The emotional rural response to the disarmament trend

The majority of people nationally and locally support the slow tending changes of U.S. gun laws moving toward disarmament. Yet a number of rural New Jersey communities are resisting and acting out against the long term trend of change in our gun culture by asking local governments to declare themselves “second amendment sanctuaries” and to oppose any new restrictions on guns which they deem to be unconstitutional. Local governments comply because these measures are popular with the voters and cost nothing now. In a sense, the sanctuary measures are harmless. But even if they have no legal impact, I’m concerned that they set the stage for wasting taxpayer money ahead. The reality is that gun regulations laws fall under state and federal jurisdiction, not local governments. No matter how much a local community “resists”, they won’t change that. Compliance, as a practical matter is an individual choice with little to no local community impact. Despite the emotional discussions, gun law compliance will be based on simple economics, not an emotional or values-based position.

IMO these sanctuary measures only “kick the can down the road” by continuing the division between rural community residents and the much larger rest of the state population. The overall state population overwhelmingly support change in gun culture. It would be better, IMO, for governments to engage and empower local rural residents to get involved if state-level gun culture efforts.

Some proponents of the gun sanctuary movement have even resurrected words like “nullification” and “interposition”from Southern secessionists during the Civil War and opposing desegregation in the 1960s. That’s scary, but probably not meaningful.

In the end, I predict that these social tensions will fade away without much excitement. Evolving gun regulations will be crafted in a way to dissipate emotional reactions as an important integral component of their design. Technology and finances will effect the change in an unemotional manner. Future regulations about gun insurance, taxation and registration will wisely avoid confrontation and allow the resisters to voluntarily comply with changes as the financially and legally logical choice. I’ve covered those from a revenue and tax perspective in other blog posts.

Goodbye to the decade of disillusion

I am happy to say goodbye to the decade that lowered my expectations of the future of humanity.

I had allowed past events to create the illusion that we were advancing beyond ignorance as the standard of society. Ten years ago I believed that more information would inevitably lead to enlightenment. That proved wrong.

We are reminded of the incredible power of ignorance, bigotry, greed and hate fueled by anti-social media powers. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but at least we have some strategies. We know that deep-fake propaganda is the next wave to hit us. It will be difficult to learn that we cannot trust what we see with our eyes, hear with our own ears. Instead, we will need to learn to apply a cognitive mental process, probably combined with machine-driven algorithms to learn the truth. It won’t be easy.

It’s sad to end my blog this decade on such a sour note. But I remain committed

 

“Dickensian lens”

Early this morning I was driven to understand the meaning of the common phrase “Dickensian lens”. I get the feeling when I read this term in print that some who use it don’t have much depth of understanding as to what it means. I have no idea what it means. After doing a little research it is still unclear.

I found this definition of “Dickensian” in “Masterpiece Classic”. The source and purpose of this publication is not clear.

“Charles Dickens’ work continues to be so influential that the adjective
“Dickensian” is used today to describe something “of or like the novels
of Charles Dickens (especially with regard to poor social and economic
conditions),” according to WordNet at http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
perl/webwn?s=dickensian.

Search for current usages of the word in The New York Times archive at nytimes.com (put the term “Dickensian” in the search bar) or other newspapers in order to understand how “Dickensian” is used in different contexts. For example, a 2008 article in The New York Times describes Mumbai, India this way: “For the writer, the Dickensian lens offers an easy view of Mumbai: wealthy and poor, apartment-dwelling and slumdwelling, bulbous and malnourished.” (www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/”.
weekinreview/09giridharadas.html).

It is clear that the term refers to social commentary. But that’s all I see so far. Is Dickens still relevant today? I don’t see it. English literature professors do. In either case, does looking at a current situation in comparison to the way Dickens would describe it add any insight now? Again, I don’t see it, except perhaps in reinforcing that the human condition has always involved suffering.

I still don’t see why the trendiness of the term “Dickensian lens”.

 

 

 

 

MAGAt at your own financial risk

Tonight I overheard a young white man in Vineland say that he left his job after being harassed over his support of Trump. He loudly proclaimed that he is way too good to tolerate that type of treatment and they don’t appreciate his genius in this former $14 per hour job. Now he is suddenly an entrepreneur, on his way to building a sales empire.

I was reminded of the joke:

“Teenagers: Revolt now! Rise up from the tyranny of your parents rules! Move out, get a job, support yourself now while you still know everything!”

Then a few minutes ago I joined an online conversation among a few professional friends, one tax lawyer and one enrolled agent, where I concluded that MAGAts should not be denied our business services but it is a good idea to charge premium fees for putting up with such personalities.

Expression of political beliefs is not helpful to the wallet.

Black Friday was disturbing

Thinking about the disturbing scene we saw yesterday while out shopping for used furniture for our new house: hoards of hyped-up people in ‘feeding frenzy mode’, some actually running and slamming shopping carts through the Goodwill warehouse in South Jersey for ‘$.99 a pound’ special sale. We noticed the many Mercedes and such high end vehicles in the parking lot. The phrase “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” is proven true.

I remember a few years when I would shop for marina work clothes at Goodwill but my friend and partner Bruce would not. We made it a point to only get him new Carthartt stuff as a small luxury in his life. But meanwhile, I thought the Goodwill shop was great!

We didn’t find any decent furniture yesterday but we are in no hurry.

Goodbye to the neighborhood

On Friday Lance and I took a long walk from our home in Belmont Hills, through the roads of Penn Valley and to the neighborhoods of Bala Cynwyd to my mechanic’s shop on Montgomery Avenue near the post office. It was perfect fall weather for a walk. We’ve taken that two and a half mile walk before; he loves it. Our Australian shepherd/Burmese mix just loves to walk. It’s a welcome change from the daily beach walks we’ve taken all summer. I first came to this neighborhood when I started graduate school in Philadelphia at age 21. That was 38 years ago. I left for a while to live in Doylestown but returned when it was time to start a family. Years later after a second divorce I left to live in Ocean City for a while but returned as soon as I could afford a home here again.

I passed my closest neighbor Joe on the street in front of the house. We said goodbyes knowing that our moving day is approaching. I joked with him that I thought I would die in this house, just like the former owner (a weird long standing joke between us). He has always been a great neighbor. I came to this Jones Street neighborhood in 2003 after divorce. I told a Realtor that I wanted a house in the Lower Merion school district with a yard where the kids and I could have a tree fort and a garden. Then I told him how much I could afford. He laughed. I bought this house cash “as is” for $132,000. The only thing from the original 1901 construction is the thick stone wall frame. We rebuild everything else. We did have an awesome treehouse and a garden and greenhouse and hot tub. So many nights were spent in the hot tub looking out over the lights reflecting off the Schuylkill River and the Roxborough radio towers. It was a great house.

Lance and I started up the steep hills from our block where my heavy breathing reminds me than I’m not getting any younger. Then past the library and the community pool where we made so many family memories when the kids were young. In the 1990s living in Narberth we lived to get to the pool in the summer. I remember some desperate measures we took to get there on hot summer weekends. I remember the last time I visited in my early 40s I swam a mile as part of a triathlon training and I never had the urge to swim again.

20191025_140754385_iOS
apricot tree in Belmont Hills

We passed my favorite trees in Belmont Hills; oriental apricots I think. I remember speaking with the owner once. I noticed that some other houses look like they’ve have had no attention in four decades.

We passed through the roads of Penn Valley that makes me feel like we are risking our lives to cross the street. I was tense. In Lower Merion, we say, traffic lights are only a suggestion. I remember the day I saw a kid doing donuts in the small park presumably in the parents’ Rolls Royce. I called the police later when I got home. They knew about it already but seemed unconcerned. The mix of interactions of the ultra-rich and ordinary folks has always been an issue here.

We walked past the Cynwyd houses where I delivered the kids for play dates and wound up at the Cynwyd Elementary School. I remember when the school was the center of the universe for us. Then the middle school next door. Then to Lower Merion High School just down Montgomery Avenue. It seems so long ago.

Approaching the commercial neighborhood I am reminded of my friends at Rotary. Life would be have been empty without them.

When I got the neighborhood where the kids’ apartment, I lost emotional control. I had to sit down at a bench and cry. I remember that they moved there with their mom and step-dad after our marriage broke. I felt so bad, that I had let them down from a nearly perfect family life. At my lowest moment of post-breakup despair I sneaked to the house there one night and looked into the window where the kids were sleeping. But I also remember being grateful that if I couldn’t be there throwing a ball in the yard with my kids, I was really grateful that Ed was. And there was never any doubt they had a super mom. The story of how our marriage broke is compelling, but not appropriate here. I remember saying that I needed to have more quiet time to read and to write. That was about the time that I started spending more time at Money Island, my summer home now.

After I pulled myself together we walked up to the drive-through ATM. I planned to withdraw a pile of cash to pay the mechanic. By amazing coincidence an old relationship pulled up. He probably wondered who was the weirdo walking through the drive through. It turned out to be Lance, the retired Philadelphia police officer turned trainer at Friends Central School. I used to coach wrestling there. Lance was an amazingly strong positive influence. I still remember the intensity of his exercise classes. I also remember his strong positive attitude. We hadn’t seen each other in many years but he recognized me right away. I wonder if he saw that I had been crying. I explained briefly and I invited him to bring his boat and visit me at Money Island.

20191025_150055515_iOSWe continued our walk through the center of Bala village. Wow, so much has changed. I remember when I had a house charge account at the hardware store after we bought our first home there. I was a regular customer with constant remodeling projects. The hardware store, the pizza parlor and the movie theater made that block the perfect downtown small neighborhood. We passed Stephanie’s condominium where my kids grew up; where they still call home. I’m proud of them – Steph and Ed and that whole community there for being such a positive force for Josh and Arielle over the years.

Of course it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The months and years of recovery from an assassination attempt and TBI. Absurd! Then the devastation of Superstorm Sandy on the bayshore business and how it ripped me away from my life in PA.

I thought about all the great effort that Lori put into selling this house and finding us a new home over this past year. She did a fantastic job. I deliberately disengaged from the whole process and that was the best approach for us. I know how blessed I am that she’s been able to tolerate me through all I’ve been through in the past two decades. Few spouses would put up with my drama.

When Lance and I made it to the marina work truck at the mechanic’s shop I felt emotionally exhausted. I couldn’t focus on work so I took the rest of the day off to move some lumber and household items.

It is likely that this will be our last walk through the neighborhoods of Lower Merion. Thank you for all the memories.

 

I know a father
Who had a son
He longed to tell him all the reasons
For the things he’d done
He came a long way
Just to explain
He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping
Then he turned around and headed home again

  • Paul Simon, “Slip Sliding Away”

 

Our duty to stand up

“Mr. President, I go home to my district daily. Each morning, I wake up, and I go and fight for my neighbors. It is my constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. But, it is my moral duty to fight for my constituents.” – Elijah E. Cummings, July 2019, in response to Trump’s “disgusting, rat and rodent infested district” comments.

I firmly believe that ordinary citizens have these same duties of government oversight and advocacy for each other. This has been a core belief for me for as long as I can remember; even as a young child learning from mom and dad. Elijah Cummings taught me much about civil rights in my early teenage years. By the time that Methacton High School faculty chose me to receive the school’s annual citizenship award in 1976, a few months before our nation’s 200th birthday, I had already read about Cummings and had been influenced by his work.

Thank you Honorable Representative Cummings for serving as a personal role model and offering a lifetime of inspiration. Activism and advocacy is not an easy road, but a necessary one.

Poem for the impeachment

This poem “Protest” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox published 100 years ago seems appropriate today as we begin to take action to restore our national decency.

PROTEST

To sit in silence when we should protest

Makes cowards out of men. The human race

Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised

Against injustice, ignorance and lust

The Inquisition yet would serve the law

And guillotines decide our least disputes.

The few who dare must speak and speak again

To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,

No vested power in this great day and land

Can gag or throttle; Press and voice may cry

Loud disapproval of existing ills,

May criticise oppression and condemn

The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws

That let the children and child-bearers toil

To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore do I protest against the boast

Of independence in this mighty land.

Call no chain strong which holds one rusted link,

Call no land free that holds one fettered slave.

Until the manacled, slim wrists of babes

Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee;

Until the Mother bears no burden save

The precious one beneath her heart; until

God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed

And given back to labour, let no man

Call this the Land of Freedom.


Note that most modern versions of this poem say “To sin in silence…” but this was the wording I found online in the published book of poetry.

Judicial bias is as real as rain

We do not ever really know what is in the mind of a judge who decides a case. We can only analyze the outcome. But we do know three things:

1) It is absurd to say that judges do not have predictable and demonstrable personal bias. Anyone who works with judges regularly as an underling or attorney would find the suggestion of open-mindedness in this article to be laughable.

2) The absurd political process of Garland/Kavanaugh will forever mar the reputation of the Supreme Court. The average middle-of-the-road person now sees the court as a political tool.

3) This threat to the reputation of the Judiciary won’t be fixed by denying the existence of partisanship in an academic setting like this William and Mary conference. How about data-driven analysis of case history?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/judges-say-they-arent-extensions-of-presidents-who-appointed-them-11568566598

A lesson learned about aging

When my refrigerator movers did not show up yesterday, I faced a dilemma. It was already getting dark and no response to text or call. Damn millennials strike again! My plan was well thought out. They would show up at the planned time, help me move in the new refrigerator from the trailer in the front of the cabin and take the old refrigerator that works fine but is a little smaller in exchange for their help.

In past decades I’ve moved plenty of refrigerators on my own. Once you get the doors off, it is not so bad. I learned that I can carry them “tortoise shell style” on my back even up flights of stairs. But today’s refrigerators are larger and I had doubts. Plus, I noticed a significant loss of shoulder strength and overall lift strength summer since I stopped going to the gym. At age 59 I should at least begin to consider these things. It was just too far from the bayshore and I would rather walk with the dogs. I realize now that skipping the gym was a mistake, but that’s a different story.

IMG_2303In addition to the physical concern, I notice an overall decline in my eagerness to tackle physical projects lately, especially in the heat. The lawn mowing, for example, was often delayed this summer before I finally get around to it.

So I decided to just do the “prep work” and then get another helper to move later. I stored the food in a large boat cooler, removed the refrigerator doors and cleaned it out. I thought that I might as well keep going while I have the time and energy. Then I removed the door to the house and the door on the the porch. Then removed the narrow door frame. So far, so good.

Now, while I had time, I could just move out the older smaller and lighter refrigerator. That went fine.

Then, before I quit, maybe I could at least get the new refrigerator off the trailer to the steps. It was ridiculously bulky and heavy. But it seemed manageable as long as I kept it tilted on an angle. Maybe I could walk it up these steps? That worked. Maybe keep going. Lets’ just get it into the kitchen before I put the house doors back on to keep the bugs out.

Wow. OK. Done! Both refrigerators moved. I didn’t think I could do it but it is done.

Only one problem: I measured incorrectly and the new larger refrigerator does not fit in the space. How did I make that error? I don’t know. Years of construction experience have taught me to measure twice. I did. I suspect a memory issue in comparing measurements at two different locations. So I moved the new refrigerator back out and is now an extra refrigerator in my porch office. The original refrigerator will get a new coat of appliance paint and go back into service. In total it cost me a half day of extra work.

Lesson learned: My memory capabilities may be aging faster than my physical capabilities. I write everything down related to my work and professional responsibilities. It is time to do that for personal activities as well.