When America Was Great

The 1950s were so different from today. We watched westerns. The town Marshall was always fair and just. The bad guys were easy to spot – rustlers, train and bank robbers and evil landholders. They were always beaten and usually jailed rather than killed. In the 1960s and 1970s, westerns became cop shows. We had Andy Taylor and Barney Miller. They were fair and just, too. Sheriff Andy kept Deputy Barney in check and always treated Otis well when he was drunk. And Captain Miller’s force was integrated – a Black, an Asian, a Hispanic, several Jews, a Pole, and for a short time, a gay and a woman. They made us appreciate and respect police, the keepers of the peace. Police were there to serve and protect. Then came Serpico. He showed us that some cops weren’t clean; they were there to serve and protect themselves. TV cop shows followed that lead. By the 1980s, even the “good” cops were portrayed with imperfections, although usually in furthering the cause of justice. That’s when I stopped watching cop shows, so I don’t know what happened after that.

While the 1950s were a time of political conservatism, compliance, and conformity, the 1960s and 1970s introduced post-FDR liberalism, free thinking, and individualism. Those two cultures coexisted with considerable friction, even open hostility. Since then, there has been some mixing of philosophies, for example, conservatives now tout individualism while liberals conform to political correctness. If anything, though, the divide between the factions is even deeper than it was fifty years ago.

Many things have become much worse since then. Reagan made greed and selfishness not only acceptable, but a laudable trait of the monied class. Politicians competed to be the toughest on street crime while openly excusing their colleagues and campaign donors of far worse misdeeds. New wars were started to feed the Military-Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned us about in 1961. Steroids were banned from sports but became fashionable among the very lawmen who jailed the vulnerable for marijuana possession.

There have been a few noteworthy positive changes since Johnson’s Great Society. The hot tech economy of the late 1990s created the first budget surplus since 1969, though it was short lived. Obamacare, the Democrat’s version of the Republican’s Romneycare, was a lukewarm yet divisive improvement for people without health insurance. Obama’s less conspicuous accomplishments, like negotiating international treaties on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program, creating offices to control health crises, expanding environmental and renewal energy programs, safeguarding LGBTQ rights, expanding support for veterans, and reducing the deficit created by Bush, have all been overturned by Trump.

What hasn’t changed since the 1950s is the bigotry that is ingrained into our society. Heretofore, it was hidden by most media and politicians. Now it is more out in the open. Individual bigotry has become more overt under both Obama, a target, and Trump, an instigator. White supremacists, fascists, and anti-government zealots who used to practice under the cover of anonymity now engage their adversaries openly on the internet and in the streets. Police forces and other law enforcement agencies across the country have been infiltrated by these thugs. On the other hand, systemic bigotry, the bailiwick of legislators and policymakers, has become more subtle since the 1990s, It is barely recognized by many white Americans. Everything our leaders have done since 1980 has only ingrained those problems into our society and rooted them even deeper into our justice system.

What we must now do is discuss and debate, boycott antisocial corporations, resist hatred and violence, protest in words and actions, and most of all, vote accordingly. Without open actions against discrimination based on race and origin, age, sex and gender, religion, and social class, no individual or systemic biases will change appreciably.

It’s unfortunate that these discussions don’t begin without a trigger, such as the murders of George Floyd and others, and the continuing use of excessive force by police with qualified immunity. Protests of these actions have occurred across the nation in large and small groups representing a variety of demographics. Some of the protests have, unfortunately, involved violence. Nevertheless, these protests are vital; they can bring about the changes we need. Antiwar protests of the 1960s and 1970s eventually led to the end of the Vietnam War. Civil rights protests led by Dr. King and others improved the lives of many, though recent events show that significant problems remain.

The halcyon days of Sheriff Andy and Captain Miller only existed on television but that image of a world where biases are confronted and rejected is something we can use as a goal. That is the Great America to which we can aspire. Let every American pursue happiness in their own ways, everywhere, forever, and without any more aggression by those who are supposed to serve and protect.

June 28, 2020

Discussing Politics

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Deaths … In Perspective

Amid the current Cpvid-19 crisis, we are preoccupied with getting sick and dying, and rightfully so. We fear the unknown and the unexpected. We fear what we do not understand. We fear what we cannot control. All this is exacerbated when death is a possible outcome.

Deaths Caused by Crises

Some causes of multiple deaths originate in nature, such as meteorological, geological, or biological events. Some are accidents or the result of human actions. The crises may last just a few moments, a few days, or a few years. All come as a shock and that’s what makes them noteworthy.

Events like hurricanes and earthquakes have caused tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S., and many more globally. The Galveston Hurricane od 1900 killed 8,000 in just two days. Someday, this death toll may be exceeded by the next anticipated earthquake on the San Andreas fault or the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano. But by far, the deadliest crises the U.S. has faced are pandemics. Since 1980, the AIDS epidemic has accounted for 675,000 lives. The Spanish Flu killed 675,000 in just two years. Covid-19 has killed over 208,000 in just eight months, with no end in sight. For all our advances in science and technology, these are deaths we can rarely foresee and prepare for let alone control.

CrisesTime PeriodDeathsDeaths
per Day
Deaths per PopulationSource
Galveston Hurricane19008,0004,0000.01%2
San Francisco Earthquake19083,0003,0000.003%2
September 11th20012,9962,9960.001%2
Jonestown Flood18892,2092,2090.004%2
Peshtigo Wildfire18712,0002,0000.005%2
Sultana Shipwreck18651,7001,7000.005%2
Spanish Flu1918 to 1919675,0009250.66%5
Jonestown Suicide19789189180.0004%2
Covid-192/15 to 9/26/2020208,4408980.06%9
Hurricane Katrina20051,2003000.0004%2
North American Drought1988 to 199010,000140.004%2

Deaths Caused by Wars

Some deaths we can only blame on ourselves; wars are the prime example. In the U.S., the Civil War was responsible for 755,000 deaths, the horrific number being the result of virtually all the combatants being Americans. World War II was about half of that. Given the size of the U.S. population at the time, about 1% of all Americans were killed fighting for our independence. Democracy comes at a cost. As time has gone on, we have become more efficient at killing. Our causality rates have diminished while we kill more and more of our adversaries.

WarsTime PeriodDeathsDeaths
per Day
Deaths per PopulationSource
Civil War1861 to 1865755,0005202.39%1
Revolutionary War1775 to 178325,000111.00%1
World War II1941 to 1945405,3992970.31%1
War of 18121812 to 181515,000150.21%1
World War I1917 to 1918116,5162790.11%1
Mexican–American War1846 to 184813,283290.06%1
Vietnam War1961 to 197558,209110.03%1
Korean War1950 to 195336,574300.02%1
Philippine–American War1899 to 19024,19640.006%1
Spanish–American War18982,24690.004%1
Iraq War2003 to 20114,57620.002%1
War in Afghanistan2001-Present2,2160.40.001%1

Deaths Caused by Familiar Risks

We sometimes overlook some causes of death when we see them as inevitable or they don’t affect us personally. Nonetheless, familiar causes of deaths account for the most lives. Illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and respiratory diseases kill almost two million Americans every year on average. Medical researchers are working to address these diseases, but cures are a long way off. Medicine hasn’t been able to do much about some health-related problems, like malpractice, overdoses, and suicides, which account for half a million deaths every year. We try to prevent accidents, especially automotive and workplace accidents, but these risks kill well over a hundred thousand Americans every year. Gun violence may only take 20,000 lives a year, but it ia a national disgrace.

Common CausesTime PeriodDeathsDeaths
per Day
Deaths per PopulationSource
Heart disease2017647,4571,7740.20%10
Medical malpractice2013 calculated251,4546890.08%8
Prescription Drug Overdoses2015-2019 Average209,8765750.06%4
Respiratory diseases2017160,2014390.05%10
Alzheimer’s disease2017121,4043330.04%10
Illegal Drug Overdoses2015-2019 Average55,8601530.02%4
Gun violence2014-2019 Average14,457400.004%6
People Killed by Police2015-2019 Average4,93830.002%3

Deaths in Perspective

Death is inevitable. We will all have to deal with it eventually. Whether it comes as a result of some natural disaster, a war, an illness, or some societal problem, doesn’t matter. But, we all need to do whatever we can to minimize our risks. Live a healthy lifestyle, avoid exposure to diseases like Covid-19, and vote for leaders who will eschew wars and other forms of violence.

June 22, 2020

Stereotypes of Republicans and Democrats

Ranker.com held two polls described by Elise Hennigan on the stereotypes used by Democrats to describe Republicans and stereotypes used by Republicans to describe Democrats.

What Republicans think about Democrats and what Democrats think about Republicans are often based on party-promoted clichés rather than on actual policy or ideology. Republican politicians talk about “liberal elites” who are out of touch, arrogant, immoral, science loving atheists. Democratic pundits portray conservatives as ignorant, selfish, greedy, gun loving whites. Surely, there are individuals who fit those stereotypes but the descriptions don’t extend to the ALL Republicans or Democrats any more than any biased stereotype. The Ranker.com polls tried to separate the clichés from actual political beliefs.

Democrats believe that:

  • The federal government can and should work to make everyone’s lives better.
  • Social issues like the environment and human rights are important for everybody in society.
  • We’re not immoral, elitist snowflakes who hate America. We’re patriotic family-oriented Americans.
  • People aren’t looking for handouts but there are times when anybody can need government help to survive.

The stereotypes Democrats find most offensive are listed in the following table.

Democrats 2

Republicans believe that:

  • The federal government is too large and inefficient, and wastes our tax dollars.
  • Regulations stall the economy and hold us back from realizing our full potential.
  • We’re not all bigoted rednecks. We do believe that everybody deserves representation.
  • Government can’t save every individual; they have to work hard and save themselves.

The stereotypes Republicans find most offensive are listed in the following table.

Republicans 2

So, ignoring the character assassination clichés, it seems that Republicans and Democrats have a fundamental difference of opinion about what the role of the Federal government should be. Democrats want it to make everyone’s lives better. Republicans want it to leave us alone so we can make our own lives better. This should come as no surprise; it has been argued for hundreds of years.

The important point is that we should be debating what the federal government should or should not be doing for its citizens and not stereotyping each other. Politicians, parties, and pundits all want to divide us to further their own causes. We should stop taking the bait and do what’s best for all of us by debating policies and not clichés.

We Need the Green New Deal


Words from Trump’s Speech on Immigration

Word clouds from last night speeches.

Trump’s speech.trump speech 1-8-2019


Responses from Pelosi and Schumer.

pelosi schumer 1-912019

Tough Choices

You’ve taken those quizzes on social media where you answer questions about your likes or experiences so other people can get to know more about you. This quiz is different. Answer these ten questions to learn more about yourself. It might get you to wonder about some things … or not.

  1. Aliens land in your back yard and offer you the opportunity to explore the solar system with them. Do you go? Yes or No?


  1. You win a six-month vacation either alone at a remote mountain retreat stocked with books but no WiFi OR at a crowded tropical resort partying with complete strangers? Which do you pick? The retreat or the resort?


  1. A genie guarantees that you will achieve your New Year’s resolution. Will you decide to quit a bad habit, improve your fitness, save some money, or learn a new skill?


  1. You’ve won a talent competition. You can pick one of three prizes, either: (a) $100. OR (b) a ticket to the National Championship Dog Show OR (c) a mystery prize of unknown value. Which do you pick.


  1. Who would you cast to play yourself in a movie about your life?


  1. What chores do you despise doing so much that you would take an additional job and overpay someone else to do it for you? Would it be (a) child care OR (b) yard work and home maintenance OR (c) house cleaning, laundry, cooking, and pet care?


  1. One morning, you wake from an anxious dream to discover that you have changed. You are a different race, the opposite sex, and are deaf and mute. But, you can now read animal minds and even other people’s minds if you try hard enough. Would you (a) try to reconnect with friends and family OR (b) seek medical or professional help OR (c) leave your current life and start anew?


  1. If you had evidence that a famous person, who is admired by many, had committed a serious crime, would you disclose it to the world? Yes or no?


  1. Would you rather have the strength of a gorilla, the vision of an eagle, the speed of a cheetah, the hearing of an owl, the camouflage ability of a chameleon, the invulnerability of a tardigrade, or a giraffe’s ability to sleep only an hour a day?


  1. Your vote decides the 2020 Presidential election. Who do you pick?


Now share your answers with others. Highlight the text and copy (ctrl-c) it, then paste (ctrl-v) it into a comment below or into a social media site you frequent with your own answers.


The Most Underappreciated Job

Some jobs are absolutely essential to the functioning of our society but don’t pay a large salary, garner any publicity, or generate a following. These jobs are often overlooked or looked down upon.

On December 19,2018, shiiroochii asked the question in r/AskReddit, “What’s the most underrated profession, despite being the most contributing job to society?” The responses appear at https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/a7ms05/whats_the_most_underrated_profession_despite/.

The top ten responses were, by my count:

  • Teacher and education support jobs.
  • Sanitation, including garbage collection, janitorial, and waste and water treatment and management.
  • Trades, including welders, ironworkers, machinists, landscapers, plumbers, HVAC, mechanics, maintenance workers, carpenters, roofers, electricians, electronic technicians, and linemen.
  • Caregivers, including Nurses, EMTs and Paramedics, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNAs), Nursing Assistive Personnel (NAPs), Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS), Unlicensed Nursing Assistive Personnel (UNAPs), Histology technicians, home health aides, midwives, and eldercare support.
  • Drivers, including truckers, bus drivers, and delivery personnel.
  • Minimum wage employees, including food preparation workers, servers, retail clerks, cashiers, grocery employees, customer service, and hospitality.
  • Construction workers, including building permits and inspection workers, road workers , and public works employees.
  • Government workers, including mail workers, tax inspectors, and other civil servants.


Football Would Never be the Same if They Listened to Me

Sometimes the voices in my head tell me to write blogs about ideas that seem to make sense to me but generate a lot of hate comments from those who don’t embrace change as I do. I’ve found that some people won’t even read a whole post, let alone try to understand it, before launching all the verbal missiles in their arsenal. Here are two of my blogs that did just that.


I wrote the first blog on DailyKos in 2006 when everybody was talking about Peak Oil. The idea was to realign the NFL Divisions so that teams in the same Division would be geographically close to each other, thus minimizing travel. Here is the idea with some minor edits. You can find it in its original form at https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2006/2/5/184670/-Football-and-Peak-Oil. Better yet, here’s a new version of the same idea by Danny Kelly at https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2017/8/18/16165712/how-to-fix-nfl-divisions.

I was just killing time, waiting for the 2006 Super Bowl to start, when I had the thought,

What would happen to football in the future if the scarcity and high cost of oil makes routine, long-distance travel an extravagant business expense?

Would the NFL realign their teams to, basing divisions on geography rather than traditional rivalries, to minimize travel and foster regional fan interest? Not likely. They just realigned a few years ago and did make some positive changes, like moving the Arizona Cardinals out of the NFC East. But, by and large, they kept the same structure based on the old NFL-AFL structure. Millennials don’t even remember what the AFL was.

How critical is this traditional NFL-AFL structure? Consider the history of today’s (this was originally written in 2006) Super Bowl teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers are representing the AFC. They were originally formed in the NFL in 1933 as the Pirates, and renamed the Steelers in 1941. When the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, they became part of the AFC Central Division. The Seattle Seahawks are representing the NFC. They played their first year, 1976, in the NFC West but then moved to the AFC West the following year. They moved back to the NFC West in 2002 when the NFL last realigned. So, both the Steelers and the Seahawks have been part of both the AFL/AFC and the NFL/NFC.

So what might a regionally-based NFL look like? Consider this realignment:


Let’s face it, this would never happen without some forcing issue, like a permanent global energy crisis. Putting Dallas, a traditional wining franchise, in the same division with perennial losers Phoenix and New Orleans, and the new franchise in Houston, would be pretty boring. But there might be benefits to such a regional alignment besides less travel, namely more regional identification with the fans. Think of the regional match-ups in the NFL Pro Bowl Game and the Super Bowl. It might be east versus west (like today) or north versus south, or maybe even … Red-State team versus Blue-State team. It could even change every year.


I wrote the second blog on Reddit in 2010 as my reaction to the NFL owners pushing for an 18-game season. I think of it again every preseason. Here is the idea with some minor edits. You can find it in its original form at https://old.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/d50ui/what_if_the_season_was_divided_into_parts_and_ the/

I was drifting through the NFL (American) football preseason, watching meaningless games and hoping nobody gets hurt, and I had a thought. The owners want more real games that they can charge big ticket prices for. The fans want more competitive games, especially in the post-season. Nothing is worse than a Super Bowl blowout. The players want opportunities to play but not necessarily more games. So, here’s the idea.

What if the season were divided into parts, each having different player limits, and the games in each part had different point values for a win.

The current season looks something like this:

  • Preseason Games 1-3: Games do not count. Teams can carry 80 players.
  • Preseason Game 4: Game does not count. Teams can carry 65 players.
  • Games 5-16: Each game has an equal value towards the standings. Teams can carry 53 players.

Here’s an example of what a five-part, weighted-points-for-a-win season might look like:

  • (Former Preseason) Games 1-4: Each game counts one point for a win and zero point for a loss. Teams can carry 80 players.
  • Games 5-8: Each game counts three points for a win. Teams can carry 70 players.
  • Games 9-12: Each game counts five points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.
  • Games 13-16: Each game counts seven points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.
  • Games 17-20: Each game counts nine points for a win. Teams can carry 60 players.

In this system, a perfect season would amount to 100 points.

Here are some other changes. A player placed on Injured Reserve would still be ineligible to play for the rest of the season and would not be counted against the roster limit. However, a player designated as Injured would be ineligible to play for at least four consecutive games and would not be counted against the roster limit. This change would allow teams to bring back any injured player in the same year after the player is well enough to play. The game day roster would increase from 43 to 50 players with no third quarterback exemption. The Practice Squad would be eliminated. The bye week would be eliminated.

Teams with the greatest number of points in each Division would go to the playoffs. Divisions probably would not be decided until the end of season. In fact, a winless team can get to the playoffs if they win their last 8 games, so no team is out of contention until very late in the season. Teams probably won’t be able to rest players in the last week because playoff spots wouldn’t be decided. Using a point system, there would be less of a need for complicated tie breakers. The hottest teams at the end of the season would go into playoffs.



When Gardening is an Addiction

Rain is bittersweet. It helps the garden grow but you can’t go out and pull weeds.

You do these things, and these things, and these things.

You convert your entire back yard into a garden.

Garden 2007


Garden 2012


Garden 2015


Garden 2018