Posts Tagged ‘liberal’


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.


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Lexical Semantics…

December 8, 2016

and my woeful inadequacy therein….

I learned several years ago that if I wanted to have a civilized conversation with someone, internet arenas dedicated to commentary and discussion were one notch below a Hells Angels get-together for suitability. It didn’t used to be that way.

Back in the days of Dial-up connection and the iconic yet corny-from-the-start “ You’ve got mail” announcement from AOL, the early “chat rooms” were rather benign by today’s standards. Behavior mattered, and habitually rude and or insulting behavior would earn “banishment” from a “moderator”. This was not an infringement on Freedom of Speech. The sites were “owned” and operated by individuals or companies like AOL, and they were free to establish their own parameters for “membership”. The enforcement of the rules was accomplished through the culture of the base membership, with a moderator stepping in as the last resort.

I wandered about trying several discussion boards or communities before joining one that seemed broad enough to be interesting and mature enough to be enjoyable. I followed it for more than ten years, off and on, and still have the password, though I doubt it is active anymore.

Technology and society have seen a few changes over the past 20-25 years. The last site I “joined” and interacted with on a somewhat regular basis was the “comment” portion of my local newspaper’s digital edition. That was a couple of years ago, and it didn’t last. Such places are now primarily dedicated to verbal combat and adolescent behavior. People jump on with screen names and hide behind fictional identities to say things that would get them seriously hurt in the real world. They are called “trolls”, among other apt nicknames, and they took the pleasure out of swapping howdy-dos over the internet.

Another one I tried briefly advertised itself as being “libertarian and tolerant of all views”, but turned out to be run like a boot camp by some hot dog who seemed more interested in meting out penalties than in communicating. Click.

From time to time, I succumb to the temptation to stick my toe in what still looks like water but which I know to be sulfuric acid. As I scan the articles claiming to be news, I usually come to a comments section at the end where readers can offer their feedback on the subject. The first one in line usually gets by without a hitch, but subsequent ones are highly likely to attract flies, or trolls, or both.

So, this morning I had just read an article obviously slanted for the “liberal” point of view, with specific emphasis in this particular case on mocking the so-called Confederate Battle Flag and those who defend it. I have found this sort of “pissing contest” to be rather pointless, but for some reason I felt compelled to drop a short comment after someone else’s comment.

In essence, I pointed out that America seems to have its own version of the Taliban, deciding which icons and monuments can stand and which must be destroyed. The Confederate Flag didn’t pass their PC muster and therefore had to go.

The “return shot” was as swift as it was incredible. A young lady from California sporting an Hispanic name and either questionable command of the language or of the keyboard scolded me, charging that I obviously don’t know the meaning of the words I used. Oh, wow! Oh, wow in scientific notation! This college educated former editor was being scolded by a post-adolescent Green Card for not understanding my native language! I couldn’t make this up! I also couldn’t stop laughing!

I started to prepare a short essay on my understanding of the words conservative, moderate, liberal, Taliban, and some points regarding the First Amendment, and then just backed away from the keyboard and smiled.

“Nice try,” I sneered at the monitor. “You almost got me.”


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Own it to Change it

May 24, 2016

“They” are imaginary friends…..

I was never a star student, tending to set my priorities elsewhere at the time, but I have always harbored a nearly insatiable and somewhat undisciplined curiosity. Whether or not that led to useful learning might be a matter of opinion, but it did place me right up front with my toes over the line when good and bad things happened. I learned far more after my formal education was completed than I ever did during its course. In defense of that education, I was taught how to learn should I ever have chosen to do so. I did.

Having said that, my rudimentary understanding of our system of government suggests to me that our government was put together with three branches for very good reason. We have a Legislative branch which is empowered to write laws, a Judicial branch which is empowered to interpret those laws, and an Executive branch that is responsible for implementing and administering the policies enacted by the Legislative branch.

What that means to me is that no one branch of government wields universal power, and for the whole to work most effectively, the three must respect those boundaries. Somehow, we the people have been remiss in allowing our elected representatives and those appointed or employed by them to stray and to rewrite those job descriptions for their own convenience over time. While I have no doubt that there are exceptions, I believe these course corrections were not made out of malice or as part of any great conspiracy. Corruption takes more than a bad guy to rear its head; it takes a complacent constituency to allow it to happen. Thus, as the public came to recognize and enjoy various aspects of our way of life, and were encouraged to do so by those empowered to manage and safeguard it all, the unmentioned fourth branch of government, the citizens of the United States, got lazy and let their guard down.

Consequently, over the past several decades, government authority and responsibility have grown and expanded. Whenever government assumes a responsibility, the public loses the power to fulfill that responsibility itself. This is progressive and cumulative.

Government has developed a system of checks and balances of its own, of sorts, not only ensuring it will maintain control, but that it will be in a position to expand it as well.

We have been subject to a federal Income Tax for the past hundred years or so, and the arguments about its legality continue. In and of itself, if the original checks and balances of the three branches of government had remained intact, such an assessment might be tolerable on a temporary basis from time to time, but that is not how it happened. As it turned out, the Income Tax provided a source of revenue, and various offices began to act on some of their ideas. In time, the onus reversed from a government constrained to manage within a budget to the taxpayer having to meet the government’s financial demands. Appropriate analogies have bred like June mosquitoes.

In recent years, the government has made inroads into management of the private sector through regulation and legislation. At the same time, the process was facilitated by a softening of the separation of powers among the branches of government. The Presidency has long had legitimate but limited independent powers of its own, but these have come to be used as a shortcut and a way to bypass a reticent Congress, drawing critical comparisons to “one man rule.” Similarly, the Judicial branch has ventured beyond its interpretational responsibilities into the realm redefining certain laws. In fact, if one were to strip away all of the regulations, mandates, and statutory parameters not specifically authorized by Congress, those who have come to harvest perpetual Free Lunch on the taxpayer’s dime would have to find another carcass to feed upon. I’m not talking about the people on welfare, I’m talking about the Welfare Industry and the tens of thousands of bureaucrats and employees of private sector “non-profit” entities who “profit”, ironically, from administering welfare programs. As with any industry, development of new products is a constant need. The welfare industry has a somewhat captive “customer” base, and a completely captive source of revenue, something private sector industries don’t enjoy. New programs require more personnel and more money and the bottom line of maintaining the “throughput” is job security.

So, how do we change all of this? How do we fix it? Without question, it will be a difficult task. People will fight to protect their jobs, as any of us would. There would most likely be a significant escalation in authoritarianism, which actually would only be a premature emergence of the inevitable mad scramble for universal control leading to fascism and other authoritarian structures. This is where the rubber will meet the road, so to speak.

We’ve been there before, to some extent. The Civil Rights movement literally involved “fire in the streets” and outright armed confrontations. People were assassinated. The Vietnam War controversy also came to a head with armed confrontations and citizens firmly saying “no.” The retaking of the reins of the existing government by an overwhelming force of citizens determined to return to Constitutional government could very well dwarf those two campaigns.

People are afraid. People are angry. Asked why, many cannot say. How else could we come to experience a Presidential election dominated by generally despised front runners who lead by the weight of phalanxes of dedicated and passionate minorities passively observed by disinterested impotent majorities? Change is inevitable, but it may not be the kind of change most would like to see, not as long as we remain passive and impotent.

I don’t wish to see the reins of government held by a naïve, bombastic businessman of questionable ethics and judgment. The world has not fared well in the past when such things came to pass. I don’t wish to see the Oval Office occupied by an avowed adherent to socialist principles who unabashedly intends to suck the economy dry to pay for a Christmas List of “free stuff”. I don’t want to see the White House become home once again to a former First Lady and Secretary of State who has had her eye on being the first woman President since the day she left that building. She promises “more of the same”, and “more so,” and she hauls a truckload of political baggage with her. I’ve had enough Liberal usurpation of liberty for this lifetime, and I’m not in the mood for any other brand of despotism either.

There are those who predict the demise of the major parties. Washington advised against party politics, but I think it is human nature to organize into groups. What would be welcome would be a change to major parties more aligned with Constitutional government and Libertarian values that would return government to its role as the public’s servants instead of the other way around.

I’m not so naïve as to believe these changes can be made peacefully and politely. They can’t. The question is, are there enough people who are fed up enough to support such changes anyway? Are we more in number or passion than those who rally for Trump, Clinton, and Sanders?


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Huddled masses….

September 5, 2015

burdens, assets, or just plain humanity…?

The US spirit of welcoming refugees, ala the Statue of Liberty, which was created in France and gifted to the United States 130 years ago, has not faded away or died as one might deduce from some of the political rhetoric. With no small amount of irony, that spirit may have simply been perverted by the transfer of charity-related responsibilities from the individual to the federal government in the name of fairness, kind of like a well-intentioned attempt to press the pucker out of a seersucker blazer.

As seems to be the normal process, our culture tends to take a good idea and beat it into its mirror image. The last half century has seen a surge in the removal of barriers to equity that had been embarrassingly visible for some time. Specifically, the unofficial onset of the Civil Rights Movement during the nineteen fifties awakened us to an improved awareness of the “Jim Crow” laws, and the culture of overt discrimination and abuse that had grown out of the Reconstruction period of the late nineteenth century that had never been removed, and that they needed to be. Around the same mid-twentieth century period, and each for reasons and histories of their own, other examples of inequity were recognized and became causes du jour, most visibly with the increasingly left-leaning parts of the Democratic Party.

It’s not that their counterparts, the Republicans, didn’t recognize, acknowledge, and see the need to change inequities and aspects of American life that were not in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution. It was Eisenhower, after all, a Republican president, who sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to restore order as school desegregation triggered riots.  Not to be out-done stealing liberal fire, the Reviled President, Republican  Richard Nixon, was a champion of environmental causes.  The Vietnam War, on the other hand, was  undeniably a debacle of the Democrats.

The polarization continued and deepened through the turn of the century, with Democrats becoming the exemplars of “ultra-liberal” causes and Republicans becoming associated with more “right-wing” emphasis. These “assignments” were essentially generated by, and welded to their respective designees, by the media, which has also largely been responsible for keeping these caricatures in force. Politicians learned long ago to play to the media, and over time, fiction and reality, have become somewhat blurred. This, of course, reflects a trend in society as a whole whereby “appearances” have become primary, almost to the point of rendering the reality irrelevant sometimes.

Thus, jumping ahead to the present, we find the divisions, both the real and the apparent, manifested in the conflicts around refugees and how the people believe they should be responded to. Right on cue, Donald Trump (not, the iconic right-wing, bible-thumping, conservative by the way) carries the standard for “right wing” chanters and deportation while Democrats universally, but with varying degrees of rabidity, champion assimilation.

This state of affairs puts the United States in an interesting position, considering current world events, with Europe responding with open arms to the Syrian refugees while our own headline-grabbers talk about either tossing “those people” out on their keisters by the tens of thousands, or compassionately conscripting them en masse to the ranks of the “entitled”, which may be a government jobs protection program as much as an act of charity.

It almost causes one to think on the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s presentation to the United States that perhaps we should give it back….

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