The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Because words are what I have and what I was given

Mom loved to read. She was quite upset when the Bookmobile in Colquitt County was shut down.

For those who don't know, the Bookmobile was a converted RV lined with shelves. Two librarians loaded it every day and drove out into the county visiting farms and rural places. People would climb aboard, pick out books to read and taken the books inside. When the Bookmobile came back around, the books were swapped for something else to read.

The ladies quickly learned what the patrons on the route wanted to read and made sure to stock that.

Mom and Dad both made sure Shag & would read. They read books to us regularly. Mom delighted in telling people a story about when I just a munchkin, not quite able to read..

Dad would get out of his chair, book in hand. His destination, the bathroom where he'd sit, attend to Nature's call and devour a significant portion of the book. If I managed to see him getting up, I'd scramble to find a book and race ahead to the bathroom, taking the throne before he could.

I remember seeing a picture of me on the porcelain pony, book in hand. I haven't seen it in years. Maybe it will turn up as we sort stuff.

My favorite book when I was small was "He's Your Dog Charlie Brown." Yes, a movie by the same name exists.

Mom said I'd grab the book and come running to her or dad saying "Weed T'wown." And they read. They read it exactly because after a while I had it memorized. A mistake was quickly called out. Decades later one of my Christmas presents was an original edition He's Your Dog Charlie Brown. It's not the one I had, but it means just as much. It means more now, cause Mom won't have any more Christmases in this word.

Mom read about anything she could get ahold of. She particularly like Harold Robbins and John Stienbeck. I don't get that, but I also don't have to understand. I like HR, not JS, but given the graphic nature of some of HR's scenes, I can't understand why Mom liked it. Maybe she skipped those parts.

In later years she stopped reading fiction and switched to nonfiction. I asked her why.

"I know what's going to happen," she said. She'd read so much, fiction writers could not surprise her or deliver the level of intellection stimulation she was after. Nonfiction, even if she knew the outcome, held details she might not know. That made it worth reading.

She was also well-versed in the Bible. Jehovah Witnesses eventually stopped coming to our house because of how much she knew. She'd ask questions and pose situations they could not or would not answer. She made them more than a little uncomfortable.

Make no mistake - love of reading is a gift. It has to be given early and reinforced regularly. This love of reading includes the flip side, a love of learning. Mom gave us this gift. Our family loved to read so much Shag taught himself how to read, with the help of Sesame Street and the Electric Company. Aunt Ginger (his kindergarten teacher) was surprised when he was reading. Mom wasn't.

I'm hard pressed to put a finger on the greatest gift she gave me, not because I can't find it, but because I cannot see through these tears to type it out. Give me time and I'll get it out. Certainly this love of words and learning has to be near the top.

Meantime, her gift of the love of words has gone a long way to shaping me into the person I am today. You can accurately pin many titles on me and she gets credit for starting me on those paths. No one gets more credit for Ben Baker the writer, the author, the reporter than she does.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Firm

7 days gone, now.

She was a woman of firm convictions. She was not easily shaken from those beliefs either.

Back when Shag I were little, she had portraits done by a photographer in Moultrie. The lady was lesbian. How Ma knew this, I dunno. This was in the 70s, when same-gender attraction was not accepted. In the Deep rural South, it could amount to a death sentence.

She didn't care. She was more concerned with who the person was.

Over the years she met more people with a same-sex attraction. Didn't matter to her. What mattered was how well the person did with what they had. Very Dr. Martin Luther King right there.

Aunt Jeanne asked what Mom would do if one of her kids turned out homosexual. (We are not.) "I'd love him just the same." Aunt Jeanne said she was not sure she could do that.

She didn't care about skin color, nationality or other such things. If she welcomed you into her house, you were family.

I like to believe I share that outlook.

For someone who had such an open mind about sexual attraction, I find it odd that she hated porn. A Playboy in the house was ... let's not go there. She burned all that kind of stuff if she found it. A few months before she had the wreck and so forth, the topic somehow got into porn. She still hated it. "They (the women) are all on drugs anyway."

I didn't bother arguing with her.

She was quick to tell people, My House. My Rules. If you don't like it, leave. A distant cousin had a falling out with his parents. He moved in with us for a few months. He's now living in Mobile, I think, and is a woman and a hairdresser. This cousin did get fed up with the rules for living in her house and moved out.

That attitude got stronger over the years. By the time she moved to Tifton, she'd lived along so long she did not want anyone in her house more than a few hours. That included her two sons and grandkids.

She generally kept beer in the fridge for Shag and I. She did not mind people having a drink in her house. She kept a bottle of wine in the fridge too. But if you got drunk, as the brother of a family friend found out, you got the full Suzy attitude about that.

House rules. That's an attitude I inherited for sure. My place, my rules. Ya don't like it, you ain't gotta be here.

It came around to bite her too, She was at one place we lived and made some remark about the house.

"Ya don't like it, don't come back," I said. She knew I meant it.

That was the end of that subject, permanently.

It took her a long time to adjust to the reality that her first grandson has Down Syndrome. She so wanted to blame someone for that extra chromosome. Her desire to get up in someone's face about it and shout them down was almost palpable at times. She still loved Jesse and time allowed her to come to grips with his disability and accept him for who he is.

One day down at the house in Tallahassee, Jesse put some Silly Putty on the back of a chair.

She exploded. Mt. Vesuvius all over Jesse.

I stepped in.

Nope. Stop. "He does not understand."

She stopped, on him. She sat down in her chair still complaining.

"Hey. We can leave and we don't have to come back," I said as I scraped it off.

That stopped most of the complaining.

"I never had problems like that with you and Shag," she said.

"We also have IQs over 150," I said.

Reality slapped her across the face with that one. She started crying and apologizing.

Over the last few years, I stopped trying to convince her of things. I just let it slide by. She became forgetful. I quit reminding her as it irked her. I just let it ride. I let her talk about anything she wanted to talk about. If I had evidence proving her wrong, it stayed with me. It made our time together enjoyable.

I do not like the fact our last conversation was when she was in the rehab center in Tifton. She complained about the place, calling it a "hell-hole." But I do like the fact that we talked about what she wanted to talk about. The last time I saw her in person, it too was a good visit.

I hugged her gently (her shoulders also caused her a lot of pain), kissed her forehead and said, "Call if you need me. Love you Ma."

"I will. And you call me if you need me. Love you."

Anyone got the telephone number to Heaven?


Friday, May 22, 2020

Your encouragement is helping me get through this. You are the wind beneath my wings. Again, Lori and Allison are the reason I started this. Momma is the reason I continue.

Mom was not much liked by Dad's side of the family.

I think the reason was she had opinions that did not sit well in deep South Georgia. Her biggest run-in with was Mickey, Dad's brother and my uncle.

Dad & Mickey went into business together farming. I think Dad did most of the work. I know I did a lot more work on the farm than Mickey's kids. Mom also worked on the farm far more than Aunt Ann.

Summer always meant watermelons. Watermelons are hot work. Mom got so good grading watermelons coming down the conveyor belt she could tell you within a pound what each one weighed. Telling a ripe one from a green one, I think she could almost do that blindfolded. She stood there in the space between the trailer and the conveyor going into the truck, mercilessly culling the lot.

One year, Dad & Mickey got a government contract for watermelons. The inspector said Mom was tougher grading out the culls than he was.

Along with the heat comes something we call bear caught. It is heat exhaustion. You can get swimmy headed, puke, pass out, etc. Generally it is not too dangerous, provided you find a spot to sit down and cool off while drinking plenty of water. In rare cases it can lead to a hospital visit and a few people have died from it.

I got bear caught, as I usually did at least once every summer. Me & heat do not get along. Ma told me to hit the shade and rest. Mickey, whose own kids were nowhere to be seen, extremely objected to this. Ma got up in his face, told him where the road was and walked off. Uncle Mickey, a hothead to begin with, found that about as intolerable as anything he'd ever come across.

Dad pulled up. Mickey corralled him into a truck. They pulled off to the side and spoke in the truck, AC running, for a good 10-20 minutes. UM stormed off the field. So far as I know, he and Mom never spoke to each other again. Dad made it abundantly clear where the road was as well.

Ma fired some people too. When they complained to Dad, he said "She told you where the road is."

She held some opinions that were deeply rooted in her Catholic upbringing. That was another reason others did not care for her.

Oddly enough, in a time and place where women were expected to "know their place" she didn't care. Raised by a single mother, Ma knew what a determined woman could do and could do it without a man.

She knew who she was. She didn't much care what other people thought of that. Another strike against her. But for those who bothered to learn and could get past that abrasive exterior, they found someone who would be there no matter when and no matter why.

She found who she thought were friends closer than a sister. When she & Dad started having trouble and later got divorced, she felt she was abandoned and betrayed by many of them. In later years, I got to talk with some of her friends from that time. None of them said they were upset or held anything against her. They were, honestly, mystified that Mom broke off all contact.

That was her. If she felt she was wronged, game over. The only person I know she eventually reconciled with was her brother, Buddy, who lives in Parhump, NV. She even spoke of that reconcilation more than once. She said Buddy killed their mother (metaphorically, not literally) but she had to get past that because he is/was her brother. Buddy grew close to her as well over the past few years.

Sher also raised her sons to be independent thinkers and not care much what anyone else thought. Do your best and if other folks think that is not enough, they have a problem. She didn't say that so succintly, but she came very close to it many times.

Grandma always treated Mom well. Ma called her Ma. When Grandma was dying the personal care home, Mom went to see her. Grandma very much appreciated that.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Wild rabbit, please

Mom was always a slim lady until she quit smoking. Then she added a good it of weight. Once she moved to Tifton, her weight bounced up and down a good bit.

When Robbie & Danielle started bringing her food, she was on a real downhill slide. With their attention, she put some weight back on.

Her favorite meat was wild rabbit. She loved them. Never had them until she moved to S. Georgia and Dad brought home some. She fried them and that was it. She also never had catfish until she came to S. Georgia. Her favorite there was fingerling catfish, no more than 6 inches long. She'd eat the tail until the vertebrae got too hard to crunch.

She refused to eat squirrel. Called 'em tree rats.

She was a really great cook when she wanted to be. She enjoyed it too. One of my favorite things she made was quite simple. Noodles, cream of mushroom soup and canned tuna. I'm sure there's a name for it. I just called it "That stuff you make with tuna and noodles and mushroom soup."

To her disappointment, she never learned to fry chicken like Granny Nancy. But no one ever has, not even Aunt Ginger. Granny explained it one day, "Your hands ain't black."

She did learn how to make fried cornbread, some people call it lace bread, from Granny Nancy. In that, you could not tell which one made the cornbread.

Her cathead biscuits invariably came out with dots of unmixed flour on the top. We called 'em measles. We also ate pans full of them.

We had at meal at her house in Tifton one day that featured wild hog. She took and bite and swore she never wanted domesticated hog ever again. "It doesn't have any taste," she said. One day I took her the backstrap of a middlin' sow, cut into medallions. I put 4 pieces to the pack. "Don't put a lot in there. I don't eat that much."

She cooked the first batch and told me to keep the deer from then on. She only wanted wild hogs.

She also cooked several packs at once and ate all of it.

She had her own version of chicken soup. It had star-shaped bits. She drizzled raw eggs into the boiling soup so I guess she had star chicken egg drop soup.

She wrote down her favorite recipes and gave a copy to people who wanted it.

Once Shag & I reached the age we could scrounge a meal for ourselves, she announced she was done cooking supper on Sunday nights. Every other meal, she'd cook.

She cooked about everything we brought into the house, including rattlesnake. She didn't eat any of it though.

When we killed a cow, she followed the carcass to the butcher. Come time to cut it up, she was there to help and make sure the steaks were thick enough. She liked her steak extra rare, I'm saying if you hooker her steak up to a nutrient bath, it would probably start growing again. She never understood why I wanted mine well done when I was youngun. I don't get it either since these days I like mine the same way she ate hers. Still mooin'.

She really didn't have a signature dish to my thinking.

Damn yankee to redneck

Lori said I need to write more about who my mother was, what she was like and so forth,

Ma was a damned yankee. A yankee is a person from above the Mason-Dixon line. A damned yankee is a yankee who comes to the South and stays here. Mom was born in Milwaukee, a first-generation American on her mother's side. Alma C. was born in Austria.

I have no idea why, when or how Alma and Ralph (Ma's dad) moved to Atlanta. I just know they did. That's where Mom met Dad, more specifically at a frat party hosted by Pi Kappa, Dad's chosen fraternity.

Their first meeting was less than stellar.

Dad walked up in overalls, probably no shirt, and barefoot. He said Mom was "a pretty gal."

Mom looked this deep fried redneck up and down and turned away.

"Fine. There's other girls with phone numbers," Dad said and walked away.

If I ever knew much about their courtship, it's gone now, faded away from my increasingly unreliable memory. They got married in Ringgold, then the marriage capital of Georgia. Jerry Sumner, Dad's best friend, attended the wedding. Later that day Dad got so drunk all he could do, according to Sumner, was lay on the floor and point a finger at Jerry and say "you son of a bitch."

She did tell me of one of their dates. Dad challenged her to a drinking contest. Back then, and I have independent witnesses to this, Mom simply could not get intoxicated in beer. In later years, a half glass of wine had her wobbly.

"I drank him under the table," she said.

Prior to getting married, Mom was a stewardess with Delta Airlines. She got married and that ended that. Delta would not employ married women back then as "flight attendants" as they are called now.

Prior to my arrival, Mom and Dad bowled. Mom had several bowling trophies I remember playing with as I  grew up.

They lived in Atlanta, where I was born. Or so I'm told. I was just a baby at the time and do not remember.

After Delta, she worked as a secretary. Somewhere there's a picture of her in a PhD (Pentecostal Hair Do - I can say that 'cause I am pentecostal; Mom was Catholic) or a beehive 'do and pregnant, sitting at a desk. That was me in there.

The office gave her a party as she exited the official workforce. It was many years before she stepped back into a place where she earned direct pay for her work. She worked plenty, on the farm I grew up on. She could cut & bag cabbage, cut greens, drive a two-stage transmission cattle truck, grade watermelons, turn watermelon vines and more. She also spent some time as a substitute teacher.

When I entered middle school, she went back to school on a minority scholarship. Yes. At Albany College, back then, she was definitely a minority and as such was given a scholarship. The Historically Black College was under orders to diversify the student body or else.

She got a degree in Criminal Justice and wanted to work as a probation officer, something she regularly threatened our field hands with. "No warrant. I can just walk right in," she said to 'em. As a lot of the crew back then smoked marijuana (and everyone knew it) that was not an entirely hollow promise.

Enough for today. I'm tired in more ways than one.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

It's personal

We all grieve in our own way. It is intensely personal. It is also not unique to human beings.

Some moments I'm as calm and cool as I ever am. Some moments I'm a crying heap.

I find that when I keep my mind on other things, I am calm. That's to be expected, I suppose.

Then I will think of something, someone, some time. I'll see or hear something or someone. It all comes rushing back in a flood that threatens to overwhelm me.

So many memories. Some good, some bad. Some I may share one day, others I shall take them with me to wherever I go after this life.

Have to send out thanks to Mary & Lori, both of whom told me there's no wrong way to go through this, no wrong way to grieve. It's personal and has to be that way. Mary taught me through her essays on the passing of her sister. Lori told me outright, you do it your way.

This is my way.

CELEBRATE


She said, many times, when she finally left we are to throw a party. Celebrate. As she said, no more pain. She also said, more'n once, to celebrate that (insert pejorative of your choice here) was gone.

Understand at this celebration, we will have beer, at least a keg. If this offends you, well, I shall let Ma reply. "You can get glad in the same britches you got mad in." We will have food. What kind, I do not know. Her favorite meat was wild rabbit, so Shag, me and some more rednecks may need to get out and bust a few one night. I can tell you, since we'll have meat, the celebration will not be on a Friday. She didn't eat meat on Fridays.

Why? She was a Catholic. Meatless Fridays. The Mother Church and her had a falling out, but she still held to her faith. In later years, the reason for the falling out was repealed by the church, so she would be welcomed back. S'far as I know, she never went to another mass after the schism. In case you don't wonder, I was partly raised as a Catholic, but I left the denomination 'cause my rebel streak not only runs to my core, it is my core. Maybe more on this later.

DENIED


She wanted last rites. Don't get much more personal than that.

She was denied.

Shag penned a letter to the editor in this week's newspaper of his opinion on the policy.

Here's mine.

If the priest is willing to do it, then let him in. Suit him up if need be. To deny such a request to a dying person is, to me, unconscionable.

I understand the epidemiological issues. I understand the temporary and minor inconvenience it would cause, both to the priest (who signed up for this kinda thing anyway) and the medical staff (who signed up for this kinda thing anyway).

No, you say.

Yes. I say. The doctor, the nurses and everyone else involved in the decision at the hospital all said the same thing - They would make her passing easy.

Last rites, about as personal a thing you can get, that would have her passing even easier. But, no.

No, you say, the medical folks were referring to her physical state.

No. Medicine and medical people also treat the mental and emotional state of patients. That is part of the whole care package.

They could have eased her mind. They chose not to.

I'm going to resent this for a while, but not forever. I will let it go. But not right now. I could rage. I could storm, I could let the Tifton hospital know exactly what it feels like to get on the bad side of a person who buys ink in 55-gallon drums.

Not gonna.

She'd say let it go.

And so, just like her on Sunday, May 17, 2020, when I let her go, I'm gonna let this go.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I want my momma back

Allison said, simply, "write it out."

Yes. That's what I do. It's who I am. If I grok anything, it is writing.

I want my momma back. Over the past 48 hours I have no idea how many times I have thought that, whispered it, said it or screamed it to the cosmos. I want my momma back. As Lori said, I am rolling back the years to when I was just a tot and got hurt. I want my momma!

I think this would all be easier to bear if I'd been with there in her last moments of this corporeal existence. The last time I saw her in person was the Thursday before the wreck.

I spoke to her in the hospital and the rehab center she went to afterward. Never got to see her in person. The last thing - correction. NEXT to last thing I actually did for her was to take her two burgers from Checkers - she loved those hamburgers - and two bags of veggie straws. That was at the nursing home. Her brother, Buddy, let me know she got them.

I want my momma back.

The last thing I did for her was to tell the doctors to let her go. She was emphatic about not staying on life support.

"I'm not afraid of dying," she said some years ago. "I'm not ready to."

When doctors at the hospital discussed putting her on a ventilator, she said yes because "There are some things I still want to do."

One of those things was to see her granddaughter marry a good man.

The others, not entirely sure what they were.

I want my momma back.

When I saw her, she'd often complain about the arthritis pain. Some nights she just sat in her recliner and cried from the pain.

I found source for marijuana edibles and got her some. I still wonder what Dad would think of that, considering how much he hated that plant. He literally threatened to kill people if they ever gave me marijuana. Eh. Mom and Dad got divorced when I was a teenager. He died when I was 18 so he really doesn't matter, except in my mind.

She said she'd eat some and then sleep.

That's not a problem, I replied, happy that she was able to sleep. I know what it is like to have so much pain that sleep will not come. If she poked government in the eye, munched an edible and slept, awesome.

She had to sleep in a recliner. She couldn't lay flat on her back. She tried that and, well, she was barely able to make a phone call for help the next morning. Aunt Jeanne called me as that's who Mom called. She described Mom as speaking very slurred, confused and obviously in distress.

Aunt Jeanne also called the Tift County 911 and they sent out an ambulance and a deputy. They had to break a window in the door to get into the house. After that, we made arrangements.

One of the arrangements was an emergency call system. She wore the button on a chain around her neck. She used it too. Several times. Each time the paramedics came and picked her up, she said. "I'm not a frequent flier." FF is the term used, back when she worked in Florida as an EMS grant administrator, to describe people who called an ambulance regularly to go to the emergency room without an emergency.

She also refused to go to the ER each time paramedics lifted her from the floor.

The last time she fell, the ambulance crew said if she fell again within a week she WAS going to the ER.

I still want my momma back.

I hear what many of you are saying.

She's at peace.

No pain.

A better place.

I truly appreciate the sentiments behind those words, words which I have used myself in speaking to others in their time of loss. I've even tried to use them on myself over the past 2 days.

To say they ring hollow is an injustice, an insult to those who are reaching out as best they can to comfort me.

But, dammit, part of me does believe they do ring hollow. My momma is gone, I want to scream.

I want my momma back.

I have to explain that comment, to me if no one else. I am in the midst of a hurricane of emotions because of the situation. This confuses me and sometimes angers me. I was in my late 40s when a professional finally delivered an official diagnosis of something so many other people have seen but didn't quite understand. I am a very high functioning autistic. I simply don't get things. I can't. It's hard wired into me. When I get into intense things like this, it confuses, angers and scares me, which makes matters worse. I have to find a way to let the storm play out. I am also a kind of solipsist. In situations like this, yeah, it makes matters that much rougher on me. I need to write. I need to hunt. I need to fish. That's how I slowly peel away the layers of stress and discomfort until I'm back to my normal.

So, when I want to scream I want my momma back, part of me does not understand why other people can't feel my loss as intently as I do. This brings anger. I know other people can't experience exactly what I am going through, even others who have lost their parents, like Michael, who called me Sunday to talk. I know this is an individual and highly personalized walk. No one can take it for me. No one can carry me. No one can force me. I have to do it myself.

Part of me does understand it because they went through the same thing. Shag is. People all over the world right now are going through it. You could not find a difference between their pain and mine if you got down to the quantum level.

Reconciling the two ain't going to happen.

I scream. I cry. I take a towel and smash my face into it so I can howl as loudly as I need to and no one will hear.

Yassee, someone would try to bring me comfort. Someone would try to come share my pain, my grief and my agony.

I don't want that. I want my momma back.

I don't want anyone to hurt because of me. Rather, I want to take the pain from other people. Then, let me bear my pain until it becomes an old frienemy like the back and knee pain I've dealt with for so many years.

And yet, I need that support. I need because I know I won't make it alone. Those of you who are offering support, you are the bulwarks against which I rest when I am too overwhelmed to continue. I can find solace in your support. I truly do. It has stunned me at times.

Ben Baker, not me, another one and one of the Fraternal Order of Ben Bakers (yes, a real group; we have brothers all over the planet) reached out to me and wants to send flowers. I barely knew how to react when he offered I was so stunned.

Others have called, messaged, come to see me. So many have said, "If you need me, I'm on the way."

And I still want my momma back.

People have come to me and said they cried at the news. They read my first post about her and cried. This is comfort to me; misery, after all, loves company. A more diplomatic way of saying the same thing is: a burden shared is lighter.

Thank you for trying to take some of the load from me. I feel you lifting. I feel your strength and it renews mine.

This is another time when words fail me. They are so inadequate for the task at hand. Yet they are what I have. I try to forge coherency from a stream of loose ideas on an anvil of language then quench and temper them in a stream of consciousness that flows at light speed and ... I fail. Iron cannot be gold and lead cannot be silver.

Like the little drummer boy, this is all I have. This is the best I have.

Thank you.




I have the room to talk. Do you?

Read on at your own risk. Fair warning. Depending on your comments, my reaction will range from indifferent to love to kicking you out until I can calm down. Proceed as you see fit. I sure am.

I have the room to talk. I have the street cred to talk. I have the pain to talk. I have something you, well, more'n 99 percent of you, don't have.

Before I go any further, lemme add this - I get plenty of hate mail. Business as usual. This one is different. So, for those who see fit to berate, accuse and otherwise vilify and flame me for what follows, S.T.F.U. I have more, far more, in this than you do. 

HAYMAKER INCOMING


I approved the Do Not Resuscitate order for my mother. Because of COVID-19. 

I told the doctors to pull the plug. She died around 7:15 p.m. Sunday. The last time I saw her in person was in March the day before the wreck that landed her in the hospital and ended with her death at that same hospital. It was more than three weeks since I last spoke to her on the phone.

I'll give you a moment to recover from that Mike Tyson haymaker outta nowhere.

Over it? Good. So, before you fire up the Illudium q-36 explosive space modulator, remember how much skin I have in this game. Or don't. Because if you see fit to attack me over what follows, you won't get a second opportunity to do so.

In case you don't get that, I gave doctors and nurses the OK to pull the plug on life support for my mother if they felt she could not recover from the damage COVID-19 caused her. They said she could not. And, if you still want to rake me over metaphorical coals for my opinions below, you'll be doing it without me knowing 'cause I will boot you out of my life both IRL and online.

Now then.


ONE OPINIONATED CURMUDGEON


Curmudgeon. A polite way of saying crotchety old bastard. We hold unpopular opinions, so saying opinionated curmudgeon is redundant. Curmudgeons also dispense wisdom, so the appellation COB is not completely correct. Yes, I am saying I dispense wisdom. I get it from people much wiser than I and pass it along.

You are still welcome to refer to me as a COB.

During this global scare I have not worn a mask. I have not worn gloves. I have, rarely, used hand sanitizer. I don't like the stuff. I have done the "social distancing thing" because I was pretty much doing that before. I like some distance.

I have shaken hands, hugged and otherwise made physical contact with people I'd otherwise make such contact with. The day I do not hug Earl The Pearl Perry when I see him, call Edgar Perry 'cause I'm dead. Lotsa other people in that "Yer getting hugged no matter what" group.

I'm pentecostal. I'll hug anything I can catch.


BOUT DEM RULES


Rules, someone said, are meant to be broken. Sometimes, rules needs to be fed into a wood chipper. Sometimes rules need to be hit with an atomic disintegrator.

I've gone into stores, seen the one-way aisles, and done my best to adhere to that. This probably does not make sense to you. I adhere to the store's aisle directions because that is a private business. They have the right to run their business the way they wish. If I don't like it, I won't shop there.

While I do not have a Costco anywhere near me, I would not shop there because they require customers to have a face mask. I support Costco's ability to make that decision and I support their decision. There is no contradiction here.

I do support the businesses which made decisions on their own.

I also believe, if you need a license from the state to run your business (I object to state licensing), then you have agreed to abide by the state's orders. The state says shut down, then your business has to shut down. Again, you signed the papers agreeing to do as the state ordered.

I am angry (My failing there. Anger is a failing of the person who is angry. You, me, that guy who keeps ducking out of sight when you look his way, control our emotions. No other person can make you angry except you. Only I can make myself angry.) at government for issuing stay-at-home orders, orders to close businesses and etc. I have ignored those orders. I will continue to ignore those orders. I believe such orders are illegal, a violation of the Constitution and a violation of basic human rights. I believe it is a step toward tyranny.

The guy who was arrested while in a kayak in the sea, I believe in New Jersey, …  dude. He made my hero list.

Those who went outside in masks and gloves, I support you. Rock on! Those who did not wear such items, I support you too. Rock on!

You choose. I chose and you have the same right.

I am mad (again, I failed) about the bailout payments.


A WORD TO THE CRITICS


This word to the critics is in addition to the above disclaimers.

To the gent who told me "You need to suit up" outside a store I entered - Kind sir, I thank you for your concern and cordially invite you to commit improbable acts upon your own personage. I was suited up, shoes, pants, shirt.

To those who say "I don't want to hear it" when the tyranny and the rest of the nonsense RE: C-19 come up, stop reading. If you are still here, note that I abstained from further comment around you and on your social media. I respect your decision and your right to make that decision. You may, or may not, do the same here. See advisory above.

To all those who say I am putting others at risk by my behavior, you speak truth. I put others at risk when I get behind the wheel of a vehicle, walk down the street, run a business, speak face to face to others at any time without wearing a face mask, shake hands, touch something, etc etc etc.

In case you need a reminder, C-19 killed my momma.

RISK


To live is to be a risk and encounter risk. 

"In 2018, over 46,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. Over 36,500 died in traffic accidents. Nearly 40,000 died from gun violence." Scientific American.

(Aside - a significant number of gun violence deaths were suicides, nearly all handguns. A significant number were inner-city gang violence with handguns. The scary "assault rifles" deaths are a blip at a percent or three)

Furthermore, how many colds, flu and other transmissible diseases have YOU passed along during your life? To a person with a compromised immune system, any virus or bacteria can be fatal. I don't see you doing much to protect those people when you go out without wearing protective gear.

I have asthma. I have compromised lungs from walking into a cloud of anhydrous ammonia when I was 5. A simple common cold can literally land me in the emergency room. Flu could knock me flat for days, more'n a week even. Some day, it may kill me. Pneumonia, which already kills plenty of people, is worse for me.

So, how ya doin' there by not putting ME at risk?

Yeah.

You tell me C-19 is not the same as all them others?

Tell that to people who die each year from the flu and explain to them why you didn't "suit up."

Ah right. You cannot do that. They are dead.

CHOICES


So, S.T.F.U. Unless, of course, you've had to pull the plug on a sibling, parent or child. In which case, we share something and I'll listen to you, unless you engage in ad hominem. Then, you gone. 

As the abortion rights crowd likes to say, "My body. My choice."

But, they say, your choice is affecting other people.

Ya don't say? I am not gonna get into the abortion debate. I simply say any choice you make is likely to affect someone else. See above.


SUITING UP


I see people wearing gloves.

Once you touch something with a glove, that glove is contaminated. Any germs on whatever you touched are now on the glove. Anything ELSE you touch with those gloves is also contaminated.

How many diseases have you spread?

I read a post from a gent who said he carries a cane, not for himself but anyone who is not wearing protective gear who gets to close. He promises to whop them with the cane.

Let that settle in. He will launch a physical attack on anyone who gets too close, I'm guessing within reach of the cane. 

Have we as a nation really sunk this low?

Yes.

I add, someone hits me with a cane, one or both of us will not be getting up again without help.

FEAR THIS


A radio station I listen to has a promo, "Hey dude, if you're scared, STAY HOME!"

"Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path."

Yanno the difference between a hero and a coward? The hero faces his fear and pushes forward. Coward hides or runs away.

I refuse to live my life in fear. I am not ruled by my fear and I will not be ruled by your fear. I will make some accommodations for your fear, but only to the point of helping you get past it and through it.

That is me. You make your own choice. 

You are even welcome to insist I abide by your choice. Don't be surprised when I refuse to do so.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Shoot me for I bring news

I'm seeing an upswing in the number of people questioning the First Amendment these days.

This is, rightly enough, disturbing. A few other things concern me when these folks question the need for 1A. In no particular order, they are:

• The idiotological leaning of these folks. Attention grammar nazis: I used the correct word.

• The media outlet being attacked. NB: my support or rejection of any media outlet is irrelevant.

• The lack of thought behind the reasons and motivations.

• A refusal to understand.

IDIOTOLOGICAL


As much as I wanna take credit for creating that word, I can't. I found online uses of it the same day I came up with it. In means having an ideology, world-view, outlook or viewpoint that is not based on reason, science, solid foundations, empirical evidence, proven history or a line of thought that has stood the test of time.

The idiotological leaning of these folks is that 1A must be bad because it allows the media to spread false information. Never mind the very folks complaining spread plenty of lies themselves.

Besides which, liars are as old as communication. Humans do not have a monopoly on this. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/05/animals-lying-liars-birds-squid/

My personal favorite liar in the rest of the Animal Kingdom is the Drongo. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2621584/The-bird-impersonates-MEERKAT-steal-food-Drongo-catches-quarter-meals-imitating-creatures.html

It's not that the media outlets are lying. Some are. More accurately, the media outlets accused of lying are expressing opinions and ideas that the idiotologically hidebound cannot stand. Before you get excited about this and start the finger-pointing, I tell you this attitude is found in equal measure on the right and the left.

The idiotological on both sides are dogmatic followers of the confirmation bias. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-confirmation-bias-2795024

Lemme put this in simpler terms - If someone has solid evidence and that evidence is rejected out of hand, this is idiotology.

In 1A terms, this means anything that contradicts the belief structure, no matter what it is, must be fake, heresy, lies and so on. Because it contradicts, it should not be permitted.

See the inherent problem? Under this line of thinking, the Flat Earth folks have to be shut down HARD, unless they are in a majority. If they achieve a majority, then the Round Earth folks must be shut down HARD. Pick an opinion or belief. Without 1A in place, the majority rules, whether or not that ruling is based on reality.

This way lies totalitarianism, despots and tyranny.


MEDIA ATTACKS


Here is an excellent defense of 1A and the need for it. Media attacks.

The most virulent attacks on the modern media are generally directed at Fox News. The left goes into apoplectic fits over this network's version of the news. Nevermind the vast majority of the news, not the opinions, but the straight news, is a carbon copy of most other news outlets. Again, set opinion aside.

Yes, CNN, the NY Times and a few others get a share of the attacks from the right. The hate is well below the level of vitriol aimed at Fox.

Adding to the furor of the left wingers (and birds do have a right wing as well), Fox commands the news ratings.
https://www.multichannel.com/news/fox-news-channel-dominates-weekly-cable-ratings-charts

If nothing else, this should give the left's idiotologicals cause for pause. It does not, because they cannot be rational about this. The pause is: If that many people are watching Fox, they must be a majority. Without 1A, they could easily force all other outlets out of business and all we'd have is Fox News.

Ya hear me yet? Without 1A and majority rule, all we'd have is Fox news.

The reverse is also true. If the left-leaning media dominates, then without 1A, the right-siders would be run out. All we'd have is places like Mother Earth News.

1A guarantees the right to choose who to listen to. 1A guarantees the rights of the idiotologicals on all sides as well as those of us standing apart looking on in horror. 1A means we have a choice.


More to the point - 1A protects your right to choose. Without it, we'd have a government-ordered media like N. Korea and China. You'd be told what to think, when to think it and how to think it.

Which brings us to

REASON


I almost discussed this above. Lemme lay this on you from 4 directions.

1. Shup.

1A protects your right to keep your damfool mouf shut. Yes, it does. No one can force you to say anything you disagree with. We tend to forget that, concentrating on our right to actually open our damfool moufs and start spewing nonsense.

“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” Mark Twain

A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. Proverbs 17:10

2. Rebels needed.

Society advances because of rebels, people challenging the norm, stepping outside convention and doing. Ya think not? All the people who changed the world did so in the face of authorities telling to knock it off or they would get knocked off.

Still disagree? Ok. Jesus. Martin Luther, Ghandi. Adolf Hitler, (I did not say all these people will meet your or my definition of good). Genghis Khan, Henry the VIII. Stalin. Washington, Jefferson. Gutenberg. Castro. Gates. Einstein. Marx. Guatama. Darwin. Whole lot more.

All these people stood up and challenged the status quo. They put forth ideas that were hated, rejected and many of them were killed for this. Some succeeded in a revolution and setting up a new order. Some did not. They all tried and they all relied on communicating messages that some people rejected with extreme violence. They did not follow the crowd.

Without deviation progress is not possible. Frank Zappa

3. Be wrong.

1A protects people's right to be wrong.

If there were ever a species for whom sex hurt, it surely went extinct long ago.

The Internet bodyslammed the famed astrophysicist over that tweet.
https://www.cnn.com/2016/03/13/tech/neil-degrasse-tyson-wrong-sex-twitter/index.html

It was not the first time he was wrong. Aside from some embarrassment, nothing happened. Why? 1A. Anyway, stick to the stars, Neil. 

The same applies to all the other "experts" out there who are suddenly Rhodes Scholars on the hot topic du jour. People who scream the loudest about FAKE NEWS! and make demands about 1A all have multiple PhDs in biology, astronomy, physics, psychiatry and psychology, internal and external medicine, philosophy, basket weaving, human resources, public administration and, certainly not least, the US Constitution.  That's sarcasm, BTW.

4. Be an idiot.

1A protects the rights of everyone to have a belief in defiance of facts. It also allows these people to present that belief. 1A also protects people from having to be 100 percent truthful all the time.

If people were confined to stating only facts, proven facts, we'd not have much to say. Hrm. That might be a good thing. Anyway...

Lemme rephrase that. 1A protects the right to lie.

http://trumanproject.org/home/doctrine-blog/supreme-court-upholds-right-to-lie-and-its-a-good-thing/

I understand that one is going to create splodey heads all over the place. However, I have yet to meet a human being capable of communicating who does not lie. Yep.

"I was not speeding."

"Santa Claus is watching you."

Other lies are any fictional work of literature, all TV shows not 100 percent factual and this includes sitcoms and other brain rotters. Despite their own words proving they lie, politicians still do it. They do it over and over and over no matter how many times they are caught. Reagan? Liar. http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Ronald_Reagan/EnduringLies_RonaldReagan.html Obama? Liar. https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/list/?category=&ruling=false&speaker=barack-obama

5.  A bonus.

Smoke this one: It protects all the world's religious works and anti-religious works. The existence of God cannot be proven through SCIENCE! At the same time, SCIENCE! reminds us a lack of evidence is not a lack of existence. 1A guarantees both have a seat at the discussion table.

Speaking of polarities,

A lack of thought


We do away with 1A. That means freedom of the press is possibly gone. It also means your freedom of speech is also on the way out. You cannot restrict the press without restricting yourself at the same time.

Burns yer taters when someone insults, denigrates, rips, or GASP! tells the truth about your favorite president? Shut 'em up? Cool. Killing 1A also means you cannot insult, denigrate, rip or tell the truth about your most hated president.

And the last one - 


SLOW DOWN AND THINK



I keep seeing people say the media should be shut down for spreading lies. That's covered above. However, those "lies" are most often information attributed to reputable sources. In other words, we tell you what the president, CEO, bona fide leader, actual expert said. If that person lied, it's on their head. If you don't like the truth that person said, it's on your head.

Most of the media does not lie. We just tell you what other people say. They lie. 

I have a perfect f'r'instance from this week's newspaper I run.

Yesterday (Monday, May 4, 2020) the state had two reports about the Kung Flu panic for my county. Report 1, updated twice a day, showed 9 deaths for the whole county. Report 2, covering only nursing homes, reported 11 deaths. Tuesday morning's county-wide report showed 10 deaths.

Huhn?

I reported this. I quoted the Department of Health. I can show you the reports. I even pointed out the problem.

Yet, I am the problem.


Some people simply won't understand. I don't make news. I report it. If you do not like the news, you problem is with the people making the news, not me.

SHOOT 'EM ALL


In other words, shoot me for I bring news but that gun also has a barrel pointed at your head at the same time. Pull the trigger, both barrels go off.

No?

It is true I am a professional journalist. I get paid to tell you things. I earn a living by writing, speaking — communicating. Just like you do.

Every job I know of requires the person doing the job to communicate with someone else. You have to tell someone something. You have to ask someone something. 1A protects your right to do that, free of interference from the government and free of interference from others who prefer you do not communicate. That is critical. No matter what you say, someone is going to be offended. 1A means they have to take it. 1A means YOU have to take it. You may call other people idiots. I guarantee someone else is calling you an idiot. 1A protects all of us idiots.

As Rowan Atkinson said, the right to offend is greater than the right to not be offended.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Another modest proposal

Communicable diseases are rich folks diseases.

Poor folks don't get them until the rich people bring them around.

You disagree?

How many Native Americans in N and S America were wiped out by smallpox? How'd they get smallpox? Rich Europeans financed expeditions to this part of the world, exporting various diseases with 'em. The poor folks on the trips wuda stayed home, except for the rich backers sending them out.

With few exceptions, pretty much every plague that has wiped out significant parts of humanity or spread across the globe was because of rich people.

As a post I saw on FB said, corona virus is a rich person disease. Poor folks can't take cruises and fly all over the world. We go to the flea market.

China is supposed to be ground zero for this new strain of the Corona virus. China is often ground zero for a LOT of the virii that spread across the world. How do these diseases reach beyond China? Rich people from there go to other countries. Rich people from other countries visit China. They both spread the virus at home when they get back.

Poor people can't afford to make long distance trips like that.

You can argue that the military has some role in the spread of these diseases. I'm not gonna argue that, but even the military is fronted by rich people. Rich people don't join the military or get drafted. They get poor folks to do this instead. In other words, rich folks have a proxy to do the grunt work.

AN IDEA

I have a radical idea, one that will never be accepted and most people will call me a blithering idiot for even saying it.

Let's hold the rich folks accountable.

Say a millionaire comes back from China with a virus and then infects the people around him when he gets back. It spreads from there. Thanks to DNA testing, we can source back to the original point of infection. Yes, we can. Look at the work done on the AIDs virus. Look at how other virii are traced backward to a point of origin.

We find that Patient Zero, as medical types refer to that person. Hold that person accountable for the medical bills, lost time from work and etc for everyone who gets sick as a result of the rich person being a disease vector.

Betcha we'll see a whole lot less spread of diseases. Bankrupt a few multimillionaires and they will all take a whole lot more care about where they travel and how they act when they get back.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Social Insecurity

If you are one of those people who like to scream "I PAY MY BILLS!" and your sum total income is from Social Security or disability, you don't pay your bills. Taxpayers do. If you use any part of the Social Security program to pay any of your bills, again, taxpayers are paying your bills for you.

Now before some of you get excited and jump my case about Social Security and Medicare being something you paid for, get this:



Still don't agree? Then explain why 24 percent of the federal budget goes to Social Security programs. https://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/policy-basics-where-do-our-federal-tax-dollars-go That's money the federal government is borrowing, BTW.

CRUNCHY


Lets get crunchy with some datat. Running the Motley Fool numbers:

$712 a year paid into Medicare.
Person retires in 45 years.
$32,040 paid into Medicare.

One hip replacement wipes out everything you "invested" into the Social Security Medicare program. After that, you are tapping what others put into the system.

If you paid for the benefits you receive, then quit taxing the rest of us. The reality is, those on various Social Security programs have made slaves of the rest of us. How do you explain it if I am wrong?

Gettin' crunchy again.

$2,463 (average) paid into Social Security.
Person retires in 45 years.
$110,835 paid into Social Security (Disability numbers are far worse).
$17,650 average annual benefits paid out.
In 10 years, you tap the system for $176,500.

Again, you are tapping what others put into the system. No? If Social Security taxes stopped right now, the system could stagger along for a couple of years, maybe. Then it would be out of money completely. It must continue to have an influx of funds to stay around. Can you say Ponzi Scheme?


Note - this link contains an error of fact. "In reality, only American citizens who've earned the prerequisite 40 lifetime work credits are able to collect a benefit." You can collect Social Security with fewer credits, especially if you apply for the disability side.

INVESTING


Investing Social Securit proceeds? Yes. https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/policy-basics-understanding-the-social-security-trust-funds However, "Starting in 2020, Social Security will begin to draw down trust fund reserves to help pay for benefits." There's a reason politicians with sense are proposing hikes to Social Security taxes or cuts to benefits.

Further, that investment is considered extremely secure, but it doesn't have great returns.

This webpage does the math. 


In short, everything you paid into the Social Security system and all the proceeds from the investments are STILL wiped out in short order. One hip replacement, your Medicare contribution is gone. Medicines, doctor visits and more quickly wipe out the returns on investment.

And on the topic of investing, where does the Social Security Administration invest that money? Into Treasury Securities. https://www.cbpp.org/research/social-security/policy-basics-understanding-the-social-security-trust-funds Yes, SS earns interest on these investments.

Who pays the interest? Taxpayers. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/treasurybond.asp "Treasury bonds are part of the larger category of government bonds, a type of bond issued by a national government with a commitment to pay period interest payments known as coupon payments as well as the principal upon maturity." Someone will now say "GOVERNMENT PAYS THAT INTEREST!" And where, precisely, oh Sage of Our Times, do you think government gets the money to pay the interest?

Taxpayers.

DISABILITY


The next time I hear someone under the age of 60 who collects disability and says "It's my money because I paid into the system," I will have to walk away. My study of the Stoics is pushing me away from angry reactions; angry is all my fault and no one can make me mad but me.

However, coping with monumental stupidity is something I am still learning. Those on disability probably - I have not researched this, just running on what I see - are an even greater drain on the Medicare part of Social Security.

In short, you ain't paid enough to cover what you are taking. You are pulling from taxpayers like me who are supporting the system. You may be paying all your bills, but you are using my money to do it.

Don't believe me? Cool. You crunch the numbers and prove me wrong.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Slavery by any other name

In the argument about universal health care, a major argument against it is health care is not a right.

In brief: You (an individual) do not have the right to force anyone to provide you a service.

Slavery is not just suggested by people making this argument, it is flat-out shouted from the mountains by a lot of people who don't really know what they are talking about.

More the point, I am saying the folks making the "slave" argument either:

1) Ain't paying attention.

2) Are paying attention but ain't willing to drop that wrecking ball on collective toes.

So as me bud Gianna occasionally says, "here's your Clue X 4." As I often add, "Upside yo haid."

F.A.P.E.

Got that? Some of you do. Some don't. I 'splain.

Free And Public Education.

Smurfy. In the US, chilluns are guaranteed the right to a Free & Public Education through a certain age. Not only that, it has to be an appropriate education. It can be tailored to the individual student and that can be mind-boggling expensive. That part is called IEP - Individual Education Plan.

As the parent of a special needs kid, now an adult, I know the IEP process. In short, the IEP is the 10 Commandments carved by the finger of God. Violate the IEP, people lose teaching credentials, possible jail time, fines, etc etc. https://www.specialeducationguide.com/pre-k-12/what-is-special-education/legal-rights-to-services/ Hindsight being what it is, I shuda had one education professional up on charges and had that person's teaching credentials revoked some years ago.

Anyway, while the FAPE only lasts so long, you get to pay for it the rest of your life. At least in every state I know of, you pay for it forever. Public schools run on your taxes.

Slavery


The argument that universal health care makes people slaves, slams headlong into public school teaching. The naysayers state no one has the right to the production of another, Yet, we have public schools which anyone may attend. Past that, every state I check has some sort of free adult public education to teach adults enough to pass the GED test.

I have yet to hear anyone say a teacher is a slave. I have never met a teacher forced to become one in a public school. I have met some who say becoming a teacher was not the best choice they could have made. I've also met former teachers who left the education profession. None was forced to stay.

Taxes pay teachers. Taxes will pay those in the healthcare profession with universal health care. Can someone show me a real difference between the two?

Didn't think so.

Now there is slavery. You and I have no choice about paying taxes. We either pay or run the risk of going to jail.

I don't know anyone forced to work in the healthcare field or face jail as alternative.

At the same time, we do have other education options. Private school and home schooling are very much in use. The folks using private school and doing home school still have to pay for the public school.

Yup.

This split system will be a part of universal healthcare, if it passes. Some people will get private insurance and go to doctors who will not participate in slave-dollar-funded healthcare programs.

Sure, some healthcare operations will be forced to take the public dole. Public schools are forced to take the public dole too. Show me a real difference. You can't.

Both come down to a service provided by an individual and that individual is paid with tax dollars.

Other countries? Glad you axed. Now I whack you.

http://www.canadian-healthcare.org/page6.html - Canada went totalitarian on this one, as you can read in the link. Still, private health care options exist.

https://comparemedicalplans.net/health-insurance/ - Private health care and insurance in the UK.

I ain't interested in chasing this coon up no more trees so you can do your own research on private medical care in universal care countries.

OTHER FREE STUFF


As I think on this, I can come up with plenty of examples that are almost identical to the "free" healthcare idea. Just a few:

Roads - Use 'em or not, you still pay for 'em.
Law enforcement - Their salaries are paid by tax dollars.
The penal system - We foot the bill for people on paid vacations in the Iron Bar hotel.
SSI, Disability and Social Security, including Medicare and Medicaid - Your tax dollars at work.

I can do lots more.

Reality is, you may vigorously complain about universal health care. I'm right there widja. But to say it is slavery and no one has a right to the work or services of another person, well that just doesn't square with our current system.

Unless you are after a total revamp of the entire governmental structure (I sure am!), then I question why you use the slavery argument against universal health care.