It’s easy to ignore the poor

I think we all just need to admit it, why try to ignore the poor as if they were not there. We do little things during the holidays like donate food to a food shelf, or put pocket change in the Salvation Army bucket. These are small trivial efforts that will not really address the real problem, they just let us ease our minds.

In Babylon 5 we see through out the series what are referred to as the lurkers in down below. The lurkers are really the poor homeless people that live on the station, calling them lurkers is really just a way to help keep the distance. In the show we see the poor treated much more like we as a society treat them then we see in almost any form of media, even the news.

Politicians refuse to take action to help the poor in most cases and businesses say it costs too much to solve the problem. This is why big businesses lobby against welfare and food stamps, yet complain when their sales are down when they rely on a lot of that money. The reality of things is that it would better for the economy and the growing national debt to deal with this problem head on.

In Babylon 5 we see the government trying to prevent unions from negotiating for better pay and working conditions. Although it is not mentioned you can tell from some of the conversations that many of the poor take odd jobs for less then a livable wage just to have something to eat. The poor have little to no access to any kind of health care which causes diseases to spread rapidly among them.

In our modern world we have a shrinking middle class and many more families are at risk of falling below the poverty line. How do our politicians respond to this, of course the only way they know how, by refusing to work together making any attempt at help fail.

One big example of this is The Affordable Care Act, it is far from perfect but it the politicians would actually work together it could be great, saving families and adding money to the economy. As it stands now it costs a lot making it not so affordable care and it takes so long to get most benefits that most people only see a new expense.

Another current issue that could be at the core of this debate is the minimum wage. With many states raising their minimum wage above the required minimum wage we see a lot of businesses complaining about the costs. The truth is that if people are paid more they can spend more. Yes in the very short term you pay more but see nothing extra but as people start spending the extra money its should return through increased sales.

Lets continue down this track for a bit. Now that you have had the increased sales because more people can afford your product you need to hire more people to do the job. And one more person has a job, this can help that person get above the poverty line.

This also means people are making more taxable income and more people are working and paying taxes. This means we have more money coming in to slow the rate of growth of our national debt, lets face it we won’t eliminate it.

Many of the lurkers on Babylon 5 had criminal records because they did what it took to survive including theft. This also parallels the real world because the poor often have to steal to eat or do questionably legal odd jobs for enough money just to eat a meal or two. Poor people are more likely to commit a crimes and get sentenced to jail time. This is yet another way addressing the problem of the poor would help our society. Less poor means less crime which means less money spent on a costly prison system.

Well we have gone far enough on this topic for a point to be made.

Check out Jessie Ventura on Off The Grid for more common sense on why we need to end our war on the poor.

Assisted suicide and the right to die

The topic of assisted suicide is one that seems to come and go somewhat frequently. Assisted suicide is a topic that few people seem to want to talk about but those who do are often touched by this difficult topic. In Star Trek The Next Generation we see this topic covered in a unique way in the episode Half a Life.

In this episode an alien man Timicin is aboard the Enterprise to perform an experiment that could very well save his entire race. While aboard the Enterprise Timicin meets the outspoken Lwaxana Troi who falls for him. After the experiment fails the Enterprise returns with him to Timicin’s home world at which time Lwaxana learns that he is returning home to die.

On Timicin’s home world the practice ritual assisted suicide at the age of 60. It is their belief that it releases the family of the financial and emotional burdens of caring for the elderly. Lwaxana views this tradition as barbaric and cruel. She wants to put prevent Timicin from dying. After some debate and a visit from his daughter Timicin decides to go through with the ritual and end his life.

At the time this episode first aired Dr. Jack Kavorkian was in the news over his role in assisted suicides. As I watched this episode again recently it was just becoming a trending topic again because of Brittany Maynard. Brittany had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and choose the right to die in order to die on hew own terms.

It is about time we have a serious discussion in the the United States about the right to die. Many people believe that we should have the right to choose when to end our life and be allowed the assistance of medical professionals. Within this debate is also the more challenging discussion of choosing when to end the life of a family member.

Should we have the right to ask a doctor to help us end our life? Should we be allowed to ask a doctor to help us end the life of a family member that we believe is suffering? These are questions related to assisted suicide that we as a society should be asking.

I personally do not agree with the forced suicide as we had seen in the episode Half a Life. However I do think that if I were to have a terminal illness I should be allowed to end my life on my own terms like Brittany Maynard did. We should also be allowed to define criteria for are families to use to decide when a doctor should be allowed to assist in ending our life.

Everyone is a suspect until proven innocent

In many situations these days it seems like people are a suspect until proven innocent. This is the opposite of the way the law is written in the US where people are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. In Star Trek: The Next Generation the episode named The Drumhead had shown us just a peak into this issue.

In this episode there was an explosion in engineering damaging the warp core. From the start they had identified that they had evidence that a Klingon scientist had stolen schematics of the Enterprise and given them to the Romulan’s. Due to the difficulty in doing this alone it is assumed that one or more Enterprise crew members helped him. An inquisition is launched and everyone who had contact with the Klingon is questioned.

On the surface that situation sounds find and like a normal part of an investigation. Things take a turn for the works when a sickbay crewmen is suspected of lying about something. He is persecuted by the investigation panel and treated as if he was guilty of being a traitor, even though by this time it was proven the explosion was an accident. Once it was found out that the crewmen had only lied about his ancestry they still pushed forward investigating every bit of his life.

After Picard had expressed his concerns about the investigation and how it was proceeding the lead investigator had made it clear that everyone was now suspect. Picard had reminded them at one time that suspects were to be considered innocent until proven guilty not the other way around.

In the end Picard was able discredit the lead investigator by getting her to make a public outburst that showed she was paranoid. It was clear that she would find almost anyone to be a traitor because they didn’t meet her high ideals. To her everyone was a suspect until they were proven innocent.

While telling Worf that the investigations are going to far Captain Picard had had commented that the line between legitimate suspicion and rampant paranoia is much finer then we would suspect. We have seen that when we let fear influence our decisions that this line gets a little fuzzy.

Look at our current world closely you will see many occurrences where a person has had undo suspicion brought against them. Lets look at what has come out about NSA spying in the last year. They had said they only monitor persons of interest in terrorism. Just a short time later we find out that they are spying on virtually anyone. Simply put there is no way that we have not already crossed this line. Right now we are all suspects until proven innocent under this system.

During this episode Picard also touches on another topic, when one persons freedom is stepped on we all suffer. When put in context what he was saying is that when we prosecute people and presume their guilt based on suspicion alone we open the door for it to happen again and again. Or worded in another way once we allow one person to be considered guilty until proven innocent we will have many others.

Think about the works suspect for a moment. How can we assume someones guilt and say they are a suspect. This implies that they have not yet been proven guilty.Evidence is used to determine the facts in the case and when enough evidence is gathered a trial is held.

When everyone is a suspect until proven innocent it is often justified by assuming the worst in everyone and fear mongering. This is what the marketing agency known as the US Government is best at. Why would I call the US Government a marketing agency that assumes the worst in everyone and uses fear mongering? Look at the justification for going into Iraq. Look at the reasons for Guantanamo. The truth is that the sector of business that most of our politicians hold stock in is defense. They also get the biggest portion of our tax dollars. It’s in our governments best interests to promote fear to control the population and remain wealthier then the average person.

Corporations run the world

Corporations have far too much power in our modern world, enough that it’s easy to say corporations run the world. In Babylon 5 we start to see this issue being discussed and in Continuum it’s even more prevalent in the future.

In Babylon 5 William Edgars said “The mega corporation have been running things for years, we just don’t show ourselves much people wouldn’t understand, so we let them think they still have a voice”. This quote fits all to well with our society where corporations don’t directly run the world. Corporations run the world through lobbyists and large political contributions. With how much is spent on advertising for any election it is no surprise that politicians often make decisions to benefit their large contributors.

Our politicians have been bought, not by the people but by corporations who. Many of these corporations have a history that shows they don’t care about people. That is why I think Jesse Ventura has the right idea when he says that politicians should wear suits like NASCAR drivers so you know who paid for their opinion. If they wore suits with patches for the companies who have paid for them you would at least know who you are really voting for. However things are actually moving in the other direction with super PAC’s making it easier to hide who they are really buying.

Lets just look at one example of this. With the highly publicized Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger in the works we would like to think Congress has our best interest in mind. It his highly likely that all the money the two companies pour into election campaigns will be influencing this review board. If Comcast wasn’t trying to buy Congress they shouldn’t need 74 lobbyists for this one effort. I this case Congress is not just bought they are continuing to be bought.

If nothing is done to change the fact that corporations run the world we will soon be living in a world like we see in Continuum. In the future where our heroine comes from corporations run the world more directly. The is no Congress only a Corporate Congress. Corporations have replaced the government in this future where your wealth determines if you live or die in certain circumstances.

I would ask you to imagine this but we had seen in the show the horror that could come from this. In one episode we see Kiera rescuing kids trapped in a burning building. When she tires to go in for the last of the trapped kids she is told she has to save a wealthy board member over the child. The innocent child is a secondary objective because she is not a wealthy or valuable to the corporation.

Corporations care about their needs not the needs of people. It is for this reason above all else that we can not let corporations run the world.

Babylon 5: We can value our opinions over the truth

We all have opinions that we value more the we should, sometimes we even value our opinions over the truth. When we value our opinions over the truth we hold ourselves back, as individuals and as a society. In Babylon 5 Zack Allan said “Yeah the told me, but I never like to let the facts get in the way of a good grudge.” This one quote does a great job of illustrating this fact of life.

When the character of Zack Allan said that great line he was talking to Bester a PSI Cop who has proven he his untrustworthy. They had just been told that the telepath that Bester was tracking was not to person who killed a man. Zack was still blaming Bester for the death because when he shows up problems follow. I think it is pretty safe to say we all have done this, ignoring to truth because a long standing history of things going a certain way.

This is also a bit similar to what we are all taught as children when we are told the story about the boy who cried wolf. We are been taught through this story from a young age that you should not lie because people will eventually stop believing you. Lets take this idea out one step further, if you lie to someone repeatedly they form the opinion that you are a liar. Once you are branded a lair even when you tell the truth the opinion that you are a liar will prevent many people from believing you.

Today I saw a great example of the when reading through posts online about the possibility of raising the minimum wage in the US. There were many people on both sides of the issue that clearly had been blinded in relation to the issue because of their opinions. One comment I seen several times the shows that opinions were valued over truth is that if you had a minimum wage job you were either lazy or stupid.

When everyone is valuing their opinion over the truth we can not get compromise and get things done. In order to get things done we often have to compromise or learn so we can advance. This brings me to another Babylon 5 quote, I don’t recall the exact text or who said it but it went something like “Understanding is a three edged sword, your side, their side and the truth.” In many cases our opinions cloud both sides of an argument form the truth.

It seems like a simple thing to do to set aside our opinions and biases but it is not that simple. The best we can do is to be aware of our biases and try to not let them influence us too much.

Ender’s Game: 3rd Invasion is the War on Terror

When I first read Ender’s Game I found that the 3rd Invasion that is going on seemed very familiar to me. I thought long and hard about about the details but now I am sure it many similarities to the US War on Terror. There are just too many similarity to the fictional and real conflicts to simply ignore how well the future was predicted.

As I discuss these similarities please keep in mind that Ender’s Game was written about 15 years before the War on Terror began. This is important because there are no direct comparisons just many similarities. Although I will do my best to tie fictional events to real world events and ideas they could not have been based on those events.

Much like the US government does with the War on Terror the military shows they place little value on life. In the book this comes through in the idea that they must kill all Buggers, they don’t even try to only attack military targets. The military in Ender’s Game has a sole mission, kill all Buggers. This to me looks a lot like how US drone are always killing innocent civilians. This is done in the name of protecting the world from terrorists.

It seems as if there is a shared view that as long as one bad guy gets killed who cares about all the innocent lives that are lost.

Star Trek: The speed of changing technology

Although it aired over 20 years ago the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation named First Contact shows us an issue that is very relevant today. In this episode the Enterprise monitoring a planet who’s scientists are on the verge of creating a working warp engine. One of the biggest fears of some of the more powerful officials of this world is that people are having trouble adapting to the speed of changing technology.

I see evidence that we are dealing with this problem everyday. To illustrate this lets look at a few examples.

Everyone seems to want to do everything on a tablet these days, however it is not always the best device for the job. Retailers around the world are jumping on this band wagon to look innovative. What I have seen is devices being used in situations where they are difficult to use. Most of these devices are also quite a bit slower as well making transactions take longer in a society where we want every thing done fast.  In many ways this is the old analogy of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Another example of this is Microsoft’s new modern interface that so many people have trouble with this. They see a shift in the market trending towards phones and tablets. They then do the sensible thing of focusing on those devices. They seemed to not notice how difficult it would be to use this on your average desktop computer or laptop which dominate the business market. They should have followed their competitors and treated these devices differently from laptops and desktops. What happened was they saw a fast changing market and in and attempt to get in it they alienated a lot of users. They are seeing a push from users to go back to a interface more like they had before the speed of changing technology causes Microsoft to make this mistake.

One of the ways in which it is most evident that the speed of changing technology is affecting us the fact that technical people need to constantly be learning just to stand a chance of keeping up. If you know someone who works in IT I bet you will notice they spend a few hours a week reading technical books are articles. What this really means is that even those who know technology best struggle to keep up. Think about that next time you call tech support, the person you are talking to gives up a lot of their personal time just to keep up.

The last thought I have on this topic to share is how is anyone supposed to keep up. If the IT experts have to get a regular new dose of information how is the average person supposed to stand a chance. When we make new technologies we need to think about how to make it last. If we can make technologies last longer we can ease the burden on everyone.

Ender’s Game: Internet forums

During the time Ender’s Game was written people were starting to get on the internet and posting messages to internet forums. If we take a look at what Peter had wanted to achieve through the use of internet forums we can start to see how people at that time viewed the potential of the internet. If we go further and look at how he and Valentine specifically went about achieving those goals we can see how some of the basic problems of forums have always existed.

Peter had a few goals in mind when he convinced Valentine to go along with his plans.

Above all else it seemed that he had wanted respect and influence in the world. We know he achieved this by the time Ender had defeated the Bugger’s because by then we can see he had spread information about what he observed to others. By spreading what he observed he effectively increased tensions among the major powers on Earth. Based on what we know about the character I would think it is safe to say that he was aware of what would happen and didn’t care. Peter’s actions likely played into the post 3rd invasion conflicts on Earth.

For many the internet has become a primary source for news and discussing ideas. To some extent the way it was described in the book is dead on with what we see today. For example many people to go onto forums and discuss their opinions and sometimes this is over very political topics. Another good examples of how the book got the future right is how you can have an identity on the internet with a great deal of influence, just look at how some bloggers have a huge following.

Ender’s Game had also touched the idea of the reputation of an online presence. We see that it was clear that the inflammatory comments made on the forums had gained a lot more attention right away. Later we saw how the more level headed of the two persona’s used had gained a good loyal long term following. Like in real forums the angry posters get a lot of attention in the short term but the level headed person will be more respected over the long term.

One of the connections to what Peter did that I think hits home to us with our modern time his how he leaked information governments would likely wanted kept secret. For example he pointed out troop movements on Earth that in his opinion was a signal that a war was looming. This is similar in ways to the information that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden leaked, in real life and the book information was released on the internet. They leaked information that the government would not want you to have. The main difference between the two situations is Peter had to make observations to get his information rather then gain access to classified documents.

Ender’s Game: Turning war into a game

At this time the book Ender’s Game is almost 30 years old and discusses a very modern issue, turning war into a game. We all know that war should be as far from a game as possible. In modern war military personal can control drones from the other side of the planet, effectively turning war into a game. This is very similar to the what we see the International Fleet (IF) doing in Ender’s Game.

The bulk of the concept of turning war into a game happens through two periods in the book. First we see this while Ender is at Battle School where there is a large focus what is refereed to as “the game”. When Ender gets graduated to Command School we more ways in which the IF has turned war into a game.

Looking more deeply into Ender’s time at Battle School we can examine more about how war has been turned into a game. Previously I had mentioned that there was a large focus on “the game”, but there is more going on. There are also psychological games being played on the young Ender.

Since just before Ender is asked to attend Battle School the psychological games on him begin. Colonel Graff had seen potential in Ender that he needed to verify so they put him in a position where he would be in danger and have to defend himself. On the way to Battle School they set Ender up to look like a favorite among the instructors to keep him isolated from the others. These types of games continue to be played on Ender throughout his time at Battle School.

What is know at “the game” at Battle School is really a near zero gravity tactical sport. In this game the students learn to fight in fight in a near zero gravity environment. They practice the combat in an extremely competitive environment where everyone wants to be the best. We see that in Battle School there is a large emphasis on “the game” as a means of combat training. In many ways the simple act of calling this tactical training a game helps turn war into a game.

After Ender had shown Graff he was capable of doing what they wanted of him at Battle School they graduated him to Command School. At Command School Ender’s training continues this time he is in a room alone giving commands to others who are in their own simulators. In this new game Ender has to learn to command others as if they were light years away.

While at Command School the psychological games played on Ender continued. Once again they had desired to isolate him from the other students. The biggest of these games became during the final phase of Ender’s training, or what he thought was training. He was actually leading ships into battle from from a great distance. They let him think it was a simulation so he would treat it like a game and so he wouldn’t be concerned about casualties.

Now in 2014 we can see much of this being paralleled in modern war. Military personal command drones from great distances much like playing a video game but with different controls. Much like in the book there is a low value placed on life due to this remote warfare. The only difference is in the book the loss of human life is limited to military personal, but there is concern for alien life.

As a kid I was taught in school and from a Star Trek episode named A Taste of Armageddon when you distance yourself from those you kill in war you make it easier to kill. This is why in modern drone warfare it is so easy to ignore innocent civilian casualties because soldiers are not there to see the devastation they caused. Sitting in a room across the world or light years away killing people with the push like in a video game makes war too much of a game.

If you need further convincing that turning war into a game is a bad thing go watch Buzzsaw. The hosts Tyrel Ventura and Tabetha Wallace discuss this issue regularly as new stories come out about the use of drones. Tyrel even on a few occasions says what I recall being similar to the use of drones is turning war into a game.

As a bit if a final note and disclaimer if you do watch Buzzsaw and notice my opinions seem to be very similar to those of Tyrel then your right. I do agree with him a fair amount of the time. In fact I created this site in response to him talking about Star Trek: Into Darkness on one episode. Here he made comments comparing the movie to the war on terror which I thought will brilliant observations.

After Earth: Overcoming fear to solve problems

We let our fears cause a lot of problems for ourselves. In After Earth we see overcoming fear as being a very important part of the story and survival. Overcoming fear can be one of the most difficult things you may try to do.

In the movie Kitai has to over come his fear because it is a life or death situation. This is because he is faced with an alien enemy that can smell fear and it wants to kill him. He had to overcome his fear of death and being killed by the alien to become invisible to his enemy, defeat it and to survive.

Many times in our lives we have to face our fears, we get to choose to try beating them or submitting to them. These fears we have to battle come in many forms from standing up for yourself, or opening up to someone to as far as putting yourself in harms way to save someone.

Often times we have to try overcoming fear in seemingly routine situations and no matter how silly the fear may seam no fear is easy to overcome. Very much like in After Earth overcoming fear can take a long time and my only happen when absolutely necessary. An example of this is how most people do not overcome a fear of public speaking until they actually get up and speak in front of a group of people.

I thought the movie did a fantastic job showing us this side of humanity and how we have to battle ourselves to defeat our fears and push ourselves to be better.