I Think We’re Over-Thinking or Not Thinking At All

Okay, about all of this killing we’re doing… and I totally get that it’s different when we kill them, but I bet it doesn’t feel different to the ones being killed.

First I think we need to look in the mirror because we do act on our prejudices, and you can’t base a rational strategy on an irrational premise. Crazy is going to stay crazy.

I don’t say that we’re bigots or whatever, but let’s admit that the deaths in France hit us harder than the deaths in Africa because we’re of European ancestry. It’s not fair and it pisses off people of African ancestry, but the attacks in Paris happened to people like us. Let’s own that and put it aside for at least a while.

I’d like to see us put aside the religious rhetoric. I’m convinced that religion has very little if anything to do with terrorism if only because everybody does the same damn things regardless of their religious cover story. They do this crap for the same reason that Capone wanted to take over Chicago. Luciano wanted to take over the mob, and (pick a dictator) wanted to take over the world: a lust for power.

When McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building we hunted him down like the dog he was and killed him. When Ted Kaczynski was sending out those bombs we hunted him down like the dog he is and locked him up for life (8 of them). When bin Laden engineered 9/11 we declared war on two countries and an ideology, and got thousands of our own people killed before ten years later we finally hunted him down like the dog he was and killed him. Now, hours after the attacks in Paris (and 7 months after the attack in Kenya) we’re in another full-throated tizzy about America’s response to Islamist extremism.

These are crimes. We have cops. The whole world has cops and some of them, many if not most of them I’d say, are pretty good at what they do. Find out who engineered these crimes and where they are and take them out in as surgically precise a manner as possible. Don’t piss off every innocent civilian within a thousand miles just because they have different beliefs and wear man-dresses instead of pants.

Will my approach stop “terrorism?” No.

Has anything stopped crime so far? Is there any population in the history of mankind where everyone has stayed in their lane and followed the rules? We don’t have to stop trying and we don’t have to be stupid about it. The dumbest person I know had to admit that you can’t kill all of your enemies, especially when you go around making new enemies everywhere besides the widows and orphans.

Posted in People, Rant, Rationality | 6 Comments

Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing

I choose not to waste my life being angry.

This morning I – with several thousand of my closest friends – got an e-mail from 350.org telling me that it was time for me get angry and support a federal investigation into what Exxon leadership knew about climate change and when did they know it.

It told me that it was time to get angry that I had been lied to. Bill McKibben goes on to say that we shouldn’t just be cynical and say ‘of course they knew;’ that if they’d only told the truth we’d all be green by now. Seriously? We had no idea that 7 billion people raising billions of animals for food and burning carbon-based fuels while denuding the surface of oxygen-producing vegetation was a loser? I’m reminded of when the world found out that smoking was a danger to our health.

I’m not clear on when this whole “what did they know and when did they know it” mantra came into fashion; I feel like the Democrats started it when they were investigating the Watergate break-in but I could be wrong. I’m not opposed to investigating crime, but spending millions just to find out how pissed-off I should be seems like good money being thrown after bad.

Now it’s “get Hillary” time in Congress. After all of the lives lost and fortunes spent during Republican administrations in the past, we have yet another investigation into what Hillary might have known before four people were killed at Benghazi.

Now when Hillary calls Republicans out for scheming to privatize the VA she becomes the bad guy, because how could they have known that years of awarding building contracts for new hospitals in their districts was not at all the same thing as adequately funding the VA. How could they have known, and when would they have known it?

Of course Exxon executives knew they were managing a finite resource that was polluting, but there was still oil to be sold and a lot of money in it, and they were going to get it and sell it. Of course tobacco executives knew then and know today that their product, in it’s purest form, is poison and that it is addictive, but people are still buying it and there’s a lot of money in it and they’re going to get it to market. Investigating Exxon for years and then holding years of hearing on what they knew and when they knew it – assuming either Republican-controlled chamber would undertake such a thing – would accomplish nothing.

My great-uncle farmed with horses up to his retirement in the 50s because internal combustion engine exhaust would kill his crops.  My foster-father told me when I was 12 not to smoke because it was killing him. They knew, and we knew, and we let it get like this anyway. Investigate that.

No. A few of you people are evil, some of you are nuts, and a bunch of you are in denial, but I’m 68 years old and I refuse to spend whatever time I have left in this body angry. If I was going to get angry then I’d have to move, and if I moved again I might have to leave the country and I paid for this country. I’m okay with being cynical – cynical and disappointed – but I’m not going to be angry.

“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time, and it annoys the pig.”
– Robert A. Heinlien, 1973, Time Enough for Love

Posted in Life, People, Politics, Rant | 3 Comments

Reflecting on Disaster Response

Incidentally, I’m a Red Cross volunteer, and I do Disaster Assessment – which is morphing into a broader Situational Awareness activity – on Disaster Relief Operations. These DRO’s are the ones that make the papers, and that is as it should be I suppose, but we’ve only had 157 of those in 2015 while we’ve responded to more than 41,942 home fires. I digress.

Here’s the thing: we say that all responses begin and end as local responses because the first people on the job are the folks from the local chapter, and after all the out-of-town help and the cameras have gone away the local chapter will dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” and see their clients and community through to recovery. We know this rationally, but sometimes we get called to a community where they don’t have a brilliant response manager, or a lot of local resources, and sometimes the people who come in from out of town to help don’t do things the way we’ve always done them or they may rub the local folks the wrong way. When that happens and we’re working 12-15 hour days 6 days a week we can get a bit out of sorts, and when that happens we can lose sight of what we’re there for and let it become about us. I find that to be kind of sad.

I don’t believe anyone goes out on a disaster response to fuck things up; I just don’t. There may be prima donnas who like being big-deal shot callers – I may be one – but I can’t imagine that, with the living and working conditions on these jobs, people are going to go so far out of their way to make a disaster worse. I think those people are going to sit at home and write articles about how we’re doing everything wrong.

I really like doing what I do on these jobs. It is my privilege that people ask me how many homes have been impacted, how many people displaced, is it safe to go out on those roads or in that weather. I feel a little guilty that I feel as good as I do after I come off a job like this because it was so freaking awful for the clients. I can’t imagine losing everything I’ve spent my adult life working for.

At the end of this last job I came home feeling that I’d done my job, trained a few highly-motivated and committed local volunteers in skills that will help them and their community on their next job, and maybe made a few friends. It pains me that at least a few folks came off that job not feeling that, especially the ones I saw giving it every bit as much as I did.

People do irk me from time to time. We have procedures and standards, but we’re responding to disasters that don’t always conform to our standards and where our procedures don’t always work flawlessly so I adapt where some folks might not, and conversely I will sometimes resist an adaptation that I feel is uncalled for.

Anyway, it isn’t about me. It’s about the clients, their recovery, and getting everybody ready for the next one. There’s always a next one.

Posted in Red Cross | 1 Comment

“Vegetarian” is an Old English Word for “Bad Hunter”

I frequently don’t make the ethical choices that I feel I ought to make. This would be less of an issue for me except that I have a friend who consistently makes better choices; and, although, she never makes an issue of my failings, the discrepancy troubles me.

The easiest thing to fix is probably to stop choosing to eat other sentient beings. I’ve gone entire weeks eating nothing but peanut butter and Nutella, but every so often I want more.

I rationalize eating fish and fowl pretty easily because I don’t feel them. Even where I had frequent contact with them, I felt like they were just hanging around me because I fed them. If I wasn’t carrying the feed bucket or didn’t set about feeding them pretty quickly, they’d go on about their business. That’s not a death-penalty offense, but it seems to make them more okay for me to eat.

Eating other mammals is more of a problem for me. I’ve tried to rationalize it, but I can’t make it right. If I accept that all of humankind are one and any apparent distinctions no more significant than different categories of canines, then how do I make ethical distinctions between species? How is that different from racism among humans?

Homo sapiens isn’t the only species of mammal that has intelligence, that shows emotion, that shows thoughtfulness. I think it is only our hubris that allows some of us to declare that only humans have souls – however we define that. How can I ethically choose to eat them not from need but in preference to more humane food sources?

It’s not enough to say that I seriously love me some bacon. It’s not enough to say that I only “have to” have a big ol’ bacon cheeseburger maybe once every month or two. It doesn’t even work for me that many breeds of prey animals only exist because we have bred them for consumption. I really feel like I’m just rationalizing unethical inhumane behavior, and it says something about me that I don’t just stop it.

As I said, I’m less troubled eating fish and fowl, although I’d have difficulty defending making that distinction. There’s also the thing with eggs and dairy to deal with.

Really, I virtually never think about food unless I’m hungry, and sorting this out is just daunting enough that I’m probably just going to keep kicking the can down the road for awhile anyway.

“Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.” – David Hume

Posted in Morality/Ethics | 3 Comments

The Appearance of Political Polls

I’ve often said that a bi-partisan political system doesn’t work for me (or, apparently, for a lot of other people given voter turnout).

I took a poll of my compatibility with declared or likely Presidential candidates here, and the results were a little surprising to me.

On a macro level, I “side with” Hillary 89%, with Bernie 89%, and with Martin O’Malley (have to look him up) 69%. No surprises there, but I also “side with” Mike Huckabee 67%, Rand Paul 46%, Scott Walker 41%, Carly Fiorina 37%, Ben Carson 25%, and even Ted Cruz 15%. I did not see those coming.

On Foreign Policy, I generally side with Hillary and Rand. Is that even possible?
I mostly side with Hillary on Social, Immigration, Domestic Policy, and Education issues.

I mostly side with Bernie on Healthcare and the Environment.

In California, 46% share my views on Environmental, Economic, Domestic Policies, and Social issues. Among my neighbors in Fallbrook, 42% share my views on Economic, Domestic, Environmental, and Social issues. Only 31% of respondents in my Congressional District side with me, but I live in Duncan Hunter’s District so that actually sounds a little high to me.

I intend to retake the survey in a day or two. The first time through, I didn’t weight the relative importance of the issues, nor did I expand the poll where I had the opportunity to answer additional questions. Next time I’ll do both.

Posted in Politics | Comments Off on The Appearance of Political Polls

50 Years? Has it been that long?

I was driving around on errands today and feeling my arthritis a little when it occurred to me that I’m getting old. By this time in June, 1965, I had already graduated from high school and enlisted in the Navy Reserve.

I had a “plan” – because I was 18 and a freaking genius I suppose – that I was going to join the Reserves but go to the Regular Navy boot camp in September and then to Hospital Corps School and then do my two years active duty and then go to Iowa State on the GI bill and teach high school history. It was fool-proof! The guy who recruited me into the Reserve said it sounded good to him!

I went to my first drill, got my uniforms, hit the books and passed the Basic Seaman test with flying colors on my first try. Piece of cake!

It was at the August drill that I got called into the office where I was asked when I was available to go to the Reserve boot camp, and I explained the plan all over again for the Leading Chief this time. That’s when the scales were peeled from my eyes.

In order to go to regular boot camp one needs high enough test scores, and the tests were given at boot camp.

I couldn’t begin active duty until I was advanced to E-2 which happened on graduation from Regular boot camp but after 6 months as a Reservist.

Last, but not least, I was in an Engineering and Hull unit so I was not going to be going to Hospital Corps school from there. I was going to be a “snipe.”

That’s how I came to be in the Regular Navy recruiter’s office the following Monday morning and through the AFEES in Chicago and at Great Lakes by midnight on August 24th as a newly-minted Hospitalman Recruit (HR).

I still had a lot to learn – including what it was exactly that Navy Corpsmen did for a living, etc. – but it struck me again today that I have been extremely fortunate. This life could have gone a whole ‘nother way at any number of points along the way. I try to remember that whenever I catch myself getting a little too retrospective.

I am deeply sorry for the people I have hurt along the way, and there’s that one woman who has never left my thoughts, but it’s all brought me here, and here is good.

Posted in Life | Comments Off on 50 Years? Has it been that long?

A Word About Denying One’s Id

Nancy Gordeuk revealed a bit more of her private self than she probably ever meant to the other day in Stone Mountain, GA. She’d already screwed the pooch by ending the graduation ceremony of the school she founded before the valedictorian’s speech. Most likely off balance and seeing the fruition of her prize achievement going sour, she blurted out a completely unnecessary observation that “all the black people” were leaving. Hate when that happens. Sucks to be her.

Here’s the thing: that crazy person who temporarily lost her poise was the real Nancy Gordeuk, and she’s a racist. I want to tell her that, in my opinion, that’s okay. She’s given kids an opportunity to finish high school who might otherwise not have graduated. That’s a good thing. When she denies that in that moment she was her true self devoid of poise or pretense she only makes it worse. She’s never been more herself than in that moment. I like to make believe I’m a better person than I am, too. Doesn’t make it true.

Personally, I think society goes too far when it expects our ids to be innocent. I’ve quit drinking, quit smoking, try to be a good citizen and not piss people off, but sometimes when I’m driving down the road I’ll fly off the handle and rant a little bit. It doesn’t usually last long and then I reflect on how I came to lose it like that, knowing as I do that whatever screwed up the traffic wasn’t about me and someone up the road was having a much worse day, but there exists a part of me that wouldn’t win me any popularity contests.

Nancy, try using note cards instead of a program. I tend to lose my place in a program but putting one agenda item per card and putting each card on the bottom of the stack as it’s completed has worked for me.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments


There are things that I might write about here, but I appear to be unable to focus. I’m in the process of yet another migration; this time a bit south into San Diego County.

Sheryl Sandberg’s Facebook post after Dave Goldberg’s funeral made me a bit reflective, and there are other issues popping up on my radar, but thoughtful analysis – which is what I’m going for here – isn’t going to happen until I’m into my new place. I hope to be settled in down there by May 21st. It could happen!

Keep up the good work; I do stop in to read now and then.

“Heaven and hell suppose two distinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.” – David Hume

Posted in Life | Comments Off on Distractedness

Thoughts on Parenting

I am mindful today of violence and destruction.

On the one hand we have a 7.8Mw earthquake that has taken more than 4000 lives and destroyed Nepalese cultural artifacts dating back hundreds of years. On the other we have whatever the hell is going on in Baltimore. The events in Baltimore are more tragic to my thinking.

I am mindful of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I am also mindful of the words of Rev. Jamal Bryant yesterday: “This is not what the family asked for, today of all days. For us to come out of the burial and walk into this is absolutely inexcusable.”

I get the protests and everything that drives the protests, and I’ve spoken about the violence of modern police tactics – that’s on us – but that is separate from the gangs who routinely take advantage of the protest environment to loot and pillage and destroy the community resources. To my mind, that is also largely on us.

I kind of liked that mom who picked her son out of the crowd and followed him home smacking him upside the head the whole way. We can talk about her violence, but we cannot argue against her ownership of the problem and her commitment to deal with it.

I was an absentee parent. I’m not proud of that, but there it is. My choices meant that others were left to raise, to nurture, to influence my children. That has been the norm for the past 50 or 60 or 70 years? How long have we been talking about the disaffected kids these days? Could there be at least a correlation?

Who was raising my kids? How was their day in school? What were they eating? Who were they playing with? Where were they going? What were they doing there? What were their hopes, their dreams? What are their values? Where did we go wrong?

How do we fix this?

Posted in Life, Non-violence, People | Comments Off on Thoughts on Parenting

Is Jimmy Coming Out?

You may -but probably do not- know that Jimmy Carter is one of a couple of well-publicized people I think I’d like to have coffee with.

In 1976 the guy who brought us home while leaving the South Vietnamese to their fate had recently resigned from office, and the guy who pardoned him lost the election to Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was looking pretty good except that his commitment to his faith was widely known. Welcoming home those who chose not to serve their country was a little hurtful, but the thing I was never comfortable with was his overt religious commitment. On the other hand I don’t believe he ever played me or lied to me and I respected that.

Well, now I read that he’s leaving his church because he feels they have distorted and misrepresented the Bible to promote and preserve gender inequality. (This reminded me of Rain Trueax’ recent post and using the Lord’s name in vain.) I see his lips moving, I know he’s religious, I hear him call bullshit on organized Christianity. What is up with that? Does it matter?

This is why I wanted to sit down with the guy. He struck me as a guy I could relate to, but sometimes he made no sense. Now he’s repudiating what I took to be source of much of what made no sense.

I’m still not okay with giving those who fled their country to avoid wartime service a pass.

Posted in Civil Rights, Morality/Ethics, Religion/Spirituality | 2 Comments