Filibuster, Filimuster, Filitruster

Does the senate of your mind have a filibuster? I sure hope so. The mind’s filibuster is what I call thinking.

On how many votes does your mind command mouth to speak or body to move? If your upper chamber has 100 senators, do you require just a bare majority of 51 votes to take action? I would think that at least a simple majority would be required. Or do you require 60 votes like the U.S. Senate? Or even more?

I have heard of something called the 99 percent doctrine, favored by many billionaires of note. This doctrine holds that you should reject 99 percent of the ideas you hear, so that you take on only the projectskkk with the greatest odds of success. 

But I wonder if the 99 percent doctrine could be restated as requiring 99 votes in the senate of your mind to take action on something heavy.

That would mean that today’s billionaires of note require 99 votes to end a filibuster in the senate of their minds. 

Behold! we sort all humanity into three groups based on the number of votes to end a filibuster in the senate of their minds: 

  • 51 votes out of 100
  • 60 votes out of 100
  • 99 votes out of 100

Into which of the groups would you put the people you know? Into which one of the groups would you like to be YOURSELF?

What do your groups look like? Where are the people you would consider MORE successful? And where are the people you would consider LESS successful? Don’t worry. I won’t ask to see your groups if you don’t ask to see mine.

In which group would you like to place your family? Your business? 

In which group would you like to place your town, your city?

Your country?

Your planet?

Back to the Future, Forward to the Past

Tomorrow is October 26th, the day that Marty McFly, the star of the movie Back to the Future, goes back in time to first impair, and then save, his parents’ coupling and, thus, his own existence.

I saw the movie in a movie theater in Washington DC, our homeland’s Capital, with my family while on vacation in the summer of 1985. My family’s weak knowledge of the locale delayed our arrival at the theater until the movie had already started, and as we quietly searched for empty seats in the dark, all the clocks were ringing at Doc Brown’s home to a Marty on the morning of his tale.

From that first viewing until now, I had believed that the movie was only about a young man who travels back in time and has a wonderful adventure.

I now think the movie is about the young man seeing his parents as the heroes who give him his vigor, instead of the villains who scheme to impair it. 

Picture how Marty’s parents and family home appear at the start of the movie. Now picture the parents and home at the end. And now, pretend that instead of traveling back in time to change events, Marty travels back in time just to witness the events, and, as if in a dream, sees the events of his parents meeting as occurring differently than he has allowed himself to believe. 

And when Marty McFly wakes from his dream, he sees his parents and home as it always was. Not stopped in the past like that busted clock tower, but eternally youthful. And the only difference was in HOW he saw their courtship take place. 

A few days ago I read an article in my favorite newspaper, the New York Times. It was a lead article, right at the top of my phone, about President Biden’s plan to lower drug prices being deleted from the big spending bill as part of a compromise between the writers of our written laws. 

A 30-YEAR CAMPAIGN TO CONTROL DRUG PRICES FACES YET ANOTHER FAILURE 

Is this the BEST headline to use if the author WANTS a compromise to be found in the future? When I read this, what I hear is that the proponents are painted with failure, and the opponents are painted with malice. 

Here is not what the Times wrote, but what I heard in that headline:

The proponents failed not by their ideas but by their naked ambition. The opponents succeeded not by their ideas but by their naked ambition.

That is what I hear, in my mind, and there is no proof to the contrary. 

And from my hearing, I interpret this headline to scorn both the proponents and opponents of the law to lower drug prices, and in so doing scorn the very process of compromise itself.

And then right underneath it, a sub-headline reads that this: 

COULD BE THE MOST EMBARRASSING DEFEAT

Instead of reducing the tension of the first headline, this sub-headline adds to the tension. 

Why embarrassing? Why does the New York Times call not finding compromise EMBARRASSING? Why do we see our leaders as embarrassing failures, instead of as the source of all our wealth?

Should people be embarrassed when their best efforts fail? Is that what we tell our children? You should be embarrassed when you don’t succeed in the way we expected!

But our principles! says a strong voice in my mind. We can’t compromise on our principles, and to not call this embarrassing would sound like we have compromised on our principles!

True, a stronger voice answers back, but we never said anything about compromising on our principles. The only law is written law, and written law reflects no principle save one: that NO COMPROMISE plus PEACE is a superior state for all as compared to a compromise but no peace. 

The relationship can be re-stated as an equation:

(No Compromise + Peace) > (Compromise + No Peace)

The New York Times is too FINE a paper to reject the substance of this principle and formula. There is no way that the New York Times that I have come to know and love since eleventh grade English class would hold any principle higher than peace.

So why does the Times scoff at the relationship between law and peace by calling a failure to reach a compromise embarrassing? The answer is in the very same Back to the Future whose teachings we celebrate tomorrow.  

WHAT IF, instead of seeing the years of not finding compromise on drug prices as Marty’s parents at the start of the movie, we saw those years of peace between the States as Marty’s parents at the end of the movie? 

What if the headline had read instead:

LAWMAKERS STILL WORKING ON AGREEMENT TO LOWER DRUG PRICES BUT FIND COMPROMISE A CHALLENGE

Now, instead of embarrassment and failure, the focus is on COMPROMISE and subtly tells every reader to find ways to compromise in whatever policy debate they stumble into. And the facts of the article – the sum of Yeas and Nays, the text of the bill – are exactly the same as before. 

To alter just the WAY the event is reported is to alter just its character. Characterization is not hard news.

And if characterization is hard news, then my ‘A’ on the New York Times quiz in eleventh grade was unwarranted, and I kindly ask that someone travel back to 1995, and delete the mark.

The Day of Default

Well, today is the day. The day the money is supposed to run out. It won’t. Congress always steps in at the last minute to fill our nation’s coffers with sweet borrowed cash.

What if Congress forgot one year to raise the ceiling of debt that pays for all the great things that people make and do for us? 

Let us say no one has paid any attention to the matter of the debt and its ceiling, and the ceiling was reached, and no one saw it dry the flow of our cash and send a few checks bouncing like red rubber balls. What would happen? Would we resort to barter, and go to market instead of the office to exchange reports we can wear for reports we can eat?

Such happened once, upon a time, many years ago, when to touch a screen had effect no greater than a fingerprint. In fact it happened three times in the same year, as if we were trying it out, wanting to give default the old college try, lest we be accused of not considering the other side of pay your bills on time. The result was interest and embarrassment, and we veered sharply away from the practice of default and from the leadership that brooked it. 

So worry not about the ceiling. Our leaders learned the lessons of the past, and instead of ceilings would rather we look in the mirror, and see the beautiful world our debt has purchased.

Untitled Entitlements

Eleven years ago today
I posted to this blog
a post about a show
Beavis and Butthead

What a funny show
So ahead of its time
I still can’t believe
it’s off the air

Tonight I read a poem
at the Brooklyn Poets
open mic and I’m a
little nervous, and so

in rather poor exchange
for all that you have
to me given, I must offer
meager meditation:

The only problem with
entitlements is the word
It has different meanings
to different people

Are your arms entitled
to blood from your heart?
Are your lungs entitled
to breathe the air?

Are your eyes entitled
to light and shade?
Are your ears entitled
to music played?

Is your mind entitled
to feel abused?
Is your voice entitled
to rust unused?

What is the point
of discussing entitlement
when the body’s organs
are slowed from lack of blood?

Wish you not the organs breathe?
And if not, how will you
walk tall without legs
and reach far without arms?

Perhaps you intend
to build the arms and legs
out of wires and metal
and run them on electrons

If so, who is going to deliver
electrons to your doorstep
like milkmen once delivered milk?
Robots will, I suppose

And Johnny 5 shall sit at my desk
spin in my chair, eat my combos
drink my coffee, and pretend to work
while writing blogs on the internet

Remember William Shakespeare?

They didn’t have birth certificates in Elizabethan England, so no one knows for sure the date of William Shakespeare’s birthday, something that I imagine created a lot of problems whenever Shakespeare tried to pick up a prescription at CVS.  But we do know that Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616.  So don’t forget to wish him a Happy Deathday on his Facebook profile.

In his honor, I thought I would re-read Hamlet and give a brief summary of the Bard’s greatest work featuring goblets and someone named Ophelia.

We are in Denmark, and Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark.  His uncle, Claudius, is the King; his mother Gertrude, the Queen.  Queen Gertrude used to be married to Hamlet’s father, when Hamlet’s father was king.  But Hamlet’s father was murdered, and Gertrude found being married to a corpse unbearable, as she could never get it to mow the lawn.  So she married her brother-in-law, and was spared the hassle of changing her last name on her driver’s license.

One evening Hamlet is approached by his father’s ghost, who tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him by pouring poison in his ear while he slept.  After that, the Danish kings appointed sleep testers.  The sleep tester would fall asleep before the king would, and if no one poured poison in his ear, the King knew it was a safe place to nap.

Hamlet’s father, the ghost, wants revenge on his brother Claudius for murdering him, seizing the throne, marrying his wife, and eating the last piece of Halloween candy.  Hamlet knows he has to avenge his father’s murder by murdering Claudius, perhaps with nose poison, but Hamlet is not in any great hurry.  Hamlet instead walks around the castle philosophizing and making poetry and not working.  This explains why Hamlet is 30 years old and still living at home.

In a later scene, Hamlet stabs what he thinks is his uncle behind a curtain, but is in fact his uncle’s counselor, Polonius, pretending to be the Wizard of Oz.  Hamlet now must flee, having just killed a human being and all.  King Claudius sends him to England, where a Dane will surely blend in when he’s not driving on the wrong side of the road.

Claudius also has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of Hamlet’s friends, accompany him to England.  Hamlet never really liked them ever since Hamlet’s father made Hamlet invite these two wet blankets to Hamlet’s tenth birthday party.  Hamlet was forced to say, “Thank you for coming to birthday.  I hope you have a good time,” through clenched teeth, and even had to write Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a thank-you note for the colorful shirt they gave him.

In England, however, Hamlet convinces the English King that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have to be executed for always wanting to go back to the hotel instead of sight-seeing.

Hamlet returns to Denmark.  He’s hanging out with his friend Horatio, walking through a graveyard because it’s the cool thing to do, and sees two clowns digging a grave.  Hamlet speaks to one of the clowns, who tosses up a human skull.  Then another ten clowns come out of the grave.  Hamlet learns that the grave is for Ophelia, this girl he used to date before things got weird.  Hamlet talks to the skull, and pretends it is talking back to him by moving the jawbone with his hands and speaking in a high voice.  Horatio is starting to feel a little uncomfortable, but doesn’t say anything because people at odds with this Hamlet seem to have short life spans.

In the last scene of the play, Hamlet has a duel with Laertes, Polonius’s son, who is avenging his father’s death.  We don’t know if Polonius appeared to Laertes as a ghost.  Maybe he did and then Hamlet’s father the ghost got angry for having his idea stolen, and challenged the dead Polonius to a duel of ghosts.  Or maybe Hamlet’s father the ghost did not care that the ghost idea was being stolen, until his father, Hamlet’s grandfather, appeared as a ghost and told Hamlet’s father the ghost that the ghost-infringement by Polonius the ghost had to be avenged.

Hamlet and Laertes duel in front of Claudius and Gertrude, who sit at a table with goblets and food like they are at Medieval Times.  Gertrude has ordered another drink but the waitress is taking so long she decides to drink from Claudius’s goblet.  Unfortunately for her this goblet has poison instead of Diet Pepsi, and Gertrude falls dead.  As it turns out, Laertes has been fighting with a poisoned sword, and stabs Hamlet with it.  Hamlet, however, does not die right away, but is able to go on for a while, saying witty things and deciding what he wants to TiVo that night.

Hamlet, even while poisoned, somehow wrestles the poisoned sword from Laertes and stabs him with it, and, at last, stabs Claudius.  Now everyone is dead, except Horatio, who tries to stab himself but is stopped because without him there will no one left on stage to start the slow clap.  The play ends with the bodies being cleared away by the same people who clean up Times Square after New Year’s Eve, and the Norwegians enter to sell their celebrated skin care formula.