Saturday, November 30, 2013


Image ©

Crowdfunding online, through such avenues as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, has become all the rage these days. I was recently confronted by a situation that caused me to reflect on what I think of this new enterprise when a friend, who has relocated to Chile, broke her hand and needed surgery she could not afford.

I have to preface any further comments by noting the fact that my friend earns her living with her hands. She makes jewelry, and very good, unique jewelry at that. It was not an option to go without surgery and risk being handicapped for the remainder of her life. Obviously, even if she had health insurance, it likely would not have been honored in a foreign country.

So, I truly admire her creativity in appealing to her friends, actual and virtual, through Facebook. She set a goal, provided secure avenues for donations, and gave regular progress reports. I felt somewhat guilty for not sending funds myself, but I am without a regular income and nobody and no causes have received my financial blessing in quite some time.

At least I knew this was not a scam, which, unfortunately, cannot be said of everyone. It pays to do your homework on projects and people who you do not know personally. Witness the dubious validity of the ”Poverty Thoughts” essay.

What else figured into my decision not to give? I had not really thought about my philosophy toward crowdfunding until this circumstance presented itself, but I realized that I think crowd-sourcing should be about something beyond yourself. Funds raised should go to a greater good, a service or product or other creation that benefits more people than the individual seeking money for it.

I know plenty of people with outstanding ideas for which they lack financial backing to execute. Crowdfunding would be a great approach. Authors and musicians who have trouble getting contracts with publishers or recording studios can finally produce material and get exposure through crowdfunding. Indeed, that strategy also builds an audience for one’s work because they are aware of the process, even if they do not donate outright.

Is crowdfunding the future of artistic and creative enterprise? Perhaps it is. Anything that can legally allow for a person to become their own boss, or otherwise liberate themselves from the corporate-driven business world, I am all in favor of. A marketplace that is driven truly by small businesses, not by those of the Wall Street variety, is going to be more responsive, vastly more accountable, and hopefully a kinder, gentler economy.

Back to my friend in Chile. Her surgical procedure was successful and her physician is delighted with the progress of her healing. Someday, I hope to be in a position where I can make a tangible contribution to such friends in need, not sending only love and “good vibes.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Let's Draft Congress

Image ©

I think it was during the last presidential election, with concurrent elections of senators and representatives, that I suggested to my wife that we should draft congressmen and elect people to go fight in wars. At the time I was joking, but the idea is growing on me with every 60 Minutes story of congressional abuse of power. If we truly want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, then we the people need to step up and into positions of leadership.

The overwhelming problem, it occurs to me, is the co-opting of our congress by corporate interests that have only the interests of profit and shareholders at heart. That status quo is more than endorsed by both the Democratic and Republican parties. We need senators and representatives more connected to the average person.

We have had outstanding public servants in the past, but many of them have resigned in disgust over the current in-fighting between political parties and their various factions. There is little evidence this will change without a complete overhaul in how we go about choosing members of congress.

I propose that from local school boards on up to the federal level, we consider drafting people into those positions. At least draft two or three candidates for each position. Law enforcement officials, mayors, governors, and the President of the United States would be elected in pretty much the same manner as they are now, with appointments to Cabinet positions at their discretion. The benefits of drafting others to serve would be many-fold:

  1. No campaign costs. There would be a huge savings in campaign costs, and no need to campaign for re-election during the term you are serving. The media would be forced to do its job of researching a “candidate,” and learn that person’s values, employment history, and educational background. I should state that any person drafted would have the right to refuse service, much like jury duty.
  2. Redistricting would be rendered obsolete. Both political parties frequently attempt to secure domination in congressional districts through redistricting, changing the boundaries of the congressional district to include neighborhoods heavily weighted in favor of their party. This practice would be rendered moot if we draft candidates randomly.
  3. More diversity in political views. We are much more likely to get independent voices into public office by drafting people than by electing people because the current two-party system dominates through the financial backing of wealthy individuals and corporations (even certain non-profits). People who ally themselves with the Green Party, Libertarian Party, or some other affiliation, if any at all, would finally have an equal chance at getting into office. Yes, that would be a blessing or a curse, depending on one’s current affiliation.
  4. The infrastructure is in place. We already have the infrastructure to make this work. We also have the flexibility to create a hierarchy in the selection process. Perhaps we would start with those registered for unemployment compensation. Certainly the unemployed would have far more empathy for the middle-class than our current “leaders.” We definitely want to limit the pool to those who are registered to vote and who have demonstrated active participation in our current political process through a consistent voting record.
  5. More consensus in decision-making. I honestly believe that a body of average citizens is better at reaching a consensus on a given issue than are the elitist people currently in office (at least at the federal level). Again, I make the comparison to a jury. Sure, there are “hung” juries, but they make a more honest attempt at reaching agreement, and there are no corporate-driven agendas to fuel the fighting. The goal is justice, pure and simple. The current goal of congress is to provide security and profit to corporate interests.
  6. A more literate and informed electorate. Simply the fear of being drafted to a public office and appearing incompetent may be enough to drive the average Joe into learning more about our form of government and the responsibilities it has to the citizens. Once put into play, a draft system would also demand that citizens keep up to speed on things to insure accountability of their servants in office.

This idea of a political draft is certainly not flawless, but if it even generates a discussion on how we can refine our current system and put power back in the hands of the public, I’ve accomplished my mission. Our country and its citizens are too important to allow the continued gridlock and excesses that we see in today’s government.

We cannot continue on our present course of keeping the status quo. We know the hazards of natural resource extraction, for example. Clean energy cannot wait. We know there is “equal opportunity” in rhetoric only. We know we need to set a much better example for the world, while understanding there is no shame in borrowing ideas from the states, or even other nations. We should be fearless, but not reckless, in innovation, and fund basic research to make that innovation happen.

If public service is no longer something anyone aspires to, then it is time to turn the system on its head so that it at least has a chance at commanding the respect it once did. History can repeat itself in good ways as well as bad ways.

Monday, September 9, 2013

but Syriaously....

I have had it with politics. Were it not for politics I might consider running for office, but alas it is a cruel game now and our government leaders, or what passes for them, do not command the respect they once did. Today I find myself confronted by two political dramas that illustrate how damaging and wasteful the political process has become.

Here in Colorado we are holding a recall election for two state representatives. The recall was initiated by a group that disagreed with the legislature’s support of strong initiatives for firearms regulations in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado theatre massacre. From what I understand, national groups then jumped on the bandwagon and funneled money to solicitors for gathering the signatures necessary to warrant a recall election.

Farther down the road, the proponents of the recall whined that they needed more time to generate alternative candidates to add to the ballot. The court(?) granted them an extension, but that meant that there was no way to qualify this as a mail-in ballot election. Not only that, but normal polling places were not going to be used, either. It was highly confusing unless you paid careful attention to the news and to your mailbox.

Meanwhile, the propaganda generated by both sides was obscene, both in content and sheer quantity. What a waste of trees to print this vitriol. We also had two door-to-door visits from young people reminding us to vote and who to vote for.

Recall elections should be reserved for extreme cases of abuse of power; and not because you don’t agree with one decision by your elected representative. I would like to think that I would vote against this particular recall regardless of which political party affiliation the incumbent had.

But seriously, there is another issue of national and international significance capturing our collective attention right now: should we launch strategic strikes against Syria for their use of chemical weapons on civilians? Public sentiment seems to be very much against this idea, but the opposition comes from two very different perspectives.

I think it can be argued that the United States has, since Vietnam at the least, engaged in war only when there was something at stake for itself. The Middle East has always held two things coveted by America: oil, and strategic locations from which other military actions could be carried out. We failed to intervene fully in Bosnia, and in Rwanda, mostly because there were no resources at stake. While we claim to be proponents of civil rights and freedom from oppression, we don’t back up our words with action. Ending genocide is apparently not enough of a principle to warrant military intervention.

So what about Syria? There doesn’t seem to be enough natural resources there to provide incentive to use military force, so Republicans and right-wingers are not supportive of action. Those left-leaning liberals who at least claim to value human life regardless of its religious affiliation and level of wealth, and who do not support war under any circumstances, certainly don’t endorse any action, either. What an odd couple, both sides opposed to military action in Syria for such divergent reasons!

Clearly, there should be global intolerance for the use of biological weapons, and some kind of collective action needs to be taken against the Syrian government. Acting unilaterally is not the way to go. We have lots of work to do at home, though, to educate ourselves about other nations, and brainstorm ways to help prevent the circumstances that lead to such catastrophic attacks in the first place.

I will happily endorse my tax dollars being spent on global disarmament, building ecologically sustainable communities, and creating renewable energy platforms. You ask me to pay for another boondoggle of a recall election, or support corporate welfare for agribusiness and petroleum companies, then you won’t be getting my vote in the next election.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Here it is, July 4, Independence Day in the U.S.A. Last Sunday, the pastor at our Lutheran Church gave a sermon entitled “Freedom,” and it got me thinking. We are indeed “free” in many ways, but I also believe we have a long way to go to be free as individuals and as a society.

Pastor Dave (Hall) was astute in recognizing that most of us are still enslaved by our jobs, our debts, our addictions, and other self-imposed limitations. We have freedom of choice, but too often our choices are not in our best interest, at least not in the long term. We are still too concerned with keeping up appearances, and often go into debt to create the impression that we are doing just fine economically. Privately, we worry about the credit monster we have created, and perhaps take up an addiction to help us cope.

Are we not also slaves of politics, our employers, the marketplace, even religion? Do we cling tightly to pre-conceived notions, stereotypes, and outdated beliefs because we fear change or feel threatened by the different beliefs of others? Do we keep working at a job we cannot stand because we must have the paycheck and health insurance coverage? Newsflash: Your employer is not going to be loyal to you if the shareholders or board of directors demand cost-cutting changes.

I think being free means taking risks, thinking outside the box (or cubicle or condo), keeping an open mind, and nurturing empathy. It means sacrifice, deciding what material things you can do without. Freedom in essence, then, is what our society claims to value, but which culture also does everything in its power to stifle.

Freedom is what this very blog is all about: Celebrating alternative landscapes, alternative energy, public transportation, continuing education, public discourse on meaningful subjects. Do I always practice what I preach? Of course not. No one is perfect, but that is not the point. Finding out what works for you is what freedom should be about, even if it flies in the face of convention. Especially if it flies in the face of convention.

Go out this evening and enjoy yourself. Indulge in a baseball game and eat food that is bad for you. My wife and I are going to do so ourselves. We have collectively earned the right to celebrate. Tomorrow, give yourself, your family, friends, and the country a reason to be optimistic about the future. Change what doesn’t work for you and encourage others to be fearless in pursuing their own destiny.

The only thing we should be a slave to is God’s (however you define that) purpose for our lives. You’ll know it because you won’t be able to turn away from it, even if it isn’t the most popular road to success. Especially if it isn’t a popular road. Take care, but take up your cause.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Prospect Lake

I had dismissed Prospect Lake in Memorial Park as just another fake lake in the urban landscape, not worth my time if I wanted to find any wildlife other than Rock Pigeons or European Starlings. Thanks to a Facebook group for the Colorado Field Ornithologists, I found out my assumptions had no validity whatsoever.

About the middle of last month, posts to the group included sightings of the most improbable birds you could imagine: American Avocet, Mountain Bluebird, even American White Pelican. Grebes of at least four species were common. There were pictures of several species to back up the claims.

It is embarrassing to admit that Memorial Park is only about three miles from my home, near downtown Colorado Springs. Yes, Prospect Lake is a large, artificial reservoir, dutifully stocked with trout for fishermen, and with boat ramps to facilitate water skiing, but the water level is low right now, and the boathouse is not yet open for business. I should have paid closer attention.

American White Pelicans

After reading the posts to the ornithology group with my jaw on the floor, I decided I needed to see for myself all the bird diversity. Apparently, on April 19, I was one day too late for the midge hatch that had attracted the large number of birds the previous day. I was still impressed even so. The pelican flock was still there, plus more waterfowl and gulls than I could count. At one point I counted six Ospreys in the air at once. It was like they were lining up and taking turns at the trout….at least until the Bald Eagle showed up and frightened everybody else away.

The land that is now Memorial Park was donated to the city by General William Jackson Palmer in 1890. Prospect Lake was excavated shortly thereafter. Initially, the reservoir was used to supply water to the Evergreen Cemetery, but that need expired in 1950. The water that fills the lake is extracted from the nearby Fountain Creek, a local watershed. A Naval Reserve station occupied the southwest corner of the lake from the late 1940s until the late 1980s. Plans to turn the entire lake over to naval training exercises in 1950 were thwarted by locals who enjoyed recreating on the rest of the lake. The Colorado Springs Fire Department used the armory for training after naval training facilities moved to Fort Carson, but after 2001 all the buildings were abandoned and demolished.

The lake began losing water at a high rate in 2002 when the pipeline supplying the lake was shut off, a severe drought was happening, and the liner for the lake became torn. A movement to add Prospect Lake to the National Register of Historical Places was successful, and spurred action to replace the liner. The lake was refilled and again stocked with fish in 2005, and it remains a vibrant center of recreation today.

The lake is surrounded today by playgrounds, including the state-of-the-art “Swing High” totally accessible playground, plus lawns, ornamental pine, cottonwood, and other trees, ballfields, residential neighborhoods, and commercial real estate. Despite all the hustle and bustle, birds seem to enjoy the area, at least in migration this year.

My own trips to the park on April 21, 26, 27, and 29 yielded a combined tally of the following species:

  1. Mallard
  2. American Wigeon
  3. Blue-winged Teal
  4. Northern Shoveler

    Northern Shovelers
  5. Lesser Scaup
  6. Redhead
  7. Bufflehead
  8. Ruddy Duck
  9. Canada Goose
  10. American Coot
  11. Pied-billed Grebe
  12. Horned Grebe
  13. Eared Grebe
  14. Western Grebe

    Western Grebe
  15. Clark’s Grebe
  16. Double-crested Cormorant
  17. American White Pelican
  18. Ring-billed Gull
  19. California Gull
  20. Franklin’s Gull
  21. Osprey
  22. Bald Eagle
  23. Cooper’s Hawk
  24. Great Blue Heron
  25. Great Egret
  26. Killdeer
  27. American Avocet

    American Avocets
  28. Spotted Sandpiper
  29. Lesser Yellowlegs
  30. Willet
  31. Wilson’s Phalarope
  32. Rock Pigeon
  33. Belted Kingfisher
  34. Downy Woodpecker
  35. Northern Flicker
  36. Tree Swallow
  37. Violet-green Swallow
  38. Say’s Phoebe
  39. American Robin
  40. American Pipit
  41. American Crow

  42. Black-capped Chickadee
  43. White-breasted Nuthatch (heard)
  44. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  45. European Starling
  46. Common Grackle
  47. Brown-headed Cowbird
  48. House Sparrow
  49. Chipping Sparrow
  50. Lark Sparrow
  51. Savannah Sparrow
  52. Dark-eyed Junco
  53. House Finch

I am a novice birder, and I know other species were seen, and have been seen since. Warblers, for example, are only now starting to appear. It just goes to show that you can still be surprised by nature close to home. Really, really close to home.

Sources: Galas, Judith, and Cindy West. 1997. Walking Colorado Springs. Helena, Montana: Falcon Guides (Pequot Press). 233 pp.
Tankersley, Teila. 2010. “Some Interesting Pieces of Trivia on Prospect Lake in Colorado Springs,” Fresh Ink

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stormy Weather

I was not prepared for what this spring has brought in terms of weather. Last year we were spoiled by essentially having no winter. This year is the winter that will not leave. Compounding the unseasonably cold temperatures and blustery winds is the fact that we are still getting precious little precipitation here in Colorado Springs. While the drought continues, it is the impact on my psyche that has been hardest to deal with.

You would think that I, having spent the first twenty-seven years of my life in Portland, Oregon, where seeing the sun is a near miraculous event, that I would be hardened to overcast, dreary days. Apparently not. Indeed, I have most recently spent a decade in climates of “extreme sun” counting Tucson, Arizona and here on the Front Range in Colorado. I think I have been trying to make up for those 27 years of drizzle.

It occurred to me while riding the bus on a particularly ugly day in Cincinnati what I find intolerable about “gray” days: The sky has no contour. You look up and it is like you are under a great silver dome. It feels like you are still indoors. This, to me, is the overriding feature that must be at the root of SAD (“Seasonal Affective Disorder”).

At least here in Colorado you can’t usually say the clouds themselves are depressing. Eerie, yes, and sometimes menacing, but not depressing. This is the only place I’ve been where the clouds remind me of being in a coffee mug and God is stirring cream into it. Short of a tornado, this is the closest one can come to the feeling that the sky really is falling.

Lately, however, the days have been far too reminiscent of Oregon. The worst is when the mountains disappear. The foothills and Pikes Peak are near constants in the landscape here, and when you cannot see them it becomes both disorienting and claustrophobic. The world literally seems to be closing in around you.

Lastly, the duration of cold, and periodic light snow, has taken its toll on me mentally. I guess you would call it “cabin fever,” but whatever the name it robs your mood of the highs that normally come at this time of year with blooming flowers, singing birds, the hum of bees. I find myself disturbingly unmotivated, disinterested, and even angry when I have no reason to be.

Weather cannot alone be blamed for our own personal miseries (excepting tornados, hurricanes, and floods I suppose), but no longer will I readily dismiss anyone who says that rainy days and gray skies get them down. We all have a hard time with things we cannot control. Rising above the austerity of climate at this time of year is challenging to be sure.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


A funny thing happened the other day on my way to taking winter snow images in Garden of the Gods park here in Colorado Springs. Just as I settled into position for a great scenic shot of Pikes Peak between two rock formations, a commercial jet arced over the mountain, dead center, leaving a bright contrail in its wake.

Timing really is everything in a case like this. Had I gotten my butt on the road even a few minutes earlier, the morning light would have been even better, and there would have been no ugly airline graffiti. I am sure the navigator aboard the aircraft would argue the plane was not at all “misplaced,” but I would beg to differ, from my vantage point on terra firma.

I pride myself on not retouching any of my images with digital software like Photoshop or GIMP, and I am still debating on whether to bother in this case. People viewing a manipulated image would never know the contrail was there, but no matter what I do to obscure or erase the “defect,” I would still know. I literally “can’t un-see that!” It will always be an indelible vapor trail in the landscape of my mind.

That is what really bothers me, I think. Any time afield, no matter what the results, is time well spent, but a true wilderness experience is getting harder and harder to come by. It is nearly impossible to avoid litter of some kind, and then there are those planes. I have to wonder how many flights I have been on that spoiled someone else’s photographic souvenirs 30,000 feet below me.

Yesterday I walked the dog around our complex of townhouses, just after another snowfall. Ours were the first footprints, even on the sidewalk. I have to admit it was both exciting to be a momentary pioneer, and disappointing to spoil the pristine cover of white.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bluebird Trifecta

Sunday, February 17, my wife and myself and Debbie Barnes of the Aiken Audubon Society set out to find a flock of Bohemian Waxwings that had been seen the day before at the U.S. Army Turkey Creek Recreation Area south of Colorado Springs. We did not find them. The outing was, however, far from a total loss. What we lacked in waxwings we more than made up for in bluebirds.

Our first stop was at the intersection of Barrett Road and Highway 115, where the Bohemian Waxwings had been seen most recently. No sign of them despite a fair crop of juniper berries in the area. Upon exiting back onto 115, we did spot a pair of birds on a telephone wire. They were quickly identified as male Western Bluebirds, Sialia mexicana. One of the two birds obligingly glided to the ground, then popped back up to sit on a fence post about thirty feet from our vehicle, affording the view shown above.

We backtracked to the Turkey Creek Recreation Area, pulling into a playground area with a collection of buildings and the stables where horses for the mounted color guard reside. A Lewis’ Woodpecker is known to hang out there, too, and was sighted earlier in the day, but was a no-show when we were there. No waxwings, either, just more Western Bluebirds, a Common Raven or two, and a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos.

While taking in the austere scenery, Debbie connected with another birder friend, Jeannie Mitchell, via cell phone. Jeannie was kind enough to share that news that a group of birders who were in Turkey Creek that morning had seen a huge flock of Mountain Bluebirds, Sialia currocoides. I admit I was skeptical, but we followed the appropriate road and….

Sure enough, here were probably at least 200 Mountain Bluebirds, distributed on each side of the road. A handful of American Robins, Turdus migratorius, were in their ranks, but the sight of all that turquoise blue was jaw-dropping. One dead tree in particular was essentially festooned with living, feathered ornaments.

By now, around 4 PM in the afternoon, the wind had gotten gusty, the sun lower, and the temperature was dropping. Reluctant to leave, we took it slow and found still more Mountain Bluebirds in a vast open field studded with old yucca and mullein stalks, plus the obligatory barbed wire fences and metal fence posts. Various Mountain Bluebirds took turns alighting on all available perches in really great light.

We also saw what we initially thought was another Western Bluebird. Looking at her pictures once she got home, Debbie realized it was actually a male Eastern Bluebird, Sialia sialis. Note that the Eastern Bluebird lacks the blue throat of the Western Bluebird. The belly of the Eastern Bluebird is also bright white, in contrast to the dirty appearance of the Western Bluebird’s underparts.

Bluebird trifecta! Looking at the distribution maps for bluebirds in the various field guides, one would not guess that the Eastern Bluebird ranges this far west, but here is proof to the contrary. There are always strays, of course, but as habitat, climate, and other factors change, birds adapt and their geographic ranges change accordingly, even from week to week. The convergence of all three species here is now a regular occurrence, especially at this time of year.

Debbie mentioned that bluebirds are feeding on juniper berries when flying insects, grasshopper nymphs, and other prey is not readily available. Cold fronts may push the birds into protected valleys and other warmer situations, but they quickly return when the temperatures warm up again. Sounds like me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Birds and Blades

I like birds, I really do. I am also a strong proponent of renewable energy like solar and wind power. Imagine my dismay at finding many of my birding friends denouncing the huge wind farms popping up all over the place these days. Ok, the objections are mostly concerning the location of the big turbines, but the arguments are not going to end well if taken out of context as the press is prone to do.

There are two problems that occur to me immediately. One, if “environmentalists” first object to traditional energy sources like coal, gas, and oil, but then start whining about commercial pursuit of alternative energy, they lose credibility and are dismissed as “NIMBYs” (Not in my Backyard). Secondly, if we invest too heavily or too quickly in a technology that demonstrates itself to have severe detrimental side effects, then we are back to square one on all fronts.

No question, oil, coal, and gas involve truly horrific extraction procedures and equally risky transportation methods. Time and again we have seen the outcome in the form of petroleum-soaked pelicans, black beaches, mountain-top removals, and other disasters. Virtually anything is better than that. A recent online article and chart from Mother Jones purports to show that wind turbines kill just a few birds compared to the mortality inflicted by…..cats.

Naturally, any bird fatalities attributable to humans, or their pets, is intolerable to many in the birding community. Here is another article, in PDF file format, that offers statistics on bird fatalities associated with cell phone towers. There seems to be no end to the number of ways we are killing our fauna, including automobiles, airplanes, and wanton executions at the end of (insert random weapon here).

I am not saying I am in favor of preventable slaughter. There are alternative designs for wind-driven devices that harness power. Raymond Green has created one that looks promising. The roadblocks to its manufacture at any scale will undoubtedly come from the companies making money with the status quo. That is what must change: Our corporate addiction to whatever is making money at the cost of everything else. We need industries to be flexible to accommodate new findings and better ideas that benefit humanity as a whole, and are sustainable.

I will continue supporting wind energy, and promote safer designs. I will also always love cats, but agree that they should be kept indoors, and/or walked on a leash. I will also continue opposing the stock market as the driving force of our society. It is driving alright, driving down wages, driving through consumer rights, and driving our natural environment to hell. I’m all ears when it comes to an alternative to that.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Just Shoot Me

I try to avoid rants on this blog. I prefer a thoughtful, well-reasoned approach to even the most controversial topics. I am not sure I can hold it together much longer, though, when it comes to the current subject of guns, gun control, and gun ownership. I am dismayed by how many of my “friends” on Facebook are posting so aggressively to defend their Second Amendment “right” to bear arms. This debate, if you can call the mudslinging and vitriol a debate, spawns of course from another massacre at an elementary school, carried out by yet another disturbed male individual armed with automatic weapons.

The fear in the wake of this event astounds me. Not the fear that there could be more of these incidents if we continue down our present cultural, social, and legal paths, but the fear gun owners have of losing their weapons, or losing the right to buy still more guns, and more powerful ones at that.

First of all, absolutely nothing has been done yet by our President or congress. No restrictive laws have been enacted. Elected officials are consulting with all parties, including the National Rifle Association, which is more than I would do if I was in a position of authority. I generally don’t find lobbyists of any stripe to be beneficial to legislation. So, why is there so much outrage already?

Secondly, what quantity of arms is enough? The Second Amendment was written at a time in history when the Revolutionary War was still fresh in the minds of the newly-free American citizenry. The goal was to avoid having to go through that again. So, the law was meant to insure that “well-organized militias” had access to arms to defend the greater good of freedom and liberty. Today, this “right” has been twisted in its meaning. We conveniently interpret it to mean defense of our personal lives, the lives of our family members, and, most importantly, our property and material belongings. I am not saying that one should not be able to defend themselves or loved ones from bodily harm, of course, but it is important to note the spirit of the law here.

Another problem today is that our well-organized militias are all too often street gangs, drug cartels, survivalists, racists, religious cults, and other hate groups using arms not for defense but for intimidation and aggression. Our collective priority as citizens should be to do whatever it takes to keep guns out of the hands of these organizations and individuals, even if it entails an inconvenience (background check, psychological exam) to our own rights as law-abiding citizens.

It has rightly been pointed out by more reasoned people in this debate that our mental health system is suffering from severe neglect. We clearly need to address the mental health aspect of this trend toward mass shootings. Personally, I would prefer having a potentially violent person, clinically diagnosed as such, incarcerated instead of someone convicted of possession of marijuana, for instance. The point is we need to have all options on the table as to how to prevent more tragedies on any scale, be it a single murder or a massacre.

We also have to change our collective mentality about our individual rights, and our tolerance for violence in all aspects of our society. Why do we find violence entertaining in movies, music lyrics, and video games? Why are we so obsessed with material wealth, fame, and power to the extent that we are willing to use violence to achieve these “goals,” or protect them once we have them? Yes, I am more afraid of armed corporations and the groups I mentioned earlier than I am paranoid over the government seizing what few assets I have. Unfortunately, government and corporate America seem to be getting increasingly cozy, but that is a topic for another blog.

My bottom line, for now, is this: Until you have concrete evidence that your rights as a gun-owner are under attack, your hue and cry is useless and immature at best. Second, take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself what you are really afraid of, and why. The answer won’t likely be “the government.” Don’t agree with me? Then just shoot me. Go ahead, I dare you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


Right now the board game Monopoly is making headlines because Hasbro, the company that currently produces the game, is asking people to vote for which game pieces they want to retain in future editions. So, if you like the thimble, or the top hat, or some other token, you are supposed to vote for it. Whichever piece gets the least number of votes will be retired in favor of a new piece “that’s more representative of today’s Monopoly players.” (CNN story). I wonder if the real question should be whether the entire game should be retired.

Aside from the question of whether anybody still plays it, one should be reminded of its origins. It was inspired, at the very least, by The Landlord’s Game, created by Elizabeth Maggie and patented in 1904. Its purpose was to show how rent enriched landowners while creating poverty for tenants. Eventually, the game morphed into the exact opposite, where the goal of each Monopoly player is to dominate their opponents.

Today, in the real world, personal material wealth and power are simply not qualities we should be aspiring to. We literally can’t afford to pursue capitalism at the scale we have now. The gap between the wealthiest few and everyone else grows wider almost daily. Much of the world resides in substandard housing (forget about rent!), and many populations are starving. Too many children right here in the U.S. go hungry every day. These situations are avoidable, and to allow them to persist is unconscionable.

So, my vote would go to abolish the game entirely. Scrabble is much more fun, but perhaps family nights might be better spent helping out at the local homeless shelter. Meanwhile, maybe UNICEF can come up with a game that rewards sustainability, charity, and volunteerism. I’d buy that.