Archive for July, 2012

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind…

July 23, 2012

Bob Dylan wrote that lyric not knowing that a blogger in 2012 would apply it to a post endorsing wind energy.  But here I am referring to Dylan after reading several facebook comments in response to an image that shows a hypothetical (and satirical) “wind turbine spill” not hurting the environment.  There were reactionaries to the post — one person cited the dead birds accountable to wind turbines.  I recalled all the wind turbines in the Palm Springs, CA area and along the PA Turnpike between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.  Those recollections reassure me.  I have faith in my California and Pennsylvania brethren.

Weighing the knee-jerk reactions of intelligent people, I figured that facts would be a better weapon than emotion to assess the merits of wind power.  I did a little Googling and fact-stealing to come up with my support for wind power.

Take the link below. It will lead you to good data about wind power.  Here you go:

http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/wind-turbine-kill-birds.htm

Still, there were bold opponents, like ‘Maisie Beme” who wrote, “haha. the dead birds will wash ashore though…”

And “Clay Kent” who believes, “Despite its useless and service as a extermination tool to kill birds. I’m just sayin’.”  Translation: wind power doesn’t work but it’s good for getting rid of birds.  Just sayin’, no hard feelings.

What’s a proponent to do in the face of such intelligent arguments?  Turn to our knight in shining armor, ‘Real GB.’  Now here’s a facebook commentator whose wind power advocacy counters the naysayer bird lover with real information!

Fear not, bird-o-cide, implies ‘Real GB.”   They call the wind Mariah and she’s good, real good, as ‘Real GB’ writes:

“Study showed little threat to birds. Bigger threat: Climate Change. A poll of over 1000 people showed 85% support more money being invested in renewables. Myth: Wind power is expensive Fact: Onshore wind energy is one of the cheapest low carbon energy technologies. Wind is competitive with new ‘clean coal’ fired power stations and cheaper than new nuclear power. You can continue to grow crops under turbines and decommisioning is simple and clean. Big oil/gas spend $$$ trying to disprove renewable technologies but wind power is growing at an exponential rate globally. Tidal is the UK’s biggest source of untapped energy and is cm predictable. The one question that no government / industry will answer: When fossil fuels run out, where will we get our energy from? So far our heads are burried in short term profit but the sooner this is addressed the less unpleasant it will be. Of course industry wants to disprove all forms of renewable because it means that there profit is gone forever! ExxonMobile make $1,300 PER SECOND! Its fossil fuel companies who are keeping people in fuel poverty not the renewable industry!”

That’s real, GB.

That dude was ready for this debate.  Now it’s the opposition’s turn.  Show me some facts.  Stun me with hard data… Or come on around to our side — The Truth.

The truth is out there — blowin’ in the wind.Image

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Guns don’t kill people. Gun laws protect people. Where is the conflict?

July 22, 2012

My brother shared a graphic image today on facebook.  It said, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”  Then it said how many people own guns and how many of them did not kill anybody (yesterday in Aurora, CO.).

Why is the gun control debate postured as a mutually exclusive zero sum game? Why can’t we support the Second Amendment but limit the caliber and type of guns allowed for purchase?  Why can’t we do a better check on gun buyers and limit the number of purchases to a reasonable amount not indicative of secondary market sales to criminals?

I do not own a gun but reserve my right to own one if I choose.  I do not think I should be allowed to buy a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a nuclear bomb, or a surface to air missile.  Or, even an assault rifle.  Deer are not that challenging.

Someone like my brother might say if a person with a permit to carry had been in that theater, the killer would have been gunned down before doing all of that harm.

I agree.  If my friend Jim B had been there, that gunman would have been down after emptying his first 20 rounds.  Of course, if there had been a ban on assault weapons, he would have been able to get off fewer than six rounds before Jim B nailed him.  With a six-round, non-automatic chamber, the people in that theater would have had a better chance of escape.  The body count would have been much lower.

It is hard to buy a house or get a loan.  It is easy to buy a gun.  It should not be possible to buy an assault weapon.  The Second Amendment can have sensible limits for public safety without trampling my brother’s rights.  Or mine.

So why is it an all or nothing proposition to people like my brother?  Why the “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” mentality?

I don’t know.  We are from the same genes but are wired much differently.  Our life experiences are not similar at all, after age 17 (we are both in our 60s now). We see things through different lenses.  Not everything, mind you, but many things.

Take the Second Amendment.  We both support it.  People kill people.  We both agree.  The difference is that I believe we should limit the power and speed of the guns allowed.  Our rights will remain intact.  And I believe that people with assault weapons can kill more people faster than people with simpler hand guns can.  Our society will be safer if we make it harder to kill more people faster.  Who has a problem with that?

It is not all or nothing, brother.  It is rights versus responsibility.  We have the right to bear arms.  We have a responsibility to protect each other from demented individuals.  These two concepts do not compete with each other.

It all makes me wonder how genetics work, how experience matters, how our minds work.  One of us likes our gun laws as they are.  One of us wants to change them.  In Aurora, CO, one outcast made the latter point gruesomely clear.

My brother is a conservative.  I am a liberal.  I don’t claim to know everything that he has seen or done in life, but I do know how my own experiences have shaped my thinking and my politics.  Relevant to the Second Amendment issue, my thinking has been shaped by the crime scenes I have stood at; by the court hearings I have testified at; by the murder of a colleague of mine by another colleague of mine; by my firing of a 44 magnum at a shooting range; by my years working in the criminal justice system; and by my friendships with warriors from every branch of our military and from law enforcement who have told me stories.  I don’t take violence, or its causes, or its mitigating factors, lightly.

Which is why my faith in our Congress is at an all-time low.  Despite the past 60 or so public shootings that have made the news, despite even the shooting of one of their own members of Congress (Gabby Giffords), our cowardly Congress still will not pass stricter gun laws.

Why?  They, too, are wired differently than me.  They fear the NRA (despite its rank and file membership’s favorable view on banning assault weapons), and they answer to money because they like their privileged jobs we pay for and the big money they receive from the lobbies to campaign to keep their jobs.  They are wired weirdly and they are irresponsible.  They have the right to be!  Just as the shooter in Aurora had the right to buy an assault weapon.

Which introduces to we, the responsible people, a difficult challenge:  do we have a better chance of convincing our lawmakers to tighten the gun laws, or a better likelihood of voting the odd-wired, irresponsible ones out and replacing them with reasonable people?

Either way, we have our work cut out for us.  There’s a lot of resistance, even within my own gene pool.

Would you approve of your child?

July 18, 2012

Hypothetically speaking, your 18-year-old child comes to you and says s/he is ready to leave the nest and make his/her own way in pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

S/he answers your questions on a wide range of topics.  Your child tells you s/he is conservative or tells you liberal; tells you s/he wants to speak English or, if the family’s native language is not English, the language s/he was raised with; explains s/he is willing to work hard at whatever career or job and pay taxes that will help her country remain safe, strong, just, and helpful to those who fall through the cracks for whatever reason.  S/he says s/he wants to find true love with someone of the same, or different, color; the same, or different, gender.

Your child goes on to say s/he believes in God or disbelieves in God, is of a particular religion or no religion at all.  S/he assures you that you have done a good job as parents and that s/he hopes to have or not have children someday, in some way; that s/he wants the choice, or no choice, on his/her decision regarding reproductive rights.

You get the picture…

Will you approve of your child and wish him/her well, whichever path s/he chooses?   Or will you want to define his/her life, liberty and pursuit of happiness so that you feel good about it?

Freedom begins at home.  Encourage your child to become who s/he is and pursue what makes him/her happy.

Angst Away! Why we post politics on facebook

July 11, 2012

A friend of mine contacted me on facebook, bothered by the growing number of political postings I have made lately. Another friend defended me.  I looked back on my past month or so of facebook activity and saw that, yes, I have become pretty involved in the Obama-Romney campaign, as have many of my friends from across the political spectrum.

I suppose that my one friend’s criticism has to do philosophically with what facebook is for and what we want to see from each other using facebook.  Some of us hate the game apps and the ‘share if you really care’ mandates, things like that.  Others get tired of pictures of food and posts like “Yum, look what I made!”

There are pretty much no rules for facebook, but my friend’s comment, which also favored my more frequent postings about bourbon and beer, got me to thinking: why do we post politics on facebook?

I can answer only for myself and I hope some of you will respond with your thinking on this, because to me, part of facebooking is to inform, think and act; part is entertaining; part is mindless escape; and part is socializing and staying in touch when we can’t meet face to face so often.

But the politics, specifically?  I spent the past hour pondering that question, just me, myself, and I.  First, there is the angst — what is happening to our country and to our discourse? What’s next? Will the other shoe drop?

My thirst for answers and awareness is another reason for my political posts and comments. Maybe if I post this quote or that link or the latest graphic, someone armed with facts will clarify things for me, validate my understanding or correct my misconception, all for the better. Maybe it will all help me make sense of what is going on and what I can and should do about it.

But it’s not so easy. My friends are all smart and engaging; some liberal, some conservative, some unknown or undeclared. Most of us use the same tools to comment on politics — great quotes, slanted articles, cherry-picked facts, gotcha statements, paraphrased comments from high-profile people, compelling graphics, or funny but stinging posters.

Occasionally, someone blows my mind with some deeper, critical thinking, that either reassures my position or effectively challenges it.

But little I see or read here ever makes it crystal clear. There remains so much gray area, so much emotional reaction. My angst remains.

There is also our competitive nature. We don’t like to be wrong so we sometimes ignore or spin an unwanted ‘fact’ or rebut it with one we dig up somewhere. And it is very difficult to know who is accurate and who is not, and when they are on target.

Having lost trust in some of our so-called experts and political leaders, and in our journalists, we turn to each other for answers, and posting on facebook is one way we lean on those we trust.  In doing so, we also exercise our sense of civic responsibility, helping to get the word out on the issues and events that will shape us all.

A good thing I’ve noticed is that facebook friends seem to have an intuitive sense of an imminent tipping point, where the next adversarial comment might stir the pot too much; we tend to back off or concede the point that all that can be said has been said, and we move on. Sometimes one of us will break the ice with comic relief, or a positive comment on friendship. It’s sweet and mutually respectful, and is often followed by a brand new post, something lighter, something trivial, or something we can all agree on that raises the number of LIKE clicks on a series of threads. Or, like the comment that kicked off this blog today, one of us will call somebody out. In this case, it came from a friend I highly respect and care about. Knowing how he thinks, it made me think, and when I think, I usually end up writing about it; thus this blog today. (Thanks, CP.)

For the record, friends, I welcome all opinions. It is how I learn about the issues and policies, about how people think, and about how we interpret information. I wish we could all get all of the information and that we could trust its sources and its veracity, but we can’t.  It makes me appreciate all who care enough to participate in the conversation, as well as all who opt out and instead facebook about other things within this funny old life on planet earth.

It’s a long three or four months until the election.  It could get pretty intense. For my part, I think I will limit my comments in response to others’ posts and also limit my political posts overall.  This way, each one I do make might be more meaningful or useful to raising awareness or contributing to the discussion. It might also quell some of my angst and raise my productivity at work. And maybe, just maybe, I will finally clean the pool.

But first, one more thing on this.  The graphics we all post sometimes contain a condescending statement that questions the mentality of the “other side”.  Don’t take those to heart. We post them for their underlying messages, we post them in part for entertainment value or for humor, just as we watch Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert for that same recipe of ingredients.

In the end, we all care about each other and our country and our world. We have children and grandchildren who rely on us. We have friends and family, co-workers and clients, households and communities. People we love and people we cross paths with.  We have to find the right answers for all of them, collectively.  What makes it tougher is that we are all wired differently. No two people witness an experience exactly alike.  We are each a unique being, of whom it can be said the best of our common denominators is the goodness within our heart.  And that gives me hope for our country and our world.

On that note, I’ll return to facebook and post a link to this blog. Tonight, I’ll have a bourbon or a beer… and I’ll let you know when I do.

Peace.

Rob