Not Cease from Exploration

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Road Apples, #169

Eye Freckle...In the "news of the weird" department, my annual trip to the eye doctor's office yielded the fact that I apparently have what is commonly (well for something relatively uncommon) known as an "eye freckle".  The technical name is a "choroidal nevus".  I knew something was up when, during the "shine a bright light into your eye" phase of the exam I kept seeing this purple pill-ish looking thing floating in front of my left eye.  Apparently it's nothing to worry about, provided that it doesn't turn into eyeball cancer on me.  My wife warned me that, if horribly this does turn into eyeball cancer, I eventually have to get a glass replacement eye.  I would have gone strictly for the patch.  Kicking it Moshe Dayan style.

On a related note, I really dislike wearing sunglasses.  I find them to be annoying and uncomfortable.  Yet, given the eye freckle, I really do need to engage in some better eye care, especially from the sun.  To that end, I actually broke down and bought a good pair of sunglasses.  Now to see if I actually wear them.

Speaking of the Eye Doctor...I am supposed to go every year, which I do mind you, but the timing is somewhat variable.  This year the impetus was the fact that I stopped wearing my glasses, left them in my truck for a week or so when it was 90+ degrees outside (and hotter inside the truck) and effectively baked the lenses.  The odd thing is that I can go without wearing them as much as I like; I do see better with glasses, especially at night, but I can muddle by without  them.  Anyway, new glasses have been ordered, and this time I have to remember not to bake them in the truck.

Donald Trump...by some accounts, is polling at 1% in the African American community.  That may sound bad, but I can make it worse:  Mitt Romney, quite possibly the whitest American alive, got something like 5% of the African American vote in 2012 (source HERE).  Let that sink in for a moment.

Hillary Clinton...I was talking to a colleague about Hillary Clinton's speaking style the other day.  Now I think I am a fairly good public speaker.  Certainly not up to Presidential standards, but pretty good.  By virtue of that, I feel like I can offer constructive feedback when I hear others speaking.  All of that is window dressing for the following:  Why in the Heck does Hillary Clinton basically engage in monotone yelling when she speaks at rallies, etc?  It's like fingernails across a chalk board.  I know that Ms Clinton can speak well; if you doubt me, just what her hours long performance in front of Congress a few months ago.  Simply brilliant.  On the stump?  Not so much.

A-Fib and Energy Drinks...I came across this a week or so ago:  Energy Drinks & Heart Problems.  The more I read about this stuff, the more convinced I am that my sudden heart issues earlier this year were mostly the result of poor sleep and the consumption of energy drinks (you know, because I didn't sleep so well).  Needless to say, I don't touch the stuff now, although I do worry about generations of younger folks who are growing up drinking Red Bull and Monster drinks.

Kathleen Kane...is now a convicted felon and former Pennsylvania Attorney General.  I'm not the most connected person in the world, especially when it comes to politics, but I did get the impression very early on in Ms Kane's initial campaign for AG that she's difficult to work with; to that you can also add "vindictive" as well.  This is the part where I'm supposed to say "...she came so far, how could she have fallen so fast?" or something like that, but I won't.  Instead I'll simply note that former AG Kane is a great example of just how toxic of a force ego can be in our lives.  Maybe she'll have some time to check out Eckhart Tolle while she's in prison.

Religion and Class...I found this on the intra-webs the other week.  Seems to at least partially make sense to me.

Maybe it's not the intention of religion, and I am not anti-religion by the way, but I think religion has been used as a kind of governing agent for centuries.



 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Not Made For These Times

The obituary of a local young lady who died as a result of mental health issues has been getting national press, including an article in the Washington Post (you can read it HERE).  Read it at your own peril, as it's about as difficult a story you will come across these days, which says a lot.

I read it over a week ago, by the way; well I didn't really read it in as much as I just skimmed over it.  A kind of cursory review that we all do when faced with something we know to be uncomfortable but yet required.  I still haven't read the entire obituary.  At best I did read the Post article.

I'll not claim some degree of discomfort or pain at this story, as that does an injustice to the suffering of this young lady's family.  I will claim though having had people in my family suffer from some very severe mental health issues.  I will claim more than a few visitor trips to in-patient mental health facilities.  If anything, this story hits me in a difficult spot precisely because of those memories (and other related experiences) that I have instinctively learned to think about in the most detached manner possible.  That's my self-defense mechanism at work, a tawdry excuse itself for coping, long ago over-taxed.

I don't know what I would say to this family if I were to see them (again...I knew them from church, many years ago).  Words, especially your own, can be so hard to come by in times like this.  Was does come by is a certain song that would occasionally pop into my head, back many years ago when I faced some of these issues more directly.


Back then, as I desperately searched for some kind of logical explanation for that which is, by its very definition illogical (mental illness), I inevitably came to the conclusion that some folks simply aren't made for these times.  It's a insightful sentiment coming from a songwriter (Brian Wilson) who himself suffered from many challenges.  That's one of the beautiful things about music by the way:  It  has this wonderful way of giving voice to something that is very difficult to explain otherwise.

"I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" is the musical, mental picture in my head of those who suffer.  For myself, I had a different mental soundtrack song pinging through my head.


For the record, I don't have blue eyes.

Rest in Peace young lady.





Sunday, August 14, 2016

Difficult Questions for a Difficult Age - Biblical Authority and Hillary Clinton

I do wonder, from time to time, whether or not some conservative Republicans (of the religious type) actually object to Hillary Clinton's candidacy for President on grounds that have nothing to do with policy and her seeming ability to be malleable with the truth.  Granted, I don't consider myself to be a big fan of the former Secretary of State, but given the two major party choices for President, she's got my vote.  Anyway, and back to religious objections to Hillary Clinton, I think the central issue for some folks is the very basic idea that she is a woman who would hold authority over men.
 
In support of the above, I offer the following sample of Bible verses:

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."
(1 Timothy 2:  11-15)

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands."
(Ephesians 5:  22-24)

"The women should keep silent in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they deserve to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
(1 Corinthians 4: 34-35)

I could go on, but the point is made.  It's actually pretty frightening when you think about it.  Islam, for example, gets a fair amount of grief over the treatment of women (a tactic Donald Trump disastrously tried to use against the Khan family; citation HERE), yet the Christian Bible is full of language that seems far out of step with reality.  Maybe that's the point, by the way, namely that the Bible paints a reality that is supposed to be not of this world.

Deep ponderings concerning the nature of sacred scripture aside for a moment, my point is this:  Some conservative Christians in this country will not vote for any woman to hold an office such as that of President.  Let that sink in for a moment or three.  A related and interesting question is this:  Why aren't more religious conservatives more overt about this basic objection?  Could it be that even they realize how toxic of stand this would be, especially given the large percentage of the voting population that doesn't subscribe to the notion of women as being best for "silence, subservience and baby-making"?

Taking this to a deeper level and noting the rise of "religious freedom" laws, what if some folks actually claim that they have a right to disobey any laws created and/or signed by a female President?

Difficult questions for a difficult age.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Melania Trump

Melania Trump is not running for President.  Arguably, she is a public person, but she isn't the one seeking elected office.  As I've written here numerous times before, I strongly believe that the family members of elected officials...and those who desire to be elected officials...need to be exempt from the very public scrutiny that befalls those in (and those seeking) public office.

It was true with Barbara Bush, and the myriad of negative comments directed towards her.  And her granddaughters, the children of George W. Bush.  And Chelsea Clinton (when drug addict Rush Limbaugh mocked her appearance on a national television show) as well.

I've seen numerous stories about Ms. Trump's biography, her immigration status, and the like.  I also understand the desire to paint her husband as a hypocrite on the issue of immigration.  But Melania Trump didn't ask to run for office.  I am sure that with Donald Trump's wealth and influence, she has received many forms of privilege, but that's an all too common perk of being wealthy in this country, regardless of political affiliation.  At best criticize his actions, but not hers.  This goes, especially so, for her former modeling career.

Was it fair to criticize her speech at the Republican National Convention?  Sure, because that was her speech.  She put herself out there, and with that, she opened herself up to the feedback that goes with taking that kind of chance.  Fair enough.  But this is far different than the notion of "attack via association" that's going on now.

By all means, let it rip against Donald Trump, even to the point of noting that he changes wives like some change cars (trading them in for a newer model every few years).  Criticizing Melania Trump just because she happens to be wife #3 for "The Donald"?  That's simply wrong.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Meet Me In Atlantic City

A relatively last minute (understand that, by my standards, "last minute" can mean only a month of advanced planning) trip to Atlantic City was had by my wife and I this past week.  Why Atlantic City?  Well, I think I've written about this before, but I have this odd connection to "AC".  As a child growing up in a rather modest setting financially, we really didn't go on all that many vacations.  In fact, I think where only two that I can recall, both to Atlantic City (BG:  Before Gambling).  The AC of those days was a dingy but big beach town, kind of like Ocean City, MD, if it were older and more decayed.  Never the less, those were my childhood vacations, and the fond memories are there, complete with rushing to the ocean with my three brothers for that first toe into the salt water.

My wife, on the other hand, also has a something of a connection to the AC area.  Her early years were spent with her family on a religious mission to the Dominican Republic.  When that ended, the transition housing back to the United States was in Ventnor City, NJ.  She tells me that it was there where she learned how to ride a bike.

Both locations, namely the hotel where we stayed as a kid, and the transitional housing, are still standing.
The Sun 'n Sand Motel, back in the 1950's.  I actually own this postcard.  In fact, I bought all of the old postcards I could find on eBay and turned two into a Christmas gift for my older brother Richard.  Unlike what the postcard shows, the hotel didn't actually have a beach view.  There's also some poetic license at work with building's exterior design.


The same building, still standing, in Atlantic City, found during a morning bicycle ride. 

After a little bit of time searching with Google, we also found the transitional housing my wife (and her family) stayed in Ventnor City.  I don't have a "before", but here is a "now" view.

Interestingly enough, many houses in that area, such as the one immediately to the left of this photo, are in the process of being raised off of the ground.

Outside of the history searching, we spent our time walking, eating good food, and enjoying the beach (for all of about two hours, as it as despicably hot outside).  We also gambled a total of $35 on the slot machines, losing it all.  For the record, I don't understand how they work or what constitutes winning.  I also can't conceive of the allure behind gambling.  

Atlantic City is also a very interesting study in the failings of urban renewal, especially when that renewal is predicated boosting one specific industry (gambling) that offers little in the way of trickle-down economics to the masses.

Casino Scape:  The Revel Casino, completely empty (big blue building).  Note the vacant lots.

Urban  Renewal, AC 2016:  Mainly focused on tearing things down.  There are many, many empty lots in the city.

We stayed at the Claridge Hotel, next to Bally's.  It's still got that "old AC" vibe that I remember from my childhood days.

Day.

Night.

All told, it was a nice getaway, and my desire to relive a part of my childhood has once again been satisfied.  For now.






Sunday, July 24, 2016

And so it begins with demonizing "them".

It's the trick of despots and dictators alike:  Ginning up a fear and hatred for "them" in order to garner power for themselves.  Put another way, it's creating a need and then offering the sole solution, all in one neat little package.

Look, I get being opposed to "him" or "her"; these people, whoever they are, have names, faces, decisions, records, and actions that can be criticized.  That's fair game, especially in the arena of politics.  Even better is the fact that the accusers can themselves be judged based on the quality of their arguments and how they respond to any push-back they receive from their targets.  It's this kind of give-and-take that I think helps people make better decisions.

All possible value from a give-and-take process falls by the wayside when the target is some nameless, faceless group of people that just don't happen to look or act like us.  Then it becomes simply fear-mongering.  Then it becomes dangerous.



I get it:  Hillary Clinton is a liar.  I don't doubt that actually.  What she isn't doing though is demonizing entire groups and, for example, calling for a religious test for immigrants.  A religious test that, under a possible President Trump, would be applied to Muslims, but in the future could be applied against any other religious group.  What she isn't calling for is the construction of a Berlin Wall on our southern border (a wall which Mexico will never pay for, by the way).  If my choice is the fear-mongering proto-despot or the serial liar, I'll pick the least dangerous of the two, namely the liar.  At worst the United States will not be any better under a President Clinton.  Under a President Trump?  Our very soul as a nation is at stake.

In the end, if you choose to vote for Donald Trump, just do so knowing that your candidate enjoys pointing fingers at, and demonizing the nameless and the faceless, principally because they can't fight back.  Those are the actions of a coward.  He also enjoys scaring you into voting for him.  Don't take the bait.  Don't vote for Trump.  If Hillary Clinton turns your stomach, vote for Gary Johnson.



Friday, July 22, 2016

A Picture That Says It All

They say that a "picture paints a thousand words", well if that's true, then all you need to understand the state of the (former) Republican Party is the following:


Would Ronald Reagan have been found standing in front of a giant sign that said "Reagan"?

This is what the GOP has become:  Another platform for one man to engage in self-glorification.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Storm is Coming (for Republicans)

The past, present and future of the GOP, all in one posting.

Enter the Gipper
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States.  Love him or hate him, he was elected.  There was much wailing and mashing teeth among Democrats, but the man remained popular throughout his presidency.  He was also, at least by modern day Republican standards, fairly moderate:  He worked with Democrats in Congress (including the legendary Tip O'Neill), supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, and he campaigned with a more or less positive message.  I don't consider myself a fan of the late President Reagan, but contrary to current practices of both parties, it's possible to disagree with someone's politics without demonizing them in the process.

The Hand-off & Fumble
After two terms, President Reagan had to ride into the sunset.  His heir apparent, George H. W. Bush, was elected President in 1988 and served just one term in office.  This is where I think the train went off the tracks.  You see, it wasn't supposed to end that way for national Republicans.  The Reagan-Bush years where supposed to last, maybe forever.  It just didn't happen.  Making it far worse?  The fact that the Reagan-Bush legacy was up-ended by a man who many Republicans loathed as being nothing more than a hillbilly JFK:  Bill Clinton.  George H. W. Bush may have been denied a second term in office, but national Republicans would have their revenge and oust the upstart hillbilly.  While national Democrats may have looked on Ronald Reagan as being nothing more than a hack actor who had a mind (and policy agenda) in lock-step with the 1950's, there never seemed to be a need to beat him at all costs.  They were, instead, content with nibbling at him from the edges (Iran-Contra, Anne Gorsuch Burford, etc.).  With national Republicans, it was outright war against Bill Clinton.  The problem was that they failed, miserably, I might add.

Yes, despite despite investigations and whisper campaigns, atrocious right-wing talk radio attacks, and plenty of self-inflicted wounds, Bill Clinton was simply better than his Republican foes.  The fact that he beat them, and ended the Reagan-Bush dynasty is, in my estimation, what brings us today.

On-Going Fouls
Being beaten by Bill Clinton was simply too much for national Republicans.  That failure brought the party onto a trajectory that landed this year with candidate Donald Trump.  In failing to beat Bill Clinton, the national GOP pumped it's grass roots full of vitriolic steroids, instilling a hatred of all things government and counter to hard right conservatism that even surpassed what Ronald Reagan ever envisioned.  The whisper campaigns test driven on Bill Clinton (remember when Hillary Clinton was both a lesbian and having an affair with Vince Foster?), fine-tuned on Michael Dukakis and perfected by Karl Rove (sometimes against fellow Republicans, such as actual war hero John McCain), became part in parcel of the political process.

End Game
What national Republicans created in all of this was a monster they just simply could never control.  It's painfully ironic in a way:  They campaigned against an "evil federal government" from the seat of the federal government, never stopping for a moment to believe that they might in fact get caught in their own political backwash.  National Republicans don't want to admit this, but they are just as much a part of "the system" as the Democrats they seem to loathe.  It's not just me who thinks this by the way...you can add in millions who voted for Donald Trump (against far more conservative challengers, such as Rafael Cruz).

* * * * * *

This doesn't end well for Republicans.  It simply can't.  Even if they win the Presidency, they've already lost their dream of a national Republican majority.  Donald Trump is a lot of things...most of them evil in my estimation...but one thing he's not is beholden to the national Republican party.  His tormenting of the party during the primaries is proof of that point.  His winning in November though seems (hopefully) unlikely.  Assuming he loses, there will be a day of reckoning for those members of the national GOP that supported him...they know this by the way, which explains the many hedging of endorsement bets by the likes of Speaker Paul Ryan and others.

Mark my words:  No matter what happens in November, a storm is coming for the Republican party.



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Best Rush Limbaugh Quote, Ever (& Added Bonus)

I stumbled upon this quote the other day, and it's stayed with me, so it's time to share.

(from THIS site)

In a related...and more serious...note, I highly recommend THIS column by Michael Smerconish:  Are The Voters Really Mad As Hell?  A thoughtful look at how we got in this horrid political place in 2016.  My favorite quote from the article?

"Business motives drive the titans of talk. They aim to maximize revenue from advertising, which requires the attraction of computer clicks, ears, and eyeballs. That goal, in turn, necessitates producing an authentic, stimulating product. The more passion provoked by hosts, the better their shot of capturing and maintaining an audience.
Bold, assertive, controversial content achieves this goal far better than thorough, nuanced, paragraph-long explanations. This incentive explains why the content on talk radio and cable television news has long been a precursor to the provocative language of the stump speeches of Donald Trump and one of his final GOP challengers, Ted Cruz."
Talk radio...as in Limbaugh, Savage and others on the hard right...has NEVER been about informing, educating, or even thoughtful advocacy; no, it's all about business, as in earning revenue through a constant stream of bitter sound bite mental candy to people so that they will buy stuff from advertisers.  It becomes a kind of bizarre mental arms race into the gutter, feeding conspiracy and fostering an attitude of "it's the fault of _________ you are not getting ahead", where the blank could be filled by everything from ACORN to Obama to Black Lives Matter to fluoride in drinking water, all in the name of increasing advertising revenues.  Who needs a thought provoking discussion when you can simply point fingers and call names?

For the record, having listened to Limbaugh over the years (from time to time) and having read some of his work, I'm reasonably convinced that even he doesn't believe half the stuff he says, but he does know how to generate ad revenue.  Hillbilly heroin abuse may have destroyed his hearing, but it's done nothing to dull his keen business sense.

  




Friday, July 8, 2016

Shootings

It all boils down to this:  American society glorifies violence...culturally we somehow believe that problems can best be solved by solutions that inflict harm on others.  With that in mind, are the events of these past few weeks truly all that shocking?  

The solution to violence is never more violence, despite what politicians, talk show hosts and movie markers tell us through their constant verbal and visual assaults.  Nothing...and I mean NOTHING...in this country will change until we begin to see our problems as being rooted in the basic notion that might does not in fact make right.

We need dialogue and respect for everyone, ESPECIALLY those we disagree with.  We need less vengeance.  We need more compassion.  An "eye for an eye" simply leaves everyone blind in the end...a lesson playing out right in front of our very own eyes.