Latest entries

Collective freak-out over tasteless shirt points to double standard

by David McElroy

Matt Taylor shirt

I don’t wear shirts with sexually suggestive drawings of women. (Or men, either, for that matter.) Call me a prude or a conservative, but I think it’s inappropriate and tasteless. Besides that, it’s disrespectful to the people you’re going to be around, especially women.

I don’t like the shirt that English scientist Matt Taylor wore Wednesday at an ESA briefing about the Rosetta mission. It’s ugly and the stylized artwork of scantily clad women is boorish and tasteless. Nobody working for me would be allowed to wear it for work. It’s unprofessional.

But the media firestorm attacking him is just as distasteful. Some people are calling it “misogyny” and saying this is why women allegedly feel unwelcome in science. Others are saying it creates a hostile environment for women. And on and on and on. (Do a Twitter search for #ThatShirt or #ShirtStorm.)

I object to the shirt on the grounds of taste and good judgment, but the hysterical objections I’m reading seem really overblown. The thing that bothers me most about the firestorm, though, is the obvious double standard.

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Mark Bodenhausen was principled libertarian, but even better person

by David McElroy

Mark BodenhausenWhen I became a libertarian two decades ago, one of the first people I met was Mark Bodenhausen. Back in the days when Jimmy Blake was chair of the Alabama Libertarian Party, Mark was one of the small group who would gather regularly at Jimmy’s house for discussion and planning about how to spread our gospel of small government.

Over the years, I came to know Mark as a brilliant nerd, a principled libertarian, a pragmatic political thinker and as a caring human being. He went on to serve the Alabama Libertarian Party as its chair and as a candidate for a variety of offices. I was very saddened to learn that Mark died Thursday after a long illness.

I knew that Mark was sick, but I had no idea how serious the problem was. Last Sunday, former Alabama Libertarian Party vice chair Mike Rster posted a note on Facebook updating us about Mark. It sounded very serious, but I assumed it meant good news.

“The past 19 days have been trying,” Mike wrote. “Due to an aneurysm that caused two catastrophic bleeds in Mark’s brain, the doctors inserted a tube into his brain to relieve the pressure. In the course of the Mark’s treatment his liver failed and then his kidneys. He remained unresponsive for the 17 days.

“Two days ago he nodded yes and no for the first time since the initial bleed. His kidneys have stabilized although he still might require further dialysis. His liver is causing a problem with blood clotting. He has had multiple units of blood and blood products. Once his blood platelet count is sufficient he is scheduled for three surgeries….

“We anticipate a lengthy recovery and rehabilitation period for Mark. He still has a long way to go.”

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Life-threatening accident for child puts my tiny problems into context

by David McElroy

Emergency room

Thursday wasn’t a good day for me at work. I had a conflict with a co-worker that wasn’t even out in the open. She got irritated with me about something — unfairly, in my view — and she said some hurtful things behind my back.

I fumed about it for a couple of hours and I sent a message to a friend to say I wanted to tell her what had happened when we both had time. I was hurt and angry — and I wanted to complain about it.

Before I had the time to tell my friend about my woes, though, I got an email from her that changed my perspective.

“Please say a quick prayer for my sister’s little boy, Carson,” she wrote. “A tractor tire or tractor ‘something’ fell over onto him and he stopped breathing. (I don’t have the details yet.) They’ve just life-flighted him to Columbus.”

My friend’s 3-year-old nephew had been playing on the farm where he lives in Ohio and something heavy fell on him. He suffered broken bones and internal injuries. It was unclear whether he was going to live.

Suddenly, my little spat with a co-worker didn’t seem like a big deal.

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If elections could bring freedom, voting would have been outlawed

by David McElroy

Real change this time

Republicans are almost certainly going to take control of the U.S. Senate in today’s elections across the United States. Conservatives are excited and progressives are trembling. There’s change in the air. It’s a revolution.

But haven’t we seen this movie before?

In 1994, Republicans gained a staggering 54 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to take control. They were running against President Bill Clinton and attacking Big Government in a mid-term election. It was the Newt Gingrich-led Republican Revolution. Remember the Contract with America? It was going to change everything and reduce the size of government. How did that work out in the long run?

In 2006, Democrats picked up 31 seats in U.S. House elections to give control back to Nancy Pelosi and Co. In these mid-term elections, Democrats ran against President George W. Bush and his alleged attempts to hurt poor people and wage perpetual war around the world. Progressives promised to use their power to stop Republicans from continuing various wars. What changed for us in the long run?

Time after time, one party or the other has held power and the other party has taken power by promising change. But the two parties simply swap the seats of power like some giant game of musical chairs. If you believe in individual freedom and have watched this long enough, you come to realize that their promises of big change don’t come true.

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We have a hunger for love just as strong as the need for food, water

by David McElroy

Hungry for love

You can almost always tell whether I’m getting the love I need. When I’m not getting the love I need, I gorge myself on ice cream and cookies and doughnuts. I stuff as much as I can into my body — trying to fill a hole that can only be filled by love. The result is serious weight gain.

So the general rule for me is simple. If I’m eating in a way that’s good for my body, I’m probably feeling loved and understood. If I’m gaining weight and making daily trips to the ice cream aisle for Blue Bell cookies ’n’ cream or rocky road, you can be pretty sure that I’m empty inside and I’m engaged in a futile unconscious attempt to fill that hole with food.

I’ve been thinking about this today because of a comment that a friend made on Facebook Thursday night. He’s down and frustrated this week, and he said, “Me siento perdido y tambien he perdido mi fe en el amor,” which roughly translates to, “I feel lost and I’ve also lost my faith in love.”

His comment struck me as sad and I could easily empathize with him. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life feeling the same way. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that his phrasing didn’t strike me as right.  What does it mean to “lose faith in love”? Does that even make sense?

Human beings have a very fundamental need for love and understanding. Love is just as necessary to the healthy functioning of a human being as food, water and oxygen. Lack of oxygen can kill you in minutes. Going without water might take days or weeks to kill you.

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What do you love enough to want once more before life slips away?

by David McElroy

Seeing the ocean one last time

On Tuesday, a California woman took a trip to the beach. Her daughter pushed her wheelchair into the water so she could feel the water at Laguna Beach rush onto her legs. Her joy was obvious, but it’s an experience she will never repeat.

This was her last trip to the beach, because she’s checking into a hospice facility to die.

For me, this bittersweet image tells a lot about the truth of the life we live on this planet. It can be sweet and joyful. It can be an amazing sensory experience. But it’s all too short — and death is always waiting at the end far too soon.

When I was a child, a year seemed like forever. Even an afternoon or a week could seem like forever sometimes. The time between one Christmas and the next was definitely eternity.

That changed slightly as I grew, but I was still always eager for the next step. Others seem to have shared this pattern. We were impatient for life to begin. Or, rather, we were impatient for what we thought life was going to be for us. We had high hopes and we believed that life would be different for us than it was for other people. We were going to be happy and successful. Our futures were unlimited.

Life would be very long for us. Death was so far away that it almost didn’t seem to exist.

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Wealthy CEO walks away from millions after daughter’s challenge

by David McElroy

Mohamed El-Erian

It’s easy to say you care about your spouse and children, but words are empty compared to actions. Earlier this year, a California multimillionaire was forced to decide what was most important to him in life.

Mohamed El-Erian was CEO of a $2-trillion investment firm called PIMCO. He’s a very successful and hard-driving businessman who has made a lot of money. In 2011 alone, his income was $200 million. But he shocked the financial world in January when he quit his job — not to jump to a rival firm, but to spend time with his wife and daughter.

We can all learn something from his choice.

El-Erian was forced to decide what was most important to him — his family or his income — because his daughter challenged him. Writing for Worth magazine in May, El-Erian explained his crisis of values.

He said he asked his daughter to do something — which he recalls as brushing her teeth — and the two ended up arguing about her lack of compliance. He reminded her that she had always been quick to obey him, but she asked him to wait a minute, then she disappeared briefly to get a piece of paper from her room.

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A broken heart is devastating, but closing yourself to love is far worse

by David McElroy

Broken heart

Is love the best thing in the world? Or the worst?

Do you remember your first love? I remember mine well. The world seemed perfect. Everything was right as long as I could be with her. Do you remember your first heartbreak? I remember mine painfully well. The world seemed black and dark. I couldn’t possibly be happy again, because I couldn’t be with the one I loved. You’ve felt that way, haven’t you?

I’ve been thinking about love all week, both the good and the bad, because of an experience a friend has just gone through. He sent me a note Tuesday to tell me what happened to him and ask for advice. I’ve been slow to respond, because I’m not sure what I can say that’s useful. How can you help a man whose heart has been broken?

My friend just experienced his first love and then his first break-up. The relationship didn’t last but a couple of months, but it’s changed so much for him — and he’s left confused and hurting.

We’re going to call him Josh, but that’s not his name. He’s a smart and insightful young man, but he’s struggling to reconcile the horribly conflicting emotions that took him from an amazing high to a devastating low. He described everything that had happened and then asked, “Any advice?”

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Demos, GOP name Charlotte Clinton and Bush baby to be named for 2056

by David McElroy

Chelsea Clinton baby

WASHINGTON, D.C. — After two days of tense negotiations, smiling Democrats and Republicans emerged from behind closed doors to announce that their nominees for the 2056 presidential election cycle will be Charlotte Clinton and a planned Bush baby to be named at a future date.

“This is just the right thing to do,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. “An agreement like this will save the country from having to go through a series of divisive and unnecessary primaries in order to reach the result we all know is coming.”

Although Charlotte Clinton’s legal name is Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, her marketing team has decided to shorten it to take advantage of the Clinton brand, which was key to her winning the nomination at the tender age of 1 day old.

“The team hasn’t decided whether Charlotte will be married by the election, but we’re definitely going with the proven winner with the name Clinton,” Schultz said. “We’ve already registered ReadyForCharlotte.com and we will be flooding Facebook and Twitter with staged photos soon. It’s really the only way to make this exciting for everyone.”

Although most of the attention about the agreement is focused on Charlotte Clinton, the most interesting part of the deal reached today concerns Baby Boy Bush.

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Dear FBI, NSA and all three-letter agencies: ‘We don’t trust you guys’

by David McElroy

iOS_8-Encryption

Mr. James Comey
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Comey:

It was with great interest that I read your comments to reporters on Thursday attacking Apple and Google for their recent moves to increase my privacy from your snooping eyes. According to news reports, you said, “I am a huge believer in the rule of law, but I am also a believer that no one in this country is beyond the law. What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to place themselves above the law.”

You are upset that Apple announced it will no longer unlock devices such as iPhones and iPads for government agencies. The company has taken steps to make sure it doesn’t even have the technical capability of complying with orders to unlock iOS devices, and a statement from Apple CEO Tim Cook was very direct about the company’s desire to protect the privacy of its users.

Google quickly followed suit and said it would start turning on encryption by default, too. You don’t seem to like this, Mr. Comey. And your spin was pretty interesting. You went for the oldest trick in the book. You said your concern was all about the children. That was hilarious. Here’s what you said, according to the reporters who were there:

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