Archive for the ‘Free speech’ Category


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.

Jeffrey Marsh

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.


~-~* * *~-~


Is there a “Plan-B”…?

January 23, 2017



Uncle Sam’s tacit approval…

December 12, 2016

of “political correctness” tyranny….

The first time I recall having experimented with a “racist” epithet was, I believe, in the second grade. It was at recess, in the school yard by the big steel swing set where classmate Robert and I were doing a little scuff and spit over the last available seat. Robert was a “negro”, the accepted “polite” form of the time. I called him a nigger. He punched me in the nose. That was the end of that. We were friends after that.

There is no telling how many millions of dollars that little interaction saved the American taxpayer. I’m not advocating for violence, mind you, but I’m not advocating for some hydra-headed bureaucracy employing thousands of people dispatching an agent or three to shake their fingers at rude brats and lay out the permitted lexicon. Robert seemed to have handled the task rather nicely, for free.

Similarly, I spent my last couple of years in college at a small university in Florida where My Spanish professor was a Cuban refugee and many of my friends had made their way from that island nation to south Florida on makeshift rafts and other flotsam and jetsam. Let’s face it, when a teenager learns a foreign language, learning the popular pejoratives is a social requirement. Context and timing are fine details learned later, often by trial and error, like when I committed the error of addressing my friend Rufino as “maracon.” He was an athlete, and if he had caught me I have no doubt that his lesson in manners would have been considerably less benign than Robert’s had been many years before. Nevertheless, Rufino and I remained friends, and as with the Robert incident, there is no telling how many millions of dollars that frantic night pursuit through the palmettos saved the American taxpayer.

Jump forward about fifty years to the day Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar etched the same epithet into his eye-black, the dark smears athletes use to ward off glare, as a taunt to the opposing players. He was suspended without pay, had to donate the nearly $100k in lost salary to same-sex advocacy groups, and participate in “sensitivity” exercises. It would have been far simpler, and would have brought his intra-cultural communications awareness up to date more directly, if someone with a personal complaint about the little display of locker room banter had just taken a swing at him.

Needless to say, things are quite different from when I was younger. For one thing, the job of teaching “family values” and community standards has migrated from the family and the community to vague bureaucratic clusters of authority in orbit around the federal government. It all kind of grew out of the Civil Rights movement and related politic of the past four or five decades, like a boil may develop on the ass of a student who spends long hours sitting on hard seats to absorb knowledge. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes positive actions spawn unintended negative sidebars.

The so-called “PC”, or “Political Correctness” phenomenon, a case in point, achieved a level of power and influence that many find to be incompatible with traditional understandings of the Constitution and philosophies of the United States as a society. Those wielding the power, or those profiting and benefiting from its application, strongly disagree, of course.

Political correctness is difficult to explain, since it’s largely subjective in nature. Perhaps it can be illustrated by recalling certain aspects of childhood, both the real and the somewhat mythical. I am thinking of how, in the final months before Christmas, kids would be acutely aware of how their conduct might influence the outcome on that anxiously anticipated morning. We didn’t become angels, but the atmosphere of consequences being especially welded to behaviors during that time period was palpable. Certainly, parents and other interested parties in the adult population must have reaped some benefits from the “Santa Method” The “PC” of the twenty first century is like that.

Those with the power, and it can be anybody, make the rules, set the standards, sort the lexicon into Permitted and Taboo piles, endorse selected belief systems while condemning others, and generally work to engineer the culture to their liking. This is nothing new. Human cultures have always established their accepted ways in this manner. However, when the Colonists rebelled against England and put together a homegrown system of governance of their own, it was structured to prevent such centralization of power and authority into elite cliques and to make it truly a government “of the people, by the people, for the people, ” as Lincoln later phrased it.

Note that I have been discussing what I see as the downside of a “Politically Correct” movement in general. I believe the separation of a population into classes of the Ruled and the Rulers, while absolutely a “normal” human behavior, is a handicap to the modern society as a whole. The thing that takes a normal “grouping” action and gives it the potential to do harm is the endorsement of government, which is supposed to be an expression of all of the people. The founders were acutely aware of such dangers and worked very hard to avoid the pitfalls of pure Democracy, which can become a matter of “mob rule”.

To be more specific, and to revisit the incidents in which I had a role many years ago, the community response to offensive language was previously a matter decided within families, who were in turn influenced by extended family, neighbors, and the community in general. Cultures have always sought cohesion, but I have watched the current wave grow over a lifetime. This “PC” twist is not just a temporary ripple in response to a specific episode or issue. It is an overall shift towards a more prescriptive, centralized, national government that seems increasingly distanced from the individual on Main Street, USA. This is a two sided coin, of course, and a complacent populace has allowed it to build, in part because most have felt untouched by it or somehow immune.

The “please and thank you” aspects of daily life were, in fact, considered largely to be either “off limits” to those in Washington, DC, or of little interest to them. Mother, father, the church, and others taught us what it was “nice” to say or do, and what was not tolerated in those areas. That would differ from family to family, and from community to community, and those with much in common would associate, while those with significant differences would not. The role of any centralized form government was focused on the central, common denominators under the accepted rule of law, in such matters as felonious crimes of violence and property.

Through various mechanisms, and in response to a number of certain events and circumstances, The United States has become sharply divided between those striving for a more “statist” society while attempting to override or diminish the value of individuality, and those who are poised to defend a more traditional Constitutionalist approach. “Gated Communities,” where everyone is expected to adhere to codes of behavior and appearance devised by a ruling committee, are preferred by some people, but living in one is voluntary. Converting the entire nation into one big “Gated Community” would not be voluntary nor would it serve the preferences of those who want to be free to express themselves as individuals rather than as just part of a group that paints their houses and landscapes their yards in unison and subject to approval. The iconic example today would be the Affordable Care Act. The title smiles gently and sounds caring, but in practice essentially nationalized the health insurance and medical industries and has benefited just enough people to maintain an air of legitimacy, while being little more than a Mafia-style protection racket. Buy the prescribed insurance or the Knee Breakers will take your tax refund money away from you. By associating the health insurance mandate with the Internal Revenue Service, it isn’t much of a stretch to re-label noncompliance as “tax evasion” and other life changing white collar felonies.

When my friend Robert punched me in the nose, and my friend Rufino threatened me with serious bodily harm, along with a long list of other “learning experiences” I have logged during my life, the values and expected rules of social interaction favored by our society and culture have survived, adapted as needed to changes in the world and the neighborhood, and been successfully passed on to a couple more generations. We as a people have faced challenges before, and I’m not afraid of our way of life being taken away from us. I sense that this time is different, however, and the danger instead is that we will simply throw it away. We’ve already started. The ACA isn’t the only stop sign we’ve run.

Bureaucracy, which one cannot avoid in a nation of 325 million people, has gained excessive levels of power and authority on a broad scale. One of the ways this is accomplished is through the way regulations are structured and funded. Simply put, if a federal agency wants to move people in a certain direction, it may do so through regulation. The agency wants everyone nationwide to follow a certain line or program, so it threatens to withhold funding from states that don’t impose supportive regulations of their own. Another way is to issue the “unfunded mandate” type of regulation, and offer funding to those who march in step and to withhold funding from those who do not, as well as to issue penalties. The ACA has elements of the latter. I thought about how someone might simply arrange their tax withholdings to zero out so there would be no funds to confiscate for failing to purchase the mandated insurance. I anticipate that, if it has not already done so, the IRS will soon close that “loophole”. Odd, isn’t it? A tax action that was considered good personal financial management just a few years ago either is now, or soon will be, a federal white-collar crime worthy of imprisonment.

I look forward to the day when we, the people, wrest our responsibilities and liberties back from our own government and once again adhere to a code where one doesn’t fear for one’s well being or freedom for saying, writing, or endorsing words and ideas that someone else just doesn’t like. The right to be rude and ignorant should once again be a freedom, along with the potential consequences of speaking or acting in such a manner. The government’s responsibility is to protect us while we wind our way through such issues, not to play the irate Nanny telling people how to chew their food and not to say things like nigger, spic, slope, chink, wop, kike, frog, etcetera, etcetera. Where is George Carlin when you need him?

~-~* * *~-~


the big IF….

November 12, 2016



When opinions become plagues…

October 26, 2016

the real problem is diagnostics…

Sometimes I shake my head so hard and roll my eyes so vigorously when reading the morning “news” that it takes awhile for things to achieve enough equilibrium for me to scratch out some kind of response. This being the onset of the crescendo stage of an historically nasty election year, among other things, the fodder can be overwhelming at times.

Issues concerning intercultural conflicts within our society, particularly those involving persons of African heritage, have been nearly as prolific as those of a more purely political nature, though the two are certainly enmeshed. An article earlier this month about official reactions to remarks posted on a social media site by a University of Virginia adjunct professor is s case in point.

The most stunning aspect of the statement by University of Virginia adjunct professor Douglas Muir that the Black Lives Matter movement is racist like the Klu Klux Klan (sic) was not that he said it. What should be of concern is the official response to the statement. The college powers-that-be were quick to pull a “Professor WHO?” maneuver, while local politicians didn’t waste any time letting the PC Police know where they stood, or more accurately, where they knelt.

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy was quoted as puffing that the professor’s comments were “…not only incredibly misguided, but goes to show the lack of cultural awareness that still plagues many professors at our Universities across the country .”

What? A college professor disagreeing with the mainstream is indicative of a “lack of cultural awareness ,” and this condition is now a plague ? And whose approval is now required before those who are tasked with providing our future leaders with critical thinking skills and the courage to think outside of the box can practice those skills themselves? Or is thinking outside of the officially endorsed box now considered a crime? If so, by whom, and by what authority? More importantly, perhaps, would be the ultimate level of force planned to keep this idiotic idea on track, and what potential consequences are being considered for those who have the courage and personal integrity to laugh in its face.

I won’t enter the back and forth about “Black Lives Matter” or any of the other current assembly line issues and their prescribed emoticons. There is already a surplus of Pig Beauticians and their polar opposites in that arena, dressing things up and dressing things down. My interest is in the herd behavior so evident in our society today. This obsession with hyper-unity is reminiscent of other times in human history when the tides of liberty have retreated to extraordinary levels in preparation for an ensuing tsunami of oppression. The scary part is that such a tsunami is coming. The scarier part is that the tide went out, way out, a long time ago.

Cartoon character Pogo famously observed decades ago that “ we have met the enemy and he is us .” Perhaps the current manifestation of this poignant folk wisdom would be “ we have predicted the future, and it is now .”

Bellamy, of course, is entitled to his opinion, but those in positions of political authority and power are not entitled to suppress the opinions of others, though it would seem he might believe otherwise.

It would be appropriate, on the other hand, for him to disagree while at the same time defending the professor’s constitutional right to opine as he sees fit.

Similarly, the college should be defending the right….or better yet, the duty… to disagree. After all, if it wasn’t for the right to disagree under protection of the First Amendment, “Black Lives Matter” would not exist in the first place.

Tom Katsouleas, University of Virginia executive VP and Provost remarked, officially, that “ The University of Virginia stands firmly against racism and social injustice of any kind….Statements such as Mr. Muir’s do not foster intellectual exploration, nor do they encourage the voices of others.”

And just what, sir, does your condemnation of free speech foster?

“Racism” is the Hackneyed Term of the Day , and for Katsouleas to censure Muir’s disharmonic observation in defense of “intellectual exploration” would be hilariously ridiculous if it hadn’t been issued authoritatively and with a straight face.

The concept of racism is one of a behavioral nature. It makes no anthropological distinction as to who is qualified to be a perpetrator and who might be considered a victim. Yet somehow, in order to be “politically correct”, or in other words, to be deemed morally acceptable , one must apply such arbitrary standards as though they were indisputable. The irony of such hypocrisy is both endemic to the self-anointed Priests of Political Correctness , and completely lost upon them.

Another aspect of the incident that is characteristic of the New Social Ethic is the fact that Professor Muir made his comment on a Social Media posting and not in his capacity as an instructor on University time. That no longer matters, apparently. Employers routinely haunt the social media, right along with the NSA, et al, to make their lists of who is naughty and who is nice. If they had pawed through your trash, tapped your phone, and read your mail in pre-internet times just to see who you hung out with, your tastes in literature, underwear size, and so forth they’d be in jail, or at least on “that” undesirable list.

It troubles me to read about the constriction of academia. I remember the University as a place where bizarre and even rebellious ideas were usually tolerated. When people disagreed or sang out of tune beyond certain limits, the government sent soldiers and tanks, but the institutions of higher learning stayed out of it as long as general school policies weren’t violated. Tanks and soldiers were certainly inappropriate, even “un-American” in many views, but for the traditional guardians of creativity, out of the box thinking, and intellectual liberty to mechanically attempt to spew shame on those who decline to think and speak according to PC guidelines is just as objectionable.

Some of my most effective instructors were those who weren’t afraid to offer their own views on things and to encourage the same from their students. They were about teaching, and doing it in their own unique ways.

I was fortunate to have been taught and invited to think by some pretty engaging academicians who weren’t distracted by transient social issues unless they were material to the subject being taught. They were about knowledge and creativity , and were more likely to study discord and unrest than to judge them.

Teaching by rote and according to narrow, prescribed viewpoints may facilitate the amassing of large amounts of data, perhaps, but “wisdom” cannot be taught. Students must be exposed to situations where they can acquire it. Disallowing thought and expression outside of the parameters of the “Politically Correct” lines disallows the acquisition of wisdom.

As is not infrequently the case, the rebels of yesterday seem to have become the cultural tyrants of today. I hope the young adults who will soon be the decision makers and leaders demonstrate more wisdom than some are so vigorously working to deny them.


~-~* * *~-~