Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

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I mean, if ISIS took things over...

Isis.jpg

Could be worse, I suppose.  Ragheads?  Where?  Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzap!

Let's talk about charity.

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Earlier today I posted on the book of face:

Whatever happened to the idea that one could be quietly charitable in his own way, choosing the cause or causes he wished to support without being "challenged" by supposedly well-meaning friends and associates?

Of course I was referring somewhat obliquely to the ice bucket challenge being pimped by the ALS Association in their current fundraising campaign, but the fact is that ALSA is not the only organization whose marketing people dream up new ways to part good-hearted Americans with their pocket change.  At least in this case, ALSA has a fairly-decent throughput of 27% of income going for research, 19% for patient and community services (which I interpret as some sort of direct aid to patients and families), and 32% for education about the disease.  They spend 7% on administration, which seems reasonable, and 14% on fundraising, which also seems reasonable if a little high, given that apparently all they had to do was get this ice bucket thing to go viral and sit back.

One commenter on the thread suggested that maybe the schtick wasn't so bad, after all former presidents were getting into the act.  He also suggested that perhaps we old people couldn't see the forest for the trees (actually what he said was that he could see the generation gap getting wider rather than contracting, and then offered his "come on" plea that former presidents were doing it).

But my post wasn't aimed specifically at the ALSA ice bucket campaign, even though I used the "challenge" term.  What I really meant -- and what I responded to the negative commenter by saying -- was that I didn't care if GWB let Laura dump a bucket of ice water on his head, because I learned early in life that just because one of my "friends" jumped off a cliff wasn't a good enough reason for me to emulate his behavior. 

Challenging someone to donate to charity or, should they refuse, shaming them into performing some penitential act, is not how charity is supposed to be done. Charity begins in the home, and comes from the heart, not from being challenged to duplicate some stupid stunt that's been dreamed up by a marketing department of a large charitable organization.

I come to this particular crossroads because I am (as should be fairly obvious from my postings over the years) a dedicated Freemason1.  Freemasonry was created out of a need to succor the widow and the orphan in an era when the mass of people were poor, longevity typically wasn't, most men worked in trades where they could be instantly killed or maimed for life if they weren't damned careful what they were about, and, critically, there wasn't any insurance, or any real way to save money against disaster short of putting it in a sock under your straw tick.  If you had a sock.  And a straw tick.  If you were a husband and father, say, a member of the free stoneworker's guild, you could be working 200 feet up on the local cathedral building project and put a foot wrong and be, seconds later, a bloody dead mess on the ground 200 feet below.  Or you could be working with an axe or a saw or an adze, or just about any other edged tool used for timbering or stonecutting.  One slip of the fingers and maybe you don't have one or two of them anymore.  Or maybe you don't have the hand.  Or a foot.

But if you were lucky enough to be a member of that free stoneworker's guild, it was likely that they would take care of you and your family until either you recovered enough to go back to work, or even if you couldn't.  And they would take care of your widow and orphans if you died.

Why was that?  Well, it was because the free stoneworker's guild was fairly enlightened for its day, and had determined that it was the right thing to do, so it swore its members to an oath that, among other things like requiring obedience and true work, also required that you do the right thing by your fellow craftsman -- because he was sworn to do the same for you.  This attitude about caring for people other than yourself -- being charitable to others -- goes back in masonic history to the 14th Century, if not earlier.  And when operative lodges of freemasons decided in the 17th Century that it made sense to open their doors to other good men in their towns and villages, who then became "speculative" freemasons2, they carried that charitable attitude along with them into common practice.  Then, after 1717 and the institution of the first Grand Lodge at London, the idea was codified into what we call the Old Charges Of A Freemason, and, a little later, into Anderson's The Constitutions of the Free-Masons.  And they were not the only ones to do this.  Some other fraternal organizations that were designed around the concept of charitable practice, such as the Odd Fellows, also trace their origins back to more or less the same time, although they do not claim the same lineage of Freemasonry.

But the word "charity", as they used it, did not mean what we think of today as "charity", which like as not they would have called "alms", anyway.  The medieval notion of charity was to treat people kindly and much as you would like to be treated yourself.  It was very much an expression of the Golden Rule.  Alms, in the form of money (or other in-kind transfers of wealth, like food, clothing, tools, animal fodder, etc.) might be involved when one acted charitably, but the act of being charitable was the point.

Even in times closer to ours, the word did not immediately conjure up transfers of value.  In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln famously said, "With malice toward none, with charity for all".  He was not referring to millions of dollars in money transfers to the losing Confederates, as a president in the 21st Century might do.  The key was in the duality of the phrase.  Lincoln meant that the end of the war would require reconciliation, that men on one side of the soon-to-be-late conflict would have to shed malicious thoughts about the men on the other side, and treat each other with leniency and compassion.  The entire paragraph reads:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Nothing about money in there at all.

This understanding of the practice of charity, and what it meant to be a charitable person, seems to have survived until about the time of the Great Depression.  I believe (and that's why this isn't a scholarly paper; it's just my opinion backed up by what I see are the facts) that at about that time, the progressive socialists who came to power with FDR began to co-opt the concept of "being charitable" into a set of taxpayer-funded relief programs that later metastasized into our current federal and state welfare systems.  Where physical relief (as opposed to "charity" -- physical relief was a "charitable act") had been handled for centuries by religious and private groups, now it would be funneled mainly through government, because private charity was considered inequitable and too dependent upon the fickle, er, charitable nature of the general public.

"Charity" thus became financially- rather than philosophically-bound, both because it was supported with tax monies that all too often were deducted automatically from wages, and because institutionalized "charities" with specific goals sprang up (think disease of the week...well, go back to why I'm writing this post, and to the ALSA, or to the Red Cross, or to the Lupus Foundation, American Cancer Association, American Heart Association, etc. ad nauseum) with legions of volunteers and paid staffers to pound the pavement for them.  Hell, look at the March of Dimes, founded in 1938 by FDR his own bad self.  Its original reason for being barely even exists anymore; the disease it was created to eradicate (polio) has been, well, essentially eradicated3, and they've moved on to other childhood diseases.

When I was growing up, in the late 1960's and early 1970's, we were taught that "charity" meant "give money".  Or at the very least, give something of value.  I remember the UNICEF boxes we carried at Halloween.  I remember the Jewish National Fund tzedakah boxes we had at home and stuffed loose change into.  I'm sure members of other religious denominations had similar piggy-bank-like schemes.4

Oh, and by the way:  I grew up as a Reform Jew.  I'm not one anymore and haven't been for years.  But Reform Judaism is very, very, VERY social justice-based.  We got our UNICEF boxes at religious school, not at our day school.  And we were taught that the Hebrew word "tzedakah" meant "charity", which in turn meant "share the wealth", i.e., "share your wealth with those who don't have anything" -- like those poor African dictators who got rich off of UN largesse.  But I digress.  

Anyway, that is NOT what the Hebrew word "tzedakah" means.  It comes from the root TZ-D-K, which in its basic form means "to be righteous".  (And not in the way the word has been corrupted by language morons in the 20th and 21st Centuries, either.)  To commit acts of "tzedakah" is to emulate exactly what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said "with charity to all".  Be lenient and compassionate to your fellow man.  Take care of the widow and orphan.  See that the stranger in your gate has shelter and a square meal.  Be kind to animals.  Love one another.

In other words, when we were kids, THE GROWNUPS FLAT OUT LIED TO US.  Or at the very least didn't know themselves that they were lying.

And in the 50 years since the institution of the Great Society, and the exponential growth of government-directed and big impersonal institutional charity (and there is nothing worse amongst the latter than the United Way and the Red Cross, neither of which any right-thinking American should be giving money to), most people are completely lost to the concept that charity is not a simple transfer of value, be that value money or clothing or used kitchen appliances or whatever.  Charity today is impersonal and is generally handled by paying your taxes, writing a check when someone solicits you, or dropping loose change into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmastime (if you can find a store that lets them stand outside, that is).5  And every social and fraternal group has got a pet charity (sometimes two of them) that it is inordinately proud of.

It may come as a shock to my readers that I don't care much for institutional charity.  I don't care for the welfare system we've built in this country either, that takes a gigantic chunk out of my paycheck twice a month.  Both are conceived as a way to separate me from my hard-earned gelt, the government's "share" by force if necessary, and the big impersonal institutional charities by attempting to shame me into jumping off the same cliff I talked about earlier.

I love my country, but I hate the deadbeats who live off of my wealth.  Or what I conceive to be my wealth.  As a noted Washington, D.C.-area golfer who sometimes puts on a president hat told me some time back, I guess didn't build that.  Of course that would come as a surprise to the Founding Fathers, and to Old Abe, too.  It certainly came as a surprise to me.

I also love my fraternity, and the various appendant bodies under it to which I belong, but I'm really over the institutional charity angle. It's not what we are about.  We are taught as Freemasons to be charitable, not to write checks to charity.  And a little research into that shows that, yes, the architects of the Masonic Fraternity meant the word no differently than Lincoln did, or than anyone else did before government and big institutional charities got involved.

After all this typing, the point is simply this:  If you are offered the choice of making a donation or being shamed, or if you are offered no choice at all in supporting government social welfare programs that you don't agree with, there is nothing charitable whatsoever involved.  "Charity by writing a check" (or getting it taken out of your check) does not fit the classical definition of charity.  No person should feel a warm glow because they wrote a check instead of pouring ice water over their head.

And I will extend that to my Fraternity, as well:  When you require me to pay an annual assessment for the upkeep of the Masonic Home, I feel absolutely no thrill. It's just the cost of being a Freemason in this state.  But when I freely donate to the Home, or to its Foundation, I do feel charitable.  And when I go to the Home and visit the brethren there, I feel that I have actually performed a charitable act.

That's the definition of charity.  We need to take it back from the state, and from the institutions, and start practicing it ourselves.

That is a challenge I will accept without reservation.

___________________
1 Who, by the way, doesn't cuss nearly as much in public as he does in this blog.  Or rant with the same abandon and lack of caring what other people think about it, either.  The blog is a relief valve, without which I would probably explode from watching the mill run of my fellow Americans act like total fucking idiots most of the time.  As far as I know, I am well thought of by my brethren, some of whom do actually read this blog from time to time, and probably nod their heads at most of my rants.

2 Operative freemasons were the actual working stiffs, who practiced the trade of the free stone workers.  Speculative freemasons were the men they invited in from the community, for instance, the local merchants, or local officials, or the lord of the manor, who were taught by symbols and allegories the philosophical lessons of the free stoneworker's tools.  If you're interested in how this all came about, I'd recommend Freemasons for Dummies, by my good friend and brother Chris Hodapp.

3 Or been eradicated until the idiot anti-vaccination crowd's folly comes to full flower in a few more years.  Why are so many people completely unable to see reason when an airhead bimbo celebrity promotes unsubstantiated and disproven lies?

4 I also remember handing in dimes every week and pasting 10 cent JNF stamps into little passbooks, and handing the filled passbooks in at the end of the term so we could buy trees for Israel.  That was actually a GREAT charity, even if it was money-based.  People of my generation still buy trees in Israel for kids' bar and bat mitzvahs and other life cycle events.  Gonna need more for the Gaza-bordering areas when the IDF gets done with it.  Maybe for Gaza itself, if the IDF does what I think it should and makes a park out of it.

5 And by the way:  The absolute BEST disaster-relief charity in America is the Salvation Army.  And this is a Jew-boy telling you this.  If you are looking for help after a disaster, don't look for the Red Cross.  Look for the Salvation Army.  They don't care who you are or what your situation is, or if you're a Christian or an atheist, they will help you regardless without asking.  And they'll be there and set up long before the Red Cross gets off its arse, and will still be there long after the Red Cross has packed up and gone home -- in large measure because the Salvation Army is community-based and the Red Cross is not.

Two item takeaway

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OK, so there's a group trying to educate 'murricans regarding just exactly what Shakespeare meant when he put the line, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" into Dick the Butcher's mouth.

Whether the Bard was trying to defend lawyers or not, I see two takeaways from this.

First, our schools are doing a shit job of teaching the classics if someone has to have this explained to them.  (Of course we've known that for years.)

Second, counselor, "thou doth protest too much, methinks."  If things are so bad that people are actually twisting the meaning of the line out of context against lawyers, your profession has other problems that won't be solved by explaining what Shakespeare really meant.

I hate complaining

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about my own failing physical body, but I really wish the fraggin' weather would MAKE UP ITS MIND.  Since last Thursday, every joint I own has been complaining, and to top it off, somehow I managed to strain a muscle in my back that makes it agony to sleep lying down, and feels better when I stand up...until I move, at which time it grabs me in a reverse bear hug and tries to drop me to the floor in pain.  My left knee does fine on straightaways but as soon as I try to make a lateral movement, it also tries to drop me.

I did finally manage to get into a semi-comfortable position around 3AM, but damn.  At least the formerly-giant cat* didn't decide to stomp all over me last night, but slept between us like he used to.

I need to find some good stretches and a workout program I can do at home to get limbered back up.  The 20 years I've spent behind a desk are starting to take a toll.

_______________
* Who now weighs only about 10 pounds, down from his former 19...he had some tooth problems and also has a delicate digestive system since he had surgery 11 years ago after eating a bobbin of thread off the wife's sewing machine...to the point that he had gotten a bit dehydrated and was constipated, so he wasn't eating much.  The vet prescribed 1/8 tsp. of Miralax in his wet food twice daily.  Seems to work, and the wife says (after she was away at her folks' for four days) that she thinks he's gaining some of his former weight back.  She may be right.

Happy Birthday

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The first birthday is exceptionally hard.

Love you.Senior pic.jpg

(Via Facebook, posted by her older son.  Senior picture from high school.  Plus, I don't think I mentioned this before, but she was elected homecoming queen that year.  What a shock...to her.  I think it actually embarassed her.  At any rate, she played it down to the point that I never knew about it till the day we buried her.)

I should go to GenCon this weekend.

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The beard has become quite fluffy.  Before I trim it, I'm thinking I should go cause some neck injuries from double-takes at GenCon.

"Do you know that you look like ... "

"Yes.  And no, I don't know when the next book is coming out, and no, I won't kill you, unless you ask me when the next book is coming out."

A little late to the party

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The model who posed for this racy little Burger King ad (which only ever ran in Singapore) has just discovered it (after five years!) and is calling for a boycott of Burger King because she claims she did not consent for her image to be used in that way.

The model, who has not been named, says she was not informed that her image would be used in what appears to suggest an oral sex act.  Last week she posted a YouTube video under the account RV Wonderspunk, where she explains that Burger King Singapore’s advertising agency bought a stock image from a third party, and that during her photo shoot, she was simply instructed to show a range of emotions.

Notice that she's not suing over this.  That's because, as a model, she knows that she doesn't have a leg to stand on; her photos were a "work for hire" and she apparently didn't retain any contractural rights in them at all.  The photo was sold as a "stock photo" and it's unlikely that there were any usage strings attached.

Burger King says,

Burger King has responded to the video, saying that the image was a stock photo that one of its independent franchisees purchased the right to use back in 2009.

"Respect for customers and employees is a top priority at Burger King restaurants around the world. This advert was created by an independent franchise in Singapore in conjunction with a local promotional offer. This ad was not released in any other markets."

I find it interesting that nobody ever identified the model in over 5 years since the ad went viral -- even given that there was so much pious uproar over it -- and I can only figure that the model in question is really trying to create buzz because her career is probably in the shitter.  Eventually she'll self-identify and the world will flock to her door.  Or so she thinks.

For God's sake, people.

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Get a fucking grip.  HE WAS A COMEDIAN.  You act like he was Moses or Jesus or something.

Stockbroker #1: [looking over the edge of the balcony] I think Alan Swann is beneath us!

Stockbroker #2: Of course he's beneath us. He's an actor!

Stockbroker #1: No! I think Alan Swann is beneath us right now!

ARGHHHH

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Potential customer:

I am trying to download your product for Mac, but the Mac links only provide Unix docs and programs...

<headdesk>

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

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NBC says that 44% of Americans polled agree that Israel's actions in Gaza were justified.

That few?  Or, given that this is NBC, that many?

I wonder what Americans would do if Mexican terrorists parked themselves across the border and started heaving missiles into the American Southwest?

Oh, wait.  Aren't they already sniping at us with .50's across the Rio Grande?  (Sorry, autoplay video at that link.)

We are so fucked.

Is it just me

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or does it seem like Hamas has big brass ones making "demands" in negotiations to end the suffering, fighting, and dying going on in its own home base?*

Israel has purely kicked Hamas butt, exposed Hamas lies, and beaten the crap out of Gaza in the process.  When you are beat down that far, you don't make demands, you ask, "What can we do that will make you stop?"

The WSJ article linked makes a big deal out of the double-digit Israeli casualties and the 24-hour closure of Israeli air space.  But both of these pale in comparison to the destruction that rained down on Gaza, purely and entirely because a bandit terrorist organization that doesn't even begin to represent the polity of Gaza -- it "rules" vice the "official" Palestinian Authority purely by force and fear -- decided to take a knife to a gunfight.

The first and only concession that Hamas needs to make is to lay down arms and march out under Israeli auspices for internment in detention camps, where their future disposition can be determined.  The PA, bad as it is, needs to reassert its political authority and restore order to the territory.  After that, any further "demands" should be made by the Israelis and the Egyptians.  The UN needs to sit back and relax, since they're worse than useless anyway.

__________________
* That, oh, by the way, Hamas itself is 100% responsible for having provoked?  Don't poke a Lion of Judah with a sharp stick. He won't like it, and in the end, neither will you.

MotherFUCKER.

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Today is cascading failure day.  Woo hoo.

High-value (and, unfortunately, high-maintenance) customer's hosted instance failed overnight.  High-value customer tried to page our 24/7 paging system.  Paging system failed because when we migrated that system last week as part of our office move, we neglected to make a critical DNS change that had the Internet thinking that the domain on which the paging system lives was still getting mail at the old FQDN...which is shut down because there is no internet in the office and won't be for another 10 days.

So who got the call?  I did.  I just finished wrapping up the "Lessons Learned" portion of the exercise (at least my part of it) after working non-stop for four hours.

And now I have a fucking headache and my jaw is killing me where I got a replacement crown yesterday.  And it's meeting day, to boot.  Arghhhh.

Damn it to hell.

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I got asked again yesterday if I knew I looked like George RR Martin.  I said, "Yes, I get that a lot, and no, I have no idea when the next book is coming out."

The guy just laughed.

Sigh.

Wishful thinking on a grand scale.

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I wish I could bring myself to believe that this kind of thing does any good.  I can't.

http://www.wibc.com/news/local-news/indy-radio-stations-calling-unity

Indianapolis area radio stations are joining those calling for unity against violence. 

Indy United on the Circle is a rally in support of public safety and law enforcement.  This follows the tragic shooting death of IMPD Officer Perry Renn.  Emmis Communications Senior VP Charlie Morgan says the free public event is slated for this Saturday at 9 pm on Monument Circle.  Morgan adds the event is an opportunity for people share and express a sense of community amid the recent violence.

U.S. Rep Andre Carson, Mayor Greg Ballard, public safety officials, community and clergy leaders are also set to attend. 

That's nice, but the violent element is not inclined to listen to anything you have to say.  By their sheer existence they have already given notice that they don't care what you think because they have decided to operate outside of the norms of human decency to get what they think is coming to them.

The answer to these people is not rallies and prayer and vigils, but a willingness to go after them tooth and claw until they scream for mercy.  It is no different than what I said yesterday about the Israelis.  You do not go to war hoping that you don't have to fight, or with a care for collateral damage and civilian casualties. You go to war with the intent of breaking the other side to the point that they not only cannot fight you anymore, but to the point that they do not want to fight you anymore.

In a way, it's a shame that we have hobbled ourselves with posse comitatus.  It would be interesting to go through the less fortunate parts of this town with about a thousand National Guard troops and methodically remove these people from our midst.*  But that is not going to happen, any more than this waste of perfectly good air time is going to accomplish what it is trying to do.

_________________
* I have clearly read The Last Centurion far too many times.

Democrats are scum (but we knew that).

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Do these people think that they are immune from the consequences of their idiocy?

Virginia Democrat Offers Reward For Nude Photos of Big Game Hunting Texas Tech Cheerleader Kendall Jones…

I noted on Facebook that I wished I were Ms. Jones's father.  Because Mr. Dick, er, Dickinson would be a dead man walking if I were.

To be honest, I'm kind of surprised that Dick, er, Dickinson would actually threaten to do something like this to a woman who, if she became irate with him, could probably put an arrow through him at a hundred yards and then gut him like the pig he is.

So, since he probably won't end up qualifying for a Darwin Award (because folks like the Joneses are probably far too polite to beat the life out of him as he so richly deserves), Mr. Mike "Little" Dick, er, Dickinson, receives the Tiger Taunting Award today for his inability to understand exactly when it's wiser to just keep your damn piehole shut.

 

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