Make America Great

“C’mon people, let the world begin
We’ve got a future and it’s charging in.” — Paul McCartney

When I was a child, I spent a great deal of time in speech therapy. It’s one of those long stories that probably could be told on a different day, but in this case one of the speech therapists I worked with had a husband that owned a toy store. Just the idea of a toy store by itself is an oddity these days as Toys R’ Us is a thing of the past.

This was a special toy store. It was a sole proprietor that made nearly as much money repairing toys as he did selling them. We used to bring in my miniature record player all the time to be repaired. It was one of those that showed a film strip at the same time as playing the audio on record. It turned into a record player I used to play the one 45 I purchased.

Nobody repairs toys anymore. Heck, they aren’t even sold within a single toy store anymore for the most part. Now, you have to go to your behemoths like Wal-Mart, Target, Sam’s, and Cosco. We can add delivering milk and ice door to door on that list of stuff we just don’t see anymore. If we all sit around for long enough we could probably spend days listing the numbers of things we just don’t see anymore.

It could be Blockbuster or Hollywood Video as well. These trips past amnesia lane can also include technology we just don’t see anymore. Anyone dust off their Beta machine or the 8 track player? At this point, you are probably wondering where this is going.

There is a significant cottage industry surrounding nostalgia. They still sell records and turntables. You could probably even find one of those toys I referenced above. Unfortunately, stuff is not the only thing we find in the marketplace as far as nostalgia goes. Unfortunately, it also exists in our politics.

Nostalgia helped create MAGA. It is the A on the end that creates the issue. Again. If America used to be great then we have to ask exactly who was it great for. See, there lies the rub. Boil it all down and you discover this is the basis of the conservative platform. They want to return to the days when things were simpler and they were firmly in control.

That presents any number of challenges. First, how good were things really? For most of us, things may have been simpler, but were they any better? If you are a white Anglo Saxon Protestant then things probably were better for you. If you somehow didn’t fit in that group then things weren’t necessarily great for you.

The second issue is that our memories are not what they once were. Conservatives take full advantage of that. If we were in that fortunate class above then things may have been great more than 50 years ago. The question is why. People find it harder to get ahead now. The question is why. As the middle class gets squeezed people look for scapegoats. They conveniently give some to you, but are they right ones? The top income tax bracket under Dwight Eisenhower (a Republican) was over 90 percent. Few people remember that because none of us were in the top income tax bracket. Wealth wasn’t so stratified. Now it is and yet they continue to blame outsiders for the problem. It’s a nice misdirection.

The final problem is our inability to differentiate between when change happens organically and when it is a direct result of government action. No bureaucrat forced people to stop repairing toys. No bureaucrat mandated that people stop getting ice delivered door to door and the government certainly didn’t kill the milk man. These are things that evolved naturally over time.

Obviously, no politician is hankering for the return of the milk man, but there are some talking points that sound just as ludicrous when you stop to think about them. Why are we making so much of a fuss over coal? Modern homes are not heated with coal. Our cars and boats don’t use coal. Heck, very few trains use coal. Furthermore, coal is a finite resource. It doesn’t burn cleanly and most people stopped using it. So, why are politicians fighting so hard to keep it alive?

The reason is that they can score cheap political points by blaming the opposition for its demise. Coal miners are going the way of milk men and ice delivery guys. Yes, change in history is painful temporarily. Milk men had to find new work. Toy store owners had to figure something else out. Ice delivery boys couldn’t do it anymore. What they don’t tell you is that while the transition was hard, nine times out of ten the displaced people found something better. Coal miners can almost certainly find something safer and better for their long-term health.

This is just one small example of how one party is focused on the future and another one is focused on the past. One wants to find the solutions to the current problems and the problems coming around the corner. The other wants you to remember the past fondly and allow them to bring back the version swimming in their heads. You know the one. It has African Americans and ethnic minorities knowing their place. It has women with their mouths shut in the background. It has all members of the LGTBQ+ community going back in the closet. Then, American can be made great AGAIN. We should always ask who exactly America was great for. So, I say make America great. Leave off the AGAIN. Leave it off because we acknowledge that America has never been great for everyone. If we focus on the problems of the here and now maybe it can be.

Palpable Anger

“It all looks fine to the naked eye, but it don’t really happen that way at all.” — Pete Townsend

Work in a school setting long enough and you get to know all kinds of people. Work in a school setting for long enough and you will become at least some of those people at different intervals. I’ve been in the classroom for 24 years now. I’ve been to the end and back and have managed to come out on the other side a much better human being.

One of the hardest things to do is to avoid taking things personally. Kids are going to be kids and as much as they might say they hate this teacher or that teacher they really don’t. They come into the world with their personal problems and sadly we get to be a part of that for a short while.

Those that have been around as long as I have, have seen some grow up into some absolutely successful adults. Many of them are more successful than I ever could be. We can also choose to deal with that any number of ways. I consider a source of pride every time a former student succeeds. Unfortunately, there are also some that don’t. That’s where today’s focus comes in.

Being in the trenches affords me the opportunity to understand why millions think the way they do. See, the number one argument against raising the minimum wage is that minimum wage should be something for teenagers at their first job. It shouldn’t be what someone does for 40 hours a week. It shouldn’t be what an adult uses to sustain themselves. If that is their lot in life then they have done something wrong.

Of course, this ignores the fact that there are numerous adults that may not be capable of doing more, but I suspect that these naysayers aren’t really thinking of them. I know this because I used to be one of them. I used to get upset when students wasted their time and skipped school or chose not to do their work. They chose to fail. Failure has consequences. They should have to wallow in their own failure and suffer through those consequences.

I soon discovered that this mode of thinking had its own problems. I was hit with it in the face when I had to work a couple of minimum wage jobs before I could catch back on in education nearly ten years ago now. If people work minimum wage jobs because they have wasted their opportunities and/or failed in life then I had failed at life. At least I had temporarily failed at life.

Sometimes, someone that is 16 or 17 years old is too young to understand the opportunities they have. Sometimes they are too young to take advantage of their opportunities and live up to those responsibilities. Sometimes they just aren’t in a place to do it. The mistake is in believing they never will be. Sometimes it happens later and that’s okay.

I know of those former students as well. I remember how frustrated I was with them and yet I’m no less proud when they turn their lives around. Yet, I understand the impulse to want to punish someone for squandering opportunity. I get it. Yet, at the end of the day we have to ask ourselves who exactly we are hurting and why we feel it is necessary to do so.

In many instances, that minimum wage job might be the second opportunity. There is a pride that comes from working and it’s something no one can deny. It’s frustrating watching these same curmudgeons decry welfare and how people will earn more from that than they would a minimum wage job. It’s frustrating because the next logical conclusion is on the tip of their tongue and they just can’t spit it out.

If someone can’t make ends meet on minimum wage and find welfare easier then it doesn’t mean welfare is too much. It means minimum wage is not enough. Numerous companies have also discovered the quality of work goes up when wages go up. Amazingly, when you treat someone with more dignity then they somehow respond in kind. Amazing.

It’s been ten years since my education career rebooted. Some of the fallout was my fault and some was outside my control. Yet, I was given a second chance to do something I loved. There are millions of kids that need a second chance on life. Maybe they squandered their opportunity in school or maybe school was just too hard and too regimented to cater to their needs. Either way, everyone deserves a chance to work and to work with dignity. A little over seven dollars an hour isn’t dignity. I’m not sure what it is.

Cry, Freedom Cry

“But a fool believes he sees
The wise man has the power to reason away.” — Michael McDonald

Whole generations of people have misunderstood the mechanisms of free speech. It’s to the point where it almost becomes comical. It’s happened again with the “great” Mike Lindell. I don’t know if the pillows he sells work or not. I’ve never bought one and I don’t know anyone that has.

However, the once profitable businessman has fallen on hard times. He has been peddling his conspiracy theories as it pertains to the 2020 election and it seems most people just want it to go away. Meanwhile, his apologists think we should continue to buy his products and demand that he has a platform to share his bile.

The fools bring two misconceptions to the table. The first misconception is that speech is somehow connected to commerce in a positive way. I’m not going to buy his shitty pillows. I never was going to buy his shitty pillows. He could have been a progressive AOC fan (not that I am a devotee of her either) and it wouldn’t have mattered.

The second misconception is the one we have heard left and right for over the past year. Somehow, we are canceling Mike Lindell when we stop buying his product or question his sanity (or both). This cancel culture thing has gone way too far. No, it’s not the cancel culture part, but the cries from mostly conservatives that this cancelling is somehow unfair.

Ideas are kind of like consumer goods. People will buy them or not buy them. I don’t have a duty to buy anything. As a consumer in a free society I am free to purchase what I want. The same goes for ideas. I am free to respond to ideas anyway that I see fit. At that point, others can respond to my response anyway they see fit. I think everyone understands how this goes.

However, people in business have an added layer in this whole freedom of expression thing. In particular, a sole proprietor like Lindell is dependent on his reputation. When you lie about politics and spew theories that are deranged then it is natural for people to assume you are deranged in general. I and most people don’t generally purchase products from someone that is deranged.

So, when we see folks holding up signs that say “sovering” or post messages on social media about how “great an American Jesus was” we have the right to consider those people to be idiots. It’s not canceling. It’s simply a natural response to what we see in front of us. If a majority of people think you’re idea is stupid then they might be led to believe that you are also stupid. That’s just the way the world works.

I think what boggles the mind is that people used to understand this. They understood this because they were on the giving end. When artists, entertainers, and businesspeople showed themselves to be anything but wholesome, they pounced with boycotts and combative speech of their own. Now, it seems that times have changed and sensibilities have changed. Bigotry and intolerance are no longer commonly accepted values. Now, they are getting a dose of their own medicine. So, they are getting canceled. Oh well.

Stay in your lane

“I wonder: do I want the simple, simple life that I once lived in well?
Oh, things were quiet then
In a way they were the better days
But now I am the proudest monkey you’ve ever seen.”– Dave Matthews

Yesterday’s posting creating a stir on the other site I write for. There are always far more comments over there. Most of the time I simply take this piece and put it over there, but I honestly did the reverse that time. They don’t like long-winded screeds over there and there was commentary I wanted to add on the end.

In this case, the additional commentary was probably necessary. First, I didn’t overtly discuss my intentions to treat a situation with humor. So, a couple of readers assumed the “trial transcript” was actually a trial transcript. That kind of mistake checks out. We’ve done the same thing with our students. If we show them an article by the Washington Post and an article by The Onion side by side, a number of them will identify the piece by the Onion as the legitimate news piece.

This is an honest to God side by side comparison without the labels of what publication the articles came from. However, the same still happens even when you add in the publication names. We have entered upside down land where traditional media sources are considered unreliable and fly by night or satirical publications are given credence. I’ve gone cross-eyed.

The other part of the conversation surprised me some. The site is a site obviously dominated by progressives, but suddenly people that laugh at the whole idea of people taking medicine meant for livestock were getting down and dirty and discussing the reasons why someone would take medicine like that. Apparently, there is a “river fever” I’ve heard nothing about and Ivermeticin works well with head lice. Who knew?

If they would have come here they would have known. The answer to that question is that doctors know. Of course, I don’t want them coming here. I have a pseudonym over there and we don’t necessarily want people knowing our true identities. The idea wasn’t to debate a particular medication, but to debate the idea of what has happened to us.

We treat people the same way we treat traditional media sources. They are somehow meant to be treated with cynicism. Instead, we trust sketchy YouTube videos or casual acquaintances (or even family) that have no training whatsoever. It’s quite literally insane.

Apparently, the local court order was overturned yesterday even though the patient in question was already dead. However, a court in Ohio apparently made the exact same order. They ordered a local hospital to give a patient a certain medication. Occasionally, the law gets involved in insurance matters. Someone may not get treated because their insurance lapsed or a bureaucrat made a treatment decision.

I can’t fathom how the law is supposed to tell an actual medical doctor how to treat a patient. How exactly does that work? If the treatment fails then who exactly is held responsible? If the doctor follows their medical ethics and refuses to do a treatment they never recommended then how does that work? As usual, I don’t think we have judges that have quite thought that dilemma out to its logical conclusion.

They are likely coming from a thought process where we automatically distrust people that are experts. Somehow, they don’t know what they are talking about. I’ve done my research. I know. What exactly do we know? Where did you get your information from? If a treatment wasn’t tested by doctors then how do we know it works? If there wasn’t an official drug trial then how do we know what the side effects are. How do we know the proper dosage? Does the dewormer also work with fleas and ticks?

Thus, we get to the crux of it all. Research is not about doing a Google search and finding an article somewhere that says what you say. How do we know that article was sourced correctly? What was their research based on? Is it research at all or is it a publication similar to the Onion that is doing a giant troll job? That’s the beauty and curse of the internet. Somewhere someone is doing research on the baseball Hall of Fame and they stumbled here.

Drama at the Courthouse

“Doctor doctor give me the news, I gotta bad case of loving you. No pill is going to cure my ill. I gotta bad case of loving you.” — Robert Palmer

Okay, I stumbled on this one on the news today. For those that don’t want to go beyond the paywall can see the same story here and in other locations I’m sure. It was featured on the news here locally and thankfully for you and I, some intrepid journalists snuck into the legal proceedings and made a recording. Following is the transcript from the original court battle.

Plaintiff: Your honor, that them doctor over there is refusing to give my gramps the dewormer medication for his Covid.

Judge: Is this true (gestures to defendant)?

Defendant: Yes, your honor. That treatment has not been vetted by experts and we decided after consulting with our experts that another treatment…(interrupted by plaintiff).

Plaintiff: Your honor, my cousin Rufus works at the “Stop N Shop” over there in Cleveland. He sent me a video on the YouTubes how that “I” stuff cures the Covids. The video proves it and everything.

Judge: Do you have this video handy?

Plaintiff: Let me look on my Facebook……yup, I got it.

Defendant: You cannot be serious.

Judge: (after watching video) As serious as a heart attack. I’m convinced. Give him the dewormer.

Defendant: And you got your medical degree from (trails off)? 

——————————

We protect the identity of our sources, so they will remain anonymous for now. Of course, some might question the exact verbiage above and that’s fine, but the judge did order the hospital to give him the medication he requested. Of course, given that the state doesn’t want to allow women and doctors to make decisions for their own health, I guess the jurisprudence works out. Still, I think someone should check the judge for brain activity. Whoever that is, it better not be a doctor. Apparently they aren’t qualified to make medical decisions now.

As you probably figured out, the above transcript is my obvious and haphazard attempt at humor. I don’t want to make light of someone else’s tragedy. I really don’t. The problem is that when people shun medical advice they kind of get what they get.

Of course, on some level we all do this. We might eat a little too much red meat and drink a little too much alcohol. In the past, I have had the occasional cigar. Occasionally, I might eat something or drink something with sugar in it. I know I’m not alone. We know we aren’t supposed to do it. We know our doctors would recommend we not do it. What we also know is that those occasional cheats are what make life worth living.

There is a difference between failing to follow all of the doctor’s instructions and this. All that being said, we’ve seen the seeds of this before. We’ve probably all had family members that doctor shop. They go to a doctor and don’t like what they hear. So, they keep trying new ones and until one tells them something they want to hear. Maybe they don’t want to hear that they need to lose weight. Maybe they don’t want to hear that they need to change their diet. Maybe they don’t want to hear that they need more exercise. The bigger problem comes when the doctor doesn’t want to give them pain medication for their obvious pain.

We’ve all been there. That somehow turned into the pharmaceutical companies advertising directly to the consumer. “Tell your doctor that you want to take Drug A today. If you are allergic to Drug A then don’t take Drug A. Drug A can cause seizures, full body hair loss, vertigo, seeing of the dead, and in some rare cases, death. If you involuntarily slap your spouse contact your doctor immediately.”

I have a great idea. I’m going to go to my doctor and describe how I am feeling. Then he or she will diagnose me. From there, they will decide if I need medication and if I do what kind of medication I need. See, my doctor actually has my medical chart. They know my preexisting conditions and whether I have any drug allergies. They also know the drugs I’m already taking and how any drugs might interact with the ones I’m already taking. So, whether my cousin Earle or Rufus or Jethro “had the same thing” is immaterial. Even if he did, we know the same thing doesn’t impact two different people the same way. We also know that drugs don’t impact people the same way. So, let’s let doctors be doctors and let everyone else kindly shut the bleep up.

In the times of Rasputin

“I don’t feel you anymore
You darken my door
Whatever you’re looking for
Hey, don’t come around here no more.”– Tom Petty

One of the most difficult things to explain to social studies students is the difference between actual laws and procedures and what seems like law and procedure. There are some traditions that are so entrenched that they seem like law, but really they are just one asshole away from being a distant memory or a thing of the past.

Grover Cleveland is the only person ever to lose the presidency and then regain it. When you lose you go away. Unfortunately, that’s not the law. It’s just one of those things that everyone understood. At least everyone understood it until now.

Furthermore, political expedience dictated that if you were in the party of the guy that lost the last election, you did everything in your power to convince voters you weren’t that guy (or gal). That’s particularly true if you lost by something like eight million voters. Well, it appears those days are long gone as well.

There appear to be three GOP governors that are throwing their hat in the ring fairly early. All three are falling over themselves to convince people that they are just like the last guy. In parlance, it would be like David Culley (Houston Texans head coach) telling the world on the day he was hired that he wanted to continue what the last coach had done. Worked to the tune of 4-12 for that guy. Let’s do that.

Of course, he’s dodging all kinds of indictments to shove himself back into that discussion. The virus is still raging out of control. The Afghanistan situation quite literally blew up in his face. People are getting used to not hearing about the president everyday. Yet, his former mouthpiece was telling us that there wasn’t a scandal everyday like we have now. You can’t make this stuff up.

Recent polling data suggests he’s gaining on Joe Biden and is within a couple of points of Kamala Harris. It also suggests he’s doing better than any other GOP challenger. I could spend thirty column inches evaluating different data points and come to the same conclusion. It doesn’t make any sense. That’s the only conclusion there is to come to.

The problem is pretty apparent. We have to spend time codifying things we all understood and followed without question before. We never used to go after former politicians in court. It just didn’t make sense. Now, we need to make sure he’s wearing an orange jumpsuit or some people will fail to see what was obvious to most of us.

I really shouldn’t be surprised. If millions couldn’t see he was an absolute jackass for the past four decades then they wouldn’t have seen it over the past five years. Either they see it and don’t care or they are jackasses themselves and have that blind spot. Either way it’s just exhausting and it’s long past time for this jackass to go away.

Analytical Religion

Regular readers probably have wondered before why this site is called The Hall of Fame Index. It’s a fair question. The truth is I’m too lazy and unskilled to change it to something else. I don’t have a creative name to call it yet and I don’t have the expertise to make a switch in WordPress. Yes, I’m sure it’s easy. Maybe if I knew there was a huge audience waiting for me then i’d do it. I suspect that’s not the case.

Statistical analysis is somewhat of a passion of mine. it’s taken a backseat lately to these commentaries, work, and general life. However, that kind of thinking does impact my political and social thinking. So, I guess I’m a homeless man’s Nate Silver. If I were to put it more charitably (and accurately), I’d say I have his mode of thinking without the skill set.

This came up when I read a post on Facebook that was clearly over the top and yet made an interesting point. The whole idea was that anti-vaxxers are not exclusively religious, but many wrap their opinions on vaccines in a veil of religion. God will protect them. When God doesn’t protect them then it was just their time to go. The writer called it “self-rapture”. They took the point a step too far when they made the connection that when someone kills someone else because of a deeply held belief they have then they could be called a terrorist.

This ignores the point that terrorists know they are killing others and use their religion as justification. In this case, you have people that choose to believe they have some kind of protective coating that comes from God. Therefore, they don’t knowingly infect others because they don’t feel they personally can be infected. The crux comes down to the word choice. Are they completely deluding themselves or simply finding a convenient way to rationalize it? This is of course the 64,000 dollar question.

These folks and terrorists do have one thing in common. Most devout Muslims (buying into the stereotype) do not buy into the death cult idealism. They are basically peaceful people. Similarly, the further up the church hierarchy you go the more mainstream the beliefs on the virus. The pope has frequently recommended the vaccine, masking, and social distancing. The vast majority of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy has done the same. The mainline Protestant religions have done so as well. Sure, there are some local nutjobs here and there, but the vast majority preach the same thing as the CDC and other scientific experts.

This all hit me when looking at our priest and deacon mask up over the last several months. They’ve recommended everyone in the congregation mask up even if they can’t mandate it. So, anyone refusing to get the vaccine and/or refusing to wear a mask isn’t doing so based on a commonly held religious belief. At least it isn’t held by the majority of Christians. One’s definition of common may vary from person to person.

If one applies an analytical bent on this thing they would acknowledge that if most Christians don’t adhere to these beliefs then these beliefs are not wholly Christian. It is true that some Christians obviously espouse these beliefs and therefore some others will follow as a result. In a way, that is not dissimilar to the radical Muslims that buy into death for the infidels. From there, it’s just a question of how far one is willing to go to see those beliefs play out. In some cases, people quietly hold those beliefs and simply root from the sidelines. In other cases, they actually get in the game and cause real damage.

In both cases, the question comes back to the nature of God. In one case, the question is whether God is a tribal God that prefers one group over another. In the other case, the question is how much control does God exert over our lives. I suppose we could ask if God were capable of preventing tragedy, but that sounds like blasphemy. So, I prefer to think of it as how God works in these situations.

Miracles from heaven are few and far between. Miracles that happen through human works are an almost daily occurence. When a doctor uses his or her knowledge to save a patient does that not come from God? When someone bravely intervenes and saves someone in danger is that not a gift from God? When our vast knowledge helps create life saving vaccines and other life saving medicines where exactly does that knowledge come from? Does it in fact come from the one who created us?

These so-called fundamentalists (others have called Christian Taliban) ignore these human miracles in favor of the heavenly one that likely will never come. Again, it’s not a case of capability. It’s just not necessary. God gave us a vaccine. God gave us masks. He created us with an inquisitive mind that is able to discover these answers. That’s the only miracles we need. All that being said, these folks aren’t terrorists. Still, they have existed for generations. They are the ones waiting for an obvious sign from above, when the signs are here all around them.

The elephant in the room

“You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy Church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse.”– Gordon Sumner

A friend (one of the few readers I have) brought up the abortion legislation that was recently passed. I had intended to skip it. It’s not because of a lack of importance. One could easily argue that it was the most grotesque of all of the legislation passed this time around. The problem isn’t so much interest in the topic or having a definite opinion. It is finding a balanced way to discuss it without trampling on deeply held beliefs (or non-beliefs).

I’m a fairly committed Catholic. I would say I’m devout, but that word brings all kinds of connotations that I’m not sure I want to embrace at this point. We go to mass weekly, we volunteer in the church, and I’m what traditionalists would call a Catechist (or Sunday school teacher in everyday vernacular). In the past, I’ve served on committees and councils as well.

Yet, there is a difference between being active and being devout. The textbook definition of devout is not any different, but people see a kind of fundamentalism when they see devout. As a catechist I try to keep personal beliefs out of the equation. Usually, we avoid those topics all together. This is one of those cases where it is impossible to avoid these conflicts.

Political labels are rarely ever accurate. Pro-life and pro-choice are no different. The pro-life contingent could more accurately be called pro-birth. Drill down deep and you’ll find these folks are usually pro-death penalty, and generally in favor of U.S. intervention in foreign conflicts. Their dedication to life appears to be rather limited and focused on one thing.

The opposition tries to label pro-choice as pro-abortion. I’ve talked about this before. The insinuation is absolutely repugnant. No one I know is in favor of abortions. No one is roaming the countryside and preaching for women to get abortions. The idea is just silly. So, if forced to say which one I choose to adhere to I often hesitate to answer. Neither fit me that well.

So, if we wanted to quickly characterize the new legislation we would basically say it outlaws abortions after six weeks. The particularly insidious part is where it gives friends and neighbors the ability to rat out their friends and neighbors if they think they have gotten an abortion or have aided and abetted in someone obtaining an abortion.

Removing the religious implications is nearly impossible, but we have to try. At the heart of this is a battle between the life of the fetus and the rights to privacy for the women involved. Unfortunately, now that includes anyone in their immediate circle as well. Supreme Court precedence indicates that women should be able to legally obtain an abortion through the second trimester. Six weeks hardly qualifies there.

For me, it is impossible to unravel the religious implications, so I’ll stop trying. If the stated goal is to reduce the number of abortions then this is absolute wrong way to do it. If you are aiming to control a woman’s pregnancy and by extension her body you are coming to the party a little late. You reduce the number of abortions by reducing the demand for abortions. You do that by reducing the amount of unwanted pregnancies.

This is where I run into problems with the church. The church preaches not only for life in all instances, but steadfastly opposes most forms of birth control. The only acceptable sex education is abstinence based education. While in the abstract, I’d agree that should be the goal, we have a problem when we start talking reality. Teenagers and young people will be sexually active more often than not. Failing to acknowledge this only creates problems. If everyone had a healthy understanding of not only the mechanics of safe sex, but also the emotional and spiritual implications they would probably be more likely to avoid situations that would lead to the demand for an abortion.

The flip side is to continue to perpetuate the notion that unwed mothers have done something evil. When a young potential mother seeks help she is often told she shouldn’t have had sex. Now, if she seeks a medical option that is available to the vast majority of the country she can be tarred and feathered along with anyone that supposedly helped her. If she were greeted with compassion and grace then most if not all of this would be unnecessary.

So, to put it simply, I oppose abortions 99 percent of the time. I can’t give a 100 percent qualification because there are obvious situations where the mother’s health is in jeopardy. Also, for obvious anatomical reasons, the choice is not mine and should not be mine. So, I suppose that makes me pro-choice in the strictest definition of the term, but I also think carrying the baby to term is almost always the correct choice. I just think there is a much better way of doing this that doesn’t cause so much shame all the way around.

Fact vs. Opinion

“And any fool knows a dog needs a home,
A shelter from pigs on the wing.” — Roger Waters

Goodness knows I’m no expert in elementary education. My mother taught third grade for over thirty years. I remember helping her put up bulletin boards with the planets (all nine of them) in order and the occasional dinosaur themed bulletin board as well. That hardly makes me an expert, but experts seem to come cheaply nowadays.

The problem reared its ugly head when I became an elementary school counselor for three years. Suddenly, teachers were looking to me for advice on how to help students learn how to read. I taught English III for two years and social studies for the other nine or ten. Somehow, I didn’t seem to be able to get across that I was the last person they should ask.

We bring this up because I know that reviewing the difference between facts and opinions is taught sometime in elementary school. I couldn’t tell you what grade it happens in, but I know it happens. At least, I know that it is supposed to happen. With the proliferation of silly conspiracy theories, misinformation, and good old-fashioned bullshit it’s a wonder if we were ever taught at all.

Google and Facebook are powerful companies and powerful media hubs with algorithms designed to engage you and probably get you to buy stuff. I have a Google phone, so occasionally I go down the rabbit hole and look at the stories it feeds me. There’s the usual click bait stuff about a famous actor dying and then you wind up in ad for a new mattress or blender. They also love to flood my feed with Dear Abby, Ask Amy, or Ask Annie, or any of the other advice columns. Perhaps I should be worried that Google thinks I need this much advice.

I stumbled across two different Ask Amy’s and accidentally read them in the wrong order. The first lambasted her for offering her political opinion in these trying times. Without reading the initial letter, I simply tossed it aside and went on. Later that night, I read the initial letter. Amy was advising a poor woman to see what conspiracy theories her fiancĂ©’ bought into before saying “I do.” Somehow, this qualified as a political opinion.

I certainly will grant that this topic is more complicated than what we learned in elementary school, but it’s not that much more complicated. Facts are facts and opinions are opinions. Holding these conspiracy theories as a legitimate political ideology is technically an opinion. However, it is an opinion that is based on things that can clearly be proven false. That’s where we are at these days.

We have people uttering falsehoods and then defending themselves that this is just their opinion. This has always happened. There are flat earth truthers out there and you just want to pat them on the head. So, this phenomenon is not new or novel. What is new is that somehow some of these folks have managed to forge an ideology around their alternative facts.

We’ve always managed to compartmentalize this before. Someone like Amy could make a blanket statement that these opinions are kooky and have it not register as a political shot across the bow. While it technically is not a fact that the opinions are kooky, it used to be widely accepted as fact. When opinions are based on alternative facts they are not really acceptable opinions.

Calling the vaccine unsafe is not an opinion. Calling it a government conspiracy is not an opinion. Saying that masks cause more physical harm than good is not an opinion. They are just statements that have no basis in fact. So, they are the equivalent of a mad man shouting gibberish on the side of the road. If uttering these things is allowed to be folded into an established ideology then we are lost. Let’s go back to basics. Saying the sky is pretty is an opinion. Saying the sky is green is not an opinion. We can’t allow people to form an acceptable political doctrine around such nonsense.

A state of emergency

“Wonder why the right words never come
You just get numb.” — Larry Muggerud

Wise people often say we can determine the quality of an individual based on what they do. That certainly means more than what they say. If you try to determine what is on Greg Abbott’s mind these days, it really isn’t all that difficult. In this case, his words and deeds line up perfectly.

All summer he has been talking about what a priority the voter suppression was. He threatened to arrest Democrats when they fled the state capital to block the legislation in the first extra session. He indicated that he would keep calling special sessions until it was passed. Well, that’s happened, so maybe he can move on to more unimportant stuff like controlling the pandemic, fixing our energy grid, and dealing with our crumbling infrastructure.

We’ve talked about bias before, so we need to be fair. They aren’t calling this the voter suppression bill. They are insisting they are fighting voter fraud. So, why do I feel comfortable calling it the voter suppression bill? Well, we should take a look at what the bill does.

It is true that the bill attacks mail in voting. This is the biggest area of fraud that they have indicated. Unfortunately, those indications don’t match the actual data on voter fraud. Moreover, the provisions put in place all address access and not fraud prevention. It limits who can vote by mail and where they can return their ballot. That limits access. It doesn’t safeguard the system.

However, if we stopped there we would be nowhere near the full reach of this bill. The bill also curtails early voting hours, eliminates drive by voting, and allows more authority to poll watchers. I’m still struggling to understand how eliminating paths to the vote eliminates fraud. Maybe there is an extra amount of fraud happening on Sunday. Well, this bill takes care of that problem.

Maybe there was a ton of fraud in the drive through voting process. Well, this bill takes care of that problem. The $10,000 fine and years in prison won’t deter me from committing voter fraud, but maybe the additional poll watchers can use their ability to get closer to the action to intimidate me into following the law. I’m sure that’s the intent and not something else.

This is simple folks. When you cut down on the hours the polls are open, restrict the paths I can take to the ballot, and make the experience a lot less comfortable , you are restricting access. Your aim is not to make it more legal. Your aim is to make sure fewer people vote. The fact that certain groups of people will be more affected than others is obviously a happy accident.

Abbott is actually well aligned with his stated goals here. He isn’t trying to hide anything. Essentially, he is warding off attacks on both sides of the spectrum. He keeps more of those pesky brown people from voting on the left and then wards off challenges on the right by shooting down mask mandates and vaccine mandates. Perhaps he can ask Napoleon what it’s like to fight a two front war.

The problem with eschewing public safety measures and energy regulation is that you can’t control who dies. Early data suggests he’s killing the wrong people. Some estimates say that anti-maxxers make up five times as many Republicans as they do Democrats. While that does seem high, there can be no doubt that red states are faring worse than blue states.

So, he certainly is blowing the dog whistle hard and no one is mistaking the effect on the base. The question is whether the base will be there to cast their ballot. When the base even booed their master at one of his latest rallies it also shows that playing to the base has its drawbacks. They always seem to need more red meat. In the absence of red meat they might feast on something else and you don’t want to be in the way when they do.