Archive for August, 2012

Check out my re-runs if you’d like, because I’m on vacation for a bit

by David McElroy

I won’t be publishing anything today, because I’m on a short vacation of sorts.

If you feel deprived, browse the old junk over on the right side of the page. There’s a lot of stuff you haven’t read before. Right?

I’ll be back from my dark little vacation hole before long, so I’ll talk with you again soon.

LINKS: Red states more generous givers to charity than Blue states

by Staff Monkeys

People in states that support Republicans more than Democrats give a higher proportion of their income to charity than those that support Democrats more. In a ranking of the states by percentage of personal income given to charity, the top eight states all went for John McCain four years ago. The seven states that gave the smallest proportion of income to charity all went for Barack Obama. The numbers sort of shatter the stereotype of greedy Republicans and generous Democrats.

  • Everybody knows that Monday is the most universally hated day, because that’s the day when most people have to go back to work. Right? The only problem, according to new research, is that this truism just isn’t true. It turns out that people hate Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday just as much. Friday is the only work day that they like, because it’s the last one of the week. It turns out that most people just don’t like the work they spend their weeks doing. Who would have thought?
  • Some of the same lawyers who took down Big Tobacco are now trying to score hundreds of millions of dollars by suing food manufacturers. They’re making crazy claims that the food makers are fooling consumers into believing that foods are something they’re not. For instance, they sued the maker of Cap’n Crunch cereal for selling “crunchberries” and making people assume there was fruit in the cereal. You can’t make this stuff up.

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We’re all going to die, but what do you want to do before you die?

by David McElroy

When you’re a kid, life seems to stretch out forever ahead of you. Waiting until Christmas is all you know of eternity. The idea of being old enough to live on your own is incomprehensible. As for older people who are in their declining years, they might as well be from another planet. You can’t imagine what they’ve seen and heard and felt and experienced.

George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Youth is wasted on the young,” and he was right. When we have youth, we’re not experienced enough or mature enough to appreciate it, but as we gain experience and maturity, we lose the youth which would allow us to make better decisions and spend our time in ways that would lead to wiser outcomes.

When I was 20, I thought I was pretty smart and pretty wise. By the time I hit 30, I was wise enough to know how ignorant I’d been at 20, but I was arrogant enough to believe I’d learned enough by then.

The only thing I understand now is that age and wisdom can be proportional. It isn’t always true, it’s possible. I’ve known some people who become adults and quit learning and growing. I’ve said for years that most people I know hit the age of 30 and then just get numb and get involved with the pragmatic part of life — and quit changing. Over the next 30 years, they don’t get 30 years of experience. They get one year of experience 30 times.

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NEWS LINKS: What lessons can U.S. learn from peaceful Switzerland?

by Staff Monkeys

Switzerland has somehow stayed out of all wars since 1815. What policies have made that possible? And what lessons could there be for a country such as the United States, which should be far easier to defend than landlocked Switzerland?

  • Do you follow the never-ending battle between My Side and the Other Side? It doesn’t matter which side is “My Side,” because the same things apply from either point of view. It’s absurd when you look at it this way. (Or from any other way, either.)
  • Author Matt Ridley has a thought-provoking article in Wired in which he outlines the reasons why we shouldn’t be worried about the coming apocalypse that everyone seems to see coming from some source or other. (Ridley is the author of the excellent book, “The Rational Optimist.”)

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Todd Akin is just another ideologue who thinks it’s OK to make up facts

by David McElroy

During the huge Chick-fil-A debate a few weeks back, I encountered someone on the pro-boycott side claiming that women should boycott Chick-fil-A because the company doesn’t want female managers. Since I happen to have known a number of female managers with the company — including the general manager of the store nearest my house — I knew it wasn’t true. So I challenged him.

He pointed to a lawsuit by one female manager at a Georgia Chick-fil-A. She has been a manager for decades, but the lawsuit alleges the she was forced out as a store manager because the chauvinistic upper management had decided she needed to be home with her children. I pointed out to the guy that this was one woman who had made one unsupported allegation, with no proof. I also pointed out that the vast number of female managers in the company make it obvious that there’s something unusual about that particular case, so it’s unfair and dishonest to use that allegation to state something as fact with no evidence.

“Do you think they’re fair to us?” he replied. “Why should I care about the facts when they’re the ones who are wrong?”

That was a snapshot of much of what’s wrong with political debate in this country. Almost nobody cares about facts, honesty or fairness. The latest example is that of U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, who claimed Sunday that a woman who is raped won’t get pregnant.

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NEWS LINKS: Coming losses on high-speed train to dwarf Solyndra

by Staff Monkeys

A high-speed train that would go from near Los Angeles to Las Vegas is being touted as a private project, but taxpayers are going to guarantee a $6.5 billion loan. An analysis of the project by the Reason Foundation says ridership estimates are badly flawed and that taxpayers will be taking a $6.5 billion bath in red ink.

  • A former Democratic congressman from Alabama who moved to Virginia and became a Republican introduced GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan at an event Friday. It’s noteworthy because the black former Democrat was one of the co-chairs of Barack Obama’s campaign four years ago. (Those in Alabama know Artur Davis as an opportunist whose gambles don’t always pay off.)
  • This story is a perfect example of the fact that Republican politicians on a local level can be just as arrogant, controlling and coercive as the Democrats who most of the GOP see as the enemy. A Virginia county that’s controlled by Republicans has made it clear that the busybodies at the county level will tell property owners what they’re allowed to do with their property.

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Get rid of celebrities and politicians; this is the kind of news I still want

by David McElroy

There was a fire Friday morning in the Eagle River community of Anchorage, Alaska. Janet Seitz’ house sustained an estimated $70,000 worth of damage. I don’t know what all she lost, but I do know that her world was saved when a firefighter brought her cat, Max, to her from the still-smoking house. Seitz broke into tears when she got Max back safely in her arms.

Here’s the original photo at full size. Blow it up and see the emotion on the woman’s face clearly. Feel the honesty and immediacy of real life as it happens. This is news that matters to me.

We have something on television today called “reality TV.” It’s about 80 percent fake. It’s a phony. A lie.

We also have something we call news. It’s on television, online and in print. Even though I spent more than 10 years in news, I suggested last week that news is really just trivia that makes us feel smart and educated, but it’s almost all worthless — and it diverts us from things that matter in life.

Maybe this story from Eagle River is an example of news that matters, because it’s news that connects to the part of all of us that feels emotion — and we can briefly connect with an emotional and overjoyed woman.

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NEWS LINKS: Tattoo removal booming as folks need ‘real jobs’

by Staff Monkeys

You know that tattoo that your cool buddy got when he was in college? It was a skull, wasn’t it? Or barbed wire around his arm? Or something like that. There’s a booming business right now removing tattoos from people, because folks are finding out that they don’t exactly help your value on the job market.

  • Three quarters of American adults believe that being constantly connected by technology is a blessing, not a curse, according to new data. Interestingly, people in some other countries are even more excited about the “always on” world than we are. We admit it. We all sleep with iPhones under our pillows.
  • It might seem as though smoking is on the decline, but that’s not necessarily the case around the world. The largest-ever study of world tobacco use shows that roughly half of men in many developing countries smoke and women are starting to smoke at an earlier and earlier age.

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Local politics isn’t a Frank Capra movie; it’s every man for himself

by David McElroy

Director Frank Capra was a great filmmaker, but he used his talent to promote a utopian vision that never existed and never can exist. Capra was a progressive who clearly believed in the perfectibility of man — if only more people would faithfully follow the civic religion that worships the goodness of the “common man.”

In “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Capra’s Jefferson Smith (memorably played by Jimmy Stewart) is a small-town nobody who’s suddenly propelled into Washington politics when he’s appointed to the U.S. Senate. Smith is a wide-eyed innocent who’s surrounded by crooks and thieves. He just wants to use the power of government to do good — for the boys of an organization he works with, mostly — but everyone else is in it for money and power.

It’s a good movie, even if it’s really corny and wildly two dimensional. If you watch it, you have the idea that everything could be great in this country if we would just trust the simpletons such as Smith, who live in the uncorrupted small towns of the country, far from the influence of the evils of Washington.

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FRIDAY FUNNIES

by David McElroy

In most parts of the country, schools have either just started back for the year or they’re just about to. Most children are sad about this, but many parents are excited to have some peace and quiet for a change.

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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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