Archive for December, 2011

Taking responsibility for mistakes is foreign concept in many lawsuits

by David McElroy

Chelsea Hess was 20 years old when she walked into a South Carolina bar and ordered an alcoholic drink. The legal age for drinking in the state is 21, but the bar didn’t check her identification. On her way home, she drove her car off the road and is now a paraplegic. She’s suing the bar — because clearly the bar is responsible for her drinking and poor driving.

Hess’s lawsuit is emblematic of a trend for the last few decades of people looking for anyone else to blame for their troubles. We’re supposed to live in a risk-free and no-fault world, at least from the point of view of certain individuals. These people are so self-centered that they can’t be at fault. If something goes wrong in their world, someone else is to blame.

Contrary to what Hess believes, the folks at the bar aren’t her parents. The bar owner has a legal obligation to the state to obey its rules about alcohol sales, but that doesn’t — or at least shouldn’t — make it responsible for her actions. If the state insists on fining the bar for failing to check her ID, that’s an administrative matter between the bar and the regulators. But it doesn’t mean the bar is responsible for the series of actions that Hess took that led to her own problems.

When I was a child, my father was an executive in the safety department of Southern Railway (which is now Norfolk Southern after a merger). Every now and then, he would have to get out of the office and travel in the cab of an engine to observe safety procedures. Even though these occasions were rare, he still saw serious safety violations — but they were mostly by the public, not by the engineers.

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NEWS LINKS: GM recalls Chevys that might have brake pads missing

by Staff Monkeys

  • Is it any wonder that many Americans today — monkeys included — prefer cars built by foreign automakers instead of the U.S.-owned biggies? General Motors is recalling almost 4,300 Chevrolets because of a minor defect. It seems that some of them are missing a brake pad. GM says there are no known accidents caused by the issue — so far.
  • We figure Newt Gingrich had to go to method-acting school for at least a few days to pull this off. Campaigning in Iowa this week, Gingrich started crying in front of an audience as he talked about his dead mother. We figure she’s crying, too, if she can see what a narcissist her son has become. Of course, it’s also possible that Gingrich had just seen his plummeting poll numbers before going on stage.
  • A couple in western Illinois had the late-night munchies earlier this week, so they headed to the McDonald’s drive-through at close to 2 a.m. Unfortunately for the pair, they thought it would be funny to go through the drive-through completely nude. We’re not sure exactly why they thought this was a good idea, but we have to admit that we think all humans look funny naked. Those of us with fur are so much more sophisticated.

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Money is just a tool, so it’s useless without real motivation and vision

by David McElroy

I’ve always been unimpressed by money. I know I need it to survive, but I care little for most of the things people spend money on. The idea of accumulating it for its own sake has always left me cold. But I finally have a motivation for making money, so it suddenly matters to me. It’s an odd feeling to care.

A year ago at this time, I knew I was embarking on a year that would bring serious change, even though I didn’t know exactly what the change would be. I had an experience in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day last year that changed my perspective on where I was going with my life. It forced me to start moving away from politics. It also led to the creation of this site.

This week, something else has added a new layer to the changes I’ve been going through. Suddenly, I have an urgent need to pursue material success. It’s not for the luxuries of life that it can provide — because I still don’t care much for those — but it’s because of what it has the hope of leading to in another way. (No, I’m not going to be more specific about this one.) With this two-year oddity of post-Christmas timing, I’m now eager to see what God might have up His anthropomorphized sleeve for the same week next year.

Although I don’t want to talk about the specifics of what led to this, I do want to talk about the thoughts it’s sparked about money. We live in a society that worships money. On the surface, that’s a criticism, but I think it’s really a double-edged sword.

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FRIDAY FUNNIES

by David McElroy

It’s a new year, so plenty of people are making new resolutions. But nerds think differently, so if you ask one of us about our resolution for the year, you might get a different sort of answer.

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NEWS LINKS: Idol endorses Paul, but a publisher calls him dangerous

by Staff Monkeys

  • Former American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson has endorsed Ron Paul on her Twitter feed, although not all of her fans are happy to hear the news. At the same time, the publisher of New Hampshire’s largest newspaper has come out attacking Paul, calling him “a dangerous man,” because of his foreign policy views.
  • As proof of its growing naval prowess, Iran has offered up grainy footage of a U.S. aircraft carrier. The footage was shown on Iranian television as though it was some kind of triumph, but we’re not entirely sure why this footage proved anything. The U.S. Navy confirmed that the U.S.S. John C. Stennis was going through the Strait of Hormuz at the time the video was shot.
  • It’s been almost 40 years since humans walked on the Moon, but the Chinese intend to send people back, probably within the next decade. China unveiled its five-year space plan this week and it also indicated that a manned moon landing could take place by around 2020.

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Life is full of choices, but some require us to ‘come before winter’

by David McElroy

Where were you a year ago? As 2010 was drawing to a close and 2011 stretched out before you, what did you expect the new year to bring? Have your hopes been met? Or have you been disappointed instead?

The end of the year is always a time of introspection for me. I know the new year is an arbitrary thing that doesn’t mean anything other than what we bring to it, but I still end up thinking a lot about the year I’ve just been through and the year that’s about to start. I evaluate what I wanted from the year just ending and I think hard about what I want from the new one.

This thinking can leave me emotional and introspective, so I’ve been feeling a lot of things strongly this week. I’m impatient about some things. I’m angry at myself about others. I’m determined and focused about yet other things. I’m happier with where I am today than I was a year ago, even though I didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped.

Every year, the slate is wiped clean and we get a new year, but that doesn’t mean we can wait forever to start the things that matter. We have choices about what to do with each year. If you spend a year wisely, you can build something else on top of that year in the years after that. But if you squander the years — and never start moving toward being the person you need to be or toward doing the things you need to do — you reach a point at which some doors start closing.

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NEWS LINKS: Romney claims individual mandate is conservative

by Staff Monkeys

  • Did Mitt Romney get mixed up about which party’s nomination he was seeking? He doesn’t seem to fit with any wing of the Republican Party. The former Massachusetts governor said Wednesday that the requirement in his state’s health care law that everyone must buy insurance is a conservative principle. Whether you support the idea or not, it takes an idiot to claim that’s a “conservative” idea. Oddly, Romney is likely to be the GOP nominee.
  • The Iowa chair for Michele Bachmann’s campaign has defected to Ron Paul’s campaign. Although it’s just a few days before the Iowa caucuses, he’s apparently figured out that Bachmann is going down in flames. To Paul’s cheering supporters, he said, “We’re going to take Ron Paul all the way to the White House.” We wonder whether he’s buying Paul a tour of the whole city or just the White House. Either way, it’s a nice gesture.
  • A new CNN poll shows that Romney is leading is Iowa now, with the support of 25 percent of likely voters. Paul is at 22 percent, so the difference is within the poll’s margin of error. Most interestingly, Newt Gingrich continues to sink like a rock. He’s at 14 percent, down from 33 percent in the last CNN poll.

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Proving the obvious: Study shows civilian war deaths create enemies

by David McElroy

If soldiers from another country come to your town and bomb your neighborhood and kill your friends and family, aren’t you going to hate them? So why is it any surprise that many of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have learned to hate Americans in the last 10 years?

There’s a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that shows something simple and obvious. If U.S. forces in Afghanistan kill civilians — even if the deaths are accidental — the attacks on American and allied forces go up in the weeks and months to come. Is anybody surprised?

According to coverage from Wired magazine:

“When [U.S. and allied] units kill civilians,” the research team finds, “this increases the number of willing combatants, leading to an increase in insurgent attacks.” According to their model, every innocent civilian killed by [U.S. and allied forces] predicts an “additional 0.03 attacks per 1,000 population in the next six-week period.” In a district of 83,000 people, then, the average of two civilian casualties killed in [U.S. and allied]-initiated military action leads to six additional insurgent attacks in the following six weeks.

The study looks at the short-term and medium-term effects of such violence, but I’m even more concerned about the long-run effect. I’m concerned about the kids who are growing up watching family and friends die — because they’re the ones who are going to be angry and ripe for recruitment by groups offering a chance to retaliate against America in the future — maybe a decade or more from now.

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NEWS LINKS: Newt Gingrich says Ron Paul no better than Obama

by Staff Monkeys

  • Ron Paul either worries Newt Gingrich or the Paul campaign’s attacks are taking a personal toll on him, because Gingrich pulled out big guns Tuesday and trained them on Paul. As the campaign to win the hearts and minds of Iowa Republicans comes to a close, Gingrich said that electing Paul would be no better than re-electing Barack Obama. He said he would have to think hard about which of the two to support. In a race between a monkey and Gingrich, the monkey would be the slam dunk winner in our book.
  • Writing in Tuesday’s Washington Post, libertarian Christian Norman Horn explains why a libertarian position is more consistent with Christian ideas than the ideas espoused by politicians of the two mainstream parties. If you’re interested in more on the subject, Horn’s website has a lot more on the subject.
  • When two declining companies get together in a merger, it seems to just prolong the agony of both brands as they stagger toward irrelevance. When Kmart and Sears “married” in 2005, both companies were on a long downward spiral — and joining the two losing brands hasn’t helped. Now the company has announced that it’s closing another 120 stores between the two brands.

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Galt’s Gulch? I can live without that, but I need my own ‘Akston’s diner’

by David McElroy

Is there anybody who hasn’t felt the need at some point to get away from the insane world and escape to a place of relative sanity? I feel it a lot, and I’ve been feeling it more strongly recently. It occurred to me Tuesday that I don’t really need Galt’s Gulch right now. I need to find my own version of Hugh Akston’s diner.

If you’re a fan of “Atlas Shrugged,” you know what the two represent. Galt’s Gulch was a brand new society, cut off from the mainstream world — existing without outsiders’ knowledge. It had been founded to give the world’s productive people a place they could go to escape the “looters” who were taking their money and their ideas.

The diner that Dr. Hugh Akston ran, on the other hand, was a part of the mainstream world, in plain view of everyone. Akston had been a philosophy professor who found the world uninterested in his ideas, so he was forced to retreat from university teaching and ran a small, remote diner in Colorado. The two places represented entirely different things. Galt’s Gulch was an entirely new free world. Akston’s diner was all about living honestly within the existing world until you could get to the new world.

I want to live in Galt’s Gulch. I want that new world to exist. I believe it’s possible, and I believe we’re going to build it. In the meantime, though, I have to live in the same old world that everybody else does. And if I’m going to remain sane, that requires finding my own version of Akston’s diner.

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

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David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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