My sister is not an antique. She is sometimes cranky, opinionated and usually stuck in the last century. However, she is not an antique.
Those few of you who actually read this column either know Janie or have heard of or from her. She is known for railing against many things, as old people often do, but usually saves her most acerbic wit for her three brothers. As Daddy’s favorite and Mother’s pet Janie could never accept her status as a possible antique.
No, Janie is more like a superannuated coquette with political views that do not gladly suffer fools and opinions which are of the adamantine variety. But an antique, not so fast.
Delores Jane (Redwine) Bartlett cannot be an antique because she still travels to Europe and preaches frequent sermons as a lay minister in several churches. Please be warned if you should be in one of her congregations: she was a college psychology professor and is still in recovery.
My sister may be intelligent, generous and of a happy heart, although she, as other older people, has endured some of life’s bitter slings and arrows. However, she is not an antique, as of yet, because, Gentle Reader, by definition an antique must be at least 100 years old and on July 23rd she will be only 80.
Well, those of you fortunate enough to know Janie and those of us blessed to have her in our family, know what a unique treasure she is. I, of course, as her much younger brother am just glad she’s a lot nearer to being an antique than I am!
Jerry Clower (1926 – 1998) was a Mississippi storyteller whose most famous story involved some raccoon hunters. According to Jerry he and some friends treed what they thought was a raccoon but it turned out to be a lynx. The lynx was not amused when Jerry’s friend climbed the tree and poked the perturbed cat with a stick. When the lynx counter-attacked with teeth and claws Jerry’s friend called for the men on the ground to fire a gun up at the fighting twosome. Jerry told his friend they couldn’t shoot because they might hit the friend. The man yelled back, “Shoot anyway, one of us has to have some relief.”
I thought of this homespun wisdom when Peg and I noticed our only peach tree was devoid of every one of the large succulent peaches we had planned to pick this coming weekend. A whole family of raccoons gorged themselves on the golden delights I had saved from the Japanese Beetles, the crows and the opossums. Fifty dollars worth of Savin and two hours of work had been invested in saving those peaches until the perfect moment. Apparently the raccoons did not allow the good to be the victim of the perfect. Four days earlier than perfection was quite satisfactory for them.
I was so angry I called my friend Paul Axton, a Department of Natural Resources officer, and asked for help. He brought me a live trap and advised the best bait for raccoons is large marshmallows. I would have made Smores for the little devils if I thought it would help.
After about an hour of examining the trap and calling upon my college physics classes to figure how to set it, I proudly placed the trap on our front porch with large white marshmallows prominently displayed. After furnishing free marshmallows to the whole raccoon family for a week, I finally caught something last night, our cat. He was not pleased.
It only cost me a couple of Band-Aids and a bottle of rubbing alcohol to treat the cat’s revenge for a night spent in the cage. As for the raccoons, I hope there is some kind of special diabetes they get from overstuffing themselves on our peaches!
When the United States had gambling only in Nevada and then Nevada and New Jersey those two states were blessed with gamblers from California to New York. Each state’s own citizens benefited greatly from the rest of us.
Now virtually every state and every group of Native Americans is mining this mother’s lode of camouflaged taxation, revenue enhancement that is. The rest of us may scoff at Illinois and its budget woes. However, as a country we have many Illinois type problems of our own, our 20 trillion dollar debt for example.
Illinois in 2015 sold, mainly to its own citizens, $2.85 billion in lottery tickets. This direct tax fell mainly on those dreamers who could least afford it. A few winners shared $1.77 billion in prizes while $398 million went to expenses (commissions). Only $8 million of the $2.85 billion went to capital improvements and $679 million went to Illinois educational institutions. That sounds helpful but not when one realizes Illinois schools spent $30.1 billion in 2015. Gambling contributed only 6.5% of that total.
The mentality by people or by governments that you can spend whatever you want because the manna will fall from heaven without pain to anyone is what gets individuals, states and countries to where Illinois is, that is: an annual $6.2 billion deficit; $14.7 billion in unpaid bills; and $130 billion of unfunded state employee pensions.
After two years without passing a budget Illinois just decided to permanently raise the state income tax 32% which should raise $5 billion. Once again, that sounds good, however, the new budget only reduces spending by $2 billion per year and the new budget totally ignores the unfunded pensions. On the other hand, to provide Soylent Green to the masses the Legislature and Governor immediately reinstituted the lottery.
I know writers are sometimes chastised for citing to their own work. However, the current budget woes of Illinois, and the rest of America, received a cautionary column from me in 2006. Of course, many other more knowledgeable authorities have frequently issued the same type of warnings. But since it is likely no one read my earlier column from over a decade ago, I offer it once again.
ARE YOU FEELING LUCKY?
(Week of January 23, 2006)
Last week I made a modest proposal of an inexpensive approach to courthouse security based on Operant Conditioning, i.e., stimulus/response. The first step was to identify potential troublemakers then use negative stimuli to extinguish their desire to come to court. Being called for jury duty seems to be a fairly reliable negative shock to most people. Therefore, I suggested this as a means of discouraging certain persons from wanting to do harm at our courthouses.
Of course, if instead of preventing unwanted actions our governments desire to encourage certain behavior, e.g., the payment of taxes, positive conditioning can be used.
In studies of behavior modification, it has been discovered by numerous scientists such as Indiana University’s Alfred Kinsey that people can be trained to behave in certain ways by using incentives, i.e., holding out the hope they will receive something they really want.
The most powerful method of training rats and people to do what is desired of them, e.g., run mazes or pay taxes, is random interval reinforcement. Instead of a constant receipt of a food pellet or public benefits, it is more successful to mess with the expectations of the subjects. For example, if a rat is rewarded only intermittently for successfully running a maze, it will try much harder than if it is rewarded every time. Take our federal government for instance. If we taxpayers get some of our money back for local projects every so often as opposed to a permanent income tax reduction, we see the occasional dribble as a welcomed gift.
This cause and effect has been well known by our federal government since Honest Abe pushed the income tax to help pay for the Civil War. What happened to that boy’s Hoosier roots?
For about 150 years our government has experimented with methods of getting us to send in our money. It has certainly been a bi-partisan effort.
In fact, when it comes to taxation, the old adage: Republicans want to tell us how to live our lives and Democrats want to tell us how to spend our money, breaks down.
In these days of profligate governments and penurious taxpayers, the battle lines are constantly shifting. We are engaged in a new era of taxation.
What with widespread public education, the ubiquitous Internet and tabloid journalism, our governments are having a devilish time sneaking new “revenue enhancers” past us.
On the other side, our governments keep experimenting with B.F. Skinner’s theories of Operant Conditioning and random rewards to get us to pay more. The ultimate scheme is to find a way to get citizens to pay more money in willingly or, best of all, without even realizing they are being taxed. I, for one, will not fall for such nefarious manipulation. However, I must end this column rather abruptly as Peg and I are heading to Casino Aztar to play the slot machines and buy a Hoosier Power Ball ticket.
I am feeling lucky!
Although I wrote the first few Gavel Gamuts in 1990 the every-weekly column began in April 2005, about 700 articles ago. In light of our current political and cultural dissonance I thought it might be interesting to revisit the following thoughts from over a decade ago to assess what changes may have occurred. This Birthday Greeting to America was first published July 04, 2005. I hope those of you who read it then and those who are considering it for the first time will find it worthwhile in our on-going conversation of Separate versus Equal. Also, Peg and I are returning to Osage County, Oklahoma for this Fourth of July. Maybe we’ll find the bus station is now just a memory.
Happy Birthday to U.S.!
Let’s Have a Party and Invite Everyone!
The United States Supreme Court has occasionally succumbed to popular opinion then later attempted to atone for it. The Dred Scott (1857) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1892) cases come to mind as examples of institutionalized injustice with the partial remedy of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) being administered many years later.
In Dred Scott, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that American Negroes had no rights which the law was bound to protect as they were non-persons under the U.S. Constitution.
And in Plessy, the Court held that Mr. Plessy could not legally ride in a “whites only” railroad car. The Court declared that laws that merely create distinctions but not unequal treatment based on race were constitutional. SEPARATE BUT EQUAL was born.
Our original U.S. Constitution of 1787 disenfranchised women, and recognized only three-fifths of every Black and Native American person, and even that was only for census purposes. Our Indiana Constitution of 1852 discouraged Negro migration to our state in spite of Posey County Constitutional Convention Delegate, Robert Dale Owen’s, eloquent pleas for fair treatment for all.
Were these documents penned by evil men? I think not. They were the result of that omnipotent god of politics, compromise, which is often good, but sometimes is not. Should you have read this column recently you may recall that I strongly encourage compromise in court, in appropriate cases.
However, as one who grew up in a state where the compromise of the post Civil War judges and politicians led to the legal segregation of schools, restaurants, and public transportation, I can attest that some compromises simply foist the sins of the deal makers onto future generations.
When I was 6 years old, my 7 year old brother, Philip, and I made our first bus trip to our father’s family in southern Oklahoma.
We lived on the Osage Indian Nation in northeastern Oklahoma. It sounds exotic but our hometown, Pawhuska, looked a lot like any town in Posey County.
In 1950 our parents did not have to worry about sending their children off with strangers except to admonish us not to bother anyone and to always mind our elders.
When mom and dad took us to the MKT&O (Missouri, Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma) bus station it was hot that July day. Oklahoma in July is like southern Indiana in July, WITHOUT THE SHADE TREES!
My brother and I were thirsty so we raced to the two porcelain water fountains in the shot gun building that was about 40 feet from north to south and 10 feet from east to west.
Phil slid hard on the linoleum floor and beat me to the nearest fountain. And while I didn’t like losing the contest, since the other fountain was right next to the first one, I stepped to it.
“Jimmy, wait ‘til your brother is finished. James Marion! I said wait!” Dad, of course, said nothing. He didn’t need to; we knew that whatever mom said was the law.
“Mom, I’m thirsty. Why can’t I get a drink from this one?”
“Son, look at that sign. It says ‘colored’. Philip, quit just hanging on that fountain; let your brother up there.”
Of course, the next thing I wanted to do was use the restroom so I turned towards the four that were crammed into the space for one: “White Men”, “White Ladies”, “Colored Men”, and “Colored Women”.
After mom inspected us and slicked down my cowlick again, we got on the bus and I “took off a kiting” to the very back.
I beat Phil, but there was a man already sitting on the only bench seat. I really wanted to lie down on that seat but the man told me I had to go back up front. And as he was an adult, I followed his instructions.
Philip said, “You can’t sit back there. That’s for coloreds. That’s why that colored man said for you to go up front.”
That was the first time I noticed the man was different. That was, also, the point where the sadness in his eyes and restrained anger in his voice crept into my awareness.
As a friend of mine sometimes says, “No big difference, no big difference, big difference.”
And if all this seems as though it comes from a country far far away and long long ago, Posey County segregated its Black and White school children for almost 100 years after 600,000 men died in the Civil War. In fact, some of Mt. Vernon’s schools were not fully integrated until after Brown was decided in 1954.
And, whether we have learned from our history or are simply repeating it may depend upon whom we ask. Our Arab American, Muslim, Black, Native American, and Hispanic citizens, as well as several other “usual suspects”, may think the past is merely prologue.
Sometimes it helps for me to remember what this 4th of July thing is really about. It’s our country’s birthday party; maybe we should invite everyone.
There is nothing equal about separate.
Amity, a lovely word meaning harmony and good feeling. The 1975 movie JAWS! was set on a New England island named Amity where the summer tourists provided lunch for a marauding great white shark. Local Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) tried to warn them but Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overruled him. In this article, Gentle Reader, you may think of me as the police chief and Peg as the mayor. Peg’s Wal-Mart aboveground pool will serve as our beach.
Just take a look at the photograph! That dark goo in the bottom of the pool is as scary as the shark. You will note Peg is covered from head to toe with HAZMAT protection. You may wonder why she is in the middle of the crud while I am not. Well, someone had to take the photograph and I can’t do everything.
Peg’s pool brings back memories of my “quality time” with my father. Dad liked to fish but he didn’t like to tote all his equipment to the brown, stagnant Oklahoma creek which housed various critters and a few finned and slimy bass.
Before each trip Mom would warn us of the dangers of typhoid fever as she knew Dad would take my brothers and me to the creek without anything to drink. Dad would point to the brackish creek water if the 110° Oklahoma summer drove us past Mom’s cautionary admonishments. Dad and Peg have similar make-ups.
When Peg dragged me away from my Saturday morning coffee to help clean the pool I told her about the recent E. coli outbreaks in Pennsylvania, Idaho and California. She responded that the only thing I had to fear from the pool gunk was her if I didn’t get off my couch.
How quickly she has forgotten our experience when the National Judicial College sent me to Russia to teach judges there. We could not brush our teeth, drink or even bathe in much of the water. When I reminded her of this she said, “The ten pounds you lost from the bacteria in Russia was just a start on what you need.” Unkind, very unkind.
Douglas Bruce McFadden died June 14, 2017 and took a lot of intellect, humor and history with him. Fortunately, he wrote a book, The McFaddens: A Family of Frontiersmen 1258-1950 (now 2017), which left us his Posey County historical legacy.
Doug was great fun to talk with about history and politics; he knew both subjects thoroughly. Of course, his family was the McFaddens of McFaddens Bluff, now Mt. Vernon, Posey County, Indiana. When the McFaddens landed here in 1805 they were greeted personally by General William Henry Harrison who told young Mary McFadden she was the first white woman to land in the Indiana Territory, which was then part of the Northwest Territory.
As Doug says in his book: “The McFadden name has several spellings depending on the mood of the individual … All belong to the same Scottish Clan that originated in the 12th century.” Father George Rapp when he was trying to buy land for his New Harmonie community wrote several letters and referred to the owners variously as McFadin, MacFahrlin, McFadians and McFadden from whom he sought to buy land at less than $15.00 per acre.
To have had the pleasure of knowing Doug was to know the history of not only Posey County, Indiana but also America, directly and personally. As Doug said in the Introduction to his book:
“This is not a story about celebrity or fame but of courageous, honest, hardworking people … who participated in the carving of a new nation and the building of America.”
That pretty well describes Doug. Even those of you who did not have the pleasure of his company have suffered a deep loss.