Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Check out our new blog


Dear friends of the Moleskin,

A good old friend of mine and I have created a new blog called

CARPE ABSURDUM.

Though I will continue to post here from time to time, most of my time and energy will be spent at the above-referenced link. Come check us out. I think you'll enjoy it.

Yours truly,

Collin Hinds

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Waging War on the Working Poor




In a recent study, conducted and published by The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, the wisdom of providing welfare to the poor is scrutinized. The people at Cato worry that welfare, and the way it is distributed, creates a disincentive for people living in poverty to find gainful employment. Anyone living in poverty in Oklahoma who was to take advantage of all the various welfare programs offered could reap a benefit having the value of $26,764 per year, the authors of the study noted.

Oklahoma City’s daily, the Oklahoman, ran an op-ed entitled, Welfare programs in need of serious adjustments. Citing the Cato study, the Oklahoman stated, “The pretax value of Oklahoma’s welfare benefits was equivalent to employment earnings of $10.81 per hour and amounted to 75.8 percent of the state’s median salary.”

The opinion piece concludes by pointing out that it is unfair that people working entry-level jobs, while paying taxes and making less than $26,764 a year, help subsidize those who won’t work. The last paragraph of the Oklahoman editorial reads, “That’s an insult to those who work hard and play by the rules. And it doesn’t help the truly needy.”

The Cato Institute and The Oklahoman stand united on the proposition that the safety net for people living in poverty needs to be scaled back as dramatically as possible, less this insult should continue in perpetuity.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute analyzed the situation in a much different light. At its website, okpolicy.org, in an article entitled, The Oklahoman’s distorted case for cutting the safety net, it is proposed that “The Cato report and the Oklahoman op-ed are premised on two big distortions of the truth.”

The first distortion is that Cato and the Oklahoman take it for uncontroverted truth that all people living in poverty are eligible for a global welfare benefit package. OK Policy points out that no such “package” exists.

Each of the various programs that function to assist those in need have their own unique criteria for eligibility. Some are only for children, others for the elderly, and very little is offered for all those in between. OK Policy points out that in Oklahoma, approximately 400,000 people under the age of 65 live in poverty. According to OK Policy, the number of Oklahoman families enrolled in all programs, and thus raking in $26-plus grand a year on the backs of those who choose to sweat and toil for a living, “ranges from tiny to nonexistent.”

The second big distortion OK Policy identifies is the idea that the safety net functions as an alternative to work. Rather, the safety net primarily functions to supplement the incomes of the working poor who work for companies that do not pay their employees a living wage. Walmart, the largest employer of Oklahomans, is one such offender.

OK Policy’s piece concludes, “By spreading such a wildly inaccurate story about poverty, The Cato Institute and the Oklahoman have done a disservice to anyone who takes them seriously as a source of information.”

It seems that for too many libertarian groups, the urge to vilify the powerless and impoverished is irresistible.

Either they are just wildly incompetent, or The Cato Institute and the Oklahoman are waging war on the working poor, and are willing to resort to fabrications in order to achieve victory.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Pusher


For some unfathomable reason I am on a music kick from an era when men could confidently sport long hair, mustaches and bell bottoms. 

The late seventies, or what I can remember of it (I wasn’t 10 until 1980), seemed a cooler time, when pop lyrics like those in Player’s hit single, Baby Come Back, were the norm:

Baby come back, any kind of fool could see
There was something in everything about you
Baby come back, listen baby, you can blame it all on me
I was wrong, and I just can’t live without you

There is no way a grown man could sit down and seriously hammer out those words in a heart-felt manner, without trying to be funny, unless he had consumed a liter of vodka and half an eight ball of cocaine. I think in the seventies, that’s what passed as breakfast. I preferred Count Chocula.

I remember in grade school we were shown a poorly drawn picture of what a drug pusher was supposed to look like. It was imagined that these mythical creatures craved nothing more than to get every grade school student in Tulsa, Oklahoma hooked on acid, weed, qualuudes, bennies, mcneils, tuinol, dilaudid, horse and keef, and all other forms of uppers, downers, inners and outers.

The guy in the diagram looked like the lesser known bassist for The Doobie Brothers who might have filled in for the band on one tour, because the full time bassist was in rehab that summer.

The guy in the drawing had long hair, a mustache, and aviator sunglasses. The sunglasses, we were told, were for the sole purpose of hiding blood shot eyes, because that guy smoked a monster amount of doobage. He wore a long sleeve western style shirt — long sleeves to hide the track marks on his arms from shooting up God knows what. Of course, he wore bell bottom jeans, which we were told were a sign of subversion induced by moral failings owing to the consumption of controlled dangerous substances, and a strong and attendant “I don’t give a fuck about the fuzz” attitude. He seemed thoroughly evil to my classmates and me.

We kept an eye out for him everywhere we went; walking to and from school, at the movie theater, the ice cream parlor, and at sporting events. I never did see him until one day after school.

A couple of guys in a Camaro pulled up next to a group of us walking home from Barnard Elementary. The guy in the passenger seat was a dead ringer for the pusher we saw drawn out in class. He had long hair, aviators, and christ almighty, one hell of a mustache. 

“That’s him,” I said to a childhood friend. “A pusher!” I yelled right at the poor fellow, while pointing an accusing finger. All the other kids ran for it, disbursing in all directions. The guy who could have been mistaken for a roadie for the Almond Brothers or Fleetwood Mac, looked at me authentically puzzled, as the car drove off. 

I bragged to my friends and teachers about my act of selfless heroism. I had single-handedly averted what might have been the quickest and most destructive corruption of youth the world had ever known. 

At the next school assembly, I was honored for my bravery by our principal, an old man then, who had neat cropped hair, and wore a bow-tie and tweed jacket no matter how hot it was outside. I might have even been rewarded some kind of certificate.

It never occurred to any of us that we were unwitting pawns in an inter-generational squabble. The greatest generation was pissed at their baby boomer kids for not being more like them, and we, young gen-x’ers were enlisted to shame their offspring as a bunch of perverted druggies.

They might have been, but they listened to some smooth, chilled out music.


Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things that Drive Me Nuts




Here are some things that drive me nuts, in no particular order.

Bold predictions. They are almost always wrong and are based on emotion and delivered with hyperbole. Does anyone still watch Morning Joe? 

People on TV and radio who are paid handsomely to make bold predictions. It doesn’t pay to point out the obvious and say tomorrow will bear a striking resemblance to today. Say good bye to talk shows.  

Reductionists. Because for them, everything can only be seen from their own limited point of view. No real progress is made without synthesis, says Hegel and I.

Dogmatists. They are as myopic as reductionist, but less intellectual. You’ll have to pry my crazy notions about reality from my cold, dead hands. 

Anonymous comments. The perfect format for angry dogmatists to be smart asses in public. Anyone can be a mean-spirited nobody at the key board.

Naysayers. If naysayers were all that humanity had to offer, we would still be roaming ancient plains with head lice and pointy sticks. This isn’t working; should we try something different? Nay.

Extroverts. Thank God I find the time to get away from them, or I’d go really nuts. Meaningless conversations with many strangers makes my head hurt. Thank God for alcohol.

Anti-intellectualism. Please, your life would suck without all the great, deep thinking that has gone into building a society in which you are free to hate people because they are better at thinking than you. Don't trust no one who might know more about something than me.

Sadists. Or, people who get high on being mean to others. They can be ignored and openly disdained, until they are appointed to a position of power. You want a hit off this man? No thanks, I get my kicks from being a prick. By the way, hippy, you under arrest and sentenced to twenty.

Fear-mongering, hate-bating political hacks. They are experts at coming up with non-solutions to non-problems. Anti-intellectuals adore them.

Tattoos on face. No one should ever do that, unless your name happens to be Mike Tyson. He can do that.

Rants. Oh wait — this is one.

What really drives me nuts? Mostly me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Barney Fife, a Viral Video and the Fourth Amendment




As reported by WATE 6 News out of Knoxville, Tennessee on its Facebook page, “A driver recorded his stop during a DUI checkpoint in Rutherford County, TN and uploaded the video to YouTube. ... [J]ust hours after it was posted, it had more than 190,000 views. The driver wrote on his YouTube page that the DUI checkpoint happened in Murfreesboro and the deputy told him ‘it is okay to take away my freedom.’” 

You can see the video below.

It would appear that the young man who shot and produced the video, intentionally drove into the July 4th DUI checkpoint for the purpose of provoking law enforcement into a mini-constitutional show down.

Needless to say, the viral video has provoked a multitude of opinions and emotions.

It is difficult to watch the segment of the video where the sheriff deputy manipulates a response from the drug-sniffing K9 and not feel a little outraged. Some might feel that the young man who was stopped and detained, was just being a little rabble-rousing jackass.

What is the lesson in all of this?

Law enforcement operates under a complex and evolving set of rules that prescribe how it can go about approaching people and investigate wrong-doing, and making arrests. The Fourth Amendment states, in part, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...” (Italics added). The Fourth Amendment’s limit on government actions is extended to state governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. 

Those who get aroused by government overreaching and infringement on personal liberties, usually within the context of taxation and the Second Amendment’s ‘right to bear arms,’ should be just as concerned with the prohibition against unlawful search and seizures. The Fourth Amendment does more to keep the government out of our business than anything else in the constitution. It’s what really makes us free in the grandest sense of the word.

There will always be a Deputy Barney Fife out there, who will bend the rules — or flat out break them — which is inexcusable. Laws are rules, and breaking rules is cheating.

A lawyer-friend, and criminal defense attorney, told me that law enforcement attracts two types of people. It attracts, “people who love the rule of law, and want to protect and serve, and bully types.”

In my experience, most career law enforcement officers are professional. But some, maybe laboring under the stress of meeting an arrest quota, take things a step too far, which is not the American ideal as it is enshrined in the greatest legal document ever drafted by human beings — The Constitution of the United States.

Cops are necessary and good, and we have to be able to trust them.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Fifth Amendment Rules! Good Bye DOMA




Three prominent mid-twentieth century Oklahoman politicians were running for the same office. Legend has it that at the beginning of a televised debate, one of the candidates began by announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll have you know that one of my opponents is a crook, and the other is a homosexual!” Gene Stipes, one of the candidates on stage, stepped forward without hesitation and said, “I’m the crook!”

In 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority. The basic result of the court’s ruling was that it was no longer illegal to be homosexual in the United States. Justice Scalia gritched that the court’s ruling would lead one day to the unthinkable — same-sex marriage. That disgruntled and prescient man was correct.

Exactly ten years later Kennedy was writing the opinion for the majority in the landmark case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, a federal law that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, only.

Ultimately, the high court nixed DOMA ruling that the law was unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment that incorporates the proposition that all laws have to be applied equally to everyone. If marriage is legal for heterosexuals, then it is for LGBT couples, too. Never have the words, “It is so ordered,” at the end of a Supreme Court opinion sounded so compassionate.

There was one sentence in the majority opinion that grabbed my attention. Kennedy wrote that a state law legalizing same-sex marriage, “reflects both the community’s considered perspective on  the historical roots of the institution of marriage and its evolving understanding of the meaning of equality.”

Since when humans roamed in small bands, the barrier between “them” and “us” has slowly been eroding. Bands became tribes. Tribes became chiefdoms. Chiefdoms became city-states, and then nations. Fast forward to the present, and we are gradually becoming global citizens who recognize, despite our differences, we are all human, and that we have far more in common than not. 

Jurisprudence evolves along side cultural evolution, but tends to lag a bit. Paraphrasing one comedian’s reaction to the DOMA case, ‘As a moral species, we have made a monumental leap 100 years into the present.’

It is inconceivable that fifty years from now, a politician in any state would stand before a crowd and cameras and equate homosexuality with criminality. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Peacock




On Mother’s Day, my wife and kids and I paid my grandmother a visit at the twenty-four hour care facility she had been moved to days before. 

We walked into the lobby and into a sprawling common area, where we found her sitting quietly in a wheel chair looking through the window into the nursing home’s courtyard. She looked sullen and defeated, but lit up when she saw us.

“Look there,” she said, pointing at a peacock perched on top of a patio table in the courtyard, just on the other side of the window from us. “It’s tail feathers go all the way to the ground.” 

The grounds outside were well manicured and full of interesting horticultural specimens. Inside, everything was spotlessly clean and in perfect order. In the common area, there was wood panelling, large windows with pleasing views, art on the walls, and indoor plants were strategically placed here and there. The whole place had a calming, and satisfying aura about it.

Also I noticed, there must have been fifty or so extremely old people parked here and there throughout the five-thousand square foot common area.

To the left of us were five old women lined up in a row in wheelchairs and recliners. A few feet away was another woman slumped over in her wheelchair. In front of us was another group of women lined up against another wall. Most of them had their eyes closed tight -- sleeping, maybe dreaming. One woman, also with eyes closed tight, sat tilted on her right hip, while her left arm and leg twitched incessantly. The liveliest of the bunch laughed, gesticulated, and talked with someone who wasn’t visible to the rest of us.

I got up to walk around and find a restroom. It was the same sight everywhere throughout the facility. 

One thing in particular that stood out to me was that there were hardly any men among them — maybe one. The observation made me feel a certain sense of gratitude that I am male, and odds are very good my life will not span deep into my nineties.

All those ancient women gave the appearance of being held captive within the confines of their old, used-up and stubborn bodies that refused to let them go. 

Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I like to imagine that we are primarily conscious beings, who have matriculated into this interesting world to learn some important lessons, and evolve our souls. While here, the quality of consciousness that we are able to project and absorb with is limited by the quality of the equipment that seems designed to hold it bound here. 

It was like all those old ladies where entranced in a quiet prelude to the next big thing, like children in their mother’s womb waiting to be awakened to a different world.

I sat back down with my grandmother. My daughters learned that there was an ice cream parlor there, and where gone in search of it. 

“Look there,” said my grandmother to my wife and me. “That peacock. Its feathers reach all the way to the ground from that table.” That peacock stood as a glorious reminder of the complex and awful beauty of this world where spirit infuses matter with life, I imagined. Not a bad sight to see, before we should close our eyes to this world, and go to the next, hopefully with love and satisfaction in our hearts.