Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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The Alpha Hominid Phenomenon

September 13, 2017

…..and eunuchs….


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Brat politics…

November 14, 2016

practice-preachc-mounted_001_zpssdaztmrz

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On minding one’s own business…

August 9, 2016

and remaining heavily armed ….

Much as I hate to admit it, “sides” are a normal part of the universe. I have been particularly rabid in my efforts to be oppositional and critical, and to avoid championing a “side” during this phase of the perpetual election cycle, but it finally dawned on me……

Even a handful of decades ago, when I was helping a friend of mine on his lobstah bo’t, I had enough sense not to relieve myself into the wind when the need arose, but I fear that is just what I have been doing politically.

You see, those who are identified as the “Left” malign the philosophies, policies, morals, intellect, shoe size, and favorite vegetables of those who are identified as the “Right” and vice versa. Despite what I think has been a gallant attempt to discover the legendary “Middle Ground,” my own idealism seems to have seduced me away from Truth. It might be compared to Anastasia or Drizella attempting to cram a size 12 callous mill into a size 5 glass slipper.

All is not lost, which can be interpreted to mean there remains a glimmer of hope for my mission, or that I remain engorged with horse feathers. We’ll see. In any case, I’ve decided that my error was in believing the hype that all references to “sides” mean “Left” or “Right”, and that no other arrangement or perspective exists. Heck, even a humble cube has four sides, so what’s with the two stuff? What if reality is actually more like a dodecahedron or something like that?

Ergo, I no longer subscribe to the Left-Right dyad, or to the self generated myth that there must for some reason be legitimate, identifiable space between them. Perhaps not. Perhaps they’re both full of crap.

History tends to bear out that point. Neither leftist nor right-wing schemes for running a society have ever lasted on their own momentum. Anything surviving more than a generation or so seems to have done so by virtue of continuously expanding levels and complexities of force. I might say that the answer is as clear as the nose on my face, which is true to the extent that it means I should stop worrying over the nose on anyone else’s face. What a novel idea.

Personally, I’m fine with that. Whether I am oppositional or just refuse to be bullied by majority opinion is, well, a matter of opinion. I’ve thought for many years that it meant being generally Libertarian.

…..which brings me back to the dodecahedron. If you have twelve people in a room, there are, by default, twelve opinions which may differ or agree with each other in many different combinations. When the potential mathematical computation poops out, kind of like mine did the day I walked into my first Statistical Analysis class, it boils down to the best solution being “To each his own,” as long as one does no harm to another.

Not everybody plays by the rules, though, or believes in math, Western ethics, or anything but their own particular concept of Existence, which may include extermination of all who differ. Cessation of such behavior can be incentivized by the possibility of a recall on that 62 grain chunk of lead a few milliseconds away from bisecting the brain of the self-anointed one. It is what it is. Nevertheless, the goal and method are both focused on my own nose on my own face right now.

Humanity is predisposed to King of the Mountain, and expecting others to respect my desire to be left to my own devices was proven to be a fool’s errand by the Pleistocene. Plan “B” meshes nicely with sort of a Libertarian approach, in that I should mind my own business but remain heavily armed.

That’s just me, however. What can a nation of some 325 million people do? Well, we did it during the late eighteenth century, but soon set about the business of everybody else’s business, ostensibly in order to prevent our having to do it all over again. Now, we live in a world, at least partly of our own creation, where the proverbial Rock and Hard Place are represented by the inevitability being part of a conquered world or being the one doing the conquering.

In case it hasn’t dawned on folks yet, the golden age of thundering in on horseback, honing one’s saber in the air, or roaring in aboard a Humvee shredding real estate, recalcitrants, and residents alike are the things of history and video games. Conflict resolution, conflict perpetration, and just plain trying to grab the other guy’s stuff are now the realm of Dirty Tricks and Cyber Mischief. I don’t have to shoot an adversary anymore. I just have to jam his phone and then extort his compliance. Then shoot him.

I know how to play. I just don’t want to.

…and since I live in a society that allows for limited opinionating and noisemaking without consequences, a society pretty much controlled by silent partners behind the ones we actually sort of elect through banter and ballot, I’ll contribute to the din. After all, even those who view me as just another beef critter on the ranch like to gamble that we won’t actually outplay them some day. Workin’ on it. Some day, hopefully soon, but probably not, a whole lot of beef critters are going to do their business on the Capitol steps…

Wait for it….

 

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August 11, 2015

Sanders_AnimalFarm [1]

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Ah, it’s an election year…

November 1, 2014

and the heady aroma of horse manure fills the air…

This isn’t the nastiest election season I can remember, or have read about from earlier times, but it scores right on down there with the worst of them, at least here in Maine. The other possibilities are that I’m just paying more attention now, or that I’m becoming more crotchety. I’ll stick with the first option.

Many of the “mailers” stuffing my Post Office box recently, like their television counterparts, say little or even nothing at all about the favored candidate or position, the entire message being devoted to insulting, discounting, and selectively nit-picking the opposition instead.

I can think of only one candidate for office who has not issued or approved of a single attack ad. The entire focus of any advertising for or by this person is on personal positions on the issues, goals, and prior activities or accomplishments.

Negative comments about a competitor’s actions or positions invariably leave me with questions about context and “the rest of the story.” If it is important that someone voted for or against a challenger’s pet program, I need to know why he or she voted that way before deciding whether that decision reflects my own preferences or not. A man would be roundly demonized for shooting his neighbor’s dog, until it was revealed that the dog was attacking a child at the time. Such omissions might be understandable within the general population, but in the political arena they are calculated and deliberate. I distrust any candidate who employs such deception and won’t vote for them.

Negative campaigners, in my opinion, are just “preaching to the choir”. Their ads certainly aren’t attractive, especially when they don’t say what the candidate is for or even who the candidate is.

I don’t vote for people who hope to win by destroying the competition instead of by outperforming them. It speaks of character flaws and deceit.

 

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