Thursday, November 12, 2020

Debating is EZ. Winning the debate, maybe not so much

My comments in a Facebook discussion regarding actions suggested by public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19. John, referenced below, is not a never-masker, but many of our mutual friends are. In the FB discussion, they were maintaining that it was their God-given right to not wear a mask, to not stay at home, and to not limit the size of gatherings they sponsor or attend. John commented that COVID-19 was much different than HIV because it was less deadly and that each person should be able to choose how much risk they were willing to accept. My point has been all along: It’s not how much risk each person is individually willing to accept, it’s how much their actions increase the degree of risk of others who have no say in the matter.

“Thank you, John, for helping me so clearly understand my points in this respectful discussion.

HIV didn't scare me. (Not that I'm especially scared of COVID, either, but that's mostly because of my hope in Christ.) Why didn't HIV scare me? Once we understood the mechanics of transmission, I realized that I had a significant degree of control over my level of risk. I chose to avoid risky behavior and that made me a very unlikely victim of HIV. Very unlikely, but still some small risk from the possibility of blood transfusion, etc. Life is not ever without risk, yet I believe we have the responsibility to control risk where we can practically do so.

I don't have the same degree of control over my risk with COVID. I can do all I can do, yet I can't be sure that an infected and unmasked person won't spread droplets in my vicinity, or sneeze on that food package that the 'no contact' deliveryman will leave at my doorstep later. And I don’t have the choice to not breathe or get groceries—I’m not ready to live naked in the wilderness and subsist on locusts and wild honey.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus taught us that a Christian should rise above the mere avoidance of doing evil to reach the ideal of not even thinking of evil (as in Matthew 5:27-28) AND in Matthew 25:40, he taught that we are to ensure that we do good and not harm even unto the least of our brothers and sisters. In Luke, he teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves. As I read the scriptures and try to apply them to my daily walk (which I am much less than perfect in doing), I can not understand how I could knowingly fail to take steps to even *possibly* protect others--even the least of these. In this, I'm not even being asked to go so far as to cross over the road to aid and comfort the wounded. I'm just being asked to not harm or further hurt him.

The risk of death from COVID is lower than that of HIV and it appears to be lower now than earlier this year. Thank God for that. These statistics are cold comfort to the loved ones of the 240,000 COVID victims in the U.S. How many of those deaths may have been prevented by simply taking responsibility to be, at least a little bit, our brother's keepers? We will not know in this lifetime.”


Monday, October 19, 2020

Maintaining perfection must not be EZ!

Today, I have to admit to taking extraordinary joy in another’s mistake. Noting, if you will, the clay feet of one of my heroes.

I don’t think it’s Schadenfreude. I certainly wish him no ill. I did, of course, have to jump into the fray with other followers in calling him out in public. But he is a public figure, so I figure that’s OK. I also believe he has a well-developed sense of humor and will take the ribbing well.

His mistake was not a very serious one – he simply posted to Facebook a meme. I don’t believe it was a meme of his creation—simply cute, timely, and presenting all the attributes to make it worth sharing. With one exception: There was an error in the text of the meme. A fairly obvious error. It is very likely that his forward-sharing of the meme, error and all, will have no negative impact on anyone. But it is funny.

What makes it especially funny (sweet?) is that the poster in question is none other than the well-known and highly-regarded internet publisher Randy Cassingham. With his publication, This is True, and other associated media such as a podcast, the True Stella Awards, and articles published here on Medium, Randy promotes the application of common sense and the use of our mental faculties to think about things. Randy has been publishing on the internet since before publishing on the internet was a common thing to do. He has proven himself to be persistent, reliable, and astute—normally well-written and a smooth verbal presenter. I have been a satisfied paid subscriber to his This is True newsletter for years and I have learned to respect him and his opinions, even if we disagree occasionally.

Randy’s minor Facebook faux-pas doesn’t change any of that. If anything, such a sign of his humanity only makes me feel a stronger link of brotherhood.

Much of what Randy publishes is very funny—most of it is very enlightening—and nearly all of it makes me think. That, according to Randy is his goal.

Thanks, Randy, for showing you are not perfect and for allowing a laugh at your expense to brighten my day.

 

Do yourself a favor: Follow Randy here on Medium (https://medium.com/@ThisIsTrue),

on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsTrue),

and subscribe to his This is True newsletter (https://ThisIsTrue.com).

 

Published October 19, 2020 at https://medium.com/@dan.g.moyes/randys-random-error-50dbf5abac38.

  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Reminiscing is EZ; International Travel, not so much.

A question posted to Quora asked: “Have you, as a U.S. citizen, ever been denied entry to another country?”  Well, pull up a chair, children. I've a tale to tell:

Oh, yes! In 1990 I was living in Okinawa, Japan, working for the U.S. Military as a health-and-safety specialist. We provided consultative services to all U.S. organizations (military, State Department, Health and Human Services, etc.) located anywhere on the western edge of the Pacific Rim area from Alaska to New Zealand. We received a call from the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia for some assistance. I was tagged to make the trip. At this time the only passport that I had was a 'red' U.S. official passport — I had used that for all official travel for two years with no problem — it is what the U.S. Government, as my employer, had issued me. What I didn’t know was that Indonesia, at that time, did NOT recognize the U.S. official passport. All entry by U.S. citizens into Indonesia had to be with the standard 'blue' passport, with, at the least, an airline-issued visa. As I said, I didn’t know. But the good folks from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta knew. They also knew that I would be traveling with my red passport and didn’t bother to tell me about this little ‘detail.’ My transit from Naha was on Northwest Airlines, and *they* didn’t object to my routing and travel documents, either.

Photo by Wendy on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

On my arrival at the customs and immigration desk in Jakarta, the immigration official, dressed in olive drab green military fatigues, took my passport, eyed it, then me, then it, then me…and loudly blew a big chromed whistle hanging from his neck. Looking up I saw two military uniformed men with semi-automatic-looking rifles hanging from their shoulders approaching rather rapidly. The man at the desk handed my passport to one of the military men and told me, “Go with them!” Well, what could I do? With one of the military men on either side of me, we proceeded to walk down the sloping floor of a long hallway away from the arrival area. This was distressing. This was pre- TSA and I’d never been treated like this. Even the facility seemed to echo doom and gloom with sickly yellow sulfur gas-discharge lamps overhead, dark and unpleasant colors on the concrete walls, and a black non-skid rubberized flooring surface. Visions of a dismal, damp concrete-and-steel cell swam through my mind. Ahead I could see large automated glass doors and beyond that a crowded arrival plaza.

As we approached the doors they slid open and, I swear, Agent K and Agent J from Men in Black, suits, ties, sunglasses and all, exited a big black Chevy Suburban and swept quickly into the building. Of course, it couldn't have been Agent K and Agent J. This was seven years before Men in Black was available for viewing. They approached the two Indonesian military men (the guys with the rifles) and began a rapid conversation in Indonesian, I assume. The conversation got a bit heated, with the sunglasses guys doing quite a bit of gesturing and head nodding. Finally, the taller of the sunglasses guys put an arm around the shoulder of one of the Indonesian military men and led him a few paces to the side—their conversation continued in a muted mumble for a few moments. Then the mood lightened and head-nodding seemed the new norm for the four of them. The taller of the sunglasses guys (Agent K?), now with my red passport in his hand, turned to me and said, in English, “Come with us”. Out the glass doors and into the back seat of the black Suburban we went.

As we drove away Agent J says, “Relax. We’re from the U.S. Embassy and we're taking you there.”

“My luggage…?” I asked.

“Taken care of.” Said Agent K.

So it was. I was taken to the embassy compound and introduced to the people I’d be working with for the next few days. They told me I was in the custody of the U.S. Embassy staff rather than in an Indonesian jail as a courtesy to the U.S. extended due to goodwill by President Suharto. The embassy official made it very clear that I was not, under any circumstances, to leave the embassy compound. Well, not too tough. I was escorted to a deluxe room near the embassy restaurant and club, poolside. There I found that all the creature comforts of a tropical resort were available for me in my off-duty time. Off duty staff, spouses, and family were relaxing around the pool outside my door. Some were being served exotic cocktails by white-coated wait staff. My luggage and professional equipment were already in my room. Not a bad way to spend a workweek.

When my work was done with the embassy’s medical staff, I got a ride in the black Suburban back to the airport where I was escorted by the two sunglassed agents into the custody, again, of armed uniformed guards. The guards took me to the outgoing customs/immigration desk where the officer there stamped my passport with the date and, in bright red, the words, “DEPORTED—REENTRY DENIED; DIUNDANG—DITENTUKAN.” I caught my Northwest Airlines flight back to Okinawa and found I’d been upgraded to international business class. I had not requested an upgrade.

So, this is how I got deported from Indonesia. It still irks me that the embassy staff there allowed me to walk into the situation unaware. In 1990, the internet was in its infancy, and it wasn’t so easy to research State Department advisories and travel information on the various countries. I had depended on the travel staff in Okinawa, the airline, and my U.S. Embassy hosts to let me know what I needed to know. In the end, they took good care of me, but I’ve got to admit to being a bit frightened as I was led away from the immigration clerk’s desk. Thanks, men in black, for keeping my week in Indonesia safe! 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Self-Knowledge? Not EZ!

I have found that I rarely know what I believe or what my opinion is on any given matter until I try to write about it.

Then, having written about it, I find that I need to amplify, clarify, or modify the thoughts expressed in my writing. 

Clarity of thought! Who has it?

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Memes are not EZ.

 

NRA vs BLM

A recent Facebook-posted meme gave me pause. It posed the question: Why does BLM have to answer for looters, but the NRA doesn't have to answer for school shooters. 

My first impression was that the root intent of that meme, rather than to call out any organization's failures, is to further drive a stake into the heart of our society's ailing and fragile unity. Further thought yielded the following: 

I am not an NRA member. I do not, in any way, support or defend the current 'leadership' of the NRA as I believe they are a corrupt and self-serving group of individuals who have cheated their membership and seriously need to be brought before the bar of justice. I also recognize that the NRA has morphed over the years into a very powerful lobbying entity. A separate issue to me, as I believe paid lobbying should be outlawed along with private money in federal politics in general. That's a long story--if interested, you could see my blog at https://ez-dunne.blogspot.com/2020/05/stay-at-home-makes-it-ez-to-rant.html for my opinion on money in politics.

However:

The NRA was founded in 1871 by a lawyer and an NYT reporter. It was, in their words, to be an organization that promoted marksmanship, personal responsibility, and safety. The NRA firearm training is currently used to train over 1 million people a year to be safe, ethical, responsible shooters, and instructors. The current membership of the NRA consists of 40% women and 40% minorities with an average member age of 42. I am unable to find a single instance where an accredited NRA member (let alone an NRA leader) publicly called for violence or mass shootings or perpetrated such actions. There is nothing I can find in NRA literature that supports violence or unlawful behavior against persons or property.

So far as I can ascertain, there has NEVER been a mass-shooting done by an NRA member. National statistics show that legal gun owners are MUCH less likely to commit a felony than people who are either not gun-owners at all or hold guns unlawfully. In at least two cases near my former home in San Antonio, NRA members have been the 'good guys with guns' who stopped mass shootings from being much worse. First, in Austin at UTA in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother then calmly went and shot and killed 14 other innocents from the Bell Tower. That rampage was put to an end when an armed civilian and--NRA member--led two Austin police officers to the top of the tower where they could stop Whitman's rampage. More recently, in 2017, NRA-certified firearms instructor Stephen Williford interrupted, shot, and chased the man who killed 26 members of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

Has the NRA, as an organization, honorably fulfilled their duty to speak out against violence? Not in my opinion. They could and should do more.

On the other hand, instances of BLM supporters (and those called leaders within the decentralized organization) calling for violence and murder are legion. It has become so common since founding of the movement in 2012-2013 that it's hard to catalog them all. I find it interesting and amazing that BLM has received hundreds of millions of dollars of support (well over $200 million of it well-documented from oil heiress Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Thousand Currents [Susan Rosenberg's organization--you may recall that she is a convicted felon for bombing civilian buildings in the Northeast and D.C.], and the Ford Foundation) and has banking accounts but no official 'leaders.' Somebody has to sign a signature card for those bank accounts, and apparently, a great deal of the legal and financial work of BLM falls under the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. Somebody runs that organization, I'd wager.

As far back as early 2017, Yusra Khogali, a self-proclaimed BLM leader, called for the violent murder of all white people--lacking that, she supports genetically eliminating whites.

Patrice Cullors defines herself publicly as a 'trained Marxist' and says that her cofounders, Alicia Garza (winner of the Humanitarian Award for the Commission on Hispanic Affairs in my home state of Idaho) and Opel Tometi are also. She and her cohorts have the right to their beliefs and to speak on them. Two points: (1) I hope she understands that it is our liberal Constitution as interpreted through our courts after much sacrifice and hard work by those working for universal equal rights (a work that isn't completed yet) that guarantees her those rights*, and (2) I wonder who trained her? We do know that she is a protege of Eric Mann of the Weather Underground, an organization famous for espousing and committing violence. Ms. Cullors praises the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and the Brown Beret organizations, all with checkered histories of violence.

Having said this, I think you can see why I find it somewhat misinformed or disingenuous to compare BLM and NRA. It would have been much more correct, in my opinion, to compare BLM and the awful Proud Boys organization.

I wish to note that I support some, but not all, of the BLM movement's goals. In some cases my support has caveats. In particular, I support:

  • Ending mass incarceration for non-violent offenses
  • Reforming police structures and strategy and using enforcement funding in ways that support communities and mental health
  • Changes in policing culture to reduce/eliminate excessive use of force
  • Holding police officers and their leadership responsible for the unlawful treatment of citizens
  • Investment in public education (while ensuring the funds go to classrooms, teachers, and students and not just to administration and unions)
  • Decriminalizing sex work (without decriminalizing non-consensual sex trafficking)
  • Abolishing cash bail
  • Eliminating redlining in housing and business finances
  • Recognizing that no lives matter if black lives do not

While I support what I define as worthy goals, I will not speak in support of nor materially support any organization that promotes violence or mutely allows others to promote violence in their name. I have recently canceled my subscription to the Ford Foundation specifically because of the BLMs failure to condemn violence. I also do not support the NRA financially. 

* Added 9/6/2020: I believe the 'Founding Fathers' gave us a very valuable document in the Constitution as a starting point--they knew times would change and that much of it as accepted then was a compromise--thus they provided a process for improving and modifying the Constitution as needed over time. Perhaps the most precious part of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, is a product of that process for modification. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

This seems it should be EZ to understand.

Re: The Kenosha, Wisconsin shooting of Jacob Blake:

Due process must apply to all or it becomes just a capricious privilege for the select few. Note that in saying this, I also support proper due process for the police officer involved in this tragic-for-all incident. Rioting and looting by mobs robs business owners and their innocent employees, homeowners and renters, and taxpayers victimized by the looting and destruction of their right to due process.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The EZ way, or the humane way?

I am seeing a lot of people ending relationships this year with family and long-time friends over disagreements in politics. Generally, but not always, such statements I have seen are authored by relatively young people who proclaim alliance with left-leaning politics and the ‘party of tolerance and inclusion.’ But not exclusively, as I have seen the phenomena on both sides of the current situation. I’ve seen people blocking or unfriending people they have known since 1970 or before; blocking close family; blocking next-door-neighbors. They call their former associates ‘toxic’ and state that they must eliminate them from their lives for the sake of their own mental health. To these, I say I am sorry to hear your mental health is in such a weak state. Ending a relationship over a disagreement in beliefs is purely selfish—an immature response.

Having said that, I will admit that I have temporarily distanced myself from a few of my contacts at times, admitting that I’m simply tired of hearing their opinions or rants. I have not permanently blocked any friend or family member—to my knowledge I have not ‘ended’ any relationships over politics.

Before you color me a troll, allow me to state that I am a life-long political conservative who believes strongly in truth (even if uncomfortable), justice, equality of opportunity, freedom of thought and speech and association, and has, to my memory, never voted a straight ticket. I have no respect for Mr. Trump and consider him unfit for his office. I did NOT vote for him in 2016  and will not vote for him in 2020.

The echo chamber of communications only with like-minded people handicaps your understanding. Association with people who disagree with you helps you to understand, clarify, and deepen your own beliefs. Without challenge or opposite insight beliefs become superficial and without depth of conviction.

 

How to deal with those who are avid supporters of the opposition and their positions and behaviors we strongly dislike and disagree with? I start with a quote attributed by Evelyn Beatrice Hall to Voltaire: "I wholly disagree with what you say and will contend to the death for your right to say it."

Did you ask them why they support who and what they do? When they told you did you listen? Truly listen to see if you could understand deep-seated motivations? Or was that simply too much work for you? Or did you listen to find weak points where you could destroy their argument? What happened when you voiced your beliefs and your disagreements with theirs? When you told them you supported and would vote for the opposition? Did they allow you to tell them why? Or did they banish you? Did they demonstrate their disagreement by becoming violent? Did they call you a moron or an idiot? If so, perhaps you are justified and correct in ending the relationship. If not, I then would ask you, the party ending the relationship, why does it upset you so that others disagree? Do you feel responsible for their thoughts and actions? Or do you wish to exert control and see your political aspirations succeed? Do you understand that by ending the relationship you forfeit any opportunity to influence them for good through long-suffering and example? Or do you fear that your opinion is the wrong one?

I, personally, feel strongly that our country and our freedoms that I hold dear are in jeopardy. As such, I will speak out for my beliefs and I will demand my right to do so. I will speak out against both anarchy and fascism. Remember that denying another the rights you ask for yourself is anathema to freedom and that the suppression of opposition and criticism is the very definition of fascism.

Perhaps If we could find it in our hearts to admit that our connections should not depend on controlling the other person or their beliefs, we could salvage or heal those relationships. If we could heal those relationships, perhaps we could exert, through long-suffering, patience, and love, some righteous influence. If we could exert some influence and heal personal relationships, perhaps we could heal our nation.

If I may quote a FB Project Lincoln member, Dave D’Auria from his post of August 19, 2020: “Being human is a given. But keeping our humanity is a choice… Humanity (Websters): compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition: the quality or state of being humane...

In my opinion, ending relationships over a disagreement in politics is the counter to being humane. You are welcome to your opinion.