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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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Life on one wheel…

December 11, 2017

OldBiker_Rear [1]_001

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Safety versus Liberty…

November 19, 2017

…and Ben Franklin’s maxim….


It could be said that action on the part of Congress when a problem is evident is certainly preferable to inaction.

Not necessarily.

There are factors to consider other than inertia, such as timing and the definition of the problem to be addressed. When a response is born of emotion rather than reason, the potential for simply changing deck chairs on the Titanic is increased.

This concern has been mentioned by some public officials in the wake of the two recent tragedies in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas. Nevertheless, Congress evidently feels compelled to answer the impassioned calls for that body to prove itself to be a viable life form rather than a petrified relic of one long gone. Whether their Show and Tell demonstration of bipartisanship and measurable vital signs purportedly evidenced in their pending legislation “to improve background checks for gun sales”, called the “Fix NICS Act” (NICS is the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is proof of measurable vital signs or not remains to be seen.

I’m not inclined to see more than a basic Show and Tell skit at this point, and my raised eyebrow suggests an element of expectation that the action will merely upgrade and redecorate an existing problem rather than actually resolve it. Furthermore, the phrase “to improve background checks for gun sales” can be interpreted to mean a great number of things…or nothing at all.

The recent shooting incidents generated immediate calls for “gun control”, of course, but also stimulated some with functional frontal lobes to point out that we already have appropriate laws that just aren’t being carried out very well. That would have had no bearing on the Las Vegas massacre but could most likely have prevented the Sutherland Springs, Texas incident. In any event, I am compelled to withhold my trust in Congress taking any substantive action at such an early date with little or no discussion. Besides, the banners they are flying tout the features of bipartisanism, and the nativity of “new” legislation with no effort to examine and fix the existing regulations wherein specific shortcomings have already been readily identified. In their haste to react rather than to intelligently respond, the only apparent “remedy” they seem to have come up with would be the application of leverage (read: “arm twisting”), which might enhance government’s sense of power and control but would be unlikely to impact the underlying problems one whit

My interest in these points stem, at least in part, from my twenty five years with a hospital based behavioral health department prior to retirement. I am familiar with the privacy aspects of the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability Act) of 1996 and other state and federal regulations enacted to protect the confidentiality of mental health and substance abuse patients.

During my years of direct contact with psychiatric patients, some voluntary, some committed by a judge, and both residential and outpatient substance abuse patients, I saw people from all walks of life, from the most inadequate and broken to most educated and successful. I remember a time when staff members were discussing rumblings at the time of the possible creation of regulations mandating the release of confidential records to government data bases or agencies. It sounded like a bad idea then, and it still does.

There are differences between the chronically ill person with a major psychiatric diagnosis such as paranoid schizophrenia suffering a crisis and the middle age school teacher who experiences a temporary decompensation following a family tragedy. None seek treatment because it seems like a fun thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon. As far as sensitive, personal medical records are concerned, there are procedures already in place by which certain information can be discussed regarding selected patients, with specified referral agencies or individuals, under certain circumstances. Any other exchange or release of information must be ordered through the court process. Confidentiality is important not only from a legal standpoint but even more importantly it can be a significant treatment issue affecting stabilization and recovery.

Such details aren’t the focus of people concerned with complying with regulations about providing pertinent information to the FBI and NICS, but they should be a consideration, and they certainly should be a focus of private citizens, whether they are gun owners or not. Any one of us, or a family member, may someday need some sort of psychotherapy or short term hospitalization, perhaps in response some overwhelming life event or a medically induced condition. The distribution of sensitive personal information should not be taken lightly, especially in this time of the Technological Revolution and Digital Era, when traditional personal boundaries and privacy seem to be disregarded as archaisms, and may on occasion be deemed expendable in the interest of convenience

Governments, by nature, become progressively intrusive if not constrained by law, especially when the people become complacent. It is no surprise then that our own government is more intrusive than it was shortly after its formation. Similarly, people, by nature, will tend to become complacent when their freedom is not under direct threat and life is generally good.

Along those lines, both conditions having been met, our federal government has acquired a disturbing habit of acting in its own interests rather than in those of the people by imposing regulations on the states and on individuals that are either unaffordable or not wanted in the first place, or both. It then lovingly creates subsidies or some other instrument to help pay for compliance for as long as the people and/or states march in step. Any wavering from the prescribed path or failure to appropriately comply with the mandate may threaten loss of the subsidies and whatever other consequences might apply to conditions of noncompliance.

In the case of “encouraging” states to fork over the required data, the federal government has been stockpiling leverage for decades and has no qualms about using it to twist arms and get what it wants.

The parallels to tactics used by small time drug dealers have not gone unnoticed: create a dependency and then provide relief in exchange for certain conditions being met.

I agree that prohibiting certain individuals from possessing firearms makes sense, but a generic reference to “mental health” patients covers a great deal more territory than the general public understands. Different patients present different strengths, weaknesses, liabilities and potentials. My experience, and common sense, tell me that a “one size fits all” approach here would be like draining the ocean to catch a fish. Properly followed and carried out, there is no reason existing rules would not be adequate. Instead of just throwing new rules on top of ones that aren’t working, at great cost but questionable benefit to the innocent, find out why existing rules aren’t working and fix that.

 

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The Risk of Civil Unrest…

November 15, 2017

is the Price of Liberty….

While it doesn’t always appear as such, when the world is in turmoil with chaos and uncertainty reigning supreme, citizens and government become more attentive to working in their own best interests. That doesn’t necessarily translate to them working in each other’s best interest. We are living in such a time right now.

It’s not the first time. In fact, we have a form of government today that was built from the ashes of civil unrest more than 240 years ago and whose founders intentionally structured it to allow for civil unrest. Considering the context of the day, it made great sense to protect the ability of the people to protest and confront the excesses and missteps of their government, and this was recognized as being in the best interests of both that government and the people alike.

Human nature being what it is, however, whenever civil unrest has occurred between then and now, that very government has responded “in its own best interests” by adding restrictions to limit the potential for civil unrest in the future.

It is no paradox that if our form of government is to survive, it must not only allow for the potential of civil unrest, that potential and all of the risk it entails must be embraced and defended. In any civilized society, of course, there must be certain parameters drawn by the people around their own behaviors in order to strike a balance between the chaos of unrestricted civil unrest and the lifelessness of unrestricted order.

Unfortunately, in part because of the complacency of the people and in part because of the natural tendency of governments to take on lives of their own when permitted to do so, that balance has begun to list precipitously to port, with the government claiming to act in the best interests of the people, while, actually seeing to its own interests instead. Such a claim, by definition, is oxymoronic.

 

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Masculinity Without the Abuse of Women

November 12, 2017

via change without force….


The spike in charges by women against men over the past few years regarding alleged sexual improprieties and acts of aggression doesn’t suggest any discovery of new information, but does indicate that more women are finding that they are being listened to more, which in turn encourages others to come forward.

The only downside might be that, thus far, the process has been like the sound of one hand clapping. To generate anything of substance, this needs to be a two handed effort. The time-worn women in white hats, men in black theme may inject energy and drama into the issue, but real substantive change will require something new and different if we hope to do more than just wrestle over power and control. It’s time to move on from the “who did what to whom?” question and work on “So, what do people want, and what steps need to be taken in order to realize those goals?”

Any such goals should be realistic rather than be rigidly tied to idealism driven by social and political forces. That is not to say that ideals shouldn’t guide us, just that they should not dictate the details.

Human beings, like other animals, have an innate nature that is followed whether they are behaving in positive, constructive ways or are being negative and destructive, and everywhere in between. Sometimes, both qualities are expressed simultaneously. Therein may be the challenge: to figure out how to minimize or redirect behaviors and attitudes that threaten to be negative, destructive, or self-contradictory, while favoring and fostering those that are positive and are likely to help the society achieve its goals.

Certain adversarial aspects of the male-female relationship are as old as humanity itself and are rooted in the human nature referred to above. As with all life forms, we are subject to two primary drives: to survive, and to reproduce. Our generally competitive nature is an expression of both, as is our history of violence and conquest that I refer to as the perpetual game of King of the Mountain. The underlying drives may be unlikely to change, and perhaps that is as it should be, but associated behaviors can be changed, and progress has been made over the civilized millennia, as is demonstrated by the evolution of sports as a partial substitute for warfare and other competitive acts of violence.

With the current focus on the historical prevalence of men perpetrating different kinds of sexual aggression and violence against women, I think we need to be cautious not to set our sights on changing those underlying drives, and instead focus on the behavioral responses to them. More realistic, achievable goals should address the ways those drives are specifically manifested in men and in women, and in human beings as a species.

Anthropologist Margaret Mead discovered certain matrilineal cultures among the South Pacific islanders, and some pre-Norman Conquest British societies were said to have had matrilineal systems of succession, but most societies around the globe have been patrilineal. Whether such relationships are desirable within the existing cultures or whether changes will occur will become evident, but changes or the creation of new adaptations will develop through a deeper understanding of ourselves and momentum, not the application of force.

Our cultures have traditionally groomed boys to assume certain roles just as they have groomed girls to assume paths of their own. Those roles weren’t dictated, they developed by way of several influences, including biology, adaptation to circumstances, King of the Mountain, and more. Those roles can change, of course, and most likely will over time, but attempting to effect such changes by force would be self-defeating.

It would be helpful to look at the challenges to be faced by males if they are to foster younger generations that retain the positive aspects of their masculinity, yet are not defined by abuse and dominance over women. We would presently hope for future women to retain their femininity without being sexualized in ways that set them up to be predated upon. The idea is not to do away with sexuality, but to try to develop cultural mores around it that are mutually acceptable and fulfilling for both genders

How does one raise a boy to do the things boys do, develop a positive, nonviolent sense of his sexuality while discouraging a disrespectful or exploitative understanding of women and how he should relate to them?

How does one raise a girl to enjoy the activities of her gender-peers, develop a positive, non-submissive knowledge of her self as a person, with a fulfilling sense of her sexuality, and healthy expectations for herself and any mate or mates with whom she establishes a relationship?

We need to discover what the modern male and modern female desires, need, and expects from different kinds of relationships with members of the opposite sex. Men and women need to think about these things and to come up with new, previously unasked questions that can help them begin the process of creating a culture wherein the concepts of rank, power, and value depend upon factors such as ability and achievement rather than simply as a function of biological gender.

Western cultures currently appear to be experimenting with how we view men and women, maleness and femininity. The processes involved and the eventual outcomes may or may not gibe with the current generations of political correctness, but the undertaking will have to look at prevailing historical gender idealizations, understand the genesis and function of those presentations, and make changes where mutually desirable and possible.

This kind of culture would have the potential for a version of “equality” I think people, especially women, have been seeking. We have been attempting to establish concepts of equity by force, and it seems we have not yet recognized that to be a self-defeating process. If humanity is to successfully create new cultural mores, we must facilitate their evolution, not just try to enforce a prescriptive idea of how things should be according to some committee or temporary political majority.

I think we should try.

 

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C’mon, Mr. President…

September 25, 2017

it’s time to earn your keep….

One thing is for certain: President Donald Trump doesn’t give a northbound rat’s south end whether you and I approve of what he says or does, though I have to note that he hasn’t done anything except trade mother cuts out by the swing sets with his North Korean counterpart, and he hasn’t said anything of substance since he unpacked his toy box at the White House.

Today, I am taking aim at our bombastic head of state regarding his rather Narcissistic attempt at defining the who, when, what, why, where, and how of addressing the American Flag, and more importantly, his suggesting that those who do otherwise should be fired, et cetera.

First of all, the responsibility of the President is to carry out the laws of the land, not to supercede Congress and the Supreme Court to redefine or interpret them to suit his own purposes. He has alleged that the actions of some professional football players who were making a statement by declining to join in some patriotic rituals were inappropriate and against the rules.

I beg to differ, Mr. President. There are no “rules”, as such, nor are there prescribed consequences for failing to act as though there were. In fact, that flag that you so dramatically, yet I suspect insincerely, deify symbolizes the right to kneel, stand, sit, or whatever one chooses. In general, Americans have long established traditions and rituals regarding how our national icons should be respected, but they are not laws. Certain behaviors are considered rude in most circles, but in this day of everybody waxing indignant about one thing or another, being “rude” is the norm, a skill you aren’t shy about practicing yourself.

Our flag has meant many things down through the years, but regardless of the details, the greatest thing it symbolizes is that Americans don’t have to fear annoying the sensibilities of some power drunk monarch, pope, or duly elected CIC.

I respect the office of the President of the United States, whether it is occupied by an affable genius or a drooling mad-man, but my respect for that individual must be earned. The election of 2016 was a “no-win” showdown in my view, but frankly, I think it would have been worse had your opponent won, Mr. President. The downside is that, thus far, you have clearly demonstrated the symptoms of an emerging dictator rather than those of a leader of free people.

I keep hoping you will undergo some spontaneous metamorphosis and start working with your Cabinet Members and Congress to redirect the nation away from the collectivist precipice the Progressives and Neo-Liberals seem so enamored of. I can’t help but wonder if you intend to drain the swamp or develop it. In any event, I for one would like to see you take your job seriously instead of like some Reality Show or a pathetic sit-com.

 

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The Alpha Hominid Phenomenon

September 13, 2017

…..and eunuchs….


One of the first things the metaphorical first hominid did was to look around and decide that anybody not huddled under the same tree as him was a threat to his survival. This was how and when homicide was invented. Like the wheel, it is still with us, indelibly incorporated into our being, but with technical improvements and expanded utility.

One of the technical improvements has been that we no longer have a one book library and actual killing is not always deemed necessary or even to be the best option. Social, economic, physical, and several other varieties of isolation have developed into finely tuned art forms in their own right, as has simply tormenting those we don’t like until they go away or die, or until they obediently relocate to the only acceptable shade, which just happens to be under our tree.

This unique adaptation of the fundamental survival instinct is probably no more sophisticated than your basic “Alpha Dog” phenomenon or the serendipity of some plants pigging the resources thus ensuring that any potential competition becomes compost. Nevertheless, since we have long been self anointed as either indisputable manifestations of the Big Kahuna Itself or exclusive spokespersons for that presumed authority, plant life and dogs are irrelevant to the grand scheme of things and merely serve as food or amusements for Our Nibs. We wrote the rules, therefore we get to win the game by default.

That said, it might be interesting to examine the current state of affairs to see who is trying to make compost out of whom and who considers himself to be the alpha hominid right how. Hominids, of course, are as incapable of coming up with a simple answer to a simple question as they are incapable of forgoing some form of good old-fashioned homicide. In other words, anybody one asks is highly likely, as luck would have it, to be the indisputable Alpha Hominid in all matters tangible and intangible.

In the Survival of the fittest” game, with the outcome at any given moment decided by homicide or any of its rationalized and acceptable substitutes, the shared common goal is to disenfranchise, disinherit, discount, diminish, or literally dispose of all competitors in this perpetual game of King of the Mountain. It is the Way.

We aren’t completely intolerant, however. We tolerate, and sometimes even dole out carefully thought out words of pseudo-praise to acknowledge a perceived impotence of the nonaligned. Besides, they may serve as eunuchs for our allegorical harems of religion, politics, and tiddlywinks. Such acts of orchestrated decency are the full length mirrors in which we can admire ourselves, thus reinforcing our certainty of being right, and clarifying the prescribed pecking order.

 

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On doing the right thing…

August 15, 2017

.…in the wrong way

Perhaps it is not just that they were wrong, but that those who oppose them go about being right in the wrong way.

The “public” despises and holds in contempt the hatred in all of its forms, except their own.

It is important to point out that the “public”, if we are to defend the constitution, includes even those who are being despised and held in contempt for their creed and their words.  Not since the McCarthy era has our society been approving of trying to defeat hate with hatred, so adamant about promoting right in the wrong ways.

Are those who protest against bigotry and hate and intolerance somehow given license to practice same because their goals and ideals claim the high moral ground?  The moral high ground is a dangerous place, as history has shown so clearly on so many occasions.  In our own history, the earliest example of this was provided by the people who fled England to escape the turmoil and peril of religious intolerance in order to be free to practice their faith as they chose in a new land.  We proudly celebrate the deeds of those who colonized northeastern North America four hundred years ago, but we fail to teach how they immediately went about the task of setting up their own repressive, abusive, and sometimes violent hive of religious intolerance.

The same human failing has emerged at other times as well.  A more recent example would be the McCarthy era and its excesses spawned by the paranoia over the threats of Communism.

We are living in another time of extreme division and dissent, and the Satan of today is hatred, intolerance, and bigotry, an extension of the ongoing movement to more closely follow the spirit of our founding principles and the Constitution that was created to guide us, precisely at times like this.

Whether viewpoints are popular or considered reprehensible by the society at any given time, that Constitution, those founding principles, were established to remind us that if we do not protect the worst among us, the best among us cannot be safe either.  This is hard to do, but we must.

There is a dangerous and toxic atmosphere permeating our idealized haven of freedom and Democracy today, fed in part by efforts to mandate perfect yet selective adherence to those ideals.  The thing is, the forces demanding no less than absolute lock-step obedience to their ideological mandates of creed, word, and where and when and how those characteristics are expressed do not represent 100% of the “public”.  It wouldn’t matter if they did, not under our Representative Democracy.  Pure, 100% Democracy may be functional in a weekly Fraternity brothers’ meeting, but in a nation of 325 million people it would mean nothing less than mob rule and civil war.

What we witnessed the other day in Charlottesville, VA, and continue to witness as the nation plays Hide and Seek with the moral high ground again, is the never ending struggle to support, defend, and live by the principles of our Constitution without violating them.

Recent years have seen a trend towards more Liberal, Progressive ideals and practices, which is not necessarily bad unless one is aligned with Conservative leaning viewpoints and living in a particularly polarized, divided, angry time.  Such times of philosophical rigidity and absolutism are not exactly dripping with rationalism, and can be the birthplace of tyranny and dictatorship from either camp.  Under such circumstances, in a Republic such as ours, if one side wins, both sides lose, and this means that the people lose whether they chose to play or not.

In Charlottesville, VA a group consisting of various individuals and organizations opposed to the removal of an historic statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee arranged to hold a protest or vigil.  They were giving a permit and plan was put in place.  Meanwhile, a group consisting of various individuals and organizations opposed to the former and everything they believe in, gathered to protest the protest.  Nobody knows who broke ranks first, but fingers point in both directions, both factions came prepared for trouble, and whether that meant being prepared to defend against or to instigate trouble is pure speculation.

President Trump is a controversial and largely unpopular holder of that office, and that is a whole other issue, but his responses to the unrest cannot be separated from it.  In my opinion, his original response, during which he condemned the violence and lawlessness “on both sides”, was probably one of his more “Presidential” comments during his first few months in office.  Nevertheless, the sharply polarized atmosphere of the times demands finger pointing, and he was condemned for not condemning the original protesters by name, which would have, presumably, endorsed the counter-protesters as innocent and sole proprietors of the moral high ground.

For whatever reason, President Trump capitulated the next day and named names, condemning the KKK and other white supremacists.  He was criticized for doing so too late.  Subsequently, apparently having rethought the matter, he came back to defend his original condemnation of the violence and hatred generically.

Okay, although I dislike “labels”, calling them “lazythink” because they are often misconstrued shortcuts to complex matters, it is realistically impossible to avoid them when making public commentary.  That said, I am neither Republican nor Democrat, have followed Libertarian views for some decades, and tend to be somewhat of a Constitutionalist now.  Polarized thought would therefore cram me kicking and screaming into a Conservative uniform, not out of some desire for accuracy but out of a desire for convenience.

Whatever.

I don’t hold White Supremacist views.  I find such beliefs to be extreme, offensive, and to be based in personality disordered, ignorant thinking. Nevertheless, the Constitution guarantees their right to believe as they will.  We have other bodies of law that speak to disallowed behaviors, and they are subject to them just as we all are.

I don’t agree with the tenets of neo-liberal philosophies, either.  I find such a politic to be extreme, restrictive, prescriptive, and counter to the principles enumerated in the Constitution.  In some ways, I see the actions of the “Left” to be an example of trying to do the right thing but doing it in the wrong way.  Nevertheless, the Constitution guarantees their right to believe as they will.  We have other bodies of law that speak to disallowed behaviors, and they are subject to them just as we all are.

I don’t know who threw the first punch or swung the first bat, but I suspect it was the counter-protesters after the protesters were declared to have varied from the route plan agreed upon.  It doesn’t matter.  People were hurt.  People died.  Blame is infinite, multidirectional, and absolutely pointless.

The disease is right there in front of us, under spotlights, and all we seem willing to do is blame the wrong drug for not fixing it, or for making it worse, or for whatever reason we can think up.

Hate is hate.

Decide to stop.

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