Category Archives: 2015

False Comparisons

The internet is a rich tableau of interesting ideas, expressed by people with many views, and all in all that’s a good thing.  Now and then, something is said that, on the face of it, seems right, but upon further review, as the referees say, is really less than right.

Something was posted on Facebook the other day that struck me that way.  It was a comparison of Donald Trump and Adolph Hitler.  No kidding.

The basis of the comparison was that Hitler promoted fear and hatred of Jews, while Trump, it said, promotes fear and hatred of Muslims.

Now, I’m no expert in German history, but I’m pretty sure that Germany had not been experiencing terroristic threats and attacks domestically or to its worldwide interests by Jewish groups prior to World War Two.

I don’t believe Germany was experiencing a mass resettlement of poorly vetted Jewish refugees from a war-torn area where thousands of blank passports were known to have been stolen, and where authorities admitted to having no idea who the good and bad guys were.

Jews were demonized as being the reason for Germany’s financial problems, and said to be an evil and inferior race, not a military or physical threat to Germans.  For their part, I think Jews mostly wanted to be left alone.

Most modern day Muslims also want to be left alone, a point to which I think Mr. Trump would agree.  But, even three percent of a billion people wanting to kill or enslave all of us infidels is problematic.

I’m not a fan of Donald Trump for president, and I think he pretty consistently overstates his points and lacks any detectable finesse.  But I think it’s pretty irresponsible to compare him to Adolph Hitler.  That would be like comparing Franklin Roosevelt to Hitler because they both put people in camps during World War Two.

There is a balance between acting humanely and acting in our national interest, and I fear we have not honored the later obligation.  Time will tell.  Unfortunately, people who believe in Jihad are more committed to their values than we are to our values of compassion and kindness to those in need, even when they are the recipients.


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Like a Fine Wine

I’m writing this on my 62nd birthday.  That has no special significance, but if you’re like me, birthdays become more about reflection than celebration as the years go by.

Men who turned 62 during the year I was born were already beating the odds, as the average lifespan for men born just prior to 1900 was less than 50.  In 1990 my dad died at the age of 73, which beat the average of his peers by 23 years or so.  The Second World War and Korea took their toll on that group of men.

So, how long will I live?  Who knows?  Beyond the decisions we make in risk-taking and lifestyle choices, it’s mostly the luck of the draw.  How will I live?  That’s up to me.

My daughter got me the book “The Second Half” by Bob Buford last year.  The main point of the book is that if you look at life the way you might look at a football or basketball game, you really need to play both halves.  He describes and discusses ways to make the second half (or so) of life more meaningful and valuable.  A lot of what he talks about deals with using our skills and experience to make a positive difference in the world.

You don’t need to be retired to do that, and in fact starting early in thinking of what “second half” goals we have is a very good idea.

I’m still working, and plan to for some time to come, but it is true that I already have more time to get involved in things these days.  I just need to use that time more wisely.

While I do know of people who retired from work and embraced joyfully the art of relaxation, in general it seems that people who keep working – for profit or as volunteers – seem happier than people who don’t.

Nobody knows what will happen with the economy, or society in general, living as we do in such a tumultuous time.  Maybe we’ll all be trying to make ends meet until the end.  But, optimist that I am, I’m looking forward to plunging forward into whatever comes my way in the years to come, and trying to make my days worthwhile.

By the way: I think it is also worthwhile to spend some time on a recliner!

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Better to Give

With lots of gift-giving going on this week, I think we need to be honest with ourselves.  Sometimes the phrase “it’s the thought that counts” really is all we can cling to.

Our closets and basements – and return counters at retailers – are filled with very thoughtful and well-intentioned gifts that didn’t quite meet our needs.

Here are some examples of gifts that might not be exactly what the recipient wants:


For Mom:

  • Anything that includes the words “scrub brush”
  • A quart of perfume from Dollar Tree
  • A monogramed designer tarp

For Dad:

  • Any self-help book with the word “feelings” in the title
  • The Mossy Oak pedicure kit
  • A bedazzled tool belt

For A Boy:

  • Legohs. The building block that doesn’t quite fit with your Legos
  • The book “How to Yodel”
  • The “Peter Rabbit” game for Xbox.

For a Girl:

  • Little Miss Dysentery doll
  • Tickle Me Donald plush toy
  • The book: “Julia’s Mom Has Issues”

For Far-away Relations:

  • The inadvertently aged cheese and sausage gift box
  • One-size fits all glow-in-the-dark unisex panties
  • The annual family Christmas letter put to music to the tune of “Who Let The Dogs Out?”

Of course, any of the above gifts probably appeals to someone, which just goes to show you that buying presents is largely making the best guess you can, unless the recipient lets you know exactly what they want ahead of time.  That takes some of the fun out of the process, but it’s hard to question the logic of it.

We can all agree that giving gifts isn’t the “reason for the season,” but it’s a nice tradition none the less.  It’s also true that a big part of the joy this time of year comes from spending time with the people we care for, and who care for us.   But, it is fun unwrapping presents, and watching people unwrap the gifts we’ve selected for them, even if not every choice we’ve made was perfect.

As the saying goes, happiness doesn’t come from having what you want, but rather from wanting what you have.  I figure anyone who cares enough to pick out a present for you is already a gift worth appreciating.

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Who Gets What from Whom?

There are a lot of gray areas when it comes to buying gifts for people this time of year.  And I’m not talking about what’s left of my hair.  I mean the question of who a person should give a gift to during this season of presents.

Gifts within a family are one thing, but once you get outside your immediate family, it gets trickier.  Nieces and nephews have always been on our list, but now they are all adults, and some are making more income than we do.  We rarely see them, and sometimes we have the good fortune to give without receiving, which they say is better.  So, we’re phasing them out.

We haven’t given to neighbors in the past, except for cookies and such.  To give to one and not another can be a problem, so we figure by not giving gifts to neighbors we’re taking a return obligation off their list of things to buy as well.

Gifts at work are risky, since those relationships generally have an authority dynamic, by which I mean a gift to a boss, for example, may seem like an effort to curry favor.  Especially if it’s a nice jar of curry.

It’s always nice to give handmade items for our various winter holidays, especially if it is your hands that make them.  That being said, often the phrase “it’s the thought that counts” goes through our minds as we get toilet paper roll cozies and knitted clothing from people who don’t know how to knit.

I think all parents and grandparents want to make the little ones happy.  We always tried to give our kids things that they wanted along with things we thought would be good for them.  It was gratifying that they never once lead us to believe that they were disappointed.  In fact, they genuinely seemed to be more excited about what they had gotten for us than for what they received.

A big Christmas morning can result in a mountainous pile of wrapping paper and an obstacle course of boxes.  I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in gift cards and Barbie high heels are thrown out with the debris each year.

Clergy and atheists sometimes say all this gift giving is promoted for corporate profits.  I have no problem with someone making profits, but it’s interesting that the prophets of religions that celebrate holidays this time of year don’t mention X-Box or Star Wars in their writings.  They’d probably encourage some balance in realizing the gifts of life and love, and the gifts we buy in the stores.

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The Fallacy of Laws

There is a temptation, in our society, to address difficult problems by passing more laws, or in some cases, making executive orders without legislative approval.  It’s a natural response to the outcry that something must be done, and it is totally understandable.

We’ve been trying to legislate an end to poverty and hunger since the mid-1960’s, but the only times hunger and poverty have declined have been during good economic times.  The Stimulus plan was supposed to create jobs, but very few were created.  You can’t legislate companies to hire people.

Gun violence is a big problem, and many states and cities have tough gun control laws, but they don’t seem to have had a lot of impact.  However, that depends on which statistics you read.

It occurred to me that a lot of laws don’t really work very well.  Here are some things that people aren’t allowed to do, according to various laws:


  • Kill people with guns, swords, knives, etc.
  • Steal identities, cars, guns, televisions, etc.
  • Sneak into the country
  • Not pay taxes
  • Go over the speed limit
  • Drink and drive
  • Use illegal drugs

The whole list would take thousands of pages, but my point is that despite these laws, millions have entered the country illegally, many thousands of identities have been stolen, almost everybody drives over the speed limit, and it’s considered okay to use illicit drugs.  Don’t even get me going on jaywalking and taking the labels off mattresses.

So, the reality is that only law-abiding people obey laws, and even we/they pick and choose which ones to adhere to.

By definition, people who use bombs, knives, guns, and any other means to kill people, for whatever reason, are not folks who are in the law-abiding category.  Neither are people who conduct insider trading or kidnapping or welfare fraud or burglary.  They don’t care about the laws.  Making more laws will have no impact on them.

So, why make more laws?  It seems that giving law enforcement agencies the mandate and resources needed to enforce existing laws makes good sense.  And, maybe we need to sift and winnow through our laws to get rid of the thousands that we don’t need.

And, perhaps families, communities, and the various media we surround ourselves with could stand to put more emphasis on being good, moral, law-abiding people instead of celebrating the cheaters and the gangsters.

Laws are necessary, but I don’t think we have a shortage of them.  We have a shortage of people who obey them.

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Shopping Days

I’ve never liked the name Black Friday.  It sounds ominous, like a day the stock market crashed.  In fact, when I think of Black Friday, I think of Good Friday, ironically, since at the time it didn’t seem very good to those involved.

In recent years we’ve added Small Business Saturday following Black Friday.  I like that idea, because it encourages people to buy from their friends and neighbors who own local businesses.  I didn’t shop on Small Business Saturday this year, but I plan to make some purchases in town before Christmas.

We just passed Cyber Monday, which is a time when people get especially good deals online.  I didn’t buy anything, mostly because the things that were on sale weren’t things I wanted, and I haven’t gotten around to thinking about what to get for other people at this point in the season.

There is also Giving Tuesday, when people are encouraged to support the non-profits they find worthwhile.  That’s a good idea.

That leaves Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday surrounding Thanksgiving as unnamed days.  Not surprisingly, I have some suggestions.

Barter Tuesday: People are encouraged to take stuff they have, but don’t want, and trade it for things they want, but don’t have.  I envision a flea market atmosphere at every county fairground with cars, bikes furniture, jigsaw puzzles and anything you can imagine trading hands.

Ironic Thursday: This would take place on Thanksgiving, as people run out to buy more things to be thankful for, after having just said how thankful they are for everything they already have.

Shoplifting Sunday: This would be a fun shopping day.  People would be encouraged to try to take things out of stores without paying, and stores would have triple security.  It would be like a reality show in real life.  Paddy wagons would be parked at all major retailers waiting to escort the losing contestants to a free night of lodging, if you know what I mean.

I have other ideas, like putting our presents in briefcases and distributing them in a “Deal or No Deal” manner.  You can settle for the Barbie, or hold out for the 70” television, knowing you might end up with a neck tie.

I hope, no matter how you go about it that you give and receive warmth and love along with whatever other gifts there might be during this giving season.

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The Thanksgiving holiday is a wonderful concept.  Taking a day to be thankful for everything we have – our families, friends, homes, smart phones – is nice gateway to the holiday season.  That being said, there are both outstanding and less-outstanding elements to Thanksgiving time.

On the positive side of the ledger I think gratitude is something we don’t think about as often as we should.  Or at least, that applies to me.  To focus on all the gifts we have is important.  And, people who don’t have very much are sometimes the most grateful, which gives me pause.

On the negative side, after a day of gratitude, perhaps realizing that we have everything we need with home and family, many rush out to the stores to buy more stuff.  Don’t get me wrong: giving gifts is a wonderful, selfless thing to do.  I guess it is the rapid nature of the turn-around from warm thankfulness to manic shopping that gets me.

I like football and eating turkey.  The problem is that on Thanksgiving there is way too much of both.  Of course I don’t have to eat too much, and I don’t have to watch all the games, but, well, you know.

I hate parades on television.  I appreciate all the preparation that goes into them, and I’m glad for the young people who march in the bands, but I honestly don’t know what could be more tedious.  And that’s coming from someone who watches baseball and NASCAR.

My least favorite part of parades is the commentators who have nothing to say, and yet talk continually for hours on end.

The warmth of family getting together is really nice.  Unfortunately, the Saturday Evening Post covers over the years have painted a picture of domestic perfection, which puts a lot of pressure on the cooks and family members.  That pressure results, more often than not, from hurt feelings or, in the worst cases, a fistfight.  Alcohol contributes to these issues.

I truly hope that your Thanksgiving is perfect, or that your expectations are in line with reality.  I mostly do like the holiday for the same corny reasons a lot of people do.  It is nice to have family all together, even though that’s not always possible.

Oh, and be careful not to burn your house down with the turkey fryer.

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