Archive for November, 2011

It’s just another example of Congress not understanding what should be done to help grow the American economy in a manner that will actually mean something. It’s also indicative of a group of genuine idiots who don’t actually know what they are doing. Lifting the ban on horse slaughtering, butchering, or whatever you wish to call it touches the lives of so few people that it is insulting to recognize that someone actually tried to make a news story out of it.

“Oh, but we’ll be sending most of it to other countries,” they say. “And?” What the hell is that supposed to mean? Is it that other countries are wiser than we are and know how to prepare horsemeat for public consumption? If it’s so damned good for other countries, why don’t we want to sell it to our own people? Is it that the beef lobby wouldn’t allow it? This isn’t about raising the ban on preparing horsemeat for public consumption. It’s a bunch of horseshit being shoveled down the throats of the American people by a Congress that does not know what it is doing.

“Do-nothing-Congress,” you called it, Mr. President? Is that what you said? Then, I would contend, sir, that you don’t have a clue about this Congressional group of fools. They actually believe that by passing bills that have nothing to do with putting vast numbers of Americans back to work, they can scam the public into believing they are actually working. Look out; next stop will be lifting a ban on beaver hunting so that we can put more trappers back to work. Wait a minute, how many people actually know how to trap, skin, and cure pelts for distribution?

I will grant that slaughtering horses for some good reason is not a bad thing. Making intelligent use of carcasses of old animals is probably something we should have been looking at for years. However, if they are old enough for the glue factory, it’s going to be rather difficult to make them sufficiently palatable for the table. I think even Gordon Ramsay might back away from this one. We have horse hair furniture stuffing; the hides and bones are, I’m quite certain used for other purposes. Now we’re talking about what to do with the remainder/ There must already be some kind of recycling plant that can make use of the meat…perhaps turning it into containers; not certain I’d like to receive the package, but what the hell; if you can get the stench out it would be great.

This isn’t about horse meat. It isn’t about any of the simple stuff that Congress is doing before the Holidays. Congressmen will tell you they are working hard. Congressmen and women lie. They are politicians; they not only lie from birth; they perfect the art when they arrive in the halls of Congress. Do something? They can’t or won’t find a way to reduce the national debt. They can’t or won’t find a way to pass a jobs bill to put America back to work. They can’t or won’t examine some kind of equality in taxation procedures in the country. They have a health care bill that is not perfect, but rather than attempt to strengthen it, they merely want to eradicate it. Seven previous Presidents attempted to get some kind of health care passed. This one did…and now people on both sides of the aisle are pissed.

Congress is governed by their own concept of the golden rule. In the case of our elected leaders, it’s whoever can pay them the most gold is allowed to tell them what rules to pass.  As an American, I’m embarrassed to believe that the vassals are now running the fiefdom. These people don’t know what is good for this country. They know perfectly well what is good for them, but you and I, they could not care less about our welfare. This may well go down as the very worst Congressional Delegation ever to represent the Legislative Branch of Government in the United States of America.

As a consequence of all of my ranting and raving Mr., Mrs., Ms., and young Masters in Congress, here is an idea that I’d like you to try. In order to do this – and this will be a bitch – you will have to forget all of the problems that directly affect the State or particular country or parish you represent. If we’re clear on that, we can begin:

Step One…Take one piece of 8 ½ by 11” sheet of lined paper. Unless I’m mistaken there should be between 25 – 30 lines on the page. You have one hour – and no talking or consulting please – to list the 25 to 30 most severe problems confronting the United States of America today.  In theory, there will be some commonality among the problems identified. Some of you will have forgotten that I told you to leave your state out of the equation. That’s okay; you just acted like any normal kindergartner. I would now like the leaders of the House and of the Senate to…no, let their staffs do it; it will be faster, list the 25 to 30 problems facing the country as submitted by the members of Congress. This becomes your first basic working document. A copy of this list will then be submitted back to each member of the House and Senate. Each Congressman and Senator will now rank these problems in the order they believe Congress should attack them. Back to the staffs who now reorder the priorities of Congress.

Step Two…The final document that is returned to you children will become your working paper. Sorry, no “takesy-backsy” and no “do-overs.” You have selected, by consensus – something unusual in the halls of Congress –  what the top problem is on your agenda. As stated, is the first problem free of causes and solutions. Are we certain this is a problem and not a symptom? Will we all be able to tell when this problem is solved? Are we approaching this too broadly or too narrowly? Is this the right group to work on the problem, or should we pass the buck as we usually do and blame the “other” side? Let me tell you something…you put the problem in front of yourselves and you can’t cop out now, you bunch of cowards…oops, probably shouldn’t have said that last part.

Step Three…You now have one month to analyze this problem that you have named as the country’s number one problem. Yes, it is enough time; I don’t wish to hear differently. If you cannot analyze this problem within the allotted time, you don’t deserve to be in the office you currently hold. You are free to consult with your fellow Congresspersons at this time. However, if you do nothing but come up with ways to stall the solution to the problem, you will be ejected from continued participation. This is a positive group with every intention of finding a positive solution. Here are a couple of questions for you while you are analyzing the problem; have you isolated key causes with data to support them? Have a sufficient variety of analytical tools been used to ensure all aspects of the problem were assessed?  Finally, and this is key, ask yourself and those around you, “Why” five times. Did the cause and effect relationship hold up? If you’ve done your job properly, it should have.

Step Four…This is where you people always fall apart. You all fall on the partisan sword at this point and declare yourselves martyrs. Well, it’s too late; no more falling on swords. Everyone is to offer potential solutions to the problem at hand. Solutions are not why something can’t be done; that’s why they are called solutions. They are also intelligent and well thought out. They are something that will promote discussion, not argument. They are a jumping off point from which consensus can definitely be reached. We are looking for a large number of potential solutions and we are looking for everyone to participate. In addition, we want full understanding of the listed solutions by everyone in Congress.

Let me pause for a moment here and tell you that (a) you will never get Congress to agree on the most significant problem facing the country…never, not once. This is why we have Congressional Committees. For this reason, we are using consensus as the measure of what must be faced first. Problem one might actually be attacked by as few as 25 members of Congress. Another group may be working on what was identified as problem two, etc, etc. However, the first problem group will always have priority when it comes floor discussion.

Step Five…Select, plan, and pass the solution to the problem. Oh, crap, here we go. Why, why do we have to go anywhere? If the first four steps have been followed precisely, there should be absolutely no reason why a bill cannot be drafted and passed. I can guarantee you that it will never be perfect. Nothing ever is perfect, but it’s a beginning. If the work of the committee has been adequately done, the only ones who will carp are those who were not on the committee and now we’re back to the same old nonsense. It’s time to give that up; it’s time to grow up; it’s time to act like men and women who are truly interested in solving the nation’s problems…no more thinking locally; no more thinking in a partisan fashion; no more thinking what your local lobbyists are telling you to think; think for America. It’s why we sent you to Washington.

Steps Six and Seven…These are reasonably simple. You implement the solution and evaluate its success. Will some people (like me) call you fools? Of course they will. Remember what President Lincoln told us many years ago. “You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time. But you can never please all of the people all of the time.” That’s why we have discussion. Unfortunately, Congress has passed the discussion stage and has moved backward to the fight and argue stage. Get over yourselves boys and girls; you can be replaced.

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Something has to change in Division 1 collegiate athletics. This has been the most horrific year that I can remember. Before the football season even began Ohio State asks their head coach, Jim Tressel, to  step down for lying and covering up a scandal involving several of his players. Further investigation showed (a) that the Ohio State problems dated back to 2002, the second year of Tressel’s tenure, and (b) that this was not his first brush with the NCAA; he had also been in trouble at Youngstown State for recruiting violations. For someone who has written a couple of books on faith and integrity, Jim Tressel sounds like he can talk the talk even if he cannot walk the walk. True, Tressel’s issues were much more subtle than Woody Hayes’ slapping of an opposing player which caused his demise, but my question is, “Why does the NCAA sit on its collective brains while this type of violation goes on for nine years?”

Suspensions at LSU, Mississippi State, UCLA, Georgia, Arizona, Miami, and, well, you get the picture. Name a D-1 football program, and if you look under a few rocks, you will – not “you may” – you will find scandal. Whether it’s recruiting violations by assistant coaches with the full knowledge of the head coach and the athletic director; payments to players under the table by fanatical alumni; or not bothering with the “student” part of student/athlete, Division One football needs a good, old-fashion enema.

To touch on the sex scandal at Pennsylvania State University would be beating a dead horse. Suffice it to say that I’m now disappointed in Joe Paterno, one of my favorite coaches who will remain a favorite forever. On the other hand, I don’t believe Mike McQueary is quite as pure as he would have everyone believe. Hopefully, the full investigation will result in more firings in the athletics department as well as in the school’s administrative hierarchy.

Since college football season still has better than a month to go, I’m certain that we’ll see and hear more scandal from more schools. It’s about time that college administrators, particularly college and university president forget about winning teams pouring more money into the coffers and became a little more concerned about whether or not they are merely using slave labor to build their endowments. Not all of these kids will go on to “play at the next level” as it is so poetically put by sportscasters and their ilk. However, you can bet your sweet ass that by the time these same players hit 40, they’ll be receiving regular cortisone injections just to enable them to walk…not something they tell you when you’re being recruited, is it kids?

Like football, college basketball is a major revenue-producer for both the NCAA and the college and university D-1 schools. Forget the fact that the Black athletes’ graduation rate is only 56 percent. Forget the fact that there are many of these athletes who are told not to worry about going to class, that “things will be taken care of….” Forget the fact that some of these kids who do graduate can’t actually read every word on their degree.

What it comes down to in the long run is one thing…money. Money from television revenues; money from alumni when the teams are winning and no money when the team has a losing season; this is what drives Division One collegiate athletic programs. The NCAA appears to be getting better at catching violations, but my bet is that they haven’t even scraped the top layer of dirt away from the pile of manure that lies beneath. In addition, they should be careful because too much investigation will undoubtedly reveal that they don’t have the cleanest skirts in the world.

Perhaps the dirtiest part of this entire scandal-plagued collegiate athletics situation is that the real losers are the kids. The young men and now, more and more, young women are the ones who suffer in the long run. My son was recruited by West Virginia University among others. We were told by a ‘counselor’ in the athletics department that Rick couldn’t pursue a program in physical therapy, “Because they have some labs that would interfere with practice.” Suffice it to say, we didn’t take the campus tour and should probably have been stopped for speeding as we left Morgantown. It would really be interesting to follow the careers of some of these “student/athletes” who don’t go on to play professional sports. When the spotlight stops shining, what next?

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Television sets have many uses. Depending on size and placement, they a great spot for setting up a few Christmas decorations, but make certain they don’t melt…just kidding. On a more serious note, television, when turned on, can be highly educational. It can be a source inspiration, particularly if you’re into those exercise programs designed to cripple on kill you on your first attempt. It’s entertainment value in terms of the various dramatic programs that are offered…from Masterpiece Theatre to The Tudors to Burn Notice…something for everyone.

One of my favorite parts of television is the ads. I’ve written about this on several occasions, but just when I begin to believe there is nothing new under the sun, someone on Madison Avenue or wherever the new home of advertising gurus is today comes along and slings forth more fodder. I figure that the new Honda spokesman got his job because of his role in Men in Black II, and the white-haired wonder for Toyota was brought back because nothing else was working. The entire campaign for Chrysler and the “imported from Detroit” theme seems to be an attempt to appeal to the dark side of human nature, but then, I have never been that closely allied with how the advertising executives think…or in some cases, don’t.

The ads that I find most concerning are those that deal with one’s perception of how one appears to others. My initial reaction is, “Why do you care?” We are what we are. I suppose that if men believe going bald makes them look less appealing or attractive to women, then that is what they are free to believe. To me, it shows a remarkable lack of self-esteem. We are what we are guys; live with it. I began to go bald when I was in my forties. If I looked in the mirror, I never even noticed it. One day my late wife told me that I was beginning to look like a monk. You have a tonsure on the back of your head. Since it happened to be where I couldn’t see it, my only concern was that I didn’t try one of those idiotic combovers that scream “I’m both stupid and vain!” After my wife died of cancer, I decided to honor her memory by keeping my head completely shaved. Did I have much hair left? Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. The tonsure wasn’t much bigger, but I had a pretty decent flock of locks. I will die with a shaved head.

If you gentlemen studs even begin to contemplate the idea of having abs that look like those of the models on television, “fugedaboudit!” Those are professional models, both men and women whose sole job is to exercise ten hours or more a day in order to look like that for their job – yes, it’s a job – they hold advertising various fitness equipment. If you don’t believe me, go to your local gym. Perhaps one out of a hundred men or women you see will have abdominal muscles that come close to looking like those professional models. I don’t wish to brag, but my abs look exactly like those on the ads; however, since I don’t wish to show off my six-pack, I’ve decided to cover them with a keg…it’s a protective covering just so women will stay away; after all, I’m taken.

When you see one of these specialty pieces of exercise equipment that “guarantees” weight loss and will make you look better, you have to remember one other thing. It’s a word that’s used sparingly, if at all, in these ads. That word is ‘diet.’ No matter how much you exercise using this remarkable weight loss machine, you won’t lose weight unless you eat correctly. If you crave potato chips and chocolate bars; if you’re a snacker; if you cannot stay away from ice cream – my own personal nemeses – it won’t matter how hard you work out. The weight will remain. Suggestion is to drink more water; at least, that seems to work for me. Oh, sure, I still have a dish of ice cream at night; it’s something I choose to do. But one dish of ice cream at night is a little different from killing a couple of pints over the course of a day!

Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more ads for this wrinkle cream or that injection to remove wrinkles from women’s faces. I just don’t understand it. If you’re trying to be a cougar or impress the one you love, why do you feel it’s so important to have the face of a 20-year old? We all age. Wrinkles, believe it or not, can be sexy and attractive. They’re signs of maturity, even thoughtfulness and wisdom. If you still have a few zits or psoriasis, sure, I can see talking to your doctor about getting some medications, but these products advertised at two-thirty in the morning by this paid spokesman or that will probably not cure your perceived problem and merely take money out of your pocketbook.

“This product not available in stores” is the cliché I love. Can’t find it anywhere, eh? Just go to your local Walmart or Walgreens. You’ll find it in their “as seen on TV section.” It’s hilarious. I love this rubberized sealant that they’re pushing these days. To prove its effectiveness, they show the pitchman using a canoe paddle to row around in a boat that has a screen door for a bottom. The door has been covered by the sealant to prove just how effective it is in repelling water. In an ideal world, the guy would be in deeper water when a scuba diver opens the door from under the boat…yep, that’s me; one sick puppy!

Are all of these ads scams that just attempt to grab your hard-earned cash? No, while many of the ads may be smarmy, a number of the products are quite good. I purchased one of those twisty-turny pillows they advertise when my friend was flying to California. She thought it was great and easily fell asleep using it. When we had to move a large sectional couch, we purchased some of the furniture moving pads and they worked terrifically.  I’m certain that there are other fine products…they just don’t have to sell them like a bunch of carnie pitch men.

“So, what’s the point?” you ask. Well, there are several. First, you are what you are and no amount of hair restorer, wrinkle cream, or exercise equipment is going to change that. Can we keep ourselves from aging too quickly, whatever the hell that means. Certainly; the answer is regular exercise and diet. In that way, we’ll age as we’re supposed to and not have to worry about some charlatan on television telling us we can do it with miracles.

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What did we expect? Did anyone in his or her right mind expect that this “super committee” of bipartisan senators and representatives…believe that the committee could possibly be successful? It was impossible. Obama knew it. Members of Congress knew it. Economics think tankers weren’t even taking bets or conducting office pools.

This super committee was charged with issuing a recommendation by November 23, 2011 for at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction steps to be undertaken over a ten‐year period. The problem is that the committee was evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Right there you have the perfect recipe for failure. At some point, this committee was going to talk about entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. In truth, Social Security is not an entitlement; it is an investment that has been made by working men and women since August 15, 1935. The fact that the government of both Democrats and Republicans has not managed the fund correctly is not my problem; it is the problem of the Social Security Administration and the United States Government. Democrats say they are willing to look at a revision of Social Security to help reduce the debt; the same goes for Medicare, a health insurance program designed to help those over 65 and some younger groups. “We’ll be willing to look at them.” What they say is merely political rhetoric. In reality, they don’t want to touch these programs. So…here we are at roadblock number one.

At some point in the super committee discussions, the question of taxes will dome up. The Democrats want to raise the taxes for the richest two percent of the population. This is an area that is not up for discussion on the Republican agenda. There are a few billionaires who agree with the Democrats but there are many more who agree with the Republican point of view.

According to About.com, “In 2001, President George Bush enacted a tax cut known as the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. It was enacted to stimulate the economy during the 2001 recession. It saved taxpayers, and increased the debt, by $1.35 trillion over a 10-year period. The Urban Institute said the tax cuts benefited families with children, and those with incomes over $200,000, the most. Little did the originators know that this stimulus would end when the economy was still struggling to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

So in comes this Senator from Illinois who hasn’t really seen what Washington is all about during his brief time in the back-stabbing capitol of the world. He believes that he can bring consensus among the two political parties that are at each others’ throats. However, at this particular time, the animosity is so great that even the congressional lavatories have stalls and urinals designated Republicans and Democrats. The Democrats piss on the Republicans and the Republicans shit on the Democrats. Never, in the history of politics in the United States has there been greater polarization. There is not a soul in Congress who remembers who elected them to their positions. People might as well have walked about with a scarlet brand on their foreheads depicting their party of choice. It’s Whigs and Tories all over again, but at a 21st Century level and pace.

This particular President has been doomed to failure from the very outset. Yes, he was able to ramrod a health care bill through Congress. Thank God he did it so early in his administration.

I’m trying very hard to be bipartisan in this debate about deficit reduction. That, too, is nearly impossible. Between the debt that came out of the Reagan administration and the debt that came out of Bush II’s time at 1600, it seems to me that today’s Republicans are embarrassed to the point that all they really want to do is shut down the political process in Washington. I don’t know how else to look at it. One cannot say that they – John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and company – are being flexible in any way, shape, or manner. They use the word, “Flexible” a great deal and they call Obama inflexible. From what I see and hear, the exact opposite is true. The Tea Party is not a part of the Democratic Party; they are somewhat with the Republicans, and they are totally unbending when it comes to the incumbent administration. They have two goals: (1) Make Obama a one-term President, and; (2) Do not allow any legislation to pass that will create jobs or appear to be a victory for Obama. “Don’t let him win one,” is the cry of the new Republican Party leadership…and that’s not Boehner or McConnell.

So forget about any bipartisan super committees in Washington. I don’t care if they form one to agree on the brand of toilet paper to be used in the Senate bathrooms. It just won’t happen. It’s really rather sad that America has sunk so low in its choice of people to represent them in the Legislative Branch of our government. As Will Rogers said, “We have the best congress money can buy,” and bought they have been.

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I don’t like protests. They will always conjure up a picture in my mind that is ugly and served no purpose. The protest of which I’m speaking occurred in the late sixties. S.I. Hayakawa a semanticist and Professor of English at a California University, was scheduled to speak at Northeastern University in Boston. At that time, the Students for a Democratic Society were protesting everything. What they were really trying to do was to put a stop to the Vietnam War. For some reason they associated Hayakawa with the right wing and therefore decided to protest his presence. The quadrangle was filled with peaceful protesters. There were Boston Police Officers standing at the entry doors to the auditorium. From the back of the crowd came a brick. It struck one of the police officers square in the mouth, knocking out teeth and causing a great deal of visible blood. That was the beginning. The police called in a riot squad that had been standing by and all hell broke loose. Innocent people were knocked down and bloodied by an out-of-control police unit that was taking revenge for one of their own. It was as ugly a sight as one would ever care to witness. One of my colleagues was standing across the street, waiting for a subway when the police told him to move. He opened his mouth to speak and was immediately knocked to the ground by a baton across the back of the legs.

Did the police overreact? Yes, they did, but this was the sixties and they had little training in riot control. Was the crowd peaceful? Yes, until some rabble-rouser from the back of the crowd decided to “spice” things up a bit. It was the way many of these protests began and ended during the anti-Vietnam era. It is the way many of these “Occupy” protests have already ended today.

Protesting something, in and of itself, is not a bad idea. If we hadn’t protested against British rule, we’d all be bowing to the Queen today, and frankly, that would not have been a good thing. It seems that every protest begins with a somewhat decent idea. In today’s society, however, protests for the good soon become co-opted by those who wish to do nothing but create mayhem and to use the protest for personal riot and resentment. The Black Block in Oakland is a perfect example; everything seemed to be going well until this group of idiots decided to start a few fires, throw a few rocks, and generally raise hell as a subterfuge for other activities far more nefarious than protesting the greed of Wall Street.

This is why I don’t like protests. The organizers of the initial movement may very well be pure of intent and genuine in their desire to effect change. Then comes the fringe element who really don’t give two hoots in hell about protesting for a cause; they want to be part of the crowd because it will allow them to turn the crowd into a mob and mobs wind up doing things that are against the social mores of the protesters. However, once the instigators start the ball rolling and once the police react, the innocents are brought along for the ride. The heads that get busted are usually those of the innocent. The mob’s leaders have already slunk back into their sewers to wait until they can come out and cause more trouble.

The trouble with the Occupy Wall Street movement is that it doesn’t know what it wants. Sure, big business runs government. This is something on which we can all agree…well, everyone except those in Washington, and we know they aren’t going to admit that they have already been purchased by the big lobbies in D.C. This is one of those places where the Occupy movement made a mistake. They should have been occupying the halls of Congress. Remember, the Executive Branch of our government cannot do a damned thing without the approval of the Legislative Branch. It is that latter branch that is running the country. The President of the United States is now and has been for decades nothing more than a titular head of government. If you happen to be a consensus type of President, plan on a single term. If you’re a true hard-ass son-of-a-bitch or you hire people around you to be so, you will get reelected to a second term. The incumbent is a consensus type of President and I’m not certain he has any hired assassins around him who can “talk turkey” to influential members of the Legislative Branch.

I will give the members of the Tea Party credit. They saw that things had to change. They realized that rallies and protests were not the way to go. They built up war chests and went after weak incumbents from the other side of the aisle. While they failed to achieve a majority in the Senate, they gained control of the House of Representatives. In effect, approximately 60 people are governing the way in which the House of Representatives does or does not approve legislation. This, my Occupy friends, is where you have failed. You are typical liberals who believe that if you speak loudly enough and tell the truth, “the truth will set you free.” And nothing could be further from the truth.

The conservative right is secretly cheering the Occupy movement. They understand how things are done in the political arena. The left could learn a great deal by studying how the conservatives have wormed their way into controlling the government of the United States.

If the Occupy movement wants to accomplish their goals of placing people over profits, justice over self-interest and equality over oppression, their job is to put people in Congress who will represent their interests and who will act according to their principles. Occupiers, wake up. You have to draft a plan, describing in precise terms what you are seeking. Glittering generalities such as ‘profits,’ ‘oppression,’ and ‘justice’ are bullshit words. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you want companies to dedicate five percent of their profits to creating job centers or job training facilities or to some other good cause, be specific…and don’t tell them to donate to food pantries or some other such nonsense which will only cause more people to believe they can live off the dole.

If you wish to be specific in your plan to save America, tell me whose self-interest is being served and whose justice is being denied, and find people who wish to serve in Congress to right those wrongs. If you feel that people are being oppressed, tell me who and tell me how, and oh, by the way, tell my how and who is going to foot the bill to right all of these wrongs. I just love it when some of these public service employees bitch and wail about how they aren’t being paid enough or they don’t have enough benefits; they want all of these things, but they don’t want their taxes increased to pay for them. It’s a two-way street. If you’re going to tell me that you want something, tell me how it’s going to get funded. There are two sides to everything. Sure, the city would love to give you more benefits; now tell us where the money is coming from. Until you can do that, you haven’t completed your homework. And please, please, don’t tell me that “the rich,” whoever they are, can fund it. If someone happens to be rich, yes, they should pay their fair share to the state and to the government, but no, it should not be more than what their fair share is. If corporations are hiding money and therefore not paying their share of taxes, close that loophole. The same is true of individuals. The former middle class couldn’t hide their money; that’s why they are now the upper lower class.

It all comes down to how the job is to be done my dear occupier friends. I hate your protests. Stop them now. You are being infiltrated by those who care nothing for your cause and they will bring you down. Instead, find others who truly believe as you do. Find solid people who are willing to take up your cause in Washington. Go out and work (oh that nasty word) to fund their bid. Don’t sleep; don’t eat; don’t dream, until the person you believe will best represent your issues is elected to office. Then, if he or she doesn’t do the job, find another candidate and start all over again. You were complacent to the point where you had to be slapped in the face with what is wrong. Now, get your ass in gear, not in protest, but quietly and effectively to change what you find unforgiveable.

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It’s an interesting topic and one that has been posed by WordPress. If you were to go back and change something about your education, wouldn’t you first have to return to your childhood and change something about yourself? “Oh, if I only knew then what I know now,” doesn’t really hold water, because how would it be possible for you to know then. My god, can you imagine a 15-year old knowing what 30-35 year olds know. To quote a friend of mine, “That would be so wrong on just so many levels!”

Given the fact that I am being allowed to make changes in me in order to change the one thing in my education, perhaps the first thing I would change is the manner in which I would regard my eduction. Dad left school in the ninth grade. His family was rich and he could do that. No one ever said that the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed would wipe out that wealth completely. Mother left school in the sixth grade. I don’t really know if her folks completed high school. It just wasn’t as important back in the latter part of 19th Century as it has been for the past several decades.

My parents pushed hard for us to get a good education; to stay in school, and to soak up everything we could. They recognized the importance of being educated to one’s fullest potential. The interesting thing is that the “push” was never all that overt; it was just there. Going to college was a luxury. I don’t even know how many of my own class received a college education; I know for a fact that it wasn’t anywhere near 100 percent. Today, things have changed drastically. Today, you not only “have to go to college” (which is pure unadulterated bullshit), but you have to go to the “right” college. Not only that, but you should probably get a master’s degree. In certain fields, you won’t get anywhere (they say) unless you have a terminal degree.

The joke about education, at any level, is that it has nothing to do with the education itself and everything to do with the individual who is receiving the education. So many people have asked, “Is such-and-such a good school,” as though being in higher education qualified me as some kind of expert (‘x’ being an unknown quantity and spurt being a drip under pressure). There are very few, if any, bad colleges or universities. I went to a commuter university in Boston. I could have received a much better education if I had applied myself. How does that reflect on the school? Whether or not a school is good or bad has nothing to do with the school and everything to do with the student. If you manage to get yourself into the school of your choice, what you receive for an education is still dependent on you. Will you go to every class or will you sleep in because you were out drinking the night before (using that false ID you got from your roommate)? Will you ask questions in class, go to the instructor’s office during his or her ‘hours’ and discuss or argue points made in class, or will you be out on the lawn playing frisbee and listening to your I-pod? Will you find people like you who want to suck every bit of knowledge from every faculty members’ brain or will you be a party animal who winds up on academic probation at the end of the first semester? Now imagine what it will be like if you don’t get into the school of your choice. Suppose you have to settle for a fall-back school. How will this affect your behavior…generally on your parents’ dollar? Think about it.

“Name the one thing you wish you could go back and change about your education” is wrong. It should be something like, “Name the one thing you wish you could change about you as it relates to your education.” Personally, I would love to change my seriousness of purpose. To this very day, I do not believe that high school graduates should be allowed to attend college immediately after graduation. Most of them are not ready. Unless they have a very, very clear view of what they wish to do, e.g., nursing, medicine, law or law enforcement, they don’t have a clue. I knew a young woman who wanted to go into nursing but fainted every time she saw blood…wrong career choice…big time! Some people choose their college based on where their friends are going or quality of the athletic programs. That’s stupid. Before you go back and change your education, give some thought to how you should be changing you. You’ll receive a much better education, and you’ll probably find it just a bit more palatable as you pay back those student loans.

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Are we, as a nation, so mentally unbalanced that we feel compelled to watch television news broadcasts? I know I’ve touched on this before in other blogs, but what has brought it home in a very powerful way has been the sex scandal at Penn State, the dismissal of a US gymnastics coach for sexual misconduct, a Presidential candidate alleged to have behaved in an inappropriate manner, and a couple more sex scandals within the Catholic Church. If you haven’t vomited all over your rug by now, let’s throw in – after we pause for these words from our sponsors – some great film of a mother being arrested for killing her own child…with luck, we’ll have at least two of those for the six o’clock news and more at eleven, and some occupy wherevers having the shit kicked out of them by local police. We may even show another teenager who killed him or herself because he or she was bullied.

Do you wonder why “news at 11” is beginning to fade? Now the evening news is being broadcast at ten or even nine. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that it’s because there have been several psychological studies done that conclude that watching news violence immediately prior to going to bed is not good for you. Yes, that’s right. These studies indicate that there is a causal relationship between news violence and ability to sleep. I’m not psychologist, but my partner has linked a few of her nightmares to what she was watching just before she came to bed. I’m always amazed by her ability to recall in great detail the dreams she had the night before.

According to one resource,” …most people over the age of 10 have 4-6 dreams per night.” Can you imagine having 4-6 dreams about what you saw on the evening news? I’d probably wake in the morning ready for a good day’s sleep!

Getting back to what we see on television…during the six hours and 47 minutes that the television is on each day in the average American home. Hey, don’t blame the figures on me; talk to the A.C. Nielsen Company. We watch a great deal of television. Just let a power outage take place and see how quickly “cabin fever” sets in among the family. Pick up a book? “It’s too dark to read”…got a candle? Play a game of cards? “Can’t find the old deck.” That’s right, because you play cards on your computer now and while the old Compaq, Dell, or whatever may have an internal battery, it’s a bitch to run when the power’s out.

We have become so dependent on television as our source for everything that too many have what might be called an addiction. I’m addicted to my computer; I am fully aware of that. However, when a power outage strikes, I don’t go bonkers. I have my Kindle, my battery-powered radio – it’s the way we used to get our news – and a deck of cards…playing strip poker in the dark is a great way to pass the time!

I truly wish there was a way in which the FCC or even the general public could say to television stations, “Balance your newscasts in such a way that we see good stuff as well as bad,” and have it heard and understood by the media. Sure, I know that sex sells; I know that violence and mayhem sell, but I’m with those people who believe that all of this sex and violence happens to be responsible for an increase in criminal activity. You see, I don’t believe the statistics that are put forth by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. As the old adage goes, “Figures don’t lie, but liars do know how to figure.”

Do I enjoy the violence of NCIS, Burn Notice, and some other violent shows? Yes, I do, and I do so knowing that the violence on those shows is staged and is ridiculous. If you get hit on the head with a chair, you’re going down. You’re not going to shake it off as some of our “heroes” do. If a building explodes and you’re within ten yards of it, you’re not going to get knocked to the ground and then get right up. Between shrapnel, be it wood, metal, or whatever, and the blast wave, you are down for a very long count. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand this. Therefore, I would offer this…believe absolutely nothing of what you see on anything that isn’t classified as “news” on your television, and believe only one-quarter to one-half of what you see that is classified as “news” on the tube. The talking heads read only what they’ve been given to read, and when they “take you to the scene,” don’t believe everything you hear.

Perhaps it’s the 77 years I’ve spent on this earth that makes my so cynical. Perhaps it’s because for nearly 40 of those years – until I retired – I had to deal with people from the media. The most important thing to any reporter is “the story.” For far too many of them, it’s, “Get the story at any cost!” That’s a horrible thing to say, but I’ve witnessed it on too many occasions. I really wish there was such a thing as balanced reporting in today’s media. Wait a minute! Maybe I’m the one who’s mentally unbalanced!

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