Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ramp it up, or down, depends on which way you're headed . . .

Saturday. Coffee. Sofa

We built a wheelchair ramp this week. Actually it is not quite finished but maybe today is the day. The slope on a wheelchair ramp must be no more than one inch rise for every twelve inches of length. That means that if the edge of the porch is 30 inches above the point where the ramp ends, the ramp must be at least 30 feet long.

Fortunately we have several folks who are talented in construction and carpentry. We got together at the first of the week after work and pre-constructed sections of the ramp, loaded them on trailers and took them to the house. Rick had cut all the pieces himself which was pretty amazing.

Everything went well. We had only one little setback. In our planning for this ramp, we did not take fully into consideration the slope of the yard away from the porch. The ramp was planned as if the yard was flat. This meant that the place the ramp was supposed to end was not 30 inches lower than the porch. More like 42 inches. Doesn't sound like much, but that meant 12 more feet of ramp, which, under the present plan, would have taken our friend and his wheelchair directly into the middle of the street.

That's when the aiming and figuring started.

Sorry, I've got to finish this tonight. I'm going to hear Shane Claiborne (Irresistible Revolution) . He is at Trinity UMC in Huntsville all day today. Start at 9, but come when you can. Program ends at 4. Bring a canned food item for admission.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I can't believe it is Thursday again and time for the Thurvey. To comment on the Thurvey question just click on "comments" below, when the comments window opens type your thoughts, click on anonymous, and then click on publish. If you wish to be known to the world then put your name at the end of your comment.

The Thurvey topic is:

Many good things have been said about Ted Kennedy since his death. It is too bad that he didn't get to hear them while he was alive.

What would you like to be said about you when you die?

What would you like to say to your friends before you die?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion sleeps tonight . . .

I heard Ted Kennedy speak at the University of Alabama in 1971. As a young teen I thought I was being pretty radical. He was a Kennedy, a name synonymous in the south with the Civil Rights Act and racial integration, not exactly the most popular developments in Alabama. Add that to the delicious moral outrage of southern gentility in response to the Chappaquiddick incident and you wonder why he came to speak at the University at all.

When you are young, eight years is an eternity. At the time I did not appreciate the epic drama of this Kennedy's life as he stood before us. Chappaquiddick was less than two years past. Robert had been murdered three years before. He broke his back in an airplane crash in 1964. Only eight years had passed since President Kennedy's assassination. And there he was in Foster Auditorium, that place of infamy in the eyes of the world where eight years earlier George Wallace "stood in the schoolhouse door" to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood, African American students, from enrolling at the University of Alabama. That place where Wallace was forced to back down from his pledge to prevent integration because President Kennedy, at the insistence of Robert Kennedy, ordered the National Guard and the U. S. Marshalls to intervene on behalf of the young students.

That was thirty eight years ago.

It is easy to see, looking back, why Ted Kennedy became one of the greatest Senators in American history. He had been taught compassion for the less fortunate by his father, who believed that along with privilege came responsibility. But that alone was not enough.

I cannot comprehend surviving the sorrow of the unspeakable tragedies that beset the Kennedy family. Add to that personal failures scrutinized by the entire world: Chappaquiddick, loss of the Democratic Presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter, divorce and rumors of infidelity and alcohol abuse, and one would think that Ted Kennedy had every reason to retreat to Hyannis Port and live the life of privilege.

But he did not.

Senate colleagues past and present praised Ted Kennedy today. Two comments stuck with me. Ted Kennedy was never petty, and he did not hold grudges. Unfortunately those traits seem to be counter to the current political climate.

But those traits allowed him to get things done, from civil rights, to title IX, to education reform, to the rights of the disabled, and hundreds of pieces of legislation which directly improved the lives of millions of Americans who traditionally had been overlooked.

When you have suffered such great personal loss, petty things lose their importance.

When you have been judged by so many for personal failures, it is often difficult to be judgmental or hold grudges against others.

He could have easily quit, many, many times. Most of us probably would, especially when our financial future was never in question.

But he never quit. He fought for those who never had the privilege or power that he had been born into.

Ted Kennedy was certainly not perfect. It seems that he understood that. But it wasn't about him. And since it wasn't about him, his lack of perfection was irrelevant. So he fought on.

Maybe in the end that was his greatest strength.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) said it best in 1973. . .

I been in the right place
But it must have been the wrong time
I'd have said the right thing
But I must have used the wrong line
I'd a took the right road
But I must have took a wrong turn
Would have made the right move
But I made it at the wrong time
I been on the right road
But I must have used the wrong car
My head was in a good place
And I wonder what it's bad for . . .

Well that was fun.

The posts on health insurance and toting guns to presidential town hall meetings generated some commentary.

A long-time friend sent me a message on facebook about the health care reform act. She has been a nurse for seven or eight years now, since she and I graduated from high school. She is against the government getting involved any further because so much time is already being required for paperwork under existing regulations. She fears the new act will add greatly to that burden and inhibit further the delivery of health care. Now that's the kind of concern I can understand. More inefficiency should not be part of the solution. I am going to find out if the present reform act addresses this problem in any way. If it doesn't, it should.

As far as the second amendment post, the responses were revealing. I never denied the second amendment's' validity, or the present right of the individual to own weapons. I was simply trying to point out that the few people who treat such rights in a frivolous manner jeapordize the enjoyment and exercise of those rights by those who act responsibly.

Comments are good. Listening is good. Keep them coming.

There are at least three things I am certain of. The first is that I am not right all the time. The second is, neither are you. The third is that none of us can know for certain when we are right and when we are wrong.

That makes what you say pretty important to me. Unless I am wrong about that. If you think I am, let me know.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

What to wear to a town hall meeting, or Rights erroroni . . .

Saturday morning. Sofa. Coffee.

"Honey, I don't know what to wear to the President's town hall meeting. Are slacks okay, or do you think I should go with a dress?"

"Both would look great on you dear, but you may want to know I'm wearing the brown tooled leather USA leg holster for my 9mm Smith and Wesson. I thought about the AR-15 with the black strap, but that seemed a bit pretentious. Besides, you know Harry. He'll probably be wearing his. He's so tasteless. He's the kind of guy that makes you question the second amendment. But remember, we may be moving into the church at some point, so watch the cleavage."

During the past week it became popular among second amendment enthusiasts to sport unconcealed weapons at or near President Obama's town hall meetings. In New Hampshire, the first place this happened, a man with a Smith and Wesson 9mm strapped to his leg was in the crowd. He had been given permission by a church near the town hall meeting to stand in its yard so that he could not be arrested. I can hear Jesus now, "I wore my instrument of death upon my leg, and you came to my defense . . ." I think that part of Matthew was left on the cutting room floor. The NRA was apparently not as strong with the Constantine administration.

I am not a fan of the second amendment as presently interpreted. I would defend Michelle Obama's right to bare arms, but that's about it. But it is a problematic amendment, and until it is amended or interpreted differently by the Supreme Court, it is the law of our land.

Expounding a rather creative defense, some of the folks who were packing heat at the town halls said they had no intention of using the weapons. The action was more of an expression, or a statement, that they wanted to make. Exercising both the first and second amendments at the same time. Sort of a whole body constitutional work-out.

I am going to make an assumption here. I think that most of the folks exercising the first and second amendments in their display, if not use, of their personal arsenals, are constitutional strict constructionists. That is what they say when someone tries to suggest that the right to own and carry firearms be restricted. One wonders then if they have ever really read the second amendment:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

It was the stated reason by the authors of the constitution that the purpose of the amendment was for the benefit of the state, not the individual. The right is couched in the State's right to regulate it's militia, and the State's right to maintain its security. If the members of the U. S. Supreme Court were to act as the strict constructionists that most of them claim to be, things would have to change. A citizen's right to bear arms would be subject to conditions.

Are you willing to be called into the state's militia at any time and bring your weapon with you?

Do you support the state in what it is doing?

Do you have any notion that your right to bear arms gives you the right to do anything in opposition to the will of the State?

Many of us have the belief that the second amendment was written to allow individual citizens the right to own and bear arms to keep the power of government in check. That romantic notion belongs in a Nicholas Sparks novel. The right of the citizen to bear arms is clearly conditional on it being for the benefit of the state and it organized militia.

Clearly, under the amendment, the government, at the very least, reserved the power to the state to regulate the ownership and use of firearms.

So just a bit of advice for you who desire the unfettered right to bear arms. Look for some of those evil "activist" judges. That is what you truly need.

Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, always good for a sound bite quote in his opinions, wrote now famous words regarding freedom of speech in his opinion in U. S. v. Schenk (1919):

"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic. [...] The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent."

The case involved the challenge of a statute which made it illegal to protest against the draft for WW I. The insidious behavior in question was the handing out of flyers in opposition to the draft.

We have rights of expression and rights to bear arms. It is our responsibility to use them wisely. The most serious threat to our rights is not the government. It is the stupid, irresponsible exercise of those rights that ultimately cause the wisdom of those rights to be questioned. Carrying firearms, loaded or not, to a presidential appearance is the kind of infantile behavior that will require more restrictions. Like parents of irresponsible adolescents, the government will be forced to put us in time out, and take away our toys.

And a church that thinks it glorifies the Body of Christ to allow a person to carry a firearm to a presidential town hall meeting is a topic for another day. While I know I have a first amendment right of expression, for the moment , I am rendered speechless, probably by the grace of God.


Thursday, August 20, 2009


Time for a Thurvey. Thursday survey. If you wish to comment on the question simply click on "comment" below, type your comment in the comment window, click on the anonymous button, and click publish. Include your name with you comment if you want the world to know who wrote that brilliant commentary.

The Thurvey question:

Is health care insurance reform needed in America or is it a contrived issue? On what do you base your opinion?


Where do you get your information regarding the health care insurance legislation? Do you feel like you know what is in the proposals?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2nd lie: No choice of doctors

Andrea Mitchell, an NBC person, has been asking folks this morning on her show whether President Obama is doing a good enough job in dispelling the misinformation (lies) being spread about the health care reform act. No longer is the President simply responsible for health care reform. He is somehow responsible for the lies of the opposition. That disturbs me.

She spent a good bit of time on it, asking several people. It seems to me her formidable journalistic skills might be better spent on explaining or exposing the truth of the proposals. But she is representative of the media, which apparently have collectively decided that what people think about an issue is the main story. And a lot more fun. The issue itself is somehow secondary. And a lot more work.

Sunday's post featured the lie that the health care reform proposal created "death panels" or in less severe terms, some type of mandatory counseling during which the elderly and disabled would learn the limitations of treatment based on their age and disabilities. It is still a lie.

The featured lie for today is that under the proposal you will no longer get to choose your physician. Another lie. There is nothing in the bill or any other proposal being seriously considered that mandates or even suggests any reduction in the patient's ability to choose their own doctor.

It is just not in the bill. It is a lie. A lie calculated to keep things the way that they are.

So here we go again. We "liberals" or "progressives" are going to be so dang open-minded we won't stand up and insist on a significant health care reform bill. We will listen to all sides. And before the conversation is over the vote will have been cast and the opportunity for meaningful change will have passed. Not only will it have passed, but the weak legislation that will pass will become a barrier to any progress in the foreseeable future. No one will want to revisit that political hot potato.

A significant bill will provide an option to private insurance. It is the only thing that will effectively keep costs down.

Write, call, email or tweet your congressman now. When someone lies, call them on it. This is too important to too many people.

If I'm lying, tell me.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fact 1: Health Care Reform Bill Does Not Create Death Panels

I am supposed to be participating in the spiritual discipline of the Sunday afternoon nap. But Jesus and his disciples gleaned a meal and He said it just made sense to get an ox out of the well (always wondered how that happened) on the Sabbath, so I suppose blogging is permissible. This week I will be discussing several lies, and sometimes the liars who propogate them, being used to undermine the effort to reform the health care system in America. Most of the lies are so ridiculous I cannot fathom how anyone would believe them, and worse, repeat them. But I am constantly surprised.

The first lie which received an irresponsible amount of print and airtime was that the proposed health care bill in the House created a system by which elderly citizens were required to meet with a government bureaucrat at regular intervals to discuss which end of life treatments they would qualify for and when the plug was to be pulled by the government for the sake of the public good. This lie eventually evolved into the alleged creation of "death panels" for the aged and disabled, to schedule their death and relieve society of the burden of their continued existence.

There is no such provision. Not even close.

There is a provision that would provide insurance coverage for consultation with one's personal physician regarding end of life medical treatment. The provision is not new. It simply facilitates the elderly in making informed decisions regarding medical directives. It is absolutely voluntary. It is done with one's on physician. It has been supported at some point in the past ten years by most of the congressmen and senators who now oppose it for purely political reasons. It was co-written and co-sponsored by a Republican physician congressman.

All that death panel crap was just a lie. A horrible, fear creating lie. Horrible for the elderly and disabled who heard it from people they trusted. Horrible for the public servants who crossed party lines to try and do something that was obviously good for citizens.

Why the lies? Follow the money. Huge profits will be lost if the system is reformed. Profits that come directly from the insurance premiums and medical bills paid by Americans. Profits that continue to go up because they can. We will always need medical care. And we will pay whatever we have to for it.

So the lies are paid for. By the profiteers. And many of us have bought it. I just don't get it.

If you don't believe government should have anything to do with health care and are willing to let the free market take care of it, or if you are satisfied with the current system, that's great. Everybody is entitled to their opinion.

But don't lie. And don't spread "facts" if you don't know whether they are true or not.

We are better than that. If we deal with the truth, we will come to a good solution.

The only things that need to be allowed to die without further treatment are the lies.

Rest in peace.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Can I go to the restroom?

Saturday morning. Sofa. Coffee

Oneonta is a small town. When the Highway 75 traffic increases by a couple of hundred cars and a fleet of yellow buses twice a day it is noticeable. School has started.

It has been awhile since I had to worry about starting back to school at the end of the summer. But I still sympathize with those kids in the buses and in the back seats of cars headed down the highway on these first few days. I get nauseated for them. Life is changing again. It is time to pack away the freedom of summer with the bathing suits, baseball gloves and clothing that would not meet any school's dress code.

Under penalty of law these sweet children must get up every morning with the sun, leave the security of their home and arrive at school by 7:50 or whatever the random time is this year. They must dress according to rules set by the man or be subject to punishment, and after repeated offenses, suspension. They are told what items of personal property they can bring with them.

And they must behave properly in class. All of a sudden they are expected to sit at a desk for the greater part of seven hours and do what someone else tells them to do. They are required to be quiet most of the time, but when called on to speak, to speak correctly and with respect.

They are graded by their ability to deliver correct answers to the prescribed questions in the manner requested.

Bunch of Nazi educators. Where is the ACLU? What about the rights of these poor children? First amendment freedom of speech . . .gone. Second amendment right to bear arms . . .gone. Fourth amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures . . .gone. Fifth amendment right not to incriminate oneself and the right to due process . . . gone. Sixth amendment right to a jury of peers . . . gone. Seventh amendment right to bail upon detention . . .gone. Eighth amendment right to question cruel and unusual punishments . . .gone. Ninth amendment right to exercise those rights not specifically denied . . . gone.

Ridiculous argument? You betcha.

As ridiculous as the behavior of some of our citizens during the past few weeks during town hall meetings held by Congressmen and Congresswomen across our country.

Like the children of summer, a handful of citizens, supposedly adults if that is determined by chronological age, unrestrained by rules of law or civility, have appeared at town hall meetings, a beautiful tradition in America. They have spoken rudely, out of turn, and with no respect for truth. Many were not even residents of that school district, having come from places far away. As a result the rest of the citizens gathered to discuss and learn about the important issues that confront our country were deprived of meaningful opportunities to present their own positions and intelligently pose questions, many of which were sympathetic to the unruly, loud, rude, lying adult delinquents.

Freedom is a hard thing sometimes. I personally respect a good protest, even if it is against something I believe in. That is the way we are supposed to roll in America.

But as teachers constantly remind students, the problem with class disruptions, behavior that may be perfectly acceptable elsewhere, is that it is an impediment to the ability of others to learn. That is the reason for all the unreasonable rules.

It is not illegal to lie or speak out of turn in public. You will not go to jail for acting rudely. No one wants to arrest anyone at a town hall meeting. Okay, that's not true, I am sure the desire to cuff a few people and have them hauled away was a common fantasy among a few congresspeople and a few citizens last week. But we are not supposed to do that in America. Freedom of expression in the public discourse is a cherished right, even if that expression is rude, false, and mean-spirited.

But with that right should come a moral responsibility. Certainly not a responsibility to lie down and acquiesce to the beliefs of others without protest or comment. But there is a moral responsibility to be truthful. To be respectful. To speak in turn. To work and play well with others.

There is a time and place for the freedom of summer. We would be a miserable people without it. I am sure that some of our best ideas and creativity find their origins in those times and places with little or no restraint.

But at some point we must come together and intelligently agree on the best ideas. Everyone must be heard, from the powerless, meek and quiet, to the loud, assertive and rude.

It is time to raise our hands and be recognized before we speak. ( If we are never recognized, then maybe a little protest is appropriate.)

It is time that we are graded on the correctness and truth of the information we give.

Summer can't last forever.

It is time to get back on the bus.



Monday, August 10, 2009

Finally, a post about cooking (not mine)

This doesn't count as my post.

A great new blog as been started about cooking. It is at

Kate, my friend and daughter-in-law, is the author. I have often been the beneficiary of her cooking efforts and experiments (not so much since the Denver move), and it I can personally recommend it.

I will add it to my list of blogs below, but why don't you give it a look right now, and give her an encouraging comment.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cleaver unto me . . .

Saturday morning. Coffee. Sofa.

When I was very young someone read me a story out of a big picture story book. I don't remember the name of the story, but I remember the pictures and the gist of the tale.

The picture I remember is a scene in a kitchen. There is a large wedge of cheese on a butcher block table. The ceiling in the kitchen is inexplicably low. So low, in fact, that someone had stuck the blade of a cleaver in the wooden ceiling above the wedge of cheese on the table. I don't remember how the blade came to be in the ceiling.

The part of the story I remember is a narrative of various members of the household coming into the kitchen, seeing the cleaver wedged in the ceiling above the cheese, and whipping themselves into a frenzy about the inevitable tragedy that was certain to ensue when the cleaver fell onto someone who was at the table trying to get some cheese.

After several pages of ridiculous predictions of mayhem and death resulting from the inevitable fall of the cleaver onto an unsuspecting cheese lover, another family member comes into the kitchen, reaches up, grabs the handle of the cleaver, gets a slice of cheese, and places the instrument of death back on the table.

I am sure there was more to the story, but that is what I remember.

I think I remember the story so vividly because I tend to be like the ridiculous family members who see a situation and assume that the worst is going to happen. The wisdom in this philosophy is that if you assume that the worst is going to happen and prepare yourself for it, you can never be surprised by disappointment. You maintain a bit of control. It actually works to a degree. There is somehow a limited amount of victory over disappointment if you can meet it at the door with a stoic face and declare "I knew you were coming."

But the problem with the philosophy is that disappointment wins far more victories by forfeit. I don't show up for the fight because I have already conceded the contest, games that probably could have, should have, been won by me.

So I'm going to try to change. To take a few more risks. To not wait for disappointment at the door but to go out, hunt it down, and stomp on it. To assume that things will work for good.

To reach up and grab the handle of the cleaver.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Happy Days are Here Again . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It is official. The economic crisis is over. Happier days are here again. You can tell because so many are now expressing their unhappiness. (If you don't appreciate this clever historical reference, click here .)

Let me take you back several years to 2008. The stock market was crashing, the housing market had crumbled, and there were predictions that the national and global banking and financial institutions were about to collapse like the house of cards, or obscene mansions of cards that some of them had become. It is not so easy to remember now, but some involved in that industry actually committed suicide rather than face the future. And some who had been crushed by their actions did the same.

We were paralyzed with fear. The most popular of degrading hand-gestures featuring one's middle finger was bumped into second place by a different hand-gesture featuring the index finger. Finger pointing was the best response most leaders could come up with.

Then the United States elected a new President. His toughness had been made apparent as he remained the last candidate standing after the most arduous and contentious presidential elections in American history. He was intelligent, calm, unflappable, and had a good 12-foot jump shot.

After years of drift, our federal government took extreme action. Within weeks financial institutions were propped up and bailed out. Billions of federal dollars began moving into the private sector. The new president took considerable time in his calm and confident manner to explain the strategy to a fragile nation, a fragile world.

That began only six months ago. I've got food in my refrigerator older than that.

No longer is there any serious talk of economic collapse. The housing industry has bottomed out and is on the way back. The stock market has been climbing for weeks. Unemployment figures are improving. Quarterly reports are encouraging.

And political opponents are attacking the President for the economic disaster. That's the best news yet.

The fear is almost gone. The worst is over. The weak and timid who took cover during the storm are now crawling out from under their rocks, and seeing the sun peeking through the tumultuous clouds sense that it is finally safe to come out and do what they have always done best, complain and point fingers.

Like the first snakes of spring, they are a harbinger of the halcyon days of summer.

But snakes may actually be preferable. They have no fingers with which to point, and they do not pretend that it is not poison that comes from their mouths.

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