Thursday, July 11, 2019

Thoughts on Making Entertainment Our Priority

Some of you who read this may be familiar with Juvenal's Satires, one of which (#10) laments that the People "now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."

Recently, I've been seeing/hearing a lot of chatter about the World Cup, and I actually took the time to watch this year's Women's Final match. Fans interviewed during Wednesday's ticker-tape parade gushed about how important this victory was. Well, it wasn't that important. The soccer team won a soccer tournament, and I'm happy for them, but it was a soccer tournament. Nothing has been changed, and the whole competition is already well on the way to becoming answers in sports trivia competitions.

I think that's the big danger of our apparent hunger for entertainment. What might have been a healthy distraction has become a priority. In society, we venerate entertainers - including athletes - above all. Our universities are judged on their athletic programs.

With the passing of Ross Perot this week I am reminded of a time when we challenged the assumption that we had to choose between a Republican or a Democrat to represent us. Certainly, neither Party is even the least little bit interested in representing you or me, but we accept that. Lincoln was elected President just six years after his party was founded

In fact, choosing our representatives is something that we do have the opportunity to control, especially at the local level, but we don't vote in primaries where candidates are chosen or in local elections where local voters can actually make themselves heard.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Humanity vs Animal Husbandry

I think I may have stumbled upon the reason religious-right men are so fixated on women's reproductive rights or the lack thereof. I think they regard women as livestock.

In animal husbandry, the object is to get the most utility from each head of livestock. When a hen stops laying, it becomes food. You don't keep a racehorse after it's through racing unless you can use it as breeding stock.

Have you listened to people talk about their livestock? It's not a chicken; it's a hen or a rooster (and you don't need many roosters). It's not a horse; it's a mare or a stallion (and you don't need a lot of stallions). I'm uncomfortable with that last analogy because gelding doesn't sound that good. In their minds, to have a fecund woman not producing offspring offends nature. When their wives no longer engage them on that level, they have affairs. (I guess they could do worse.)

I was a bit puzzled at first that these men seem to have little if any concern for any offspring, but I'm reminded of my foster family's milk cow who was bred as her milk production fell off and the calf was eaten shortly after its birth. The offspring are by-products.

A couple of questions come to mind. I have no idea why these men's mothers, wives, and daughters have allowed these men to live so long while they were being totally disrespectful of said mothers', wives', and daughters'  humanity.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Thoughts on Humanity

I find myself reacting to the inhumanity of humanity. People I care about seem to me to make distinctions between humans that I am unable to reconcile with my idea of humanity.

Many people seem to accept the idea of "race" as a distinguishing characteristic among humans as a given, although there is less science to support it than there is to support differences among various "breeds" of dogs. Why is that not absurd on its face?

Nationalism makes even less sense, especially in a country such as ours where we have gone to considerable lengths to eradicate our few common historical precedents. I've said before that everything European culture has done in American has been built over the dead bodies of the indigenous population and slaves. It appears that we gringos brought nothing with us but imperialism and hubris.

In the absence of science or logic, we find ourselves, as humans and a nation, unable to engage in meaningful discussions of a path forward together. That's a shame because, as I've pointed out before, there are an estimated 7.7 billion humans on Earth of whom about 4.3% are "American." If we seriously believe we're going to survive separately then I believe we're seriously delusional. If we seriously believe that the rest of the world is going to be patient while we get our shit together, again, I believe we're seriously delusional. On the other hand, I'm five weeks from my 72nd birthday so let me just apologize to my kids again and wish you good luck with that.

"No hay peor sordo que el que no quiere oír."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Stop Chasing Squirrels

Among the things I believe are bad ideas are spending the next 314* days assigning blame, calling one another names, and anything else that reeks of early adolescent behavior. I generally agree that our 45th American President is a tragic mistake from which it may take generations to recover, but we can't afford to spend a lot of time in recriminations. There's too much work to be done, much of which is time-sensitive. My only issue with first-term Senator Kamala Harris is that she's been running for President ever since she got to Washington. She wasn't elected to run for President. The U.S. only has about 4.4% of the world's human population, and we cannot imagine that the other 95% are going to wait long for us.

There is no excuse for not putting the House of Representatives in order and on the path to a positive agenda. If it can't be passed through the Senate, that's on them. If #45 won't sign it, that's on him. There are always reasons why something might fail, but to not even attempt to do your job until you're sure to win is just lame. We have the rest of our lives to talk shit about #45. Get to work!

*California will hold its Primary Election on March 3rd, 2020. 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Thoughts on Support Systems

I was at a meeting at the VA Medical Center in La Jolla Thursday afternoon. During the Director's remarks, Dr.  Smith noted that veteran suicides continued at about 20 a day and that about two-thirds of those had not accessed the VA Health System. That set me to thinking and it occurs to me that, more than 40 years into the modern All-Volunteer Force, veterans are more on their own than at any time in our history.

I suspect mental health support for the military has always been somewhat problematic. Even back in my day, there were clusters of us doing different things with different levels of stress attached to them. An Engineman assigned to a patrol boat on the Mekong had a completely different experience than an Engineman on a frigate out in the Gulf. I think exposure to combat changes people in ways that people who have never been exposed perhaps cannot comprehend.

Nothing in civilian experience prepares us for what we're going to do in the military. All of our training from enlistment through deployment is to temper us as in a crucible to think and react in specific ways to specific stimuli. Undoing all that has never been given a lot of attention.  My sense was that when there were hundreds of thousands of us in the community we could always depend on one another as we had done on the line. On the other hand, when we interviewed a WW II B-26 pilot for the Veterans History Project in 2014, he told us as we were leaving that that was the first time he'd spoken about his experiences because no one had wanted to hear about it when he got home.

I don't have a background in behavioral health. I do remember a period when I didn't feel as though I belonged here, but whether that was due to the seven years in foster care or 1968-69 or some mix of the two, I couldn't tell you. I don't think we're any more serious about providing mental health support to transitioning veterans than we are about providing rehabilitative medicine.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Farm(ed) Animals

I suspect that I'm prone to overthinking some things (and underthinking others), but I keep hearing about the meaning/purpose of life and it sends me off into contemplation of where that comes from. I'm pretty sure #45 sincerely believes he's as fantastic as he says he is, so clearly that can't be left to individual decision-making.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that theists cling to a belief that their deity - usually an omniscient and omnipotent male - crafted fish and then amphibians and then each mammalian species in turn. If that were true, it would go a long way toward explaining how so many things appear to have been done badly, but that's not the point. (I know that I just jumped right over all the species of vegetation, but I didn't want to get too far into the weeds here.)

Theology seems to teach that the Universe was created by this super-entity for the express benefit of Earth-bound humans., and that makes no sense to me. I'm fairly certain that life is simply life. Beyond that, we're getting into beliefs.

Where am I going with this? I think there is a strong argument to be made for "animal" rights to humane treatment, but there's also an increasingly critical question of the expenditure of resources in order to farm animals. What nutritional elements do we get from meat that we couldn't get - perhaps more efficiently - from vegetation?

Don't get me wrong; I am a carnivore. I went to Arby's and ordered their bacon sandwich with extra bacon. In a finite environment with 7.7 billion people to feed (of which 4.3% live in the U.S.), is there a better way more respectful of our resources and production capacity.

I don't know that much about farming fish and, although I know that fish will learn to recognize people, I don't care as much about them. I'll always remember when my foster family had the milk cow bred to "freshen her milk", and then we butchered and ate her calf. That seemed harsh.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Circular Firing Squads

"Whenever the powers of government are placed in any hands other than those of the community, whether those of one man, of a few, or of several, those principles of human nature which imply that government is at all necessary, imply that those persons will make use of them to defeat the very end for which government exists." - James Mill, "Government" (1820)
Just under 48 weeks until the California Primary and the out-of-office major party has already started to pick off its major candidates.

There's quite a bit about Joe Biden that I would probably find annoying. I was personally counseled in 1974 for putting my hand on a female sailor's shoulder at work, and he's frequently been observed to be a lot more effusive than that. Should that taint his suitability for public service? Certainly not for the in-office major party. I have little to no idea how other countries manage their elections, but my experiences with ours have left me a little cynical.

The first campaign I was involved in was Goldwater's and he lost because it was feared that he would get us into the war in Vietnam. I went with Nixon in 1968 because I blamed the Democrats for all those Marines coming through my operating rooms in Japan, and then I stayed with him in 1972 because he actually was getting us out of Vietnam while I was in the Tonkin Gulf. After that things got fuzzy.

I liked Gerald Ford, but the Republican Party was already just a bit too sleazy for me so I went with Carter in 1976. At that time I didn't deduct points for being overtly religious, but he pardoned people who had fled the country to escape the draft and I was feeling aggrieved in 1980  I went with John Anderson because the Republicans ran an actor for Pete's sake. (Little did I know they would do worse.)

It's about here that I kind of got into politics for a while. I was getting pulled over a little more often than I thought was necessary and being frisked and interviewed by San Diego Sheriffs Deputies while standing next to my motorcycle, and it felt like involvement in local politics might be in order. We worked to get Pete Wilson elected to the Senate for which I apologize. In the same election cycle, we worked to get Jim Bates elected to the House of Representatives (for which I also apologize). I did get to appreciate the power of moving small numbers of voters within specific areas and the power of Primary Elections.

I didn't so much vote for Walter Mondale in 1984 as I did against Reagan, and given everything that went on in Reagan's second term, tell me I was wrong. I think this brings us to "ratfucking" or the normalization of dirty tricks. It's a pretty common tactic we see usually from smaller people who try to compensate by belittling their opponents. For instance, a strapping war hero and Naval Aviator with an absolute wienie as his running mate makes fun of how funny his opponent looks in a tanker's helmet. I know it started in the Nixon campaigns, but it got its legs in the '80s.

It's partisan politics and has nothing whatever to do with political ideals. For example, to defeat Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania in 2006, the Democratic Party went to some pains to enlist the most politically conservative candidate they could find.  Neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party is going to correct the shortcomings of our democratic republic. They created those shortcomings including capping the number of seats in Congress and effectively ensuring the primacy of either of these two parties. So long as neither party needs to compromise to pass legislation, neither will.

Monday, November 19, 2018

National Identity

I was reading something from Thich Nhat Hanh awhile ago, and made a note of his litmus test for "right speech": Ask "Is it true?" and then "Is it useful?" If both of these conditions are met, then I can generally be pretty comfortable saying it. If I don't know something to be true then I need to look at it some more. I mention this because I've been troubled for some time by a sense that those who would lead us seem to favor trying to scare us witless, and then offering some draconian "solution" that we'd have to be witless to adopt. The MSM seem to be complicit in that, perhaps because it's good for ratings for their "news" programs.

Who are we and what do we stand for? We are being led as Americans, so what does that mean? We have dispossessed and displaced all of the initial inhabitants of our land so that claim is entirely based on force majeure. I see that as a significant part of our difficulty in relating to the world: we have no cohesive sense of history and little if any national credibility. Edmund Burke wrote: "People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to our ancestors." We didn't come here together, and we don't seem to have done a very good job of coming together since then.

We don't have a discernable shared vision of our common goals. Until we seriously address that, I believe it's going to be increasingly difficult to remain competitive in what is already a global economy. We can only cloak ourselves in our faded glory for so long, and then we'll have to show something. The Greeks have been Greek for millennia, and the Romans Roman and the French French. Even the British have been British since 1066. We've been jockeying for advantage among ourselves for a few hundred years.

Do we believe that all men are created equal? Do we believe "You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself"? We seem to see people from communities other than "our own" as different somehow and we seem to use "globalism" as a pejorative. When and how did we become so different from one another? Who benefits from us becoming different and perpetuating our differences?

We are less than 5% of the world population and we need to figure out together who we are and who we want to be pretty soon. We're burning daylight and the other 95% may just decide to move ahead without us. They could, you know.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Word for SPC Clifford Ray Dudley, USA, and LCPL Dennis Ray Ashley, USMC

These two men have by now been laid to rest at the Coastal Bend State Veterans Cemetery in Corpus Christi on November 10, 2016. Neither man had a next-of-kin or any known family so the community, via at least 2 local television stations, invited members of the community to honor their passing.

I unapologetically talk shit about Texas, but that the local media would support such a community response for 2 former servicemen moved me. It's hard for a lot of us to find our way after our military experiences, and this demonstration of support by the Corpus Christi community is noteworthy.

Fair winds and following seas to Clifford and to Dennis, and thank you, Corpus Christi.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Reminder About My Other Blog

A quick reminder that - thankfully - I no longer post here so much, reserving this blog for Corpsmen who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
My primary blog is The Way I See It.