The job of the news

I’ve started to actively disagree with things when I encounter them.  It’s not that I have necessarily become more extreme in my views so much as I’ve become more vocal.  I’m more sure of my self when I voice my opinion or advocate for my position.  I don’t try to steam roll anyone, or advance my position via belligerence, I just state my case in as honest and factual manner as possible.  What’s more, I hold others to the same standard.  I didn’t used to be that way.  There was a time when I said everyone was entitled to their own opinion, as if that meant they shouldn’t be confronted on things when they lied or misrepresented the situation.  I now longer believe that.  Now, if you can’t present your position using available facts, I call you on it.  You might have an opinion, but that no longer means it is valid simply because you exist.  It turns out you can be wrong.  Utterly, irretrievably wrong.  If you continue to promote that position, irrespective of the factual evidence, I have a problem and I will take it up with you.

For example, I present to you this Billings Gazette article.  It is somewhat light on facts, very heavy on assumptions, and absolutely without shame with regards to implied guilt.  I don’t agree with that approach by a news paper.  A news paper’s job, it’s very reason for existence in an ethical world, is to report the situation in as neutral and factual manner as possible as determined by the ideals left throughout history.  Leave the people to determine their own opinions, beyond the influence of the news.  Nothing about this article took that approach and I am disgusted that it was printed.  If we do not expect the best, demand the best, then we are left with what we are given.  Ideals are just that, perfection in a vacuum, but we strive towards them so that we might do better than we have in the past.  That is my expectation, and challenge, to the Billings Gazette.  Do better.


*** Updated *** Less than thirty minutes after I wrote my letter and posted this, the Billings Gazette actually called me to let me know that they received my letter and that it would be forwarded to the managing editor. I don’t know if anything will happen beyond that, but I will give credit where credit is due, I did not believe the Gazette would even acknowledge what I had written, much less contact me. Still, if anyone else feels the same way I do, or even differently!, please take the time to write the Gazette. If we don’t start holding our media to a higher standard, how we can we expect them to change?

Memorial Dal

I’m not sure there are many sacred cows left to me.  Yesterday was Memorial Day, a day meant for reflection and remembrance of our fallen soldiers.  I guess if you’re only going to set aside one day to remember a specific subset of the dead, a Monday in May will do the job.  I personally don’t have a problem with the idea, though if we’re going to honor soldiers, don’t we already have Veteran’s Day?  Am I not to remember the living soldiers in May, and the dead in November?  Technically, I believe that is the case..

I’m pretty conflicted about the holiday.  Not because I don’t honor our veteran’s, or those who have sacrificed their lives in military service to our country, but because I think we’ve allowed ourselves to define patriotism in terms of warfare, and in doing so, we have failed to honor our country.

I’m still thinking on it, working out what it is I want to say, but it’s coming.

Implacable Opposition

I’m a pacifist at heart.  Not because I don’t like violence, I’m actually a bit fond of it.  Not because I am weak, as I have the will commit intentional harm.  No, I’m a pacifist because I find violence stupid.  It’s stupid to harm another person because we disagree, or don’t believe in the same things, or any of the other two million reasons we routinely use to hurt each other.  It’s stupid that we have to harm people because they wish to do us, or others, harm.  It’s stupid that we glorify violence and violent means as the ultimate option to exercise our viewpoints over others.  Be passionate, be disagreeable, stand firm for your beliefs- but do no harm, if you can.


Christian Values or Christian State?

You hear it a lot, especially among the conservative right, but also among more middle of the road Christian groups.  “We need to return to good Christian values,” or “We need a Christian leader to bring us back to our values.”  Simple, earnest statements, but I suspect what they really mean is, “We need a Christian government, a Christian State.”  You see, they* talk about values on one hand, but then segue into talking about everything from prayer and Creationism in schools to the regulation of Muslims and other nationalities that, “Don’t reflect the beliefs and values that this country was founded on.”

Statements like these are tough for me to deal with.  Being a Christian, though, admittedly, not one of any particular dogmatic bent, I have incorporated, or identified, a lot of so called Christian values in my world view.  But I also know that those values can exist independently of the Christian faith, and often do.  If you Google “Christian Values”, you’re likely to come up with roughly ten statements that seem to consistently represent Christian Values, all theologically supported, of course.  Many of these values are recognized by other religions and philosophies as being solid foundations for being a decent human being.  If you dispense with the theology behind the principles, you still have a solid foundation for ethical, productive living.  My conflict comes from my personal belief that these values are not exclusive to Christianity, and in some aspects, have been perverted by the faith as a means to a political end.  I cannot support a call to Christian values or leadership in light of this, and yet I support them exclusive of their religious influence.  The vast majority of my Christian friends would view this negatively.  After all, am I not rejecting Christ and His authority?

My ideology wars with the teachings of my faith on many, many things, yet I am not content to merely reject one in favor of another.  I have certainly moved from my fundamentalist beginnings to something else, though what I do not know.

I am not done with this, yet.


The hole cost

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.
Read more at:

I really don’t know enough about Eisenhower, but I do know he had some excellent quotes.  Whoever, or whatever else he might have been, he had that going for him.

The above quote brings to mind much of what I am seeing today.  We have a warmongering leadership, and have had one, for quite some time.  Our response to societal discord and discontent is violence.  We glorify it in music and movies – the righteous response of a man done wrong.  We romanticize it.  Indeed, we dream of one day doing it.  “Tear it from my cold dead hands!” exclaims Charlton Heston during an NRA rally.  Whether it’s a burglar breaking in to our house, an armed lunatic in line at McDonald’s or the ever present Government, we know what our response will be and we are primed for it.

There is a parable I am fond of remembering.  I try to keep it in the forefront of my mind at all times; a golden rule, you might say.  The bare bones of it is about a father who has a son that is always losing his temper and lashing out at the people around him.  He is admonished, feels guilty and apologizes to those he has lashed out at, but he continues to lose his temper, failing to change his ways.  One day the father brings his son a hammer and nails and directs him to hammer a nail into the fence surrounding their yard every time he feels the desire to lash out come upon him.  At first there are many, many nails, but over the weeks there are fewer and fewer nails, until one day the son does not add a new nail to the fence.  He has learned the first step to peace.  The father then instructs the boy that for every day he does not put a nail into the fence he may take one out.  Over many months the son slowly removes all the nails until there are none remaining.  He has learned the second step to peace.  Standing there with his father, looking at the fence, the son notices how many ugly holes are now all over the fence, marring its appearance.  His father explains to him- “The nails were your anger, damaging the fence with each new nail you added.  When you removed them, that was your apology.  The holes that remain is the damage left in your wake.  An apology removes the nail, but only by controlling your anger can you prevent the harm.”  The son began to understand the why of peace.

We cherish our anger, proud of how we might use it, but we do not see the holes.

Post Debate – The First Penis

Back around 1996 there was a movie featuring Jack Lemmon and James Garner titled, “My Fellow Americans“.  Tonight’s debate, and the references to certain anatomical parts reminded me of a scene in which former President Douglas, played by James Garner, is using the restroom.  In comes a gentlemen who recognizes him and wants to shake his hand.  Garner’s line is fantastic, “I can’t shake right now. Have to keep my hands on the First Penis.”  Very apt, this evening.

Great movie by the way, grab a chance to watch it, if you can.

Never argue… Part 1

A quote from Bertrand Russell goes,

“Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

I confess I have probably been the idiot more times than I am comfortable with.

I recently came across a Facebook post that was mostly just the repeat of a meme that I had seen many times before.  This particular post is usually put up by my religious friends, with an inferred point that education, especially public education, is indoctrination.  More to the point, education is anti-Christian because it is usually of non-biblical(government) origin.  This meme frustrates me a great deal for a few reasons.

First, its posting promotes the idea that education is wrong, and implies that ignorance is preferable to “government education”, and/or that the Bible is the sole means of education.

Second, it continues to foster the trope that the younger generation cannot think for themselves, that at best, they are misguided idiots who cannot possess independent thought or valid knowledge.

Third, it encourages the belief that an uneducated opinion is as valid as an educated one.  You see examples of the third most often in areas of science, such as vaccination, but it is liberally applied elsewhere.

I agree that education is indoctrination, that is pretty much a basic mechanic of teaching, whether the subject matter is of a spiritual or non-spiritual nature.  Students learn by copying the teacher, memorizing their lessons, regurgitating their canned knowledge and then ultimately, applying those lessons learned.  From that application comes self-awareness and a better understanding of the subject.  That understanding usually only comes with time and experience.  In the interim, the diligent student can often inherit many of the same attitudes as the teacher, either intentionally or unintentionally.  With that said, indoctrination is far from being exclusively the province of secular teaching.  Catechism, anyone?

State of Education

At any rate, my response was ,”That comes with experience, like most things. The problem comes when the uneducated question the educated, because they assume that a lack of education is the same thing as no longer trusting the education you have.”

My intended point is that it takes a combination of a baseline of knowledge and experience in order to question what you have been taught, that ignorance is not a substitute for experience and knowledge when it comes to skepticism.  Unfortunately my response was not taken as well as I had hoped and I was basically informed that any education outside of the bible is essentially useless, barring its direct application to a job, etc.  That the only valid education comes from the Bible and that anything else is essentially of a worldly nature, and therefore inferior.  More so, it was stated that I was saying that uneducated people were inferior to educated ones, and that only those people who had gone to school/college were of worth or could have an opinion.

I was not anticipating that particular viewpoint as I had thought that my point was clear enough.  I was wrong.  My initial rebuttal, indeed my only rebuttal in that particular discussion, was pretty poor in its explanation, and only lead to additional disagreement, along with some general name calling and the intimation that not only was I incredibly rude and insulting, but also an idiot and a false prophet.  Fair enough.  I find I get called all sorts of names when I disagree with my fundamentalist friends.  If I haven’t been called Satan or the Anti-Christ at least once a month, or so, then I haven’t been on Facebook.  Of course, anyone that knows me and their Bible knows that both those names, as applied to me, are hardly accurate as I am far from beautiful.  But I digress.

I ended the discussion on Facebook there.  The discussion was not healthy and my continued involvement would only have caused a considerable rift among people I love and respect.  I believe that is the right thing to do in that situation.  As an intellectual, skeptic and a person of faith, however, I am left feeling let down and frustrated.  The chance to discuss these things in an honest and open manner, to challenge conceived notions and follow the arguments to their conclusion is not something I want to pass up.  And yes, my ego is involved, as well.  Of course I believe I am right, and that urge to prove it is strong.  But not so strong that I would want to cause the loss of friendship, or to not examine my reasons for thinking as I do.  Hence the reason for this post.

Trump on Healthcare

Trump released his healthcare plan today, or at least the talking points.  I’m not sure who wrote it for him, but the guy deserves a raise.  It actually reads fairly well and offers a decent rebuttal to Bernie’s single payer option.  Unfortunately it fails to try and convince the Democrats to come together and craft something better.  Instead it gives a shout out to all those hardworking Republicans who have been, “offering reforms that can be delivered individually or as part of more comprehensive reform efforts.”  I believe the correct phrase is, “completely refusing to work on the original bill and then attempting to repeal the Act while offering token “alternatives” that were actually thinly disguised attempts at repealing the Act again and again.”  Please don’t misunderstand my position, I am not a fan of the ACA, I think it’s a poorly crafted and ill thought out solution to a serious problem in our country.  Made even worse by the fact that it lacked half of our representatives input.  Quite frankly, the only thing worse than the ACA in health care at this point, is the state of our health care system itself.  It is not sustainable.

Still, Trumps talking points on healthcare would be a good starting point.

Still not voting for him, however.