Friday, August 24, 2012

Romney's Supersized “Drill, Baby Drill”

Two Frannie Rigs by mdt1960
Two Frannie Rigs, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Mitt Romney must be channeling Woody Hayes these days. Recently he unveiled his “energy plan” that promises to deliver all of North America to energy independence by 2020 via “drill, baby drill.” I had hoped he would have demonstrated more imagination—something beyond “three yards and a cloud of dust” championed by the late Ohio State football skipper. Coincidently (and conveniently), his delivery date marks the end of his Presidency if he were elected this November and then re-elected four years later.

I’m not doubtful that his plan would work. But, more importantly, shouldn’t we be asking, “Energy independence… but, at what cost?” What is our world going to look like as we continue to invest in the burning of fossil fuels as our primary energy source? Of course, if you’re one of those who find no credence in science, you can put your head back in the sand—you needn’t read on.

Apparently the Romney-Republican-Big-Corporation Camp (RRBCC) has little confidence in the scientific community either when it comes to its warnings regarding the pitfalls of burning fossil fuels indefinitely. Rather, Mitt and company align themselves with obscure articles and research that contradicts the scientific community consensus related to global warming as a result of fossil fuels.

On a related note: How is it that the science and scientists who demonstrated foresight in the successful rover missions to Mars are so much different than the science and scientists who warn us of global warming’s approach and consequences?

A question that always comes to mind has to do with the motivation of each camp. That is, what does the RRBCC have to gain by going against the scientific community’s advice when it comes to our continued dependence on fossil fuels? For starters, there is money to be made in staying with the current course—big money! No significant research/trials to drain profits along with a solid monopoly equals profit, profit, profit. In short, change is painful and there are bound to be casualties along the way.

Looking at the scientific community’s motivation; what do they have to gain if we heed their advice? Oh sure, some will see a significant profit for playing instrumental roles in the transition, but there’s no way of convincing me that the scientific community is going to make money hand-over-fist like the big oil companies and energy suppliers have and will continue to do.

The truth is, the most respected scientists work independently of corporations—typically for educational research institutions. Their motivation surely has some minuscule ingredient of “ego” for self and their institution, but the financial gain isn’t anything close to the profits of stockholders, CEOs and other corporate personalities who are all in it for one thing—to make a profit or, even better, make a killing.

To ensure we—the little people—are on board, the RRBCC folk promise good jobs if we double down on fossil fuels; as if a future which embraces renewable energies has no jobs for anyone.

It appears this line of reasoning is endemic all the way down to the local levels. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to sit in on the local Republican forums where every candidate talked up oil, gas and coal with not one mention of renewable energy sources. I found this odd given that we live in a state (Wyoming) where sunshine and wind are even more abundant than gas and coal.

All of this support for fossil fuels while holding contempt for renewables serves as an illustration: change is not a trip of leisure, nor does it generate the huge profits as those things established and widely accepted. Worse yet, change does not bode well with a short-sighted society incapable or unwilling to fathom problems and challenges just beyond the horizon.

The truth is the RRBCC world is akin to an obese person who has taken years to arrive at his 300-pound excess, along with an unwillingness to admit such obesity, nor the patience required to shed the excess properly. So, rather than acknowledge the problem and start down a road of true change, Romney’s plan simply proposes that we resign ourselves back to the overstuffed couch with the TV remote in hand as the other hand reaches for a bag of chips.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Longing For Anonymity Oblivion

Ohio Camp Trees by mdt1960
Ohio Camp Trees, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Every now and then I go through these phases… phases where I find myself ashamed of Facebook and all of us who flaunt ourselves on it. I mean, who really cares if I’m traveling across the country or visiting the battlefield at Vicksburg, Mississippi? And do I really care if someone is having a meal at a particularly good restaurant or has posted new images of their grandchildren?

It’s times like this when the vast “Facebook Borg” appears to be shouting at the world to look at them, and thus perpetuating that self-centered mindset,“It’s-All-About-Me.” I’m so ready to disconnect.

Perhaps this blast is nothing more than a by-product of being broken down in Richmond, Kentucky.

Yet, all of this leads me to believe that maybe the best way to get ahead (or at least advance) in the world we live in is through the activity of shameless, self-promotion; making me wonder if talent and hard work really matter in today’s tightly networked world. A blabbering, self-loving photographer named Peter Lik comes to mind (I’m sure he wrote his own bio too).

At some point, I’ll come back around and start posting my own “look-at-me” or “listen-to-me” posts, but for now anonymity oblivion sounds pretty good.

In true hypocritical fashion, I hope no one reads this.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

America’s Fitness Dichotomy

Cody's Anne Brinegar by mdt1960
Cody's Anne Brinegar, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Not long ago the local McDonald’s PlayPlace, with its familiar crawl-tube design, ball pits, and slides, was replaced by an electronic video “arcade.” The cavanerous space that housed the PlayPlace is now bleak, and dwarfs the smattering of installed game stations. I’m told through some reliable sources that this happened as a result of insurance premiums and cleanliness issues (which are likely related).

I don’t doubt that the insurance industry or health inspectors were behind the PlayPlace’s demise, but I have to wonder if this transformation is symbolic of what is truly happening in our country—we are becoming a shiftless, myopic, push-button society. Might as well bring out the Soma while we’re at it.

NPR ran a story the other day reporting that one third of our country is obese while another third is overweight. Looking around my quaint, little town of 5,000-plus, I don’t doubt these figures. Yet, our country did not reach greatness on the backs of an unfit population.

I was reminded again of our country’s decline in fitness when a friend of mine in Akron, Ohio sent a text while he was announcing the City Track Meet (representing approximately 23,000 students K-12) that read, “Currently announcing City Meet. My 5th place mile time in 1977 of 4:35, would have won it tonight.” His innocent observation was probably more poignant than he had intended.

A couple of years ago, another friend, upon moving to Powell from New York City, noted how many obese and overweight people there were in this state of “the great outdoors” compared to those in The Big Apple. He attributed it simply to the fact that almost everyone walks in New York as part of their everyday transportation.

Finally, the other day I found myself on a 32-mile bike ride which included 20 miles of dirt road and trails over the course of three hours. Hardly impressive when it comes to any kind of athletic standards, but looking around my little community, I have to wonder if even 10% could have kept up with me.

Is the bell curve stretching out? I’m no diet and health expert, but if we took today’s population and compared its fitness level to America’s fitness level of 1950, I suspect the info-graphics would look something like the chart below.

Despite our decline to greater self-indulgence and a sedentary life revolving around the artificial adventures provided by the television, internet and movies/videos (while eating high-fat foods), there is another, even if very small, population representing the opposite end of this spectrum. They are the record-breakers, the Usain Bolts, the Serena Williams or Haloti Ngatas—athletes with more dedication than ever, fueled by diets, regiments and technology that take their performance far beyond their colleagues of 30 or 50 years ago. They are as freakish as the 400-pounder who rarely leaves her house because she can barely move.

My suspicion is that the variation between what the worst of us and the best of us can do over the course of, say two miles, is becoming more expansive, more extreme—just like our politics.

I have often wondered if we are setting the stage for a split in human evolution—resulting in a race of athletic and health-minded humans and those akin to Jabba the Hut.

Lastly, in contemplating just how bad things are when it comes to our health, First Lady Michelle Obama has resorted to a physical fitness campaign that pathetically only says, “Let’s Move.” Sadly, this may save some of the youth, but in an age where instant gratification has become the norm, we don’t have a chance.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Uncle, A Man, A Life

Uncle Paul by mdt1960
Uncle Paul, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
I’m not one to claim favorites when it comes to family members, but I’ll say here that Uncle Paul was indeed a favorite when it comes to the extended family. And for him to be a favorite wasn’t a matter of simple math. Paul Kline was “Number Six” in the long line of Kline children (14 in all) who came from the marriage of Thomas and Stella Kline—my grandparents. I never took a survey amongst my fellow cousins, but I suspect if any of them spent a significant amount of time with him, he would be a favorite of theirs as well.

Born one day and thirty-three years before me, Uncle Paul and I occasionally shared informal birthday celebrations if I was in Akron during July.

As a child, I first knew Uncle Paul as “Uncle Chicky;” a nickname from his childhood. Many of the Kline siblings were given such nicknames from their father, Tom: Fred was called “Whitey,” Russell was known as “Teddy,” and even my mom was sometimes referred to as “Mamie.” Related to the giving of nicknames, Paul was originally named “Charles Monroe” at birth, but the birth certificate materialized with Paul J.; the J standing for Junior. Likewise, Uncle Fred was originally named Walter Sidney but somehow turned up as Fred Julius on the birth certificate.

During my early years, I was always a bit leery and thus somewhat fearful of Uncle Chick due to the roughhouse and boisterous air that seemed to surround him. I remember a fishing trip to Canada that included him and other Kline families; and even though each family had their own cabin, we always knew when Uncle Chick woke up with his signature yawn that was likely heard from the other side of the river. As I grew older and realized that the only pain he would ever inflict on me was a good charlie-horse in the shoulder, I saw through his gruff exterior and discovered a soft-hearted man who epitomized the word “serve.”

It has taken me years to pin down what was so special about Uncle Paul, but it finally came to me early in 2011 when I was unexpectedly home for my Uncle Jim’s funeral. You see, Uncle Jim was my father’s brother—a Tyree, while Uncle Paul was my mom’s brother—a Kline. Yet there was Uncle Paul sitting next to my mom and dad on that sad day during the funeral. I don’t know if he was there for my mother, who was there for my father, or if he was simply there for his brother-in-law. Regardless, there was no other Kline in attendance, nor were they expected. Yet, Paul J. Kline was there. That was the measure of this man that finally spoke to me. Perhaps it’s not that noteworthy, but for whatever the case, something happen inside of me when I saw him come through the doors at Uncle Jim’s funeral. That one show of unexpected kindness will forever stay with me.

The few lines of his obituary that were printed in the Akron Beacon Journal said much about the character of Paul Kline.

Paul J. Kline born July 12, 1927 passed away December 30, 2011 with his family at his side. Employed as a lineman/trouble shooter with Ohio Edison for over 40 years, he enjoyed his retirement taking care of his wife, cooking awesome meals for his family, and cultivating his garden.

He was an avid fisherman, handyman and chauffeur to anyone who needed him. Strong, wise, honest, ornery and always smiling—with a twinkle in his eyes…

I can testify as much as anyone that “ornery” he was, but always in a humorous way while that “twinkle in his eyes” was honest-to-God; and unlike a faint and distant star, was as bright and constant as the sun on a cloudless summer day.

Friday, April 06, 2012

“Obamacare’s” True Adversary

The Tailspin Begins by mdt1960
The Tailspin Begins, a photo by mdt1960 on Flickr.
Writing on or participating in discussions about healthcare is probably the same as kicking around the idea on whether or not God exist or what is the meaning of life. Yet, what puzzles me the most, is that unlike these latter two subjects, the Affordable Care Act is directly before us; and given we are so divided about it, well that is the most astonishing of all.

Admittedly I’m somewhat surprised that I have the energy to write about this topic, as if I have something to say that hasn’t already been considered in some other forum or context. Yet, here I go pretending such is true.

NPR reporter, Ari Shapiro reported recently in his coverage of the Republican primaries, that the rally cry generating more audience feedback from any of the candidates in the running was when they declared something akin to, “If I’m elected, the first thing I will do is repeal ‘Obamacare!’”

One has to wonder if the same spirited response would come if any of these candidates simply said, “If I’m elected, the first thing I will do is repeal universal healthcare!”

As an Anglo who has been around more than my share of dark-skinned-derogatory comments generated by fellow Whities in the course of my life, I feel pretty convinced that all of this is just another smokescreen to disguise the absolute destain this group holds for a man of color leading the country, period.

I know, I know. How dare I play the “race card.” Yet, how can one ignore it given our country’s prolific and sobering history of prejudice and racism—as if to pretend that it is so far behind us now (or never existed).

Racism is akin to cigarette smoking: for the most part, everyone knows it’s not a good thing, yet many still practice it for whatever reason. Like smoking, it will take generations to completely disappear—if it does at all. And the idea of Whites hating Blacks and vice versa shouldn’t be thought of as some relic hanging around from 200 years ago. Racism has barely had time to become stale, let alone rotten in a society that once commonly incorporated it into almost every part of our day and life. It runs deep in America and anyone who thinks otherwise is downright in denial.

That said, there is still no excuse for it. If racism had been a product of the classroom or the workplace only, we probably would be further along in overcoming it today. But, the truest fact of all is, racism is a product of the home—safely and quietly guarded by the parents who instill it in their children and can never be outlawed in the domestic setting.

Although this stealth population of “racist amongst us” aren’t too concerned about being politically correct, they know that their strong prejudice towards Blacks (or others not like them) isn’t tolerated, taken seriously, or will hold any water when it comes to elected officials of color. So, the best they can do is go after something that has his signature/name on it—much like a voodoo doll.

Had George W. Bush knocked on a poor, White, working-class individual’s door who currently opposes “Obamacare” six years ago and made them the same offer/benefits that make up today’s Affordable Care Act package, they would have signed up. However as today’s President offers the same, they turn it away and make up some lame, Constitutional-rights excuse that prevents them from feeling as if they are taking a handout from—God forbid—an African American.

But back to universal health care… Even President Obama has admitted that this healthcare plan isn’t perfect, it’s only a start. Yet, because it is his healthcare plan, those who oppose it would prefer to go back to the drawing board rather than improving on what has already been set in motion. And no doubt, the second iteration of healthcare coming from the Republicans (if given another chance) or an Anglo President will surely be received warmly even if there are negligible differences between “Obamacare” and “Whiteycare.”

One of my friends recently posted a comment regarding a conversation he had with a Canadian couple over dinner one night. After explaining how a socialized Canadian healthcare system had supported the man and his wife over the years (and mind you, he had some pretty serious health issues), he concluded with the following, “I don’t understand “Obamacare” and why it’s so controversial,” he said. “But I know that in Canada no one is ever going to lose everything they have just because they get sick.”

This is probably as good a place as any to remind the reader how old “Obamacare” really is…

“I am for people, individuals—exactly like automobile insurance—individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance. And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.” —Newt Gingrich 1993

Really... “Obamacare” over the lackluster economy, over an ongoing war that has drained the country’s wealth, over getting our troops out of Afghanistan and other misguided conflicts around the world ASAP, over record profits notched by Exxon and company while gas prices continue to soar… Hell, I’m more worried about the drug/gang violence in Mexico spilling over onto our side of the border than mandatory universal healthcare.