Feb 18

Tradition: Male and Female Ownership

In Brief — An exploration of history, religion and beliefs that uncovers some uncomfortable truths about human males and females in society. [Written September 2017.]


Myths and Realities About the Sexes —

Courtship and marriage are believed to be the norm. The question is whether this is true in all cultures throughout time and throughout the world. Indeed, western culture today calls that tradition into question.

Male and Female Roles in Asia —

In China near the Tibetan border is a group, the Mosuo, that is both matriarchal (females holding power and tracing lineage through females) and practices open sexuality. It may seem strange to those in traditional western societies, but it exists today.

Marriage is unheard of, but a woman may settle on one man or she may choose several. Men are not powerless in that they have the right to refuse, but if the man is rejected or refuses, he returns to his mother’s home. This is common, without obligation and is not considered unusual.

Children of a sexual union become members of the woman’s family and are raised by the community. Ownership is not even considered. This concept is challenging to traditional views of family and child upbringing…but is it illogical?

Tradition, Logic and Propaganda —

Tradition is passing on the customs to later generations in the expectation that those customs will be adhered to. Thus, the Mosuo have a tradition of sexual openness. Is that custom wrong? Is it logical in light of research on the male and female libidos? Is that custom in any way similar to what we find in western society today?

Logic is defined simply as reasoning carried out according to strict and dispassionate scientific principles of validity. When looked at neutrally, the Mosuo way of life is logical and in accord with what we know of human sexuality.

Now, let’s look at what is known of human sexuality.

Research shows that all humans are somewhere on a continuum of sexuality. We have learned that females may have essentially the same sexual drive as males depending on the amount of testosterone in the female’s system. It’s only in the environment — tradition — that females have largely been conditioned to believe that their libidos are less than those of males. I say “conditioned” because the culture in which humans live — be it Islamic or others — sets the standard. Often it’s religion that demands adherence to cultural standards. Those females in much of Islam who rebel are demeaned or even killed. Is it logical or traditional? Does cultural, religious or governmental propaganda have anything to do with that standard?

I’ve written about propaganda, so what is propaganda? They are ideas that are often false or misleading in order to sway humans to believe something. We live in a world of propaganda whether it’s relatively benign advertising, cultural tradition or a government’s effort to enforce compliance. It shapes our lives.

All of us buy into the traditions of our culture. When my wife and I married, we accepted that marriage was necessary to confirm our love. Propaganda and culture at work! At least we were aware enough to make our vows before a Unitarian minister (note the religious element) such that we included a bit allowing the other partner to live his/her own life. Ownership was eliminated. Hooray for one small act of defiance.

Unfortunately, human relationships are rife with jealousy and a feeling of ownership of the partner. Both male and female partners believe they have a right to expect their partner to belong to them only. Murders are often committed because one of the partners succumbed to biological drives that offended the sense of ownership. Is it logical? Does it bear out the research on the spectrum of human sexuality?

This piece barely scratches the surface of the falsehoods we accept. Think long and hard about this. Do you accept the cultural traditions and propaganda that we live and breathe every moment of every day? What do you believe? Is any part of this wrong and, if so, why is it wrong? If right, why? Can it be changed?

The Weekly Sampler—

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on January 2014.

Feb 11

The Destructiveness of Twice-yearly Time Change

In Brief — A look at how changing our clocks twice a year hurts not only human health but shows the flawed thinking of business interests and politicians. [Written in October/November 2017.]


Changing Our Clocks Endangers Our Lives —

Spring forward; Fall back. They sound like admonitions for healthy exercise and military retreat, but it’s the way we are trained to remember to set the clocks ahead every spring and set them back again every autumn. Unfortunately, that catchy phrase runs counter to what we know about human health and the way the world runs.

In the 18th century, Ben Franklin joked that setting the clocks ahead each spring was a way to save money on candles. In the 21st century, candles are largely used to set a romantic glow at dinner, but the electric light is dominant in our homes and in the world itself. The fact shown by research is that power is hardly affected by Daylight Savings Time (DST), the bastard child of Franklin’s joke. In short, energy savings is the joke.

These days, the business community pushes DST for a simple reason…money. They tell us that people shop more when it’s light out. They play more golf. They drive more in their gas-guzzling cars. Translated that means your money is more important than your health. Among the many weaknesses with this position are the facts that unhealthy people will die sooner and are unlikely shoppers. Greed trumps health.

Politicians are generally not noted for being aware of much beyond their political survival. In many cases they are downright ignorant. “Research? What research? What do those pointy-headed intellectuals know?” They ask this even as they join the stampede of the political herd eager to do the bidding of the business community that feeds the political coffers. DST is the nirvana of the business community. That’s good enough for the political set.

The Scientific Research —

Scientists show that there are more heart attacks, strokes and other adverse health effects in the two days following a change. There are more accidents, in the home, on the job and on the road. People lacking needed sleep are more confused and many are just plain annoyed by the necessity of changing all those timepieces whether on their wrists, in the car or on the wall. Our circadian rhythms don’t go away because of a political decision.

What about pets and domestic animals? Our much-loved pets are accustomed to being fed at certain times, and any disruption to that schedule affects them as well as the humans with whom they live. I know that our dog’s stomach grumbles at a certain time, and the twice-yearly change doesn’t silence that grumble.

Farmers report that their herds are adversely affected by the disruption in their milking schedules. Remember that the farmer is an affected human, too. As for me personally, I don’t care whether it’s summer’s DST or winter’s standard time, just leave it one or the other. It’s the twice-yearly time change that bugs me. Some states and countries agree that the time change isn’t necessary for them.

What is your view of changing time? Benefits? Detriments?

The Weekly Sampler—

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on December 2013.

Feb 04

The Eyes Have It

In Brief — The history, the people, the development of cataracts and the way they are treated. [Written in October/November 2017.]

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To See or Not To See —

It’s a simple operation that can mean the difference between sight and blindness. To the person afflicted with cataracts the operation results in preliminary nervousness, but to those who have had the operation it’s a snap and an easy way to see clearly and maybe get rid of those glasses that have been a permanent feature on their faces.

What are Cataracts and What are Not? —

Simply stated, cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that result in a dimming of the ability to see clearly. They are at the front of the eye, develop slowly and are usually seen in older people. Cataracts are not painful, but they are annoying if only because they mean more light is required to see what was once seen clearly. They are usually a result of too much exposure to ultra-violet light such as sunlight. Lens replacement surgery replaces the cloudy lens with a plastic one that cannot become cloudy.

Cataracts are not Retinal Detachment, Glaucoma or Macular Degeneration. Glaucoma is increased pressure within the eye that can injure or destroy the ocular nerve located at the back of the eye. It is inherited and can only be controlled with eye drops.

Retinal Detachment occurs at the back of the eye. It can result in blindness if not corrected. Early surgery to repair the detachment is recommended.

Macular Degeneration (wet and dry) seems to be another inherited eye disease. The wet version is more dangerous because it allows blood to leak into the eye. Surgery is recommended to stop the leakage. At present, vision can be saved but sight cannot be improved.

Regardless of causes, a hasty trip to the nearest qualified eye doctor is essential as soon as you suspect a problem. Better safe than sorry.

The History of Cataracts —

This is about cataracts, not other eye diseases, so a brief history of cataracts is in order.

Cataracts have clouded eyes for millennia. Evidence shows that humans have been afflicted with cataracts since ancient times. Early Egyptian tombs show individuals being operated on for cataracts. Documents from India and the Middle East reveal that it was known at an early age. It’s only within the last two centuries that operations have improved the rate of success. The plastic used today arose in Britain when it was discovered that airplane plastic canopy fragments were accepted by pilots’ eyes. Since then, lenses have been refined until we have today’s lens replacements.

Famous People Who had Cataracts —

It’s not just folks like me who have been afflicted with cataracts. The artist Claude Monet had cataracts. Some say that the soft colors of his paintings were the result of his affliction.

The early astronomer Galileo Galilei has been reported to have cataracts.

Queen Victoria of England had her sight dimmed by cataracts.

The actor John Goodman says he has cataracts.

Cataracts are a Common Affliction —

Famous or common, many people are or have been plagued with cataracts. I am one of those struck by the double whammy of both cataracts and glaucoma. Regular eye drops control the glaucoma pressure and allow me to see. With any luck I’ll be the recipient of lenses that will make my final years better.

Let us know how your eyes are doing. Let’s hope that modern science has worked for your eyes.

The Weekly Sampler—

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2013.

Jan 28

In Praise of Skepticism

In Brief — The author recommends a healthy level of skepticism in examining the world around us, whether focused on the media or what you hear, read and see. [Written in July 2017.]

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Honest Skepticism is a Virtue —

Earlier in 2017, Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., and two of his trusted friends met with Vladimir Putin’s lawyer and assorted Russian men for the alleged purpose of receiving copies of Hillary Clinton’s dirty linen.

Putting aside the fact that the number of persons attending that meeting grew (mostly Russians), a normally reliable source has written that young Trump’s failure to report that meeting to the FBI was acceptable because only government officials are required to report such a meeting to American watchdogs.

Due to my innate skepticism, that claim smelled fishy to me. Consequently, I researched the issue, not just because of my skepticism but because such a claim by a supposed authority might become accepted as fact even though not true. If a false claim by a usually knowledgeable and trustworthy source were to be allowed to stand, America’s civil liberties would be in deep jeopardy. In this case, the claim IS NOT TRUE.

My research found that all persons, both private citizens and governmental officials must notify the American government any time there is contact with representatives of a foreign government. Not to put too fine a point on it, five of the individuals present at Trump Jr.’s meeting were representatives of the Russian government, a government noted to be antagonistic to American interests.

Legislators passed that law in order to prevent private persons from interfering with national policy and negotiating with a foreign government. It can be argued that Trump Jr. believed he was acting as an official of the American government inasmuch as both Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were invited and were at the time of the meeting key figures in the official Trump campaign organization. Private or official, it wasn’t reported as required.

The Trump son/Russian meeting is serious and indeed is reported to be on the radar of Special Counsel Mueller, particularly since Trump penned his son’s defense. From the perspective of skepticism, it is wise to be skeptical of everything you are told, see, read or hear.

I regularly read the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Intercept, Truthout, occasionally England’s Guardian and other news sources. TV news programs are part of the diet of this “political junky.” Whether right, center or left, my skepticism is always there. It’s part of me, doubtless because I’m a lawyer, but also because it’s in my blood. Friends of both the right and left are sometimes driven nuts by my acerbic comments, but they usually overlook my skepticism. I must point out that one of the hard-right believers with whom I’m familiar overlooked the evidence confirming the truth of my demurrer and took me to task. It must be said that people will believe what they choose to believe even when confronted with the fact that they are wrong.

The reason I’ve related this incident is that I heartily recommend the cultivation of a skeptical frame-of-mind. If you heed my advice, you will seldom be deceived by rosy scenarios, no matter how appealing they may be. The biggest threat is when something is right down your alley, but if you maintain a healthy level of skepticism toward even that temptation, you will be armed.

Remember… honest skepticism is a virtue.

The Weekly Sampler—

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on October 2013.

Jan 21

My Shout into the Universe

In Brief—The author’s random views on what he thinks and holds dear. [Written in February-March 2017.]

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Everything Has An Expiration Date—

Zap! I suddenly awoke in the wee small hours with my brain in overdrive. Sparks sprang from the fuse ignited by a good friend in California. When I opined that I was considering ending this blog because it’s not growing, she insisted that I continue writing about whatever interested me…that my little blog was my shout into the universe that I once existed. Thus, the title to this piece.

What you are about to read are my unordered random thoughts. They may be incomplete and require explanation, but they are the core of my being. You may disagree with some of them; you doubtless have your own, but it is important to remember that it’s a mistake to think that anybody else thinks as you do. Whether you agree or disagree, take some time to let me know. I will explain and clarify in my replies.

Random Thoughts Spring Forth —

  • Logic and rationality are my lodestones.
  • We all evolved from pond scum and are related to African creatures who came down out of the trees to spread throughout the world.
  • Skin color relates to where our ancestors settled. Isolation and evolution determined racial differences, appearance and language, but all humans are essentially the same.
  • Humans are flawed creatures with sometimes deeply-seated biases directed toward humans and creatures not part of their group. “The Other” became a threat. Divisiveness grew.
  • Religions and belief systems grew out of survival mechanisms that early humans needed to explain what was feared or unexplainable. If a stone tripped them or the grass moved, then the stone may be inhabited by a spirit or the moving grass might be a predator.
  • Flawed human nature, genes and environment resulted in some seeking power, some being peaceful, some pursuing wealth, some believing in one form of deity while others believed in different or no deities.
  • Gender became a power struggle as much as a means of procreation. Although modern research and medical science clearly show that all humans fall somewhere on a spectrum of gender identification, political and religious groups see gender as both a threat and a means to assert power. This is evident today throughout the world.
  • Humans are responsible for changing the face of the planet and Earth’s climate. While the former is obvious, some remain ignorant about the latter and seek to get others to believe as they believe either for financial gain or through simple ignorance.
  • “Ignorance” is defined as lacking knowledge. “Stupidity” is defined as willful ignorance. Some people are ignorant, but some people are stupid.
  • Nations are political entities created by humans and are flawed like their human creators. National rulers want belief from the people ruled and subject them to propaganda or force.
  • Some national rulers are relatively benign while others are brutal, but all are power-seekers. Doubters are sidelined or killed.
  • National founders are flawed as are their founding documents. Some form of force is used to pacify or even exterminate undesirables. All nations change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Democracy can become oligarchy, oligarchy can become autocracy. These forms can be mixed. Citizens become pawns.
  • The justice system of America is largely unjust. Police commit perjury; judges turn a blind eye. “Plea bargaining” is part of the unjust system in which lawyers are complicit. Innocents are often imprisoned and sometimes deliberately killed.
  • The death penalty is both wasteful and counterproductive. It is a political sham used to appear tough or to advance careers.
  • The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is part of the political system in which politicians in black robes may spend years deciding a case. Personal beliefs color the decision process. Conservative justices display blindness to reality while all reveal their backgrounds in their decisions.
  • The Republican Party looks backward to an imagined glorious past. The Democratic Party elite glorifies the status quo while progressives look forward to a more enlightened future. The GOP is illogical and often racist. Both parties are subservient to the wealthy and to the military.
  • So-called pro-life Christians — possibly excepting some Catholics — believe unscientific nonsense and oppose abortion, but they usually believe in the death penalty.
  • Females must be the sole arbiters in deciding whether to get an abortion, not the state or a religious group bent on forcing other people to believe their way.
  • All drug use must be approved without penalty as long as the informed user decides whether to use the drug. Coercion must not be allowed. Sound informed medical and scientific reasons must guide the law.
  • Atheists and other non-believers must be granted the same rights as those who believe. Strict separation of church and state must be recognized as the law of the land.
  • Taxes must be levied without regard for wealth and status. All benefit from taxation and must contribute to beneficial social programs.
  • Marriage must be acknowledged as a contract, not be required, and plural relationships free of coercion must be permitted. Every state must assure that all genders, races and religions are entitled to just and equal treatment.
  • Every person must freely be allowed to decide his/her death as long as the decision is rational, free of coercion and the person is competent to decide.

As I said at the outset, it’s possible some views will get overlooked, but these reflect my position. Feel free to add to, disagree or challenge any of this.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on September 2013.

Jan 14

Lies: The Mother’s Milk of Politics

In Brief — A look at how the political establishment at all levels distorts the truth to sell its laws to a gullible public. [Written in July/August 2017.]

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Is Honesty the Best Policy or Not? —

Donald Trump, now the President of the United States, has set a new record for lying. According to Politifact, Over 80% of Trump’s statements are at least partially lies. Just under 50% are rated as False or Pants on Fire. Maybe this is a strategy designed to con his gullible supporters or, more likely, he is simply so shallow (no disputing that!) that he actually believes his lies.

As stated above, all politicians lie and either believe their lies or use them to deceive the public. The winners in this lie-a-thon are the Republicans, but the Democrats come in a distant second.

We’re talking only about congress here, but lies are concocted at all levels of the political spectrum, state and local.

Let’s look at some examples in the United States congress.

The Republican House introduced a healthcare law titled “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” Was the title true or was it a lie? Once the public saw the contents and learned how regressive and awful it was, they realized the Republican law was nakedly harsh and a lie.

The Senate’s “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (!!) had slightly modified the House’s bill and tried to sell it to their membership. It, too, was a lie. They were trying to hide the truth that their healthcare bill was also dreadful as revealed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Anything to wipe out Obamacare. Racist as well as a lie.

These are just two examples of political lying and both have been roundly rejected by the public, but as of this writing Trump persists. An openly racist exercise! There are hundreds of such cases, but let’s look at a few others.

Protect Life Act

Sounds appealing, but at least three aspects reveal it is a lie: 1) The law fails to protect the lives of pregnant women who must have an abortion for any of a number of valid medical reasons such as a pregnancy that may kill the woman; 2) Too many overly-zealous people lie about the consequences of taking the contraceptive pill by saying it leads to breast cancer. It doesn’t; 3) Again, too many overly-zealous people — or just plain ignorant folks — misrepresent the definition of pregnancy which, in fact, begins when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall.

Defense of Marriage Act

This deceitful law excludes anybody who wants to wed someone of the same sex. It is designed to benefit only heterosexual couples who intend to marry someone of the opposite sex. Aside from being discriminatory against LGBT individuals, it’s a lie.

The Internet Freedom Act

This deliberately deceitful law is designed to benefit powerful telecom giants by destroying the internet neutrality that assures that all parties are equal. Put clearly, it doesn’t assure “freedom” but discrimination. You get to pay more for slower speeds than the big guys. This law illustrates that some are more free than others…the wealthy and powerful, for instance.

These are just the tip of a very big iceberg. Political lies are as common as dirt and are just as dirty. These examples will awaken you to the lies we live with every day. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have honesty in political life?

There is sometimes a valid need for secrecy, for not being honest. Don’t give the enemy the tools to destroy you. But why tell lies when the truth won’t destroy the fiber of the nation.

There are instances where a little white lie may save a relationship, but that’s not what this is about. This piece illustrates how pervasive is the political lie. The moral is: Think and be skeptical of what you hear, read or see. It may be a lie intended to hide the truth. Do you have other examples?

Note:  I know this isn’t the place for it, but Kicki, a hardworking member of the staff, suffered a blood clot on the brain and must undergo an emergency operation. She probably won’t return.

As if that isn’t bad news enough, Sven-Gunnar, another hardworking staff member who recently returned after suffering a mild stroke, has permanently left the warehouse where I live.

Sheesh! The universe is reminding us that nothing is forever.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on August 2013

 

Jan 07

Being a Parent: the Joys and Tests

In Brief — A look at what it’s like to be a parent or a grandparent, and when being one of those is both a test and a joy. [Written in May/June 2017.]


It’s Not as Easy as It Seems —

Some are a snap. Others will give you sleepless nights. I’m referring to children, mainly ours but occasionally the children of others. Caring parents are certain to experience some sleepless nights. Whether pleasure or pain, our children and even our own parents add to our inner growth. The kids’ inner growth — whether good or ill — are guaranteed.

I’ve already written about my parents: My father who was often absent, who was an alcoholic shunned by his own father, but was a kind and loving man. A distant mother who grew up in arid wealth and was sent to a strict religious boarding school. She was a lovely and talented social butterfly, but she was meaner than a cornered badger.

Before all the arguments and meanness tore them apart, our parents produced two of us. I was an asthmatic son who was also sent away to a distant religious boarding school where I learned self-sufficiency and honed perfection. I learned to avoid meanness, found what it was like to be “The Other” and struggled for years to overcome insecurity.  My sister was almost a stranger to me. My sister and I are miles apart and different in many ways.

Joys and Tests —

A friend has two children and several grandchildren. Both the parents and children are bright. The parents and one child are successful, but one child is a test who periodically leads his parents and his own family to sleepless nights. Taking after both parents, he is talented and productive the majority of the time, but on those occasions when he causes sleepless nights for parents and his own family, he descends to a dark place that shuts him off from the bright sunshine of love and acceptance. It’s a test for all of them. At the moment, he’s in the sunshine. It’s easy to say he should believe in himself, but it’s another to make this a constant in his life.

In another case, a supremely intelligent friend (recently deceased) had a son from whom she was estranged. Despite many warm and wonderful get-togethers with this couple, I don’t know the cause of that estrangement other than it grew out of an earlier divorce. She and her current husband have never spoken of it, but it had to be a painful scar deep within the woman. This is one of those tests that never healed, but it affected the person I cared for.

Another friend, an informed and politically active man married to an equally informed and active woman, has a son who rejects reasonable and rational discussions in favor of right-wing irrationality. The son possesses a closed and locked mind under the influence of a domineering wife who has been allowed to build an impregnable wall around her spouse’s otherwise healthy but submissive mind.

That friend’s wife has buried her adult child. She doesn’t talk about her loss, but it’s a test no parent ever expects to experience. Parents expect that their children will survive them, so this is a test that must be particularly painful.

Last but not least, there’s me. My children have taught me more than they will ever know requiring adjustment to new ways of thinking and concomitant positive growth. Now that I’m in the twilight of my life, my youngest daughter just gave birth to their first child, a child I had assumed would never brighten my life. Although my wife and I secretly kept our fingers crossed for an easy birth and healthy baby, we are now supremely happy that being grandparents has at last become a reality. We see only the joys. No doubt tests will be part of the package waiting around the corner…for the parents as well as the grandparents.

Those are some of the parental experiences I’ve encountered. Tell us about the joys and tests in your life.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on September 2017

Dec 31

Anger, Bullheadedness and Road Rage

In Brief—Incidents experienced by the author, people of color and Palestinians reveal problems that haunt the human race and are overdue for correction. [Written in 2014; Revised in September 2017.]


Injustice and Destruction Grow —

In a world where both uplifting and destructive actions occur every moment of every day, violence and injustice undermine mankind’s efforts to make Earth a better place for us all. What follows includes relatively minor instances of injustice but also criminality and major conflicts that are not only destructive but threaten the existence of humankind itself.

A Swedish friend told me that her teenaged son was angered by an unjust ticket he received from an overzealous police officer. On hearing the story, I urged her to encourage her son to appeal the ticket. He did and his complaint was upheld. The ticket was dismissed on the basis that the police action was unjustified. Justice was done…at least this time.

As in America, young people are singled out for discrimination. Like so many young males, the Swedish young man has been stopped for being under the influence of drugs despite his not having taken drugs nor had he committed a traffic violation. By contrast, adults and young females are not usually stopped and tested. As his mother said, “He’s bullheaded and feels he and his young male friends are being discriminated against. He refuses to accept this any longer.”

People of Color and Me—

Now imagine what it is like for people of color, not just those in the news, but throughout the nation. Numerous studies have confirmed that the police target people of color at rates far exceeding their numbers in society. It’s a scandal that corrupts the justice system from top to bottom yet it is addressed only under pressure. It’s well past time for this to end.

Here are two instances that have directly touched me. At about 01:00 on a very windy morning after attending a party at which I neither drank nor used drugs, I slowed the car preparatory to entering a dangerous tunnel. I was stopped by the police, told to get out of the car and was subjected to a field sobriety test which, needless to say, I passed. Despite this, I was ticketed for “going too slow.” Angered by the “quota” ticket (it’s common, folks), I stopped by the judge’s chambers the following day and explained the circumstances. The judge understood and immediately cancelled the “quota” ticket.

On another occasion, I was on the freeway on my way to the hospital to see a friend who was a patient. As I slowed to exit, another car was crowding my rear bumper. Fearing I would be rear-ended, I switched on my lights causing my rear lights to light up. The car behind braked sharply and dropped back. Relieved, I exited and headed for the hospital. Within seconds, the tail-gating car pulled up beside me and the woman driver aimed a pistol at me. Shocked, I had visions of my wife identifying my body in the morgue. Fortunately, she didn’t shoot but had to stop ahead of me at the traffic light.

I began writing down the make and license number of the car. When I looked up, the driver’s large young Hispanic male companion was beside my open window. Without a word, he punched me knocking me into the passenger seat. He jumped back in her car and they raced off. Angry, I shouted that I would see them in court whereupon I drove straight to the police station to file a report while bleeding all over their floor.

The phone rang. According to the by-now skeptical cop who had spoken to the caller, the woman on the phone told the cop that I had tried to “run them off the road!” The cop announced that the woman was a friend and well-known in the area for working with the police in straightening out gang-bangers. He reluctantly took my complaint. I continued to the hospital where I was treated for my injury before visiting my friend.

Friends convinced me that I shouldn’t press the issue because it was my word against the woman’s and, besides, she had a witness who may have been a gang-banger. Not wanting to have gang-bangers shooting my family members, I let discretion overrule valor and didn’t press the matter. Not one of my proudest memories, but I have since asked myself what would have happened if I had been black?

From California to the Middle East—

Now to matters of deadly injustice. What about the Palestinians in their dealings with the occupying power, Israel?

At this point, I suggest reading my pieces explaining the basis for Palestinian anger. As a refresher, Israel was created after World War II on land that the British claimed was “empty land” that just happened to belong to the Palestinians. To add to Palestinian anger, tens of thousands of Palestinians were evicted from their land by the Israeli government.

The Israeli government currently continues to expand its Jewish settlements on Palestinian land. Under the heartless rubric of “mowing the grass,” the powerful Israeli military delivers collective punishment that kills hundreds of non-combatant Palestinians as punishment for the few rockets launched by angry Palestinians into Israeli territory. Unjust actions lead to more violence, and the deadly spiral of anger and reprisal continues.

Before illustrating the escalation of Israeli/Palestinian actions, I discussed Swedish police excess that saw the police action suitably nullified. Then I moved to incidents that illustrate the “Them versus Us” police attitudes that exist throughout America. Finally, I wrote of the toxic international situation that shows no sign of resolution.

When will humanity recognize that injustice will only grow more malignant unless it is dealt with rationally?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on August 2017

Dec 17

‘Tis the Season to Donate

In Brief—Bay points out the necessity for ignoring the commerciality that smothers the real meaning of the season and spending your money on the worthy causes that can really make a difference.


“Ho, Ho, Ho!” Donations That Have Real Impact—

We all need another tie or toy like we need water in our shoes. How many times have you smiled gamely at the giver and thanked her/him while thinking, “Oh, God! Not another gift that will never get used.” Well, here’s a solution.

For the past several years our family has agreed that we have enough “things” while there are folks who have little, who are sick, who fled their homes just to survive. We have made donations to worthy causes that address these needs and can always use more. You should do the same thing if you are not already ahead of us.

Here are organizations that can put those donations to use where they’re needed. These are truly worthwhile organizations. I’ve also provided a list of organizations that are already receiving attention but don’t really need the money they receive. By all means remember them if you need to but give where it truly counts!

Worthy Smaller Organizations that Need Your Donations—

These organizations are just a few of those recommended as worthy causes by both Bay and the courageous journalist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Most of the groups listed are relatively small and all give considerably more bang for the buck than the big guys.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)—This organization provides medical treatment to all comers in areas often in conflict zones. Their personnel work where other organizations fear to tread. As if that isn’t enough, they provide much-needed treatment to sick people throughout the world where poverty is the killer.

Reading is Fundamental—This organization provides free books to kids who live in poverty in the United States. It’s a way for children to overcome America’s inequality while giving an intellectual boost to the kids.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation—Despite what right-wing whiners trying to steal our rights may say, this organization is devoted to defending the First Amendment and our civil liberties. We’d be living in a fascist country if it were not for this group and others who value our freedoms.

Freedom of the Press Foundation— This is a group focused on freedom of the press under the First Amendment. Without groups like this and the ACLU the government would starve us of the right to know the truth. It’s always important, particularly when governments at the state and national level seek to bury or belittle the press.

Afghan Institute of Learning—Operated by Afghan and Pakistani women, this organization focuses on health and teaching and builds a foundation for a civil society. The Taliban wants to destroy good stuff like this.

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—Since 1972, this organization’s mission and efforts have been focused on turning poverty-stricken people into productive contributors to Bangladeshi society.

The Fistula Foundation—Operating in 32 countries throughout Africa and Asia, this organization provides surgery to eliminate the pain and isolation arising from a childbirth gone wrong. It’s focused on helping women.

GEMS (Girls Education & Mentoring Services)—In New York, young women who have been sexually exploited and trafficked learn solid gender-oriented principles in how to turn their lives around.

Partners in Health (PIH)—Focused primarily in Africa but with programs in other parts of the world, this organization works hard to improve the health of the poor.

In addition, Nicholas Kristof annually mentions overlooked organizations worthy of support. By reading Nicholas Kristof’s recommendations you can check out organizations that are both effective and in need of donations to carry out their missions.

By clicking on either of  the light blue highlighted areas above, you will find several additional worthwhile non-profit organizations that can use your donation to better thousands of lives.

Organizations that have More than Enough—

The following organizations may be helpful, but they get more attention and money than the smaller worthwhile groups listed above. Why do these large groups get all the attention and so much money? They spend millions in advertising, they recruit mega-stars to advance their causes. Less bang for the buck. They don’t need your donations to survive.

The Red Cross—Sometimes effective, sometimes not. Enormous advertising costs. Wasteful.

The Cancer Society—Both private and government support. Enormous world-wide research focus.

The Roman Catholic Church—The wealthiest organization on earth. Richer than the United States. Global influence.

The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation—Worthwhile but heavily funded by the American government. Recruits mega-stars to promote contributions.

Your Local Church—By all means drop your small contribution in the basket they pass around every Sabbath, but be aware that your local church is part of a wealthy religious organization.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the organizations that don’t need your contribution. There are others, but be aware that these groups have more than ample support while the smaller organizations above need your contributions to carry on their work.

Give Where it Really Counts—

However you celebrate the holidays, give thought to the small organizations that work to improve the lives of people less fortunate. Make a meaningful donation today.

Note—This piece will run for two (2) weeks because many readers will be involved in activities and travel during the holidays. I suggest you post this piece on Facebook and other social sites.

The next piece will appear on December 31, 2017. If you subscribe to this blog, you will get only a simple heads-up every time I publish a new piece. No harassment. I promise.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Dec 10

America: A Failed Experiment

In Brief — With sadness, the author briefly explores the state of America today under an erratic and autocratic leader as it descends in status. Just another flawed country that has lost its way after a promising beginning. [Written April 2017.]

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The Fall of Giants—

No, I’m not anti-American but I AM a realist. If I didn’t care about the country of my birth, I wouldn’t mourn the state of affairs that poisons America.

The facts you are about to read examine just a few of the many cracks in the structure that undermine what was once a nation that promised so much to citizens and immigrants alike. When asked by a woman about what the founding fathers had given the people, Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” There is still a glimmer of hope in this fractured, ultra-partisan nation, but right now it looks like we have lost it.

A republic is defined as a country in which the supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

America is not perfect nor has it ever been, but the experiment that was brought into being by a group of men in the 18th century was the best to arise from the Enlightment that emerged from centuries of darkness and oppression. With the guarded hopes of its founders, the oppression of the church was replaced by common men rather than prelates. And large hunks of the citizenry have now trampled on that promise.

Some of the many ways America has lost the promise that was created by the founding fathers and offered to all immigrants by the Statue of Liberty can be seen every day when we look at the destruction we see around us.

The United States, once a promising democracy that was scarred by slavery, lasted until the Civil War ended the experiment and Jim Crow took over where slavery left off. Under its current government the country is now a plutocratic and racist oligarchy that is coming dangerously close to becoming an autocracy — even a Christian theocracy — ruled by money and corruption. Times have changed, but barely camouflaged slavery still exists and inequality flourishes.

Not long ago, five conservatives on the United States Supreme Court, ruled in the Citizens United case that prodigious amounts of money are entitled to the same standing as the votes of the average voter. Put clearly, they refused to recognize that money has the power to exert outsized influence and corrupt. Indeed, money is corrupting governance not just in America but throughout the world.

Those same five conservatives ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that the religion of an owner of a closely-held corporation overrules the beliefs of the corporation’s employees. To help you understand this, it means that the religious belief of that owner negates the beliefs — religious or not — of all the company’s employees. It should come as no surprise that the conservatives on the Supreme Court are partisan politicians in black robes.

Now, let’s look at some other major flaws in the American system.

The two controlling political parties, Republican and Democrat, not only deprive the people of the power of the vote, they actively prevent Third Parties from taking part in the elective process. The legislative branch, congress, has become dysfunctional to the extent that, despite the loud objections of the Republicans, the former Democratic president was forced to do his job by executive order, executive orders now embraced and misused by the current Republican president. The congress obstructed every move by the former president for partisan and probably racist motives, but they have no trouble in accepting the current president’s corruption and unconstitutional executive orders.

America’s corrupt oligarchs wanted a widely-despised woman to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party while the backward-looking Republican Party that created the current ethically-challenged president now supports the most reviled man ever to occupy the Oval Office. Ignoring the message of the 2016 election, both parties now threaten — each in its own way — to bring down the country. Corruption is the mother’s milk of the American government.

America now fights wars in several parts of the world bent on forcing its vision of freedom on the people of foreign countries who want to decide their own destinies. Both political parties give more money than the American military asks for as it lies consistently and squeezes the rest of the world in its python-like embrace. At home, the military arrogantly tests new weapons on its own people despite laws designed to prevent them from doing this. Now, the Republican Party and its president shower even more money on the military. Indeed, military generals manipulate the levers of power at the highest level of government. It appears as if the military has taken over.

No doubt this piece barely scratches the surface of America’s many flaws, not least justice, sexism, racism and inequality. We know that America could do much better, but its political elite puts the pedal to the floor and heads even lower on the ethical road. Only the people have the power to put America on the right road toward the promise of its beginning. Will we do it? Is there time left?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on July 2017