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Families of those in combat don't share the experiences. The stress, the necessities that survival demands are an unknown. There are only the anxious dreads. His mom was holding up for the most part. But the less usual moments were revealing.
An unfortunate juxtaposition of events amplified the anxiety, just after our young Marine ended his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Military transport operates on its own schedule, and so he remained in a sort of limbo for a few days. He stayed, waiting only for logistical requirements to be met.
Social media and the ubiquitous internet kept us in touch. He and his mother exchanged messages.
We got news reports of the attacks on the base, and Marine fatalities, just as his messages suddenly stopped. We realized that electronic communication would not be possible during transport, but as days dragged on, fear bore down a little harder. I had private talks with God that were a little harsher than usual. Of course, we feared the worst.
He eventually was able to let us know he was safe.
I occasionally think back on that time, and on the prayers. We still carry the relief that came when we heard from him. I also carry the inherent selfishness, the zero-sum nature of my talks with God. Please, Lord, let it be other families who get the bad news.
As his time of service nears an end, he tells us he is thinking of reenlisting. He once wrote a letter to a cousin. We have not seen it. We're told that he wrote of being part of a larger purpose, of the common bond of those who serve, of belonging. He loves the Marines. We are told his cousin wept at the beauty and power of the words.
We are proud of him, of course. And we are thankful for the prayers of friends and neighbors during his deployment into danger.
We pray for those whose lives and well being remain an uncertainty. We join in the national day of remembrance for those who will not be returning to families. Their sacrifices were not voluntary. My imagination tells me their own desperate prayers were unanswered. Their dread has been realized, transforming to something the rest of us cannot understand.
At worship yesterday, we prayed for those who serve. We prayed for those in authority, that they be granted wisdom.
I thought of my conversations with God, of my prayers that burdens be borne by other families. I prayed for those families.
I added a silent prayer for forgiveness.
From CBS Evening News:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Remembering 60 years back is hard for anyone, but for Melvyn Amrine, it's especially challenging.
Melvyn was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago. For his wife, Doris, it's been hard to watch. But she says something happened recently to remind her that the man she fell in love with is still here.
"It's special, because even though the mind doesn't remember everything, the heart remembers," Doris says.
It happened the day before Mother's Day, when Melvyn, who normally needs help just walking around the block, turned up missing. Police dispatch in Little Rock, Arkansas, put out the call.
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Degrees of Separation - Still the Same Old Racism (6:41) - Click for Podcast
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- My friend T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, publishes remarkable thoughts about beauty in nature, in humanity, and in spirit. He builds to the one who inspired this example of beauty in words about beauty..
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Conservatism was so much simpler when I was a kid. Conservatives just didn't much like black people.
Some were outspoken about it. Black people had all sorts of new privileges. Too many. They could vote. In fact, they could vote for the first time in some parts of the country. Lynching was now against the law. Segregation was still pretty strong, but it was technically against the law. Same with discrimination in housing and hiring. It was still going on, but it was against the law.
What more did they want?
The fact that, with the leadership of a Democratic President, some form of civil rights had become the law enraged enough conservatives that a migration of sorts had already begun. Lyndon Johnson remarked privately that new laws respecting the rights of black people would ensure that Democrats would lose the South for many decades. Conservatives left the Democratic party and became Republicans.
Even back then, outright racism, the kind spoken out loud, was confined to a vocal minority. Most commonly, the some-of-my-best-friends denial was a preface to each expression white resentment.
There was talk of whites organizing to counter newly enfranchised black voters.
Later, as overt racism became associated with pure evil, conservatives began using euphemisms. The wink and nod story was that black folks were too dim to vote for their own interests. So, someone was telling them how to vote. Organizing against black voters evolved into organizing against block voters. No kidding, that's what some politicians campaigned on. Stand up against the "block vote."
After a while, the "block vote" became too identifiable. Political language changed again. The "urban vote" came to represent for conservatives the enemy of all that was good and American and White.
In New York State, a liberal Republican - liberal by virtue of supporting civil rights - pushed for urban renewal. A conservative Republican legislature refused to allow bonds to fund Nelson Rockefeller's hopes for building up New York State's cities. After all, hadn't urban folks already been given enough, what with civil rights laws?
Then Rockefeller enraged conservatives by issuing unofficial "moral bonds." They weren't backed by law, but investors were told the state government - specifically Governor Rockefeller - would regard repayment with interest as a sacred moral obligation.
Conservatives regarded that end run as one more unearned benefit given to black people - excuse me, urban people: a minority that had already been provided the gifts of voting rights, anti-discrimination laws, and anti-lynching protection by an overly generous government.
As time went on, spoken-out-loud racism became too much for polite company. It was no longer something to be voiced at your grandmother's book and coffee club. Racism became a matter of degrees of separation.
The effort to maintain mental caution and verbal self-editing produced a kind of active resentment among conservatives.
Bill Clinton and, later on, Barack Obama came to be hated. That they do not have the same skin color is obvious. What they have shared is that conservatives regarded both with fear and loathing. Conservatives suspected President Clinton, and now suspect President Obama, of harboring sympathy for what one conservative calls "America's pampered minorities."
This is a character flaw that some black public conservatives do not have. This makes such politicians especially attractive to some conservative voters. These candidates do not sympathize with black people, and they offer a modern substitute for yesterday's worn out cliche of some-of-my-best-friends. I may get laughed at for some-of-my-best-friends, but I can proudly get by with I-voted-for-Herman-Cain. So don't call me racist.
Still the charge of racism, even the implication, still stings. It produces endless clarifications and occasional anger.
When Congressman Paul Ryan talked about the faltering work ethic of urban youth, we all paid attention. He later clarified. He had misspoken. He was not singling out African American young people. He should have applied his criticism to rural culture as well.
Recently, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) suggested that some Republican obstruction of President Obama was motivated by Obama's race. "For some, it's just we don't want anything good to happen under this President because he's the wrong color." A Republican colleague went ballistic, charging Rockefeller with "playing the race card."
"Please, don't assume, don't make implications of what I'm thinking and what I would really support," said Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI). You have no idea."
Rockefeller stood by his criticism. "I actually do. God help you."
"No senator," said Johnson, "God help you for implying I'm a racist."
It is an understandable reaction, one shared by most conservatives, in or out of government.
Soon after that, conservatives in the House of Representatives considered keeping up a pilot project that had been helping feed little kids from families struggling to get out of poverty. The project was an experiment to figure out how to feed hungry kids during summer months when they are out of school. It was pointed at "urban and rural areas."
Hard to argue with a program designed so explicitly to help both white and non-white little kids in off-school months: "urban and rural."
The House passed the bill. But only after the program was redirected by the Republican majority.
Only rural kids will be allowed to participate.
It's possible that some brave soul in the House or Senate will offer an honest appraisal of Republican motivations at explicitly excluding urban kids.
That honest voice will provoke more angry indignation from Senator Johnson.
If you get my drift.
From the Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Walker has taken to pointing to the number of newly registered "business entities" to show that his conservative policies are boosting the state's economy. But many of the organizations in Walker's count have no workers at all — and aren't likely to have any.
Walker's count includes hundreds of nonprofit organizations such as Scout troops, youth athletic leagues and condo associations.
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I’ve had some radical ideas about voting and it’s probably not a good time to tell them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote.
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I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.
- President Ronald Reagan, October 21, 1984
The age issue had been raised by pundits, media folks, and some citizens in public media. Who can forget the third time Walter Mondale raised the issue? You don't remember that? Okay, how about the second time? The very first time?
I don't blame you. I don't recall Walter Mondale ever bringing it up at all. I have searched as diligently as I know how to search. I can't find a word or even a sly implication. I don't find anything from Mondale. I don't find anything from the Democratic campaign. I don't find anything from any national Democrat.
The mythology is there. I have conservative friends who just know that Democrats were using it in 1984 against the President. I think of the old Will Rogers complaint about President Herbert Hoover: "It's not what he doesn't know that bothers me. It's what he knows for sure that just ain't so." The quote is in some dispute. It is not in any of Rogers published works. The logic is purely emotional. You're sure he would have said it, so he must have said it.
Democrats semi-sorta used the age issue way back in 1952, then in 1956, against Dwight D. Eisenhower. The concern was not mental competence, but rather survival. What if something should happen to Ike and Dick Nixon became President? That became ironic years later.
In 1996, candidate Robert Dole almost raised the issue himself, in the slot provided by the Republican Party after Clinton's State of the Union Message. Networks provided response time, and Dole was selected. Pundits later talked about his manner and his appearance. Senator Dole looked as if he was running for National Mortician.
I don't think President Clinton talked about it. Nor did his campaign. Senator Dole was a war hero who had fought against the Nazis more than half a century before. He was not only a war hero, he was a wounded veteran, having lost, forever, the use of his right arm. He lived in pain every day after that.
There was one nationally known Democrat who did talk about Dole's age: Al Franken, at the 1996 White House Correspondent's Dinner. Franken took on a lot of Republicans that night. The previous year's dinner had hosted radio shock jock personality Don Imus. Imus had hurled one tasteless sexual barb after another at the Clintons. Republicans had later twitted the First Family for not having appreciated the spirit of good clean fun.
In that spirit, Franken mentioned the subjects he would not cover:
Newt Gingrich's first wife.
Bob Dole's first wife.
Phil Gramm's first wife.
Dick Armey's first wife.
Rush Limbaugh's first wife.
Rush Limbaugh's second wife.
- Rush Limbaugh's third wife.
and on and on.
All in good clean fun, of course.
Then Franken talked about Robert Dole's age:
And this Dutch crew that was there decided to interview me. This is how little was happening. So this Dutch correspondent says to me, "Which of the Republicans do you like the most?"
And I said, "Well, I guess of the Republicans, I like Bob Dole the most."
(Here, Al Franken adopted a passable fake Dutch accent)
"Oh, but he is so old!" he said.
And I said, "Well, you know, he wasn't too old to save your sorry Dutch ass.
- Al Franken, White House Correspondents Dinner, May 4, 1996
In the times he ran for President, the only remarks I remember about John McCain's age came from Republicans. Republican strategist Karl Rove generated news as he denied authorship of whispering campaigns about McCain's adopted child, alleged interracial sexual relationships, and questions about McCain's mental health.
He had, after all, been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. That last is a bit of personal history many of us consider heroic, but Mr. Rove was above all that.
I do remember raising one aspect of health myself in 2008. I thought John McCain was using his running mate to throw mud, leaving his own hands clean. It was as if Governor Sarah Palin had taken on the leadership of the campaign. I asked my one health question about a prospective win by Republicans: What if something happened to Sarah Palin and John McCain became President?
Karl Rove's newest questions about Hillary Clinton seem to be obvious missteps. He was quoted in a friendly paper, saying Hillary Clinton had suffered brain damage in a fall a couple of years ago.
He denied saying that. He had only said she had fallen, had a serious head injury, and had been seen wearing special glasses designed for brain injured people. That's all he had said. Very innocent.
Oh, and one other thing. You know, she's very, very old.
She'll be 69 by the time of the 2016 elections. She will be 77 if she serves two terms. And this ends up being an issue.
I would remind you, John McCain - here's the headline from U.S. News and World Report: "McCain's age and past health problems could be an issue in the presidential campaign". This happens every presidential campaign.
- Karl Rove, Fox News Monday, May 12, 2014
You might think Republicans would distance themselves from this one. Here's the chairman of the Republican National Committee a few days later.
I think that health and age is fair game. It's fair game for Ronald Reagan. It's fair game for John McCain. When people came at John McCain and said maybe he's psychologically not fit because he was a prisoner of war.
- Reince Priebus, Chairman, Republican National Committee, May 18, 2014
"People" said that, did they?
I suppose it could get even more tiresome. The headline Rove quoted was about surprising results from focus groups as reported to Howard Dean in the past. Democrats had not used the issue, but Karl Rove was enraged at the time because he knew in his heart that they were about to.
As a practical matter, age is unlikely to be an issue for Hillary, unless her choice of a running mate makes it an issue. Remember Eisenhower and Nixon.
She'll be okay if she doesn't choose Sarah Palin.
From Tampa Bay Times:
In a speech at an anti-Common Core event, unearthed by Think Progress, Van Zant attacks AIR as promoting a homosexual lifestyle for children and urges attendees to push for its removal.
"These people that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped will promote double mindedness in state education, and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can," Van Zant, who so far in unopposed in his reelection bid, told the group. "I'm sorry to report that to you."
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The public humiliation of what may be the worst sportscaster of all time.
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There were self-help books before the 1960s.
Norman Vincent Peale had created some controversy before that decade with the Power of Positive Thinking. It was a new formulation of the Christian message. Mostly, Dr. Peale engaged in harmless aphorisms on how to live more peacefully. "Don’t take tomorrow to bed with you" and "Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders" and "Don’t take yourself so seriously."
But the central theme was a little more risky. If you don't achieve every dream you have ever dared to dream, it's because you never were able to gin up enough faith. A system of avoiding negative messages meant rigid self-censorship, self administered thought control. For some with real problems such a regimen could be damaging. So could the occasional circumstance that went beyond individual control.
Adlai Stevenson voiced the opinion of at least a few thoughtful readers: "I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling."
In the 1960s a new self-help guru arose. Maxwell Maltz was a cosmetic surgeon who said he had noticed a change in personality in his patients that went beyond cosmetics. Even changes too minor to be easily noticed accompanied a new direction in life, with more self-confidence leading to greater success.
Maltz created what I saw as a variation on the central Peale message. Gone was the distortion of Christianity. Maltz instead focused on the mechanical. A repeated analogy was guidance systems in rocketry. Also gone was the pressure of failure as a sign of moral degeneracy.
The Maltz methodology defined cybernetics as the constant response to measured self-diagnosis. The title of his self-help book was Psycho-Cybernetics. The theme was the formulation of an accurate, positive self image, followed by visualization of goals and objectives. I read it with great interest as a youth, then rejected it as a basic violation of teenage apathy. It involved a lot of mental effort.
As it turned out, the definition of cybernetics was broader than the Maltz analogy. Maltz saw the principle in a guidance system focusing on fixed point - a star - and making incremental adjustments in flight.
Cybernetics is used across scientific disciplines. It is used to explain evolutionary development, to formulate mechanical engineering constructs, for neuroscience, and mathematics. It is used in pretty much anything that incorporates a feedback loop for guidance. I do x - or x comes from an outside event - and y happens as a result. That changes what my next action will be as I adjust.
Cybernetics happens a lot in nature. We experience it in our own actions. How many times have we been told that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result?
I've been thinking lately about how my limited understanding of cybernetics applies to politics and policy.
Republicans win their last election in 1928 until they learn to partially accept Social Security and finally win through the 1950s.
Democrats lose Presidential elections that don't involve Watergate from the late 1960s until the early 1990s. Painful introspection produces changes. Democrats get majorities of the electorate in five of the next six elections.
The Great Depression drags on and on. So a new policy, Keynesian economics, is devised and timidly applied. Things get better. World War II arrives and Keynesian economics is involuntarily amplified. The Great Depression disappears. So Keynesian economics becomes official policy for generations.
The Obamacare website doesn't work. So new experts are brought in. They work around the clock. Then the website works.
In recent decades, Republicans seem to have lost the capacity for change through introspection. Their policies have been impervious to data. From economics to the environment to science in general, Republicans are less inclined with each passing day to acknowledge demonstrable facts.
To some extent, you expect some of this in a competitive market that depends on public belief. But when politicians construct a story for the Republican base, a story that is independent from reality, they sometimes fall into their own storybook world.
I watched with interest as Republicans released a brief study showing that a very large percentage of Obamacare enrollees did not pay their premiums. The study happened to exclude the final two weeks before a major deadline. Okay, so politicians will sometimes act on a cynical attempt to fool people. Witness the Ohio debacle of the Romney campaign as they insisted car companies were shipping jobs to China.
But in this case, Republicans arranged for major health insurance corporations to testify about the huge number of people who enrolled but did not pay. As it turned out record numbers were enrolling and they were paying premiums right on time. The politicians were unable to conceal their shock as one executive after another told Republicans they were wrong.
Republican politicians had actually believed their own bogus reports based on bogus data.
Cybernetics involves the use of feedback to chart new actions based on reality.
When the data that is being relied upon is only a reflection of what politicians want to hear, it becomes similar to the sort of feedback you get from holding a microphone too close to a speaker.
The information relied upon by today's Republicans is what the rest of us recognize as noise.
Let Me Tell You What I Know About Those People (5:09) - Click for Podcast
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Missed it by THAT much. Infidel 753 brings us the bad news that the conservative revolutionary front planning to overthrow the government and take Barack Obama prisoner, fell just a few short of the goal for that massive million protester demonstration in Washington. Just 9,999,900 more and they would have nailed it.
The Moderate Voice launches from the Correspondents' Dinner to illustrate the rapid decline of CNN. The network decends from news and analysis to shows that could be co-hosted by Ron Burgundy and Ted Baxter.
My good friend T. Paine, at Saving Common Sense, seems to have taken up the reigns again. This time, he presents the case against an insurance mandate a corporation objects to on religious grounds. That's because the government is prohibited from favoring any religion or lack of religion. Respecting the establishment of religion: I don't think that means what my friend thinks it means. For example, if Cliven Bundy was to balk for some religious reason at paying grazing fees while his cattle graze on public land, I don't think anyone would regard his reasoning as legally sound. For his argument to stand, T. Paine must either support that hypothetical religious argument, or explain how his own logic would not extend to it.
Rumproast bravely surfs the shifting crosswinds of Marco Rubio's public personna. He proclaims that he is no scientist, explains why scientists are all wrong on the environment, and surprises scientists by informing them what they have concluded about pregnancy.
Vincent at A wayfarer's notes tells more about the current fate of the book he has authored and what the future holds. As always, this writer offers much more on helpful criticism, the differences between writing books and writing blogs, and more.
- At Crooks and Liars, Blue Gal briefly asserts that those of us who worship should know that the meaning of scripture goes deeper than literalism allows. She happens to be right.