Wednesday, September 30, 2015

End Of Drought

We have had, in upstate New York, a bit of a dry summer, and in particular a dry September. It has been raining for most of the last eighteen hours or so--but that was only the second time it has rained in the month, and so it was a bit dry around here, if not quite California or Texas. It affected me directly only in the sense that I have had to water the garden and outside plants several times in the last few weeks, which is something I usually do not have to do at this time of year, and I think I've run the lawnmower once since mid-August (and may not have to do so again). But this was hardly water-rationing crisis.
And I think about water and rainfall a lot. This area seems terminally economically depressed, a status made worse by the utter inability of our local governmental apparatus to think coherently on the subject. But there is one area, one resource, we have in abundance that much of the rest of the country is discovering that they cannot count on--water. I cannot recall a time in my life, and I have lived in this area since I was a child, where we had anything truly serious to worry about as far as drought. We get plenty of rain every year, and more winters than not we get a decent snowpack built up by the end of the winter. While we may not be prime agricultural habitat compared to someplace like Iowa, if one drives through the state this time of year, one can see just how much of the land upstate is devoted to farming, and the fields are invariably healthy-looking. And as if water coming from the heavens wasn't sufficient enough, New York has long shores on two of the five Great Lakes. A good portion of the electrical grid in this state could be (I actually think that much of what's generated goes to Canada, but that could be changed) powered by the plants around Niagara Falls. All this may not seem like a big deal or a big advantage compared to other places...
But a good portion of the country, including many places that have seemingly healthy economies compared to here, is facing major issues with access to water. Texas has alternated between extreme drought and apocalyptic flooding in the last couple of years. California's problems with drought are well-known. The aquifers that have powered Midwestern agriculture for a century are drying up. Many Southern cities, most notably Atlanta but also others, have seriously limited capacity to deal with extended dry spells. And the inevitable rise of the oceans that is already starting to occur as a result of global warming will further complicate the picture; fresh water supplies near coasts will become compromised, and major population shifts will occur because of coastline retreat, which will drive people into other areas. And people need water even more than they need other necessities of life.
This area is hundreds of feet above sea level and has water supplies that have never seriously been threatened. It may take several decades or as few as one, but at some point, these basic facts, and developments elsewhere in the nation, are going to make this area a much more attractive proposition than it seems now. And although I can't stand the man, the decision made by the Spoiled Little Bastard to ban fracking in this state is going to pay off in years to come, because our already abundant supplies are not going to be contaminated with whatever witches brew is used in those processes.
But that's far in the future. All I'm really happy about now is that I don't have to use the watering can now for weeks. I am still getting plenty out of the garden. I have several cherry tomato plants still in full production. Banana peppers have been an overwhelming success this year; the bell pepper plants are now producing well, and the one jalapeno plant has been prolific for months and shows no sign of slowing down. I still have a dozen Brussels sprouts in the ground; they're not making store-sized sprouts, but they're not done yet, either. And I've had a good year with everything else--squash, broccoli, cucumbers all had great crops, and I even had a couple of watermelons. But it's taken some work--I watered more this year, and much further into the year, than I remember doing since the first year I had the garden.
And one good thing about looming unemployment is that I can take a few days and repair the garden box once and for all. The time just hasn't been there this summer, but if the temperature holds out until near-Halloween, I think I can afford about fifty dollars' worth of lumber and get it done before winter. At least that's the idea. If it doesn't rain all the time, always a possibility in the fall around here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Book Review: THE SWAMP ROOT CHRONICLE

Once in a while, when searching through shelves in the back section of the library, you find an older book that you had no idea you were going to find entertaining or valuable. And so it is with Robert Manning's The Swamp Root Chronicle. Manning died a few years ago in his nineties, and hadn't been active in American journalism in decades; his biggest and most public role was as the editor of The Atlaniic for nearly two decades in my youth. But he had a long and varied career in both journalism and government, and the book is full of interesting details about that career. But what I found most fascinating, and was something I did not know when picking up the book, was that Manning was a Binghamton native--as a matter of fact, from the neighborhood I live in now, just four streets over from mine. It is incredible to read of places you go by every day, of places familiar to you, in someone else's book. It was also very interesting to read of the city eighty years ago--how trains were the preferred mode of transportation, what the Binghamton Press was like in its youth, what the area was like when Endicott-Johnson was huge and IBM was just getting big. And yes, even then, Binghamton had a reputation as somewhat of a backwater and a dull place to live, even though his descriptions of the time and place don't really match that rhetoric.
This book took me a week to read because I've been busy, not because it was dull. I am willing to venture that hardly anyone around here remembers who Robert Manning was; he never appears on the occasional lists of famous alumni of this area. But his story, at least as written by him, encompassed much of the American century, and this book brings alive the days of a mainstream media that didn't include television, the heyday of American periodicals (he worked for Time for many years, too), and the beginning of the end. Manning lost The Atlantic gig when Morton Zuckerman took over in 1980, and Zuckerman was and is a scumbag "entrepreneur" of the Trump type--great with other people's money, unscrupulous, a blowhard, and a vastly inflated view of his talents. Zuckerman currently owns the NY Daily News and US News and World Report, among other rags, and his media outlets have one thing in common--they're the Avis or Enterprise of their fields, never the Hertz. He ended up getting sued by Manning and having to pay him a large amount of money, and the trial process takes up much of the last two chapters, which serve as a nice coda to the story and also as a tutorial on why mainstream media is so lame and a tool of the moneyed and powerful today.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Eclipse Last Night

Last night was a supposedly rare event, a blood moon lunar eclipse. Wonder of wonders, you could actually see it in these parts (usually when something noteworthy is happening in the sky, it rains or has cloud cover thick enough to ground air flights). And for once, it was mostly as advertised. It wasn't quite as large in the sky as some commentators led us to believe it would be, but yes, it turned orange during the eclipse, and it did last for a relatively long time.
I used to be very fascinated by celestial phenomena. I remember getting all jazzed as a kid when I found out that I was going to be able to see Halley's Comet in the prime of my life--and then it was so far away as to virtually invisible, a huge disappointment to say the least. I did see whatever comet it was that was around in 1997, just about every night it was visible for months. When I was younger and had one, I would train my telescope on the planets and moon, trying to see various features--about the only thing I ever really saw that was cool was the phases of Venus, but it didn't stop me from trying. And I can't remember specifics, but last night was not the first lunar eclipse I've seen; I can think of three others that I can definitely remember, and there might have been more.
As a aside, whatever happened to UFO sightings? I remember when I was in grade school, fifth and sixth grade to be specific, and it seemed like we couldn't go a week without some reports of weird lights in the skies, augmented by the occasional report of some goofy bastard on television claiming he or she was abducted or saw little green men. You don't see or hear about this stuff anymore; I don't know if that's because they've been so discredited that no one pays attention, or if there really aren't any reports being made. I'd love to give you all a UFO story, but the only one I can really talk about is that there was a very large airship in the sky one night in late 1973 very close to the ground. I don't feel it was particularly; it was blimp-shaped and didn't go zooming off or anything like that. The only thing that was mysterious, and for all I know it really isn't, was that the thing was very close to the ground--couldn't have been more than a couple of hundred feet up in the air--and completely silent. I never saw anything in the news about it, but given that I was ten years old and there were all sorts of reports being made on a regular basis at the time, I never forgot that. And around the same general time frame, fall 1973, there were several sonic booms heard in the area; most of the adults at the time and now insist that they had something to do with the United State's response to the Yom Kippur War that was happening at the time. Griffis Air Force Base in Rome, a couple of hours from here, was active then, and I suppose that explanation is as good as any.
But I digress... I've seen one partial solar eclipse in my life, years ago, and I do hope to see a total eclipse of the sun some time before I die--but not enough to travel to see it. I don't remember how far into the future the next one visible from upstate New York is, but it's a while--for some reason, 2033 is stuck in my head. I remember being horribly disappointed in the major planetary conjunction that happened a few years ago; the difference in the night sky was precisely zero. There is one event above all others I do want to see, and there is no way of knowing whether we are ever going to see one--a supernova. The idea that a star becomes so bright that it can be seen in the day fascinates me. I can live without seeing a minor meteor strike in my lifetime; the video of that one exploding over Siberia a couple of years ago was cool to watch on You Tube, but I suspect would be much less cool to experience. And should there ever be a major meteor strike, it would likely be the last thing any of us ever saw.
But eclipses are regular events, so regular that astronomers of Sumeria five thousand years ago figured out what they were and when they were going to occur. Which brings another digression to mind. How the hell did anyone ever get the idea, long after people figured out at least the rudiments of how celestial mechanics worked, that the earth was flat, or the earth was stationary in the heavens? I realize that certainly by the time of Columbus, the flat earth notion was discredited--but in the time of, say, Charlemagne, it was not. And someone like Galileo spent years under house arrest for stating the obvious, too. How does this happen? Well, actually, I know how it happens; people get these preconceived ideas that fit a particular political and/or religious agenda, and they don't let pesky things like facts and truth get in the way of them. It is sad and sobering to realize how much damage people are capable of inflicting rather than say the words, "I was wrong."
Any inferences to many questions affecting political and religious matters in the news are totally intentional, by the way. There is a legend that Columbus spooked his crew by convincing them, when they were on the point of mutiny, that he had control over the moon by telling them he could make the moon disappear during an eclipse, and that they were cowed by his supposed power. Several explorer/conquistadors were also credited with this ploy when dealing with American Indians, too. Chances are the stories are apocryphal, Eclipses, as mentioned, have been studied and predicted for five thousand years. But the mythology persists because there is a deep-seated human need for there to be a division between a small group with specialized knowledge and a great mass of ignorant wretches capable of only violence. And like many archetypes, this division has some basis in experience.
The problem is that in the mythology, the good guys/smart guys always win. In  real life, not so much; the good guys do not always win. The current climate change imbroglio is an example of that; it's become increasingly clear that nothing substantial is going to be done about it by anyone in power anywhere. And it doesn't really matter when the next blood moon eclipse is going to be, in the long run, or whether there will be another near-pass of Halley's Comet in 2062 or 2138. Because a few hundred years from now, these things will be happening, to be sure. The question is, how many of us are going to be around to see it? The answer is almost certainly "A whole lot less of us." But we're not supposed to be thinking or talking about that, I guess.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The True Dregs of Humanity

I pay attention to the news and, against my better judgment, to political stories and issues. And while I have known since I was in college that actual American democracy only bears a faint resemblance to the propaganda we're taught about it, I have never been so depressed about the condition of it as I am now. This cycle's--I first typed "this year," but running for President has become a mulit-year proposition in this day and age--news is almost entirely dominated, on the Republican side, by loathsome human beings with truly odious world views. The evidence is overwhelming; the conclusion is undeniable.
I have started sharing, on my Facebook feed, every news post I see that quotes or shows a candidate for President violating either basic human decency standards or saying something so outrageously stupid that it calls their ability to operate a remote control, much less handle the job of running the country, into question. There has been no shortage of material. I have posted something inane or reprehensible that Mike Huckabee has said more days than not. Jeb Bush has made multiple appearances, too. Folded candidates Rick Perry and Scott Walker showed up, and Ted Cruz and Rand Paul will no doubt add to their totals of appearances before all is said and done. Chris Christie has become so irrelevant that I sometimes let some of his pronouncements pass, but he's a member of the Fucking Idiot's Club in good standing, too. and yesterday Marco Rubio joined the list for the first time. The gaffes/strange ideas/hatemongering/lying of Trump, Carson, and Fiorina are being handled by the mainstream media quite well, at the moment; I'd have time for little else if I jumped on every idiotic or offensive thing that comes out of their mouths.
And the ongoing visit of the Pope to the United States has crystallized everything that is wrong with conservative, right-wing, Republican, whatever-label people of those types, and the political figures that cater to them, and put it on display in vivid, gut-turning wretchedness, like a close-up of a festering boil located an inch from someone's rectum being shown on a widescreen television. These examples are from yesterday morning's news--and it should be noted that I left the house at 3:30 AM to spend the day out of town early in the morning, and spent no more than 15 minutes looking at various news sites:

  • At one of the Pope's appearances, some woman (with an "unmistakeably Southern drawl", the report noted) was captured on video as saying she wanted to throw her shoe at the Pope. 
  • On Fox News' web site, their odious "legal expert," some human tumor named Andrew Napolitano (he calls himself "Judge," but he left the bench, under curious circumstances, in 1995) opined that Pope Francis is a "false prophet." The word has two dictionary meanings, and since the Pope has never claimed to be able to see into the future, Napolitano can only mean that Francis is not a man whose words have any connection with God. LIke I'm sure that a guy that works for Fox and bears a title he hasn't actually earned in two decades does.
  • The three Fascist--er, minions of the Anthchrist,--er, most conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States--Scalia, Alito, and Thomas--, all of whom are Roman Catholics, did not show up for the Pope's address to Congress. The other three Catholics on the Court, and the three non-Catholic members of the court, did. 
  • And two weeks after other candidates and political figures attacked the Pope for "not being a scientist" and therefore being unqualified to have an opinion on climate change--and being put in their place by the fact that Francis is, by education and training, a chemist, which is an actual branch of actual science instead of some pseudo-horseshit like Doctor of Creationism, Jeb Bush, true to his simian intellectual prowess, repeated the canard that Francis "is not a scientist." I swear to God, the more I see and hear of Jeb, the more I am convinced that George was the smart brother--which is truly a frightening prospect to contemplate. 
This is about fifteen minutes worth of one day's news cycle. This isn't policy disagreements; this is evidence of a lack of basic human decency on people of conservative beliefs--often mistakenly labeled as the "religious right." There is nothing, nothing, that these people display or beleive that is consistent with any values or concepts espoused in the Gospels of the New Testament by Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate according to Christian belief. I hear and see these awful people, and I think back 35 years to the rantings of the then-most hated man in American, the Ayatollah Khomeini, referring to this country as the Great Satan--and thinking maybe he saw us better than we did and do.
Because as sins against basic human values go, disrespecting the Pope is a relatively minor offense. Coming on top of the Kim Davis stuff, the unrelenting and wildly personal attacks on Obama, the pool of modern Know-Nothing sentiment tapped by Trump, the rampant abuse of authority by police forces across the nation, the still-present and pervasive racism everywhere (just look at a trollcomment section of any news article anywhere), though...
The rot is terminal in a whole lot of us here. I am disgusted that I have to share a country with them. I am not a practicing Catholic--but I am a well-enough adjusted person to see that the Pope is an essentially decent man trying to make the world a better place. I am not a blind supporter of any Democratic poltiican or candidate for President--but they are not people that make me cringe and wonder what the fuck kind of acid flows through their arteries on a daily basis. I'm actually not a big fan of the President--but I have had my fill and then some of these hypocritical asswipes that make up lies and credit him with their nightmare phatasm motivations because they are unwilling to admit to being virulently racist in 2015. 
Well, I have had enough. There is a time to fight fire with fire. I'm sick of people making excuses for the inexcusable. I am sick of people who espouse and enable this garbage. As I get older, I am sick of the sulferous stupidity surrounding me. And those spewing it and supporting it are not going to be around me any more, and they are going to be called out when I encounter it. There comes a time when a breaking point is reached, and I've reached mine. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

National Daughter's Everyday

It's another early travel day, so this will be short and to the point. Yesterday, apparently, was National Daughters' Day. I didn't mark the occasion in any special way, mostly because I didn't know about it until well into the afternoon. But I don't really feel as though I need commemorate my daughters on one day of the year, because they are celebrated every day of the year around here. Sabrina has started to pull through the funk of the spring and summer, while Rachel and Jessica are well into college; all three of them are kids that any parent would be delighted to have as their child. I would not be the person I am today without Sabrina, whom I made a commitment to raising many years ago; the rewards of that decision have been legion and manifest every day of my life. I love all three dearly, and there is everything to celebrate about them every day of the year, not just September 25.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Random Notes, Late September 2015

In no particular order:
1) The Pope is in the house. And not surprisingly to anyone who pays attention at all, our alleged Christians that permeate the conservative side of the political spectrum, non-Catholics but also Catholics, are feeling some kind of way about the message he delivers. There have been, seriously, at least a dozen politicians and a host of others who have been free with their opinions that the Pope is wrong--about climate change, social justice, morality, you name it--because his views are different from theirs. This is not going to be a theological rant, but the Pope's views are those that are present in the Gospels, given as the word of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians are supposed to believe, as a matter of faith, was God incarnate. Honestly, if your views differ from those of the Scriptural figure that you claim to believe is God--well, that tells us all we need to know about your "faith" in God, doesn't it?
What all this actually points out, on a deeper level, is the ultimate paradox--or contradiction, depending on how you feel about it--of Christianity. Many centuries ago, the decision was made by the theologians and clergy of the time that it was necessary to present Jesus, as a matter of faith, as the fulfillment of certain prophecies found in passages in what Christians call the Old Testament (and what adherents of Judaism call the Bible). The problem with that concept is that the message and ideas and principles that were the legacy of the Jesus presented in the New Testament are radically different from those found in the Old Testament, and despite what we are still taught in religious education and in churches today, there is no real, consistent, or logical way to reconcile them. And most "conservative" Christians overwhelmingly, despite their rhetoric, use scriptural passages found in the Old Testament as the basis of their beliefs and practices, and thus those beliefs and practices are not very "Christ-like" at all.
All religions have some conflict between belief and reality. Christianity has more than most, and the fact that their "sacred" literature contains two different compendiums of literature that often contradict each other is a major reason why. And the controversy surrounding this Pope and his views are a vivid example of this conflict.
1a) The Pope's visit has shown us yet again that, as much as it is convenient and even fun to lump all the people that work for Fox News together as minions of evil, some people there do have consciences and morals. Shepard Smith gave a rather pointed and accurate rebuttal to several of his compatriots on the air yesterday, basically calling them on their hypocrisy and telling them to look in the mirror for the source of their discomfort with the message the Pope is carrying. This is not the first time that Smith has deviated from Fox orthodoxy (he absolutely excoriated, on the air, the Bush Administration during Katrina for their incompetence in the response to the disaster, several times, in the most notable example, but there have been others), and he serves as a reminder to those of us that would like to easily lump all those that do not share our philosophies and values that not everybody that doesn't agree with us is an ignorant moron.
2) There is a real catfight going on locally in the "race" to fill the seat of disgraced former State Senator Libous. On the one hand, the Republican candidate is a political neophyte that has been a police officer for a decade and a half, and on the other, the Democratic candidate is a career officeholder that "retired" from a position in Cuomo's administration several months ago after her own son's career flamed out after a drunk driving accident. With material like this to work with, it was highly doubtful that any sort of reasonable discussion of issues and politics was going to occur, and of course it has not. There have been all sorts of nasty ads on television; that's nothing new. What is new is the posting by "groups" on social media sites with extremely misleading or even patently false information about those running for office, with the candidates quietly and a day later distancing themselves from direct responsibility for the content in those posts.
To me, this contest is a measure of just how deep and foul the cesspool of New York politics has become. Neither one of these candidates is even remotely attractive; there is not one genuinely good reason to vote for either of them other than "lesser of two evils." And that's a threshold neither one of them may be able to meet. Is this really the best we can do? And the craptacular that is state politics draws it fetid nourishment from the muck that is local politics. I am trying really hard not to be overly judgmental about people I have to deal with, for at least a little while longer, professionally. But I have to say that my eyes have really been opened recently about the work ethics and  intellectual capacity of a whole lot of people that work in the governmental plaza on Hawley Street, in both county and city governments, It really shouldn't be this hard to find anyone that actually knows what the hell they are doing when they sit down at their desk each day.
3) Having ventured into the shark pools that are religion and politics with the first two forays this morning, I might as well go for the triple crown of subjects guaranteed to offend someone this morning. I spent a good deal of yesterday with someone that moves in the same social circles as me, and talk turned to the relationships that both of us are in. He mentioned to me that someone that used to be close to the Queen is also close to his girlfriend, and after much stutter-stepping, told me that he believes that the third party is not a fan of mine, and warned me that this person would be "causing trouble" between the Queen and I. I was somewhat amused, because the person in question has made a lot of promises that have not been kept, and so whatever friendship there was has been extinguished. But the exchange led to some more verbal meandering, and it drove home a point that doesn't get said often enough.
For better or worse, no one other than me has really spent any time around the Queen for months. In that time, both of us have changed a great deal, and more importantly for our future prospects, both of us have come to know each other inside and out. We may not make it to Happily Ever After--but if we don't, it's not going to be because some people that haven't spoken to her or me in a long time have opinions of who we were miles back in our journeys. Or to put it in plain English, they don't know either one of us and who we are anymore. Personal growth is an ongoing process, ideally. It takes place at differing rates, and in different directions, but for those that are working at it, it does take place. The fact is that many people grow apart, and that process is accelerated when one party makes promises to another that desperately needs friends to stand by them--and then doesn't fulfill them. I didn't say so yesterday, but believe me, the individual mentioned yesterday has been the subject of several talks between the Queen and I--and she was hurt pretty badly by the gap between promises and actions. Let's just say her credibility with the Queen isn't very high right now.
And the fact that Somebody I Used To Know turned up at a meeting and has been sighted on social media was brought to my attention yesterday, too. I told the guy that told me that I saw her at that meeting the other night, too, but it's a matter of indifference to me. The fellowship and recovery are open to all of us, and as a person that has experienced both addiction and recovery, I am glad for any addict that, even temporarily, is willing to surrender to the disease of addiction and is interested in a new way of life. But seeing her there did not arouse any particular passion in me. There's an old saying that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy, and I moved on a long time ago. My friend seemed a little skeptical when I said this, and I felt a degree of irritation by having to state the obvious, that I have been in another relationship for almost a year now, one that has brought me feelings I haven't felt in many years--and one where the monkey cage has first quieted and then emptied. What possible feelings could I have left for someone that walked away from me, and knowingly inflicted a great deal of harm and pain on me more than once? I don't wish her ill, and I hope that this is the time, that the war is truly over for her. But that's it. I have enough to deal with in my own life as it presently is being lived.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Last Train To Rensselaer

For the last eight years, I've belonged to an advisory board of youth services professionals that meets every quarter at the headquarters of the New York Office of Children and Family Services. I haven't been going a whole lot in the last few years, partially because OCFS tends not to listen to the advice we give and partially because the subject matter never seems to change. But I am going today, because all indications are that it is going to be my swan song as a part of this body and because the federal project officer that oversees our (and every other) program that has recieved or recieves federal funding will be there to talk about the latest grant cycle and the impending government shutdown. I have some questions for her, too, about how to close out a progam and to alert her as to our intentions.
Every year, the September version of this meeting follows a familar script. I knew that it was always possible that my turn as the victim of a cut in funding would come up, and this year is the year, unfortunately, when it happened. It's been quite a learning experience for me, and it's been very enlightening to watch the trajectory of the state government and its priorities over that time. Believe it or not, it's been eight years since Eliott Spitzer's election; he had just been inaguarated when I started attending. I've seen the amount of money allocated to this program stream ebb away year by year; I've seen OCFS official after official tell us all how much our services are appreciated and needed even while the funding levels kept going down. I've seen various attempts at changing the way business is done, data is collected, information used, and priorities set. I've watched bottom hit, and finally, in the last year or so, the funding begin to creep back upward (although the funds are allocated to counties, and it's a county decision how those funds are allocated. I am waiting to see what our county's response to this possibly mortal crisis is before giving any further opinion on this subject).
And over eight years, I have seen a lot of faces come and go. There are still about a dozen of us that are still regulars from the first meetings I was attending eight years ago. But I used to ride up with Karen and Mike; Karen lost her position six years ago, and Mike has been gone from his program for over four. I used to be one of three people that came from programs run by my agency across the state; Vicki's been gone for over three years, and Trudy lost her funding last year. There are different OCFS liaisons, different chairs of the board, different compliance officers I report to. Mainstays of long-term service providers and advocates, like Margo and Father Joe, no longer are in their positions. Even She Who Formerly Could Not Be Named, the federal project officer from hell that turned out to be the biggest advocate and booster our program had, has been retired for two years now; I never in a million years thought I would say this, but man, I miss Estelle.
And now it's my turn. I am not one for teary goodbyes or melodramatic speeches;  I intend to mention that we are not likely to be in existence for more than another few weeks, but there will be no passionate screeds decrying the injustice of it all, no weepy entreaties to "save the children!" This audience has already seen this sort of thing dozens of times, and I've always thought, every time I've heard one of these rants or emotional explosions over the years, that the display is unprofessional and a waste of everyone's time. I am going today, as I said, to hear the federal report, and to give the intern some insight into how things really work in the social work field. He's been getting more of an education on that subject, this summer and fall, than he ever will in any of his courses at Binghamton University.
And then it will be over. I will probably take my name card with me. I remember the inordinate amount of pride I felt when I came back for my second meeting, in 2007, and saw that I had one; it made me feel important, like I was a real pro at this and that rather than a job, I was actually making a career out of what I was doing. That feeling passed a long time ago, or I should say the elation I felt that day did--but I am finding that, as much as I recognize that perhaps it is time for a change, and that the world has certainly shifted underneath me, trite as it is, it is still a visible symbol that I have made a small impact on a bigger stage.
And that I will, much to my surprise, miss playing my part.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Staying Calm in Rough Seas

I've been complimented many times in the last week for the way I am conducting myself and carrying myself since it became apparent that my program was not being re-funded. Part of that just comes from being 52 years old and surviving many more desperate and perilous situations like this previously during the course of my life. I don't have a whole lot of cushion at present, but I have some; I have prepared for the proverbial rainy day for a dozen years now, and while the hope is that you never have to use the cushion, usually at some point the skies open up. I've never been one to panic in any event; it's just not in my nature, and I learned a long time ago that it was better to try to think my way out of situations than lose my mind.
What has changed for me over the years on that front is learning when to sit still and let events take their course around me, as well. That's a big part of a Twelve Step program, and while it has been a long and laborious process to learn what the difference is between the things I can't change and what I can, I also have become much more proficient at doing so over the course of nearly seventeen years. In this particular case, the federal funding does not run out until next Wednesday, so why freak out this week? And I'm not going through this alone; my own agency, some of the agencies and community partners that we collaborate with are aware of what is happening and devising their own responses and plans to alleviate the issue, as well as my own agency's command chain. I'm not going to be unemployed at the close of business Wednesday; I have at least until mid-October, and that's not chiseled into stone yet, either. So again--why freak out now? I am doing what pops up on my plate on a daily basis, and every day in the last week, I've ended up doing something or talking to someone that I had no idea I was going to do when I left the house in the morning. I made decisions to do certain things I know need to be done, and done them--I've picked up and packed up much of the storage room and office thus far, for example. But I've not been calling around, I've not been feeling sorry for myself, I've not been actively seeking other employment during work hours.
And sitting still has helped me deal with the dizzying rate of developments around me. I seriously don't think I have gone more than four hours without some other idea or plan crossing my desk about projected closing dates coming from someone. In a week, I have heard and/or been told to plan for five different "final" days, and I know there are at least four different irons in the fire that people have placed there that could change the date yet again. I do know that at a minimum, I will be there until October 19, but there are ideas out there that could keep me until the end of October, the end of the year, sometime in November, and even the federal project officer has refused to confirm that the award process--or non-award, if you will--is final. So even if I was inclined to freak out, I would be riding a roller coaster up and down three times a day because of conflicting information... I am aware that there are people that go through life like that. I feel very, very sorry for those people; it must be awful, to have no way of reining in their emotions.
There's a big part of me that also realizes that others are depending on me to get it together. My daughters, obviously, top that list. Sabrina is better than halfway to 17 years old, and more adult than ever before--but she is still an adolescent and very much dependent on me to keep the ship sailing while she goes about her fulfilling her growing responsibilities. And Rachel and Jessica are affected, too; I'm still paying child support for them--in Rachel's case, only to December--and they are on my health insurance. I talked with Rachel a few days ago about what is happening, and was able to reassure her that even if the insurance lapses, there are options available that will address her most pressing concerns. I have held off on formally informing my ex-wife of what is happening because I do not have a definitive answer as to when I will be unemployed and when the insurance will be ending--and having dealt with her for the better part of thirty years, I know it is much better to talk to her with as few variables or possibilities as practical. There will be a right time and place for that; it hasn't arrived yet. And lurking in the distance is the homecoming of the Queen; it is less than seven weeks now. There are still some variables to be finalized there, but the bottom line is that the last thing she needs is for me, who has been the rock that has allowed her to take the actions that will put her obligations to authority behind her, to suddenly become unstable and undependable. We will muddle through somehow, even in a worst case scenario--and without resorting to old behavior or means to escape reality. That never works, and I've internalized that over a decade and a half--and she's been able to make a great deal of progress in a shorter period of time because I'm there to support that decision in many ways. For me to suddenly turn to jello would be a huge blow to her, and not incidentally make a mockery of all the commitments I've made--and to this point, kept--to her. I'm not going to do that. It's taken me a long, long time to get into a relationship that actually works, and it required substantial change from what I have always done in past relationships. I'm not going to renege on those changes just because there is a little stress on the material part of our world--if for no other reason, that this is the first time in my entire life that I have been with someone and not felt any insecurity. I'm not going to give that up for any reason, and that obviously includes worries and concerns about financial matters.
And just as we are in this together, so, too, am I getting support from my friends and my fellowship and my network of non-recovering people, too. I have more people that I can use as references on resumes and applications than I ever dreamed possible. A lot of people have let me know that they are willing to help in some way--some are probably blowing smoke, but I am sure that many of them are not. Some are already making efforts on my behalf. None of my friends or circle are going to shun me if I lose my job (a wise decision made years ago was that not having anything to do with people I work with away from the job). My family is aware of what is happening, and are willing to help out to a degree should it be required--and they very much appreciate that I am not already dunning them for help based on fear of what might happen down the road.
As we often say and hear in our meetings, we're not promised anything in our recovery program other than freedom from active addiction. We don't get a pass on the vicissitudes of life because we are clean. What we do get are ways to deal with them so that the ups and downs do not become uncontrolled flights and crash-and-burns. The path I have followed for almost seventeen years has led me to places I never thought I'd get to, and a degree of fulfillment and stability I never thought I'd feel.
And I'm not chucking it away because I'm going to lose a freaking job. And I'm not going to destroy the emotional stability of those that have come to depend on me by abandoning the very set of principles that made me attractive and dependable to them to begin with. It's the people around me that determine the quality of my life, not the letterhead or the numbers on a paycheck.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Book Review: DAYS OF RAGE

Days of Rage is author Bryan Burrough's look back at a time frame in American history when, instead of worrying about foreign bogeymen trying to blow up buildings with planes, we had the real thing in our midst--domestic terrorists. The time was the late 1960's and 1970's, and the terror groups dimly ring a bell for many of a certain age--Weather Underground, Symbionese Liberation Army, FALN. But only dimly; much of the point of the book is how quickly, even in their own time and place, these groups were forgotten and their aims discredited.
I do not remember the Weathermen in my own memory, but I certainly do remember most of the others in here. My family used to travel to New York City a few times a month, and I very much remember the epidemic of bombings that plagued the city. The Patty Hearst saga is one of the first national events that I can recall in detail. Those who are claiming that police in are danger today would do well to remember the Black Liberation Army and its campaign to murder police across the country in the early 1970's. Most of these groups, addled by their own ideology, did not explode bombs in crowds or attempt to injure people at their targets; they usually called in threats and then left comminques claiming credit afterward. But the actual events themselves were much more common than what we see today; we would be under martial law if there were the number of bombings today that were occuring in, say, 1972.
But that wasn't the biggest revelation of the book. What killed me was the utterly puerile nature of the ideology of almost all of these groups--the stilted language, the absolute inability to see nuance in a society, and most of all the inability to see that their solutions were impractical and impossible to implement. Reading of this, the wonder was not that they faded from relevance rather quickly, but rather that anyone ever took them seriously at all. The largely black groups at least had a legitimate gripe (and they tended to be more violent). But groups like Weather Underground and the SLA--how could anyone have bought into this stuff?
And the ultimate result of this nonsense was the discrediting of legitimate left-wing politics for decades, a period we are only beginning to emerge from and one that still colors American politics. This book is ultimately more of a suspense tale than a political story; all of them were eventually caught and dealt with. All are now older people or dead, and very few are still behind bars. And all have somewhat mellowed--or seen the light, if one prefers--and don't espouse the same sort of bullshit ideology as they were spouting nearly fifty years ago. It isn't so much that they sold out, or that "the people weren't ready for revolution." It was that their vision was even more flawed then what they were trying to replace.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Lightening Face of Addiction

I've been somewhat preoccupied with personal matters in the last several months, and haven't paid as much attention as I probably should be to the burgeoning storm brewing over the issue of addiction in our area. There have been close to 40 deaths from heroin overdoses in the last year or so in our country, a number that would be quite a bit higher if the sheriff's department (in a display of rare forward and progressive thinking, considering the source) has not been equipped with and trained to use Narcan, another medication that apparently counteracts overdoses. And people have noticed, leading to renewed calls for different and better treatment methods for addicts, more resources devoted to the problem, and sparking a somewhat spirited debate, at least last week, about the way that revenue is allocated around here.
Each of those items is worthy of a detailed post about it, and I will probably tackle them in the near future. There are three points about the recent explosion of heroin addiction that I am going to examine this morning, though. One is that a long-standing pattern in American society is playing out again. Drugs have been a major sharp edge tearing at the fabric of American society for decades. Up until this point, the response of the establishment has been dominantly punitive--the percentage of our population that is imprisoned has quadrupled since 1980, and that increase consists almost entirely of people incarcerated for drug and drug-related offenses. And there have been several "new" drugs that have caused panic, to call it what it was and is, among law enforcement and government officials. I lived through, progressively, the first heroin epidemic, the angel dust scare, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, pills, and now the second heroin epidemic. And I can tell you that the punitive response was favored for the first five of these because the perception was that the majority of people using those drugs were minorities, and punishment and suppression is the usual response of whitebread America to any issue involved minorities. The perception is not accurate--I can tell you from personal experience that the majority of people that use crack in my city are white--but the perception was what drove policy and public opinion. Drugs were, forever and a day, an issue concerning "those people", and the ingrained racism that is so much a part of American history expressed itself in the "War on Drugs." Drugs and the drug trade were something that were being used and plied about by non-whites, and thus suppression and punishment were the order of the day.
This isn't the case right now. The vast majority of today's heroin users are young white people, the sons and daughters of the people who have comfortably compartmentalized drugs as a minority issue for all of their adult lives--and it is puzzling them and scaring the shit out of them. And frankly, even though the scourge is real and the perception is again somewhat flawed and not totally accurate, if there is any good that is coming out of this explosion in heroin use, it is the eroding of the "drugs are bad and so are drug users, and let's just lock them all up and maybe the problem will go away" mindset. No problem is ever effectively addressed in this country until it starts affecting white people in a significant way. It's tragic and shameful, but the fact that heroin is causing the death of a large number of young white people is the only real catalyst behind this growing awareness of the need to change approaches to this issue. Maybe that will be the silver lining in what has been a tragic and growing phenomenon.
The second thing to consider is why it is heroin that has caught the attention of our younger set. There is no one answer, but a very big factor is that it is the logical outcome of a longstanding trend toward the medication of our youth. Synthetic opioids starting being pushed on our public in the 1990's; my memory is that Vicodin was the first one, but many others have followed since. It was adults that first started having problems with things like Xanax and Oxys. At the same time, our kids began getting prescribed medications for all sorts of afflictions that didn't used to have pharmaceutical applications--Adderall, Prozac, other behavior modification drugs. And it was inevitable that the opioids Mom and Dad were using were taken by kids already imbued with the idea that the way to deal with issues was by taking pills. And once kids were taking opioids, the path to trying and using the most powerful of all of them was open...I've never used heroin, but I know a lot of people that have, and I am assured that the effect that opiates have on our bodies is most effectively delivered by heroin. If that is what you are seeking, then you will eventually try--and in many cases get addicted to--heroin (the progression to crack is similar for those that seek that sort of alteration of their feelings. My own progression was from No-Doz to speed to cocaine to crack, and almost everyone that I knew that used crack walked a similar path).
The epidemic among the young, then, can be linked rather strongly to the pharmaceutical industry. They created a "need" where there really wasn't one to begin with, sold their products as a solution to every conceivable ill we experience, and now also benefit from many of the proposed "solutions" to the collateral damage their original products cause (things like Suboxone). And many of the solutions being bandied about involve even more money being extracted from those afflicted and going into the pockets of "professionals" that owe much of their livelihood to Big Pharma. It's a vicious, disgusting cycle, and the battle to escape it is going to be much more difficult than any of the well-intentioned, newly aware adults that are just to coming to Jesus now regarding the idea that addiction isn't just an issue for "those people" envision.
And the third thing is something I have heard from a lot of adults my age and older. "Why would kids do heroin when they know what it can do to them? What's the point?" And again, the ultimate answer is something that the people that have voted for those that have turned this country into what it is today need to confront within themselves--namely, why not? Why wouldn't they? We have built a society where upward mobility is a vanished dream. We are cynically played off against one another while our pockets are emptied. There aren't half the prospects for a  meaningful vocation or even life path for double the number of youth that were running around this country forty years ago. As a society, we are very, very close to offering our younger generations nothing--not a goddamn thing, other than a life of hard labor for minimal compensation, with crushing burdens of debt attached to those that try to escape that lot, and Corporate America slamming them with fees and fines at every turn. Why the hell wouldn't they be looking to escape, to get high, to feel euphoric for a few minutes? All the measures being contemplated are ultimately Band-Aids. Getting people to stop getting high is relatively easy. Getting people to stay stopped requires not only a much bigger commitment to helping them then we have historically demonstrated, but it also requires that we give them some sort of half-reasonable hope that the new way of life is going to be better than the old one.
And the only reason I am even remotely hopeful myself that this might be possibly happen in the near and intermediate future is that stuff only seems to change in the United States of America if it affects white people. Heroin, whatever else it is and the effects it is having, does that. So maybe all is not lost.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Very Early And Short

I have a long day ahead and not enough time to do it, and so yes, I am up at an ungodly hour. I will do the crash and burn later, I am sure, but for now, it is time to start the donuts. Commitment is an action word, and sometimes you have to make decisions like getting up at 2 AM to honor your commitments. And as I mentioned a couple of times in the last week, just because you get a setback in some areas of your life does not mean that you stop doing what you do in other areas of your life; indeed, it makes the setbacks less daunting, in a way, to maintain your drive and stay on your path as much as possible. Especially when the rewards are so great, and the hardship has an expiration date. By Thanksgiving, this will all be a memory, and the next chapter will be well underway. And like any good mystery or suspense novel, I don't know really know, except in a general sense, what's coming next--but I trust the author, and I know that I will not be disappointed. Ciao and out, till tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Primates Flinging Poo, $10 Bill Version

The crucial test for American electoral politics may well turn out to be the upcoming 2016 contests. It is becoming clearer that the electorate, at least enough of them to make a workable majority, are turning away from the right-wing and right wing-leaning politics that they have voted for since the late 1970's. It is also clear that most of the candidates running for office are not turning away from those positions. I could fill a page listing reasons why, but the most basic and easiest to understand is that politics has become an arena where only the wealthy can play, and as a result those that are running for offices, even on local levels, possess conservative, favor-the-interests-of-the-wealthy values. It isn't like we are looking at the slobs you run into Walmart or the local watering hole on stage; these are largely the 1% that are running for office--and of course they are not going to address the concerns of most of us. Why would they? We are as alien to them as a colony of bats are.
What has struck me most forcefully when watching the Republican debates and listening to the Clinton campaign's public pronouncements is how cocooned they really are from reality. These people are not cynically espousing bullshit, for the most part; they really do believe the words that flow from their mouths. And the closely held, close-minded values they possess are actually pretty stunning to see and hear in action. No better example is likely to be found than the rather innocuous question asked the other night at the Republican debate about what woman's face could go on the $10 bill to replace that of Alexander Hamilton (let me say right up front that I'm not a fan of that idea; if someone currently featured has to come off the money, Jackson is the most obvious candidate, as a surprising member of this group pointed out. And I also feel that FDR belongs on a paper bill, not just the dime, but that's another discussion). Look at this list:
Jeb Bush--Margaret Thatcher
Rand Paul--Susan B. Anthony
Marco Rubio--Rosa Parks
Ted Cruz--Wants to leave Hamilton on the bill and put Parks on the $20 bill.
Ben Carson--his own mother.
Donald Trump--his daughter.
Scott Walker--Clara Barton
Carly Fiorina--wouldn't change the bill
John Kasich--Mother Teresa
Chris Christie--Abigail Adams

Out of ten people--ten--that fervently want to be President of the United States, over half of them--six--couldn't or wouldn't name an American woman of any kind of social, political, or cultural relevance to put on the currency of the United States. The two children of immigrants, Rubio and Cruz, named Rosa Parks, albeit with an end run by Cruz (this comes under the "even a stopped watch is right twice a day" rule). I think Paul has forgotten that Anthony already has been featured on money before--the dollar coin of thirty years ago--but at least it's a realistic and appropriate choice. While I think there's quite a few more influential women in American history than Clara Barton, at least it's a legitimate answer and semi-reasonable choice by Walker.
But the others? Jeb Bush's answer is especially revealing. Thatcher isn't even American, and she left a deeply divided society behind her after twelve years in power. Her most noteworthy accomplishment was fighting a war over the Falkland Islands, which is an indication of what matters most to anyone named Bush. I really don't think that Jeb Bush believes that any woman has truly contributed anything of value to American society--and I am positive that this is a widely-held view in his circles that consist of born-wealthy, insulated-from-reality white men. I am also becoming convinced that Jeb is even more intellectually vapid than his brother, and would do even more harm in the Oval Office than W did.
Ben Carson is African-American and a retired doctor. I am surprised that he didn't give the Parks answer, but his own mother is a revealing choice, because it indicates that he, too, as a result of his professional career, doesn't view women as much more than useful subordinates. And it also reveals a substantial ego; his mom gave birth to what he clearly believes is God's gift to humanity.
Trump's answer is, like the man, off-hand and a monument to his ego. I could write for days about Trump and what a narcissistic shithead he really is, but this is a pretty good capsule characterization. Not only do the millions of American women that have ever lived register in his consciousness as ever having done anything noteworthy, but even the currency of the country he wants to lead will reflect the accomplishments--and I am sure as sure can be that Trump is one of those type of parents that view their children as "possessions"--of one Donald Trump. It is a remarkable insight into the depth of this man's ego and self-absorption that he wants to put "the fruit of his loins," to borrow a phrase from Nick Tortelli, on the money of the country. This is stuff you normally associate with regimes found in places like North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Zimbabwe. I'm kind of surprised, not that he thinks that way, but that he's so open about it. But only kind of.
Carly Fiorina's answer might seem relatively harmless on the surface. But it does point to some basic character issues. One is that any changes Carly Fiorina might endorse on any subject are not likely to make the government and power structure of this country more inclusive and more apt to recognize the great majority of us. Another is that Carly Fiorina identifies herself, in her own mind, as a member of the 1% before anything else, including being a woman. A third is that (and she shares this with Carson and Bobby Jindal, among the other primates in the clown car posse) she thinks the current society is just fine because she has been able to succeed in spite of the barriers that women, African-Americans, and minorities face; this belief is more dangerous than any specific policy initiative, because it completely lacks any sense or idea that the governing are supposed to tend to the best interests of the governed. There is no empathy for those that might be less talented or less lucky than she is or has been; it is egotistical, in its own way, as anything that comes out of Trump's mouth. And lastly, one suspects that Carly Fiorina believes that if a woman's image is to be put on the $10 bill, it ought to be that of Carly Fiorina.
John Kasich's answer was puzzling. While Mother Teresa would seem to be an inoffensive choice based on her image as "human saint," the fact is while nuns are not considered clergy, in the narrow sense of the word, she certainly is very identifiable as a member and representative of a particular religious faith, and thus her picture on our money could be construed as an endorsement by the United States government of Roman Catholicism (can you imagine the firestorm if one of the Kennedys or Cuomos--not that I am a fan of any of the scions of those families, but they are the two most prominent Democratic Catholic political families of my lifetime--had made this suggestion?). And it's a curious suggestion coming from Kasich, who is a lapsed Catholic that currently identifies himself as an Anglican. And most of all, Mother Teresa was not an American; she was born in Albania and spent her adult life in India. Again--Kaisch can't think of an American woman worth honoring on American money? Are we Tonga or Vanuatu, that we have so few natives worth honoring that we have to put people from other nations on our own money?
And lastly, Chris Christie, who, of all the reprehensible human beings running for President as a Republican, has revealed himself to be the most awful and the least appealing. The only thing keeping me from starting to list the various adjectives of invective that would accurately describe what a (large) sack of animal dung Christie really is that it would be like a relapse; a thousand would not be enough. Christie's suggestion was revealing of the man, too. Abigail Adams, to be sure, was American. In her time and place, Abigail Adams was noteworthy, if not particularly influential--basically, she was Barbara Bush, wife of one President and mother to another. But Christie's stated reason for choosing Abigail Adams was not because of any virtues of Abigail--it is a way, he said, to honor the family Adams, which he does not feel gets enough credit for their contributions to this country. The point about the family is borderline legitimate--but completely misses the point of the rhetorical exercise, which is to make a small recognition of the contributions of half the population of the country since the day it started. Christie instead wants to throw a figurehead out there as a backhanded way to honor men, in other words. Because in his mind, there aren't any women whose accomplishments warrant national recognition or praise.
And for anyone that is seriously thinking that a Republican occupant of the White House might be an outcome that will lead to significant changes for the better for the country--well, unless you are wealthy or stupid, you are mistaken. When a majority of a group of candidates can't even make a token, obvious reasonable answer to a softball, trivial question like this--you have to be a special kind of delusional to believe that any meaningful change is going to occur. The only reason to vote for any of these people is if you are a direct beneficiary of the status quo.
And damn few of us are.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fight or Flight?

I'm really struggling this morning. There has been no good news on the job front, and it now appears likely that I will be lucky to work two weeks into October. The Queen did not call until late last night, and I dropped the phone and accidentally hung up on her before we could talk, and she doesn't get a chance to redial. I went to the local job seeker office looking to register, and basically was told to come back after I've applied for unemployment. I have a few things to do today that basically involve begging those that have been rather stingy with money for the program now to please find a little more to give us time to close it down properly. I somehow have to figure out a way to get the intern his hours in before we close up shop. And on top of it, I think I am catching a cold; I've been sort of stuffy since last night. It's a normal Friday, which means I have grocery and household shopping to do, and Sabrina has to get to her job after school, and possibly meet with a sponsee, and this is just stuff I know about that I have to do today.
And I really just wanted to stay in bed. I suppose it's not unnatural to feel that way, and the fact that I didn't just stay in bed is a victory of sorts. But this is already getting old, and it's still eleven days before the official end. And all the stuff that I was saying earlier in the week still holds true, something reinforced by the job counselor at Workforce. But I really would rather not pass through this valley, and it's not helping that the Queen will be home soon and our domestic situation will be unsettled--she's going to have enough to deal with without this added element of instability. My daughter is feeling somewhat more settled these days--getting involved with a decent guy has a way of doing that for 16YOs--and I worry less about her than I did a month ago.
But the temptation to bag it, to just pull the covers over my head and block it all out, is there. I wish it wasn't, but it is. As I said, I'm up, and I'm adhering to my routine, but it's hard work today, made worse by the fact that I didn't sleep well. I will slog through, no doubt, and maybe something good will happen during the day. The best case is that the federal officer in New York calls and says someone in the government has made a decision to re-fund the New York programs, and this was all a false alarm.
But that's something that happens to other people. I am not going to flee, I suppose; I haven't done that in eighteen years. But damn, I wish I didn't have to feel this way.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Texas-Sized Stupidity

I was a little slow to pick up on what has been one of the more dominant and unbelievable stories in the news this week, and it's probably just as well, because I think I would have been apoplectic if I had seen it the day it happened. A 14YO Muslim boy in Irving, Texas, made a clock for one of his school classes, took it out of his backpack in school, and ended up arrested because the ignorant, clueless, redneck morons that run the Irving School District and that staff the Irving Police Department cannot tell the difference between a clock and a bomb.
I lived in Texas for a few months nearly thirty years ago, and I seriously would commit suicide before I ever lived there again. I found the population there to be racist, ignorant, and trapped in perpetual adolescence in 1986, and even though I was succeeding in a financial and vocational sense rapidly while I was there (both because it's easy to be more apt at just about anything than a native Texan, and because white Texans' work ethic is comparable to that of hibernating animals), I came back to New York relatively quickly because the culture was offensive to me. And from every indication available to me, 1986 Texas was Renaissance Italy compared to 2015 Texas. And as it happens, I lived close to where the Ahmad Mohammad saga is taking place. Arlington, where I lived, isn't very far from Irving, where this travesty occurred. The main attraction of Irving when I was there was that Texas Stadium, where the Cowboys played at that time, was in Irving; I actually took a tour of it when I was there, in March, and I remember thinking that the natives I was with showed amazing hypocrisy when I showed a distinct lack of reverence for the lockers of some of the players on the team. I mean, I had heard these guys making fun of and grousing about Danny White for three weeks--but I'm supposed to genuflect in front of his locker?
I digress. One of the more distasteful things I found about where I was living was the utter and open contempt that the locals displayed for people of color--mostly Mexicans where I was. Which struck me as more than merely nauseating--because as near as I could tell, it was Mexicans and other Hispanics that were the only ones there that moved faster than melting taffy no matter where you went. If there was something that indelibly lodged in my memory, it was, in fact, the casual hatred displayed for anyone that was not a white native Texan--and that included Caucasian Yankees that were capable of saying and understanding words longer than two syllables, that could use a sentence without a curse word in it, and that actually were capable of understanding and applying apparently abstract principles such as "hurrying," "telling time," "reading for pleasure," "asking questions when not knowing something," and "understanding that the Civil War had ended 120 years before." I hated the culture, and I ended up hating those that were responsible for creating and enabling it.
And if anything, it's gotten worse. There are several disgusting-beyond-belief aspects to the Ahmed Mohamed story, but the one that is sticking in my craw the most as I read the stories is the fact that when the police asked him what it was and he kept replying "a clock," they found this suspicious because the kid wouldn't provide a "broader explanation." Meaning, in plain English, he wouldn't admit it was a fucking bomb like they believed it to be. And that is the essence of Texas right there--what is real does not matter. What is right does not matter. What matters is that those in power and authority stay in power and authority, and whatever means are necessary to ensure that happens is all that matters. Mohammad was not white, created something that looked like a device seen on TV and didn't look a clock available at Walmart--and that was all these idiots wanted and needed to know, and by God, they were going to hold him until he admitted that white was black and up was down and confirmed their ignorance.
This is what passes for "law and order" in far too many places in the United States. But especially in Texas. The only things bigger than the mouths of native Texans is the depth of their ignorance and their willingness to twist the framework of authority to keep any perceived threats to their "way of life" in check. It is a banana republic, an absolute mockery of the values that most of us believe America should exhibit. I remember telling my friends after returning home that year that Texas was, as far as I was concerned, proof that hell was full--and that the overflow were in charge of the Lone Star State. And that was three decades ago. It's quite a bit worse now.
And Texans may claim they don't care--but another thing they have in abundance is a world-class inferiority complex that manifests itself in blowhard braggadocio, a fetish for guns and weapons that would make Somali warlords blanch, and collective skin so thin that it is a wonder their internal organs don't ooze out along the pavement on a regular basis. I am aware that, for some unfathomable reason, 34 million people live within the borders of Texas, and that the broad generalizations just presented do not apply to all of them.
But there are enough of them to keep electing people like Rick Perry, Greg Abbott, Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz, and other genuinely stupid and/or dangerous people to office (building on the fine tradition of people like W, Tom De Lay, and Dick Armey having positions where they did irreparable harm to national institutions of government. Bush is the worst President in memory, and yet De Lay and Armey did more damage to the House of Representatives than Bush did to the country). They deserve our contempt and approbation. And I for one am glad that most of the nation, it seems, up to and including our President, are going out of their way to tweak the ignorant bastards running the school district and the Irving Police Department over this inane and insane matter.
And true to form, the cops and school aren't slinking away in shame. The cops have released a public statement defending the morons wearing their uniform, and the school refuses to rescind the kid's suspension. It's not every kid that gets a three-day suspension from school that spends the time off getting invited to the White House, and I couldn't be happier for him.
Or sadder for the (too-few, unfortunately) decent people that live in that dystopian port-a-potty of a community.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Shoe Drops

For the first time ever, the federal Administration for Children and Families, which awards the grants that my program is largely funded by, published its list of grantees two weeks before the  beginning of the new grant period. And our agency's name was not on the list, which means, if nothing changes between now and the end of September, that after a short period of time, anywhere from three to six weeks past the end of September, to use up unspent money and to close down the program, my time with the agency that I have worked for for nearly thirteen full years will come to an end, and a program that has helped the most vulnerable youth in our area stay safe in times of crisis since 2001 will no longer be operational.
I did say "if nothing changes" because there is a small possibility that something may change. When the grant announcement came out last February, like all federal grant opportunities, part of the announcement listed the total amount of money available ($14.6 million), and the expected number of grantees (92). Yesterday's list had 70 names on it and listed awards totaling $11.7 million, which could mean that for some reason, not all those getting awards were on yesterday's list. Even more curiously, there was not a single program based in the state of New York on the list; there are at least fifteen programs serving runaway/homeless youth in the state that receive federal funding. New York may not be the first state among equals any longer, but we are still the state with the third-largest population in the nation, and I find it hard to believe that the federal region that includes New York only got three awards (all in New Jersey) totaling $477K. Our federal project officer based in Manhattan found it hard to believe, too; I talked with her a couple of times yesterday, and she told me in the late afternoon that "inquiries were being made" about this "illogical" distribution of funds as published, and that she would have a definitive answer by the end of the week.
That's better than an "oh, well," but it's a very thin peg to hang a hat on; I'm not terribly optimistic that anything is going to change. I have been dealing in my mind for the last day and night with the idea that I am going to be facing a major life change and upheaval at 52 years old, having to replace a job that has enough income to maintain a lower middle-class standard of living that provides health insurance for my kids and myself. It's a tall order. I am grateful that there will be, if the likely does happen, the close-out period; we have about $10K unspent out of this year's grant period that will pay me for a few weeks, and pay out my supervisee's and I's accrued vacation time (that's as close to a severance package as anyone gets in the field). I also secured a small HUD grant for the program that begins October 1 that we will spend, and there is some money being awarded through a sub-contract with another agency that also can be used for a short period of time. But realistically, I am looking at being unemployed around Halloween, with an approximate vacation payout of $2K and whatever unemployment I can draw to sustain me until something new comes along (from what I can tell, I should get, after child support is taken out, about $300 a week).
Which means I am going to need to find another job fairly quickly. I do have a solid work history, a pretty good reputation in my field, and some skills to fall back on. It helps that Sabrina is working part-time and is able to make enough so that she can take care of much of her own stuff. By November, the Queen may be--may be--in a position to chip in as well. I'm actually not all that worried about finding a job; I'm more worried about finding a job where we can hope to maintain a reasonable facsimile of the life we now lead, and that will allow us to at least attempt to have Sabrina go to college come fall 2017.
But looking that far ahead is a fool's errand right now. There are times when "one day at a time" is more than a cliche, and this is one of them. Until an answer comes definitively about the money that hasn't been awarded from the federal grant pool, I shouldn't and can't make any concrete plans. And part of me is wondering whether this has all played out the way it is to allow all of us more time to prepare a more graceful and less chaotic transition to whatever the new reality is going to be. I still don't presume to know God's will over my own, but I have become much more proficient at being able to see possibilities, to see what direction He might be pointing us in. I've known for some time that this was possible, even likely, and while I have done quite a bit to keep things going, there have been many indications that it might be time to move on. Maybe this is His way to make the change less abrupt, to ease the inevitable a bit. It's not hard for me to imagine long-term positives.
Anything worth having, though, doesn't come without struggle. And it sure seems likely that there is going to be some short-term struggling, should nothing change on that award list. I guess I'll know more in three or four days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Review: THE TUTOR

I am continuing to work my way through the entire Peter Abrahams canon. The Tutor is an offering from about a decade ago, and while it isn't his level best work, it certainly is a serviceable mystery. A social-climbing family hires a tutor for their teenage boy that is in danger of not making it into college, not realizing that he is a psychopath, and the book is a long account, essentially, of the plot coming to fruition--and the efforts of the youngest child in the house to foil him. As happens frequently with this author, the end is a little sloppy and disorganized, but for the most part, this is a decent yarn. It took me a week to read it not because it wasn't interesting, but because I've been very busy with other things.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Level of Acquaintance Is Wake-Worthy?

This is one of those real-life, somewhat awkward situations that happens more frequently as one gets older, and it is something that I'm really interested in hearing what other people think about. It is a dilemma I've never seen in "Dear Abby" or discussed on Ellen, but it's something I am willing to bet that everyone eventually has to deal with. The question is, "How well do you have to know a person to attend their wake?"
This has come up a few times in the last few years for me, especially since so many in my age group that attended my high school have succumbed to IBM's Bitch's Brew and died from the cancer contracted from the chemical spill here in the late 1970's that IBM has so far resisted being held to account for two decades (and no doubt will be litigated into limbo until my generation has completely died off). I just faced the issue again last week. A kid that grew up down the block from me, that I spent a number of elementary and middle-school summers around, died (I don't think of cancer, but I don't really know, either) last week. One of my better friends growing up, a guy I still talk to, via social media, fairly often, told me that he had died (apparently he looks at our hometown sorry excuse for a newspaper online much more often than I do), and then a couple of days later asked me if I was going to go to the wake.
I answered no, and he seemed surprised a bit. I didn't go into a great deal of detail about it, but my reasoning was that I had literally not seen this guy since high school, and I really can't remember talking to him at all after I got my driver's license and a car when I was 16 and didn't have to take the bus to school anymore. And honestly, while we were friendly a majority of the time, we weren't really friends--he was a difficult kid at times, prone to bullying behavior and little stunts like firing BB guns out his bedroom window at people walking up the road. I can recall at least two fistfights we got into during middle school years, both instigated by him; I fought him to a draw the second time, and he never pushed me that hard again, but it didn't stop him from being aggressive with other kids in the area. He got a girlfriend in about the tenth grade that eventually became his wife, and they were still married at the time of his death, and we moved in very different circles from about age 15 onward. I seriously cannot recall seeing him anywhere, much less talking to him, after high school ended.
And I have been out of high school for 34 years. Yeah, there was a time when this guy was a part of my life, but it was a long time ago, and I really would feel very out-of-place at his wake. I would know no one there except for his elderly father (who was not, and I'm being kind in my characterization, a friendly man to any of us, including his sons). I know nothing of his life, have no idea of where he worked, where he lived, what kind of person he was. I didn't even know he was still in the area, honestly. I'm not trying to be mean or flippant, but how can you mourn someone you essentially haven't even thought about for over three decades?
To me, this was an easy call. There have been others in recent years that were not quite so easy. I remember a guy that was in recovery dying in a bizarre accident (he was riding a bike on the highway at 4 AM and got hit). I did know him enough to say hello, from meetings, and our interactions were friendly. But I couldn't say we were actually "friends;" I never once had a conversation with him, we didn't hang out with each other or even with mutual people, and except for the times he was in the same meeting with me, I never really thought about him. I did know his significant other somewhat better, and I certainly expressed my condolences to her when I saw her, but I really felt it would be pretentious and fake of me to go to his wake, and I remember talking with a guy about it. My attitude was that I wasn't going to go to a wake just to be seen by other people--and that would really be the only reason for me to go. I thought about going for the sake of the effective "widow", but as that would have been the only one that was part of his family and loved ones that I knew, I eventually decided that the condolences I expressed when I saw her after a meeting were sufficient.
A guy I haven't seen in many years lost both his parents within 18 months. But unlike the others, this guy was a very close friend for many years, both in high school and in college, and I spent countless hours in the company of his family. We didn't have a falling out of any sort; he just moved to a different area. There was never any question in my mind that I would not attend the wakes; I would have went to the funerals, too, if one hadn't been on a day when I had to go out of town for my job and the other hadn't been in conflict with a Christmas family commitment. The fact that we hadn't seen each other in years didn't matter, because not only was I close to my friend, but I was close to his parents for many years, too. They were a genuine, heartfelt loss to me.
And I guess that's my rule of thumb. I have known, on some level, probably ten thousand people, if not more, in my lifetime, and I simply was not and am not emotionally involved with all of them. If I knew you forty years ago and haven't seen you as an adult, chances are I'm not going to feel a strong sense of loss. My belief is that wakes are primarily a show of respect to the families, but I do also believe that the families should have some idea of who you are. The last three wakes I attended were my friend's father, the father of a kid that played on the softball team I coach, and someone in NA that died suddenly that I didn't know real well but that was living with a guy that I do know reasonably well and am friends with. I'm not sure where the line is drawn, but because I knew you forty years ago isn't really enough reason to go to a wake. Maybe this is cold of me or heartless, but I would not show up at a wake of some random person, and if I haven't seen you for the last two-thirds of my life, basically you're a random person to me, even if the person lived down the block for most of my childhood.
But others may feel differently. Feel free to comment.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lot of Drama Out There

I was barely around a computer all of yesterday, and I have a week to go on my data plan and it's 95% used, so I stayed off my phone, too. So when I got up this morning, I scrolled through a full day of Facebook posts, and I was struck, even more than usual, by the number of posts out there that either were aimed at specific (but anonymous) people, or dropped very broad hints that something serious had gone wrong for the person posting. This is not new, and it's not necessarily a sign of a terminally degenerated personality or soul, because I think everybody that uses Facebook even semi-regularly has indulged in these practices at some point. But there are people that do this all day every day, and it's gotten to the point where it's hard to read.
I discovered the "unfollow" option a couple of years ago, and I use it liberally. There are a good number of people that I don't necessarily want to "unfriend" or cut ties with--but goddamn, move on from a particular subject or let something or someone go or stop with the attention-seeking behavior already. Aftermaths of breakups often are not pleasant, but they are doubly unpleasant when thinly veiled references to the other party fill social media. We're your friends, not a jury, not a political caucus; I really don't want to be put in a position of feeling like I have to take your side in the dispute in public. Sometimes it can't be avoided, and transgressions can be forgiven, but all day every day, it's like having to watch someone masturbate.
And then there are those who can only relate to the world in terms of conflict...I love something one of my friends posted the other day, asking, genuinely, what "haters" were. She lives her life looking forward and accentuating the positive, and really had no direct experience with this obsession with what other people think and say. She was perplexed that anyone would need the derision and opinions of others as motivation to get through their lives. The older I get, the more I grow, the more I have moved in that direction, to the point where I not only don't really care all that much about what others have to say about me, but I really don't say a lot about other people, either. And having made a commitment to do that about two years ago, I can now see just how much energy and mental time I used to devote to that stuff...it pains me sometimes to read things I wrote in the early years of this blog. Not only would I never write stuff like that anymore--I don't even think in those frames of reference anymore. I realize that I exist in an environment--recovery--that emphasizes spiritual development and that that isn't the case for many people in the world at large. But I also realize that most of the people that seem to be at war with others in social media are also nominally in recovery, too.
It's a journey, not a destination. My breakthroughs happened at an uneven pace over a decade-and-a-half, and the perspective that has infused this post is one I did not hold even three years ago. So I understand that many people have to go through this stage in order to be able to grow out of it. Some do it relatively quickly; one of my friends that picked up a medallion last night has come a very long way in just two years. And some never really seem to get anywhere; there are people with more clean time than me that seem stuck in this world of conflict and drama. When I am in good space, I feel grateful that I worked my out of that mindset, I pray for those that seem stuck, and I hope that my own actions help point a way out for others.
And if that sounds pretentious--1) that's how anyone has ever learned to do anything, from the time each and every one of us was an infant; and 2) I know that's exactly what has happened in some cases. Sponsorship works on this idea. The Queen would not choose to be the Queen if I was not the way that I am now. And I have found many, many times over the years, in all sorts of situations, that more people are paying attention than I ever dreamed possible--and that works in both directions. It may not seem so, but a lot of people see someone changing for the better as much or more than they see people who are descending or engaging in hypocrisy or otherwise not living up to ideals.
Ultimately, everyone's goal is to be happy. The way that happens is different for every individual--but the way it doesn't happen is similar for almost everyone. Drama occurs because, when the broth is boiled off, other people's views, attitudes, and actions become the actor/actress' Higher Power, the axis their existence revolves around. And other people, we are told in early recovery (and take years to fully understand and act on the knowledge, in most cases) make poor Higher Powers, because they are fallible and don't meet--can't meet--our expectations, and in general will let us down and cause us more pain and misery--if we give them the ability to do so. I'm not going to go full-bore into the nature of an effective Higher Power here, but a very short synopisis is that you can't really go wrong with a Higher Power that is fully imbued with and characterized by the application, not just knowledge, of spiritual principles.
And I can tell you from personal experience that, hard as it is at times, applying spiritual principles is the antidote for drama. And the key to happiness.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Stop It Already

Jesus, we're a day into football season and already the nonsense has started. The Pittsburgh Steelers lost to the New England Patriots a couple of nights ago, and all anyone wanted to talk about after the game was the fact that some electrical malfunction occurred and the Steelers' headsets didn't work properly for much of the first quarter. And immediately, even on NBC, there was rampant speculation that somehow the "cheater" Patriots organization was up to something nefarious. And the Steelers' coaches and brass fueled the fire after the game by broadly hinting it was no accident.
Well, let's stop this shit right now. Deflategate was much ado about little, and the fact that the Patriots called the NFL on its bullshit discipline policy only points out something that has largely been missed in the hubbub. The Patriots win consistently because they're not afraid to take chances. If that means challenging the league's power structure, so be it. And they're better than almost everyone else on the field. The Colts didn't lose the playoff game by several touchdowns because of underinflated footballs. The Steelers didn't lose the game the other night because they couldn't talk on their radios. The fact that they failed to cover Rob Gronkowski in the red zone all freaking night had a lot more to do with the game's result than the failure of their radios to work for a time in the first quarter. Just shut up already, figure out a way to score more points than the other team, instead of whining about bogeymen and alleged cheaters.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Another 9/11 Anniversary

Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be a bit of weariness surrounding the anniversary of 9/11 now. There seems to be less stridency in the incessant reminders to "never forget," less open virulence about the perpetrators, and no casual noise out there about bombing everyone else in the world to smithereens to avenge the victims. To my mind, that's a good development; we can turn, as a country, to simply remembering our shock and sorrow at the events of that day without feeling compelled to add our voices to a chorus of bloodlust.
I knew two people that lost their lives that day, both in the Towers, both people I had attended Geneseo with. Both were significant parts of my life for a period of time, but I had not seen either one of them for fifteen years before the attacks, and I realized with a bit of a start that it's now only one year short of fifteen years after the attacks. And it made me realize that like all anniversaries, the passage of time is probably most responsible for the relative muting of the annual frenzy. Fourteen years is a long period, and much has happened since, but for most of us, we've simply moved on a bit because we have to. I don't think remembering is ever going to be an issue; people still "remember" and even commemorate Pearl Harbor today, even though it is now approaching 75 years since that event. But the raw, visceral emotional kick that the thought of the smoke billowing out of the standing tower inspired has dulled over time. I will never forget at least one of those that died that morning; she was the most important person in my life for nearly two years.
But she ceased to be that thirty-one years ago. And it dawned on me with a mixture of wonder and horror this morning that I had to really, really work at recalling her voice in my head. And the other friend that perished, I can't remember now where he was from, or anything in any detail about him other than his presence on my floor for the half-year he was there. Our memory capacity is awesomely large, but it is limited, and the longer I live and the more that I experience, the less I am able to recall and vividly experience about the past.
And that is not necessarily a bad thing. While I was as horrified as the next person watching 9/11/01 unfold, it's not like I was on the streets of Manhattan or on a plane that day or working in a building near the Pentagon. My brother spent a week in Albuquerque, New Mexico, because of the grounding of planes, and my sister could see the Pentagon from the window of her office at the time; I am sure that 9/11 is always going to be a more vivid memory for them than it is for me. Even the loss of my two friends was mitigated by the fact that they were not part of my life in any way at the time; it was merely a tangential, distant personal connection to the tragedy.
Which is something I am grateful for, and I think it has helped me gain a better and deeper perspective on the changes that have been wrought in the post-9/11 world. It is easy to think about a series of events rather than to feel them, and I do not have the emotional investment in the responses to the attacks that many others do--and it certainly has helped shape my views on all that has transpired since. I am aware that others feel differently. I am aware that on different subjects, it is me that has trouble separating the emotions from the rational--my views on the local heroin epidemic and the drug treatment programs around here and the justice system are all much more deeply held and felt by me than, say, the old IBM retiree that lives across the street because they have been and are an immediate and large presence in my life. This is normal; this is human nature.
And this is at the root of what always bothered me about the national response to 9/11 and "remembrance." I can almost excuse the reactions put in place by the politicians in the aftermath; they were personally and deeply affected by what happened--even someone like Dick Cheney was shaped by the day's events and, it has become clear with the passage of time, traumatized by his own experiences. What I don't understand is the vehemence and emotional identification that people who went through 9/11 like I did--in front of a television set--act like they were fleeing through the canyons of lower Manhattan as the towers collapsed and the wave of dust and debris was coming at them. What I don't understand is how that "identification" that they don't really possess somehow became a vehicle to indulge the darker sides of their value system, how it enabled them to pass judgment on their neighbors, how it allowed them to acquiesce in atrocity overseas, how it gave them license to pander to their darkest fear-based phantasms at the expense of laws and traditions that it took 225 painstaking years of experience to put in place in the United States of America. And fourteen years anon, we are still going through the consequences of that "identification," and it has changed this country, and the world around it, irrevocably.
None of us are better off when we think with our hearts rather than our minds. And if I have an issue with "remembrance," that's it--that too many of us want to keep the pain fresh and the emotional meter running at a fever pitch, not in any sympathy for the victims or even as a sort of a wake for the changes in our own lives, but as fuel to continue to act in ways that arose from emotions rather than intellect. I am aware that most of us are followers rather than leaders, and I am aware that many of us are simply being acted upon. It's the ones that are actively--and, at this point, cynically--stoking this sentiment that arouse ire in me. Their concern that we "remember" is not based in any noble intentions.
I will remember 9/11 as long as I live. I may or may not observe a moment of silence sometime this morning; my two friends, no matter how long ago, were close to me at one point in time, and I can reflect on the lives they led and the mark their absence has left on their families without pause. But I don't intend to walk around like a zombie all day, I am not going to be putting out an American flag, and I am not going to post any pictures on social media or exhort any of you to do anything other than what I am doing. I know that others had a deeper and more emotional connection to the events of that day, and part of being American is being able to express your emotions and thoughts freely. I accept that, champion that, and even celebrate that.
But please do not impugn my patriotism or my love for my country if I don't do exactly what you think I ought to do on this day. Or that of others that express thoughts that might be more ambivalent than the stuff we're going to hear from the Cheneys and Gulilianis of the world today,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Storm Is Coming

The Kentucky saga is not over, after all. After a few days in jail, America's New Nitwit, Kim Davis, was released after being admonished not to interfere with the issuing of marriage licenses in her role as county clerk of Bumfuck Rowan County in that benighted state of the Union. She was immediately embraced by two Republican candidates for President, hustled up on a stage with Eye of the Tiger blaring in the background, and vowed, through her lawyer, to continue doing the very things that landed her in jail.
I am not overly worried that this hypocritical fool is going to get massive public support. And I am not all that concerned that she holds an elected position; it's doubtful that her views on this subject, and the rank hypocrisy she is displaying regarding holding others to standards of morality she has never held herself to, were known to the voters of the county. What does worry me is that there is a substantial minority of people in this country that are willing to embrace a jackass of this caliber in order to justify their homophobia. And that homophobia actually matters this much to presumably heterosexual people that homosexuality absolutely does not affect in their own lives in any way, shape, or form... While there are comic undertones to this saga, the willingness of people in this country to go to the lengths they do to defend their prejudices, and to deny other people that are somewhat different from them the protection of and benefits of the law as decided by the fucking Supreme Court, is anything but comic. It is worrisome in the extreme. And what I also find worrying is that my adherence to my own creed, of embracing the values of the Bill of Rights that ought to be the core of what being American is, is eroding almost by the day.
I am beginning to hate the bigots with a passion. I find myself fantasizing at times about doing away with these assholes, picturing a string of gallows stretching like windmills far into the distance with these pseudo-religious pinheads hanging from each one, like a modern version of Spartacus' army crucified on the road from Capua to Rome (and no, I'm not apologizing for actually knowing something of world history). I find myself with increasing contempt for their fellow travelers, the ones that aren't willing to go on camera in support of their awful beliefs but who stand in the crowds and cheer human refuse like Davis on. I find myself in increasing sympathy for those a generation or two ago that were willing to take on the establishment and entrenched society, and wonder how many abuses, how much degradation, how much bile injected directly into society, it is going to take before a breaking point is reached and we begin to see rhetorical violence beget (there's a nice Biblical-sounding word) actual violence.
And this is hardly the only subject in what passes for public discourse in this country that is inflaming passions. The latent racism of the past thirty years or so has been slowing taking flame again, as those that have choked on the idea of a (half)-black president leading the country for seven years are determined to stoke those flames to the bitter end. A subject proving even more divisive than gay acceptance is support/antipathy toward police misconduct; there is overwhelming evidence that there is a serious, serious problem all over the country with the way police forces act with reckless disregard for the law they are supposed to uphold and implement, and there is a distressingly large number of us that are willing to overlook, make excuses for, and otherwise ignore the problem--actually, not just ignore the problem, but aggressively champion the malefactors, and that are willing to demonize those that believe, as I do, that it is possible to serve and protect society without breaking the law themselves, much less act like an occupying paramilitary force that we more often associate with terms like Stasi, Black Shirts, and Tonton Macoutes (again, if you don't know what I'm referring to, I'm not apologizing. Ignorance is the petri dish of repression). Even something as trivial to the general good as American football has seen the same divide into camps, between people willing to set aside decency and due process because, essentially, they don't like someone or a group of someones.
There have been fits and starts of a growing awareness that something is seriously wrong here in the last decade or so. Very few prolonged and fundamental crises arrive in a flash; they are the result of a buildup of tension, a repeated pattern of conflicts and differences that eventually lead to people deciding that action is needed to change the unacceptable. And make no mistake; we are very much headed in that direction.
On both ends of the spectrum. One of the most telling things about the contest to be the next President has been the growing consensus of the rejection of "business as usual." On the Republican side, it is not a coincidence that the two leading candidates right now, Trump and Carson, are not politicians, and on the Democratic side, the growing support for the most iconoclastic and unique person in Congress, Sanders, is a manifestation of the same disgust with business as usual. The mainstream media has been exposed as the tool of the governing class that it is by being caught flatfooted by this longing for someone and something different. It is almost amusing to see what used to be considered American royalty--people used to the corridors of power and influence, like Bush and Hillary--growing more disoriented and confused by the day. Bush, in particular, looks more and more like Nicolae Ceausescu did at the tail end of 1989-- absolutely astounded that the great unwashed have turned against him. I suppose that Bush does not face a firing squad in his near future, but he does face complete, ignominious relegation to obscurity, despite his network of moneyed donors, his pedigree, and his lineup of "insider" endorsements and support--which is probably a worse fate, in his mind. And Hillary Clinton, who just a few short months ago appeared ready to cruise to a nomination that she no doubt has felt like she was somehow gypped out of eight years ago, suddenly finds herself facing another dogfight that will quite possibly end in her being denied the prize--and also seems incapable of realizing that it's not because of her name or because she's a woman, but because she is the epitome of the elite, the ones that have thirty years of feeding at the trough already and that a growing number of us would like to see ejected from the barnyard.
And when you factor in that there is a whole lot of destabilizing factors that haven't gone away--climate change is real, despite what a large number of those in power around the world would prefer to believe, and it will absolutely wreak havoc with the world at large, much sooner than later, and that's just one of many--well, this is a Category 6 brewing off-shore. The waves are now getting choppy and the wind is picking up. The track is uncertain, but it is going to make landfall at some point relatively quickly.
And there is no place to evacuate to.