Belief Systems, misc

[From Dag Forssell (920621-1)

I should have posted this "reinforcement" of Bill's point in his post on
Belief systems long ago. Better late than never?

Bill Powers (920429.0900)

At the level of systematic belief, both principles and reasoning become
subservient to preservation of the belief system. When you look at the
arguments against purposiveness in behavior that were advanced -- and
thought rather clever -- in the early parts of this century, you find
elementary logical errors and straw-man arguments that wouldn't convince
a schoolchild if the subject were something else. You find abandonment
of principles of scientific detachment and objective argument in favor
of emotional attacks and innuendo. The belief system justifies these
alternative uses of principle and reason, because above all, the belief

(CAPS emphasis by Dag)

Editorial pages Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1992:


Verdict: Police footprints on the victim's face couldn't persuade a Miami


As I listened to a juror explain that Rodney King was in "control" during
his beating by Los Angeles police officers, I thought of Bernie and
Rubina and Bill, down in Miami. They were nice people, and they, too,
reached a verdict that set parts of a city on fire.

What they told me more than a year ago is relevant now because it might
dispel the illusion that most of us still embrace: that the King verdict
was the work of fools or overt racists. Something much more universal
is at work, and race, in my opinion, is only one part of it.

Bernie, Bill, Rubina and nine others served as jurors in a federal
civil-rights case against six Miami narcotics officers. The allegedly
brutal officers represented a rainbow coalition of blacks, whites and
Latinos; the victim was Latino. The jury, though mostly white, included
three blacks and one Latino.

The prosecutors didn't have a videotape this time, but they had just
about everything else. Leonardo Mercado, a smalltime drug dealer, had
been beaten to death after entering a house with the officers. His corpse
had 44 bruised areas, and marks on his forehead corresponded to some of
the officers' sneaker-prints. A patrolwoman who did not participate in
the beating testified that three of the defendants encouraged her to kick
Mercado while he lay on the floor bleeding,

Nonetheless, the jury acquitted the officers of some charges and couldn't
agree on the rest. After interviewing 11 of the 12 jurors, here's what
I found:

Richard, a 38-year-old engine mechanic, said (during deliberations) that
Mercado was "only a drug dealer, anyway."

Rubina, a 53-year-old saleswoman, didn't believe several prosecution
witnesses from the neighborhood because "these are the people we're
paying the policemen to protect us from."

Herbert, a 59-year-old airline mechanic, believed that "criminals give
their civil rights away when they elect to lead a life of crime."

Bernie, a 48-year-old butcher, thought the police were guilty, but he
changed his vote because "I didn't want to be the one that was sitting
out there with them pointing at [me]."

Most telling, perhaps, was one juror's observation that the officers had
to be found guilty "beyond an absolute doubt." This juror had
single-handedly changed the standard of doubt in a criminal case. I
suspect he did so because he felt more sympathy for police fighting the
drug war than for a drug dealer with a violent past.

Most of these people weren't racists or fascists. In fact, they appeared
so well-intentioned, so intent on applying the law as the judge had
explained it to them, that it was all the more painful to witness how far
they strayed from the realm of common sense.

They were working-class people who believed what the defense said about
the defendants being the only thing standing between them and the chaos
of the streets.

As one lawyer put it, most of the jurors had "never been on the wrong
side of a nightstick." They did not sell drugs on street corners or
engage in high-speed chases with police. Nor were they psychologically
prepared to uphold the rights of those who did.

"To know what actually happened," one of the Miami jurors told me, "you'd
have to be there or have a tape of it." Now it appears that even a tape
isn't enough. That's because the problem is attitudinal. The jurors who
produced the Rodney King verdict are a reflection of the American middle
class's law-and-order mentality, which has been fired by the
Administration's ill-conceived war on drugs and the widespread perception
that too many' criminals get off on technicalities.

Convenient as it is, the bashing of the King jury is hypocritical,
because a lot of Americans would have done the same misguided thing when
the fate of these veteran police officers was put in their hands. In such
situations, a weighing of souls occurs, and unless there are allegations
of corruption, the police will almost always win over the criminal

The sad truth is that people not so different from ourselves as we'd like
to believe will undertake Herculean feats of logic to acquit officers of
blatantly brutal acts. They seem to sense that the police are, "us" and
the criminal suspect is "them"-- and apparently "we" don't ever expect
to end up on the wrong side of their nightsticks.

Footnote: Andy Court is editorial director of American Lawyer magazine,
where material for this article first appeared.



Another newsclipping. Extract from Sunday book review in the Los Angeles
Times a few weeks back. Sorry, no date left on torn page.

......."Who Will Tell The People" is one of the first books I have seen
that talks at length about one of Washington's dirty little secrets: How
much Senators and Representatives hate the folks they left behind.
"Politicians are held in contempt by the public." writes Greider. "That
is well known and not exactly new in American history. What is less well
understood (and rarely talked about for the obvious reasons) is the deep
contempt politicians have for the general public."

Exactly. Politicians, like the cops and emergency-room nurses Greider and
I used to work with, tend to see people at their worst. The difference
is that cops and nurses are there to help those people but politicians
come to use them to help themselves. Laughing anecdotes about the naivete
and grabbiness af constituents, those simpletons, is common conversation
in Washington. And, human nature being what it is, each time polls show
resentment of political pay and perks and plummeting public regard for
the distinguished labors and sacrifices of members of Congress. those
members remind each other that their constituents are still getting
dumber every day...........

The reviewer notes that the author, Greider, has no solution to the
problems he diagnoses.

I relate this to questions of business leadership. How many of the
captains of industry feel contempt for the people who carry out their
orders? How many leaders are of a mindset to recognize the individual
autonomy of every person in their organization?

Competition VS. Cooperation:

Kosaku Yoshida: New Economic Principles in AmericaCompetition and
Cooperation A Comparative Study of the U. S. and Japan

Abstract: The current decline in the U.S. economy has come about from the
excessive practice of free competition. In previous centuries, unfettered
competition and rugged individualism resulted in American economic
prosperity. But the American environment has changed. Now, these factors
which once created U.S. economic prosperity threaten to create the
opposite. The author examines how the Japanese concept of cooperation can
work with the Western principle of free competition to revitalize
American competitiveness in the global market.

(The Columbia Journal of World Business Winter 1992 Volume XXVI, Number

Post formats:

Sometimes, the length of individual lines do not fit on my screen. When
happens, you get a lot of little orphans. I choose to reformat text to
these annoying, misplaced hard returns, and that takes a little time.

Of late, Bill's posts have a lot of these, but some others' too. To avoid
this in my own posts, I set my word processor to courier (a fixed spacing
font) in 11 points. (With another printer designated, I might set 10
characters per inch). (The margin setting matters, too). I save to disk
in ASCII format, which places hard returns at all line endings, and post
to MCImail and Internet from disk. I hope my posts have few enough
characters per line, that it is easy to add > or >> in front without
exceeding the screen line length.

Is this a generic problem or just mine? (I set 10 point text when I read
and print, with one inch margins - perhaps I should change those
settings. Now I have already written this. I'll send it).