Monday, April 14, 2014


This is just a list of ideas and notions I've encountered over time.  It is easier to see established majorities can be wrong, and fringe minorities can be right, when looking comfortably far back in history.

1.  Dichotomy, the law of the excluded middle, and False Dichotomy:  Usually I have the notion that a statement is either true or false.  However, sometimes that's not the best way to understand a thing.  An example is "You're either with us or against us", the dichotomy of "for" versus "against".  I believe that sometimes a person may not relate to the particular struggle at all.

Also, there are orthogonal* ways to look at things.  For example, instead of a war between groups of people, there might instead be a war against poverty where all of those people unite together in a common cause.

Or, instead of a war, there might be a transcendence in which such conflicts become irrelevant.  Or, the model of human behavior might be based on an ethic of cooperation instead of an ethic of competition such as war.  Such cooperation-based societies might look a lot different from what we have now.  In some of the orthogonal ways of thinking, the dichotomy of "for" versus "against" might not have much relevance.

* "orthogonal":  a different dimension, independent of certain other dimensions.  The concept is analogous to the axes at right angles to each other in 3D right-angle geometry, in which a point could have any of a wide variation of z coordinates even while its x and y coordinates are fixed in advance.  What happens with the z coordinate might have nothing whatsoever to do with the x and y coordinates!  So much for "you're either for us or against us".

2.  For a long while there was a common idea that European explorers, settlers, and missionaries brought a better way of life to the native Americans.  Meanwhile, Bartolome de las Casas gave a different perspective.  ( )  Among Europeans his view surely must have been a radical minority view.  He was right though.

3.  It used to be thought (among White people in the United States) that Negroes were not really people, the way Caucasians are people.  But nowadays, it's widely understood, even among most Caucasian people, that Negroes and Caucasians are all basically human beings.

There was a time, in United States history, when opposition to slavery was a minority position.  Abolitionists were radicals.

I suppose John Brown may have been right.  John Brown was an abolitionist who fought violently for his cause.  If there's to be a war about anything, why not a war against the slavery in the U.S.?  In his time John Brown was a fringe radical and legally a criminal.

I would hesitate to advocate violence; however, I do believe that John Brown did have a good long-term net effect on society by helping to oppose slavery in the passionate, forceful way that he did -- even if that did involve a lot of violence.  Who's to say that any warrior, or any politician, in any war in modern times is any more justified in violence than John Brown was in his cause?

If he were acting in such a way today in the U.S.A., he would certainly be called a terrorist.  If he were a terrorist now then he was a terrorist then.  Could terrorism ever be a right thing to do?

4.  Aristotle, whose writings "constitute the first comprehensive system of Western philosophy" (quotes are from the Wikipedia article on Aristotle):   His "analysis of procreation describes an active, ensouling masculine element bringing life to an inert, passive female element".  Today in the USA that seems like nothing more than masculinism with an unfairly degrading view about women.  I think Aristotle was wrong about something really important, there.  

Aristotle was a great scientist for his time (not that I would know), but what I notice most about him is his "curious errors", for example "in his History of Animals he claimed that human males have more teeth than females", allegedly an error, and which I think is an error, though I have not personally counted the teeth.  How often have you counted a person's teeth?  How often did Aristotle?

5.  I was going to include a more modern example of politicized human lemmings rushing into an abyss, but then realized it would alienate a lot of modern politicized humans, so I removed it.  I am hoping you will be no more than 35% alienated by the time you finish reading this post.

6.  The million Jews, million Christians, and million Muslims:  Imagine three such communities.  (You have to use your imagination for this one.  It's a simplified scenario to illustrate a logical point.)  I believe at least one of these groups must be wrong about something big.  (I am leaning toward two or three of them being wrong.)

You can see it in the unyielding way they insist on certain things.  In my example, for numerical convenience, I am positing that all three groups are absolutist about mutually exclusive ideas.

(Real people and real societies aren't that simple.  That's why I said you have to use your imagination to allow my simplified example, and this is to pursue a logical point.)

For example, as an establishment, Christianity insists that the only way to salvation is through Jesus, and insists that Jesus is the unique Son of God, and a God himself, and that Muhammad doesn't even count as a prophet.  They present these ideas as absolute.  (So, on this particular topic, they are not leaving room for a relative, middle-of-the-road, tolerant philosophy.)  If those things are true, then the Jews and Muslims are wrong.  And if it's false, the Christians are wrong.

Yet, for those Jews in their community, and for those Muslims in their community, and for those Christians in their community, the vast majority opinion that they know about (of the one million people that constitutes legitimate society to them) is one of the three mutually exclusive ways.

I think they cannot all be right.

Here's what I mean:  Somewhere, there are a million people, each of whom perceives an established, legitimized majority opinion in their society, which is actually utterly wrong, while they think it is right.

So I say, the fact that an idea is held by the established, legitimized majority of a society does not mean it's right.  In my fictitious example involving the three million people, two thirds** of the time it's wrong.  How close is that to our reality -- not just about religion, but about anything?

** (Or, possibly three thirds of the time it's wrong.)

-jrl, April 14, 2014

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Public Carrier, Private Carrier, Net Neutrality

Today I received an email asking everyone to sign a seven-word petition and to comment on it.  The email is reproduced below:

[begin quote]

Date: Sat, 22 Feb 2014 00:52:05 -0800
From: The Pen 
Subject: Action Page: Tell The FCC To Save Net Neutrality

Dear Friends and Activists, 

Thanks to the many who took us up on our invitation to suggest the next issue we should jump all over . . . and net neutrality was number 1 by a good margin. 

So we created a special server function to submit your comments directly to the FCC in the docket they have created just for this purpose. No other activist group has anything like this, we can pipe you right in. 

Save Net Neutrality action page: 

The "petition" in this case is just 7 words. 

"Reclassify The Internet As A Common Carrier" 

Please feel free to add your own comments, as this helps demonstrate that each and very one of our submissions was done by a real person. 

The background is this: On January 14, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the FCC's Open Internet rules on a technicality, that the internet was not classified as a common carrier by the FCC. This threatens the whole future of net neutrality, and would allow big telecom companies to discriminate in how they carry internet traffic. 

But all the FCC simply needs to do is correct this classification oversight, entirely within their own administrative power, and reclassify the internet as a common carrier, which all common sense says that it is. 

More than 100,000 people signed a petition on the White House website asking President Obama to take action. But while expressing his support the president declined to intercede with the FCC himself. 

So it's all up to us now. Please submit this form to send your comments supporting net neutrality directly to the FCC. 

Save Net Neutrality action page: 

And after you do, feel free to request one of the new "Net Neutrality" bumper stickers we created just for the occasion. It features a dreamlike background of a female figure with arms outstretched evoking the feeling of freedom, and the simple bold words "Net Neutrality". 

And we'll send you one for no charge, not even shipping, if only you submit the form. 

Net Neutrality bumper stickers: 

Of course if you can make a contribution of any amount, this is what makes it possible for us to send free stickers to anyone who cannot make a donation right now. 

This is a fight we can win. We need everyone to really pile on this one to show the FCC how strong the support is for protecting net neutrality. 

You may forward this message to any friends who would find it important. 

Contributions to The People's Email Network are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes. 

If you would like to be added to our distribution list, go to 

Or if don't want to receive our messages, just go to 


[end quote]

I looked up "common carrier" in, and then briefly looked at "private carrier" in  I found this interesting sentence in the "private carrier" article:

"Private carriers may refuse to sell their services at their own discretion, whereas common carriers must treat all customers equally."

That's what I thought, and so wikipedia confirms it.  This is a topic near to my heart:  a distinction between what is "public" and what is "private".  It's closely related to "rights".  Some things should be public, and some things should be private.  At issue is how to decide which is which.

My own comment which I submitted with the 7-word petition is:

"Among all goods, services, and resources, some are regarded as "public" such that everyone has equal rights to them, and some are regarded as "private" such that some people "own" them and others don't.  The internet and the web have historically been publicly accessible; but more recently some powerful people have begun to try to assume private ownership of the public's ability to access the internet, and to charge for service, deny service, and and filter people's access to the internet according to how much they pay these powerful people.  I say the internet should be public."


Thursday, December 26, 2013

When Is An Excuse Not Enough?

I read " ".

The excuse given in the article is that Israel says it "only dismantles buildings that were put up without permission."

So, I wish my facebook friends would address that excuse.  I have some questions:

1.  Is it true that Israel is only dismantling buildings that were put up without permission?

2.  Who grants or withholds such permission, by what authority, and in what kind of decision process?  Is it a consistent and fair process?

3.  If the UN condemns something, what do you think is the quality of that condemnation?  I've heard some people be dismissive of the UN.  What is a better entity, to which to look, for approval or condemnation or opinion?  A world court?  The United States of America?  Palestine?  Chad, Monaco, Argentina, or Bolivia, perhaps?  Do any of these (including the UN) condemn or approve by some consistent and fair process?  Is there a way to rank them by credibility, and if so, what is the basis of it?

4.  Do Palestinians have a right to land in that area?  (I have to pose the question, because my experience is that some people think they don't have such a right.)

5.  The article's title contains the phrase "Palestinian homes".  Is there such a thing as a Palestinian?  (I have to pose the question, because Zionists told me that there is no such thing as a Palestinian or Palestine.  Was that a reasonable thing for them to say, and why or why not?  And if there is no such thing, then how shall I interpret it when I am having lunch with a person who was introduced to me as a Palestinian and who is telling me, over lunch, that he grew up in the West Bank?  Should I ignore the idea that he is a Palestinian and just think of him as a West Bank person who is not a Jew?)

6.  Is there such a thing as an Israeli?  How about "Israel"?  Why or why not?


The God That Remembers, Loves, And Restores Everything

I read

I believe that there is a way (one might call it a God) in which even though a tribe were to forget its traditions and its language, even though it were all annihilated by unjust and mean-spirited humiliations and massacres, even so, long after the bones have disintegrated into dust and the dust has been scatterred, and even after all we can know as a universe has ceased to exist, even so, there is a way, or a God, or a fabric of time, which records and remembers all that ever happened.  Moreover, I believe that all is loved, forever.  Moreover again, I believe that all things, such as the dashed hopes of the tribe's people as they were dying, and their lives together, and their future as a connected loving society, can be and are restored somehow, though we here do not know how, when, nor where.

Thus their capacity for needing love is matched by love.

This is an emotional or philosophical faith, beyond my or any normal person's capacity to act out, but satisfied by the thought or belief or realization that it is this way.

It need not "actually" "physically" be this way in our normal apprehension of the physical universe; but it is enough to imagine it and to desire it.  It is our vote of confidence that what we believe to be righteous is righteous.  That is enough.

This is not intended to support any war of revenge.  Rather, I imagine it as supporting the dreams of the demolished peoples as they were before they were sneaked up on and hacked at in their sleep.

As for the evildoers, I suspect their fate is as the second pastor (the one in 1998 to 2000) described.  He told me that the only people who don't make it into heaven are the ones who are not mourned, and they are merely forgotten.  Whatever that may be, this God, or this way of things, makes all things right, somehow.

Rather than the dogs, cats, horses, and other animals (which so many humans derogate as beings lacking capacity to feel), it will turn out that it is the evildoing humans which lack capacity, and it is the evildoers who are forgotten, with the forgetting that matches their lack of capacity -- their lack of capacity to appreciate being remembered, were they remembered.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Legal minus 101, a poem, freestyle, with punctuation

Something that bothers me
that one can be harrassed by
legal actions
having recourse against those actions.

E.g., officials argued that some people "couldn't challenge" a law
 [in court]
because they hadn't
been charged under it.
(Ref:  the editted link, below.)

Also, e.g., a court won't allow
a person to challenge a restraining order
unless it's been formally served
upon him or her.

Also, e.g., a court won't allow
a person to challenge a lawsuit
if the court dismisses that lawsuit.

( For the first example:

http [colon] //

And then there's always Guantanamo,
anyone anywhere can be snatched and hidden away,
never charged,
communication sporadic if ever,
their relatives never notified;
and tortured;
eventually cleared for release,
and never released.

One legal excuse
for it
is that the actual
holding facility is "not on U.S. soil";
however, it's U.S. agents, funded by U.S. taxpayers,
who are doing it.

Just as
and various poor people
were not regarded as real persons,
by the countries' highest laws and by their leaders,
so it is that anyone (who may be the "other")
are disrespected
unto death
by the countries' lowest standards and by their commonfolk.

How great it is
that the leadership and high standard
that we can look up to
(or, "look to")
show us the way...
become for us such a clear bad example
that we can understand, at last, that course, now so well illuminated,
upon which we should never go.

Sure am glad about one thing...
(but which thing?)
"We are a nation of laws, not men"...
"Everyone gets a fair and timely hearing"...
"We are the greatest country on earth"...
"This is a Christian nation"...(not, but anyway...)...
Blah blah blah...
I'm glad for a fantasy
as some forgotten wise person once wrote:
once attained
[I would add, "or once imagined"],
a free and just society can never be taken away,
"once he has seen" the blueprint,
a person can reconstruct it
[or the persons collectively can reconstruct it].

-jrl, 2013/12/14

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Defining Challenge Of Our Time?

Today I saw this question:

Is income & wealth inequality the defining challenge of our time?

No, although it is important.

In my opinion the defining challenge of our time, for us in the United States, is the war in Iraq that started in 2003.  From 2001 until, perhaps, 2025, our attitudes about that war will do more than anything else to demonstrate our relationships with the world.

There are millions of people in the U.S. who should be participating in the discussion about that war.  What we think of it may determine, for example, whether we go to war against some other country, and why we would do so, or why we would not do so.

The biggest protagonist in that war (in terms of nations) was the United States.  I see that war as a moral issue.  If the U.S. did the right thing at the start of that war in 2003, then that should be explained so that all can weigh the argument -- but that has not been done.  There was Colin Powell at the U.N. but later his argument didn't hold up (because weapons of mass destruction were not found) so people should be asking questions and getting answers about it -- but that has not been done, not for the vast majority of us.  Likewise, if the U.S. did the wrong thing, then that should be explained, but hasn't been.

As challenges for our times, we have income and wealth disparity, we have climate change and humankind's role in it, we have wars and colonizations, we have AIDS, ....  But if we can't see that starting a war for poorly defined reasons is a very important issue, then we are demonstrating how lacking we are of a moral compass.  

After some reasons were found groundless, at the end of the day the remaining reason to claim for the war was that it was to end Saddam Hussein's regime.  But that was not the reason given at the start of the war.

Maybe some people believe Iraq's better off now than before that war.  I don't.  Iraq's a LOT WORSE because of that war.  The difference of opinion depends on where one gets one's news.

Where one gets one's news is very significant.  That too is a subject that needs to be discussed.

The reason I place this war at the top of the list of very important problems is:  If we can't discuss that war intelligibly then we don't have the means to address any of the other problems either.

Also, if we were to solve the other problems:  save the planet from climate change, save humanity from AIDS, and so on, but can't discuss that war intelligibly, then we are just setting ourselves up, and setting the world up, for lots of terrorist attacks and more wars that we can't discuss intelligibly; so all of humanity, and the planet, will be degraded anyway as a result.

A nice climate and a disease-free population isn't worth nearly so much if the people are just going to start wars for which they can't even agree on why they're doing it and don't even care enough to find out!  Humanity would be more trouble than it's worth.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I want to begin by describing my thinking, not necessarily to prescribe it for others, but just to lay out a few ideas, in the beginning.

Regarding the military actions after the "9/11" Sept. 11, 2001 plane bombings of the New York Twin Towers:  To my mind, it's often hard to discern when a military action is appropriate and when it is not.  

Before I continue with that thought, I'd like to say a word about soldiers:

I've never been in the military, but I think a few things are evident even to people who have never been in the military.  The typical role of a soldier is to take orders, not question orders.  I can see why that would sometimes be necessary.

Some soldiers do question orders and disobey out of principle.

I believe that both kinds of soldier behavior could be appropriate or acceptable in a moral sense, depending on what sort of role the individual soldier chooses for himself, and of course also depending on circumstances.

Now, as I was saying, to my mind it's often hard to discern whether a military action is appropriate or not.  I don't have all the information that the generals and government decision-makers have.  I don't have to face the same hard decisions that they do, or at least not in the way they do.  However, even if I'm ignorant of circumstances, still it's safe to say that some military actions are wrongful acts.  To see this, one needs only to realize that in a war one side could be "right" and the other side could be "wrong".  Whichever side is "wrong" is committing at least one wrongful act.  Both sides may have all the same kinds of rhetoric and patriotism to justify what they are doing.  So, merely being patriotic doesn't justify a thing, because one could be on the wrong side (and not know it). 

The U.S. military involvement -- or at least some of it -- in Afghanistan may have been appropriate, I think, because "Osama bin Laden" was "there".  I can understand that connection.

Regarding the U.S. military involvement in Iraq -- I would have a hard time justifying that.  We cannot rightfully say Iraq posed an immediate threat to us, without at least acknowledging that we posed an immediate threat to Iraq.  So that argument amounts to the same on both sides -- although to me it seems more plausible for the _other_ side.  We cannot say that Iraq had a stockpile of WMDs, but we can say that the U.S. had a stockpile of WMDs.  We cannot say that Iraq was supporting the "9/11" bombers, who were "Al Qaeda"; Saddam Hussein hated Al Qaeda.  

What the U.S. and its allies actually did to Iraq could be open to question, depending on what sort of witnesses we have access to.  In the mainstream media of the U.S., most, if not all, of the reporting we have access to has come from our military officials or from reporters who are "embedded" with our military.  However, there are other sources of information.  One could look at the news and opinions written in other English-speaking countries, such as Britain.  One could look further afield, at news and opinions from a variety of countries.  One could listen to reporters who are not embedded with any military, and who went to the parts of Iraq "beyond the [closely controlled] Green Zone".  Dahr Jamail is one such reporter.

After considering what happened in Iraq, then we could consider whether that's making us any safer or not.

In my opinion, the real reason we haven't had "another 911" is that people generally don't want to kill us in such ways.  If they _did_ there's no way we could stop them.  It's generally impossible to stop a lot of determined killers who are willing to die for a cause.  We can make a lot of people miserable over it but we cannot stop a large group of determined human beings from doing harm to our populations.  Even if we were to kill or lock up all of them, their families and friends would multiply their effects.  

If there were one best way to understand what other people feel about us, it is probably:  They have feelings and responses fairly similar to the feelings and responses that we have.  To understand them, we should look inside ourselves and think of how we'd respond if they behaved toward us the way we are behaving toward them.

I've met dozens of people from around the world, and gotten to know some of them, and a few whom I've gotten to know have been from the Middle East (mostly from Iran).  These people from other countries are just as intelligent as we are, and just as good as human beings.  Their educations, and their countries' educational systems, are often as good as ours, and in many cases better.

Now, you don't have to understand them.  But if you do want to understand them, it would probably be a good idea to talk with them and get to know them.  And if you're part of the decision process that may lead to bombing them, if you want to be morally right then it's imperative that you somehow understand what it is that you are doing, and why.

On Monday, November 18, 2013 1:27:37 PM UTC-8, xtal97 wrote:
Oh stop that!  The whole reason we haven't had another 911 was because we went into Afghanistan and routed Al Qeda and their Taliban sponsors and if we go away they'll come back.  Then, despite your political beliefs, we DID give every whackjob in the ME a target and a place to aim that was far away from where we live when we went into Iraq.  Regardless of how many of us they killed and wounded, and I salute every person who DID go there and fought for US, we killed FAR more of them - so many that the Iraqis were able to take their country back for themselves because there simply weren't any screwballs left to make trouble.  It cost us, but the people who DID fight there DID do it for us.  How many more office towers would be destroyed today had we just negotiated with the Taliban after 911 and not done jack?  In that part of the world they respect one thing: power!  Those who show them who's boss are respected.  Read a little about what those vets - the guys on the ground who did the shooting at those insurgents, who captured and talked to and got to understand them, their motivation, and why they wanted to shoot at our soldiers - have to say about Iraq and Afghanistan.  Most of them believe in what we're doing / what we did and want us to do more to finish the job! 
As for Vietnam, it may seem unimportant in the greater scheme, BUT it DID cost the USSR and China much more per capita than it cost us and from then on the USSR/China started down the road to economic ruin to the point where one went tit's up and the other embraced the free market and shoved their ideology making both much safer for the world.  It wasn't the "gooks" we killed that mattered in this case, it was the whole war of attrition that we had to wage with their Soviet and Chinese sugardaddies that we were interested in beating - not necessarily on the ground but in terms of having to build guns rather than making butter for their population and creating the disillusionment of their populace necessary to bring about real change 20 years later!

On Monday, November 18, 2013 10:40:24 AM UTC-7, plainolamerican wrote:
 'You didn't earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.
US military propaganda to ignore.
Killing gooks and muzzies doesn't make Americans more safe.