Saturday, July 6, 2024

Two Cents Worth While Contemplating the meaning of Independence

 

Time for another installment of unrelated subject matter and commentary.

­_I doubt that the Founding Fathers of this nation ever envisioned piling up a federal debt that would be 25% greater than annual gross domestic product.  Or that the interest on debt would exceed National Defense spending.  Not a great formula for being “independent”.

_I look forward to seeing Kevin Costner’s “Horizon”.  But I don’t do movie theaters anymore and certainly not for a 3-hour Part I episode.  I’m spoiled by the big screen at home, my comfortable chair and most of all, a pause button.

_Health tip: Make sure you’re getting enough protein.  “Enough” depends on size, sex, age and activity level.  Most of us consume too many empty carbs and not enough protein.  Worldwide it’s estimated that over 1 billion people suffer from severe protein deficiency.  

_The Freight Recession continues.  While we are seeing some signs of improvement, the consensus of opinion is we will not see overall capacity/demand balance until mid-2025.

_Anyone who is just now realizing that President Biden is not up to the task has either not being paying attention or they have been in denial.  And Donald Trump isn’t far behind.  There really needs to be an age limit on the President and Vice-President positions.  Once a person gets past 70, even if they are very healthy, they begin to lose their edge.  Clearly there are big jobs a healthy, super senior can do.  Warren Buffet and the late Charlie Munger come to mind.  Clint Eastwood has done some very good work well past 70.  There are artists and entertainers who remain outstanding in their 70's and even into their 80's.  But being President of the United States is a whole other ballgame, if it’s done right.  And the risks are too great if it’s not done right.  We should not be rolling the dice against old age for the most important job in the world.



Friday, June 28, 2024

Bada Bing

 


Here we are in 2024 and it seems like it was only yesterday when “The Sopranos” landed on our not so big screens.  It was January 10, 1999.  And until the final episode in June 2007, it was must-see television.  For me, “Yellowstone” is the only series that has since come close.  And, as much as I like Yellowstone, it simply does not rate up there with “The Sopranos”.  

It was the acting and the dialogue that made "The Sopranos" so great.  The violence was graphic but never gratuitous and always seemed necessary.  And of course there were plenty of F-bombs dropping all over the place.  But the way those Jersey guys said F—K, F—king, F—ker and of course the “mother” of all F-bombs, it just seemed natural. 

The larger-than-life actor James Gandolfini left us way too soon.  But had he lived he would have forever been Tony Soprano no matter what other roles he played.  Even great actors find it difficult to break away from an iconic character.  Most of the Soprano regulars are forever linked to that series, but none more so than Gandolfini.

The Sopranos struck a chord with Americans.  We were stepping into a new millennium.  There was money to be made and life was not bad for most of us.  But we were haunted by the emptiness of our pursuits.  The Sopranos reflected what we had become.  Living in a wealthy suburban neighborhood, the kids doing normal kid stuff, Mom taking care of everyone and everything; and Dad heading off to work in his big, shiny SUV.  He just happened to be a Crime Boss. 

Tony Soprano was like one of us, only different.  Like us in that he was a blend of good and bad.  He hoped to be more good than bad.  But he had a job to do and people were counting on him.  If he had to do bad things to those who got in his way, they had it coming.  Like us, it was just business. The only difference being that he didn’t just kill careers, he killed the people.  And we rooted for him every week.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Headlines

 

It seems that most everything one reads, watches or listens to these days is wrapped around a narrative. Because I lean right, I get more unsolicited emails and social media stuff that matches my apparent “right-wing” bias.  But I try to balance it out by intentionally seeking out left leaning newspapers, magazines and television.  

 

So, with the admission that I have a “right-wing” bias, let’s call it “center-right”, I have noticed that in recent years even the Dallas Morning News (DMN) has started to lean to the left.  It’s not in-your-face progressivism and they still publish some “conservative” news and editorials in a positive way. But increasingly the headlines, captions and photos tend to promote progressive causes.  It’s not slightly above average summer heat. It’s approaching record heat.  The mess on the border rarely makes the front page unless it is some local on the border taking the law into their own hands.  If the police shoot a black person it’s front page, anyone else and it is somewhere in section B.  Trump supporters are right-wing or MAGA people.  Biden supporters are just Democrats.

 

When a school superintendent up here in Grayson County makes a controversial decision to insist that in school plays the kids must play characters that match their gender at birth, it makes the front page.  Not saying I agree with the superintendent’s decision, it was a bad call.  And it made national news, not just in North Texas.  So, the DMN had to run it and probably had to run it on the front page at some point or have their “honest” journalism membership revoked. 

 

A lot of the stories and headlines in the DMN are directly from the Associated Press or other wire services.  Some are articles from other newspapers.  The vast majority of those tend to support left-wing narratives, even if it’s just with the headline or the wording used to describe conservatives.  I’ll give the DMN some credit in that most of the few “pro-conservative” or at least unbiased articles originate with DMN journalists and editors.

 

The DMN probably sees itself as being fair and balanced.  Maybe they don’t notice the left-lean of the other “news” they publish.  But I tend to think it’s just another indicator that the left is winning the culture war.  Those on the left would nod and say they are winning because they are on the right side of history, or just following the science, or protecting democracy, or promoting the virtues of diversity, equity and inclusion. 

 

And so it goes. I’ll continue to read the Dallas Morning News, the e-paper version of course.  (Doing my part to reduce global warming.)  But, I will read it knowing that most of those who write the articles and report the news see the world much differently that I do…and they are intent on changing it.  

 

“With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism.  The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” Hunter S. Thompson

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Another Two Cents Worth

 

Time for more random observations and comments.

 

_Recent elections in Europe point toward a shift to the right.  Some might say this is dangerous while others say it’s about time.  Europe is facing some real challenges: declining population vs. keeping the gates open for more immigrants, energy cost and reliability vs climate change activism; and the growing threat from Russian expansionism at a time when the U.S. is struggling to remain the free world’s bodyguard. 

 

_The whole Caitlin Clark/WNBA/Olympic team snub mess has become one more battleground in the Culture War.  Wholesome white, Midwestern woman who hit the jackpot faces resentment from WNBA veterans who are mostly black.  But even some of the white WNBA veterans are critical of the attention and money going Clark’s way.  Leaving Clark off the Olympic team only adds fuel to the fire. But, make no mistake, if she had been selected for the Olympic team there would have been just as much, if not more, fuel added to the fire.  That’s how culture wars work.

 

_School choice. I am conflicted on this issue. Certainly, there are places where the public schools are so bad that parents would do well to send their kids to private schools or just home school them.  But there are still many places where the public schools do a good job.  And all things being (almost) equal, public school education is a plus in my opinion.  However, this is a tough one.  Long-term we need to upgrade our public schools.  But in the here and now, there are parents who have rightly concluded that their kids would be better off NOT attending public schools.  Should they get a break financially to offset the cost of NOT using the public school system?  We all pay taxes for things we don’t use or things that are unusable… thanks to the government.  Where’s my voucher?

 

_You know you are getting old when every few days some celebrity or sports legend you remember from “back in the day” passes away.  Jerry West, Bill Walton, Larry Allen, Toby Keith, Duane Eddy, Carl Weathers are just a few of those we’ve lost this year.  Some of them are a bit “before my time” but I certainly remember them.  Others are from my generation.   And many are younger, so much so that I don’t even know who they are or why they are famous.  And some of those you remember, you’d just as soon forget (O.J. Simpson).

Friday, May 31, 2024

It's Not Really About the Candidates

 

So, Trump received guilty verdicts on 34 charges in a New York court.  It’s a big story for now but these verdicts will be over-turned on appeal which will become the next big story.  Trump may still win in November.  Or maybe Biden wins.  Or maybe Republican and Democratic party leadership wakes up and finds replacement candidates.  

 

Whatever the outcome, we now live in a nation even more divided.  Conservatives vs. Progressives with little common ground between them.  This division is forcing “independents” to pick a side.  Of course, there will be some number of middle-grounders who will vote for a personality or whichever side supports their hot-button self-interest issue. But increasingly voters will have to weigh one side versus the other in terms of the voter’s overall self-interest, not just one big issue.  

 

There are hardcore supporters on the left and right who toe the line and buy into everything their party stands for.  But the big middle is made up of people who have their own opinions.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t make them independent.  These “middle” voters will make hard choices and it won’t be based on what they think of Trump or Biden.  It will come down to what’s most important to these voters and which party is most likely to do what these voters consider to be “the right thing” at this time. 

 

Trump and Biden may be symbolic but are essentially irrelevant to these voters.  It’s about the issues that matter.  My sense is that the most important ones revolve around the economy, border security and cultural values.  Clearly there are many divisive issues imbedded within these categories and some voters will base their vote on one or two issues.  Abortion access for example or student loan forgiveness.  But most of those in the middle will be considering a wide range of issues and it will come down to which party is most likely to fix the most problems or perhaps just stop the bleeding and do no further harm.

 

The “middle voters” in the swing states will decide the November election. Whichever party can convince these voters they are most likely to address their concerns will win.  The party that caters too much to their devoted followers will lose.  

 

I don’t live in a swing state.  Texas remains red, although not as red as it used to be.  I am one of those middle voters who is not “all in” on either side.  But I do know how I will vote.  Something about stop digging when you’re in a deep hole.


Thursday, May 23, 2024

More Two Cents Worth

 

The first “Two Cents Worth” entry was last month, April 24 to be exact.  I think it’s time for another installment.

 

The Trump trial in New York is just another “you can’t make this stuff up” story that makes one wonder how much longer we can hold this republic together?  Massive deficit spending, cat fights in Congress, strangers crossing our borders, an education system that no longer educates, unaffordable housing and a nation irreconcilably divided on most every issue that matters.  And we can’t even find reasonably competent, age-appropriate Presidential candidates.  

 

NIL money and student-athlete transfers will quickly force realignment of major college sports into “big money”, “little money” and “no money” divisions.  Old guys like me will have less interest in watching college football and basketball, but there will still be a huge audience for these sports.  Turn the page.

 

2024 is on pace to be one of the worst tornado seasons in history.  Of course, this fits right into the climate change doom and gloom narrative.  And, no question, the climate is changing, always has and always will.  I just don’t think pushing everyone to drive EV’s is the answer.

 

The uproar over Harrison Butker’s commencement address at Benedictine University is just another sign of the times.  A devout Catholic speaking at a Catholic university to an audience that mostly appreciated where he was coming from, even if they didn’t totally agree with everything he said.  We should be more concerned about our government extending condolences to Iran on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim “The Butcher” Raisi.  

 

Watched Lonesome Dove again.  I’m well into double digit re-watches of that epic mini-series which could not be made these days.  It’s loaded with Racism, Toxic Masculinity, Cultural Appropriation, Animal Abuse and numerous images, words and deeds which would just upset too many people.  In other words, it’s a pretty accurate reflection of 1870’s American Frontier life (except the real thing was much worse.)

 

And then there is Memorial Day and this from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

Rest comrades, rest and sleep! The thoughts of men shall be

As sentinels to keep your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green we deck with fragrant flowers

Yours has the suffering been, the memory shall be ours.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Getting It Right

 

Watching the Pro-Palestinian/Anti-Israel protests on college campuses, I found it both interesting and highly disturbing how little these protesters actually know about the Middle East in general and the long-standing conflict between Jews and Palestinians in particular.  But I know better than to go down that rabbit hole, so this blog post is not about the Middle East mess.  Rather it is about how we should think about our beliefs.

 

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  Thankfully and by the grace of God, I’ve learned from them.  Most importantly, I’ve learned to ask the hard questions and seek the hard answers.  This is not an easy thing to do.  Human nature is more interested in fruit that looks good and tastes even better.  Consequences be damned.  But eventually, some of us learn that consequences will not be damned and certainly cannot be ignored.

 

Those life lessons have led me to ask these hard questions: 

 

_Is what I believe actually true and am I on the right path?

_Why do I believe it?

_If I am on the right path, what does it mean for how I live my life?

 

When I look at what’s going on in the world today, I see people asking similar questions but getting the wrong answers.  And I think that pretty much sums up the craziness we’re witnessing.  People believe something because it just “feels” right, or someone has told them it’s right or they just need to believe it for selfish reasons.  The American Civil War is a classic example.  Southerners believed things about slavery, black people and states’ rights that were just wrong.  But they certainly believed they were right and went to war to prove it.

 

History is essentially about groups of people thinking they are right and their opponents are wrong.  In most cases there is right and wrong on both sides of the argument.  Unfortunately, those who are mostly right don’t always win the argument.  Sometimes those who are mostly wrong win…at least for a while.  And even when those who are mostly right end up winning, it’s not likely to be a “win-win” for everybody.  Life is hard and it’s also short.  No one gets everything right all of the time.  The best we can hope for is that we get most of it right for as many of us as possible for as long as possible.  

 

“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much unless you do what’s right.” – Theodore Roosevelt