Sunday, November 01, 2015

We live in a world of disrespect. (David Gerrold)

(A post from David Gerrold's facebook page. 2015-11-01)

We live in a world of disrespect.
And the reason we live in a world of disrespect is because we have allowed disrespect to leach away the essential empathy that is at the heart of any successful community.
We've turned ourselves into a national Gong show -- where we sit as self-appointed judges, one hand on the mallet, disparaging instead of encouraging, laughing at instead of laughing with.
We've done it by polarizing ourselves -- we've moved from "we're all in this together" to "things would be a lot better if they weren't here." We've learned how to admire cheaters, frauds, thieves, and charlatans while doubting the motives of the thoughtful, the honest, the concerned, and the committed.
We've done it to ourselves -- we've done it by tolerating the intolerance of others. Worse, we've allowed the intolerant to dominate the discussion. We've allowed the attention whores to capture the headlines, while those who are simply doing their job to keep the machinery running get trampled under in the stampede of ignorance.
We've done it by arguing over the parsley while forgetting the meat and potatoes. We've done it by resigning ourselves to the scraps we can grab from the table of life.
Change is possible. But there's a cartoon I've seen online more than once. The speaker asks the crowd, "Who wants change?" Everybody raises their hand. Second panel, he asks, ""Who wants to change?" Nobody raises their hand.
If we want to believe we are the good guys, then we have to define what good guys do -- and set that as our standard. And we have to live up to our standards before we can demand that anyone else live up to them.
Good guys don't hurt other people. Good guys help others to succeed. Good guys aren't selfish, they're generous. Good guys think success should be shared. Good guys want children to grow up in good homes, with good educations. Good guys want a world that works for all of us, with no one left out. Good guys measure their behavior against their goals and watch out for consequences. Good guys make a difference. Good guys leave the world a better place for their having passed through it.
Good guys respect others -- whether they deserve it or not. Good guys set the example. Good guys set the standard.
Right now -- scanning through the news feed on Facebook or Huffpost or half a dozen other sites and I want to stop the world and ask, "What the fuck is wrong with you people?" Not just some presidential candidates, although they're they most obvious, but the haters who make comment threads as unpleasant as bobbing for lumps in a cesspool.
Every moment of every day, we are given opportunities, possibilities -- choices. The choices we make are the impact we have in the world and the consequences that follow from that impact. I think the most important and challenging choice in front of us is whether we will respect the people around us and how we will treat them -- regardless of our judgments, regardless of our opinion on whether or not they deserve it.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Because so far, it works for me.
(David Gerrold)

The More You Know...

The universe is vast, and we residents of this pale blue dot are so very, very tiny. There is so much that we don't know.

 We are aware of the boundaries of our knowledge, and thus we have a pretty good idea of what to expect just beyond that frontier. In other words, there's a pretty big set of things that we *know* that we don't know yet.

Beyond what we know we don't know lies an infinitely larger set of things that we're completely unaware of; in other words, things that we don't know that we don't know yet.

The more we learn, the further we extend the frontier. As the frontier expands, we become aware of even more of what we don't know yet. Many things that we didn't know that we don't know thereby become things that we know we don't know.

So in that sense, the more you know, the larger the set of things you realize you don't know yet.

As Albert Einstein phrased it: "The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know."

Then there's the anonymous popular phrasing: "The more you know, the less you understand".

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Fiscal Bump

I wish we'd stop giving away the narrative to Republicans by accepting their heavily-biased "cliff" metaphor. A grand bargain passed on January 2 would be no different than the same grand bargain passed on December 31, so it's more of a bump or a shallow ramp than a cliff; the negative effects would be cumulative rather than all at once. And a post-January-1 agreement could be made retroactive to January 1, thereby eliminating the negative effects entirely.

The only meaningful impact of waiting until after January 1 would be that Republicans would no longer have this weapon to hold the economy hostage with; they'd have to negotiate in good faith at that point.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Truth about PETA

The following story is from This is True dated 17 July 2005. It is Copyright 2005 Randy Cassingham, all rights reserved, and reprinted here with permission:

"Ethical" Defined

After more than 100 dead dogs were dumped in a trash dumpster over four weeks, police in Ahoskie, N.C., kept an eye on the trash receptacle behind a supermarket. Sure enough, a van drove up and officers watched the occupants throw in heavy plastic bags. They detained the two people in the van and found 18 dead dogs in plastic bags in the dumpster, including puppies; 13 more dead dogs were still in the van. Police say the van is registered to the headquarters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the two occupants, Andrew B. Cook, 24, and Adria Joy Hinkle, 27, identified themselves as PETA employees. An autopsy performed on one of the dogs found it was healthy before it was killed. Police say PETA has been picking up the animals -- alive -- from North Carolina animal shelters, promising to find them good homes. Cook and Hinkle have been charged with 62 felony counts of animal cruelty. In response to the arrests PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said it's against the group's policy for employees to dump animals in the trash, but "that for some animals in North Carolina, there is no kinder option than euthanasia." (Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) ...Oops, my mistake: that's "Playing God" Defined.

In his author's notes section, Cassingham had more to say about this story:

The more I learn about PETA, the less I think of them. The story of them killing animals isn't even unusual. According to PETA's own filings, in 2004 PETA killed 86.3 percent of the animals entrusted to its care -- a number that's rising, not falling. Meanwhile, the SPCA in PETA's home town (Norfolk, Va.) was able to find loving homes for 73 percent of the animals put in its care. A shortage of funds? Nope: last year PETA took in $29 million in tax-exempt donations. It simply has other priorities for the funds, like funding terrorism (yes, really). But don't take my word for it: I got my figures from -- and they have copies of PETA's state and federal filings to back it up. The bottom line: if you donate money to PETA because you think they care for and about animals, you need to think some more. PETA literally yells and screams about how others "kill animals" but this is how they operate? Pathetic.

And you know what I wonder? PETA's official count of animals they kill is 86.3 percent. But if they're going around picking up animals, killing them while they drive around and not even giving them a chance to be adopted, and then destroying the evidence by dumping the bodies in the trash, are those deaths being reported? My guess: no. While 86.3 percent is awful, the actual number is probably much, much higher. How dare they lecture anyone about the "ethical" treatment of animals!

(This is True is a weekly column featuring weird-but-true news stories from around the world, and has been published since 1994. Click the link for info about free subscriptions.)

Friday, November 02, 2012

Music for the Holidays

Hank and Carol had been happily married for twenty-two years. The only friction in their marriage was Hank's habit of farting loudly every morning when he awoke. The noise would wake Carol; the smell would make her eyes water, and she'd gasp for air.

Every morning she would plead with him to stop ripping them off because it was making her sick. He told her he couldn't stop it and that it was perfectly natural. She told him to see a doctor, she was concerned that one day he would blow his guts out.

The years went by and he continued to rip them out. Then one Christmas day morning, as she was preparing the turkey for dinner and Hank was upstairs sound asleep, Carol looked at the innards, neck, gizzard, liver and all the spare parts, and a malicious thought came to her.

She took the bowl and went upstairs where her husband was sound asleep and, gently pulling the bed covers back, she pulled back the elastic waistband of his underpants and emptied the bowl of turkey guts into his shorts.

Sometime later she heard Hank awake with his usual trumpeting, followed by a blood curdling scream and the sound of frantic footsteps as Hank ran into the bathroom. Carol could hardly control herself as she rolled on the floor laughing, tears in her eyes! After years of torture she reckoned she had got him back pretty good.

About twenty minutes later, Hank came downstairs in his blood stained underpants with a look of horror on his face. Carol bit her lip as she asked him what was the matter.

Hank said, "Honey you were right. All these years you warned me and I didn't listen to you".

"What do you mean?" asked Carol.

"Well,", explained Hank, "you always told me that one day I would end up farting my guts out, and today it finally happened, but by the grace of god, some vaseline and two fingers. I think I got most of them back in!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Television and Politics

The reason things are such a mess these days is largely because too few people vote. When people refuse to exercise their civic duty, they allow the corrupt minority to seize the reins of power.

America suffered a massive turn to the dark side in 1980 when Reagan was elected. In a lot of ways, that was a turning point.

In the 1970's, we had massive cuts in spending on public education; I recall it being described as a "Retreat from excellence" in our schools. At the same time, the kids suffering the effects of these cuts were also the first generation to be raised on television and tended to read far less than earlier generations.

The 1980 election was the first election where large numbers of the TV generation were first eligible to vote, and growing up with TV predisposed them to feel more comfortable with sound bites than with critical thinking on the important issues.

If you can't find a candidate to vote for, you can always find one to vote against. It's the lazy way out, but it's still better than not voting at all.

A cynical assertion that "votes don't matter anyway" is not wisdom, it's just simple-minded laziness.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Older and Wiser?

I recently heard someone assert that 

Obama supporters look at the present from the paradigm of the past. It's sad really.I can admit that of what I believed at 20 is pure BS' many can't. Beliefs die hard.
When I was 20, I believed in things like science, truth, compassion, and hope for a better world. None of those were BS. I may have been more optimistic when I was 20 than I am now, but the only BS was in underestimating how difficult it would be to make a positive difference in the world.

People who reject science and abandon their principles as they get older and instead embrace ignorance have not grown "older and wiser". If they reject science, they've become more foolish, and if they abandon their principles, they've become more lazy and/or cynical.

Friday, October 05, 2012

‎80 Year Old Marries for the Fourth Time

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation. 

"He's a funeral director," she answered. 

"Interesting," the newsman thought. 

He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. 

After a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now - in her 80's - a funeral director. 

The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained, "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."