Friday, 25 October 2019

Changing Times

There's a piece that came out this week, from an interview that was done with Bruce Springsteen....suggesting that President Trump doesn't understand 'what it means to be an American'.

I sat and read over the interview, and pondered upon it for an afternoon.

The problem that Springsteen a Bob Dylan lyric that easily fits here...."...the times, they are achanging".

It's not 1984/1985 anymore, and Springsteen's America has slipped away from the pier, set sail, floundered a good bit, was hopelessly lost at some point, and some lighthouse suddenly came up in the past three years, and jacked up the beacon 300-percent to bring this boat back into port.

Once NAFTA arrived, and a million-odd jobs disappeared over a decade....Springsteen's America was dissolving away.

Then you had China take over industrial jobs, and import products into the US....with politicians like George Bush and Barak Obama claiming those jobs would never come back.

Then toss in the banking crisis and the real estate mess in California and Florida.

What people felt over the past thirty years was a demoralizing effect, a loss of respect for both political parties, and a disbelief in fundamental values. When you (the general public) say that 95-percent of people have some level skepticism...from a marginal level to a maximum level....on the news media, something's wrong.

My advice to Springsteen?  Pack up your truck, and go take a 90-day drive around the US....talking to regular working-class people.  Go talk to blacks, truckers, barbers, and farmers.  Don't start your conversation about 'what it means to be an American'....but with 'how do you feel today'.  Don't let the optimism freak you out.

Play Dylan's tune in the back of your mind.  We are simply not in 1984 any longer....we've moved on.  And those times are achanging.

Thoughts On MREs

In 1990-1991 timeframe (within the Air Force), we had a total of a dozen MRE 'selections' (combat rations) for eating purposes.  Most people will tell you that they could do the MRE thing for about a week max, and then their patience, bowel movements, and desire for food began to cease.

There were only four of the twelve that I considered decent (the corn-beef-hash, the ham slice, the beef stew, and the spaghetti with meat sauce).  Note, the spaghetti package needed to be warmed up...otherwise, it was like a cold can of Chef Boy-R-D.

The chocolate fudge bar?  This always came with the ham slice dinner, and it was regarded as 200-percent fudge....meaning that you needed to drink something with get it down your throat.  The fudge bar tended to be the bowel movement blocker, and usually packed you up for a minimum of two days with no toilet visits.

The maple nut cake (it's hard to describe as an actual cake) was something that usually suggested that it was five years old and marginally edible. 

The pack that usually got dumped by people the most?  The tuna and noodles.  This included some kind of nut-cake that was marginally edible and really only worked if you could get a can of Coke to go with it (almost never happened).

The thing I came away with from those MRE experiences, was that you really didn't want to be in a situation where this was your only choice of food for more than a week.  I think most people would admit that after three days....they'd just start eating less and less food via the MREs.  After this....anything that the chow hall offered, as marginal of quality that it might have been....was a four-star meal.

Three Simple Lines

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

-- First Amendment, written by James Madison

It came up in news this week that a majority of Americans would like to rewrite the First Amendment.  They aren't exactly clear on how it'd be worded, or if it could be contained on four lines.  They just seem to think that you need more control, than you need rights.

What I always admired about James Madison and the three lines is the compact nature, blunt wording, and limited focus.

In those days leading up to the had no internet, and very limited news via regional newspapers.  So after you'd eaten for the likely sat on a front porch or by a fire....with someone who'd dropped by and engaged in a two-hour conversation.  A beer or whiskey was shared, and deep thoughts exchanged.

These conversations were way beyond anything that we'd talk about today.  You would talk about the thrill of religion, or the sermon from last weekend, and then you'd dwell on the aspects of freedoms around religion.

Then you might pick up the topic of newspapers, and how they were careful to say things but often picked on simple things like some horse-buggy going into a river, or barn-fire.

Conversations went on and on, and you would dig deep into the crust of  what was free and what ought to be prohibited.

Imagine over an entire decade....five-hundred of these conversations with like-minded people.  So when someone stepped up to your porch and asked for the basic freedoms to write into the knew the compact solution and it was not that hard to write.

Today?  If you gathered forty people and asked for prohibitions, limits, curbs, 'fences', liberties or rights....this could get complicated.

You could end up on day ten of this exercise with 3,000 lines, instead of four.

You might go and create a truth-seeker under a congressional mandate who dictates what is truth, and what is not truth.

You might go and suggest a license for 'press' must exist, and that only the federal government, not the state government....could manage such a thing.

By day thirty of the exercise, some of the forty people assembling the new 'rights' would come to realize that you can't have a 3,000 line first amendment, and you start to chop on this.

By day sixty, you wake up as the key member of the forty 'writers' realize that you are now back down to just five or six lines, and almost identical to the original words of Madison.

What made America different from almost every nation that existed at the beginning?  It was rights written into the First Amendment....not limits.

Analysis Free of Charge

The US Army went out and paid this team to study bowel movements under a normal diet, and under a MRE diet  (the combat rations package).

I's a total waste of time and I could have told them that.

So the study found (using 60 people) that that those who ate a normal diet....had typically one additional bowl movement a week, than the MRE group (eating at least two MRE meals a day).

I would offer this analysis....having done the MRE business a couple of times in my life.  If you get the MRE packet with the fudge bar 'desert''s pretty good odds that you can go a minimum of two days without a bowel movement, and maybe even three days. 

This packet, typically the one with the beef stew 'delight', and the peanut butter/cracker....combined with the fudge bar...would create a 'log-jam' of enormous proportions.   If you can imagine eating five of those over a three-day setting, and feeling all's not a pleasant experience. 

The Mexican 'delight' packet?  Oddly enough, this would slide through and you might be able to do three bowel movement in a single day (this had the beef taco, the fruity 'thing', nut and raisin 'bar', and cheddar cheese spread). 

What this all led to, is that you had to balance out your diet, and eat things that you typically didn't order to maintain some type of semi-ordinary bowel movement situation. 

I could have told these folks the analysis without all this testing business.