Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Protests or Attempted Coercion?

My plans for a multi-part blog on moral actions kind of failed.  Not enough planning ahead of time, and I wanted to mix two theses that didn't integrate very well.  But in thinking about moral actions in the public sphere, I settled on a topic dealing with public protests.  I'll first state my thesis, then provide some definitions, and finally get to my arguments.

I don't like protests.  I'm not saying all protests are bad or that a protester is necessarily doing anything wrong.  Many may have admirable motives, and many protests may be pushing a good cause. But there are far too many protests that make the news where the protesters show lack of good judgment in behavior, and far too often are pushing a cause I do not believe in.  And way too many of those appear to break laws with impunity.

My preferred behavior is to vote, write letters to congressmen or local politicians, participate in your community's government, write letters to the editor, and post respectful social commentary. 

An alternative, in some cases, would be to bring a lawsuit.  I don't like that option as too often cases are filed that are trivial or depend on an off-the-wall legal theory.  And they are often misused to slow a process or bankrupt an opponent.

Back to my thesis.  Protests too often are coercive in nature or even lead to behavior that would be characterized as assault (and sometimes battery) if done by an individual.  As an example, protesting a company's factory that is creating noxious odors in the community is probably a good cause.  But blocking their parking lots, walkways, or entrance is coercive and despicable.  If they don't get out of the way when employees, who are trying to make a living, try to enter, it is the equivalent of assault.  If they push or shove employees trying to enter, it's battery.  If they protest on the company's land, such as their parking lot, it is trespass.

Now, we need some definitions. 

  • Google's definition of coerce is a fairly generic one: "persuade (an unwilling person) to do something by using force or threats."  
  • The's definition of assault is "... an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact. An assault is carried out by a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm."  
  • The's definition of battery is "... an intentional unpermitted act causing harmful or offensive contact with the "person" of another. ... The punishment for criminal battery is a fine, imprisonment, or both. Usually battery is prosecuted as a crime only in cases involving serious harm to the victim."
  • Cornell's website states that trespass is "... defined by the act of knowingly entering another person's property without permission."
Assault, battery, and trespass are common criminal offenses, and when brought to the police's attention, the offender will usually get arrested and often tried for the offense.  Trespass is not usually considered a serious crime, unlike assault and battery.

Coercion is also found in criminal law, but is applied in different ways in different jurisdictions.  For the purpose of this article, I won't assume there is any criminal penalty for the coercive aspects of protests.  However, if the protests go so far as to commit assault, battery or even trespassing, I do believe protesters should be arrested and tried for those crimes.

On to the discussion.  It appears to me that protesters have a range of motivations.  1) Some may merely want to bring an issue to the attention of voters, government, or a corporation. 2) Some protesters may be trying to obstruct an activity or operation that they think should be stopped.  3) Some may be trying to actually intimidate other individuals or groups.  4) Same may be trying to express anger or rage about an action.  5) And a few may be trying to destroy property or injure and intimidate individuals because they feel wronged.  I'm not trying to be comprehensive here, and I may have missed a few motives.  But I think these five are pretty representative.

Protests primarily involving motive #1 (getting attention for an issue) can generally be executed in a non-coercive way and with no criminal behavior.  While handheld signs are only sufficient to convey the simplest message, most such protests will get TV or newspaper attention.  If they stay on public lands and get any required local permit, I have no problem with such protests.  However, if they were to tie up my local park during regular park hours, I still wouldn't be happy with them.

I'll jump for a moment to motive #4 (expressing anger at an action).  If there are no other motivations (and related coercive or criminal activities), this is a perfectly understandable motivation for a protest.  An example would be a peaceful protest against rezoning or use of eminent domain.  Unfortunately, protests involving anger often include other motivations and offensive behavior.  Examples of that would be anger at trail verdicts that turns to violence.

In the past, motive #2 (obstructing an activity or operation) was pretty common, and it still is.  Unions, or unionizers, wanted to obstruct a company's operations when they wouldn't allow a union to form or they wouldn't accede to a union's demands.   Protesters blocked abortion clinics or pro-life clinics.  Protesters tried to stop oil pipelines or nuclear reactors from being built.  Most of these protests involved physically preventing entry of employees or customers.  Most I would consider to have passed over the threshold of assault and often battery.  Trespass was common.  This behavior is detestable and way too often, the police seem to look the other way.  Since this usually involves physical action against individuals, I believe it is entirely coercive in nature.

In today's political environment, motive #3 (intimidating individuals or groups) is becoming more common.  Instead of trying to get their message across with signs, people, and the media (where motive #1 is primary), they get in the face of their 'opponents.'  These cases include the protest groups showing up at restaurants to intimidate Trump officials and Republican legislators.  In my opinion, the restaurant owner or manager should ask the protesters to leave immediately and should file trespass charges if they do not.  If the protesters are rowdy or a large group, the police should hold them for assault (unlikely).  Another example is cornering and screaming at Senator Flake in a congressman-only elevator.  Then there is the more generic example of so-called anti-fascist protest groups forming to objective to a speaker or another protest group.  In this case, they tend to get to the pushing and shoving stage, all the way to battery.  Too many police forces are looking the other way in all of these situations--mostly in blue (Democrat run) cities. All of these examples are attempts to coerce their opponents.

Motive #5 (destroying property and injuring individuals) is the most heinous form of protest.   In the past, such protests were called riots.  And in most such cases, the police tried to arrest individuals and stop the riot.  Today, we see Democrat city administrators tell police to stand down, even when the 'protesters' are destroying cars, places of business, and university property.  Black hooded Antifa and Black Lives Matter protesters wielding weapons are somewhat common now on the West coast and in places like Baltimore.  Property damage, assault, battery, and obstructing traffic are all chargeable offenses.  But these rioters, in an extreme way, support the message of the democrat party.  To me, its despicable activity and a despicable failure to enforce our laws.

I think I've pointed out examples of many protests that are not 'peaceful and law-abiding.'  But I need to go further and say that I think you should let anyone speak on any topic and opinion.  If they were to encourage criminal activity (such as murder, assault or battery), any permit should be withdrawn and the protest disbanded by the police.  But one should not confuse hateful talk with criminal incitement.  If a speaker's words are not something you don't want to hear, don't listen.  If others think like you, no one will attend.  Heckling a speaker is to me particularly offensive behavior.  It may not be criminal, until the property owner asks the heckler to leave, but its uncivil, discourteous and any person with a sense of decency should abstain from that behavior.  That's my thoughts for public speaking and protests. 

But going into restaurants, or screeching outside someone's home, or intruding into their place of employment is going over the line for civil behavior.  Those types of protest should require immediate police response.

Most protests I see on TV or read about are not a group of well-behaved, respectful individuals just trying to get a message across.  Most are trying to coerce a group or individual to behavior they approve of, often times by behavior that is not lawful, and frequently by ridiculing or heckling opponents. 

My recommendation is stay away from protests.  Find other ways to express your opinions and get your message across.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Lies, Morals and Writing

I decided to do a two part blog, mostly because I've thought about two related topics and I want to tie them together.  This may not work. :)

If you've read any of my earlier non-hiking blogs, you probably know I don't like dishonesty.  And that's where I want to start today.  I do a lot of reading:  news, blogs, and fiction novels.  And a lot of what I'm seeing today appears blatantly dishonest.  I prefer to presume that writers and journalists are competent rather than incompetent.  They've gone through school or training and they have bosses and editors that review their work.  Fiction authors, especially for eBooks (generic term), may be the exception, as they may be doing their first professional releases.

But if the writers are competent, that means that many of them are dishonest.  When they leave out details that don't provide the whole truth or that lead a reader to a conclusion that may not be true, I assume they are being dishonest.  The exception is a big story, where they glaringly leave out one or more of the who, what, when, where and why.  In those cases, I tend to assume either they are lazy, incompetent, or their bosses are not giving them the time or resources to investigate properly.  But that's another blog.

Most of the media are now anti-Trump and most of their stories leave out or distort background that would show President Trump's actions or words were quite reasonable.  To me, that is dishonesty, and abhorrent behavior.  Likewise, when they bury or don't cover President Trump's successes.  That is not even-handed journalism. It is a blatant attempt to push the electorate to vote against President Trump, Republicans, and their positions.  Again, abhorrent.

Then there are the election advertisements.  I haven't seen a democrat's ad (or their PAC's) that I find believable or honest.  The closest might have been Beto O'Rourke's original ads that said he wanted to end divisiveness.  He didn't lie about his opponent, and I assumed he believed he wanted to end divisiveness.  Until he started the dishonest attack ads against Ted Cruz--that push divisiveness.  In a 30 second ad, I do not expect a full discussion of an issue.  But I do expect an honest presentation of the facts and what they mean.  I don't see them.

I try to carry over that belief in honesty in my private life.  I abhor lies.  Of course, I'm not perfect.  I've had recent medical problems, and my wife keeps asking how I am doing.  Instead of telling her it's been bad, I just say I'm ok.  But when she asks about specific symptoms, I tell her the full truth.  I never volunteer statements that are false or partial truths.  I never answer with false or partial truths (except in the socially acceptable setting where people don't want to hear about your problems).

I sometimes get emotional when discussing other people's falsehoods when talking with my wife.  I don't like them doing it to others, and I don't want people to lie to me either.

Transitioning from lies to more general morals is a bit more difficult.  I consider my morals my view of whether acts are right or wrong.  I had a religious upbringing, so I also consider acts, that the Bible identified as sins, as wrong.  On TV and movies today, adultery is one of the most seen acts that I consider wrong.  It really bothers me.  Then there is cheating, stealing, cussing, and murder.  At least in most series and movies, stealing and murder is still considered wrong.  And on some stations or channels, they will still bleep out cussing during hours when children could be watching.

If a series or movie seems to grant approval to immoral acts or builds its plot around such action, it bothers me, and I stop watching.  I've stopped recording (for later viewing) series after a couple of episodes.  I try not to watch a movie if the summary shows it supports immorality.

Books (and I only read electronic books now because of my eye-sight) are a different problem.  I buy some off of Amazon, and I 'rent' others through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.  When I was young, I could go into a book store and go to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, and look at the book's summary.  Back then, I found the vast majority of those books to be on the right side of morality.  The lead characters were the good guys, out righting the wrongs in their universe.  Kind of like the Super Heroes of today, only most didn't have super powers.  Those books didn't have cussing, adultery (very often), or graphical depictions of sex acts.

And since getting published (and edited) was tough, they were usual well written with few plot issues.

Today's flood of Kindle Unlimited books are showing a lot of poor writing, with poor character explorations and lots of plot issues.  You can avoid most of those issues by looking at the reviews.  The best reviews are usually for pretty acceptable writing.

But I've also changed preferences from science fiction to fantasy.  I still read a mix, just like when I was younger, but the mix has changed.  Maybe the science fiction writers are fewer, or maybe I'm just not finding the good ones.  But I think the TV series that make vampires look romantic instead of evil monsters seems to have influence and created a lot of fantasy writers.  It looks like some authors that in the past would have written romances (that I would not have read) are now doing urban fantasy, which I occasionally read.

But some urban fantasy authors seem to think that the romance is the central plot line.  And too many end up with graphical sex scenes.  To me, that is just too much like porn.  It is morally repugnant.  In a few cases, I've had to stop reading authors that went too far.  If the romance isn't incidental or supplementary to the plot, I won't read it.

Most recently, I started a series by two authors.  It read like traditional fantasy, set in an urban fantasy universe.  It was a little simple, but it had engaging characters and nice action, plus an intriguing fantasy world development.  I read the 10 (somewhat short) books from Kindle Unlimited.  Then looked at their other series.

I think the lead author switched from the first series to the second (though I am unsure of the order).  The authors are different genders, and the lead character was female (instead of male) in the second series.  I'll go into more detail in part on the series and writing of these two authors.

But the second series had some moral issues that almost had me drop it.  First, they came up with a 5" troll with green hair.  A cute concept.  But the troll hides his intelligence and ability to speak when he is first introduced.  Instead, most of the troll's language in the first few books of this second series is cussing; usually, some variation of the f-word.  I think its supposed to be humorous.  Maybe in real life, it would be humorous.  In the book, it was ok the first time or two, but then it became too much.  And worse, all the characters in the books observing the troll thought it's language was humorous or cute.  Why do this?  In most literature, characters using foul language were thought to be foul persons.  This writing seems to be conveying the message that cussing is ok.

The next item that bothers me in one of their other series, is when a group of high school kids go shopping in a mall run by magical beings.  I don't know why, but they have one boy still a knife for whittling.  The text indicates he doesn't have the funds to pay for it, so he just picks it up and runs.  There is no subsequent mention of consequences or corrective action, or even any indication that the boy believes he did something wrong.  Instead, the story seems to laud the boy with accolades for his subsequent whittling.

Another issue in that last series, with the boy thief, is that the female lead comes across information that her school's administration needs to know.  There are bad guys trying to disrupt the school and hurt the students.  Instead of telling the administration, she repeatedly keeps the information to herself.  While this may be a mechanism to support the defective (in my view) plot approach, it seems to support the position that it is ok to keep important information from the authorities on folks seriously breaking the law.  Is that a message you want young readers to take away?

In those last three series I mentioned, the average review was always 4.5 to 5 (out of 5) stars.  I'm not sure what's up with new writers, maybe this was an aberration.  But it sure seems that writers are going the way of journalists; i.e., immorality and dishonesty is ok.

The next part in this blog will focus more on the writing of several series of the two authors I mentioned above.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Thoughts on Manifest TV Series 2018

I have pretty much given up on new TV series.  In general, I don't agree with the morals displayed or the political and social philosophies that they push.  But I cannot resist checking out the occasional TV series where the trailers show something intriguing.  Manifest was one of those series.

A plane full of people disappear for five years then land.  The people on the plane did not age, and they weren't aware they were not landing the day they took off.  The lead characters are a family that split up before the plane took off to take advantage of an airline offer for taking a later flight.  That includes a pair of twins (one male, one female), the parents, and I think the husband's sister.

Well, the plane blows up a day or two later.  Several of the passengers hear voices that tell them to do things that help people.  And one of the doctors on board notices a new blood marker in several of the flyers.  Of course, the NSA seems to think this is a national security crisis and tends to view all of the passengers as suspects (weird).

So far, so good.  It's a kind of sci-fi mystery that is intriguing to me.

Now to the most recent episodes.  First, we find out one of the flight attendants smuggled a relative's boyfriend on the plane, and they are now hiding him from the NSA (and I presume ICE).  He's an obvious illegal immigrant.  To enhance diversity, I think he is gay.  The flight attendant is a lesbian.  They make the smuggled guy out to be very sympathetic.  So several social justice themes there.  I'm not into social justice in my TV series.  I want to be entertained.  I'm looking for the sci-fi mystery plot to be extended.

Next, we have the husband's sister who is a police officer.  She was engaged to another officer who was apparently at times her partner.  During the five years, her fiancee got promoted to detective and married her best friend.  She was obviously distressed.  But she hears voices and helps find/rescue victims.  But she doesn't always understand what the voice tells her, so we see a couple of missteps.  The last one destroys a sting operation.  Her detective/partner/former fiance takes the fall, and he may lose his job.  Disturbingly, she won't explain the voices to him, apparently thinking the NSA is a bigger threat than the consequences of honesty.  But the most disturbing point is that her father (he appears to be in his 60's) tells her since she still loves the detective, she should pursue him even though he's married.  To me, that's moral offense number one.  Its a very offensive plot detail.

The next issue is that the twin's mother got a boyfriend during the missing five years, and apparently they became close lovers.  She, and the daughter who was with her, hide this from the returning husband/father.  That part's a little believable; though it doesn't say a lot about what they think of the husband's ability to understand and forgive.  The problem is that she simply ignores the former lover's messages.  When he becomes insistent, she finally tells him she has decided to carry on with her marriage.  But in this last episode, he shows up at her door, and she lets him in.  Maybe they are doing this for the tension.  But it sure looks like the plot trajectory is going to have her be unfaithful to her husband in the present.  Maybe I'm wrong.  But it's an irritating plot line and it could become offensive to me.

So, instead of a straight sci-fi mystery series, we get a melodrama with social justice themes and potential gutter morals that have become too common on TV.  I'll record the next few episodes, but will stop watching live.  Then I'll check out whether the plot evolves in a way that I can live with.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Misleading Campaign Ads

I watch very few TV shows or movies, mostly because I don't agree with the morals and political viewpoints pushed in most shows produced today.  But when I do, I cannot help but see the TV advertisements for competing candidates.  For the most part, they are what I consider disgusting.  The best of them are just bad.  What bothers me the most are the misleading statements in most of them.

For example, Beto O'Rourke (democrat running for US Senator from Texas against Ted Cruz) seems to have only one ad on the channels I've watched.  He gets up there and talks about stopping the division in American politics today.  He says not a word about any of his positions on domestic or foreign policies.  Probably because they tend to follow the progressive line and are unpopular in red-state Texas.  But he's getting lots of donations.

And yeah, nobody likes divisive politics.  But as long as opposing parties have differing positions, its going to be divisive.  However, it sure looks to me like Democrats are advocating for more violence and divisiveness, not just in Congress, but in your everyday lives.  What does Beto O'Rourke suggest?  Nothing in that ad.  How would he reduce divisiveness?  I don't have any idea.  He might denounce the 'uncivil' advocacy spoken by Hillary Clinton or Eric Holder, but he hasn't done that.

His opponent is Ted Cruz (R).  I like Cruz; he doesn't waiver on most of the positions I support.  However, his ads are not what I would call good.  He highlights the deplorable positions Beto O'Rourke has taken on various policies, then talks about his opposing position.  I don't know what else he could do (except the debates) to bring attention to O'Rourke's lousy positions.  Unfortunately, he ends each of his ads with the required statement that he has approved the advertisement.  But for some reason the producers have the statement aired in a tiny soft voice you can barely hear.  Very odd.

Then there is the Will Hurd (R) and Jina Ortiz Jones (D) race for US Representative in Texas 23rd district.  This one involves both candidate and PAC ads.  You've probably guessed I won't vote for any democrats.  But I don't think I'm in the 23rd district.  I'll know when I go to the polls.

First, let's start with Will Hurd's ads.  I don't like them any more than than I do Beto O'Rourke's.  They show Rep Hurd meeting with constituents and talk about working to support his constituents' needs.  At least that's a little more honest than O'Rourke's assertion he will reduce divisiveness in politics.  But they are totally useless at providing information on policy positions.

Honestly, I don't remember any ads supporting Jina Ortiz Jones.  Either they are not memorable, or they aren't being placed on the channels/shows I watch.

But there are PAC ads criticizing Gina Ortiz Jones and ones criticizing Will Hurd.  The ones criticizing Hurd state that he voted to raise health care costs 8 times.  Since Congress doesn't determine health care costs, for the most part, this is nonsense.  He may have voted to cancel Obamacare, which would have been done with the expectation of reducing costs with a replacement.  Or they may have been counting Medicare, Medicaid or military Tri-Care votes.  But the ad doesn't say.  What I do conclude is that any such vote would have been something I probably supported.

The ads against Jones are peculiar.  It's like PAC's have no skill in marketing or won't hire someone with skill.  One talks about how she added the Ortiz middle name to her campaign only after she started running in a Hispanic district. It's peculiar that if you look at her Wikipedia post, she (or her submitters) call her Ortiz Jones instead of Gina Jones further in the article.

A second PAC add against Jones talks about how she supported BRAC but is against it when campaigning.  BRAC is the supposedly 'independent' assessment that recommends closing military bases.  It's the approach Congress used in the past to get enough votes to close large numbers of military bases.  There are lots of military bases in the 23rd district and San Antonio area.

Both sets of PAC ads against O'Rourke and Jones focus on how they support Nancy Pelosi or are supported by her.  While it's probably useful information, I hate wasting my time watching them.

Bottom line is that ads for the coming congressional elections are misleading, are poorly done, or just insulting to me.  I assume there are people out there who aren't into politics, and the ads are trying to influence those voters.  But can't the candidates at least focus on their own policies during those ads?