Panhandlers are ruining social interactions

It’s really getting difficult to interact with people on the street.

You can’t ask someone directions, the time or when the next bus is coming without people assuming you’re going to ask them for money.

Increasingly, it seems like the only time anyone attempts to interact with strangers anymore is to ask for money.

The obvious ones are easy to avoid – the ones with the sign up front plainly asking, standing with their hand out or extending a coffee cup.

Some employ a strategy of sobbing loudly, waiting for a helpful person to ask them what’s the matter to put the well intentioned person in the position of approaching the panhandler.

In recent years, more elaborate techniques have been employed – usually pretending to be a tourist and involves a story of having been mugged or had their wallet stolen and needing help to get back to their hotel.

The more dramatic ones include the police or some other authority figures not helping them or even laughing at them.

If you actually listen, their stories never quiet make sense – and they tend to get angry when you point out the flaws – which you should do with caution.

I wasn’t that smart point out to the guy in the alley side of a parking lot with no other people around that he couldn’t have been mugged and struck on the head when he clearly didn’t have an injury – nor would police laugh at a mugging victim and leave him and his wife & kid stranded in a strange city with no money to get back home to the burbs. There is a victim services function – and, if he had been a “regular person” just in for the day – then he could also have gone to any branch of his bank since, according to his story – only he and not his wife was mugged – she still presumably had her ID and bank card.

Anyway, best to pay attention to your surroundings, carefully assess talking to people and cut conversations short if you need to be.

As I explained to the homeless guy who demanded that I respect him – that respect is earned and not bestowed – and if he wanted my respect, then treating me like an ATM on demand, isn’t the way to get it.

Here’s the hallmarks of a scam artist:

–  if they are offering you help, and you refuse – people who are just trying to help leave – people who are trying to harm or get something from you, continue to insist to force their “help” on you

– they make promises you didn’t ask them for – ie: “promise to return money to you later

– they use language to make it sound like you are a team – we’ve got to get to this place, we’ve got to get the groceries home (and they don[t live with you)

the best book to read to street proof, scam proof and to a high degree, home and workplace violence proof yourself is

Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear

The most important thing we can do for ourselves is not worry about being polite or kind to people who are not willing to extend that back to us.

Anyone who wants you to give them money or to harm you – is not deserving of your kindness or politeness. They are in fact counting on those qualities in you to take advantage.

Open or Closed

It’s an interesting thing – how people interpret open and closed minds.

Person A says Person B is open minded if they accept or are willing to concede merit to Person A’s claims – and close minded if Person B dismisses the claim.

But open and closed minded isn’t actually about a willingness to accept the claim’s premise – it’s about a willingness to consider the evidence for the claim.
A closed minded person has already reached a conclusion and no new evidences or claims is going to shake them.

An open minded person will also have reached conclusions, but examines new information, evaluates it and accommodates it – maybe changing the conclusion or maybe adapting to an exception.

A clear metaphor would be a religious or conspiracy person is closed minded – nothing is going to alter their conclusion that their god is the true god (and real) and nothing will stop a conspiracy person from their pet conspiracy – because lack of evidence is just proof of how effective the conspirators are and that’s what they want to you think, man.

An open minded person is the skeptic (of which atheist is a sub category, specialty area if you will), someone who uses the scientific method.

Granted the occasional fraudster slips pass – but the system is designed to detect these – and does – science is a self regulating and adaptive to new evidence.

So, if Person A makes a claim for which there’s no evidence, no logic or consistency with other known facts – then rejecting that claim is not being closed minded – it’s actually a rapid assessment of the merits (none), the evidence (none) and the logic/probability (none) and reaching a conclusion – so highly improbably as to be stamped with “didn’t happen”

However, all conclusions are subject to review if new or actual evidence is provided.

If one insists that open minded means allowing a possibility and probability to any claim – then it’s impossible to have any critical thinking because you can’t dismiss any claim – not Big Foot, Loch Ness, UFO abductions, vampires, ghosts, and Elvis is alive and in hiding, but sending out clues to special fans who will prepare the masses for his eventual return.

When really, for the last one, the higher probability is people who are exploiting the grief and wishful thinking of the gullible for monetary gain.

This is why there’s a dozen or more people out there claiming to be Elvis children (or half sibling), but not actually moving their case in court or providing any evidence.

It’s more lucrative to string the public along and you can make whatever claims you want – the court of public opinion is far more lazy on evidence standards than court.

It’s more lucrative to invent a quack medicine treatment and market it, than actually learn medicine and practice it too. A good rule of thumb for medical treatments is – first they are called medical and not Health treatments – but also, the goal of medicine is to fix you and you go back to your life.

With health treatments, the goal is to keep you coming back for more treatments.

Does discrimination lead to becoming a terrorist?

I had an Ah Ha moment reading an article which was about watching media dance around ethnicity and religion issues when an event like the Fort Hood shooting occurs.

Basically, that everyone is bend over and twisting around to avoid stating the obvious – that Muslim populations in Western countries that participated in the “War on Terror” after 9/11 are essentially goading these groups to become radicalized and violent. Essentially creating terrorists in our midst.

And this would seem to be a reasonable and even obvious conclusion – when you look at many examples in history of a minority group that’s oppressed, made to be second or third class – they tend to fight back and fight back with violence.

History and current events are rife with examples of one dominate religion or ethnic group stomping on the necks of a minority religion or ethnic group with the result being if not civil war, then prolonged violent outbursts, more suppression and the seemingly never ending cycle which basically stops progress and development in it’s tracks.

Except that I can think of two minority groups that are deemed at best second class citizens, who are limited in their participation and one of whom has active and vocal opposition in being included in basic rights.

And I belong to both minority groups: Atheists and Queers*.

Atheists are limited in their participation in Western society in that they are, if honest, unelectable to public office – not to mention being attacked as Christmas haters every December. Funny enough, Queers are electable in some areas, and so largely don’t share this handicap.

But what Atheists and Queers do share is a public portrayal as:

– lacking in any morals and ethics

– arrogance and self absorption

– perpetual teenagers rebelling against the authority of god, regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been either or both.

These three charges are so patently foolish on the face of them, that I don’t even feel the need to delve deeper.

For the purpose of this post, what’s interesting to me is that neither atheists nor queers have used terror tactics to forward or achieve their respective agendas.

Both groups have used legal means – lawsuits, protest, education and awareness campaigns and grassroots community building/outreach.

Where atheists and queers part ways is that atheists are largely trying to have existing laws be enforced (that separation of church and state) and queers are trying to have existing laws be consistent with each other – equal access to and treatment under the law applying to all subordinate laws like marriage, military service, immigration, non-discrimination in housing, employment and basic rights that everyone else takes for granted.

So, I am not saying that religious and ethnic minorities do not have a hard time in Western countries.

For me, when gay marriage was up for debate in parliament, it was very difficult to listen to politicians and my Prime Minister say that I and my fellow queers are undeserving to fully participate in society for no clear reason that they could or would articulate.

I imagine it’s similar for law abiding Muslims to listen to politicians spew their war on terror rhetoric – and I tend to agree that you can’t fight terror by becoming a terrorist. This war on terror has been a bigger boondoggle than the US War on Drugs – too bad they don’t find a way to make Peace on these things or at least détente.

But, if queers and atheists – who span all religious and ethnicity – can avoid becoming what our accusers make us out to be – arrogant, immoral, perpetual rebels – then other groups and individuals in those groups can too.

* Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgendered and kinky straights. I hate using the acronym LGBT because to me it sounds like a sandwich, and with more groups wanting to be part of that group, then it just looks like a bizarre text thing or alphabet soup, so I prefer the more encompassing Queer.

new atheists

There’s been a recent rash of religious writers complaining about the “New Atheists”.

That we’re arrogant, think we’re smarter, rude, lacking in respect for religious belief  and are basically more aggressive than previous and largely silent atheists.

And there’s two things that are funny to me about these complaints.

First, that  it doesn’t matter how some atheists behave versus others;  we aren’t a group, and what one does or doesn’t do has no bearing on other atheists. We’re individuals who do not represent each other or all atheists at large.

Even atheist organizations can really only represent their members, which doesn’t include all atheists. You don’t have to join a group to be an atheist – and most atheists probably wouldn’t join groups unless there was a need to support lawsuits and other matters.
The second part of this that is funny to me is that social change is not accomplished by quiet, silent and polite people

If women had waited for men to agree to let them vote, drive cars and get bank loans on their own, we’d still be waiting to get to vote.

It’s like the word atheist is like the word feminist,  where many women who do demand and get respect, equal pay, make their own decisions yet they refuse to call themselves feminists – the reality is it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, the main thing is that you are in charge of yourself.

If black people hadn’t refused to get on the bus anymore, there’d be no civil rights now.

And if gay people had stayed silent and not fought back against the raids, then, there wouldn’t be so many countries in which gay marriage or the lesser domestic partnership/civil union now.

If you wait for rights, you simply aren’t going to get them.

But atheists aren’t like the other groups – atheism is in fact already the law in Canada and US – in that the state does not endorse a particular religion.

So the atheist legal battle is actually to have the existing law enforced – no state favoritism for any religion. If we want to keep our countries secular democracies with individual freedoms – then we have to absolutely make sure the public square is equally available to all, with none favored over any other.

So, the next time you want to dump on atheists for being loud and aggressive,  maybe instead, you should thank us for keeping science in science classes, and courthouses free of any particular religion holding sway.

We’re not arguing and making the case for us, we’re making it for everyone’s freedoms.


this is what I find so funny about believers and their need for certainty

They need to believe that morals are absolute (yet often hold contradictory ideas like abortion bad, euthanasia bad, but death penalty good and sending soldiers to war is good) rather than situational.

They also don’t allow for rule conflict – so lying is bad, even when the lie can spare feelings or save a life.

And isn’t it funny that with the xtians, the 10 commandments are largely about who you can worship and petty emotions like jealousy and envy rather than not raping children?

But I digress

They think religion offers certainty because they think what they believe is the way that their religion has always been – when really, people even 200 years ago would not recognize any of the way religion is done now. And certainly not people of 2000 years ago.  And if Xtians really thought that the length of time a religion has been around is what makes it true, shouldn’t they all be Jewish? Or at least Catholic since that was the last one standing of all the early sects – until it began to splinter again?

but this is the point – if you really want certainty

science is the same no matter where you go on the planet

Sure, it can change and adapt when new data can’t be incorporated into old theories – remember Continental Drift? Replaced in the 1960’s with Global Plate Tectonics because it explained everything that the CD theory did and much more.

But, that’s the nature of science – a continual quest to increase knowledge and better understand the world.

Whereas religion, well, religion is different everywhere. If you randomly picked 5 countries, each would have a different religion dominating it, and even if it’s called the same, it’s practiced differently.

And do you ever wonder why all these people who claim to have had a near death experience always come back and say that they’ve brought a message from the beyond about how we’re supposed to be good to each other – not a one ever has said Religion X is right and all others are wrong – so let’s all be Religion X – no, it’s always them as the new prophet with a website, a book and a video to sell.

New Lives – Rescue Dogs

NEW LIVES: Stories of Rescued Dogs Helping, Healing and Giving Hope tells the stories of 18 dogs who were rescued from shelters and the streets, who are now changing lives by working in animal therapy or as service dogs.

A great Christmas gift for yourself, and for all the animal-lovers on your list!
You can get more information, as well as place advance orders, at

I would also appreciate your help in “spreading the word.” A percentage of all profits will be donated to animal rescue organizations, so If you know of any dog-lovers, so please pass this along to any dog-lovers you know!

Written by a friend of mine – Joanne Wannan