Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine

Storyteller Tom T. Hall died yesterday. RIP. He was best known for the song “Harper Valley PTA” that captured the soul of the 1960s and has been kept alive by so many performers over the years. Still a hit every time.

In this introduction to “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” he talks about performing at the contentious 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach. That ultimately disastrous event was also covered by Hunter S. Thompson in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72”. This followed the earthshaking 1968 convention recently re-enacted for us in the movie “Trial of the Chicago 7” last year. I never heard Tom T. Hall perform live but heard many musicians express their admiration of his poise and style.

The recording is worth a listen.

How old do you think I am?” he said
I said, well, I didn’t know
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago”


I was sittin’ in miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge

There wasn’t anyone around ‘cept this old man and me
The guy who ran the bar was watchin’ Ironsides on tv
Uninvited, he sat down and opened up his mind
On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

“Ever had a drink of watermelon wine?” he asked
He told me all about it, though I didn’t answer back
“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

He said, “Women think about they-selves, when menfolk ain’t around
And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down”
He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime
Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine”

“Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate”
When he moved away I found my pen and copied down that line
‘Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine

I had to catch a plane up to atlanta that next day
As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change
That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime
Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine

This is perhaps the most famous performance of “Harper Valley PTA”: https://youtu.be/B4uJ8QV-8R8

Americans care about our history

When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem.

The 137 year old American Historical Association points out that we care about knowing the truth when it comes to learning about history. This is true across all political persuasions, sex, age, race or other distinctions. Multiple sources confirm that we care about knowing the facts when it comes to learning history. Even people who are inclined to ignore facts and data in other fields like science, medicine and social programs still care about facts when it comes to history.

Nine states under Republican governments have already passed laws that restrict the teaching of historically accurate history when the true history would cause upset or division in some people. Republican governments in 17 more states are considering passing similar laws.

This week Texas state government took it a step further and pushed for the cancellation of a book signing and lecture event about a new history book published by accomplished historians. Ironically, a core theme in this new history book is how our modern culture has distorted the historical facts over time to suit our currents needs. When a high ranking politician offhandedly calls a history book “fact free”, we have a problem. That’s exactly what happened here. Texas state government is actively supporting propaganda and repressing the historical truths.

We’ve made a joke about the saying “Facts and data have a liberal bias”. But I’ve never really considered that well documented facts about American history would actually be so blatantly opposed by modern American governments. More often now we hear different versions of the theme ‘we will believe what we want you believe and make enemies of those who prove us wrong’.

To some of us accustomed to free thought and free access to academic learning, this Orwellian government action seems shocking, like something out of a sci-fi movie. I am quite surprised myself that I am writing something like this in 2021 in the United States of America. Where do we go from here?

The craziness around us

The most important person in the Republican Party today is Donald Trump.
The most important thing Donald Trump has to talk about today is how the bizarre QAnon-led search for bamboo fibers in Arizona ballots is going to put him back in the White House. We know that a good number of our friends and neighbors will believe whatever lies he says. So how do we move forward from here?

This cartoon by Kevin Kallaugher seems to sum it up.

An opportunity to change the community conversation

Recent news has rocked our world. We don’t know where it is headed. We don’t know how it will affect our future. We don’t know when it will end. We simply know that this is not normal. Yet, even right now, I see at least one clear possibility for channeling this into positive energy. Yes, this crisis is an opportunity. Right now we have an opportunity to change the public conversation, we have a rare opportunity to come together in our communities in a unified voice, to show our true human strengths, and seize this a unique opportunity for progressive change toward our shared goals.

My business focuses on sustainable business redevelopment in a rural community at the New Jersey bayshore. This field is typically divisive and partisan. I have regrettably become notorious as a divisive force for progressive change over several decades. I’ve made plenty of conservative enemies. My community activism even triggered death threats that snowballed into an attempted political assassination fourteen years ago. Recovery from those injuries cost me many years in recovery. The risks of political fighting within the community are all too real for me. My family and I certainly have good cause to fear politics and activism.

Yet despite this bitter experience, six years after the attack we were forced to learn an entirely new lesson. Superstorm Sandy wiped out my home and business in late 2012. In that time of community crisis, we all set down our weapons and come together for our own survival. Partisan bickering disappeared. We worked side by side to pull ourselves out of the mud and gradually rebuild out community. Our community of Money Island eventually rebuilt from within with virtually no support from government, even in the face of obvious FEMA fraud and maligned government forces working against us.

Over the past few days, I see signs that we will repeat many of the same social patterns. Even our normally impotent in Washington DC proved this weekend that people can come together for the common good. Rahm Emanuel is credited for saying “You never let a serious crisis go to waste”. The line gained notoriety. But over time we have learned that the ‘crisis management approach’ to community action has proven to be the most effective method we have available to unify our diverse communities. Those who can see this opportunity hold the keys to moving our communities forward. I urge each person reading this to recognize the opportunity, to take a lead role, and be a positive force in leadership through the crisis.

Someday this crisis will be over. But we have good reason to believe that positive measures adapted in an emergency become part of the mainstream of our lives going forward afterwards. Namaste.

Blink Review: “Death of the Liberal Class”

“Death of the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges, 2015
Notes are from Blinkist

Modern society’s liberal thinkers have failed in promoting and developing the ideals they supposedly hold dear: protecting the meek and regulating government. The consequences for this failure are far greater than dysfunctional government; indeed, they may be catastrophic.

Liberalism is dying a slow death, and importantly, highlights the awful consequences to come in the United States of a one-sided political and cultural system.

The American media isn’t really free anymore;
No one is interested in “standing up for the little guy”.
The United States went to war against liberalism.

The liberal class has failed to protect American workers from exploitation.

The liberal class has purged itself of radicals and unconventional thinkers to its detriment.

The arts have abandoned liberal values; money has taken the place of political expression.

The media is no longer free and independent, as corporations have taken over a majority of papers.

We live in a world of total corporate control, where wars are endless because profits are high.

“The corporations that profit from permanent war need is to be afraid”.

Many liberals have blindly hoped that technology and a free market would bring about utopia.

We are just as uncritical of science as many years ago people were uncritical of god.

Many of today’s liberals have been bought off with wages or promises of a luxurious life.

The death of the liberal class can destabilize the entire democratic system.

With their needs unmet, the public turned to extremists on both sides of the political spectrum for support, which eventually allowed the Nazi party to rise significantly in power.

Society as we know it will collapse unless we institute the necessary liberal reforms.

Climate change, spurred by unregulated production and consumption, will drastically alter the living conditions on earth.

Moreover, there is a revolution in our future, and one that will be born at the far-right end of the American political spectrum.

Revolt is necessary, as it is our only means of toppling corrupt government. However, this revolt won’t come from the middle classes or be inspired by moderate politicians.

The only solution is a complete restructuring of human society into small communities, in which small groups of people can rebuild their lives.

These communities will have to be modest and self-sufficient, growing and building everything they need themselves. To live within their means, these groups can’t be much larger than a few families, otherwise they risk becoming reliant on larger industrial producers.

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

 

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.