3551– Sunday, August 11, 2019 — Win- Lose or Can Win-Win Save Us?

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Here is a question for you.  It deals with the following hypothetical situation.

You are at a garage sale.  You do not know the seller.  You spot a vase that he/she has marked for sale. The price is $5 US dollars.  However, you suddenly realize that it is an ancient antique Chinese vase and you know that it is worth at least $50,000 US dollars.  What do you do?

  1. Buy the vase for $5 dollars and sell it for as much as you can.
  2. Tell the buyer that the vase is worth at least $50,000 dollars.

I have asked many people this question.   A good friend of mine says he would tell the seller.  He maintains that honesty and not taking advantage of people is the right thing to do.  Another gentleman, whom I met at my three-day Jesuit retreat this year, proudly told me that it is a case of Caveat Emptor.  He would buy the vase for five dollars and sell it for at least $50,000 dollars.  Just as an aside, my friend who would tell the seller the value of the vase drives a used pick-up truck which he bought for under $10,000 dollars.  I noticed my acquaintance at the retreat drove off after the retreat in a $75,000-dollar Porsche Cayenne.  Not sure what to make of this contrast but it is interesting.

Many people have taken one side or the other on this issue.  I was running the other day and suddenly I thought “I would buy it for $5 dollars, sell it for $50,000 dollars and then split the $50,000 dollars with the original seller.”  The original seller would be happy, and I would be happy.  I realized that with a little thought, I had come up with a win-win and not a win-lose situation.  I wondered why I had not thought about this solution at first.  No one I had described the situation to had thought about it either.   It made me reflect about a number of battles that I have seen over the years while living in the Wisconsin North Woods.  These “battles” have often become quite acrimonious with a great deal of animosity and bitterness between the combatants.

  1. The battle between Indians and locals over fishing rights.
  2. The battle between snowmobilers and cross-country skiers.
  3. The battle between power boaters and canoers.
  4. The battle between bicyclists and ATV riders.

The most recent battle up here in Northern Wisconsin is over CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Food Operations) versus small family farms.

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In each case, the situation plays out as follows.  1st. We have the hostility between the two groups or sides over some interests or goals.  2nd. We have a town council meeting called to help ameliorate the conflict.  3rd. Each side gets to air their grievances or make their claims for their group at the council meeting.  4th.  The town council comes up with a solution that a:) neither side is happy with or b:) one side wins and the other side loses.  Seldom if ever is there a recourse to a win-win scenario.

Now my ex-wife once explained to me before our divorce that there is not always a win-win solution.  I concede that is the case.  However, I will also argue that all too often we do not sit down with the other side and look for a win-win solution.

Further hampering the problem, is that these issues often become political.  The Governor, Mayor or some other political authority will convene a committee to study the issue.  The committee will seldom be knowledgeable experts or authorities, but instead will consist of a group of people with political influence or with a vested interest in a particular outcome (usually having to do with financial interests.”

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A case in point is the recent committee that was convened by the Governor of Arizona to come up with a DCP (Drought Contingency Plan).  After twenty years of ignoring the water problem in Arizona, the Governor was forced by the Federal Government to come up with a written plan to better manage the dwindling water supply in Arizona.  Arizona’s Governor appointed thirty-eight members to the steering committee.  It was billed as a “bipartisan” committee of citizens with a broad range of perspectives on the water issue in Arizona.  The committee was divided into the following groups:

  • Municipal leaders from cities and public works groups (8 members)
  • Agricultural interests (6 members)
  • Home Builders/Development (5 members)
  • Tribes (3 members)
  • Industrial (1 member)
  • NGO (1 member)
  • Miscellaneous (3 members)
  • Legislative Leadership (4 members)
  • Central Arizona Project Board Champions (2 members)
  • Governor’s Office (2 members)
  • United States Bureau of Reclamation (1 member)

Two co-leaders were selected to run the steering committee.

If you look at the backgrounds of the committee members, you will find mostly managers, lawyers and career politicians.  There is a scattering of individuals with some background in conservation, but they are a small minority.  Fifteen of the committee members are politicians.  What you will not find in any noticeable numbers are biologists, conservationists, environmentalists or ecologists.  The very experts that one would think would be more important to solving a water crisis than for instance five real estate developers.  Speaking of real estate development, after the committee finalized their plan, the Pinal Council for Economic Development stated: “There is no reason to stop economic development in Arizona.  We have plenty of water.”

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Sierra Club lobbyist Sandy Bahr said that the plan, far from being groundbreaking, represents another run at “business as usual” for the state.  As the Arizona version of the drought plan is now written, she says it’s propping up what she sees as unsustainable growth and unsustainable farming practices.  Many critics have noted that the plan has little or no conservation component.  It is a plan to subsidize more water drilling in the aquifer.

My contention is that we need win-win solutions.  We cannot ignore economic development, but neither can we ignore our environment.  We cannot sacrifice the future for the present or vice versa, sacrifice the present for the future.  However, the solution to many of our problems requires a win-win format that is not governed by money and political interests.  If our country keeps allowing the politicians and lawyers to make the rules, we are surely headed down the path of oblivion.  There is an anti-intellectualism and anti-science bias in this country which I believe is gradually destroying our ability to make decisions based on science and facts.

“The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser.”  — Richard Hofstadter

 

3568– Thursday, July 25, 2019 – What the Democrats Must Do to Win!

There is a simple truth that seems to be ignored about politics and elections.  The reason we vote for someone is because of what we think they will do for our country, our family, our friends and our own lives.  We do not vote for someone simply because they are Black, White, Indian, Asian or Latino.  We do not vote for someone just because they are old, young, middle aged or because they are poor, middle class or rich.  We do not vote for someone because they are Catholic, Evangelical, Muslim, Jewish or Protestant.  Some of these factors may play an ancillary role in our voting preferences but the two major reasons we vote for someone are these:  First, as I have said already:  “Is the message that we hear from the candidate in terms of what they will plan to do if elected and how we see those plans either hurting our harming our lives.”  The second reason we vote for someone concerns whether or not we trust them to deliver on their plans and promises.  Regardless of what they promise, we are not going to vote for someone who cannot deliver the goods.

If the Democrats want to win the upcoming election, they must accomplish three major tasks:

  1. They must consolidate their candidate options
  2. They must consolidate what they claim they will do if elected
  3. They must create an appeal that transcends major partisan and factional differences in this country.

I will briefly address each of these tasks.

Consolidate the candidate options and selection process:

The Democrats currently have a three-ring circus with 24 candidates.  This situation will eventually lead to a knockdown, drag-em through the mud free for all.  Notwithstanding the fact that all of these candidates will spend millions of dollars that could be better spent later on in the election by focusing on one candidate and getting out the vote.

The Democrats need to create a system like the Vatican uses to select a new Pope.  Major party leaders caucus with potential candidates.  The top two selections then move on to regionally selected caucuses designed to reflect a broad base of opinion across American politics.  The two candidates are paired down to one at the National Convention where the final candidate is selected by the usual methods of speeches and caucusing.

Consolidate the plans and goals for the party and candidate:

Every candidate has to have a plan and a promise to deliver this plan.  Right now, we have 24 candidates all promising the world to the American Public:  Free health care, free tuition, forgiveness of student loans, reparations for African Americans, redistribution of the wealth.  These freebies are just what got the Democrats saddled with the moniker of “Tax and Spend” in the first place.  Furthermore, these promises insult the intelligence of the American voter.  We all know that deficits are running to astronomical highs and that if you give someone money, it must come from someone else.

The candidate promises and plans must reflect the party platform.  Likewise, the Democratic party must accept and support the candidates plan.  The plan must be simple, bold and memorable and must cut across partisan and narrowly focused interests.  I suggest that four issues would create a base that would excite and motivate a large majority of the American public to vote Democratic.

  1. Minimum wage

Increase minimum wage. This is the wedge to continue subsequent strategies to reduce the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  Talk in terms about money that the average person who does not have a degree in economics can understand.

  1. Improve the Affordable Care Act

The ACA was a start to creating a better health care program for a large percentage of people who could not afford it.  Most Americans realize that the system has its faults but just like with Social Security, they do not want to abandon it, they simply want to see the faults addressed. Do not talk about creating a new system. Talk about improving the existing system.

  1. Term limits

I am a progressive, but I have talked to people from Arizona to New York who include evangelicals, 2nd amendment supporters, conservatives, Tea Party members and anti-immigration people.  We have vast differences on major issues, but one issue where I have found common ground with all of these disparate people is on the issue of “term-limits.”  On this issue, I find near universal agreement that we need limits on how long people can serve.  There are many benefits from term limits including:  Minimizing the influence of money and lobbyists, reducing the role of money in campaigning and getting new ideas into the political stream.  The Democrats should take up the challenge and have the guts to pursue an issue that will have profound effects on the political process in this country.  One or two terms and no reelection down the road.

  1. Accessible voting

The past few decades have seen increased efforts to narrow the scope of participation on our political process.  Americans want a fair and equitable system of electing its representatives.  Many people now realize that politicians have gamed the system.  This has included efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to tilt the rules and table in their favor.  This has to be addressed and should be a primary goal of the Democrats to create a level playing field.

Create an appeal that transcends major partisan and factional differences in this country.

Calling people deplorables is not going to unite this country and will only create more division in a country already divided beyond anything comparable in its history except perhaps the Civil War.  If we want to unite Americans, we must talk to people that we do not like.  We must look past differences and find similarities.  We must speak out against injustices regardless of which side of the political spectrum they are on.  We must be fair and open minded and willing to reach compromises for the greatest good.

It was said that “Politics is the art of compromise.”  There is no room in government for rigid vows and oaths on political issues.  Democrats must condemn these practices and take the high road.  I have heard it said that we must find the person who can defeat Trump.  Speaking for myself, I don’t give a dam who can defeat Trump it they do not have the morals and ethics that I expect in myself and my friends, Trump can win another four years before I will vote for someone simply because they “may defeat” Trump.

This is my plan for the Democrats.  Call me idealistic but I think that unless the Democrats can be idealistic, they will go down in defeat.

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

The Impossible Dream — Music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion

 

3570– Tuesday, July 23, 2019 – We Lose Our Way!

Every year, the first morning of our retreat, we get a sermon followed by a song in which one of the lyrics states that “We lose our way.”  This song “Lord teach us to pray” was written and sung by Joe Wise.  Joe now lives north of me in Arizona.  Somewhat of a coincidence since I have heard his song at each of my last 36 retreats in Minnesota where I used to live.  I called him some years ago and talked about the possibility of meeting him.  It has not happened yet.  He still sings religious songs and records.

I started thinking about this idea of “losing our way” in more secular terms when I returned to my home after the retreat.  Somehow the idea just stuck in my mind.  “We lose our way.”  So easy to do.

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We seek fame. We want to be remembered and honored.  We want to be celebrities.  We give up our lives chasing the Goddess of Fame.  We measure success by how much of a celebrity we have become.  We measure hits and likes.  We honor movie stars, sports heroes and heroines and royalty.  We follow their every doing in the gossip pages and the constant 24/7 news that swamps us with their comings and goings.  If only I was like Kim Kardashian.  If only I was popular and good-looking like Leonardo De Caprio or Dwayne Johnson.  Oh, how much better and happier my life would be.  We lose our way.

“We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame changes the game.” — Young Thug

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But maybe our Goddess is not fame.  Maybe our God is Greed.  More, more, more.  More money.  More sex.  More stuff.  More cars.  More and bigger houses.  Bigger is always better.  So, give me a bigger whatever.  Let me have bigger tits, a bigger cock, more muscles, bigger ass, bigger biceps, more hair, more youth.  Let me live forever.  Let me have piles of money to spend.  Let me win the lottery.  Let me win big at the racetrack or the casino.  If only I had more, I could be happier.  If only I was like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos, my life would have meaning.  I would be a success.  We lose our way.

“We are in danger of destroying ourselves by our greed and stupidity. We cannot remain looking inwards at ourselves on a small and increasingly polluted and overcrowded planet.” — Stephen Hawking

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Forget Fame and Fortune!  They are for stupid people.  Give me power.  Power is where it is at.  The God of Power Kratos personifies strength, might and rule.  With my three enforcers:  Nike for Victory, Bia for Force and Zelos for Rivalry, I can rule the world.  I can have the power to take anything I want.  I can make all the people bow down and look up to me.  I can tell others what to do and when to do it.  I can be the boss. I can be the ruler.  I can be in charge.  No one can tell me what to do.  Those who have power make the rules.  I will be the greatest ruler the world has ever seen.  If only I was like Donald Trump.  I could grab pussy whenever I wanted to.  I could kill anyone in Times Square and my followers would still idolize me.  I could say whatever I wanted to and insult whomever I wanted to, and I would still be loved and admired by millions.  People would kiss my ass everyday and want to know what I wanted.  It would never matter what anyone else wanted and it would all be about what I wanted.  We lose our way.

 “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.” — Georg Orwell, “1984”

 How do we find our way back? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3603– Thursday, June 20, 2019 –  When Politics and Ethics Collide!

In the past twenty years, the Republicans have gerrymandered enough districts in the United States to give them a decided edge in voting.  In the past twenty years, they have manipulated the Supreme Court to pack it with Republican leaning judges.  Now under Trump, the Republicans are trying to pack the Federal courts with judges favorable to their conservative right-wing policies.  What, you may well ask, have the Democrats been doing all of this time?

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The answer to the above question is fairly simply.  No, they did not do nothing.  Worse, they supported the first Iraq war.  They supported the second Iraq war.  They supported the war in Afghanistan and also Kuwait.  Now, I suppose they will support the first Iran war.  But you say, I am not being fair, it takes money to fight the Republicans.  Yes, I think about money a lot.  Just yesterday Gillibrand sent me a request for money.  The day before it was Sanders.  The day before that it was Biden.  I suspect I will get monetary requests from the other twenty or so Presidential candidates.

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I know, I know, I know, it does not matter who gets in along as they can beat Chump.  However, surprise, surprise.  I can live with Chump for another four years. But, if it means I must forget integrity, ethics and morality all so I can elect “ANYONE” who can beat Chump than screw the Democrats.

Frankly, I don’t give a damn about Chump.  I care about a system which is so focused on the short-term, that that they miss the long term.  Think about it.  What will happen to the money that the losing twenty other Democratic candidates raise.  Who will get this money?  You want to know:

  • TV
  • Advertisers
  • PR firms
  • Publicists
  • Consultants
  • Media firms
  • Political Advisers

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Recent data show the following to date fund raising for seven of the candidates.  Date is June 19, 2019.

 

If we assume that each candidate will need to raise about 15 million dollars to run for office, that means that 20 candidates X 15 million dollars each will be spent on these Democratic hopefuls in their quest to defeat Chump.  This equals 300 million dollars.  This is a very conservative estimate.  Is it just me or does anyone think this is ridiculous? And this is just about the money.  What about the time and effort that will be wasted on and during this idiotic run to the primary by twenty supposedly intelligent people.  This is not a thoughtful planned effort to select the best candidate.  Even a three ring circus has more thoughtfulness and coordination than this effort by the Democrats to select a candidate.

I ask you, what if this money was put into local efforts to defeat conservative right-wing candidates across the country?  What kind of a strategy does the Democratic party have when they plan to win a battle but lose the war?  Spend a lot of money to elect one candidate but lose thousands of seats across the country.  I don’t know about you.  I don’t know about other Democrats.  I don’t know about other people that detest Chump as much as I do.  I do know the following.  There are things that matter more to me than just defeating Chump.  Here are the principles that will keep me focused during the Democratic debacle and the upcoming election:

  1. I will only support a candidate with integrity and morality. Not because they “may be” able to beat Chump.
  2. I will only support a candidate who has a realistic vision and hope for the future of America.
  3. I will not support a party that thinks money, money, money is all that is necessary to win the day.
  4. I will not support a party that seems to lack spine, conviction and purpose.
  5. I will not support a party of morons that have no consistent plan or direction.

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I would rather see Chump get in again for another four years then give up these five principles.  And do you want to know why?

Because, on the day that the above principles cease to matter, then I am no better or different than the people who are running this country today.

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.” —  George Orwell

 

 

3609– Friday, June 14, 2019 – Citizens: Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare!

A number of years ago (1998), I was hired by the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota as a Principle Planner II.  My job was to help the various units at the council to improve productivity and service.  I had been an independent Process Improvement consultant for the previous 13 years.  My new job meant a study paycheck and less travel.  It was a good way to get out of consulting and into more regular employment.  The people at the council were hardworking and dedicated.  Nevertheless, as Dr. Deming always said, “hard work guarantees nothing.”

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In a short while, I found more waste and useless expenditure of time and taxpayer money than I could have imagined possible.  Even though as a consultant, I had often worked with government agencies from the US Navy to the City of Minneapolis, I was astounded at the staggering amount of fruitless effort throughout the organization and other state agencies.  I had become a liaison for the Metropolitan Council to help coordinate quality improvement agencies for a joint committee that included the Met Council and members of various other state agencies.  I frequently came home and exclaimed to Karen: “My god, if the average citizen saw the waste and stupidity that I see every day, they would grab a rifle or pitchfork and march on City Hall.”  I was dead wrong.

It has been twenty years and the waste and lack of accountability in government is still appalling and “no one is marching on City Hall.”  I often doubt if anyone really cares.  There is an old saying which goes like this:

Businesses get the unions they deserve,

Industries get the regulations they deserve, and

People get the governments they deserve.

 The lack of transparency in government is bewildering.  Transparency and accountability go hand in hand.  However, many cities, states and towns fail to publish their complete financial records on-line.  Yet no one demands to see the records of government spending.

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“Democracy depends on an informed electorate, but due to current practices in both accounting and budgeting, the true financial health of a city can be obscured, and citizens are deceived, or at best misled.  Without access to truthful, timely, and transparent information, how can citizens be knowledgeable participants in their governments?” —  Truth in Accounting

It seems that everyone you talk to is willing to condemn the cupidity and incompetence of most of our political leaders.  Yet, such criticism begs the question: “Not why did we elect these people, but why do we continue to reelect them?”

“Congressional stagnation is an American political theory that attempts to explain the high rate of incumbency re-election to the United States House of Representatives.  In recent years this rate has been well over 90 per cent, with rarely more than 5-10 incumbents losing their House seats every election cycle.”Congressional stagnation in the United States

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These high rates of reelection defy logic since they come at a time when trust in government is at an all-time low.  “We the people” grouse and complain but the fact remains that “we the people” do not demand accountability and we do not enforce accountability.  We elect leaders who soon feel little or no need to represent their constituents but more likely never felt the electorate really mattered in the first place.  Too many of our leaders are fully aware that they owe their first loyalty to the lobbyists and corporations that funded them and not to the “joe or jane” on the street that simply cast a ballot for them.

“Public trust in the government remains near historic lows.  Only 17% of Americans today say they can trust the government in Washington to do what is right ‘just about always’ (3%) or ‘most of the time’ (14%).”  — Public Trust in Government: 1958-2019

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I have repeatedly said that we need government.  It would be foolish to think that a community, let alone a nation, could function without a government.  Yet, I can also accept the words of Edmund Burke that “The government that governs best is the government that governs least.”  I do not say throw out government, but I do say “we the people” have to start making our votes and voices heard.  Too many of our so called “silent majority” simply do not give a damn.

If you don’t give a damn, you will get the government you deserve.  It would seem that this bit of wisdom has become a reality for most Americans.

PS:

I just watched Jon Stewart’s heroic and passionate speech to the House Judiciary on behalf of 9/11 Responders.  This speech will go down in history as a testimony to the difference citizens can make in government if we dare to speak out.  Stewart echoes my call for accountability in his speech.  See:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2QMqsNvWuc

“Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one.  Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it’s a stain on this institution.  And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here.  But you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.” — Jon Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

3619– Tuesday, June 4, 2019 – Eddy, The Gonzo Journalist

Eddy is the bad boy of the Library Guys.  Adored by his conservative readers and vilified by liberals far and wide in both Polk and Burnett County.  Eddy (Rumors have it that he is related to the late Ralph Waldo Emerson) moved to Trade Lake amidst a hail of stories concerning some nefarious goings on in St. Croix Falls where Eddy was town administrator.  Some say he was ridden out of town on a rail while others say he tired of the big city (St. Croix Falls?) and decided to live the life of a hermit in Trade Lake.  Eddy bought and moved into a small cabin sans hot water or indoor plumbing.  Perhaps worse than the lack of these amenities is the fact that he has no internet or TV.  Nevertheless, you will never find a subject that Eddy is uninformed on.  He might be misinformed but never uninformed.

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Eddy was living a fairly quiet life in his cabin until he decided to take a position on our local paper as a roving reporter.  Eddy covers many different topics and events happening in and around both Polk and Burnett Counties.  This is when he started to get into trouble with the liberals.  Eddy has a propensity to mix literature, personal opinion and journalism.  I would guess that not coming from a bona fide school of journalism, Eddy treats many of his subjects with what some call a Gonzo Journalism approach.  When the reader agrees with Eddy’s point of view, Eddy is beloved.  However, all hell breaks lose when the reader disagrees with Eddy’s perspective.  Eddy has probably broken the record here in Frederic for the greatest number of readers writing in to cancel their subscription or to demand Eddy be removed from the paper or often both.  One reader demanding that Eddie be removed coined the term “Eddyfied” to refer to what she called Ed’s bias in reporting topics.

From a personality or psychological framework, Eddy is hard to pin down.  He can be funny, serious, solemn, moody, cantankerous, obnoxious and irritating but he is never boring.  He is actually quite interesting and charming unless you get into a deep discussion with him.  Going deeper you may run into some of what I call his “bizarre” ideas.  I suppose what Eddy and I usually differ on is, well most things!  Eddy (perhaps just to be a contrarian) generally has a perspective quite different from mine.  In 2016, I lost a one hundred dollar bet with him on who would be the next president.  He picked Thump and I picked Hillary.  I am still trying to win my money back, perhaps by betting that Trump will be impeached.  I suspect Eddy would say I have a left-wing liberal bias, which I am almost 100 percent certain is false. 😊

A blog about Eddy would be incomplete without at least one example of his writing.  A number of years ago when the meth problem up here was growing, Eddy did a first-person series of interviews with some meth addicts.  In my opinion, had it not been written in a small-town newspaper, it would have been noticed for a Pulitzer Prize nomination.  It was informative, inspired, heart rending and touching.  It was something that could only have been written by blending the subjective with the objective.  Eddy was at his best with this piece.

I think there is a role for the subjective perspective in news reporting.  We are all inundated with stories of fake news as well as the admonition to find the truth.  The problem is that we all grow up with this idea that an objective truth exists out there and that all we have to do is find it.  Give us a light like Diogenes had and we are positive that we can find the truth.  I now realize that the truth is a myth.  No objective truth exists.  This is my truth.  My “truth” will not make too many people happy.  A reporter (if they want to keep their job) has to be careful to balance the “truth” and somehow keep his/her theories from dominating the framework.  There are too many people on either side of the “objective” truth who will draw and quarter you for not telling the truth as they want to see it.

Eddy will keep on truckin and where he ends up, I am sure only Eddie knows.

Eddy, please don’t Eddyfy me!  I really didn’t mean everything I said here. 

“What sells, today, is whatever Fucks You Up – whatever short-circuits your brain and grounds it out for the longest possible time.”  — Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

3623– Friday, May 31, 2019 – The Old Library Guys

Did I tell you the story about?  What do old guys talk about when they get together?  I am part of a group of guys who meet each day at the library in Frederic from 10 AM to 12 PM.  There are some guys like Jerry and Dick who come in every day.  Then there are some guys who come in frequently but not every day.  Guys like Lowell, Reggie and Bill show up about half of the week.  More infrequently are Tony, Reid and Andrea, Reid’s wife.  Reid never ever goes anywhere without Andrea or perhaps it is the other way around.  We also have the very infrequent participants like Eddie (A writer for the local newspaper) whom I will talk about another time.  Eddie deserves a blog all by himself.  In fact, each of the people I noted are probably deserving of their own blog.

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Every day we gather for an informal talk about whatever is on anyone’s mind.  No schedule.  No agenda.  No leader.  Almost any subject is up for grabs.  Jerry is the intellect of the group and seems to be the best read with the exception of Tony.  Tony owned a bookstore and taught college for many years.  Dick is a retired mechanic and the most sensible and objective member.  Reggie is a nuclear physicist and that is the truth.  Lowell is a drug rehabilitation counselor now raising some type of legal hemp.  Reid is a former minister and Andrea is a retired lawyer.  Bill was a teacher and now does great wood working art.

We sit around a table, drink coffee, chat and on Fridays we buy cookies from a girl who brings them in each week for sale.  They are homemade and very tasty.  Sitting around talking for two hours can sometimes have its boring moments.  Not all of the conversations are equally interesting to participants.  Some of us ease these boring moments by playing on our smart phones or reading the local newspaper.  Others peruse the library stacks or stacks of movies for something to take home.  Eventually, the conversation changes and those who may not have been interested in a previous subject then find that the new topic is of interest to them.

I have attempted to diagnose the content of our conversations.  If you made a pie chart of the subjects of our conversations, I think it would look like this.

discussion topics

Old stories clearly dominate the discussions.  The bad part of this is hearing so many old stories over and over again can be beyond boring.  The good part is that since the majority of us are over 70 years of age, we usually do not remember much of each other’s old stories.  The exception to this is Jerry.  Jerry always seems to have a keen sense of when and how many times a tale has been told before.  Some of us are worse offenders than others in terms of repeating old stories.  It clearly does not matter to the person telling the tale.  I for one feel that my stories get better each time they are repeated. 😊

Cars are our next most popular topic.  I guess a bunch of old guys anywhere in the USA would find some common ground when it comes to cars.  I don’t think there is anyone in the group who cannot remember their first car.  Dick, the former mechanic, has the best knowledge when it comes to the inner workings of a car and anytime one of us is having car problems, Dick will have some good advice. Jerry who was never much of a motor head frequently zones out when the subject turns to cars.  However, bring up Jeopardy or any old Turner Classic movies and Jerry will provide a better summary of plots and cast than you can find on Wikipedia.

Now you may have noticed that certain topics seem to correlate with the skill sets of group participants.  However, when it comes to politics, we are all experts.  Nevertheless, since Trump was elected, the group has more or less toned down its politics.  I suspect that is because some of the group voted for Trump and some did not.  There is a great divide in our land between Trump supporters and Trump haters.  In the interest of harmony and civility our group has been shying away from discussions dealing with national politics.

More recently, our political discussions tend to focus on “local” political issues.  A current hot topic is the citing of a new CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation) in Trade Lake.  Trade Lake is a town just north of Frederic by about six miles.  The operation would involve the establishment of a large hog farm on some local farmland.  Many townsfolk are against it and a number of groups have organized to stop it from being built.  Reid and Andrea live on Trade Lake and have taken a keen interest in stopping the citing of the CAFO.  Numerous stories abound about horrible smells and water pollution from pig farms.  Eddie (our journalist) has attended many of the Trade Lake Council meetings where the discussions have often become quite heated.  Once known for his lack of objectivity, he has been working harder these days to “give us the facts and nothing but the facts.”

Once the CAFO becomes old news, there is sure to be something that springs up worthy of discussion.  When all else fails, we will fall back on discussing old movies.  The majority of the group seems to favor older movies as opposed to the newer genre of comedy, superhero or zombie movie themes.  Ask any of us how many times we have seen one of the Dirty Harry or John Wayne movies and it would probably shock you.  Jerry usually leads our movie discussions due to his prodigious ability to remember details from every movie he has ever seen.  As noted above, he is a walking encyclopedia of the old classics.

Well, as Porky Pig would say “Th-th-th-that’s all folks.”

“It was among farmers and potato diggers and old men in workhouses and beggars at my own door that I found what was beyond these and yet farther beyond that drawing room poet of my childhood in the expression of love, and grief, and the pain of parting, that are the disclosure of the individual soul.” — Lady Gregory

 

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