Saturday, January 26, 2013

Glenn Beck, Truthers, people who are so sure that they are absolutely correct, and the subjective nature of perception.

From the opening remarks in Glenn Beck's daily television show, Wednesday, 23 Jan 2013, an episode devoted to debunking conspiracy theories that the Sandy Hook massacre either did not actually take place, or that the government orchestrated it:
These guys will make us doubt absolutely everything, and I don't know about you, but I already doubt enough.  I have to know what is true and what isn't.  We have detached as a society from the truth, the truth about ourselves, the truth about our country, the truth about our debt, personal and national, all of it.  We don't know what's real anymore.  We don't trust the news departments anymore.  We don't know who to trust.  We don't trust anybody, and when that happens, your nation is over.  Our country now believes - we have more respect for cockroaches than Congress.  And all our institutions are at all time lows.  The institution of the media, the institution of the courts, police, everything.  And it all boils down to trust.  It is a dangerous, dangerous road to head down.  We have to have something to hold onto, something that is real.
A bigger load of nonsense has never hit the airwaves.

Truth is absolute, however humanity currently has no access to any source that represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. All we have is other fallible human beings.  One of our biggest problems is people who are so sure that they are absolutely correct.

Glenn Beck is a source of information.  His nemesis Alex Jones is a source of information.  The Salt Lake Tribune, KUTV-TV 10 PM Evening News, and KTKK-AM Radio 630 kHz, are sources of information.  Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC are sources of information.  The blogs and vlogs I follow are sources of information.  The Bible, Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's writings and speeches, and the current leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are sources of information.

Each one of them has provided enough kernels of useful facts, reports of interesting events that have taken place, and (at least for some of them) profound opinions, that I will continue to pay regular attention.

When asked what I think of any controversial public figure, or any public figure for that matter, my answer is always the same, all sources of information must be subjected to appropriate scrutiny.

People usually, perhaps nearly always, want to know the credibility of a source before they will pay any attention.  They don't want to spend four hours reading a book, only to find something half way through that will cause them to have to have to erase everything from their memory, then throw it in the trash. "I don't want to hear a single excerpt from the Book of Mormon, for fear that I might mistakenly recall a verse from it as if that verse came from God's Holy Bible".

Intellectual laziness, pure and simple.

I will give any one of my fellow human beings the courtesy of listening to their arguments, and deciding whether to incorporate their viewpoint into what I believe to be truth, based upon the strength of the case they present.  That includes people whose arguments on other topics are not persuasive to me, and people with demonstrated character flaws, including the demonstrated character flaw of having been previously been caught in a lie.

Where it is reasonable to question credibility is when somebody asks us to take their word for something, when they expect us to accept their unsupported personal account of something they supposedly witnessed or experienced, as if it actually happened.

Human beings naturally require a very low standard of proof for that which is not controversial, or conforms with what they already accept as truth...and a very high standard of proof for anything which conflicts. When an eyewitness makes a claim that invalidates someone's preconceived notions, the accusation of anecdotal evidence is a common defense mechanism.  That accusation can be valid, when the witness has used limited experiences with a small number within a group to pass negative judgements on the entire group.  That accusation, however, is not valid when the witness has extensive experience with the group in question, though animosity may still render the witness unreliable.  "They were out to get me, but I got away", may either be a slanderous lie, or a delusion...or maybe they really were out to get him.

Glenn Beck, listen up!  The principle that we must employ is to recognize that different sources have differing degrees of veracity.  We must get away from absolute thinking and classify that which we regard as truth in such terms as, "almost certainly", "probably", "likely", "possibly", etc.  To my fellow Mormons, (including you, GB), it has inappropriately become customary for us to use the phrase, "I know the church is true", to express the idea that our conviction is something much stronger than simply believing it.  I have stopped using that phrase, and in fact if asked by priesthood leadership if I know the church is true, I will (and have) told them I no longer think in those terms.

We must all always remain conscious of the subjective nature of perception, open to reevaluate our position when additional information makes it apparent that the limited information we have been operating on has led us to premature conclusions, and down wrong way paths.

I don't have to trust public institutions to make productive use of them.  Beck's claim that social collapse will result when they are no longer trusted is absurd.  I keep informed of news that helps me gauge their capabilities, their limitations, to know when it is wise to turn to them for help, to attempt to help others through them, and when it is wise to stay away from them.  Also to know when it is wise to offer constructive criticism to try to improve them, or destructive criticism designed to discredit them and tear them down, so they can be replaced with something different and better.

I may be wrong, if you have information I currently am unaware of that shows that people will be hurt if those public institutions I see no use for, and am engaged in activism intent on damaging or destroying them, were to cease to exist, I will give your case a fair listening.

Conspiracy theories usually strike me as complex, speculative possibilities, where viable explanations that are much more simple and direct already exist.  I'm not big on conspiracy theories, though I keep an open mind.  I would find relief to believe that no one died that day at Sandy Hook, though I find the arguments unpersuasive.  My sense of patriotism doesn't close my mind to the possibility that minds similar to those who planned the burning of the German Richestag could rise through the ranks of our government.  Neither does my distaste for increasing authoritarianism in our government (link to previous blog entry) cause me to promote Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, when I lack the academic background needed to render an informed evaluation of their claims.

I have more use for some conspiracy theories, and theorists, than others.  My old VHS tape of Cover up in Oklahoma raises questions for me that are not satisfied by a more recent production aired on one of the cable channels (the exact title, air date,  and which specific channel I don't presently recall).  It impresses me more than what I've seen from 9/11 Truthers.  Alex Jones has called my attention to many news stories across the country, most often dealing with police brutality, I would otherwise have missed, while I've never found anything useful in material produced by Jesse Ventura or Bill Cooper (deceased).

Glen Beck has long declared there is something destructive about Truthers (link to youtube video):

These Truthers are exactly the kind of people who want to rock this nation's foundation, tear us apart, and plant the seeds of dissatisfaction in all of us.
As if this were some kind of a bad thing.

If belief in something, even if not true, causes one to watch the bureaucrats more closely, alert others at the slightest indication of a cause for concern, work for a sharp change to the course this country is presently on (nearly any other direction would be better than this one), become a prepper or at least give your food storage more consideration, get a gun and the training to safely, accurately, and appropriately use it, and rely on self, family, church, and the private sector more than on government programs, then I say let's give this nation's foundations a good hard rocking!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Is this country in the midst of a gun crisis, or a mental health crisis?

I doubt anyone would come out and say, "Had the shooter been limited to a gun that took longer to load, and needed more frequent reloading, or better yet just used some other type of murder weapon, things wouldn't have turned out as bad".  Yet what other message are we to infer from currently proposed approaches to the problem?

Mental illness is the driving force in any killing rampage.  A weapon is merely an instrument.

Even if these schemes resulted in less lethal killing sprees (highly doubtful), I don't want less lethal killing sprees, I want the killing sprees to end!

If sacrificing rights is necessary, then let's at least choose rights to jettison that actually are contributing to the problem.

A case in recent years, that dragged on for years, centered in my local area, but receiving news coverage worldwide (I'm not being more specific because I am sick of hearing about it, I'm sure you are sick of hearing about it, and I'm sure you know exactly what I am referring to) was prolonged in the courts over the question of whether the perpetrator could be forcibly medicated.

It would seem that the mentally ill have somehow acquired the "right" to refuse treatment.  An absolute right, no less, if even a man in custody for his wrongful acts is still entitled to it, and can use the fact that he is not being treated to postpone the day when he has to answer for his actions.

The time to treat mental illness is before the anti-social actions begin.  Failure to do so is packing our penal facilities, draining the resources of government and private aid programs, filling our streets with the homeless, and putting children at grave danger.  The objections of the mentally ill person, or his family (if he is a minor), must be weighed against the consequences of allowing them to refuse.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sandy Hook, job loss, and how Firearmageddon caught me off guard

For a couple of years I knew it was coming, but I had hoped to stick it out at least another year. Working conditions at what had been my nice, comfortable, well paying, low stress job, were continuing to deteriorate in the bad economy. After witnessing wave after wave of "workforce reductions", my name eventually made the list in February 2012.

Fortunately I had stayed friends with the owner of a small company I had worked for earlier.

Previous to February I had been preparation minded, though my priorities were a little skewed. If I had $500 to spend, what would I get? Something fun, perhaps? Some new amateur radio gear? Camping equipment? Shooting accessories? These all might have practical uses in a disaster. Then there are the more mundane items, bulk food, alternative power sources, water barrels, silver bullion for barter. Not much fun can be had out in the desert with any of these. But ask yourself, if the ground suddenly shakes violently (the Salt Lake metro area is overdue), if the events of Black Tuesday, 29 October 1929, were to repeat themselves, if utilities went down for an extended period, if a run on the stores cleared out the shelves, what items would become the most important?

In the last year, catching up on what I should have been accumulating all along in essential practical preps has become the priority for my (now significantly reduced) income, over fun (but practical) items, such as guns.

Then came the Sandy Hook massacre, and the reaction to it in Washington, DC. Like everyone, this event impacted me emotionally. You wouldn't be a human being if it didn't. These were small children, for God's sake.

The National Rifle Association proposes a policemen on every campus. The last thing we need is to bring TSA-style security theater to the neighborhood elementary school. Nor do we need more "school resource officers" initiating criminal charges for matters that used to be resolved between parents and the principal.

I would like to see the mental health system that Ronald Reagan dismantled put back together.  Just what money did we save?  The system today leaves alone the mentally ill who do not seek treatment on their own, then it punishes irrational destructive acts the same as malicious crimes.  This is true insanity (doing the same thing, yet expecting better results).  Jails do not help them, so they come back over and over again, after they have hurt someone again.

In 48 states, a teacher would be breaking the law by keeping a locked box in a drawer, quickly opened by pressing a combination, to retrieve a pistol.  A madman on a rampage, on course, could care less about the law.  Fortunately for the children of Utah, we are not one of those states.  Few teachers want to be armed, yet one is all it would take to bring a shooting spree to a quick end, just as an armed volunteer security guard did in a Colorado church, a few years ago.

The left proposes a broad sweeping gun ban (link).  Barack Obama waits impatiently for it's arrival on his desk.  Firearmageddon is a term coined my youtube user Nutnfancy (link). If you're not already familiar, click that link and get familiar, excellent stuff, if you care anything at all about disaster preparation and the safe and effective handling of firearms and knives.  As I write this, panic buying is in full swing.

A few months ago, I handed a Springfield M1A I was examining back to the sales rep at the Lehi Cabelas.  $1800?  Not this year.  Today I'd be lucky to find one for $2,500, if not $3k! 

Like any responsible gun owner, I see the one hour safety lecture that came with my first purchase of a pistol, and the four hour safety lecture it took to get a Utah permit to carry concealed, as merely a start to my ongoing proficiency training.  An AR-15 with a holographic site (zero magnification) has served me well for instruction involving close range immediate action drills or a day long walk in the desert.  I'm not about to lug around the weight of a full sized M1A all day, along with a battle load of .308 ammo, and sufficient drinking water to stay hydrated in that climate.  I do, however, see the shortcomings in my abilities to shoot a reasonable group at distances in excess of 100 yards.  I waited a little too long, an event happened, my world changed, let that be a lesson to me.  Any prepper knows 20 years too early beats a day too late.  Hopefully some good tactical classes involving significant distances will be offered this year, and my Russian SKS, with that cheap illuminated 2 - 6 X scope (that I've never gotten around to sighting in), will suffice.  Any prepper knows when you are too late, you make do with what you have.

I expect the Republicans in Congress to cave.  The internet is filled with the shrill voices of Americans, their constituents, demanding "something be done about the guns".  Now doubt their offices are flooded with calls and emails.  Sen. Feinstein has loaded up that bill, asking for the moon.  She will offer to cross a few items off the list, they will compromise, and something will pass, just as compromise got the now expired 1993 Clinton AWB enacted into law.

For now, the job market remains dismal, the housing bubble that was the most significant causing factor of the 2008 stock plunge, and nearly triggered the Second Great Depression, is only the first of several economic "bubbles" just waiting to burst, SHTF is getting closer and closer...but it ain't here yet!  The gun shelves are empty, the ammo rack as well, but there's still plenty of preps I will need freely available.  May my wisdom in prioritizing these purchases be a little better in 2013.