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Archive for December, 2010

In a piece that I wrote recently for this blog, I commented that I really didn’t see anything in the new tax package that would benefit senior citizens. After seeing what will be withheld monthly from my retirement plan in 2011, I have come to the conclusion that once again the senior population is getting the short end of the stick. “For the majority of Americans this means that they will see a one thousand dollar increase in their paycheck next year.” Thank you, President Obama; those of us who are retired did our time in hell. What more do you want from us? I own my home; my car has more than 125,000 miles on it; I can’t afford to take vacations. What the hell else do you want from seniors, Mr. President? Would you like us all to die a little sooner? It appears that, in the final analysis, you are just like everyone else in Washington…”screw the seniors.” Well, I’ve got some news for you, Mr. President…we vote, and although I cast my ballot for you the first time around, I’m telling you right now that if you and that group of idiots we call Congress don’t begin taking into account the problems that senior citizens are facing, we will do everything in our power to see that you and all of the other “fat cats” on the hill are on the unemployment lines after the 2012 elections.

I’m not certain whether it’s pure stupidity on the part of the people in Washington or if it’s merely apathy on the part of those who control our fate. Look at it from my perspective. Between my house insurance, car insurance, health insurance, and the amount of federal tax withheld, I will lose over one thousand dollars next year. Before you tell me to sell the house and the car, let me tell you to kiss my ass! I worked in education for over 40 years and you know how great those salaries are. I worked for my house; I worked so that I could have a car; I’ve survived three heart attacks and work out on a regular basis, not in order that I can watch NCIS every week, but because I don’t feel like dying quite yet.

World War II broke out on my fifth birthday when the Nazi’s invaded Poland. My folks didn’t live the American Dream; they were products of the Great Depression and their dreams went down the tubes. They worked their butts off in order that my siblings and I might have a better life. Over the years, I’ve watched Presidents come and Presidents go and the last truly decent man I remember sitting in the Oval Office, the one who truly cared about the common man in America was Harry S. Truman. Eisenhower was elected purely because he was a war hero; Kennedy got in because Joe, Jr., who was scheduled to run the country, was killed in the War; Johnson was a tyrant who succeeded by assassination; Nixon became drunk with power; Ford was a nice enough guy but not of Presidential caliber; Jimmy Carter had some great ideas, but you can’t beat the charisma of a Hollywood actor; Bush the first rode in on Ronnie’s coattails, despite the Iran/Contra scandal; although he was a Rhodes Scholar and brilliant, Clinton screwed the public as well as any woman in Washington who would admit that she just liked to make out with celebrities. George the second was an unmitigated disaster for the working class of Americans. His lies and deceptions, his ignorance and arrogance are the stuff of which legends are made. Like Nero in the Roman Empire, the less said about George W. Bush’s place in history, the better American history will look. Now we have the first President of a different race. The only white group that supported him was the 18-29 year olds. We have to understand that it won’t matter what he says, the bulk of white America will think it’s wrong. Whether it’s racist beliefs or what, I can’t say. He’s bright enough and seems to have good ideas; however, after watching his collapse on the last days of the 111th Congress, I’m starting to agree with the older white groups…and I hate myself for it. I am not a racist and that’s not because, “some of my good friends are black”…what bullshit that is. A person is a person; color is no cause for liking or disliking someone. I just wish that Obama would get sufficiently hardass with some of these power brokers in Congress that they fear and respect him. That’s right, I used the ‘f’ word. I really do not believe that people should disrespect the Office of the President of the United States as several members of Congress have already done. I’d better climb off that soapbox right now or this little essay will become a tome.

So there you have it…one senior citizen’s reaction to what’s going on and where the seniors are getting taken over the coals. It doesn’t seem to matter that my property taxes continue to rise or that gasoline prices skyrocket at the whim of these mega corporations. No one seems to give a damn that drug prices are out of sight and Lord only knows, you don’t take fewer drugs as you age.  One high school classmate told me he takes 17 pills when he gets up in the morning; hell, and I thought I was bad with nine…guess I should count my blessings. I really can’t tell you the last time I had a piece of meat that I didn’t get it on some super sale. Like every other grocery item, meats and fresh veggies seem to have jumped in price in inverse proportion to the decrease in my income.

I threaten President Obama and the members of Congress but I know that my single vote won’t mean a hell of a lot.  Sure, there’s a lobby for senior citizens in Washington. It’s called the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). However, if you look at the salaries of the top dogs in that organization you’ll soon recognize that they are the same greedy bastards who are at the top of every food chain. They don’t care about thee or me. To them we don’t exist except as numbers that help to increase their power base. It’s really too bad; I’d like to see a President in office who has a gigantic set of brass you-know-what’s before I shuffle off this mortal coil. I suppose I can always hope.

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Well okay! The lame ducks have gone home for the holidays; Republicans clapping their hands and salivating over the thoughts of how different things will be when the 112th Congress takes its seats early next month. The 111th closed with a bi-partisan bang which I’m not certain anyone believed was possible. While no one is happy with the tax legislation except for those rich bastards who will now have to find new toys to buy and the poor folks on unemployment who will have their benefits extended for a while, other things were accomplished. A major food safety bill was passed and “don’t ask; don’t tell” was finally repealed. Frankly, I have a number of gay friends who I’d rather go into battle with than some of the macho idiots who’d probably wet themselves when the first mortar round dropped nearby.

The President and his family have taken off for Hawaii for the holidays so that pretty much leaves no one in charge in Washington. Oh, wait a minute…I forgot…the lobbyists are all still there, planning their strategies to corrupt the freshmen Congressmen and women who will be taking their seats in a couple of weeks. Makes ya kinda weepy-eyed, doesn’t it, thinking about all of those new folks heading off for the nation’s capitol, wanting to make changes in our system that will benefit all of mankind. And here are these scumbags who have been researching these same new men and women, trying to learn their weaknesses so they can exploit them and get their pet legislation either in the hopper, on the floor, or brought (perhaps that should be ‘bought’) to a successful conclusion. Perhaps I shouldn’t call them “scumbags;” for some of them, that’s much too nice a term; for others, those not in the pharmaceutical, tobacco, utilities, finance, etc., etc., etc., industries, they, too, may have some of our best interests at heart. As you might have gathered, I’m not too fond of lobbyists.

You’re all going to see a bonus in our paychecks this year. It’s said that the average working American will see an increase of one thousand dollars over the course of the year. Much of that will be paid back in taxes but we’re supposed to think that it’s a big deal.  I didn’t see a hell of a lot being done for seniors in Washington this year other than no increase in Social Security for the second year in a row. However, I suppose that’s to be expected. After all, the actuaries would all like us to die by their tables despite the fact that advancement in medicine are helping to keep us alive a bit longer. Keeping us alive is an interesting turn of phrase. It seems to me that quality of life is somewhat more important than quantity. Our veterinarian told us that as long as our dog could eat, poop, and wag its tail, there was no reason for it to be euthanized. With humans, we change the diet by sticking feeding tubes in them, stuff a tube up their ass, inject them with drugs, and selfishly keep them around as long as possible. Joan and several others I know had the right idea; “Just keep me drugged up so I don’t feel any pain, and let me go as quickly as I can.”

While I have no reason to believe it will happen, perhaps we can start looking at some of the problems in our own backyard this year. With Bush and Clinton pleading with us to send money to help Haiti, I have to wonder if they’re even aware of Appalachia or Detroit or Ward Nine in New Orleans. I know they can’t be aware of the illegals coming in over the borders or Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, and other areas, including the East and West coasts as well as the Gulf. We may have already lost the war on drugs, but that doesn’t mean we should make it an unconditional surrender. We have a serious immigration problem and too many of the folks who are entering illegally are performing illegal acts once they get here. This year, 2010, saw the largest number of police officers killed in many years. The reason, quite simply, is that the criminals no longer care. Kill a cop, so what? By and large, our judicial system will just put them in jail where they can live better than many of them have ever lived before. The argument was always made that the death penalty wouldn’t stop crime. That may be true but if a few executions were carried out quickly for some of these crazy bastards, it might get the punks to think twice before they pull the trigger. C’mon, give me a break; do you think it’s really possible to rehabilitate someone who has already committed multiple murders? Another argument I’ve heard is that it costs more to execute someone than to commit them to life in prison. Last I knew, bullets weren’t expensive and even if it takes two, they can certainly be put where death will be quick.

Next year will probably see an increase in school shootings. After all, since neither the Federal Government nor the States can’t legislate bullying behavior, it will still go on, but instead of suicide my bet is on retribution. Bullying behavior, believe it or not, begins in the first three years of a child’s life. It’s created by the maternal environment in which the child grows. All too often, the mother and/or siblings set the model for behavior of all kinds and you can’t create laws that allow State or Federal supervision of how you raise your kids. That, my friends, is invasion of privacy and as much as we may not like it, the US Constitution protects us from such invasion. As a consequence, bullying will continue; people will die, and; everyone will wring their hands and decry the act. I expect, too, that we’ll probably see an increase in rape crimes this year now that WiFi or one of them has a “game” that is a rape simulation. What the hell are these people thinking? We aren’t violent enough so let’s make our electronic games more violent? What idiot thinks up this stuff? The biggest problem is that there’s a market out in this world that sucks this stuff up like a drug. And we wonder why people are becoming more violent?

I’d really like to be around to see 2012 and a few more years after that. I’d like to see this country return to the greatness that it once was. We can probably do it, too, if a few people would take their heads out of the sand and begin to establish goals that are in the best interest of the bulk of the people here. We all know that unemployment isn’t going to go away for several reasons: (1) jobs that once were, are no longer and people who held those jobs must be retrained for something that will last into the future; (2) there will always be those who don’t want to work and who will milk the system for all they can get, and: (3) the greedy bastards at the top of the food chain don’t really want the American Dream for those beneath them and they will do everything to continue to amass their own wealth while denying those they consider beneath them the opportunity to grow and develop.

I’m kind of a pessimist about where we’re headed as a nation. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see a whole lot of good things taking place, and I sure see a great deal of bad. Ah, well, Congress will be back in session soon and I’ll have more fodder for the blog. That, plus the fact that Oprah’s moving her cult to her own network, the New England Patriots, the Bruins and Celtics are all in the thick of championship hunts, the Red Sox have signed some new power hitters, and the world is still spinning…yep, I should be set for another year. I certainly hope that yours is happy, healthy, and joyous!

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Ah, yes, ‘tis the season to be jolly; peace on earth, goodwill toward all mankind. Treat everyone to a smile and a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Bah, humbug. If you look a little closer you’ll find that even those who wrote some of our Christmas music were, in reality, curmudgeonly.

According to SongFacts, “The story of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was written in 1939 by Robert L. May, a copywriter for the Chicago-based Montgomery Ward department stores, as a promotional gift for the store’s customers. The stores had bought and distributed coloring books every Christmas and saw writing their own story as a way to save money. Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939. A total of 6 million copies had been given out by the end of 1946, even though wartime paper shortages restricted printing.” The lyrics were actually a reflection of May’s own childhood, SongFacts notes. Mr. May was the smallest and most frail of his classmates and was constantly picked on as a child. Now that was over seventy years ago. The concept of ‘bullying,’ so common and dreaded in today’s society, wasn’t considered a problem; it was part of life. “Boys will be boys and there will always be ‘bully boys.’”  Remember, this was back in the early thirties, the days before Hitler, one of the all-time bullies when given the opportunity, invaded Poland. However, think about the lyrics of the song for a moment. Rudolph’s affliction or difference was his red nose. Because of that he was picked on by the other reindeer. Shucks, they wouldn’t even let him join in reindeer games. It wasn’t until he could do something for those who were bullies that they ‘accepted’ him. If it hadn’t been for a foggy night, this poor reindeer might never have become part of the ‘team.’ It’s rather strange when you consider it in that fashion, isn’t it. There is little difference between the bullying of Rudolph and the bullying that goes on today. Until the bully needs something that only the ‘geek’ can supply, the one is still the bully and the other the geek.

Even Frosty, the Snowman, could be interpreted as being used by the children who made him. Had it not been for that magic hat, chances are pretty good that he would have become a target for snowballs from the little wild men who put him together. He even turned out to be a smoker, with that corncob pipe and paused just for a moment when ordered to stop by a policeman. Oh the joy one can have when interpreting the songs of Christmas.

“You’re being hypercritical,” you say. Of course I am; build a bridge and get over it! Hey, I’m not the one who takes his kids to sit on the lap of a strange old fat man masquerading as a beloved idol; who gives them candy and let’s them whisper in his ear. Remember, we think this is the same guy who hangs out with elves 364 days a year. Hmm, and we tell our kids never to trust strangers. “Ya better watch out.” I want to know where Santa gets all of his information about who’s naughty and who’s nice. Is he watching personally? Does he have spies who do his watching for him? When do they make their decisions?” This whole situation is quite perplexing and somewhat frightening for me…and here the shrinks said my paranoia was cured!

Recently, I checked out the lyrics to another Holiday favorite, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. I wouldn’t allow any child to read or hear those lyrics; they are bad! How about this: “You’re a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.” Wow, those are really in the Holiday spirit. Never having seen this green, mean-spirited ‘thingie’ in action, neither in the theater or at home, I think I’ll take a pass whenever the next opportunity to do so arises.

Even some of the traditional songs of Christmas have been bastardized with new lyrics. One of the most humorous is the late Allan Sherman’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” which is sung so fast and furiously that it requires a couple of ‘listenings’ to understand just how funny it really is. Among the other hits ranking high on my list are “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Crabs for Christmas,” about a man from Baltimore…of course!

Whether you’re a traditionalist who enjoys the carols of the Tabernacle Choir, der Bingle and his “White Christmas,” or “Joy to the World,” let me wish you and yours the Merriest of Christmases and the most Happy, Healthy, and Joyous 2011!

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There was a time when everything I liked was, in fact, illegal, immoral, or fattening. For the most part, I stayed away from the illegal part. Using a fake ID or having someone buy liquor for you was, I guess, considered illegal, but if that was the case, probably close to ninety percent of my senior high school class should have been arrested. Illegal drugs weren’t around when I was growing up. Grass was what Dad made you mow in the summer and cocaine had already been removed from the original Coca-Cola recipe so we weren’t in any danger there. A ‘drive by’ was when you cruised past the house of a girl you wanted to date but were too chicken to ask…and your friends embarrassed the hell out of you by clucking whenever you walked by her in the hallways. Guns were no big deal. Nearly everyone had a ‘Red Ryder’ BB gun and we weren’t above using them on each other but no one ever aimed for the face and we were generally a hundred or so yards away because we knew that whoever we were shooting at was going to turn around and shoot right back at us…damn things stung but they never did any real damage and I don’t think we even considered trying to really hurt anyone with a BB gun.

As far as the immoral part of my youth was concerned, I grew up in a time when getting to second base was a big deal. Forcibly attempting to rape a girl just wasn’t in our make-up. I suppose that it was going on somewhere but I really can’t say for certain. Our idea of immorality was watching the girls’ locker room door open to see if we could see any of them in some state of undress…whoopee, that was a big deal. Since there were no computers, we couldn’t log on to see the crazy stuff that’s available today, and because television in the home – black and white, of course – was a recent introduction, cable wasn’t even a dream. As a matter of fact, the censors were so strict that married couples like the Petrie’s – that’s Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore for those of you who can remember – well, they weren’t even allowed to be shown sleeping in the same bed. The honor of being the first to do that went to the Flintstones. There was an entirely different definition for what was immoral and what was acceptable behavior. What none of us realized was that Hedy Lamarr, still a fairly big star when we were in our youth, had been the first woman to bare her breasts in a 1937 movie. I don’t know whether it was ever shown in commercial theatres but I rather doubt it.

The fattening foods really didn’t bother me. Today, we have childhood obesity as a major problem in our country. I don’t remember one ‘fat’ kid when I was in school. The closest thing to that might have been John Carande, but Johnny was the center on our high school football team and it wasn’t really fat. Carande was a hell of a lineman who could move with the best of them; he wasn’t fat, just big. As for me, I was six feet, three inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. Yep, I could turn sideways and disappear behind a two-year old sapling. On the basketball court, however, my elbows became weapons when going up for a rebound, something like having a pair of pliers running up and down your ribs…hard! I would have trouble running up and down a basketball court just one time in this day and age. You see, I’ve shrunk two inches and put on a bit more than a hundred pounds. Oh, the elbows are still reasonably sharp; they’re also wrinkled and calloused so I don’t know how much they’d be felt. Besides, if I was to play with people my own age, the fat on their ribs wouldn’t be as easy to damage.

Today, things have changed markedly, not so much for the people of my generation, but for those who are now where we were then. Illegal ‘stuff’ is everywhere and the peer pressure to indulge in it seems harder and harder to refuse.  Our kids drank illegally, and we know that. Thank God they didn’t get in a car with someone who was drunk or if they did, they didn’t get killed. The illegal drugs don’t seem to stop with marijuana or cocaine or heroin or any of the more common drugs that we think of. Today, and our grandkids are into athletics in a big way, parents have to worry about illegal steroids and HGH and the old “everybody’s doing it so I have to” is a rallying cry that we just have to jump on and stop before it gets completely out of hand. Illegal guns, too, are a very real threat in today’s society. ‘Drive by’ has taken on new meaning and it just scares the hell out of me. Crime, once confined to the poorer sections of our big cities, has found its way into suburbia and communities where folks rarely locked their doors are now seeing an increase in deadbolt sales. A police officer in one of my classes told me that, “Wherever public transportation is able to go, you can plan on an increase in crime.” This seems to me a two-edged sword: We’re trying to improve our public transportation system to get private vehicles out of the commuting mode and yet by doing so we stand a good chance of increasing our crime statistics.

There seems to be a lower standard for sexual relations in today’s society. That isn’t to say that it’s pervasive; I’m quite certain it’s not. However, when the President of the United States indicates that oral sex is not sex, what are our youth to believe? I’m not going to rant about sex and violence on television or some of the electronic games that are available. I’d like to believe that today’s children recognize fantasy when they see it, but there are too many who seem to feel that if it’s okay on television, it’s okay in real life.

In addition to drugs and increased access to guns and their attendant violence, many of our new latchkey generation are becoming victims of a “new” trouble called bullying. The fact that it’s been around since time immemorial doesn’t seem to matter. We have no clue regarding how many deaths were the cause of bullying before it became a buzzword back in the early 80s. In addition to physical abuse, bullying takes place through electronic means, including the social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. If people are going to lay their entire life out for the Internet to see, they should expect some repercussions.

Society has changed. I’ve lived to see it. How will it change in the next fifty or one hundred years? Hell, I don’t know; I don’t expect to be around to see it. However, if it has changed this much in my lifetime, it surely will accelerate at a geometrically expanded rate as we move along. I’d like to recommend that we slow down just a bit, although I know that in truth it won’t happen, but that we slow down and look at what is good and what is bad in our society. We’ve lost the war on drugs. We’re trying to legislate this phenomenon called ‘bullying,’ and that just cannot be done. Conspicuous consumption and greed are the watchwords of our society, and, if we’re not careful, there will be open warfare between those who are perceived as ‘rich’ and those who are perceived as ‘poor.’ This, my friends, just as sure as God made little green apples, will be the downfall of America.

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            I just had a really horrible thought: What if, now take this a word at a time, ‘cause it’s some pretty heavy stuff I’m laying down here, but what if…there really is no Santa Claus? Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute; I’m not saying that there isn’t. In fact, I know that there is a Santa, but what if all of those rumors about the big guy in the red suit and the white beard and the “Ho, ho, ho,” and all that…what if it’s true? Can you possibly appreciate the consequences of this?

            Let’s examine these consequences one at a time. Now, the first of these has to do with the toy industry. I mean, after all, if there is no Santa Claus, the suffering of the retail toy industry would make that of America’s banks and the Big Three of the auto industry look pale by comparison. Thus, we ‘know’ there is a Santa because the toy industry is flourishing. I mean, figure it out, the North Pole might be a nice place to visit every once in a while, but do you really think you’re gonna get that many elves to live up there year round just to make toys for good little girls and boys. Give me a break. Santa and his elves have a credit rating that would put Warren Buffet and Bill Gates combined to shame.

            You think his elves are at the Pole? Uh-uh, sorry to dissolution you folks but Santa has “elf cells” all over the world. I got to visit the one in Sydney, Australia once and I have to tell you, it’s impressive stuff. You’d never find it on your own. I was tossing a few back and got friendly with one of the little guys who was on a break. He took me on a trip I could never recreate and showed me the storage area and the other elves at work, stocking product from “Mates R Us,” “Sears and Outback” and a few other stores. Next thing I knew, I was back in the bar with the tender telling me to behave myself. Well, anyway, that’s the story of the toys…cells of elves all over the world with massive buying power to keep the toy industry going. By the way, Santa, as I was told, is something of a computer geek and he keeps track of what all these cells are storing so he knows how much food the reindeer will need to keep their energy up for the long trek.

            Our second point concerns Santa’s sleigh and all these techies who say that he couldn’t possibly get around the world in the time allotted, even with all the time zone changes, etc. These naysayers are the same ones you can see everyday on streets of major metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Islington, and other large cities, wearing sandwich boards that say the world is coming to an end. They just don’t understand Clausian technology. You think the red suit is a bit over the top; no way, it’s also a protective suit against the heat generated by his speed and the bits of elements that bounce off it…not unlike the Superman suit and the Wonder Woman bracelets. Red just happens to be Mrs. Claus’s favorite color…so to please the wife and keep peace in the family, well, you know how men are. No, the trick here isn’t in the speed with which the sleigh travels; it’s in the switching of the bags of toys onto the sleigh. It’s not dissimilar to in-flight refueling of some of these big planes. Have any of you, particularly the kids who might read this, but have any of you ever notices how, on a very, very clear Christmas Eve, the sky just seems to be filled with more stars than usual. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Those are the hover elves, waiting with their toy bags to “refuel” Santa’s supply in flight. From what I understand, it’s a pretty slick operation.

            This brings me to my third point and it’s one on which I’ve received a great deal of flack from disbelievers. They say, “Hey, I don’t even have a chimney, so don’t give me that nonsense about coming down that way.” Of course, he doesn’t come down the chimney you dunderhead. That’s something he did when he was younger, around the time when Clement Moore was writing his poem in 1822. Heck, that was nearly 200 years ago. Times change; when I talked about Clausian technology, it wasn’t just the sleigh and the suit of which I was speaking. Santa, to speed things up, now just appears and disappears. It sure beats, “Beam me up, Scotty,” for those who may remember Star Trek. One minute he’s in my house here in Islington, and then, whoosh, he’s in a house in Easton where Ryan, Shaun, and Brendan are sound asleep. I don’t know what’s going through their heads while Santa’s putting toys under the tree, but my bet is it’s not sugar plums, whatever the heck they are. So you see, this guy’s pretty quick and all that malarkey about him or his sleigh not being fast enough is just a bunch of baloney.

            The final reason I know there’s a Santa Claus has nothing to do with suits or sleighs, or reindeer or toys. No, the final reason I know there is a Santa is because it’s the type of tradition that Christ would have chosen to celebrate His birth. He would have wanted the celebration to (a) be for the children and (b) warm the hearts of everyone. And isn’t that what the spirit of Christmas does, warm the hearts of everyone?

            There are billions of people who are not Christian and who do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th. There are many Biblical scholars who question and a number who are positive that this is not the actual date of the birth of Christ. Who cares? What I care about and I hope that what you care about is that the entire world is concerned about living together in harmony. Is it ever going to happen? No, probably not. There will always be greed; there will always be hunger; there will always be a reason why men and women will let or will force others to suffer. But, it’s a great goal, and if once, twice, three or a hundred times a year, this group of people or that group of people decide that something can bring them peace and give them cause for celebration, what the hell is wrong with that. In my case, it’s a belief in the existence of a guy in a red suit that goes around on December 24th each year, bringing a little more joy into the hearts of children. Let us never forget that he is also helping us to celebrate a birth day that occurred more than 2000 years ago…at least that’s the way some of us think. And birth is creation, and it’s a wonderful thing to celebrate.

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            We use to enjoy paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If.” It’s too long to cite here; however, you may remember the opening stanza, which goes, “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too.” The poem’s final stanza ends with these four lines: “If you can fill the unforgiving minute, With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the earth and everything in it. And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son.” It’s a poem to make you think. Its message is profound.

            Of course, we learned this in junior high school; not exactly the best time for young males, in particular, to appreciate Kipling. “Yuk,” and “Oh no,” were two of the more polite terms I recall using. Therefore, as I have said, we were fond of paraphrasing. It would generally go something like this: “If you can keep your sense of humor while all around you are losing theirs, then obviously you’re not aware of the seriousness of the situation.” Kipling had nothing to fear from the bards of Rockland Junior High School, albeit that we had much to fear from Mrs. Agnes Lioy, our English teacher, had she ever overheard our new verbiage. As I’ve aged, I find that I can enjoy Kipling as well as many other poets and writers I found boring and dull years ago.

            In today’s society, our paraphrasing does have a place. People do not seem to have the sense of humor that I recall they had when I was younger. Are our problems all so insurmountable that we can’t find a bit of humor in things that on the surface look terrible?  “Oh my gawd, if I see another flake of snow, I’m going to hit someone with a shovel.” I heard it; I actually heard someone say that. Hey, welcome to New England. It’s winter; it snows; get over it. Okay, so maybe we’ve already set a new snowfall record. What’s the big deal?

            Recently, the Golden Globe Awards were presented; then came the “Razzies” – the antithesis of the Oscars – and next it will be the Academy Awards. In the true spirit of this awards season, yours truly has decided to give the “Snowies” for those who have kept their sense of humor during the trying period of snowstorm after blizzard after snowstorm. The first of these, in the category of Best Homeowner Sense of Humor has to go to the residents of one house on Prospect Street in Norwood. There, perched high on a snowbank, about eight feet off the ground, sits a beach chair, a boogie board, and a beach umbrella neatly arranged and ready for occupancy. When I saw it, I damn near drove off the road. Of course, I damn near did something else, but this is a family newspaper. It’s priceless; it puts things in perspective. After all, it’s less than five months to summer.

            Other “Snowey” awards have to be given to mailmen and women, to oil delivery people, to snowplow drivers, and to EMTs. “Neither snow nor rain not heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” is something we’ve often heard about mail carriers. Usually it’s when we’re complaining that the mail is late or something we were expecting didn’t arrive, and the quote is delivered in less than complimentary terms. Our mail hasn’t faltered during this winter period. I’ve seen Shaun, our mailman go through snow that was up to his knees to deliver mail to someone who hadn’t shoveled a path for him. He’s always smiling; it makes you want to smile right back. To Shaun and his fellow carriers, a well deserved “Snowey.”

            If your house has stayed warm and you heat by oil, thank those people in the trucks that have lugged their hoses around to the side of the house to fill your tank. Ever gone to the front door and yelled, “Thanks,” or offered them a cup of coffee. If they didn’t have a sense of humor, they’d never attempt some of those streets, let alone some of the driveways. To each one of them goes a “Snowey.”

            Without the snowplow drivers, we couldn’t get to work. Oh sure, they plow in the end of the driveway just after you’ve shoveled – hey, that’s part of their sense of humor. What other enjoyment can they derive from a job that keeps them up 24, 48, or 72 hours at a stretch? Money, you say? I’ve talked with several of these people. The money’s nice but many would trade some of it for a few hours of sleep. If they didn’t have a sense of humor, you’d probably see that illegally park car with blade marks on its side rather than snow piled up around it. “Snowies” for all.

            Last, but by no means least, is the award for the EMTs, those crazy people who venture out in weather fit only for mad dogs and Englishmen. In the middle of this most recent blizzard, they managed to get a couple to Falmouth Hospital in time for the birth to take place in a room, not on a road. When interviewed, one of them described it as “fun.” Now that’s a genuine sense of humor.

            You have your own “Snowies” to give out. The next time you see someone deserving of one, I hope you’ll take the time to thank them. Remember, it’s their sense of determination as well as their sense of humor that gets us all through the dark days of New England winters.

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There has to be a special place in Hell for all heads of state; that’s right, all national leaders and, in all probability, all politicians. As I look back through history, I cannot find a single American President who went into the arena for purely altruistic reasons. The same appears to be true for the leaders of many other countries. It appears that the part of their DNA that would have led them to be guilty of only attempting to help their fellow man is missing. Since I freely admit that I have not researched each and every leader from each and every country from time immemorial, I will accept the criticism that my research may be a bit flawed. When I mentioned to someone, how horrible the leaders of nations seem to have been , she said, “Yeah, all the way back to Caligula.” I really don’t wish to take it back quite that distant; heck, that might make a fine doctoral dissertation, but in all probability, some pre-political potentate has already done that, if for no other reason than to prove that he or she doesn’t fit the mold. We all know about the really ‘bad’ guys in history…Nero, Herod, Mussolini, Hitler, Ghengis Khan, the Khymer Rouge, Pol Pot, and myriad others who could be named, but I’m talking about leaders in our own country.

Back to our earliest days, we can note scandalous and selfish behavior on the part of our nation’s leaders. Washington was a land grabber who, if truth be told, achieved much of his fame through the deaths of those close to him. John Adams was just an obnoxious son-of-a-bitch who appears to have been universally disliked by all who knew him. Thomas Jefferson, on the other hand, while maintaining an outward cordiality, was also responsible for nearly brining young America to its economic knees through some of his decisions. The list could go on and on. Many have been philandering cheaters and before you begin chastising Bill Clinton and Jack Kennedy for their swordsmanship, you might want to look back at Jefferson who had a child with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves; at Warren Harding who also fathered an illegitimate child; at Andrew Jackson who married before the lady’s divorce had become final; at Grover Cleveland who also fathered a child out of wedlock; at Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who some believe died in the arms of his mistress, or; at Dwight Eisenhower. ‘Saint Dwight,’ as some called him, wasn’t quite so pure when WWII was in progress as his jeep driver Kay Summersby could attest.

Sexual dalliances aren’t the only folly or foibles of America’s leaders, however, and many an average Joe might be thinking, “See, when you’re President, everything is easy come, easy go!” Ouch, that was bad. But to go on…Ulysses Grant’s administration was plagued by scandal. An attempt to corner the gold market, government officials receiving railroad stocks at huge discounts, and the infamous Whiskey Ring scandal in which it was discovered that many government officials were pocketing the taxes on whiskey. Grant moved quickly to punish the offenders but backed off when his own secretary was found to be involved. Warren Harding’s administration was struck by so many scandals it’s difficult to isolate just one. Perhaps the Teapot Dome scandal is the best known. Harding’s Secretary of the Interior. Albert Fall, was caught selling oil rights in Teapot Dome, Wyoming and other areas in exchange for cattle and other considerations. Suffice it to say that Albert Fall became Albert “Fell” when the whole thing was over.

One of the most notable scandals occurred during the second term of Richard Nixon, when five men broke into Democratic National Headquarters and later into the offices of psychiatrist Daniel Ellsberg who had published the Pentagon Papers. Certain that impeachment proceedings were moving along rapidly, Nixon resigned in August 1974. The Watergate Scandal, as the whole affair came to be known, may have caused the downfall of Richard Nixon; however, his remarkable political acumen was demonstrated later in his life when he developed trade relations between the US and China as well as lessening tensions between the two nations.

It would appear, at least to me, that after Watergate, scandals went underground. Oh, sure, there was the Iran-Contra controversy during the Reagan and Bush I years; that was about as bothersome as a mosquito on an elephant’s ass. In addition, a simple blowjob by a White House intern drove Bill Clinton’s ratings down to the point where if one mentions that Clinton was able to balance the budget and leave a surplus, the first thing the Republicans say is, “Yeah, but he got a blow job in the White House.” My reaction to that is, “What, you wanted him to get it on the South Lawn?” I’m quite certain that is not the first, nor will it be the last oral sex union at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In my mind, the most scandalous behavior of any President belongs to George W. Bush. To the best of my knowledge, George W. Bush is the only American President to lead us into war with blatant, outright lies. Claiming that Iraq held “weapons of mass destruction” that could be launched on the US at any time was such a fabrication that in hindsight we probably should have seen it for what it was. Saying that our search for the mastermind of the World Trade Center disaster was through Iraq or that we almost had him at Tora Bora was another bald face lie. During his term in office, Bush exercised the States Secret Privilege to prevent disclosure of the torture of prisoners and other violations of the Geneva Convention. With the amount of scandal that was exposed almost weekly during the eight years of the Bush Administration, it is beyond my understanding as to why he was not impeached. Of course, that would have meant Richard Cheney as President and surely World War III would have become a distinct possibility.

Now we have a new President. He took office in January 2009. Since that time, his skeptics have accused him of everything from not being a citizen of this country to being a covert terrorist for Muslim jihadists to being a pawn of some secret order that wishes to enslave the United States. He is a Black American who could carry only the 18-29 white voters in this country. Over the age of 30, White America didn’t want him in office; they preferred a 74-year old United States Senator, known to be temperamental and vindictive, along with a head case from Alaska who was only a heartbeat away from becoming the first woman to run the country.

I feel badly for out new President. In typical American fashion, we want him to instantly fix all of the problems created over eight years by the previous administration. When he can’t do it after one year in office, we want him out. We have become a nation of spoiled brats. Our country and our world have become so complex that the time will soon come when if a major problem such as a failing economy cannot be fixed overnight, our President will be removed from office by a special vote of Congress or, as I like to refer to them, “The village idiots that time forgot.”

This nation is in trouble. Yes, we would all like to eliminate government from our daily lives to the greatest extent possible. However, when small government created the disaster that it did between 2000 and 2008, it is time for big government to step in and make things right. I expect that Barack Obama will be a one-term President; that he will not be allowed to do the good of which he is capable. I also expect that when he is defeated, we will see racial divide in this country such as we have never seen before. I’m quite happy that I won’t be around to see the final consequences of American stupidity, both in allowing partisan politics to become so powerful, and to see racism raise its ugly head once more in the country that I love.

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