Shot of Reason

Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized


We all know how I feel about vaccines. Vaccines do not cause autism and there is no reputable study that proves this.

A recent study released shows that campaigns intended to lure anti-vaccination parents back to the dark side of reason have backfired, turning parents who were lukewarm to the idea into total crusaders against the needle.

What bothered me about the story was not the argument of vaccination vs. anti-vaccination. It’s the core issue of people being turned off when they’re confronted with an opposing view. There was another study done in 2006 when people who considered themselves conservative were shown a fake report arguing the case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were then given a report that factually refuted false report’s claims. Did the test subjects shift their thinking? Nope. Apparently being accosted with facts only strengthened their resolve.

That’s a problem with people that has always bothered me. And this isn’t about conservative vs. progressive, science vs. God, global warming vs. Big Oil. It’s about basic logic and how our biases can so easily overpower our abilities to think straight.

I’ve touched on this before, about thinking. We become quite entrenched in our beliefs and once we reach that state, we can’t be convinced otherwise, facts be damned. We’ll result to all different types of faulty arguments to hang on to our cause, strawman logic, anecdotal evidence, sometimes just outright denial.

But why? Why do we latch on to our personal ideas and refuse to let go? The problem really boils down to one thing: laziness. That’s a dangerous combination. Considering two sides to a debate takes work. Keeping an open mind actually requires intellectual energy that we are either too lazy or too obstinate to maintain.

A closed mind requires no energy. It requires no thought process. It requires no ability to comprehend. It makes life simple because we don’t have to waste time trying to understand a different point of view.

The other danger non-thinking laziness presents is that it propagates pseudo-debates. Thanks to petroleum-funded “research” about global warming, they have managed to create a “debate” about the issue that does not exist. More than 95 percent of climate scientists agree that global warming is real and that it’s our fault. But those who stand to lose billions and possibly trillions to CO2 emissions caps and other regulations have created an image of a two-sided issue. You don’t really need to have a debate, just the appearance of one, to confuse those who haven’t yet made up their mind. Once the undecided people find out which side they’re on politically, they gravitate in that direction and there you go, a contentious issue where there previously was none.

The anti-vaccination folk have now done the same thing and they don’t even have well-funded, contrarian research on their side. The numbers of those without vaccines are going up, as are the number of cases of preventable diseases like whooping cough.

How exactly do you solve this problem? How do you get people to stop blindly going in the direction they’ve always traveled?

It starts with one thing: thinking. But that can’t happen with a closed mind.


Walter White: Republican



Breaking Bad fans are eating up the last episodes of their beloved show and its Nietzschean protagonist Walter White.

Walt has taken us on a wild ride through his transformation as a beleaguered, terminally-ill chemistry teacher to a hell-on-wheels drug kingpin.

Despite the fact he runs his operation in the politically blue state of New Mexico, I personally feel Walt would back the Red candidates in the ballot box.

Now I don’t mean he’s from the new breed of Tea Party Republicans. I’m saying he’s one of the old-school, establishment, Capitalist with a capitol ‘C’ Republicans. Here’s my argument.


1. Imperialist-minded

“I’m in the empire business,” Walt tells Jesse.

Long before he tried to dominate the meth market and taught chemistry, Walt had a stake in a biotech firm called Grey Matter. When his back was against the wall financially, he was bought out by his partners for a paltry sum. After that, Grey Matter took off and Walt missed out on millions.

The meth path gave Walt a second chance at creating his own personal empire. The only difference is now he doesn’t have partners, only alliances.


2. Expects others to save themselves and allows the weak to die

When he faced his own mortality with lung cancer, his pals at Grey Matter offered to help him by paying for his chemotherapy. Repulsed, Walt rejected their charity and chose to come up with funds in his own way, whether it was illegal or not.

When he saw Jane Margolis violently throwing up in bed next to his partner Jesse Pinkman, he let her drown in her own vomit. He justified his act of omission because he felt Jane was dragging Jesse down with their mutual addiction.

Then when Victor and Mike Ehrmantraut had Walt cornered near the meth lab to kill him, Walt urged Jesse to kill Gale Boetticher. Eliminating the timid Gale would leave Gus Fring without a blue meth copycat and Gus would therefore need Walt to continue the operation.


3. Makes uneasy alliances

There are several examples of this throughout the show where Walt needed others’ help either to stay alive or build his empire. Much like a neocon who props up a dictator like Saddam Hussein or funds a rebellion like the Sandinistas, Walt will partner with people who serve his best interests.

His first major partnership is with Jesse Pinkman, a former student in Walt’s chemistry classes. Walt needed Jesse to learn about meth and guide him through the business.

Walt then pairs with Tuco Salamanca in order to get a foothold in the meth market. Once he builds his reputation, Walt works with Gus Fring to mass-produce his blue meth. He would later convince Tuco’s uncle Hector to kill Gus when the reserved kingpin pushes Walt out of the lab. Once Gus is dead, Walt starts his own relationship with cop-turned-criminal Mike Ehrmantraut.

In his latest alliance, Walt employs the help of white supremacists to silence Mike’s men in jail.

Of course there’s a deadly trend with all of those who choose to work with Walt. Eventually they all become his enemies. Thus far, only Jesse has survived.


4. Locked and Loaded

One of the first scenes of the pilot is Walter holding a handgun waiting for danger to come after him. Even before he can see who he’s aiming at, he’s cocked and ready to fire.

Then when things between him and Gus Fring turn south, the first thing Walt did was to buy a revolver and plan to take Gus out. When he runs over the two drug dealers about to kill Jesse, Walt picks up one of their guns and finishes off a dealer who survived the collision. Walt also killed the guard keeping Jesse hostage inside the meth lab at the end of season four.

The opening of the first show in season five shows Walt buying a run-down car with a machine gun in the trunk. We can only imagine what he’s going to do with it at the end of the series.

But we do know that he’s not afraid to arm himself which definitely makes him a proponent of the Second Amendment.


5. He isn’t big on regulation

While there is no direct evidence of this but I’m pretty sure if he had a say in industry regulations, he’d back the less-is-more perspective. No self-respecting Republican would do something to help the drug trade but the Laissez-faire theory still applies, Walt would not want the government in his business.


6. Walt is enamored on the idea of family

Republicans hold dear “family values.” The main reason Walt kicked off his meth career was to ensure his family’s future once he’s gone. Since that time, his imperialistic nature has emerged, which has been nothing but destructive both for his family and his protege Jesse. After finally earning a storage room full of cash, he decides to back out because he’s secured their future.

There’s also been several times where he’s saved Jesse from reckless decisions. He allowed Jane to die (because she exacerbated Jesse’s drug use), Walt used his relationship with Gus to help stop a war between street-level drug dealers and Jesse. When he couldn’t prevent the fight, he outright killed the drug dealers when it looked like they were going to off Jesse.

Jesse has returned the favor including killing Gale and standing up to Gus when Gus wanted to end his affiliation with Walt.

As Mike once said, “What is it with you two?”


7. He supports illegal immigrants

When he had a hard time cleaning up Gus’s meth lab after a solo cook, Walt enticed a group of undocumented workers to help him. After they whipped the lab up spic and span, Gus deported them in revenge.


So there you go. While Walt’s meth is as blue as New Mexico politics, he’s red at the polls— with a straight ticket.

We’re Not There Yet


It’s always sad when the Daily Show has to use humor to point out a huge problem in our society that the media is incapable of reporting.

Yes, we still have a huge problem with race in this country and no, the problem doesn’t just exist merely because we are saying it’s a problem.

As I see it through a white man’s eyes, the crux of the issue is too many white folk refuse to acknowledge that it’s still a problem. Many blacks and Hispanics know all too painfully that abject racism is still around. Just because America has a black president doesn’t mean that all of our racial ills are absolved.

Anytime anyone tries to point out a racial disparity, whites are too eager to say that it’s only an issue because it’s being made an issue. Then to top it off, whites want to call blacks and Hispanics racists because they’re trying to fight for their rights.

Pretending there isn’t a problem is just plum ignorant. When there is a strong reaction among a minority class about anything, it usually means there is something to it.

Nothing highlighted this problem more than the Trayvon Martin case. I’ve written about this case ad nauseum and I won’t go into the details of it. I will restate the central issue of the case’s racial underpinnings: would Trayvon Martin have been let go or acquitted if he killed an armed George Zimmerman? My contention is no, he’d been arrested and charged.

But unfortunately, whites don’t see this conundrum. There are still two Americas, two justice systems and two views on race in this country – black and white.

Whites living between 1865 and 1965 saw what was happening to blacks in this country and willfully chose to ignore it. Now, whites now don’t even see that racism is going on.

I won’t pretend that I know what it’s like to be a minority. I’m a southern, white male and racism is not something I experience. So I can’t fully appreciate what minorities face on a daily basis. I do know enough though to see there are things that need to change.

Yes we have made great strides. We have a black president. There are three women and two minorities on the Supreme Court. The majority of college degrees are earned by women.

Things have progressed.

But there ARE still issues. Until we at least make a step in the right direction and learn about those issues, they’re never going to go away.
My overall fear is not just that racial equality will stagnate; I’m afraid that it will begin to move backwards.

If that happens, recovery will be even harder to come by, especially when people don’t, and won’t, see that a recovery is necessary.

Time and a Half



There are a lot of fringe benefits about our work life that we really owe to unions. We didn’t get them tanks to the goodness of our employers’s hearts. We got them literally through blood. Regardless of what people know of history, workers died to get the 40-hour work week, weekends and overtime.

But there’s always those who are doing everything they can to roll all of that back. The latest attempt? Conservatives want to give employees and employers the option of comp time versus overtime.

Comp time is when you earn time off for every hour you work over 40 as opposed to time and a half wages. Government workers have comp time though it’s not available in the private sector. Conservatives are trying to give them the option.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem so bad. It gives workers the chance to choose time off or the extra money. The conservative argument? ‘We’re trying to provide workers flexibility.’

It’s one thing I can’t stand about conservatives is their intentional framing of certain legislation. They say it’s about helping workers spend time with their families. Come on. We’re not stupid. It’s REALLY about businesses saving money on having to pay overtime.

One thing you won’t hear the conservatives go on about in their efforts to pass comp time is the fact that employers can dictate when and how much comp time you can take off. They can’t tell you how to spend your time and a half.

There are REASONS why we have certain regulations when it comes to work. It’s for the workers. If you’re going to change the law, at least be honest about the reasons why you’re trying to change it.

I think that’s what irks me so much. It’s the syntax that’s diametrically opposite of their intentions. Like ‘No Child Left Behind.’ That wasn’t really about children. It was about shutting down low-performance schools, ergo fewer campuses and higher student-to-teacher ration which means less in taxes.

Then there’s Voter ID, which conservatives said was about reducing voter fraud. Several studies, expensive studies, have concluded that there’s really no such thing.

But the Voter ID initiatives were never really about making sure a voters were who they were at the poll. It was really about keeping poor voters, who likely won’t have an ID and will likely vote Democratic, from showing up at the poll at all. Voter ID was a solution to a non-existent problem.

I’m not naive. I know that’s politics. It’s not too much to ask though to be honest about what you’re trying to do. Don’t say something is for workers when it’s really for businesses. Don’t say something’s about education when it’s really about shutting down schools and reducing taxes.

They should at least have the decency to  hide their misdirections in the bill and don’t say anything about it until it’s made law, you know, like the Democrats did.

(Interesting observation about this post, Andrew Carnegie once pushed violence against his striking union workers. His foundation helped sponsor the Voter ID study.)

Time Was



The 1950s: the days when men were men and women were ribs.

Things were good. People were having lots of babies, buying homes, going to work, earning a pension and creating a booming middle class.

This is was all glorious for the white male of course. Women, fresh out of the factories in World War II, were put back into the home relegated to cooking, cleaning and raising children. Men wanted it that way and they kept it that way.

Minorities? They had to sit in the back of the bus. They couldn’t share the same lunch counter with whites. If they so much as looked at a white woman the wrong way, they risked being lynched or beaten to a pulp. If they had the courage to be a minority leader, they were routinely shot dead.

There are so many conservatives who, if you listen to them, talk fondly of the 1950s. Despite the inequalities, it was a good era economically. Unemployment was low. Inflation was nonexistent. Debt? What was that? A Coke was a nickel. Gas was cheaper. You could pray in public schools. Nobody locked their front doors. People were modest. Homosexuality didn’t exist. Everyone respected authority.

Conservative fundamentalists are trying to drag us back to that decade, claiming that it is quintessential America. Returning to this great time will make America great again. Women need to stop dressing in skimpy clothing. Men need to run the household. We need to stop being promiscuous. The Bible needs to be put back in the classroom.

Exactly who would benefit most from this return to Eden? It would probably the same folks who had it good the first time around. And if you did manage to move America back, the world likely isn’t going to follow.

When you hear the Right wax poetic about this past era, they neglect to mention that almost half of all American workers belonged to a union, minorities were still being killed for no good reason and women were stuck under a Bell jar. I guess we are all supposed to forget about that. We’re supposed to believe that the Post-war age was a great time for everyone and all prospered.

Conservatives want us to buy a version of history that never existed. America has changed. It is time to move forward.

Let’s not forget that the calm, stable 1950s gave birth to the 1960s. Any conservatives want to relive that groovy era?