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The sacrificial lamb

Praise Jesus, we have found the sacrificial lamb!

It now appears that if you are a black man or a white woman with a badge, you are going to get screwed every which way and then some. Police Officer Betty Shelby, the officer who shot Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been charged with first degree manslaughter.

Now, I don’t have a problem with these charges. I’ve seen the video several times and yes, it appeared to me that Mr. Crutcher was, in fact, reaching into his car. What for, I don’t know. It could have been a Holy Bible or a Glock .40. We’ll probably never know, but Miss Betty, she done the crime and sure as shootin’ she gonna do the time. A police search of the car failed to find a gun.

Forget that the cops in Baltimore get cleared after the death of Freddie Gray. Forget the fact that the cops in Cleveland were cleared after they shot a 12-year old less than a minute after they arrived on the scene. Forget the fact that an illegal choke hold killed a man in New York but no charges were brought. Forget the fact that Minnesota cop just plain murdered a black man and got away with it. We now have us a case where we can show people that black lives do matter, because we have a white woman police officer who we can prosecute…and the thin blue line stands united. Had she been a male with five or more years on the force, I’m betting no charges would have been filed…and for you, Jim, and Rich and Mike and Jerry, you know damned well that what I’m saying is the truth.

Shelby has admitted that she “…was never so scared in my life” when Crutcher failed to stop as he’d been ordered to do. He kept walking toward his car as is evident on the video. The car windows were open and Shelby thought he was reaching for a gun inside the car. I’m guessing it was one of those split second decisions of “Do I shoot center mass or do I wait for that other hand to appear with who-knows- what might be in it.” Shelby made her decision and she will have to live with it. Even soldiers who have seen combat will tell you that taking the life of another human being is not an easy thing with which to live.

I’m quite certain that, in addition to the manslaughter charges, the US Department of Justice will file a civil rights violation charge against Shelby. Where was the DOJ when it came to civil rights violations of Philandro Castile in Minnesota or Freddie Gray in Baltimore or Laquan McDonald in Chicago as he walked away from the police? We aren’t talking double standard here, folks. We’re talking standards of who you are and what you can get away with if you know how the system works.

Don’t get me wrong because I’m not saying that the charges against Shelby are false or uncalled for. However, if she’s guilty of a crime, then so are Jeronimo Yanez in Minnesota, the two officers in Cleveland, the officer in NY, and the officers in Baltimore. Jason Van Dyke in Chicago is currently being held in the murder of the McDonald. It will be interesting to see how that one turns out. It certainly was not as spectacularly covered as the Shelby shooting in Tulsa.

It seems to me that every time a black person is shot and killed, it’s cause for riots and looting. So far, Oklahoma has been able to keep the lid on and I pray that they continue to do so. We can probably thank Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany, for her calm, yet determined demeanor in part of keeping the peace. However, just look back at the riots in Ferguson (MO) and other communities, and look what’s happening right now in Charlotte (NC). Both black community members and police of all colors are nervous when meeting in strange circumstances.

Who knows what the outcome will be in Tulsa. I can only hope that Shelby does not become the singular sacrificial lamb of a police officer. If that’s the case, it’s merely another example of sexism in America.

Hey, S’up?

“How’re ya doin’?”

“Terrific, thanks; how about you?”

(No answer, but…) “Well, you’re lookin’ terrific!”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? I told this person I was “terrific,” and he looked at me like I’m some kind of liar. If I was doin’ shitty, I’d tell him, “I’m doin’ shitty,” so what’s the big deal. Does he want me to say that my back hurts like a son-of-a-bitch because all of the lumbar vertebrae are self-fused and they can’t even get a bloody needle in to give me an epidural anymore? That my back is so bad that I now have to use a cane to ensure my balance? That there’s no cartilage in either of my knees and when I walk, I can hear the bones rubbing together? That the doctors tell me I wouldn’t survive the anesthesia required for knee replacements? Is that what he wants?

I’ve stopped telling people how old I am when they ask. “Old enough to know better, but still young enough to learn,” has become my standard mantra. It’s either that or “Old enough to know not to make the mistakes of my youth,” that’s another one I’ve used.

I sometimes think that people ask how old you are so they can feel better about themselves. The one that really gets my goat is some young stud or ‘studdess’ telling me they hope they can do what I do when they’re my age. Screw that; I do what I do because I’m not quite ready to kick the bucket yet, and this exercise shtick is what the doctors say will help to keep me out of the crematorium. Someone asks if I’m feeling all right and follows up with, “You look kind of pale.” I just tell them I’m feeling a bit ‘ashy.’ They never get it, but it gives me a pretty good chuckle…at their expense…you don’t have something nice to say to me, shut the f..k up; I don’t need to hear it…particularly at five in the morning.

I’ve learned that there is a singular advantage to using the cane. People hold doors for me, and even old ladies who can walk without aid will defer to me as I enter the gym. At home, I often leave the cane and walk around unaided. Then I bump into a wall or a piece of furniture and remember that the cane is used for a reason…yep, you’re right…not the brightest bulb on Broadway!

I’ve noticed, in my dotage, that I get more hugs from young women than I used to. I figure they don’t think I’m any threat to them any more. They’re right, of course, but oh lord, does it ever bring back fond memories of yesteryear. Hell, I wasn’t a threat to them even then…married at 22, father of three ten years later…I never had the time or the desire to be a threat.

You see, the way I look at things now is this: I have coronary artery disease, but I’ve survived the first four heart attacks and now have six stents in the arteries around the heart. I had an aneurysm in my abdomen that one of the doctors caught before it burst, but it was purely by accident that he discovered it…whew. I say “whew,” because abdominal aneurysms are the tenth leading cause of death in this country…yeah, I was surprised too. I smoked cigarettes for 51 years and have moderate emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to show for it…but it could be a whole helluva lot worse. I’ve managed to get by with nearly 20 surgeries to my credit, and if it’s all the same to those who care, I’d just as soon not have to go through any more. Although I must admit that Versed, one of the anesthetics being used today, is fantastic because it blocks out your memory and is great on pain…yippee Skippy!

The latest episode in this medical autobiography is the one that I guess I’ve been dreading for years. I was recently diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes. I don’t know how fast this disease progresses, but for someone whose two great loves are reading and writing, this comes as something akin to a good hard kick in the…backside. However, like everything else, this storm can be weathered. There are always books on tape – I can become a better listener than a reader – and my little blog is so filled with errors that it just means Juli will have to add proofreader to her already endless list of things I ask her to do on a daily basis…as I say, the blog will have a few more errors. I’m certain of this because I know exactly where she’ll tell me to go if I ask her to proofread. Since that may well be my ultimate destination, I don’t wish to encourage more people than necessary to tell me to “do it now!”

Well, that about sums it up from this side of the bar stool. Keep those comments coming. It’s always nice to hear what’s going on in the world of reality.

Forgetfulness

“Didn’t we?”

“I mean…weren’t we?”

But he couldn’t finish the sentence. It just wouldn’t come to the front of his mind. He knew what he wanted to ask, but he just couldn’t remember the words. It’s not as if it happened on a daily basis. Lately, however, it did seem to be happening a bit more frequently.

“Am I losing my mind?” he wondered to himself, adding, “Maybe I’m just getting old.”

Forgetfulness, memory loss, whatever you wish to call it, has happened to all of us. We misplace our keys, we remember how great a movie was but can’t think of the title, and so on. In my own case, I’m constantly looking for my phone. Of course, that’s easily solved by calling it, which means I’m fine as long as Juli has her phone turned on! While lapses in memory can be extremely frustrating, they are not generally a concern for [us] older adults.

According to the web site, Health Guide, “As we grow older, we experience physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions we’ve always taken for granted. It takes longer to learn and recall information. We’re not as quick as we used to be. In fact, we often mistake this slowing of our mental processes for true memory loss. But in most cases, if we give ourselves time, the information will come to mind. Memory loss is not an inevitable part of the aging process. The brain is capable of producing new brain cells at any age, so significant memory loss is not an inevitable result of aging. But just as it is with muscle strength, you have to use it or lose it. Your lifestyle, health habits, and daily activities have a huge impact on the health of your brain. Whatever your age, there are many ways you can improve your cognitive skills, prevent memory loss, and protect your grey matter.”

I can’t say whether exercise increases blood flow to the brain, but I find that on those days when I have had a good workout, I feel sharper in my mental functioning. Of course it often happens that I’ll leave my cane somewhere – yes, I now have a cane – and a couple of hours later wonder where I left the damned thing. One day recently, I was talking to someone I’ve known for over 20 years and I completely forgot her name for a few minutes…talk about frightening yourself! These things, I’m told, can be considered a normal part of aging and not dementia-related. Recently, a nurse practitioner came to the house. It’s a part of my health plan that she drops in once a year. During our conversation, I reminded her that in 2015, she had asked me to think about three words. She did this at the beginning of our conversation and approximately an hour later asked me to repeat them. This year, as we were chatting, I asked, “Are you going to ask me to remember apple, penny, and table again?” She was somewhat taken aback, but laughed. “Guess your memory’s okay,” she said.

Let us suppose, however, that my memory or that of our hypothetical man mentioned above is a sign of dementia. How do we know which is which is which. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which may or may not lead to some form of dementia, occurs when someone cannot recall recent events, gets lost or continually misplaces objects. Other signs include personality changes, trouble expressing what one is thinking, and difficulty completing problem solving or complex tasks, such as managing a budget or doing one’s banking. We still may be able to function without assistance but with mild dementia.

Going back to the Health Guide, “The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former isn’t disabling. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment, and abstract thinking.”

Now comes the sixty-four dollar question…when is it time to become worried about whether you have dementia or are just getting old? The answer is really quite simple, however, you have to be honest with yourself and with those around you. If you or someone close to you expresses concern about your forgetfulness or your inability to do things that once came naturally to you, it’s time to check with your doctor.

Before I go any further, let me explain something: Dementia is any one of a group of diseases that cause memory loss as well as degeneration of other mental functions. The key word there is ‘disease.’ Health Line notes that “Dementia occurs due to physical changes in the brain and is a progressive disease, meaning it gets worse over time. For some people, dementia progresses rapidly, while it takes years to reach an advanced stage for others. The progression of dementia depends greatly on the underlying cause of the dementia. While people will experience the stages of dementia differently, most people with dementia share some of the symptoms.”

I’ve put this piece together because I have a couple of friends with differing forms of dementia. While it’s sad to watch the deterioration, my friends’ families saw things happening early on. In that way they were able to plan for how care would be given and there were no surprises. Please don’t assume that I’m trying to pass myself off as some kind of authority on the subject. It was of sufficient interest to me that I did a bit of research. If you have concerns about a parent or a friend, I invite you to do as I have done, and check out the many authoritative sites that deal with mental health.

A Third Party choice

I like choice, whether it’s going to lunch where I have a choice of restaurants and the meals they serve, or going into a clothing store and selecting precisely what I want, choice matters a great deal to me. In fact, I took an early retirement rather than work for someone with whom I did not agree. Over the decades, I have chosen to vote for Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Mike Dukakis, Barack Obama, and so on and so forth. In every presidential election there has always been one candidate who, in my mind, personified what I wished to see in a commander-in-chief and leader of the free world. This year, in this election, the two main parties have selected to run people who are the antithesis of my own beliefs. As a consequence, I have turned to a third party as my party of choice in this November’s Presidential election. Please, please, stop reading right now if you have already made a decision between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump. From this point onward, I will be outlining the position on the issues of my third party candidate. If you, like me, feel that the Democratic and Republican parties have failed us, read on.

On foreign policy…“The objective of both our foreign policy and our military should be straightforward: To protect us from harm and to allow us to exercise our freedoms. Looking back over the past couple of decades, it is difficult to see how the wars we have waged, the interventions we have conducted, the lives sacrificed, and the trillions of tax dollars we have spent on the other side of the globe have made us safer. If anything, our meddling in the affairs of other nations has made us less safe. Many senior military and foreign policy analysts have concluded that the rise of ISIS can actually be traced back to instability created by our meddling in the affairs of others. This is because the last several administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have used our military resources to pursue undemocratic regime changes, embark on impossible nation-building exercises, and to establish the United States as the policeman of the world. This imperialistic foreign policy makes it easier for ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other violent extremists to recruit new members. We need to build a strong military. But we should not use our military strength to try to solve the world’s problems. Doing so creates new enemies and perpetual war. Besides, we have enough problems to solve right here at home.

“Gary Johnson will move quickly and decisively to cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend. He will repair relationships with our allies. And he will only send our brave soldiers to war when clearly authorized by Congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate. The idea that we can defeat terrorism by simply putting more boots on the ground or dropping more bombs ignores the reality that this expensive tactic simply hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s made the situation worse.”

On immigration…”Having served as Governor of a border state, Johnson knows the complex issues associated with immigration reform first hand. Solving immigration problems is not as easy as building a wall or simply offering amnesty. We should appreciate and respect the diversity of immigrants that come to the United States to be productive members of society. But we also need to recognize that everyone who comes here is not so well-intentioned. Johnson [and his vice presidential partner] Bill Weld don’t want to build an expensive and useless wall. The only thing a big wall will do is increase the size of the ladders, the depth of the tunnels, and the width of the divisions between us. Candidates who say they want to militarize the border, build fences, and impose punitive measures on good people, ground their position in popular rhetoric, not practical solutions. Johnson and Weld believe that, instead of appealing to emotions and demonizing immigrants, we should focus on creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society. Making it simpler and more efficient to enter the United States legally will provide greater security than a wall by allowing law enforcement to focus on those who threaten our country, not those who want to be a part of it.”

On taxes…”Today’s federal tax code does all the wrong things. It penalizes productivity, savings and investment, while rewarding inefficiency and designating winners and losers according to political whim. For far too long, tax laws have been used not just as a means to collect needed revenues, but as a way for special interests to penalize their competitors while subsidizing themselves. The result is a tax code that is more than 70,000 pages long, enforced by a government agency with almost 100,000 employees. As a result, our tax code has created a nightmare for the average American, while providing shelter for those with the means to manipulate it. Johnson advocates for the elimination of special interest tax loopholes, to get rid of the double-taxation on small businesses, and ultimately, the replacement of all income and payroll taxes with a single consumption tax that determines your tax burden by how much you spend, not how much you earn. Such a tax would be structured to ensure that no one’s tax burden for the purchase of basic family necessities would be increased. To the contrary, costs of necessities would likely decrease with the elimination of taxes already included in the price of virtually everything we buy. Many leading economists have long advocated such a shift in the way we are taxed, and Gary Johnson believes the time has come to replace our current tax code, which penalizes the savings, productivity and investment we so desperately need.”

On our criminal justice system…”How is it that the United States, the land of the free, has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world? The answer is simple: Over time, the politicians have “criminalized” far too many aspects of people’s personal lives. The failed War on Drugs is, of course, the greatest example. Well over 100 million Americans have, at one time or another, used marijuana. Yet, today, simple possession and use of marijuana remains a crime — despite the fact that a majority of Americans now favor its legalization. And who is most harmed by the War on Drugs? Minorities, the poor, and anyone else without access to high-priced attorneys. More generally, mandatory minimum sentences for a wide range of offenses and other efforts by politicians to be “tough” have removed far too much common-sense discretion from judges and prosecutors. These factors, combined with the simple fact that we have too many unnecessary laws, have produced a society with too many people in our prisons and jails, too many undeserving individuals saddled with criminal records, and a seriously frayed relationship between law enforcement and those they serve. Fortunately, a growing number of state and local governments are taking steps toward meaningful criminal justice reform. The federal government must do the same, and Gary Johnson is committed to bringing real leadership to this long-overdue effort.”

On the environment…”The environment is a precious gift and must be protected. Governors Johnson and Weld believe strongly that the first responsibility of government is to protect citizens from those who would do them harm, whether it be a foreign aggressor, a criminal — or a bad actor who harms the environment upon which we all depend. We need to stand firm to protect our environment for our future generations, especially those designated areas of protection like our National Parks. Consistent with that responsibility, the proper role of government is to enforce reasonable environmental protections. Governor Johnson did that as Governor, and would do so as President. Johnson believes the Environmental Protection Agency, when focused on its true mission, plays an important role in keeping the environment and citizens safe. Johnson does not, however, believe the government should be engaging in social and economic engineering for the purpose of creating winners and losers in what should be a robust free market. Preventing a polluter from harming our water or air is one thing. Having politicians in Washington, D.C., acting on behalf of high powered lobbyists, determine the future of clean energy innovation is another. In a healthy economy that allows the market to function unimpeded, consumers, innovators, and personal choices will do more to bring about environmental protection and restoration than will government regulations driven by special interests. Too often, when Washington, D.C. gets involved, the winners are those with the political clout to write the rules of the game, and the losers are the people and businesses actually trying to innovate. When it comes to global climate change, Johnson and Weld believe that the politicians in Washington, D.C. are having the wrong debate. Is the climate changing? Probably so. Is man contributing to that change? Probably so. But the critical question is whether the politicians’ efforts to regulate, tax and manipulate the private sector are cost-effective – or effective at all. The debate should be about how we can protect our resources and environment for future generations. Governors Johnson and Weld strongly believe that the federal government should prevent future harm by focusing on regulations that protect us from real harm, rather than needlessly costing American jobs and freedom in order to pursue a political agenda.

On education…”Gary Johnson worked tirelessly as governor to have a more substantive discussion about the best way to provide a good education for our children. He did so while working with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature and despite fierce opposition from powerful special interests. Knowing full well that the establishment would resist calls for change, he nevertheless advocated a universally available program for school choice. Competition, he believes, will make our public and private educational institutions better. Most importantly, Governor Johnson believes that state and local governments should have more control over education policy. Decisions that affect our children should be made closer to home, not by bureaucrats and politicians in Washington, D.C. That is why he believes we should eliminate the federal Department of Education. Common Core and other attempts to impose national standards and requirements on local schools are costly, overly bureaucratic, and actually compromise our ability to provide our children with a good education. Johnson and Weld believe that the key to restoring education excellence in the U.S. lies in innovation, freedom, and flexibility that Washington, D.C. cannot provide.

On abortion…”Johnson’s approach to governing is based on a belief that individuals should be allowed to make their own choices in their personal lives. Abortion is a deeply personal choice. Johnson has the utmost respect for the deeply-held convictions of those on both sides of the abortion issue. It is an intensely personal question, and one that government is ill-equipped to answer. On a personal level, Gary Johnson believes in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. As Governor, he supported efforts to ban late-term abortions. However, Johnson recognizes that the right of a woman to choose is the law of the land, and has been for several decades. That right must be respected and despite his personal aversion to abortion, he believes that such a very personal and individual decision is best left to women and families, not the government. He feels that each woman must be allowed to make decisions about her own health and well-being and that the government should not be in the business of second guessing these difficult decisions. Johnson feels strongly that women seeking to exercise their legal right must not be subjected to prosecution or denied access to health services by politicians in Washington, or anywhere else.

On the national debt…”By 2017, the national debt will be $20 TRILLION. That is not just obscene, it is unsustainable — and arguably the single greatest threat to our national security. Responsibility for the years of deficit spending that has created our debt crisis rests squarely with BOTH the Republicans and the Democrats. The debt doubled under President George W. Bush — and doubled again under President Obama. During that time, both parties enjoyed control of Congress, and the deficit spending just kept piling up. It doesn’t have to be that way, despite what the politicians say. But the idea that we can somehow balance the federal budget without cutting military spending and reforming entitlements is fantasy. What is required is leadership and political courage. As Governor of a state with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, Gary Johnson stood up to excess spending, vetoed 750 bills and literally thousands of budget line items … and balanced the state’s budget. Johnson has pledged that his first major act as President will be to submit to Congress a truly balanced budget. No gimmicks, no imaginary cuts in the distant future. Real reductions to bring spending in line with revenues, without tax increases. No line in the budget will be immune from scrutiny and reduction. And he pledges to veto any legislation that will result in deficit spending, forcing Congress to override his veto in order to spend money we don’t have.

On veteran’s rights…”Gary Johnson believes strongly that we have a solemn obligation to honor those who have fought for us, sacrificed for us, and put their lives on the line to defend our great nation. When it comes to fulfilling that obligation, there can be no equivocation. For. Johnson, honoring our veterans begins with a pledge that those serving in the military today will only be asked to go into harm’s way for clear, defined and justified reasons. The men and women of our armed forces signed up and swore an oath to protect and defend the United States – and that is precisely the mission they will have with Gary Johnson as Commander-in-Chief. They will not be sent to risk their lives just because politicians decide to topple a foreign government — with no clear U.S. interest in doing so or plan for what comes next. Our military will not be asked to engage in nation-building or to somehow resolve conflicts on the other side of the globe that have defied resolution for hundreds of years. The men and women of our military will only be asked to protect and defend the United States – and to do so with a firm understanding of the objective. For our veterans who have served and returned to civilian life, many with injuries and emotional scars, Johnson pledges to provide them with the health care, support and transitional assistance they deserve – and rightfully expect. First, Johnson will put health care choices where they belong: With veterans themselves. While there are many dedicated, caring professionals working in VA facilities, the bureaucracy of the VA is more concerned with its own perpetuation than with providing veterans with the care they need. That must be corrected NOW.

“From elder care to PTSD to the specific health challenges of women who have served in uniform, veterans have a wide range of urgent needs. For some, the VA medical system is the best or only option. That system must function efficiently, provide timely care, and meet the standards we would expect for our own family members. For those who need care from private physicians or hospitals, that option must be available. A strong believer in the power of competition and the marketplace, Gary Johnson will bring that power to bear in the provision of care to our veterans. Likewise, as many veterans’ organizations have asked, Johnson will remove outdated federal obstacles to the testing and use of medical cannabis to treat PTSD and other conditions for which it has shown promise. Likewise, Johnson understands the challenges faced by many veterans in their transition to civilian life and careers. The discipline and skills earned from military service are of tremendous value to many employers, but Gov. Johnson believes it is part of our moral contract with those who have served to not only maintain the GI Bill, but to enhance public-private partnerships designed to match veterans’ skills with the career choices they wish to make. Johnson also understands that family support, counseling and other tools for helping veterans deal with their unique challenges are essential. Homelessness, substance abuse, and yes, suicide are all-too frequent among veterans as they re-enter civilian life – and our obligation to support those who have served does not end when they sign their discharge papers. Behind our veterans are spouses, children and parents who have sacrificed much, and Governor Johnson recognizes and appreciates those sacrifices. The men and women of our military give us their best — and deserve no less in return.

On legalizing marijuana…”Legalizing and regulating marijuana will save lives and make our communities safer by eliminating crime and creating an industry that can legitimately participate in America’s economy. The Federal government should not stand in the way of states that choose to legalize marijuana. Governors Johnson and Weld would remove cannabis from Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which will allow individual states to make their own decisions about both recreational and medical marijuana — just as they have done for decades with alcohol. Eliminating the Federal government as an obstacle to state legalization decisions is not only constitutionally sound, but would allow much-needed testing of marijuana for medical purposes, as well as regulation that reflects individual states’ values and needs. We need to treat drug abuse as a health issue, not a crime.

“The War on Drugs is an expensive failure. We spend money to police it. We spend money to incarcerate nonviolent offenders. And what do we get in return? A society that kicks our troubled mothers, fathers, and young adults while they’re down, instead of giving them the tools to be healthier and more productive members of society. We can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars by simply changing our approach to drug abuse. That is why Gary Johnson came out as an early proponent on the national stage in 1999 while Governor of New Mexico, and publicly stated his support of marijuana legalization. Johnson and Weld do not support the legalization of other recreational drugs that are currently illegal. It is, however, their belief that drug rehabilitation and harm-reduction programs result in a more productive society than incarceration and arrests for drug use.”

Okay, so Gary Johnson didn’t know where Aleppo was, I’ve had a few brain freezes in my own time. But, there you have it. I don’t consider that I will be wasting my vote. I just want to make a statement. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump have just scared the daylights out of me. I’ve listened to Gary Johnson speak, and I’ve worked with Bill Weld on occasion. Their positions on issues agree with my own and therefore, they have earned my support for their candidacy.

That mournful sound

Did you ever hear anything more mournful than the “whaa-whaa-whoo” of a train whistle early in the morning? Your eyes haven’t yet opened. You’re hovering between the last stages of sleep and the very early stages of wakefulness, and you hear “whaa-whaa-whoo” some miles from your bed. You know precisely what it is. It’s what you call “the 4:15 out of Bangor or Portland or Burlington or wherever.” In reality, you don’t have a clue about where that train has been, where it’s going; or even where it came from, but you listen – “whaa-whaa-whoo” – and it can conjure up memories or scenarios of places to go and people to see. It conjures up fantasies beyond your wildest imagination.

Maybe you’re the hobo who’s been riding these rails for years, sort of “King of the road,” as Roger Miller sang. You’ve seen the corn fields of Iowa, the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, the golden wheat stretching miles and miles through Kansas, and wild horses running alongside your open boxcar as the train clickety-clacked through Oklahoma. You’ve felt the warm breezes of the summer and the bone-chilling cold of the winter, but for you there is no other life. You’re free to do as you like and be who you are. No tie-downs or nine to five for you. This is your freedom and the way you’ve chosen to live your life…ridin’ the rails, and listenin’ to the “whaa-whaaa-whoo” of the whistle and the clickety-clack of the rails as you move through your life at your pace and marching to your own drummer.

Maybe this is the train that carried you from Boston to Baltimore to pay your last respects to an old Army buddy from WWII. A plane might have been faster, but you hate those damned cigar tubes, and as old as you are, you aren’t gonna risk your life when the train’s a perfectly safe way to go…at least according to you…and this guy once saved your life in Europe, yanking you to the ground just before that German machine gun saw your unit coming…yep, he saved your bacon for sure. Now he’s gone, but you haven’t forgotten; you remember; and you wanna say your “goodbyes.” After all, hadn’t been for him, you’d probably been pushin’ up daisies in some cemetery in France or Belgium, or Holland, or somewhere over there. So you ride the train…all the way to Baltimore.

Or maybe you’re the engineer who has been making this run for the past thirty years. Your whistle warns that you’re coming through Canton, Bridgewater, Stoughton or some other small town. Yeah, you know the “whaa-whaa-whoo” is loud and can be heard for miles, and you know its 4:15 in morning, and you know some people will get waked by the sound, but that’s your job. You have grown beyond the point of caring. Heck, if you gotta be haulin’ this 40-car load of whatever so that others can eat or drink or build homes or buy cars or…then that’s the way it has to be. You’re just doing the job, the same job you’ve been doing for the past thirty years with still more years to go.

It’s possible, I suppose, that you could fantasize that this is the cross-country trip you promised the family so many years ago. “We’ll take the train so we can sit in one of those cars with the big windows and see America the way the pioneers saw it.” Well, I’m not certain a Conestoga wagon was quite as smooth a ride as one of today’s trains, and I don’t believe the hardships faced by the pioneers could be compared to a cramped shower of today, but what the heck, you promised and the “whaa-whaa-whoo” doesn’t even disturb your sleep. Used to keep you awake when you first began the trip, but not anymore.

So many dreams; so many fantasies to conjure up. All of this just because you heard the mournful whistle of a train in the distance, when your eyes had yet to open, and you were somewhere in that state between sleep and wakefulness. It will happen again tomorrow, and you may hear it or you may be so soundly sleeping that it will make its “whaa-whaa-whoo” and you will never know; never once again to live in a fantasy world for a few more minutes. It won’t matter. To those who hear the mournful sound, they, too, can have their fantasies.

“America is now the world’s leader in the production of oil and natural gas.” That is what’s proclaimed in the latest television ad from the Petroleum Institute. All of these smiling faces from so many races speaking out as though this was the greatest news since the rounding of a square piece of rock. Okay, so this will reduce our dependency on foreign oil, but wait, wait just a minute…is that really a good thing? And here I thought that we were as concerned as any nation about climate change.

According to the folks at the Pew Research Center, “…the U.S. has the highest carbon emissions per capita, but it is among the least concerned about climate change and its potential impact. Others in this category are Australia, Canada and Russia. Publics in Africa, Latin America and Asia, many of which have very low emissions per capita, are frequently the most concerned about the negative effects of climate change.”

Gee, perhaps we’re not concerned because we just happen to be the nation that leads the world in oil production and ranks second, only to China, in the production. Believe it or not, “Oil and coal each account for 40 percent of global warming emissions from fossil fuels worldwide. In the United States, energy use accounts for 82 percent of our global warming emissions, with oil counting for 42 percent of those emissions.” In other words, we talk a good game, but when it comes to walking the walk, we don’t do a particularly good job. These fossil fuels that the real scientists talk about are the primary culprit behind climate change. In the United States, they’re to blame for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions — and 98 percent of CO2 emissions alone.

One Internet source states that, “At the end of 2012, there were 1,308 coal-fired power generating units spread across 557 power plant sites in the U.S. with the total capacity to generate 310 gigawatts of electricity. However, Source Watch states that, “As of 2011, the Energy Information Administration listed 589 coal-fired power plants in the U.S., down from 633 coal-fired power plants in 2002. Of these 589 plants, 332 were owned by electric utilities, 98 by independent power producers, and the remainder by industrial and commercial producers of combined heat and power. In 2011, U.S. coal plants provided 317,640 MW of net summer capacity.” What does all of this mean? Well, the news is both good and bad. The good news is that the number of coal-operated plants in the United States is steadily decreasing as other forms of energy replace coal. The bad news is that we still have a great deal of coal being burned in the country and that means that we aren’t really moving fast enough to eliminate this fossil fuel from our vocabulary or from continuing to harm the environment.

What it all comes down to is, that America and China – and perhaps that can be reversed in order – are the two prime contributors to climate change and global warming. There is little to nothing that we can do about China, but perhaps you and I can do something about what happens in America. Well, you can worry about it; I’ll be food for the fishes by the time action is taken. I’m concerned for my children’s children and on. I’m concerned for the planet. Earth is a pretty good place, and I hate to see us messing it up just because someone’s pockets need more lining. We are expanding our superhighways when perhaps we should be looking for ways to reduce the number of CO2 contributors on the road. Perhaps we should be building more bicycle trails that lead to suburban work centers. This just might solve a couple of problems…obesity among our population and relocation of urban work sites to more enjoyable environments. I could envision the day when cyclists ride to work in a site that provides private shower and changing areas and even a cafeteria that allows a bit of rest time before reporting to “the job.” Sound ridiculous? So did maternity leave for fathers, but it appears to be catching on in far-sighted business leaders’ decision-making.

As far as automobiles are concerned, there are too damned many on the road! I don’t say that as one who bitches about traffic jams and commuting. Heck, I haven’t commuted for nearly 20 years, and I’m slowly learning not to schedule doctor’s appointments at commuting hours. However, when I do get stuck, I’m surprised at the number of cars carrying a single person. We have become so complacent in our habits that the very thought of carpooling seems to be something from the last Century. Depending on many factors, a car can emit as much as six tons of carbon dioxide a year. Whoa! That’s a lot of greenhouse gas going into the environment and when put that way, it’s pretty scary.

All in all, I’d say that it’s time for all of us to sit up and take notice of where America stands on climate change and global warming. We seem to stand in a pretty sorrowful position. It would appear that we aren’t taking climate change as seriously as the rest of the world, yet here we are, the most technologically advanced nation on earth and all we talk about is that we’re now the leading producer of oil and natural gas. That’s horrible. When we were so dependent on other nations for our petroleum products and faced a crisis back in the mid-seventies, the hue and cry was, “Let’s get into solar and wind power!” When the crisis ended, we seem to have forgotten our hue and cry. We looked for more ways of producing our own fossil fuels. Today, fracking has found a way of making that possible, or has it? Is fracking an answer or merely another way of messing up our planet by causing earthquakes?

Would that I had the answers to our climate change, greenhouse gas, global warming, energy questions. I don’t. However, there are a whole bunch of very intelligent scientists our there with absolutely no ax to grind other than seeing our blue marble survive. Perhaps we should begin believing them and not the money men who wish only to increase their holdings at the expense of everything else.

They’re back!

The humanoid forms have returned with a vengeance. They appear now to be angrier than when they departed their inland dwellings during the early part of the growing season and prior to the season of heat that followed. In addition, they have multiplied in number and have issued additional permits to operate vehicles along the highways and back roads of the third rock. It is also quite apparent that many of the humanoid forms have attempted to alter their skin pigmentation, opting for browner skin rather than the usual pale pink and flabby look they adopt during the colder season of the year. Why they would intentionally do this raises many questions since at other times of the year, many of the pale skins appear to evade and avoid those whose natural skin color is different from their own. It is certainly most perplexing.

I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Let me put it another way: The assholes have returned from the Cape and the Mountains only to screw up traffic as they hurry back to work to show off their tans which are going to disappear faster than you can say, “Frost comes in October!” Today marks the return of the kiddies to school; the super kiddies to college; and the idiots to their money-grubbing places of employment. And for those of us in the retired class who have blissfully driven around the blue marble all summer without having to worry about traffic, the holiday is over.

This morning I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist several towns from my abode. Recognizing that summer has ended and that “they” would be back, I decided to leave the house a little over an hour from my destination, a trip I had made during the summer in less than 15 minutes. It is said that, “Man plans and God laughs;” He must have been in hysterics as he watched me leave my garage and head off to do battle with said returning assholes. I had gone less than a mile when I came across my first traffic obstacle. Rather than leave space at an exit road, a driver had merely blocked the intersection, apparently forgetting that I am a Massachusetts driver. That means that neither rain nor snow nor dark of night prevents us from completing our appointed rounds. Well, in this case, it wasn’t really a ‘round;’ it was more of a destination. Since traffic was at a standstill, I simply drove straight up to the car blocking the road and gave the person a stern look…it appeared that I might just smash into the side of her car. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. She had room to pull ahead and the car behind her had space to back up, thus solving the first of my soon-to-become-many traffic problems. Summing the whole thing up…traffic was backed up everywhere. As I passed over a bridge that looks down on one of our “superhighways-on-which-lane-widening-has-been-going-on-all-summer,” I stared down at what might have been long-term parking for Logan Airport. The traffic was at a dead stop. However, I was not there; I was above them, looking down…heh, heh, heh!

After half an hour on the road, I was still in my town of residence. Since traffic was in a stop and start mode, I broke the law and called the office of the eye potentate, informing them that I had serious doubts regarding my ability to make a nine o’clock appointment. The receptionist on the other end was very nice and informed me that 9:30 would be fine. Ending the call, I thought, “Nine-thirty may be fine for you, but at the rate I’m going, it seems pretty damned questionable to me!”

Blocked intersections, people pulling out on two-lane roads and attempting to cut back in when oncoming traffic threatened to annihilate them, horns honking, and drivers cursing were only a few of the incidents observed during this first and last attempt to keep a nine-o’clock appointment in September for as long as I live.

Oh, you want to know what time I arrived at my appointment. Okay, I made it by three, count ‘em, three minutes. A 15-minute ride took over an hour. Coming home, against the traffic, I believe that I broke a record, returning in just under eleven minutes. Combine that with the fact that my next appointment with this doctor is in two weeks at 8 am, and you will understand why I’m seriously considering taking up alcohol and tobacco once more…not a pretty picture!