Monday, June 13, 2016

Orlando


The social media meme of the day is in full force. Being respectful to the dead means you can't discuss preventing future mass killings. 'Thoughts and prayers' or quiet introspection are the only appropriate responses. Anything else is disrespectful.

Yes, it is comforting when we all come together for a moment, set aside our differences, and feel the camaraderie of shared pain. We post rainbows and hashtags. Sing Kumbaya. But don't you get a little tired of THIS kind of camaraderie?

So, how long shall we wait? What is the magic moment when it's OK to discuss curbing the slaughter of fellow humans? After the pain of the moment has faded? After Trump, Clinton, Wayne LaPierre and others have made political hay and further entrenched their followers?

The 'heat of the moment' is a poor time to make decisions, that's true. But is this really the heat of the moment? We've had plenty of time to collect evidence from the last 1,000 mass shootings, and still have not had meaningful discussions. Americans have very short memories.

Those who insist "this isn't the time" should carefully consider my question: When IS the time? Don't give me some generic schtick that intelligent people can see through, don't defend faith, don't defend guns, don't defend blind allegiance. Just tell me when we should begin.

Because we still haven't begun from the last time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Mom

It's been over a year since my mother left the world on her own terms. I found this piece this morning, written by Rev. Safire Rose, and was very moved. I wanted to share it here so I can find it, and in case it might help someone else cope or understand.

She Let Go

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev. Safire Rose

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Flurries

After an early morning flurry of activity, the kids are out the door to a summer camp.

Flurry is hardly appropriate. For my family, it's a squall. Some mornings, a raging storm or a high pressure dome. Yesterday was a level 3 typhoon. (It had a distinctly Asian, almost Samurai feel.) Almost never a flurry.

I am a gentle waker. I am the type who lingers in bed, and might be awake 10 minutes before I open my eyes. I'm usually awakened by a thought, or a dream's plot twist that seems a little too unlikely. These days, maybe a pain somewhere.

I like for the kids to sneak in and slip beneath the covers with my wife and me. In fact, that is the one thing I really want for Father's Day-an early morning, peaceful, easy kid nap. That's some of the best sleep.

I'd like a coffee bar in our bedroom. I can hardly accomplish a thing 'BC.' I've lived most of my life addicted to a substance, utterly incapable of productivity without it, yet haven't been carted off to a clinic. Isn't one debilitating addiction as harmful as the next? (I know, I know. No emails, please.)

My wife is an up-and-at-'em type. For wake up music, she likes jams, I like jazz. We compromise with something I call jamzz. (a weird mix ranging from Jay Z to Phoebe Snow) She's also a morning gym person. That's something I'll never understand. I mean, what the fuck? And, she does it all sans coffee. I find that abhorrent and reckless.

If every day started like this one, I'd be fine. The squall happened, but it ended and I'm on the deck with a cup of Mama Carmen's Guatamalan reason-to-live. Clients are nipping at my heels, so I'll head down to my recording studio in a few minutes. At the moment, a nice breeze is blowing, and if it weren't for the trash truck down the street, it would be completely peaceful.

That driver could probably use a kid nap and cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Have a catch

I watched the Cardinals drop one to Cleveland yesterday and it was disappointing, but the Indians' Corey Kluber was throwing a no-hitter against us until the 8th. As much as I wanted the win, it was still a thrill to enjoy the pitching performance. That's baseball.

I love to "have a catch" with Grayson.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Laws or hoods: things you can hide behind


This kerfuffle over the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act makes me wonder - why is religion a protected class? It's is clearly a choice, like Hawaiian shirts, or riding a llama to work. Here's the thing: I want my future Hawaiian shirt purchases to be tax free. And I want rules relaxed on where I can feed my llama. Why not?

Regarding this article, some states, such as Illinois, have added sexual orientation as a protected class, so the drum beat by Governor Pence that then-Senator Barack Obama supported the same law in Illinois is disingenuous.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Bibi got backing

Today, traitorous scalawags, drunk with power, diminished their own country in a grotesque breach of diplomatic norms.

Members of our own Congress invited a foreign leader to speak against our own President, and applauded him for doing it. Bibi Netanyahu, who apparently considers peaceful negotiations folly, and who is bent on war at our expense, was gifted the attention of our entire Legislative branch, his message delivered over a chorus of grotesque, congratulatory bleating.

That's not to disagree with his stance, nor even consider it. This was about a Congress of rednecks shooting their guns in the air. A power move designed to convey a message to the American people: we won't sit idly by while this President sullies the good name of 'Murika.

Mr. Netanyahu fell for it, hook, line and sinker. He made the best of the opportunity, and bullied the President over his negotiations with Iran. He pilloried our Middle East foreign policy, to a cacophony of hoots and hollers. He questioned the decisions of his most ardent ally, who finances a large percentage of his own defense budget.

What of his position on the prospects for peace in general, and talks with Iran specifically? To ascertain his record of gauging threats, we only need remember when his bellicose rhetoric helped seal the fates of thousands of young American men and women, and trillions of American dollars.
"If you take out Saddam, Saddam's regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region." ~ Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu urging the US to invade Iraq in 2002.
He wasn't the only one who got Iraq wrong. Still, he's being compared by some to Winston Churchill. I'd say to bear up to that comparison, he'd need to be right about at least one of the Hitlers he has manufactured. Do some wish harm on Israel? Certainly. Will remaining in a constant state of war with those entities build bridges? Certainly not.

That's beside the point. Diplomatic protocol was breached. The President, charged with developing and executing our foreign policy, was bypassed. It is a defining day when the hatred of one man can overpower centuries of tradition and precedent. But John Boehner managed.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Baseball


If there is anything that comes close to bringing an atheist into the 'flock', it's baseball.

First, let's agree that it's a game of physics. If you're looking for a way to teach physics to a kid, use baseball. It's a game of millimeters. With a pretty small bat and that tiny ball, the slightest adjustment of aim results in a vast change in elevation. The smallest adjustment of force makes the difference between the ball finding the glove of the shortstop, or the bleachers in the outfield.

Two people come to mind who can vouch for that tiny margin of error: Neil Armstrong and Clayton Kershaw.

Today, as the Los Angeles Dodgers fly home, the victims of what from the outside seems like the 'team of destiny' St. Louis Cardinals, they are undoubtedly overlooking those physical laws. They are more likely thinking of a superstar named Puig, and the biggest meltdown of his career. They are considering the inability of Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to fool men named Matt. The befuddled Dodgers are thinking of goats, curses, and gods.

They fail to consider that the air was still warm when Matt Adams came to bat - a ball carries further in warm air than cool. They are not thinking about the trajectory of the bat, or the exact position of the pitch, or the force of the swing. They are thinking that Matt Adams has Kershaw's number, or that Kershaw is somehow vexed by Busch Stadium. Maybe there is some kind of 7th inning curse, a point at which it becomes impossible to rein in the Cardinals. Maybe they think the Cardinals, with the fewest homers in the National League, was due to somehow right a cosmic imbalance.

Surely that's all wrong, because there's no circumventing natural law. They lost, plain and simple, because of physics. Right?

Maybe. There is a compelling argument that most Cardinals fans (the most hated in baseball) understand well. It goes something like this: When September rolls around, in the House that Stan Built, laws of physics take a back seat to things like heart, hope, teamwork, and destiny. That men like Big City can swing bats in a special way and move the ball with more than just physics. That a strange bond extends between players, lending support... unseen and mysterious.

Fans of the Cardinals know that on cold nights far away from home, before an unfriendly crowd, with backs against the wall, down to a final out, even a final strike, and against all known laws of physics, something more is afoot. Something that pushes the ball a little farther and deeper than physics would dictate. It's almost as if a piece of Curt Flood, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, "Mad Dash" Slaughter, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson and others become transplanted into whatever ragtag hero stands at the plate.

The Cardinals have had plenty of failures, but in the most unlikely of circumstances, and against the greatest of odds, they've surprised, shocked, and silenced their most ardent critics. They have rendered speechless the Brewers faithful, fans of the Cubs, and haters who are just gonna hate. They dig deep and find a way. One might think it's more than physics. It's soul.

Another set of natural rules that gets tossed aside this time of year - mathematics. Sometimes 235 million dollars in payroll means nothing. Baseball's post-season stage is the great equalizer, where players like David Freese, Clayton Kershaw, David Eckstein, Albert Pujols, Kolten Wong, Adrian Gonzales, and pick-any-KC-Royal, stand on even ground. Where a soul, a spirit, and an attitude, surpass any and all monetary advantage.

Natural laws are real, there's no debate. But, on one warm night at Busch Stadium, with Big City's mighty swing of the bat, maybe the temperature didn't matter. Maybe the bat's trajectory wasn't so important. Maybe grit won out over gravity. Intuition beat inertia. Spirit overcame substance.

Maybe that inch beyond the wall was as good as a mile. It's enough to make you wonder.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Michael Brown, Military Police, and Politics


When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

It only took a few hours for the shooting in Ferguson to become a political football, to those who tend to make everything political. After all, Michael Brown, a black man, was killed by Darren Wilson, a white cop. To some, cops are always right, and since he's a white, male cop, he must be Republican. The dead man was black, so obviously he was in the wrong, and of course, a Democrat.

To others, all cops tend to distrust black people. Michael Brown was black, minding his own business, not hurting anyone, an easy target. Clearly the opportunity officer Wilson had been waiting for.

Apparently the facts of the case are clear. Stop the investigation and man the torpedoes!

America's most disgusting new trend is on display here, the politicization of everything. The root of this metaphorical weed is the media. Having taken a scorched earth approach to their own industry, they are now looking for a way - any way - to gain back listeners and viewers. They utilize a cheap method that requires no effort at all: shouting and finger pointing. If you can pit people against each other, all that's left is to fan the flames and feign disgust with the results. You know who you are. You are to blame.

A local television station broadcast video of officer Wilson's home. Whoever made that decision should be fired immediately. The broadcast media has a responsibility to the public, and they've completely forgotten that. The public owns the channel on which they broadcast, and upholding community standards trumps the few extra dollars they may earn for their stockholders.

This case really breaks down into two questions: Was the death of Michael Brown necessary? And, was the military-like reaction of the police reasonable and necessary? In simple terms, there is nothing political about these questions. They are questions we should all be asking, whether Democrat or Republican, NPR or commercial radio consumer, Fox or MSNBC viewer.

This is not about the President, and not about a political party. This is about a dead man and a police officer, so we can put away the political bullshit. We can put away predetermined notions about average black people, or average police officers.

Are there deeper questions that eventually need to be asked? Of course. Will there be political implications? Yep. As a society, we should always question authority. We should always self-analyze. When the dust settles, lessons should always be learned. Do we have the facts of this case yet? No. Has the dust settled? It has not.

In the end, police officers are charged with one duty: protecting citizens. That includes Michael Brown, a citizen, and those around Mr. Brown. Decisions are sometimes made in a split second. Those decisions can sometimes be wrong. Nobody is perfect. Officer Wilson and Mr. Brown are both human.

Was Michael Brown's death avoidable? It's not a political question, it's a question about a life. Nothing else matters here. Life is the only real thing of value that we own. The rest is window dressing.

So for everyone's sake, stop the name calling, stop the finger pointing, stop the politics. Let's figure out what happened.

--------

Interesting background/perspective on the militarization of the police.

A perspective about black neighborhoods.

Background on the Michael Brown case.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The state of our political conversation



I can't help but think this guy knows what he's protecting and/or excluding in his position. He's being paid by the very entities who help to perpetuate the world's current economic state. I'm a bit disappointed that Mr. Moyers didn't ask about proposals beyond earned income tax credits. He mentioned several times that he had multiple ideas, I would have liked to hear them. But let's not forget that some companies are paying a living wage and still producing record profits, which flies in the face of his position that employers like Wal Mart can't make a profit and pay a living wage. That is preposterous and has been debunked myriad times.

In a perfect world, a reasonable mind understands that the government is us, and government regulation simply reflects a marketplace The People choose. Government is necessary because the desire of the desperately poor to buy the cheapest product (many times to their own demise, a la Wal Mart and other self-absorbed criminals) will trump doing the right thing almost every time.

Notice I said "in a perfect world", because in its current state, the government has become an inefficient, corrupt entity, beholden to those who fund re-election campaigns, and who can afford to grease palms in return for face time. It's evident in the lack of response to the financial meltdown of 2008. Reform has been lukewarm. The rules have changed some, but not enough to prevent greed from toppling the market again and again. Bailouts were offered with no strings attached. Common sense has taken its leave in the Capital, and the everyman is too busy worrying about his next meal to pay attention or understand.

So that is where we are. The right hates government because it traditionally places limits on rampant greed in favor of the good of The Many. The left hates government because it is failing in those duties right now, and to expect representatives to vote themselves less power, money, or influence, is like asking Albert Pujols to get base hits instead of home runs. Home runs are fun and fire up the fans, but base hits win the game.

We're fucked.