Whatever Happened to the Loyal Opposition?

Today’s politics has not been our finest hour. However, I have been seriously dissapointed by the House Democrats, who have been in the majority now since the last election cycle, but have done next to nothing legislatively except investigate the President, despite the glaring need for some legislation. In the good ole days, the party opposite competed with the party in control in the arena of ideas. In my opinion, the Democrat Party’s fixation with impeachment and obstruction has taken their focus off of where it should be, which is proposing alternatives to the positions of the party in control.

The Democrat Party’s irrational insistence on obstructionism and impeachment has drown out virtually every legislative idea that they might have proposed. Instead, in my opinion, they’re wasting their time in control on impeachment. And, by so doing, the Democrat Party has squandered a golden opportunity to distinguish itself from the Republican Party. Instead, the Democrats have chosen the path of obstructionism and just saying no to whaever the President proposes. I predict that the Democrat Party is going to pay dearly for this decision in the 2020 elections, and I think the margin is going to be surprisingly convincing.

I pine for the days of the relationship between the late Tip O’Neil and President Reagan, who, despite being bitterly opposed on political matters, were nevertheless social friends. That’s what is missing in politics today. Everyone is appealing 24/7 to their rabid bases and in demonizing the opposition. Could this be attributable to gerrymandering? McNews? Do we need term limits to battle gerrymandering. Whatever the true cause, our elected officials on both sides of the aisle need to seriously scale back the rhetoric and get back to what’s best for the country, not just for their party.

 The only ideas emanating from the Democrat Party are the wacky and out of the mainstream ideas of some of the Democrat presidential wannabes and the radical socialist representatives that President Trump calls the Squad. Almost all of those ideas have humongous pricetags and virtually no chance of passage or acceptance by a majority of Americans.

Like him or not, President Trump has been incredibly refreshing in that he’s focused on what he promised  during his campaign, and he’s delivered on several fronts already. Very few politicians today keep their promises, in part because most are promising things based on attracting their base and not what is best for the country.

The President has a record to run on, and he will continue to pursue and deliver on what he promised during his campaign. He will continue to emphasize the return to law and order, building the wall, enforcing the immigration laws, another round of tax cuts, putting more conservative judges on the bench, and whatever it takes to keep America great.

What do the Democrats stand for? I honestly don’t know, except that they’re rabid for impeachment and investigating things that don’t seem to need to be investigated. 

I was a Democrat until I was about 40. Frankly, the Democrat Party’s slide toward liberalism just left me behind. And I’m not alone. In my opinion, the Democrat Party has become a fringe issue party. Most of the stances of the party are out of line with ordinary Americans, who are the ones who elected President Trump. I pray that the Democrats don’t wake up until they’re licking their wounds in November 2020.

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High Times; Peaceful Times

Accompanied by friends, I decided to make my first Cannabis Cup in Clio MI over the weekend. Thinking we’d let the initial throng float in before we showed up, we arrived about 3:15 p.m., thinking that we’d waltz right in. Were we in for a rude surprise!

Apparently, thousands of others thought similarly, arriving at or about the same time. The lines were hours long. It took us almost three hours to get in. The sea of humanity was peaceful though. More on this in a minute. People were queued up, in the hot sun, and 81 degree temperatures. There had to have been some pretty nasty sunburns the next day! Thankfully, I was not one of the casualties.

Sure the crowd was smoking cannabis openly and abundantly. And many of the people were high. No big deal, and, in fact, to be expected. However, what struck me, no, struck isn’t a sufficiently descriptive word-gobsmacked is more like it, was that despite the conditions and hours of waiting, the crowd was PEACEFUL!!!!

What was missing? Alcohol. While there were some were drinking beer, the overwhelming majority of people were only consuming cannabis. I saw no fights. Very few health issues-about the only things I saw looked sun related. No vomiting or any of the other unpleasantries associated with drinking.

I’ve not had a drink for over 11 years, and I can honestly say that there’s not been a single day that I’ve missed it or wanted to drink. A lifetime inventory of my screwups occurred when alcohol was involved.

All socioeconomic groups were represented at Cannabis Cup, from Rasta wannabes to Rolex wearing yuppies. And likely all political persuasions too. Yet things were PEACEFUL. I was there for almost three hours and saw ZERO police interventions. It was a lovely day; something that I’ll definitely do again.

High Times Cannabis Cup is coming back to Michigan in August. Memo to self: acquire VIP tickets.

Cannabis could be a unifying issue in the next round of elections. It is well past time to take cannabis off of Schedule 1.

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Banking a Fifth Third Better? Bank Mathematics Under the Microscope

This is a true story, one that doesn’t have an ending yet. Another title for this piece could have been “Bank Mathematics: When $1,350 + $4,650=-$3,300.”

On the evening of February 22, 2019, when my Fifth Third checking account balance was a positive $1,350, I deposited a check for $4,650 drawn on a local law firm’s business account at a local bank via the ATM. When I checked my account balance on February 23, 2019, I expected the balance to be around $6,000, but I was in for a major shock. Bank mathematics had struck, and my bank balance was a negative $3,300!

I was shocked but not very concerned at the time, thinking that the account was still in the process of settling out because it was early in the morning of February 23, 2019. I made a trip into a branch later that morning, where I was about to get a lesson in bank mathematics, a Fifth Third better.

I was told by a friendly bank representative that the check had been flagged by the system and had an eight day hold on it, but that the check funds would be available on March 5, 2019. But what about the $1,350 that was in the account previously? I was told that the bank’s computer had treated the check as bounced, and, therefore, it had been charged back to my checking account.

My checking account balance was negative $3,300 because the current balance prior to the deposit of the $4,650 check, $1,350, was less than the charged back amount, $4,650. And, indeed, 1,350-4,650=-3,300. Therefore, I’d get my money back on March 5 when the hold was lifted. The effect of the hold is that I have no money and will have none until March 5. This is despite that I actually have almost $6,000 in the checking account at Fifth Third Bank.

In the meantime, life is happening. I was on fumes in the car, with no money to get gas. I was out of several important prescriptions that I needed, with no money to get them. Thank God for my soon-to-be ex-wife, Carol, who loaned me enough money to get several of my prescriptions and a full tank of gas.

In the meantime, I was able to talk to someone in the local Fifth Third branch in Kroger on Monroe St. on February 23, 2019. This well meaning bank representative politely explained that bank mathematics was hard to understand sometimes but that everything seemed to have worked correctly on the night of the deposit.

I told the Fifth Third Bank representative that the result was unacceptable, unfair and possibly illegal, and I asked to be put in contact with whatever department handled taking holds off of accounts. He told me that he didn’t know who had the authority to remove the kind of hold that was on my check (he said that no one in Toledo had the authority to remove such a hold), and he suggested that I contact customer service, but since customer service was closed on sundays, I’d have to wait until Monday, February 24, 2019. I have a meeting with another bank representative on Monday, February 24 at 2, so stay tuned for updates.

However, it strains credulity to assert that I lose access to the money that was in the account just because I deposited another check. It seems to me that the correct answer should be that while you may not get access to the funds in the deposited check until the hold is lifted, you shouldn’t lose access to the funds that were already in the account. But this may make too much sense for bank mathematics. In the meantime, I have no money. Banking, a Fifth Third better? Not hardly.


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Wall or No Wall: That is the Question

Whether the United States needs a wall on its southern border is the question of the day. Wall proponents simply point out the macro (most other countries have a wall or partition of some kind at their borders, so why praytell is it wrong for the United States to have one, especially given our preferred destination status) and micro (President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and the gaggle of clueless Hollyweird elites have big walls around the personal residences) hypocrisy in the wall opponent’s position.

I’ve heard several arguments against a wall, but they don’t seem to be very convincing. There’s the tug-at-the-heartstrings appeal to big heartedness, a la give me your tired your poor, which has some feeling appeal but is lame in my opinion. Most legal immigrants I know favor very strict enforcement of immigration laws. The United States is the most consistently charitable country in the world. However, we don’t need to lay down and welcome all because we’ll implode under the added weight of more folks getting government subsidies (they’re not entitlements). No country in its right mind could afford to do that, and the United States is no exception.

Until fairly recently, legal immigrants simply wanted a new life and were grateful to receive a hand up and an opportunity to live the American dream. Even though they held onto some of their traditions and customs, immigrants learned English and assimilated into society as best they could.

Today’s illegal immigrants are poor, poorly educated and, for the most part, have hands out, which doesn’t benefit us. And they don’t want to learn English or assimilate. Indeed, many of them are avowed nationalists of another country who come here to complain about our country. This simply can’t be permitted to continue, or the country will devolve into fractured potentates, i.e., like much of the rest of the world .

Some argue that since the President Trump administration hasn’t spent all of its border security budget for the year, Congress shouldn’t appropriate more money for the wall. I don’t buy that because there may be good and valid reasons for why the money hasn’t been spent yet. I am willing to give the administration a pass here.

President Trump wants the wall, which, in my opinion, is way overdue and very much needed. I have heard all of the countervailing arguments, but I find them unpersuasive. If the President caves on the wall, he just as soon not run for reelection, because this was a key campaign promise, and it’s one that resonates with proud Americans who vote.

Therefore, I say “Mr. President, full speed ahead with all due dispatch because the fate of our democratic republic lies in the balance.”

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A Few Words About… Civil Discourse or Uncivil War?

Civil political discourse in our country has become unacceptably tiresome and practically nonexistent, particularly with leftist liberals who find themselves out of power at present in every place but college campuses. Politics has become increasingly more strident and vituperative, which I attribute in part to the hopelessly one-sided main (Lame?) stream media and in part to gerrymandering districts by incumbent, career politicians who want to ensure continuation of their cushy jobs and perks, which they continue to heap on themselves. This is the reason why term limits, which I don’t favor because the voting public is abdicating its responsibility, may be a necessary evil. But I digress…

Instead of being the loyal opposition while they’re out of power, like the Republicans (I am a conservative, not a Republican) were when they were the minority party, the unfortunate mantra of today’s Democrat Party is “resist.” The Democrat Party has been hijacked by extremist groups like the open borders crowd, ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter. They offer no positive alternative solutions to any of the problems that we presently face. Their singular goal seems to be to weaken the federal government through violence and endless protests, as well as the mindless 24/7 calls to impeach President Trump. Representative Maxine Waters has become the poster girl for today’s Democrat Party, which is great news for Republicans because she is certifiable, irresponsible and very dangerous. I’m certain that President John F. Kennedy rolls in his grave every time that he thinks about the current status of the Democrat Party.

I’ve seen confirmed occurrences of some 200 acts of aggression toward Republican politicians and appointees. This is not funny. What’s intriguing about the threats that the leftists are making is that they themselves haven’t played their threats for anarchy and violence to their logical conclusion: civil war. Despite what the biased media wants desperately for us to believe, regular, working, God fearing Americans disagree with the Democrats on the merits on just about every issue. Even though Hillary Clinton garnered more popular votes than President Trump, the red vs. blue election map showed that President Trump won just about all of the country geographically except for some liberal urban bastions as well as the albatross that is California.

Many of President Trump’s supporters are armed to the teeth, while most liberal snowflakes aren’t armed with anything other than a megaphone. I like President Trump’s supporters in that battle. If a “civil war” or even significant civil unrest breaks out, what side do you think that the armed forces are going to take? The side that cut their funding and military preparedness for years under President Obama, or the side of President Trump, who is very pro-military and has proven it by significantly bolstering their funding and even creating a new space corps? In my opinion, only a fool would say the former. The rank-and-file military loathed President Obama, who was very obviously anti-military. With an armed citizenry and the military on its side, I like the side of the right very much. This really shouldn’t be much of a fight.

However, the leftists seem to be oblivious to this reality. I’m less than sanguine about the chances of avoiding some conflict that will include violence and murder. Who wants to see that? Certainly not me. However, that appears to be the direction toward which these liberal thugs are pushing to their ultimate peril. God help us all. As Dirty Harry might say, “make my day.”


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A Few Words About…the Cloture Rule

With all the uproar lately over the recent fight in Congress over funding the government, once again the government is shut down because the Senate is paralyzed by infamous Rule XXII. That rule sets out the Cloture Rule, which is a parliamentary procedure to limit debate on a bill. In the Senate, it is possible to indefinitely keep the floor to stop a bill by continuously debating it, which came to be known as the filibuster. The filibuster impedes the orderly operation of the government unless the super-majority votes to limit debate on a bill. As a result, the nation’s business is impeded unless the super-majority vote is attained.

Under Rule XXII, which was enacted in 1917 and really made it possible to approve the controversial Versailles Treaty that ended World War I in 1919, a vote of a three-fifths (3/5) majority (60 votes) would limit unlimited debate on a bill to an additional 30 hours, thereafter resulting in a vote up or down on the bill.

Originally, the Cloture Rule required a two-thirds (2/3) majority. However, the difficulty in obtaining that level of super-majority vote permitted Senate Democrats to hold off passage of the civil rights legislation for about 20 years. The required vote to cut off debate was reduced in 1975 to the current three-fifths (3/5) majority because the members complained that the super-majority required vote was too difficult to obtain.

At one time early in our country’s history, members of the House of Representatives also could filibuster. However, the Cloture Rule was eliminated in the House of Representatives as the body kept growing larger as the country expanded westward. Given that the House of Representatives eliminated the Cloture Rule long ago, could the Senate do the same thing? Should the Senate eliminate the Cloture Rule?

Frustrated by the failure to muster 60 votes to cut off debate in the most recent government funding fight, even though he had a majority, 53 votes, President Trump exhorted the Senate Republicans to eliminate the Cloture Rule, which would enable a simple majority to effectively cut off debate on any bill. This change has been referred to as the ” Nuclear Option.” Should the Senate Republicans do what President Trump wants them to do? Has the time for Rule XXII run out?

Obviously, the Senate Republicans know that their slim 51-49 (after the disastrous Roy Moore loss in one of the safest Republican havens, leaving a Democrat as a senator in Alabama) could disappear as soon as the fall elections. One day, it’s highly likely that the Democrats will once again control the Senate. Do the Republicans risk evoking the Nuclear Option with the knowledge that they might be in the minority again one day?

It’s clear to me that it is time to consign Rule XXII to the dustbin of history because the interests of the country getting its business done outweighs protecting the interests of the minority party. The public holds the Congress in very low regard presently because it is perceived as being constantly snarled in political gridlock, meaning that the business of the country doesn’t get done. I maintain that there is no magic in a three-fifths (3/5) majority, given that the required voting percentage for cutting off debate has been changed over time. If three-fifths is okay, why not a simple majority?

I posit that if the Senate can move legislation more rapidly, more of the country’s business will get done. I acknowledge that many will disagree, because the Cloture Rule may have the effect of forcing cooler heads to prevail by requiring the super-majority vote. However, I will acknowledge that the determination on the Cloture Rule requires a consideration of competing factors in a balancing act. I believe that the need to conduct the country’s business outweighs any other countervailing factor.


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A Few Words About…The Distinction Between Wisdom and Knowledge

I was thinking recently about the distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Some people confuse the two, which is a huge mistake. As always, I begin with some relevant quotes, and there are a few more quotes than usual, so stick with me here.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems

“Human knowledge had become too great for the human mind. All that remained was the scientific specialist, who know “more and more about less and less,” and the philosophical speculator, who knew less and less about more and more. The specialist put on blinders in order to shut out from his vision all the world but one little spot, to which he glued his nose. Perspective was lost. “Facts” replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom.” Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy

“To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of eternal things; to knowledge, the rational knowledge of temporal things.” St. Augustine

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine

“To know what we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, this is true knowledge.” Nicolaus Copernicus

“To know, is to know you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.” Socrates

“It is not lawful or proper for you to know everything.” Lucian

“It is much better to know something about everything than to know everything about one thing.” Blaise Pascal

“Useful knowledge is great support for intuition.” Charles B. Rogers

“When a man’s knowledge is not in order, the more of it he has the greater will be his confusion.” Herbert Spencer

“There is a thing called knowledge of the world which people do not have until they are middle aged. It is something that cannot be taught to younger people because it is not logical and does not obey laws which are constant. It has no rules.” Theodore H. White

“A prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” Sir Francis Bacon

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” Calvin Coolidge

“Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more. William Cowper

“Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.” Will Durant

“Wisdom is knowing when to speak your mind and when to mind your speech.” Evangel

“Knowledge without wisdom is double folly.” Baltasar Gracian

“Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.” Herman Hesse

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“The wisdom of the wise is an uncommon degree of common sense.” William Ralph Inge

“Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass.” Japanese proverb

The above quotes make clear beyond cavil that there is a large difference between wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge seems easier to define, while wisdom is a little more difficult to pin down. What exactly is wisdom? Is it like the famous judicial definition of pornography, i.e., you know it when you see it? That’s not really a satisfactory answer.

Clearly, the quotes above demonstrate that it’s possible to have knowledge without wisdom. Is the converse also true, i.e., it’s possible to have wisdom without knowledge? I believe that it is. Is this true because knowledge can be easily imparted from one to another, while wisdom as such can’t be?

We can load computers with knowledge, but can we teach them to be wise? I’m not sure, but I doubt it, although the world of artificial intelligence is certainly challenging my conclusion. While I do believe that computers can be taught to think critically, I just don’t think that they can be imbued with wisdom. There seems to be an experiential aspect of wisdom. Yet some very wise decisions are made daily without much experience, so that’s not a wholly satisfactory answer either.

Is Will Durant correct that in our meta-complex world of dizzying data, knowledge no longer produces wisdom? Is there a hierarchy here, i.e., is it a pyramid of sorts? If so, it begins at the bottom with data, which can range from gobbledygook to actual information, which is the second lowest level in the pyramid. In grad school, we used to say if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to whatever you want it to say. You know, garbage in garbage out.

Information requires analysis and organization of data in order to draw conclusions or to make inferences about the data. Information takes data and provides some context or explanation of it.

Now, armed with information, how is wisdom generated? We have come back full circle: what exactly is wisdom? To start, some people are armed with lots of knowledge but little wisdom. As Baltasar Gracian so eloquently and concisely stated above, knowledge without wisdom is double folly. As did the Japanese proverb quoted above.

Is Theodore H. White correct that wisdom requires life experiences? I concur in part and dissent in part. In my opinion, some people’s experience just doesn’t generate wisdom. Therefore, while there may be an experiential component to wisdom, it is not linear, and, in fact, for some it may be nonexistent. However, I will concede that life experiences may play a role in wisdom, although it may be possible to learn some lessons from those who have failed in the past.

Many of us, particularly those who endured law school, are familiar with the often maddening, hide the ball nature of the Socratic Method, where one seeks truth by asking a series of pointed and piercing questions. Is Socrates correct in that to know means that you know that you know nothing?

I disagree with Socrates here, and I believe that as long as the person is humble about the limits of his or knowledge and understands that no one can know everything, that suffices. I do agree with Socrates and with Sir Francis Bacon that the ability to ask good questions is inextricably intertwined with wisdom. I also agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes that wise people possess above average listening skills.

Does wisdom involve mere common sense, as William Ralph Inge posits? I don’t have any data to support this, but in my experience, wise people usually exhibit a significant amount of common sense. Therefore, I posit that there is a common sense component of wisdom. But I submit that wisdom is more than mere common sense. In my experience, wise people also possess high Emotional Quotients (also known as EQ, as opposed to mere IQ).

Clearly, the world would greatly benefit if the level of human wisdom increased. Therefore, can wisdom be taught? Or are Theodore H. White and Herman Hesse correct that wisdom cannot be taught? I wouldn’t go that far and believe that we can shorten the wisdom accumulation curve through education and close observation, but I do think that there is some ethereal component of wisdom that cannot be taught.

What else can be said about wisdom? Is there a perspective aspect of wisdom. Clearly, there is a time and a place to release one’s wisdom. I agree with Evangel that wise people pick the right time, place and context to impart their wisdom. Sometimes, people aren’t ready to hear your wisdom at a particular time. A wise person perceptibly knows this and demurs. Does one have to study philosophy in order to be wise, as Will Durant contends? I don’t think so, but I concede that the study of philosophy can shorten the length of time prior to attaining wisdom.

Finally, we can’t be wise about everything, as Lucian concludes.

Therefore, we can say that knowledge aids wisdom, but the two are not the same. Wisdom is acquired by thinking about the state of the knowledge of some subject in order to draw inferences and deductions about organized data.

In conclusion, while we strive for knowledge, we should yearn for wisdom.






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