Invoking the Specter of Cheech and Chong

“Dave? Dave’s not here, man.”

fb7e2ea48a850f1cdcedee574202a45b

There’s an ad running on local media in opposition to proposed legislation before the Rhode Island General Assembly. (https://youtu.be/26E8TuLOPxM.) The legislation covers several areas, among them a higher minimum wage, legalizing the personal use of marijuana, and providing two years of tuition-free education at state colleges.

My favorite part of the add, invoking the ghosts of Cheech and Chong, follows.

“Hey Dude … I’m not feeling like working tonight at my part-time gig after smoking all that weed now that it’s legal. I’ll just take one of them new paid sick days, and get this: Those suckers still have to pay me that new higher minimum wage. Even my college is free.

“Man what a great state.”

The voice of Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, follows asking,

“…if you think this liberal fantasy world will improve the quality of your family’s life … [If not] tell your lawmaker to oppose this progressive anti-family, anti-jobs agenda.”

I can certainly appreciate the opposition to paying a fair wage, making allowances for the human nature of workers, and allowing the great unwashed access to education. I mean, what’s next, equal pay for women? And the very idea of reefer madness is, well, madness.

I wonder if the General Assembly postponed Happy Hour to discuss this? It would seem a bit contradictory not to, but the hypocrisy is the point of this piece.

One would have to be a complete fool to think this is “giving” away free education without conditions. Taxes would fund the program. Taxes paid by people with jobs. Jobs that come with higher salaries linked to higher educational levels.

Every politician in the country touts job creation. The job market is changing. Whether you perform heart surgery or repair car engines, you need a solid foundation in computers, math, science, reading.

Teaching people to think critically adds to the quality of their lives. Critical thinking would help them see through the idiocy of this insulting ad.

As to the legalization of marijuana, this is not a slippery slope to legalizing all drugs. The so-called war on drugs was lost years ago. Not through defeat in battle, but through imprisoning generations of the very people we were trying to protect.

Some interesting facts about marijuana. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US with 18.0 million Americans 12 or older (more than 7% of the total US population) reported using marijuana in the prior month.  Nearly 49% of Americans have tried marijuana (just one claimed to not inhale.)  (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/6-facts-about-marijuana/)

Hospital visits related to the use of illegal vs. legal substances are overwhelmingly related to alcohol.  (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drug-related-hospital-emergency-room-visits)

Once again, my point is the duplicitous nature of this opposition. The opponents are trying to link a medical issue (substance abuse) to an issue of fairness and equitability in the workplace and undermine society’s vested interest in education.

Until we recognize substance abuse as a medical issue, not a criminal one, and put adequate effort into treating it, nothing will change.

And until we acknowledge that many of our fellow Americans occasionally “walk the dog” or some other such euphemism for smoking a joint or consuming a cannabis-laced brownie (which solves two problems at once I would think,) we are fooling ourselves at the pervasiveness of use.

The use of any substance; alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, caffeine, has risks. With maturity comes the tools to do so. To criminalize the actions of millions of Americans out of a misguided attempt to control the abuse by a small percentage is ludicrous.

And then there’s the higher minimum wage issue. I travel quite a bit. One of the first things one notices about the services industry in other countries is the limited amount of tipping. In some countries, tipping is considered an insult. The servers are paid a fair wage, they have a vested interest in the success of the restaurant because their salary depends on it not the vagaries of individual tipping practices.

As to the concept of free education, much of the same argument in opposition was made about the idea of requiring a high school diploma. The opposition is trying to mix the poor state of much of our public education system with the idea of paying for more of the same. Instead of working to find effective solutions to the problem, they choose to blame teacher unions and regulations.

When you go to a doctor, you follow the advice, you don’t criticize the AMA for the cost of health care. Why don’t we listen to teachers about what’s best for education? Instead, we claim, “back in the day” we learned this way and it was good enough for me.

It would take pages and pages to document all the “crap I learned in high school” (apologies to Paul Simon.) And I had great teachers, I was taught well but there were things taught then we knew were not true. Somehow, we chose to ignore the best resource we have, teachers, in finding ways to fix education.

If you don’t value what you don’t pay for, what does that say about how we value education?

It is all smoke and mirrors to the real issue they oppose, a more equitable division of income. Not socialism, fairness. Not everyone is the same, but everyone has the same opportunity.

I am not a big fan of Michael Moore, but one must give the devil his due. I would encourage you to watch his film, “Where to Invade Next?’ You might be surprised at how the rest of the world enjoys better minimum wages, health care, and free college education and manages to do very well in the process.

Here’s something to consider. According to Forbes magazine, workers at Walmart cost American taxpayers $6.2 BILLION dollars in public assistance. You’re supplementing Walmart profits with the current minimum wage. We have a company profiting on public assistance. How’s that for family values? Think about that next time you buy a 1000 pack of paper towels.  (https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance)

The ad uses the word “progressive” as if it is some form of vulgarity. The base of the word “progressive” is “progress.” Progressivism arose from the Enlightenment. Something one would learn about in an effective educational system.

Immanuel Kant identified progress as being a movement away from barbarism towards civilization. Eighteenth-century philosopher and political scientist Marquis de Condorcet predicted that political progress would involve the disappearance of slavery, the rise of literacy, the lessening of inequalities between the sexes, reforms of harsh prisons and the decline of poverty.

I would argue these were worthy goals. I would also venture to say similar opposition was voiced then by conservatives and merchantmen (and they were exclusively men and white), and the wealthy; adverse to give up their debtors’ prisons, child labor, and workhouses or the socialist burden of a “minimum wage.”

The value of an education is not reflected in what it costs, but in what it can do for those who take advantage of it and to society at large. Education is not free. We need to do a cost/benefit analysis to craft the right system. Failing to offer an effective and efficient education including college has a higher long-term cost to society.

If sophomoric ads such as this sway people to oppose discussing such issues, it underscores my point. Anyone who takes this ad seriously should demand their money back from wherever they went to school.

Posted in Mind Wanderings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Plane Drunk

First, a disclosure. This is in no way a condemnation of the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Truth be told, I have always adhered to the Winston Churchill philosophy, “I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.”

Yet with that said, why is it that adult human beings often act like clothed deranged monkeys when consuming alcohol? In particular, those who do so while waiting out a delay in their flights by slamming down as many overpriced, oversized, overgenerous airport drinks.

Just the other day, we returned from a trip to Aruba. Delayed leaving Aruba, on arrival in Orlando we learned our connecting flight had been cancelled. Disheartening, yes. Annoying, perhaps. Catastrophic, hardly.

Southwest efficiently moved us to a later flight. This left a 3-hour block of time before boarding. Most people read, some went to get something to eat. Some grumbled and complained (a pointless exercise in futility.)

And one idiot who decided he’d see how much he could drink before the flight.

He was easy to pick out once the flight was announced. Acting like everyone’s friend, extremely proud of his A-list status with Southwest, baseball hat on backwards like a five-year old which was at least 45 years in his past.

Shows the operations agent a boarding pass for the cancelled flight and is very indignant that an A-lister has to demean himself by getting his own updated boarding pass. Now at this point, the ops agent should have stopped him from boarding, but he didn’t. He probably just hoped the joy of boarding would be enough to satisfy this A-list moron.

Wrong.

Once on board after asserting his right to board with the A group, he tossed his carryon in the overhead bin (clearly too big to fit) and assumed his precious aisle seat, five or six rows back.

He was in A-list nirvana. Then, one of the flight crew tried to reposition the bag. Oh, the insult. Oh, the trauma. How dare they touch his bag. Don’t they know he’s a A-lister?
An argument ensues.

A rational voice says. “Hey, why don’t you shut up?”

A-list takes offense. “Who said that?”

“I did,” replies rational voice.

Brief scuffle ensues. A-list does not prevail.

Police arrive. A-list leaves much to the amusement of the other 174 normal human beings.

Why do people act like such fools?

It finally dawned on me. He was born an A-lister.  The a**hole list!  I hope he enjoyed his extended stay in Orlando. There weren’t any other flights to Providence that night. I only wish he could see the smiles of all of us still aboard the plane as we took off.

Or better yet, watched from an Orlando jail cell.

Posted in Mind Wanderings | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Our Secret Weapon Against Laptop Bombs: Flight Attendants

The news is troubling. Terrorists may have found a way to place explosives in laptops that are undetectable by current technology. We need a new weapon to combat this new weapon.

We have a ready-made, highly-trained, in-place force to serve this purpose.

Flight attendants.

Can you imagine how pissed off flight attendants will be if they have to entertain a plane full of whiny, short-attention afflicted passengers denied access to their mind-numbing devices? Picture a cabin full of the in-flight needy, the attendant call buttons flashing like alarms, seeking someone to relieve their boredom.

That someone will be the flight attendants. The Captain and First Officer will be safe in their locked cockpit. That door will never open.

You forcefully separate people from their laptops, make them read a real book or, the horrors, have a conversation with a stranger and you are setting the stage for a nightmare in the air.

So, announce to the flight attendants that passengers cannot use laptops in-flight. Let them consider what 10 or 12 hours of being the sole entertainment for electronically addicted passengers in withdrawal banging away at the call buttons will be like.

Then, let them loose on ISIS et.al.

The war will be over faster than coffee service on a short hop flight.

Posted in Mind Wanderings | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Presidential Black Hole

It would seem to many the Trump presidency is collapsing under its own weight of arrogant incompetence. Within months it will be a black hole from which nothing, not even light, can emerge.

But would this be good for the country?  Wouldn’t it be better if the process of our government, imperfect and often clumsy as it is, molded (or pounded) Mr. Trump into some form of effective President?

I, like many of you, disagree with most of his policies. For the ones I find some agreement with, I abhor their implementation. Immigration reform, changing entitlement programs which promulgate a lifestyle of government dependency instead of independence and self-sufficiency, to name just a few.

Part of me takes an almost sadistic delight in the problems, most of them self-inflicted, besieging the President. Another, less emotional, part sees his administration as an anathema to the country. His policies, pronouncements, cabinet choices, and nonsensical tweets seem to be geared to dragging America down in order to fulfill his promise of making America great again.

There is much work to do in making America better. Many aspects of our country are no longer the envy of the world. Our education system, health care, the scourge of gun violence all issues infinitely more dangerous to ordinary Americans than the perceived threat of terrorism.

We are more a danger to ourselves than anything else.

Yet I wonder if hoping for a catastrophic demise of Mr. Trump is good in the long run. I wonder if it would be better, by demonstrating that we can still control our elected officials with our efforts even after the election, we will show the world the real power of the American people?

Mr. Trump acts like a petulant child. Deflecting all responsibility for his failures on others, the lying press, the former president, etc.  As with any child, what he needs is a firm hand to guide him to maturity.

Congress just gave him a lesson in reality in which the President must work with them to accomplish his goals. The voices of America made it clear that health care is not something to be politicized.

The conservative icon Ronald Reagan, for all the god-like worship bestowed on him by the right, had a cooperative working relationship with the Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill. The ideological differences between them could not have been more stark. Yet, they found a way to cooperate.

They learned to share the toys.

Trump is still in mid-tantrum mode. Still lashing out rather than listening. But that’s what child-rearing is all about.

Let him scream and yell. Soon he’ll either learn that he must listen and act with reason and rationality, or we will take our ball and give it to someone else.

Posted in Serious Thoughts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

My Mom and Her Determination: Redux

Here’s a reposting of a piece I wrote some time ago. It’s the time of the year…

It has been almost 8 years since my mother died. Thoughts, sights, and sounds remind me of her almost daily.

Words she often turned into her own askew versions. Her penchant for reading EVERY street sign whenever she was in the car. Twinkies she hid in the freezer in violation of her diet. The one constant reminder is my white hair, undeniable genetic evidence that part of her remains with me.

These are memories of a special woman.

Each year, on a particular date, there is a poignant reminder of something she did for me.

I suspect she had similar traditions with my brother and sisters; she was that kind of a mom.

She had a way to make you feel special.

Nevertheless, this one was between us.

As many of you know from my writings, I do not share the faith that my mother did. She had absolute confidence in her beliefs. Despite all the things she experienced, the joys and the sorrows, she never once doubted them.

She made a valiant effort to share her faith. If there is any blame to go around for her failed attempt to instill that in me, the fault is mine.

What is the annual event that triggers such a memory?

St. Joseph’s day.

Every year, I would get a card from my mother. It came in the mail. It was not a text, an email, or a phone call. It would arrive in the days just before the 19th, more evidence of her careful consideration and purpose.

She took the time to select, address, and mail a card. Through a simple gesture, she preserved the dying art of thoughtfulness.

The card celebrated the Saint’s day of my (sort of) namesake. Her thoughtful gesture had a dual purpose, serving as a subtle reminder of her faith. I used to chuckle whenever I opened the card. Amused by my mother’s determination, yet touched by such a simple, caring act.

She never gave up.

Since her passing, I miss the card every year and her every day.

Mom, while you may not have succeeded in making me a Saint there is a good chance you made me less of a sinner.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day.

Posted in Mind Wanderings | 2 Comments

Banning Banalities: Reclaiming the Language of Expression

Throughout history, certain expressions arise from creativity and twist language into new and imaginative forms.

These expressions gain popularity, peak in their usage, then become almost too commonplace. Therein lies the problem.

I’d like to suggest two we should bury for the sake of intelligent conversation. The sound of these overused expressions tortures the senses.

Awesome

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “awesome” meaning “inspiring reverential awe” goes back to 1598. The meaning of “overwhelming” goes to 1961, and the current weaker meaning of “great” dates from 1980. The term gradually lost its awesomeness over the years.

I say let’s finish it off and kill it. Wouldn’t that be like awesome?

Back in the day

There is no such thing. There is the past, perhaps worth remembering perhaps not, but it seems a poor way to give an example of something better. Upon closer examination, one would inevitably find the memory is clouded by the fog of nostalgia. It may have been different but it wasn’t necessarily better. Live in the moment to make these times memorable, don’t long for a whitewashed past.

We all have words and phrases we fall back on. When these expressions turn into crowdspeak, permeating every conversation, they need to be excised.

What are your most despised expressions?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mind Wanderings | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

My Mom and Her Determination

Here’s a reposting of a piece I wrote some time ago. It’s the time of the year…

It has been almost 8 years since my mother died. Thoughts, sights, and sounds remind me of her almost daily.

Words she often turned into her own askew versions. Her penchant for reading EVERY street sign whenever she was in the car. Twinkies she hid in the freezer in violation of her diet. The one constant reminder is my white hair, undeniable genetic evidence that part of her remains with me.

These are memories of a special woman.

Each year, on a particular date, there is a poignant reminder of something she did for me.

I suspect she had similar traditions with my brother and sisters; she was that kind of a mom.

She had a way to make you feel special.

Nevertheless, this one was between us.

As many of you know from my writings, I do not share the faith that my mother did. She had absolute confidence in her beliefs. Despite all the things she experienced, the joys and the sorrows, she never once doubted them.

She made a valiant effort to share her faith. If there is any blame to go around for her failed attempt to instill that in me, the fault is mine.

What is the annual event that triggers such a memory?

St. Joseph’s day.

Every year, I would get a card from my mother. It came in the mail. It was not a text, an email, or a phone call. It would arrive in the days just before the 19th, more evidence of her careful consideration and purpose.

She took the time to select, address, and mail a card. Through a simple gesture, she preserved the dying art of thoughtfulness.

The card celebrated the Saint’s day of my (sort of) namesake. Her thoughtful gesture had a dual purpose, serving as a subtle reminder of her faith. I used to chuckle whenever I opened the card. Amused by my mother’s determination, yet touched by such a simple, caring act.

She never gave up.

Since her passing, I miss the card every year and her every day.

Mom, while you may not have succeeded in making me a Saint there is a good chance you made me less of a sinner.

Happy Saint Joseph’s Day.

Posted in Mind Wanderings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments