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I heard my first Bill Cosby album when I was five.

Memorized my first Cosby routine when I was seven (it was the “Noah…Right!”).

Performed it before an audience of hundreds at age eight (I received Honorable Mention).

Once I heard those early stories of reckless go-cart racing and playing buck-buck in the projects of Philadelphia, I was hooked.

I credit much of my interest in performing and comedy to the childhood laughs that overwhelmed me as I sat in my bedroom listening to those 33rpm records on a tiny shoebox turntable with a mono speaker. I recited the routines in my head until they flowed out of me without thought or concentration, at-the-ready for a passing neighbor, my parents’ dinner guests, or a visit from extended family.

I have vivid memories of sitting in my PJs on Saturday mornings, cup of dry Froot Loops in hand, crunching away on sugary mouthfuls, just happy as a clam, while the infectious intro music of “Picture Pages” imprinted itself on my brain.

Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Time to get your Picture Pages.
Time to get your crayons and your pencils!
Picture Pages, Picture Pages, Open up your Picture Pages!
Time to watch Bill Cosby do a picture page with you!

To think of all those boyhood hours spent worshipping—glorifying, even—an alleged serial rapist now sickens me. Read the rest of this entry »

Forty.

40. 4-D. Two score. Four dimes. Over-the-hill. The mid-point. Intermission. Halftime. On the flip side. The start of Act II. The third quarter. Entering my fifth decade. Coasting downhill. Past my prime. The dawn of middle age. The beginning of the end.

Yes, it’s true. I recently passed the arbitrary milestone that carries with it enough gravitas and gloom to bring even the most spry and vigorous traveler to at least a brief period of introspection, if not melancholy.

Truthfully, becoming a quadragenarian did weigh on me some. Not so much for the age or the number itself (such trivialities as round numbers do not impress me), but rather in examination of my life and how, on the surface at least, I largely am right where I was a decade ago.

I entered my thirties living in the same house in the same city in the same job with the same company in which I find myself now. I had an unfinished novel at the time, and I still have one (albeit, a different one). And while I have much to show for that same decade—in knowledge, and love, and friendship, and maturity, and wisdom, and experience, and even writing—it is also a stone cold reminder how fleeting time can be and, when our daily schedules and surroundings remain unchanged, how quickly we can lose awareness of its passing.

In addition to that realization, it also was just over a year ago that, creatively charged after my trip to the Writer’s Workshop, I boldly purposed to have this novel drafted as a 40th birthday present to myself.

Well, the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men… Read the rest of this entry »

Immediately after President Obama took office in Jan. 2009, I began to see unsubstantiated bumper stickers appear with slogans like, “How’s all that change workin’ out for ya?” and “Don’t blame me, I voted for McCain!” which I found both hilarious and saddening since the president had not even unpacked his suitcase before ignorant voters were blaming him for the state of affairs.

It was as if the direct links to the previous 28 years of Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush were completely erased the moment a black Democrat assumed office. After all, the president had not even addressed congress, much less signed any new legislation. But sure, the recession, the financial collapse, the burst of the housing bubble, the bank bailouts—all of which occurred before Obama took the oath—yeah, that was all his fault.

In other words, Republicans were all too willing to criticize the president for things that had nothing to do with his administration, and could not have since he wasn’t in office when they happened, and had no evidence (tangible or otherwise) to back up their claims.

If conservatives were so willing to blame President Obama for things that did not happen during his tenure, surely they will be equally anxious to decry the role of government and the office of the executive after witnessing decidedly sharp and notable declines resulting from several years of flawed, foolish, dyed-in-the-wool Republican policy from a puppet governor. Won’t they?

So let us examine the current affairs in the state off Wisconsin, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »

Note: You may wish to read Part I on this theme from April of 2012. It examines the state of affairs regarding health coverage in the US.

The so-called debate surrounding health coverage in the US is fraught on all sides with a disorienting mosaic of platitudes, generalizations, falsehoods, suppositions, and extremism. One cannot even begin to consider the validity of any of the speculations being made because so many are purely to convince us that our lives, liberty, health, or happiness are in danger.

Such is the way of policy-making in these times.

As one who relies on cold, hard facts and supporting evidence, I find this “discussion” to be offensively weak on what I would call substantive arguments. So when real stories surface that expose the cracks in the fear-based memes built around our policy, I try to learn from them. For the hard truth about this crisis is that it is directly affecting people’s lives and livelihoods every day.

I saw one of my caregivers yesterday. I’ve known and depended on her for a long time, so I’ll gladly call her a friend. She’s single, in her early 40’s, educated, owns a home, and she runs a small business for which she is the only employee. She does well enough, but has had to take a second job from time to time when the business wasn’t covering the bills. She’s a hard worker, a kind person, and is both responsible and accountable in her life.

After six years, her business started to really take off. Read the rest of this entry »

I find myself disgruntled lately.

Shocked? I’m sure not, if you’ve read most of my other posts. But you’re probably asking, “What’s got you this time?” So here it is: our ridiculous two-party system of government.

I’m sick of Democrats. I’m sick of Republicans. I’m sick of party politics constantly trumping public policy. I’m sick of bickering, and empty promises. I’m sick of gerrymandering, and stalwart tactics, and of the threat of filibuster (because they don’t actually filibuster anymore you know). I’m sick of misleading 8-second sound bites by majority/minority leaders that exemplify denial and puerility more than reason and cooperation (of course, our attention spans and inane media have a lot to do with that – but that’s for another time).

On issue after issue, threat after threat, problem after problem, the whole idea of passing laws and enacting public policy expeditiously is secondary, if not tertiary, to protecting “The Party” and weakening the opposition. Read the rest of this entry »

Note: Though I typically focus on public policy, this post is about politics, which is not the same thing and I try to avoid. However, in light of the election year, there is a valid point that I feel I must make on the principles of rational argument. I hope you will indulge me. 

Back in January 2001, I didn’t have any real problem with the Bush administration.

I mean, I didn’t like him, of course. After all, it was painful to hear him speak, so obtuse and inarticulate. I found it embarrassing to be represented on the world stage by such a tactless and ignorant buffoon. And I couldn’t believe that Americans could be so base as to (almost) elect the far-less-intelligent son of a one-term president whom we had booted out of office not 8 years prior. But all of that is actually just personal and cosmetic. When it came to policy, upon entering office, I was prepared to give President Bush a chance. After all, he had promised to be, in everyone’s understanding, a compassionate conservative, vowing on the campaign trail to focus on a strong military, education, cutting taxes, and aiding minorities. Didn’t sound so bad.

For 10 months, I just sat back and let it happen, and nothing really terrible came up. In fact, aside from a $200 advance on my next tax return (which I had to pay for later), I barely even noticed a change in “leadership.”

But in September, as you know, the proverbial feces impacted the oscillator and the bent of the administration shifted drastically. In the face of a national tragedy, an executive power grab ensued. As a nation and a culture, we’d been cold-cocked. And while we were still reeling from the cheap shot, the administration was Read the rest of this entry »

Many people are full of shit. To define the colloquialism I’ll restate in more literary terms: they talk out of their ass. They make stuff up, state it emphatically, and expect you to believe it. And if it’s done well enough, it works. After all, that’s how wives tales, urban legends, and cultural myths get started.

This is even true with people who are typically honest, forthright, and trustworthy, which is what makes it all the more difficult to detect. Close friends, whom I know and trust, have used this very tactic in the heat of a discussion and I have acquiesced in the face of their sureness and confidence. Then later I do a little research and find out…it was their ass talking. And that’s fine, because in the end it didn’t really matter what the two of us were arguing about anyway. Nonetheless, I love…LOVE…that instead of having to go to the library, and pore over periodicals and reference materials in hopes of finding something to disprove the BS, I can sit down at my computer, in my PJs if I want, and do the same-if not more-research on any issue and detect the BS from the comfort of my own home, and in less time!

It’s even better when discussions like the one mentioned above happen within range of an internet-connected device! There they are, spewing fecal rhetoric with no regard for the fact that their own shame is only a couple of feet and a few short keystrokes away. It’s like they are daring you to reach over and prove them wrong, only they already know that you will. I’ve seen their faces droop the second I open a web browser. They shuffle their feet, they backtrack and say things like, “That’s what I heard,” or “I think that’s right,” or “so-and-so told me” to shift the blame. Really? You know, 10 seconds ago you wanted to bet $1000 on it, hoping I would yield, and now you “might be wrong?”

Mind you, this isn’t about proving someone wrong. It’s about holding someone accountable for their actions. If they heard it elsewhere, did they verify it before they repeated it? If they’re willing to get all huffy about something they only heard from someone else, why don’t they do a little research first to make sure it’s worth all of the vim and vigor? Read the rest of this entry »

I work with a lot of self-proclaimed “liberals.”

I use quotation marks because, as I have gotten to know these specific people over the years, I have found that to them, “liberal” apparently means simply voting for democrats and bitching about whatever the republicans are doing. I, being an avoider of adhering to labels, am perplexed by this because if that’s really all it takes to be what they claim, then perhaps they should identify themselves as “anti-Republicans.”

To me, claiming to be a liberal suggests perhaps embracing some life habits that coincide with your liberal ideology. You know, walking the walk while talking the talk. In other words, putting your money where your mouth is. Read the rest of this entry »

Something’s missing here.  You know what it is?

Accountability.

It’s something I learned about early on and is a trait I have endeavored to enhance in myself.

I think that is what the American people need most. A lesson in accountability. It seems a large portion of our eroding moral fiber is a direct result of a lack of accountability. Everyone wants to blame anyone else for their own actions. It’d be easier to immediately admit wrongdoing, and do what you can to minimize the damage. But we’d rather someone else be held accountable, just so long as it isn’t us.

And who can blame them? When Insurance, and Big Tobacco, and Big Oil, and Health care, and the financial and banking industries, and you-name-it refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, why shouldn’t we? Insurance companies fight tooth and nail against all kinds of legitimate claims.  Hospitals deny removing the wrong body parts. Chemical companies deny responsibility for poisoning our environment and our bodies. Tobacco companies deny using chemicals to make us more addicted to their smokes; deny marketing to young people and children. Hell, they even denied that smoking was bad for you!  Banks and the financial industry…where do I even start?  Time and time again we find ourselves sucking up the negative affects of their bad decisions, funding their bailout because they’re “too big to fail” and then watching in helpless horror as the captains of their miserable, greedy, manipulative industry walk away with tens of millions in bonuses after bringing the world to the brink of economic collapse.

But then, who can blame THEM? When our government is obviously incapable of holding itself accountable for anything. Read the rest of this entry »

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