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Monday, February 9, 2015

Our national lack of compassion

I’m pretty confused right now.

As I read through Facebook comments (maybe that’s my problem) about several topics, I’ve noticed what I see as a lack of compassion these days.

Specifically as they relate to:

Health Insurance
Minimum Wage
Voter Registration
Entitlement Programs
Illegal Immigrants
(but oh, so many other topics)

(I’m going to include some links that I think are interesting to read, not necessarily to support my positions, but more to provide additional information)

I guess that folks who are against the Affordable Care Act are against…governmental intrusion into health care?  But the free market hasn’t done anything but price healthcare out of the realm of affordability for many.

In my case, I bought Blue Cross/Blue Shield Bronze plans for me, my wife, and each of my two kids (we are all healthy, by the way).  My monthly premiums total $795.03 per month, and we each have a $5,200 deductible, with an out of pocket maximum of $12,800.  This means that my potential liability, before insurance kicks in, is $21,940 per year – AND THIS IS BETTER THAN IT WAS WHEN I HAD A GROUP POLICY

If everyone in America was covered, and paying premiums into the system, it stands to common sense that premiums would drop, that bankruptcies due to defaults on medical expenses would drop (and then those unpaid bills would not be added to the cost of health care). Of course, there are other problems relating to health care costs, but right now, I’m just talking about affordable health insurance. ( )

Why do we treat people who can’t make top dollar with such contempt?  Shouldn’t everyone be paid a living wage?  Have those who say that paying people a living wage would cause prices to rise, looked at the statistics to back those claims up?  (I have, they aren’t true).  I often read “They should stay in school, get educated, and climb the ladder”  Sounds good, until you remember that not everyone is capable of doing that.  Are we saying that those people are not deserving of a living wage? (

Given the absolutely miniscule number of voter fraud cases, why are many of us so eager to make it difficult to vote?  Why is it that those with the least are so much more likely the ones to be affected by the laws that have been passed in the last few years? (

The cost of drug testing welfare recipients vs the results makes no economic sense – as a matter of fact, very, very few people are testing positive:  In Florida, the overall rate of illegal drug use is 8%, while the failure rate among Florida welfare applicants is 2%.  In Utah, 12 people IN TOTAL tested positive in a year’s worth of testing.  So, what is the point here?  It’s not about saving money, given that the cost of administering these programs is greater than the savings by keeping horrible drug addicts from receiving benefits.  Is it about making sure that we shame those who have to apply? Do we feel some sort of collective superiority? (

Did you know that illegal immigrants are helping to prop up our social security system?  Under current law, illegal immigrants are not entitled to social security benefits, but you know what?  When a worker, using a fake social security number collects his paycheck, Social Security and Medicare are withheld, and matched by the employer.  That money goes into the US Treasury.  Over and above that, though, I'm amazed on a daily basis at the nasty, mean spirited things said about these people - I'll tell you this, if I were Guatemalan, and saw an opportunity to make a better life for myself, I'd for damn sure be trying to get here, to a country where hard work can be rewarded.  Don't we like that characteristic in people? Why do we feel the need to call these people names? (

To me, though, the common theme seems to be a lack of compassion aimed at those who have nothing by those who have something – such as people like the Koch Brothers (whom I consider to be evil, greedy, men), but more surprisingly, by people a few instances of bad luck away from being those people without health insurance, or jobless, or subsisting on government assistance.

And this is why I’m confused.  Why is there so much irrational hatred in our country right now?  Has it always been like this?  I don’t think so.  Is it because ordinary people feel like their lives are out of control?  That they have no power, and therefore, must hate those who might be seen as someone who is out to get their stuff?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I can't dance

18 Experiences You Have When You Can't Dance

I mean, I really can't dance. I've got no moves. I'm terrified of how I look on a dance floor. You know how people say things like "Oh, no one is watching, just let loose"? Well, people would watch me, because I look like one of those trees found in the petrified forest, just sort of standing there, waiting to fall.

I remember the first time I ever went onto a dance floor. I was 10 and living in England. As I remember it, my sister and I went to a neighborhood dance. When we came home, I distinctly remember my mom asking Suzanne about my moves. Suzanne got this pitying look on her face and said (oh, yes, Suzanne, I can quote you, 45 years later), "well, it was sort of a walking step." I cringe every time I think of it. I imagine all of England does as well.  "I say, whatever happened to that odd American?" all of England says, in polite bemusement.

                                  Me, at the neighborhood dance (top middle)

There have been a few times that I've let my guard down, say at a wedding, where I've wandered out of the "Zone of Safety", and gotten too close to the dance floor. People don't seem to understand that I'm dead serious as I pull away saying "No, thanks, I don't dance." I'm very awkward.  

                                                         Me, being awkward

My niece, Maggie was married on November 1 of this year, and the party was fantastic! Maggie and her husband live in Montana, and a bunch of their friends came. Maggie's friends and family from here came, and Matt's family and friends from Texas came.  Every single one of them was fun.  Lisa was on the dance floor early, as were most of the people.  The picture above is me at that party.

Anyhow, against my better judgement, I started dancing with Lisa (strategically at the end of a slow song).  It was horrible for me, much worse for Lisa, I'm sure.  12 seconds into it the song finally ended, but before I could get off the floor, Christine from Montana grabbed me, and started dancing. She is very bendy and coordinated.  I was kind of like Lurch on a bad day.

                                                 Me, dancing with Christine

Finally, even she realized that nothing could be done with me.  I left the floor, deeply shamed, and embarrassed for Christine.

Apparently, Gina from Montana hadn't seen the debacle, and hadn't been warned by Lisa, because she grabbed my hand and tried to drag me out there.  This time I was successful in avoiding her and retreated to a corner somewhere where I drank beer and discussed the intricacies of FIFO and LIFO inventory methods (probably).

There is no point whatsoever in this story, by the way.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas movies

(Sorry, I realize it isn't even Thanksgiving yet)

Yesterday, Lisa and I were talking about trying to watch as many of our favorite Christmas movies with the kids as possible - it is problematic these days, as the girls won't be in from school until close to Christmas.

These are the movies that come to mind:

The Santa Clause
A Charlie Brown Christmas (my favorite)
The Polar Express (Almost my favorite)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Of course, the Rankin/Bass films:

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The Year Without a Santa Claus
Frosty the Snowman
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

People really like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but I never really saw the appeal.

Shoot (get it?), I almost forgot A Christmas Story  - "You'll shoot your eye out, kid"

Holiday Inn
It's a Wonderful Life (of course)

What are some of your favorites?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Why I'm angry with Tennessee women

This past Tuesday, 29.1% of registered Tennessee voters actually turned out to vote in the midterm elections:
( - the only state in the nation with a lower voter turnout was Texas (Steve Golden's fault).

On the ballot were 4 proposed amendments to Tennessee's Constitution.  The first proposed amendment was aimed squarely at the abortion issue.  Ultimately, after sifting through all the lies spread about the amendment, we see that the effect of passing this amendment removes the issue from the judiciary, and places it squarely in the hands of the legislature. People like State Senator Stacey Campfield.

Now, I have a very strong opinion of how the voting should have gone, but that's not the point of this post.

My point is that only 29.1% of the registered voters bothered to vote.  To my knowledge, the vote was split across gender lines, meaning I don't believe a higher or lower incidence of women turned out to vote than did men.

{This is directed at the women who didn't vote}

Every. Single. Eligible. Woman. Voter. Should. Have. Voted.

Shame on women who didn't vote!  Regardless of how you feel about that, or any other issue, shame on you for not voting.  By not voting about an issue that directly affects all women in the State of Tennessee, you have agreed that the legislature, of which 83% are men, will now make decisions about your body.

Shame on you for letting that happen.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Vote, Vote, Vote

Vote.  Think about it, and vote your conscience:

If you hate what that Kenyan, communist, Muslim, Ebola spreading, ISIS sympathizing, illegal alien loving, Mom-jeans wearing, evil dictator (did I miss anything? Oh, yeah, BENGHAZIIIIIII), President Obama and his ilk are doing, then vote against him/them.

If you hate what those Tea-bagging, do nothing, Fox News watching, obstructionist Neo-con, lyin' if they're breathing, Republicans are doing, then vote the other way.

But vote!

In Tennessee, if you are a woman, you have a vested interest in voting - Amendment 1 to the State Constitution directly affects you.  Pro or con, this amendment, if passed, moves the state authority regarding abortions, and certain rules and regulations out of the judiciary, and into the realm of the legislature.

It's been mischaracterized as giving women a say - but that is an out and out lie - and while you should vote your conscience, those spreading that lie should be ashamed of themselves.

People like Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey will be deciding this issue for you.
People like State Senator Stacey Campfield (, will be deciding this issue for you.

There is also a proposed amendment that would ban the legislature from enacting a state income tax - please think about this one before you automatically vote to pass it. Think about how the State is getting its money now - 'cause it is getting it.

I have opinions about all 4 of the amendments, and will be happy to tell you mine if you want (I guess you can figure out my vote on the two mentioned above).

Also, FYI:  It is my understanding that in order for your vote to count, you must vote in the gubernatorial race - don't waste your amendment vote, by not voting for governor.


(but think about it)
I think we are all born with the proclivity to be good or bad, honest or dishonest. Every day, I wake up and have to decide what kind of person I'm going to be.  I mean, I'm limited by my own imperfections, but I believe that God gave me the ability to discern right from wrong - it is putting that ability into practice and making good choices as a result of that ability, that can be a problem. I'm not even talking about religion here - there are some incredibly shitty {insert religious persuasion here}'s in the world, and some incredibly good atheists - and vice versa.

So, again, every morning I wake up and have to decide what kind of person I'm going to be - and let me tell you, I've failed spectacularly on occasion.

I do believe that you can train yourself to either go toward the light, or turn toward the darkness, so that the daily choice is not as pivotal as it could be.

That's what I'm trying to do.

Monday, September 29, 2014


In the summer of 1984, I was living in Athens, Greece. I lived in a fancy schmancy building on Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, a couple of hundred yards from the 1896 Olympic Stadium (my roommate, Scott and I snuck in a couple of times and ran the then cinder track. It was a lot like "Chariots of Fire" I imagine) - unfortunately, I lived in a dumpy basement apartment, barely larger than a broom closet. The point was though, that I got to explore Athens and the surrounding areas.

Back then I smoked (Salems - loved that menthol taste).  As a poor traveler, I couldn't afford Salems, instead I smoked a European knockoff brand called Reyno:

My morning routine would be to go to the little shop around the corner, buy a pack of Reynos, walk through the National Gardens to Syntagma Square for some breakfast, maybe try to steal some stationary from the Hotel Grand Bretagne (I was living on about $5 a day and needed to save my money for Reynos), and would explore Athens.  Sometimes we would go to Piraeus (a port city about 7 miles away), and would catch a boat to one of the islands in the Cyclades - Santorini was my favorite, spent a week sleeping on the beach that summer.

(it really is that beautiful)

or maybe Spetses, one of the Saronic Islands:

(also that beautiful)

It was a good time.


One afternoon, I was wandering around a street close to the Parthenon (modeled after the one in Nashville, I think), probably smoking a Reyno, and I came up to a guy in traditional Afghan clothing who was handing out flyers. I talked to him for a minute, and he told me that he was Mujahideen - asked me if I knew what that was. Well, I vaguely did. They were the group of Afghan freedom fighters that the U.S. was helping to arm in their fight to run the Russians out of their country. Guy was pretty friendly, and very appreciative of the help that the U.S., among others (including a fellow by the name of Osama Bin Laden, as it turned out) was giving them. Now, after the Russians left Afghanistan, the Mujahideen started fighting amongst themselves. Ultimately, a mulla named Mohammed Omar and his group came out on top.  You might have heard of them.  They are known as the Taliban.

Anyhow, now we are talking about arming "moderate Syrian rebels" in our fight against ISIS. I hope that somewhere in Washington, D.C., someone remembers that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.