Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Five out of six Democrats and Republicans are stupid

Okay, I've seen two news articles lately with polls like this. These poll results are powerful indictments of the stupidity of the majority of Republicans, and the majority of Democrats.

Here's one example, but it's only an example. Don't get hung up on it. This is a poll that asks people "Whom do you trust more: Donald Trump, or CNN?"

I saw a very similar diagram last week, for a poll that asked people something like "Do you believe in the Trump-Russia collusion connection?" and I've seen similar diagrams for the health care bill, Supreme Court nominees, James Comey's firing, and so on. Let's paint a generic picture of the results of these polls:

Now, I'm going to use some math here. If you're not very good at math, that's okay. You may have a lot in common with the majority of the people I'm going to talk about here. And if you're offended by my condescending attitude, that's your problem, not mine. Don't look here for an apology.

Let's dissect that figure above. First of all, look at the line marked "Independents". These are people who vote, but who don't consider themselves Democrats or Republicans. Most of them don't identify with any political party - not because they're politically apathetic, but because they prefer to do their own research and weigh the pros and cons of an issue (or a candidate) before making their own decision. The party line does not exist for them.

So you can use the statistics on the Independents as a bellwether: politically, they're atheists, logical, dispassionate, and not swayed by labels like red/blue, liberal/conservative, or Democrat/Republican. In this example poll, you can see that 40 percent of the independents lean pro-Trump on the issue, and 55 percent lean anti-Trump. Let's round that 55 percent up to 60 percent, to make the math easier for this example.

(Those of you who don't understand math and statistics may cry "Not fair!" at my rounding. Relax. 40 vs 60 is being kind to Mr. Trump. I saw a poll in June, where 30 percent of independents leaned pro-Trump and fully 70 percent of independents leaned anti-Trump on the question being asked. How about I use 30 vs 70 instead? No? Then stop whining.)

Now, I'm going to propose a theory. I think that political parties are composed of two kinds of people. One kind actually thinks about an issue or a candidate before they make a decision or form an opinion. The other kind always toes the party line. They only need to know what the party line is - no thinking required.

I'm going to pose a second hypothesis. I have nothing to base this suggestion on, other than my belief in the basic goodness of people, and humanity's natural gifts of logic and reason. I'm going to suggest that, if only the thinking Democrats AND the thinking Republicans were polled, their split would be very similar to the Independent results, as shown above.

This means that it takes some independence of thought for a Republican to lean anti-Trump, or for a Democrat to lean pro-Trump.

So let's give those 9% of Republican respondents who leaned anti-Trump credit for thinking for themselves. Using the 40/60 ratio from the Independents, let's also give 6% of the Republicans credit for using their heads, thinking it out, and coming out pro-Trump.

What does that say about the other 83% of Republicans, the ones who voted the party line without bothering to think? It says that they're stupid.

Is stupid too strong a word? How about sheep? Blind followers? Willfully ignorant?

On the Democrat side, let's give those 5% who leaned pro-Trump credit for thinking for themselves. Again using the 40/60 ratio from the Independents, let's give 8% (I rounded up; so sue me) of the Democrats credit for using their heads, thinking it out, and coming out anti-Trump.

What does that say about the other 83% of Democrats, the ones who voted the party line without bothering to think? It says that they're stupid.

Is stupid too strong a word? How about sheepBlind followersWillfully ignorant?

Wow. According to this and other public opinion polls, 83% of Democrats and Republicans are mindless party loyalists. THEY ONLY THINK WHAT THE PARTY TELLS THEM TO THINK.

Democrats think that they are the party of "thinkers" and the Republicans are the party of "stupid". Republicans think that they are the party of "thinkers" and the Democrats are the party of "stupid". Both parties are wrong. As the results of this and many other polls show, they're both the party of "stupid".

If you are a Democrat or a Republican, and you think you're one of the thinking minority, there's an 83-percent probability that you're wrong, that you are one of the party loyalists. The sheep. The stupid ones.

If you disagree with me, there are a couple of articles on Wikipedia that you need to read. The first is about fundamental attribution error, and the second is about self-serving bias, both of which are logical mistakes to which we mortals fall victim, over and over again.

The acrimony, the political divisions in this country will continue to get worse until people stop blindly supporting their party and learn to think for themselves. The poll results will get more and more extreme, and the divide between the two major political parties will get wider and deeper. Polite
political discourse has already ceased; inflammatory rhetoric has taken over. Violence is stomping through the door, and oppression is not far behind.

If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you have to do something to fix this. You don't need to abandon your party affiliation. You do need to abandon your mindless loyalty to your party. Use your brain to figure things out. If your party, or your party's representative, is wrong about something, then separate yourself from the majority on that issue, and make it known.

I don't pledge allegiance to a political party. I pledge allegiance to a flag, the nation that it symbolizes, and the Constitution that it is built upon. I don't vote for party leaders, political appointees, or lobbyists and influence peddlers, and I don't want them running the country - I mean, dictating how people think. That happened in the Soviet Union, but it should not happen here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cancer survivor

I am a cancer survivor.


But I feel like a cheater.

In November 2013, at age 56, my wife found a black spot on the back of my ear. I had it surgically removed. It was a malignant melanoma. Fortunately, they got it all. I will be going back for checkups, every six months for five years, to make sure it doesn't show up somewhere else.

In May 2017, at age 59, I went to the emergency room with the worst stomachache in the history of the universe. I was diagnosed with pancreatitis, given a miracle painkiller called Dilaudid, and admitted to the hospital for four days.

The doctors stuffed me in an MRI tube to take a closer look at my pancreas. They never did find the cause of the pancreatitis, but while I was in there, they found something on my kidney that didn't belong there. Suddenly they were a lot more concerned about my kidney than my pancreas. They did a CT scan and confirmed that I had a tumor on my right kidney.

So about six weeks later, after my pancreas was back to mostly normal, I went into surgery to have the tumor removed. A biopsy on the tumor showed, according to the doctor, that it was a "classic renal cell carcinoma" and that it had "negative margin." He could have just said, "It was cancerous, but we got it all." I will go back for a CT scan 12 months from now, and if it shows no more cancer, then I'm free.

I was lucky—or blessed—both times. The first cancer, the melanoma, was caught by my alert and perceptive wife. The second cancer was only a Stage 1 carcinoma, only 2 centimeters long, and it was what the books call "incidental detection"—something you find while you're looking for something else. The first one was removed in the doctor's office, and all I had to do was wear a huge bandage behind my ear that made me look like Dumbo for three weeks. The second one was removed using video-game surgery, so they didn't have to slice my side wide open and stomp around inside.

That's why I feel like a cheater.

I didn't have to deal with chemo. Or radiation therapy. A suppressed immune system and the resulting opportunistic infections. Massive hair loss. Nausea. Sores that wouldn't heal in my mouth, my ears, or anywhere else. A feeding tube. Catheters and PICC lines. A portable oxygen system. Unending, unrelenting pain. Doctors who didn't comprehend the pain and wouldn't prescribe drugs simply to relieve the pain.

(Side note: I will always be grateful for that Dilaudid, and for the medical professionals who gave it to me. On a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being pain so bad that you would rather die than continue to suffer, the pain from pancreatitis is a 20 or a 30. My doctors and nurses understood that.)

I didn't have to sell everything I own, including my house, to pay thousands of dollars a week for drugs that might or might not keep me alive. My family didn't have to go through weeks and months of endless torment, watching me get alternately better, then worse, but always worse, wondering if and when the beast would finally kill me.

I got to live. Twice.

From the melanoma, I have a skin graft on the back of my ear. From the carcinoma, I have six small scars on my right side. Only nine days after the surgery I'm up and around. I'll be riding my bike in a couple of weeks.

I'm neither bragging nor complaining. I know how blessed I am. Four medical professionals—doctors and surgeons—independently acknowledged the hand of God in this latest episode, remarking on the fact that it hadn't been for my pancreatitis, ...

But I feel guilty. I feel like a cheater. I got out of the cancer class twice, without having to take the full exam.

Still, when all is said and done, there is this:

I am a cancer survivor. Twice.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Four Character Traits that are Vital to Success

In my opinion, all of the success literature either ignores, or takes for granted, four character traits that are vital to succeeding in any endeavor in life. If you're missing any of these traits, you have two choices:
1. Give up.
2. Acquire and develop the missing character traits in your life.

Here are the four traits, and a short explanation of each.

  • Not just courage to do the right thing, but courage to do the scary thing.
  • ... or the uncomfortable thing.
  • ... and, especially, the thing you don't want to do.
  • This is the drive to do something important or meaningful in your life.
  • It's not necessarily about fame, or wealth, or power. 
  • It's the will to do something besides watch TV, surf the web, play games, or read magazines.
  • It's the will to do something with the time you've been given, besides waste it in meaningless pursuits.
  • This is the ability to get up and do something - to start something.
  • Ambition by itself may not be enough to motivate you to action.
  • To repeat and rephrase: initiative is the power to get up off the couch and get started.
  • This is the ability to stick with something until it's completed.
  • My friend John W started dozens of home-improvement projects around his house. He never finished a single one. His house always looked half-demolished, as if a truck had crashed into it. He had an abundance of ambition, but a complete absence of tenacity.
  • Tenacity is related to perseverance, and also to stubbornness. It's the wolverine on the bear's nose in Vardis Fisher's Mountain Man.
  • It's the unwillingness, maybe the inability, to give up.
Notes: I wrote these down on a piece of notepaper and stuck it in my wallet, many years ago. I've been carrying it around since then. It needs to be published - and now it is.

 And here's the original, for those of you who want to see it.

© 2017 R. Ray Depew. You can use these points to give an inspirational speech or write something, as long as you remember to give me credit for them. Always list your sources!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What do you call a Mormon bishop when he's no longer a bishop?

This question came up with some of my Young Single Adults last week: "What do you call a Mormon bishop when he's no longer a bishop?"

Consider my 7th-grade math students, who went from calling me "Mr. Depew" as their teacher, to "Brother Depew" as a member of the stake high council, to "Bishop Depew" as their bishop. What will they revert to?

Some of my YSAs have said that they'll never stop calling me "Bishop." My heart gets all warm and squishy and full when I hear that.

Some of them are already calling me "Papa Pew." We have little Temperance Mae Call to thank for that. Tempe gets my heart all warm and squishy, too.

A small handful have always called me "Ray" and will never stop. They make my heart happy.

Here's the official word. I found this in the results of a Google search for "what do you call a Mormon bishop". It matches what I was taught as a young man. I haven't heard of any recent, official changes to this custom.

This is a little old, but in the April 1993 ENSIGN:
"The titles Bishop and President (designating members of temple, mission,
 stake, and district presidencies and branch presidencies) are appropriate 
even after the leader has been released." 

For what it's worth, I may not be their bishop any more, but they will always be my kids.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Beware of PhotoKeeper

UPDATE, JULY 10, 2017: You will notice that one of the comments is from the developers of PhotoKeeper. They give a plausible explanation for the scamming/spamming behavior, and they ask us (you and me) to consider trying the app again.

And the PhotoKeeper entries at Google Play and the App Store have been VERY recently deleted and rewritten. All of the old reviews are GONE.

This review was written in January 2017. The developers submitted their comment on April 20, 2017. And yet, according to this webpage, as of May 23, 2017, PhotoKeeper was still spamming.

I'd like to hear some more comments from people who either tried the app, or received an email from PhotoKeeper, after April 20, 2017. Is it now well-behaved, or is it still spam?

UPDATE, JULY 12, 2017: I've been snooping around the Internet, and I've found plenty of reports that confirm that PhotoKeeper is still spamming people.
  End of updates

Beware of the PhotoKeeper app!

You may get an email from a friend — or perhaps from an address you don't even recognize — that says:
"Hi Ray, you just got photos!
You were granted access to photos by @jjb4929 because you're in their network.
Click to see 24 photos on PhotoKeeper. "

So you click on the link.

If you're on a PC, you go to a page that says:  
"We’re still working on a web viewer — sorry for the inconvenience. Meanwhile, you can view photos in the FREE app :)
Send a link to my phone →"

That's bait and switch, kids. Don't fall for it.

But if you're on a phone, clicking on the link takes you directly to Google Play or the App Store, so you can download the App.

STOP! Don't do it! Read the reviews!

Once you install the app, it immediately harvests your contacts list and sends to them the same message that it sent to you, offering to share YOUR photos with all of your contacts - if THEY will install the app.

That's classic virus spam behavior. It's bad. You will be sorry.

PhotoKeeper advertises itself as a good way to keep track of all the photos you have tucked into various electronic places. Maybe it does that. It may even be good at it. But a photo-management app shouldn't need access to your Contacts, and it DEFINITELY shouldn't be sending unsolicited emails to your Contacts without your knowledge or permission.


Until a few minutes ago, among the 100-plus reviews were 19 five-star reviews dated September 30, 2016 and October 10, 2016. These were all one-line reviews that said things like "Good game!" and "Fun to play!" One even said "Good strategy game!" It's not a game, and the reviews were spam: totally bogus reviews put up there by PhotoKeeper's makers to inflate their rating on Google Play. The two reviews posted on October 11 also look bogus.

Some of the later reviews praise the app's "editing tools." These reviews are also bogus. How do I know? BECAUSE THE APP DOESN'T HAVE ANY EDITING CAPABILITY.


Think twice before you download PhotoKeeper. Maybe even think three times. There are other ways to manage your photos which don't involve surrendering control of your phone to a shady app backed by fake reviews.

p.s. I'm open-minded. I'm willing to be proven wrong about PhotoKeeper. I haven't installed it myself. After the research I conducted in order to write this blog entry, I chose not to.

Monday, November 14, 2016

You may not want to hear this, but it's your fault

This weekend was not a happy weekend for the Zymog. Two of my close friends, and a friend of a third close friend, suffered what can only be called racial harassment. The nature of the harassment, and the things that were said to them, make it clear that this only happened because of Donald Trump being elected.

I got a lot of my friends mad at me when I reposted on Facebook a blog article that says, more or less, "if you voted for Donald Trump, then it's partly your fault, and you need to fix it."

A lot of people don't want to hear that. Bear with me here, okay? Don't close your mind and get all upset yet.

Let's start with a scene from Disney's Aladdin

Jafar used his third wish from the lamp: "I wish to be an ALL-POWERFUL GENIE!"

So the genie said, "Way to go, Al" and granted Jafar's wish. Jafar became this huge, red genie. 

"Yessss. YESSSSSSS! The power! THE ABSOLUTE POWER! The universe is mine, to command, to control!" 

He was reveling in his power, when suddenly Aladdin said, "Not so fast, Jafar! You wanted to be a genie? Well, you got it. AND EVERYTHING THAT GOES WITH IT. Phenomenal cosmic power —"

Suddenly two two bracelets of slavery were clamped onto his wrists, and against his cries of "No! NOOOOOO!" he got sucked into his own tiny lamp.

"— itty bitty living space!"

Hang onto that story. It will become immediately relevant. (You gotta admit, I did a pretty good job reciting the scene from memory, didn't I? I'm sure that my grandchildren can do better than I did.)

Now, follow this logic:

Many voters in this country fell for the Supreme Court scam: they voted for Trump or for Clinton because they wanted to preserve the conservative or liberal majority, respectively, on the Supreme Court. I have heard from a lot of people who voted for both candidates, who told me that that was the only reason they voted for them. Well, that and all the other stuff they didn't like about the other candidate. They were both awful.

But, the Trump supporters told me, they didn't like Donald Trump because of his racist, misogynist, reactionary, petulant, et cetera, ways. They ignored, or pretended that they didn't see, all of the radical right-wingers who were chanting at Trump's rallies and posting hateful garbage on the Internet. Or they hoped it would all go away after he got elected.

(If, at this time, you want to tell me "Yeah, but Clinton supporters were the ones who actually committed violent acts at the rallies," I'm going to ask you to stay with me here. Don't distract yourself. I'm not talking about Clinton.)

Way back in June 2016, Mitt Romney warned that Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric, if he were to win the election, would change the face of America. He warned that the extreme racists would consider themselves legitimized by Trump's victory, and somehow authorized to practice their nasty racism. "Emboldened" is the current term for it. (See this CNN article, entitled "Mitt Romney says Trump will change America with 'trickle-down racism'."

So Donald Trump got elected. (And the extreme liberals - I mean progressives - Clinton supporters, anyway - rioted. That's also a post for another time. I don't want to dwell on it here. It's a distraction. Let's keep focused on Trump and his supporters, okay?)

In the three days following his election, these three things happened to friends of mine. This isn't something I'm reposting from a remote newspaper or blog, okay? Two of these are first-hand, and the third one is second-hand, but it still counts because I know these people and I know when it happened to them.

These things really happened.

1. This first one is from one of my former math students. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. legally, before she was born. She and her two sisters graduated from college. This woman is working as a teacher in a downtown Denver elementary school (which Donald Trump disparagingly referred to as "inner city," because he didn't want to say "black" or "Hispanic" or "low-income" or "crime-ridden") while she is pursuing a graduate degree. Someone left this comment on her FB page, the day after the election: 

Try to convince me that this was not a direct result of Trump being elected. Go ahead. I'll be glad to call you an ostrich.

2. This second one is from one of my parishioners. This woman is from Saipan, an island in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan, and the other islands in the CNMI, have been part of the United States since 1944, and its inhabitants are natural-born U.S. Citizens. Got that? Not immigrants. Citizens, just as much as native Hawaiians and Alaskans are citizens.

She works at a large nationwide retail store here in Colorado, whose owners were yuge donors to the Trump campaign. This happened to her on Friday, three days after the election:

Again, try to tell me that this wasn't a direct result of Trump getting elected. Try to tell me (or her) that it would have happened if Clinton had been elected instead - or that it would have happened if this weren't an election year.

3. This third one is a friend-of-a-friend. One of my friends works with a Muslim man, whose brother lives and works in Seattle. This extended Muslim family immigrated legally to the United States years ago, fleeing an oppressive regime in the Middle East, and looking for freedom. They bought into all the ideals which constitute the American Dream, and have been working hard at becoming Americans. On Wednesday morning, the guy in Seattle found this piece of paper under his windshield:

I'm sure you will agree with me that this is despicable. You will even tell me that you would never do this yourself, or condone anyone else doing it. You might even point out the cowardice of the perpetrator, since he didn't leave his name or contact information on the paper.

But you cannot convince me that this is not a direct result of Trump being elected. When the message starts with "We won! Now ...", it's pretty clear and undeniable.

Now, here's the part that you don't want to hear. And you may get offended by this. If you voted for Trump, and if Trump won your state, then these racist incidents are partly your fault.

Follow my logic here. And remember that scene from Aladdin.

1. If you voted for Donald Trump, and so did a majority of voters in your state, then you were part of that majority. That's an important distinction.

2. If the majority of voters in your state voted for Trump, then all of the electoral votes in your state went for Trump.

3. Donald Trump won in 31 states, giving him over 300 electoral votes and winning him the election.

Okay so far? You can take part of the credit for electing Donald Trump. You can loudly proclaim, "My candidate won!"

4. As a result of Donald Trump's election victory, many racists and extremists, lowlifes who had been hiding in the shadows for years, muttering to themselves on their racist blogs, suddenly felt empowered. They moved out into the light and began openly harassing and threatening minorities and immigrants. 

I have given you three examples in support of this fact. Do you want more? Are three witnesses not enough for you?

Now, I know you weren't voting to embolden the low-level racists and hatemongers. You were voting to preserve the Supreme Court majority, or to keep the Clintons from looting the White House for a second time. You had no intention, with your vote, of causing pain to my former student, my Saipan friend, or that Muslim immigrant in Seattle.

And yet, just like Jafar, you got Donald Trump - and everything that goes with him. You don't get to pick and choose which consequences of Trump's ascension you voted for. You voted for all of it.

You can't say "I just wanted the Supremes, not all the rest of it." You knew, going in, that you were going to get all of it. But you squeezed your eyes shut, held your nose, and voted for him anyway.

And, just like Romney said it would, the "trickle-down racism" happened. And, whether you want to admit it or not, even if it wasn't your intention, it's partly your fault.

On Sunday, November 13, five days after the election, Donald Trump was interviewed on 60 Minutes.  Leslie Stahl asked him about the harassment that had been taking place, and in typical Trumpian reality-distortion mode, he said:

Donald Trump: I don’t hear it—I saw, I saw one or two instances…
Lesley Stahl: On social media?
Donald Trump: But I think it’s a very small amount. Again, I think it’s--
One or two instances? I have told you of three real instances, and I'm just one person - a white male person, no less.

So then, to his credit, Trump said:
Lesley Stahl: Do you want to say anything to those people?
Donald Trump: I would say don’t do it, that’s terrible, ‘cause I’m gonna bring this country together.
 Lesley Stahl: They’re harassing Latinos, Muslims--
Donald Trump: I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, “Stop it.” If it-- if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.
So Donald Trump told everyone to knock it off with the racist stuff that's been going on. Do you think it will work? The horses have left the barn, Mr. Trump. There's no use locking the door now.

Now, if you are a white person who voted for Donald Trump, what are you going to do about it? You voted for him, what are you going to to do fix it?

John Pavolovitz, a white Christian blogger, pointed the finger at all of the white Christians who voted for Trump, and told them what they need to do to fix the situation. Basically, he told them that this mess was their fault. He gave them two tasks:
1. Reach out to the victimized minorities, tell them you're sorry, and try to make amends.
2. Stand up to the perpetrators. Protect the victims. Do your part to bring an end to the harassment.
And he suggested that this should be done, live and in person, person to person.

For some reason, a lot of white Christian voters reacted poorly to his article. He was very blunt, he did point the finger of blame, and it made a lot of people uncomfortable. In reaction, there was a lot of "It's not my fault" and "I don't have to fix anything." (Remember Jafar.) And, even in the face of what he said in his blog, many people insisted that it was up to the victims to reach out, to establish a dialogue, and to be forgiving.

The Latinos and the Muslims aren't the ones who need to have a change of heart. And it's time that everyone who helped to put Donald Trump in the White House take their share of the blame and do their part to make amends.

Some of the white Christians didn't take kindly to be singled out. They say that's not fair. Some of them, not really understanding what "racist" means, have told me that it's "racist" to single them out like that. Then I challenge them to explain away this article from Religion News Service, entitled "White evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons carried Trump", or this one from World Religion News, entitled "Why the majority of Christians voted for Donald Trump".

This is where I'm supposed to put down two or three pithy statements and a final zinger, to make a powerful concluding paragraph. I don't have any. I'm too tired.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Four Years is a Long Time

Four years is a long, long time. Whatever the American public does to survive these four years, we need to make sure that this never happens again.

The Republican party needs to start now to seek out men of integrity and wisdom, something that was sorely lacking in 2015 and 2016. They need to be prepared to replace Donald Trump in 2020 - or before then, if impeachment or resignation is a possibility.

On the Democratic side: if that party ever wants to be in power again, they need to find someone with the integrity of Jimmy Carter and the savvy of Ronald Reagan. It looked like Hillary Clinton had this one in the bag. She should have won by a landslide, instead of being edged out by a mysoginistic, bombastic, lying windbag like Donald Trump, but the people rejected her. What message should the Democrats take from this? It is as follows:
The American people have said in this election is they don't want someone in the White House as corrupt and nasty and greedy as Hillary Clinton.
On the third-party side: Americans need to look deeply inward, and ask themselves if it was worth it, compromising their morals to vote for "the lesser of two evils" this year. I still maintain that it wasn't worth it, not even from the beginning. I'm realistic enough to know that we will never have a perfect, flawless candidate to vote for. But these two were so badly flawed that neither of them was qualified for the job.

Something that needs to be said: I don't think that this election was a rejection of the idea of a woman as President. I think it was a rejection of the person, Hillary Clinton.

As evidence of this, I point out that nobody, not even Donald Trump, intimated that she should not be elected simply because she was a woman. Maybe our society has made some progress after all.

One final word: if you have spoken out against Donald Trump in the last 18 months, and if you have not changed your tune yet, you would do well to find someplace to hide. Your name is probably on his enemies list (here's a link to another one), and either his secret police or his storm troopers will be coming for you.