Saturday, September 19, 2009

Crazy eights

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It is raining this morning. As I sit on the sofa and look out the window at the constant downpour, I think of similar days when I was a child, trapped in the house on a Saturday morning. Our television antenna could only catch two channels out of the air, three if you counted Channel 10, Alabama Public Television, which I did not. (My appreciation for APT programming has been an acquired taste.) Saturday morning cartoons were good, but they could not overcome the anticipatory boredom of a full Saturday spent indoors.

Sometimes games would break out. When we were not making up our own games, lesser board or card games would do. One of the card games we played was crazy eights.

For you who are culturally deprived, crazy eights is a card game in which each player is dealt seven cards. Each player in turn discards a card, following the suit of the previous player. If a player cannot follow suit of the previous player, he must draw new cards until he can. The player who first discards all cards wins.

But there are two more important rules. One exception to the requirement of following suit is that a player may play a like card of a different suit, a seven on a seven, queen on queen, etc. This obviously changes the suit which the next player must play.

The other rule is that an eight of any suit can be played at any time. A player playing an eight may name the suit which the next player must follow. Crazy, right?

I still remember the anticipation of the win as the number of cards in my hand dwindled. One more card left and it was the right suit. Almost there. Then, bam, the player to my right played a three on a three, or maybe even a crazy eight. The suit was changed. I would have to draw a few cards and start all over. Or give up and start crying, which sometimes happened back then.

The folks on the right have been putting down a lot of crazy eights lately. When the President was explaining his health insurance proposals Congressman Joe Wilson yelled out the now famous "you lie."

The President was not lying. But Wilson had played the crazy eight. Suddenly the game shifted. The suit to be played was no longer the details of health care proposals. Now the suit to be played upon was integrity and truth, who had it, who didn't.

Wilson turned out to be a formidable crazy eights player. When the leaders of his party played their own crazy eight, requiring him to follow suit with an apology to the President, he immediately followed with another, changing suit to the persecution he was now suffering at the hands of the liberals. He made a lot of money with that clever play.

The key to this kind of crazy eights is the emphasis on "crazy." Truth is certainly not a requirement. In fact, the purpose is to turn attention from the truth. Calling the President a liar. Declaring the existence of "death panels." Not recognizing the citizenship of the President. Perhaps this game should be called "crazies hate."

It is not a new thing. Remember swift boats. Crazy. Untrue. Effective.

And now, to make things even more complicated, a new card has been played.

The race card.

Joe Wilson and his friends on the ultra-right are playing the race card. They say that any time they criticize the president's programs they are accused of being racist. The persecution and unfairness is so painful. Where is Martin Luther King when you need him, right Joe?

What program were you calling a liar, Joe?

What program was kept from talking to the school children of America?

What program is being accused of lying about its citizenship, its faith, its belief in democracy?

And when did President Obama play the race card? When he wisely held his tongue when you said he lied? When he graciously accepted your apology?

This does no good. The craziness just keeps on coming.

The easy thing to do would be to start crying and quit.

But there are plenty of cards yet to play.

And if the President and his supporters will play the game, continuing to be civil, persistent, honest and informed, we will ultimately win the game.

Because the likes of Joe Wilson will never be able to follow that suit.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Invoice of Rights?

The case of Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commission is before the U. S. Supreme Court in a special early setting. The issue is whether corporations' first amendment rights to free speech are being violated by campaign finance reform laws (McCain-Feingold, I think) which limit the amount of money a corporation can contribute to a political campaign.

It is a very interesting case arising out of an anti-Hillary Clinton movie made by conservative groups to be used during the past presidential election. It could not be shown because it's cost would violate the statutory limitation on corporate political contributions.

Maybe I'll revisit the case when the court rules.

But tonight I have an idea.

It has long been recognized that corporations have first amendment rights. Something about that doesn't seem right to me, but it is the way that the U. S. Supreme Court protected corporate owned newspapers from liability in reporting the news. The protection now extends to all corporations.

So corporations have constitutional rights. These creations of statutory law are afforded the protections of the Bill of Rights. For legal purposes, the creation of a corporation is the creation of a legal person.

So here's my idea. I think the draft should be reinstated. Corporations should be drafted. I mean, if they are considered to be legal persons with rights protected by the authority of the government, then they should qualify to serve their country. Sure, we could send them to war.

But even better, we could draft them and require them to do whatever the country needs and pay them the same money that we have paid draftees in the past, adjusted for inflation of course.

Ridiculous you say? We have paid Haliburton/Blackwater untold millions, perhaps billions of dollars in the past six years. Think how much money we could have saved if they received a g.i.'s paycheck. The Iraq war would have been a bargain.

Stealth bombers for one tenth the price.

Prescription drugs for next to nothing.

Health insurance premiums about the price of a large supreme pizza.

Wait a minute, government take over of corporations? That sounds a little like socialism, or facism, depending on whose definition you use. We can't have that. We believe in free market capitalism, free enterprise, and the American Way.

Instead we settled on the corporate take-over of our government.

And now our government works for them.

And so do we.

There is nothing free about this market. It has a very high price.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Yeah, its old news, or at least it should be . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Congressman Joe Wilson heckled President Obama during the President's speech Wednesday night before a joint session of Congress. Congressman Wilson yelled out, "you lie," in response to the President's assertion that his health insurance plan would not cover illegal aliens.

Obama was relying on Section 246 of proposed HR 3200, entitled,


The section is obviously intended to confuse the innocent citizen with its verbose legalese, but in an effort to inform I will print it in its entirety:

"Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."

Whew. I hope the eyestrain isn't too bad from reading all that technical jargon.

The provision reaffirms the law as it has been for years.

Illegal aliens (a horrible term) will not be allowed to participate in the health insurance reform act.

The President was not lying.

Undocumented aliens will, however, continue to be able to get minimal emergency health care at emergency rooms. That has been the law for awhile now. It is not part of the health insurance reform act. Perhaps this old law is what Mr. Wilson and many of his defenders would like to change by requiring a government ID before medical treatment is received.

It is ironic that those who eschew bigger government are the proponents of a federal identification card for all citizens.

Sounds a bit facist.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Race to the finish . . .

I am generally an easy going guy. In fact if it were not for coffee I might appear dead. I am not a knee-jerk reactionary.

But I am worried. Not because Obama spoke to our school children today. I am worried about the worry about that, and other worrisome things.

A significant number of Americans protested the President from speaking to their children at school today.


Because obviously he was going to fill these young minds with the romantic notions of communism and socialism and demonize capitalism and the American way. After all he has done this so many times before in all his writings and speeches. Right?

When the economy was imploding his true fascist and socialist identity was exposed as he nationalized the banks and large corporations, leaving businessmen and investors out in the cold, making one anti-capitalistic decision after another willy nilly in an attempt to destroy American business, right?

He is determined to weaken the military and therefore submit the USA to the dangers of being taken over by a thundering horde of red commies streaming across the Bering Strait (despite the constant vigilance of Sarah Palin, now that she doesn't have a full time job) exemplified by his lack of support for the military and his refusal to consider military options, like those in Afghanistan. Right?

He is not a good role model. He is a bad husband, father, son and friend. He never had to work for anything. He is always losing his temper and treating people badly. He never did anything for anyone. He could have been a very wealthy lawyer, but instead chose to be one of those subversive community organizers. That's pretty suspicious. Right?

He smokes?

That must be it. He smokes, and parents don't want their children being influenced by a president who smokes.

I mean, that is the only obvious difference between him and his predecessor, isn't it? I can't think of any other difference that sets him apart from all other presidents that would make people think of him differently, can you?

At least one that is true.

You know what I mean. He'll never mention it. And I guess I won't either.

But it is shameful. Shame on us.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Waiting on the rampture . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

Sorry about the week-long interruption. It is hard to believe I walked you out to the end of the unfinished wheel chair ramp and left you for so long. Fortunately the ramp did not take nearly so long to finish as this blog story. A few of the Ramp It Up guys were successful with their aiming and figuring, created a 45 or so degree turn in the ramp toward a higher elevation and finished up. Believe me it was not that simple nor that quick. The ramp is beautiful, and it works.

At the point we realized we had a problem, that the ramp would be considerably longer than we thought it would be if we continued with our original plan, we stopped and considered our possibilities. We did not want to stop and think too long, as our new friends who were anticipating the completion of the ramp were patiently encouraging us as they visited with us from the porch. During this process it occurred to me that the reason surgeons have us asleep during surgery is not because it is necessary for our health. It is because that most often the process of construction or repair or even creativity is far messier than the final product. No one would have surgery if we had to watch it all. And I began to wonder if anyone else would want a wheelchair ramp. While our jokes and singing did provide somewhat of a numbing affect, the process was still right there in front of our new friends. Their confidence never waned. Or at least they were kind enough not to let it show.

The ideas considered during the intense period of aiming and figuring produced several suggestions. For those of you not experienced in these matters, aiming and figuring is a technical construction term for that period of time that elapses between the discovery of a construction challenge and the commencement of work on the chosen solution to that problem. Aiming and figuring involves keeping one's eyes focused on the site of the problem for long periods of time, as if maybe the problem will somehow change on its own. The posture of the aimers and figurers changes, much like an intense golfer lining up a putt. Standing, hunkering, bending over with hands on thighs, turning one's back on the project and taking a few steps away, the aimer and figurer seeks physical changes in perspective in search of the right course to take. I suspect surgeons do the same while we are asleep.

Several propositions were thrown into the market place of ideas as we stood in the darkening evening. Perhaps we should simply continue with our original plan and build a much longer ramp that would end close to the street. If we turned ninety degrees to the right the ramp would be heading back into a higher elevation in the middle of the yard, requiring only a short section of ramp to finish. If we turned ninety degrees to the left there was very little slope, so the ramp would be longer than the turn to the right, but still not as long as continuing straight, and the landing area was not nearly as soft. All choices had to be considered in light of accessibility from the parking area and preservation of the lovely yard in front of the house.

For aiming and figuring to be effective, it is necessary that the participants advocate their positions strongly in the beginning. I, for instance, initially advocated the ninety degree right turn into the higher elevation of the yard. All of the positions were considered and promoted and critiqued. It is not a time to be reticent. All possibilities deserved proper and zealous representation so that the best could come to light, which was getting a bit more difficult since by that time there was no more natural light to assist us.

Amazingly, the dialectic process of group aiming and figuring once again provided the solution, which was the 45 degree turn to the right. A compromise of the original ideas, it maximized the positives and minimized the negatives. A bit unorthodox, the plan presented some challenges, but our course was set, and the project was finished, the posts were set in concrete, and the ramp was attached to the porch.

The final product is beautiful. And most importantly, it worked.

Our group of ramp builders is made up of different personalities and construction skill levels. But all voices were heard. No one person had thought of every important consideration on how to finish the ramp. But together, we ended up with the best solution.

When our problem first presented itself we were tempted to consider cheating on the slope to solve the problem. The slope of a wheelchair ramp is supposed to be no more than one inch of rise for every foot of length. An easy solution would have been to simply make the ramp a bit steeper. That would have shortened the ramp considerably and we could have finished much quicker.

But the sole purpose of a wheelchair ramp is, after all, to allow independent access for a person who cannot have it otherwise. A ramp with a steeper slope would have been much easier to complete and people passing by on the street would have looked at it and thought, "my what a beautiful ramp."

But if it were built too steep for our new friends to pull the wheelchair up the ramp, it would be worthless. Worse than worthless, it would be a monument to our group's lack of understanding and compassion for our new friend's situation. While it may have made us who never have to use the ramp feel good about what we had constructed, in reality it would have been better had it not been built at all.

So that's the story of the ramp. And much more, I think.

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