Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

A Matter of Perspective

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Oct 09, 2017 @ 7:24 am PDT

[Today is Illegal Immigration Day — the day that we celebrate when the inhabitants of Miami Beach discovered an illegal boat person on their shore, and made the gigantic mistake of offering him and the others on his boat asylum… and look at what happened. In Los Angeles, of course, they just renamed the day Indigenous People Day. Back in the 1950s, however, the day was called Columbus Day, when we celebrated a city in Ohio for reason no one really knows, other than we needed to give bankers a 3-day weekend in October, because we all know they need the respite.]

In 1961, the humorist Stan Freberg issued Volume 1 of The United States of America, a musical telling of the founding of America through the Battle of Yorktown (Volume 2 goes through the end of World War I (“They’ll never be another war…”)). The first scene on Volume 1 relates the story of how the Indians discovered Columbus. Although many things have changed since 1961 when this was recorded — Columbus is no longer held in the same regard, the portrayal of the Native American would likely be very different — there are still points that ring true, especially the exchange:

Columbus: Alright. Hello there. Hello there. We white man. Other side of ocean. My name, Christopher Columbus.
Chief: Oh, you over here on a Fulbright?
Columbus: No, no. I’m over here on an Isabella, as a matter of fact. Which reminds me. I want to take a few of you guys back on the boat to prove I discovered you.
Chief: What you mean discover us? We discover you.
Columbus: You discovered us?
Chief: Certainly, we discover you on beach here. Is all how you look at it.

As today is Columbus Day, let us remember that unfortunate day that the Native Americans discovered a Italian sailor, and the world was never the same. Just look at all he brought us: “real food: starches, spaghetti, cholesterol, … all the better things. That’s called progress.”

I present a transcription of the scene, just as it happened:

(more…)

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It’s So 18th Century

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Oct 06, 2017 @ 1:00 pm PDT

Sometimes, all it takes is a phrase to start my mind going. In this case, it was a post by a friend of a meme that said: “There is something wrong in a society in which guns and ammunition are a right, but healthcare is a privilege.” My response was that it sounded so 18th Century. I meant that in all seriousness. Let me explain.

Like anything, our country and its governing documents are a product of the time it was born, just like (although many won’t admit it) the Bible was written through the eyes of the times in which it was written. Reform Judaism, the movement to which I belong, teaches that we must continually reinterpret those timeless lessons for today’s times and values.

Consider when this country was formed, and when the Bill of Rights was written. There was persecution from England against speech and the practice of religion. There was regular quartering of soldiers in homes, and the British were confiscating guns and disbanding militias so the the people couldn’t fight back. There was slavery, and state militias were being used to enforce owner’s rights. Women were second class citizens with defined roles, and in many states, non-whites were not even citizens. Gay relationships were certainly in the closet, and as for the rest of TQ…. — you didn’t hear about it. Healthcare was non-existent or poor, and land was cheap. Anyone could be a self-starter, and redefine their identity. The world was much simpler, and the weapons less powerful. There was a fixed aristocracy, and the power of what we now call Evangelical Christianity wasn’t there. Most of the Founding Fathers were Deists. Society was such as non-Christians were fewer and less well integrated. Eastern religions? What were they? Non-Europeans or non-Africans. Miniscule populations at the time in the Americas.

This was the environment in which our Constitution and the Bill of Rights was written. It reflected the humans that wrote it, who wrote it with their immediate needs and concerns in mind. It was not intended to speak to all times; it was known by its founders to be imperfect. Consider this: We can amend the Constitution. We can’t amend the Bible. Whose authors thought it was perfect?

We’re in the 21st Century. We need a Bill of Rights for today, that reflect the timeless notion in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” and in the Preamble to the Constitution: ” establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”.

What should be in this bill of rights (we can argue about citizens vs residents vs …):

  • To ensure life: All citizens must have access to a basic level of health care and preventive medicine: not only to protect their lives, but to ensure that which is communicable does not infect others.
  • To ensure life: All citizens must have a basic livable income, sufficient to provide shelter and sustenance.
  • To ensure liberty:  All people in the United States must be treated equally, irrespective of any status by birth or inheritance: religion, race, gender, orientation, sex, size, or differences in ability.
  • To ensure liberty: All citizens must have a freedom of privacy in their personal affairs.
  • To ensure liberty: All people must have the freedom to practice their religion inasmuch as it does not impinge on the rights of the others to practice their religion.
  • To ensure the pursuit of happiness: Gun ownership should be permitted but controlled to ensure the public safety: (including distinctions on the type of weapons, regular training and mental health checks, storage rules, and strict limitations on non-hunting or self-defense weapons.

Those are just a start. I’m sure you could think of more, including many of our current limits on the Government imposing its religion or a pre-set morality.

 

 

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What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Oct 05, 2017 @ 11:46 am PDT

userpic=divided-nationA few days ago, prompted by a post from an Evangelical Conservative friend of mine that mass murders were only committed by Islamic Terrorists or the Radical Liberals, and the Vegas Shooter had to be one or the other, I said:

There are times my very Conservative friends make posts that infuriate me, and make me start typing a comment … which I promptly delete because I know it is like teaching pigs to sing (and I’m not calling them pigs, only using the expression): I’ll only get frustrated by the response, which won’t change anything. Thus, I don’t bother with those discussions. It makes me appreciate other friends at different parts of the Conservative spectrum, with whom we can have an intelligent discussion, learn from each other, and often find some middle ground.

In response to this, we’ve had a very good discussion over on Facebook on both the differences and similarities between left and right, and including agreement with my sentiment above from people who I consider to be on the both far ends of the political spectrum. Then, this morning, while reading my RSS feeds, NPR pops up an interesting article about now nothing divides Americans more sharply than politics. It noted the following in it’s leed:

Pew has been measuring attitudes on policy issues and political values dating back to 1994, and its latest check-in finds — perhaps unsurprisingly — that Americans are more divided than ever.

“The fact that Republicans and Democrats differ on these fundamental issues is probably not a surprise, but the magnitude of the difference is striking, and particularly how the differences have grown in recent years and where they’ve grown,” Carroll Doherty, Pew’s director of political research and one of the authors of the study, told NPR.

We are divided, and we’ve gotten so entrenched in our bubbles and our labels that we not only fail to recognize people as individuals with individual views, not party positions, but we fail to listen. We engage in discussions not to listen and learn from the other side, but to convince them that is why THEY are wrong and WE are right. That’s wrong.  There are very few issues that are simple binary — most are complicated with nuances, and multiple mitigations to address areas of concern.

Then, while reading another burst of my RSS feeds, there was an interesting opinion piece in the Jewish Journal: “Toward a Radical Middle“. In it, the author talks about how in the Facebook era, there were things on the Left that you were not allowed to criticize; similarly, for those on the Right, there were things you couldn’t criticize. Polarized much? One reformer noted in the article coined the term “regressive left” to describe the illiberal takeover of the left, the slow chipping away of every liberal value.

What I really liked was the article’s conclusion:

How do we get out of this mess? For one, we need to return to real — classical — liberalism. But what does that mean?

The easiest way to describe real liberalism is that there are certain principles — freedom of speech; freedom of religion; a dedication to liberty, justice and individuality — that are nonnegotiable.

But — and here’s a very big but: Liberalism allows for policy differences. You and I don’t have to agree on immigration, tax reform, even abortion — but our arguments must be rooted in liberal principles. Freedom of speech, for instance, involves defending the right of others to express their opinions, even if we disagree with them.

But No. 2: Politics need not color our culture or our lives. You can watch a movie or see an art show and — get this — just enjoy them, even if they have no connection whatsoever to social concerns.

Finally, But No. 3: Along with rights come responsibilities. There is a set of values attached to liberalism, what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the content of your character.”

Because of how skewed the political spectrum is, classical liberalism now sits in the center. That’s OK. It is precisely this ideology that can create common ground between the right and the left and nurture a saner society.

Call it the rebellion of the radical middle.

I, for one, look forward to that saner society, vs. the dysfunctional one we have today.

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Talking to the Wall

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Oct 04, 2017 @ 4:53 am PDT

Those of you who read me on Facebook may have seen my vaguebooking about banging ones head on a wall: it doesn’t change the wall, and only hurts your head. You may also have seen my comment over the weekend: “we became ghosts to the wall, leaving us concerned and relieved”.

Perhaps I should explain a little.

About 6 months ago, we took in someone we care about who needed some help. The intent was to see if our different set of parenting skills could help this person do better in life: succeed in school, learn to be an independent adult. We had some successes, but it was often two steps forward, and one and three quarter steps back. Combined with this was a tendency to self-sabotage — when the situation got hard (as situations as an adult often do), the solution wasn’t to address the issue as an adult, but to retry self-defeating behaviors. As time went on, we learned that the causes of the problems were more complicated than we initially believed. Even with beating our heads on the wall, we came to realize that we didn’t have the correct skill set to change the wall. We were attempting a DIY for a solution that required a knowledgeable craftsperson.

We were on the verge of working together with this person, and others that care about them, to find a specific solution when they abruptly decided to move out, leaving a mess to clean up, with nary a thank you or hugs. Hence, “concerned and relieved”.

So this is a message to the “wall”: Even with what has happened, we still care about your well-being and your success. We’re here if you need to talk or figure out solutions. We fervently hope that you find a life situation that works for you and helps you grow into the remarkable independent successful adult we know you can be. When you reach or even get close to that point, you are welcome here.

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Taking Our Best Shot

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Oct 03, 2017 @ 7:52 am PDT

After the horrific shooting in Las Vegas Sunday evening, my Facebook feed has been filled with calls for gun control, expressing the seeming belief that gun control will be the answer. But, as I wrote on Facebook Monday, stopping mass shootings and terrorist incidents is a complicated issue. I’m all for a sensible gun control policy. There should be background and mental health checks on all purchases of guns with waiting periods. There should be limits on assault weapon purchase and ownership, limiting access to those who have a reasoned need to such power: registered members of registered militias, and perhaps firing range owners so that people can have the hobby of shooting without the risk of urban assault. There should be the simple policy that the registered gun owner is also legally responsible for any crime committed with a gun registered to them — that will ensure guns are secured in houses, and address under the table transactions.

But we must also be clear that even if all gun manufacturers went away today and there were no new guns, there would still be a vast number of guns out in the wild. [ETA: And as later discussions noted: There is also the ability to 3D print guns, even if there were no manufactuers]. Gun control policies reduce risk, but primarily only among those who are sane and law abiding. They are part of the risk reduction picture, but not the complete answer. Similarly, all the scanning at events is also risk reduction (with an element of deterrence through security theatre), but does nothing to stop at-a-distance attacks like Las Vegas.

We need to do much more to reduce the risk. We need universal affordable healthcare that includes coverage for mental illness. This is the easiest and best way to address the mental health problems that lead to these incidents. We need periodic mental health evaluations to be included as part of regular physical checkups. Last time I looked, the brain was part of the body.

We need to address the economic causes that lead to these problems. This means reducing economic stress. This could be welfare; it could also be a universal basic income.

We need to address real and perceived inequality in society. Here in America, we are of the belief that what is significant is what you do, not who you are. That means real inequality must be stopped: discrimination and different treatment based on race, religion, gender, orientation, sex, and so forth. It means understanding what #BlackLivesMatter means: equal treatment for all by law enforcement, irrespective of origin or race. It also means addressing perceived inequality: there are many in this country who perceive an inequality or bias against the White / Male / Christian. Whether it is there doesn’t make a difference: perception can color behavior. Hence, addressing all inequality — real and perceived — is necessary to reduce that stress.

We need to address our society’s glamorization of violence. The Media and the Internet glamorize violence on the small and large screens. Action adventure movies show the power of mass terror. We make celebrities of those who commit these atrocities, and give tremendous publicity to their causes when discovered. Our political partisanship leads one side to so demonize the other than mass terror against the other is perceived as acceptable, because they don’t deserve to live. Much of society places more value in the unborn child than we do in adult humanity. When we devalue adult life so — when we view people who are different as unworthy of life — is there any question why mass murder and terror occurs?

 

We are never going to eliminate all possibility of such incidents. Those determined to do harm will find a way; they always have. But we can reduce the risk. However, we must be clear that gun control is only part of the picture, and addresses only the symptom of the underlying problem. For the best risk mitigation, we must address why these people do this.

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September 2017 Headlines about California Highways

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Oct 01, 2017 @ 12:17 pm PDT

Ah, September. A month for endings. Not route endings, but the ending of summer and the start of fall, the ending of 5777 and the start of 5778, and the ending of the government fiscal year and the start of a new one. I hope that your September ended on a good note. With that, some headlines:

  • New Protected Bikeway Connects Mid-City To Mission Valley. State and local transportation officials on Wednesday opened a mile-long protected bike lane alongside SR-15, creating a safer and more comfortable bike route between Mission Valley and Mid-City neighborhoods. Construction of the $15.5 million bikeway took about a year and a half, but plans for the project were first adopted locally in 2010. The project was a joint effort by Caltrans and the San Diego Association of Governments, the regional transportation planning agency.
  • California lawmakers act to name stretch of 134 Freeway in honor of former President Obama. State lawmakers Tuesday gave final approval to designating a section of the 134 Freeway as the President Barack H. Obama Highway in honor of the 44th president of the United States.
  • Progress on I-5 Construction in San Clemente. Work on the northbound I-5 ramps at Avenida Pico in San Clemente, which are being realigned to accommodate a freeway widening through the city, is expected to be completed by late October. The widening is part of a $230 million project to extend the carpool lanes from San Juan Capistrano to San Clemente. The project requires the complete reconstruction of the Pico interchange, with Pico being widened and straightened to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

(more…)

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Bending the Knee

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 24, 2017 @ 5:04 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationOver on Facebook, a conservative friend of mine posited the question, “Someone, anyone… please enlighten me by pointing out the racist portion(s) of the following song lyrics:”, after which he quoted the Star Spangled Banner. I hesitate to respond directly on his post because of the shitstorm from the Trump-dittoheads that would ensue; instead, I’m responding on my forum.

First and foremost, the problem is not with the anthem itself, just as the fight against the Confederate statues is not about the specific statues, or the protests against the pledge are about the specifics of the pledge. The problem is with the underlying symbolism. Further, “racist” is the wrong term. “Problematic” would be much be much better.

So where is the problem? It is captured in the simple phrase, “Land of the free”. The problem is that our nation is not living up to that ideal.

Are we the “land of the free” when:

  • A black US citizen cannot drive through a white neighborhood without being pulled over, while a white US citizen driving through a black neighborhood is not hassled?
  • A brown US citizen cannot drive near the Mexican border without being stopped and asked about his immigration status, whereas a white US citizen driving near the Canadian border is not stopped?
  • An Arab-American US citizen wearing a hijab is instantly suspect of being a terrorist, whereas the white guy buying the nitrogen and ammonia is not suspicious?
  • When statistics show that brown and black citizens arrested as suspects by the police are more likely to be treated harshly, receive longer sentences, and be shown less lenience.
  • Our President criticizes black football players for not standing up and putting their hand over their heart for the National Anthem, when he has been recorded not doing so?

By the way, when y’all go to church, how do you show respect to G-d? You kneal.

We say we are the Land of the Free, but we don’t demonstrate it as long as we discriminate against people based on conditions that are not of their choosing: skin color, country of origin or heritage, religion, sex, gender, orientation. People are choosing to show respect in a non-traditional form, because that which is different must be respected as well.

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Why I Will Not Be Watching Star Trek: Discovery (At Least Now)

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Sep 24, 2017 @ 9:28 am PDT

Tonight is the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery (FB). The first episode will be broadcast on CBS; for the rest, those in the US must subscribe to CBS’s exclusive pay-streaming service, CBS All Access. I’m a long time fan of Star Trek, and avidly devoured all of the TV series from the point where I could choose my television: the animated series, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:V, and even ST:Enterprise. But I’m not going to be watching Star Trek:Discovery beyond the first episode (and possibly not even that). I think that were Gene Roddenberry alive, he wouldn’t be watching it either.

Here’s why.

In how CBS has chosen to broadcast Star Trek:Discovery (ST:D), I feel they are not being true to the Star Trek vision. Gene Roddenberry emphasized in Star Trek an optimistic attitude, a view of the world where barriers between people did not exist. The class distinctions were gone, and race, gender, orientation, religion, and similar divisions were not factors. All of the other instances of Star Trek on the small screen were egalitarian in their broadcast: if you had a TV, you could watch them, be they on NBC (TOS), the UPN network (Enterprise, Voyager), or syndicated (TNG, DS9). But for Discovery, this isn’t the case. Those without Internet access or those who are not paying for streaming service (read: most cable and satellite users) are disenfranchised. They can’t watch the show. Those with Internet access can, but only if they pay. This reduces the audience to a particular wealthy demographic.

That’s problem enough for the Emmys, as I’ve discussed previously. They no longer serve to encourage excellence in Broadcast TV (or basic cable).  Let the plebeians have crappy TV; those with the means can pay to watch the quality stuff on Netflix and Hulu and Amazon and … Streaming provides the wealthy audience that buys stuff, or pays the network directly for their programming.

But for Star Trek? Putting Star Trek on a streaming platform creates the exact class distinctions that Roddenberry fought against. It is a pure grab for money and revenue from technically savvy Trek-fandom who have more money than they need — money CBS feels free to separate from them. Much as I want ST:D to succeed, it should be on a mainstream broadcast or basic cable channel: the CW or SyFy, not pay-streaming.

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