Heading out

Never mind how old I am, but suffice it to say I’m quite a bit older than you.  And having lived in two counties next door to each other for all that time (except for my college years), I believe it’s safe to say I know this area. 


I remember the days when it was far simpler and easier to get around than today; when it was much less diverse; when the biggest shopping centers in the region first opened and the major highways were built; I remember the old hobby shops and Mom & Pop places that were here, long before the ethnic places popped up all over, established by many who fled Vietnam and settled here after the war was over.  Signs on the store fronts were never anything but in English, and now they’re in at least two additional ones. The landscape is changed, some for the better and some for the worse.


I recall several events that took place years ago which few in this area even know about, like a double murder in a house not far from here where a man and his girlfriend were shot in their garage back in the 70s. The people who own that house today would have no idea the place where they park each evening was where the lives of two souls ended.  In another place a couple miles from there, a well known community activist was gunned down in a strip mall as he backed his car out of a space.  That was 1967, and those who shop in that strip mall today don’t know that they’re walking where a man died there on the asphalt so many years ago.


My high school has been totally revamped in recent years, as has my elementary and “junior high” school—otherwise known today as “middle school.”  The neighborhood I grew up in has changed, with some streets modified and homes having additions, or razed and replaced entirely.  But I remember summer nights on that street, flashlight tag, and firecrackers.


I have a lot of memories here, knew a lot of people, some of whom have since died.


But my wife and I will be moving to another state in less than a week, to a place over 550 miles away.  We don’t know anyone there, though. Our kids will not follow, as one’s in the Army now and the other has a career and husband here.  I’ll have no school memories there, no recollections of old neighborhoods, or stores, or lakes, or parks I spent time at as a kid.  No knowledge of local lore, local stories.   We won’t be from around there; We’re from around here.  But I swore to myself, long ago, that I would not spend my whole life in a single community, or town, or region; that I would spend a portion of my life in another place, having another view out the window, seeing a new terrain, following a different NFL team (even if secretly pulling for our old one), making different turns toward home down different streets, and having to establish new relationships with people from another state—most of whom will know immediately that we’re new in town.


I’m looking forward to it.  The pace will be slower, the prices lower, the living easier.  Now all I need is a long enough life to make it worth the wait.  But even if I’m not granted that, I gotta get out of this place.  See you on the other side.

It can always get worse

Next time you think your life is running off the rails, remember this story I just read and thank God your situation is not as bad as it could be.  This story is actually from 2012, but was a link off a link:


A California man and his wife, both in their 60s, decided it was time to retire and take their ease for as many days as they have left.  He’s an artist—an impressionist painter, in fact.  They’re planning to live out their lives together in Napa, growing old and taking care of each other in their latter years.  Maybe do some traveling...seeing the world.  It’s a good life.


Before the day comes when they can begin doing so, she is diagnosed with cancer.  In short order, she dies.  Devastated, he wonders how he’ll ever enjoy another sunrise without her—the woman he has loved for decades and raised children with.


But just a month after her sudden passing, long before he can begin to get a handle on what the future might hold for him, he gets word of yet another tragedy: his 37 year old daughter—who is a mother herself, with three children under 5 years old—has been stabbed to death by her husband during a domestic dispute. 


So on the heels of his wife’s funeral, he must arrange for his daughter’s, plus look forward to the murder trial of his son-in-law, whom he has now come to loath after having thought the world of him.  The killer is given 25 to life.  He prepares a victim impact statement to read to the court at the killer’s sentencing.


And he is shown at home, left alone at 66, holding his daughter’s three children—18 months, 3 years, and 5 years.  And it all changed in a matter of a few months.


And you say someone is difficult in your life, or you are frustrated about something, or can’t figure out what your girlfriend or boyfriend is all about?  Is that all?

Eight vs the rest of the world

According to the latest calculation, eight people—mostly American billionaires--control as much wealth as half of the rest of the world, which is about 3.5 billion people.  This, according to many, just should not be.  It’s unfair in the extreme.  So let’s take a look at it for a moment.


This wealth is a couple hundred billion dollars, all told.  Let’s call it, for discussion sake, $300 billion.  And eight people own it.  So instead, let’s redistribute this money—equally, of course--to those whose wealth is collectively the same as theirs.  $300 billion, if owned equally by 3.5 billion people, would amount to about $85 per person.  Now, $85, for some of the poorest people, would be enough for months of food.  And once that food was eaten, they'd be back to square one—poor and hungry as ever.  For many of the others, $85 would allow them to buy a pair of shoes, go to a doctor, get a goat, whatever.  Their lives would also be affected briefly, and then it would go back to pretty much the same thing—grinding poverty.


Here’s what’s missing in this: the people who own this wealth now aren’t just using it up for daily expenses and immediate needs.  They are investing it, setting up charitable foundations, building ever-expanding enterprises that employ people, etc.  In other words, they are using it to do things which will result in more good being done for many other people for generations. You might think of it as a kind of “critical mass.”  If there’s insufficient quantities of uranium (or money in this case), you can’t get a chain reaction going.  Nothing is going to get off the ground.  But if enough is on hand, something useful can be created.


We’ve all seen examples of the contrast between poor people getting a sudden influx of cash, and those who, through hard work and enterprise, build a fortune.  Lottery winners often spend their winnings in a matter of a few years and end up dead or broke because they can’t handle the money responsibly.  Meanwhile, the one who builds a fortune passes that fortune on to generations to follow, and the employment and wealth increases to many.  Look at what Bill Gates is doing with his $70 billion: is he buying houses and cars for all his friends?  Paying off the credit card debt of everyone in the nation?  No.  He’s helping cure diseases across the world.  Other super wealthy are expanding their businesses to benefit thousands of people who, in turn, are able to help still others through the station in life they’ve achieved.


It’s easy to say “life isn’t fair” and condemn the “inequality” around us.  That’s what Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were all about.  But more overall good is done—and for periods lasting far longer—when wealth is intelligently controlled by those who can employ it wisely.  Tossing it out to anyone who can catch a few dollars, while it may feel good to do it, just ends up evaporating it into thin air.  But there will always be those who call for that.

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It used to be, back in the days of “cowboy justice”, that someone suspected of being a horse thief, or messing with someone’s unwilling teenage daughter, or helping himself to a bag of feed from someone’s cart, was about 90% guilty just from the accusation.  What we in the modern age would call a “proper trial” on the charges was far less common.  Evidence was often sketchy by today’s standards, and the “defense” lawyer—even if he was sober—was not exactly F. Lee Bailey. 


The townspeople might form a lynch mob and demand that this fellow get his just desserts, which he sometimes did, without even the benefit of a trial.  We’ve all seen the movie where some nefarious stranger is suspected of being the one who shot old lady Smith and is hung by an angry crowd, then they discover the real killer was someone else they never suspected--after the poor dude they thought was guilty was already dead.


Today, of course, we’ve gone too far the other way, in some cases.  It’s getting harder to convict someone because clever lawyers argue ridiculous defenses, from attributing the crime to the defendant’s childhood traumas, to their lack of “intent” to do wrong, to the famous “twinkie defense”, to God knows what else.  Getting 12 jurors to agree on even what day it is has become a task in itself.  Photo “evidence” can be created with digital technology, videotape of a crime can be thrown out by a judge because of legal theories of privacy rights, and “fruit of the poison tree” arguments (meaning clear evidence of guilt must be discarded because the proper police procedures in obtaining it weren’t followed to the letter) all contribute to a legal system that, in many cases, results in dangerous people being put back on the streets.  I’m all for protecting a defendant’s civil rights, but sometimes a jury is instructed by a judge to buy arguments that are ludicrous and to ignore what their own eyes tell them is true.


Anyhow, all that to say this: The big story right now is Russia and their apparent “interference” in the presidential election.  What we have been told, so far, is that Russian computer experts (with presumed instructions from the Kremlin) got access to the emails of DNC officials, including Clinton campaign manager John Podesta (whose password to his email system was PASSWORD). 


What we don’t yet know is what they did with those emails, if anything.  True, many of Podesta’s emails—and those of others--ended up being widely published by Wikileaks, to the great joy of Hillary detractors and the utter horror of her supporters.  But just because I have your phone number doesn’t mean that someone who is believed to have purloined it gave it to me.


But even that’s not the real problem with proving this accusation.  The issue is whether or not the hacking of the emails, which we know took place, actually had a demonstrable effect on the election’s outcome.  Those are dots that have a lot of space between them.  No one has yet shown evidence that 1) Russia gave their trove of emails to anyone; 2) that, if they did, it was Wikileaks who received them from Russia; and 3) that the publishing of the material by Wikileaks was the cause—or even a factor—in Hillary’s stunning loss.  One must prove A led to B which led to C.


As an interesting contrast, the millions of dollars contributed to the Clinton Foundation by foreign interests are suspected by many to have influenced Secretary Clinton’s willingness to play ball with those parties.  It’s called political corruption: you pay, you play.  But her defenders claim there’s “no ‘there’ there.”  No proof, so no foul.  The FBI was—and may still be—looking into it.


We’re not doing “cowboy justice” here.  We’ve evolved a bit beyond that today.  Suspicion is one thing.  But the media is making it sound like Hillary’s defeat was directly orchestrated by Russia.  That’s a bridge too far with what we know at this point.  As to the FBI’s investigation, stand by for any breaking news.  Same with Russia.

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We're all racists now

You’ve seen, I’m sure, the post-election map showing “red” and “blue” areas of the nation.  The red is where Trump voters prevailed, the blue where Clinton voters prevailed.  As a general color scheme, you could say America looks to be a red place with some blue highlights. Certainly from a sufficiently high altitude, the proverbial “man from Mars” passing by Earth might see that we appear to be a red nation.

Now, let’s set aside for a moment what those colors actually represent—the predominant political leanings of the populations in those areas, and let’s also set aside the greater numbers of people living in those pockets where blue prevails.  (As you know, the heaviest concentrations of people are on the coasts and in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.  The result was, of course, that Clinton’s raw numbers were greater by nearly 2 million.)

Let’s instead pretend—just as a thought experiment--that the red represents the areas of the country where the Confederate flag is displayed on 50% + 1 of the homes (the majority, in other words), and the blue represents those areas where the flag is on fewer than 50% of homes.

If that were the map’s meaning instead of voting results, what conclusion would you reach about America?  Would you say, based on colors, that America was a “racist” nation?  Or would you instead say that we are NOT a racist nation because, for a larger number of people, the Confederate flag does not predominate?  I suspect most would call such a map proof of America’s “racism.” 

In other words, if all it took to conclude that America has prevailing “racist” sentiments was for just over half of a select population (that is already 2 million fewer than the others) to display the Confederate flag, then why are so many people unwilling to conclude that Trump’s win—which is based on the very same calculations--doesn’t and shouldn’t represent America’s political preferences?  If the 2 million vote difference in favor of Hillary means America does not prefer Trump, then why wouldn’t the same numbers—if they represented Confederate flag fans—mean we’re not a racist nation?


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