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December 16 2017

I’ve loved The Walking Dead since Glenn first called Rick a dumbass, and I unflinchingly purchase every episode because it is (and will always be) one of my favorites. A bad chapter doesn’t make a for a bad novel, so sub-par episodes never really bother me. After all, my favorite show of all time is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and I’d be dead wrong to believe that every episode/season is anywhere near as good as the best episodes/seasons.

Kirkman’s Negan is a compelling character, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a magnificent actor. But I have genuinely hated the storyline since Negan joined the show, and not just because I’m supposed to hate him. The show just hasn’t been the same since. Honestly, I think it’s because the characters behave more like they were fictional beings than actual humans. They behave in the most deus ex machina way instead of behaving like normal people.

The whole appeal of TWD is that you get to see people dealing with unprecedented situations and imagining the way you’d act in that situation. Do you cover yourself in the intestines of dead people so you can escape? Can you kill your mother before she becomes a zombie? Do you shoot your beloved wife’s undead body even while her eyes stare in your direction? Should you really have to suppress your feelings for your best friend’s wife after the world has ended and he’s probably dead in a hospital somewhere? These are the questions that made this show so magnificent.

But a band of silent, complicit, and pathetic betas that submit to the whims of a sociopathic and inconsistently murderous jackass with a spikey bat? What kind of shit is that? The show is now basically saying that we’re all lemmings who need people like Negan and Rick to give our lives direction. Fuck that. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where so many people would allow our leaders to behave that way. I’d rather be one of the walking dead than the living dead.

This show used to be excellent. It used to be so full of heart, the characters were relatively reasonable, and it had just the right amount of hope. Now it’s just angsty, apoplectic bullshit. The show’s producers are so bogged down in recreating (and intentionally obfuscating) the source material that the story has become artificial and unrealistic. It lacks the element that has set this series apart from the very opening scene: humanity.

August 13 2014

A lot of people are worried about the new Facebook messenger app. They are wondering if they should bother with installing it or just ignoring it. Well, pretty soon you won’t have the option. They’re slowly rolling it out so that you have to use it. My version of the app has already switched. So, you either need to get used to using it or completely stop sending/receiving messages via Facebook.

As far as the hype goes, it seems like there is a lot of needless paranoia about it. For example, the suggestion that it can tap into your microphone and camera to record you without your permission. That’s pretty ridiculous. The reason the app asks for these permissions is just so the app can operate as it was intended. Having said that, Facebook is a private company (and not the government), which means that they aren’t restricted by the same laws about privacy. So, keep that in mind.

As far as the things it really can (and will) do, they are mostly things that just make the program integrate into your phone. It can send text messages and make calls on your behalf, but only if you actively decide to do it. Plus, it can access your contacts and recently called list to establish your relationships and other information about you. I realize the idea of that may bother people, but it’s really nothing new. Facebook (and many other apps/websites) have been cataloging this information for a long time.

Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what Facebook would be doing with this information. Are they Big Brother that wants to spy on everything you do or are they just another company who wants to make money? My guess is it’s the latter. They just want this information to help target ads better, which is the whole reason Facebook exists. Remember, Facebook is free to users because companies pay to advertise on it. You are not a customer, you are a commodity.

February 6 2014

The winds of the Internet blow hard and fast, so people don’t have time to read an entire article before they are emotionally invested in it. They mostly just rely on the headline and/or the source to sum things up for them. So, when people started seeing headlines like Wendy Davis supports open carry gun law in Texas it inevitably led to headlines like Davis Takes Friendly Fire on Gun Issue and fair weather friends saying things like, “I want my donation back.” After all, it makes sense that progressives would suddenly feel betrayed when a champion of progressive thought suddenly appears to backtrack and bow down to the gun lobby.

When Wendy Davis was asked if she supported open carry of handguns in Texas she said, “Yes.” ::gasp:: Et tu, Wendy? Could there be anything else to your answer other than that shockingly-straightforward admission? Nah. Well, I mean, except for the very next sentence: “And state government should be sensitive to private property owners (including governmental, education, religious, health care and other institutions) to determine whether to allow open carry on their own properties.” Basically, what Davis did say is that she supports a law that would allow private property owners to determine whether handguns could be openly carried on their property. She did not, as the headlines would have you believe, state that she supports open carry.

Like any reasonable Texan, Davis knows that guns are almost impossible to separate from our lives. But like any savvy politician, she knows that open carry isn’t a popular idea among the public as a whole. The law she’s talking about wouldn’t give the government the right to control open carry; it would give individuals the power to decide where people could open carry. Not only does this empower gun control advocates, it’s perfectly in line with the Second Amendment and appeals to the libertarian ideal of citizen-based regulation.

Even the NRA isn’t fooled by this apparent shift in position. As their spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen pointed out (with no sense of irony), “Voting records speak volumes. As a state legislator, Wendy earned an F-rating from the NRA by voting against the Second Amendment repeatedly. Her about-face lacks credibility.” Well, of course it does! That’s because it’s not an about-face. The only thing that has changed is implication in the headlines.

If you supported Wendy Davis up until this point, then not supporting her now means you’re letting headlines think for you. She has proven to be in favor of common sense gun regulation. Backing away from her now because of this one issue (even if the misinformation was true) is a cowardly way to vote, especially considering how courageously she has fought for the rights of women, students, LGBT, and all Texans.

September 11 2013

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
–Albert Einstein

I am a committed humanist, so I obviously support some form of intervention in Syria. However, I do not think the United States should act alone. I believe that doing anything outside our nation’s borders simply in the name of America’s interest is provincial, which is why I never once supported the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. I can forgive us for going into Afghanistan, but only because of the unprecedented nature of 9/11. And I have never strayed from the belief that going into Iraq was a horrendous mistake.

Even though the events in Syria have been unfolding for over two years, I have never really felt like our nation had a vested interest in getting involved. Of course, I believe that any nation with so many resources and the ability to deal with these conflicts has an obligation to do something, but I realize that the climate of each conflict makes that all but impossible.

But international laws have been broken. Atrocities have been committed. And more importantly, much more will happen if we do not act. Assad will continue gassing and bombing innocent civilians, Iran will feel no pressure to cease their nuclear ambitions, and a dozen other nations/factions/regimes that have been under the radar will start to emerge.

If a married couple was standing on the street and arguing about their relationship, the people walking by might notice it and have their opinions, but no one would have the right to step in and tell the two how to behave. Even if someone did speak up, they would probably just ignore them and continue arguing. But if the man backhanded his partner so hard that they hit the ground, then I would hope that at least one person would punch the guy right in the nose. Not beat him senseless, not kill him, and not merely wag their finger in his face. Just give him a reminder that his behavior is unacceptable in a language he can understand.

That’s what I believe we need to do in Syria. Don’t kill Assad because that will only make him a martyr. Don’t bomb the living hell out of their nation because that will just create unnecessary collateral damage. Don’t go to war with them because people will incorrectly interpret it as American imperialism. But most importantly, don’t sit on our hands and let this go unabated while touting ourselves as the greatest nation in the world with our beacons of hope and freedom and all that bullshit.

August 4 2013

The term “troll” is so new that it often gets misused, and it gets used so frequently that people sometimes dismiss it unfairly. It’s not just internet lingo to throw at someone because you don’t like or agree with them, and it’s not something to dismiss simply because someone used the term. It has real meaning and legitimate usage. The trick to dealing with trolls is learning to recognize them when you see them so you can learn to avoid playing their game.

fry meme - trolling or stupid

If someone says something you disagree with (even if it seriously offends you), then that’s not necessarily trolling. The whole purpose of social media is to encourage and further discussion, even about controversial subjects. Since there are as many opinions on a subject as there are people, you’re always going to run into someone who doesn’t agree with you. That’s just how these things work.

If someone says something ridiculous, then that’s not necessarily trolling, either. They may actually believe that ridiculous thing they said, and they may not care what you believe. Contrary to popular belief, just because you have an opinion or belief doesn’t mean it’s correct. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but even opinions can be dead wrong. However, the troll doesn’t care if you try to prove them wrong. They want you to prove them right.

trolling demotivational

There are different forms of trolling, but the end goal is always the same: goad people into reacting. The fallacious troll is someone who says or does something off-topic in an attempt to take control of or distract from the topic at hand. This usually comes in the form of an attack on the person, like saying “typical liberal” or “right-wing nutjob.” If you address their attack instead of continuing your point, then you have fed the troll. Just make a note of it (or ignore it) and resume what you were saying.

Another form of trolling is using controversy to instigate a flame war. They will do or say something they know will bring out an emotional reaction without attempting to make a point. So, for example, making fun of feminism in a group of socially conscious people, or telling a group of Christians that there is no God. The troll knows that will upset someone who will inevitably (and rightfully) come to the defense of what’s being attacked. But the troll doesn’t really care what you think because they already know. That’s why they posted it. They just want someone to start paying attention to them. How they feel about the topic is irrelevant. As long as you respond, you’re feeding their ego.

someone is wrong

Believe it or not, trolls do serve an important function. They teach us how to resist the urge to react emotionally. Thoughtful and intelligent debate should be as free from emotion as possible. It’s okay to get drawn into a discussion if it’s something you care deeply about. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate and standing up for your beliefs. Just don’t get caught up in a flame war. Remember that passion is just an emotion, and even it can lead us down the wrong path.

As the old saying goes, don’t feed the trolls. It only encourages them. Just like the mythical trolls that lurk under bridges they don’t own and demanding money that isn’t due to them, an internet troll is lurking in social media and demanding attention that isn’t due to them. If you leave them starving for attention they will die off or throw a tantrum. Either option is a win for you. And there is probably no better way to deal with a troll than turning their behavior back on themselves.

October 17 2012

Mitt Rmoney and others have continued to push the claim that unemployment was higher than when Barack Obama took office. This is (at best) a misinterpretation of the facts and (at worst) an outright lie. The unemployment rate was not higher back then than it was when Barack Obama took office. In fact, it was lower. And it continues to drop. Just take a good look at the chart below. It chronicles the unemployment rate in the United States from the time of the 2000 presidential race through the most recent data available.

Fact 1: The unemployment rate when George Bush took office was 4%.

Regardless of what you thought of Bill Clinton, the fact is that he lowered unemployment consistently throughout his presidency. This goes for most presidents. Very few have presided over a nation that saw a constant increase in unemployment. The pattern is fairly consistent: a new president takes office, unemployment rises, and it eventually comes back down at a steady rate.

Fact 2: The unemployment rate when George Bush left office was 7.8%.

Although this number may seem like an exaggeration, that’s a 95% increase in unemployment under the Bush administration. And this only counts the actual end of his term. It ignores the trend that started well into the Bush administration’s last year and how it carried into the Obama administration’s.

Fact 3: When Barack Obama took office the unemployment rate had already been rising for over a year.

Unemployment started to rise in May 2007, and this could not possibly be blamed on Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Clinton hadn’t been president for several years, and Obama hadn’t even begun running for president. Whether it was the president’s fault or merely the state of the economy, this rise began directly under the Bush administration. By the time Obama took office, the unemployment rate was skyrocketing, and the economy was undergoing a massive depression.

Fact 4: Obama pressed Congress to pass the American Jobs Act in September 2009.

Obama went on a nation-wide tour and even took to television in an attempt to force Congress’ hand. It wasn’t popular among Republicans simply because he’s a Democrat, and it wasn’t popular among Democrats because many were seeking re-election. This meant that both parties were working against Obama and the nation, and it was up to the president to make sure the American people realized how important this was.

Fact 5: The unemployment rate peaked one month after the America Jobs Bill.

Less than a month after the passage of Obama’s jobs bill, the unemployment reached its highest point. Though there have been a couple of months where the rate was higher than the previous month, the overall trend clearly shows that unemployment has been going down since October of 2009.

Fact 6: The unemployment rate has gone down more than twice as fast under the Obama administration than under the Bush administration.

If we ignore the sudden upswing in the last year of the Bush administration, unemployment went down (from its highest point of 6.3% in June 2003 to it’s lowest point of 4.4% in May 2009) at a rate of 0.026% per month. Since the American Jobs Act was passed under Obama the rate has gone down (from its highest point of 10% in October 2009 to it’s lowest point of 5.5% in February 2015) at a rate of 0.059% per month. That’s more than twice as fast as anything Bush was able to accomplish.

Fact 7: The unemployment rate is now lower than it was when Obama took office, and it is continuing to drop.

Though there will inevitably be hiccups on a week-to-week or month-to-month basis, the trend over the past three years has indicated that the unemployment rate will continue to drop at least over the next few months. This is, of course, assuming that Congress can reduce the political in-fighting and keep working towards creating jobs for the American people.

Fact 8: If the current trend continues, unemployment will be below 5% when Obama leaves office.

That’s 2.8% lower than it was when he took office, and that’s also after one of the worst economic collapses in US history. This is just an estimate based on the current trend. This trend could speed up or slow down, but there’s no reason to believe it will simply reverse.

Fact 9: When a new person takes office the unemployment almost always goes up.

Regardless of who the president is or what party they’re from, the unemployment rate almost always goes up near the beginning of their term. This is due to a number of factors, but mostly because of the uncertainty surrounding the change in leadership. So this implies that if Romney is elected the unemployment rate will start to go up next year, and it will continue to do so until he figures out a way to create jobs.

So, the next time you hear someone say that Obama has done nothing for jobs and unemployment, politely inform them that they’re mistaken, and share these facts with them. Because knowing an uncomfortable truth is better than believing a comforting lie.

August 2 2012

If you look at my Facebook posts over the past few weeks it might seem like I feel otherwise, but I really do want the Chick-fil-A conversation to come to a conclusion. I’m as tired of it as everyone else. But for some reason, we just can’t stop talking about it. We even have people who are complaining about people who are talking about it, and those people are just adding fuel to the fire. This is such a controversial topic that these discussions tend to be more emotional than intellectual. I mean, people are genuinely getting upset. People are fighting, enemies are being made, friends are getting unfriended,

target=”_blank”>our pet’s heads are falling off, etc.

So why can’t we let this go? Well, we are just now learning why memes go viral, so I can only speculate. But clearly, it has a lot to do with the presence of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you just look at the visceral nature of these discussions, you might think that Dan Cathy held a press conference to state that his company was going to engage in armed combat with homosexuals. But even his critics should recognize he was only answering questions that were put forth to him. Many people view the criticism as a breach of first amendment rights, while others base their criticism on a breach of basic human rights. But really, this conversation has proven that it’s not so much what people think as much as how they feel about it. That’s why the conversations get so heated. The mind of humanity is busy trying to decide where it stands, and that leaves the soul of humanity embroiled in this internal moral struggle.

Even though the discussions are extremely vitriolic, I do think it’s a good thing we’re finally having them in public. I mean, many of the people I’ve spoken to on this issue are relatively unknown to me. That sets up a situation where people are either very civil or downright antagonistic. And since we’re evolving socially, you see fewer and fewer people needlessly insulting each other. People are being forced to stop and think about this stuff, and it’s driving some people crazy.

Even those that don’t give a damn about it are having to deal with it. And honestly, I hope it does annoy people. This “meh…politics” attitude is how we ended up in the mess we’re in today. It got us into the Iraq war, which cost trillions of dollars and over 130,000 human lives. It plunged us into massive debt by allowing people to gamble with the nation’s economy. It allowed jobs to be outsourced while cutting critical programs at home. It neglected our education, our health, the health of our environment, and so on. We can blame the Republicans or the Democrats all we want, but we the people are ultimately to blame.

You don’t have to be a Republican to see that people’s first amendment rights are being protected, and you don’t have to be a Democrat to see how people’s human rights are being denied. The left and the right will always be at odds, especially if we oversimplify every debate into two sides. Really, it’s the people in the middle (including those who try to stay out of the discussion) that make all the difference. Only about half of all voters turnout for presidential elections, and only about a third turnout for congressional elections. That means a minority of Americans usually decide the leadership for the nation, and the majority just lets them do it then complains about it later. One of the only things on which George Carlin and I disagree is

target=”_blank”>his view that staying out of politics absolves you of any responsibility later on. Well, that’s just idiotic. You’re a part of this society whether you’re an active participant or not. Choosing not to take part in the discussion is still a choice, just like choosing not to vote is still a vote.

If you’ve eaten at Chick-fil-A with the intention of supporting their stance on gay marriage, then I genuinely commend you for sticking to your principles and voting with your wallet. There is hardly anything more capitalistic or democratic. Having said that, I want you to know that I also condemn you in the strongest possible terms for supporting discrimination and misunderstanding the issue. This never was about chicken, religion, or the first amendment. You’re free to believe whatever you want and to donate to whatever causes you support, but your beliefs do not empower you to infringe upon the basic human rights of others.

If you’re tired of talking about Chick-fil-A, then just stop doing it. Stop bringing it up, stop complaining about it, and stop bitching at the people who are talking about it. But if you think that avoiding the issue is going to make the whole issue of gay marriage go away, then you’re just fooling yourself. There are generations of discrimination to account for, and claiming that you don’t care and/or hiding behind your religion isn’t going to resolve the issue. The next time something like this happens (and it will…very soon) we should all remember this debate. You can’t sweep these things under the rug anymore. The Internet has given new life to these discussions, and people like us will continue to have them. It’s your choice whether you want to join in the discussion or let us do the thinking for you.

April 13 2012

Interaction is a superficial form of communication. We have known how to communicate for tens of thousands of generations, and we have been interacting with each other for even longer. For the most part, this hasn’t changed. We still just interact with people; we don’t communicate. A few of us had to learn how to communicate effectively, and many of them became politicians, diplomats, teachers, counselors, etc. But the vast majority of us are rarely expected to communicate much. What we have learned to do is interact. We interact with our co-workers, we interact with our family members, we interact with people randomly in public, but we don’t really have to do much communication. When we do, it’s usually boiled down to something as simple as we can make it. “What time is?” “Is that the 6 train?” “Pardon me.”

The internet, oddly enough, is forcing us to communicate. Everyone interacts with text, not people, so our interactions are all basically the same. For example, the wonderful thing about forums is that every line typed in a conversation is there for anyone to read. So people quickly learn that misrepresenting other people is a bad idea, especially when the proof that you’re misrepresenting them is just a few lines up.

The media is in the business of communication, not interaction. The only interaction they care about is the one in which you consume their product. And since journalism/marketing has historically been about communicating ideas to large audiences, they are well-positioned to take advantage of our tendency to interact instead of communicate. They inflame our passions and focus our beliefs, and then they dumb everything down to a yes/no viewpoint. Why? Because it makes for passionate interactions with poor communication, which leads to even more passionate interactions with even worse communication. And as long as the public is arguing about something, people are opening newspapers, buying magazines, turning on televisions, and logging onto websites.

Politics is a particularly heated topic because people usually interact during controversial debates or in an already inflamed environment. An argument that has turned into a yelling match is just an interaction. The only thing they are communicating to one another is their emotions. It isn’t until the reasonable part of the mind takes over that the yelling subsides and the conversation progresses.

And then there’s the Internet, that massive repository of human knowledge and suppository of human interaction. If humanity seems so infantile online, it’s because we are. When they first introduced the telephone, the telephone companies had to invent the greeting “Hello” to stop people from simply hanging up at the silence on the other end. When they first introduced the car, people were driving so recklessly that they make modern teenagers look like AARP members.

The Internet didn’t even exist a generation ago, and we’re still learning to use it. We’re still experiencing things that humanity has never dealt with before. How do you turn the Internet off when your government is trying to manipulate an election? How do you hide illegal weapon caches when there are images that anyone online can google? How do you convince millions of people they are being lied to when everything they see/hear/read tells them otherwise? These are just a few of the seemingly limitless problems that we face.

The irony of the information age is that we are learning more about everything than we are taking the time to understand. We need to hold onto our humanity during this unprecedented transitional period in our development. We have to remember that communication, even on the most basic levels, is more important now than ever.

April 29 2010

If you’re shocked or confused by the Nobel committee’s decision to give Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, don’t be. It makes perfect sense. They selected him because of his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” In this sense, he has definitely accomplished something and shows promise that he will continue to do so for the next few years.

If you believe that Obama hasn’t done anything to deserve this honor, you’re completely missing the point of the prize. Saying that Obama hasn’t done anything to achieve peace is like saying Bush never did anything to combat terrorism. Sure, Bush ultimately wasn’t able to stop terrorism, but that’s because it can never be stopped. Peace, similarly, can never be fully attained. It’s the efforts towards attaining peace that really matter.

And in that sense, Obama is a champion.

He has accomplished a lot towards peace, no matter what people say.

What do you think the point of an olive branch is? It doesn’t actually do anything. It’s the symbolism that’s important.

Well, Bush spent eight years as the leader of the “greatest free nation” on the planet. What did he do with it? He beat the shit out of the rest of the world with the olive tree.

What has Obama done in the past eight months? He has *tried* to bring about peace, something that will never be truly accomplished. It’s like saying he hasn’t accomplished anything with universal heath care because the law hasn’t been passed.

I think it’s far more important that the international community start recognizing America as one of the leading voices for peace than waiting for Obama to, for example, solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

They gave it to him for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

He has, in fact, done this.

Bush’s speeches in front of the UN were too often contentious, provincial, and self-concerned. Every time he spoke he undid years of progress between our nation and the rest of the world. And that is how the world began to view America.

Obama may not have saved us from ourselves, but no one should expect him to do that. He has, however, thrust America back into its rightful place as one of the leading promoters of peace, which is far more than the war-mongering members of our society will ever achieve. The Nobel committee’s decision does not state that we have achieved peace. What it says is: yes we can.

February 28 2010

I often get accused of being an Obama worshiper, usually by people that don’t know me. They base that belief purely on me supporting anything he says. Somehow, the fact that I’ve always had a soft spot for the environment means that I can’t agree with the president without appearing to be bowing down at the man’s feet. They think that the president should represent their views, and if he doesn’t represent them perfectly then he isn’t doing a good job.

The reality is that America is a nation of the world, and it is our duty to consider the entire planet when we make certain decisions. We have most of the world’s wealth, an over-abundance of resources, many of the most intelligent and powerful people on the planet, and a military complex unlike any in history. Our behavior affects almost every corner of the world. As the self-proclaimed greatest nation on Earth, it’s our duty to act like it. Our local officials will take care of local issues, our state officials will take care of state issues, our federal officials will take care of federal issues, but our president represents us in the world stage. In order to succeed in the 21st century we have to recognize that we are part of a larger effort. No matter how much we try to isolate ourselves or alienate others, we are inextricably linked to the entire web of life.

We may not (as individuals) like everything that Barack Obama does. There are many things that he has promised that he has yet to deliver. But that’s not entirely his fault. Change comes slowly, especially when there are so many people resistant to it. The fact that he’s doing things I don’t agree with just shows that he’s not simply catering to his base. That’s because he recognizes he is the leader the entire United States, which is a diverse and complex collection of individuals. If all you do is please your political base, then you become as effective a world leader as George W. Bush was.

The Americans that aren’t comfortable with Obama’s inclusive behavior (e.g., speaking in Arabic to Muslims, pronouncing country names in a native dialect, offering to sit down to speak with our rivals) are an increasing minority in our nation. Their xenophobia consistently proves unwarranted and unproductive. Regardless of their protestations, our world continues to progress, our technology reaches almost everyone on the planet, our wars (and peace) spread to other nations, our behavior directly affects the environment, and we are beginning to recognize the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. Like it or not, this nation represents the world.

Obama clearly understands all of these things and has consistently worked towards making these ideals into reality. Though people will fight him every step of the way (and though he may not be able to achieve all of his goals), the important thing is that he continues to aggressively work toward world coherence. As the president of the United States, Obama represents the people of our nation. But as a citizen of the world, Obama represents every person on the planet. One doesn’t have to support the man, but I don’t see how one could not support the message. After all, the message is: peace through cooperation leads to progress. No sane individual could disagree with that.

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