Monday, April 29, 2013

The Human Spirit

There is so much written on the uniqueness of the human spirit that I doubt I will add anything at all to the vast library of opinion, and I think it is important to note that is what everything written really is.  We can not define a chemical make up for this quality, we can not analyze a specific genetic composition, nor does it manifest itself in a singular behavior, but researchers and theorists will postulate on what makes up this quality and back up their theories with statistics to show how right they are.  Does it matter what a PhD thinks is the essence that makes us human, why some are willing to sacrifice themselves, if it is necessary to, or how when struck down with unbelievable hardships some will persevere and overcome?  I don’t think so.
But there is something that leads men and woman to think beyond self and in an instant overcome the inclination flee and instead move towards the cries for help, or the sounds of disaster.  For these human’s the honor of being called a hero seems appropriate.  It seems to me certainly more appropriate than calling someone who makes a charitable contribution a hero, for no matter how beneficial that gift might be it was not made with any potential of sacrifice, other than to wealth, and I don’t see a transfer of wealth to fall in the same category as a willingness to trade one life for another.  But then in todays upside down world we throw around all sorts of feel good words.
For those who show the courage to overcome personal tragedy and succeed where others say they cannot, they show another unique quality we humans seem to have, the ability to fight on when the odds should compel us to surrender.  We see this all around us, from the children stricken with cancer, to the veterans struggling to overcome the wounds of war.
For all who would honor the human spirit I think this song from the Man of La Mancha is fitting.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Simple Observation on Reality

Change is inevitable, as much as some would want a society to remain stable and unchanging that is impossible.  If this was not so, there is a good chance we would be speaking Latin today.  The question then becomes how do we change, what becomes the catalyst?
I’ve noticed, as part of the transition to adult, children need to separate themselves from their parents.  As a group they adopt styles or behaviors that challenge the beliefs  or accepted practices of their parents.  Think about it, in the 1920’s they invented the risqué dance known as the Charleston, and made Speakeasy’s popular.  The 1030’s brought us swing and jive.  Today, we read about these things and think, God that is tame.  Was it really so tame back then?
We consider the 1950’s to be gray and tame, but if you think about it, that generation laid the roots of rock and roll, the blues, and integration in place.  Of course in the 1960’s we had radical anti-war movements and the golden age of rock and roll.  Each evolution slowly challenged the society it was a part of.  As communication improved so did the speed of change.
In the 60’s fathers had short hair, so the sons grew theirs long.  In the 90’s those same kids from the 60’s still had long hair so the son’s cut theirs short.  In the 50’s parents supported the illusion of separate but equal.  After Brown v Board of Education, this was struck down, but it took the equal rights movement of the 60’s to really begin the move to equality. 
When I entered the AF they thought it was important I take classes on equal treatment of minorities.  The AF I grew up in slowly embraced the concept, but it took the retirement of many senior Generals, and the ascent of younger men and woman, without the old bias to fulfill the dream.  Listening to outlets like MSNBC I wonder if it is possible to achieve equality within our society since they bring this up as a cause in almost any event?
As recently as a couple of years ago, senior officers were adamant that allowing homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces would destroy moral.  Since the President rescinded “Don’t Ask” we have not seen the foundations of the Department crumble so I am guessing we will live through this change too.
So what kind of changes will this next generation of youth choose as they rebel against their parents?  Parents who have tattooed themselves from wrist to ankle, who speak with profanity and accept it in music, movies and TV, who have helped our nation polarize its politics, who have found the killing of defenseless infants acceptable, and fundamental religious beliefs a reason for mass murder, or who have seen their college degrees earn them only slightly more than minimum wage.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It Seems a Reasonable Question

John Oliver, a regular on the Daily Show, is claimed to have said, “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and now we all take off our shoes at the airport.  Thirty-one (mass) shootings since Columbine, and no change in our regulation of guns.”  Implied in this statement are the questions; What is wrong with America? & Why not? 

As with most propaganda, this piece reflects an outstanding use of slight of hand to solicit an emotional response for two unrelated issues, as though some relationship should exist.  The first is travel safety, something without any specific provisions in our Constitution; the second is the problem of the horrific violence perpetrated on children and adults by individuals with guns, a commodity specifically identified in the Bill of Rights.

It also makes claims that are flagrantly untrue, or are at best glittering generalities.  I dare say it was more then just Richard Reid’s attempt on American Airlines flight 63 that led the Department of Homeland Security to change our screening procedures, but even if it wasn’t they were able to do so through regulation, it did not require specific legislation since that was provided in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, that established TSA and gave them broad authority to protect travelers or restrict the rights of travelers, depending on your view.  To the best of my knowledge those regulations have not been challenged in court, although we hear frequent grousing about TSA’s abuse of passengers.

The second statement is, I believe, equally untrue.  There have been laws enacted after the acts of violence.  For example after Columbine, LA Times - CO Governor Signs 4 Post-Columbine Gun Laws; and after Newtown, New Haven Register - Stricter Gun Laws Shake Up Connecticut's Firearms Industry.  A number of other states have enacted similar legislation tightening control of firearms, so these are just two examples. 

I guess the question is, what would make those who want to stop gun violence happy? Depending on your point of view the answer can be extreme, but I suppose writing an Amendment to the Constitution, and putting it to a vote, would be out of the question here because the mean old NRA is just too strong and owns too many Congressmen and women, who get reelected about 95% of the time.

Whatever the answer it is will have to sustain a constitutional challenge, so rather than beat your chests and put out emotional propaganda, why don’t you start with some serious legislation that makes sense?  Rather than grandstanding for the media and parading victims before the cameras, maybe the proponents should return to the smoke filled (whoops no smoking in Government work spaces) “Back” rooms behind closed doors and do real political negotiation, because we’ve seen how ineffective public debate is.  The public has a very short attention span, and will move quickly to the next big news story on FOX, or ABCNNBCBS. 

For example, I’ve seen a couple of interesting proposals from hunters and sportsmen on what would seem to be reasonable options for the gun industry.  The NRA would undoubtedly oppose them just because, but from a technical standpoint, if you are worried about the number or rounds a gun can fire and how quickly they can be reloaded then they make sense.  The first would require new rifles to be manufactured for clip loading through the top, like the M-1 Garand.  If you wanted a gun with the look of a magazine, the clips could load into the top and then eject out the bottom, but at the end you would still be limited in clip size and reload time.  A second would be for a tube load system where the rounds would be loaded in a tube down the bottom of the barrel.  With either of these solutions the gun would take longer to reload, but could still look like the AK-47 or 74, or AR-15/M-16 of your dreams.  Wait you say, what about hand guns?  Aren’t they really the weapon that is used the most in these types of crimes?  For those I agree we need to find a way to perhaps limit the size of the magazine.  

I am certainly open to some kind of great idea on how to do that in a practical and affordable way, anyone got a great affordable idea that will stand up to the limitations of our Constitution?

Friday, April 19, 2013

It’s Easy

There is a growing number of people who now recognize we have become, or are becoming an UN-civil society.  We see celebrities using profanity without regard to their surroundings; we see public flogging of politician’s whose views are different then what left or right wing political commentators might agree with.  There are tweets with racial and ethical slurs floating all over the place, and the social media is full of aspersion and counter-aspersion “cutesy” posts about one party or another, or one politician or another.
One of my favorite observations this week was an exchange on the subject of civility where a respondent was worried that too many people were posting opinions and not facts.  I was reminded of an old saying, “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure,” I think the same applies to fact and opinion.  The way the news is slanted if you only view the news you agree with you are only getting half the story.  If you then go forth spreading this propaganda you are really not spreading factual information; you are, forgive the pun, in fact spreading opinion.  It just happens to be disguised as a fact.
If you are concerned with the direction our country is going, regarding civil discussion and debate, then I think there is an easy choice -- don’t forward those little posters condemning those you disagree with; think for yourself, write what you believe, not what others tell you to believe and treat others as you would have them treat you.
I would close with this thought, “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing.  One that sounds good, and a real one.”  ~J. Pierpoint Morgan

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Our world circles the sun, the sun sits in the outer reaches of a galaxy that circles its center, our galaxy presumably is moving at great speed away from the origin of the time-space continuum and will at some point reach the end of that continuum perhaps to start a new one.  Life started from a freak accident, or God began it, it evolved from random happenstance, or by intelligent design, our lives just are, or they have a greater purpose, and in the end there is only the end; or there is heaven.
For people who are concerned with more than survival, there is a lot to think about and the choices made -- lead down the path that, at its end, defines a life.  I wonder how we determine what is relevant and what is not?  How do we decide what issues excite us and what are just boring?  Which battles do we fight, or what opportunities do we take?
These are interesting times, but then I think all times must be interesting to the humans who occupy them.   The combative nature of man is a primal aspect of who we are; it has assured our survival and may mark our doom.  There does not seem to be any issue with universal acceptance and agreement on what is right or what is wrong, what is important or what is not, what should outrage or what should inspire us.
Lets consider, for a moment, a couple of current examples I see contrasted in the news and social media.
First there is the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, an abortionist from Philadelphia who stands accused of murdering one patient and seven infants who survived their abortion.   Most of the mainstream news outlets find nothing of national significance in this case.  There is nothing worthy of reporting on, or in the words of one outlet, this is just a “local story,” look elsewhere for your news. It is only the contrarian outlets like Fox or conservative talk radio that find the story newsworthy for a national audience.  On the other side, we have national attention and political interest focused on the gun industry and citizens who choose to own guns, because of the violence done to children and adults by a number of offenders.  I am not so naïve as not understand why, but it does seem to be a curious process on how relevance is determined.
I've drawn this picture of how I think it works.  I am certainly open to other views.

For what it’s worth, I am afraid as we move on in time, with each side taking absolute positions with an open intolerance for opposing views, the areas where we find common ground and common relevance shrinks.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things I Think About, While Pressure Washing

Pressure washing my driveway is a mundane task.  Not a lot of analytical processes involved, just some attention to detail.  Clearly a right brain task, that leaves my left-brain pretty much alone.  And you know what happens when brains are left alone, they wander around getting into trouble.  Which, if you think about it, explains why a lot of Politicians make the headlines for various scandals!
So I was thinking this morning, why should the State [and for my friends who take everything literally, by State I mean government at all levels] sanction marriage at all?  Why not leave that exclusively to the Church?  Of course by sanction I mean, license it, recognize it, bestow any unique rights or privilege at all to it?  I am told the arguments that marriage is important to the state for reasons of procreation are weak and not relevant, so if that is true then why place any value towards it as a function of the law?
For the progressive left who argue that the wealth of the nation belongs to all, then what better course but to establish right up front that family has no retainable value, and marriage is not to be rewarded with tax benefits, and the estate must pass to the government upon the death of whoever owns the property.
It would eliminate the idea that birth to a stable family group is in the States interest and allow for any definition of family the affected individuals choose.  Of course this would put a tremendous hurt on the divorce attorney business because relationships would be bound only by the transient nature of lust, and in a few increasingly rare cases love.  For Church sanctioned marriages of people who place faith in God and belong to a Church, who has blessed and sanctified the marriage, the bonds might be a bit stronger, but even then, our society as sadly shown this is for so many just a transient bond.  
Since the marriage has no basis in the law there would be not recourse in courts for settlement and the parties would be free to resolve the relationship in any manner they see as reasonable.  Perhaps when they joined they could form a LLC or incorporate and then the rules of business could be applied. 
As we move forward in the current debate, I wonder just how long before the question becomes why have marriage at all?  I think some, on the left, have already asked it so it shouldn’t be too long.
Well, I'm done with the pressure washing, now to go round up my left brain and find something useful to do with it.
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