Pragmatism and the gun debate

I would like to comment on my observations about what I see on Facebook with regard to the reactions to the most recent school shooting in Florida. Although it appears that there are two factions (I’ll call them Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun so that we’re all clear on who is who) there is a third faction. I’ll call them the pragmatists. I believe that I am in the pragmatists group – to me guns are an inanimate object incapable of independent action, but if you’ll show me data that demonstrates taking some specific action with respect to guns will eliminate a specific problem, I’m keen to take that action. But you had better have the research.

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Well what a surprise. It turns out, ignoring evidence can lead to an unacceptable outcome.

Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. You saw the evidence every day during the primaries. Evidence that indicated your candidate is, and always has been a racist. But you chose to ignore it. Not a game changer for you. You even bought in to the idea that the evidence was “fake news” so that you didn’t have to feel so conflicted about it.

Now, you see. The man just defended Nazis. The same Nazis that over 60 million people died to eliminate from our world’s politics, just 70 years ago. What a mess we are in.

What should you do now? Well you cannot un-vote your candidate. You’re going to have to live with it. As we all must. But you can decide to live differently:

1. Develop a healthy respect for evidence. Seek it. Validate it. Use it to help shape your ideas and actions. And stop calling it fake news.

2. Teach your children about hate. Make sure they know we are all equal on this planet. Also, make sure they know that not everyone knows this, and what that means for them.

3. Reconsider your voting habits. Do you validate the candidates on your ballot? Does your vote really represent your core values? Based on the available evidence?

4. Make a list of your beliefs and seek evidence for each. Not anecdotes; evidence. Then ask yourself if your beliefs are supportable by the evidence you’ve found. Be willing to adjust your list based on your discoveries. It may be humbling, but it doesn’t actually hurt that much.

5. Be willing to admit to yourself when your judgement has failed you, and change course. You don’t have to admit it to the world, but you owe it to yourself.

On Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, and I am remiss in waiting so long to initiate my take on it. After all, the day is nearly done. But I’ve had my epiphany, and I must share it.

As I sit here watching veterans recall their experiences, and reading all of the news articles about the day’s events, one thing really hits home with me. Think about the context of the past several months’ events. We’ve had essentially riots over race issues, the Supreme Court pondering LGBT marriage, states such as Alabama and Indiana passing hate legislation – and it makes me wonder: Whose freedom were those veterans fighting for?

If you respond, “Americans’,” then I have to ask, “Are blacks Americans? What about Jews? Are Gays Americans? Can Muslims be Americans? What about Buddhists? Can Christians be Americans? Atheists? Mormons?” Think of your favorite group – what does it take for them to be the Americans that our veterans fought for?

Because you see, if you think there are folks here that don’t qualify, you’re disrespecting the sacrifice those veterans made in the name of freedom. That’s right – if you are pro veteran but anti-blacks, you’ve missed the whole point of their sacrifice. If you think Gays should not have the same rights as the rest of the country, you’re missing the entire point of the fight. Every time you see a flag-waver who is also spreading hate, you should stop and recognize that this person has no clue why our veterans fought and died for freedom. Because freedom is for every American.

Auto-running Videos may chase me away from news sites

I read a lot of news. I just could be someone that the news media would like to see hitting their site, because I am likely to read every article to the bottom of the page. In other words, I routinely navigate over, under, around and through all of the advertising that goes with reading the news on the web.

But lately I’m becoming quite annoyed with reading the news on the web. Most of the major (and many of the minor) news outlets have started using a technique that is going to chase me away from online news: Auto-running videos at the top of every page.

I first noticed it at #nbcnews. They did a recent redesign of their news site, and it looks pretty nice. About half of the news headlines have a yellow “video” icon. That’s when I noticed that those links have ONLY video, and all of the rest have video at the top, followed by the text below. And the video always starts automatically. Sometimes the video is only tangentially relevant to the story!

I guess I can see why #nbcnews thinks their videos are so important that they should start them automatically – after all, every video starts with an advertisement. But I’m in a quiet place, and I don’t want any sound. I’m choosing the stories that are NOT video for a reason, you see. So this behavior started annoying me enough to go look into some of the others.

As it turns out, #cnn does exactly the same thing. As does #msnbc, #abcnews, #cbsnews, and even #yahoonews.

This is what I would like. All of these sites already use cookies to track all kinds of information about me. Let me choose to disable those auto-starting videos, please. You all know you can do this – just have to give me a check box somewhere to make it happen. Use the cookie to save that information about me so that I don’t have to keep disabling the videos every time I return. I know your advertisers will object, but how much more will they object if you lose my patronage?


In January of this year I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I could write a long story about the experience, but suffice it to say that on Friday I had the port removed from my chest, signifying the end of treatment. I was one of the fortunate, in that I caught my condition in the first stage. So now I am 100% healthy (other than the bit of pain from Friday’s surgery). There it is!