Paraskevidekatriaphobia

As most of you know by now I’m not the superstitious sort. I don’t believe in ghosts and goblins, omens or the guiding hand of fate. Things don’t happen for a reason, outside the reason we assign each happening thing. As such, Friday the 13th is just another Friday – which doesn’t suck – and just another #13 on my calendar.

Personally, I’m a fan of the #13. My Rams team won their only Super Bowl, to date, with a #13 as their quarterback. He’s now in the Hall of Fame. It’s a prime number, and those are always cool. Plus, it’s a happy number, and if you understand anything about me by now, you know I’m all about happy.

I understand the contempt of the number, though. So many things we’ve known are based on 12, that breaking the wall of dozens can be scary. There are 12 months in a year. 12 ounces in a standard beer. 12 hours in a day, 12 in a night. Jesus had 12 apostles. There are 12 eggs in a standard carton. The greatest QB of all time wears #12.

So, it’s scary to break the twelve barrier. I get that.

But, when you think about it, there are benefits to breaking through. The baker’s dozen was invented, essentially, to get one extra something free for every twelve purchased. We all wish there was an extra hour in a day, for production or relaxation. There were thirteen people hanging out in Jesus’ club, if you count Jesus himself as #13. Everybody loves more beer. Nobody likes the greatest QB of all time.

But I do. I like ol’ #12, and I like the #13, as well. Need more reasons why? I’ll give you 13:

  1. When we leave our childhood behind, for adolescence, we’re generally 13.
  2. After 12 years of primary and secondary education, we graduate to our 13th level of education.
  3. The Italians love it. 13 is their lucky number, and who doesn’t love Italians?
  4. Triskaidekaphilia is more fun to say than Triskaidekaphobia.
  5. There were 13 original American colonies, and America generally doesn’t suck.
  6. My favorite Antonio Banderas film is The 13th Warrior.
  7. Apollo 13 showcased Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise AND Ed Harris in some of their finest roles.
  8. There are 52 weeks in a year, which means each quarter-year, or standard season, has 13 weeks.
  9. The American flag still has 13 stripes on it.
  10. There are 13 Archimedean solids. Archimedean solids is also fun to say.
  11. “Once in a blue moon,” which denotes a generally fortunate but rare occurrence, gets its meaning from the rarish year when we are blessed with 13 moons instead of 12.
  12. 13 is an odd number, and odd numbers are more powerful and wise than even numbers.
  13. My wife likes the number 13.

If I had time to extrapolate, I’d give you 13 more reasons why I like Fridays. But I don’t think I have to. You already like Friday, for all the right reasons.

So have no fear today, my friends. Make this a day of celebration. Make every day of your life a day of celebration, if you can.

It’s not like you get 13 tries at this thing. 😏

A Lone Gunman Opens Fire

Last night, it happened again. A lone gunman with hate in his heart or madness in his mind initiated an all-out assault on unsuspecting revelers. As of this writing, more than 50 people have died. 500 more lie injured. The gunman is dead.

The people who knew him tell us he was the ordinary sort. Not a man full of hate or vengeance. Not an extremist anything. We don’t know yet how much of that is true. The gunman’s motivations remain a mystery. We only know that he lived for 64 years and then left behind carnage.

Almost 16 months ago I woke up on a Sunday morning to a sadly similar tale. The week before, I had written a hopeful piece about my faith in humanity and the direction it was headed. That morning, in contrast, I wrote about the tragedy in Orlando.

Much of what I said then still stands up today. These are dark times. We are on the precipice of glory, or doom. Our leaders and enemies are crazy. As we grow towards enlightenment, ignorance fights back all the harder.

I don’t know exactly what we can do. I don’t know how we can stop the spread of madness. Or the power of ignorance. I do know that, in the wake of these tragedies, we must find a way to come together in our thinking. We must find ways to work together and build a better structure for humanity.

I grieve today. For all those who lost their lives, I grieve. For everybody connected to this, I grieve. But in grief I also find resolve once more. Resolve that we will find solutions to the senseless epidemic of violence and death.

That was us in Las Vegas. Each of us were there, at that concert. Each of us were fleeing, in panic, under a hail of gunfire. All of us were injured. Part of each of us has died.

I am left to wonder, how many more times will I have to write these words?

My heart goes out to the fallen, and to all who held them dear.

 

The President and the National Anthem

national anthem protests
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In light of the unfortunate comments the president made last night in Alabama, I thought I’d share a link to my thoughts on the subject from a year ago. To reset the discussion I’ll provide a preface, for those who might need it.

During a preseason NFL game in 2016, the cameras caught Colin Kaepernick, then the QB for the San Francisco 49ers, silently protesting racial injustice in society by sitting during the national anthem. This immediately caught nationwide attention. I was out of town when the news came across my feed so I did not immediately respond. I caught glimpses of supporters and detractors of the action on social media but, again, I was otherwise occupied and, anyway, taking my time to let it sink in. One thing I pride myself in is not having gut-reactions to events.

Last night during a rally in Alabama, Donald Trump called upon the owners in the NFL to fire players who kneel during the national anthem. He chose to call anyone who protests in this manner a “son of a bitch.” Hardly presidential talk, but well within his rights to express. Which is an important distinction, because the right of expression is the very thing at stake here.

My initial reactions are in the link I provided. My thoughts have evolved again, as they should. Colin Kaepernick did not dodge out bounds, but has stood strong in the pocket. Others have joined his crusade. He has proven to be the leader of a peaceable movement of protest. He deserves our applause.

The president, on the other hand, deserves only our disdain on this. I am a big fan of the game of football, and an even bigger fan of the ideals of this nation. Any president who would take a stance against those ideals should be taken to task. Perhaps even fired.

With that, I’ll leave the link to my initial thoughts which, I believe, still largely hold strong. Agree or disagree with a stance, we, as Americans, should support the right to express it. It is, or ought to be, the American way.

Standing Behind the Sitting QB

Universal Ain’t Such a Bad Idea

I don’t think “universal” is a wildly radical idea.

These days it seems like everybody thinks that any idea that includes everyone isn’t good for anyone. But if I say we should all know love in our lives, there aren’t many people who would disagree with me. If I say everyone deserves love, however, I might be stepping into a bit of new-agedness. If I say the universe needs more love, or that love should be a universal state we all strive for, many might even assume I’m on drugs.

The same can be said for other aspects of humanity. For example, we know that people need health care. Lives are long, and often troubled. And when troubles occur, to our mental or physical states, we need help. So we can all agree that everyone, at some point or another, needs health care. 100% alignment on that. Now, if I say that everyone deserves health care, we begin to see a split because I just used a word that reminds some folks of “entitlement” and entitlement, to them, means lazy people get something for nothing. Furthermore, if I say there should be universal health care, that word “universal” throws a good third of the population into fiery fits.

I can take this a step further.

The modern world is all about money. There was a time when it was all about hunting and gathering. There was also a time when it was all about farming and craftsmanship and exchanging goods for goods (or services), but those days have passed. Some five centuries ago humans entered the age of capitalism. It’s a brilliant system that creates a physical or imaginary note (or nugget) of universal value. Instead of saying that my 10 goats are roughly equal to your 25 bushels, we can agree on a monetary value of each and I can go sell a chair to raise money to buy your bushels and still keep my goats.

So, it’s neat and nifty. And we can agree that, in the modern era, everyone needs money. Just like love and health, we need money. Here’s where the split begins again. If everyone needs money to get by in the world today, to pay for their food, their shelter, their clothing, and their Kings tickets, then everyone deserves some money. To say they don’t only invites the idea that not everyone deserves food, or shelter, or clothing, or Kings tickets. We could probably argue the absolute necessity of the human need for one of those, but not the other three.

So knowing that everyone needs money to exist in the modern era, and everyone deserves the rewards we can only purchase with money, I don’t think it’s too radical an idea to ensure a universal income for everyone.

Everyone.

The sick, the healthy, the hard-working, the lazy, the white, the black, the brown, the red, the princes, the paupers, the farmers, the hunters, the gatherers, the conservatives, the liberals, the Christians, the Muslims, me, you, mom, dad, the kids, and that weird cousin Freida, as well.

They all need love. They all need medicine. They all need money. And there’s plenty of it to go around. Plenty of love. Plenty of medicine. Plenty of money.

There wasn’t, always. But we live in an age of abundance. Modern science and modern technology have created the means with which we could wipe out things like famine and massive, society-slaying diseases. We can produce food like no other era in history. We can produce clothing like no other era in history. We can produce shelters like no other era in history.

There are still only so many Kings tickets, though. We’ll have to decide who gets those with a lottery.

The angriest among you right now are frothing. You can’t wait for the last words so you can tell me how it isn’t fair for the hardest workers to have to support the laziest ones, which I equate, by the way, to telling me that healthy people shouldn’t have to put up with sick people. Some folks get sick, sorry. Some folks work harder than others, sorry. You’re going to have to learn to love them all, universally.

Because the time is coming. We are entering an era of even greater abundance. Even greater technology. Within half a century the production cost of producing almost anything will essentially be zero. And when that happens we’re going to have to decide if that means that those with the most wealth simply get more of the most stuff, while those with the least wealth get even less, or if there’s a better way.

I think there’s a better way.

We don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start. Knowing like we do that this era is coming, we can start now. We can ensure that everyone has enough to cover their basic human needs. We can ensure that everyone has health care. Everyone else has already done that last part, America.

The next part might be trickier. A universal basic income is still a bit radical, or perhaps premature, even by my standards. But there are still ways that we can revolutionize the system of distribution. In the most modern era, most of society’s gains have ended up in the hands of the few, by design. Trickle-down illusions trickled up, instead. Keynesian influences gave way to neoliberal deregulations. Unions shattered. Wages stagnated as corporate profits soared. We paid the price; they reaped the gains.

We can reverse a lot of that. This way of thinking, that somehow making the rich richer will make the poor richer, too, is an illusion of the past four decades alone. We saw the result. We’ve seen the outcome. No mas. We won’t be fooled again.

We’ve been fed a line of bull. We can’t afford universal health care, they say, even though we’re among the richest countries in the world, and the rest of the world is affording it just fine. There isn’t enough money to go around, they want us to believe. There is. We just distribute it badly.

It’s time to get radical now, people. To really think different. It’s time to think about all of us.

It’s time the idea of “everyone” had universal appeal.

The Wire

The Google news feed starts with Texas. 30,000 people displaced. 40 inches of rain. Louisiana in Harvey’s sites. Flooding possible in the Pelican state and parts of Mississippi. “The worst is yet to come,” some officials say.

Houston has been greatly affected by very rare flooding now for three years in a row. The chances of this type of flooding in any given year in Houston are .2 of 1%. 1 in 500. Three years in a row. Pray for Houston, indeed.

The next item in my news feed, this morning, is a rocket over Hokkaido. Kim Jong Un is at it again, and he’s not afraid to provoke the international community, especially the United States. Firing a ballistic missile over Japan is another provocation akin to the threatening of Guam. It’s chest-beating on a global scale. It’s a test. Hawks will call for war. Doves will call for talks. The only correct answer, for now, is to continue to stare him down.

Next comes Littlefinger. In case you’re running severely behind on the season finale of what is arguably the best show in television history, I won’t reveal the tell. Suffice to say that it was one of the greatest moments in one of the greatest episodes on one of the greatest shows of all time. Go team.

After another Houston story (“Cajun Navy brings boats from Louisiana to help flood-ravaged Houston”), a quick rundown of the Arpaio pardoning. It was neither unexpected nor unprecedented. But the precedent has not been a good one for presidents who have acted similarly in the past. The argument that “others have done it” does not excuse it. It’s just one more bullet in the gun Donald Trump always has aimed at his own foot. -20% approval and falling. He’s on his way to Texas to find a lifeboat now.

While I was writing the newsfeed changed. Texas and North Korea are still the top two feeds, but the third is a story on the forthcoming budget battle. Houston complicates things. A relief package will now push the wall south. On the agenda, I mean. The president has said he’ll veto any bill that does not pay for a border wall, but can he veto a bill that includes aid for Texas? Maybe. Stupid seems to be his middle political name, and that seems to work well with his base. The correct answer for his opposition is to continue to stare him down, as well.

Over at Reuters the top stories are Texas, Korea, the markets and Iran. AP news is almost all Harvey, with a little Korea, Russian war games, and child marriage in the South Sudan sprinkled in.

It’s Tuesday. I got up early. I read the news.

Lately, I don’t. I wait until later in the day when I’ve already had my coffee, already walked my dogs, gotten a shower, a shave, a spring in my step. I try to write instead, dig deep down inside for something good to pen on paper (figuratively speaking). But today I let the news come first.

The news was about Harvey. About Kim. Littlefinger. Donald Trump.

Every story needs a villain, I suppose. Today, it was nothing but.

Stan Lee Said It Best

In 1968, I was 0. Stan Lee was at the top of his game and the civil rights movement was in full swing. We had a culture war. We had a war for equality being fought, right here on our home turf, 100 years after the end of the Civil War.

Stan Lee didn’t like what he saw, so he wrote about it in his soapbox. The Soapbox was basically a short column he included every month in the comics that came out that month from Marvel. It could be about anything. This particular month, in this particular year, it was about racism.

Continue reading “Stan Lee Said It Best”

The Promise Inside the Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

And so it went, 241 years ago today, when the founding fathers of the United States of America made their declaration of independence. In the course of human events, they felt it necessary to dissolve political bonds with a despot. They set a course to free themselves from tyranny.

Continue reading “The Promise Inside the Declaration of Independence”

Crime and the Illusion of Crime

My new favorite local reporter put out the article I was trying to find time to write in my blog, and I’m glad he did. He did it better than I would have. He went out and did some “shoe leather” reporting, as one commenter put it in reply to his story, and that’s not something I likely would have done, either. I just would have pontificated distantly over a cup of hot java, as I’m probably about to do now, anyway.

Continue reading “Crime and the Illusion of Crime”

The Book I’d Like to Write and Give to Everyone

Now that I’ve gotten this daily writing thing down, I’m thinking of starting a book.

I’m still open to ideas on this book. I think I’d like to make it a little bit quirky and self-indulgent. Maybe it could be something about the journey and oddness of life, from the perspective of somebody who sees things a little bit different. I see things a little bit different.

Politically, I don’t align myself with any certain cause, but instead seek out answers. What works? Last night I was talking to a new person, we’ll call him Rupert, and Rupert was telling me he’s traveled all over the world and social democracy doesn’t work, anywhere. I asked him how so? He told me that it drags the rich down, and the opportunity to become filthy rich just isn’t there in societies like that. He said, “don’t you want the opportunity to be filthy rich if you come up with a great idea?”

I told him no.

I told him most people who come up with great ideas don’t become filthy rich, anyway. There just aren’t that many filthy rich people, but there sure are a lot of filthy poor people. He agreed. I furthermore told him that what I’d rather see is a pulling down of the top and a lifting up of the bottom. He agreed with that as well. I told him that’s how a social democracy works. We cheered.

Religiously, people just don’t get me. I guess because people have spent their whole lives thinking only one way of believing is possible, so I can’t possibly not believe what they believe. I’ve been an atheist for more than 30 years, following a 3-year stint where I tried daily religiosity. Before that, I just believed what I was told, without practicing anything. So I’ve been a sheep, when I was very young, a devout in my teens, and a freethinker my entire adult life. But some folks think all it’ll take to push me back into their worldview is a nudge. I don’t mind; I know nudging is a part of their religion. It is not a part of mine. Mine says live and let live. And pull down the top to raise up the bottom. That’d be a good first commandment.

Honestly, if there were a god I’d want to do the same thing to him. Nobody deserves to have everything. Besides, creating the universe was a long time ago, and creating mankind was a dubious accomplishment at best. We should rethink how we think about that.

So maybe some sort of book with a self-indulgent title like “Freethinkin’ in Modern America” or maybe “Your God, My God, Red Fish, Blue.”

Yeah, I don’t know what that means, either.

Or maybe, to really sell something today you need to do it with numbers. “The Twelve Things Every Freethinker Must Know,” or “How To Piss Off Every Religion and Political Party In Three Quick Steps!”

Nah, it wouldn’t matter. I don’t want to sell it. I’d pass my book out like candy, and hope folks read and enjoy it. I hope it’d make them smile a little bit and think a lot. Or vice versa, I don’t care.

I think it’d be fun.

The only drawback would be, with my attention span, the book would wind up being about 18 different things in 13 different chapters.

Maybe there’s my title.

Carry on with your day from here, folks, and don’t get too pissed off about anything. It’s not worth it. We can’t really change people, but we can change the world.

My book will tell you how. 😉

The Runoff Race in Georgia

The runoff race in Georgia provides an interesting contrast to the political drama in America today, on many fronts. If you don’t know what was happening there, they held an election in Tom Price’s deep red district after Price became Donald Trump’s Health Secretary. The Republicans have held that district since 1979. Victory was assured. However, the backlash against Donald Trump in America today gave the Democrats hope that they could unseat the Republican candidate Karen Handel. It was a longshot, but hopes were higher as the election cycle continued. It turned out to be the most expensive campaign in congressional history.

Handel won, as most expected. I paid attention to the rhetoric leading up to the race and almost everybody was saying her opponent, Jon Ossof, was a longshot to win, but that even a close race would be a victory for the Democrats and a referendum on Trump. It wasn’t really close. Handel won, if you’ll pardon the pun, handily. A Republican won a deep red district as expected. This, according to some pundits this morning, is an apocalypse for the Democrats.

No, it isn’t.

The person expected to win the election won. It is, however, a great time to overemphasize a runoff election with hyperbolic embellishment. And everyone from the President of the United States to the left-leaning Atlantic is ringing the bell of historic victory or doom and gloom.

It’s dumb. But that’s America right now. All sensationalist sound bites and chest-beating. Zero substance. It’s a big game being played out between Democrats and Republicans and only the final score matters. CNN and Fox News are simply the ESPN of politics, covering the players in the game. The folks in the stands don’t matter, as long as they pay their ticket and watch.

I understand the Trump grandstanding on all this more than the Democrat hand-wringing. Trump has been short on victories since taking office, and he’s prone to bluster, anyway. He’s gonna make it sound like his team just won the Super Bowl, because of him, no matter what happens. Even if everybody in Georgia avoided talking about him as much as possible down the stretch. He’s bad news for both sides.

The reason the runoff is such an interesting contrast, however, is because partially the Democrats are right to be concerned. It wasn’t the end of the franchise. They lost a game they were supposed to lose. But it is still a wake-up call. One of these parties, somewhere along the line, has got to start remembering it isn’t about the game, it’s about the fans. The millions of people in the audience are more important than the handful of players on the field. If you want to make a great America, focus on what is best for the people. The party that figures that out will run the table in 2018.

But, no, that asks too much. Donald Trump wants to run social media victory laps. Republicans want to repeal a health plan, then add tax cuts for the wealthy and reintroduce much the same plan with their name on it, instead. Democrats want to take back the Congress without compromising their core value of self-interest.

It’s time for some soul-searching. Both parties should take Georgia as a wake-up call and start thinking about the American people again, start thinking about the us in U.S. The approval ratings of Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan are even worse than the approval ratings for Donald Trump, and his are at historical lows. Nobody likes the leadership in America. And who can blame us for that?

But go ahead, leaders, keep celebrating and hand-wringing. Go ahead, news outlets, keep sensationalizing nothing stories. Keep the end times coming.

Apocalypses are great for ratings.