Tear all Statues down!

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I hate what I’m seeing in our culture. Absolute mob rule. Statues first, people next!

To those who tore down the Confederate Soldier Statue last night in Durham, North Carolina, I say, why not KEEP GOING? It’s only 257 miles or so up to D.C. And there’s plenty of more statues in which you MUST DESTROY, yes all of them. I’m sure there’s some equally horrible statues in Fredericksburg and Richmond, as you progress to Washington D.C. Look around the whole world, there’s historic symbols such as the Christian Historical Relics that ISIS is destroying in Iraq and in Syria, so to you I say, “Welcome Comrades”. Here’s a map in case you need directions.

Screen Shot 2017-08-15 at 10.34.46 AMBased on events I’ve seen the last few days, we surely must tear down all the historic memorials, and especially those of Franklin D Roosevelt!

After all, the only logical conclusion we should make is that FDR was a racist, an evil villain whose policies and actions make him not worthy of being memorialized in bronze or stone.  The mindset of today’s Left, that a single correlation to someone’s life is so noteworthy that all else done during their lifetime is of no value or consideration. Suggesting that the prevalent thinking of the day in which they lived is irrelevant to how people may have formed their opinions. History be damned! You’re effectively saying that if you lived in 1860, you should have had the mindset of a Social Justice Warrior of the Two Thousand Teens, otherwise you are of a despicable class of character. I find it interesting that people living in the Echo Chamber Bubble of today’s way of thinking should judge the people who were living within their own Echo Chamber Bubble. We think we’re so much wiser now, Balderdash! May I suggest that you read up on Robert E. Lee. See if there is, as Paul Harvey used to say, a “rest of the story”.

I know, I’m rabbling in poor English sentence structure, well, I’m pissed off. I’ll fix it later.

Consider this: Arguably the most notable example of racism of the last 100 years, President Roosevelt signed an executive order in February 1942 ordering the RELOCATION of all Americans of Japanese ancestry to CONCENTRATION CAMPS in the interior of the United States.

Evacuation orders were posted in JAPANESE-AMERICAN communities giving instructions on how to comply with the executive order. Many families sold their homes, their stores, and most of their assets. They could not be certain their homes and livelihoods would still be there upon their return. Because of the mad rush to sell, properties and inventories were often sold at a fraction of their true value. Someone give me a rope!

This bronze figure must die and crash to the ground!

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Yosemite, a rose would smell as sweet

Chapel view of Yosemite Falls by Craig Richards
Chapel view of Yosemite Falls by Craig Richards

These are mine and only my own opinions, if you want to read Delaware North’s viewpoint, go to: Yosemite Trademark Discussion.

By now, most of you are aware that many of the iconic names inside Yosemite National Park have been changed. The Ahwahnee Hotel is now the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Wawona Hotel is Big Trees Lodge, Curry Village is Half Dome Village. Most everyone is disgusted about it, but few know much about the background behind the decisions to change these names.

Before we become guilty of knee-jerk reactionary emotions, let’s look at this from another perspective. Why do these iconic names need to be protected through Trademark law in the first place? Have we forgotten about the Napster’s of the world? How about Gucci versus Guess? There’s a long list of court cases of Trademark infringements. Keep in mind that the government works with private firms to service many of our treasured properties and lands, and Yosemite might be the Granddaddy of them all. Those firms do so with the intention of making a profit for their efforts. They also do so with a certain amount of risk. There’s no guarantee of profit. Why would a company who was entrusted by us (the people of America) to oversee these items, now be the recipients of ill will for doing their job of protecting those iconic names?
Delaware North was obligated to buy the intangible assets (including the existing Trademarks) from Curry Co in 1993. They wisely added protections to other assets within their care as the Internet soon became the playing field of identity thieves. There’s a lot of fake goods on eBay and some Dollar Stores, Trademarks are the legal remedy to those who would steal and re-market these valuable assets. Now, Delaware North, after losing the bid for the new contract, is required to sell all assets related to Y.N.P. to the new concessionaire. Should the sales price be at fair market value? When you’ve bought something, owned it for over 20 years, kept it up, in some cases, you’ve improved it, are you entitled to the increase in value or at least part of it when you sell it? Do we need a lesson on Risk/Reward Capitalism? Contrary to some popular late arriving opinions, it’s not evil to make money in America.
Who has changed the names? Not Delaware North, they’ve made it clear that all names can be used for free while the courts or arbitrator’s figure out the value on which the new concessionaire should pay for them. It is the National Park Service that has changed the names. Isn’t that kinda funny? The names were Trademarked to protect their value to all Americans, yet the N.P.S. decided to make them valueless.
Here’s my take on the scandal and this is the important part to understand.
The price of those assets should have been negotiated or arbitrated in advance, before the contract was even put out to bid, but that’s another story with details outside of my knowledge. The 1993 contract states that all new concessionaires must buy all the assets, thereby keeping the names protected by those who are responsible for the job. The contracted concessionaires have SKIN in the game, this is a key point, and they typically would go out of their way to protect the assets because it would otherwise threaten their bottom line profits if the names were misused by the unscrupulous. And that is what trademark law is all about. It’s difficult to grasp the value of intangible property, but value exists, and that is whats at stake here.
Delaware North was, and still is, one of the largest employers in Mariposa County and still owning Tenaya Lodge, they are a major employer for Eastern Madera County residents. Their presence has a positive impact on our local economy. Most of the funds generated by their activity comes from outsiders and a very large percentage is kept local through wages and support services and taxes. We should be standing behind them, not denigrating their presence here in our community. Personally, I’m very proud that Tenaya is a part of my “home team” and I’m rooting for them. Their success translate into jobs here in Oakhurst, North Fork, Coarsegold and beyond. And I wish nothing but good success for the new concessionaire of Yosemite, Aramark. The fact that they are a corporation 4 times larger than Delaware North doesn’t change my opinion about them. I look forward to their contribution to our community. Capitalism is what makes this country great. Regulation is what keeps greed in check. Let’s balance it with truth, not emotions.

Steel, Brick and Mortar – Straw, hay and stubble.

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I’m going to start this blog post with a Biblical quote from the poetic book of Psalm, the underlying message has application for everyone, regardless if you follow the Bible or whether you think its hogwash.

My topic is Philosophical Echo Chambers

 

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My purpose of this writing is to highlight the importance of being aware of how our brains respond to the input of information, whether it be from a trusted source, a neutral source or an adversarial source. The problem is, most of the information we take in, we don’t know if the source is “on our side” or not. We understand that CNN and FoxNews present the same story from different viewpoints with a singular goal to influence the audience to see a thing a certain way. Or do they? Maybe they really don’t care about the information, maybe their whole spiel is just in the presentation so as to attract and keep the most viewers in which they can sell commercials for. In other words, they are playing to their base, for profit. How many times have you heard the words “Breaking News” followed by the word “Russia”. Trust me, their goal is to get you to watch.

 

There’s an old adage, “When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.”

But, what should we stand for? Have you fallen for everything? I suggest that maybe you have. I have. And there’s a reason for it.

Here’s my premise: We all fall for something, let’s try to make sure its true, before its too late. And by too late, I mean that once a thing or a thought gets a foothold, a place in which to grow, it builds up callous which hardens into a wall.

Echo |ˈekō| Greek Mythology

a nymph deprived of speech by Hera in order to stop her chatter, and left able only to repeat what others had said.

Echo Chamber

an enclosed space for producing reverberation of sound.

I have found in my experience that within the realm of Religion, there is no greater gathering of echo chamber dwellers. 2nd on my list are those who go to political rallies.

Even the great teacher and writer of much of the New Testament, Paul, knew of this phenomenon when he wrote to Timothy

 

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Ok, this is not a Bible Study, so let me continue.

How is an Echo Chamber constructed? Keep in mind, that a chamber is a containment dwelling, a place where influences trying to enter from the outside are greatly hindered. Only those sound waves that are generated from within will reverberate, while outside sources fade fast. We all live in our pre-constructed, very well fortified Echo Chambers.

Is it possible for you and me to have the following conversation?

You say: "So what, Craig, I'm happy in my space". 

My question in response, "Knowing that you could be totally deceived, even about your whole purpose of life, shouldn't you at least look to see if it has happened?, What have you got to lose?"

You: "What, you're suggesting that I'm not smart enough to know deception, that I'm just a total fool?"

Me: "No, not at all. Like me, you have a human brain that works a certain way. We do have logic and reason as a tool, but emotions are much stronger. Emotions are built over time by a repetition of input from outside, from our environment. So, what happens? When logic is presented to us, we will accept it readily if it agrees with what our emotions have come to believe in, or we will reject it, logic and all, because our emotions are King. Logic is our servant, he's only called upon when convenient and when it won't cause discomfort."

The goal of this blog is to break down the bricks so that sounds can indeed be heard. That the opinions of others have a chance to be heard. This turns out, to be the foundation of American thought, of free speech. In some ways, we’ve been living in an American Echo Chamber now for a few decades, and the Internet is a sledge hammer, doing its best to tear down the old buildings that we didn’t even know were forming our opinions for years and years. We see momentum of changes, we see it in the media, we see it in academia, we see it in politics. I believe we are in for a wild ride, and only those with eyes wide open will be able to make any sense of it all.

So, back to my Bible study and how the 1st Psalm shown above relates. The Bible claims to be truth. The Bible tells us to get inside its echo chamber. And the Psalmist simply tells you what he thinks will be the result of you living there. It’s not any different than any other presentation to humans, the question to be answered is, it this the ultimate truth? At the least, we can agree that whomever it was who wrote the words had a grasp on the concept of Confirmation Bias and Cognitive Dissonance and his warning was that to avoid getting sucked into some other chamber, stick to his.

Build that Wall or tear it down? Merkel, Trump and NATO –

The other day, the leaders of the free world got together at the NATO headquarters, next to a fragment of the torn down Berlin Wall and gave some speeches. Some say that Angela Merkel destroyed Trump in her speech. I disagree.

Walls are often not only physical, but also symbolic. Berlin’s wall and Trump’s wall are distinctively different symbols.
 
Merkel’s message was about individual human freedom and the beauty of how the NATO Nations came together to bring about change. On this Memorial Day weekend, I for one will remember those millions of people in history who’ve died to bring us the Individual Freedom’s that Western Civilization has provided us. Please listen to Merkel’s speech, understand what the Berlin Wall was, don’t change it’s meaning just to fit your present day political agenda, and be very thankful for your lifestyle and liberties which are cemented in our Constitution.
 
We see here in the US, success after success of immigrants who’ve added in amazing ways to our culture. Our culture is freedom. This success is due in part because there’s been a loosely controlled funnel that allows time to assimilate generations of new arrivals. And it’s two way, we need time to allow the newbies to be part of us, just as they need time to blend into our way of life. We both change, but it takes time. Force feeding won’t work. The funnel wasn’t just a result of our legislative policy, but also a function of geographic separation. But a funnel existed none the less. There is no realistic funnel to control the tidal wave that is happening now in Europe. This will not end well, and we will blame different reasons, but the reasons aren’t what’s important, the end result is what is important.
 
Our founders provided for freedom to included religion, speech and the pursuit of happiness. The elasticity of the document soon brought in further liberties of gender, race and orientation, but freedom is and always has been paramount to any other right provided. On the contrary, the document’s held up by other cultures and peoples often emphatically, specifically and beyond refuting, take away the liberties of some. Those are the people who are pouring into Germany and other parts of Europe. They may very well blend in and add to the new society, or sadly, if economic despair (or bigotry) becomes their lot, they may see their document as a battle cry.
 
Hopes and dreams of those crossing dangerous waters can soon enough die due to an unfulfilled life. This is when those dreamers can become jihadist. I sort of understand them, life can suck, and we humans tend to become reactionary and influenceable under duress. My conclusion is that I happen to see Trump’s wall as a screened funnel for the good and inclusion of all kinds of people who desire to be free. We just need to pace ourselves, that’s not racist or bigoted, its pragmatic. I mean, come on, I am friends with all kinds of Americans, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Asians, Gays. Yet, my political point of view somehow makes me racist and narrow minded?

Comfortable Politics

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’ve been doing a lot of contemplation about human nature and specifically the process by which we, as individuals, process new information. My conclusion is simple: When something is presented to us, our nature is to make whatever it is, COMFORTABLE.

But today’s subject brings me great discomfort. Why? Because my old way of thinking is being challenged and I don’t like it. I’ve been writing quite a bit on the subjects of  (1) Confirmation Bias and (2) Cognitive Dissonance (here and here). These subjects have helped me to observe the 2016 Presidential Election and the aftermath in a whole different light. I’ve seen the bias of both sides with amazing clarity. I’ve read the comment sections from the Internet posts. I know that both sides of the political spectrum like to SPIN the narrative, and I’ve concluded that as individuals, we do the same thing – to ourselves. We spin the information to fit our own level of comfort, or we just refuse to hear it. Our comfort is enhanced by navigating to the stories that we agree with, or tuning into the channels that present our side of the story, and when an opposing view is presented, we reject it quickly, make up an excuse and go on building a stronger and larger wall around our biased belief structure. Soon, our custom made and individual echo chambers are fully constructed. Yes, we all do it!

So now, let me bring up the subject of Islam in America. Its not a new discussion, in fact our founders foresaw this conflict even during a time when as far as they knew, there were no Muslims living in the country. As I read it, their worst fears would have been the integration of Islam in America, so why did they codify the Muslim’s right to be here and to freely practice their faith? Our founders were admittedly Protestant. There were just a few Jews, also Catholics were a very limited minority.  The European backdrop of religious wars during the Reformation and other conflicts throughout civilization is clear, our Founding Fathers knew from whence they came from, they were acutely aware of how religious differences created all sorts of havoc in Western and every other civilization. One of the greatest of all the civil liberties that our founders pondered was Religious Freedom. And the debate continues to this day. As a Christian, I can emphatically say “We have never been a Christian Country”, yet I know that we have been a country of mostly Christians, amongst some others.

I think it would be good to tell you at this point my personal belief about Islam. I will also tell you upfront that my personal feelings are of little value.

To me, Islam is a regressive totalitarian system that blends religious emotions (one of the strongest human drives) into a system of government full of tyrannical influences. Islam can become more than a religious faith, it’s potential is a controlling governmental system that suppresses human equality and is in direct conflict with American ideals. I believe that the expanding geo-political mentality of the Islamic Culture will cause the experiment of America’s Personal Freedoms to be lost and changed due to the demographic numbers of the future. Our Constitution will be nullified and a new form of government will replace it. It won’t happen due to a war fought with weapons, it will happen because the current trend towards something called Tolerance and Acceptance will forcibly CLOSE OFF all contrary discussions, here a little, there a little, slowly, those like me, who oppose the new dominate culture, will be silenced, perhaps eliminated.

Now you know my bias. But I have a real problem. The 1st Amendment is clear, there shall be no law prohibiting the free exercise of any Religion. Our founders talked about Islam specifically when they were dealing with this subject. What were they thinking? Why didn’t they just say, all Religions EXCEPT Islam are free to be exercised in America? Why indeed? For now, the Muslim population is small, the people are good and are living respectable lives within our country. Any social discord committed by Muslims is no greater in numbers demographically, than any other group, their civility maybe even better than average. They get the negative press, that’s for sure.  Some are even my friends. To single them out based against their actual civil conduct would be very wrong of me, they’re good people. My personal belief about Islam as a Religion is not being met with reality as it’s presented to me here in America, so from a mentality of good ole fashioned Americanism, my prejudice is out of line, clearly.

We are RIGHT NOW at a crossroads. We cannot stop Islam by saying “You can’t practice your faith here”, that would be against the Constitution. They can and do practice here, rightfully so! Our fight remains as its always been, in the public square of debate, where reason and mindful thinking have free reign to coexist with each other. Sadly, the Antifa Anarchist groups are becoming more prevalent at Conservative Free Speech gatherings, they want to shut us up. They wear their black uniforms and cover their faces, trying to intimidate and create fear. But like the Wizard of Oz, behind the curtain is something much less fearful. We must continue to stand up against them, with our speech.

So, what can we do? Or, looking at it from another angle, “What must we do to allow our system to work and to continue to grant individual freedom to all?”

Answer: Fight for ALL of what the 1st Amendment spells out. And, as it turns out, we are in a tense battle with just this reality, RIGHT NOW.

I’ll conclude with this. The founders codified that practicing Islam cannot be forbidden. So what did they mean that speech could not be abridged? Both are spelled out in the same Amendment, if one cannot be hindered, can the other? Can you see why Freedom of Speech is paramount to every right we have? Its the glue that binds all other rights together, without it, the discussion is over. We lose.

The strength of Christianity isn’t in our ability to fight off the opposition with new laws and regulations, the strength of Christianity is “Christ in Us, the hope of glory”. Living and leading a life with Jesus as our true example will by default make the case for us. So what did Jesus leave us as an example? He loved, he debated with reason and knowledge of the truth, he bled for us, he died for us, he rose and will return for us. In the mean time, we should also be loving and debating, and with the promised help of the Holy Spirit, we have a greater advantage. We lose our advantage when we go outside of the prescribed directive.

The First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

A Compassionate America – YES

I’m amazed at what I’m seeing on television and on my social media feeds from yesterday and today. So many people are emboldened, willing to brawl, because President Trump has  placed a temporary ban on allowing people into the United States from certain countries. They’re telling me that I surely don’t have true compassion if I agree with the President. They are dead wrong  – literally. See Stefan Molyneux video attached.

The opinions about me notwithstanding, here’s my view of what compassion looks like. Stop sending American made bombs to the Middle East. Stop sending our boys and girls there to fight and kill and to be killed, coming home with horrible injuries, horrible syndromes. Instead, start sending a small portion of that money along with the people who can create safe areas for the refugees and secure them away from the violence, but near their homes to someday return to. Show them that we care by doing it smart, with the greatest effectiveness that our wealth and creativity and compassion can muster, but do it there, because it’s the PRUDENT thing to do (again, see the video). The hell with Left versus Right politics! This has gone on long enough, trillions have been spent. I say to American political interest in that part of the world, Get out!, isolate the combatants, let them slug it out amongst themselves. Turn off (jam) all forms of communications into or out of those areas, yes we have the capability. That will slow the radicalization of the rest of the world. Why are we fighting in their religious war?  The oil isn’t important anymore, we can drill or frack our own oil and technology will continue to cause oil to be even less important. I get the feeling that those always-fighting-amongst-themselves Muslim factions will die a much quicker death from their regressive ideology than we’ve been able to squelch even after 40 years of trying. Its ridiculous! Its time that America stops being an enabler to bratty kids. Keep them in their rooms and shut the door, no phones, no internet, nothing. Outside, they’re hooligans and always will be.

“All human desires are infinite.

All human resources are finite.”

Confirmation Bias

In my latest blog post, I look at one of the most difficult things we as humans MUST do… Remove our emotions from new incoming information.

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Confirmation Bias

the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.

As we lead up to the Inauguration on Friday, we will no doubt have a lot of information presented to us via the news networks and online via social media. How are you going to process all this information? It seems to be coming to a crescendo. Experts say that we make 90% of our decisions based on emotions rather than reasoning, yet most of us would say we’ve thought things through. Let’s start with one little statement and see where it takes you.

Your current Belief:  Trump is a White Nationalist who has racial supremacy issues.

New Evidence is Presented to you: Trump appoints a Black man to be the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.), who came from a broken home, raised by a single mother while living in government subsidized urban housing, later to become a highly respected Brain Surgeon. Trump also meets with some Black leaders and sets up a panel to help find ways to change policy and attitudes in hopes of bringing change to the plight of young Black Americans. 

How do you interpret these statements?

Here’s two headlines shared on Facebook about the situation.

Trump reaches out to the Black Community in a sincere reconciliation move. 

Trump appoints a token black man, who is unqualified to do the job.

The two opposite headlines are reporting on the same thing. So, what is it that makes us believe one headline and not the other? Answer: Our previously garnered bits and pieces of built up Bias. As your bias builds, so does your emotional tie to your belief structure. Is your current political bias based on facts or emotions? Most likely, you’ve been adding to your emotional bias with story upon story upon story. Who’s to say that every single story you’ve ever heard about Trump had two possible interpretations, just as the one above? Now, you are so fixated by your emotional bias that you cannot even fathom that you could be wrongly interpreting the situation. You truly believe that nearly half the country is thoroughly decieved. So what do you do? Do you open yourself up to change or do you dig in your heels even further with every new story.

I know I’m just as guilty 0f it as anyone else. Bias is a very hard nut to crack. Emotions are very strong and the process of changing our attitude is usually fraught with painful ripping, like a bandage on an open wound. But don’t you want to be right? I do. That’s why I make a concentrated effort to reading differing points of view (it’s a very difficult process). I’ve also learned to mostly avoid the comment section, because that’s where the bias is at it’s most emotional level.

I’m going to give you one more statement, see where this one leads you.

ALL Commercial News outlets are unreliable sources filled with biased information, and every story they present should be view with a skeptics passion. 

Every piece of news we take in has the potential of being FAKE news, yes even those that come from a government agency, so go in with that presupposition, keep your emotions in check, let the facts come to the surface, then and only then can reason be your true guide. I’d much rather have a good debate based on reason rather than emotions. It is then that our policy making can include compromises with the understanding that there rarely is a one-size-fits-all solution to our problems. But when emotional rhetoric is our weapon of choice, we end up at war with each other. The end of which is not good for anyone.

E pluribus unum