I am 73 years old. I have watched two generations of parents live their lives then slip away to whatever comes next. It seems to happen in one of several ways. The easiest way out seems to me to be what most people consider the most tragic … a sudden accident that snuffs out a life in its tracks. Then there are the injuries and illnesses that gradually drain the life from those we know. According to Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying, that can be a time to finally appreciate life and be the man (or woman) you were meant to be. Somehow, I suspect that doesn’t come easy. But some just get old and slip away. Certainly that is sometimes just due to the aging of the body, but I have a theory why others just decide to let go and die. I think as we age, we look at the world that’s changed around us and don’t like what we see. We feel like a Stranger in a Strange Land (to shoplift the title of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic sci-fi novel). And at some point we just say, I’m ready for whatever’s next. It can’t be worse than this.
Since the last election, I have been having some of those Stranger in a Strange Land feelings. It would be easy to blame President Trump and those who elected him but I think they are a just reflection of changes that have been happening in our society for years now. The election of a president that reflects those changes has just made them more obvious to this usually optimistic 73 year old. The degree of disagreement between citizens and the vehemence with which people express their opinions … without ever considering that The Other might be right … scares me. Such attitudes are kryptonite to democracy … we’ve seen what they do to the ability of our leaders to govern. Most news sources are incredibly biased, not just politically, but culturally and philosophically. President Trump is right about that but unfortunately he sees it as a problem only when it is biased against him. I regularly read articles in the mainstream media (yes, I’m talking to you, CNN … Fox … USA Today) that are more about personal attacks on the other side than news … or more about social engineering than fact. Neither side is willing to give The Other credit when it’s due or respect The Other’s beliefs. Social Media only makes things worse. Anyone can post information or mis-information with impunity and a citizenry drunk on confirmation bias is only too happy to believe what supports their opinions. That has become the definition of facts with everything else fake news.
So, what’s an aging writer to do. He can slip into being a Stranger in a Strange Land and risk deciding this life is not worth living any more … or he can write about his frustrations. This blog, Both Sides Now, will be my place for that. Here, I will try to see both sides of the news, always an invitation to controversy. I can almost guarantee that if you decide to follow me, you will disagree with some of what I post. I may even disagree with some of what I post. That is the nature of being open-minded. The secret to not being so open minded that your brain falls out is to: do your research in reliable places, distinguish opinion from fact and think. In other words, don’t be offended by my opinions, think about them. Any comments, pro or con, are welcome as long as they are respectfully offered.
This morning on my way to the office (OK, I was actually headed to the park but I was going to make business calls) I found myself listening to Fox News on Sirius XM. Before you draw any conclusions about my political inclinations, let me point out that I also listen to CNN and MSNBC. None of them are entirely satisfactory of sources of what we used to call news. The discussion this morning was with two congressman, one Democrat and one Rebublican. The subject was … wait for it. Gun control. On Fox News. With a Rebublican speaking in favor. Now before you get too excited, they were discussing a infinesimal increase in control motivated by the mass shootings in Las Vegas, the outlawing of so-called bump stocks which Stephen Paddock used on a number of his guns during the attack. Without getting too technical, a bump stock is a legal addition to a semi-automatic weapon that makes it work pretty much like an automatic weapon, or machine gun. While the inavailability of bump stocks (and other similar devices) would not have prevented the Las Vegas shootings, it might very well have reduceed the death toll. On the other hand, my gun-loving friends tell me it is pretty easy to modify a semi-automatic rifle to fire like a machine gun. Continue reading “A Bump in the Right Direction”
All you have to do is look at my Gravatar and you’ll know I am a cat person. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like dogs. I feel the need to state that before I plunge into this rant because it is likely to offend some dog people. I love cats and like dogs selectively. As I’m sitting in our bedroom, a couple of small dogs on the hill behind our house are serenading us with their yapping. I’m not so fond of them … or of the Rottweiler eyeing me suspiciously as I squeeze by in the narrow aisle at Home Depot. I don’t enjoy eating lunch on The Lazy Dog’s patio with the sound of a noisy dog wolfing down scraps at the next table or sharing a crowded row on an airplane with a large Lab that is no more a service dog than I am. But I submit as evidence in my behalf that I have two granddogs that I love to walk when we visit them in Utah. And I submit the this picture taken by our most animal-loving friends of me and their dog. I am not a dog hater.
Continue reading “Dogs … Everywhere”
This morning, during my ramble through the news pages, I found an opinion piece on USA Today by Kurt Bardella. Our president is apparently leading Kurt to an epiphany about the Republican party, which he has supported over the years. One of the issues he takes with Republicans is their position on climate change. He says, The president and many Republicans in Congress refuse to accept the scientific consensus on climate change, for instance, yet Trump expressed no skepticism before staring at an eclipse at an exact moment in time forecast by scientists decades ago. Does Kurt really think that because science can predict an eclipse we should accept any scientific consensus? This sort of faulty if-this-then-that argument drives me nuts. It is comparing Scientific Apples and Oranges. Continue reading “Scientific Apples and Oranges”
This week, my wife, Muri, and I were in Monterey, CA celebrating our 49th wedding anniversary, so forgive me if I failed to keep up with the news regarding the demonstrations in Charlottesville VA. Today, a day late … and perhaps a dollar short … I set out to review what happened … and assess the reaction of our president, the rest of the politicians making up our government and the media. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to look at Both Sides Now of a sad several days for our country. You would think reconstructing the exact events of the day would be easy given the degree of attention afforded the event in the media, that is, unless you have read my earlier posts and remember that it is virtually impossible to get a clear, unbiased picture of anything in today’s media. For the most part, news-pieces gave what my Mom called a lick and a promise to the events leading up to the vehicular attack on counter-protesters, then focused on that attack and President Trump’s reaction. I found myself reading articles by far-right bloggers, far-left bloggers and an assortment of media outlets in order to get the whole picture. The best were here, here and here. By connecting the dots between the various accounts, I believe this is a fair account.
Continue reading “Charlottesville Reprise”
I like to begin my day with a cup of coffee at my side and my tablet in front of me, seeing what is going on in the world from the various news outlets. I have searched for years for a source of unbiased news (a phrase that should be a truism but turns out to be an oxymoron) but have finally settled on reading biased news from a variety of sources, then drawing my own conclusion. Over in the blogosphere or on social media, it is worse. Opinions masquerading as facts may not win the day but they dominate it. It is as if we are pre-programmed to be biased, which we are. The culprit is not some brain-hacker out of The Matrix but a fundamental characteristic of our species known as Confirmation Bias. Our Creator (or Evolution, you choose) has endowed us with a very strong tendency to sort through the array of information available to us at any instant and choose that which supports our current opinions, thus strengthening our belief. Some scientists explain that for our ancestors, dealing with simpler (but more critical) situations (like Is that a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and is it likely to eat me?), reaching a quick decision in the face of sensory overload was a matter of life or death. if this is the case, then Confirmation Bias is strongly linked to our Flight or Fight Response, becoming strongest when the situation seems threatening. Continue reading “Biased”
The 2016 Presidential election … and its aftermath … have convinced me that I belong to a disappearing breed, the Moderate. I am liberal on some issues (mostly social), conservative on others (mostly economic and national defense), and somewhere in the middle on many. Hence, Moderate. I have voted for the Democratic candidate only once (McGovern … the war, you know) but I frequently voted for a Democratic Congress to balance things out. I voted for John McCain and Mitt Romney because I felt that Barack Obama was too liberal and lacked experience. This year, I voted for Hillary Clinton for similar reasons … her experience and my concerns about the character of Donald Trump. Online, in the news, even with friends, I often feel Caught in the Middle politically. Recently, one old friend told me that if I read Trump’s book, I’d see the light, that we need someone who can negotiate in fear as president. Another old friend told me I needed to get out and demonstrate because Trump may be the next Hitler. I don’t like having my friends speak of each other as if they are the enemy, even if they don’t know they are doing it.
Continue reading “Caught in the Middle”