Friday, October 21, 2016

Learning to Be Confirmation Unbiased

During the presidential election season, all over social media, people post "evidence" that comes from sources with one political leaning or specific intention. While none are truly unbiased, there are ways to sort through the muck. One great way to manage is to find information that challenges our views. To do that in a fair manner, one should give as much passion and time to seeking out unpleasant information that is opposed to our beliefs and stances as one gives to finding information that supports current beliefs.

If you already lean toward specific ideologies and beliefs, and then only seek circles of information that consistently confirm and never challenge that framework, there's a term for it, "confirmation bias", and chances are, your ideologies and beliefs are shaky, at best. At worst, those beliefs can kill people, when those with such bias are allowed to effect legislation and rules for the rest of us, or when average people decide to allow their biases to affect others' right to life and freedom.

Challenge your comfort zone and welcome others of and in the world to take you out of your personal status quo. Through allowing others to challenge our beliefs, our beliefs are either fortified, adjusted, or they are changed altogether.

It's how we learn and grow. Changing your mind or not being able to make up your mind is not weakness, it is strength. It fortifies and grows the mind to be flexible in thinking. And sometimes, issues are so complex, once we allow more information in, there can be no cut and dry solution or stance, because reductionism marginalizes and trivializes.

Anyone who truly understands an issue can argue for or against that issue with equal fervor and breadth, because they can explain all sides.

It gives us greater ability to be able to protect ourselves against tyranny and injustice when strategizing in a geopolitical sense, in business, or in our personal lives. And when need be, it also adds a sense of humility and compassion to our stances, so we are able to deeply understand the view of our supposed enemy.

So, challenge your mind's comfort and step outside the norm. Take a different path home and see what you find.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gentle Friends

When I was a baby, my mother purchased a Lenox china 3-piece porcelain gift set that she saved and used as I grew a bit older and more capable of handling such wares.  The series was known as "Gentle Friends" and featured unique rhyming couplets on both the plate and bowl.  The plate reads, "Our world is full of sweet flowers blooming bright and gay!  We love the things that make life good and bring us happy days!"  The bowl, which I used more often, read, "I should never feel alone, wherever I may be. So many gentle friends are near whom one can scarcely see."

That last rhyme, the one on the bowl, resonated with me throughout my life.  I am definitely one who stops to smell the flowers.  In fact, when I was very young, about six years old, I'd often be late for school, despite leaving home in plenty of time, so that I could watch a cloud float by, say hello to a dog, chase a butterfly, or literally stop to bury my face in the neighbor's flowers.  I always found peace in nature and I never felt alone, even when I seemingly was. My childhood, while I was able to lose myself in Nature, was often met with great difficulty, obstacles, and sometimes immense sadness and fear, markedly different from the way an ordinary child's life usually is.

Well, I'm not sure what made me think of it- perhaps it was Facebook adding a new "bio" feature to tell the public something about oneself that made me think of that little rhyme, that it should be my motto. I wondered who wrote it. Did Lenox have poets on staff, ready to whip out timeless bits of lifetime wisdom back in 1976? So, I did a search and found a poem by American poet, Abbie Farwell Brown called, Friends, and when I read it, it made me cry happy tears.  It really does embody a huge part of my life's philosophy in a beautifully simple way. While even a small child can understand the words, sometimes the simplest words, no matter one's age or sophisticated wisdom, hold the truest, most profound meaning:

How good to lie a little while
And look up through the tree!
The Sky is like a kind big smile
Bent sweetly over me.

The Sunshine flickers through the lace
Of leaves above my head,
And kisses me upon the face
Like Mother, before bed.

The Wind comes stealing o'er the grass
To whisper pretty things;
And though I cannot see him pass,
I feel his careful wings.

So many gentle Friends are near
Whom one can scarcely see,
A child should never feel a fear,
Wherever he may be.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Helping you with Retrograde Mercury- January 2016

As of 8 AM ET, that zippy, full of energy planet we all know and love, for seemingly wreaking havoc, went retrograde as if to say, "Fuck your New Year!" But let's take a look at what's happening in the world and maybe, I can help you make the best of spitfire Mercury.

Firstly, before even looking at the transits, fair warning for retrograde Mercury dictates the following:

  1. Do Not Buy. Well, don't buy anything that has electronic components and refrain from making large purchases.
  2. Do Not Sign. Negotiate, but do not sign contracts, as they will be imperfect and flawed.
  3. Do Not Trade. The Market is usually awful at this time.  People get ripped off, scammed, conned. Caveat emptor.
  4. Mail is Delayed. If you have an important deadline, plan well in advance.  Be patient if you are the recipient.
  5. Travel is Delayed. Traffic is a mess, flights are delayed.  Plan ahead.  Pack your bags the night before.

If just looking at Mercury (the little glyph that looks like a stick figure wearing a half-moon hat), it is making some short-lived angles to Venus and Mars, with slower Jupiter in tow.  Lasting until the 10th, is a square to Mars.  It is imperative that thinking come before action.  With Mercury falling back to Capricorn and Mars sitting in Scorpio, in the next few days, we might find ourselves involved in some nasty altercations, if we are unable to curb the actions our brains want us to take.  This aspect will be highlighted in society by battles for control of power- this could mean anything from parent/child relationships, to opposing countries... little pissing matches that can get very ugly.

Mercury's sextile to Venus in Sagittarius and its trine to Jupiter in Virgo mean that people will have sharp tongues, especially in the name of perceived "truth".  Unlike Venus in Libra which tends toward diplomacy, Venus in Sag cuts through the quick with honesty.  Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, Mercury's opposite.  Virgo is also Mercury-ruled.  So, if you are one of the people who is going to use this energy to push thoughts or ideas in the name of indignant "truth" (which is really another term for Ego), be cautious not to gloss over details, as the universe, and society-at-large, also feels this push as equally as you and it will not take kindly to the manipulation of honesty at this time; and on the flip side, it will reward those who are truly working toward reasonable truth... so Big Mouth, Beware!

I'll update tomorrow and will add information for the next coming days, because soon, the Sun, Mercury(R), Pluto, and the Moon will all be in Capricorn, and an added semi-square with Venus and Saturn in Sagittarius will enable further discussions as people push for unwavering truth.

Overall, I'll say that the Sun in Capricorn trine to Jupiter in Virgo gives people the greatest ability to really weed out the bullshit.  If you have been treated poorly and unjustly, now is the time to plan and meditate on how to speak out, and might be a great time to act if other aspects of your chart are favorable.  If you must act, stop and think, first.  If you're a Gemini, get one of those adult coloring books that are all the rage and a whole bunch of pencils, markers, and crayons to sit with until this all blows over- try to remain argument free, because it won't fare well for you in the end.  For Virgo, I generally say the same thing, but with Jupiter in Virgo and with its trine to Pluto, go for it, Virgo, and expect unexpected positive gain.

Until tomorrow!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

From Our Cold, Dead Hands (A.K.A. Thank You, Bartender, Pour Me Another)

I listened to a sound bit of Nevada Assemblywoman, Michele Fiore's interview with BBC Radio Live at 5 Breakfast broadcaster, Nicky Campbell. Not being familiar with either party or the event leading to the interview, I listened in as unbiased a fashion as possible. Campbell was lambasting Fiore's opinion about one's right to own guns. Sarcastically, Campbell struck, clearly attempting a provocation of emotional response from listeners to lean toward his perspective— that Fiore was in someway deranged for sending out a Christmas card depicting her adult family members holding various guns. Campbell mentioned a particular statistic that stated, "Given the fact that more Americans have been killed in gun crime incidents since Bobby Kennedy's death in '68...than have been killed in all conflicts dating back to the War of Independence. Now some people might see this card and think, 'That's absolutely repulsive.'" From there, there was a discussion about more "facts", where Fiore stated that terrorism is a bigger threat to America than guns. Campbell "fired" back with another factoid, as he stated that, "There's a greater threat from firearms than terrorism, excluding 9/11...over eleven thousand have been killed by firearms, compared with 31 deaths linked to terrorism." No sensible person, except maybe Fiore or others who dare to ignore statistics, would disagree with Campbell's assertion.
Based upon Campbell's statement, just how many people have been killed by guns since Bobby Kennedy's death in 1968? In searching for those precise terms, I discovered this original source from the December 21, 2012 PBS News Hour broadcast with guest, Mark Shields. In the conversation, Shields stated the following, "You know, Judy [Woodruff], the reality is — and it’s a terrible reality — since Robert Kennedy died in the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the — all the wars, all the wars of this country’s history, from the Revolutionary through the Civil War, World War I, World War II, in those 43 years." On January 18 of the following year, Politifact ran a follow-up piece that detailed just precisely what the total number of deaths were from all conflicts of war up until that point.  Using data from 2010, it appeared that 1,171,177 American deaths occurred from the Revolutionary War through to Iraq.  The number of firearm-related deaths from the time of Robert Kennedy's death is 1,384,171.
The National Institute of Health's, National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 1997 report on the Epidemiology of Alcohol Problems in the United States makes one take a closer look at, perhaps, a more or equally troubling issue.  I find difficulty in accepting a War on Gun Ownership, as we continue to promote, without discussion and without regard to true consideration for human well-being, alcohol. We blatantly disregard the fact that alcohol related deaths are close to three times the rate of gun related deaths. We promote and glorify a drug that has destroyed more lives than, maybe, we will ever be able to count; still, we struggle to merely research alternative therapies (because, let's call a spade a spade, all you drinkers self-medicate, no different than any other person's choice to self-medicate, albeit, considering any of the litany of ways one may do so).

I am a person whose family (on either side) has never owned, nor will ever own guns, and I've never even shot a real gun, though I once proudly hit a target bullseye from 50 feet away when trying my neighbor's BB gun. As someone who has not wanted to own a gun, I am finding it difficult to criticize those in our society who claim that "the government wants to take away our guns." At first, I thought they were all a little cuckoo, but one by one, each major media outlet from every corner of the globe began a harsh campaign against Americans and our vast gun ownership to the point of some small, practically insignificant (for the intent and purpose of finding the smallest fish in the biggest sea) assemblywoman from Nevada getting criticized and heckled on an International radio show. Indeed we live in a small world, a tiny Earth with a massive agenda. 
Here are some facts according to the NIAAA, taken from the above epidemiological paper:

  • About 1 in 3 traffic fatalities is alcohol related.

  • When adding together other kinds of deaths like suicide or homicide, car accidents, or diseases, alcohol is the 3rd leading killer of people in the United States behind cancer and heart disease.

  • Nearly one-half of drowning, gunshot, and homicide victims were found to be positive for alcohol use.

  • Regular drinkers have 2 times the risk of death from stroke than non-drinkers.

  • 40% of people on probation for criminal offenses were under the influence of alcohol at the time they committed the crime. 

    According to the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tenth Special Report to Congress on Alcohol and Health, the following are also true:
    • Approximately 14 million Americans—7.4 percent of the population—meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

    • The overall economic cost of alcohol abuse in the U.S. in 1998 was estimated at $184.6 billion. Using the average rate of inflation of 3.37%, that means that the total economic loss due to alcohol abuse in 2015 was $238.5 billion, though the CDC estimates are much higher. 70% of those losses were due to decreased productivity caused by premature death or illness.
    The fact is, since Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the estimated total number of alcohol-related deaths per year is 88,000.  In other words, in the past 47 years, there have been an estimated 4,136,000 deaths in the United States directly attributed to alcohol.

    If we compare the number of alcohol-related deaths to the number of gun-related deaths, or,

    4,136,000 alcohol related deaths / 1,384,171 gun-related deaths, one is 2.98 times more likely to die from alcohol than one is from a firearm.

    To be fair and so the reader understands where my personal compass points, it's important to note my thoughts on both alcohol and guns:

    I love a delicious alcoholic beverage now and then, especially my favorite and very hard-to-find beer, Samichlaus, or a margarita made with silver tequila and Chambord.  I have many positive and negative, personal anecdotes I could share about alcohol, beginning with being busted by a Philly cop on Algon Avenue when I was 11 years old (I was brazenly walking with a 12oz bottle of Budweiser, right down the sidewalk, in broad daylight) and ending with waking up in the middle of a field when I was 13, as Tommy and I vomited like the Corsican Twins for several hours after cutting school and downing a bottle of Seagrams 7 whisky. 

    I do not believe in glorifying alcohol and I also believe that people drink because it is the only cheap, legal way for people to alter their consciousness (not withstanding the millions of Americans who are hopped up on prescription pain killers), since cannabis and other, much safer means of consciousness alteration have been wrongly demonized and halted in their research due to the War on Drugs, harsh drug scheduling, and mass government and media propaganda. 

    While not being a fan of guns, the skill of target shooting has always seemed like it might be fun. I also like certain gun designs and can appreciate the level of destruction guns wield, whether or not the user's intent is considered right action by the masses. I have also had positive and negative experiences with guns, though mostly negative.  
    In my mind, gun control is a great idea when it comes to criminal background checks, psychiatric evaluation, and requirements for gun safety education.  I think people should be able to own all the guns they want, assuming other criteria are met, and I oppose restrictions on magazine capacity or type of gun.  Lastly, I don't really feel safer knowing people have guns, but I also accept that history has shown it's better to have an armed citizenry when it comes to protection from tyrannical government oppression.

    I think our president, who bottles his own beer in the White House, has done a great job during his terms in office through measures such as aiding economic recovery, health care reform, and by reducing the number of non-violent offenders held in prison, but he, along with other government leaders, fueled by a vast media campaign, is drawn toward gun control.  I can't help but ask why, in light of the undeniable facts, such a campaign exists. It really is enough to make a person paranoid that there is a clear anti-gun agenda centered on logical inconsistencies, to not only "take away our guns", but to create a world campaign to shame Americans in the world at-large, through sensationalized journalistic drivel as portrayed by the likes of Nicky Campbell and others.  

    If we are worried that crazy people have guns and will shoot us, well, why can't we agree to compromise and say that certain standards must be met that make us all feel safer?  Why can't we have national incentive programs for states that enact laws promoting gun safety, like mental health background checks or mandating gun safety education?

    Through all of my opinion or personal standpoint, no one, at least no one who is honest and agenda-free, can deny that society's focus on which bad guy to destroy in the vast battle of Good vs. Evil should definitely move the scope of its focus away from guns and onto the likes of heart disease, cancer, and alcohol, the three deadliest, most destructive factors facing Americans today.