Choices, choices, choices…

July 30, 2018

The primary elections are coming up in a little over a week and the choices ae hard to figure out. Do I vote for the homophobic bigot or the gay socialist? How do I choose between the scallywag and the scoundrel? What is the difference between the near-do-well and the do-nothing candidates? Is one candidate less of an opportunistic professional liar than the other is? So many questions and so many bad answers.

For some, I suppose, the sleaze factor in our modern politics is just an accepted part of the game; although I have a hard time imagining that one wakes up one morning and decides to enter a profession where character assassination and mudslinging aredebaters required skills. The allure of power is very compelling and apparently sufficient to overcome common sense, personal morals and a sense of good taste in most of the political candidates. One almost feels sorry for those unwilling to lower themselves into the pit that is our current political arena. There is no way in this era of dark-money, PAC-based, mudslinging that their good names will not be dragged down to the level of their opponents.

We do not have a political environment that is necessarily based upon the voters making educated and considered choices; but, rather one that is highly susceptible to appeals to emotional messages based upon our fears and insecurities. The electorate tend to seek arrogantout and vote for those candidates with whom we can best identify in the never-ending “Us vs. Them” battle of self-interest. Since those battles are almost always based upon fear, the candidates who can best feed upon and amplify those fears often get our attention and our votes. The poor candidate espousing doing what is “right” is seldom heard above the shouts of “protect what is ours.”

There is, of course, a case to be made that this system has been with us from the beginning of the country. Political battles from the very beginning of our nation wereThomas Jefferson often filled with unsubstantiated accusations that one of the candidates was somehow unfit to serve. The Chicago Tribune did an interesting article about the history of political mudslinging during the last presidential election – see http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-campaign-mud-slinging-history-flashback-perspec-1002-md-20160930-story.html.  Somehow, the nation has survived a long procession of elected scoundrels (at least that’s how the winners were characterized by their opponents during the election cycle).

So, on August 7th, we will once again hold our collective noses and vote for the candidates whom we found to be the least onerous. Admittedly, it is sometimes hard to votesee the good that is within those for whom we vote, since their opponents and their PACs have covered them with so much mud. And, remember that this primary election is like one of the undercard matches at a WrestleMania extravaganza. We haven’t seem anything yet. Wait until the main event, when the real fireworks start going off. You want mud? We got mud. Let the real mudslinging  begin!

Ahhh, politics. Choices, choices, choices. Get out and vote on August 7th. At a minimum you can then sport one of those bumper stickers that reads, “It’s not my fault. I voted for the other guy.”

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Let’s make US bigger…get out and vote…

May 9, 2018

In a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack uses this quote – “All the people like us are, WE, and everyone else is, THEY.”  (Rudyard Kipling)

Recently, as a people, WE have let the differences that we use to differentiate WE from THEY dominate our conversations and our lives. We have let differences, whether real or perceived, split us into camps and set those camps at war with each other. Along the way, accountabilityWE lost the ability to find compromises; the desire through give and take to find enough common ground to allow for peaceful and mutually beneficial coexistence. Instead, we have retreated further and further away from compromise and into heavily armed and fortified positions; our fortifications made up of hate, bigotry and arrogantdistrust and our weapons those of hateful speech and actions.

WE have even let that distrust and hate creep into our religions, where Jesus’ Great Commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” has devolved into “love only those who practice the same religious beliefs as WE do”. WE allow ourselves to distrust and hate Them – those who don’t practice our Christian faith. We become religious bigots and believe that our God is somehow different from the God that THEY pray to, just because they use a different name for Him. We allow the hand of man to get in the way of the hand of God.disagreement2

In reality thee is only US – the busy little creatures walking, riding and flying around on this little, insignificant ball of rock that is floating in the endless universe. If WE screw this up and destroy or home through pollution or wars or hate there is no THEM to blame, only US. If we are to save it for future generations, it will be US who make the changes needed and find the ways to live together in peace and harmony. That process begins when WE, in this camp, decide that WE need to find a way to reach out to THEM and seek compromise and peace. That starts by going back to the commandment predjuicesto love one another.

As with most things, the needed changes start with each of US. We must break away from the positions of hate and distrust that may have led us into one of the camps and start implementing Jesus commandment to love one another as He has lived us. Do not fear what you do not understand. Rather try to see what you can learn from that different point of view. You may never “understand”, but perhaps you can better appreciate the perspective on life from that point of view and find a way to compromise with it in peace and harmony. No good can come out of fear or hate because of the other person’s ethnicity, or color, or sexual preferences, or religion, or anything else that sets them apart. The enrichment of our lives comes from accepting and learning from those differences. We need not embrace their lifestyle to be enriched by it; but we do need tohands-across-the-gap love them and accept them as Jesus loved us. We need to include them in our US.

WE can all make US bigger this year by listening for and voting for those candidates who truly understand the concept of US rather than spouting venomous defenses of their positions against THEM. Both major parties have lots of WE vs THEM candidates. In fact, both parties have developed “litmus tests” for their potential candidates to help them “purify” and strengthen their positions of distrust and hate. Fortunately, there are still rational voices of moderation and compromise to be found. Seek them out and support them, no matter their party affiliation, for they are the only candidates who may be able to coalesce into a big enough US in the political middle to save US all. They will probably not have the strong support of their own parties, since they likely don’t cow-tow to the extreme party lines; but that is a good testament to their ability to do the right things to find compromise and achieve some level of harmony that is currently sadly lacking.

voteThis election season, let us all try to avoid the WE vs. THEM candidates and find the champions of US that are out there. Get out and vote for US.


What are you willing to pay for?

April 4, 2018

Every now than then I can’t help but make a post here about the current state of affairs in my Village, state and the nation.This is one such post. I’ve gotten it out of my system pot hoilesans will return to my normal focus on faith-based inspirational messages with my next post. One cannot ignore the crumbling infrastructure all around and not see the root causes of that deterioration.

“In this world, you get what you pay for.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

That quote has been used in commercials and elsewhere, but seldom in politics, where some apparently believe that you can still get, even if you ae unwilling to pay for it.

The recent rise into power of the conservative political party has resulted in numerous tax cuts that have left state and local governments destitute and unable to pay for basic infrastructure services or education – two of their primary roles. Many local governments are barely able to continue to provide police and fire protections, with some even having to abandon those services, too.

Voters seem happy to see tax cuts and then can’t figure out why their roads and bridges are crumbling or the teachers in their schools are striking. Yet, when election time rolls around, these same politicians will still be blaming their political opponents of being “tax and spend” liberals. Well, duh; how do you think things get fixed if you don’t raise fund through taxation and then spend it to make the needed repairs or to reward the educators and public safety officials in our communities?

There is certainly a valid argument that too much of the money raised through taxation goes to waste through corruption or out of control administrative expenses. Those are issues that need to be tackled in order to get the most out of our tax dollars; however, the conservative’s approach of starving those problems out of the system by reducing the amount available doesn’t seem to be working either.

Certainly, government work rules that have evolved over time that support a large management and supervision overhead need to be reviewed and reworked. Anyone who has ever watched a city street or sewer crew at work can see that there appear to be more people standing around supervising that there are actually doing the work. There is room for great improvement and savings there. Currently, those same workers are sitting back in the Department of Public Services garage because there’s no money to pay for the materials for them to use to do the repair jobs.

Another phenomenon is the “kick the can on down the road” approach to tackling the tough decisions and jobs that need to be resolved. Politicians are always looking ahead to the next election and are more concerned about staying ion power than doing the right things now. They fear being called a tax and spend liberal more than they are concerned about being considered to be a do-nothing politician. In Michigan term limits were supposed to do away with the perceived evils of career politicians; but, instead just resulted in a legislature where no one has any experience and still the people in the office for their shorter terms are more concerned with the next election than solving the current problems. That has resulted in partisan gridlock, since none of the legislators knows how to work towards the compromises that are required to govern.

More recently, a lopsided conservative majority at the state government level has resulted in ill-advised tax cuts that have left the State unable to carry out many of its primary functions, especially where infrastructure repairs and replacements are concerned. A recent local newscast covered the cost of the pothole filled roads in Michigan and concluded that the costs far exceeded the money returned to taxpayers by the latest round of tax cuts. Decrepit bridges falling down and killing or injuring people will be the next thing that we start to see. People will complain, “Why aren’t they doing something about this?” The answer that will never come out of the politicians’ mouths is that there is no money for those repairs or replacement because we cut the taxes. They’ll find something or someone else to blame.

So, the question that made up the title for this post is, “What are you willing to pay for?” Are you more willing to drive on pothole filled road or cross dangerous bridges than to pay for their repairs? Are you OK with kids who fail the most basic educational assessment tests because they don’t have books or maybe heat or motivated and well -paid teachers at their schools? Maybe you are also OK with headlines that point out that – “Last on List: Michigan Ranks Worst Among State Governments for Integrity”. These are all things that can be turned around and fixed and the solutions start at the ballet box. We all need to demand more from the people who represent us and make the laws of our country, our states and our local governments. Being excellent at playing kick the can on down the road should not be a point of pride for those people, but a point of shame for which we hold them accountable.

There is a chance coming up later this year for you to make a difference. So, every time you hit a pothole this year, think about the politicians who made that possible and remember that when it’s time to vote. It’s time to remember that you get what you pay for. The lobbyists certainly understand that, since they paid for the politicians who are in office now. This time it’s your turn. Get out and vote for someone willing to do the right things, not just the politically expedient things. What are you willing to vote for?


Can’t figure something out? Try looking at it from a new perspective.

May 10, 2017

From a recent post at  Jack’s Winning Words blog – “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must continually look at things in a different way.”  (Tom Schulman)  A professor surprised his class by hopping up on a desk to give his lecture.  The students remembered what he said, because they saw him differently.

We all look at life and the situations that we confront from our own perspective. We seldom take the time to hop up upon a desk to “see” things from another perspective. That is particularly true of our encounters and interactions with other people. If we are honest with ourselves, the perspective lens that we look at others through is called judgement. We judge others from our own frame of reference, rather than just see and girl with nose chainaccept them for who they are without prejudice. As a test, imagine that two girls walk into a room where you are. One looks “normal” and the other is sporting a nose ring and purple lips. What is your immediate reaction to them? Did you jump to a conclusion (a judgement) right away about the girl with the nose ring? I wonder what she thought about me if she saw an old dude standing there gawking at her.

We seldom stop to think about or take the time to attempt to see things from another perspective, especially the perspective of someone else. Rather we judge them from our own perspective and cannot fathom why they have made the choices that they have made. It may be the choice of their appearance or it may be the choice of an action that they have taken. On the surface an action may just appear to be a criminal act that needs to be punished; however, below that surface may be a set of circumstances that depression4precipitated the poor decision that led to that act. Was it caused by desperate hunger or maybe even overwhelming fear? Was it caused by the need to feed and addiction and what was the root cause of that addition? Is the behavior driven by a condition or illness that we just don’t understand? After all, how does one put oneself into the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum and see things as they see them?

You can read about things, like the post that I had here some time back that referenced a blog by a person on the autism spectrum who tried to describe her perspective on the world – how it feels to be autistic. That was a post about “trying to understand others without a frame of reference”. There was a later one about how it feels to be depressed. In both cases there was someone who lives those perspectives trying to share their point of view with others, so that they might be better understood themselves. There was a recent article in the Detroit Free Press about a recent MSU grad who overcame bi-polar disorder to pursue his dreams. I read it, but I still can’t get to the perspective that he must have had battling with that disorder.

I have also posted here many times about valuing diversity and about accepting people who embrace different lifestyles, like the GLBTQI community, yet I am still susceptible tolbgtqi-symbol making those snap judgments that many do, just based upon appearance or mannerisms. It takes a discipline that I have yet to master to prevent that from happening and to be able to think and accept, before rushing to judgement. I’m still working on that.

The recent seismic political changes in Washington are forcing many of us to try to gain some perspective on the point-of-view of the conservatives who now rule the land. There are lots of terms used to describe what they are apparently trying to accomplish – smaller government, less intrusion in our personal lives by government, reduced taxes, reduced regulation of day-to-day life, the sanctity of life, and on and on. On the surface, many of these ideas or ideologies don’t sound bad. The devil is in the details of how they are being implemented. There is a supreme irony in saying that you are providing better health care for everyone while at the same time causing millions of people to lose what little health care that they had. I still can’t get my head around that perspective. At the arrogantsame time, I read week after week about doctors and other health care “professionals” being prosecuted for fraud that saps millions from the healthcare system and about drug costs that have gone through the roof due to a broken healthcare payments system.

It is hard in the face of all that is happening not to become cynical about government and about a life that seems to be stacked against the average person. That is where one’s faith can provide the perspective that is needed to cope with the situation at hand. I posted recently about trusting God’s will and plan for our lives. Perhaps we need to extend that trust to life in general and our currently political situation specifically. Rather than praying that God find a way to “throw the bums out”; perhaps we should pray that God open their eye to the needs of all and guide them in their political actions. I’ll save the “throw the bums out” prayer if that doesn’t work.

Trying to see things from a different perspective or from someone else’s point-of-view at least forces us to try to imagine something different – a different way of looking at things and a different set of values for making decisions. That can be especially hard when both of the parties claim to be basing their value systems on the same thing. Both the conservative and the liberal sides of the political spectrum claim to be basing their core values on a belief in God and their own interpretation of the guidance to be found in thereading-bible Bible and the teachings of Jesus; yet they arrive at dramatically different perspectives on life and in the decisions that they make. It seems to me that at its core the two points of view can be expressed as “leave me alone” and “let me help you”. At the one extreme is anarchy and at the other socialism. Of course, neither will ever be achieved, but those end goals seem to drive the participants’ behavior.

I suppose that a Utopian view might be that everyone is cared for and all needs met without anyone having to pay for anything and everyone being free to do whatever they want. Not even God has figured out how to do that yet, unless you include heaven in the equation. Until such time as we get to heaven, the best that we might be able to do is to visualizingtry to stop and think before we react. Some and try to see, and perhaps understand a little, that the other person has a different perspective on the situation than we do. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different from our view of things and we need to acknowledge that difference and factor that different point-of-view into our reaction to things. You may never be able to figure it out, but you can factor it in. That is a step in the right direction and may even give you a different perspective on things.

Here’s looking at you (from a different perspective).


Is ignorance the new norm in government?

February 25, 2017

One cannot watch the nightly news without coming away with the thought that we are trapped somehow in some perverse nightmare where the inmates have indeed taken over the asylum and ignorance and insanity have become the order of the day.

At our state level in Michigan we have leaders with no background or experience making ignorant decisions about the state’s future and tax policies. As one recent editorial put it they appear to have arrived at the capital in a clown car.

At the national level we now have both a Congress and the Presidency ruled by ignorance, arrogance, “alternative facts, and conscientious stupidity who are seemingly intent on destroying the foundation upon which this great country was built – the immigration of people who yearn to be free.

I have collected some quotes that seem appropriate for our current situation…

“Fear the ignorant man more than the lion.” – Turkish proverb

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”  (Confucius)

“War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.”

― George Orwell, 1984

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

― Walter Cronkite

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”  ― Harlan Ellison

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”  ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Collected Works

“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”

― George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara

It can be rather depressing to read through those quotes and consider them in light of our current situation; however, one can lean on one’s faith to get through the day and this time of turmoil. A recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog offered this advice –

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  (Charles Dickens)  Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities, describes a situation much like the present in which there are two views of the same world, living side by side.  I have friends who believe we’re now living in the best of times and others who wake up daily to see things getting worse.  The divide between rich and poor widens.  Dickens’ hope is in the death of inequality and a resurrection to a better age, built on the ashes of the old.  There is a God!  Hold on to that hope.  The best is yet to come.  😉  Jack

We may well be witnessing the flames of ignorance creating the ashes of our old world; but the best is yet to come, if we hold on to hope and a belief that there is a God (and maybe get out and vote next time).

Here’s hoping that the best is yet to come.


Maybe the recent election has started something else…

February 14, 2017

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”  (Fred Rogers) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The recent Presidential election may have been the end of both the Republican and Democratic parties as we have known them; and maybe that’s not a bad thing. There was an article in the Detroit Free Press about the new movement which has sprung out of the election of #Tweeter-In-Chief. The paper dubbed this emerging organization of people objecting to and resisting the changes that #POTUS is trying to decree as the Liberal Tea Party. I seriously doubt that this handle will stick since neither the original Tea Party people or the nascent resistance “movement” really want a liberal group to be associated with that term.

Certainly, Trump laid waste to the old guard in the Republican party and shows little intention of working very hard to rebuild bridges to the very leaders that he criticized during his campaign. They are, after all inhabitants of the “Swamp” that he promised to drain; although, thus far he just seems to be exchanging one set of old alligators for a new set of crocodiles. So far only two elected members of the Republican party in Congress have shown any real backbone by voting against one of the questionable nominees for important government jobs that #POTUS has put forth. Both, it might be noted are women.

The Democrats didn’t really fare any better in the latest election, having the dark underside of their party leadership exposed by WikiLeaks. One of the better postmortem analyses that I saw correctly laid the blame not just on Hillary’s campaigning decisions but on the overall sense of entitlement that the Democrats have developed over time. They seem to sound a bit like a broken record from the 20th Century which when played just repeats the phrase “we’re the party of the working people” over and over, as if that is sufficient reason to vote for their candidate. I’m not sure that they even understand who “the working people” are anymore; although Bernie Sanders tapped into the a big group with a message that seemed to resonate with some of “the working people.”. I still think that it would have been a hell of a race between Trump and Sanders, or at least more fun to watch.

Enough Monday morning quarterbacking. Where do the parties go from here? I fear that the Republican Party has sealed its own doom by swinging way right and embracing a populist message. As I’ve written here before, I still recall the moderates within the Republican Party, which kept it somewhat balanced. There seems to be no room anymore for anyone who won’t swear allegiance to the dictates of some obscure far right economist or to the restrictive social issues of the far right religious groups. And heaven forbid that any Republican ever have the backbone to stand up to the NRA. There is little hope for moderation, bipartisanship or even intelligent decision making for those beholding to the Republican Party and their financial backers.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have themselves fallen victim to this trend, albeit in the opposite philosophical and political direction. One seems to have to prove their liberal credentials to the extreme to be accepted by the Democratic party and its current leadership. The complaints that the Democrats have become a bi-coastal party and a party of elitists does have a ring of truth to it. The other complaints that surfaced during the last election that the party has been taking minority voters and union voters for granted also holds some water. Those issues deserve to be addressed and need to be addressed before the Democrats can reclaim any leadership in Washington.

I have heard from a number of people that they held their nose and voted for one candidate or the other, which indicates a serious degree of dissatisfaction with both parties. The idea of it perhaps being time for a third party has gained a little traction in the post-election angst of those who feel left behind by both parties. I’ve opined here before about the need for that new party, a centrist party unencumbered by the pull of either extreme right or left and more concerned about running the country right than trying to force a set of moral standards on everyone. In the mid-20th Century these politicians were called moderates, which is now a dirty word in both parties. The last semi-successful third party effort was mounted by Ross Perot and was a populist effort. Many might say that Bernie Sanders effort was also populist, but he chose to stay within the confines of the Democratic Party; which, in retrospect, was probably the wrong decision.

It is somewhat sad to think that in order to be successful today one must be a Billionaire or at least have a few of them in your corner (that is, if you are not peeking out from their pockets). I’m thinking of sending a message to Michael Bloomberg to challenge him to jump in and get active at the Presidential level. He seems content right now to sit on the sidelines and take pot-shots at #POTUS through the vehicle of his Bloomberg Business Week. Perhaps at 75 he is considered to be too old, but at least he could put his billions to work either revitalizing the Democratic Party or starting a new third party. I’ll bet he could get Warren Buffet to jump into that effort with him.

So, anyway, maybe it took a shock like the election of #Tweeter-In-Chief to awaken the giant; that huge majority that is not really comfortable way off on the Left or Right of the political spectrum.  We shouldn’t have to hold our noses to vote for someone to be President of the United States. Let’s get people back in Congress and eventually back in the White House who can work for all of the people of this great country. Maybe this started something new. Join the new movement and take back our country.


America held hostage day 21…

February 10, 2017

Maybe #POTUS needs to do this…

From a recent post to the  Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“Before you speak, T-H-I-N-K!”  (Mentors Channel)

Here’s an acrostic worth saving.

T – Is it True?

H – Is it Helpful?

I – Is it Inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

Maybe #POTUS, #Tweeter-in-Chief, needs to run down through that list before he speaks or tweets or signs random and hateful Executive Orders. So far little of what he has done or tried to do would have passed all or any of those criteria.

It appears that the Federal Courts will be as busy as the news fact checkers for the next few years; both sorting through the “alternative facts” that seem to be driving the decisions in the White House these days. Perhaps the White House Press Secretary will announce that there is an “Alternative Reality” in which our #POTUS is the star and from which he will be issuing decrees and taking revenge against those who disagree.

Meanwhile the bulk of the Republicans in Congress who failed to show any backbone at all when confronted with obviously unqualified nominees for important roles in this Alternative Reality government have earned the hash tag #Toadies. It was heartening to see that at least two Republican Senators had enough courage in their convictions about #WatchOutForBears to vote against her nomination to head up the Education Department.  It’s sad that not a single male Republican Senator had the same courage, earning them the hash tag #NoRocks.

We are indeed lucky to have “so-called” judges in place who can evaluate and take actions to stop the madness when it goes too far. It might be amusing to watch from the sidelines were it not so potentially dangerous and injurious to the country. Perhaps we have already seen the answer to a question that won’t be asked for almost 4 years. Maybe the solution to what to do about #Tweeter-in-Chief has already earned her own label #ShePersisted. I’m sure that she will also continue to earn the tag – #SheResisted.

In the meantime, we all have the ability and the duty to aid the courts in the fight to hold on to the values that made this great country what it is. The upcoming “off-year” elections for Congressional seats can turn the tide and provide a bulwark against the rampages of #POTUS and his minions. The time to start is now to get rid of as many #Toadies as possible in that election cycle and take back control of at least one arm of Congress. Get in the game and support an opposition candidate. Get a T-shirt that says #RestoreSanity and start campaigning for that change. When your candidate wins you can wear the T-shirt that says #WeThe PeoplePersisted.