The Root of the Problem

Some mornings you wake up and wonder, “How did we find ourselves in this mess?” Depending on who you are, your circumstances, and quality of your sleep the night before, the question could concern your job, your marriage, or the team formerly known as the Redskins.

Okay, that last item was just a cheap shot at a group of people more worried about sponsorship than fans. Still, the way some people are handling situations such as renaming a football team is indicative of the problem to which the title above alludes. Common sense and reason are being hammered down by ignorance and an educational system that lost its way decades ago. Take the item below for instance.

Images courtesy of Pixabay

The statement was a comment in response to a post expressing concerns about the government’s tactics in addressing the pandemic. The person authoring the comment above makes a valid point concerning the amount of government intervention in our daily lives. The last sentence is an unwitting admission to the acceptance of the path this country is spiraling down at the moment, in large part due to the way of thinking expressed in the illustration.

We do not have a right to expect the government to do its job. We have an obligation to see the government does its job and does that job without interfering unnecessarily in our lives. Instead, we have become a land in which many people, such as the commenter above, believe we need the government to save us.

When we begin to look to the government to save us, we are just a few steps away from being China or Russia. The government is supposed to follow the will of the people. Unfortunately, in some cases, people begin to support government dictates, usually due to scare tactics by those in support of government control. Still, the idea that big brother can save us is insane.

By its very nature, government is controlling, intrusive, and smothering. It is the essence of a necessary evil, and as history shows it eventually becomes so oppressive and controlling all hell breaks loose. Thankfully, I will probably not live long enough to see things descend completely into conflict and chaos, but I fear my children and grandchildren will.

If they do it will be because of people such as the one quoted here who does not understand the difference between a right and a responsibility. It is not the government’s right to tell us how to live, it is our role to see the government does not overstep its bounds. The Constitution states “We the people,” not, we the government!


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Traditionally Speaking: Of Kneeling and Protests

Traditionally Speaking” discussed traditions or standard practices being threatened or modified by the coronavirus crisis.  There, I noted traditions often take centuries to evolve, though some forces may cause shifts more quickly. At the time, it seemed comments by highly placed health officials, and so-called experts might change time-honored practices or traditions. Here, I want to bring up a sensitive topic that I hoped had been laid to rest. Apparently, it has not, and since it involves traditions, I am commenting.

Before going any farther, let’s make one thing clear. Athletes, professional, amateur, current, or former have the right to protest in any peaceful way they would like. On the other hand, employers, fans, or whatever, have the right to be upset, supportive, or comatose. Employers can tell their employees to keep their causes off the field or court, fans can decide to buy tickets or not, etc. Those matters are not the point of this piece.

The point here is simple. Colin Kaepernick received some bad advice in 2016 when he triggered the kneeling in protest controversy. Kneeling is a tradition with meaning, and that meaning has nothing to do with protesting an unjust system. Additionally, one should wonder why, if protesting was so important, did he agree to take a knee? 

The short answer to that last question is he was being roasted for sitting during the national anthem. Accordingly, when a former pro reached out to him and suggested taking a knee, they both thought it might be seen as less confrontational. That certainly was an inaccurate assessment of the situation, which brings me to the point of this piece.

The explanation given for changing to kneeling clearly shows a lack of understanding of what kneeling signifies. Of course, the response to Kaepernick’s actions indicates a general misunderstanding of the act as well.

For the record, kneeling is less confrontational than some other actions one could take. For instance,  two of the United State’s black athletes stood on the podium with black-gloved fists raised in protest at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.  For those who witnessed it, that protest would be hard to forget. Their action was an act of protest, rebellion, whatever one wants to call it. Kneeling is not such an act.

That fact was lost on Kaepernick and the man who suggested kneeling.  If you do not understand that read the friend’s comments during an interview over the matter. He mentioned several reasons he suggested kneeling and why it was respectful, which he hoped might mitigate the anger toward their protests.

For the record, kneeling is an act of submission. Yes, through that act of submission, one is showing respect, but take the examples the advisor used. He said people knelt when being knighted, they knelt when proposing, and they knelt in prayer.  Those are all acts of submission, as well as respect. 

One kneels when being knighted because one is, by accepting the title, pledging fealty to the king or queen. When one kneels to propose, the suitor is promising to submit to the future spouse, until “death do us part.” Finally, when kneeling in prayer, one is submitting to God’s will or at least recognizing and acknowledging God’s superiority. 

In defending Kaepernick, some have used the example of Reverend Martin Luther King taking a knee during his crusade for civil rights. As far as I knew at the time and know now, Dr. King was kneeling in prayer on those moments. Dr. King was asking God to help bring about change in this country.  In that case, Rev. King’s kneeling was the ultimate act of submission to God’s will.

If Kaepernick, or anyone else, wishes to protest during the playing of the national anthem, they should have the courage of their convictions. Either take a seat in protest, stand with a back to the flag, or raise a fist as did the original athletes to protest during the national anthem. Do not go down on your knees, unless you are praying, and I can find no evidence Kaepernick ever claimed he was kneeling prayer.

© -2020

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The De-escalation Myth

The word of the moment for the last few weeks has been de-escalation. From so-called experts to so-called journalists, to former Navy Seals transitioning into experts on everything, de-escalation is the key. It is the key to avoiding more officer-involved shootings, more assaults on officers, assaults by officers, and riot control. If police officers had more and better training at de-escalation, the world would be a much safer place.

As I write this, the most polite term that comes to mind concerning this assertion is hogwash! Of course, I probably should not use the term hogwash. Someone might feel it was subtly offensive, but the other word that comes to mind is not fit for polite company. Here is the problem.

De-escalation only works up to a point. Does that mean officers should not receive such training, absolutely not. Many officers do receive such training. If not formally, they learn it through field training and experience. No police chief, sheriff, or director of public safety wants officers working the street who think the only way to handle a problem is with force.

Critics of law enforcement training claim street cops need more training in this area of handling conflict. One can debate that issue from now until the cows come home, but here is the bottom line. Unless the de-escalation effort results in the subject to the techniques being allowed to remain free, it will not work. If the end result of the de-escalation exercise results in an arrest or detention, the process was likely an exercise in futility.

Yes, all the training the officer receives, all the work the officer or officers do to defuse a situation will be for naught if the suspect needs to be taken into custody. When the officer says, “You’re being placed under arrest,” or “You’ll need to come with me,” the odds are the suspect’s adrenaline level will go through the roof, and the battle will be joined.

One of the latest police officer-involved shootings in the news as this is being written is a prime example of the problem. Available video shows a very cordial, even jovial at times, exchange involving the officers and the subject. The suspect submits to tests, answers questions, and seems to be cooperating. Yep, everything was fine until the officers tried to make the arrest. Then it hit the fan, and the result was another horrible headline, a tragic death, the burning of a business, riots in the street, and officers charged with serious crimes.

It is possible to deal with a rational or at least somewhat reasonable subject without an arrest becoming a brawl or worse. The problem is there are no magic words or actions that will guarantee that result. As any officer with significant street experience can tell you. A fully cooperative or entirely calmed down individual can go nuts when he or she is told they are under arrest. Even after they have submitted to being handcuffed, individuals have suddenly become violent.

Someone who has never experienced the situation cannot imagine how much damage can take place, even after someone is cuffed. My introduction to this fact was early in my career and involved a 100-pound, handcuffed woman. Since it was not her first rodeo, she was not horribly uncooperative, even when she was arrested. Then, she decided she was not getting into the squad car.

Keep in mind, she was “restrained” as the law allowed and policy required. Luckily, for her and me, my partner was a 6′ 4″200-pound plus officer who showed a great deal of restraint. The young woman had already attempted to assault me and was stoned or intoxicated, it was hard to know which. Again, the restraint practiced by the other officer was vital in keeping this situation from getting completely out of hand.

By restraint, I am not speaking of his mannerisms or attitude. I am saying it took two of us to get the suspect into the back of the unit. Then he physically restrained her, keeping her pinned down in the back seat to keep her from injuring herself or damaging the vehicle. Thankfully, we were only a few minutes from the PD running Code 3, and damage to everyone and the unit was minimal.

Humans do the craziest things when the consequences of their actions confront them. That is why one hears of prisoners committing suicide while in police custody. That is why a wholly cooperative and rational seeming individual will attack two armed police officers during a domestic violence call. When the officers tell the complaining party their spouse is going to jail for beating them, the victim often becomes the threat. Which brings us back to the myth that de-escalation or heaven forbid, social worker intervention, will prevent the problems being experienced today.

The problems with the call for more de-escalation training are twofold. First, it can be complicated to deal with some subjects in any manner. The “officers need more training” crowd have cited de-escalation as the cure for bad situations. One claim is suspects will cooperate or be controlled until backups can reach the scene. That may or may not be the case, but there is another problem.

The longer officers are on the scene, the more likely something else will go wrong. The more officers who respond to the call, the higher the likelihood someone will over-react. Also, in some cases, there is not enough time or assistance, and you’re back at square one.

The other problem is apparent de-escalation can lead to something like the Atlanta debacle. The suspect is calm, and the officers think things are under control. Then, all hell breaks loose, and everyone over-reacts. The offender suddenly feels he’s been misled, the officers suddenly think they screwed up. A driving-under-the-influence arrest turns into an officer-involved shooting.

De-escalation techniques and training are great when they work. The idea they are the answer to what ails our society and the relationship between law enforcement and some communities is a myth, at best!


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Who’d A Thunk It?

Some may find the title of this piece a bit much. On the other hand, one or two of you may still have a sense of humor.  If so, that may be your most significant personal asset in the future, if 2020 is any indication. 

As for the title, it refers to a prediction first espoused by a Russian in 1998.  His prediction, which he repeated multiple times, concerned the end of the United States as we know it. According to the good professor, the United States would split into six separate entities, with each coming under the influence or control of other countries or political entities.  Sounds crazy, right?  It seems even more insane as he predicted it would happen by 2010, and as late as 2009 was predicting the looming end of the United States of America.  He was wrong about 2010.

On the other hand, he may not have been entirely out in the left-field if 2020 is any indication.  This year is, to say the least unusual. We may rapidly, historically speaking, be approaching a crisis that could make the professor’s prediction become a reality.

The country is more divided today than at any time in its history.  One could argue that is not true because the Revolutionary War and the Civil War both divided the country. To some degree, such an argument is valid, but the difference is immense.  In both of the wars cited, the country split into two primary factions. Today, as the professor predicted, the country is divided into multiple factions or constituencies, if you prefer. 

Even as I write this, I know many who read it will consider it the musings of a fool or troll. Be that as it may, the media today is filled with anecdotal evidence lending credibility to the professor’s predictions. From the ever-growing tension over immigration to the increasing influence of hostile forces within the country, the professor’s predictions grow increasingly worrisome.

As many have noted, some of the unrest in the country this year resembles scenes from third world countries. Countries having uncontrollable elements in their populations and ineffective governments.  Here, we now have local governments abandoning their responsibility by essentially surrendering control of their cities to outside agitators.

In one case, so far, the local government handed a portion of their city over to armed anarchists, ordering the police to withdraw. One might expect that to happen in some areas of the middle east, central Africa, or South America.  It is not something one would expect in the United States, yet it has happened, at least on a small scale. 

One could blow off that last paragraph as hyperbole or an overreaction.  I hope it is a bit of one or the other. Still, the reality is many major cities have areas that are semi-autonomous in some ways already.  Yes, many of these areas are traditionally considered tourist spots, or local ethnic favorites.  Yet, in some instances, they may have become controlled, or at least heavily influenced, by loosely knit or highly organized gangs or criminal organizations. Still, the local governments at least pretended they were in control, even if they were paid to look the other way.

Today, some local governments are either bowing to public pressure or trying to find a way to justify bowing to public pressure in major cities across the country. Some cities are threatening to “defund” police departments. Others claim to be contemplating turning control of neighborhoods over to local citizen groups, which would “police” the areas.

Yes, many of the public statements and threats by public officials are likely political pandering. The individuals making such statements know they cannot throw the legal system into the garbage dump and return to the days of vigilantes and the citizen posse.  Unfortunately, they may find it more challenging to control the outcome of their rhetoric than in the past.

Real anarchists have funding and support beyond anything seen in this country in the past. Also, the crises of 2020 have community leaders, not politicians, seeking to restore normalcy at any cost. They are willing to sell their souls to see their businesses return to profitability, playing directly into the anarchist’s plans. Recently, one such incident involved a well-known chef and restauranteur. He stood in front of his upscale restaurant, essentially pledging his support to the chaos makers if they’d leave his customers alone.

The communist professor may be right. Only his time-table may have been overly optimistic.  The Divided States of America may be just around the corner.

P.S. Should anyone think my thoughts are overly alarmist, consider this. Recent coverage of the latest tragedy in Atlanta included statements from the community indicating some would support bringing the Black Panthers back. Now there is an idea that should give everyone pause.

 © – 2020

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

A Promise Kept

I was introduced to a song, “After the War,” several years ago. The song is moving, especially to those who lost someone in Vietnam. It may be even more moving for those who visited the Vietnam memorial to find their loved one’s name. For me, it turned out to be the harbinger of a special event yet to come. You see, I met someone in 2016 who could almost be the person about which this song was written. 

Our meeting was one of those “coincidences” or “God taps” in a way. The guy was seeking information on my brother. David died in Vietnam, and this fellow was asking about him. His first inquiry was to my sister-in-law. She listed information about David on, and the guy saw it. When he reached out, she was concerned and let me know a complete stranger inquired about David.  

Initially, I thought it might be a scam.  So, I decided to do a bit of investigating. After all, issues of stolen valor, stolen identity, and fraud using the names of the deceased are not that uncommon. As it turned out, the gentleman’s motives were well-intentioned and appropriate. So, I gave him all of the information he needed to help honor my brother’s memory on the Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Later, we had the opportunity to meet and share stories about David. It was something unexpected and very meaningful in ways one could hardly imagine. To this day, we continue to stay in touch, and hopefully, we will be able to meet again in the future. 

Today, in this short piece, I just wanted to acknowledge Robert and others who faced the same circumstances. I can only imagine what it would have been like to serve and fight by someone’s side by side, only to have your superiors send you in different directions. Of course, you’d tell each other the day would come when you could meet again, hopefully under more peaceful circumstances.

You’d part thinking about the future reunion and all the stories you could share. You’d carry those thoughts and memories waiting for the day your service was completed. Of course, reality sets in at some point, and promises made are not kept for one reason or another. That reality does not include finding your old friend, but it does include your memories of times past.

Finally, you come to the point in life where you need to remember those days from your youth. You need to travel back to those years in memory at least, and you want to pay your respects to those who never came home. There, at The Wall, you are retracing steps in your mind. You find the names of those you lost, and remember the promise you couldn’t keep. Then, almost as if by the hand of fate, you find a name you did not expect. A promise has been fulfilled, though not as you expected.

If you’ve not taken the time to watch any of the other videos this Memorial Day week, watch this one. While doing so, remember the tens of thousands of soldiers over the years who made promises to reunite with friends only to find that impossible. It was not impossible because they didn’t want to reconnect. It was not impossible because they forgot their promise. It was impossible because the buddy they sought never made it home. 

After The War*

*This links to a video of the song being performed at the Vietnam Memorial in 1991:


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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

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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

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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