Quick Tips for Evaluating a New Story

Since clearly a lot of people are struggling to differentiate between reliable news and bullshit, let’s talk about something called a primary source. You can think of a primary source as original documentation. So if I’m studying Abraham Lincoln’s relationship with Mary Todd, letters between them would be a primary source. A book written about their relationship which quotes those letters would be considered a secondary source. The further removed from the original documentation your information source is, the less reliable it is considered to be. (And for my friends in academia who are sputtering right now, yes this is an incredibly reductionist, simplistic explanation. Wipe up your spittle.)

The same basic idea can be applied to the information we get from the news. The closer to the actual event the report is, the more accurate it will be. For example, if you want to get a feel for what’s happening at a protest, unedited video from a facebook live feed is more trustworthy than edited video presented in a cable news story. It’s also more reliable than official police reports. If you want to know what white supremacists are saying about Donald Trump, going to their websites and reading their endorsements and statements is more reliable than reading a story which describes what they are saying. An unedited interview is better than an edited interview (although probably more boring) and an edited interview is better than a report of the interview. Reading an official statement is better than reading the story about the statement. So on and so forth.

A good news story will provide links to this sort of primary source material. Be suspicious of any news story which provides links to other stories about the material rather than to the material itself. Also pay attention to when quoted material contains elipses (” . . . “). This means that there are words which got left out and you should find the original statements before trusting what you are reading. When you do get to the source material, be sure to pay attention to how it was edited by your news source and if the source material has been accurately represented. If you take the time to do these things, that will let you know how trustworthy the information you are getting is regardless of whether the news source itself is biased one way or the other. Biased news sources are perfectly capable of reporting accurate information because facts do remains facts, regardless of the filter they are passed through.

This whole thing where people refuse to accept facts because they are being reported by what they think is a biased news source is ridiculous and making us all dumber. Stop it. You look like an idiot when you do it. And don’t watch cable news. Ever. For any reason. Not even a little. Not even with the sound turned down. Not even when you’re on the treadmill at the gym. Cable news is terrible and exists to serve the devil.

The Electoral College

One of my working assumptions about life is that only that which can be redeemed is allowed. So anything that happens carries possibilities. Because if it’s happening, it can be redeemed. Now, whether any of that is factually true or not isn’t really here nor there. Even if it’s just a mental construct, it’s served me well through some really crazy shit.

Because I assume that everything is moving towards being redeemed, when life throws me a doozy that I wouldn’t choose if you promised me my own deserted island with wifi and an endless supply of tech support, my first thought is, “what is the advantage of this over what I wanted?” There are pro’s and cons to everything. So there are always advantages. They can take a while to find but, they are always there. Figure out what they are and hang onto them. Maximize them and use them to move forward.

Consider that your chosen path carried its own worst case scenario that maybe the universe is protecting you from. You don’t know what’s really going on, if there is anything going on, so pick a story that works for you. Write it in your mind and set it in your heart. Put it into writing if you need to. Revise it as necessary.

That story you create about whatever completely idiotic, terrible thing is happening in your life creates your working assumptions. So make it a good one with you as the good guy in the middle of it who the universe is secretly conspiring to help in unexpected ways.  Make sure it fits the facts. Don’t punt and leave out the hard stuff to make the story easier than it really is. It needs to be a true story, not an imaginary one.

So, about the electoral college. They failed. Going back to the time of Plato at least, fear of the mob electing a dangerous man to power has been a concern when it came to democracy. The founding fathers studied the ancient Greek philosophers and were intimately acquainted with their writing and arguments. The electoral college was their answer to the problem of a foolish people electing a dangerous man. It was a great idea, but when the time came, it failed.

However, we do need to consider that if the electoral college had taken another path, that could have gone very wrong as well. If they punted the question to legislators, which is a possibility under the law, the worthless fools who run that place would have been left to make a decision. The Republicans have already shown that they just want power and the Democrats have shown that they will cave to pressure from Trumpkins who flood their lives with demands that they vote Trump in. Or Pence. Hard to know which is worse. So that was never likely to go well.

The other option was to give the vote to the winner of the popular vote, Hillary Clinton. This was my preferred option, although the reality is that if they had done that, it could easily have lead to violence. And given the factors I highlighted yesterday, we are in a situation which in other places has lead to extreme violence erupting almost overnight. So maybe the universe is trying to protect us on that front.

There’s no use or point in spending much energy worrying about it further. It is what it is. We have a marathon to run at sprint speed here. Let’s not waste emotional or mental energy on things that we can’t change or do anything about.

Our Faithless Culture Wars

A while ago, I finally realized that I needed to take Jesus’ teachings much more literally. He said, “don’t judge” and I said, “I’m not judging, but clearly some things are wrong. It’s not judging to say that.” He said, “love, pray for and serve your enemies” and I heard, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” He said, “do not resist the evil man” and I signed petitions against groups and politicians in order to protect Jesus’ values. Jesus said, “so do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?'” and I wonder if we should make plans to attend the financial planning series the church is holding on Thursday nights. Jesus said, “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” and I work really hard to be at least in the top quintile in everything I do. See the problem here?

So, haltingly and stumblingly and often failingly, I have tried to unlearn the ways we do things here in the world and adopt the Kingdom way of doing things. What I have learned in the process is that what we see as “standing up for Jesus” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” is really a form of faithlessness. We don’t trust God enough to be able to work things out according to the ways that Jesus told us to do them. We fight and opine and advocate because we are convinced that without our help, God won’t get his way. We think that all that talk about not judging and not resisting and not worrying are good – so far as they go. But there are important issues at play here. If we don’t stand up and fight, we could lose! We could be eating cat food in retirement. “God doesn’t get what it’s like down here” is what I’ve sometimes told myself. Only that’s ridiculous – God made “down here.” He came down here and suffered the worst we could throw at him. And God wins. Always, everywhere. Period. Amen. The reality is that every time I judge or fight or worry or try to keep my position, I’m throwing my lot in with the losing side. Really. Think about that and then think about our culture wars and you can start to see why “the church” has failed so miserably in fighting them. And even more alarmingly, how breathtakingly faithless we are. Continue reading

Bloggy Linky Goodness

Ages ago, I briefly tried putting up a weekly list of links to interesting things I was reading. But consistency isn’t really my thing. My week had 8 days in it and all it take for me to forget what I’m doing is walking through a doorway. But, part of the whole blogging/social media experience is building connections with others and promoting eachother’s work. Even for us introverts. So, I’ve decided to go ahead and try the weekly linky thing again. ‘Cuz I always enjoy other people’s linky roundups and I’m always thinking I need to pass on something I’ve read. But I’m going to need your help. If you have a blog post you’d like me to include – your own or someone else’s, please email the link to ratrotter73@yahoo.com or use the form on my contact page to send it to me. Not only will it get your link in front of a couple thousand people, a steady trickle of submissions will help offset my tendency to forget what I’m supposed to be doing.

So without further ado – here’s some awesomeness you should go read: Continue reading

Heartless in Hartford?

Wow.  This is the creepiest video.  A surveillance camera caught video of a man being hit by a hit and run driver while crossing the street in Hartford, CN.  The man is left laying in the middle of the street and no one rushes over to help him.  He lays there until a police car shows up about a minute and a half later (if that doesn’t sound like a long time, watch the video.  It’s a long time.)  Apparently, several calls were put into 911 within a minute of the hit and run.  But no one actually approached the man to see if he was alive or offer comfort or whatever.  Here’s the video:

Argh!  The video won’t upload.  Oh well, here’s a link to the video.  I’ll try to get it loaded again later.

Can you imagine?  It always boggles my mind when something like this happens.  You wonder what is going through people’s heads.  A lot of people think it reflects a disregard for others.  There’s probably some of that.  However, it seems to me that a lot of these sorts of things come from people not knowing how to act.  We don’t raise people with a set of guidelines for how to act.  Everyone’s kind of winging it all the time.  And we’ve internalized a hyper-independent ethos which abolishes any sense of looking out for each other. In many cases, anyone who would try to get involved in something going on outside their immediate family is judged quite harshly.  I think people may have a hard time making snap judgements about when to turn off that ingrained laise faire attitude to step in to help another.

Of course, people don’t always respond like this.  A few weeks ago my husband was hit by a car while crossing the street in downtown Minneapolis.  He said people immediately reacted and came over to see if he was OK.  Others ran in the direction of the car which hit him.  Fortunately, he got away with a slight concussion and is fine.  A near-by cop saw the whole thing and pulled over the driver as he tried to turn onto a side street.  I can’t, however, imagine everyone mulling around with their hands in their pockets while he lay in the middle of the street.  Maybe it’s an East Coast thing.  I dunno.

My quick take on the news

After putting up 4 fairly long posts in less than 24 hours yesterday, I need to take some time to attend to the kiddies and my gardens. But I’d hate the leave my minions without their Upside Down World fix (that’s a joke, btw 🙂 ). So I thought I’d pass on my take on a couple of recent news events which have been bugging me.

1. Oil. Obviously oil costs too much. Obviously we need to find ways to cut back. Obviously what we are doing isn’t sustainable in the long term. However, the reality is that our best case scenario right now is to cut back and go through a transition period away from heavy dependence on oil. Which means that for the foreseeable future we will still need the stuff. So, it drives me nuts that we refuse to allow drilling and oil exploration either on or off shore in the USA. Now, I’m not saying we can become self-sufficient by drilling in the USA. However, the main protest against drilling seems to be environmental. Normally, I’m very sympathetic to environmental causes. However, do other oil producing countries not have environments? Are we to believe that Russia and Nigeria and Argentina are taking their oil from lifeless wastelands? Is the USA the only place on the planet where there is an environment worth preserving? Come on people! At least in the USA we can be assured that best practices will be used to protect the environment. Can we really have have any confidence that Gabon will do the same? It seems to me that from a global level, those who really want us to do the least amount of environmental damage possible would be trying to get oil production moved into the places like the USA. IMO, our current approach is silly and selfish.

2. Scott McClellan, as you have surely heard, has written a tell-all book which repeats the same things every other book about the Bush administration has said (ie he’s an incurious baboon). What I have found amusing about this is the press reaction to the book. Now, I know that the press, having dealt with McClellan as press secretary don’t care for the man. However, they keep saying, “why didn’t he say anything when he was in office?” Yeah, I can see how that would have worked: “Thank you for coming today, ladies and gentlemen of the press. The president has asked me to tell you that things are going well in Iraq and we’re making adjustments on the ground as needed. However, I would personally like to add that the president is delusional and he was picking lint from between his toes during the morning briefing, so I doubt he has any real idea what’s going on. I’ll open the floor for questions now.”

3. Kathleen Parker, the (I hate to say it) conservative columnist has apparently taken up the use of psychotropic drugs and is now acting as a propagandist for various white-power groups. If you were fortunate enough to miss it, Ms. Parker wrote a column about voters looking for a “full blooded American” to vote for. Continue reading

Not what you want to hear

A couple with a son serving in Afghanistan came home to find a 3 minute recording of a battle their son was caught in on their answering machine.  Apparently their number was the last on their son had called and somehow in the middle of fighting, the redial button on his cell phone got hit.  So they came home and found a recording of gunfire, swearing and “more ammo” on their answering machine.

I suppose it’s a good thing they weren’t home when this happened.  How could you hang up on that, thinking your son might be about to die?  But if you were to yell into the phone and he heard you, he could get distracted which would be dangerous.  Thankfully no one in this young man’s unit was wounded or killed in the fighting.

I have a soft spot for our service men and women and the last line from the story demonstrates one of the reasons why:

When he [the soldier involved] was played back the message, he said was embarrassed by all the swearing.

“He said, ‘Don’t let Grandma hear it’.”

Imagine that.  You’ve just been in battle and you’re still worried about Grandma hearing you swear.  Good man.
HT: Reformed Chicks Blabbing

Can I just say . . .

that of all the crap which has come out of people’s mouths regarding the Wright-Obama connection, there is one which takes the cake for stupid dishonesty.  That is the claim that Obama’s relationship with Wright is particularly relevant to the conversation because we just don’t know much about Obama and we need to look for information where we can get it.  I’m surprised the people peddling this crap can still reach the end of their sniveling noses with a hankie.

If someone wanted to know more about Obama, wouldn’t they , you know, do some research into his positions (hint: they’re liberal), look at his voting record (hint: liberal, democrat), read his books (hint: smart, thoughtful, liberal), talk to people who went to school with and worked with him (hint: universally liked)?  I mean the idea that we just have NO IDEA what Obama’s really like so it’s only natural that we would look at who he’s friends with to discern what has been so artfully hidden from our eyes is nothing but a dishonest, disingenuous lie.

God Bless Peggy Noonan

I mean that really. I hope that God has and continues to bless Peggy Noonan greatly. Because she has stood in the face of the ridiculous demagoguery which has surrounded the whole Obama-Wright debacle and spoken sense where sense has not been welcomed. Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan talks about her indifference to Pastor Wright’s ranting and puts it into some perspective:

I also think that if Hillary Clinton wins because of the Wright scandal, it will leave a sad taste in the mouths of many. Mr. Obama reveals many things in his books, speeches and interviews but polarity and a tropism toward the extreme are not among them. What happened with Mr. Wright should not determine the race. Mr. Obama’s stands, his ability to convince us he can make good change, his ability to be “one of us,” that great challenge for a national politician in a varied nation, should determine the race. . .

I do not feel a sense of honest anger or violation at his [Jeremiah Wrights’s] remarks, in part because I don’t think his views carry deep implications for our country. I have been watching America up close for many years – if you count a bright childhood, for half a century. I have seen, heard and respected the pain of a people who were forced to come here when they did not want to and made to live in a way that no one would want to. Who could deny them their grief or anger? I have seen radicalism and extremism, too. I have seen Stokely Carmichael, the Black Panthers, the Black National Anthem, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Louis Farrakhan. I came to see their radicalism as, putting the morality of policy based on rage aside, essentially unhelpful and impractical. It wouldn’t work as an American movement, not long-term. Hatred plays itself out, has power in the short-term but is nonsustaining in the long. America, and this is one of its glories, has a conscience to which an appeal can be made. It may take a long time, it may take centuries, but in the end we try hard to do the right thing, and everyone knows it. Hatred is a form of energy that does not fuel this machine and cannot make it run.” Continue reading

Beware the dangers of French Kissing!

A study in Great Britain finds that teens who engaged in french kissing with multiple partners increased their risk of contracting spinal meningitis almost 4 fold.
This reminds me of a very funny story a friend of mine from college once told. When my friend was a freshman in college and his brother was a senior in high school, their dad decided it was time for “the talk”. So he sat them down and handed out helpful advise like “if you keep one hand in your pants pocket at all times you can’t get in too much trouble”. Somewhere along the line he decided that what his sons really needed to know about were the great evils of french kissing. It was unsanitary, revved up the lust engines, gross and on and on. “The talk” mercifully ended when mom called them down to dinner.
Noticing how quiet everyone was at the dinner table their mother said, “Is everything alright? I hope you weren’t too hard on them, honey.”
“Oh, no. We just needed to have a little talk.”
My friend’s brother piped up, “Yeah, dad went on and on about french kissing.”
To which his mother enthusiastically replied, “Oh – your father is the best french kisser!”
Their dad tried to cut her off, but she took his discomfort to be embarrassment, “Oh no, honey you are. Remember when we were dating and we’d park the car and just french kiss for hours. You’re still the best french kisser I’ve ever known.”
At which point the boys were practically spewing milk out of their noses trying not to laugh and their dad excused himself from the table.
I thought it was pretty funny, but then again, maybe the guy had a point 😛

Hat tip to William Saletan’s Human Nature blog on Slate.com