Sunday, September 17, 2017

Morning Musings (Inspired from the annals of Facebook)

1.     I wonder where they store the money for social security?  People tell me there are trillions of dollars in the account, so there is no problem with the diminishing labor force paying in, and the account will last forever.
2.    Why is the national debt limit such a big deal?  Our representatives in the Congress have no problem raising it based on political whim or will, so at what point do we declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy and just start over.
3.    A friend pointed out that many of today’s senior college professors went into the business of college during the Vietnam war as a way to avoid the draft.  When the war ended, they were all tenured and became anti-government indoctrinators of the young.  I wonder how true this is?
4.    If we believe the judicial system is rigged, who defines what justice is?  Should we return to earlier versions like trial by combat, or binding hands and feet, and casting into the moat, where if you drown you are innocent?
5.     There seems a great deal of confusion over the word “Free” as in Free Speech.  Many on the left seem to think the words “safe” and “without consequences” are somehow linked to the concept, while many on the right think it only applies to confederate statues and not political protest or bad art.  (Since I don’t live in the big cities where all the protestors like to gather for good TV coverage, or watch that good TV coverage, I remain pretty neutral in my support or condemnation of political protest, with the exception of noting most of the violence I read about seems to come from one side.)
6.    The calls for and against a “single-payer” healthcare system seem divided along income lines.  Those who don’t have a great deal of income want one, those who do, don’t.  (the exception would be our elected representatives who have a great deal of income, but would exempt themselves if they approved one).
7.     Shouldn’t bank executives who drive their bank into bankruptcy be tried by a jury of their depositors? (see points 2 and 4 for cross reference)
8.    All the people who think churches should be taxed should reread the 1st Amendment and explain how they would do that and keep the church and state separate.  Remember, when we started out we didn’t have income tax.
9.    It is easy to appear a hero to your followers when you know the President would veto anything you did, much tougher to be one when your vote counts.
10.  Where have all the cat videos gone?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Race Relationships and the Evolution of Freedom?

Image from
Tonight (9/13/17), while watching the Oakland Athletics play the Boston Red Sox on ESPN, they reported fans were removed from Fenway Park for hanging a sign on the Green Monster that read “Racism is as American as Baseball.”  In watching the video of the sign being displayed, it appeared the sign holders were young and urbane, so I am guessing they were protesting against racism, not in support of, but in today’s world it is increasingly hard to tell.

Over the past ten years we have seen an amazing transformation in the state of race relations in America.  Perhaps it is necessary and should be expected.  You cannot solve a problem unless you are willing to confront it, but the problem of racism will not go away as long as everyone chooses to make it the central issue of every aspect of our lives.  We now hyphenate our Americanism to show pride in our heritage.  Yet for some reason we set aside specific months to celebrate the culture and heritage of only select minorities like the Hispanics and Africans, casting aside the Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Russians, or Polish.

In 2008, this country elected a mixed-race President who identified as an African-American and had rejected his childhood name for his formal name, Barrack.  It appeared to many the dreams of Martin Luther King, Jr. were finally coming to fulfillment.  Granted, there would always be the hate-filled groups that would not surrender the racists views that bound them together, but for the average middle-class American, we as a nation thought we had achieved a maturity in our attempt to reach equality.

Unfortunately, President Obama and his party chose to make race the central focus of his administration.  Choosing not to bring reasonable people together, but using it for its political advantages.  Anyone and everyone who disagreed with any position the President or the left put forward was automatically given a label, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, the list goes on.  The question I can’t answer with certainty was did this occur because of his active political decision, or was he merely floating along with the reactionary forces within his political sphere?  I tend to believe the latter because he rose so quickly on the national stage that I suspect there must be a “king-maker” in the background, and I saw very little true leadership coming directly from the President.  He was a gifted speaker when his teleprompter was working, but I sense he looked to others to make the hard choices as we see in the timing of his public positions on marriage, and sexual identity.

President Trump, who clearly breaks with the approach of the traditional parties, has been under continuous attack from the left, and regular condemnation from the moderate right since his election.  This war of identity politics has clearly escalated as those who don’t like the President now resort to physical violence to achieve their political goal.  Again, maybe this is the natural evolution of the identity politics we have used for the past 20-years?

If so, then what will be the next stage in the evolution of individual freedoms I grew up understanding, and spent my life protecting?  We see, in our young, an intolerance of opposing views, of only one right answer, coming from one source.  It seems to the casual observer that our schools have moved from education to indoctrination.  We have, under the guise of entertainment, gone to selecting nameless people and highlighting them as foolish or stupid to make the point one side or the other is clueless regarding some fresh political issue.  With each showing we erode the middle and encourage political attack, not on solid reason, but on the visceral emotions of the viewer.

Sadly, this is encouraged by the broadcast media.  As commercial enterprises, they are more interested in seeking profit, even if it comes at the sake of a common good.  We see it as well from the personalities we enrich with our viewing who have chosen their political positions and push those opinions forward as the only right answer.

Then we come to the next stage of information flow, the internet.  With the creation of social networking with billions of members on a few sites, what kind of control will go to those who guide what is and is not allowed on those sites?  I suspect the idea of a free exchange of ideas will fairly quickly be squashed in the name of safety.  Yet another of our rights cast aside, or was it only an illusion all along?

The historical view of freedom rested on the acceptance of responsibility by the individual citizen.  As more and more refuse to hold themselves accountable for the common good, and move towards their more selfish instincts, what will be the next version of freedom here in the United States?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Moving from Theology to Meology

There was an excellent homily Sunday morning at church.  The priest spoke about a sign he had seen on another church.  It said we were replacing theology with meology, and he wanted to talk about that.  It got me thinking about it, which is what a good sermon, or homily, should do.
What is Meology?  The simple definition suggests it is placing your individual desires above all else.  If theology is the study of faith, God, and God’s relationship with the world, then meology would be the study of self and how one relates to the world.  The distinction replaces a supreme being with the individual, in effect making the individual the supreme being accountable only to oneself.
This theory, along with the principle of Stare Decisis[i] form the basis for the Supreme Court of the United States decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey[ii], when Justices O’Conn0r, Kennedy and Souter writing for the court said, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In its support and modification of Roe vs. Wade,[iii] the court sided with the right of the individual woman over the right of the fetus (and the state).  What they did not, and could not, address was the long-term affect those decisions would have on society.
As we moved from a belief in the value of life, to a belief that a woman’s right to end life if she chooses is more important, what other unifying principles are discarded?
I believe Justice O’Connor, Justice Kennedy, and Justice Souter err in their statement that at the heart of liberty is self-definition.  I believe acceptance of self-responsibility is a more critical basis upon which individual and collective liberty must rest.  For if we are not responsible for our actions, how long does it take to move from freedom to anarchy? 
Since the court took it upon itself to establish a woman’s right to abortion as a guaranteed freedom, reinforcing that position in PPSEP v Casey, we see in our politics a clearly growing polarization of opinion as those with agendas, both obvious and hidden, maneuver to pull the nation apart.  What within our moral framework calls for us to find common purpose and basis for agreement, if we are focused solely on me rather than us?

[i] Latin – Let Stand
[ii] 505 U.S. 833 (1992), page 851
[iii]410 U.S. 113 (1973)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Staring at a Blank Page.

 It is dark and breezy outside.  Just a very gentle reminder of the winds to come as Hurricane Irma makes her way north.  She is approaching the Florida Keys right now, and those to her east are dealing with heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes.  None of those are expected to impact my little home on the western edge of the state.
Each day starts as a blank page, it will be filled with the doodles of our lives.  It is funny how these pages turn out as we look back on them.  One of the first things I came across as I looked at social media was a post from a couple of friends regarding President Trump’s nomination for Assistant Secretary of the Navy for development and acquisition.   
It was probably 10-12 years ago when I first met James Geurts, at the time an acquisition officer in the USAF with the rank of Colonel.  He had come to United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to serve as the program executive officer for fixed wing aircraft.  In that role he, and his team were responsible for the acquisition and modernization of the majority the of aircraft flown by Air Force Special Operations Command.  As one of the people who wrote the operational requirements for these aircraft I worked closely with him and his team as they directed the necessary funding to various program offices.   During this time, he retired from the AF to become the deputy civilian leader for the acquisition arm of USSOCOM, eventually rising to be its Director.  He is a dynamic individual who both motivates and empowers his subordinates and finds ways to cut through the red tape that burdens the conventional defense department acquisition processes.  Assuming his confirmation by the Senate, it will be an interesting transition for both him and the Navy as he deals with a whole new set of institutionalized bureaucracies.  I wish him, and the Navy personnel who will experience him, good luck and a following sea.
Today will be one spent in final preparation for the winds and rain we should get tonight and tomorrow.  It shouldn’t take long as the forecast is not that dangerous, and when I’m done perhaps, if it isn’t raining, I can get in some golf.
There are always other pens and other doodles I make as I fill my page, but for now they will be my doodles.  Perhaps someday I will share one of those doodles.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Natural Disaster, Aid, Pork, and Political Agendas

Texas just experienced Harvey, and as I write this Florida is about to experience Irma.  The results will be thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of lives forever altered, property losses measured in the billions of dollars, and a recovery cycle likely to take a decade or so.  I expect as a nation we will get through this, we will help each other, and it is fundamental to our nature to move from the bad to the better, and hopefully toward the good.  That said, we see in this and every disaster, the evil and greed of mankind manifest within individuals, corporations and the government itself.

It is for this reason I grieve.  We condemn the companies who will seek profit over compassion when they raise prices to suck the most out of those who are living in fear and panic. As we enter the recovery phases there will be insurance companies who will nickel and dime the insured until they give up in frustration, or the unscrupulous contractors flooding into the areas promising to help the victims restore their homes, but who are only interested in taking as much from the victims as possible.  These are all horrendous examples of man’s inhumanity to their fellow men, but they pale in comparison to the graft and greed we see in our politicians.

We expect the Congress and the President to work together to provide funds to those in need.  The house votes for $8 Billion (that is billion with a B), for initial relief for Texas (and maybe FL), the Senate doubles that amount.  Those who resist are called heartless SOBs.  I wonder how many politicians will pad their retirement funds from this taxpayer largess. 

Spending other people’s money is easy as long as you can take your cut.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Random Thoughts on a Wednesday

Without reading:  Book review of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, “It was everyone's fault, I am a victim.”  Specifically, Bernie, Donald, and every sexist man and anti-feminist woman who didn’t vote for me. (from multiple sources)
A match made in heaven:  Hillary Clinton’s pastor writes a book, CNN discovers he plagiarized from others, and his publisher stops publication and recalls it.  Seems only appropriate.
Alice through the looking glass:  Obama by-passes the Congress and issues a decree allowing illegal immigrant children to remain in the United States, while Congress does nothing.  Trump rescinds the decree, gives Congress 6-months to do something before he will start deportation hearings, and the political opposition is outraged.  Seems about right.
Two Major Hurricanes hit U.S. in one month… It’s Trump’s fault for questioning climate change causation data (credit Gino) (I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism)
I am a pawn in the game of life (Mongo in Blazing Saddles):  Science, when it becomes political, looks a lot like a badminton shuttlecock.  He says this, she said that, data proves this, data proves that, we have peer reviewed studies, peer reviewed studies don’t mean diddly, we have famous people who agree, we have famous people who don’t.   As I watch this tournament play out, I am reminded of the line from All the Presidents Men, (1976) – “Follow the money!”  The people who speak loudest, and most often, have something to gain from their position.  Know what that is and you will know why they are speaking.  Altruism is an illusion. 
We have nothing to fear, but fear itself (paraphrase FDR 1st Inaugural Address):  TV seems to center on the fear and anger invoking story lines.  Reasonable reporting and analysis shall not be tolerated at the national level.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

They Say Clothing Makes the Man

This will be a post seen by only a handful of people, for I won’t post it to Facebook as I am wont to do for most of my posts, but I did want to jot down a couple of thoughts I’ve had about the ongoing cycle of political posturing, and violence, regarding the removal of Confederate commemorative statues, the white supremacists, and their opponents the BLM and Antifa (Anti-fascist).

Many of the millennial youth agree that if the statues offend someone they should be torn down, others argue they are part of our history and should remain.  As a society, we have the right to change our minds about things we’ve done in the past, and for better or worse we have elected people to make those choices for us.  This is the way it is in a Republic.  The fact we may not like the choices of our elected officials is why we have the protection of the 1st Amendment and the right to protest those decisions, or protest the protestors of the decisions.

But with the KKK, BLM, Antifa, or any other hate group we cross over the line where intimidation or violence serve as political sledge hammers to force people into line.  The fact some groups are supported by one party while others are condemned only serves to reinforce for the average person the party that offers them shelter sees political gain in their hate.

So, we come to this question.  What is the difference between a fascist and an anti-fascist?  The color of their clothing.  One likes brown (or white), the other likes black.   
  As far as I can tell that is the only difference. Oh, their supporters will go on and on about how stark the contrast, and how evil fascism is for all the people the Nazis or Japanese killed when they controlled power, but is that relevant?  Do we really think the anti-fascists or any racially driven movement wouldn’t violate another’s human rights if given half a chance?  
   I don’t.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Living in the Age of Tycoons

The industrial age of the nineteenth century saw the rise of the tycoon.  Men who by the strength of personalities, good fortune, and willingness to take risks rose to control the economy of the United States.  They acquired great wealth in a time when most of the country was struggling to make ends meet, and support themselves.

They have left an unmistakable imprint on the America of today, but in their time, they were feared and despised by those whose lives they controlled and the politicians they had not bought.  Names like Andrew Carnage, John D. Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt controlled the critical industries of steel, oil, and transportation, and did everything within their power to eliminate competition, and gain a monopoly.  This became such a central issue to our economy that Theodore Roosevelt set out to break them, and their stranglehold on the nation through the courts, after Congress wrote anti-monopoly laws to force competition.
Andrew Carnegie

John D. Rockefeller

Cornelius Vanderbilt
In the 20th Century we saw a similar pattern with the likes of Henry Ford and John Paul Getty, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton and the Koch Brothers.  Men who saw a need, created a product, and through strength of personality grew their businesses, while they amassed billions of dollars in wealth.  Their vision, their willingness to take risk, and ability to dominate their competition stands as a testament that no matter the rules or hurdles placed before someone, a select few will find a way to separate themselves from the average man or woman.
John Paul Getty

Warren Buffet

Bill Gates

As if proof of this statement is necessary, here we are in the 21st Century and who do we find as this age’s industrial tycoons.  We are in the age of information and advanced technology so it seems fitting to recognize Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Eric Schmidt of Alphabet Corp (owns Google), and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.  Are these men any different than the tycoons of the 19th century?
Jeff Bezos

Eric Schmidt

Mark Zuckerberg

Although I am sure they would cite their pure humanitarian interests I think the answer is obvious by how they run their corporations.  Just like the tycoons of the 19th and 20th century they will do whatever they can get away with to dominate their market and eliminate, or at least minimize, the potential for a rival to take away market share or profit.  They, like their role models of the earlier times, will also make their profits on the back of the average employee and will side with whatever causes they believe will improve market share.  A recent case study with Google serves as a good illustration.  Despite Google’s discrimination in its hiring, promotion, and pay for women, when an employee had the gall to justify why this might be the case he was immediately fired for questioning the public position of the company.  The only true difference I see is those 19th century tycoons would probably have had the employee beaten to show him or her who is really in charge.
Today we see Google coming under increasing anti-trust litigation, and attacks from various governments for its failure to pay, what they believe to be, appropriate taxes.  The same is true for Amazon.  Facebook is just a bit different, but we frequently hear how it, as a private organization, will make a determination on what speech it will allow, and what speech it won’t.  Since Facebook has not been classified a public utility I believe they have a right to do so here in the US.  Of course, in China, Russia, and much of the rest of the world, how Facebook edits content is more in the hands of the host nations.  It’s willingness to modify its standards to ensure national access and government support is in the finest traditions of the industrial tycoons.
At the end of the day the central focus of a rising tycoon is on the accumulation of wealth, it is only later in life do they try and figure out how to leave a favorable legacy.  For those who condemn the 1%, tell me how that condemnation will alter the drive and desire of those who strive to be in that group?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Through the Ages

 We measure time and assign things to an age, although at times it is hard to determine what age we are actually in.  We started with the prehistoric age where record keeping was confined to cave walls and historians didn’t exist, and have progressed through various civilizations until we arrive at today.  Along the way, we passed through the middle ages, also known as the dark ages, (~500-1500 AD) when the Roman Empire had collapsed and Europe fell into disorganization.  Then, of course, we had the age of Enlightenment where learning returned and men studied the classic works of the ancient Greeks and early Roman intellectuals.  This led us to the Industrial age where mechanical devices began to replace the physical labors of the common man or woman and the idea of mass production became a reality. 

Eventually the Industrial age begat the Industrial Tycoon.  He was a man feared by many for the power he wielded and the wealth he accumulated on the backs of the poor workers and the average citizen.  These men, their wives, and their progeny lived in opulence and traveled the world in an effort to see and buy everything they could.  For example, John D. Rockefeller Jr. traveled through post war Europe (1920s), buying up old churches and middle age tapestries, art, and armor from the religious orders and nobles who could no longer afford them.  He brought them home to the US, of course, and found a cozy spot on Manhattan to rebuild them.  
Certainly, these ages are not strictly defined with absolute start and stop dates, rather they are represented by approximations of when significant indications are present.  There are also “unofficial” ages we like to consider, for example the “Age of Chivalry,” where knights roamed the land protecting the poor and downtrodden from the evil that existed.  I assume good knights could be identified by their shinny armor and white ostrich plumes, gleaming broadswords, and pure white chargers; while the bad knights by their rusty dark black armor, ink black plumes, fear invoking broadswords, and black horses.  Their squires, most certainly, also represented the distinction with one group being kind and loyal while the other sneaky, dark, and perhaps even hunched back.
Which brings me to the question of today, what age are we in now?

If we are to believe the ubiquitous news reporting we must be in the “Age of Incivility.”   For night after night, day after day, that is all we hear about.  The media tells us how this group or that group is destroying society.  We see on social media the outpouring of rage, vile rhetoric, and hate over simple things we should find agreement on, but cannot.  In the cities, we see increases in violence and crime where the average person and even the police are warned not to go into certain neighborhoods for fear of their safety and life.

A year ago, there were massive floods in western Louisiana, citizens came together to help each other, people with boats set out to help rescue those stranded by high water and the various communities helped each other.

Today there are even more massive floods in southeastern Texas, including the city of Houston.  Tens of thousands of people are stranded and needing rescue and again citizens, including those from Louisiana, have come to assist the overwhelmed official first responders and the National Guard as they are mobilized.  It is interesting to see the difference in how the survivors respond.  In the small towns and rural areas, these private citizen saviors are welcomed and their aid appreciated.  In the inner city of Houston, they are fired upon and their boats stolen by those who would profit through violence and theft.  

Unfortunately, this says so very much about the state of the age we are in.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thank You Mike Rowe

Today is August 24, 2017, yesterday the social media was alive with a response Mike Rowe, a television and internet personality, posted the day before when he dealt with a troll who attempted to link him, those who support him, and Republicans in general, with the white supremacy movement. Mr. Rowe tore him apart in the most civil of ways demonstrating why Mike is such a popular personality (BTW, this is unsupported opinion).  You can see his response either on his Facebook page (22 August, “Off The Wall”), or in this article Washington Times, Aug 23, 2017, Mike Rowe rips 'smug' reader for white nationalist' insinuation attack on Republicans.

What Mr. Rowe points out is how logical fallacies play so heavily on the arguments made by the left or right as they condemn their political opposition.   As an example, he used a tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson to illustrate this, Tyson said since scientists could accurately predict the solar eclipse they could accurately predict global warming.  The two events have absolutely no correlation, and therefore to say “if A is true, then B must be true” is a logical fallacy that serves only to confuse the issue.  It drives me crazy when I see so many people push this type of argument along as a meme, but I’ve learned, for the most part, to just “let it go.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Priorities, Social and Otherwise

Here on the Gulf Coast, we are in the heart of the hurricane season.  Almost exactly 12 years ago Hurricane Katrina came ashore, with a devastating impact.  The loss of life in New Orleans was almost unimaginable.  The levy systems failed, the drains failed, and the pumps failed as the city was submerged beneath the storm surge.  The local government failed as well.  Their preparations proved woefully inadequate, as they waited too long to order evacuations, and were ill prepared for the devastation wrought by nature or the recovery efforts that would be required.  Louisiana accounted for over 1,500 of the 1,800 total fatalities.  A year after Katrina they were still finding bodies that had been trapped in the attics of flooded homes.

Following the disaster, as there always is, there was a series of government investigations to determine why so much had gone so horribly wrong.  Why had the levies and floodwalls of New Orleans failed?  Why had the government response been so inadequate?  Why had so many died?

The Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the construction and maintenance of the protective system that proved totally inadequate for the task it was designed for.  The investigations determined the government, in an effort to save money, had shorted some of the design requirements and the system was not as strong or robust as it was claimed to be.  The human decision points were late, and the city response was slow, as they underestimated the force of the storm.

The Federal Government was condemned by the press and political opposition, for its slow response to the disaster.  Of course, there were public floggings of the guilty bureaucrats, and the Army Corps of Engineers set out to build a better system of levies, floodwalls, and pumping stations to keep the city dry.  But what about the local leadership?  What about those who failed to maintain their part of the system?

Millions, and perhaps billions, has been spent in post-Katrina repairs and recovery.  Donations by the millions went into helping the poorest rebuild the homes destroyed by the storms.  The Army worked for years rebuilding the floodwalls, levies, and pumping stations to insure they would not be overwhelmed again.  But at the end of the day the primary custodian of the overall system is the city itself.

So here we are with another rain maker storm approaching, and is New Orleans ready?  I think we can safely say it’s not.  On August 10th, the Governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency because the city could not handle the heavy rains of that week.  It appears the city has failed to maintain the pumps and drainage systems needed to move water out of the city.  The story in the Toronto Sun[i] suggests the city isn’t able to handle even the thunderstorms that frequent this area in the summer time, so a major storm coming ashore will, undoubtedly, overwhelm the ill-maintained system.

So where is the public spot light on the local government, asking why they have allowed this?  The spot light will come, it will come when the loss of life occurs, but I am willing to bet it will be again focused on the federal government, rather than the corruption, and failures of a local government that seems more interested in enriching themselves than protecting its citizens. 

Let’s hope and pray for those who have placed their faith in the city council and mayor that they and their homes are not destroyed this year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Life in a Post-Eclipse World

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.[i]”  Yesterday was a historic day.  The press spent almost as much time talking about the darkening of our sun as it did vilifying the President.  It was as if the world stood still.  Millions of North Americans, (500 million by NASA’s estimate), had at least some opportunity to see a part of this event.

Having made a cereal box viewer, I was not impressed. I think I needed a bigger cereal box or perhaps some fancy look at the sun glasses.  Although it got really dark, and wet for a time, I attribute that to the passing cumulonimbus that seemed to block out the moon, blocking out the sun.  But enough about me.

Today we return to what has become the norm, the people at ABCNNBCBS and Fox will again tell us how a statistically insignificant group is threatening our civil liberties with their hate and violence.  Of course, they will take sides and one hate group will be okay, while the other will be damned.

Politicians and celebrities will continue to climb on board with the idea that statuary that was placed by politicians a previous generation or two ago are now dividing our country unlike anything that has gone before.  In the political frenzy, they will not separate the profound from the mundane and will trample on them all.  They will, of course, be aided by the vandalism of one or two politically acceptable hate groups.

What they won’t cover, what we won’t discuss in reasonable terms, and what we won’t make an effort to fix is why are so many young people killing each other in the inner cities?  Why has gang violence escalated to the point that Chicago is now on track to break last year’s total of 789 murders[ii]?  Unfortunately, most of these are African-Americans, or the politicians would be forced to actually do something.  We see politicians talk in grand terms of government support to the poor, or closing our borders, or expanding/contracting our civil rights, but at the end of the day it is all meaningless if we let the one segment of society engage in murder without consequence.  We can fill our prison’s but they are already filled, and all they seem to be doing is returning the vicious back to the streets with better street cred. 

What would happen if we stopped talking about gun control for just a while (Chicago has among the strictest in the nation), and talked about how society has set itself up for this war in the inner cities?  The problem, as I see it, is we have abandoned the concepts of family, faith, and neighborhoods that form the sense of belonging to the young.  Even in our most liberal of areas we still discriminate with expectations for a successful life.  Those who can afford to send their children to private schools do so, those who can’t are left to the mercy of political agendas of the school board and the unions.

Is it better to allow everyone to become victims in this age of victim-hood?  For the major cities it would seem so.

[i] Simon and Garfunkel, “Sounds of Silence”

Monday, August 21, 2017

To Infinity; and Beyond

(with apologies to Buzz Lightyear, Star Command, PIXAR, and all the philosopher/mathematicians within the blog-o-sphere who’ve written so much about the deep meaning of the phrase).
This morning I set out for what Mark Twain described as a way to spoil a good walk.  I was considering the quiet of a course covered in the morning dew, the sun casting long shadows as it began its climb to zenith, and naturally here in Florida the humidity that turns your clothing into damp cloth in a matter of minutes.
A small sphere sitting quietly at rest, until a force, other than gravity, acts on it, transferring energy and imparting motion.  If all things are done in harmony that sphere with its drag reducing dimples will take flight in a graceful arch, supported by a top spin that will allow it to settle gently to earth hundreds of yards from where it began, on a direct line from its origin and a desired point of termination, some distance beyond.
 Along the way, as I travel from one resting spot to the next, and in between the activity points where I attempt to impart just the right amount of energy to the sphere I wonder about a lot of things. 
How fragile life is, yet how often do we seek to destroy it for human convenience?  We have invented a thousand different ways, and a hundred different reasons to destroy life.  If you’ve created a life and you don’t want it?  No problem.  If someone has something you want and the only way to get it is to destroy its owner?  Okay.  If you think life is painful and want to end it, there is help for that. 
Then, of course, we have war, where mankind thoughtfully or haphazardly inflicts grave damage to other parts of mankind to settle a dispute.
But we still grieve for those who’ve made it past the initial screening and are allowed to live, yet die for one of the multitude of reasons.  Why is that?  Why are some lives considered more worth saving than others? 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Morning Thoughts 8/20/17

It has been a tumultuous week, with riots, police shooting, terrorist attacks, and political opinions spinning wildly out of control.  The current “cause celeb” is the removal of monuments recognizing the Confederacy and (mostly) the generals who fought the war.  Liberal establishments are also taking steps to purge the names of slave owners/white supremacists from their institutions (e.g. Yale’s renaming of its Calhoun College).
What distant cities, or Ivy League institutions, do with statuary or names recognizing past contributions isn’t something I lose a lot of sleep over.  The people they commemorate are long dead and beyond caring.  For the most part their only visitors are the pigeons or the students who really didn't know how the name came to be.  I find it pretty funny how this political football has become such a hot topic, with the politicians and their supporters justifying the actions because of how offensive these are to an entire race.  The counter point, made by the opposition is “if these were so offensive why didn’t they all come down during the past administrations term?” I am willing to bet 99% of the race that is supposed to be offended has never given a minutes thought about the statues or the names of various colleges.  It is only the vocal 1% that has chosen to make this an issue, and not because they are historically offended, but because of they see it as a way to attack the President, and gain power for themselves.
So, this is what politics has become, act and counter-act, anger and counter-anger.  Anger and violence fanned by a media that supports one side of the story and a President who has created a persona that encourages the anger that flows from his opponents, both in and out his own party.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today's Question

Why Do Hate Groups Exist?
Perhaps the more important question is why does hate exist?  That is a question mankind has struggled with for our entire existence.  If you have a good answer I am sure the world would love to hear it.  I know I don’t, but I do know greed, envy, vice, and hate have existed since the beginnings of our humanity.  One of the first stories in the Old Testament is Cain’s killing of his brother Able.
I am pretty sure creating alternative hate (alt-hate) groups is not likely to end this unfortunate human trait, for these alt-hate groups will just fuel hate for a slightly different reason.
Also, no matter what the government attempts to do, these groups will not cease to exist.  The human spirit, for better or worse, will find ways to take these movements underground even deeper than they now are.  Acknowledging Godwin’s law, we have only to look at the original Nazi’s and their attempts to crush resistance groups both in Germany-Austria, and the conquered lands.  The government simply cannot put enough laws in place, or lawman to enforce them to prevent their existence. 
Until we find a way to end hate; these groups will exist.  If we, especially our politicians and celebrity leaders, were to universally condemn hate groups, in all their forms, perhaps we might reduce them, but as long as some believe their violent groups are okay, and it’s just the other side that is evil, then the hate will go on.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just a Little Encouragement, That's All

If you support, and encourage, one form of anti-social protest through your silence, you support and encourage all forms of anti-social protest. 

If your political party supports, and encourages, one form of anti-democratic behavior, it supports and encourages all forms of anti-democratic behavior, even that which it abhors, for it only abhors it because it doesn't think it can control it. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

And It Begins

We have begun the second civil war, brought on by an intolerance to divergent views, and a continuing rhetoric of hate.  This war will escalate for neither political party will be willing to step back from the edge, and each side will see the other as evil.  The media, who wins in this conflict, will continue to fan the flames of intolerance and hate seeking an escalation of conflict to increase their profits. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Wit and Wisdom of Neville Chamberlin (and Maxine Waters)

 We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.”

“I want us to be very careful, very alert to what is happening and to avoid war. I think we can do this with some diplomacy…”

“How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.”

“This is something that we should be very concerned about, but this is not the time to go bluffing and threatening. This is a time for a diplomacy,”

“I think there’s some things that they want from us, and we have to find out whether or not we can work with them on the things that they’re asking for,”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Short Story (part 9 - post script)

Home Again
He felt the hot breath of the bison, heard the beating of its hooves, tasted the dust it kicked before it and closed his eyes as he pushed the return on his machine.  His heart was racing at almost 200 beats a minute as he stood in the middle of his living room.  It was quiet, but it took his brain some moments to register the fact he was not dead.  He had not been trampled by the herd.
Tom slowly came back to the present, the world, his world of 2222, and worked to calm his breathing and his heart.  He knew his grand adventure was over, for although he could start over with the preparation and planning he had learned an important lesson.
While he had wide-open space before him, he was never truly alone.  The beauty of nature, with its vast expanse, crystal clear nights, and distant sounds filled the space with a peace and majesty unmatched by any human construction.  But even in the quietest of solitude there was something that provided the comfort of companionship.  He couldn’t quite put his finger on what that was, he had never been a religious man, but there in the open space of the plains, with only his horse and the two mules to keep him company he found companionship that silenced the fears and troubles of his soul.
Tom sat for a long time considering this revelation and tried to decide his next move.  Would he choose a new time and place to explore, or would he begin to explore himself, to see if he could understand that companion he found in the plains of the mid-west?
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