More Than a Name

David Charles Marshall Jackson was his name.  The poor kid was named after his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. That’s the price one pays for being the second son whose older brother was not stuck with any ancestral names. You get them all, at least in the Ballard-Jackson clan in 1947. Yet, regardless of the reason for our names, we are each more than a name, at least we can be. 

In David’s case, he did his best to stand out as something other than the vessel carrying the remembrances of others. And, he was lucky in a way.  By the time he was born, we’d already been through the saga of nicknames or diminutive names with my given name. If that little battle had not been fought before his arrival, he’d have been known as little Davy or little Charley for the rest of his life. Our great-grandfather’s no-nonsense demeanor David was David from birth. 

Names matter, in ways beyond simple identification and differentiation. Several studies have indicated names can affect everything from how you appear to where you live and your occupation. Still, the primary purpose of a name is identification. Think of a first-grade teacher riding herd on a dozen or so little girls and boys. Without names, the teacher would be calling out something such as, “Hey! You, the little boy in the back left corner of the room in the red shirt.” Instead, the teacher can say, “David, can you read the first line in on the board?”

Yet, we are much more than a name. For example, at this moment, if someone googled my first and last name, they might find a former professional basketball player. They could find some academic types, as my given name and surname seem to have pushed many people into research, teaching, and writing, me included. This brings me to the point of this piece.

According to the Vietnam Memorial Fund, there are 58,320 names on the memorial. Of course, there are thousands, tens of thousands more names in cemeteries, other monuments, and government records of service-related deaths. In each case, the thing to remember is whether the name helped shape a person’s life or not. Each person represented on a memorial, lying in a grave or simply recorded in a record somewhere, was more than a name. He or she was a child, brother, sister, husband, father, wife, mother, or a combination of these characteristics.

More Than a Name on a Wall

© – 2020

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The Wall of Names

Monday I posted “Of Memorials and Remembrances.” It was intended to be a reminder that Memorial Day is not simply another holiday.  While I normally write something for Memorial Day, this piece was triggered by someone’s attempt at being current and sociable. It was the manager at the fitness center, and as I was leaving her parting remarks were “Happy Memorial Day.” I know she meant well, but it was a bit off the mark.

To be fair, the individual in question knows very little about me. She sees me on the treadmill, using some machines, and yakking it up with the early morning workout group. Additionally, she likely has no clue about the meaning of this particular day.

To me, her comment was the equivalent of telling someone, “Happy Wake.” A wake, visitation, or memorial service is held to acknowledge a lost life. They may be pleasant, and they may include the telling of amusing anecdotes about the deceased. Laughs may occur.  However, Memorial Day is an annual wake for the tens of thousands who died defending the United States.  It is not, in an overall sense, a “happy” occasion.

Certainly, we, as a society, have turned Memorial Day into a party. That is not because it should be a party. Instead, it is because our leaders decided a three-day weekend was more important than a stand-alone day of remembrance. Yes, there are those who place flags, flowers and wreaths on graves.  Yes, there are speeches, and organized activities to salve some of the pain felt by those whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, for most people it seems the day is set aside to guzzle beer, grill burgers, and act foolishly at the pool or beach.

For me, and tens of thousands of others it is a day to remember our brothers, sisters, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparent, and others who died in places most people never heard of much less visited. For my generation especially, it is the day to remember the roughly 50,000* names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. Those 50,000 names are there to memorialize the life of someone’s family member who gave his or her last breath to make it possible for people to celebrate holidays, memorial days, and a beautiful sunrise. 

For a taste of what so many feel on Memorial Days and other days of honoring and remembering fallen heroes, click on the link below. Listen and watch an homage to those whose only reward for dying was being remembered and having their name on that wall. 

50,000 Names

* The official count today is 58,320. Also, the video is great, but first 1:20 is without music. FF to 1:25 and to hear the song.

© – 2020

Posted in Patriotism, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Of Memorial and Remembrance

I have been hard-pressed not to editorialize over Memorial Day this year. Instead, let me say simply, it is a holiday with a disputed history, and an often misunderstood focus.
Currently, we designate the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. For more than a century, that was not the case. It was celebrated on May 30, without regard for the day of the week. Now, the date changes annually, and the reason for the holiday is a bit obscure to many.

For people like me, there is no confusion. Memorial Day is not the unofficial first day of summer. It is not the day the swimming pools traditionally open and is not a celebration of all who served in the military. It is the day we honor those who died in military service. It is the day to remember those making the ultimate sacrifice so you and I could swim, grill, look forward to sunburns and time at the lake. Happily, as with all issues of this nature, there are reasons to enjoy the holiday.

First, most people have a three-day weekend. A weekend that will let them take a break from reality and relax. Of course, for some this year, the Monday of a three day weekend is just another Monday. They’ve been on seven-day weekends since March. Still, it is a holiday weekend, and Monday morning is not necessarily a return to the grind morning.

For people like me, it is the beginning of time for remembering and honoring those we lost. It is also time to remember the cost of those losses. For me and some others, this time of remembrance lasts all week, or at least until the 30th.

One way to honor and remember those making the ultimate sacrifice is through music. Over the years, I’ve found several songs that do just that. Here, I want to share a song that may not have been written to memorialize fallen members of the armed services. Yet, in many ways, it does.[1]

As the song makes clear, we all live and die, and we should strive to live life to the fullest. Sadly, many of us fail to push the envelope and make memories that will stay with us to the end. Most of the men and women we celebrate and remember on Memorial Day lost their opportunity to sample all life has to offer.

If Memorial Day means more to you than hot dogs, beer and pool time, click the link below, and check back in later, there may be more to come.

Not Every Man Lives

[1] Watch the entire video. The Memorial Day connection takes a minute to show.

© – 2020

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Oxymoronically Speaking: Medical Science

Yes, you read that correctly. I am claiming the term medical science is an oxymoron. With that said, I am not attacking doctors, nurses, or most other health professionals. I am saying the chant “Follow the science!” as applied to the recent pandemic is misleading and inappropriate.

“Follow the science!” How many times have we heard that phrase in the last few years? From climate change to the pandemic, we’ve been told to “Follow the science!” When COVID-19 made its debut around the world, this became the mantra of politicians, talking heads, bureaucrats, and sadly, many in the upper echelons of the health care profession.

Of course, they were chanting this term as justification for closing down the world, putting millions of people out of work in the United States alone. We must “follow the science” in deciding how to deal with the coronavirus. The problem is the people chanting this phrase, including many people with multiple degrees and Mensa level IQs, fail to see the fallacy in their chant. The practice of medicine is not a science.

Notice I said the practice of medicine is not a science. As I noted above, I am not attacking doctors or other health care workers. The vast majority of them are doing the best they can to protect, prevent, and cure the maladies we encounter. Still, the idea that we should blindly follow the prognostications of so-called medical experts is absurd, especially when they claim science supports their beliefs.

We should follow the science if valid scientific evidence exists. Sadly, in the practice of medicine, there is more anecdotal evidence and information than true science can accept. The problem is we, as a people allowed so-called experts to skew the meaning of the term science.

The primary definition of science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Now, science is defined in multiple ways to fit the viewpoint of those wanting to use the term. That is why we at one time spoke of the hard sciences and soft sciences.

Hard sciences are areas of study and experimentation such as chemistry and physics. Soft sciences were and still are areas of study such as psychology, sociology and political science. One might consider medical science somewhere in the middle, leaning heavily to the soft side of the specturm.

Medical research does fall into the larger picture of science, in that it involves systematic study and observation. Where it falls down, scientifically speaking is in the area of experimentation. True experimentation requires the ability to control all the factors involved. For example, developing nuclear fission required finding radioactive material that could be brought to critical mass, thus releasing a tremendous amount of energy in less than a heartbeat. In other words, an atomic bomb blast. If all the conditions are met, the result will be the same every time!

Medical experiments cannot happen in that fashion. For example, consider alcohol poisoning. Consuming too much alcohol too quickly may lead to someone’s death. If doctors or other researchers were going to determine that amount through experimentation, they would be injecting human test subjects with varying amounts of alcohol to determine exactly how much over what period of time would cause bodily functions to cease.

Obviously, experimenting with human beings in this fashion cannot happen in a civilized society. That is why when you research fatal blood alcohol content (BAC) you will find statements indicating coma, then death may occur above levels ranging from 0.40% to 0.50%. That data came from BAC data gathered by law enforcement, hospitals and medical examiners. With that said, people have survived BAC levels as high as 1.48%, the world record for drunk drivers.

Other forms of so-called medical science have similar problems. It is possible, to experiment on humans in a very limited sense, under tightly controlled circumstances. If you’ve been following the pandemic you know efforts are being made to shorten the development time for vaccines and medicines to treat the viral infection. With that said, the results will not be much more accurate than the information on alcohol poisoning, because not everyone will respond the same way to the medicines.

If you doubt the last paragraph or other assertions made up to this point, consider this. Every year when flu season comes around announcements are made concerning the probable effectiveness of the vaccines. I have never heard of a vaccine being 100% effective, and in many cases, some people feel vaccines do more harm than the flu. For the record I am a vaccine supporter, but the data clearly shows medical “science” does not have the ability to develop vaccines or medicines that are 100% effective.

One final point on the idea of following the science as it pertains to medicine. During an interview concerning vaccines recently, an “expert” discussing the issue of the pandemic and various proposed cures made an interesting statement.

The individual was asked about the controversy concerning drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. These drugs have reportedly been successful in treating COVID-19 patients, but they are not approved by the FDA or CDC for that purpose. When asked about their use the response was that doctors regularly prescribed medicines for illnesses or conditions “other than the one for which the medicine was developed.”

This “off label” use of prescription medications is legal. It is also risky, but doctors can use their knowledge of the drugs and their patient’s condition to make such a call. During the interview, the statement was made that off label prescriptions went as high as 25% in some cases. Another source said such off label use of drugs in psychiatry and similar fields went as high as 31%.

The bottom line is this. Medicine, along with some other disciplines, involves science to a degree. However, as opposed to the hard sciences, the results are seldom guaranteed. That is why the early pandemic models forecast death totals ranging from several hundred thousand to over a million in the United States alone. It is simply not possible to guarantee results when it comes to matters such as medical issues, the climate, or for that matter tomorrow’s weather forecast.

The final point is this. When someone says follow the science, he or she is saying follow the best guess we have at the moment. That may be good enough in many cases, but shutting down the world on a guess, even a highly educated guess, is a bit much.

© – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, Leadership, Medicine, Science, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Still Stuck in the Middle

At least one political cartoonist and I seem to have the same feeling. Much of America is, and has been, stuck in the middle of a political crisis that threatens the very fabric of our society. I originally wrote about the topic in 2012 and considered revisiting it at times. I didn’t for several reasons, but then I ran across this cartoon. I could not let it pass without comment.

Most folks today likely do not remember the song from which the cartoonist borrowed Uncle Sam’s thoughts, “Stuck in the Middle With You.” I have no idea what the group recording the song had in mind, but the lyrics fit the world in 2012 nicely. Today perhaps, they are even more germane. This brings us to the verse still resonating loud and clear, “Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right.”

Hold on! Before anyone gets his or her nose out of joint, left and right are interchangeable. If you are a big fan of a political figure on the left and would prefer he or she be called a joker, or one on the right and would prefer the term clown, please feel free to swap those words in your mind. Believe me! It makes very little difference. However, if you are still reading, likely, you are not a fan of either a clown nor a joker. You are stuck in the middle and trying to make sense of it all.

It is disheartening the truth of these lyrics stand the test of time. Anyone in the middle or anyone trying to be objective is bombarded by both the left and the right. If you prefer, again, your choice, the objective or centrist person takes it from all sides. Conservatives and liberals may consider the individual indecisive, while the extremists on both sides believe the person cowardly.

When this piece was first written, many claimed the country was divided. At the time, I opined that division might not be as extreme as some claimed. Today, I fear the amount of division and polarization is much worse than anyone imagined. If that is true, the blame for that division rests solely on two segments of society, the traditional media and what we now call social media.

There was a time in this country when the middle could be heard. There was a time when survey data could be trusted. There was a time in this country when the news media worked to be objective reporters of facts. There was a time when even the most partisan politicians were civil to each other, at least publicly.

Today, the same demographic groups can be targeted by different researchers concerning the same issue, and the results can be dramatically different. If there has ever been a time when the old saying, “Figures can’t lie, but liars can figure,” was more accurate than today, it would be hard to imagine.

Today, objective reporting of the news is almost impossible to find. Instead, the media practices a form of hybrid reporting blending opinions and selected facts in a way that makes it practically impossible to know when the reporting stops and opining begins. The confusion is further aggravated by the development of television programs, websites, and publications with the appearance of being news sources, but are really something else. They are, at best, comedic or satirical entertainment. At worst, they are outright propaganda.

A person who wants to make an objective decision about anything today is in trouble. Polling data is untrustworthy. News sources are suspect. Politicians believe civility and honesty are as old-fashioned as handlebar mustaches and spittoons.

The objective person’s lot in life becomes even more difficult if they express what they feel is an unbiased opinion. Unbiased opinions, middle of the road positions, or an objection to what is obviously biased information will automatically result in an attack from one or both sides of the particular issue.

In the political and public media world, the attack will come from talking heads in the television and radio communities, as well as the blogosphere. That seems to be expected and accepted. What is disappointing and more bothersome is how this same attitude has trickled down, to steal a phrase, to the every day social media user.

People using social media have no problem blasting another user’s comments. Instead of attempting a reasoned response or asking for more information, respondents will lash out at a person calling him or her a kool-aid drinker, an idiot, or worse.

Others seem to have no problem denigrating an entire group with sarcastic, or even offensive comments. At times it seems only the far (pick your poison, right or left) end of various political and social continua speak out on issues. Then, they do so either to intentionally offend or to provoke others to respond in kind.

It is not surprising this is the case, just disappointing. It is disappointing otherwise intelligent, caring individuals will lash out at an opposing view. In some instances, they lash out when there is no real view expressed. When it is the clowns and jokers on both sides of an issue who get the attention, others will follow suit.

It seems the time of reason and common sense, not mutually exclusive by the way, is long past and forgotten. Today we live in a world where the outrageous gets the attention and notoriety gives one credibility. A world in which clowns and jokers compete with each other to see who can be the biggest buffoon on the talk shows. A world in which stating your opinion can result in you being unfriended or blocked. Yet, ranting like a lunatic may make you trend up hyperbolically.

© – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, Ethics, Leadership, Political Extremes, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Traditionally Speaking

Okay, the title is a bit of a play on words. This is not about how you, me, or anyone else speaks. Instead, it is a bit of musing over the impact the coronavirus crisis may have on time-honored traditions, and how that impact may change the country.

For instance, do you remember when people talked about their Sunday best? More importantly, do you remember when people wore their Sunday best to church? If you do, you are part of a rapidly disappearing age group. In a few decades, if not sooner, no one alive will be able to answer those questions with a yes. In some ways, that may be sad, but in others, it is merely a sign of progress and social evolution.

Cultures change and evolve over time. In most cases, those changes take generations. For instance, what someone should wear to church has been debated or discussed since biblical times. In more modern times, but still for several centuries, dressing appropriately for church services was a matter of pride, stature and respect.

In the last few decades, things changed. How someone dressed for a church service became less important to many churchgoers, resulting in church services attended by many who might have just walked in off the golf course. Historically speaking, this shift took place in the blink of an eye.

With the preceding as the backdrop, let’s look at what may be happening today.  We are in the middle of cultural and societal evolution that may destroy centuries of traditions and practices. The top doctor in the United States and others are saying Americans, and others, should no longer shake hands for fear of the next virus pandemic. It is possible handshakes will become a thing of the past. Instead, we are being encouraged to find other forms of greeting or showing respect.

Only time will tell if the handshake becomes extinct. Handshake aside, other practices will undoubtedly begin to change as well. If one cannot shake hands, hugs are certainly out of the question. Then there is the meme to the left I posted jokingly the other day.

Many suspect or expect the wearing of protective masks will become common. As a retired police officer, that makes me a bit nervous. If I were a convenience store clerk working nights, it would scare the you know what out of me.

I’ll have more to say about the other forms of greeting later, but the idea that all future relationships with friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and strangers are changing is staggering. Not only are they changing, but they are changing in a few months, instead of years or decades. Happily, I will not be around when the full impact of these changes are felt.

I will leave it up to future generations to deal with the changes that may arise from the coronavirus response. Sadly, humans are called sheep in the Bible for a reason. We are followers, for the most part. Future generations, even my grandchildren, may look at handshaking, pats on the back, kisses on the cheek, or hugs in the same way many today think of such things as eight-track cartridges, cassette tapes, and your Sunday best. Ancient history.   

[i] In writing this piece, I discovered something I never knew or had forgotten. The Wright brothers are given credit for the first heavier than air powered, piloted flight, but another man claimed to have flown two years before they did. As with everything else in the world today, the “experts” are divided on who actually piloted the first airplane.

© – 2020

Posted in Civility, Daily Life, family, Manners, Science | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of Hoarders, Opportunists and Reality

As many have reported in one form or another, the COVID-19 problem pushed some people a bit beyond common-sense approaches to preparation.  Of course, this is nothing new, just think back to how people have responded to impending hurricanes or their pet theory of the imminent apocalypse. Empty shelves are nothing new. The only new thing is no long gas lines!

The panic buying mentality in which many engage at times, such as these, is somewhat understandable, even amusing.  The problem is the panic buying may cause severe problems for those with special needs, and the empty shelves they encounter can be heartbreaking.  Yet, as the title implies, this is not merely about panic buyers.

Opportunists and worse exist in every society and every country. They will not hesitate to profit from the fear, pain, and suffering of others. The coronavirus panic is likely a classic example of this.  For instance, during the first weeks of this emergency, I, like many others, was out shopping for supplies to carry us through the potential restrictions coming from on high.  What I saw was expected. It was also sad and illuminating.

There was the young couple in the checkout line at the local supermarket. They had two baskets loaded with food, other supplies, and two adorable boys.  The obviously embarrassed young father made a point of announcing, somewhere between his indoor and outdoor voices, that they’d been visiting grandparents, and needed to stock the pantry.

Then there was the excursion to my preferred warehouse store. You know the great thing about these places is every level of society shows up at one time or another.  Okay, maybe not the owners of the mansion on the hill, but one can see everything from day workers to CEOs at times, people who would never set foot in the big W will hang out in its warehouse derivative and its competition.

On this trip, before the establishment of “old guys” hours, the place was packed. One would have thought it was the Friday before spring break, and families were out stocking up for the coming week.  Of course, some of these people were stocking up for more than a week.

That is where things began to be interesting. Many small businesses buy supplies at warehouse stores. You can see the owners of a little hole in the wall taco place, standing behind a guy who owns a food truck.  In the next line may be the owners of my favorite donut shop, checking out just behind the owner of a maid service. On this day, those people were there, but so were many others. It was then the lightbulb went off above my head.

Opportunists and black markets exist in every society.  They may be more prevalent in certain countries than others, but they exist everywhere.  Then there are the unofficial, off the books, suppliers who do not really fit the black market label. After three decades in law enforcement and more years conducting investigations of one sort or another, I feel I am a fair judge of character. On that day and subsequently, I am sure many of the people in line with multiple baskets full of products were buying more than they needed at home.

Also, I  have visited a couple of marginal, if not third world, countries. Additionally, friends and colleagues brought back tales from their visits to places even further down the economic ladder.  In many of these places, small villages and towns do not have pharmacies, grocery stores, candy stores, and other businesses. Instead, they have neighbors who provide similar if not as expansive services.

For instance, in some places, it is not unusual to buy your candy from the candy “store” on a neighbor’s front porch.  Then, you can get your hair cut at the house across the village, or you can buy fish from the guy across the road. Of course, eggs are available from the lady around the corner. In some cases, over the counter medicines can be bought from the family living by the church.

These front room or front porch businesses make a great deal of sense in areas where transportation is limited, and the local equivalent of Sams Club, Costco, or HEB is an hour’s walk away.  They also make sense in some communities within the U. S. where there are similar circumstances.

Yes, it is possible the guy rolling out with twenty cases of bottled water just didn’t like the taste of Fort Worth’s water.  Also, it’s possible the guy with a cartload of wine was throwing a gourmet dinner to celebrate the fact he tested negative for the virus.  Yeah, and a guy wanting to buy a pallet load of sanitizer the other day just has a big family.[i]

In many areas, there are neighborhoods with limited, if any, retail outlets. The big boys do not want to do business there, and convenience or small discount stores may not fit all of someone’s needs. Is it out of the realm of possibility for someone to decide, they’ll just buy some staples from a big box store and resell them to neighbors and friends who cannot make the trek?  Add to that the normal black market, or underground market, if you prefer for tobacco and alcohol, and the idea of private enterprise of this nature is not only plausible, it is likely.[ii]

There are always vulnerable and gullible populations in any major city.  They almost guarantee some of this panic buying is not panic buying. Yes, over-enthusiastic preppers or people convinced they will not be able to leave their home for weeks may go a bit crazy. In this case, some of these folks may be stocking their sheds, extra bedroom, whatever with stuff they hope to make a buck off of in one way or another.

[i] Price gouging in Texas.
[ii] This may sound a bit far-fetched, but over the years in my law enforcement and other capacities, I became aware of all sorts of what one could call off-the-books or black market activity. From the liquor store owner who sold booze out his back door to the guys selling cigarettes to kids that kind of trade has existed as long as the laws made it illegal. Currently, I am trying to rundown the possibility some people are making money from lotto cards. I’ve seen more than one individual buy hundreds of dollars worth of cards at a time.  They either have a gambling habit such as I’ve never seen or they’re selling these to others for a small profit and are likely buying winners back at a slight discount. Then again, I may just be a suspicious old fart.



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Of Sausage Making and Politics

An old saying goes, “You don’t want to see how the sausage is made.”  The origin, and exact wording, of the adage, can be debated at length as an internet search will quickly attest.  Be that as it may, the meaning is clear; however, it is used or worded. You don’t want to know all that goes on behind the scenes, whether one is talking about meatpacking, politics, church, or many other occupations or avocations.

My first real clear understanding of the adage was shortly after high school. My roommate took a job in the sausage division of a nationally known, at the time, meatpacking operation.  His first and only job was in the sausage-making area.  I will not gross you out with the details. Instead, I will just say he lasted until lunchtime of his first day.  At lunch, he walked into the company cafeteria, took one look around and walked out. He didn’t even quit officially. He just went home and never returned.

I’ve never been behind the scenes in the sausage-making industry.  I have however, been involved in something even messier, politics and public service. As the world is finding out, thanks to social media and around the clock news, these are messy, sometimes sickening businesses. A look at the last four years in the United States, and its dealings with the world, make for a good case study of havoc behind the scenes.[i]

Before going on, here is one disclaimer or clarification.  As I wrote in “Stuck in the Middle,” each reader will see this from his or her own perspective, and readers from both sides may find fault with my reasoning. So be it! Some may think beyond their political or cultural biases and realize the mess we’ve made of the greatest political-social experiment in history.

First, let’s talk Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race. Was there Russian interference? It seems they did their best to meddle, and it is likely Russia, as well as other nations, are still attempting to influence United States politics. The problem with the Russian affair was the media scrutiny, and a new form of politics being played in the campaigns.[ii]

Whatever one thinks the 2016 election, it was a benchmark for future outsiders running for high office. Donald Trump, mostly by playing the people who hated him, showed us what a snake pit politics is, even in the United States. He pushed their buttons until the exposed just how far outside the bounds of propriety they would go in their efforts to stop his campaign.[iii]

George W faced some of this during his campaign and time in office. He even wrote a book, laying bear his sins. For the record, that is an old employment interview tactic. If someone knows the potential employer will find skeletons in the closet, put them on the table first.  That way, you get your explanation there instead of being on the defensive when they are discovered.  W’s opponents did their best to discredit him,even digging so deep they found a minor sin he forgot to confess. Sadly, it did not completely blow up in their face, but the impact was minimal.

In President Trump’s situation, the game of “we’ll find something you can’t overcome” continues through this day. It continues, and his tactics remain the same. Perhaps those tactics make you uncomfortable, but the reality is they have always been used, just not openly by the candidate.  Of course, today it is even easier to slander your opponent or a candidate you do not like.  Post almost anything anonymously claiming a candidate is the Devil and someone will report it.  Of course, as we have seen in recent times simply winning an election does not bring relief.

Old stories are recycled endlessly.  New accounts are created out of thin air.  In fact, I could blog a complete lie, get it into the right hands, and it might have the impact and the longevity of the much-ballyhooed piece of trash the Steele dossier!

Yes, behind the scenes in politics and public service can be as nasty as sausage making. Still, there are people whose perspective on life and lack of sensitivity allow them to see how the sausage is made and eat it for breakfast. The same is true in Washington and other seats of power around the country.  Politicians and bureaucrats can handle the slimiest matters, in the slimiest ways, one can imagine, and toast their actions at a $10,000.00 a plate dinner.

[i] Yes, there were other periods on which I could focus, but analyses of what happened in the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, etc. are ancient history to most people. Additionally, they were before social media.

[ii] Technically political tactics were no different. If one looks, it is possible to find political cat fights throughout history. The big difference in the 2016 race was we could see behind the curtain. The Wizard’s tactics were exposed.

[iii] Yes, former president O’bama was the subject of visious campaigns that were based on dubious so-called fact.  Still, for the most part, he had the MSM and most of Hollywood supporting him. Detractors were, for the most part, what some would consider right-wing nut cases.



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Collateral Tragedies?

As I listened to the latest news on the national and local government response to the coronavirus invasion, old times came to mind. Unless you have been totally off the grid with no access to media of any kind, you know what is happening.

What caught my attention and started my flashbacks was the discussion of family quarantines. By that, I mean the powers that be are demanding anyone living in a household with someone testing positive for COVID-19 self-quarantine, along with the victim.  That would mean everyone, father, mother, kids, and anyone else living in that residence, stay in quarantine until everyone is cleared. That could become a scary situation for all involved, including the community.

The directive took me back to early in my law enforcement career. As I learned very quickly in my street cop days, some families spending more or less forced “quality” time together do not do well.  That is why holidays are not always the happiest time of the year.

Yes, most people get together on holidays by choice. They are not forced or coerced to spend time together by the government.  Yet, even when holidays start out well, they can end in tragedy.  For instance, there was a horrible Christmas tragedy in Grapevine, Texas. A family of six came together as usual. They all ended up dead.

Admittedly, the Grapevine incident was, in some ways, the exception, not the rule.  Mass killings on holidays are not a periodic occurrence in Texas or anywhere else, as far as I know. Still, holidays often bring about the conditions leading to family violence.

As a street cop in a smaller Texas town in the 70s, you saw a bit of everything. Thankfully, small-town crime and serious incidents do not come as quickly as in larger communities.  Still, they come, and the results are not pretty. The exceptions, in some ways, are holidays. Either that or our little town was exceptional. All I know is no one looked forward to working holidays, and not because we were separated from our families.

One holiday particularly worried cops in our little bit of the North Texas plains. Christmas!  Christmas is supposed to be a happy time of the year. As the Grapevine case attests, that is not always true.  In our experience, some crimes and harmful behaviors do not recognize holidays.  In fact, some such activity seems to show up at a higher rate.

For instance, those of us working Christmas day dreaded 1400, or 2:00 pm.  That was the witching hour, so to speak.  Gifts opened, some toys broken, and, depending on the weather, kids were coming down with a bad case of cabin fever.  Worse, some of the adults were beginning to reach their maximum quotient of “family time.” From the early afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning, cops knew a family violence call was always hanging over their heads.

Yes, even the closest family can have trouble with extended family time. Add in a little eggnog or a few other adult beverages, and the number of people earning coal in their stockings for next Christmas begins to climb. Most of the time, such calls could be handled relatively easily. Still, domestics are some of the most dangerous reponses an officer can make.

A domestic or family violence complainant can demand the “No good SOB” be hauled off to jail one minute. The next, that same complainant is on your back, screaming, “Get your hands off of him (or her)!” Then the officers have two people to deal with unless the rest of the family joins in the fun.

As this is being written, Christmas is 280 days away.  Yet the Christmas like cabin fever may be staring police officers in the face much sooner.  The nature of the current pandemic means businesses are closed, people cannot gather together in many social settings, and a night out with the guys, or girls, is verboten.

In the homes with confirmed coronavirus patients, residents are to self-quarantine. This means, everyone occupying the home, is stuck there until it is certain no one in the house has or is carrying the virus. The self-quarantine could last for weeks!

Mandated self-quarantining may be necessary to defeat this virus.  Sadly, it is also a recipe for disaster in some households.  Throw in lost income, a few drinks, a bad mood, someone saying the wrong thing, and you have a 9-1-1 call in the making. The call may be for an ambulance, a fire truck, the police, or all three. For this and other reasons, I am asking that if you haven’t started praying, do so!

Pray for those with the virus. Pray for the health care workers, firefighters, ambulance personnel, and others dealing directly with people who may or do carry the virus. Pray for those losing money because of closures, quarantines, and social distancing.   Pray for your family’s sanity, including yourself.  Pray for our nation.

Finally, pray for the police patrolling our streets!  They will be risking exposure to the virus, as well as the threat of violence against them daily, possibly multiple times a day. Whenever they make contact with someone, walk into a house to investigate a complaint, work an accident, or stop to check on a stranded motorist, they are placing themselves at risk.

© oneoldcop – 2020

Posted in Daily Life, Holidays, Law Enforcement, Leadership, Medicine, National Defense, Police, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intelligent Stupidity?

If you think about it, human intelligence is a fascinating topic. For example, depending on the source consulted, there are eight to ten different ways of classifying one’s intelligence quotient. That is why some people can solve complex formulas in their heads but have difficulty making small talk at social events. There is no mathematical formula to help them answer the question, “Do you like my new hair color?”

Yes, a high IQ does not always translate into a highly functional individual. Which brings me to the point of this piece, and the image on the left.

The graphic is a screenshot from my Facebook page. My post was, as I hope you can see, a tongue in cheek comment on the panic buying of toilet paper taking place around the United States. If you did not immediately pick up on the satire in the post, your IQ might be too high for your own good, but don’t abandon this piece yet. There is another point I want to make.

Again, if you have not already taken a good look at it, read the comment below the package of Angel Soft. That was Facebook’s response to my post.

Facebook, at least the version of artificial intelligence Facebook is using, was unable to recognize the sarcastic, hopefully humorous, message I intended. Instead, Facebook offered to help me engage in price gouging, which would likely be a crime in the middle of a pandemic.

The scary aspect of this situation is the reality we face in the not too distant future. Self-driving vehicles operating under the control of an AI have killed at least eight humans according to one source. Developers believe this issue can be overcome with time. Still, one must wonder how much damage will be done by automobiles and other devices operated by artificial intelligence before the systems are perfected.

Also, consider the comments made earlier about the highly intelligent. Sometimes, they can be as dumb as a stump outside their field of expertise. How will programmers with questionable interpersonal or social skills develop algorithms to recognize sarcasm, humor, idle threats, exaggeration, and other human idiosyncrasies?

Today, unless one disconnects all eavesdropping capable apps, limited forms of artificial intelligence monitor much of our communications. That is why mentioning a product in a social media post results in a deluge of advertising concerning products of that nature.  Even having a casual conversation within the vicinity of a voice-activated device may result in a similar situation.

Given the increasing prevalence of devices equipped with some form of artificial intelligence, our dependence on them will increase. As that happens, given the problems already encountered, more and more opportunities will arise for an algorithm to miscalculate the appropriate response to something it encounters.

One can easily envision the day, if it has not already happened, when someone’s home or business is the focus of an embarrassing or troubling incident due to an intelligent app misunderstanding what it sensed. As the big brother aspect of government increases, imagine what would happen if an intelligent app misunderstood a dramatic outburst during a quarrel. Could the app, based on its programming, notify the authorities? If it does, will the 9-1-1 operator receiving the call realize it is a real-world version of Samantha in the movie “Her,” instead of a human?

Even more likely, is the expansion of incidents, with unacceptable consequences, such as the ones inspiring this piece. One event, of course, was the post mentioned above. Another was the unexplained blocking of a friend’s daily Bible blog. After sharing his blog for years, Facebook’s algorithms decided his blog was spam. Luckily, his complaints and inquiries reached a human being, and the matter was resolved.

The question now is, how long will it be before the computers get so smart they won’t listen to their human programmers?1  Maybe “The Terminator” was not so far fetched after all.

1Okay, that was a bit of hyperbole or sarcasm. Still, the idea that we can always control the devices we build is a bit of arrogance that might cause a lot of trouble in years to come. As anyone who has been the victim of a hacker, directly or indirectly knows, there are people out there trying to find ways to take over systems, or unleash havoc within them. Theoretically, at least, it should be possible to alter an artificial intelligence system to do whatever it calculates as appropriate.

© – 2020


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