Archive for January, 2012

Fred and the other monkeys send greetings from their vacations

by David McElroy

Since the monkeys are all on vacation this week, they’re starting to send back a few snapshots to brag about the good times they’re having. This is Fred next to the pool at a resort in Belize. He and a couple of the other fellows had never been to South America before, so they’re chilling in the tropics. They’ll be back next week, when they’ll be hard at work again bringing you your daily news links.

News used to be important; now it’s just well-dressed entertainment

by David McElroy

Even though I spent a decade in the newspaper business, I’m not sure I know what “news” is anymore. What’s even worse is that I’m not sure I ever did know what it was. Was I in the news business? Or was I in the business of filling holes with trivia to attract readers for our advertisers?

There’s an argument that what we call news has always been fairly banal. A dictionary I consulted said that news is “information about recent and important events,” but who’s to say what’s important? If the market is deciding, isn’t there always going to be a race to the bottom — a race to attract people with sensational and emotional stories rather than any discussion of things that matter?

In “Walden,” Henry David Thoreau wrote of being concerned that our inventions were giving us a technological ability to communicate, but he worried that people didn’t have things to say to each other that really mattered:

“Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.” [Emphasis mine]

What if our whiz-bang technology is ultimately empty in many ways? What if our incredible satellites and TV production facilities and complicated infrastructure give us the means to communicate with one another, but what if the things we have to say are banal and empty? That’s what I’m afraid of.

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Today is surgery for me; I’ll give you news and be back as soon as I can

by David McElroy

By the time most of you read this, I should be in surgery or maybe even finished with it. I’m scheduled to be at the hospital by 6 a.m., so many people will still be asleep. I wish this were a day for me to be asleep in my own bed instead of “sleeping” from anesthesia.

Let me bring you up to date on where things stand. As you might know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer slightly more than two weeks ago. A week later, tests of additional samples led the doctor to back off a bit, saying that he could now only say that there were “atypical” cells. The lump in my chest might be cancer, but it might not be.

I won’t know until I wake up after the surgery what was done to me or what they found. Here’s the plan. They’re first going to remove the lump. While I’m still knocked out, it will be sent to the hospital lab for testing. If the people in the lab can determine that it’s definitely cancer, the surgery will resume and they’ll remove all of the breast tissue from the left side of my chest, possibly even lymph nodes, depending on what they find. If the lab can’t definitely say the cells in the lump are cancer — if the cells just appear “atypical” again — the surgeon won’t do anything else today. Obviously, the second is the one I’m hoping for.

If the cells are cancerous and they have to do the major surgery — a “modified radical mastectomy” — I’ll be in the hospital for at least one night. If they don’t have to do that, there’s a good chance I’ll be home Monday night. Either way, I’ve been told not to expect to do much this week.

Honestly, I’m expecting the less-serious outcome, so I’m expecting to be home Monday night. I got one piece of very hopeful news Friday when I went in for a CT scan. (That’s the scanner above.) The technician operating it told me that the lump didn’t appear to be connected to anything else. She said that’s a good sign that whatever is going on in it hasn’t spread elsewhere. She’s not a doctor, so she could be wrong, but it’s a hopeful sign.

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Legislator trying to legalize medical pot because of sister’s suffering

by David McElroy

If medical marijuana is legalized in Alabama anytime soon, we should thank a woman who died of breast cancer 25 years ago. Years later, her brother is a Republican state legislator, and he’s trying to legalize medical marijuana because of what he saw her go through.

State Rep. K.L. Brown is no stranger to death, because he owns and operates a funeral home. But it must have been very different to watch his own sister die of cancer 25 years ago. His sister used marijuana to ease her suffering, and Brown wants to change the law so that anyone can do the same without fear of legal problems.

Brown isn’t some libertine — or even a libertarian. He’s just a conservative Republican who doesn’t believe people should have to suffer unnecessary pain.

Ron Crumpton is executive director of the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition, and he told the Anniston Star that this is the first time he’s believed a medical marijuana bill has a chance of passing in the state.

“I’ve talked to a lot of legislators who, quite honestly, in the past have not been for us but who are backing us now,” said Crumpton. “I think it has a lot to do with the fact that K.L. Brown is sponsoring it. He’s well-liked.”

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NEWS LINKS: Scientists lay out case against theory of ‘global warming’

by Staff Monkeys

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Never give up; you might be closer to reaching your goal than you think

by David McElroy

Every person has reached a point in his life when he wanted something very badly, but he was discouraged and ready to quit. We’ve all had things we strongly desired, but we’ve all failed in reaching some of those goals. When you’re faced with the choice between continuing to fight a “hopeless” battle or allowing yourself the relief of giving up, how do you choose?

The answer might be different for every person, so I can only tell you mine. I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been too quick to give up and take the easy way out, because I was afraid or I didn’t want to pay the price that might be required to continue fighting or I simply preferred the certainty of quitting to the uncertainty of continuing the fight. When I look back on big things I’ve wanted, I’m not satisfied with any of my decisions to quit.

When I was 28 years old, I started a small community newspaper in an affluent suburb of Birmingham. I thought I was prepared for the battle of a startup when I launched the paper, and I did work hard. But I went through one disaster after another. The people I hired to sell ads couldn’t sell enough, but I made very few sales calls myself, because I was more concerned with producing the product. The source of our working capital disappeared about six months into the project and I couldn’t figure out how to get additional revenue or new investment.

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NEWS LINKS: Game of tag brings sexual assault charge for 6-year-old

by Staff Monkeys

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Is anti-gay adoption article in school paper free speech or hate speech?

by David McElroy

If someone I agree with says something controversial, it’s just free speech and should be protected. But if someone I disagree with says something controversial, it’s hate speech and should be banned. Right?

Newspapers frequently air opposing views of issues on their editorial pages. It’s been a staple of school newspapers for years. Pick a controversial topic and two students write opposing views about the subject. It doesn’t seem controversial, but an attempt to air opposing sides about adoption by gay couples has turned into a serious conflict over free speech.

A high school newspaper in Shawano, Wis., is facing criticism after someone had the temerity to argue that adoption by gays was wrong. The article taking the other side — saying that adoption by gay couples was acceptable — didn’t draw criticism. So it’s not the discussion of the subject that’s the problem. It’s that some people don’t believe those with other opinions have the right to express them in print. That’s not free speech, apparently. It’s “hate speech.”

I’m not interested in trying to get into the subject of adoption by gay couples. It’s completely irrelevant to the point here. The only issue we’re going to look at is free speech and “hate speech.”

Here’s what the offending article said:

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FRIDAY FUNNIES

by David McElroy

There’s a vicious debate that rages among two gangs who oppose each other in a fight to the finish. Yes, it’s the battle over whether to use the serial comma or not — the one commonly referred to as the Oxford comma (or Harvard comma). I don’t use it, but don’t tell the pro-Oxford faction or my life won’t be worth a plugged nickel. (If the joke doesn’t make sense to you, you’re probably way too normal to be reading here.)

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NEWS LINKS: Hawaii might require tracking of all visits to all websites

by Staff Monkeys

  • A Hawaii legislator who was angered by a negative website about her seems to have been the one behind a proposal in Hawaii to require Internet service providers to track every website that every one of their customers visits. So if there’s a site that someone “important” doesn’t like, she could learn who visited. Convenient, huh? (UPDATE: A reader reports that the Hawaii bill has now been killed.)
  • Thursday night’s Republican presidential debate from Jacksonville, Fla., was once again dominated by squabbling between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich over relative trivia. When the moderator asked Ron Paul what he thought of one irrelevant point, Paul responded by saying, “That subject doesn’t really interest me.” We felt that way about the entire show.
  • Hillary Clinton claims that she’s finished with the “high wire” of politics, saying that she’s out of the Obama administration at the end of this term, even if Barack Obama wins next fall. She says she doesn’t have any plans about what to do next, but we’re not certain that she won’t be planning another campaign for four years from now.

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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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