Just My Opinion

Well, it seems I’ve ruffled more than a few feathers of late. Most of those feathers seem to be firmly attached to Trump supporters, and that’s perfectly okay with me. I can’t imagine that we’ll ever see eye to eye.

Here’s the thing. I’m not a journalist. I’ve never claimed to be one. I’ve never wanted to be one. If you’re looking for facts, you’ll want to look elsewhere. What I write are for the most part opinion pieces.

My whole life I’ve been told that I have strong opinions. For decades I took that as a character flaw of some sort. I tried really hard not to have opinions, but it just wasn’t in me. Those failed attempts caused a great deal of self-loathing and wasted time.

Then, with maturity, I realized that everyone has opinions. I just tend to express them more than the average person. So why not turn that into an asset by way of writing a blog? Well, that isn’t going to make everyone happy. So be it.

I think the confusion occurs when people assume that I insist that everyone should agree with my opinions. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. After all, who the hell am I to dictate what anyone else thinks? I don’t consider myself an influencer.

I speak for me, not for anyone else. My opinions are mine. This blog is mine. It’s therapeutic for me. If this were the 19th century, I’d probably be writing a diary. It’s wonderful to have a broader forum. But rest assured that your participation is voluntary.

I’m writing it for me, and if my readers enjoy it, I view that as a delightful side benefit. Many times you give me broader insight, or inspire other posts, or get me interested in topics that I would never have thought to pursue. I’m grateful for that.

But if in the process of writing this blog I step on a few toes, I’m guessing those toes will take themselves elsewhere eventually. I hate to say this, but I really couldn’t care less either way. That’s one of the few facts I’ll lay claim to.

Namaste.

Ruffled Feathers
Ruffled Feathers

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Facts about the Caravan

There is so much panic and false information floating around social media about the migrant caravan that’s making its way northward through Mexico that I thought I should weigh in, here. People are using these migrants as political pawns. Fine. But if you’re going to base your mid term votes on this issue, please at least get your facts straight. Then feel free to make your own decisions.

First of all, lets look at the raw numbers. Seven thousand people sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Enough for an invasion. Actually, given that the population of the US is now well over 328,800,000, well, this caravan comprises less than 0.002 percent of our population.

That’s a tiny little number. Think about it. If you had acne on 0.002 percent of your face, you wouldn’t even have bothered asking the photographer to airbrush your high school yearbook photo.

And of that tiny little percentage of humanity, many of them are women and children. So no need to lock up your daughters. You’re safe. (Also, from the looks of them, they haven’t even crossed the bulk of Mexico yet, and they are already exhausted, thirsty, hungry, and hardly in any shape to mount an invasion. Could you walk 2000 miles with toddlers and then kick the butt of the most militarized nation on the planet? I don’t think so.)

Even if all 7,000 were given asylum in the US, that would come to 140 people per state. Surely we could absorb that number. Especially since they are fleeing violence and/or seeking a better life for their families, just as my grandparents did (and yours as well, most likely).

But here’s the thing. 7,000 will never be given asylum in this country, even in a more politically friendly atmosphere. More like a couple hundred at most. If that. You know how I know? Because these caravans have been happening FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS.

Yup. Years. Matter of fact, the last one happened just last April. There was also one in April of 2017. You know why you’ve forgotten about it, even though Trump predictably freaked out back then as well? Because, of the over a thousand people who participated that time, only 108 sought asylum in the US, and of those, more than half were immediately denied. So the world did not come to an end.

This particular caravan just happened to be timed badly enough to be twisted into a conservative talking point prior to the mid term elections, at a time when the republicans are terrified that they will lose congressional power.

Here are some other things you need to know, according to Politifact.

  • Trump tweeted that “unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with this group, but even he had to finally admit that there is ZERO evidence of that. The fact that he would even say that should show you what his motivations are. He wants you to be afraid. And that will probably work, if you are the type that thinks that all Middle Easterners are terrorists.

  • This caravan is not using trains or buses. The photos you are probably seeing floating around Facebook are from previous caravans. Most of these people are walking, and many have toddlers in tow. They’re lucky to make 10 miles a day.

  • These immigrants are not burning the American flag, nor are they carrying the Honduran flag. They also haven’t painted any swastikas on the American flag, or defaced one in any way. (It would be rather counterproductive if they did, wouldn’t it? Think about it.)

And here’s a good point from Snopes. It’s not the Mexican government’s responsibility to make immigrant decisions for the United States. They are not our servants or our lackeys. They are their own country and can do whatever they want therein. So stop being pissed off at Mexico for not turning these people around before they become “our problem”.

Another point. And I’m drawing from an article in Wired for this personal conclusion: While many conspiracies out there are trying to say that this is some grand liberal agenda, get a grip. Why would liberals want to fire up the conservative base in such a fashion? What on earth would liberals gain?

Please use some common sense, people. Breathe. Think.

And please vote.

Migrant Caravan

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Sticking to the Facts

I just spent three hours, three hours, trying to track down a fact for a particular blog post. I know I read it, less than an hour before then. I know it. Really. I do. Because I thought, “Oooh. That would be good to mention.” But I can’t find it again, despite my avid search, and I can’t remember the exact wording, so I can’t put it in the post.

Do you have any idea how maddening that is? Honestly, I don’t know how journalists do it. The urge to make stuff up must be intense. (Oh, yeah. It’s called Fox News.)

This is why most of my posts are opinion pieces. I can basically pull anything out of my hind end and put it out there for your reading pleasure, as long as I don’t call it a fact. And believe me, I’m chock full of opinions. You don’t even have to agree with them. I promise.

But, dang, that little statistic was so tantalizing. I tried rereading all the literature I had just read. I tried Googling. I tried reading all the literature yet again, paragraph by paragraph, backwards, so I wouldn’t get caught up in the content. Still nothing.

I hope you can take comfort from the fact that I’m trying, here. Because I’m probably going to lose sleep over this. You’re welcome.

Facts

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For Real

Have you ever had a conversation with someone that made you question reality? Sometimes two people can draw such different conclusions from a situation that it makes you wonder if you come from the same planet. I had one of those recently.

A friend said, “You just called me an (xyz).”

I replied, “What are you talking about? That word never came out of my mouth. What I said was (abc).”

My friend repeated his assertion. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. Especially since we were communicating via text.

So I said, “Dude, scroll up. Where are you seeing (xyz)? Where? Show me.”

Long pause.

Then he said, “I just talked to (mutual friend E) and she agrees with me. I’m not an (xyz).”

Me: “Wait a minute! Where is this coming from? What are you talking about? I never said you were!”

Him: “It really hurts my feelings that you disrespect me so much that you think I’m an (xyz).”

At this point, my feelings were kind of hurt that he would think I was the type of person to say such a thing. So I said, “On my life, I never said that! I don’t know where this is coming from. If I struck some sort of a nerve somehow, I’m sorry. But I’m not responsible for the nerve being there in the first place. You’re pulling facts out of thin air, so I really think we should leave it at that.”

God, how I hate being misunderstood. Even worse, I hate trying to explain something that seems perfectly obvious to me, only to discover that the other person just doesn’t get it. “But… the sky isn’t lime green with purple polka dots! Look at it! Look!”

I would probably be easily sucked into a cult. Because eventually I’d just give up and I’d really want to believe the sky was purple and green, too. Anything to make the world make sense again. After a while, I might actually see a tinge of green. And maybe a spot or two.

Or not. Who knows?

green and purple

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Why are Haters Targeting Tilapia?

I’ve been seeing this meme floating around social media quite a bit in the last few weeks. I could tell it was false within seconds. I can’t believe people can be so gullible.

Tilapia False Meme

First red flag: Boneless and Skinless? The picture itself shows the skin and scales. And have you ever filleted a tilapia? It has bones, trust me.

Then there’s the grammatical errors in the meme. That’s ALWAYS a reason to do some further digging. If the creator can’t even be bothered to properly articulate his or her message, then why do we not question the intelligence thereof?

And come on, don’t you wonder about the source of the information? They sure aren’t sharing it with us. So I went to Snopes.com, and sure enough, the meme is totally bogus. There’s also a lot of stuff going around about bacon being better for you than tilapia, or claiming tilapia causes Alzheimer’s disease or cancer . Also Bulls**t, as this article from Factcheck.org proves.

The reason this fake meme irritates me more than the average fake meme is that it is directing people to avoid healthier food. If you’re not a vegetarian, you should at least reduce the amount of red meat you consume, not just for yourself, but for the planet. Fish is a much healthier protein, and tilapia is one of the more affordable choices out there.

If a meme seems sketchy to you, check the facts. Also, ask yourself who benefits from such a claim, should it turn out to be false. (In this case, the meat industry and probably half the fast food restaurants you drive past, hopefully without stopping, on a daily basis.)

Here’s a great article that cites 6 reliable websites that will help you get to the truth of most matters. Please, please use them. There are enough lies being spread these days without our unwitting help.

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Being on Their List

I don’t consider myself a journalist. Nor do I consider myself an influencer. My humble blog is small potatoes, so I’m probably safe, for now. Move along. Nothin’ to read, here. But I must admit, this article in Forbes, entitled Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’ has me clutching my pearls.

Rest assured that when your government starts compiling lists, it generally does not end well for the people therein. Just ask the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslims in Trump America. Lists are to identify people you plan to treat differently.

This could be bad for writers in general. Especially when the current administration hates the media so intensely that it openly encourages violence toward them. Not good. No bueno.

One particularly chilling part of this database is that they plan to indicate one’s “sentiment.” That’s kind of arbitrary and subjective, isn’t it? If I criticize the government in any way, do I get a black mark? If anything, I should get a gold star for exercising my right to free speech like any American has the right to do. But I’m not going to be the one compiling the list, and I suspect I won’t see eye to eye with whomever they choose to do so.

It’s not in my nature to censor myself. I’m not even sure I have the capacity. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a journalist. I can’t just state the facts. My opinions are a big part of my writing. That means some people will agree, and others will not. But it never occurred to me that my government had to agree in order for me to keep blogging. If it truly gets to that point, I don’t suspect I will fare well.

First, they came for the bloggers…

first_they_came___by_eelyt-d3eufv3

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Tall Tale Tellers

I’ve worked with several pathological liars in my lifetime. It’s a mental disorder that I struggle to understand, because there seems to be no emotional payoff. Do these people not realize that for the most part, everyone can see right through them? They’re certainly confronted enough. This causes them not to be trusted, and their social relationships are therefore not particularly stable. Telling whoppers is a self-destructive habit.

The thing I find most interesting about these people is that even when you catch them in their lies, when you hit them with the cold, hard facts, just as with Trump’s political base, they still will not change their stance. For example, one coworker claimed to have several masters degrees from a variety of Ivy League institutions. I looked up a few of the degrees in question, and these particular degree types were not offered by those schools. Ever. Showing him this irrefutable evidence did not even make him blink.

Their lies always seem to fit into several general categories.

  • One-upmanship. If you happen to mention that you’ve been to Spain, the pathological liar will have lived there. For years. During the civil war. And wrote a best-selling novel about his friendship with Franco.

  • Physical Prowess. Pathological liars can beat up every man in the bar and walk away without a scratch. They can also lift cars off of crushed orphans. Don’t even get me started about their sexual conquests.

  • Amazing Possessions. One coworker, who lived in a trailer with his mother, said he had an original Van Gogh hanging in his living room. He could never produce a photograph of it, though. And when in financial dire straits, he couldn’t ever seem to find a buyer for it.

  • Related to Fame. If you admire Barbra Streisand, the pathological liar will be her second cousin. Or he’ll have had dinner at Jacques Cousteau’s house. Or he’ll be in regular e-mail contact with Matthew Broderick.

  • Amazing Survival Skills. A coworker once told me that a tractor once rolled down a hill and crushed him beneath its wheels. He was able to extricate himself, though, and crawl 5 miles to civilization to get help. He then spent 6 months in a coma.

  • Success. It seems that these liars are always recognized by one and all for their superior intelligence, and often receive the highest awards. They also are promoted at young ages, and only make the best investments. And yet they aren’t any further ahead in life than the rest of us.

  • Generosity. “For Valentine’s Day last year, I gave my wife 60 dozen roses.” Yeah. Sure you did. And you support a thousand famine victims, too.

  • Victimhood. Perhaps the most insidious category for the pathological liar is that of placing themselves in the roll of victim. This is when these liars cross over to becoming con artists, because people who don’t know them well are naturally trusting and tempted to help. One coworker said he was living in a trailer in Florida without air conditioning and had no food. A friend drove 25 miles to his house with 6 bags of groceries, only to find that his cupboards were full to overflowing, and his air conditioning was on so high she could practically see her own breath. Another friend gave this same man a car. He was also the healthiest lung cancer sufferer I’ve ever seen. He never went to a doctor. He’s still out there somewhere, conning more people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Barbra Streisand has second cousins. There have to be a few truths mixed in with all those lies. But what are the odds? How many of us can consistently boast of both quality and quantity? Not me. That’s for sure.

The only theory I have is that these people don’t think they’re special enough without all these outlandish embellishments. They think they will only be liked if they improve upon their boring little lives, when in fact this isolates them even more. It makes them the victim of ridicule and the butt of jokes.

That, or they believe all their own fantasies and are too far gone to get back to the real world.

Either way, how very sad. Sad for them, and even sadder for those who get caught in their web of lies.

liar

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Faith Ain’t Reality

I admire people who have faith. Religious faith in particular is a quality that seems to have eluded me most of my life. I would truly love to be able to let go and let God, as the saying goes.

It has to be comforting to think that there’s a higher power who has ultimate control. It must be liberating to not have to think you are the primary decision-maker in your own life, that the buck doesn’t stop here after all, that some cosmic being is on your side, and therefore a large amount of the responsibility belongs to someone or something else. It would be so nice to guess that your fate has already been mapped out for you. That there’s a plan. What a weight would be lifted from my shoulders! I’d also love to think that prayer could solve my problems.

I just can’t do it. I like facts. I want evidence. Proof. Otherwise, how is it different from believing in unicorns?

I wish there were unicorns. I’d love to see a unicorn. I’d love to live in a world where unicorns wandered the streets. But I live in the real world.

Here’s what gives me comfort: we’ve learned so much about the universe and how it works that it becomes increasingly easy to not rely on the great unknown to answer the decreasing number of unanswerable questions. We know what causes eclipses these days. Nothing is devouring the sun.

Now, the trick is to maintain a moral compass when you technically don’t answer to anyone other than yourself. Perhaps that’s the kind of faith I need to nurture: the concept that humans have the maturity to be capable of morality without oversight.

Wish me luck.

unicorn

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You Are What You “Eat”

I totally get why this country is so divided. It is really easy to hang out in a news realm that confirms what you want to believe. For every Fox News, there’s a Huffington Post. For every Breitbart there’s a Natural News. If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, you might want to consider avoiding sources with such obvious agendas.

A longtime reader whom I now consider to be a friend (waving at Linda) pointed out to me that the term “You are what you eat” also applies to food of the mind. The information you take in, after all, can change who you are and the way you look at the world. If you are spoon-fed hate speech with your pablum, is it any wonder you grow up to become a skinhead?

This concept is known on a basic level by the majority of us. It’s why cults try to control their follower’s access to information. It’s why fundamentalists of every stripe want their children to only learn what they believe, regardless of whether it’s based on fact. It’s why the present Grand Poobah is trying to get us to distrust the press. Beware of those who try to prevent the spread of facts.

Our current political climate has overtaken us at a time when digital information flow is at its height. That’s a toxic intersection. It means that misinformation from both ends of the spectrum is also running rampant.

Be careful. Question everything. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Most of all, use your common sense.

Below is a handy chart that has been floating around Facebook that gives you an idea of some of the more popular media outlets and their individual biases. I am making a concerted effort to stick to that inner circle and its upper halo whenever I can. From here on out, I’m going to try to only share Facebook fodder from these sources as well. I encourage you to do the same.

That is, unless you enjoy being the human equivalent of a genetically modified organism…

news-quality

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The Contradictory Metrics of Ignorance

I just came across a group on Facebook called Jewish Ritual Murder. It has 1057 likes. Its sole purpose is to perpetuate false stories that promote the myth of the Jewish blood libel. There’s an insane belief out there that Jews ritually murder Christians and use their blood for any number of nefarious purposes. This fiction has been used for centuries to justify violence against Jews. It has even been known to decimate entire communities. I’ve reported this page to Facebook. Many people have. It’s a hate crime. I hope it will be gone by the time you read this.

jewish-ritual-murder

Update: Facebook felt that this page does not violate its community standards. Please join me in reporting this if you agree with me that by perpetuating these lies it perpetuates hate.

It never ceases to amaze me that humanity seems to be becoming more ignorant with each passing day. That shouldn’t be mathematically possible. If we look at facts as a unit of measure, and assume people learn something new every day (I certainly seem to), then we as a species should be increasing in knowledge by leaps and bounds. And yet here are some more ridiculous and entirely false things a scary number of people believe:

  • Telephones cause brain cancer.
  • Humans never landed on the moon.
  • Evolution is a myth.
  • Humans once coexisted with dinosaurs or dinosaurs never existed.
  • Global climate change isn’t occurring, or if it is, it’s normal.
  • The earth is only 6,000 years old, give or take. Oh, and it’s flat.
  • The American Civil War had nothing to do with slavery or racism.
  • Benjamin Franklin was once president of the US.
  • People are gay by choice.
  • Africa is a country.
  • Blue moons are actually blue.
  • Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Elvis is alive.
  • The sun revolves around the earth.
  • Vaccines cause autism.

So why do we seem to buy in to all this stupidity despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Well, I have a few theories. Let’s go back to my “facts as a unit of measure” concept.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s even easier to stuff your head full of false information. That leaves you little room to focus on the facts. The best way to combat against this is to fact check everything, but most people seem to be too busy waiting for the sky to fall or the next vampire movie to come out. Another way to avoid false information is to stop watching FOX news, stop assuming the scientific method yields mere opinions, and stop believing every meme that you read.

We also need to realize that, yes, we forget things we have learned, but that does not mean we should rely on the shorthand of sound bites to fill those voids. Knowledge shouldn’t be a spectator sport. We all need to make an effort to stay informed.

We also need to fight against this idea that “intellectual” is a dirty word. We need to emphasize education, not demonize it. How can knowing more facts ever be a bad thing?

An alarming number of children in the world today have little or no access to education. When you fill the planet with that many empty heads, there’s plenty of space for ignorance to thrive. Crime, terrorism, and violence do not come from a place of intelligence. Truly educating (as opposed to indoctrinating) people can only make the world a better place.

Take in as much information as you can, but learn the difference between fact and fiction. Read, but consider the source. Don’t blindly follow your leaders. Rely on logic. Don’t slide down the slippery slope of stupidity. Use your head for something other than a hat rack.

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