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Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

This picture shows an example of heavily armed but unmarked riot “police” in the streets of Washington, DC. Mind you, we don’t know who these people are. With no names, no identification and no badges we have no idea. If we were to be assaulted by one of them, there would be no recourse whatsoever. Is this not frightening to anyone?

Whether you are a 46-year-old black man, or a white female college student, or New York State Senator Myrie, or Rep. Ocasio Cortez, any of these thugs could assault you, possibly even kill you, and there’d be no recourse. How is this possible? How do we tolerate this?

Word is that these are mercenaries from Erik Prince, the brother of our illustrious Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, but how would we know? Also, do you all realize how expensive these forces are? Do we know how much money Trump is funneling into this buddy Prince’s pocket right now under the guise of national security?

The corruption is immeasurable.

I can’t believe I am writing this, but it seems like it’s time that we exercised our beloved Second Amendment Rights.

At the time when it was ratified, the Second Amendment was intended to have at least two security purposes other than a well-regulated militia:

  1. a practical purpose, to protect people from thieves, bandits, Native Americans, and slave uprisings
  2. a political purpose, to remind the rest of the world that the United States is well-armed

I haven’t been assaulted by any Native Americans in a long time, and I don’t know anyone who has been. We don’t have slaves anymore, so uprisings are not a danger. It also goes without saying that the rest of the world has, since 1792, figured out that the United States is well-armed.

However, the founders had another objective with the Second Amendment: During the early massive shift of power from the states to the federal government, the Anti-Federalists argued that the states and the people needed to be armed in case of federal usurpation of power. As a result, the American people are well-armed, as we all know, and as the NRA has been making sure we would be.

The picture above makes me feel assaulted by the federal government. Perhaps I should go to my local gun store (an essential business, after all, per the NRA), buy myself a few AR-15s, a helmet, a shield, black gloves and sunglasses, and go out there and fight for my freedom.

In other words, I should exercise my Second Amendment rights – since the federal government is clearly now turning against its own citizens.

Do you all see how Great America has become Again?

 

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Recently a friend shared a post on Facebook:

James Fallows, an American writer, notes that on February 20 neither South Korea nor the U.S. had any deaths from the coronavirus; on March 20 S. Korea had 100, the U.S. had 150; on April 20 S. Korea had 236 deaths while the U.S. surpassed 40,000. S. Korea followed WHOs guidelines and suggestions from mid-January – the U.S. did not.

This friend is on the liberal side of the spectrum.

A friend of his on the conservative side then responded to the effect that he needed to “stop the hatred” and that he had “reached a low point in his life as a Christian.”

There is no hatred that I can see in the quote above, which wasn’t even his own, it was a shared post.

Obviously, this person on the right side interpreted the ongoing political criticism of the right by my friend as hatred.

Being critical, and having different opinions, is central to the concept of democracy. If we oppose somebody’s view, and publicize that, we’re not hating. We’re simply propagating our own viewpoint. If our arguments are powerful, we’ll convince more people to come around to our side, and eventually change the course of a country, or a world.

He also referred to the Christianity of my friend. He must be inferring that being critical of conservative political views somehow affects a person’s Christian credibility.

I don’t watch sports. I don’t watch football. A long time ago, in a casual social conversation, a friend of mine made the statement that “I know you hate football….” which offended me a bit. I choose not to watch football. It does not do anything for me and I’d rather spend my time otherwise. That does not mean I hate football. It does not mean I don’t understand other people’s fascination with the game. I am just not interested.

I am not religious. That does not mean I hate Christians. I have many Christian friends, and I respect them. Their religion does not affect my assessment of them. I am just not interested.

I am actually fairly conservative in my political thinking, but I haven’t voted for any American Republican in a few decades. I am registered as an independent. But I don’t hate the American political right. I speak out against it because I think it’s misguided and it’s terrible for our current world situation and our country and its future.  I will do what I can with sound, logical, scientific arguments, within my limited abilities and reach, to try to persuade people to lean in my direction. That’s democracy at work.

That is not hatred.

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The View from my Window

There is a Facebook initiative going on called The View from my Window. People from all over the world, in quarantine, are taking pictures out their windows and sharing their views.

I find it mesmerizing. I can’t stop scrolling. People in Iceland, South Africa, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Hawaii, Norway, every thinkable country, are posting pictures. There is ice and snow, there is lush tropical vegetation, there is desert, there are oceans, lakes and lagoons, there are city streets, there are brick walls in courtyards in European cities. All at the same time. All people at home. Everyone around the world is sharing.

COVID-19 is a global disaster of almost unprecedented proportions. But it is also a unifying experience. I have always been a global citizen. I have traveled. I speak multiple languages. But I have never before felt the amount of global unity that I feel right now.

In the morning, I spend ten or twenty minutes scrolling through The View from my Window and see snippets of the lives of people I will never know, people, who are nevertheless just like me, people who I feel are my friends.

And I feel united. I rise beyond national interests. I leave the closed world of my home and I look out and enjoy The View from my Window.

 

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

— Isaac Asimov, 1980

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Back on July 18, 1963, as the AFS [see below] students who had spent their high school year in the United States, were preparing to go back to their countries, they got to visit the White House. JFK talked to them.

It would be another 11 years before I had the privilege to be chosen as an AFS student. I arrived in the United States two weeks after Nixon’s resignation on August 20, 1974. Our group did not get to visit the White House when we went home in July of 1975.

All my life I have been proud to have been an AFS student and to carry the mission forward of spreading peace in the world, one person at a time.

It’s gotten a little more difficult in recent years.

[AFS stands for American Field Service, today the largest and most famed high school student exchange program in the world]

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Here is a video that illustrates what privilege is all about:

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Germany’s president is Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The president of Germany is a largely ceremonial position, with the chancellor serving as the chief executive. In the U.S., our president serves as both. In Germany, these duties are spread over the two positions. At the 80th anniversary of the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, when the U.S. president made a serious faux pas by “congratulating” Poland and stating it was “a great country,” Steinmeier asserted at a ceremony:

I Affirm our Lasting Responsibility

— Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Germany did a lot of damage in the world during the last century and it still as an inferiority complex as a result to this day. Contrary to what the U.S. president currently often does when world affairs do not go right, namely blaming his predecessors, blaming his staffers and appointees, or blaming other nations and their leaders, the president of Germany took responsibility for the brutal and unprovoked attack on Poland on September 1, 1939 that started World War II.

Steinmeier and I have a few things in common. His mother was born in Breslau, which is in now a part of Poland and called Wrocław. She was a refugee after the war. My father was also born in Breslau, and he was a refugee. Steinmeier was born in 1956. I was born in 1956. When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, World War II was ancient history to me. I only know the Germany of the economic miracle of the 1960s. Due to his age, the same would be true for Steinmeier. I am certainly not personally responsible for the atrocities committed by the people of Germany in World War II, even though my grandfather was a German soldier of low rank serving in the Wehrmacht during the war, and several of my uncles from the maternal side were reportedly members of the SS, even though I never had a chance to actually talk about this with them. It was not talked about then.

There are very few Germans alive today that were alive during World War II. Those who are still with us were children then. Nobody of any position of responsibility or authority is still alive. Nobody who has personally committed atrocities is still alive. And yet, the German president affirms the country’s lasting responsibility for damaging the Polish nation, resulting in the deaths of about six million Polish citizens, about a fifth of the country’s pre-war population, both by the occupation by Germany and then the Russians when they attacked from the eastern front. Six million Polish civilians were killed by war crimes, crimes against humanity and by starvation.

The U.S. president congratulates Poland for this.

The German president affirms his country’s lasting responsibility, even though he himself was born 17 years after the event.

Nations carry responsibility for their actions. The United States is currently responsible for millions of civilian deaths due to wars it started in Afghanistan and Iraq, which triggered conflicts all over the Middle East. That responsibility will remain with our nation. I wonder, in the year 2099, when a U.S. president, who is today not even alive yet, gives a memorial speech for the victims of these wars, whether he will exhibit the same sense of responsibility and grace for those victims?

Countries are bigger than people. They can do more good, and they can do more damage. Where does our country rate today? Will we be proud of our actions today come 2099?

 

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Readers of the diary will have no difficulty seeing the similarities between Friedrich’s world and our own. And with Friedrich they will wonder with alarm why the pillars of civilization are so meager they can be pulled down by brutes.

— Kellner, Robert Scott. My Opposition (p. xxxi). Cambridge University Press, speaking about the Nazis.

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Freud is known for the following statement:

“America is a mistake, a gigantic mistake it is true, but none the less a mistake.”

— Sigmund Freud

In his youth, we was reportedly enamored with all things America. He had the Declaration of Independence hung on a wall in his room. He had memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and often recited it. But all that changed when he came to America one time. He never returned after his first visit.

He regarded Americans as poorly educated, uncultured, and backward, and he resented the fact that he had to take on more and more of them as patients in Vienna. He disliked the American system of consumption, and he didn’t respect American wealth and rich people.

He also had trouble with the egalitarianism we practice at America. People of all walks of life called him Sigmund, rather than Herr Dr. Freud or Dr. Freud. Most German speakers have a difficult time in America at first with the apparent familiarity and egalitarian social structure. They like their ranks and class distance as it is built into the language. They have trouble, at first, calling everyone “you” in the familiar form. In the English language, we address each other with you, no matter what the relationship is. We talk the same way to our doctors, our supervisors at work, the president of the country, teachers, relatives, parents, students, playmates, buddies and our dogs. Not so in German, French, Spanish, or Japanese, to name just a few major languages which differentiate the common address based on relationship and status.

Dr. Freud didn’t like the American way.

Is what we commonly call here “the greatest country in the world” really a mistake?

Let’s not ask Freud.

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When Trisha’s father passed away in 2004, he left her his library. Over the years, she kept only the most precious pieces. In her den, on a prominent shelf, is the fifteen book set of the Complete Works of Charles Dickens, by the Kelmscott Society Publishers, New York. The volumes are not dated, but I found through online research that they were published in 1904.

The books are now brittle, some of the spines have crumbled, and I don’t think any of the books themselves would survive a reading. They would disintegrate from being handled.

But precious they are, on that shelf, to remind her of her father, who himself must have acquired them when they were already old.

I have never read any Dickens, but it gives me comfort to know the complete works are in our house.

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Lynne said she’d been on the phone one day last summer (also with her door open), “I heard the cat munching his catfood, and out of the corner of my eye saw a black and white shape at the dish… then thought, up-oh, the cat’s upstairs… I turned around to look and, of course, you guessed it, it was a skunk, the absolute nightmare scenario of living in the country. I slowly moved toward it, telling it to leave, please. It just looked me in the eye and, with its paw, scraped the cat’s dish closer to itself! I decided to do nothing and wait. Do you know how slowly skunks eat? Finally, when the skunk was finished, it calmly walked out the door.”

— The Pocket Lint Chronicles, Barbara Carlson, page 148

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Flip Flop Selfie

Picture Credit: my shoe – sorry, actually don’t know.

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A couple of weeks ago I drove westbound on Rancho California Road in Temecula, getting ready to turn left onto the I-15 southbound, when BAAAAMMM I was hit from the right. An SUV had tried to cross into my lane, apparently didn’t see me, and tore up the entire right side of my Prius, from the front bumper, through both right doors, the rear fender and the rear bumper.

I have never before been hit like that. I pulled over to the right side, and the car that hit me followed. It turns out the driver was a 15-year-old girl who was out on a practice ride with her mother two days before she was scheduled to take the test to get her driver’s license.

The poor girl was upset.

While we waited for the police to come, we exchanged information, taking pictures of each other’s driver’s licenses, registrations and insurance cards. When the police finally came, the officer didn’t actually do anything, since there were no injuries involved. He gave us each his card with the ticket number on it, and told us that we should both contact our insurance companies and they would work out the details.

I was depressed all the way home. I didn’t want to have to deal with getting the car fixed. It didn’t look like it would be cheap. The wheel was hit, and the entire right side of my car was scraped. The door didn’t open. The mirror was bent.

When I got home, I needed a break. I sat down at the TV and watched the depressing evening news. But I calmed down. At around 8:00pm I went to my desk and pulled up my insurance policy with 21st Century Insurance. It was time to call this incident in.

Just as I was getting started I received a call from Geico, the insurance company of the car that hit me. The agent first asked me whether I was ok, hurt in any way, and whether my car was drivable. I told him it was a bit wobbly at high speeds, since the wheel was hit, but I was able to take it home. He asked me to describe what had happened, and I did.

Then he told me that they would take full responsibility for getting my car repaired, and they would provide a rental car in the meantime. He was ok with me calling my own insurance company, but he didn’t think it was necessary, since they’d take care of the problem.

The gave me a phone number to call in the morning to take my car in.

The next morning, I called the number, and they told me to take the car to Henson’s Fix Auto, a shop in Escondido, not more than a mile from my office. I made an appointment at 10:30am.


When I walked into the lobby, there were three people there. The first person got up and introduced himself as the Geico representative. He’d take care of my problem. Then he introduced me to the lady at the other desk, who worked for Henson’s shop. She’d get the work done. And the other gentleman was a representative from Enterprise Rent-a-car, who was here with my car.

The man from Geico looked over my car with me and explained all that he saw and that they were going to do. Then he led me back into the office, and the lady from the shop gave me all the paperwork. The man from Enterprise handed me the key to the blue car he had brought for me and checked me into the car. I was out of there within less than 30 minutes.

It was the most pleasant, helpful and efficient customer service experience I can remember. Something as traumatic and upsetting as a trashed car was made easy and comfortable.

The next day Geico called me with the cost of $4,800 and assured me that Geico was taking responsibility. It would take two weeks to get the car fixed. He said he’d call Enterprise and tell them how long I’d need the rental car.

Every day in the last two weeks I received text messages updating me about the status of the repairs and that all was well.

Today I received the call that it was done and I could pick it up. I drove back, gave them the key to the rental car, checked out the repairs – looks beautiful – and drove away.

Geico has the most impressive customer service I have ever experienced. Henson’s Fix Auto shop does customer service like it should be done in the digital age. And Enterprise supplied me with a hassle-free car.

I hope the 15-year-old girl learned a valuable lesson about traffic from this and I hope she got her license. I remember the day many years ago when my own son totaled his first car, and how relieved I was that he was ok. He learned. We all want our kids to grow up alright, safe and responsible. And this family did the responsible thing and took care of this for me as effortlessly as it could be done.

And now I think I need to switch to Geico.

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In early December I visited Detroit and called an old friend (EP). We had not seen each other in many years, and it was time for a visit. As friends dating back to high school are wont to do, it took only a few minutes for us to be back in the groove. He is a professor at a large university, and we have nothing much in common, other than our love for art, writing, philosophy and a general feeling of living lives of joy and integrity. We disagree on religion, and that brings spice to the conversation.

We met at a Chinese “deco” restaurant; the sushi was great, we downed a bottle of Champagne, and before we knew it we might as well have been back in high school, so the discussions went. I got a call from work in the middle of it telling me that a critical public server was down, and the internal stress went through the roof, but I recovered, and I hope I was not too absent-minded after that.

Of course, in the age of smart phones, it was appropriate that we two old dogs took a quick selfie before we said good-bye, for the record, and for evidence that we actually met. Hey, I had forgotten about the visit we both did together to the art museum in Toledo, some 15 years earlier. He reminded me of that.

Here we are, the professor and the software CEO, with a set of titties on a painting between us photobombing the occasion.

We have to get together more often.

Friends. Timeless.

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Trump, and now Nikki Haley, are telling us that “the world” respects the United States and Trump. America is “respected again.”

That’s baloney.

Here is a chart that shows confidence that the U.S. president will do the “right thing” regarding world affairs. The countries shown are Spain, France, Germany and the U.K.

Clearly, Obama was respected, and Trump is lower than Bush. It says nothing about how Americans feel, or what’s good for America. It says something about how other countries “respect” the American president. This must irk Trump, to whom it matters so much what others think. This is probably why he denigrates Obama so much. He is obsessed with Obama and does not understand why he cannot garner the same respect and admiration.

Respect must be earned. It can’t be gained by making outrageous – and false – claims.

Trump lives is a world of his own wishful thinking.

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