Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion :) )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

The Colombian in the Iron Mask!

Yesterday I read an interesting article about an unemployed Colombian man who resorted to a rather unusual form of governmental protest about the plight of his family:

In Colombia, an unemployed man has sewn shut his mouth and locked himself behind an iron mask to demand the government attend to his family’s desperate economic plight. – [Yahoo/AP]

Ooookkkk….

He is demanding the government provide a loan to jump-start a cottage textile business and pay health care bills for his wife and children. Without the loan, he says his family will end up living on the streets. – [Yahoo/AP]

Hmmm. There are so many things wrong with this picture. I almost don’t know where to begin. First, which would you prefer. Your children out on the street? Or barefoot. My money says a roof over their head trumps new Nikes. Having spent a lot of time barefoot as a young ‘un, I’m fairly certain the kids would agree.

And then there is his “innovative” (for lack of a better word) method of protest. How exactly is sewing his mouth shut, then covering his face with an iron mask, and then shackling himself to his neighbors bed, supposed to be an effective protest strategy? The first rule of a successful protester: THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO SEE YOUR PROTEST!!

Not only did he cover his facial sewing handiwork (the only innovative part of this hare-brained scheme, imho) with an iron mask (where did he get an iron mask from anyway?), so nobody can see it, he is hiding in his neighbors house, where nobody can even see him and his iron mask. Ridiculous!

And I’m not even going to go into the kind of egocentrism that spawns this kind of protest, when other people’s kids are already out on the street. I know the squeaky wheel generally gets the grease, but please! How about coming up with a plan that everyone can benefit from, instead of disfiguring your stupid mug, which your wife and kids will have to look at for the rest of your marriage, and taking up space that your neighbor could probably use (probably for much better things).

You know, I can understand this mans desire to see his family stay off the streets. I can even understand his desire to have the government help him start a business. It’s much better than asking for a handout. But come on. While sensationalist stunts are generally a good way to get attention, I tend to think there are much better ways of doing this, and they should be used for the purpose of implementing much more universal solutions.

He gets -8 intarwebs points for lack of common sense/originality, -4 for uncompromisingly poor execution, and the journalist who picked this up gets a -10 for being stupid enough to run this, instead of airing the plight of all the other Colombian kids who are already out on the street because of unemployment. Epic Phail all around.

Unemployed Colombian dons iron mask – [Yahoo/AP]

Contrary to what the evidence might suggest…

You know, one of the things I find amazing about the current administration is how flexible their definition of events and scenarios are. And how they see whatever they want to see, and declare whatever they see fit, ratified by presidential decree. Even when it is obvious as the light of day that the truth is actually contradictory to the presidents view of things.

Like the President declaring “Mission Accomplished” without having achieved any of the stated mission goals. Or that the national outrage about the war in Iraq is little more than the opinions of a focus group. Or even that global warming is a natural phenomenon. Or that you can win a war with terrorists using conventional warfare. Or that you can introduce national stability into a country torn by civil war using the aforementioned conventional warfare. I could go on, but I think the picture is abundantly clear.

But then again I’ve never governed a country. But when former presidents of said country begin to speak out against the current administrations actions then, well, hey there has to be some merit to it right? Apparently not.

Former president Jimmy Carter, in a recent interview, called out the president on the issue of prisoner torture and the violation of human rights, in regard to:

… secret Justice Department memorandums supporting the use of “harsh interrogation techniques.” These include “head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures,” – [CNN Politics]

The Prez’s response?:

Responding to the newspaper report Friday, Bush defended the techniques used, saying, “This government does not torture people.” – [CNN Politics]

The white house response?:

After reading a transcript of Carter’s remarks, a senior White House official said, “Our position is clear. We don’t torture.” – [CNN Politics]

Well OK then. I am by no means an authority in torture, however slapping a person upside the head until they sing like a bird, sounds like torture to me. I mean, it ain’t exactly the same as a swedish massage now is it? But if the President and White house officials say it’s not torture, well then I stand corrected!

But if I slap my next door neighbor cross-eyed while attempting to find out what he did with the lawn mower I lent him last year, I better not hear any lip about it from the peanut gallery. And I’ll sue whoever calls the police…

Presidential ignorance is a curse…

You may remember many moons ago I posted about American citizenship, and whether or not a citizenship exam should include questions on things like sports, world events, and cultural awareness. Now in this bloggers humble opinion, these things are not a true measure of whether or not a person will be a good American.

I would rather have every aspiring American citizen take an ethics test and be done with it. In fact I’d like to see every young American, not just immigrants be required to take a federally mandated ethics test when they reach legal age, before they are allowed to be considered a legal adult. I think the country would benefit from this more than anything else. The rest of it is almost inconsequential by comparison.

Almost. There are many positions where I think a broader, more comprehensive test of ones knowledge, ethics, social awareness and general knowledge of world events and character should be a mandatory requirement. High ranking police and military are a couple that come to mind some of them. Even your average street cop should ideally have comprehensive periodic psych evals, as well as more ethics and social training. But most important of all, President of the United States of America should be one of those positions that requires all of the above.

Before you ever get to see elections, or even start running for president, I think you should, at the very least, be able to demonstrate significantly above average ability on an IQ test, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of social, political and world issues. This should be a requirement for the position.

Why? Because ignorance has absolutely no place in a presidential office. No self respecting IT department would hire a professional bricklayer for their server administration. Nor would a construction company hire a nerd for manual labor. Why does the same not apply for the oval office? People with that kind of power need to know how to use it intelligently. And when I read some of the (many) questionable things our outgoing president has to say, It is clear to me that he is lacking in that department:

In a speech defending his administration’s Iraq policy, Bush said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s brutality had made it impossible for a unifying leader to emerge and stop the sectarian violence that has engulfed the Middle Eastern nation.

“I heard somebody say, Where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas,” – [Reuters]

Saddam killed all the Mandelas?!? You know, any country as great as this one really ought to be run by someone who has a modicum of awareness about important world leaders, events, issues, etc. I’m all for presidency being open to any American citizen, but shouldn’t there at least be some sort of IQ requirement? World knowledge? Social awareness? How about the basic ability to form coherent, meaningful and intelligent sentences?

The presidency should be open to everyone, but at the same time, becoming president should be a highly selective process. I don’t believe that it should be solely the domain of highly educated aristocrats though. Lord knows we don’t need more classism. But I think that maybe the presidency shouldn’t be an option for your common, average everyday ignoramus either…

Mandela still alive after embarrassing Bush remark – [Reuters]

Our Rights: The Overlapping Gray Areas…

I just read an interesting article that illustrates a common, but not so visited aspect of our much valued “personal freedoms”. They are not as clearly defined many like to think:

For Dwight DeGolia’s neighbors, the last straw was the fake palm trees.

The 62-year-old retiree had spent years fixing up the sliver of sloping land outside his home, adding two putting greens that were almost 30 feet long, a small creek and a gazebo.

But the 8- to 12-foot palm trees made it impossible for neighbors to ignore DeGolia’s project anymore, a passion that they said was making the neighborhood look tacky and led them to take DeGolia to court.

Cities and neighborhood associations have struggled for years with how to handle situations in which eccentric people with a penchant for lawn decoration get into fights with nearby homeowners.

The battles often feature issues that are far from straightforward, such as whose property rights are more important — the woman who fancies dozens of cupid statues on her front lawn, or the next door neighbor who has to look at it? – [Yahoo/AP]

I thought I’d talk about this because it’s one of those areas that I think that American culture just doesn’t give enough attention to. The first and most important thing to remember is that, human beings are, at the same time, social, and very, very different.

Regardless of our intentions, so long as we have to interact with others whose beliefs, backgrounds, upbringing, etc., may be worlds apart from our own, we may do things to offend. Unfortunately, this can happen, even when we are exercising our “personal freedoms”.

Any good American will say that we all believe that our personal freedoms should be protected, and must remain inviolate. And in theory, this is good and admirable. Except for one, very large, problem. The idea of isolating and protecting an individuals personal rights is not always a realistic (nor universally practical) goal, since, in any social community, the areas of each of our individual rights overlap. Massively.

And unfortunately, being the litigation happy people that we are, we forget some of the lessons our parents taught us when we were growing up. You know, the ones about compromise? Sharing? We have become so selfish, that we will fight, tooth and nail, to the death, to do what we want to do, claiming justification under the flag of our “Individual Rights”.

We tend to completely ignore the fact that the person we may be in contention with, may have an equally valid right to say, do, or express whatever it is they feel the need to do at the time. Now I honestly believe that, with freedom, comes great responsibility. And, unfortunately, equally great sacrifice.

Everybody wants to have their freedom. But nobody wants to bear the responsibility, or have to be the one to sacrifice something. I believe that the idea of individual freedoms isn’t about each if us getting what we want. It is about trying to make sure that everyone, not just you, has a chance to get what they want.

We have to learn to compromise, be considerate of others. Try and resolve our differences. Be willing to listen. Be willing to compromise. Everyone should be willing to sacrifice something. Perhaps a little more this time, maybe a little less next time. It will change from case to case. And there are not perfect solutions.

But the willingness to compromise should be there, if we really all truly believe in the concept of individual rights. No ones rights should exist to exclusivity of all others. And until we learn that lesson, I think we will all just be going through the motions, and paying lip service to the concept of “Individual rights”. It will be a catchy phrase, nothing more.

And I don’t think we really want that as a nation. But that’s just my opinion.

Yard art is in eye of beholder and court – [Yahoo/AP]

What kind of kids are we raising?

I think that America, as a culture, we have started down a long slippery slope towards self imprisonment. We are stripping away from ourselves the very freedoms we hold dear. I see it every day. Even in some of the most innocuous things:

On the playground of a northern Colorado Springs elementary school, tag is not “it.”

The touch-and-run game and any other form of chasing was banned this year at Discovery Canyon Campus’ elementary school by administrators who say it fuels schoolyard disputes.

“It causes a lot of conflict on the playground,” said Assistant Principal Cindy Fesgen. In the first days of school, before tag was banned, she said students would complain to her about being chased or harassed.

Fesgen said she would hear: “Well, I don’t want to be chased, but he won’t stop chasing me, or she won’t stop chasing me.” – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Is this what we want our kids to do? How do we expect our kids to learn anything about people and life, if every time they run into a problem we ban it wholesale? How are they going to learn how to deal with each other? Learn how to handle people and their idiosyncracies? When will they understand that not everything is going to go our way, and that not everything is under our control?

And even worse, how do we teach those kids what they can and cannot do? How do we teach kids that you cannot harass someone just because? Banning tag isn’t going to teach that. All this teaches them is if you don’t like it, get it banned. No tolerance, no patience, no  understanding. Nothing else will be learned by this action. The playground will have one less game, and the children will have one less avenue  to learn about others and themselves.

 Nationally, several schools have done away with tag and other games because of the accidents and arguments they can lead to. It’s a trend that has rankled some parents and childhood experts who say games such as tag contribute to children’s social and physical development. – [The Colorado Springs Gazette]

Apparently, even childhood experts can see the flaw in this way of thinking. And yet we have schools, communities, cities, states and even federal legislation that allow exactly the same thing to happen on a national level. What’s the betting that this is all fueled by the same mentality? People don’t seem to be able to see the big picture. It may sound like an unlikely slippery slope, but at the rate we are going, sooner or later, we will legislate ourselves out of our own personal freedoms.

Believe it or not. Your choice. But I have seen enough insanity to tell me that it’s possible. I can only hope we either come to our senses, or I’m not around when we finally lock ourselves in and throw away the key…

Springs elementary gives tag a timeout – [Colorado Springs Gazette]

A good boss is worth more than gold… Mostly…

I just read an article that confirmed something that I have believed strongly all along:

More than a third of respondents to a survey conducted by communications group BT rated working for a caring and responsible employer as more important than the size of their salary.

Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents said they would discount an employer that had a bad reputation, while nearly half said corporate social responsibility policies should be compulsory.

Ben Booth, global technology officer for market research group Ipsos, agreed CSR policies help retain, as well as recruit, good IT staff although pay remained important, he believed.

More than a third of respondents to a survey conducted by communications group BT rated working for a caring and responsible employer as more important than the size of their salary.

Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents said they would discount an employer that had a bad reputation, while nearly half said corporate social responsibility policies should be compulsory.

As I pointed out in a previous post, many businesses today tend to go after employees that are strong producers, regardless of how they get there, and end up hiring crass, inconsiderate, insensitive, uncaring and emotionally irresponsible managers. I believe this is what happens when you hire someone whose only motivation is the bottom line.

Employers need to realize that there is a whole lot more to running a profitable business than having cutthroat employees. Having happy employees generally means more productivity, and a good manager can leverage that to make money, just like a mean manager might, except without the back stabbing, high employee turnover, and passive aggressive undercutting that often occurs in a high stress work environment.

It’s makes all kinds of sense. Dollars and Cents… OK that was bad… I apologize… ;)

Good Boss: Better Than Big Bucks? – [Yahoo/PCWorld]

Obamas’ flameless firestorm…

Presidential hopeful Barack Obama apparently ignited a “firestorm” of controversy by responding to a YouTubers video questioner that he would, “without precondition”, meet with leaders of renegade regimes:

In Monday’s debate from Charleston, S.C., Obama was asked by a questioner via YouTube if he would be willing to meet — without precondition — in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

“I would,” he responded.

Clinton said she would not. “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes,” she said. Clinton said she would first use envoys to test the waters. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now I’m no political expert, so my opinion may hold little value. But Hilary Clintons rebuttal makes no sense either. At least not to my admittedly politically intolerant mind. What exactly does the phrase “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes” mean? And why is the possibility of being a propaganda item more important than establishing peaceful relationships? And why has this possible method of establishing a peaceful resolution been equated to pandering to rogue nations?

If a police officer tries to get a criminal to cooperate in an investigation, does that mean he/she is pandering to the criminal element? Is plea bargaining pandering? It’s done all the time. How is this concept any different? It seems some folks are more concerned with the appearance of impropriety than actually solving problems. This is why I hate politics.

I am a big fan of the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought, but our current international policy is broken. Severely. It just ain’t workin’ out too well for us. And we can’t honestly just sit here and say we don’t care what other countries think. It should have become apparent by now that our ability to solve our international problems is seriously affected by other nations relationship with us.

Perhaps we need to try something new. And at least Obama is willing to give it a shot, even if he is a newbie. I certainly don’t think he can do much worse than we are doing right now, especially if we continue with our current, and in my humble opinion, seriously jacked-up policies. So why not?

Obama debate comments set off firestorm – [Yahoo/AP]