Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Archive for the month “January, 2013”

Citizens! (III) Call for Election Reform

In addition to the destruction of the political professional class [Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Political Professional Class] and the redistribution of wealth [Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth] we citizens have to come up with a better way to elect our officials, particularly the election of President.

We have just witnessed the disturbing possibility that the White House can be bought, the possibility that winning the race for the Presidency is a matter of who has the most money. In 2000 we witnessed the disturbing fact that a candidate can win a majority of the vote of the citizenry and yet not win the Presidency. As citizens who love our country, we must seriously address ways of ceasing to be disturbed in these two ways.

First, look at the electoral college, which made possible the strange outcome of the election of George W. Bush in 2000. One way of looking at it is that the Republicans “stole” that election. The electoral college was established from the inception of our country because the right to vote was far, far from universal; the definition of the voting citizen was deeply qualified. In order to vote you had to be male, free, etc. The electoral college was also established to avoid a delay in determining the outcome of the election, given the 18th century detriments to communication lines and the archaic means of communication by today’s standards. If the election was close, instead of spending months with no President recounting the votes, the college would give us a President as quickly as possible; if the college vote came out without a majority vote, our founding fathers, to avoid a leaderless nation, provided the means to have our President anyway, by letting the House of Representatives vote in the new chief executive, which, by the way, happened in the elections of 1800 and 1824.

I submit, fellow citizens, that the reasons for having the electoral college are today anachronistic; they no longer exist. We are very close to universal suffrage, thanks to the sacrifices of women and civil rights advocates of the past. Anyone can vote today who is 1) a citizen, 2) a non-felon, 3) above a certain voting age, and 4) of a sound mind (i.e. knows what he/she is doing when they vote). All the old restrictions having to do with gender, position, and property have been swept away. The systems of voter registration well established across the country have minimized voter fraud and are getting closer and closer to eliminating such fraud. The Republican leadership in some States during the last election who attempted to mess with citizens’ right to vote by politically partisan voting-time restrictions and intimidation tactics is to me despicable; that leadership messed with a hard-won voting suffrage, and, for the most part, got their come-up-ance for doing so. Citizens should continually remind such despicability such “messing” better not happen again from now on.

Furthermore, the means and lines of communication, thanks to the computer age, have made delays in election outcomes obsolete. We have to gag the press and media on election night not to give results until the polls close in particular States, in order not to have elections affected by immediate vote counts. The fiasco following the 2000 election (Can you say “Florida?”) would have been avoided, even with the recounts, if results had followed the popular vote rather than the electoral college vote. Even with the fiasco, we had a new President promptly, by 18th century standards.

Therefore, I ask all citizens to call for the elimination of the electoral college, the outcome being determined by comparative totals of the popular vote across the nation and territories. A winner, with computer compilations of incoming votes, can be determined as soon as it is now, using the “gag” rule as mentioned above. Have an “official” tally center, if you want, on election night, but have several independent computer centers also keep up with the vote counts simultaneously, accumulating as soon as the numbers are reported for public consumption, with no “official” totals released until all the several centers corroborate on the numbers. (This to safeguard against hackers and cyber-criminals.) No election should be called until the corroborated difference between the two vote counts (assuming we will have a “two-horse race,” as usual) exceeds the corroborated sum of the expected vote counts in the last States to report.

Now to the ridiculous expense of the Presidential election. (It seems almost obscene to me that the amount of money spent on political campaigning has to be factored into the national economic picture.) I suggest a limited window of time allowed for campaigning, so that elected officials cease using all their terms as preparation for the next election in lieu of doing that for which they were elected. Also, a limited window would compliment the destruction of the professional political class (See “Citizens! (I) Call For the Destruction of the Professional Political Class”). France has shown us lately how this could be done. They allow four months for Presidential campaigning; you cannot do it before that period. We might want more than that, say, up to a year, but that would be much, much better than the “four-year” Presidential campaigns our Presidents perpetuate these days in their first term. The Supreme Court turning loose the political action groups and the super groups with no limits as to how much money they can use has exasperated the situation, creating the possibility that the few very, very rich can direct a Presidential campaign; any success as a result of this Supreme Court decision could create a plutocracy in our country (rule by the rich few).

I suggest:

  1. no campaigning and no campaign contributions unless it is in a designated and voted-upon window that does not exceed 12 months before the election (The actual time window length will be a referendum item on the ballot of the next national election in 2 years, or, be a one-time selection made on the income tax return form from each tax payer.)
  2. only individuals can contribute to a campaign; if a corporation or organization wants to contribute, the contribution must be made in the name of a consenting, voter-registered citizen
  3. the total campaign contribution (to a political party and to a specified candidate) for each citizen per campaign shall not exceed a very modest amount, say, somewhere between $200 – $1000, which would also be voted upon as in the manner in (1) above (I am not necessarily an example, but I think my total monetary contribution to the last Presidential campaign for my candidate and his party was $25.)
  4. campaigns cannot purchase media time and space, including newspapers, internet, television, and radio, for purposes of propaganda; the media can be purchased to present the position of each candidate, not to attack the position of opponents (note this leaves open the possibility to attack your opponent indirectly, by stating what your position is NOT)
  5. the media can be used to present debates and town-hall meetings, wherein the positions of all sides are presented
  6. the media has to present the sides of all the candidates by covering in a balanced way the party conventions and the campaign speeches “on the campaign trail”
  7. any cost to a citizen using the media to campaign for his/her candidate counts against his/her campaign quota defined in (3) above (I’m not sure how you enforce this unless you impose a penalty for exceeding your quota {a criminal penalty, for so many would not mind paying a fine — a felony, maybe?}, and unless there is a lot of checking on personal campaign spending after the election.)

I have no doubt many of my fellow citizens reading this could improve, add to, subtract from, or tweak these ideas. In any event, we as citizens have the power to assure we will have a future in which we are less politically disturbed.


Texas A&M Aggie Football – 2012: Go, Johnny, Go!

A paraphrase of part of an article in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram in the wake of the Aggies’ great 41-13 win over Oklahoma in the 2013 Cotton Bowl goes something like: A&M finally settled its divorce from the Big 12 — the Aggies got the house, the kids, the car, the summer home, the money, and the Heisman!

That is a good way of putting it. The Aggies turned a major corner in their marvelous 2012 season, accomplishing nothing short of revolutionary; no description of present-day Aggie football will ever be the same. Whether you love the Aggies, like them, are indifferent to them, dislike them, or hate them, the world that is Texas A&M Football has changed, like the aftermath of a knock-down, drag-out divorce.

My son Chad called the Aggies’ joining the SEC (It is not a “move;” they are still in College Station.) a gamble, a rolling of the dice. Every time they have rolled recently, it seems, they have rolled a winner. Who can question their decision now to join the toughest conference and toughest conference division in the country? Who can have any doubts whether they can play “big boy” football with the likes of the SEC? Who can doubt that they were correct in guessing they would be better off on the level playing field of the SEC than on the tilted Big 12 playing field manipulated and dominated by the University of Texas? What Aggie now can be against the change of conferences? Who can doubt that A&M, one the two largest schools in the SEC now (The other huge school is Florida.) by far, is size-wise and facility-wise at least the academic and athletic peer of the likes of the Longhorns? Who could possibly now think A&M is the “little brother” to anyone?

No one saw this past season coming, not even the most loyal followers of Johnny Manziel who saw him play high school football for the Kerrville-Tivy Antlers. “Miraculous” is too strong describing the season, but probably all other similar descriptions are not: sensational, surprising, mesmerizing, exciting, and, my favorite, marvelous. My wife, Sylvia, and I have season tickets at Kyle Field, and she said it best at the end of the season as we were leaving the Cotton Bowl on an unprecedented “high:” “I found myself watching the game differently this year; they played so fast and so unpredictably, you did not have time to look around the stadium between plays; you had to keep your eyes glued on Johnny, because you had no idea what he would do on the next play.” I bet that is exactly how the head coaches, defenses, and defensive coordinators playing against A&M must have felt the entire season! Talking with some former students of mine recently who could not be described as Aggie fans by any stretch, they said their favorite moments from the 2013 Cotton Bowl were the TV close-ups on the OU sideline of the Stoope brothers gesturing in frustration or just staring with arms folded and head shaking in helplessness. They had no idea what to do.

Thanks to our good friend Dr. Clark Odom, schoolmate back in Cisco, Texas, and fellow graduate from Cisco High School, Sylvia and I had great Cotton Bowl seats to see A&M cap off its marvelous season, shutting up those detractors who thought Manziel would “fall from grace” and stink up the Cotton Bowl game, being “hung over” from the Heisman Trophy national “banquet tour.”

If there is anything better than praise from your side of the line of scrimmage, it is praise and compliments from the other side of the line, especially when you have lost to that team. LSU’s All-American defensive end Sam Montgomery, who is opting to join the NFL’s upcoming draft, sounded like an Aggie fan in the wake of LSU’s win over the Aggies 19-24 (only one of two losses, the other to Florida 17-20) and the Ags’ upset win over then #1 Alabama. He said A&M had earned the respect of the SEC, going into “people’s houses” and taking over, playing their own style of physical football. He described the Manziel-led Aggie team as “dominating the SEC.”

It is hard to argue with Montgomery. The Aggies won all their non-conference games (SMU, South Carolina State, Louisiana Tech, and Sam Houston State), all their SEC road trips (Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Alabama), and two home SEC games (Arkansas and Missouri) — in addition to their Cotton Bowl win against the Sooners. From mid Sept. to mid Oct. they had a five-game winning streak; after the LSU loss, they had a six-game streak of wins, including the bowl win. Thanks to bowl losses by both Florida and LSU, they wound up #5 in the polls (had not finished 5th in the nation since 1956), tied with Georgia, the closest SEC team to #1 (regained) ranked ‘Bama. Over their thirteen games they outscored on average their opponents by 44.46 to 21.76. The Aggies’ offense over the season racked up a school and SEC record total of 7,261 yards, an average of 558.5 yds/game; their all purpose yardage per game was 662.6 yds; they made 357 first downs in all, an average of 27.46/game. They only had to punt an average of 3.15 times/game; they forced their opponents to punt an average of 6.46 times/game, 2.05 times the number the Ags punted. Their season third down efficiency was 55% and their hurry-up, no-huddle offense ran an average of close to 79 plays/game.

But the higher Montgomery praise was for Johnny Manziel, Johnny “Football,” Johnny “Heisman.” Of the 7,261 yards gained by the 2012 Aggies, 5,116 or 70.46% of them were accounted for by the Aggie QB running with the ball or passing to his bevy of receivers. Either running or passing, he produced 47 TD’s. The Tiger DE had such respect for Manziel’s accomplishments, he considered the Heisman race already won by the redshirt freshman from Kerrville. “Heck, if I get an award, I’ll give it to him….he and his squad are dominating the SEC…..he’s running on them. He’s passing on them,” said Sam. His admiration is understandable. Johnny’s total season yardage tops all recent Heisman QBs’ best season totals, more than Tim Tebow, more than Cam Newton, and even more than RGIII’s gaudy total inflated by his unbelievable numbers in the 2011 Alamo Bowl. Manziel’s 516 yards of running and passing against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl vaulted him past the great Baylor QB. All this Johnny did as a redshirt freshman! All the other Heisman winners achieved their best as upperclassmen.

I was struck by how “things fell into place” for Johnny, just as they did for Robert Griffin III in 2011. Johnny just seemed to get better with every game, as the offense began adjusting to his particular set of skills, and his “Heisman moments,” most seem to think, came in the nationally televised upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa in the tenth game of the season. Robert had his Heisman moments near the end of his senior year, with upset wins over both Oklahoma and Texas under the gaze of national TV. Both had to benefit from special outcomes of other games over which they, of course, had no control. Johnny Football’s special benefit came, ironically enough, from Baylor’s upset of Kansas State and Heisman candidate Collin Klein (“Optimus-Klein”) in Waco late in the 2012 season.

[Not that Johnny’s the best off the field. Stories of fake ID’s around the Northgate wateringholes on the edge of campus, champagne photos at casinos with pretty party girls (allegedly supervised by his parents), and a speeding ticket at Ennis, Texas (complete with an out-of-court light-hearted lecture by the Baylor-grad judge in the case, for which he got into legal trouble) all show Manziel is no RGIII; but, then again, who is? The debate that sports heroes have to be off-the-field examples goes on and on, but, for my money, you give the awards for on the field, not off. I would not give Ty Cobb the time of day if I could meet him, he was such an awful human being, but I would never question that he was one of the greatest baseball players on the field that ever lived. Manziel is no angel; we should not hold him to be one. We have to take the responsibility to teach young athletes the difference between the example lived by athletic heroes on the field and the example lived off. Emulate how Johnny plays football, not how he behaves away from the gridiron; emulate how Ty Cobb played on the diamond, not how he lived away from the stadiums. (For all you older boys and girls, remember Paul Hornung and Joe Namath?)]

If there were any doubts the Heisman did not belong to Johnny, the bowl games of the three top Heisman candidates dispelled them. Texas A&M won their bowl; Notre Dame and Kansas State lost theirs. Look at the three performances of the three candidates in those games; nothing senior “Imaginary girlfriend” Ta’o or senior Optimus-Klein did came close to what RS-freshman Johnny Football did to the Sooners; hardly had the third quarter of the Cotton Bowl been played when it was obvious Johnny Heisman was the offensive star of the game.

How did the Aggies do it in 2012? Like the lyrics of our school song, it might “ne’er be told,” like the Spirit of Aggieland. But for those of us grounded a little more in facts than trying to explain the spiritual, I’d like to point out some things not mentioned very often, but, in my opinion, very significant in understanding this unforgettable, marvelous season. If you listen to the interviews of Coach Sumlin and Johnny, you will catch the remarkable fact that the coaching staff not only had the good sense to tweak the offense around the unusual talents Manziel was bringing to the field, the whole team, especially the senior leadership of the squad, bought into the idea they had something special brewing and were willing to be lead on the field by a freshman QB — all you “good Ags” out there know that to be led by a “fish” is something to write home to “Ol’ Army” about! OC Coach Kliff Kingsbury, who understandably left the Aggie staff to be the head coach at Texas Tech — where his heart had been all along — exemplifed this tweaking when he told the story of how Johnny would complain about the early whistles blown during practice to protect the QB, saying repeatedly to the coaches, “They wouldn’t have caught me.” Kliff then went on to say they saw during actual games that Johnny had been right all along, and began having the whole offense — linemen, backs, and receivers — block like their hair was on fire until they heard the whistle end the play, instead of standing around and marveling at how elusive Johnny was. Luke Joeckel, in interviews following his reception of the Outland Trophy, talked about how they learned to block by looking at where the defensive guy they were blocking was looking — “follow his eyes” — in order to get an idea of where Johnny was and, therefore, how to block the guy accordingly.

The wonder of Manziel scrambles and runs is summed up in two broadcasting moments: 1) On TV during the Alabama game, Verne Lundquist, thinking Johnny would surely be sacked, called, “Got ‘im!!….” (Johnny snatches the bobbled ball out of thin air, spins to his left in one of his patented super-quick pirouettes.) “Oh, no they didn’t!!” (Johnny squares his shoulders while moving to this left and throws back across his body to a wide open Ryan Swope in the end zone for the Aggies’ second touchdown.). Lundquist’s color guy, Gary Danielson, added, after the awe allowed commentary, “You can’t teach that! You can’t defend that!” 2) Long time Cowboy announcer Brad Sham, doing radio for the Cotton Bowl, called one of Johnny’s 40+ yard weaving, jukeing runs (3rd qtr) with something like “There he goes! Now he’s there! How did he get there? Where did he come from? Who IS that guy?” Answer: He’s Johnny Heisman Football!

Coach Kingsbury, during an interview in the wake of his decision to go to Lubbock, very well might be right when he described Johnny as a once-in-a-coaching-career player. Steve Foster, my son Chad’s colleague at Austin’s ESPN radio studio, told me before the Cotton Bowl, without apparent hyperbole, that “Johnny might put up ’60’ on Oklahoma!” I had seen enough to know that was not exaggeration, though I thought the number might be sort of high. When I saw the Aggie offense deliberately slowing down and milking the clock in the 4th quarter, with ’41’ already up, I got the feeling Steve was just as accurate as Kliff.

The role the defense played in this 2012 season cannot be over emphasized. They improved game-to-game probably more than Johnny did. I am very reluctant to christen this defense as the return of The Wrecking Crew, but I will say moments grew in frequency as the season wore on that reminded me momentarily of those delicious defensive plays served up by R. C. Slocum’s great defenses. Again, mentioned, but not talked about much, is another very important Manziel effect: Opposing coaches testified that no one on their squad could simulate the speed and quickness of Johnny during practice; A&M’s opponents simply had not practiced or played against anyone that could do what Johnny could do. For the same reason, A&M’s 2012 defense DID practice against the likes of Manziel — “the man” himself — and, therefore, grew to handle the speed and quickness of even the SEC offenses they faced.

Among the facts of the “bottom line” of Texas A&M’s 2012 football season, in addition to the numbers above: #5 in the final polls, 2nd Heisman trophy (John David Crow, the 1st recipient, 1957), Johnny Manziel, in addition to the Heisman — the Davey O’Brien Award, SEC Freshman Player of the Year, AP College Player of the Year — Luke Joeckel — the Outland Trophy for outstanding linemen, 4 All-Americans (Johnny, Joeckel, DeMontre Moore, and Jake Matthews), and 2 opting to enter the NFL draft early (Joeckel and Moore).

Those who do not particularly care for the Aggies, cynics, and other nay-sayers predictably are saying “Yes, they had a good season…BUT…” They did not win this or they did not win that. Or, they still don’t have an overall better record against so-and-so, they did not beat such-and-such, etc. etc. I am coming from past experience that includes the Aggies winning only one, count it, ONE game during one season; I appreciate any win, regardless of who the opponent is; winning over a perceived rival is nice, I suppose, but to me not any nicer than winning over anyone; I downplay rivalries, just like I downplay weekly rankings during the season — all rankings except the last one; that is the only one that counts. In other words, this marvelous season put up by the Texas Aggies stands on its own, independent of and without reference to what has happened to the A&M football program in the past or what might happen to it in the future.

The only thing for sure about Aggie football is that we are entering a brand new era and style, and, Army, its face is Johnny Manziel’s.

I like what I see in the effects of the marvelous season upon our recruiting for the 2013 team, but none of that means anything until the first snap of the first game next season. I’m not crazy about a poll I saw predicting A&M will be #1 in the polls in August. Anyone, in my opinion, who tries to predict who is going to win what or who will be ranked over whom when, is as idiotic as those who bet on football games, or any sporting event, for that matter. Instead of predicting or betting, I like to “go to the bank” with a sure thing — the marvelous 2012 Fightin’ Texas Aggie 2012 Football Season!! ’12’ for the 12th Man! Truly Unforgettable, our new “t.u.”

Finally, I find myself agreeing with the premise that neither the final ranking of the Aggies nor the winning of the Heisman and possibly their other awards would have happened had they not left the Big 12 and joined the SEC; or, put another way, this season unpredictably was made possible by A&M’s gamble — its “divorce” from the Big 12. The reasons can be complicated and convoluted, I’m sure, but I think nonetheless it can be succinctly summarized: Every SEC win and even the two close SEC losses were bigger and more significant because they were SEC wins and losses, not Big 12 ones; even the wins over the “weak” non-conference foes were rendered relatively insignificant by the overshadowing Aggie 6-2 SEC record. And their bowl win over a Big 12 powerhouse did not hurt. It was a perfect storm of “rolling 7’s,” innovative coaching, and a confident, not cocky, kid from Kerrville. As Chad has said, they rolled the dice, hoping for the best, and they came out in the 2012 season winners beyond everyone’s wildest dreams — a definite t. u. season. “Lucky?” — maybe; “Great Football?” — for sure; “‘Wow’ factor?” — lock cinch! Gig ‘em!!


P.S. The Johnny Football phenomenon has had its own musical accompaniment. Some of you may have heard on the ESPN Heisman spot the Aggie Band playing “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” in honor of Manziel. That is an old band standard we have heard for years and years at Kyle Field. But my favorite is what you are beginning to hear more and more, like at the Cotton Bowl — Chuck Berry’s “Johnny Be Good,” whose chorus goes

Go! — Go, Johnny, Go!
[repeat above 3 more times]
Go, Go! — Johnny Be Good!

But my favorite cover of “Johnny Be Good” is Judas Priest’s. The guitar riffs and chords ripped out by Glen Tipton and K. K. Downing, coupled with the screaming lyrics of Rob Halford, rock just like Chuck’s version, only harder, and more “in your face.” They should play Judas Priest’s “Johnny Be Good” every time in Kyle Field Johnny Football runs in a TD or throws for one.

Citizens! (II) The Redistribution of Wealth

This second installment of the “Citizens” series (see part one) deals with a phrase probably even more misunderstood than the word “liberal” or “socialist” — the phrase “the redistribution of wealth.”

My first presentation of this phrase on e-mail to ultra-conservatives brought a hilarious reaction: they thought I was talking about “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” I was actually asked how would I feel if one of them came over and confiscated my pick-up truck, as his was not as nice as mine! Minds like trap-doors! Too literal a translation of the perhaps poorly chosen word “redistribution,” I suppose.

As so many political leaders and economists have patiently pointed out, the redistribution of wealth Clinton brought about, Obama is trying to restore, and what I am talking about here means the rich do not get poorer, but, rather, get richer — only not by the greedy gulps of the past. If the fat-cats pay their fair share of taxes, like the middle class has been doing all along, the benefits to the economy will still bring profits to the fat-cats. The more important effect is the restoration of the middle class and the creation of more wealth than we have now. In other words, this is not a conservation of wealth argument; the restoration of middle class wealth will generate an influx, an increase, into the nation’s gross profit. If you have a graph of the number of people versus yearly income, instead of the area under that graph being constant and shifted about, as many conservatives believe, the area actually increases over time; the curve of the graph actually rises, with the increase in area especially notable for lower and middle incomes. The redistribution comes when over 90% or more of the greater wealth is spread out among at least 65-70% of the tax-paying people — the citizenry.

The Clinton administration showed that jobs are not created at the top, like Romney, Trump, and other small minds like theirs claim, but, rather are created much lower down the “economic pyramid,” often with government help. Right now, job creation is staring us all in the face: the repair of our poor infrastructure. Contractors need to apply for government contracts to work on our roads and bridges, and government needs to foster domestic works projects to help do the same.

Citizens need to call for banks to open up their stored wealth for loans to reliable entrepreneurs in the lower and middle class. Home owners need help on their mortgages, mortgages that truly match their means. Breaks need to be given to workers shackled by vicious student loans, and the borders need to be opened further for workers to come into our country and contribute to the workforce. That workforce should, in addition, become replete with veterans who are finally coming home to contribute to the domestic economy for a change, and that includes most if not all the armed forces stationed in places like Germany and Japan that suck the life out of our economic growth.

Citizens need to demand that the revenue from lotteries, horse racing, casinos, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. (i.e. 100% of the so-called “sin tax”) in all States go into the public schools of the State, instead of into the pockets of politicians. When Sylvia and I vacationed in Georgia in 1996, any Georgia high school graduate that kept up his/her grades could get up to four years free tuition and books at any State school in Georgia! And that was just from putting in 100% of the State’s lottery revenue! Think what States who have far more resources and “sin” than Georgia, like Texas, full of great State colleges and universities, could do! I like to think it is possible to eliminate the need to get a student loan for higher education, if you are a student able and willing to do schoolwork. Higher education would become a true meritocracy, instead of a country club affordable only to the few; colleges and universities would graduate scholars, not plutocrats.

Universal, single-payer, health care, with its emphasis on preventive medicine, like the medical regimen Sylvia and I are on right now, will be in step with increased, redistributed wealth, by lowering people’s long-term medical bills; fewer people will have serious medical problems, because serious problems are “nipped in the bud,” just like the respective cancers both Sylvia and I contracted. Both of us now are cancer free.

I hate to agree with oil companies, but right now Exxon has a commercial saying that education can be “saved” by hiring teachers with deeper content backgrounds, so that their students can learn more.  An expression of a pillar of my educational philosophy, by which I’ve tried to guide my professional teacher career — exactly! Better teachers K-12 (meaning better salaries, by the way) coupled with making it easier instead of harder to get into higher education (keeping standards high, not “watered down”) will combine to produce college and university graduates prepared to help generate wealth in an ever-changing world. One of my bright, college-bound students whose father is an engineer, informed me that her dad came from an engineer conference where it was reported that there are “like 3 million engineering jobs out there,” but far fewer than 3 million American engineering graduates to fill them. No wonder foreign students flock here to scarf up on these jobs! We have to prepare students in our schools to scarf up on these jobs, and that means science, math, and engineering, not theater arts, business, literature, foreign language, philosophy, etc. There is probably no better example of a type of workforce that contributes directly and immediately to national economic growth than engineering corporations, who must hire engineers, scientists, and mathematicians.

Just to be clear, in case there are any “trap-doors” reading this, this ain’t socialism, communism, welfare, or fascism; this, in my opinion, is good old American “know-how and gumption”!


What Did I Say or Write? WTF?!! (For Adults Only)

I have become used to being unfriended on Facebook or being cut off from communication on the internet by individuals frustrated with my self-imposed crusade to bring content to cyberspace exchanges — to accompany facts and information with well-argued positions and opinions, to explore the possibility that the social network can be a meaningful medium for the exchange of ideas. This crusade is not to hear my head rattle, but to get people to think; even people in my generation, who have been around for many, many years, often appear to believe or assert an opinion or assertion without having thought enough about why they have that opinion or assertion and/or appear to have no practice defending rationally that opinion or assertion. I cannot claim my methods are not abrasive; I have not been called the long list of names for nothing! (See “Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words We Don’t Know Can Also Hurt Us, or, Jesus Was a Liberalist” [Mar 2012]) You’ve got to have a thick skin if you are going to intelligently defend your positions; I expect nothing less from those with whom I correspond and from myself.

Some correspondents take a position or positions, yet do not defend them; they let others, usually “authorities” speak for them. Though I consider this a weak and disappointing response, it is better than no response at all. One of my life-long best friends to whom I wrote one of my “odes,” Bob B. Berry (See “Ode to Bob B. Berry” [May 2012]), no less a light than one of the M-4 (See “The M-4…And the ‘M’ Stands for…” [May 2012]), is one of these in his position against socialism, despite the fact when we were in Cisco High School he defended socialism in a speech in front of our class — I defended captalism as his counter. At the end of his e-mails (mostly funny stuff and lots of enertainment) he places anti-socialism quotes by Winston Churchill and Thomas Sowell [contemporary conservative and libertarian columnist], about which I give him hell every chance I get, trying to draw him out and use his own words in the defense of socialism. He has not taken the bait, I like to think not because he can’t defend his position, but because he doesn’t want to “get into it” again with me like we did in high school. I can’t fathom the possibility he is just parroting the words and positions of someone else.

I had another high school classmate back during the 2012 election respond to my critique of Mitt Romney (See “Mitt Romney — NOT the Man for President” [July 2012]) with just two words: “I DISAGREE!” And nothing else…..not a word about why he disagreed. I was metaphorically salivating, waiting to pounce upon whatever he would send in addition, but…..nothing….. In the words of the heavy metal group Metallica, “Sad But True!”

When my correspondents do respond, I am like a shark smelling blood in the water when I see weaknesses or unjustifiable positions in correspondents’ retorts to my positions. If those holding these shaky, weak positions are thin-skinned, or, if they simply do not have a defense of what they say, they get angry and cut me off, or, they simply stop communicating without saying or typing a word. Fair enough. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” But recently I’ve had a correspondent, a long-time friend with whom I went through school at Cisco (as with Berry, only he a year ahead of Berry and me), and with whom I attended Texas A&M (ditto with Berry) who unfriended me and apparently cut off communcation, despite the fact he was doing pretty well defending what I consider gosh-awful conservative political and religious positions, including the Tea Party, abortion, and gun control. We were really getting into it. It reminded me of the great back-and-forth arguments I had while in undergraduate and graduate school at A&M — great exchanges in which your views, if they survived, came through altered, yet stronger. Not debating, but spirited give-and-take that allows only intellectual honesty to survive merciless skepticism.

And the reason, he claims, for the sudden cut-off? I used a word he considers profane and offensive. He cited the “f-word” (a form of it, actually, I speculate) he found on my website, and I think I know the place he means. I shall let the reader read the context of the word and decide for his/herself: It is found in the website post “And God Said, ‘Let There Be Friends’….And It Was Weird!” [April 2012]. It was actually contained in a paraphrase of a jolting joke-like definition of a true friend; it was more or less a quote, a quote I chose to cite accurately as I first heard or saw it. The definition is a perfect example of the use of profane or “cuss” words: for comical emphasis. Read the sentence containing the form of the “f-word” again; I submit that definition would not be near as funny nor as impactful if that word had been left out in its entirety, even if I had been “appropriate” and written only the “f” and put dashes or asterisks in for the remainder of the letters. The reader may not agree with my choice, but that was and remains mine, my citing everything from the proclivities of a writer to freedom of speech.

My offended friend (ex-friend?) judged he would not associate with someone who would apparently do something he would not do. That is the mark of a member of the conservative clergy; he is a retired minister. Even though he is pushing 70 years old, that also seems to me a mark of immaturity. It reminds me of those classmates who, judging the rest of us, disassociate themselves from our reunion get-togethers because we are drinking or otherwise carrying on in ways they think we should not. Not only is that immature, it seems to me to be prudish, puritanical, and Victorian. My offended friend probably heard as many “inappropriate,” “profane” words as did I over the years in school in Cisco and at A&M. And yet now he is judging people not on the soundness of their words but upon their usage of certain words. Actually, I don’t think he is that presumptuous or short-sighted; I think he is using my usage of certain words as an excuse to get away from the “heat of the kitchen.”

But for the purposes of this post, let us pretend he is that presumptuous and short-sighted. I understand his position concerning certain words, for over most of my life I never used nor approved the use of profanity. However, I NEVER disassociated myself from those that did use profanity; to have done so would have been to repudiate most of the people I knew and know! Those that used profanity were never evil because of certain words they used in their lexicon to me. I never tried to get them to “clean up” their speech and be like me. I suppose I was blessed in never being presumptuous and short-sighted about profanity.

Accordingly, whatever is my unfriended friend’s reason or reasons to unfriend me and cut off communication with me, I will NEVER do that to him. There is nothing he could say or write that would cause me to do what he has done to me.

So, how did I recently change my mind and begin to use parts of our English lexicon I have never used before? The basis for the change is the same list of characteristics that made me the world’s worst choice to be a spokesman for the creationists and intelligent designers (See “Creationism and Intelligent Design — On the Road to Extinction” [July 2012]). More specifically, regarding the issue of profanity, I was changed by my son’s college major and the insights of the late, great comedian George Carlin. My son Chad majored in speech communication at Texas A&M, and there he learned and passed on to me how words are used in our spoken and written communications — specifically how “cuss” words and profane words are used for emphasis and strong humor, as I used the “f-word” in my post dealt with above. I began to see how “potty” jokes and pornographic adult jokes are universal and universally funny. George Carlin came out with his list of “taboo” words, a copy of which Chad always had on his walls at university; in between George’s jokes during his performances on cable TV I learned that words are not “good” or “bad” in and of themselves; they are just words, sounds that come out of our voice mechanism. Moral quality is placed upon words by the meaning we may or may not give them. Good and evil brought to us by words are illusions; the good and evil are placed upon the words by our conditioned minds. In other words, a word is smutty only if I want it to be. I choose profanity to be useful words for which there is no substitution, for hilarious communication’s sake; my friend who unfriended me recently chooses them to be minions of evil and immorality.

My toleration for profane words has its limits. It is merely my taste, but I do not like comedians whose every other word, it seems, is a word considered inappropriate in church and school. The use of such words, for me, should be occasional — a “peppering” of them for effect, for emphasis, and for a good laugh or smile or two. As I speak or write, I find them useful — additional tools in my lexicon; they enable me to communicate more experiementally, to broaden my oral and written skills; they enable me reach out more than if I did not use them. But this is just my own view; whether others have this view or not is really a pretty mute point; all I want others to do is develop and defend their view on this issue and on any others they consider important enough to spend intellectual effort upon.

I do retain a reservation about profane words around young children. All children will learn these words soon enough through older siblings and/or friends at school; no need to reinforce their use by parental use in front of them. I think the age at which such words are discussed with young children is like the “sex talk” — the discussion should come earlier than most parents would prefer. The use of profanity must be introduced as a matter of choice for each young mind, like all the other issues they must face — give in to peer pressure, drinking, driving, and sex. Variation of when each child is ready for the “bad word” discussion is but another parental responsibility, as if parents don’t have enough already.

Because not everyone feels the same about the use of profanity, and because everyone has the right to feel however they feel, a sense of social appropriateness, regardless of age, is needed to minimize certain people “unfriending” other people, to maximize communication. The professional backgrounds of both my unfriended friend and me need a consensus of appropriate language. Therefore, he and I are alike in that in his profession of the ministry and in my profession of both public and private school teaching, profanity is considered inappropriate both from the pulpit and in the classroom. Though he and I are of the same generation (“baby boomers”) we disagree on the appropriateness of profanity in public communication. He is outraged that I would use certain words in the public domain of the internet on my website, and I am amazed the social revolutions of the ’60’s, through which the two of us lived, did not “take” with him enough for him to see that what is allowed publically in oral and written discourse has changed drastically since the days we were in West Ward Elementary School in Cisco. Back in the ’50’s “hell” or “pregnant” was not heard on radio or TV; today we have Monty Python movies and South Park movies, the latter featuring cartoon second graders cursing like sailors. He would probably be outraged that today most of the high school juniors and seniors I teach speak in “R-rated” casual communication, even in the context of school, an inappropriate setting for such language. Not only does his action seem prudish, puritanical, and Victorian, it seems myopically anachronistic.

Before being cut off, I typed to my unfriended minister friend he should brush up on some lexicon lessons about words and their intention. No better way to do that than use a context that should be “right in his wheelhouse” — the New Testament. He fails to see there are at least two ways to curse, or “cuss,” as we Americans like to say. In the Gospels, cursing is a judgement, such as Jesus cursing the barren fig tree (Mark 11: 12-14; Mark 11: 20-25; Matthew 21: 18-22). Jesus is not “cussin’ the tree out,” but, rather, pronouncing upon it a death sentence for not being fruitful. That has theological implications as it is, but it is unfortunately misleadingly labeled as a “curse” in association with this Gospel story; Jesus is not proclaiming an oath, swearing, or using profanely insolent language; He is not committing blasphemy; He is merely afflicting the tree in a way harmful to the tree. “Cursing” in this sense, the judgmental kind, could have also been used in describing Jesus’s purging the Temple of the money changers, but it was not (Mark 11: 15-19; Mark 11 27-33; Matthew 21: 12-17; Matthew 21: 23-27; Luke 19: 45-48; Luke 20: 1-8; John 2: 13-16).

As pointed out in an hilarious scene in the Monty Python movie, “The Life of Brian,” making the use of words as evil is pretty pointless; the scene reminds us that once upon a Biblical time, to pronounce even the name of Jehovah was blasphemy punishable by death by stoning! At least we’ve come so far that today the worse than can happen by using certain words is be unfriended and/or cut-off from communication!

My unfriended friend is behaving as if all use of profanity is judgemental in the sense of Jesus judging the tree and the money changers, or as if all use of profanity is guttery, insolent insulting, the language of the “potty mouth.” I’m sure that if I used such words as “Goddamn” or any form thereof, he would accuse me of using the Lord’s name in vain, even thereby being blasphemous. For him, there is no room for words being just words, for profanity to be adult words of emphasis and humor — words to play with. It is sad to see those offended by profane words often paint them out of their context and counter to their use with the broad strokes of calling them always judging someone or some thing, swearing, cursing someone out, blaspheming, or taking an oath. It is sad to see they cannot see George’s simple truth that they are just words.

Hell, this shit is getting too long! Let me summarize: Read this sentence — “If you think words can be evil or harmful, then you’re fucked up!” If you read it, and at least a little smile, if not laugh, comes to you, then you get it. If you feel shame, moral outrage, pity, indignation, or an urge to unfriend me when you read, then read it again. It was especially written for those having any of these negative responses. If you responded negatively, remember, they are only words. Grow up — Queen Victoria is dead!


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