Archive for the ‘news’ Category

Fake News

January 12, 2017

A couple of years ago I posted a link to an article about a supposed discovery of a first-century eyewitness to one of Jesus’ miracles.  At the time I did some due diligence, checking on the alleged first-century source and determining that he was indeed an actual historian.

But today I stumbled on this blog indicating that the story I originally linked to is false.  However the author doesn’t explain why they reached this conclusion.  The only evidence is that the site contains other articles with questionable topics or titles.  But that’s hardly in and of itself enough to discredit a source.  And certainly, the photo in the original article is not a Greek document, but there could be human-error reasons why the wrong photo was linked to the article.

So I dug a bit further and found this article at Snopes.com.  Interestingly enough, Snopes’ main reason to disbelieve the article is the nature of the other article titles on the web site.  They only mention secondarily what I find to be the smoking gun in terms of the original story being false.  Buried in the About Us section, in the Disclaimer subsection, is a sentence that immediately discredits everything hosted at the site.

All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people –  are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.

In other words the story was completely fabricated, even though it involved a real person.  A great example of fake news.  Perhaps a more esoteric form of it than most people think of in today’s discussions of the topic.  But it reinforces the importance of verifying sources, of not simply assuming that because Great-Uncle Hubert posted the link on Facebook, it must be true.

But this highlights the greater issue.  Not all news sites will have a disclaimer like the above one does.  And if people are only just now realizing that the media has biases, then we should begin to worry that fake news may not just come from a disreputable source, but could also be pushed by a reputable source.  Someplace without fantastical headlines in other areas to tip us off that we might be getting fooled.  And given the impressive abilities of technology these days, it’s getting harder and harder for anyone to avoid being roped in or fooled at some point or another.

Be careful what you assume is true.  Look for multiple sources.  Watch to see who else picks up on the story and runs with it.  Or who doesn’t.  Don’t believe something just because it’s something that you want to believe.  The Truth is out there – but we have to be careful that we don’t mistake it for something false, and that we don’t give up searching for it just because of all the false stuff out there.

Meanwhile, in America

January 7, 2017

In yet another wonderful display of a complete lack of responsibility, two women who were kicked off a flight are now indignantly blaming the airline for the fact that they missed seeing their father before he died.

So you ignore crew member instructions and try to get up and move around a plane as it attempts to take off, and yet the airline is somehow to blame?  The plane was apparently already moving towards take off.  Why was this woman receiving texts when she’s supposed to have her phone turned off?  Why did she feel the need to immediately inform her sister of the situation, despite the fact that she probably knows her sister is prone to panic attacks?

I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic – it’s truly an unfortunate thing.  But personal grief doesn’t get to trump the rights of a plane full of people.  To blame the airline as though they did something wrong when they were simply following safety laws, seems like the height of arrogance and short-sightedness.  If someone else had been disobeying crew instructions for some other reason, who would these women have blamed – the airline for turning around to deal with the situation, or the person causing the problem?

Other passengers sided with the two women against the airline, but I still hardly can see why this matters.  The crew was acting in a way to protect the safety of everyone.  Aren’t we all pretty hyper-sensitive to odd behavior on airplanes?  I know it’s an emotional situation, but the airline was actually doing what it was supposed to do in order to get these women to their dying father – and they weren’t cooperating!

I’m sure this will end up in some sort of public apology from the airline at the very least, and perhaps free tickets for or a lawsuit from the women involved, but that’s unfortunate.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

December 23, 2016

I was interested to read the other day of a new fund the city and county of Los Angeles created a fund to provide legal representation to people facing deportation.  A $10 million dollar fund, of which $3 million will be provided by the county, $ 2million by the city, with the remaining $5 million to come from private philanthropies.

It’s interesting that the Tribune News Service article I read initially stated that the fund was for “people in the country illegally facing deportation”, while the National Public Radio (NPR) version of the story simply says “immigrants”.  Every article I can find online only says “immigrants” or “residents”.  Of course, this begs the question.  My understanding is that legal immigrants/residents would not face deportation because, by definition, they are here legally.  Only those who are not here legally would be at risk of deportation.

All of the articles highlight this move as a response to statements by President-Elect Trump that he might actually enforce immigration laws, something President Obama has made clear he isn’t interested in pursuing.  All of which glosses over the major points – there are laws which govern immigration to our country.  Those who do not follow these laws are subject to deportation.

I understand that the process for obtaining legal citizenship can be a very time consuming and costly one.  I wonder why a $10 million dollar fund isn’t being created to help streamline or update immigration laws to make it less time and money intensive?  Instead, taxpayer money is being used to defend people who are breaking the law.  I understand and am sympathetic to the plight of those who are actively seeking legal residence in our country and are forced to wait for years because of costs and scheduling.  I would hope that if immigration laws are enforced, these people will be the last to be affected.  I imagine a lot of other people would be similarly sympathetic, including lawmakers and perhaps even President-Elect Trump.

But I find it dishonest to fudge the reality.  If the city and county decided to set up a fund using your tax money to defend murderers so that they might avoid prison time, how would I feel?  Or if the city and county simply decided that vandalism or theft were no longer crimes to be prosecuted but rather defended using tax payer money, how would I feel?  I understand not agreeing with a law and wanting it changed.  I have difficulty with the idea of commandeering taxpayer money.  Particularly if there aren’t a lot of details about who is going to be defended and on what basis.  And particularly when, as some articles point out, the nature of deportation litigation is under a broad umbrella of civil actions wherein nobody – legal or illegal – is entitled to taxpayer funded defense.

We’re all free to disagree with the law, but we are all required to abide by it.  If millions of dollars can be allocated for this sort of effort, why can’t that money be allocated to working towards better laws?  Towards an immigration system that works, rather than simply thumbing noses at a President who recognizes that part of his job is to enforce laws that are on the books?

The approach that Los Angeles and other cities are taking with these defense funds is flawed.  It doesn’t change the existing laws, doesn’t even attempt to.  It simply seems intended to discourage enforcement of the laws by making it cost prohibitive to enforce them.  This is a bad solution to a large, complicated problem.

Regal Legal

December 15, 2016

Lawyers are a common butt of jokes in our country, with widespread public perception of the field of law and those who practice it as being…well, unsavory, to say the least.  Not just the ambulance-chasing brand of lawyers as well.  Large segments of the public distrust a profession that seems to thrive on the exploitation of minutiae to champion injustice rather than justice.  For a hefty fee.

And stories like this don’t exactly encourage a more trusting attitude, regardless of the fact that this guy lives in Australia rather than America.

I wonder what client would feel comfortable retaining Mr. Moore’s services, knowing of his willingness to defraud a bank in order to make himself more comfortable?  I wonder how Mr. Moore conceives of making “the world a better place” while still looking back fondly on his theft and the excessive lifestyle it allowed for as “great”.

I’m not sure I trust his definition of “a better place”, or his means for reaching it!

 

A Bomb, by Any Other Name

September 17, 2016

…might be called an intentional explosive.

Since…why?  Bomb sounds too scary?  Bomb is too associated with terrorists?  Bomb is somehow politically incorrect?  Is intentional explosive more specific or descriptive than bomb?

Words matter.  That might not always show from this blog, but it’s true.  I just haven’t figured out why this word has changed – at least for this event.

God Bless America

July 5, 2016

And I have no doubt Secretary Hillary Clinton is breathing massive sighs of relief today, as the FBI recommends that she not be prosecuted for her breaches of national security in utilizing a personal e-mail domain and associated servers – rather than following appropriate security protocols – to send and receive tens of thousands of e-mails, a small portion of which contained highly classified information or subjects.

There are a ton of news reports and interpretations of FBI Director James B. Comey’s statement.  If you prefer to read for yourself instead of having other people tell you bits and pieces of what he said and what you should think about it, here is the full text of his comments today.  Here is my interpretation:

  1.  Secretary Clinton violated US law in her use of a personal, unsecured e-mail server to communicate highly sensitive, official work messages through
  2. A lack of precedent for prosecutions of similar offenses leads Director Comey to recommend that no attempt to prosecute Secretary Clinton be made
  3. However, this lack of precedent should not be interpreted as an unwillingness to prosecute others who violate the law in this manner

What a curious balance.  Secretary Clinton’s actions are clearly illegal and irresponsible, and if someone else committed these identical acts, they could reasonably expect to be vigorously prosecuted and potentially imprisoned for them.  But Secretary Clinton will not be subject to any such procedure, because nobody has successfully prosecuted an official for this before.

How in the world can US citizens be expected to interpret these events?  Well, frankly, we’re not expected to.  We’re expected to just accept them like we’ve accepted all of the other travesties of justice committed by our elected officials.  We are expected to be duly outraged and indignant.  Then we are expected to go back to streaming Game of Thrones or talking about the latest Dancing with the Stars episode.  We aren’t expected to remember – we’ll be given something new and different to be terrified or outraged about later this week, no doubt.  We aren’t expected to organize.  We aren’t expected to let this affect how we vote.  We aren’t expected to talk about this any more because the decision has been made, right?  Who are we to demand accountability when the Director of the FBI has recommended no such accountability?  End of story, right?

You tell me.

 

Selective Hate

May 19, 2016

Recently a local minister was assaulted in his home after opening his door very early in the morning in response to a call for help.  A young man – likely under the influence of something – then charged into the house, beat the minister 30 times in the head, attacked his wife as well, and then awaited arrest naked from the waist down in their front yard.

A few observations, perhaps relevant to our cultural relationship to Christianity.

The young man is not being charged with a hate crime.  I wonder if the victim had been a Jewish rabbi, or a Muslim imam, if the young man would have been charged with a religious hate crime?  I strongly suspect so, even though the attack appears to have been random.

I also found this article rather callous about the whole thing.  Essentially the minister is blamed by the writer for opening the door.  The minister lives in a turbulent section of town associated with a high density of college students.  If you can call anyplace ‘safe’ anymore, you wouldn’t necessarily choose that adjective first for this area, despite the fact that there is also a segment of the population there that are long-term, stable property owners.  Someone wandering around under the influence at a late or early hour isn’t beyond the realm of possibility by a long shot.  Still, the odds of that person assaulting you in your own home is probably pretty slim.  How quickly would deputies have arrived if the minister had called them instead of responding himself?

In an area that seeks a greater sense of community and inter-relatedness in the aftermath of repeated tragedies over decades, blaming the victim is callous.  Again, would a rabbi or an imam have been blamed by an author for their injuries?  I highly doubt it.  But so long as it’s a Christian, hey, why not?

Who Are You?

February 2, 2016

The legal turning-of-tables on the people who released compromising videos of Planned Parenthood employees and executives discussing the sale of aborted baby parts has been quite a surprise.  It appears to be purely a punitive measure for the embarrassment Planned Parenthood suffered through these videos, despite an overall successful campaign to dismiss the videos as doctored and edited (does anyone ever post non-edited video?  Have you ever tried to create unedited video or audio footage?  It’s horrid!).

What are the implications for indicting people engaged in undercover journalism?  Are there any limits to undercover investigations, and how do we define those without eliminating a powerful weapon against corruption or illegal practices?  Journalists are certainly interested in this question.  Even those who are fully supportive of Planned Parenthood are voicing concerns about the legal ramifications of this move.  There certainly isn’t any available public information yet on why these charges have been made.  But it’s something we all have a stake in, regardless of how you feel about Planned Parenthood.

Keeping Count

January 4, 2016

In all the discussion about gun control a lot of statistics are getting thrown around about the number of mass shootings and other gun violence occurring.  I thought this was a good article that at least attempted to deal with these numbers in some sort of specific, transparent way.

Dangerous Devotion

December 8, 2015

On Sunday our local newspaper ran another story on the couple who perpetrated the mass killing in San Bernardino.  The headline echoed many headlines I’ve found online, about how the woman in the attack had become “more devout” in recent years.  It’s a very vague way of talking, and a dangerous one.

Devotion is not a bad thing.  You should be devoted to your spouse.  You might demonstrate devotion to a dying parent.  Parents should be devoted to their children.  Likewise, religious devotion is not a bad thing.  But I suspect that headlines such as these are painting a picture of religious devotion as bad and dangerous.

A distinction needs to be made between devotion and what or who someone is devoted to.  Devotion can be misplaced.  Deep love and respect can be misdirected and therefore misused.  This does not mean that devotion is bad.  It does not mean that religion is bad.  It simply recognizes that we are fallible.  Belief and devotion in and of themselves do not ensure that we have not been misled into wrong ways of thinking and being.  It’s why I get so irritated at the silly, cotton-candy talk about believing in something as though the act of believing is what matters.  I can believe that I can fly, but that is a dangerous belief if I ever put it into action.  If I never put it into action, it isn’t much of a belief.

So the fact that the woman shooter had become more devout is not a problem in and of itself.  What is problematic is what she apparently was becoming more devoted to – an ideology and theology that permits and justifies and even actively demands violence from adherents.

So be cautious as you read these headlines and stories.  The fact that this woman began to take her religion  very seriously is not in and of itself a bad thing.  The bad thing is that the religion she took seriously led her to seriously respond to a call for violence and bloodshed.  Let’s not be stupid and focus on the fact that she began wearing a headscarf.  If she did so, it is likely because she learned that this was part of her religion, part of the text she believed was given by God.  It is this same text that she undoubtedly came to believe was calling her to violence.  It is not her devotion that was wrong, it was placing her devotion in a book that led her to violent actions.

More and more I’ll expect to see religious devotion of any kind treated with growing suspicion and even hostility by the secular press.  We’ve heard stories already about how Christians are being equated in some quarters as equivalent to al-Quaeda (slide 24 – this is allegedly a training presentation for US military personnel).  Don’t mistake devotion for danger until you know who or what someone is devoted to.