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Do You Want Real Peace?

By: Coach Bill Sunday May 25, 2014 2:15 pm

 

Do You Want Real Peace?

Memorial Day Weekend has brought a plethora of remembrances to my Facebook page.  Most are patriotic and call upon us to express gratitude for those who have fallen in the line of duty.  I appreciate this sentiment but question whether it goes far enough. 

We are told that all of the fallen have died to “preserve our freedom”  even as our freedoms are shrinking by the day, not at the hand of conquerors but by the hand of our own in the name of security. 

And there are those that contend that the greatest threat to our freedom is the mounting national debt fueled almost entirely by our expenditures on everlasting war and the national security state.  

We should also recognize that those far off lands, where we have spent the lives  of 8000 of our service people and visited permanent injury upon 10 times that many, have lost hundreds of thousands of their own, mostly civilians, in the conflicts.  The thirst for military adventurism that grips the world rarely serves the people of the world very well, while filling the bank accounts of those who profit from it.

I think we would do a far greater service in memorializing those we have lost by focusing on what we must do to stop adding to their numbers.  In the words of Indian Statesman Jawaharlal Nehru:

Or Carlos Santana:

“Peace has never come from dropping bombs.  Real Peace comes from enlightenment and educating people to behave more in a divine manner.

The quest for peace must develop on both an individual and a collective level.  And I use the word collective deliberately to emphasize that this is an issue that transcends nationalism.

On an individual level, the quest for peace can take many forms but ultimately it is a quest of the heart and the spirit.  It is a quest routed in desire and intention and starts with the choices we make about small things we encounter in every day life.   Shop local, eat better, plant a garden, sing and dance often and offer gratitude at every opportunity.  Listen to understand and not to formulate a reply and above all know that sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.

During the Viet Nam war an activist was asked to participate in a demonstration against the war. She refused but offered to participate when they were ready to demonstrate for peace.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

Our actions define us and in turn define the world we desire.  We can do better.  We must do better.

One Love by Change the World

 

I Stand With Texas Women

By: Coach Bill Tuesday July 9, 2013 10:33 pm

The Stand With Texas Women road show came to Discovery Green in Houston tonight.

They were greeted by a modest but extremely enthusiastic crowd of supporters.

Gathering Crowd

Many came dressed for the occasion with Texas orange the predominant color scheme.

Texas Orange
Others had some pointed things to say.


The speakers were enthusiastic and some eloquent in their condemnation of the current republican assault on women.


Not forgotten in the current brouhaha over reproductive rights was the reminder

that our esteemed Governor vetoed an equal pay for women bill.

Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards, daughter of the last democratic governor of Texas, spoke of the role Planned Parenthood plays in delivering a vast array of reproductive health services to the women of Texas.

Wendy Davis

Senator Davis was last to speak.  She was eloquent and funny and spoke of the effort needed to turn Texas blue.  The crowd loved her.  Should she decide to pursue higher office, she will have a ready made cadre of enthusiastic campaign workers.

The spark has been struck in Texas.  Let us hope it grabs hold and ignites a bonfire of change

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Meade

Is Conscience dead?

By: Coach Bill Sunday June 16, 2013 11:13 am

Cowardice asks: Is it safe?
Expediency asks: Is it politic?
But Conscience asks: Is it right?
William Punshon

Once upon a time the law was simple. Thou shalt not steal. It is a simple directive. Don’t take stuff that does not belong to you. For a few hundred years, society relied on that inner voice usually called a conscience to interpret that simple instruction.
cliff girl photo cliffgirl.jpg
As society has become more complex, so has the law. It is no longer sufficient to simply say, “no stealing”. Now we must elaborate and clarify. No stealing money, no stealing money from banks, no stealing money from individuals, no stealing items of value and exchanging them for money, no stealing from pension funds and the list goes on forever.

There is no witness so dreadful, no accuser so terrible as the conscience that dwells in the heart of every man.
Polybius (205 BC – 118 BC),

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More importantly, we have embraced the notion of “compliance” as a defense against accusations of improper behavior. As the law has become more complex, we parse the language of the law looking for loopholes. We evade the spirit and intent of the law by claiming that our specific behavior is not included on the itemized list even as a child would recognize the essence of our behavior for exactly what it is: stealing.

I chose stealing as the subject of my initial rant for its simplicity. The same analysis could certainly be applied to many other socially disapproved behaviors, my favorite being lying. This affliction is particularly virulent in the world of business and politics. Be it a misstatement of fact, or perhaps more egregiously a misstatement of intention, we are encouraged to overlook the implied character flaw revealed by this behavior with the familiar homily, “ It’s just politics”, or “It’s just business.”

Personally, I can’t get past, “It’s just lying”.

“Most people sell their souls, and live with a good conscience on the proceeds.”
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865 – 1946)

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I picked this particular topic because I tuned into the end of a piece on this issue on the radio and was intrigued. Unfortunately, I was not able to locate a link to the source so I am left to reconstruct the essence of the article as I remember it.

Is the commenter correct?

Has the quaint notion of conscience been superceded by mere compliance?

Is any and every behavior legitimized if no laws were broken?

Is conscience dead?

Did it ever exist in the first place?

As a final and related test, can you name any prominent person in government of whom you could say to your son or daughter, “There is a person of good character, I hope you grow up to be like him (or her).”

“Before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself.

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Harper Lee (1926 – ),
To Kill a Mockingbird

The Absolute Sense of Certainty

By: Coach Bill Friday March 29, 2013 10:26 am

“If you develop the absolute sense of certainty
that powerful beliefs provide, then you can get yourself
to accomplish virtually anything, including those things
that other people are certain are impossible.”

William Lyon Phelps

  ”For every powerfully believed idea that leads to new accomplishments, there are hundreds of powerfully held beliefs that aim to squash enlightenment and progress. Simply having a powerful belief is insufficient to overcome the inertia of the certainty of darkness.”

Anonymous

Left right center

When I encountered the first quote, it brought to mind men of science like Edison, who invented hundreds of ways not to build a light bulb before he invented one that worked.  I thought of men like Gandhi and Dr. King who were able to voice powerful ideas that did accomplish something even if those accomplishments remain works in progress.  Those we revere as our founding fathers, must have acted with a sense of certainty in bringing forth their vision of a country built on the sovereignty of “We the People…”

Issues polling frequently show a majority in support of what is regarded as the “liberal” position.   An example would be the support shown for background checks of those attempting to buy firearms.  Yet legislation mandating background checks is likely to go down in defeat.   Those to the political left of center bemoan the fact that in spite of majority support for the left side of many issues, the political center seems to keep moving to the right. 

If we ask why is this, we need look no further than the first quote.  The conservative movement manifested through the Republican Party exhibits an “absolute sense of certainty” in its core beliefs.   The deficit hysteria is not really about fiscal prudence, it is about reducing the size of government.  Privatization initiatives, be it medical care, retirement security, charter schools or for profit prisons all support a core principle of reducing the size of government.   They hold these beliefs with an absolute sense of certainty that they are right. 

The left, as represented by the Democratic Party, never demonstrates an absolute sense of certainty about anything.   They operate only as the opposition to conservative ideas and initiatives and they really are not very good at it.  There is never a line in the sand.  There is nothing they are not willing to put on the table in the spirit of compromise.  And those compromises never pull the center to the left but lead inevitably to more rightward slippage. 

During the debate on the Affordable Care Act, the Democratic apologists took great pleasure in reminding us that we must not let “the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  What we once thought of as the deeply held core principle of single payer Medicare for all was not even the starting position of negotiation, abandoned before the negotiation even began.  When the Heritage Foundation plan finally passed, we were told it was just a start and we should learn to love it.  Progressives hoped that it would be a step on the road to true universal health care but ask yourself which is more likely as things stand now:  ACA morphing into Medicare for all or Medicare morphing into an expansion of the ACA subsidized voucher plan.  In thirty years will ACA be seen as a victory for the left or the right?

There is no doubt that the right has some advantages that are hard to counter such as talk radio, cable news and corporate owned media in general.   There are also many democratic stalwarts in office who are just as corporatist as any of their republican opponents.   But the real deficit lies not in the arsenal of expression but in the inventory of ideas.  The fractured opposition of political opportunists cannot reverse the rightward drift. 

If the left is ever to accomplish anything it must find and articulate the powerful beliefs that incubate and grow the absolute sense of certainty so evident on the right.  We must adopt a clear set of core values that will not be sacrificed on the altar of compromise.  We must choose to stand for powerful beliefs with an absolute sense of certainty.

Bi Partyingship

By: Coach Bill Friday November 9, 2012 12:38 am

In the aftermath of Tuesdays defeat, republicans are awakening to the fact that there are just not enough angry white men to win a national election.  They lost among every other identifiable demographic group most notably among the young.  Their prime constituency is aging and as a natural consequence dying off.   They must find a way to increase their appeal to young people and I have a suggestion guaranteed to help.

Legalize it

Within hours of their victory, surrogates of the Obama administration began appearing on various news venues to disparage the results of the marijuana legalization referendums in Colorado and Washington.  They emphasized that marijuana remains illegal at the Federal level and that federal law enforcement agencies would continue to enforce the law.

Conservatives have long embraced the concept of Federalism as embodied in the 10th amendment;

  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”. 

The implications of this were once articulated very eloquently by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis when he wrote that

It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

 Surely this notion applies to the actions of the citizens of Colorado and Washington.  It would be a manifestation of the very essence of constitutional conservatism if republicans were to embrace the “laboratory of the states” doctrine as it applies to the marijuana referendums.   Obviously, I would love to see the Democrats take this position but the Obama administration is already signaling that they will not allow it.

Those of the progressive persuasion not star struck by Obama and his corporate democratic minions have an issue where they can make common cause with the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.  The republicans would have a perfect issue to exemplify the evils of federal government overreach and split off, engage and perhaps capture some young voters.

Rest assured that whatever ideological gains Republicans may make among young people with this issue will be short lived  as the old white men running the party will not be able to restrain their penchant for uttering stupid remarks about other constituencies of the democratic coalition.

Fearing the loss of some of their young voter’s, this gambit could be threatening enough to democrats to pressure Obama to back off long enough   for the referendums to take effect and take hold.  Once the benefits start to accrue there will be no going back.

tread

What is Your Bumper Sticker?

By: Coach Bill Sunday September 23, 2012 3:45 pm

A Middle Eastern potentate wishes for his two sons to be the most intelligent people in the world. He calls a meeting of all the wise men in the Kingdom and orders them to gather all of the world’s knowledge together in one place for his sons to read. After one year, the wise men bring to him twenty-five volumes of knowledge, which they are told to condense further. They return in another year with the knowledge condensed to just one volume. This too, they are told, is far too much information for the sons, and they are ordered to par it down again. After yet another year, the wise men return with a piece of paper with a single sentence on it. The sentence read, “This too shall pass”.

This too shall pass,” seems a fitting sentiment for the current election season.  Carried forward, it will also be a fitting sentiment to apply to the results regardless of the outcome.
tea party
Do you have a favorite saying that inspires or comforts you when you find yourself in times of trouble?

It could be a line from a song or poem or a favorite book.

 How about a personal slogan?

 A few of my personnel favorites include:

 Question Authority !

 “I’m just an old lump of coal but I’m going to be a diamond someday.”

Bill Joe Shaver

 Critical Thinking – The other American Deficit

messy house

 

A previous treatment of this topic brought forth the following suggestions:

 “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam”.

Popeye

 Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person

is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you’re a vegetarian.”

Dennis Wholey.

It’s a dog eat dog world, Sammy, and I’m wearing milkbone underwear.”

Norm to Sammy on “Cheers”

“A weed is a plant whose virtues have yet to be discovered.”

Author unknown

Caution:  Contents under pressure!

angelou
If you slapped a bumper sticker across your butt, what might it say?

Go and Build No More

By: Coach Bill Saturday August 25, 2012 3:29 pm

My earliest and most vivid memories of elementary school were when we would gather together in a single classroom and watch a rocket take off with a man aboard.  I grew up with the Mercury Seven Astronauts, the Gemini program and eventually the Apollo Missions that culminated on July 20 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off a ladder onto the moon.
Mercury Launch
With all the turmoil of the sixties, Viet Nam and the civil rights movement, the space program stood as a unifying effort.  American’s still say “When WE went to the moon…”.
Brooklyn bridge
 Our history as a nation was marked by a succession of great engineering projects.  The transcontinental railroad, Hoover Dam, the Brooklyn and later the Golden Gate Bridges, TVA and the Interstate Highway System come to mind.   I am sure that those who went before me saw these projects as American accomplishments; things that WE did.
Hoover Dam
I once watched a program on the building of the Panama Canal.  Another project that WE built.  They showed pictures of laborers in a steel mill in Pittsburgh standing in front of a completed set of lock doors ready for shipment.   It spoke of the pride these men felt, obvious from their stance and demeanor in the picture, in being part of such a momentous effort.
Panama Canal
We have not engaged as a nation in a project of this magnitude since Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The space program continued with  the shuttle program, remembered by many of us more for its failures than its successes, while the space program was increasingly seen as too expensive and an easy target for budget cutting.
Challenger
The program most likely to advance the frontiers of scientific knowledge, the SCSC, was shut down before it even got started ceding the next generation of advances in physics to the Swiss.
pyramid
I think it is notable in this political season that neither party speaks of what we could or should build.  We hear only of what should be torn down or done away with.  The great civilizations of the past that we study in school, the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans are remembered for what they have built and the knowledge they have left behind.
Mercury Launch
Today we celebrate the life and heroism of Neil Armstrong even as we mourn his passing and I am left to wonder if his will be the last face of our collective accomplishment.

 

Occupy Houston Update.

By: Coach Bill Saturday December 31, 2011 12:09 pm

Occupy Houston Update.

I delivered the most recent box of Occupy Supply goodies on Christmas Day but far more timely was the hot meal. It had been raining hard for much of the previous 48 hours and our Occupiers were wet and cold. Someone had brought in an elevated fire pit and some firewood so at least temporarily they had heat to help them dry out.
Christmas Dinner At Occupy Houston

Occupy Houston has limited cooking facilities. There are a few power outlets in the park they can tap into but the fire marshal has determined that extension cords are a fire hazard. This limits their ability to prepare hot food.

When I received the Occupy Supply gift card the weather report suggested that a hot, ready to eat meal would be appropriated. My daughter and I visited Kroger on Christmas Eve and came away with $105 worth of groceries. Fortunately, temperatures in the forties meant I did not have to squeeze everything into my refrigerator. Best deals of the day were sweet potatoes at $0.68 per pound, 15 pound bags of russet potatoes for $3.97 and a 16 pound turkey for ten bucks. We also bought a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a greatly reduced spiral ham.