“A Cake Walk”
Where in the United States or elsewhere about the Globe is “cake walk” in the common vernacular? Google it, and the primary references are to an old Southern musical tradition and to connotations of things which are easy.
We have the honor to represent the Town of Fairview, West Virginia, in its legal affairs. (Fortunately for all, it is an ultra-pleasant place with little need for constant legal services.) When I’m called upon to go there, I enjoy the drive, I enjoy the company and conversation, and I just feel attached to a part of an America spirit that has slipped away from so many places.
One of the premier events of the year in Marion County is the Fairview 4th of July Celebration. It is, I seem to recall, lawful in the United States to burn the American flag as a form of First Amendment speech. I sit here safe in No. 3 Equity Court on a Sunday afternoon, and I picture anyone going into the precincts of Fairview at any time of the day on any day of the year and setting fire to Old Glory. Fairview is filled with many veterans, many of whom hold the Purple Heart, and every resident of Fairview I have ever met is a strong, moral and hard-headed patriot. The 4th of July is not a date in Fairview, it is a way of life. And so, to those who value their First Amendment rights, consider Fairview an intelligence test. Burning a flag there would indicate a stunning lack of brains on your part, and validate Darwin’s theories.
There are also light-hearted parts of the 4th of July Celebration. I was talking to one of the Fairview folks this week, a Purple Heart veteran, who was describing this year’s plans. Among them is an honest-to-Gosh cake walk. In this case, it is not a Southern dance thing, it is a fundraiser which is a cross between a raffle and musical chairs, the prizes in which are cakes. Does it sound hokey? Oh, it is, it is, deliciously so. You can hear Aunt Bee in the background, Ma & Pa Kettle’s Model A, a steam whistle, and when you look around the only hair colors are those naturally found in humans. And that’s OK. There is a reason that we long for simplicity. There is a reason that we desire a return to things that are uncomplicated and non-confrontational. We are caught in a Gresham’s Law of Social Behavior, where crudity drives out civility and where we assume that the only rational response to an idiot is more idiocy.
Through my enlightened friends in Fairview, we can see that there is still an America where simple and clear values persist, and where people can have simple fun without apologizing or pretending that they must feign some deep understanding of some high-minded social mishmash that MTV approves of.
Shriners; The Bastards! They are Closing Our Hospitals!
You know the Shriners, of course. They are the guys (men only) who were the funny red hats (fez’s, actually), perform in parades, and (according to Ray Stevens) raise harmless drunken hell at conventions.
There are, perhaps, a couple of things that you don’t know about Shriners. First, they are all Master Masons and, therefore, of some presumed basic decent standing in the community. (This is a general observation. There have been lots of exceptions, unfortunately.) Second, until the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation got the money from Warren Buffet, the Shrine was the largest (i.e., most money) private foundation in the world. The Shrine operates 22 totally free children’s orthopedic hospitals. By totally free, I mean that the patients and their families pay nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. These hospitals employ world class surgeons, therapists and other health care professionals. Shriners all over America furnish transportation and other support, and to most of them it is not some abstract service, it is a mission. I know a disabled Shriner who devotes all of the time and energy that he has to the work for the children. This is a bear of a man. I last saw him at a high school graduation, where one of the crippled children he had sponsored when she was a toddler in a wheelchair walked across the stage to get her diploma, and he was weeping unashamedly. Folks, that is a man's man. (The Shrine also operates three world-class free burn centers.)
So what’s the problem? Well, the financial geniuses collecting their bonuses and stock options have presided over the investment system generally tanking something like 20%. The value of investments is down and the income on investments is down. That’s how the Shrine pays for these hospitals. American Express got a bailout, Goldman Sachs got a bailout, GM got a bailout. The Shrine didn’t get a bailout. And so, the board is faced with the probable necessity of closing six hospitals. Why? Not enough mony from current income. If the Shrine keeps these hospitals open, it will use principal to do so, greatly reduce income in future years, and endanger all of the hospitals.
The angst within the Shrine is terrible. This is the reason the Shrine exists, to help children. These conditions which are limiting income are economy-wide, and the investment performance of the Shrine is exceeding most other non-profits. And patients are frightened, because they have depended on quality and free care.
Some “patient rights advocates” have responded vigorously – with petitions demanding that the Shrine not close any hospitals nor reduce any services. Hey, there you have it, problem solved! When someone becomes an “[anything] rights advocate” or “[anything] activist,” is the lobotomy included for free or do they have to pay extra? Step right up, folks, hear my moronic and simplistic declaration, ignore cause and effect, screw reality, and It Shall Be So! And then desperate people with real world problems who will grasp at anything are led to anger and guaranteed failure, rather than turning any of their efforts and energy into any path that may actually work. “Dammit, DO SOMETHING!” is sooo much easier that sitting down and spending the time and making the effort to think about what to do and then doing it.
When someone proposes anything, not only is it a fair question, it is a necessary question, what are the effects of your proposal on the obvious weak points? When someone protests anything, not only is it a fair question, it is a necessary question: What is your PLAN? Anything less is sloppy, intellectually lazy and politically opportunistic.
We Have Gravely Insulted The Israelis And Cannot Make Amends
Some modern Christian writings on apocalyptic matters view the modern political state of Israel as necessary to the fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophesy. Beats me, I’m just relating what they say. One theme seems to be that there will be more and more trouble and dissension.
Are we at some tipping point? This week, President Obama was talking on the telephone to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel from the President’s office. Although Mr. Obama was nattily dressed in a suit, he was kicking back and had his feet up on his desk, as some folks are wont to do. An infidel photographer was present, and the photographer took a photo of the President from across the desk, showing the soles of the President’s shoes. To compound the crime, this photo was published.
Naturally, there was an outcry in the Israeli press. No matter that Mr. Obama was doubtless kissing Mr. Netanyahu’s ass in the manner that American presidents have done since 1948. (“The USS Liberty, Prime Minster Eshkol? Piffle, it was only flying the largest American flag available when your aircraft attacked and killed 34 Americans in international waters, it could have happened to anyone, think nothing of it!”) However, the soles of the President’s shoes didn’t match the pucker of the President’s lips, and so we must grovel at Israel’s feet. The $3 billion in foreign aid we give Israel every year ($95/second) is as nothing. That they lie to us about having nuclear weapons, forget it. For we have flashed shoe leather at them. This is unforgivable. Woe be on us. No matter that Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t there physically before the President. No matter that no Israeli saw it in person. It’s the principle of the thing, and even Israelis love to be victims, don’t they.
Well, I demand that we make amends. We don’t deserve to be a part of the future of Israel. We don’t deserve to talk to them. We don’t deserve to send them money. We cannot risk offending them again.
Thus saith the Lord.
Tim's Mom Goes On A Fire Call
Today we had a nice little extended family dinner at the local Applebee's to celebrate a close cousin's birthday. (Happy Birthday, Chris!) LaG (Grandmother) rode with me, and LaJ (Tim's Mom) rode with him. En route, I got a phone call from Tim that he was "diverting" to a fire call. And, apparently, kidnapping LaJ. Upon inquiring, he tersely informed me that it was for a plane crash, and by then LaG and I were nearing the interstate and saw the parade of engines and tankers heading for the airport.
Understand, a car wreck is a car wreck and a fire is a fire -- but a plane crash, well, that's a plane crash. No fireman or rescue man can pass one of those up, even if it requires some little thing like kidnapping your mother. Statistically, plane crashes are not big deals here, because Marion County has no airport that will handle anything with a jet engine. Nearby airports (Bridgeport and Morgantown) normally handle communters and smaller aircraft, although the maintenance facility in Bridgeport receives larger aircraft with crews. But, a plane crash is a plane crash and you just don't miss it.
On the other hand, for spectators, calls generally are spectacular bores. LaG and I made a gallant effort to rescue LaJ, but Tim drove to the scene and I would neither drive past the marshalling area for extra apparatus nor leave elderly LaG and saunter down a long runway on a Mom hunt. So, we went to dinner and in the Fullness of Time, they reappeared.
LaJ ungraciously recalled similar experiences 20+ years ago, but I do not recall that happening.