Archive for June, 2009

truth

It troubles me when I comment on something about which I am not completely knowledgeable. Ideally, I would have all the facts about a particular subject before I wrote a single word. Not only that; I would be so thoroughly educated about the subject as to be able to defend my position against all attackers, with that education being the result of a rigorous scientific study of the subject. I would know the subject inside and out, having asked and answered all the questions that might come from all positions on the subject. To me, to be less prepared than that feels a bit like being a fraud.

Unfortunately, I am no polymath. Additionally, time constrains the level of education I can obtain on the variety of issues I wish to address. Even if I were to limit my efforts to just one subject – say, “global warming” – I would never be able to review all the available literature and still work a full-time job. Multiply that by many subjects and it becomes apparent that any such efforts at education are futile.

Obviously I am not the only person with this problem, but rarely does it stop people from expressing marginally informed opinion as fact. Those marginally informed opinions are then adopted wholesale by those who are not even marginally informed and those opinions congeal into hardened dogma unshakeable by actual fact.

What is a person to do? Surely the answer is to rely on the experts – those people who have devoted their lives to a particular subject and are the authorities with whom to be reckoned. If this is so, why is it so easy to find experts in possession of indisputable facts on opposing sides of an issue? Surely one must be right and the other wrong? Good luck trying to figure that one out without gaining the level of education that the experts have. Even at that, all too often I have seen experts look at the same set of facts and come away with two entirely different interpretations of those facts.

So much for a brief sojourn into epistemology. As for me, I do the best I can. I try to be objective. I consider myself to be a skeptic – someone who needs to see the facts to accept something and who is willing to change his view when presented with new facts. Still, I cannot deny that I am guided and influenced by a certain outlook on life. Merely considering myself a skeptic illustrates that. I can only hope that my life’s philosophy aids me in my efforts to view life objectively and guides me in separating truth from falsehood. There’s not much else that most of us can do.

Addendum: This is also why you should assume that everything you read is only an opinion and is subject to verification. Anyone who takes one account of a subject as “the truth” is sure to find himself blabbering apologies when a critical analysis is done of that account. Then again, human nature seems to be that most people are loathe to offer apologies and would rather stick to their original belief regardless of contrary evidence. When reading this blog, as well as any source, anywhere, it is “reader beware.”

one more advisor

White House press release –

Washington, DC – Vice President Biden . . . announced today the appointment of Lynn Rosenthal as the new White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. . . . This is a newly created position at the White House, dedicated specifically to advising the President and Vice President on domestic violence and sexual assault issues.

In this new position, Ms. Rosenthal will serve as an advisor to the President and Vice President on domestic violence and sexual assault issues; be a liaison to the domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy community; coordinate with the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) on implementation of Violence Against Women Act programs; coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services on implementation of Family Violence Prevention Act services (including the National Domestic Violence Hotline); coordinate with the State Department and USAID on global domestic violence initiatives; and drive the development new initiatives and policy aimed at combating domestic violence and sexual assault with advocacy groups and members of Congress.

Wait a minute, we needed to add another advisor to handle stuff already being handled by the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services, the State Department, etc., etc.? They can’t seem to manage to interact using existing personnel? Empire building at it’s best, Mr. Obama. Hey, I understand your wife is looking for work. Why didn’t you just appoint her? Or does she get to choose which new position to fill?

death gets you thinking

There has been a spate of celebrity and near-celebrity deaths lately, some at relatively young ages, or at least relative to my own age. Every time I hear about one of these deaths I start wondering how many more years I have left. Soon I will hit 59 and the big 60 is only one year away. I am in that stage of life where tomorrow no longer feels guaranteed.

While this is a scary thing, it has also caused me to reevaluate many aspects of my life. For one thing – and I know this sounds trite – every day I look around and am amazed at what a wonder life is and at how little I pay attention to it. I am pretty sure that if I were suddenly faced with a set end to my life – from cancer, let’s say – I would see the world with fresh and appreciative eyes every day until the end. Why am I not doing that now? My end could just as easily be two minutes away as two decades hence. It sure would seem to make sense to appreciate what I have here and now, rather than wait until I am on my deathbed.

It is hard to accept the fact that you are going to die. I saw my father struggle with it. It seemed to throw him into what must have appeared to him to be an unreal world. Suddenly all the day-to-day things that had been important to him were meaningless and he appeared to struggle to believe that the end was actually near. At one point you could tell that he finally accepted the reality of the situation and he turned his life over to those who would care for him until the end.

I, too, have struggled with the idea of dying, and not with just my own death, but with the deaths of those who mean something to me. I don’t really want to face any of it, but I know that I will have no choice. While I know from experience that I can survive the death of someone dear to me, I also know that I will be diminished by every such death. In truth, as selfish as it may seem, I would prefer to be the first to go.

So, to get off that maudlin train of thought, I have decided that I need to get more involved with life. As I’ve said before, I have lived a lot of my life in a state of suspension, expecting someone or something to give meaning to my life or to get me moving in one direction or another. The time for action is diminishing. If I am to do some of the things that I want to do, I must start to act on them now, and so I intend to do so.

In addition to that, I hope to maintain that sense of awe that this world and this life engender. I want to treat every moment as the jewel of time that it is. Someday I will no longer be here to see, hear, smell, touch or taste this world. I better do it now while I have time. As they say, it waits for no man.

Today’s a beautiful day. Sun is shining, breeze in the air, temperatures have cooled off considerably from the nineties we were having and the humidity has decided to back off as well. One would think that such a day would inspire happiness. Instead, it has triggered a round of introspection.

I’m a simple man with simple needs, wants and desires. In particular, I want a life out in the country where I can have some elbowroom. I want a home that I can make my own without worrying about upsetting a landlord. I want to be able to garden, have a woodshop, feed the wild birds and generally be able to step outside of my house and enjoy nature without having to include the neighbor’s screaming kids as part of that nature.

I don’t care one whit about cities, other than brief visits to them for museums and such. City life holds no appeal to me whatsoever. Living in the city would be my idea of a living hell. Indeed, if I never had to set foot inside a big city again I could handle it.

Once upon a time, I thought that my wife wanted the same thing. I thought that we were united in the pursuit of rural life. However, as we slid into middle age she suddenly realized that for most of our marriage, if not all of it, she had been living a lie. She had really only been going along with my hopes, dreams and desires in an attempt to please me and, in the process, make me love her more. She had denied her true self and when it came time to look at what was ahead for the rest of her life, she chose to reclaim those long abandoned desires as her own again. Now our lives lie on different paths. Not merely because of a shift in personal paradigms, but because of a host of other issues that go along with lives lived in silent differences.

There is another person in my life now who honestly does share my dreams, hopes and desires, but leave it to me to choose someone in circumstances that thwart our being together. It is on days like this that I really miss her, and that I feel the distress of living a deferred life.

I must admit that I get angry from time to time over my current situation. My life is not what I thought it would be at this stage of my life and, rational or not, I can’t help but feel that it is not all my fault, though I know it is (hell, it always is). Still, I can’t help but feel sometimes that if my wife hadn’t “changed” then I wouldn’t be where I am. There is no going back now, obviously. How could I go back to a life where the other person was living a lie and where I was always the cause of her unhappiness? How would I ever again be able to believe that person really wanted to be with me and was happy with me? And how would she ever think that I was happy with her? I don’t see how that could happen, particularly when I have found someone else who isn’t carrying that kind of baggage with me.

Perhaps personal details like this do not belong in this blog, but they are part of living and growing older. People and situations change and we all have to deal with it. It is inevitable, regardless of what we desire. From my current perspective, it’s easy to see what I “should have” done earlier in my life, but I can kick myself all I want and all I will get is bruises.

It is the rare person who doesn’t wish they could go back and change things earlier in life. Since we don’t have that option and have to live with our pasts, the best we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and try to live the rest of our lives without making those same mistakes again. That, my friends, is easier said than done.

voting blind and getting screwed

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. If you ask any member of Congress what they passed, they will be unable to tell you, as the bill is many hundreds of pages long and was amended at the last minute with a few hundred more pages. No one who voted on the bill knew what he or she was really voting on, but they passed it anyways.

Every analysis I have read on this legislation has shown that it will harm our economy. Granted, no totally accurate analysis could be done because the total bill was not available for analysis before being passed, but the studies used what information was available on the bill’s major provisions. Not only do the studies show the harm the economy will suffer, they expose the ultimate lack of effect the bill will have on reducing CO2 emissions, even assuming that such a thing is needed or desirable.

Comments from my local representatives make it apparent that the message they got from their constituents is that they are overwhelmingly opposed to passage of the bill. I know that it is an assumption, but I will assume that this was what most of the representatives experienced. If so, and they passed the bill anyways, what does that mean? It means once again that our government wants to be our nanny and make us do “the right thing” whether we want to or not, and whether it is good for us or not. Drink that cod liver oil, damn it!

It seems that our government is determined to destroy out economy. The requirements in this bill will cause all goods manufactured in the United States to rise in price due to the need to cover the increased costs of energy, record keeping, additional equipment, etc. It would seem that someone recognized the fact that this would result in manufactured goods being purchased from cheaper, overseas sources and allowances were made to place tariffs on those goods to prevent an inequitable situation. But comments from President Obama seem to indicate that it isn’t enough to destroy our manufacturing base, he prefers to avoid any compensatory economic sanctions.

The Washington Post reported that Obama said, “At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there.” Huh? It’s okay to screw every U.S. manufacturer but we sure don’t want to hurt the worldwide economy? This kind of thinking is so wrongheaded as to boggle the mind. Hell, the entire energy bill qualifies for that.

It is irritating and frustrating to read discussions of this legislation. There are studies that claim that this bill will increase a family’s energy costs by a few thousand dollars a year. Other studies claim that there will be very little cost increase. Then there are other studies that try to reconcile the two opposing studies by concluding that, well, yeah, it will cost everyone more money, but nowhere near as much as several thousand a year. Why in the hell should we be forced to pay any additional money for our energy costs?

If this bill is passed and President Obama signs it into law, we are going to be sucking hind tit in the world economy in no time. We will be spending billions of dollars on efforts that will yield no real benefit but that will cost thousands of manufacturing jobs, not to mention the creation of a bureaucracy that will do nothing but grow and grow, just like every other government agency. I’m afraid that I see no end to this kind of thinking in our Capitol. I only hope that we can change the course of this ship before we hit the iceberg.

hizzoner’s olympic pledge

Good ol’ Mayor Daly – just the guy you want to spend your money. He wants so badly to leave an Olympic legacy behind that he is more than willing to throw the taxpayers of the City of Chicago to the wolves, or rather to the International Olympic Committee, by offering to cover any cost overages caused by the summer games. Of course, in Illinois that not only will mean the taxpayers in the city but of the state as well, because the city controls more than enough of the state government to force state guarantees, too.

Seems like this is a long way from the Mayor’s 2006 pledge that “The bottom line is the Olympics must not be a financial burden to taxpayers of Chicago or Illinois.” Sure, he is trying to mollify his critics with the claim that any overages would be covered by an insurance policy, but that raises the question of who would be foolish enough to issue an insurance policy at a reasonable rate on cost overruns of a Chicago Olympics? I didn’t think there was anyone alive stupid enough to fall for that one. Knowing Chicago politics, whoever gets the commission on selling that insurance policy is going to be a relative of some city official.

I’m sorry Mr. Mayor, but I don’t want the Olympics in Chicago. I hope that Chicago’s bid fails miserably. If it does not and Chicago gets the Olympic games, there will be years of construction and related mess that will drive people out of the city or keep them from visiting. If the Olympics come to Chicago and you work in the city you might as well plan on taking a vacation the whole time the games are going on because you won’t be able to get to work.

Okay, maybe I’m just being a grouchy old fart, and I’ve never been a rabid Olympic fan, but I just can’t see the rewards being worth the expense and disruption that the games will entail. At least it’s still legal to move from one state to another, so when the citizens of Illinois get nailed to cover the cost overruns I can leave. Then again, with the economic mess our state government is in right now, why am I waiting?

thanks, spammers

Well, so much for comments. How the heck spammers find open comment areas so quickly is a mystery to me, but after getting spammed almost immediately after opening up the comments, I’ve shut them down again.

Well, actually, I haven’t shut them down altogether, but you have to be registered and logged in to comment. Most people aren’t going to bother with that on my blog, so that pretty effectively stops the comments. Oh well. Guess I’m just a lazy blogger who doesn’t want to fart around deleting spam comments every day.

taking a chance on comments

If you haven’t noticed, I never get any comments here. There’s a good reason for that – I’ve made it hard to do. I had so many problems with spam on other blogs that I didn’t want to have to worry about it here. Of course, there could be another reason there are no comments – there’s nothing here that warrants a comment!

I have just changed the settings to make it easier to leave a comment if you would like. For one thing, you no longer have to register first, which probably turns a lot of people off. I know it would me. On the other hand, I haven’t given commenters carte blanche. I will still moderate all comments so that I can remove the spam before it appears in public. I hope that this will work better than the old policy and encourage people to comment, but that assumes that anyone is reading this. That’s not an assumption in which I have much confidence.

If you wish to comment and have problems doing so, please let me know and I’ll see what needs to be fixed.