I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
February 17, 2018 - 10:25 a.m.
It's before 8:30 and I'm writing; who stole the real Gordon? No, this is me, I just realized I was an idiot. I bought bagels yesterday and forgot to freeze them. Hopefully they will be edible after toasting. I only bought two. I got these while waiting for the train after therapy. They are good, not great, and not cheap. That's why I got only two. I did research and found that there is a bagel shop with a great reputation near the Pelham Bay Park train station that I always use. The problem is that they close at noon. On Tuesday I'm seeing I'm With Her at Fordham at noon. That's exciting but I'm also excited as that means I can buy bagels on the way there. I should get three extra to give to Aoife, Sarah, and Sara. Some fans bring flowers; I have class, I bring bagels.
As I alluded to, yesterday was therapy. It was a strange session, more like blog digest. I was feeling good, so I just told her what I did during the week. She asked me if there were anything I was avoiding talking about. I thought about it, there wasn't. Being in a good mind set is not the best thing for therapy. There was one thing I talked about that she said was significant. I agree. One of the strange things I pride myself on is being a good patient. That includes mental patient.
I also pride myself on dressing properly for the weather. When I left the house, it was 57° and dry. I thought I had checked the forecast and it wasn't going to cool down or rain till after I got back home. I was wrong. By the time I was on my way home, it was 46° and drizzling to light rain. All I was wearing was two hoodies. That wouldn't be bad if I didn't have to stand outside and wait for buses; the stops had no shelters. I timed one well to minimize my wait and got lucky at the transfer where I have no control. Still, it wasn't pleasant.
Getting home wasn't better, the furnace was broken. The repair guy can't come until today. The temperature continued to drop to the thirties, so this was an issue. It's a gas furnace and I'm unfamiliar with it so I couldn't tinker with it much. I became expert at restarting my oil furnace in my old house. I tried the most basic of all solutions. What do you try on any electric or electronic device that isn't working? Right, I turned it off, counted to ten, and turned it back on. That worked. I'm cool now, I wonder if it shut off again. We didn't cancel the repairman, so even if it is, it should be fixed.
Now to go on to epistemology; The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion (The Oxford Living Dictionaries). This is not an abstract discussion but something that bears directly on two issues at the forefront of public discussion, school shootings, and the Russian interference in the election.
Most, if not all My Gentle Readers have read that the Broward County tragedy was the 18th school shooting this year. I'm sure many of you have repeated that horrifying "fact." Notice the scare quotes, it's not a fact. I was immediately suspicious. We are 48 days into the year, school shootings are major news events, do you remember them coming every three or four days like that number would require? We've had many but not that many. Thanks to my Google Now links that inform me of things I should know in the mysterious way that Google has, I was led to items in USA Today and the Washington Post debunking the number. According to USA Today, (No, there have not been 18 school shootings already this year) there have been 6 while Wapo (Eighteen years of gun violence in U.S. schools, mapped), there have been seven. The USA goes into more detail. The number 18 comes from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group. This is where epistemology comes in; you have to suspect information from advocacy groups, many are in the propaganda business. The 18 is not a lie, it's what Al Franken on his old Air America show would call, "Weasel Words;" facts presented in a way to deceive. Picture a school shooting. What is in your mind, someone in a school shooting at students and faculty. What they were counting was any discharge of a firearm that happened on or even near a school, whether accidental or deliberate and with no consideration if anyone was hurt. It includes suicides. It includes a third grader accidentally shooting a police officer's gun at a wall. It includes a gun fired off campus and the bullet hitting the school building and nobody getting hurt.
My natural epistemological style is to doubt things like that and check their veracity. Unfortunately, many people's style is to say, "I can use it to argue my point, so I believe it." Donald Trump is the king of that viewpoint. Don't be like Donald.
Another "fact" that people have been getting wrong, the AR-15 is not an automatic weapon or a machine gun. I have seen so many people saying it is. It's a semi-automatic, it requires a separate trigger pull for each shot. The Second Amendment advocates love jumping on those inaccuracies. It lets them dismiss everything else you say; "they don't know what they are talking about." If you follow closely you'll find them often making that argument.
I'm not saying that six or seven shootings is not a big deal, it's a disaster. I'm not saying that the AK-15 is not a dangerous weapon that needs to be controlled. I'm saying that when you make mistakes and use weasel words you undermine, not strengthen the cause. You give license for your opponents to do it. You lower the level of rational discourse and reduce policy arguments to who can shout the loudest.
The reason the Russians were able to interfere in our election was that Americans let them. I'm not saying the government, I'm saying the citizens. People did not question lies that furthered their beliefs; they then repeated them. One reason we can't determine the size of the effect they had is that the Russians weren't doing anything that Americans weren't doing. They were amplifying a domestic problem and it's difficult to ascertain how much.
I have that Pro-Truth badge on the bottom of this page because striving for accuracy is important. I'm trying to source my facts, so My Gentle Readers can check on them themselves. That is not the kind of writing I enjoy doing. I came close to not writing this because I didn't want to do the work and I didn't want to post it without the research. I spend so much time thinking about these things that I had to. I think about this every day. I could write about it every day. A friend of mine, an intelligent friend, educated in a STEM field once quoted a totally unreliable source to me. I said, "You know that he admitted that he'll lie to further his goals." She came back with, "That doesn't mean this isn't true." Technically she's right. A liar can sometimes tell the truth. Someone ignorant can guess right. But that misses the entire point. It means you shouldn't repeat what the person said without other facts to back it up. I have no interest in Trump's unverified claims. There is no reason to believe them and the point that I'm making is that we need reasons to believe things.
I'm going to the wilds of New Jersey to see the Kennedys tonight. That means that tomorrow I'll be writing about music. I know My Gentle Readers prefer that. It's much easier for me to write. But sometimes there are things that I need to write, and this was one of them. Now I need to eat a bagel with my breakfast. That's living.
I signed the Pro-Truth Pledge:
please hold me accountable.
Bus Wheels On A Gravel Road - February 23, 2018
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