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Of Politics, Sports and Sex

OK, so there won't be a LOT on here about sex, but tell the truth, that's most of the reason you entered this site, right? So, I'll slip some things in from time to time just to keep you coming...back.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Maybe a benefit of an open mind is that it both lets in new thoughts but also lets some old thoughts spill out


This coming weekend, I am going camping with a bunch of Quakers – a couple hundred of them/us. Some fun, eh? It’s something I’ve been doing off, but mostly on, for close to 50 years, since it was held at Camp Hilltop in Downingtown, a camp than no longer exists except in our dulled, but fond, memories.
When I was a teenager and had to go to these camps, my friends Martin, Eric, Dennis, Chris and Brad, among others, made a fine art out of skipping the workshops and “fun” activities the parents had worked hard to organize to help teach us big issues about the world, probably involving lots of Peace, Love and Understanding. Our favorite trick was to walk in one side of the meeting hall, sign in, and then, while they were still signing kids in and getting organized, we would walk out the other side, at which point we would head for the ball fields or basketball court or just up to the woods for a while to lay low and talk about sports or girls, honing the fine art of exaggeration in both cases, no doubt.
But I digress…back 45+ years I guess. Fun while it lasted…both the digression and our times at Camp Hilltop, that is.
Anyway, that intro is to put in minor perspective, the irony that is the fact that this weekend when I attend the grandchild of Camp Hilltop, now held at a Brethren Camp out past Harrisburg, I will be hosting a workshop, not escaping from one.
The workshop I described in the brochure as:

2A “ Race Relations – Discussion to Action”

MAIN HALL, handicapped accessible

(Jamie McVickar, Downingtown)

We have been asked for decades to have a national discussion on race. This workshop will briefly be part of that, then we hope to spend a majority of our time developing ideas for specific actions we can take or lead others to get involved with. Please come ready with ideas, suggestions and an open mind, though not so open that things fall out.

My fear is that the discussion will take the form that every workshop on race issues has taken since I was in college, where a bunch of like-minded folks sit around wringing their hands over how terrible it all is, observing that It’s just terrible what those people have to go through every day, but what can we do?!

Two weekends ago, I attended a 4 hour session in West Chester, described as

Courageous Conversations: A Community's Effort to Understand and Overcome Implicit Bias

And it was courageous of them to put the program together but I was pretty disappointed in it. It consisted almost entirely of telling us things we already knew, primarily about the concept of White Privilege, a concept I see as real, but over-rated as a hindrance or benefit in any of our lives. I barely snuck it into my top 10 list of privileges when I was asked to make such a list at a similar event in Philadelphia month or so earlier.
Here was my quickly jotted list on a scrap of paper, with “privilege” being defined as a “right or unearned advantage” in no particular order:

 -         good health, despite needing to lose a pound or 30
  -        being born in the USA
  -        born to caring, loving parents who emphasized a good education
  -        an amazing, supportive, fun extended family
 -         relatively good finances, though I’d argue that’s probably earned, not unearned
 -         being raised a Quaker with good values
 -         an incredible wife and family of 7 or so, depending on one’s definition
 -         being born in the 20th, and now living in the 21st century
 -         a decent IQ (though I worked for many years with people in the double digits in their IQs and some of them seemed way happier than I'll ever be!)
 -         a particular skill set, or aptitude for numbers
 -         an ability for introspection and desire to work to be a better person
 
Ah right, and then there’s that whole being Born White thing. I may be naïve, but I believe that if I had been born as a Person of Color with the above same attributes, that I’d certainly have more challenges than I currently do, but not challenges that would be debilitating, and I believe my life would not be demonstrably worse than it would be if I hadn't been given the other things on that list. Oh, I am pretty sure I’d get pulled over by the cops more often though. And then maybe shot for no freaking reason, but I’ll call that an outlier scenario.

We were then asked at the conference in Philly to make a list of ways we can use our privileges to address racism, and I came up with this list:
-         witnessing – in the Christian sense. Fight it; recognize it; Define it; point it out when you see it; don’t allow it.
-         Educate kids, family and friends
-         Hiring
-         Social media
-         Educate myself
-         Political
    o   Fight for equitable school funding (PA is worst in the nation in that regard)
 
After that day in Philly, I was asked by a friend to write a column for the local paper about it, unfortunately required to consist of no more than 600 words. I'm not terribly proud of it, particularly because of the word-count restriction, but it can be found here:


This is probably already my longest ever post, and I haven’t even gotten to the one thing I wanted to post here! So I’ll post this and then move to the rest of it.
 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

If you have to ask if something is racist, does that make you a racist?


So, here is what the post above was meant to include, until that post got a little unwieldy, I decided to cut that one off and make this a separate entry, partially because of the nature of this one.
This is in reference to the workshop I am leading on Race, described above and again here:

2A “ Race Relations – Discussion to Action”

We have been asked for decades to have a national discussion on race. This workshop will briefly be part of that, then we hope to spend a majority of our time developing ideas for specific actions we can take or lead others to get involved with. Please come ready with ideas, suggestions and an open mind, though not so open that things fall out.

(Come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve ever led a workshop before, but ah, there I go off on another digression.)
So again, a goal of the workshop is to not go down the usual path such discussions take, where we are all of the same mindset and we spend the whole time patting each other on the back for how upset and concerned we are and where no one feels comfortable saying anything controversial or provocative. And apologies in advance, but this list, and the discussion on Saturday will generally, though not exclusively, focus on issues between whites and blacks (and will generally use the word "blacks" instead of "African-Americans" only for brevity purposes), because that has been what we've most been aware of and had to deal with in our lifetimes, though I do think it is important to acknowledge that there are many forms of racism against other minorities, and other -isms, all of which likely stem from similar places in our individual, and hopefully not collective, souls.

So my first priority in this discussion is to provoke folks a little bit so they maybe get a little agitated but also are comfortable not being the worst person in the room, regardless of what they say. I think one of the biggest hindrances to the National Dialogue on Race, as President Clinton called for about 20 years ago, is that people are afraid to say what's really on their mind, without being attacked or made fun of, and I think we need to recognize that growth only happens in an atmosphere of acceptance and support and love.
My second priority is to define the word racism.

My third is, once we have addressed, if not necessarily exhausted, that topic, to move into how to figure out how to try to address racism in our day-to-day lives, but that isn’t necessarily the goal of this email.

So with priority numbers 1and 2 in mind above, I thought I would read this list to the group to see how they react, perhaps with nodding understanding, or confused outrage or maybe even some additions to the list:

What is racism exactly?
Is it racist if you…

-          Meet a person for the first time and feel guilty because the first thing you noticed about them is that they are black?

-          Smiled at a black person mostly just because they are black and you want to show them that you aren’t a racist?

-          Had no problem describing the skin tone of a white person as particularly light or dark-skinned, but would never do so about a black person for fear referring to their skin color would “prove” you’re a racist?

-          Have been in your car and found yourself in a dicey part of town and locked the doors and then wondered if you were being racist for doing so?

-          Laughed at a racist joke just because it’s funny even though you tried your hardest to be indignant about the joke? And would you have laughed just as hard if you substituted the word Quaker (or insert the name of your faith here) for the descriptive noun in the joke?

-          Found yourself agreeing with Bill Cosby’s lectures to blacks about what they need to do but felt that if you were to say the same things you’d be accused of being a racist?

-          Have been in a situation where you were the only white person in a room of minorities and felt weird about it?

-          Tried to remind someone of who you’re talking about, and the person you’re describing is black, but you describe every other thing about them trying as hard as possible to avoid saying that they are black, even though you know that if that was the first thing you’d said to describe them, the person would know exactly who you were talking about?

-          Have seen young black men walking toward you on the street and finding yourself reacting a differently than if they were white kids?

-          Have wondered why it’s ok for blacks to use the n-word but you can’t?

-          Have wondered if it is racist to think that blacks, in general, are better dancers/singers/jumpers/runners/athletes? And wondered if, that being a compliment, why it’s a bad thing? And wondered, if you believe that to be true, if there is a genetic reason they are superior to the rest of us, is it then also ok to assume there are possibly genetic reasons that they are inferior in some ways? And is it racist if you find yourself wondering if they are better at those things because they are descended from slaves where only the strongest, most physically superior survived?

-          Get a mental picture of a welfare recipient, and you immediately picture the person as black, even though a majority of welfare recipients are white?
 
-         Think that using racial profiling to pull people out of line at airports might actually keep us safer? Does it make as much sense to pull a little old lady or child out of line as it does a young person with a 1-way ticket to the destination?

-          Find yourself wondering if welfare as we currently practice it has done more harm to minorities than good?

-          Read a story about an inner-city kid “pulling themselves up by their bootstraps” and wondering why they don’t all do that?

-          Wondered if affirmative action and minority set-asides do more harm than good? Or think they are unfair?

-          Think “reverse-racism” is not as big of a concern as what we call racism instead of considering that they are equally bad?

-          Only define racism as involving blacks and not other minorities…or majorities?

-          Wonder if it’s fair to call Barack Obama black, when he’s just as white as he is black?

-          Meet a black man and immediately assume he is a sports fan?

-          Find yourself being surprised when a black athlete is interviewed on TV and he is more articulate than you expected?

-          Describe a black person as “articulate”, especially when, if the person were white, that description wouldn’t even have entered your mind?

So, there's the list. I hope I haven't offended anyone, but I do hope I've provoked some of you. My own sense that it is OK to think all the things above and it's a shame we can't explore all those thoughts out loud and examine them and work through them in a non-threatening atmosphere to consider, but not necessarily agree on their relative validity. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brush #1: The Raging Bull

I don't have much time, so writing, and maybe even reading this post will take longer than the amount of time I was in the presence of this boxing, and eventually, movie icon: Jake LaMotta, aka the Raging Bull.

As I was walking up the Spectrum press box steps, he was starting to walk down, and he graciously waited to let me pass.

Either because he was being a gentleman, or more likely he was intimidated. By my Quaker aura, I mean.

Who's getting what is (was) in your wallet?!

I strongly believe that a huge percentage of people who vote Republican, do so because of their anger over giving low-income people financial assistance...or, as I hear it from people: "giving THOSE people part of my paycheck for sitting around and watching TV all day, while they spend my money on $400 sneakers and lobster dinners".
 
But they seem to overlook how their adopted party gives way more attention and benefits to the uber-wealthy:
 
NEWS ITEM: Republicans will vote Wednesday on a bill repealing the estate tax. WaPo: "A tax cut that would exclusively benefit individuals with wealth of more than $5.4 million and couples with wealth of more than $10.9 million. That’s a tax break for only the 5,500 wealthiest households in the country each year... Never in the history of plutocracy has so much been given away to so few who need it so little. This is the ultimate perversion of the tea party movement, which began as a populist revolt in 2009 but has since been hijacked by wealthy and corporate interests."
 
As I (believe I) have observed previously - there are people who vote Republican because of their outrage over the government helping the poor...and there are people who vote Democrat because of our outrage over the government helping the rich. Which side are you proudest to support?
 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Good News - a new post! Bad News - it's politics...as usual


Sorry dear readers, for, well, the past, present and future. The Past, because I haven’t posted here in weeks and weeks, and The Present and Future, because I am going to start doing again the thing that a few of you requested that I stop doing: Posting too many politically-themed entries.

But with it, I’ll make a promise to get back on track posting some of the more non-political items of interest as well, more frequently. I’ll also reference something else one of you, OK, it was Laurie, requested, which is that I post some of my past Brushes With Greatness, as David Letterman used to call them. Times I ran into someone, incredible though it may seem, even more famous than me!

---

So here’s my first post of any kind for awhile, but skip over it if politics don’t interest thee:

From today’s WaPo (Washington Post):

Quote of the day: "Our leaders put us at a disadvantage by taxing, borrowing and regulating like it’s 1999." -- Sen. Rubio, in announcing his candidacy for President.

CHAIT: Actually, the government was running a surplus in 1999. "In 1999, the economy was booming, yielding wage gains up and down the income spectrum that the subsequent Bush recovery never produced. The government was not, in fact, borrowing at all, but instead running a large surplus. The best criticism of that era’s economic policies is that both parties giddily acquiesced to deregulation of the financial industry that played a role in the crash eight years later. But that criticism represents the opposite of Rubio’s charge that government engaged in excessive regulation. The line is perfectly emblematic of Rubio’s worldview, which axiomatically associates prosperity with a reduction in taxes and borrowing and regulation, with no need to reconcile its assumptions with real-world results."

And as I’ve pointed out in comments below, although there are those who still are doing contortions trying to blame Dems for the housing crash, it is widely acknowledged that President Bush could have changed the policies that led to them with the stoke of a pen, or a simple change of philosophy communicated to his HUD Secretary, who championed the approaches along with members of both parties right up until the crash.

But more importantly, it wasn’t even the loose mortgage policies that primarily caused the crash. It was, as noted above, the deregulation of the financial industry, and the associated excesses of Wall Street greed, but most of all, Bush and Cheney cutting billions in revenue through tax breaks to the wealthy, while spending trillions on unnecessary wars.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

On the other hand, if you want an opinion on beer or chocolate, I'm your guy!


Topics that get my fellow progressives all fired up that you’ll virtually never hear me give an opinion on:

-         Keystone XL
 -         Vaccinations
 -         Net Neutrality
 -         Climate Change
 -         Abortions
 -         Fracking

Some of them are such personal issues and the others require expertise I don’t have. I either prefer to keep my thoughts to myself or at least, not pretend I know things that others have or haven’t figured out...even if I'm not sure they are as sure they've figured it out as they are. 
And you're not the only one. Even I had to read that sentence twice to make sure I understood it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Does talk of looking into your heart to address race set your heart racing? And do you prefer horse racing to your heart racing?


I’ve been behind on posting to this lately, even though I have lots I’ve been wanting to write. They’re all too long though and I keep not finding time to write them. So in the meantime, here is a link to a column I wrote in today’s Daily Local News at Mike’s request when he heard I’d been to the discussion on race in Philly a few Saturdays back:
http://www.dailylocal.com/opinion/20150119/probing-the-complexities-of-race-and-racism

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

As the Pendulum Swings


Not a fun topic, but something I've been thinking about:
We’ve been asked repeatedly, angrily and condescendingly: What is it about No Means No that you don’t understand?!
What I’d like to know is when did No Means No turn into Only Yes Means Yes (my words, no one else’s) as seems to be the new normal, particularly on college campuses?

I remember seeing an informal poll once where women were asked if they would prefer to be asked before someone kisses them for the first time. Having just recently (recent to that poll, not to today!) been interested in a very hard-to-get woman of whom I asked that very question (she said Yes!), I was sure the majority opinion would be that they prefer to be asked.

In fact, it was overwhelmingly the other way, like almost unanimous (though I have a feeling the women were thinking only of guys they would actually want to have kiss them, not some random street miscreant). I could give an actual timeline and list of all the conflicting messages I’ve been given, starting with my dad as a young teen (me, not my dad) over the last, uh, 5 decades regarding how to be around women, how to treat them, how to respect them, how to be differential, how not to be, how to say nice things about how they look, why not to. And most confusing, here's the pendulum part, it has gone from one extreme to the other and back.

And what makes it all tougher is that this is one case where the Golden Rule certainly doesn’t apply. When men treat women the way they (men) would like to be treated is when they get in the most trouble. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. I’d like to be able to amend that to “…except where a crime is being committed” except that’s the point – more and more, simple innocent advances can be borderline crimes (and actual crimes according to some campus policies) under current law and definition.

But mostly I'm referring to the situations where a woman either gives something resembling consent or doesn’t say No and then waits a day or week or several months and then after being convinced by their friends, comes forward to accuse the young man of assault or rape. Certainly everyone, male and female, has been in a situation where their sexual partner started by saying no, but eventually changed their minds, usually without ever even saying yes, just over the course of continued interest, desires and advances.

Oh grr. Yet another reason I'm glad the dating scene is far in my past.

Addendum: This will be one of the few times I do some editing to a post after I first published it. I wrote this last night just before I left work and as I drove home, I realized I was uneasy with what I'd written, not so much because of anything I did write, but because it finished without a satisfactory conclusion. I tried to read it through Trev's eyes when he inevitably reads this and wonders what to think and I realized that the summary, the lesson, is this:

Sex from a legal standpoint, which is what I'm generally describing above is not much different from sex from a physical standpoint and since it seems incredibly obvious, I'm hesitant to admit this. What pleases or annoys one woman (or guy) does not necessarily please the next one. And what is "legal" to one is not necessarily seen the same way with the next. So, when you're with a girl and you do something that really gets her going, really turns her on and you think Wow - I know how to do it now! I've discovered the secret (that all guys claim to seek, though arguably, we don't try as hard as we should) on how to turn on women, and then you're with someone new and you do the same thing and she basically says "Are you done yet?!", you realize "Oh, dang - I thought I had it!" and you realize you have to start all over again finding out what works for her. (I could obviously go into a lot more detail here on specific cases, one I remember in particular from many years ago, involving a certain area that generally excites most women, that was of no interest to her whatsoever...but I shan't). :-)

I got a little off the rails there, but getting back to the legalities...or even arguably, the morals of a particular situation, it's just as confusing. What is testing (feeling them out by feeling them up?) or innocent play or experimentation or just sexual pleasure to one person can be, and has been, assault to another.

So, in the end, the lesson is this: Just get them to sign a waiver or consent form and have it notarized and witnessed by 2-3 people before hugging anyone and have a different form handy for each stage you get to.

This agreement, made December 31, 2014, by and between me, _______ McVickar, 407 Black Horse Road, 19425 and you ___________, currently residing at _________________, constitutes consent to allow me to remove your panties and it is hereby understood that such action does not suggest ongoing consent to touch you further without express, written consent.

And now, addendumizing once more, after reading the above to write a conclusion for Emma's benefit (and you too, Evie and Liss, though I'm wondering if you are maybe less likely to ever read this, or more likely have figured all this out way before you actually do read it): Be clear, be strong, be definitive. If you want No to mean No, and not mean anything less, look the guy right in the eye, grab him by the chin if you need to, like you were talking to a dog (because, well, c'mon), and say Stop It! And then remove yourself from the situation in any way possible, as you feel the need.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I love this guy, even if he is a grump...which helps explain why some people claim to love me too, I guess.


From a recent interview with Bill Murray in Rolling Stone:

Doing a Q&A at a Toronto movie theater, Murray is asked, "How does it feel to be Bill Murray?" – and he takes the extremely meta query seriously, asking the audience to consider the sensation of self-awareness. "There's a wonderful sense of well-being that begins to circulate . . . up and down your spine," Murray says. "And you feel something that makes you almost want to smile.
So what's it like to be me? Ask yourself, ‘What's it like to be me?' The only way we'll ever know what it's like to be you is if you work your best at being you as often as you can, and keep reminding yourself that's where home is."

I love this, though too often, when I am being me is when I like me least of all…and it most frequently occurs when I open my mouth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Magic

This morning on Facebook, I posted a reference to one of my 2 favorite Christmas songs coming on the radio and wrote:
 
I know I'm totally in the Christmas Spirit when I'm driving to work down rte 52 after a wonderful Penns Table breakfast with Michael Rellahan, and I hear the opening chords to my favorite Christmas song...and as now seems to be a Christmas tradition, by the end, I have tears streaming down my face. Dang song gets to me every single year at least once. ‪#‎sucharomantic
And my sister Laurie asked why I like it so much and then mentioned how she has a fave song that she hasn’t heard yet but had rules about how she needed to hear it, which, not surprisingly, are my rules exactly, as she wrote:
 
“I own the song, but it has to happen organically - no cheats allowed! Guess I better stream Christmas music on my laptop as I wrap today, coz time is running out, and as the singer says, "It's Christmas time!" and...."Santa Claus is Coming to Town"!
 
So I started to write her two good Christmas stories about the Bruce song, but decided to put them here instead:
 
1 - About 17 years ago, just before Cheryl and I got together, I was living alone at my Decatur Court house and was driving over on Christmas late morning to Mom and Dad's . Dad was really sick - temp well over 100 and was totally out of it. I was driving east on the rte 30 bypass, going up the exit ramp to rte 113, feeling melancholy and actually kind of depressed, wondering what it would be like when Mom and Dad were gone and feeling bad for their age and ill health, and thinking what a lousy Christmas it was and heck, here it was Christmas and I hadn't even heard the magical Bruce song. So I'm driving up the ramp, listening to WMMR and just in the midst of my self-pity, what do they start their noon Christmas rock block with? You guessed it! Totally made my day. And I started blubbering like an idiot with the biggest of smiles on my face.
 
And in the end, that may have been my favorite Christmas ever. In my memory of it, with Dad in the next room snoozing virtually all day, Mom and I spent hours just sitting at the dining room table, just talking. And I don’t know if we opened a single present the whole time.
 
2 – Then probably just a year or two later, the week before Christmas, and I’m driving my two awesome stepdaughters-to-be, Elissa and Evelyn, to the Exton Mall so they could do their Christmas shopping while Cheryl got some alone time back at the (same Decatur Court) house. We were just passing Whitford Road on rte 30 when, again, the song I hadn’t heard yet, but HAD to! Bruuuuce! I again got a little teary and told Liss and Evie about its importance to me and told them story #1 above, getting even tearier, and when I finished and there was a pause, when little 5 or 6 year old Evie blurted out “It’s a magical Christmas moment!!!”
 
And so it was.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Deliverance from Evil


Sitting in Quaker Meeting yesterday I had a rare (religion-related) insight. I say “rare” because I’m fairly certain that there are so many people in Meeting on any given First Day who are focusing so much more directly and concentratedly on communicating with God than I am, when I am more likely to be thinking about things like this (an oldey but favey of mine from 5+ years ago on my old blog).
It struck me that while we spend so many hours and so much of our life in Meeting trying to learn important messages from God, some of the most important lessons, like compassion and tolerance and loving unconditionally, can be best learned, not from God, but only from our interactions, and often the most painful interactions, with other human beings.
And those challenges, not just experiencing those tough interactions with people, but learning how to address the pain and anger with compassion, tolerance and love, come no more easily to us than picking up a banjo and playing an intricate melody. It takes a lot of practice.
And even then, speaking...ok, writing...as someone who has been taking banjo lessons for almost 2 years and is barely much better than when I started, practicing sure doesn't make us perfect...it only makes us better.
But then, maybe it was God who sent me that message.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Now, some would say, all I need to do is take my own damn advice!

I had intended to make this a far longer post, but in retrospect, even though it meant a lot to me at the time, and seemed like it would take a lot to explain, in retrospect, it was not very earth-shattering and will probably be fairly simple to summarize.

A month or so ago, with prodding from my friend Mike Rellahan, I requested a meeting with Republican Congressman-elect, Ryan Costello. And somewhat to my surprise, within a few days, I received a response from his aide, accepting my request and suggesting a time and date to meet.

So a few weeks ago, after a great deal of thought, and not a little angst, I went to his office in downtown West Chester and met. I can't say I was entirely surprised, but I was certainly encouraged, that I not only liked him but more importantly, liked his approach, and there were very few things on which we disagreed. On the other hand, I made a point of keeping my 3 topics, the 3rd of which we agreed to keep off-the-record, which I understand means that I can eventually include it when I write my book, but not before, fairly non-partisan.

My first issue was to ask for his support in taking up one of Jim Gerlach's top issues, which is to make the Conservation Easement enhanced tax incentive permanent. (Scares me to think that might make me a lobbyist!). Gerlach is the person he is replacing in Congress and from what I understand, he holds him in high regard. Costello seemed very open to listening and understanding the issue and seemed to say that he was generally in favor of it.

My second issue was to give him some advice. When I told him I had some for advice him I immediately started off apologetic for thinking he would be interested in what I had to say but he quickly made it clear he wanted to hear whatever I had to say. And my advice was this: Give the other side some credit once in while and it will only make people want to listen to his arguments more clearly. Sadly, I can't think of a single politician who does this.

More specifically, I suggested a way that he could make his own point of view seem stronger without the standard vitriolic lambasting of his opponent. If, say, he was speaking about Universal Healthcare, he might say: "I know this is an issue that is very important to President Obama. And we both have the same goal to improve on an already great healthcare system, maybe the best in the world. He has his approach to it, and it has some merit, but I have some other ideas that I think can even improve on his approach." And then, hard as it might be, find a few things Obama has supported in his proposal that he agrees with, surely there is something, and then say, but to make the overall bill really strong, here's what I think should be a component or should be replaced: _________.

Maybe I'm naïve, but I think way more people will listen to his plan after he starts that way than if he starts out by saying that Obama just wants to socialize healthcare and impose his Kenyan Marxist racist hate on this great country and do all he can to tear it down. Sadly, I'm sure that even though I'm exaggerating the point, one doesn't have to look hard to see how many people think that is exactly what Obama wants to do, which of course only proves what a terrible President he is, because all he keeps doing is rescuing this country from the disaster he inherited from the previous administration, instead of destroying it, which is his only clear goal.

As I say, Costello was very open to my thoughts and as far as I could tell, already felt the same way, wanting to use that very approach when possible. He even pulled out a copy of an article he had recently cut out from the Wall Street Journal, titled: Persuasion as the Cure for Incivility.

My favorite excerpt: "Civility is sometimes derided in the modern world, where bluntness and even coarseness have somehow come to be celebrated in many quarters. But civility is not a minor virtue. It is not an attempt to impose someone's notion of courtesy, and it is certainly not an attempt to suppress speech. Civility is what allows speech to be heard. It is an appeal to citizens never to express or incite hatred, which is more dangerous to the country than any external enemy."

As I say, the third issue was confidential, but had to do with some very local politics. And he was somewhat helpful and open-minded with that as well.

So, thanks, Congressman-elect. I'll take it easy on you as long as I can.

Presidential Prognosticatin'

This week's McLatchy-Marist poll has Romney and Bush leading a Republican field of 15 potential candidates when GOP voters were asked who they would support:
Mitt Romney: 19%
Jeb Bush: 14%
Chris Christie: 9%
Mike Huckabee: 9%
Ben Carson: 8%
Rand Paul: 5%
Ted Cruz: 4%
Rick Perry: 4%
Paul Ryan: 3%
Rick Santorum: 3%
Marco Rubio: 3%
Scott Walker: 3%
John Kasich: 2%
Bobby Jindal: 1%
Carly Fiorina: 1%
Unless Rs vote in Iowa the way the Iowan Ds did in 2004, choosing Kerry based on his electability, over Howard Dean, who I'm sure they liked more, I don't see the Rs nominating any of the top candidates above.

I think there are only a handful of serious possibilities of getting nominated above, but foremost is Paul Ryan. I see him as the favorite and I also think he can beat Hilary.

Other serious possible R nominees:

Romney - maybe, but not exciting enough as a candidate, not to mention as a person
Bush and Christie - their unfavorables are too high among R voters
Rand Paul - maybe, but too far outside the mainstream with some of his comments. And unless he can skirt Kentucky law that doesn't allow anyone to run for President and Senate at the same time, I don't even think he'll run for 4 more years.

And the dark horse of those not even listed here: Mike Pence from Indiana. Also, a good VP candidate.

My biggest concern is Hilary's health over the next 23 months. If she has an episode of any sort, I don't see a single D who would come within 15 points of the R nominee unless Elizabeth Warren changes her mind.

Just a tweet, tweet post

I can't resist posting these tweets:

"Of course Republicans respect Putin. He tanked an economy, started an illegal war, and hates gays."

@SkepticPugilist

So, this whole 'lame duck' thing is really slowing Obama down eh ?
@amyewalter

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Do you see what I see?


One of my favorite riddles, if it even is one, is: Can you see farther in the daytime or the night time?
 
Spoiler alert, or, what we used to call the answer to the question, is that even though the obvious answer is daytime, you know it can’t be daytime or the question wouldn’t be worth asking. But then the quandary becomes Why or How can it be nighttime, when it’s dark out and we obviously can’t see as far? And so the riddle is best answered with a question: Can you see stars in the daytime? J
Sitting in (Quaker) Meeting this past Sunday, I decided to do something that I rarely ever do in Meeting, which is to close my eyes. (The reason is because I am almost certain to do what a certain someone had done right next to me this past First Day – fall asleep!)
And when I did close them, I decided to just watch the inside of my eyelids. Well, actually I don’t know if that’s what I really see when I shut my eyes. What I do see seems to fall into at least two categories.
The first, if I concentrate hard enough, is completely unpredictable –a living, swirling, motion-filled abstract painting.  I see all kinds of amazing shapes and colors. Dazzling, really! Yet, subtle too. Coming and going, shifting, sliding, hanging, staying still. Sparkles, jagged lines, swirls. And layers – lots of layers of colors and shades, though mostly just shades of dark and light. And so much depth. Squeezing my eyes together creates more variety, and rolling my eyes around brings even more dynamic changes.
And if I so choose, I can also see specific things! On Sunday, I chose to look at the Mojave Desert in Southeastern California and the drifting sand dunes I once bicycled over and around, blowing across the road. I could see them so clearly!
 
(Here's a shot from afar - not quite how I pictured it from my bike view, but the best I could muster online):
 
 

Then I thought of other things to see – my brother, Gary. My mom and dad and my close friend, Dennis, all of whom were probably looking back at me, maybe even through that same eyelid subsurface. (I think I feel a Stephen King novel coming on…though it seems almost more Edgar Allen Poe-ish.)

And soon, I was seeing all kinds of things that were, at least as we understand time and space, not otherwise visible to me. Which led me to wonder:

Can we see farther with our eyes open...or closed?

 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hopefully I write one of these in less time than it takes me to write some of the blog posts i've been wanted to post


When I grow up…ok…retire…there are three books I want to write:

1 – On Fame

·        I want to interview famous people to ask them what it means to be famous

o   Is it what they always wanted?

o   Was it worth it?

o   What do they wish they had done differently?

o   What advice would they give to someone they see whose fame is continuing to grow, maybe too fast?

o   Do they miss anonymity?

o   Does the idea of their fame decreasing scare them?

o   How has it impacted the people they knew before they got famous?

·        And I want to interview:

o   the uber-famous, from ex-Presidents to Taylor Swift (!) to Michael Jordan

o   the medium famous – the D-listers

o   the once famous who are no more

o   the 15 minutes of famesters,

…for all of whom there’d be different kinds of questions.

2 – Aphorisms/Truisms

·        What are the basic things we should all know – from:

o    the best known – the key to real estate is locationlocationlocation to

o   that calculation on how to invest as you age – the % in stocks vs bonds vs cash based on your age to

o   cooking basics to

o   sports (oddly, I can’t think of any right now!) to

o   gardening (the corn should be high as an elephants eye by sometimeorother)

·        The simpler the better

·        I think I’d call it How to think like a Middle Aged Man at any age…or…What ya wanna do is!

3 – Your kid knows more than you ever will: What kids know and are trying to tell us when we don’t want to listen

·        I was talking after a memorial service this past weekend with a married couple I have known and been close to for nearly 20 years about a message in the service about that “thin line” between the physical world and the spiritual one and we got around to talking about the gifts children seem to have crossing back and forth over that line, which more likely isn't even a line at all. They told me a very personal story about something their son said to them when he was just 2 or 3 years old. The boy’s mom described how many years ago, she had suffered a miscarriage at a very, very early point in her pregnancy and although there was absolutely no way their young son could have known about it, in a car ride a day or two later, their son started talking matter-of-factly about his sister who had just died.

·        Similarly, how Trev named Emma the day Cheryl found out she was pregnant by pointing at Cheryl’s belly and saying Emma in there!

·        And there are so many similar stories I’ve heard that indicate that our children are trying to tell us about things they see and know that we cannot fathom how they see or know them.

·      And in Meeting yesterday, someone else stood and gave another example of all this…without his knowing what I had been thinking about

Of course, I see these as books, but by the time I seriously consider actually writing/researching them, books may have been completely replaced by websites collecting this info, if in fact they either haven’t already been written or the websites already created.

And the bigger challenge might be that Cheryl’s dream is to travel cross country sampling all kinds of local foods at various little restaurants and writing about them. Hopefully she wants me to come along...if only to eat the foods she has no interest in eating, the sweeter and greasier the better!

And then there’s the whole procrastination thing…

 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Letter II



...and as promised, here is the letter that was in the Daily Local on 12/9/14:
http://www.dailylocal.com/opinion/20141209/obamas-economy-strategy-remains-healthy-and-stable

It is such a reflection of the conservative-leaning mainstream media that so few of these facts are ever publicized. There was a conference of conservatives in Washington DC many years ago where a Frank Luntz-type announced a new strategy to the eager participants - that heretofore, they should never refer to the media without emphasizing that it was a left-wing mainstream media or a liberal press - yeegods! It's been a remarkably effective campaign, even though there is easily shown evidence that if anything, it is the exact opposite.
And the letters and calls published in the Local are so incredibly one-sided, I really want to try to at least present some facts to the readers who so easily gloss over the almost daily drumbeat of positive news buried in the business section, adding in what is virtually never reported, particularly in terms of the corporate profits in comparison to how little they actually pay - a fraction of the tax rate they are "supposed" to pay.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DLN Letter of 11/20/14

I had a letter to the Daily Local published yesterday, but before I post a link to that one here, I should go back a few weeks to the one that was published around 11/20/14 that the Daily Local never posted to their website. People who don't get the Local have asked me to let them know when they get in so they can read them, and so here it is:


Along with the appointed experts on the election last week, I thought I might add my non-expert observations of last week’s elections. It seems that except in the case of our wonderful new Governor, voters rejected the Democratic party almost across the board. That is, we rejected the party responsible for 65 straight months of economic growth, a record 56 months of consecutive private sector job growth, unemployment falling from 10.1% to 5.8%, (after losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month when Bush left office, the country is now adding a minimum of 200,000 jobs per month) the budget deficit reduced by two-thirds, and almost daily records in the stock market. Corporate profits are at record highs and the U.S. gross national product growth is now among the best in the world.

The dollar is at its strongest levels in years, gasoline prices are falling, there’s no inflation, interest rates are the lowest in 30 years, U.S. oil imports are declining, U.S. oil production is rapidly increasing, and the wealthy, as opposed to most of the rest of us, are still making astonishing amounts of money.

So, in summary, Americans voted for the party that got us into the mess that Obama just dug us out of. And we, the people, rewarded the party who, last time they held the White House, gave us an almost total world economic collapse, the worst terrorist attack in history, the two longest wars in US history, the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover, a complete collapse of the stock market and a budget SURPLUS that they turned into a trillion dollar annual deficit.  

And in the absence of any actual reasons that republicans have to explain these incredible accomplishments by President Obama, the best they can do is hope that it is a bubble, so somehow, someway, their economic theories of trickle-down economics that have thus far only had disastrous results, will finally prove to help us. I also hear some people think Ryan Howard is going to turn it around next year. Well actually, their economic theories do benefit one group - the upper 1% who bankroll their favorite republican politicians through dark money, to the surprise of no one, as the Daily Local exposed last week.

And if we had any doubt as to the continuing lurch to the extreme right, it was confirmed by the ouster of a “moderate” (by republican standards anyway) Dom Pileggi from his Senate leadership. Elections have consequences, indeed. I was encouraged at least to see in Michael Rellahan’s excellent interview with Ryan Costello this past week that he pledges to be non-partisan and listen carefully to his constituents to hear all our concerns regardless of party affiliation. I hope this is a promise he can keep despite the pressures he will be under from his far-right party leaders these next two years.

I wake up every morning grateful that Barack Obama is in the White House so that the extreme right doesn’t continue to try to eviscerate our environment, ruin our economy and get us back into multiple wars. And I am also grateful that so many thousands of moderate Chester County voters have switched to the Democratic Party and gave a majority of their votes to Tom Wolf, whom Corbett has left with a $2 billion deficit and our ability to borrow completely maxed out. This after Corbett, according to the state 2011 fiscal year financial statement, entered office with a $1 billion surplus, There is still a long way to go to get more competitive balance in the more local elections, but at a state level, we are clearly headed in the right direction with Tom Wolf, and for that, I am most thankful of all.

Jamie McVickar
West Vincent Township