Saturday, March 31, 2012

On the Subject of Letting Go

The easiest advice to give is along the lines of “you’ve got to let go, and get over it!”  So often in an effort to comfort a friend or colleague we offer that advice and perhaps follow it up with some thoughts and suggestions on how the individual can follow the advice.
I think I’ve come to the conclusion I shall never again offer that suggestion because among the hardest things we as humans do is “get over it.”  It really doesn’t matter if it is the loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a loss of an ideal, or the battle against an addiction, the individual must work through an internal process if he or she is to succeed and move on.  Any advice I would offer would be based on my life experiences and not the individuals so the value of that advice is at best mediocre.
Some people struggle for years trying to get over it, they cannot let go and move on, because something inside them believes there must be a way to regain what they had.  In that way they are like a marathon runner who gets to 20 miles and comes up against the wall, where their energy supply is near exhaustion, the muscles are starting to break down, and they are drawing on the last of their reserves.  Some can reach that wall, and are able to draw from within, tap their spirit and move past it to finish the race.  Others cannot, they crash headfirst into it and are unable to go further.  You can say it is because of conditioning, or will, but it is something unique to each of us and only the individual can choose to persevere or quit.
There are a few things I have learned in my six decades here.  First, you have to know with complete certainty you, and you alone, are responsible for your life, your happiness, and your future.  Next you have to understand if you focus on the wrongs that have been done, to you and to others, you will drive your life towards destruction because in life two negatives do not make a positive.  If you tear down others to reinforce your worth, in the end you lose the most.  Finally, letting go does not mean you forget the past, it means you choose to remember it in the context of then, not now. 
For example, we should never forget that slavery existed and that it exists in the world today, but if we cannot get over that as a historical event, and we believe, because it existed, we must continue to apologize for it, can we ever move towards a discussion of equality?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It is a Fine Line

Once again, we as a nation are embroiled in racial controversy with the unfortunate killing of a young man.  The media has latched on to this tragic story and is of course insuring it is played on the national stage.  The president has weighed in with his statements calling for the nation to do soul searching over how a decent black youth can be killed by a Hispanic, or white, neighborhood watch vigilante.
The Black Panthers have placed a $10,000 bounty on the capture, dead or alive, of the shooter.  Whose identity is known but has not yet been formally charged.  The black community is pressing for the federal government to become involved and to declare this a hate crime.  Spike Lee tweeted his supposed address to his 240,000 followers, and it turned out to be the wrong one, putting an elderly couple in danger.  All based on news reports that are bias and agenda filled.
It reminds me of the time the President energized his supporters to blame conservative politician’s and conservative media for inciting the Tucson shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and several bystanders, including a tragic death of a 9 year old girl.  With those condemnations we saw an outpouring of violent rhetoric including death threats against prominent conservative politicians.
All this is done before the real facts are known, the investigations completed, and the evidence weighed in honest judgment.  It is today’s version of a lynch mob, fired up by leaders out for blood, no matter the cost, or politicians seeking a political advantage.
In today’s world it is a fine line between inspiring a nation, and inciting a nation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring is a Time for Renewal

It is spring now, and although the winter was a mild one it is seems the right time to get out of the house and take on those nagging chores I’ve been putting off for a while.  The mailbox sits resolutely at the end of the driveway, but the post upon which it stands is termite infested and threatened to give way.  So with the sun shinning, the temperatures in the 70’s and nothing else that had to be done it was time to handle this little project.
While I was at it, the idea of just remounting the mailbox seemed somewhat inappropriate.  Here was a nice new cedar post.  How would it look with an unkempt box atop it?  So it was time to sand and repaint the box as well.
While I was digging out the old post and refreshing the mailbox with a new coat of paint I had a chance to think about the similarity of this simple task to life itself.  For example, sitting alone performing your role day in and day out can lead to a weakening of your core.  If I had given the mailbox post more attention through the years, perhaps it would not have become infected with termites.  It was Ben Franklin who said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  In this case he was very accurate.  Although the post had served me well for ten or more years if I had taken just a few moments to sprinkle a few ounces of pest control around it every year it would not have taken all my strength to pull it from its home to make way for a new one.  We need to find time to keep our own core sold and strong as well.  For me this involves reading, writing, work, care for family and loved ones, and renewal of my beliefs.
As I painted the mailbox I thought of how our economy has become one where disposal seems the first choice.  When something becomes too old we cast it aside and replace it with something new.  I am not sure we always find that new is better.  My mailbox was solid and functional.  It had served us well for ten or more years and did not need to be replaced.  I found a couple of cans of paint brings a whole new look, and as far as I can tell the old box should serve us well for the next ten years, at a fraction of the cost of a new one.  Isn’t that really what life is like?  If we spend just a few minutes repairing things, rather than casting them aside we have what we need at a fraction the cost.  It doesn’t matter if it is a mailbox or a life, we should always look to what we can do to keep what we have and strengthen and renew it when necessary.  While this may not work all the time, I think it a good first rule.
Speaking of Spring Renewal.  If you’ve not heard of the Alcoa Eagle Cam, it is worth a quick look.  There are a nesting pair of Bald Eagles with baby eaglets. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Life is About Choices

As I see life there are always choices.  The question before each of us is do I have the courage or the will to make them?  When I was younger there was a tremendous pressure to be part of the group.  If you weren’t you were outcast and left on your own to develop the confidence necessary to move on.  Far too many did not make good choices and turned to others for that support.  They rationalize to themselves they had no choice.  Once you give up the right to choose you give up control of your life.  
As adults there are similar pressures to give into the popular positions of the day.  This again is rationalized in a number of ways.  We can say we have to fit in, or everyone agrees so it must be right, or someone made me this way.  When you choose to be petty and vindictive and say it is because others have made you that way, you are only kidding yourself.  You are that way because you choose to be.  Is that really a choice you’re happy with?
Choose wisely.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Can you be Presidential If you are Always Campaigning?

Over the past three years a lot has been made about how the Republican’s have attacked the President.  Although his defenders don’t want to hear it, much of this has been of his own doing.  I would almost suspect by design based on what has transpired.
How long did the President drag out the debate as to his right to serve because of possible irregularities in his birth certificate and the fact his father was not an American citizen.  You haven’t heard much on that subject for a while.  What did it take to end it?  Simply releasing a birth certificate.  What was so hard about that?  While everyone was focusing on this rather petty, but central issue, was the President able to accomplish great things behind the scenes?   If he did I must have missed it.
On to the subject of College transcripts, along with the debate on birth, there has been a question on how the President did in college.  This has been made a big deal by the universities and President about the privacy of that information, yet earlier in the Republican Primaries, someone in Texas A&M didn’t think it so important to keep the transcripts private for Governor Rick Perry.  Where was the outrage over that little slip, did Perry make a big deal out of it, not that he had a lot of options once it is out?
Both these positions worked effectively during his initial campaign to draw attention away from his far left agenda to bring the United States in line with a more socialist, progressive country where the central government controls the decisions and the states become increasingly irrelevant. 
Once elected the man who promised to work for good legislation that would end the ever increasingly partisan rancor has done everything but.  When the Democrats swept into office in 2008 what did we see?  The Democratic leadership of both the House and the Senate demonstrated complete arrogance in how their agenda was to be implemented, even if it is a path to bankruptcy.  Any time the Republican’s raised objections they were painted in the media as the party of No.  Where was the President on this?  Did he help moderate his congressional leadership, and steer the debate towards a centrist solution.  If he did I must have missed it, for all his speeches reflected exactly the same message as Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reed.  We are in charge and we are going to have it our way.  Where was all the action to support the rhetoric of the campaign about working with the other side?  Sure the diehards, the ones that still can’t get over the fact Bush was elected in the first place hang on the excuses, but I don’t think those looking for government solutions and cooperation do.  They realize it is all about making the other side look weak and preparing for that next election.  This approach cost him a democratic victory in 2010.
When fiscal conservatives, concerned about the skyrocketing federal deficit united they were viewed as “terrorists,” “racist’s,”  “hostage takers,” and the “Antichrist.” Then when it suited the progressive agenda, another group sprang up to be embraced by the leading Democrats.  The Occupy Someplace group brings with it a demand that the rich pay for all their desires.  Where was the President on all this?  Right in the middle of fanning the flames of class warfare, not focusing the nation towards a common goal where all benefit, but sowing the seeds of racial division, ethnic division and fiscal division.  Are we a stronger nation from his campaign to divide Americans?  I don’t believe we are.
How about in addressing the National Debt?  On the two sides we have, a) more taxes on the rich help to pay our bills, and b) no new taxes, reduce the size of government and its many programs.  With Representatives and Senators locked into a battle about how to control spending, something I would point out no Senator or Representative has ever in the history of our nation been very good at, where does the President fit in?  Again, he is on the campaign trail fanning the flames of class warfare as he pushes for bigger government funded by more taxes on the rich, as well as reducing the income from taxes for everyone else.  How does that address a long-term solution to the debt issue?  Obviously he is all for kicking the can down the road if he can.   That does not strike me as a leadership role. 
Health care – there are too many issues here for a simple synopsis, but again it becomes an all or nothing proposition.  When there is an issue he plays to his strength, mustering the forces available to condemn the opposition rather than find a path to make the nation stronger.
For someone who has said he opposes stupid wars perhaps he truly believes he strengthens the US as a leader when he bows to the European Union, and the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow governments.  I am just not sure I understand how we are better today than we were a year ago, with uncertainty in Egypt and Libya. True we left Iraq, but was is left behind for stability besides a $592 million dollar Embassy with a $1.2 billion/year budget? 
When given a choice, reach out or attack, why is it inevitable what you would do in a election campaign is the choice our President  makes?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Questions on a Saturday

It was a quiet weekend day, the schedule was not demanding.  In fact, it was as full or empty as I wanted it to be.  It is good to have these types of days from time to time.  What I needed to do was done, what I should have done was considered, what I didn’t feel like doing – forgotten.
So in the course of this lazy day here are the questions I come away with.
Ø  How long can meat be kept frozen before it is bad?
Ø  Why isn’t permanent press permanent?
Ø  Why did my car battery go dead after sitting in the drive for 13 days?
Ø  How do you persuade your Magnolia tree to not drop its leaves?
Ø  Whose idea was 10% ethanol gas? – it is killing my gas powered tools
And finally
Ø  Today is Saint Patrick’s Day, the patron saint of Ireland.  He is known for driving the snakes off the emerald isle, so shouldn’t everyone be celebrating by waving snakes around rather than dressing in green?


It is a good thing too often lost in the politics of today.  I wonder if it is just an ideal I imagined or was once there and is now lost forever?

Thursday, March 15, 2012


There are many forms of strength, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, gastronomical, and perhaps metaphysical.  Is it important to be strong?  I hear that all the time; you need to be strong, you need to be there for someone, you need to get over it.  Why?  Why do I need to be strong?  Why does everyone need to be strong?  Is that one of the problems with the world today, the strong dominant the weak?  As Matthew 5 says…
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Now assume, for just one minute, the bible isn’t really the literal word of God, but inspired text to help us understand how a society must be structured to be successful.  Should we assume the people who wrote it are the people the Democrats would call the 1% with the intention of keeping the 99% in line?
Should the average Christian reject this as guidance and become strong and take from those who oppress him the material wealth that is his/her right?  If we are not happy with our lot in this life, should we demand more of the society so it provides for our wants above what we as individuals are able to?  

On the Issue of Rights

For at least the last 151 years we have seen an increasing position on the part of the Federal government to usurp the rights of the States. 
So my question is what rights should the states maintain?  With the Federal Government getting into the debate over marriage, should this right be taken from the states so the Federal Government can set a single standard?  For example, before Utah was admitted as a state the Mormon Church had to renounce polygamy a life style enjoyed by the faithful.  Now that gays and lesbians seek state approved marriage, wouldn’t it be easier for the Federal Government to mandate it?  Why not amend the Constitution to just pull that right from the state as so many seem to want?
How about the Major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Miami and Philadelphia?  Should they become autonomous entities responding directly to the Federal Government and have their own representation rather than be a part of a state delegation?  Perhaps they can be funded as the government funds Washington DC?  Hasn’t that worked well?  Isn’t DC a shining model of how a city should be run?
With the decision on Roe versus Wade the Supreme Court took control of the reproductive decisions and made them a Federal issue.  Shouldn’t we go that extra step and amend the Constitution so this is clearly no longer within the States prerogative?
And control over Woman’s rights, wouldn’t a constitutional amendment put all this debate to rest?  Why is it I don’t hear a push for this from those so concerned with the loss?

Monday, March 12, 2012


I would like to believe I am consistent in my views, although if I am always so, then they could never evolve.  I wonder how many of us find that consistency is the most important thing, and once formed an opinion cannot be changed.  Is that a problem we have today?
There is a difference between training and education.  We send our young off to be educated, but educators it seems, for the most part, have become singular in their beliefs and foster a one sided view of a subject, not encouraging our young to see both sides of an issue, and thereby know that there is room for disagreement and debate.  Coming from this education a child always set out to build a better world in the image of the mentors, but how are they taught to question and decide for themselves?  At one point in my life I taught air navigation to new students.  Each of us understood we were trainers and not educators.  The difference?  We were teaching a skill, not opening a mind to think and develop its own ideas.  It appears to me that educators of today may have closed their minds and see themselves as trainers rather than what they should be, people who help the young to think for themselves.  It would be nice to see some different consistency in education.
That society changes is, I think, an absolute.   Each generation builds and expands on the progress made by their parents, sometimes for the better, sometimes not.  For example, my parents were children of the depression and were shaped by those experiences.  They were focused on providing for the family, were not afraid to use a belt to discipline, and took complete responsibility for their work.  Well kind of, since the family was a bit dysfunctional, and my father was an alcoholic, there were some deviations to the stereotype family.  What I saw in my upbringing was a lack of consistency.  One day my father would say one thing, the next there would be regret and he would say or do something completely different.
From the lesson’s of my youth I attempted to be a different (and by inference better) parent.  At the same time I was not opposed to occasionally employing corporal punishment when I thought it necessary.  I still believe this may, in some cases, be warranted, but clearly I am in a minority and I suspect the use of “time-outs” is viewed as the current "Best Way."  This doesn’t mean I am right; in fact I probably am not.  Will my grand children grow up to understand their roles in society and be productive because of time outs?  Only time will tell.  But one thing I am absolutely certain of is that a parent must be consistent.  If he or she tells a child that something will happen, it has to be done just as the parent says it will.  Children need structure and in that structure find the confidence to grow.
So at the end of the day I return to the central question is being consistent in your beliefs a good thing or does it box you into only seeing one side of a problem?  When should we strive for consistency and when must we abandon it?

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Have Been Spoiled by Freedom

As an American I am spoiled by the freedoms I’ve known all my life.  I did not grow up in desperation; where I watched my family slaughtered by people who didn’t like my tribe, or my religion.  I did not have to run, wondering what I would find to eat or where I would sleep, although in this great society there are those who do.
As an American I have had choices, oh so many choices.  I never had to accept no, if I didn’t want to.  When one door closed on me, I could find an alternate path, if I really wanted what was behind that door.  Now our society seems to be changing from where people like me expect only a chance to find their way, to where when confronted with a no, the individual expects the government to find that alternate path.  It is up to the government to make everything right and just.  It is up to the government to make life perfect.
I watch as we tune into the television or radio each day to hear as our favorite celebrity advises us what to think, and how easily we give up that simple right to think for ourselves to support, without question, politician’s who promise to make our life perfect.  In this struggle to convince us they are right and the other side is wrong each will jump on the bandwagon of slander and personal attack.
These past two weeks have seen a cavalcade of accusations and counter-accusations revolving around the congressional testimony of one Ms. Sandra Fluke to a group of democratic representatives and Mr. Rush Limbaugh’s disparaging comments about her.   While I may disagree with Ms. Fluke’s assertions on the impact of a lack funded contraceptive services has on her and other women, her testimony has become completely irrelevant, because it now serves only as a battleground for liberals and conservatives over everything but the core issue of the role of government with regards to the church and mandated health care. 
As I see Mr. Limbaugh lambasted as a misogynist (a hater of women), by the left, I sit amazed at their tolerance of someone like Bill Maher who has a much longer record of calling women names.  Why is that?  Is there some context where calling a woman a slut and a whore is okay?  Perhaps, if you don’t like a woman’s politics it’s okay, but clearly Mr. Limbaugh didn’t like Ms. Flukes politics, so that can’t be it.  Maybe it has to do with media, are TV audiences more forgiving then radio?  Fortunately I am an American and I can just turn off the TV or radio and ignore this, but can I really?   Can I sit and watch this foolishness and just remain quiet?  After all, I am but one small voice in a flood of voices.  Personally I can think of no better fate for Mr. Limbaugh than to lose all his listeners, for that would mean they move towards something else, perhaps something better.   At the same time Mr. Maher’s loss of audience would be just fine with me, because it would mean people have tired of his vitriolic spew (called humor by some) and are looking for something else.
Changing subjects – How can those who support the current administration in their ongoing expansion of the government’s control of our lives take issue with things like the Department of Health and Human Services and Congress’ decision to regulate what food you can eat and how its safety is documented.  According to the FDA rules - producers of food products will have to document almost everything from planting through digestion.  For those operating small “boutique” type operations, like communal organic gardens, this law may put an end to that type of set up because of the cost of record keeping.  Surely our public safety far out weighs the insignificant risk of mass illness from these small ventures.  As the FDA states right up front it is shifting its role from responding to those instances of contamination to preventing them.  They are only looking out for our own welfare.  As they point out in their regulation each year 48 million people get sick from food.  Almost 128,000 are sick enough to be hospitalized and of those 3,000 actually die.  For the record there are almost 312 million Americans so we are talking about .0096% of the population die from foodborne causes.  Just to put this into context there where about 32,000 highway deaths in 2010. 
My point here is simple, if you want a government to protect us from those things we don’t like, or provide us all the things we think we want, you have got to accept a government able to impose itself on those things we do like.   I don’t think you get it both ways.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Skimming the Cloud Tops

There are few times in your life when things are crystal clear, and you know exactly why you are here, and what you are meant to do.  In between those times it is very easy to get caught up in the mundane aspects of life, work, family, weekends, or self-importance.  These are the times when we find ourselves involved in things like the petty fights between siblings, or the bickering of two people talking politics, name calling and other childish, but unchild-like behavior.
For me, the rush of speed as you burst through the tops of the clouds and you rush along the canyons of air, or as you twist and turn at treetop level focusing your entire being on the moment directly before you.  It is too bad we can’t find in our daily lives a way to channel the important efforts before us into that same concentration.  To be in the moment, 100% committed to our decision and the actions that follow from it.  If we could, I think the petty annoyances would fall like beads of rain rushing off the widow we are looking through.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sunrise Comes Early

From near Morehead City, NC. This past week or so I've been on a working vacation of sorts. My wife and I are visiting our daughter-in-law and grandson in their new home. Our son is away at medical school so I am filling in, doing those home repairs you always fine with your first house. (note to self: do more stretching exercises) As a nonprofessional craftsman it is always rewarding to see a project come to completion and actually work the way the manufacturer says it will. So far this week I have successfully installed a door, a garage opener, and curtain rods. With considerable help from my wife I've also built a children's play yard. Of course as an amateur, each project seems to take about twice as long as the instructions say. Well time to get back to work...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Ponzi only Bigger

What is the difference between social security and a Ponzi scheme? This past week while I've beeen on vacation, away from the daily news I've been wondering about this. We vilify the Bernie Madoff's of the world for living the highlife with other peoples money until one day the bills come due and they are found out. They survive for years by paying the initial investors with funds deposited by the new ones. For at least the last thirty years, some have been warning of a day when the SS fund will be paying out more than it takes in as baby boomers flood into the payout phase and our children don't replace us as investors, either because they fewer, already on the government dole, or moving from temporary job to temporary job. So who should we hold accountable for this?
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