Sunday, July 31, 2011

You can't get there from here...

Back when we were attending Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont used to look forward to visiting his grandmother in Kentucky every summer. I don't recall which part of the state she lived in, but I do recall that we didn't have as many roads back then as we have nowadays, and I remember Stinky telling me that he would enjoy the drive to her house a lot more if the trip could have been started in Jeffersonville.

I never made very many trips to Kentucky, but I did make a trip every summer to Camp Mack up in northern Indiana, and I shared Stinky's sentiments that the trip would have been a lot easier if we had started a little closer to our final destination to begin with.

But Stinky didn't live in Jeffersonville, and I didn't live in Milford, and it didn't take too long to figure out that wherever we were going, we about had to start from where we were.

Several years ago, our federal government started expanding, and it started spending a lot of money on a lot of programs it hadn't spent money on before. As is normal for governments, they tended to spend more money than they had. A lot more. And whenever they spent more than they had, they created the federal debt. Some of the people that were running the government back then thought that we ought to put a limit on how much debt the federal government could have. Some of the people running the government today think the same thing. Most of them don't.

By the time you read this, congress will have most likely raised the debt limit for the 75th time since they started having debt limits. I'm not sure a limit still qualifies as a limit after it has been raised 75 times, but that's what they call it, and I guess if you're running things, you can call it whatever you want to.

In the last few years, a lot of people have decided that we would probably be better off if the government would stop spending more money than it has. Some of those people are even helping run the government. We even sent some of them to congress. Most of them probably just voted to increase the debt limit.

I'm not sure why. Admittedly, the government has gotten used to spending more money than it has, and admittedly it is going to be an arduous task to rein in that spending. But we have to start somewhere, and it would be hard to argue that it would be a lot easier if we were starting with a debt that was only a few billion dollars, instead of 14 or 15 trillion dollars. But it seems they should realize that adding a couple trillion more isn't going to make it any easier, either.

We don't always get to choose where we start, and we don't always get to start at the beginning. Sometimes we don't get to start in Jeffersonville or Milford. Sometimes we just have to start where we are.

Even if it's Millville. Or $14 trillion in debt.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Humble beginings...

Les Brown says that "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream". While I learned a long time ago to never say never, I do appreciate Mr. Brown's sentiments.

My bucket list (things I hope to get done before I kick the bucket), by its very nature, consists of things I've never done before. At my age, I try not to add to much to the list at one time. A while back, I added "publish a book" to my list, and recently I was able to cross that item off of the list.

But on my bucket list, much as in life, one thing often leads to another. A couple of weeks ago, Tom Butters, who runs the Hagerstown Museum and The Arts Place, asked me if I would like to do a book signing one evening.

I was a little on the apprehensive side, remembering that one of my publishing mentors, Chuck Avery, had once said that one of the most humbling experiences a person could experience was to have a book signing in their hometown.

To my advantage, I've run for office as a Libertarian a few times, so I'm not totally unaccustomed to being humbled.

I'm happy to say that I was humbled, not because people didn't show up, but because so many of them did. Occasionally some of them even had to wait in line. We sold a lot of books, and signed even more. It's looking like a second printing might be on the horizon. I hope I'm not to old to set that as a goal, anyway.

If you're into first editions, Stinky Shorts is available at and the locations listed on the site.


Monday, July 11, 2011

You've got mail...not...

A while back I wrote This Story about a government office shutting down for lunch. For the most part, I trust that most government offices could shut down altogether without any permanent ill effects, but as long as they require us to do business with them, I don't think it is asking to much for them to keep common hours.

Today I stopped in at our local post office during lunch. Apparently shutting down the government at noon is catching on. The post office is closed from 12:30 until 1:30. So with a heavy heart and an unmailed package I continued my lunchtime errands.

I went down to the local hardware store where the employees were also having lunch. They asked me if I Needed Any Help, which I didn't, until I took my merchandise back to the counter, at which time Carla came up and rang me out, asked about the grandkids, and then went back to her lunch.

Since there is only one hardware store in Hagerstown, I guess Gary could close for lunch if he wanted to, but I think he knows that's not the way to run a business.

I guess the post office doesn't know that.

I was gonna tell them, but they weren't open.


Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Us and them...

Since there wasn't a lot of money for uniforms back at Millville Grade School, the preferred method for identifying team members during the basketball games at recess was the time honored "shirts and skins" designation. It was a pretty simple and recognizable system for determining who was on who's team, unless my old buddy Stinky Wilmont ended up on the "skins". Stinky was a good bit older than most on the outdoor basketball court, and by the time he was making his 3rd attempt at the 4th grade, the combination of his age and genetically acquired body hair made it difficult to quickly tell which team Stinky was on, especially on some of those overcast days.

But we always managed to make through the games, and after the "skins" put their shirts back on, it didn't take long to forget which team you had been on anyway. I don't know if people still use "shirts and skins" when they choose sides.

I do know there seems to be a lot more "us and them" than there used to be, and whether someone is an "us" or a "them", emotions and rhetoric can run pretty high on both sides. We saw an example of this recently when the state of Indiana decided to stop giving tax money to the Planned Parenthood organization because it provides abortions.

A lot of the people who support the government decision claim Planned Parenthood is an evil organization because at least one of the services it provides is abortions. Some of the people who support Planned Parenthood claim the government decision is an attack on women. I don't suppose either group of people is exactly right in its assessment of the situation, but it is such a divisive issue that I doubt the government will ever be able to reach a solution that makes both sides happy.

It makes me wonder if maybe we couldn't get along a little better if the government just stepped out of the funding issue altogether. That way the people who like Planned Parenthood could send it a couple of dollars a month, or a few dollars a year, or as much as they choose to send as often as they might like. And the people who don't like Planned Parenthood could send their money to some similar organization that doesn't offer abortions.

I have no doubt that as long as there is an "us" and a "them", we will be arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal, when it should or shouldn't be legal, and why it should or shouldn't be legal. I also have no doubt that no matter how long we argue about it, there will never be a satisfactory government solution to the problem.

But while we're doing all of that arguing, if we just wouldn't force other people to pay for something they really shouldn't have to pay for, maybe we wouldn't get under each others' skin so bad.