Thursday 31 January 2013

The Turtles: She'd Rather Be With Me

Some girls love to run around
Love to handle everything they see
But my girl has more fun around
And you know she'd rather be with me

Me-oh-my, (me-oh-my) lucky guy is what I am
Tell you why you'll understand
She don't fly although she can

Some boys (some boys) love to run around
They don't think about the things they do
But this boy (this boy) wants to settle down
And you know he'd rather be with you

Me-oh-my, lucky guy is what I am
Tell you why you'll understand
She don't fly although she can

Ba ba ba ba ba-da ba
Ba ba ba ba ba-da ba
Ba ba ba ba ba-da ba
Ba ba ba ba ba-da ba

Some girls (some girls) love to run around
Love to handle everything they see
My girl (my girl) has more fun around
And you know she'd rather be with
Ya, she'd rather be with
You know she'd rather be with me

Ba ba ba ba, ba ba ba
You know she'd rather be with me...


Published on Feb 21, 2015 by The Turtles - Topic

1967 proved to be the Turtles' most successful year on the music charts. "She'd Rather Be With Me" reached number 3 on the US charts in late spring and actually out-charted "Happy Together" overseas, reaching # 4 in the UK.

Wikipedia: Happy Together (The Turtles album)
Happy Together is the fourth studio album by The Turtles. It was released in April 1967 on the White Whale Records label. In the CD era, it has been reissued at least three times, with various track configuration.

Wikipedia: The Turtles
The Turtles are an American rock group led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. The band became notable for several Top 40 hits beginning with its cover version of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1965. The group scored its biggest and best-known hit in 1967 with the song "Happy Together".


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Tuesday 29 January 2013

Thinking out loud: Marriage as a Business

While the rate of divorces has apparently dropped over the past decade, the rate stands at 40% or 50% depending on the source of information. Marriage counselling seems to be a booming business. If I do a Google search on "marriage counseling", I get over five million hits. How could something which starts out so wonderfully in this ethereal cloud of romantic bliss end up being Hell on Earth? Women complain about men by saying that "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (The Righteous Brothers 1964). Men complain that women suck in the bedroom (or not). Why is it that expectations about the relationship have gotten completely out of kilter with reality?

In business, two parties have a contract. The contract clearly spells out what product and/or services are to be provided for at what price. Before anybody commits by signing on the dotted line, both parties negotiate until they fully understand all aspects of the arrangement and are satisfied with terms of the agreement. Everybody knows who does what and when.

Anything wrong with a situation where everybody knows who does what and when?

Several years ago I took some ballroom dance lessons. I had never done this before so it turned out to be quite the eye-opening experience but on more levels than just one. I, the man, ask you, the woman, if you would like to dance. You can accept or refuse. If you accept, we walk out onto the floor, I take your hand and we dance. There are rules. There are steps. There are roles. Yes, each of us has a role to play and it is only through the coordination of those two roles that we arrive at being a couple, a dancing partnership. It's synergy: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We are both there voluntarily; we both want to dance. We both participate; dancing as a couple only works with the full involvement of both people. Is this a metaphor? Is there a lesson to be learned here?

Romance, starry eyed, sail off into the sunset, life is beautiful my pretty little poochy poo. But who takes out the garbage? Who walks the dog? Are we sticking with the national average and having sex once a week? How much of a relationship is left unsaid and how much of it works itself out more by random chance than by a deliberate meeting of the minds?

But we're all going to be mature adults and we're going to be open and honest with each other, right? I repeat: The divorce rate is at 40% or 50% depending on the source of information. Ah, do I say oops? Are we all being open and honest? Are our expectations being met? Have our expectations changed? Maybe we started the marriage by making a trade-off and now that just ain't cutting the mustard.

This breakthrough half hour comedy series, a spin-off of All in the Family, ran from 1972 to 1978. I refer to Season 3, episode 13, "Walter's Ex". (see below for embedded videos)

Maude and Walter may finally be able to take their dream trip to Japan, as Walter's ex-wife Marta has informed him that she will be remarrying, allowing Walter to stop with alimony payments. Maude's rich Uncle Henry has also announced that he will be remarrying. Walter and Maude realize Marta is going to be marrying Henry and, knowing Marta's history via Walter, immediately become concerned that she is only marrying him because she's a gold-digger.

The humour of the show centers on Maude coming to the realisation that Marta is after Henry's money and Maude's growing need to warn lovesick Henry about Marta's true intentions. She tries to keep quiet but the outspoken Maude can't keep her mouth shut and the show's climatic scene has Maude speaking her mind to Henry in front of Marta. (In the video part 2 below, this occurs at 3:25) The amusing results? Henry is fully aware that Marta is after his money. He knows it and he accepts it.

Maude: I have to say it because of all the happiness you brought me as a kid, for all these years I've been lucky enough to be your Gingersnap. Uncle Henry, Marta is marrying you for your money.

Henry: I know that. You may be a Gingersnap but I'm not a fruitcake.

Maude: But Uncle, I...

Henry: Let's face it Maude. We have an understanding. Why else would a gorgeous girl like Marta want to marry an old futz like me?

Marta: Henry dear, don't talk like that.

Henry: But it's the truth sweetie. We do have an understanding. Look at it this way, Gingersnap. She's marrying me for everything she can get her hands on. And that is exactly why I'm marrying her.

Marriage as a Business
Do a Google search on this phrase and you get over two million hits.

In Psychology Today, Alex Lickerman, M.D. starts his 2009 article "Marriage As A Business Proposal" with the question, "What can the corporate world teach us about personal relationships?" He talks about the difference between a merger, where both parties are equal, and an acquisition where a more dominant party takes over the other.

The Free Dictionary defines "Standard Operating Procedure" (SOP) as: Established procedure to be followed in carrying out a given operation or in a given situation.

Lickerman, in referencing SOPs, lays out eight strategies for long-term success in partnerships. This seems less lovey dovey and more common sense. Does a business approach bring some objectivity to the table?

In the 2011 book Spousonomics, the authors in studying the application of economic principles to a marriage, suggest treating a marriage like a corporation and to think like an economist.

The Time article "How to Make Marriage Work: Treat It Like a Business" gives a taste of the book by offering five Spousonomics principles to help your marriage prosper. Making time for sex, hating to lose a fight to your spouse, and becoming complacent and taking your partner for granted are framed in business terminology like "re-invest" in the relationship, "incentive" cooperative behaviour, "division of labour", and "coordination failure". Once again, does a business approach bring some objectivity to the table?

Final Word
Marriage seems like the romantic ending to the fairy tale. And they lived happily ever after. The word business conjures up all sorts of images of cold boardrooms, official sounding language, and negotiated agreements sign on the dotted line please. But does the objectivity of business bring something to the table? I want something. You want something. We negotiate. If we both agree to the terms of the agreement, we continue. If both parties are satisfied, why end the relationship?

Do we talk? Are we open and honest? Do we negotiate and do we re-negotiate?

From my blog: Michele Weiner-Davis: The Divorce Buster
[According to Weiner-Davis], hopelessness is the number one killer of marriages. She admits that not every marriage can or should survive, but does say that many more would survive if couples can be given hope for a future where things can be different.

from my blog: Does divorce make us happier?
Two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later.

Back in 2011 (Telegraph), news outlets reported on a proposal in Mexico City for temporary marriage licences. In a city where 50% of marriages end in the first two years, the idea was to offer couples a temporary commitment which could be renewed if the couple decides it is happy. The contract would cover the handling of property and children and have a minimum period of two years. The purpose was to avoid the tortuous process of divorce. I do not see if this proposal was in fact adopted but it does make one think about a more business-like approach to the romance of marriage. I want something. You want something. We negotiate. If we both agree to the terms of the agreement, we continue.


Psychology Today - Oct 29/2009
Marriage As A Business Proposal by Alex Lickerman, M.D.
What can the corporate world teach us about personal relationships?

Google search: "marriage as a business"

Amazon: Feb 2011
Spousonomics by Paula Szuchman
Are you happy in your marriage—except for those weekly spats over who empties the dishwasher more often? Not a single complaint—unless you count the fact that you haven’t had sex since the Bush administration? Prepared to be there in sickness and in health—so long as it doesn’t mean compromising? Be honest: Ever lay awake thinking how much more fun married life used to be?

If you’re a member of the human race, then the answer is probably “yes” to all of the above. Marriage is a mysterious, often irrational business. Making it work till death do you part—or just till the end of the week—isn’t always easy. And no one ever handed you a user’s manual.

Until now. With Spousonomics, Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson offer something new: a clear-eyed, rational route to demystifying your disagreements and improving your relationship. The key, they propose, is to think like an economist.

That’s right: an economist.

Economics is the study of resource allocation, after all. How do we—as partners in a society, a business, or a marriage—spend our limited time, money, and energy? And how do we allocate these resources most efficiently? Spousonomics answers these questions by taking classic economic concepts and applying them to the domestic front. For example:

• Arguing all night isn’t a sign of a communication breakdown; you’re just extremely loss-averse—and by refusing to give an inch, you’re risking even greater losses.
• Stay late at the office, or come home for dinner? Be honest about your mother-in-law, or keep your mouth shut and smile? Let the cost-benefit analysis make the call.
• Getting your spouse to clean the gutters isn’t a matter of nagging or guilt-tripping; it’s a question of finding the right incentives.
• Being “too busy” to exercise or forgetting your anniversary (again): your overtaxed memory and hectic schedule aren’t to blame—moral hazard is.
• And when it comes to having more sex: merely a question of supply and demand!

Spousonomics cuts through the noise of emotions, egos, and tired relationship clich├ęs. Here, at last, is a smart, funny, refreshingly realistic, and deeply researched book that brings us one giant leap closer to solving the age-old riddle of a happy, healthy marriage.

Time - Feb 7/2011
How to Make Marriage Work: Treat It Like a Business
Few couples like to think of their marriage as a business, but treating a relationship like a corporation may actually give it the best chance at long-term success. That's the message behind Spousonomics, a new book by Wall Street Journal editor Paula Szuchman and New York Times education reporter Jenny Anderson. Researched and written over the last two years, Spousonomics uses case studies, focus groups and exhaustive data to illustrate how economic principles can help troubled marriages survive and healthy marriages thrive. ... Admittedly, Spousonomics doesn't bother much with the lovey-dovey part of marriage. This is a book about marital mechanics, not romance. "We suspect our readers already love their spouses," Szuchman says. "We're helping them build a framework for that love to flourish."Herewith, five Spousonomics principles to help your marriage prosper."

Wikipedia: Prenuptial agreement: Premarital mediation
Premarital mediation is an alternative way of creating a prenuptial agreement. In this process, a mediator facilitates an open discussion between the couple about all kinds of marital issues, like expectations about working after children are born and saving and spending styles as well as the traditional premarital discussions about property division and spousal support if the marriage is terminated. The engaged couple makes all of the decisions about what would happen in the event of a separation or divorce with the assistance of the mediator. They then draft either a deal memo or a premarital agreement and have it reviewed by their respective attorneys. An agreement developed via mediation is typically less expensive because fewer hours are spent with attorneys because the couple has made all of the decisions together, rather than one side vs. the other.

What Can and Cannot be Included in Prenuptial Agreements
A prenup cannot include personal preferences, such as who has what chores, where to spend the holidays, whose name to use, details about child rearing, or what relationship to have with certain relatives. Prenuptial agreements are designed to address financially based issues. Any prevision discussing nonfinancial issues will not be upheld. Judges grow uncomfortable when they see private domestic matters included in a contract, and will often view the document as frivolous, striking it down. If you and your spouse do want to have an agreement about such things, do it in a separate document, with which the court will not have the power to intervene.

Wikipedia: Maude (TVseries)
Maude is an American television sitcom that was originally broadcast on the CBS network from September 12, 1972 until April 22, 1978.

Wikipedia: List of Maude episodes
Season 3, episode 13: "Walter's Ex"

Uploaded on Sep 3, 2011 by musicfan12647
Maude - Walter's Ex (Season 3, Episode 13) 1/2

Uploaded on Sep 4, 2011 by musicfan12647
Maude - Walter's Ex (Season 3, Episode 13) 2/2
[The dialogue mentioned above starts at 3:25, 3 minutes and 25 seconds.]

my blog: Negotiating: Take what you want or get what you want
“The only people with whom you should try to get even with are those who have helped you.”
-John E. Southard


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Monday 28 January 2013

Freedom of Religion: I am free to believe what you want

You believe in creationism and that the world was created 6,000 years ago. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You believe only in abstinence and you are against any form of birth control. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You believe sex education promotes loose morals and leads to promiscuity. I don't. You have the right to your beliefs and I have the right to mine.

You have your beliefs and I have my beliefs. So where's the problem? The problem seems to be that you are not content with believing what you believe; you also want me to believe the same thing. Okay, maybe you don't care if I believe what you believe but you seem to what to control my choices so that even if I don't believe what you believe I am going to be forced to follow the dictates of your beliefs.

Pardon me?

Gee whiz, now don't you seem a little dictatorial. What happened to democracy and freedom? Oh yes, I remember, I am free to do what you say. Otherwise I'll be locked up.

Now that Obama is back in the driver's seat, Mr. Romney and the rest of the Republicans are unable to carry out their threat of repealing the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare. Nevertheless, those of faith have taken to the courts to plead that complying with Obamacare means they are not respecting the tenants of their faith. Providing employees birth control as part of health care? Tch, tch, those of the same "ilk" as Sandra Fluke (You slut!) are going to have to look elsewhere to support their sinful ways. (see my blog: Rush Limbaugh: That's spelled with one F and one U)

Faith-affiliated organisations like universities, charities, and hospitals have taken their cases to court demanding to be made exempt from this aspect of Obamacare. Thou shalt not hand out contraceptives. For-profit business owners are doing likewise claiming a violation of their religious beliefs. The Get Out of Jail free card for the administration is the promise to re-jig the system so that insurance companies and not those of faith be required to pay for birth control coverage.

Are things getting just a tad twisted around? If you don't believe in birth control, I believe you are free to not use it. But what if you feel that not only should you not use it, you believe everyone should not use it? What's curious is the reasoning behind this. You think you have moral grounds to force your ideas on everyone else. It's not a question of an individual choosing what he or she wants to do, you actually think you are on the moral high ground and have the right from the Lord Almighty to enforce what you think is His will.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion. (Wikipedia) Unfortunately while those words would seem clear enough the enforcing of the act has been problematic. What is constitutional? What authority does congress have? When does the government encroach on the liberties of the individual and when do the religious beliefs of the individual negatively affect other people or the collective we?

Nevertheless it would seem both business owners and faith affiliated organisations have thought to use this 1993 act as a means of arguing their point to be allowed to opt out of Obamacare's mandate to supply birth control.

Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, argued the business owners are trying to use a religious liberty claim to deny benefits to someone else. "We don't think that religious liberty claims can be used as a way to discriminate against women employees – using those claims to take away someone else's benefits and services," Amiri said. (Huffington)

Note what's going on here. The supposed religious people are not satisfied with living their religion; they seems compelled to force those beliefs on other people. The woman as an individual has the right to decide to use birth control or not but the employer, the supposed believer, wants to deny the rights of the woman.

I return to my original premise. You are free to decide what you do. But should I not be free to decide what I want to do? There's a subtlety in the argumentation and I can see people are going to be debating this from here to kingdom come. If I go to a Jewish restaurant, should I expect to be served pork? Should an employer be expected to furnish birth control if this goes against the tenants of his faith? If Obama manages to re-jig things so the insurance company pays for the birth control then the employer is out of the equation. I get my pork elsewhere; I don't get it from the Jewish restaurant. Of course is health care the same as pork?

Is there a moral issue or a religious issue or is kerfuffle more to do with people who don't like being told what to do? Don't we all hate being told what to do? The powers who be, the government, the collective we decided the speed limit should be 60 miles per hour, a middle ground between road safety and the freedom to speedily get to where you want to go. In general we have collectively accepted this but there is always a number of speeding tickets handed out proving that while the collective we accepts the rules of the game, there is always a percentage of rebels who continue to try to buck the system. I demand the right to be free to drive like a maniac and kill myself! (Unfortunately, I am probably going to kill others hence I shouldn't have that right.)

Final Word
There are a number of volatile issues at stake here: birth control, sex education, abortion, etc. The list goes on and on. The curious point for me is not what somebody personally believes, it is that the person in question wants to put into effect laws which would curtail my freedom. They are not satisfied with following their own beliefs; they demand that I follow them too. I can't help thinking of Dominionism, a movement of politically active conservative Christians who are working towards a nation governed by a conservative Christian understanding of biblical law.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Wikipedia: First Amendment to the United States Constitution)

I believe birth control should be made available to every individual. If you choose not to take it, that is your right. But you do not have the right to [prohibit] the free exercise [of my beliefs].


NY Times - Jan 26/2013
A Flood of Suits Fights Coverage of Birth Control by Ethan Bronner
In a flood of lawsuits, Roman Catholics, evangelicals and Mennonites are challenging a provision in the new health care law that requires employers to cover birth control in employee health plans — a high-stakes clash between religious freedom and health care access that appears headed to the Supreme Court.

Huggington - Jan 26/2013
Birth Control Lawsuits: Obama Health Care Mandates Loosen Legal Challenges by Rachel Zoll
The legal challenges over religious freedom and the birth control coverage requirement in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul appear to be moving toward the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wikipedia: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called Obamacare or the federal health care law, is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, it represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

Wikipedia: Religious Freedom Restoration Act
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's free exercise of their religion. The bill was introduced by Howard McKeon of California and Dean Gallo of New Jersey on March 11, 1993. It was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress's enforcement power. But it continues to be applied to the federal government, for instance in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized.


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Saturday 26 January 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Nominated for five Academy Awards (to be held on Feb 24/2013) including best picture, best actress, and best original screenplay. Nominated for four Golden Globes; won for best actress. It had its premiere on December 18, 2012 with wide release on January 11, 2013. It had a budget of $40 million and as of this writing (Jan 26/2013) Box Office Mojo is showing the film's worldwide gross at $66 million. In a nutshell, it's a good film and I would recommend seeing it. Can anyone miss not seeing the end to the biggest manhunt in history?

But the big talk of this historical dramatization is whether the filmmakers got classified information to make the film (they say to their knowledge no one gave them classified information) and the alleged pro-torture stance of the story (I didn't see that at all). If there isn't a conspiracy, let's make one up.

I don't have to retell the plot because I'm sure everybody knows the story. There are no spoiler alerts. But the retelling of the search for Osama bin Laden, the piecing together of the key players in the Al Qaeda network and the eventual raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan make for a gripping two and a half hours. Willis? Stallone? Schwarzenegger? Sorry, none of the action stars can compete with real life.

For those who haven't seen the film yet, the big surprise of the story is that Osama who found by a female CIA operative Maya, the central figure in the film. This person is apparently not made up; she really exists but is still undercover for the CIA and her identity is unknown. It was she who put forward new ideas about finding bin Laden and it was she who spent the better part of a decade hunting him down. The hunt for Osama bin Laden was a success because of this woman.

The new ideas? Everyone thought Osama was hiding in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan but it turns out the best place to hide is in plain sight. The secret compound in Abbottabad was not far from a military academy, characterized in the film as Pakistan's West Point. Who would have guessed he would have been that close? Maya did and it was apparently also her idea to follow the various couriers who made up the Al Qaeda network and trace them back to the man himself. In the end it wasn't torture which found bin Laden but detective work with a lot of sophisticated high tech equipment.

As for the scenes of torture, America has its own demons to deal with. The Bush administration authorized "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" which included hypothermia, stress positions, and waterboarding used at such places as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and Bagram. The question is whether or not these EITs worked. Waterboard me and I'll give up my mother. The filmmakers in responding to criticism have stated that to leave out the scenes of torture would be whitewashing history. On the other hand, in my opinion, the film does not condone torture or say that in the long run it solved the mystery as to bin Laden's whereabouts. Good detectives sleuth; they don't torture.

Bigelow explains the significance of the title: "It’s a military term for 30 minutes after midnight, and it refers also to the darkness and secrecy that cloaked the entire decade long mission." (Entertainment Weekly)

Final Word
This film is going to be talked about for a long time. Sorting out fact from fiction, determining if torture is condoned or condemned, finding out if classified materials were handed out will be discussed, investigated, and analysed by every right and left pundit, news broadcaster, and conspiracy theorist. At the end of the day, we have this film and the majority of us will never access to the details to confirm or refute the story. Someday a journalist historian will write the definite work on Osama bin Laden and maybe, just maybe we'll have all the (supposed?) facts in one book. Until then, there's Zero Dark Thirty.


Rotten Tomatoes: Zero Dark Thirty: 93%
Gripping, suspenseful, and brilliantly crafted, Zero Dark Thirty dramatizes the hunt for Osama bin Laden with intelligence and an eye for detail.

Wikipedia: Zero Dark Thirty
Zero Dark Thirty is a 2012 American historical drama film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal. Billed as "the story of history's greatest manhunt for the world's most dangerous man," the film is a dramatization of the American operation that killed Osama bin Laden. ... It has attracted praise as well as controversy and strong criticism for its allegedly pro-torture stance and for allegedly obtaining improper access to classified materials.

ABC News - Nov 26/2012
'Zero Dark Thirty': Real-Life Stories Behind Controversial OBL Film
Filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal talk Exclusively to ABC News' Martha Raddatz on their new film.

Wikipedia: Death of Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1 am local time by Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six). The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. In addition to DEVGRU, participating units included the U.S. Army Special Operations Command's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and CIA operatives. The raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was launched from Afghanistan. After the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death.

Wikipedia: Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad
Osama bin Laden's compound, known locally as the Waziristan Haveli, was the safe house in which Osama bin Laden was hiding when he was killed. The structure was located at the end of a dirt road just 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan. The suburban area of Bilal Town is an area housing retired military officers. Bin Laden was reported to have evaded capture living in the house for at least five years, hiding away from the public, who were allegedly unaware of his presence. Here he was killed by U.S. Navy Seals during a top secret infiltration mission on May 2, 2011. The building has since been demolished by the Pakistani government.


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Friday 25 January 2013

Move Review: The Last Stand

Two words: who cares? Now I'm going write a bunch of other words to explain whether my lapse of good judgement or good taste was a random anomaly or an early sign of a neurological disorder. I admit to sometimes forgetting to take my meds.

Arnold Schwarzenegger remains a curiosity in the world of cinema. I imagine he remains a curiosity in general as an individual who came to America and made it when by all measures of talent one would think he shouldn't have. But this larger than life tank of a man continues to make us look. Why this review? I looked. Now I'm going to tell you not to look.

The plot is about... oh, blah, blah, blah. Who cares? This is an excuse for gratuitous violence, explosions, and lots of automatic weapon fire. See? Only the criminals have automatic weapons. Why else would I need a clip of 100 rounds of armor piercing bullets?

In this genre of movie, we always have the action scenes interspersed with cute bits of humor. We need to chuckle in between our adrenaline rushes. While Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame is in part Arnie's goofy sidekick, the comedy isn't all that comedic. At one point (it's in the trailer) Schwarzenegger comes crashing through the front door of the local diner. A group on the other side of the counter stare at him then the owner asks, "How are ya, sheriff?" Slowly getting up off the floor, Arnie responds, "Old." Yes, indeed. Arnie is currently punching the clock at 65.

Overall the film is good craftsmanship but the story is nothing exceptional. If you've read any of my reviews, you know I keep stressing over and over again that it is the story which makes a good film. If you have a mediocre story, the best you can hope for is good craftsmanship and good craftsmanship ain't gunna be winning an Oscar anytime soon. A good story also gives us a good premise and a premise is necessary to kick start the whole affair. We have to accept Batman or the Joker isn't going to mean anything. We have to accept paranormal activity, a monster, or a zombie causing virus for the rest of the story to seem real. As with all action movies The Last Stand has your mandatory bad guy who does bad things but in a spectacular fashion which in the end justifies the good guy being that much more of a badass right back atcha. I couldn't help thinking as I watched Mr. Bad Guy seemingly having an endless number of resources to bribe officials, break out of jail, and arrange to escape from the country, why he would carry out the escape in a manner that would alert every law enforcement official and newspaper reporter in the state. Then again, I'm being a stickler for a premise which makes sense.

As of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes is showing the film with a 60% rating; right on the borderline of good and bad. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars. (Ebert review) Really Rog? You are being pretty generous.

Some curious facts
While Arnie popped up in the Stallone films The Expendables and The Expendables II, this is his first starring role since the 2003 film Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines.

Arnie was governor of California from 2003 to 2011.

Schwarzenegger did not accept his salary of $175,000 per year as governor. (Orange County Register)

Schwarzenegger's worth is estimated to be $300 million. (Celebrity Net Worth) (Other sources are from $200 million to $400 million and even higher. Obviously it's hard to estimate.)

Arnie once said of his fortune, "Money doesn't make you happy. I now have $50m, but I was just as happy when I had $48m." (The Guardian)

Arnold is not divorced. Maria filed for divorce but now over a year and a half later it is still not finalized. (Huffington)

Arnold spent Christmas 2012 with his estranged wife Maria Shriver and his children. He has said he still loves his wife and hopes for a reconciliation. (Mail Online) Speaking to Sweden’s The Aftonbladet earlier this month, Schwarzenegger said that he has "four wonderful children," before catching himself out and saying, after a pause, "Well, actually, I have five."

The star's official height is listed as 6' 2" however there are a number of other sources which peg him at less. These other figures are anywhere from slightly less, 6'1", to quite a bit: 5'10". (Wikipedia) Whatever the case, I am sure with age that Schwarzenegger has shrunk as we all do. Our vertebrae compress slightly over time so we all end up being shorter later on in life. I am not the man I once was.

Final Word
True Arnie fans can't look away. Maybe we all can't look away. No matter what anybody says about the man's talents he has done an admirable job of capturing our attention. Arnold Schwarzenegger is truly a larger than life individual.

As for this film? Nah, I wouldn't bother. It will eventually end up on TV but even then I wouldn't bother. There are zillions of films out there and our lives are finite. We only have so much time on this planet to watch 'em so let's choose wisely because we will never get that time back again.


Rotten Tomatoes: The Last Stand: 60%
There's nothing particularly distinguished about it, but for Schwarzenegger fans The Last Stand provides perfectly undemanding entertainment.

Wikipedia: The Last Stand
The Last Stand is a 2013 action film written by Andrew Knauer and directed by Kim Ji-woon.

official web site: The Last Stand

Wikipedia: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger (born July 30, 1947) is an Austrian and American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served two terms as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011.


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Thursday 24 January 2013

Why we don't believe the facts

I grew up believing, if you'll pardon my joke, that the Bible was not gospel, it was open to interpretation. It is a book written by men writing their ideas about God; it is not literally the word of God. God works in mysterious ways and understanding him is a tad more complex than counting out the lives of those in the Old Testament to arrive at the conclusion the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago. (see my blog: What the @#$%^* do I know about religion?)

However in talking about religion with other people I saw that others held onto their convictions, well, religiously and they could not be shaken in their belief the Earth was six thousand years old. I was a philistine spouting blasphemy. Today I refuse to debate such an issue as I know there is no way of logically working through this to arrive at an objective conclusion. You either believe or you don't believe. There is no argument, rationale, or scientific study which conclusively leads one to see the light of the Lord as opposed to the light of objective truth. There is only faith and with faith you don't debate, you believe. You just believe.

I started to closely follow American politics in the middle of 2011 when the GOP began their process of selecting a candidate to run against Obama in the 2012 election. While I had previously heard the oddball meanderings of the far right, I had not appreciated how much the Republican party had moved from their traditional Conservative "right" position further towards the far right of the political spectrum. As candidate after candidate presented their platforms I heard the most outlandish ideas, so outlandish I thought it was all great fodder for late night comedians. However as Mitt Romney captured the nomination and the GOP geared up to campaign against the Democrats, I began to realise this wasn't funny anymore. In fact, it was getting not just a little scary as those outlandish ideas had now coalesced into the Republican Party Platform. What if Romney did win the election? George W. Bush has been at times categorized as one of if not the worst president ever. Could the United States and could the world afford another Republican in the White House?

The following statements from the Republicans are either twisted truth or outright lies.

47% of Americans do not pay taxes.
(See my blog: Romney caught on video: 47% of Americans are Losers)

Obamacare will bankrupt the country.
(See my blog: Obamacare: Congratulations on doing the right thing, America!)

Cutting taxes for the wealthy creates jobs
(See my blog: Is the right answer counter-intuitive? (Part Deux))

Abstinence is the only solution
(See my blog: Abortion: Rick Perry and Sex Education: Abstinence works!)

The list goes on and on. Each one of these statements can be disproved with solid verifiable facts and yet the GOP and the far right persists in repeating these ideas over and over again while completely ignoring the counter-arguments and refusing to accept the facts as facts. Why?

I see the word defined as follows (Dictionary.Com):

1. the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group.

2. such a body of doctrine, myth, etc., with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.

I have heard tell "belief", certainly with its association to religion, also means that a person can and will discount anything which does not support said belief. Is this the explanation for Republicans or the far right continually promoting ideas which do not seem to correspond to reality?

Chris Mooney
I had never heard of this gentleman until I ran across an article he penned for MotherJones (The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science  ... with lots of reference links). Surprise, surprise, I discover this U.S. journalist and academic has spent considerable time and effort investigating this very phenomenon. With a focus on science in politics, Mr. Mooney has authored a number of books in which he explores how ideology and faith trumps fact and specifically how the Republican party in its pursuit of its ideological goals has and will systemically reject scientific fact if it does not support their worldview. His description of the situation and his many supporting examples made me wonder if somebody has drunk the Kool-Aid. Does the "collective" support itself in its own craziness? And does the "collective" help one another in putting on blinders to avoid seeing the objective?

Mr. Mooney lays out the premise of his work by starting with a study done in the 1950s by Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger of a doomsday cult who predicted the end of the world on December 21, 1954. Obviously this didn't turn out to be true and Festinger examined the adherents and their reaction to this failed prophecy. If they believed it to be true but it turned out not to be true, how did they rationalize the failure of their belief? (This reminds me of the predictions of Harold Camping, an 89 year old Christian radio broadcaster: the Rapture on May 21, 2011 and the end of the world on October 21, 2011. See my blog my blog: May 21: The End of the World (Afterword May 22))

Chris Mooney goes on to talk about "motivated reasoning" whereby our pre-existing beliefs can skew our thoughts so that even in the face of unequivocal evidence we can reject ideas of climate change, vaccines are not linked to autism, Obamacare does not include death panels, and the president was born in America and he is Christian. There seems to be a mixture of emotions and rational thought where emotions are visceral and immediate while rational thought comes later and more slowly. If someone believes in divine creation, they will reject anything which does not support their belief. They aren't reasoning; they are rationalizing. Consequently the perspective of the individual is biased; it is not objective. It is not scientific; it is subjective.

This rejection of fact extends to scientific expertise. Depending on your outlook on issues, you will accept or reject supposed experts. If you a pro-gun, you will reject anti-gun experts and anti-gun studies. Even if there is double blind testing with confirmed unbiased analysis, you will still interpret this as being wrong. You are not convinced. People rejected the validity of a scientific source because its conclusion contradicted their deeply held views. Mooney points out that trying to persuade people with evidence and argument can actually backfire and people can end up holding onto their views even more tenaciously.

We gravitate to what supports our views with media from newspapers, television, and social media like Facebook. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam backing the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque called the Ground Zero mosque, was rumored to be a terrorist-sympathizer. A study showed that viewers of Fox News were more likely to believe this rumor than non-Fox viewers. Even though George Bush stated that America is not at war with Islam, the viewers of Fox News continue to associate terrorism with all Muslims. (As an aside, it is curious how these same viewers forget that Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, was Christian. This 1995 bombing remained the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until 9/11.)

Mr. Mooney touches upon the supposed link between childhood vaccines and autism. The assertion that childhood vaccines are driving autism rates has been undermined by multiple epidemiological studies—as well as the simple fact that autism rates continue to rise, even though the alleged offending agent in vaccines (a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal) has long since been removed. (see Wikipedia: Thiomersal controversy)

What is Chris Mooney's conclusion? Scientific denial is more prominent on the political right. The Republicans, the Christian right or more Christian fundamentalists are quicker to dismiss evidence and arguments which fly in the face of their beliefs. They believe what they believe and nobody is going to sway them from their faith. But in saying that, he adds that we all in some circumstances have blinders are and may not be able to be totally objective. So, what do any of us do about this?

If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn't trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.

Yes, there's the message but there is also how the message is packaged. A study about climate change, how the message was presented, and the reaction of different groups led to the conclusion that starting with values, social values or moral values, meant the message was better accepted. Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue.

You don't lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.

Final Word
Values, yes values. I think we can all agree on being happy, being employed, being profitable, and doing good for one another. But how to get from here to there? How do we all get on board to we are all pulling in the same direction?

Los Angeles Times - Aug 15/2004
Holy Terror by Sam Harris
Ancient religious texts shouldn't form the basis of social policy in the 21st century. The Bible was written at a time when people thought the Earth was flat, when the wheelbarrow was high tech.

Today is not yesterday. And what I did yesterday may not always be the correct course of action today. The world changes. The country changes. We change. The author Rita Mae Brown said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." We need to try something different but we need to lead with the values not necessarily with the facts.


Wikipedia: Chris Mooney (journalist)
Christopher Cole Mooney (born September 20, 1977) is a U.S. journalist and academic who focuses on science in politics.

MotherJones - June 2011
The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science by Chris Mooney
How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.

Wikipedia: The Republican War on Science
The Republican War on Science is a book by Chris C. Mooney, an American journalist who focuses on the politics of science policy. In the book, Mooney discusses the Republican Party leadership's stance on science, and in particular that of the George W. Bush administration, with regard to issues such as global warming, the evolution/creation controversy, bioethics, alternative medicine, pollution, separation of church and state, and the government funding of education, research, and environmental protection. The book argues that the administration regularly distorted and/or suppressed scientific research to further its own political aims.

Amazon: The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
Science has never been more crucial to deciding the political issues facing the country. Yet science and scientists have less influence with the federal government than at any time since Richard Nixon fired his science advisors. In the White House and Congress today, findings are reported in a politicized manner; spun or distorted to fit the speaker’s agenda; or, when they’re too inconvenient, ignored entirely. On a broad array of issues-stem cell research, climate change, evolution, sex education, product safety, environmental regulation, and many others-the Bush administration’s positions fly in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus. Federal science agencies-once fiercely independent under both Republican and Democratic presidents-are increasingly staffed by political appointees who know industry lobbyists and evangelical activists far better than they know the science. This is not unique to the Bush administration, but it is largely a Republican phenomenon, born of a conservative dislike of environmental, health, and safety regulation, and at the extremes, of evolution and legalized abortion. In The Republican War on Science, Chris Mooney ties together the disparate strands of the attack on science into a compelling and frightening account of our government’s increasing unwillingness to distinguish between legitimate research and ideologically driven pseudoscience.

Wikipedia: Sam Harris (author)
Sam Harris (born 1967) is an American author, philosopher, public intellectual, and neuroscientist, as well as the co-founder and CEO of Project Reason.


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Monday 21 January 2013

Alex Jones: Just how nutty is the far far right?

Who are these people? Has the world gone insane? Or at least a part of it? Just when I think I've heard the craziest of the crazies, I discover somebody who hasn't just crossed the line but stepped over it, drawn another line then crossed over it.

Alex Jones is a syndicated talk radio host who falls at the far far right of the political spectrum. No wait. Let me make that the far far far far right. He is also a conspiracy theorist who believes the government was involved in both the Oklahoma City bombing and the September 11 attacks. I'm still checking to see if he wears a tin hat.

December 14, 2012
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place resulting in the death of 20 children and 6 teachers. (Wikipedia)

December 15, 2012
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said that, if there had been armed teachers in the school in Newtown, the tragedy might have been reduced. "Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered," Pratt said in a statement.

He asked for gun laws to be loosened further. "This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun-free zones is to ensure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun," he added. (The Guardian)

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Piers Morgan, the British journalist and television host currently working in the United States in Larry King's old time slot, questioned the state of gun control in the United States.

I've made my own views clear on my show -- the senseless killing has to stop. High-powered assault rifles of the type used at Aurora and Newtown belong in the military and police, not in civilian hands. High-capacity magazines, too, should be banned. And background checks on anyone buying guns in America should be comprehensive and stringently enforced. (CNN - Dec 20/1012: Sandy Hook must be a tipping point for change by Piers Morgan)

December 21, 2012
Mr. Jones started a petition on the new White House "We the people" to deport Piers Morgan. As of this writing, January 21, 2013, the number of signatures stands at 109,334.

January 7, 2013
Mr. Morgan had Alex Jones as a guest on his show for what is now an "infamous" interview. Mr. Jones went off on one of his trademark rants which portrayed the shock jock as something of a lunatic. If ever there was a disservice done to the NRA and gun advocates, this was it.

"Hitler took the guns! Stalin took the guns! Mao took the guns! Fidel Castro took the guns! Hugo Chavez took the guns! I'm here to tell you — 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms!" (The Telegraph)

Published on Jan 7, 2013 by SaveOurSovereignty3
Alex Jones Vs Piers Morgan On Gun Control Live On CNN (15 minutes)

Obama is going to take the guns
I investigated this idea of dictators taking the guns from people so they couldn't defend themselves and therefore paving the way to the dictator to take over. This isn't true. Hitler was very much pro-gun in his policies. Yes, he eventually disarmed the Jews but the idea that armed Jews could ward off the onslaught of the Nazis is ludicrous considering that France, an entire country couldn't hold them off. Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungry, even Russia, all fell before the might of the Nazis. The Jews being armed would have stopped the holocaust? This is a retelling of history which is in no way reflective of reality. (see my blog Sandy Hook, Gun Control and the "right answer")

Obama wants to take all the guns? First of all this is absurd. But more importantly, the NRA in its pursuit of absolute and unconditional freedom to do anything it wants has squashed just about any effort for any reasonable amount of regulation. Assault weapons? 100 round clips? Armor piercing bullets? Semi-automatic weapons? If guns are supposed to be about hunting and marksmanship and possibly self-defense, just what is anybody preparing for? The zombie apocalypse? In my posting about Sandy Hook I point out that we all must follow the rules of the road so we can all benefit from the maximum safety for the collective we. Why is it that there are little or no regulations governing the sale and use of guns? A semi-automatic assault weapon with a 100 round clip seems more like a weapon of war as opposed to the weapon of a gun enthusiast.

The Beliefs of Alex Jones
Mass shootings are staged. 9/11 was a government plot. The government wants to take over our minds. The list goes on and on and I have to wonder if Alex Jones suffers from some sort of bipolar disorder. Is he legally sane? It is scary to see that his radio show has two million listeners. That means there are another two million Americans giving credence to these ideas. I think of the times I have walked by somebody on a corner standing on a soapbox with a bullhorn rallying against the supposed evils of the world. Everybody walks around him and he remains there undisturbed as he technically isn't breaking any laws. Nevertheless it is obvious this person isn't completely connected to reality. I look at Alex Jones and I see the same type of person except instead of being on a corner with a bullhorn, he has a legitimate radio show plus several Internet web sites dedicated to disseminating his message to the world.

Published on Aug 24, 2012 by vilemonkey
YouTube: Alex 'Hyperbole' Jones

Final Word
I have to wonder if the world hasn't gone insane. I know that both the left and right sometimes (ofttimes?) portray each other as being divorced from reality and in politics I would say everybody at one time or another shoots their mouth off in the most egregious of fashions. However since the middle of 2011 when the GOP lined up their candidates for the Republican nomination, I have realised the party of the right has been hijacked by the far far right as exemplified by the Tea Party. The sky is falling; the world is coming to an end; hyperbole is the name of the outrageous game in an effort to obfuscate the details of a patriarchal, parochial, narrow Christian white view of America. Alex Jones is just another in a long line of extremist clowns whose opinions leave one stunned by the absurdity of their claims. I would go so far as to say that Alex Jones is so far out there, he makes Glenn Beck look normal and Beck is anything but.

While you may laugh at Alex Jones as I did, I have to add the sobering thought that Mitt Romney didn't lose the election by that wide of a margin. In other words, the vocal minority is more than just vocal, they are avid campaigners. Everyone should keep this in mind as we all move into the future. Obama must make even more significant progress in his second term to put to rest the fears of anybody, left or right, about the ability of the Democrats to deliver. If they even falter, Alex Jones is waiting in the wings gleefully rubbing his hands together to shout to everyone, "I told you so!" The United States can ill-afford another George W. Bush and all he represents. I am not saying the Democrats are perfect; not by a long shot, but the Republicans under the influence of the far right have become anything but reasonable.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The collective we must move into the future. The collective we must throw off the shackles of tradition and become better, smarter, more enlightened. Alex Jones is another indicator that the collective we has a long way to go.


Wikipedia: Alex Jones
Alexander Emerick "Alex" Jones (born February 11, 1974) is an American talk radio host, actor and filmmaker. His syndicated news/talk show The Alex Jones Show, based in Austin, Texas, airs via the Genesis Communication Network on over 70 AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations across the United States and on the Internet.

Wikipedia: The Alex Jones Show
The Alex Jones Show is an American talk radio show hosted by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Genesis Communications Network. ... [It] has a format which has remained unchanged since the program began. The program airs live and primarily consists of interviews with guests...normally conducted by phone or Skype and occasionally with the guest in the studio... The remaining segments of the show are filled with Jones' monologues...These monologues have a tendency to run into heated rants while listener calls tend to be fleeting and brief.

The Christian Science Monitor - Jan 9/2013
Piers Morgan vs. Alex Jones feud: helping or hurting gun control? (+video)
Shouting matches, even one-sided ones, make for 'must-see' TV. That may be why CNN host Piers Morgan, at the receiving end of the yelling on gun rights, isn't letting it drop.

Wikipedia: Larry Pratt
Lawrence D. "Larry" Pratt (born November 13, 1942) is the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a United States-based firearms lobbying group, and a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Google image search: The Alex Jones Show

Google video search: The Alex Jones Show

Genesis Communications Network: The Alex Jones Show

YouTube channel: Alex Jones

The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights - Oct 17/2011
Who is Alex Jones?
[This is a comprehensive analysis of this gentleman's beliefs.]
His YouTube channel has over 30 million views and over 200,000 subscribers. He's had cameo appearances in two Hollywood films. Yet he's hardly a household name. Nonetheless, over the last fifteen years, Austin, Texas-based radio talk-show host Alex Jones has made a career pumping out bigotry and conspiracies for profit.

Huffington Post - Jan 21/2013
Alex Jones, Radio Host Who Wants Piers Morgan Deported, Says Government Creating Gays With Chemicals
We've heard a lot of ridiculous things about where LGBT people come from and what they're capable of (see the slideshow below), but Alex Jones' claim that the government is creating gays with chemicals takes conspiracy theories to a new level.


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Thursday 17 January 2013

Sandy Hook: What if it was your child?

Who hasn't weighed in on this one? According to the newspaper articles, the op-ed pieces, and the countless blog postings, the two words Sandy Hook evoke all sorts of emotions. The death of an adult is tragic but the death of children, twenty of them in this case, evokes a lot of emotions. There's a visceral reaction: protect the children; get the bastards; and spare no expense.

Nevertheless the push back by the NRA and the far right has been perplexing in their finger pointing to everything under the sun, mental health, violent video games, poor parenting, etc. while steadfastly avoiding the elephant in the room. Guns did not kill those twenty children and six adults.

What is the right answer? What mixture of government regulations, laws, and social programs could lead to an elimination of any such tragic event? I would hypothesize that no one person on this planet knows this winning formula but I am also going to guess the voices chiming in from all points of the compass are going to do more to obfuscate "the truth" in air quotes than to clarify the situation. Why? Everybody has their limited perspective. Nobody can see the big picture.

I am not a gun enthusiast. I don't own a gun; I have never owned a gun. If the government took all the guns away, I personally would not be affected. But I don't play golf. I don't really like golf so if the government came along and shut down ever course in the country; I personally would not be affected. However I do recognise that would be draconian and would most certainly protest along with every golfer. And as with golf, I would question the government taking all guns away. That sounds draconian. Do we tar and feather every gun enthusiast because of a single nutbar? If you will excuse the pun, that sounds like "overkill".

But what is the "right answer"? What would lead the maximum amount of security as the trade-off to total unfettered freedom? I offer an analogy if you will.

Over the years the powers who be determined that in the best interest of public safety, we all need to follow some rules when driving. There are posted speed limits. We must stop at red lights and stop signs. Everyone must wear a safety belt. Somewhere along the way, somebody, the "collective we", has determined these rules would reduce traffic accidents, save lives, and spare us from all sorts of injuries. Collectively we gave up some of our freedom in order to be safer. (I would like to think we could all agree that the trade-off was worth it.) But note one particular aspect of this trade-off: the government is not telling us where to go. The government is not restricting our movements. What it is saying is that it would prefer we all arrive at our destinations safe and sound. Follow the speed limit, wear a safety belt, and we hope you have a good time wherever it is that you're going. Is big government controlling our lives? Is Big Brother sticking its nose where it doesn't belong?

I said that we gave up some of our freedom in order to be safer. In terms of speed limits, red lights, and safety belts, I don't think we gave up any freedom, I think we gave up our stupidity or our choice to make mistakes. Driving at 60 mph as opposed to driving at the unsafe speed of 100 mph makes sense because the statistics clearly show less people die at 60 than at 100. Driving at 100 isn't freedom, it's stupidity.

Let's return to the elephant I mentioned earlier: guns. Are we prepared to admit there is a problem? The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. Hunting, marksmanship; there are a number of reasons why someone would want to fire a gun and possibly own one. But where do we cross the line? Where do we go from 60 mph to the more dangerous 100 mph? Automatic weapons? Assault rifles? 30 round clips? Bazooka? Grenade launcher? Concealed weapons? Under controlled circumstances like at a race track I can drive my car at 200 mph. I am not allowed to drive 200 mph at any regular road. I think we can all admit that the total freedom to do what I want as in driving 200 mph on city streets would be both homicidal and suicidal. That's just plain nuts.

So I have the right to own a car. I have the right to drive. I have the right to go anywhere I want BUT the government has determined that for the maximum safety of everybody, of the entire population of the country, I must abide by certain rules, certain restrictions. I cannot wildly drive in any manner I want; I must respect the law. I may be able to own a formula one racing car but I am NOT allowed to drive it on the street.

I have the right to shoot a gun. I have the right to own a gun. BUT should I have total freedom to do anything I want regardless of the maximum safety of the entire population?

Guns: As American as Apple Pie
Back in September 2012, I wrote a posting about the story of a man who went to Walmart to buy milk. In the checkout line, when he reached for his wallet in his back pocket, he accidentally discharged his handgun. It ended up that this guy did have a permit to carry a concealed weapon so him having a gun wasn't illegal; this was just an accident. Nevertheless, I asked an important question. Is Walmart so dangerous, do I need to be armed if not necessarily to shoot somebody to at least display to anybody I am capable of lethal firepower?

FYI: I think this posting is a worthwhile read: "Guns: As American as Apple Pie". I'll wait.

As I researched my question, I discovered all sorts of photos of people shopping at Walmart armed with quite an array of weaponry. I'm not just talking about holstered handguns; one guy had some sort of sawed off shotgun strapped to his waist. I also wrote a number of personal anecdotes about Americans I had met who were living their daily lives while carrying a gun with them. I asked if America was so dangerous was I risking my life every time I visited the country.

A gentleman by the name of Charlie left me a comment.

So, William, I suppose you don't fasten your seat belt until those few milliseconds when you know for sure you're going to be in an accident.

Are you even interested in the reasons WHY people choose to carry a firearm? Or do you just get your kicks ridiculing them?

I'm not sure that Charlie understood that the first line of his comment answered my question. Yes, America is so dangerous, I must be ready at anytime to return fire. I know there is a chance I can be in a traffic accident therefore I always wear my safety belt. Charlie is suggesting he carries a gun because his life could be in jeopardy at anytime. Fair enough. And Charlie is confirming that America is so dangerous I am risking my life every time I visit the country.

As for ridiculing those who carry a firearm? There are two scenarios.

1. Walmart is so dangerous; I am foolish to shop there without being armed.

2. Walmart is not dangerous and everybody who goes there armed is paranoid of dangers which either do not exist or are statistically so insignificant as be to negligible.

So who's right? Me or Charlie?

By the way, what does "statistically insignificant" mean? I think it is "possible" an asteroid can hit the Earth but I also think it is "improbable". Therefore it is statistically insignificant and I live my life as though an asteroid will not hit the Earth.

Solution: add more guns
On December 21, 2012, one week after the Sandy Hook shooting, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said to reporters, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." He then went on to propose arming each and every school in America. He compared this to airports, banks, and other public buildings currently patrolled by armed guards. Fair enough. But will this work?

On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was surrounded by secret service and still got shot.

On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood, the most populous military base in the world, a single gunman killed 13 people and wounded 29 others. Needless to say, at a military base isn't just about everybody armed?

On April 16, 2007 at Virginia Tech a lone gunman killed 32 people and injured 17 others. The presence of armed security guards on campus did nothing to prevent this tragedy.

On April 20, 1999, at the Columbine High School two senior students murdered 12 students and a teacher. There were law enforcement agents on call.

On February 28, 1997, two bank robbers wearing body armor managed to hold off the LAPD for several hours using illegally modified fully automatic AKMs and an AR-15 rifle with high capacity drum magazines and ammunition capable of penetrating police body armor.

Does Wayne LaPierre honestly believe that giving a principal a handgun or even putting a security guard at school is going to deter or stop a determined crazy? Even Ronald Reagan didn't stand a chance and he was protected by not one, not two, but a group of highly trained professionals.

We reduced drunk driving accidents without a total ban on alcohol. Then again we didn't think more alcohol was the solution to drunk driving.

How much firepower does anybody need?
You own a car. I own a car. The speed limit is 60 mph on the highway and in some places 70 or 75. Do we need a formula one race car? If you can spring for hundreds of thousands of dollars, you could buy a Lamborghini Diablo GT with a top speed of 215 mph but what's the point? Where would you have an opportunity to put the pedal to the metal?

Adam Lanza got the guns from his mother. She reportedly was a survivalist who believed society was going to collapse and she needed to prepare her family for the worst. The police found at the school with Lanza a .223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, a 10mm Glock 20 SF handgun, a 9mm SIG Sauer handgun, and a shotgun while still at home, there were a .45 Henry repeating rifle, a .30 Enfield rifle, and a .22 Marlin rifle.

People talk about guns for hunting. They talk about guns for marksmanship. I have to ask why any one person such as Adam Lanza's mother would want or need to have such an arsenal.

Are you free?
When I grew up in the 1950s, I don't think people always locked their doors. We all knew one another and robbery was a rarity. I wouldn't think of leaving my home unlocked today although I am sure the risk of robbery isn't that high. However in speaking with a colleague, he described such a situation continues to exist at his cottage where there is a small community of fellow cottagers. Many leave their places unlocked and robbery is rare if not nonexistent.

As I previously said, I discovered all sorts of photos of people shopping at Walmart armed with quite an array of weaponry. I am sure people are saying they are free because they can carry a weapon. I am sure people are saying they are free to defend themselves. Just how free are you if you live in an environment where you must conduct yourself as if at any moment there is going to be a threat on your life? And if nothing happens, I would ask if this threat is real or perceived? Is your life truly in danger or are you just paranoid?

You can't carry a gun on a plane. You can't carry a gun on vacation whether on a cruise, at a resort, in a foreign country, and the list goes on and on. Why do you feel the need to carry a gun at home when shopping a Walmart but accept you can't carry a gun in any one of a number of other situations? Yes, I admit that an asteroid hitting the Earth is possible but how probable is it?

What's the right answer? What's the bigger picture?
Safety belts became mandatory (for the most part) in the late 1970s. We all accept it now, but decades ago, this seemed like an infringement of our rights. Many moons ago, I was driving with my brother as a passenger in the front seat. I suggested he put on his safety belt. He started mouthing off about how nobody was going to tell him what to do and he didn't care if the police tried to give him a ticket or not. I slammed on the brakes. My brother slide forward on the seat but managed to get his arm up on the dashboard to stop himself from going head first into the windshield. "What the F did you do that for?" he yelled at me. I paused, looked at him for a sec then said, "If you had been wearing your seatbelt, that wouldn't have happened." Yes, he wanted to slap me silly but I did make my point. Statistically, wearing a safety belt means less injury and fewer deaths. Government involvement is good.

What is the bigger picture? Do we leave safety belts as optional in order to accommodate the supposed infringement of my brother's rights or do we collectively agree that safety belts are a good thing and everybody must wear them?

Exceptions to the rule
I admit I could go to Walmart today and be shot dead. It is possible. I admit that. And I am sure if this happens, the NRA would be the first to say, "Ah ha! I told you to be prepared." But I would ask anyone to take a step back and explain to me why Walmart has been allowed to become so dangerous, the recommendation is that each and every client should be armed with a holstered weapon. Or on the other hand, is anybody advocating for open carry or concealed paranoid? Are we preparing for the statistically insignificant asteroid?

Are we worried about the right things?
Two years ago I did a tandem parachute jump and I was just a tad scared. Curious about my fear, I looked up the statistics and discovered that I was 17 times more likely to die driving my car than jumping out of an airplane. So why did I "perceive" parachuting as more dangerous? This is what I found out.

* Skydiving accidents are so infrequent, they usually hit the headlines. In contrast, car accidents are so frequent, they are either not reported or we just tend to ignore them.

* Familiarity: we are familiar with cars; we drive them; nothing bad happens; we think it's safe. It's only when we check out the stats we may clue in to just how dangerous cars really are.

So it turns out I only "perceive" parachuting as more dangerous when in reality driving my car is more dangerous. I am worried about parachuting when in reality I should be sacred about driving. Am I worried about the right things? (Parachuting: If God had meant me to...)

How likely is anybody to get killed in a mass shooting? Those looking at history over the past hundred years or so this is as likely as getting hit by lightning. According to the Centre for Disease Control, 82 people are zapped each year by a bolt of lightning. On the other hand 11,500 Americans were killed by a gun in 2009. Over 18,000 committed suicide with a gun. (Washington Post) Are we collectively worried about the right things?

An article in The Atlantic referred to the 2011 Report on Terrorism by The National Counterterrorism Center which stated that out of the 13,288 people killed worldwide by terrorist attacks in 2011, seventeen were private U.S. citizens or 0.1%, one tenth of one percent of the total. The article, in referring to a 2011 consumer report, states that in 2010 (the last reported year) twenty-one people died from a falling television, piece of furniture or an appliance. (my blog: Stephen Colbert: And the #1 threat in America: terrorist furniture!)

Yes, terrorism is a bad thing. 17 private Americans were killed by terrorism in 2011. But 21 Americans were killed by furniture, 82 by lightning, 18,361 in homicides, 33,808 in traffic accidents, 34,598 by suicide, 18,000 by AIDS, 571,000 by cancer, and the list goes on. Are we worried about the right things?

Final Word
With Obama coming out with gun control initiatives, the pundits, the NRA, everybody is going to have a field day sorting this out. What's the right answer?

I am 60 years old. I do not own a gun and have never owned a gun. I can't shoot anybody. Nobody in my family can shoot anybody; there is no gun. I have never been attacked in my life which would warrant having a gun to defend myself. I admit that while this was possible and still is possible, it is improbable. I also do not have asteroid insurance.

Sandy Hook was a tragedy. I could have been killed. My children could have been killed. Anything is possible but anything is not probable.

I try to live wisely. I do not go to the bad section of town; statistically my chances of trouble would go up. I do not deal with bad people; statistically my chances of trouble would go up. I want to live free. I want to live free from the worry of bad things happening to me. I do not want to prepare myself before I walk out my front door by arming myself so I can defend myself against the worst of the worst. Carrying a gun isn't freedom; carrying a gun is living under the tyranny of fear. And seriously, if Walmart is truly that dangerous, I am never going to shop there again.


Wikipedia: Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
On December 14, 2012, Adam Peter Lanza, age 20, fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Connecticut.
The massacre is the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. It also is the second-deadliest mass murder at an American elementary school, after the Bath School bombings of 1927.

The Washington Post - Dec 14/2012
Chart: The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country
The United States has by far the highest per capita rate of all developed countries. According to data compiled by the United Nations, the United States has four times as many gun-related homicides per capita as do Turkey and Switzerland, which are tied for third. The U.S. gun murder rate is about 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.

NewTown Patch - Dec 18/2012
Lambs to the Slaughter by Heather Borden Herve
My daughter was born May 10, 2006. So was Jessica Rekos, one of the 20 children murdered in Newtown, CT on Friday, Dec. 14, 2012.
That Second Amendment constitutional right actually has to do with a 235-year-old, revolutionary-era concept of militia and military defense of our country against tyranny—not about being a collector or enthusiast. Even if you regard the law as our modern courts have interpreted it, from a perspective of protecting the right to self-defense, what happened in the classrooms of Newtown had less to do with the Second Amendment on Friday, and more to do with slaughter.

In other words, our Second Amendment no longer is about protecting us, but rather it is being used to cause us harm.

So it seems we are at war now, and the attack comes at us from within our own borders, by those we might have once considered our own.

The Journal of the American Medical Association - Dec 21/2012
Silencing the Science on Gun Research
The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. In 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC's budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year.
Since Congress took this action in 1997, at least 427,000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide. To put these numbers in context, during the same time period, 4,586 Americans lost their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Daily News - Dec 15/2012
Mass shootings are not growing in frequency, experts say
Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.

Chances of being killed in a mass shooting, he says, are probably no greater than being struck by lightning.

The Digital Journal - Dec 17/2012
Adam Lanza's mother was a 'survivalist' who stockpiled food, guns
Questions asked about the source of the weapons and ammunition Adam Lanza used in his killing spree has led to the revelation that his mother, Nancy Lanza, was a survivalist who stockpiled food, water, guns and ammunition in fear of "global collapse."

Mirror Online - Dec 19/2012
Adam Lanza's gun-loving mum showed what happens when you teach children to fear and shun the world
They spent weekends bonding not at the cinema or football ground, but at rifle ranges, practising their ability to kill

The Christian Science Monitor - Jan 16/2013
Long history of US school shootings means Obama is right, NRA is wrong
Gun advocates say the cause of mass-casualty school shootings isn't guns but eroding values. But America has a long history of school shootings. The toll is worse now because of the weapons available. President Obama and his allies in Congress are right to seek a ban on assault weapons.

Debunking oft repeated statements

FALSE: Hitler banned guns in Germany.

The Straight Dope - June 16/2000
Did Hitler ban gun ownership?
The reference is usually given as a speech by Adolf Hitler--alternatively, some say it was in Mein Kampf, but that is easily checkable and proven false...I've seen this quote pop up many times, from political discussions to gun shows, where a friend told me he'd found it emblazoned on signs. I don't think anybody knows the origin of it, but several have tracked it back and found it to be completely false.

FALSE: "You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass." -Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

FactCheck.Org - May 11/2009
Misquoting Yamamoto
Advocates of gun rights often argue that in World War II Japan was deterred from invading the U.S. mainland by a fear of American citizens with guns in their closets.

Other articles from my blog
Does a fish know it's living in a fish bowl? Do we really know what's going on? Do we fully grasp the ramifications of what is happening in our society and how they affect the collective we?

my blog: Guns: as American as apple pie
You, America, and maybe not all Americans but some, want the right to carry a weapon into Walmart when you buy milk. I can't help thinking that there is a far greater issue at stake here. I'm not talking about your individual freedom to do whatever the hell you want; I am talking about why you want to have a weapon in Walmart in the first place. Seriously. Are you walking around all the time worried, no scared about God only knows what? A terrorist attack? A crazed psycho mass murderer? The evil federal government bashing down the gates of your Waco compound?

my blog: Carnography: Vegetarians need not apply
The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. At a meeting in Nashville, TN last July, Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association (an endorser of National TV-Turnoff Week) said that if 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a casual factor in real-life mayhem, "it's a public health problem." The American Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week, stating, "We have had a long-standing concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children."

my blog: Censorship: Kill me but no sex please
A TV network censored a sequence of John Steinbeck's The Red Pony, which showed a mare giving birth, but broadcast the rather hideous sequence from The Godfather showing a beheaded horse.


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