About Me

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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Silent Creation

With all that is going on in the world, in the Middle East and in our economy, let's pause for a bit of introspection, starting with a poem (once again we are scooping Cascade Lakes News & Views where this will eventually appear) by Sid Bolotin. Oh, yes .... like a voice in the wilderness, or a tree falling in a forest with no one there to hear it ... I repeat that your contributions as mentioned above are always welcome on this blog. (Note that we've fiddled with the format of the blog this week. Hope this is more legible and pleasing to our followers, all three of them.)

The Inside of My Lids

Sid Bolotin

I close my eyes, and see

The dark gray of the inside of my lids

Then, released by the shutter

Of eyelids that block the external

Images begin their dance

As my mind unreels its film

Like a VCR on its own autopilot

Rewind, fast forward, pause

“If only” flashbacks

Happy images, peaceful ones

“What if” scenarios

Peek-a-boo into the future

Icons for meditative focus

As real as any movie on the silver screen

My inner orchestra’s sound track explodes

With audio provided by the chattering committee within

Show the film, quiet the clatter

Come back to my breath

Breathe into my heart

Back to the stillness, to no-thing-ness

To the inside of my lids

*** *** *** *** ***

Silent Creation

We’ve all heard the question which asks if there is any sound when a tree falls in a forest with no living creature nearby to hear it. Since sound is the result of vibrations felt on one’s eardrum, the answer seems to be “no” because there were no eardrums available to sense the vibrations. A totally deaf person, standing in the forest, might feel the vibrations, but would hear nothing.

Let’s go back to the beginning, when “chaos” was all there was, and if you are religious, you believe that out of this chaos, the universe and all that is within it was created. If you are not religious and believe that whatever happened to cause the universe to exist must have had a physical or chemical basis, that’s fine too.

The point is, however, that whatever happened occurred without any living creatures being there to hear the vibrations. Certainly the crashing and bursting of celestial bodies, the explosions, and once there was a planet, the rumbling of land masses as they tumbled into shape, colliding and rising and sinking into violent oceans all must have created tremendous vibrations. But there was no one there to hear them.

Today, I believe that scientists can look back and sense what these vibrations must have been by looking at their results. They can retrospectively calculate the force of the vibrations caused by what were literally earth-shattering events.

What you hear (the effect of vibrations upon your eardrums) is really not so important as the vibrations themselves and what caused them. A tree stood in the forest a minute ago and just crashed to the ground. That is what the vibrations caused by its fall represent. Whether an ear did or did not receive them as sound is not so important as the physical act of the tree falling. And so it was at the time of the universe’s silent creation. There may have been fury, but there was no sound.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The Road to Serfdom

Do you believe that government is your enemy and that it tries to take away your freedom and money? In olden days, when feudalism was in style, people had to be protected from marauding bandits and other evils, so they agreed to let the local duke provide them with protection and in exchange, they would do his bidding and also give him some of their crops. Ultimately, they even gave him their land, but he was “kind” enough to let them still live on it. In effect, they had sacrificed their liberty, their freedom, for security.

Things haven’t changed. The bandits have been replaced by terrorists and unaffordable medical care. The government is willing to protect you from terrorists by providing airport security and SWAT teams and make sure you have adequate health care, but in exchange, you have to pay the government, via taxes, for these things, about which you have given up a lot of the decision-making function. You are sacrificing your liberty, your freedom, for security. Sound familiar?

Our government, then, can be seen by some as trying to bring back feudalism. Oddly enough, there was a book written in the forties by the eminent conservative Austrian economist, Frederich Hayek, entitled “The Road to Serfdom.” Some consider it a “libertarian manifesto.” He later won a Nobel prize for economics. “The Road to Serfdom” is still on my reading list but I suspect it points out that dependence on the government through collectivist means takes us back to what amounts to feudalism. Hayek is remembered for stating that “a conservative is a socialist who has been mugged by reality.”

In these days when many conservative spokespeople pour out oceans of meaningless drivel, it should be remembered that there are legitimate espousers of conservatism, like Hayek and his disciples. Surprisingly, even George Soros who most conservatives dislike, has shown respect for Hayek’s work by inviting a leading disciple of Hayek to participate in his new economic think tank.

My preliminary take on this (which I really should hold off on until I read the aforementioned book) is that if a government remains democratically elected and truly has the welfare of its people as its goal, the danger of it leading the country down the “Road to Serfdom” is minimal. This was not the case when Hayek wrote his book; at that time Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and others were doing precisely that. I hope things are better today. More follows when I read the book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Comments on the Tucson Tragedy

From the right, and particularly from Sarah Palin, comes the idea that some liberals are being very unfair by implying that the deranged murderer in the Tucson shootings was motivated by some of the arguments voiced by conservative politicians and commentators, including those on conservative web sites. (See my blog posting of January 10 entitled “Matches and Tinder.) In their eyes, he was a mentally ill person whose actions stemmed solely from his emotional disorder and not one motivated by what conservatives were saying on their web sites and blogs.

Let’s take a closer look at this claim. When the killer decided to go on a shooting spree, he did not do it in a school setting, as occurred at Columbine, at Virginia Tech and at the University of Texas about two decades ago. Although he had been thrown out of a local community college, his wrath was not directed in that direction. He did not turn his weapon on a group of soldiers either, as happened at Fort Hood, even though he had been turned down by the United States Army when he tried to enlist.

No, he directed his attack on his Congressional representative who in his eyes, I believe, represented governmental authority, not precisely, but nevertheless the same kind of authority which turned him down when he tried to enlist and got him expelled from college. But why did he choose to aim his fury in a political direction? Could this have happened because the college and the military, both of which might have been his targets, were not so conspicuously “fair game” in his eyes as was the Congresswoman? After all, had she not been narrowly re-elected in a vicious campaign during which all types of invective and criticism had been thrown at her? Had not Ms.Palin, in supporting her opponent, used the cross hairs of a rifle’s sighting mechanism to indicate that defeating the Congresswoman was a target.

One of the things the Congresswoman supported was health reform legislation. Some opponents of this legislation claim that it takes away individual freedom and puts citizens under the thumb of “tyrannical” government. The killer, whom we have learned even felt that the laws of mathematics and grammar were an infringement of his freedoms, might have chosen the Congresswoman as his target since her support of health care reform was just more of this kind of tyranny, an attack on his individual freedom. You can find this kind of thinking at many of the internet’s right wing sites.

There’s a lot of “ifs” and supposition in my thoughts, but if they are close to correct, conservatives who lie and tell half truths about the health care reform legislation (such as calling it “the job-killing health reform act”) cannot absolve themselves from some measure of guilt in this tragedy, no matter how hard they try. The President, in his quest for a way of working with the Republican controlled House of Representatives, will probably ignore this, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Of course, those who worship before the shrine of the Second Amendment are equally guilty, but that’s a story for another day.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Understanding Miro (maybe)

I have some difficulty appreciating “modern art,” as a posting on this blog some months ago indicated. A good example of the art I have trouble with is a canvas by Joan (that’s pronounced “Juan”) Miro which hangs in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. Miro’s painting is titled “Woman, Star, Bird” (he did several works with that title) and it is extremely difficult if not impossible to figure out what in the picture is the bird and where the woman is. (The star is pretty obvious.) Normally, I would walk by a picture like this. But I learned something recently on a trip to New York where the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently staging an exhibit titled “Miro’s Dutch Interiors.”

Joan Miro visited the Netherlands in 1928 and there he saw the works of the old Dutch masters whose paintings you could look at and know what you were looking at. Miro bought a few postcard reproductions of some of these paintings, went back to Paris and proceeded to paint his version of them. The paintings are called his Dutch Interiors I, II and III. The Met’s exhibit hangs the Miro paintings next to the original works by the Dutch masters which inspired them. There even are numbered charts to point out where items in the very realistic originals appear in, or are suggested in, the very abstract works by Miro. Hanging side by side, it really gives a viewer an insight into the artist’s head. And this insight enables a viewer to better understand any painting by Miro and perhaps other abstract artists as well. It even may help you understand the Miro hanging in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach (to which admission is free one Saturday each month to county residents).

Reproduced at the top of this posting is Miro's Dutch Interior I as well as a 17th century painting by Hendrik Sorgh, The Lute Player, which was the inspiration for Miro's work. Can you spot the lute in the modern work? How about the dog?


Monday, January 10, 2011

Matches and Tinder

Here's a nice poem by Sid Bolotin. Sid's thoughts, as put into words, often strike a chord common to many people. That's why so many enjoy his poetry and short stories. Here's his latest.

Arianna's Visit
Sid Bolotin

Beating me at cribbage
Strolling the nature center boardwalk
Chatting ‘bout religion, politics, philosophy
Family history, plans for her future
Blossoming out of a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy bikini
Twenty-two years ago a four pound, plucked chicken
Nestling in my open palm
Snuggling on my bare chest
Whimpering away her colic
Now, an instant later
A granddaughter is a young lady

Matches and Tinder

I had planned on writing something in this direction in the future but the shooting of Representative Giffords in Tucson the other day prompts me to bring this to the front burner.

When you strike a match to dry tinder, the result is fire. We have a lot of “dry tinder” in this country consisting of a vast multitude of people who don’t read newspapers or news magazines and get whatever real news reaches them, if any, in bits and pieces from TV and the internet. TV news has some credibility, even though it may be presented in a slanted manner, from the conservative right on Fox and from the more liberal left on MSNBC for example. The internet, however, has far, far less credibility. There are items, usually unsigned, circulating out there that are lies, half-truths or without any basis whatsoever in fact.

It has been said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own facts. A lot of what is on the internet has no basis in fact. The web sites where such material appears may look impressive, but the content may be fraudulent. Often, this material is presented in an angry manner. When it is passed on, it is often unsigned and not attributed to anyone.

For example, there is material on the internet which suggests that the President is a Muslim, that he was not born in the United States, that the health care reform legislation is socialist or even communistic and that there is some left-leaning conspiracy afoot in the country. Some talk show hosts and politicians angrily repeat and amplify this kind of talk. All of this is the match. The uninformed people out there are the tinder and in an environment where unemployment is rife, foreclosure of homes is occurring and savings are being lost in an unpredictable investment world, that tinder is even dryer than it normally would be.

Add to this a Supreme Court which by a five to four majority believes that the Second Amendment in stating that “a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” allows citizens to bear arms in situations or for reasons other than having them ready if called up to serve in a “militia.”

The Supreme Court is not always right as evidenced by the Dred Scott decision in the 1850s, their decisions in the 1820s which permitted land in Georgia to be stolen from Indians and their upholding of segregation of races in this country in Plessy vs. Ferguson. Their decisions regarding the broadness of the Second Amendment can and will be reversed someday. It is such decisions which permit people, some of whom may have emotional problems, to purchase weapons capable of doing a lot of damage. They are the tinder. The internet is the match.

I will be keeping a careful eye on whatever E-mail reaches me which seems to fit into the above description. I will check out suspicious items on www.snopes.com and I urge you all to do this. So long as there is tinder out there, it is important to keep matches (and lighters for that matter) away from it. I will keep you informed.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Tigers, Lions and Preserving Public Schools

In regard to whatever influence and effect the Tea Party people will have on the Republican Party, I am reminded of the old Chinese proverb stating that "He who rides the tiger is often afraid to dismount." A similar quote has been attributed to JFK. He is said to have pointed out that "He who rides the lion often ends up inside of him."

And in regard to Public Schools, I recently wrote a letter to the Palm Beach Post which they didn't publish. I think it is important enough to include on the blog. The column which the letter refers was written by someone interested in providing parents with the choice of what type of tax-supported school their child should attend. The text of my letter follows:

The “Hot Topic” column (Tues. 12/28), “Game Changing for Florida’s Schools” supported Governor Scott’s suggesting that parents might direct Florida’s educational tax money toward any “traditional public, public charter or private school they chose.” To make certain this did not violate the “uniformity” required of public schools by the Florida Constitution, the writer suggests that “all the state needs to ensure uniformity is to set basic standards as to what would make a uniform education.” This sounds suspiciously like the “separate but equal” doctrine which the Supreme Court repudiated 56 years ago in its historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision. We cannot be reminded often enough that at that time the Supreme Court unanimously said “We conclude that in the field of public education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Public education must be strengthened, not weakened by siphoning off the tax dollars which support it to private schools which would adhere to the standards the writer proposed. This would still amount to the “separate but equal” education declared unconstitutional in 1954.