Friday, May 21, 2021

Buying Golf Clubs – It’s a whole new world!

Background

I’m a golfer. Have been for over fifty years. I took up the game at a very young age, around 7, despite the fact no one in my family played it. From the first time I hit a golf ball, I was hooked. The game was extremely important to me until I was a in my 30s when I began to focus more on my career. During that time, I managed to get my handicap down to as low as a 3 which would have put me near the top 5% of golfers who play and keep a handicap. In order to keep that level of play, one needs to work on one’s game and I was unable to do so. Today, I’m not very good and if I kept a handicap, it would be around 20 or so. Meaning, I suck.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the game! There are few things that feel as good as perfectly struck golf shot and I still hit those on occasion. And the camaraderie of playing with friends in the outdoors just adds to it. In the end, though, it’s the game that keeps us coming back for the torture of badly struck shots just so we can experience that perfectly hit feeling!

In over fifty years of playing, I’ve never really been a big “gear guy.” I know some people who buy and switch putters like empty beers, who buy a new set of clubs every year or two. I’ve owned three sets of clubs in my life (one was a starter set that I had for about 4 years) and have played with 5 putters in all that time.

The first top quality set of clubs I bought were a set of Wilson Staff that I purchased as

Wilson Staff 1974

a junior in high school in 1974. (I did replace the woods a few years later.) I used this
Francis Ouimet

set until 2001. My buddy Clyde used to refer to them as the “Francis Ouimet” signature set. (Non-golfers will want to know that Mr. Ouimet was a US Open champion back in 1913. Since he was an amateur and never turned pro, he wouldn’t have had a set of clubs with his name on them, making this an excellent joke!)

In 2001 I purchased a set of Wilson Fat Shaft irons from a shop called “Second Swing” that specialized in gently used equipment; remember those people who buy new

Dig the Fat Shaft!

clubs every year? Yeah. I’ve used those clubs for the past 20 years as they were state of the art back then and actually added some distance to my game.

Back in March, I took my first lesson in over 25 years and it became immediately apparent that my clubs were no longer my friends. They’re heavy, the shafts don’t really fit my swing anymore and my golf muscles aren’t what they used to be. Frankly, most of my muscles aren’t what they used to be, except for the legs from all the cycling over the last decade. Couple all that with new technology and it became apparent that I should go shopping.

Always get a recommendation

At dinner with a friend a few weeks later, he started telling me about getting fitted for new clubs. Mac and I have played golf together dozens of times over the 30 years of our friendship and his son, Christopher, is a top echelon amateur (plays in national events) so I greatly respect his opinion.

He told me that he’d had great luck with Mulligan’s Pro Shop which is based at a driving range, west of town. Matt and Jay, the owners, were highly skilled at fitting clubs and that there was no charge for the fitting process. He invited me to come to the range with him one weeknight to meet them and see what they had to offer.

I should point out that it’s possible to order golf clubs on the internet of the same quality that I’m talking about and, generally, at a discount of some kind. The issue is, the fit. Unless you know exactly what to order, you’ll be using clubs that are unlikely to fit you properly. There are literally dozens of shaft flexes, weights, lies, and lofts and they all vary by manufacturer’s model! Golf swings are as unique as golfers and unless you’re fitted by a professional, you could be making the game more difficult to play. As this is probably the last set of clubs I’m going to buy (see above) I’m going to make sure I’ve got the right ones!

I met Mac to hit balls a few days later. He was trying out his new Ping irons and invited me to hit a few just to see what I thought. Even as we’re different height, weight, and swing I could tell immediately how much easier his clubs were to hit.

Afterward, he introduced me to Matt and we chatted about what they did. He said they’d be glad to spend time with me but to be sure and make an appointment for a proper fitting after I’d hit clubs of different brands to determine what I liked and to start whinnying down the selections. I was welcome to come anytime that they were open to try what they had.

Fast forward two weeks and MB and I are back at the range and Matt is putting together test clubs for me to hit from six manufacturers. This first step is all about initial look and feel of the clubs. Let me explain.

When a golfer looks down at the ball at address just prior to the shot, the club is also in view as they aim. If the clubhead doesn’t fit the player’s eye (looks too fat, too thin, the score lines look weird, I can’t aim it very well, etc) that puts the shot at risk immediately because hitting a golf ball is a proactive rather than reactive move. One must be committed to it or the shot will rarely come off.

If the look is okay, the feel of the hit is the next critical element. I don’t know how to describe this very well except to say that two different brands of clubs will have a slight, almost imperceptible, difference in how they feel when striking the ball. If it’s a mis-hit, the difference can be jarring; my Fat Shafts when mis-hit in cold weather will leave my hands humming like a door chime. When struck perfectly, there is still a difference and each player has a feel that they prefer for feedback for the next shot.

Matt returned with clubs from Titleist, Callaway, Mizuno, Ping, Wilson, and Taylor Made. I was like a kid in a candy store! I took the time to hit shots with each of the clubs and came away with some winners and some losers.

Titleist T300
Mizuno JPX
Wilson D7

Titleist, Mizuno, and Wilson all fit my eye and had the feel I was looking for and it was apparent from the first swing. Callaway, Ping, and Taylor Made all had a good look to my eye but I could tell fairly quickly that I didn’t really like the feel compared to the others. (That said, if I were properly fitted with these three, it might have been a different story but with so many to choose from, why force yourself into something? It’s not like I’m getting a contract to play their clubs! I’m paying for these.)

After hitting shots for about an hour, I was ready to make the next step – sign up for a fitting. I went back inside and told Matt which clubs I wanted to test and fit for and made an appointment a few weeks later to do just that.

Time to Get Fit!

Last Monday was a big day. MB and I played with two friends in the Quinn Classic, a fundraiser for ALS, at Brandermill Country Club. I hadn’t played the course in at least 25 years and realized that it had gotten narrower over the years. While we had fun, it wasn’t a very impressive display of golf prowess. My highlights included two excellent bunker shots and a couple of par saving putts. Those are hardly spectacular when playing a scramble format, where everyone hits the same shot and the team takes the best one and all move to that spot and do it again until you hole out. When your best result is in a bunker, you suck. Fortunately, we had low expectations and it was a beautiful day to play golf with friends!

The evening was far more rewarding. I got to the shop at 5:00 and Matt was ready for me. I told him which clubs I was interested in fitting and he sent me out to the range to warm up.

After a few minutes, he showed up carrying one club with a small plastic tube filled with electronics attached to the shaft, just below the grip. This tool is called a “Shaft Maximizer” and it’s designed to provide data around your swing to recommend the proper shaft for your clubs. He had me hit a half dozen or so shots with it and then looked at the readout on an Ipad. I was surprised to find that my swing speed still supports the use of a stiff shaft in my clubs. At my age, I was convinced that a more flexible shaft would be better for me. We ended up agreeing to test both as I tried out the clubs to determine what was best and he assured me that there are multiple flexes available I could try.

TrackMan

Next, he went back in the shop and came back with clubs from my three chosen manufacturers and the Track Man. These clubs are "fitting clubs" that with a twist of a special tool, the fitter can adjust the length and lie of the clubs adding as much as a half inch and +/- 2 degrees of change to lie as well.

Track Man has revolutionized golf on many fronts, especially in equipment selection and fitting. Using “radar technology” it provides 26 parameters of data on each shot including clubhead speed, ball speed, launch angle, angle of attack, ball spin rate, and it shows a 3D flight of the ball! (By the way, it works for baseball, tennis, all kind of sports where a moving ball is used.) I had never seen one in action before and, as a bit of a data geek, was fascinated.

We began the session by my hitting each club about ten times to lay down some basic data and compare the performance to each other. The initial result showed that the Wilson club would need to be fitted with a 3rd party shaft which would add a layer of complexity and cost that I didn’t want to indulge, so that one was right out.

The other two clubs, Mizuno and Titleist, were compared for another ten shots and the results were clear. The Mizuno I was able to hit farther but not consistently and this resulted in a bigger dispersion of shots, as much as twenty-three yards in distance, and the mishits were farther off-line, too. Looks like the Titleist is our winner!

The next step was dialing in the fit. Jay came out with a couple of different shafts and I hit a series of shots while he changed shafts and it became clear that the softest stiff shaft was perfect to get the most consistent ball flight, spin rate, and dispersion. It was interesting that while I couldn’t feel a difference, it was very measurable. I then hit another couple of dozen shots with that shaft while Jay adjusted the lie from normal to flat, going back and forth several times. With that, we came to realize that a proper fit for me was one degree flat. We also discussed an increase in grip size, something I’d forgotten over the years. Back in the day, technicians would add two extra layers of tape under the grip to make it easier to get my hands on the grip in comfort. This was a great catch on his part, all due to watching my hand action very carefully during the fitting.

The final fit had me hitting another dozen shots to get a final dispersion pattern to understand what the final clubs would do for me. The difference on screen was remarkable; the new clubs, in addition to being easier to hit, will be far more accurate. That should translate to better scores and more fun! I was impressed and excited by the possibilities!

Order up!

Jay and I went back into the shop to complete the transaction. He wrote up the order for Titleist for a set of T300 irons, 4-9 iron, pitching wedge, and gap wedge, and charged my credit card. Once that was done, he immediately called to place the order and let me know the current fulfillment time was six to seven weeks. (I knew that beforehand, so it wasn’t a surprise.)

I thanked Jay and Matt for their time and expertise. The fitting took about ninety minutes and including the prior hitting session, it was close to three hours. That’s real professional service, in my opinion.

I told them I’d be back later in the summer for a new driver and fairway woods!

 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What are we going to do?

 

We are now 100 days into a new Administration. As promised, a pandemic response bill has been passed getting money out to the states and to people who desperately need it. The vaccines that are proving to stop Covid 19 dead in its tracks


 are
 available to anyone over age 16. (Fact – over 88 million people fully vaccinated and 6,000 cases of Covid among those people and not one death. That’s 99.9932% effective!) President Joe Biden has an approval rating of >59%, something his predecessor never even got close to achieving.

Countries around the world are excited that America is back and are welcoming us back to negotiating tables, looking to us for leadership, and are hopeful again after one of the darkest years in the past 100.

Vaccines save lives!

And yet…

Almost 25% of Americans have stated that they “won’t get the vaccine.” Despite its success and its effectiveness, they’ve decided that having to get it violates their rights. That it will “change their DNA.” That they “don’t know what’s in it.” That it’s a “government project to plant a chip so we can be tracked.” That it “hasn’t been proven to be safe, yet.” That “vaccines take years to create, how could this one be ready in months?” That “the pandemic is a hoax, so I don’t need it.”

I wish I were making these up. I’ve personally heard people say these things.

For the world to rid itself of this virus, we need to reach herd immunity and the percentages I’ve seen for how many people must be vaccinated go from 70%-90%. In other words, we’re likely to be dealing with this virus for years instead of months, because some people believe their rights trump the rights of everyone else. (Pun intended.)

Vaccines work, they’re incredibly safe and remarkably effective. They’re the reason we don’t have polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, and a host of other diseases today. They’re one of the reasons that the life expectancy in the world has doubled in the last century. Doubled as in gone from mid-40s to upper-80s.

I guess we should be thankful that more people are educated than ever before or we’d really have some issues on this, huh? (I wish I had an answer for these people but I struggle to cure stupidity.)

And still…

Police kill, on average, three people per day. An inordinate percentage of them are people of color. Rarely does the officer that fired the shot face any kind of charges as, more frequently, the killing is “justified” in the course of duty.

Stop killing people!

(Yes, I know that Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the killing of George Floyd last week. There was video shot by a bystander showing him kneeling on the dead man’s neck for over nine minutes, even after he’d stopped breathing. When the jury came back with a verdict, the country was holding its collective breath for a conviction. Why? Because that’s what happens, nearly every time! When the ratio flips the other way, come back and talk to me about how police are being unfairly treated.)

I’m not advocating “defunding” the police. I’m advocating better training, money spent on mental health services, and a culture change for those who serve. Think it shouldn’t?

Policing began in this country shortly after slavery stopped, during Jim Crow. Well-armed people were hired to “bring back” workers who had skipped out of their jobs. They were unfairly treated and “tried” and essentially put right back into slavery in many cases. These groups of “arrestors” eventually formed police forces after being “deputized” by the local sheriffs who were unable to keep up with the population growth. To this day, America ensures that its police forces are armed with the best weapons available while most other countries don’t. Google it. France, Germany, England, Australia, Austria, Iceland, Denmark, and Finland are all among the Top 10 police forces in the world and none of them carry guns. (Oddly enough, citizens of those countries have tougher access to guns, too. Wonder if there is a correlation?)

And somehow…

There is a percentage of the population of this country that believes this new administration, with all the things it’s working to bring us – health and healthcare, financial security, improved and repaired infrastructure, a safer climate – is heading in the wrong direction.

This is not a small percentage, either. It’s nearly 50% of the population and far more than that in some states and areas. In other words, it’s large enough to elect some people to positions of power in our country that can have a deleterious impact to all the good that’s being done.

In fact, they elected that last guy President and, to this day, a good many of them think he’s the greatest we’ve ever had and that the election was stolen from him. Why? Because HE said so. There is no science or logic that can change their minds, at least none that I’ve been able to find.

So, what are we going to do to keep our country headed in the right direction?

It's up to all of us!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ninety Days In – BP 120/80

 

Deep Breath!

If you’re like me, the four years of the Trump administration put a bit of blip in your health statistics. My blood pressure was up, my blood glucose was as well, thanks to daily self-medication in the form of cocktails, and I was constantly angry and/or frustrated with just about everything and nearly everyone.

And why not? Science had been suspended, truth telling became an anomaly, and a goodly number of rituals and processes had been tossed into the dustbin of history. You know things like, Presidents who release their income tax returns, Presidents that treat people with respect to the point of respectfully disagreeing on things. Members of Congress making a stand for the Country instead of solely for their party or personal checkbook.

Ah, how quaint those days seemed.

Those last couple of weeks were a test all their own. Who would have guessed His Orangeness would have the temerity to enrage his base enough to actually storm the Capitol in an insurrection effort to stop the rightful certification of the legal Federal election of a President? As of this moment, the Justice Department hasn’t brought charges against many people but the wheels of justice turn slowly. There are efforts underway.

I do find it interesting that even now, there is a substantial percentage of Republicans who claim that election was stolen and their candidate won – in a landslide! In other words, they’re saying that not only was there fraud at the ballot box but that it was on a scale of millions of ballots! Millions! I mean, there are certainly people whose word I trust implicitly but if they were to call me and say something completely outrageous and I know to be false like, “All the money in your paycheck was deposited by Russians this week; you’ll have to give it back to them!” I’d be getting an Uber to take them to the nervous hospital. I damn sure wouldn’t be storming the Russian Embassy to hand them a check!

This is the same group, by the way, that is refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 because they don’t trust what’s in it or how quickly it was created. Never mind that in the next breath, they’ll point out that it was “developed under Trump and he gets no credit for it.” And right after that, they'll knock back a chili dog with extra chili and fries – having no idea what’s in the hot dog. Oh, then take something for acid reflux without knowing what’s in that or how it works. But, no, they’re not hypnotized zombies! They’re free-thinking adults who refuse to let those Commie-Socialists ruin their country.

Uh huh.

Thankfully, there is less stress since the inauguration of President Biden. He almost never Tweets, he’s having daily meetings with his Cabinet and Congressional leaders in an effort to get the country past the pandemic and back on its feet. It appears that 200 million people will have gotten at least partially vaccinated by his 100th day in office, twice as many as he set out to do on Inauguration Day.

President Joe Biden

He’s acting so presidential, that I realized I forgot what that used to look like!

We’re coming up on the first ninety days of this administration and things are looking up and yet, there are people who desperately want Biden to fail. Why? Because he’s not Trump and “we” all wanted him to fail.

I don’t know about you but I desperately wanted him to succeed and prove me wrong. I mean, I can’t stand the guy – he’s skeevy, underhanded, has the morals of a ¾ rat, and brought in people who were worse than him to help him run the country. But he had been duly elected and been given the chance to run the country as he saw fit. Those are rules in this country. I had a suspicion that he’d be in over his head and that proved to be correct almost immediately. But I still wanted success because when the President is successful, America and Americans are successful.

(Was I successful during the Trump Administration? I was and that's been true during every single administration since I became an adult - going all the way back to Carter. Why? Well, I work hard, I'm privileged in this country as a white male, and I've also been lucky on a number of occasions. I enjoy helping others, too, so maybe my luck is actually karma. But I digress.)

Instead Trump showed that someone focused only on himself in that role, and surrounding himself with people just like him, winds up in trouble. His biggest accomplishment was to appoint far more judges (conservative to be sure) than his predecessors but that had less to do with him and far more to do with then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose legacy is still be written. But the number of unqualified judges he ramrodded through the system are going to make for some painful swings to our country in the areas of individual rights, abortion, and fairness of the application of the law. (Think I’m wrong? Google Trump appointed judges qualifications and enjoy the read. 85% male, 76% white, and only 5% black, please.)

Here’s the good news: We’re ninety days in and my blood pressure is under control. We’re slowly digging out of the pandemic (and would more quickly if everyone would get vaccinated and wear a damn mask!) and the economy is showing signs of strengthening.

Let’s keep it going, Joe!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

In August of 1974, I was between my junior and senior years of high school. I had a part time job in retail, played a lot of golf, hung out with friends and watched a President, Richard M. Nixon, fall from grace. 
I am not a crook!


Contrary to popular notion, he was not impeached. He resigned. 

 And he did it because a group of Senators from his own party, came to the Oval Office and told him that enough votes existed that if he were to be impeached, he’d very likely be convicted and be forced to step down. For the good of the Country, they requested that he resign. 

Woodstein!!!!
To be sure, he was about to be impeached. The House Judiciary Committee had passed Articles of Impeachment which came as a result of weeks of testimony that came to be known
as the Watergate Hearings. And those hearings were called as a direct result of terrific investigative reporting by two journalists of the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein. 



I remember thinking that it was extraordinary that a President had resigned. In my young life, I’d seen one be assassinated (Kennedy) and one choose not to run for re-election (Johnson) and now I got to see one resign in disgrace and his Vice President (Ford) step into the
A Blanket Pardon?!

Presidency and issue a “blanket pardon” for everything his predecessor had done whether or not he’d been caught. 

 He issued the pardon in an effort let the nation heal. While his action was lauded by many, election day took place less than ninety days later and 5 GOP Senators and 49 GOP Representatives were sent home. The electorate evidently wanted to make a statement to the elected that they were still in charge! 

I didn’t expect to see anything like that, again, in my life. It was a once in a lifetime occurrence, right?

 But yesterday, House Impeachment managers provided 8 hours of evidence to support the single Article of Impeachment, Incitement of Insurrection. And it was incredibly compelling, using a combination of the President’s own words in Tweets and videos to show the path to January 6th, when a large group of his supporters breached security at the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden. 
This is not a protest, it's a riot. A terrorist act. An act of treason.


Some of the video of the riot had not been seen by the public prior to the trial and it was chilling to watch and listen. A few of the Senators stood in rapt attention in an effort to hear whispered, frightened words of people hiding in offices, see people being beaten and, in one instance, shot by a Capitol Police officer. 

This took eight hours and was broadcast on CNN and the Congressional channel. (Nowhere else was it broadcast in its entirety which is amazing to me. In 1974, every channel had the hearing on, live!) 

What was most disturbing to me, though, is that many of the Republican Senators couldn’t be bothered to pay attention. They were in attendance. They occasionally looked up to see who was speaking. Some watched the videos that were shown. Too many read books (comic books in one case) worked through paperwork, and some even napped. Because, they say, this trial is a farce since the former President is already out of office. Some say it’s unconstitutional to even hold this trial. Some say that the President didn’t incite the riot, he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights. Those that aren’t saying these things are glad others are because it gives them cover when it comes time to vote to acquit. 

But if you watched the story told by the Impeachment Managers, in Trump’s own words and actions, it is achingly clear that the former President made a determined effort to void an election that was anything but fake with results that were definitive and accurate. An election that he lost, unequivocally! 

His defenders will say that he did that, simply because he thought he won. But the story that was told began more than a year ago when he began stating that he could only lose if the election was rigged. At the time, he was trailing very badly and that remained the case right up to election day. Then, he continued his lies around the veracity of the count. His one truth was to state that he got more votes than any incumbent ever; but that was also 7 million votes fewer than his opponent! And in riling up his supporters and telling them, on the morning of January 6th, that they needed to “fight like hell” to stop what was going on at the Capitol, he got his base to do his bidding and attack. 

 In the next few days, his lawyers will put on a defense. They are unable to dispute any of what was shown yesterday because it is all factual. It’s proof that the former President of the United States attempted to overthrow an election to remain in power. 

That’s against the law. 

 It’s treason. 

 It’s unconstitutional. 

 And it requires punishment. (Back in the old days, it was punishable with death. Fortunately, we’ve evolved.) 

The Senate is operating under the Constitution which states that a 2/3 majority is required to find the President guilty. Too bad that the jurors (Senators) in this case include a bunch of Trump’s co-conspirators. (Cruz, Hawley, Kennedy, Graham, Tuberville to name a few). 

So, I pose this question to this august body, purported to be the greatest deliberative body in the world – 

 Are there not sixty-seven good and honest people among you? Who, like the Senators in 1974, were willing to put country over party?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Elections and Consequences

 

It’s time

Seventeen days ago, the United States of America held election day. It was preceded by several weeks of early voting in a number of states (Virginia included) and expanded absentee / mail in voting. A majority of the voting population, about 60%, took advantage of these alternatives voting methods to avoid exposure to the Corona virus. This change to the way we vote in national elections caused results to be delayed longer than we’re used to but it also provided us with, according to bi-partisan officials, “the most transparent and unencumbered election in history.”

President-Elect Biden

As of this writing, the Electoral College vote count shows Biden leading incumbent Trump, 306 to 232. This is a clear victory for Biden and the margin of votes in key “battleground” states is far higher than Trump managed in his 2016 win over Hilary Clinton. The total popular vote shows Biden with a 6 million+ vote lead with about .5% of votes left to be counted.

In other words, Biden is the President-elect of the United States.

And yet…

Transition as planned
Our nation has always prided itself on a peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent President to the new one. Even in 2016, arguably one of the most contentious presidential elections that I can recall, Clinton conceded the race within 24 hours and President Obama welcomed President-elect Trump to the White House to begin the transition within a week’s time. The Trump transition team was given
everything it desired and needed to begin the process of setting up a new government. (There are well documented reports of how the Trump transition team had little to no clue how to do this thus beginning a culture of incompetence that has lasted for four years but that’s for a different post.)

Here we are, 16 days after election, and Trump hasn’t conceded the race to Biden. He has Tweeted dozens of times that he “won the election” and in some claimed to win in a landslide. He has made so many false claims about the election up to this point (including vast conspiracies that have been disproven) that Twitter has placed more declarations of inaccuracy on his tweets than not!

It gets worse…

Over the past week or so, lawyers for Trump have filed lawsuits in multiple states across the country claiming various forms of election fraud. None of these have been filed in states that Trump was declared victor, mind you. Thus far, 28 of 31 have been thrown out for lack of evidence and the remaining 3 have been waiting for proof or evidence to investigate. (There isn’t any, they’re simply waiting for it to be presented.)

Yesterday the lead attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani, held a news conference

Lying may cause sweating

where one of the other attorneys presented the notion that the President had won “in a landslide” and the reason the results weren’t showing that is because of a vast and dark conspiracy that involved voting machines created by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to undermine their elections. These same types of machines are being used in swing states to undermine the President and his re-election.

Election Disrupter
(For those of you without access to Google, Hugo Chavez died in 2013. Trump hadn’t declared his intention to run for President in 2016 by then. And why on earth would the machines be set to elect Biden while allowing the loss of seats in the House And not flip the Senate? I mean, how far does one have to reach to believe this stuff???)

After watching parts of this press conference, I’m left to wonder, “What the hell?”

Time to move on

Our current President appears to be doing everything in his power to remain in power. He has always been unique in his approach to the job, sometimes bordering on the fringes of legal and often stomping all over what has been considered moral and right.

While this is hardly new, I think he’s overreaching. What he’s doing crosses the line into the area of treason. Yes, treason.

Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.

As I stated before, the US has always had a process in place for the peaceful transfer of power. As the US rose to the most powerful country in the world, doing so became critical to the stability and safety of the free world. This peaceful transfer has been called out, time and time again, as an example of how democracy should, and did, work.

By taking the tack that he has, President Donald J. Trump has chosen to betray our country by attempting to overthrow the government, the part of government being the effective and fair manner of holding an election. And this election has been called by bi-partisan officials as transparent and unencumbered.

What am I asking?

I’m asking for the President to concede the race and begin the transition process. If he continues in his current fashion, I’m asking for the Cabinet to remove him under the 25th Amendment (because he’s become unable and unwilling to govern effectively).

After the new administration is inaugurated, I’m calling on the Justice Department to follow the law and prosecute anyone in the administration who has violated the Federal statutes. I also include anyone in the Republican caucus that has enabled the illegal behavior that we’re seeing.

Why would I ask this, when everyone is saying it would divide the country further? Because we need to ensure this isn’t going to happen, ever again.

Because in the end…

The Great American Experiment has taken 240 years to get to this point and almost fall apart. We must get a head start on the next two centuries. A fresh start. A clean start.

Time to take out the trash. 

This is the Trash.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

I'm tired.

 

They Still Do!

I’m tired.

I’m tired of hearing people that I care about, people that are of reasonable intelligence, talking about how great our current President is and what a great job he’s done during the Pandemic and that, as Americans, we should all rally around him.

Yes, Dr. Fauci, we know.

(He hasn’t even done an adequate job. Seriously. He refuses to listen to experts in their fields unless they spend time sucking up to him. He’s rejected science at every opportunity. His lack of clear leadership is stunning. Think about it. If he’d simply said, “We all need to wear masks and social distance and wash our hands, everyone!” Damn near, all his followers would have done so and we’d have half the deaths reported and a good bit of the economy would be back up and running. Of course, if he showed leadership some of those same followers would rebel, I suppose.)

I’m tired of hearing people who are evidently not of reasonable intelligence, pontificate about how we should “reopen our country and get back to business” and the sooner we do that the sooner we can get back to normal. 

(These people seem to think that “normal” isn’t currently happening because we’ve chosen to react to this “alleged pandemic” and we should get over it. Moreover, they seem to believe that everything will just go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is just willful ignorance! The pandemic is still in effect and it’s killing about 1,000 people a day. And we’re doing precious little to stop it!

So many businesses will remain closed permanently and all their employees will be out of work for a very long time. Having learned that their employees work well from home some large businesses will reduce the size of or eliminate their current offices. There could be millions of square feet of empty, wasted retail and office space in the next year. That drags down the economy for a long time and is likely to cause a recession that is far bigger than the last one and potentially larger than the Great Depression. Some point to the Stock Market and how well it’s doing as an indicator of good things. Sorry, that’s not the economy. Not when consumer spending makes up 70% of the economy! Many consumer providers have been struggling to hit acceptable numbers which is likely to continue until we have an effective vaccine. The US is in a tenuous place right now, readers, and many of the citizens don’t realize that.)

I’m tired of hearing people say that those numbers (the people that have tested positive to the virus along with those who’ve actually died from it) are incorrect and are a figment of the imagination of the Mainstream Media who, everyone knows, are Fake News and just want the liberals to take over the country because they “hate America” and want us to become a Communist country. Or Socialist, or Marxist, or Antifa, or…..you get the idea.

(When did science and factual evidence become a “political position?” I am absolutely gobsmacked by the abject stupidity of Americans. Some person on my FB page a few weeks ago, told me that something I had posted, how Colin Kaepernick came to decide to kneel during the Anthem, was BS and simply a made-up story because if it had been real, the Mainstream Media would have “been all over it.” I googled the incident I was talking about, produced the story from the LA Times; about as mainstream as one can get. He read it and decided that since he hadn’t seen it and didn’t believe that it was a former Green Beret that had given Kaepernick the idea, it was still BS! We choose to not believe the truth because it’s not OUR truth, apparently.)

Finally, I’m tired of patiently talking to these people, asking clarifying questions, empathizing with their positions, and providing a different point of view with accompanying facts to back up my position. Because they think that they aren’t facts, just “more liberal bullshit.”

But yesterday, I got a jolt of energy when the VP candidate was announced by Joe Biden’s campaign as Senator Kamala Harris! She’s smart, she’s tenacious, and she’s qualified for the job.

Now, I have hope. I believe there’s a chance that the country can be taken back from the scourge of fascism that has been in power for the last 3 years. While the polls show that they’re leading, we all need to believe that we’re way behind. We can’t rest, I can’t rest, even though I’m tired.

It’s time!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Day of Reckoning



I had a moment this past Sunday. It was a moment that was unlike any I’d had in my sixty-three+ years. I’m still processing it because, as I’ve heard younger folks say, it had all the feels.

It was a moment of White People’s Privilege revealed, of Black Lives Matter amplified. I’m not yet sure what it will become…

Father’s Day Plans

Sunday was Father’s Day. Our youngest daughter has been visiting for a couple of weeks while working remotely and preparing to go to graduate school. Our middle daughter, who lives nearby, planned a celebration with her sister, her boyfriend, and My Bride to come over for a special lunch, carried out from a local grill. This allowed me to get my favorite, the Unicorn Burger (combined ground beef and bacon) for a rare treat.

Our two older kids were unavailable for lunch, but I spoke with both via text during the day. I also called my father for a half hour chat, too.

The plan was to eat lunch, take a stroll over to the Lee Monument which is the main site of all BLM protests in Richmond these days, and then saunter back home. On 
the way, we’d pass by a local ice cream shop for a treat.

Sounds incredibly white bread, middle American, doesn’t it?

Lunch was a joyful hour with laughter and talk of good times, out in the backyard under the shade of a tree that makes the place look like a French garden.

Life changes

Leon Traveler - before
After lunch, we started walking the eight blocks to the Lee Monument that sits on Virginia state land on Monument Avenue. (If you don’t know Richmond VA, it’s worth googling all of this to understand the context.) The area is a grass island about fifty yards across and, in the middle, sits a forty-foot tall pedestal upon which sits a twenty-foot tall statue of Lee on his horse Traveler. (A guy I know who was born and raised in Richmond was told by his father, every time they passed it, “Look there’s Lee on Traveler.” For a long time, he thought the statue was of someone named Leon Traveler.)

The Lee Monument is a glaring tribute to Gen. Robert E. Lee who led the Confederate Army in the Civil War. A graduate of West Point, he was considered a military genius and great leader who resigned his commission in the US Army to fight for his homeland, the South. (He was from Virginia.) After surrendering to Gen. U. S. Grant at Appomattox, he returned to his beloved state to live out his days. The statue to him was erected in 1890 to memorialize his efforts in the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. It has been a sharp stick in the eye for black people ever since as it essentially tells them that they’re lucky to no longer be enslaved. But they could be, should the South Rise, Again! (Can you imagine statues of Hitler, placed by his followers after the war was lost? Just to remind people that they could still be Nazis?)

As we got closer, we could hear up tempo music coming from near the monument. When we rounded the corner, we were greeted with an amazing site. (I have been walking or riding past regularly but weather had kept me away for the last week or so.)

Leon Traveler - with additional art
The entire circle had been surrounded by barricades (portable concrete things like you see in highway construction) a few days before in preparation for removing the statue which had been ordered by the Governor. The barricades had all been painted in bright colors and covered with all manner of graffiti, most of which having to do with the BLM movement.

New name
As we got closer, other things caught my eye. A banner had been erected on two posts welcoming everyone to the Marcus-David Peters Circle. (He was a young black schoolteacher who was having a mental health crisis 2 years ago. He was gunned down by a police officer while running naked near the interstate. There is a call for a law that requires mental health professionals to handle calls such as this in the future, and it’s named for him.)

The pedestal had multiple layers of graffiti on every available space, rising almost to the top of the structure. Very little space had been spared the artist’s work. My brain attempted to process all the messages as my eyes roved slowly over the work. After staring for several minutes, and walking all around the circle, I finally realized something. The memorial made sense; it finally had context that had been missing for over a century.

The statue seems to be saying, “We left our country and fought a war to allow us to keep owning people! When we lost that war, the victors made an effort to build the nation back together by allowing us back into the Republic but we no longer had our slaves, people who had been our property. We built this monument to someone who embodied and fought for what we believed in just to let you know that we hadn’t disappeared completely. That given a chance, we’d enslave you again because the Lost Cause isn’t really lost until we say so! That’s why we still fly the Stars and Bars flag. That’s why we keep you down whenever we get a chance, so you know your place.”
Artwork by Anger

The graffiti seems to be saying, “We have been victims of your biases, beliefs, and actions for 400 years! Every time we’ve said ‘Enough!’ you’ve grudgingly given us some tiny freedom but took something else away in return. And you’ve never stopped killing us, harassing us, treating us as lesser beings. And we’ve taken it for the last time. We’re going to point out systemic racism and we’re going to keep doing it until you say ‘Enough!’ We want, and we deserve, equality and justice. And we will not settle for less.”

MB and I made eye contact. She said quietly, “It finally looks right, doesn’t it?” I vigorously agreed.

The Gallery of the Dead

By this time, I’d been walking around the circle for about twenty minutes. I finally noticed dozens of small signs placed around the perimeter of the pedestal, on the grounds, and some up on the pedestal itself. All of them looked nearly the same. On each was a small photograph of a black person. Next to the picture was text describing them in detail. More importantly, it described how they had died at the hands of police officers. In nearly every case, the person in the picture had been minding their own business when they were stopped in their car; or stopped while jogging; or stopped while walking through their neighborhood; or doing something else completely legal. Smiling, happy, young, beautiful, actual people all dead. 

Dozens of them.

After reading the fifth or sixth one, I suddenly realized that I was struggling to keep my composure. My eyes were filling up, and I could feel a sob welling up in me. My heart hurt. Before I ended up on my knees, I turned and walked a few steps away and leaned against the barricades, at the perimeter, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. I began to calm down but as that happened, I could feel something else coming on.

I found myself filling with anger and despair and frustration and disgust. I’ve tamped it down, a bit, since Sunday but it’s still there.

I’m angry that after the war, so much work went into rebuilding in an effort to “bind the nation’s wounds” only to be wasted when so many white people decided that they “hadn’t actually lost” the war. And that those people managed to rise into power, and created another way to keep slaves, just not call them that. Laws were passed that allowed people who were arrested to be used as labor – and guess who they made sure got arrested? And the people that did all that arresting were the fore runners to today’s police departments. (Want to read about it?   https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing )

I’m frustrated this level of systemic racism still exists! That black people simply don’t have justice or even equality in this country. That black people earn, on average, less than 80% of their white counterparts with the same education and experience. That black people live in neighborhoods with a lower tax base and, therefore, worse school systems, so it makes it more difficult to get the same education. That black people are far more likely to be arrested, jailed, and killed by our penal system. 

And I’m most frustrated with the fact that there is a plurality of white people who don’t know this and really don’t care enough to do anything about it. And aren’t even willing to listen because they aren’t going to change their minds.

And I’m disgusted with myself for not having listened before. Not taken the time to learn. Not had the balls to stand up and say, “Enough!”  Like most white people, I don’t think I’m a racist. But if I’m going to say that a “good cop” who doesn’t say anything when a “bad cop” is misbehaving is, really, just another bad cop, then I have to say the same thing about myself.

I’ve been a racist all my life and I must change.

Learning is needed

What is it going to take for white people to understand all this? How many more of our black brothers and sisters must be enslaved, mistreated, imprisoned, even killed before we all say, "ENOUGH!"?

What will it take before everyone understands that we all share the same 99.9% of DNA, that of homo sapiens, also known as humans? Scientists tell us that we all are descended from the first humans in Africa. 

In other words, we’re all black! How do we get that across to everyone?

Where do I go from here? To be continued…