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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Update (of a sort)

(on the road to somewhere)

I have been hard pressed to actually write anything over the past 2+ weeks.  It's not for lack of ideas, as I think of new things to write about all the time.  On the other side of the coin, I really only do this for myself, so it's not as if I have to write.  I could end the blog right now, as so many others have already done with their on-line writing (or even worse, just let it atrophy out of existence).  Like most things related to me though, the answers depend on the questions, and the questions can get mighty complicated.

An added obstacle to writing this posting is actually what I wrote on June 10th.  By most standards, that was a wildly successful posting, in that it got a ton of page views and was shared a number of times in social media.  This puts me in the mental trap of "well, I have to write something even better now".  Maybe now I've finally gotten myself back to the point of not really caring all that much about how many times anything I write is actually viewed.

Anyway, I'm back.  At least for now.  That noted, here are a few things pinging around in my head these days:

Politics - The current president is simply an amplification of everything that's wrong with our nation.  He is the ultimate "ugly American".  There isn't a day that goes by when his very own words (usually via Twitter) don't disgust me.  For someone who claims mighty injustice over how he is covered by the media, he fails to realize that it's his own words that harm him the most.  As the election gets closer I'll have more to say on this topic.  In the end, the November election won't be about a particular man, but instead it will be about who we are, as a people, at our very core.

COVID-19 - Nothing screams the very worst of Americans than those who loudly complain about having to wear a face mask in public.  Nowhere is this more on display than at your local WalMart.  As someone with a chronic breathing problem...I have asthma (which I developed in my mid-40's)...I am disgusted by the claims of some that they shouldn't have to wear a mask because of a health condition.  Look, if someone genuinely can't go out side wearing a mask then I think they have two choices:
  1. Get and use a high quality, medical grade face shield.
  2. Don't go outside, because clearly they are so frail that they shouldn't be out in public anyway.
The ugly American choice of "well I have the freedom to put others at risk" isn't on the table.  Also, I've seen graphics and read commentary on-line mocking the wearing of masks because doing so "is like trying to stop mosquitos with a chain-link fence".  Another example of American ignorance at its very worst.  For the record, the virus particles expelled by someone are attached to vapor droplets as we exhale/sneeze/cough.  Masks can definitely help stop the spread of those vapor droplets (and by extension the viruses that they contain).  Bottom line?  If you go outside WEAR A DAMN MASK!

At Home - As I work through the mechanics of finding new employment, I'm left with countless projects to complete around the house.  I've already completed quite a few things, including a section of landscaping and working on our front porch.  The easy thing to say is "well you have this time off, so you should be relaxing"...but that's just not me.  I need a lot of mental stimulation, which makes times like this somewhat challenging.  Along with this comes uncertainty, as in when my next professional opportunity will come to light.  I don't especially like uncertainty.  In any event, all stories have endings, including the story of my COVID-19 job search.  Hopefully I am now in the later chapters.

Music - I've listened the Genesis song The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway literally dozens of times over the past few weeks.  It's a kind of hidden treasure of listening.  At first listen your impression might be "yeah, that's okay...the keyboard part is pretty neat...but I don't understand the lyrics".  Listen to it a few times, with really good headphones, and you'll hear...

...the seeming time signature change at the very beginning of the song early version Phil Collins' big drum sound Peter Gabriel seamlessly goes from signing to screaming (and back)
...the very descriptive (of New York City) lyrics
...the fact that it's the bass guitar that's really driving the song

To the final point, Mike Rutherford used a microfret 6 string fuzz bass (more details HERE) on the song.  The bass guitar is simply incredible on this song.  Anyway, enjoy...

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Civil War, Slavery & a Rag

(graphic by me, from an original posting about 10 years ago)

Submitted for the common good, if you go to this link... will find the text of The Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, which is basically a kind of "declaration of independence" for 5 of the southern states that left the Union before the Civil War.  Now I've written posts in the past about my disdain for the filthy rag, also known as the Confederate battle flag, and one of the common retorts I've gotten is that the Civil War was not about slavery, but instead it was really about __________________ (pick'm...economics, states rights, etc.) and the flag is a part of southern heritage.  This document though is a great example of just how flawed that logic actually is in practice.

38 is the number of times that "slavery" is mentioned in the above document.

To quote the section authored by leaders of the state of Mississippi:
"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world." 

"It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction."
("It" is the Federal Union)

And Georgia:
"That reason was her fixed purpose to limit, restrain, and finally abolish slavery in the States where it exists. The South with great unanimity declared her purpose to resist the principle of prohibition to the last extremity."
("Her" is the Federal Union; "principle of prohibition" is the abolishing of slavery) 

And South Carolina:
"The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights..."

And Texas:
"She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."
("She" is Texas)

" perpetuate the amity between the members of the confederacy and to secure the rights of the slave-holding States in their domestic institutions..."
(the "domestic institutions" in question include the right to own other humans)

As an added bonus, you can find the original text of Florida's reasons for seceding HERE.  The term "slave" or "slavery" is mentioned 14 times in the 1388 word document.  From the document:
"Their natural tendency every where shown where the race has existed to idleness vagrancy and crime increased by an inability to procure subsistence. Can any thing be more impudently false than the pretense that this state of things is to be brought about from considerations of humanity to the slaves."
("Their" references slaves themselves)

So yes, the Civil War was about southern rights and economics, most especially the "right" to own other human beings for economic purposes, as noted by Texas "in all future time".

I know people who believe that there is nothing wrong with the Confederate battle flag.  I want to believe that these folks sincerely just don't realize how horrible a symbol that flag is, so I'm hoping that they take some time to ask themselves if they truly support what this flag stood for...including racism, the grave sin of slavery, and treason.  It's not a secret or a coincidence that racist organizations continue to fly this repugnant piece of fabric trash.

(from THIS source)

By the way, some change is finally coming with regard to this symbol of slavery (see HERE).

To the Deniers:
It's your prerogative, I suppose, to disagree with this posting.  There was a point in my life when I believed in some of this nonsense as well.  I got over it though...growing up and experiencing a bit of the world will help do that...and I hope that one day you do too.  Ask yourself why you still support this racist symbol:  Is it out of pride at not wanting to admit you are wrong?  Is it out of some sense of rebellion, a kind of "sticking it to the man", that you must resist what others tell you (even when what they tell you is that slavery and racism are evil)?  At this stage it certainly can't be about your ignorance of history and the facts surrounding the flag.  In the end, life is too short for the intellectual tap dancing (or flat-out denial) required to defend this putrid symbol of systemic evil.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

I Voted (2 weeks ago)

For the second time in my life, I voted by mail.  The first was the general election of 2016 when election day coincided with a vacation in Florida.  Why was this time number two?  The most basic reason is the fact that, as someone with asthma, I just didn't want to run the risk of being with a large group of people for an extended period of time in an enclosed space.  Another reason was basically that I could.

What's important is that I voted.  Period.

Now there has been a lot of noise in social media about voting by mail.  Sadly, I will note, I think part of that noise is simply designed to:

1) Suppress the vote
2) Instill a lack of confidence in our voting system

None of that noise is based in fact.  Voting by mail has not proven to be any less secure than voting in person (citation HERE).  In fact, Pennsylvania's former governor, testifying in court trying to defend a voter ID law (that was struck down), conceded that he, as a former Attorney General for Pennsylvania (and as governor) had not prosecuted a single case of voter fraud by impersonation (citation HERE).  Not a single one.  Voting fraud is exceptionally rare.  What's more, the state of Oregon, which has allowed voting by mail for many years, has not had any significant voter fraud issues.

"if you can wait in line at Walmart, you should be able to wait in line to vote" is one of the gems of (un)wisdom making the social media rounds.  First, comparing the right to vote to buying cat litter at a place where 46% of shoppers are wearing pajamas is a bit of a stretch precisely because one is optional and the other is an obligation.  What's more, I can make a choice about where and when to shop...those choices are really not as available when voting in person, where the polls are only open for a certain period of time on one day and in only one location (for me).

Another bit of twisted logic associated with voting by mail is the fact that some of the loudest voices against it are also some of the individuals who actually do it themselves.  If the concern is that voting by mail is not secure, well, then it is not any more secure if the reason for voting by mail is to cast an absentee ballot?  I know though that hypocrisy is a difficult concept for the dim to grasp.  What's more, if mail is susceptible to fraud, why then do we use it for such high-risk endeavors as sending Social Security checks?  For more information about fraud and voting by mail click HERE.

In the end, we need to look at who would want to discourage voting by mail and why they would be so predisposed.  I suspect that a hard look at this opposition will show us things that we'd prefer not to see, namely the fact that some believe they will win only if others don't vote in large numbers.  That's not how a democracy works by the way.

I am not sure how I will be voting in November's general election.  Part of the decision will be driven by the status of COVID-19.  I have an obligation to both keep myself healthy and help change this country for the better, and those two thoughts are not mutually exclusive.  What's important is that I will be voting in November, no matter what happens.