Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Only Hoop-dee-doo Songs

All of the events in this piece appeared in Hell on Earth, a love story but showed up only as contributing parts of the ongoing story. This piece looks back on that story and one event in particular that was casually mentioned in passing. At the time this event only served to move the story forward—it was an important piece but not the most important piece because in Hell on Earth, a renegade angel is portrayed as the big mover and shaker. That was then. Looking back at the events in the novel from today’s vantage point I am able to recognize some of the more key situations—situations about which one could say… 

From That Moment On…

Girl Singer, Rosemary Clooney once sang:

“From this moment on, you for me, dear, only two for tea, dear… from this happy day, no more blue songs, only hoop-dee-doo songs...”

She was expressing the historically long running sentiment that not only can things change on a dime but that we’ll know it when it happens.

Confucius, or Lao Tzu, or possibly Mao Tse Tung said that, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with one step,” which seems to also imply that the one step in question will be the next one and you will know it when you take it.

I overheard my father once pass on to a golfing buddy that old adage, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” which also sounds very Chinese but is generally attributed to Synanon founder Charles Dederich. I thought it sort of strange because my father was a strong believer in routine and not a proponent of the sweeping changes in one’s life that this saying might imply.

But whether it is a popular song lyric, an old Chinese saying or an alcoholic’s recovery program slogan I have strong doubts that anyone can ever precisely and with accuracy predict that a single event will be the event that changes everything. We’re just not that good at fortune telling and we’re not nearly as objective as we’d like to think.

Oh we’d like to be able to say if I do this or that, or move to here or there, or acquire some or choose none that the decision will be a significant one—a life changing one but to quote another song lyric, it ain’t necessarily so.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Another Approach to Immigration and Social Security

Ponzi Schemes,
Can’t live with them,
Can’t live without them

 In a lot of ways Charles Ponzi got a bad rap. In the first place he didn’t invent the Ponzi scheme, he only improved on it. Charles Dickens, albeit from book sales rather than venture sales was profiting from Ponzi schemes before they were even called Ponzi schemes.

What makes a Ponzi scheme criminal is one thing and one thing only—deceit.

Promising someone that they will realize a profit from an investment based on the investment’s value when in fact the profit was only coming from new money is where Ponzi and those who imitated him made their mistake. Telling them that their return will depend on getting more people to invest would have been the more honest approach.

That said, even today the stock market’s supposed reliance on real value rather than fabricated value is really dependent on more people putting more money into stocks they hope are worth it. When people pull their money out of the stock market it goes down; when they put money in it goes up. That my friend is all Charles Ponzi was ever selling the public. He just wasn’t telling them that.

Life is a Ponzi scheme in almost every instance. What makes everything all right is transparency. As long as people know what they’re getting into we tend to accept the consequences.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Immigration Problem

      When I first met FooLing in Hell on Earth, a love story, I thought he was just another Chinese immigrant who had come to America to make his mark as a mystical holy man. I had no idea he was a renegade angel. That’s the way it has always been with immigration. There’s always more there than you initially realize if you just give it a chance.
      In discussing the current immigration problem the general consensus is that legal immigration—like we had in the good old days—is all right but that illegal immigration like we have today is a big problem.

Why can’t Hispanics immigrate to this country the right way—the way many of our parents and grandparents did when they arrived on steamers, signed in on Ellis Island, and then went to live with relatives in the heartland where they learned English and practiced trades. That was the right way to do it and if today’s immigrants only did it this way there would be no immigration problem because America is a nation that welcomes immigrants with open arms.

Except that there would still be an immigration problem because Americans—Americans who live in the greatest nation on earth—seem to possess an almost irrepressible urge to complain about almost everything. Blame it on our forefathers. They insisted that Americans be free from day one to assemble anywhere and everywhere and to pretty much say whatever we want.  In an environment where we can talk about anything in the world that strikes our fancy, most Americans when they get together chose to complain.

We do it in the barbershop and the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the workroom floor. We do it in traffic in the heat of rush hour and by our pools in the shade of the old oak tree. In China one can be jailed for voicing an opinion against the government. In this country if you’re not complaining about the government people think you’re not paying attention. And one of the things we chose to complain about the most is the “Immigration Problem.”

I was reading the March 1904 issue of Political Science Quarterly the other day. I’m finally getting caught up on a backlog of magazines I’ve been setting aside for way too long now and an article by R.P. Falkner, a rather prolific writer at the turn of the last century who has seemingly faded into obscurity, caught my eye. Entitled, “The Immigration Problem,” it dealt with—well obviously you know what it dealt with.

Monday, June 17, 2013

President or Guitarist--that is the question

Probably the hardest thing to do is decide what it is you want to do.

Millions of teenage boys and maybe an equal number of girls must decide at an early age if they want to become a guitarist. Guitarist isn’t something one becomes later in life. A much smaller number have to decide if they want to take a stab at being president and there is a little less urgency involved.

Being a guitarist probably has a lead in time of about six months to learn the basics and then you must determine if being a rock-n-roll guitarist is “for you.” If you decide it is, there will be an incubation period of about five to ten years for the general public to decided if they want to get on your bandwagon. Generally to be a successful guitarist in a rock-n-roll band you need only a few million fans or even less if they are hardcore.

For the young men or women who decide they want to be president the prep time is a little longer—more like 30 years to get yourself in position to throw your hat into the ring and to actually be elected president you will need at least 70-million votes—a number will likely grow to a hundred million for the teenager making a choice today.

What are the odds for success? Well there have been thousands, hundreds of thousands of guitarist—everyone from Eric Clapton to the kid playing across the street right now in his garage. We’ve only had 44 presidents and to even approach 100 our nation will have to have survived longer than the Roman Empire.

So if you’re one of those people that can go either way, guitarist is probably the way to go. And if you’re one of those kids that really, really, really want to be president, you would still be wise to give being guitarist a second look.

If answering the question, “What to do?” is the hardest thing to do I’d say the easiest question to answer is, “Did I make the right choice?”

I’ve seen president’s come and go and believe me they look happier coming than going. They come in with unbridled enthusiasm but go out like they were rode hard without a saddle. You can practically see the spur marks that have been dug into them.

A president is afforded every comfort of life imaginable—a rent-free mansion, two planes to take him anywhere he wants to go, a squadron of helicopters to get him to those planes and a fleet of limousines to get him to those helicopters if for some reason they can’t land on his roof.

His food is prepared by master chefs, he doesn’t have to talk to anyone he doesn’t want to talk to and anyone he does want to talk to is waiting outside his office the moment he wants to speak to them. He has a private theater, his own bowling alley, a pool, an exercise room and his own theme song.

Still, in spite of all this stuff, when he leaves office he has a look on his face that seems to cry out, find me a bed, get me a stiff drink and I don’t want to speak to anyone for a month—and then only if they’re calling to apologize. His hair has turned gray, his eye sockets sunken into swollen cheeks, his face wrinkled into a gerrymandered facsimile of the one that got him 58% of the women’s vote alone just a short four and no more than eight years earlier.

Whether he was a good president, a bad president or simply a run of the mill president, the most accurate way to describe a president leaving the White House for the last time is to say, he looks like shit.

Perhaps now would be a good time to explain what has brought on this comparison of president or guitarist, as a career choice.

I was watching the 2013 Rock-n-Roll induction ceremonies the other night and to be perfectly honest it was very much like watching the Country Music Awards or the Grammy’s or the People’s Choice. You see one music awards show, you’ve seen them all and if you’ve seen them all you’ve seen a few too many but there was one thing, common to all, that really got my attention.

It was the guitarists—men and women of all ages—and every one of them looked like the happiest people on the face of the earth. Now it’s pretty easy to understand why the young ones were happy. They were experiencing success for the first time in their lives. But more importantly, they were doing it while most of their former high school classmates were busying themselves going into deep college debt or else working as interns in professions they have already decided were the wrong choices.

But it was the older ones that caught my attention. And when I say older ones I mean guitarist, who were, on average, older than the last two and certainly the next president to drag himself out of the White House for his final ride home.

They were prancing up and down the stage like cheerleaders at a pep rally, strumming their solos as if they were show-n-tells being delivered to awestruck classmates. They were talking with each other, wide grins on their faces, like they were boys in the gym bragging about last night’s date. But they weren’t boys.

These were old men raising their guitars to the roof, dropping their heads to the floor and turning their backs to the audience for private jokes with the drummer as if to say, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m 68 years old and I’m still the meanest, baddest bad ass in the house. I’ve never worked a day in my life but I made more money last year than you’ve made in a lifetime. I’ve never punched a time clock but I’ve punched out riffs you couldn’t find on a ten-foot Fender guitar neck.

I’m not saying they didn’t look like they’d been doing some hard travelin'. I’m just saying they didn’t have that same beat up and hung out to dry look our most recent Commander-in-Chiefs have had when they reached the end of the road. In fact, they look like they never felt better. When they finish their last gig and walk off the stage they look as satisfied as they must have appeared when they walked onto the stage for their first gig.

A president’s time in office might be measured as such:

a crisis,
another crisis,
yet another crisis,
a crisis no one saw coming,
get me the hell home.

A guitarist career might be measured thusly:

   first gig with his first riff,
   another gig with another riff,
   yet another gig with yet another riff'
   an eternity of gigs with an eternity of riffs,
   and finally his last gig featuring his final riff, a really, good  riff.

Nothing else matters. Every guitarist working his very last gig knows he made the right choice. And he doesn't have to build a library to prove it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Eating the News

Old man reading the news and probably getting hungry doing so.

Hell on Earth, a love story was all about Hank's need to get a job in the newspaper business. Except for the episode in the pizzeria there was no eating going on in the whole book. This might have been an oversight because getting the news and eating food are more closely linked together than you might imagine.

Eating the News

In the morning we wake up, pour ourselves a cup of coffee, fix a bowl of corn flakes, step outside to get the morning newspaper, and then sit down to eat and read the news.

In the evening we fix our dinner, turn on the television, and then sit down to eat and watch the news.

The midday news report comes to us at lunchtime—or is it the other way around?

For those in a hurry there are fast foods and news bulletins but I think we can all agree that fast isn’t necessarily filling.

You can get news round the clock, if you wish—twenty-four hours of news no waiting. Those people who listen, watch, and read the news all day actually believe they are getting new news or something called unfolding news but they are really getting old news newly packaged. People who absorb news round the clock are gluttons, the same as people who eat round the clock—only they’re not as round.

Healthy people shouldn’t want and definitely don’t need news all day.  They should only consume the appropriate recommended daily amount (RDA) of news and it probably shouldn’t be taken with meals.

The whole relationship between news and eating is mighty delicious—I mean, suspicious.

Like food, news has to be prepared and whatever is left over must be rehashed but it should never be cooked up.

Food is digested best if there is the right mix, the right company, the right mood and a little wine.  News must also be digested—chewed, mulled over and by all means don’t forget the liquor. Don’t go swimming right after eating food and definitely don’t try sleeping immediately after listening to news.

Speaking of the right mix—hard news should come to us softly, Walter Cronkite comes to mind and soft news should come to us hard, think Andy Rooney.

We don’t like our hard news, the meat and potatoes so to speak, following on the heels of other hard news or proceeding even harder news.  We like a salad of features thrown in here and there, perhaps a plate of human-interest stories, and maybe a dessert of humorous anecdote at the end.

Structure is important with television news.  There’s the hard news—the main dish and then there’s the weather and sports.  It kind of reminds you of the trays we had as kids—the ones with the main section on the bottom and the two smaller sections at the top, or vice versa, except who ever heard of the weather and sports coming before the main news.

Too much food, even if it is healthy food and food you enjoy can make you sick.  Too much news, even if it is pleasant news and fed to you by the news people you like can also make you sick. Why that is, is news to me but I think we all know the feeling.

What I do know is you can’t do anything about the news. News isn’t news until it happens and once it happens, it’s too late to change it. When you get the news, it’s already old news, dead meat like the food you eat. 

You can do something that will become tomorrow’s news, but it won’t actually BE the news until you actually do it—just like you can grow a cow as big as a horse but it won’t be a steak until it is slaughtered and once it is slaughtered there is nothing else you can do to it—except A-1 sauce. 

A-1 sauce is like background music but most people do not like their news put to music.

Maxim Litvinov said to Walter Lyman Brown in 1921,  “Food is a weapon.”

That was news to me.

“A newspaper is always a weapon in somebody’s hands,” said Claud Cockburn in 1956.

Now, that’s food for thought.

But why food and news together? And why does consuming either always leave you hungry for more while diets limiting intake are totally out of the question?

I don’t know but I do know this.

Practically everything you eat is bad for you while practically all the news makes you feel bad.  That’s the bad news.

But most people can't eat and concentrate at the same time and if you can't pay attention to the news it sure makes it easier to stomach. That's the good news.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

We Can Work It Out, Try and See It My Way

I entered the Great American Think-Off again this year, the 2013 edition. The question posed was
“Which is more ethical: sticking to your principles or being willing to compromise?” My response didn't earn me a trip to Minnesota for the final debate but I enjoyed writing this piece and more importantly, researching it. My title indicates that I believe a willingness to compromise is necessary to put one's principles to the test.

Our government seems pretty dysfunctional at times and one of the biggest problem is everyone sticking to their guns. At the same time this is happening it seems everyone and his brother is quoting the founding fathers, usually in defense of refusing to compromise. Well, here's a picture of the founding fathers compromising, with rather obvious success. Of course there wasn't a 24-hour news cycle then and they still had to lock themselves behind closed doors but they hashed out their differences and got something done.

We can work it out, Try and see it my way

Principles are the fundamental truths, doctrines, or motivation forces, upon which others are based—building blocks upon which we structure our whole social order.

A good principle to build on might be: Anything that can be built can be built badly.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

USPS: Set up to fail

I began this blog after publishing, Postal Service, a novel, thinking it would be a good way to promote it but have followed up with very few stories about the Post Office. But they have been in the news a lot lately so I thought I might add to the chatter.

My novel centered on the conflict between several—but mainly one— supervisor and myself. It loosely followed the same story that Charles Bukowski had used when he published his first novel, Post Office in 1971.

The situation we both described were ones common to a lot of businesses—in fact most businesses. The problem the Postal Service is facing today is very unique in that they are practically being forced to go bankrupt by the Congress and Board of Governors charged to manage it.

This column appeared in today’s Virginian-Pilot Forum section

USPS: Set up to fail
THIS WHOLE Postal Service issue seems to be very much like the weather — everybody complains about it, but no one wants to do anything about it. Fact is, there are only seven people, those members of the Board of Governors, who can do anything about it, and they choose not to.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Robots present - Watch your language

In my last blog I wrote about a letter that was sent to the editor and published but not before some editing took place that nullified the purpose for sending the letter in the first place. It was unfortunate but I understood. 

Almost every letter is edited in some way—to save space, to protect the innocent, to keep the letters civilized. I’ve come to accept this and actually expect it. It allows me to say what I mean, knowing that the editor will protect me. But some times I just don’t get it. 

There was an article recently, “Robots going into labor” by Cecelia Kang of the Washington Post about robots playing an even bigger role in the workplace. There were robots, the article said, that actually managed other robots—and they were increasing in number every day.

This was my take on the subject, which I sent to the editor: 

This is a wonderful story that can only make us all feel better about the future. Apparently that future will be one where American companies will consist of a lot of robots working their ash cans off and one CEO depositing the profits with a check he makes out to himself. But wait, don't we already have machines that can sign documents? How ironic and yet at the same time, refreshing. A CEO in the unemployment lines. 

And this is what the editor published under the title,  

Their pay? A can of oil.

This is a wonderful story that can only make us all feel better about the future. Apparently that future will be one where American companies will consist of a lot of robots working very hard and one CEO depositing the profits with a check he makes out to himself. Butwait, don't we already have machines that can sign documents? How refreshing: a CEO in the unemployment lines.

The edit at the end was okay because it didn’t change the story. But changing “a lot of robots working their ash cans off” to “a lot of robots working very hard” is a little discomforting. Obviously I was going for the cheap laugh intending “working their ash cans off,” as a substitute for the more familiar “working their butts off” while associating robots in some way with the tin man, or to go one step further with a metal trash can.

Okay, I was trying to insult the robot in any childish way I could and yes, I know that is stupid because even though a robot can do a lot of things they can’t really be insulted—although the original article states that they can be designed to appear to exhibit real emotions like looking sad, confused and I suppose being insulted.

Anyway, I question where we have come as a society. Robots replacing workers is bad enough but not being able to joke them is going to take all the fun out of going to work.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sorry Asher, I Tried

 My fourth grandchild was recently born to my daughter Danielle and her husband Chris. They named him Asher Jackson and he was born just after midnight. The next morning one of the nurses brought in the daily paper to save as a memento of what else was happening on the day of his birth.

As might probably be true for a lot of kids being born these days, the headline was not that good nor was it inspiring. Then again, that might hold true in the cases of every child born in every generation since headlines generally tend to be more dire than uplifting.

I wanted to give him a better newspaper experience than the Culpepper Star-Exponent had provided him. A few days after returning home I saw my opportunity and wrote the following letter to the editor of the Virginian-Pilot. It was a chance for Asher to get his name in print and also someday look back to recall (fondly, I hope) that his grandfather was one of those old cranks that were always writing letters to the editor complaining about one thing or another. I entitled it,
Don't Blame Asher.

Re “Price of gas here skyrockets this week” (businessday, Feb. 5): I learned in the paper today that gas prices have spiked again in just the last few days. That’s like going out to the driveway to get the paper and reading the headline, “Sun Came Up This Morning.” Tell me something I don’t already know.

Tell me why the price is higher and why it rose so quickly. And telling me it is because the price of oil has gone up won’t cut it. Let’s put a little pressure on the petroleum industry to explain them selves.

Last week I drove up to Culpepper for the birth of my grandson. Before I left I filled my gas tank with $3.16 per gallon gasoline. Two days later, when I began my return trip home, gasoline had risen to $3.39.

I know that the birth of Asher Jackson adds one more consumer to a world already burdened by a shortage of resources. But the kid is just 8 pounds and won’t be driving for another 16 years. Certainly we can’t blame him for the price increase even though it coincided with his birth.

So tell me, whom do I blame?

As luck would have it the letter got in only they left something out—specifically all the stuff about Asher. Now when he looks back he will only see an editorial in which I am again complaining about gas prices, much as I did in another editorial back in October 2005. He really will think I'm an old crank and he just may be right.

The one thing I do know for sure is despite what any headline might say; the arrival of Asher Jackson was the best thing happening on January 30, 2013.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Philadelphia, San Pedro de Macoris, and Extremadura

When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton answered, “because that is where the money is.” It is easy to see why a group consisting mainly of bank robbers would be found mainly around banks.

What’s more interesting though is how a group that somehow winds up everywhere would originate from the same place—especially when they aren’t acting as a group but rather individually. It would be comparable to all the bank robbers in the country coming from the same town. We’d have to wonder what was in the drinking water. 

Take the cities of Philadelphia, San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, and the arid, sparsley populated area of Extremadura in western Spain. These three locations would have a profound effect in three distinct areas of human accomplishments based simply on the unusually high concentration of its citizens involved in those  endeavors.<

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Laffer Curve

Supply-side economics sometimes referred to as Reaganomics, which in turn has been referred to as “Voodoo Economics” is most often explained by the Laffer Curve credited to a young economist named Arthur Laffer. Some stories suggest that while discussing economic theory at a restaurant with some friends Arthur suddenly took a napkin and drew what became known as the Laffer Curve.

Laffer Curve

Another curve, which could be used to describe the success rates of great ideas first written down on restaurant napkins, might look like this.

Anyway, getting back to the Laffer Curve. The premise is that tax revenue would be zero when the tax rate is 0%, for obvious reasons and also when it is 100%, because there would be no incentive to earn money if it was all going to be taxed. This makes sense.

But Arthur concluded, rather arbitrarily and possible because the restaurant was closing, that these two points had to be connected by a line, which he decided should be a curve. Because a curve has an upslope and a down slope, he concluded that the most tax revenue would be collected when the curve was at its high point and any tax rate higher than this would result in lower revenue.

My problem is this. Why does there have to be a curve connecting those two points and who determines the arbitrary high point. Other than at the 0-mark and 100%-mark, I don’t see the connection between tax rate and tax revenue. The money workers earn and the profits investors make is dictated more by what they get then what they pay out. Take an entrepreneur who makes a million dollars a year but because of a 90% tax rate only gets to keep $100,000. Would he get out of the business and get a job flipping hamburgers because he get to keep all of the $10,000 he makes doing that?

If a person or a company can make so much money, whatever the amount is, why does the tax rate matter, other than at the two extremes? If money were being made, then most people and companies would see that as a good thing, something worthy of continued pursuit. To refuse income because more of it might be taxed seems to be foolhardy and shortsighted.

Now probably the tax-rate area close to 0% and 100% would mimic those two points. But to say 35% or 55% or 75% is going to result in an automatic shutdown of the economy makes no sense. Greedy people might want as much as they can get but I don’t see greedy people saying if I can’t have all or most of it I don’t want any at all. Greedy people do want as much as they can get whatever that amount might be and we sell them short to think they would pull out just because they can’t have it all or even most of it.

We might be able to look back and determine that exact point in time when greedy individuals gave up being greedy because there just wasn’t enough incentive but I don’t think we can predict when it will happen in the future or what event will cause it.

So this is the way my curve would look.

The space in the middle is missing because we just don’t know. It could be a line, a curve, or a series of dots. But I don’t think that area in the middle can tell us anything about what people are or are not willing to pay in taxes.

And if it doesn’t tell us that, then it can’t tell us much about what they’re willing to earn or not willing to earn before they call it a day and drop out of the system.

Friday, January 4, 2013

More Guns? Really!

A slightly different version of this editorial, containing a little less of the sarcasm, was published New Year's Day in the Virginia Pilot under the heading, PUTTING AN END TO THE GUN CULTURE, A good New Year's resolution for the nation would be to make some progress on this matter.

Cowards will do what cowards are going to do.

In the old west, a period many Americans wouldn’t mind returning to, the most vile act a man could commit was to shoot someone in the back. Only cowards did this. I know this from growing up watching TV westerns in the 1950’s; another period many Americans wouldn’t mind returning to.

The point is cowards look for an advantage. That’s what they do. The NRA suggests that if everyone carried a gun then the scales would once again be balanced and all would be right in the world.

But scales don’t stay balanced for long. Whether its politics, athletics, business or just your run-of-the-mill need for violence, the key has always been to find an edge.

Cowards with guns do what they do because they have an edge—the gun. The problem is that if everyone carried a gun the cowards would simply have to find another edge—body armor, a bigger gun, a faster bullet or, if push came to shove and with violence it always does, they would have to start shooting people in the back.

More guns are simply not the answer.

A Tea Party with Nothing to Celebrate

This was written a few years back when the Tea Party was beginning to make its mark and basking in the glories of 1776 was the thing to do. What we are beginning to realize now is that the Tea Party is capable of doing nothing. They are a roadblock. 

From what I have been able to gather, when our forefathers gathered themselves together, they came up with great ideas. It doesn’t seem like they spent a lot of time talking about the great ideas that came before them although they were certainly aware of them. But they seemed hell bent on making their own mark in history.

Many of today’s leaders, and few seem destined to ever be called forefathers of anything, seem hell bent on returning to the days of yesteryear. Their followers are marching right behind them, tapping their feet and clicking their heals, on this journey down the yellow-brick-road back to the good old days.

But those good old days weren’t as good as they were cracked up to be. And while many of the improvements of the last 200 years have come from the great free enterprise system created by those forefathers, just as many advancements have come from the government they put in place.

Going back in time is as fruitless as continually degrading progressives as if the alternative to progressive is something worth striving for.

The problems we have today are problems we have brought on ourselves and they are only problems because we have allowed them to become so. We can blame government all we want but this is the nasty little secret: We are the government and we want a lot. The problem is we all want different things.

Our forefathers wouldn’t even recognize the nation they created. Paved highways going to every corner of the country, buildings a thousand feet tall, oil wells two miles deep, a space station floating 150 miles in space and microscopic atoms being split in two and used to power cities. Medicines to cure every ailment, farms almost as big as the state of Rhode Island, fifty thousand people leaving their homes, getting in their cars and driving to a football game fifty miles away and then returning to their home the same day.

Our forefathers wouldn’t know where to begin to solve today’s problems, though in all honesty I think they would make a better effort. At the very least they would push for compromise. So why does a small segment of our society insist that going back to the world of our forefathers is the answer to today’s ills? In all likelihood, given the complexity of today's world, our forefather would probably be astonished that the government isn’t bigger than it is.

Wearing three-cornered hats is cute and waving 1776 flags can be fun but anyone who thinks that solving today’s woes is all about shrinking the government and then waiting for everything to fall into place is nuttier than King George III was when he thought the men leading the revolution were a bunch of country bumpkins. We are a bigger nation with bigger problems in need of bigger solutions

Another thing about the forefathers. They had more on their minds than winning the next election or retaining their leadership post. That is the real reason we still talk about them today.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Christmas Greetings

I’m not very good about sending out Christmas cards. That’s an understatement. I’m terrible at it. That being said, it’s always nice when I receive a card that I wasn’t expecting.

Kath and I recently bought a small second house in Richmond that would make it easier to visit our daughters who live with their families in Richmond and Culpepper. But before it gets easier there is work to do—tear down the ceilings and tear up the floors and paint everything in between.

A few days before Christmas I was doing what my kids probably think I was born to do—attacking a house with a crowbar and a hammer. I have to admit that in spite of mess—plaster, insulation, and unfathomable dust everywhere I was having a pretty good time.

I was recalling, as I like to do, the demolition work I did as a college student at the Powers Hotel in Rochester. There is hardly a more fun job than being given a crowbar and sledgehammer, shown a room and told to take it down. I had my CD’s playing and was engrossed in my little world that was literally falling apart all around me—in a good way.

Christmas was the furthest thing from my mind. And then I pulled a hunk of plaster away from the overhead beam, shook the dust and insulation from my head that came with it and saw fall before my eyes something completely out of place and totally unexpected. It was our first Christmas card at the new house.

Thanks to Cecilia Havergal, a Victorian era poet, for the verse, Linnie for sending the card, and the Pickard family for saving the card for me.