Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lower Tiers

Lately I have been delving deep into government websites. At first I was just curious what I could find, but once I started looking into I got interested to see how our government functions, at least in part. What I found was a vast bureauc...racy. That does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Our lives, our laws, our society and our relationship in the world at large, all these large and complex matters result is a vast and complex system to manage all these elements.

  Out top tiers of government have problems. It is in the lower tiers of our government where the people who know what they are doing do their work. These are the people who took the time to learn their fields of expertise and then instead of moving to the public sector took their skills and went to work for us. It is unlikely they made this choice because they thought it would lead to fame or riches. They run our government on what, to the outside observer, appears to be an automatic process. On the ground level it is complex and time consuming, and it gets done with our money for our benefit. Could it be done better, of course, but could it be worse? Oh yes, it could be much worse.

  I have attached a sample of what I have been looking at. This is a report from the Government Accountability Office. It is only forty pages, but represents a lot of work by many people on an issue that effects most Americans.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ma’s Birthday Present.

Today is my mother’s birthday, as I call her in the traditional New England manner; Ma.
I am not going to go into great detail on all that she has done from me. That would require a long and very personal essay. Suffice it to say that I owe much of what I am to her.

She raised three kids single handed. I learned independence because of this, mainly by necessity. She worked very hard not only to keep a roof over our heads, but to also assure that she had a balance between our needs and her own personal development. In light of that I was often left to my own devices and had more freedom than many other kids. I took a lesson from that and now that I am a parent I try to walk the same line.

When I was younger, I was not always reasonable, but time has tempered that obstinate attitude and now I look back and think, oh what she must have thought of me, and I laugh at myself, something else I took from her.

Yes, I took so much away from those years, but the thing I am most grateful for is compassion. She was always very caring, not just towards us, but to all life in general. It is compassion that led me to many other places in my life; kindness, reason and patience just to name a few. So many parents teach their kids what to think and how to judge others based on an inherited belief system. I was not taught what to think or to judge, was not offered a belief system to follow, but was taught how to think and to temper my attitude with compassion.

Looking back on how I was raised I realize that as I get older I am understanding more and more of what she gave me in those most formative years of my life, and I am grateful.

Thank you, Ma. I love you. Happy Birthday.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Usurping Delegated Trust.

“All power exercised over a nation, must have some beginning. It must either be delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.” Thomas Paine. The Rights of Man.

During the last election cycle the Koch Brothers spent in excess of four hundred million dollars. The money was used by super PACs in an attempt to influence elections across the United States. These men, like many others, use their position and resources from the private sector as an instrument to make adjustments to our government and reshape society at large to suit their own self interests. They game the system by lobbying sympathetic legislators and through advertising used to generate disingenuous and irrelevant informational attacks against people running against those who would serve their own interests.

We allow our democratically elected officials some flexibility to legislate based on their wisdom and experience while giving deference to the will of the people they are there to represent.  That is how our government was intended to work at least. For any elected official to accept any measurable favor from a sphere of influence outside these guidelines creates a situation fertile for a kind of third part coup d'├ętat. The existing government still stands, but is manipulated behind the scenes in both broad strokes and in a slow methodical process intended to ultimately suit the interests of those with the means and position wield such influence.

For any outside party to seek influence in the halls of government, for any reason, is not how our government was intended to operate. We elect our representatives and delegate power to them with the expectation that they will work for the common good. It is idealistic to assume that this will always be the case, but now we see entities such as the Koch brothers using their status and resources to assume power through control of those we have assigned with the public trust. The Supreme Court made this matter worse with the ruling over Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This one ruling has reshaped our political system and corrupted the ideal put forth by our founding the founders of a representative government of duly elected people charged with the duty of representing the interests of those who delegated that trust onto them. A select few are attempting to usurp power for their own purposes, and like when our country was founded, it is up to we the people to deal with it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Secular Virtue

I do not believe in a god. I take no stock in religious texts. I do not believe in Heaven or Hell. I believe in humans, nature, and the natural laws of the universe.  Does this make me a bad person? No, I do not think it does.
I put it to you, reader, that for a person to be good and virtuous does not require religion. Morality is formed by cultural acceptance of right and wrong to start with, but for me the most important thing is to do no harm. Those who know me well know that I am a bit rough on the edges, but at my core I strive to be a good person.

My moral code is based on my own life experience and the core belief that we should all cooperate to make our world a better place for those who come after us.  My values developed over the course of my life; influenced by the people in my life, family and friends…those I love and respect.  I read, I watch people and I think. I look back and examine where I have been. The mistakes I have made and that I have witnessed over the course of my life have helped make me a better person.  The beauty of this perspective is it allows me to evolve as a human and to continue to grow.  Prove me wrong with clear evidence and I will accept that and adjust my views accordingly, always maintaining the core values of kindness and cooperation.

I believe that I should be the best human I can be, seek to improve myself and try to make the world a better place, even in the smallest of gestures. I take this approach and do my best to share what I have learned with my own children so that they begin farther along their path than I did on mine.  The world grows ever more complex, but kindness without any prejudice will always have a place.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This thing happened and it sucked, but the way we came together, it was pissah.

Today the world witnessed Massachusetts and the U.S.A. at its very best.  Federal, state and local law enforcement worked together seamlessly. There may have been internal problems, but to the casual observer it was like clockwork. Nearly half the population of the state cooperated in an unprecedented way with them, their absence as great a help as any other part through the entire ordeal.  When this all began it was sudden and brutal and the effect on us all was profound. Then began our sharing of this, the good and the bad.  Bad press coverage, like the entire fourth estate was in a race to see who could be wrong first, vitriolic extremism from our own, which unfortunately we have come to expect, partisan rhetoric that was often cruel, and of course the conspiracies, all of it pushing this thing to the edge of horrible circus. 

But, oh, the good.  The Boston Marathon is amazing.  In few events can the novice complete with the elite. Anyone from anywhere in the world can participate. It is a symbol of best kind of freedom.  This began with an unfathomable act of violence against that symbol.  Even as it was happening people turned to face the danger, ordinary folk running into smoke and chaos and getting strangers clear. Then the city shut down the first time, and locals reached out, shelter, food, transport; social networks became a clearinghouse for immediate aid. Even before the dust settled the search for answers began, information pouring in from all corners.  Then big brains in law enforcement went to work, and they got us answers, all of which we do not know even now. Then today happened. A sudden and awful burst of chaos followed by a powerful coming together so compelling that even the press participated.  A taciturn and focused unity formed that was uniquely Boston. It may be that sometime down the road we come to this again, and another city will be forced to show its mettle.  It is my hope we learn from this, remembering the positive and improving on what worked and looking at the negative as an object lesson in pointless noise. 
This thing happened and it sucked, but the way we came together, it was pissah.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Forty Four Rounds. - 12/04/2011

Today marks the beginning of round forty four in my bout with Father Time. It is a long time, by a nine year old’s reckoning, but to me it seems as if no time has passed at all.  I can remember every round, well, almost every round. 

When that first bell rang and for the next few rounds I came out strong and had him on the ropes quite a few times.  Somehow he always managed to make it to the bell and stagger back to his corner.  Not too bad for an old guy, I have to say.

I would sit in my corner in those days and watch as his corner men, Fate and Free Will, worked on him, rubbing his boney shoulders, holding up two fingers in front of him and asking him if he knew his own name.  Yeah, I came on strong early, but he took it and when that bell rang next he was back up, every time.

During the early rounds the odds were in my favor, but around round sixteen he took a new tact.  Taking a page from Free Will’s playbook, he decided to hang back and lead me, drawing me out, allowing me to be the instrument of my own destruction.  He employed the usual methods; liquor, fast cars, tobacco, a myriad of things, some of which I care not to dwell on.

 I kept coming out of my corner, but I was distracted.  I could not lay a glove on the cagey S.O.B.  During these rounds I listened less to the people in my own corner, which of course did not help.  It went on this way for quite some time.  Oh, I knew who I was, and I could count the fingers, but old man Time was playing the long game now, working me slow.  He had me then and I did not even realize it.

Somewhere around round thirty he got in a wicked left hook.  I was staggered.  It was a real bell-ringer, and now it was me stumbling to my corner, dazed.  Were there three fingers…four?  For just a couple of minutes there I might as well have been Abe Lincoln or the Easter Bunny.  Mr. Time had decided to step up the action, and he had come out to clean my clock.

For about three rounds he drove me up against the ropes, occasionally sending me right out of the ring into the stands.  He was without pity.  It was then that I discovered the ruthless bastard was just as good as a south paw as he was with the right.  He had changed the game once again and it was all I could to keep my hands up and keep him from driving me to the mat.  He would come in hard and I would get him into a clinch so I could catch my breath.  Life, always the impartial referee, would break us up and that cantankerous old pugilist would come right back at me.

Well, needless to say, this got old.  Just before round thirty three, sitting in my corner, I decided to get my shit together.  No more would I fall for the strategies Time was using, coached by Free Will.  Tobacco, no more, alcohol, while not gone, was given a back seat to career and mental focus and I at least made some attempts to regain the vigor of youth.

I came out hard in round thirty three and went at him.  It was a rough round for both us.  I had caught him off guard, but he still had a few tricks, and of course he was still as tough a beef jerky left on the dashboard in July.  The round ended and I felt spent, but when I returned to my corner I found someone new there.  She was magnificent, and she was there for me.

For the next eight rounds the good Father and I went at it, both pacing our selves and suffering our own setbacks and victories.  He still seemed to have a slight advantage over me, but I had her in my corner, and knowing that drove me on.

Then, around round forty two, my corner man, well, corner woman, and I decided the Father Time needed to be put down, hard.  Round forty two saw a new clean diet and a new passion for fitness and vitality.  When I came out that round I saw in Father Time’s eye something I had not seen in many rounds.  I would not call it fear, because that ancient bastard fears nothing. No, it was more like respect.

It has been two rounds since we changed our strategy, and now, every round old Time and I stand toe to toe.  The exchanges are fast and brutal, but now I can handle the pace.  I will keep at it.  I know this is not a fight I can win with a KO, no one does.  I can’t win that way, but I will not be fooled by the trickeries of Free Will again, I certainly will not throw in the towel, and I sure as hell will not lose by a TKO.  I will go to the end of this fight, and maybe, just maybe, I will win by decision.

For my corner woman.