should be dictating that somehow they should be.

On a side note, I’d also like to argue that something meant as a compliment should not be considered an insult. The Redskins organization has never shown an ounce of ill will towards the Native American community. While those tribes certainly have a right to not like the name, and even speak out if they find it offensive, one should at least draw a distinction between something that might offend someone versus something that was meant to be an insult. It’s like the difference between manslaughter and murder.

While ending discrimination is a lofty goal to pursue, there are a couple of points people should keep in the back of their mind.

First: Are you the one being discriminated against? If not, feel free to support those who are. However, if they don’t ask you to fight alongside them, fighting for them anyway, is disrespectful instead of helpful. It effectively argues, “You don’t know what’s best for you, but I do.”

Most people neither appreciate, nor respect that. So you’re not helping anyone. Although your intentions are good, it’s discriminatory and disrespectful nonetheless to be a busybody fighting someone’s battle for them when they didn’t ask you to, nor want you to.

Second: Was the person doing the discriminating trying to harm someone else at the expense of helping themselves? If not, then it’s not worth starting a fight over. You can certainly engage in a conversation about why you think it might be a bad thing to do, but it’s important to remember that the reason we try to prevent discrimination is to prevent someone being harmed. So if no one is in fact harmed or feels like they were wronged, then there’s no reason to go on the attack.

Jungle Gym

Three: Gauge whether the person that said or did something you might find offensive actually meant offense. If you’re not sure, ask questions instead of assuming the worst. You might find that they just misspoke, meant well, or are just asking questions. Being easily offended isn’t helping anyone.

Decades ago, I remember reading a story about an older teacher in her sixties (light-skinned) who was supervising her elementary school class on recess. The playground had a jungle gym, and the kids were playing on it. The teacher, engaging with one of the kids who was dark-skinned, commented to that child that the child was “swinging on the jungle gym like a little monkey.”

Word of this got to the parent, and offense was taken. It was assumed the teacher was using a racial slur against the child. While we cannot know what was in the teacher’s heart, the fact is, swinging from trees is a pretty common practice for monkeys, and the comparison made by the teacher could have been 100% about what the kid was doing, and 0% about what the kid looked like. She may have said the same thing to a light-skinned child and this would have never been a story. If so, it wasn’t discriminatory in any way, and now the teacher being made to look bad, is the only victim in the above scenario.

Juvenile Borneo Orangutan Pongo pygmaeus swinging from tree branches Tanjung Puting National Park Kalimantan Indonesia

To be fair, it could also be true, the teacher was an incredibly racist person. I’ve met more than one sweet old lady, that felt comfortable saying some awful racist things because we shared a common skin tone. So I’m not arguing it wasn’t possible the teacher didn’t mean anything bad, I’m only arguing she could have meant nothing bad, and maybe asking questions about her intentions were more in order than assuming the worst of her.

(I tried to find a link to the story, but I think it’s too old, and not living on the internet. But as I recall, she was not noted as having any history of bigoted actions.)

We should all want to end discrimination, but it should be done through education, reasonable discussion, and sometimes, maybe even public shaming if combatting intentionally offensive behavior. But always remember that fighting for someone else must be done at the request of, or along side of the person being discriminated against. You may mean well for taking on the cause yourself, but you’re often being bigoted doing so, and don’t even know it.

Exploring the Hyperbole, Myths, and Inaccuracies of Gun Legislation Politics and Discourse

Gun laws are a pretty sensitive subject in America, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on. But it shouldn’t be.

Indeed they are our constitutional right, and I support that right whole-heartedly. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be fair, and debate respectfully on the subject with those who may hold a different view. After this last election, I hope we can all agree civility in political discourse has a lot of room for improvement.

People who argue with logic and reason, are far more likely to encourage more to side with them than people who insult, lie, yell, and behave anything but adult-like.

So with that being said, let’s break down a few of the common myths often bandied about regarding guns.

MYTH #1: They’re trying to take our guns

Any time Democrats propose new gun legislation, Republicans immediately go on the defensive and rile up the base by insinuating their opponents are trying to entirely disarm the populace.

Armalite AR-15
Armalite AR-15 Semi-Automatic Rifle

But the base is already on their side, there’s no need to get them riled up. Not to mention, it’s entirely dishonest, and most who do it already know that.

Not a single law was proposed in recent history to remove all guns from private citizens, nor did anyone propose repealing the second amendment. If you feel the need to lie about your opponent’s argument to defeat them, think about what that says about you. It says you’re incapable of winning your argument on its merits. When you do this, you’ve already lost the moral and logical high-ground.

The effort should be focused not on the straw man argument that “they’re trying to take our guns,” but instead on the specific regulation being proposed.

A large majority of Americans have a pretty shallow opinion of Congress. In April 2016, this Gallup poll shows that only 17% thought they were doing a good job, 79% however thought they were doing anything but.

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This less than favorable opinion is often due to the constant infighting between the two parties, that is largely full of myths, hyperbole, misdirection, and occasionally bold-faced lies. Neither come off looking like professionals, or even reasonable people.

So the party that strives to be amenable to finding common ground, and deemed as the most civil and honest will win this fight.

The Republicans owned Congress at the time, so a 17% approval rating should be a clear message they’re missing their mark.

Most Democrat-proposed ideas are around more stringent background checks, or limiting certain types of weapons, the latter of which, I think is misguided, but I’ll save that for another time.

Both parties agree that guns shouldn’t be in the hands of violent felons, or those with a diagnosed mental disorder.Firearm sale

But the problem for Republicans often arrives when Democrats propose what might be reasonable background checks, the bill is only one page of such reasonable checks Republicans might be open to agreeing to, but then a myriad of other pages of pork-like special favors for their district or other provisions that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Republicans are just as guilty of doing the same on other issues, so no one party is innocent of this. But if both just stuck to passing simple single-item bills on the issues where they agree, they’d be far more effective and win over the American people.

The best tactic for Republicans would be to first loudly proclaim that they’re willing to look at effective background check legislation and pass the background check attributes both agree on. Propose counter legislation that includes those, and only those, and let the Democrats justify why they won’t vote for it.

Show that you’re willing to find common ground publicly, and emphatically, leaving the Democrats looking like the only ones not willing to work towards progress. If Democrats argue, “these provisions don’t go far enough,” Republicans can simply put it back on them by saying, “This is what we already agree on. So let’s pass this first, and if it doesn’t help, we can discuss further measures later.”

Myth #2: The Gun Show Exemption for Background Checks

Democrats often cite the gun show exemption to background checks as a big problem, and frankly, they’re partly right, even if they’re disingenuous in their presentation of the issue.

The fact is that gun dealers at gun shows do in-fact do background checks. However, if you’re a private person who has a .22 caliber pistol for instance, and you’d like to upgrade to a 9mm pistol, you can take it to the show with you, and if some other private person like you who’s there (not a dealer or vendor) has a 9mm but wants a .22, then you can legally make a private citizen trade. This is just like you would do if your neighbor decided they wanted to sell or trade with you, it just happens on the premises of a gun show.Gun Show

Instead of just shooting down every idea Democrats have, Republicans could admit that maybe there are things that could be done, that aren’t an undue burden on law abiding citizens, to help clean up this “loophole.”

It could be something as simple as having people fill out a background check upon entering the show, if they’re considering buying or trading, and let them shop to their heart’s content from there. If they don’t pass the test, there’s really no reason for them to enter the premises of a gun show in the first place.

While I’m not saying that’s the answer, things like that can certainly be deemed a reasonable measure to prevent guns getting into the wrong hands, and are at least worth discussing in earnest.

Myth #3: Guns are the biggest problem

This well put together bit of data, and rather insightful graphic from the math geniuses at 538 points out that there are approximately 33,000 gun deaths in America each year, and this number is often used to denounce guns in general. But let’s put that in perspective as well as break those numbers down.

As this image from the CDC document found here shows, in 2014, there were 2,626,418 deaths in the United States that year, making 33,000 just above 1.2% of the reasons for death attributable to guns.CDC Cause of Death info from 2014

By comparison, more than double died from diabetes, nearly three times as many from Alzheimer’s (which took my father last month), and nearly twenty times more died from heart disease.

As the 538 article also shows, nearly two-thirds of those gun deaths were suicides, and a small percentage were self defense, or police shootings of criminal suspects.

While I think we all agree suicides are tragic, as a libertarian, I believe that you own your own body, and have the right to end it whenever you like.

My own grandfather was quite ill when he shot himself, and having already lost my grandmother years earlier, he didn’t want to burn through what little he had saved for his kids by chasing a terminal disease. While you may not agree with it, that was his choice and you should respect it.

But no matter what side of suicide you are on, it cannot be fairly called an act of violence, nor the fault of a gun. So those acts should not be considered when discussing gun violence, and I think those with an anti-gun position should be fair when presenting such arguments, no not cite 33,000 number, but instead, the 10,000 or so that were potential murders or manslaughter, versus suicides and justifiable homicides.

All that being said, 10,000 wrongful deaths is still a large number of people, and is incredibly tragic. It is a small percentage, but certainly statistically significant, and Democrats have fair cause to want to do something to lessen that number. Even if we disagree on their proposed methodology, their altruistic intentions should be evident and respected.

Conclusion

These are three of many arguments from both sides that are the first that came to mind to me. But I’m sure you can think of many more.

The bottom line is that Democrats should know most Republicans don’t want to put guns in the hands of bad people. They just don’t want law-abiding citizens to have their rights violated and disagree on how to go about preventing it.

Republicans should know that most Democrats don’t want to disarm America, they want to prevent wrongful deaths, and they think less guns will achieve said goal.

Until both parties in congress, and the party-faithful voters who make their voices heard on social media learn to understand, then be understood, these immature and dishonest tactics will continue to ensure that America doesn’t advance in any meaningful and constructive way.

We’re all smart enough to know better, it’s time we acted like it.

The Abuse and Misuse of Common Words in Politics

Etymology: an explanation of where a word came from : the history of a word

As we all know, words have meanings. Some words are pretty universally understood, but others start as meaning one thing, then become something entirely different in the common vernacular. This is often due to someone who knows the etymology behind the word, sharing it with those who don’t, then those people who don’t sharing it in ways it was not intended for because they didn’t really understand it.17141936-abstract-word-cloud-for-etymology-with-related-tags-and-terms-stock-photo1

So let’s look at a few.

Liberal:  of freedom, pertaining to or befitting a free man

At the root of liberal is liber (also at the root of libertarian, liberty, etc.), a latin word meaning free (man); unimpeded; void of; independent| outspoken/frank; licentious; idle.

These days, this word is often used to be a generic term to describe people who often vote Democrat. Yet Democrat policies often around increased government spending on social programs and wealth redistribution—policies quite contradictory to the “free man” aspect of liberal.

In other countries, “liberal” is often synonymous with libertarian. This is why you hear many liberty-minded people abroad refer to themselves as classic liberals.liberalism-definition-then-and-now1

It is fairly well understood that although Republicans were the party responsible for the civil rights of the black community, both in ending slavery and in the 50s and 60s during the civil rights movement, Republicans have had a shoddy reputation with the gay community, marijuana users, the sex-work industry, and other individuals who seemed to exhibit what Republicans refer to as “deviant” behavior.

Democrats, to their credit, have been quicker to show tolerance towards such people, and in those instances, accurately describe themselves as liberals—or at least more liberal than Republicans. From there, the name just stuck.

America has a pretty anti-socialist history, so when Democrats champion socialistic policies, calling themselves socialists would not typically help their cause, although Bernie Sanders may have disproven that theory. So picking “liberal” over “socialist,” if intentionally used to mislead, would have been pretty smart anyway.

Awareness: having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge

Often when people are championing a cause, they universally just say they want to raise awareness, when they really should be saying money for research or help.bigstock-awareness-level-conceptual-met-518681621

For instance, breast cancer, thanks to efforts by organizations like the Susan B. Komen foundation, is one of the most popular charitable enterprises dedicated to helping millions of women who are, or will be, affected by the disease.

As such, almost everyone is aware of breast cancer—what is needed is money for research.

The term AWAREness started being used correctly as a way to make people more AWARE of causes they may not know about. For instance, the current Zika virus issue, emanating from a foreign country, and just recently migrating to the United States, was largely an unknown in America until the media started raising awareness.

Once people are aware however, you have a better chance of raising money if needed, or if it’s more of a cause to change people’s behavior, such as a new improved health discovery that may be discovered, which is free to do, you just need to make people aware they should do it.

Establishment: a group of social, economic, and political leaders who form a ruling class (as of a nation)

President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Barack Obama delivers a health care address to a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., Sept. 9, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This word is almost entirely derogatory in nature, even though it shouldn’t be. It’s very rare you have a politician willfully claim to be “The Establishment,” due to the negative perception the term has. I’d argue they should claim it proudly, however.

Be proud that you were elected, and proud of the work you’ve done. Let people know that if they’re displeased with “The Establishment,” that maybe it’s not because of them, but instead, the people who didn’t vote with them.

Politicians who are currently elected and serving are the establishment, whether they like that term or not. Those who are not currently sitting, are not. It’s really that simple.

Theory: a coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of factsor phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation

There are multiple versions of the word theory, and it’s important to distinguish them, and not intermix them wrongly.
Some equate the word theory to a simple guess—you have a question, conjure up an answer, and BAM!…theory.
However, a theory isn’t a guess. A theory, in science, is something that has been thoroughly tested, and through such testing, consistently confirmed.
Simply put, a theory has scientific work behind it, and has no conflicting evidence. A guess has zero work behind it, and could just as easily be false as it is true.
Mandate:  the power to act that voters give to their elected leaders
Once elected, when political talking heads start discussing the incoming president or congress, they often ask, “Do you think the incoming president has a mandate?
It’s asked as if mandate is clearly defined in some way, when it simply isn’t. If the elected person won, they have a vote (if in congress), or a veto pen if they’re an executive. If they got the most votes, that means the majority chose them to use those powers in a way that’s commensurate with the ideals. they proclaimed during the election.
There’s no situation, by definition, where one elected official has a mandate while another does not—it’s an entirely subjective term. So when asking the question, it shouldn’t be, “Does this elected official have a mandate?” Instead, it should be, “Do you feel the elected official has a mandate?”

Justice Sotomayor: The Libertarian?

In December 2014, The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Heien v. North Carolina. You can click on the link to read the entirety of the case if interested, but I’ll give you fairly brief synopsis here.

In 2010, a man named Maynor Vasquez was pulled over by police for having one of his two brake lights inoperative. Police observed his friend, Nicholas Heien sleeping in the back seat of the car. Thinking this behavior seemed a little odd, police fairly asked if they could search the car, and were given permission to do so.

Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor Click for Biography
Official Portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Click for Biography

Upon the search, they discovered 54 grams of cocaine in the vehicle, then arrested and convicted Heien of two counts of trafficking, presumably due to the amount larger than one person’s normal usage.

Heien’s lawyer challenged the traffic stop as North Carolina law only requires you have a working brake light, not both of them. As such, council argued the police stopping Vasquez and Heien constituted an illegal stop, and the search was therefore the proverbial “fruit of the poisonous tree,” and should have been thrown out.

Eventually, certiorari was granted, and SCOTUS heard the case in 2014. The court ruled against Heien in an 8:1 decision—Sotomayor being the only dissenter.SCOTUS8-1

During oral arguments, Sotomayor asked the petitioner:

(You can click below for the entire oral arguments transcript)

“So how many citizens have been stopped for one brake light who are asked to have their car searched? And is that something that we as a society should be encouraging?”

It’s fairly common knowledge, that SCOTUS at that time was comprised of what most considered five right-leaning justices, and four left-leaning. Sotomayor being one of the left—as she was appointed by Obama.

The issue at hand was whether Heien’s Constitutional rights were violated by a search under the Fourth Amendment which reads:

“[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

While it is often believed that the left-leaning justices don’t often seem too concerned with the Constitution, if you listen to oral arguments long enough, you start to see both sides indeed heavily use the constitution for the basis of their arguments.

United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016
Justice Antonin Scalia 1960-2016

What’s often the case however, is that some are absolutists, and use the constitution strictly as it’s written.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia was among the most supportive of this notion. In an interview he stated that, “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution. The problem with a living Constitution in a word is that somebody has to decide how it grows and when it is that new rights are – you know — come forth. And that’s an enormous responsibility in a democracy to place upon nine lawyers, or even 30 lawyers.”

However, other justices try to interpret what was intended when the Constitution or its amendments were written, instead of interpreting it solely by its verbiage—referring to the Constitution as a living document. Most notably, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote this piece explaining his ideals.

United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005
United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist 1924-2005

This “Living Document” idea also means that they often try to modernize the Constitution in such a way as to essentially say, “If the framers knew what we know today, this is what they’d have written or done.”

Scalia (and I agree wholeheartedly) would argue that it is for congress to rewrite the Constitution through the amendment process, and that the “Living Constitution” concept is nothing less than legislating from the bench—blurring the lines of the separation of powers intended by creating the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches.

But nonetheless, Justice Sotomayor’s lone dissent, was clearly the only decision made with the Constitution in mind as written, almost stunningly not echoed by the late Justice Scalia and other conservative justices.

The United States Constitution
The United States Constitution

In today’s highly politicized society, we often wish to assume that partisan’s, including justices, are always on the side of their party, but every once in a while, you will find an ally in the most unlikely places, and on this particular issue, the only ally to liberty was Justice Sotomayor, recognizing that you cannot allow police to search someone’s car under a false pretense, and then allow prosecution to proceed accordingly.

I’m often pretty outspoken in my disdain for any politician who is consistently on the wrong side of liberty, but I’ve always said I worship ideals, not people. I just give people credit where it’s due, and attack when I believe it’s warranted. On this day, Justice Sotomayor was right, and she should be commended for it.

 

How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

Why the “Evolution Is Just a Theory” Statement is both Insulting, Ignorant, and Wrong

Ever heard the expression, “Evolution is just a theory”?

It’s often used by creationists who deem the theory of evolution, an observation initially put forth by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species, as an insult to their religion because it isn’t consistent with the accounts of the Bible, Quran, etc.

The notion that all life evolved from a single-celled organism, affectionately known as LUCA (Last Common Universal Ancestor) simply doesn’t jive with being taught that a God created man shortly after the start of time.

Click for more info on LUCA from Georgia Tech Research
Click for more info on LUCA from Georgia Tech Research

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I will explain, albeit quite simplified, why that is a profoundly wrong and insulting statement to make to discredit evolution.

There are generally accepted levels that answers to questions can be given or assigned, from a scientific perspective. Since science is what brought you the theory of evolution, that’s what should be referenced when discussing it.

Because this is a simple blog post and not a thesis, think of this as just a Cliff’s notes version to explain the basic concept. So please no attacks if you think I left something important out. But by all means, feel free to chime in below if you want to add anything.

Charles Darwin: Author of The Origin of Species and impetus for the Theory of Evolution
Charles Darwin: Author of The Origin of Species and impetus for the Theory of Evolution

Anyway, enough babbling, here goes…

GUESS:

The lowest level assigned to the answer to a question would be a guess. A guess is when you have no evidence you are basing your guess on, you’re just picking something that seems to make the most sense to you and going with it. We all do it, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s just not science.

EDUCATED GUESS:

With an educated guess, you still haven’t actually gathered evidence or done any work you could call science, but now you have some knowledge that leads you to your guess so it’s not just a garden variety random guess as above.

This might also be a situation where you might ask a physicist, for example, about a question that could be answered by physics. If they don’t know the answer, yet based on what they do know, they make a guess, that’s an educated guess.

HYPOTHESIS:

For the first time, we’re talking about actually doing some science. You’ve now gathered evidence, potentially by doing a study of some sort, and this is the conclusion the evidence has taken you to. This is better than a guess because you’ve actually done some work to come to this conclusion, observed the results first hand, and therefore your conclusion is evidence-based, not something conjured up in your imagination alone.

THEORY:

I’ll spend the most time on this one, since it’s the one in question.

Where a hypothesis is something that is based on you doing some science, it is usually on one specific question with one specific answer, like what are the atoms that make up a water molecule? Then you grab a microscope, and determine the answer to be two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. A simple question—a simple answer.

Water Molecule
Water Molecule

A theory however, is typically related to a large collection of hypotheses that all come together to tell a big story, such as the case with evolution.

If I can use a simple analogy; I will compare scientific theory to a jigsaw puzzle depicting Albert Einstein. 

Think of a hypothesis as a single piece of the puzzle you’ve tested and confirmed it’s part Einstein’s likeness.

But a theory is what the puzzle itself depicts, composed of pieces that have all been determined to specifically fit in it. That puzzle still has a few pieces missing from it you haven’t found yet, so you don’t entirely understand what the complete puzzle looks like. For instance, if the pieces depicting Einstein’s hair are missing, you can still reasonably assume it’s a picture of Einstein by the face, you’re just not sure what his hair looked like at the time the picture was taken.

In science, it’s only accepted theory if no single piece has ever been proven wrong or falsified. If one piece turns out to be false, scientists must effectively scrap the whole theory, and remove any assumptions they might have made to that point.

If your goal is to entirely complete the jigsaw puzzle you think is a picture of Albert Einstein (and that is the goal), you get a box with a thousand pieces, and you find that one or more of them is clearly not a representation of Einstein, you know that puzzle can never represent what you thought it should and therefore it cannot be Einstein.

In the case of evolution, there are thousands of independent studies on different aspects of evolution, most of which have been peer-reviewed, never been proven wrong or falsified, and that all consistently support the theory of evolution—each one completing a larger and larger chunk of that particular puzzle.

The part we don’t understand is exactly how Earth went from a lifeless state to a with-life state, because no one has ever been able to create life from no-life in a lab yet. Nor can we go back in time and observe it to study it.

Although, there’s pretty decent understanding as to how it might have happened—that’s a story for another day, and someone much more knowledgeable than I.

LAW:

Something that has also never been falsified, but unlike a theory, leaves no questions to be answered, and is largely deemed to be factual by the entirety of the scientific community. Barring any fringe folks most scientists disavow, anyway.

It’s also more like a hypothesis in that it’s usually very specific in nature, as opposed to complex theory.

Think Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion or Universal Law of Gravitation, etc. as some of the most commonly understood examples.

Sir Isaac Newton
Sir Isaac Newton

We understand them, we know them to be consistently true, and we’re readily able to replicate the results every single time we either test them, or use them to test something else.

ABSOLUTE:

An absolute is something that is indisputable fact. For the most part, science would say you can never know an absolute, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Quite the contrary. Technically, I’d argue everything is essentially an absolute—facts are all around us. Something either is or it isn’t.

But the problem for us unfortunately, is that you can’t know any of them absolutely, because you can never know what you don’t know.

On any subject, there may be something you’re unaware of that changes everything (like Einstein’s thoughts on gravitation waves which forced a rethink of Isaac Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation), so you always have to remain open to new information.

Now that we’ve covered those, the reason it’s both wrong and insulting to say the theory of evolution is “just a theory” is due to the fact that thousands of scientists have done hundreds of thousands hours of work over the centuries on thousands of different aspects of evolution.

Work which is really hard to do, requires vast knowledge, is reviewed by their peers, and consistent with what you’d observe in the natural world. And all of it supports the theory of evolution, and is drastically different from creation.

It should also be pointed out that DNA has largely confirmed evolution true via mapping out genealogies of all living things. It’s also interesting to note that DNA wasn’t discovered until long after evolution was theorized. Much like when people thought the Earth was round, but then we went out to space and proved it is round by observing it.

Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope. (Click image for more information)
Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope.
(Click image for more information)

So back to our “Evolution is JUST a theory” folks, most people who make this argument are people who are religious.

They’ve done no tests to confirm what their religion says is true, they’ve merely read a book that may or may not be true. They may accept it as faith, but this why it is called faith, not science.

While their belief might be right, demeaning thousands of brilliant minds who have done a lot of hard and painstaking work when they’ve done, is profoundly insulting and ignorant when we see all the things around us that science has answered, and answered correctly.

This could be the curing of a myriad of diseases, being able to put a man on the moon, splitting an atom, or simply making a working smart phone. Science has a pretty amazing track record of being right.

Even if you are religious, let me ask you this. If you were feeling chest pains, and afraid you might be about to have a heart attack, are you calling 9/11 to summon a doctor first (a scientist), or would you call your priest and ask them to say a prayer first?

If the answer is option one, you’re already instinctively putting your faith in science over religion, as I’d argue you should.

Analysis: The Notion of Deliberate Suppression of the Cure for Cancer

Credit – Dan Broadbent from A Science Enthusiast

Recently, this meme from Dan Broadbent at AScienceEnthusiast.com was shared on Facebook by Yvette d’Entremont, also known as the SciBabe. Yvette’s science credentials are that she “holds a B.A. in theatre, a B.S. in chemistry, and an MSc in forensic science with a concentration in biological criminalistics.”

Yvette’s medical credentials are quite impressive, and as such, her knowledge of the field means that this meme makes perfect sense to her. It also makes sense to me, despite my lack of such credentials, because as an ardent skeptic, I’m an avid consumer of medical science, helping me to understand the argument potentially more than most.

But for many who aren’t so interested in science and medicine, especially those who are somewhat naturally distrusting, the left cartoon seems to have merit.

However, I’m hoping that if I can walk you through some of the knowledge I have, and apply a little skeptical analysis, we can pretty easily dismiss this meme almost entirely—so let’s begin.

Point #1 – The Catch-22

The argument put forth is based on the premise that treating ongoing cancer is much more profitable than curing it, and thus big pharma suppresses the cure for increased profits.

But if this were true, then big pharma would never spend the millions, if not billions that it takes to find a cure in the first place. Because if they did spend such money to find a cure, suppressing it would mean a total loss.

So either they would spend the money and bring the cure to market to get a return on investment like all businesses do, or they wouldn’t spend the money to develop the cure in the first place; instead spending that money elsewhere, or pocketing it like the “greedy bastards” so many want to assume they are.

But spending the money, then refusing a return on the investment, is an obvious catch-22 that makes no sense.

Point #2 – There is no one “Cancer” species to cure.

When people talk about curing cancer, it is said as if cancer is one singular species, similar to mankind’s  Homo Sapien or the Road Runner’s Disappearius Quickius. But  nothing could be further from the truth. road_runner[1]

Cancer is a mutation of a person’s cells, that then becomes its own unique organism living inside that person and feeding off of them.

To severely simplify this, imagine DNA is like binary code, a series of ones and zeros (it actually somewhat is). That code is like a road map of sorts that tells all the stem cells in your body what to become as they replace the cells that naturally die off. If this imaginary DNA were a 4-digit code  (It’s actually more like 3-billion digits) of 1010 for instance, then all the cells in your body should all have that same 1010 code.

Now imagine if one of those cells mutates and changes its code to 1011. In many instances, it would just die because it’s a bad code that can’t sustain life. But occasionally, it is in fact good enough to become viable to live as a new mutant entity. That entity may then begin replicating into a bunch of cells that have that new mutated 1011 code instead of the 1010 code they should have. Going back to my road map analogy; that code error is akin to your road map now showing roads that aren’t there or missing roads that are. This new mutated entity that stops producing new cells for you, and instead becomes its own life-form that feeds off of you is cancer.

Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope. (Click image for more information)
Actual Image of Human DNA through an Electron Microscope.
(Click image for more information)

Click here and/or this wonderful post from Dr. Michael Wosnick here for much more detailed, accurate, and nuanced explanations of this.

As such, no two cancer strains are likely to be alike in the same way similar species of animals or plants are that inherit their DNA from parents.

As this 2013 article points out, we know of at least 200+ different types of cancer and counting.

So with all that being said, it’s important to understand a treatment that kills one cancer, is highly unlikely to kill all of the others; making the idea that there is one cancer-cure-all, almost entirely implausible.

Point #3 – The Overwhelming Conspiracy

There are several pharmaceutical companies, research hospitals, and science universities working on cancer research, typically focusing on one of the aforementioned 200+ known types. Often, the people doing the research are employees of the company, and aren’t just one person stuck in a lab. It will be a team of researchers/students, all who took up biology, in many cases, to specifically find a cure for cancer.Researcher

So in order for this conspiracy to be true, we’d have to assume that the literally thousands of researchers, who probably don’t own the pharmaceutical companies and have no financial interest in suppressing a cure, would have achieved the one goal they hoped to, which was quite altruistic, but then became sociopaths who hid it away from the world in a malicious attempt to profit from the misery of others.

I suppose it is possible that big pharma somehow defied Point #1 above, and then either added the felony of murdering any employee who found such a cure to the dumb things they did, or added the additional expense of paying those researchers off, adding more to their loss mentioned in Point #1. But either scenario simply bolsters the Catch-22, making it even more illogical.

I’d also like to add that if Bill Clinton couldn’t silence one frisky intern with the might of all the US Government agencies on his side, how is a pharmaceutical company going to silence hundreds, if not thousands of researchers?

Point #4 – There’s actually multiple cures for cancer already on the market.

This one is so obvious and simple, it’s a shame it’s completely overlooked.

Do you know someone who was diagnosed with cancer, and through treatments like chemotherapy, surgery, embolization, etc., are now in remission? I know many, including my father.liver-cancer-profile-7[1]

Each one of them received an effective cure, which is why they no longer have cancer. There may not be one treatment that cures all cancers, but that’s because of the premise I outlined in point #2.

So there is in fact multiple cures for multiple cancers already. Instead, what researchers now work on, is finding more effective cures that are not only more successful at killing the disease, but also less harmful to the affected person.

Point #5 – There’s plenty of money in a cure

Because cell mutation will always occur, and therefore cancer will always exist, cancer can likely never be eradicated like the black plague or small pox were. So there is plenty of money to be made in a cure.ecc7d1d27275a4b9cb29cf31ea08780d[1]

If drug companies lost money from such a cure due to decreased demand, they could easily move to treat other diseases or conditions to replace those lost profits with their humanity in tact.

Point #6 – The smaller conspiracy

If I ignore the big conspiracy in Point #3, it’s still important to remember that there are a lot of drug companies, research hospitals, and science universities out there. We’d still have to assume that these companies, who are trying to beat each other in the free market, all put aside their differences, secretly met in some clandestine office, then suddenly worked together to harm people in such a brutal way—a scenario that is also highly illogical.

Point #7 – Where are the in-betweens?

This conspiracy assumes that big pharma is making a fortune just treating people’s cancer without curing it. But most people who get cancer either receive one of the aforementioned cures from Point #4, or they die somewhat quickly after diagnosis. Rarely do people live a long time with a diagnosed cancer.

No one treats someone who is dead, so if people die, there’s no money to be made off of them. But if big pharma does cure them so they live longer, they’ll likely catch some other condition down the road that big pharma can also treat. So the money is not in suppressing a cure, the money is in helping people to live longer, so they need more conditions to be cured in the future.

Summary

These seven points are by no means all the reasons why this conspiracy makes little sense, they’re merely the ones I was able to come up with in literally two days of thinking about this. Plus, I’m well over my 1,000-word count I usually try to maintain in these posts.

So I hope that going forward, instead of assuming the worst in people whom you neither know nor understand their work and their motives, you think skeptically as I have, and allow yourself to believe that people are indeed mostly good. Biologists who took up the cause of curing cancer, are in fact working honestly towards that goal every day, there’s little reason to believe otherwise.