Fun with words and words for fun

Monthly Archives: December 2015

poverty3

As we come into the new year we find ourselves in the midst of a new-style political campaign, one many of our analysts and pundits can’t seem to get the handle on. We hear all kinds of things, mostly negative, mostly all designed as scare tactics. I see the quick electronic sound bites in my email boxes and some that family and friends re-post on my Facebook page. Wow!

Not too long ago I was reading about poverty in America. I do have an EdD and I do keep up with trends in education and what is otherwise going on there, which isn’t much to talk about, honestly. In that regard, the more the thrust of the research centers on catering to the “poor downtrodden,” whoever they are,  and adjusting things to accommodate them, the further removed we become from actually educating them and making them prepared to make their way in today’s world of work. That’s it in a nutshell. Sorry for the cliché. Some of my colleagues and I would be happy to share what we know does work, but the forces out there have an alternative agenda, one that is designed to only make it appear as if they care and are doing something about the issue when in reality their true agenda has nothing to do with those in need, education-wise or poverty-wise. Not conspiracy theory. Reality. Telling them what works is talking to the wind. One must assume that those in power are smart, formidable, and know the real score. One must assume then that if it were in their best interests they could surely fix things. So why, then, are things not fixed and why do we not even see some real progress toward fixing things? One must assume they are working toward their best interests and, as said, those interests do not coincide with the interests of the “downtrodden.”

So as regards poverty, this all is linked, even intertwined. Many of the poor in America are children. In fact, an estimated 22 percent overall, and if that isn’t dramatic enough, the ranges by demographics and regions are even more staggering. How does this happen in America? How does this happen here?

The answers aren’t simple or easy. They are as complicated and as complex as our society. Worse, further obfuscating mattes is politics, the characterizations of the Democrats and the Republicans as drawn by each side, Democrats depicting Republicans as cold and heartless, Republicans depicting Democrats as fostering government dependency with handouts for the purpose of buying and maintaining a voter base. Then even more horrible, the candidates pander to these depictions and play upon them. There isn’t one presidential candidate on either side who is not guilty.

Since the war on poverty began, around 1965, we’ve thrown nearly twenty-two trillion dollars (in constant 2012 dollars) at the poverty problem and the poverty rate has not noticeably diminished. That’s beyond incredulity. If I were CEO of a company whose performance was so abysmal, I’d have been voted out forty-five years ago. Nevertheless here we are in the endless throes of the war between the heartless and those who would give away the store to stay in power.

Even in the movies, when the stuff hits the fan and things seem to be at the precipice, the internally opposing forces join together to fight the common enemy. So what’s going on here?

Two of the major factors involved in the poverty issue are ones that might not be first-obvious as considerations. They are single-parent families, since children born into single parent families are at much greater risk for living in poverty, and government handouts, since even when combined programs are at work, recipients of welfare tend to live in poverty and do not effectuate change in their status. The first one mentioned is pretty standard knowledge when checked against any poverty statistics, think-tank or government produced, and for the second one, check out Ron Haskins and the Brookings Institute, and don’t go at Haskins for political bent, but read the statistics he presents to the effects of what dependency does.

There it is: about poverty, about kids, about America and the people in charge and who want to be in charge. The more we indulge in excuses for the downtrodden and bail outs for them that keep them downtrodden, the less we do to find solutions to helping them climb out of being down. The more we cater to the feelings of those we perceive as downtrodden and shy away from the realities of what truly must be done to help them help themselves, the longer we will have this discourse  because that is how long the problem will be around. The longer we have leaders whose interests are not aligned with fixing the poverty issue or the education issue, the more we approach an irreversible precipice.

Don’t give them fish, teach them to fish. Wasn’t that how it went?

 

 

 

 


American flagThe other morning, Christmas Eve morning, we went out for some milk to make sure we had enough for the holiday. We went to a local grocery store, and like many times before, we ran into someone who works in my daughter’s school. We exchanged greetings and little pleasantries and then we said our goodbyes, wishing each other Merry Christmas. Outside in the parking lot I happened to see them get into their car and remarked to my wife that theirs, like ours, was an American-made car. This led me to remind my wife that this was the person I’d had a chat with once before outside the school one day. That chat had turned political and we’d discovered that we shared similar political views. In the midst of the chat, that person had asked me to speak quietly because our shared political views weren’t popular there and they might be chastised if their views were publicly known. They refers here to the person, and is used here to not identify a gender.

Déjà Vu.

I worked for NYCDOE for twenty—two two years. I worked in the Bronx, but I’m not so sure that matters much here. I’m retired now, happily retired, but in order to maintain my medical benefits as they are, I am required to keep membership in the UFT. I belong to the retired chapter and so the monthly dues are less—about twenty bucks a month. When I retired, the union dues were fifty-three dollars per paycheck, one hundred-six dollars per month. Now all of that is what it is, mafia-style payoff on some level, if you want to look at it that way, but the point for here is that for all those years of paying dues and even for the rest of my life, I have been and still am actively contributing to the support of a political party that I don’t want to contribute to and that I don’t agree with on most things. And that, I think, is fundamentally wrong, even immoral and improper in a society that purports to be a free one.

Personally, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t have the union support any political parties, platforms or organizations. None. Such things should be completely up to the members individually. If unions wanted to take up collections and/or organize on behalf of one organization or party or the other, they could certainly do so, but on a voluntary basis.

That said, for most of those twenty-two years I had to listen to my liberal colleagues who could freely tout their points of view while I had to stifle mine if I wanted to seek promotions, overtime, or any of the normal perks that came with the job. I had to find the small pockets of colleagues who shared my views and we had to converse in code. In one way, this was kind of funny actually, but truly it was rather sad in reality. The Jews had to hide like this in Russia. Of course that comparison, while analogous, isn’t real in terms of the magnitude and the severity of the consequences to the Jews.

I believe I was let go from one college teaching position because I was not a devout liberal and I know I was let go from another because I did not teach feminist interpretations of literature as were being compelled by the fashionably politically-correct chairperson at the time. And so it goes. Of course I was laid off, not fired, and of course, there was no recourse.

And there it is. A holiday reflection in a free country where you can’t say Merry Christmas without fear of offending someone, where some schools won’t let a parent in the military wear the uniform into the school, where you have to fear repercussions for flying the American flag in front of your house or for openly supporting the police.

To everyone, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may 2016 bring us back toward the freedoms this country was founded upon.


quill-pen-300x300This was written a touch over six months ago. For me, in some ways it kinds of sums up where we seem to be at and where we seem to be going. The  story  passed, as they all do. It made its splash and the ripples faded into the waters as they always do.  I hope it encapsulates the lack of logic and sensibility being heaped upon us. I hope we take heed of that final word below.

We’ve hit a new depth in craziness with the resignation of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP president in Spokane, Washington, due to allegations of her lying about her race.

There’s no other way to put it.

The resignation isn’t crazy; her racial identification isn’t crazy, nor does it matter to me. In fact it shouldn’t really matter to anyone. Feelings aren’t facts.

No, the craziness lies in the ensuing conversation I heard on Fox News the next mornings, or more precisely in the argument on one side of the debate conducted on the Fox show. So before I go any further, this is not an attack on Fox and I applaud that station for holding the debate on the possible ramifications of Dolezal’s racial identification in today’s politically correct world. Further, I confess I haven’t heard any other station’s reports which is why Fox is the station named herein.

In short, the argument was about whether Dolezal could actually be classified as part of the race she identified herself with in today’s world. Think about it. Just think about it!

Herein lies one of the major problems of changing the definition of marriage to accommodate the LGBT community or any community. Having spoken about this in previous blogs, I won’t totally reiterate here, but Huckabee brings to light the idea that next, and what’s to stop it, the definition of marriage would have to include polygamy, which isn’t so bad maybe considering your viewpoint (although for me one woman is actually one more than I can deal with most times) and bestiality. I’ve said, and this is a reiteration, that I wanted to marry another woman and a horse simply because it is my right once the definition of marriage is altered. I’m not even asking the government to provide me with hay, because surely my horse has no income and could be eligible for food stamps. In fact, as I think of it, my family would be eligible for all kinds of government support since my number of dependents would increase and my tax burden lessen and in the new situation I might be able to get an earned income credit refund without paying any taxes. In effect, such actions by many citizens could ensure that we bankrupt the government much more quickly than we are doing it now so that the greatest nation ever could go down in a blaze of glory making the fall of the Roman Empire a mere triviality.

Think about it.

When I was teaching forensics, I used to ask my students how a nation could be founded upon the notion that all men are created equal and then have slavery. The question was meant as a sensibility shocker and as a statement of my own personal amazement and disbelief that such a thing could transpire. Of course I knew the answer to the question and my students did too: the pen is mightier than the sword since the direct answer is grounded in definition and classification, two rhetorical techniques taught in English Composition class.

At one point about twenty-five years ago, the United States was the only remaining superpower. I am equally amazed and can’t believe that we let that get away from us. In fact, if we keep on as we are, we will no longer be a world leader at all and will find ourselves subjugated to a power we don’t like, a power that will not allow us to live as free beings, in which case this whole discussion will not only be moot but will be muted too.

Any other country you know ever give up its power? Would our all-wonderful, millionaire congressmen do that? Would they give up their power or their wealth? It is crazy. But the Dolezal thing puts the craziness slide into hyper gear. While it is not about her per se, her case so perfectly represents the slip-slide PC idiocy that has brought us to our knees.

This morning I woke up feeling really disabled. I already have a hip replacement and I think my knee on the same side is going. I had terrible pain in the night and am having real trouble with it now. According to the proponents of being-classified-as-you-feel-you-are, I should be classified as disabled and be able to apply for and get Social Security benefits based upon my disability. Then I could apply for and immediately get a 75 per cent disability pension instead of working my whole life for the much smaller  one that might be due me.

It depends upon what the definition of is is.

Think about it.

The end result of all this craziness is chaos and if our movies are any indication, we are headed right there, most of us without weapons because despite the constitution our leaders don’t really want us to have them. Mad Max and Escape from New York and The Book of Eli are three of the movies I have in mind. The first two are kind of the ones that started it all and have led the way, and the latter one is just one that does it really well and ends with the type of salvation that might just save us all. By the way, I really, really like Denzel Washington movies. Does that allow me to classify myself as African American? Maybe I can classify myself that way because I taught in the Bronx, NY for twenty-five years and was generally the only Caucasian in my classrooms for all those years. Would I then be eligible for reparations if they ever came along or for some of the redistribution of wealth under way now? Gee, I didn’t get an Obama-phone or Obama-cash.

Yesterday, I woke up and felt like I was a doctor. I’ve watched a lot of Ben Casey on TV and have been watching General Hospital since I was a kid (not really but I did watch it when I was in college some forty years ago) and I watch some of those shows that do the autopsies and operations and even lots of the real-life stuff that’s on on the cable channels. I want to be called doctor (although if I’m classified as a doctor the IRS might not give me the earned income tax credit refund, so I might have to rethink this) and I am hoping some of you will see fit to come to me as patients.

Once you start the slip-slide, where does it end? Who determines where it ends? Our leaders? The ones with weapons? Some other power that has overpowered us because they aren’t hung up on this craziness?

A friend of mine who is an Orthodox Rabbi, a true Rabbi, once told me that the reason Judaism has survived all this time in its original form is because it never changes. It adapts sometimes, but it never changes. (A simple example of adaptation is the Sabbath elevator in some high rise buildings that runs continuously on Sabbath and holidays stopping on all floors and doors opening automatically.) This Rabbi isn’t a Rabbi because he identifies with Rabbis. He studied most of his life to be a Rabbi and still studies more than anyone I’ve ever known who has multiple doctoral degrees. He actually is a true learned man, the real definition of a Rabbi.

Isn’t it time we get back to our senses and figure out the ways to accommodate all the alternative life styles without destroying the one that has brought us to the point of real consideration of all life styles? Isn’t it idiotic to destroy traditional life styles and traditional beliefs simply to accommodate alternative ones? Isn’t that paradoxical? Ironic?

As an aside, I just read this to my wife and her response was that the answer to the slavery issue and all the rest of the idiocy being perpetrated upon is encapsulated in one word: GREED.

Written 6/19/15

 

 


logical illogical 1Sometimes my eight-year-old says two plus two plus two is seven and holds to her opinion no matter what I do. We count it out on circles or a number chart and I tell her it’s six no matter what she says. She’ll hold to the seven until she’s tired of the game and then tell me she knew it was six all along.

We’ve come into an era where the absence of logic and the logical thinking through of things is astounding. Astounding.

One of the pundits analyzing it said, “if it quacks like a duck…” talking about the terrorist attack in San Bernardino before it was called a terrorist attack. To even consider workplace violence once the first traces of evidence came in was not logical. For the president to have delayed as he did in labeling it and for him to still continue delaying labeling it Islamic jihadist terrorism is also illogical.logical illogical2

Having coached the debate team at the high school I taught in for ten years, and having taught forensics in that high school and in college too, I am flabbergasted by where our absence of logic has taken us.

This particular entry is not meant to be “political” in any way.  A good, simple statement to reflect the non-partisan intentions of this particular entry is that there is enough hypocrisy on both sides, Donkeys and Elephants, to go around. Name them if you want to. What we see from both sides is a whole lot of “the pot calling the kettle black.” For almost all of the candidates (not all) on both teams, logically, there is enough material in their videos, recorded statements, speeches and votes to consider disqualifying them from holding office, let alone from being president.

In short, these days we are being led by a class of people who are proven liars, some of whom admit to lying and are proud of it. This same class of people break the law, use the intricacies of the law and the power of their positions to skirt the law or affect how the law is implemented. It is no secret that our current justice department, in and of itself, only applies the law, only enforces the law, as it chooses.

All that said, a warning is kind of due. It’s the old, “Be careful, you might just get what you ask for.”

To vote for Hillary because she is a woman and isn’t it about time for a woman to be president isn’t logical. To have impeached her husband because he lied under oath about having whatever with Monica Lewinsky and having the impeachment led by Newt Gingrich who later had to resign his position for the same infidelity reason, wasn’t logical. No matter what you think of Trump, to compare him to Hitler isn’t logical. You might compare Hitler to Genghis Khan though. That would be logical. Comparing Trump to Hitler is the same illogical rhetoric the left continually blames on the right and the right continually blames on the left: it’s the old all or nothing argument; it’s the old scare-tactics strategy.illogical4

It’s time for all of us to take our heads out of our electronics and start looking deeply into facts. The facts tell it all. Maybe we should check out who owns our print media and our broadcast media and how ownership affects the news as it is reported. Maybe we should check out how the war on poverty is going, by the numbers. Maybe we should check out the realities of the gun control laws and the implementation of gun control laws and how their implementation affects who has the guns whether the guns are purchased legally or not.

I’ve said for a long time that either we want to know the truth or not. If we don’t search for the truth, we will get what we deserve, and we won’t like what we get. It’s that simple.


spaghetti eaters 2When he was first captured, my father was sent to an Italian prison camp. My father, as I’ve said before, never really talked about being a POW and  he didn’t tell stories except for two. The first was about after the Italians fled and he was recaptured by the Germans. When he was received in the camp, Stalag 3B Furstenberg, the two people in front of him lied about being Jewish. My father, because he’d already been in an Italian prison camp, told the truth because, as he told us, by this time he didn’t care if he lived or died anymore. The following morning the two men who had been in front of him were shot.

The other story was about Aunt Matilda.

As I think back upon my family, particularly the Aunts and Uncles on my father’s side, they were a pretty serious bunch. Aunt Minnie and Aunt Bella, at least as I remember them, were almost always serious. They laughed and joked around, I think, when they were amongst themselves or when at a gathering and the kids were all gone outside to play ball. But I don’t remember them being really silly or fooling around with me or my brother. I remember my father-in-law once putting his tongue through a paper napkin at the Christmas dinner table and then making faces and noises. That was silly. I don’t remember my aunts on my father’s side ever being silly.

Aunt Matilda and Uncle Martin were the funny ones. Uncle Martin always told the truth as he saw it and very often his total candor led to awkward moments where we laughed because we felt he couldn’t possibly be serious about how critical he was being. Aunt Matilda would say he was joking, but I gather very often he was serious. Whether witty sarcasm or unbridled criticism, who knew?

So being-funny Aunt Matilda wrote her baby brother, my father, a letter that was received by the Italians in the prison camp he was he in. Of course the Italians (and the Germans too) censored all mail, so they received it instead of him. He was called into the commandant where they proceeded to read him the letter.solitary confinement cell 1

As my father told the story, the letter started off “Congratulations, you are now in the hands of the spaghetti-eaters,” and it went on and on about the Italians. The more they read, my father told us, the more he laughed, and the more he laughed, the madder they got, and the madder they got, the longer they left him in solitary confinement.

Aunt Matilda was a pip. As another story about her has it, she was once being blocked by a tractor-trailer truck whose driver was apparently having a hard time moving the truck out of the way. My aunt, after honking and waiting, got fed up enough to go give the driver a piece of her mind, telling him that if he couldn’t move it, she would do it for him. The driver made the mistake of accepting it as a dare. Aunt Matilda moved the truck for him. She was very proud of that.


S & W 442 AirweightHere we go again.  We see the shooting last Friday and we start to hear the BS. From the president, if you can call him that, we once again hear that we need more gun control. Really?

He also says we need an honest debate about abortion without demonizing groups like Planned Parenthood. Really? The demonization of Planned Parenthood, this time around, wasn’t about abortion. It was about what types of abortions they perform, how they perform them and what they do with the body parts. But, never let a good crisis go to waste.

I spoke awhile back on this blog about throuples, a new term that has arisen since the redefinition of marriage. A throuple is a three-parent couple, and of course it is the first step toward including polygamy in the definition of marriage. Honestly, polygamy  is the natural progression, as I see it. In one sense, throuples and polygamy are by-products of the redefinition of marriage.

So much of what we are looking at these days are by-products of actions that have occurred, on purpose or not, rather than as a result of the direct actions. Yet instead of looking at them as such, we hear the rhetoric linking them to direct causes.

I agree with Obama that we need to examine ways to make sure guns, legal or illegal, do not end up in the hands of people who are mentally imbalanced, the “people who are deranged or have violent tendencies,” as he puts it.  But more gun legislation is false rhetoric. The by-product of the gun legislation we currently have is that the criminals have guns and  many of the  illegal guns find their ways into the hands of gang members and youths who buy them on the illegal markets. Making the restrictions tighter will further increase the amount of illegal guns, not decrease them.

The real question then becomes how can we accomplish what the president said (in the quotes above). The simple answer is real enforcement of the laws we have. It is that simple. No rhetoric and no BS are needed. I won’t go into it, but in some cities the penalties for having illegal guns are so  minimal that they are almost non-existent, kind of like the non-existent penalties to sanctuary cities for not enforcing the immigration laws.

So let’s get down to it.

I saw on a web site the other day that You’re 7 Times More Likely To Be Killed By A Conservative Terrorist Than A Muslim Extremist. This may very well be true in terms of the math, but how much of it is real? Really? It is a statement meant to create false impressions, whose by-products are meant to instill fear of many different things, from guns to conservatives, and a lot in between. It is intended to change focal points away from honest discussions of real issues.

How much is real? Really? Look at the Chicago Homicide Rates. Look at the DOJ crime statistics. Do a little research about gun ownership and check out some different sources to get a feel for the reality of illegal guns on our streets, who have them, how they get them, what the penalties for having them are. That is the real discussion about guns.

Chicago murder stats
About DOJ crime statistics
Another perspective about harmful narratives

Then maybe we can talk about why there are about 280 million guns in America.

Only in looking at issues in their totalities, absent rhetoric and BS and false imagery, electronic or otherwise, can we have real discussions about real issues.

See the gun in the picture at the top? It won’t hurt anyone. The best thing I’ve ever heard about guns was when I heard someone say: don’t want the gun to go off, keep your finger off the trigger, stupid.

There’s an update to this: as I’ve been writing it, the incident in San Bernadino has occurred and the investigations are ongoing. To be clear, when all is said and done, I hope our government and local law enforcement will let us know what is really going on there, really, no matter where the investigations lead. The president has already called again for more gun control.