Archive for the ‘government’ Category

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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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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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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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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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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?

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Why do they DO that…?

November 25, 2016

You know that kind of folksy joke about why the family dog always picks the day you have visitors, like the minister, or the Ladies’ Auxiliary, to wander into the room, turn around three times, lie down, and BEGINS TO VIGOROUSLY LICK….well, you know how it goes….

dog-because-he-can_01c

People apparently do things for the same reason…

People are diverse by default, not necessarily because some movement decided it should be so, and it is normal for people to associate with others most similar to themselves, That doesn’t mean they hate the folks down the road.  Nevertheless, the self anointed Interior Decorators of the culture pound the podiums and preach their version of diversity, and woe unto he who dares to diversify outside of the prescribed lines!  I had a drill instructor that could lean at a 45 degree angle, bark like a seal, and spit red hot nails, but I’d wager he couldn’t even chew butter in the moral shock wave of an irate Liberal.  Don’t make an issue of my picking on “Liberals.”  I spew ridicule spherically, not just left or right.

Thus, it is not really surprising to access an alleged source of “news” only to be informed of some newly discovered social sin, verbal transgression, thought pattern, or the latest intellectual dingle-berry to drop from the stern-sheets of the PC Beast that humanity is mandated to adopt.

Why do people do this stuff, boss each other around, vie for control, and for some irrational reason other than fear actually endorse the Gods of Glib?

That’s easy.

Because they can.

So, the latest offering is just another chapter in the continuous game of enforcing the rules against government making any law “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” by making rules that nip at the heels of the First Amendment like a Narcissistic Chihuahua on amphetamines.

While, in the name of “defending our freedom”,  we send weapons and warriors half way around the globe to vanquish some folks who have the audacity to destroy the symbols and sacred doo-hickies of Middle Eastern populations who don’t practice the “only religion the only way”, things are getting dicey here at home, too.  We have our own version of the Taliban going around deciding which National Monuments displaying crosses violate the First Amendment and demanding that they be removed (polite for “destroyed”).

As with virtually any action perpetrated in the name of achieving or enforcing some “good”, these things can only be done at the cost of someone else who happens to be on the wrong wavelength, go to the wrong church, belong to the wrong political party, speak with the wrong accent, or in some other way qualify to be redefined as irrelevant.

Why do they do that?

Because they can.

…and why can they…?

…because, basically, nobody tells them they can’t.

Well, I’m here to tell ‘em they can’t.   I’m all for helping those in need, but I’m not at all for making that mission into a Cabinet position and turning it into some massive industry that consumes an immense quantity of raw materials and produces absolutely nothing.

I’m all for “defending our freedom”, but I think it’s long past the time to learn the difference between shit and shinola.  When German U-boats cruised our eastern seaboard, and Japanese aviators barbequed Pearl Harbor, we wasted no time juggling smoke and mirrors.  We defended our freedom, and we did it definitively, and we did it well.

When our nation was again attacked on September 11, 2001, “defending our freedom” once again became the priority.

What we need to do, however, is figure out where the real line is that separates genuinely “defending our freedom” and just acting as District Sales Representatives for the munitions industries, their foot-warmers in Congress, and others who keep our economy afloat by promoting and feeding global conflicts.

And for those who are still capitalizing on stage time from the recent election, I would suggest they stop projecting gloom and doom because Donald Trump seems to have grabbed the brass ring.  Get over it.  We don’t put kings in the White House, though some of them seem to think that was the deal.  No one man or woman is going to fix everything and make America great again and no one man or woman is going to flip a switch and turn the USA into a 3rd world country or a glassy spot on the globe.  Either of those two roads can only be chosen and followed by The People.  I trust our system of governance as it was devised.  I don’t necessarily trust many of my fellow citizens to understand it and follow its wisdom.  A culture of entitlement has been fostered and developed over the past few decades.  Oddly, it isn’t the recipients of “free lunch” that benefit from this atmosphere, it is those who manage the game and dole out the goodies.  And, I’m not saying they are bad people.  They aren’t.  I blame a damaged system and each and every one of us who has spent our time finger pointing instead of rolling up our sleeves and doing something productive.

It can’t be fixed all at once, but we need to start somewhere.  The ultimate goal, of course, is to have government get the hell out of the way so the American people can do what they have always proven they can do best.  Produce.  Create.  Protect our freedom.

So, I’m saying to those who think otherwise, it’s time for you to move on.  Government doesn’t make things, doesn’t fix things, doesn’t produce anything.  The people do.  You have graced the living room floor of America and done your “ablutions” long enough.  Get out.

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