Obituary BSA

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The Boy Scouts organization is dying. The attacks upon it over the past thirty years are murder by any other name.

I have been associated with Scouting for nearly sixty years in one way or another. I will hold its hand for a while longer as it passes from us, but probably not until the very end. I have my reasons.

About a year ago, I warned that the BSA’s acceptance of transgender members would lead to the acceptance of female youth members. It all happened, far more quickly than any of us imagined.

Many of us may think this is a recent development—and so it seems. But the battle has been taking place for nearly the sixty years I’ve been involved.

Who is involved in this battle? Who is the enemy? What is the battle about? It’s so easy in today’s world to see a thirty-second “news story” and to think “Oh, the Boy Scouts are in trouble again.” It’s far more than that. What is at stake is no less that the core beliefs and values of our children. The enemy? It would be easy for me to say it’s “the liberals.” That wouldn’t be quite fair. I know many liberals who are good human beings and want the best for our children. So I will say it this way: the enemy are people who hate people like me, and perhaps people like you. They hate freedom. They hate individual and critical thinking. They hate the things I value. You may find that they hate you as well.

Mike Rowe put it so well several weeks ago when he said “Girls are not the enemy. The enemy is bad ideology, and the inability to effectively confront it.”

The reason this battle is so hard for us to recognize is because it’s not a full frontal assault. It has occurred over decades rather than a particular day or year. It’s an insidious attack, using treacherous weapons. The enemy uses ideas and catch-phrases that, in and of themselves, are difficult to fight. Let me give you an example. The enemy says, in essence, “Little girls should have a fun and exciting program too!” Well of course they should. Who can argue with that? I don’t know of a single person in the Scouting program who disagrees with it. And so we are inundated—overwhelmed, if you will—with ideas that “sound right.” And yet all we have tried to do over past decades is to protect a program that teaches boys how to be men.  I suspect “they” don’t like our finished product.  I think they hate the men we produce, as much as they hate me.

So why did I say the Boy Scouts are dying? Because this enemy doesn’t want to change Boy Scouting; they want to kill it.

The enemy, whoever “they” are, want this organization dead and gone. If you think that is far-fetched, and that I’ve gone mad, just keep your eye on the Girl Scouts organization; that is the bellwether. If they are forced to change, so be it, but I don’t think men and boys belong there.  But if that organization is somehow conveniently “overlooked” in this rush to irrationality, then perhaps this will more clearly appear to you as a premeditated, intentional and wanton wish to kill us.

The enemy have gone about this premeditated murder over a long time. They have determined our core beliefs and attacked them with lawsuits and propaganda, decades in their determination, attacking seemingly “little things” with ideas that, on their face, seem to make sense. It’s a long, slow passing. It is death by a thousand cuts.

They have attacked the Boy Scouts for the things that make up our core existence: an oath to do our best, to do our duty to God and our country.

Now that they’ve won the gender battle, what do you suppose they’ll attack next? I think they will attack our fundamental belief in God Himself.

I suspect that battle will come, as before, in sheep’s’ clothing. At some point, if history is any indication, the sheep will begin to howl.

If they win the battle over God, I’ll be forced to remove myself from any association with the organization. That’s why I can’t hold its hand as it dies. I will have tried, but it will be a failed exorcism. That organization will no longer be something I recognize.dbsig2

I can’t fight this battle alone. What I must do is recognize any talents I have, and try. To me, that means telling the truth about what is really happening.

My hope is that you will recognize it and perhaps think of something you can do.

I Was Famous Fifty Years Ago

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My son Beau remembers everything.

He texted me a few weeks ago to tell me that June 3, 2018 is a sort of anniversary for me. I hadn’t thought about the incident for decades, but according to the calendar, he’s right. It’s been fifty years.

In fairness to my readers, I should start at the beginning, fifty years ago. I promise not to take that long to tell you the story.

It was June 3, 1968. I was seventeen years old, with my family on vacation to the west coast. We were in Disneyland. For any young people, think of Disneyland as the prequel to Disney World. Think same idea with less acreage. It was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I was a young inquiring photographer in those days and I had my 35mm camera slung over my shoulder. We had been in the park several hours. It was hot. I was tired. Sometimes things happen when we least expect them. Important things.

My parents, along with my brother and sister, must have been somewhere behind me. I had pulled my camera around and was absent-mindedly fiddling with the controls as I walked slowly across an open area—I don’t remember the location, but I can see it clearly in my mind as I type this. It couldn’t have been a parking lot, not in the middle of Disneyland, but it was barren except for a very tiny building somewhere near the center. I don’t have a clear picture of it, but I remember it as almost a little shack, with a single door. In the years that have passed, I have supposed it must have been an exit from an underground passage of some kind or another.

I can still see that door opening as I walked toward it. Emerging from the tiny building was a huge man in a business suit. Maybe he wasn’t huge. Maybe I was completely not huge. He wasn’t looking at me. He looked right, then left and was moving toward me. Another huge man followed him. And another. And more. They were all moving in my direction and looking everywhere but at me. And they moved past me, quickly, as if I wasn’t even there. It happened so fast, I didn’t understand what was happening.

I had walked within ten feet of that little building when Bobby Kennedy—Senator Robert F. Kennedy—walked out of that door. I was the first person he saw. We were no more than two feet apart. Apparently his bodyguards didn’t view me as a problem. Kennedy smiled and started to extend his hand to me. Then he saw the camera in my two-fisted grip and lowered his hand. Maybe he was thinking “Camera. Smile,” because he kept grinning. There was suddenly a horde of people around us. I am sure that the muscle memory in my arms and hands raised that camera—I certainly didn’t consciously do it. I don’t think I ever got the viewfinder to my eye. I believe I took the photo from about chest level. A good photographer knows when he’s going to get the shot. Conversely, he’s also aware when he’s about to miss it.  When this happens, you point the camera and push the button now.  Kennedy and his entourage were moving very fast, and I had pushed the button not knowing whether I got the shot or not.  And then they were gone. Kennedy, his bodyguards, the crowd. All gone.

All of that happened in less than ten seconds on June 3, 1968.

Kennedy was running for President that summer. The California primary was a tight race between Kennedy and Senator Eugene McCarthy. The next day was election day for the primary. That evening, my parents were going out for dinner, and my sister and I sat in a Los Angeles hotel room, deciding where we would spend our evening. Kennedy’s organization was in the Ambassador Hotel, which was within walking distance. McCarthy’s people were in a different hotel, also close by.

I could claim that we were in the Ambassador Hotel that night and get away with it, but we weren’t. I remember thinking that I already had a photo of Kennedy, and I wanted to see if I could get McCarthy also. In retrospect, probably a wise choice.

We went to McCarthy’s rally and ultimate concession speech. I was crawling on the floor with news photographers nearMcCarthy’s podium and got some great shots of him. Security for presidential candidates was relaxed in those days. I have no idea what happened to my photos of that night.

By the time we returned to the hotel room, Kennedy had been shot in the Ambassador Hotel, and of course, you know the rest of the story. We watched it on the hotel room television.

I didn’t see the Kennedy photo until we had returned from vacation. I should point out to younger people that, in those days, you took your roll of film to the drugstore or the local photographer and waited about a week to get your photos.  It was an exercise in delayed gratification.  If you don’t know what that means, I’ll explain it to you later.

1968 Kennedy PhotographI was sort of “ok” with the shot. It’s slightly out of focus (remember I was shooting blind and in those days, only young peoples’ eyes had auto-focus.)  From a photographer’s eye, there’s a lot wrong with it. And every photographer worth his salt wants to be remembered for the shots that he actually planned and intended to take. That’s when they call you an artist. They don’t do that when your jaw has dropped and you fumble to push a button. But it’s mine and it’s real.

My mother thought that photograph was the greatest thing since sliced bread, of course. She took the photo to odbsig2ur local newspaper, the Republican-Times. And there, on the next day and on the front page, was my color photograph in living black and white.  It says I elbowed my way through the crowd.  Not true. My mom probably imagined that.  It says I was six feet away.  I was a lot closer than six feet.  Either my mom made that up too, or the news media hasn’t changed much in fifty years.

You may not believe this, but I was famous in my hometown for a couple of days. After that, I was just a nerdy kid with a camera again. My public was capricious; my fans were–there’s just no other word for it–undependable.  I became yesterday’s news. I looked at the photo lots of times that summer. Eventually, it got filed away. I have thought about it only two or three times in the last forty years. Apparently I showed it to my children at some point. Beau would remember.

And that’s how I was famous for two days fifty years ago.

More Strange Opinions

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Our local newspaper, the St. Joseph News-Press, runs a daily item titled It’s Your Call. People can phone in without being identified and say whatever they want to say. I remember the days when, if you wanted an opinion published, you had to identify yourself. You also had to be able to communicate and make sense, but that’s apparently no longer a requirement, either. I have two conclusions from all of this: People will say anything and It’s Your Call sells newspapers. In the interest of self-disclosure, I wrote this and my name’s at the top.  Here’s a sampling of what Its Your Call has given us in May:

May 3 WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?

In response to “The difference,” conservatives don’t understand. The whole issue is Democrats don’t understand there is one constant is this equation. It is the person that drives the vehicle or shoots the gun. That is the responsible party. You liberals just don’t get it.

Huh? What? I’m thinking a lot of people didn’t get it.  Was this as good for you as it was for me?

May 5 NOT FUNNY

I see Stormy Daniels is going to sue Trump for defamation. This woman is a porn star, and most of you know what that means. How are on earth can she sue the president for defamation. I would almost laugh, but I think it is sick.

Well, most of you know what that means.

May 5 UP NOT DOWN

Didn’t they say the sewer bill was going to go down? Well, mine went up $10. So, are they going to raise it up real high so when they bring it down a little it looks like they lowered it?

It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it?

May 6 NEEDING REPAIR

McDonald’s spent a great deal of money remodeling and investing in their restaurant on the North Belt across from the Highway Patrol, and now you can barely get to it from the crater-sized potholes in front of it. You would think with the highway department driving by there on their way to work, they would notice and repair them, not just a temporary fix like asphalt but actually repair the road.

I am going to suggest that McDonald’s offer the Highway Patrol free Big Macs for about two weeks. This could work.

May 7 UNDER ATTACK

Being a farmer in DeKalb County that has a giant windmill on his property and that windmill is attacked with lie after lie and now they are attacking me with slanderous remarks, I am going to name my windmill Donald Trump. This is what people do in politics.

I was sure there would be a Don Quixote reference in this, but it never arrived.

May 10 A GOOD WOMAN

I find it really hard to agree with liberals when they are always in support of someone like Stormy Daniels and the way that they talk trash on our first lady. I don’t think they would recognize a good woman if they stepped over them on the way to the bar.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of hearing about Stormy Daniels. And most of you know what that means.

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May 12 WATCH OUT, WOLVES

I’m glad to see that the state of Missouri has millions of dollars to throw away on the so-called endangered Mexican wolves. If I see one around my farm it is not  going to be endangered, it is going to be dead. I raise livestock. I have little calves and goats, and all wolves are good for is to kill them.

I think this guy is serious. I respect his right to protect his property, but couldn’t he build a wall around his farm and make the Mexican wolves pay for it?

Living The Good Lawn

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My good friends know that I have hated doing yardwork my entire life.

They know that, for most of our married life, Saint Mary does that sort of thing for us–not me.  The truth is that she enjoys working in the yard and I don’t, so she does.  I get the usual jokes from my friends about making my wife mow the lawn.  “Hey, it’s springtime. Better have Saint Mary get that mower tuned up so you can watch the game.” Etcetera.  I’ve given up trying to explain.

Our good friends Bob and Donna have their lawn and gardens displayed all over social media, and they are beautiful.  So is their lawn.

I looked at the photos of Bob and Donna’s work, and thought to myself, “I can do that.”

It turns out I can’t.  It turns out I have no business trying to be horticulturally creative.  I have learned that I shouldn’t attempt to do something unless I actually know something about it first.  I learned this lesson in my workshop.  I’m not quite sure why I didn’t remember it a hundred feet away in my lawn.  I don’t have a green thumb.  I don’t have a brown thumb.  As it turns out, when it comes to nurturing green things to life in my yard, I apparently don’t even have opposable thumbs.

In the past few years, we paid someone to mow the lawn.  We were both busy and it was just easier. When we retired, Mary said we ought to do it ourselves.  I came up with the perfect answer.  Knowing her parsimonious control of the family pocketbook, I said “Tell you what.  I’ll start mowing the lawn if I have a riding lawnmower.” And she agreed.

Gulp.

OK, so we went lawnmower shopping last year.  Knowing full well that a small, light-weight push mower could do the job in about twenty minutes at a cost of about $150, I opted for a huge riding armored tank with zero turn capability, dual handles with gears and pulleys and chrome side-pipes with smoke shooting into your atmosphere.  If there’s smog in St. Joseph, it’s probably my doing.  When I saw it on the showroom floor I fell in love.  I said “There.  That is what we need.”  Saint Mary held tightly to her purse.  I wish you could have seen the look on her face.  It was pure adoration.  I’ve seen it a lot over the years.

It’s important that you know the geography here–the lay of our land.  Our property is on a curve in the road, so it’s a wedge, a triangle, a piece of pie approximately the size of a postage stamp. This property doesn’t require mowing once a week or even once a month.  This property is small enough that you could probably walk out there and stare it into submission. The zero-turn feature turned out to be a good idea, because this machine barely fits in our lawn.  I basically have to spin it around once and my lawn is mowed. Oh, and I had to have a shed built so we had a place to put this thing.  I don’t want to say what all this cost me.  I’m pretty sure my grandchildren will get it paid.

The day they delivered this thing, I was off and running.  I think it took me about five minutes.  That didn’t seem like much fun to me.  But I discovered this lever thing.  You can use it to cut the grass higher or lower.  Well, I decided on lower.  As the summer progressed, I couldn’t wait to mow the lawn, because it had grown about a half-millimeter in my opinion and needed a light trim.  And mind you, I developed a tendency to cut my lawn about every two hours.  Got to stay ahead of the game.  That’s always been my motto since I became a lawn expert. Shorter and shorter.  Mary said “You’re cutting it too short.  You’re going to kill it.” I tried to tell her how much fun it was to mow my lawn.  She said “If that’s the case, turn the blade off and just ride around out there, Mr. Green Jeans.”

We have wonderful neighbors.  There’s Joyce on one side, Steve and Jenni on the other.  And Frank and Helen down near the point on the piece of pie.  They all have really nice-looking lawns.  I’ve noticed most of them get it done by walking.  Behind a mower.  I’m pretty sure that, when this Rube Goldberg monstrosity is whirling about my tiny homestead, with me in the cockpit, my headphone ear protection clamped on my head and my cold drink in the cupholder, they are probably saying things like “Seriously?”  and “Really?”  Yes, it embarasses me, sort of.  But I have an investment here.

Mary says she watched me on the day I hit what we now refer to as “paydirt.”  Joyce and Jenni and Steve and Helen and Frank were probably watching too.  Mary says I looked like PigPen, that character from the Peanuts cartoon strip.  She says I was actually attempting to cut dirt.  There were dust clouds swirling, sticks and rocks flying through the air.  Joe The Dog was whining.  When I finished that day, our property looked like The Grapes Of Wrath.  Oh, the humanity.

Things are calmer this year.  They are still calling us the Joads, but we’re planting our way back to social acceptance. I’m trying to coax clover and grass seed out of the ground and save us from the Dust Bowl of ’17.  We don’t really have a lawn yet.  I don’t know what to call it. Well, it’s just dirt, is what it is. But I’ll tell you this: if you get on Google Maps, you can spot our property easily.  It will pop right out at you.  It’s the thing that looks like a piece of chocolate pie on a lettuce leaf. I now spend my days looking forlornly out the window at our dirt farm.  There are actually some hints of green out there.  The neighbors are probably doing the same thing, anxiously.  Saint Mary occasionally grabs my arm and says “Steady.  Steady boy.  Not yet.”

One Of My Neuroses

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Once a year, I receive a letter from the Authentic Bonnie And Clyde Festival Committee, informing me that their authentic festival will again be held in Gibsland, Louisiana. I never go, but I always look for the letter. I don’t know why. Probably just to see who’s in charge and who died. Maybe an interest in seeing what oddity or monstrosity they’ve cooked up this year.

Many people don’t know this, but I’m a secret Bonnie and Clyde specialist. Maybe even an authority. They were only common criminals until 1967, when the popular movie featuring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway made romantic lawbreakers out of them. The movie—and the criminals–caught the country by storm. We may have viewed them as some sort of heroes. Well, they weren’t. Most people got over it and went about their business. I stuck with them.

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Back in 1968 when I thought Bonnie and Clyde were cool. I didn’t always dress like this. I look like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges.

In the last fifty years, I’ve probably read every book and magazine article about this pair, several of them more than once, because I forgot what was said. I’ve stood at both of their graves in Dallas TX more than once. I’ve corresponded with and talked to the late Ken Holmes Jr., who was a highly-regarded authority on B&C, as well as the late Boots Hinton, who was the son of one of the six lawmen who killed them. I could write a book, and probably should have, just to be done with them. It’s not like I’m obsessed. I was obsessed for a year or two. It just feels like if I stop at this point, it will be a waste of knowledge. Maybe that’s why they’re the subject of my column this week.

The annual festival letter says just about the same thing it always says. They’ll have five (count them) five re-enactments of different robberies and shoot-outs committed by Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker and the Barrow Gang. Mind you, the population of Gibsland is only 953 and none of these robberies occurred there. So I guess they do most of these at the bank. If they have a bank. One of these will be a re-enactment of the actual ambush and death of Bonnie and Clyde. On May 23, 1934, the pair grabbed their last meal at Ma Canfield’s Café and drove about 9 miles southwest on highway 154. Six law officers ambushed them, pumping around 100 bullets into their stolen V-6 Ford, ending the lives of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Ma Canfield’s is no longer there, but something called the Ambush Museum has replaced it. Somewhere else in town is The Authentic Bonnie And Clyde Museum. Can’t be far, judging from the population count. I’m not sure what makes it authentic. And how does the Ambush Museum feel about that?

They’ll have a pancake breakfast at the Lions Club, suggesting surprise visits by “outlaws” and advising me to not miss the excitement. I think I will. It says the “streets will come alive” with the sound of guns firing. Not sure I’d enjoy that. I don’t want the streets to come alive. I want to stay alive for a while.

There’ll be a $50 prize awarded at a Bonnie And Clyde Look-Alike Contest. I guess that’s something someone on the committee suggested. I would have voted against it. But it says here, there will also be a $25 prize in a Bonnie And Clyde Look-Alike contest for children. That just seems wrong on a hundred levels. Does that mean what they looked like when they were children, or does it mean little tiny people holding machine guns?

Nothing about this festival is authentic except the dirt. A lot of it is probably the same dirt they had in 1934. They don’t even have the stolen V-6 Ford. There are apparently several fake “death cars,” the most popular being the one used in the 1967 movie. The real one sits in a Primm, Nevada casino, properly cringe-worthy with its Swiss cheese exterior.

The letter always reminds everybody that they “do not glorify crime or criminals.” They say they are devoted to “preserving history.” But they make sure there are plenty of t-shirts, buttons, mugs, koozies, shot glasses and magnets for sale. So I don’t buy the “preserving history” thing. It sounds like the only thing a little town of 954 has got going for it, so I don’t begrudge them their festival. Each year when I receive dbsig2their letter, I consider getting in the car and driving to Gibsland. I always decide against it. Maybe one day I’ll go, but it won’t be on The Authentic Festival day. I’d like to stand by myself on that highway southwest of town and imagine. I’ve read the books. I know what happened. I think my imagination would be more interesting than seeing people standing around with their t-shirts and koozies. Maybe one day I’ll go. Maybe one day I’ll buy a magnet.

A Lion Roaring From A Rubbish Heap

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In the recent city “trash debate” I’ve been charged with labeling the idea of municipal trash service as socialistic. Guilty as charged. I support a free market and competition in almost all areas. My opposition to municipal bureaucracy is a much larger issue than trash. There’s much more than garbage at stake.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, anybody who behaves as I do ought to be required to sit down and explain himself. And Lord knows I love to talk.

I’ve said it many times, but allowing goods and services to be controlled by the government (read as “city”) is the literal definition of socialism. It really is. It’s in the dictionary.

We don’t become a socialist society by decree. That occurs only at the end of the battle, when we’ve lost. Socialism creeps into our lives in a stealthy way and it does so at our own bidding. It is deceitful, it is dishonest and it is powerful. It looks good and sounds good. The only way to fight it is to call it by its name–an exorcism, if you will.  Pull the mask off and let the light of day expose it for what it is. Get socialism out into the sunlight and, like a vampire, it will scream and disappear.  I threw that in there because young people apparently love a vampire reference. Socialism is seductive and it always sneaks in by subterfuge–little things that don’t seem to matter.  Several generations of people younger than me are being seduced. It just seems like a good idea to have the government solve problems for us. It’s not a good idea. The government is, in most cases, the worst possible choice for problem-solver.

Here’s some common sense: Easy problems are easy to fix, and difficult problems are difficult to fix. You can’t pay your way out of that sentence; it’s just a fact. If we ask private enterprise to fix a problem, they’ll do it in the most efficient way possible, because they don’t want to pay for it twice or three times. Why? Because when private enterprise runs out of money, they’re done. But if we ask government to fix a problem, it will usually attempt an inefficient and ineffective method. The problem won’t get fixed, and when government runs out of money, it will simply raise taxes and continue to be inefficient and ineffective. And somehow it will grow larger in the process.  I’m guessing lack of exercise.

Handing over problems to our government is socialistic thinking. Handing our problems to the government is like hiring a fox to babysit the henhouse at night. Don’t get me wrong; we need our government. But we need to ride herd on it; it gets spooked and stampedes at the drop of a hat. We should watch our vampire closely, with silver bullets, a crucifix and a wooden stake within easy reach. At least that’s how it is in my metaphorically-mixed world.

If we want a socialist society, we’ll have it. And I am very afraid that younger generations think that’s what we want, God love ‘em. I suppose I shouldn’t blame them; they haven’t yet paid the price for that sort of thinking. This is where life experience and a clear view of history pay off. The day will come when younger generations say “Wait a minute. I don’t think I like this.” But it will be too late. The new order will have its fingers everywhere; it will have crept into our government and our lives and thrown its roots. It will have a stranglehold on us.

If you believe that’s true and you wish to fight it, as I do, then I warn you again: we will have to fix the problems ourselves and difficult problems are difficult to fix.

Young people: I see you exercising a lot, running on your treadmills and trying to eat the right things. You did not gain that health by sitting on the sofa, eating candy and asking the government to make you healthy. You made the hard choice there. This is no different. Use that healthy brain to realize that, in government, the hard choice is to refuse the easy answer. I challenge you to refuse a government that wants to “help” you. Shrink the fat of government and put the health and muscle in the people. I am old and I don’t know where my energy went. I can’t help you with this choice. You must do it.

You will have to fight the seductiveness of socialistic thinking at every level. Today you’ll have to battle it out over trash service. Tomorrow it’ll be something else.   One day, you’ll have to fight against the government providing your dental floss. Fight it everywhere and keep fighting. A plant that can’t throw its roots will wither and die, and your freedom will be as strong as your young and powerful bodies.

You will be attacked for your ideas and your words. It’s a painful life. It’s a hard choice. It will hurt and you won’t get used to it. I wouldn’t know, but isn’t that how your exercise thing works?

Churchill once said that he was no lion, but that he provided the roar. I’m no Churchill. But I’m roaring as loud as I can.

More Trash Talking For St. Joseph

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(FROM THE AUTHOR: THE SUBJECT MATTER IN THIS COLUMN IS AN IMPORTANT LOCAL ISSUE. I SELDOM ASK MY READERS TO DO THIS, BUT TODAY IS DIFFERENT. PLEASE COPY/FORWARD/SHARE THIS COLUMN WITH EVERY ST. JOSEPH CITIZEN WHO IS PAYING TAXES. THEY’LL BE AFFECTED BY THIS, WHETHER THEY AGREE WITH ME OR NOT. THANKS DB)

No sooner than our new mayor and city council were elected, the St. Joseph trash issue has, once again, raised its head. A newly-elected councilman made headlines in the past two weeks, stating that our city looks trashy and that we need a city-operated trash franchise to fix it. He’s championing a change to the city charter that could leave us, as citizens and voters, completely out of the decision.

Unless we, as voters, insist that the matter be voted upon, your monthly trash bill could be highjacked by the city without your consent. I think we already know what would happen to the quality of your trash service if competition between the private services didn’t exist. And I think we know what the cost will be. Just look at your sewer bill. The very idea that the city council would decide upon a franchised trash service without our consent is an absolute outrage and an abuse of the council’s privilege.

Instituting a city-operated trash service by changing the city charter is a direct assault upon your right to have a say in the matter. It’s a way to get it done without asking.

In my opinion, the primary culprit is likely Waste Management, an international waste disposal company headquartered in Houston TX with nearly 400 collection operations in the U.S. and other countries. They are the company that now owns Deffenbaugh. With a well-known track record of buying up small waste collection services and lobbying large businesses and city governments for city franchises, they are the probable source of the whispering voice in the backchannel on this issue. So, citizens, be aware of that.

But let’s talk some common sense here: Did anyone stop to think that franchised trash service and a litter problem are not necessarily related? Unless all the litter in St. Joseph is blowing out of trash trucks, let’s remove them from the litter issue. They’re the guys who are trying to remove the trash.

For you, dear reader, the issue should be 1. Cost and 2. Quality of service. In other words, trash is trash. It’s the stuff we want to get rid of. Most of us want the best price for not having to deal with it.

Cost is an easy and simple mathematical issue. Right now, there are two people involved with your money: you and the owner of your local trash service. The aforementioned city councilman wants to insert a third party into that equation—the city itself. If you put an additional collector between you and your current service, it is an unassailable fact that your cost is going to go up significantly. That will occur either with your collection fee and/or subsidized by taxes. It doesn’t matter how it happens. It will all come out of your pocket. That is an absolute. Why? Because it COSTS X AMOUNT to pick up your trash and sooner or later, someone has to pay the piper. I think you know who those “someones” will be.

Here’s the dictionary’s definition of socialism:

“An economic system in which goods and services are provided through a central system of cooperative and/or government ownership rather than through competition and a free market system.” What the dictionary doesn’t tell you is that the system doesn’t work, and it eventually takes everything out of your pocket.

Litter and the appearance of our city is the other issue. I think everyone agrees that St. Joseph looks trashy and ought to clean up its act. How a franchised city trash service can do that is beyond me. It’s an argument with things I don’t understand. Several decades of life have taught me that when I start to get confused, somebody is making a conscious effort to confuse me.

There is a solution to the litter problem and it doesn’t involve raising your trash bill. The city should put teeth and backbone into its existing statutes. Slapping a $25 fine on a property owner will be nothing more to him than an annoyance. Change the fine so that it hurts. $100 first offense, $500 second offense and $1000 dollars and jail time on the third offense, followed by 30 hours of community service—specifically walking the streets with a scarlet letter on their shirt, picking up the litter. To those of you who think this sounds reactionary, overly-dramatic or harsh, I would point out to you that you won’t be doing it long; they’ll get the message: We are serious about cleaning up this town.

Maybe no one else is willing to say it, but there are people in the world who simply won’t clean up after themselves. Let me be very clear:  If you have six rooms full of garbage, more than four cell phones and a 60 inch flatscreen TV in the living room, I’m talking about you.   If you can’t pay the fine, we can go straight to the jail time and a full year of community service.  Does that hurt?  Good.  My parents used to say “This is going to hurt me worse than it hurts you.”  As an immature person, I never understood that, but I always made a slight behavioral adjustment.  I didn’t change my behavior out of moral righteousness; I did it to avoid the pain.  This is the way people behave when they haven’t grown up.

The important result of this idea is that, after a few examples are made, folks everywhere in St. Joseph will hear the real message: We are serious about cleaning up this town.

If you are reading this and disagreeing, let me ask you something: Would it not be worth trying an idea like this, before we quadruple our trash bills?

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Here’s a quick summary:

Regarding the idea of franchising our city’s trash service: The voting citizens of this city need to put their collective foot down and assert their right to be involved in the decision.

Regarding litter: Hit them where it hurts.

Trash is trash. It all looks pretty much the same, wherever you see it. So the only things an independent trash company has to offer you are price—and service.

Baseball: Great Expectorations

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I know baseball.

I’m not a rabid fan, but I’m a good one. Most nights, with nothing else to do, I’ll watch the Royals, or listen to them on the radio while I’m working on a project. I pay attention to the Red Sox, mostly because I have family in the Boston area. I like baseball on the radio; that’s the way I learned it. I’m old enough to remember when that was the only way to catch the game and, even today, there’s something comforting about listening to the game rather than seeing it on the screen.

I’ve been a baseball fan since my father took my brother and me to Municipal Stadium in Kansas City to watch the Athletics.  He taught us how to use a scorecard to record every pitch, every swing, every error. Afterword, I could take you through the entire game, pitch by pitch. I found that amazing, though today, I’m not sure why anyone would want to hear it. My mother, God bless her, acted interested while she did laundry.

I’m not a baseball expert. If you ask me who holds the record for left-handed RBIs in a single season while maintaining the strikeout record at the same time, I’ll just look at you, because I don’t know. That’s not the way I know baseball. But I can tell you all about Ruth, Gehrig, Dimaggio and Mantle. I know the game and can play it. I just can’t play it well. My ears know the sound of a well-hit ball.

What I’m saying is that, within my home and without comparison to people who know all the statistics and details and asterisks in the world of baseball statistics, I consider myself to be conversant in the game. Within my home, I pretend to be a baseball expert.

But after all these years, I still have a question about the game, something I don’t think any expert will be able to answer: why is spitting is OK in baseball?

My mother taught me that spitting is not appropriate in public. When I asked why, she said it was a sign of poor breeding. I wanted to point out that I had nothing to do with the breeding, but it wouldn’t have come across as humorous. As a result of my mother’s perspective, if I see someone spitting in public today I form an opinion about their entire gene pool.

Baseball players, however, have some sort of special spitting dispensation. They love to spit and spit often. They spit in the dugout. They spit on the field. They emphatically spit between pitches, as they go through their individual pre-swing routines at the plate. And I guess everybody thinks it’s OK in baseball. Pitchers, however, are not allowed to spit on their hands or the ball. They’re allowed, to lick their fingers, however. The announcers never mention it. Maybe they’re spitting in the pressbox.

Why is this OK in baseball, but not other sports? Golf, for example. If Tiger Woods were positioning for his final putt on the eighteenth green and suddenly hocked a loogie over his shoulder, I bet the entire crowd would leave. If Maria Sharapova did that during a tennis match, they would hound her off the court. Football is a rough and physical sport, but I bet you could get fined for spitting. You sure don’t see it on the football field. Truth be told, I can’t think of another spitting sport. NASCAR maybe, but it would be so hard to tell.

I’m not saying we should outlaw spitting in baseball. I suppose it wouldn’t be baseball without it’s quirks and idiosyncrasies. It’s not an issue we need to resolve right away, what with the weather and politics. And I can’t be responsible for where my brain goes; it sometimes wanders in odd places. Maybe spitting is a good reason to watch baseball on the radio.

Enough Is Enough

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I’ve waited a month to speak out on this subject. A little over a month ago, Nikolas Cruz killed seventeen people in a Florida school. Fifteen of them were children. Maybe it’s time we did something.

I don’t want to argue about gun control. If you’re reading this, you have your own opinions. I don’t want to hear from the children. We are the responsible adults. That’s why we refer to them as children. I don’t often take advice from them because they don’t know enough. For example, our children might demonstrate in our own homes, wanting to keep hand grenades under their beds and a grizzly bear in the back yard, but we as responsible adults will probably say “Maybe next year.” And that’s as it should be. It’s our job to keep them alive until they look and sound and act like responsible adults. This is why we don’t let them vote or drive automobiles. Decision-making is not their job—it’s ours. We do these things because we love them.

I think most of us can agree on that, regardless of our political or societal leanings. Those who don’t are probably the people we need to worry about. What follows is personal opinion. I hope my local community will agree with it—quickly. The way things are going, a school shooting in St. Joseph is not a matter of if–it’s a matter of when.

Let’s divide school shootings into three timeframes:

  1. Everything we talked about and did prior to the incident.
  2. The ten seconds during which an active shooter walks into a classroom with one teacher and thirty children.
  3. Everything we talk about and do after that.

I’d also like to divide our response to the shootings into two phases:

  1. What we need to do NOW.
  2. What we can do LATER.

I don’t know about you, but I hate the idea that our schools must become armed fortresses. But I have come around to the undeniable fact that, at this point in time, it must be done. So that belongs in Phase One.

There are opinions out there stating that we need to determine what’s causing the problem. I agree with that. I’ve got my own opinions and my list would probably begin with broadcast, written and social media. We have somehow created in young minds the notion that shooting up a school—committing murder– is a viable way to make a statement. My wife, who was a teacher for many many years, tells me I should add violent computer/phone games to that list. I suspect she’s right. There are other likely suspects—mental illness and a cornucopia of drugs, legal and illegal, currently in use. You can add to the list; this is certainly not the full spectrum of likely culprits. This all belongs in Phase Two.

The good news is that Phase Two and Phase One can begin immediately. It’s possible that if Phase Two is successful, we might be able to do away with Phase One eventually.

Phase One will likely cause some of you to disagree.

I believe we should implement armed guards in our schools. Immediately.

I believe we should implement a policy which requires every teacher to have a gun in the classroom, stored in a biometric gun safe or other storage method so the teacher can get to it quickly and which also safeguards the children—you can work out the details on that.

I believe every teacher should be required to train in gun safety and use—and re-qualify on a regular basis.

I do not believe any teacher should ever be required to use that weapon. Its use must remain a matter of choice.

Before the anti-gun readers shoot my head off, let me explain my reasoning.

I know a couple who are educators. It so happens they don’t own guns, don’t want guns in their homes and have said to me that they could never, under any circumstances, shoot someone–even a deranged and active shooter in their school.  I believe they are sincere and I believe that is their rightful choice.

Remember those three time frames above? Number One is irrelevant and Number Three belongs in Phase Two. The only things that matter are those ten seconds in the middle.

I want them to have the weapon, the training and the choice, regardless of their decision. I’ve never been shot at, but I suspect that, given no other alternative, with thirty little lives at stake, I might do something I didn’t expect me to do. I might use that weapon selfishly, since my life is thrust into the bargain. But given no other choices, I might trade that life for theirs. I’m pretty sure I can do heroic things if I’m really scared.

Is it possible that teachers could kill or injure children? Yes. Yes it is, and ultimately, the horrible statistic might be one dead and the remainder saved. At times like these, I hate math, but I would think that, given the circumstances, our courts would be forgiving.

One more thing: I’m tired of hearing about guards who lose their nerve and run away, if that’s what happened. A lot of us, including me, can suddenly be cowardly when bullets are flying and we’re not cornered with children in those fateful ten seconds.

The Academia Awards

 

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Tonight the annual Academia Awards will be on the television.

I’ll be watching, as I have for over fifty years.  I always say I’m not going to, but I love great acting and I can’t help it and I want to see who wins.  So I indulge myself in the same way that I eat things I shouldn’t.

Why do I do this? I’m not sure, but it seems like a habit to me.  I don’t think actors and artists should use this platform for their political beliefs.  On the other hand, I think they’re entitled to do it if they want to, same as me.  It’s the law; the very first item in the Bill Of Rights.

You have to read between the lines in that Bill Of Rights.  The people who wrote this thing were slippery if you ask me.  They said we can, but they didn’t say we should.  They didn’t tell us we have to deal with the results.  And if you check the dictionary, that falls under something called responsibility. It’s probably under maturity too.

I’m just trying to be logical here.  Lots of people feel differently about political issues.  So if a well-known actor takes a public stand on those issues, a portion (probably a significant portion) will disagree.  In terms of what they call a “bankable star,” an actor who producers and directors love to cast in their next movie, this is like cutting off an arm or a leg.  And each time they speak, it continues to chip away at their bargaining power.  If they continue to take sides, people tend to stop listening, so that’s like taking their mouth away.  Now I’m just a community theatre actor, but I know it’s hard to act without arms and legs and mouths.

So the bottom line is that it’s just silly for a well-known actor to speak in ways that are devisive or contentious.    They are famous because of their ability to act and yet they diminish themselves by choosing to say things they didn’t have to say.

I know a guy who is a master carpenter.  He is an artist in wood.  He doesn’t talk politics and he doesn’t have political signs plastered all over his shop and he doesn’t throw his political opinions onto Facebook.  And of course he doesn’t do that because his customers don’t want to hear his political opinions.  They want beautiful bannisters and cabinets.  I’m sure he has an opinion, but his decision to put a lid on it was a no-brainer.  People think of him as mature and responsible.

I’ve loved movies all my life.  I have always marveled at great actors.  I’ll continue to watch these people do the thing they do best.  I’ve learned how to not listen to them when they win an award.  It’s called a MUTE button.  Mary and I dbsig2use this device to voice our opinions in the privacy of our home.  No one can hear us, unless you count Alexa.  She apparently doesn’t have a political bone in her body.  I can tell when the actors are done talking, because they hold the trophy up and walk away, apparently very proud that they’ve just lowered their salary.