Sunday, June 30, 2013

Agreeing to disagree.....or not.....

  There is a phrase used a lot nowadays whenever two or more people can’t come to the same conclusion on a given subject, even after an exhaustive discussion of the matter. When it becomes apparent that their opinions aren’t going to line up, they “agree to disagree”, and get on with their lives. I don’t remember ever using that particular phrase when I was a kid back at Millville Grade School, but I do remember that even students with diametrically opposed views on school work, recess activities, personal hygiene and conduct in general, such as my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and that snooty Bernice Hawkins, were able to pretty much peacefully coexist, even though they hardly ever agreed on anything.

  I think the secret to that mostly peaceful coexistence was that Stinky didn’t have the authority to force Bernice to take part in the recess crawdad hunts that he liked to organize, and that Bernice didn’t have the authority to force Stinky sit and listen to yet another of her favorite poems she liked to recite on the front steps of the old school seemingly every single day. Regardless of how much they disagreed, they each managed to go with their respective lives.

  I also remember that it wasn’t quite as easy to agree to disagree with one of the teachers or with Principal Baker. Disagreeing with either or all of them would most likely result in missing out on both the crawdad hunt and the poetry reading as you spent your recess at a desk in the coat room writing “I will not disagree with Miss Bartrum anymore” one hundred times. And if you disagreed on some subjects, you could even end up on the receiving end of that big wooden paddle that Principle Baker hung conspicuously on the wall for all of the students to see and fear. I don’t think it kept any of us, least of all Stinky, from disagreeing with them, but it did convince us to keep our disagreements to ourselves for the most part.

  I imagine we’ve all agreed to disagree more than once in our lives, sometimes with a spouse, or a neighbor, or a boss. Agreeing to disagree might mean that you value the relationship enough to overlook the difference of opinion, or it might mean that you are going to part ways with the disagreeable party and find a more agreeable arrangement elsewhere. My wife Susan and I have been agreeing to disagree for 37 years, and my parents for 65 years. I have a friend that has been agreeing to disagree for over 40 years, but so far he has agreed to disagree with 4 different wives.

  It seems that as a country we are having a hard time agreeing to disagree with each other anymore. It’s not that we have more varied opinions than we used to have. It’s just that whenever we have a difference of opinion, we want to use the government to force others with opposing opinions to fall in line with our wishes.

  We don’t look to pass laws that allow something to happen, as much as we look to pass laws that force something to happen.

  There are a great many people who want the government to define their marriage, manage their health care, their retirement, their charitable giving, and their lives in general. I hold no animosity towards those folks. But there are also a great many people who don’t agree the government should manage their lives to that extent, and I don’t think there’s a reason in the world that we couldn’t agree to allow the people who want a lot of government programs to support and fund those programs, while allowing people who don’t want that much government to get on with their lives.

  I hope you can agree with that. Or at least agree to disagree.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Flying low....

This is a story I wrote 10 years ago on the 100th anniversary of powered flight. This year is the 110th anniversary of powered flight, and Wilbur and Orville would face even more obstacles today than they would have in 2003. What a shame.

 As we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of powered flight this year, I think we can all be thankful that one of Indiana’s favorite sons, Mr. Wilbur Wright, lived in the era that he did. Can you imagine the hurdles that he and brother Orville would have to face today if they decided to invent the airplane?

It would take years for the EPA to complete it’s study on the effects of powered flight on the migratory habits of Monarch butterflies and Canadian Geese, and it’s a safe bet the Department of Homeland Security and the DEA would have some questions concerning the intended uses of such a machine.

Building an airplane in a shop that had only been approved for work on bicycles would surely throw OSHA inspectors into a tizzy, and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission would no doubt take a dim view of the fact that the boys built the plane while Catherine stayed home.

And, if by some miracle the Wrights did manage to receive FAA approval to launch a flying machine constructed of wood and cloth, we can rest assured they would still be circling and holding while the commissioners and their neighbors debated on whether a landing strip violated proper land use and zoning requirements.

Timing is everything.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

That socks....

 I've mentioned before about how I pin my socks together when I put them in the laundry. It made life a lot simpler when there were 10 of us at home, and I kept the habit through my bachelor days, and still do it even after 37 years of marriage. I don't do the washing very often, and according to Susan, I never put it away, but still, it's just an old habit.

  Last night we went to town and bought some socks for our Granddaughters. There were about 12 socks in a package and none of them matched. Susan explained that they weren't supposed to match, and that the kids liked them that way.

 It's not easy when you discover how much of your life has been wasted.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Bully for you....

We hear a lot of talk about “bullying” these days. I don’t believe it is anything new, although many people nowadays seem to have a harder time dealing with it emotionally than we used to have. We always had a few bullies at Millville Grade School. My old buddy, Stinky Wilmont, being one of the oldest and biggest students, certainly had the ability to pick on others from time to time, and from time to time, he did.  I never understood just exactly what it took to incite Stinky’s ire, or how he decided who deserved it. Billy Kimmens and Frankie Linton both stuttered, but he would mock one and ignore the other. I always felt a little sorry for the people on the receiving end, while feeling a little relief that it wasn’t me.

  Bernice Hawkins, one of the smart kids, said that Stinky’s decisions on who to torment were arbitrary and capricious. We didn’t really know what that meant, but after some discussion, we decided it meant that if you’re big enough and strong enough to be a bully, you can probably bully whoever you choose.

  One of the benefits of growing up is that we don’t have to worry about the playground bullies deciding to pick on us anymore, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of the woods, either.

  A lot of people were upset a while back when it was revealed that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups for more extensive examination when deciding who qualified for a tax exempt status. I can understand that people were upset by this, but hopefully, if they have been paying attention at all, they weren’t shocked by it.

  The IRS has a long history of targeting certain groups and people who are not in favor with the party that happens to be in power at any given time.  David Burnham pointed out in his book, "A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power" (1990), "In almost every administration since the IRS's inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes."

  Even in the times the IRS doesn’t specifically target a single group or individual, its 70,000+ pages of regulations are far too complex and confusing to be applied equally or “fairly”. There is a reason taxpayers hire tax preparers to figure their taxes, and there is also a reason that a dozen different tax preparers can come up with dozen (or more) different amounts of tax that a taxpayer owes. It’s the same reason that one person who makes $30,000.00 per year pays a different amount of taxes than another person who makes $30,000.00 per year. That reason is because the tax code is too complicated. It’s so complicated that companies with good tax preparers and good lawyers pay fewer taxes than companies with bad tax preparers and bad lawyers. Or no lawyers. It’s so complicated that the IRS can be arbitrary and capricious about whom they target and how much they owe, and if they decide to get arbitrary and capricious with you, that’s when you better find one of those good tax preparers, and maybe one of those good lawyers.

  If we are going to keep a government, and I’m afraid by all indications it appears that we are, then there are different types of sales taxes and user fees that could be used to fund it. They allow the burden of government to be shared by all, and they don’t require the IRS. And on top of that, they aren’t arbitrary or capricious.

  I think it’s good that people who aren’t being bullied in school are speaking up on behalf of the people that are being bullied. I also think it would be a good thing if the people who haven’t been confused and abused by our current tax system would speak up for those that have, and demand a change.

  When that happens, we can all say “Bully for us!”