Category Archives: Philosophy

Management, Fads, and Gimmicks

The business world has always fascinated me, which is why my degrees are in business. One part that I always enjoyed was the amazing management tool du jour. There was quality management, then quality circles, then—actually, there have been so many that I’m not sure which came next.

Laurence J. Peters gave us the Peter Principle, which says that a person with ability will be promoted until they no longer could succeed; it was often paraphrased as the cream rises until it sours. There was the Sixty Second Manager, followed by The 59 Second Employee

Then came the Sine Qua Non; the golden fleece; the masterpiece—nay, the perfection—of management, Six Sigma. General Electric championed it (even though an engineer at Motorola created it). If GE says so, it has to be good—right?

There are different degrees of six sigma, identified as “belts” as seen in Judo or Karate. Six sigma was gospel; in fact it was better that gospel—after all it was from GE—right?

After all the hoopla, most of it has been relegated to the island of last years’ business models.

GE suffered through, and survived, Jack Welsh—known as  Neutron Jack. This was in honor of neutron bombs, which are designed to kill all the people, but leave the buildings standing. GE Capital, which had been profitable AND supported GE’s other product lines was mostly sold off. Much of the medical manufacturing was shipped off to China. Appliances carrying the GE brand are often, if not mostly, manufactured by some other company who pays GE to use its trademark.*

GE recently announced that it was spinning off its entire health care division. It will be interesting to see if this is to make it easier to sell off. Jack Walsh would approve, but I don’t know how the decision would score in six sigma.

*I had a GE portable television about 10 years ago, which needed new batteries. I contacted GE and at first they said that they didn’t know who made it. In any case, I never found a compatible battery, and hooking a lithium ion battery to a charger that wasn’t designed for it can be quite messy with the explosion and all.

Thanksgiving

Thoughts on the beginning of the Holiday Season:

  • Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Pilgrims were style setters with the men introducing the new world to Goth styles of clothes.
  • Likewise, wearing a buckle and belt on one’s hat may have been the inspiration for teenagers to wear their belts low enough for their underwear to show. (For some people, belts belong anywhere except around the waist).
  • The pilgrims (who didn’t refer to themselves as pilgrims) had originally set sail planning to land elsewhere in the New World. Some say it was New Yor while others say it was Virginia—both English settlements—in any case they ended up in Massachusetts. Some say it was due to winter storms, while others claim that despite the wives’ warning, the men refused to ask for directions. (Maybe, as Bugs Bunny says, they should have made the turn at Albuquerque.)
  • Interestingly, although the “First Thanksgiving” in Massachusetts took place in 1621, Virginians celebrated Thanksgiving in 1619. It’s a good thing that there was no Twitter because the hate tweets would have flowed quickly between both states. Sometimes it’s an advantage to have snail mail (and the snail was much slower back then).

In any case, as we begin the holiday season, whether you prefer Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever, my advice is to celebrate every single holiday on the calendar.

Enjoy.

Retirement – A Progress Report

For the last few years, I’ve been looking forward to retiring so I can finally pursue my own interests—or so I believed. I’ve been retired for almost a year and things aren’t exactly going to plan.

First off, medical science has basically determined I should not do anything that I like and want to do. Diet is the most obvious. Any foods that I like are apparently going to kill me in 30 minutes or less if I eat them. On the other hand, any food that intensely dislike is okay. It shouldn’t matter, though. With the number of pills I take, my stomach should be full.

Second, the activities that I liked to do are no longer possible. I used to like to jog, but thanks to several surgeries, that is off the table. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that medical science has been conspiring against me for years and is just now realizing the effect it’s having.

I had also planned to grow my hair long and regrow the beard I had in my younger days. What hair I have left looks like Doc Brown from Back to the Future on a bad hair day in a hurricane. Beard? It would be dull grey and probably make me look 50 years older.

I have not yet learned to enjoy the standard joys of a retired man, such as standing in the middle of the aisle in the grocery store to block everyone else or driving real slow on the interstate during rush hour. I was so bad at golf when I tried to play years ago that there is no appeal there, although I could enjoy driving around in a gulf cart—just because.

If you like science fiction, I strongly recommend Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Even though the author is younger than I am, his character explains things better than I can. Like most science fiction works, it’s a trilogy with several additional books added later. (Think Dune).

I think I’m going to post this and take a nap. Napping is the one activity I’m god at, in fact I get better as time goes on.

What’s Next

The votes have been cast, most have been counted, and the first of the lawsuits prepared. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful thing that the acerbic television ads have stopped. Likewise, my telephone no longer rings every few minutes and my mailbox 50-60 percent less junk each day.

So, now what?

If we’re smart, and I hope, but  am not convinced that we are, we will look at which things benefit the country—not an individual or a political party—and work toward them. It’s a simple concept, really:

  • We are stronger than you or I.
  • Finding a common goal is not that hard. There are many problems that need to be solved that are not controversial.
  • It is more important to fix things that are broken than to assign blame.

Deja Vu

We’ve grown almost complacent about mass shootings. Another day, another AR-15, another list of victims. The shooting at Uvalde, Texas had a few additional quirks. The police were at the school in short order, but there was a lack of incident command and no one was coordinating efforts, which resulted in additional casualties and justified anger from parents and others.

At an emotional hearing, relatives of children killed in the school shooting told Steven McCraw of the Department of Public Safety that he should step down. Some reports are that he had promised that if his department had failed in its duties, he would resign.

He later decided that he did not need to resign.

I had flashbacks to the early 1970’s. As the Watergate investigation unfolded, comedian and impressionist David Frye released an album, Richard Nixon: A Fantasy. One of the tracks has Richard Nixon explaining his role.

“I accept the responsibility, but not the blame.

“Let me explain the difference. People who are responsible keep their jobs. People who are to blame do not.”

As they say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Justice Is About Politics, Not Fairness

One-time Speaker of the House Mich McConnell frequently and proudly referred to himself as the Grim Reaper. He claimed he was referring his ability to kill bills unfavorable to the Republican Party thereby preventing them from becoming law, by blocking them from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.

He may have underestimated his impact–it is doubtful that this was due to humility. History very well could remember him as the man who killed the American democratic republic.

Let me shift gears and I promise it will all make sense at the end.

Major League Baseball teams have a feeder system called the minor league. Minor league baseball teams provide an opportunity for players to be evaluated and, if they show promise, they may be able to move up to a Major League position. Minor league teams, may be referred to as farm league or bush league. If you play well for the Toledo Mudhens, it could lead to being a Detroit Tiger.

There used to be a similar situation with the American Judicial System. Judges would move through various local levels, then be appointed as a federal judge, with some proving they had the mettle to move up to the Supreme Court. Generally, positions for Supreme Court Justice positions opened by death or retirement in a pseudo-random manner so that Supreme Court Justices would be appointed by presidents of both political parties.

Enter Grim Reaper McConnell.

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 and his replacement nominated Merritt Garland, but Grim Reaper McConnell would not permit the nomination to be voted on because it was an election year, and the selection should be made by the new president 11 months later. Therefore,  Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the bench .

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy decided to retire at the end of July 2018, so his replacement was nominated by donald trump. Legitimately, this was trump’s nomination to make, and he nominated Brett Kavanaugh, even though he had a less than sterling personality. President trump coached him and someone–someone with significant authority–kept the FBI from doing a thorough investigation.

The next Supreme Court vacancy occurred when Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died 18 September 2020, less than 2 months before the election and 4 months before Joe Biden would take office. Even though he had Once again, enter Grim Reaper McConnell who pushed through the vote on Amy Coney Barrett, who had never been a judge of any type before.

Several of these outright lied to questions concerning about respecting precedent during their nomination hearings before the Senate. It gets worse.

Associate Justice Samuel Alito said, “It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line.”  This seems to place the members of the court on a higher plane than the average American untermensch.

Finally, there is Clarence Thomas, the man who may be doing more to restrict voting by people of color than the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws together.

In the trump appointed farm league, there are people like Judge Aileen Cannon, who gives trump lawyers “Do Overs” and is blatantly biased toward the trumpsters.

Although they protest that the federal courts including the Supreme Court are not a bunch of political hacks, they obviously have forgotten certain facts, the most important of which are the first three words of the Constitution–“We the People,” NOT we the supreme court.

  • Conduct a mandatory intensive annual review of the US Constitution for all federal judges.
  • Like in professional sports teams, those individuals who don’t perform to expectations should be just plain cut.
  • Supreme Court Justices who don’t measure up should be sent back to the farm leagues (small state district courts).
  • Members of the courts should be damned ashamed of their actions and attitudes.

And, of course, just like in sports, the first one to be fired is always the coach.

Beancounter Tricks

As Firesign Theatre said, “And now for the rumors behind the headlines” . . . .

The movie Batgirl was abruptly canceled and the rumors are flying. One rumor claims that David Zaslav, the CEO at Warner Brothers’ Studios is eliminating wokeness in in the studio’s movies. Wokeness, as you know, applies to anything that I don’t like–and “I” refers to whosoever is expressing their opinion.

 Of course there are other explanations being bandied about the rumorverse. However, when in doubt, I apply Deepthroat’s advice from the Watergate debacle–”Follow the money!”

As the new CEO,  Zaslav wants  to cut expenses. There’s an important business principle regarding expenses in a business. If a business cuts one dollar in expenses, it is immediately reflected as one dollar on the bottom line. On the other hand, it may require a number of dollars in increased sales to add a single dollar to the bottom line. You have to account for the price the company paid for the raw materials, the labor, etc. before you realize one dollar in profits.

In other analogous words, if Marketing runs a company, it may go into bankruptcy, but emerge and be very profitable. If accounting runs a company, it will remain in the black until the last stick of furniture is sold, the lights turned out, and the door locked.

In the second rumor, Zaslav would declare Batgirl to be a failure and account for a $70 million dollar loss, thereby shoring up the bottom line. In technical terms, this is called cooking the books, grifting, or smoke and mirrors. Hollywood is famous for this–Forrest Gump reportedly paid $40 million to Tom Hank, and Bob Zemekis while Winston Groom, who wrote the book got a box of chocolates.

I was looking forward to seeing Michael Keaton reprise his role as Batman. Now I’ll have to wait. Some day, when a future CEO takes over Warner, they will find that they have a ready made movie that they can release with very little cost and make a bundle.

The Good Old Days

My how things have changed: 

  • We used to buy appliances to make life easier. Now, you must wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher—and the life of that semi-useful appliance is only about 3-5 years, no matter how much you spend on it. 
  • When people got tired of walking over to the TV to change channels, the remote control was invented. Early ones worked on sound, so you could jiggle your keys and get the television to go wacko. Of course, most homes only got three to five stations, so it was no big deal. 
  • Newspapers were saved for the Boy Scouts fund raiser. We didn’t recycle and a week’s worth of trash fit in a single 30-gallon garbage can because many bottles were returned for reuse and there was nowhere near as much packaging that needed to be disposed of. 
  • Many people did their own tune-ups (i.e. changed their own oil, distributor cap and rotor, and air and oil filters each spring and each fall.) This could be done with a basic set of hand tools in a couple of hours. 
  • And, finally—NO ONE would ever have thought about asking for validation for their decisions, such as, “I grounded my son for a week because he burnt the house down. Am I an asshole?” 

Civil War History

As most of you know, I’m a history buff. I’m not talking about a photographic memory of names and dates—I’m talking about the blood, sweat, and tears that people in the past endured. For example, at some point, you may have been taught that William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which to most of us means absolutely nothing.  

William the Conqueror was also known as William the Bastard. His victory was over Harold the Second. Harold did not have all his army with him, so William might have been referred to as “William Who-Kicks-Harold-When-He’s-Down.”  

But that’s a story for another time. 

I tend to find more recent and less distant history more appealing. Of course, since I live in Virginia, I cannot take more than a few steps before running into one historic site or another. I find it especially interesting that some field positions and fortifications left over from the Revolutionary War were reused during the Civil War—a good fighting position remains advantageous. 

I’ve read books, seen documentaries and movies, but for the past few months, I’ve been following a podcast that I highly recommend. The Civil War (1861 – 1865) a History Podcast is prepared and presented by a husband and wife team, Rich and Tracy, with their home page at civilwarpodcast.org. Rich is from Pennsylvania and Tracy is from Arkansas, so they had ancestors on both sides of the war, which presents a more or less balanced presentation. In any case, it is well done, entertaining, and educational. 

Discussing the Civil War can be contentious, especially these days. However, as Rich pointed out, “The past is a foreign land. They do things different there.” 

Currently, there are nearly 400 episodes, not counting the special episodes for members of the “Strawfoot Brigade.” If you’re a history aficionado, or just tired of doom scrolling or cable news, give this podcast a listen. 

Just When You Think It Is Safe . . . .

I haven’t blogged recently because my computer locked up. When I say locked up, I mean the entire disk was encrypted by BitLocker. Naturally, I assumed that I had been hacked by rasnsomware, but several reputable computer geeks told me that they had seen more than a few cases in which BitLocker was launched without any action by anyone. The word is that Microsoft officially denies this, but the auto-BitLocker story has supposedly leaked, In any case, experts are confident that this happens.

In an attempt to recover everything, the routine is that the computer manufacturer said to talk to Microsoft, Microsoft said to talk to the computer manufacturer, and the anti-virus people said to talk to either Microsoft or the manufacturer. Apparently none of them are speaking to one another, like a family fight where Dad says, “Tell your mother . . . .” even though his wife is sitting at the same table.

I figured the easiest fix was to just replace the SDD (software disk drive–which has replaced the hard disk drive). I ordered one, which arrived a few days later, and immediately tried to format it, which I thought would be no big deal. Naturally, it wouldn’t format. In fact, on the occasions in which Disk Manager saw the disk, it reported, “No media”, which, when you think about it makes no sense. Apparently the manufacturer of the computer or the SDD manufacturer requires a technique that is normally used with multiple disks. In any case, a friend helped me past that problem.

When I tried to reinstall the software, I hit the next problem. Now I’ve been through 24 inch disks (yes, that’s correct, but back in the 1970s), 5 1/4 inch floppy drives, 3 1/2 inch floppy drives, CDs, DVDs, and BluRay disks. Floppy drives disappeared years ago and a few years back, notebook computers stopped including optical (CD/DVD/BluRay) drives.

I used a thumb drive to reload the operating system, but for some reason the computer could not connect to my WIFI. No problem, I naively thought, I’ll just take it upstairs and connect it to the router via cable. Unfortunately (you know what’s coming), newer notebooks no longer can be connected to a cable.

In any case, after going through a variety of backup plans, I finally got the computer up and running. My data was mainly backed up, so it has been returning a piece at a time and I’m more or less back and will be trying to blog more often.

Juris Imprudence

Donald Trump’s legal teams filled motions in 37 state and federal courts today.

Thirty-six of the courts’ clerks pointed out that Trump had no current or pending legal issues at this time and returned the documents to his legal team.

“I guess it’s become habit to keep filing motions, appeals, or requests for change of venue. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Besides, we don’t get paid whether we file or not,” replied the head of his legal team du jour.

In the 37th case, Trumps team had filed an injunction against another group of Trump lawyers, The clerk of that court says that he debated whether to throw the filing into a ditch in Pennsylvania or to forward it to the Jewish LASER authorities. Instead, he claims that he “accidentally” dropped it into the shredder

Political Puzzlers

As the world continues to prove its passion for insanity, I’m left to contemplate certain things:

  1. The conservatives continue to fight “Woke” philosophies. Does this mean they prefer catatonic beliefs?
  2. Should we consider those who rely on Twitter for their news to be Twits?
  3. Donald trump was famous for not reading. He didn’t read his daily intelligence briefings and may have read very little during his life. What is he going to do with thousands of pages of documents that should have been sent to the National Archives? (Having dealt with government documents, I can personally assure you they are dry as toast to  read.)
  4. According to history, the Rus (later called the Russians) began in Kyiv, Ukraine. Wouldn’t this mean that that Ukraine has a legitimate claim that it is Russia that is a breakaway portion of Ukraine rather than the other way around?

American Political Turmoil Explained

We tend to categorize our politicians primarily as progressive or conservative, with moderate as an adjective (moderate Republican or moderate Democrat). Independent was added as a catchall for anyone else. However, since Independents normally have not signaled their intentions regarding who or what they will vote for they represent the swing voters.

Conservatives seem most comfortable with the status quo—leave things the way they are. Does a particular policy work? Leave it alone. Does it work, but not very well? Leave it alone. Does it not work? Leave it alone because you can make things go from bad to worse. When in doubt, leave it alone. Conservatives want everything to be static and will invoke finances, national pride, or whatever else works to further their cause. Many Conservatives embrace the American flag, but managed to avoid military service.

Progressives want things to move forward—to make changes. If it isn’t working, change it. If it is working, but could work better, change it. Sometimes progressive ideas work and sometimes they don’t. Progressives tend to focus on social issues, which their opponents can dismiss as unnecessary and too costly. Progressives tend to have multiple flags besides the American flag—Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ Rainbow, etc.

But we often forget another category that is very important, very powerful, and getting more powerful—Regressives. Regressives want to restore “the good old days,” which have never been clearly defined. Some want the US to revert to the days of “Leave it to Beaver,” with women staying home and doing housework while wearing dresses, nylons, and high heels. Husbands ruled the roost and children were expected to speak only when spoken to. Other Regressives want to go back to the Jim Crow days or all the way back to the days of slavery. Regressives often embrace the Confederate Battle Flag, which they do not seem realize is not the flag of the Confederate States. Nevertheless, Regressives are hard pressed to name which states were in the Confederacy, who the principal players were (beyond Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee), and that slavery is promoted in the Confederacy’s Constitution.

Each group is quick to blame another (if not both) for all problems, real and imagined. There are few solutions presented, and if a solution was not generated by MY group, it is killed as quickly as possible.

I wish I could say that these thoughts will help us progress, but I strongly and sadly believe they will not.

Are we better off because of social media?

Unfortunately, the only digital media available during Lincoln’s lifetime was Morse Code.

As you know, I am not a Luddite. I have embraced technology throughout my life. I built my first computer in the 1970s because there were no commercially available personal computers. I still love building things that are electronic. Many of the magazines I read are technically oriented.

I was one of the first people on the internet, using dial up to a Cleveland University, which had 88 phone lines available to connect with the internet. Like most people, I found the whole idea exciting. As a ham radio operator, talking with people in different countries wasn’t a new experience, but through the internet I could choose groups by area of interest, which was fun. As the World Wide Web developed, it augmented trips to the library while I was in graduate school—especially attractive when my university was about 50 miles from my home and the snow was piling up fast.

But then it turned ugly.

I avoid many sites—especially Facebook and Google because they track people and collect information that I may not want to share, especially without my knowledge. I don’t have Alexa because I’ve seen too many possible examples of Alexa listening in on conversations. Is it a coincidence that when someone is talking about fishing, for example, the next time he logs in, a popup ad for fishing gear pops up on the screen?

I have seen so much wrong information without even looking for it.

To add to the confusion, many people have never developed critical thinking skills—our education system is based too much on writing on the exam the words that the teacher and/or textbook said. A photographic memory will be a blessing at school, but a curse thereafter. As more than one professor has said, “Education is the process of getting words from the teacher’s notebook to the students’ notebooks without involving either’s brain.”

Students may find a term paper online that suits their needs perfectly and turn it in as their own work. (Of course, teachers can run the text through a different web site that compares this paper with what is available online.)

Do you believe that there are Jewish space lasers controlling the world? I hope most of my readers do not.

The greatest ill from the internet is anonymity. People will write things anonymously that they never would otherwise, because there is no risk. They can be obnoxious, rude, lying, and nasty. One could say that the internet brings out the worst in people and I believe that in some—perhaps many or even most—cases that is true.

It disappoints me that our species is like this.

It’s Not My Fault!

“Mr. Omato, I’m surprised at you. Maybe I shouldn’t be, given what your colleagues say about you.

“First, you seem to have ‘forgotten’ that government employees, such as you—as a member of the Secret Service—CANNOT receive a political appointment, such as you did when you became Mr. Trump’s chief-of-staff for operations. You are a well-educated man, both from university and training required by the Secret Service. It seems highly suspicious that you just forgot that you’d be breaking the law. Not to mention that it made the Secret Service look like a bunch of political hacks.

“Now, you claim that all the text messages relating to the January 6th insurrection are missing. You know that it is your responsibility to save any and all official documents. Your responsibilities—not the IT Department, not the National Archives, not anybody else, do you understand?”

“But . . .Well, we were changing equipment, and all the text messages were lost,” Special Secret Service Agent Anthony Omato explained.

“Mr. Omato, the rumor around here is that you are an accomplished liar. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but in any case, this is not grade school.

“I’m sure back then you claimed that your dogs ate your homework, which is just as unlikely as the computer eating your official correspondence!”

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

This story has been told and retold. Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?”

To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.

The question is, do we really want to keep it?

At the time of the American Revolution, the term United States referred to 13 separate countries that were united together for a common cause. The term United States was plural—These United States as opposed to The United States.

In December 1860, South Carolina declared that it had left the union and in April 1861, fired on the Union’s Fort Sumter, which surrendered. Some historians believe that until that attack, those in the North would have been happy to let them leave; they further state that the attack on Fort Sumter was the costliest military victory of all time.

South Carolina issued a statement explaining it’s reason for seceding. While many Southerners claim that the Lost Cause was about states’ rights, it is helpful to note South Carolina’s explanation for seceding included the following:

A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.

(The entire declaration can be accessed here)

The Constitution of the Confederate States, which parallels the United States Constitution in many ways, includes the following:

Article IV, Section 2, Paragraph 3—No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs; or to whom such service or labor may be due.

Today, some fear that we may be dangerously close to another split. Perhaps it will not be as bloody as the Civil War, but the split itself will be terribly damaging and costly. Blue (progressive) States tend to be on America’s east and west coasts, while Red (conservative) States are more in the center of the continent. Like in the Civil War, the division is accompanied by, if not caused by, a difference in values. The Blue States are more developed, more industrial, and produce as much wealth as most of the world’s countries. The Red States rely more on agriculture and mining—particularly fossil fuels. Wells can be tapped out and mines abandoned. Many farms located in Red States are owned and operated by corporations based in Blue States.

In the nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln was intent on maintaining the Union. I don’t see the sanctity of the Union being the driving force for either side if Red and Blue States separate. Of course, both daughter countries would lack any significant influence on the world stage and would be unable to stand up to any powerful nation—any powerful nation, not just Russia and China.

The upside of such a division is limited. Various American politicians would be able to thump their chests and claim righteousness to the same people who already agree with them.

The first Civil War was instigated by Southern states. If we face another division, it will be due to the influence of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. I hope they all decide to stay with the Red States.

Independence Day

John Trumbull’s painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The short, stocky man standing is John Adams. The tall man with red hair is Thomas Jefferson.

The Declaration of Independence was actually approved by the Second Continental Congress on 2 July 1776—the printed copy was not available until 4 July. At the time, John Adams predicted how Independence Day would be celebrated, relatively accurately, except he anticipated it would be celebrated on the second rather than the fourth.

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Unlike the famous portrait, not every delegate signed on 4 July. Some members were attending to other business and may have signed as late as September or October. Some members of the Continental Congress never signed, but most did, including at least one who had not been a member of the Second Continental Congress. (George Washington was not a member and did not sign–he was busy fighting the British.)

Ironically, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died 4 July 1826 —the fiftieth anniversary of the first signatures on the Declaration.

Recycling?

Where I live, the city government recently decided to eliminate curbside recycling. Like many people, I’ve just come to expect that recycling is a normal part of life. I’ve had the small bins into which we sorted the recycling—paper in one, glass in another, metal cans in a third. Most recently, we had the large bins—the same size as garbage cans—which accepted all recyclables. We faithfully tried to make sure that what went into the recycling bin was bona fide recyclable.

I remember being at Disney World years ago and being told that the park benches were made of recycled milk bottles. A while back, we were told that the cardboard that we put into the bin was sent to China and would return to the USA in 6-8 weeks later as boxes containing Chinese made televisions, computers, or other products. I took both these as encouraging statements.

Today, however, there are news stories reporting that most plastics have actually never been recyclable. The oil industry, which provides the raw materials for plastics, apparently has been lying for decades to increase their profits. Our recycler announced a while back that the Chinese needed us to be more careful with our paper recycling—too many pizza boxes covered with cheese and such. This, coming from the same people who sold us contaminated baby formula, children’s toys painted with lead paint, and laptop computers with built-in hardware hacks.

So, everything is going to the landfill. Add to that the clothing that is headed there as well. This is a significant amount because as people chase fashion, the lifespan of an article of clothing gets shorter as we make room for the latest style. There are so many discarded items of clothing that second-hand stores can’t accept them all, so they go to the dump.

The packaging for products is a major contributor. Marketing experts occasionally admit that “New and Improved” often refers to the package, not the actual product. I remember when milk and soda arrived in glass bottles with a deposit. Many times in grade school, I’d find enough bottles to buy a box of pumpkin seeds or even a candy bar.

I don’t know the real numbers, but my SWAG* is that around 10 percent is real recycling and 90 percent is smoke and mirrors. Oh, well.

Now, if I could only convince Louis De Joy to have all the junk mail I find in my mailbox delivered directly to the dump and leave me out of the process.

* SWAG – Scientific Wild Assed Guess

Juneteenth

What a strange sounding name.

It’s a contraction of June and nineteenth—the day that Major General Gordon Granger was given command of the District of Texas. The Civil War was now over as of 9 May 1865.  His first action was to read to the people of Texas his General Order Number Three which began with:

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection therefore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.

Surprisingly [Satire warning] the slaveholders had either forgotten or had not yet gotten around to letting their slaves know they were—and had been—free for the previous five weeks. Ooops!

General Granger’s reading of his order fixed that.

The so-called “peculiar institution” of slavery was no more. The previously free labor from the slaves was gone, even though they could still be kept down through sharecropping and other means. Likewise, the use of slaves as breeding stock and the sale of their offspring was also gone.

For years the Jim Crow laws were intended to keep Black Americans subservient and it has taken the better part of two centuries to make any substantial progress. Nevertheless, for Black Americans, Juneteenth is seen as their independence day, and rightly so.

Author’s Note: With the current political efforts to turn the United States into a banana republic, it is more difficult to write. I make no promises as to how I will do in the future.

Putin Walks in Hitler’s Tracks

German Volkssturm members being trained to operate anti-tank weapons.

Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J31391 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5665346

As I’ve said many times, history does not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.

As the Soviets approached Berlin near the end of the Second World War, much of the defense was expected to be from the Hitler Youth, the very young—early to mid-teens. The Soviets had no competition from the Americans, British, etc. because to do so had a great chance of placing allies in each other’s crossfires.

The Nazis, not the Wehrmacht, created the Volkssturm (Peoples Storm) by conscripting those from 16-60 who were not already in a combat unit. With teenagers in the Hitler Youth, this left the old men. The Soviets slaughtered many while Hitler was committing suicide in the Fuhrerbunker.

Today, in similar fashion, Vladimir Putin removed the upper age limit for military service. In the meantime, a number of reserve units have apparently refused to go to Ukraine. This is not surprising for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many of those already deployed to Ukraine were not told where they were going or why.

In the meantime, Russia is sending T-62 tanks, first introduced in 1962, to fight in Ukraine. These were a modest improvement of the T-60 tanks used in World War II.

Incidentally Ukrainian military have examined many downed Russian weapons and have found common purpose (not military specific) US computer chips. With current sanctions, these are no longer available, so allegedly, they are scavenging computer chips from washing machines and other appliances.

I hope and pray that, like in the Second World War, the end of this war is near.