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People will believe what they want
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You don't get to reach your 50's without realizing that a lot of people are going to believe what they want to no matter what.

If you believe 1961 Ceres High School graduate Philip D. Hansten, a pharmacist and teacher at the University of Washington in Seattle, we all draw conclusions and make decisions "without facts and logic." He wrote a book ("Premature Factulation: The Ignorance of Certainty and the Ghost of Montaigne" published by Philoponus Press) to "counter this certainty that everyone has." He feels most everyone tends to blindly rely on "facts." The tendency of all people, he says, is "to come to conclusions first and then try to shoehorn the evidence to fit the conclusion."

Many years ago I was chatting with a postmaster of a small town in Stanislaus County. Hanging on the wall was her postmaster appointment made in the 1960s by the Kennedy White House. It bore unquestionably a printed signature of President Kennedy. The original signature - actually done in fountain ink - of the postmaster general was faded with exposure to years of light but the Kennedy "signature" was still as bold as the printed wording. As an autograph collector since 1972, I informed her that it was not an original Kennedy signature but that it was printed and that Kennedy rarely signed anything as president.

She insisted Kennedy "used a special kind of ink" and that's why the "signature" was still bold while the other was faded. Indeed, she had no knowledge about Kennedy's signing habits but in the words of Hansten she shoehorned the evidence to fit the conclusion. She wanted Kennedy's hand to have signed her document.

A decade or so ago a faithful reader in Ceres told me that she remembered me as a kid. I asked if she had lived in Oakdale or Modesto where I grew up and she said, "No, you lived in Ceres and were our newspaper boy." I didn't have the heart to tell her that I did not grow up in Ceres, and I certainly never was a delivery boy. She was convinced of something that just wasn't not true, how or why I am not sure.

About five years ago I was visiting a friend's backyard gathering on a bluff overlooking the Tuolumne River. Guests were ogling at the fabulous river view through a chain-link fence on the southern edge of the yard. The sound of water added to the scenic view; it sounded like a pristine waterfall below the house. A friend suggested that we might not want to go closer to the fence, which of course, prompted everyone to do so. Upon second examination it was apparent that the sound of the "waterfall" was actually the sound of water spraying from an aerator on the green sewer pond below the bluff. The first perception of a lovely waterfall and something of beauty was wrong. Instead it was a putrid reality of human waste water below us.

There was another time when somebody in my circle was convinced of something not true. In 2010, I posted a photo on Facebook of the snow-capped Sierras shot from Hickman Road near Keyes Road. The photo was taken on an exceptionally clear day and starkly visible was Half Dome, as large as life. A friend later told me in bold fashion: "My son says that's not Half Dome. It's another dome. It's not Half Dome." I assured her that it was indeed Half Dome; that no rock in the Sierra looks identical to Half Dome. The fact is that the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton has photographed Half Dome sticking up like a thumb about 200 miles from Yosemite and that in certain Valley locations it can be seen less than 100 miles away.

There was no convincing her. In her mind, it was an open and shut case of me being wrong.

If people could be so contrary about photographic evidence of a geographic formation some 95 miles from my camera and clearly be wrong, what other matters of truth are being bucking the evidence and arguing against truth?

Matters of the Bible and religion for example?

Matters of politics?

Perceptions of one another?

We live in a politically charged world where people rush to judgment without the facts first. We saw in Ferguson last year a whole group of people who refused to accept that a white police officer was justified in killing a black suspect who just robbed a convenience store by force or fear. Despite the evidence to the contrary, some to this day believe the suspect held his hands up in surrender.

We saw it earlier this week when rioting and rock throwing at police broke out in Baltimore where a black crowd reacted violently to another perceived case of police sponsored injustice. The mantra seems to be shoot first, ask questions later ... and if you're wrong, defend your being wrong to the very end.

I routinely see generalizations that all Republicans are out for greedy corporate America and that all Democrats are tax-and-spend liberals. Is it possible that not all who are being vilified are as villainous as the other side asserts?

In 2008 we saw how a majority of Americans were bedazzled by a young leader who spent less than four years in the U.S. Senate promising "hope and change," and even re-elected him as president. Today many are disillusioned that "hope and change" led to further government enslavement of its people and businesses, increased the national debt and taxation and taken our system of government much farther from what our Founding Fathers drafted. Indeed Candidate Obama attacked George W. Bush saying that adding $4 trillion to the national debt was "irresponsible and "unpatriotic" while his own watch has seen an increase of $8 trillion, a 70 percent increase, to the national debt.

We would improve our quality of life and living if we'd all stop and practice a little analysis before we conclude the "truth" about a candidate as we know it. Few people and few institutions today encourage critical thinking. More Americans are taken in by image over substance. Face value is accepted over investigation. Few are capable to defend one's view or opinion. Generations of schools with debate teams have given way to institutions that turn out skulls full of mush.

For once I'd like the media to counter all these reports of global warming by reporting this reality: the planet naturally fluctuates in temperature and that since 1820, the planet has warmed an average of 1.5 degrees, and 0.7 degrees since 1900.

Perhaps that's why many of my friends despair and shake their heads and accurately observe that much is wrong with the direction of the world today. They see Christians being beheaded by ISIS and wonder why nobody seems to be doing anything about it. While there seems to be more interest over Bruce Jenner's gender change operation, there is a holy war where people of faith are losing their heads while Islamic extremists are threatening to not stop until all Christians worldwide are exterminated.

It would be great if people could look more into the world around them and challenge.

The results could be literally change our nation.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at