The coming midterm elections might be the most important of your lifetime, considering the desire of some politicians to do away with our current democratic form of government. The following recently appeared on SERENDIPITY.

The Real Steal by Rich Paschall

Gerrymandering – The political manipulation of constituent districts to favor a political party.

If you are ever wondering why a congressional district has such weird-shaped boundaries, it is likely because the party in power drew the boundaries to favor themselves. If you do not want people of color to have representation, for example, then divide them up in such a way that there is no majority in one district. If that is almost impossible, then try to draw the boundaries so they get one district and no others. This can be done with ethnic minorities as well. This process has helped keep many old Republicans in power for decades.

If Republicans control the state redistricting map, as they do in most states, then they can draw the map to minimize the voting power of Democrats. Consider the Republican-controlled state of Ohio. The large cities like Cleveland and Toledo along the lake are likely to vote Democratic. If you can put them in their own districts with other likely-voting Democrats, you can minimize Democratic representation and send more Republicans to Congress. That’s exactly what they did. The dark blue districts have a majority of Democrats and the light blue districts are about 50/50 with a slight edge for Democratic voters. All the other districts are drawn in such a way as to favor Republicans. There are other tactics for the Republican-controlled state houses to use to try capturing light blue districts and strengthening their hold on red ones.

Ohio Congressional District map 2022

Voter suppression – reduce polling places

If you don’t want so many of your opponents’ voters casting their ballots, a good tactic may be to reduce the polling places in the areas where they are likely to vote. If Democratic voters are forced to travel long distances or stand in long lines, perhaps they will not bother to show up on election day. It may not change the outcome of district races in Democratic strongholds, but it may help to ensure certain outcomes in close races and at the statewide level.

Let’s take the great state of Kentucky, for example. Prior to the 2020 primary, Kentucky cut 95 percent of the polling places in the state. They reduced the number from about 3700 to 200. If you want the Republican senator to have a better chance of winning, let’s say, Mitch McConnell, you might want to have fewer polling places where Democrats vote. In Jefferson country, home to Louisville and half the black voters in the state, the number of polling places was reduced to one. That’s right! There was one polling place for approximately 616,000 registered voters. Some may not only consider this a tactic to defeat Democrats but a racist move to prevent people of color from casting their votes.

Between 2016 and 2020 (the Trump years) approximately 20 percent of the polling places in the US were closed. Of course, some states used COVID-19 as an excuse. There is no doubt that was an issue in the reduction. The extreme amount of cuts and their locations are certainly suspect decisions in many states.

Kentucky 2022 Final Congressional map

Voter Suppression – restrictive voting laws

Republican state legislatures from around the country have been busy in the last two years passing restrictive voting laws. In some cases, they appear to be targeting people of color who often vote Democratic. In the first half of 2021, 17 states passed 28 laws making it harder for people to vote. The Republican states often used THE BIG LIE (Trump’s false claim the 2020 election was stolen) as an excuse for passing such restrictive measures.

Challenges to two Arizona laws made it all the way to the Supreme Court last year. Not only did the high court uphold the Arizona laws, but some also argue that the decision erodes protections afforded under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. If the Trump judges at the Appeals and Supreme Court levels were already willing to have a hand in “Destroying Justice,” don’t you think they would be willing to help in Destroying Democracy as well?

Voter Suppression – mail-in voting

The Trump-appointed postmaster general has been responsible for removing mailboxes, destroying sorting machines, and slowing down first-class delivery. If the mail is unreliable when it is election time, it may discourage some from using this process. This could mean that the sick, elderly, and poor may have no way to vote at all. Historically, these groups tend to vote Democratic. Trump’s postmaster is still in office. In case you are wondering, the current president can not remove him.

State Attorney General – election policies

Many states have seen a lot of advertising for Attorney General races. In some states where the election might be tight, Republicans are pouring a lot of money into the state in order to win this office. What is the increased interest in the state Attorney General?

You may recall that a certain Orange politician was encouraging the Georgia Secretary of State to find him some votes. “There’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, you’ve recalculated.” Georgia investigated the false claims of the then-president and certified the election for the opponent. Attorney General Chris Carr would not help the orange guy by overturning the election results. Now Republicans are hoping to put people in place who are willing to lie for the party and declare the loser to be the winner.

Independent State Legislature Theory – Moore vs. Harper

If none of the above-stated devices will put Republicans in federal offices, including the White House, then perhaps this one will. The theory asserts the proposition that it is the state legislatures that have the authority to determine the outcome of elections and may decide them as they feel appropriate. In other words, they can decide the results of a federal race no matter how the people of the state voted. Further, they could choose their own electors for the Electoral College, rather than the ones picked by the voters.

The ISL (Independent State Legislature) challenge made its way to the Supreme Court before and was rejected in 2015. That was before the Trump Judges. Now the high court has agreed to hear Moore vs. Harper, an ISL case that could throw democracy out the window. It would be a decision that would make Authoritarian rulers, like Russia, North Korea, and China, proud. Will the ultra-conservative court help Republicans appoint the next ruler and have a hand in Destroying Democracy?

Sources include: “Princeton Gerrymandering Project,” Princeton University,, 2022.
Kentucky Slashes Number of Polling Places Ahead of Primary—Especially Where Black Voters Live,” by Madison Pauly, Mother Jones, June 21,2020.
The US Eliminated Nearly 21,000 Election Day Polling Locations for 2020,” by Cameron Joseph, Rob Arthur, Vice News, October 22, 2020.
Report: Republican-Led State Legislatures Pass Dozens of Restrictive Voting Laws in 2021,” by Horus Alas, US News & World Report, July 2, 2021.
Georgia officials fact-check an infamous Trump phone call in real-time,” by Rachel Treisman, NPR, June 21,2022
6 battleground state attorney general races to watch in 2022,” by Nicole Narea, VOX, July 21, 2022.
See also: Destroying Justice,” SERENDIPITY, August 28, 2022.


The Autumn Of The Year, RICH PASCHALL

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

When I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to my Senior year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.

At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there. Although we did not admit it at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts into our heads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong
It was a very good year

You may think of sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was that these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others.  I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.

The new school brought new friends, new interests, and new teachers.  There were subjects and activities the other school lacked. The final high school year also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life. Some of those friends and those memories stayed with me over the decades. I had no idea then that it would be the “best of times.”

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…

Four years later, brought a similar situation.  It was time to move on to my Senior year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t). It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood. In reality, I was no more adult than I was at 20 or twenty-two.  It was just a symbolic thing.

The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks, or months older than the friends I hung around with, so it is not like we all headed off to some bar. Still, the year seemed to hold certain energy that young adulthood will give you if you let it.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…

I had finally earned my Master’s Degree.

It was not about career advancement.  It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier. I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70s.  She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream.

I could tell her about the courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the Master’s exam again. She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas on the same day. Sadly, I never saw her again.

It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why. If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right in the world.

Well, almost all seemed right. I did not find the right person to share my very good years with. Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard. I guess I was having too good of a time.

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…

The autumn of the year.

One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short. They don’t seem to last as long as the days of youth, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five. My older brother insists the days are the same length. We are just slower, and that is OK, he says. Perhaps it is that.

As you reach your autumn, you realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered. Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five.

With any luck at all, some will still be very good years.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years that are a fine vintage. Wine aficionados will refer to this as a “very good year.” I hope to still have them. None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again. With any luck at all, however, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.

And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.

Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male, in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC


On National Voter Registration Day it is important to think about where the country is headed. Will we march in the direction of extreme right-wing politics, or find a more democratic way of running the country? Who you elect may influence the future of human and civil rights. The following was recently posted to SERENDIPITY. Vote!

A Not So Supreme Decision, by Rich Paschall

When the news leaked that the Supreme Court was going to overturn Roe vs Wade, it was quite a shock to the nation. Wasn’t this 1973 decision a matter of settled law? The case was decided by a 7-2 vote, after all. Wasn’t the court inclined to follow the precedent set by previous decisions? The abortion ruling had been challenged before. In 1992 the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Roe decision in a challenge that was brought in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Three Republican appointees, Justices Anthony KennedyDavid Souter, and Sandra O’Connor, voted in favor of NOT overturning Roe. That was a time when Republican appointees were still there to follow the law. That does not seem to be the case now.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has held that Roe v. Wade, that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment… That’s the law of the land, I accept the law of the land, senator. Yes,” – Neil Gorsuch to Senator Durbin, March 2017 confirmation hearings.

“As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By ‘it,’ I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, been affirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent.” – Brett Kavanaugh to Senator Feinstein, September 2018.

“I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn’t fall in that category (a “super-precedent”) And scholars across the spectrum say that doesn’t mean that Roe should be overruled. But descriptively, it does mean that it’s not a case that everyone has accepted and doesn’t call for its overruling.” – Amy Coney Barrett in confirmation hearings, October 2020.

While Justice Barrett may have been a bit vague in confirmation hearings, she did say she would not let her personal religious views affect her legal decision-making. Were all of the Trump appointees lying to Congress in their confirmation hearings? Are they placed on the Supreme Court to do the bidding of the ultra-right wing of the Republican party? Will they be rolling back protections in other areas of civil and human rights?

Justice Clarence Thomas has already indicated as much in a written “concurring opinion” to the decision to overturn Wade. “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” Thomas wrote “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.” He specifically mentioned cases regarding contraception and same-sex marriage. That could be a signal to the ultra-right to bring such challenges to the court again so they can toss out those protections as well.

Taken April 28, 2015, the day of oral arguments to the Supreme Court, CC License

Lost in all the furor over Roe were decisions made by the same conservative justices in other 6-3 rulings. In NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOC. V. BRUEN the group struck down a long-standing New York law regarding carrying handguns in public. This will put similar laws in other states at risk. If you are thinking that a Democratic majority will be able to strengthen gun control after the mid-terms, think again. The NRA or one of its members would likely challenge any new law and you already know what the appeals court or the Supreme Court will decide.

In WEST VIRGINIA V. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY the court limited the power of the EPA to reduce carbon emissions. This is a blow to the current administration’s desire to promote clean energy and battle climate change.

Although the federal government has set workplace standards many times through OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and other federal agencies, a 6-3 decision in NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS V. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR struck down a requirement for COVID-19 vaccination or testing at the nation’s largest companies.

The Conservative Six got behind school prayer rather than maintaining a separation of Church and State. In KENNEDY V. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT the court upheld a coach’s right to pray at the 50-yard line of a football game. Some thought his players felt pressured to join in.

In addition to three Supreme Court appointments made by Donald Trump, he is also responsible for 53 circuit judges to the US Court of Appeals, or close to one-third of all circuit judges. He appointed 171 federal district judges or about 28 percent of the current total. A cynic might say that Senator McConnell pushed through these appointments while he was Senate majority leader as a way of protecting Republicans against criminal prosecution. If the former president is found guilty of violating The Espionage Act, for example, what are the odds that one of his appointees or the Supreme Court will let him off the hook?

How many of these Trump judges are there to actually uphold the Constitution of the United States of America?  Since the Supreme Court has already demonstrated its willingness to ignore legal precedent and reinterpret the law, what is the probability that some or all these other Trump appointees will do the same?

Sources include:What the Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices previously said about Roe’s precedent,” ByMeredith Deliso ABC News, June 24,2022.
Justice Thomas hints gay rights and contraception at risk after conservative majority overturns Roe v. Wade,” by Chris Morris, Fortune, June 24, 2022.
How the Supreme Court ruled in the major decisions of 2022,” By Ann E. Marimow, Aadit Tambe, and Adrian Blanco, The Washington Post, June 30, 2022.


The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY. There were likely changes on Word Press at this time that were of questionable value.

Change For Change Sake

You may have noticed that the websites you use regularly change their format from time to time. Just when you got used to your favorite credit card site, they changed everything around. It is frustrating, to say the least. This is particularly true when the new format offers more information but spreads it out in a way that you can not find it. As we all like to say, it is not “user-friendly.”

Corporate executives, company IT (Information Technology) departments, their programmers, and their minions must all feel that they are not moving forward if they do not keep changing things.

I just want my balance

“They mistake change for improvement, and that is not always the case.”  – Time Management Ninja

Sometimes the best you can hope for is they don’t screw it up too badly. At one time MySpace was the leader in social media. We all had an account and actually had fun there. There was interaction with others, but it was the kind of back and forth you find on a fan forum, not what we know today. As facebook quickly gained ground for its unique ability to connect with friends and neighbors, MySpace did not know how to adapt. Their changes drove people away and it eventually turned into a music site, more or less.

Sometimes change is necessary, but it has to be the right change. It needs to be the type the user will embrace. When a company does not know how to do that, they lose momentum and business. Remember the boom?  Do you remember the bust? Change is a tricky business. Knowing when and what to do is a tough call. Sometimes it seems like the people making changes never actually used the site themselves.

Do aliens write these programs?

“Change for change sake does not always result in progress.”

My bank changed several features on their online banking site at some point after I had been using it for a while. It wasn’t awful and I got used to the new layout and features pretty quickly. They maintained a similar look and the items flowed naturally as you paid bills or looked at accounts. My credit card statement was there as well so I could see what I had and what I owed. The people who changed things might actually be banking there.

On the other hand, eBay has made changes recently that are beyond baffling. When I first joined the selling page was simple. All the information for active listings, sold and unsold listings was easy to find. Then they wanted us to use their new format which had the listing more spaced out, bigger pictures, and less of what I wanted to know. Since the listings were bigger, it took you longer to scroll down the page. I resisted using it. This, by the way, has nothing to do with the listing page the buyers see.

Now they have introduced another format. Charts & graphs & dashboards, oh my!  They dumped the original format which I loved. I have started using that second version that I avoided because what they offer now is just information overload.

“And while I am a big advocate of leaving your comfort zone, too much change can result in confusion, disorganization, and lack of competence.”

This brings me to this very site. For a while now Word Press has been pushing their so-called block editor. As Marilyn has pointed out, it is not a true “Block editor,” but I digress. WordPress also has a “classic editor” which allows you to create a document much like creating a Microsoft Word document. It is straightforward, with the usual basic tools: Font size, bold, italics, color, links, and so forth. The Block editor works under the premise that you write things in little chunks and assemble them later in building block style. I had building blocks as a child. I am sure we knocked them down and then arranged them again in order. It’s an interesting concept, except I don’t actually write that way.

Sometimes I look back at what I wrote and it does not flow as I had in mind. I can not imagine the result if I worked in “blocks.” One continuous document is the best way to edit blog posts, I think. Do younger generations actually write in little pieces and assemble them later as if it was some giant Lego project?

Just another Rubik’s cube?

Marilyn has commented extensively about this Word Press mish-mash in the past. She did not mince words and yet, I think she was too kind. Do these programmers actually write blog posts, or are they just creating something different because they can?

There used to be a WP Admin. menu that gave you useful items. Yes, you can still find most of the same things. Apparently, they just want you to hunt for them.  On Sundays, I usually look back a year to find something to reblog to “Sunday Night Blog.” I did this by filtering down to my posts of a particular month and year. They must think that scrolling down for pages is a better way to find past blog posts.

Fortunately, Marilyn knows the tricks, and the classic editor can still be found. If Word Press wants to turn writing an article into a giant video game, they could take themselves down the same road as MySpace.

“So, next time you want to make a change, ask yourself why you’re doing it first.”

All quotes from: ​”Change for Change’s Sake Doesn’t Always Equal Progress,” by Tori Reid,, November 3, 2014.


For all of the 21st century so far, I have been looking for music with social relevance.  Yes, there have been a few songs, but not much in these two decades.  And who are the young writers contributing songs with meaning this century?  Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Chicago?  

Those guys are still at it, but in this era of social unrest, you might expect more young voices to be heard.  Getting a good deal of notice in recent years is the heavy metal group, Disturbed, and their rendition of The Sound of Silence.  If you are thinking the title is familiar, it is.  They covered the Simon and Garfunkel hit to great effect. 


Enter The Young, When Songs Had Meaning

There was a time I will describe as being from late Beatles up to pre-disco when many songs had a deeper meaning, that is to say, a “social commentary”.  The air was filled with thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics.  Some will argue that these songs helped to sway a nation toward greater equality and away from a war of questionable merits.  For a while, many songwriters abandoned “Ooh baby, baby,” to write about war, race, poverty, inhumanity, and life in the ghetto rather than life on “easy street”.  This was an era in songwriting where the words were as important as the notes being played.

Here they come, yeah
Some are walking, some are riding
Here they come, yeah
And some are flying, some just gliding
Released after years of being kept in hiding
They’re climbing up the ladder rung by rung

Bob Dylan had been speaking to us for years, but suddenly so was McCartney and Lennon, then John Lennon on his own.  Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Carol King, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Curtis Mayfield, Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye can all be added to a list that goes on and on.  There were some with just a few hits but a big social impact.

Enter the young, yeah
Yeah, they’ve learned how to think
Enter the young, yeah
More than you think they think
Not only learned to think, but to care
Not only learned to think, but to dare

My absolute favorite among the thoughtful lyrics were those done by a group called The Association.  They are probably best known for their hit songs “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Along Comes Mary.”  These songs are filled with clever rhymes and some unique wordplays.  “Cherish” taught me I could rhyme that word with “perish,” and I used it for a wedding lyric years later.

Yeah, here they come
Some with questions, some decisions
Here they come
And some with facts and some with visions

Of a place to multiply without the use of divisions
To win a prize that no one’s ever won

They also commented on society in songs like “The Time It Is Today,” “Enter the Young,” and the biting and rather haunting sounds of “Requiem For The Masses.”  This was filled with the symbolism of those that died for the red, white and blue as well as dealing with the issues of race (“Black and white were the questions that so bothered him, he never asked, he was taught not to ask, but was on his lips as they buried him.)  Yes, the same group that gave us “Never My Love” could come around again and whack you with a social message…hard.

Here they come, yeah
Some are laughing, some are crying
Here they come
And some are doing, some are trying
Some are selling, some are buying
Some are living, some are dying
But demanding recognition one by one

They did get recognition, along with many other such groups, if only for a moment in musical history.  Where are the meaningful song lyrics of today?  I wonder.

Not only learned to think, but to care
Not only learned to think, but to dare

I wore out this album as I found every song to be worthy of constant replay.  I was a teenager, I thought it was great.  All these years later, I still do.  I chose the video above as I could find no good performance video of this song. This one rendered the best sound.

Waiting on the World

It can be a frustrating experience waiting on the world to change. Will the younger composers of songs sing out on the current situation? Or will they see that as hopeless? Will they just wait their turn with the Sound of Silence? Must we continue to rely on the older generation for our social commentary in song? “We keep on waiting.”

And when you trust your television
What you get is what you got
Cause when they own the information, oh
They can bend it all they want
That’s why we’re waiting (waiting)
Waiting on the world to change

The Sound of Silence by Paul Simon 1964 Universal Music Publishing Group
Enter The Young by Terry Kirkman 1966 Beachwood Music Corp.
Waiting on The World To Change by John Mayer 2006 Reach Music Publishing

This article appeared one year ago on SERENDIPITY.


Socially we are struggling with major problems. The government is still divided in the us versus them battle.  They should be working for all of us.  Chicago, the band, came back around to commentary through song. This article appeared last year on  SERENDIPITY. 

A view of America from Chicago, the band, by Rich Paschall

Chicago has been around for a long time. No, I don’t mean the city, I mean the band. In 1967, five guys from DePaul University recruited a sixth from Roosevelt University and started a band known as The Big Thing. Soon they recruited a tenor, moved to California, and changed their name to Chicago Transit Authority. In 1968 they released a self-titled, double album that included some of their biggest hits and led them down the road to a Hall of Fame career.  After the threat of legal action by the hometown transit authority, the band shortened its name and the rest is pop history.

Chicago Water Tower (Photo credit: Nicholas G. Mertens)

Their pop, rock, jazz-infused sound was groundbreaking.  In an era of bands that included a guitar player, bass player, and drummer, Chicago’s music majors were letting a trumpet, a trombone, and a saxophone lead the way.  It was a sound that led to more groups backed by horns.

As with many bands of the time period, they had their share of songs with social messages.  A war protest song (It Better End Soon), a song following the moon-landing (Where Do We Go From Here?), and political commentary (Dialogue, Part I & II).  They certainly did not rely on this type of song, but they were not afraid of them either.

As the decades rolled on they just may have relied a little more heavily on ballads and soft rock.  That’s why it is interesting to find that Chicago came back with another album, Chicago Now, aka Chicago XXXVI, with a heavy reliance on the type of horn sounds of their early years and commentary on the American scene.

America, America is free!
America is you and me!

America, the third track on Chicago Now, was actually available for download long before the album came out.  With music and lyrics by founding member Lee Loughnane, it is not a throwback to another era, but a push forward for a band that has done something older bands are reluctant to do.  That is, put out an album of new material and social commentary.

The dream was fading before our eyes
Take some time to revive it.
‘We the people’ must start right now
Don’t expect our leaders to show us how
They don’t have a clue what to do
If they knew how to stop this slide
We’d have seen some signs by now
To turn back the tide.

Lou Pardini provides keyboards and lead vocals for this anthem.  The beauty of the chorus and its tight harmony is in contrast to the attack of Pardini on the verses.  At times he is almost at a growling pace as he delivers his lines and the song’s message.

We can’t keep havin’ you make our rules
When you treat us common folk like fools
It’s time to stand up for our rights
Put congress in our political sights.
Make them pass laws that help us all
The Founding Fathers echo
Will be heard in the hall
By the people, for the people, everyone equal.

Right now we probably need songs of social importance just as we had decades ago. We feel our leaders have gone astray again, and a strong message needs to be sent. Sometimes we can send that message in music. Watch the video below for the lyrics and yes, that is the Chicago skyline at the opening. What did you expect?


Last year I recounted a little episode I had regarding my airport badge. I work for an airline and at the time, they thought a badge was necessary.  I work at home.  This piece of my time appeared last year on SERENDIPITY

From the battleground, by Rich Paschall

You have probably quoted, or misquoted, the famous movie line. In fact, I would bet you have done it often. Do you know where it comes from? Have you seen the movie? If not, you have missed a gem.

“Bodges? We ain’t got no bodges. We don’t need no bodges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ bodges!”

The 1948 western film, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, stars Humphrey Bogart, Tim Holt, and Walter Houston. It was one of the first Hollywood films to be shot on location in a different country. They used many Mexican actors and extras. When our main characters are in the mountains prospecting for gold, a ragtag group who look like bandits comes across the Americans. The leader announces they are the police. This causes Bogart to say, “If you’re the police, where are your badges?”

Well if you want to know what happens next, you will have to check out the movie. In fact, I have not seen it for decades and need to watch it again myself. It’s directed by John Houston who also directed Bogart in The Maltese Falcon. Houston won an Oscar for Best Director for Sierra Madre. His father, Walter Houston, also won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. The American Film Institute named it one of the best films of all time.

I was thinking about this recently after I got an email from the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA). That was immediately followed by an email from my employer, an airline I have mentioned to you in the past. The topic of these emails? Badges!

Technically I have an airport job, although I had not been to the airport since March 13. On that date, we were told to take whatever we thought we needed to do our jobs from home and not come back. Our group packed up and left.


The cargo building has a nice office that was remodeled at the end of last year. It is not near the terminal buildings and is in fact outside the fence along the east side. I had a very nice view of the east runway from where I usually parked my car.  Since the building is on the City of Chicago airport property, we of course needed airport badges!

My current “office” is a small table that is mounted to the wall in a corner of my kitchen. I guess it was meant for cozy little breakfasts since only two could sit there at a time. It is perfect for my computer because there is an outlet underneath the table and it is just big enough for what I need. It is not as big or as nice as the work station in the cargo building, but it is away from a public building where people come and go all day.

At home, I have not been expecting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), or the CDA to show up in my kitchen to ask to see my badge. (“If you work for the airline, where are your badges?”) This is something that could happen at the cargo building and the TSA does make the rounds, as does US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If you are in a building that handles air freight, they really would like to know you belong there.

The problem with the official airport badge is that it has an expiration date. Every year! All of the people who work in any capacity at one of the world’s largest airports must go to the Badging Office in Terminal 3 every year to get a renewal. My time was up. I needed a new badge Even if I work from my kitchen for the next entire year, I needed to renew in case the TSA, FAA, CDA, or CBP showed up one morning for coffee (or covfefe) and asked to see my badge.

If I said I was not pleased with the thought of going to the cargo building to pick up my papers (“If you work for the airline, where are your papers?”) and then to a passenger terminal to get my badge, I would understate the obvious. But at the appointed hour one Friday this month, I got ready to go with my backpack filled with pills, water, mask, hand sanitizer, picture ID, and stinking badge. Off I went on a trip I had not made in 4 months. I picked up the papers, chatted with a colleague a bit, and headed out.

I was told the Badging Office would not be crowded. That was true since they only let in a few people at a time in order to maintain the mandated social distancing. This meant we had to stand in a line in the hall outside. A long line. Fortunately, I got in the line before it ran all the way to the back wall where a cluster of people was milling about.  I kept 6 feet behind the guy in front of me, but the woman behind me kept creeping up close behind. We were both wearing masks, but even so.

The “gentleman” in front of me never turned around so I did not see his face. He was wearing a camouflage baseball cap with an American flag on the back. He had “salt and pepper” hair, and dressed conservatively like he would be going hunting afterward. After standing in line for 20 to 30 minutes we were near the door when a TSA agent came up to the “gentleman” and said, “Excuse me, sir, do you have a mask?”

“Mask? We ain’t got no mask. We don’t need no masks. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ masks!”

The agent walked away but came back in a few minutes. I believe other uniformed people were lurking near the door when the agent said, “Excuse me, sir, step out of line.” I thought we were going to have some additional entertainment at that point and I was prepared for some video. The gentleman was given two options. They could get him one of those single-use masks, or he could leave. I guess there was a third option. You may have seen their TV show, Chicago P.D. (CPD).

When I was leaving I saw him in the waiting area. He had pulled the mask off his face and it was down around his neck. This sort of thing is the reason some of us prefer to just stay home. Now, if the CPD, TSA, FAA, CDA, or CBP ask, I have my stinkin’ badge.


UPDATE: This article originally ran a year ago on SERENDIPITY.  Since then the airline I work for has reached about 30 percent passenger capacity. That is well short of last year’s projection. The effects of the pandemic linger on.  Some 767s were sold to a company that will convert them to cargo freighters. The airline will lease some back as another step in reinventing its business model.

Reinventing Ourselves, by Rich Paschall

When I was much younger, perhaps late teens, and throughout my twenties, I used to like to go down to State Street, “That Great Street,” in Chicago. It was alive in much the same way as Time Square and Broadway in New York were. And yes, just like NYC, our downtown had a somewhat seedy period, but that came later.

“On State Street, that great street
I just want to say
They do things that they don’t do on Broadway, say…”

I particularly liked to go downtown in December to see all the Christmas decorations. Marshall Field’s, the giant department store, had Christmas windows filled with mechanical people, trains, cars, and all sorts of moving parts to marvel at. I was just like the children gathered around the windows to get a good look at the displays. Our fantasy world was mechanical back then. Today it is video, but I digress.

Marshall Field’s at Christmas.  Photo credit: Richie Diesterheft

There was a time when I would plan to do my Christmas shopping, sometimes all of it, on Christmas Eve. I could arrive at the Red Line subway stop right in front of the historic Chicago Theater and go first to Field’s. I might not buy anything there because it was the most expensive stop, but if you went downtown, you had to go there.

After the visit to Field’s and perhaps a purchase of Frango Mints, off I would go to Carson Pirie Scott, Montgomery Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, Goldblatt’s, JC Penny. By the time I got to the last of the giant department stores, I would buy everything else I may have needed. Then I could go right out to a subway stop at the other end of State Street and head home. It was a marvelous adventure and has always brought happy memories of downtown at Christmas.

The stores are gone now. Every single one of them is gone. Marshall Field’s is now Macy’s. They have kept the Marshall Field’s plaque outside the building below the famous clock, so as not to upset the locals. They also have Frango Mints. These are the only throwbacks to those days. Except for that one grand store, the department stores of State Street have all been replaced by other businesses or torn down.

Times changed. They did not. Instead of transforming themselves for the future, they waited for the past to come back. It didn’t. I saw these great stores disappear one by one. Ward’s, Sears, Wieboldt’s, and Goldblatt’s all had large stores in our neighborhood. When Sears had the motto “Sears Has Everything,” they really did. From washing machines to stoves to clothes, that was our favorite store. Gone.

It is the same with many businesses. As motivational speaker Simon Sinek likes to point out, these are not unprecedented times. Major shifts in business have come before. This one is just “more sudden, absolutely. More shocking, absolutely.”

He gives several good examples we all know are true. The internet changed business. Some companies are surviving now because they have changed the way they work. In Chicago during a period of lockdown, one small clothing shop gave virtual tours of the store and video displays of the clothes. When delivery and pickup were available, people could tour the store online, pick out and pay for what they wanted, and drive to the business, where an employee would come to the curb to hand them their purchases.

Restaurants are gone for good after being out of business for months. Others survived by reinventing themselves as online products. They found their way to Yelp and partnered with Grubhub, Door Dash, Uber Eats.  Reinvention saved them.

Sinek likes to note that Starbucks did not put the local coffee shops out of business. They offered a newer version, and the old-time shops refused to change. Why would I go to a shop with an old worn-out sofa and year-old magazines, when I could go to one with the latest newspapers, a variety of beverages, pastries, and sandwiches, and importantly for millennials, wifi?

I work for a major airline that is operating at 5 to 10 percent capacity on any given day. Most of its fleet is grounded. It has lost 20,000 people from its workforce. Facilities around the globe go unused. Business disruptions and government regulations eliminated many flight destinations.

The airline industry believed back in March that they could regain 90 percent of their pre-COVID business by December. Now the hope is 50 percent. As the novel coronavirus continues to surge in certain countries, the USA for example, so the hope to recover your business any time soon is fading.

In 2012 Air Canada had launched Rouge, a subsidiary to more effectively compete in the low-cost tourist/vacation travel industry. It was looking at other growth opportunities to serve the ever-growing luxury tourist trade. Their business model was built around these expanding travel markets. That dream has taken off as the last flight from the battleground.

So what is a passenger airline with no passengers to do? The Canadian government is not going to hand the airline billions of Canadian dollars to help it through to the time when business returns to “normal.” The new normal is right around the corner and it does not look like it did in January.

They have to reinvent themselves of course. The 767 Boeing aircraft are being retired early. Accelerating this process for an older part of the fleet only makes sense. They were not being used anyway. Some of the planes had the seats removed to put freight on top, but this is a stop-gap measure. The main deck has no cargo door so this is labor-intensive. Other planes fill the belly entirely for cargo runs, but the seats are not removed. Mail, e-commerce partnership, and cargo and business charter runs are added to the new business model.

What about underserved areas of Canada? The airline has entered into a drone partnership. The initial run was to indigenous people who live on an island. There are many far-flung communities that can be served through a combination airline, drone service.

Without adapting and changing, airlines will die. Some already have gone under while others stay afloat through government bailouts. There are those, including a prominent orange so-called politician, waiting for things to go back to the way they were. We have news for them. It is not going to happen.


Last year as England and the United States were suffering not just from COVID-19, but also a lack of leadership at the top, the Queen of England took to the airwaves to address the United Kingdom. This post originally appeared on SERENDIPITY (

A Leader Addresses The Nation, by Rich Paschall

It is not often that Queen Elizabeth II makes an official address to the United Kingdom. If you do not count her annual Christmas message, which is nothing more than a Season’s Greeting, she has not taken to the airwaves for an official speech to the nation since 2012. That was the occasion of her 60th Anniversary as the monarch. Prior to that, it was 2002 when the very popular Queen Mother had passed away. In fact, her latest address was counted as the fifth time in 68 years that the queen has spoken to the kingdom in her official capacity.

Surely we do not have to tell you the reason everyone was invited into the palace electronically to hear what the queen had to say. COVID-19 has hit England very hard.  By Friday the number of deaths had reached almost 9,000. It is less than half the total of the US, but quite considerable when you consider the size of the population compared to the USA.

The nation had to be instructed. The nation had to be put at ease. The nation had to be assured they were going to get through this.

Eighty years earlier, as a young princess, Elizabeth spoke to the nation during another battle for survival. Children were being evacuated from their homes in London in 1940 during World War II, to keep them safe from the bombing raids on the city. The nation, and especially the children, needed to be put at ease.

“We know, every one of us, that in the end, all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place.”

It has once again fallen to Elizabeth II to speak to the nation:

I’m speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time, a time of disruption in the life of our country, a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”

She was not there to call attention to herself. She was placing no blame on those that were on the frontlines of the battle. She was there to praise their work and assure them they were appreciated:

“I want to thank everyone on the NHS frontline, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. I’m sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated, and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.”

She also wanted to call attention to those who serve their families and all the  nation by staying at home:

“I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable, and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.”

She also did what a good leader would do in times of war. She assured the nation that they would be victorious:

“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.”

And while the 92-year-old Queen was instructing the nation and attempting to keep them calm, where was the bombastic conservative Prime Minister of England, Boris Johnson?  He was being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19. Subsequently, he was moved to an Intensive Care Unit. Karma had caught up with him as it has done with others who thought this was little more than the flu going around. He was the politician who made light of the pandemic and even claimed to be “shaking hands continuously” with people in the hospital. His jokes are not funny anymore.

It is important to have a leader who shows confidence and seeks to not only instruct the nation but also to reassure everyone that everything is being done to win the battle. We do not have that here. We have someone who does not praise those on the frontlines, instead, he scoffs at them, belittling their efforts, accusing them of stealing masks and other equipment.

He gives little or nothing to states needing life-saving equipment while giving others, Florida for example, everything they ask for.  If you praise him and live in a state likely to vote for him, he will take care of you.  Others can die. He is not just corrupt, hoping to profit from the misery of his own nation, he is also evil. Pure evil, but I digress.

Let’s end with a positive message. Let us be reassured that there is a brighter day ahead and we will get through this darkness and find the light.

“Using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal, we will succeed, and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again. We will be with our families again. We will meet again. But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.”  – HRH Queen Elizabeth II

Sources: “Queen Elizabeth says ‘better days will return’ in rare and historic coronavirus address,” by Hannah Yasharoff, USA Today, April 5, 2020.
Queen Elizabeth II Coronavirus Speech Transcript,” April 5, 2020.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth to make rare address to nation over coronavirus,” Reuters, April 3, 2020.
Coronavirus: 980 dead in UK hospitals in deadliest day of pandemic yet,” by Matthew Weaver, The Guardian, April 10, 2020.
Wartime broadcast, 1940,” Princess Elizabeth, October 13, 1940.
Boris Johnson Kept Working, But the Virus Took Over,” by  , and ,
Here’s Why Florida Got All the Emergency Medical Supplies It Requested While Other States Did Not,” by Lydia DePillisMike SpiesJoshua KaplanKyle Edwards, and Caroline Chen, March 20, 2020.


A Leader Addresses The Nation, by Rich Paschall

It is not often that Queen Elizabeth II makes an official address to the United Kingdom. If you do not count her annual Christmas message, which is nothing more than a Season’s Greeting, she has not taken to the airwaves for an official speech to the nation since 2012. That was the occasion of her 60th Anniversary as the monarch. Prior to that, it was 2002 when the very popular Queen Mother had passed away. In fact, her latest address was counted as the fifth time in 68 years that the queen has spoken to the kingdom in her official capacity.

(Photo credit: The Sun, fair use)

Surely we do not have to tell you the reason everyone was invited into the palace electronically to hear what the queen had to say. COVID-19 has hit England very hard.  By Friday the number…

View original post 935 more words


What is right for all? Is it absolute freedom? As we hope to be finally seeing light at the end of the long Pandemic tunnel, we must still be reminded of the truth we started with. This commentary appeared last year on SERENDIPITY (

Stay at Home, Save Lives, by Rich Paschall

While we accept the precept of “freedom of speech,” we also understand that it does not apply to everything in all situations. As you probably have heard often, we are not allowed to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. This could cause a stampede for the exits and put some people at risk of being hurt or killed in the panic.

Similarly, you can not shout out in a crowd that you see a gun when there is none. Due to the types of mass shootings, we have seen in recent years, we know that there could be a panic that could cause harm.

You are also forbidden to engage in the type of speech that would incite a riot. Hate speech in gatherings could, in turn, result in attacks either at a rally, let say, or following in the days to come. There may be a politician or two who have gotten away with this, but that’s another matter.

There are laws against slander and libel as the defamation they bring may cause harm to groups or individuals. While we see misinformation spread often on social media, doing so as a respected news source could bring danger to others. A well-known News network is being sued by a Washington State group for issuing false news in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Yes, the Constitution promised you freedom of speech, but that does not mean you can say whatever you like. Where there are dangerous consequences to what you say, you can be held liable for your remarks. Don’t you wish that also applied to Orange politicians, but I digress?

There is also “the right of the people peaceably to assemble,” but it doesn’t mean you can gather a large group wherever you want. Try to form a parade down State Street (that great street) without a permit and see how far you get.  You can not take over a baseball diamond in a public park if another group holds a permit. You can not have the pavilion at the local forest preserve if another group holds a permit. In fact, we have many regulations regarding the assembly of large crowds. It is not uncommon to post limits of assembly, many by fire codes that are enforced by the local government.

It’s a free country, or is it?

You have probably heard of people who do not want to shelter at home during the COVID-19 outbreak. They insist it is a free country and they can do what they like. The government is not going to tell them what to do. They have their constitutional rights. But do they have such rights?

The Constitutionality of the restrictions we have described above has been tested in courts and upheld. Local and national governments not only have the right to impose such restrictions on the public, but they also have a duty to do so.

Scientific evidence has told us that the only way to “flatten the curve,” in other words lessen the spread of the virus, is to keep a “social distance.” This has caused many at the state and local levels to impose restrictions. Some do not want to abide.

You can find plenty of examples of people who did not want to social distance and observe the restrictions, who have died of the virus. They not only put themselves at risk, but they also put others at risk as well.  They do not have that right.

Social Contract

Many of the authors of The Constitution were certainly well aware of the philosophical writings of John Locke (The Second Treatise of Government), Thomas Hobbes (Leviathan), and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Du Contrat social). These works would have greatly influenced their thinking about forming a new national government. They knew that members of society must agree to give up certain rights for the good of society as a whole. It is a “contract” we have as a member of society, to act in a way that benefits all. It is the greatest good for the greatest number.

“That a man be willing, when others are so too (as farre-forth, as for Peace, and defense of himself he shall think it necessary, to lay down this right to all things; and be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would allow other men against himself.” – Thomas Hobbes

In other words, we must do what is right for all. Those who think they can assemble as they please, including at religious services, are misinformed and violating the laws of nature, science, and the social contract. No one has the right to go out and spread the virus. They are not immune. They are not free to do as they like. Governors (Republicans all) who refuse to issue stay-at-home orders, or allow large exemptions (think Easter services), are not acting in the interest of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Let’s put it in a way that may drive the point home. There is a post going around social media that may illustrate the problem of some states practicing social distancing, and others ignoring the advice.  We must “ lay down this right to all things; and be contented” because it is the only reasonable course of action.

Sources: “Leviathan,” Thomas Hobbes,
Washington State Group Is 1st to Sue Fox News for Calling Coronavirus a ‘Hoax’,” by ken Stone, April 2, 2020.
The Social Contract,” Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
Social Contract,”


Stay at Home, Save Lives, by Rich Paschall

While we accept the precept of “freedom of speech,” we also understand that it does not apply to everything in all situations. As you probably have heard often, we are not allowed to shout “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is none. This could cause a stampede for the exits and put some people at risk of being hurt or killed in the panic.

Similarly, you can not shout out in a crowd that you see a gun when there is none. Due to the types of mass shootings we have seen in recent years, we know that there could be a panic that could cause harm.


You are also forbidden to engage in the type of speech that would incite a riot. Hate speech in gatherings could, in turn, result in attacks either at a rally, let say…

View original post 789 more words