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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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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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the Accidental F-Bomb

July 15, 2017

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Stop asking what ails Trump…

July 4, 2017

start asking what ails US….

Politics, particularly Presidential politics, is multidimensional. I’m not talking about different viewpoints and so forth. I’m talking about actual dimensions, as in differing existential planes.

The one we are most familiar with is, of course, the political dimension we glean from the media. It’s amazing how much faith we all have in this political plane. Few of us have actually ever met a real live politician beyond the local Mayor, or the state legislators who knock on your door when it’s time to smile and kiss babies again. Nor have most people encountered a journalist other than the sports writer for the high school paper or the campus rebel from the college newspaper looking for fresh meat to declare fetid. Obviously then, most people acquire their knowledge base, form opinions, vote, and perhaps block traffic while holding hand-lettered posters aloft bitching about one thing or another, all based upon information from complete strangers. We read their bylines in the newspapers, hear their names on the radio, and see them on the evening news. We don’t automatically genuflect when they first appear, however. We do, after all, have a certain amount of independent brain power, don’t hesitate to dump those who offend, and channel surf in search of someone who more closely reflects our own pre-established ideas, especially if they are physically attractive, glib, and have “voice”.

Another dimension of political existence is the one that most blow off as pure fiction but others swear exists in the shadows while really calling the shots without our knowledge or permission.

Then, of course, there are the multiple variations and levels in between that which we think we know and that about which we most likely haven’t a clue.

And, yes, purveyors of popular fiction have capitalized on these factors for centuries, creating some of our favorite literature.

Selected politicians, their handlers, and their butt boys have done the same thing.

The bottom line is, I believe the extreme majority of us go about our daily business and political lives fairly sure we know that the candidates we don’t favor are manifestations of Satan and that our own choices are merely pending beatification. The only thing missing is a fancy round platform covered with red, white, and blue stars for us to stand on, and a large ball to perform tricks with at the behest of some invisible Ringmaster.

When things don’t work out as planned, the Shirts exude moans of betrayal and confusion, while the Skins sneer and sniff “I told you so!”

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As a voter in the recent election, I don’t think I’m any exception, other than having briefly been the campus rebel from the college newspaper looking for fresh meat to declare fetid fifty something years ago.

Like many, I was a little surprised, but not much, by how divided the nation has become in the last few years. This is above and beyond traditional Party Politics, which can get pretty wild in its own right, but I don’t believe anyone has yet figured out exactly who was running the show this time around.

Most of the media was, and still is, as suspect of shenanigans and incompetence as the elected officials, their minions, and camp followers.

I, for one, favoring conservative and Libertarian viewpoints, found myself between a rock and a hard place. I had seen eight years too many of Statist philosophies continuing the efforts to build a prescriptive federal government while adding caveats and yeah-buts to the concepts of liberty, rights, responsibilities, and more. The very thought of Hillary Clinton setting up her unmentionables in a White House drawer again fed my paranoia and I kept my Nitro handy for the duration.

Obviously not a Democrat, I don’t think I’ve ever registered as a Republican, either, though I will often vote for their candidates. I was a registered Libertarian for a number of years, starting in the late seventies. I watched the debates and was disappointed in the showing of those I favored. “Politics as Usual” was a profanity, which eliminated some of the most experienced and qualified. I was underwhelmed by Rand Paul. I kind of rallied behind the Libertarian candidate, though I wasn’t as enthused about him as I would like to have been.

Donald Trump was an amusement, but for some reason, he took hold and there was no stopping him. It was a draw in the final stretch and “undecided” people were left staring down at one of the worst ballots in my memory. Accusations of fraud, corruption, and so forth are still falling out of the air like embers from a distant forest fire.

I don’t expect any peace, quiet, or civility for a number of years to come, and I don’t think we’ll find the source of our festering socio-political lesions until we dare to look in the mirror. We have become a pampered, entitled, and elitist population that doesn’t play well with others unless we get to rewrite the rules and make team assignments. We have made a habit of entrusting our liberty and freedom to those who prefer to give orders rather than to take them, volunteering to serve as their cattle in exchange for flattery, perfumed atmospheres, and free lunch paid for by someone we don’t have to play golf with.

The two party system has been incrementally nudged along to provide us with choices that make for a colorful display of appearing radically different while doggedly continuing on the same path to some sort of authoritarian collective existence. Same team, different uniforms, taking turns.

I’m sure Donald Trump has an admirable IQ, but that doesn’t make him “smart” in his current field. The White House isn’t a “Hobby Farm,” after all. While I imagine things “get done” in the political arena much like they do in the high end construction and development business, politicians are supposed to be especially adept at staying out of view in the process. Trump, on the other hand, tends to parade around stark naked, metaphorically speaking, at least for now.

The apt metaphors regarding his Presidency, obscene and otherwise, run in the streets like the Monsoon rains, but the bottom line is even Trump’s own party leaders are begging him to shut up. The man has demonstrated over the past six months that he has the social skills of a feral child, except he should know better and the feral child draws no such expectation.

I don’t think I’m alone in having droned “Give it a chance,” “Wait and see,” and the usual. I have come to the conclusion, however, that we are pretty much where we were last November. We want change, but the unknown is a bit scary at this point.

I have no doubt in my mind that President Trump has a generous cross section of personality disorders in his profile, but that’s neither unusual nor is it necessarily undesirable with the likes of those who win at King of the Mountain. However, I’m beginning to listen to rumblings about suspected deeper psychological issues. Sane or otherwise, the man is becoming a liability to the country, not because of the things he says he wants to do, but because he can’t say anything without insulting or offending the world.

In short, Donald Trump may be intelligent, he may be a billionaire, and he may be President of the United States.

Nevertheless, He is proving himself to be a consummate ass-hole as well, and that designation tends to trump the rest.

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Cliché II

April 28, 2017

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March 3, 2017

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What you need, what you want…

January 27, 2017

…and what your neighbors can afford…

This started out as a response to a post by an Angry Young Woman, which she posted to explain why she and many other AYWs marched the day after the inauguration, adding that they didn’t do it because Donald Trump won. Okay, “dog-licking-himself syndrome, then; kind of a just for the helluvit, seemed like a fun thing to do on a January afternoon sort of deal. Whatever the reason(s), and she mentioned a few, I couldn’t just let sleeping dogs lie, or lick, or whatever, so I’m putting my three cents worth in. To wit:

Whether you marched because Trump won or not is of little relevance, although since you brought it up, I suspect that it was a significant motivator. After all, President Trump did not walk up to the first podium and decide to take things away from you. Certain changes became highpoints of his campaign because your friends and neighbors and millions of people you never heard of wanted those changes. virtually everything you fear the loss of is paid for by somebody else, involuntarily in most cases. Clean water, clean air, and national parks are all valued by most Americans. As with any household budget though, we have to ask first: how much can I afford? We need transportation, but need alone does not provide a blank check for most of us to purchase luxury vehicles. Blank checks for many needs, and wants redefined as needs, have been handed out like Halloween treats for too long. Goosing up the national debt to pay for them doesn’t get nearly the blow-back that goosing up taxes instead would get. The “conservative” view says to put away the global credit card and get things under control; the “neo-liberal,” judgment is “damn the spending limits, full charge ahead!”

Healthcare: do we all deserve it? Of course we do. We deserve many things, but we will actually acquire or enjoy relatively few of them. Do we have a right to quality, affordable healthcare? Yes, but the questions are, what does that mean and how will we avail ourselves of it?

I retired from the local medical center after twenty five years, and I saw many things change over that time span. The institution was “self-insured” early on, and my expenses for care as an employee were reasonable but certainly not “free” just because I worked in a hospital. I could pick up prescriptions from the hospital pharmacy, and have the cost deducted incrementally from my paycheck. They weren’t cheap, but it was affordable. If I visited my physician, he billed my (supplementary) insurance company, and then he billed me for the difference. When I ended up hospitalized for three days in the mid-eighties with chest pain….eventually diagnosed as GERD…my bill was about $3, essentially for the TV in my room.

We are not a rich community, but the people did not go without care for lack of money. The hospital had a “charity care” program for those who could not pay. They still do, as a matter of fact, because enforced insurance or no, many people have unreasonable and unreachable “deductibles”, and therefore would go without if the community didn’t do as it has always done and find a way to get it done.

Family violence shelters and services deserve funding, of course, but if the people cannot afford to pay for the level of care recommended or desired, and if the country can’t afford to provide same without borrowing the money on the world market or snatching it out of the taxpayer’s wallet, then we have to find another way. We can.

You mentioned education, Rabbi, a topic close to my heart. But I don’t want bureaucrats and paid advocates deciding what our children should learn and how they should learn it. The elementary school I went to back in the fifties isn’t there anymore. It was one of those cavernous brick buildings with 14 ft. ceilings, stairways that echoed, and the playground was dust or mud, depending on the weather. But we learned. My late cousin was a brilliant man. Like his father, he went to MIT and became a Chemical Engineer. He stopped short of completing his PhD because he was too busy working.

I went to school with him one day when my family visited on an early summer vacation. My school had finished for the year. It was quite an experience. Believe it or not, it was a little one room schoolhouse! He eventually went to a prestigious private school on scholarship, the same way he went to MIT.

There were no federal rules, regulations, and mandates to follow beyond the fundamentals back then. If I had my druthers, we would dismantle the Department of Education. I think our teachers would be free to teach more, instead of connecting the dots, and I’d bet the kids would learn just fine.

Last but not least on your list, Rabbi, is the right to free speech, which you, and I, and those who marched on January 21 have all done and are doing. I believe it is in the best interests of our nation as it was conceived, and of the 325 million plus people now living here, to think about what we have been doing, think about the outcomes, and question how we might best proceed.

One thing is clear to me. We cannot continue to hold “need” as the primary justification for actions taken, and convenience for the manner in which they are taken.  

One thing that must change is the National Credit Card. I’ve torn up a couple in my lifetime and I’m still kicking. I trust our nation can do the same. It’s not a simple problem to resolve, of course, because it is not a single problem and they are not independent of each other. But we have to start. I’ve untangle some pretty nasty line snags over the years, but it never stopped me from fishing.

Another thing I have seen change over the years is the fragmenting of the sense of community, and the dissolution of the family unit as where and how we learn our values. Much of that is now defined and described on a bureaucratic or legislative level. Those are cold eyes through which to see the world, ones friends, neighbors, and family. While may seem rather philosophical in nature, I did major in the behavioral and social sciences, so I think about such things.

As federal programs and funding have been made available, people have come to problem-solve differently. Need is the new currency of acquisition, administered by countless bureaucracies and “government contractors’” the latter which is provide services that government will pay for. Too many of the “critical” needs, I fear, are identified at the polls.   And, you know, when the rumblings started about actually repealing the AFA, I was somewhat stunned but not particularly surprised that some of the first gasps of protest were about the jobs that would be lost!  Then it got down to the PR push about healthcare itself.

What it boils down to, is we have a society with a near-religious sense of entitlement. We have many things to which we feel we have a right, deserve, to which we believe we are entitled, with the caveat they will all be provided “free.” The problem is, these quantities are uniformly named, created, distributed, and paid for by the federal government. The federal; government does not pay for them, however, because the federal; government has no money and doesn’t produce any. The bills are paid through debt and by being confiscated in one way or another from us. You. Me.

That’s my take on it, Rabbi, and not surprisingly, “we” aren’t giving up easily, either.

Regards,
Jeffrey Marsh
Retired

By the way, opposing Trump or his policies with a winner take all mindset may serve political or personal goals, but that doesn’t mean it would be best for the country. I would suggest that the smart money will search for productive ways to work with his administration. This country wasn’t built only by folks on one side of the road, and it won’t survive if managed that way much longer.

JM

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Is there a “Plan-B”…?

January 23, 2017

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