Facing America’s Real Problems: Part 1

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I have always believed that if you wanted to solve a problem or fix something that was broken, you needed to know how or why it was broken.  Dr. Deming used to say that you must understand the process before you can either fix it or improve it.  Without a fundamental understanding of the process, you can only put temporary fixes on a problem.  Something we can compare to taking ibuprofen for a sore shoulder or a painful knee.  The temporary fix helps deal with symptoms but does nothing to address underlying causes.  Without addressing underlying causes, the problem simply comes back when the “band-aid” wears off.

For years now, I have pondered two seemingly different and unrelated issues.  The first is why we cannot stem the tide of drugs in America.  The second is why schools are so dysfunctional today.  The more I have studied these two issues, the more I see the relationship between the two.  They are both symptoms of the same underlying cause.  Let’s look at each of these issues in turn before we seek a solution.

The Drug Problem in America:

There is no need to regale you as to the extent of drugs in the USA.  The “War on Drugs” has been waged on marijuana, heroin, crack, opioids, cocaine, alcohol, meth and now fentanyl.  For over a hundred years, some type of drug has been identified as detrimental to the social fabric of the USA.  During this time, we have waged this war by banning heroin, banning alcohol, banning pot and recent efforts to decriminalize drugs.  Little or nothing has been done to address and attack the underlying cause of drug abuse.  What is the reason that people take drugs?

The simple reason that people take drugs, besides the medicinal use, is to escape reality.  To escape from a world that is too violent, too scary, too complicated, too isolated, too hurtful, too discriminatory, too racist, too sexist, or too economically difficult to survive in.  Chris Hedges recently wrote that:

“Tens of millions of Americans, cast adrift by deindustrialization, understand that their lives will not improve, nor will the lives of their children.”  The United States of Paralysis,  April 23, 2023

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America is divided into three countries.  One country for people with money and social support systems.  This is a country for the rich and connected.  A second country for people with subsistence incomes that are fragile and who have weak support systems.  The third country is an ‘In-between country” which was once called the “middle class” but over the past fifty or so years, has seen a notable decline.  Many of the people in this third country are barely getting by.

Homelessness Reaches All-Time Record In New York City

Men and women who were once able to support a family of four or five could no longer count on work that would put them above the poverty level.  Many of these people lived in rural areas of the USA where economic opportunities were less available.  So, what did America do for these dispossessed and cast out workers?  Nothing!  No financial help.  No serious retraining efforts.  No major jobs programs.  No efforts to curtail the outflow of American businesses to low-wage countries.  Simply graphs and charts showing how much more they could earn if they graduated college.  Did you ever hear of a college program for blue-collar workers?

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From 2000 to 2015, I taught in three universities in Minnesota.  I repeatedly said that 1/2 of the students I saw should not have been in college.  Either because they were lost in terms of career goals or because they did not have the academic ability to fit into college as it is now structured.  During this time, high school counselors kept sending graduates to universities regardless of the fit between the student and the college.  Colleges kept admitting these students because more students meant more money for the college.  We have now come to realize the mistake that we made in shutting down alternatives to college.  Millions of students are now getting college degrees that are useless in terms of providing a decent income.  Furthermore, these students will end up saddled with thousands of dollars of debt that they may never be able to pay off.

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Adding insult to injury is the loss of work that provides for the infrastructure of America.  Carpenters, welders, plumbers, painters, landscape workers and truck drivers are in short supply all over the USA.  Manufactured products may take weeks to order or be backordered for months.  I waited 3 months to get a “molded lead frame” for my F-150 pickup.  Many of the products that we need are now manufactured in other countries.  While I still support the basic idea of a global interconnected economy, I do not support a program that has little or no planning or contingencies for the predictable shortcomings of such an economy.  It is inevitable that robots and Artificial Intelligence will displace many more workers.  However, it will be a tragedy of epic proportions if we ignore the social consequences of this displacement.  The resulting societal disintegration will be on a far greater scale than that which resulted from the lack of planning for Globalization.

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Where do drugs come in?  Misery, loneliness, depression, fear, and hopelessness are the root causes of drug addiction.  Eliminate the causes of these feelings and you eliminate the need for drugs.  Can we eliminate these “feelings?”  Some of them will always be with us but when we have a situation where over 100,000 people in the USA died from drug overdoses in 2022, we have a situation with a cause that is universal.  It is not a personal problem or a mental health problem.  It is a societal problem.

“Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), issued the following statement regarding the CDC’s release of provisional drug overdose death data, which show 107,477 predicted overdose deaths in the 12-month period ending in August 2022.”CDC Drug Overdose Data

Those who want to ignore the root causes seem ready just as they are with our gun problem to blame the individual and ignore the common causes of the problem.  Problems that have their roots in our society.  Dr. Deming said that “If you put a good person in a bad system, the system will win every time.”  We cannot solve the problem of drugs by sending armies to Mexico or increasing penalties of drug dealers or decriminalizing drugs.  Decriminalizing drugs is a good first step, but it is only a first step.

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Our politicians are blind when it comes to dealing with America’s Drug Problem.  Our “War on Drugs” is a farce.  We are no more successful at stopping drugs today than we were in 1900.  We trade one drug for another.  The solution lies somewhat in government.  We need politicians who are astute enough and smart enough to understand the real problems.  They must be able to put aside myths and fallacies pertaining to drugs and set up social programs that help people instead of penalize people.

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We do not need more penalties for drug possession.  We need leaders who really care about their citizens.  Instead, we have politicians who only care about getting your vote.  We need leaders who are compassionate and not vengeful.  We will not solve the drug problem in our country by invading Mexico.  If you have a buyer for something, you will have a seller.  Destroying the cartels in Mexico will only transfer the drug production to another country.

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As corny as it might sound, only love will solve the drug problem.

“Love others as much as you love yourself” — Matthew 22:37-40, Christianity 

“Never will you attain the good until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it” — Quran 3:92, Islam

“The one who loves all intensely begins perceiving in all living beings a part of himself.” — Yajurveda, Hinduism

“Love is a gift of one’s inner most soul to another so both can be whole.” — Buddha, Buddhism

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” — Moses, Leviticus 19:18, Judaism

“Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship . . . This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations.” — Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i

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We need to extend love to people who are outcasts.  People who are disenfranchised by a ruthless capitalist system that values money more than people.  We don’t need lectures for these people.  We need help for them.  Help that shows they are not forgotten.  Help that shows they are not looked down on.  Help that shows they are valued human beings.  Help that will enable them to contribute to society.  Help that is grounded in love and not retribution.

If you think that we can kill our way to a drug free culture or that we will eliminate drugs by killing all the cartel leaders, you are part of the delusion that grips American drug policy.  What will it take to erase this delusion and start seeing the problem for what it really is?

A lack of love and compassion for the underdogs in our society. 

Next week my blog will deal with the fundamental problems in our educational systems and what we can do about them.

What a Wonderful Life and a Wonderful Human Being.

Harry Belafonte was a man for all seasons. “Sing Your Song”: Remembering Harry Belafonte, Who Used His Fame to Help MLK & Civil Rights Movement

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https://youtu.be/1vbnG00ojY4

Taking It to Extremes – Part 1 of 5

Aging Capriciously

A number of years ago, I wrote an article about the famous “Golden Mean” of Greek philosophy. The mean was basically a rule that said the best way of living is to balance extremes. Another way of looking at what this rule implies is that evil or bad things happen when we over do something. We need to take all things in moderation. Thus, drugs, smoking, guns, watching TV etc., are not evil or bad in themselves but when we take them to extremes they became dangerous and counterproductive.

I sincerely and whole-heartedly believe in this rule. However, recently I was thinking about it from another perspective. I was reflecting on the problems of government today and the extreme polarization that now exists in American politics. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Greek rule was not quite strong enough. It needs something more. Perhaps…

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This Bond of Men – By J. Persico and R. Casey

Johnston HS Baseball Team 19631963 Johnston High School State Baseball Champions

Some stories shout to the world to be told.  Other stories whisper.  This story is of the latter kind.  It took place back in 1963 in a small obscure part of the world called Johnston, R.I.  Far overshadowed by events like the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam war, I hardly noticed it occurred.  I would not even be telling you this story now were it not for some recent events involving the men whom it happened to.

Partly it is a David versus Goliath story.  We all like these stories and they grab our attention because we love to see the little guy kick the big guy’s butt.  Perhaps the two most famous stories I can recall in this vein are the defeat of the Russian Hockey team by the US team in the Olympics.  On Feb. 22, 1980, the United States beat the Soviet Union 4-3 in an ice hockey game at the Lake Placid Olympics.  It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history.  They called this the” Miracle on Ice.”  The USA team went on to win the gold medal.  Herb Brooks, the coach. was from Minnesota and was well known in our town of St Paul.  He died in a car accident in 2003 and was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.

The second story which most of us know is the story of Muhammed Ali versus Sonny Liston.  Sonny Liston or the “Bear” as he was known was a terrifying hulk of a man whom it was said had killed men in the ring with one punch.  Muhammed Ali (Cassius Clay at the time) was a young promising upstart of a boxer with quick hands and an even quicker mouth.  He disturbed boxings notion of what a fighter should be and do and most boxing fans wanted to see him get his head handed to him and fully expected that he would.

The fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the world was held on February 25, 1964, in Miami Beach, Florida.  Muhammed Ali (an 8–1 underdog) won in a major upset.  This fight turned the boxing world upside down.  It became one of the most controversial fights in the sport’s history.  “Sports Illustrated labeled it as the fourth greatest sports event of the twentieth century.” — Wikipedia.

The first fight between Ali and Liston barely registered on my antenna at the time.  I was finishing high school and wondering what I was going to be when I grew up.  I had little or no chance of going to college and was considered one of the biggest disappointments at my high school.  I was attending Johnston High School where the event that I am about to describe took place.  It happened nearly sixty years ago in 1963.  I am telling you this story now not because it is simply another David beats Goliath tale but because the story happening after this event is even more significant than the event itself.

Johnston High School opened in 1960.  My family had just moved from Woonsocket, R.I. to Johnston R.I. for reasons that I will never know.  In the years that followed, I went from being an A student to a student barely passing my classes.  Teachers and other students regarded me as intelligent but lacking discipline.  In my four years of high school, I achieved only one noticeable success.  I did not join any clubs.  I played no sports.  I participated in no school activities.  I went to no school sporting events.  I took no doe eyed damsels to a single prom.  I was twice arrested.  Once for breaking and entering and once for drag racing on a public highway.  My single success in high school was derided by the head of the English department as “A dark day for Johnston High School.”  I won first place in a school-wide writing contest that I had loudly insulted and laughed at.

Johnston was actually “West Providence” by another name.  It lay between the borders of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  It would take you less than an hour to drive across the middle of R.I.  We had North Providence, South Providence, and East Providence but no “West” Providence.  Instead, we had Johnston.  I often assumed Johnston was simply an afterthought or a poor stepchild for R.I.  Comprised mostly of working-class blue-collar Italians, it was just a suburb of Providence.  In 1952 when this story really begins, Johnston was a rural area with dirt roads, streams, and many farms.  Today the population is over 30,000.

My friend Bob thought the town was a great place for kids to grow up.  It had a volunteer fire department, a “keystone” cops police department, and an average school system although no high school until 1960.  The town had approximately 5000 residents.  Today the town has almost 30,000 residents.  The most important (For this story anyway) part of the town was its recreation department.  It offered barebones opportunities in respect to sports but it had managed to establish a little league baseball association and a teener league baseball association.   You probably do not remember now but back in the fifties “Baseball” and not football was the “All American Sport.”

1958 Little League

1958 Little League in Johnston R.I.

Every kid wanted to be like Joe DiMaggio (1936-1951) or Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) or Whitey Ford (1961-1965).  Trading cards of baseball players were like finding gold and young boys spent hours collecting and trading their cards to get their favorites.  The American historian Jacques Barzun said, “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.” 

Before Johnston High School opened, most of the kids in Johnston went to other high schools around the state.  In 1963, Johnston H.S. was barely three years old.  It had maybe 400 students enrolled.  It had no history of “Esprit de Corp” or reputation for anything.  Nevertheless in 1963, Johnston H.S. won the R.I. State High School Baseball championship.  At the time, there was no divisions by size for the finals in baseball, so Johnston won against much bigger and well-established high school teams.  It was pitted against a Goliath (La Salle Academy) in the semi-finals for the State Championship.

La Salle Academy is a private Roman Catholic college preparatory school run by the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Providence, Rhode Island.  It was founded by the Christian Brothers in 1871.  Today it has an enrollment of 1,478 students in the sixth through twelfth grades, and hosts sixty-four teams in 18 sports.  In May 2005, Sports Illustrated magazine cited La Salle for having the best athletic program in Rhode Island.  The schools list of alumnae would stagger you and take up the rest of this story.  The same is true for its list of State Championships in football, baseball, soccer, and other sports.  Back in 1963, any notion or idea that Johnston High School could beat La Salle in anything would have drawn hysterical laughter.  The odds would have been fifty to one against it.

Johnston High School beat La Salle Academy 2-1, in a best-of-three state final series.  The Johnston Panthers then proved that the win over La Salle was no fluke and beat Barrington High School 5-0 for the Final Championship.   A miracle perhaps but the real miracle took place in the years following this event.

Athletics and the sports world in general love to regale the public with stories of how sports have made a difference in the lives of others.  I am sure that you have heard how sports builds character and helps to mold the lives of young people.  As often as we may have heard these claims, we have seen repeated stories of spoiled young athletes.  Athletes who think the world owes them something and who squander any character building that their coaches might proclaim.  I am critical of the ability of sports to instill character, but I also stand ready to acknowledge that there are instances where it does happen.  That is the moral of this story.  A time when character was developed.

In 1963, fourteen ragtag baseball players, two team managers and two young coaches banded (nay bonded) together to put together a championship team.  That this event has been little heralded and perhaps less remembered by most of the world is not important.  For the players on this team, it was a galvanizing influence on their lives.

Several years ago, a popular novel was the “Band of Brothers.”  This story told of the bonds that were forged in the military during combat among the men of a platoon.  There have been many tales of battlefield bonds that were forged between men of great diversity in ethnicity and ideology.  The battlefield is a catalyst for such bonds.  To some extent, a team represents the possibility for such bonds.  A popular trope is that “There is no I in team.”  Unfortunately, there are too many I’s in too many teams.

I knew many of the men that played on the Johnston baseball team of 1963.  It may seem callous of me to say this, but I doubt that any of them were MLB material.  One outstanding player on the team was kicked off by Coach Edward Di Simone for swearing.  Di Simone said that the athlete, Robert Casey, was the most gifted man he had ever coached.  Unfortunately for Bob, there was too much “I” in his demeanor at the time and he left the team for good.  Later in life, Bob proved the words of Di Simone many times over by repeatedly winning the R.I. Handball Championship.  Handball is not a team sport.

Bob and coach Di Simone later became good friends and maintain a friendship to this day.  Bob Casey also remained friends with several of the men on the baseball team whom he had once played with.  Why did this team of average players go on to win against teams with players who did go to the major leagues?  I think it attests to the fact that Di Simone created a true team with men who bonded together with a common passion to play and minus the common passion to stand out and be a “superstar.”  They were men who looked up and listened to coach Di Simone.  The lack of ego among the players contributed to a desire to work together.  As D’Artagnan said in the “Three Musketeers”, “All for one and one for all.”  Senator Hubert Humphrey said that “Democracy is a system that achieves extraordinary results with ordinary people.”  Great teams like the ones that Di Simone and Brooks coached were remarkable because they created bonds that laid a foundation for extraordinary results with ordinary men.

1961 Pony League

1961 Teener or Pony League 

The bonds that developed between the men on the Johnston High School Baseball team were forged over many years of playing together.  Years before any of them would step foot in Johnston High School, these boys had played together in the Johnston Little League and then the Johnston Teener League.  They had learned to work together.  They had learned what strengths and what weaknesses each player had.  There were no super stars in the group.  Just a bunch of kids who loved to play the game of baseball and wanted to excel at everything they did.

Coach Eddie Di Simone was recently out of college and only about ten years older than most of his players in 1963.  He inherited a group of boys who had been playing baseball together for nearly five years.  Bonds had already started to develop but these were honed and polished by Coach Di Simone.  He believed that it was not enough to be a good ball player.  He strove to instill in his team his belief in four main values.  These were Simplicity, Honesty, Integrity, and Fair Play.

Coach Di Simone believed in these values, and he wanted his players to believe in them.  He demonstrated them on the playing field both with his own behavior and with his expectations for the team.  He was someone who practiced the values that he taught his players.  Imagine any Coach today kicking one of his best players off the team for swearing?  Coach Di Simone knew that after life with baseball, each of these men would go out to face a very different playing field.  On the “field of life” his values of simplicity, honesty, integrity, and fair play would be much more valuable than skills at hitting, throwing, catching, and running bases.

Sixty years later many of the surviving members of the Johnston High School Panthers baseball team are still meeting regularly with their former Coach Di Simone to remember the day that they won the championship.  However, they celebrate the specific day and its memories of winning less than they do the events that followed.  They have not been “stuck” in the past of 1963 when they put on their cleats, took their bats and gloves, and walked out on the ball field.  They have not spent the past sixty years trying to relive their “glory” days as it seems so many former high school athletes do.  What they celebrate when they meet with their former coach and now friend is the bond that was forged between the team and its Coach Di Simone.  It is a bond of men forged over a fire of values.  The values learned on the playing field helped to make the members of the 1963 Johnston High School championship team into the successful men that they have become in life.  That is the real story here.

Coach Di Simone is now 89 years old.  Amazingly, 12 of the original 14 team members remain alive and in their late seventies.   A few weeks ago, at one of their meetings they bestowed a plaque on Coach Di Simone commemorating the 1963 championship and what Coach Di Simone has meant to them.  As I write this, there are plans for a December meeting at Coach Di Simone’s house and dinner afterwards.  The affection for their former coach is very evident in his former players.  (NOTE:  This meeting took place in December of 2022)

The end to this story will be written in the future.  To paraphrase Abe Lincoln, “The world will little note, nor long remember what I say here, but it should never forget the real reasons why these men became who they are today.”  In a world awash with narcissism and egotism, it is comforting to find that upstanding values can still be the basis for an unshakeable bond between people as well as a basis for successful lives.

By the way, if you want to have some fun, see how many of the players you can recognize on the above pictures who are in each picture.  It is interesting to see the changes from “Kids” to “Young Men.”

Appendix: Date:  April 10, 2023

I have listed the names of the 14 men that were on the original 1963 Championship team along with their two coachs.

  • Kenneth J. Ainley, first base
  • Thomas J. Donnelly, third base
  • Richard A. Esposito, utility
  • William G. Geremia, utility
  • Alex M. Giarrusso, catcher
  • Frank E. Jasparro, left field
  • Scott Moore, pitcher
  • James J. Petteruti, center field
  • Daniel Pisaturo, third and second base
  • Ronald P. Ricci, utility
  • Edward A. Skovron, second base and shortstop
  • Melvin D. Steppo, third base
  • David P. Taraborelli, right field
  • Michael R. Ursini, utility
  • Coach Ed Di Simone
  • Coach Bob Smith

Free Speech in the Public Arena

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This is part 4 of my series on Free Speech.  In my third part, I talked about the issue of free speech in academia.  Here I would like to discuss how I see the First Amendment playing out in the public sector.  By public sector, I am referring to the street, store, bank, airplane, bus, park, library or any public building or public office space, where you might find yourself standing or sitting.  The First Amendment provides that:

“Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise.  It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

downloadAs with any of the constitutional amendments there is a certain, indeed I would say “high” degree of ambiguity as to the limits of what the Founding Fathers meant by their words.  We know for instance that they did not mean that you could slander or libel anyone with your words.  We know that they did not mean that you could yell “fire” in a crowded theater.  We also know that there are many instances of what the Founding Fathers did not have a clue would become an interpretation for “Free Speech.”  For instance, the Citizens United decision by the US Supreme Court says that the right to make political contributions is a form of free speech.  This will probably go down in history as one of the most egregious interpretations of what the Founding Fathers meant.  The only interpretations that seem more egregious concern several earlier court decisions regarding slavery and the buying and selling of human beings.

Another famous saying is a parody of the “Golden Rule.”  This parody says that “He/She who has the gold makes the rules.”  In terms of free speech, this parody is quite apt.  Corporations have a lot of money, so they decide what free speech is and is not.  The more money or power you have, the more free speech you can ostensibly command.  If you are a US Senator, you will have a greater audience willing to listen to you than you or I would have.

Bernadette Dohrn, the now retired law professor and once upon a time leftist radical, said that “In America, you can say anything you want, until someone starts listening to you.”  This truism seems to have become aggravated by the sheer numbers of lawyers and courts that are willing to hear any type of case regardless of what it is about.  Don’t think for a second that they are doing this to further truth, justice, and the American way of life.  If you have enough money, you can get your day in court.  If you do not, you better have a case that the media finds “sensational.”  Have you ever wondered why some cases get tried much sooner than others?  High profile politicians have the right to a speedy access in appeal courts and even the US Supreme Court considerably faster than you or I ever would.

The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution says that Americans have the right to “fair and speedy” trial.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,”

imagesRecently, I read of the case of an eleven-year-old convicted of killing his stepmother.  His appeal took three and a half years to come to court and then found him not guilty.  On the other hand, Kari Lake, the big lie advocate and loser in the Arizona Governor’s race this past year had appeal after appeal and each one seemed to take less than two or three weeks.  It takes three and a half years to get justice for an eleven-year-old wrongly convicted of murder, but Lake got trial after trial for her baseless and politically motivated claims that they “stole” the election from her.  This same scenario has played out repeatedly in the past few years.  Poor people with no money wait years to get a “fair hearing” while rich bottom feeders like Lake walk in and out of court on an almost daily basis.

This is an excerpt from a talk that Chris Hedges gave on April 4th at the Independent National Convention in Austin, Texas.  He called it “Reclaiming our Country.”

“It is one of the great ironies that the corporate state needs the abilities of the educated, intellectuals and artists to maintain power, yet the moment any begin to think independently they are silenced.  The relentless assault on culture, journalism, education, the arts and critical thinking, has left those who speak in the language of class warfare marginalized, frantic Cassandras who are viewed as slightly unhinged and depressingly apocalyptic.  Those with the courage to shine a light into the inner workings of the machinery, such as Noam Chomsky, are turned into pariahs, or, like Julian Assange, relentlessly persecuted.”

It does not really take much to run afoul of those who want to stifle free speech and free expressions in America.  Here are some examples from my own life.  I give these modestly because they are nowhere near as egregious as some.

  • Told while working for the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota that I had better back the Democratic candidate for Governor or my career would be short-lived. I backed Jesse Ventura instead.
  • Told by the VA Director while working for the VA as a Claims Examiner 7 that I would need to shave my beard off, or that I would never get a promotion.
  • Apparently, a complaint (from someone unknown) about my teaching a unit on current social issues necessitated a security person from the school to burst into my classroom, demanding to see my lesson plans, and wanting to know “who approved these plans?” I informed him that they were part of the regular curriculum, to which he ordered me to not pursue these lesson plans any further.  This happened in a local high school about 4 years ago when I was filling in for the regular teacher who was out for the week.

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In recent years, we have seen more and more examples of speech being stifled by both right and left-wing extremists.  Each side does not want the other side to have a right to speak their piece.  A key cornerstone of our democracy has become so politicized today that agitators feel they have the right to speak but you and I do not.  Lawyers twist the words and definitions to fit the needs of corporations and rich clients but not to find truth and justice.  As Humpty Dumpty said to Alice:

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“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

Gold makes the rules, and the Master defines the words.  He who has both the gold and the power decides what is the truth and what lies may be told.

“I can walk into a bookshop and point out a number of books that I find very unattractive in what they say.  But it doesn’t occur to me to burn the bookshop down. If you don’t like a book, read another book.  If you start reading a book and you decide you don’t like it, nobody is telling you to finish it.”   — Salman Rushdie

Libraries, once a bastion of intellectual thought and free speech, have come under attack all over the USA.  State legislatures governed by Republican majorities have drawn up lists of hundreds of books to be removed from public libraries, school libraries and college libraries.  In one state a high school principal was recently fired for allowing a teacher to use a textbook for art appreciation which depicted the famous statue of David.  Book bans have occurred in 138 school districts in 32 states. These districts represent 5,049 schools with a combined enrollment of nearly 4 million students.  — Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights (April 2022),

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Truth is now routinely perverted by both the media and the so-called justice system in America.  The narratives that you are bombarded with every day and that deign to pass as Free Speech are seldom anything but gross distortions of reality.  Think of the documents you sign for an insurance policy or a mortgage or buying a new car.  Dozens of pages of legal sounding words that have no meaning to the average person.  Even a lawyer would be hard put to explain what you are about to sign.  There is a good chance that you will later find that they covered every loophole needed to protect themselves at your expense.  I give you one example from many in my life.

A few years ago, I purchased a new RV.  The dealer talked me into signing an extended warranty policy for about 2000 dollars.  In less than ten thousand miles, a wheel broke off.  It did not come off because of loose nuts.  The hub and brake assembly all broke off with part of the axel.  It tore through the underbody of the RV causing almost 7000 thousand dollars of damage.  When I called the warranty company, they told me I had no claim.  Their policy covered “defect” not “damage” and that I should read page 32 for an explanation.  Every auto person I talked to said it was a defective hub and wheel.  “NO” said the warranty company.  If I did not agree, I could hire a lawyer, but they added they had fought this battle many times and they “would win.”

I am sure that everyone reading this can find a similar example of signing some long legal sounding document and later finding that the words were crafted to “give you the shaft.”  These legal distortions further the ends of an elite that does not believe in Democracy.  They are like wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Their façade keeps the public passive until they are ready to pounce.  There are many in America today for which Democracy is nothing but a convenient façade.  It is brought out when needed to further their ends.  Ends which as my good friend Dick always said you will find when you “follow the money.”

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked.  So was Stalin.  If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise.  Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”  — Noam Chomsky

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Free speech is like anything else that someone tells you is free.  It is never free.  There are no free lunches.  If you understand that “Freedom” is never free but is always purchased with the blood of heroes and martyrs, what makes you think that Free Speech is “FREE.”  Free Speech is purchased with the courage to pursue convictions, speaking up when in the minority, and most of all an acceptance of hearing things you don’t want to hear and understanding that truth is like a kaleidoscope.  Each twist of a kaleidoscope brings a different reality into view.

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Consider participating in “Free Speech Week” this October 16-22, 2023

FREE SPEECH WEEK

Created in 2005 and originally called National Freedom of Speech Week, Free Speech Week (FSW) takes place the third week of October annually.  Its purpose is to raise public awareness of the importance of freedom of speech and of a free press in our democracy – and to celebrate that freedom.  This non-partisan, non-ideological event is intended to be a unifying celebration.

PS:  Check out the latest Jim Hightower Thoughts on Book Banning.

https://open.substack.com/pub/jimhightower/p/how-perverse-is-the-gops-book-banning?r=zfnvi&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email

The Landlord of the Bed

john and karen

I realized with a sudden insight the other night that my wife Karen was the “Landlord of the Bed.”  She is the lord, ruler and keeper of the bed.  To be specific, the bed referred to is “Our” bed.  The one that most nights of the year we sleep in.  The area over which Karen claims dominion is approximately 81 inches long, 62 inches wide and 25 inches high.  The generic name of her land is commonly known as a Queen-Sized Pillow Top Bed.   It leans on the firm side and gives a wonderful nights sleep.

It incorporates three virtual States.  One is the “State of Un-Made.”  A second is the State of Half-Made” and then there is the state of “Fully-Made.”  The Landlord has some liberal rules concerning what State the bed is allowed to remain in.  I will describe these rules later.

In addition to the three “States” of the bed, there are also two “Regions” of the bed.  There is the “On the Bed” region.  The Landlord of the Bed allows certain things to take place there.  These include folding clothes, laying out patterns, loading suitcases.  The second region is the “In the Bed” region.  There are also certain things that the Lord allows to take place there.  I will keep this description brief since I would like to keep this blog PG or Family rated.  However, the obvious things should not offend anyone.  These include sleeping, sometimes eating in bed, reading in bed, watching TV in bed, and holding some family discussions in bed.  The area I left out (For PG reasons) was once a more active activity in this region but time has diminished both our energy and vigor, enough said about this.

As Landlord of the Bed, Karen has many decisions to make each day.  What sheets to put on and take off.  When to wash the sheets and pillowcases.  When to replace the old ones with new ones.  What State to allow the bed to remain in.  How long she will remain in bed.  There are other issues not worth discussing.  As a very liberal Landlord, Karen always takes my feelings into consideration when she makes any of these decisions.  For instance, whenever I come back home (usually after an early morning run or hike) Karen will jump out of bed to come and greet meet at the door.  This makes me feel very special.  In the old days, I would have taken off my running gear and jumped back in bed with her.  However, the only jumping I do these days is when I run into a Jumping Cholla.  So called because their thorns jump out to stick you.

Getting back to Karen’s rules for the three States.  I would say they are somewhat ephemeral.  They are certainly not cut in stone.

unmade bed

Rules for Un-Made State are as follows:

  • Ok, if sick
  • Ok, if in a hurry to leave and we will be back soon
  • Ok, if going to take a nap

half made

Rules for the Half-Made State are as follows:

  • Going to strip the bed soon to wash sheets
  • Going to take a nap and bed has not yet been made
  • Just feel too darn lazy to bother

fully made

Rules for the Fully-Made State are as follows:

  • Whenever we have company coming over
  • Whenever we are leaving for a longer period of time
  • Whenever Karen wants the house to seem neat and tidy
  • After clean sheets and pillow cases have been put on

I have to confess, it was Karen who first brought up the idea of a Landlord of the Bed.  It really has a long history in coming.  Karen has almost always accused me of hogging the covers.  For some reason (unknown to me or modern physics) the covers always seem to end up on my side of the bed.  Karen claims it is because I pull them over me in the middle of the night and then she has to yank them back to her side.  These baseless accusations have gone on since we were married.  They only seem to happen on cold nights or nights when it starts off warm and then gets colder.  You should know that we sleep with the windows open and both of us like a very cool bedroom.

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The other night, quite to my surprise, I found the covers mostly on Karen’s side of the bed.  Although we live in Arizona, the nights have been down in the thirties and forties for several months.  This leads to a tendency for Karen to start off with few covers when it is warmer and then as the room temperature goes down, she will pull them over more and more when she gets cold.  I had just gone to the bathroom and when I came to go back to bed, I noticed that Karen had all the covers.

Somehow, the blanket was not only mostly on her side, but it was also all jumbled up with the top sheet.  I tried to rearrange them to get some covers on my side but did not have much luck.  I finally asked Karen, who was awake by then, if she would kindly fix the covers so that I could have some.  She wanted to know why it was her responsibility.  I told her because it was her bed and she was responsible for it.  She laughed and said, “What am I, the Landlord of the Bed?”

download (1)It was so obvious; I do not know why I did not realize it before.  She is the Landlord of the Bed!  She is the Lord and High Ruler of all the States and both Regions of our bed.  I want no responsibility for it.  I only want my rights.  Like most Americans today, I want my rights, but I don’t want any responsibilities.  If the covers and blankets all end up on my side of the bed, it is not my fault.  It is all Karen’s fault.  She should be the only one to blame.  A good landlord is responsible for making sure that their tenants are comfortable and that the facilities are in good working order.

Well, that is all I am going to write on this subject for now.  I have decided to hire a lawyer and to have him or her draft a “Rights for Bed Users Bill” that I will submit to Karen.  If she wants to continue sharing a bed with me, I want my RIGHTS!

Torn apart

“In bed we laugh, in bed we cry, and born in bed, in bed we die; the near approach a bed may show of human bliss to human woe.”  — Samuel Johnson

A Grave Disease Called Seriosity

seriosityDo you suffer from Seriosity?  Websters On-Line Dictionary defines Seriosity as “The quality or state of being serious.”  It further states that the first identified use of the word was in 1505 CE.  Symptoms identifying a person suffering from Seriosity include:  earnestness, graveness, sedateness, soberness, solemness, and staidness.  “For instance, John was no fun to be around.  He was always so serious about everything.”  Psychologists identified his condition as Seriosity.  ICD 10 Lists the Code for this condition as 777-398-1234.  The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes in its discussion of Seriosity the following:

“A very common malady these days that is usually accompanied or brought on by reading the daily news or watching too much Cable TV news.”

Symptoms may include but are not limited to:

Extreme intolerance of other views, periodic uncontrollable rants, gloominess, unhappiness, distain for Republicans and sometimes even Democrats, excessive categorization, and frequent “Doomsday” forecasts.

Recommended Treatment Protocols:

Patients require a great deal of empathy, and many will be prone to reject advances or ideas on how to get a life.   Clinicians have found that six months on a desert island without a cell phone or internet is the best treatment for this condition although this is not going to be feasible for all patients.  In lieu of a desert island, a week at Disneyland or a week paddling in the Boundary Waters will help some patients.  For those patients who are less mobile, shock therapy or a night of wild sex can sometimes be helpful.  — Pg 5024, Part 3, Section 8 – DSM-5 

We all know people who suffer from Seriosity.  If we are honest, we might find that at times we also suffer with minor bouts of this condition.  For instance, how often have you said any of the following:

  • The world is going to hell in a handbasket
  • Are people getting dumber or is it just my imagination?
  • When I was young, (Here you add your own finish); we walked ten miles to school every day even during a snowstorm.
  • It’s hopeless, we are powerless to change anything.
  • They just don’t make them like they used to.
  • Have you heard the news about D. Trump getting indicted? Don’t worry, he won’t be found guilty.  

Serious people can seem very boring to others.  A friend who reads my blog said that I liked to categorize everything.  He is right.  I am a serious person.  I have been diagnosed as “Borderline Seriosity” although Karen insists that I have passed the border long ago.

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[On being criticized for her serious expression:] “I simply ache from smiling.  Why are women expected to beam all the time?  It’s unfair.  If a man looks solemn, it’s automatically assumed he’s a serious person, not a miserable one.  — Queen Elizabeth II

There are serious people and un-serious people.  Seriosity is an extreme form of seriousness.  Taking oneself too seriously can lead to a great deal of misery and suffering.  It is much more fun to be unserious.  Unserious people take life as one big joke.  Everything that happens to unserious people is simply something that can be turned into one of life’s foibles.  A chance to scorn life and see the hilarity of existence.  Serious people do not see the funny sides of life much less what they should be happy about.   Here are some comments that unserious people might make about life:

  • So what if Goldie Locks ate all the cereal, the bears could still make more
  • So what if the Republicans gerrymandered all the districts in the USA, the baseball game will still be on Saturday or Sunday.
  • So what if climate change may destroy human life on earth, I only have ten years or so to go anyway.    

you-cant-be-serious-9781982171391_hrA serious person will look at death and wonder why life is so serious.  An unserious person will look at death and wonder why life is so funny.  A serious person will look at the inequalities of human existence and wonder how God could have been so flawed in his design capabilities.  An unserious person will look at Bruegel’s the “Triumph of Death” and wonder whether it is time for supper.

“I’m not a very serious person.  You know how they say that clowns are very funny in public and are really sad at home?  I’m really kind of stupid at home and more serious in public.”  — Roland Joffe

Several years ago, a friend of mine told me that humor was a big part of remaining sane in today’s world.  He said that I should work on my humor more and not take things so seriously.  I wanted to take his advice, so I asked him if he knew any good books that could help me be less serious.  A good research study or two about overcoming Seriosity was what I felt would be useful in my quest for a more jocular existence.  He shook his head in some dismay and walked away muttering.

“Basically, I’m a very serious person, but I think the form it takes with me is comedy.  I see the amusing side of all potentially pompous situations.”   — Peter Ustinov

58c5d110-fbfe-4034-9e20-e6883907139c.6290d3e39f006d7cd4fda448718142d2It is now many years later.  I would not exactly describe myself as the “life of the party.”  I am much more interested in why people waste time at parties anyway.  Drinking and talking with people you probably will never see again does not seem like a good use of time.  In all seriousness, being too serious can seriously hurt your social life and even your sex life.  Who wants to be around someone who is doom and gloom all day long.  Day after day, never seeing the bright sunshine that lurks just behind those damn rain clouds.  Not appreciating that one day, everything that you think is really and truly wrong with the world, may just be proven right in the future.   Serious people need to look to the future more with a serious amount of faith and hope.

“Art is the only serious thing in the world.  And the artist is the only person who is never serious.”  — Oscar Wilde

My mother was often a very happy person.  She achieved this inner equanimity by a large dose of denial.  One of her favorite quotes was “ignorance is bliss.”  This phrase became anathema to everything that I believed.  She would argue that cows are happy and give good milk because they do not take the world too seriously.  The less you know, the happier you are.  Put your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and you can be happy all day long.  These thoughts were like the devil trying to get me to sell my soul.  My motto could have been “Serious Now, Serious Tomorrow, Serious Forever!”  What is life if you do not take it seriously?

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BUT, BUT, BUT, than again, is happiness simply sheer ignorance?  Can serious people ever be happy?  Can you be happy and serious at the same time?   Many people seem to think that you can be both serious and happy.  Just don’t catch the disease of Seriosity.

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