Archive for June, 2012

Am I the only one in America who believes that Karen Klein is not a victim? Am I the only one who believes that she could have gotten out of her seat, gone to the driver and said, “Turn this bus around and take us back to Athena Middle School?

There is no question that the four little idiots who verbally abused this lady had no right to do so. They should be taken out behind the wood shed and had their backsides warmed by a large, leather belt. Despite their apologies, these kids aren’t sorry for what they did; they’re sorry that they got caught. Bullies like these four youngsters are cowards. They demonstrated a mob mentality. If one of those kids was alone on a bus with Ms. Klein, he wouldn’t have opened his bloody mouth. In fact, he might have had a pleasant conversation with Ms. Klein. It wasn’t to be because mob mentality rules. How many others were on the bus who just sat there and said nothing? Are these kids known as bullies at the middle school? If not, why didn’t someone tell them to knock it off…including the driver who does have a rear view mirror.

Are we now to believe that there will be a spate of grandmotherly types who will get themselves bullied so that they can clean up?

Don’t get me wrong. I know what bullying is like. I was giving anti-bullying workshops to police departments before the subject even became popular. Nowadays, it’s the cool, hip, young, and trendy thing to do to have an anti-bullying program in place in the community. Has it done any good? Eh, the jury is still out on that one. Has it driven bullying underground? You bet your butt it has.

I have to say that I do not believe Ms Klein deserves either the money or the publicity that she has been getting. I was sickened to see the way in which she was treated in Boston recently. Of course, she can now afford to take trips and do things she was unable to do before her savior, Max Sidorov, came to her rescue. Max says he did it because he was bullied. Damn, Max, you should have had someone around to tape it and put it on YouTube, then you, too, could have become instantly rich and famous. And now the President of the United States is telling her that the money is tax free? What the hell is this world coming to? Who was doing the filming? Was it one of the four mini-Satan’s?

Ms. Klein is quoted as saying, “I almost feel like I don’t deserve it. They should be sending their donations to other people that have more problems than I do.” You’re right, Ms. Klein, that’s exactly what they should be doing! She also stated that she wouldn’t press charges against the boys. Of course not, because if you did, you wouldn’t be viewed with such sympathy. “Good, she’s gonna grind the little bastards in court.” Who knows, maybe she’ll still take the families to civil court. I’m not going to bet against it.

Doesn’t it make you wonder what other bus monitors think about something like this? Ms Klein wasn’t a victim. She allowed herself to become a victim. She had alternatives and she didn’t use them. But boy, did it make her a bundle!

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When her children were young, a friend of mine used to put them in harnesses before they went for a walk. The harnesses were each attached to a dog leash. She would receive dirty looks from people and one even had the audacity to say something. Rather than ignore the comment, my friend retorted, I love my children so much that they are allowed to choose the color of their leashes. Their safety is my primary concern, not how they might look to people like you.” Suffice it to say, the critic was stopped in her tracks.

From what I view on television and what I read in the newspapers, today’s parents don’t appear to be as concerned for their children’s safety. Strollers that roll off subway platforms while mother is looking out for her older children; cribs put so near to an open window that it’s little challenge to a semi-toddler to climb up, over, and through the window screen. What’s so amazing to me is how many of these open window stories don’t end up in death for the child. When a reporter says that the child suffered only minor injuries, I’m tempted to say, “Wait a while. If their little brains took a two-story bump, they most definitely are not “minor injuries. Just wait a few years before that conclusion is reached.”

I have great problems with people who live above the first floor and do not take greater care to keep their children from falling out of a window. If you can afford to have that 42” flat screen on the wall, don’t come bitching to me about how you can’t afford low-cost window guards to save your child’s life. A little common sense also helps. How about opening the windows from the top rather than the bottom? How about locking all windows when they are not open? Is it that you’re too lazy to flip the lock or is it, perhaps, that you just don’t think? Every mother knows that taking care of children is a 24-hour a day job. It’s time-consuming and painful; it’s exhausting and maddening; it’s glory and it’s pride. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child. It takes caring parents who understand all of the potential risks that can befall their child. Yes, single mothers have it tougher; that does not excuse them from taking every precaution to protect their child.

With all of the predator stories that we see and read, it’s astonishing to hear that mother or nanny was busy talking when someone stole a child from a local playground. This is also something that I’ve seen regularly at two public playgrounds in my own area – no, I’m not on the hunt, if that’s what you’re thinking. I believe this is what probably happens: Two friends agree to meet and take their children to the local ‘playground.’ While the kids are off playing, the mothers begin chatting about this and that; their eyes are still firmly glued to their kids and the slides, swings, and jungle gyms on which the children are playing. A third friend sees the first two mothers and the conversations become more animated. Everything has been fine for over half an hour; the mothers begin to glance at their children occasionally; they become complacent and….wham, their child is gone. “It can’t happen like that,” you say. Go read some police reports…”I just turned my head for a minute and she was gone.” That may be true; it may not be true. What seems like a minute might have been five, or ten, or whatever. It there was a predator in that area and he or she was hunting, that predator can strike like a rattlesnake and be gone in a flash.  I’m sorry but we live in a modern society, and it has a whole bunch of whackos.

There is an Erma Bombeck quote that sums up things pretty well: “”I see children as kites. You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless. They crash . . . you add a longer tail . . . you patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly.” If you’ve done your job correctly, that day will come when they do learn to fly. The string you hold as you watch them fly higher and higher will someday break. You can only hope that you have done your job so well that they will keep coming back over and over again. It’s only the love that you give that will allow them to return and return that same love to you. For now, however, while they are still so innocent, your love and your protection must be as one. Not giving in may make you seem mean to the kids now, but as they grow, they will understand that what you did was merely help them to have a life. Good luck.

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… I miss my mind the most.” So many writers and lyricists have used that quotation that poor old Sam Clemens must be spinning in his grave. That’s right, it was Mark Twain who gave birth to this quotation. Hell, for all I know it could have been Judas. That would certainly piss off a lot of Christians. “Hey, I didn’t know what I was doing; I lost my mind for a moment there; next thing I knew I had thirty pieces of silver in my purse!” Ooh, that’s really harsh.

It doesn’t matter to me who said it; I’m beginning to live it. I kid thee not. I’ve reached the point in my life when I can take the United Negro College Fund slogan a couple of ways. Their campaign went, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” There are times when, knowing that I’ve lost my mind, I wonder if I really just let it go to waste. Then I take a look at my mid-section, and I realize that a waist has, as least in my case a terrible thing to mind.

In all seriousness, I am just realizing that I actually came all the way down the hall to go to the bathroom; wound up checking my e-mail – of which there was none, and then began to write. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the bathroom now before an accident occurs.

Do, do, dee, do, do, do….

Oh, okay, I’m back now. Let’s see….oh, yeah, okay…Mark Twain…United Negro College Fund…Oh, that’s right, my mind. I really am getting old. When I got up this morning, I was going to the gym. I fed the dog, went out with her while she did her duty, sat down in a soaking wet chair and suddenly remembered that we had a bitch of a thunderstorm yesterday afternoon and evening…how the hell do you forget that? After we came back into the house, I took a look at the kitchen table and noticed that I hadn’t taken my morning pills…I wonder if tying a string to my finger would remind me to take them each morning, but then I think of the noon and night pills and figure, “Screw it, I’ll see them sometime and the fact that the pill container will still be full will remind me to take them.” Someone puts them on the kitchen table after dinner each evening. I’m assuming that it’s me, but who the hell knows.

So, the dog has been fed, gone out to do her duty, I’ve taken my pills, started to write, remembered the bathroom and have no clue as to why I’m back at the computer. Guess I should go back to the family room and try to figure out what’s next…

 …Time to watch the morning news. As I relax and toss my legs up onto the coffee table I notice a black stocking rolled down on my right leg. Oh, right, that’s the under cover for my leg brace. Ah, now I remember; I was going to the gym. Well, maybe that’s why my sneakers that were beside my bed when I got up this morning are now in the kitchen…that makes a lot of sense. Wait; what’s that? The Red Sox beat the Braves; I listen to that story for a couple of minutes but something is nagging at my ‘mind;’ oh, that’s right; I have to go to the bathroom…again. Getting old is a bitch; your kidneys seem to filter more and your bladder gets smaller!

Coming back from the bathroom, I notice that the light is on in the room in which my computer is located…Juli’s not up. Was I in there; must have…oh, yeah, the Thesaurus is on the desk. I must have been looking for something. I hear the television going in the family room, I turn out the lights in the ‘computer room,’ and head back down. You have to understand that the family room is off the kitchen. As I’m passing through, I notice my gym sneakers, again see the black stocking, and so it’s off to the gym.

Ooh, looks like I went to the gym without finishing this. Now that I’ve reread it, I guess…well, hell, I don’t know what I guess. Had a good workout at the gym but all the people with whom I usually work out had already gone. I didn’t think I was that late.

As I was saying, of all the things I’ve ever lost….????

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Generally speaking, once you past the age of 70, the bulk of appointments in your day-planner, Android, Ipad, smart phone, or whatever electronic device you may use begin with “Dr…..” Once you past 75 – hope ya make it, dude – You begin to add such things as “radiology, blood lab, GI lab, cardiology department” but, hopefully, not “chemo pr radiation.”  There is no humor in having a calendar filled with these appointments. It’s a bitch to get old. Everyone talks about the Golden Years; about the only thing that’s golden about these years is your pee, and it just means you should be drinking more water so you can obey one of the Boy Scout mottos, i.e., pee until it is clear and copious.

I’ve been to my local hospital so much that I wind up giving directions to people who appear lost. Doctors and nurses greet me by my first name when we meet in the hallway. It’s rather awkward if Juli is with me…she’s all over me like a cheap suit after we leave. It’s so bad that I can request a particular IV nurse by name. If Michelle isn’t on duty, I can go two deep on names. That, I believe is when you know you’re in trouble. I don’t believe it hurts but if I’ve had a good experience during one of the many surgeries I’ve had in the hospital, I will take a minute to write a letter to the hospital administrator, complimenting people by name that took care of me. Once, I was waiting to go down to surgery and a nurse glanced in as she was passing the room; she stopped, came back, and said, “You’re Mr. Bishop, right?” I acknowledged that I was, and she said, “Thank you for mentioning me in your letter. It made me feel good.” Hospitals like supermarkets and department stores and who-knows-what-else are always receiving letters of complaints. Few people take the time to compliment someone who went out of his or her way to help them.

All of the above being said let me tell you about my most recent visit to one of U.S. News & World Report’s 100 best communities. My first appointment was at one o’clock and the second at two. Because it was required that I “prepare” for the exam, I could not eat any solid after nine in the morning. The first test was a contrast angiography. A laboratory technician inserts a needle through which will be pumped a contrast dye. Unlike a regular angiogram in which a catheter is inserted through the femoral artery and x-rays are taken of the areas of concern, the angiography uses magnetic resonance imaging and no catheter is required (whew). After the third attempt – I kid you not – at sticking a needle in my tired old arms, success was finally achieved. Well, that’s not quite right; the sticker had used the wrong sized needle on the stickee. Therefore, it was back to await an infusion nurse…at somewhere around three-thirty. Being concerned about my second appointment for an echo cardiogram in another department, I had asked at about 1:30 that a call be made to say I’d be late. Having been assured that I would not be late, I asked again that the call be made; this was at two o’clock. This time, a lab tech said she would call. The tech called every half hour and when I left the radiology lab. I would call this a comedy of errors but for one thing; getting stuck by a large bore needle is not the same as getting stuck by a small bore needle…IT FREAKING HURTS!

My knowledge of the hospital came in very handy as I was about to leave. The lab tech directed me in a way that would have been so round about that I couldn’t possibly arrived at cardiology within an hour (Note: slight exaggeration…but not much!). Instead, I took a couple of shortcuts and was there in about seven minutes. Walking to the receptionist’s window, I merely said, “Hi, Judy; I’m home.” To say that I was whisked away in one hell of a hurry is something of an understatement. The test lasts about half an hour on a normal day. I think that I was in and out in about 35 minutes. I stopped by a couple of offices on the way out just to say, “Hi,” but the biggest problem was that I left the hospital at the height of commuter traffic.

To say that this was an unpleasant visit would be like saying that yes, it’s been warm in Boston for the past couple of days…master understatements, both. Will I write to the hospital to complain? No, probably not. To do so would be to cause problems for some people I’ve known for some time. Screw-up’s happen and this was a beaut! Had things gone perfectly, I wouldn’t have written. These were people trying to do their jobs and having a very, very bad day. It’s easy to write when it’s right, but if you write when it’s wrong, hold your letter for a couple of days and think about it.

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Kitsch has its niche with the rich, witch, and bitch and I’ll neither snitch nor twitch if you’ll show me your kitsch!

Merriam Webster says that kitsch is “something that appeals to popular or lowbrow taste and is often of poor quality.” The dictionary goes on to note it is a “tacky or lowbrow quality or condition.” Do you know what I say to Merriam Webster? Okay, I won’t say it; to do so would make me kitschy…or not. Wow, talk about vacillating…

Everything with which I grew up – during the thirties and forties – is considered ‘kitsch’ today by those who have to have the shiniest, brightest, newest, and most popular. The kicker is that what is considered kitschy today by ‘real’ people is considered the thing to own. I do not consider myself to be a populist or of lowbrow taste. Reality shows on television are about as kitschy as one can get, yet they are popular among a wide variety of people. Some folks even watch them from “Behind mansion walls.” When it comes to reality shows, however, I merely cannot stand the phoniness of them…oh be quiet; of course they’re fixed!

For the most part, I believe that kitsch should always be an ‘in’ thing. If you like it; if you enjoy it; if it makes you laugh so hard that tears run down your leg, own it and forget about this “lowbrow taste” or “poor quality” preposterousness. Granted, there are some kitschy offerings out there that are not for the faint of heart or those lacking in the reasoning of sentient beings, however, as a general rule more intelligent cohorts will prevail.

Having said all of this, I must admit that Juli and I are extremely fond of kitsch and there are times I can be as lowbrow as the next person. Let me give you an example or twenty. When we first saw that “As seen on TV’S”  “Magic Mesh keeps-the-bugs-out-but-you-can-walk-right-through-it” thingie on television, we laughed and noted in colorful terms what a piece of garbage it was…in all probability. Let’s put a big “Wrong” on that with an exclamation point at the end and a bitch-slap to the nonbelievers in the audience. As a joke, we picked one up at Walmart – another place many people won’t admit to frequenting – and tried it on the slider door to the Florida room…that’s a fancy-ass name for a sun or three-season room. The thing works like a charm. You walk through the magnet opening and listen to the “click-click-click” as the 18 magnets close the mesh behind you. It’s only been up for a day, but it allows for greater circulation into the kitchen. If there is a drawback, we haven’t yet been able to convince the dog that she can walk through the mesh…all things in good time. We might just stand on either side of the mesh and toss the dog back and forth a few times; she’ll get the message. (I can hear the screams now!) The Magic Mesh may be kitschy, but it works for us.

I now must consider which kitsch is next. I’m seriously considering Anthony Sullivan’s kitsch pitch for the knife sharpener that also works on credit cards. That way, whenever I pull out my Master Card, I could also be pulling out a deadly weapon. Take that. Steven Seagal! We have become such converts to some of these kitsch products that we recently went out and purchased the spray paint that will help our boat stay afloat. I’m not certain why we did that; we don’t have a boat, but what the heck; we’ll find a use for it somewhere.

If you still believe that we’re crazy, shame on you. You should have known that the very first time you dared read one of my rants! Juli and I look at it this way: We don’t drink; we don’t smoke; we don’t go to movies because they cost too damned much; we give money to charities to the extent we can. If we see an “As seen on TV” product that we believe will work, we may buy it. Are we going to buy diet pills that remove weight while you sleep? Are you nuts; we’re crazy, not stupid? Are we going to buy into diet programs that fail to mention the appropriate exercise program that must accompany it? No, we are not. There is a great deal bad advertising on television. I won’t honor it by calling it “kitschy;” it’s just plain bad. There’s also some interesting kitsch that you might wish to try. Join us in the lowbrow set; take a chance and see what fun can be…yeah, right.

As for me, I’ll take my kitsch which won’t get pitched in a ditch and for it I’ll find my own niche. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to pick up a dozen Ch, ch, ch, ch..Chiapets for my Christmas friends.

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I love polls. Of course, I also love Germans, Danes, Finns, and Czechs…especially Czechs.  Anyway, a recent Gallup poll noted that more people blame former President Bush for our economic troubles than those blaming President Obama. The percentage figures are interesting because it’s 68 percent blaming dear old George and 52 percent blaming “that whippersnapper” Obama.  When you think about it, there’s certain logic to the figures. After all, it took President Bush eight years to get us into this mess and it took President Obama one year to figure out just how badly things were screwed up; and another two to try and turn things around…oh, wait a minute, that’s three years; okay, I wasn’t a math major, but you get the point.

Something I do not understand is that if it took us eight years to get into this mess, why do we believe that Obama had a damned thing to do with it. Seems to me that he inherited a disaster and has, in a small way, I freely admit, has managed to turn things around. Yes, unemployment continued to rise under the first couple of years of his watch but things do appear to be improving. Yes, he did inherit two wars and managed to bring the troops home a bit later than he had promised, but he did bring them home. Oh, wait, that just adds, in many cases, to the unemployment rolls…do ya think he should have left the troops over there so the statistics would look more favorable? Personally, I think the guy would prefer to save lives and take the hit on the unemployment.

In a way, it’s too bad that the comparisons that are made are between George Bush and Barack Obama. The President of the United States may well have his own economic goals, but when Wall Street, the automotive, pharmaceutical, and tobacco industries have their own economic agenda, the President of America can’t really do a damned thing about it.  I believe that the last president we had who would brook no outside interference in how the country would be run was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Polls didn’t influence Americans back then. We were an unsophisticated, smaller, and more naïve group of voters who viewed our president as nearly God-like. Like Obama, he inherited a mess created by another Republican leader.  When Roosevelt took office in 1932, there were thirteen million unemployed in a population of nearly 125 million. According to CNN Money, when Obama took office in 2009, “The hemorrhaging of American jobs accelerated at a record pace at the end of 2008, bringing the year’s total job losses to 2.6 million or the highest level in more than six decades.” This was out of a population of approximately 305 million. It seems to me that turning things around in 1932 would have been a bit less complex than in today’s world. In addition, and this is very sad to say, FDR had a world war come along that reduced the unemployment rate by building up the armed forces and by beefing up war production. There are those who believe in a Keynesian sort of way that war is good for the economy.  Jeff Madrick, director of policy research at The New School, notes that, “In the last year of Bill Clinton’s administration, defense spending fell to 3.0 percent of GDP. But productivity grew rapidly, capital spending returned to former high levels, and wages grew for all income levels. Less defense spending seemed to benefit the economy.” Therefore, who is to say which benefits the economy more, war or peace?

I don’t believe in polls. Every single one of them can be skewed in favor of the “unbiased” numbers-takers. Every poll in the country said in 1948 that Thomas E. Dewey would pound Harry Truman into the ground. Someone forgot to tell the Truman supporters and old Harry himself. I’m willing to bet that if you polled people in North Carolina about the harm cigarettes do to the human body, your numbers would be far different than if the poll was taken in nearly every other state in the Union. Most polls include a ‘standard deviation’ which is a polite way of covering their backsides. “Our poll is plus or minus ‘x’ percent.” That’s sort of the, “We really don’t know what the hell this means but we have our out by talking in terms you, the average reader won’t understand.”

When you think about this latest Gallup poll that assesses economic disaster and lays it at the door of only two U.S. Presidents, you might be wise to ask yourself, “What did Bush inherit and what did he do about it? What did Clinton inherit and what did he do about it. What did….etc, etc, etc.” Our problems began a long time ago when government allowed itself to become the puppet of American big business. And by allowing big business to dictate to the Legislative and Executive Branches of our government, the average American has been forced to pay a horrible price.

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It seems to me that I have never heard as many slurs against the President of the United States as I have since Barack Obama became the CEO of this nation. Congressman Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina openly called the President a liar during a joint session when the President was discussing his health care bill. Most recently, Senator Chuck Grassley (R) Iowa, called the President “stupid.” Before he was elected and even after his election, there were those who questioned whether or not he was born in the United States. Unfortunately, each of the questioners also had that (R) after their names. The point is not whether they are members of the opposition; the question is, “Why are they so disrespectful of the Office of the President of the United States?”

I love some of the film clips I’ve seen of Obama critics. Actor Jon Voight appeared on former Governor Mike Huckabee’s FOX news program and made such disparaging remarks about the President of the United States that had he done it to Ronald Reagan or George Bush, he would have been invited to go hunting with Dick Cheney…as many times as it took.

Once elected, it seems that President Obama was fair game for any and all critics. These attacks seemed more personal than professional. The attacks, however they were viewed, were an attack on the Office of the President; the disrespect was disrespect for the office couched in words that denigrated that honored position. I just happen to be white but I certainly felt that the President was fairer game with some of these insulting people because of the color of his skin and because of his middle name. When I called out a couple of people making insulting and racist remarks, defense mechanisms went up faster than the speed of light.

“He promised to begin bringing the troops home the first day he was in office,” I saw on one Obama documentary, “and now he’s hedging on that promise.” Excuse me, but perhaps it was a mistake on his part to make such a rash promise. He hadn’t been briefed by the Joint Chiefs or any of the intelligence agencies. Is what he said any worse than the flip-flop positions of apparent candidate Mitt Romney? Remember, candidates will say anything to get themselves elected. That’s why none of them are ever to be believed.

Mitt Romney talks about abolishing the Obama health care law despite the fact that it incorporates many of the ideas that were in the health care law that the Governor signed during his tenure in Massachusetts. He talks about job creation, yet under his administration, the state ranked 47th in creating positions and first in state debt. We were so messed up economically during Governor Romney’s only term that he was lucky to get to one of his houses outside of Massachusetts before he was tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.  His predecessors weren’t a hell of a lot better. Jane Swift had been the Lieutenant Governor under Paul Cellucci who had been Lieutenant Governor under Bill Weld, and like Weld, neither finished their term in office. As a lifelong resident of the State, I would caution American voters to never expect strong presidential-caliber leadership from a Massachusetts Republican. For example, Governor Weld, (who might have been the exception to the above statement), left the state’s top job to accept an appointment as Ambassador to Mexico. Fellow Republican, Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, refused to hold a hearing on the nomination thereby blocking Weld’s opportunity.

We should all understand something very clearly. In order to get elected to public office, all politicians will twist the truth to their advantage. I repeat and emphasize the “all politicians” will do this. Party affiliation doesn’t have a thing to do with it. This is fine; we should expect this. In addition, we should expect them to say things that are uncomplimentary about their opponents. However, it is up to us, the voting public, to check the accuracy or inaccuracy of the statements that are made regarding the issues and it is up to us to call politicians when they begin personal attacks on their opponents. Personal attacks are like curse words; they demonstrate that one is not sufficiently familiar with the English language to choose something appropriate and must resort to more indelicate phraseology.

It is my sincere hope that once Governor Romney is confirmed as the GOP Presidential candidate for 2012, and once President Obama is asked to seek a second term by his Democratic colleagues, that respect will be forthcoming for both men, and that we will not be subjected by those in either camp to unwanted personal attacks. The only thing we have room for in a Presidential election is to determine who is better qualified to hold the office. If records of past performance enter into the equation, so be it, but disrespecting the individual is just plain wrong!

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“Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is a non discriminatory disease, as it kills men and women regardless of race and ethnicity. It is a silent killer, as many people do not know that the behaviors they are engaging in are slowly hurting their cardiovascular system. While heart disease is such a huge problem, there are ways to help try and prevent heart disease from occurring.” This comes from a Vanderbilt University page which is quoting an American Heart Association page whose link is broken, but whose new link appears to say nothing close to the words above. Therefore, you may believe it or not. I believe it.

“…it is a silent killer as many people do not know, etc., etc.” What bullshit! In today’s world of instant communication, the Internet, and any other variety of sources, the excuse of, “Gee, I didn’t know,” is no longer valid. If you smoke cigarettes, you are not only killing your lungs, you are ingesting toxins that will most assuredly damage your heart and damn near ever other organ in your body. If you eat nothing but fatty foods, don’t be surprised when your arteries become so clogged that you drop like a rock while climbing a few stairs. If you feel that sucking a down a six-pack or so every night is a good thing, you had best get those screws tightened in your brain. If you’re the type who disdains hospitals and doctors, for whatever reason, in all probability, you’re not as healthy as you might believe.

“Oh, what a goddam do-gooder,” some people are saying right now, or “He’s not a doctor; what the hell does he know?” you might be querying. You’re wrong on the first part and you’re right on the second. Frankly, I’m beyond caring what idiots do to their bodies. In large part it’s because from past experience, I’ve learned that YOU CAN’T FIX STUPID! And anyone who is under 40 years of age, who still smokes, who still lives on a diet of really fatty foods just because they taste good, who still doesn’t get an annual health checkup, is purely and simply, STUPID! If you live in New York and you can afford the $120.00 a   carton for cigarettes, you can afford to see a doctor.  If you live in Washington, Illinois, Hawaii, or Alaska and you’re paying nearly $10.00 per package of cigarettes, you can afford to eat something other than Big Macs, large fries, and a diet Coke…what a joke! The cheapest major brand name cigarettes you can buy in this country are in Louisiana and West Virginia and even in those states, cigarettes still cost more than $4.50 per pack. If there is anything positive to be said about those who are still smoking when the cost of cigarettes is so high, it might be that it will help to clean up the gene pool a bit more rapidly.

I smoked for 51 years. I ran cross-country and smoked; I played basketball and I smoked; I went to college and I smoked (yeah, all that pressure and crap like that). I borrowed Mark Twain’s motto,  “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it hundreds of times.” I’d go a day, a week, a month. I quit smoking for six months one time; really thought I had it beaten. Even now, after 14 years, when most times the smell of cigarette smoke turns my stomach, there are times when I’d like to try it…just once…to be able to say, “I don’t need this,” but I know that I can’t.  It’s like the alcoholic: One drink is too many and a thousand are not enough.

Smoking, however, is not even the chief cause of heart disease.  In fact, it’s only the fourth leading cause according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC ranks the major causes of heart disease as follows: 1 inactivity; 2 obesity; 3 high blood pressure; 4 cigarettes; 5 high cholesterol, and; 6 diabetes. If you believe you believe you are active because you play golf or walk all around the office, you’re wrong. While golf does get you walking, it’s a stops and starts game. Activity, without the ‘In’ before it, is that dirty word, “exercise.” It means a minimum of 15 minutes of doing something three times a week that will get the old ticker moving and maybe even produce a drop or two of sweat. Obesity has become such an issue that it really needs no explanation. You really won’t know if you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes unless you visit a doctor and get tested. If that isn’t in your budge, but cigarettes are, die you dumb sum-bitch, die!

Why am I on this tear? I’ve had three heart attacks. I have five stents in my heart. I don’t smoke; I exercise strenuously for over an hour five or six times a week; I maintain a reasonably healthy diet. Yet, the damage already done to my heart is probably going to kill me…barring that I piss somebody off and they shoot me or run me down. Oh, and I should note that yesterday I visited my doctor. I’d been having trouble breathing for a couple of days and had some tingling in the fingertips of both hands. He listened to my lungs; asked some questions, and said, “It’s possible you had a silent heart attack. Let’s do a workup.” So that’s where it stands folks. The workup began yesterday with an EKG and the drawing of some blood. If it’s to be, I’ll have more tests next week. Until then, I’m walking very slowly and being extra careful. Do I want to live forever? Of course not; that would be stupid. However, summer is coming; the pool will be opened in a couple of days, and; I really would like to taste some of the food from Juli’s garden.

Hey, take care of yourself, will you please. Remember, there really are people out there who care about you and would like you to stick around a while longer…no matter what they say behind your back!

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Let me clarify something right at the very outset…I am a flawed human being. I am as flawed a human being as anyone who will ever admit to being so. Will I explain my flaws? Are you out of your freaking mind? It’s like the man who got a flat tire on the road outside the insane asylum. As he was changing his tire he noticed a person inside the walls of the asylum watching him closely. The tire-changer had put the lug nuts inside his hub caps so they would be safe. Unfortunately, as he stood to rest his back for a moment, his foot stepped on the edge of the hub cap and catapulted the lug nuts over the hood of the  car and into impenetrable brush.

“Oh, no,” the man yelled loudly. “What the hell do I do now?”

From across the street came a voice…”Why not take one lug nut from each of the other three tires. It should hold until you get to a gas station.”

The driver looked around and realized that he voice had come from his ‘watcher.’

“That’s brilliant,” said the driver. “Do you work at the asylum?”

“No,” replied the fellow. “I’m one of the inmates.”

The tire-changer was shocked. “But…how…what…”

Before he could go on, the inmate smiled and said, “I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid.”

The moral of the story is that if you think I’m going to tell you my flaws, you must really think I’m stupid! Crazy I’ll admit to, but not stupid…cuz ya can’t fix stupid!

As flawed as I might be, however, I find that as I age, I become more and more disturbed by the flaws that I find in other people. Let me give you a few examples:

  • About 100 feet from the Middle School, located on the extension of the street where I live is a STOP sign. It’s at an intersection with the road on which the school is located. The school is on the through street and the STOP sign at the street entering the “main drag.” The yummy mommies in their vans the size of my first house – you know, the ones that get six gallons to the mile – go flying through that STOP sign as if it isn’t there. The fact that they do this with their kids in the car is certainly imparting a valuable lesson to the children…and don’t you, for a moment, believe that the kids don’t see what’s going on. It’s as bad as my mother’s philosophy of, “Never speed unless you’re in a hurry…dear.” At the first parent’s meeting of every year – I know because I asked the principal about it – parents are told to please obey the STOP sign at the end of that street; please drive by the school at 20 mph, and please be careful in making the U-turn at the end of the street because other residents may be on their way to work. So, they don’t obey the STOP sign; they whip by the school like Mario Andretti, and; I cannot count on my fingers and toes the number of times one of these idiots has pulled a “uey” in front of me as I’ve been coming down the street. I guess they figure that their ‘tanks’ can’t be harmed by a little old Camry. Either that or they’re drunk, blind, or, as is most likely the case, they are just plain stupid!
  • I’m something of a clean freak. I guess it goes along with my OCD. At the gym, I’m meticulous about wiping down a piece of equipment on which I’ve been sweating or even just using. If not sweating profusely…which really isn’t pure, we leave skin cells and all sorts of bad stuff on the equipment. Hey, after all, this is a gym, not a level two thousandth  level germ lab, but we leave ‘us’ on the equipment. When I watch men and women – particularly women, it seems – walk away from a piece of equipment and they’re dripping with sweat, I have to ask myself, “Are they that Godly that they believe their sweat will be inspirational to the next user?” There are, generally, two reactions if these people are confronted. The first is a very surprised, “Oh, I forgot; I’m sorry,” and they will walk the 10-15 steps out of their way to get a paper towel to wipe down the machine. They’ll do it again, however, but they’ll look around first to see if anyone is watching. The second reaction is more interesting. This one usually comes from the macho, weight-lifting types. They appear to believe that no one will approach them because of their build. When confronted, they usually deny that they haven’t wiped down the machine or they maintain that they haven’t “sweat” on it. I usually follow up with, “You want to get on my machine if I haven’t wiped it down?” None of this is any of my business, of course. I just get pissed off when I see these people who think that rules don’t apply to them.
  • If I’m holding a door open for my friend and continue to hold it for you, it really is okay for you to say, “Thank you.” It’s not like I’m doing this so that you will, God forbid, will me your first born. All I’m saying is that courtesy is appreciated. As thou sow, so shall thou reap…oh, that’s right; I’m sorry; you never held a door for anyone in your life, did you, you sorry excuse for a human! (Oops, sorry; got carried away for a moment there.)
  • People who have no respect for the rights of others piss me off to the nth degree. You know who they are…those who drive drunk and don’t get caught; the ones who continue to text while driving and don’t have an accident; the ones who jump lanes while their driving in hopes of gaining an edge and getting to their destination more quickly. When the drunks do get caught, what happens? Well, if there was no accident and no one was injured, they probably face a fine and loss of license. The fine is up to $500; steep, but not a killer with some folks and unless the drunk driver receives his or her 30-day sentence, the rest is loss of license for six months. That last goes in there because drunk drivers don’t really care about licenses. Time and time and time again, drunks get picked up for driving without a license, and time and time and time again, they are slapped on the wrist. Recently, a Massachusetts texting driver was sentenced to two and a half years having been charged with vehicular homicide. Is that all a human life is worth these days, two and a half years, or perhaps one year in the case of a young woman from California who was convicted of killing a two-year old.? Make the punishment fit the crime; the punishment fit the crime!

Yes, these are but a few of the people this flawed person has come to intensely dislike. These are the people who feel that they are entitled; that they have been imbued with certain inalienable rights to do whatever they damn well please and never, under any circumstances, consider that are anything less than to do “their thing.” I wonder if this is why alligators eat their young?

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“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” It can be found on a tee-shirt and it’s printed below a picture of the Capitol Dome. It’s true. Congress is filled with very stupid people. I’m not saying that they are dumb; some of them are very intelligent. However, there is a difference between intelligence and stupidity. Intelligence is associated with understanding, comprehension, mental or intellectually grasp, the power to think and to conceptualize. Stupidity, on the other hand, is equated with insensibility, ignorance, nonunderstanding, shortsightedness, and several other more uncomplimentary words. If that does not describe the 112th United States Congress, I really don’t know what does. Even retired Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) told CNN recently, “If you want to be a purist, go somewhere on a mountaintop and praise the east or something. But if you want to be in politics, you learn to compromise. And you learn to compromise on the issue without compromising yourself. Show me a guy who won’t compromise and I’ll show you a guy with rock for brains.” Senator, allow me to introduce 63 rock brains; they call themselves the Tea Party.

It is virtually impossible to say how many times Congress has acted stupidly. One might argue, of course, that it depends entirely on which side of the aisle one is seated. One might also believe that it could depend on how much money exchanged hands or what wheels were greased or what other form of reciprocity was given to ensure that a congressman or senator voted “the right way,” i.e., stupidly.

The most recent episode of idiocy on the part of Congress occurred when the Senate Republicans blocked a bill that, “…would pave the way for women to more easily litigate their way to pay equality.” This is the second time in two years in two years that Republican Senators have blocked such a measure.  The irony is that the very first bill signed by President Barack Obama on January 29, 2009, was a piece of legislation that expanded workers’ rights to sue for pay discrimination. An earlier bill was thrown out by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 decision in 2007.  Congress tried to pass another bill that would have overturned that ruling, but this time it was President Bush who opposed it…gee, Republican Senators opposed the new one; Republican President opposed the older one. Do I sense a pattern here? Could it be that Republicans don’t care for women’s rights…Do ya think? And do you think this just might be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Let’s face it, women’s rights have never been any big deal in the nation’s capitol. Women began battling for the right to vote in July 1848 at the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention. Despite the efforts of suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Carrie Chapman Catt, and many others, it wasn’t until 72 years later that women finally realized their goal. In reality, it took a world war to get men to understand.  If women could do the work of men in the factories to support the war, they should also be considered equal on the political front. President Woodrow Wilson, who had been anti-suffragette for many years, finally saw the light. In a speech that he gave on September 18, 1918, the President noted, “We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of right?” Still, it took nearly two more years before the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution became law. Women were now eligible to vote in fall elections, including the Presidential election.

It is impossible for me to put into words how difficult I personally believe the fight for women to get the vote actually was. The old saw, “Keep ‘em barefoot and keep ‘em pregnant” was actually the thinking of many men even into the 20th Century and, I would say, might well be the thinking of some men today. Fortunately, men have been shown on occasion after occasion that women are equally capable of handling leadership roles.

If you would like to talk about turning the tables, you have but to read Alice Duer Miller’s Why We Don’t Want Men to Vote. Miller, born in 1874, was an ardent suffragette. She was a highly respected novelist, writer, and poet. Here is what she had to say:

  • “Because Man’s place is in the army.
  • “Because not really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
  • “Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.
  • “Because me will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms, and drums.
  • “Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them unfit for government.”

Since earning the right to vote, women have played a major role in America’s political landscape. Few have served  as well as Senator Olympia Snowe. In a portion of her remarks about why she was leaving the Senate, Senator Snowe said, “Some people were surprised by my conclusion, yet I have spoken on the floor of the Senate for years about the dysfunction and political polarization in the institution. Simply put, the Senate is not living up to what the Founding Fathers envisioned.” She concluded by stating, “I do not believe that, in the near term, the Senate can correct itself from within. It is by nature a political entity and, therefore, there must be a benefit to working across the aisle.

But whenever Americans have set our minds to tackling enormous problems, we have met with tremendous success. And I am convinced that, if the people of our nation raise their collective voices, we can effect a renewal of the art of legislating — and restore the luster of a Senate that still has the potential of achieving monumental solutions to our nation’s most urgent challenges. I look forward to helping the country raise those voices to support the Senate returning to its deserved status and stature — but from outside the institution. “

It is my sincere hope that more women will seek higher political office. Alice Duer Miller was right; there are too many people in Congress who feel that bullying is the only way to achieve a goal. Alan Simpson knew it wasn’t so. What’s the matter with “rock brains” who are now running our legislative branch?

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