Monday, March 25, 2019

What's up, Doc?


                My Father-in-law used to tell me that a person needs to be on a first name basis with their preacher, their doctor, and their banker. I didn’t always agree with everything my Father-in-law told me, but I considered this bit of advice to be right on point.

            I’ve always been on a first name basis with the preacher. Even when I was a kid and you called almost everybody else who wore a tie Mr. (insert last name here), the preacher was always Reverend Gerald, or Reverend Ben, or Reverend Paul. I think in some religions you’re supposed to refer to the preacher as Father instead of Reverend, but even if you make it up to Pope, your parishioners still call you by your first name.

             When I was a kid my brothers and sisters and I did most of our doctoring at the Henry County Clinic in New Castle. Dr. Bledsoe, Dr. McKee, or Dr. Strickler gave us our shots and stitches as needed, but we never knew what their first name was. When we got a little older we could get by with calling them simply “Doc”, and even if that wasn’t a real first name, it made you feel like you knew the person, who would be sticking you with the needle or sewing up your leg, a little better.

            After I got my hand sewed up for the last time and had my tonsils removed, I didn’t do much doctoring for a while. We had a doctor that delivered our kids and gave them their shots and stitches as needed, and even though I knew his first name, I still called him “Doc” most of the time. Habit, I guess. But a couple of years ago I had a stroke and I had a whole bunch of doctors taking care of me, most of whom I’d never met before. I didn’t know all of their names, and some of them had names I couldn’t pronounce anyway. When I got to the point I could talk again, I was awfully happy that they all seemed to answer to “Doc”.

            The first time I did any banking it was with John and Joyce up at the Farmers State Bank in Mooreland. I already knew John’s name because he just lived across the field behind us and went to our church, and I already knew Joyce because she lived around the corner from us and John with her sisters and they used to come over and sit with us kids when Mom and Dad went square dancing, before we were old enough to call them John and Joyce.

            When I left home and moved to Hagerstown, Annabelle was the manager at Second National Bank. I don’t know how many years she was there, but I was just starting in business in 1974 and I was real happy that I knew her name on more than one occasion, and even happier that she knew mine.

            Somewhere along the line, someone started buying and selling banks pretty often, and they knocked down old ones and put up new ones before I had a chance to remember the name of the last one.  I still have checks with the bank name from two bank names ago. I’m keeping them just in case they buy it back.

            I don’t know what the name of the bank is now. It’s First something, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to remember it. They’ll probably change it pretty soon anyway. And besides, I found out today that the bank card they’re sending me won’t have the same name as the bank on it.

            At least that’s what Becky down at the bank told me.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Little by little....

      “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of ‘liberalism,’ they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day America will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.”....Norman Thomas, maybe, maybe not.

     There is some controversy as to whether Socialist Party Presidential candidate Norman Thomas ever said the above, but whether he did or didn't, the fact remains it is a true statement, no matter who said it first, or at all.

     Apparently Donald Trump stated last night, (I didn't hear it as I had a prior commitment to stare at my foot) that the United States would never be a socialist nation, and cited Venezuela's current problems as justification for his statement.

      Some of my liberal friends were quick to point out they didn't want Venezuela's kind of socialism but instead Sweden's kind of socialism, which apparently is working out better than Venezuela's kind, at least for the time being.

       I won't argue that there aren't varying degrees of socialism. And probably some extremes are worse than others. But all forms of compulsary socialism involve forcibly taking property or labor from some people and giving to other people.

       Sorry Mr.Trump. That ship sailed long ago. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Great American SmokeOut....

     I gave up smoking about 30 years ago. It wasn't easy. I don't know if cigarettes are physically addictive as much as they are mentally addictive, but most people that quit will admit that it is quite a battle. Some people even claim they simply can't quit. I felt the same way at first, so I can sympathize with those folks, but the simple truth is, if you want to quit and decide to do it, you can do it.

     And the longer you go without smoking, the easier it gets, and the better you feel.

     A lot of people believe we can't survive without government. They think it is essential, and the argument could certainly be made that parts of it are. The parts that protect us from force and fraud, foreign and domestic. And maybe a few other duties specified in the Constitution.

     But here's the thing. Our federal government has been "shut-down" for over 30 days now. Not all of it by any means, but some of it, anyway. And a lot of people are starting to figure out what Libertarians have known all along. We don't need as much government as we have. A lot of what it does we can do better by ourselves, and some of what it does that is marginally "essential" can be handled better by state and local government.

     There are over 22 million government employees, and some of them at the federal level would have to find or create employment in the private sector, just like the rest of us. And when more people find out how much more affordable limited government is, probably some government employees at the state and local level will have to find or create jobs in the private sector, just like the rest of us.

     Some people will try to convince us that it can't be done, but if we can make it 30 days, we can make it another 30 days, and another. We just need enough of us to decide we can do it.

Friday, November 02, 2018

"A Republic, if you can keep it....."

            A friend of mine walked out of his home the other morning and discovered that someone had helped themselves to the wheels and tires that had been on his car the night before. I remembered when the same thing happened to me a few years ago, and at the time I wondered how someone pulled into my driveway, took 4 wheels off of my truck, loaded them up and drove away without waking me up. The police officer who came out to verify the insurance claim said there were probably at least three people involved, two who walked in, took the wheels off, and then rolled them out to the road and loaded them into a get-away truck that arrived at the end of our driveway about the same time my tires and wheels got there.

             I figure there were probably three or four people who wanted my buddy’s wheels just like there were probably three or four people who wanted my tires. I don’t know that the three or four of them wanted to take them any more than my buddy and I wanted to keep them, but they ended up with them anyway.

            It got me to thinking about our upcoming election. Renowned journalist H. L. Mencken once said that “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” The truth of that statement always becomes more evident preceding any election, when politicians and aspiring politicians promise to transfer money or favors to what they hope will be the majority of voters, from who they hope will be the minority of voters, or the people who don’t vote at all.

            That’s how a democracy works. Whatever the majority decides it wants to do, it does. The thing is, we weren’t supposed to be a democracy. The Founding Fathers started us out to be a constitutional republic, where the rights of a single individual were protected from the whims of the majority. They threw in a little bit of democracy, so we could elect people to carry out the limited duties of the federal government as defined in the Constitution, and some more people to carry out some limited duties of state and local government not prohibited by the Constitution, but for the most part, as long as you were dealing peacefully with other people, the government didn’t get to involved in your personal life or decisions, regardless of what a majority of your neighbors thought. When someone asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government they had created he responded, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

            Somewhere along the line, or more likely at several somewheres along the line, we started losing the handle on the republic.  Whenever a majority of voters wanted it to, the government got involved a little more in our private lives. It got involved in our retirement and our healthcare. It started using our tax money to prop up other countries governments, and to replace other countries governments. It started using our tax dollars to support businesses, at home and around the globe.

            When it needed more money it raised our taxes or created a new one, and if it still didn’t have enough money it simply printed some more, and added it to our children’s and grandchildren’s debt. The majority has voted in a government that controls nearly every aspect of our lives Very few people can name even three things that some level of government doesn’t tax or regulate.

            Luckily, my friend and I had insurance to protect us from the people who decided they wanted our property, but you can’t buy insurance to protect yourself from the government if it decides to take your money, or possessions, or your freedom to make your own decisions.

            You can, however, elect people who want a smaller, limited government. This election, a majority of us can start to restore and keep the republic. Or continue to lose it.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Things Change....

            I heard a song the other day that said “Things change, and then they change again.” I don’t think that is any kind of a profound revelation, but I do believe people who get so upset with certain outcomes would do well to remember it.  You might not agree whether things changed for the better or the worse the last time things changed, and you might not agree on whether things are going to change for the better or the worse the next time things change, but you about have to agree things are going to change.

            We drove out to San Diego to see some family a couple of weeks ago. We traveled through three time zones to get there, and every time the time changed on the way out we gained an hour.  I was a little bit disappointed when we reached the Pacific Ocean and the time stopped changing, although I was already nodding off at 6:00 every evening and waking up at 1:00 every morning. I’m sure my social life would have ground to a complete halt if we had traveled any further west.

            But, just as the song predicted, the time changed back and we lost the hours we gained on the drive back home. I didn’t like losing the extra hours as much as I enjoyed gaining them, but I adapted to the change as well as an old man can be expected to adapt, and at least I’m nodding off and waking up at a more reasonable time again.

            The landscape changes a lot in 2400 miles. So do definitions. I’ve been through a few forests in my life. I’ve also been through a few woods that people called forests, and I’ve been through a few forests that people called woods. They all had great big trees. Out in Arizona we drove through something they called a “National Forest.” But here’s the thing. It didn’t have any big trees. Or little trees. It had some shrubs. And a lot of cactus plants. And I guess they can call it a forest if they want. But it’s not. Not unless something changes.

            And speaking of change, we drove on a few toll roads on our trip. As we approached one certain toll booth to pay our fare, we passed a big sign that read “Exact change required.” I had exactly $1.35 in my hand when we pulled up to the pay station, but soon discovered what they actually meant was “Exact coinage required.” While a dollar bill might be legal currency just about everywhere else in the country, it wasn’t acceptable in the collection basket at this spot. I didn’t want to end up like the lady in the next lane who was frantically running from car to car stopped behind her trying to get change for her dollar, so I rummaged through the console hoping to find enough change to satisfy whatever entity changed the red light in front of us. No luck. But people waiting behind us were starting to honk their horns, so I threw what change I could find into the basket, along with a couple of paper clips and some stale Chex Mix, the light turned green, and down the road we went. I suspect a picture of our license plate is in a computer somewhere, and every day I check the mail box for a nasty letter from the toll gate people, but so far, so good.

            Now, I’m not opposed to toll roads in principle. I know roads cost money to build and maintain, and the people that use the roads should probably pay for them. I’m not too thrilled that the government would collect taxes from us to build and maintain the roads, and then charge us to drive on the roads we already paid for. But then I remembered that when it collects property taxes, the government is charging us to live in our own homes.

            On second thought, I guess some things never change.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

It's about time...

            I don’t handle change well. I’ll be the second to admit that. My wife will be the first. So it is with much trepidation that I face the bi-annual time change that we experience every March and November. I never know for sure if we are going on daylight saving time or off of it, just like I can never remember if I am going to gain an hour of sleep or lose one.

            We have two clocks in our bedroom, one on the dresser that my wife is in charge of, which she changes twice a year whenever whoever decides such things decides it’s time to change it, and one by my night stand that never changes, regardless of what anybody else says. Part of the time the one on my night stand agrees with the one on the dresser, and part of the time it’s an hour ahead of it.

            I wake up about the same time every morning, regardless of what time either clock says it is. I use the one on my night stand to tell what time my body thinks it is, and the one on the dresser to tell what time the coffee shop opens. My Dad says that neither clock is right. He says we’re always one hour or two hours ahead of sun time, the correct time. Or maybe he said we’re one or two hours behind.

            Regardless, I’m glad we are entering the period where both bedroom clocks are the same, even if the clock in the wife’s delivery van won’t agree with my cell phone for the next few months. Every once in a while the federal government or the state government changes the rules about changing the time, and my cell phone and Susan’s car seem to know about the changes and adapt automatically, but my truck and that old van are at the mercy of whatever buttons I can figure out to push.

            The last time Indiana decided to go on daylight saving time, Mitch Daniels was governor, and he was concerned Hoosier manufacturers and retailers wouldn’t be able to do business with neighboring states if they switched time and Indiana didn’t. I guess he made a convincing argument, being that we switched and all, but then he ran over to Japan and South Korea to work out some trade deals with them. I wrote him a letter to explain that those countries weren’t on the same time as us, and sometimes they weren’t even on the same day as us. I never received a reply, though. I suspect he was too busy golfing after work with all the extra daylight he had saved.

            I’ve read reports that most people like daylight saving time, and I’ve read reports that most people don’t like it. I’ve also read reports that it saves energy and that it doesn’t, and that it’s healthier for us and that it isn’t. I don’t know who’s correct.

            But I’m going to go to bed when I get tired, and get up when it’s time to get up.

            And I’ll go get a cup of coffee when the coffee shop opens.

            And the government still won’t even know what time it really is.

            Some things never change.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Hey, whattaya wanna give for it?...

            My Uncle Hobart loved to go to auctions, and he brought home a lot of bargains when he attended one. His wife, my Aunt Eullillian, didn’t share his enthusiasm about auctions or the resulting bargains, but she tolerated his collections and commented whenever he brought a new treasure home, “Well, it will go good at the big sale.” The “big sale” she was referring to is the one our children hold to dispense of our extra, uh, stuff after we pass on.

            There’s not much to deny that I come from the same bloodline as Uncle Hobart. I don’t attend a lot of auctions, but I make up for it by saving a lot of, uh, stuff. There is a pull-down stairway to the attic of the shop, and for the last 30 years I’ve been putting the stuff I’ve saved for the last 60 years up there.

            But a little while back, it became apparent that I needed to rearrange some of the stuff in the attic so I would have room to save more stuff. That doesn’t sound like a daunting task, but it probably takes longer than it should because I can’t move a box without opening it and examining the contents. Old newspapers seem to take the most time, because I not only have to read the article that made the paper save-worthy, but I also have to check out the advertisements, and be reminded that at one-time in the not so distant past I could buy a new Chevy Impala for $2800.00, or a gently used one for $695.00. Or 4 loaves of bread for 98 cents. Or striped bell-bottom jeans at all.

            Sometimes I find a treasure that belongs to someone else. I’m not sure what it was doing in my attic, but I came across a life-sized stand-up cardboard likeness of James Dean. Apparently it was our daughter’s, and she thought it was lost. It wasn’t. It was simply in the attic. Like the pictures and homework from Millville Grade School, and the bottle from the Norton Brewing Company in Anderson, and the box of incense from Ayr-Way. It wasn’t lost, but simply filed away and forgotten for a while.

            It’s kind of like when we talk about our lost rights or lost freedoms. They’re not really lost. More like displaced, and sometimes forgotten. We’ve turned a lot of decisions over to the government, and things we used to take for granted and do naturally, now require permission, permits and a license from that government.

            I have a couple of friends who are getting married later this summer, but not before they trudge down to the courthouse and pay the lady $18.00 for a license to do so. I guess that’s better than the $60.00 it would cost them if they lived in another state and wanted to get married here, but I have to wonder why they need a license to get married in the first place. Probably because of some of the insurance, retirement, and other previously personal decisions we have turned over to the government over the years.

            We still have the right to get married without asking the government, just like we still have the right to live our lives in any way we choose, as long as we don’t violate someone else’s rights.

            While the government might be preventing us from exercising our rights and freedoms, those rights still exist for all of us. We just need to reclaim them, and we don’t even have to climb up to attic to do it.