The fight against Planned Parenthood, the Pledge of Allegiance, and other made-up controversies

Planned Parenthood has been getting a lot of attention in the media these days. “Defunding” Planned Parenthood has become a key point in the campaigns of many GOP Presidential hopefuls, and Carly Fiorina scored big points at the last primary debate by calling attention to videos that allegedly showed human dissections by Planned Parenthood. [She was accused of making up the videos, but it’s more likely that she saw some stock footage that was inserted into a video about Planned Parenthood, even though it likely didn’t accurately portray what happens at Planned Parenthood.] A piece at Salon argues that this is part of a long string of attempts by the right wing to “defund the left.” I think this argument is compelling, but in a conspiratorial way that I think is hard to pull off in today’s world of transparency and whistle blowing. Although it may have started that way, it seems to me that it’s become much more about dividing the country into us vs them, and trying to define who the us is in that division.

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Got persecution?

I’m still new at this blogging thing, and I still haven’t figured out exactly how I’m going to use this site. Some posts will be reactions to things that happen in the news (or in my life), and other posts will be an outlet for me to describe things that I’ve been thinking about for a while. This one goes in that later category, mostly, but it’s precipitated by this overwhelming sense that everybody wants to be persecuted. I’m planning to write more about how that’s impacted us, as a generation of human beings living in the United States, but this is an important precursor to that post, that might or might not ever materialize. To the point of this post: depending on how you see the world, and on which part of that world you focus on, being persecuted has it’s perks. I seriously doubt that any persecuted group feels those benefits are worth the cost of persecution, but the benefits are there, nevertheless.

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This is what respectful discourse looks like…

Although Sanders often sounds like the crazy old man who can’t talk without yelling, like the prototypical uncle at the family dinner, his appearance at Liberty University is an excellent example of rational discourse about issues that tend to evoke emotional responses. The whole thing is quite long, and worth watching, but the question/answer stuff that starts at the 44-min mark really shouldn’t be missed.

Never forget?

Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that changed the NYC skyline forever. People keep saying “never forget,” a phrase borrowed, knowingly or not, purposefully or not, from the holocaust. I hate that phrase. First of all, I don’t think anybody who was an adult on that day can forget it, unless they suffer from a neurological disorder that degrades their memories in general. Second, and this is the key point here, what is the most important part to remember?

The “never forget” slogan is a rallying cry. It’s a call to war. It’s telling us to stay afraid. Don’t let your guard down and fight fight fight. But who should we fight fight fight, and do we really need to be the ones fight fight fighting?

The people who planned and executed the attacks against us are gone. The government that supported them has been removed from Afghanistan, and was never in many of the countries that we added to the enemy list after that dreadful day fourteen years ago. We’re still soaking in the fallout, like the cloud from a nuclear disaster, and it’s still making us sick. We tolerate and even foster racism against Muslims like we did to Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. We are war hungry and still looking for revenge (even though we can’t even seem to figure out who deserves our vengeance). It’s enough already, and it’s time to get back to the Nation we were before that day changed us. Let’s not forget that.

I am done living in fear.


Am I biased?

Level of my political bias, according to an online test of political bias. Click on the graph to see it more clearly.

A piece showed up at Vox this morning about a test of political bias. This is the kind of thing I love, and tried hard to take the test, but apparently lots of other people tried at the same time, and I couldn’t get through for a while. Eventually I got through and learned that I’m not terribly biased, politically. My total bias (based on answering questions wrong, in a particular direction) was 8.3%, which is less biased than about 75% of other test takers. This made me pretty happy, because I don’t want to be biased….but that made me wonder, why not? Can’t bias be a good thing? I’m biased about my kids. I think my kids are the cutest, most caring, considerate, overall best kids in the world. I have absolutely no empirical evidence to support this, and I don’t care. So why do we think of “bias” as a bad thing, not just a thing that is.

Bias has been getting a lot of attention lately. Discussions of police actions and how we treat other people has raised attention of a specific type of bias, called implicit bias. I’ve taken advantage of the tests of implicit bias that a group from Harvard has available on the internet. There are tests about our implicit attitudes about skin tones, sexuality, weapons, presidents, race, religion, and a host of other things we see every day. These tests are needed because we aren’t always usually aware of our implicit biases. We know our explicit biases all too well, but the implicit ones are harder to see, especially in ourselves. Some of us don’t seem to want to look for these things. We don’t want to think of ourselves as racists or bad people, and we have it stuck in our heads that saying we have implicit bias is a secret code for calling us racists. So if somebody is told they likely have a bias about skin color, they immediately get defensive as if they’re being called a bigot or racist. This isn’t the case, and those of us talking about these things in a rational way (Spock-like), need to work harder to make that clear.

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Please stop confusing explaining and justifying

People come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of likes and dislikes. Some people (and I’m certainly one of them) like to try to figure out how stuff works. That desire is certainly what led me to be a scientist, and to make a career out of trying to figure out how stuff works. For me, part of this is that I look around and see what appears to be very disorderly world. A bird’s eye view of a city shows people going in all kinds of directions, moving in different ways from here to there, and it looks like chaos. But pull any of those individuals aside, and ask what they’re doing, where they’re going, and they’ll have a story to tell and a reason (maybe not always a good one) that they’re doing what they’re doing. When those individual reasons are all known, the world seems, and feels (to me) more orderly and less chaotic. I crave order in things. That’s just who I am.

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Uh oh, google often makes us more productive…but sometimes less.

This is not a good thing for my increasingly long list of fun things to do while procrastinating.

So far I’ve learned that a 100-count string of Christmas lights uses 40 watts while a 70 count of 5 mm Wide Angle LEDs is approximately 4.8 watts total, that you can freeze shredded cheddar cheese, that the word “Chai” comes from the Persian chay which originated from the Cantonese Chinese word for tea, cha, that the youngest Prime Minister of India wsaa 40 years old (Rajiv Gandhi), and that cassowaries cannot fly, but they can run 31 miles per hour and jump up to 5 feet in the air.

Of course, I then had to see what a cassowary looks like.

Back to work now.

[image from]

What you should know about me

Here’s an important backdrop for pretty much anything I can imagine posting here: I am undoubtedly an emotional person. I get choked up watching movies all the time, and sometimes I get so frustrated that I want to scream. My hope is always to put this aside when I discuss an issue. I think this has been a problem on FaceBook in the past, because people see my arguments as emotional, and place emotion that they imagine on them, when the intent is to be an emotional void. It’s not that I don’t like emotions, it’s not that I think they’re bad. It’s simply that I think our decision-making process is not always the best when we throw emotions into the picture. Some might say that it’s impossible to remove them, because we are, indeed, emotional beings, but I try hard to separate them nevertheless. I tried to explain this to my lovely wife last night, and her first response was to laugh out loud and call me crazy, but after a bit of explaining, I think I won her over, and convinced her that even though I get emotional, I try to keep that out of these decisions/discussions/debates.

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And it begins…

I am not consumed by delusions of grandeur. I doubt anybody (except maybe my wife…and mom) will read anything I post here, but I need an outlet, and FaceBook just ain’t cutting it anymore. I need a place where I can pick at ideas, without being that guy; the one who writes more than anybody is willing to read in a post. I’m sure I’ll still do that from time to time, but maybe this will help exorcize the demons that make it impossible for me to walk away from a discussion until I’ve explored every angle possible. So here I am, hitting bregma, metaphorically. A smack on the top of the noggin to cure what ails me. Let’s see if it works.