Balance of Power

These past few weeks we have witnessed our three branches of government in action for better or worse. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial were dreamed up almost 250 years ago by some pretty clever dudes. I imagine they are having an interesting conversation in heaven or wherever they are.

In a perfect world each branch does their thing and then keeps an eye out to make sure the other doesn’t overstep their bounds. Somewhere along the line that has gotten a tad askew. 

The people elect the Congress and President. The President nominates to the Supreme Court and the Congress advises and consents. The Supreme Court makes sure that the laws that are proposed and enacted are according to our Constitution. This is the separation of power. My poli sci major at Georgetown at least gave me the basics. 

After watching the last few months the separation part is wanting and I prefer to use the balance of paper as in warring nations. I fear egos on all sides of the fence are trying to assert themselves. Is it their proper lot in life or is hubris superseding civility? SCOTUS is getting dangerously close to legislating. POTUS thinks everything is fair game. Congress is enjoying the theater of it all. 

Case in point is Judge Barrett. I think no one doubts her excellence in all matters judicial as well as her coolness under fire. As a judge we would hope she would be Solomon like in cases before her and that would lead to a simple analysis of the law. 

But I would lead you to a wonderful article I found by Brandon Murill that outlines the various possibilities of interpretation of what our forefathers wrote. There are many and they range from textualism to moral reasoning to original intent. If you read it and the justices are true to their school they will use whatever manner without bias or prejudice or personal feelings. I am not completely confident I would know how to do that? Maybe you too. 

I am not sure if the intent of the Senate Judiciary Committee was to try to understand the judge or to grandstand on both sides of the aisle. I found it incredible that each member on the first day read prepared remarks that seemed like stump speeches to pander to their bases. Even the second day of questioning was more accusatory than fact finding. Did we accomplish anything other than to brag to the home town folks that we showed them. 

The fiasco of a second stimulus package laid bare the obstinance of both sides. Constant negotiating for the last several months have brought us nowhere nearer to a conclusion. Congress holds the pursestrings and the executive branch tries formulate a policy. It s like a president of a company coming before a board. But they are at loggerheads. Balance or chaos? Does the company eventually go down the tubes?

I did a little more delving into the boys and girls on the hill. Surprisingly they average around 60 years of age and their average tenure is ten years or so. Senator Josh Hawley is youngest at 40 and Diane Feinstein is oldest senator at 87. AOC is 31 and Don Young is 87 on the House side. 

As I went through biographies and career paths it was fascinating  to see how many were career politicians. Some would say they know the ropes. Others like me, would question if they have ever had any experience in the real world? 

Beyond that one has to wonder what sort of original thoughts one might have after being in the same place for forty years? Schumer, Pelosi, McConnell, Grassley and Hoyer are the ones in position of leadership. All lifers. 

You know me. I love to think outside the box. Spontaneous? My middle name. Not always a plus but you know where I stand. Imagine being in a so called deliberative chamber where your are pretty much forced to follow the party line? You can originate a bill that might be truly groundbreaking but it is tied up in committee by the party hack chairman or chairwoman. You hear of bills being locked up in committee or scheduled for a vote so far down that it will never see the light of day in this term. What happens? In the next session the process has to start all over again. YIKES!

I guess the SCOTUS nomination has caused me to think far beyond the choice of a Supreme Court Justice. Is this whole system of organized chaos the way it was supposed to be or has the cancer mutated so grossly that we will never find our way back to a healthy and vibrant organism?

To put it another way do we have Ben Franklins, Thomas Jeffersons, James Madisons or George Washingtons in our midst? Or was that  time of incredible foresight and collaboration a freak of nature and history? 

To think their plan would endure for two and a half centuries is mind boggling. Yes there is a process called amendment to change things and we have done so several times. The Bill of Rights clarified and repaired the original document a short while after it the original constitution was ratified. They nailed it. 

 But overall in an amazingly simplistic form this thing has worked. We have teetered and tottered but that thing called balance has brought us back. I hope we understand what a wonderful but fragile thing balance is….in all things. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The Constitution states that Justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” This means that the Justices hold office as long as they choose and can only be removed from office by impeachment.The Supreme Court acts as a check against the power of Congress and the president. The lifetime appointment is designed to ensure that the justices are insulated from political pressure and that the court can serve as a truly independent branch of government

Congress:

5% do not have bachelors degrees compared with 65% of Americans 25 and older.

Only 20% have not held previous political office

Fewer than 5% list blue collar experience in their biographies.

35% are lawyers

!8.8% have served in the military

Common fields for Republicans

include medicine, real estate and

farming. For Democrats, they include

teaching, nonprofits and unions.

Chuck Schumer went to Harvard undergrad and law but never practiced. He went right into politics. His father was an exterminator in Brooklyn. I couldn’t resist. 

Silly Us…..

I know in my last, I espoused living in the present.What was I thinking? With all that is going on, I decided to look into my crystal ball and try to figure out where we are going. I am keying in on one area, technology. 

 

As you are all well aware I am not a rocket scientist. At the same time I have watched over the last forty years as we have progressed from Apple II’s to the latest iPhones and Apple watches becoming part of the vernacular. The power of an IBM 360 in my meaty little hand.  

We take all this for granted which is dangerous. We blithe fully use our apps to play games, communicate, manage our health, finances and soon our cars. The four pages of legalese before usage are never read and a sheer nuisance in the way of our self gratification and we push “Agree” to any terms they are putting out there. 

We are without exaggeration ceding control of US to a tech or a bot of some form of AI that can be beyond helpful or at the same time destructive. I am not paranoid about my personal data because it is rather boring but when it is used to constantly sell me on a product, a politician or a principle or even an ethic then I am getting concerned. 

Every keystroke says something about you and that is more than valuable to a whole lot of people. Just try to read any sort of article on line and you are asked to sign up for the newsletter all the while being bombarded with pop up ads for a variety of everything. You may be amused or annoyed by this but the thing is you can’t avoid it. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is both fascinating and terrifying. It helps a medical doctor scan thousand of articles for insights into a diagnosis while at the same time analyzing the success or failure rate of certain treatments. It takes testimony and evidence in a criminal proceeding and determines with uncanny accuracy the guilt or innocence of the accused. 

In our present day stock market there are high speed trading units that can buy or sell millions of shares in nanoseconds without any human intervention whatsoever. If there is weakness in a stock or bond it perceives it and starts selling, even more drastically increasing the downward plunge. Ditto when it is going up and euphoria sets in to the viewing public and some poor bastard gets caught in between. The exchanges explain this provides great liquidity to the market which is a bunch of BS. It’s all there just to make money. Caveat emptor.

We all use Amazon. What could be easier. I think it is one of the most dynamic and at the same time scariest companies around. They want to own every piece of the supply chain down to the product itself. They take the order and fulfill it while gathering enormous amounts of data as to buying trends and delivery methods. If a product is hot they develop their own as competition. Merchandisers have to use them to gain market share and before you know your pocket has been picked by Mr. Bezos and Co. 

Now you cry out, let’s investigate. They appear before Congress and run circles around the pols while feigning cooperation. By the time any legislation or oversight is completed, they are well on to the next generation of this or that and could care less. 

The most insidious part to me is when it comes to education on all levels. Students no longer research and consider. They don’t memorize but just look up. When you read you get sense of things and that in turn forms your opinion. If it is all laid out for you, there is not that critical area of judging whether something is right or wrong. You take it as the new gospel and move on the next assignment.  

This brings me to the most unpalatable aspect of our information age. How do I know what is true? Visually we can create anything we want. Photoshops of all sorts can create images that look as real as original. Subjects can be mouthing words even though they were never spoken. Only the most sophisticated sleuths can discover the fraudulence and by then the image is set and the damage done. 

I can take any instance today and create an event and a narrative. I can specifically target you as a liberal or conservative to play to your bias. Everyone speaks of fact checking but it becomes more and more difficult. A friend sent me a picture of the rioters defacing the Viet Nam Memorial in DC just recently in a BLM protest. I was appalled but upon checking, it was a demonstration five years ago on a replica in California. Now some will say it doesn’t make any difference it is still an insult to our fallen heroes and I agree, but talk about being out of context. 

I am not anti tech by any means. There has been so much good accomplished. But as with any new and evolving science a lot of people are going to figure out a way to subvert it. Hacking emails, stealing personal information, dark webs and the like have almost made us numb to the downsides. We figure someone will fix it somehow. Maybe, but before how much damage is done?

I am not trying to be a downer but I am a realist and that alarm is rising in me and getting louder. You and me and others say we are doing fine. Why rock the boat? Let’s ride those tech stocks and not think ill of the masterminds. The only really scary part is when the future becomes now and we don’t understand just how left out we really are. Silly me? Silly Us!

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Snopes.com is a very useful website devoted to debunking rumors or clarifying accuracy. Some claim it is a liberal website but it has provided a number of real answers for me. 

Telemedicine is amazing. Doctors now have the ability to diagnose you from afar and monitor your vital signs remotely. During treatment for prostate cancer I was operated on robotically. With 5G, a surgeon may be able to simultaneously perform surgery in multiple cities from a single console in say New York.

By 2021 there will as many personal assistant bots (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant etc) as there are people on this planet. Are they there to serve us or listen to us. They provide an entry for their provider into every aspect of your home. 

Over 70% of US Americans are worried about having their personal data stolen from their computers and online networks. To put that in perspective, only 24% are worried about terrorism and 17% are worried about being murdered. Approximately 30,000 websites are hacked daily. 

Rearview Mirrors….

On a pretty Florida day I was traveling down life’s highway.  I happened to glance in my rearview mirrors. I don’t do it that often. What interesting devices these things are. Metaphorically speaking they can prevent serious injury or dredge up happy or sad thoughts, all in the same motion. 

To start, they prevent you from getting hit from behind. Or if you are going to get rear ended, at least you can take your foot off the brake to soften the blow. After you’ve robbed a bank they can keep you keenly aware of were the cops are, in their pursuit. Perhaps you are Dustin Johnson in the Fedex Cup. You know where the contenders are and in this case you just step on the gas a little harder. 

It amazes me how often we look at the rearview mirror of our lives. The romantic in all of us thinks back to when times were simple. The maelstrom of our modern times creates a yearning for much more laid back years of adolescence and early adulthood. You can be 38 or 78 and you still feel that way. Probably wasn’t quite as good as we remembered but who is counting? Besides as you get older there fewer and fewer who can call you out. 

The ego in us recalls triumphs and achievements. It could be something small or big but man you were a legend in your own mind. Of course you ran the company and they couldn’t do without you. Golf? Tennis? Basketball? Football?. You coulda been a contender ! The big time was at your doorstep. If only. 

There are also the memories of lost opportunities. Why didn’t I go for it? Raise my hand? Take a chance? I knew I was right but never spoke up. Not just woulda’s coulda’s and shoulda’s but a deep sense of regret that I should have done better. The boulevard of broken dreams and busted taillights. Have you been there?

We seem to be hellbent on changing the past. There is an absurdity in that. I can’t take back what I said 5 seconds ago. It might have been hurtful or snide or just stupid but it is gone except in our minds. The palm smash on your forehead or that sick feeling in your gut when you say, Uh Oh!  I can’t believe I just said this or did that. 

We look at the news of a tragedy, 9/11, a forest fire, or a senseless killing with a whole lot of sorrow and also a sense of the irrational. Maybe if I watch it enough times it won’t be real or the ending will turn out differently? Maybe this is just a dream and I will wake up soon. Reality is just that and fairy tales don’t come true. 

Today we have the COVID. We want to hold a post mortem while we don’t even know if the catastrophe is half way through.  Historians opine a lot more clearly in decades than in weeks. We of course want to convene a court now. There has to be someone we can blame. Of course none of the culpability is ours. Ha !

Therein lies one of the rubs. Every single thing in our life is the result of a decision we have made. Where did we go to school? What job did we take? Did you ask out a particular girl or guy and then marry them?  Great successes. Dismal failures. The buck stops here on every one of them. Many of us can’t seem to accept that. We want to blame. We want to make excuses. It has to be someone else’s fault.

The other significant part is change. We can look back and think of this or that time. Leave things just as they are and we will be just fine. That is unless someone brings up a quote or bad act from my past and then we are front and center saying we don’t think like that anymore. Funny how that works

If you have a good life you don’t want anything to change. If your life sucks you can’t wait for it. Neither is a panacea. We have problems on a number of fronts. We have to deal with them and if we are smart, no one will be happy with the solution because it means that each side had to give. 

My last thought is a simple one. I can’t change the past and I have no idea what the future will bring. I could literally get hit by a car tomorrow. I can plan but it doesn’t  mean all my variables are right. Crystal balls and OIJA boards are BS and we know it. 

Right now I am thoroughly enjoying myself by writing to friends. I am not thinking yesterday or tomorrow. I am living in the present. Sounds weird or some sort of psychobabble but it is really pretty cool. For a few moments or even a few hours you just exist without anything heavy duty. Going forward, I am going to concentrate on the road just far enough ahead so I don’t run into anything. As for the rear view mirrors? Who needs them?. I think I am taking mine off. How about you?

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on U.S. roads every year, over 40% of them (2.5 million) are rear-end collisions.

At the Indy 500,Tony Stewart set the pole mark of 233.100 mph in 2006 on a track that had been just resurfaced, while Arie Luyendyk eclipsed him with the fastest single lap in speedway history with a mark of 236.986 miles per hour (381.39 kilometres per hour) the following day. Do you think they look back?

The shape of the mirror makes a difference in our perception. In the U.S., passenger-side mirrors are convex (curved slightly outward), whereas driver-side mirrors are flat. A convex mirror placed on the passenger side reduces the driver’s blind spots on that side of the vehicle by presenting a wider field of view, but it also makes other cars appear farther away due to a slight distortion caused by the shape. The flatter mirror on the driver’s side produces a more accurate depiction of what’s behind the car with a more narrow field of view, since light bounces off in the same direction that it hits the mirror and doesn’t distort the reflection of the object.

The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200811/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment?eml. This is a very interesting article. You might like it.  BTW, I won’t tell anyone you read it. 

Risky Business….

 

jumping-across-1-e1525387320303.jpgCOVID has struck fear in the hearts of young and old and has put  new element of risk in everyday life. I took a questionnaire based on age health etc and I have 8% or 1 in 12 probability of getting it and below 1% chance I could die from it. I fiddled with some of the answers and could not skew it all that much. C’est la vie. 

I have been thinking about how much this has changed our life. Kathy and I were going to take a road try this summer to visit friends in Michigan, upstate New York, DC and South Carolina. Nada! Ain’t gonna happen. We were going to fly or drive to Colorado to see the kids and grandkids. Another goose egg. What was holding us back? Should we take the risk? Should we ask others to do the same?

I have really got to thinking about this thing called risk. Webster says it is exposing someone to danger, harm or loss. I think that is a little too negative for my liking. I took a risk in marrying my wife or more probably she took a much larger risk in marrying me. But was there the element of injury? I hope not. 

You go to a casino. You have the ability to limit your risk by how much you bet and what are the best odds in a particular game of chance. You play in the stock market and try to increase your chances of success by doing your research. You buy a house or you choose a career. I guess if you want to do something in life, you have to take chances.  

Our society today serves both ends of the spectrum. Unknown-2You have helicopter moms and dads that want to orchestrate every baby step to reduce any perceived harm and of course maximize results. We have spent gazillions making, cars, planes, cribs, Big Wheels and life in general foolproof. There are warning stickers everywhere. Guard rails, seat belts, shields, et alia. All in the interest of keeping us safe but are we taking all the enjoyment out of life? Good question.

On the other side of our ethos are the crazy people. They have gone to new heights to get their thrill. I recently saw a guy jump out of an airplane without a parachute and landed on this huge net. Base jumping, wing suiting and bull running will get your attention. But why do we have these opposite poles of behavior?

It seems first off that people are far more inclined to encourage others to do a risky thing before they want to do it themselves. When I jumped out of an airplane a few years back, a whole lot of people wanted to hear about the experience rather than doing it themselves. They take vicarious pleasure but could they do it themselves? It depends on a variety of factors. 

In my case with the parachute thing, it was in many ways a physical but also psychological challenge to my acrophobia. When you are staring out an open door at 18,000 feet it gets intense. But in a strange way I became very much at ease. It was sort of here goes and there is no turning back. It either works or it doesn’t so enjoy the ride. And boy did I. But I also surmounted a great fear and the accomplishment made me want to do it again. Unknown-4.jpeg

In life we have choices of all sorts. Where you go to school, a career, a spouse, where you live. I don’t know about you but every time I have done something different or taken chances there is an incredible sense of discovery and of course a fair amount of trepidation. But once you do it and pull it off so to speak, you get more confident the next time. And that leads to whole new worlds and feelings. And as many of you know that is very cool. 

Life has no guarantees. Sure I could hole up in LaLa Land until the storm blows over but I could also have a heart attack or get hit by lightning too. I can buy insurance for my house, my car and even me but can I cover everything? Lastly what if this thing does not peter out but become and even greater part of our lives? What then?

We are in the midst of this ugly pandemic. We should be wary but we should not freak out. Respectful but not afraid. I have done my research and I think I understand this thing to a fair degree. The most striking part are the odds. Today we have 5.55 million cases that has resulted in 177,000 deaths. If I told you 50 million people in the US had COVID and there were only 177,000 deaths (.0035) would you feel differently? In actuality that is probably the case. So many have had it and are asymptomatic. images-5.jpeg

I have tried to limit the risk for Kathy and me and she has done the same. I play by the rules but I am also not going to become a recluse. Personally I think we can reopen carefully and sanely. I am appalled by the college beer parties but in all honesty I can’t guarantee you I would not have been in the middle of them. Neither could you. Life has to go on. There are so many ways we could see our end. That’s life. It’s a risky business but a pretty good one too. Stay safe but have a little fun.

As always

Ted The Great 

 Factoids:

40 million persons in the United States suffer from anxiety. Yikes. This number was obtained before COVID.

Comfort Zone….a situation in which you feel comfortable and in which your ability and determination are not being tested:

Courage….strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger 

Antonyms:anxious, apprehensive,afraid, worried

Risk also means possibility, opportunity, prospect ,vulnerable

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_94e

 

The I’s Have It…..

This last week has inserted a little word play into my feeble brain. When we hear I, do you mean, I, eye or aye? Each one has had a place in occurrences of the past few weeks. 

Unknown.jpegI went to the ophthalmologist last week and of course his concern was the condition of my eyes. Hazel or blue and sometimes red they have been with me for quite a while. They are and have been my window on an incredible lifetime. The exam was extensive with pressure tests, glaucoma tests and of course following the bouncing light.  

I am curious by nature and I queried what each procedure was trying to prove. The best one of all was when they dilated my peepers and looked inside. The doctor called out various observations and measurements. Optic nerve? Healthy and good volume. Really? Rods and cones? Well those are associated with detecting light and color, not fishing or ice cream. Not bad either. Thank God I can still see the pretty girls. Am I allowed to say that these days?

I don’t want to make this Ted’s organ recital but it causes one to think on two planes.  If I had to guess which is the most critical of the senses it would have to be your sight. Without any lens to the outside world, you would only have your imagination to guide you. Yet it is striking how many wonderful musicians are blind. Andrea Boccelli, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Jose Feliciano to name a few. 

The more deep and spiritual instance happens when you consider how incredibly complex and intertwined our bodies are. A ray of light comes into your eye and is processed in nanoseconds and then proceeds to ignite something  in your brain to further cause a physical reaction or perhaps a wonderful feeling. Just like that!

I am not trying to convert anyone but do you really believe all of this happened by accident when a few bacteria got together a few billion years ago and the process of evolution just created us? Look at us and the creatures around us and the trees and oceans and doesn’t cause you to think that there might be some sort of higher being behind all this? Just thinking. I would have to be awfully arrogant not to. 

Moving on to “aye”,that little three letter word has taken center stage in our lives. Aye denotes comprehension as in, Aye,Aye sir.images-1 But it also is a vote for something. Not only do we get your drift but we agree with you. That has been elusive in our little democracy. Why is it so hard to say on either side of the fence? What prevents them from saying what they know is right and fitting for the country? Beats me. 

That’s when Aye turns to I. That one letter is important to me when I am trying to express my thoughts in a blog or conversation. I want to get down and dirty with you and tell what I really feel inside. That is difficult for some and you have to be careful to whom and when you sound off but it is at the same time raw and pretty good to just lay it out there. 

The odious I is the egotistical one. It says there is only one important person in this world. It is selfish, hubristic  and uncaring. Do you know who I am? If you don’t do what I want, you are toast.  I will go along with you but only if it suits my interest. I fear we are becoming more and more a bunch of I’s. 

Unknown-2.jpegThis week in Sturgis is a monumental display of egotism and stupidity. 250,000 are descending on this small town in South Dakota. They could be bikers or bankers, it doesn’t matter. They think they are exercising their rights. They are not wearing their masks or social distancing in defiance of anything sane. They are saying, F__k COVID and good for them. But what about the people of that little burgh who voted 65% not to have the annual rally only to be overturned by the town council? Do they have any rights? What is this bunch from everywhere  leaving behind there or worse yet what are they bringing home? It is happening all over. 

Ok, TTG how does this all tie together? Well if we have eyes we will see the problems before us clear and simple. What are we blind? Secondly we should be more than aware that it is going to take a majority of ayes to get this thing turned around. Swallow your pride, hold your nose congress people and take the castor oil of common sense. 

Lastly this is not an I situation. We as individuals have to act in concert with our society and suck it up. Take responsibility for our actions. We have kind of forgotten about that side of the equation. images-3Whether you are a rock star, politician, corporate exec or just an ordinary Jill or Joe, this is where the rubber meets the road. “US” and “WE are the operative pronouns”. “I” should be nowhere in sight. 

 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

The concept of ego has many negative connotations. Entitlement, self importance, arrogance to name a few. Yet we all need some sense of ego to be part of this world. This trick is making it work for and not against us.

The eye is the fastest muscle in your body – hence why when something happens quickly, we say ‘in the blink of an eye!’ .A blink typically lasts 100-150 milliseconds. You see things upside down – it is your brain which turns the image the right way up.  Sometimes…

Most rank the importance of senses as sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Some see the sense of touch as more important in that you feel pain. Others feel touch is important to relate to our fellow human beings. This is why social distancing is so difficult. These rankings actually differ greatly across different cultures. 

I won’t bore you explaining my moniker of Ted The Great. Suffice to say it is a pure spoof on uppity people. For you newcomers, it has been with me for over twenty years. I am not impressed by  people in high places.

I Doth Protest…..

b74d65ea-215c-4f53-add8-5ded46ddc4c3The sight of John Lewis’s body on the horse drawn caisson as it crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge was poignant. The loop was complete. He and others had accomplished a lot over many years…..peacefully.  It clearly brought to mind the difference between non violent and violent protest. Are they equally successful? Interesting question.

The reason for protest is simple. You don’t like something and you want to change it. You might have written to your congressman or signed a petition but those things sometimes take on an air of irrelevance in today’s world. You get the attention of the media by the size of the crowd or the ferocity of its anger. That’s showbiz. 

Go back to the 60’s and it was everything from civil rights to Vietnam. images.jpegThere was the ugliness of Kent State and serenity in the March on Washington. Hippies made “Love not War” and it was hard to discern a true cause from a happening. Blacks achieved a reaffirmation of their rights and peaceniks probably were the final blow against the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Some worked. Some didn’t.

I am amazed at the strength of commitment on several fronts. I watched a special on PBS about woman suffrage. SuffragePicketing1azThat was forty years of protesting. They stood outside the Whites House throughout an entire winter without much cover. They were not going away and their presence ate at Woodrow Wilson day after day. He finally caved.

The Civil Rights movement stretched well over ten years of careful planning and maneuvering that culminated with the “I have a dream” speech. No matter what your political affiliation MLK, John Lewis and Ralph Abernathy were heroes. To come up against well armed and hateful cops and stand your ground as they beat the crap out of you without even flinching is a testament to courage and determination. 

Unknown-2.jpegGandhi, Mandela, the Arab Spring accomplished more than anyone could imagine. As I look at these it is not a matter of whether I agree or not but the value of a leader who can be profound in the face of a much more well equipped force. They seem to inspire by common sense and eloquence rather than vitriol. Where are the leaders today?

The people of Hong Kong are another great example. These weren’t radicals or trouble makers but rather everyday folk, young and old that could not stand to see their beloved city and what it stood for plowed under by Beijing. Unfortunately they made a tragic error by taking over the university and defiling public buildings. It provided Xi all the cover he needed. 

In today’s world, high tech can get a crowd in a matter of hours. The media loves an uprising and you get air time. But then what do you do? When the Occupy Wall Street was the cause du jour I walked down to the capitol in Denver to see what was up? I was disappointed. I sought out who was in charge. Couldn’t find one. I asked what they were protesting about? No one could define that. I went back home shaking my head that several hundred people could spend three or four weeks in tents with no outcome in mind. I must have missed something. 

The current BLM protests have me scratching my head too. George Floyd’s death was horrific. You would be hard pressed to find any sane person who did not see it as tragic and unwarranted. It made you sit up and take notice. It wasn’t a city or country wide response but a worldwide one. Then it turned ugly. 

There is no way you can condone burning down police stations, turning over cars or shooting people. You have the right to congregate not obliterate.maxresdefault Looters are not protesting but are making a quick hit.  People decry the police tactics but for a moment picture yourself in a squad car in the middle of a mob. You may be in riot gear but your opponents are throwing projectiles, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at you. Are you supposed to smile gently and say, I understand? Please feel free to break windows and set fires to decent people’s businesses. We will just call that collateral damage. 

Have your tactics won me over or turned me off? I want to fix the system not overthrow it. Give me a reason to back you not lock you up. The people say it is the few that cause trouble and not the majority. Hmm. Don’t we make that same argument about good and bad police? The danger is the movement morphs from better treatment of black people into a laundry list of what’s bugging you now. 

An article in the New Yorker a few years back listed the criteria for a successful protest: 

  1. Did it raise awareness?
  2. Did public opinion change?
  3. Were there institutional changes as a result?
  4. Were there electoral consequences, either intended or unintended?

I would add #5.  Did you make more enemies than friends? If you are violent you lose a supporter here. I admire the likes of John Lewis. Politics are important but it is a decent and good man or woman I will vote for every time. Unfortunately today, there aren’t a lot to choose from. C’est la guerre.  

As Always

Ted The Great 

,

Factoids:

Protests can be a march, sit in, boycott, writings, or song, Your First Amendment rights enable you to congregate as long as you do not block traffic on a sidewalk, street or entrance to a building. 

The bigger the better. George Floyd protests have numbered in excess of 20 million people worldwide. 2017 Women’s March had over 4 million. The Million Man march drew 800,000.  March for Life has been protesting abortion for 46 years and numbers up to 500,000. The MLK March on Washington in 1963  brought 250,000 to the mall in Washington,DC. Over 3,0000 press representatives covered it. 

images-3.jpeg21 trains from all over the country converged on DC for the MLK March. Thousands of busses. President Kennedy was against it and thought it would turn into a riot. Just 4 people in all were arrested. Someone sabotaged the sound system. The Army Signal Corps got it working again. An 82 year old rode his bike from Ohio. Plain golf just wanted to be there. It can be done.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a line from the Hamlet. It is spoken by Queen Gertrude in response to the insincere overacting of a character in the play. The phrase is used in everyday speech to indicate doubt concerning someone’s sincerity. 

Here Comes The Sun…..

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I am sitting here looking out at a small lake behind our house. The sun is rising behind a most extraordinary cloud formation. The colors are nature at its best, not a palette man nor woman could truly replicate. An alligator slowly makes his way looking for breakfast. Two sand hill cranes swoop by on a morning gadabout. Seeing this it is beyond comprehension, the chaos that we have become. 

I am getting worn out. Life is a struggle. Not monetarily or physically  but psychologically. My routine is generous but all too familiar. The bubble we live in is at the same time protective but imprisoning. I get cranky. My ship’s clock seems to tick a little louder and my Irish comes out more than not. I get a little nervous because I am not sure if I am just bored or if this is what it is like to be really old ?

I keep trying to find definition. Four months of this seems like an eternity. I can endure most anything if I have an idea when it will end. A hurricane has an eye and a shape and one can check the Weather Channel to watch its progress and see its final roar. A fire no matter how large will burn itself out for lack of fuel. This is not like that. 

This thing about masks reveals a lot about us. They weigh less than an ounce. You can slip them on and off in seconds. A minor inconvenience but one that signals we are all in this together. And yet we fight them. These pieces of paper or cloth somehow are a threat to our freedom. Live free or die! It just might happen.

Some explain this is part of our rebellious spirit. After all, we did not want to put up with the King of England. Who the hell does Fauci think he is? We have the frontier spirit that tamed the wilderness. This should be a piece of cake. We have pool parties for hundreds and family celebrations with dozens in attendance. Unknown.jpegThen we see the repentant sinners on ventilators in ICU’s saying they didn’t think it could happen to them. What are we thinking?

I am torn between seeing this as an opportunity to excel or wallow in our fears and selfishness. I constantly wonder why a country so advanced in biotech can’t find a quick and easy way to test for this virus? Here in Florida we are hiring contact trackers but they are housed in Virginia without any idea of our local distinctions.We don’t get test results for 10-14 days so tracing become problematic at best. We are woefully short of supplies in every step of the contagion. Is this any way to run a railroad?

David Brooks wrote an essay on Weavers last year. The gist was simply that we had to fend for ourselves and become creative on a local level rather than a national one. There are amazing and resourceful people right in front of very eyes. Rather than waiting for funding and ideas from the feds or even state level we have to look to ourselves in our own burghs and counties. This isn’t an “up yours” philosophy but rather dealing with things in practical and expeditious ways. 

With identity politics we are parsing every aspect of society and in the process tearing ourselves to shreds. You are not a Republican but a conservative or middle of the roader. You further can be a Neo, alt right, traditional or maybe even a libertarian. Ditto Democrats, gays, straights, religions and ethnics. Instead of uniting Americans we are doing our best to fracture big ideas and concepts without any chance of agreement. 

Unknown-2This is fodder for media wether it is televised or texted. They play to this side or that. Depending on your persuasion they preach to the choir. They whip you up into a frenzy. You are either singing Hallelujah or tossing things at the TV screen. They got you. You are right and the other side is wrong. Trolls can be viewed on the tube or your Iphone. You laugh but we just don’t realize how much we are all played. Russian interference? It could be anyone and we are easy pickings! 

We have become a nation of personalities not ideas. Politicians, newspeople, titans of industry.  Our heads get bigger with likes from Facebook or followers on Twitter.  Political platforms are at best patch work quilts which are ignored in the long run. Religious and cultural beliefs become a smorgasbord of interpretation. I love free thought but with that said it also scares the hell out of me.  

I read George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures. His newsletters and essays try to look at the world from 30,000 feet without approbation to either side. In his book ,Storm Before the Calm, he sees a series of eras in government. During those periods, the country follows a track such as liberal with FDR or conservative with Reagan. At some point the system just doesn’t work. There is stalemate or even chaos. People lose faith and yearn for a different  approach. Maybe we are at that juncture now. 

Well the sun is in full view now. It is another day. I am going to try to go out of my shell. I will venture beyond the gates of La La land and maybe my mind. I spilled my guts with my frustrations. Maybe it is time to get to work on a better tomorrow. It is out there. I just have to find it. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Americans have responded to the proliferation of media choices by increasing their consumption. The average number of hours a typical American spends taking in some form of media rose from 7.4 hours per day in 1980 to 11.8 in 2008.  The consumption of news has fluctuated in recent years. The average American spends 70 minutes a day taking in the news, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Fake news is proliferating. The more incendiary the story the more readership is attracted. Ergo higher revenue from advertisers. Algorithms drive people of like beliefs or biases to certain sites. This applies to both left and right minded people. 

We tend to stress that 10% of our populace has tested positive for COVID. Is there any solace in the fact that 90% of us don’t. 

Confirmation bias is  the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Presented with an irrefutable premise people will only dig in further. Please don’t confuse me with the facts. images-12.jpeg

 

Sleepless in LaLa Land…

monalisa-4893660__340I am not pacing up and down fretting the possibility of COVID. I am respectful but not a fanatic. My wife is still talking to me, so divorce is not imminent but not out of the question if we are cooped up much longer. Yet the race thing and the concept of White Supremacy do cause me to toss and turn.

Both are volatile concepts which upon introspection are far more prevalent than we might admit. I will be judgmental just toward me so we can take any animosity out of the equation. Am I a racist? Probably. I don’t do so intentionally but my lifestyle and lot in life make it a subtle form. White supremacist? I hope not but there are inklings. 

 I have been lucky to have been brought up under wonderful circumstances. I have never had to worry about food or a place to live. I have been dead ass broke but worked my way out of it. If you keep your mouth shut and stay out of trouble you and your kids will be just fine. I am white and the world works to my advantage. Is this fair? In the long run probably not.  

This thing called racism is actually a misnomer. Race is a word that is difficult to define. Today we think it is white vs black or brown vs yellow. Ironically we all belong to one race…the human race.istockphoto-1063652314-2048x2048.jpg Aside from body features and skin color we all operate the same way. There is no difference in how our hearts beat or our brains operate. Some would debate the last, especially with me but please work with me. Suffice to say we all bleed red.

The origins of our civilization are in Africa. People migrated hither and yon but the Dark Continent was where WE ALL started if ancestry.com could go back that far. As societies grew in different climes our bodies adapted to surroundings. If you lived in a sub tropical region your body tanned to protect itself from the constant heat and sunshine. The closer to the Arctic Circle the less sunlight and colder temperatures made us paler or as we would like to say “fairer”.

The Fertile Crescent is defined by the Middle East and Egypt and Turkey.Unknown.png By all accounts it is the genesis of farming, science and trade. If we compared apples to apples our wunderkind world today might blanch in comparison. Now I am not trying to give a history lesson but demonstrate how many of our ideas of hierarchy are somewhat questionable. I guess as time wore on we got good at keeping score as to who was smarter, stronger, richer, poorer and by putting others down, we raised ourselves up. 

This is a social construct that is formed by opinion or subjective observance rather the actual fact. By happenstance some became entitled by birth right and aristocracies flourished. All along we must maintain the bloodline and not let inferior beings ruin the gene pool. Differences are exaggerated and you are suspect by color, manners, occupation, religion that are different from the ordinary, whatever the hell that is. In a word we became legends in our own minds. 

The US was founded by white Anglo Saxon snobs. Northern Europe was nirvana and anywhere else was tolerated and used as means to an end. Throughout our history we are rife with prejudice against not only blacks but Irish, Italians, Jews, Asians, Poles et alia. The big difference is for the most part, almost everyone  assimilated and crossbred and those differences subsided. For one group they didn’t. 

Black male hidden by handsLike it or not if we are honest with ourselves, blacks have been dealt a shitty hand. I am not gong to self flagellate but it has been difficult coming to that conclusion even though it has been staring me right in the eye for a long time. Other groups can claim indignation and to a large degree they are right. Yet if you honestly study the last four hundred years, blacks have been summarily put down and kept down by our so called equal system. 

That is why there is such outcry today. They have had it. We have a white world. I have watched so many recountings by decent people who have been stopped for no reason. We yell, you don’t belong here. If two are equally qualified for a job we pick the lighter shade of pale. We say we are not racist but what if one or two or three or four move into your neighborhood or join your club?

You will come back at me and say they don’t know how to act or talk or dress? I have two responses. The first is, How do you know? Have you ever really sat down with a black person? Yes you can watch the amped up news clip and assume that is the way everyone is. But are they? Secondly, I guess I ask is who gets to set the rules? In your club that can be us but in the city county or state who gave you and me the right?

It scares me to write this. I am not concerned about recoil or retribution. I am just plain and simple uncomfortable. I don’t know where to start or even what I am trying to accomplish? What do I say or to whom? It is just something that keeps eating at me? When I read another article on the maelstrom we are in, do I dare keep going and let my thoughts go outside my comfort zone?  When I claim to be a Christian can I really walk the walk and embrace, not turn my back? 

These are all good questions and there are plenty more. I am starting on some sort of journey. I may fail miserably and just figure it is not worth it. Then again it may open a whole new world or at least my perception of it. And this kids is what keeps me sleepless in LaLa Land. It is what I do. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

In contemporary usage, the term white supremacist has been used to describe some groups espousing ultranationalist, racist, or fascist doctrines. From the 19th to the mid-20th century the doctrine of white supremacy was largely taken for granted by political leaders and social scientists in Europe and the United States According to 19th-century British writers it was the duty of Europeans—the “white man’s burden”—to bring civilization to nonwhite peoples through beneficent imperialism. Several attempts were made to give white supremacy a scientific footing, as various institutes and renowned scientists published findings asserting the biological superiority of whites. Those ideas were bolstered in the early 20th century by the new science of intelligence testing, which purported to show major differences in intelligence between the races. In such tests northern Europeans always scored higher than Africans. (Encyclopedia Brittanica) Judge for yourself.

Hitler espoused Nazism. It incorporates fervent antisemitism, anti-communism, scientific racism, and the use of eugenics into its creed.

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In the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens won four gold medals and 18 black athletes participated and won medals also. The Fuhrer never quite explained how that worked. I do know it pissed him off.

The name, Dark Continent is derived from early explorers only discovering the east and west coasts. The thick jungles were foreboding and images of savages ran wild in their tales of their voyages. In actuality there was over two thousand years of history but it didn’t quite fit the narrative.

 

 

Writer’s Note: I was cited for my errors on the timing of the Dred Scott decision in my previous blog. My apologies to my readers for that. I try to cross-reference but sometimes I get it wrong. Mea culpa.  . 

Let’s Start At The Beginning….

As the song goes, a very good place to start. I have been trying to sift through the drama, the personalities and the name calling to try to figure out how the hell we got here. If you are not emotional you are from another planet. But rhetoric and vitriol do not find a solution.

I am going to ask you to get in my time machine and go back about 400 years. The continent of Africa was an active one. The Dutch some 200 years earlier had found some very advanced societies in play. There were also wars aplenty. Prisoners were traded back and forth and they became a source of free labor. The Europeans started trading arms for bodies and the slave trade was born.

These poor souls were put in irons and loaded on ships for the New World. They faced wretched conditions and if they died or became ill they were merely disposed of overboard during the long voyage.images-1 An interesting fact is one of the first slave marketplaces was in Massachusetts. All the colonists saw great opportunities in this new land but not nearly the manpower to tame it all. Slaves were the answer. Entrepreneurship at its best and worst. 

Now we can view all this from the comfort of our arm chair while perusing articles on the internet as I have, but if you have the guts to think about it, their plight truly becomes abhorrent. You are not human by any standard. You are chattel to be done with as the owner wants. You are whipped and thrown into a dark abyss. You have no idea where you are. There is no way out. 

As time goes on the process and principle of slavery becomes enmeshed in the fabric of our country. Plantations in the South bring a lot of wealth to the landed aristocracy. Towns, counties and states take hold and people come to realize the ancillary livelihoods of the butcher the baker and candlestick maker are totally dependent on the success of this evil venture. Everyone looks the other way until it literally becomes normal if you can call it that. 

Back on the farm slave women are there to resupply the stock, entertain the dalliances of the boss man and then go back out in the field. Kids don’t get an education because daytime is work time and there is no sense in schooling. UnknownMen are valued for their brawn until they can no longer work. Medical care? Give me a break. You will get over it. Were there nice people? Of course. But they were still owners. 

Fast forward to the Post Civil War era. The downtrodden finally got their freedom only to be taken in by sharecropping. The Southerners in the new Constitutional Congress saw a chance to profit once again off their former chattel’s new found freedom. With all those residents they would be able to get a lot of representatives in Congress. The Northerners cried foul and it was decided that a black man only counted at 3/5 of a white man. What a wonderful country. 

All throughout is intertwined that blacks are subhuman or as we like to say, animals. We don’t want you despoiling our gene pool. So let me get this straight. As a black I am not a full white. I can’t go to school. I really don’t have access to medical care because I don’t have insurance because I don’t have a job that pays me anything. I have to live in a particular part of town but other than that I am free at last. Just pick yourself up by your bootstraps boy and hard work will get you through. 

Roadblocks were many. Many others including the Irish, Chinese, Indians and yes women were considered lesser and should be kept in their place. But their plight was over a period of time and not sewn into the fabric of our society. And still there was this overriding sense of contemptible acceptance not capitulation. After all as white males we were superior in all ways. 

I remember as a kid looking at the news from Little Rock or Montgomery. The German shepherds and red neck cops with a wad of chaw in their cheek. images-5The beatings and the fire hoses. I watched women screaming racist slurs and spitting at a little girl in a pretty dress and pigtails. Just like my granddaughter who was just here.

How did we get here? The above is part of it. The Civil Rights Act is a little over 50 years old. I didn’t believe the stats but they are true. A black is just as likely to be using and yes dealing marijuana as a white  person but he gets thrown in jail more often for it. If you convict a black and a white of a same crime the man of color does a lot more time. 

The lot of the black person today is a sorry one and yes they are in some ways to blame. The Great Society was an abject failure and rife with scandal and waste. Black fathers are absent. But can you look me and probably more so yourself in the eye and say we are all equal? Part of the problem is admitting to the problem. I think both sides have to be honest. 

To solve this problem you have to feel it. You cannot accept the grist of either side. You have to read stories and incidents of both protest and looting. You have to imagine what it is like to be black…and white. You have to get so confused with the words and emotions, you don’t know which end is up. It’s where I am. I just had to start at the beginning. Here’s hoping there is an answer in there somewhere. To be continued….

As always,

Ted The Great

Factoid

There are more than three million differences between your genome and anyone else’s. On the other hand, we are all 99.9 percent the same, DNA-wise. 

The thickness of the epidermis varies in different types of skin; it is only .05 mm. The color of one’s skin is due to long term changes to exposure to sunlight by inhabitants throughout the world. . Yes it is that thickness that separates black for whites or browns or yellows. It is fascinating we all like to have a tan.

The New York Times 100 page “1619 Project” was assailed by the left and the right. Noted scholars said they got it all wrong. The idea was valid but the facts did not fit. How am I (we) supposed to figure this out?  

Only a little more than 300,000 captives, or 4-6 percent, came to the United States. The majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean. A significant number of enslaved Africans arrived in the American colonies by way of the Caribbean, where they were “seasoned” and mentored into slave life and then brought to the states.  25% of Southerners owned slaves. . 

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Back To The Riots….

What a range of emotions. We watched in awe as once again man was able to tame the forces of gravity and launch ourselves into outer space.Unknown-6 That was the apex. Then we panned back to rioting as we looted and burned in rage and frustration. That was the nadir. Somewhere in all of this we share the same elements of humanity. That is so hard to compute. 

Some will deny we have anything in common. We throw around terms like genius and trailblazer on the one hand and animal and ingrate on the other. It seems we have no perception or realization of what life is like outside our own personal bubbles. It plays both ways. 

George Floyd’s murder was a bit of a wake up call for me. Sure I was saddened by previous deaths of black men and women but for some strange reason it was miles away. Whether it was the unflinching camera angle or the slow agony of a man’s life slipping away right before my eyes, it slammed me right in the gut. 

There was no mincing of words. There was no possibility of misinterpretation. That white cop put his knee to the prisoner’s neck and then rearranged his position mid flight to make sure he was getting the desired effect. And not one of the other three even whimpered for the man’s mercy. That is unconscionable. I can’t believe we have stooped so low. 

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We have seen an explosion of hatred and contempt on both sides. It’s our nation and possibly our world’s dirty little secret. We hate anyone who is not one of us.

 Lash out at the infidels. The fact that some are black makes it even easier. Men in blue? Just target them. Jews? Asians? Middle Easterners? We find it so satisfying to paint with a broad brush. The poor hate the rich and the rich find the poor contemptible. Even if I can stand you I want you to remain in your place. No more. No less. 

We cannot even come close to understanding what it is like to be black. The violence, the poverty, and criminality that is exaggerated by a hyper vigilant society are ingrained in you from birth. College students are stopped and frisked. A member of the board of the New York Audubon Society gets called out in Central Park. Black Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina has been stopped and questioned several times in his tenure. This isn’t an honest mistake. It is part of our culture. 

We don’t know what it is like to be a cop. To be called”Pig”. imagesTo deal with the seamier side of life all day long and be pelted with rocks and garbage when you are trapped in a cruiser. How about a Hispanic that just wants something more for his family than gangs and drugs? A woman still facing glass ceilings or the leering and cat calls of a city street. Everyone gets beat up in their own way. Sometimes you have had enough and your rage boils over.

We decry activists. Don’t you know how wonderful America is? How good you have it? Unfortunately Kool Aid doesn’t quench a desperate thirst. The haves aren’t necessarily the rich but ones who have made it into the gated community of middle class. They would like more but are not bereft. 

The under trodden don’t have lobbyists. Those are the rich people’s vessels of influence. You might even call them activists for the good life.  This word or phrase or bill gives Morgan Stanley and its clients a very lucrative write off. A little prodding here and there gets you a defense contract. They are not demonstrating but then again maybe they are in a totally different way. Subtlety and back rooms breed an air of innocence. 

People demonstrate because it is the only way to make people listen. Sure it is brash and in your face. It won’t go away. Unknown-3Looting and torching places give us the cover to justify our indignation. But deep down you know something is wrong and boy does it feel uncomfortable to think they might be right. 

We have been going over this since I was a kid in the fifties. It has gotten a little more complex with women, Hispanics, gays et all thrown into the fray. We have spent trillions on the Great Society with nothing to show for it. We have not figured out immigration since 1987. Women are making a dent but it is still just a minor recalculation in our male chauvinist world. And cops are still beating the crap out of black people at a moment’s notice. 

Depressing? Yes it is. I have never felt worse for our country. Not economically but the humanity side of the equation. We have a ruling class that is clueless and ineffective. We can land on a flying tin can 250 miles above the earth but we can’t agree on proper way to educate our kids. We throw away 35% of our foodstuffs while 25-30% of our population is food insufficient. 

I am sorry I am not more upbeat. Reality sucks. Here in LaLa Land, I should probably just shut up and practice my golf or curl up with a good book. I will try once again to drink my feel good elixir but for the moment I can’t get this out of my mind. I keep going back to the riots. They are telling us something. Will we listen?

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids;

There are instigators on both sides of the spectrum in riots. You have far right White Extremists and far left Anti Fascists. In between are looters and burners. A majority of demonstrators are law abiding who get swept up in the fury and as a result get arrested. Both federal and local authorities have yet to identity specific groups. 

Because of unions, labor contracts and the Blue Wall cops are rarely disciplined. In Minneapolis over the last eight years over 2400  cases of abuse are reported. Unknown-412 policemen were found in violation. The harshest sentence was losing 40 hours of pay. A vast majority of cops are good if not great. Unfortunately the bad apples don’t get rooted out. 

Conflicts are a natural part of relationships. They usually arise out of people’s misunderstanding of an issue, their needs, or their desire to be understood. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them. It’s as simple and complex as that. 

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