Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/491365821952688128

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/491395321432256512

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/494286519595565057

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/494288240069726211

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/494926449124442112

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 31, 2014

Check out @Solomon_Matsas’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/Solomon_Matsas/status/494929613563244544

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 5, 2014

Dentures Lost

Dentures Lost

Dentures lost under
the hospital bed
the beginning of
the end for father
many months ago
the stroke stopped him cold
cannot drive or walk
falls with broken hip
then his spirit climbed
into the last bed
the long, slow, recline
get up father please
get up if you don’t
you cannot survive
so what he replied
if I die I die
I’m confortable
so leave me alone
but mom wouldn’t leave
daily she came to
feed him, be with him
remind him there is
reason yet to live
but father wasted
down to bones and skin
a last grin, then sleep
and breathing slowly
then the end arrived
we kissed him and cried
my brother and I
goodbye dear father.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | July 5, 2014

The Last Scoundrel

Scoundrel

Death, the last scoundrel
who couldn’t just take
my father at once
but in jabs and blows
a two-year beating
stroke then broken hip

then dementia
till there was little
left to take only
shallow breath skin bones
gaping mouth too late
some grace and soft words

we lost him in falls
stumbling down to gone
finally no good
way to describe it
the awkward moment
the spirit lets go.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | March 12, 2014

 

  1.  

    Two things happen fast now: bully Putin brings big hammer down on independent Ukraine, and President Obama pretends he is outraged, again.

  2.  

    Need an app for measuring progress and quality of life? New poll concludes big majority think our children were better off fifty years ago.

  3.  

    Only thing transparent about Obama is how his royal ego routinely blocks any learning from predecessors, history, and six years on the job.

  4.  

    Thug Putin thumps his bare chest with a deadly fool’s bravado. Little Napolean feels pretty when his horrid extremes skip down the catwalk.

  5.  

    What thug Putin will never have is the legitimate respect afforded a world leader. His deadly politics of control reveals the true dictator.

  6.  

    Thug Putin most ready to persuade with his tanks, ensuring total control through fear, since Communist ideas are so obviously unappealing.

  7.  

    Many new presidents arrived over their heads, figuring out the job before exiting. But Mr. B+ Obama may yet leave unqualified and unwisened.

  8.  

    Unbelievably true, Americans tallied up over one hundred billion in gambling losses last year, leading the world by far. Cultural sickness?

  9.  

    Past presidents led fantasy projects, Hoover Dam, Panama Canal, U.S.A. on the moon. Obama says our southern border is ”too vast” to secure.

  10.  

    Brookings Institute says Obamacare takes money from most folks, loses millions of jobs, and affects fiscal recovery. Bipartisan CBO concurs.

  11.  

    Only President Obama sounded small when he challenged O’Reilly’s claim to a larger job creation estimate for the delayed Keystone Pipeline.

  12.  

    It’s insanely naive to fail at serious border security. Immigration reform loses credibility and votes by ignoring a key terrorist gateway.

  13.  

    So-called war between conservatives is just liberals’ wishful thinking. Fact: there are conservative Democrats, but no liberal Republicans.

  14.  

    Trusting Iran to disarm buys the future into a fool’s poker game with maniacs and thugs. Who thinks Iran isn’t crazed with crushing Israel?

  15.  

    President Obama thinks little of a duped public who watches top-rated Fox News, and the network’s focus on unanswered questions and issues.

  16.  

    Super Bowl interview, Obama says, “Look Bill, government helped us both with student loans.” “Not me, I painted houses.”, O’Reilly replied.

  17.  

    Does President Obama feel disrespected by press folks who question his failures? How dare they? This is how disconnected, aloof kings react.

  18.  

    Obama blames Fox, O’Reilly, how they audaciously continue to ask about Benghazi, IRS, Obamacare, don’t kill the questioners, Mr. President.

  19.  

    Gallop says half the nation thinks he is dishonest and mismanaging America’s affairs., yet President Obama generously awards himself a B+!

  20.  

    Major cognitive dissonance from the Oval Office? Most folks say he’s doing a poor job, but Obama says country is doing better. Who agrees?

  21.  

    Recent poll had folks pick two words that best describe America. Least picked, “hope” and “strength”. Most picked, “divided” and “troubled”.

  22.  

    Will Obama address his State of the Union speech only to his supporters? Will the nation’s other half also hear their concerns addessed?

  23.  

    Obama’s support of Israel full of dangerous ambiguities. Courageous Canadian P. M. Harper says Israeli sovereignty, security beyond debate.

  24.  

    Liberals fret over carbon footprints, equality, and wealth redistribution. Conservatives fret over terrorism, crushing debt, and bad values.

  25.  

    Finding fault with our president brings no joy, hope, or especially solace in this rapidly worsening world of escalating tyranny and chaos.

  26.  

    Hillary, Obama, does anyone doubt they would say anything to win an election? Can either one claim the public’s lasting trust and respect?

  27.  

    The new transformation this self-adulating president touted is just the old, crass political maneuvering we have endured from both parties.

  28.  

    Is it repulsively possible President Obama sent our troops to the terrorist battlefronts while seriously doubting our chances for victory?

  29.  

    Some things he is good at, Obama never stops campaigning, and rewarding his wealthy backers, and spurning those who voted for the other guy.

  30.  

    Billionaire no safety-net Cirque de Soleil- defying gravity and reason- gave hundreds of audience children a deadly show they won’t forget.

  31.  

    Frankly, Obama has failed to lead. But he still tries to blame Bush, conservatives, prosperous folks, and a system he believes is unfair.

  32.  

    More folks working two jobs, more vapor cash printed and spent, more worry over our kids’ future. Obama, jobs top priority, six years now.

  33.  

    Discouraged Americans sleeping in their cars- if they are lucky to have one- wonder exactly what recovery folks are continually measuring.

  34.  

    Partisan presidents can’t lead a whole nation, or truly succeed without cross-party support. Partisan presidents just divide us even more.

  35.  

    2014 U. S. A., most marriages fail, most kids born into unmarried homes, one in three get a gov’t check. Numbers from the Formula for Doom?

  36.  

    Obama, Hillary, Benghazi deaths, who is protecting who? Power, progressive momentum must be sustained, at precisely what cost to the future?

  37.  

    Leaders turn defiance into coalition by taking opposing issues seriously, and mitigating some of them to seal a deal. Partisans cannot lead.

  38.  

    When Obama stiff-armed the half of Congress that wouldn’t follow orders, he also dismissed half of the country’s people and their concerns.

  39.  

    Can our relatively entitled U.S. life change forever in a single, horrific moment of tyranny, some zealot loon wed to a dream of paradise?

  40.  

    2014, terror explained to children. Gruesome, senseless explosions of chaos rule entire cities and countries. Freedom failing, hate gaining.

  41.  

    Worldwide, Christians targeted and slaughtered. 2014 begins cringing, with liberty ambushed, heartless anarchists more and more in control.

  42.  

    America, childhood shrinking, coming of age sooner, living longer but aging faster, brain growing but muscles weakening, what a headache!

  43.  

    Excuse me. EXCUSE ME! But no use, the young clerk- no headphones on- gripped by the bright, tiny screen in hand, had locked out the world.

  44.  

    Looking into my morning mirror these days, six decades behind me now, I see the happy gargoyle looking back. Could be worse, the razor says.

  45.  

    Minecraft, we learned from experience. Only bring it home if you are prepared to lose the child you know to an insidious, controlling force.

  46.  

    Merry Christmas, America, cleaved in half, culture giddy high with violence, future a dark alley, and we owe Red China a trillion dollars.

  47.  

    How did President Obama come to his moment of reckoning? Tell the truth, maybe second term. Tell some whoppers, almost certain re-election.

  48.  

    The president certainly cannot be accused of micro-managing the incompetent czars and administrators chosen for his defining legacy project.

  49.  

    With millions of American middle-class families losing their health insurance plans, President Obama has achieved the opposite of his goal.

  50.  

    How can basic character not be questioned when a president tries to employ a new and strange Oval Office defense: implausible deniability?

  51.  

    Obama falsely calmed us about our healthcare. Obama falsely blamed Benghazi on someone else. Obama was re-elected, I lose my plan Jan. 1.

  52.  

    Often intruding, seemingly random Memory minds its own time. But we are more fickle, pulling it closer one moment, pushing it away the next.

  53.  

    Torrential rains blanket grieving Johannesburg. Heavens open for Nelson Mandela, man of greatness and humility, for the ancestors and ages.

  54.  

    After N. Korea defiance, China trade cheating, Benghazi massacre, Egypt meltdown, Syria red line, nuke for Iran: who leads the free world?

  55.  

    Free South Africa weeps for her brave father. With nerves of steel Nelson Mandela used vision, sacrifice, and forgiveness to win the day.

  56.  

    Does Obama know unfettered American hard work and individual ambition built our middle-class, not over-promising presidents and government?

  57.  

    Naive appeasers give up on stopping nuclear Iran, Saudis must align with Israelis, a passive world watches as U.S. leadership flounders.

  58.  

    Similarly, as the right pines over the past’s simpler values making more sense, the left muses over the future when somehow all are equal.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | January 12, 2014

Six Haiku @ 60

Six Haiku @ Sixty

Right I am old now
But still lucky to witness
Two fine hummingbirds.

First, age comes coughing
A polite interruption
To all the banter.

Did I choose right when
it mattered the most, did I
Love life above all?

If the days run out
Like a sly, rude getaway
I won’t pine to stay.

Let grace resonate
Then trace the final beats to
Notes of gratitude.

The time in the light
Is all that ever matters
That and doing good.

8/4/13

Posted by: skepticbydefault | December 11, 2013

MORE RECENT TWEETS

 

  1. 17h

    Often intruding, seemingly random Memory minds its own time. But we are more fickle, pulling it closer one moment, pushing it away the next.

  2. Torrential rains blanket grieving Johannesburg. Heavens open for Nelson Mandela, man of greatness and humility, for the ancestors and ages.

     
  3. After N. Korea defiance, China trade cheating, Benghazi massacre, Egypt meltdown, Syria red line, nuke for Iran: who leads the free world?

     
    Free South Africa weeps for her brave father. With nerves of steel Nelson Mandela used vision, sacrifice, and forgiveness to win the day.

  4. Does Obama know unfettered American hard work and individual ambition built our middle-class, not over-promising presidents and government?

  5. Naive appeasers give up on stopping nuclear Iran, Saudis must align with Israelis, a passive world watches as U.S. leadership flounders.

  6. Similarly, as the right pines over the past’s simpler values making more sense, the left muses over the future when somehow all are equal.

  7. Barack Obama’s forward-leaning stumble looks like a bad two-step of negatives masquerading as progress: arrogance teamed with incompetence.

  8. Presidents who defy our framers’ balanced wisdom by ignoring constitutional process through Oval Office fiat, encourage public lawlessness.

  9. Bewildered, annoyed, like a parent urging a reluctant child, Obama can’t understand why his presidential wisdom isn’t recognized and heeded.

  10. U.S. the knockout culture now, producing sociopathic youth via absentee dads, no jobs, plus our national addiction to violent entertainment?

  11. Paralyzing economic growth, jobs still stagnant, more Americans dismal, as stock markets slip and trip to record highs. Obama Fool’s Gold?

  12. Recklessly squandering his most valuable asset, can this word-spinning president ever again look into the national camera and be trusted?

  13. Leadership cannot be willfully misleading everyone, then denying culpability, then sheepishly offering to return the stolen public trust.

  14. O’Reilly, one impression in granite, he really, really, truly does care about looking out for the folks. Comes through in every Factor show.

  15. Mr. O’Reilly, at his worst, is bombastic, superior, culturally lame, over-emotional, domineering, self-praising, tolerated for the others.

  16. Mr. O’Reilly, at his best, laser rational, powerful thinker, charming host, riveting interviewer, even witty and whimsical everyman’s pal.

  17. Hunger Games, big cash machine for its producers, featuring kids killing kids with bow and arrow, the book is in my kid’s school library.

     

    3 Dec
    Both Democrats, Republicans, always one hand pointing finger of blame, the other hand shamelessly stuck in the voters’ cracked cookie jar.

    Isolated now, quietly, pervasively, with small, private screens the new refuge, the indirect connect, we engage face to face less and less.

    God’s limbo also our own. Believers can’t pocket a penny of proof. Doubters can’t explain the Cambrian explosion. God’s status? Flip a coin.
Posted by: skepticbydefault | November 29, 2013

Recent Tweets

Recent Tweets

America, still the destination of liberty for the world, still the hope of inspiration and unlimited achievement, for this I feel grateful.

Alec Baldwin blames mad gays for his bum’s rush boot, ignoring the more unforgivable truth: sitcom mirrored him, it’s banal, unfunny tripe.

Bewildered, annoyed, like a parent urging a reluctant child, Obama can’t understand why his presidential wisdom isn’t recognized and heeded.

U.S. the knockout culture now, producing sociopathic youth via absentee dads, no jobs, plus our national addiction to violent entertainment?

26 Nov

Daily, constantly, U.S. culture, entertainment, media, all spotlight violence, especially murder, detailed, up close, we can’t get enough!

25 Nov

Who are we Americans now? Impatience, no civility, everyone escaping into their screens. Have the Ten Commandments become uncool, obsolete?
23 Nov

Paralyzing economic growth, jobs still stagnant, more Americans dismal, as stock markets slip and trip to record highs. Obama Fool’s Gold?
23 Nov

So many dead and hurt by deranged shooters. Easier to blame the killing instrument than our own violent culture’s neglect of mental illness.
23 Nov

Who can lead America past the cowardly rhetoric of both parties? We have done the unyielding math, the future is crushed with today’s debt.
23 Nov

How could we regress to a nation wounded with the split personality of embittered partisanship? Divided we fall, as the American dream dies?
21 Nov

Recklessly squandering his most valuable asset, can this word-spinning president ever again look into the national camera and be trusted?
21 Nov

Having fallen head first down a decades-deep hole of white liberal guilt, has an embarrassed mainstream media finally bounced off the bottom?
from Santa Monica, CA
21 Nov

Resisting every chance to learn on the job, President Obama really disdains presiding. Self-injured now, he would rather campaign than lead.
21 Nov

Fox vs. CNN: conservative Fox features more liberal regulars and guests, lively debate. CNN features few conservative regulars, less debate.
21 Nov

Fox vs. MSNBC: the conservative network gives equal tme to the best voices of opposing views. Low-rated, one-dimentional MSNBC rarely does.
20 Nov

Anyone on the crashed and moored new healthcare web site team consider consulting with the sustainable inventor of the internet, Al Gore?
19 Nov

O’Reilly, one impression in granite, he really, really, truly does care about looking out for the folks. Comes through in every Factor show.
18 Nov

Mr. O’Reilly, at his worst, is bombastic, superior, culturally lame, over-emotional, domineering, self-praising, tolerated for the others.
18 Nov

Mr. O’Reilly, at his best, laser rational, powerful thinker, charming host, riveting interviewer, even witty and whimsical everyman’s pal.
14 Nov

Leadership cannot be willfully misleading everyone, then denying culpability, then sheepishly offering to return the stolen public trust.
13 Nov

Yes, yes, presidents lie, history reminds. But when have presidents lied to deny Americans choice in the marketplace of supply and demand?
13 Nov

Is Obama hiding now? Since his sad spectacle of re-spun dishonesty, the events have been friendly, staged photo-ops. Fear of angry hecklers?

Before Obama’s Whopper of a Different Color and strange, embarrassing afterspins, I thought only his intellect overrated; not his character.
8 Nov

Who will say today- with over five years of Oval Office experience accrued- that President Obama personifies competence and clear thinking?
8 Nov

Is the world increasingly secular because humanity vaguely intuits that science will soon prove how no one is driving this bus, except us?
7 Nov

President Obama couldn’t trust Americans to make the best health care choices. He promises his new marketplace offers better value, period.
6 Nov

A president who shows a weakness of character, a lack of basic honesty, and a stuck ego that can’t admit error, cripples an entire nation.
6 Nov

I’m only sad that my President is being so obviously disingenuous. No victory for America when crass trickery defines today’s leadership.
6 Nov

With only reason for your GPS, tooling down the freeway of consciousness, believing in a God or not, your exit ramp remains the same: faith.

Watching TV with my 9 yr old son, how do I answer what erectile dysfunction is all about? We haven’t even gotten to function yet.

The most dangerous delusion: not understanding the motives of your most violent and capable enemies. This national blindness is often fatal.

Obama refuses to talk with opposing elected Americans, yet agrees to negotiate with official enemies of the U.S.? Shameful non-leadership.

Exactly opposite from true leaders, strident, thin-skinned professors simply do not know how to negotiate their self-important ideologies.

No big Washington health care. It will be the Post Office x 1000!

Solomon Matsas
Santa Monica

#MakeWashingtonListen

Posted by: skepticbydefault | March 9, 2011

Senseless violence: too much information.

“But Dad, why did they shoot him?” My persistent, inquisitive son’s repeated questions told me the can of worms I had foolishly opened wouldn’t re-close now. We were driving somewhere, to Bay Shore Bowl on Pico, I think, listening to the radio. My seven-year old’s favorite Beatles song came on, Michelle.

We sing that one together, he fakes the French part, as I do. When the song finished, he asked about the group, if they were still playing, why not. I tried to be a little vague, but my son can have the relentless focus of a laser sometimes.

I mentioned that two Beatles had passed, two were still around. Then, after much pressure, trying to dodge his queries about John Lennon, I finally said, well, someone shot him dead.

Right, big mistake. I realized it a second too late. There was long silence from the back seat. I could feel my son processing this bad news, trying to make some sense of it, an impossible task.

How do you explain mindless evil to a small child? I don’t understand anything myself, how can I shed any light? And, is it even wise? So, damage control. I said that the guy who shot Lennon was just sick, in the head. Brain sick. There was nothing anyone could do. I still felt totally lame saying the truth. What sort of context is this for a kid? Inadequate, further puzzling, and unsatisfactory.

Finally, I heard him mumble something under his breath.

“What did you say, son?”, I asked.

“I said, they shouldn’t let sick people have guns.”

“No. No,they shouldn’t”, I agreed, We drove on as a Stones song came up- Sympathy for the Devil.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | March 9, 2011

God Knows.

Part One- God Knows…in Santa Monica

We have it all here on the Left Coast, every religion and belief system, from Agnostic-Vegan groups to Zoroastrians, Anglicans to Zen fans, New Age devotees, atheists and nihilists, Universalist Unitarians, Samaritans, Baal and Baha’i followers, all the old, new, major, minor, whacked-out, legitimate and bogus houses of God and faith. From the storefront to the cathedral, pedestrian to grandiose structures reflecting the truly eclectic history and culture of Santa Monica and adjacent beach towns. Religious landmarks here include the old, majestic beauty of Saint Monica’s Catholic Church. The Methodist Episcopal Church, the first church built after Santa Monica was founded in 1875. Lots of places to connect with God and others.

Last week, coming out of a 7-11 store, I saw a gaunt, ragged guy, probably homeless, standing straight and stiff, with long, thin arm thrust skyward, index finger pointing, while repeatedly shouting “God knows! God knows!”, as the ignoring passersby came and went. God knows, I thought…maybe, but God isn’t saying much. With few clues to follow, this homeless guy’s proclamation was optimistic at best.

Part Two- The case for God.

I think the case for God basically lacks truly compelling evidence. In fact, sheer faith is always required to either believe in God or to deny God’s existence. Neither argument can prove its case empirically.

Pro-God proponents point to the supremely vast and complex universe. A Maker must be involved, as no reasonable observer and evaluator could dismiss the grandeur of existence as random. The inexplicable miracle of life, the claim of a soul that survives the body, these are the designs of a Creator of limitless power. Pro-God believers claim evidence for their devotion is virtually everywhere.

Atheists point to reason and science to explain the human experience. The Big Bang needs no author, the evolution of life on Earth needs no divine spark. Atheists embrace randomness as proof of the mythology of God’s existence. Atheists rely on science alone to define and demystify their world.

Those who believe the natural, physical world is God must concede there is no higher moral standard with that view. Nature has no law of loving your neighbor as yourself, or being kind to those who are weaker. Nature basically has one law: the stronger eat the weaker, no right or wrong involved. Nature has no comprehension of compassion. Survival of the fittest is hardly a higher moral virtue.

Part Three- What I know
Our humankind’s notion of God may just be wishful thinking, a need to have an ultimate Parent. In fact, the evidence is scant that any sort of God actually exists. Most pointedly, no one can explain why any God would allow such abject human suffering of innocents. No religion can proclaim a God’s omnipotence, yet deny that same God’s obvious tolerance or indifference regarding suffering and death. The God of the Bible either cares nothing about human suffering, or, has no real power.

Equally, science cannot yet explain where energy (i.e. life) goes, how it changes form, how it operates in the physical dimensions we can perceive. Truthfully, most of the design of existence is a conundrum.

Does profound, enduring mystery suggest a Grand Designer? Anyone’s answer is still just a guess.

Abject ambivalence about a Higher Power sometimes leaves me feeling empty, lost, sad, and utterly alone. At the end of the day, being alive and conscious means being merely vulnerable and eminently mortal. Or, God may be quite annoyed, stuck in rush hour Lincoln Blvd. traffic, I wouldn’t be shocked.

Nonetheless, I too want our likely wishful thinking to come true, and that desire is all that I really know for certain. Space orphans or a Creator’s offspring, we are one or another. Yet, there may be more possibilities our limited perspectives cannot imagine. So, who know what is true? “God knows!” Maybe.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | March 5, 2011

Biggest discovery ever? We are not alone? We will soon know.

Could this be the BIGGEST story in the history of the world?
Exclusive: NASA Scientist claims evidence of alien life on meteorites.

If true- and apparently hundreds of other scientists are testing the evidence- this could change everything. If confirmed, or even before, look for the Santa Monica City Council to declare an official sanctuary for all past, present and future alien life forms, from bacteria to, well, voters. Look for the Whitehouse to appoint a czar to oversee improving relations with emerging new life forms, beginning with an end to using the term “alien”. “All life forms are significant, and potentially equal.”, President Obama was quoted as saying at a recent union fund raising event.

I am ready for new life forms here in Santa Monica. It could only mean even more enrichment through diversity and cultural exchange. Probably more traffic, too.

Then, the next great challenge, free health care for all new life forms! We can do it, after all,this is America.

But, let’s not get too far up field, these meteorite fossils still need to be vetted.

I do hope the findings are true, as this discovery could finally free up our own identifying sense of self, and our tiny existence in the vast- and perhaps now provably inhabited- cosmos.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | March 2, 2011

The Natural World Of Santa Monica

Animal, vegetable, or mineral. Of course, we definitely know folks who can be all three at different times. Here in Santa Monica we often see the ultra-competitive, nearly animalistic driver plough his predatory, lane-zagging path through the crowded, west side avenues and side streets. No doubt over-compensating for something, this deadly doofus rips through traffic with a macho-menacing mix of speed, marginal skills, and two tons of sheer stupidity. Just like all those inane,irresponsible car commercials, accept with tragic consequences, and no fine print.

Speed bumps? We don’t need no stinkin’ speed bumps. Besides, the bureaucracy takes decades.

The vegetables here in Santa Monica are not only abundant in the wonderful, numerous Farmers Markets. They are also nearly alive and almost well in our own local city government.Spend some time on the public access channels, Rent Control, Planning Commission, School Board, City Council meetings and such, to witness firsthand a variety of vegetative behaviors.

The inexplicable, daffy morass of Santa Monica civic governance- from spineless, let’s-all-take-turns mayoral rotation dance, to the loquacious, camera-hounding, self-important, saccharin-socialist, over-controlling, over-regulating City Council- the Sustainable Sushi Seven- defies reason.

Forget the city’s budget and fixing those boring potholes, let’s BOYCOTT OUR FELLOW STATE OF ARIZONA! Let’s officially declare their efforts to control their own state border to be racist. Let’s increase Arizona’s unemployment rate even more because we don’t like their voters’ choices. Let’s have a boycott by Council decree, one that is good for all Santa Monicans whether they actually support it or not, and of course for a better world for everyone’s children..

Most of the minerals here in Santa Monica end up in the gas tanks, and at a premium to most of the country. This relatively small beach town features entire boulevards, not to mention the last few legs of the historic, cross-country Route 66, lined on both sides with dozens of car dealers, collision repair shops, collector showrooms, storage warehouses, and the rental shops.

Animal, vegetable, or mineral. Used to be easier to tell the difference. Now, it hardly matters.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | February 16, 2011

Common civility and such.

We all lament and even joke about civility vanishing from our daily public experience. We laugh as we note how decency and being considerate of others no longer seem important to most. Somehow, small children are more consistent with “please” and “thank you” than the grown-ups. As adults, we soon forget the earliest lessons, and the core values that support them.

Semi-retired and working part-time in a popular grocery, I have a very public job. I too see the stark change in our culture, the harsh tone taken for the least reason, the absence of kindness. I am always surprised at how utterly, mindlessly rude some folks can be, too often unwittingly.

So, I suspect our rudeness moments- this applies to all of us- may be the moments we are most unaware, or oblivious to our transgressions against others. How often have I been rude, without having a single clue? How many times have I been too insensitive to even know what I missed?

Here in Santa Monica, I see this new standard of rudeness all the time. Driving is always a nervous, competitive experience on the west side. Too crowded everywhere, a different driving protocol soon takes over, a sort of survival of the sneakiest, or sometimes most reckless. No one signals their lane changes or turns beforehand, that would be tactically unwise. Better to keep every other driver guessing your next moves. Or maybe signaling is considered too much information to some, or an intrusion into destination privacy to others, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Sitting at a lunch counter with my young son, I was surprised when the two guys sitting nearby starting using bad language, way too loud, as they discussed sports or something. I looked over at them, they looked back, expressionless, and continued their dialogue, again peppering their excited laughter with a few more loud S and F bombs. They were totally oblivious to their immediate surroundings, completely unaware that a child was within earshot. Fortunately, my son was totally absorbed with watching the cooks scurry about, looking for our order to come up. Nonetheless, it was annoying.

Yesterday, I saw an example of dumbness that qualifies for the monthly Most Rude Award. A woman, aproned and name-tagged, eating something, obviously on her lunch break, sitting outside at some tables. She then pulled out a cell from her sweater pocket and was soon chatting away.

An older guy and his wife walk by. He sees the woman sitting there, and says to his wife, “Hey, she works there, I’ll ask her.” He then walks up to her table, standing imposingly close, and says “Hi, I know you’re on the phone, but I have a question for you.” He then launched into a speech about some product he had looked for, and why didn’t the store carry it anymore, blah, blah. The unwitting knave simply went on and on, oblivious to anything beyond his own words. The woman hung up her cell phone, put down her fork, and listened attentively to this customer’s silly rant, nodding and smiling occasionally when he paused to breathe. Finally, she calmly responded to him, and the couple eventually went away, the woman returning to her meal. This employee had to be from some saintly lineage, her tolerance of the mindless numb nut was a fine example of simple kindness and non-judgmental patience. Go figure.

Admittedly a skeptic’s long shot, but let’s hope decency returns some day, and civility becomes the next cool thing.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | February 16, 2011

Santa Monica, nowhere Left.

Santa Monicans are certainly a strange lot. Yoga classes and auto shops, tofu and bottled water aficionados, yogurt storefronts and Volvo SUVs, hip sandals and over-priced sunglasses, yappy dogs and their plastic-bag totting walkers, and a ridiculous but wonderful number of good Thai restaurants. Councils and boards chock full of self-sustaining citycrats, career-peddling their camera time on local cable stations, and the public comment activists, fast-talking builder or anti-builder hacks, loopy local gadflies, and various colorful zealots and incoherent eccentrics.

The helpless- and unfortunately also the clueless- don’t flock to Chicago for a life of leisure. The city is official sanctuary for illegal aliens, non-smokers, renters, homeless, and bike-riders. The city prides itself on a long history of responsible urban leadership and visionary planning. The city of Santa Monica is one of the most environmentally aware cities in the entire world. The city is also boycotting Arizona, feels righteous doing so, that state’s lost jobs be damned.

But for all this hapless civic hospitality, Santa Monicans aren’t known for being particularly friendly, sensible, or selfless. Try driving east from the beach to the west side to assess for yourself. Or, try navigating through the markets or gas stations or workout gyms to confirm. Living in this town is very often fortunate, aggravating, comfortable and peculiar, all at once.

Historic Route 66, the “Mother Road”, had to stop somewhere, trailing along its final dust clouds of progress and possibility. Twenty-four hundred amazing miles later, at the very end of Santa Monica Boulevard, to Will Rogers’ Park, Saint Monica’s statue clinging to a narrow, receding bluff above the mostly placid western ocean, marking the long, enduring daydream of countless new lives and beginnings, families born and re-born, the last destination and hope, the ultimate boundary of discovery.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | January 27, 2011

The Nazi card, rhetoric, and a dose of common sense.

My mom, now 84 and going strong- somehow survived Auschwitz, her whole family perishing in the deadly showers. My father escaped the Nazis and joined a resistance group, then later the Greek army. He also lost his entire family to the death camps. All my grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, murdered without mercy, all snuffed out by the darkest evil the world has ever known. Obviously, all things considered, my parents are the most amazing people I have known. So, given my family history, I observe and react from a uniquely personal perspective.to this latest version of the old controversy of playing the Nazi card in debate over public policy.

Today the term Nazi has been almost mainstreamed to describe anything extreme, obsessive, or myopic. Now there are Feminazis, health Nazis, the word pops up everywhere. Even here in beach town Santa Monica, decades ago, the term surf Nazis was in play, describing groups of very territorial surfers along the coast.

Ignoring the humorous but on-point Godwin’s Law is never smart.

My friend Jim, who authors the California blog bearroombrawl,
posted a very funny link satirizing this Nazi card subject, and, here is another truly hilarious Hitler/Juan Williams/NPR comedy video lampooning the topic quite effectively.

I once asked my mom- as we watched some CNN segment- what she felt when she heard Nazi or Hitler references. She said- in her own words- that she doesn’t like hearing such comparisons.
The people making these statements “don’t know what we went through, how terrible it was, there is no comparison”.

I thought I would write a piece on the Left’s penchant for playing the Nazi card, as with Representative Cohen’s remarks about conservative opposition to President Obama’s health reform plan. However, after a bit of research, I realized there were far too many examples on both sides, including some conservatives and liberals I like, There seem to be more examples on the Left, but that still misses the big point: It’s typically just dumb when anyone plays the Nazi card, for any reason. Making parallels with today’s public policy issues always seems, glib, over-the-top, and therefor unpersuasive. Can you recall an argument ever being strengthened by a Hitler reference? It is almost always an admission of defeat in debate, a lazy attempt that seems shrill and desperate.

Yet, using the Nazi card in heated discussion seems almost irresistible. Both the Right and Left do it without reservation. What gets cheapened, diluted, and distorted every time is the true understanding of the real events as they occurred, the horror and fear that was virtually unprecedented in scope and design.

I believe my mom has the last word on this subject. After all, her direct experience has the most credibility, far more than the talking heads who too often employ.the Nazi card in their daily battles for political survival. Also, it is an effective way to garnish instant media attention, no doubt the motivation for some.

Rarely, very rarely, the analogy may have legs. But all the frequent, off-base Nazi references only cry wolf to any real threats to our most basic rights and liberties. It would be very bad, perhaps dangerously bad, if the word Nazi eventually is distanced from all its bloodshed and evil, and that is also reason enough to leave the term to its literal, historical meaning.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | January 25, 2011

Instant Karma, anxiety, too many questions, too few answers.

Riding my bike home from work last month, heading north up Centinela Avenue, the eastern border of Santa Monica, I noticed a few groups of folks standing about on the sidewalk, talking in hushed tones, something was going on, something not good. On the west side of the street I noticed a car with flowers, plants and cards covering the windshield, obviously a memorial of some type. Later, from a neighbor, I learned the story. The previous Thursday evening, around 9pm, a woman exiting her car was struck by a southbound driver. The driver did not stop. The woman, 50 years old, died of her blunt force injuries at the hospital. The suspect car’s right side mirror was sheared off, but police at this point have no other leads.

Darkly coincidental, this is the second fatality in Santa Monica on Centinela in recent years, following a 2008 homicide of an aspiring young actress in her apartment. After a couple of years of blind leads, determined investigators finally have two suspects awaiting trial for that crime.

The hit-and-run fatality, so close to home, made me once again think hard about the instant horror that can happen to anyone, at any time. I think of my wife and seven-year old son, driving around crazy, overcrowded West Side every day, and me riding around on my bike.

Sometimes, on my weekdays off, my son and I ride our bikes to his school, always a white-knuckle experience for me, even though we take it as slow and careful as possible. Drivers on the West Side, especially in bike-lane Santa Monica, are often careless idiots. No one looks out for bikes, and I have had a few near crashes. We only ride the sidewalks, very slowly, but that is technically illegal in Santa Monica. Sometimes, the streets can be so narrow, like on Centinela, riding between the traffic and the parked cars, can be treacherous. At my ripening old age of 58, I take it real easy on the bike. I do nothing dumb or strange, and proceed as defensively as common sense and many decades of riding instinct allow. Nonetheless, I worry about accidents all the time. I worry too much about bad things happening to good people for no apparent reason. Stories like this Centinela hit and run only fuel my fears. As parents, we try to be as careful as possible, but so much is out of our control.

This poor woman’s death was so pointless, perhaps preventable with better lighting or speed bumps along Centinela Avenue, from Olympic to Santa Monica Boulevard, the dark, narrow stretch that resembles the Indy 500 every day at rush hour. Maybe the driver was drunk, or texting, or just speeding and out of control. One random family, shocked and crushed by an unimaginable loss, all because someone- for one moment- was not paying attention.

But I hope they get the scumbag for running, there is simply no excuse for that sort of cowardice.

Since Centinela Avenue is a border street shared by both Santa Monica and Los Angeles, imagine the mountain of bureaucracy involved with a speed bump request. But I will make some efforts, it’s worth looking into.

Instant Karma…I have yet to hear an explanation that satisfies me, or mitigates my concerns, fears, and occasional nightmares.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | January 20, 2011

SOPs…my own new term.

Whenever I try to write about the left and right in our culture, I always feel dissatisfied with both terms. Truth is, there are some on the left who are sensible, sane Americans. There are some on the right who are myopic, paranoid, and close-minded. I have family and friends who identify with one group or another. Some other folks claim an issue-focused, political independence, mostly characterized by equal scorn for both parties. Most of the time, I am probably in this last group. Even the tired out terms of liberal and conservative do not work anymore.. Some conservatives are mean-spirited knuckleheads, while some liberals actually employ realism and consistent moral clarity. Generally, liberals want to re-level their perception of the unfair playing field. Liberals are most willing to break the bank, print money like crazy, and spend away their perpetually guilt-ridden conscience. Liberals want the government to decide for the individual. Conservatives distrust the inevitably corrupt power and influence of a growing federal, state, and local government. Conservatives recognize that as governments grow, every American’s choices and chances diminish.

So, I need a new term, one that quickly identifies the loons in both camps, the fringe extreme who get far too much air-time, and not enough sensible rebuttal. I will now call these sincere but misguided folks SOPs: Self-ordained progressives. Now by definition, a SOP wants to do well so badly, he or she is dangerously reckless with reason.. The SOP just knows- through some sort of divinely progressive ordinance- that their mission is to speak, act and defend anyone they perceive as down-trodden, subjugated, or exploited..The SOP wants more and more of everyone’s money to help those who are helpless, as well as those who are without ambition. For the SOP, a strident pursuit of so-called fairness is the Holy Grail. Sometimes the sheer folly of SOPs knows no limit. Consider the San Francisco-McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy story. These city council folks actually believe the government can and should supersede the judgment of parents! Now, that’s a fine bit of hubris! The idea that government knows better is almost always a Big Lie, or a bad myth that serves no moral purpose. Another example of menacing, do-gooder SOPs, and their obsessive desire to improve you, no matter the cost or damage- daffy Santa Monica’s official boycott of Arizona. The ignoble despots on the Santa Monica City Counsel, in a gloriously triumphant moment of vanguard solidarity and true SOP fervor, decided that the State of Arizona- yes dear reader, the ENTIRE state- is racist, morally evil, and therefor not worthy of Santa Monica’s commerce or exchange of goods and services. Predictably, the latest update is that the council’s actions are cos tong strapped taxpayers serious money, as done deals are canceled or postponed. What utterly bizarre foolishness! How many JOBS did the City Council destroy with their unconscionable boycott?

Anyway, SOPs will be my new term, encompassing loons and lazy thinkers on both sides of the political landscape, although they seem FAR more prevalent on the left.

Posted by: skepticbydefault | January 19, 2011

ANNOY THE RICH!

Balancing my too-full 99-cent bag, riding back home on my bike, the artsy poster on the warehouse wall boldly directed its readers: “Annoy The Rich”. Cute. Here in Santa Monica, a relatively wealthy beach town occupied by over 75% renters, the attitudes towards the so-called rich are complicated. Apartment building owners are thwarted from imposing egregious rent hikes, low-rent units are protected from conversion or demolition, and subsidized housing for low-income families is assertively emphasized in urban planning and development. With probably the toughest rent-control laws in the country, Santa Monica is a renter’s dream town. The arrangement between renters and owners seems to be working well for some time now, and the owners (i.e. resented “rich”) gained the right to re-offer apartment vacancies at going market rates. So, the so-called wealthy are tolerated here, and even allowed to increase their properties’ income, as the fickle City Council and Rent Control Board deem appropriate. Why do some West Side loony leftists want to “annoy the rich”? Because many on the left doggedly believe the wealthy gained their status somehow unfairly? No doubt some did, but that is hardly a working justification for misguided attempts to somehow avenge past wrongs. Does the scorn for the wealthy come from the left’s general loathing (i.e. envies) of owners? Should everyone dislike the rich in order to somehow make society better for all? Who can logically think along these lines? Aren’t the rich- the business owners- responsible for creating most of the jobs? Isn’t mild-weathered Santa Monica the national capital for the homeless? Hasn’t business fled the West Side for the past decade? Companies like Stata Corp., which specializes in data analysis and statistical software, moved from Santa Monica, California to College Station, Texas. The list of companies fleeing California is long and alarming. The genius sign makers on the left want us to annoy those who create salaries for families to survive and thrive? And this makes good sense to who? Daily life in Santa Monica- the Land of Yes We Can and Just Did- is always a puzzling maze of contradiction: too many homeless asleep in vacant storefront doorways, too many tourists chasing West Side knick-knacks, too many cars on streets designed for walkers and bike riders…this officially ordained sanctuary town full of leased Mercedes and BMW’s, who can really know who is “rich” out here? Ask the left, they can somehow identify the enemy, and it is most likely nothing more ordinary than functioning free enterprise. If this foolish, irrational trend of “success resentment” continues, how long before the “upper middle-class” get targeted? Living in The People’s Sustainable Republic of Santa Monica very often means…tolerating the very annoying Left!

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