It's darker here.

Little Victories

DTG: 06:32 Wednesday, 31 May 2023

I'm now two weeks out from quitting Twitter, and it's feeling great. Thus far, I haven't replicated the experience in Mastodon, and I don't feel any compulsion to try to do so.


I mentioned over in the marmot that I'm reading Stolen Focus, a book about distraction in the digital age, and I wanted to mention something that caught my eye there:

Simone de Beauvoir said that when she became an atheist, it felt like the world had fallen silent.

I would say that since I've quit Twitter, I've begun to hear the divine voice again.

Faintly, but it's there.


DTG: 10:57 Saturday, 27 May 2023

The other day I posted something that came out untitled. It had a title, it was "Jane! Stop this crazy thing!" but it didn't export for some reason that I don't understand. Unimportant.

(The title was a reference to the treadmill George Jetson is on in the intro to The Jetsons.)

So, as it happens, I found the blog post I was thinking of when I wrote that post. I had starred it in NetNewsWire, it just eluded me somehow when I went looking for it.

It was Kottke, of course. I mean, of course. He finds the best stuff. So go check it out. I'll wait.

I'll quote the relevant quotation that he quoted. The quotation that did lead me, serendipitously, to Little Gidding:

Coming back from death showed me that the journey of life is not what we often believe. On the surface, it appears as a journey outward — toward things, people, organizations, achievements. But in truth, it is a journey inward — toward the soul. Toward becoming who you actually are, no matter how far outward you may have to travel in order to discover that all the answers are within you, where you belong.

And now I'll tell you about something I may have mentioned before, but I'm not certain just now. I should be able to search all this stuff, not just here, but in the marmot or maybe the old Groundhog Day file; but even that requires some study and effort and it's easier to just go on without referring to the past.

Back when I was "going through some things," I was meditating a lot. It was a good experience. Don't know why I stopped, but I do know I need to start again.

Anyway, after several months, not years, not ages, I had an experience. I suppose you could call it enlightenment, because it sure felt like that. Looked like it. I recall stepping outside my front door from my cheap little apartment and seeing the world kind of rotate. I felt something, and my visual field changed and everything appeared as if it was illuminated from within, and I recall it was almost as if it was a golden sort of light.

My physical sensation was quickly overwhelmed by this intense sense that I could see everything. More importantly, everything was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Accompanied by a profound feeling of peace.

The weird/cool thing about this is that it wasn't just a momentary experience. It lasted for a few hours at least. I could see/feel it fading, but I could recall the feeling.

Today, it's just a memory, the embodied feeling has faded to nothing. But it still carries this incredible sense of knowing that everything is exactly the way it's supposed to be, but it lacks the comfort of the feeling. Maybe meditation can recall it.

Maybe it can't.

Does it matter? I quit Twitter because it was too much for me. I was getting "lkes" and replies and re-tweets, and I was beginning to understand what the kinds of things were that I could tweet and get those responses. But those weren't always the kinds of tweets I felt good about. I felt good about the validation, the attention, but I didn't always feel good about what I was writing to get it.

I knew I had to get out.

I'm happy to say that I think I'm on the far side of that now. For days, I'd go back and look at profiles of locals I followed in the browser, since you can do that without logging in. I could see what was going on, but I couldn't "like" someone's tweet, reply to it, re-tweet it or quote-tweet it. Early on, I thought about just re-activating my account, but then I'd see some of the ugliness that I didn't enjoy.

Now I don't feel as though I have to check in and see what's going on.

It's only taken about 10 days, but it feels longer. I know I went through something similar with Facebook and Instagram, and I don't recall how long it took. Maybe about the same.

The point is, as my therapist used to say, "Just be still."

There is some risk of self-delusion, that feelings and experiences can be rationalized into meaning that has no genuine basis in reality. I think that's possible.

But I also think it's possible that it may just be the clearest sort of thinking or experience one might ever hope to have in this life.

Faith and fear. So much of Twitter is anger and hate, "on both sides." All that comes from fear. How do you tweet from faith? How does that collect "likes" and validation and attention?

I have hope. Ted Lasso gives me some. The better parts of the blogosphere, what remains of the authentic voices, gives me some. Donna Deegan's election, "Love over fear," gives me hope.

These will remain notes from the underground; and sometimes they'll be about fear. But hopefully not so much about anger.

And hopefully, never hating anyone.

After Action

DTG: 08:00 Saturday, 27 May 2023

The show I saw yesterday was part of a series called After Action, and the episode we watched was called All Gave Some.

Memorial Day

DTG: 03:58 Saturday, 27 May 2023

Another entry in the Insomnia Files.

My wife's brother-in-law, Abe, passed away very recently after a fairly long and unpleasant struggle with cancer. He was a therapist, as is my wife's sister. Mitzi used to joke that she enjoyed visiting them because it was often like a free therapy session. Having had the pleasure of visiting them a few times as well, I know that was true.

I was dreaming about Abe last night (tonight?), that he was in some afterlife, still helping people in this life get their shit sorted. Might have been me, I guess.

It's Memorial Day weekend, so the local PBS station was airing some program about veterans. I'd ask Mitzi what it was, but she's asleep. I happened to come in from being out back "playing with radios," and noticed what she was watching because it was hard to miss. There were four people seated in a room with two cameras, talking to each other. One of the veterans was very visibly disfigured, and missing a hand, another was missing an arm and his legs. I was immediately drawn in.

I'll figure out what the program was and post it later. Trying to get this all down now.

A number of things stand out. One was how at least three of the four talked about how, after they'd gotten home from war, all they thought about for a long time was how to get back into it. Another, related to the first I think, is how the body remembers trauma.

We're embodied beings, while we often focus on the stuff going on in our heads, it's also how we feel, physically, that shapes the experience of our lives. Trauma imposes a huge. embodied, filter on that experience. What feels "normal" after that? For some veterans, returning to combat feels normal.

But for each of those individuals, that wasn't an option for them.

One of the things they mentioned that I thought was important was how we name things matters. They mentioned that PTSD is recognized now, and that's a good thing, but why is it called a "disorder?" Why couldn't it be called "Post-traumatic stress injury." They kind of objected to being thought of as people who have a "disorder." I think one even said it was a very ordered response to the situation they were in.

I also was surprised when one of them said people with post-traumatic stress injuries shouldn't discount the nature of their experience by comparing it with others. Whatever that trauma was, it was "the worst thing that ever happened to you." That makes it more the same than the differences in the stories and the scars. I thought that was very smart and kind.

The show talked about how they coped and moved on. For each of them, it seemed that what worked for them was some form of service.

It was very moving, to watch this. Not just in some sort of sad or sympathetic or compassionate response; but in a difficult sort of resonance, which I suppose relates to my own experience in uniform.

I was walking through Publix yesterday, a local grocery store that makes pretty good subs. I'd ordered one for lunch and gone to pick it up. I was getting a few other things while I was there. For some reason, as I was walking in, I thought of Kelly Quick. I don't know why, all of a sudden he was just there in my thoughts.

I've written about ET3 Quick before, many times in Groundhog Day and I suppose in the marmot too. He was a young electronics technician that worked for me in STEPHEN W. GROVES when we were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1987. He wasn't permanent ship's company, he was a cross-deck from STARK because we didn't have a tech with his skills to maintain crypto equipment, so he was "loaned" to us until the navy could get us one of our own.

We got ours, a guy whose name I no longer recall, and sent ET3 Quick back to STARK with our thanks and appreciation, not long before he died on May 17th, 1987 along with 36 of his shipmates.

Mitzi and I had dinner recently with Rick and Faith. Rick was my XO in STEPHEN W GROVES, I was the Combat Systems Officer. As I was walking through Publix, I made a mental note to ask Rick if he ever thought of Kelly Quick.

Normally, he comes to mind every year because my son was born the day after. Naturally, I recalled my son's birthday this year; but I don't think Kelly came to mind. I suspect it was because I was so invested in the Jacksonville mayor's race, which was on the 16th. The 17th was the day I left Twitter.

But Kelly entered my thoughts, uninvited but not unwelcome, yesterday.

So what the hell is this all about? I suppose it's about Something Useful. It's about making meaning.

We don't pay enough attention to making meaning in this life. It's not our fault, we're intentionally distracted by an economic system that consumes our attention to "create shareholder value," in places like Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, or whatever other shiny new gimmick they come up with to monetize our desire to have social interactions with one another.

I suppose if we want meaning, someone will sell it to us. And they do. Except it's just a cheap knock-off that ultimately winds up in a landfill of broken dreams.

"Do something useful."

Maybe that's what all this was about. Maybe Abe was moving in the world beyond, stopping by to offer a little counsel.

Sounds like good advice. I'll try to take it.

Good Faith

DTG: 06:39 Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Saw a local pol on television last night and heard him say he acted in "good faith."

I knew it was a lie, as I 'm sure others did as well.

But there may be many who don't really understand what "good faith" is, and therefore can't detect the lie. People who hear familiar words like "good faith," and assume they know what they mean, but they've never really thought about it because, well, who has the time?

"Good faith" is like "honor." Mostly meaningless words that adorn empty phrases intended to convey something that's supposedly important; but utterly irrelevant to the day to day experience of their lives.

There's another group that knows he lied, but they're sophisticated. It wasn't really a lie, because he wasn't deceiving anyone. Not them, anyway. They know what "good faith" means, they know that politicians seldom exhibit it. Faithlessness is simply regarded as the cost of doing business.

It doesn't really matter.

Except, it really does.

And I don't think anything will change unless we begin to understand that.

DTG: 06:51 Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Still going through Twitter withdrawal. Feeling as though someone is doing or saying something faithless or reckless and it's my job to point it out. But I'm not doing my job. Somebody is "getting away with it."

I've been catching up on the blogs I follow. I read something yesterday, I think it was in a blog, that I wanted to write about today. Normally, I read in NetNewsWire, an RSS feed reader. And if it's something I want to refer back to, I'll star it in the reader. I checked the starred posts this morning, and I didn't find it.

It was essentially a re-statement of a part of T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding, familiar to anyone who watched Bill Moyers' Joseph Campbell series:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

As I recall, it was in a much more pedestrian turn of phrase. But it caught my eye because one of my last tweets was about those lines above.

But, all is not lost, because it just now prompted me to go look for all of Little Gidding, and see what that was about. You can read it here.

I know you're busy today, and there's very little time for anything as frivolous as poetry, but I think you should read it.

I needed to, though I didn't know it. I knew enough to pay attention. "Paying" often resembles writing a post here in the underground.


DTG: 07:32 Friday, 19 May 2023

After I posted the preceding piece, I went back to bed. Waiting to fall asleep, I realized I had written something that wasn't true. Shame on me.

I wrote that a Florida sheriff, and by extension, law enforcement in general, possesses the state's monopoly on the use of violence in upholding the law, protecting life and property.

That's not true anymore. Granted, previously things like the castle doctrine and the inherent right of self defense gave people a limited license to use violence to protect themselves or their loved ones.

Nowadays, ever since stand your ground, Florida and other states have given every citizen with a gun, bad judgment, and a profound sense of insecurity a license to kill. That's a figurative license, because now you don't even need a license to carry a concealed weapon.

Some people have failed to make a stand your ground defense after taking a life, but it's no consolation. Just the existence of that premise has made the use of violence by untrained, armed citizens more likely. The fact that Michael Dunn rots in a prison cell for taking the life of Jordan Davis over loud music is tragic proof of that.

We don't get many cards or letters here in the woodchuck hole, but I wanted to correct the record before anyone reached for a pen.

Un-Just Politics

DTG: 02:58 Friday, 19 May 2023

It's almost 0300, and here I am, unable to sleep. Figured I might as well just get up and write the post I was composing in my head as I was lying in bed wishing I hadn't had all that iced tea at the event I went to last night.

I watched some of the news coverage of the Jacksonville mayoral election Tuesday night, and I was especially interested to see what, if anything, Sheriff T.K. Waters had to say about Donna Deegan's election as mayor, given the brutal nature of the attack ad he made against her.

Unsurprisingly, he was asked at least twice by reporters at the Daniel Davis campaign wake.

He brushed it off, "That was just politics," and assured the reporters that he would be able to work with a Deegan administration to make a safer Jacksonville.

I don't think so.

I don't know how sophisticated Sheriff Waters is when it comes to politics and service in uniform in an important role. One that carries an enormous responsibility for public safety, and the concomitant authority, up to and including the state's monopoly on the use of violence to meet that responsibility.

Sure, he's an elected official, so he's been a candidate at least once, running against another career law enforcement officer for the job as sheriff. That's not the same thing as having a lot of experience in politics, and very little experience in the use of rhetoric as a public servant in an official capacity.

What I thought I heard when he very casually and confidently brushed aside any implied concerns in the reporters' questions was what I suspect Daniel Davis' political consultant, little Timmy Baker, told him as he persuaded him to make that attack ad, "It's just politics. Don't worry about it. She knows that. If she wins, she'll know you'll work with her."

Or words to that effect.

Something to make his political prop feel comfortable telling the citizens of Jacksonville, and his officers, that Donna Deegan will make them less safe.

Telling them that, in uniform, unambiguously, unequivocally, night after night after night, many times each night, that Donna Deegan will make them "less safe."

I wonder how many citizens, how many of his officers understand it was "just politics."

I wonder how many believed Sheriff Waters, and believe him still.

He's done nothing to repudiate his assertions in those ads. Just casually brushing them aside in a couple of news reports as, "just politics." I don't think all the people who believed him when they saw him, night after night, ad after ad, necessarily heard him in one news report, or understand what "just politics" means.

That's not to insult the intelligence of Davis' voters or his deputies.

When a person in uniform, the "color of authority," tells you something, you kind of want to believe it's true. You kind of want to believe you can trust their authority. And if those persons were predisposed to distrust Donna Deegan, if they harbored partisan doubts or prejudices to begin with, well, Sheriff Waters just confirmed those doubts, validated those prejudices.

Night after night, ad after ad.

Again, I don't know how much of this was little Timmy Baker's Machiavellian machinations swaying a novice politician, or how much was an ambitious political sheriff eagerly undermining a possible future opponent.

Donna Deegan has, with characteristic grace and generosity, brushed aside any concerns and said she'll work with Sheriff Waters to make Jacksonville more safe.

I have faith in Donna Deegan.

I have doubts about Sheriff Waters.

Moving On

DTG: 10:10 Wednesday, 17 May 2023

This will auto-post to Twitter from my Buckaroo Banzai, which cross-posts from the marmot and here in the underground. But I've written my last tweet. I'll pull the plug this evening, probably before Wheel of Fortune comes on.

I've mentioned a few times that I was leaving Twitter after the Jacksonville mayor's race. Yesterday I mentioned it again, in case anyone wanted to reach out for contact info (or to buy some used lenses), and I was surprised and gratified by many of the replies asking me to stay.

I can't. Partly it's a personal weakness. Twitter can be somewhat addictive for me, and I'll find hours of time scrolled into the ether, consuming often toxic rhetoric or being my own bad self in offering caustic snark. Not exactly how I want to spend my life.

But also, the platform itself has become toxic. No amount of blocking or muting or unfollowing can limit your exposure to the radioactivity emanating from the top. It gets reflected and refracted and re-tweeted and finds a way into your timeline despite all your best efforts. And it's probably good to know that it exists, to a certain extent, but it exacts a toll.

The cumulative damage to my spiritual DNA was beginning to reach a level that threatened my faith in humanity. I don't want to end up hating everybody. I recall something I thought about after I met a wonderful couple in Scottsdale, Arizona last year and later learned they were hard-core Trumpers.

The only way to win is not to play the game.

I'm on mastodon and I haven't figured out my relationship with that platform. There are fun and harmless ways of engaging with social media, but people bring their own baggage and sometimes that energy can spill over. I want to be more deliberate, more thoughtful about what I'm putting into the world. I can do that here in my blogs. I'll see how mastodon shapes up for me.

The immediacy and interactivity of social media are both its blessing and its curse. I know I want to engage with people more, but I need to find a better way to do that. So that's something I'll try to work on.

Until then, I'll be here in the underground, commenting on politics, or over in the marmot with more general content about my life, cameras, radios, whatever has my attention at the moment.

Hopefully more mindfully. Maybe with more compassion and grace for the folks who have lost their way. And I know that sounds presumptuous, as if I know "the way." Let's just say, having been lost once myself, I know it when I see it.

Anyway, this is the long good-bye for my Twitter friends. I'm sure we'll meet again somewhere in cyberspace or IRL.

My dad, in his later years, often ended our conversations by FaceTime or in person with, "I love ya, pal. Keep the faith."

I love you all.

Keep the faith.

New Day

DTG: 04:55 Wednesday, 17 May 2023

NFTU is a place I created for my "darker" thoughts. But today is a good day, so I'll let some light in.

Donna Deegan, in fact, won the mayor's race. "Love over fear," and "Change for good" were her two campaign themes. The latter probably more visible, but one often heard Donna say "love over fear," during the campaign. Something of a personal mantra from her experience with breast cancer.

There are two "hot takes" I'd commend to your reading, both by local journalists and keen observers of Jacksonville politics. The first is by A.G. Gancarski. Key take-away: "Jacksonville elections haven’t brought a sense of hope in a long time. This year is different. And that’s significant beyond the feel-good moment."

The second is from Florida Times-Union columnist, Nate Monroe. Key take-away: "It turns out something still matters after all."

My hope is that Donna's victory is a cold breath down the backs of all the faithless, feckless, selfish and self-serving members of Jacksonville City Council. That this serves as a wake-up call that people in Jacksonville are on to them, and they're tired of it and they're not having it anymore.

A city council that tried to gerrymander districts "to protect incumbents," despite being ordered by a federal judge to do otherwise. Scare quotes are used because it was the phrase the city council decided it could use and not be accused of redistricting on the basis of race.

A city council with a large number of non-profit CEOs who appropriate money to themselves.

Jacksonville is a city of enormous potential, which has been mired in mediocrity for decades by an ossified political class accustomed to having its own way and doing favors for itself at the expense of the city as a whole. Ambitious individuals seeking careers in politics were able to exploit this by catering to the ruling "donor class," promoting their own careers at the expense of the city.

Donna has shattered that.

Not just the "glass ceiling," but a sclerotic, myopic, barnacle-encrusted leviathan that has been drowning Jacksonville's potential in a sea of self-dealing.

Today is a good day.

It's not all sunshine and roses, but we can talk about that later. For now, we can just enjoy the view as the dawn breaks on a new day for the Bold New City of the South.


DTG: 08:28 Monday, 15 May 2023

Just got back from a trip to Pennsylvania and New York. Spent time with some Naval Academy Classmates and my family. Back in Florida just in time for the Duval County unitary election.

Duval County is Jacksonville, Florida. It's a consolidated government. Democrats outnumber Republicans, but due to demographics and decades of gerrymandered districts, Republicans have controlled city government for most of its recent history, going back to the 90s. Alvin Brown, a Black Clinton Democrat had one term in office as mayor, and was defeated by the current incumbent, outgoing Mayor Lenny Curry, presently undergoing his mid-life crisis in public on Twitter.

The fourth letter of the alphabet is doing some heavy lifting tomorrow. It's decision day for Duval County, between Donna Deegan, Democrat, and Daniel Davis, Republican.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is true: Duval deserves what it gets.

By nearly all accounts, the race is very close. Democrats have a history of not showing up in March and May. It will be interesting to see if voter turnout breaks 50%.

Daniel Davis is the CEO of the local chamber of commerce, a job he's held for a decade. He got the board of directors to approve allowing him to keep his job while campaigning, apparently using accrued vacation time.

He's been an elected official in city council and in the Florida legislature as a state representative. He's also been a lobbyist for developers. It's safe to say he's never worked a day in a job that wasn't directly involved with government. Local lore has it that he's wanted to be mayor ever since he was a kid.

Donna Deegan is a retired journalist, a former local TV anchor, and a three-time breast cancer survivor who established the Donna Foundation and the annual Race to Finish Breast Cancer Marathon. This isn't Donna's first effort in politics. She was a surrogate for Andrew Gillum in the 2018 governor's race, which Gillum narrowly lost to our current governor.

In 2020, she ran for the House of Representatives against the incumbent, former Duval County sheriff, John Rutherford. I've written about him before, a liar and a moral coward, Rutherford is a Duval County Republican. She lost that race by a wide margin.

Shaking off the sting of losing, Donna still wanted to serve her community in elected office, someplace where she can help more people through policy initiatives than just the people she helps with her foundation. She announced she was running for mayor in November 2021.

Davis' campaign is managed by one of "the (lost) boys," Timmy Baker, adolescents in adult bodies. Faithless men with a cynical, zero-sum view of politics and government, and the worst thing that has happened to Jacksonville since the fire. Baker is a political consultant who believes in scorched earth, negative campaigns, a modern-day Lee Atwater. (The other two lost boys are Mayor Lenny Curry and Jacksonville's Chief Administrative Office and Bully, Brian (Bri-Bri) Hughes.)

Baker also managed Sheriff T.K. Waters' campaign, as I mentioned in Flexible Ethics. One shocking aspect of this race is that Sheriff Waters has decided to take a flamethrower to his bridge before he crossed it, recording a negative ad about Donna while in uniform and including other JSO deputies in the frame, saying "Donna Deegan's radical policies would make our families and my officers less safe."

Apparently Sheriff Waters is so certain of a Davis victory, that he can destroy any trust or good will that he might have enjoyed if Deegan were elected. Whatever efforts at collaboration Mayor Deegan might undertake with Sheriff Waters will be forever tainted by a cloud of mistrust.

This is so toxic because it serves no one, except Timmy Baker, Daniel Davis and Sheriff Waters, who apparently has political ambitions beyond the sheriff's office. Selfish, small-minded men.

So, tomorrow is D-Day for Duval. Either Davis or Deegan. I'll be watching closely.

Whichever one, it'll be what Duval deserves.

Something Useful

DTG: 06:45 Thursday, 4 May 2023

This should probably go in the marmot, but here I am.

Read this piece this morning in Financial Times. If you don't click through, it's an interview with Pete Betts, a UK climate negotiator at end of life due to a brain tumor. It's an interesting read from the climate standpoint, but I was interested in what he had to say about confronting his own mortality. It's toward the end of the piece.

He talks about his therapist, Julia Samuel:

She said there were two things that help people. The first is a sense that one is loved and valued; the second is a sense that one’s life has been useful.

"A sense that one's life has been useful." I think it's fair to read "useful" as "meaningful." One's life had some purpose, made a difference somehow.

Hopefully, I'm not near the end of my life. It is safe to say, however, that although it is never far away for any of us, it is nearer than it has ever been. And it does, at least for me, sometimes prompt reflection.

Back before therapy, when I was a very unhappy man in an unhappy marriage with a career that was slowly unraveling, I often looked for some "purpose" in sticking around. Of course, it was my kids. I don't know that they really know it, but they actually helped save my life.

Ultimately, we're responsible for saving our own lives; but we all need a lot of help along the way; and my kids helped me, more than they know.

During this period, my brother experienced kidney failure. It was an acute thing, idiopathic, nobody knows why. But he needed a kidney.

I was the oldest sibling, and I wasn't sure if the navy would let me donate a kidney. I was already at my terminal rank, commander, and I wasn't much intimidated by captains anymore, so I call the commanding officer of Portsmouth Naval Hospital (may have been called Norfolk Naval Hospital, but it's in Portsmouth), and asked him if there was any prohibition on being a kidney donor.

To his credit, he said, "I don't know, but let me find out and I'll get back to you." He could have just blown me off. I'd have found out some other way, but it's just one of the things that makes you feel like there's more here than meets the eye when you're on the right path.

He called me back and told me there was no official prohibition, but I wouldn't be able to make a disability claim from the VA when I retired. Sounded like a square deal.

My boss at the time was also very helpful, he gave me permissive temporary duty orders to go donate a kidney. That means they don't fund my travel or give me per diem for meals and lodging, it's all at my own expense; but I didn't need to burn my accumulated leave to do it, and I was going to be out a few weeks.

And, of course, the whole thing was fully funded by Medicare. Socialized medicine.

All that went well. My brother still has my kidney, soon to be 26 years later, and it's still functioning well. That itself is a bit remarkable. When we started, they hoped to get 20 years out of it.

Anyway, there were still days of depression ahead. I didn't start seeing a therapist until 2000 or so. But there were days when I was feeling really low, and I could lean on this idea that I had done at least one good thing in my life.

So I suppose my brother also had a role in saving my life too.

It's interesting, because this was after I'd been XO in JOHN HANCOCK and performed over thirty burials at sea. I'd had that epiphany, and discovered meaning in what we were doing, but it hadn't yet achieved some status in terms of how I viewed the value of my own life. That did come later though.

I don't think people kind of orient their lives around "being useful." We're caught up in the day-to-day grind. Chances are, like in It's a Wonderful Life, we have been useful, we're just unconscious of it, because our attention was elsewhere, even if our intention wasn't.

This is becoming a recurring theme of late, I know. But one of the advantages of getting old is perspective, and time to look back and reflect.

I never did anything, back then, with the idea that I was "making meaning." I guess the most I could say was that it seemed like "the right thing to do."

Which I guess is a clue. When you're doing the right thing, you're making meaning. You're doing something useful.

How many opportunities to do the right thing do we miss every day? How does our ambition, or our fixed narrative of what our life is supposed to be, interfere with seeing the opportunities before us?

I think I see that a lot, especially in political leaders. I mean, it's the most visible there, in public life.

It's asking too much to expect perfection, but it's remarkable how many easy opportunities are thrown away to pursue some meaningless, short-term gain or advantage.

As an oldster, I guess I get frustrated at my inability to kind of convey this. I mean, I guess that's what I'm trying to do here. I don't do NFTU just to vent my spleen, though I do that as well.

I live in a state where my elected officials have just been having an orgy, not just missing opportunities to do the right thing, but gleefully embracing doing the wrong thing. I wonder, at the end of their lives, what their interior experience will be. Will they be able to compartmentalize all the harms they caused? Is that sort of thing just forgotten? They'll have some kind of highly edited recollection of what they thought the meaning or value of their service was?

Or will they experience regret?

I don't know. And why should I care? It's their experience, not mine. I have regret in my life, but it's not at the center of it. I feel as though I've lived a pretty good life, maybe even wonderful. I know I'm loved. I know I helped people. I know I've kept faith with the values I believe in. Not always, of course. I'm not perfect by any means.

But underneath all that is gratitude. I didn't set out to do this. I had a lot of help, from good parenting to a good education to all the opportunities and advantages that accrue to being a member of a privileged class. I didn't earn any of that. No one gets to pick their parents.

Dad wanted me to join the navy, because he loved the navy. I loved my dad. There was a brief period where we weren't necessarily in alignment on all that. But he set me on a good path.

I'd like to see more people in public life appreciate the opportunity they have to make meaning in their own lives. To do the right thing. Not be blinded by zero-sum thinking, or some desire for power or recognition.

Some people get it. Donna Deegan, candidate for mayor of Jacksonville, Florida is one. But a lot of the people in this area don't. This is all a big chess game to them, and the object is to win at any cost.

I think that cost is pretty high. I think the end of their days will be impoverished, diminished.

And many people that might have been helped, will struggle with burdens that were made heavier by the desire and ambitions of selfish people, locked into a narrow view of what life is all about.

So it goes, I guess. I wish I had something better to offer.

Flexible Ethics

DTG: 05:03 Monday, 1 May 2023

County sheriffs are elected in Florida. They have the chief law enforcement responsibility in unincorporated portions of the county. Jacksonville is a consolidated county, so the sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for the city of Jacksonville. The beaches cities in Duval County, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach all have their own chiefs of police and police forces, hired by their respective governments.

Having to stand for election makes county sheriffs, of necessity, politicians. This immediately poses challenges, because politicians do favors and citizens, in general, would like to see the law equally enforced.

Some sheriffs are more "political" than others. Two sheriffs ago, now Representative John Rutherford, wasn't, to my recollection, overtly political. Clearly, he harbored powerful political ambitions, because the ink wasn't even dry on his congressional predecessor's retirement announcement before Rutherford announced he would seek the seat. In fact, he'd planned to run for congress before he ever left the sheriff's office, when Ron DeSantis planned to run for Marco Rubio's senate seat, as Rubio sought the Republican presidential nomination. Then Trump happened, and everyone's plans went awry.

Anyway, Rutherford was succeeded by another Republican, Mike Williams. Williams was a low-profile kind of guy overall, and barely exhibited any interest in even having the job. His biggest achievement in office was putting the kibosh on one of Lenny Curry's flailing efforts to remain relevant by inviting the 2020 Republican National Convention to Jacksonville in the middle of COVID. Williams pointed out it was impossible to plan for and adequately resource security for the event, given the impossibly short timeframe Lenny was embracing.

But Williams' disinterest in actually being the sheriff led to him quietly move out of town, which had the unfortunate effect of actually removing him from the office, as the city charter requires that the sheriff live in the county. He apparently didn't mention this to anyone, because he kept showing up for work anyway, until local news organizations caught wind of it, and local pols had to furrow their brows and decide what to make of all this.

Williams announced his resignation, a temporary successor was appointed and a special election was scheduled to elect his replacement. Williams went on to a high position in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to assure that he would get enough time in the retirement system to earn his pension. Republicans fail up in Florida.

Which brings us to the current sheriff, T.K. Waters, a Black Republican, who won a hard fought race against a woman Black Democrat. The special election in November 2022 was an expensive affair, and was only to complete the remaining term of the disgraced, promoted predecessor. A regular election was to be held in March and May in Jacksonville's bizarre election calendar, designed to, and effective at, ensuring low voter turnout.

No Democrat wanted or was prepared for another expensive fight five months after the last one, so Sheriff Waters went on to another full term as sheriff unopposed.

All of this preamble is familiar to anyone from this part of Florida, but necessary for others who aren't.

What makes T.K. Waters' political career interesting is that he's a client of Timmy Baker, a local Svengali who runs a consulting firm called Data Targeting, or something. Timmy is one of "the boys," who swept into town with Lenny Curry back in 2015 and defeated Black incumbent Democrat mayor, Alvin Brown. The third official member of "the boys" is Brian Hughes, now the Chief Administrative Officer of Jacksonville under Lenny Curry. Lenny, Timmy and Bri-Bri are the immature adolescents also called "the machine," known for trashing their opponents in well-funded, relentless and hyperbolically negative campaigns, exploiting fear and division in pursuit of depressed voter turnout and victory.

Jacksonville is now in the second phase of its mayoral election, and the Republican candidate, president of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, Daniel Davis, is also a client of Timmy Baker. So Timmy is leveraging his relationship with Waters to the hilt, having Daniels invoke Waters' name every .6 microseconds.

Which, finally, and with some apology, gets us to the point of this post.

You see, T.K. Waters has appeared in a television commercial, attacking Davis' opponent, Democrat Donna Deegan. It's not just an "I like Daniel Davis. I trust Daniel Davis. Vote for Daniel Davis," sort of positive endorsement ad, it's an attack ad on his opponent.

One has to believe that T.K. Waters either thinks Davis will win this race walking away, or he just doesn't plan to have a good working relationship with a mayor who happens to be a Democrat.

This overtly corrosive, toxic partisan political ad hasn't gone unnoticed or unremarked on in Jacksonville. Not that Waters gives any indication of caring what anyone else thinks.

One might wonder if there weren't some guardrails in place to kind of preclude this sort of unseemly conduct by a chief law enforcement officer. Well, kind of...

Jacksonville's ordinance code has an election code that might seem to bar this sort of thing, but it specifically exempts elected officials, like the sheriff. So, it's perfectly legal.

But the sheriff's office has a "Code of Conduct," which is interesting.

It addresses political activity in Constraints on Behavior, in language the largely mirrors the city ordinance. It does not specifically, in the text, exempt the sheriff as a "member" of JSO.

I suppose this is simply a technical oversight. That even though the sheriff wears the same uniform as the other "members" of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, he's not a "member," He's an elected official, not bound by the same "constraints on behavior."

But it raises important questions, I should think. Regarding the appearance of other uniformed JSO "members" in his attack ad, did they all receive permission to appear in the ad? Were they ordered to do so? Was that done on city time? Does this matter?

We don't know, and we will likely never know. Because one thing does seem clear:

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Code of Conduct doesn't actually apply to the sheriff.

There are a lot of things wrong in Jacksonville, and this is one of them. And I wonder if Sheriff T.K. Waters appreciates the opportunity he's squandering to make meaning in his service?

Who is he serving here? Himself? His political consultant? Daniel Davis? Does he really believe he's serving the city here? His office? His members?

What message should his deputies take away from all this?

I believe this is the influence of Timmy Baker. A zero-sum, transactional, ethically bankrupt boy in a man's body, looking to add another "win" to his portfolio, oblivious to the damage he's doing in the process.

I also believe it's a weakness in T.K. Waters' character.

Regardless of who wins this month, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been irrevocably diminished by the actions of the sheriff and his political consultant.