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Archive for January, 2013

Discussions about gun control are always interesting. I casually mentioned to some folks at the gym that the time was probably close when we would have to see armed guards in schools.  The people were shocked. “Are you crazy?” “What a horrible idea!” “We can’t allow that to happen!” I then casually asked, “Well, what is the alternative?” The responses were immediate and darn near unanimous…”Ban assault weapons in the United States!” Now, the people with whom I was speaking appear to be reasonably intelligent.  We’ve had discussions on other topics in the past and I have been impressed with their points of view. This one floored me.

We have somewhere between nine and eleven million illegal aliens living in this country. That means we couldn’t impose our immigration laws on them; they came into the country illegally. No doubt many of these people are making significant contributions to our society; they are still illegal. We have more damned drug task forces than we have God-only-knows-what, but we don’t seem to be able to quell the manufacture, transportation, distribution, sale and use of illegal drugs in our country. In 1920, we attempted to prohibit the manufacture, etc, of alcohol, and while the ban lasted for 13 years, the manufacture, sale, distribution, and consumption of alcohol didn’t seem to miss a beat.

There are well over 100 gun manufacturers in the United States.  Are we going to tell Mark and Chuck Larson of Rock River Arms that they have to close up shop and find a new line of work? Should we let Bill Alexander of Alexander Arms know that his Beowulf and Grendel cartridges can no longer be made because they’re too powerful? How about the Springfield Armory in Illinois, or Remington or Smith & Wesson; what do we say to those folks? “Oh, you can manufacturer for the military and you can make; you can make; you can make…aw, hell, we don’t want you to make anything that might kill our civilians!” How bloody naïve can are we? Putting a ban on assault weapons now is somewhat akin to locking the barn door after the horses have run. Can we slow down the sales? Most assuredly we can have a minor impact, but that’s about all. Can we guarantee that an assault rifle will not fall into the hands of someone who is unbalanced? That’s open to debate. How do we know who is going to snap for whatever reason? The answer, obviously, is that we don’t. Therefore, mall shootings, school shootings, business office shootings, supermarket shootings, etc., are going to happen. We don’t like it – not a one of us – but it’s a fact of life in the society in which we just happen to live.

When you boil down the bullshit, one fact remains clear: If you fire a gun, you are trying to become proficient at killing. You may call it sport shooting or target practice or whatever name you wish, but it boils down to aiming a weapon that’s sole purpose is to kill. Whether you are trying to become a better hunter for the food that you need to put on the table or whether you are attempting to eliminate an enemy before he/she/it eliminates you, your gun’s ultimate purpose is to kill something. “Oh, I just have it for protection,” someone will say. How does a gun protect you if you are not willing to use it? And, if you are willing to use it, you are willing to kill because that’s what guns do. I love these television shows and movies where the bad guys always miss from 30 feet away with an AR-15 while the good guys can make a head shot from fifty yards with a .45 caliber pistol. Anyone who has ever handled weapons knows just how unlikely these scenarios are. Therefore, the phrase, “Shoot to wound,” is about as unrealistic as it can possibly be. If you are firing a gun at someone to stop them from killing you, the largest mass of the body is that for which you are aiming; that is not the head, nor an arm or leg; it is the chest and stomach, both of which are generally kill shots.

We must wake up to the fact that we are not living in the genteel days of the 50s, 60s, or even 70s. We are living in a time, for whatever reason, people are taking violent actions in their rage. What causes anyone to go into a shopping mall, a theater, a school, or even a business and begin firing? I don’t know, and until the time comes when we can identify predictors of aberrant behavior, no one will be able to accurately predict who is going to do what or when.

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When it comes to forgiveness, America is a very strange place indeed. Periodically, even today, someone will send me the photographs condemning Jane Fonda for her exploits in North Vietnam during that terrible period in our history. Yet, we go absolutely ga-ga over a South Korean rapper named Jae-sang Park who used to sing about killing Americans as part of his regular repertoire. We forgive him his lyrics because he has some strange dance and besides, “He was only a young man when he sang those lyrics.” Bullshit! He demonstrated his anti-American feelings, singing the following lyrics…

  • “Kill those f*****g Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives                                                                                                                       Kill those f*****g Yankees who ordered them to torture                                   Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers                            Kill them all slowly and painfully.”

That was in 2004. In 2002, he participated in an anti-American concert after two U.S. soldiers were convicted of killing two young South Korean girls. Now, however, Park has become a hit over his dance, “Gangnam Style.” When it comes to forgiveness, we appear to choose our “forgivees” for weird reasons.

I was reading the Washington Post this morning and discovered that Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens is going to be feted for his 17-year career in professional football. There is no question in anyone’s mind that has seen Mr. Lewis on the football field that he is probably better left in a cage until Sunday afternoon when he can be allowed out – preferably on a very long leash – to perform his mayhem between the sideline markers. His showmanship at introduction time is surpassed only by his very real violence when it comes to playing the sport of professional football. We forgive Ray for his part in the murder of Richard Lollar and Jacinth Baker back in 2000. We conveniently forget the blood that was found in Lewis’ limousine and the disappearance of the white suit that he was wearing that night. We forgive him, in part because he paid millions in a civil suit to the Lollar and Baker families. We forgive him his part in a murder that left two young people dead and, to this day, no one paying for the crime.

What is wrong with us? I’m not here to defend Jane Fonda’s actions any more than I can defend Jae-sang Park’s actions; any more than I can believe that people are willing to forgive an animal like Ray Lewis, or the management and owners of the New Orleans Saints for paying bounties to injure people from other teams. I rather thought that we had graduated from the days of the Coliseums where you could always count on the final score as being Lions 10, Christians 0.

I know of people who still believe that O.J. Simpson had nothing to do with the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. Their sole raison d’être for believing this is “…if the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.” Thankfully, Simpson was finally put behind bars.

Why can we tolerate some actions that are intolerable and refuse to justify other actions which might have justification…or not? I will grant that Ms. Fonda certainly used extremely poor judgment in going to North Vietnam.  I prefer to call her actions stupid. After all, she was only a movie actress, and not a particularly good one at that. But when it comes to our athletic heroes, they can do no wrong…including murder. If you or I couldn’t find the suit we were wearing on the night two people were murdered, and if we had been known to have been around those victims on that evening, we’d either be lying in some grave with a needle mark in our arm or we’d be sitting on death row for the rest of our natural lives. If we went around the neighborhood singing songs about killing American soldiers, we’d get our asses kicked so high we’d be needing parachutes to land safely.

Before anyone condemns a foolish young woman for childish acts, think about the foolish young – and some not-so-young – people who decry America and Americans or who kill their fellow citizens. Who do  we forgive? Why do we forgive or not forgive them. What are the parameters for forgiveness? Who can do what and get away with it? Ah, my mischievous  Puck, you were so right…”What fools these mortals be!.

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MEMORANDUM

Date:                    January 1, 2013

TO:                        All State Department Personnel

FROM:                  THE Secretary of State

SUBJECT:             Dates to remember

In light of the attack on our embassy in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 – get that; see that date there; does it have any significance to anyone in the department; a free steamship roast beef sandwich to the first five people who can correctly identify the meaning of that particular date. It’s not rocket science, people; get with the program.

Here’s another date of which I’d like everyone to take note; May 2. The year doesn’t matter; it’s an extremely significant date in the State Department annals.

Since my telephone has yet to ring, I will assume that no one has a clue about either date. This tells me a couple of things. The first is that I’m working with a bunch of complete idiots – that’s polite State Department speak for “assholes of the first order.” The second thing it tells me is that for the past decade or more, you morons have either had your heads tucked completely where the sun don’t shine or you have so many game apps on your computers that you don’t have time to do the work for which you are supposedly getting paid. The third thing it tells me is that you could all use a history lesson regarding terrorism.

From this date forward – check the word “date” just below the word, “memorandum” on this page, all American embassies located on foreign soil will go on Condition Red status or whatever we’re calling it these days three weeks prior to and one month following May 2nd of any given year and one month before and one month after September 11th of any given year. This means that each embassy will be reinforced with one company of United States Marine personnel for these periods of time.

In case you haven’t figured things out quite yet, the Benghazi attack took place on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center on September 1, 2001. Anyone who does not believe that terrorists, particularly those of Islamic faith, won’t try to do this again in the future has no place working in the State Department; pack your bags and get the hell out of Dodge. That’s State Department speak for “you’re fired and the fact that you’re a political appointee doesn’t matter one goddamned bit to me.” The second date is that on which Osama bin Laden, a.k.a. Abu Hamza was killed by Seal Team Six, a branch of the United States military. The reasoning behind this request is quite simple: I do not wish to go to Capitol Hill to speak to some committee comprised of fools who have nothing better to do with their time than ask stupid questions or to reduce our budget by an amount so significant that we cannot afford to staff our embassies with appropriate protection. These are the same people who couldn’t find their ass with a map, compass, and flashlights. We have enough problems without interference from people who are do-nothing, know-nothing hacks.

Should you have any questions regarding this memorandum, I would be delighted to speak with you when I am in town. I would advise, however, that anyone with questions should come to my door prepared to be fired, because if this memo doesn’t make things clear, the only thing I can suggest to you is a lobotomy…which used to be available at Walter Reed but which is now being done on a walk-in basis at the Fort Myer North Post Dispensary on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 0800 to 1300.  

Good luck, Godspeed, and please remember to shred this memo before putting it in a burn bag!

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Hey, check it out; I’m above average…no, not like that silly…I’ve exceeded my life expectancy. Yep, you heard it here first…unless you heard it somewhere else, and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t mess with my ego by telling me so.  The average age of the American white male is 76.3 years. At 78 years and five months, I’m feelin’ pretty damned perky about my age [said he, falling to the floor with a massive stroke].

I often think about people I’ve known, many much younger than I, who are now underground or in a jar on the mantel. I have to ask, “Why?” Why have I been allowed to achieve these years when people whom I regarded as having so much promise– in my mind at least – were snatched away prematurely. Maybe it just reinforces my theory that we are all born with a certain task or series of tasks that we must accomplish before being called ‘home.’ It just takes some of us a bit longer to complete the jobs that we have to do. We, of course, are totally unaware of what these chores might be and that’s probably a good thing. It certainly does give me pause to wonder.

How often do you consider the life you’re living? Why is it that you do the things you do; eat the things you eat; live the place that you live; have friends that you think you know, but do you really? We breathe in and out and most of us take that for granted. I suppose they are the things of museums by now, but did you ever see anyone being kept alive by an iron lung.  Before poliomyelitis became an “illness of the past,” iron lungs were common in hospital wards. A friend of mine who had contracted polio died in an iron lung. It breathed for him, but he was taken anyway. I can still see his face; he had a buzz cut before they were popular, and; he had these crazy round spectacles with skinny black rims…couldn’t see a damned thing without those glasses. He was 16 when he died; that’s a long way from 78+.

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands. It doesn’t seem that way. Like everyone else, I’m a victim of Parkinson’s Law…work expands to fill the time available. There’s only one problem with that; I’m retired; my ‘work’ is a thing of the past. My time is now occupied with the things I wanted to do years ago but couldn’t because my time was filled with work, family, and more work. The funny part of that story is that I used to teach a workshop in time management; talk about the cobbler’s kids who didn’t have shoes! I even practiced what I preached but that 168 hours we all have on a weekly basis just seemed to get fuller ‘n fuller ‘n fuller.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in growing older is not being able to do some of the things you enjoyed doing when you were young. As we age, we lose strength; it’s a function of aging. We settle for less weight and more reps when we’re in the gym. We don’t use certain machines because we know which part of our body will hurt like hell if we’re stupid enough to forget.  My eyes don’t adjust as quickly when I try to shoot a basketball, something I probably shouldn’t be doing anyway – act your age really does have meaning. Looking back, I remember when I could sink hoops from way beyond the arc and punt a football close to 50 yards. Why would I want to do those things at 78? Heck, I don’t know but I’d like to think that I could still do it if I wanted.

Nowadays, I content myself with several mornings a week in the gym, doing an hour of cardiovascular exercise and not much else. Having had both shoulders reconstructed and a hand that’s now missing three bones, there’s damned little to be done with weights. Since my physique is now similar to that of the Michelin man and never going to be like that of one of the young studs, what the hell. As Ruth said in the play, My Sister Eileen, “What the hell, let it spread!” I have what I am now defining as “couch butt” because I spend so much time there reading, watching television or working on a latch hook project. There really isn’t a hell of lot else to be done during a New England winter. If it isn’t snowing and blowing, the sun is deceptively shining while the temperature is damned close to zero.

Oh, well, sometimes it’s just a kick to review how far one has come in however long one has been living. One thing is certain: We can’t go back to what once was; therefore, we might as well look ahead to the exciting things that await us in the future…hot damn, it’s IPod 44!

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What can we say about the 113th Congress? Well, it’s young; that’s for darn sure. It’s inexperienced; when you have two freshmen holding seats on the House Appropriations Committee, you know there’s trouble from the git-go. In addition another freshman is chairing one of the Homeland Security subcommittees.

Initially, it seems that the first big debate for the new administration – pardon me; old administration in a new guise – will be the battle over the debt ceiling. How do we reduce our multi-trillion dollar deficit or do we raise the ceiling so we can spend more? Oh, wait a minute, we also have to discuss the matter of taxes and get that resolved in the next three months. How these two items can take the next four years is impossible to foresee, but I imagine that the Republican House of Representatives already has a plan in place that will stall progress for months and months to come.

It was nice of the Obama’s to cut the number of inaugural balls to two this time instead of the ten that were held as part of the last inaugural celebration. This time there was no limit to what corporate donors could give. Maybe we could use part of that to lower the budget deficit. Probably not because it was ‘earmarked’ – if there ever was a word to be hated, it’s ‘earmarked – for the celebration.

This Congress, this new group of inexperienced men and women, should not turn to their older colleagues for knowledge. The older members of Congress are too set in their ways. They are the most polarized group of politicians we have seen in decades, and that’s too bad. Corruption by continuation is no way for this country to reach new heights. The concept of proposing a bill meant to benefit the vast majority of Americans must not be allowed to become a contentious piece of legislation because some fool decided to attach a piece of pork that just might kill the bill in the final analysis. Perhaps there will be some young Republican Senator or Congressman/woman who will reach across the aisle and work closely with colleagues from the other party – and the opposite can be true – to outlaw earmarks and riders on legislation. It won’t be easy; it might mean his or her death knell, but this has to be done. It has to become part of the legislative process. We cannot allow this foolishness to continue. If we do, then we, the people of the United States of America, will finally begin to realize that the members of our legislative branch are for sale to the highest bidder. That, my friends, is not democracy. It is not the manner in which our form of government should be allowed to operate.

The President might want to let us, his loyal electors, know what his priorities are for the second term, not in the banal terms that he seems to toss around willy-nilly, but in real-life-honest-to-God words that the average American can understand. Don’t throw talking points at me, Mr. President; give me a real plan, day-by-day, if necessary and tell me what the hell you’re going to do for me, the guy who threw a few bucks into your campaign…more out of fear of what Herr Mitt might do rather than what you might don’t. As I listened to your Inaugural Address, I was completely unimpressed by its banality. I heard “gay rights, civil rights, and gun control.” It was the largest wagon-load of horse manure that Washington has seen since the mid-1800s.  Unfortunately, I can almost hear your yes men and women telling you how great it was. I’m sorry, sir, but it most assuredly did not carry the day.

Sorry – once more I digress. We’re all aware that, following the horror at Newtown, CT, the issue of gun control will once again be on the agenda. I’ve said before, but I must reiterate, this is a useless topic for Congress and the President to debate. No one is planning a rewrite of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and we are not going to ban gun sales in the United States. As a consequence, that must go to the bottom of the barrel in terms of what can be done to accomplish tasks about which we might stand some chance of getting done.

It is important to remember that Congressional delegates will see about 10,000 bills and resolutions during their two-year tenure. Of that group only about 400 will actually become law. One of the greatest problems in consideration of all of these bills and resolutions is that they are written in “Congressionalese.” Let me give you just one example:  H.R. 307, entitled the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act of 2013 is 97 pages in length. Its purpose is to “…reauthorize certain programs under the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes.” Oops, what are those other purposes?  Since the bill was written by Representative Mike Rogers of Mississippi’s Eighth Congressional District, does it also contain an earmark for one of the Congressman’s pet projects or does it not. As a Congressman, I suppose I should assume that since it’s a reauthorization, all is well. I’ll just have a staffer review it. But the freaking thing is 97 pages to reauthorize something that already exists. And that’s a short bill!

When he was at Harvard, Henry Kissinger gave an aide a 10-page monograph and asked for a summary. The aide returned with a 5-page summary. “Summarize it,” said Kissinger. The story goes that the aide damned near went crazy because of the number of times Kissinger sent it back. Finally, the 10-page monograph became a two-sentence summary that Kissinger read. It seems to me that there are probably too many 100+ page pieces of legislation that could be condensed by more than half and still cover all of the legalese bullcrap that so many bills contain.

And so, members of the 113th Congress, here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Don’t just shake hands across the aisle once and then retreat to your trenches.
  • If you have a piece of legislation on your mind, seek the advice of many…from both sides. Open your mind to the fact that while he or she may be from the opposite party, they may also have some good ideas to improve your work.
  • Make your personal agenda brief. What do your constituents want that will best serve the largest group of Americans? If you’re in the House, it may be good for the District, but is it really important enough at this stage when, perhaps, larger issues are stake?
  • Listen. Most of us have a plague that blocks our ears to the thoughts of others. Remember the old expression, “My mind’s made up; don’t try to convince me with facts!” It’s true, particularly in the halls of congress…sad, but true.
  • Ask the second, third, and fourth questions when you are approached with a new piece of legislation. Too many of you stop after asking the most simplistic question of all: “What’s in it for me?”
  • Most important of all…remember how short of a period of time your tenure actually is. Make the most of it…for America; for your constituents; for you. Let’s get it on, folks.

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Why do we believe that changes in gun control laws are going to reduce violence or stop these horrific shootings that are taking place? It’s just another example of knee-jerk reaction and posturing on the part of politicians and others in an attempt to make the American public believe that something is being done. It’s all nonsense. It’s not going to happen.

We, as a nation, tried to put a ban on something several decades ago. We tried to ban the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol. It was called – for those of you who have been sleeping in the back of the class – prohibition. What an interesting word. We will prohibit. The government will tell us what we can and cannot drink. Good heavens; whatever are we going to do? While it took 13 years (1920-1933), cooler heads eventually prevailed, and the smuggled rum from Barbados, and whiskey from Canada, England, and right here in our own backyard – remember “bathtub gin” – began flowing once more. It still kills…but it’s legal.

We are not going to close the Smith & Wesson plant in Springfield, Massachusetts any more than we are going to tell gun manufacturers from all over the world to stop sending weapons across our borders. We are not going to run around and try to grab guns from “bad guys.” We aren’t going to do any of that crap that would look good in television and newspaper stories. Hopefully, we know better; after all, just how gullible can the politicians actually believe the American public really is…whoops, don’t answer that…”We have averted the ‘weapons cliff’ by snatching the last guns from a housing project in East Bumfuck, Delaware!!” Yeah, right.

What should we be doing to control gun violence? You have your ideas; I have mine; the NRA has theirs, and; the Federal Government doesn’t really give a damn…just as long as it looks as though they care. One of my thoughts is that gun shows should be more closely monitored. The problem with that, however, is that gun shows, just like the speakeasies of prohibition days, would go underground. It would actually make it more exciting to attend a gun show in some out-of-the-way warehouse than in the local Holiday Inn. Everyone likes to think they are “getting away” with something, and this would merely add more sneaky glamour to looking at and purchasing weapons.

It may well be a poor analogy to compare the Prohibition era with what we are going through right now with regard to guns. I don’t really know. The guns that have been used in these rampages all over this country and abroad – don’t forget the horror in Norway – haven’t been conducted using illegally obtained weapons. We haven’t had rival factions shooting each other just to gain more territory for their illegal sale of guns. The fact that 100-round magazines are available isn’t outlawed by any nation. The original AK.47 is an outstanding example of weaponry. Unless you try to beat a tank to death with it, the gun is damn near indestructible. Who, among gun collectors, wouldn’t wish to own one of these things? So while my analogy may have some weak points, there are many, many similarities to the age of Prohibition with the age Gun Rampage.

Stopping the killing has very little to do with stopping guns and everything to do with identification of those with personalities who are likely to take a gun and do the kind of damage that we have seen done over the past several decades. “How do we do that?” you ask. “Do I look like God?” I respond. And, being somewhat God-like in this regard, I have to say that I don’t think we stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of determining all who should or who should not be allowed to handle guns. No one knows. Most assuredly, Vice President Joe Biden and the group he has gathered together don’t have a clue. You might get more intelligent answers regarding gun control by gathering a group of respected psychologists or psychiatrists together and asking, “For what characteristics in people should we be looking?” That would not solve the problem a) because the professionals don’t really know; b) because parents wear blinders when it comes to their own children, e.g., Mrs. Lanza pulling her kid out of school but having no clue that her child was killer-crazy until it was too late; c) because there is no way to enforce any law or legislative act that would allow us to lock up ‘suspected’ killers. And the alphabet could go on and on about why we cannot prevent what has happened in Sandy Hook, West Paducah, Springfield, Oregon, or Chardon, Indiana.

The world does not consist of clairvoyant people. We do not have super powers. We cannot pick out who is going to be ‘good’ or who is going to be ‘bad.’ Hell, we can’t even tell the rest of the world exactly what those words mean. Analysts have defined all sorts of disorders and why some people are ‘crazy’ (another word defying accurate definition) and others are perfectly sane. What creates fanaticism?  Are people who run for the Presidency of the United States completely unbalanced or just plain masochistic?

So we should all say a big, fat “thank you” to Joe Biden and his committee, and we should all continue to wring our hands and hold our vigils when this same stuff happens all over again. We should all decry who has access to guns and what we should do about it and…nothing’s going to happen.

Nothing’s going to happen!

Nothing’s going to happen!

NOTHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN!

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America appears to be a nation that revels in excuses for actions that are intolerable. When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris went on their massacre at Columbine High School; when Seung-Hui-Cho killed 32 at Virginia Tech; when Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School; when, when, when, when, when…we attempted to justify the killers’ actions.  Klebold and Harris were bullied. Cho had an anxiety disorder. Lanza  was described as having a personality disorder.

Since 1992, there have been 387 school shootings. Some, like Sandy Hook and Columbine and Va Tech have attracted national and international attention. Others like Inskip Elementary School or North Charleston High School received a minimum of publicity. Think of the numbers, however; think of the fact that school shootings have numbered nearly 400 in 20 years. The fact of the matter is that we really don’t know what is causing all of this hatred and killing, so we make up excuses for why these murderers killed. I wonder if anyone has ever considered the fact, for that’s what it is, the fact that these are just evil children. It has nothing to do with a personality disorder or a medical problem diagnosed because we have made such great strides in psychoanalysis. Hell, I’m positive that if I was to go to a reading specialist or a school psychologist today, I would be diagnosed with some kind of learning disability that would require medication of some kind. I will put money on the table that bets that damn near every kid with whom I went to school would be scarred in some way by today’s professionals. My youngest was diagnosed with dyslexia and with attention deficit disorder. The college admission officer, a personal friend and former colleague, wanted to put her in a year-long, post-high school program to prepare her for college. I declined that offer because I was certain of my child’s capabilities. She not only graduated as a four-year Academic All-American, she overloaded by one course in every term after her freshman year. Oh, and she also graduated holding all of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference swimming records for each of the three butterfly events. Learning disability my ass; the kid learned differently from other children.  Bullied? Klebold and Harris were bullied? Other killers were bullied? Whose problem is that? You may get the crap beat out of you if you stand up to a bully or you may just finish it by walking up to a bully and getting in the first punch. Either way, you really can end it without a gun. Ask me; I’ve been there.

“Some people are just hard wired differently,” I hear the analysts say. Okay, I’ll buy that. Then let’s find out who has the wiring that will cause them to kill and kill them first. If you know that some child is going to kill, why are they allowed to live? “Oh, well, we can’t really identify them. You wouldn’t kill a child just because you know he or she is going to be born with Down’s syndrome, would you?” Excuse me; I’m not talking about an illness. None of the children who have killed other children and adults have had Down’s or CP or MS or and other diseases that I know of. They certainly have “excuse” diseases. They have been given charming names like “personality disorder,” or “lack of social skills,” or acute this or extreme that. They are what might be found in a doctor’s PDA under “bullshit diagnoses.”

For years we have heard police officers, lawyers, and judges say something about serial killers to the effect that, “You look at them and all you can see is pure evil.” It, in and of itself, is a diagnosis. When could that look first be seen? Was it when the killer as a kid tied cats to the clothesline, doused them with lighter fluid and lit them up? Was it when he or she did ‘funny’ things to other children? Was it when strange behavior was considered humorous? Exactly when did we get the first clue that little Theordore might become killer Ted Bundy? Hmm, when did that behavioral pattern first emerge? Did that funny kid, Jeffie Dahmer like to bite other children or grab them in the crotch area? “Oh, well, you know, boys will be boys!

I have no clue regarding the totality of the responsibility of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit. I am aware that when these school shootings first began, that the unit was interviewing jailed serial killers in an effort to learn if any of their traits were also present in the school killer kids. It’s not physically possible to psychologically profile every child born in this country. It’s not even possible to get parents to be aware that their child might be different. How many times have you heard a parent say, “Not my kid; my kid would never do anything like that. You’ve got the wrong kid:” All this, despite the fact that the kid is standing there with a rock or some other evidence right in his hand.

The truth of the entire matter is that there will be more school shootings. There will be more mall shootings and theater shootings. We will graduate to larger ‘audiences’ or killing fields. Who knows, maybe some kid will get his – or her; let’s not be sexist – hands on a rocket propelled grenade and release that somewhere. Maybe some idiot will begin thinking that improvised explosive devices are a fun thing to use and set off by their smart phones; I have no idea what goes through the head of today’s sick and twisted youth. Maybe it’s not the kids we should be looking at. Maybe we should be examining the traits of the parent or parents who raise these kids. Where did they go wrong? Were they the ones who went wrong? What did they miss in their child’s behavior? Were they to inattentive; not sufficiently attentive? Did they dismiss something as ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘girls will be girls?’ Who the hell is responsible and how the hell do we prevent it from happening again? And, as I say, we don’t know who bears the responsibility for identifying the potential killers.

The world of the 21st Century is a violent world. We read in damn near every report issued that violent crime in America is on the decline. If that is the case, that’s great. Then how do you explain the horror of these killings that have taken place in Littleton and Aurora, Colorado? How can you explain away Newtown, Connecticut? Is it just a case of how we reveal our statistical data?  I don’t care what laws are passed to control guns. They may have pretty words on paper and sound convincingly appropriate. However, we aren’t going to stop people from getting guns. We won’t confiscate every AK-47 or 100-round magazine. It’s unrealistic to think it can be done. We certainly haven’t reached the point where teaching is done in every home by computer to ensure child safety and pray God we will never reach that point. But to say that armed guards are too frightening to have in schools is sticking our collective heads straight into the sand. “This, my child, is a gun. It is used to kill. It is used to put food on the table and to prevent someone from coming into this wonderful building and killing you. Get used to it kid; it’s part of life in the New World!”

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Here are two oaths of office. The first two are identical, correct? Yet, the offices for which they pledge their fealty are quite different. The first is the oath taken by members of the Congress of the United State. The second is the oath taken by officers of the military of the United States.

“…do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

“…do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”

Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that these two oaths should differ in some regard. Yes, we are dealing with semantics here. In the military, you know who the foreign and domestic enemies are, and you most assuredly have the means to defend the Constitution and the USA against them. If you care to split hairs and say that the Congress has control of the purse strings and can spend the funds or deny the funds to “defend,” etc, you might have a case.  Frankly, as someone who served in the military, both as an enlisted man and an officer, it rather irritates me to think that some politician who sits on his or her ass in Congress two or three days a week has the same understanding that I have of what that oath of office really means.  Those people don’t support and defend the Constitution; they try every way in their power to circumvent that precious document. They accuse any President who is not of their party and every member of the opposite party sitting in Congress of attempting to bypass the Constitution while they are attempting to do the same thing themselves.

Here is a third oath in which you might be interested:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

This oath is so much simpler, but it covers all that is needed. It has a caveat, “…to the best of my ability…” It doesn’t confine that the office holder will defend the Constitution come hell or high water. I don’t believe that there is one original signatory to the Constitution – with the possible exception of the irascible John Adams – who would deny that the Constitution is an ever-evolving document; that it should and must be evolutionary in nature and not etched in steel. Presidents understand that. I find it extremely difficult to understand why members of Congress do not.

From the Supreme Court web page, I learned the oaths of office that may be taken by the justices:

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”


The Combined Oath

Upon occasion, appointees to the Supreme Court have taken a combined version of the two oaths, which reads:

 

“I, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________ under the Constitution and laws of the United States; and that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

 

I’m not certain of the reason for the combined oath, but I suppose that even Supreme Court Justices, at certain times, prefer to cover their backsides – I call it wiggle room – against domestic enemies who may accuse them of being under duress in their decisions, ie, who the hell knows why they elect to speak the second part.

I believe that the oaths taken by the President and the Supreme Court Justices have meaning; have strong, strong meaning; that the men and women who take these oaths do so with great sincerity in their hearts. It would be wonderful to believe that members of Congress have the same degree of commitment…but they don’t. You know it; I know it; and they know it.

More and more I find it difficult to believe that Senators and Representatives are putting the country ahead of their party affiliation or their state. Isn’t that a pity? In Olympic competition, if the United States finishes third in anything, we’re dissatisfied. In the Congress, if the country finishes behind party affiliation or state requirements, it’s considered by some as a victory. Is this a bad analogy? No, no, I don’t believe so. If a Representative can attach an earmark to a bill and get away with it, he stands a good chance of getting reelected. If he can’t, his next challenger will surely use that against him or her.

Here is my oath for the members of Congress:

“I ___________, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of (Senator/Representative) from the State of __________ [and the  __________ District] and will, to the best of my abilities preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of [name of state].”

Frankly, I believe my making them responsible to their state and to their district, it makes the entire process more binding in a very personal way. Some might say that the noise would become chaos when the oath is being administered. Hell, Congress is chaos already; might as well get it off on the right chaotic step. They are not defending this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. If they served in the armed forces, they already took that oath, but they sure as hell aren’t doing it now. I’d love to put something in there that would read, “I will serve no party but the party of the United States,” but I suppose there’s only so far that one can push one’s luck.

When I first looked at the oaths taken by Congressmen and officers in the military, I couldn’t help but think, “My God, how lazy are we as a nation that we cannot compose oaths of office that are genuinely appropriate for the two different groups.” What we have now is a travesty. No, no, I’m not talking about Congress itself, at least not in this case. I’m really talking about the oaths…honest and true, I really am!

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Feel free to call me quite daft if you wish; it wouldn’t be the first time someone has suggested that my elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top or that I’m not playing with a full deck. For the most part, these things just roll off my back. No, I’m not daft or crazy or nuts; I’m just rather troubled.

It troubles me to see a world that has gone so mad so early in its existence. Granted, the earth has been around for only about 4.54 billion years; man is a mere youth at approximately 6 million years. Yet, we have managed in that short space of time to come from standing barely erect in a pure blue marble to damn nearly depleting earth’s natural resources, causing the extinction of Lord knows how many species of bird, animal, and other forms of life. Even so, we continue to seek newer and better ways to kill one another as well as killing or driving to near extinction other forms of life.

Somehow, I have the feeling that the earth is going to rebel one of these days. Scientists would tell us that it already has rebelled by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters that have claimed, over time, millions of lives. Unfortunately, it would appear, those disasters are not particular about who they destroy, and the destroyers always seem to escape unscathed.

I can only speak for my teeny tiny bit of space on American soil. I know nothing of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, or South America, Yes, I have driven across America; seen the Grand Canyon from both the ground and the air – it’s more impressive from the air, if possible – and I’ve swum in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. I’ve put my hand in a hot sulfur spring and watched Old Faithful blow its top, but my knowledge of even my own country is so miniscule that I don’t feel uneasy about calling myself an uneducated American. I’m the proud possessor of two college degrees, had lunch with a couple of movie stars, and ate bean soup in the Senate dining room. The point is that in my 78 years, I’ve done quite a myriad number of things, but I’m still troubled.

I’m troubled because we don’t seem to want to care for one another. It appears that what we really wish to do is to create weapons of war that – God forbid – if put to use, will destroy a country in a single strike. Can you imagine that? One country, single strike, poof, gone! Why? Why would we do such a thing? Are we that terrified that another country is going to make us go ‘poof?’ Rather than doing something like that, why aren’t we seeking better ways to improve our infrastructure; to put more people to work; to find useful things for prisoners in our jails to do; to find a way in which we can make the homeless a productive part of our society? There are some pretty darned good minds out there working on this thing or that but I believe some of them should switch their thinking to social problems rather than trying to come up with a bigger and better bomb or a smarter smart phone. One of the things that really impressed me about entrepreneur Dean Kamen was his concept of what is important. For example, while his brother was working at a Boston hospital, he complained to his 16—year old kid brother about people having to travel to undergo dialysis. Dean takes a look at the big dialysis machines and creates one that is portable…no more long trips for people with severe kidney problems. He went on to create a wheel chair that could travel over any surface – including beach sand; what a bitch – and could also raise itself up so the rider could reach the top shelf in the supermarket without asking for help. Kamen is a socially conscious, invention-oriented entrepreneur.  Because of his educational program, FIRST, we may well develop more people like Dean Kamen…I certainly hope so!

Do you understand what I’m saying? When you drive over a bridge and you can see exposed and rusted rebar, don’t you question why a law has just been passed to help the rum industry which is already being run by billionaires; hell, let the billionaires pay for their own improvements. Don’t ask the federal government for another handout. It troubles me that the federal government is willing to bail out people who run companies who are already billionaires. Bullshit! Let them spend some of their own money if they want their company to continue. Otherwise, go broke like the rest of us. Drive across the bridge of which you’re unsure.

As troubling as everything is to me I will continue to plod along until my time here is done. However, you can bet your boots that I will continue to write about some of our social ills that are a constant in our lives. We don’t need to build cars that can go faster and faster when we don’t have the roads where they can achieve maximum speed. We don’t need smart phones that will do everything but wipe your butt when our college graduates are unable to prepare a single page memorandum in such a manner that Shakespeare doesn’t spin in his grave. “U r my BFF” is not English or any other language. It is an idiotic manner of communicating in a world where we cannot take the time or energy to spell out what is a stupid statement in the first place!

I love my life. I love being troubled. I thoroughly enjoy trying to get others to think about our world’s problems. Somewhere, sometime, if just one person picks up the gauntlet and does some small thing to help correct the ills the world is facing, it will absolutely delight me.  “Pay it forward Day” was celebrated this year in 52 countries, 36 states, and 41 cities. This year, it will be celebrated on April 25, 2013. What can you do to pay it forward; to make a difference; to embarrass Congress into taking further action. Remember what Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

What are you going to do to help ease this troubled old mind?

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When is enough enough?  When do we finally screw up the courage to say, “Hey, I don’t care if wheat is going to kill me; I like it and you can kiss my royal ass.” I don’t know about you, but it’s at that point that I sit down with a ‘choke-and-slide’ made on whole wheat bread and with plenty of ‘real’ butter. Maybe you can’t believe it’s real butter you shoulder-length-coiffed-hair-muscle-bound dip stick, but people with taste buds know the difference. And yes, we know that butter will probably clog the living hell out of our arteries, but we’re old enough not to care, and if a heart attack is the way we’re gonna go, well, at least it will probably be quick.

It makes me want to puke when flip by some of these television commercials that tell you their product will “bring back your youth,” “make you look 20 years younger,” “hide those ‘ugly’ age marks,” etc, etc, etc. I suppose it’s possible that some of these products may do exactly as they claim – possible but highly doubtful, but who cares? If you aren’t satisfied with what you look like, you aren’t satisfied with who you are. When you’re not satisfied with who you are, it’s going to take more than what these television charlatans are trying to sell you to make you feel good about you.

As I like to say, “It is what it is and we are what we are.” Would you really like to look 20 years younger? Why would that be so? Hell, inside you’re still the same age that you are as well as being the same person you’ve always been.  My own experience dictates that real beauty is inside the shell that we show to the public. If you are a beautiful, decent, loving person on the inside, you don’t have to have the looks of someone you believe to be beautiful. If you are a decadent, envious, hateful person on the inside, I don’t care what you do to the shell, your ugliness will soon become apparent.

One series of television ads amuses me more than others. These are the lean cuisine, Jenny Craig, nurtra-system, etc. diet plans that show dramatic weight loss…just by eating the foods that are recommended by this movie star or that pop singer or over-the-hill cultural icons. You don’t lose weight by eating the foods that they recommend. You lose weight by eating “proper” foods and nothing that is improper. You lose weight by regular exercise in addition to eating the proper foods. You lose weight by establishing a weight loss program that is difficult in consort with a program of exercise that, at times, may seem equally difficult. Does it sound like I’m repeating myself? You’re damned right I’m repeating myself.  Unless you have one of the most unusual metabolic rates on earth you can’t lose weight without combining diet, exercise, and rest.

Don’t let the exercise gurus like Chuck Norris and others tell you that you can become an iron man simply by adopting their system of exercise…this machine or that machine. The people you see demonstrating these machines spend eight or more hours in the day to look the way the do. It is their ‘job’ to look like that, just as your job may be a restaurant owner, law enforcement official or fireman, nurse or business executive. The chances of you looking the way those people do are about as good as a snowball surviving in hell for very long. I enjoy exercise; it gives me a boost, a burst of energy that carries me through much of the day. However, I came to the conclusion a long, long time ago that I will never have six-pack abs or pectoral muscles that jump and dance all over my chest. Unfortunately for me, I like to eat; yes, I like chicken and fish and vegetables and fruit. I also enjoy ice cream, toast with plenty of jam, and Little Debby chocolate cakes. I’m about 40 pounds overweight, but because I’m happy with me, I may never lose it. I like me the way I am.

Can you be both? Can you be beautiful inside and out? Certainly; if that’s what you want. Perhaps you even have the genes that gave you great looks, a great personality, and even a talent that you can exploit. If not, perhaps you’ve been fortunate enough to have a friend who falls into that category. Just remember one thing; beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Ask yourself this question, “If I could change places with this person, would I really want to do so?” Malcolm Forbes said, “To judge the character of a man, watch how he treats someone who can do absolutely nothing for him.”

I invite you to check out this URL: http://lindaellis.net/the-dash-poem-by-linda-ellis/ I won’t even ask you to read the entire poem, but you should check out the very last stanza – yeah, I know, you’ll have to read the entire thing to fully comprehend the last part. Stop bitching; it’s really worth the read. Beyond that, remember to be beautiful on the inside before you begin to concern yourself with that skin-deep appearance stuff!

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