IGS Discussion Forums: Calling out the Symbol Rulers: The 'terminator' just another politician
Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 3, 2006 - 01:14 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

... but using a more objective approach one might say that what they are doing is punishing disadvantaged and mentally ill people.

Since "disadvantaged" and "mentally ill" represent fairly high level abstractions, how can this be a "more objective" approach? This is just substituting different high level abstractions. Moreover, the relevance to convicted and incarcerated persons is not specified. What's the connection?

It seem to me that a "more objective" approach would take into consideration the details of each case. And, by the way, that is exactly how the justice system put convicted offenders there in the first place, by objectively processing each case individually. The wardens must do the same when choosing whom to let go early.

To make my own high order abstraction, it's the politicians who mouth high order abstractions and get people riled up without knowing details.

How does one get from a report of a fixed number of convicted persons to percentages of the population without providing another number as a base for the percentage? What is the population in question? What does percentage of population have to do with putting people behind bars, anyway?

Would it not be logical to build enough prisons to hold the number of people who are convicted? And, failing to meet such a goal due to the inability of politicians to get the people to pay for them, develop some criteria for easing the crowding by other means that building more prisons? What are the options? Which ones are realistic? How much do they cost? Who's going to pay?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 6, 2006 - 10:52 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

/i{This thread starts with a reference to the "three strikes" law, which requires incarceration for a third offense of a certain type, regardless of individual case circumstances. So the justice system did NOT put the offenders in jail by "objectively processing each case individually."}

This statement confuses "objectively processing each case individually" with the result which follows from conviction after the case has been mostly processed. Each case gets many stages of processing, and imposing a sentence is only a near final step. The cases are processed within a rigid set of standards for evidence, handling evidence, deciding if a charge in warranted, etc., etc., and every step in the process involves objective handling particular to the case. Once those criteria are met, then the sentencing judge must apply the law to the decision that comes before him or her on an individual case-by-case basis. On some rare occasions two or more defendants may be tried together, but they always get individual judgements as to guilt, and guidelines of law are then individually applied to each defendant. Judges have never had "complete" freedom to apply sentences independently of the laws governing the crimes. Because the law with respect to certain offenses with a given history specify a minimum mandatory sentence in no way allows concluding that the case was not handled objectively throughout.

It is clear that the statement above about the justice system is a high level abstraction, and it seems to ignore the way cases are processed and the constraints of the law.

Now, however, if you would like to say that the government (not the justice system) put the prisoners being held in Cuba in prison with little or no regard for their individual circumstances - based on one or two high level abstractions, and that whole groups of such individuals were processed "en-mass", that would provide evidence that a lack of individual and objective processing occurred.

We judge the law harsh, because we hear high level abstract summaries of cases (which were handled individually) in which the abstractor lists a few facts and some evaluations together with the opinion that the application of the law is somehow "unfair". Do any of us who hear such abstract summaries take the time to review the entire court record of even one of these cases? Or are we just riled up in response to a high level abstraction?

Let's apply some consciousness of abstracting here to even a rudimentary understanding of both the complexity of the legal system as well as how many stages of abstracting and editing get into even the simplest of "news" reports.

Is anyone on the judicial committee of any of the governing bodies?

If you want to change how funds are allocated, start by getting involved in local politics, become an activist, work with anyone who works in both of the areas, including the "from" area and the "to" area. Does anyone really want to propose rearranging the funding "wholesale" without finding out the details in both areas? Or do we just want to toss out high level abstractions based on unsubstantiated high level abstractions?

Majority rule. (And they don't have to be intelligent.)
Minority rights. (And they DO have to be intelligent to keep the majority from from imposing unfair rules.)
And, just to add to the situation, what the heck does "fair" mean, anyway?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 7, 2006 - 12:02 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

"I don't need to know much of anything about ... to know that ..."

I don't see the connection.

"I don't need to have studied ... to know that I disagree with ..."

Is there any abstraction from details to generalities here? I don't see a connection. What is this system that you disagree with? Our legislative process? Democracy? Rule of law?

I support our legal system even though I may not agree with every decision it makes, legislatively, executively, or judiciously.

In view of my consciousness of abstracting, and being aware of the hazards and difficulties of continuing to maintain a well functioning cognitive map, I'm not inclined to take substances which anecdotally "alter or interfere" with the process of perception. I used to occasionally "tie one on" as a young sailor, but that was before I studied general semantics. Pot? The like? Such never altered MY perception.

Oh, by the way, tell me why "fairness" is not a reasonable high level abstraction to characterize the issue with regard to the three strikes law.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, August 9, 2006 - 02:02 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I've heard it said that one does not solve a "problem" "all at once", one must "break it down" into, in general semantics terms, more extensional, more detailed, more objective, "parts", learn relationships among the parts, and devise a plan that will affect the whole system based on an understanding of relationships between parts. But every change that is to be made is made at the lowest level of abstraction. We cannot change a "high level abstraction"; we can only change the low level, objective, extensional, etc., factors, and then we perform a new high level abstraction from the altered system after observing the effects of the detailed extensional changes for a while.

For example, we cannot change the speed of a car; we change the position of our foot on the accelerator; that changes the gas and air intake, which increases the power to the engine, which increases the torque on the wheels, which increases the backward force applied to the tire-road interface, which subsequently increases the speed of the car. In this case the high level abstraction "problem area" - "insufficient speed" - can be traced through an understanding of the parts of the system and their relationships to each other directly to the extensional, low-level abstraction: insufficiently depressing the accelerator pedal.

([Multi-causality] There could also be other causes, such as insufficient gas in the tank, insufficient spark due to a failure, etc., etc.. Diagnosis of the "problem" involves having and understanding a detailed model of the system.)

To say that the "'problem area' covers the entire system", implying an overall change must be made, is like saying we will increase the speed of the car without knowing which detail to change or the effects of the parts on each other.

You will need a detailed model of the social system with a correspondingly detailed explanation (theory) of how the detailed parts interact with each other in order to present a proposed plan for changing things. Because such a model is also a theory, it will need to have been properly extensionally tested, to insure that it is actually a "scientific" theory (one that admits to testing).

We, and, I believe, Canada, have legal systems and social systems that have evolved to handle various situations. It's a pretty high level abstraction to judge that one can do the job of the other with out a clear description of the what and how involved. Money gets spent on things and services - which include the salaries of knowledgeable individuals.

Personally, I don't think we have a detailed enough or validated enough model to know what we are doing. We try things based on untested high level abstractions and hope for the better. Occasionally we get lucky and something seems to work for a while.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, August 9, 2006 - 03:29 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Thomas sets up a "straw man" that is another high level abstraction. Let's get extensional.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 12:14 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

If only we had a different term for something which constitutes no agreed-upon threat, but which some people would like to see stopped.

How about "misdemeanor"? (as opposed to "felony").
We have "felon", but do we have a comparable single word for one who commits a misdemeanor?
A search revealed none. The word "violator" is too strong.

Too abstract: "law breaker".

A misdemeanor is a civil offense when caught in the act, otherwise it is not.
Nobody gets labeled "one who commits a misdemeanor", perhaps because the act becomes a misdemeanor only when the person is caught in the act. Parking tickets, speeding tickets, etc. document an "offender" getting caught in the act by an enforcer. But when the act is not caught by an official, there is no "offense".

We have a legal name for such an act, but we do not a distinct associated name for the one who commits the act.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 02:06 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nearly everybody can find something offensive about most others or their activities.
Nearly everybody can find something laudable about most others or their activities.

These involve value judgements from the evaluator's semantic environment. Any words chosen by one group to indicate a particular level of value might just be labeled "spin" by an opposing group.

If people on opposite sides of the value divide feel strongly, the word 'divisive' might be chosen. Also 'controversial'. The words you seek cannot have a connotation that indicates the activities are either valued or eschewed independently of the value perspective of any evaluators.

The person may be anything from ambivalent to indifferent to activities that may be categorized as mildly controversial to divisive. Another word for such activities is "disputed" or "of disputed value". Others include "oxymoron", self-contradictory, inconsistent, hypocritical, etc. I'm sure you can find more words that can be applied to activities or people that indicate that people may "take sides" with respect to assigning some positive or negative value to the activity or the persons.


Earlier Thomas proposed moving funding from law-enforcement to social programs. Now he writes I don't know how to change this. This is a more extensional response.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 11, 2006 - 01:01 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Thomas, Money funds the entire spectrum of activities. If you take money away, you are restricting the amount and kinds of activities that it pays for. These are the low-level abstraction specifics - more extensional and more objective "detail" descriptions of what goes on.

Taking away funds must be for a reason, and a reason must be tied to which specific activities are to be reduced or curtailed. For your desire to be anything but an unsubstantiated high level abstraction, you should be able to state, in specific terms, which specific activities you think need to be curtailed and why. The activities must also be those things that are under some management control - that is to say "discretionary".

The same detail requirement is necessary with respect to the agency that will be getting more funds. What specific activities are to be increased, or added.

Thirdly, why or how is this change of activities going to change the nature of the "problem" in specifics.

Additionally, the "problem" or "problems" must be described in very specific extensional terms - with sufficient detail that the activities that are to be curtailed and increased are directly related to the problem.

"Social problems" is unspecific.

Crimes and misdemeanors are "social problems" because they measure activities and events that detract from the "good order" of society, in that they measure the frequency of acts that have been specifically identified by authorized groups of individuals as prohibited. The legal system is specified as the agency charged with dealing with these two classes of social problems, and charged with dealing with them in a corrective or retribution style way, based on the philosophy that "punishment" for perpetrators will act as a deterrent, and education will reduce recidivism.

So "drinking and driving" school mandated by DUI convictions, fines and jail sentences for crimes and misdemeanors, and other responses, such as community service, are specific proposed means for dealing with the perpetrators of crimes and misdemeanors. The society specifies what acts fall into which category.

The philosophy of the justice system is based on a combination of deterrence and rehabilitation. It is designed to handle certain behaviors identified as "problems" with a dual approach that escalates with successive "offenses". The welfare system is designed to help people get out of the joblessness and homelessness situation. The education system . . ..

To say we want fewer police and more of something else does not say why and how it is expected to "improve" some measured quantity. The abstraction level is to high.

You are entitled to your opinion. But it does not communicate much to me when it's expression continues to be in high level abstraction terms.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 11, 2006 - 01:29 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Begging is an activity that is prohibited.
Homelessness is a high level abstraction describing a condition.
Beggars are not necessarily homeless - not all beggars are homeless. Some of the panhandlers are con artists.
Dealing with beggars by passing a law should not be "identified" as an "inappropriate" response to homelessness.
When I was working in NYC in 1972-5, panhandling was a problem in and of itself, as the ones doing it were not the ones who were homeless. The homeless, then called "bag ladies", pushed shopping carts or carried shopping bags of posessions, but they generally did not accost pedestrians asking for handouts. There was one woman in particular with whom a colleague communicated. She was making a very good living, getting sometimes hundreds of dollars a day working a couple of streets of lower Manhatten near the World Trade Towers.

These "beggars" were not beggars, and they were not homeless.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 11, 2006 - 10:24 am Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I served as the Drug and Alcohol Program Adviser for two commands while in the US Navy. The US Navy, and other US military, process the majority of drug and alcohol behavior offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) by what is known as Non Judicial Punishment (NJP), in which the Commanding Officer awards appropriate responses, including both punishment types of responses and rehabilitation types of "sentences", such as confinement to detox and rehabilitation. All substance abusers charged and "convicted" must make restitution when appropriate. Alcohol offenders (legal drug) must face their demons and accept responsibility. Drug offenders (illegal drugs) get a one-time chance to transfer anonymously and begin again at a new command without the stigma (label) of being a convicted substance abuser. (It's stigmatically "ok" have been a "legal" "drunk" who caused problems, and paid for his or her transgression.) Two time "losers" do not get a second chance for a anonymous recovery opportunity. They have "proved" that they will abuse (to the detriment of others) again, so they then get the full "punishment" side of the equation.

Substance abuse, usually detected by associated "bad behavior" involving property, failure to meet duty obligations, or other "bad" behavior, is treated the first time as "less than" a misdemeanor by administrative justice that supports rehabilitation, depending on the severity of the bad behavior results.

Subsequent abuse is not given such lattitude.

So, you can join the US Navy and get a social environment which is close to your suggestion. But, failing that, you will have to work on all the hard-line "Republicans" and conservatives who presently are in a political position to "dominate" everyone else with their preferred choices.

Good luck.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Friday, August 11, 2006 - 05:17 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

I believe general semantics is about keeping aware of our processes of abstracting and being able to bring our high level abstractions down to the objective low level abstractions from which we abstract - consciousness of abstracting. If somebody uses or utters a high level abstraction, "getting down to basics" permits detailed understanding. But, since there are many ways to abstract up, if we don't get to the basics, we don't know what experiences each other is talking from. For me, communicating solely in high level abstractions is "meaningless"; I need more; I need information about the details. I generally try to flesh out abstract statements with examples, and I often, being conscious of my abstracting, construct metaphors and analogies "on the spot" for the purpose of providing multi-level communications. When I talk about "freedom", I relate the orders of abstracting thusly: Without differences there are no choices, without choices, there is no freedom. Freedom is the ability to make and exercise choices. In order to choose, one must choose among alternatives. For there to be alternatives there must be differences.
We cannot choose "fruit"; we cannot eat "fruit". But we can choose among apples, oranges, and peaches, as they are different. We can eat a peach; we can eat an orange, we can eat an apple. But the abstraction, "he ate a piece of fruit" is "incomplete" until you know the details.

By the time I see an apple, I've verbally labeled a nonverbal abstraction taken from the abstractive lossy filter of our sense organs in combination with our past experiences. In the middle ages, I might have been talking about the dreaded poisonous "love apple" (tomato).

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 12:29 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

The reports of "overcrowded prisons", like virtually all other "news" reports represent very many levels of abstraction by several individuals, each having their own value perspective and experience, with an unknown degree of consciousness of abstracting at each level. As the "same event" can be abstracted to many different formulations, and all these many different formulations mean many more different things to each reader or editor, I evaluate most news reports as too far removed in the chain of abstraction, twisted and bent by too many overt and covert biases on the part of various contributors, to be worth much of my time in reacting to. When LOTS of DIFFERENT sources begin showing a lot of consistent common information that I can see as more extensional and objective formulations, then I might choose to take notice. When I encounter or anticipate encountering the situations so covered, then I may choose to look into the matter more deeply, developing my own more direct sources. When my brother was affected by the lack of withholding income tax for unemployment, putting him in a bind at the end of the year, I took notice, and I took action, writing to my congressmen, and to newspapers. We now have income tax withholding for unemployment compensation. I like to think I contributed to the change. So, to summarize, you now have an abstract formulation of my "cynical" tendencies about news in general (I did not choose the name "diogenes" lightly.), a description of what it takes for me to actually do something, and an extensional example.

Before you go willy-nilly attributing your reactions to such reports to "confusing orders of abstraction" by politicians and bureaucrats, you would need to find specific, detailed, examples of cases where you can clearly argue that there are two orders of abstraction and the aforementioned specific politician or bureaucrat responded to one order or level of abstraction "as if it were" the other level. But the broad sweeping generality that you suggest seems to imply that you just may be committing the same offense, confusing orders of abstraction, by responding to criminal justice system events as if they were social system events. The same events may be abstracted to different formulation, and they generally are by different nervous systems. Events never occur in isolations; they have multiple chains of causality going back in different directions, like the root of a tree, and they may be abstracted in different directions, like the branches of that same tree.
How many and in what way do you need to change the roots of an established tree in order to affect the branches and leaves? Or do you need to prune the tree branches? How much of this tree metaphor can be useful? What other metaphor can you use to communicate how you see the past events as causative of the current results? As I asked earlier, what is your model or theory of how things interact - in detail? If we prune the tree too much, what of the fruit on the lost branches?

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 12:38 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

P.S. Reports of prison overcrowding have not reached a level of frequency or consistency to attract my personal attention, but you have my response on the subject of news reports of such events in general.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Sunday, August 13, 2006 - 08:22 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Legal philosophy includes the notions of retribution, revenge, restitution, rehabilitation, and reconciliation, as well as protecting the public. To view legal philosophy in terms of punishment (revenge) and protection alone seem elementalistic to me. It reduces a complex question to a simple two-valued choice that leaves out many other possibilities. The present legal system is multiordinal in that it incorporates some or all of the aforementioned perspectives.

Saying there are too many laws without getting down to the specifics of exactly which laws need to be modified or eliminated shows another high level abstraction. Within our system we can deal with individual laws. If you deem there are two many, then it's your responsibility to say specifically which ones need to be changed, and that means getting involved in activism and or the legislative process. I'll say what I say to others. Communicate with your MP or member of congress, as appropriate, and tell them what to do - specifically. If they do it, then you have no complaint. If they don't do it, then you have a right to "complain", but your complaints should be as detailed as was your communication to your representative in government, so that you may encourage others to take specific action. Communicate with your peers that they may bring pressure on your MP or representative to do your bidding. But recall that the majority rules provided the rights of the minority are not trampled (at least in the US).

The "premise" that we have too many laws is based on what? Such a "premise" represents a very high level abstraction. What is it based on? Why do you think there is a functional relation or a correlation between the number of laws and the degree of respect for "the law" - an abstract generalization, if I ever heard one. How do you measure either factor? Have you any careful documentation on either factor? How do you measure the number of laws? How are opinions about specific laws related to respect for "The Law"? What is "The Law", for that matter?

What about so-called "victimless" crimes? Should someone who poses no danger to his fellow citizens because he or she has engaged in a "white collar crime", such as insider trading on the stock market serve no time? Is Enron such a case?

How can your quantify "more likely to offend" when they get out? We have recidivism statistics - how many people commit the crime again, but do we have any comparison of recidivism statistics for those who were imprisoned and those who were not? What do you base your use of "usually" on?

An actual study reported that the effect was very slight.


Effects on Recidivism

Spending more vs. less time in prison or being incarcerated vs. remaining in the community was associated with slight increases in recidivism for 3 of 4 outcomes. These results are detailed in Table 1 which can be read in the following manner. Beginning with the first row, one sees that there were 222 comparisons of groups of offenders who spent more vs. less time in prison. Of these 222 comparisons, 190 recorded the approximate time in months spent in prison. The average length of incarceration for the "more" and "less" groups was 30.0 months vs. 12.9 months respectively (footnote a, Table 1).15 The total number of offenders involved in these comparisons was 68,248. The mean unweighted effect size was f = .03, equivalent to a 3% increase in recidivism (29% vs. 26%) for those offenders who spent more time in prison. The confidence interval (CI) was .03 to .05. When the effect sizes were weighted by sample size, the z was the same (.03) and its CI was .02 to .04.

In the case of the incarceration vs. community comparison, the data showed a 7% increase in recidivism (49% vs. 42%)16 or a f = .07, for those offenders who were imprisoned. Upon weighting, the effect size became .00. The amount of time spent incarcerated could not be reliably determined ( 10.5 months) as only 19 of 103 comparisons reported this information.

Combining the results for the two types of sanctions in Table 1 produced a mean f of .04 (CI = .03 to .06) and a z of .02 (CI = .02 to .02).

Source: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/rpr94.htm

A 2% to 4% difference is not significant enough to justify wholesale change. Moreover, these studies had a time-limit, and those difference could evaporate over a longer time.

More would be gained by examining in detail the few "successful" cases.

Why do you think lawbreakers should be considered "unsane" from a general semantics point of view? Consciousness of abstracting does NOT mandate that a person choose an ethical standard that matches our own. Unsane just means applying poor reasoning methods, usually without consciousness of abstracting, but it does not mean that someone with consciousness of abstracting will choose automatically not to exploit others, or worse. It just means they may be "better" at exploiting others than those without consciousness of abstracting, because they will be able to use superior reasoning in the support of their nefarious purposes.

General semanticist DOES NOT EQUAL "good boy" or "good girl" by social standards.

I have personal experiences with now-dead, but honored, general semanticists who choose to use their "superior knowledge" to manipulate people for the explicit purpose of gaining an upper hand with respect to information sharing. However, I'm not planning to disclose the specifics of those events, except perhaps on a personal one-on-one basis in a non written context. I'll tell the story to whom I choose when I choose.

You just need to know that I have seen prestigiously honored general semanticists using their "art" to manipulate and exploit others. So we cannot say that "criminals" are automatically "unsane"; some may be, but there are those who choose different value systems.

Korzybski claimed that teaching general semantics to the "un-sane" would bring their behavior into the "sane" category, but it does not mean that they will also automatically become "fine upstanding citizens". They will just become better at understanding their environment and better able to navigate and to manipulate their environments - for good or evil purposes.

Diogenes (the cynic)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 14, 2006 - 04:36 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Apparently your "definition" of "adjustment" includes conformity to a particular system of values. That does not allow "freedom of choice".

To hoist you by your own petard, your admitted refusal to support and participate in the government that represent you shows that you are not "adjusting" very well, and therefore, by your own logic, you do not exhibit "COA". You may take the final step in your own logic yourself.

Diogenes (the cynic)

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Monday, August 14, 2006 - 10:35 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

Nazi smazi. You did not find yourself out of time and place; you found yourself in a country with a representative government with principles that are consistent with and support time-binding. Contributing your ideas to the government and to your peers "is" time-binding. If you choose not to do such, then you choose not to participate in that important part of time-binding.

You are free not to participate, and I am free not to listen to anyone who does not first communicate with their representatives. They won't know what you want unless you tell them. They don't have to agree with you, but, unless you tell them, they won't know how to represent you. I can't waste my time any more on such a non-participating "conscious" choice not to time-bind with the appropriate individuals who are in a position to act.

Author: Ralph E. Kenyon, Jr. (diogenes) Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - 10:19 pm Link to this messageView profile or send e-mail

... people off the street should not be influencing policy by lobbying their representatives because they are not usually knowledgeable enough in any given field to do so. It would appear that you are against representative government and against equal rights - the basis of the western democratic and republican form of government. Every citizen is entitled to communicate his views to his representative. Calling it "lobbying" and saying people should not do it . . . Just who is "intelligent enough" to communicate and decide? Who decides whom to allow? You?