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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Morality’ Category


What does it mean if conservatives are easily appalled while liberals are easily enchanted?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The following was one of the “Surprising insights from the social sciences” that appeared in The Boston Globe’s Uncommon Knowledge section yesterday.

Conservative disgust, liberal delight

One of the holy grails of social science is to explain the emotion behind different political beliefs. In a new study, researchers at the University of Nebraska found that conservatives exhibited stronger physiological reactions to, and were quicker to look at and then looked longer at, disagreeable images (e.g., spider on a man’s face, open wound with maggots in it, crowd fighting with a man, politician of the opposite party), whereas liberals exhibited stronger reactions to agreeable images (e.g., happy child, bowl of fruit, cute rabbit, politician of the same party). In other words, conservatives are easily appalled; liberals are easily enchanted.

Dodd, M. et al., “The Political Left Rolls with the Good and the Political Right Confronts the Bad: Connecting Physiology and Cognition to Preferences,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences (March 5, 2012).

When you finished reading that short piece, did you come away with the feeling it was meant to convey something like conservatives bad, liberals good? I did.

The conclusion — conservatives are easily appalled; liberals are easily enchanted — is quite correct, but I think there is more to the story than that simple summation. The title of the study — The Political Left Rolls with the Good and the Political Right Confronts the Bad — makes that clear.

What I take from the little information provided in the piece, and the study title, is that conservatives are more willing to face the realities of life, with all the unpleasantness, and want to do something to solve the problems while liberals are unwilling to face anything that contradicts or belies their idealistic fantasy of what life should be like and prefer to do only that which makes themselves, and others, feel good regardless of whether or not it solves the problem or makes it worse.

Too bad liberals are not easily enchanted by reality as well as bunnies and fruit. Perhaps if they were, we could  stop applying Band-Aids to the nation’s problems and start implementing real solutions.

What’s your take on this?

Do you think the author’s summation is correct? Are conservatives easily appalled while liberals are easily enchanted?

Do you think my conclusion about it all is on target or off-base?


Is it possible to love two people at the same time?

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Liz Gavaza


Much in the news, of late, has been the revelation that in the late ’90s, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich supposedly asked his then second wife if she’d be okay with an open marriage arrangement. She was not happy at the prospect of sharing him and declined, even though she and he started dating while he was still married to his first wife. Apparently, it was okay to share him when she was the “other woman” but not when she was the wife.

To all of that, I say, who cares? It seems lots of other folks do. I’m not one of them. But the media-driven controversy, coupled with the book I’m currently reading, did get me thinking.

The book is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and one of the main characters has carried on a twenty-year affair with his best friend with the full knowledge and acceptance of her husband.

Is it possible to love two people at the same time? I’m talking about, real, romantic, can’t-live-without-you love, not the hot-affair kind of lust. Can two men and one woman or two women and one man comfortably, faithfully share their lives in a “forever” committed relationship in modern America?

Victor de Bruijn and "wives" Bianca and Mirjam.

Apparently, some Mormons do, unofficially. I suspect there are others who do as well. The first three-way civil union in The Netherlands took place in 2005

I’m not sure how I would react if my dear wife were to one day tell me there was another man she loved, too, and wanted him to live with us, but I think this subject will become a topic of conversation at supper tonight.

What do you folks think?

Has anyone lived in such an arrangement or know anyone who has? If so, details, please.

Can you imagine yourself ever being part of a three-way marriage?

What if one of your children announced such an arrangement?

And whether you would participate or not, should such marriages be legal or remain not?


Isn’t it time we got over our aversion to talking about sex?

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I was disturbed, this morning, by a small item in the newspaper, so I checked online for the full story.

CDC: Many teen moms didn’t think it could happen

ATLANTA (AP) — A new government study suggests a lot of teenage girls are clueless about their chances of getting pregnant.

In a survey of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies, about a third who didn’t use birth control said the reason was they didn’t believe they could pregnant.

Why they thought that isn’t clear. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey didn’t ask teens to explain.

But other researchers have talked to teen moms who believed they couldn’t get pregnant the first time they had sex, didn’t think they could get pregnant at that time of the month or thought they were sterile.

“This report underscores how much misperception, ambivalence and magical thinking put teens at risk for unintended pregnancy,” said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

How is it possible that in twenty-first century America, so many girls and young women do not fully and completely understand their bodies and worse, that sex can always lead to pregnancy?

We live in a culture that bombards our children with sexual images, music lyrics, advertisements — is there any product or service that does not use sex to sell itself? Yet so many of us cling to a puritanical aversion to even acknowledging sex exists, much less that we have it and, hopefully, enjoy it.

We would never think of sending our children out into the world without teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, to be wary of certain kinds of strangers, to brush their teeth and take a shower every day so they won’t stink. Yet we turn them loose with little or no information about something that could change their lives forever and produce a new life that, studies show, will likely suffer significant disadvantages. And all because we’re too embarrassed to talk about our body parts and what they are used for?

Approximately 400,000 teens aged 15–19 years give birth every year in the United States, and the teen birth rate remains the highest in the developed world according to the Center for Disease Control report on which the news story above is based. 400,000 girls who may never achieve their full potential because they didn’t think they could get pregnant the first time they had sex, or because they thought withdrawal was a good contraceptive choice, or any of the myriad other misconceptions that result in conception.

Isn’t it time we learned to say the words — penis and vagina — and even the earthier euphemisms, outside the bedroom, to our children even?

I’m not suggesting we tell our kids to run out and have sex whenever they want. Quite the opposite. I’m suggesting that we arm them with the facts, with the truth, with foreknowledge of how their young bodies will respond to kissing and petting so they can better resist the biological urges until, ideally, they someday find themselves in a loving, committed relationship.

That said, like it or not, most of our children will not wait until they’re married to have sex. I know my two did not. But both my son and my daughter were well armed with as much information as we could feed them, despite their embarrassment at having to listen to mom and dad talk about sex, and their even greater embarrassment at being forced to think about mom and dad actually doing it. At least twice!

Isn’t it time we got over our aversion to talking about sex?

What do you think?

Am I crazy for wanting sex to be just another subject for families to talk about at the dinner table?

Did your parents have “the talk” with you? At what age? Was it comfortable or embarrassing?

If you have children, have you had “the talk” with them? At what age? Did you follow up with more information as they got older?

And what can we do, as parents, aunts, uncles, and as a society, to ensure each and every boy and girl fully understands what they will be facing once the hormones kick in?


Are we training our children to cheat and lie?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The social age limit
Facebook’s rules put parents in a quandary

Soon after Brandon Mercer started sixth grade last year at Braintree’s Thayer Academy, he joined Facebook.

“All his friends were there,’’ said his mother, Gretchen Mercer, and she didn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be there, too.

He was 11, two years shy of officially being allowed on Facebook. But like millions of other parents whose tweens flock to the social media site that has become a lifeblood of modern adolescence, Mercer, 49, didn’t mind breaking the rules.

“They certainly don’t make it difficult for anyone with any computer knowledge to get on,’’ she said. “Luckily he did it with my knowledge, and he didn’t get on without me knowing it.’’

 It’s become one of the most pressing questions for parents of children growing up in the digital age: When should they let their children join Facebook or should they be on the site at all? An estimated 7.5 million preteens – including 5 million under 10 – are part of the social network in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, according to Consumer Reports.

A study last month funded by Microsoft Research in Cambridge found that many under-age users were aided by parents who either lied about their child’s age or were simply unaware Facebook has age limits.

According to the report, “Why parents help their children lie to Facebook about age,’’ 78 percent of parents say they would let their child join a website in violation of age requirements. When asked about Facebook’s age policy, the report found that only 53 percent of parents said they know the site has a minimum age and only half of those know it is 13.

The study calls into question the effectiveness of age limits for sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google, since many parents are often unaware they exist and see little problem with ignoring them.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Seventy-eight percent of parents would allow their kids to purposely lie and deceive a business just because they want to?

While it may be true that in the scheme of life, helping your kid sneak onto Facebook is not the most serious of crimes, but it makes me wonder what other illegal or prohibited actions those parents would be willing to take to make their kids happy.

Would they do their kids’ homework? Write a report for them? Construct a display for a competition?

Would they lie to protect their child and let some other kid take the rap for a broken school window or a stolen car?

Would they spread a rumor they know to be false to give their child a better chance of being selected for something over the target of the rumor?

Just how far would they go?

What are we teaching kids when we do such things? Only suckers follow the rules?

Is this how politicians are created?

What do you think?

Under what circumstances, if any, would you lie or cheat for you child?


When, exactly, does human life begin?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Today, Mississippi citizens will vote on when human life begins, or doesn’t.

The ballot question would amend Article III of the Mississippi Constitution by adding a new Section 32 to read:

SECTION 33. Person defined. As used in this Article III of the state constitution, “The term ‘person’ or ‘persons’ shall include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.

To say, simply, the question is contentious would be an understatement of exponential magnitude. To presume one has the answer may be folly of similar magnitude. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a try today.

An Op/Ed column in this morning’s paper begins:

LAST WEEKEND in Jackson, Miss., Diane Derzis was on a mission to spread a simple message: “Eggs aren’t people.” The owner of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic sent people dressed as eggs through Jackson’s arts district, handing out condoms. She put up billboards that say “Vote NO to Personhood for Eggs.”

“Eggs aren’t people” is short, catchy, and to the point, as is the command on Ms. Derzis’s billboard. And she is absolutely correct about the first and I completely agree with the sentiment of the second.

Unfortunately, neither one addresses the true issue.

Defined as simply as I can, human life is a process of growth and development leading to an inevitable decline and death.

An egg in an ovary is certainly not a human being. Left in the ovary or left unfertilized in a uterus, it can never grow and develop into a human being. Therefore, to confer “personhood” on an egg would make every woman a of child-bearing age a murderer every month simply by not getting busy and getting it fertilized. That is why Ms. Derzis’s campaign is misleading and dishonest. The proposed law does not concern itself with eggs.

At the instant a sperm penetrates an egg, the egg becomes a zygote, and the process of growth and development begins. At that moment, it is still a single cell, but now it’s a cell with a mission. Left alone, it will normally divide, the two will become four, the four, eight, and so on, growing and developing until it reaches stages we call an embryo, then a fetus until, about nine months after the beginning, a future teenager[1] makes his or her debut.

Given that, it seems clear that the fertilized egg has to be considered human, since it is the beginning of the process.

Now, some argue that zygotes and embryos and even fetuses should not be considered human or persons because they cannot survive outside the womb. But what is left unsaid is that left alone, they normally will survive and continue to grow and develop until ready for birth.

Further, the “can’t survive outside the womb” argument is just another way of saying they can’t survive on their own. But the same can be said of any human during early stages of growth and development. How many babies or even three- or four-year-old children could survive without the constant assistance of older humans? For that matter, the same might be wondered about many of the aforementioned teenagers.

As I see it, the question centers not on when life begins but on which lives we value. Here in America, we value babies after the six months in the womb but there are places on Earth today where female babies are still killed at birth.

If we accept that we can legislate the right to stop the human process of growth and development at some arbitrary point, aren’t we then just arguing where that arbitrary point should be. And aren’t we, then,  just arguing about convenience — what we’ve decided is best for society as a whole?

Once we’ve acknowledged the truth of it, what is to prevent that arbitrary point from changing in the future to one year old, to five or ten years old, or even to fifty or sixty. It certainly would be financially beneficial to society not to have millions of old folks soaking up healthcare dollars. We could solve the unemployment problem overnight by “aborting” everyone over sixty.

Such ideas sound crazy only because they are on the fringes of the logical consequences of the decisions we make. I’ve always believed that for a theory, a contention, an idea, a rule, a law…for anything to be valid, it cannot just work sometimes, or even most of the time. It has to work at the far ends of the Bell Curve as well as in the middle.

Clearly, the current argument for terminating human growth and development fails at the extremes. So the conclusion I have to reach is also clear.

Human life begins at the moment of fertilization.

And Mississippi appears poised to so define what it means to be human.


What’s your opinion and why? How would you vote, if you could?

Have I made some logical error in my analysis  or conclusion?

And please, no moral dilemmas like “what if the mother will die.” Let’s leave those for another day and, today, concentrate on when life begins.


[1]  Teenager — Name given to a type of headache, sometimes amounting to extreme distress, experienced by parents when their children start growing to become adults.


Should a civilized society execute criminals?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

In response to my Tuesday post about a homeowner being threatened with fines and jail for growing a garden, Amy Hillecke posted a comment on BHM’s Facebook page asking for my opinion about the recent execution of convicted murderer Troy Davis in Georgia.

San Quentin Prison execution chamber.

Keeping in mind that I know about the case only what I’ve read in a few news reports, I believe Davis was wrongly executed. That is not to say he did not deserve execution. Despite his continued protestations of innocence, he may well have been guilty of the crime. But in the face of serious doubt, I don’t believe any civilized society has the right to end a life, and — again, based only on what little I’ve read — there did appear to be enough doubt to continue to stay the execution.

Obviously, jurists at several levels, up to and including the Supreme Court, disagreed. If further investigation does prove Davis’ innocence, then each of those jurists will have to live with the knowledge they helped execute an innocent man and will face dying one day to, perhaps, face the ultimate judge of their decisions.

I believe we must always err on the side of life.

That said, in such cases where there is no doubt, I believe the proper course of action is a bullet to the back of the head. It’s fast and it’s cheap and the rest of us can get on with living.

I hope I’ve answered Amy’s question. If not, perhaps she will post a comment here.

For the rest of you kind readers, I have my own questions:

Do you believe death is ever a justifiable punishment? If so, under what circumstances, for what crimes?

And do you agree that if there is any reasonable doubt, despite what rules and laws are in place, they must be overridden and execution stayed until such time, if ever, guilt is proven beyond any shadow of a doubt?


Another reason to get government out of the welfare business

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

You might think I was shocked when I came across the following story. You’d be wrong. Living here in The People’s Republic of Massachusetts has made me immune to shock or surprise at anything  government does.

Mass. Welfare Money Spent On Resorts, Nail Salons
Mass. Welfare Recipients Spend $2.3 Million Out of State

BOSTON — A Team 5 Investigation found more than $2.3 million in Massachusetts welfare money, meant to help the needy buy food, pay their rent and clothe their children, has been spent in locations outside the state in a three-month period, including pricey vacation destinations like Hawaii, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Bay State residents can use their welfare money in Las Vegas and other resorts.

In July, lawmakers signed off on a plan to stop welfare recipients from buying alcohol, tobacco and lottery tickets with cash assistance. But critics told Team 5 the state’s so-called crackdown doesn’t go far enough.

“People want to help people who are in need; that’s the way we’re built in Massachusetts. But by the same token you don’t want to be taken to the cleaners,” said Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute.

Team 5 obtained three months of electronic benefit card transactions by welfare recipients, and sorted the data by state and address. The money was accessed from October 2010 through December 2010. It’s a straightforward analysis that officials at the Massachusetts Dept. of Transitional Assistance said they’ve never done.

“Currently, with the systems that are in place today, one could look at this kind of information on a regular basis,” said Mike Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Currently, there are 73,000 households receiving cash assistance, and benefit amounts are determined based on a variety of factors, including household size, monthly income and household expenses.

Team 5’s analysis found $2,335,188.50 was spent in 45 different states as well as the Caribbean, raising serious questions about how the Commonwealth’s neediest people can afford to travel on the taxpayer’s dime.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

This kind of abuse can only happen when government is involved in transferring wealth from those who earn it to those who do not.

Back in the days when the truly poor and disadvantaged looked to local religious and fraternal organizations for help, using a welfare credit card to get your nails done 1500 miles from home simply could not happen. For one, such cards had not yet been envisioned by those who “earn” their living by stealing your money and giving it to others.  For another, were it discovered a recipient for their neighbor’s charity was wealthy enough to travel such a distance, those providing the assistance would likely cut it off.

I believe civilized folks should help those who truly cannot help themselves. But that help should come at the local level because it’s easy to scam a faceless “system” but it’s not so easy to fool your priest or rabbi or neighbor who’s dropping off the bag of groceries and clothes for the kids.

What do you folks think?

How is welfare handled where you live?

Should welfare recipients be entitled to use your money to take vacations?

Do you think government generally does a good job handling welfare?

Or do you agree with me that all welfare bureaucracies should be dismantled, their employees sent out to the dreaded private sector to find work, and leave the caring for the disadvantaged to their family and neighbors?






Sunday Videos: The Price of a U.S. Credit Rating Downgrade, The True Cost of Public Education, and more.

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The Price of a U.S. Credit Rating Downgrade

Obama’s Unprecedented War Powers Claims

Hate Crimes Are Thought Crimes

The True Cost of Public Education

Comments, anyone, on any of these videos?


Should the religious beliefs of a presidential candidate ever be considered?

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

I was a Mitt Romney supporter when he ran for governor of Massachusetts. Then he foisted Romneycare on us. As a result, neither I, nor my wallet will be supporting him in his current bid for the presidency. I might have been persuaded to change my mind had he simply told the truth and acknowledged the whole scheme was a huge, horrendously expensive mistake. But he hasn’t for political reasons and that is reason enough for me not to support him. But it seems that is not enough of a reason for others, including  conservative author and ex-Mormon Patricia Erickson.

Romney’s Mormon Faith Rises In Campaign Again

In 2008 former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney addressed anxieties about his Mormon faith held by many Evangelical Christians, a key and often decisive Republican constituency known for their criticism of tenets of the Mormonism, by emphasizing the shared heritage and values with mainstream Christianity. A formal address had seemed superfluous this campaign season as heretofore his faith has not been made an issue by conservative opponents. 

But now a Conservative author and ex-Mormon Tricia Erickson, who heads a communications company promoting conservative causes and individuals, has published a new book whose long-winded title answers its own question: “Can Mitt Romney Serve Two Masters? The Mormon Church Versus The Office Of The Presidency of the United States of America“.

Responding to questions on CNN, Erickson says she’s not anti-Mormon, but seeking to bring Mormons “out of deception and in to the truth” and “If I did not love them, I would not try to save them.”
With regards to Mitt Romney’s candidacy, Erickson says that “it is my opinion that an indoctrinated Mormon should never be elected as President of the United States of America” and that Romney meets this disqualification.

“Mitt Romney and all temple Mormons have sworn to obey The Law of Consecration in the secret temple ceremonies…

“Long story short, it would be near to impossible for an entrenched Mormon to place his allegiance to the United States of America over the Mormon Church. After Mitt’s death oaths to the church, it is my belief that he lied about this to the American people and will continue to do so.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

When Mitt first ran for the presidency, he made clear his religious beliefs should not and would not affect his civil responsibilities as president. Still, many folks are uncomfortable with a man whose religion is cloaked in secrecy.

Are you one of them?

Should the religious beliefs of a presidential candidate ever be considered?

If yes, which ones, and why?

If no, why not? And would you have any concerns about electing a Rastifari, a Wahhabi, or a member of the Westboro Baptist Church?


India gets it. Why doesn’t Islam? Also, another reason to homeschool your kids

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Congratulations to Blue_Sky, this week’s Comment Contest winner!


While Islam may be the leading practitioner of the subjugation, oppression, and abuse of women, they are not alone in the “barbaric and feudal” practice. As the article below shows, honor killings are still a small part of life in India despite the nations ongoing modernization. However, yesterday, India took a giant leap forward when its highest court declared the practice of honor killings so grievous a crime it deserves the death penalty.

If the second most populous nation on Earth can officially recognize, and determine to severely punish the abuse and killing of women, isn’t it time the world’s second most populous religion/political system started climbing out its sixth-century mindset and do the same?

In this June 7, 2010 photo, Ravinder Gehlaut, right, and his wife Shilpa Kadiyan, sit in a relative's house in Sultanpur Dabas village on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, where they were forced to flee for their lives. The reason: The caste councils that enforce medieval kinship rules judged the marriage sinful because the couple belong to the same thousands-strong clan. Such rulings lead to couples being separated, ostracized, or even killed. India's top court has recommended the death penalty for those found guilty of committing so called "honor killings" calling it a barbaric and feudal practice. (AP Photo/Mustafa Quraishi, File)

India court urges death penalty
for honor killings

By Nirmala George
Associated Press
May 10, 2011


NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s top court recommended the death penalty for perpetrators of “honor killings,” calling the practice barbaric and feudal in a ruling cheered Tuesday by activists who hope it will inspire opposition to a crime seen as anathema to a democratic nation.

Most victims were young adults who fell in love or married against their families’ wishes. In some cases, village councils ordered couples killed who married inside their clan or outside their caste. While there are no official figures, an independent study found around 900 people were killed each year in India for defying their elders.

The Supreme Court on Monday affirmed a life sentence imposed for a man convicted of killing his daughter but added a warning: “People planning to perpetrate honor killings should know that the gallows await them.”

Click here to read the rest of the article


Yet another reason to homeschool your children.

Watch this Fox news report about a teacher who stood by while one high school kids punches another. More disturbing than the one-sided fight is the commentary from the union hack and former school board member, both of whom essentially say it’s not the teacher’s job to keep your son or daughter from being punched, kicked, or, presumably beaten to death with a chair because if the perpetrator were to get hurt, the teacher and  the school system might get sued.


I am so glad my kids are grown, but I fear for what my grandchildren will have to endure should they find themselves in public indoctrination camps one day.



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