Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Illusion of Common Sense

Common sense is not so common ~ Voltaire
Any time someone wants to reach out to a broad group of individuals it seems inevitable the use of the words “common sense” will be somewhere in the basis for why everyone should agree with the speaker or writer.  Everyone from Sarah Palin to Michael Moore seems to believe their worldview is based on common sense and sound reasoning that should be obvious to all.  On reflection, I take back the “to Michael Moore” I am not sure he believes the average person has any common sense at all since he spouts such drivel and loyal followers seem to lap it up.
So what really is common sense, and is there such a thing?  The older I get the more I am discouraged that Voltaire was right.  Each of us forms a basis of opinion on what seems logical and use that as shorthand in making our decisions through life.  I think we do this because having to actually analyze each and every problem and decision would be so cumbersome and time consuming we would never do anything.  This is a human condition that may be a result of genetics, but I think more likely is a learned behavior.  If so, it explains a great deal about why people take diverse approaches to common problems.  They are doing what they have learned to do without giving it too much thought.
Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education. ~ Victor Hugo
An interesting observation by the gifted French author, but probably not so unreasonable for a man who evolved through his life, from royalist Catholic, to a republican free thinker.  I think he saw that true human growth does not come from the regurgitation of textbook material as in school, but on the reflection of life and times around us.
Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.  ~ William James
I believe I approach life with a practical view and when I find myself frustrated and upset I am usually pulled from that melancholy by seeing the absurdity and foolishness of life around me.  I used to routinely get in trouble when I would smile at the unfortunate foibles of others.  I would have to explain that it was only because I saw myself in similar situations and to laugh and move on with life was really the only option as I saw it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Yesterday and Today


The 23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters; he restores my soul.  He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


God is my Homie, we be tight; he covers my back when shit hits the fan, he gives me a place to hang, he is da Man! 

When crap on the street is going down, no worries, ‘cause da Man is around.  He’s got smack, and stuff so I’m cool.  He lays out them sucker’s so no one messes with me.  I’m chill’n.
We be Homies ‘till.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How High is Up?

A simple question, but can it be answered?  When I was growing up in the hometown of Franklin Delano Roosevelt we obviously learned a lot about how he saved America during the great depression.  His administration created thousands of service jobs paid for with government deficit spending.  He created the Civilian Conservation Corp or CCC to give out-of-work young men a place to labor, and at the same time improve the infrastructure of the nation.  As part of his “New Deal” he created the Works Progress Administration or WPA, whose mission was to employ millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects.  There was the Tennessee Valley Authority, the National Youth Administration and a plethora of other government programs all designed to give the nation a lift up.
How strikingly similar to the approaches we see being sounded out by the current administration.  All based on the government creating make work jobs that will be paid for by the government through increased borrowing, or increased taxes.  The intent is to get the economy moving by giving those who need it a lift up and money to spend.
Now that I am older, more traveled, a little wiser, and just a little tired of bigger governments led by people who make decisions not based on sound logic, but on some Power Point presentation with a good speaker, I question the value of a government spending untold millions, and billions of dollars just to give people a hand up.
How much shorter would the great depression have been if the government had opened the door for industry to begin manufacturing instead of taking the workforce onto the public payroll?  How much better would we have been if instead of doubling or tripling funding to public works we had reduced taxes so business could invest?  Don’t get me wrong there were things that led to the crash of the stock market, and the creation of the SEC was probably a warranted approach, but exactly how well has the SEC done its job since then?  Has it stopped fraud and Ponzi schemes in the stock market?  Are we better or worse off for having it?  I don’t know, but it is a powerful regulatory agency that still gets it wrong a lot of the time.
When the government provides a hand up for the unemployed does it encourage them to find work, or to draw benefits?  When the government provides a lift up to the housing market by subsidizing home loans for people who can’t afford to pay their mortgages does it create a stable building industry or does it create a foundation bound to crumble?
So I ask, when the government becomes as massive as it is today, where it wants everyone to have upward mobility whether they work for it or not, can it survive?  How high up will this government propel us?

Update:  I found this video and it sums up the great depression better than I do.
Top 3 Myths About the Great Depression and the New Deal | LearnLiberty

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Difference Between Arrogance and Confidence

There is a difference between being confident and just being arrogant.  It is simple and unmistakable to those who look for it.  Arrogance is a sense of entitlement based on a belief you are better than others and clearly deserve to get your way.  Confidence doesn’t depend on others, it is a belief in your own abilities and the quiet certainty you know what is right.
As we look at our political leadership I wonder how you would classify them?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Cat in the Back

We have a cat that lives in the back
This cat had four kittens one just that
for us, the cat, her kittens their home was Oh No!
The kittens were caught, all furry and small
For a while they lived in our garage, one and all

Then we caught the cat that lived in the back
She went to have her uterus wacked
She would never have kittens again in the back
For a few days she lived in our garage
Until we could stand it no more; we told her Go, go!

The kittens are gone now to homes of their own
One to a shrink, another a friend,
The others to strangers who live 'round the next bend
So now here we are with our cat in the back
Who my wife feeds daily so this cat will get fat

The Silent Majority

This term, used by Richard M. Nixon, to characterize those who did not join the anti-war protests, and were being overshadowed by the media’s push of what the President saw as a minority position, has come to represent the Republican base.  I think we need to reconsider whether or not that is still true and who is  today’s Silent Majority.  I am not sure in its original context this term is still accurate.
Today we have large numbers of vocal advocates on both sides of the political spectrum.  The religious right and the progressive left have pundits broadcasting on the web, on television and radio, and in the written press.  Neither side can claim they are THE silent majority, but each side can lay claim to A silent majority.  So who is right?  I argue neither side is.
Let’s start with a subject that stirs tremendous debate from both sides, and one that I have at least a passing knowledge of, the move towards acceptance of homosexuality and the continuation of identified homosexuals in the military.  In this discussion the politicians, pundits, reporters, and civilian advocates and opposition, all seem to view the military today as a homogeneous group.   I can assure you that is not the case.  Today’s military is a reflection of the society it is built from.  For the most part its senior leadership (both civilian, officer and non-commissioned) is conservative, its junior ranks – liberal.  There are also differences between the services, based primarily where their recruits come from and the educational levels they have.  The elimination of “don’t ask, don’t tell” or DADT is having a far more traumatic impact on senior leaders than it will have on the force itself.  So who is really the silent majority here?  It is certainly not the vocal gay advocates who argue for inclusion or the fundamental religious civilians who claim it the work of Satan.  So who is the silent majority and what do they think?  I’m not sure, but we will find out once DADT is rescinded. 
How about the debate on the national debt, and the “right size” of the federal government?  Here we have two diametrically opposed views of what is right for America with loud, aggressive, and often hateful rhetoric filling the airwaves. Both sides arguing for their view of America, neither side willing to compromise, each saying it is the others fault when something goes wrong.  With the election of a Democratic Party controlled Executive and Legislative Branches in 2006 they promised change and transparency of government.  Did they deliver?  If the 2008 election results are any indication I would say they didn’t.  The first two years of President Obama’s term led to the creation of the Tea Party, a loosely knit group of people concerned with the fiscal policies of the federal government.  This group was immediately attacked as racist-terrorists bent on the destruction of America by political operatives, the media and others working to maintain the Democratic Party's control of the Congress.  On the other hand, working from a position of weakness, brought on their own failures to govern in the center, the Republicans have used these attacks to fan the flames of division.  By the way we don’t govern as a democracy; we vest in our representatives to power to govern for us that is what we mean when we say: “One Republic, under God.”  I am not sure most of our citizens understand that, especially today when reporting and governing appears to be based on public opinion polls.  If we are to continue this trend then perhaps we’ve reached a point in time where it is appropriate to consider a revolution and establish a true democracy, but I digress.  The real question here is what is the right approach and what does the silent majority think?  I believe in this debate neither side is really considering what their supporters think the right answer is; they are playing to the key contributors and power brokers.  I would go farther and say the power brokers probably don't care, most of us are viewed as sheep to be herded.  Who is the silent majority in this issue?  I guess we will find out in 2012, as the choice boils down to a commitment to larger government that promises much, including higher taxes, greater benefits, and larger debt, or smaller government that promises less entitlement funding, fewer benefits and potentially a balanced budget.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Why do I Play Golf?

I like golf, but at the best of times it is a frustrating game.  Perhaps that is why it endures, we humans need to be frustrated to achieve.  The idea of beating up a little white ball for four hours while you socialize with your partners seems to relax a lot of people. 
I seek those rare moments when, like Will Smith in Bagger Vance, you can see the future and make it so.  To calm your mind, relax your body and let the club be an extension of your will is really what keeps me coming back to this game.  I don’t schedule time for it, so much as make room in the weekend, when it seems a good thing to do.
Take today.  I got up at some ungodly hour because that is what time I get up.  I washed our cars, mowed our lawn, did my wash and decided to go play a round at the base I work at.  I didn’t have any expectations, there was no goal, and I didn’t have a partner I was meeting up with.  I just drove to the base, walked into the pro shop, paid my fees, and went out and played 18 holes by myself.
I didn’t warm up, or stretch or do the things you are supposed to do, I just stood up, took a deep breath and hit the ball.  It felt good, but I didn’t have a clue as to where it went until looking out at about 225 yards I saw it sitting in the middle of the fairway.  That is kind of how the rest of the round went.  I three putted three times, one putted twice and two putted the rest.  I shot the best round I have ever shot.  It was a nice day.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Pebble of a Question

There is a question I have rattling around in my head that I am not sure how to get out.  It sits there like a pebble, making annoying electrical impulses when I read things written by the compassionate Liberal Democrats who make such a big deal about how mean and uncaring the Conservatives are, especially people who support the Tea Party movement.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are famous name callers like Mr. Maher, Mr. Olbermann, most main stream television commenters on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and Fox, or Ms. Garofalo, or just everyday name callers like people on Facebook I happen to know.
When I was young I was taught to respect others, to treat even those you don’t really like with the respect you would want to be treated with.  This used to be known as the Golden Rule – do onto others, as you would have them do onto you.  Now this seems to have been thrown out the window and it seems to be fair game to dehumanize and demonize anyone who stands between you and your sacred opinions.  Routinely words like idiotic, foolish and stupid are used to describe why an opposing view is wrong, but it doesn’t stop with the name calling of the opinion, the individual who expresses that opinion is a fool, an idiot or just plain stupid as well.
For example, when Ms Garofalo talks about the Republicans she points out the “obvious racism” of the party, and that any woman, black or person of color who chooses to align with that party must have Stockholm syndrome isn’t she saying they are idiots because they choose their own path and if it disagrees with her view of the world they must be pawns.  It seems to me if anyone is making a racist or antifeminist statement in this discussion it would be Ms. Garofalo who believes clearly a minority or woman who disagrees with her cannot be thinking clearly and his or her ability to understand reality must have been compromised.  Clearly, with a degree in History and American Studies, she is eminently qualified to render these conclusions.  Yet who is there to offer an opposing view?
How easy it is to post to the Internet comments like shmuck, bitch, fool, or retard when there is little chance anyone will call you on it.  Why is it that it seems a majority of these are made by the liberal communities?  When I was a teenager I used profanity.  I believe it is almost a right of passage, like smoking.  Teenagers use language they believe will offend their parents and their friends as a way of pushing their own independence.  Among teenagers I now expect to hear this regularly because no one is there to teach them differently.  But why is it that we don’t grow out of this and learn to use words that convey our ideas without vulgarity or hate when we are supposedly engaged in civil discourse, or speaking in public where anyone can hear us?
I hadn’t given this much thought until one day I was playing golf with my 28 year old son and I hit an errant shot and said damn or maybe fuck.  He looked at me and asked when I had started swearing.  I was taken back for a moment and had to think about it.  In the world of aviation we swear with our peers as part of the friendly banter.  When my wife and I had children we agreed that swearing around them wouldn’t set a good example.  I hadn’t realized how disciplined or successful I had been until then.
So back to the original issue, why is the progressive-liberal side so much like a naughty teenager when it comes to disagreeing with the conservative-religious side?   Why is vulgarity used as a shock and intimidation tool so quickly?  Is it they really don’t have good counter arguments to make and like angry children they lash out with the only thing they have, profanity and hateful speech? Granted there are those on the right who are equally vulgar, but I have a hard time finding the same numbers, why is that?
So now to that question that keeps rattling around in my brain… What should I do when confronted with this?  For now my approach is to not support whatever show or venue they are at, but surely blocking it out will not help fix the problem, so what should I do?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What We Have is a Problem With Politics! (shades of Strother Martin)

The line, currently being used as a Democratic Party talking point, and mentioned by the President at every campaign stop, or rather every Town Hall meeting, on his bus tour is meant to reflect that when the two parties refuse to put their differences aside for the greater good then the country suffers.
This line would have a whole lot more impact for me if it were followed up with some concrete plans on how he and the Democratic Party are willing to alter their spending and big government approach to move towards a balanced budget.  It was cleaver; his offer to reduce or eliminate payroll taxes to spur the economy.  The only problem with that as has been pointed out is he is offering to stop the funding that is supposed to go to the Social Security and Medicare lockboxes.  The ones Congress routinely raids to pay for their bridges to nowhere, bat feces studies, and Congressional raises.  So if we stop those funds coming in how does he propose we fix Social Security and Medicare who everyone believes will go bust in about 15 years. So really he isn’t offering a viable option, but one that will paint the Republicans in a bad light if they reject it.  Gosh sounds like political gamesmanship to me.
So apparently what is really meant when the President says we have a problem with politics is the Republicans are not rolling over to do what he wants and he doesn’t know what to do so he is asking the citizens of this country to make them stop.  I guess 2012 will show how well he has sold that idea to the majority of Americans.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Life is made up of so many textures, shapes, shades, smells and sounds.   They are what form our world and feed our emotions.  It is remarkable to think how brilliant someone like Helen Keller was to be able to find the beauty and fullness of life when so many of those components were taken away.  As I sit here with my thoughts I am aware of those sounds around and the meanings they bring.
Outside the babble of a fountain is drowned out by the roar of a 16 horsepower-riding lawnmower as my neighbor trims his yard.  The air conditioner comes to life, with the sounds of a blower fan, circulating air to keep the house temperature bearable, as the sun shines down on the West Florida Coastline.
The cat complains to my wife.  It is a female cat, fussy, finicky, and skittish.  In the morning she meows impatiently for food she will turn up her nose to, and then for a head scratch, nothing more and nothing less, finally she will wander off to perch on top of our Belgium wall unit filled with the memories of our past.
The coffee maker fills the pot with a quiet drizzle finally alerting me to its willingness to share its contents with beep-beep-beep.
I push a button and the electric motor surges to life, straining to break the inertia of a heavy weight.  It seems a herculean task for the ½ horsepower motor, pulling open the garage door despite the creaking protestations of the door’s rollers moving slowly along its guide rails. As the door opens the quieter sounds of the outdoors come rushing inside.  There is the swish of the sprinkler, the sound of tires against asphalt as a car rolls by, the exchange of pleasantries as neighbors greet each other on their way to secure the morning paper.
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