Gun-Free Zones

I got into a social media thread where some folks vented their outrage by the recent news that the University of California Berkeley declared itself a gun-free zone, effective immediately. My reply:

You’re always welcome in my home, but it isn’t a gun-free zone for me, only for you – because I own it and you are free to go elsewhere if you don’t like the house rules.

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A Boy Named Hoshi

As told by a friend. Original source unknown.

There was a high school teacher who, every day before class started, would repeat some famous quote from American history. Whichever student could identify the source got extra credit.  One day, the teacher said, “Four-score and seven years ago…”

No one in the class reacted.  Then, a little Japanese boy, the son of immigrants, raised his hand, “Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Pennsylvania, 1864.”

The teacher said, That’s right, Hoshi, but then she looked back through her records and saw that Hoshi had answered most of the questions for quite some time.  So, she decided to give the rest of the class a try with a second quote, “I have a dream…”

Nobody reacted.  Finally, in frustration the teacher asked, “Do you know, Hoshi?”

He replied, “Martin Luther King Jr. Washington DC, 1963.”

The teacher said, “That’s right.  The rest of you should be ashamed of yourself that a Japanese kid who is new to the US should know more American history than you do!”

A smartass in the back yelled, “Fuck the Japanese!”

Hoshi replied, “Lee Iacocca, Detroit Michigan, 1981.”

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Good show, America, what’s happening to us?

Recommended reading, from Bill Moyers:

Study: Politically Engaged Liberals and Conservatives Don’t Want to Be Neighbors

Me: Well now, there we have it, don’t we?

We invite our neighbors belonging to the “other” Party over for drinks and BBQ, and we smile sweetly and thank them ever SO much for coming, just as if they were “real” human beings. And then we trot down to the polls and vote to expropriate their property, curb their speech, deny them civil rights and liberties, jail them on trumped-up charges in Soviet-style courts, steal their privacy, and then we scratch our heads and wonder why we all demonize each other. Good show, America, what’s happening to us?

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Readers Push Back on Ads and Blocking

This week, I’ve followed a couple of threads on ubiquitous internet advertising and why we block ads. Some of us find all ads inherently intrusive, but most of us just reserve the right to decide when ads become obnoxious or outright offensive.
The dilemma is that our free content providers depend on this ad revenue to pay their writers and their bills. “Not our problem,” some say. I disagree; I think it’s a problem that belongs to all of us, and I think we CAN do something constructive about it. From my posted comment to “Destructoid,” a gamer site with an interesting editorial:

I got here via a Slashdot link. Don’t use game sites but I wish you the best solving this dilemma. If a user posts abusive and offensive comments in this window, you’d be entirely justified in editing or deleting it. In fact, you might have an obligation to do so to protect the editorial integrity of your site.

So why do we have a different standard for offensive web ads? It’s time for content providers to push back against advertisers and exercise some plain old content control. You don’t see dating services, nose pickers and and “pictures of horny men” in the National Geo. Does anyone else remember when advertising was actually informative and – gasp – interesting?

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End of Space Shuttle Era

It’s the end of a glamorous and inspiring era, all right. As the last Shuttles are piggybacked to final repose in public museums and display monuments, there’s been much talk-TV hand-wringing from all ends of the political spectrum. Many of us wistfully wish that the Shuttle could have been deployed longer, that a re-usable NASA solution could have been deployed before the old one was retired, and that we hadn’t scrubbed the next BIG frontier – a manned Mars mission.

There will be time for this. Look at how much we’ve accomplished – and discovered – since Apollo 11. The simple truth: we already spent that money. It’s estimated that our total war cost in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will cap out at over $3.7 trillion. [Reuters]

Click the above image for NASA’s choice of full-size images of this scene.

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“Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent?”

“Are racists dumb? Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals?” Short commentary on the dangers of oversimplifying the oversimplifiers.

See: Huffington: Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism

Looking at the archive photo of the racist Klansmen, the article is provocative, interesting, even mildly amusing. But I think this study begs the point. The study’s lead author did acknowledge that “less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal ‘simplifying ideologies’ as well as conservative ones.” For every conservative who’s stuck in the rut of social Darwinism, we can also find some other liberal who sounds like a broken record. I think the real point is that (1) thinking isn’t the exclusive domain of hi-IQ types, and (2) embracing ideological principles is never an acceptable substitute for doing our own thinking.

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The Satanic Vendetta Against Poor, Misunderstood Iran

Iran says an EU ban on imports of Iranian oil is “unfair” and “doomed to fail”, and will not force it to change course on its nuclear programme. — BBC News

OK, we get it. Iran’s enrichment program has far surpassed the needs of peacetime nuclear power and it’s fast approaching weapons-grade uranium stockpiling. Iran can sentence US citizens to death on trumped-up charges of espionage. But when the free world decides to shop elsewhere for its oil needs, that’s “unfair.”

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“Please Vote for Me”

I caught part of a Global Voices PBS World special called “Please Vote for Me.”

“Please Vote for Me” examines the efforts of three 8-year-old students running for class monitor in an elementary school in Wuhan, China. The youngsters are shown campaigning for votes and participating in debates.”

If you are class monitor, you get to show off, build your own political organization, and tell the other kids “Quiet!”

One way to win is influence peddling. “If you vote for me, I’ll appoint you deputy class monitor.” It turns out the really smart kids get elected to this prized grade school position by compiling long lists of one’s competitors’ faults, circulating those to the whole class in order to sway the voting.

Their teacher was Chinese, of course, but for this segment of a grade school kid’s education, they could just use American political consultants.

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“Social Conservatism”

To my knowledge this term first crept into the news around the beginning of the 2012 Presidential campaign. Everybody “sort of” knows which candidates are “social conservatives,” everybody “sort of” knows what political positions are entailed, and I have yet to see anyone explain to us what  a “social conservative” is.

So I looked up “Social Conservatism” in trusty ol’ Wikipedia. Their answer is more explicit than I feared. And it seems to directly contradict the stated GOP theme of scaling back government restrictions on of our lives.

Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the national government, or the state, should have a greater role in the social and moral affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones …

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On Being Careful What We Wish For

I wrote the quote below early this morning, posting it to my Facebook status and quotes database. The old truism says, “be careful what we wish for, because we just might get it.” To take one example out of so many, just look at the events leading the people of Germany into World War II: unemployment, inflation, civil unrest. Many there thought they saw a way out of a troubled two decades. The world remembers well the inexorable march of terror, secrecy and butchery that followed. Their nation was pushed into the Third Reich, albeit on false pretenses in a chaotic political time, but inescapably, this could not have happened without popular support. Mostly, ordinary citizens said they imagined their candidate would at least make the trains run on time, didn’t they?

Once we citizens elect any politician on a promise to denigrate, deny or obstruct equal rights for others, even others of whom we may disapprove, no longer can we trust in our own equal access to justice and fair play — even when we were secure in those beliefs before. — Alex Forbes

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“Pravda” Prophecy

I was updating some obsolete links on this site’s old HTML pages when I stumbled across this old somewhat startling passage of mine. I wrote  it in 1998 about an even older 1989 writing project.

If you disagree strongly with the economic premise that 20th century Americans, despite unprecedented national prosperity, have largely been shafted out of any “excess disposable income” (savings) from the best and most productive years of their lives, then you’re going to object, on moral or patriotic grounds, to this Pravda project.

Pravda was my 1989 attempt to make some sense of the unfolding drama in the old Soviet Union. I gave up editing and revising this over-100 page project because events neatly outstripped my ability to keep up with them.  It’s not recommended for the faint of heart: I keep it for its historical and archival value of the sense of those times.

If my quote seemed relevant in 1998, as we gear up for the 2012 presidential elections, it seems prophetic now.

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Thought for the Day

Even in America we still find political groups who, with a dismissive label ‘agenda,’ deprecate and demean the honest quest of minority groups for equality in rights and civil liberties. No such group, now or ever, can be a trustworthy defender of individual rights for ANY segment or sector of society.

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