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Archive for March, 2013

I have decided that Bette Davis was only partially right when she said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” Getting old is also not for the faint of heart. We have seen things and done things and lived through things that would have caused our parents to gasp, sometimes in horror; sometimes in delight; most times in, “What the hell is next?”

“May you live in interesting times” is considered to be an ancient Chinese curse. As I understand it, the curse is neither ancient nor Chinese, but is meant to mean, “May you have much trouble and disorder in your life.” Considered carefully, we all can find trouble and disorder in our lives, but turn the whole thing around and you can also believe that what some would call a curse can be a blessing.

Think of all of the things that have happened since you were born. Of course, if you’re a gifted child reading this at three months of age, “you got nothin!” so go back to playing chess or whatever. If you are above the age of 70, you know exactly what I mean. That, however, is not really the gist of this little essay.

Yesterday was my annual physical examination day. “Annual” is a relative word since I changed primary care physicians last year because I was not having an annual physical, and hadn’t been truly poked, prodded, and coughed in many a year. My new doctor is extremely thorough. We discussed  the various aches, pains, and other conditions that seem to be naturally occurring phenomena when one reaches senior status [which includes senior ‘moments’ by the way], and he finally said, “Wait a minute; you have a heart specialist, a lung specialist, an eye doctor, a dermatologist who looks after your skin, a proctologist, cardiologist, and an orthopedist; what the hell do you need me for?” We both chuckled, determined that about the only thing missing was a urologist, but what the hell, and then I explained. “Picture me as a company,” I told him. “You are the chairman, CEO, and president. Under you, in a proper organizational chart, are all of these specialists who report to you on how the company is doing in their areas of expertise. You examine everything they say about “the company,” and, using their reports, you keep the company running.”

I don’t believe anyone had ever explained it that way to him. I know that he didn’t speak for a moment after I’d finished explaining; then he laughed sort of to himself, nodded his head and said that while he’d never thought of it that way, it was quite true.

There are problems with being “the company.” The most concerning of these is the black cloud hanging over your head that we call “medical insurance.” It doesn’t seem to be as large or black a cloud with my new doctor as it was with my old one. If I tell this doctor that I would like to see a specialist for this, that, or the other, his response is, “Go ahead; we’ll send a referral.” My old doctor would tell me that I had to see someone of his choosing, not mine. It’s just one of the reasons he’s no longer my primary care physician. You, as the company, should have the right to choose the people you want to “run your body,” just as a company has the right to choose who will occupy any position within the organization. You must be your own advocate and look at your PCP, as your number one man or woman is now called, and you must let them know your desires are paramount.

I recall a time when I wanted to see a particular orthopedic surgeon for a shoulder problem. “I’m sorry but he’s not in our ‘circle,’” I was told. “You will have to see our group in Boston.” My response was a simple, “No. You make it possible for me to see the person I wish to see; period, end of report.”  As it turned out, it was very, very possible. It also became possible to see other specialists who were not ‘in the circle.’ Whatever it is or was, thankfully, it appears to be a thing of the past. Physicians are, apparently, beginning to realize that their patients are customers – finite in their being, but still, they are customers – who need to be treated with dignity and respect.

At my last visit, my cardiologist told me that he’s retiring from clinical work and would no long be seeing me. While I respected his decision, I damn near cried. As we shook hands, it was something of an emotional moment. We have become friends. He has, by his very being, saved my life on more than one occasion. I’m going to miss our semi-annual debate over who needs to lose more weight and the other repartee in which we engage.

My point is that the next time you have your annual physical, remind your doctor that he is the CEO , the number one honcho, ‘the man’ who oversees the little company called “you,” and that all of these others who see that you’re in tip-top running condition are merely his support group. It would really piss off the specialists to hear themselves described in this manner, but if you look at yourself as a valuable company, ie, you want to keep running, it’s a very simple thing to set up your bodily organization chart. Have fun!

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“Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption.” James Garfield

A little over a decade ago, the following obituary appeared in a number of large city dailies across the country, “William Proxmire, a political maverick during 32 years in the Senate who crusaded against government waste and irritated presidents and lawmakers from both parties because of his contempt for the mutual back-scratching most politicians engage in, died yesterday in Sykesville, Md., about 40 miles from Washington. He was 90.” Just in case you’re too young to remember, Senator Proxmire (D) Wisconsin, was the originator of the Golden Fleece Award, presented whenever he damn well felt like it to government organizations for the wasteful manner in which they spent monies.

Included in those receiving the wrath of Bill Proxmire was the “National Science Foundation for spending $84,000 to determine why people fall in love.” According to one rather lengthy obit, “Another Golden Fleece Award went to the National Institute for Mental Health, which spent $97,000 to study, among other things, what went on in a Peruvian brothel. The researchers said they made repeated visits in the interests of accuracy.”  We’ve all heard of the $600 toilet seats and the $200 hammers that were supposedly purchased by NASA or the Defense Department, but did you know that the Defense Department spent $3,000 on a study to determine if members of the military should carry umbrellas when it rained?

After Proxmire left Congress in 1989, it appeared that more than a few Congressmen and women breathed a sigh of relief. Why Congress, you ask? Who the hell do you think hands out the monies to NIH, NSF, NIMH, DOD, and the many other acronymic, “Over here; over hear; my hand is out waiting to be filled with dough from your bottomless, brainless pit!” groups. So the pork barrel remained unquestioned until2003 when former(R) Oklahoma Congressman Tom Coburn stepped up and introduced America to Breach of Trust, an anecdotal recounting of his three terms as a member of the House of Representatives. While I have yet to read his first book – and I surely will – he began writing the Book of Waste in 2010 in which he openly challenges many of the wasteful expenditures that take place inside the beltway. The 2012 version, which I am currently reading is enough to make one sick.

“If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.”
Samuel Adams

Senator Coburn who can also be called Dr. since he is a physician, outlines the 100 most egregious expenditures, approved by Congress and doled out to organizations who (a) don’t need them (b) don’t use them for their original purpose, and (c) apply for them merely because they know a good rubber stamp when they see one.  Number 5 on Dr. Coburn’s list is the U.S. Agency for International Development’s $27 million plan to help Morocco improve its economic competitiveness. A key component of the project involved “…training Moroccans to create and design pottery to sell in domestic and international markets.” That might be all well and good except that Moroccans have been making pottery since before America was a nation, and should probably send some of their potters to America to train our folks in the art.. Another problem centered on the fact that the translator was “…not fluent in English and was unable to transmit large portions of the lectures to the participants.”

I find it difficult to believe…nah, I find it completely within the realm of academia, that researchers at San Diiego State University and the University of California at Davis spent a portion of a $325,000 NSF grant to build a robotic squirrel to answer that age-old question, “Will rattlesnakes kill a squirrel,” or some stupid crap like that. These are your taxpayer dollars that are paying for this. Are you beginning to get a bit irritated yet? If not, would you believe that the US Department of Agriculture is spending $300,000 this year to promote caviar; oh yeah, we’ll just have Jeeves jump in the Bentley and go down to the local Hannaford’s and pick up a case or two. Who the hell is kidding who? I cannot remember the last time we had a decent piece of meat at the dinner table and they’re out promoting caviar?

There has been a lot of talk about eliminating the penny from our monetary system. It’s not a bad idea since it costs two plus cents to make each penny. If I read Dr. Coburn’s analysis correctly, we could eliminate the penny and save around $70 million per year. Oh, and it should be noted that the nickel now costs eleven cents per coin to produce. Other countries have already realized the cost savings by stopping production of their lowest denomination coinage. What’s wrong with us?

The creation of video games by the US Department of Education, NASA, the National Endowment for the Arts, and several other government agencies is sickeningly expensive. If I have to watch a video on “How to watch television,” there is something seriously wrong.

The world’s largest snack food maker is receiving a grant of $1.3 million to build a Greek yogurt factory in New York. Food giant PepsiCo Inc, “…earned net revenues of $66 billion last year.” They now want to branch out and working with a German company, “bring premium yogurt products to the U.S.” The USDA seems hell-bent on getting us to upgrade our taste buds. Between the promotion of caviar and the building of a “premium” yogurt facility, I can hardly wait. I may have to, however, because Social Security and my modest retirement income certainly will keep me from $400 an ounce fish eggs and my reliance on Dannon.

A number of years ago a friend of mine went to Iraq as part of a police training program for the Iraqi police. This man is conscientious, hard-working , and a stickler for detail. Evidently, he’s one of a few. The State Department has pissed away over$400.2 million on what appears to be an undefined professional development program lacking in any goals or transferable skills for the Iraqi’s police. By the by, my friend is no longer in Iraq.

I would like to be able to recommend this book, if for nothing more than the “pissed-off-factor.” However, in all candor, I’m having trouble finishing it. To say that I’m mad about the wasteful spending by Congress and by the departments within our government is an understatement.  Dr/Senator Coburn has done a magnificent job of highlighting some of the waste of taxpayer dollars in our country. Read the book. It will show very clearly that there is no partisanship when it comes to wasteful spending. The real question is what can we do about it?

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“Unto thine own self be true. And it must follow as the day the night: Thou canst not be false to any man.”

Polonius’s admonition to his son, Laertes, has been a subject of scholarly research by many a teacher and student. What did the father want his son to learn? What does this actually mean? Is it really possible for anyone to remain true to him or herself? Please explain what it means to be true to yourself? Is it a good thing; is it a bad thing. Is being true part of nature or part of nurture? You hear it all the time; “Oh, but he was such a sweet boy. He would never butcher those 32 people. Why, he even mowed my lawn and never even charged me a dime.”

Where am I going with this? Well, somehow – since the NCAA basketball tournament has yet to start – I was convinced to watch some of the trial of Jody Arias, the Arizona woman who is charged with shooting her boyfriend and then stabbing him 27 times and then slitting his throat. I don’t know if such a word exists, but she is, without question, the most chameleonic person I have ever seen in my life. I watched just under an hour of the trial. A defense-appointed psychologist was testifying. Much of the time, the camera was focused on Ms. Arias. For my money, she didn’t hide her feelings all that well. They ranged from amusement to violent rage with every other emotion in between. Her eyes, which she has covered by horned rim classes, are her giveaway. While she says that she’s nearsighted, she has to take her glasses off to read exhibits handed to her…hmm, how does that work again? My reaction to Ms. Arias was that she’s been messed up for a long, long time. I don’t believe she knows or understands what truth is or how she could ever be true, to herself or anyone else. If she’s being true to herself, she is a true sociopath. How did this happen?

How is it possible to be true to ourselves and what does it mean? Here’s my take on it, and remember, this is one person’s understanding of what it means to be true to oneself. Being true to yourself means accepting and living by the values that were instilled in you by those you regard as heroes or mentors in your life. If you grew up with parents or siblings who kicked the crap kicked out of you on a daily basis, I have the feeling that you have a set of values that are completely different from someone who grew up in a loving and caring environment. If dear old dear old mom began each evening by getting a slap in the face as dad walked through the door, you just might begin to get the idea that women are punching bags (you idiot). This is what I would refer to as the nurturing part of how one’s values are developed.

Sometimes – perhaps more often than not – bad household situations can be turned around by friends, by other families, by teachers, and/or other people in one’s life who can instill more positive values. Unfortunately, we see too many examples every day of those who don’t abandon or overcome the bad things that happened. Is it possible that someone like Jody Arias is just wired differently; that the social environment in which she was raised has nothing to do with her behavior?

To me it seems that there has to be an extra chromosome or one missing in people like Arias or Bunday, Aileen Wournos, or the BTK killer, or any number of others who could be cited. Some grew up in horrible home environments; others grew up in loving homes. What turns people like that into the people they become? We are in our infancy of determining what is in the mind of someone who kills. Are they true to themselves or did they go off the rails somewhere along the way?  Arias maintains that her family didn’t encourage or appreciate her high school art. Is that a reason to flip out. If you shoot someone in the forehead, do you really have to inflict 27 stab wounds and then slice the throat? I mean, after all, the bullet probably did the job so she had to be really pissed!

It’s a times like these that I remember the lesson of the Dean of the College of Business at Northeastern, Dr. Roger S. Hamilton. On more than one occasion he told me, “When I graduated with a BS from Pitt, I thought I knew everything. When I began my graduate program I realized just how ignorant I really was. After attaining an MBA, I was positive I knew all there was to know. Then I began my doctoral program at Harvard. When I graduated and received my Ph.D, I finally realized that unless I continued to learn something every day of my life, I would remain ignorant forever.” Were he alive today, I cannot imagine what Dean Hamilton would think. The Internet and smart phones, and so many other 21st Century toys would probably cause him apoplexy. Now let me say that Roger became a colleague and a friend as well as one of my mentors. It is, perhaps, for that reason that I try to learn something new daily, either from the Net or from someone who I feel can teach me. It may be from someone at the gym or the mechanic in the garage where my ’99 Camry enjoys spending time. Knowledge can come from anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes that new knowledge is positive and sometimes not. I guess it depends on how you wish to process it; it depends on whether it helps you to “unto thine own self be true.”

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Recognizing that you have better things to do with your time I thought that you’d perhaps like a history lesson regarding St. Patrick’s Day. After all, tomorrow is March 17th, and on that particular day the pure Irish, half-Irish, and the ‘wannabe’s’ break out their green  and pretend they understand Gaelic or Celtic greetings. For you Bostonians, that’s not the Boston Celtics; this ‘C’ is pronounced like a ‘K.’ So when someone greets you with “Céad Míle Fáilte,” you may return their “one hundred thousand welcomes” with “Sláinte” – to your health – or you can prove you’re not really Irish by merely staring like the damned fool you’re proving yourself to be!

First off, let’s get a few things straight. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland wasn’t even Irish. I’m not certain I’d want to say that to an uninformed Irishman who’s had one too many at O’Hara’s Doyle’s, Murphy’s, Finnegan’s or even someplace trying to pass itself off as “The Irish Pub.”  Patrick was actually born in Britain nearly the end of the Fourth Century when Britain was still part of the Roman Empire. He was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders when he was 16 and was held prisoner for six years. According to history.com, it was “During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.” Eventually, he escaped the Irish heathens – being half Irish I can say that; if I was one hundred percent Irish, I could say, “damned heathens,” but I’m not so I won’t.

Devoutly religious, Patrick believed in a dream which told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Following his ordination as a priest, that’s exactly what he did. His charge was to minister to the small group of Christians living on the island and to convert the pagans to Christianity. This contradicts the statement that Patrick actually introduced Christianity to Ireland. It’s not dissimilar to saying that he chased the snakes out of Ireland; there never were any snakes. The water around the island was too cold for any to swim and what damned fool would bring snakes to such a heavenly spot?

In his attempts at converting those who were not Christian, Patrick incorporated some of the nature-based pagan symbols into his teachings.  He celebrated Easter with bonfires because pagans used fire to appease or to honor their gods. He also placed a ‘sun’ on the traditional Christian cross. The Celtic cross can still be seen wherever Irish immigrants are found.

Patrick, not yet a saint, died on March 17tth, AD. For the most part he was forgotten but Irish storytellers built his history into the tale it has become today. Perhaps that was where the term ‘blarney’ originated although if you drown him in a few pints o’ Guinness, most Irishmen can spin you a pretty good yarn or two.

Since I can’t say it better, let me quote history.com once more…“The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.” So it doesn’t matter if tomorrow you greet a friend with “Beannachtam na Femle Padraig” or “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day,” they both mean the same thing. Enjoy your day.

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Isn’t it strange how we condemn other nations for the abuses that they wreak upon their citizens while we ignore our homeless and our very poor? Where the hell do we get off playing such ‘goody-two-shoes’ and about how moral we are when we allow travesties such as this to be an ingrained part of our society? We have more people in prison than any other nation; more violence than any other nation, and we go around touting how great we are? Okay, so we have the third largest population in the world, but I will not accept that as an argument for how we allow our own share of abuse in the United States.

Without taking into account nuclear capability, the United States is still considered to be number one in global firepower. We complain that the sequester will take one of our aircraft carriers out of operation, yet we still more carriers than the next ten nations combined. We have more fighter aircraft than the next seven countries combined. The list goes on and on. Because we are, supposedly, the richest nation in the world, we have more of the big boy toys than other nations. Are you beginning to hear the word, “paranoia,” in the back of your minds?

Unfortunately, we don’t really appear to understand that it’s not the one with the most who is going to ‘win,’ whatever the hell that word is supposed to mean in today’s complex world society. As a nation, we appear to be of the opinion that if we have the bestest and the mostest, that will cause others to stand down and be afraid of us. On September 11, 2001, we learned that is not the case. Those who hate us will find a way to hurt us, not by open and declared warfare, but by occasional punches to the gut that hurt twice as much because they are so unexpected.  Bertrand Russell’s wrote, “War does not determine who is right—only who is left.” It is so perfect. And yet, we continue to conduct our wars in the same manner that they have been conducted for centuries, throwing our young men and women into the fray as cannon fodder, to be ambushed and assaulted at a time and choosing of our opponents. How stupid can we be? Perhaps it’s time we just let these idiots kill each other and instead of building bigger and better toys to go after the ‘baaad guys,’ we should be concentrating on how we protect our borders and our cities and towns within our own country. If we spent the cost of a single aircraft carrier, somewhere around $11 billion, on protecting our border with Mexico, we might just be able to slow the drug traffic that is being so successfully conducted. Take the cost of a couple of carriers – holy shit; that’s 22 billion dollars – we could probably do one hell of a lot more. We’d still be ahead of six or seven other nations in our fleet capacity.  Just think of how much of our nation’s infrastructure could be rebuilt and modernized if we merely took an intelligent look at how we are currently spending our dollars and cents.

Please don’t misunderstand my intentions. I am all for being prepared to defend our country “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” but I’m also sufficiently practical to recognize that we cannot continue to use 20th Century thinking when we are living in the 21st Century when one nuclear weapon can wipe out the best of our good intentions in seconds. Our thinking should not be how we can scare the crap out of potential nation enemies outside our borders, which we don’t really do anyhow, and direct our thinking inward. What are we doing to protect our own citizens from attack from within? We are, in all probability, doing a hell of a lot more than you or I will ever know. Here’s another question: How are we ensuring that our men and women who have served in our all-volunteer armed services receive proper training and sufficient funds to be integrated back into a civilian lifestyle, one which is so radically different from military life that most who have never served can’t begin to comprehend.

As a people, Americans are very private. We abhor ‘big brother’ watching over our shoulder. We tend to look down our collective noses at the police and fire, until we are in grave need of them and then we bitch and moan because they didn’t get to us fast enough. We are selfish, greedy children who don’t wish to take responsibility for our own wellbeing and who most assuredly don’t want to be call to account for our actions when they affect others negatively. Since 2003, citizens living on a peninsula called Plum Island in Massachusetts have been told that their houses were in danger of being washed away by New England’s crazy winter weather. The Army Corps of Engineers has told them; environmental groups have told them, and, in their defense, they did reinforce the foundations of some of the homes that were on the water. However, ten years of being told didn’t help when several homes were washed away or declared uninhabitable this year. Residents appeared shocked that something like this could happen; now they are looking for outside help to take care of them. You had ten years of warnings; you were told this was going to happen; you watched as the erosion took place; and now you want help from outside? You did not take responsibility. You forgot one basic premise: Don’t mess with Mother Nature; she will always, always win!

If Americans ever knew the extent to which they are surveiled in public on a daily basis, they would be shocked and horrified…yet it is not enough.  In Boston recently, a bus driver was assaulted by a gang of youths. Now the manhunt is on to determine who the little gangbangers were. Had there been a couple of cameras on the bus, the police would, in all probability, have the mob in custody by now. When cameras are eventually installed in every bus and subway, there will be many who will take offense. They will view the cameras as an invasion of privacy and not as a form of protection.

We have a great many problems in the United States of America. We can’t solve each and every one of them overnight. Protecting our homeland and our way of life may be the top priority but the manner in which we do it deserves to be reevaluated on a regular basis. Building fiefdoms is not how we do things, particularly in our military, and we compare our might to that of other nations, we appear to be vastly overcompensating. It’s time we addressed some of the other problems facing our nation. Our roads and bridges are falling apart. We are accepting into our law enforcement ranks people who are not only not qualified, but in some cases more dangerous than the criminals they are supposed to be pursuing. It’s possible that a living wage might attract more people into our protective agencies as well as into our teaching corps. Homelessness and poverty in our “rich” country are an increasing problem and one that we appear to be ignoring. Those are just a few of our issues.

My time is limited. I can only hope that there are a few young curmudgeons out there who will pick up the banner and scream loudly enough that our nation’s leaders will be forced to listen. “Common sense isn’t all that common,” said Voltaire. Today’s politicians are living proof of that. Let’s hope that tomorrow’s leaders will take note.

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It’s not so much that I’m mad about the shenanigans that are going on in Washington; no, it’s that I’m terribly upset that our country has come to this state of ‘hatred.’ Sure, we’ve been through these episodes before in our history and we have survived. One can go all the way back to the Pilgrims versus the Puritans I suppose, but I prefer the Revolutionary War as a time when neighbor hated neighbor and, in too many cases, murder was the outcome. The not-so-humorous joke is that more Americans were killed in the Civil War than in any other this nation has fought. We have been a divided nation since our founding, but I’m not certain that in my nearly eight decades of life I have ever seen a division greater than today.

We are supposed to be, “one nation under God,” and yet, there is such a separation of wealth that it would be more correct to say, “Many nations under God.” Heck, when you stop and think about it, we can’t even decide on which God it is that we are supposed to be under. We are not one nation; we are fragments of a former nation, and if someone doesn’t grasp the reigns of leadership in the very near future, we are going to become a non-nation, weakening itself to the point that we may as well go back and becoming another colony of Great Britain.

I am sick to death of the pettiness that I find in our nation’s supposed capitol, Washington, D.C.  From President Obama’s pettiness of closing the White House to tourists to Rand Paul’s twelve-hour filibuster to prevent a vote on confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), there is nothing but childish action and reaction taking place. It really is quite sad to see grown men and women, supposedly intelligent people behaving in such a manner.

“If we don’t cut spending we will be leaving a massive debt for our children and grandchildren to pay.” Okay and your point is? Hell, we’ve been in hock up to our ears for so long that even our own citizens have stopped caring. We are a nation of “I don’t care as long as I get mine; a nation of NIMBY’s; a nation of hooray for me and to hell with you!” I can’t be hard on Congress and the White House when all I have to do is watch how people act in the supermarket when there is the threat of a winter storm.  When those same folks start bitching about, “…oh, we lost power and by the time it came back on I had to throw out all the food in the freezer.” Hey, ain’t life a bitch when your freezer is so full? Did you even consider what homeless people were doing while you were stocking up, afraid you might not be able to get out for a couple of days? Of course you didn’t; you were getting yours and to hell with the rest of the world!

Somehow, we have gone off the rails. I can’t tell you exactly why or how this has happened, but I know that it has.  I remember when a couple of us would go up to old Mr. Feeney’s house after a snowstorm and shovel his driveway and the path to his front door. If some other kids came along, they’d usually lend a hand. Of course, we went to other people’s houses and charge them for shoveling, but Mr. Feeney lived on our street and he was ‘old.’ I’m quite certain he wasn’t as old as we thought, but then, what did we know? I just don’t see that attitude with children or adults today.

Are there any numbers of isolated cases where people do good things for others?  Of course, there are, but we don’t hear about them because there is so much bad news to talk about. “If it bleeds it leads” is still the motto of our news media. Who wants to hear about a group of people getting together with their ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ coupons just to benefit a food bank or a homeless shelter? It doesn’t sell and it doesn’t attract advertising dollars.

Whether you are citing Leviticus 19:18, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” or Mark 12:31, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these,” or not citing the Holy Bible at all, it’s a pretty good idea to remember that there are a whole lot of people out there who can use the help if we can give it.

The art of compromise is not difficult. If we are to grow as a nation, our leaders must learn to put aside their pettiness. We, each and every man and woman in this country, must begin to look on themselves as Americans first and behave as Americans should.

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I have discovered the perfect way to piss off America’s driving public…obey posted speed limit signs. Nothing, absolutely nothing will irritate a yummy mommy in her gas guzzler with three kids in their car seats and the cell phone tucked in her left ear more than someone who is obeying the speed limit. This is the same person who will take a full shopping cart into the twelve items or less checkout and bitch because the service is so slow; it’s the same one who will park in the yellow-striped area between two handicapped spots because, “I’ll just be a minute!” They are the same ones who zip through parking lots at Walmart and pay no attention to the marked crosswalks…and always, always, always with the cell phone attached to the left ear. Before you get the idea that I’m against yummy mommies, let me say that teenagers with cells and commuters who either decided to push the snooze alarm or didn’t have time for breakfast, as well as those who just don’t give a damn about anything but their cell call also become quite irritated when I drive within the law. What, in the name of all that’s holy, can be so important that the cell phone has become an appendage?

The genius who comes up with a way of grafting the cell phone to the human ear will make millions. Oh sure, I know about blue tooth and black tooth and all the other teeth out there but I’m talking about a genuine graft. In that way, when people look in the mirror and see just how idiotic they appear they’ll pay a whole lot more just to have the graft removed…the graft, by the way, will only work when you are in a car and moving. It’s no good walking in the mall or the supermarket. That way others can look at the ‘graftee’ and point and chuckle; it will help them to better understand just how stupid they look.

Have I never used a cell phone in a store? You bet your bippy I have. The conversation usually goes like this:  “I didn’t check; do we need milk? Okay, thanks,” and gone. I will not use my cell phone while driving. Hands free or no hands free, which seems to predominate, your mind is not that good that you can drive and carry on an intelligent conversation. Driving is driving; talking is talking; the two do not mix well in polite company.

Let me ask this question…what did we do before the invention of the cell phone? This indispensable instrument hasn’t yet been around for half a century. Martin Cooper, a project manager at Motorola is credit with its creation back in 1973. Just think, in less than 50 years, we have gone from not having anything to now possessing something without which it’s impossible to function. Not only that, but it’s now a camera – still or video – an Internet provider, a bank, a source of amusement with myriad games, an entertainment center on which to view movies or television shows, and I’m reliably informed, will in the future have an application that will wipe our butts and dispose of the paper by cleaning and rewinding it back into the cell…just amazing!

This brings me to another ‘bbc’ on my agenda. No, I’m not talking about the British Broadcasting Company; mine is called the ‘big bitchin’ complaint,’ and this one concerns the manner in which people drive in crowded parking lots. The acceptable speed in these lots is somewhere between ten and fifteen miles per hour; many are posted at five mph but that’s being slightly ridiculous – today’s cars don’t go that slowly…even in neutral.  It really is rather
dangerous to go 20 to 35 mph for the simple reason that most of those who wish to back out of a parking spot have an inane sense of reasoning that says they don’t have to look. “Look out world, I’m done shoppin’ and I’m a headin’ fer home!” I’m fully aware that this world is filled with assholes and idiots, but why are they all gathered in the same parking lot at the same bloody time?

Am I such the perfect person? Hell no; at 16, shortly after I received my license, I was pulled over for passing a Registry of Motor Vehicles officer on a curve on a rainy day at 70 mph. and lost my license for six months. I haven’t been stopped in about ten years, but I occasionally screw up, particularly on highways. In residential areas and parking lots it’s a different story. I’ve seen kids run out in front of me while chasing a ball. I’ve watched accidents occur because someone backing out of a parking space didn’t watch what they were doing …they hit my car. My philosophy is very simple. I don’t want to be the one on the evening news because I was driving and not thinking. Sounds simple; too bad so many others don’t agree.

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