a conservative heretic commenting on hypocrisy and stupidity in a world with too much of both
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Monthly Archives: December 2011

A New Year’s Eve Story

1980 Monte Carlo

Back in the early 80’s, I owned an 81 Monte Carlo. It was a nice car, dark blue with sleek lines and pretty much loaded but I wasn’t all that fond of it. I have a weakness for Firebirds and so, in 83, I sold the Monte Carlo to my brother-in-law and picked up a new 83 Firebird Esprit. It was late fall and a very mild one.  Global warming hadn’t happened yet but the temperatures were milder than those we’ve had this past year.
Those mild temperatures carried into winter and we had the barest amount of snow at Christmas to barely qualify as a white one.
1983 Firebird
My ex-wife had invited a colleague and her boyfriend to spend New Year’s Eve at our place and the plan was to go to my sister’s for a party. New Year’s Eve arrived and the temperatures were on the plus side of zero so I wore a trench coat rather than my usual winter coat. The four of us crammed into the firebird, guys up front, ladies in the back and headed off to make merry.
The party was a blast. The house was full. The music was great and there was the usual revelery good food, dancing and carrying on. At midnight we toasted in the New Year with champagne, hugged and kissed anyone within clutching distance and then got back to serious drinking and dancing.
We left the party around 3:00 am and after a few goodbyes, I grabbed my trench coat and we bundled off in the car for home. I had no business driving but we lived about 4 minutes by car from my sister’s and this was still an era when drinking and driving was considered almost as normal as smoking used to be. Once home, we had another drink and then it was off to bed.
The next morning, late in the morning, we got up; had coffee, some breakfast and our company left. I was sitting in the family room nursing another coffee. I had woken up feeling like I might die and by noon was afraid I might live. Around noon, the phone rang. It was my brother in law.
After a few moments of commiserating with how hung over we both were and thanking him again for the party, I asked him what he wanted. He told me that he would like me to bring his car back.
It appears that feeling somewhat detached from reality as we had the night before, I had taken his trench coat by mistake. His coat had his car keys and forgetting somehow that I had bought a new car, we had all piled into the Monte Carlo I had sold him a couple of months earlier for the trip home.
When I told my ex-wife we had brought the wrong car home she made a comment about my being an idiot and while she was probably right and I had to agree with her. Of course, she didn’t take it too kindly when I asked her why she and her friend hadn’t noticed that they had more leg room in the back seat on the way home than they had on the way to the party.
For years after, both she and my brother-in-law told the story over and over and the standing comment became that when the Bear went to a party he had to do two things the next day. The first was to try and remember where he left his car and the second was to remember to take back the car he had brought home.
Those were crazy times. We were young and foolish, thought of ourselves as immortal and pushed the boundaries of responsibility and common sense a bit too far at times. I don’t drink and drive now and I hope you won’t either as you ring in the New Year. It’s a stupid and dangerous thing not only for the DUI but everyone else on the road. Make it a resolution this coming year and….
Be safe. Be happy. Be successful in 2012 in whatever way you define success.
Bear


© 2011 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others

Great Expectations.

It took more than 2000 years for the full effect of the Peloponnesian Wars to have a lasting impression on North America. It took the Viet Nam War less than 24 hours, the War In Iraq an only 24 minutes and what is happening now Egypt and Syria mere seconds.  The world hasn’t just become smaller, it has become faster. Information and its effects travel around the world virtually at the speed of light.Unfortunately, it isn’t just information that moves faster. Our expectations kept pace.
There was a time when we understood that the world is a complex place and many of the issues we face have a degree of interconnectivity and complexity that makes it challenging to resolve. Increasingly, we have no patience for that. We want things done now; today preferably by 2:00 pm.
It has made us reactive, impulsive and careless.
Arab Spring is an example of what I’m talking about.  People living under tyranny rose up and marched in the streets. They were met with resistance which prompted an increasingly violent response and that led to the overthrow of regime’s like those in Libya and Egypt. Unfortunately, no one had stopped long enough to put together a plan for what would happen once the protest had accomplished its goals and that led to a power vacuum. Nature and societies abhor a vacuum and too quickly they were filled by even more tyranny and violence and chaos.
In Egypt, the same military that supported the original protest movement in the overthrow of the Mubarak government now rapes, tortures and kills anyone who protests it. In Libya, tribal, religious and political factions are fighting for control.
This is nothing new.
Revolutions, protests, wars, even elections which have no plan for what takes place after always end up in disaster. The overthrow of the Shaw of Iran has led not to freedom and democracy but to an even more oppressive theocracy. The Russian Revolution having no plan other than to overthrow the Czar eventually saw the emergence of Joseph Stalin who murdered and oppressed his people beyond anything the Czar ever considered.
The French Revolution overthrew a monarchy only to end up executing its own leaders and being taken over by a military dictatorship followed by war and a return of the monarch. It was only decades after the original revolution that democracy finally found its home
We expect everything to happen instantly but put less thought into whatever it is than we do over which new smart phone to purchase. We talk endlessly but usually it is nothing more than arguing. It is seldom planning. Lives are squandered.  Opportunities for real change are wasted and in the end it too often leads to places that were worse than those we tried to change.
We are frustrated. We get information instantly and we react before we have digested what we’ve read or heard.
Democratic elections in most democracies are another example of how little thought goes into anything and how our expectations exceed politician’s ability to develop policies to keep up with those expectations. There is no vision, no willingness to work towards long-term goals. It’s all about today and maybe, if we have time, tomorrow.

I’ve never been a particular fan of President Obama but three years ago he came to the presidency inheriting a war in Iraq, the global economic meltdown and a multi-trillion dollar deficit. It’s three; years later and the glow has fallen from the man because he did not fix those problems that took decades to create in the first three years of his presidency.

Quite frankly it wouldn’t have mattered who had been elected, the events are bigger than one person and our expectations too unrealistic and impatient. 
Some are demanding that the U.S. attack Iran without stopping to think about the realities of where that could lead. Occupy is demanding the overthrow of a system it barely understands.Whether it is the environment, the economy, democracy, or any one of a dozen other issues facing us today our expectations of how quickly they should be resolved are unrealistic.
We all have an opinion and increasingly, those opinions are based more on impatience than on reasoned analysis. Many will support a candidate or leader of proven failed character rather than switch allegiance to a new idea based on new information. Others move back and forth from position to position based on whatever is popular at the moment or whatever information they stumbled on twenty minutes ago.
In the end, it comes down to the same thing. It took a very long time to get us to where we are and while we can debate where that is and which direction is best to take us to improved circumstance, there is no question that expecting it to be done immediately is a fool’s errand.
This past year has been challenging, interesting, sometime violent and often confrontational. I’ve been around for a few years and to put it bluntly, I didn’t see anything I haven’t seen before. I just saw it faster. My expectations remain unchanged, however. Until we learn that we expect too much too quickly, we’re simply going to continue the way we are and nothing will be improved.
I’ve seen that for decades too. Unfortunately I’ve just seen too much of that.
 © 2011 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others

Some Tweets That Make You Go Hmmmm!

There are moments In my day when I question if my life has come down to being measured in terms of tweets instead of minutes, hours and days but then a tweet will appear that makes me chuckle. It is those tweets and the opportunity to connect with people that keep bringing me back to Twitter. Being a guy who never says anything in a few words when many will do, I still find the 140 character thing somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately, these folks have mastered the art of getting their message out and making me smile with only a handful of words.
Because I’ve had a few requests to keep compiling and sharing some of the tweets that made me smile, here in no particular order (that would be too much work) are a few of my favourites from the past few days. Note: they are presented here as they appeared without correction or editing.
EDinCali
The way this administrations EPA policies are leading us, the Amish will be ahead of us technologically in the near future.
stellaboneca
My mirror and my camera have two completely different ideas of what I look like…
Bulldog0613 falO
If you need any help making the wrong decision, I am here for you with a proven track record.
TheRealHenny
I swear some people were conceived through anal sex, there is no way in hell being that much of an asshole is natural…

michellescherk

“After twelve years of therapy my psychiatrist said something that brought tears to my eyes. He said, ‘No hablo ingles.’” -Ronnie Shakes

ahammond2011
Was just asked if my apartment caught fire and I could only save one thing what would it be? I guess it would be one of the twins….
DykstraDame
You can’t smoke in a restaurant in Los Angeles, which is rather ironic considering you can’t breathe outside a restaurant in Los Angeles.
Aspersioncast
My conspiracy theory is that the Superman theme song is really just the Star Wars theme song with a couple of extra da dada da da’s added.
freevancouver3
I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.
HannahAntics
If my kids don’t like their Xmas presents it’s OK, I saved the receipts. The hospital will take my kids back after all these years, right?
MikeSchism 
You know what’s funny? paintings of adam & eve where they both have belly buttons. think about that, take as much time as you need
daplusk Dino 
Somebody called me ‘pretentious’ the other day. I nearly choked on my decaf double choc mocha latte
As I tell Maggie, “it can’t hurt you if you can laugh at it” and thanks to these folks and many others, it appears there is still more to laugh at than to fear. Either that or I have to try cutting back on my choc mocha lattes.

 © 2011 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others

The Best (Worst) Christmas Present Ever

We get so caught up in our days and our own concerns that we often take for granted the freedoms and the democracy we share and enjoy. We think of our own issues as a great struggle at times, overlookng the real struggle others have lived through to achieve the same democratic freedoms we have and live, sometimes carelessly. 

Camelia Miron Skiba is the author of Hidden Heart and a former citizen of Romania now living in the United States. Ms Skiba lived under the communist rule of Nicolae  Ceauşescu and through the transition of Romania to a democracy, a transition symbolized by Christmas 1989. For her, that Christmas brought both the best and the worst present and she writes about it here.

I remember that event from news stories then. Ms Skiba remembers it from living through it and I found her memory of it to be very powerful.
BEST (WORST) CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER
by Camelia Miron Skiba

Someone asked me what was the best present I ever got for Christmas and for several seconds, I rummaged through my mind’s boxes filled with dusted memories until this one surfaced, vividly, powerful, overwhelming. With no doubt in my mind this is the best present I ever got for Christmas, but the worst as well. Let me explain.
The best present I ever got for Christmas is the freedom of our country back in December 1989. Starting December 15th until December 25th 1989 Romanians fought for their freedom, taking back their country from the tyrant Ceausescu and the odious communists that for generations manipulated, deprived and starved the country. After ten bloody days Ceausescu and his wife were prosecuted and sentenced to death for crimes against the nation.
I remember sitting in the living room with my family, watching the trial live on TV. Looking back, the trial had been a rushed and forced joke—not that he didn’t deserve to die—but at that time it seemed the only solution to end the streets deadly clashes between regular individuals and Ceausescu’s dogs (the communists’ nickname).
Ceauşescu and his wife were
executed on Christmas Day 1989
The execution of Ceausescu and his wife was televised. I hated them for the hunger, the cold, and the brainwashing I’ve been forced to live through my entire life, yet I couldn’t watch them die. I remember hiding in the bathroom and crying, not because I felt sorry for them, but because in our hurry to get our country and freedom back, we became killers, staining our hands with blood on the holy day of Christmas. We couldn’t wait another day to get rid of Ceausescu and the communists. It had to be Christmas day.
Since then, nothing had been the same. Romania is now a democratic country, a free nation. We still struggle with corruption, poor economy and even poorer choices when it comes to elect our leaders. But one thing that we got back when Ceausescu died and his regime disappeared was hope. Hope for a better day, for a better life. 22 years later hope is still alive… And sometimes that’s all we have.
Camelia Miron Skiba

No Matter The Cause – Guess Who Finances It?

This isn’t a post about Occupy but it is a good place to start. Occupy is illustrative of a hypocritcal self-interest that really gets under my hat because regardless of the cause, it’s taxpayers who eventually pick up the tab.

Since it’s beginning, Occupy has cost taxpayers in the 99% somewhere close to $50 million across North America. In New York City alone the cost was over $13 million. In Vancouver, a city much smaller than New York, the cost was more than $1 million. That cost alone borders on criminal but it doesn’t end there.

OWS chants about getting the money out of government even as it uses the same techniques and tax exempt fund raising opportunities of those it protests. So much for leading by example. Instead it rationalizes, justifies and bulldozes ahead with it’s cause, all the time asking for donations that in the end are tax exempt in most cases.

But then, that’s the way of it now isn’t it? No matter the cause, the more self-righteous it is, the more it employs the same tactics and strategies, the same lack of integrity and weaseling of those it criticizes and opposes. Occupy has more in common with politicians and Wall Street finaglers than it does with you and I and the rest of the 99%.
I don’t much care about the hypocrisy though, it’s paying for it I mind and we pay and pay and pay for it. No matter the cause, it is always us, the taxpayers who pay for it.
The environmental movement burning with the zeal of religious fundamentalists standing on a mountain waiting for the second coming finance their associations on the backs of taxpayers.

Non-profit groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, are formed and every donation is tax deductable. In other words, the donor (usually one of the zealots) sends in some cash and then gets to claim it as a deduction on their income tax.

Ultimately, the donor contributed nothing or next to it. You and I made the contribution whether we wanted to or not through our taxes. And many have turned it into quite a profitable little venture. Al Gore is a millionaire and jets around the world reminding people of the danger of emissions from gas and other pollutants. I gather Mr. Gore believes that jet fuel is an environmentally friendly green energy.

It’s the same with political parties, especially in Canada which elevated tax-payer rape to an art form. Not only is the tax credit for deductions to political parties significantly higher than the donation s to charity; those same parties benefited from a tax-payer cash injection of $2/vote received in the previous election….and that was an annual donation until the next election.  Fortunately, the new Conservative majority government has at least tossed that out, although it’s phased so each party will still be suckling on the public teat for a couple more years.

Even charities are in on the action. Corporations and individuals contribute to charity, write it off on their taxes and ultimately it’s the tax payer who coughs up the donation. I respect the work that charities and many of those who are involved with them but why is it the taxpayers’ responsibility to underwrite them?

Religions pay no taxes in most jurisdictions and while I’m quite sure that it isn’t always easy to finance a religious operation on donations, I fail to see why tax payers should be subsidizing donations to churches through tax exemptions to the donors. It’s enough to almost make you feel sorry for taxpayers who are atheists.

Taxpayers pay for all of it. We pay to repair the vandalism done to our cities. We pay to finance political parties, charities, churches, sports teams both professional and amateur, protests groups and foundations. In the United States, OWS took advantage of the 501 tax exemption to raise donations which pretty much indicates that they don’t oppose those parts of the system that work to their benefit.
I’m tired of it.
I don’t care what anyone’s politics, faith, or personal causes are, provided they are non-violent.  I don’t care if someone or some group want to devote their lives to saving the planet from humanity or helping cute baby mammals, trees or junkies just pay for your cause yourself and leave the rest of us to finance our own causes as we see fit.

Take your hand out of our pockets and let us decide who and what we will support. Activism and religion shouldn’t be gravy trains for some to create jobs and income for themselves on the backs of taxpayers. Nor should taxpayers be required to finance others who believe in something regardless of how noble it might be. We have enough to finance with our taxes.

We have health care, education, infrastructure and a whole host of other things to pay for, we don’t need or want to be paying for someone else’s “special” cause.  It takes money away from that for which we originally agreed to pay taxes.

Sure it will be a challenge for some groups but that’s what small business faces every day. Why should it work differently for “the great cause” someone else believes in? It’s time for all these causes and organizations to pay for their own lunch and let us decide on our own who and what we will support. It might be interesting to see just how much support some would actually receive which might be an accurate indication of how valid some of them are.

I believe that what we need is a flat, everybody pays the same percentage of income tax, system with no deductions for anything; but it won’t happen. The complexity of the tax systems we have in our democracies is the perfect cover for political parties and all those causes led by others who lobby for and who rely on tax breaks to exist. Those are the same causes that are led by people who shine with the light of Jesus in their  eyes, as they fight against injustice in their never ending bid to raise money.

In the end, it always comes down to money and almost inevitably, it is our money – not theirs – that gets spent. Ultimately, the original donor benefits twice. They get both the thank you from whatever cause received the donation and the tax credit on their income tax from you and I. We get the bill and as in the case of Occupy, also have to pay to pick up the garbage.

Considering that only about 53% of us actually pay income taxes, we are surely paying for a lot outside the 1% who don’t and in some cases, we pay rather handsomely.

It is a side issue but I am even more tired of being lectured to by all these groups and causes who live off our tax money. Enough already. 

© 2011 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others

The Choice Between Great Good or Great Evil Is All Too Human

The apartment where seven members of
one family died in a murder/sucide

Seven people, all members of the same family, were shot in an apparent murder/suicide on Christmas Day in Texas. The family had just finished opening their gifts when another member of the family, dressed as Santa Claus, arrived and after shooting the others, turned the gun on himself.
This is a terrible tragedy that underscores again the level of violence simmering under the surface of too many lives. It also became an opportunity for one person to use as an example of how religion makes people violent.
I had promised myself that I would not get involved in debates and heated discussions over the Christmas period but that statement was so patently absurd, I responded and the ensuing conversation was even more so; particularly because religion played no role in this shooting what so ever. Santa Claus is not a religious symbol and has nothing to do with religion but that, of course, was irrelevant to the person making the case that this tragedy supported her view that religion was the root cause of it all.
It is frightening how little thought goes into many opinions and this particular case is indicative though of how easily and all too quickly so many grasp at anything that seems to confirm their own bias and prejudice. 
Religion, like government, biker gangs, boy scouts and countless other institutions is strictly man-made. No religion was formed by any God nor was it demanded and like any institution, it is comprised of people who have joined for an infinite number of reasons.
Some join because they believe in the principles of the institution.  Some join because they find a renewed sense of purpose while others join because they feel empowered as many have in Occupy. Some join to take advantage of opportunities to be a part of something or to make money or to prey on the weak and some join because they are afraid not to as was seen in Nazi Germany.
The Dali Lama
There aren’t too many religions that command someone to put on a Santa Claus suit and murder his family but there are countless examples of people who have used political and religious beliefs as their excuse for cruelty and evil behavior. Others have used economic circumstance or the environment. In Canada, a rabble used a hockey game as their excuse to vandalize a city.
Humanity has much to recommend it and people like Gandhi and Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King and the Dali Lama have shown some of the best of our nature through compassion, integrity, spirituality, humour and good will. Unfortunately, human nature also has a dark side and people like Stalin and Hitler, Kim Jung Il and Assad in Syria are reminders of that dark side.
Joseph Stalin
In the end, it isn’t religion, or any one of countless other institutions we create, that is responsible for the evil that people do, it is people.
Some are mentally ill others merely sociopathic. Some are greedy for money or power while others are so lost in their own self-righteous beliefs that for them the ends will always justify the means.  We saw it in New York on 9/11 when Muslim extremists blew up the World Trade Centre and killed thousands and in Salt Lake City where two men blew up a federal building killing and injuring too many innocent people.
We’ve seen it in countries around the world like Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ireland and in our own countries here in North America. Drug cartels kill hundreds in Mexico and for nothing more important than money.
In my city, a man was beaten to death by two punks he tried to stop from stealing a pumpkin from a grocery store.
Riot in Vancouver following an
NHL playoff game
No, it isn’t the fault of religion or political organizations or even the boy scouts. It’s the fault of people who are lost in the dark side of human nature and by other people, like you and I, who look for easy things to blame for that behavior.
I believe that it is impossible to fix anything without knowing what is causing the problem and as long as we continue to blame the soft targets that merely confirm our own bias and prejudice, we will never fix what is broken.
It isn’t reserved to institutions. It starts with individuals who refuse to look beyond what they already believe and only accept what confirms that belief. There is no learning or understanding in that way of living and all that is accomplished is a hardening of the attitudes that divide us. We are rapidly losing the ability to understand that someone with a different opinion to ours is not necessarily an enemy.
The world is a big place and there is more than enough room for all of the different opinions we each may hold. What there is no room for is a lack of willingness to look beyond what we believe to what the world offers in the way of true understanding.

It’s just become too easy to blame a race, a culture, a government, the wealthy, religion or those who for whatever reason don’t see the world the way we do. It is the way it has always been and until we understand that, it is the way it will continue to be, unfortunately.

LINKS
© 2011 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others