Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trickle UP!

"The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations." Jacob Lew
What values do you see with the current budget proposals and actions?
1) Protection of the environment - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
2) Privacy protections - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
3) Healthcare and Disease Research - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
4) Information and Education - CUT (no value, no aspirations)
5) Military - UP, UP, UP - to what value and what aspiration?
All of the above do, indeed, have great monetary value. Where's that going? Will it benefit you?
What are your values and aspirations? The budget is not just numbers. It trickles right down to you and I. It's time our values and aspirations start trickling up!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

America wears the Dunce Cap on Health Care

The health care legislation, ACHA, that just failed to pass the house of representatives was not going to help anyone I know obtain better health care. No ONE that I know. I know no one who was pointing at provisions in the act and saying it was good for them with one exception. I have one friend who wants no health care insurance at all. He simply believes he will never need health care - no broken bone, no accident, no need. I hope he's right but bet he's wrong. And I have other friends who would rather follow non-traditional health care methods. There's likely much to respect in their positions. But if they are in an accident - if they are in a public place and suffer some health emergency - I'm hoping responders take the measures needed to save their lives and not ask about their health insurance beliefs. But doing so will come at a cost to someone.
Yes, I still know people who generally and blindly support this administration. But no one I know was talking about this legislation and pointing to provisions that would provide them with better health care.
I also know that the Affordable Care Act, as it stands, falls far short of meeting the health care needs of this nation. A responsible governing body would be focused on meeting the health care needs of this nation. The ACHA was irresponsible and served only the needs of the very rich. It was more disastrous than the claimed disastrous ACA. A responsible governing body would be focused on reforming health care legislation to meet the health care needs of this nation.
But NO, the focus is to FAIL the needs so they can point fingers and place blame. They offer no better solution, cannot rally their own controlling party to create one, and in response to the failure, point to hoped failure of what exists to help meet the health care needs of our people. Failure should not be an option when we are talking about people's lives.
That's like saying the last administration did a terrible job fighting ISIS. We can't get our party to agree on a better plan, so we'll just follow the last plan and let ISIS win. When they win, it's not our fault. We're just following their plan.
America looks like the dunce in the class right now. Look around the world - Australia, UK, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark, Canada and on and on. They figured out health care. We keep failing and failing. The ACA helps a lot of people but it failed to fix what's wrong with our system. We don't need to reinvent the wheel here. Let's take the dunce cap off and get this done.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Step to the plate

There are really good people working everyday to do significant things in our community. If you have ever been one of those people or helping to support those people, you know it requires a lot of work. Every time we take on a project, we don't know what we don't know. If it's significant and it's new, it will be challenging. A project nearly always grows if it is worthy and significant. It's work!
If you have ever been one of these people or helping to support those people, you know there will be some arm chair quarterbacks. They will be the ones telling you everything you are doing wrong and doing little else. They will demand. They will denounce. They will criticize. What they won't do is actually DO. They won't take responsibility for actually DOING anything. They simply KNOW how it ought to be done by someone else.
This type of person can suck the life out of a project and waste energy in dealing with their nonsense. If you find that every conversation with a person includes criticism of how OTHERS are doing things and every time that person's name comes up in conversation you learn how they have criticized someone, it's time to assess the value of that person's contribution.
Doing significant things in a community is hard work. We need to work together and help one another. We need to step up and contribute our skills when others may be struggling. It's not enough to criticize and say "someone needs to". Be that someone. Bringing a wrecking ball to a project is not the same as contribution. You don't build a project by knocking over all the other contributors. You roll up your sleeves and DO what you insist needs done or build great collaboration with those that CAN do what you cannot.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's talk conservative and sustainable

Being conservative is virtuous.
We should be conservative in our judgement of others. Civility is a conservative approach. Holding back harsh words is conservative. It reflects pragmatism and an understanding that time often serves a person well in dealing with untruth.
Conservatism can be a virtue.
Conservation can be a path to long term sustainability. With that motive, being conservative is a virtue. We need thoughtful focus on sustainability. Sustainability is very complicated. It deserves thoughtful discussion.
We've really messed up the labels "conservative" and "liberal". They have been turned into divisive terms that now have little meaning and are counter productive in dealing with serious issues that impact us all. We need to stop that. Let's talk about what works and what doesn't and let's talk about the reasons - really talk about the reasons.
As an example, let's look at Social Security. When Social Security was introduced in this country and if it were introduced today, the program would have a "Liberal" label. If this program was being introduced in Congress today, it wouldn't even get a hearing. We'd be hearing LIBERAL, SOCIALISM, and a thousand other slurs.
But reality is that millions of Americans - conservative and liberal - depend upon and love Social Security. The general perception is that we paid into it and we have a right to expect a return on the investment we have made. That is both conservative and liberal. And why has it worked for decades?
It's worked for decades because it had a basis in sustainability and conservative oversight. It has been a lifeline for millions and millions of Americans. Those of us who have paid into it for decades feel ownership and rightfully so. Our expectation of a return on that investment is conservative. We expect that we are investing in a sustainable program and insist that it is because we paid into it.
Social Security is a government administered program. Yes, the government is controlling this program that is favored by both conservatives and liberals; that benefits both conservatives and liberals. Yes, we pay for it for years in social security taxes. Yes, we should expect a return. That is both a conservative and a liberal response.
Perhaps our taxes should be further divided so we can assess an appropriate response to return on investment. How much would you conservatively say would be an appropriate tax for military spending? How much would you conservatively say is appropriate for human services tax? Perhaps our entire tax payment should be specified so we are seeing exactly what category we are paying for so we can assess our expectation on return on investment. Most Americans would find it rather shocking. We are currently blind to it unless we educate ourselves.
The most liberal spending of our tax dollars lies in military spending. Here is a chart of YOUR tax dollar spending. Where is the liberal part and where is the conservative part?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Splinters and Logs

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
We have heard those sentiments often in our lives. These words are meant to guide us, to direct us and to cause us to reflect on ourselves before we act on others.
"Before removing the splinter from your brother's eye, remove the log from your own."
We have heard those admonishments often in our lives. These words are meant to guide us, to direct us and to cause us to reflect on ourselves before we act upon others.
These words are about setting standards. The standards we set for ourselves should not be higher than those we set for others. If we dismiss someone because they have not always been right, then we and those we accept and admire must always be right. We are directed to be discerning and merciful.
You cannot lift someone up who constantly lies and then dismiss someone else because you think they were not always right. There is no credibility in that. It is a twisted standard.
I'm absolutely mystified with the search for splinters to justify overlooking logs. People who seem to be rather sane are totally focused on splinters while the logs pile up in their path. Those logs are going to jam their lives up in ways that have grave personal consequences. I'm baffled.
They can't even tell where the splinters were sighted but insist they are out there and much, much more important than the log jam.
As much as it frustrates and baffles me, I do feel sorry for them. Their suffering will be no less than mine. The only difference is that they won't understand why and they will be more focused on blame than on solutions. They will continue to search for splinters while the logs pile up right in front of them.

Friday, March 3, 2017


How do we fight terrorism?
None of us wants to feel threatened by a radicalized person. Extremist ideology can and does cause unstable people to do unthinkable acts. We see it play out around the world. We have seen it play out in the United States. And, yes, it plays out in our own back yard. Unstable people will take an ideology to extremes. And sometimes those extremist, unstable people will seem to be simply people following a passionate viewpoint that appears plausible in the beginning. They adopt tactics to press their issue that cross the line into terrorism. They threaten with words or actions. And sometimes it leads to violent actions.
Where is that line? At what point does a group move from holding a position to creating terroristic tactics? Where does radicalization begin?
There are two parts to this question. How do we recognize the beginnings of radicalization and how do we prevent it?
But first we need to define terrorism.
Terrorism is the targeting of any group or person for the purpose of forcing an ideology through intimidation or violence action that causes a disruption of safety of the targeted group or person.
That may sound very broad to some. Many activists has walked right up to and crossed this line. But if you think of the very best, they did not. We need to be very aware of what Terrorism is.
We know it when we feel targeted.
We live in extremist times. Many of us are passionate about our views. We have need to voice our perspectives. Radicalism breeds radicalism. The more radical one becomes in one direction, the more radical another becomes in the opposite direction. You can actually help create the very thing you are fighting against.
We need to be careful in the words we choose and the tactics we embrace. If you don't believe in terrorism, don't become a terrorist in any form. Don't be radicalized. Stand firmly against violence. Speak up for the marginalized. Take time to know people and understand their challenges and concerns. That's how we fight terrorism.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How a community feels....

Friends visiting Venango County for the first time, especially those from cities and other countries, notice something that we may take for granted. Walking down the sidewalk, we tend to look people in the eye and share a greeting. "Hello." "Good morning." It's brief. It doesn't matter if we know the person or not. We tend to extend a greeting, acknowledging our shared existence to offer a pleasantry.
Another observation is that drivers tend to be less aggressive and sometimes are outright polite. We'll wave someone on allowing them to get ahead of us. Drivers here are more likely to slow down to let someone into our lane ahead of us.
Perhaps it's about context and feeling just a little more connected to one another. Newcomers soon learn that roots go deep here. A large part of the population has family history that lasts generations. Between family and classmates and people they've worked with through the years, there's often just one step between some connection to one another.
I cautioned a friend recently relocating here from a large city not to honk at people when driving. She could wind up across the table from that person in a meeting one day.
When you view strangers as somebody's cousin, possible neighbor or someone you may need to work with one day, you behave a little differently. Yes, we have aggressive and rude people around here. But our culture is generally gentle and polite so the aggressive and rude ones stand out as abnormal.
From my perspective, the world would be a better place if we greeted strangers as someone's cousin, a possible neighbor or someone with whom we need to work. If that's not your practice, try simply smiling and saying Hello to people. Then start adding a nice comment - "I like you hat." or "Don't you love this sunshine."
If you're having a bad day, it can change how you feel. When many of us are doing that, it changes how a community feels.