Monday, May 01, 2017

Why the Civil War? Here's Why.

"People don't realize, you know the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not been worked out?"

"I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War.  He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart.  He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, 'There's no reason for this.' "

                                               Historian in Chief Donald J. Trump

It's fun to the play the "what if" game.  My guy friends tend to all be big sports fans and every now and again we will waste the breath God hath lent us pondering such weighty issues as whether Pete Maravich could play in today's NBA.  Or whether Pete Rose was overrated.  The "what if" game is fun when confined to sports.  Because it doesn't much matter.  

And I suppose it doesn't much matter when you do it with history.  Except that we expect certain people to be reasonably conversant with historical facts before they play the "what if" game.  Like maybe the President of the United States.  

It is hard to parse Trump's stream of consciousness verbage at times.  Indeed, the more I listen to Trump speak off the cuff about just about anything more complicated than what he is having for lunch, the more George W. Bush's mangled speech begins to sound like unto Winston Churchill.  But this is what I think Trump is trying to say.  I think he is trying to say that had his idol Old Hickory been in charge instead of Lincoln we "wouldn't have had the Civil War."

This is, of course, nonsense. Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version of why we "had" the Civil War. It was the inability of the political and legal system of the young country to deal with the expansion of slavery into the western territories.

The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was the attempt on the part of the Congress to preserve the Union by kicking the question of expansion of slavery into the west down the road a little for someone else to deal with it. Which is an irresponsible tactic completely unheard of in our present and more enlightened day.

It agreed to let Missouri in as a slave state while Maine could come in as a "free" state thereby maintaining the status quo in the Senate at 50-50 on the issue. The compromise also implied a little too strongly for the fire eaters in the south that expansion of slavery was subject to regulation by what passed for a national government at that time.  

What happens next in the run-up to war?  The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Dred Scott v. Sanford.  Mr. Scott, a slave owned by an Army surgeon had the temerity to sue for his freedom.  His theory (basically) was that  the two years (as I recall) that he was with his owner in a "free" state meant that he was emancipated as a matter of law. 

The SCOTUS did not agree.  It ruled that Mr. Scott did not (basically) have standing to sue as a former slave because he was not part of the original class of citizens contemplated by the Founding Fathers.  Or some shit.  But the Court also ruled that Congress did not have the authority to regulate the expansion of slavery into the west.  So much for the Missouri Compromise.  

As I told the history boys, the decision in Dred Scott (considered by sane legal scholars to be the worst decision ever rendered by SCOTUS) meant that the United States government had completely failed, on every level, to peacefully resolve the most burning issue of the day.  An issue upon which an entire region's financial system was based.  

So what the hell does Andrew Jackson have to do with this?  Not much.  Except that in 1830 or so Jackson threatened to send troops into South Carolina (why is it always South Carolina?) after it based a law "nullifying" a federal law imposing a tariff.  Look it up.  It's boring.  Also, just for fun look up "nullification" as a legal theory.  The solons in the Texas legislature are trying what South Carolina attempted way back when. Old times there are not forgotten either after all.

So, Jackson was a stout Unionist, and one who also recognized that the Jeffersonian-agrarian model of governance in the south was an "alarm bell" representing trouble down the road.  He was also a southerner who owned slaves.  And he displaced entire tribes of Native-Americans to the west along the "Trail of Tears."

Sometimes historical interpretation is a matter of nuance.  Trump doesn't do nuance.  But to me the better question, since we are playing the "what if" game, is whether ardent Unionist Andrew Jackson, who made at least part of his considerable fortune from the sweat of the brows of men he owned, would have either supported the Missouri Compromise or would have gone to war to preserve the Union against former states that formed their own nation and fired upon a Union fort.  

Who knows?  But I think I know this.  Andrew Jackson was not a super-hero who would have magically "made a deal" to preserve a Union that even Mr. Lincoln said that he would have fought to hold together even if it meant not freeing the slaves. It was complicated.  History is complicated.  The election of 2016 proved that.

As for me, I am confining my "what if" fantasies to sports.  The fantasies of the Historian in Chief in which he fancies himself as some kind of heir apparent to an Andrew Jackson that did not exist in history, on the other hand, might not be.  

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

It is Holy Saturday as I type this.  And all hell has broken loose in Arkansas.  

Let me state at the outset that I am somewhat conflicted about capital punishment.  As a matter of law, I believe that capital punishment is one of the penalties that a society may legitimately impose upon conviction of the most heinous of offenses.  I also would tend to agree that capital punishment, in and of itself, is probably not "cruel and unusual punishment" that is barred by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.  After all, capital punishment existed during the time of the framing of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers could have banned it if they had wanted to.

The 8 individuals pictured above were scheduled to be executed by the State of Arkansas.  7 of them were scheduled to be put to death over the next 11 days.   "What's the rush?" one might ask.  Because the state's supply of midazolam, the sedative used as part of the 3 injection regimen, expires on April 30th.  In other words, it is not safe to use beyond that date.  

If this were not sufficiently perverse, yesterday McKesson Medical- Surgical Inc. filed suit in state court seeking injunctive relief against the use of the 100 vials of vecromium bromide it sold to the State.  It said that the State failed to disclose that the chemicals were to be used in executions.  McKesson is the distributor of the drug.  It said the manufacturer of the drug opposes its use in executions.  The state court judge granted an injunction.  I forgot to mention that this judge was also part of a protest rally against the scheduled executions thereby putting his impartiality to extreme question.  

I also forgot to mention that while all of this was going on, US District Judge Kristine Baker held 4 days of hearings last week concerning whether the drug regimen proposed by Arkansas constituted "cruel and unusual punishment." Last night she issued a 100 page decision enjoining the executions which got filed this morning.

Oh and McKesson filed a "friend of the court" brief in Judge Baker's court reciting its objection to the use of vecromium bromide for this purpose.  An employee of the Department of Corrections said it pretty much knew the McKesson employee that sold the State the vials in question was not authorized to sell it for use in executions.  And when asked by reporters where the State got the chemicals it proposed to use, a spokesperson said they were "donated."

Donated?  The hell she said. The State of Arkansas is accepting donated goods to execute people?  

Look, I have no sympathy for these defendants.  They were all convicted of the most heinous of crimes involving murder and sex offenses. They are not entitled to mercy as most of us define it.  

But even the worst among us-and these guys amply qualify-have constitutional rights.  And this fiasco proves that Arkansas is not capable of carrying out the maximum punishment in a dignified and orderly fashion consistent with the rule of law.  If we must execute prisoners it cannot be done in a circus atmosphere with chemicals ostensibly obtained by ruse.  We shouldn't execute people in an assembly line fashion because the expiration date of one of the drugs is coming up.  And why is this latter consideration an issue?  Because states that use lethal injection to administer capital punishment are finding it hard to obtain these drugs as many companies-like McKesson who may have gotten snookered here-refuse to allow their products to be used for this purpose. This is ridiculous and macabre.  

And, as has been proven time and again, it would be infinitely cheaper to confine them for life than to pay the cost of the seemingly infinite rounds of appeals available to death row litigants in both the State and Federal system.  But what about closure for the victims?  Good point.  I can't imagine what it must be like to have a loved one taken from you under such violent and horrible circumstances.  But again, like it or not, these inmates have rights.  What about the victims you may ask?  What about their rights? I am sympathetic.  Really I am.  What happened to the victims in these cases was beyond evil.  But in the criminal justice system you have to dot every "i" and cross every "t."  That's the way it is.

I say lock 'em up and throw away the key.  Case closed. The very definition of closure.  You say you don't want to use your tax dollars for their care and feeding for life?  Fine.  If you think it is a better use of your tax dollars to pay attorneys fees and courts costs for the average 20 years these appeals ten to take for an uncertain end, then we can continue on our current path.

Executions are no longer practical from a strictly utilitarian and economic perspective.  

This is not about mercy for these guys.  This is about the rule of law.

 And swift and sure punishment.  Which the families of the victims, and the taxpayers who are footing the bill for the criminal justice system, deserve.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

I was having lunch the other day with my preacher friend.  We were talking about the recent abdication of the Arkansas Legislature on their earlier cretinous position to allow fans to pack guns at sporting events.  They changed their-and I use this word in its most limited sense-minds not in the face of data, the objections of college presidents or moral suasion.  No.  They bowed to a power mightier than their masters at the NRA.  

The Southeastern Conference.

Long story short.  The Ledge passed a bill allowing folks with concealed carry permits and additional training to pack heat pretty much wherever they saw fit.  Including college sporting events.  

Now, unlike evidently the majority of the Senators who voted for this insanity, I attend a lot of ball games.  I have coached Little League and Babe Ruth baseball.  I hear things being said around me inn the stands about the officials and the coaches.  Most of it is not complementary.   I have talked down a parent or two who thought their kid was being treated unfairly by me. I have seen drunken fans at college games almost come to blows.  One of them tried to fight me in front of my house 3-4 years ago

2 years ago at an AAU basketball game I saw an exasperated African-America referee toss an elderly white fan toward the end of the game who wouldn't get off the ref's ass.  The fact that the ref put up with it as long as he did was a testament to his professionalism.  But I remember well the sheer hatred in the man's eyes as the young referee threatened to have him arrested if he didn't leave.

Dear God in Heaven.  What if you injected a firearm into any of these scenarios?  What possible good could have been the result?  

This thing would have gone to the Governor if the SEC and the Sun Belt Conferences had not cleared their throats.  Both conferences expressed reluctance to send teams representing their "member institutions" as they grandly put it to stadiums and arenas where some folks might be bearing arms.  Indeed, ASU football coach Blake Anderson correctly labeled the bill as "a recipe for disaster."  Coach Anderson knows.  He deals with parents and fans.  He knows that emotions can run high at the ball park

But money talks.  And the SEC and the NCAA has more money than the NRA even.  And if it's one thing the Solons on Woodlane Avenue understand, it's money.

My preacher friend understands it too.

"There was a time when politicians used to at least listen to what the church had to say," he said as he shook his head ruefully. " Now it's just money.  Now the NCAA and the SEC are acting as the moral arbiters of society on these social issues involving sports.  Because they have so much money.  I just find it interesting."

Alas, some of the handmaidens of the NRA in the Senate were not eager to give up the fight.  Yesterday's paper reported that Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado referred to the right to carry a gun as a "God given right" which would presumably trump the concerns of the SEC.

I know my Bible a little.  And unless Monty Python's "Book of Armaments" has recently been added to the Canon, I don't believe it confers such a right.  

And tell that to Sen. Stephanie Flowers whose sister was shot and killed.  She represents Pine Bluff, which has experienced more than its fair share of gun crime.

"Where I'm from, the God I serve does not tell me that I have a fundamental right to carry a gun," she said in response to Sen. Garner's dubious theology. "They are peaceable people, loving people. And the God I serve is a God of love. So don't tell me about no damn 'everybody gotta have a gun.' Go to hell with your guns.  I'm voting for the damn bill."

My preacher buddy might have phrased it differently.  Then again, maybe he wouldn't.  

Or he might allow as how God moves in strange and mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.  

Like through the SEC.  

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

I did something the other day I haven't done in years.  I went to the horse track.  When I say "years" I mean I'm talking at least 15.  I tend to measure my life in terms of when I was able to leave government service.  Which was over 5 years ago if you can believe that.  And I scarcely can.  So it had to be 10 years before that.  

I hadn't really thought much about the horse game before about this time last year.  I'm not much of a gambler.  I haven't set foot in a casino since Ole Miss quit putting on the Mid-South Bankruptcy Conference-get this- at Horseshoe in Tunica.  I barely play the NCAA basketball tournament anymore.  

But over the years I became friends with a guy who is a professional gambler.  Seriously.  He makes his living betting on horses.  Whether he augments his income with other sports investing opportunities (shall we say) I do not know.  I do not want to know.  Anyway, my friend knows that I am something of a photographer and he encouraged me to come out and try my hand with race photography.  My teaching duties kept me from going down last year.  But my schedule this year is much more flexible.  So off I went last Friday.

Oaklawn is located in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  I like Hot Springs despite the fact that it is an old cathouse of a town that to this day is the epicenter of vice in this state.  Well, at least it is when the legislature isn't in session.  At least Hot Springs, unlike the Solons on Woodlane Avenue, is not hypocritical about it.  It is a gambling and drinking town.  Pretty much any itch you got you can get it scratched in Hot Springs.  Twas ever thus.  

I accept these things.

Indeed, the only time in my life I have ever been propositioned by a lady who provides companionship in exchange for rent (again shall we say) was in Hot Springs.  And I used to live in New Orleans. Anyway, I was standing outside the Arlington Hotel (speaking of cathouses) at dusk waiting on some friends of mine to pick me up for dinner.   

"Hey baby," I heard a voice behind me say. "I sure hate to see a handsome man all by himself."

I turned around.  Brunette.  Heels.  Huge purse containing God knows what in addition to a  a probable Glock.  She was not bad if you could separate the aesthetics from the business plan.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm waiting on some friends."

She shrugged the shoulder that wasn't burdened by the anvil sized purse she was packing.  

"That's too bad," she said. "I mean, I don't know your friends but I bet I'm more fun."

"Tell you what," I said as I pointed back to the Arlington. "there's a convention going on in there. There's a bunch of guys at the bar and you look like you could use a drink."  

It was my turn to shrug.  She laughed as she clicked off toward the hotel lobby.

"You have fun tonight, Baby," she said over her shoulder. "Tell your friends 'hello'."

These are indeed the memories that will sustain me in my golden years.  But enough of this.

Once inside the track I ran into my old buddy K.  K is a pretty serious horse player when he isn't practicing law.  He asked me if I wanted to get a bet down on the upcoming race.  

"No," I said. "I'm here to take pictures."  I held my camera up as if that proved anything.

"That's it?" he said. 

"Well I will drink a beer before I leave.  But M has no use for gambling and so I won't."

I could see the cogs turning.

"Technically, pari-mutual wagering is not gambling because you are competing against everybody else.  Which makes it a game of skill.  At least that's how they sell it to the hypocrites in the legislature."

"A technical defense will not work with her.  Or any other woman in my experience. Besides, she's a Deacon in the one true, apostolic and universal United Methodist Church.  Both it and her are opposed to gambling.  So I won't bet.  I promised her."

At that point in time Martians must have been landing behind me judging from the incredulous expression on K's face.  

"What?" I said. 

"When did you acquire principles?"

Which was not necessary and hurtful even.  But that's what old friends are for I guess.  

With that I excused myself.  But not before he pointed out an older man that was walking past us.

"That man there is the only bookie the old guys will use," he said. "He keeps it all in his head.  Doesn't use a computer.  Just like the old days. So nothing to trace.  The old players, they don't trust technology." 

Which I have to admit was pretty much the most fascinating thing I had heard all week.  Hey, this method of communication worked pretty well for Bin-Laden. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon shooting pictures of the horses and the railbirds.  The horses, kinda like that hooker back at the Arlington years ago, are beautiful in a twitchy and dangerous sort of sense. Speaking of which, along the rail you really get a sense of how dangerous riding one of these hay-consuming heat seeking missiles must be.  Especially when they are all bunched up together coming down the stretch.  The sound is amazing.

I drank a beer during which time I let a 12 year old girl try to take a picture with my box.  Her mom said she wanted a camera and was fascinated by mine.  Sure.  Why not?  So I managed to perform at least one good deed there in that den of vice, where a sweet kid can exist in a kind of symbiosis with an elderly bookie who carries the bets in his head.

I left pretty early because I wanted to get home in time to watch basketball (speaking of vice).  I got to take my pictures and I didn't place a bet.  It was a win-win for everybody.  

Hot Springs is an old cathouse of a town.  But it can be managed.

I like it over there.  I had fun and I got some good image.  I will get back to Oaklawn sooner than later.  

Maybe M will come with me sometime.

Maybe.  But I wouldn't bet on it.  


Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

It must have been at least 15 years ago.  

One of the Agency heads-a Presidential appointee-was retiring.  And so they had a big retirement party at one of the hotels.  There had to have been 100 people there.  Good food and a wet bar.  It was a nice affair.  

I was seated at a table that was purchased by a man whose company did a lot of business with this particular agency.  He was there along with his CEO who is a woman I went to college with.  We were then, and still are, very good friends.  

Her boss offered to buy me a drink after I sat down.  I told him I couldn't let him do that.  He evidently had been drinking pretty good before I got there which helped fuel the indignation on his part when I refused his offer.

"You too good to let me buy you one?" he asked.

"Nothing of the sort," I said. "the Ethics in Government Act does not allow me to accept gifts from people that we do business with."

"That's ridiculous!" he exclaimed a little louder than I would have liked.  This was getting uncomfortable.

His CEO got between us.

"Look," she said. "I'll settle this.  You and I have been friends for a hundred years.  I can buy you a drink."

"Yes,"I said. "You can buy me a drink. But your boss cannot."  Actually, under the circumstances, she probably couldn't either.  But things were getting tense.

I then turned to one of the Agency's Contracting Officers that was sitting close by nursing a bourbon.

"And he can't buy you one either."

The poor man looked at me as if I had outlawed Christmas.  Which I sorta had done.

I remembered this episode when I read about the recent flap about Trump aide Kellyanne Conway and her urging people to "go buy Ivanka's stuff" after Nordstrom's Department store announced that it was changing it's relationship with Ivanka due to poor sales.  

Now, not only was this petty and vindictive, it was arguably illegal.  Federal law bars public employees from endorsing products.  And she's on Uncle Sam's payroll now.  

Naturally folks are calling for investigations, if not for her head.

Which I think is an overreaction.  On a scale of 1 to 10 this gaff rates about a 3 in the universe of crazy formerly known as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Granted, the Ethics in Government Act may not apply to the President and his appointees.  But Godalmighty doesn't anybody in the new administration have an eye for appearance's sakes?  From the President's refusal to put his businesses in a trust to this, nobody up there seems to be bothered by textbook conflicts of interest.  That seems obvious to me. 

When I was in government service I wouldn't let anybody I didn't have a personal relationship with buy me nothing.  Ever.  Not counsel opposite who wanted to buy me lunch one day in Woodville, Louisiana.  And yes, I did get all of the big gigs.

Anyway, when I politely turned him down he said, "But this is Louisiana.  Nobody cares about that shit down here."  Which was funny.  But unpersuasive.  

Not the lawyer in whose office we were doing depositions in Baton Rouge.  He offered to  cater lunch.  All us government types said we would pay our share.  I knew a lawyer who always produced his credentials when he stayed in hotels on vacation so he could get the government rate.  Really.  

I did accept a Christmas drink that had been sent over to me by a lawyer on the other side of the restaurant.  We had been going at each other for about 5 years.  By that time we had become friends.  And we still are.

Now I don't mean to suggest that I deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor. Or that I was more ethically attuned than most other civil servants.  But I always felt that in public service you had to have a bell in your head that warns you when you are about to cross the line.  If only for appearance's sake.  Because appearances matter.

Would I have been indicted if I took a drink from the man at the party?  No.  But I always felt that if you started fudging on the little stuff, it might get easier to fudge on the bigger stuff.  I know myself very well.  I yield to temptation. Best not to get started on the easy stuff.  Best to draw a bright line and try never to cross it.  Even if it hurts somebody's feelings.  

They say that Conway has been "counseled" about popping off in this manner.  I say that is about all they need to do with her this one time.  She said she was kidding.  What the hell.  She probably was.

But good God.  She would have been better off if she had heard a bell in her head before she opened her mouth.  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

Mr. Hamilton's firewall sprung a leak.  

What was widely conceived to be the unthinkable as little as a year ago has become reality.  Donald Trump, the ruthless businessman, tax deadbeat, Russian sympathizer and relentless self-promoting con artist is the 45th President of the United States.     

I almost don't know what else to say.  

Except this.  Every man that has stood in his shoes discovered something pretty quickly.  Governance is a lot harder than campaigning.  Every President struggles to turn promises made on the stump into policy.  Every one.  Trump will be no different.  Whether he can work with the Congress remains to be seen.  Here's but one example of the kind of disconnects we may safely expect going forward.

The Republicans have had a bug up their patoots from jump street over the Affordable Care Act.  Even though the basic framework was THEIR IDEA!  And so, now that they have majorities in both chambers they are proceeding to, well, do something about it.  And while this is going on Trump declares that everybody will have insurance.  Which wasn't exactly on the script.  Expect his underpaid press secretary to have to issue numerous "what the President meant by that" type of statements in the next 4 years.

While I didn't watch the show, I did read his inaugural address.  As far as I can tell, Donald Trump's America is a virtual dystopia that he promises to rescue and restore to its former greatness.  I don't live in that place.  

There's a thing going around on Facebook that is actually instructive for once.  This particular post reminds of a few facts about January 20th, the day on which Donald Trump was expressing his dark vision of reality.  

Gas was $2.09 a gallon.  The Dow closed at 19,819.  Unemployment stood at 4.7%.  Mark this and mark this well.  

Sure, there are problems.  And to give the devil his due, Trump was able to tap into a large and disaffected segment of the electorate that the Democrats foolishly took for granted.  This is largely why he is the Oval One and Hillary is not. 

But contrary to the portrait painted in his inaugural address, referred to by the known communist George Will as the most dreadful one in history (I'm guessing history of inaugural addresses and not the history of oratory), the United States of America ain't exactly the Weimar Republic.  At least not yet.  And it doesn't need to rescued by a cartoon character straight out of a Nietzschean fever dream.  

I don't live in the place that Trump described yesterday.  And as I type this women all over this country have taken to the streets in peaceful protest against the misogynist that the electoral vote has put in charge.  

Victory remains in love.  Hope and faith may safely abide in righteous anger.  

That's the country I live in.  God Bless the United States of America. We will get through this.

I don't know what else to say.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

My Sunday Feeling

I can't say that I feel old as such.  Or not all that old.  I still work out on a regular basis.  I'm a little heavier than I have been.  But I'm working on it.  I killed the treadmill during my last visit to the cardiologist.  I haven't been sick since,well, I don't recall.  Sometime last Spring.  I don't count my mild recurrent sinus infections as qualifying for "being sick."  

So far so good.  

But last October or so I noticed something. Catholic High is not the most well-lit place.  But I noticed when one of the boys was waving at me from around 30 yards away I couldn't make out his face.  And this is one of the boys I know well.  

That was new.  I started paying attention.  In choir rehearsal, I noticed I couldn't make out the director's face from the stage in the auditorium.  I noticed that it took me longer to walk down stairs or recognize folks behind a windshield.

I didn't think much about it. My yearly visit to the ophthalmologist was coming up.  I figured I needed a new prescription.  Wrong as usual.  In November my 17 year old eye doctor told me I had cataracts.  She told me this after hearing me tell her that I couldn't make out faces in the hall anymore. 

She looked in my left eye.  "Yep."

She looked in my right eye. "And yep. Bilateral cataracts."

"Are you sure?" I asked her in disbelief.

She shrugged.

"You're a little young. But you have cataracts."

I'm not yet a candidate for surgery.  She told me to get prescription sunglasses for golf and driving.  

"See ya in a year," she said while dispensing a hug as we walked down the hall. "Really.  This is going to be OK."

And for the first time in my life I feel old.  Now if this is the worst I get told, and it will not be, I will be lucky.  Especially given the amusing fact that we Bowens tend to have bad tickers.  

But I have never considered-nor have I ever had reason to do so-how limiting even a slight visual impairment can be.  While I can see to drive and read and perform the average tasks of daily life, my depth perception, already rendered tricky by bifocals, is now for shit.  It's a pain to switch from regular glasses to sunglasses. And vice-versa.

Walking on uneven ground and/or going down stairs is kinda scary.  Especially at low light.  Indeed, the other night I walked off a neighbor's porch.  Stone cold sober at 7:30 PM.  In retrospect, I probably would have been more nimble if I had a snootful at the time.  

So I downloaded a flashlight app for my phone.  I now keep a penlight in the car.  All for walking down stairs at night.  

Which is depressing quite frankly.  Why didn't she just issue me a white cane with her farewell hug?

But then I think how much more depressing it would be to have this condition with no medical insurance to pay for the surgery that will be necessary in about a year.  Or sooner if I keep taking dives.  

And yet, the new Republican Congress is hell bent on messing with the 20 million folks out there who get their insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  They are opposed to expanding Medicaid.  They are talking about changes to Medicare which is one of the most popular government programs ever devised.  

Now, rabid partisans though they may be, Trump and the Congress he inherits are not complete fools.  They aren't about to create an instant bloc of pissed off voters.  They know that immediate repeal would be disaster for the economy.  And so this is why some have predicted that the changes to the ACA will be mostly cosmetic in nature.  

But if I got my insurance through Obamacare, I would be nervous.  Because insurance companies are all about managing risk.  And the longer the Congress screws around with this issue the less quantifiable will be the risk.  And insurance companies, except for the more unstable ones, will leave the insurance exchanges in each state.  And Obamacare will collapse under its own weight.  Which is maybe what the Republicans want to happen.  

So yeah.  I'm depressed by the cataracts.  But I would be a lot more depressed if I didn't have insurance.  I would be even more depressed, and angry, if my government was going to take it away from me.

Because it isn't fair.    

It just ain't fair.  

Sunday, January 01, 2017


I know.  Long time. No see.  My last hiatus from blogging took place after my brief tenure in the grove of academe.  Quite frankly, I was tired.  

This last departure?  I don't know.  Well, I do know.  

What I had reposed trust in, that there was no way Donald Trump could be elected President, at least not of the United States, proved to be completely wrong.  My prediction that we would be saved by the Electoral College was 100% backwards.  Hillary clobbered the Orange One in the popular vote.  Mr. Hamilton's firewall against someone with "talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity" delivered us......this.  Hamilton also viewed the Electoral College as a check against foreign adversaries meddling in our elections. 

How quaint.  Then again, cyberwarfare hadn't been invented when they wrote the Constitution.  

Well, we have gone and done it now.  We have put the least qualified candidate in at least MY memory in the control booth.  And I will eagerly await the response of the "swamp drainers" and "lock her up" types when they realize that they have been rolled.  I really do.  

By the way, have you heard a peep from anybody about Benghazi or emails since the election?  Hell no you haven't.  They weren't really crimes, and nobody but the most fervent adherents to the world view of Fox and the Internet thought they were.  But they worked.  That much is beyond a doubt.

So, not that anybody cares, I just went away for awhile.  Took stock of things.  Made an appointment with my investments guy.  Burned my ACLU card.  Became rather inert after things I never thought remotely possible transpired.  

But I'm past that.  I'm back for the new year.  Why not?  Besides, it's humbling to realize just how wrong you can be.  

What about 2017?  I don't make resolutions as such.  But there are some things I want to do.  Assuming, that is, that a random thin-skinned tweet from the Oval Office doesn't start WW III. 

I want to get back to my home improvement projects.  The closets are pretty much cleaned out.  Next step is to reorganize (which implies there was some organization in the first place) my kitchen.  Then on to other tasks.  I'm giving this about a year.  I can do it.  I can even pay for it.  At least I can for now, seeing as how the international banking system hasn't blown up yet.  

I need to go ahead and pull the trigger on buying a car.  I've done some looking and I've seen some things I like.  I just find the passive-aggressive behavior of some car sales persons tedious in the extreme.  You tell them you are unavailable the next couple of days and you hear from them 3 times.  They say the will shoot you some numbers and then crickets.  Mercy.

My banker will be back next week.  I want to get this over with.  So does she.  She's tired of my bitching.  As are many of you.  

I look forward to spending more time with the kids at school.  I really enjoy teaching music and history when I get the chance.  It's better on a part time basis.  I like having the option to leave to go play golf or be a lawyer or something.  Having done it once, I'm not sure I want to do it on a full-time basis.

My little practice of law has picked up.  I broke down and bought malpractice insurance and I will need to get a business permit.  It's a good thing they don't require malpractice insurance for teaching.  My premiums would be through the roof.  But I like practicing law a whole lot better now that I have left the government.  It's nice to not be constantly getting second guessed or writing memos seeking approval to take actions.  I like being my own boss.  But I really miss Sovereign Immunity.  That sure came in handy at times.  

Speaking of hiatus, I'm going to get back to playing and singing again.  I just got too busy last summer and fall to practice.  I plan to make time this year. 

I'm going to hang out in Louisiana more often.  I went twice last year and really enjoyed it.  And I want to go back to the battlefield at Shiloh.  M and I went past it en route to Cleveland, Tennessee last month.  I need to spend a couple of days up there taking pictures.  After I buy a new car.

Speaking of M, she still hasn't come to her senses yet.  She, the kids and I spent 3 days in a cabin in the middle of no friggin' where outside of Chattanooga.  Nobody got killed.  There were a couple of close calls.  But all's well that ends well.   And so far so good.  

I can't say what the future holds although I would be lying if I didn't feel a good bit of apprehension about it.  

But I have my health.  I have my friends and family.  And evidently I have you.  That's a pretty good start if you ask me.

I'm determined to have a good 2017.  I have no control over WW III.