Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Cheryl Lyn Whitfield; A life well lived.

 I had the honor of being asked to officiate the memorial service for the mother of some very close friends. 

It was an absolutely beautiful day, as the song she picked to be played at the end of her memorial said, and 'uncloudy day' to be sure. 

Good morning, will you join me in prayer.


Heavenly father we come to you here today, to celebrate a great life. We thank you for this beautiful day, for all those could make it here to remember Cheryl today. Lord be with her family, as they remember her, her spirit, and her love. Be with us today Lord, let us come closer to you, and let us lean into you. In your mighty name, Amen.

Well, not going to lie, this is going to be a tough one. Not just for me, but for this family too. Be patient with us, if we need a minute to compose ourselves, or if our words don’t come out right, or they come out with a tremble in our voices. Days like today are difficult.


Depending on how you look at it, it’s an honor to be up here, but damn, I sure wish I wasn’t.


Over the years, I’ve been asked to do a few funerals for this family. Thinking back to last year, Cheryl told me at her mother’s funeral, I think, that I wouldn’t have to do her funeral. She didn’t want me to feel burdened. Cheryl was worried about me. Bless her heart. That is who she was.


I told her a few weeks ago, it would be my honor to be here today, and for her not to worry. I was doing this no matter what. I’m going to get through this day today. Because no matter how emotional these are, there is something very right, very truthful, and almost easy, almost, about saying some kind words about a very kind human being.


Cheryl Lyn Whitfield was born November 8, 1946 to Barney and Hester Whitfield on Coronado Island. In a few years her brother Shayne was born, and finally her sister Mary Ann. The family moved up to Yolo County, where she graduated from Esparto High. She married her high school sweetheart Joe Gallardo, and together they had three children: Phillip, Daniel and Jody. She worked for the Winters Police department, and for those of you who remember, the Barber Rolland company. As time passed, she moved on, and moved up to the Tahoe and Truckee areas for a while. After a few years back and forth, she married David Buchignani, and she came back down here.


As a side note, for those of you who remember David, man, was that guy great or what? So much fun, such a kind soul. His time, was way too short.


So, in the past, almost twenty years, since I moved back here to Esparto, I’ve been around Cheryl’s wonderful family. Her parents, her siblings, her children, her grandchildren, and the entire tribe of her extended family, friends, and assorted craziness that made up her life, here in the valley.


I remember all the good times at Barney’s and Hester’s, after work down at The Capay Junction, and the annual Cattlemen’s dinners in the fall, and the Almond Festivals, and Larry’s parties after Easter, and sitting around the wood stove, playing music in Tommy’s shop. Even the Wednesday afternoon Covid beverage get togethers last year, in the shade, under Tommy’s tree.


Cheryl was always there, always close to where her family and friends were. If she wasn’t around, it was because she was on a road trip with some of them, going somewhere cool. She wasn’t the kind to sit still. She was an adventurer. I didn’t know, but her whole family told me about the little bag of extra clothes she always kept in her car, just in case she decided at the last minute to go on a road trip.


I was up with everyone sharing stories this week, and I can’t tell them all, but here are a few favorites. Mostly all involving road trips.


Barney was working out of town, down by Tracy, with his friend Ben. After work they would go down the Banta Inn. So he’s sitting there, doing what you do in Tracy when work is over, and his phone rings. He answers, says a few words, says goodbye. He looks over at Ben and says, ‘My mother-in-law is coming by to have a drink.” Ben was kind of shocked. Your mother-in-law? “Yep, she’s coming over to have a drink.” She was down visiting Shayne, sort-of nearby, and so she drove over to say hello and visit for a while. That is so Cheryl. But then again, as Barney likes to say, he is her favorite son-in-law.


Listening to the stories, I wasn’t aware of her misguided sense of direction. There a few stories, like when her and Sam were heading up to Idaho. Now early in the mornings, Sam admits she’s kind of cranky, and so when they left Elko, instead of turning north at Wells, Cheryl kept going east on 80. In the end she decided that she would have to wake up Sam, cranky or not, to get directions because they were now entering Utah.


The other directional mishap was with Danny heading to the Cow Palace. Coming off the main highway, Danny said they needed to go east, and Cheryl was sure it was to the west. Dan tried to insist but was met with a “shut up”. They drove on for a few minutes and came over a hill where Dan said, Well mom, we can’t go any further west, that’s the Pacific Ocean. I think she told him to shut up once again, but they did make it to the Cow Palace.


When Danny met Steph, not too long into their relationship, Danny said you need to go talk to Cheryl so she can better explain what she was getting into. Steph thought that was a bit odd, but they went to Bodega, and had a great weekend together. Cheryl said, If it doesn't work out between you and Dan, you and I are going to be good friends anyway.


Jay talked about secrets. All the times Nanna caught her doing something that she should have been busted for, and Cheryl would keep quiet. From boys showing up at the house in Jr High, to the Austin Texas tattoo parlor, Jay says Chery always kept their secrets. But would always talk to her about anything if she needed.


Andrew told me about all his favorite trips with his grandma. Down to Winters, to the Coffee place, the Guitar shop, and to Putah Creek Café for fries, and a sandwich. Or the trips to Swabbies on the river for live music, and the Road Trip too. He loved it if when he would stay the night at her house.


Mary Ann had many stories about their trips to San Francisco. Early one morning they went for an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, which was a standard for Cheryl. Since they just opened, Cheryl was the only car on the street, she parked facing the wrong way in front of the Buena Vista. Having her Irish Coffee, the bartender kept looking out the window. He kept seeing all the cars doing a u-turn in front of the restaurant. It seems the cars coming down the street, saw Cheryl’s car facing the wrong way on the street, and thought they must be going the wrong way and started turning around.


You will have to get Mary Ann to tell you about the Christmas shopping trip with Linsey and Andie on BART, and the kitten adoption at Union Square. It’s a good one.


San Francisco was a favorite place for Cheryl. She had her spots. Places where she knew the people, and the people knew her. Buena Vista, Gino and Carlo’s just to name a few. Around Christmas, she would always take the girls down to the city and hand out scarves and peppermints to the homeless.


As much Cheryl loved to travel, loved to experience things, she also enjoyed just talking. We talked a lot. Cheryl was a thinker, and I like thinkers. We would talk about everything. What made people tick, what life was all about, and what we wanted to try to get out of it. What made a good life, a successful life? Why do so many people, define success so differently? We talked about life, and death and what might come after.


Sometimes, we talked about politics, and sometimes, or many times, we had differing opinions. But we would respect the other’s right to have them, even if they seemed in error to the other one.


I knew Cheryl pretty well, but from a bit of a distance. We shared a lot of great times with her family, but sometimes, I felt a bit fortunate to have that distance. Because sometimes families are, a bit messy. Just as a pro tip, one of the keys to life is knowing when things are heading south, and it’s time to G. O.


Cheryl had a bit of a tough, stubborn streak in her. She would hold her tongue for a bit, but after a while, she let her feelings be known. If you hang around her children, and even her grandchildren, rest assured, they are carrying that gene forward.


Like I said, I only saw bits and pieces of her amazing life, but some of her family have asked to share some of their thoughts, and their times together with her. 


(Family time) Sam. Jay. Mary Ann (Read Andrew’s note)


So, here we are again. Standing around a cemetery, and wishing things were not as they are. It’s tough. But one thing is for certain. This is one event, where every single one of us, one day, will be the guest of honor.


Maybe one of these days, some of you might be nice enough to come stand around, and say some nice things about me, when it is my time. Please give my family a hug. I would like it even more if you said those things to me while I’m still walking around. I probably have some nice thing I should say to you.


The abruptness of Cheryl’s passing has really made me look at the last few decades of my own life. To look at some of the opportunities I didn’t take. But more importantly, to really contemplate the next chapters coming down the road for me.


Cheryl was not a ‘wait till then’ kind of person. She enjoyed her life, especially her family, and her friends. She made time for people. But she also took things as they came. She loved working up at Full Belly Farm for years, and wasn’t punching some clock somewhere, waiting for that last day to retire, so she could then start doing what she wanted. She was living her life as well, and as full, as she knew how to do. That is a very rare trait in people these days.


That is the first thing I’d like us to take away from today. Say yes to opportunities. Many of us like to plan, to do the safe thing, not to take chances, to build up that bank balance, to accumulating things, and wealth. Don’t get me wrong, those things have their place. Just don’t let them keep you from saying yes to things.


Think about that person you haven’t seen in years, the one who told you to come out and visit. They would put you for a few days and show you cool places around there, and just visit for a while. Why haven’t you done that? It’s a few days, and maybe a couple hundred-dollar airline ticket away. Maybe it’s that trip with your family, or maybe just a few more rodeos, or concerts, or museum visits, or sailing trips, or whatever is your thing. Go do that. Again, you could come up with reasons not to go, but then I want you to think about today. Think about what really matters. That vacation time or small amount of money won’t matter in the end. Those memories will. Those experiences will. They are what make up your life. That’s what is important.


Here’s the other thing I’d like us to take away today; Your time here on earth is not infinite. It is fixed, and you don’t know your expiration date. So be good. Not like, ‘stop having fun’ type of good, but be a better person.


That means forgiving a wrong done against you. That means going up to someone and having a difficult conversation, asking them for forgiveness. That means letting a lot the small stuff go. That also means, if someone you love keeps doing things that really bother you, have a difficult conversation about that situation and see if you can work through it.


In closing, I’d like to say that I was up at Barney and Jody’s a lot for the past month or so. As Cheryl came home to finish her time here, I saw the love she had shown on others come back to her in so many ways. Her family wanted to let everyone know how much their showing up, helping out, dropping off food, being with Cheryl, or just stopping by to be a shoulder to cry on, helped them through this time. They love you all, and they mean that.


I was also touched by two things said the other night. One by Andrew, who said she kept praying for his grandma. He said he wanted her to go to a place where she would hurt no more, where she would be happy, where she would be waiting for us. He wanted to be sure she got to heaven. No worries Andrew, she’s there. And you make sure you remember what Steve Farnham told you. Now she’s up there watching you at all times, making sure doing the right thing. (Good one Steve)


The other were the words said by my friend Danny. Looking back, it was the my entire 15 minute speech given in less than one. He gathered everyone up, at Grandpa Barney’s bar. He had the beautiful urn made my Todd Treat sitting there, and I wish I could have recorded that simple message, cause it was as powerful and anything I could have said here today. It was close to this. He was pointing towards his mon’s earn and saying, all the things you think are important really aren’t. Everything you own, all your stuff won’t matter in the end. You will end up here. Then he said something that I could agree more with. Danny lightly tapped on the urn and said, This is not the end either. There is some else after this life. There is something more. Amen my brother.


We only get one shot down here walking around, do your best. Live to the fullest degree you can. I know Cheryl sure did. That is a hell of life you’ve had here my friend. You will be missed, but never forgotten. We love you.


Will you join me in the Lord’s Prayer as we close.


Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Well, this is what I feared.....

 So, anyone who knows me well, knows about my father. Well, at least they know the man who raised me, not my biological father, because that is a different story entirely. 

Those who knew Walt Sr. fall into two camps. Those who thought he was a great guy, and those who thought he was a son of a bitch. They were both right, depending on when you met him, and the context of your encounter. 

I have said that my father was combination of John Wayne and Donald Trump, and that rings more truly than ever today. 

My father was a cowboy, a real estate broker, and a person who never sat still. He was always working. 

He could be a very sweet man when things were going his way, and a mean, me-first/screw-the-rest-of-you man when things were going bad. He was never into self-reflection or understanding what made him tick. He never tried to grasp, or get a handle on, how he could change. 

He was the way he was, for both good and bad. His weakness were his blind spots, and they were extraordinarily large. Those blind spots caught up to him in his final few years, and he paid the price for them. Our family kept paying that price, long after he was gone.

The same is true about President Trump. 

He has that same great guy/son of bitch, personality. People love him, or hate him. There are a few in the middle, or see him from both sides. 

For everyone who thinks I hate Trump, look, I will go out of my way to point out his faults and mistakes. That goes without question. However, I also love some of the things he has done. I really do. 

Thought experiment: 

Imagine if someone came up to you, the day before the 2016 election and said,  "The next president was going to do the following things"; 

  • Grow the economy at an astonishing rate.
  • Reduce black and hispanic unemployment to record lows.
  • Have a real increase in working class income for the first time in decades.
  • Stop North Korea from shooting missiles all over the region.
  • Slap China with tariffs, and make them stop taking our technology.
  • Renegotiate the NAFTA treaty to give us better trade policies with our neighbors.
  • Negotiate peace deals between Israel, and now three other nations.
  • Drone strike an Iranian Quds Force leader responsible for killing American soldiers. 
  • Roll back the control ISIS from huge sections of Iraq and Syria.
  • Perhaps the best thing; not get us into any new foreign wars. 

What would you have said about that next president? 

Probably that Hillary Clinton was going to go down as the best president in our memories. 


So, as much as I like those parts of his presidency, and that's a lot, there were parts that I did not like, and some that I hated. I mean really hated. 

Spending went up, or I should say, it just continued on its path towards our national bankruptcy in a few decades. All that talk about not signing another huge Omnibus spending bill was hot air. His fight-first, punch back ten times as hard tactic from his Twitter feed was juvenile to say the least. I did get laugh now and again when he went after certain stupid things, but he is the president. There are times you should let things go. He would not, it is not in his nature. 

Those who supported him, he loved. Those who opposed him, he hated. He would condemn Neo Nazis and white supremacist when called out on it, but the number one target for his animosity were those who hated him. Those folks were the real bad guys and the people he was trying to take down.  

One of the worst blind spots Donald Trump has is that he wants what it wants, no matter what. 

If he wanted something to happen, something that was against the constitution, his staff, or his White House Council would have to say, no Mr. President, you cannot do that. That is not what the constitution says. 

Like I say, sometimes he was at his best going against his advisors. He got so many of his accomplishments done by going against what the media, his critics, and even his own staff said he could not do. 

He would just say, "Move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem" and he made that happen. The problem is with that kind of mind, that personality, he doesn't know the law, read the rules, or care about those things. He wants what he wants. 

In his private life and business, he had to hire lawyers to either get him out of a trap he made for himself, or tell him the one thing he hates to hear the most; "Sir, you just cannot do that." 

I'm sure he went through a bunch of lawyers and accountants over the years, firing the ones who told him he couldn't do things he wanted. He would find ones who would say, well, let me handle this. I'll keep you in the clear, just don't ask questions. 

That is exactly what bit him, me, and this nation, in the ass on January 6th. 

President Trump kept listening to the people who said he could do something about losing the election. He kept listening to 'experts' who said, you can do this, or the Vice President can do that, there is still a way for you to stay in office as president. 

He knows the democrats are coming for him the day he leaves office. He will be charged, arrested, sued, and every other legal means to do him in by February. The media will be driving the "Lock him up" bandwagon, with a cooler full of sparkling seltzer and a kale salad. 

He knows he had to stay in office or go to jail. If you support President Trump, and wonder why he wants to remain president for four more years, it's probably not the reason you think. It's not to save the country, or to keep making America great. He wants to head out to Mar A Lago and play golf, knowing he won't be go to jail. 

I always thought he would make a deal with Pence, and the Republicans to resign after he lost, and let Pence pardon him. Maybe that could still happen, but time is running out. 

So let's go back to this past week and look at the "Stop the steal" rally, march, and ultimately the riot it became. 

The thing about Trump, is the folks who love the guy, really love the guy. Why? In their eyes, they see all the damage going on in our nation, and see a guy will fight to stop it. That is what they see, and that is what President Trump plays into. 

The Super Trumpers are very much like the man they love. They want what they want, but are not concerned with the small stuff. Things like laws, the constitution, or facts. They want to believe what they believe. 

They believe they are right, and when they are shown they are wrong, some other Super Trumper will post something on Facebook that proves how right they are. A picture, or a five second video, taken out of context, or edited, to make a point is all they need to prove that they alone are the ones who understand what is really happening. 

Look, I have some of these friends. It is very frustrating for me as a friend, and it must be for them as well. I point out things, provable facts, and they go on to the next conspiracy theory, or point me to some kook website where the have the 'real answers'. 

These people who showed up to the 'Stop the steal' rally were encouraged by two entities; the far right media, and (there is no denying this) by the President himself. 

I'm not sure who was behind Trump telling him that there was someway to change the Electoral College state votes, but someone must have been telling him that. Perhaps it came back to the whole, staying out of jail thing that made him grasp on to this fantasy. Maybe he just wanted one last crowd. 

Whatever the motive, Trump not only said that this elections was stolen, the craziest thing was he said he won in a landslide, and was cheated out that. I'm not sure if he truly believes this or it makes for a good applause line, but he said this rally was his, was your, was our last chance to keep him in the Oval Office. 

This was their last chance, and he was going to go with them on the march. He was going to go down to congress and make sure Pence would do the 'right thing'. 

No matter how many advisors, legal counsels, or friends told him that the Vice President has zero authority to change or throw out the Electoral College votes, once they are approved and get passed the appeal period. The president wanted people to believe there was a chance he would remain in office. 

Pence was not going to do anything, and Trump knew this. 

In congress, there were a few dozen right wing folks making speeches contesting the election, but they had zero chance of overturning anything. They were either Super Trumpers, or wanted to get a few bonus points for the upcoming 2024 GOP race. 

No matter what happened at the capitol that day, Joe Biden was going to become the President Elect. 

So the question keeps coming back, why would President Trump do this? 

In the end, for me it comes down to this: Trump was either extremely stupid, not knowing how presidential elections work, or he was just desperate. 

Ultimately,  I think spending his last few years, and all his money, defending himself trying to stay out of prison was the main factor. 

I know, I know, this is where you Super Trumpers will send me a dozen pictures of Antifa guys in the crowd, saying they were doing all the damage. I'm not saying anarchist and Antifa folks were not there, I'm sure they were. If I were an Antifa leader, I would be there to make sure Trump supporters looked like a bunch of lunatics. I'm actually surprised one of them didn't try to burn the place down. 

However, if you spend any time looking at the thousands of pictures and videos, you can be assured the vast majority were in fact the Super Trump crowd. They were caught up in moment. 

Being caught up in a crowd, led by a few radicals is not a good thing. That goes both ways. 

I would tell that to my friends who were at the Black Lives Matter marches in Sacramento this summer. When the Antifa and BLM radicals start breaking things, smashing windows, looting, and beating people up, it's time to stop them. If you can't stop them, just leave and go find a news crew as quickly as you can. Tell everyone that those people rioting are criminals, and should be arrested. 

I would also tell that to my Trump supporting friends. Marching, gathering in large numbers is fine. Even a bit of nonviolent, non confrontational opposition to the police has its place in protest. You want to sit down and block a sidewalk after the police tell you to leave. That is your choice. You might get arrested, but that might be what's needed on your view.

Protests are one thing, violence is another.  

So where do we go from here? What is coming? Where are we heading? For each side, and as a nation? 

Some very bad things are coming. There is going to have to be a reset of how we exist as Americans in the twenty first century. 

There will be lots of mistakes made, lot of civil rights crushed, and lots of conflict.  I must say, some of this will be armed conflict, driven by those on each side of the extremes. There will be open hatred, and sides choosing to separate themselves from each other. It is going to be ugly. 

So, if I have any hope, any words of advice for both sides, for my fellow Americans, it is this; You are not as far apart and you think, and not as far apart as the media on both sides are telling you. 

Democrats, hear me out on this please. Your 65 year old neighbor with the MAGA hat and his wife, the ones flying American flag in their yard, are not your enemy. They are your neighbors. 

They would come over to your house in the middle of the night if they saw your house was on fire, and try like hell to save you and your family. Maybe even your cat. They would stop on the side of the road and offer you a ride home if your car broke down at night. He and his wife are good people, but they are afraid of the America they are seeing, on TV, and on their streets. 

They want to have things stay the way they are if at all possible, because things are changing so fast. They would keep living in a world where they know how things work. They want to know all those years of showing up to work everyday, paying their taxes, obeying the police, and going to church a few Sundays a month, are still the way to be a successful American. 

They get their news from Sean Hannity, Facebook, and Rush Limbaugh, and only hear that one side. They see democrats as the lunatic fringe, burning their streets down and assaulting police without consequence. 

To them, Donald Trump was a throwback to a time and an America they understood. 

Now, there are some of the Super Trumpers out there who will go to the extreme. However, if you look at the past four years, you can't compare the damage and destruction caused by Trump supporters to the leftist and anarchist in the Antifa or militant BLM groups. It not really close. 

These Super Trumpers get one hell of a black eye for the storming of the capitol building. That was absolutely horrific, and should be seen as shameful by everyone. Many will be arrested, and should be. This should make the vast majority disconnect from those fringe Trump groups, and come back towards the center. 

Republicans, hear me out on this please. The 32 year old guy who drives an electric car, and wears a Che Guevara t-shirt while playing video games, along with his wife who wears the pink uterus hat to protest, they are not your enemy. They're your neighbors.  

They have been taught, since middle school, that America is an evil nation, filled to the brim with racists, homophobes, and every other phobe that their humanities classes taught them. They themselves? They are actually pretty nice people. 

They like good food, good coffee, and actually live a lot like conservatives. They get married, send their kids to college, as much as they say they are for the poor and working class minorities, they choose to live in very nice homes, in very safe neighborhoods. The ones with a lot of retired MAGA people, police, firefighters, and rich people, but a neighborhood that is growing blue.  

They think American needs to change, and everything they read, watch, and listen to goes along with that mindset. Every streaming service, movie studio, podcasting service, and every television network is ran by people who think like them. They live in a world that thinks just as they do. 

It is hard for them to see where they are wrong, because everyone from their teachers in elementary school on through college, Hollywood, and popular culture, gives them this same message. America is bad, white people are bad, even if they don't know they are bad, and the world is going to burn up, or freeze over, if we don't vote Socialist. 

How do we bridge these two worlds? How do we see past the stereotypes and come together? I'm not sure we can until we have a another huge shakeup, and it is coming. 

Joe Biden's administration will govern like the hippie leftists from the 60s. His party is being taken over by radicals. These people in his administration, and in congress, are going use the capitol protest as leverage to come up with a new "Super Patriot Act". It will be some other cool sounding law that will strip people who disagree with them of their rights. This is not hyperbole. This is coming. 

If you every supported Donald Trump, you are going to be moved into a second class of citizen. 

How much longer will conservatives be allowed to use social media? How much longer will voting for Donald Trump be a red flag on gun ownership? How much longer will conservative businesses be allowed to host their websites, or use certain banks? Maybe you had given campaign donations to Trump. Now your business is  being selectively audited, red flagged by OSHA, the EDD, Franchise Tax board and business license department.

This overreach is coming, and the only thing that might change this is if the couple with the electric car, or other democratic mainstream voters who hated Trump, but don't like government punishing people based on their politics, hear that their MAGA neighbor just got their plumbing company shut down for no apparent reason. 

They think this is unfair and unAmerican. They will have to speak up, and if things don't change, they will have vote to change who is in charge. 

Look, this is going to get bad. 

Trump folks, a word of advice; spending the next four years wearing your MAGA gear is not going to help. Learning how to be civil, how to engage with people who think differently than you do is going to be critical. Being nice to people who may hate you based on your voting record can be tough, but it is a must. 

When your lefty neighbor Judy thinks about you, I hope they think, oh Mark? He's a great guy, he came over and helped me with my fence last winter. Then when Judy finds out you voted for Trump, and they ask you why one earth you did, you can start the conversation. 

If you flip off Judy in her Subaru because it has a Biden/Harris sticker on it, you are not going to like where America is headed for you. 

Basically: Everyone calm the hell down, and start talking, not yelling, not name calling. Talking. Try to understand why people who don't think the way you do, think the way they do. 

We will be better off in the long run. 


Friday, December 25, 2020

Christmas Presence

Having older children is a strange thing. Our son is married, and his wife has a pretty big family who all live pretty close. They will be celebrating Christmas morning together, so the two of them came out last night to celebrate with us. 

My wife and daughter had to work, so I was home alone, cooking and cleaning. I actually got out our china, the china we received as a wedding present some 32 years ago. I think we have used it, maybe five times in all those years. It is very pretty stuff, I am going to make a new tradition using it. 

Everyone arrived just as the sun went down. We all caught up chatting, and getting all the presents under the tree. Well, close to the tree is a better description. We don't trust the hound dog with anything pretty she can get through the doggie door. 

We had dinner first. The prime rib roast was very nice, and we were all quite full when done. We decided to open presents next, for a bit of room to become available before dessert. 

We all had a great time opening our gifts, and seeing the faces of our loved ones as they opened ours. All the while, the six dogs there were playing, and causing commotion. It was a typical Lucas Christmas. 

So this morning, we woke up with not much to do. I made cinnamon rolls and worked cleaning up and started putting things away. As things were winding down, I thought about how excited I used to get about Christmas as a kid. To be honest, I was mostly excited about the presents. Ten percent about the fantastic dinner my mom would be making, but maybe ninety percent about the presents. 

Fast forward half a century and how things change. I still love Christmas presents, but my feelings trend more toward those I love, and not as much for what is inside the wrapping paper. 

The strange thing about Christmas to me, even today, is how slow it comes, and how fast it goes once here. 

It seems I have a month or three weeks to get all my shopping done, then two weeks, then a few days, then I really have to get serious. On Christmas day or Christmas Eve, depending on when we open gifts, that day, that two hour period flies by.

This year, after we opened presents, I found myself out on the front porch with my son, enjoying a cigar and my new ashtray. It kind of a thing we do, and I enjoy these times with all my heart. 

When I have a whisky and cigar with my son or my friends, we talk to each other. Really talk. It usually puts in a 'present' place. It's why I enjoy it so much. 

These times are usually saved for special places. 

Places like deer camp, or a backyard party, once the party has died down. Places like front porches, or the top of the Continental Divide. These times are very special. 

Which kind of makes me think, what do we put importance upon these days? Especially in this Christmas season?

Being in America, and being part of this multimedia, social media world, we are told by these billion dollar corporations what should be important; your family and your happiness. Aw, how nice right? 

Then they specifically use their trillions of lines of computer code and algorithms to put an add in front of your computer or phone screen, that you will see and hopefully make some snap judgement upon. Something, that in the back of your brain, goes little like this:

Family is special, and if you don't get your family our product for Christmas, you are a failure. 

Laugh if you want, but this is what they do with all that code, and those trillions of dollars. 

This is how all those ads, and commercials, with those beautiful people, and perfect families, show you how to be a good person in today's America: 

Buy the right stuff for your family, our stuff, and get a little something special for yourself too. It's Christmas for crying out loud. 

I think about these gifts we give and get, and wonder, just wonder, if there is another way. A little better way to connect with each other. 

What if our focus was on being present for Christmas? What about giving small, meaningful gifts that can bring that sense of presence to those we love? 

I ran across this interview with Bill Murray a while back, and it is so good. He talks about what he really wants out of life. It's a good questions because he has more money and fame that most people could ever achieve. But what does he want? He wants to be present in his life. 

Such great advice. 

I am going to try to do this for all those folks I get birthday presents for this year. Yes they will be gifts, but they may be two or four tickets to something they would never go to. Something cool, that would be an event they could remember. It doesn't need to be expensive, just something they would enjoy doing with someone else, and to have a memory of it for years to come. 

Tell them you want them to have a moment, to make a moment with this gift. To be present, even if just for a few minutes, or a few hours that day. To drink it in, even if the event isn't that spectacular. Make the best day of it, make it a memory, that is the goal of the gift. Be present. 

We will see how it goes, for them and for me. I want to be more present in my life. That is my goal. Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

One day, when this is over, especially after the media tells everyone it was Joe Biden's 100 days mask wearing mandade that ended the Covid Pandemic, someone will start looking into the numbers. At least I hope they do.

Why were the schools closed? Why are parks closed? Is it to keep the kids safe? Not when you look at the data.

How many children commited suicide while cut off from their friends and the normal social contact of their lives? How many thousands, or hundreds of thousands of children developed serious mental conditions that may last their entire lives?

These numbers are from the CDC page.

Look at the number of total deaths per age group, then look at the number of deaths involving Covid that did not involve Influenza. The regular flu kills way more children than Covid -19 does.

If you look at the first three groups of children 0-14 years old. There have been 13 children die of Covid, that did not also have Influenza. Out of almost 60 million children. That is incredible.

When the news media puts up headlines about any young person dying of Covid, they do not say this is an extremely rare occurrence, about a one in a million chance of death, they post it to drive fear and clicks.

People who are scared, want to check in tomorrow with that media site, to make sure there isn't another scary thing heading their way.

That folks, is what is wrong with media. They are driven by clicks, viewers, and ad revenue. With all the free media out there, they drive towards sensationalism and more precisely, fear. Fear gets your attention.

Remember, when they are not charging you for their product, YOU and your attention is the product they are selling to big business. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Post Trump America

So, are you a Trump supporter? Maybe you are a Super-Trumper?

Maybe you absolutely hate Trump, and think he's the new Hitler?

Well, in under 100 days we will have an election, and the nation will see how all this shakes out, or maybe not.

The Mail-in-Ballot nonsense that the states are implementing are going to cause a huge disruption in getting the results in. I am thinking it might be New Years before we actually get a declared winner, and whoever loses will be throwing a fit.

No matter who wins, half the country will be pissed.  Good times, right?

Before all that chaos hits the streets, and the nation starts to rip itself apart, I'd like to talk to some of you Trump supporters out there. Take a seat, and just listen for a minute.

Your guy has failed to do what he said he would do.

I know, I know, you guys will point to the record stock market, to the low unemployment numbers and say, if it weren't for the whole Covid-19 thing, Trump would have had the best economy in a generation.

Yeah, but that's really not true. Trump had a chance to do the right thing, the tough thing, and he chose to do the popular thing. That's what populist do, they look for a parade, and jump out in front to lead it. Doing the popular thing might get you elected, but it doesn't solve the problems we face.

I know Hillary would have been a full scale disaster on the economy, but hear me out.

Trump was the outsider. He was going to 'drain the swamp' and Make America Great Again. He did not. In fact, he added a few more acres of Swamp in DC, even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

You drain the swamp by cutting spending. Slashing spending if you want to know the truth. Donald J. trump didn't slow down the Gravy Train, he threw another couple of boxcars full of borrowed cash onto the train.

Don't believe me? Okay.

In 2016, the last Obama fiscal year, the Federal Deficit was 585 Billion Dollars. That's a lot, but it was better that the ones from his first few years that were a Trillion Dollars each.

The first Trump budget raised the deficit to 665 Billion in 2017. The next year, he added another 110 billion to take it to 779 Billion Dollars in 2018.  Mind you, the republicans had control of congress these first two years. The deficit for 2019 was 984 Billion Dollars, and the 2020 one was scheduled for 1.083 Trillion, but that was before Covid-19. With all the Covid-19 bailouts and giveaways, who knows what the real 2020 deficit will be?

So, he didn't 'Drain the swamp' he grew it. Because if you haven't heard, Donald Trump doesn't mind spending other people's money to make himself look good. In fact, that is his whole business plan. This time, he isn't using investor's money to go big, he's using borrowed taxpayer money. So, basically, he's just like every other politician.

What about our Trade Deficits? I know he talks a big game on trade, and he actually did tweak some of the NAFTA deals and such, but was it a game changer?

United States Balance of Trade

Well, right up until the Covid-19 crash of the market, the trade deficit was heading back to record territory. So, not so much.

Now, you can yell at me and say that the media is against him, and the democrats are working overtime to ruin everything he does, and you're right. However, he is supposed to be the guy who can fix it all, and make it better. He didn't, he was just playing around the edges, and taking the small victories that didn't cost him.

About ten years ago, I wrote a piece about how the only person who could actually fix this situation, could never get elected, and I stand by that piece. The guy, or lady, would have to call for Means-testing Social Security, Medicare, the elimination of the dozens of overlapping federal welfare systems, and a freeze in hiring and expansion of the Federal government for his/her first term in office.

There is no way that person could be elected today, or ever. Americans say they want small government, when that means cutting things they don't like.

If you're a republican, you want to cut welfare and foreign aid. Well, except Social Security and Medicare, because I worked for that money, and it's mine!

If you're a democrat, you want to cut the military, and "No more illegal wars" but that's about it.  Maybe cutting the foreign aid to Israel. The good news is Trump has been getting us out wars as fast as he can, but you weren't paying attention

The problem is we owe so damn much money right now, and just the interest we pay on our Federal Debt, standing at 26 Trillion Dollars and counting, is almost as much as spend on our entire military.

Let me say that again. Just the interest payments on our national debt is the same as we spend on our military! That federal debt will  be 30+ Trillion by next year if Joe Biden is elected and the Senate goes to the democrats.

That amount of debt is crushing our economy, and as it climbs, the interest climbs as well. Pretty soon you will be taxing your people's productivity, not to pay for the things we need today, but we'll be taxing people today to pay for the last 20 years of overspending.

It's just like the credit card companies. Once you get your debt so high that you can only make the minimum payment on your debt, you're going bankrupt. It's just a matter of time.

Cheery, right?

Could Trump have bailed us out of this? I'm not sure that anyone could have, but he could have tried.  He could have said, I don't care what you call me, or if you ever vote for me again, I am going to put this country back on a foundation that will fix this situation, and save America for our children and grandchildren.

He would have gotten creamed in the election of 2018, but he lost the House anyway. He would have lost the Senate, and so we wouldn't have gotten as many conservative judges through. That being said, if you have a bunch of conservative judges ruling over another real Great Depression, I'm not sure that's a win.

So what is coming? A Sh*t Storm like nothing we have seen in close to a century. It's not that Covid-19 brought this on, Covid-19 will have just sped up the countdown.

It may start before the election. The democrats want the worst economy possible so Trump doesn't get reelected, and that could start the ball rolling even faster.

I'm thinking in a year or two, no matter who wins, one day the stock market will drop a thousand points and the dollar will plunge. Gold and precious metals go through the roof. I say Gold is + $3,000 an ounce by 2022. The world will look for other places to store its money, and our money will be worth half of what is today. Hyperinflation will be how we pay off all that debt. It will be a terrible half decade for the US, and the world. Maybe longer.

So, this also comes down on you and me. How much money do you have in your saving right now? Enough for 6 months, of your regular bills? No? Well, you should.

How much debt do you have? How many times do you eat out a month? Did you really need to buy those new clothes, shoes, drinks, or the dozens or even hundreds of items of cheap crap you ordered from China through Amazon? How about that new car, or new house you bought when you could barely qualify for the loan?

That's on you, not the politicians.

Maybe on your parents too. I have been telling my kids that all this will someday come to an end.  But it's hard to live one way, while the rest of the world keeps spending and buying their way into enormous amounts of debt.

You Trump haters will say, "See I told you! Trump was a disaster!"  Well, that's one way to look at it.
You Trump supporters will say, "Trump would have saved us if it weren't for the Fake News and Covid!"

No matter who wins in January, (see what I did there?) the next president will be holding the reins of a runaway.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Statues, and our blind spots.

It's going to be funny when the mob comes after Barack Obama's statues, public office building, and school buildings to tear them down. Democrats are going freak out.

Remember, Barack Obama opposed Gay Marriage in his first term, and throughout his reelection into his second term.

That is a fact. And just remember, Vice President Dick Cheney, the new Hitler to these same Democrats, supported Gay Marriage.

Not to mention, FDR's forceful internment of American citizens from Japanese families into camps during WWII. I guess he gets a pass because he's a democrat?

Look, you want to take down a Confederate soldier's statue, fine. Have a city council vote, or whatever. Cities are going to take them down pretty soon, and they should.

I think Confederate statues on public land are stupid. If you want to have them on actual National Battlefields, I think there is a case to be made there.

However, no matter how well they commanded their armies, their cause was unjust at its core. The continuation of slavery in the United States.

You can talk to me about about State's Rights, and sovereignty all you like, but that's not the real reason, and you probably know that, deep down. There may have been a few folks here and there who hated slavery, but fought for their southern states. There were those people, I've read their writings. Ultimately, what their side fought for was keeping slavery legal in the south.

So why did these activists topple a statue of US Grant? You know the general who lead the Union to victory and effectively ended slavery in America?

They say he was a slave owner as a young man, and they are right, but is that what Grant's life was about?

Grant was raised by abolitionists, in Ohio, but was not a real abolitionists in his early life. While he was a young man in the Army, he married his best friend's sister from Missouri, her family owned slaves.

Grant was given a slave as a wedding gift by his father in law along with a small farm. Grant was not a good farmer, the farm was kind of on poor land, and he went broke. He could have sold the man back into slavery, and surely he could have used the money, but he didn't. He freed the man.

As the Civil War started, and then as he became more involved with the subject, he became very anti-slavery.

He understood the other side, he knew their men, knew their thinking, and knew they were wrong.

When he wrote about his meeting Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House for Lee's surrender, Grant wrote;

"What General Lee's feelings were I do not know.... Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us."

One of the worst parts of all this craziness right now is the failure to understand the thinking of the times. Past and present.

We look upon slavery with our 21st century eyes. Evil, and horrible. Absolutely.

No one is pro-slavery in the US. Well, there are 330 million people, so you could probably find a few dozen or so complete idiots, maybe.

In 1859, when Grant freed his slave, there were plenty of people who thought slaveholding was fine. It was just the way we have always done things they thought.

Thankfully, there were two thirds of Americans who saw slavery as evil and would fight to end it. Even though there were plenty of non abolitionists who didn't really care about the plight of blacks, they wanted America to remain under one central government. They did not want to see the south secede. They fought too.

As with most things, it's complicated. Tearing down statues you hate is not. It's just anarchy. You do it to make you feel good.

Now, you may look upon Barack Obama's anti Gay Marriage views, and think of them as I do.

Obama needed the mostly Christian, Democratic suburban housewife vote to win election. They were not in favor of Gay Marriage at the time, or not a majority to be sure, so he was anti Gay Marriage. As soon as he was reelected, he 'changed his thinking' and told the nation what I think he believed his whole adult life.

So, here's the lesson you are going to have learn, and quick. Things are complicated. History is complicated. People are complicated.

Just wait a few more years until the FBI files and recording of MLK Jr. come out. The left will say they are unimportant, and the work he did is what we need to recognise, not his personal failings.

I'm completely cool with that, let's just try to make that a universal thing.

Also, let's stop building statues to people.

Making it better. Not perfect, but better.

For any of you who made it through my last post without wanting me shamed out of polite society; welcome back. Thanks for reading and trying to understand some ideas you may have never thought about. ( I started this piece two weeks ago)

We talked about how crazy and vindictive the social media world is right now. Just saw a sign in my local town saying "Silence is Violence". Well, that's very productive. 

The streets have been a very mixed bag. Depending on what news channel you watch, the entire nation is coming together to stand up for justice and reform, or the entire nation is being burned to the ground by violent protesters. 

Which one is right? Well, both. 

In my last post, I spoke about the 7,000 or so back homicides in America each year, and asked, who is killing them?

About 90% of blacks being murdered are being murdered by other blacks, according to the FBI Unified Crime Report. 

I also touched on the fact that of all these 7,000 or so black homicides last year, 235 were killed by police. Mostly in shootouts of justifiable situations. Of that 7,000, only 9 unarmed black people were killed by the police. Of those 9, it is unclear how many of those were unarmed but attacking an officer. I also said, I'm sure there are some tragedies in these numbers.

I also said that there are plenty of bad cops out, usually protected by their police unions. While we have close to 700,000 uniformed police in America, most of them are outstanding folks. However, even if 1% are racist or just bad cops, that's 7,000 problem officers who could be the spark to set off the next tragedy. 

So, how do we actually make things better in our communities? Especially, how do we make our minority communities a better place to live? 

I can assure you of one thing; it's not by defunding the police departments in those communities, as some of the more radical groups want to do. 

While my last post was written towards mostly white, mostly liberal, mostly middle-upper class folks, especially some of my Christian friends, this one is for everyone. 

No matter who you are, and where you live, you can do some things that will actually help. You can be the change you are demanding. 

You can volunteer. Your time, not your money. 

Sure there are good causes out there that could use some cash. However, many of them spend that money on staff, office rent, cars, meals, and meetings with politicians to get even more money. 

Some of them do good very good work, but I'm talking about you making a difference in someone's life. That's a lot harder than just sending $20 here or $100 there. 

Now many of you will say, I already am part of a woman's group, men's group, or youth group at my church, and we reach out to everyone. Great, now do more. 

Make a real difference in one, or two, or ten people's lives who you would not interact with in your daily life. People who live in the part of your town you don't go into, unless you absolutely have to. 

Maybe you live in a city that doesn't have a bad part of town. Go to the nearest high crime city or town, and find a place where they are in need of volunteers. I guarantee you, those places are out there, and they need your help. 

Now you might say, well this is about structural racism, and police brutality, can't I just march with my friends and post the right kind of things to my social media? Maybe send $20 to Black Lives Matter, and buy a cool shirt? 

You can, but you are not helping solve the real, structural, systemic problem. 

The breakdown of the black family, black fatherlessness, high poverty, and very high crime rates inside these communities are why these places are at boiling point. 

Don't believe me, some random white guy? Okay, fair enough, how about Barack Obama? Here is some of the Father's Day speech by then Sen. Barack Obama to Apostolic Church of God in Chicago.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing — missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.
 You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
How many times in the last year has this city lost a child at the hands of another child? How many times have our hearts stopped in the middle of the night with the sound of a gunshot or a siren? How many teenagers have we seen hanging around on street corners when they should be sitting in a classroom? How many are sitting in prison when they should be working, or at least looking for a job? How many in this generation are we willing to lose to poverty or violence or addiction? How many?

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more after-school programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child — it’s the courage to raise one

I did not vote President Obama, and was a huge opponent of most of his political agenda, but he is absolutely, 100% correct here. 

I also wonder how his call for more police would go over today in the black community? 

Now, I don't want you to think that the problems in the black community are solely caused by the black community itself. They are not. We will get to police reform in a second. However, most of the real change in an individual person's life will come through that person's individual choices. 

It's called Agency. Everyone has it, and everyone should embrace it. 

Here's how agency works. Making good choices leads to good outcomes. Making bad choices leads to bad outcomes. Sometimes, bad things can just happen to you. How you respond to those situations will make or break you. That is universally true in every person's life. 

How do you help someone make better choices? It is really hard, but you can spend your time, and your give of your talent, trying to help them get that method of thinking hard wired into them. 

Volunteer, mentor a young person, help tutor at a minority school when you can. Be the change you want to see. You want to see the any community do better? This is how it works; help individuals make better decisions in their lives. 

You may not have all the answers, but you can help. Even if it's just mentoring one young person an hour a week, or helping a high school student trying to sign up for job training, or college, or helping a person trying to fill out a job application correctly. You can help. 

If the hundreds of thousands of successful, white, young people I saw marching in the streets for change did this, you would see change. If you had successful young people of all colors and views volunteering and mentoring, you would actually see a remarkable difference in the black community in a few years. 

You may say; A few years? I want change right now, we demand change right now! 

That is not how real change works. Change takes time, it is generational. Individuals can change overnight, society takes much longer. 

I know this isn't what you want to hear. I know you want to keep marching with your friends in the nice weather, and posting on social media to make yourself feel like you're doing something, but you're really not doing much at all. 

It's a lot like dieting. You want real, lasting results? You must make better choices to get those results. 

You hear the commercials for some fad diet pills, where people lost a lot of weight while still eating Double Whoppers, and you buy a bottles of those pills. 

They work for a bit, then you gain that weight back, plus a few pounds. In two years the diet company is being sued because the stimulant in the pills gave people heart attacks. 

If you want real, lasting, change, you must eat better, and exercise even when you don't want to. You must make better choices. It's hard to do, but it works every time. 

What about the police? These police killings of black men are usually what sets off the outrage. Can we, as citizens, make the police force better? I think we can, and we must. 

Like I said in my other piece, I have a few friends who are police, and they are great people. I could never do it. I don't have the temperment for it. I'm too soft, too willing to see the good in people. I'd be killed on a traffic stop, thinking everything was fine, and the guy was just reaching for his wallet. 

Being a police officer is a dangerous job. Last year, 48 police officers were killed by felonious acts in the line of duty. 41 were killed in accidents. 

So, what about the bad cops, how do we get rid of them? 

That is not easy. Mainly because of their unions. 

Much like bad teachers, and bad public employees, their unions fight for the bad ones along with the good ones. It really takes something like a video of an officer doing something clearly criminal, or against department policy, to have their union not defend them against the police department. 

Can that change? Yes, but it's not likely to. Why? 

I hate to keep bringing this up, but mainly because most big cities are run by democrats. 

Public employee unions are one of the largest political contributors to those democrat's campaigns. These unions have huge political power in democratic cities.

If you look at the news from a few weeks ago you will get an idea of why this is going to be difficult to change. 

Look at this video. It's from Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was killed by the police officer. 

The mayor of Minneapolis is Jacob Frey. He is just the kind of mayor most of the protesters would vote for. 

He's young, an attorney, very liberal, and when not at an official event, or dancing the Cupid Shuffle with Black Lives Matter folks, dresses like he's going to play frisbee golf with his buddies. 

Well, poor Jacob is dealing with huge problems right now. Floyd's death has lead to peaceful protestors, along with rioters looting and burning businesses, and people calling for him to defund the police department. Funny how Blogger won't let me find this Youtube clip from it's links, but check it out. 

There is a longer one where Frey is telling this black lives activist that he wants to really change the way the city works with the police union, and their contracts, to make real changes. 

That is actually a very courageous stand by a liberal politician. The protestors are not having any of it. They want to defund the police department, and get rid of all police in their communities. 

This is one of the most absurd demands in the history of demands. 

One of the things that black activist like to call out is 'racial redlining' and other things where minorities have to pay more for the things that white people pay less for. Take insurance. 

How do insurance companies price their rates to different people? 

Where do you live? 

How many burglaries happen there? Where you park your car, how many cars are stolen, or broken into there? What is the rate of insurance claims filed there? That's how those rates are determined. 

What do activists think will happen to the crime rates if you abolished the police in your neighborhood? Will it go up or down? 

If you think the crime rate goes down, I'm not sure I can help you. 

I'd also like to point out that when the criminals and ANTIFA come into your neighborhood and smash windows, loot stores, burn buildings, destroy and overturn cars while 'protesting', this drives up the cost of everything. 

Regular folks living there will have to pay more for home insurance, car insurance, renters insurance, along with higher prices for goods and services to cover the costs. 

This also makes businesses looking to open stores in those areas reconsider, or move out, taking those jobs with them. Why would they open a new business, or remodel an existing one in an area where they have riots? 

If low wages and low job opportunities in your neighborhood lead to worse outcomes for the people who live there, do you think those opportunities will get better when you destroy the businesses there? 

What about the schools? Why do they fail to give poor kids a better education? 

Well, one part is the public schools are run by teachers unions, and teachers unions have a great deal of power in these cities. 

The other is Agency. 

If your parents don't give a damn about you doing your homework, and let you play video games and hang with your friends all day, you are not going to succeed in school. There are parents in these communities that do care, they really care, and the teachers that teach at these public schools just don't. They are doing the absolute minimum to get their nice paychecks and wait for retirement. 

If you want change, demand your city or county is pro school choice when it come to schools. 

If you want to watch a really good documentary about this watch Waiting for Superman. 

So, here are the points in a nutshell. Here is what needs to change: 

Black inner city communities have very high crime rates. 

High crime rates means a much higher police/citizen interaction rate. 

This means higher incidents of bad things happening, on both sides. 

Black communities have a very high fatherlessness rate. 

Fatherless homes have children who drop out of school, get arrested, get involved in drugs, get involved with gangs, and to go to prison at a much higher rate than homes with fathers. 

Big cities are run by democrat politicians. They give big money contracts to public employee unions, including police unions, and teachers unions, and those unions are one of the largest campaign donors back to those same democrat politicians. 

Changing these contract terms, with public methods of reviewing police activities, easier ability to fire officers who violate these terms, and having substantial community based interaction training will be very difficult. Same with schools. Being able to fire a bad teacher is almost impossible. 

Look, like I said before, I used to be one of you. 

I used to let emotion carry the day. What I felt about an issue was the most important thing. If I felt I was helping, or doing the right thing, that was all I cared about. I didn't really know how to measure results. 

I wanted something done, was that something going to actually help?  I didn't know, I just felt right wanting it done. 

That was fine was I was a teenager or in my early twenties. 

What I learned later was to stop listening to what people and politicians were saying, and started looking at what they were doing. 

Once you start asking politicians, why won't you change the systems that obviously don't work, who will not like the answers? If you are voting for the people the police unions and the public teachers unions back, you are voting for the wrong people. 

If you are marching to make some kind of change happen, you should be volunteering in the communities you want to see the most change. 

If you volunteer there, you will learn the politics of the people in charge, and you will start to understand that most of them just want the title, and the career track to a higher office. They will choose the union money, the big democratic party money, over fighting for the people they are supposed to represent. 

I'm not saying vote for Republicans either, I used to be one of them too. 

I'm saying vote, back, and walk a few precincts with someone who wants real change over the job.  

Saturday, June 06, 2020

What happens next time? Because there will be a next time.

So, first off, you are probably not going to like this piece I'm writing. That's okay. 

I am going to point some things out, some facts, that you probably don't know. You will probably dismiss these facts, because they get in the way of how you feel about certain important things. I am also going to ask some very uncomfortable questions. 

Most of the people I am writing this for are really nice, mostly white, mostly liberal people. The one thing I know about you, because I used to be one of you, is the way you feel about something is the most important thing about that topic. 

Facts, stats, laws, and real logic don't stand a chance against how you feel about something.

At this point, I'm going to layout what I am seeing. What happened, what is happening, and what will happen in the future. 

These are my views, as honestly as I know how to explain them. Please let me know where I have missed the facts I am stating. 

If you disagree with my opinion part of this, let me know yours. I am often wrong, and if you can honestly point out where I'm wrong, I can, and do, change my mind.

We are a week plus from white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin killing an unarmed and handcuffed black suspect, George Floyd. Mr. Floyd was killed by Chauvin kneeling on his neck for about 8 minutes after his arrest. 

Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and originally charged with Third Degree murder and manslaughter last Thursday. This has now been upgraded to Second Degree murder by former Democratic Congressman, now Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison. 

So, if you have seen the video of George Floyd pleading with Chauvin that he can't breathe, while having his neck pinned down by Chauvin's knee, it is very upsetting. Really upsetting. 

Bystanders asking him to get off Mr. Floyd's neck as they feared he was dying..... 

My first impression when I saw it was damn, that is cold blooded murder.

Of the three other officers who were at the scene and involved in the arrest, two were rookie police officers. Thomas k. Lang,  and J Alexander Kueng, along with veteran officer Tou Thao. They have all been fired, and have now been criminally charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Before they were charged, trying to look up these other officers was quite difficult, and I'm not sure why. Not sure why those three other faces have been kept so low in the coverage of this case.

It looks as though Chauvin was the senior officer on the scene and would have probably been in charge. So who were these officers? Do they have a history of abuse? 

The two rookie cops have had no disciplinary charges filed against them in their careers, which sounds about right for rookie officers. Thao has had six complaints filed against him for his conduct, five being dismissed, and one where he was disciplined.  Chauvin has has 18 complaints filed against him, all but two were dismissed.

So, as damning as that video is, I want to ask a difficult question; 

Was Derek Chauvin using a City of Minneapolis Police Department approved neck restraint? 

If so, it doesn't seem to be making the news very much.

Please hear me, I'm not saying Chauvin didn't perform the neck restraint too long, or incorrectly, or with too much force, I'm asking was he following his department's restraint procedure? 

If he was, even if he did it 100% wrong, or with criminal intent, is this a common restraint technique in the city of Minneapolis? It appears so. This restraint has been used hundreds of times, many of those to the point of unconsciousness, and mostly on black suspects. (updated today, the City of Minneapolis just banned it)

This is going to be the only question that really matters when the criminal trial comes. Chauvin is going to say he was following department procedure. His attorney will say he thought George Floyd was just unconscious, not dying.

Murder means you must 'intend' for the victim to die. Second degree murder in Minnesota means “causes the death of a human being with intent to effect the death of that person or another, but without premeditation." If Chauvin had used this restraint procedure before, or had seen it done before, and the suspects survived, then it would be up to the District Attorney to prove Chauvin purposely intended for Floyd to die. That's going to be a hard sell for any jury.  

Unless the trial takes place in a part of the city where the jury wants him found guilty no matter what the law says, I think Chauvin will not be found guilty on the Second Degree Murder charge. That's just my opinion, and I'm afraid the nation is going to go into a full tilt riot when this happens. It will be a tragedy. 

One of the reasons this will probably happen is something civil rights activists seem to hate; prosecutorial overcharging. 

As much as you want to see Chauvin convicted, as much as you want to see justice done for George Floyd, you prosecute people with the charge you can convict them with. 

Manslaughter, or maybe even the third degree murder charge is going to be much more viable charge from what I have seen. If proven guilty of manslaughter, Chauvin will go to jail for years, and more than likely be killed while in jail. Yet, that will not be enough for some folks. 

We will see how this plays out, but I don't like what I'm seeing with the prosecution from Attorney General Ellison.

The medical examination and toxicology report, along with what looks like Floyd's heart condition, seems to have been a factor. Again people, not excusing the cop here, just putting out the facts the defense will use. His attorney will say that Floyd had a medical condition, and Chauvin did not expect Floyd to die when he was being restrained. Like I said, we will see. 

There's another really uncomfortable question I would like to ask; 

What do you want me to do about George Floyd's death?

Protest? Make my Instagram profile a black square? Wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt? Make sure my friends who don't do these things feel like absolute racists for not doing that?
Even if you don't want anything from me, what do you want other people to do? What do you want the nation to do?

I'm serious, because I hear people in the protests, and all over social media saying that we have to "do something" to stop this. We must reach out, we must make sure this never happens again. I hear, we need to rally and understand what is happening, to support our black citizens, to help stamp out racism, to make justice work for all people. 

Okay, but how? Specifically, what do you want to have happen?

I get it, I feel your emotion on this, and I feel the same emotion too, but what exactly is that something?

I've looked all over the Black Lives Matter websites, and all their affiliated groups, and I don't see a lot of legislation, or striking down the police union's power. It's seems to be full of slogans and hashtags like defunding the police, close down the prisons, and open the borders. They certainly do want your email, your money, and to sell you some 'dope official gear'. 

Let's get back to how change happens. If we are anything, we are a nation of laws, and some of them in our past have been racist as hell. 

Our laws were written an a way to ensure blacks were enslaved in large portions of our nation at our founding. An absolute atrocity in our history. A Civil War and 600,000 Americans dead was the price our nation paid to free African Americans from that chattel slavery. We also passed new laws and new Constitutional Amendments during and after the Civil War to make sure slavery stopped. 

New laws were how African Americans were granted the same rights as every other citizen through the Civil Rights laws in the 1960s. It took another three decades to make sure these laws were being followed by states, cities, counties, and businesses, through criminal and civil cases. The rule of law is who we are as a nation. 

So, if we are a nation of laws, who writes these laws? Maybe more importantly, who enforces these laws?

Most people want to look to Washington DC and the feds, but what happens in your city or town comes from your local government. The people you elect to represent the place where you live, and those they hire to manage the law's enforcement. 

Almost every case that has been thrust upon the scene by our news media in the past decade has dealt with city police officers, or county sheriff's deputies. So let's look at Mr. Floyd's city, since it's in the news right now: Minneapolis Minnesota.

So, who runs this Minneapolis? Is it the Klan, or a bunch of crazy Neo Nazis? Some of Donald Trump's family members?  It doesn't appear to be the case. The City of Minneapolis is run entirely by Democrats. 

Their two US Senators for Minnesota are Democrats, the city is represented in the US House by Ilhan Omar, one of the most leftist members of Congress.

That is not a big surprise. Most big cities, and every huge metropolis, is run by Democrats, and have been for decades. 

So a valid question might be, if racism is the problem, why do these large democrat strongholds have such a problem with it? 

Maybe it's not the politicians you say, maybe its the head of the police? So, who is in charge of this racist Minneapolis Police Department? 

The Police Chief, Medaria Arradondo. Now, Arradondo seems like a nice guy, and he was appointed by the previous Democrat Mayor, Betsy Hodges. 

Hodges has a master's degree in sociology, and says all the right things when it comes to race, climate change, affordable housing, immigration, the Me Too movement. She's a solid Democrat.

So how did the four city police officers, who showed up to arrest George Floyd in Minneapolis, all happen to be vile racists? 

Why would a solidly Democratic Mayor, and an all-democrat City Council be cool with hiring four racist cops? Another questions is why would all these democrats allow a neck restraint of this type be used on an overwhelming majority of black citizens for decades? Why wouldn't they fight the police unions to change the way their city, and its black citizens, are being treated? 

Yeah, I know. Structural racism....... in the Democratic Party right? I guess progressive democrats are just filled to the top with racists or something, right? 

That may seem a bit harsh, but if I went down to the protests in my area, and asked the protesters what kind of people they want leading our cities towards real, meaningful change, the people in charge of Minneapolis are exactly the kind of people most of them would vote for. 

Think about it, you are actually demanding change from the people you put in charge.....

Look, if you haven't figured out this truth yet, let me give you a key thought to always have running in the back of your mind: When Democrats use terms like 'structural racism', 'gun violence' and 'racial inequality' it's because they need to have something to blame for their own failures. 

Hey, Republicans, don't get too smug over there, you should read some of my posts talking about how the GOP establishment blames illegal immigration, and societal failures to hide the fact that they want cheap, illegal labor, and cheap free-trade items from China that have killed so many US manufacturing jobs over the years.  They do that so they can make more money for themselves and their shareholders. Okay, back to the problems at hand. 

If you want to try to find out how big a problem black people dying at the hands of police officers is, you need the data.  

I'm going to show you some facts, but you are probably not going to like it. Like most everything I've laid out here, it's complicated. 

First, let's look at the numbers. 

How many black people were killed in America in by the police in 2019? 

According to the Washington Post Fatal Force data, that number was 235. That sounds like a lot, but many of those may have been criminals in shootouts with police, or people with guns and knives charging at a police officer. 

So, how many unarmed black people were killed by police in 2019? 


Now, we don't know the stories behind these nine deaths, and I'm sure there are some tragedies in there. Then again, there are about 330,000,000 people in the US, and about 43,000,000 black people. There were also about 7,000 black homicide victims last year, and again, 90% of them are killed by blacks. When you look inside the 7,000 black homicides, nine is a very small number.

Unless one of those nine happens to be someone you know and love. Like I said, I'm sure there are some absolute tragedies in that number. 

But if you remember the Michael Brown shooting a few years back, the 'Hands up, don't shoot'  person, he was also considered 'unarmed'. 

He was also attacking a police officer inside the officer's car, and struggling to get the officer's pistol. 

Many of today's protesters still think Brown was killed by a white cop, while he had his hands up, and was begging not be shot. 

President Obama's FBI report concluded that was not how it happened, and in fact, the officer was justified in the shooting of Brown. I would guess most people still believe the 'Hands up, don't shoot' story. Remember, we had riots for a week all across America following that shooting.

Well, 'Hands up, don't shoot' makes a better headline than 'Man assaults police and is killed'.  It gets people more stirred up and clicking on your story. Understand, that is what what the media sells. Riots be damned, we have advertisements for coffee and shoes to sell, and money to be made......

Here is maybe the most important question; What are we, as a nation, going to do when this happens again? Because it is going to happen again.....

You might say, hey now, we are protesting to stop this from ever happening again! Okay,,,,,

You are out in the streets, demanding change from the people you put in charge! All the while criminals, and 20 year old Antifa members who live at home with their parents, are smashing windows, setting fires to building, and violently beating members of your community who are trying to protect their life's investment in a small business. 

You peaceful protesters are marching and chanting, 'this is what democracy looks like' and then 'no justice, no peace'.  Look, you may not have realized this, but you can't be peacefully protesting for 'no peace'.....

You have convinced yourself, that you and your friends, are 'not going to let this happen again'. Well, it's going to happen again, as sure as the earth turns. Then you can sit back and watch an even more violent mob of people burn your city, and murder more innocent people for your cause. 

If you are concerned with black people being murdered, a logical question to ask might be, just who is murdering them, and how can we stop it?  

Well, like all races, you are most likely to be killed by someone of your same race. The numbers from an FBI study in the mid 2000s hovers between 89% to 91% of blacks are killed by other blacks. Not by cops, or the Klan, or rednecks, it's probably some guy who lives a few blocks over.

This last weekend, like many others in Chicago, 85 people were shot, 24 of them killed. 17 people killed on Sunday alone. Most of them were black, and if their murders are solved, the people who killed them will be black if the statistics hold true. 

It's a damn tragedy, and it happens with repetitive certainty, month after month in America's inner cities. No one knows their names, no one, or at least no one outside their neighborhoods marches for them. Chicago did have a march to end the violence in their inner city awhile back, but that doesn't make the news, and certainly not your Facebook or Instagram feed. 

Do their lives matter to anyone besides their friends and families?

So, where am I going with this? 

I want people to know what is actually going on. I want you to know that 'doing something' has consequences, and some of those 'somethings' do exactly the opposite of what you intend. 

Voting for people who say the things you want to hear doesn't usually work, it just makes you feel better. You feel better because you are voting for the 'right side' in this struggle. If things don't get better, you can vote for someone even more outrageous who wants to 'tear it all down' or 'eat the rich' or some other feel good socialist slogan that won't work either. 

As far as you mostly young, very compassionate, progressive people, let me just say this again; I get it. I was once like you. 

I once thought, if I could just change the minds of those damn dinosaur old people, we would have peace, prosperity, and justice for all. Then I grew a bit older, experienced some things, and began to understand that what I thought was happening, really wasn't happening for the reasons I thought. I started to get passed the emotion, and look at the reality. That is where real change come from. 

When I hear from progressives that we need to work together to defeat racism, and to allow for civil discourse, and to start admitting your white privilege, to begin to heal our nation, and other such bumper sticker type of sloganeering, I actually get a little angry.

Why? Because of who this is actually helping.


You may not understand this unless you step back a bit and take a hard look, but what you are really trying to do is make yourself feel better about being you.

You want to post things on social media, maybe you want to go to a peaceful protest with all of your friends, then meet up to talk about how bad things are in the black community, and how righteous you feel because you are 'doing something'. When the riots and looting start, you will feel you understand why this is happening, but you will be wrong. 

You will look at the violence and rioting and think, this is all the police's fault, America's fault, and maybe even my fault. Well, not my fault, but other white people's fault. Probably republicans. 

Back to the cops and the killing of George Floyd. 

I do not know, or have even heard of a single person who thinks the Minneapolis cop was justified in his actions. Not one. No one is on his side! Maybe the Police Union he belongs to, but no one is marching to defend Chauvin. 

So, like I said before, this is going to happen again. There are 680,000 full time police officers in America. If just 1% are closet racists, just waiting to harm minorities while hiding behind a badge, that's about 6,800 bad cops. They should be kicked off the police force, or not hired in the first place, but how can you tell? 

I want to go back to the 9 unarmed black men who were killed by police last year, I want to honestly ask you, how do we get that number to zero? 

I don't think it's possible, no matter how many protests you hold, how many new laws are passed, how many millions are raised, and how many t-shirts are sold. 

We can can try to make it better by focusing on police training, tactics, methods and hiring practices, and I'm all for that. Police training is woefully inadequate in most cities. Mainly because so much of the police budget goes towards police pensions. Most city managers will tell you they are paying for two police forces, the one on duty, and the one who is retired. Again, that's a whole other story. 

Maybe this is all new to you. You, who doesn't live a black community, or a high crime community, and has no idea what it's like to be pulled over because you 'match the description of a subject'. Maybe you haven't been pulled over for some other made up reason, just to check to see if you have anything suspicious going on. 

These kinds of police overreach are real. They happen all the time. Mainly in high-crime inner city areas, but also in nice neighborhoods. Ask black Republican US Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina. He was pulled over by the police 7 times in one year. Twice for speeding, the rest probably because he was black man driving a really nice car. 

I would also say that these kind of random, no-reason stops happen all the time in high-crime white areas too. If you haven't lived in one of those areas, like I have, just watch Live PD some times. 

I understand that I am not black, and could not possibly know how it feels to be black. I get it. I'm also not Hispanic, well unless you count half Portuguese, not a woman, not Asian, not a member of the LGBT community, or about thousand other identity groups that people tend identify with these days. But I want the laws to be for everyone; no matter the identity, creed, color, or wealth group you belong to. 

I have all kinds of friends, and know all kinds of people. From a few pastors of churches, former felons, farmers, teachers, loggers, construction workers, more than a few cops, some actual biker gang members, and some of the sweetest community volunteer members. Some are very wealthy, some just scraping by. Some Republicans, some Democrats, some have never been pulled over in their lives, some have had some pretty intense interactions with police.

I have a friend who is covered in tattoos, and looks like the kind of guy who is up to no good. Seriously, I would give him a wide berth if I passed him on a dimly lit street. He was felony stopped by our local Sheriff's Deputies for rolling through a stop sign. At gunpoint, in the middle of the day, with three other car racing in for backup, all with guns aimed at him, with his wife in the passenger seat. 

Scary as hell for both of them. Thankfully, they remained calm, and followed the deputy's instructions. Even when they thought they might get shot. This could have gone horribly wrong in an instant. That one deputy completely overreacted. Why? I'm not certain, but I would bet my house it was because of how my friend looked. He's Italian. 

What I'm saying is there are good cops, bad cops, good reactions, bad reactions and everything in between. There are also good people, bad people, good reactions, bad reactions and everything in between. When all these things come together, millions of times a year, there will be mistakes made. 

There will be police shot and killed, there will be citizens shot and killed. 

So what can you do? What could actually stop this kind of thing from happening more frequently? 

I will answer that question in my next piece.