The Divided States of America

America is an idea; a concept; an agreement; a contract; not a structure; not separate from its citizens; not invincible; not divine.  America is the sum of us; e pluribus unum; one nation; under God; a work in progress.

Now, our unity is deeply wounded; the cut is painful; we blame each other; we separate; we abandon trust; we lose our faith; we suffer; we fear; we lash out; we seek redemption; we want to be healed.

Staying together as a nation is hard; we are attacked; we are blamed; we question our beliefs; we question our leaders; we question ourselves; we become angry; we defend ourselves from each other.

Our children watch us; they trust us; they copy us; they love us; they grow up; they have love; they have work; they have families; they have children; they have the life you gave them; they inherited the America of today; they do not know what to do.

Too much everything intoxicates Americans; too much abundance; too much safety; too much power; too much food; too much information; too much ignorance; too much entertainment; too much violence; too much vulgarity; too much separation; too much taking; too much hurting; too much lust; too much abandoning; too much hate; too much racism; too much chemistry; too much addiction; too much medication; too much advertising; too much preaching; too much teaching; too much attitude; too much Satan; too much to handle.

Not enough truth demeans and degrades Americans; not enough knowledge; not enough love; not enough wisdom; not enough peace; not enough grace; not enough nature; not enough helping; not enough learning; not enough vocabulary; not enough strength; not enough compassion; not enough praying; not enough intimacy; not enough sharing; not enough family; not enough courage; not enough community; not enough contact; not enough respect; not enough God; not enough to thrive.

Some wounds are slow to heal; some feuds are hard to end; but America is ours to mend.

Advertisements

Royalty Revealed – Hardened Arteries of the Powerful Establishment’s Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed Unites States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

Tools from Carl Sagan’s BS Detection Kit

We are in an age of hyper-information/persuasion/spin about all aspects of our lives, from what we eat, to what we buy, to what we attend, to whom we choose as leaders.  Now, as always, we can benefit from screening the inputs to our lives, and weighing our beliefs on a scale of clarity, and verity.  Carl Sagan gave us some sage tools to evaluate and detect fallacies of arguments, and false claims.  After the quote, I will try to translate, without bias, his precise language, and references, into reasonably understandable terms.

A. Evaluate Ideas to Approach the Truth:

  1. Wherever possible,there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science, there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument,every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the dataequally well to choose the simpler.
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.
  1. Avoid Common Pitfalls of Common Sense

Just as important as learning these helpful tools, however, is unlearning and avoiding the most common pitfalls of common sense. Reminding us of where society is most vulnerable to those, Sagan writes:

In addition to teaching us what to do when evaluating a claim to knowledge, any good baloney detection kit must also teach us what not to do. It helps us recognize the most common and perilous fallacies of logic and rhetoric. Many good examples can be found in religion and politics, because their practitioners are so often obliged to justify two contradictory propositions.

He admonishes against the twenty most common and perilous ones — many rooted in our chronic discomfort with ambiguity — with examples of each in action:

  1. ad hominem— Latin for “to the man,” attacking the arguer and not the argument (e.g., The Reverend Dr. Smith is a known Biblical fundamentalist, so her objections to evolution need not be taken seriously)
  2. argument from authority(e.g., President Richard Nixon should be re-elected because he has a secret plan to end the war in Southeast Asia — but because it was secret, there was no way for the electorate to evaluate it on its merits; the argument amounted to trusting him because he was President: a mistake, as it turned out)
  3. argument from adverse consequences(e.g., A God meting out punishment and reward must exist, because if He didn’t, society would be much more lawless and dangerous — perhaps even ungovernable. Or: The defendant in a widely publicized murder trial must be found guilty; otherwise, it will be an encouragement for other men to murder their wives)
  4. appeal to ignorance— the claim that whatever has not been proved false must be true, and vice versa (e.g., There is no compelling evidence that UFOs are not visiting the Earth; therefore, UFOs exist — and there is intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Or: There may be seventy kazillion other worlds, but not one is known to have the moral advancement of the Earth, so we’re still central to the Universe.) This impatience with ambiguity can be criticized in the phrase: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
  5. special pleading, often to rescue a proposition in deep rhetorical trouble(e.g.,How can a merciful God condemn future generations to torment because, against orders, one woman induced one man to eat an apple? Special plead: you don’t understand the subtle Doctrine of Free Will. Or: How can there be an equally godlike Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in the same Person? Special plead: You don’t understand the Divine Mystery of the Trinity. Or: How could God permit the followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — each in their own way enjoined to heroic measures of loving kindness and compassion — to have perpetrated so much cruelty for so long? Special plead: You don’t understand Free Will again. And anyway, God moves in mysterious ways.)
  6. begging the question, also called assuming the answer (e.g., We must institute the death penalty to discourage violent crime. But does the violent crime rate in fact fall when the death penalty is imposed? Or: The stock market fell yesterday because of a technical adjustment and profit-taking by investors — but is there any independent evidence for the causal role of “adjustment” and profit-taking; have we learned anything at all from this purported explanation?)
  7. observational selection, also calledthe enumeration of favorable circumstances, or as the philosopher Francis Bacon described it, counting the hits and forgetting the misses (e.g., A state boasts of the Presidents it has produced, but is silent on its serial killers)
  8. statistics of small numbers— a close relative of observational selection(e.g., “They say 1 out of every 5 people is Chinese. How is this possible? I know hundreds of people, and none of them is Chinese. Yours truly.” Or: “I’ve thrown three sevens in a row. Tonight I can’t lose.”)
  9. misunderstanding of the nature of statistics(e.g., President Dwight Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence);
  10. inconsistency(e.g., Prudently plan for the worst of which a potential military adversary is capable, but thriftily ignore scientific projections on environmental dangers because they’re not “proved.” Or: Attribute the declining life expectancy in the former Soviet Union to the failures of communism many years ago, but never attribute the high infant mortality rate in the United States (now highest of the major industrial nations) to the failures of capitalism. Or: Consider it reasonable for the Universe to continue to exist forever into the future, but judge absurd the possibility that it has infinite duration into the past);
  11. non sequitur— Latin for “It doesn’t follow” (e.g., Our nation will prevail because God is great. But nearly every nation pretends this to be true; the German formulation was “Gott mit uns”). Often those falling into the non sequitur fallacy have simply failed to recognize alternative possibilities;
  12. post hoc, ergo propter hoc— Latin for “It happened after, so it was caused by” (e.g., Jaime Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: “I know of … a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.” Or: Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)
  13. meaningless question(e.g., What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? But if there is such a thing as an irresistible force there can be no immovable objects, and vice versa)
  14. excluded middle, or false dichotomy — considering only the two extremes in a continuum of intermediate possibilities (e.g., “Sure, take his side; my husband’s perfect; I’m always wrong.” Or: “Either you love your country or you hate it.” Or: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”)
  15. short-term vs. long-term— a subset of the excluded middle, but so important I’ve pulled it out for special attention (e.g., We can’t afford programs to feed malnourished children and educate pre-school kids. We need to urgently deal with crime on the streets.  Or: Why explore space or pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?);
  16. slippery slope, related to excluded middle (e.g.,If we allow abortion in the first weeks of pregnancy, it will be impossible to prevent the killing of a full-term infant. Or, conversely: If the state prohibits abortion even in the ninth month, it will soon be telling us what to do with our bodies around the time of conception);
  17. confusion of correlation and causation(e.g., A survey shows that more college graduates are homosexual than those with lesser education; therefore, education makes people gay. Or: Andean earthquakes are correlated with closest approaches of the planet Uranus; therefore — despite the absence of any such correlation for the nearer, more massive planet Jupiter — the latter causes the former)
  18. straw man— caricaturing a position to make it easier to attack (e.g., Scientists suppose that living things simply fell together by chance — a formulation that willfully ignores the central Darwinian insight, that Nature ratchets up by saving what works and discarding what doesn’t. Or — this is also a short-term/long-term fallacy — environmentalists care more for snail darters and spotted owls than they do for people)
  19. suppressed evidence, or half-truths (e.g., An amazingly accurate and widely quoted “prophecy” of the assassination attempt on President Reagan is shown on television; but — an important detail — was it recorded before or after the event? Or:  These government abuses demand revolution, even if you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Yes, but is this likely to be a revolution in which far more people are killed than under the previous regime? What does the experience of other revolutions suggest? Are all revolutions against oppressive regimes desirable and in the interests of the people?)
  20. weasel words(e.g., The separation of powers of the U.S. Constitution specifies that the United States may not conduct a war without a declaration by Congress. On the other hand, Presidents are given control of foreign policy and the conduct of wars, which are potentially powerful tools for getting themselves re-elected. Presidents of either political party may therefore be tempted to arrange wars while waving the flag and calling the wars something else — “police actions,” “armed incursions,” “protective reaction strikes,” “pacification,” “safeguarding American interests,” and a wide variety of “operations,” such as “Operation Just Cause.” Euphemisms for war are one of a broad class of reinventions of language for political purposes. Talleyrand said, “An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public”)

Like all tools, the baloney detection kit can be misused, applied out of context, or even employed as a rote alternative to thinking. But applied judiciously, it can make all the difference in the world — not least in evaluating our own arguments before we present them to others.”

 

“Equality” – An Evil Definition

What qualities are we trying to “E?”  Who decides “equal?”  How does anyone improve the qualities of another person?

When a political party adds a word to their platform, shouldn’t they define it?  Does anyone believe our human race was advanced and improved by denying the qualities that surpassed “normal” or “average?”

I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere who can or will say exactly what they mean by “equal,” or how “equality” will be achieved.

If fostering equality means reducing those who excel by taxation or regulation, what will that accomplish for the “unequals?”

What politicians are ready to point at individual citizens and say, “You are unequal, you are above equal, you are exactly equal.”?

Am I supposed to be so ignorant that I do not interpret this criminalization of success as a naked call for federal government stripping resources from those with money to finance distributions of resources to those who are “below equal.”?  Do I want to live in a communist society where everything is artificial, and nothing works?  No.

Millions of people have risked life and limb to get to the place where they are unencumbered by lack of opportunity – the USA.  They are here to improve their chances for a better life for themselves and their children.  They see that here they have a chance that their efforts will pay off.  Do they require a perfect environment?  Do they insist that the government remove the obstacles to their accomplishments?  No.

Oh, and by the way, where is the campaign for GLOBAL equality?  (Silence)  Hmmm, so giving up what we have that exceeds what other people have in other parts of the world is different.  Hypocritical at best.

Kurt Vonnegut was prescient in a short story he wrote in 1961, (just as George Orwell was in 1944 when he published “Animal Farm.”)

Read what he wrote.

 <HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  1961

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though.  April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime.  And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.  And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.  He was required by law to wear it at all times.  It was tuned to a government transmitter.  Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television.  There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head.  His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious.

“All the things they think up.”  “Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers.

“If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck.

“Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, ” then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

“Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake. George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune.

“My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head. When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people.

“Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.  She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.

“Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again.

“You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.  “What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”>

 

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.

The Revolution Is Here – Take It To Heart

In every revolution, the “intelligentsia,”are swept aside.  They represent an entrenched notion of superiority and upper class that would keep change within their purview for ever. They call anyone who is not aligned with them “ignorant.”

But Americans have developed a different model of “knowing” called “trending.”

Ignorance is what?  What does a person have to “know” to rise above ignorance? Over the past six decades, we Americans have gradually diluted and “re-purposed”public education to reveal a new role for our schools:  Day Care and fail-proof graduation.

BTW:  What we don’t know, we can, like, Google, right?  Like, the internet is a great source, right?  And, like, almost better than rumors.  And Twitter, hey.  Right?  It is not only right; it is right now!  Who needs to be smart when they have smart PHONES;)

Each generation allowed to drift away from personal responsibility and thoughtful challenge dims our future, and insults our past.  Then the child become the parent, their children become parents, ad nauseum.  There is a saying, “Wisdom comes with age.”  But apparently, sometimes, age comes alone.

What has come of the devaluation of deep education, and elimination of critical thinking/learning skills?  Is it fair to castigate an electorate that has been hoodwinked into accepting whatever their equally educated associates and self-proclaimed leaders tell them?

What do we expect from uber-indulged offspring, un-chaffed by the requirements of self-reliance?  Why should we be surprised when 4th generation union laborers cry out in pain when their family traditions leave them without a clue or a paycheck?

We find ourselves in 2016, after wrenching damage to our smug image of ourselves as Americans with unlimited potential, who need only show up to garner success.  The wounds inflicted by 9/11 are still with us after 15 years of missteps in response.  We have tried to deny the damage; we have launched counterattacks on the phantoms of suicide using oceans of borrowed money to fund distant wars with professional warriors; we have salved our pain with money borrowed to buy homes and the trappings of wealth against a mirage of future prosperity; we drowned in the aftermath of deluded excess; we barely made our way back to the shores of reason and a semblance of recovery.

Now, we use deceitful yardsticks to measure our return to Camelot.  Empty words like “employment” when a person finally finds a job at 60% of their former pay.

We make false implications like “college education” when a barely literate and numerate high school “graduate” borrows the price of a new home to learn to read, write, and use a computer; then, the search for work that will pay the student loans, while the “college graduate,” either stays in the family basement, or shares desperate apartment space with like-indentured contemporaries.

When I say “we,” I mean our shackled culture.  We have been fooled into believing what we are told, minding our “political correctness,” and allowing mobs to control our justice system when, the results do not satisfy them.  We have allowed loud minorities of no more than 3-5% of our population to direct our legislatures and judiciaries to give them control and sanctions over the rest of our society.  We have succumbed to the notion that Americans have to allow others to flaunt our laws, treaties, and alliances because we should never stand firm, confront evil, or fight dirty.

The idealized America of the past was pretty hard-nosed, and seldom a patsy for, “that’s not NICE.”  Our heroes were tough guys who would not stand for threats or false promises.  Somehow we believe we are still tough when we are just the opposite.

The social organizers, the media and professional politicians have informally colluded to keep Americans in their recliners, consumers of what they conjure, passive observers of life in America.

But we all have our limits, and when those limits are breached, we get up and fight the bullies who have tried to keep us under control with their well-honed rules.  Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are appealing to the Americans who have suffered and who see not relief, but more suffering.  They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it anymore.

Even if these gladiators are martyred by “the System,” they have awakened those who have let things go too long.  These revolutionaries will not accept sophisticated “ideas” or convoluted promises; they want palpable relief.  They want to push the buttons, and pull the levers, and see results that make a difference.

A Business Owner’s Response To Obamacare

What a great time to load more burdens on business.  Just as the US economy has leveled off from its scary decline, the federal government has chosen to add regulations and taxes relating to health care insurance to the choice of whether to hire or keep an employee.

I suggest that now is the perfect time to deal with this extra cost head-on with a new concept of employment compensation:  Total Compensation Agreements.  That’s right, fire all your employees and rehire them under TCA’s.  A Total Compensation Agreement would put a number on the total amount the employer will pay for the services of an employee.  If the number is $75,000, then that amount would be allocated among the employer’s costs related to the employee; what was left would be their paycheck.

We are fortunate to live in the age of computers that can calculate how this would work out.  For example, if the employee’s health insurance is $25,000 for a family of 4, the program would subtract that amount from the $75,000 leaving $50,000; if the employer’s cost of  FICA, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, etc., was $5,000, that would be subtracted from the $50,000 leaving $45,000; if the employee’s withholding and FICA was $7,500, that would leave take home pay of $37,500.  That is it.

If the business cannot afford to pay more than $75,000 for this employee’s services, or the employee cannot afford to live on $37,500, then no job.

The TCA structure would eliminate all minimum wage employees, and almost all less skilled workers from consideration.  Only those people whose productivity and lifestyle matched the profile would be employed.  Already, many business have found that redesigning their business model to use technology and fewer people makes sense.

What else can a business owner do?  It is either this approach or failure as a business.  Do the numbers.

So far, the only thing a business owner does not have to do is stay in business.

A Long Close Look In an Honest Mirror – Self-Deception, Fear, Blame, Righteousness, and What Is So

I could examine how I think, believe, choose, and behave every day; but I do not.  I have many opportunities, occasions and reminders that I control my life choices, responsibilities, and results; New Year’s Day is one of those annual openings to reflect; this is a great time to examine the mirrors I use to see the world, others, and myself.

Have I been using my “Snow White Wicked Queen’s Mirror?” – I can hear the echoes of my version of “Who Is the Fairest of Them All?”

What do I see in my “Fun House Mirror?” – I find exaggerations, along the lines of “Does This Make Me Look Fat?”

Do I find myself driving with trepidation, eyes glued to my “Rear View Mirror?” – Do I doubt myself with a self-recriminating, “And, How Has That Worked Out For You?”

How often do I view, blame, and judge others through my “Two-Way Mirror?” – I find safety and superiority in many versions of, “Guilty, Undeserving Suspects in the Line-up?”

Could it be the right time to dust off my “Honest Mirror?” – Am I ready to ask myself:

  •  Do I feel driven to be attractive enough, good enough, careful enough, superior enough?
  • Do I??
  • Do I need these things to take and find joy in my life?
  • Am I in a beauty contest?
  • What is the prize?
  • Am I in a life or death talent show?
  • Can I ever win?
  • Am I what I fear from my past?
  • Who am I?
  • Are There Really Monsters Under My Bed?
  • Am I afraid to wake up, get up, and turn on the lights?

In my Honest Mirror I expect to find some answers, some chagrin, and once again another year of smiles.