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Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

According to the American Correctional Association,1 “Prisons have four major purposes. These purposes are retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation. Retribution means punishment for crimes against society. Depriving criminals of their freedom is a way of making them pay a debt to society for their crimes. Incapacitation refers to the removal of criminals from society so that they can no longer harm innocent people. Deterrence means the prevention of future crime. It is hoped that prisons provide warnings to people thinking about committing crimes, and that the possibility of going to prison will discourage people from breaking the law. Rehabilitation refers to activities designed to change criminals into law abiding citizens, and may include providing educational courses in prison, teaching job skills and offering counseling with a psychologist or social worker. The four major purposes of prisons have not been stressed equally through the years. As a result, prisons differ in the makeup of their staffs, the design of their buildings and their operations.”

That sounds pretty reasonable to me. If someone commits a crime that is punishable by time in prison, that is where that someone belongs should be sent. It doesn’t really matter what gender that someone may be; it shouldn’t really matter what race or creed that someone is {wink, wink}. Social status should not be a consideration regarding whether or not that someone is put into the prison system. Put in the more popular vernacular, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.”

Are we on the same page so far?

Recently, there have been two reasonably high-profile cases that have made a joke of our crime and punishment laws in this country. The first was the case of a 16-year old Texas kid who, while driving drunk and on Valium, plowed his pick-up truck into another vehicle, killed four people and seriously injured several others. His alcohol level was three times the legal limit for the state of Texas, probably from the two cases of beer that he and two of his ‘buddies’ stole from a liquor store. His penalty is ten years probation. The judge maintained that it was not his fault; that his parents were to blame because they didn’t instill any values in their son. In other words, he was the spoiled little rich kid whose folks are so wealthy that rules don’t apply. In fact, the defense attorney indicated that the boy was so spoiled that he didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. There was so much controversy surrounding the initial sentencing that the judge refused reporters and cameramen inside her courtroom as she reaffirmed the sentence. One psychiatrist who testified for the defense coined the term “affluenza” in describing the boy. Had this kid been a minority or a young man from a middle class family, his ass wouldn’t have seen the light of day until he arrived at the Pearly Gates. In fact, the same judge, Jean Boyd, sentenced a 14-year old Black boy to 10 years in prison for killing another person with just one punch. What Judge Boyd is doing sitting as a county judge is beyond my understanding.

The second case concerns one of the heirs to the DuPont fortune. Robert H. Richards IV, unemployed and living off his trust fund, was convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter and assaulting his two-month old son. It appears that none of this would have become public had his ex-wife not filed charges accusing him of the crime. Richards was initially indicted on two counts of second degree child rape, felonies that carry a 10-year prison sentence for each count. In her decision, the judge said that Richards would benefit more from treatment and that he “will not fare well in prison.” Despite being six-four and 250-275 pounds, you can bet your butt that Richards would not have fared well in prison. There are few people more despised by prison inmates than child molesters, and to my mind, it’s highly doubtful that Richards would ever have left prison alive.

 

All of this points up a serious problem. Are the one-percent of the American population going to continue to commit crimes and use their wealth as an escape from the justice system? It seems to me that judges like Jean Boyd in Texas and Jan Jurdan in Delaware would do well to find another profession. At the very least, they should be forced to read the American Correctional Association purposes for prisons.

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For more than 125 years, the American Correctional Association has championed the cause of corrections and correctional effectiveness. Founded in 1870 as the National Prison Association, ACA is the oldest association developed specifically for practitioners in the correctional profession. During the first organizational meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, the assembly elected then-Ohio Governor and future President Rutherford B. Hayes as the first President of the Association. The Declaration of Principles developed at the first meeting in 1870 became the guidelines for corrections in the United States and Europe. At the ACA centennial meeting in 1970, a revised act of Principles, reflecting advances in theory and practice, was adopted by the Association. At the 1954 Congress of Correction in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the name of the American Prison Association was changed to the American Correctional Association, reflecting the expanding philosophy of corrections and its increasingly important role within the community and society as a whole.

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                             Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.                                                                                           Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s rather difficult to take issue with the longest serving first lady of the United States and, without question, the most politically active and decisive woman ever to be in the White House. However, the quote above is one with which I must disagree in that it is often the ideas of great minds that sets in motion events that, if not disruptive to the nation as a whole, can certainly prove disruptive to thousands of others within our nation itself.

Perhaps the most recent idea that had to have come from some reasonably great minds is the General Motors debacle over the problems with their automobiles.  For example, can you possibly believe the Rick Wagoner who chaired GM from 2000 – 2009 did not know about the problems with the 1.3 million cars that were built between 2003 and 2007? He was chairman and CEO and this was kept hidden from him? Puh-lease, give me a break? So, what happened after he had milked GM for $63.3 million during his tenure, excluding a $10 million retirement package, and was finally forced to resign by the White House? Another of GM’S ‘old boy network, Fritz Henderson took the reigns – well, at least for eight months he held onto them. The Board forced him out and put the Chairman, Ed Whitacre, in his place in a move that shocked the automotive industry…can you say, “Old boy network continues?” Oh, and by the by, still no action on faulty cars that have been rolling off the assembly line. Daniel Ackerson, another GM board member succeeded Whitacre with an eye to improving GM profits.

There’s a pattern forming here that should be obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense. The emphasis was in turning the company around without bothering to examine how this was being accomplished. Bottom line became more important than quality of product.

It is solely my opinion that the men of General Motors, finally realizing just how badly they had messed up, even while bringing the company out of bankruptcy, decided they needed a sacrificial lamb on whom they could lay all of the product problems that were plaguing the company. Welcome to the head of the class Mary Barra, Chief of Product Development, to which I say, “Just put your head right on this block My Queen, Dear Antoinette; it will only hurt the first time!”

It may be wrong of me to believe this, but it’s the way my mind works. I’m betting that all of these men from the old boy’s network intentionally through Mary Barra into the number one position solely so that she will take the heat for their errors. Guess what, boys, Mrs. Barra has more guts and more courage than any of you, because she will stand up and admit that GM really messed up between the years 2003 and 2012, and that her job is to make it right. She will also resolve that nothing like this will ever happen again on her watch…and it won’t.

Now that the secrets are no longer, perhaps it’s time that the White House stepped in once more and revoked the $10 million retirement package given to Rick Wagoner. Perhaps liens on his assets to the tune of that retirement compensation could be used to partially compensate the families who lost members due to the failure of those GM vehicles. New research is saying that it is no longer just 12 people who lost their lives and the number may climb to over 300. Perhaps liens should also be place on those who succeeded Wagoner up to time that Barra took over. Will all of this bring back the family members who lost their lives? Will this bring “closure” to the families? Lord but I hate that word, “closure.” There is no such thing because closure would mean having daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers back as living, breathing, laughing, and loving members of families, and that’s just not going to happen.

I’ve seen your videos Mrs. Barra. You’ve been kind to your predecessors, but as you have noted, you’re not just the first woman to head a major automotive giant; you’re a family person, a mother of four, and someone who knows what this loss really means. No one is asking you to micromanage, but everyone is asking that you become more involved than your predecessors about the day-to-day operations and engineering designs. I’m certain you have the ideas about which Mrs. Roosevelt has spoken. You bring to the table much broader experience than the boardroom boys. Let me put it another way: I think you’ve a hell of a lot smarter, tougher, and more empathetic to the consumer than your recent predecessors. Go get ‘em, Mary; give ’em hell!

 

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As if I didn’t have enough problems in my life, now the computer…or at least the AOL portion thereof, is telling me I may have a number of “senior health challenges.” I don’t know who the hell they thought to whom they were appealing in this ‘informative’ [note tongue firmly in cheek on that one] piece, but it most assuredly wasn’t those of us in the elder bracket. Hell, we already know the challenges. It wasn’t for those who are about to become elderly; they don’t want to hear about the problems they may be facing. And it sure as shootin’ wasn’t the younger audience who are totally unaware of the fact that they are not immortal, invincible, or inviolable and don’t want to hear otherwise. Fortunately, they did this before St. Patrick’s Day, so I could go out and enjoy my corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes with plenty of butter and those darlin’ little carrots!

They tell me that if I can make it to 65, I’m probably going to live another 19.2 years on average – who the hell came up with the .2 is beyond me, but you know these statisticians…they do remarkable things with figures these days [almost as good as the plastic surgeons]. I’m told that if I eat a healthy diet…there is so much controversy about what constitutes a healthy diet that I’m not certain anyone knows precisely what ‘healthy’ actually means anymore. On the one hand, someone says, “Don’t eat meat;” the next day a new study comes out that states, “Meat is a good source of vitamin B.” Then you hear, “Don’t drink alcohol;” the next week it’s, “Be sure to have one glass of red wine a day.” Next time you look, someone is telling you to eat more fish; then another research project tells you that fish is bad for you because of all of the mercury and something called a PCB, whatever the hell that is. I often wonder who exactly pays for these studies. Is it the united meat growers; the red wine distillers, the fishing lobby, or some idiot who cut open a striped bass and found a thermometer? I’m only partially kidding on this one, but what the heck is a healthy diet. Sometimes I feel like Popeye, the sailor man, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam…so I eats what I eats and that’s all I eats.” Obviously the last part is an add on, but it fits, so go with it!

I was delighted to learn that the number one condition affecting people 65 and older is arthritis. According to Dr. Marie Bernard, the deputy director of the National Institute on Aging, arthritis affects over 51 percent of the adults over 65. I would advise them to start looking at people over 35 if they really want to see arthritis in action, or just ask anyone who has ever played high school or college contact sports. Most will tell you what time the rain will arrive because of their arthritic joints. Arthritis is the least of my problems.

Number two on the least is certainly nothing new. It’s been the number one killer of adults over 65 years for as far back as I can remember. When I was a smoker, it was the disease the doctors said would probably kill me. I’m speaking, of course, about heart disease and it calls somewhere close to 600 thousand people each year in the United States. I’ve survived three heart attacks and have five stents in my heart. I’ve been lucky. It doesn’t mean that a heart attack won’t kill me, but it does mean that I exercise a great deal, get a good night’s rest, and try, despite the Popeye quote, to eat healthy meals.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the USA. You and I know of at least one cancer death either in our family, in the family of a close friend, someone at our workplace, or wherever, but it has touched everyone in America somewhere along the line. It killed my Dad, my grandparents, and finally, it killed my wife. It is a horrible, horrible disease. I volunteered for an organization that, in 35 years, has raised over 410 million dollars to fight this disease. This is only one organization; there are hundreds across the country, and we have not been able to find a cure. That doesn’t mean that some cancers haven’t been beaten; they have. The problem with cancer is that it seems to mutate, take on a new form and defeat the cures we keep finding. We can probably all say that we’ve known too many people with cancer. If we can add that we also know someone who has been cancer-free for over a decade, we should thank our lucky stars.

Older folks are highly susceptible to respiratory diseases. Smokers and ex-smokers face the real possibility of emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease…whoopee, I have both. These make me and people like me (a) former idiots if we’ve quit smoking; (b) idiots if we haven’t; and (c) more vulnerable to pneumonia, which is a major killer of senior citizens.

I intended to make this piece as light-hearted as possible, but it appears I’ve drifted into a more serious vein for which you have my apologies. However, over 5,000 adults over 65 die each day in our country, so there’s nothing really light-hearted about any piece dealing with us old farts. Whether it’s from Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, diabetes, the flu, falls, substance abuse, obesity, depression, oral health, or even poverty, we do face many challenges. What really irritates the daylights out of me is the lack of concern on the part of so many of our children. I hear about it from others when working out at the gym; I experience it on a regular basis with my own kids. The idea of the consanguinal family where family members care for one another seems to have become old fashioned and outmoded. I bear some of the guilt for that with my own family, but not in the manner in which I hear about it and experience it on a daily basis.

If there’s one single point to be made here, perhaps it’s to remember that everyone you love is serving a life sentence. As that sentence comes closer and closer to its eventual outcome, take the time to learn about the person. Take the time to care. Take the time to understand the challenges they face and that, one day, you too, will have to face. As I have aged, I have developed an insatiable desire to know more about my mother and father. Years ago, I loaned a small tape recorder to a young woman who was, as a high school project, doing an oral history with her 100-year old grandmother. When she returned the recorder she had only one request: “May I keep the tapes?” she asked. I don’t know whether or not she bought a recorder on which to play them, but she knew that she had captured her grandmother’s voice on tape and that meant a great deal to her. I still find handwritten notes that Joan left…recipes, notes in the checkbook; old pieces of paper with questions about the house. Her voice I can still conjure up in my head, sometimes, but I do wish that I had a recording of her voice. Think about that the next time you’re going to visit an elderly relative. Will you remember their voice when they’re gone?

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In the midst of a world that is confounded by international terrorism, attempted takeover of nations, barbarism, an out-of-control drug problem, disrespect and harassment of those who are different, white collar, blue collar and any-other-collar-you-wish-to-name, I find myself surprisingly happy. Perhaps because it’s Friday, but that doesn’t fit because I’m retired and every day could be Friday for me. Perhaps it’s because winter is slowly, very slowly, beginning to give way to spring. However, I’m fully aware of what a fickle bitch winter can be, having lived through a late April blizzard and a May ice storm, so that probably negates that as a reason. No, I believe my happiness of today comes from something far simpler. I’m happy because I’m alive and functioning fairly well in a world that, despite all of its problems, is also alive and functioning reasonably well.

Would I, could I be happier if I was dead? I don’t know the answer to that question. My faith tells me that the answer is yes. The way in which I look back on my life says that, in my own mind, I have many sins for which to atone…and I’m not certain whether my God is Old or New Testament. If mine is an Old Testament God, I’ll probably burn in the fires of Hell for eternity. If He is from the New Testament, I’ll still burn in Hell, but it may not be for quite as long. Am I trying to mock the writings contained in the Bible? No, of course not; none of us can, with any degree of certainty, know what lies ahead of us when we shuffle off this mortal coil. You know the old saying, “Man plans; God laughs.” But, for today and for the foreseeable future, I plan to be happy just to be alive.

I went to a new doctor for something or other several years ago. He was a specialist, but frankly, I don’t even remember the ailment or the occasion. The one thing I do remember is that after looking at my medical history, he half-jokingly said, “My God, it’s a wonder you’re still alive.” I didn’t care much for the comment which is why he and his practice escape my memory, but his words linger on. In other words, don’t judge me by what I’ve been through; judge me for who I am right now.

Think about this for a moment…you, if you’re reading this…are alive. You’re a living breathing person, complete with soul. You can look up at the sky and see the sun; you can look at night and see the moon and the stars; you can watch buds come onto trees in the spring and smell newness in the air, a rebirth of the season that has its own distinctive odor and feel. Sure, you’ve got problems; they may even be life-threatening, but not right now; not this second. This second, you have the gift of life. Take the deepest breath you can, let it out; go look out the window and shout, “I’m alive and I love it!” [Notice I didn’t ask you to open the window; wouldn’t want the neighbors calling the cops.]

If this piece was being read by anyone under 25, they’d think I was nuts…and that’s okay. I believe you have to be over 50 or even 65 to appreciate how great it is to still have a bit of a bounce in each step you take. Since Juli came into my life, following the death of my wife, I have learned to have a greater appreciation for things that grow and bring new life. Anyone who has been a care giver for a period of time will tell you that you begin to lose a bit of perspective, and when the one for whom you are caring dies, there is not only a sense of loss, but a sense of “what do I do now?” that is quite difficult. You have actually been living their life for the past weeks, months, or years and suddenly, you have to begin living your own life again. It can be quite an adjustment.

Perhaps that’s what happened to me this morning; I began to realize that I’m entitled to be happy once more. I don’t believe this was some kind of revelation or epiphany. New things happen to us every day, but we aren’t always aware of just how new they are. We hurry through our lives, rushing from one thing to another and all too often, we don’t recognize all of the wonderful things that are happening to us and around us. Yeah, you’re right, it’s the old stop and smell the roses cliché, but that’s a bitch to do in the winter.

I hope you’ll take a moment – after you finish reading, of course – and make a couple of columns on a piece of paper. Write down every single reason you’re happy to be alive on one side and on the other, reasons you’d prefer to be dead. When you finish, I’m willing to bet that ‘alive’ column is going to be a hell of a lot longer. Hopefully, it will help you or reinforce your belief in just how great it truly is to be alive.

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Let me get this straight…America invades Iraq because a bunch of Saudi terrorists brought down the World Trade Center, killing over 3,000 people. The guy who planned the attack, Osama bin Laden is, himself, a Saudi, but because Saddam Hussein is training terrorists – we think – much as Libya, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries are doing, we are going to war in Iraq. No one complains.

We use as an excuse that Saddam and his cronies have weapons of mass destruction. Secretary of State Colin Powell, now nicknamed “Dupe,” goes before the United Nation and proves that those weapons exist with a series of outdated photographs and a magnificent PowerPoint presentation. No one complains.

We go into Iraq; dig Hussein out of a hole in the ground, don’t find any weapons of mass destruction; and don’t find Osama bin Laden. We lose nearly 5,000 American troops killed and over 32,000 wounded, and it is fully ten years later before we find bin Laden and kill him. No one complains.

We pull our troops out of Iraq so they can go into Afghanistan after we’ve set up a ‘wink-wink’ democratic government in Iraq. We haven’t heard about it yet, but Putin probably called Obama and said, “Hey, Ace, those Afghans are really tough. We got the hell out. Why are you goin’ the hell in, man; that’s nuts!” Of course, Obama doesn’t listen; his generals don’t listen; and, more troops get killed. No one complains.

Fast forward to today. The Ukraine is in turmoil. The country is $35 billion in debt. The President, Viktor Yanukovich, is not a favored person in the City of Kiev and the Parliament finally sends him packing. He goes to Russian – hey, the Ukraine used to be part of the old Soviet Bloc – and asks for some help. Russian President, Vladimir Putin, recognizing that his country has a naval base in part of the Ukraine, says, “Of course…we have to protect our interests as well as yours.” Meanwhile, in the Crimea, a part of the Ukraine, the citizens are yelling, “Bring on the Russians; we love ‘em.” Back in Kiev, the Ukrainian Parliament is saying, “Russia, keep the hell out of our business.” Of course, they’re saying this in Russian because Ukrainians are just Russians in disguise. Who complains? I don’t hear anyone in Europe bitching about this situation. I hear that President Obama has a chat by phone with President Putin telling him to stay the hell out of the Ukraine or there will be consequences.

What the hell business is it of ours if Russia and the Ukraine want to draw down on one another? Did Russia complain when we went into Iraq? Did we not see what happened to the Russians when they went into Afghanistan? Didn’t we learn from the huge mistake we made in Vietnam; the French got their collective butts kicked and we didn’t learn our lesson there until over 58,000 American men and women were buried? Even when those who survived came home, they were spat upon and called horrific names.

So what the hell does President Obama think he’s doing? What, we have too many 17-22 year olds? Does he want to send more of them into harm’s way?  We don’t have enough problems on the domestic front; we have to look for more on the international stage? Meanwhile, the American media is having a field day and fomenting more than its usual share of rabble rousing to fire up their ratings.

I’m not fond of this current Congress, but if the President takes steps to interfere with what is an internal struggle, I suggest that impeachment proceedings begin because this President has overstepped his authority. We have – as useless as it as – a United Nations which is supposed to be the guiding force in conflicts such as this. It is about time that the American government in general and the American President  in particular, step back, sit down, pop open a can of Bud, and start using their collective heads for something more than a cork for their ass.

I believe it was H. Ross Perot who said, “Wake up America.” Any mother in this country who has a child wanting to join the armed services at this time should think twice. It appears that this President, just like his predecessor, has no qualms about sending our young men and women off to be slaughtered just to salve their own machismo…get over yourselves, please.

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It is not my place to tell anyone how to live their lives. We’ve often heard it said of a decedent, “Well, he made some bad choices in his life,” or words to that effect. It’s true; we all make good and bad choices throughout our lives. One of the worst choices that my late wife, Joan, and I made was to smoke cigarettes. Now she’s dead of lung cancer and I have emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I know; I know; I tell you how much I love the gym and that exercise really makes me feel great, and all of that is true…when I have the energy to get to the gym…which, thankfully, is still a number of times per week. This just happened to be one of those mornings when I didn’t have the energy or the breathing capability to go. As a consequence, I decided to sit at the computer and ponder just how badly I had messed up my life by smoking cigarettes for 51 years.

September 17, 2014 will mark my 16th anniversary without a cigarette…if I make it. The doctors tell me, “Oh sure, you’re going to live well past 80. You quit and now your lungs are nice and clear.” I don’t say it to them, but I’d very much enjoy telling them that they’re full of crap. They don’t honestly know the lasting effects of smoking. Did you know that, “Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.” That’s in a report from the Centers for Disease Control, and that’s some pretty serious stuff.

I didn’t stop smoking because of the effect it would have on my lungs. I quit because a neurosurgeon, Dr. Howard Blume, told me the night before he operated on my cervical spine, that if I didn’t quit, my spine wouldn’t heal, and that it would be only a matter of time before my neck snapped. That is one scary bloomin’ thought, I’ll tell ya. There you are, driving along some highway, doing about 75 and your passenger asks you a question you don’t quite hear; you turn your head to ask them to repeat and CRACK, slump, and next thing you know they’re scrapping the two of you off the highway with a super vac…what a picture, eh? The biggest problem with that is that you not only killed your passenger, but if it’s a busy highway, your selfish smoking might have killed others.

In the 1950s, smoking was cool. I don’t think we called it that; it just seemed to be an accepted practice. This, however, is the 21st Century. We’ve cured smallpox, measles, mumps, and even polio. We know a heck of a lot more now that we knew back then. As far back as 1966, health warnings were being put on cigarette packs. By then, I’d become an addict. There really isn’t another way to put it; smokers are drug addicts and their choice of drug is nicotine; my choice of drug was nicotine. I was in agreement with Mark Twain…”Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” And I had; by the time the surgeon general’s report came out, I had given up ‘my smokes’ many times. I remember sitting on the stairs at our house, shaking like a leaf. It had been four days since I’d had a cigarette and I was going through withdrawal. I didn’t make it through the fifth day.

Each year, about 443,000 people die of illnesses that have a relationship to smoking. That’s more people killed by smoking than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, murder, and illegal street drugs…combined. A fairly recent study concluded that, nationwide, 18 percent of high school students are smoking and that 4 percent of middle school kids were also smoking cigarettes. I do and I don’t feel badly for them. If they smoke because they are addicts, there’s help out there; if they smoke because they think, as I did, that it’s cool, hip, young, and trendy, they’re idiots and should be treated as such.

This whole idea of “It won’t happen to me” is a bunch of crap. I want to ask high school smokers, “What the hell makes you think you’re so bloody special? How do you know that you’ll be the exception to the rule? How many people with lung cancer caused by smoking have you cared for in your lifetime?” I’ve been a care giver to a lung cancer patient. You’re on duty 24/7/365, and you’re exhausted. When you’re lying next to someone on oxygen and you hear the labored breathing and the soft moaning of the pain through which they’re going, you don’t think smoking is all that great. When you have to clean bed sores that are larger than a silver dollar and that have abraded a lesion that is so deep that bleeding and oozing are constant, you really don’t believe that smoking is cool. When you have to empty their urine bag or change their catheter, and you know that all of this was caused by that little white stick, you curse the day that you ever saw cigarettes for sale. If you sleep much at all, you know you have to get up every few hours to give your patient – the person you love and spent over 50 years of your life with – the morphine that will ease but not eliminate the pain. Then…one Sunday night in June, you go to the kitchen and get the morphine out of the refrigerator. You walk back to the bedroom, cross the threshold, and you know. You can feel it in the room; a soul has left. She doesn’t look much different from when you left the room less than a minute ago, but you know. You know the cigarettes have completed their job. You check for a pulse, but you know you won’t find one. You kiss her because her body is still warm. It won’t be in a few hours. Even before the funeral people come to take her away and you ask for a final moment, the last kiss is on a cold body.

If you’re a young smoker, don’t kid yourself because it can and it will happen to you. If you’ve been smoking for years and it hasn’t caught up with you yet, don’t worry, it will. Just ask me; I’m still doing some things I know that I wouldn’t be doing had I not quit. There are also a ton of things that I could be doing had I never started. Notice, if you will, that I have not once openly asked you to quit. The choice is yours; I made mine but it was too late. Joan never made the choice and I’ve told you what happened.

Now what?

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Contrary to what some people have called me, I assure you that my mother and father were married long before I came along. Therefore, I feel fully justified in telling those who attempt to insult me that I am neither the single word nor the variations on the other four words. It’s merely that I have developed relatively strange and – for some people – rather unpleasant beliefs over the years and I’m rather outspoken about them.

Perhaps the strangest of my beliefs is my open disgust with anyone who smokes. Why is this strange; because it’s coming from a former four-pack-a-day smoker? It’s been said that nothing is as bad as a recovering alcoholic, a converted Catholic, or a reformed smoker. Since I don’t really know about the other two, yes, I am in the third group. For example, a friend walked by me in the gym a week or so ago and I remarked, “Was that a cigar or cigarette you had just before you came in?”

“How the hell do you know,” he asked.

“I can smell it on you, asshole,” I replied.

This friend, rather than getting all pissed off about it, actually turned around, left the gym, and returned later in different clothes. He walked over and asked, “Can you smell anything now?”

I see that more and more in smokers; they’re furtive in their addiction, almost as if they’re ashamed of the habit…which they should be. It’s nasty, costly, and affects those around them. I’m embarrassed that I smoked for 51 years; I really am. My Dad smoked; most of my friends smoked; we were athletes and we smoked. It was what you did growing up in the fifties. How dumb were we? Why did people who grew up not smoking do that? What prevented them from falling into the trap? What stroke of remarkable luck allowed them to escape? If there was a single thing, someone should bottle it and put in on the shelves of CVS.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that on October 1, 2014, CVS will stop selling tobacco products. It’s a bold and unprecedented move that will cost the company somewhere around two billion dollars. That’s broken down as 1.5 billion in tobacco sales and another half billion in products that people buy when they drop in to buy tobacco. That is an extremely courageous move on the part of CVS. What company have we ever heard of that gives up two billion dollars in sales voluntarily. If I didn’t consider CVS to be the Shreve, Crump & Lowe of drugstores, I might even consider switching my prescription drugs back to them; however, they are overpriced on too many products so while they are to be congratulated on a complex business decision, I’m certain they will find a way to recoup any losses…can you say Affordable Care Act provider?

It matters not what my beliefs are…about smoking or about CVS. It’s a personal decision of where to buy cigarettes or other tobacco products if that’s your inclination. My wife died of lung cancer caused by cigarettes. It’s not a pretty death, watching someone struggle to take a breath, unable to eat because they can’t gather sufficient breath to chew of swallow food or drink; unable to move in bed so that bed sores the size of silver dollar and larger form on their backside, and it seems no matter what you do to treat them, the stink still fills the air.  They’re given morphine to aid the pain but after a while, a full bottle can’t ease it. They beg you as their care giver to do something so they can die, but you’re helpless. That hurts as much as anything you see…the feeling that the person to whom you’ve been married for over 50 years is begging you to help, and for once, you can’t…so you sit and you watch them die. No, it’s not a pretty death at all.

As far as CVS is concerned, I do applaud their efforts as well as those of Target and other stores that have stopped selling tobacco products. I’m just hopeful that more and more stores will take the position that they are not in the business of trying to addict more people to this drug that kills.

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This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

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It appears that no matter how hard I try, I find it impossible to understand why people kill. War is one thing; the objectives of war…to obtain mineral rights; to expand your own nation; to right a perceived wrong or insult, this I understand. However, to kill someone you love…a wife, a husband, your own child, someone who cheers for a different team; for a pair of sneakers or a jacket you admire…these things are beyond my comprehension.

“You will never understand murderers,” people tell me. “You’re mind is not their mind; your anger isn’t the type of anger they are capable of feeling,” they say. “You’re incapable of understanding the kind of violence that is within them because it’s not within you.” I’m not certain that I can accept those statements. I believe we are all capable of killing, particularly to protect those we love. Would I kill because of an insult? Man, I have been insulted by professionals. There is so little that can be said to insult me, it’s pathetic. Insults merely show the ignorance of the person delivering them; remember that, and you’re protected.

I don’t stay up late enough to watch the nine, ten, or eleven o’clock news. Hell, by eight, these old eyes are thoroughly closed and gathering sand, sounding like a freight train, and incapable of being roused other than by the thunder after a direct lightning strike on the other side of the bed – Juli’s till up at that hour so I know she would be fine. However, back to the news; psychologists will tell you not to watch the news as the last thing you view before going to bed. I don’t know whether these broadcasts are intentionally designed to send you to bed with visions of bodies in the streets or cars wrapped around telephone poles or this murder or that killing, but they say that watching this stuff is just not good for the psyche as you’re heading off for dreamland. I believe it!

Movies are movies. Action movies with folks like Arnie, Sly, Jason, Jet, Chuck, or Jackie will kill hundreds – I once heard that the record was held by Schwarzenegger at 500 killed in a single film…I think Arnie had a scratch on the back of his hand. I mean, come on. I’m not against a little violence in a movie but one person killing that many…hell, that’s a comedy!

One of the people to whom I turned for information on the mind of a killer was Professor Jim Fallon, who teaches neuroscience at the University of California Irvine.  A synopsis of his biographical information says that, “Through research [Jim} explores the way genetic and in-utero environmental factors affect the way the brain gets built – and then how individuals’ experience further shapes its development. He lectures and writes on creativity, consciousness, and culture, and has made key contributions to our understanding of schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.” A relatively new part of Fallon’s research has been devoted toward the subject of psychopaths — specifically those who kill.

Fallon has studied nearly 100 brains, some of which have been those of serial killers. He concludes that a gene, passed from mother to son, brain damage, environmental exposure to violence, e.g., living where a war is taking place are all contributors, are all contributors to the development of a psychopathic killer. According to Fallon, because the gene is passed only from mother to son is the contributing factor that makes psychopathic killers predominantly male.

Another “student” of murderers is Jonathan Pincus, chief of neurology at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington and a professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Over the past 25 years he has examined, through questioning, 150 murderers. Like Fallon, he has concluded mental illness (gene) neurological damage (violence) and abuse (environmental/family) are the contributors for creating killers.

This began as a simple essay. Research proves that the subject is really deep and far beyond my scope of understanding, Whether it’s reading the FBI study on serial killers, listening to Professors Fallon or Pincus, or examining any number of articles about murderers, I’m glad that it’s early morning when I’m writing this…it may be time to go watch the road runner or Tom & Jerry!

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I’m going to use this quote: “During the Iraq War, 4,475 U.S. service members were killed and 32,220 were wounded.”  It’s taken from Journalist’s resource, which also states that as many as 460,000 combatants and non-combatants may have been killed during the war and occupation. That’s a horrible loss of life…but what do we expect?

In Korea, we battled the “red menace,” and the same was pretty much true in Vietnam. In Iraq, we battled…what the hell did we battle in Iraq? We’re we battling to keep the oil flowing? Were we battling because Sadam Hussein was a threat to the United States? Did we honestly believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the means to launch them at the United States and our allies? Did we actually sacrifice nearly 4,500 of our young people because of faulty intelligence? Or is it, perhaps, that we hadn’t had a good war in a while and a group of idiots decided it was time?

Don’t tell any of the above bullshit to the kids who lost limbs; to the moms and dads of the young men and women who came home in a box. Don’t say that America and its friends kicked the crap out of the bad guys and now everything is peaches and cream…because it’s not true. Once again, the politicians have lied to the American public. The sacrificial lamb who threw himself on his sword was Secretary of State Colin Powell. How or why he did it is beyond me. Powell was an outstanding member of the Officer Corps of the United States Army. Somehow, the minions at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue blackmailed him into making a presentation that was filled with lies and exaggerations as an excuse to make war on a dictator whom the incumbent President of the United States did not like. While it may have been a bit more complex than that – not really, but I have to make concessions somewhere – the fact of the matter is that we went into another unwinnable war against an opponent who has been fighting itself for somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 years.

Now, today, over this past weekend, Fallujah has fallen back into the hands of Al Qaeda and the Sunnis. America lost 1,500 soldiers to take Fallujah and to keep the Sunnis out. As one veteran asked on the Internet, “what it felt like for ’nam vets in ’75?” Another, a Marine vet, asked, “Why did they have to die?” They’re right. It makes no sense. However, it’s nothing more than we should have expected. It’s the manner in which war is conducted in the Middle East and Americans will never, under any circumstances, understand this type of war.

The Middle East, at least in many parts of it, are tribal. They still stone people to death and cut off the hands of thieves. They hold grudges for hundreds of years and then exact revenge. These people have different value sets than Westerners. By and large, they don’t give a good goddamn about weapons of mass destruction. They fight to keep their tribe together. They fight to keep their mud hut and their family alive. All we have done by going in and “driving out the bad guys” is to piss off the bad guys, helped to unite them into one cohesive unit and bring them back stronger than ever, particularly in terms of their hatred for “The Great Satan.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, says, “No boots on the ground.” That’s great, but at some point, if the government we put into power in Iraq is truly threatened by Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, what are we going to do? How will we justify not saving the people we put in power? What happens when the Iraqi Army looks around and sees their brother soldiers deserting because their families have been threatened? What do we do when it becomes obvious that the only way to stop this is by boots on the ground? Will we go back in, and if so, how do we justify it? There is no justification that can possibly put young American lives in jeopardy again…none. We lost…again. We lost because we are totally ignorant of how these people fight.

People who are old enough to remember still believe that the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. A small intelligence unit, of which I was a part, had just returned from a nine-month tour of duty at the Pentagon. We learned the year after the crisis that we were on the verge of being activated again…bluntly, that was some serious ‘stuff!” Today, we live in a world in which nine countries have nuclear capability, among them Israel, Pakistan, and India, and the last two are not all that friendly toward one another.

It was inevitable that someone would come up with an atomic bomb and that weapons would advance from there. It was inevitable that earth and its population would find some way to completely destroy itself. It’s sad to say that this world destruction may come about because a small group of ignorant people are unwilling to understand the consequences of their actions. Let the tribes continue to kill one another. Let them do whatever it is they wish to do as long as we are vigilant. Our job, America’s job, the job of any coalition forces is not to install governments that are friendly to coalition and American interests; our job is to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people who will not think twice before using them. Therefore, it is incumbent on the part of the United Nations, as ineffectual as its shown itself to be, to prevent the proliferation of nuclear capability by any more nations around the world. In addition, it should also be the position of the United States that we will no longer be the world’s policemen and will no longer place our young men and women in harm’s way. We’ve shown the way for too many years. Let some other nations step up; if not, bye-bye world!

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