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Aging gracefully, one skin-tag at a time

August 16, 2013

Aging gracefully, one skin-tag at a time

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Senior challenge…

October 3, 2018

2018_10OCT-03-Two Men on a Bench [zipped]_final

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Necessary and Proper…

September 10, 2018

…According to WHOM….?

I don’t recall whether or not I answered the decennial United States Census in 1970, but if I did it would have been the last time I responded to one even partially, if at all. It’s not premature to talk about it; the next dance is only about a year and a half away.

I think the Census is important, as did the founders of this nation, in order to ensure proper representation according to the Constitution. In recent decades however, our government has become host to a bloated and ever-growing bureaucracy functioning far beyond its mandate. It is now largely a mega-corporation, with the sole objective of acquiring revenue and distributing it in ways designed only to enhance the process of acquiring more revenue. This, of course, is the objective of any business, the difference being that private businesses do not have captive, guaranteed sources of income, or the power and authority to enforce their demands for capital at the point of a gun. Government does, and it was not supposed to be that way. The Census, by continually adding to the information gathered for the legitimate purpose of enumeration with intrusive questions used to feed the needs of the bureaucracies as they redistribute the annual involuntary surrender of the public’s wealth, has spilled way beyond its intended function.

It would be naïve to think that the government would not have its sternsheets firmly nailed down when mandating compliance with any order “or else.” It does this first by interpreting that part of Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution which states Congress may conduct the decennial Census “..in such Manner as they shall by Law direct” to mean Carte Blanche and free rein in the matter of content and subject matter, instead of referring to methodology such as by mail, door to door, and so forth, which is both far more reasonable and far more likely. Secondly, as the bureaucratic appetites and Executive ambitions grew, the Census was enlisted to cater to the feast by creatively interpreting the Necessary and Proper Clause” of the US Constitution, Article 1 Section 8. The Newspeak version declares that they must follow the Constitution except when it gets in the way and then they can do what they want. It doesn’t say that, of course, depending upon whom one asks, but then again that can be what it means, depending upon whom one asks. It has been this process which has gradually changed the Constitution from a document protecting the people from government into one requiring the people to serve that government’s stated needs.

When I realized the expansion and saw it for what it was, and is, I reexamined my obligations as a citizen of the United States. My only obligations are to myself and my family. Like rights, I acknowledge that they exist, as does the Constitution, or I determine them myself within the limits of that document. I have a duty to participate in the process of enumeration to ensure that my community and I are properly represented in Congress. In that regard, I am willing to provide an accurate accounting of the residents of my home. Nothing more. That has been my way since at least 1980, and will be the limit of my participation in 2020 as well.

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Electronic Baby-sitters…

September 2, 2018

…Do not make Effective Writers….

In spite of much exaltation of the digital world of communication, or, admittedly, perhaps because of it, I rarely find myself reading through some missal without cringing. I’ve done a variety of things during my lifetime, but I think deep down I’ve always been a bit of an editor. Spell-check be damned, and it usually is, it seems the written word of today is first seen and allegedly “corrected” by algorithms. Now the purveyors of canned English are even advertising a program, or whatever they call it, to supposedly tune up the writer’s poor grammar and wording. Undoubtedly, the next brilliant idea will be a program to tell people what to think and how to think it. Actually, if one takes the time to count the beans and look at the pretty colors, perhaps that is already a work in progress.

Never.

I write because I have enjoyed that effort for as much as sixty years, give or take a few months. Over the course of those years I have learned to love words, language, and how they can be woven together to facilitate communication, to describe and pass on the very heart of human culture, to bring about change, to create great literature, and more. The very idea of some machine spitting out rules of usage according to a pre-approved menu of permissible options created by some obscure committee or individual disturbs me. I don’t dislike machines. They can be useful tools, but they should work for humanity, not the other way around, and they should not be secretly created to build a world according to the latter.

The internet has provided the opportunity for countless individuals to express their ideas and exchange them with others. There are downsides to the anonymity inherent in the platform, but individuals themselves will iron out the conflicts eventually if not interfered with.

When I read through an article, I can’t help but read it to some extent with an “editor’s eye,” and I often find myself asking out loud “Did anybody bother to actually read through this thing before pushing the enter button? Holy crap!” Even a stupid idea can be well written, but all too often “internet journalism” is a minefield of poor wording, poor grammar, and poor spelling. I am surprised that so many actually endorse such products with their bylines. I’d bet a Walmart toaster gets a better inspection at the end of the production line than virtually any internet writing today.

I think people would benefit by having to discover and correct their own mistakes. We all make them, and nobody learns anything by passing the buck, or in this case the dictionary, the thesaurus, or the Style Manual. An aspiring writer who learns to expect electronic baby sitting will be taught to settle for a “CEE” by parroting the ideas of others.

We all do that to an extent because that is the nature of “language”. We use words and structures that tend to be generally understood within our communities, but there is a galactic environment of different ways by which to construct meanings and draw mind pictures and these should not be dictated.

I usually change what I write for a blog or some similar venue two or three times before “publishing” it, yet I still find mistakes after the fact. I use Microsoft Word as a writing program, and it almost always flags something, and I almost always disagree and override it.

The positive side of the story is that we still have the ability to choose whether or not to defer decisions about our writing to electronic devices and programs. Even if we are subjected to the unsolicited dictates of some built in application, we still have the power to override them and stick with our own original format, but that interruption can become annoying.

Nevertheless, I would hope that more of the general population of kitchen table journalists and hobby bloggers come to appreciate the benefits of doing their own pre-editing.

 

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The Fine Art of Redefinition…

August 2, 2018

…and the meaning of security & safety…

Granted, those illustrious shadow denizens who are said to know all of the ins and outs of minding everybody else’s business would most likely blow me off as just another one of those disgruntled alleged citizens running off at the mouth; or maybe put me on a List. I don’t care. I’ve always felt free to fart in church, or at least in Algebra class, and at 74 I’m not in a mood to change. Besides, I have the most inviolable credential those $&!%s have ever encountered, one they reclassified as “irrelevant” a few years ago and subsequently erased from their memories. It’s called the Fourth Amendment. Yeah, I know. Those kinds don’t acknowledge it. Did you ever wonder why?

Working feverishly under the notoriously abused and often misapplied catch-all of “National Security”, everyone from the local cow-town Dog Catcher to Cabinet level spook bosses have been hallucinating about Bad Guys and sniffing laundry hampers since September 12, 2001. It’s an insidious and progressive disease, you know.,….not so much what they are doing, but by what we the people are not doing: saying “no, you may not.”

One of the more objectionable examples of cerebral excreta produced by the self anointed Poobahs of Washington, DC was, and still, is, the Department Of Homeland Security and its mutant offspring like the “TSA” (Transportation Security Administration). More about that in a bit.

Like most “Bad Ideas”, these entities and the rationale behind them started out as seemingly “Good Ideas” in response to the terrible events of September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, they soon outgrew their initially given names to become more like the Exemplar of Misnomers, the “Protection Squadron” of the mid nineteen forties, formally called the “Schutzstaffel”, but more familiarly known as the “SS”. I don’t know what the heck they were supposed to be protecting, but history would suggest it wasn’t the citizens. By the same token, after nearly two decades of the TSA groping families heading for Disney World and harassing other American citizens exercising their “Right to Travel Freely” (reference: Fifth Amendment), one has to wonder who or what is actually being kept “Secure”.

One of the more recent insidious ideas, one that was Bad right from its very conception, has to be the TSA’a “Quiet Skies” obscenity, which should more appropriately have been named “Secret Domestic Behavioral Monitoring” or something like that (Use your chosen search engine: “TSA, Quiet Skies”).

It’s not exactly new, just newly brought to light. This Orwellian scheme just spies on anyone. While they claim to have criteria that make someone a potential subject to be followed and studied, it’s just one more offensive violation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is interesting to notice that the farther away we get from “911”, the more Big Brother expands his reach. Apparently, one of the several words and key phrases that have been “redefined” is “Probable Cause”. Then again, without a functioning Fourth Amendment, who needs genuine “Probable Cause”?

These increasingly intrusive and opaque government agencies, empowered to engage in unchallenged redefinitions or “Definist Fallacy” exercises whenever they deem it convenient, also seem to have taken a cue from nature and to have developed the ability to increase and multiply pathogenetically, or without the inconvenient necessity of a mate, like certain snakes and sharks. How ironically appropriate. In the political sense, of course, that would refer to the inconvenient necessity of voter approval. Having to pass Constitutional muster becomes of little concern as well (see: Definist Fallacy, above).

The general public had been somewhat aware of such shenanigans due to personal experience or observation, but did not necessarily see them as anything but disconnected shifts of focus and procedure. Re-examination of that presentation for inaccuracies didn’t really get its wings until Edward Snowden took flight himself in May of 2013 abandoning his job at the NSA (“National Security Agency”), to end up in Hong Kong, et al. He subsequently blew the whistle on that agency for its considerable acts of domestic spying, et cetera.

By hook or by crook then, as they say, the Protectors and Guardians of Our Security have thus acquired “permission” (refer to “Definist Fallacy,”, above) to amass as yet unmeasured or accounted for mountains of data about you, me, and the neighbor’s dog, a veritable master dossier about Who’s Been Naughty and Who’s Been Nice (once again, refer to “Definist Fallacy”, above)

Conspiracy theorists like to shake it all down to a planned and choreographed scheme by THEM to pounce like trapdoor spiders when the moment is right, but I don’t buy that. For one thing, THEY are undoubtedly far too busy conspiring against each other to worry about the compliant masses basking in the glow of repackaged nationalism and occasional Free Lunch.

Instead, I suspect a generous portion of the responsibility lies with US, the people, for basking, as previously mentioned, and refusing to see that which could not happen in the United States actually happening in the United States. Apparently seduced, distracted, and in-DUMB-nified by the unending and immovable war of witlessness between the Right and Left, and/or entranced by those 4.7 inch to 5.5 inch screens surgically imbedded in their nondominant hands, the population seems to not give a toot, to not understand, or actually look forward to the impending return to a faux-warm, fuzzy, and completely dependent childhood. These folks must have forgotten the old “Go to your room” events and being grounded or worse.

Is our government broken? I don’t know. Perhaps, but so is my Buick, and I suspect each can be fixed. Both outcomes require certain actions on my part, of course. The Buick isn’t going to fix itself and neither is the government. With the car, I have to select a repair shop, take the car there, pay the bill, and be willing to take it back if I’m not happy.

In the case of my government, I have to stop playing dartboard roulette with the ballot at election time when I really don’t know much about the candidates or other questions. I have to take responsibility to read up on and understand the issues and the candidates, I have to vote, and I have to be willing to say something and do something if I’m not satisfied with the outcomes and their performance. I can’t influence the itinerary of this bus if I just loll in a passenger seat bellyaching about the scenery and the alleged libido of the numb-nut at the wheel.

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…Any Grownups in DC?

June 18, 2018

Invoke Jefferson [FINAL]

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Demise of Officer Clancy, and…

June 1, 2018

… Equality as the new opiate ….

I wonder what it must have been like to live at a time when, despite public claims of having crossed the fearful ocean to seek “religious freedom”, people had very strictly prescribed limits within which they were required to go about their day to day activities, all under the watchful eyes of the Puritan church leaders. The consequences for straying could be severe, and in some cases fatal. There are stories about Quakers being tethered behind horse drawn wagons and towed from town to town in the dead of winter, half naked, as punishment for their noncompliance with Puritan mandates and as a warning to others to mind their ways.

One can travel back through history and find similar periods when populations were held to very exacting standards when it came to what they believed, what they did, and how they spoke, by virtue only of the fact that their oppressors had the power and the willingness to abuse it. Every culture has a system of ethical and moral values, and “mores” that express who and what the people wish to be, and members of the group are expected to live within the generally accepted parameters. Times of extreme restriction by a minority faction of the “people” and enforcement of their parameters seem to be almost cyclical.

With that thought in mind, I would suggest that the United States is presently going through such a time, driven by two primary influences. First, when Middle Eastern “terrorists” hijacked three airliners and crashed them into the Twin Towers in NY City and the Pentagon in Washington, with the third being retaken by passengers and crashing into a Pennsylvania field, the military posture and the civilian approach to security and law enforcement changed radically. Laws were passed which permitted the government to violate traditional and expected standards of privacy, to set up checkpoints that restricted a person’s right to travel freely, and more. Anyone and everyone became quietly subject to extreme measures of surveillance without due process. The Department of Homeland Security has often been compared to the authorities of Nazi Germany, and not without good reason.

Our military forces became aggressively involved in actions in the Middle East, overthrowing the ruler of Iraq, who somehow became the targeted scapegoat of American rage over the September 11, 2001 attacks on America by terrorists led by Osama bin Laden who was holed up on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Middle East has been in turmoil for the past eighteen years and we have since been engaged in accelerated conflicts with most of the region.

The self anointed defenders of Freedom and Human Rights, and Exemplars of Democracy have not exactly been cherubs throughout this process, with examples of prisoner abuse, torture, and killings of civilians. The streets run knee deep with dopamine, adrenalin and testosterone during warfare.

Meanwhile, domestic law enforcement in the United States has taken on a new military atmosphere with a flood of surplus equipment. The days of Officer Clancy walking his beat are long gone and almost sound like a myth now. “Shoot first and ask questions later” makes no sense today when the slightest tic may earn a suspect the full compliment of a 15 round Glock 22 magazine, multiplied by the number of officers jumping into the fray, whether innocent or not. A civilian would likely get the death penalty for such an action; the uniformed shooters get time off with pay and a few privately whispered “attaboys”.

Those with the power, whether that is bestowed through election, assumed, or otherwise acquired without public oversight, apparently have the willingness to wield that power, enforced by whatever means they deem necessary, for their own gain or benefit.

The second issue that I see as driving our current retreat into an aggressively restricted and directed society would be the sudden explosion of power within the Politically Correct or “PC” movement, directly related to the Civil Rights movement and a number of other “rights” oriented campaigns, and driven by a neo-Liberal would-be dictatorship.

This is similar to other times when our society and many others back through history have ironically, and perhaps inadvertently, converted a positive into a negative. Several factions have taken the very moral and positive concept of equal rights for all, regardless of race, belief systems, and associations, a principle quite central to the very existence of the United States, and created a culture that restricts those rights by separating people into groups receiving special attention and groups receiving blame.

A new category of law appeared from the shadows establishing forbidden patterns of speech, belief systems, and identifying certain crimes and other behaviors as “Hate” based. This last is particularly scary because it would seem to violate at least two of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights. The use of certain words is deemed “Hate” based and is therefore subject to special consequences, such as perhaps the stepping up of some crime or misdemeanor to a more serious level and thus meriting more severe punishments. When crimes are committed by a “white” person against a person belonging to one of the designated “special interest” segments of the population, the offense may be automatically presumed to have been “Hate” based and therefore subject to additional charges by the Federal government. This smacks of the Puritan culture of the seventeenth century and obviously upholds the principle of Guilty Until Proven Innocent. There has been a huge growth in references to “Racism”, meaning the discrimination of one person or group against another based upon things like ethnicity and physical characteristics like pigmentation, which usually translates into the presumption of “Hate”.

Interestingly, the concept of “race” has long been challenged by anthropologists as it has no meaning in the science of taxonomy, or the classification of living things. I have written elsewhere about this issue.

All things considered, it would seem we are living in one of those highly restrictive periods of irony, with “equality” appearing to be expressed as some are more equal than others. This is the opposite of the original reason for the sudden increased interest in ensuring all are seen as equal under the law. Freedoms of speech and association have been reduced to the proscribed and the “approved”. Any expression of negativity by one against another is subject to a rather strict filter to see if it might be “Hate” based. Certain groups are called “Hate” groups because of their beliefs and are discriminated against because they do not pass “PC” muster.

There are many reasons for an observer to suggest that the United States has strayed from its historic values and its purpose, and those who might be most likely to, and capable of putting the nation back on course are also the most likely to be demonized and socially isolated, prosecuted under unconstitutional “thought control” statutes, and otherwise eliminated somehow if possible.

I, of course, oppose any and all tyrannical movements, whether they are popularly based like the “PC” epidemic, or government based like the invention of the “hate” crime designations and a decided shift to more authoritarian, prescriptive and proscriptive methods. I believe in the Constitution as written, and urge extreme caution during the quite necessary process of periodically adapting it to the changing times. Reinterpreting terminology to justify one perspective in a nation that boasts of itself as a world haven for Freedom of Speech, Religion, Association, et cetera is nothing short of an obscenity. These freedoms were officially acknowledged specifically to protect the liberty of those who disagreed with the self-anointed dispensers of morality and wisdom.

Some people seem to have forgotten that “equality” means having the same rights as everyone else; it does not mean suddenly meriting a parade, banner headlines, documentaries, or special certificates to tape to the family refrigerator just for doing the same things everyone else does as a matter of course in the day to day conduct of their lives.

Perhaps it is normal behavior for young people turning 21 to celebrate their “emancipation” by kicking up their heels a bit, making the rounds of the local bars, and so on. But the life of a society or nation is not subject to adolescent mile markers when breaking the rules or stretching the boundaries a tad may be somewhat forgivable. Those rules were painstakingly put to parchment precisely because the act of stretching boundaries for a selected group within a society restricts them for all others.

I’m pleased that certain populations are finally being given the fundamental human respect they deserve, but I am reminded of something the Admiral said at my Commissioning: We were told that respect must be earned, it cannot be commanded. All who continue to demand special laws, special treatment, and special status because of their newly protected rights need to be reminded that no law can or ever will earn them respect. Wielding power over people who may resemble those who once unfairly wielded underserved power over you or people who resembled you is not “Equality”…it is simply changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

My suggestion to those whose lives have finally been given the constitutional and judicial recognition they have long sought would be for them to tone down the parades, the temptation to seek special recognition over and above actual equality under the law. Live, enjoy your newly expanded access to your guaranteed liberty, and pursue happiness. Pay no attention to those on the sidelines demanding more and more on your behalf; truth be told, they serve their own needs, not yours.

My suggestion to the “PC” Police and all of those chanting and demanding and “occupying” on behalf of different groups and causes: Support those in need and those who are oppressed, to be sure, but know that if you attempt to take from me to give to another, you do so at your own peril. Being an advocate does not mean one spontaneously acquires any special status or authority to collect and redistribute anything on behalf of anybody.

My suggestion to legislators who have supported the redistribution of wealth and power in the name of various glibly and overly glorified causes or for your own benefit in the often vicious battlefield of politics: Retire. Apologize and go away. You have apparently become what you once despised when you first ran for public office. The Scarlet Letter for those who have betrayed the sacred trust given them to legislate honorably and protect the Constitution is almost universally the act of being the man or woman who first walks into his or her office with a dollar and walks out a multimillionaire with lifetime benefits only enjoyed by a few of the most successful of civilians.

 

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The News…

May 27, 2018

MorningNews_[final]