Category Archives: Politics

Christmas Thoughts

This blog is written from the perspective of a Christian, with no intended slight to my friends and readers of other faiths.

It’s highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, we have no evidence as to what His birthday might be. Early Christians were not historians and shared their thoughts to convey the theological message rather than to chronicle events as journalists. Many, if not most, early Christians expected Jesus to return during their lifetime, so they saw little reason to record an accurate history.

It’s only fair that we don’t know Jesus exact birthday. Those who came before His birth didn’t know when He would come, so it puts all of us in the same boat.

Did Christians co-opt a midwinter pagan festival? Probably. I think it was an early form of ecumenism. The word gospel means “Good News,” and shutting down peoples’ holidays would not be perceived as good news. Instead, additional content was added to the existing event.

So in that same spirit, enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday you can find between now and New Years.

Oh, and here’s another interesting fact about Christmas. Many people take offense at it being referred to as Xmas and see it as removing Christ from Christmas. Actually the X is not an X. It is the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos–Christ.

Christos

Christos

 

When in Doubt–History

I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:

  1. History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
  2. Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!

So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently,  as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.

The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.

  • Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
  • The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
  • There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.

Politics As Usual

I actually do try not to pick sides as the brouhaha in Washington, DC continues.

Remember that very old riddle?

Q: How can you tell when politicians are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.

I’m old enough to have watched (and, believe it or not, still remember) the Watergate hearings. That was when Earl Landgrebe (R, Indiana) said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”

Try to imagine the members of Congress as scientists debating a mathematical theorem.

“2 + 2 = 5, and don’t try to convince me otherwise!”

“No, it’s 6 and your mother wears combat boots!”*

Never mind, it takes more imagination than I can muster.

 

* Actually, not at all unusual these days–Ladies, thank you for your service.

Real-Life Rey

With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.

We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.

What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .

There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.

However, thank God, we have at least one.

Greta Thunberg on Twitter: "“Now I Am Speaking to the ...

 

Life Support

Generally, I try to blog about things that are interesting and–as far as I can tell–either based on facts OR obviously fictitious for entertainment value. This does not mean that I attempt to remain ignorant about other issues such as race, sex, politics, etc. I just try to keep my nonfactual opinions on such issues to myself.

I read a great deal, although less than I would like due to time constraints. I enjoy some science fiction, which is really philosophy with space ships and aliens. I enjoy biographies of important historical people because it gives me hope when I see that great men and women were imperfect yet achieved great things.*

I read a lot of technical material because no one rises in righteous indignation to protest Ohms law. Electricity performs in a given way—change one of the variables and the result changes predictably. I like facts. Opinions and commentary, spin and gas-lighting are not facts, no matter how many times they are repeated.

Recently, I read a post by Erik Lind on Quora.com that posited, “The Internet is like life support for propaganda. . . ”

It made me think.

 

*Stan Lee used this model in 1962 when he wrote the story of nerdy, neurotic, unpopular Peter Parker being transformed into Spiderman. Peter’s first use of his new power was to attempt to make money, which inadvertently resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben.

Thoughts on DC

I recently spent some time in our nation’s capital. I hate the traffic, so I usually rely on the Metro, taxis, or Uber. This time I decided to walk to various places and take in the sights and think of weird things:

Washington, DC tries to discourage driving, so many people use scooters, bicycles, and skateboards to get around. Naturally, there are also joggers. However, in the residential areas there are a lot of brick sidewalks, which tend to be uneven. Was this by accident, a cruel joke, or a business move by orthopedic surgeons?

Television coverage of the district includes lots of people yelling and screaming at one another. However, when walking, people rarely greet anyone they don’t know. On the other hand, when driving, they LOVE using their car horns. I guess it reminds them of yelling and screaming.

There are quaint row houses, with many of them being quite old. We stayed in one (AirBnB) during a family trip, and they are quite nice albeit expensive. It was amazing how many were being gutted and the whole interior rebuilt–not just remodeled. I guess if you can afford to buy one, you can afford to hollow out the inside and completely rebuild

As nice as those homes are, I noticed that many have bars on the doors and windows. The bars could be for security, or maybe the bars are to help the politicians who live in them feel right at home

Veterans Day

Veterans Day (no apostrophe) honors all those who served in the US Military, past and present.

Sometimes people–including some in uniform–make a differentiation between active duty military and reserve members. I am of two minds on this. First, most of the military officers I served with in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait were reserve or national guard. It wasn’t until we began sending individual augmentees that the active duty numbers swelled.

Vice Admiral John Cotton asked if the reserve members who were killed were any less dead than active members. Obviously not.

The other view does have some merit, but not in the way that you might expect. Back in the 1980’s, so the story goes, the status of reservists rose with the Royal Australian Navy. Like most members of the Commonwealth, their Navy uniform has a curl above the stripes indicating an officer’s rank. For years, reserve officers in the Royal Australian Navy had an “R” inside the curl, but when it was proposed that the uniform should be the same for active and reserve. Naturally, there was a lot of discussion.

When asked if the R should be removed for reservists, one reserve officer answered that the R should be retained. This met with approval by the active duty officers, until the officer continued.

“I certainly don’t want people thinking that this is the only way I can earn a living.”

Politically Expedient

If the Back to School Season starts in June, Halloween Season in August, and Christmas concurrent with Labor Day it only makes sense that election season would begin earlier as well. Politics is confusing—it’s difficult to truly understand the issues and vote accordingly. You need to know about a variety of issues and have at least a nodding familiarity with the constitution.

I looked around to see if there is a more efficient approach to politics, and believe it or not, I found it!

The trick is to limit your political preferences to no more than three issues; ideally you choose only a single issue. At election time you vote for the candidates that share your view on your topic.

Some people choose issues like guns, abortion, or immigration. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro or con, if a candidate aligns with your view, put an X in the box or pull the appropriate lever. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, or Mother Theresa, just so long as they agree with your pet issue.

My pet issue? Pickles. I’d tell you my views on pickles, but I think the internet already knows too much about me.

Political Ads

It’s that time again—the airwaves are cluttered with negative political ads. I parodied these a few years ago by claiming that George Washington should not be elected President because:

  • He wasn’t born a United States citizen (because there was no United States when he was born).
  • He had served—as an officer, no less—in a British military unit (during the French and Indian War).
  • He owned slaves.
  • He distilled whiskey (corn could rot in the silos, while whiskey didn’t spoil).
  • He named his home—Mount Vernon—after British Admiral Edward Vernon.

All true, but today, someone would spin them to discourage people from voting for Washington. With negative political ads facts are inconsequential—it’s the spin that counts.

Why do politicians rely so much on negative ads? Negative ads work.

If we think about it, negative ads reflect poorly on politicians.

But what does the success of negative ads say about us?

Damn, Wrong Guy!

I saw a headline that Joe Walsh was thinking of running for president–I got very excited. I figure Joe, the legendary guitarist from the Eagles, the James Gang, and the stairwells of Kent State University was jumping into the race.

Joe, no doubt, would not have represented the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, but the Party Party. No drugs, no alcohol, but just a good time for all. After all, with Ringo as your brother-in-law and the Bach sisters, all you would have to do is show up and say, “Hi!”

Alas, it was not THAT Joe Walsh, but just another politician (sigh).

It could have been awesome. Damn, wrong guy!

A Different World

This is an official request to NASA to conduct exploration of a mysterious world that we know exists, but is beyond my comprehension. It is well reported in the media–especially online–so its existence is irrefutable.

The people in this world live unimaginable lives, but someone believes it’s imperative that their activities are reported to everyone. These include:

  • The real estate transactions of multi-million dollar homes
  • The reliance on automobiles that cost more than all the houses on my block
  • Changes in the color of their hair or style of dress
  • Behavior that would result in arrest and deep shame for most people

The media would have us believe that this world exists in the same metaphysical plane as us, but I’m not convinced. In any case, it is bizarre and may represent a clear and present danger to most of us.

I’m not a conspiracy buff, but in this case I believe the media will try to bury this story by attributing it to actors, actresses, singers, financial experts, and politicians. Don’t be fooled!

“Promises, Promises” (wrote Bert Bacharach)

Musings and promises to myself:

  1. I do not (and will not) watch any television program with a title that begins with Real. Not Real Housewives of Dubuque, not Real Sanitation Workers of Santa Monica, etc. None. Zero. Zip.
  2. Likewise, I avoid any internet stories that claim that a celebrity “confirms what we knew all along.” If we knew it all along, why should we succumb to their click bait?
  3. Some of the stories on the Internet have lives of their own and refuse to die. One example is the story about the girl who passed herself off as a rich duchess. Or was it a countess? All I know is that whenever I see THAT SAME OLD PICTURE I shudder. It’s sounds like an addition to Chevy Chase’s old routine. “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead AND the phony countess is still in the news!”
  4. And, unless it’s a story about geology, any use of the word rocks (as in Former supermodel rocks a bikini or Barney rocks a Speedo) it will be ignored.

Wallowing in the News

It seems like the Internet now focuses so much on negativity:

Cardiologists say avoid this food . . . .

Movie Star denies hiding millions in secret Swiss bank accounts . . . .

When did Obama become a Republican?

You get the drift. The other spots on the news websites are filled with rumors about celebrities–who’s dying, who’s cheating, who’s raising kittens–the whole nine yards.

At least I no longer have to sneak a peak at the tabloids in the supermarket.

Tear Them All Down–for Profit

Across the street from my house there used to be woods and open fields. The developers began clearcutting the trees and adding fill to the fields in order to build houses. This is an area subject to flooding; each tree they destroyed transpired 55,000 gallons of water each year and absorbed carbon that otherwise would contribute to global warming (whether you believe in it or not).

There was a small area that was still wooded–probably 50 trees or so–across from my house. As you can see that the trees were pulled up by the roots or pushed over by carbon belching, heavy equipment. I counted at least four machines. The dust blowing toward my house is just an added bonus  and will probably continue for months.

I couldn’t help but flash on The Two Towers, when Saruman commands that the orcs should pull all the trees down.

It’s taken us a while, but we’ve mastered the orcs’ technique.

 

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

Changing Relationships

Wired Magazine has an interesting article this month that talks about how the Internet has changed. When I read it, it was like getting a diagnosis for an unpleasant condition.

I have been somewhat avoiding the Internet because I no longer trust it–and that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. What once was, or at least hoped to be, a forum for exchanging ideas for the betterment of all has become a hate-filled pariah that imposes itself on anyone who will allow it.

Put another way, if the Internet were a neighborhood, I’d move.

Naturally, it makes me less prone to writing. It used to be that I got ideas for blogs on the Internet, but what has become acceptable and routine is not worth reading. Even the news glamorizes the crackpots and mass murderers.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did our attitudes toward civility decline, which led to today’s Internet or did the Internet lead to our loss of civility?

D-Day

D-Day. How soon we forget.

To many people, 75 years ago makes something ancient history, but even so, we can–and we need to–learn.

75 years ago kids just out of high school enlisted or were drafted. Basic training turned them into men in a few months. Then these young men faced overwhelming odds landing against withering fire at places with tactical names like Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beaches. Others parachuted or crash-landed in gliders behind enemy lines.

Many would never have the chance to be old men, middle aged, or a fathers, or married. Some died for the cause of freedom, but would never live long enough to vote.

2700 British, 946 Canadians, and 6603 Americans claimed territory in France–two and a half feet wide, 8 feet long, and 6 feet deep. Others were never found.

President John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural speech challenged us–“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That generation, now almost gone, did.

A House Divided

It’s always good to reflect on the thoughts of great philosophers–Socrates, Plato, or Monty Python.

Graham Chapman: I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired.
All: Yes, yes…
Graham Chapman: I’m certainly not! And I’m sick and tired of being told that I am.
MC: Mrs. Havoc-Jones?
Mrs. Havoc-Jones: Well, I meet a lot of people and I’m convinced that the vast majority of wrong-thinking people are right.

Since this was performed about fifty years ago, I wonder how they knew.

[There was supposed to be a picture here, but WordPress’s new improved editor wouldn’t accept the upload. Too bad, because it was silly, very silly.]

 

 

Space – The Final Frontier

Gene Kranz–THE Flight Director

I grew up during the early days of the space program. At night, when Echo I–a satellite that was essentially a giant, shiny Mylar balloon–passed overhead, the whole family would go outside. A clear sky, the overflight time from the local newspaper, and we’d watch until we saw that tiny speck of light pass overhead.

The Mercury program gave us America’s first manned space flights when I was in grade school. For each launch, someone would bring a transistor radio–the latest thing–and the whole class would listen. Somewhere during the tail end of the Mercury program and the beginning of the Gemini program, the radio was replaced by a television. While most televisions were large and treated as a piece of furniture, some of my classmates had a smaller television that was (barely) light enough to transport to school. The picture was black and white, but then, most televisions were.

When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, I sat on the couch with my girlfriend and watched, transfixed. Apollo 12 didn’t generate as much interest, but when Apollo 13 suffered a near catastrophic explosion, everybody followed coverage until the astronauts were safely home.

Later, when I lived in Florida, along the Space Coast, I could watch launches–including the space shuttles–from my driveway. One time I drove up to Cape Canaveral to watch a shuttle launch up close. First there was the sight of the liftoff, which was followed by the sonic roar and a pressure wave against my chest that attested to the power of the engines.

But, what I remember most fondly, is the final stage of the countdown as the flight director polled each section to ensure that the mission could be successfully launched .
“Medical?” “Go!”
“Range?” “Go!”
“CapCom?” “Go!”
“Flight?” “Go!”

Each function had to make sure their area of responsibility was ready. Each wanted desperately to add their affirmation–to say yes and to agree to move forward.

Contrast that with today when so many people are so eager to say “No.”

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is*

I’ve never been crazy about switching back and forth between standard time and daylight savings time. I realize that daylight savings time is worth billions of dollars to the outdoor grill and charcoal industries, the gulf courses, and–at least on Halloween, the candy manufacturers.

But why switch back and forth? Oh, I forgot, our Congress came up with that idea to save energy, even though it actually uses MORE energy and there’s a great loss of efficiency whenever we change.

Time is pretty arbitrary to begin with. If you set up a sun dial in your backyard, with precise orientation, the time at your location is very unlikely to match the time your clock/telephone/nuclear synched weather station, etc. We have time zones because the railroads needed it back in the 19th century–today I guess it’s for network television.

Take the Eastern Time Zone. It stretches from Qaanag (Thule), Greenland to Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. In Qaanag, sunrise today is at 0819 (8:19 AM) with sunset at 1912 (7:12 PM).

In Indianapolis–in the same time zone–sunrise is at 0758 (7:58 AM) and sunset at 1949 (7:49 PM). On the east coast of Virginia, sunrise is at 0719 (7:19 AM).

Since it is so arbitrary, anyway, why don’t we just stop switching back and forth. Personally, I’d prefer staying on daylight savings time–I like a little sunshine after I get off of work.